Getting Our Connect on: ProjectConnect

Did you win our contest for the Project Connect event on Tuesday at the Coloft in Santa Monica? Because if you didn’t, you really missed out on a great evening. It was a ton of networking and meeting new people. This was an unusual event because it highlighted a few things that you don’t normally see at a networking event. Rather than focusing on who you had to meet the focus was on who you can introduce other people to. The event was organized by Stephanie, owner of Social Bling, and the main themes of the night were: listening, complimenting, and gratitude.

It was hosted at the coloft building in Santa Monica. The coloft is a space that allows entrepreneurs to come together and rent out workspace for the month – kind of like a much better Starbucks. I am rereading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and the energy from that book is surely true at the Coloft, which enables a free flowing work environment and collaboration between entrepreneurs. The main thesis of the book being that any given crowd is collectively smarter than any individual expert.

We all mingled for a little bit in the beginning and drank some Mary Jane relaxing soda, which contains kava – a plant which has marijuana-like effects on the mind and body. We should’ve known better because the label clearly says “Do not consume more than two a day.” We failed to read the label and were giggling all night. Although Carina and I are often referred to as “Giggle Corner” even without this magical soda.

The evening was full of laughs and getting to know other entrepreneurs that do the same thing we UGs do. Being an entrepreneur is probably the scariest but most exhilarating thing one could ever do. It’s truly an incredible roller-coaster. It’s nice to be surrounded with people that have the same sentiment about our passion. Particularly because so many people really don’t understand entrepreneurship. My mother, for example, really doesn’t get it. The same was true of the mother of the Coloft’s owner, Cameron. Cameron said that when he told his Persian mother that he was going to be an entrepreneur, she said, “Oh, what kind of doctor is that?” We chuckled because we know how hard it is to have a good support system as an entrepreneur. We were all looking at each other that night with the same hope and willingness to help each other in some way or another. We’re a good, but quirky, race of people. Among some new friends in attendance were: Lizzy Shaw, Blair Goldberg, Alaia Williams, and Jenda.

Some of the other sponsors were: Social Couture (who’s the woman who brings you parties in a box), the Writer’s Boot Camp, and Bodega Wine Bar. There was a challenge at one point in the night to see what we could make happen using social media. Thankfully, a woman from Kind Plus bars was there and ran out to share some bars with us. It’s a gluten-free bar and a company that takes social responsibility very seriously. In fact, Kind was named one of BusinessWeek’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurial Companies. Their new campaign is their ‘Not so random acts’ of kindness cards. Via the web you can track these acts with a uniquely branded card. Visit here for more details.

We are ladies with food always on the mind, we can’t blame the Mary Jane soda for our munchies, but we felt the need to bring a snack for everyone in attendance. Where did we turn? Our favorite truck  The Border Grill truck came to the rescue.

Since this was a social networking event, we pulled our social network together (i.e., Twitter) and asked for some help to feed these tired kava-drunken souls. Border Grill came through for us like a good friend and, since they were across the street, brought everyone little dulce de leche churro bites and whipped cream. They were life-giving to our pseudo stoned brains. Special thanks to the Border Grill truck, Nick, and Christina, the kindest Border Grill employees in the whole wide world. Who says you can’t transcend the boundaries of Twitter and real life? It’s been our experience that Twitter friends are often more reliable than real life friends. What made this instance special was that this time it was a company pulling through and not an individual person. Border Grill, like so few other businesses, do social networking right and realize that human connection is just as important!

The night ended with song and all was well-documented by an E! camera crew. The video should be out soon and will include an interview by all the sponsors and, of course, yours truly, the UGs. It will be hypertexted and will be streaming soon to a UG channel near you. Many thanks again to everyone who came and the two lucky ladies who won our contest, Veronica in LADoubleDEntendre, and Amanda – You ladies have become very near and dear to our hearts. Thank you for your support on this here blog and your unfailing friendship to the UGs, who may very well be crazy and passionate enough to turn the world upside down with their antics and love for all things food, fun, and friends. Remember folks: listen, compliment help each other out, and be grateful in real life and on the interwebs…If you don’t we WILL come after you!


Dining on the Edge: Dinner with Chef Keven

There’s carnal pleasure and then there’s food pleasure. I’ve never endangered my life for carnal pleasure, but for food pleasure…I do it on a daily basis.

Growing up I was deathly allergic to many things, and over the last few weeks I had gotten mild symptoms of a severe allergy. When I decided to visit my doctor he did a few tests and referred me to an allergist. Later that week, I met with the allergist; he took one look at me said, “Have you been eating shellfish?!” I admitted that my frequent visits to the SGV for Asian food had exposed me to many fish-based sauces. He told me to cut it out for my own good, but I relented. After all, I wasn’t in the hospital. It was just shellfish and I could endure the few moments of discomfort for a few moments of food pleasure. When I got my allergy test back, it said I was severely allergic to a long list of things. The most severe being: most types of seafood, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and many others. FML. However, I will continue to eat what I want in the sake of food and I will die a king. Not very smart, but a girl has got to have her priorities in order. Such was the case at the swanky Hollywood Hills supper club that Veronica and I attended last week.

Veronica’s a  hip lady (far cooler than I) and she had a plus one to a private 5-course meal in a private home overlooking all of LA. She asked me and I jumped at the opportunity after she told me that the chef cooking was going to be the very talented Chef Keven Alan Lee of East in Hollywood.

As a woman who still, to this day, works in a busy kitchen, I admire Chef Keven’s attention to detail. His staff is disciplined and well-trained at what they set out to do. I saw the look on their faces as we ate what they had prepared for us, and they took pleasure in our pleasure. Kudos.

Below was the night’s menu:

Thai Eggplant Larb
Fried Tofu, Pickled Shallots, and Thai Peanut Sauce

Shitake Crab Poppers
Lump Crab, Garden Fresh Vegetables,
Seared & Roasted Shitake Mushrooms, Shitake Aioli

SUPER JUMBO Turkey Tofu Meatballs
Fire Roasted Tomato & White Bean Ragu

Dragon Style “Big Eye” Tuna
Thai Green Curry Rice
Dragon Torched Live

Cheven’s Signature Bread Pudding
Chololate Toffee and milk Chocolate Ganache

My favorites of the night were the Turkey meatballs, the tofu, and the bread pudding. The meatballs were obscenely fresh and soft but not as to fall apart. The tofu was fried into little adorable packets and garnished with some edible flowers.

And then there were the shitake crab poppers. I knew I’d be the one paying for it later, but its just one one of those things you have to do for yourself. So, I selfishly took a bite. It was perfection. Later that night, the taxation for my small bite was a mild swelling. That crab was worth every bit of pain. However, I think I’ll take it easy for sometime… Maybe.

Chef Keven has been asking me to shadow him and do “A Day in the Life” kind of a piece for the blog. He tells me that his day starts off at the farmer’s market, goes from town to town to find the best ingredients, and that he, a Jew, even speaks fluent Spanish. As a Latin gal, I can vouche for Kitchenese as it is actually very good. I may do the article, but I think that the cooking in the kitchen part should be left to the true professionals. After all, the rule of any good cook is to try all of the food you prepared and for me that is a deadly option.

The cocktails were also great, although maybe just as poisonous. If they’d been any stiffer, I would’ve probably woken up next to someone I didn’t know. Thank God I stopped when I did. The drinks were all mixed by Minx in Glendale. Chef Keven has recently started working with them to perfect the new Minx food menu. I will definitely have to check it out soon. Who’s in? I may even try and kill myself again for the sake of delicious food.

ProjectConnect: UG Girls are Giving Away 4 Tickets

Alright, this photo isn’t exactly the best representation of ProjectConnect, but hey it works. Plus we have a really fantastic event and opportunity to tell you about so we might as well use flirtation tactics. What is a flirtation tactic using social media to really connect? Funny you should ask, we have an event that you must attend to learn all about this and more. We have partnered with Social Bling on this experminental event that will take place tomorrow. Here is the official FB event page with all the naughty little details that I will also include here in case you aren’t ready to click yet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
7:00pm – 10:00pm
920 Santa Monica Blvd (free street parking)
Santa Monica, CA

7:00 – 7:30 – Check-in, general networking
7:30 –7:50 – Social Experiment kickoff and presentation from Sponsors.
8:00 – 8:45 – Social Challenge
9:00 – 10:00 – Results and Honorably Mentions.

SocialBling present ProjectConnect, An interactive social experiment using social media to inspire real life activities and connections.

Tools (suggested, not required): Web-enabled phones connected to your social networks, persuasion/flirtation skills and a readiness to meet new people and have great time.

Why? – Because having fun while expanding your cerebral and emotional intelligence sounds like a good way to spend a Tuesday night.

Cost: $25
For tickets –
(preregistration required, no tickets sold at door)

We will, of course, be at the event and we have a special surprise planned in the Social Challenge section if you, attendees, can break our code. You won’t know about this surprise unless you come and if you want to come then you must buy a ticket. Although there is another way…you can win a ticket for you and your friend to the event. We are giving away two pairs of tickets by 5pm today, April 16th. All you have to do is:

Send us your most Uncouth Gourmand moment in a Tweet (@uncouthgourmand) or as a comment on here in 140 characters or less by 4:59pm today.

Josie’s example: @uncouthgourmand my most UG moment was when I put my hands in Carina’s drawn lobster butter with lemon slices thinking it was a water dish  (True Story: happened at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in London)

Carina’s example: @uncouthgourmand while discussing how much I like penetrating the straw in the boba cup, I dropped the entire drink with  boba down my shirt

Good luck and we hope to see you tomorrow! Even if you don’t win you can still be a winner (as opposed to a loser) by buying your ticket here by 3pm tomorrow.

Ruth Reichl: Food Righter

Carina and I at Octavia Park - Hayes Valley April2010

I say it was our mothers; you call it whatever you want. Carina and I grew up in a space bubble of peace. Santa Cruz, California. Carefully cultivated by vivacious women seeking the best opportunities, always emphasizing comprehensive wellness through a powerful respect for existence. Carina and I are daughters of incredible awareness. We were born into a revolution of personal responsibility. Myself, Franco-American, Carina, Jewish-Salvadorian, our identities were molded at a very young age.

Carina left for the bright lights and expanse of L.A. seeking more opportunity and endless food trucks. A year later I joined the light-always-on, festivalian New Orleans, LA. After five years of crawfish and hot summer sweats, I am back in San Francisco and cannot get enough of the seasonal organic produce. I savor every last dime of the cash only mantra. I resonate with car-free city living. I’m in absolute love. Despite her deep aversion for hippie-derived living, Carina, my deep-fried loving, plastic loving, queen of convenience, was equally smitten upon her last visit. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve seen if you forget where you’ve come from. Her visit included devouring Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires. Despite our differences, Carina and I’s shared similarities pervade preference. We have a penchant for intelligent women, genuine integrity, forming calculated opinions, and knowing the best way to someone’s brain is through their stomach. Carina is business, I am creative, Ruth Reichl’s mother used to prepare “canned asparagus, mayonnaise, marshmallow fluff and pickled herring.” We are all striving to spread an appreciation for camaraderie, communication, and just sharing a meal.

Proverbially, a beet in the hand is greater than a donut around your waist. Ironically, I consider myself a couth gourmand. Idealistically, I am a warrior fighting the war on human elitism. Realistically, I am constantly encouraging my community to focus on positivity. I lack compassion for processed garbage. I possess an inexhaustible palette, an arduous recognition of culinaria, and tenaciously assume the role of relentless evangelist for bright, locally grown sustainable foods.

My brash approach to represent myself as an individual has as result, fervently rejected “trend.” The same attitude has provided for an unusual immunity to celebrity, averting admiration based on popularity. Our nation’s slowly churning minds, bogged by big Macs and bigger Gulps, are slowing acknowledging the immediate need for change. Obesity and depression should be reason enough to change our minds, body, and planet. A healthy America can be grown from this soiled land.

On the morning of April 20th I joined a full audience for an intimate living room chat with a mogul for healthful, proactive living. I was awestricken by the political activism Gourmet Magazine provided America, specifically during Ruth Reichl’s tenure.

Ruth Reichl - SF Jewish Community Center 4/20/10

Reichl, former editor-in-chief of the late Gourmet Magazine, rejects the notion that quality in any form be labeled as elitism. Modern society has suffocated intelligence to a degree that has been detrimental to the formation of a nurturing culture.

Microcosms of this whole-love approach to life exist all over the United States, fighting for a global shift towards personal responsibility and cognizance of repercussion. Macrocosms like the greater San Francisco Bay Area have been fostering a conscious approach to living for decades. Following her deep involvement in Berkeley’s 70s co-operative food revolution, Ruth’s heartfelt writing inspired fine dining to re-evaluate the individual. She reminded restaurants that the honor should be bestowed upon the customer. That respect is due to thy neighbor. Our intelligence should be regarded as a gift to cultivate true happiness in all persons. Through food we can fuel and nurture our bodies, minds, and spirits.

I nearly became tongue-tied delivering the final audience question. I realized that I’d been duped. Celebrity awe-stricken by the genuine candor of such an influential, dare I say, icon. I worry that I inaccurately depict her honest awareness by revering her as anything other than a truly compassionate human being. There is no doubt in my mind that Ruth possesses all the qualities of a timeless change-maker. She reassures me that my honest efforts at doing right by my community can be rewarded with a private bathroom in an editorial office. Despite a driver, Ruth still walked to work daily. Her connectivity to life, happiness, and the human desire to belong, never dissolved from her pool of motivational drive. Her commitment to exposing truth transcended Gourmet Magazine. Political change was activated after an exposé on migrant tomato pickers in Florida being treated as no more than slaves. There was a substantial amount of time devoted to audience question, and in typical form* I felt the need to round out the session with a thought-provoking question. I asked Ruth what she thought the easiest way for an individual (probing the audience to pay attention in their personal lives) to become politically active in eradicating toxic ingredients from food production. She responded directly to me, making complete eye contact despite the distance and bright lights. She urged everyone to remain aware themselves of the impact of toxicity and to actively engage our peers, neighbors, and friends to follow suit. I urge you to follow suit.

Ruth Reichl signed my book | "fast to it. peace"

I find it to be no coincidence that behind Ruth’s genuine grin are the words “fast to it” and “peace.” Absorb every clue, because our interpersonal relations turn nourishment into a story of community.  As I anarchically fight, for the right, to (organic) baaaaarley – my couth transforms into uncouth. While trend expires, the need for respect does not. For this, Ruth has forged a path for celebrity voice being about the movement, not about the deliverer. I thank her wholeheartedly. This is a delicious trend that I wouldn’t have prepared any other way.

*I also asked the final question during Sheryl Crow and Laurie David’s (Larry David’s former wife) American “Fight Global Warming” bio-diesel bus tour. What can one person do to make a difference? My attempt to influence each individual in the audience to listen to a celebrity whose word, in their mind, holds more weight. In high school I also garnered the final question during a GirlsRock! conference in Santa Cruz. Asking Gloria Steinem how she thought best a high school girl could change negative image. I encourage through question. Ask yourself, how can you make difference?

In LOVE with San Francisco

About the Author: d’Auria is the owner of olive, you &me creative studio, a freelance mover and shaker, and would always rather cook at home than eat out. After five years of New Orleans, she is back in her native Bay. Residing in San Francisco and spending a substantial amount of time in the quiet and comfortable Hayes Valley, she can’t get enough of the variable Vietnamese spring roll nor the abundance of artfully crafted micro-brew coffee. Like a bird, she tweets! (@dauria)

Office Bonding Buffet: New Delhi Palace, Pasadena

The picture above is reason enough for you to believe me when I say, I absolutely and totally love my job. For all you Uncouth Gourmands fans out there, I’m Meryl aka the CFO: nice to meet you. I love trying out Indian cuisine in LA; I moved here from India two years ago, and I’m constantly on the prowl for any semblance of the food I dearly miss. So when Carina mentioned Indian food, I was ecstatic!

The UG team (missing two members: Lea and Maria) set out early to the buffet at New Delhi Palace. I liked the vibe here; they had statues and ethnic decorations all over. I picked up the camera and got clicking, while the rest of the team headed over to the buffet, which definitely did not lack variety. I found the salad particularly amusing, it was a combination of potatoes, corn and carrots among other food items, but I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere back home.

I was delighted to see the ‘basmati’ fried rice, always a favorite, which went hand in hand with the ‘Dal Makhani’ (a creamy lentil delicacy). The ‘Chole’ (chickpeas) was not as spicy as I would have expected, but then most Indian food I’ve eaten here is toned down on the spices front. The Chicken curry was simple and delicious, cooked in typical North Indian style, and along with the ‘Palak’ (spinach) curry, worked well in combination with the ‘naan’ (Indian oven-baked flat-bread).

My top choice of the buffet would definitely be the ‘Baingan Bharta’ (eggplant curry). It had just the right blend of sweet and spicy although I think they took the liberty of changing it up by adding potatoes. Anyway, it tasted just right with the fried rice. The ‘raita’ (a traditional yogurt side dish) was good, but the ‘Tandoori Chicken’ was a bit of a let down though the chutneys were appetizing. They had a mango pudding and rice pudding for desert, which were both great, but I guess I was hoping for the more traditional ‘Gulab Jamun’ or ‘Halwa’.

I think among all of us, Josie had the best time (refer to food plate above). I lost out on the garlic naan, and had to settle for the regular naan as I was too involved with getting the right pictures for my first post on this prestigious blog. But Josie and Carina both argued that it was in good faith: they didn’t want me to be embarrassed just in case I did get kissed anytime soon(!). Below is a shot of the rest of the team; to the left is Ian, our website designer, on the right is Kristiana, our marketing intern, and that’s me in the center. Overall, it was nice team lunch and good bonding time; we all had our fill and blissfully drifted off to sleep in Carina’s car on the way back to the office. In light of our food comas, I doubt we will be returning anytime soon, but I do know the buffet selection is changed daily. A definite must-try!

Girls Night Out and a Happy Birthday to Yxta in Dwtn LA!

Monday night was GNO and the UGs were in full-force. There were five girls, one boy, and one birthday. Jesse’s baby, Yxta, in downtown turned one on Monday and the gals thought it would be a great night to paint the town red. We all showed up at around 6:30 and Jesse had provided free apps and $5 margaritas. Jesse, despite being a Princeton grad, decided that his life’s calling was to be a restaurateur. He’s a native Angelino and, in fact, his family owns El Arco Iris in Highland Park. I’ve been to El Arco once before, but my good friend, Krissy, has been going there since age 10 and loves it. We were Yxta’s first customers a year ago at their soft opening, so when I heard about the birthday party, I had to round-up my ladies and trek off to 6th and Central for a drink.

It was a great GNO. I won’t disclose any names but one chickadee referred to her vagina as a Skittles bag because she discriminates against no color skin. Veronica, a bit drunky and as foul-mouthed as ever, commented by stating “It’s a small world… in your vagina.”

FYI – It looks like these urbanites will be starting a Podcast with stories detailing dates, restaurants, and uncouth moments. You may just have to listen for it. Not to mention that our TV teaser should be out sometime next week. Holler at me if you’d like to be a part of the focus group. It will take place next week over what else? Cocktails.

Yxta, uncouth gourmands, guacamole

Yxta is off the beaten path in downtown and all my local downtowners really enjoy it. There’s always ample parking and the bartenders are always super cute and super nice. We got there right on time and met with our newest bestie. She was already at the bar, had ordered a drink, received a complimentary appetizer, and had guacamole ready for us. We LOVE her! The place was packed like I’d never seen in before and the staff was busily maneuvering through crowds and filling glasses. We decided that the gang of girls were not going to fit inside so we moved our stuff and relocated outside. It was a beautiful day and we decided that picture quality and space would be best suited outdoors.

The rest of the girls arrived and we ordered a round of drinks. We waited quite sometime for drinks but were laughing and being merry so it wasn’t a huge deal. (I assume they were not anticipating the large crowd.) Jesse was sweet though. He apologized and sent over some more guacamole to make amends. Food and kind words were exchanged and he was forgiven. A boy I used to date and I often frequented Yxta together and it was always like clockwork: He’d always order the same enchiladas and I the Pollo al Pastor. However, this time I changed it up and ordered the calabasitas platter, which was delicious. I was left secretly craving the Pollo al Pastor, but I suppose old habits have to die at some point. Carina and Ashley ordered the Albondigas soup . Veronica in LA ordered the potato tacos, an a Mayor Arun fav, which could be a very viable vegetarian option. We shared a taco platter, which I recommend because it was delicious!

Charles, our only male bestie that evening, was mortified by all the girl talk. Frankly, I can’t blame him. I imagine we are worse than the boys when talking about “girl stuff.” He went to the bathroom and when he sat down Carina started talking about menopause. He shook his head and was a good sport the whole night. For God’s sake, truffle making is his hobby – He must possess a lot of patience.

Yxta – Good food and a great place to take your ladies to have a drink and a laugh.

Yxta Mexican Cocina
601 South Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021-1050
(213) 622-5540

South Indian Food with the Mayor of Downtown

As you know I LOVE my grub, and admittedly, I sometimes feel like a pretentious poseur because there are days when I am humbled and I learn so much about what I am about to eat. Modesty and uncertainty are not things I love to acknowledge in my life, so when the casual moments arise when I recognize that I know little and understand even less, it feels just as good as being right. This feeling was especially pronounced on Saturday night at the party of our favorite downtown friend, Arun.

Arun was celebrating his 10th year in LA and this particular get together had more significance and substance than just any random party. Arun’s family is a strong supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and to help raise awareness (and thankfully, my South Indian food knowledge), Arun’s mom, Meenakshi, hosted a dinner. You don’t get very many opportunities to taste South Indian food in LA and Meenakshi made everything herself. We always hear about Meenakshi’s delicious dinners, but since Arun never invites us to his house (and believe me, he’s doing the right thing), we deemed it mandatory to attend this dinner.

By the end of the night I had no complaints. Ms. Carina was sick so she throughly enjoyed the lentil soup with clarified butter and rice dumplings (a mental hiccup is not allowing me to recall the name of this rice concoction, but she loved it). I, on the other hand, REALLY enjoyed the meatballs. In fact, I was left wondering how I survived 26 years without them. They were great. The chickpea vidai was also a fried packet of fantastic.

It’s been almost a year since we met Arun (April 15th, to be exact) at the Royal Clayton’s for trivia night, and since then we have become very good friends. Whenever we go out with Arun, he seems to know everyone and we always end up playing the six degrees of Arun Bacon. Thusly, he is referred to by his close friends as “The Mayor of Downtown.” There’s absolutely no arguing with the logic of that candidacy, so when his friends decided to pitch in for t-shirts that support the incumbent, we enthusiastically joined the “Arun for Mayor of Downtown” fan club. Below is the good-looking campaign team in their tees.

Carina has always said she’s Asian (not to mention a gay male and 50 years old) in her heart, and now I’m beginning to believe I am a bit Indian in my heart. After an Indian lunch in Pasadena today (nothing of which compared to Saturday’s meal), Arun’s friend, Roni, from The Band From actually wrote this to us on Twitter:

@uncouthgourmand i’m convinced you only eat Indian food!

I think she’s right. I’m planning my next vacation and maybe it will be India. I will keep you posted as I am sure I will need some local recommendations.

Many thanks to Arun and his mama, Meenakshi, for expanding the circumference of my South Indian food knowledge. If you can donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, please do so. Your UG girls will most definitely have your first drink if you do.

Since South Indian food is rare in LA, there may be another charity dinner in the near future. Your UG girls love you so much that we’ll most definitely keep you posted.

And lastly, cheers to Arun! Here’s to another 10 years.