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With a limited time before having to catch a flight, we seized the afternoon one last time with another hike in nearby Griffith Park. The park is huge, with a ton of different attractions set apart within the mountains. This time we opted for a short hike to see the ruins of the old Los Angeles Zoo. Though the park has a zoo that is operating currently, the abandoned zoo attracts many visitors. Shockingly small welded cages and stylized, painted rocks remain from its early years of operation, mostly built in the 1930’s under Roosevelt’s New Deal. Today intrepid human animals of all ages explore the crevices of the tiny enclosed habitats. DSC_0044






Seabirds Kitchen would be my final meal in California for now. Seabirds started as a food truck, appearing on the Food Network’s Great Foodtruck Race’s second season. Today, Seabirds sits pretty in the hip LAB Antimall.IMG_9972

Though they had a steep price tag, I chose the Artichoke Drumsticks. Huge breaded artichokes, these were not only an amazing idea, but they were executed perfectly. Crispy, artichokey, divine. I would have appreciated a creamy dip along with the maple mustard and hot sauce. Maybe like a creamy spinach dip. IMG_9964

You got to see a close up… Oh yeah. IMG_9971

Next, the Beer Battered Avo Taco: fried avocado, their Seabirds sauce, cabbage, red onion, lime. What a delicious and flavor-packed few bites! Wish I had another day to try other eats at Seabirds. I am very impressed. PicMonkey Collage

Sometimes, menus and offerings change, as was the case with the vegan crêpes that used to be on the Elderberries. But then you wind up enjoying a more basic option that is satisfying in its simplicity. This was the case during my morning visit to the eclectic cafe. I wound up starting the day with a toasted everything bagel with with cashew cheese, tomato, onion, and avocado, some potatoes, and a cup of well-needed good coffee topped with some almond milk foam. It had been a very long morning that originated in Vancouver, Washington around 3am.PicMonkey Collage

IMG_9883IMG_9879If you would have told me almost two decades ago that there would be shops crafting creamy, flavorful, fermented cheese-like products that were all-vegan, I would tell you that you were cuckoo. But nut cheese certainly is hitting the big time! Over the last few years there have been several vegan cheese shops to open up their doors, specializing in creating (or stocking) scratch-made nut cheeses. Quality food establishments are also taking care to embark upon creating their own nut-based cheeses to substitute the packaged, processed foods that really have no place on a eatery’s menu.

In Los Angeles, Vromage reigns supreme, supplying a ton of interested parties, vegan and non-vegan alike, with quality nut cheeses. I stopped by one morning to chat with the very friendly owner, Youssef, and taste a hefty doling of samples, from mild to sharp.

IMG_9876With elevated consumer tastes creating market shifts, plant based cheese is hot. All folks cheese-related, dairy and non-dairy, have their eye on Youssef. He’s a true craftsman of his trade, admitting to eating dairy solely for the purpose of product research. How else can he create a vegan cheese that will be accepted by a non-vegan, he asks. Perhaps when he perfects his varieties, he’ll never look back. And perhaps his customers, who encompass a wide range of eating ethos, will not either.



I got the Asiago and a variety of Gouda, two of my favorite sampled bites. I am hoping that they last enough to enjoy back in New York as we didn’t have the time or wine to enjoy them in California. I’ll just be poolside blogging until then.

The Pacific Northwest is heavy. Such things I forget. IMG_9841

Having no appetite (!) I barely nibbled on the Mighty Mofo at Chaco Canyon Cafe, A vegan Reuben sandwich with housemade seitan, sauerkraut, mustard, cucumbers & sprouts, served on a soft sourdough. And sprouts. IMG_9842

In Seattle, wherever you are, it’s grey. Except when it’s glorious. But not today.

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The West Coast Donut Showdown:

The West Coast of the USA consists of 3 states: Washington, Oregon and California. In the past few couple of days, I’ve had vegan donuts in all of them. Here is a comparison:

Mighty O in Seattle has long been etched in my mind as the first all-vegan donut operation. Not those O-shaped packaged treats that I would see in the early health food stores that were dense, dry cakes sharing no characteristics with true donuts. These were real-deal from the start and they blew the vegan option doors wide open. They opened in 2003, though I didn’t try them until 2008. I watched from afar, hoping someone was paying attention on the East Coast. Mighty O gets mad cred for their fantastic donuts… and they get my business every time I’m in Seattle.

So the West Coast contender is the Raspberry Riot, to the left. This is their delectable vanilla cake donut with a raspberry glaze. The cake donut is perfect at Mighty O. And the glaze, simple with real berry flavor. These are dignified donuts that check all the boxes. (On the right, a mini cinnamon sugar, because they remind me of childhood.)
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Voodoo Doughnuts opened up around the same time, but I am not sure if they offered vegan donuts from the start. I mentioned “dignified” in my Mighty O rundown… These donuts are not about dignity; they’re about wackiness. They’re a “thing.” Inventive and silly flavor combinations have created quite the allure. I wasn’t the only airline passenger carrying on a pink box from Voodoo. During peak times there are massive line-ups at their stores in Portland, so much that there are weaving gates to contain order. I have only ever gone at the crack of dawn, as I did today on the way to PDX.

And Voodoo’s berry contender: The Grape Ape doughnut, a raised yeast doughnut with vanilla frosting, grape dust and lavender sprinkles. This grape is all artificial, so take that real berries! Though it was a whimsical few bites, I couldn’t have much more than that. But its kitsch value certainly counts for something.
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Now, did you feel a pain in your heart today? (evil laughter)IMG_9913

Donut Friend is in Los Angeles. They’re the new kid on the block. And they’re the new kid with a huge selection of mostly vegan flavors all named for punk and “alternative” (Is this still a word?) bands that reinforce the notion of their good taste. They take the best of donut innovators before them to create the best donut on the West Coast. That’s right, Donut Friend, you win the prize of my esteem.

What was the reason for the win? Well, this beautiful berry donut Polar Berry Club, named for a post-hardcore band from New York, which couples delicious real berries and a lemon glaze on top of their sticky glazed donut. As heavenly as the toppings are, they do not hide a dryish, bland donut base (I’m talking to you Voodoo.)… the donut alone without its headdress would kick butt. I savored every bite like those suggestive Ferero Rocher commercials. Admittedly, they swayed the win by merit of their expansive and scrumptious inventory.
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Other Donut Friends I bought are included below. Do you recognize all the bands? X-RAY SPECULOOS: a salty cookie butter inside a traditional donut, with chocolate glaze and sea salt on top.IMG_9907

S’MORRISSEY: A heavenly chocolate cake donut filled with toasted marshmallows and topped with chocolate glaze and graham cracker crumbs. (Ok, that one was easy!)IMG_9906

ANGRY SAMOA: A vanilla cake donut dipped in chocolate, and topped with caramel, toasted coconut, and chocolate stripes.IMG_9904

This one was a Sufjan Stevens one that isn’t on their website. Otherwise known as a “jelly donut.”IMG_9909

RITES OF SPRINKLES: A moist cake donut with your choice of glaze and sprinkles.IMG_9910

Ok, no more donuts for awhile!

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{The Getty Center}

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How many times can someone have brunch in a week? With so many delicious brunch options to choose from the great city of Los Angeles, breakfast fare, maximized, made up a good portion of my eats. Today, on my last full day, is no exception. This morning we dined at Real Food Daily, a well-known all-vegan hot spot with three locations in the LA area. We headed to West Hollywood to taste this vegan staple.

Satisfying both of my savory and sweet cravings, I ordered The Weekender: scrambled tofu, onions, tomatoes, cashew jalapeno cheese, tempeh bacon with two slices of french toast and hashbrowns.

While every bite I ate made my taste buds high five each other, it was the French toast that had those buds jumping up and down. Vegan French toast can go wrong in so many ways (too soggy, too thin, too thick that you get plain bread in the center, etc) but this was spot-on. And the eggy-like batter, vanilla soy flaxseed, made the toast’s texture awesome.

For our final dinner in town, we hit up Madeleine Bistro, yet another eatery whose website has sat patiently waiting in my bookmarks for this West coast eating frenzy. The posh, gourmet restaurant was only open on weekends and had limited hours. We made a door-buster reservation and decided quickly on the 4-course sampler.The first course, a spectacular soup, was a good indication of what was to come. It was a sweet corn bisque, creamy and frothy with seasonal, local corn. Though soup makes for an unexciting picture, believe me that the taste was very unbelievable. My salad course, their beautiful red beet tartare was delectable–a tower of tenderized red beet, a crispy-skinned super-creamy tofu cheese crouton, finely sliced cucumber in a balsamic glace. How gorgeous and delicious.

My beet tartare salad in all its glory. Very large and substancial for a salad course, I might add.

Then came the entree, course 3: Lemon-rosemary seitan, delicate haricot and cream crepes with a side of haricots. The house-made seitan was so tender and flavorful. The crepe was oh-so creamy. I just wished there were a bit more of a variety of veggies inside. It was the perfect portion, helping to leave me enough room for dessert. And dessert, course 4, was the best of all!

This capital-A Amazing ice cream treat gave me everything I needed. It is their Bananas Foster Split, the culmination of housemade components that had me speechless and ready to lap the bananas foster sauce off the plate. The vanilla ice cream was creamy, the hot fudge was the perfect flavor and texture (not simply brown and sweet), and the whipped crème real. No packages. Everything made from scratch. This was an amazing dessert. Thank you, Madeleine, for your high standards. They translate to pure, unadulterated deliciousness.

Goodnight L.A.

{El Matador State Beach}

I have just returned from a tremendous bout of traffic along U.S. Coastal Route 1. If I didn’t think that this was one of the most beautiful highways in the entire country, I’d probably be a bit more frustrated now. But a day of eating fried and hearty fare and I am cemented here dazed, trying to channel enough brain activity to complete this post. I’m going to be brief, as a picture is worth 10,000 words.

Today’s food highlights: Flore in Silver Lake for a spectacular brunch.

I got the Chicken & Waffles. Breaded and seared Gardein chicken cutlet and a thin banana waffle served with real maple syrup and Earth Balance with a side of gravy-smothered homefries.

Behold one fantastic dish. So, so salty, the maple syrup was oh so necessary. I was a member of the clean plate club.

I don’t usually like to eat things like Gardein (super-processed frozen patty type things), but every 3 or 4 years, sure.

For dessert, a lemon-berry cupcake. Adorable and so fine. The cake was light and spongey and the frosting was not cloyingly sweet or all shortening-ish.

The view of today, hazy and hot, from the Griffith Observatory.

Mohawk Bend is a huge restaurant, bar, and venue in Echo Park. They also have some amazing vegan dishes.

My choice, the Avo & Chips, beer-battered deep-fried avocado, side of fries, some horseradish slaw, and smoked paprika aioli. Deep fried avocado. What can be better?

Looking a bit closer.

CandyPenny‘s selection: Bangers & Mash. Amazing pub fare at an awesome space.

I think I need to fast when I get back to New York.

Vegan Treats makes some damn good doughnuts. Good, like, a decadent pillow of fried goodness, damn good donut. Not a circular airy cake but a cream-filled, ooey, gooey, cover-your-mouth-in-fantastic-film… needing to gargle with black coffee kind of damn good. A donut. Like I remember from my non-vegan days.

After eating a few lifetimes worth of donuts at Seattle’s Mighty O, I think I convinced myself that the East coast couldn’t “bring it” with vegan donuts. I mean.. besides Mighty O, the West has Ronald’s Donuts (Las Vegas) and Voodoo Doughnuts (Portland, OR), too. And Los Angeles, don’t even get me started. They totally out-vegan New York City. But yes, New York’s best vegan donuts are from Pennsylvania. 

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