From the Culinary Trail: L.A. Moments

Los Angeles has never been a destination I’ve really considered for a holiday.  The city of angels and stars seemed too hectic and touristy for my liking.  And, my experience of dining in LA, eons ago, was unmemorable.  But in recent years, there’s been much buzz about the culinary and health food scene in LA and So-Cal.  This, plus the need to find some sunshine during the wet/gray Vancouver winter, were great reasons for a long overdue revisit – this time, it was for a girlfriend weekend get-away.  As my travel buddy is also a culinary blogger (The Wine & Food Concierge), I was in great company to sip and savour LA!

LA Cafe Gratitude Kake2Kale

I admit it, I was pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of healthy, local, and sustainable dining options. LA is a counterintuitive food haven; for a city of its size and hyper-energy, it has plenty to offer for slow food goers.  In our short visit, there were many great eats; but top of the list was Cafe Gratitude. The Cafe Gratitude that we visited is in Larchmont, a quaint shopping/dining boulevard in Hollywood that has a village-like ambiance.  This contemporary cafe turns out 100% organic and plant-based cuisine. If there’s such a thing as perfect gourmet vegan food, then Cafe Gratitude has mastered it. I am still dreaming about my superfood meal – a tumeric latte and Bonita breakfast (sprouted quinoa, black beans, fresh salsa, avocado, cashew nacho cheese, and toasted pumpkin seeds wrapped in corn tortillas).  All deliciously mouth-watering food, and gratifying!

In a city graced with hundreds of classy restaurants and talented chefs, it was a daunting task to pick a few to sample for our short stay.   Feeling like a sushi snob, I was reluctant to try a Japanese restaurant since Vancouver has such a high caliber of Japanese food; but Katana Robata & Sushi Bar situated on the Sunset Strip exceeded our expectations!  It is refined, hip-fusion Izakaya food at its best, and in a swanky setting.

One of the big advantages of travelling with a wine expert is knowing she’ll pick the more unique or interesting vinos to try!  With a wine list that’s thought to be the most extensive in LA, I was grateful that my blogger friend could navigate the selection of bottles at Vinoteque on Melrose, a wine-centric tapas house.  And, may I add, she chose very well!  Joined by another friend, we savoured many rewarding bottles from Vinoteque’s cellar, along with an impressive assortment of well executed nibbles.  We also got to experience some of LA’s best hospitality from the owner/sommelier, Ryan Hess.

LA Hollywood Kake2Kale

It has been said that LA rules as the current best food city in America, surpassing New York City.  It is easy to see why.  LA’s big advantage is access to an abundance of farm-to-table California food – fresh, organic, local, and sustainable – from produce, meats, wines to seafood!  And for nutritional choices, you don’t need to go far to find plenty of healthy options with vegan/gluten-free cafes, juice bars, and burger joints that feature grass-fed, single source bison meat (Burger Lounge).  Being the birthplace of the ‘100 Mile Diet’, I thought Vancouver was extra green and healthy; but let’s face it – LA is much further ahead!

In our outings around LA, we also popped by the bustling Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market, dined at  Nate ‘n Al in Beverly Hills, and soaked up a glorious sunset over a cocktail at Yamashiro Hollywood, a historic Japanese palace/restaurant nestled into the Hollywood hillside.  Though not overly healthy, the legendary Nate ‘n Al is the epitome of classic delicatessens. It is a must-do, not only for the comfort food but celebrity sightings.  Nope, no mega stars when we visited, but my friend spotted an actress from a TV show.

LA Newport Beach 2 Kake2Kale

More than anything, I had a craving for some food truck tacos; but unfortunately, we ran out of time to find a truck. Instead, I was happy to find some excellent restaurant tacos during our side trip to the beautiful surf towns of Huntington, Newport and Santa Monica.  High marks goes to the Carribean Lobster taco, found at the Fly ‘n’ Fish bar and grill, which is perfectly located on the Newport Beach boardwalk.  Of the beaches that we visited, Newport (pictures below) was my unexpected favourite – less developed.  But, no surprise, all the beaches were stunning and had the  quintessential Californian vibe – laid back pace, good-looking surfers, and palm tree lined stretches of soft sand.

LA Newport Beach Kake2Kale

In our whirlwind visit, we also managed to squeeze in a bike ride along Huntington Beach, then finished our LA trip at the end of route 66 in Santa Monica with some freshly-shucked Pacific oysters.  We raised our wine glasses for a final toast to our fun-filled, but quick foodie trip. It was easy to enjoy the warm vibrancy of LA and its nearby shorelines.  Discovering a culinary side of the city that I didn’t know existed was the best part.  Next time, I won’t wait so long to return!

Travel Far, Explore More! – {Kale}

LA Santa Monica Kake2Kale