Bringing It Down to the Earth

Archive for the ‘West Coast’ Category

SOOOOO Good: Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets (Calfornia)

santa monica farmer's market via Bliss Priss on flickr

Our Rating: SOOOOO Good
All Santa Monica Farmers Markets are open rain or shine – year round!
Wednesdays – At 2nd and Arizona 8:30am – 1:30pm
Saturdays – At 3rd and Arizona 8:30am – 1 pm
Saturdays – At Virginia Ave. Park 8am – 1pm
Sundays – At 2640 Main Street 9:30am – 1 pm
310-458-8712 ext. 2 (ask for Darra Adler),

Review via Maureen Whitehouse

Simply put, it doesn’t get any better than this. Imagine stand after stand of farmers with big smiles, wide-open hearts and the dirt from last night’s pick (which they’re selling today) still under their fingernails. Row after row of eye-poping, organic, pesticide-free, sustainably grown produce.

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, throngs of tuned-in food enthusiasts, including not only LA town folk but (often celebrity) chefs, browse the goodies available from the small scale, quality-obsessed farmers at the famed downtown Santa Monica’s farmers’ market. Friendly and knowledgeable vendors (many of them are the farmers’ family members) are happy to explain the difference between a pluot and a plum (a puot is ½ plum, ½ apricot) and why their Cabbage is better than any found at a supermarket.

The sights and smells—fresh cut flowers, aromatic herbs and spices gigantic, fresh from the ground, tree or vine produce alert shoppers to the high-quality standards of these dedicated growers. For first-timers I’d suggest strolling this market, perusing each stand if possible before buying anything. Many vendors set out samples, but if you don’t see any, request a taste of whatever you’re most interested in. Chances are good you’ll find yourself stumbling across some varieties of fruits and vegetables you’ve never even heard of, let alone seen before. Once you get the lay of the land, and have filled your senses to the brim, then go back and make your purchases from the vendors you resonate with most. Don’t be surprised if they offer you a recipe, storage or preparation tip along with your acquisition. That’s when it dawns on you that this is far from the end of the fulfillment found in this experience – it’s just the beginning, heading straight to your own kitchen. This one Soul-Full experience you do not want to miss!

*Fun Fact: The first LA County Farmer’s Market opened in 1979 in Gardena. It was a Saturday morning market, consisting of four stands. Interfaith Hunger Coalition sponsored it in the parking lot of a church. Today there are over 300 certified farmer’s markets in California.

With thanks to Bliss_Priss for the image.

SOO Good: Cru (Los Angeles, California)

Our Rating: SOO Good
Address: 1521 Griffith Park Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
Hours: Wed – Mon. 5:30pm –10pm Open for lunch Friday and Saturday 12pm – 4pm. Closed Tuesday
Contact: 323-667-1551,

Photo courtesy Cru Los Angeles

Review via Maureen Whitehouse.

This organic, vegan, raw café presents thoughtfully prepares and artfully presents their meals with intention to deeply satisfy their customers. The atmosphere is simple and stylish, the wait staff attentive and the food well prepared. I liked the variety of the menu, catering not just to raw foodists, but to discerning vegans with simple tastes and distinguished palates. The prices are reasonable. But I did feel the salad section to be a bit lacking, especially for a raw food restaurant. I had the house salad, expecting the likes of what I’d experienced at other raw food digs and instead found myself in front of a rather common looking and tasting pile of greens smothered in a way-too-spicy-for-me (and my dining companion, who’s been known to down habanero peppers 3-4 at a time without blinking an eye or shedding a tear) chili lime dressing. I don’t mind eating very spicy food when I’m in the mood for it, but I feel that it should be indicated somehow on the menu.

Photo courtesy Cru Los Angeles

However, the caponata bruschetta more than made up for my dismay. Made with a very fresh Italian chopped vegetable spread in a savory herbed sundried tomato sauce with cashew cheese on a very light but substantial buckwheat flat bread, this appetizer is tastefully bold and satisfying. The wraps, raviolis, pizzas and mezze platter all looked fresh and inviting for those inspired by “fusion” style Asian, South American or Mediterranean dishes. Raw foodists who are especially turned on by cacao—raw chocolate—will be particularly interested in Cru’s dessert selections. Chocolate Brownie a la Mode, Raspberry Chocolate Crepes with Fruit Sorbet and Chocolate Fudge Cake present you with a virtual chocolate nirvana.

Photos courtesy Cru.

SOOO Good: California Vegan (Los Angeles, California)

Our Rating: SOOO Good!
Address: 7300 W. Sunset Blvd. #A LA, CA 90046, (323.874.9079) AND 12113 Santa Monica Blvd. #207 LA, CA 90025 (323.874.9079)
Hours: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm

Via Maureen Whitehouse…

When I dined here I spotted Ariel, Juliano’s partner from Juliano’s Raw restaurant, enjoying a meal with her family. So I thought to myself, I must be in the right place. My friend and I visited the no frills but clean and bright (mostly all windows) Santa Monica location. And yes, at his suggestion, I tried their infamous Orange Chicken. Though it was hard for me to discern it from the “real thing” (but I haven’t eaten chicken in years) I found it a bit too sweet. But don’t let that deter you; this eatery has been drawing a loyal crowd of vegan customers since they first opened. One fellow we met in the elevator on the way up to the restaurant told me he’s a meat eater, but that he still prefers this spot to the many other Chinese food establishments in the area. Other vegan “meat” dishes, besides the soy chicken based ones, include a beef-like seitan and pepper steak.

My standard Chinese restaurant order is spicy eggplant, so that’s my standard barometer for excellence. Here, at California Vegan, along with brown rice, it passed the test. They also offer wonderful lunch and dinner specials along with a good selection of appetizers, soups and salads. Try the curries, noodles and rice dishes for fulfilling and economically priced repast. You can also find American-style fare here, in the form of veggie burgers and wraps. Their deserts include banana spring rolls, carrot cake and soy ice cream. I found the wait staff to be a bit aloof and laisé fair—not all that mindful—and it took a bit longer than is typical at such an establishment for our meal to arrive, but the food is great and the priced price is right for dine in, take-out or delivery.

Photos courtesy California Vegan.

SOOOOO Good: Au Lac Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant (Orange County, California)

Our Rating: SOOOOO Good!
16553 Brookhurst St Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Hours: Tues-Weds-Thurs-Sun 11:30am-9:30pm Friday & Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm Closed Mondays
Contact: 714 -418-0658,

Au Lac Vegetarian

Review via Maureen Whitehouse.

My absolute favorite thing about Au Lac was not the terrific food or newly remodeled ambiance, but the fact that its Chef Ito took a vow of silence several years ago. He gregariously meets and greets customers at mealtime with a soundless, reverent sense of peace and calm that elevates the dining experience for me to a whole new level.

This is most definitely one of my most beloved destinations when I am in LA. Whether you eat raw, vegan food or are just a wanna-be-healthy-eater, you could sup here every day and not get bored for lack for choices. Although the vegan Vietnamese and Chinese food dishes are out of this world, it’s Au Lac’s raw food menu that I found to stand out. My favorites include the Pistachio Bread (which the menu says is one of the chef’s favorites as well) and the Avocado Pond (avocado served with the chef’s special raw version of yummy ponzu sauce). If you want an amazing salad, order Da bowl, a light, fresh mix of greens, avocado, cucumber, raw agave, stone ground mustard, tomatoes, onions, and olive. For scrumptious raw “pasta” try De la mamma, an aromatic and generous portion of spaghetti-thin broccoli, zucchini, coconut meat, with avocado, portabella, pine nuts and dulse “fried” onions all tossed together in mama’s special pink sauce.
I’m getting hungry just writing this—really—too bad I’m in Florida!

But I’ll move on… to the raw tacos. This was the first item I ever tried on Au Lac’s menu, and I remember my friend watching me, waiting to see me take my first bite. A long “Mmmmmmmmmmm” was all that could escape me. Eyes twinkling, he said, “I knew you’d love it!” These are so deliciously tangy—a fresh cabbage wrap surrounding a perfectly ripened beefsteak tomato, white onion, special cream sauce, pistachios, mushrooms, dill pickles, avocado, red bell pepper and coconut meat. They’re appropriately listed under the “Still Hungry?” part of the menu along with one of my other raw favorites – “Mashed Potatoes” – an inventive blend of cauliflower, corn and coconut oil served with broccoli florets di olive and gravy – Delightful! So, although they’re not listed with the main entrees, you don’t want to miss these tidbits.

Do be certain to leave room for desert when dining at Au Lac. Their homemade, Vegan Mango Fruit Shell or Vegan Green Rice Flour with Coconut Milk are exotically decedent. Or you may choose one of their “imported” (from Nevada) cakes or pies, such as the Key Lime Mousse Pie – my favorite – or the Strawberry “Ice Cream” Cake. Whatever you choose to dine on at Au Lac it’s sure to be a Soul-Full experience you’ll savor.

SOOOOO Good: 118 Degrees (Orange County, California).

Our Rating: SOOOOO Good!

Address: 2981 Bristol St Ste B-5 Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 9am to 10pm (last seating at 9pm)
Sun. 10am – 9pm (last seating at 8pm), Sunday Brunch 10am to 3pm
Contact: 714-754-0718,

Via Maureen Whitehouse…

Sustainable, organic, love-filled, vegan, raw food that’s entirely out of this world!

Venturing out of downtown LA to explore what was, for me, the uncharted territory of Orange County was interesting enough. But my excursion to 118 Degrees became even more captivating when I found myself in Costa Mesa’s oasis of consciousness known to locals as “The Camp.” This eclectic and innovative neighborhood has been labeled an “anti-mall adventure,” a small enclave of hip, eco- and health-conscious businesses, including Patagonia, Cyclewerks, Bikram Yoga, Native Foods and Humanitaire, which sells vegan, faux-leather fashions, footwear and bags.

Back to 118 Degrees…

The restaurant’s design shows a sense of style and sensitivity that’s warm and inviting. We chose a table by the window with a view of the entire restaurant and its open kitchen. Since I’d skipped breakfast that morning, I arrived famished. So my lunch companion and I settled ourselves in for a substantial meal…

The menu is loaded with sumptuous choices, my friend and I opted to share a few dishes so we could not only get a good sampling of the fare, but be sure to fill our bellies. Sometimes getting enough food to satiate a voracious appetite can be a bit challenging at raw food eateries, where meals may be inviting, but diminutive. Happily that is not the case with 118 Degrees, where portions are substantial and the prices still very affordable. We began our dining experience with some “Small Bites” – a Mezze Platter, which is a palate pleasing plate of tahini “cheese” and avocado served with olive bread, cucumber and red bell pepper tapenade. A perfect complement to the Tortilla Soup I’d ordered which I found to be a delightfully light and just-spicy-enough tomato soup with chilies, corn, red bell pepper, and chili squash served with corn chips and avocado.

We moved onto the “Greens” – the salad selection is considerable, so again it wasn’t easy settling on our choices, but we opted to try out the Compressed Spinach Salad – fresh baby spinach tossed with citrus pistachio dressing and herbed cheese, pressed and topped with Applewood Balsamic apple and a half-portion of the Seaweed Salad, which is a lovely presentation of baby romaine tossed with a creamy sesame miso dressing and topped with sea veggie medley along with avocado and coconut strips.
Though my stomach’s growling had by now subsided, I didn’t hesitate to dig in when our entrees arrived. We enjoyed the Lemon Pesto Pasta, spaghetti-thin strips of zucchini with a tangy lemon pesto sauce complimented by mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil, and a Surfer Sandwich, an inventive combination of smashed avocado, kale and mixed vegetables served on house sprouted olive kamut bread.

I must say, the executive chef of 118 Degrees, Jenny Ross has got it all goin’ on. As a decidedly conscious restaurateur she is not just committed to facilitating a superior dining experience for her customers, but when asked, she reveals that she also has a larger, more Soul-Full mission in mind. She feels that by serving the raw food community great food she’s not only helping people be happier and healthier, but advancing the cause of environmentalism. “Eating raw is probably one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the Earth, she says, “You’re eating all plant-based foods, and 99% of the time and you’re supporting organic and biodynamic farming, which replenishes the ecosystem where food is grown. It’s one of the great things you can do for your body, your soul and the planet!”

Forgoing all philosophy, no matter how fulfilling it may be, jf your intention is just to relax and enjoy a superior dining experience 118 Degrees is a sure bet. Not only is Chef Jenny amazingly creative in her dishes, but she is quite happy to make alterations if necessary for those who may have food allergies, sensitivities or express other preferences.
The menu is artful and varied, with sumptuous and satisfying selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner – salads, desserts, smoothies, fresh juices, organic beer and biodynamic wines. And you may lift your eyes between forkfuls to see a famous face or two… as some the more health focused Hollywood celebs have been known to wander in to 118 Degrees for a bite to eat.

118 Degrees mission statement: 118 Degrees serves to empower the community of Orange County with fresh, organic living cuisine, presented in an artful context, to be enjoyed with family and friends. We are here to usher in the future of food by offering a menu that is full of nutrient rich selections that are pleasing to the body and the mind. We hope you’ll join us for a bite, a sip or a divine dessert and enjoy the feel-good energy of organic living cuisine. May you enjoy vibrant health!

As Jenny so Soul-Fully states… “People say the next revolution will be a food revolution, and I believe that.” My intuitive sentiments exactly—You go girl!

Photos courtesy 118 Degrees.

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