Category Archives: Reviews

Books to Read on Your Holiday Travels

Right about now, I’m flying across the country, engrossed in a new book. I won’t notice where we are until the plane lands or I get to the last sentence, whichever comes first. Likely the latter.

I don’t hear anything or anyone when I read. You can be talking right at me, but all I hear are the words on the page. G describes it as if I’m in a coma, which is fairly spot-on.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the best way to fly long distance is with a glass of in-flight Kendall Jackson, two Dramamine, and a neck pillow. But for people who love to read, but also want to pay the bills and have a social life, traveling can be a sweet opportunity to finally have all the hours you need to finish one more book.

And if you’re thinking of purchasing or gifting a kindle, I adore mine and I’d be happy to tell you all the reasons why. Email me.

Here are my suggestions for your holiday travels:

Room by Emma Donoghue

Creeptastic. Fictional novel narrated entirely by 5-year-old, Jack. For him, Room is his entire world, made up of his mother and “Old Nick” who sometimes visits his mother in the night. One day, his mother tells him the truth – that there is a world outside of Room, and she needs his help to escape to it. This book just came out in 2010. No way you can read it and not think about Jaycee Duggard.

I’m with Fatty by Edward Ugel

A hilariously sarcastic memoir written by a middle-aged father who embarks on a mission to lose “50 pounds in 50 miserable weeks.” His honesty and humility are laid bare in truthful accounts of everything from wearing a sleep apnea machine to bed to going on a green juice cleanse, complete with enema. For me, it was an insightful look into someone with true food addiction – understanding how his mind and cravings work against the life he so wants to be leading with his family. In addition, it is LOL funny.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Good luck not immediately devouring the whole trilogy, but you can start with the first one. Technically a YA series, but this one hooked me with its futuristic, postapocolyptic setting. A young teenage girl is forced into a Battle Royale (fight to the death) with other teenagers from the Districts for the amusement of a bored Capital. Lots of underlying commentary on reality television and political power, but the character development is off the charts. The heroine is a scheming survivor to the core, but you’re rooting her on until the end.

Other notables:

  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Movie is coming out soon, get on it.)
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (People are probably already telling you to read this book. Believe them.)
  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Historical fiction based on Jews in France during Nazi Germany.)
  • Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster (Such a funny, relaxing beach-type read. I love Jen for a plane trip.)

Any more suggestions? I’m always on the lookout. Leave them in the comments!

Healthy Alternatives (that taste good!)

I used to get those Eat This, Not That emails and I love the concept. Rather than giving up foods you love and find comfort eating, it’s much easier to make the transition by choosing healthier alternatives.

(There is a caveat – I have a hard time getting excited about meat substitutes that are supposed to taste like meat. Tofu processed to look and taste like meat is not a reasonable substitution for a Thanksgiving turkey, sorry.)

I’m talking more about an alternative when it comes to packaged or already prepared foods. A lot of people are confused by the tricky labeling in grocery stores, don’t know the calorie count at their favorite fast food restaurant (unless you’re in NYC), or just generally have a misunderstanding of how to determine which choice is healthier. This is not your fault. It’s not like you don’t WANT to know what’s healthiest for you, it’s that you’re constantly being deluged by mixed messages.

Soy lowers your risk of cancer. Soy increases your risk of cancer. Fruit and carrots have carbs, which are bad. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Drink red wine for antioxidants. Women who drink have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.

We could go on forever.

So what follows is my personal Eat This, Not That list, which I myself follow. I have personally made these transitions (slowly) and found they left me feeling happier and healthier. My own criteria is very different from Men’s Health, and maybe you find that half this stuff on the list causes cancer, in which case, keep it to yourself. But seriously, what doesn’t at this point? I’m not going to live on broccoli and spinach alone.

Note – I’m not saying the originals are the worst foods ever to be avoided at all costs. Rather, this list is meant to help you “kick it up a notch” and take your healthy eating to the next level. The original Eat This, Not That list is pretty basic to help you make more elementary changes. I made the below switches after I had already followed all the advice in SelfHungry GirlMen’s Health, etc. and found it lacking (and not helping!). Where then, did I find all these great products? Well, at the supermarket … and from all my friends in the blogosphere, of course!

After Meal Treat/Appetite Suppressant:

Original: Sugar-free Peppermint Gum

Replacement: Celestial Season’s Peppermint Tea

I read once (probably in Self) that before a bikini shoot, this one celebrity stylist always has his clients drink Celestial Season’s Peppermint tea like it’s going out of style. Makes sense because tea is water (good), it fills you up (also good), and it makes you lose a little water weight right before you need to (nice side effect before a beach trip). Something about the peppermint seems to calm the digestion so I love it right after a big dinner or whenever you’re feeling a little unsettled. Plus, it tastes great.

On the other hand, the sugar-free gum (widely espoused by Bob & Jillian because Wrigley’s is a BL sponsor) causes you to swallow air bubbles as you chew, which can give you an upset feeling and gas … Nice. People trying to lose weight (or quit smoking) tend to chew gum constantly, trying to replace their snacking habit. Unfortunately, too much of that artificial sweetener can lead to more gas and other related unpleasent side effects.

Where to find: Wherever tea is sold. Your local Safeway/Giant should carry it.

Drink Sweetner:

Original: Splenda

Replacement: Agave Nectar

I had a brief fling with artificial sweeteners when I did the South Beach Diet. We can go back and forth about the pros and cons of this “fake sugar” but suffice to say, I’ve experienced the side effects myself and they are way not worth it for me. For people who aren’t as affected, suffice to say there’s not enough evidence or research on the subject for me to feel comfortable that artificial sweeteners are completely safe.

In contrast, agave nectar is all natural, baby. I use it in my mixed drinks like Larena’s Sangria because it lends a pleasant flavor all it’s own and is lower on the Glycemic Index Scale (translation: less of a “sugar crash” and better for those with diabetic tendencies). If you’re looking to sweeten something like coffee, and don’t want the honey-like taste, you can check out Stevia, but I haven’t personally tried it.

Where to find: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s


Original: Wheat Thins

Replacement: Mary’s Gone Crackers

Here’s a disclaimer. G doesn’t like these crackers. I think they’re awesome. I most commonly call them, “crack” as in, “G, do we have any crack at home?” or, “I can’t wait to get home; I know I have some crack left!”

The second disclaimer is they do not taste like wheat thins. Do not eat these crackers thinking that they will taste like wheat thins because you will be SORELY disappointed, when really, you should be appreciating all the goodness that is the “crack.”  These crackers are wheat-free, gluten-free, vegan, contain no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, AND they come in a BLACK PEPPER FLAVOR which is definitely my two favorite things in the world combined – Crack + Black Pepper. They are AWESOME smeared with some kalamata olive dip, or hummus, or goat cheese.

Can you tell I’m addicted? I used to finish a box of wheat thins in a week, now I finish a box of Crack. Luckily, the Crack box is smaller so I eat less, and more expensive so I buy less, in addition to being healthier all around.

Where to find: Whole Foods, The Real Food Company, Health food stores

Original: Tostitos Restaurant Style

Replacement: Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Chips

Oh yum, I love these chips. They also come in Hot Red flavor for those who like it spicy. They hold up better when dipping Superquick Guac, and have more flavor and a better nutrition profile than Tostitos. I know everyone always suggests the Guiltless Gourmet brand, but one, I can never find them in my grocery store and two, they’re a little thin and tasteless for me.

Where to find:
Safeway/Giant, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s (I think), and sometimes at your corner store


Original: Arnold’s Whole Wheat Bread

Replacement: Ezekial Bread

When I said earlier that these switches are meant to “kick it up a notch,” I was thinking especially about this swap. I too am a fan of Arnold’s 100-calorie sandwich thins (I think they taste really good as alternatives to hamburger buns) but once I tried Ezekial products, I couldn’t feel virtuous about whole wheat bread after that. They use freshly sprouted live grains, which gives the bread a nutty, healthy flavor. I keep a loaf in the freezer for whenever I want a panini or veggie burger. Give it a try. You may not like it – totally your choice. But I’m a convert. PS-Haven’t tried the Cinnamon-Rasin one, but it’s supposed to be DELISH for breakfast.

Where to find: They actually sell these products in my local Safeway, but this is California, so that might be why. Because it’s sprouted bread, the tortillas will always be in the refrigerated section and the loaves will be in the frozen aisle. Check near the Amy’s frozen meals. They should definitely have it at Whole Foods.

Breakfast Bars:

Original: Luna Bars

Replacement: Lara Bars

Ingredients in the Nutz Over Chocolate LUNA Bar: (Soy Rice Crisp [Soy Protein Isolate, Organic Rice Flour], Organic Toasted Oats [Organic Oats, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice], Organic Peanuts, Organic Soy Flour, Organic Flaxmeal), Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Coating (Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Cocoa, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla), Inulin (Chicory Extract), Organic Peanut Butter, Peanut Flour, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Oat Syrup Solids, Natural FlavorsSea Salt.

Ingredients in the Cashew Cookie Lara Bar: Cashews, Dates.

In college, I probably ate about three LUNA bars a DAY. They taste like candy bars. Coincidence? My favorite Lara bar flavors: Cashew Cookie, Apple Pie, Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie, Banana Bread, Coconut Cream Pie

Where to find: They sell these things in the drugstore for pete’s sake. In the “diet” aisle probs right next to the Luna bars. Or at regular grocery stores.

Quick Fix:

Original: Ramen

Replacement: “Healthy” Ramen

I’ll be honest, I probably haven’t done as much due diligence on this KOYO product, but I really love it. Plus, the ingredients look good and the organic noodles are baked, not fried. I like sometimes just boiling up the four-minute noodles, throwing out the seasoning packet, and using the noodles to bulk up my stir fry. The Lemongrass Ginger seasoning flavor is nice though. Avoid the Seaweed seasoning at all costs.

Where to find:
Whole Foods, The Real Food Company, Health food stores


Original: Nonfat Vanilla Chai Latte

Replacement: Vanilla Roobios Soy Latte (no syrup)

Somehow I went from Grande Double Shot Espresso Vanilla Bean Frappachinos in college to not being able to process caffeine. I’m still trying to figure it out, but until then, even caffeinated tea is out for me.

If you love the tasty Starbucks lattes, but don’t want the added caffeine, dairy, and sugar, the Vanilla Roobios tea is herbal so no caffeine, the soy milk is flavored Vanilla so you still get the tastiness, and you can just ask for yours with no syrup. Also – I still don’t know how to pronounce it properly but frankly, I don’t think the baristas do either.

Subway (eat fresh!):

Original: Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

Replacement: Veggie Delite

What did Jared eat twice a day from Subway before the marketing people found him and made a whole list of low calorie options for “Jared’s Favorites”? Yep, two Veggie Delites every day with all the veggies and just vinegar as his condiment. Rather than ordering questionable meat in a questionable sauce that’s then microwaved before you eat it, why not go with the one thing on the menu made completely from real foods? Also life changing: switching your mustard or mayo condiment to the vinegar and Italian seasonings. They’ve got a shaker of it, even if it’s not immediately out on the counter.

Phew, that was a doozy of a post. Anyone else have some good alternatives they’d recommend? Have you tried any of these swaps before? Do you love Crack as much as I do? Let me know if this is useful – I can keep it up aaaaaaalllll day.

Eggplant Pasta alla Alanna

As you may have guessed from the title, this recipe comes from my friend named Alanna. Well not directly from her, but from her new cookbook, The Frugal Foodie, where it’s actually called Eggplanta Pasta alla Siciliana.

Alanna is the only person I’ve known in real life (so not through a blog) who is cool enough to have her own cookbook, which was co-written with her boyfriend, Alex. Together, they started the blog,, all about their adventures in culinary foodie-ism as graduate students. If you want to see some truly beautiful photos of food, check out their blog. The two Als met while working on their school paper where Alanna was the News Editor and Alex was the Senior Photo Editor. Perfect combination for an artistically-photographed and fun to read blog.

Since we’ve both known Alanna for many years, my mother gifted me The Frugal Foodie cookbook this year for Christmas and it took me approximately one week to pick out and cook one of the recipes. I’ve followed their blog and seen Alex’s unbelievable pictures so I knew the food had to be good. And it was:

Obviously, you’ll need to purchase their book to get the recipe yourself, but let me offer my glowing recommendation. It opens with an introductory section from A&A featuring general frugal cooking tips and ideas for stocking a frugal kitchen. My favorite tip that I use myself all the time: “Purchase different grades of ingredients.” I always use that tip with olive oil since I blow through a regular bottle every other week just for cooking and prefer to save the good stuff for drizzling on salads. As you can see in the photo, they’ve included the cost, number of servings, and cost per serving for each recipe. Great book for the aspiring foodie you know.

And here’s another tip, don’t forget to enjoy your Eggplant Alla Siciliana properly with a little vino.

January Vegan aka The China Study

For the first time this year, going home for the holidays meant two 5 1/2 hour plane rides instead of a 20 minute car trip. Along with in-flight VirginAmerica tv on demand, this meant I finally had enough down time to read The China Study, a book cited by many vegetarian/vegans as their reason for giving up meat products.

Refreshingly, the author makes virtually no mention of the humanitarian reasons to give up meat, and doesn’t speak at all to slaughterhouse practices, sanitary concerns, etc. Not that those things aren’t important or moving, it’s just that I’ve already heard all that before and it obviously hasn’t made a significant impact on my diet.

Instead, the premise is much more scientific (as you’ve probably grasped by the title). It details the author’s extensive research into how diet affects disease in the human body, specifically focusing on cancer. Along the way, you get a peak into the sometimes scary inner workings of the nutrition industry in the United States. Food pyramid anyone?

Dr. Campbell himself grew up on a farm with the traditional meat and dairy-centric diet, and used to be a big proponent of the Standard American Diet (SAD). What he discovered after administering questionnaires and blood tests on 6,500 adults in sixty-five counties across China changed his career and his life. He found more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet and disease, which are detailed in the book, along with research from other studies he and his colleagues conducted.

Sounds like pretty dry stuff, but I was fascinated. I wouldn’t call it an easy read by any means, but you can easily concentrate on the areas you’re most interested in, and skim through the parts not as related. If you or a family member suffers from cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or heart disease (and unfortunately, chances are you do) I would call The China Study an absolutely mandatory read. In any event, it’s already changed my life.

For the month of January, I’m going 100% vegan. In Dr. Campbell’s book, he asks just one month of following these restrictions from his readers. “You’ve been eating cheeseburgers your whole life; a month without them won’t kill you.” Well I haven’t been eating cheeseburgers, but I have been enjoying Shrimpies Casserole, Tilapia Piccata, and homemade gravy made from turkey giblets. Just last night, I happily scarfed down some fantastic sushi and had to declare the veganism adventure officially delayed by one day.

But now it’s begun. And there’s no turning back. I have some new cookbooks to help me and already planned out some exciting meals for the next week. Rest assured, there will still be plenty of good food ahead. To some extent, I’m planning to follow Dr. Campbell’s advice and “not obsess over it.” If something has non-vegan worchestire sauce in it, I’m not going crazy and demanding something else. That being said, this morning I discovered my favorite potato salad from the cafe down the street has mayo in it, and I passed. I already feel good about it.

Bring on the Bubbly!

New Year’s Eve is quickly approaching and friends around the world are finalizing their plans for the end of 2009. Seems like only yesterday we were all freaking out about Y2K and suddenly it’s the next decade. Scary.

As you may know, most folks don’t actually drink champagne in the traditional sense on New Year’s – they’re usually drinking sparkling wine. Here’s a good FAQ that explains the difference.

I’m by no means a champagne snob, but I do find that most people are woefully confused when it comes time to pick out an appropriate bubbly for a party. Champagne (or sparkling wine) is one of my favorite housewarming gifts and something I’ll drink all year long, but I especially look forward to enjoying it on New Year’s.

Without further ado, here’s a quick guide to all my favorite sparkling wines, in a range of prices. Because it’s not always champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Sometimes it’s just delicious sparkling wine for $20 a bottle.

The Real Deal: French Champagne

Veuve Clicquot

I’ve tried the similarly priced Perrier Jouet and I think this champagne blows it out of the water. At approximately $50 a bottle, it’s not exactly everyday stuff, but Veuve Clicquot is worth every penny. Delightfully dry, it tastes crisp on your tongue without ever being too sweet. If you’re looking for a nice gift for a party, or you’re celebrating something special, this is hands down the best champagne I’ve had.

Over the Boarder: Italian Sparkling Wine


Our wine guy back in DC served this at his wedding. Contrary to popular belief, Ferrari is not in anyway affiliated with the automaker. Ferrari retails for only about $20 a bottle, which makes it a fantastic choice for your New Year’s guests. Of all the “imposters,” Ferrari tastes the most to me like actual champagne with none of the extra sweetness you find in the next two options.

You can find this prosecco for less than $20 at some retailers this time of year. This is my go-to choice for mimosas since it’s slightly sweeter than other options. I love bringing a bottle of this to girls night dinners for an aperitif.

Cava de Espana


In Spain, they all drink Cristalino like it’s going out of style, which makes sense since it’s only about 3 euro there. You can find this cava in America for less than $10, which makes it ideal for a big champagne toast with all your friends. People are always shocked when I tell them how inexpensive this bubbly is, because it sure doesn’t taste like it. Mix it with orange juice, Cointreau, and a little agave nectar to make Agua de Valencia.

I was smiling from ear to ear yesterday when I received this award from Gena. The idea is to name seven random things about yourself and pass it on to seven other worthy bloggers. It means so much especially to receive it from Gena, since her blog was part of my impetus to start this one. Sadly, this is probably the most un-Gena like post of all time, so sorry for that unfortunate coincidence. Thanks again, Gena 🙂 Obviously, I will be needing your cleanse after this New Year’s.

1. I can’t snap or whistle. In the sorority, we really did “snaps” just like Elle Woods and I had to fake it.

2. Up until last Christmas, I couldn’t swim. I mean, I could tread water and save my life, but I couldn’t get the breathing down for laps. G gave me lessons as a gift and now I practice whenever I get the chance.

3. I’ve been a blonde, brunette, and a redhead. People without question treat you differently and there is some truth to the saying, “blondes have more fun.”

4. I H-A-T-E cleaning my apartment. But I love inviting people over. Sometimes I’m so embarrassed about the state of my apt I make the people I invited over wait in the hallway while I run in and throw everything in my bedroom. True story.

5. Top 5 favorite foods (no order): Lentils, Avocados, Cucumbers, Corn Tortillas, and French fries (any kind, any way, any day)

6. Foods I would like to banish off the face of the earth: Rye bread, Beans, Peas

7. Favorite holiday movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Who am I kidding, fav movie of all time. I don’t own it, though, since I originally bought it on VHS. Makes me feel old.

And the pumpkin king picks these 7 ladies to receive the Let Them Eat Lentils beautiful blogger award:

1. LW

2. Amber

3. Anna

4. Jess

5. Erica America

6. Holly

7. My mom!!

RIP Brittany Murphy. Check out Amber’s beautiful post here.

Holiday Gift Guide

I completely forgot I was planning on putting this post together and now it’s almost too late! Hopefully this list will still be useful. Remember, Amazon Prime ships in two days. Everything on the list is under $100 and most is around $20, so perfect for the foodie you draw in the gift pool.

Most of these items are ones that we received as gifts ourselves, though some we picked out after much researching. I highly recommend everything on this list, and can virtually guarantee your giftee’s happiness. These are things you could buy yourself, but they’re really all perfect for gifts.

Holiday Gift Guide

To Cut

1. A great chef’s knife

I got this Shun 6 inch for G as a birthday present and it is without question the tool we use most often. We fight over who gets to use this knife. We have the Wusthof one too, but I wouldn’t recommend it over the Shun. Our next knife purchase will be a Global so I’d recommend those too.

2. Cutting boards

We have a small cutting board for limes and LOVE it. I originally thought this was an extravagance but it’s great to have a little board for when you don’t feel like bringing out and washing the big guns. I’ll put it out with cheese and a knife during parties or just use it during the summer for Coronas. For regular cutting, these flexible grip mats are eco-friendly, dish washer safe, protect better against food contamination, and serve as a clean area for prep. Once you get these, you won’t go back.

To Hold

1. A magnetic knife strip

I can safely say I adore this knife strip from the Container Store. People comment on it all the time. It looks nicer, takes up less counter space, and is cleaner than a knife block.

2. A fun olive oil holder

I wrote about this recently – it was a gift from my friend L and it instantly brightens up a kitchen. Anyone who cooks mediterranean style will love it and especially people who love salads.

To Drink

1. Wine preserver
If you manage not to drink the whole bottle, you’ll want some nifty way to preserve it. The Houdini Wine Preserver is cheap, small, and will really make your bottles last after you’ve already opened them. Before the preserver, our wine would last maybe a day or two after opening. Now, we can easily go a full week and it will still taste good. Plus, they close as tightly as a cork so you can put your white wine back in the fridge on its side. If you’re buying last minute, pop over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for the Rabbit Preserver.

2. Wine aerator
I’ve written before about my new Vinturi wine aerator, which I love. But if you’re looking to pour more than one glass at a time (say, leaving the bottle on the table at dinner) this aerator that attaches to the bottle is a good choice. I have one from a winery, but there are a number of choices out there.

To Read

1. Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
I’m a No Reservation fan, so I knew I would enjoy Bourdain’s semi-pretentious style of writing. I was surprised at how humble he is in this memoir recounting his first years in the business. He wrote the book in the wee hours of the morning after working 12 hour shifts on the line, so way before he became a network darling and celebri-chef. Anyone who’s ever dreamed of opening or working in the restaurant business won’t be able to put it down.

2. An Edge in the Kitchen, Chad Ward
This “Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives” is really a lot more fun than it sounds. The author has a dry sense of humor and it’s paired with step-by-step illustrated instructions on everything from the best way to cut a bell pepper to the different types of knives and what they’re good for. We’ve found this to be helpful AND entertaining.

So that wraps up 2009! If you have any questions on kitchen items you’re eying, let me know because I have an opinion on even the ones I don’t own yet. If you have any other suggestions for great gifts, leave them in the comments to help everyone else out.

Happy Holidays!

Full Review: The Road

Watch the official trailer here: Embedding is annoyingly disabled.

As you know, last night I had the opportunity to screen a sneak preview of The Road starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron (to a lesser extent – she only appears in flashbacks). It opens November 25th.

To preface, I hadn’t read the book, hadn’t honestly really heard about the book, and the only thing I knew about the movie consisted of a fluffy photo shoot I’d seen a few months back with Viggo and his young costar, 11-year-old Australian Kodi Smit-McPhee. Prior to seeing the film, however, I check out the LA Times article and even though I’m not a fan of the publication, it’s a super interesting read if only for the explanations of how Viggo prepared for filming a post-apocalyptic movie (ex: he followed homeless men while on publicity tours). If you weren’t a fan of his before, you will be now. Actually all the acting is pretty much terrific though my favorite cameo has to be The Wire’s Omar. Sorry guy, you’ll always be the thief with a shotgun for me.

The Road reminds me the most of 28 Day Later. It gets under your skin; you feel traumatized, sick to your stomach (I threw out my junior mints about 10 minutes in), but alarmingly affected. You want to keep watching. Why, oh why, do you want to keep watching?

It probably has a lot to do with the connection you feel to Father and Son (unnamed in the movie and the book). You want them to succeed. To continue the comparison, you want the 28 days of apocalypse to end favorably and tie up nicely. Plus, for me, the part that connects me most to films like The Road, Children of Men, etc. is the characters’ desperate instinct for self preservation. How would you react at the supposed end of the world? Would you keep on fighting? Would you be ready to let go? Tough questions for a popcorn night at the movies, but moving and jarring and unforgettable.

Do not go to this movie as a date movie. Prepare to be sickened, scared, and potentially have nightmares (depending how how you’re wired). I love and own Children of Men, but I every time 28 Days Later comes on TV I find myself watching it, flipping to mute every time I get too scared. This analogy is overused, but it’s like not being able to turn away from a car crash, I have to watch it.

There is cannibalism in this movie. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that, but it’s a little different watching it, which of course, is the point. I’m trying to figure out who even to recommend this movie to because really, when are you ever in the mood for something like this, but I guess whenever you’re looking to be a little creeped out, shaken, and moved, go check out this movie. Just make sure you take someone with you because you will not want to walk home alone in the dark.

DIY Salad Showdown: Chop’t vs. Mixt Greens

Sorry for the delay in posting as I got home late from previewing The Road (full review coming).

In DC, one of my favorite places to grab lunch downtown during the work week was Chop’t, a Create Your Own Salad shop transplanted from NYC with a Ford style assembly line and endless combinations. Imagine my surprise when I noticed an almost identical looking a la carte salad spot near my new work, Mixt Greens. I thought for sure they must be owned by the same people, but Mixt Greens is only in San Fran and Chop’t is only in NYC and DC. Since I neglected to bring my own lunch today due to the previous night’s escapades with G’s brother, it was the perfect time to try it out and make the comparison.

First – the line was out the door. This picture doesn’t even give you an idea since you can’t see that it snakes back and forth three times and I didn’t even get it at its peak. But, it moves fast, and it’s much more organized than Chop’t. The set up inside though is exactly the same – cold, sterile, bar spots looking outside, few tables inside to eat. But, because it’s in San Fran, Mixt Greens has outdoor seating. Winner? It was a tie. Though Mixt gets a slight edge for not being super confusing about where you’re supposed to order. I also especially liked how my salad maker asked if I wanted light, medium, or heavy dressing.

Yum. I ordered the Dagwood and substituted Soba noodles for the goat cheese. You can check out the dueling menus yourself, but Mixt wins this one for me. I thought the add-ins were much more creative, without charging extra for things like edamame a la chop’t. Plus they give you real homemade bread on the side instead of that disgusting tortilla thing. Winner? Mixt again.

Both companies claim to be fresh and local and sustainable and all that jazz. I will note that Mixt has compost in addition to regular recycling, but that’s also a typical San Fran benefit. From Mixt Web site:

Mixt Greens is an Eco-Gourmet® restaurant that serves environmentally responsible fine food.

Eco: our business puts the earth first from the food we serve (organic, sustainable, local) to the take-away containers we use (made from 100% compostable corn) to the spaces we occupy (built with renewable, recycled, and environmentally friendly materials).

Gourmet: our menu is the creation of executive chef Andrew Swallow, our food is prepared in house with the freshest, highest quality, organic, and locally sourced ingredients, we research the source of each ingredient to ensure it lives up to our high standards.

Chop’t has a running slide show in their actual shop that talks all about how local and fresh and organic their food is, but they seem to be less focused on the green aspect. From their Web site:

We opened in January 2001 hoping to bring something creative, fresh and health to the lunchtime scene in New York City, and eventually the rest of the country.

Every morning before we open our kitchen bustles with activity. We prepare dressings and vinaigrettes from our original recipes, which we tested on our friends and families for two years until they were perfect. We receive our daily shipments of fresh profuce, prepare and grill our meats and seafood, and roast our own turkeys.

Winner? Mixt AGAIN for their greening policy and I thought it tasted fresher.

Congratulations San Francisco version of Chop’t, you have completely won me over and I’m sure I will be spending approximately $10 a salad very often as I try out your amazing variety of flavor combinations. If you’re an East Coast fan of Chop’t, be sure to check out Mixt Greens if you’re ever in my new city.

The Plant Cafe Blogger Dinner

Last night I had the good fortune to check out The Plant Cafe, a delicious organic, vegetarian/vegan restaurant actually located RIGHT BY my old sublet in the marina 😦 Annoying to discover that delicious juices, treats, and lunches were right around the corner the whole time. Or maybe, financially speaking, it was better not to know.


The impetus of this whole meet-up was Kath (second from right) in town for the foodbuzz conference. This is her picture. See Kath has been blogging long enough that she has one of those big lens impressive cameras and no offense, but I always figured that superior camera explains why she looks so vivacious and glowing all the time on her blog. Nope. Exactly the same in person and I would like very much to learn her beauty regimen.

So besides having a lot of fun, getting to know more locals, and discussing composting (really), there was some delicious food. Upon recommendation, I went for Plant’s signature garden burger, which ranges in Yelp reviews from “the best garden burger of my life” to “overpriced and without question NOT the best garden burger of my life despite all these ratings on Yelp.” Ordered mine on sprouted wheat minus onions and garlic aioli and with Kombucha on the side. (I know right, no wine? For some reason I wasn’t feeling it and at $3.99 a pop, Kombucha is a treat in itself.)


The bright red color is from the beets. PS, I hate beets. Not as much as beans and rye bread, but pretty close. So what was the verdict?

Ummmmm, definitely the best garden burger I’ve ever had in my life. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Yelp follower. Also had an un-pictured brownie that impressed both G and myself. Atmosphere at The Plant Cafe was laid back a-la-carte with super friendly service. I did not feel like I was in a judgy-hippie venue whatsoever. And, it was Probably because the most stand-out taste in it was lentils. I will be back, hopefully with some new friends!

A Sushi Halloween

Unfortunately, I’m a bad blogger and I didn’t get a good picture of my costume. Suffice to say, I was sushi, it was homemade, and it looked a little something like this:


Also I had a headband with pink fabric for “ginger” which is so cute I think I might just start wearing it around. And chopsticks through my hair.

All of this was inspired by my favorite sushi spot in San Fran, Naked Fish, which provided the necessary costume chopsticks free of charge. Everyone and their mother is obsessed with Zushi Puzzle but I find Naked Fish to be a little lighter on the rice, and more of a sushi “bar” experience. The disclaimer is both of these sushi spots are in the marina and I haven’t even ventured out to Japantown yet, so I’m sure my best San Fran sushi experience is still out there waiting for me. But for now, I’m pretty happy at Naked Fish, open late night, moderately priced saki, and unbelievable dragon rolls.


Check back later tonight (or early Mon for you East Coasters) for a Football Sunday recipe post. Big day in sports as the Giants play the Eagles and the Yankees take on the Phillies again tonight. Got to go get my gear!