hi there!

I’m Mari.
On Marivelous Me! you’ll find recipes, food gifts, food I’ve traveled for and food solutions. Poke around, maybe you’ll find inspiration for something you’re working on. Enjoy! 


A Neighborly Gift of Kindness

We received an email today from some acquaintances saying that they managed to get some avocados off of their tree before the squirrels and birds got to them and that they’d be dropping a bag off at our back door. This little gesture reminds me of a story…

When I was a little kid, our neighbor, Mr. Kopek was retired and gardened all the time. He had a vegetable garden on his yard, I don’t know, maybe 20 x 30 feet? He started growing stuff on the hill up past his yard too since I’m sure Mrs. Kopek wanted some grass to surround the above ground pool that took up the remaining space on their backyard. He’d be out there weeding, hoeing, watering all the time. Almost every other day during July, August and midway through September he’d leave us presents on our back porch. There would be HUGE zucchinis, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes that were so gloriously ripe and juicy, eggplants, string beans, corn, and sometimes we’d get a watermelon.

I don’t think these friends of ours know how happy this simple gesture has made me. Their little act of kindness was just so sweet. It made me feel like a kid again remembering Mr. Kopek’s little acts of kindness on a hot summer’s night. Freshly grown produce is great but freshly grown produce from someone you know, tastes that much better.  

Happy Friday, Everyone. See you back here on Monday!


Marukai - A Japanese Supermarket

As I’ve previously mentioned, I love going to markets, especially ethnic markets - to get a sense of what’s important to the expat locals. If you browse enough Japanese markets, you’ll see a trend: Japanese people like miso soup and rice, curry and dried squid too. You’ll also see a whole lotta cute.

Before moving west, my dad raved about a Japanese supermarket here in LA: Marukai. ‘The sake selection is bigger and better than any I’ve seen in Japan!’ he’d say. What I found specific to Marukai in Los Angeles is they definitely acknowledge the west coast expat rather than an east coast one, like all the Hawaiian spices and foods, which you’d never see at Sunrise Mart.

You can shop at Marukai without being a member but you should become one if you plan on shopping there on a regular basis (there are member’s only prices for some items). My hot water kettle I found cheaper elsewhere but right now, I don’t know anywhere else to get gyoza wrappers so I stocked up. One of other things I noticed at Marukai was the Japanese trend for young women to look/dress like dolls. Go figure. Maybe it’s a west coast thing. 


Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams' Vending Machine

Only recently have airports (I include you too, sporting arenas and amusement parks) started to realize that having a captive audience doesn’t mean it's OK to charge exorbitant prices for average food. I think JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK in New York led the pack in offering the customer a better experience. The place is vibrant! There’s fun 80s music and shops (hello, Pet Shop Boys and MUJI), tasty looking quick food options - including a salad bar, and nice restaurants. Why wouldn’t you want to go a little earlier or purposely pick jetBlue as your carrier so you can fly out of that awesome terminal?

If you don’t have reason to fly to or through CMH: Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, OH, maybe now you do. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is installing three vending machines, one in each concourse by summer’s end. Jeni’s ice cream, around since 2009, makes some super fun and tasty ice creams like cherry lambic sorbet; brambleberry crisp; and my favorite, salty caramel. The super cute vending machines will be dispensing six-ounce ice cream servings, frozen yogurts and ice cream sandwiches. I think a layover at CMH might be required for our trips to NYC. 

(News bite via The Columbus Dispatch)


Beet Green Goma-Ae

When I first started to make roasted beets, all the recipes I referred to always said to save the beet greens for another recipe. Honestly, the beet greens that were attached to the beets that I got at Union Square farmers’ market always looked kinda gross so I never did. It wasn’t until moving to LA that I thought it safe to try using the greens without fear of eating something past its prime. Sauté? Steam? I figured I'd treat them like spinach. 

There's a recipe my mom makes all the time: spinach goma ae (pronounced gomah ah eh). Goma ae is basically a sesame dressing. Ground up sesame seeds with a little soy, sugar and water. That’s it. Seemed like the perfect dressing to put on these pretty red-stemmed greens. Worked out so well (two thumbs up from Mr. Mari) I just want to be able to buy the green part of the vegetable.

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Zojiroshi Electric Hot Water Kettle

Growing up, we had one of these traditional Revere hot water kettles: stainless body, copper bottom and black plastic handle with a whistling trigger. You’d fill the water through the spout. Pretty basic but wait...

Being Japanese, we also had a hot water thermos. Ehh? Yup. Once you boiled your water, you’d store it in an air pot thermos so you’d have hot water any time you wanted it - no waiting! The British have their electric hot water kettles but since most of them don’t have insulation, you have to heat the water each time. What a drag when all you want is a pot or a cuppa ASAP.

When we lived in NYC, we had a hot and cold water dispenser. Brilliant! At a flick of a lever, we had either piping hot or cold filtered water. We had no need for any of those antiquated boiling and storage devices that take up room on the counter. Unfortunately, our new West Hollywood rental doesn't have one those wonderful built in dispensers. Darn! What to do? Well, it was either go my childhood route or get the present day equivelant. Enter: The Zojiroshi Water Boiler. It’s a hybrid hot water kettle and thermos in one. It heats the water up to boiling and it stays hot due to the vacuum insulation, requiring minimal electricity to maintain the temperature. Love. We got the 4-liter one so with a push of a button (actually two for safety reasons), we have hot water all day long to make tea for me and French press coffee for Mr. Mari. See, Mom and Dad, I did learn something growing up.

(Images, from the top! Revere kettle via Amazon; Everest Air Pot via Etsy; Zojiroshi Water Kettle via Amazon)


R.I.P. Beef and Loving our Loves

Last night, our 17-1/2 year old cat, Beef, went to sleep. The vet said she was riddled with tumors; most likely cancer he said. They’d have to biopsy (surgery) to be sure, which would obviously be invasive. He said given her condition she probably had two weeks, maybe a month at best. We got 12 days.

Given this week’s tragedy in Boston and our personal grief at home DON’T wait to hug, kiss, embrace, and tell those that are important to you how much you love, cherish, adore, admire, applaud, respect, and treasure them. And don’t forget about loving, cherishing, adoring, admiring, applauding, respecting and treasuring yourself too.

"Where there is love there is life."
- Mahatma Gandhi

See you back here on Monday. Have an amazing, bounteous weekend!


Night + Market & Ordering with Knowledgeable Friends

Mr. Mari tells me this story of when he used to go out to eat in NYC with his sister and brother-in-law for Indian food. He would always tell them to order because “they always ordered well” but he admitted that it was also because he didn’t know what anything was called. It wasn’t until years later when he and I would go out for Indian food that he slowly started learning the vernacular and discovered the things he really enjoys eating.

Two of our good friends happen to be of Thai and Korean descent so whenever we go out for Thai or Korean food, I usually defer to them to order for me, as many of my friends keep their menus closed in a Japanese restaurant around me. We typically never cycle back to what things are called since we’re having a good time in one another’s company - and eating! This would be the case for Night + Market.

Night + Market is a Thai restaurant that started as a pop-up. It garnered such a following that a permanent home was found inside another Thai restaurant, Talesai. What did we eat? I’m not sure other than it was very tasty and very spicy! Perhaps one day, I too will venture out and order for myself but for now, I’m happy for the crutch and the company. 

(Images, from the top, I think! Koi Wua: Prime Angus tenderloin, HOT chiles, herbs; Moo Sadoong: "startled pig" grilled pork, Thai basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime juice, bird eye chile; Pork Satay Skewers: coated in sweetened condensed milk; Beef Grapow: ground beef with chile, garlic, Thai basil and topped with a fried egg; Pad Pak Kanaa: Chinese broccoli sautéed in garlic and chiles; Kao Pad Pu: crab fried rice; Kao Kluk Gapi: shrimp paste-seasoned rice with candied pork, shredded egg omelette, red onion, green mango, cilantro and bird eye chile; Pad Kee Mao: drunken noodles with short ribs - flat noodles, chile, basil and garlic)


Limoncello - Part I

One of the glories of living in LA is the bounty of fresh produce but more specifically - the citrus bounty! Oh how I love oranges. Growing up on the East Coast, I had no idea so many varieties existed. Going to Berkeley Bowl years ago opened my eyes to the incredible options. Mr. Mari laughed as I collected two of each orange so we could later sample them back in the hotel room.

Prior to moving into our home, we stayed at friends’ that have a lemon tree. Overflowing with lemons, they said to take as many as I wanted (Really? Did they think about to whom they were making this offer?). Anyway, I took a bunch; I’m not shy. My first thought was to make lemonade and granita for myself but one of the things I’ve always wanted to make was limoncello, a lemon liqueur originally from Sicily. I drank it in Italy as a digestif but it’s more commonly known for being a key ingredient in a Lemon Drop martini and that it can be cloyingly sweet (blech). Buying lemons in New York City at my local Food Emporium supermarket for this purpose never sounded right so here was the perfect opportunity!

I’m only part way through the process but I thought I’d show you what I’ve got going so far. As part of my OCD nature, I read a whole lotta blog posts about this. Some recipes call for grain alcohol, others vodka. A great source that was easy to stumble upon was Limoncello Quest. As far as the vodka goes, 100-proof is ideal but if you can’t find it, they say 80-proof will do in a desperate pinch (the lower alcohol content of the limoncello may end up freezing instead of remaining liquid yet icy cold in your freezer). Most sites recommended staying away from grain - too biting and raw, they say, others (purists) say vodka imparts too much of its own flavor. Grain sounded a little too Thunderbird to me so I decided to go the vodka route. I couldn’t find any 100-proof at first so I ended up combining two 750ml bottles of Smirnoff in 80- and 100-proof each to make a 90-proof batch. For marinating time, the options there varied too from 10 to 45 days. I opted for the 45 day resting period, thinking that the longer it soaks, the more flavor will be extracted. I’m starting another batch that’s at the desired 100-proof. We’ll see. I’ll post the final recipe when all’s said and done.

Next steps: Adding the simple syrup and straining the zest. Stay tuned! 

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