Tag Archives: LA

I Miss You LA

20 Oct

Hello my long lost friends!

Yes, it’s been a while since my last post. After a long stint in LA, I’m back on the east coast. Although it’s good to be home, I miss the sunshine and peace and quiet. What better way to welcome myself home than with a tribute to some of my favorite things in LA. I’ll be back soon but in the meantime, please keep these places company for me.

 

While the coffee wars rage on in LA just like everywhere else, Caffe Luxxe beat out all the competitors in my eyes. I’m partial to the Brentwood Country Mart location with its outdoor seating and proximity to Bar Method. 🙂

Soy Latte Caffe Luxxe

This one is random but, I couldn’t stop eating the nut mix at the bar at Intercontinental. Spicy and salty, it’s the perfect pairing with a glass of Cakebread.

I didn’t last a day without a juice from Pressed Juicery . Greens 3 rocks, as does almond milk, watermelon juice and a bunch of the detoxes. Mmmmmmm.

Greens 3, Pressed Juicery

I love Kreation Kafe for serving organic eggs all day, a tough thing to find. This egg white breakfast wrap is my favorite, full of mixed greens, grilled corn, and salsa, it’s filling and energizing right after a spin class at Revolution Fitness.

Egg white breakfast wrap at Kreation Kafe

I could eat this any day of the week: crusty grilled bread with creamy burrata and glass of Liocco at Sotto

Housemade bread with burrata

My favorite Pilates studio in LA: Winsor Pilates (I prefer the Brentwood location b/c it has ample parking!!)

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Three-day Pressed Juicery Cleanse

11 Aug

As promised, here are a few nuggets on my 3-day Pressed Juicery cleanse. Obviously, I survived.

Although I’ve done quite a few cleanses, this one threw me for a loop. I was absolutely exhausted the first two days. True to my idiot form, I didn’t follow their suggestion to cut back on my workouts, so by day two, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I had a few headaches during the day and passed out by 9pm. By day three, I smartened up and cancelled my workout. By then, I was energized and excited to feel a little lighter.

The cleanse consists of:

  • 6 (16 oz) bottles of juice per day
  • 1 (16 oz) aloe vera water
  • 1 (16 oz)  chlorophyll water

Grand total of 8 bottles or 128 oz a day. That’s a lot of peeing, my friends. Stay close to the potty.

I chose to do a three-day, but you could do more or less. I opted for Cleanse #2, and picked it up in Brentwood.You can pick up all of the drinks at once, or pick them up daily, whatever your fridge can hold!  Considering that the juices replace all meals and snacks, I don’t think $50 for eight drinks is astronomical. Granted, I saved by not having it delivered. Delivery is about $70/day.

Here’s the order of drinks for Level 2:

  1. Greens
  2. Detox
  3. Roots
  4. Detox
  5. Greens
  6. Almond Milk
  7. Aloe Vera Water
  8. Chlorophyll Water throughout the day

For each drink, you can choose between Greens 1 (no apple & lemon) or Greens 2 (with apple & lemon), Roots 1 (with beet) or Roots 2 (no beet), and Detox 1 (lemon, cayenne, filtered water) or Detox 2 (pineapple, pear, ginger, mint). Each cleanse ends with Almond Milk. Those familiar with Blue Print and other cleanses know the nut milks are like dessert. I look forward to it all day. For my cleanse, I went with Greens 2, Roots 2, and a Detox 1 and Detox 2. I really like that you can customize it based on your tastes.

I love Greens 2 so much that next time, I’m tempted to do Cleanse #3 since it’s primarily Greens. The apple really sweetens it up and cuts through so you don’t get the bitterness of the greens, while the added lemon brings a citrusy brightness to it. I tried Greens 1 before I did the cleanse and it was a tough one for me. This is coming from someone who loves almost any Greens juice. I found myself chugging it down to get it over with. It’s very bitter and the parsley and celery are quite dominant. Greens 2 on the other hand, I savor and relish every sip. 🙂 Amazing what a difference a little apple and lemon can make.

Greens 2 Pressed Juicery

Roots 2 Pressed Juicery

The only part of the cleanse I wasn’t obsessed with were the Detox juices. Detox 1 is so tart, it actually made my taste buds and lips hurt by the time I finished it. I imagine this is what my mouth would feel like after sucking on a dozen lemons. Detox 2 is incredibly sweet, almost nauseating. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with Detox 1 and take tart vs. cloying sweet.

Detox 1 Pressed Juicery

Detox 2 Pressed Juicery

Almond Milk Pressed Juicery

The Chlorophyll water has apple extract in it which sounds good, but is virtually undetectable. This stuff is bland, and almost flavorless. It basically tastes like water, but it’s a cool color and made me feel like I was putting something good in my system.

From PressedJuicery.com – [Chlorophyll] Helps in the growth and repair of tissues. Delivers magnesium and stimulates red blood cells to improve oxygen supply. Contains vitamins A, C, and E. Helps neutralize the pollution that we breathe in – a good supplement for smokers. Also an effective deodorizer to reduce bad breath and body odor.

Chlorophyll Water

Aloe Vera Water is the very last juice of the day. According to their website, [Aloe Vera Water] helps to detoxify the body and blood stream and cleanse the colon. Helps with intestinal or stomach problems. Improves circulation and acts as a antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agent, preventing illness. In theory, it’ll keep things “moving” throughout the night. It was tasteless to me, but I didn’t have any tummy issues so perhaps it worked.

Overall, this was one of the most productive cleanses I’ve ever done. By the third day, I felt the energy coming back. I added the anti-oxidant supplement. I don’t know if it did anything, but mentally made me feel better.  I don’t know if I lost weight or not, perhaps a little water weight, but I definitely am less bloated, my skin is clear, and those late day sweet cravings have been silenced (for now).

The first day post-cleanse I actually kept juicing for a majority of the day and really wanted to keep going. Sadly, dinner plans meant I had to break the cleanse, but I have continued to juice during the day until dinner time. It’s now been a week since the cleanse and I’m still incorporating one to two juices into my daily routine. I’m looking forward to my next Pressed Juicery cleanse!

Pressed Juicery: Juiced to ImPRESS

4 Aug

It’s not news that I love juicing. Blue Print Cleanse has always been my cleanse of choice on the east coast. But in LA, it was hard to swallow (pun intended) the hefty delivery fees, or the limited pick-up days at Exhale. So, my search began for a local LA juice company to test out. And boy, did I find it.

Pressed Juicery is a tiny, hole in the wall, in Brentwood. Literally, it’s a closet with a cute barn door. There’s just enough room for a cash register, a person, two stand up coolers filled with juice, and a wall of supplements/elixirs. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Ok, the guy on the phone kind of ruins the rusticness of it, but you get the idea. Good things do come in small packages. And I love any place where I can bring my dog, and eat.

Pressed Juicery, Brentwood

True to their promise “designed for your everyday life”, their menu offers flexibility unlike any juice program I’ve tried. Want your juice delivered? They can do that. Prefer to pick-it up in Brentwood? You can do that too. Not ready for a full-on cleanse? No problem. You can buy juices individually so you can test out as many as you like.

Pressed boasts 17 signature juices like Almond Milk (my fave), Blueberry Coconut Pear, Greens, and Roots. They usually have specials like Watermelon Mint which is TO DIE FOR. Sampling is ideal, particularly if you’re new to juicing. It’s an easy way to test out the juices without committing to a full-on cleanse. All juices are $6.50 for sixteen ounces, except almond milk ($8.00), aloe vera ($3.00) and carrot ($5.00).

If you’re looking to cleanse, you can choose which level you want (Cleanse 1 for less experienced, Cleanse 2 is most popular, Cleanse 3 for experienced/hardcore). And within each level, you have options: Greens 1 (no apple & lemon) or Greens 2 (with apple & lemon), Roots 1 (with beet) or Roots 2 (no beet), and Detox 1 (lemon, cayenne, filtered water) or Detox 2 (pineapple, pear, ginger, mint). Each cleanse ends with Almond Milk, those familiar with Blue Print and other cleanses know how the nut milks are known for being the dessert they look forward to all day.

PJ’s (we’re friends now, I can call them that) juices are pressed daily at an offsite facility in Beverly Hills. They use premium, organic ingredients, which is evident in each juice.  I was taken aback by the creaminess of their Almond Milk and the Carrot Coconut. I swear I was drinking a dairy product. And look at the color of this juice! It’s startling how bright and orange it is.

Carrot Coconut Juice

The Watermelon Mint is divine. It tastes like you’re sucking juice out of a perfectly ripe watermelon. The mint balances out the sweetness so it’s refreshing and light. I threw this back in about 10 seconds.

Watermelon Mint Juice

Their Almond Milk is one of the best nut milks I’ve ever tasted. It’s creamy, sweet, rich, dotted with vanilla bean specks, and literally tastes like melted ice cream.

Almond Milk: almonds, dates, vanilla bean, sea salt, filtered water

If I had children, Pressed Juicery would be my go-to place for juice. If you’re going to have juice, you might as well have the purest ingredients, and reap the maximum nutritional benefits, right? So many packaged juices are full of chemicals, additives, artificial x-y- and z, added sugar, it’s horrifying. Plus, these taste amazing and won’t fool those young palates into thinking cherries are supposed to be fire engine red, dye your tongue, and taste like sugar.

PressedJuicery.com is loaded with information about what to do before, during, and after the cleanse, and general F&Qs about cleansing. Like this one:

What is the difference between a “hydraulic press” and a regular juicer? At Pressed, all of our juices are produced on the highest quality juice press that exists. As opposed to a normal “centrifugal” juicer which takes a whole fruit or vegetable and squeezes out the juice, a hydraulic press actually grinds the entire thing into a fine pulp, after which it applies thousands of pounds of pressure to this pulp, extracting every ounce of juice that the fruit or vegetable can possibly yield. The results are smooth-tasting juices that contain the maximum amount of nutrition contained in each item. The gentle pressing action allows for little to no air to be introduced into the juice, and because of this each bottle can be kept in sealed, refrigerated containers for up to 3 days with little loss of taste, nutrients, or color.

Wish I could buy a hydraulic press but for now, my Breville Elite will have to do.

After sampling practically every juice they make, I’ve embarked on a 3-day cleanse. More on that when I finish it.

Don’t miss this amazing hidden gem. You can order online (they now deliver nationwide), pick-up in Brentwood, or swing by their mobile truck in Malibu. I’m dying to check out their truck because I heard they do remixes like combining Detox 2 + coconut + almond. Um, YUM. I’m imPRESSED.

Pressed Juicery

310-477-7171

Store Locations

“I am Thankful” for Cafe Gratitude

28 Jul

I always try at least one vegan/vegetarian/raw spot whenever I’m in LA. I found Cafe Gratitude through a Google search. It’s on North Larchmont in LA, a short walk from the main part of Larchmont Village which is full of quaint shops, and outdoor dining.

There’s a large outdoor patio where dogs are welcome and treated to a bowl of fresh water upon seating. The scene is very casual, perfect for a low-key brunch or lunch. They serve alcohol too (hallelujah). The menu is partly raw, and partly cooked. Everything is 100% organic and vegan. Produce is from “Be Love Farm”, their farm in Vacaville, CA.

Outdoor Seating area at Cafe Gratitude

Our server, had a huge head of coiled up dreads, and a soft-spoken voice. After Husband and I ordered, she asked “Today’s Question” which was, “What do you love to give?” Of course, you can imagine the Beavis answers THAT conjured. For a second, I stared at her vacantly wondering if I was supposed to answer, and then she was gone, presumably placing our order.

We ordered the “I am Accepting”, ironic considering I wasn’t feeling very “accepting” at the time. Perhaps if I’d eaten two portions I would have felt differently?  Our dishes arrived looking gorgeous with vibrant green kale and sprouts. I felt healthier just looking at it. It just goes to show its the QUALITY of ingredients that really counts. Look at what you can do with amazingly fresh, locally sourced, organic food, and the simplest preparation! This “sushi” bowl even got a thumbs-up from non-vegan Husband.

"I am Accepting" - "Sushi" bowl with raw kale, cucumber, avocado, nori, and fresh herbs, quinoa, spicy wasabi ginger sauce, topped with sprouts and kimchee.

I asked for hot sauce and of course, they make their own. LOVE that!

Cafe Gratitude's Homemade Hot Sauce

I was dying to try one of their smoothies. Despite being full, I couldn’t help myself. The server recommended the “I am Cool” so I got one to-go. And no, I didn’t order it because I just wanted to say that I’m cool. I was impressed how much it reminded me of a mint chocolate chip milk shake. However, the consistency was very thick, almost chunky, with constant hard bits of cacao that had to be chewed. Although I enjoyed the taste, I couldn’t take the consistency for too long and ended up pitching it halfway through.

"I am Cool" smoothie Mint chocolate chip "milkshake" with Vitamineral green and raw cacao

Of course, we couldn’t leave without one last Cafe Gratitude thought-ism. This card arrived clothespinned to our check. We didn’t do it.

Note that came with our check

As we were leaving, I spotted a guy wearing aviators and casual workout gear. It was none other than, Jake Gyllenhaal. He ordered a smoothie (I couldn’t hear which one), hopped back in his Mercedes, shook hands with a fan through his car window, and was off.

Conceptually, I respect and applaud what Cafe Gratitude is doing and wish there were more restaurants that did the same. I’m a fan of any place going against the grain with a new and different experience. However, the way it’s all packaged together was too over-the-top, touchy/feely for my taste. Each dish on the menu is named something like, “I am Extraordinary”, “I am Courageous”, “I am Luscious”, you get the idea. So when you order, you have to say, I’ll have the “I am Accepting” and the “I am Cool”. Not really my cup of tea. I couldn’t buy into but hey, that’s why the world is great right? We don’t all have to like the same things, but I can appreciate that they’re doing something unique.

There’s one thing you can’t argue. The food is fresh, tasty, and I left feeling nourished by a healthful meal. And really, that’s what us Food Buffers care about right? Good food, not trendy scene? And hey, if it’s good enough for Jake, it’s good enough for me.  I’ll definitely be back to try some of the raw food and smoothies. I am Thankful for Cafe Gratitude!

Cafe Gratitude

Casual, vegan, raw, organic

Starters – $6-$12/Entrees – $7-$13/Sides – $1.50-$3.00/Juices & Smoothies – $3.00-$9.00/Desserts – $2.25-$8/Beer & Wine -$5-$9 (glass), $21-$28 (bottle)

639 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90004

11am – 10pm 7 days/week

Restaurant Experience: Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen

11 Jul

If you’re looking for a casual place with exceptional wine, relaxed but fun atmosphere, and tasty eats in Santa Monica, try Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen. The ambience and shared plates make it perfect for either a romantic date night, or an intimate dinner with a small group of friends. The menu is inspired by farmer’s markets, with a Mediterranean influence, sourced from local, sustainable agriculture, giving it a very seasonal focus. I hear the burger is what they’re known for so if that’s your thing, it’s probably worth ordering. Service at both the bar and table were friendly and attentive. I’ve read some reviews that people find it too loud, but we were there at 8:30 on a Friday and didn’t experience any issue with the noise levels.

Husband and I started at the bar with a glass of the 2009 Red Car, Box Car, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. It was fruity, light, and worth every penny of its $16 price tag. Had I not been the designated driver, I would have downed the entire bottle. The bar is small with five or six stools. Good for a drink with a friend or significant other, but not ideal for a larger group.

We got seated on time and received a beautiful bowl of olives to tempt the palates. I do like that they didn’t start off the meal with a huge bread bowl.

Olives with citrus and thyme at Rustic Canyon

Then we dove in…

Roasted Beets & Farro with feta, cucumbers, fennel, red onion, cherry tomatoes, yogurt

OK, I know it looks like a Jack-o-lantern in the pic below, but it’s actually a pile of bite size fried artichokes. I think this dish was the only disappointment for me. They were kind of fried beyond recognition so I really couldn’t even taste the artichoke. Or perhaps it’s a situation where what I was envisioning wasn’t what showed up. Next time I’ll try the fried cauliflower.

Fried Artichokes

Succotash: corn, tomatoes, spring veggies

Branzino with roasted eggplant, fennel, artichokes, cherry tomatoes, black olives & salsa verde

This pasta was incredibly tasty and although it was not an entrée portion, given its’ hearty, filling nature, it was portioned out appropriately.

Homemade Pasta with Carmelized Corn and Parmesan Reggiano

Overall, this was an enjoyable meal without breaking the bank. Most of the small plates are between $10-$16, but the entrees are a little pricey, with the Branzino at $32. That said, price is relative considering I’m used to the inflated costs in NY. 🙂

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen 1119 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, Ph: 310.393.7050

Click here for reservations.

Exploring Casual, Healthy Eats in LA

13 Jun

The rest of the trip to LA was fun, but not exactly the sunny week I’d envisioned. What did I expect from June Gloom? It was mostly 60s and low 70s, but I’ll take that over the 100 degrees it was in NYC any day. YUCK.

I got a lot of walking and hiking in, plus I had two Pilates sessions at Winsor. More on that in a separate post.

I love exploring restaurants/food culture in LA. It’s no surprise that I’m such a fan of California cuisine with its’ focus on local, seasonal, fresh ingredients. I had a blast trying out new places and revisiting a few favorite vegan staples. I always find it easy to eat and live healthfully when I’m in LA.  Healthy food options are wherever you turn, and although I’ve learned June weather isn’t ideal, there’s plenty of sunshine to get you off that tush and moving around outside. I didn’t hit many fancy/trendier restaurants this trip, but focused on cafes, and casual, tasty fare.

I made numerous trips to Earth Bar at Equinox for smoothies. The “Flax Master” with acai, banana, blueberries, flax oil, B-12, L-glutamine, vegan protein, and almond milk, was tasty, and thick, just the way I like it. But on a second visit, they may have been too liberal with the supplements because I was having stomach…let’s just say “issues”.

Flax Master Smoothie at EarthBar Westwood

For lunch Wednesday, I walked to Whole Foods to check out their spread. I was amazed they had pre-cut coconut meat!! I haven’t seen that in NYC. It would be so convenient for smoothies, which reminds me, I have a young coconut in the fridge probably rotting. Ugh, need to use that up pronto.

Pre-Cut Coconut Meat at Whole Foods Westwood

The organic local nectarines looked gorgeous so I grabbed two for a snack.

California Local Nectarines at Whole Foods

I spent a couple of days hanging with RealityShowChick. (Who is now my token celebrity friend after her recent segment on 20/20).  She has two flourishing tomato plants on her porch. Most are still green, but there was one, small, perfectly round, red one begging to be picked.

Tomato Plant #1

Tomato Plant #2

As you can see below, RealityShowChick wasn’t “camera-ready” and pulled a puppetry of the finger maneuver. Either that or she’s blackmailing a clown?

The lone tomato

I stopped at M Cafe to pick up dinner. The menu had almost too many options, and took me a solid 10 minutes to make a decision. I was happy to not have the pressure of a line forming behind me. Guess I’m the only person under the age of 70 who likes to eat at 6pm. The cashier was friendly and helpful.

“First time?” she asked.  “Yup. How could you tell?” I replied, going cross-eyed from studying the menu. “Can I ask you the three questions I always ask people who are struggling to make a decision?” she asked. “Sure.”  I figured what the hell, it could only help, right?

Somewhat eccentric cashier (SEC): “How hungry are you on a scale from 1 to 10? 10 being I’m gonna rip someone’s arms off if I don’t eat right now.”

Me: “7”

SEC: “Are you looking for something hot or cold?” she asked.

Me: “I’m not sure. Maybe leaning cold, although I had a salad for lunch and don’t want another one.”

I’m not sure what the third question was. Either there wasn’t one, or I’m having a brain fart. All I remember is she recommended their signature salads, an a la carte menu consisting of various sides like sauteed vegetables, and proteins like grilled fish, tofu, etc. The questions did help reinforce my initial instincts. I’ll have to remember them next time I can’t make up my mind. I went with a Garden Roll and Inari Sushi (organic brown rice in a seasoned tofu pouch garnished with veggies).

The shiitake were splendid and reminded me of my mom’s. Usually she sprinkles sugar and shoyu over the vegetables as she sautes them. It’s always seasoned “to taste” with no real recipe. The result is a sweet/salty combo that I consider one of my favorite comfort foods.

Garden Roll; Shiitake, Hijiki and Lotus Root Inari

I turned down dessert although I was tempted by the Babycakes, and opted for this bright green Kale Lemonade. It was so refreshing!!! Tart lemonade with a little agave, balanced out with earthy Kale. Really tasty stuff. I know you’re sitting there with your nose wrinkled going eewwwwwww Kale Lemonade? Don’t judge until you’ve tried it.

Kale Lemonade from M Cafe

Thursday, I met a friend for breaky at Urth Caffe. They make the best latte art.

Japanese Green Tea Latte with Almond Milk from Urth Caffe

Oatmeal with Almond Milk and Brown Sugar, Granola, Raisin Toppings

We were in Santa Monica during lunchtime and passed an unassuming cafe on Wilshire selling vegan ice cream. There was no signage outside that I could find, just a couple tables under umbrellas. Inside was a small cafe that was brightly colored, unpretentious, and just what I had in mind. Menu items were printed on multi-colored paper and taped up along the top of the counter. There was a lot to read and the guy could tell I looked a little overwhelmed so he gestured to a laminated handout of the menu on a tray behind me. Then he pointed above his head to signs for soups of the day, and other specials. Why didn’t I use the three (or two) question test here?

Inside Interim Cafe in Santa Monica

Husband got the Maui Veggie Burger (supposedly what they’re known for), I got the Tempeh stuffed whole wheat pita with hummus, veggies, and a side salad. Husband also requested a “Tiger Woods” which was an Arnold Palmer without the alcohol. Perhaps it would be more fun if they renamed it “The Womanizer” or “Man-Whore” or something equivalent?

Maui Veggie Burger at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

Tempeh Whole Wheat Pita Stuffer at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

While I waited for our sandwiches, I stood in front of this damn glass case full of vegan desserts. They were calling my name, loudly, so I got the “World’s Best” vegan, gluten-free, chocolate chip cookie.

Dessert Cafe at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

I can’t argue, I don’t think I’ve had a better chocolate chip vegan cookie than this bad boy. The sandwiches and drinks were all delicious and made me wish I had something similar in my neighborhood back home.

"World's Best" Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie at Interim Cafe, Santa Monica

As the trip came to a close, what better way to end our stay than a margarita poolside at the W? I love you LA. Hope to see you soon.

Margarita on the rocks with salt at W Hotel Westwood

Eating, Hiking, Celebrity Sighting

7 Jun

I’d barely been in LA for 24 hours and already had a Native Foods Cafe Scorpion Burger on Sunday, and Veggie Grill Bali Bliss over Kale yesterday. Oh and I had to swing by Earth Bar at Equinox Westwood for a green detox smoothie yesterday morning! I’m 3 for 3.

Green Detox #1 Smoothie

Simon got to meet up with his girlfriend Lilly yesterday and nearly peed himself from excitement. Lilly’s Mom (a.k.a. RealityShowChick), Dad, and I got to catch up while the kids frolicked. If you love reality TV or just like to laugh, you have to check out her site – hysterical. Her stories as a Reality Show Casting Director will make you split (or s*it) your pants.   We went for a stroll through Larchmont and stopped at Peet’s coffee for a reboot. I was so surprised they had vegan cookies! Recharged from some seriously caffeinated espresso, we decided to go for a hike at Runyon. Of course, I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, sporting a sundress and flip-flops. (Thanks RSC for the loaner duds). I did manage to hike in flip-flops and not break my neck. As we started our leisurely hike, I spotted this guy with no shirt on and black shorts. I didn’t even notice his face because I was gawking at his chest – and not in a good way. One word, Ma-Tas. They were little and his chest was tan but they still stood out. Perhaps because he was running downhill? I digress…So, as he passes, my friends turn around all giddy and are like “OMG, Sebastian Bach!!!” Yes, of course it was. And I thought, oh yea that’s right, “I Remember You”.

Me & Simon, Sarah & Lilly at Runyon

And that’s the fun in day one! I basically hit all my fave places (and people) in the first 24 hours. Not bad. OH, and I forgot to mention my other stellar celeb sighting at the MTV Movie Awards. Ron Jeremy. I mean come on, really? I hope I didn’t catch anything airborne. Bleck.

Vegan-Friendly Wedding Weekend

7 Jun

What an amazing weekend Husband and I had! Our good friends Blake and Rob got married on Saturday. Congratulations B & R! What a gorgeous wedding!!!! Judging by the way I felt yesterday, we had a ton of fun. It may be a few days until I’ve fully recuperated, but it was worth it.

Our incredibly thoughtful hosts arranged to have vegan options available throughout the weekend…how cute are they? Everything from the cocktail hour to dessert offered something for vegetarians and vegans.  I’m really not going to do this justice because I didn’t take as many pics as I should have. Blame it on the al-al-al-al-al-alco-hol. I think I have more pics at home, but I didn’t want to wait all week to share this post so these will have to do for now.

We started with the rehearsal dinner on Friday at The Modern. Guests received tickets to visit the MoMA before dinner. We arrived about a half hour early and had just enough time to breeze through Contemporary Art, then Painting and Sculpture. We saw some impressive pieces like this Jackson Pollack. (AMAZZZINNNGGGG).

One: Number 31, 1950

We headed back to The Modern promptly at 7pm. Everyone mingled over cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres. I was so shocked when one of the restaurant managers brought over a special platter of vegan hors d’oeuvres just for me that included mini bruschetta cups and veggie spring rolls. How special!

For dinner, I received a beautiful tofu, quinoa, vegetable plate. The presentation was bright and colorful, and aroused curiosity in the other diners at table six.  In typical Danny Meyer style, the service was hospitable and the food did not disappoint.

A HUGE bowl of mixed berries arrived for dessert. They were so fresh I ate the entire bowl with a little help from Husband who kept sneaking nibbles when he thought I wasn’t looking.

On Saturday, we headed to the fabulous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Time Warner Center for the main event. Cocktail hour had a vast spread including passed hors d’oeuvres, a sushi, and a mediterranean bar. I was psyched when the server with the veggie spring rolls parked next to us so I had easy access to those little morsels all night. I never made it to the carving station. I was too busy making sammies out of the mediterranean bar ingredients. I stuffed the pita pockets with hummus, falafel, and olives. They were soooooo good. Sorry, no pics of these because I have no flash on my iPhone. Yes I know, I need to upgrade.

At dinner, I asked for the vegan option despite the fact that I was nearly stuffed from cocktail hour. I received a lovely plate of quinoa with haricots vert, asparagus, and sorel mushrooms (my favorite). Sorry, pic sucks. Use your imagination on this one.

Dessert was a fruit platter with a mixture of melons and berries that a few of us shared.

The next morning we were on a 9am flight to LA for the MTV Movie Awards. First stop, Native Foods Cafe. I made Husband go there before we even checked into the hotel. I had my Scorpion Burger down before the luggage arrived in the room.

After a brief snooze, we were off to the Movie Awards at the Gibson Ampitheatre. Click here for a clip from the Foo Fighters performing last night. It started pouring when it was time for the After-Party (which was completely outside) so we bailed and came back to the hotel. Rain? In LA? WTF?

We arrived back at the W starving (at least I was) and immediately ordered room service. There were limited vegan options and I was feeling a little nauseous. We got edamame, greek salad, grilled salmon salad, and a fruit plate for dessert. The food was pretty standard hotel quality, but at this point I was grateful to be eating anything at all. I’d probably avoid the fruit plate in the future. Mine had a couple moldy blueberries, and the melon was sprinkled with salt to preserve the color. Simon liked the watermelon though.

It was a whirlwind weekend and I’m totally exhausted. Looking forward to more good eats while I’m in LA and hoping to check out a couple new studios. Tomorrow, I’m testing out Winsor Pilates. I’m so looking forward to a solid workout!

For the Love of Young Coconut

3 Apr

You already know I’m obsessed with kale smoothies, particularly the coconut kale smoothie from Naturewell in LA.

I’ve been too chicken to buy a young coconut, and mine for my own coconut meat, but Whole Foods had some in stock so decided it was time to take the plunge.

Here are a couple great links on how to do it. I took suggestions from both and the gist is, be ready to wack that knife and curl your fingers so you don’t lose a digit.

How to Open a Young Coconut

How to Open a Young Coconut – with step by step visuals

Young Coconut

Here’s what I did:

1. On a very stable surface (I used a cutting board with gripper bottom), begin cutting off the white outside layer around the pointed top of the coconut, using your knife.  Continue scraping off the outside layer until you hit the brown shell.

2.  At the base of the pointy part, strike the knife or cleaver a couple times. It took me a few hard strikes until the knife was in there. Pry the top open with your knife. BE CAREFUL with this entire process. Make sure your work surface is stable and your fingers are out of the way. When you get it open, the juice will flow out so quickly upright the coconut so you don’t lose too much liquid. The coconut is surprisingly full (mine was completely full to the top).

Opened Young Coconut

Coconut Top

Coconut Top Opening

Fresh Coconut Water - look how much was in there!!!

3. Using a spoon or ice cream scooper, scrape off the thin layer of white meat inside the coconut. Be careful not to press too hard, as you want only the white layer and not the brown stuff behind it. Cut off any brown parts so you don’t have any hard particles in whatever you end up making.

Young Coconut Meat

4, Store the coconut meat and juice in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

Benefits of coconut meat & juice:

Coconut water is high in potassium and electrolytes making it a great workout hydrator. Skip all those fake drinks filled with artificial colors and added mock-nutrients and hydrate with this amazing refreshment.

The first thing I did was make a smoothie (shocker, I know). I had some frozen pineapple which inspired a pina colada smoothie. I was tempted to add rum, but figured working out with a buzz-on probably wasn’t my smartest move.

Pina Colada Smoothie

1 cup frozen pineapple

1 frozen banana

1/4 cup coconut meat

1/4 cup milk (I use hemp – add another 1/4 if you need it)

1. Blend together until completely smooth. Add additional milk if necessary.

2. Drink immediately!

Pina Colada Smoothie

Vegan in LA: Restaurant Round-Up

22 Jan

Day 20 – Wahoo! Cannot believe I’ve been vegan for 20 days. Only 10 left to successfully complete my 30-day challenge.

I’m back in NYC, and while I’m always happy to be home, the weather here sucks. It’s 19 degrees, a rude awakening from the balmy 70 we left in LA. The good news is, I ditched the rental car in LA and am thrilled to be relying on my own two feet for transportation again.
P.S. Thanks to the City of LA for the warm send-off.

There were still six minutes left on the meter, you bastards.

I managed to hit a few more vegan restaurants before I left. Here’s a round-up of the other places I checked out this past week.

Native Foods Cafe was highly recommended by various Twitter friends and I understand why. It’s basically vegan fast food, but with a few BIG differences. Everything is organic, courtesy of vegan executive chef/founder, Tanya Petrovna. Chef Tanya has been featured on Food Network and has two cookbooks available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and NativeFoodsSeating is available downstairs and upstairs in the balcony area. You get a number and they bring the food to your table.

dining area upstairs

I usually drink water instead of flavored drinks to avoid any added sugar intake, but I couldn’t resist the watermelon fresca. You can see all the bits of watermelon and mint on the bottom. Plus, who can turn down free refills??

Watermelon Fresca - fresh watermelon, mint and agave nectar

Mr. K got the Gandhi Bowl (the counter person claimed it was her favorite). I stole a couple bites and wanted more… blackened tempeh, a variety of vegetables, and a combo of jasmine and brown rice. MMMmmm. The veggies would have been dull if it weren’t for the delicious curry sauce. Thank G*d for that sauce, it’s spicy, but not overpowering. I wish they weren’t so stingy with it, I wanted more. I even went back to Native Foods again to try the whole Gandhi bowl for myself. Takeout was just as good, but I cursed myself for not getting extra sauce.

Mr. K's Gandhi Bowl served when dining in. Blackened tempeh, jasmine & brown rice, kale, steamed veggies, wild curry sauce, cranberries & green onions.

My takeout Gandhi Bowl on visit #2

I had the Scorpion burger which didn’t disappoint. The cheese was melted and I have to say, was really, really tasty. It actually tasted like cheddar and not vegan cheese! Their tempeh is homemade and you can tell. It did come with a half of an avocado on it so I took 1/2 off. I like avocado but that was too much for me, it just kept squeezing out and plopping on the plate. I got it with a side salad which was kind of boring, although the balsamic dressing was good. Next time I’d order the steamed kale. I missed that option on the menu since it’s listed last.

Scorpion burger with homemade tempeh, chipotle sauce, romaine, carrots, avocado, onions and melted cheddar

I had the worst hankering for something sweet so I caved and tried the vegan chocolate cupcake. They even packed it up nicely for me to-go. Note: This is actually the 2nd cupcake I got. I knocked the first one over at the counter and it went flying across the room. Luckily, their to-go containers are solid otherwise frosting would have been everywhere. Not such a bad thing. The cake was more chocolatey than those I was accustomed to (in a good way). There was a bit too much frosting for me, but it was creamy and chocolatey and didn’t taste vegan at all.

Takeout vegan chocolate cupcake. Made in-house, fair-trade cocoa powder, flour, sugar, trans-fat free veggie shortening. Also comes in vanilla & cardamom rose flavors.

I RARELY go anyplace more than once so going to Native Foods twice in one week says something. I wish we had one in NYC.

Cafe Rivva – I found this spot on VegOut, an app a friend of mine referred (thx T.H.). When I first got there, I thought they were closed because it was totally empty. I soon realized they’d just opened and the only staff member appeared to be taking a break in one of the dining chairs. Cat nap? I think so. Anyway, once I walked in, he shot right up and was incredibly friendly and chatty. It’s a spa-like space dominated by bright green and white decor. Like many places in LA, it is on the 3rd floor of a mini-mall complex making it easy to miss. I had the address and it still took me a couple u-turns to find it. I hope it stays in business.

entrance on 3rd floor

The menu includes organic items such as smoothies, sandwiches, salads, frozen yogurt (with a few vegan flavors), tea, and coffee.

There is ample seating with tables inside and a lovely outdoor seating area with a couple white couches.

I know you’ll be shocked as hell, but I got a kale smoothie. Obsessed much? Maybe. I’d heard good things about Rivva’s. It’s much thinner than Naturewell‘s or the one I make at home, but good in it’s own right. Although I prefer them thicker, it was more substantial with the inclusion of almonds and flaxseed. I was impressed that instead of dropping in a dollop of ground almond butter, they actually added a small handful of almonds and pureed them with the other ingredients. It is a little gritty but I liked it. I have to try that at home.

Kale smoothie with kale, banana, almond butter, flaxseed and agave

Teuscher Chocolates & Cafe I randomly stumbled upon (literally) this place while window shopping in Beverly Hills. It’s diagonally across from Villa Blanca (owner is on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Fine, don’t admit you watch it, but I know you do. It’s the best train wreck on TV. Well, next to Jersey Shore. I was trying to take a photo of Villa Blanca to Tweet and nearly fell in the gutter in front of Teuscher [applause]. I looked up and saw the cutest little walk-up window and had to give it a test. Service was fast and the soy cappucino was foamy with a smooth finish.

Walk-up service window

On to Urth Caffe on Beverly. This is a routine stop when I’m in LA.  I typically get their Urth Salad, but this time I was meeting a friend for brunch and wanted something breakfast-y. I always thought they were vegan-friendly and was looking over the menu for something I could eat.

liars

The menu captioned above clearly says “baked goods both for the vegan lifestyle and the classic decadent lifestyle”. However, I asked the counter-person what was vegan on the menu and she shrugged and indicated nothing was. Great. I asked about the mexican tofu scramble. And she said, ohh yea you can get that without cheese. So, that’s what I got.

tofu scramble with jalapenos & tomato

It really was the blandest thing I’ve ever eaten. The menu said it came with salsa. It didn’t. It did come with a slab of butter though [thanks]. I got tobasco to drown out it’s sorrows, but it really didn’t help. What a sad little scramble. Luckily, I got this lovely almond milk latte which was beautiful and absolutely one of the best I’ve ever had. I wish more cafes had almond milk as a dairy-free option.

almond milk latte

Here’s my friend’s cappucino. I don’t know what to say. I mean, are you kidding me? I didn’t think she ordered her’s with nut-milk. Perverts.

Beverly Hills Juice

I always try to make at least one trip to BHJ each time I’m in LA. Their juices are organic, pressed fresh every day, and come in a variety of flavors. They also have “banana manna” a vegan ice cream made with banana and either almonds or sunflower seeds, that can be blended with any juice to create a shake. This time I got carrot coconut with almond banana manna and it was so thick and amazing! The juicetender gave me a swig of the juice before he made the shake and it tasted like carrots right out of the garden. So earthy, I could almost taste the dirt. For an extra $1.50 I added a shot of e3live brain-on.

Juices Galore

organic carrot coconut juice with almond banana manna and e3-live brain-on

And last but not least, XIV by Michael Mina. I’d heard they used to have a vegan menu but had recently turned it to vegetarian. There were three of us looking for an upscale “mainstream” restaurant, so figured this was worth a shot. Mr. K, Milo’s Mom, and I headed out on a Wednesday night at 7:30. Other than two large tables of business-types getting their schmooze on, we were the only ones there.

The server was helpful and suggested a few dishes that could be vegan. I started with the falafel and eggplant dish which turned out to be the highlight of my meal. The flavor combinations were traditional, and offered a variety of tastes and textures from the falafel to the hummus to the eggplant.

My fellow diners had a salad with croquettes and beet salad with ricotta.

beet ricotta salad

The entrees:

vegetarian "snapper"

filet mignon

cod

The vegetarian snapper was a bed of crispy rice topped with kale. It was OK but the sauce was like a gastrique, sweet, vinegary and overpowering. It was a light entree and laughable at $24. I literally scoffed when I saw they charged that much for it. And then was annoyed because I was still hungry.

Desserts:

trio of sorbets

chocolate peanut butter souffle

The sorbets were decent. I don’t even recall the flavors but they were all good. The chocolate peanut butter dessert looked AMAZING and I wanted to devour the entire thing but sadly, not vegan. So, I had to watch my husband pick at it. His fork lacked the enthusiasm mine would have had. If it were a bag of skittles though forget it. It wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds.

The salvation was the wine. A beautiful bottle of Kathryn Hall 2005… I think I would have been happier with another bottle of wine and a super-sized portion of eggplant/falafel.

Kathryn Hall 2005

That said, I’m well aware this isn’t really the best place for a vegan. The server was helpful, but there weren’t many options. It was even awkward at times when they brought out pita with a yogurt sauce in individual dishes for the other two diners but nothing for me. The server came out later and said she didn’t bring one for me because it wasn’t vegan. She did ask if she could bring me something else but I mean what else was there? AWKwarddddd.

I know Mr. K and Milo’s Mom really enjoyed their dishes which looked beautifully prepared. The bastards even got macaroni and cheese just to stab me in the heart. It was ooey, gooey, cheesey goodness.

Now time to tackle NYC and find some stellar vegan options a little closer to home.

Native Foods Cafe, 1110 1/2 Gayley Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024, 310-209-1055

Cafe Rivva, 11677 San Vicente Blvd Ste 300, Los Angeles, CA 90049, 310-826-6866

Teuscher Chocolates & Cafe, 9548 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (310) 276-2776

Urth Caffe Beverly Hills, 267 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 310-205-9311

Beverly Hills Juice 8382 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048                323-655-8300

XIV by Michael Mina, 8117 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046               323-656-1414

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