I went down to Little Saigon in Orange County to celebrate Lunar New Year, Vietnamese style. Here I’m being fitted for my dress. Traditional Vietnamese dresses are called Ao Dai.
These dresses are super flattering with high side openings and wide, silky, flowing pants.
Next stop is the Vietnamese New Year Festival, where I found a baby cherimoya tree.
This marketplace made me feel like I was in SE Asia, except it was much colder here in California. Tons of tropical fruit like rombutan, cherimoya, and jackfruit. Yummy!
These magnolias are so pretty!
There were so many varieties of orchids at the Lunar New Year Festival. Check out the bulbous orchids at the top of this photo, hanging down.
It’s the Year of the Dragon. And, no Lunar New Year Celebration is complete without dragon dancers. These Vietnamese dragons, aka lion dragons, are made up of 2 people, while the Chinese dragons are much longer.
There were 4 different lion dragons in different colors. People were feeding the lion dragons ‘lucky’ dollar bills to ensure good luck and fortune for the new Lunar New Year.
And last but not least….. fresh durian! Here my friend and I are driving and eating durian in the car. We actually think durian smells good! Sweet and delicious. I guess I can only be friends with people that love durian too. Hahaa.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year that’s filled with tons of love, bliss, health, and prosperity. May we all choose to live long and be happy! xoxo
dineLA is an exciting 2-week dining event created by the Los Angeles Convention and Visitor Bureau (aka LA, INC) to introduce diners to hundreds of neighborhood restaurants throughout Los Angeles County. LA’s a huge county full of many great spots for food and drink. So, to help filter through over 300 participating restaurants, dineLA’s invited me to call out a few restaurants offering vegetarian dineLA menu items. I live in West Hollywood, so most of my recommendations are for spots in my area.
For dineLA, participating restaurants offer a fixed 3-course menu for lunch and/or dinner…a great way to taste popular dishes. If a restaurant offers only 1 or 2 vegetarian items on their dineLA menu, many will let you order just those vegetarian items, so do ask. You’ll also find a few vegan and almost raw items too.
With so many great dineLA restaurants, it was challenging to choose just 10! Here’s a few vegetarian items to look for. If you prefer vegan, ask to leave off the dairy. It’s that simple. Click each link below to view their dineLA menu:
:: Check out photos from the dineLA Kickoff Celebration at the W Hotel in Westwood last week with my Exec Chef friends.
dineLA Restaurant Week is a 2-week dining event created by the Los Angeles Convention and Visitor Bureau (aka LA, inc) to introduce diners to hundreds of neighborhood restaurants throughout Los Angeles County.
:: Check out my dineLA Vegetarian Roundup – my top 10 picks for restaurants who have vegetarian and even vegan items on their dineLA menus.
To celebrate, dineLA hosted a party at the W Hotel in Westwood last week on Jan 11th, 2012 with flowing scotch, champagne, beer, and wine. Though I’ve taken a break from drinking, I had to have just one scotch because it was Highland Park 12 year, neat with one ice cubes on the side please.
Chef Jason Fullilove from The Tar Pit has the best last name ever! He may look familiar because he was on the 1st episode of Chef Hunter on Food Network last month. Keep a look out, as he’ll soon be on Cooking Channel too. Finally, diversity on TV, yeah! Chef Jason’s food is yummy. For dineLA, you will find 2 vegan dishes on his vegetarian menu including a Roasted Vegetable Terrine, Winter Root Vegetable Pasta, and a choice of 3 decadent desserts.
Executive Chef Chris Morningstar from Ray’s and Stark Bar, hailed by Esquire Magazine as “One of the best new restaurants of 2011″. Bravo Chef Chris! Chris and I first met while we were both preparing for our Test Kitchen dinners as Chris’ dinner was the night following my 2-nights of Ani Phyo’s Gastrawnomique. His menu was completely opposite mine….all animal products vs. my vegan raw. I get a kick out of the fact his last name, Morningstar….it’s the brand name of popular vegan and vegetarian breakfast sausages….though Chris’ expertise is with meat. Ray’s and Stark Bar is a Patina group restaurant, and I was super stoked when Chris told me his boss and Master Chef Joachim Splichal had given him a copy of Ani’s Raw Food Essentials to use while creating menus and recipes for Google campus.
Exec Chef and owner Kerry Simon from Simon L.A. is offering several vegetarian items on his lunch and dinner dineLA menus including Market Roasted Vegetable Kale Salad, Fennel Pollen, Sherry Vinaigrette (I love kale!), Spinach Salad with Dates and Persimmon, plus desserts that look amazing like a House Made Kit Kat. Yum! Chef Kerry is very accommodating, is happy to let you order items from the dineLA menu, plus is fine with you making substitutions and requests. So just ask, and you shall receive!
dineLA asked artist Phil Lumbang to illustrate chef characters that were being silk screened onto canvas dineLA bags for everyone. What a fun idea, and very cool bag. Chef Chris Morningstar had a character screened onto his chef jacket, super cute!
Shana Wong (LA Magazine), William Karz (LA, inc), Shelley Leopold (LA Weekly), and I watching the screening of characters onto the canvas bags.
Our hostess Stacey Sun is red. She makes dineLA happen. Thanks Stacey! Excited to check out new restaurants beginning next week!
New Year’s Day 2012 I took a trip out to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl to help with the Donate Life float for the Rose Parade, which was on Jan 2nd this year. Donate Life is an amazing organization that raises awareness so we stick that pink dot onto our driver’s license, to help save lives by being an organ donor. My dad was a kidney recipient, so this organization rings very close to my heart.
This is the beautiful finished float. The folks sitting on it are the stars of the show…family members of donors from 2011. The stories I heard yesterday were so moving, and I broke into tears numerous times. One woman’s 9-year old daughter had gone to the hospital for an ear infection. The hospital misdiagnosed and mistreated her (not uncommon), and she died. Her mom was proud to share how her daughter lives on in others, literally, and that her daughter has saved many lives by being a donor. You can see the portraits of each donor on 6 clock faces, a total of 72 donors are honored.
My good friend Vicky is a ‘red jacket’ and one of the team leaders on this huge project. She’s been here working on the float for weeks from early morning until 11pm. A huge undertaking, whew.
We are all misting the flowers with water before the float is moved outdoors for judging. It was gorgeous in Pasadena, 80 degrees!
Everything on all of the floats in the Rose Parade are all organic! This means only living materials like flowers, leaves, seeds,…all put on by hand.
Look at this detail….mustard seeds painstakingly glued onto the surface. Wow.
Beans and flower petals have all been attached by hand.
This is the bed of roses underneath the clock with the moving hands at the front of the float.
Look closely and you can see each of these red roses has a wish tied onto them.
When the float moved outside into the sun, all the colors popped so brightly! You can see the driver of the float inside the open door. The driver can’t see a thing, and is guided by audio by someone outside the float.
At one point, everyone held hands in a circle around the float. It was very moving. And even the judges teared up and cried when they talked with the donor families and heard all the incredible stories. Today, I discovered (since I don’t have a TV to watch the parade myself) that our float won one of the top 3 trophies and the craftsmanship award for outstanding showmanship and dramatic impact over 55 feet! Yeah! I also heard that floats cost about a half a million dollars to build! Great exposure and for a wonderful cause.
This was one of the best, most memorable New Year Day’s of my life. What a way to spend the 1st day of the new year. Plus, I felt like it was in honor too of my dad, who was so very blessed to have had a kidney transplant, which helped extended his life another 10 or 12 years. I learned that a liver lives for 100 years, so even after someone passes from old age, a liver can be donated to help another person live. Amazing.
I’ve chosen to be an organ donor for as long as I can remember, and I hope you will also consider joining me in helping save lives so someone else may live one more day! For more information check out Donate Life.
This was the beautiful view of the rose gardens as we arrived at the NetKal Gala event….. gathering of Asian Americans in entertainment.
The beautiful Lisa Ling (Oprah Winfrey Network, Our America) and her husband Dr. Paul Song.
Bryan Tee from Fast and the Furious. I can count all of 2 Asian actors in film. At least they’re representing! Yeah.
From the TV show Dexter, actor C.S. Lee. Okay, this makes 2 Asian actors…one TV, one film, so far. I can think of one more Asian male from TV. Hopefully, you can too.
The NetKal Gala was held at USC at the Annenberg Center.
The event was catered by my friends at Good Gracious Catering. I met Pauline and Joanne at Sunset Magazine’s annual Celebration weekend event last spring, where I was invited along with Chef Rick Bayless (Frontera), Candace Nelson (Sprinkles), and Govind Armstrong (8oz Burger). So impressive they included vegan raw along side these TV celebrities.
The food was presented beautifully. And, my friends hooked me up with a vegan meal, of course!
Check out this space, there was a pool and water fountain in the center. It was cold that night though. The ladies were all freezing in their cocktail dresses. I had my coat on for dinner. Dinner was accompanied by performances by 3 Korean pop stars. Sort of made me giggle. USA and Korea entertainment is very different. An incredible event. And great conference the following day with discussions and inspiration for ways to encourage more diversity in the media. Some said it’ll take a few years. I’m not holding my breath though….
Old school friends came down from San Francisco last weekend to host the most wicked day of dance, tunes, and great vibes…and it was the best day I’ve enjoyed in a while! DJ’s Solar (above) and Galen (below) are both Sunset and Pacific Sound crews. (I used to have a multimedia studio back in the day in SF, and we threw a historic NYE party in 1995 together with Sunset). When I lived in SF, all I would do is dance for exercise. It’s the best workout ever! Plus, Solar cooks, and of course loves Raw Food!
Here’s Galen. These guys still look the same as they did back in the early 90′s! And they put so much love into their music, you can feel it. We agreed dancing, good music, and raves are what keep us young! I was just up in SF a couple months ago, and went to the Sunset boat party hosted on a ferry that sails the Bay from 6 to 11pm. A perfect way to finish off the weekend, always.
Since I’m usually in bed by 10pm, this daytime party in the park was exactly what I needed! The sun was bright and warm in Van Nuys where we all laid out picnic blankets, brought food, and danced up a storm. Galen, Solar, and the Sunset Crew are known for their outdoor parties on Sunday afternoons. They’ve been hosting them for probably over 20 years now! We’d all end up at Sunset parties after a long weekend. Great way to taper down off the weekend.
Another great thing about partying in the park is that Kanga can join in too! She laid down in the middle of the dance floor early on, and made folks dance around her the rest of the afternoon. She loves to be in the center of everything. She was very popular, and calm, but, …..no parking on the dance floor Kanga!
My lovely lady friends, and Max the dog. Maria’s the beautiful blond, and is the talented photographer who took the cover photo on Ani’s Raw Food Asia.
Galen spun last, and brought in the sunset while pumping the dance floor. He and Solar both motivated me to go to their after party downtown, which started past midnight, …..and it went to dawn! A Sunset, and then sunrise event! (Small world too because the party ended up in a warehouse space owned by Thomas, who has assisted me in my raw food kitchen!)
Thank you Sunset, Solar, and Galen. Come visit us in LA again soon, and host more outdoor parties for us…please! I miss great SF tunes, the Sunset sound, and vibe. I’d head to SF for their Halloween Boat Party, except Mom’s coming to visit me in LA. Thanks for bringing your tunes to LA for us to enjoy! Love you guys! xoxo
To celebrate completing my book, I spent the day on my bicycle. Rode it about 25 miles to and from the ocean, and I was stoked the sun finally came out…even in Santa Monica (which seems to always be overcast, foggy, and cold compared to West Hollywood). While I was in Santa Monica, I stopped at the beach by the pier, where there’s an adult playground with ropes to climb, balance beams, parallel bars, and a row of rings to swing on.
Since I’m a monkey (Chinese year of the Monkey) I was drawn to the rings. It looked hard, but it really doesn’t take strength, but rather, finesse. You just have to get enough momentum, rocking back and forth, to swing and grab the next ring. That said, my hands were killing me, and I was on the kiddie set of rings! The adult set are really high up, and scary. But, perhaps I’ll give them a try next time I visit the coast.
Whenever I find myself West of the 405, which is a rarity, I make sure to stop into see Juliano at Planet Raw for his kick-ass chocolate shake….that revs up my cycle back home. Yesterday, I enjoyed a burrito at Better Life Cuisine, and spent a couple hours catching up with Dr. Z, who owns that building.
Back in WEHO, I stopped at Beverly Juice Club for my favorite green juice shake blended with frozen banana and sunflower seeds (no added sweetener). Had hoped to get to my favorite Koreatown Sauna, but ran out of time. Instead, met my friend and his puppy at the park with Kanga, and they had a great doggie play date together. Then, met up with my brother, Max, for dinner later in the evening.
A great day it was celebrating life, love, health, sunshine, and ….with good friends and family. I’m blessed.
Labor Day marks the weekend my Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kanga, and I rescued one another….9-years ago! How time flies. (and yes, I cake sunblock on my face, as you can see).
Kanga had been at the Humane Society for over 2 weeks, and no one adopted her. Surprising, since she is a beautiful specimen of this breed. Plus, she came fully trained, so someone had spent a lot of time and energy with her. She was skin and bone, and 50+ pounds underweight with kennel cough and dusty fur. Poor baby.
Luckily, a truck intercepted 20 dogs on their way to get euthanized, and brought them back to a no-kill shelter in Portland, OR called Family Dogs NW. This was where I found Kanga early the very next morning. I applied the same raw food principles to Kanga as I do for human healing, and over the next month or two she gained 50 pounds and regained radiant health on a Raw Food diet. You can read more about her journey in Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen, where Kanga has her own dog food chapter.
My brother Max saw this photo of Kanga and said she looks like she’s “mugging”. I had to ask him what the heck that means. Max said “mugging = posing, like rappers do for pics”. Hahaa. Yup, Kanga is a superstar, and very popular too. Folks always stop us to pet her, especially young children.
Kanga’s from Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe Rhodesia, and the Sahara so she loves the sun, warmth, and sand. She hates water, but it was so hot out that Kanga got her paws wet. I love dog beach because here she can roam off-leash, and run free to play with other dogs.
Kanga and I love laying in the sand and soaking up the sun. It’s never hot enough for us, and soaking up sun is one of our favorite past times. I’m happy I got to take Kanga to Huntington Dog Beach yesterday on the final hot day of the summer (it was 90 F) to celebrate her 9-year Bday and Dogversary with me. Thank you Kanga for being my family, love, and for hanging out with me for the past 9-years! I love you.
My family loves to take our holiday in mid to late January in honor of Mom’s birthday, and after the holiday crowds have dispersed. This year, we found our way to the beautiful island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
When the water reaches out to the horizon with over 180 degree views, it’s super calming and breathtaking.
The palm trees are over 5 stories tall, and full of green coconuts that I can’t reach. It’s torture, especially since there’s a bunch right off my balcony. It took me several days before locating a coconut to drink. (Though, I think I like Thai coconuts better. They have a sweeter and fuller flavor.) I was surprised at how little fresh produce or raw foods were available on St Thomas. They were serving pineapple juice out of giant cans and were making smoothies using strawberry puree from a box! Thank goodness I packed most of my suitcase with fruits, sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, blue green algaes, and superfoods.
I met a lot of iguanas, they are so cute, and very mellow. Folks seem afraid of them, but they’re harmless.
All I want to do on holiday is play play play. One of my favorite pastimes is swimming in the warm ocean (the ocean in LA is much too cold for me). I’ve been enjoying the sun, lifting heavy weights, and running up mountains. I don’t recommend running here because the roads are very narrow, there’s no shoulder, no sidewalk, and people drive crazy. I don’t think you can ride a bike here either, and I haven’t seen one yet.
Forgive me for being a cheeze ball here, but I want to show off my ab muscles. I don’t remember seeing abs on myself since I was in middle or high school. I’m happy I upgraded my workouts from long, slow, distance to explosive, heavy, and intense workouts. I believe training with sprints and intense spikes in cardio is how we exist in nature since we have to quickly and suddenly run away from predators.
Since St Thomas is 4 hours ahead of LA, I haven’t seen a sunrise yet. But, the sunsets are gorgeous! Sitting on the beach under the stars and moon at night is such a treat. Thank you to my friends in Florida for telling me to avoid night swimming because that’s when sharks feed. As a raw fooder, you know I would have been out in the ocean swimming naked every night! Ha haaa.
The weekend before Halloween, Tami Erin and I went to Monster Massive in downtown LA. It’s a huge 40,000 person rave. I think it was probably the hugest party I’ve attended, and it was packed. I won’t bother posting up photos of the crowd, just imagine a sea of people dancing up a storm inside a huge sports arena.
You won’t normally find me at such a high energy event, but since Moby personally invited me, I wasn’t about to miss it. I have to admit, I had a great time. I love dancing, it’s one of my favorite pastimes, great exercise, and Moby rocked the house. I’ve never seen a DJ jump up onto the speakers to dance while spinning records. He had so much energy, a testament to his healthy vegan, whole food, and heavily raw food diet. Moby had the crowd going nuts, they loved him, as we all do.
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