Posted by Rob Eshman
Downtown Nissan is having a big celebration this Saturday April 27 to mark the installation of their Fast Charger. There will be test drives, discounts, demonstrations and a free "delicious lunch, brunch or dinner made from 100-percent organic plant-based ingredients." If you're an EV owner or EV-curious, by all means go.
As for me, I couldn't be more thrilled. Here's why:
Part of Foodaism is putting your mouth where your morals are. Hence Mark Bittman's thoughtful new Flexitarian column, which challenges eaters to eat as close to their ethical understanding of food allows-- but no closer.
And hence too my Nissan Leaf, the all electric car I leased two years ago next month. The Leaf was my attempt to live according to my strong belief that our reliance on fossil fuels is killing our planet and saving foreign despots-- when those two verbs should be reversed.
What I found-- and documented here, and here-- is that putting one's morals where one's mouth is can get messy. Because of a bureaucratic snafu, I was not able to install a home charger, so keeping my Leaf fully charged is a challenge (at our offices in Koreatown the landlord likes to turn off the electricity whenever I've tried to charge here). And the funny thing is, as the Leaf has gotten more popular, the challenge has only gotten greater.
That is because of something I'll call, because I can't think of a better term, the Leaf Paradox. Here is what happened. In the beginning, we Leaf owners were few and far between. So while there are few public charging stations, the ones that existed were generally open. I'd drive up, charge, be on my way. Meanwhile, us EV enthusiasts promoted the use of electric cars, and championed our righteousness. The result: more people bought Leafs, and Teslas, and hyprib plug ins. But the number of charging stations hasn't kept up with the number of cars. And because it takes hours to charge a Leaf, and there is zero incentive for a driver to return to his or her car and unplug, finding a charging station is becoming more of a hassle. The number of charging stations and the time people stay pluigged into them can't keep up with the number of EVs. The more successful EV sales are, the bigger the inconvenience. Somewhere there's a TED talk in this-- just not sure where.
One solution is fo there to be more Fast Chargers, like the one now at Nissan Downtown, which is at Washington Blvd near the Grand Street exit. It takes 16 hours to charge an EV from 0-100 percent when plugged into a regular wall socket. The 220v charger can do it in 8 hours. The Fast Charger does it in 30 minutes. And it will give you enough to get on your ay in much less than that.
This morning I drove to Downtown Nissan with my range estimator telling me I had no miles to go-- Zero charge. I met Paul Scott there, the nicest and least-salesman-like car salesman you will ever meet, a true EV believer. He hooked me up to the Fast Charger, and in 25 minutes I was at 80 percent-- enough to drive 70 miles.
I asked Paul if the Fast Charger is generally available, and he said that even when it's being used, "It's not being used for long."
They aren't cheap: $15,000 for the unit, and up to thousands more to install. But iof builders can incoprrate them into new coinstruction, the cost is not consequential, and it will go a long way to creating an EV highway, and resolving the Leaf Paradox.
Here's the info on Saturday's event:
What: Free public test drives of the all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF & unveiling of new EV fast charger
When: Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Nissan of Downtown L.A., 635 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015
Information: Nissan of Downtown L.A. (310) 403-1303
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April 11, 2013 | 3:08 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
For years now I have had a pre-Passover ritual: I drink one last beer before the holiday starts.
According to Jewish law, you're forbidden from eating or drinking foods made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. Those of you into $10,000 Pyramid would by now have guessed the answer why: these are "Things That Could Be Leavened." And leavened bread is a no-no.
All year I have a, hmm, complex relationship with kosher, outside our home. But for the eight days of Passover, I do avoid these foods. Even though this means avoiding one of my favorite foods, beer.
Usually I just put a bottle aside as we’re cleaning the house in preparation for the holiday, and I make it the last grainy thing to toss out—and I toss it right down my throat.
But this year we celebrated Passover in New York City, and in the apartment where we stayed the only beer was a can of Bud Light, which doesn’t have enough beer flavor to last me through the eight day holiday. Actually, it hasn’t any flavor at all.
I asked Naomi to join me on my quest for a local bar and a last beer and she was game. Usually on the first night of Passover we are home, and I am so busy cooking I won’t see her until the seder starts. Now we had a moment to enter the holiday peacefully, together.
It was cold and overcast and miserable—that is, spring in New York. We soon decided the best bar was the closest one. At 72nd and Columbus, I pulled open the door on the first storefront with with a beer sign in the window – the sign above the door said Malachy’s.
An Irish bar at 4 pm on a Monday in New York City— now that’s some good people watching.
We sat at a small table. I ordered a Guinness, and Naomi nursed a coffee with milk she’d bought from a bakery across the street. Then we began a round of “What’s up with them?”
At the side of the bar closest to the front door sat a single woman, pretty, blonde, in her Anne Klein best, drinking alone. Two musicians walked in, lugging a standup bass in a case. At another table an older, bald man held a series of meetings with a steady stream of rough-hewn deliverymen who came in and out—we figured he was either the owner, or a bookie.
At the other end of the bar stood the bartender. He was a very solid Irishman with the face of former boxer and shiny head, and the older man and woman he talked and joked with seemed to all be on their second or third round.
An ancient black cook emerged from the kitchen with a plate of fried food. His white apron was tied around his rib cage, over a T shirt that said, “I’m the Cook.”
At the four-top beside us sat an odd family assortment—a little girl, an old man, maybe 80, eating fish and chips, and a woman, middle age, likely the mom. After a while these people got up to leave. The older man paid, and I heard him tell the bartender he was about to celebrate his 74th wedding anniversary.
Seventy-four? I had to say something.
"How is that even possible," I asked.
His granddaughter—the woman about our age— explained. They were Jewish. Her grandfather had been coming to Malachy's every year just before the start of Passover to have one last whiskey—a Seagrams VO, on the rocks. He was 99 years old. He'd been coming to Malachy's on the even of Passover, every Passover, for 30 years.
The man and his wife live in Baltimore, but they spend the seder nearby with their daughter and her family.
“One day he went out for a walk to get away from the craziness,” his granddaughter told me, “and he stopped at this bar for a drink, and he’s been coming back ever since. When I was my daughter’s age, he would take me." she pointed to the little girl. " And now he takes his great-granddaughter.”
“He just has a glass of whiskey each year before Passover?” I asked.
Oh, no, the daughter corrected me. “He drinks two every night. He's been doing that as long as I remember.”
The man was tall, straight-backed, and from overhearing their conversation, I could tell he was as sharp as anybody in the place.
I raised my glass to the man and said “L’chaim,” and we wished him a Happy Passover, there in Malachy’s Pub.
The man and his family walked out.
I turned to the bartender and said, "I'll have what he's having."
And I toasted Passover-- and a 99 year old man named Albert-- with my very first sip of Seagrams V.O.
April 10, 2013 | 11:14 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
“And God said, behold, I give you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat. … I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:29-30).
When I hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, I have a habit of snacking. The thing is, I don’t bring along any food. I follow my bible, a stained and dog-earned book on the native foods of the Gabrielino Indians.
The Gabrielinos and the Tongva lived here for thousands of years before the Spaniards arrived (and then, in a relative flash, just about wiped the Indians out). They ate the stuff we ignore — the plants sprouting just about now all over our hillsides, the weeds growing by the freeways, the animals flitting across our driveways.
People who share my admittedly strange obsession about these native foods usually fall into one of two categories. There are outdoor enthusiasts, like the late Euell Gibbons — “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.” And there are the survivalists, who plan on hiding in caves with a deer carcass so the Trilateral Commission’s black helicopters can’t see them.
And then there are people like me, who feel that if food connects us to something sacred, native food — unadulterated, undeveloped — connects us to the purest taste of that. It’s weird, I know — especially when my wife catches me nibbling a stalk of wild fennel while we’re walking the dog. But there it is — I admit it.
And last week, I found I wasn’t alone.
An invitation came for a dinner sponsored by the edgy women of This Is Not a Pop-Up. It featured food picked entirely from local areas, foraged by Mia Wasilevich and Pascal Baudar, and prepared by Wasilevich.
The couple forages wild ingredients for the top restaurants in Los Angeles, like Alma, Ludo and Melisse. They lead educational tours into the local mountains and they have a blog on local foraging, called Transitional Gastronomy.
I pulled up a chair at a cafe in Hollywood, and Baudar came by and poured a hot, bright green soup over a tangle of pea shoots, fresh peas and a clump of homemade ricotta.
“Wild sorrel bisque,” he announced in his French-accented English. “With peas, sour grass and chive blossom.”
“Sour grass?” I asked. “What does that look like?”
Baudar brought me a silver canister, brimming with the clean sprays of plants you’ve seen a thousand times in Griffith Park or Temescal. He pinched off a bit of sour grass.
“That’s in my book!” I practically shouted.
He nodded — Baudar was the only other person I’ve met who knew exactly what book I was talking about.
“Then you know the crazy stuff I do,” he said.
The rest of the evening was just as wondrous. Baudar brought course after course from the prix fixe menu, and then showed me and other guests exactly what local plants went into each dish.
The Spring Greens featured capers he pickled himself from local flower buds. I asked Baudar to ID each of the greens, and he leaned a few inches from my plate and picked each delicate leaf: chickweed, amaranth, watercress, miner’s lettuce (“From the side of the hill away from the sun”).
Local black cod came with black garlic butter and spicy wild mustard. It’s the stuff that turns the hillsides along the 101 in Agoura into Monet paintings, and it tastes like freshly grated horseradish. The local oxtail disintegrated into a broth of wild carob, coffee, cleaver (a Gabrielino staple) and milk thistle pickles.
Talk about terroir. Locally grown tomatoes, artichokes, even oranges — they have taken to our region like welcome immigrants. But the foraged ingredients are the land. Baudar poured me a glass of homemade beer — its scent was like I’d rolled down the car window driving through Topanga Canyon.
“I make it with mugwort and white sage and lime,” he smiled. “That’s all.”
The Belgian-born Baudar is tall, thin, with close-cropped gray hair and a scientist’s reserve. Wasilevich is more the earth mother — tanned, dark-haired and a whirl of energy. They wake up at dawn to head out into their preferred spots near Angeles National Forest. It takes three to four hours to come up with the handfuls of greens, oyster mushrooms and other earthly delights necessary to make a meal. It’s impractical to do on a large scale, though Noma in Denmark, named the world’s best restaurant by Restaurant magazine, features a mostly foraged menu.
That made the night even more of a fleeting treat. It is one thing to taste a locally grown tomato — a good, distant cousin to a non-native plant.
But to bite into a piece of fried mallow, a plant that grows in wild, unmolested abundance everywhere I turn, not only tastes of Los Angeles but speaks to a deeper truth. The Bible says it, but we don’t act like we believe it: This earth, if we take care of it, is for us a bounty. Our land is highly edible. God provides.
See photos of this meal and follow more of Rob Eshman’s food writing on Twitter @foodaism.