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. 

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