Melisser Elliott’s Handy New Guide

These days it seems like a new vegan cookbook hits the market every week.  It’s awesome that the vegan population is large enough to support all the new titles but I’m noticing that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for authors to find a vegan niche that hasn’t already been covered in print.  There are already vegan books on everything from Caribbean cooking to  gluten-free baking and everything in between.  I was delighted to find that Melisser Elliott a.k.a. The Urban Housewife’s new book, The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life, is so unique and is a welcome addition to my kitchen bookshelf.

Melisser’s book is a hipper version of “Living Vegan for Dummies.”  It covers every aspect of veganism ranging from what one eats and wears to crafting and even gardening (shout out to SoCal’s Adriana Martinez!).  Sprinkled throughout are profiles of cool vegan chicas, many of whom have cool vegan blogs.  I wish this book had been out when I first went vegan—it is chock full of  handy info like how to make your pet’s diet cruelty-free.

I love the chapter on nutrition where Melisser’ defers to Choosing Raw’s Gena Hamshaw.  Despite spending an ungodly amount of time reading vegan blogs and books about health, I still find that I have trouble remembering all the vitamins and minerals I need to be getting.  Gena writes a concise yet comprehensive run-down of the basic info every vegan needs to know about proper nutrition.

Of course there is no such thing as a vegan book without recipes.  The book has a collection of recipes both from Melisser herself and from other vegan notables.  I have an affinity for the Tangy Cabbage Beet Slaw, so much so that I’ve eaten it for lunch the past three days in a row.  It’s healthy, simple, and delicious—just like I like it.

The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life is the perfect gift for a new vegan but also for an old vegetarian—you know the kind…the ones who have been off meat for years but just need that extra push to go all the way.  It’s also very useful for more experienced vegans will want to whip up the inventive recipes.  I’m looking forward to checking out the sites of the some of the featured bloggers that I’m not already familiar with–they all sound amazing.

Now for the best part for all my fellow Angelenos…Melisser will be in town tonight Friday January 14th, signing copies of her book from 7pm to 9pm at Doomies!  Pick up a copy of the book, get it signed, and have some delish vegan goodies.  Sounds like the perfect start to a long weekend (MLK woo woo!) to me!

Portland: Our Last Day

We started our last day in Portland with a trip to Washington Park.  The weather was so awesomely fall-ish and their were plenty of crunchy leaves on the ground.  We hiked through the park to the rose garden which has a bazillion different varietals of roses all in one spot.  The garden also provides an awesome panorama of the city.  The Japanese Garden is what we really wanted to see and it really lived up to the hype.  It was so lush and quiet.  Here is the quintessential shot of me ambling over a babbling brook:

Coming from L.A., the vibrant greenery was a shock to my senses.  In Southern California it’s easy to forget that other parts of the U.S. have bright green grass and real trees with leaves.  I didn’t photoshop the colors in the photo below one bit! I’m gonna go ahead and stamp Washington Park with a “must see” for when you visit Portland.

For lunch we headed to the Alberta Arts District, a super cute part of town that is very reminiscent of Silver Lake/Echo Park here in L.A.  We opted for the very-highly recommended Vita Cafe.

I started off with some really good herbal ice tea that was served, adorably, by in a mason jar.

I ordered the mac ‘n’ cheese with added broccoli.  It was very bland and wasn’t even remotely cheesy.  It was more of a plain cream sauce than anything else.  The broccoli was also plain–there was no seasoning in sight.

My boyfriend ordered the nachos and could not stop raving about them.  I agree they were pretty damn delicious.

The biscuits and gravy were ordered were not so delicious.  In fact they were downright inedible.  The gravy was waaaay oversalted.  It had absolutely no flavor beyond the power-salt.  The biscuits themselves were the sort of dense hockey pucks that would earn you an F in your basic high school Home Ec class.  I should have sent them back but, as it were, my hangover zapped me of the energy to do so.  I was really surprised because I have heard so many people rave about this dish at Vita Cafe.  I know people claim that Portland has the best vegan biscuits and gravy, but I don’t see how anyone could beat Flore’s version down here.  Overall, Vita Cafe was a definite disappointment for me.

Conveniently located a couple doors down from the disappointing Vita Cafe is the adorable and teeny-tiny Dovetail Bakery.

It was hard to choose from the selection of treats, but I finally opted for a cinnamon roll and an apricot-millet muffin to bring back to L.A.  The cinnamon roll turned out to be everything that the one from Sweetpea Baking Company was not: soft, flaky, and oozing with cinnamon-sugar goodness.

The apricot-millet muffin was perfect; the millet added a nice crunch.  It kinda makes me want to add millet to every baked good I make.

There is no doubt that Portland is a very cool city, and I had a great time there.  I know I was only there briefly and only ate at a small percentage of the city’s vegan joints…but I can’t help but question the city’s “Vegan Mecca” title.  I much prefer my L.A. restaurants to the ones I tried in Oregon.  However, PDX definitely has us beat when it comes to baked goods.  We need to open more all-vegan bakery storefronts for sure.  And where oh where is our vegan donut shop?!

Cinema and Donuts

Before I go in to my discovery of the perfect vegan donut, I’d like to recommend that you get to your local movie theater ASAP.  The current menu of films is muy excellente.  There are three movies I have seen in late 2010 that I cannot stop thinking: The Social Network, 127 Hours, and Black Swan.  You need to see each of them pronto!  Well, technically Black Swan hasn’t been released yet but when it comes out on December 3rd you should be first in line.  It is soooo freaky and so good.  Even if you aren’t down with the freaky, it’s impossible to not be awed by the ballet scenes.

I’m particularly enthused because I thought last year’s crop of award contenders was incredibly lackluster (Up in the Air?!  That snoozefest is Oscar worthy?  Am I the only person that finds that ludicris?)  But this year there has already been a slew of great flicks and there are only more to come!  The industry is already abuzz about Another Year, The King’s Speech, True Grit, and The Fighter and they all come out before year’s end.  But seriously…Black Swan, Black Swan, Black Swan.

Now back to this donut.  I came across it serendipitously at a Whole Foods in Berkeley.  We were perusing the salad bar so my mom could get some food for her flight back to the east coast when I spied a small selection of vegan donuts in the bakery case.  I couldn’t resist indulging when I spotted my favorite donut flavor of all time–cinnamon sugar.  A basic flavor, yes, but it is nonetheless one I have never come across in my vegan donutting adventures.  While I recently raved about Voodoo Donut in Portland (and I still stick by said rave), this little donut made by Posh Bakery in Santa Clara was the kind that just melts right on your tongue.  Its super-fine sugar topping and buttery insides lived up to my memory of my old flame–Dunkin Donut’s Cinnamon Crumb.  You Northern Californians have it so good.  We have a dearth of donuts down here while you can just get the creme de la creme of the orbicular pastries by walking into any ole Whole Foods.  But of course, down here we have cool movie screenings, so it all evens out!

Cinnaholic: The 100% Vegan Cinnamon Roll Joint

On my recent trip to Northern California, my mom and I spent an afternoon strolling around Berkeley.  We absolutely had to stop in to Cinnaholic–the world’s first all-vegan cinnamon roll shop (well, I’m just assuming it’s the world’s first.  Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)  At this adorable little shop there are endless combos of icing flavors and toppings.  My mom opted for a classic cinnamon roll with plain frosting while I went for pumpkin icing with cookie dough on top, with some vanilla soymilk to wash it all down.

Before entering the place, I had mentally prepared myself for the postprandial sugar-coma I assumed would ensue.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cinnamon rolls, while definitely decadent, were not the sickeningly sweet fat-bombs I used to eat every time I found myself within spitting distance of an airport Cinnabon.  These rolls were perfectly buttery while still flaky.  The icings, which are flavored using extracts, aren’t applied with a heavy hand, so they don’t drown the roll and turn it to mush.

If you aren’t feeling very inventive, Cinnaholic offers a menu of their own creations, such as this strawberry pie roll, complete with oatmeal crumble topping.

Cinnaholic is such a rare gem.  It’s not often one finds a bakery where you can walk in and order absolutely anything off the menu, knowing it is guaranteed to be vegan  I think they should expand tout-de-suite and open their second location in L.A.  Hell, they are so good, I’d be willing to buy my own Cinnaholic franchise and open it up myself!

Cinnaholic
2132 Oxford St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
510.647.8684

Healthy at Hugo’s

It might seem a tad inconsistent that I often refer to my abstention of fats, sugar, and gluten while my recent posts have all been full of decadent junk food.  This is because, while I am diligent about my healthy diet and I prefer whole foods to processed ones, I am not militant about it–especially when I’m on vacation.  The food I eat on an everyday basis is very boring: a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and usually some assortment of veggies and legumes for dinner.  It’s just food that is generally not very blog-worthy.  When I’m on vacation or there is a special occasion, I am more than happy to indulge in treats.

Today I needed to recover from the boozery of yesterday.  I started the day out with a quick four mile run and then met my friend, Jeanine, for a class at Pop Physique in Studio City.  I had the Kelp Noodle Bowl and Jeanine had the The Power of Green Salad (pics are from my crappy cell phone camera.)  Both are nutritional powerhouses.  My dish had ginger, sea vegetables, and sprouts among other superfoods, and was extremely tasty.

Both were great options for a post-workout dish.  You don’t want to negate all the hard work you just did with an unhealthy meal!  I love love love that the kelp bowl comes with a mango-sesame dressing that is oil-free.  Hugo’s has so many great healthy options and they also have choices for days when you want to indulge.  Regardless of what you order, you can be sure you will be getting good clean, organic food at Hugo’s.

Reasons why the LA Vegan Beer Fest was the best beer fest ever!

I just got back from the LA Vegan Beer Fest where I had a great time.  I’ve been to three other beer festivals this year and honestly, this one was by far the best.  Here is why (aside from the obvious bonus–everything was vegan!):

1) No long lines. I am used to waiting in line for each pour, but today you were able to get refill after refill without any wait.  Same with all the food trucks!

2) The crowd was fun and friendly. Some beer fests tend to attract angry, macho types which doesn’t make for the best vibe.  The patrons of the LA Vegan Beer Fest were an electic mix of people just looking to have a good time.

3) Excellent organization. We didn’t run into any of the hassles that plague many beer festivals. such as not having enough bathrooms, confusion at the box office, or having no place to sit.  The most common problem in my experience is the vendors running out of beer early in the day.  Not the case at today’s event!  The breweries were all good to pour until last call.

4) THE FOOD. I never understand why a lot of beer festivals don’t have much in the way of food.  When you drink a lot of beer you get hungry!  That’s just basic science!  The food vendors at the Roxy were all excellent.  I snuck bites of everything my friends got so I ate quite the array.  I had a classic falafal sandwich from Yalla Truck with some super garlic-y fries from Fresh Fries.  I stole some of Kirby‘s hummus nachos from Sea Birds and devoured the chocolate-covered bacon that she got from Doomie’s (whose jalapeno poppers were apparently the hit of the day because they sold out!  I can attest–they were extremely tasty.)  I had to end the day with a sweet, so I indulged in a vanilla chai cupcake from Sea Birds that hit the spot.

5) The beer, of course! Every brewery I tried had good stuff, but once I got a taste of the pear and black currant ciders from Stone Brewery, I couldn’t bring myself to drink anything else.

6) Jesus was there. The holy guy doesn’t just show up at any ole festival, so you know this one had to be pretty special.

Thank you so much to QuarryGirl, Tony’s Darts Away, and The Roxy for hosting this awesome event.  I hope they make it a yearly happening (or monthly!  or weekly! …a girl can dream…)

Kind Kreme: Ice cream that does a body good

Kind Kreme is one of the best things to happen to the L.A food scene in a long time.  Their ice cream and soft serve is completely raw, vegan, and organic.  Now I lurrrve me some Scoops, but there hasn’t been a place in all of Los Angeles county where one could get a proper banana split until Kind Kreme came along.

Their ice cream is wonderful but I am a sucker for vegan soft serve.  Dairy-free soft serve is much harder to come by than dairy-free ice cream so when there is a chance for me to have it, I take it!  On a recent visit my friend ordered a soft serve cone (chocolate and vanilla swirled) while I ordered the same swirl in a cup with salted caramel sauce.  Salty sweet sauce with vanilla and chocolate soft serve?  Heaven.  Kind Kreme takes me back to the days when my grandma would take me to Hudson’s department store for a swirled cone.  Except Kind Kreme’s has flecks of real vanilla bean in it.  (At least I think that’s what it is!)  I was shocked to hear the soft serve has something like 4 ingredients in it total.  Makes me wonder how everyone else can go get that chemical stuff from Pinkberry and the like.