OK. I had to make some tough decisions and conserve the space in my stomach, so quite a bit of what you are about to read did get put into my handy tubberware and brought back home for when I would be hungry again… 4 days later.
The Grain Cafe is a somewhat new restaurant located in Mid-City LA. I’ve read that the people that started The Grain Cafe came from Golden Mean in Santa Monica. I really like Golden Mean, so I already had good expectations for what was to come.
I can never resist a milkshake. A part of me is glad more places don’t offer this menu item, because I’d be drinking them all the time. Anyway, I ordered a Strawberry Milkshake ($6.50), which was made with real strawberries and had a nice flavor. The only thing about it that I didn’t like, was that it was slightly on the icey side. Not icey like a slurpee or something, but not as creamy as those dairy-based milkshakes from your local diner.
I read a bunch of Yelp reviews and people seemed to like the Club Sandwich ($10.95) which includes marinated chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, smoked tempeh bacon, and garlic aioli sauce served on sourdough bread. It is also served with a mixed green salad. The salad was just ok. I thought the dressing was too tangy, but there was a nice little touch of quinoa. The Club was very delicious. I added avocado ($2), because one always has to yes when asked to add avocado (and then proceed to get a second job to cover the costs of all the added avocado). The sauce on the club was fantastic and the bread was perfectly toasted. I would definitely recommend this sandwich.
Lastly, I got the Chocolate Crepe ($9.95). This crepe had some chocolate mousse, strawberries and chocolate syrup. There used to be a French vegan crepe place in LA, but I wasn’t really a fan of their crepes (kind of under-cooked and soggy for me), but I love crepes. As for The Grain Cafe’s crepe – I did like it. This crepe was thoroughly cooked and had a nice flavor. I was expecting a thicker mousse, though. I was imagining a crepe full of a a fluffy and rich mousse. Maybe it had melted? It just looked like chocolate syrup. It tasted good, just not what I was expecting. Also, since it was winter, the strawberries weren’t in season and they weren’t very sweet. I think this crepe would have been better during strawberry season. I’m really interested in trying their other crepes, because I did like the way they prepared it. Good job to them!
The Grain Cafe
4222 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Sunday 8am – 10pm
Let’s get to the food.
I love hummus and I love falafel. So, my first stop was at Hummus Republic. I kind of wish I had tried their hummus, but instead, I went with their tacos. I got the three taco variety and chose one Chicken taco and two Falafel tacos. All three were topped with their tahini sauce (other sauces included a pesto sauce and some kind of spicy sauce). The chicken taco was just ok. It was good, but I’d choose the falafel taco over the chicken taco in a heartbeat. The falafel taco was delicious (it also helped that I hadn’t eaten yet and this was my first stop). But really, even if I had hit these guys up at my last stop, I think it still would have been good.
Next stop was Joni Marie Newman’s Just the Food tent. This awesome food blogger and cookbook author (I love her cookbook “500 Vegan Recipes” btw) was serving spicy Korean BBQ jackfruit tacos and flakey fish-y tacos. I don’t like really spicy, so I played it safe with a Flakey Fish-y Taco. I liked this taco as well. I thought there was a little bit too much cabbage and not enough “fish”, but the sauce was really good and overall the flavor was great. I was glad to try her food, since she normally doesn’t set up shop to prepare food for the masses.
While the lines were short, I decided to grab a bunch of desserts, before they sold out of items. Bramble Bakeshop had a whole variety of macarons, a couple of cheesecakes, and some peanut butter cups. I’ve never had non-vegan macarons and I’ve only had the Feel Good Desserts vegan flavors (I wasn’t a huge fan), so I skipped their macarons and got a Churro Cheesecake. This was so good. Probably my favorite dessert from the day. Perfectly sweet and creamy with a subtle cinnamon flavor.
Luscious Organic Desserts has never let me down and they didn’t at Vegan Street Fair. They had a bunch of stuffed cookies which were hard to choose from. I got a Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie, a Double Chocolate New-tella Stuffed Cookie, and a Cookie Butter Stuffed Blondie Cookie. All were really amazing – not too soft and not too chewy. I wish I had gotten some of their other flavors.
Ridiculous Baking Company came with three temptations. Being the glutton that I am, I wanted all three. But the cheap side of me said, “no.” So I compromised and went with two. The Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcake was delicious. It was super moist and peanut buttery. The Donut was just ok. It kind of had chewy texture – something I don’t want in a donut. The flavor was nice, though, so they just need to work on getting that donut to feel – well – more like a donut. Speaking of donuts – I really wanted to try Donut Friend’s donuts, but I decided to avoid the line and go to their store for a fresh donut some other time. They looked so good, though!
My last dessert venture was for a S’mores Brownie at Charlie’s Brownies. These brownies are gluten free, but they do a very good job at making them taste like they aren’t gluten free. The brownie was really fudgey, but there was the tiniest bit of graininess after you started chewing. That was the only way I could tell they were gluten free, but it wasn’t even a big issue. I would definitely get it again.
Back to the savory food. I saw they were serving fried chicken at Clean South, so I found the back of the line and waited. I have never heard of this company and was hoping their line didn’t go as slowly as Southern Fried Vegan (do not wait in their hours long line – it is not worth it), but Clean South’s line went pretty quickly. When I got to the front, I learned that most of the food was already made. I got two servings of Fried Chicken (one for me and one for my vegan guy who was on his way) and a piece of Cornbread. Both of these items were in big serving trays ready to be handed out. They hand make the chicken, which I believe was seitan. Unfortunately I was not a fan. I’m not a huge fan of seitan to begin with, but I think that, since the chicken had been sitting for a bit, that it had gotten kind of soggy. Maybe if it was fresh from the fryer it would have been crispier and better, but props to them for having a fast moving line. The cornbread was a big letdown, though. It was pretty bland and didn’t really have that cornbread kind of flavor at all.
By this time, my vegan guy and I ran out of tickets and stood in line to get more. While we were waiting, some awesome people were leaving and handing out their unused tickets! Score for us! Armed with our free (and purchased) tickets, we headed on over to The Rabbit Hole. I’ve had their food once before and thought it was delicious, so I was expecting good things. I got the Shepherd’s Pie which included veggies, beans, and grains topped with some mashed sweet potatoes. It was really good. It was fresh from the stove, which warmed my body on that cold day. By that time I was getting full, so I saved half for later (still delicious the next day!).
Next. we made a quick stop at Rachel’s Cosmic Cuisine for a mini Pizza Bagel. This is exactly what you’d expect from a pizza bagel. I liked it. Simple, good sauce, melty cheese. My vegan guy did not like it. “I like my pizza bagels better,” he says. To each his own.
I think the favorite for both of us that day (well, I know it was my favorite), was the Fried Ravioli from the Whole Foods tent. Bonus – I don’t think people realized they were dishing out food, because there was no one in line. The pasta part was fried and then topped with a Kite Hill Cheese filling and marinara. So good. I need to try and replicate this.
Our last stop before we had to leave was at Broke Hungry Vegan. This line took the longest, but it was also the line we stood in when it started hailing (yes it hails in California!!). Those poor people in the tent were wading in water once we got up there. Some of the delay might have been due to the crazy weather that had happened while we were waiting. We ordered quite a few things, so we could use up a lot of our tickets. The Soy Curl Taquito was the best of the bunch. The only downside was that it was super greasy – like almost soggy because of the grease. This could have been because they were frying in not ideal circumstances – when the oil gets too cool, it can lead to greasy and not crispy fried foods – so I don’t blame them for that. The Bahn Mi, though, was slightly bland. I love the flavor of plain tofu so the sandwich wasn’t all that bad for me. My vegan guy thought it was a no go – too bland for him. The Loaded Nachos looked like it used the same filling as the taquito, but didn’t taste as good. For some reason it was a bit blander than the taquito. All in all, I’d order the taquito again, but probably nothing else.
Phew! That was a lot of food! I truly appreciate the effort that went into this event. I can’t even imagine all the things that had to happen to make this it possible.
That being said, I do hope they change things for the future. This event definitely needed more space. The first Vegan Beer Fest needed more space. The first Vegan Oktoberfest needed a TON more space. And now, the first Vegan Street Fair needed more space. I wish they thought about this a little more when planning the event. It was wall-to-wall people. Getting from place to place was extremely difficult and seeing which line went to which tent was challenging. If there had been more space, people could see which lines were super long and make their way to the shorter lines – thereby evening out the lines. One person on the Vegan Street Fair facebook page suggested having all food vendors on one side, so the lines all go one way. Another person recommended working with the vendors to get an estimated prep time for each order and spacing out those that would take longer. A few people suggested that vendors quicken their service, but I’m not really sure how doable that is without sacrificing the taste of the food (that is why we all go to these events, right?!).
It was great that there was no charge to get in, but the lack of pre-sold tickets means that vendors and organizers had no way of knowing an estimated head count. Plus, each sheet of tickets (12 tickets sold for $8) had a service charge of $2. I bought 8 sheets, so basically my vegan guy and I paid $16 to get in. Not a bad deal, but I almost think they might want to reconsider charging to get in. I think it would be great to maybe charge a small amount for an entrance ticket upfront that may even include a few food tickets. Then once inside you are free to buy more food tickets. This would help organizers and vendors know about how many people are coming. But, I can see how this would create more costs for the organizers (and therefore more costs for the attendees) – more security to prevent people sneaking in, more barricades, more logistical problems creating an entrance ticket. But something needs to change for next year and I think the organizers realize that.
I am exited to see where this event goes. On the Vegan Street Fair website it says that there will be events like this in other cities. I hope that, with each new event, they will get better and better.
When I think of a great, flavorful, diverse cafe in Los Angeles, Golden Mean comes to mind. I seriously love this place. They offer so much to their patrons. The menu is huge and you can get anything from juices and healthier entrees to foods that soothe the soul.
Their Works Burger ($13.50) is their veggie burger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle, avocado, cheese, tempeh bacon, and a special sauce. I loved this. Not only is it packed with flavor, but I also like that the patty is homemade with beans, grains, and veggies. No slab of soy protein here.
My vegan guy went with an item that is no longer on the menu but is similar to their Wet Burrito – the Chicken Enchiladas ($12.95). He opted to get it without salsa thinking it would be the pico de gallo kind, but it turns out that that was the sauce. Oops. It still came with a delicious white sauce, though. Golden Mean doesn’t do bland. The one bite I had was yummy.
The one downside of Golden Mean is their bakery case! It is so tempting and I can never leave without getting dessert. The Cheesecake was to hard to resist. I can’t recall what flavor it was (I think it was plain with a crumble on top), but was delightful. Not the best cheesecake I’ve had, but still a refreshing end to a meal.
1028 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Vegans try and replicate everything we used to eat as omnivores. Enter: Vegan Caviar (aka Cavi-Art). I’ve never even had real caviar (fish eggs were never at the top of my list of things to eat). I have no idea how this compares to the real stuff, but I just know that the vegan version of it was not to my liking. And maybe it tastes like what it’s supposed to be (maybe I wouldn’t have liked fish caviar if I had tried it) – who knows? It’s made of seaweed, so it has that “fresh from the ocean” flavor. In fact, when I took a bite of the stuff on crackers it tasted like I had swallowed ocean water. Not that pleasant.
I even tried to bring crackers and pawn it off on friends at a dinner, but couldn’t get rid of the stuff. Some people tried it, but it was only a small amount. Once you have a small taste of it, you are good to go. Now what am I going to do with the rest of these two jars? Oddly enough, the Cavi-Art website has a bunch of recipes that use their product. Too bad all of them are full of animal products! One friend recommended I use bits of it in sushi. Maybe I’ll give that a go.
What do you think? Have you had this product? What recipes have you used with it?
I wanted to add to my earlier post about the seriously good vegan desserts at Muffin Top Bakery. As you saw, I went a little overboard – it’s hard to resist such beautifully presented treats. Well, I went back and they had a whole new round of goodies that I HAD to try.
They had a bunch of cake slices laid out for me. The Key Lime and the Cookies n Cream varieties are fluffy and topped with sweet frostings (and I think are better than the cupcakes). They also have Neapolitans (layers of flakey pastry and creams/mousses). One was a delicious Chocolate Neapolitan with a cream filling and chocolate topping. The other was a Raspberry Neapolitan with more cream filling and a raspberry topping. What can be bad about cream and pastry? Nothing.
I also got another Raspberry Neapolitan (this time with a different presentation) and a French Pastry. The French Pastry was like a sandwich of flaky pastry filled with cream and strawberries. And then the best part is that it is covered in chocolate. I’d get a serious muffin top if I ate this everyday – which is probably why they named the place Muffin Top Bakery. Nothing but “cream” and pastry – deliciousness and more deliciousness.
And on a healthier note – I found some Fruit Bars hanging out on the check out counter. These are similar to Fig Newtons, but way better. These tasted so fresh and had a lot of fruit filling. I bet they’d make a great afternoon snack for kids or at the office…. or just for lunch – right out of the bag – on a Tuesday.
223 E. State St. Suite A
Redlands, CA 92373
Monday – Wednesday 8am – 7pm
Thursday 8am – 9pm
Friday – Saturday 8am – 7pm
Sunday 9am – 4pm
1735 Spruce St
Riverside, CA 92507
Monday – Friday 6am – 6pm
Saturday 8am – 4pm
Wow. I can’t believe it’s been this long since my last post. A LOT has happened since then. Let me get you updated. At last post, I was in the process of opening my own vegan bakery!! This was a dream I had had for a long time and I was finally making it come true. I found a nice little spot for it and was refining the recipes of all the delicious baked goods I’d have there. I even wanted to do some creamy soft serve ice cream there. It was going to be fantastic! Unfortunately, during the process I was realizing just how much was going to have to go into the space and how this passion for baking was completely dissolving into a sort of nuisance. I’ve always heard of people who turn their passion into their job and then end up hating this passion. I was beginning to see how this can be. I decided to let the dream go (or at least put it back on the back burner again) and I got a job back in the corporate world. I don’t regret any of this, though. I have a nice job now working normal hours and have more time to spend volunteering with animals (which I absolutely love!). This is something I would not have been able to do as a bakery owner – or at least not until the bakery was so successful that I wouldn’t have to be there all the time. Would its great success have happened? Maybe. For now, I love supporting other vegan businesses out there who did follow through on their dreams. It takes a lot to take that risk and I have so much more respect for these people than I did at the beginning of this journey.
I also spent most of this time contemplating whether to continue this blog. A part of me thinks it’s a lot of work taking, editing, and organizing pictures and then writing things about them on a consistent basis – I mean, are people even reading blogs anymore? But then a part of me thinks that I want to get information out there that may not already be out there – promoting those vegan dreamers and their products. So I sided with the dreamers. I hope you will continue this journey with me and check back for upcoming posts about all the fabulous things that exist in this world.
And I certainly did eat more on a recent trip to Healthy Junk in Anaheim. As you may remember, I have been here before. And as you may also remember, I completely stuffed myself at that visit, as well.
The No Fish and Chips ($9.95) are one of my favorites here (my other favorite is the nachos – which you can see at my previous post). These strips of “Fish” are really crispy and actually have that fishy taste! The tartar sauce is nice, but is about half creamy dip and half chopped onions. I could have done with less onions and more creamy dip. It is served with some potatoes, which were tasty but a little soggy. That might have been my fault, though, since I may have let them sit too long.
I had a moment of weakness and decided to get a salad. The thought of juicy, sweet mango overcame me and I ordered the Mango Tango ($7.95). This salad is loaded with romaine lettuce, quinoa, jicama, tomato, mango, and avocado. It is then drizzled with their mango dressing. I liked this salad, but didn’t love it. I thought there was too much jicama (which is kind of watery and dilutes the other flavors in your mouth). I also don’t like raw onions or cucumber in my salad and this came with it (not mentioned on the menu). I might get it again, but without all that stuff. The dressing was very good.
My entree (as if I needed to eat anything else!) was the BBQ Burger with Slaw ($6.45). Their meat strips, I believe, are seitan which are covered in BBQ sauce and then topped with a cool slaw. This was a good burger and I’d get it again. The whole wheat bun was good and not too “wheaty” – plus it makes you feel healthy (hence the name of the place).
The Strawberry Shake ($5.50) was kind of a let down. It was more like strawberry non-dairy milk. The flavor was ok, but just too runny for me. Go with the chocolate shake – it’s a lot better.
And I tried a healthy take on a vegan Brownie ($2.95). Honestly, I don’t think this brownie was all that more healthy than a regular brownie. No cholesterol for sure, but probably still quite a bit of sugar and fat. Oh well – sometimes a girl just wants a brownie! The brownie itself was not too phenomenal, but topped with that fudgy frosting – oh wow! This was one of the better vegan brownies I’ve had – ’cause we all know how hard it is to find a good vegan brownie! There were mini chocolate chips baked in, which made the chocolate explosion even greater. I’ll be getting this one again, for sure!
Healthy Junk is one of my new favorite vegan places in Orange County. They mentioned once that they were thinking of opening a second location in South Orange County. I hope they do – sometimes Anaheim is just too far to drive from Central/South Orange County.
Monday – Saturday 11am – 8pm
I had heard such great things about the food at the Pub at Golden Road Brewing. The menu lists a ton of vegan options – and some of these options are very creative. I was super excited to try it. My vegan guy and I headed all the way over to the north-east side of Los Angeles to get some grub.
The Fritters ($4) were my favorite. Fried wild mushroom risotto with a vegan pimento cheese? Yum! I love risotto on its own and had no idea that a crispy outer layer could make it a whole other thing. Well done, Golden Road, well done.
And the Pretzel ($7) was one thing that I read such nice things about prior to coming. It was good, I’ll give them that, but I think it was covered in what would be the average person’s daily recommended intake of sodium. Yikes! Too much salt for me. It was like ocean in my mouth. I had to rub some of it off with my fingers just so I could eat it. I wonder if one can order it lightly salted? It came with spicy mustard and some more pimento cheese. Still, the sauce was not enough to cover the flavor of all that salt!
I appreciate the eclectic menu, which included some international dishes – like the Bahn Mi ($7). The deep fried tofu was a little bland (I wish they marinated it in something more flavorful), but the pickled veggies were nice. The sriracha mayo was way too spicy for me. I’ve said this before, but I’m a weakling when it comes to spiciness. Because the tofu was kind of bland, most of the flavor came from the sriracha. I wouldn’t get this again.
The Quinoa Burger ($9) is handmade and deep fried. It’s served with lettuce, tomato, onion and a remoulade sauce. To me, this burger was just so-so. I liked the fried part of the patty, but the inside was just too mushy to be put on a bun. It reminded me of a giant potato croquette. The flavor was there, but I just wish they added some texture to the patty.
And for dessert, they actually had a vegan option! It was a mini Gingersnap Cheesecake ($5). Again, while I appreciate the effort, this cheesecake was just too chewy. Maybe it was accidental and the baker just baked it too long, but I didn’t like it. The strawberries were pretty tart (it wasn’t strawberry season) as well. I think I’ll stick to baking my own vegan cheesecakes.
I bet this place would be great to hang out with friend while sipping on some of their handcrafted beers. It’s a nice place and I am disappointed I didn’t like their food that much. There are a few more menu items I’d like to taste some day and maybe I’ll come back to give them another try.
5410 West San Fernando Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Wednesday – Saturday 11am – 2am
Sunday – Tuesday 11am – midnight
Happy Chinese New Year to everyone! I may be a week late, but I still wanted to give you a re-cap on some amazing dim sum I had for the occasion. It’s been a crazy week here in SoCal Vegan land. This past week, I have moved to a new place and started a new job. But the plus to all this craziness is that I get to see my vegan guy everyday now! And it’s a good thing I keep him around, because he was the one who told me about a special Chinese New Year Dim Sum Brunch at Susan Feniger’s STREET.
We got a big group of friends together and ordered some of each of the menu items. All of them were vegan, except the donuts (but could be made vegan).
The first in our marathon of eats was the Cantonese Style Radish Cakes. These were one of my favorites (as well as my vegan guy’s). Great tasting and lightly crispy on the edges.
The Sesame Fritters were filled with a red bean paste that kind of made these sweet. I think I would have preffered these fritters filled with something more savory, because the outer layer was quite tasty.
The Mushroom Shu Mai were another one of my favorites (and among a lot of people according to STREET’s facebook page). These had a bit of spice in the filling and were on top of a spicy mustard sauce. It definitely had that burst of fire running up your nasal passage, but subsided quickly.
The Vegetable Potstickers were also good. These were filled with yams and were sort of sweet, but went well with the crispy wrapper.
I liked the Jackfruit Bao, but I would have liked a lot more jackfruit. We split this bun into pieces to share and everyone got a lot of dough and a tiny bit of jackfruit. The jackfruit was well seasoned, but I just really wanted more of it.
The Mung Bean Crepes were nice. Splitting this dish was hard, so I didn’t get much crepe part. But the tofu scramble topping was simple, flavorful, and good on its own.
The Fried Rice was (by far) my number one favorite of the savory dishes. I love fried rice dishes and this one had an intense amount of flavor covering the slightly sticky rice. It seemed like the ingredients weren’t too uncommon – I need to learn to make something like this.
And my favorite of the sweet dishes (and, well, of ALL the dishes) was the Youtaio Donuts. According to my vegan guy, these weren’t like the youtaio donuts he’s used to (those are not served sugared). As for me, I’m glad they were served with soymilk and sugar crystals for dipping. The fried dough was amazing – fluffy and not too greasy. The sugar made it seem like I was eating a real fried donut at a state fair. Yum! This is really what I need to learn to make on my own (forget the fried rice!).
Sadly, the Coconut Tapioca Pearls with Shanghai Fruit were the big bummer of the night. In fact, this dish was the only one that was barely eaten by the table (we devoured all the others). I didn’t mind the tapioca texture – which a lot of the people at our table were against- it was just that the flavor was not to my liking. It must have been the Shanghai fruit. Not sure what that is, but I guess I don’t like it in my tapioca.
The Rice Batter Pancake was another one of the less-liked dishes at our table. To me, the pancake had a funny flavor – kind of like there was too much leavening. The sweet black sesame and almond syrups were delish, though. I’d like to order some of that to dip more donuts in.
I hope they do this again – and before the next Chinese New Year! They need to make it a monthly event, right? I say let’s all badger them until they do it. Ready? Go.