“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream?”
As a native Angeleno that managed to escape, returning to LA-land is always bittersweet. Visiting my bestie Laudi, the museums, and the variety of food choices make it an enticing and exciting city. The traffic, smog and lack of compassion cause me to need a massage just so I can separate my shoulders from my ears after about a day. Luckily, the food and company of friends makes up for the city’s shortcomings.
First stop: Real Food Daily. I’ve been making the Lentil Walnut Pate at home out of the RFD cookbook for years but had never been to the cafe to try it. If you’re allergic to nuts, I’m sad for you because this spread is so full of savory goodness I could eat it everyday. No joke. The secret ingredients are ume (Japanese pickled plum)and miso, giving it a deep umami flavor. My guess is that you could also substitute pumpkin or sunflower seeds if you wanted to, but the toasted walnut flavor is so pleasing to me.
Pecan Crusted Tempeh on a bed of kale and black beans with coconutty yams. If you have been wary of tempeh, try this outstanding dish. The salty nuttiness of the tempeh is the perfect companion to the sweet yams. The portion is huge, so share with a friend or be happy you’ll have leftovers.
On to Veggie Grill: When I lived in Irvine,CA this was my absolute favorite place to go for a cheap and cheerful vegan lunch. They’ve opened a few LA outposts and added some menu items. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than eating a giant salad like the Thai Chikin’ (pictured above) or the All Hail Kale. Don’t forget the sweet potato fries if you’re serious about getting your Nom on.
Au Lac: I don’t know what rock I was living under during my residence in LA, but I did not discover AuLac until my last visit to CA in March. This place has a cult like following and is packed every night.The menu features Asian influenced “humanese” cuisine with both cooked and live, raw dishes. My favorite item is the simple Song Salad with watercress, tomato, crispy onions and a light teriyaki style dressing…Hot&Sour soup was a very close runner up in the favorites category. The interior of the restaurant is very dimly lit, so I’m sorry my pictures didn’t come out!
The cooked vegan dishes at Au Lac are heavy on the mock meats like the BBQ “Pork” roll pictured above. We also had the Crispy Soy Seafood noodles and Green Curry which were both delicious but I found myself picking out the faux meat and just enjoying the veggies. After stuffing myself like a little piggy, a Chinese foot massage down at Jade Foot Massage in Irvine was the perfect happy ending.
MCafe de Chaya- In another life, I was a shopgirl in Beverly Hills. I wish that back in the day, I had the option to eat contemporary macrobiotic cuisine like this instead of giving my money to The Cheesecake Factory for over priced salads. The Big M burger is a patty chock full of whole grain brown rice,vegetables, special sauce, lettuce, soy mozzarella, tomato, pickles, onion, and sprouts on a house-baked whole wheat bun. Big enough for me to share with Laudi and leave room for dessert. I was intrigued by the Braised Shitake Inari sushi, but since it is pre-made and sits in the case, it wasn’t my favorite but I like the idea and will recreate it at home. Lots of choices in the deli case of prepared salads, desserts, and a juice bar.
Checked out the new tapas bar PicaaPeru and found out that I don’t like Pisco. The waiter told me it was like Peruvian brandy and I was game to try it even though my friend Ross warned me he drank it in college and it’s basically rot gut. The fiery gas-like burn of grappa was too much for me,I had to send it back.
We went to the Getty Center to see the Herb Ritts L.A. Style exhibit on a beautiful day. The space is designed by Richard Meir and houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs.
There are several dining choices at The Getty. We opted for the Garden Terrace Cafe that is set up cafeteria style with counters offering different fare. I chose a vegetable melange of eggplant and asparagus with a chimichurri sauce, a pearl cous cous salad and big basket of sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries just make the world seem like a better place,y’know? Laudi had a hankering for pizza and got a side of veggies. You can also get something from the grill, a made to order salad, sandwiches and some grab & go options from the cold case.
Flore Vegan, Silverlake- I’ve been following the daily food porn on Flore Vegan’s Facebook page for months so I was super geeked to eat here. Laudi joked that we needed our passports to go all the way to Silverlake, but man oh man, was it worth the drive! The space is cozy, the service is friendly and the portions are humungous. I had the BBQ Tempeh sliders and could barely finish one mini burger after sharing the cashew cheese platter as an appetizer. The cashew cheese was rich and tangy, served with enough bread to put you in a carb coma. Laudi tried the Southwest Seitan Quesadilla and said it was delish with the cilantro cream and pico de gallo. Being seated next to the deli case that cradles all of the amazing desserts created quite a dilemma when we had to decide on just one. Strawberry shortcake was just too tempting to pass up and we leveled it until there was not a crumb left on the plate.
Walked across the street after Flore Vegan on the way to the car and saw Pazzo Gelato. I promised Laudi that I just wanted to pop in for a look since their sign stated they had “vegan things” too. Well, looking turned into tasting when the guy behind the counter offered a sample of Aprium sorbetto. It’s tangy, sweet, tart blend of apricot and plum tricked me into ordering a cup which was shamelessly devoured in a blink. Obscene that I could even think of another bite? Yes.*burp* I was only outdone by Laudi, who finished a Sea Salt Caramel gelato and then asked what we were having for dinner.
Last stop in LA, Newsroom The Cafe: Met up with my sexy friend Rick for lunch before I got the heck outta Dodge. He had suggested The Ivy first, but I’d seriously rather have a hot poker shoved in my eye than choke down the awful food and deal with the bad service there. He offered up Newsroom as an alternative and I was a happy camper. It had been years since I had eaten there and I had forgotten how veg-friendly they are. There was a “duck” salad special (mock meat) and vegan riblets that looked interesting and I almost went for it. I asked the waiter for his recommendation and he was so cute, he said : “I’m obviously NOT a vegan” while pointing to his ample frame “But I like the veggie burger. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy you lunch.” How could I resist? It was a patty very similar to the one at M Cafe, served on a hearty whole grain bun and served with…sweet potato fries,j’adore! Chased the burger with a shot of wheatgrass and enjoyed the people watching on Robertson Blvd.
Headed north to go back to Oregon. No road trip is complete without a stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s . Even though we were on our way to SLO town to meet Barbara for lunch, I convinced the food warrior to share a quick bowl with me. Their recipe is vegan (no ham bone in the pot) and the toppings are all served on the side. Order the Traveler’s special for an all-you-can-eat bowl that comes with a beverage or get it in the bread bowl if you’re a carb-a-holic like me.
Bliss Cafe, San Luis Obispo: The website lists it as “good karma cuisine” and you can feel your chakras align as you walk in the door to the tiny sliver of the restaurant. The food warrior and I both ordered the Shakti smoothie, a blend of strawberry,banana, cardamom and vanilla with a choice of rice or soy milk. Barbara went for the Bhema Burger, green split pea Indian style patty stacked between a bun, with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, & veganaise. Of course, I had to steal some sweet potato fries while nomming on my delicious quiche prepared with a gluten free crust made from garbanzo bean, rice, and corn flour filled with cauliflower, zucchini, green peas, artichoke hearts, spinach, nutritional yeast, & vegan sour cream. The quiche was full of flavor and the texture was perfect. I want to try and recreate this using The Vegg very soon.You can tell that they really care about the food they serve. The restroom is at the back of the building and since you have to walk thru the pitch to get there, I’m happy to report that the kitchen was spotless.
You can check out the rest of the goodies we had during the road trip in my vlog HERE