Friday, May 29, 2015

A {Vegan} Love Letter to LA in Two Parts (Continued)

This is a continuation from a previous post, wherein I heralded LA's amazing weather and several of the fantastic restaurants that we visited while traveling there. Here, I'll discuss a few more vegan restaurants, and another one of my favorite things about California: The desert...

| The Food |

\\ SunCafe //

Before going on any kind of trip, I always feel compelled to compile a list of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to use as a reference during our frolic. In California, SunCafe's Studio City location made it onto said list. That's because it’s an entirely organic, vegan restaurant that offers fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, and several raw, and/or gluten-free options (if you’re so inclined).    

On our visit we began with the raw Lettuce Leaf Tacos, which consisted of romaine lettuce leaves filled with “sun chorizo,” cashew cheese, and pico de gallo, plus a drizzle of avocado and basil ranch dressing.

Continuing with the raw food theme, I ordered the Zucchini Lasagna, which is fast becoming my go-to raw dish on just about every menu. It was made of sliced zucchini layered with pesto, spinach, cashew ricotta, sun chorizo, and marinara sauce, all topped with cashew cheese.

Charlie ordered the macaroni and cheese (consisting of quinoa pasta and a tomato and cashew cheese sauce, cooked in a cast iron skillet), which is officially becoming his must-order vegan dish. 

\\ Sage Vegan Bistro //

Our last stop before catching a flight out of LAX was at Sage Vegan Bistro’s Culver City location (we just couldn't resist trying Sage again!). The atmosphere was casual-chic, with indoor/outdoor seating and an open, airy vibe that felt quintessentially Californian. And, of course, the food was fantastic. 

After sharing a soft pretzel with habanero cream cheese and an order of Quinoa Corn Cakes, we decided to go with an Italian theme. 

My husband ordered the Pasta Pesto and Greens Bowl (filled with penne, hemp seed pesto, kale, broccoli, spinach, and quinoa), while I selected the Orecchiette with Broccoli and Avocado.

Unfortunately, the service was painstakingly ssslllooowww (we had to wait almost 45 minutes for our entrees - and we had a flight to catch!), which led to an order of Buffalo Cauliflower Hot Wings miraculously appearing on our table. Nevertheless, the piquant meal was definitely the perfect way to end our trip to Los Angeles.

| The Desert |* 

As was the case with the weather, I was amazed by how deeply enamored I came to be toward the desert. Considering my hatred of humidity, I was secretly concerned that the trip we planned to Death Valley might go down as one of my most ill-conceived schemes ever. Our rented Prius would probably buckle under the sun’s unforgiving rays, leaving me to roam the desert endlessly, enticed by mirages while searching for water, until my body finally succumbed and turned to dust. It was a distinct possibility, no?

Happily, nothing bad happened in the desert. Or, rather, everything good happened. It’s hard to adequately describe, but driving down the dusty, barren road leading to nowhere, flanked on either side by gorgeous mountains and endless blue skies completely opened me up inside… In fact, I found myself so transfixed by the cacti, the sand, and the Joshua Trees, I almost couldn’t bring myself to leave. 

Of course, the phenomenal AirBnB property we stayed at definitely aided in that regard. With adventure in mind, we booked a “room” in a vintage RV, off-the-beaten path on a sublimely tranquil patch of desert land. The property was owned by the son of a former sea merchant, and was teeming with fascinating artifacts (including boat parts, antique cans, and even a light house).

Our stay included the use of a natural hot springs pool, which was filled with steamy therapeutic water that's been recirculating for hundreds of years. It provided an ideal respite after the 6-hour road trip from LA. We also loved basking in the outdoor, antique claw-foot tubs, which we giddily filled with natural clay and spring water before bathing in under a blanket of stars.

In case you’re thinking about visiting Death Valley National Park, a few words of caution are in order. Not only is there no wi-fi or cell service (which honestly makes the whole experience much more memorable), but be aware that summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees.

 The heat - my God, the heat!

In addition, because Death Valley is so enormous – it’s impossible to completely explore it in just one day. As a result, be sure to enter with a printed map and a plan of action regarding which areas you'd like to focus on.

Charlie and I spent most of our time in the Furnace Creek area, based upon the most accessible park entrance relative to our AirBnB location. Some of our favorite Death Valley sights were:

Badwater Basin - a shockingly white "surreal landscape of vast salt flats" marking the lowest point of elevation on the continent of North America, at 282 feet below sea level;

The Devil's Golf Course - a fascinating and "immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires," so named because "only the devil could play golf on such rough links";

Artist's Drive - a "scenic 9-mile drive through multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills," including the stunningly colorful, aptly named Artist's Palette; and

Zabriskie Point - one of the park's most popular views, "surrounded by a maze of wildly eroded and vibrantly colored badlands."

Once you arrive at the park, you’ll find myriad colors and variations in landscape, and far more vegetation than you’d have likely imagined.


You’ll also revel in miles and miles of open spaces and skies.

You might even get stuck by a vicious little cactus while trying to take a picture of a Joshua Tree – crazier things have happened...

And, maybe, just maybe, you’ll discover that the dessert has transformed you in ways that you didn’t expect.

*Okay, you got me. Death Valley National Park isn't in Los Angeles, so technically it has no place being part of my Love Letter to LA post. However, the entire state of California is basically a dessert due to the current (and very alarming) drought, so I'm hoping you'll grant me a bit of leeway here. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A {Vegan} Love Letter to LA in Two Parts

As a New Yorker it’s become apparent that I’m not supposed to fall in love with, or even really like, Los Angeles. Bestowing any type of warmth on LA beyond a stoic eye-roll is tantamount to declaring a fatwa on the crowded, filthy, noisy city that I call home. I mean, there’s a reason why the East Coast/West Coast Biggie/2Pac feud raged so hard during my youth, right? Even Chloe Sevigny agrees.

Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding like I’m betraying The City of Dreams, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and declare that I love Los Angeles. Like, seriously, LOVE it. Not enough to consider leaving NYC, mind you (even after being hit by a car!), but enough to wax poetic about it for at least two very long blog posts…

Buckle up.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Super-Simple Sweet Potato Soup

I'm what you might call a bit of a "late bloomer" when it comes to soup. Growing up, I ate three kinds, and three kinds only: chili (fits in the soup category, right?); my mom's homemade tortellini soup; and Dinty Moore Stew (my dad liked it, so, naturally, I did, too).

French Onion? An abomination. Cream-of-Anything? Not a chance. Tomato soup with grilled cheese? Don't even think about it. 

Which is why it's patently weird that I'm so in love with soup now... 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Secretly Vegan: Waffle & Wolf {Brooklyn}

buckwheat waffle with arugula, avocado, tomatoes, & basil oil

You know what makes me really happy?  (Besides my Vitamix, I mean.)

RESTAURANTS THAT ARE SECRETLY VEGAN (friendly)!  Did I just shout that?  Oops.

Thing is, living in NYC, I'm often asked for vegan restaurant recommendations, which I'm more than happy to share.  (And by "more than happy," I mean "elated.")  Sometimes, however, I'm even more excited to suggest places that are secretly vegan.

While I wholeheartedly support entirely veg restaurants (I'm looking at you, Sun in Bloom!), I also think it's important to frequent restaurants that are vegan-friendly.  Not only does doing so raise awareness about veganism, but it also encourages restaurant owners to offer their customers even more veg items (we can vote with our dollars, as they say).  Another upside is that non-vegans/vegetarians will be exposed to (and possibly consider) meat-free options, simply because their "regular" places offer them.

On that note, I'd like to share one of my favorite secretly vegan places with you: Waffle & Wolf.  This little gem is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (AKA the place people visit in order to become hipsters).  And it specializes in - you guessed it - waffles!

But probably not the kind you're thinking of...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Super-Quick Black Beans & Rice w/ Avocado + Lime

I'm not what one might refer to as "pleasant" company when I'm really hungry.  Apparently this is an inherited trait.

Honestly, sometimes I get so wrapped up in whatever I'm doing that hours (and hours!) go by before I've eaten a single, solitary thing.  Then, suddenly, I'm famished.  Like so famished that I start picturing myself in one of those insanely guilt-inducing commercials about starving children in Africa.  You know the ones - where those doe-eyed children get like 10 grains of rice a day and have flies buzzing around their heads?  Flies!

Not good.  Which is why I thought I'd share my go-to solution for situations such as these, as a Public Service Announcement of sorts.  Ironically, the recipe involves rice.  It also involves canned beans, avocado, lime, and scallions.  What could be simpler?

Hopefully this will carry you straight past that dreaded hungry-angry phase with minimal effort.  And, if you're the kind of person whose temper isn't connected to his/her stomach, well...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lemon + Cranberry Kale Salad

I'm feeling a little sheepish about this recipe.

You see, I recently declared my borderline obsession with kale, which means I'm probably crossing the line by revisiting the topic again so soon.  (Also, who am I to force yet another 'effin kale salad upon the internet?)

Furthermore, publishing a "recipe" for something void of any actual measurements makes me feel like I'm copping out somehow.  (I mean, what makes a recipe a recipe?  Are ingredient amounts clearly one of those non-negotiable prerequisites?  Is "to taste" an antiquated term?  Does Ryan Gosling even bother reading recipes this simple?)  

Instead of succumbing to pangs of self-doubt, I'm choosing to share this with you.  It's my favorite kale salad - a stunningly simple combination of sweet and bitter flavors, elegantly disguised as health food.

So, go ahead and roll your eyes about my kale overload/recipe rule infractions.  Just do it while shoving this glorious salad into your mouth.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

{VeganMoFo} A Trip to Farm Sanctuary

I've longed to visit Farm Sanctuary since I first read about it six or seven years ago.  The amazing part was discovering that a place like Farm Sanctuary - where rescued farm animals would be treated with the kindness and compassion they were completely denied their entire lives - even existed.  The not-so-amazing part was that the nearest Farm Sanctuary was 700 miles away from where I lived at the time.

So, when we made the move to NYC a little over a year ago, visiting Farm Sanctuary quickly shot to the top of my priorities list.  And, I'm happy to say, CH and I took a road trip to the inspiring Watkins Glen, NY farm just a week ago.    

Monday, October 29, 2012

{VeganMoFo} Perfect Pumpkin Muffins

There's a distinct possibility that I'm sitting on my kitchen floor, eating these pumpkin muffins in the dark right now, seeking cover from the "Frankenstorm" that's likely to hit NYC.  If so, thank heavens for auto-posting, otherwise I might not have been able to hold up my end of the MoFo bargain.  My fingers are crossed that that's not the case, but if so, let's just say these muffins are so amazing, they'll even get you through a hurricane.


Oh, pumpkin!  Why must you entice me so?

I mean, I know it's that time of year and everything, but seriously - pumpkin's in the air, and in our food, in a major way right now.  According to New York Magazine (my source for all important information), pumpkin drink offerings, alone, have increased 400% during the past 5 years.  Talk about an upswing!

The odd part is, many of the so-called "pumpkin" items on offer at restaurants and in coffee shops don't even contain actual pumpkin.  The secret of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, for example, is that it's "just a latte spruced up with pumpkin-flavored syrup - connoisseurs cite cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove" as integral flavors, per NY Mag.

Friday, October 26, 2012

{VeganMoFo} Kale Chips + a Brief Kale Primer

kale chips w/ nutritional yeast

It's official: Kale is finally getting its due.

These days, you can find kale salads in restaurants all over the country, kale in juices at gas stations/convenience stores, and even kale chips on the store shelves of non-health food stores (see:  Trader Joe's).

In fact, it has become so popular - so ubiquitous - that I'd be surprised if a backlash weren't a' brewing.  Soon enough, poor kale will be languishing on the "Not List," having been upstaged by some other food that vegans have been obsessing over for ages...

Regardless, its myriad health benefits (and fantastic, though some would call "acquired," taste) always keep me coming back for more.