Wheatsville Food Co-Op (Austin, TX)

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The Instagram community amazes me. While frolicing thought Austin, reccomendations came pouring in. There are a few particular Instagrammers whose recommendations I always heed to, such as Alex Estrada (of Silver Snakes). Thanks to Alex, I hopped a bus up Guadalupe St and entered Wheatsvile Food Co-Op just in time to duck out of a passing downpour. The goal: Popcorn Tofu.

I entered the Co-Op with only those two words to guide me. After meandering through aisles, past generously stocked grab-and-go cases and a hot self-serve bar, I spotted the words at the Deli Counter.

The Deli offered two types: Popcorn Tofu and Buffalo Popcorn Tofu. Since it is impossible for me not to order vegan buffalo anything, I got a half and half pile of both. KFC’s Popcorn Chicken wasn’t a thing that people regularly ordered back when I was an omnivore, so I’ve never tried the popular original. Still, on its own merits, this is good stuff!

The tofu is frozen, thawed and pressed removed as much water as possible resulting in a denser/drier interior than most maybe use to. The chunks are coated in a wet (instead of the 2-3 step wet/dry process of dredging for a fried cutlet) seasoned cornmeal batter and deep fried for a firm bite of subtlety spiced favors.

Eating this big paper tray of relatively dry tofu may seem monotonous… and it was. But still delicious and totally worth going out of your way to try. I only wish my Instagram friends had told me before gorging myself on Mt. St. Tofu that the best way to consume Wheatsville’s Popcorn Tofu is inside of a Po Boy. Or at least with a side or their vegan Blue Cheez or Cashew-Tamari dressings which I had no idea was an option until I was far far away from Austin. Ahhhhh! Next time!

Wheatsville Food Co-Op
3101 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78705
wheatsville.coop

The Lusty Vegan or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Veg

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For months I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Manifesto for Vegans and the People Who Love Them, by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Actually, I’m still waiting—and you can wait with me by ordering a copy here. But until we all get our copy of this sexy cookbook, I got my hands on one of the recipes to try out now!

I tackled the Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa. Here is what Ayinde Howell’s version looks like:

Here is what mine looked like:

Not are pretty, but pretty close (except I burned the tofu and onions). Before you tackle this too I’m going to share a little knowledge nugget: Don’t use a cheap Cajun seasoning blend. Why? Because it is mostly salt and will make your dish very very very very very salty.

Not satisfied with my salty attempt, I tried again the next day:

Rounds two was much better. I picked up a salt-free Cajun seasoning. Losing the high dose of sodium brings out the herby nuance of the spice rub and highlights the white wine and butter sauce. Want to try you hand at this? Here is all you need to know:

Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes | Serves 2

Every now and then, I get lazy and hit the easy button. Often, this includes falling on my favorite prepared spice staple: Cajun seasoning. This rub is a nice blend of salt and red spices that can act as the undertone or the main flavor. In this recipe, it’s the main flavor. Traditionally, dirty rice is made with meat, rice, and herbs. I stripped it down to the main flavors and switched the rice to quinoa for extra protein. It is a flavorful dish guaranteed to satisfy. (From The Lusty Vegan © 2014 by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Used with permission from Vegan Heritage Press.)

QUINOA
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
1 tablespoon grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt

TOFU
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, frozen and defrosted
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari

BUTTER SAUCE
1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

GARNISH
1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

  1. Quinoa: In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then stir in the quinoa. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Set aside.
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly from the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional minute.
  1. Add the cooked quinoa and mix well. Add the tamari, Cajun seasoning, thyme, and red pepper flakes (if using), and mix until all ingredients are well-incorporated. Remove from the heat.
  1. Tofu: Cut the tofu into 4 slices, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Use a paper towel to press out as much water from the tofu as possible, then transfer the tofu to a shallow bowl. In a separate small bowl combine Cajun seasoning, basil, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and sage and mix well. Use your hands to gently rub the seasoning mixture onto the tofu, coating well. Set aside.
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and sear for 3 minutes on each side, until brown and slightly crispy. Add the water and tamari to the skillet and allow to reduce for 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the dirty quinoa onto the plates and top with the tofu.
  1. Butter Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the Cajun seasoning, basil, and sage. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup of the white wine and the cornstarch and sauté until mixture begins to bubble rapidly. Mix continually with a whisk or fork. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of white wine and allow the alcohol to burn off. It may flambé, but the fire won’t last long. Remove from the heat and stir until the sauce becomes cloudy. Immediately spoon the butter sauce over the plated quinoa and tofu and garnish with sliced grape tomatoes.

Blossoming Lotus (Portland, OR)

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When selecting a restaurant for our first breakfast in Portland I didn’t take kids—especially non-vegan kids—into account. Turns out, it didn’t matter.

The serene dining room at Blossoming Lotus did not immediately seem kid friendly. But without promoting, the waitresses dropped off a plastic cup of water with lid and straw along with our glasses. Maybe this is common, but because I’m not around kids often this move really impressed me. The Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll was his first choice, but the young man’s nut allergy preventing us ordering him one. Instead he ordered the Belgian Waffle ($12) topped with blueberry syrup, coconut whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, and powdered sugar. It was a kid pleaser! Even without maple syrup, dairy whipped cream or butter, he practically licked the plate clean.

I rarely pass up a vegan biscuit despite being constantly disappointment by them. But no disappointment found in the buttery Lotus Benedict ($13). A tender biscuit split in half and topped with tofu scramble, sausage patties, sliced tomato, wilted spinach, and hollandaise. Served with steamed kale and a slice of grapefruit to balance out the complexity of the Benedict.

When handed the menu, the Fig and Brie Sandwich ($10) immediately caught my attention. A ciabatta roll stuffed with creamy house made cashew brie, tempeh bacon, and arugula, spread thickly with fig jam and a coarse mustard. The sandwich was neatly stacked, with no fillings spilling out as I chowed down on this dish. Smokey and sweet, this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

Even the side of Roasted Potatoes ($3) is excellent. With enough salt and char to not require any accouterments.

For those lucky enough to have traveled to Kapaʻa, Hawaii on Kauai, yes this is the same restaurant you’ve encounter there. It’s a little slice of paradise in the PDX.

Blossoming Lotus
1713 NE 15th Ave.
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 228-0048
blpdx.com

Learning New Tricks With Vegan Cuts

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I’ve had the good fortunate of joining a vegan food swap earlier this year; but then the group took a two month hiatus. At that same moment, Vegan Cuts stepped in with this bounty. What arrived was a shockingly tiny box brimming with sample and full sized items… each and everyone new to me.

I had herd about Vegan Cuts previously, but never looked too far into it. I had assumed it was geared toward people in less vegan bountiful parts of the country. Living in Los Angeles I thought I had been exposed to all the best vegan snack items; but this little box put me in my place.

The immediate favorite was the Cinnamon Crunch nuggets by Somersault Snack Co. Crispy bite sized balls of wheat and sunflower seeds from a brand carried at the supermarket 50 feet from my office. I now have a hug bag of these on my desk… and to think, I would have never known about them without Vegan Cuts.

Other items included the by Snikiddy, the sample taste of Coromega Be Bright Superfood Oil, awesome vegan Watermelon Gummies by Surf Sweets, a huge bag of Ziggy Marley Salt & Pepper Roasted Hemp Seeds, Chic-a-Peas Falafel Roasted Chickpea (huge hit a party), Smooze Pink Guava Coconut Ice Pops and samples of pur-Absorb Iron supplement.

I was so impressed with every item. This box is very much worth the $20.00 price tag; plus it comes with free shipping. Vegan Cuts is a winner!

SunCafé (Los Angeles,CA)

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I rue the day I assumed SunCafé was a commonplace sandwich/salad/smoothie joint. It is so, so, so much more. The converted 1920’s ranch home (formally Zach’s Café) on Ventura Blvd extrudes warmth and comfort while the menu promotes whole food in comforting and familiar forms.

Chef Roy Elam—who shreds guitars along with carrots—heads the inventive menu of colossus salads, raw burgers, golden beet linguini and Reuben themed pizzas… but we had no room for those because we—Elana, Hanna, Alice and I—filled up just about everything else.

Sun Nachos—one of the most popular menu items—were the obvious starter. While debating whether to get the dish with baked blue corn chips or with raw thin-sliced jicama chips, the waitress chimed in “You can do a split order.” So that’s exactly what we did. Topped with “SunChorizo,” nacho cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeño, green onion and cashew sour cream this concoction makes the best vegan nachos I’ve had to date. Half of us loved the corn chips, the other half loved the jicama, so a split order is the perfect way to go! Me? I preferred the chips.

The Caesar Salad was not what we expected.  Crisp leaves of romaine lettuce and quartered cherry tomatoes are tossed in raw Caesar dressing with capers then lightly coated in garlic pecan crumble. Apparently there was also raw croutons in here… do you see them? I don’t. We asked the waitress and she swore they crushed up in there. Still, the subtly dressed salad refreshed the pallet; although I may eat my way through the rest of the salad menu before coming back around to the Ceasar.

Raw Cream of Mushroom Soup… I didn’t care for this one. The taste is subtle and refined, but the thick and frothy texture is not for me.

I had nearly given up on all vegan mac & cheese. From the ashes of the sloppy glue or watery plastic of most vegan versions rises the glory of SunCafé’s Mac & Cheese—and it’s gluten free to boot! Slender tubes of quinoa pasta are tossed with tiny diced tomatoes and then broiled in the smoothest-richest-most-perfect-ever cashew cheese sauce. Browned tips of pasta periscope up from the bubbling bath as chewy charred bits stick to the sides was we scrape it from the cast iron dish.

The Farmer’s Market Pizza was an unexpected pleasure. While the gluten free rice flour crust is mearly passable, the toppings sing. Market fresh figs sit atop white sauce (a blend of cashews, garlic, shallots, and nutritional yeast), with smokey tempeh bacon, peppery arugula, meyer lemon vin and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Owner Ron Russell approached our table as we debated who got the last slice. A tall (or so I think… we were sitting down) man with a beaming smile who accepted our raving compliments on the pizza but deflected them into the kitchen. “The kitchen suggested this combination… I wasn’t too sure about it. I mean figs? On a pizza…?” We all laughed. This moment of commodity distracted everyone as I stole the last slice.

I would have been happy to end the meal here, but most people love dessert. My friends are no exception. The loose, mouth-coating texture of cheesecake is one of my least favorite desserts ever; but cheesecake is the star of the menu here. I quickly learned why. The Cookie Dough Cheesecake is firm and dense—perfect for me—not too sweet and plenty for four hungry girls. The base is a mixture of cashews, coconut oil, and cacao nibs with other stuff (I’m not sure what) on top. It made a fan out of me; I still haven’t shut up about loving this cheesecake!

SunCafé
10820 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 308-7420
suncafe.com

Zoetic Supper Club: A Vegan Pop Up Dinner (Los Angeles, CA)

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The Californication of Detroit’s popular vegan pop-up dinner series Chartreuse unveiled this month as the Zoetic Supper Club.  In the spring of 2013 Chef Corinne Rice moved to Venice, CA, bringing her organic, plant-based pop up dinners with her. A graduate of the raw culinary Matthew Kenney Academy, her dinners express restrained elegance bursting forth with complex flavors that I’ve rarely encountered in raw vegan dining.

All of Zoetic menus are organic, gluten- and soy-free elegant displays of local produce and healthful intent. With roaming locations and musical accompaniment, each Zoetic Supper Club experience will be unique; no two venues, menus or musicians will ever be the same.

I was fortunate to attend the very first of the series—held May 22, 2014 at the G2 Gallery—and enjoyed an evening with new friends and four artistically crafted courses. The incredible Sasha Mari played tunes for us throughout the evening; and through she has directly behind me her music was like a hushed secret in my ear. An intimate dinner like Zoetic brings together like minded people, so although I arrived alone, I carried on conversations with everyone around me. I left with the contact information of a found wood craftsman, a new found interest in exploring the culinary offering of Reno, NV and a new PETA-employed friend.

At my seat I found a BYOB glass of wine and eatable words. Nestled in each napkin was a poem by Jacqueline Suskin to guide us through the evening.

To begin we pluck purple from earth
and know the tender tune of carrot,
sweetness of pea and all hints
of bitter blended with cool cream,
with kind herb and gentle seed.

Follow this with the warmth
of soup that sings its healing verse,
spice of ginger, bright bloom
of chamomile and bold bite
of nasturtium yo balance the cure.

Reliable brassicas steady
the tradition of curry
made sweet by calming coconut
and even sweeter by the grand guide of grape.

Southern sugar sends the final
message with what Mexican reds
can conjure in custard and pulling
its weight in purity the pistachio
provides proof that all can be good
when topped with wisdom
of relish held well by chocolate
and smoked salt.

first | purple carrots. peas. brussel chips. avocado cream. mint. basil. black sesame foam.

This was my favorite dish of the evening. Young peas and floral herbs play so well together. But it was the curls of purple carrots, crisp and smoked with a subtle ‘bacon’ flavor that  amazed me. Before this meal I’d never encountered these flavors in raw food. Simply astounding!

second | ginger. chamomile. nasturtium.

The unexpected soup, different from the published menu. Afterward Chef Rice explained she felt the menu might be too puree-heavy so changed this course to a vivid vegan consommé.  A mild broth with the heat of ginger and one peppery bite of nasturtium.

third | brassicas. saffron coconut curry. cilantro pesto. grapes.

The pale green puree hide a simmering spice that lingered after every bite. The plump florets of rainbow cauliflower, steeped in the coconut curry, were a satisfying end to the savory courses. I swept up every last bit of the cilantro pesto… with my finger!

fourth | Mexican red velvet custard. pistachio pastry. reishi chocolate sauce. smoked salt.

A stunning end. Two quenelle of raw chocolate custard splatted in chocolate relish—a ruddy mushroom—sauce holding a delicate pistachio wafer. It tasted as beautiful as it looked.

The next dinner will he held Saturday July 26, 8pm at C.A.V.E Gallery 1108 Abbot Kinney, Venice… and it’s BYOB!

Basil Thai (Paso Robles, CA)

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Driving the 500 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles I planned to take my vegan boyfriend to my favorite veggie friendly spot in central California: Thomas Hill Organic in Paso Robles. Unfortunately a private event derailed our plans. Scrolling through Yelp we saw the v-word pop up for Basil Thai and headed that way.

It’s a traditional plastic gilded interior on the Paso Robles square. The staff is friendly and thankfully knowledgeable:  Our waitress let us know that EVERYTHING is made with fish sauce. Releasing exacerbated sighs, the kind that only come after hours of highway driving, the waitress leaded in and whispered that there were two things we could order.

The first dish out were little bites of Meaing Kum ($7). Fresh leaves of spinach leaves are stuffed with roasted coconut, ginger, onion, lime and roasted peanuts. The traditional Miang Kham sauce is made with fish sauce, so the waitress replaced it with a sweet chili sauce. Unsure of what to do, we placed bits of everything into the leaves and shoved it into our mouths. Mixed together, these elements normally used as garnish make a sweet-tart-crunchy starter. I loved it!

Made with sweet soy sauce, the Pad See Eaw Noodles ($15) is the only vegan noodle option. The price is excessive considering the portion, but the wide rice noodles with tofu, carrots and broccoli were fresh and filling. The charred crunchy bits of the chewy noodles noodles were the best part of the dish. We quickly devoured the carrots and broccoli then hopped back on the 101.

I’m incredibly grateful that Basil Thai accommodated us on the long drive home.

Basil Thai 
828 11th St
Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 238-9945
basilinpaso.com

Dominick’s (Los Angeles, CA)

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When people describe a restaurant as “Classic Italian,” I’m often confused. Do they mean dried boxed pasta drowning in red sauce or hand rolled al dente noodles bathing in olive oil. I always hope they mean the lather and I always hope it’s just like Dominick’s.

The thought of eating dried pasta at a restaurant haunts me. If it’s not made in house, I’d rather eat at home. But, since fresh pastas of usually made with egg, it hinders my growing interest in vegan dining…er… which this menu is not an obvious example of. I spoke with the manger about their vegan options, and she informed that their fresh pasts is made with flour and water only! Although we didn’t order any during this meal, you can count on me returning for a vegan feats!

The deep fried, risotto wrapped, molten mozzarella Rice Ball ($4 on the The Five O’Clock Meeting menu!) is my all time favorite. Cracking into the rice ball, a  puddle of cheese oozes fourth, tangling in my fork’s tines as I stab at the crisp shell. Powdery Parmesan and minced parsley cling to the molten cheese it’s scooped into my mouth. This is the very best dish on the menu. Always.

The petite bowl of Spiced Marcona Almonds & Parmesan Cheese Chunks ($8) is loaded with flavor. The generous chunks of Parmesan and oil slicked almond are heavy—slowing me down, savoring each bite. Though small, it’s far too much for one person. It’s a great dinner accent and something to nibble on between a meal’s courses.

The Grilled Artichoke ($12) is a simple dish. The nearly unadulterated vegetable arrives with charred edges and a burnt lemon. It’s absolutely delicious but a overpriced to anyone who knows have to prepare an artichokes.

The light Bibb Lettuce with Lemon, Creme Fraiche & Crispy Leeks ($10) is the subtle sleeper of the of the menu. A translucent film of cream clings to the buttery bibb lettuce. Shoestring leeks are crisped in a delicate tempura-like batter and carry a faint saltiness. The flavor of this dish is fleeting, drawing you back to the pale leaves for more and more and more…

As long as late summer figs are still dangling from the trees, I hope the special Fig Salad clings to the menu. Stuffed with a cube of mozzarella, the sauteed fruit is served on a vinegar wilted bed of mixed greens.

Though we didn’t order a vegan pasta, we did order was the Housemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce, Basil, Pecorino ($16). Smooth cylinders of tender gnocchi drenched in a light tomato sauce that tastes of nothing else. It’s exactly what you would expect from this dish. No more, no less.

I forgot to mention our waitress! My friend instantly spotted her as a favorite instructor at Pop Physique. It was with her permission that we indulged in the Warm Skillet Cookie ($8). The cast iron pan of chocolate chunk cookie is littered with salted almonds and topped with Rocky Road Gelato. It’s a rich with a satisfying warmth that leaves you craving a cardio workout.

As rich and indulgent as chocolate is, the Oven Roasted Peach Shortcake ($8) was my favorite dessert. A polenta shortcake encased in a crystal sugar shell atop housemade peach jam and whipped mascarpone. Served with a side of lightly oven roasted peaches and scattering of rosemary, it the perfect ending to any dinner.

Dominick’s
8715 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048
dominicksrestaurant.com

Tomatomania at Loteria Grill (Los Angeles, CA)

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For most of my life I’ve hated tomatoes. I would eat tomatoes only in their most cooked down and pureed state—aka pizza sauce. It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 when I visited Central California for the Bianco Di Napoli tomato harvest that I dared to eat an unadulterated raw tomato. Standing there in organic fields of Cliff Fong’s Farm, with the summer sun still pulsating through the red flesh, I became a tomato fan.

This past year I’ve pursued tomatoes in their best forms, learning to love this formally forbidden nightshade. I remain picky, you’ll often find the dull slabs of artificially ripened tomatoes lingering in the bottom of my salads bowls. But when a organically grown, vine ripened tomato is presented, I’m all over it!

So when I got an invite to Loteria Grill’s Tomatomania, Five Tomato Dinner, I was thrilled! The menu wasn’t published (and I have a feeling wasn’t decided) until a few days before the event, but I crossed my fingers that it would be vegetarian friendly. The 5 course dinner was curated by a slew of fabulous Los Angeles chefs: Jimmy Shaw, Evan Kleiman, Kris Morningstar, Giselle Wellman, Neal Fraser and Duff Goldman.

The final menu proved not to be vegetarian friendly. The two main courses turned out to be mostly meat with very little namesake tomato. The dishes contained such meager amounts of tomato, there wasn’t a point in plating them without the flesh. So two vegetarian items from the regular menu were substituted. But I was told that my vegetarian request provoked a poignant conversation in the kitchen. In the heat and excitement of planning, little forethought went into the vegetarian options (an important consideration since I was not the only one requesting vegetarian options). I was honored to hear I made the chefs reconsidered their offering. It’s the entire point of my blog: To enjoy existing vegetarian option, celebrate the chefs who take the time to craft delicious plant based meals and encourage others to follow suite.

The meal opened with a Cucumber Margarita with a Tajin rim. I always prefer the gentle cucumbers over the acidic lime in my libations.

The Loteria Grill kitchen offered an appetizer, Molletes con Salsa Mexicana de Colores: sliced baguettes with black beans, heirloom pico de gallo and queso. The soft baguettes tasted distinctly non-homemade, as to be expected from a taqueria. This dish didn’t stand out among the similar ones I’ve had, still, I couldn’t stop popping these bread bites.

The first course was the easiest to vegetarianize, Tomato with Burrata served in a Potato Pancake (sans caviar) by Chef Giselle Wellman. The crisp potato cake, easier to see in the non-veggie version, was fried to a deep black brown, without a smidgen of burn, and paired perfectly with the summer sweet tomato.

My favorite dish of the night, mostly because it was the only as-is vegetarian offering, was the Squash Blossom and Huitlacoche Lasagna by Chef Evan Kleiman and Jimmy Shaw. Tender leaves of pasta curled around sautéed flowers and corn smut in a mild tomato sauce.  Soft and savory, this dish brought together the best of Chef Jimmy Shaw’s Mexican and Chef Evan Kleiman Italian influences.

Chef Kris Morningstar prepared a Swordfish a la Veracruzana with sungold tomatoes… but I had the Calabacitas Tostada topped with Zucchini and Roasted Corn Succotash, Salsa Verde Cruda, Onion, Cilantro and Queso Fresco instead. The massive pile proved to be filling but relatively bland.

Chef Neal Fraser prepared an Achiote-marinated Duck Breast… but I had the Champinones con Epazote Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce instead. Not normally a mushroom fan, the chewy texture of the filling played nicely with the overly soft corn tortilla and tart tomatillo sauce. The ample portion felt a bit ridiculous in a five course tasting dinner, but at least I was guaranteed to not go home hungry.

The final course was the Caprese Panna Cotta by Chef Duff Goldman. It featured the most innovative use of tomato, as a gelée beneath a panna cream finished with a balsamic reduction and a fist full of pine nuts. Made with gelatin, I tried only a few spoonfuls for flavor, but devoured ALL of the pine nuts.

The event was a lot of fun! The chefs made themselves available to the diners, breathing a sigh of relief after their course had been served. This is the first of what will be an annual event and a wonderful way to try the handiwork of our city’s favorite chefs. I hope next year’s dinner takes vegetarian guests into consideration. We love tomatoes too!

Tomatomania at Loteria Grill
6627 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
loteriagrill.com/hollywood

Goldie’s (Los Angeles, CA)

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An impromptu weekday lunch with my mom finally brought me to Goldie’s. The living wall beckoned us from the street but offer little shade for a midday meal. Fortunately, the interior proved to be lovely. Designed by the restaurateur Nick Mathers, it’s been described as Frank Lloyd Wright-meets-lumberyard which doesn’t make any sense to me at all. This is clearly a mid-century derived design accented with Moroccan tiles and knock-off Wegner Elbow chairs.

The smoky kitchen air wafted through the elegantly slit wall directly into the dining room. We figured if we are going to breathe all this smoke we might as well start off with the Grilled Flatbread ($8). Slathered with honey, rosemary and ricotta, the flatbread arrived unsliced on a wooden platter. With butter knives we dully sawed into the tough bread—neither crisp nor chewy—leaving deep groves in the gorgeously finished wooden plate. The ricotta was flavorless, topped with such a scant amount of rosemary and honey that the kitchen may as well have left it off. Flatbreads are no longer on the menu. I understand why.

The Kale Salad ($12) was a much better event. Tender leaves of mixed-age kale tossed in honey dressing with thin slices of granny smith apple and finished with toasted sesame and blushing pink pickled onions. Large and filling, this salad was woefully overdressed. It was so unfortunate considering the how well all the other elements worked together. I definitely would order this again, but with half the dressing.

The Grilled Baby Leeks ($14) were another head-scratcher.  The slender stocks of what looked more like scallions then baby leeks (we asked the waitress and she said they were scallions) were almost impossible to cut through. The pungent puddle taleggio fonduta balanced out the acidity of the pickled seeds. Finished off with a tangle of crispy onions, I found the onions more palatable then the tough leeks.

Finally, the Roasted Carrots ($12) arrived. The charred exteriors, filled with tender sweet flesh, are cooked perfectly. The buttermilk bath envelopes the crunch of the spiced pistachio. This was a phenomenal dish. Too bad the rest of the meal couldn’t match its quality.

Goldie’s
8422 W 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
goldiesla.com

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