Kenzie & Isabella | Muses of Now
Kenzie Benesh and Isabella Bertorelli are partners (in work and life) as co-founders of San Francisco’s Yo Tambien, a cafe inspired by family recipes and their shared connections to Venezuela and California. Here, we take a peek at the obsessions, recommendations, and personal practices (past and present) that make up their own specific worlds.
Describe a current ‘hyper fixation’ snack or meal you make for yourself. What’s a recipe you could make with your eyes closed (that you get complimented on)?
Kenzie: I take breakfast pretty seriously (i.e. if I don't have it, I am not a very great person to be around). We go back and forth with savory and sweet, depending on how much time we have and if I’ve prepped anything the night before. Lately, my current fixation is on a thick white rice porridge with fresh mango, black sesame seeds, and coconut yogurt. (I’m new to the coconut yogurt game and I am now a believer!) A recipe I could make with my eyes closed is the Breakfast Cookie we make daily at Yo También. It’s an oat based cookie inspired by all of my mom’s cookies she made for us growing up, and is full of nuts and seeds and dried fruit. People love it, or they might want something sweeter but that’s just not my style. I’ve now made this recipe hundreds and hundreds of times and honestly never get sick of this cookie. Some friends say they keep them in the freezer for a quick breakfast - and that thought keeps me going.
What is a new-to-you health hack or practice you have started for your own wellbeing? AND: What is a longtime non-negotiable that you do consistently and is integral to your wellbeing?
Kenzie: A new (to me) health practice I’ve started for my own wellbeing is the foam roller. Wow. So painful yet satisfying at the same time. Taking five minutes to roll my body on a piece of foam allows me to keep running a couple times a week and not feel completely destroyed. A longtime wellbeing practice that is vital to me is a cold water ocean plunge. It knocks the wind out of me, sometimes feels like my heart is about to stop, and makes me nervous/excited every time. It wakes up my body in the best way possible. When we lived closer to Ocean Beach, we had the routine of closing up Cantina a little early every Thursday then putting our runners on and heading down to the water via the Golden Gate park trails, jumping in, then taking the train home. It was amazing. Now, we find the time to bike over to China beach or down to OB and do a quick dunk. It is our reset button!
The next place I really want to travel (or where I'm currently planning a trip). AND: My 'heart home' (a place where you don’t live but have returned or traveled to again and again).
Kenzie: The next travel destination of my dreams is Venezuela. Politically complicated and not an easy destination, that’s where Isa is from. I know such a big part of her has been shaped and influenced by this incredible country. I LOVE the heat and tropical climates, and I have this feeling like I belong there. haha. My fascination with tropical fruits and coastal lifestyle will hopefully merge in the next few years. My heart home is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Not because it’s fun to say, but because of the landscape, my family who currently lives there, and the extremes it’s known for. During the winter it is not a forgiving environment - so SO cold where you make your siblings go ice fishing and you last under 30 minutes until one of us is in the car and no one even wants to drink a beer. But then, during the summer it is exploding with sour cherry bushes, river dips, goji berries growing in back alleys, and long hot humid days followed by steamy humid thundershower nights.
A recent listen + a favorite listen:
Isabella: Last week I watched such a tragic and beautiful movie by Krzysztof Kieślowski— “Trois Couleurs: Bleu”—and fell in love with the trilogy’s soundtrack, composed by Zbigniew Preisner. I don’t want to get into too many details of the movie in case somebody reading hasn’t watched and wants to, but the score is a huge part of the storyline. Actress Juliette Binoche does an exquisite job at playing the main character, her beauty and style are flawless (needless to say I was crushing hard). Kenzie had been in Canada for the week and finding myself alone in the apartment one evening I turned off the lights, lit up all the candles we have, poured myself some mezcal, and played the score -but mostly the song “Van Den Budenmayer (Funeral Music) - Winds” loud through the speakers, and laid down on the floor. The experience was deeply touching and transformative and I recommend doing this with any particular music or song you feel moved by.
Longtime love: Anything related to salsa brava, son cubano, guaguancó…I love to dance, and I grew up dancing to a lot of this, so it definitely has a nostalgic/childhood element to it. Kenzie gifted me a really special Celia Cruz & Tito Puente record that I love and always play when we’re cooking at home. I also love Cuban DJ Cami Layé Okún’s monthly episodes at NTS RADIO. This episode in particular brings me back to growing up in Venezuela, listening to these songs at family reunions where everyone was dancing, eating great food and having a good time.
Isabella: My reading list is quite chaotic. I tend to start several books at a time. From there I get hooked by one of them, immerse myself in the reading, finish the book, then try to go back to the others on rotation, cast my net, and do it all over again. I’ve recently started reading The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav and it’s a trip. It is a book about quantum physics explained in a very approachable and humorous way. It’s a handy book I can casually pick up and read several pages from without being obsessed with it. I keep it around for when I’m running errands and have some minutes to spare, as opposed to just scrolling on my phone (which I’m guilty of way too often). The last novel that had me truly hooked was Mr Gwyn by Alessandro Barrico. I accidentally purchased it in Italian, so reading it was an interesting challenge. My Italian is ok, so it wasn’t a completely unrealistic undertaking, but it required my full, undivided attention. It felt so good to fully dive into reading this way–taking notes and looking words up in the dictionary or asking my mom to translate some phrases. I tend to be drawn to unconventional ways of learning (never been the biggest fan of academic institutions) so the experience of learning something new and practical while doing something I truly enjoy as a more leisurely, non-practical activity was deeply satisfying.
Do you have any sort of daily “uniform”? What are your signature clothing pieces, and what have you done lately to mix it up in your wardrobe?
Isabella: I love a good short sleeve button-up. It’s such a versatile piece that can easily be dressed up or down. I tend to gravitate towards soft and lighter fabrics such as linen or poplin. It’s also a classic chef/cook uniform wardrobe item, so it fits into what I actually wear for work most days. I enjoy not having to overthink what I’m going to wear each day, so going for the simple “chef’s uniform” makes it easy and I actually do like the combo of a crisp white button-up with dark colored Dickies or similar-cut pants. All throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I had to wear a school uniform. It mostly consisted of a white button-up (then baby blue & tan polo for high- school), pleated skirt, crew socks and penny loafers. I totally have a thing for this look and have been heavily leaning into the pleated skirt, fun colored socks, and Dr. Martens loafers. Lately, if I’m not working and I want to switch it up, I’ve been loving wearing different types of vests. Living in SF, you need to have a serious amount of layers at your disposition, so vests are a fun one to play around with. Kenzie and I got these matching vests as a gift from our dear friends and it’s so funny and cute because we already share so much, having the same or similar clothing can bring some conflict but we genuinely love these vests a lot so we don’t mind wearing them at the same time.
As a refreshing toast to Opuntia, an obsession and color inspiration for our PF23 collection, Kenzie and Isbella were kind enough to share a special Opuntia (prickly pear) granita recipe.
Opuntia & Meyer Lemon Granita
An ancient refreshment that can be adapted for whatever fruit juice is available to you.
Around 8 opuntias
Juice and peel of 6 Meyer lemons
Juice of 1 lime or 1 Eureka lemon
150g fine (or caster) sugar 200ml water
Directions: Start by making a simple syrup. For this flavor combo, we chose to infuse it with Meyer lemon zest to give it an extra citrusy and aromatic quality. Wash four Meyer lemons, then use a vegetable peeler to carefully remove zest from top to bottom and all around.
Place peels in a small pot, then add the water, sugar, and turn heat to medium/high. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes while stirring until syrupy. Let the syrup cool, then strain and set aside.
With a sharp knife, slice the opuntia in half, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Add to a blender along with the citrus juice. Blend everything until well combined, then strain through a fine sieve. Pour the juice and syrup into a shallow pan and combine. This is your chance to adjust the sweetness if needed! We like it on the more tart side.
Place the tray in the freezer for at least 40 minutes, then using a fork — rake through the mix as it’s freezing. This will allow it to freeze in flakes, rather than as a solid block. Repeat 2-3 times for the best texture. Let the final granita set at least seven hours or overnight.
To serve, scoop the granita with a spoon or ice cream scoop and serve in a Champagne glass.