Omakase at Kobo

I wanted to love this place.  I want to support businesses that acknowledge that it’s important for ethical, environmental, and health reasons to provide vegan options.  Or heck, just plain financial reasons!  But it was good to okay.  Not I-want-to-go-back-take-my-friends spectacular.

The meal started off with a bang.
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These little balls of amazing flavors bursting in your mouth.  Mango with basil sprinkles, strawberry with fennel sprinkles, and lychee with rose sprinkles.  They were fun to eat and tasted true to the flavors.  But this was more dessert than starter to me.

Following on were more littles.  Little bit of tomato tartare.
Little morsels of sushi. Untitled
A little bowl of tofu with handmade vegan caviar.
A little cone of micro greens.
And a mouthful of green tea noodles. Untitled

None of it was enough, and they knew that, so as the last course, they hit you with a big bowl of gohan.

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That’s rice.  We got a normal full meal sized bowl of rice with bamboo and shiitake.  While good, it really stood out from the rest of the menu which was delicate and bite sized and pretty and then, plop, here’s some rice to fill you up.  Also, the website says it’s a 12-15 course menu, whereas I counted 11 courses, including the welcoming tea and the amuse bouche as two separate courses.

The chef was a great guy.  And he asked us for what we’d recommend to him.
We both told him that even though we probably didn’t need to eat more, and it was probably better we didn’t, we could have had more.

Here’s what I didn’t tell him –
This menu, though vegan, isn’t truly vegan-friendly.  I don’t eat meat but I still need protein.  The menu had plenty of carbs from rice and vegetables but the only protein in the entire menu was a tiny bit of tofu and fungi.  Where’s the natto?  Where are the pulses?  And for a Japanese vegan place, they could have incorporated more varieties of plants.  Lotus root.  Seaweed (there was some but I wouldn’t have minded more).  More tsukemono (pickled things – though there was a very interesting pickled ginger flower). I wanted everything to be something I couldn’t make at home.  This was not the case.  Some things were definitely unique, but it felt like the menu petered out at the end.  Instead of a grand finale that wow’d us, it was a sputter to the finish line.

The service was impeccable.  They were all super duper friendly with zero airs.  No snooty pretentiousness.  We slurped.  We picked up our bowls.  We Kirby’d our food.  We felt completely at ease.  And I was hungry by the time I got home.

Happy Earth Day!

A report came out about a month ago saying the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere is measuring at 405 parts per million – a record high. Since scientists have been tracking it at Mauna Loa in 1958, increases in carbon dioxide levels have averaged about 2 parts per million each year. These past two years (2015 & 2016), it’s been increasing at 3 ppm each year. It’s accelerating and compounding.

During the Paris Climate talks, we kept hearing about this magical two degrees figure. The message being we need to keep the planet from warming an additional two degrees Celcius, since we’ve been measuring (in the 1800s). To give you an idea, for the past 10,000 years, Earth’s temperature has been fluctuating by around one degree. It wasn’t until recently when we started using fossil fuels that the temperatures have undergone this steady increase.

So why two degrees? It’s just a goal so that maybe countries can try to do their part to curb carbon emissions. And maybe it’s scientists’ guesstimate of the level that humans can tolerate. Because CO2 is a major contributor to global warming and it appears to be increasing at an accelerating rate, I think two degrees is an optimistic target. Realistically, we’re on our way to exceeding that.

There are currently about 7 billion people on the planet. Even with decreasing global birthrates since the 1950s, the population is projected to exceed 10 billion in less than 100 years due to longer lifespans. No matter how conservatively we live, even if we were all in developing nations and didn’t drive cars, energy requirements alone for 3 billion more will probably push us over the 2 degrees. Scientists are predicting 2 to 4 feet sea level rise this century, and more if the Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets collapse. Speaking of, a few days ago, scientists observed a new crack in one of Greenland’s glaciers. It’s not really new, just newly noticed. It appeared last summer. As these glaciers break off into the ocean, or calve, the melting of the land ice will accelerate and so will sea level rise.

Global temperatures rising aside, at what point of CO2 levels in the atmosphere does it affect people? Some studies show that at 1,000 ppm, we start showing cognitive decline. But what about long term effects of exposure at lower levels?

Now here I’ve been living my life trying to be more informed of my contribution to the carbon footprint. I’ve been of the belief, maybe naively, that I can do my part to live more gently and leave as small a mark as I can. I wonder though, if it’s too late anyway, maybe we should just party like it’s 1999 and let the consequences play out as they will regardless. Is this what climate change deniers think? That this is the last hurrah, and the every-man-for-himself moment? I flit between these two thoughts. That maybe dash it all, we should live it up, screw the pooch. Or there’s still hope if we all do our part. Try as I do to remind myself that it’s probably futile, the optimist in me won’t give up.

Union Market

Earlier this month, we planned to go to a little vegan bakery diner place called Fare Well for brunch.  They didn’t take reservations for weekend brunch and when we got there the wait was 2 hours!  So we trekked it over to Union Market.
Union Market
Union Market is a bustling, crowded indoor market with tons of little food stands. It’s tucked away in a corner of what otherwise would look like a totally sketchballz place. Actually H Street looks like a gentrified former sketchy place. It’s now full of fancypants casual restaurants, yoga studios, and a Whole Foods. On our way to Union Market we even passed by a rental apartment sign. 1 bedroom – 1 den – 1 bath for $2,500!
The food at Union Market all looked tasty but unfortunately the seating is very limited so we ended up eating at a restaurant there called Bidwell. Kinda’ pricey for the stuff they sell, but they have tables and chairs! I probably wouldn’t eat there again but I wouldn’t mind going back to Union Market for some of their other food options. I saw a dosa stand that looked pretty good and there’s good people-watching too. Not a resounding endorsement, but eh, on a day where the weather is nice, and I just want to go outside and be among my brethren, it’s a good option.

Scratching the fountain pen itch

Instead of getting a new pen, I got myself a new bottle of ink. I reached the bottoms of the Diamine Evergreen and Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo bottles to the point where I can’t draw it up with the nib. I’ll have to use a syringe to suck up the last of the inks in those bottles. In the meantime, I wanted to have the convenience of a full bottle for easy refilling, where I can just stick the entire nib in the bottle and suck it up. And even though I still have other fairly full bottles, I didn’t want to take my nicer bottles of inks to work (Pelikan Tourmaline, Montblanc Irish Green). So this is more along the lines of introducing more frivolity into my life this year. And apparently, frivolity translates into buying shit I don’t really need.
Noodler's Ink - Black Swan in Australian Roses
But it’s so pretty and it has a lot of variation in light and dark shading. It’s a dark merlot/wine color that’s easy on the eyes.

Beauty products

Tony Moly Strawberry blackhead removing nose packs. Thumbs down.
Blackhead nose strips
I’m not a fan of these types of products, nose strips, but once in a blue moon, I forget that I hate these things and use them again. Then I don’t use it for a long time again. They probably do more harm than good.  I like this Tony Moly version even less.  They reek of a terrible artificial strawberry scent and the three step process is more gimmicky than effective.  It’s basically Biore, but more annoying and no more effective.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. Thumbs up. 
EcoTools and Real Techniques
I got into a conversation with a coworker a few weeks ago, talking about the one makeup we like to wear the most. You know, the whole, “I feel absolutely naked without … ” For her, it was lipstick. For me, it’s blush. Not that I wear it all the time, but it’s probably my most frequently used product. It makes such a difference on my complexion that I’ve had people ask me if I’m well on days I don’t wear it. I had a couple of them fall apart on me last year – a Sonia Kashuk and an E.L.F.  So I got a Real Techniques brush. It can be used for face powder, blush, bronzer, or powder foundation.  I’ve been loving this brush.  The bristles are dense and short and don’t shed.  It blends beautifully and feels very soft.

I also got the EcoTools brush for powder foundation. It’s incredibly soft but not as dense as the Real Techniques. For powdering the whole face though, it’s exactly what I need. Something big and floofy.

At Home Gym Equipment

While we’re on the subject of gyms, let me share with you my thoughts about at-home gym equipment.
Because I often attend gym classes that use all kinds of exercise equipment, I’m always wanting yet another new toy.  I ambitiously think, hey I could do this at home! As if my butt can lift off the black hole that is the couch.  So let me preface all of this by saying that I hardly ever use any of my at-home gym equipment. I do use them but most, only a few times a year.  Here are the items I do use – even if infrequently.

  • Foam roller – It helps tremendously with sore muscles. Sometimes no amount of stretching works as well as rolling pin the heck out of your legs or sides – like a self-massage.  I don’t know though, sometimes I wonder if maybe I could have just used the one at the gym and saved the space.  Ok this is a take it or leave it.
  • Yoga mat – It’s not just for yoga.  The grippyness of it helps when I use a foam roller, or if I just want to do some stretching or calisthenics.  I probably use this the most regularly – as in, I aim to use it at least once a week.
  • Jump-rope – This is a very effective cardio equipment.  It’s portable and takes up minimal space. The few times a year I use it, I jump for 5-minutes at a time (with minimal breaks) with squats and weightlifting in between the jump roping repeating three or four rounds. It’s an effective workout.  I don’t use this a lot because at the end of the day, I still need to take it with me to a place that has the room to skip rope, which ends up being a gym.  So… I could just use the gym rope.  BUT!  This one is tailored to my height and it’s to my liking so I jump rope more now that I have my own.  I am glad I have it for the times I want to do cardio but don’t feel like running.  Realistically though, I use it maybe a few times a year.  Which I suppose is still more than I used to jump rope, which was hardly ever.

That’s it! That’s all I have or would get (for now)
The other items I have and why I wouldn’t recommend them:

  • Weights of any sort – This includes kettlebells – which I almost got, but thankfully decided against it.  While I like kettlebells and other weights, they’re heavy! They can dent the floor when you drop them, which will happen.  And they take up a good amount of space because they will eventually multiply.  Lets say you get a set of 5 lb dumbbells to start.  Eventually, that gets easier as you get stronger and then you’ll need to buy the 7 lb or 8 lb ones.  Then the 10 lb.  So on and so forth.  Or if you choose to stop with the craziness, the sets that are too easy aren’t really going to be as effective and you basically have dumbbells that you’ll never use. A better alternative to weights, resistance bands.  For use at home, they’re definitely better than dumbbells. These things are light, portable and just as effective and frankly more versatile than dumbbells.  I didn’t get them though because I can’t see myself really using them enough to justify owning them.
  • Exercise balls – These big balls take up space.  I rarely use them except as auxiliary chairs when we have more people over.  Yes, there are some moves I can do with them but I can do similar moves that activate the same muscles without the balls just as effectively.  Mine is more furniture than exercise equipment.

OR save your money and just do what I do most days, which is sit on the couch watching Netflix or YouTube.

Loud Gym Update

So you know how I mentioned the deafening volume of the music and instructors at the gym classes I go to?  And how even with earplugs, the music and microphones were still too loud? I ended up filling out and submitting the form for gym membership cancellation. Ten days later, I asked them to cancel the cancellation. The reason was because in those 10 days, I noticed the music in the classes were less deafening. Still loud, but bearable. And even though I still feel the need to wear earplugs, it’s been a lot easier on my ears to the point where I can go back to enjoying the activity rather than focusing the entire time on the loudness of everything.  And the whole reason why I joined in the first place was to have some activity to do that got me out of the house.  So if it wasn’t this gym, it would have been another studio of some sort.  I was considering a yoga/pilates studio.  And now, since it’s not going to be a yoga studio, I am doing it at home.

If you’re interested, one of my favorite YouTuber’s is Fiji McAlpine.  She is an excellent verbal cue’er.