By Colleen Holland, VegNews.com
They say dreams are either made or broken in Los Angeles, but these days, being vegan in Los Angeles is definitely a dream come true. The number of meat-free restaurants is ever-growing, it’s become a hotbed of vegan product innovation, and it always seems like a great time to have a party (complete with organic cocktails, divine appetizers, and cool tunes). If you can navigate the traffic and surrender to the celebrity-obsessed culture, LA can deliver an unbeatable vegan experience. Here are nine reasons why I think Los Angeles has become the center of the vegan universe.
1. There is a vegan restaurant opening up at LAX.
Making history this May is the first-ever vegan restaurant opening up at a major US airport. Real Food Daily, an LA institution that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has broken ground at a former Chili’s to build a gorgeous satellite of its wildly popular eatery at LAX. What can we expect when flying through Terminal 4? Think mango-avocado sushi, a Southwestern salad with spicy tortilla chips, tempeh bacon sandwiches, breakfast burritos, fresh-baked cookies, and green smoothies.
2. The Four Seasons has a vegan menu.
Yes, the rumors are true. The über-chic Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills now offers a vegan menu. Whether high-end is how you roll—or you simply want to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime, perfect vegan meal—the Four Seasons gets the job done. Guests can dine at the Windows Lounge on grilled quesadillas, jicama tostadas, and fried plantains with tropical fruit salsa. While relaxing poolside, nosh on a Young Hollywood Salad (local greens, strawberries, blueberries, avocado, and hemp seeds in a wine vinaigrette), pita chips and arugula hummus, veggie burgers, and fresh-pressed juices.
3. LA is the birthplace of Dairy Tree.
One can often judge the financial health of a city by the number of emerging start-ups. Thankfully, brother-sister team Jessica and Ricky Schlueter (along with two other founding partners) are committed to furthering the veg economy with their brand-newDairy Tree vegan food company. Their product line is incredible, including a chunky blue cheese dressing, a meltable blue cheese wedge, a meltable mozzarella, and palm-oil-free butter. Look for their excellent offerings in stores later this year.
4. LA is the birthplace of Stella’s Best ice cream.
Although still in its R&D phase, I tasted what may be the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had while in … where? Los Angeles. Some friends arranged a late-night drop-off just so I could try the ice cream everyone was talking about, and it did not disappoint. Catherine Weiss is wowing local foodies with flavors including Red Velvet, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie, and Caramelized Banana Chip. A website is set to launch in early March, where ice cream orders can be placed and shipped nationwide.
5. LA has a Vegan Health Expo.
The same week I was in town for two product launch parties, an author dinner at Café Gratitude, and a vegan cooking class,Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine hosted its first-ever expo. It was the plant-powered bodybuilding event of the year, complete with expert speakers (including former NBA star John Salley), exhibitors (such as HealthForce Nutritionals and Herbivore Clothing Company), cooking demos, fitness competitions, and a Saturday night “juice party.” Although I am neither a bodybuilder or fitness afficionado, observing it all was incredibly inspiring.
6. LA has a raw-food scene that is off the charts.
Given LA’s body-conscious reputation, it makes sense that raw foods has taken the town by storm. Raw chef Juliano started it all more than a decade ago with Planet Raw in Santa Monica, and now restaurants like Café Gratitude and the new M.A.K.E. (by Matthew Kenney) are the go-to spots for anyone who wants to see and be seen. Raw-food ice creamery KindKreme has three shops around the city, and the wildly popular Pressed Juicery is making (green juice) believers out of everyone with its fancy cleanses and seven So-Cal locations. And the queen of uncooked, Ani Phyo, is hosting raw-food certification course this Spring.
7. LA has a new vegan cooking school.
Most cities would be lucky to have one vegan cooking school. In LA, not only is the beloved Spork Foods cooking up a storm with a seemingly endless roster of mouthwatering classes, but the newYummy All-Star Vegan Cooking Class Series is bringing in guest chefs from all over California to teach vegan cuisine. Held in Pasadena, I sat in on an excellent raw-food class taught by Scott Winegard, director of culinary operations for Matthew Kenney’s restaurants. Upcoming chefs include Ann Gentry (Real Food Daily), Miyoko Schinner (author of Artisan Vegan Cheese), and Cherie Soria (Living Light Culinary Institute).
8. LA has an office for nearly every major animal-rights organization.
Big things are happening in the world of animal welfare, thanks in large part to such organizations as PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing (COK). And what do they all have in common besides being powerhouses for the meat-free message? They each have a significant presence in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to take a tour of COK-LA—whoseveg dining guide to LA is a must-have for any veg visitor.
9. LA has great parties.
I love parties—especially vegan parties where I can eat to my heart’s content. And for some reason, people in Los Angeles know how to throw great parties. Maybe it’s the très-cool music played by the DJ/actor (every party in LA has to have a DJ), the sophisticated fashion worn by guests (it seems like there is a photo opp every minute), the innovative cocktails (Los Angelenos know how to mix ‘em), or the delicious vegan food. At the Galaxy Foods’ launch party at Spork Foods (to celebrate its new vegan cheese brand), all these elements came into play for what was truly a phenomenal bash. Only in Los Angeles? Maybe not, but LA definitely has something special.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com