Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vacation: All I Ever Wanted

After the last concerned colleague asked me if I was doing alright, I decided that perhaps I was remiss in not posting anything on GMS soon after my adventure at the Brotman Arms. Fortunately, I was due for a much-needed vacation.

Don't worry, folks. I never waterski in a tutu without adult supervision.

This started with time with my favorite nephews, Seiji and Kenzo. I do try to wean them away from their tendency to gravitate toward restaurants that offer toys as an appetizer when we go out, which is becoming easier as they become junior foodies in their own right. When I asked them where they wanted to go, they unanimously answered, "Little Tokyo" and when I asked them what they wanted to eat, they also answered without hesitation, "Strawberry Cones." The Japanese pizza chain has become a fast favorite, with its exotic crust of mochi flour and array of unorthodox toppings that include various types of shellfish, corn, teriyaki chicken, walnuts, and mayonnaise.

Alas, the possibility of Japanese pizza was crushed when we entered the Little Tokyo Market Place a little bit before noon to find the Strawberry Cones kiosk tented and Beard Papa's - our default choice for dessert - closed. My nephews, ever astute when it comes to matters of the kitchen thanks to my sister, explained to me that if one shop had to close, they both had to close, due to the fact that they share an oven.

Although impressed by their ability to provide the latest updates on the equipment woes of Little Tokyo restaurant owners, I had to find another option for fickle pint-sized appetites and fast. Jolene was going to tag team me and pick them up from Kinokuniya Bookstore where we had planned to end up after eating lunch.

The only other options in the center were a Vietnamese pho place and the food court in the Korean market, which seemed the most kid-friendly option. We marched down to booth that appeared to serve more American fare. When asked to order, Seiji immediately asked for a cheeseburger. Kenzo nodded for the same. So I ordered their food and two "bulgogi tortillas" - they meant "tacos" - for myself.

Unfortunately, the burgers were a bit of a disaster. Since I rarely eat them myself, I had not thought to warn the boys of the sauces and condiments that automatically appear on a burger unless a cook is told not to include them. So I spent the better part of lunch scraping relish-flecked dressing and plucking pickles off of their burger patties. I felt badly because Kenzo manfully ate most of his bun, which he enjoyed because of the burger drippings. Seiji tried to eat the meat from which I could not fully remove all traces of dressing, but looked tortured. They would have been happy to advance to yogurt, but I knew they had to have some "real food" first. We went back to the charbroiler and got corn dogs, which they wolfed down eagerly.

With lunch out of the way, Seiji and Kenzo raced each other to Cherry On Top, the most recent iteration of the self-serve frozen yogurt bar to hit Los Angeles. I am pretty much over the whole yogurt thing after too many flavor orgies where my five or six dollops of different flavors all ended up tasting the same to my frigid tastebuds and the variety of toppings offered all began to look the same. But when you are six- and eight-years-old, you are like a kid in a candy store at a yogurt bar - literally.

Earlier in the day, I was puzzling over the fact that my nephews, who don't even have all of their permanent teeth yet, have logged a number of cavities disproportionate to their tender years. As I watched them fill their cardboard cups of yogurt, I realized why this was happening. Any health benefits that are touted as froyo's superiority to plain old ice cream are nullified by the choices of toppings that kids prefer - namely every gummy candy known to the Western world.

Both of the boys used the cookies and cream yogurt as a base, then each chose another complement such as vanilla bean or chocolate. Then, to the chagrin of Seiji, who hates it when his little brother copies him, they each ladled on a quarter pound of neon gummy worms, sour belts, canned mandarin oranges, and a dollop of sweetened condensed milk.

Note the one without the brightly colored candy on it. And don't tell S + K about the oatmeal cookie I had after my workout.

Each of the boys has his own ritual for yogurt consumption. Seiji has his own technique, a la Cold Stone Creamery, and blends his froyo, candies and all, into an unrecognizable mass.

Seiji says, "Whip it... whip it good."

Kenzo likes to pick his gummy worms out one at a time and eat them first. Then he starts in on the other toppings, also using his fingers. When I suggested using his spoon, he tactfully countered, "Good idea, but... no."

Brain by the Culver City Unified School District. Body by Kenzo and his healthy appetite.

My nephews are among my most favorite - and most interactive - dining partners. So what if I have to scan their meals for undesirable ingredients, make sure hands get washed before they eat, or choke down a McDonald's yogurt parfait now and then. I get to watch them taste, explore, and form opinions on what is a daily necessity and a sensory pleasure. And for better or worse, I get to leave "the grown-ups' table" for a while, which is a vacation in itself.


  1. funny that they have no problem mixing up all kinds of stuff in the yogurt but have to pick off all the stuff from the burgers!

  2. good point!... they have their priorities...