Vegan Dining in LA is easy, delicious and cravable. Plus the coastal backdrop of fresh sea breeze air and crisp sunny blue skies only adds to the dining ambiance. Lavender Lemonade and a zesty Twister Wrap tastes so much better wearing flip-flops and sunblock.
First check out part one of my LA post: my DOLE California Cook-Off wrap up, then dive into all the delicious details of my weekend. Check out all my highlights and a few low lights of my vegan eating (and site seeing) adventures in Los Angeles - lots of pics...
Arrival. We arrived Friday morning and hopped in our rental car. I was so excited to cruise the streets of my old neighborhood in Westwood and peruse the LA sites with my husband who was an LA newbie! Oh and I was most-excited about...eating vegan yummies at my fave spots! Check out my list of LA Faves here.
First stop, Native foods in Westwood. We were famished! Thank goodness for Native.
Native Foods in Westwood:
A giant counter case of Native Foods chocolate and vanilla vegan cupcakes. Who could resist?!
Not us...check out that frosting! My husband took a big bite before our main entrees even arrived. He's weak..for chocolate:
My Twister Wrap (organic greens, fresh avo/cucumber, chipotle sauce, grilled Native 'chicken'):
So good. A must try folks...
My husband got the Chicken Run Ranch Burger - nice and crispy. He loved it.
..we also sipped (well, chugged) some very refreshing Lavender Lemonade and Native Iced Tea.
I was a very happy Kathy after this meal!...
Next up, Andaz Hotel on Sunset Blvd. Here is the lobby. It was packed with people all weekend from the BET awards, a DJ convention and a few weddings:
I was happy to see free raw nuts and fruit/nut snacks in the room:
The Room Service menu even had a little "vegan" symbol - however the prices were typical prices (way too high!)
Side Note: Weird, but true - the french fries that were served with the vegan Portobello Burger were fried in duck fat! (Good thing my husband asked..but I'll get to that later..)
Our room view of the Hollywood Hills:
Later that night we grabbed a drink at the bar. This strawberry-basil bevie was delightful:
Then of course I had my DOLE Cook-Off event on Saturday. That evening we wanted something light - we tried to dine at an awesome restaurant on the Sunset strip - but it was so packed that we couldn't stand the 1-2 hour wait.
...So I'm ashamed to say, yes, we went back to the hotel to order Room Service. Bad idea....my $25+ vegan portobello burger was pretty bland and unfortunate. Not to mention almost being served the duck fat fries! Yikes. However, the vegetable vegan soup wasn't half bad. And I loved the hot mug of soy milk I ordered. Cozy bedtime sip. Kinda sad to watch my hubby slurp hot not-vegan cocoa, but at least they had soy milk.
Room service was the most expensive meal of our trip - and also the worst! We should've had a solid back-up plan. Oh well. Anyways - Back to the good LA eats...
Before we left, I had to dine at my favorite spot in LA Real Food Daily. We went to the West Hollywood location for Sunday lunch..
Sweet Green Juice and fresh OJ (added ginger for both):
Sea Cake Appetizer:
My Spicy BLT Wrap, tempeh bacon, fresh greens, side of Jalapeno Cashew Cheese, all vegan:
Dessert was the Strawberry Shortcake - the strawberry sauce was delish!
So Real Food Daily and Native Foods were my highlights, not surprisingly. I still need to get to a few new spots though! Like Veggie Grill, M Cafe and a handful of other spots that were on my must-try list.
More of My Adventure: Working Up an Appetite. If you are craving more pics from my LA adventures here ya go. A few beach adventures, Rodeo Drive and other fun classic LA pics (and FYI - my camera battery died for MANY of my shots) ...
Beverly Hills (what a thrill!):
Rodeo Drive Sites:
Malibu, Pacific Coast Highway Beach side:
Real Food Daily
But really..my fave eats come from...ME ;) ..
Breakfast Sandwiches get a bad reputation for being loading with not-so-nice ingredients. Well what if you could whip up a 100% vegan, delicious and energizing Vegan Breakfast Sandwich in just under 15 minutes flat - using real fresh veggies, hand-pressed soy sausage patties and real maple syrup? Your morning will get a lot brighter after this bite. Husband-approved! Check out how it's done...
I love making a simple breakfast sandwich plate on weekend mornings..
To-Go Breakfast Sandwich:
Looks mainstream, but it's vegan!..
Panini Pressed. I used my panini press to whip this baby up - but you can use a traditional stove-top skillet and spatula - or a stove top grill press. Buy my fave grilling tools here.
Vegan Sausage. I used Lightlife Gimme Lean SausageStyle ground soy. It comes in the thick tube. 60 calories per 2 oz - plus it is fat free! 7 g protein per serving as well. Soy based. vegan. ps, there are a few non-vegan soy sausage-patties out there. They contain egg and sometimes dairy - read those labels!
Super Fast 'n Fresh Breakfast Sandwich
vegan, makes 1 sandwich
1 English Muffin
2 Tbsp soy vegan sausage, pressed into a round patty
3 slices bell pepper, thinly sliced
handful fresh baby spinach
1 Tbsp Daiya Vegan Cheese (opt'l)
1 tsp harissa OR hot sauce (opt'l for spicy flavor)
1/2 tsp vegan butter
1 tsp maple syrup OR berry jam
EVOO (for rubbing)
Alternate Recipe (recipe photo at top): Arugula (crisp, not cooked) Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms
1. Grab all you ingredients out of the fridge. Stick your English muffin - uncut under the grill press for 45 seconds while you arrange your ingredients.
2. Slice off 2 Tbsp of the vegan sausage (you know the kind that comes in the thick tube) and hand-press a nice patty. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can even press some diced onion into the patty as well.
3. Rub the paty in a very light amount of EVOO and place it on the heated grill. Remove your English muffins and press the panini grill shut - or cover your stove top skillet with a heavy spatula or foil. You want it to cool through in just under 2 minutes. Thinner patties cook in a flash.
4. Slice open your English Muffin and place the open faced ends back on the grill while you prep your veggies. Rub some sliced pepper in a bit of EVOO and place it on the grill as well.
5. Close panini lid and allow the vegan sausage, peppers and bread to grill for another minute. After a minute, lift lid and observe doneness. Pull anything that looks very done. Otherwise turn off panini press and close to keep heated.
6. Grab your cheese and sprinkle it right over top the patties - still on grill. Then place the sizzling hot peppers right on top of the cheese so that it creates a hot barrier - and close the panini press one more time. Yes, the panini press/grill is on off - but there will be enough heat from the grill and peppers to melt the cheese.
7. Grab your English Muffin and spread 1 tsp buttery spread on one side - the maple syrup and/or jam on the other.
8. Start building your sandwich: Muffin, patty (with cheese and peppers), layer your fresh spinach on top of that (and optional harissa) then close with top half of muffin.
9. Slice. Serve! You can even wrap your sandwich up and take it on the road with you - maybe eat it on the subway and make everyone else jealous. OK, that's not nice. Eat it at home with a side of fresh fruit or juice. You'll feel sooo much better with a full belly on a busy day!
------> See my DOLE California Cookoff Wrap-up post HERE! <------
I confess. Last night I was packing for my weekend jaunt to Los Angeles as Beverly Hills 90210 re-runs, that I had been DVR-ing all week, played in the background. Don't laugh, I can't help it - I love LA! I lived in LA for a few years while in college, but I haven't returned to my old stomping grounds in about eight years - so needless to say I'm super excited for my California adventure.
Dole Cali Cook off. But this won't be a purely leisurely trip. As I've mentioned before, on Saturday June 26th I'll be one of five finalists competing in the DOLE California Cook Off Recipe Contest, judged by celeb-Chef Ben Ford. I am nervous, flustered, anxious and super excited for the competition. Even if I don't win, it's still nice to see my vegan recipe make it to the final round! Event details here. Or visit the official DOLE Cook Off site.
So in celebration of my trip, I put together my Top 20 Things I Love About LA List. I also designed a few Cali-fabulous LBB tees. Check them out..
LA Favorites. Here are a few of my favorite things, places, eats and memories a la LA in no particular order...
1. Real Food Daily. My fave LA restaurant. RFD was one of the first all-vegan restaurants that inspired and intrigued me about vegan dining. For once, vegan food was more than avocado and sprout sandwiches or cheeseless pizza - it was cravable, complex, modern and innovative. No wonder RFD is still going strong with two thriving locations in Santa Monica and West Hollywood. Aka, WeHo and SaMo.
2. Native Foods Westwood. I lived in Westwood, so I went to Native Foods more than a few times a week. I adored the large basket of sweet potatoes they kept next to the entryway counter. Their salads and sandwiches were some of the best vegan flavors I had ever experienced. When I first dined at Native, I actually had no idea it was 100% vegan. I was only vegetarian at the time. Native Food's eats changed my perspective of what casual vegan food could be. Suddenly my 'vegan lunch' went from hummus and pita to complex seitan wraps and salads. My 'vegan lunch' now had a personality, life and flavors that made me taste buds wild! My fave menu item? There was some creamy, vegan 'chick'n' wrap stuffed with veggies and spices - it was intoxicatingly delicious.
3. Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Ahh, bliss! Heaven. Give me a tall frosty smoothie and stick me in the sunshine to stroll the market - and I'm set. Let me grab some greens, a basket of fresh berries and a brim-filled bag of crisp crunchy apples. Crunchy kettle corn and fresh baked bread. The Farmer's Market(s) in Santa Monica were my fave weekend activity in LA. I'd grab a coffee or smoothie and stroll the strip loading up on all-I-could-carry eats. While I do love the NYC Greenmarkets - I have to say, nothing compares to California Farmer's Markets...
4. Movies in Westwood. When it comes to the movie-going experience, there is an energy in Los Angeles that can't be matched anywhere in the world. Hollywood is the land of cinema, and the city-wide passion for film is quite aparent. I remember attending movies on opening night in Westwood - the theater would be buzzing with energy. At the end of the movie the audiences would actually stand up and cheer - almost as if they were watching a live Broadway show. Going "out to the movies" on a Friday night in LA has a rare lusterous amount of esteem. It's not really the "back-up plan" it's the main event of the night.
5. The Rose Bowl, Dodger Stadium and Staples Center. I saw my fair share of concerts and sporting events at these three awesome venues. OK, so a few of the concerts were Britney Spears concerts...but I enjoyed every minute of them!
6. Central Casting, aka Seatfilling and Movie Extra-ing. Since I was a student while in LA, I had a lot of fun part time jobs. I worked at the Jamba Juice in Westwood for a year, but even more exciting, I was an "extra" or "background actor" in more than a few films and TV shows. Central Casting, ah the memories. Curious to see my cameos? Check out the 'test taking scene' in Van Wilder and you'll see a nice close-up of me in - i'm the student in the red hoodie. I also danced on stage with Bon Jovi at the VH1 My Music Awards at the Shrine, unsuccessfully tried out for Wheel of Fortune, was an extra on Jag, Providence and 7th Heaven among others, attended the very first Survivor reunion show at CBS studios, attended the red carpet Emmy Awards show and even did several grueling all-nighter/it's-freezing-cold shoots for that silly teen film Not Another Teen Movie. All fun stuff.
7. Beverly Hills 90210. There is nowhere on earth like Beverly Hills. The wide streets, huge mansions, towering palm trees, Rodeo Drive shops, sleek cruising cars, star-studded celeb-watching, twinkly lights, world-class eats and a 'cruise-with-your-top-down' attitude all its own.
8. SPCLA. I will forever thank the SPCLA shelter for giving me one of the greatest gifts ever: my kitty cat Nelly. I adopted her in LA in October 2001. Just a month after the September 11th attacks. Adopting Nelly was a spur-of-the-moment decision. In fact, my apartment didn't even formally allow "pets" at the time. Whoops. But I couldn't leave that shelter without saving that little kitten who dug her claws into my brand new sweater and wouldn't let go to be put back in that tiny cage with othe two kittens hissing at her. Nelly has been with me on all my adventures ever since then. Cross-country travelling. Moving to DC, NY, DC again, meeting my husband, getting married, moving to NYC. Through it all - Nelly has always been there. So I thank LA for that.
9. Whole Foods Brentwood. The Whole Foods in Brentwood was my go-to place to shop. I loved it. I'd find a spot to park - which was sometimes a grueling process. Grab my groceries and be on my way - past the little news stand out back. At the Whole Foods I remember buying Kombucha for the first time - Uncle Eddie's vegan cookies and a glorious slew of healthy fruit and veggies. I also frequented the Whole Foods in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
10. Farmer's Market - the original. Third and Fairfax, gotta love it.The Grove, next door, was built just before I moved. The fountains and music-from-fake-rocks. But even before The Grove took over - I loved the 98 cents/lb apples and the huge fruit platters for sale at the covered market.
11. UCLA-fight fight fight. Sorry USC, but I'm a UCLA girl. I lived right next to the UCLA campus and was submerged in the campus culture. Such an awesome community of students and teachers. And the campus is beautiful.
12. Hollywood Hills. Another fun driving adventure is to get lost cruising through the Hollywood Hills. And if you're a celeb-spotter, why not grab a cheesy starmap and spot some celeb homes. Or at least get lost trying - most of the star maps are way outdated - You have been warned!
13. Santa Ana Winds. Those warm windy nights feeling the sea breeze comb through my hair and wash over my face. So mysterious and energizing.
14. Earthquakes. OK, not really a fond memory. But a reality of LA living. Hoping for no earthquakes during my visit.
15. Griffith Park. The best place to ogle the Hollywood Sign. Plus some beautiful hiking attractions. Peace and nature just a quick drive away.
16. Venice Beach. Artsy and diverse. A fun area to wander and people watch.
17. Malibu Drives. Another fave LA activity of mine: driving. Along Sunset and all the way up the coast to Malibu. The view is brilliant blue. LA is a car-culture town for a reason! There is so much fun to be had without ever leaving your snappy platinum-colored convertible - or your lil old car, windows rolled down.
18. Border Grill. I loved grabbing Mexican eats at this Santa Monica spot.
19. Santa Monica Pier. So I've never actually rode the Ferris Wheel, but I have soaked in the 4th of July Fireworks from this famous spot on the coast. I'm not a huge wharf/pier person, but there is something romantic about the SM pier.
20. Disneyland!! Enough said.
New Spots to See! I'm dying to grab a bite to eat at M Cafe, Veggie Grill or check out the new Babycakes in LA. Or try some NiceCream, as raved about by QuarryGirl. I won't get to it on this trip, but eventually I'd love to dine at Madeleine Bistro.
What have I missed?? What are your LA faves???
And to get into the Cali spirit I crafted these Lunchbox Bunch tees on Zazzle...Buy them here - apparel section of my Zazzle store.
My Get-Away Cali LBB Tees...
California Surfer Pineapple T Shirt
And don't forget to check out my brand new IPhone App! Smoothies! HHL smoothie recipes anytime, anywhere. Have blender will travel...
And while I'm gone here are two of my fave California inspired recipes...
Cali Avocado-"Cheese" Sandwich on Sourdough
California Backyard Salad