Tag Archives: los angeles

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.

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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!

Easter Brunch

So I don’t really celebrate Easter, at least not religiously. My sister and I grew up with both Jewish and Christian holiday traditions. In other words–Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Easter–we’ve done (and continue to do) them all! My childhood Easter memories really only consist of my mom and dad hiding baskets of candy for Liv and I; brunch was never part of the deal. But after this morning, I’ve decided that Easter brunch is something I can get behind!

At the early hour of 10:00 am, my friend Steph and I beelined to Silver Lake, LA for an all-you-can-eat vegan brunch at Meet Market.

I think Meet Market has brunch every Saturday and Sunday, so this wasn’t a “special” Easter brunch, but it was fun to view it that way! Their brunch consists of tofu scrambled, breakfast potatoes, tofu bacon, pancakes, and french toast (and coffee and OJ).

I wasn’t really feeling the sweet this morning (or maybe I was just really feeling the savory?), so I just stuck with the first three. I did try a bite of Steph’s pancake and french toast though, so I can vouch for them being pretty good! As you can see, Meet Market goes with tofu over tempeh bacon. As far as I’m concerned, tempeh will always be king in the fakin’ bacon department, but this tofu version was a fun twist. They basically cooked the crap out of some really thinly sliced strips of tofu. The result is super toothsome–let’s just say you burn a few calories cutting up your bacon before you eat it! :)

The tofu scramble was studded with onions and bell peppers and had just the right amount of nooch. I’ll admit, it looked a little bland at first (mine are usually yellower), but it was surprisingly flavorful! Definitely my favorite part of the meal. The potatoes were just your average brunchy hash, but they went well with a little ketchup, and complemented the rest of the meal.

Meet Market wasn’t the best vegan brunch I’ve had to date. That award goes to Junior’s or Sweetpea, but they’re both in Portland, so maybe it’s not fair to compare. Plus, Sweetpea’s brunch included kale and tater tots. Hard to beat. Hard. To. Beat.

Still, I’d go back to Meet Market. I really enjoyed the food, the atmosphere was light and relaxed, and they had fun grocery items, like We Can’t Say It’s Cheese Hickory-Smoked Cheddar-Style Spread, which I picked up a tub of! Review to come! Happy Easter and Passover, guys!

All-You-Can-Eathiopian

Truth: I kind of hate living in this part of California–in the endless sea of suburbia stretching out from the center of Los Angeles. Granted, the weather generally rocks, but I won’t be crushed in three months when it’s time to leave Claremont and start my life somewhere else. Nonetheless, as long as I am here, I sure as hell am going to hit up as many vegan restaurants in the city as I can.

This quest continued two weekends ago when my friends Stephanie and Tori and I almost effortlessly (Hey–have YOU tried driving on LA freeways?!) made our way into Little Ethiopia.

We were headed to Rahel Vegan Ethiopian Cuisine at the glowing recommendation of Quarry Girl. And we were happy we did!

Ethiopian. Good. Vegan Ethiopian. Very good. All-You Can-Eat Vegan Ethiopian for under seven dollars. Um, hello?!

For any of you who don’t know, Ethiopian food is by far the most fun cuisine to eat! It consists of various stews, a.k.a. wots, that you scoop up with pieces of injera, a spongy sourdough pancake-like bread made of fermented teff flour. No utensils are necessary. Isn’t that how we all really want to eat anyways?

My favorite wots are always the lentil ones. Rahel’s lentils weren’t as amazing as those at my local Tempe Ethiopian joint, Café Lalibela, but they did the trick. As you can see in the above photo, there were both red and yellow lentils, as well as cabbage and string beans dishes. Also, below: a carrot/potato stew, collards, and–my unexpected favorite–eggplant!

That green sauce was wayyy too spicy! But it sure was pretty.

Since the injera under our food got a bit soggy, we used additional rolls of it to scoop up the food as we ate, leaving a colorful collage at the end of our meal. I think it looks like a snowflake. An insanely delicious, savory snowflake.

I say no trip to LA is complete without a stop at Rahel. The service, atmosphere, prices, and food were all out of this world. Or at least this country. ;)

Babycakes NYC in…LA?!

My friends and I have been making as many vegan field trips into LA as possible the past few weeks because we figure, the deeper into the semester we get, the less feasible such trips will be. And, c’mon, second to New York City, LA definitely has the most vegan restaurants of any US city! (Obviously not talking about the number of vegan restaurants per capita…I think Portland would win that.)

First on our list was Babycakes NYC, which just opened their LA location a few weeks ago!

We went late in the day, so about half of their displays were empty. :( Even so, we didn’t exactly go hungry.

I got a vanilla spelt cupcake with chocolate frosting, but my first bite was a little unnerving. The frosting was sort of salty, and the cupcake was dry with a weird aftertaste. The staff at Babycakes was super sweet though, and immediately allowed me to replace it. I must have gotten a dud. Either way, I don’t mean this to be a negative review because they were so great about getting me a new one as soon as I expressed my discontent.

My second (and much more delicious!) cupcake was a gluten-free banana cupcake.

Although I generally prefer less sweet banana baked goods, like banana bread, this cupcake was still extremely yummy. The cupcake was moist and flavorful, and the frosting was perfect as well–just a little bit tart and cream cheese-y, but still sweet enough to qualify as a cupcake topper.

Still, not even my banana cupcake was as good as the gluten-free chocolate brownie cupcakes that my three friends got. I would definitely opt for that one next time!

Naturally, we had to take a bunch of baked goodies to go–who knows when we’ll be back next? I picked up a cinnamon bun and a chipwich.

Did I say cinnamon bun? I meant Skinny Bun! At least, that’s what Babycakes calls ’em! All I have to say about this spelt bun was that it rocked my breakfast world. A bit crumbly on the inside, but, hey–this was the next day, reheated in a microwave! It wasn’t overly sweet, the raisins were a nice touch, and I loved the buttery mouthfeel provided by the coconut oil!

Don’t worry, I didn’t eat my Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich for breakfast (even I have some discipline). But I did eat it as a snack!

Made with two gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and a gob of vanilla frosting, this guy was even better than its ice cream counterpart that I’ve had in the past. First of all, you don’t have to worry about meltage. Second, this chipwich was just plain good–no explanation needed. Super sweet frosting, check. Crunchy cookies with a bit of salt to complement sweet frosting, check.

Finally, I had a slice of GF Lemon Poppyseed bread that my friend James gave to me. I slathered it with some TJ’s Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam, and called it a morning.

Who knew lemon and strawberry went so well together? (Well, obviously I did, but whatever.)

Whether you’re in NYC or LA, I definitely recommend hitting up your local Babycakes. The worst that can happen is that you get a mediocre cupcake that you’re more than welcome to exchange for another (though I don’t think that’s likely), and the best that can happen is that you’re admitted into wheat-free dessert heaven. Your choice.

Next time, I’m going bright ‘n early though, so I can take my pick from a fully stocked display. I have a hankering for on of their “toasties,” and maybe that GF brownie cupcake. ;)