Category Archives: Health & Beauty

VIMMIA Activewear – Wear Good and Do Good

Mika Takeuchi VIMMIA Lifestyle Blog

On a recent afternoon in cities across the U.S. – New York, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C., stylish activewear brand VIMMIA partnered with Maria Shriver’s A Woman’s Nation, a non-profit organization created by Shriver, on their initiative, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Challenge, which recognizes that women are the epicenter of the global Alzheimer’s epidemic and challenges organizations to do cutting-edge research on women’s brains to defeat this mind-blowing disease. On this health-focused afternoon, people of all shapes and sizes gathered at their local Equinox for a half day of yoga, cardio boxing and meditation along with seminars on nutrition, sleep, and Alzheimer’s education.

MariaShriver - VIMMIA - Food Fashionista

The Women’s Alzheimer’s Challenge partners with leading researchers, scientists and major non-profit organizations to create landmark Alzheimer’s research funds to finance gender-specific research on women’s brains and challenges women and men to get educated, engaged and empowered to defeat this mind-blowing disease. Through the partnership, one dollar from every legging sold through May 30, 2017 will go directly to The Women’s Alzheimer’s Challenge.

“At VIMMIA, we have been dedicated to health, fitness and philanthropy since our founding.” says Ardy Raminfar, VIMMIA Founder and Creative Director. “The physical and mental wellbeing of women is at the core of our business and philanthropy model, and we are proud to partner with Maria Shriver and A Woman’s Nation to help fund research for this devastating disease.”

Mika Takeuchi Food Fashionista VIMMIA

I love my luxe VIMMIA activewear including the VIMMIA Wind Jacket. It’s so versatile, that I could and do wear it in and out of the yoga studio. I wore it above on a recent summer day in Paris’ Le Marais district. It’s also lightweight enough to throw into a small purse and proved to be quite weatherproof on a recent afternoon when it shielded me from the sudden pouring rain on the Champs Élysées.

For more info on VIMMIA, visit vimmia.com

For more info on Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Challenge, visit thewomensalzheimerschallenge.org

 

Little Gem – San Francisco, California

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Little Gem Salad

Little Gem in Hayes Valley is a big, bright neighborhood gem. They’ve only been open since December 2015, but it’s one of those places that makes me wish I lived even closer. I’d be there all the time – breakfast, lunch, dinner. It’s just the kind of vibe that makes you feel welcomed at “home”.

During the day, the contemporary space’s expansive windows shine a glowing natural light upon the entire restaurant interior. You order at the counter and are given a number on a pastel ombré piece of reclaimed wood before choosing a seat at a barstool or table.

The menu is gluten, dairy and sugar free. I tend to mostly cook this way at home, so even before my visit, many friends and colleagues asked me if I had tried Little Gem yet. They knew it was a place that mixed in well with my daily at-home lifestyle and I was pleased when I finally visited. The people and space had a sincere, warm energy and the menu ingredients are all mindfully sourced from local farmers and artisans. It’s always refreshing to have a place that shows healthy, high quality dining options can also be affordable and satisfying.

Founders Eric Lilavois, John DiFazio and Chef Dave Cruz were all physically and presently working at the restaurant behind the counter and in the kitchen during my lunch visit. Lilavois was most recently the Chief Operating Officer for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group so it’s no surprise that Little Gem, although approachable and casual, had a clear and polished professionalism about it.

Little Gem Hayes Valley - Food Fashionista

Napa Valley Honey Lemonade prepared with local Marshall’s Farm Honey

Little Gem San Francisco Chef Dave Cruz

Window view of Chef Dave Cruz in the Little Gem kitchen. Before this new endeavor, Chef Cruz worked at several restaurants in New York and California including serving as the opening chef for Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville.

Little Gem San Francisco - Food FashionistaGrilled Trumpet Mushrooms on Beans & Rice w Rancho Gordo beans, Tuscan kale,  tomato-bacon stew.

Little Gem Flat Bread - Food Fashionista

Mixed Vegetable Flatbread with caramelized carrots, cauliflower, broccolini, kale, almond-onion puree

Little Gem Salad

Asparagus & Radish Salad with pea shoots, soft boiled egg, romaine lettuce, celery, green goddess dressing and addition of King Salmon

Little Gem Hayes Valley

Little Gem

Address: 400 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone:    (415) 914-0501

Hello, Hoshigaki Season 

All over Instagram and in professional kitchens around California, we are seeing rows and rows of hanging, bright peeled persimmons. And if like many, you’re wondering what this current Hoshigaki trend is all about, it’s actually a very old, traditional practice and a Japanese word meaning dried persimmons.

My friend and award-winning Bay Area writer Carolyn Jung went deep into discussing Hoshigaki and its use among Bay Area chefs in an article this week in the SF Chronicle. You can read it at: Hoshigaki time: Bay Area chefs embrace elaborate Japanese dried persimmons. And for more pics on Bay Area chef’s Hoshigaki displays, check out Inside Scoop’s recap at: Hoshigaki: The Bay Area’s breakout social media stars of winter 2015.

Pictured above: Hoshigaki hanging in the NINEBARK kitchen

(photo: moelopez)

 

Urban Remedy Retreat – Carmel Valley Ranch

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Urban Remedy - Carmel Valley Ranch - Therapeutic Bath

 

With all the indulging and multitasking in every day life, we often forget how important it is to take a moment, or a long weekend to relax and completely get away from it all. A break from life’s noise is not only nourishing and necessary for the body, but also for the mind and spirit. This is why I’m so looking forward to escaping to one of my favorite destinations in California soon. Carmel is approximately a two-hour drive from San Francisco, an hour from Silicon Valley, and a place very close to my heart. It’s also the location I’ll be attending Urban Remedy’s Detox Retreat at The Ranch.

Carmel Valley Ranch Hotel

Carmel Valley Ranch is a 500-acre luxury resort that offers a true nature retreat with panoramic views of mature oak trees and the lush Carmel Valley.  I can’t wait to take a breather in the hundreds of miles of hiking trails and at one of the nearby beaches to hopefully catch a beloved Pacific coast Rothko sunset.

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Urban Remedy embodies the belief that Food is Healing, and at the Urban Remedy Retreat, we’re going to delight in healthy meals and also learn how to make them. I’m really awaiting the visit to the on-site organic garden and attending a Q & A about organic farmstead practices and growing with Carmel Valley Ranch’s own Organic Farmer Mark Marino.

Meet the resident Artisans at: http://bit.ly/1RkFcfk.

Carmel Valley Ranch.

Neka Pasquale – the host for the retreat, is a licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Urban Remedy. She released the Urban Remedy Book earlier this year and is a huge believer in the power of raw foods and juicing. In as little as three to five days of resetting nutritional habits, she’s witnessed huge and positive changes in client’s health.

I’m personally excited to see how I physically and mentally feel after the detox weekend. In my world and profession, it’s unrealistic to eat raw on an every day basis, but I can take breaks from my usual dietary and work schedule and give this nourishing gift to myself. Balance. It’s all about balance.

Urban Remedy - Carmel Valley Ranch Salad

 “A retreat is time we take away from our everyday stresses in life to focus on ourselves. Taking a break from social media, our phones, eating unhealthy foods and the hustle and bustle of modern life. It is a time to create intention to go within and connect with your spirit and receive the messages of your soul. It is a reset where we eat nourishing and cleansing foods and juices that heal and balance the body. A retreat is a gift to yourself that supports overall wellbeing mentally, physically and spiritually.” – Neka Pasquale, Founder of Urban Remedy.

 

To attend or learn more about the retreat and property, visit:

Carmel Valley Ranch http://bit.ly/1oytTDj

Urban Remedy Detox Retreat http://bit.ly/1Kgua8X

 

Feeding the Soul and The Senses – Todi, Italy

Food Fashionista Torre Olivola Todi Italy 6

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 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 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.

Food Fashionista - Torre Olivola

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.

Food Fashionista - Torre Olivola - Todi Italy

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.

Food Fashionista - Torre Olivola - Seafood

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.
Food Fashionista Torre Olivola 5

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.

Food Fashionista Torre Olivola Todi Italy 4

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.

 

Food Fashionista - Torre Olivola Todi Italy 2

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.

food fashionista torre olivola wine

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.

food fashionista - torre olivola Todi Italy Salad

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