Gina Ruiz

A Tablet in the Kitchen

Chef Gianfranco's Tumeric Ice Cream

I am building a brand for a chef I know. Michelin-starred Italian chef, Gianfranco Minuz knows that brand-building and social media are important. He’s writing a book that will include his vast wealth of recipes, techniques and stories but knows that the road to publishing, let alone selling a cookbook is difficult to say the least. He knows that what will give him an edge beyond his fabulous food, is his personal brand.  And so we work on it.  Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube.  It takes a team and really good equipment. His team consists of me, his daughter Chiara, musical wizard Alan Ishii and of course, the chef himself. I have been blessed with technology via Verizon and it helps so very much.  We couldn’t do the things we do without a strong wireless network, incredible phones that do great camera work or the very recent addition to my equipment family, the Windows Lumia 2520 tablet.  That thing is a BEAST. It braves steamy pots, closeups into said pots and documents and records everything.  We can switch back and forth from stills to video, prop that sucker up on a box and let it film difficult angles we can get into and even better, it backs all that video up automatically to Onedrive and the Verizon Cloud. We can zoom in, zoom out, edit on screen, toggle sound off and on, mix and stir.  The tablet is an incredible addition to our team.

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The Beautiful Game

Pablo Zabaleta of Argentina and Andre Schuerrle of Germany compete for the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

They call it the beautiful game.

And so it is.

Beauty, art, movement, dance, acrobatics, contortionism, aerial jumps…poetry in motion.

I can’t tell you when the first time I saw a soccer game, or as we call it, futbol, but I can tell you this, it has been in my blood probably from those first moments.  I remember as a child standing by our black and white T.V. and jiggling the foil covered antenna so we could get a better picture and being frustrated that I might miss one of the great Pelé’s moves.  That’s how far back my love affair with the beautiful game goes.

In this recent World Cup in Brazil, I fell in love all over again.  There is nothing like it.  It is the Olympics of soccer – coming together every four years, the best of the best, all to battle for precious status as world champions. Unlike most of my compatriots, I don’t just watch World Cup.  Oh no, my love runs deep and true. Year after year, season after season finds me glued to Univision, the Spanish language channel that so wonderfully and diplomatically covers those games.  Even my 8-year old grandson Aiden says, “Grams, I ONLY like the Univision announcers, they know the game.” Through it all, I cheer on my beloved Mexico teams.  I have a partiality for Guanajuato because that is where my grandparents came from. I watch and wonder who of each team will be selected for the coveted Seleccion Nacional (the team that will go to the World Cup).  I fall in love over and over again with the players.  I watch games against every team in the world and, while I hope for the USA, (it IS my country), I still don’t think that they are up to the challenge of winning a world cup from FIFA.  They proved me happily wrong this year.

I overheard someone at a restaurant near my job saying that the Germany – Argentina game (final of the World Cup 2014) was boring because they only scored 1-0 and I wanted to scream.  THIS is what drives me crazy about so-called soccer/futbol fans.  They don’t see what I see and what I see is beautiful.  I see furious running that is so fast, it almost looks like speeded up film but I’ve seen players in real life, real time, running just that fast.  I see dance moves, flexibility that is so incredible it seems the players are made of rubber and are almost boneless, I see drive and determination, I see art in motion, I see passion, I see…beauty – beauty in a game.

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The Storyteller

My grandfather after losing my grandmother.

My grandfather, Papa Chava, had an amazing life.  It was a difficult one sure, but he lived through incredible times and had many stories to tell.  Maybe it was from him that I learned my storytelling/writing skills.  Maybe not, but I remember sitting on his lap as a child listening wide-eyed to the stories he had to tell me. Salvador Medina Camarillo was born in Mexico on June 1, 1900.  He always liked to say he came from the place of “los mumias de Guanajuato” (the mummies of Guanajuato).

It ’s hard to research because the church that had his birth and baptism documents was burned in the Mexican Revolution, taking with it all records of my grandfather’s birth.  I’m not sure what village or town he was born in, but he grew up in Irapuato, Guanajuato.  Irapuato is located at the foot of the Arandas Mountains (cerro de Arandas) in the south central region of Guanajuato.  In pre-Conquest times, the land belonged first to the Chichimeca, then the Tarasco or Purepecha, then back to the Chichimeca.  

It was a hard life, being indigenous and poor.  He always told me I was so lucky to be an American and to have been born here.  He told me stories about going out to work in the fields with his father when he was just three years old.  It was firmly etched into his memories because that day, his first day of a lifetime of hard labor, he made money.  Just a few centavos.  Enough, he said, to buy his mother a pot and to press the centavo that was left into her work worn hand.  That day set a tone for his life.  To the day he couldn’t get out of his bed due to illness, he worked hard and took care of the family he loved and was proud of.   Irapuato is still known for growing strawberries and in the little garden at the back of the house on Goodwin Avenue, he grew the best strawberries I ever tasted.  Maybe they reminded him of home.  This photo I found on the Library of Congress circa 1900 of strawberry pickers in Guanajuato gives me a little glimpse into a life that might have been his.

Screenshot 2014-05-31 08.35.27

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2014 Hollywood Bowl Season Kickoff


The Hollywood Bowl.  Those three words resonate in the hearts of most Angelenos and when they are said, bring to mind picnics with friends, good wine, warm summer nights under the stars, glorious music and fireworks.  The Bowl is a summer ritual for so many of us.

Like many of us natives, I grew up with the Bowl.  It wasn’t far from my grandparents place.  Someone in the family inevitably went, lugging us kids along.  I remember trudging up to it from street parking several blocks away.  Ahead of me were uncles and aunts, carrying along picnic baskets and blankets.  I remember sitting at the picnic tables near Camrose street and the food was always memorable.  Later, we’d pack things up, someone would volunteer to schlep it all back to the car and we’d file into the Bowl.  We always went on nights when there were fireworks and there was usually classical or jazz playing.  Those yearly treks were magical and are ingrained into my memories.

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Stoneleigh Wine’s Urban Oasis

The video was created by New Zealand’s Stoneleigh Wine, who shows how nature can appear in the most unexpected places, bringing a ‘Wonder of Nature’ to inner city Auckland through an event with a suspended garden, a soundscape inspired by the sounds of the vineyards. Stoneleigh prides itself of utilizing sustainable organic materials for all their natural landscapes/settings. They’ve partnered with New Zealand recording artists, Mt Eden, whose song ‘Drive’ evokes the flavors of Stoneleigh wine in sound.bringing a ‘Wonder of Nature’ to inner city Auckland through an event with a suspended garden, a soundscape inspired by the sounds of the vineyards. Stoneleigh prides itself of utilizing sustainable organic materials for all their natural landscapes/settings. They’ve partnered with New Zealand recording artists, Mt Eden, whose song ‘Drive’ evokes the flavors of Stoneleigh wine in sound.

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Verdolagas & Pork with Red Chile Sauce


When I was a little girl, one of the funnest things about Springtime was collecting verdolagas.  Verdolagas is an herb called purselane in English and grows wild here in Los Angeles.  We’d usually find it in the grass, cracks in sidewalks and sometimes growing in the most random of places.  I’d pluck them right of the ground roots and all, put them in a bag till I had the bag full, then take them to my grandmother.  She’d wash them thoroughly and then make amazing dishes out of this incredible vegetable.  It’s a little like a succulent, somewhat tangy and absolutely delicious.  Sometimes I’d nibble on the washed leaves and stems while she’d prepare the rest.

As an adult, I rarely see verdolagas growing in the streets anymore.  Maybe it is just that I am busy, busy, busy and have no time to look for them or maybe there are ruthless child foragers like I used to be and they beat me to them.  In any event, the local market carries them every spring so it makes it easy for me to have this wonderful vegetable of my youth.

I read a little bit about verdolagas on the internet the other day as I was preparing them.  I never realized it,but this little weed packs a powerful nutritional punch.  According to the interwebs, it has the most Omega-3 of any vegetable!  That made me happy to know and feel even better about preparing this old favorite for my grandchildren.

One of the things I remember my grandmother preparing was carne de puerco con chile colorado (pork with red chile sauce).  Pork is the perfect accompaniment to vergolagas and they compliment each other well.  First, you cube the pork (you want a nice pork shoulder with lots of fat on it) and then cook at low heat in a heavy cast iron pot till the fat renders out and it is crispy. It takes a long time but if you rush it and cook at too high a heat, you simply don’t get the right texture.  That crispy, long-cooked pork really makes this dish and this is a one-pot, family meal that goes from stove to table easily.


*All photos were taken using the marvelous #Nokia #Icon on the #Verizon network.  I was not compensated for this post, I’m just really loving the camera and will give credit where it is due.

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Summer Sounds Program

summerSummerSounds is a four-week festival of world music and arts for children ages 3 to 9 takes place weekday mornings, beginning on Monday, July 7, and running weekdays until Friday, August 1, 2014. SummerSounds explores world music through creative, fun-filled programs, introducing music and art from a different dynamic culture each week and engaging families in an interactive and inspiring story-driven concert experience. Performances are at 10am and 11:15am each day, and the Arts Workshops offer culturally-influenced arts and crafts aligned with the musical themes of the performances. 10am performances are followed by 11:15am Art Workshops, and 11:15am performances are preceded by 10:00am Art Workshops. Music performances and art workshops each run 40-45 minutes.

Tickets go on sale on SALE SATURDAY MAY 10.

I can’t think of a worthier thing for kids to do.  Music is a wonderful thing.

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L’Estrella de la Toscana” (“The Star of Tuscany”)

Wendy’s is creating its first-ever short film, which features the new Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta, along with a quirky cast of characters inspired by sub-titled Italian Cinema of the 1960s, which borrows from the aesthetic of Federico Fellini and Bernardo Bertolucci.

With the release of this trailer, Wendy’s is calling on fans to write the subtitles for the short movie itself, which is broken into three acts and will be close to nine minutes total in duration. The plan is to post scenes from the movie on Wendy’s Facebook and Twitter pages via photos, asking users to submit their original subtitles. Then, the funniest and most gusto-filled captions will make it into the final cut Italian-dialogue for the film, scheduled to be released in early May. Wanna get famous? Watch the trailer and submit your captions today!

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White Zapote Coconut Cake

A little mulberry syrup with thyme and white pepper served with white zapote cake

Yesterday, I was at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market with my grandchildren and Chef Gianfranco Minuz.  I like following the chef around because if I have any food questions, they get instantly answered because he knows EVERYTHING about food.    Also, it means I get to have a capuccino at the restaurant before we shop.  I love the quiet industriousness of a restaurant preparing for its day.  Everyone is busy, in good spirits and there is a peace to be found sitting there watching the efficient movements of staff laying down table cloths, sweeping, organizing.  I watch with interest as the chef meets with vendors; the cooks rattle pans and prep vegetables.  It is strangely soothing and a lovely way to start a day.  In a small way, it reminds me of the same quiet focus of my grandmother’s kitchen.

At the market, I picked up some mulberries, eggs and three white zapotes to take home with no idea of where they’d fit on my weekly menu.  The eggs though, those always come in handy for baking and nothing beats the lightness these beautiful organic ones give my cakes and breads.  I was tempted by some cherimoyas, kohlrabi and strawberries, but in the end, bought very little this time.  I think a part of me knew we’d head for the beach and I didn’t want to haul a massive bagful with me.

After, my shopping, I met the very charming West Hooker-Poletti back at his restaurant, Lago Santa Monica and we had a lovely chat over lunch prepared by Chef Minuz.  Pizza for the grandchildren – black olives for Jasmine; pepperoni for Aiden.  For me, lunch was a little more elevated.  To start, I had  freshly baked focaccia topped with thinly sliced tuna and a cilantro flower garnish, second course was a very Spring-like and delicious dish made with snap peas, scallops and clams in a tomato broth.  I barely had room for the spaghetti carbonara that followed, but between the grandchildren and myself, we made a big dent it in and took the rest to go.  How do you leave behind heaven on a plate?

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Oreo’s #SnackHacks

There’s a new web series revolving around LA celebrity chefs who’ve been asked to experiment with Oreo cookies to create new inspired snack recipes.  Check out Top Chefs Michael Voltaggio (Ink Restaurant) and Roy Choi (Kogi Food Truck) empire and young gun Nguyen Tran of the underground sensation Starry Kitchen, each create his own four-step easy ‘Snack Hack’.

This series of videos reveal how these celebrity chefs incorporate the secret ingredient into their ‘Snack Hack’, which seeks to deconstruct the Oreo cookie, as we know it.  Discover the secrets of how to make Choi’s Oreo-crusted chicken tenders, Voltaggio’s Oreo tortilla chips and lemon Oreo shandy and Tran’s Oreo-and-cherry-soda bread pudding.

Snack Hacks’ combines the cleverness of hacking with the creativity that is happening in food culture, and Oreo wants people to come up with their own ‘Hack’ creation.

I am planning on making my own snack hack, perhaps an Oreo cookie mole and I know a chef who is thinking about pasta.  What’s your hack?  I challenge you to create one, upload your video to the Oreo Youtube page and share your link with me.  So, do you think you can get clever with the cookie?
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