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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!