so as you can imagine, i was psyched to go pick my mom and brother up at LAX on christmas morning. they stayed for 5 days, and we had a truly excellent time. gifts were exchanged, local landmarks were visited, pictures were taken, beer was drunk, wii was played, and best of all, food was everywhere. i was having too good of a time to photograph any of the restaurant food, but i did manage to get some of the home-cooked ones.
there were three major culinary experiences over the last five days.
the first occurred christmas night, when we had dinner reservations at the shojin in little tokyo. i've read a lot about this place, and when i heard they were having an 8-course dinner special, i reserved a table for 4. being from cleveland, the family made all of the obligatory a christmas story jokes about eating christmas dinner at an asian restaurant. but in this case, no ducks were harmed! the meal was amazing. we ordered two set menus, a shitload of appetizers and couple entrees, and shared everything. i know it's like torture to not have pictures, but here was the menu:
- french onion soup. sounds basic, right? anything but. this soup was amazing, and topped with a sexy little crouton and vegan mozz.
- kobocha pumpkin croquette. this thing was tiny, and awesome.
- cabbage roll. they floated this is a shallow bowl of broth, also very good.
- christmas salad. probably my favorite course. all kinds of nuts and fruits in a spinach salad. i typically hate fruity dressings, but the bright red raspberry stuff on this salad was great. we also ordered a chef-style salad off the regular menu, which i could have eaten a bathtub full of.
- seitan stroganov w/ brown rice. it was tomato based, which was unexpected, but you guessed it - freakin good. we ordered three other seitan dishes, one barbequed, one breaded and fried, and one with yuzu and radish sprouts.
- dessert & coffee. brace yourself: we were presented with the cutest arrangement of baby desserts - little truffles, one rolled in cocoa and the other in pistachios, a baby slice of pecan pie, and pumpkin cheesecake.
for those of you who live in/near la and have the chance, please, go support this restaurant. the food is inventive and delicious, the service was impeccable, and the price was beyond fair. when we left, we were shown out by the chef and our server, and given a 'thank you for coming on christmas' gift. how did the know we wanted a copy of "shojin music: selections by ken" wrapped in pink ribbon? that truly was the icing on the cake. inside the cd case was another profuse thank you from the restaurant. best holiday dinner ever.
the second great food-related activity was taking them grocery shopping. sounds like the type of thing you should get out of the way before company arrives, no? but i knew that my brother would like seeing all of the ethnic specialties that do not exist in his neck of the woods (cincinnati) and my mom would be blown away by the low low cost of produce. seriously, though, tons of fun. w and i stocked up on the usuals, while the guests picked up some special snacks (three kinds of gardeniera?!)
the foodie trifecta of xmas 2k8 was completed by w, who, recognizing that we were too busy playing wii to go out for dinner, cooked up the worlds most delicious small plates and let us go crazy. the tapas party included a fun mix of all the stuff we had procured at the markets that day:
- warm olives and pepperoncinis
- foul medammas with pickled turnips, flat parsley and pita
- roasted brussels sprouts
- stuffed mushrooms*
- loubie. loobie? not sure how to spell it. you know, garlic, tomatoes & green beans, lebanese style. served with baguette
*i have been on a loooong, unsuccessful journey to mushroom enjoyment for years. i want to like them, but i can't. i ate five of these mushrooms, and loved them.
not to be outdone, i woke up early the next morning and made a big breakfast. supremed grapefruit (thanks top chef!) fronch toast (thanks VWAV!) oatmizzle with sliced almonds and currants, and fried potatoes. what really makes breakfast for me, though, is breakfast condiments. blueberry syrup, earth balance, hot sauce, ketchup, & crappy old aunt jemima.
it was awesome watching my family eat and enjoy vegan food all weekend. they're adventurous eaters, and will try just about anything. they each said on separate occasions, "i could easily be vegan if i had access to all of these markets/restaurants/recipes." baby steps, family, baby steps. if nothing else, putting two people back out into the world with a little more compassion for animals and the people who don't eat them is a good thing.
for christmas, little bro and i promised to spend >$20 on each other - it was agreed that i would get him something CA-centric, and he would bring something to remind me of home. i thought the above t shirt was funny. he had the following painting 'comissioned' for me, by his friend tyler. he totally won.