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 NativeFoods. Seating 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.
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.
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 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.
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