So Cal’s Herb and Seed Meal Service

Millennial Natalie Jaconetty started a passion project during the pandemic, because there was a need for mindful plant-forward vegan meals delivered to homebound #saferathome people. “I’m thrilled to be able to launch Herb and Seed. It’s a privilege to be able to use a variety of plant-based and nutritionally optimal ingredients for our meals that create flavor forward chef-inspired meals that support health and wellness. Also, I’m very proud to say that’re we’re a zero-waste organization and we will remain so as we grow.” said Jaconetty on the launch.

Her chef-inspired zero-waste organization, Herb and Seed offers a menu off delicious and macronutrient dense meals delivered to your front door. She uses USDA organic ingredients, and sustainable kitchen and delivery products. Never plastic, only compostable materials.

I received an invitation to taste some of the menu items to give my opinion. A delivery duo text me their ETA, and a message that they would leave my Herb and Seed bag by my front door for contactless delivery. I received a text when they arrived and when they left to retrieve my order.

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The flavorful vegan and plant-based meals range in price. I started with two of the breakfast items which including a container of Banana Overnight Oats and Banana Oat Waffles. Breakfast items are priced at $11 per meal. The thoughtful super foods and fruit are good for energizing ones body and mind. There was the perfect balance of protein, vitamins, and healthy fats. 

Later during lunch, I enjoyed a Pesto Bowl with cooked perfectly fusilli pasta made from chickpeas, topped with creamy pesto sauce, steamed kale with garlic, and sliced cherry tomatoes. My daughter chose the Rainbow Buddha Bowl with steamed sweet potatoes, long strands of carrots, sautéed greens, and a delicious beet hummus dressing. Both are priced at $13.50 per meal are made with love and minimal to no oil, salt or sugar added.

Dinners are flavorful and satisfying with Greek Stuffed Peppers, Creamy Tomato Polenta Stacks, and Enoki Mushroom Cakes with Miso Glazed Broccolini. Priced at $15.50 per meal, each meal is designed to provide key nutrients such as fiber, fats, carbs and protein and can be heated up in the microwave.

Customers are within Los Angeles County and select parts of Ventura and Orange Country. Go online to order different curated meals each week. Deliveries are made each Monday based on the customer’s specific requests and needs. Follow their Instagram at @HerbandSeedLA.

Healthy Impasta operates Cloud Kitchen in Hollywood

When a friend described to me her new favorite low carb dishes at Impasta, a cloud kitchen in Hollywood, I went online to look at his menu. Cloud Kitchens are licensed commercial food production facilities offering chefs rental space. Anywhere from one or two to dozens of restaurants rent space to prepare delivery-optimized menu items. There is a front counter that drivers from various delivery platforms walk up to, show an order on their smartphone and walk out with a bag to be delivered.

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Looking at Impasta’s menu, I noticed 8 appealing pasta bowl choices and four different cauliflower pizzas. I ordered three different bowls, one “Impizza”, and one cauliflower rice bowl to pick up and bring home for lunch.

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Driving to the cloud kitchen, I parked right out front on and noticed a few delivery people walking past red cones into the Melrose Food Co., and followed them in. I walked up to the counter, and stated my name and Impasta pick up order. Metal racks behind the counter held stapled brown bags with items from Impasta, Fat Sal’s and other eateries. Within minutes Chef Ozzy Juarez from Impasta came out with a pizza box and a bag holding the other items I ordered, all in eco friendly containers.

I learned while talking to Chef Ozzy for a few minutes that his culinary niche is creating favorite pasta dishes with a lot less carbs and gluten. He believes you shouldn’t sacrifice your favorite pasta dishes to eat healthier. Instead of grain pasta, he substitutes with spaghetti squash, zoodles made from zucchini, gnocchi made with cauliflower, shirataki noodles, and hearts of palm. He makes 8 different popular sauces from organically sourced ingredients and adds proteins that include grilled chicken, shrimp and tofu on top. Chef Ozzy graduated Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-Pasadena, before working in the kitchens of The Ritz Carlton, Sunset Tower Hotel and The Standard Hotel.

This affable chef said that the best way to eat these dishes is immediately, while they are still warm, so I drove to Silver Lake and parked near the grassy park by the water to have an outdoor Impasta picnic.

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First I lifted the pizza box lid and discovered an appealing barbecue chicken pizza. Chef Ozzy’s housemade cauliflower crust is thicker than most and pleasantly chewy, instead of soggy like many I have tried. After one bite, I declared it is one of the best cauliflower crusts I have tasted. He tops it with mozzarella cheese, thick, organic grilled chicken strips, red onion, and parsley. This crust is completely gluten and grain free. I enjoyed the first slice so much, that I had a second slice before tasting each of the Impasta bowls. Other pizzas on the menu include a fresh Margharita; a pesto with ricotta cheese pizza; and a white truffle pizza with an egg, sage leaf, truffle oil and shavings.

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Twirling the spaghetti squash with a fork, I discovered it has a similar texture to angel hair pasta. It’s tender and chewy, offering a mild and nutty taste. When topped with the tomatoes, burrata and fresh herbs, it’s earthiness is enhanced. Later when I researched spaghetti squash, I learned it’s one of the most common pasta alternatives, and contains only 31 calories, 10 grams of carbs, and  2 grams of fiber per cup. Spaghetti Squash also offers calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s ideal for gluten-free, soy-free and vegan diets.

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Since I love gnocchi, I was eager to try the cauliflower gnocchi pesto bowl. On the side was a container of ricotta cheese to add if desired. In Italian, pesto means “pounded” and this vibrant green pesto is made with pounded basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and a little parmesan cheese. Normal gnocchi is a thick, small and soft dough dumplings made from semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, and potato. Chef Ozzy makes a healthier cauliflower gnocchi with shredded cauliflower, cassava flour, a gluten-free flour made from yuca, maybe some potato starch, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Chef Ozzy’s is better for you and isn’t as salty or heavy.

My last Impasta bowl had shirataki noodles with a pleasing and healthy puttanesca sauce. Shirataki noodles are long, white noodles, made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the root of the konjac plant that grows in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. The fiber is usually mixed with water and a small amount of lime juice and boiled together to form a noodle shape. They’re are gluten-free, soy-free, vegan, low in digestible carbohydrates and calories. Mixed with tomatoes, olives and capers, it’s a delicious alternative to grain pasta.

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For those who want to build their own low-carb pasta dish, Impasta offers zoodles made from julienne zucchini and from hearts of palm. They can be topped with a brown butter sage, Impossible bolognese, pink sauce, pesto with ricotta, four cheese, puttanesca, pomodoro, and cherry tomato with burrata.

Cauliflower rice bowls are filled with roasted cauliflower, grilled vegetables and a protein. I selected tofu, however you can add grilled organic chicken or shrimp on top.

While staying #saferathome, Impasta is a healthy meal to enjoy that can be delivered through different delivery platforms to Beverly Hills and the La Brea area. Additional areas include Hollywood, Culver City, Central LA, Downtown, Silverlake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, and Glendale. Delivery apps include Postmates, ChowNow, Uber Eats, Doordash, GrubHub and Caviar. To order go to http://www.impastacompany.com or pickup at 615 N. Western Ave. $-$$

Featured in the Beverly Press on August 6, 2020.

Going Meatless during Covid-19 Pandemic

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 30% of people in the U.S. were changing their diets to mostly vegetarian and vegan plant forward meals. Now after news reports about meatpacking plants in the United States becoming hotspots for coronavirus infections, with nearly 5,000 packing plant workers in 19 state fallen ill, and 20 have died as of May 1, 2020, more Americans are seeking plant forward alternatives to swap out beef, pork and chicken.

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Meatless Farm makes a variety of pea protein items offering a good source of protein and fiber, that look just like meat, with a lot less saturated fat.  They take care of your breakfast, lunch and dinner needs.

For breakfast their Meat Free Sausage Patties and Sausages are 100% vegan and gluten-free. There are 4 sausage patties and 12 sausage links in each container. Just heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan on a medium heat. Add your sausages and cook for approximately 5 minutes turning occasionally until nicely browned. Nutritionally they offer: 17g of protein per serving, 3g of fiber are Non-GMO, and Kosher certified.

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The Meat Free Ground is made with pea protein too. It can be used to make Swedish or Italian meatballs, Mexican tacos, and add into your family favorite recipes, such as chili, spaghetti, and lasagna.

It’s easy to make, just remove from the package, heat a non-stick pan on medium-high heat, add some oil, gently flake the ground into the pan and don’t touch for one minute. Continue cooking for 7-9 minutes stirring often. Meat Free Ground nutritionally offers per one cup serving: High in protein with 21g and 5g of fiber, gluten-free, vegan friendly, non-GMO and kosher certified.

⁣Order online by Sunday and you will receive your MeatLess Farm products on IMG_7610Wednesday. While online, check out their recipes. The Meatless Meatballs Rice’Bowl recipe includes making meatless meatballs that pack a punch, in a bowl of miso with crunchy veggies, and rice.

Another creative recipe is the Meatless Queso Sausage Breakfast Sliders using Meatless Sausage Patties.

Meatless Farm offers plant forward products offering fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and may help lower your risk of heart disease. Meatless Farm products are also available from Whole Foods Market.

16 Healthy Food Products delivered to your door

Regardless of lifestyle, diet, or allergen concerns, when you read the federal government reports thousands of workers in meat processing plants have been infected with the coronavirus, and in the double digits have died, it makes you think twice about eating meat right now.

Small changes can have a big impact. By cutting out meat even just one day a week promotes better health, improves animal welfare, and supports a more sustainable world.

I was approached by 20 different food product companies making plant-forward, vegetarian, vegan and healthier food options for people to enjoy while #SaferAtHome. Here is a list of my favorites:

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  1.  Mother Raw is line of delicious, consciously crafted, and plant-powered dressings, marinades, dips and condiments. All Mother Raw products are made with nutrient rich ingredients. Mother Raw has options to suit everyone. Some of my favorites include the Vegan Queso for breakfast burritos, Caesar Dressing for salads, French Onion Dip for crudités, and their newest Lemon Tahini Dressing. Click on this link for recipes to help you create new dishes with Mother Raw products. Order online to be delivered to your door.

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 2. Beanfields Vegan Cracklins takes snacking to a crunchy new level. Beanfields mastered the  texture of a fried cracklin, but in a baked, vegan crackling recipe. Each serving is packed with 3g of fiber and 4g of protein, and every bite is gluten-free, grain free, allergen free, and Kosher. They are made of beans, cassava flour and chickpea protein. Available now at Beanfields.com in flavors such as, Spicy Nacho,  White Cheddar, Ranch and Korean BBQ.

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3. SMART SWEETS are made with soluble plant-based fibers and have only 3g of sugar per serving. The founder of Smart Sweets uses fruit and vegetable juices such as pumpkin, carrot, and spirulina from natural algae for the vibrant colors in the Fruity Gummy Bears (87% less sugar), Sweet Fish (similar to Swedish Fish, yet with 92% less sugar), Sweet Chews (flavors include strawberry, mango and watermelon), Peach Rings (88% less sugar), and Sour Blast Buddies (91% less sugar). These sweet treats are gluten-free, and available at Whole Foods, Target, GNC, Kroger, Gelson’s and The Vitamin Shop.

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4. BOBO’S are delicious, especially the whole grain coconut oat bars! The 100% organic, gluten-free, vegan, and certified Non-GMO. The Boulder, CO company makes their treats soy and dairy free. Flavors include Bobo’s original oat, coconut, lemon poppyseed and chocolate chip oat bars. They come in bites too, including peanut butter chocolate chip bites and sell a strawberry toaster pastry (healthier Pop-Tarts). New to Bobo’s product line are their nut butter plant-protein bars offer 11-12g of protein. There are chocolate chip peanut butter, almond butter, cherry almond butter with hemp seeds and banana peanut butter bars. Get 20% off by including the CODE: BOBOSMOM.

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5. Pulp Pantry makes healthier grain-freetortilla chips that are vegetable based and made from fresh, upcycled pressed greens. These chips provide a good source of fiber in every serving, and offer the same crunch as regular tortilla chips.  The Jalapeño Lime Pulp Chips packs the heat and is made with organic celery and kale fiber offering 4 to 5 grams of fiber per serving, or a full day’s serving of fiber in each bag. The gluten-free, plant-based and non-GMO flavors include Sea Salt, Barbecue and Salt ’n’ Vinegar. To order and have a box sent to your door, go to https://pulppantry.com.

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6. KARMA NUTS – Recognized as the “Best New Snack” at the world’s largest NaturalProducts show, Expo West, Karma Nuts Wrapped® cashews have comparable anti-oxidative activity to blueberries and twice the fiber of a traditional cashew. The nutritionally-dense Wrapped® cashew offers a delightful crunch and has the skin of the nut intact. The skin offers for nutritional value. Their “skin-less” cashews are air roasted, not roasted in oil. All are non-GMO project verified, vegan, and have kosher ingredients. Their flavors include Cocoa dusted, Golden Tumeric, Toasted Coconut, Cinnamon Wrapped, Lightly Salted, Sea Salted, Sweet Matcha, Lime Twist, and spicy Peri-Peri. Sign up for Karma Nuts newsletter and receive 15% off your first order. Just use code 15KRM94568. Click here to see where to buy or order Karma Nuts online. They are available in 8 oz. jars and 1.5 oz. snack pouch.

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7. Alpha Foods is a Glendale, CA based company now selling their delicious plant-protein Crispy Chik’n Patties at COSTCO Wholesale and online.  Each patty is breaded and when heated in the oven is crispy on the outside and tender inside. It tastes similar to Chick-fil-A sandwich, but is vegan, non GMO, dairy free and offers 10g of protein and 6g of fat. Eat alone or on a soft bun with mustard, tomato, avocado and lettuce. Alpha Foods offers vegan recipes on their website. Other Alpha products include The Alpha Burrito and Breakfast Burrito, Pot Pie, Nugget, Strips, Pizza, Tamale, Burger, Patty and Crumble.

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8. Outer Aisle Cauliflower has been the rage for grain-free, vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian dietary needs. PLANTPOWER pizza crusts and sandwich thins are made with over 60% fresh cauliflower (that equals one serving of vegetable per piece). The pizza crust and sandwich thins do have a little parmesan cheese to enhance the flavors. Just top with sauce, veggies and vegan cheese. It can also be used as a healthier wrap or tortilla for a quesadilla and breakfast burrito. The sandwich thins can be used as a bread substitute. Top with guacamole, hummus, olive oil or your favorite spread. They are gluten-free, low carb and calorie, and made with no flour, no soy and no artificial ingredients. Find them at Gelson’s, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and Lassens Natural Foods.

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9. Cleveland Kraut offers crunchy sauerkraut packed with flavor and gut-healthy probiotics. It’s a great topping for veggie burgers, salads, savory breakfast bowls. Fermented foods are regularly consumed within European and Asian cultures, so Cleveland Kraut has been making it for American consumers. Add to you healthier diet for gut-health benefits from millions of probiotics. Their Beet Red is made with red cabbage, fresh fermented beets and carrots. This earthy and tart Kraut is great with tofu dogs, and salads. Order online or find the Kruat, Hail Caesar Dressing and Marinades at Whole Foods. Click here for Culinary Crafted recipes include Sweet Beet Tofu Wrap, salads and tacos.

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10. ZENB takes vegetable parts that are typically thrown away – the stem, seeds and skin, and turns them into healthy snack bites and sticks. They add some diced almond, agave or date syrup, almond powder, cinnamon, nutmeg or coriander, sea salt and black pepper for an extra kick of flavor. Go online to get two free ZENB products or try a sampler box with four products for $1.99 (Save $12), exclusive to first-time buyer: Click here for Box of 2 (normally $7.99) for FREE $0. Click here to receive a box of 4 products (normally $13.99) for $1.99.  Flavors include Corn, red bell pepper, pumpkin, carrot, beet, edamame and sweet potato.

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11. RightRice offers nutritious ancient grains that are a blend of over 90% protein-rich, fibrous vegetables: lentils (loaded with plant-based protein and fiber, plus iron and other vitamins and minerals, chickpeas (packed with protein and fiber to increase satiety, boost digestion), and peas (pea fiber provides an ideal source of fiber with added protein) to elevate rice (provides essential amino acids for a complete protein, enhances taste and texture). This union offers twice the protein, 5 times the fiber, and 25% less net carbs than white rice. 170 Calories. 8g Protein. 5g Fiber. 28-29g Net Carbs per serving. Flavors include Spanish, lemon pepper, garlic herb, Thai curry, fried rice, cilantro lime and harvest pilaf. They now have a rice medley with ancient grains that includes harvest pilaf with garden sweet carrots, sea salt, pepper, and pumpkin seeds. My favorite cajun spice offers bold and savory New Orleans flavors, ideal with tofu and veggies. Ready in just 12 minutes this gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher, low glycemic index, low sugar content, and free of egg, soy, peanut and tree nuts.

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12. Life’s Grape grown on vines in California, Selma Pete vine-dried grapes are a cross between three delicious grape varieties. They are picked when they are dried hanging on the vine, resulting with a delicate, sweeter, meatier, juicier nutritious snack. Easy to digest, these vine-dried grapes offer fiber that allows the slow release of sugar to prevent a quick insulin spike. The USDA ranks vine-dried grapes among the top antioxidant foods. If you don’t like raisins, give Life’s Grape a try, especially the ones dipped in dark chocolate and peanut butter. Find them on Amazon, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, Cost Plus World Market and https://www.lifesgrape.com.

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13. Sweet Nothings is like a smoothie in a 3.5 oz serving, that is a fruit-based frozen ready-to-eat treat made from organic fruits (strawberry, banana, blueberries and dates), vegetables (beets) nuts (cashews and peanuts), and seeds (chia and flax). These cold treats are vegan, and made with no added sugar, gums, and stabilizers. It’s an ideal mid-morning snack, mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and guilt-free dessert after dinner under 100 calories. Flavors include chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry, coffee, and blueberry beet.

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14. Good Good offers low sugar jams and syrups that are plant based, dairy and gluten free. Good Good started  in 2015 in the small Nordic country of Iceland, where three friends were concerned about the amount of sugar in popular food items. Since two of the friends  had close relatives with type 2 diabetes, they wanted to make eating easier for those who have to limit their sugar intake. They started making products using Stevia and acquired a small production facility in Iceland to produce Stevia drops and as a tabletop sweetener. With an excess of our erythritol and stevia blend Sweet Like Sugar, on stock, they came up with an idea make jam to prevent food waste, and their most popular line of Good Good products -the Keto-friendly spreads took off. Their spreads come in blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and apricot, and they even offer a maple syrup.

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15. Highkey are low carb, Keto approved, gluten-free snacks. HighKey’s Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies are the perfect anytime sweet snack for when the sweet craving hits. Their website has a Keto Calendar that calculates your BMR & TDEE. They offer a variety of mini cookies, baking mixes, hot cereal, protein cereal, and granola. They use premium ingredients like almond flour and monk fruit extract to make their snacks healthier than traditional snacks. What is Monk Fruit? Known as Luo Han Guo, grows natively in China and Thailand and is believed to have been used Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years. Monk Fruit is a plant-based sweetener that is nearly 200 times sweeter than sugar, and has zero calories and zero grams of sugar, so it won’t spike your blood sugar levels. Order online here.

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16. After receiving 4th & Heart Ghee, I may never cook with butter again. This clarified butter from grass fed cows is soft and offers a more intense buttery flavor (ideal to melt and pour on top of freshly popped popcorn. People who have a casein allergy (facial swelling or skin reactions) or intolerance to the milk sugar (gas, bloating, diarrhea, indigestion, and skin troubles) can enjoy this, because both casein protein and lactose are removed. Ghee also has a high smoke point at 485 degrees, while butter is at 350 degrees. This makes Ghee ideal for pan-frying or cooking basically anything in place of butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil. Ghee contains fat-soluble vitamin A – a  powerful antioxidant that supports immunity and skin health. Also vitamin E – repairs damaged skin, fights free radicals, and promotes heart health, and Vitamin K – important in bone health and normal blood clotting/wound healing. Go online to see all of 4th & Heart’s products and receive 15% off your first purchase by signing up for their newsletter. Their website offers some great recipes.

 

The New Black Star Burger

When Plan Check closed on Fairfax Avenue, I was eager to see what would open in its place. Located down the street from Jon & Vinny’s, Supreme and Canter’s Deli, Black Star Burger has become one of the trendiest food and clothing destinations in Los Angeles.

The very first Black Star Burger opened in Moscow in 2016 and became so successful that 20 locations opened across Eastern Europe.

For the grand opening of its first American location, Black Star Burger partnered with Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, a songwriter, American record producer and singer who co-wrote many of Justin Bieber’s hit songs. When he hosted the grand opening in November, celebrities Justin and Hailey Bieber and “Dancing with the Stars’” Val Chmerkovskiy attended the party to support their friend. Also attending the opening was one of the founders of Black Star Burger and Russian rapper Timati.

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Since there are a lot of burger restaurants in Los Angeles, I hoped Black Star Burger would offer something different than all the other casual burger chains. Last weekend, I brought my daughter to join.

A large menu screen at the entrance of the restaurant lists four beef, two chicken and two vegan burgers, side dishes, a kids menu, drinks and desserts.

The burgers can be made the “L.A. Way” with a lettuce wrap instead of a gluten bun.

The hemp-seed burger piqued my interest, so I ordered it with a side of sweet potato waffle fries. My daughter ordered a grilled Beyond Meat burger the “L.A. Way” with a side of fried “Cali” flowers and a beverage.

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With booths along the wall and tables in the center, the dining room features an ice cream counter with a long bar with stools. Guests can try an array of beer on tap that includes Peroni, Blue Moon, 805 and a New England-style hazy IPA.

Within a few minutes, my name was called to pick up our food. On the tray were a pair of food-grade, latex-free black gloves in a clear, sealed package.

My daughter appreciated the gloves while biting into her juicy “L.A. Way” Beyond Meat burger wrapped in lettuce. The theory of these gloves is that you use less napkins while eating.

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My hemp-seed burger was a delicious, high-protein, sustainable meat alternative topped with vegan pepperjack cheese and a special Black Star vegan sauce. Each hemp burger offers a full spectrum of omega fatty acids, 21 grams of protein and six grams of fiber.

The sweet potato waffle fries were served warm and crispy, and the small “Cali” flowers were delicious. Both were served without dipping sauces.

The Black Star chicken breast sandwiches can be fried or grilled. One is slathered with spicy mayo, pickles and slaw, and the other is enhanced with a house ranch dressing, tomatoes, mixed greens and pickles.

On the kids menu, younger guests can choose from a cheeseburger or grilled American cheese combo. Both come with potato wedges and a drink. For dessert, the ice cream counter offers different flavors and 10 candy toppings for customized sundaes.

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At Black Star Burger, you can enjoy a gourmet burger and beer in a fun environment for a quick meal, or hang out and listen to the music. You never know who might come in to support their friends in the music industry. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

$ 351 N. Fairfax Ave., (323)433-7792. This review was featured in the Beverly Press on Jan. 16, 2020.

Beaming All Day Long

What do supermodel and television host Chrissy Teigan, Hip-Hop artist Common and singer Ellie Goulding have in common with me? We all visit Beaming for a midday pick-me-up or healthy meal.

The acai bowl of granola and berries is a source of energy, immunity and vitamin C. (photo courtesy of Beaming Cafe)
The acai bowl of granola and berries is a source of energy, immunity and vitamin C. (photo courtesy of Beaming Cafe)

Beaming’s owner Lisa Odenweller was a director at numerous Silicon Valley software companies including Oracle and Broadvision. She grew tired of climbing the corporate ladder and was inspired to change her lifestyle after attending a health and wellness conference. While learning how to cook and eat healthier, family and friends encouraged to open her own organic superfood cafe in Del Mar in 2012.

Her café promotes good health, happiness and vitality serving delicious and nutritious plant-based foods. With its success, she opened others in San Diego and Los Angeles. Now she has six cafés. The newest just opened on April 6 in the La Costa Equinox.

At Beaming cafe on La Cienega, customers sample juices at a tasting counter where bottles of juice rest in bowls of ice.

My favorite is the Balanced Green which aids in digestion, boosts immunity and is an anti-inflammatory. It’s made with all organic cucumber, celery, spinach, parsley, fennel, Fuji apple, lemon and mint.

There are at least three pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in each of their cold pressed juices.

Beaming is not a juice-only café. They sell packed snacks, salads, flavorful soups, freshly made smoothies and elixir shots.

Many of the customers come in after a yoga, pilates or cycling class to pick up refueling items and bring them home, back to work or sip in the car.

Beaming (photo by Jill Weinlein)
Beaming (photo by Jill Weinlein)

I visited Beaming with a friend ,and we tried the Immunity antioxidant elixir made with alkaline water, coconut water, ginger juice, lemon juice, mint, cayenne and salt. It’s touted for its energizing and anti-inflammatory benefits.

For lunch we enjoyed a warmed carrot and ginger soup served with kale, quinoa, and a crunchy cashew nut topper. It had an earthy and pleasing flavor.

My friend preferred the chilled arugula curry soup. We tried two salads from the cold case. My favorite was the falafel salad with butter lettuce cups. The falafels are made with quinoa, pea, alkaline water, coconut oil, miso paste, oregano, flaxseed, brown rice crumbs, tahini, onion and garlic. The salad has sliced cucumber, pea shoots and Beaming’s lemon, tahini dressing with a dash of Good Maca hot sauce to give it a zing.

The second salad was a blend of spinach and romaine, sliced red cabbage, red bell peppers and tossed with Beaming’s teriyaki, sesame-almond and ginger dressing.

Throughout the juice bar are words of wisdom on the walls proclaiming, “The World is brighter when you’re Beaming.” Another from Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine.”

One thing that bothered me was that Beaming has no reuse or recycle bins at the La Cienega location. After drinking a vitality shot of elixir, I felt guilty throwing the small plastic bottle away. In the trash were empty cold-press juice bottles, too. With Earth Day approaching, the Beaming team should reduce, reuse and recycle.

Before or after an early morning workout, the acai protein bowl is very popular. It’s made with organic, unsweetened, non-GMO Acai. Beaming’s superfood plant protein, is added to the homemade granola. What make this a superfood is the coconut butter, a natural fat burner. Also, the bowl is filled with antioxidants to give eaters energy, immunity and vitamin C.

For dessert we tasted samples of the superfood desserts. They are all gluten and dairy free and made with nutrient dense sprouted flours. The banana chocolate chip bread has 14 grams of protein. It’s made with a gluten-free combination of almond, chia, hemp and buckwheat. It was very satisfying, yet not as sweet as traditional banana bread.

We finished our lunch with a bright yellow vitality shot, aimed at achieving optimal wellness with a combination of nature’s most powerful preventive medicine and age defying secrets. It left us Beaming all day. $-$$

Beaming has three Los Angeles locations: 605 N. La Cienega Blvd., (310)299-7691; 1426 Montana Ave., (310)299-7622; 131 S. Barrington Ave., (310)299-7538.

This article was featured in the April 14 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Venice’s Leona: California flavors with a hint of Korean pizzazz

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Squash soup – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Strolling along the canals in Venice, built in 1905 by developer Abbott Kinney, is a relaxing experience. It’s a charming area with its eclectic architecture, the bridges tha span the canals and the graceful white egrets that fly overhead.

Located next to a canal and just a block from the Pacific Ocean is Leona restaurant. Owners Kristian and Breegan Vallas brought the former bakery and cafe back to life with the help of Scott Morris Architects and Executive Chef Nyesha J. Arrington’s dynamic menu offers progressive California cuisine.

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Venice Canal in California – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Arrington started cooking when she was five years old at the side of her beloved Korean grandmother. They rolled wontons together and made interesting dishes with bulgogi, octopus and homemade kimchi. This talented chef integrates flavors from around the world into appealing dishes at Leona.

Arrington previously worked nearby at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica and with the classically French trained Josiah Citrin at Mélisse. She appeared on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Texas” and Food Network’s series, “Chef Hunter,” where she won.

At Leona, her menu focuses on California cuisine with some Korean influences. She is well known at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where she selects ethically harvested produce.

Karina and manager of Leona's Hershey - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Karina White with Hershey, the affable manager of Leona – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My niece Karina joined me for lunch recently and we opted to sit on the patio to enjoy the beautiful, warm weather. The interior dining room has a modern Restoration Hardware décor with orb lights, white brick walls, dark wood and caramel leather colored banquettes. Photographs from the Venice Historical Society are displayed in the dining room and large bar area serving beer, wine and mixed cocktails.

Our server recommended we order the freshly made cucumber passion fruit agua fresca. It was refreshing and not too sweet. The flavors change throughout the week and include blood orange catctus, sugar cane verbena and hibiscus pomegranate.

The cool cucumber passion fruit beverage paired nicely with the bulgogi chicken wings. She must have been inspired to put these on the menu from her days cooking in the kitchen with her grandmother. The glossy wings offered the essence of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, scallions, and ginger. In the evening she dresses up her short ribs in this sensational sauce.

My favorite dish of the day was the heirloom squash soup with flash fried sage leaves, bright red pomegranate and pepita seeds in the center. It was a gorgeous combination of colors, textures and flavors. The earthy squash was bedazzled with the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The pepitas squash seeds added a delightful crunch to the smooth pureed soup. Sunflower and grain bread accompanied the soup, perfect for dipping.

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Squash soup – Photo by Jill Weinlein

A foodie friend sitting next to us declared Arrington’s burger is the best in L.A. It’s served on a grilled brioche bun with white cheese and a side of arugula, sliced red peppers and a house-brined pickle.

I ordered the turkey meatloaf sandwich and wished I had ordered the lighter roasted turkey sandwich. The meatloaf was very dense, yet I did like Arrington’s housemade chips. The turkey sandwich looked appetizing on grilled grain and nut bread with pickled shallots, cranberry mayo and butter lettuce.

Healthy salads - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Healthy salads – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My niece ordered the Cali quinoa salad mixed with wild arugula, sliced apples, crunchy almonds, and cubes of avocado and dressed with housemade apple cider vinegar.

Chef Arrington elevates a Reuben sandwich by wrapping it with melted Swiss cheese, spinach, and her housemade fennel kefir kraut. She spices it up with her own Gochjang Island dressing made with Korean red pepper paste. Its dazzling zip tingles your tongue.

The smoked salmon pizza was piled high with watercress leaves and crumbled hard boiled egg and had a sprinkling of black sesame seeds along the crust.

A few of these items are served on Leona’s brunch menu. I will need to come back one weekend to try her brown butter pancakes with whipped coconut and a sea salt-vanilla butter. She also makes a Korean latka with creme fraiche and sliced scallions. It’s a tantalizing fusion of traditional potato pancakes with house-made kimchi served on a wooden board.

Locals bring their kids for lunch, brunch and an early dinner from the children’s menu featuring a vegetable plate, turkey Sloppy Joe, fish sticks, and cheeseburger.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The day we dined, Arrington had just opened a new cookie window which opens onto the sidewalk and attracts pedestrians on their way to the beach. Chef Arrington’s sweet cookies include a crunchy miso brown butter chocolate chip, zippy ginger macadamia nut and coconut macaroon. They are an ideal snack to pick up before or after a day at the beach or to nibble on while exploring the Venice canals.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., weekend brunch is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner is served from 5:30 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday through Sundays. The cookie window is open from 11 a.m. to closing. Leona’s is closed on Mondays. $$ 123 Washington Blvd. (310)822-5379.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on February 25, 2016.

Uplifting Vegan Cuisine

Studies show that eating plant-based food can reduce the risk of some types of chronic disease, including cancer and heart disease. IMG_6198For those who who don’t want to step foot in a 100% organic plant-based restaurant, you may want to think again. Vegan and vegetarian diets are higher in dietary fiber and vitamins and lower in calories and saturated fat.

Cafe Gratitiude welcomes guests with a unique I AM … menu. “Each dish is named after affirmations to inspire you to love yourself, accept the world, and be full of gratitude,” said our server. Instead of asking for lasagna, you say, I’ll have “Fabulous” and your server repeats back to you “you are fabulous,” as she writes down the order.

Servers also present guests with a Question of the Day, “What are you grateful for?” It’s a positive conversation starter for families and friends dining together and inspires people to put away the electronics and talk to one another.

Since Café Gratitude is committed to supporting organic farms and biodynamic wine and beer makers, you feel good ordering off the menu and pairing it with a beer or glass of wine.

IMG_6202Due to my positive demeanor, I ordered the I AM…HAPPY, a Mediterranean raw wrap filled with goodness inside a whole wheat wrap.

For those feeling magical or craving a burger, the I AM….MAGICAL double cheeseburger is made with two housemade black bean patties, grilled gluten-free amaranth and millet bun, shredded romaine, tomato, pickles, red onion, spicy cashew thousand island, chipotle ketchup, topped with cashew macadamia cheddar.

Seeking a BLT type of sandwich? Order the I AM….EXTRAORDINARY sandwich made with coconut bacon, instead of the real animal bacon, and layered with lettuce, avocado and tomato.

For those who like Italian cuisine, the I AM….AWESOME eggplant parmesan panini is made with a herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant topped with marinara sauce, cashew ricotta, tomatoes, brazil nut parmesan, arugula, and basil on a grilled gluten-free amaranth and millet bun. Amaranth is a grain packed with iron and calcium, and its fiber content is triple that of wheat. It’s served with a side of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

IMG_6204Vegans and vegetarians sometimes like to eat a meal in a bowl. The MUCHO Mexican bowl is filled with black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and nopales cactus plant. It’s topped with salsa verde, cashew nacho cheese, spicy pepitas, romaine, and sprouted probiotic brown rice.

Another bowl is the I AM….GRATEFUL community bowl. It’s layered with shredded kale, black beans, garlic tahini sauce, and a choice of sprouted probiotic brown rice or quinoa.

We learned that for every bowl sold, Cafe Gratitude donates $1 to KISS THE GROUND, an organization that son, Ryland Engelhart co-founded. He made five minute movie, The Soil Story, to explain why our health, the health of the soil, and the healthy of our planet are one of the same.

Finish with I AM LOVELY… – a baked gluten-free cobbler served with a scoop of housemade coconut cashew milk ice cream.

If you haven’t experienced vegan cuisine, Cafe Gratitude is one of the best spots to have your first plant-based meal. Not only is the food delicious, the positive staff makes sure you walk away feeling good about yourself. $$ Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 639 N. Larchmont Blvd. (323)580-6383. There is also a downtown LA location 300 S. Santa Fe Avenue. (213) 929-5580. To find other locations, go to http://cafegratitude.com.

LA Vegan Wine & Cheese Tasting This Weekend

design-1024x1024This weekend at downtown’s popular Arts District, The Springs is having a weekend marketplace featuring artisan and handcrafted vendors on Saturday, July 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The next day, The Springs is hosting an informative Vegan Wine & Cheese Tasting. The fun starts on Sunday, July 19th at 3pm. Sommeliers will pour six different Summertime Rieslings and Rosés flights paired with house-made vegan cheeses.

Jared Stein and Kimberly Helms created The Springs as a one-stop-shop for wellness, offering healing massage, infrared sauna treatment, and relaxing yoga. Book a session before or after visiting the marketplace or the tasting. The cafe offers a full menu of raw, vegan dishes including Sweet Corn Ravioli, Polenta, and Spicy “Tuna” Rolls.

Tickets can be purchased for $20 at TheSpringsLA.com or by emailing tickets@thespringsla.com.

608 Mateo Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021 (213)223-6226.  info@thespringsla.com

Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2014

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals at restaurants throughout Los Angeles. As devoted foodies, our team IMG_0980selected a repertoire of new and old dining establishments that provide creative fare, that is beautifully presented by attentive service, in an inviting atmosphere. Here is our list of honorees from some unique dining venues:

#10 Sonoma Wine Garden – Executive Chef Garee Battad, Sous Chef Jefferson Reyes

Located up on the third-floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place, the atmosphere offers the quintessential sunset viewing spot to have a glass of wine with a farmers market fruit and cheese board. The creative cocktails by the talented mixologist Rob Floyd go nicely with Reyes’ lamb meatballs served over linguine. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner nightly. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. #350. (424)214-4560.

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#9 Open Sesame – Ali Kobeissi

This full-service, casual restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese cuisine in Los Angeles. Our favorite dishes include the grilled halloumi cheese with sliced watermelon, skewers of lean beef and lamb, smokey garlic baba ganoush and the fried cauliflower pita sandwich. Kobeissi has another Open Sesame in Long Beach and is passionate about using the best products for his classic dishes with a contemporary twist. Open daily at 11 a.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

#8 Crossroads – Founder and Chef Tal Ronnen, Executive Chef Scot  DSC_0096Jones

The elegant supper club serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that will convert almost every carnivore in town into eating healthier. Ronnen makes his buttery cheeses with almond and macadamia milk. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and actor James Caan are all huge fans and dine here often. Make reservations for their Sunday Brunch to try their Bloody Mary rolling cart, Crossroads Benedict and fried “chicken” with waffles. There is a full bar and wine and beer list. Open for lunch during the week starting at 11:30 a.m. Dinner is served daily at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday Brunch begins at 10 a.m. 8284 Melrose Ave. (323)782-9245.

#7 smoke.oil.salt – Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher

The scent of the wood burning oven lures foodies into this Spanish tapas and wine establishment. So does Perfecto’s multi-course paella dinners on Sundays for $49 per IMG_8645person. Partner Stephen Gelber offers some rare Spanish wines for guests poured by the glass using the Coravin system. Order the black skillet filet with a light artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower. Another must-try is the butcher’s filet of lean Iberico pork wood-fire grilled to seal in the succulent flavors. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. The Wine Bar menu is served until 2 a.m. 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

#6 DOMA – Executive Chef Dustin J. Tranibabt-beets-Doma

Visually stunning dishes come out of Trani’s kitchen, from grilled octopus to braised veal with crispy polenta. His special handcut pasta dish is coated with garlic, tomatoes, Dungeness crab butter and Parmesan cheese. Etheral light pasta pillows are dusted with truffle sauce. The restaurant offers pre-theater dinners for guests seeing a show at the nearby Wallace Annenberg Center of Performing Arts. The four-course meal is $38 per person. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. 362 N. Camden Drive (310)277-7346.

#5 Plan Check – Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura

DSC_0293This is a fun gastropub with three locations in Los Angeles serving savory burgers, innovative cocktails and comfort food. Uchimura incorporates an Asian flair to his pastrami sandwich with Kimchi mustard spread on to layers of double smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and a sunny fried egg on top. The Plan Check burger has Americanized Dashi cheese with Uchimura’s famous ketchup leather, and schmaltz onions on a crunchy bun. Diners love the short rib pot roast, French fries cooked in beef tallow and sprinkled with smoked salt. Try the cruller donuts filled with cream and fruit. They offer a variety of draft beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)591-0094 and 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. (310)444-1411. Opens at 11 a.m. at 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)401-1616.

#4 Perch – Executive Chef Gerardo Benitez IMG_0326

After taking two elevators up to the 15th floor before arriving on the rooftop of a historic art-deco building in downtown Los Angeles, guests are treated to spectacular 360-degree view of Los Angeles while sitting at tables on the outside patio or near a blazing fireplace. Twinkling lights provide a festive ambiance. Chef Benitez prepares cuisine with French flair, like boeuf Bordelaise, steak with frites, Bouillabaisse, scallops, ravioli of rabbit and delightful fromage and charcuterie plates. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

Connie.Teds_.Lobster#3 Connie and Ted’s – Executive Chef Sam Baxter

Named after the award-winning Michael Cimarusti’s (Chef and partner) grandparents, this classic crab shack in West Hollywood offers some of the freshest seafood in town. Looking for oysters on the half-shell? A platter filled with Kumamoto from Washington, Matunuck from Rhode Island and Beau Soliel from New Brunswick are available. So are peeky toe crab cakes, and soft shell clam steamers bathed in butter and clam broth. Their lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold. Enjoy this fare with bottled or draft craft beer or with a glass of wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France. Spiny sea urchin can be spread on toast, and their Hook burger is better than most. Open for dinner only on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays Connie and Ted’s is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)848-2722.

#2 Whisper Restaurant and Lounge – Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Located at The Grove is Rick Caruso’s romantic restaurant that offers an engaging American menu with an international twist by Chef Anthony Jacquet. Last summer, Jacquet was selected amongWhisper-Lounge.-Tuna-Tartareover 30 talented chefs across the U.S. by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to participate in an immersive culinary journey throughout Taiwan. He was one of three esteemed chefs selected. To celebrate his arrival back to Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Jacquet is offering a new dish from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, 2015 – a Taiwanese influenced Berkshire pork belly bun with housemade Hoisin sauce, pickled Fresno peppers, five-spice candied peanuts and a sunny fried quail egg. Other winter fare includes his slow-cooked short rib pot roast, Australian lamb burger, and whole grilled sea bass. Tuesdays they serve a Maine lobster roll on a brioche. Happy Hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite F-90B (323)931-0202.

#1 Scratch Bar – Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee

Sitting at the bar and having an 11-course tasting meal prepared right before your eyes by a talented chef is a memorable experience. The 11-course menu at Scratch Bar is filled with innovative Cheff-Lee-Margartiasmall plates including “oyster, mussel, egg, belly, smelt, head, prawn, escolar, duck, chocolate and vanilla,” as the menu reads. Some of our other favorite dishes include a shooter of sake-enhanced green mussel and avocado mousse with a sea urchin. Another favorite is the bone marrow roasted in a hollowed out sourdough bread with pickled red onions and shimeji mushrooms. Desserts are prepared by Chef Lee’s beautiful wife Margarita. Open nightly at 5 p.m. 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010. This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on January 1, 2015.

Urban Garden – Revitalizing Fairfax Ave.

Joey Gibson-Rivas is the new chef at Urban Garden, cooking up delicious Mediterranean and Lebanese inspired dishes.
Joey Gibson-Rivas is the new chef at Urban Garden, cooking up delicious Mediterranean and Lebanese inspired dishes.

Fairfax Avenue between Melrose and Beverly has become quite the hip destination with popular clothing stores like Supreme attracting a younger crowd

Restaurants like Canter’s have long been a draw for the area, and now Urban Garden can be added to the list of desirable attractions.

This is the sixth restaurant for owner George Abou-Daoud. Urban Garden reflects his Lebanese heritage with dishes he enjoyed eating while growing up.

It’s a fast-casual restaurant with wood tables and benches for those who choose to eat-in. Loyal customers return for their tender and golden rotisserie chicken, wraps and salads. A half or whole chicken comes with pita and choice of sauces. The white garlic sauce is my favorite.

George has been in the restaurant business for seven years. He first opened Bowery on Sunset Boulevard, and now has developed five other restaurants, each with their own concept and personality.

A year ago, George’s sister, Marie came onboard as a manager to help her brother with his dining empire. She joined us for lunch and offered us a glass of lemonade with rose-water. “I love this taste, it’s so refreshing,”  she said, and I agreed.

Marie introduced us to her talented and personable new chef, Joey Gibson-Rivas. Joey has an extensive culinary background. He worked with Neal Fraser at bld restaurant. He also worked with the talented Patina team and was the last chef at Sonora Café before it closed on La Brea.

“Cooking is a roller coaster in the kitchen,” Joey said. “One day is intense, the other day is mellow.”

Joey started working in his mother’s kitchen in his home in El Salvador. “We made tortillas and tamales together,” he said. As a teenager, Joey wanted to be a police officer. As he was getting ready to go to the police academy, he read the best-selling book, “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain. “That book changed my life. I knew I had to be a chef. Chefs are like rock stars. Food, music and art are my life,” he said, showing off his tattooed arms. “As you see, I have art all over my body.”

Next to Supreme is Joey’s favorite tattoo shop, Will Rise Tattoo. “It’s one of the best tattoo shops in Los Angeles,” Joey said. “I get my tattoos done there, and the artists come to Urban Garden for lunch and dinner.”

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The service is personable and fast at Urban Garden

Joey prepared an artistic plate of smoked eggplant, traditional hummus, spicy hummus and babaganoush with regular and whole-wheat pita bread. It had just the right amount of garlic and spices.

Of the four salads on the menu, I tried the fattoush with vegetables, and the kale, quinoa and beet salad. Both were lightly dressed, intensifying the flavors of the vegetables. The couscous salad looks like tiny pearls with tomato, feta and cucumber. Each salad is made with mixed greens and not iceberg lettuce.

One of the traditional goodie menu items is a warm stuffed cheese roll. The crust was flaky like a croissant with cheese oozing out after each bite.

The cheese roll arrived on a plate with vegetable kibbeh, made with vegetables, bulgur and potatoes.

Next to the kibbeh were three falafels made with quinoa. Even though they were fried, they were not greasy. All the vegetarian items are cooked in vegetable oil, separate from the oil used to cook the meat dishes. They use lamb shoulder for their lamb dishes, and no blended or pressed meat.

Some of the plate suggestions on the menu include a Spice Trade, The Old School, Dips Ahoy or Lean & Mean.

This block on Fairfax Avenue is changing and becoming a mini Greenwich Village. Joey is the type of chef who knows you by name if you come in more than once and talk to him. He likes working on Fairfax and serving the local community. Stop by, and say hello. Be sure to order a protein chop or vegan glory. Both are delicious.

Parking is available in the back in the green spaces. It’s free, and you don’t have to worry about putting quarters in the meters. Open for lunch and dinner. Closing time is 9 p.m. 446 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)951-0990.

Published May 18, 2013 in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

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