Vegan Los Angeles Food

Our vegan Los Angeles experts, Stephanie Lundstrom (left) and Jacky Wasserman.

The City of Angels’ vegan roots run deep. A century ago, the nation’s first raw vegan restaurant chain (The Eutropheon) opened up here. The historic Follow Your Heart Cafe has been around since 1970, and there are now more vegan and vegetarian eateries in California than in any other state. Options in Los Angeles are so plentiful that finding the choicest spots can get overwhelming. Sure, there’s the convenience of the ubiquitous Veggie Grill (which we love dearly, by the way). But what if you want to go beyond? To get an authentic feel for vegan Los Angeles, we sought out the wisdom of local experts. Stephanie Lundstrom edits videos at the West Hollywood-based animal rights organization Mercy for Animals and chronicles her food obsessions on Instagram as @sapling_vegan. Her partner Jacky Wasserman owns the cult vegan Los Angeles apparel brand BEETxBEET (pronounced “beat by beat” — she’s been DJing since the age of 16). Together, they can’t imagine living anywhere else. Whether you’re just visiting or are a newly-minted Angeleno, let Stephanie and Jacky show you where to eat and chill in LA. 

 

Let’s start with the obvious: Breakfast!

Stephanie: The Grain Cafe in Mid-City has my all time favorite breakfast dish — their egg and bacon bagel. It’s right by our house, making it extra temping to stop in since they serve breakfast all day! I don’t know how they cook the tofu (the egg) but it’s working, and whatever sauce they use is to die for. My other favorite breakfast item is the biscuit from Moby’s restaurant Little Pine in Silverlake. I love me a yummy carb and this one comes with maple butter and strawberry jam. Dogs are allowed on the patio so, like, why would anyone sit inside?

Jacky: I took my non-vegan dad to Little Pine when he was in town, and he wanted to go back the following weekend. Between the two visits, we shared the Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes, French Toast, Breakfast Scramble, Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. Also, I’m a sucker for chai lattes and they’ve got one that hits the spot. All of their profits are donated to animal rights organizations. Another place on the Eastside would be Flore Vegan. They have a nice selection of breakfast items that don’t disappoint, like the Chicken & Waffles and Blueberry Pancakes.

Vegan Los Angeles Breakfast

The Chickn & Waffles at Flore (left). And the breakfast spread at little pine.

 

Which farmers markets should we hit up?

Stephanie: Jacky and I try to make it to the Larchmont Farmers Market every Sunday to get our fruit. Once we got berries from there and from Whole Foods to compare the taste and were blown away by how much more flavor the farmer’s market berries had. 

Jacky: At the Hollywood Farmers Market, the Ridiculous Baking Co sells all vegan pastries and breads. They usually make a sausage biscuit sandwich that sells out early. Dave’s, the only vegan Korean vendor I know of, is also there. India Sweets and Spices is a small grocery in Highland Park offering a plethora of hard to find Indian spices and products. They also have a great buffet that is super affordable and has a good selection of vegan dishes and sides.

 

Must-try grab & go?

Stephanie: M Cafe on Melrose is a full service restaurant with a little grab and go case of salads, wraps and treats. They have this macrobiotic tempeh wrap that I love. Pair it with a side of kale salad in peanut dressing and BOOM, you have a winning lunch.

Jacky: One of my favorite spots to have meetings or pop in for a quick bite is Green Table Cafe in Mid-City. One of my favorite things here is the Lasagna or the B…Loved Panini. And the Tiramisu and fruit tarts are a must! I also love Stamp Proper Foods in Loz Feliz which has lots of vegan options and delicious smoothies. My favorite is the Palm Springs Poolside — perfect after a hike in Griffith Park. Yeastie Boys Bagels food truck is usually posted up outside of Stumptown Coffee downtown during the week. They have a vegan bagel sandwich on an everything bagel with sprouts, red onion, and sun dried tomato spread called The Mishka. Its name is inspired by Greg Rivera, the vegan co-owner of the streetwear brand Mishka, which I think is rad!

Vegan Los Angeles Bagel

“The Mishka” from Yeasty Boys Bagels. Photo: Jacky Wasserman

 

We need nature and self-care. What’s our plan?

Jacky: One of my favorite hiking trails is Los Leones Canyon Trail in the Pacific Palisades. It’s a great workout and has a great view of the ocean. Not too far from that hike is Lake Shrine Meditation Garden where you can take in the gorgeous plant life as you stroll around the lake or sit quietly with your thoughts. I’m not the kinda gal who gets her nails done on the reg, but every now and then when I’m feeling a self-care moment coming on, I’ll hit up Base Coat because they are non-toxic and use vegan nail polish! The foot massage included in the service is a plus.

Stephanie: My friend Kate rides her bike everywhere and sees the city through a whole other lens. She has taken me on the most beautiful urban hikes and walks. One of most memorable was in Franklin Canyon Park, where we lingered until dark and found ourselves surrounded by the croaking of frogs.

 

Let’s pivot to pizza.

Stephanie: Oh pizza pizza pizza. I’m all about this perfect food, and if you think pineapples don’t belong on pizza, never talk to me or my dog again. Cruzer holds a special place in my heart. They are all vegan, never charge me for a side of ranch and are just plain yummy. They are mostly a take out place, so call it in and pick it up for the perfect Netflix and chill kinda night.

Jacky: Purgatory Pizza has a pie named after iconic lesbian group Tegan and Sara called “Vegan And Sara.” All of their vegan options have interesting toppings, and they have a punk rock vibe which is up my alley.

 

Most reliable dinner spot in town is…

Stephanie: My go to is usually Araya’s Place for Thai. I’m a Thai food freak, and they have the best Pad Thai. It’s super tiny inside, so I recommend a reservation. Also, Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine never lets me down and it’s great for large groups.

Jacky: If you’re looking for great date ambiance or a $20 CDB cocktail (worth it), then Gracias Madre is your place. Otherwise, Pura Vita is the new vegan Italian restaurant that will keep you coming back for more.

 

What about the sweet stuff?

Jacky: PBJLA has old fashioned Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches made with the crusts cut off in these delicate round pockets stuffed with love. They have interesting flavor combinations and make all their jams and butters from scratch! And everything is vegan. They’re located in Grand Central Market downtown, which is a fun place to walk around.

Stephanie: As a sugar addict, I feel qualified to speak on this topic. Magpies Soft Serve has some pretty unreal vegan flavors, my favorite being Pandan. They switch it up every month and always have anywhere from 4-6 vegan flavors at any given time. Also a new vegan donut place just opened in DTLA called Donatsu and they have some really exciting flavors like Creme Brûlée, Ube, and Samoa.

Vegan Ice Cream

Soft serve from Magpies. Photo by Jacky Wasserman.


Any fun happenings we should put on our calendar?

Stephanie: On Tuesday nights, York Blvd in Highland Park turns into a vegan’s dream. On the sidewalk between Donut Friend, a vegan build-your-own-doughnut shop, and a bar called Block Party, a handful of vegan vendors pop up for the night. You can usually find Cena Vegan with burritos and tacos, Señoreata serving up Cuban food, Madame Shugah with ice cream cookie sandwiches, along with a bunch of others. If you’re over 21, you can take your food into Block Party and play shuffle board on the back patio.

Jacky: Vegan Street Fair started up a weekly Sunday event with rotating vendors in North Hollywood, which I’ll be a part of throughout the year. There’s also Green Saturday, a small marketplace usually held in Long Beach.

 

Where’s can we eat really good Mexican food?

Jacky: I love the enchiladas at Un Solo Sol in Boyle Heights. They have a lot of vegan options and make the vegan food in a whole separate side of the kitchen!

Stephanie: Having lived in San Francisco for three years, where vegan burritos were half my diet, I found LA to really be lacking in this area. That is, until I discovered the massive burritos from Vegatinos. They pop up all over LA at different events. If you need a burrito fix, this is your place. And my heart belongs to all things Todo Verde. The owner, Jocelyn Ramirez, is focused on making healthy and amazingly flavorful food. I took my Mexican grandparents to try her cuisine, and they couldn’t get enough. My favorite is the Ceviche, made from heart of palm, but I also love her Jackfruit Tacos and mole. They just finished a massively successful crowd funding campaign to open a brick and mortar in south LA so they can share plant based food with folks who have not had much access to this way of eating and all its benefits. 

 

Which Los Angeles makers should we support?

Jacky: Thought you’d never ask! You can visit me at local vegan events around town — check out the listings on our site. Some other cool shops to support in Los Angeles are Vegan Scene (Female owned), MooShoes, Galerie.LA (Female and Black owned, but not all vegan just FYI). And markets and popups include Renegade Craft Fair, Unique LA, The Rose Bowl Flea Market, Melrose Flea Market, and Shepard Fairey’s art gallery Subliminal Projects .

Stephanie: Obvi I’m going to say my babe’s online shop BeetxBeet.com. She makes cool-kid vegan clothes that have a street wear vibe, and the screen printer she uses is owned by a couple of badass lesbian women in DTLA.

 

Time to donate our time. Where should we volunteer?

Stephanie: I suggest visiting Saving Grace, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. They have the cutest miniature ponies, two fluffy cows and lots of fancy chickens, goats with some serious sass and lots of other adorable animals. Make sure you ask to see Janet the Basset Hound — she’s a snuggler. The sanctuary is run by Erich and Kathy, a couple who used to volunteer at another sanctuary and wanted to open their own to dedicate their lives to caring for, and loving, animals in need.

Jacky: Burrito Project Los Angeles has different chapters around the city where you get together in a group and make vegan burritos to then pass out to the homeless as a team.

Keep up with Stephanie Lundstrom’s adventures at @sapling_vegan and follow BEETxBEET at @beetxbeet.

For more bonus vegan Los Angeles recommendations from Stephanie and Jacky, check out LAIKA’s Patreon page.

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Editing and photo collages by Julie Gueraseva. Photos courtesy of Jacky Wasserman and Stephanie Lundstrom.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

To Save the Earth, Lose the Meat

Cattle ranch on former Amazon land, known as the “lungs” of the Earth. Photo by Daniel Beltrá.

Humans make up only about 0.01 percent of all life on Earth. While our planet is 4.5 billion years old, we have been around for a mere speck — 200,000 years or so. Yet in our short time here, we have managed to set in motion the worst era of mass extinction since the dinosaurs. In the past 50 years alone, we have caused wildlife populations to decline by a catastrophic 60 percent.

Through entirely avoidable activities, we are destroying our planet’s complex ecosystem, upon which humanity itself depends for survival.

The biggest cause of wildlife loss is the destruction of natural habitats to create farmland, a staggering 83% of which is taken up by animal agriculture despite it providing only 18% of calories. Today we raise over 56 billion land animals worldwide in various forms of confinement (yes, vertical factory farms are now a thing), and Americans’ meat consumption is at an all time high of 218 pounds annually per person.

Factory Farm Earth Day

Pig gestation crate. Photo by JoAnne McArthur/WeAnimals.

All this flesh-eating comes at a high cost. The environmental footprint of animal agriculture is massive — it produces more CO2 emissions than all land transportation combined. The top three meat corporations – JBS, Cargill and Tyson – emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of France. And the nearly half a million dairy cows on factory farms in Tulare County, California, for example, produce five times as much waste as New York City and carry antibiotic resistant E. coli.

Humans have consumed natural resources at a colossal level. Global emissions have been accelerating like a “speeding train,” according to a recent study published by the Global Carbon Project. Average global temperatures have risen 1 °C above pre-industrial levels and are projected to reach 1.5 °C within two decades. The effects of that warming were evident last year across the United States, from the raging wildfires in California to the intensifying hurricanes and flooding in the Southeast.

Factory Farm Earth Day

Flooded factory farm after Hurricane Florence in North Carolina’s Duplin County. Photo by JoAnne McArthur/WeAnimals

Last October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rang the alarm: To avoid an unimaginable climate catastrophe, we must reduce CO2 emissions by 45 percent by 2030. That’s just 11 years from now. If we dare continue down the same destructive path, emissions would reach levels “beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity,” warned a recent study published by Nature.

In his new book The Uninhabitable Earth, journalist and climate columnist David Wallace-Wells paints a grim picture of the cataclysmic storms, droughts, heat deaths, plagues, migration in the hundreds of millions, wars and economic collapse that could await.“We have all the tools we need, today, to stop it all: a carbon tax and the political apparatus to aggressively phase out dirty energy, a new approach to agricultural practices and a shift away from beef and dairy in the global diet; and public investment in green energy and carbon capture,” writes Wallace-Wells.

Last year, the journal Science published the most extensive analysis on the impacts of animal agriculture to date. The study, led by University of Oxford’s Joseph Poore, concluded that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable farming.

Poore, who initially undertook the research in order to find out if sustainable animal agriculture was possible, eventually stopped eating animal products as a result of his findings. His research team’s final recommendation? Not reduction or “humane” alternatives, but an altogether elimination. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth,” Poore asserted.

Considering how animals raised, transported and killed for food are treated, this is a no-brainer.

So as you decide what to have for your next meal, or as you peruse grocery store aisles, know how much power your plate and your shopping cart holds. The steaks, pun intended, have never been higher. Make the conscious choice and omit animal products.

by Julie Gueraseva

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Blossom the turkey and Minnow the dog have something in common — they were both once thought of only as “food.” Minnow was rescued from a South Korean meat farm in 2015, and Blossom was saved last year from a commercial turkey farm in West Virginia. Today they share a home with Abbie Hubbard, and are like any other family. They go on hikes together, snuggle on the sofa and greet Abbie at the door. “When I put the keys in, I hear Blossom make loud chirping sounds in excitement,” Abbie, who is the Animal Rescue Responder for Humane Society International, tells LAIKA. “She always comes running, and it makes my heart do flips of joy.”

Blossom (left) and Minnow out on a walk. Photo: Abbie Hubbard.

Abbie recalls once being asked by a reporter in South Korea what it was like to have a dog that was different from other ‘meat’ dogs. She explained that Minnow is no different, and that her heart is the same as all other dogs. “I often think about that question in regards to Blossom,” she says. “My response would be that she, too, is no different — her heart is the same as all other beings.”

While Abbie was already vegan when Blossom came to live with her and her dog Minnow, it was through Blossom that she gained a deeper understanding of turkeys — starting with the very first night she took her home. “Blossom watched as I pet Minnow and seemed to recognize that I was a source of kindness and was a safe being,” Abbie says. “Shortly after, Blossom came and settled into the crook of my arm. It’s hard to describe that moment without crying. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

Blossom with one of her favorite toys. Photo: Abbie Hubbard.

Among the many things that Blossom enjoys is hearing a good beat. Abbie says that “if she is in another room and I turn on music, she comes running!” Her very favorite food is hummus, and her second favorite is watermelon. She loves hanging out in the kitchen when Abbie is cooking. She relishes a good head scratch and will rest her head in Abbie’s hand to receive cuddles. “She allows herself to be vulnerable with me, and I always recognize those moments,” says Abbie. “It feels like such an honor, especially knowing what people do to turkeys and other farmed animals.”

“That my dog Minnow has been deemed a companion by our society and my turkey Blossom has been deemed food is completely arbitrary.”

Every year, 46 million turkeys are slaughtered for Thanksgiving, and another 200 million throughout the year. Killed at barely four months old and not protected by the Humane Slaughter Act, their lives are short and agonizing. Abbie has witnessed how easily Blossom gets frightened in the safety of her home, whether it’s by the doorbell, loud noises outside or even the soundtrack of a scary movie (This past Halloween, she got spooked when Abbie was watching Poltergeist and hid in the living room. “I turned the film off and went to comfort her,” Abbie says.) These moments offer a small glimpse into how terrifying daily life must be for turkeys on farms. In fact, it was this fear of danger that led to Blossom being rescued from that West Virginia facility. When the five-week-old turkeys were being moved to a “grow out house” to be fattened up for slaughter, she hid for days behind a piece of equipment. A farm worker who discovered her decided to mercifully surrender her to a local rescue.

Minnow and Blossom. Photo: Abbie Hubbard.

These days, Blossom and Minnow are deeply connected. Because she is 30 pounds and can’t get up the stairs (turkeys are bred to grow unnaturally large quickly), Blossom sleeps downstairs. And Minnow stays right there by her side, keeping her company through the night. “That my dog Minnow has been deemed a companion by our society and my turkey Blossom has been deemed food is completely arbitrary,” Abbie says. “Blossom has the same depth and range of feeling. She bonds with others. She plays. She doesn’t like being alone. She hurts and she loves. Blossom is completely and entirely my companion for the same reasons Minnow is my companion.”

There’s no need to uphold traditions that don’t reflect our inherent values of love, compassion and respect. We asked Tere Fox, co-founder and executive chef of the famed NYC restaurant-turned-catering-company Rockin’ Raw, to share the recipes for two of her most beloved dishes. These mouth-watering King Trumpet Vegan Scallops and Heart of Palm Vegan Crab Cakes are festive and unique, and best of all — no one was harmed in the process.

  

King Trumpet Vegan Scallops
Serves 6

5-6 king trumpet mushrooms
1 cup veggie broth
½ cup nori or dry seaweed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper

1. Mix the veggie broth with the seaweed and garlic in a bowl, and set aside.
2. Chop the mushroom stems into 1” thick pieces (I can usually get 4-5 pieces per mushroom.)
3. Set mushroom pieces in a deep dish or baking pan and pour the veggie broth mixture over them. Let stand for 20-30 minutes.
4. Heat a sauté pan on medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or any vegetable oil you have on hand.
5. Place mushrooms neatly into the pan and sear on both sides for 5-8 minutes total.
6. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with sautéed spinach or fresh greens.

If you want to make this a raw dish, soak mushrooms in 2 cups filtered water, 1 large piece of kombu, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 2 teaspoon minced garlic for 3 hours. Then serve over baby arugula or any of your favorite greens.

Heart of Palm Vegan Crab Cakes
Makes about 24 patties

1- 15 ounce can drained chickpea (keep liquid)
2-15 ounce can heart of palm
¼ cup vegan mayo
Juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoon chickpea liquid
1 teaspoon tamari
⅓ cup scallions minced
2 cup bread crumbs plus 2 cups breadcrumbs for breading the cake cakes
2 teaspoon spicy mustard
2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 sheet of nori or ½ cup of salted seaweed snack
1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
2 teaspoon dried or fresh parsley

For the breading and frying of the patties:
3 cups avocado oil for frying
1 cup plant based milk for breading only
1 cup flour for breading only

1. In a bowl, add the chickpeas and heart of palm. Hand mash until slightly chunky and smooth, and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the chickpea liquid until slightly foamy. Then add vegan mayo, lemon juice, tamari, mustard, and all of the herbs and spices. Mix well.
3. Combine the chickpeas and heart of palm mash with the chickpea liquid mix, along with the 2 cups of breadcrumbs, and the scallions into the mixing bowl.
4. Set mixture in the freezer to set for 20-30 minutes.
5. Create a flouring station: 1 cup any plant based milk, 1 cup flour, 2 cups bread crumbs.
6. Remove mixture from freezer, lay parchment paper on a baking sheet and start to bread. Make 3 ounce circle-shaped cakes, dip in the milk, then dip in the flour, then dip in the breadcrumbs until completely covered. Set aside.
7. Heat up frying oil in any 3″ deep pan. Test with a drop of water or piece of bread to make sure oil is ready for frying. (You will know it is ready to fry when it sizzles and bubbles with the test ingredient.)
8. Then submerge 3-4 patties at a time, and fry for 3 minutes until golden brown.
9. Let cool on unwaxed parchment paper for 2 minutes, then serve.

For garnish, or to use as dip: Blend ½ cup dill, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, and 2 cups mayo until smooth.

If you would like to get to know a turkey in real life, volunteer at your local sanctuary. We recommend signing up to clean a turkey barn! You can also sponsor a rescued turkey.