I come from a family of foodies. We talk restaurants and cuisine all the time. My brother’s blog is mostly art and food. It’s kind of like that Lily Tomlin skit where she plays a bag lady in New York holding up a can of Campbell’s tomato soup in one hand and a print of Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” in the other saying, “Art? Soup? Soup? Art?” Sometimes food is art, and sometimes it’s just soup.
I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to grub and love to try different cuisines. I’ve gone on food safaris throughout the world, from street cakes in Shanghai, China to roadside tacos in Mexico. I’ve always enjoyed the experience, if not the food.
Current trends in eating these days are taking us in a healthier direction. Even President Clinton, long known for his love of doughnuts and ribs, has gone vegan as a way to stave off heart disease, lose some weight and be more energetic.
We have great options in Santa Monica for healthier foods. The vegan or raw restaurant list that I am familiar with includes Real Food Daily, Native Foods Cafe, M.A.K.E., Euphoria Loves RAWvolution and Raw Star Café, but I’ve probably missed one or two.
I love Real Food Daily. They make a wide assortment of appetizers I crave like nachos, which satisfies my junk food cravings without the downsides of traditional nachos. The TV dinner is probably my favorite entrée on the menu and I never leave there without trying at least one dessert.
Native Foods opened a few months ago on Ocean Park Boulevard and I was extremely happy since I love the food, but hated the drive to Culver City or Westwood. Having Native Foods so close makes it easy to get a vegetarian Reuben that will blow you away with how good it tastes. Pair that with some sweet potato fries, some lavender lemonade and a cupcake and you’ll have a wonderful meal.
I haven’t been back to Raw in years, but the fact that it is still in operation after years is a good sign. I just wasn’t a fan of the place after the prior owner came into the dining room to alert everyone to there being bugs on the food because they don’t use pesticides. I got his message, but didn’t enjoy the delivery. It was a bit off-putting. I can’t say anything about it recently, other than I know people who love it.
Euphoria Loves RAWvolution is on the dog walk route that I take with my friend Anne down Main Street. It seems to be always busy and the one snack I had there was some kind of kale chip thing. The menu is extensive and looks tasty.
Last week I had the chance to enjoy Raw Star Café on Pico Boulevard next to Vidiots. This little café is a hidden gem for the vegan lifestyle. Chef/Owner Brian Au opened his dream restaurant in what was a coffee house. It has the high ceilings and funky artwork that screams hipster. As we took our seats at a little table in the front, Enya was playing in the background and Chef Brian was disappearing into the back kitchen, only occasionally coming out to steam something on the espresso machine.
We started the meal with a delightful amuse-bouche-sized appetizer of basil leaves stuffed with forbidden rice. The plate arrived with four basil leaves on the corners with a black rice and coconut flake mixture. Chef Brian explained the history of the forbidden rice and then explained the dish. It was sweet and creamy thanks to a caramel-like sauce that decorated the rice and coconut. The rice had sprouted. It was soft, yet firm, like that of perfectly prepared pasta.
The mac and cheese was kelp based and reminded me of a spaghetti squash consistency. It was not what I expected, but certainly quite enjoyable. We ended the night with a sweet potato pie that had all the elements of a great dessert — sweet and creamy, a bit of crunch and not too heavy.
I doubt I will ever become a vegan. But I have made strides to reduce the beef intake, lower the dairy (which is difficult thanks to cheese being in everything these days) and increase the greens. The host of new and fabulous restaurants we have makes it easier and more enjoyable though, and I think you should at least try them.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra