¡Oye! A LAtina perspective on food, fashion, familia and art.

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The Illuminating Errand

by Laura E. Alvarez




“I must have some shoes that need repair somewhere!” I call from under a flurry of flying shoes as I rummage through the shoe basket. I don’t really do this, but I definitely have that feeling sometimes when I think I need to go see Alex, the shoe repair man. This outing is a cross between Portal to Oaxaca and Mandado a McCabe’s. A shoe repair definitely counts as an errand or as the higher “mandado”. Alex’ is also a portal. Not to Oaxaca, but to Michoacan.

Oh, Michoacan. My dad’s parents came from Michoacan during the Mexican revolution. Because it was so long ago, I do not have a connection with family in Michoacan. On the other hand, I grew up visiting my mom’s family in the state of Tamaulipas, from which she came in the sixties when she married my dad. On one of these visits to Tamaulipas, my brother and I, probably around age 19-21ish, decided to make a trip to Michoacan because we were curious. We visited no family. We were like any other tourists in the capital of Morelia, an idyllic colonial town of cobblestoned streets and plazitas. It hailed in the middle of summer, we ate Mexican pizza, I learned what cafe con leche was in portales amid hanging ferns, and it ended with me getting sick. But that’s just me on any trip to Mexico. The usual.

All of this lead up is just to say that I lack and have hankered for more of a connection to my father’s side of the family in México. The desire to know more about this part of my heritage has lead to my one time addiction to the telenovela, Morelia and to my interest in hanging out at the shoe repair shop… of course!

You can pass by Alex’ on a hot stretch of properties on sunny, touristy Main Street, just a couple blocks from the beach, and not even notice it. Not even notice it, like a Muggle passing by The Leaky Cauldron in a Harry Potter book. The vintage sign and dark windows beckon one in who tends towards the road less taken. Once inside, the mountains of sewn leather and shoe boxes (Well, it is a bit like Ollivander’s Wand Shop!) threatening to topple, make me feel like I am in a cozy forest of shoes. It reminds me of playing in my dad’s crowded garage as a child where I would find relics from World War Two.

I usually busy my eyes with all the shoes left and never picked up, old paintings, and who knows what as I wait for Alex to find my shoes or take my shoes. I always get the feeling as I wait that this time, truly it will be all business, different from other times. And then, just when I think that’s it, that I will leave with no story, it begins. Oh, it can be so suspenseful, this whole “story or no story”… but, there is always a story.

He segues into it so sneakily. I still get tricked sometimes. Don’t see it coming. One moment he is commenting on the needs of my younger son’s style and footwear, the next it is 1984 and he is being asked to buy his own sons Reeboks, and then suddenly we are in 1962 or who knows when, and he is walking around the plaza in a small Michoacan town in one direction with the boys, the girls going in another direction. A girl, drops her shawl, he picks it up, and okay, now we are in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, for sure.

Some of my favorite stories involve food. Oh, listening to food stories by people who grew up in Mexico… one of my favorite pastimes. Even if it is in English, food stories with real Mexicans are flowery and poetic because most likely, after all these years, the person is translating from Spanish in their head when they talk about the wonderful food their mother made them in Vera Cruz or the Yucatan or wherever they grew up. The translation is always so lovely and edible. On one of these trips to the shoe repair I ended up traveling through a portal straight to a beach in Michoacan where I could practically taste the ceviche. I listened to the story about Alex’ childhood, but it was me who was sandy and hungry, sitting on a rough rock under the palm trees in my 1970’s homemade bathing suit, with ceviche juice running down my front… It’s a portal, after all.

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The Update

by Laura E. Alvarez



Remember Give Yourself a Present? This is way-over-the-top Give Yourself a Present. This is double saturated, spilling over, crack the sides from rich abundance Give Yourself a Present. It’s called…

The Update.

Yes, The Update is what is invented when you are off the grid. It is what happens when you are above the ocean fog, surrounded by an organic farm, oak trees, lounging in a dream of a house, far, far above and away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It is a happening. It is an action. A situation. But you don’t have to travel miles and miles to enjoy The Update. I traveled miles and miles to bring it back to you. Now you can initiate an Update session of your own in your very own condo or picnic blanket or wherever you are dining.

I hope you can see from the above photo documentation that the instructions are very simple. First, create an elegant edible concoction of your own choosing. Something with a bit of flourish. Now, along the way, as you enjoy your delectable treat, your in-home chef (that might be you) must “update” the dish at least two different times (at least two) so that the whole visual experience… or journey, shall we say, is completely and utterly intoxicating. It’s taking things to the next level, and now that I have finally watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I finally understand the distance to which humans will go with the symphony that is dining. So much love in it. So much. And to leave you with another mind blower, because of Jiro, I discovered the world of photographing food at Noma, known as the “best restaurant in the world.” I’m just catching up. I haven’t tried it, but when you see what the food looks like, you might wonder, “But what if they Updated it?!”


Thanks to home chef and primo (cousin), Ben Korman for the Update, one of his many genius weekend inventions.

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Make it Up Monday

by Laura E. Alvarez20140615-214626.jpg20140615-214641.jpg20140615-214656.jpg20140615-214721.jpg20140615-214734.jpg

Starting at the top:

1. Homemade left over pinto beans that were cooked in Oaxacan pot. Thank you, Artesanias Oaxaquenias.

2.  Left over sauteed squash and carrots (Abundant Harvest Organics rules) mixed with a little left over ground taco beef (seasoned with chili powder and salt).

3.  Aforementioned items on top of melting colby jack cheese on top of corn tortillas on hot iron comal.

4.  Another corn tortilla on top of concoction. Notice butter on tortilla.  Yum.

5.  Cut up pretty on Japanese plates.

What are these?  Confession. Inspired by evil, weird quesadilla-type things I used to buy in high school at that Taco Bell across the street from the beach after running five miles.  But these are better.  Of course.  Point is, after years of thinking I couldn’t cook, an amazing friend from the U.K. living with us for a while – you know, the type of person who can just open your pantry and make some AMAZING vegetarian (I know this isn’t vegetarian, but that detail makes him even more impressive) feast -, then years of cooking anything but meat because it was too scary, and then following some recipes for a few years, then really paying attention to watching people cook, then maybe tasting some ingredients by themselves, and lastly but most importantly, watching Ratatouille many times, I am able to fully embrace being an artist in the kitchen and making crazy things that actually taste and look pretty good like this.  And that was a long sentence.


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Coffee Cookie

By Laura E. Alvarez




What came over me?  Spontaneous peanut butter cookie making?  I’m trying to be that person.  I might not be my mom who ALWAYS had homemade cookies in the cookie jar, but I can randomly blow everyone’s minds with a surprise baking spree.  Last night I made waffles at 8:30 pm FOR NO REASON.   Straight to teenage boys’ hearts. Cups from Tortoise. Spoons from Tokyo Shop. Plates from La Paloma Market.


Cazbah Cafe beautifulness.  Just exquisite.  The same people work there from 14 years ago.  That’s saying something.  I want ALL the clothes they sell there. That place was made for me.


Shout out to home chef, Cynthia Agustin for the above feast that was so over the top I’m still in a warm bath of gratefulness.  “Do you want vanilla ice cream on your hot, homemade peach pie.”  I’m fainting from happiness.

This makes our life rich. A friend that was moving to New Zealand was remarking that his family’s new life would mean more time for “coffee cookie”, and that this was a standard by which one could evaluate one’s quality of life. “Coffee Cookie” was something we invented when the boys were just babies.  We wanted to carry on with our bohemian artist lifestyle after the kids were born.  So we took them to art shows, they hung out for music recordings and painting sessions, and they did “coffee cookie”.  Just throw the word “cookie” in there and a four year old is happy to accompany you to a cappuccino, sketch, and conversation outing.

In Japan you have tea ceremonies, in México you have “la merienda”, and in England they used to ask us if our kettle was broke if we didn’t offer tea in the first five minutes.  It’s all about slowing down, by ourselves or with others.  Yes, give yourself a present, here we come again.  Just be.  Well, don’t just be.  Be and drink your tea or pretty coffee.  And you know, don’t just be and drink your tea or pretty coffee and nibble on your spirulina churro.  Take a picture before you eat it all. Post it or tweet it or instagram it, show it off some other way or just save it on your phone so later you can look at it and think, “Oh yeah, that was so nice.  Let’s do it again… RIGHT NOW.”


Cafe Dulce blog bomb… AGAIN.  Love you, Cafe Dulce.  Sorry to not dedicate a whole blog post to you… yet.


Love you, Ikea… for your cheap little frother that makes my life so fancy at home – even with almond milk!



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I Scream, You Scream


by  M. Byron Trent


photoIMG_4869You might have driven  past this place a million times and never noticed it.  It is not located in the most attractive strip mall in town and it is definitely tucked in a corner.  But!  Once you get inside, you will be transported for a moment’s time to Oaxaca, Mexico where they  are serving up perfect paletas (popsicles), ice cream, fresh fruit, juices, agua frescas and sandwiches.   Their paletas come in a plethora of tantalizing flavors that tickle your tongue and belly.  My kids love this place and so do I!  It is truly a gem and I’m not sure why it hasn’t exploded into a chain of franchises…hmmm.

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When you are there, don’t forget to do it up Mexican style and sprinkle some chile con limon on your paleta.  It’s especially good on the pineapple or cucumber and lime or mango – just go crazy!  Last time I was there, I had the hibiscus popsicle which was the most vibrant hue soaked purplish-red you’ve ever seen.   It was so cold and perfectly tart and sweet.  I wanted to savor my experience with the perfect balance of suck and bite.

Their ice cream is creamy and delicious with unique flavors such as leche quemada (smokey milk) and nance (yellow cherry).  But, they also carry other favorites like galleta (cookies and cream), fresa (strawberry) and oh, so much more.  Everything is subject to seasonal availability.


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Their prices are incredibly reasonable and the fact that you can have that much fresh juice squeezed, a green juice and not pay with a quarter of your paycheck…well, what are you waiting for???  Besides, look at that happy face!  IMG_4841


Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars  4249 S Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City 90230 310 313 7625  Open from 6 a.m. – 9 p.m.


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Korean Drama Style: I Can’t Get Enough

by Laura E. Alvarez

It’s an obsession, but  just give us a chance.  You will come to the dark side… wait, I mean the K pop side of T.V. dramas.  Here is a list of why I love them so much.


1.  The Fashion.  Is the costume design for some of these shows genius or do I just appreciate the way they over-simplify the wardrobe of every character?  It’s like if Im Meari doesn’t always show up in some kind of Peter Pan collar I might forget who she is.  That could be annoying… if the Peter Pan collars weren’t SO ADORABLE.  While not the star, she’s my favorite style-wise, you will soon see… but if you actually watch Gentleman’s Dignity, do yourself a favor and skip the parts where she cries.  I won’t even try to describe the sound.


2.  The Men’s Fashion.  To be truthful, the men’s fashion in K dramas is WAY better than the women’s in my opinion.  It’s kind of funny to go so crazy over clothes I’m probably never even going to emulate, but you know how puritan men’s fashion can be in this country.  It’s refreshing to check out men’s fashion in basically any country other than ours for that matter.  Once again, the wardrobes are simplified for each character, and we have a wonderful 80’s style going with this particular character – Jung-rok.


3.  The Art Direction.  Just check out the cafes in a lot of these shows.  Maybe cafe interior design is particularly creative in South Korea.  Maybe they are just represented in an amazing way on the shows.  On GD in one episode you can typically see around three scenes in different cafe’s. The attention to detail is marvelous.  The unique personality of each cafe is like another character in the scene.  It reflects the tone of the scene as well.  In the above scene, the humor comes from the fact that the three men in their forties are trying to relate to this teenager so… obviously, they have to take him to this teddy bear cafe. Over the top.



4. Composition. I guess this is an art term, so maybe I mean the cinematography.  It becomes composition when I take screen shots.  You could just take screen shot after screen shot all day and never get tired of these beautiful compositions.  On GD the camera tends to linger on shots of beauty and contemplation.  It reminds me of that appreciation for color and balance that I love in so many great anime films.



More composition… Excellent Sequence of color, composition and drama.  But, also look at the lovers’ color coordinated looks.  They are connected, even though he fights it.  She is so out of some resort wear collection.  And he is so casual 80’s.

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5.  Intersections of Cultures. Here is a particularly sad but funny sequence where Im Meari is rejected by Choi Yoon for the 54th time. This time, instead of doing that crying thing she goes to a bar in the middle of the day to get drunk and sing sad songs. Wondering what to wear for such an occasion?  A Day of the Dead t shirt and happy 80’s cardigan, of course!  K dramas are full of great cultural combos like this that perfectly capture the complex emotions.

Thanks for indulging me, and I hope you enjoyed this peek into K drama style.  I am totally controlling myself by not going into the fashion in the next series I watched, That Winter the Wind Blows…

… Oops.  Did I just add that photo?  Guess I didn’t control myself.  Both shows available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix.


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give yourself a present

by Laura E. Alvarez


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Left to right starting at the top left:  a) Kale and steamed egg over sushi rice with savory on top, b) mâche and homemade beans on homemade tostada shell with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, c) pasta with Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon (that’s right… lemon!  It’s a fruit!) water, d) savory on steamed egg on multigrain British muffin with stove top Gavina espresso. 

Every Tuesday we get a present.  Well, technically we give the present to ourselves.  It’s called Abundant Harvest Organics, and it’s a farm-share delivery service that supplies us with a box of gorgeous organic fruits and vegetables.  For a little more than twenty dollars we get a cornucopia of food that was just picked the day before from local farms.  It’s always a surprise what we will be cooking with every week.  Not only that, but it forces us to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables every day, and I mean every meal.  I have to admit that it really challenges me, this working in the fresh food at every meal, but our taste buds benefit from it, and our whole bodies benefit from it.  Breakfast is probably the most challenging, but look!  Above, you see two breakfasts with farm box ingredients thrown in.


Hey, did you think this post was about organic fresh fruits and vegetables?  No, it’s not… because obviously, that is a donut.  Yes, a donut.  But look at how it’s presented.  This donut sits on a warm, country-carved block of Mexican loveliness with an adorable espresso at its side.  Because the donut is not from far-away Cafe Dulce, then I cannot say I escaped without a stomach ache.  Was it worth it?  Aaaaal-most.  Oh, Cafe Dulce, what is a food post without thinking of you?

Right, then.  This post is about Giving Yourself a Present.  And sometimes the present is in the presentation.


I didn’t make this, but I did photograph it!  Yes, colorful and dynamic presentations such as this one at Ruen Pair, Thai Cuisine inspire me at home.  You can do this too!  Everyone can.  The secret is out.  Here are some tips that I recently discovered…

1) Choose a bowl or plate that compliments what you are serving to yourself.  Use something out of the ordinary like a little chopping block.

2) Layering food items is nice for some reason… and affects the taste. Wow.

3)  Pay attention to color.  The plate is your canvas!

4) Chop up little things and sprinkle them on top.  This creates texture.

5)  It’s a wonder what a tray can do.


And lastly, to show you that presentation can actually help heal you… I texted the above photo to Byron when she was sending me messages the other week like, “Hellooo!  Are you still alive, Laura?!  I’m worried about you, Amiga!” I was SO sick in bed.  Highly unusual.  My photo to her expressed that I must be okay if I have such an attractive tray on my bed.  I mean, look at it.  Yes, there are two trays involved, flowers in a jam jar, homemade tea, and that tangerine looks like a flower the way it has been peeled.  And even… yes, some not-very tasty elderberry syrup is sweetened by the whole presentation.  Now, I must confess that this last present is not a present to myself, but a present from my Love. Presents are really nice when they come from others, too. 😉