Category Archives: Inspiration

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.

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.

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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

Michelin InTIREnational Art Contest – Vote Now!

Michelin Inspired Tires

In its second year, the Michelin InTIREnational Art Contest challenges participants from South Carolina Upstate schools, businesses, non-profit organizations and the art community to create a unique piece of art with an international theme using up to four scrap tires donated by Michelin. This year, two winning works of art will be selected out of the 26 participants.  Each of the winning entries will receive a $5,000 donation to a charity, school, or non-profit of choice. One winner, the People’s Choice, will be awarded to the entry that receives the most votes on the contest’s website that is open to all members of the public. The second winner will be selected by a panel of judges based on these four criteria:

Overall design and execution

How creative is the overall design? How well did the participant(s) execute the concept?

Tire usage

How well did the participant(s) use and incorporate scrap tires into the overall design?

International theme

How well did the participant(s) communicate an international theme through the artwork?

Upstate connections 

How well did the participant incorporate a connection to the rich international diversity in the Upstate?

Michelin Inspired Tires

The InTIREnational Art Contest is part of Upstate International 2015 (upstateinternational.org), a month-long series of community events and activities that celebrate the cultural diversity of South Carolina’s Upstate. Michelin’s U.S. headquarters are based in Greenville, South Carolina.

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Voting is open to the public through March 27, 2015 and the winners will be announced at an event at Michelin’s corporate headquarters on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. See the creative and inspiring Michelin tire artwork and be sure to cast your vote for your favorite at InspiredTires.com 

 

 

Super Bowl Recipes by Super Chefs

Superbowl-Chefs-Recipes-Food-Fashionista

Super Bowl XLVI is right around the corner and we know that many of you are either hosting your own game day party, or attending a gathering as a guest. Even if you aren’t a big fan of football, we know you’re a fan of food, and there’s going to be plenty of that to go around on this very special football Sunday.

Food Fashionista asked some super Chefs to share their favorite recipes for the annual football festivities. Best part of all, you can easily create these unique and tasty recipes at home with the step-by-step instructions and ingredients listed by these professional chefs.

This year, forego being the friend who brings the bag of chips and jar of salsa, and impress your friends with one of the dishes below. We can’t predict if it’ll be the San Francisco 49er’s or the Baltimore Ravens who’ll be holding up the trophy this year, but we can guarantee that you’ll be a winner in the eyes of your Superbowl party comrades and foes if you make one of these recipes for this coming Sunday’s big celebration.

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Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo Recipe by Chef Justin Simoneaux (Boxing Room)

Chef Justin Simoneaux’s recommended recipe is Smoked Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo, because it’s hearty and can feed a group! Also, since the Niners are playing the Ravens in his home state of New Orleans, it’s like bringing a little taste of the South to San Francisco.

As you can tell from the photo, Justin’s team is the Saints!

Hoss-Zare-Food-Fashionista-Recipe

Roasted Chicken Wings in Fesenjoon Sauce Recipe by Chef Hoss Zare (Zare Fly Trap)

“My recipe is for roasted chicken wings in fesenjoon sauce. This is simple and uncomplicated, the sauce even matches my favorite team, the niners. This recipe is easy and a crowd pleaser. The color is reminiscent of the 49ers. Prediction – 49ers: 36, Baltimore: 24″ - Hoss Zare

Cassava-FoodFashionista-Recipe

Curry Puffs Recipe by Kris Toliao & Yuka Ioroi (Cassava Bakery + Cafe)

Kris is more of a Manchester United Football fan, but he does like the 49er’s and Yuka really likes the New Orleans Saints because she says “their story is beautiful.

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Chipotle Chili Glazed Dungeness Crab Recipe by Chef Mark Dommen (One Market Restaurant)

I chose this recipe because I wanted to do something with crab, keeping the main ingredient local as the 49ers are in the Superbowl.  I also wanted to make it finger food and fun so that people had to use their hands to eat it.  I like to compare it to the shellfish version of chicken wings and something that would go really well with cold beer on Superbowl Sunday.  The crab could easily be substituted for head on shrimp in the shell.” – Mark Dommen

Mark’s favorite football team is the 49ers!

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Cioppino, Crab Toasts, and Crudite Recipe by Chef Michael Mina (Mina Group & CookTasteEat)

Chef Michael Mina is a 49er faithful and these are Chef Mina’s “San Francisco” recipes in honor of the 49ers going to the Super Bowl (crab, seafood, RED food…)

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Charleston Tacos with Braised Short Ribs Recipe by Chef Jet Tila (The Charleston LA)

“My favorite Team has to be the Jets because I was named after them back when they would win in the 70′s!  
 
Even though it’s labor intensive, these tacos can be done DAYS ahead and bring the Big game a fancy factor!.  Braise the beef days ahead, keep warm during the game, and guests can make their tacos during the breaks in the game!  These will definitely take your game to another level!” – Jet Tila 

Francis-Hogan-Food-Fashionista-Recipe

Chef Hogan BLEEDS green…meaning he is a die hard Philadelphia Eagles fan (from his home town). He doesn’t dislike the Niners at all, but he believes “you have to stay true to your roots.”

Chef Thomas Weibull

Sourdough Cheese Steak with Homemade Chez Whiz and Crisp Onions Recipe by Chef Thomas Weibull (Velvet Room at CLIFT)

“Why is this dish my favorite? Well coming from Philly you can’t watch football without Philly Cheese Steak. It’s like drinking water for us. I think I had my first Cheese steak when I was 5 and then once every weekend since then…well when I lived there that is, I can still smell those Amorosa Rolls though this version is more a West Coast style.” - Chef Thomas Weibull

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Chicken Katsu Sandwich Recipe by Chef Richie Nakano (Hapa Ramen) 

Chef Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen may be known as a die-hard baseball and San Francisco Giant’s fan, but he hasn’t forgotten that his city is represented in this year’s Super Bowl.


 

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Chevron Design Metallic Gel Nails – Mika’s Manis

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If you're going to get gel nails, you might as well rock a design that you won't get tired of looking at after a few days. Since my salon doesn't often do the fancy nail designs; I brought in a photo, chose three different metallic colors including a frost white base, gunmetal center, and a sparkling gold tip. My manicurist topped it off with a black outline to highlight the chevrons. 

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