My Ninja, My Love…

Red Lego Ninja

My friend Kristin, a successful actress and model,  moved to France.  As models are sometimes apt to do, she moved to Paris for work, leaving me the sole custody of her Ninja.  No, it’s not a cat, dog, or turtle – but a blender.   I’ve had torn relationships with blenders in the past.  They always make promises to accomplish goals, then barely put in any effort to get them done.   Sometimes they refuse to do anything at all, and just sit there glaring at me as they repose on the formica.  The current blender I have has been exiled to the pantry – after it protested to blend ice for margaritas.   But then Kristin introduced me to the Ninja.  And other friends of mine had mentioned the Ninja as well; how it creates these dream-like smoothies and fantastic sauces.  Was this indeed an appliance I could count on?  So Kristin left the country and I got the blender.

The model I have is the Ninja Pulse.  Pictured above, it comes with everything displayed, as well as a cookbook and instruction manual.  I felt immediately at ease with this appliance.  And then the experiments began.  Pasta sauces, smoothies, and soups are the main things I use it for; although it can also be used as a coffee bean grinder and mixer.  I also use it to dice onions and other vegetables into smaller morsels.  The key here is not to blend it too much, or it becomes more liquified than desired.  However, because of a very happy accident, I created an amazing sandwich spread:  pureed onion.  I was attempting to dice two white onions, and I blended it a little too heavily.   I decided to make the most of my mistake, added a little water, and processed it some more.  A smooth, low-calorie spread was born!  Not only is it good on sandwiches, it can also be used at a thickener for soups and sauces, and as a topping for potatoes.  One could add spices or Parmesan cheese to it as well, but I kept mine pure and basic.  Take a look at the finished product below.

Another recipe I invented was Creamy Curry Soup.  I took two broccoli stalks (sans the florets) and half a white onion.  I pureed both together until it was a nice thick paste.  Then, I heated up a can of cream of chicken soup.  Added to this was my broccoli paste, fresh spinach leaves, two sliced avocados, a myriad of spices, and yellow curry powder.  I like it spicy, so I added a lot of yellow curry, as well as cumin, chili powder, and dried cilantro.  Phenomenal was the word that sprang to mind as I savored the first taste of this creation.  This could also be made vegetarian easily, just substitute cream of mushroom or cream of celery for the soup.  Or one could go the other direction and add chicken breast to the brew.  I had mine with some fresh bread, but it would be equally good served over rice.

One smoothie recipe I love involves a banana, about a cup of frozen strawberries, six or so ice cubes, and cranberry juice.  Pulsed until liquid form, this can either be consumed right away as a beverage, or put in the freezer as a chilled dessert.  I haven’t done so yet, but it would be amazing with vodka or tequila added to it as well.  The finished product is pictured above.

How, exactly, this is blender feng shui?  Well, it falls into many categories.  For one, is a multifaceted kitchen machine, so it can perform a variety of tasks.  It also takes up very little space in the kitchen, thus avoiding clutter.  Also, the more healthy and taste-filled food and beverages are, the more abundant and auspicious they become.  It also makes eating healthy a lot easier.  If I’m not in the mood to eat more nutritious  items, I just chop and puree them down, and then add them to things.  My vegetable intake has tripled since the Ninja came to live with me.  Also, it adds a beneficial metal element to the kitchen, in both color and material.  However, most kitchens are usually brimming with metal energy due to the  other main fixtures in the room, such as the stove, refrigerator, and sink.

Because it is such an incredible product, the Ninja Pulse can be a little pricey.  I have searched the web, and here are the best places to capture this ninja online:

I have many activities planned for The Ninja and myself.   I foresee a long and blissful array of cookie dough combinations, home-made mashed potatoes, shredded zucchini browns, and dark chocolate raspberry pudding.   My Ninja, you are truly a one-in-a-million appliance.

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Raphael: An Artist Studio

The color yellow in feng shui is an alluring example of the earth element, introducing a vibrant cheerfulness to any environment.  Some color researchers feel that this shade can  strengthen one’s immune system, confidence, and well-being.     For feng shui guidelines, it is best used in living rooms, kitchens, dining areas, and entry halls.   Yellow can work for other areas, too, but it depends on which pigment is selected for which location.  A primary yellow, for instance, would be much too yang in its energies for a bedroom; the occupant would have trouble sleeping and could become agitated.  But a pale yellow would work well for rest and rejuvenation.  Yellow can also bring a glowing fire element into a space, depending on the hue.  The luminosity of the various yellows in the painting above adds depth and sensuality to the piece without the effort of  reds or purples.   It also brings a brightness to the restaurant hallway in which it resides.   Be it citrine, amber, or goldenrod, the color yellow makes a valuable  impact to one’s surroundings.

Nestled amidst the bustle of Ventura Boulevard lies an artistic oasis of the cultivated kind known as Raphael.   I came here the other day with my friend Hanh, and was highly impressed.  All of the elements here are beautifully displayed, and the use of color is that of a painter’s palette.   The main dining area of the restaurant is tastefully decorated.  Intriguing art, comfortable seating, and unique light fixtures are some of the striking features here.  One of my favorites was the lavish yellow wall panels.  These golden room dividers help to add a sense of warmth and luxury to the dining experience.   Another item that captivated my attention was a handmade glass light fixture.  With its fiery tints and triangular shapes,  it can act as one’s own personal sun if they sit at this specific table (pictured above).

The outside of Raphael is a stoic stone edifice that masks the style and grandeur that awaits inside – until you see the succulents.  A massive wall of living plants encloses the outdoor terrace dining, adding a rich and lively wood element to the earthen structure.

In contrast to the robust yellows of the dining area, the lounge is hued in shades of blue and green, with wood-paneled walls and squared lighting.  I love the use of  rectangles and squares here, providing a stability while dining.   A medium-sized bar lies directly across.  One aspect here I did not care for – feng shui wise – was the mirrored ceiling, which can be glimpsed in the top left corner of the photo.  Reflective ceilings are considered very high energy, and will cause difficulty in one being able to rest.  However, being that this is a place of business and not a residence, I found this to be a rare exception to the rule.  But no one should hang a mirror over their bed on the ceiling – ever.  In addition to the tawdry tackiness of how it looks,  the occupant of the bed will suffer a variety of problems.  Don’t do it.

And now on to the food!  Raphael is experimenting with their Happy Hour at present, but we sampled their selection of three small plates for $12.00.  The selection of the three items changes daily upon the discretion of the artist, chef Adam Horton.  He combines various Asian cooking elements into his nouveau cuisine.  The three masterpieces above were sublime in both taste and presentation.

  • On the left we have Amberjack lounging about in a pool of delicious curry sauce, with baby carrots.  A coconut puree acted as garnish.  Incredible.
  • In the middle we have tomatoes, burrata cheese and kimchi, served warm under glass.  When I lifted the glass up, smoke billowed out.  Dinner and a show – I love it.  Tasty and tantalizing.
  • On the right we have Wagyu beef accompanied by bacon-onion jam.  The little half egg roll garnish is filled with a mellow bleu cheese.  Mouthwatering.

And below are the other things I sampled:

Savory Martini – A gin based martini with celery bitters, dry vermouth, Parmesan stuffed olives, and a solitary cocktail onion.  I love martinis – especially a Gibson – and this one combined my love for cheese into the concoction.  Also available with vodka.  Decadent and classy.

Roseberry – An ideal summer beverage!  Fresh pressed raspberries, lemon, and gin pool their talents together wonderfully.  Garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary.  A prime example of yin and yang, with the savoriness of the gin and rosemary, and the sweetness of the fruit.  I love the ruby color of the drink as well.  Addictive.

Ginger Shandy – Ginger beer, vodka, Corona, and liquid ginger perform exquisitely in this lush summer cocktail.   I especially liked the use of yuzu foam across the top, giving it a nice froth.  These are dangerous – I could drink them all day.

Macaroni and Cheese – A small crock of steaming macaroni and cheese.  Comfort food at its finest.   Unlike other versions of this classic, Raphael uses jalapeno juice in the compound, adding a spicy yang element to the entrée.  Hanh and I were only going to share one order, but it was so good we couldn’t resist and enjoyed a second round.  Piping hot and satisfying.

Habanero Tincture
Photo courtesy of H. Nguyen

All of our beverages were created by our bartender, Chris Parke.  A true mixologist, Chris educated us on the ingredients on each drink, as Adam had on the food.  One interesting bit of knowledge I learned was what a tincture is.  In the world of mixology and bartending, a tincture is an essence of something to its most potent form.  Used in some of the libations at Raphael is their own homemade Habanero Tincture.  I sampled only a few drops, and it packed a powerful punch.  I quickly followed it with some water.   I can see how it would be amazing in a food or beverage, though, once it was diluted.  Hanh and Chris were much more courageous than I; they each took a whole shot of the tincture (pictured above).   It gives whole new meaning to the term fire-eater.   On my next visit, I plan on savoring some wine from their choice selection, and perhaps take in the best of all artistic creations:  Dessert.

Raphael, A Dining Experience

11616 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604
818 505-3337

Hours:  Lunch:  Monday – Friday 11:30 – 2:00,  Dinner:  Sunday – Thursday 5:30 – 9:00,  Friday – Saturday 5:30 – 10:00,  Happy Hour:  Tuesday – Friday 5:00 – 7:00

http://raphaelonventura.com/

Note:  Closed Mondays for Dinner, and weekends for Lunch.

The Road to Melville

Herman Melville was one of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century.  His most popular book, Moby Dick, illustrates the adventures of a sailor called Ishmael and his experiences aboard the ship Pequod.  Bent on revenge, the captain of the ship, Ahab, relentlessly pursues  a large whale who destroyed his last boat and bit off his leg.  While I have never read Moby Dick, I can understand Ahab being somewhat angry at the whale.  I also appreciate his tenacity at the continual hunt for this grand creature, Moby.  It reminds me of my never-ending exploration for good wine (without the revenge or blood-loss).   On my recent travels, my friends and I stopped at Melville Winery in Lompoc  to sample their vineyard creations.  The main tasting room is in the rotunda-esque portion of the building (above), with beautiful grounds perfect for picnics and relaxation.

This winery is rich with color!  On the day we visited, elegant wisteria was in full bloom, adding a beautiful wood element to the front of the building.  This flowery plant also adds  a little fire energy with its calming violet color.  The mustard hue of the stuccoed walls and the reddish tile add a lively earth element to the environment.  Most shades of yellow are symbolic of earth or mountains, and tend to put one immediately at-ease.  This, I found, continued as we journeyed inside.

An expansive tasting bar lined the back wall of the room that I now call “the tasting rotunda.”  I fell in love with the beautiful marble that covered the bar.  Marble, real or faux,  is a stylish and tactile way of adding an earth element to any environment.  This specific marble takes it one step further.  Notice how the patterns on the stone almost looks like a map of some sort; maps and globes are another way of how earth can be introduced symbolically into ones surroundings.

Another auspicious aspect of the environment are the potted trees inside.  An example of this is pictured below.  Living trees and plants indoors can add a beneficial wood element to the area, as well as improving air quality.  Faux plants are also good, but they will not aid in improving the indoor air as real plants.   Notice also at the top of the picture there are beams on the ceiling.  Beams, from a feng shui perspective, can greatly affect the health and emotional relationships of an area in a negative fashion.  They can  symbolically apply pressure to those in the room, and can cause quarrels or discord among people as well.  Being that this is a business, it’s not as bad as if it were a residence, but I’m not fond of it.  This was the only negative I noticed in the surroundings.  I love how all the windows let in natural sunlight, bringing more nature in from the outside.

And now on to the delicious wines:  Here’s what I tasted:

  • 2009 Estate Chardonnay – Now, while I am a red lover by heart, there is nothing like a white wine on a warm California day.  Referred to as their core chardonnay, this was my favorite of all the wines we tried.  Pineapple, lemon, and sage are very evident in the aroma.   Truly excellent and crowd pleasing.
  • 2010 Estate Viognier – A crisp white wine with hints of pear and ginger.  Not as sweet as other viogniers, but I quite enjoyed it.  Would be great with Chinese food.
  • 2010 Estate Syrah – A sultry red with suggestions of plum and elderberry.  Very tasty.
  • 2010 Estate Pinot Noir – A deep, rich pinot full of spices.  One can taste black pepper, cumin, and ginger among others.  I loved the ruby color of this wine.  Sophisticated and complex.

The grounds of Melville are well-manicured and pleasing to the eye.  My friends and I took advantage of this and brought a picnic lunch to savor the gorgeous day.  We also purchased a bottle of the 2009 Chardonnay to accompany the meal.  Definitely one of the best picnics I’ve had in a long time.   I will definitely be visiting Melville again when I’m in the Lompoc area.

Justina Cross, Shaun-Mathieu Smith, Wendy Cross and Andres Acevedo. Photo courtesy of J. Cross.

Melville Vineyards and Winery

5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436

805 735-7030

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 4:00.

http://melvillewinery.com/index2.html