For some reason or another, I make a trip to CA every six months. Usually by the end of the trip, I appreciate the west coast for what it is and am ready to come back home. But this time, I just didn't want to part ways. I don't know if it was because I was so sick of Boston's cold weather or because I no longer craved the frenetic culture of the east coast or because everyone there seemed to have the whole illusive work-life balance thing figured out (or if not figured out, they weren't too worried about figuring it out). Maybe I romanticize the west coast too much in my head, but one thing I would definitely appreciate if I moved there is their commitment to organic/sustainable/farm to table/"whatever you want to call it" eating.
While I was there Milan took me to AQ in SF. It was the first "just the two of us" date we've been on in years, literally. The restaurant not only changes its menu to source locally and seasonally, but it also changes its decor every season. It was beautiful, and a perfect place for us to catch up with a bottle of wine. Milan ordered a cheese plate to start, and the honey that came with it was divine. We forgot to ask where it came from (probably a result of the wine), but it definitely was something to write home about. I ordered the short rib, and it literally melted in my mouth. If you are in SF and looking for a nice meal (although a bit pricey), I would definitely recommend it.
Later during the trip, I went to go visit my brother in LA. While he was taking a midterm, my parents and I went to Santa Monica to kill some time. (Side note: if I moved to LA, all I would do is kill time. I don't know how anyone is productive in a city with such beautiful weather). My dad asked me to pick the restaurant, and I think his exact words were "don't take me to any of that vegan natural foods shit again." So naturally, the restaurant that I took them to was called True Food Kitchen, which is based off of Dr. Andrew Weil's anit-inflammatory diet. Their ethos is that food should be both nutritious and tasty. My parents even liked the food, so it really couldn't have just been one of those bland "vegan natural foods" places. It was the perfect place for an outdoor lunch before going to the pier.

California is chock-full of places like AQ and True Foods Kitchen. I would love it if the east coast adopted even half of their food culture. Maybe it will happen slowly, but surely? I don't know. A girl can hope, I guess.
I promised forever ago that I would post some quick and easy recipes that you can make when you only have 2 minutes to cook and eat in total. The drumsticks below are SO SUPER easy you don't even have to do anything. I almost feel like I shouldn't post it because now you all know how lazy I am, but they are so good that I don't even feel bad about it. What I do feel bad about is subjecting my roommate to me singing that part of the "One Week" song by the Barenaked Ladies while making these. You know, that interlude where it goes "chickty china the Chinese chicken. Have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'."

Anyway, another thing that I wanted to talk about was labeling. I know that my last post was on labeling, and you are just like how much can one person really care about the words pasted on to food packaging. But read on--it's interesting.

A few months ago I went to this talk hosted by the Harvard Law Society on food labeling and it's implications (yes, now that I am in Boston I just casually drop Harvard, MIT, Brown, etc. into my conversations to make me seem smart). The panelist were talking about how food labels don't really mean anything. Something that says "all natural" on the label could mean jackshit, and could actually be full of a number of artificial ingredients. Even more interesting was that studies found that when people ate things that were labeled as healthy or all natural or fat free or whatever else that is perceived as "good for you," they actually ate more of it. So like for example, if someone ate oreos that were labeled as organic (organic oreos? whatever the fuck that means), they would subconsciously eat 5, whereas they would normally eat 2 of the non-organic oreos.

Essentially, food labeling has a big impact on us whether we realize it or not. It frustrates me that companies stick these arbitrary "healthy" labels on things, and then make us pay more it for it. They are pretty much stealing money right out of our pockets. This is why I think, as a consumer, it would help us to :

a) Shop more on the perimeter of the supermarket where things do not need to be heavily labeled because you recognize the ingredients in it (veggies, fruits, meats, cheese, eggs, etc) rather than the inner aisles which carry pre-packaged food, and

b) Educate ourselves on the variety of labels that are out there. There is an excellent guide to labels published by Animal Welfare Approved: Food Labeling for Dummies. If you get a chance, I would highly recommend checking it out. It eliminates much of the confusion surrounding all-natural vs. organic vs. cage free vs. free range, etc.
Chinese Chicken Drumsticks

1 lb chicken drumsticks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chinese 5 spice
1 tsp sambal olek (or more depending on the kick you want)
3 tbsp coconut aminos
3 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Combine all ingredients except for drumsticks in a bowl and whisk.
3) Pour ingredients onto drumsticks and marinate for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator. I marinated for about 2 hours.
4) Place drumsticks on foil lined baking tray and bake for about 45 minutes.
5) Turn chicken over onto the other side and scoop up the sauce or from the bottom of the tray or from left over marinade and pour over chicken.
6) Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until cooked through.