Vegan Eats in Southern California

by JL Fields on August 25, 2011

Hi my friends!  I’m so excited to be back to real-time blogging.  I really appreciated a few days off to enjoy time with my family and I hope you enjoyed the flashback recipes.

Now I’m in Portland and, wow, I’m in love.  It’s so green here!  I had dinner with a friend last night and could see Mt. St. Helen from the window in the back of his house and Mt. Hood from the front window.  Stunning.  I’ll be posting more about Portland, and Vida Vegan Con, over the next few days. Today I wanted to recap my vegan eating in Southern California!

Last Saturday I flew to L.A. to attend my brother’s wedding on Sunday.

It was lovely.

Monday was a very vegan day.  I made a curry tofu scramble for my aunt and uncle, who were my gracious hosts for the long weekend.

In a skillet I heated olive oil and added shallots and green pepper from their garden.  I tossed in a little curry and added the tofu, crumbling it in the pan.  I browned it and then added some celery to lightly saute (I wanted it to have a crunch) and then I added 4 handfuls of kale plus some salt and pepper, lowered the heat and covered for a few minutes.  I then added a diced tomato (also from the garden) and heated for just a few minutes. I served the scramble with raw, chopped green pepper.

They liked it!

Later I had a lunch date with an old friend. Twenty-nine years ago, the summer I was about to turn 16, I stayed with my California family and got a job at a mall (so not glamorous, think stiff, brown, polyester uniform ala Orange Julius). I met a girl who became one of my best friends.  We hadn’t seen each other since 1994 so we were pretty excited.

Still two peas in a pod!

We met in Costa Mesa at Native Foods and we both ordered the Yo Amigo Taco Salad

A blend of romaine, cabbage, Native Taco Meat, and salsa fresca. Topped with corn, green onion, cilantro, and tortilla chip croutons. Served with our original creamy chipotle dressing on the side. $8.95 Yo, good with avocado $1.00

with chipotle dressing.

My friend is not a vegan and she loved this salad as much as I did. Huge, filling and oh-so-delicious!

Though too full for dessert, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat a vegan cupcake. I asked what kind they had.  She described three flavors. I got one of each: one for me, my aunt and my uncle. We divided them three ways (the next day).

Chocolate, vanilla and cardamom cupcakes

Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday evening I drove into L.A. for dinner with two fabulous, authentic, fierce vegan bloggers, Bess and Arielle.  We met at Cafe Gratitude (woot!) and started with drinks at the bar and moved outside for dinner on the patio. It was a gorgeous night, just starting to cool down, so the heat lamps were welcome. As we began to consider the menu I looked up to see this:

Mind you, I’ve seen it a zillion times on business trips to L.A. but these things always excite me.

We had so much fun talking and getting to know one another but finally we focused on the menu. We began with I AM PRESENT.

Raw Caprese Bruschetta Cashew mozzarella Hierloom tomatos freah basil on buckwheat crackers drizzled with balsalmic and olive oil. $8

This was wonderful!  They had to substitute the bread but it still worked. That “mozzarella” was surprisingly delicious.

I had tofu for breakfast, seitan for lunch and I was craving beans. I ordered I AM TRANSFORMED

Two handmade corn tacos with brown rice, black beans, salsa roja, guacamole and cashew nacho cheese. $11.00

Perfect choice for me!  The “sour cream” was light and complimentary to the hearty beans.  Ah, notice the tiny bowl on the right? I ordered a side of the coconut “bacon”.  Arielle has a friend who orders the tacos with the bacon.  I can see why. The bacon is spicy and perfect with the tacos.

The sun went down, we ordered dessert and the flash on the camera had to come out.

A chocolate mousse dessert and the dessert special, strawberry shortcake

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

Wednesday my uncle modified one of his favorite bread recipes to make it vegan.

Two pieces of this nutritious, multigrain bread (one with peanut butter and the other with olive oil) and I was full until 3:00 p.m.! (I had a carrot-orange juice from Jamba Juice to tide me over to dinner.)

On my final evening in Southern California we gathered as much of the family as possible for dinner at BJ’s Resaturant and Brewhouse in Brea.  I had many questions for the server about the menu.  (Is the pasta vegan? No. Is the veggie burger vegan? No.)  She returned from the kitchen with this news “the kitchen says we just don’t have a vegan friendly menu.”  I asked if she and the kitchen were ready to work with me. They were.

I ordered the Santa Fe Salad, hold the dressing, hold both cheeses, hold the chicken, add the black beans from another salad and let’s do a balsamic on the side.

Very good!

I also ordered a baked potato with veggies (hold the cheese, hold the alfredo sauce, hold the butter and please provide a little olive oil).

Which was also very good.

BJ's Restaurant & Brewery on Urbanspoon

It was a lovely family dinner.

I miss them already.

Now I’m heading out to walk / run along the waterfront in Portland. Back tomorrow with a glimpse into some of the outrageous, fabulous vegan food I’m eating as I count down to Vida Vegan Con!

  • Dermie

    I am so excited to read about your travels, JL! And now I am kicking myself for not trying the Native Foods that just opened in Chicago! <333 you tons. 

    • JL

      <3 you sweetie, and wishing you were here in Portland with me!

  • I had so much fun at Cafe Gratitude with you ladies! Can’t get over how much that “mozzarella” tasted like how I remember burrata to taste. Love that we did a “plate rotation” so that we could all try everything.

    Well played at BJ’s… I had thought their pizza dough is vegan (though could be wrong), but what you ordered looks much better than a cheeseless pizza.

    Eat lots of vegan goodies in Portland for me and I’ll do the same for you in Seattle next weekend!!!

    • JL

      They told me the pizza dough isn’t vegan! I was going to order a cheese-less pizza. But I think I won on my choices! 🙂

      Again, SO great to meet you and thank you for your vegan <3 prezzies! xo

    • UGHHH love you guys I better get to posting my CG meet-up review!!!!

      • JL

        Do it!!! 🙂

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  • cafe gratitude is in my hood!  their desserts are quite click worthy

    • JL

      No kidding?! How wonderful to be so close to that fabulous food!

  • Man.  Awesome food ya got there!!  LOVE Cafe Gratitude’s food.  It’s a little “funny” to me but I do like it.
    And Native Foods rocks!!  They have a new one in Chicago!

  • Great post and pictures, I’m so jealous of all your travels! I need a change of scenery and break from my crazy work schedule and family crisis! Glad you got to go to Cafe Gratitude and now I want to go again. 🙂

    • JL

      Girl, you soooo deserve a break and I hope you get one soon!

  • Oh my – a cardamom cupcake is my dream come true! So happy you had such a good time!

  • Oh my – a cardamom cupcake is my dream come true! So happy you had such a good time!

  • Susan

    JL, that food looks FABULOUS!!! I worked right through my morning snack and now I am starving. 🙂

    I love Portland. Harris flew me out there in 1998 so I could spend some time with Chris (he was on a 15 week road trip). We had so much fun in that area. My favorite trip was the drive up to Mount St. Helens and stopping at all the ranger stations along the way to learn more. I’d love to go back with John.

    Safe travels, my friend.

  • Tina Wallin

    I haven’t been a blog follower for long, but love the LA updates! I’m a new vegan so I get to learn about yummy restaurants right in my backyard!

    • JL

      Tina, I’m glad that the post was helpful to you!

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