Category Archives: food

The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico

The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico

From the moment my plane landed in the tiny airport of Oaxaca, I knew I was in for an adventure. Oaxaca is a magical concoction of sights, smells, and sounds. With a combination of ancient and modern sites, the small city is full of fantastic restaurants and can easily be covered by foot.

Its official name, Oaxaca de Juárez, embodies the bundle of contrasts that is modern Mexico. Oaxaca has it all: a lovely colonial city, the ruins of Mitla, craft and food markets, churches, forest covered mountains, and my favorite place of all—Monte Albán.

© hannah kozak

Monte Albán, Mexico

Built by the Zapotecs, the temples of Monte Albán are perched atop a large mesa. Seeing the massive ancient metropolis is a mystical and spiritual experience. Monte Albán is one of the most important ruins in Mexico. To get a sense of its importance, it is said that 30,000 Zapotecs lived in Monte Albán at one time.

© hannah kozak

Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico

The Zapotec capital of Monte Albán overlooks Oaxaca and the view is incredible.

© hannah kozak

View of Oaxaca, Mexico from Monte Albán.

I find myself with many questions about Monte Alban because only 10 percent of the site has been uncovered. Did the Zapotecs abandon the city gradually or suddenly? It was founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period around 500 BC and by 1000 AD it was empty. What was it like living in Monte Alban?

For this trip I used my Rolleiflex 2.8F and my Fujifilm X-T2 along with the Fujifilm 16-55mm 2.8 lens.

When I travel, I use my camera to get to know people. I’ll approach total strangers and ask if I may make a photo of them. With that one question, we establish a sort of trust. If I am shooting digitally, I will show them the photo on playback and I usually get big smiles in response.

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

 © hannah kozak

Couple in their vegetable and fruit stand in Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

 © hannah kozak

Children in Tlacolula Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

I like to write down their address and sometimes surprise them with the photo in the mail a month or two later. Sharing my photography is important to me, and I love being able to give the gift of a portrait.

© hannah kozak

Frutas y Verduras – Teotitlan Market Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Eugenia Zoila Hernande at La Olla Restaurant making corn tortillas – Oaxaca, Mexico

©hannah kozak

Man selling on street in Oaxaca, Mexico

Whether I’m taking pictures or not, traveling through Mexico is always a unique experience. From the Spanish language (la lengua), to the food (la comida), people (la gente), and culture (la cultura). There is a lot of fear-based advice about traveling to various states of Mexico coming from the U.S. that I have never paid attention to. I find all the fear propaganda unwarranted.

I have met beautiful people around the world in my travels, warm kind hearted strangers especially in Mexico. Their warmth and kindness shines through where I meet them in every market, street corner, restaurant, and ancient site.

 © hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman – Teotitlan Market

© hannah kozak

Woman – Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman – Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexico gifted me with enriching, heart breaking, beautiful sights and though it left me tired, I felt new life running through my veins.

© hannah kozak

Skeletons – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Oaxaca Cemetery

The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico

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Sāmbār – Indian Yumminess in Culver City

Sāmbār – Indian Yumminess in Culver City

I like Indian food but after having dinner at Sāmbār Restaurant – the new upscale Indian restaurant in downtown Culver City, I can officially say that I love Indian food.

First of all, the location is in the pedestrian walking district of Culver Blvd, just two doors away from Akasha’s first restaurant aptly named Akasha. Sāmbār is the combined creation of the design building firm of Ruth Black, who specializes in ruins to renovation and acclaimed chef, Akasha, who has a whole new take on Indian cuisine. Akasha spent time in an ashram and traveling through India.

India is one of my favorite countries in the world. It’s not like traveling to another country, it’s like traveling to another world. It’s the seat of spirituality, a place where you can sip a cup of chai tea on a street corner and feel fine about just being here now. Between the intense wet heat that never lets up and the smell of India; the scent of Nag Champra incense, a combination of temples, mosques, fresh flowers, decay of the past, saffron, cows, cats, I was intoxicated. This smell still beckons me, even years later, begging me to return for another hit of life. Eating Akasha’s food on my birthday brought me back to that place in my soul, where India is part of me.

Speaking of another part of me, for all you Michael Jackson fans, you already know Akasha was Michael Jackson’s personal and concert (Victory, Bad and History tours) chef. Michael said the only restaurant he would drive to back in the 80’s was Akasha’s Golden Temple, the once popular vegetarian restaurant.

Upon entering there is an eye catching chandelier of blue, green, red, purple, yellow that Black designed and created. If you like details, like I do, have a look at her blog where she explains her design on the chandelier.

https://rtr-homes.com/sambar2.html

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār chandalier

Not only is the food a feast for the senses, the space is too. Call me fussy if you like, but when I go out to eat, I love to feel inspired by not only the food but the space must stir as well. The combination of Black and Akasha achieves this. Ruth had the tables hand made while the leather was achieved by an expert in fabrics and textiles, at Holland & Sherry. Black choose cressula, a deep, sautéed green color plant that is drought tolerant, in planters to line the outdoor deck seating area.

Here’s the wooden ceiling:

© hannah kozak

Sambar Restaurant ceiling

It gets better. Here is the art project of stardust white wooden sticks on the wall next to the bar.

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār Restaurant – Art

Now for the food. We started with this cheese plate:

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār cheese plate

Here are samosas, Sambar snack mix, Sev Puri Chat, Toor Daal Fritters, (In the back, my apologies for cutting off) and a Sacred Cow drink.

© hannah kozak

Sambar Restaurant –
Samosas, Sambar snack mix, Sev Puri Chat, Toor Daal Fritters, Sacred Cow drink

In the back is a Cheese Thai (Indian Cheese plate), with Papadoms and Turmeric Naan, Lemon Rice, Dal, Tandoori Roasted Vegetables with yogurt, Tandoori British half Raj chicken.

© hannah kozak

Sambar Restaurant 2

Tandoori Roasted Vegetables with Yogurt:

© hannah kozak

Sambar Restaurant 3

Here’s the Tandoori pistachio lamb kabob with Makki ki roti (gluten free).

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār Restaurant – Tandoori pistachio lamb kabob with Makki ki roti

Tandoori British Raj chicken:

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār Tandoori British Raj chicken.

A special banana dessert that three lifelong friends shared:

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār banana dessert

I’m looking forward to returning to try the lamb burger and try some of the drinks made by Clare Ward a mixologist who came on board from Akasha’s first restaurant. Some of her drinks include house-made bitters with turmeric and spiking Pimms cocktails with fresh curry leaves.

Ruth Black is a long time Kundalini yogi whose love for the practice brings a higher consciousness that permeates every area of her life. Here is her hand drawn designs in the restrooms. Just like Michael Jackson, Ruth understands the mantra of the Age of Aquarius that “You’re Just Another Part of Me.” Here we see Ruth’s handwriting, inspired by her mother, a calligraphy artist, who was in of all places, India at the time Ruth was building Sāmbār.

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār Restaurant art work by Ruth Black Designs.

Last but not least, the hand painted logo at the entrance wall designed by Ruth’s talented mother, artist Barbara Graham.

© hannah kozak

Sāmbār Restaurant entrance

“India was open. India was honest. And I liked that from the first day. My instinct wasn’t to criticize. My instinct, in the city I was learning to love, was to observe, and become involved, and enjoy.” Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram

Sāmbār – Indian Yumminess in Culver City


Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dating back to 1858, Cafe Tortoni is the oldest coffee shop in all of Argentina. I love that there was a line of people waiting outside to have a seat at the famous Cafe. I walked in and saw a man standing in one of the back rooms.

Cafe Tortoni
Cafe Tortoni exterior

Cheerios – the breakfast of choices

I think I might know what the problem is. We have too many choices.Alternatives galore.When I was growing up with my 3 brothers and younger sister, milk and cereal was the highly sought after food item in our house. There were always 3- 1 gallon jugs of milk in the refrigerator that my sister and I would be responsible for buying. Forget about the fact that neither one of us had drivers licenses.  I remember I’d look at the writing on the side of the package and spell it in my head outloud. H-O-M-O-G-E-N-I-Z-E-D  P-A-S-T-E-U-R-I-Z-E-D milk.  My big brother was always drinking the milk right from the container. He’d stand at the refrigerator with the door open while he chugged the milk and then put it back on the shelf as if it didn’t matter that the rest of us were going to drink after him and wherever his mouth had been. When our father sent us away to summer  camp in Idaho so as not to see our grandmother dying from leukemia, I even made up a little sing/chant about milk and cereal. First one up would call out, to no one in particular “First on cereal.” A beat later you’d hear “second”, “third”, “fourth, fifth.” You get the picture. The unfortunate late sleeper missed out on milk and cereal.

I felt like eating Cheerios the other night. It’s a childhood soothing fix for me. I wasn’t in the mood for Captain Crunch. It tears up the gums too much and I just had my teeth cleaned. I thought to myself, I’ll have Cheerios. Plain, simple, Cheerios. That’s what I need.  I headed over to Target because I like the atmosphere much better than Ralphs. I walked over to the cereal aisle which turned out to be the Cheerios aisle. I started to spin. What happened to plain Cheerios? When did this occur? Did you know Cheerios now comes in twelve flavors. Honey nut cheerios, multi grain cheerios, apple cinnamon cheerios,  banana nut,  Chocolate, cinnamon burst, frosted, fruity, oat cluster crunch, yogurt burst, berry burst, chunky clusters Cheerios. I called a friend, who is a mother. “What happened to plain Cheerios?” I asked her. She laughed and said to her Italian husband, with a laugh in her voice, “ Hannah si gira la testa guardando tutti ie tipi di Cheerios.” “Hannah is spinning with the choices of Cheerios.”

This is the problem in a nutshell. How is anyone supposed to decide which flavor of Cheerios to choose from when there are twelve options? What happened to the days of whole, homogenized, pasteurized milk and simple cheerios?  Those days are gone. Simplicity is gone.

In its place we have choice. Just like in communication. We can choose to text someone we really don’t want to call. Or we can email them, that way we can conveniently get back to them never. IM’ing is about as far removed from communication as we can take it. Or there’s Facebook. Where we can pretend to be absolutely someone we’re not. Then there’s the old fashioned Cheerios of communication- calling someone on a land line. Nah – too much possibility of them actually answering the phone and having an authentic communication.

I thought strongly about possibly trying banana nut cheerios but decided against it because bananas should be exactly that. A banana cut up and strategically placed in a bowl of cheerios, so that each bite of cereal and milk yields one a bit of banana. Plus I don’t think the potassium translates from the real deal. I opted against even multi grain cheerios. I don’t want chocolate, cinnamon burst, frosted, and yikes who engineered fruity cheerios? I just want plain cheerios. Just like I yearn for the days where we would make a lunch date and time. We wouldn’t text each other 6 times before the actual day because we were running late or had to stop for a non fat vanilla latte. If we could make movies in the 80’s with just walkie talkies on the set without all these devices, why can’t we meet for lunch without having to go back and forth 18 times? We would make a plan the night before. Pick a spot nearby that had food and no one asked about vegetarian, vegan or soy products. We’d look into each other’s eyes, listen and catch up on life. No one was periodically glancing at their iphone 4 to see if G-d forbid, they had missed a call from someone they didn’t really want to talk to. I get little bouts of anxiety from all the beeps and devices going off.  I yearn for the olden days. I yearn for plain old Cheerios.

Cheerios choices at Target - yikes


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