EDIBLE LOS ANGELES PART 16. NATIVE FOODS

How do I love thee Native Foods…

Let me count the ways:

The Hollywood Bowl

The Scorpian Burger

The Mini Greens

the Berry Hibiscus Iced Tea

The Peanut Butter Parfait

etc, etc.

If you haven’t been to Native Foods (they have seven locations) treat yourself to some amazing, and very gently priced, vegan cuisine.  Their portions are generous and they have a daily special that includes a soup, salad, or side for $9.95.  Share that with a friend, add in a mini green sald, and save room for dessert!

I recently enjoyed the scorpion burger, which is a tempeh burger topped with chipotle sauce, lettuce, avocado and cashew cheese.  Vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, I dare you not to like this sandwich!

I also LOVE the Hollywood Bowl, brown rice topped with a generous portion of veggies, sautéed greens and peanut sauce, crowned with two skewers of delicious (you read that correctly) tofu.

The peanut butter parfait is yummy, I’m working on a recipe at home that will emulate this wonderful creation (post to come!).

The servers are always friendly and make you feel welcome.  They have a frequent diners card, get one of these and start adding up points for great rewards such as $10 off your next meal.

http://www.nativefoods.com

EdIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 15. Sunny Blue

People always ask me if I ever get the urge to just get some fast food.  My answer initially is “blarg, eww, no”, but then after a moment of thinking, my new response is something like “well, if it is healthy, yeah, that would be awesome”.  So, I guess this one is for me!

Sunny Blue is a teeny tiny shop that serves omusubi (which is a Japanese rice ball with different fillings wrapped in a sheet of crunchy salty nori), and it is fast and delicious.

The manager makes your order right in front of you, and within a matter of minutes your meal is in a little paper dish in your hands.

You select white or brown rice (Health Food Stalker approved) and then choose from a list of fish, meat, poultry, or vegetarian fillings.  I love their brown rice hijiki omusubi because it is filled with seaweed, mushrooms, peas and carrots; it is just the perfect amount of salty and crunchy.  I can actually feel good about eating this as a fast food meal!

Sunny Blue also offers a few little side dishes such as cucumber salad, edamame, daikon salad, burdock root salad and Japanese pickles, so if you decide to not stuff yourself silly with rice balls you can fill up with some light and delicious traditional Japanese salads.

Sunny Blue is located right on Main St. in Santa Monica. It is a perfect little shop to grab a bite and and go for a stroll in lovely Santa Monica  or just grab it on the go!

EdIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 14. The Yard

Every so often, whilst meandering around the farmers market, I would come across this man who was SO tall.  I always wondered, “Who is this tall man, and what is doing with all of this produce?”  Well, it turned out, this tall man, CJ, is the chef at The Yard in Santa Monica!

CJ is a wonderful chef and he has taken what was an ordinary bar, and turned it into a wonderful gastro pub, creating unique and interesting interpretations of bar food favorites and more.  The location is wonderful, just off Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, CA.  It’s a great spot to watch your favorite sports game or just to grab a really nice bite and enjoy a cocktail.

CJ prides himself on using local, organic ingredients and even specifies where his ingredients come from right on the menu.

Since this is a gastro pub the menu emphasizes meat, however CJ offers a variety of wonderful salads and healthier options as well.

I had a delicious heirloom tomato salad with a fantastic creamy goat cheese and finely chopped dill. It was a refreshing and unique twist on the caprese salad. The peach salad that he has is killer.  It is full of gorgeous ripe peaches, basil, olive oil, sea salt and a little buratta cheese (which I ate around).  Their fish tacos are insane, the tortillas are fried, making this dish a HFS treat, but the quality of the ingredients are so wonderful that I say live it up and have some delicious fish tacos! My favorite dish was actually the sautéed greens. CJ seasons his greens so nicely that they are practically candy.  He sautés them with sherry, chili and honey, and they are AMAZING.

If you are in Santa Monica and are looking for a fantastic gastro pub experience you need to check out The Yard… and ask to say hello to the chef, he’s fabulous!

EdIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 13. Taste on Melrose

Taste on Melrose is one of those restaurants where as soon as you walk in you know you are going to enjoy every aspect of your meal.  When we were seated the waitress began listing all of the specials, describing each dish as if it were the tastiest morsel she had ever eaten.  She explained that the staff tries all of the dishes so that they can help the customer decide exactly what they’d find most satisfying.

They had a variety of interesting choices that sounded delicious, but  the “brown rice pasta”  caught my eye and would not let go!  I ordered the penne cecca, a brown rice pasta with fresh basil, garlic, spinach, cherry tomatoes and olive oil.  I had them add goat cheese to the pasta, because I felt like treating myself.  I also added Jidori chicken breast, which was unbelievably tasty.  The dish was insanely delicious; I could hardly believe that the pasta was made of brown rice.

If you know anyone who has just been diagnosed with celiac disease, or has an intolerance to wheat, then this is the place to take him or her to cheer them up with a fabulous bowl of pasta. Seriously, this dish blew my health food stalker mind!

EdIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 12. Fig Restaurant

This restaurant is so lovely.  Not only is the staff friendly, the environment inviting and the menu tantalizing, they also use farmer’s market produce and organic meats. Ding ding ding, perfect combination! Oh, I forgot to mention that every eveningFig is open (Tues-Sat) the menu is 50% off between 5-6 pm. Could it get much better than that? Oh, yes it can! They have a Fig Martini. How restaurant appropriate!

As I looked around at what the patrons were eating, I just could not decide what to order.  Every dish looked better than the next.  I asked the waitress what she recommended, and after she listed half of the menu I decided to stop her and try two of her first suggestions; the market salad, and the fish tacos.  Both were a smash hit. The market salad was full of wonderful fresh farmer’s market produce, ranging from tiny bell pepper rings to fresh slices of nectarine.  If you are not an unconditional vegetable lover, you may not find this salad the most exciting menu choice. Do not fret, there are options for you too.  The fish tacos were perfect! The sole perfectly spiced and accompanied by light coleslaw, mango salsa, topped by a delicate slice of avocado. The dish is served on top of two warm corn tortillas, three tacos in total.  There is cream in the tacos, but if you prefer your tacos creamless, the staff is happy to accommodate you.

The menu is updated seasonally and there is even a chart at the bottom of the menu listing what is in season, what is coming into season, and what is on its way out.

Fig is definitely worth checking out. I would highly recommend trying their half off happy hour and enjoying a Fig Martini to accompany your delicious meal!

Baby Cakes NYC

In preparation for a horrible amount of traffic today, I decided to go to Baby Cakes NYC (in Downtown LA) and pick myself up a treat.  After looking the small shop up and down, glancing at cupcakes, cakes, doughnuts and brownies, I encountered, AH HAH, the biscuit! This is no ordinary biscuit; this is a fresh made, size of your face, spelt, buttery (vegan, of course), already-seedy-jam-filled biscuit.

The biscuit is sweetened with agave, so it is not overpoweringly sweet; the biscuit steps aside and says, “Jam, it’s your turn to shine”.  Don’t be fooled by the biscuit’s generous offer, however, because it has enough awesome qualities on it’s own.  It is flavorful, flakey, moist, fluffy and just a little crisp on the top {insert Cookie Monster devouring cookie noise}.

I wish I had taken a picture of the biscuit to show you, but it was just too good to not consume immediately!!!  I guess that means that you will have to go purchase one on your own to experience its biscuit-y perfection.

edIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 11. Sweet Rose Creamery

There is nothing better than a scoop of ice cream on a warm summer day… or is there? Sweet Rose Creamery in the Brentwood Country Mart kicks up the concept of a “scoop of ice cream on a warm summer day” by offering the customers a fantastic selection of seasonal ice creams, sorbets and dairy free ice creams.

This is the description of Sweet Rose from their very own website:

“At Sweet Rose Creamery we make small batches of homemade ice cream using only the best ingredients. We use organic milk and cream from Clover, organic eggs and sugar and we never use any stabilizers or ice cream bases. We believe that quality ingredients and thoughtful preparation leads to delicious ice cream. We also make all of our toppings, cones, sauces and ice cream sandwiches from scratch daily.”

The owners of Sweet Rose Creamery also own Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon, both of which also champion local and organic ingredients.

The location of this creamery is also very sweet.  It is located in the Country Mart barn-like building, facing 26th street with plentiful outdoor seating, accompanied by a rustic charm and at least two adorable children running around with ice cream smeared all over their little faces.

I would recommend going earlier in the day. When I arrived they were already out of the dairy-free flavor that sounded the most enticing, however I did end up with a blueberry and plum sorbet that was tart and delicious.  Both the blueberry and plum flavor were bright and fresh and the sorbet had just enough sugar so that it was smooth and creamy without tasting real sweet.

They have a variety of sorbets, ice cream, and dairy free ice creams for all different types of ice cream lovers, some very sweet flavors, some tart, some traditional and some seasonal and exotic.

If you are around the Brentwood area I highly recommend checking out the Sweet Rose Creamery!

eDIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 10. Ayara Thai

So, you have been stuck driving through the dreaded LAX terminals for 45 minutes, you are hungry, your friend is late, and you now have a headache from being honked at every fifteen seconds.

Do you…

A. Say, “YOU CAN TAKE A TAXI”… drive away and go to In and Out?

B. Explode out of frustration?

C. Take a deep breathe, wait for you friend, and then go get Los Angeles’s best Thai food?

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the best little Thai restaurant in Los Angeles, located in a strip mall, behind an IHOP, next to the world’s ugliest Staples, Ayara Thai.  Ayara is the most unassuming restaurant; there is nothing frilly about it. The place is very clean with green accents and is decorated with wooden elephants.  The staff is friendly and efficient and the food is consistently yummy every time.  Their meat is not organic, but they offer every dish as either vegetarian with tofu, or just vegetables.

Their fresh spring rolls are insanely tasty.  They come with shrimp, but they will gladly make them with tofu instead.  The peanut sauce that comes with the spring rolls is out of this world.  They have a nice variety of stir-fries and curries; my favorite is the Thai garden. It is a stir-fry with a variety of vegetables including nappa cabbage, carrots, onions, bean sprouts, broccoli, green onions, and mushrooms. It is so delicious.  Also, their papaya salad is to die for.  The Papaya Pok-Pok is a salad of shredded green papaya, tomatoes, carrots and long beans, it has a light mild dressing but it is a spicy salad.  If you aren’t a spicy person you can ask for the salad to be made mild. Traditionally, the salad comes with dried shrimp flakes on it; I really do not like the fishy taste of the flakes so I always ask for the salad sans dried shrimp flakes.

Ayara is also extremely affordable.  Not giving this little joint a shot would be insanity. The food is so delicious, affordable, and vegetarian friendly.  Also, everyone has to go to LAX at one point or another.  Why not actually make that trip to LAX a delicious one?

EdIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 9. The Tasting Kitchen

Even the Health Food Stalker enjoys a decadent meal here and there. My rule of thumb is to enjoy the decadence in association with sustainable, organic and local products.  This is why The Tasting Kitchen is such an incredible place.

The Tasting Kitchen is on Abbot Kinney in Venice and is surrounded by lots of fun bars and good restaurants, but it still manages to stand out and draw attention via its large wooded entrance and interesting decor. The restaurant is very spacious and open, and the atmosphere is really inviting. The only dilemma with the space is that it gets loud really quickly, a problem that the manager said they were working on.

While this restaurant does not have lots of wheat/dairy free options on the menu, they do have a few selections that satisfy these needs and they are fantastic!

My waiter that evening, Alex, was extremely knowledgeable, explaining the menu in detail, and he was happy and willing to work with my dietary restrictions.  He recommended some wonderful dishes and the meal was fantastic.

Because the restaurant focuses on local and sustainable ingredients the menu changes nightly. Therefore, you probably will not be able to enjoy the exact same meal that I did, but I am sure that your experience will be equally pleasurable.

I started with a wonderful salad of endive, hazelnuts and cherries, simply dressed with well-spiced vinaigrette, a dish of delightful olives, and a wonderful goat cheese that came with fresh nectarines and walnuts.  They have a great cheese section on the menu and also offer charcuterie plates for sharing.  For the entrée I ordered a Jidori roasted half chicken with the most AMAZING french fries. Let me tell you, these were not just any french fries; these fries had bits of fried garlic nestled in amongst the potatoes as well as some fried sage and fresh herbs.  If you are going to indulge and eat fries, these are the fries to eat!  I also ordered a vegetable side dish of roasted asparagus with pistachios. The portions were nice and small-ish, perfect for two to share.

This is a fantastic restaurant to take a date.  The manager, Maxwell, was friendly and passionate about quality.  He was also happy to speak about their excellent mixologist and the fact that they don’t use sugar to sweeten their cocktails.  They also have an extensive organic wine list.

The staff at The Tasting Kitchen will really make you feel welcome. Ask for Alex when you make your reservation, he’s really wonderful, and GET SOME FRENCH FRIES.  Did you ever think that you would hear the Health Food Stalker say that? They are really that good.

http://www.thetastingkitchen.com/index.html

edIbLe LoS aNgElEs Part 8. Earthbar

After years of pondering, “why are there no awesome smoothie bars in la?” I have finally discovered that there is one, and it goes by the name of Earthbar.  They have a few locations and in every one of them they have a variety of vitamins, supplements, snack foods, super foods, teas, herbs and, of course, a smoothie bar.

The smoothie bar serves drinks for all different purposes, some for energy, some for avoiding colds and some for alleviating allergies. They use high end products and they understand the right balance between delicious and healthy.  The smoothies are fantastically thick, smooth and creamy.

A vitamin genius and pharmacist, Bernie Bubman, and his son Noah started Earthbar.  Together they search for the finest and most interesting natural remedies and offer them to their customers.

I have never been served by an unpleasant employee.  I frequent the Santa Monica Earthbar inside Equinox and am often helped by a wonderful and helpful man named Neil.  I would highly recommend stopping in and asking Neil for a smoothie recommendation.

My two favorite smoothies are the flax master and the plant protein smoothie.  The flax master is full of flax oil, vitamins, coconut water, almonds, bananas, blueberries, cinnamon and a few other delightfully tasty ingredients.  I find this smoothie to be an excellent lunch replacement because it is so hearty.  The plant protein smoothie has super greens and vitamins in it so it is a little more “health foody” but it is still sweet from bananas and super creamy.

If you are a smoothie person you MUST check out Earthbar!