Palates

Two Ten Jack : Japanese-inspired Izayaka

iz·a·ka·ya

/ēˈzäkəyə,ēzəˈkīə/

noun: izakaya; plural noun: izakayas

  1. a type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks.

After dozens of Yelp searches, menu perusal, and deliberation. I finally decided on a restaurant for my 17th birthday dinner: Two Ten Jack Nashville. If you know me, then you know I adore Japanese food and so I couldn’t pass up this place.

We had a pretty good sized party and my grandparents came too, so I was hopeful that they could accommodate and comfortably seat everyone, especially the elderly among us. I made a reservation for 7:30 and we arrived on time. They couldn’t seat us until the rest of our party arrived (which we knew before hand) so we waited in the foyer until they arrived. Two Ten Jack had a gorgeous outside eating area that I’d love to come back and explore when it isn’t 20 degrees.

Our party was completed by 7:40 but the party who had the table lingered. We waited quite a long time. The staff apologized over and over which was great, and it truly wasn’t their fault. Finally the previous party left and we were seated.

They led us to a back room with two long tables. On the wall, an anime movie was showing. I recognized it as a Studio Ghibli film because I’d watched it at a friends house. The table setting was modern: light wood tables, charcoal gray menus, architectural boxes to hold chopsticks, and rolled towels.

As we poured over our menus, our server came to explain how everything worked. The food is meant to be enjoyed communally, with everyone at the table partaking of a maki roll, yakitori skewer, or bowl of ramen. We ordered a plethora of dishes between us: crispy brussels, Japanese fried chicken, potato fries, Gojira roll, east side fish roll, and tonkotsu ramen. Everything tasted spectacular, but I want to highlight a couple of dishes.

The Gojira roll was a perfect balance of heat and texture. The habanero sriracha was subdued by the cream cheese, and the panko shrimp added a beautiful crunch.

Speaking of crunch, the Japanese fried chicken was spectacularly crispy. This was a crowd favorite at our table, with the only complaint being that there wasn’t enough of it.

A Japanese inspired take on the fish sandwich completely intrigued us, so we were thrilled to try the Eastside fish roll. The choice of hot sauce rice, rather than just hot sauce, was genius and set off the acidity of the pickles well. I’ve never had fried catfish in a maki roll before, and I must say, it was delicious.

One thing that stood out to me about the ramen was the richness of the pork broth. The chashu (pork belly) was fatty and had an amazing mouth feel.

Finally, one of my favorite dishes of the night: the crispy brussels. I’m a huge fan of brussel spouts and the addition of rice krispies, while unexpected, brought some beautiful texture. Furthermore, the miso vinaigrette provided some acidic saltiness and the brussels were cooked perfectly.

Eating at Two Ten Jack was a great experience. My grandfather used chopsticks for the first time, my family ate outside of their comfort zone, and we created a lot of beautiful memories.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

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Plots

I’m Still Here -Austin Channing Brown

Per my mom’s suggestion, when I read certain books I keep a pad of sticky notes inside to mark special quotes and passages. Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here held dozens of sticky notes peeking out from both ends: a testament to gorgeous prose holding deep thoughts. The rest of the title is “Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” and the narrative explores Austin’s experiences as a Black woman in America. I laughed, cried, and got chills. A lot of Austin’s experiences are familiar to me: I felt seen in her accounts of the unsolicited invasions of privacy, uncomfortable off-handed comments, and the solace of the Black church. She reminds us that racism in America will never be completely resolved here on earth but that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

I challenge every single person to read this book. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to drive home how spectacular this book is.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced, when this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive whether intentional or not”

“The white co-worker who was walking behind me stares in shock. She has never seen me with my hair in a pineapple fro. She reaches out to touch my hair while telling me how beautiful it is. When I pull back, startled by the sudden act of intimacy, she looks hurt and isn’t sure what to do next. The message: I am different, exotic. Anyone should have the right to my body in exchange for a compliment.”

“Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.”

“But the truth is, even the monster – the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches – they all had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts…The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”

“I love being a Black woman because we are demanding. We demand the right to live as fully human We demand access – the right to vote, to education, to employment, to housing, to equal treatment under the law. And we do it creatively: sit-ins and die-ins, signs and songs, writing and filmmaking. We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Life

Best of 2017

2017 was an amazing year for me. I discovered a lot of new things and pursued my favorite things even further. Today I’m doing a “best of 2017” so you can see a taste of my favorite events of the year.

Best Red Carpet Moment

Taraji P. Henson at SAG 2017

P. Diddy at Met Gala 2017

Rihanna at Met Gala 2017

Janelle Monae at Oscars 2017

Winner: Rihanna ~Met Gala

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RiRi did not come to play in 2017, she really dominated. Her Met Gala look truly embodied Rei Kawakubo and Commes des Garcons which was 2017’s theme. It was elegant, artsy, and avant garde. If you want to see more of my thoughts on this Met 2017 look and others check out this post and this post.

 

Best Fashion Collaboration

Louis Vuitton X Supreme

Nike X Off-White

Balmain X L’Oreal

Winner: Louis Vuitton X Supreme

For LV, this was a perfect marketing move. Partnering with Supreme revitalized the established fashion house and kicked it’s streetwear game up a notch. Supreme benefitted from this too because Louis’ loyal following became obsessed with their aesthetic. The pieces themselves were a perfect hypebeast meets luxury look and the collab transcended borders. We saw everyone from rich kids in the Hamptons to Kpop idols rocking these clothes and accessories.

 

Best Collection

Balmain Resort 2018

Off-White Menswear 2018

Elie Saab Resort 2018

Cushnie et Ochs Resort 2018

Winner: Balmain Resort 2018

The fringe, dark eye makeup, intricate patterns: I’m totally here for all of it. It’s vintage Parisian meets clubwear and it works. This collection was cohesive, creative, and utterly Balmain.

 

Best Book

Walk Two Moons ~Sharon Creech

The Boy in the Black Suit ~Jason Reynolds

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass ~Frederick Douglass

Winner: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Sometimes, a book can influence your life so much that its hard to remember how you thought before reading it. Narrative of the Life was like that for me. Frederick Douglass’ account of the horrors of his slavery and escape truly resonated with me and it was very timely coming from the 2016 election and current events concerning police brutality and race relations. His fearless honesty, poignant language, and revolutionary ideas make this book something I’d recommend everyone read.

 

Best Author

Jason Reynolds

Renee Watson

Winner: Jason Reynolds

Representation is one the most important things in life and especially literature. Jason Reynolds is one of those authors who truly seeks to include the stories of all kinds of individuals from all kinds of backgrounds. His writing hits hard, is witty, and lingers with you. I was obsessed with reading him this year and I look forward to reading more of his works in the future.

 

Best Album

The Code ~Monsta X

The War ~EXO

Wings ~BTS

Winner: Wings

This album actually came out in 2016 but I didn’t know much about Kpop in 2016 and I hadn’t discovered the beauty that is BTS or this album. Wings is a concept album inspired by the book Demian by Herman Hesse, although I’ve never read the book, the symbolism laced throughout the tracklist is evident. I love how each member gets an individual song (many of which they wrote themselves) this allows the listener a personal look at each member’s thoughts and feelings and a showcase of their singing/rapping ability. This is the album that brought us Blood Sweat and Tears, Cypher Part 4 (my favorite cypher I think), and 21 Century Girl, each of these songs are poetic with well written and meaningful lyrics about sacrificial love, self-confidence, and empowerment. Wings is BTS at it’s finest.

 

Best Song

Mic Drop ~BTS

Blessings (Reprise) ~Chance the Rapper

Angel of Mine ~Monica

Electric Lady ~Janelle Monae ft. Solange

Winner: Electric Lady

This song is…well…electric. The lyrics are witty and well written, the bass and electric guitar are lit, and Janelle’s rap in this gives me life (I know every word of it). Also, the music video is gold so you should check that out. Although it didn’t come out this year it has been one of my favorite songs all 2017.

 

Best Artist

BTS

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There are no other nominees for this category because BTS takes this. I mean, did you see their bags? They’re full of trophies in 2017. They released tons of great music, dominated charts in South Korea and around the world, won numerous awards, and launched their philanthropic campaign. It was the year of Bangtan!

Best Restaurant

Biscuit Love

Uncle Julio’s

Waffle Works

Winner: Uncle Julio’s

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This was tough! I loved all of these restaurants but Uncle Julio’s just really stuck with me. It’s authentic Mexican food fresh and delicious. We went here twice in 2017 and both times we had amazing food.

Now, moving on from ‘best of’ picks, here are a few statistics from my year:

Books read: 31

Songs downloaded: 200

Blog posts published: 44

Local restaurants tried: 6

Outfits worn: 365+

And drumroll please for my most liked blog post of 2017:

I’m glad y’all liked this post so much. I was able to combine two of my favorite things: BTS and fashion and use something that inspired me immensely to create an outfit I loved.
That’s all for my 2017 wrap up, be on the look out for my 2018 goals coming soon.
Stay fly,
~Akilah

 

Palates

Milk & Honey

I have another restaurant review and surprise it’s a breakfast place! It’s really no secret that I love breakfast and especially brunch, so it was definitely in order for me to try Milk & Honey.

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My first impression was how cute the sign is! It’s big and the white script is very clean and modern. The décor on the inside lives up to the aesthetic set by the sign. It’s modern in a black and white color scheme with gleaming wood floors. In place of booths and clunky tables, little round café style tables adorn the space. There’s also a little bakery counter with a chalkboard menu.

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I ordered a Matcha Latte to start. I’d been wanting to try matcha for a long time and while the flavor was good, it had a powdery texture that I couldn’t get used to. For my main dish I ordered off the breakfast menu although we came at a time when you could go for breakfast or lunch. I chose toast with mushroom, egg, and tomato jam with potatoes on the side. My food took a while coming but when it did come it tasted pretty good. I would’ve liked some heat to set it off because the portion that I took to-go and added some green pepper hot sauce to was magnificent. The potatoes were quite delicious: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside like potatoes should be. My mom ordered chicken and waffles which looked amazing so I took a picture of those, I’ll probably order that if we come to Milk & Honey again. While this definitely isn’t my favorite breakfast spot I’d be willing to try it again someday.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Music

Kpop Comebacks Review –September

Kpop comebacks were lit this month, so I thought it would be fun to review some that I watched/listened to and enjoyed. I’m evaluating the music videos in five categories: concept, aesthetics/cinematography, fashion/beauty, choreography, and song. I’ll be discussing my thoughts in each of these categories, giving a one to five rating in each one, and then granting an overall score out of a possible 25.
BAP: Honeymoon

Concept: This video sparked lots of questions for me as it refers to the concept. Why is Yongguk’s hand bleeding? Why is Zelo trapped in the dark while the other members are on the island? And what’s with the TV in the forest? If y’all have any answers to these questions or if you can direct me to a fan theory that does, definitely comment below. Anyway, I enjoyed the classy/elegant concept in this video. (3)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: Scenery wise, this MV was probably the most stunning I’ve ever seen. I believe it was filmed on Jeju Island and I appreciate the move from a warehouse/garage/set that most groups tend to go for to an outdoor area. The aerial shots were killer and the editing was on point. (5)

Fashion/Beauty: Mullets reigned in this concept, and I have to say I am not a fan. I didn’t like the way Yongguk’s hair was styled at the table scene in the end but in the forest parts it was cool. Youngjae gets props for looking classy and not succumbing to the mullet pressure. And the all white end looks truly saved the day. (2)

Choreography: There was no dance at all in the MV, not even a head bop, but a couple of days later we received a lit dance practice. Jongup definitely came to slay this choreo with Michael Jackson-esque moves and he came mullet-less yay! The synchronicity is on point and the sweeping line dance move in the first chorus floors me every single time. Unfortunately, this video is an excellent example of a Kpop pet peeve of mine: unnecessary back-up dancers. All the members were trained in and are competent in dance. Why do we need extra people to muddy the waters? (4)

Song: With a breezy, chill feel, this song quickly became a current favorite of mine. The whistling at the beginning and the chord changes in the bridge are wonderful. Jongup’s vocal performance was flawless . I was also intrigued by the position of Yongguk’s rap, putting it at the end rather than in a verse was a nice touch. (5)

Total: 19

Pentagon –Like This

Concept: Parking lots and apples? I don’t really know but there seems to be pain and difficulty here, especially looking at the lyrics with the video. (2)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: I like the use of different locations and lighting techniques. Also E’Dawn’s car scene displayed excellent angles. (4)

Fashion/Beauty: Pentagon is a group where generally all the members look amazing in many concepts. Jinho with blonde hair worked and Yan An lived up to his status as official visual. Wooseok with a hat was a look, but underneath the hat his fluffy, shaggy hair cut irritates me to no end. Bangs don’t suit Yeo One well in my opinion but he rocked them considering. The real star in the visual department for me this comeback (and kind of every comeback) is Yuto da! His black parted hair is my favorite look of his so far, it really frames his face well and looks natural. (4)

Choreography: The amazingly talented Kino choreographed this dance and he killed it. In terms of choreography it’s probably my favorite of the September comebacks, yes, even over BTS’ DNA. Like This showcases a powerful yet graceful style that I admire. It’s nice to see such emotionally charged choreograpy like this (see what I did there). The use of slow motion at the bridge is masterfully done so it doesn’t seem cheesy. My absolute favorite move is the one in the chorus at “weonan dan hanaye becheul” it expertly shows all the emotion in that line through movement, so even before I looked up the English lyrics I could sense the desperation and determination. (5)

Song: This song is essentially about determination “Even if I fall and my knees bleed, I’ll keep on running like this.” It’s a beautiful message backed by a beautiful vocal performance. The line distribution is impeccable, especially for a ten member group and the ratio of rap to vocal doesn’t feel uneven at all. I especially love how the positioning of E’Dawn’s energetic rap breaks up the songs mellow feel. (5)

Total: 20

BTS –DNA

Concept: This concept is fun and bright but with enough of a hardcore feel. It’s perfectly and totally Bangtan. (4)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: The camera angles at the beginning of JK’s whistle, the use of shadow in the choreo scenes, and the vibrant colors make this MV pop. It’s an excellent example of gorgeous cinematography, all you artists need to get a pen and take a seat. (5)

Fashion/Beauty: Taehyung with gray hair, Jungkook with a part again, Yoongi somehow slaying powder blue, Jin’s black hair making an appearance, and Namjoon with rust colored hair made this a lit era. J-Hope’s color was nice but the bangs aren’t my favorite. Let me know if you want to sign my petition: Bring Back Hoseok’s Forehead. Jimin’s “noodle” hair looked rather strange to me even though it was poppin’ in Serendipity. In terms of fashion, Tae gets an award for best dressed but I love Kookie’s silk shirt and Yoongi’s tank and button down combo (which I recreated here). Honestly, all the looks were lit in this MV, even Hoseok’s jersey over sweatshirt look grew on me. (4)

Choreography: We saw classic Bangtan with pelvic thrusts and head bopping, but we saw lots of fresh takes on the choreograpy. Taehyung did a sweet solo, Jin was the center in a dance scene (he’s come so far), and J-Hope slayed the ending. I love the part where they link hands in a formation and the ending “la, la” dance especially. (5)

Song: This song is so catchy. Everyone shines with JK slaying pre-chorous, Tae singing in his low register, Jimin’s breathy vocal coming through, and Jin’s sweet soft voice. Our rap line came with it too: J-Hope’s excited tone and Namjoon’s aggressive one contrast perfectly. Yoongi rapped a lot in this song and I couldn’t be happier, and there’s nothing more adorable than his pronunciation of “real love”. The bass line was poppin, especially in the second verse, and the whistling of the melody was an ingenious way to make sure that every single ARMY is hypnotized by this bop. One of my favorite things about older eras of Bangtan was Jungkook rapping and we got our golden maknae showing his gifts once again in this song, and no I didn’t forget about our Chim Chim because he slayed his rap too. I can’t forget that Namjoon and Yoongi co-wrote this song. I’m so proud, BTS fighting! (5)

Total: 23

I watched a lot of comebacks in September so if you want to see a part 2 featuring B1A4, EXO, Lay, and others comment down below. Also be sure to tell me your thoughts on these comebacks if you’ve seen them and if you haven’t tell me your favorite song release of September, Kpop or otherwise.
Stay fly,
~Akilah

Palates

Green Hills Grille ~Review

A perfect place for upscale American fusion in a casual cafe-like setting, Green Hills Grille is quickly becoming a celebration go-to for my family. Most recently we went for my Grandma’s birthday and had a wonderful time.

I ordered the Chicken Pignoli: sautéed chicken, olive oil, basil pesto, red pepper flakes, cajun spice, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, tomatoes. 

Pasta is one of my favorite foods and anything pesto immediately grabs my attention so ordering this was a no-brainer. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical because this isn’t an Italian restaurant, but this wasn’t my first time eating at GHG and I trusted the food. My trust wasn’t betrayed because the pasta was bomb! The pesto and parmesan cheese complimented each other nicely, the goat cheese added a nice creamy contrast, and the hint of cajun spice topped it off wonderfully. My only complaints are that the artichoke hearts were slightly tough and I could’ve used more chicken, but other than that it was a tasty meal. 

I also recommend the Pequeno Shrimp and Grits which is what I ordered my first time there. They’re probably the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had, so favorful.

Definitely go visit Green Hills Grille, the food is delicious!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Beauty

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream Swatches

I have part 2 of the nyx swatches as promised, bringing you the matte colors today. The formula for this Soft Matte Lip Cream is epic: long-lasting, minimal transfer, not drying at all! Plus, the color payoff is amazing.

Left to right: Stockholm, Milan, Prague, Seoul. Like the lipglosses I swatched previously I bought Stockholm from Target and the other three I purchased online from nyxcosmetics.com they came in the Soft Matte Lip Cream Set 7.


(Top to Bottom)

Seoul -Violet

I think this one is my favorite, It’s a wearable not too bright purple. It also pairs nicely with  Toasted Marshmallow Intense Butter Gloss.

Prague -Matte Merlot

This color is rather berryish, not my favorite of them but it’s still pretty. It takes more than one coat to completely cover.

Milan -Mid-Tone Blue-Tone Pink

A true pink, I love this color more than I expected to, it’s sweet and perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Stockholm -Mid-Tone Beige Pink

If you looking for a variation of a true nude then this color is for you! Just a hint of pink completely amps up this color.

That’s all the lip product swatches I have for now!

Comment below what your favorite colors are and if you like NYX products.

Stay fly,

~Akilah