Category Archives: Health & Beauty

Feeding the Soul and The Senses – Todi, Italy

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Being aligned with Mother Nature makes my soul feel alive, whether hiking unpaved dirt paths in the Hawaiian rainforests or swimming in the crystal clear, aqua blue waters of the Caribbean surrounded by sea turtles. When I am in close proximity to my environment – whether it’s on land or in the sea – I feel nourished from the inside out. In fact, I believe that the way the earth nourishes us is Mother Nature’s greatest gift to us all.

I’ve tasted food all around the globe, from three­-star Michelins in Europe, to the break­-of­-dawn sushi counters at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo to ripened, organic Japanese persimmons from my Uncle’s backyard in California. Although each of these three experiences varied considerably, they are all linked by a common thread: the of use of fresh, high­-quality ingredients. There is something so invigorating and satisfying about enjoying a meal straight from the source, with food that is seasonal and locally grown in the region where you are living or visiting.

Food Fashionista Torre Olivola

On a magical, unforgettable visit trip to the region of Umbria, Italy, I felt a strong connection to the surrounding land and all that was cultivated on it. Not only did I gain a full understanding and knowledge of what it was like to live off the land, but I learned what it was like to live abundantly off the land. At a dear friend’s 12th twelfth­-century villa, Torre Olivola in the medieval town of Todi, I was surrounded for miles in all directions by landscapes you would only see in the most picturesque paintings.

Food Fashionista Torre Olivola Todi Italy

Lush, well­-tended gardens of fresh fruits and vegetables, just steps from the historic country side villa, were lit up with the vibrant colors of the tomatoes, radicchio, eggplants, bell peppers, and blood oranges. In every area of this vast, serene, tranquil paradise were perfectly placed benches or sets of tables and chairs where one could sip morning tea or cappuccino while basking in the glory of it all. It was a heavenly way to start the day, with the toasty sun rays shining down upon you, the sound of chirping birds, the rustling foliage, and the breath of the crisp, unpolluted wind whispering sweet nothings and reminding me this was all real, not a dream.

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A five­-minute walk led me to a honeybee colony where these hard-working, vitally necessary, tiny buzzing critters would labor all day, 24/7, creating their sweet pollinated gifts from the floral nectars. This magnificent honey, golden in color, with a creamy, yet thick and silky smooth consistency, was delectable on the artisanal walnut bread, produced by the local Italian baker, or drizzled over yogurt and fresh bright peaches, plums, and strawberries in the morning. I felt true appreciation towards the worker bees for all their generous and hard work. With one drop of magnificent zest from the luxurious honey, you could tell they put their heart and soul into their sweet creation.

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In Italy, they love to eat. The whole visit, I knew I was in the right place. Slow food, real food, good food – that is what our days consisted of from morning to night.  Even though we were eating three­-to five­-course meals for lunch and dinner daily, I never felt overly stuffed or uncomfortable, and I never regretted eating anything – none of this wonderfully tantalizing food was “bad” for me.

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In addition to our mealtimes, the Europeans have this lovely thing called siesta, which in my opinion is a politically correct term that other nations should freely adopt. If more people had it, there would be a greater sense of enjoyment to one’s day and life. Siesta is a time for rest after a mid­day meal. It allows you to have enough time to come home during your work day and enjoy a real meal, instead of being rushed, stuffing your face as you stand looking at the clock ticking away the last dreaded second of your sixty­-minute lunch break. It allows you to have time to prepare a quality meal and to spend that time with the people you love, so that when you go back to work later in the afternoon, you feel rejuvenated, satisfied, and ready to get back to your duties.
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Torre Olivola was surrounded by leafy, branched olive trees that provided shade from the sunlight that stretched across Umbria to the Tuscan border. More importantly, these olive trees produced the most succulent olives that were hand­-picked and later cold­-pressed, yielding the finest­-quality, extra-virgin olive oil in varying rich green hues. We savored the olive oil with a number of accompaniments, such as fresh crusty Italian bread, tomato and garlic bruschetta, and pasta (al dente, of course). We also brushed it over fresh local seafood and vegetables, like sautéed mushrooms, grilled eggplant, and blanched green beans. The tasty, fruity aromas of succulent, high-quality olive oil are not its only reward; the health and beauty benefits attributed to olive oil, with its polyphenols and anti­oxidants, are a welcome added bonus of this Italian staple as well.

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As far as the eye could see, and from a glance out of almost every window at Torre Olivola, were breathtaking views of stretches of vineyard. Grapes are known as “the fruit of the gods” and in Italy, wine is not only enjoyed, it is worshipped. At this ancient fortress where I was staying, the vineyard grapes were delicately hand­-picked, produced, bottled, and aged at just the right altitude in the finest oak barrels. These barrels were stored in the villa’s remarkable underground cantina, creating the most magnificent 100 percent merlot. Along with the villa’s main dining room, it was here in the cantina with the wood­-burning stove and the hanging, curing cinta senese (Italian black pig) that we clinked each other’s wine glasses over the most incredible rustic home­-cooking. The meals were also a rich visual feast with tables adorned with colorful Grazia majolica ceramic dishes from nearby Deruta, and organic centerpieces created from the gardens’ harvest.

 

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About a mile away was the property’s farm of free­-range black pigs that produce the most superior charcuterie. These free­-range pigs are acorn­-fed and are considered the most elite of the swine. Even the top local restaurants purchased the meat from the villa’s farm. Nearby farms supplied parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino, provolone, taleggio and sheep’s milk cheese along with hand­-crafted, preservative­-free butter. My favorite cheese, burrata, which is a creamy mozzarella was picked up at an unassuming, yet wondrous spot just off the highway on the way to Todi. Cheese was a part of every meal: shaved parmesan over vegetable soup; warm taleggio, provolone, and sliced pear crostini; and the classic caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.

Food Fashionista - Todi Italy Torre Olivola

Of the four seasons in Italy, there isn’t one that doesn’t hold some allure for me, but a particularly cherished time of year is “truffle season” ­­- months when the underground growing fungi reach maturity, and are ready to be discovered by well­-trained dogs or sniffing hogs. These tartufi (as the Italians call them) come in several forms, including the more prevalent black, and the rare, highly sought­-after, and pricey white form. Umbrian black truffles are usually hunted from November to March, while white truffles are usually found from October to December. I absolutely delight in the fragrant white truffles and always feel so blessed when I can consume them in any way, over tagliatelle or atop scrambled eggs. With a touch of white truffle, I never want or need any other spice to conflict with the pure aphrodisiacal taste. It’s like superior­-quality raw fish;  you don’t want to mask or drown the flawless essence of flavor with soy sauce. Truffles are a true gift from the earth, definitely one of the highest on the food chain as far as I’m concerned.

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Besides the astounding natural company I was surrounded by – honeybees, olive trees, grapevines, black pigs, fungi growing underground, and a multitude of vegetative growth – the time spent at Torre Olivola was made even more ideal by the authentic, loving, fellow gourmands who shared this edible genuine splendor with me.  They were inspirational people who had lived fully and well, and I aspired to be like them. We delighted each day in fascinating conversation that ranged over such topics as art, music, travel, politics, and the list goes on. Not only was my stomach being well­-sustained, but my mind was actively feasting during our daily meals together. From hearty farro soup, to warm radicchio salad with parmesan slices and balsamic vinegar, to the vibrant seven­-item tuna salad that resembled a garden party, I held dear to the fact that great company makes great food taste even better. This was and will always be a treasured time with awe­-inspiring friends over excellent meals and wine.

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So what did I bring back home from this experience that can be applied to everyday life? While eating sustainable, unprocessed food has always been my priority, my time in Torre Olivola reminded me that simple is often superior. The key to optimal cooking starts with quality ingredients. Never underestimate the value of mealtime and treasured time spent with loved ones. I understand that not everyone can dine in a twelfth­-century castle with a neighboring farm of black pigs and vineyards; that’s not my daily reality either. But I constantly aim to make conscious choices about the food I am purchasing and putting into my body since that is my castle. No matter where one lives, you can establish a habit of supporting your local farmers, and even growing your own produce. Eating fresh, healthy, and well-balanced meals is easier than you think and it truly does feed the soul and the senses.

Mika Takeuchi Food Fashionista Torre Olivola Todi Italy

This essay originally appeared in the book “Creating a Meal You’ll Love” with all proceeds going to Share our Strength – the leading nonprofit organization ending childhood hunger

Jurlique To The Rescue for the Holidays and New Year – San Francisco

Jurlique Fillmore Street San FranciscoDid you know that Christmas is less than a week away? Yes, you heard me right. The 25th is here in six days, and 2013 will be here in just about two weeks. With the year end and the holidays fast approaching, I’m sure most of you can relate to the twelfth-month stress syndrome! During this time, we are trying to connect with friends and colleagues at holiday parties, while coordinating those last-minute travel and family-visiting plans. On top of all this, we’re still not done with holiday gift shopping, and we’re attempting to tie up all those loose ends to start the new year off fresh.

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With all this going on, it’s no surprise that we aren’t looking quite as fabulous as we could be. With late nights come festive times, which translate to lack of sleep, and not-so attractive dark circles. We’re also probably not drinking as much water or getting as much sleep as we should be. I know I’m guilty of this. And like Madonna, my skin is screaming…”Rescue Me”.
Jurlique
Good news, is that there is a helpful solution. For those of you who live in or near San Francisco, you can visit the Jurlique Wellness Day Spa and store at 2136 Fillmore. Enjoy a spot of tea and lavender cookies, while browsing all the holiday gift sets, or enjoying a much-needed beauty treatment. Jurlique gift sets are a true token of love, and your gift recipient (and their skin) will thank you for it. In addition to a flexible price point for every shopper, the gifts come beautifully wrapped and make quite the luxurious statement.
Now that I’ve helped with those last-minute gift ideas and beautifying-treatment tips, you’ll have to figure out who’s giving you that much-needed ride to the airport. Sorry, can’t help you there.
Jurlique San Francisco - Holiday Gift Sets
Holiday Sets are specially priced from $39-$225 (Regularly $56-$473)
A top seller includes the Age Defying Set
Purely Age-Defying Essentials

What every woman wants… luminous, more youthful-looking skin. Treat your skin with high performance anti-aging plant botanicals and potent natural ingredients to help to smooth wrinkles, firm and strengthen skin to deliver you youthful, even toned and luminous skin.
• Specially Priced at $125.00 Valued at $180.
The Set Contents:
• Facial Serum, 30ml
• Ultra Firm and Lift Cream, 50ml
• Eye Cream, 15ml
Key Ingredients:
• Beech Tree Bud Extract is rich in peptides, helps to strengthen the structure of the skin creating a firmer, healthier looking complexion.
• Rock Samphire Extract is rich in mineral salts and essential vitamins, is known for its retinoid-like ability to help support skin thickness and  reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Jurlique
2136 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 346-7881

Happy 75th Birthday, Golden Gate Bridge – Love, Food Fashionista

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Taken with Instagram – Golden sky, Golden Gate Bridge

This was a special weekend in San Francisco. It was our crimson icon's 75th Birthday. With a fireworks show that rivaled the most spectacular that many have witnessed in their entire lives, SF went all out for this memorable celebration.

We didn't really do her justice, but my dining companion made this tuna tartare dedication during our dinner at Bourbon Steak. Served using ahi tuna, this classic Mina dish is prepared with pine nuts, mint, sesame oil, and scotch bonnet pepper.

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We loved the GG Bridge so much, that we ate her.

Happy Birthday, Golden Gate. Thank you so much for being a reliable, sturdy neighbor all these years. You've trail blazed my ventures to the Wine Country and Marin year after year, and no matter how many times we've met, I've remained in constant awe of your beauty and stature.

With love and gratitude,

Food Fashionista

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Saks Fifth Avenue & St Vincent Meals on Wheels – Beverly Hills

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Last night, legendary retailer Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills, teamed up with St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and Miss Lilly’s Trading Company for a festive gathering filled with food, friends and a store full of the most exquisite beauty and fashion. The evening started off with a celebratory VIP reception featuring culinary temptations prepared by several Los Angeles chefs including Mark Gold of Eva, Alex Becker of Nobu, and Michael Fiorelli of mar’sel at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. They, along with nearly 40 other L.A. chefs are featured in the recently released Cart For A Cause Cookbook, whose sales benefit St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. 

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Cart for a Cause Cookbook – the perfect gift!

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Lettuce Wraps by Chef Alex Becker of Nobu, West Hollywood

I was honored to be an official Saks Fifth Avenue guest blogger, and although I was completely in my happy place…shopping couture, sipping cocktails, sharing conversation and sampling cuisine, what made the evening all the more sweet and special, was that it was to support two extremely important causes that I greatly believe in. During the event, Saks donated a portion of its proceeds to St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, the country’s largest, privately funded senior nutrition program, as well as to Miss Lilly’s Trading Company for their pet program, which provides much-needed food for seniors’ pets.

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FENDI Python Peep Toes at SAKS

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Pisco Porton w/Serrano Chili, Grand Marnier, Star Anise, Pineapple

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Chef Mark Gold's Tofu with Caviar

Guests were treated to hypnotic, hip-shaking DJ beats and specialty holiday cocktails by Pisco Portón, alongside a coterie of fanciful “specialists,” including a lipstick reader, glitter tattoo artist, a renowned psychic and more.  Miss Lilly’s Trading Company also offered their beautiful cookie gift tins as well as their exclusive polo and tennis shirts, just for this special evening. Junk Food Clothing was also in attendance with the first ever QR code t-shirt which supports feeding with fashion.

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Christina Rushing (Saks), Chef Mark Gold, Mika Takeuchi

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Bonnie Star Jewely at SAKS

“We’re passionate about supporting St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and the vital work they do on behalf of the hungry and homebound in our community. The partnership between Saks and St. Vincent Meals on Wheels underscores the message that during this celebratory time of year, people have the opportunity to be generous while enjoying their holiday shopping, stated Saks Fifth Avenue Vice President, General Manager John Cruz.

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Foie Gras Macarons by Chef Michael Fiorelli

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Fashion for a Great Cause – The Best!

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Jimmy Choo iPad Case at SAKS – Drool!

“We are delighted to partner again with Saks to address senior hunger, proving once more that Fashion Feeds. We're also very grateful for the support of the Cart For A Cause Cookbook chefs during this season of giving and celebration and thrilled to have some of them join us at Saks,” noted St. Vincent Meals on Wheels Foundation Executive Director Daryl Twerdahl.

I say cheers and a very happy holiday season to that!

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Even if you couldn't be there in person, you could still join the conversation, by supporting your local Meals on Wheels, or by purchasing a Cart for a Cause Cookbook.

 

For more Saks Fifth Avenue, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels event photos (which I'll be adding later today), visit our Food Fashionista Facebook Page.

 

More info on the generous people involved:

St. Vincent Meals On Wheels, the largest privately-funded organization of its kind in the country, serves over 4,700 meals a day, 365 days a year. The meals are prepared daily in the 16,000 square foot, state-of-the-art kitchen located at the Saint Vincent Medical Center Campus.  Annually, over 1.1 million meals are prepared and delivered to people in Los Angeles, including homebound senior citizens, disabled and terminally ill patients and homeless adults and children.

Miss Lilly’s Trading Company merges founder Bebe Flynn’s passions for baking, animal rights advocacy and entrepreneurism.Bebe learned while volunteering with St. Vincent Meals on Wheels that 80% of seniors who own pets share their meals with them, often feeding their pets before themselves.A portion of Miss Lilly's proceeds provides seniors with food for their pets. Miss Lilly herself is a King Charles Spaniel mix, whom Bebe rescued and loves so much that she decided to name her company after her. In addition to Saks Fifth Avenue, Miss Lilly’s cookies are available at Whole Foods and Bristol Farms, among other upscale retailers. Miss Lilly's also sponsors polo teams and their polo and tennis shirts will be on sale at SAKS in limited quantities. 

Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the world's preeminent specialty retailers, is renowned for its superlative American and international designer collections, its expertly edited assortment of handbags, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics and gifts, and the first-rate fashion expertise and exemplary client service of its Associates.  Today, Saks operates 46 full-line stores in 22 states, 5 licensed stores in the Middle East and 2 licensed stores in Mexico City, 57 Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH stores and saks.com, the company's online store.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Food Fashionista

Thank you so much for being a part of Food Fashionista. I'm truly grateful for your friendship and readership throughout the years. Wishing you and your loved ones a very blessed, happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. Be safe, indulge, and don't count the calories!

Hellokitty

Thankful for creative art -“Hello Turkey Chicken Dinner” by Nouar

Napa-Fall

Grateful for God's Natural November Beauty Sees-Chocolate_Turkey

Thankful for colorful Chocolate Turkeys at See's Candies

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 Appreciative of timeless craftsmanship & vintage designer classics
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Thankful for true and inspiring friends

 Romy-the-Cat

Grateful for my fluffy kitty that loves to eat as much as I do… and Thankful for so, so much more!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

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