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I am always concerned about quality ingredients and flavor, so whether it is animal or vegetable based, my omnivore eating leads me to places that serve my taste buds and can accommodate my vegetarian friends. The Impossible Burger™ is available in many places, but my favorite place to get one is Mendocino Farms. One bite of the Impossible Burger Queen for $12.45 will convince many beef lovers to opt for this alternative burger at least once in awhile, or whenever it is offered.

Mendocino Farms is known for their sandwiches, and their tuna “almost” melt for $10.55 is thankfully mayonnaise free (vegan aioli is used), and the tuna they use is sustainable pole & line caught. The buckwheat bread is a hearty holder for the greens, cheddar, pickles, onions, and tomatoes. I could only eat half at a sitting, so I got it to go and reheated the other half in a toaster oven.


Their salad niçoise for $12.95 including tuna is a bit pricey, but they do use high quality ingredients and every component, from the purple Peruvian potatoes to the sustainable line and pole caught yellowfin tuna, combines to create a good version of this classic salad.

Le Pain Quotidien is one of my go to places all over the world for everything from their viennoiseries to their salads and soups. I stopped in one day before a show to eat much better food than was offered at the venue. The daily special of turkey club with a caesar salad was my friend’s choice; a good introduction to their quality ingredients in a comfortable familiar form for about $14.


I chose the warm quinoa bowl also for around $14, that was so filling and light that I felt completely satiated but not overly saturated after eating the entire bowl. I did not like the dressing served with it so our server brought me a classic vinaigrette that was a perfectly tart counterpoint to the hearty grains.

There are multiple locations of both Mendocino Farms & Le Pain Quotidien throughout the Los Angeles area, and they both offer online ordering, so you’ve got an easy way to eat your greens and grains!

There are very limited choices up here on the hill overlooking the ocean. There are a few fast food chains, or very mediocre expensive places, but a glimmer of good cooking using organic and farm fresh ingredients recently opened in the Promenade Shopping Center called Once Upon A Table. They are so new they don’t even have a Yelp listing yet (but I am sure that they will after this blog post goes live).

Brenda, the owner/chef, is a caterer who decided to open up a brick and mortar location, and although she is still catering, this set-up allows for a source of new clientele and a place that gives her the space to showcase her talents.

The tomato soup was so good that I came back for a bowl after having a cup with a sandwich on my first visit. It is a nice balance of acid and sweet tomato without any need for the addition of cream. It would be a perfect pair with their grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day (yes, they do have a grilled cheese sandwich on their menu).

I chose the pastrami sandwich for my first meal. Served hot on grilled rye bread, with coleslaw and cheese on rye, this was a bastardization of my beloved NY classic, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, which says a lot about the place that even the pickle was excellent:) Everything on the menu is around $10, so the prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of ingredients.

Another day, another sandwich, this time a grilled vegetable sandwich on focaccia. I liked the way the vegetables still had body and some texture, and the flavor of their essence was maintained. A wonderful choice for vegetarians and vegans.

This hearty and wonderful bowl of cobb salad to go was beautiful, and if the romaine had not been so bitter, I would have enjoyed it tremendously. Unfortunately it is not possible to control the bitterness or peppery flavor of certain ingredients, so they get an absolute pass on that because the other ingredients were superb, from the perfect avocado to the crisp bacon, the moist chicken, and the ripe tomatoes.

My favorite choice (so far) is the turkey sandwich, with moist perfectly sliced breast meat so perfectly balanced with ripe tomato, avocado, and a a thin slice of cheese to add a nice mouthfeel on toasted sourdough. It is a very hearty portion for under $10 including tax and tip.

I think I may have found my go to spot up on the hill for lunch 🙂

I don’t know many people who are vegans, but many of my friends don’t eat meat, or in some cases fish, so finding a good vegan place allows for more choices for them than trying to pick out an item or two from a menu that is geared towards omnivores.

Sage has several locations; the one I went to in Culver City has an enormous tree growing in the middle of the outdoor patio, naturally providing shade and atmosphere to the wooden tables.

The menu has many options for drinks, from smoothies to mixed drinks. For a boozy brunch, you can even order bottomless mimosas for $25.

I opted for a glass of wine.

Since I met my friend for brunch, I chose the tempeh sausage florentine for $15 with three biscuits topped with tempeh sausage, heirloom tomato, spinach, avocado, and hollandaise sauce with roasted potatoes. I enjoyed everything except the doughy bland biscuits.

One one visit the man sitting next to us offered us one of his jackfruit “crab cakes” saying it was his favorite thing on the menu and the portion was too big for him to finish. We took one and tried it, but neither one of us enjoyed it enough to order it.

My friend ordered the hot wings for $14. Tempura fried cauliflower with a buffalo sauce that was the most addictive thing on the menu! It was a large portion, easily enough for a meal or for two to share. If you only order one thing here, order this! The ranch and crudités that come on the side make for a nice fresh contrast to the spicy “wings”.

On another trip, the wings came with more sauce and were even more delicious.

The fried brussel sprouts with lime and salt were also a great item to share for $11 and if you order the cauliflower wings, this is the perfect compliment for a full meal.

Whether you want to try some non meat based dishes, or simply want to enjoy some tasty plant based variations of menu classics, Sage is a great place to start a year of healthy meals:)

Grand Central Market has evolved into a food mecca, with far too many great options to try all in one day, but a friend and I tried to eat our way through the market anyway 🙂

We started off at Belcampo with their $14 lamb burger, made with garam masala aioli, tamarind chutney, mint, cilantro, and red onion on a wonderfully soft bun. I love that all their meats are grass fed and that they have complete control of every aspect of their operation from raising the animals to processing and butchering them. Yes, the prices here are higher than your local chain grocery store, but I prefer to buy less from places with practices I want to promote, than feed the corporate machinery.

We split the medium rare burger and loved the textures and flavors. If we had not planned to try other places in the market, we would have eaten one of these each!

We also shared a plate of the sweet potato fries, seasoned with celery salt, and they were so crisp, salty, and sweet that we fought over the last fries!

Ramen Hood was our next course. It was the only vegan ramen I’ve ever tried, with sunflower seed broth, king oyster mushroom, bean sprouts, scallions, and chili threads, we added a vegan egg for $2 more making the total bowl $12. It was much better than we imagined, with full flavors and the “egg” not only looked like an egg, but the texture was very close to one. A satisfying bowl, but next time I think I would try the spicy version that I saw my neighbors eating at the counter simply because I think some added heat might enhance the flavors even more.

We were pretty full but wanted to try a small bite at Madcapra, made with locally sourced organic ingredients, so we got just the green falafels for $3.50. They were dry and bland on their own, but once we added the dipping sauces, they were good.

Sticky Rice serves organic locally sourced Thai comfort food, like this rice noodle plate with beef that was so big I had to take half of it home! The assortment of condiments was a very nice way to add heat and zing to any dish on their menu.

We ended our eating spree with a walk to the now closed Fabrique for some lattes; I chose the lavender, which was smooth and creamy

and my friend had the rainbow latte, a beautiful ending to a great day of food:)

If you have been following my blog or Instagram account, then you already know I am an omnivore. I am truly an omnivore in the most literal sense; I love things like fish eyeballs, raw oysters, snails, beef tongue, tripe, duck feet, veal kidneys, and lamb pancreas. Really. Love. Eating. All. That.

When a talented chef is at the helm, I even love sea urchin in pasta, grazie Sal for showing me the light:) The flip side of all the animal I eat is that I also eat and enjoy many vegan and vegetarian dishes. The key for me is the talent of the chef. One of my favorite vegan dishes of all time was the Jerk Salad at Native Foods before it was taken off the menu. I have a few vegetarian and vegan friends, so finding places that serve foods they will eat and that I like is a rare and wonderful experience.

By Chloe is an New York transplant which now has one location here in CA. It is a 100 % vegan cafe, but in light of recent news, the founder has left the brand (or was fired), so we shall see how this all plays out. For now, I can say that I loved everything, from the clean aesthetic and the environmentally thoughtful utensils, to the flavors in every bowl.

The $10.95 Kale Caesar with shitake bacon, avocado, tomatoes, almond parm, maple wheat croutons, and caesar dressing was probably my favorite of all the salads we ordered. The shitake bacon was addictive!

The $11.95 spicy Thai salad with apricot sriracha glazed tempeh, almonds, quinoa, edamame, scallion, and crispy wontons with peanut dressing, had a nice balance of textures.

The $11.95 Quinoa Taco salad with spicy seitan chorizo, black beans, sweet corn, avocado, tomato, tortilla strips, crema, and an agave lime vinaigrette, was filling and fresh.

 They have burgers and fries, and of course vegan condiments for both.

It’s a vegan place so animals are welcome, and they sell doggie treats, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Humane Society 🙂

 Desserts galore, including a few gluten free options.

True Food Kitchen opened in Santa Monica a few years ago (see my previous blog post), and they have been expanding both their menu and locations ever since then. The kale salad was my favorite back then and is still delicious, now offered with protein additions, so I ordered it with shrimp for a total of $14.50

The Seasonal Ingredient Salad was a hearty mix of seasonal vegetables for $14.50 that was so umami rich, that my friends could have easily eaten twice the small serving.

I didn’t expect the brussel sprout pizza with mushrooms to be very good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the yeasty crust and the unusual topping. I am a pizza snob after eating at Bonci, so being pleasantly surprised by anything called pizza here in the US is a rare compliment 🙂

Hmmm now that I’ve eaten such clean vibrant plant based food, I think I want some steak tartare 🙂

It’s been raining. A lot. Spring showers have brought flowers and occasionally blue skies promise better days. Instead of picnicking in a park, I went to Beaugrenelle, the new shopping center along the Seine, a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. Having the option of a warm dry indoor space in case of rain turned out to be a great idea because even though it was cloudy but dry when I left the metro, by the time I walked the three blocks to Beaugrenelle, wind and rain both came out to play.

This is the newest shopping center in the 15th arrondissement, divided into three areas, two of which are connected by a covered bridge. The “Magnetic” building was completed last year; it’s the main area with shops and quality quick food options like Eric Kayser and Exki (which is opening a branch in NYC).

The covered bridge leads to a nearly finished second area called “Panaoramic”, which houses a multiplex Pathé movie theatre, the nightclub/restaurant Bermuda Onion, and more fast food options, like Chipotle.

Since the center is brand new, everything is high tech with touch screen maps and free wifi, not to mention a very modern look.

I first went to Exki in Brussels for dessert and coffee with my friends, but lost the pictures I took there. Luckily I do remember that everything was wonderful, so I was glad to find one here stocked with the same items. Besides all organic coffees and teas, they offer salads, quiches, soups, and sandwiches to either take away or eat there for under 10€ ($14 US) you can get a menu of soup or salad, sandwich and dessert or drink. Coffee and dessert for an afternoon snack will run under 5 ($7 US). If you want something healthy, are vegetarian, or simply want a quick inexpensive meal, this is a great place to go. It reminds me of Tender Greens in Los Angeles.

There are microwaves you can use to heat up your meals

and salads come with a choice of dressings, ranging from balsamic, to raspberry vinaigrette.

You can get your fruit in fresh juices like this delicious strawberry and apple,

or if you want to indulge your sweet tooth, there are desserts which range from classic muffins, to cheesecake and tarts.

I may move in, at least until it stops raining 🙂

The good thing about living close to the beach but not AT the beach is that I don’t have to suffer the throngs of people who descend on the week-ends, I don’t have to deal with cars blocking my driveway (“for just a minute”), and I can enjoy virtually marine layer free blue sunny days. Can you tell that I am glad I no longer live at the beach? All this being said, it’s still fun to GO to the beach. Just like it’s fun to rent a convertible even though you may not enjoy owning one (yes, I’ve been there and done that too).

So when friends came in from out of town who also used to live at the beach, we went to the beach! Venice’s Abbot Kinney was a funky artsy area before all the high end hipsters, but the “revitalization” has added some great places to eat in addition to what used to be the only good place to eat, Joe’s.

Feed Body & Soul has a beautiful facade, a covered patio, and that rarity that makes it worthy of a visit even on Summer week-ends, an adjacent valet parking lot.

We sat on the patio and since we all wanted to taste everything, we decided to literally taste three dishes by each eating a third of a plate and passing it on to the next person.

The crabcakes with a habernero sauce on a bed of organic greens with avocado was not as spicy as it sounds, but rather a lightly spiced salad that highlighted fresh crab. If you are a crabcake lover, you will be pleased with this choice.

The sesame crusted seared ahi with micro greens, wheatberries and a wasabi sauce was done perfectly rare. If you don’t like tuna tartare or tuna sashimi, do not order this, but if you do, this is a whole grain version of a dish you might find in a sushi restaurant. The wasabi sauce was quite spicy, so be forewarned.

My favorite dish was the one I ordered, the wild salmon on a bed of quinoa with spinach and a pea shoot sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked, the greens and grains moist and tasty, and I would have definitely eaten all of this dish without sharing!

The portions were not huge and our total for the three of us including tax and tip was about $90 without drinks, but for the atmosphere and the food, this is definitely worth the price for the quality of ingredients.

We went across the street for dessert at N’Ice Cream. They make their gelatos and sorbets fresh every day from ingredients that are organic in other countries but have not been certified as organic in the US. If you love creamy gelato, this is the place to go in Venice. In Hermosa, I prefer Paciugo, but for a place closer to me and with excellent flavors, this is a great find. Prices are about the same starting at $4 for a single serving. I chose the pistachio, a very creamy version made with imported Italian pistachios.

One friend got the maple and it tasted as fresh and creamy as my pistachio.

The third person of our trio chose the chocolate which was soooo chocolaty that I my one bite taste was enough to satiate me!

Maybe next time we’ll rent a convertible when we go to the beach 🙂

Feed Body & Soul on Urbanspoon

N'ice Cream on Urbanspoon

People who work with food know where to find great restaurants, and that was how I heard about Pintung on Melrose. I had walked past it a week ago, but with its nondescript market facing the street (look for the sidewalk blackboard advertising Stumptown cold brewed coffee), you would never know that there are treasures to be found in the back patio. Like finding buried gold in your backyard, this new addition to Mid-City makes me smile with delight.

Once I walked into the back patio I literally said, “Wow”! With an enclosed section, and an open section decorated with bamboo plants, the warm and sleek aesthetic was such a welcome contrast to the dark marketplace storefront seating area that it wasn’t even a question as to which space I preferred to eat my meal.

The other customers ranged from hip Japanese in pink hair and working on pink tablets, to television people loudly discussing their projects (probably wanting to be overheard). There were of course quiet, “normal” people (like me:) but this place draws from all the people L.A. is infamous for, so if you want a taste of all the lifestyles in L.A., you can come here and people watch.

The cuisine is a cross section of all Asian cuisines in one place. There is banh mi from Vietnam, dim sum from China, ramen and sushi from Japan, and rice bowls which would probably be the common link between all Asian countries. Because they are in Los Angeles, they also have options like a vegetarian banh mi, and soy chicken with brown rice, but I wanted to see how authentic their Asian dishes were, so that is what I ordered.

I started with the sauteed pea shoots for $7.25, and was thrilled when they arrived spicy, flavored with sesame oil, and perfectly seasoned. It was a big bowl, so with the other dishes, I ended up taking half of it home, but it just got better a day later.

The crystal shrimp dumplings were $5.50 (the Asian server told me they were Har Gow when I asked what crystal dumplings were). They were bigger and better than any Har Gow I’ve ever eaten in any Dim Sum place (and I have eaten in dozens from NYC to SF). The wrapping was so fine and light that they literally fell apart when I lifted them up from the steamer basket. They were also at least twice as big as any in a Chinese restaurant, with whole shrimp (not chopped up shrimp mush) and bamboo shoots. The table had dumpling sauce as well as other condiments if you want to dip them in sauce, but they are great by themselves.

The only dish that was a miss was the chow fun noodles for $7.95. I chose beef, but you have the option of chicken or vegetarian. The chinese broccoli had too many woody stems, the noodles lacked flavor (you can doctor it with the tableside condiments, but you should not have to season your food), the beef was tender but scarce, and there was a puddle of oil at the bottom of the bowl. Skip this dish and go for one of the ramen bowls if you want noodles.

Seeing Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage wrapped in Lotus Leaf for $5.50 on the menu, I had to order it. My Aunt used to make these and send me home with a dozen that I would make last for as long as possible until I saw her again. I haven’t had one since she passed away and I was almost afraid to try one made in a restaurant, but these are wonderful. I could only eat one, so I took the other home (to re steam).

The filling was full of pork, preserved salty egg, shittake, and the rice was perfectly infused with the lotus leaf flavor. One of the packages had more filling than the other, but both were delicious if you like this ethnic comfort food. I’m tempted to order a few orders of this to go and freeze them like I used to with the ones my Aunt made:)

As I told the server (another Asian), I am so very glad to have this place close to home without having to deal with those pesky Asian drivers in Chinatown or Monterey Park; I can say that because it takes one to know one:)

Pingtung on Urbanspoon

Cafe Gratitude is one of those places people will either love or hate. With locations in Santa Cruz, Venice and Larchmont, it is the epitome of 100% organic vegetarian California cafés, including a spiritual vibe and raw/vegan options. If you’re still reading this, then you either live in California or are OK with eating a meal without any meat or fish. Since I get my weekly rations of meat at Lindy & Grundy, I have no problem going vegan for a meal or two.

They offer beers and wines by the glass from $5-12, but I decided that since I was going meatless, I would also go without alcohol while I was here. It was fitting that I chose the drink called I Am Healthy for $5.25. Made with cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices, it was a refreshingly simple mixture of cucumber and pineapple juice. Every drink and dish is listed as an affirmation so when you order it you must say it. Yes, I know some of you are rolling your eyes now, but I think it’s a better idea than naming a three pound burger a Triple Bypass (however appropriate that name may be).

Staying with my clean meal theme, I had the I Am Pure salad for $13. It’s a ginger tahini marinated kale salad with avocado, sea palm, nori, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, basil, green onions, sunflower sprouts, and sprinkled with teriyaki almonds. It was indeed pure and I loved the ginger tahini marinade which tenderized the kale without overwhelming it. The sunflower sprouts were a bit hard to eat because they were so long, but the varied textures of the ingredients and the savory dressing made this a delicious way to eat vegan.

I came on another day when my stomach was not happy after a heavy meal the night before, so I ordered the I Am Fiery, a digestive 1 oz shot for $3.50. Made with Noni, ginger turmeric, cayenne, and colonial minerals, it is spicy and it definitely cleared out my system. Do not order this if you can not handle heat; it is about as hot as diluted Tabasco in a shot!

The neighboring table had two I Am Awesome sandwiches and they looked so good, I ordered one too. It’s a herb cornmeal crusted eggplant Parmesan on grilled panini with marinara, cashew ricotta, sliced heirloom tomatoes, arugula, basil, and served with a side salad for $12. This is the perfect sandwich to order for someone who isn’t sure they like vegetables. The crunchy cornmeal crust with the creamy ricotta and fresh tomato marinara tasted just like a fresher version of the traditional eggplant Parmesan sandwich. There is an option of hemp seed pesto with this sandwich for an additional $2.25, but I felt the flavors were fine without any addition. The side salad dressed with a balsamic dressing was as tasty as the sandwich.

All their teas and coffees are also organic, and they offer desserts, but since I rarely have room for anything after my main meal, I did not partake of either. Other tables did order desserts, so I can only surmise that the mostly coconut based sweets are as good as their other offerings.

The sweet ending to my meal came from my server who asked if I wanted to hear the question of the day. When I said “Yes”, she asked “What would you like to be acknowledged for?” I could tell you my answer, but as the saying goes, I would have to kill you, and that would be very unVegan 🙂

Parking in this area of Venice can be tough, but the restaurant will validate for the parking lot on 5th Street.

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

Life in Los Angeles can be very good with a bit of advice. Double or triple the estimated drive time given by your map/direction/gps application. Don’t drive too far during rush hour (1 mile may take 30 minutes by car at 5pm). Don’t drive at all when it rains because even if you know how to drive in the rain, most other people who live here do not. Yes, all my advice has to do with driving, because even though I will travel for food, there are limits to the amount of stress I will endure. I would gladly swap going through TSA at LAX rather than be stuck in a car on the 405 heading to the Valley at 5pm.

Thankfully Lyfe (Love Your Food Everyday) just opened in Culver City, which means that I don’t have to drive to Stanford in Northern California to eat their lovely food. Lyfe focuses on sustainability, community, and being eco-friendly. Their version of “fast food” is healthy, varied, and embraces those who are gluten intolerant or vegetarian.

Everyone I encountered at Lyfe did their best to be helpful from the moment I entered (or got into line to enter) the restaurant, explaining the availability of different menus (one for regular, one for gluten free, and one for vegetarian), and offering samples (the flatbread Margherita was superb).

I ate in the first few times and received a GPS table tracker after placing my order. This handy device lets the food runners know EXACTLY where you are in the restaurant so you are assured to get your order as soon as it is ready.

For to go orders, their utensils are biobased (made from potatoes).

You may add either free range chicken, Gardein “chicken”, agave-lime tofu, grilled shrimp or grilled salmon to any salad for an additional $2-$4, so I added Gardein to the Farmer’s market salad ($8.99) of organic winter greens, blackberries, agave pickled onions, spiced pecans, and goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette. The menu listed calorie counts and sodium counts beside every item, so I knew my meal came in at 428 calories and 649 mg of sodium. I didn’t care about the counts as much as I cared about the flavor, so I was very happy to find that the low calorie count did not diminish the taste. The combination of fresh berries with the crunchy sweetness of the pecans, the creamy goat cheese, and the tartness of the vinaigrette worked very well together. I could eat this salad with a different protein combination all week.

I also tried the Gardein crispy chicken sandwich for $8.99 which came with a small side salad of kale and carrots. The sandwich had some very nice components, like shishito pepper relish, organic tomato and romaine lettuce, red onions, and chipotle aioli on multigrain bread. The quality of ingredients and the creativity of this sandwich recipe makes this a good choice for anyone who wants a healthier (and tastier) chicken sandwich than most places offer.

Seeing grilled Barramundi listed as one of their entree choices for only $12.99 surprised me in the best possible way. Barramundi is one of my favorite fishes and for those who like Sea Bass, it is a great alternative to the ubiquitous salmon found on nearly every menu. Served with edamame, napa cabbage, baby spinach, shittake mushrooms, and scallions in a spicy broth, you can choose the regular version with soba noodles, or the gluten free without (which is what I chose because I don’t like soba noodles). It was not very spicy at all, but I enjoyed the broth, vegetable, and fish combination very much. The grilled Barramundi was a bit over cooked, but dipping it in the broth alleviated the minor dryness.

Yes, life and Lyfe are good in Southern California, especially when there are fresh and healthy choices in a pedestrian area close to home.

LYFE Kitchen on Urbanspoon




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