Category Archives: Restauraunts

Happy Halloween, Babycakes

I can’t decide which is scarier: Halloween, or how long it’s been since I last posted.

For once, I have a valid excuse though. I’ve only just returned from a two-week long adventure (and I mean adventure) in India – the first trip organized through the cooperation of VegNews and VegVoyages!

Of course, I have an epic Indian food post in the works, but in the meantime, allow me to show you how magical gluten-free vegan bakeries celebrate everyone’s second favorite autumnal holiday. (We’re all on the same page about Thanksgiving, right?!)

Like most of you, I celebrated “All-Hallows-Even” with my friends on Saturday night; I mean, Sunday’s not exactly the most convenient night to have a ghoulishly good time, is it?

Come the evening of true Halloween, I found myself facing a lonely six-hour drive back to Tempe (did I mention that my friends live in LA?). Being the strict observer of holidays that I am, this plan posed a bit of a problem. I wasn’t about to let a long drive get between me and a good time.

So, I did what any self-respecting, gluten-hesitant vegan would do. Donning my baby-pink piggie hat, I headed over to Babycakes NYC in downtown LA to stock up on sugary treats for the road.

A chocolate “cake ball” here…

A powdered blueberry donut there…

And a few spookies (spooky cookies, of course!) to bring home to share…

By now, you probably have an image in your head of me, sitting in my car, wearing a pig hat, and stuffing my face with a dinner’s worth of gluten-free baked goods. That is actually a pretty accurate description of how I spent my 385-mile-long Halloween. I assure you, the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

Oink oink oink.

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Sweet Treats

Just a little Friday afternoon pick-me-up!

If you live within a reasonable distance of any vegan donut and milkshake vendors, I highly suggest that you stop reading and promptly head over to such a place. If not, I hope my photos of these Pacific Northwest treats will suffice. :)

Sip. The infamous vegan milkshake cart that beckons weary grocery shoppers on their way in and out of Portland’s People’s Food Co-Op. There’s nothing cuter, really. My sister opted for the classic Cookies & Cream shake…

While I–somewhat predictably–got Chocolate Peanut Butter. Technically, it was chocolate coconut peanut butter because I decided Coconut Bliss ice cream was worth the extra $1.50. There’s something about an overflowing milkshake in a old-school diner glass that really tugs at your heartstrings, isn’t there? Or maybe that’s the peanut butter…

In my humble opinion, shakes > donuts, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a veritable kid in a candy shop when I stepped into Seattle’s Mighty-O Donuts. Actually, I was a 22-year-old in a donut shop; but my eyes lit up the same way, I swear. I think my sister could attest to the truth of that statement.

Not only is that a French Toast donut; it’s an organic French Toast donut that was thoroughly enjoyed alongside a wonderful soy latté on a cloudy Seattle day.

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.

Tofu Scramble at Full of Life

Hello all! I’m writing from the kitchen counter of the beach house in San Diego that 18 of my senior friends and I are renting for the week! We finished college last Wednesday, and it’s a Pomona tradition to pass the time between then and graduation weekend (which begins this Friday) by doing absolutely nothing besides lying on the beach and drinking for seven days. I’m not a big drinker myself, so I’ve been lying on the beach twice as hard to make up for my deficiencies in that arena. True to my blog’s namesake, I’ve already finished Pride and Prejudice in just two days. I also brought Wuthering Heights–one of my other favorite novels–with me, but I’m having trouble getting into it while lying on a sunny beach. If you’ve read WH, I’m sure you understand me perfectly!

Anyways, this post actually has nothing to do with San Diego; it just seemed weird to blog without mentioning where I am now. Rather, in the spirit of school being done, I’m going to post about a delicious breakfast I had last weekend while writing my last college paper! My favorite café in which to spend an industrious morning in Claremont is Full of Life. It’s not even vegetarian, but the few vegan options they have are so good that I don’t get bored ordering them on rotation.

I usually get their sandwiches, but on this fine morning I decided that a tofu scramble was what I needed to finish my Global Politics of Food and Agriculture paper. Off the menu, the tofu scramble only includes peppers and onions, but I asked if, in addition to those two, I could have mine with all of the veggies that come with the (non-vegan) omelet: zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatoes, with avocado on top. They were happy to oblige, for just a little extra!

The portion is generous, especially considering the fine variety of fresh fruit offered on the side. Paired with my soy latte, I couldn’t have hoped for a more satisfying breakfast. Well, except for the fact that Full of Life couldn”t make decent foam for their lattes if the lives that they’re so full of depended on it! ;)

I’m a tofu scramble snob, and I have to say, prior to this guy, I had yet to really enjoy a nooch-less tofu scramble. What can I say? Vegan with a Vengeance spoiled me. This scramble was primarily seasoned with paprika, but I didn’t even miss the nooch! It was perfectly seasoned just how it was. I’ll always prefer good ol’ yeasty scrambles, but I’m finally able to acknowledge that nooch isn’t necessary for a satisfying scramble.

Despite my brain-fueling breakfast, I still ended up pulling a full all-nighter that evening in order to finish my paper for my 1:15 class the next day. But the important thing is that I did finish that paper, that class, and college; and I’ll be living it up here in Mission Beach until Thursday, when I return to Claremont for a whirlwind of a weekend!

Breakfast at Babycakes

Recipe for a good morning downtown:

Step outside into the crisp morning air, surprisingly fresh for LA.

Stumble into Spring for Coffee for soy cappuccinos. Don’t forget to dust them with cinnamon.

Oh, hey, you’re just two blocks from Babycakes NYC! What up, wheat-free, vegan pastries? All hail, coconut oil!

Sample each and every kind of gluten-free teacake sitting on the counter. That includes banana bread, pumpkin bread, cornbread, and cranberry-apple toastie, by the way.

If you’re feeling feisty, maybe have more than one of each. We won’t tell.

Order a spelt biscuit, flaky and “buttery,” unnamed jam and vanilla sauce oozing from its center.

Enjoy every last bite.

Leftover jam, we’ll let slide–but there better not be any crumbs.

Adventures of Nic and Nora Continued…

Sorry I’ve been so slow getting to Part II of the Nic & Nora installment. Considering there are only seven days until I’m officially done with all college work (and eighteen days until I graduate!), things have been pretty hectic around here! Plus, I’m sure you’ve all already read Nicole’s summary of our time together! :)

The second day of her visit, we decided to lay low and chillax at Pomona before making our way back into the city the next day. We went out for a leisurely brunch (well, lunch since we missed tofu scramble hours!) at Full of Life Café in the Claremont village. Then I took Nicole to the village gluten-free shop as well as my favorite local natural foods store, Ecoterra! From there, we headed to Pomona’s organic farm because I obviously had to show off California’s produce-producing prowess (say that five times fast!) to my East-coast friend!

Then, Nicole decided to be completely and totally awesome and take my senior portraits for me! I’ve been shooting a lot of senior portraits for my fellow graduates-to-be in the past month, so it was weird–and fun!–to get on the other side of the lens for a change. I think Nicole appreciated shooting someone who knew what it’s like to have awkward subjects who don’t know how to pose, so it went pretty smoothly! Here’s my favorite one:

Thanks, Nicole! I love them. And don’t worry, fashion-conscious readers, I have since gotten my roots touched up.

After a meal at the dining hall with my friends–hey, I had to give her the full Pomona College experience!–we spent a lazy evening planning out the next phase of our adventures, which began bright and early the next day! We met Alix (of Cute and Delicious), her boyfriend Shawn, and some of their friends at Pure Luck Restaurant in LA for lunch. After being greeted with a Tupperware of gorgeous, fresh-baked cupcakes (Alix, you’re too sweet!), we sat down to experience la comida de LA.

There are many reasons that Pure Luck has always been on my list of must-visit restaurants, but one of them is their insane selection of fried appetizers! I generally avoid fried foods, but I always make exceptions for special items–like, um, let me see, fried pickles and gnocchi?

Fried Dill Pickle Chipssliced dill pickles, dusted with cornmeal and fried in peanut oil–and Potato Palssmall potato dumplings (gnocchi), lightly fried in peanut oil.

Both were served with a special veganaise-based barbecue dipping sauce. Crispy AND cute–who can resist anything called a “potato pal?!”It just wants to be your friend and pop into your mouth.

If fried appetizers are the first reason I’ve always hungered for Pure Luck, jackfruit is definitely the second! Fruit…that’s used as a substitute for meat…what?…

In order to wrap my mind around this concept, I ordered the Tacos, one with jackfruit and one with grilled tofu to hedge my bets. I was served a plate of soft corn tortillas, each with their respective filling, topped with diced onions, cilantro, and fresh tomatillo salsa. Nicole gave me her extra cilantro because she’s one of the unlucky few who think it tastes like soap. Turns out, unripe jackfruit, like tofu, really has no flavor of its own and easily absorbs taco seasonings. In other words, it was delicious, and had a texture that others have described as being similar to “pulled pork” (I wouldn’t know!).

After lunch, we walked across the street to Scoops, then sadly parted ways. Nicole and I decided to spend the rest of our afternoon window shopping on Melrose (and walking off all that fried food!). Okay, so maybe we actually shopped a little. But we mostly just strolled along the iconic street taking photos. I nabbed this shot in a flower shop before the owner kindly told us to stow our cameras:

All of a sudden, it was dinner time! Funny how that happens. Good thing Melrose Ave. was also home to M Café, a macrobiotic, mostly-vegan gem. M Café has a mouth-watering menu, but they also have a wonderful salad bar display, so that’s what I opted for. Kale with Spicy Peanut Dressing? I’ll take it.

Curried Tempeh Salad? Sure, why not!

Kale, peanut butter, and tempeh are pretty much the three keys to my heart, so M Café had me at hello. If they’d had kabocha squash, I might have gone into foodie shock–close call!

I also tried one of the Inari Sushi. I hate nori seaweed, so sushi made with dried tofu skins (a.k.a. inari) is an exciting alternative that I didn’t want to pass up. Stuffed with brown rice and topped with lotus root, this little bundle was good looking, but a little bit dry. Still, it was fun to try.

Bellies full, we schlepped off to our downtown LA hotel that my darling mother was generous enough to book for us, watched Saturday Night Live, and fell asleep with visions of babycakes dancing in our heads…

Nic and Nora Do Santa Monica

And by Nic, I mean Nicole from Another One Bites the Crust, everyone’s favorite New Haven vegan blogger! I picked up Nicole bright and early Thursday morning outside the West Hollywood Buffalo Exchange, and we headed straight to Santa Monica for a lovely lunch at Real Food Daily. This was our first time meeting each other in person, but we’ve been blogging/Twitter/Facebook/Gmail/Flickr (yes, basically every social media platform possible) friends for so long, that it was more like picking up an old friend–nothing could be more natural!

Sitting at a lovely inner-balcony table overlooking RFD’s juice bar, Nicole and I enjoyed some damn good salads.

The East coaster got her SoCal on and ordered the Mexicali Salad, while I, being the peanut butter fiend that I am, ordered the Yin Yang Salad: Cabbages, romaine, carrots, cucumbers, edamame, cilantro, sesame seeds, peanuts, and peanut dressing (I also added blackened tempeh!)

From there, we headed to the Santa Monica Beach and Pier. Besides her general awesomeness, the best part of having Nicole here was that I wasn’t the only one walking around with my DSLR glued to my face (in and out of restaurants)!

Taken of each other crossing the bridge to the beach.

If there’s one place that’s exemplary for taking random portraits of interesting strangers, it’s the pier. Kids, cyclists, beach bums, fishermen, artists, straight up creepy men…

 

Forgot to mention the ever-present dogs on music stands in that list…

This guy was such a ham! I usually try to sneak my people-watching portraits, but he couldn’t get enough!

After a grueling afternoon of window shopping, portraiture, foodie chatter, and walking with the sand between our toes (ha!), these two vegan bloggers needed some coffee. And not just any coffee–good coffee. Intelligentsia coffee. Silverlake is kind of on the way back to Claremont? Maybe?

Oh, what a soy cappuccino it was. The microfoam! The latte art! The humanity! Just kidding. Funnily enough, it was cheaper than Nicole’s $4.00 cup of specialty joe.

Silverlake also happens to be a hot spot for vegan restaurants. After debating between nearby Flore and Cru, we went with Cru. I guess we were more in the food for fancy schmancy than comfort food.

(Nicole’s photo)

We ordered the Bruschetta Rustica (Sunflower bread with traditional chopped tomato and basil spread and cashew cheese) to share, but it turns out Nicole really can’t do cashew cheese, so I may or may not have gotten a whole raw appetizer to myself! Sorry, Nicole, but I loved it! Not quite as good as Better Life’s raw bruschetta though…

For entrées, we both ordered the Body Ecology Bowl:

Sautéed kabocha squash and spinach over quinoa with homemade sauerkraut and salad. The kabocha was phenomenal (but what kabocha isn’t?), but it didn’t really seem to go well with the strange mélange of pickled vegetables. Next time, I’d order one of Cru’s classy raw entrées. Also, I think their desserts might use honey, so beware, vegans!

So much for day ones. Days two and three to come!

Better Life Cuisine

Better life, better food, better portion sizes, better prices, better…enzyme activity? Why hadn’t I been here yet?!

That’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking as I left Better Life Cuisine in Santa Monica a few nights ago after finishing a lovely raw meal that pretty much satisfied all of the above criteria. Of course, part of the answer to that question is that it’s a relatively new restaurant, and another part is that it’s an hour away (or more with traffic!). But theoretically, it’s a good question.

The name of the restaurant is on a forward-facing sign–but trust me, this is indeed a photo of Better Life!

Better Life is an all-vegan, all-organic, all-raw café, juice/smoothie bar, and restaurant (complete with a vast and well-stocked pastry case!). I know, it sounds too good to be true. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble deciding what to order at a restaurant! I eventually settled on the Fiesta Platter. I love mezze platter type things (like The Voracious Vegan and her love for “snacky” meals!), and it meant I didn’t have to choose between trying different things.

The Fiesta Platter consists of Tuna, salmon, fried beans, guacamole, ricotta, bruschetta, pico de gallo, and flax crackers. As you can see, Better Life labels all their menu items as what they’re supposed to resemble, without really telling you what each one actually is. It makes ordering a little more interesting than it would otherwise be, but I think it’s cute.

The bruschetta (in front) was easily the best thing on the platter. After my first bite, I definitely wished I had just ordered the straight-up bruschetta plate! It’s Better Life’s “breadbar” topped with creamy pesto sauce, tomatoes, basil, and their parmesan. The breadbar was perfectly chewy, and the pesto sauce was out of this world!

Then, there were the five patés/salads (four of them nut-based): salmon, tuna, guacamole, fried beans, and ricotta, all of which were drenched in a delicious yet unnamed sauce. Gotta love the element of mystery. In fact, it was a mystery to me which lump was which until I asked my server! :)

The salmon and tuna were sweet and not too fish-like, but since I’ve never had fish and the smell grosses me out, something about them being named “salmon” and “tuna” salads put me off. I can’t even eat veggie sushi because the fishy taste of the nori makes me gag–it’s a problem, people! Considering that visceral hesitation, the fact that I still kind of enjoyed them says a lot!

I didn’t love any of the patés on their own, but piled together on the flax crackers with some “rawmesan” they made for a super satisfying meal! And that’s not to mention the perfect salad I had on the side…

Yes, that’s a kale salad! Possibly coated in cashews and nutritional yeast? Whatever it was, me likey. By the way, every entrée at Better Life comes with a side salad, and as you can see, they don’t skimp on the portions!

Speaking of salad’s, this is Better Life’s “Egg” Salad! I know–unbelievable. I got another meal to go (so I could have one less mediocre dining hall meal the next day!) and I chose this salad to go with it. I think it’s enough of a triumph to make vegan egg salad, let alone raw vegan egg salad! This wonderful dish consists of veggies (chives?) and shredded coconut meat in a dreamy, creamy yellow cashew-based sauce! It might not have tasted exactly like egg salad, but that’s only because it was better. Plus, it leaves you feeling glowing, not heavy. :)

The actual entrée I got to go was the Lasagna (we’ve all heard “rawsagna” one too many times, haven’t we?).

Marinara sauce, zucchini, mushroom, grilled onion, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese.

Three different raw vegan cheeses in one lasagna? Yes, please! The ricotta was awesome in this lasagna–much better than it was on its own in the platter. I asked for a side of that heavenly pesto sauce to go with it too…

It rounded out all the flavors so well, that I’m almost ready to call Better Life to tell them they should permanently incorporate it into the dish!

If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Better Life Cuisine. Not only was the food a veritable party in the mouth (or is that just because I had the fiesta platter?), but there was so much of it! Raw restaurants are known for tiny portions, and Better Life spits in the face of that stereotype. And to get that giant, raw, organic entrée with a salad for only 10-12 bucks total? Now that‘s the way to bring raw into the mainstream!