Usually I scout for the cheapest deals when grocery shopping, which means that Asian supermarkets in places like Flushing are the best bet. If I want a classy shopping experience, here’s where I’d head to.
The in-house range of products (Trader Joe’s brand) is always fun to check out. There’s tons of frozen gourmet food that actually tastes good, for times you don’t feel like cooking.
Try: Brown Rice Gluten-free Bread (non-wheat), Frozen Veggie Patties (there’s a few kinds, including an Indian spiced one), Trader Joe’s Almond Butter (pure crushed almond goodness), Trader Joe’s Olive Tapenade (use as a spread, dip or salad dressing)
This place is a serious mecca of vegan products, including all-natural skincare items. A must-see for any vegan tourist.
Try: Non-dairy ice-cream (choose between soy milk, rice milk or coconut milk as a base), vegan baked goods (chocolate chip cookie!), vegan desserts to go (chocolate fudge!), the best salad bar ever (a little pricy, but vegan options are clearly labelled and there’s Indian dishes too)
I think I’ve found my secret slice of paradise- the New York Botanical Gardens. Look at the expanse of deep green forest, sunny meadows, cool lakes and pretty gardens. Feels like I’ve just wandered into a Monet or Van Gogh painting, alive with vibrant colours and textures. The fact that it exists in bustling, urbanized New York City is amazing.
Finally, I watched one of Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave films with Anna Karina as the main character. She is captivating as Angela, turning from coquettish to despairing at the blink of an eye. Her beauty and vulnerability draws you in, as you sense her longing and frustration at her inability to connect with Emile.
I found Godard’s techniques, revolutionary for his time, very effective at capturing the contradictions of romantic relationships. Instead of having the entire scene play out in chronological time, Godard splices snippets to form a slightly disjointed narrative. The viewer is left to imagine what happens, for example, in an argument between Angela and Emile. This reflects the nature of spats between couples in real life- the primary matter of dispute often plays less of a role than the little silly phrases uttered.
Like Last Year at Marienbad, another defining French New Wave film, A Woman is a Woman is a refreshing departure from the frenetic, action-packed but emotionally hollow narratives of Hollywood cinema. I’ll be checking out other Godard films if I can.
This would obviously work for vegetarians as well, or simply anyone wishing for delicious and nutritious vegetable-based dishes.
– Urth Caffe
This is my favourite cafe in LA with lots of vegan options. The freshness of the ingredients makes the food shine. There is no shortage of drinks to accompany your meal, and I especially like the coffee and smoothies.
Tried: Grilled Veggie with Pesto Sandwich, Margarita Pizza (vegetarian), The Urth Salad, Vegetarian Chilli, Spanish Latte (with soy milk- yum yum), Strawberry and Kiwi Smoothie (so refreshing!)
– Sage Organic Vegan Bistro
This place is a total dream- everything on the expansive menu is vegan and organic so you can order to your heart’s content! Raw food dishes are also available. The servings are pretty generous as well and the ‘Ice Kreme’ bar will tempt you.
Tried: Falafel Bowl, Jamaican Jerk Burger
– Flore Vegan Cuisine
Great for vegans who love breakfast and brunch. The weekend brunch menu is particularly special.
Tried: Tofu Benediction (its creamy vegan benedict sauce and the lightly-seared tempeh ‘bacon’ is seriously addictive)
– Cafe Gratitude
I find this restaurant overpriced but it’s one of the few that offers a wide selection of fully-raw dishes. Warning: portion sizes for the mains tend to be on the smaller side, and the taste takes some getting used to for those less accustomed to raw food.
Tried: I AM HAPPY Mediterranean wrap with live falafels, I AM TERRIFIC Live kelp noodles (need to buy some of these for myself), I AM MAHALO Raw deep dish Hawaiian pizza, I AM DIVINE Apple, beet, lemon and ginger juice, I AM IRRESISTABLE Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie (Mmmm), I AM MYSTICAL Raw cacao and coconut macaroon (tasty little nibs)
– Any Farmer’s Market
Pretty much every sizeable farmer’s market will have stalls with vegan foods, be it baked goods, jams and dips or Mexican eg. veggie tamales and quesadillas. The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is huge and possibly my favourite. Plus of course, what could be better than the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables (plus the samples)?
– Juice Bars/ Trucks
Look out for these in LA as they have a growing presence. Many offer juice cleanse programs as well.
Tried: Pressed Juicery’s Citrus 2 (energizing, thirst-quenching blend of pineapple, lemon, apple and mint), Greens 5, Carrot Apple Ginger (the touch of ginger is ingenious), Apple Lemon Ginger Cayenne, Apple Strawberry Coconut
This 1956 film (winner of the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film) is absolutely delightful and precious. The little boy’s mannerisms and interactions with his ‘pet’ balloon are a joy to watch. The director is especially skilled at ascribing anthropomorphic qualities to the balloon, which displays different emotions- playfulness, attachment, distress etc. It’s as if the balloon takes on a life of its own when the boy unties it from a lamp.
I feel that there are subtle undercurrents of social commentary, especially on the role of school and authority. Authority figures (teachers, an elderly woman who’s the boy’s primary caretaker) display a tendency to confine children and separate them from the external world by shutting doors or windows, thereby estranging the boy from his balloon. To me, the balloon with its vivid hue represents that special quality inherent in every child- perhaps a curiousness and sense of wonder. The fact that the boy is the only one among his boorish male peers to have a balloon is very telling.
His solitary walks about the streets of Paris also set him apart as a unique, intelligent, sensitive child, whereas being confined in classrooms has manifested in bad behaviour among most of his male classmates. When he encounters another girl with a blue balloon, I think it’s a sign of a kindred spirit. Finally, when his balloon deflates after being attacked by the gang of boys, the balloons in the city of every colour drift towards him. Floating in the air, he is carried away in an unforgettable ending shot.
I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few days ago and was completely blown away by their collection of art and historical pieces. One of my favourite sections is the one on Asian art, which includes Chinese antique ceramics and porcelain and Japanese bird-themed ink paintings. Some observations I made about Chinese/ Japanese ink paintings (vs. Western oils):
– The brushstroke seems to be the dominant formal element (many paintings are absent of colour). By varying the width and type of brush, the painter’s ‘touch’ and the moisture of the brush or ink used, different effects can be created to simulate the texture of foliage, fur, rocks etc. This is unlike classical Western oil painters who eliminate discernible brushstrokes to create photographic realism.
– Classical Renaissance perspective (which is logical and mathematical) does not apply. Perspective in Chinese landscape paintings is symbolic, with elements that are farther away placed vertically upwards. This reflects the scroll format of such paintings, which were not originally intended to live in a frame.
– Paper, not canvas, is usually the base of such paintings. Classical Western oils cover the entire canvas whereas much of the paper is left bare in ink paintings. I feel this provides room for the painting to ‘breathe’ and not seem confined, especially without the reinforcement of a frame. It also evokes a sense of depth that is more metaphorical than literal.
‘Drunk in Autumn Woods’, Shitao (Chinese, 1642–1707)
‘Crow and the Moon’, Kawanabe Kyōsai (Japanese, 1831–1889)
A few days ago, I finally had the chance to view Edward Hopper’s paintings in person (along with his preliminary sketches) at the Whitney Museum in New York. They’re even more captivating than I’d hoped, and they perfectly capture the mood of New England. Hopper’s a master at depicting light-filled space, be it an empty room, a movie theater or a street. Each painting is like a capsule in which time stands still. Though his chosen settings are often urban spaces, interestingly they contain none of the bustling activity associated with cities. Instead, all the noise is drawn out and the attention concentrated on a solitary figure or a few figures. The quiet surroundings act as a physical metaphor for their self-contained world of thoughts.
I found parallel depictions of human experience in this Hopper painting (bottom) and Chambered Nautilus by Andrew Wyeth (top). Both feature a solitary female figure resting on her bed and gazing pensively out of the window, which is a classic motif in art laden with symbolism. Does the window represent her eye- her view of the external world? Perhaps that’s the role of an artist- to evoke universal emotions and create subtle visual poetry.