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5 Days and Counting. OUR BIRTHDAY: ESS COMING. (plus random post on yoga camp)

photo courtesy of maniacworld.com

Dude, the photo’s really yellow, I know.  I would’ve used Photoshop to to brighten it up some, but my hard drive recently shut down and Eric accidentally formatted what was left in my computer, so now all I’ve got is Microsoft Paint (which I’m unfamiliar with) in lieu of my janky bootleg version of a Photoshop-wannabe program.

NEED PHOTOSHOP! WILL ACCEPT DONATIONS!  O__O

In other news, for the 2 imaginary people who’ve missed me last week, I was on the east coast taking a course that took place at this place called Kripalu:

Oooo, that looks so painlessly beautiful. And by painless I mean painful.

When I heard my class was going to be at Kripalu, I did a little research and looked at their website.  Ooo, fancy!  Though, I did notice that even though it’s supposedly the premiere not-for-profit yoga center, there were no photos of the interiors.

I didn’t go there for yoga — but if you’re into yoga, this is probably mecca for you.  If you stay at Kripalu, you get your meals and all-you-can-eat yoga all day long, plus access to the sauna and whirlpool.  The meal program’s been spearheaded by this woman who’s supposedly the sh*t when it comes to vegetarian cooking.

Even if you’re going to Kripalu for something other than yoga (like me!), all of the above is included in the cost of the stay.  So if you have time outside of class to squeeze in some gym time or a dip in the whirlpool, you’re more than welcome to it.

And then I did my research on TripAdvisor and Yelp — and found reviews of people either really, REALLY loving it or really, REALLY hating it.  (It ain’t the Four Seasons, I’ll tell you that much!)

So I’ll give you a little run-down of my stay there.  I hope you’ll forgive the lack of photos.  There was a slightly spiritual vibe to the place, so it kinda felt weird to take out my camera like a good LA-sian American and start snapping photos.

INTERESTING FACTS: Kripalu first started as a monastery for monks and then got converted into an ashram for guru/master Kripalu, who was really, REALLY into yoga.  I mean, he’d do 8-18 hours a day of yoga, he was so into it.  Kripalu yoga is a pretty gentle yoga (from my brief experience with it) and definitely has a spiritual core to it.  Spiritual, not religious, mind you!  AND THEN, after Kripalu died, some other dude took over — and then then ashram ran into some trouble in the 90’s with some sexual abuse charges.  Waaaaaaaaah!  No more ashram!   It was during this time that it applied for not-for-profit status — PERMISSION GRANTED — and since then, it’s turned into what it is now.

It’s kinda cool — sometimes, I’ll be walking down the hallways and hear women talking in hushed tones about what Kripalu was like “back in the day.”  They never mentioned the sex scandals, but apart from that, it must’ve been pretty amazing, since they still continue to come after 2 whole decades.

Because of its not-for-profit status, there is a heavy push on educational programming — from nutrition, to vegetarian cooking courses, to yoga instructor certification, to meditation, to qui-gong and a bazillion other things that belong in that kind of mind-body-spirit stratosphere.

There was even some kind of chanting or drumming circle one of the nights I stayed there that was for… that was for… well, it had something to do with giving Kripalu even better vibes and helping people sleep or something like that.

PROGRAMMING-WISE — Kripalu’s PMA (pretty much amazing.)  The line-up of classes and instructors are top-notch and the content of just the course I was taking was very solid.

FOOD-WISE — You know, I was so excited to eat in the cafeteria because he head chef (Deb Morgan?  Something like that!) supposedly got all these awards and all the TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews went on and on about how GREAT the food is!  I also forgot the fact that I eat relatively better than the average person because I always have access to really great stuff.  (Hey, being part of the Papi Chulo crew has its perks.  Unlimited peel-and-eat shrimp, rice bowls and blackjack quesadillas — yaHOO!)

ALSO — there is a VEGETARIAN LINE and a NON-VEGETARIAN LINE (which usually only has 1 meat item, anyway — and only serves meat for lunch and dinner).  There’s also a BUDDHA BAR for people who have a lot of allergies.  (Gluten-free, unsalted, etc.)  The food there is mainly organic, locally-grown stuff.

Breakfasts are always SILENT — though, if you can’t contain yourself, there is a tiny room called the Corner of Shame, where you can talk and eat during the wee hours of morning.  The same Corner of Shame is converted into a silent eating space for lunch and dinner, which pretty much works for me, since I didn’t really have anyone to talk to or felt like talking by the time dinner arrived.  (Classes were INTENSE!)

Let me tell ya — this is no 4-star/5-star cuisine, nor is it trying to be.  This place used to be a monastery and then an ashram.  It’s primarily a YOGA center, so most of the crew tends to be some kind of variety of herbivore who don’t mind too much eating tastelessly from time to time, because it’s more about health than about taste.   So if you’re looking for WD-40 or fries drizzled with duck fat, monk-harvested curds and prize-winning uncured bacon, this is not the place for you.

That said, for what it is, THE FOOD IS REALLY GOOD IF YOU GO THE VEGETARIAN ROUTE.

It’s when you go to the meat line, you really get a sense that the cooks look at their package of ground turkey and say, “WTF am I supposed to do with this???”  The meat dishes kinda mirror the vegetarian dishes, with the only seeming difference being that the meat was thrown in as an afterthought.

Like, there’s this tasty kale and cabbage and onion dish thing — and on the meat side, there was some gray, tasteless nuggets of ground turkey thrown in there for good measure.  (“You need your animal protein?  THERE.  There’s your animal protein.”)  They tend not to care too much about how the meat turns out — not because they hate meat (though a lot of them probably do!) but because they’re just unfamiliar cooking with this alien thing.  And the ones who AREN’T familiar with cooking this alien thing just aren’t very good at it!

After 2 days, I skipped on over to the vegetarian side and the quality of my meals improved 100%!

If you go to any salad bar or even vegetarian restaurant, the point is to eat vegetables — and not always to make them tasty or approachable.

This makes me realize something…. the way the Kripalu kitchen treats its vegetables is probably how our more omnivorous restaurants treat meat: with tender, loving care.  Because meat is pricey, there is extra attention given to it so that it’s not overcooked or tough — so that it’s still juicy and beefy and got just the right amount of char from the grill.

At Kripalu, the vegetables are the jewels — and you can tell in the trinity dish of steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots they serve WITH EVERY MEAL.  And I ate that at EVERY MEAL.  Why?  Because it was so GOOD!

They were perfectly cooked, unsalted and really showed me that cauliflower and even broccoli have a mild, gentle sweetness.  Carrots were also ridiculously sweet.  They were firm, yet gently cooked.  Not too mushy.  Not too hard.  Just right.  And it gets you thinking, “This is how I always want my vegetables to taste!”

Sometimes they’ll cook with red wine, tomato paste and seitan and other times they’ll go the Indian route (typical hippies!) and make some biriyanis and channa/chole.

And, in general, it was all really very tasty!  (With the exception of their overcooked pasta dishes — like the mushy butternut squash mac and “cheese“.)

I think they serve dessert only twice a week and they have jams and peanut butter at the sandwich bar for those who need a quick sugar fix.  For me, I was a bit surprised.  I enjoyed maybe a single slice of pumpkin bread, but the sugar fiend inside of me was not craving any sugar at all!

I like the fact that I felt generally very good about everything I was putting into my body — and it was so nice of them to list the ingredients of everything.  For example, their stewed apples read, “apples, water.”  AND IT TASTED UBER SWEET TO ME!

THE GROUNDS: Very beautiful and woodsy, if you’re into that kind of thing.  The air is super crisp and the stars and crazy bright at night.  You’ll regularly see bunnies cross your paths and elementary-school-lines of wild turkeys walking all over the place.  And geese!  And rivers!  And lakes!  There are also a lot of apple trees around there, and sometimes you’ll see a turkey jump into a tree to grab an apple.

THE FACILITIES: Well, there’s a reason why there are no interior shots of the place.  I recall one review saying that the insides look like the halls of a mental psych ward.  I, personally, didn’t think it was that bad.  It was a monastery then an ashram then a not-for-profit yoga place.  The ambiance won’t be stellar.

There’s that cheap carpeting everywhere, the kind that lines the floors of your elementary school library.

There is a HUGE main hall room where the 6:30AM gentle yoga classes took place (I was there ebbery morning!) with the same cheap carpeting — and when you look up, it looks like the insides of a local, small-town Presbyterian church.  But the room did have nice, glowing red lighting for the front of the room where there’s this huge bronze (?) Krishna statue and a bunch of miniature electric tea lights.

If you’re going the cheap route, you go to the dorms.  My dorm room was actually quite nice, and the bathroom down the hall was SUPER clean.

Still, you never know what you’re gonna get.  Some dorm rooms have up to 20 beds inside.  Mine had only 6, and 3 were taken.

But, I figure, if you’re there for the classes and yoga, all you need is a bed to sleep on anyway.  So I didn’t mind it too much.

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Eesh!  I know that it wasn’t birthday or Kogi-related, but I found it all so very fascinating that I wanted to share.

Oh, and the yoga there can be really HARDCORE!  There were some people a friend of mine roomed with who was doing up to 19 hours of yoga/yoga-instruction per day.

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RECYCLED BIRTHDAY NEWS!

On November 24th, until we sell out, you can get any 2 tacos for $2 (excluding the calamari). Limit 2 orders per person at the window to make sure that as many people can share in the birthday goodness as possible! ^___^

Love and tacos,
Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice

One Response to 5 Days and Counting. OUR BIRTHDAY: ESS COMING. (plus random post on yoga camp)

  1. Risa Dratch says:

    Thx for information.

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