Monday, August 18, 2008

Nobody walks in LA, but they dine there!

Please head over to my new blog at, where you'll find this post & more!

While looking back through recent posts, I realized I had forgotten to mention a trip to Southern California just a few weeks ago! I'm always a fan of being on the road & trying new vegan restaurants so I can share the results with my readers & this trip was no exception.

We started our culinary adventure by stopping at Isla Vista Food Co-Op just outside Santa Barbara. I had heard this was a great place to snag goodies from Stronghearts Baking Company, a woman & vegan owned company churning out a large variety of baked goods. I love options, so a Chocolate Chip brownie, Strawberry muffin, Carrot cupcake, Chocolate Chip cookie, & a slice of Crumb cake were acquired & we started munching. Stronghearts uses spelt flour for most of their goods, so they had a heartier taste than I'm used to, but it worked nicely in the crumb cake & brownie. The strawberry muffin was fluffy & flanked with berry chunks & the carrot cupcake was very sweet & textured with loads of carrots & pieces of pineapple. We opted for far too many items & I found myself in sugar shock pretty quickly!

After arriving in Los Angeles & settling in to our hotel, we headed to historic Olvera Street to check out the sights before dinner. We wandered through the colorful shopping area where Strummer found a friend just about her size! We also checked out a traveling tortilla art exhibit by Joe Bravo that just happened to be up while we were there; what an interesting medium!

For dinner we walked over to Shojin, a vegan, organic Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo. Located in a multilevel mall, you'd never expect the warm dining area & welcoming staff when entering the building. We started with the Seitan Mountain Rolls, which were thinly sliced seitan wrapped around vegetables, served with pink salt, the dish was delicious & the pink salt really took it to another level. Next came the caesar salad with cashew cheese, which didn't taste much like a caesar salad, but was still refreshing. For our main courses, Ryan opted for the Orange Tempeh & vegetables, while I had a bento box with Seitan Katsu & a trio of vegetable dishes. The flavors were all quite nice & I especially liked the crispy panko on the outside of the cutlet. We both enjoyed our dishes, but weren't blown away by anything, like we had hoped. That being said, I would love to give Shojin another try & would likely do the tasting menu, which was very reasonably priced.

To end the night, we raced over to Scoops for vegan ice cream delights. Unlike last time, there were actually some vegan options left for us! Ryan & I both opted for the same flavor selection, Mocha Cinnamon & Cookies & Cream. Creamy & refreshing, one would never know this was ice cream of the dairy free sort, we were both happily sated & foresee many happy returns to Scoops!

The next day, we were ready to hit the streets of LA again & started out at Real Food Daily, home of Jalapeño Cashew Cheddar Nachos. While we would normally eat somewhere a bit more exciting, Ryan's love of nachos tends to lead us to RFD time & time again. Tortilla chips layered with their awesome jalapeño cashew cheddar, beans, seitan, sour cream & salsa meld together to make a mouthwatering combination. In addition to the nachos, I had a chop salad & Ryan had a reuben, neither were particularly memorable or exciting though, we'll stick to the nachos in the future!

After a day of shopping on Melrose Avenue, we managed to work up our appetites once again & headed to Native Foods in Westwood for dinner. I opted for the very filling "Soul Bowl" with rice, red beans, greens, mixed vegetables, & fried BBQ "Save the Chicken" drizzled in Ranch dressing. Ryan had the "Philly Peppersteak Sandwich" loaded with seitan, portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, & Native cheese & a side of fries. We wrapped up our meal by sharing two lovely parfaits, one vanilla brownie & one peanut butter. A nice end to a very hearty & filling meal! Sadly, the lighting wasn't conducive to appetizing photos, so rather than harm your eyes with a blurry mess, you can look at this photo of Strummer hanging out in the grass near Melrose!

The next day we headed out back north to see family, but made a stop in Studio City at Hugo's Tacos, a taco stand with many vegan options. Once again, Ryan's obsession with a certain food, this time rolled tacos, fueled our dining decisions! My selections were two tacos; one zucchini, corn, string bean & one soy chorizo, potato, zucchini, plus a side of organic white beans cooked with sage and epazote. Ryan went for the rolled tacos, aka taquitos, which were filled with soy chorizo, potato, & zucchini & topped with shredded lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, & tomatillo sauce. Everyone was very happy with their selection & had full bellies, even Strummer, who munched on taquitos with glee, as you can see in this video!

All in all we had a lovely time in Los Angeles & you can expect to see many more restaurant wrap-ups from that region, as family members just moved down South. Suggestions are always welcome, although I know a return to Madeleine Bistro is in store!

Speaking of dining destinations, I'll be rolling in to Chicago from September 12th through the 15th! Any dining, activity, or lodging recommendations are very much welcome, as my knowledge of the area is limited. If you live in Chicago & want to meet up, get in touch!


Celine said...

ice cream & pups! someone needs to open a fan club for the Strum-monster.

VeggieGirl said...

Aww, Strummer :0)

A traveling tortilla exhibit?? Now THAT'S interesting, haha :0D

Mmm, that ice cream from Scoops looks heavenly!!

Sooo glad that you had a blast in L.A. - I love that place :0)

B36Kitchen said...

Seitan Mountain Rolls sounds like something I'd order all the time.

I also love the tortilla art exhibit..very interesting medium indeed!

lizzie lou said...

I'm sure lots of people will make this suggestion, but don't miss the Chicago Diner when you go -- and save room for dessert or a vegan milkshake! also, I remember hearing about a veg soul food place in Chicago...

Jess - The Domestic Vegan said...

What a fun trip! Those nachos look insane. I want some NOW!

Nick & I discussed going to get soy ice cream from a solar-powered ice cream shop in our 'hood later on tonight... Your pic from Scoops just cemented that idea.

Strummer is too adorable. I cannot believe how TINY she is!! And was she sitting on her bum like a person in that video?? I want to kiss her face off.

Lastly, have a great time in Chicago! Are you going for any special reason or just a fun getaway? Chicago is a really great city--can't wait to hear all about it!

Hannah said...

I'm so jealous that you a) get to travel so much, b) find the most amazing places to eat at, and c) get to take Strummer with you! It sounds like a dream come true!

Hilary said...

Did you stop in Boule when you were at RFD? That candy corn recipe we all made last year was from there...

Hilary said...

Did you stop in Boule when you were at RFD? That candy corn recipe we all made last year was from there...

VeganCowGirl said...

Woman and vegan owned bakery! Wicked!!

"vegan, organic Japanese in little tokyo" those are words that you would never hear in the same sentence over here in

Yahhh for ice cream.

Amey said...

Lil' Strummer sure is a cutie pie!

This post makes me jealous that Musty and I don't have relatives living in vegan-meccas. What's up with Musty's family living in rural North Carolina and a tiny town in Florida!? :)

I haven't been to LA in a long long time....

jessy said...

all of your eats look super stellar! i really loved drooling over the nachos and your tacos! (i'm such a sucker for mexican type yummies!) Strummer is just too damn cute! looks like everyone had an awesome time + awesome foods! superw00t! :D

Amanda Leon said...

Next time you're in Studio City try the actual Hugos restaurant they have an expanded selection thats different from the taco stand and lots of vegan options. Yummy spinach lemonade too.

And um, let me know when you're in town!

Anonymous said...

this is making me too hungry!

Bianca said...

I love the video! Strummer is such a stud!

All those vegan options sound like heaven. I've haven't done much traveling since I went vegan in '04, and I really need to make it to a good veg-friendly city! The last time I visited a big veg city (San Francisco), I was in high school and vegetarian but not vegan. Then, I was content to eat at Taco Bell. Sad, but true.

pixiepine said...

Strummer and delicious food- perfect!!!

Model Citizen aka Bonnie Rue said...

Now I have 3 more reasons to go to Southern CA!

1. traveling tortilla art exhibit!

2. Jalapeño Cashew Cheddar Nachos!

3. Seitan Mountain Rolls!

Rural Vegan said...

All the vegan options - I'm envious!

I'd be happy to give you the lowdown on Chicago dining if you need more suggestions. The Diner is an obvious choice (saving room for cheezecake and/or milkshakes), and Karyn's Cooked is my 2nd favorite. I *really* don't like SoulVeg, but do put local Teese and Temptation ice cream on your must-eat list. If you have questions, let me know!

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Stummer and those taquitos are so cute! She's such a delicate little thing. And that Soul Bowl sounds to die for.

Vegyogini said...

I'm so happy you had a chance to try Shojin! Madeleine Bistro is a must, as is Follow Your Heart (Canoga Park), if you ask me. If you haven't been to M Cafe de Chaya, that's the third must on my list. :)

Animal-Friendly said...

The treats from Stronghearts Baking Company looks great!

Your Mocha Cinnamon and Cookies & Cream ice cream from Scoops sounds heavenlyyyyyyyyyyy. I'm trying not to lick my computer monitor!

maltagirl said...

hey there! OMG I love the mexican food at RFD! that cheese is unbelievable. Next time you come to LA, cruise down to the LBC and check out zephyr. Lots of great vegan and raw food.

Destiny's Vegan Kitchen said...

Cookies & Cream ice cream whenever you want it!? I'm glad they hadn't run out before you got there. That's so cool!

julie hasson said...

I always love reading your restaurant reviews Melisser. It sounds like you had a fun trip.

Strummer is the cutest doggie ever!!

jennconspiracy said...

I gotta visit the LA spots next time I am down there.

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

May I ask the web host you bought your domain name from?? I'm looking to buy one but I'm not familiar with the whole thing...

Vegan_Noodle said...

What a great trip to LA! It's one of those places I've been meaning to visit... simply because of all the great vegan food. Lucky you have some family there now and an excuse to head south...

Stephanie Rice said...

I found your blog by searching for a hazelnut cupcake recipe, and I just saw your chihuahua. She looks just like my baby besides for her eyes & nose. That first picture of her next to that toy looks just like my pup from behind! Anyway, hope you don't mind if I add you to my reader list. I'd love to try some of your recipes!

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