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One of my favorite finds at this year’s Artisanal LA’s Fall Show was this Quinoa + Hemp Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie made by Sugar Beak Bakery. The hefty baked treat feels like pure decadence—it’s salty and sweet, rich and chocolatey—but it’s also packed with high-protein, nutritious ingredients like quinoa, hulled hemp seeds and ground flax. That, along with organic coconut butter, make this cookie equal parts dreamy and satisfying. And, it honestly doesn’t leave you wanting more. I mean, you will want one again tomorrow (for sure), but in the moment, it renders you totally blissed out.
When I mentioned this pure bliss on Twitter, Sugar Beak owner Ashley Fiocco offered to send me more of her vegan treats to try. I said yes, and I got a smorgasbord of deliciousness dropped off at my door. One of the standouts was this Salted Caramel & Sweet Potato Chocolate Tartlet. It’s gluten-free, if you’re living that lifestyle, and it’s outrageous. The crust is made form raw nut and deep, dark chocolate sweetened by coconut sugar while the very creamy and gooey layer of caramel is quite surprisingly made with sweet potato. That frosted top is chocolate heaven. Seriously.
I was also quite taken with the Spiced Pumpkin and Carrot Cream Pie. This sweet treat is made with a silky blend of spiced up organic carrots and roasted pumpkin. The effect is subtle but delicious. Seeds and raw almonds are combined to create the crust. I would love a big version of this to take to every holiday party. It’s only around ’til the end of December, so think fast.
I appreciate Sugar Beak’s is all about healthy, high quality ingredients and zero refined sugar. They sneak in spinach, chia seeds, goji berries and all kinds of good, wholesome stuff into their luscious treats without sacrificing indulgent flavor. Everything is vegan, and almost everything is gluten-free, plus they’re into anti-oxidant-rich ingredients like raw seeds, nuts, whole grains, and organic produce. Just like me–when I’m not eating nachos.
Get yours on their website.
Vegan food has become quite the rage in past few years, breaking through to the mainstream with chains like Native Foods, Veggie Grill and Real Food Daily. Still, by my estimation, none of them have managed to even come close to Silver Lake’s Flore Vegan Cuisine. This mainstay cafe has been a go-to for omnivores and vegans alike for years because it’s so damn good. The comfort-driven menu, grounded in organic ingredients, has all the hits, from sloppy burgers and classic sandwiches to fat burritos and breakfast til 1 pm. Their brunch menu even includes a gravy-drenched “Chicken & Waffles.”
I find it hard to veer from Flore’s generally gluttonous sandwiches. The Tempeh Tu-No Melt is close to the real thing but stands on its own, plus any deviation is made up for by the fact that it isn’t chock-full of mercury. Chunky with ideal crunch, the tuna-like tempeh mixture mingles with cashew cheese, which adds a luscious texture and light sweetness. It does the same for the Tempeh Reuben, grilled on rye and absolutely gooey with layers of cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. All sandwiches come with mixed green salad or potato salad.
Taking over the former Larkin’s space and making the absolute most out of it with ample outdoor seating, Little Beast is Eagle Rock’s newest restaurant. Behind the venture is Sean Lowenthal, most recently a sous chef at Chateau Marmont, and his wife Deborah Schwartz. The concept, first test driven as a pop-up at Le Petit Beaujolais, is “progressive American comfort food,” which I’d say is a pretty fair description. The menu is full of recognizable standards taken up a notch or two, a pretty common find Mid-City and on the Westside, but harder to get in our neck of the woods.
Starters at Little Beast pack the most “wow,” but I’m a girl who likes an appetizer, so maybe I’m biased. Do not bypass the Wild Salmon Tartare, a three-tiered snack with a lot of soul that doesn’t skimp on fish or guacamole. Gyoza crisps act as tostadas, salsa verde gives it zest, and kumquats punch up every bite. We also had the duck liver mousse, nestled under sweet carmelized onions. It was good, but I’d probably forgo it for the Watermelon and Feta or Charred Melon Salad next time.
Summer heat gives you the right to indulge in ice cream at least every other day, right? You’re lucky, too, because there are so many great ice cream shops on this side of town, most of them making beautiful ice creams, gelato, and frozen yogurt on the premises. Here are three great beat-the-heat-icy-sweet saviors from an ice cream fanatic (me):
Tejuino Los Reyes: This Lincoln Heights ice cream shop is really just a storefront where people line up in droves for nieves—there’s no seating, minus a bus bench. You can choose from ten or so flavors of this Mexican-style ice cream, with either a leche or agua base. Milk-wise, the chocolate has a rich cocoa taste, a light, airy texture and the occasional chocolate chip while the pistachio is outrageously nutty. Mixing a milk-based flavor like creamy coconut with a water-based one such as tart lime or subtly sweet mango is a good move. The medium gets you four scoops in a big styrofoam cup. Tejuino Los Reyes 2707 N. Broadway.
I feel like a jerk showing you something you can’t have, but I’m also no good at keeping delicious things to myself. This pie was available for order at Good Girl Dinette for Labor Day…only. There were three flavors available: peach, apple and plum. I chose the O’Henry Peach.
If you’ve ever had a curry pot pie from Good Girl Dinette, then you know that owner Diep Tran is a crust-making maestro. This fruit pie crust was flaky and buttery with that perfect punch of sourdough. The ends were crispy while the lattice and bottom were tender, but not too delicate—it stood up to the peaches.
I was invited to attend Taste of the Eastside, which I sadly had to miss last year. The whole shebang took place last Sunday at Barnsdall Park in Los Feliz. I got there right on time, so I was able to try everything relatively unmolested. Here are some of the things I tried. Those up there? Pavlovas with blackberry and lemon meyer preserves from Atwater Village’s Proof Bakery.
Here’s the rest:
Conchinita pibil taco from Yuca’s in Los Feliz. Very tender.
Buffalo-style cauliflower with vegan blue cheese from Mohawk Bend in Echo Park. I hardly missed the chicken.
Cinnamon rolls and red velvet cupcakes from Auntie Em’s in Eagle Rock.They were nice enough to turn over two rolls for me.
Uh, what just happened?
All I know is that my friend Mari came over with a pink box from Ruby Bakery in Eagle Rock. Inside, were two plump and precious cream puffs.
When I laid eyes on them, I told myself I’d just take a bite and save the rest for after dinner. No big deal.
I have to admit, I’m a big fan of the everything-old-is-new-again food trends. You know what I mean—like when restaurants start offering cookies and milk for dessert or their own version of Ho-Hos. It’s silly, but whatever, I’m not immune to the charms of such things.
Now I’m lobbying for another classic to have its day: I’m thinking it’s pudding’s time to shine. Specifically, tapioca pudding, so I offer a new take on the cafeteria favorite: coconut tapioca pudding. I say this knowing full well that there are a lot of detractors to tapioca. I get it. Those little beads can be a freaky, but I think the spark that coconut milk adds might help stem your fears.
I was really surprised at how easy tapioca pudding is to make from scratch, and how creamy, luscious and pretty the results were.
Here’s how I did it:
(See ingredients list at the bottom of this post.)
Step 1: Boil 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Once things get rolling, add tapioca beads and reduce to a simmer. Constant stirring is a must because the tapioca tends to stick to the bottom of the pan. Just keep things moving for about 10 minutes.
If you live in the Northeast corner of Los Angeles (and you’re like me), you’ve probably been jonesing for some serious ice cream. It seems to be one of the glaring omissions in the area—if you live in or around Highland Park, and you’re in need of a scoop, you’re pretty much stuck at Rite Aid.
Not that I have anything against Thrifty Ice Cream. I grew up on Chocolate Malted Crunch, and I still crave it now and again, but a drugstore is not an ice cream parlor. For that experience, I usually trek out to Alhambra for a Fosselman’s fix because nothing really fills that niche around here.
Or so I thought…and then I found Oasis Ice Cream.
I’ve never had a bad—or even just okay—meal at La Casita Mexicana. The small South LA restaurant, clad in vibrant colors, giant paper mâché produce and an Our Lady of Guadalupe painting, has become a legend in the 14 years it’s been around and for good reason.
Created by Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu, La Casita is different by design. The goal of the two mustachioed chefs, who both hail from Jalisco, Mexico, is to challenge the Angelino perception of Mexican food by moving far beyond the standard combination plate.
The result is a large menu of imaginative dishes that draw from their “ancestral food heritage” and the recipes of their grandmothers. Regulars gush over their moles, chiles en nogada (a cream and pomegranate topped poblano pepper stuffed with spiced meat, nuts and fruits), and rather lovely seafood dishes. Not to mention their lemonade chia seeds—a must!
Devotees also go on and on about La Casita’s chilaquiles, and I felt so left out because I’d never tried them…until a recent sunday.
Now that I’ve had them, they’ve stamped my mind, much like those mole chilaquiles I had a few months back at CaCao in Eagle Rock. La Casita’s version come in few different variations: red, green, mole poblano, red or green pepian style (made with pumpkin seed, peanuts and chiles), and chipotle.