10 Days in LA

I’m embarrassed to admit that I lived for 29 years without visiting LA. I grew up on the East Coast, spoiled by the nearby New York City and content to explore the gems of Boston in my own backyard. Later, when I went to university in Vermont, if I was not frolicking in the snow on a secluded mountain, I was shopping (Underground City!) or eating (poutine!) or dancing (drinking age!) in the nearby city of Montreal. When I turned 22, I moved to Europe, and shifted my focus to exploring as many European cities as possible. Prague, Cologne, Milan, Paris, Berlin, Bruges, Istanbul, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Dublin . . . I am proud to say that the list goes on and on. However, up until recently, my travels were admittedly quite European-centric. I did go to San Diego, California once when I was a kid, where I was traumatized by a popsicle incident. We were spending the day at Sea World, and had just seated ourselves at the porpoise show, where a small child sitting behind proceeded to drop a large chunk of his chocolate Shamu popsicle down my back. It slid into my khaki shorts where it left a big, brown poop-like stain. I had to walk around all day in the smoldering heat, looking like I shat myself at a seal show. And that’s all I really remember about California, other than the numerous signs warming of snakes, and big, dirt-like mountains. So I never really had a desire to go back to the West Coast, even though lumping together and generalizing my distaste for three coastal states (one of which is 800 miles long), based on an unfortunate incident with a Shamu popsicle, was somewhat naïve. However, this past year on numerous occasions, my work travels brought be back to the West Coast, and one of those stops just so happened to be LA. IMG_5101Side note: I actually applied to jobs in LA when I stopped working at Sid Lee! I’m definitely ready to live in a warmer climate (sorry, Amsterdam), and LA is a great North American hub for advertising. Alas, LA was meant to be in my life in a different capacity at this time, and so serendipitously, I ventured there for a shoot with my new job at Booking.com. So let me tell you a little about LA . . . Continue reading

5 Simple Tips For Making Sashimi

There are three reasons my posts have been scarce lately. One. Work has been hella busy. Two. I signed up to an unlimited month of Bikram yoga and have been going four times a week, leaving me incapacitated and way to yogi-zen to blog. Three. I started watching True Detective and have been slurping the series up like a sugar-sweet milkshake. I just can’t get enough!! I have one more episode to go and don’t know what I will do with my free time once I’m through. Perhaps go back to blogging I guess ;)

This past weekend (which feels so far away already) B was out of town. I missed him, but having the bed to myself for three whole nights kind of rocked. Other than being a shameless pillow hog, I had a total self-respect weekend. On Saturday morning I ran errands around the city. Instead of biking I walked, and as the morning went on the sun slowly burnt through the clouds. All of the trees are blooming in Holland, and lately the sun has been poking around until well past 8pm. So I think it’s safe to say it’s officially spring, and I’m loving every moment.IMG_6175 IMG_6187IMG_6205When my errands were done, I decided to continue the self-respect and try something a bit out of my comfort zone. I’ve lived on the Albert Cuyp Market for three years. And I LOVE seafood (see here and here). But I’ve never actually gotten around to buying fresh fish from the market, despite the many stalls pushing fresh seafood. It might sound silly, but as an American I’m intimidated by purchasing food that’s priced per kilo, as I didn’t grow up with the metric system. No thank you am I accidentally paying €35 for one piece of fish. I also don’t speak Dutch, and the fish market is usually quite crowded and loud, which can be somewhat overwhelming for a short (by Holland standards), non-Dutch speaking American.

But on Saturday I said screw it. I wanted a big plate of raw fish, and no way in hell was I chancing the stuff from the grocery store. So after running errands, I ventured to the market and pushed my way up to the smelly fish counter. I boldly asked for €8 worth of salmon and tuna. I told the fishmonger that I was making sushi, and he helped me pick out a few pieces that were especially fresh. The experience wasn’t half as bad as I had imagined – in fact it was quite pleasant – and I think my local fishmonger may have a new regular!IMG_6216I got home and was excited to unpack my bounty.IMG_6220I opened up the packaging, stomach growling.IMG_6224And then . . . I stopped. Because I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never prepared sushi at home, and despite just wanting a simple plate of sashimi, I didn’t know what to do next. Did I have to wash the fish? Was there a special way to cut it? Did I have to refrigerate it first? Would it be weird to eat it with a fork and knife as-is? Yes, it would. So I did the next best thing. I did some research.5 Simple Sashimi Tips

If you’re planning on making sashimi at home, here are the key things you need to know:

1) Make sure you tell the grocer or fishmonger you’re buying fish to make sushi. There’s no specific grade or standard for selling sushi-safe fish, so you’re going to have to be careful. Not all fish is created equal, and you’re going to want the freshest stuff they have. Ask for a recommendation. The fish should smell like a salty ocean (not dead fish) and should be moist, with bright skin and a firm flesh.

2) Once you’ve got your fish, you’re going to need a very, very sharp knife. You don’t want to have to saw back and fourth with your knife as you cut the fish – this will crush the cells. You want a very sharp knife that will cut straight through the fish in one firm slice. IMG_62293) When you’re ready to cut your fish, slice it into long strips that are about an inch wide. Now, cut your fish against the grain into ¼-inch thick slices. You should be left with an even pile of bite-sized sashimi. For taste and freshness, you’re going to want to serve your sashimi immediately after slicing. IMG_62314) The last step is serving. Pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, and daikon radish are all great sashimi accompaniments. Garnish a plate with you favorites, and then lay down the sashimi. I made my own dressing with sesame oil, soy sauce, and wasabi, and served my sashimi with a big helping of ginger and some mango.

IMG_62445) Get creative! Once you’ve mastered the basics of sashimi making, you can then start to make some really delicious and unique dishes. Typically sashimi is served as a starter, but you could make it into a delicious tuna and seaweed salad, as seen here, or a sashimi-cucumber skewer, as seen here. Keep in mind that the fish flavors are so powerful, so you want to pair your sashimi with light fragrant fruits, vegetables, and grains that compliment the meal. IMG_6254Bon appetite!

Dining at Sumo

Have you ever seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi? Jiro is brilliant. He is a meticulous craftsman, dedicated to perfecting the art of sushi. At 85, Jiro still wakes up every morning striving for better. He is exhausting and inspiring, an entertaining perfectionist (Psst. Watch the movie!)

As much as I would love to dine at Sukiyabashi Jiro, Jiro’s flagship restaurant, I don’t live in Japan. I also don’t have 30,000 yen laying around. So, on Tuesday night when my routine sushi craving hit, I had to settle for something a bit more local, something a tad less fancy.

Enter Sumo, an Amsterdam sushi joint conveniently located right across the street from my office. Sumo is a weeknight booby trap. If I dare leave the office on an empty stomach, Sumo’s neon signs lure me in like a mesmerized moth. This past Tuesday was no exception. As it was an impromptu visit, I did not bring a snazzy camera. However, I did take a few insta-snaps of the meal.

Do I recommend dining at Sumo? Yes. Is it for the phenomenal taste and quality of the food? No.

The food is at Sumo is OK, and the service there is decent at best. But the really fun part is ordering, and the unlimited rounds of goodies that are delivered to your table, time and time again. Imagine a buffet, where all of the food is freshly cooked and served to you upon command. One flat price, all you can eat food made to order. My fat-kid heart is fluttering!

Sumo has a pretty decent menu, and ordering reminds me of playing mini golf. Each table gets a little score card, and you are asked to put a tick mark next to the dish you want to order. Each person is allowed 5 dishes per round, and there are 5 rounds in total. It’s fun to flip through the menu, carefully selecting the dishes you want to try. Working to fill out the corresponding score card makes receiving your food that much more rewarding – you’ve worked for it!! If you’re not a sushi fan, don’t be put off. There are just as many noodle, meat and seafood options on the menu. My top recommendations are the grilled squid, the tuna avocado rolls, and the sashimi salad.

The bad? You can’t get a glass of tap water, which is quite outrageous, considering they serve alcohol. They also don’t have a fun cocktail menu. I always crave a big fruity cocktail with my sushi! There’s a lot of mayo in the food, which is fair since this is Holland. But hidden globs of mayo in my sashimi salad can be a bit off-putting! Also, the lighting is red, which makes for a jazzy atmosphere but a poor picture. And lastly, service is very hit or miss. I’ve had two very good and two very bad service experiences at Sumo. My recommendation is to make a reservation for a bit later in the evening, and go on a week night. There are less people at these times, so your waiter will be attentive and available to  pick up your menu card and clear your table.

If you’re interested in checking out Sumo, there are two locations I have been to in Amsterdam, one in Leidseplein and a second (by my work!) on the Vijzelstraat. You can find the number to make a reservation here.