Put me in a shopping mall and I assure you, within half an hour, I’ll be bored. I can’t afford the glitz and glamor — that lifestyle just isn’t for me. Jewelry, clothes and handbags are all dead products to me. They’re useless weight. As if I need more clutter in my life.
Stuff me inside an artisanal food market and I will be occupied for hours. I love the permutations of jams, chocolates, and cheeses. I love the texture of mushrooms and taste of expensive olive oils, infused with citrus notes. I like reading the names of teas I can never pronounce and tasting the deep briny flavor of oysters — freshly shucked and paired with cocktail sauce.
This is why I gravitate towards food. Unlike clothes, you never get a chance to get sick of it. It’s alive and ever-changing. It has an expiration date, which makes it worth all the while.
San Francisco’s Ferry Building reminded me of New York City’s Chelsea Market. The feel is similar, but fresh breeze of the Bay and the waters outside made all the difference.
1 Sausalito – San Francisco Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Luckily for Angelenos, we live in a city with plenty of health-conscious restaurateurs. Whether you have celiac disease or just prefer to go light on the wheat, there’s a wide array of options in all parts of Los Angeles. But while plenty of restaurants have menu items that don’t use wheat, it’s often quite difficult to be certain because gluten exists within various sauces as well. There are few restaurants that are meticulous about their labeling, so we’ve curated a list of those restaurants that do so and have plenty of options for wheatless dining.
Azla serves up a delightful array of vegan and gluten-free Ethiopian food. Their entire menu is wheatless and the selections are quite simple. You get a choice of gluten-free injera (an Ethopian flatbread) or brown rice, and you choose your pairings accordingly. Standouts include the misir (red lentils and spicy berbere) and the yatakilt (curry potatoes, carrots, and cabbage). Salads and gluten-free desserts are also available.
CAFE GRATITUDE LARCHMONT
This San Francisco transplant already has two locations in Los Angeles. Positivity comes in the form of “I Am” affirmations and permeates through the menu and the wait staff. The statements might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but let the food do the talking. Café Gratitude is always vegan and always organic. While it’s not exclusively gluten-free, a good majority of their selections are. On the breakfast front, diners can indulge in pancakes made with buckwheat-flax, banana bread, and muffins – sans the gluten. On the regular menu, the macrobowls, salads, and wraps are the most popular options. The I Am Fortified is a crowd favorite – a tasty quinoa or brown rice bowl with sprouts and vegetables. Macrobowls can be terribly plain, but at Café Gratitude, they’re great with diversifying the textures and flavors so your taste buds won’t get bored.
If you’re looking for a more elevated meal, but want to make sure the stuff you’re getting is 100% gluten-free, Crossroads is really the best choice in town. Chef Tal Ronnen doles out Mediterranean-style dishes and all the dishes that incorporate some sort of bread always has a gluten-free counterpart. The price is hefty, but is well worth it for the fresh and eye-popping plates. The artichoke oysters with crispy oyster mushrooms and kelp caviar are a must. The hot-ticketed Melrose restaurant also hosts Sunday Suppers, when neighboring chefs like Adam Fleischman and Ricardo Zarate are invited to guest cook.
DR. J’S VIBRANT CAFÉ
Located on Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles, Dr. J’s Vibrant Café is housed in a casual airy space complete with board games and free WiFi. The concept was inspired by ancient medicine theories from Taiwan and the menu is a mix of American and Asian influences. Dr. J’s – named after holistic practitioner Dr. Juliet Tien – cleans all their vegetables so they’re free of yeasts, pesticides and chemicals. Macrobowls and salads dominate the menu, but there is a sizable sandwich and burger selection as well. All the bread is made from veggie pulp without a trace of wheat.
M CAFÉ – BRENTWOOD
Brentwood is the newest location of the quickly expanding M Café chain, which features accessible, macrobiotic dishes and is the top recommendation for a gluten-free breakfast in Los Angeles. The menu is designed so you won’t feel left out while the rest of Los Angeles is enjoying Sunday morning with plates of benedicts, French toasts, and scrambles. M Café has all of the above, but in gluten-free form. Go for the Salmon Benedict, a beautiful spread of smoked salmon with soy hollandaise and a tofu scramble.
NATIVE FOODS CAFÉ – CULVER CITY
With locations across four states, Native Foods is rather established. They focus on strictly vegan cuisine, but gluten-free items are aplenty and are indicated on the menu. Earth Bowls are the pick here – the sesame kale bowl is a wonderful mixture of kale, tempeh and brown rice with sauerkraut, gamasio and sesame seeds folded in. If you’re iffy on what is going into your food, the staff has a helpful book of ingredients that they’re always more than willing to share.
REAL FOOD DAILY – PASADENA
Real Food Daily as a business has been around since 1993 and serves a completely plant-based menu. The menu is extensive and painstakingly labeled with dietary footnotes, so eaters know exactly what they’re getting. Corn grain bread and millet bread is available, and pizza is completely gluten and nut free. The shakes are completely dairy-free, and they’re both green and scrumptious. There’s really something for everyone at Real Food Daily, and the spacious seating makes it conducive for a great dinner conversation.
SAGE ORGANIC VEGAN BISTRO – CULVER CITY
Sage Organic is a step above all the fast-casual cafes on this list. Think pasta and steak – but instead, a gluten-free eggplant arriabiatta and mushroom as a steak. This well-rounded bistro has two locations: one in Echo Park, the other in Culver City. The Culver City storefront is the one to go for if you’re torn between the two. They have an exclusive, vegan pizza menu with a buckwheat gluten-free crust as an option for $2 more. No cheese from animals is used, pesto is made with hemp seeds, and all the produce is organic and pesticide-free.
TRUE FOOD KITCHEN – SANTA MONICA
The menu at True Food Kitchen was designed for an anti-inflammatory diet. They have one of the most extensive gluten-free options in town, including a turkey lasagna with ricotta, tomato and spinach and an “inside-out” quinoa burger garnished with hummus, tzatziki, tomato, avocado and feta. Top it all off with a flourless chocolate cake, served a la mode and drizzled with caramel.
If you were walking on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles on Friday night, you might have heard a velvety soprano belting out traditional Mexican tunes accompanied by a mariachi band that was just as loud and boisterous as she was. You’d hear the prominent strums of the guitarrón mexicano and maybe make out the faint chatter of the crowd beneath the stage. You’d think it was a concert of some sort, but if you took the time to really investigate, you’d notice that the musicians were secondary: The true performers were on plates.
The third annual Taste of Mexico event was held this past Friday at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles. Nearly 25 restaurants surrounded the perimeter of the grounds underneath a canopy of stringed lights, handing out bites until an hour before the clocks struck midnight.
The line-up was an impressive showcase of regional Mexico flavors which spanned from Baja California to Chiapas to Oaxaca. Tacos, naturally, were aplenty but the flavors were so diverse that taste buds never got a chance to get bored. Yuca’s cochinita pibil (slow-baked roasted pork) came side-in-side with their chirmole (chicken served in blackened chilies) in taco form — an homage to the Yucatán Península in southeastern Mexico. A heaping of pickled red onions and salsa added a welcome respite and subtle tang to the meat.
The well-established Mexicali Taco & Co., famous for their Baja-style tacos, was handing out finely cut slices of seared steak, medium-rare, paired with a single upright chip with crumbled cheese and a jalapeño for good measure. Right next to them was newcomer Duro Tacos — a taco dorado specialist on Sunset Blvd., holding their own weight with massive dorados stuffed with pickled pig feet and mashed potatoes.
Seafood was done especially well. The Ceviche Project had a wonderful snapper ceviche, tastefully sweetened with a miniature dollop of tangerine sorbet. Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos was doing lightly seared swordfish belly, topped with herb chili and baby heirloom tomatoes. El Coraloense of Bell Gardens, whose owners both hail from Mexican coastal cities, served up a repertoire of sea-centric offerings, including halibut and butter shrimp drizzled with creamy aiolis.
But while food was the headliner, the event was much more than a celebration of food. It was a celebration of culture, tradition and community.
Women in full Dia de Los Muertos garb took photos with curious bystanders and free-flowing sangria and craft mezcal motivated people to dance in place.
At the tents right next to a large bags of traditional Mexican candy, a group had congregated around a small television set, fixated on the Mexico vs. Panama soccer game. The stakes were especially high, as the results would determine whether Mexico would advance to the World Cup.
People clutched to their sugarcane-flavored sodas in anticipation, momentarily forgetting that there was a buffet of food around them. Finally Raul Jimenez’s 16-yard bicycle kick won Mexico the victory and cheers exploded all around. Within minutes the crowd quickly dispersed.
They were celebrating their country’s victory in the most appropriate way possible: with more food.
Originally posted on LA Weekly. See more photos here.
Many people think eating “gluten-free” is just a temporary fad, but while only less than one percent of the U.S. population can become terribly ill from gluten, a growing number of Americans are beginning to adopt a wheatless lifestyle. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of adults are going gluten-free and have found that eliminating wheat in their diet improves their energy level and makes them feel better.
Thankfully, Los Angeles is a dietary restriction-friendly town. The ratio of juice bars to gyms and number of health-conscious restaurants her are testament to that. But while gluten-free baked goods are slowly becoming more commonplace in local grocery stores and restaurants, they still get a bad rap. The words gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, and sugar-free have long been associated with sub-par offerings, but as this list proves, wheatless snacks don’t have to be nasty.
1. Babycakes NYC
If you found a Babycakes treat out of context, chances are you’d have no idea it’s gluten-free or vegan. This New York transplant is our number-one pick for wheatless snacks because all of their treats are wonderfully decadent — even without the use of milk, butter, or flour. They rotate between garbanzo fava bean mixes, rice flour a la Bob’s Red Mill, and oat flours. Rice and coconut milk are used in lieu of soy and cow milk and sweeteners are made from agave nectar and evaporated cane juice. Located in Larchmont and (un-coincidentally) sandwiched between a yoga studio and a fresh juice pressery, Babycakes has a delicious repertoire of cupcakes ($4.75), cookies ($1.75) and a mean salted caramel donut ($3.95) that’s more cake than donut but wonderfully moist and light in texture.
Get the rest of my picks here on KCET.
Throughout the months, I’ve made a conscious effort to do at least one trail each week. It’s not much but at least it keeps the blood pumping and the experience is far more interesting than running around in circles around my block or god forbid — on a treadmill in the gym like a hamster in a cage.
Over the weekend I completed the Placerita Canyon Firebreak Trail — a 6.9 loop that takes a sensible three hours to complete. It starts off with a series of fire roads — groan-inducing inclines that are shadeless, steep and seemingly never-ending.
An eventual cool breeze saved us from prematurely turning back, but I would not recommend doing this trail during the middle of the day. All the online guides for this hike had the same warning but we blatantly chose to ignore it.
But three hours, a deep tan and aching muscles later — we headed back to the city for my craving of choice — vegan food at Cafe Gratitude.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with macrobowls. They’re a medley of grain, dark green vegetables, pickled picks, seaweed and the occasional nut. The “I Am Whole” is a colorful toss of sea vegetables, kale, steamed quinoa (or brown rice), house-made kim chee, carrots, teriyaki almonds, and sprouts with a tahini-garlic sauce. Remarkably filling considering the size and it just felt 100% guilt-free.
Clark opted for the “I Am Hearty” — a vegan “pizza” with sun-dried tomato marinara, pesto, olive tapenade, Brazil nut parmesan and ricotta cheese on an onion-sunflower crust.
The meal was finished off with a vegan cashew/coconut ice cream sundae drizzled with chocolate sauce — a gem considering that I’m mildly lactose intolerant. (I’ll still eat dairy-based products, but my stomach is never too happy afterwards)
What a beautiful, vibrant meal to celebrate completing a gruesome summer trek in the mountains.
639 N Larchmont Blvd
Name of restaurant: The Ice Bar. A dessert shop that sells frozen dessert bars.
Chef: Eugene Mar. He fell in love with food at a young age, went to UC Riverside to study business and is pursuing his dream of starting a restaurant. The Ice Bar is his first. Max Boonthanakit, a former pastry cook at Ink and Bazaar helped Kang develop the gels that he uses in the bars.
Concept: A boutique dessert shop with high-end, quirky pops. They also have Fosselman’s ice cream and specialty drinks from around the world.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The blueberry and Korean pear pop because it’s a combination of American and Asian-inspired flavors. All the ingredients are made in-house the day before. The aforementioned pop is decorated by a whimsical blend of blueberry and Calpico gel. It’s garnished with lemon thyme and Thai basil and jasmine powder is sprinkled on last like pixie dust.
Who’s at the next table? Local high school wanderers, the occasional college student and avid Instagrammers who spotted the hash-tagged creations the day before.
Appropriate for…: A great alternative to traditional ice cream, a quick solution to a blistering hot day or a post-dinner dessert.
Uh-oh…: Popular pops like the nutella banana tend to run out during peak hours. Plus, West Covina can be a little isolated.
Service: The Ice Bar can be short-staffed at times but Mar is always there.
What are you drinking? A cooled can of Calpico. The Ice Bar sports a sweet repertoire of unique drinks ranging from Galco’s root beer to soda from France.
As featured on the Los Angeles Times. Read more here.