Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Simply Nutrition

I write about food because I love food. Brekkie, tapas, charcuterie. Hawaiian, Mediterranean, comfort. Wine, Guinness, ginger ale. The list can go on and on. Maybe the toughest thing about having a passion for dining (at least for me) is trying to keep the weight off. In a blink, that pint of hot chocolate ice cream from Starbucks can evaporate, yet it takes constant discipline to maintain an acceptable waistline. On the flip side, at least I have a reason to buy new pants.

When you get past all the advice from every person trying to sell you a solution to weight loss, it always comes down to this: 

Proper nutrition in conjunction with regular exercise is key. 

It seems easy enough, but not really. First of all, it's not cheap to eat healthy. Who wants to spend twice as much at Whole Paycheck when there's a 10 for $10 deal elsewhere? How often do you want to get up before 6 a.m. to get in your WOD (workout of the day) when you could stay up late sifting thru the DVR (it is a new season, after all). We are a society that equates eating to all emotions. It's a birthday, let's have cake! A miserable day can easily translate to drinks with co-workers. We can't escape it. Food is our livelihood; it sustains and entertains until we are content. Until it becomes a habit, physical exertion is a chore. It's finding that right combination for yourself that will make the difference. 

Yet even after a certain balance is achieved, we still struggle to keep it interesting. Yes, there are exceptions. (I'm taking to you, people who can eat and do the same things over and over again.) I, on the other hand, require variety to keep things interesting. I've gone from the gym to personal trainers to heated yoga. I would never have imagined myself wanting to go to a place to get even more sweaty than I already am. EVER. Choosing between eggs and Greek yogurt for brekkie can only satiate me to a point. I need more options. This is where Simply Nutrition comes into play.

An acquaintance introduced me to this. Now before I elaborate, lemme explain something. I don't practice this five days a week. Maybe three, at best. Sometimes, I'm still hungry afterwards. Is it worth the cost? Perhaps. It's what fits into my lifestyle, and I feel better because of it. Also, if I had to choose between this and spending the same amount on Del Taco, there's a lot less guilt if I go with the former. It doesn't hurt that they have a history of success stories via their other name, Herbalife.

When I visit Simply Nutrition, it's a little like getting lunch. Personal wellness coaches welcome me, and I place my order. There are 3 'courses' to be consumed; each one serves a purpose. I can even take the last one to-go. 

  • 4 ounces of mango-flavored aloe vera for digestion. I refer to it as my shot.
  • 10 ounces of (hot/cold) herbal tea in four flavors. An energy booster than burns up to 80 calories.
  • A 16 ounce smoothie, which can be one of 17 flavors such as cinnamon cookie or wild berry. This is my meal replacement. Logging in at under 200 calories, there's 17 grams of plant protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving.

They promote 2 visits a day combined with 1 normal meal for weight loss. I opt for their "get healthy" goal: 1 a day with 2 meals. The ultimate idea is to purchase product to use at home, so you can do-it-yourself. I say, why bother with cleaning a blender when they do the measuring and mixing for me? For about $5 a day ($4 if you purchase in advance), I hydrate, put healthy stuff in my system, and have one less fattening meal. I can't argue with that. 

There's a brief presentation on your first visit, which answers a lot of questions. You can even have your BMI measured, which can be is depressing. I didn't feel any real pressure to buy product. The people are there to keep you company, answer concerns, and mix a beverage. Wait, is that like a bartender? Not quite, but during lunchtime it resembles happy hour (minus the twists of lemon and mini umbrellas).

I've been going to heated yoga for the better part of three months. Herbalife/Simply Nutrition has been a part of my routine for over a month, closer to two. Am I reaping the benefits? Yes and no. If anything, I'm managing my weight better, while stretching the hell out of my hips and shoulders. They're closed on the weekends, so that's where willpower kicks in. I do what I can, and remain positive knowing I'm choosing a healthier option on a semi-regular basis. Being a fan of delicious flavor will always be my Achilles' heel, but this helps.

Simply Nutrition is located at 14241 Jeffrey Road (cross street Roosevelt, across from Albertsons) in Irvine. (949) 670-7955. Operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday thru Friday.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gen Korean BBQ House & Yakitori Bar - Soft Opening

Two days ago, I had no plans to eat here; in fact, I wasn't aware of its existence. Just coincidence that my meeting was next door at Wahoo's, and that I figured out it was about to open. Ok, the balloon arch kinda clued me in. My previous experiences at Korean bbq are few and far between. There was this one place by the airport with a Korean co-worker (he did all the ordering). It reminded me of a scene in Lost In Translation, where Bill Murry's character is deciding on dinner, and all the pictures look the same. I think the other time was at the Asian trifecta of eats off Bristol/Paularino. I won't even bother to elaborate that mishap (It was me, not them.). So for me to want to check out a brand new establishment, with no idea of the menu or a seasoned bbq griller by my side was dicey.

When people talk about a clean, well-lit place, there should be a pic of Gen handy, for this is exactly that. The furniture may be of dark woods, but the walls and light fixtures are a super bright "GE is paying our electric bill" white. The space is divided into thirds - on your far right is the bar, middle has tables and chairs, and lefty is primarily booths. We are booth people, and you cannot help but notice the additional 'blocks' of light atop each seating space. Nothing to hide here. We decide to grill our gracious server and the nearest manager for more intel.

That night (Friday, September 9) was their first evening of a two-week long soft opening. While some would say that you're either open or you're closed, we could distinguish between the two options a number of ways. Tea was not available, although both hot and cold varieties are on the menu. An enticing fried Twinkie, like the other desserts, was not yet possible either. What a tease! The manager mentioned that we should also check out their bento lunches, as they are a hefty amount of eats for the price.

Related to Tomikawa in Irvine, other siblings go by the names Octopus and Sumo. They span as far north as Ventura, depending on which brand you are referring to. If you're a fan of Tomikawa, then Gen's appetizer selection should look familiar, since they mimicked it. We did order some gyoza and fried chicken to start, which were a crunchy change of pace from the rest of the menu. Everything else requires a repeat visit, since we were game to tackle their $22 all-you-can-eat feast. For the money, you receive not only 22 bbq options, but the following:

  • Rice and radish sheets for wrapping.
  • Banchan - all the individually served sides expected; we had mashed potato, kimchi, mushroom, assorted veggies and a few others. It was like Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan all over again.
  • White rice upon request.
  • Two different soups towards the end of our meal. One was a white, more eggy custard. The other had a red hue that Mr. brekkie fan tried and loved. Grace could not provide the technical names, but it didn't matter. Anyone want to name for me?
  • Green salad.
  • A trio of sauces including a mild sesame oil seasoned with pepper.

Don't expect me to name all 22 possibilities, because I thought the website would have it for me, but it didn't. I recall an American kobe, shrimp, some internal organ stuff I wasn't about to touch, short rib, assorted vegetables, and bulgogi, which (surprise surprise) was our favorite. Being able to choose between eating my meats with rice, all wrapped up, over greens, or straight off the grill was pretty cool. Radish wraps gave an earthy quality, while rice wrapping endured a gelatinous texture requiring a lot of chew.

Our server spent much of her time babysitting the meat - arranging it down on the grill, turning things over, and taking a thick pair of shears to hack food to more manageable bites. When I tried to take the reins and actually do some of the work myself, Grace jumped right in to assist, saying it's what she's here for. After a couple of rounds, she would summon someone to swap out the grill for a shiny, new one. While this was a great gesture on the restaurant's part, I would've been fine with cooking off the same surface. I was more bothered by the circle of grease surrounding our grill space like a force field.

It's easy to love a place based on one meal, especially when they are trying their best to impress you. However, if dinner was any indication of how they plan to operate, I'm already plotting my next visit to the yakitori bar...they just better have tea and dessert ready!

Gen Korean BBQ House and Yakitori Bar is in Tustin, situated within a plaza on the corner of Newport and Main. It's a stand-alone establishment, adjacent to Wahoo's Fish Taco. (If they had business cards or a more updated website, I would include more accurate information.) I can tell you they are open seven days, until 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Master Sommelier Throwdown At A Restaurant Next Week


There's wine, and then there's the Michael Jordan of wine. If that made sense to you, then you'll toast the special event being held on September 15 at A Restaurant in Newport Beach.

The first of many themed wine dinners, this is being dubbed Old World versus New World per Tony Motakef, A's General Manager. The establishment will be closed for a long evening of wine dueling. At last count, they were approaching capacity for the $145-per-plate dinner where diners will actively participate in the competition, selecting the ultimate winner.

With just over 100 individuals in the United States who operate under the title of Master Sommelier, having two super-oneophiles under the same roof is likely akin to the drama-free rapport on Top Chef Masters. Competing against Costa Mesa-based Jordan (yes, there really is one) is Mr. Peter Neptune, Senior Vice President of Corporate Training for The Henry Wine Group. Along with Chef Jon Blackford, the trio will host the Thursday soiree.

For each of the six courses specially created for this evening , Neptune will present an 'old world' wine, while the former Napa Rose sommelier is in charge of covering 'new world' styles. Guests will serve as both judge and jury, determining the best of each pairing. Bring your number two pencils sharpened, because we're getting schooled on some pricey juice boxes.

For more information on the sommelier showdown, contact Tony Motakef at (714) 322-8459.