Christmas 2007, Hollywood Boulevard
We were supposed to drive home to Syracuse today, but after seeing reports of snow and icy conditions forcast for much of our drive, we decided to hang around here for just one more day. Snow. Blizzards. Reality is truly setting in- vacation is over! Oh and did I mention that I start teaching on Wednesday??
I don't really know how to put this post together- it's little odds and ends of foods, family, get-togethers, and miscellaneous interesting things that I really want to show from my trip to L.A., but that have been piling up instead. I decided to just try to form them into a narrative - and where that doesn't work, just to let the photos speak for themselves. This post is very photo-heavy, but I promise that won't happen again any time soon! Here we go: little snapshots of how we spend Christmas, New Year's, and all the days in-between...
A trip to southern California just isn't complete for me without a visit to the Getty Museum, where I have spent many hours studying and researching. And a visit to the Getty isn't complete without a stop at the cafeteria, where you can get good veggie food for decent prices.
On the day we went, they had freshly made tortilla chips and this awesome spicy salsa, all for about $2.
Daiku and I also shared this veggie burger platter. The veggie burger came with pesto aioli, but we asked them to put that on the side, since I didn't want dairy with my burger.
While we ate, we were treated to the sight of this picturesque winter sunset.
A trip to L.A. is also incomplete without a visit to my aunt and uncle's house. Here is my uncle giving his cute dog Shylor a pistachio.
That night, we all went to an Indian restaurant and enjoyed tons of veggie dishes- I won't bother showing you all the photos, because they look pretty standard, but here is a shot of rice that I thought looked pretty.
Well, so did these veggie pakoras- and they were really yummy.
I never noticed the abundance of citrus trees seemingly growing in every yard when I lived in California- I guess I needed an outsider's eye to really appreciate it.
And boy, did I appreciate it. Here's one of the glasses of fresh-squeezed citrus juice that I drank for breakfast. In this case, it was a combination of grapefruit, sweet lemons from my dad's tree, and some super tart oranges that I snatched from a tree down the street. I miss these concoctions already.
I haven't really made formal new year's resolutions this year, but one thing I want to do more regularly is update the "vegan Iranian" section of this blog. Not only is Iranian food one of my favorites, but it is so easy to veganize. Case in point, these two dishes that my aunt treated us to during a visit to her place.
In both photos, you see rice pilafs- combinations of rice, veggies, beans, and spices that make up an important part of the cuisine. On the top, you see a pilaf of rice and lentils, topped with raisins and potato tadig. On the bottom, you see a carrot pilaf with raisins and almonds, flavored with cinnamon. Both of these dishes are designed to go with some sort of meat, but they stand alone perfectly- or better.
Here's a funny photo of Melisser (the Urban Housewife) and me making funny faces on our trip to Scoops, the ice cream parlor that serves different vegan flavors every day. In the background you can see Jennyshades from the PPK. She is the one who tipped me off about lots of good vegan restaurants, including...
Greenleaves Vegan- a casual place serving diner food with a Thai twist. Here's something that I had never tried in vegan form before, but was dying to- Thai iced tea! Yay! Nothing can compare to that unique flavor, and this definitely satisfied a craving for me.
While we were there, we also decided to try these pancakes and chicken platter, which was really good. I had heard that this restaurant has the best vegan pancakes in L.A., and it was true- the pancakes were light and fluffy and flavorful, just perfect. This dish would be really good hangover food- but even though we ate here on New Year's Day, we weren't too hungover.
Even though you would have thought we were as we added these onion rings to our order! They were so good, especially with their tangy/spicy dipping sauce. I'm not usually a big fan of onion rings, but I had to admit these were good: crisp, not greasy, and full of not-too-hot not-too-boring flavor.
But what did we do on New Year's Eve, you might ask? I apologize upfront for not having better photos of this meal, because it was truly special. Dinner at Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana. The lighting was romantically dim, horrible for photos. But the food was so great that I'm going to break my self-imposed no crappy photos rule to show you:
the organic beer and beet/orange juice...
...the beet tartar with tofu cheese...
...the lemon-rosemary seitan with asparagus crepe and zucchini...
...the chicken-fried seitan with cranberry gel, stuffing bread pudding and coconut sweet potato puree...
...and bananas flambe split. Though we didn't over-indulge and go for the 7-course holiday tasting menu on offer, we thought this meal was amazing and hit all the right notes. The beet tartar was so good- definitely something to try at home, especially with the parsley oil and balsamic drizzle that accompanied it. The cold marinated beets and warm tofu "cheese" played off each other wonderfully. I have no words to describe the main courses- the seitan was divine. The best seitan I've ever tasted. (Unfortunately, the chef would not divulge any of his secrets! So now I'll just have to daydream and know that ass-kicking seitan is really, really possible) For dessert, we had planned on ordering the chocolate souffle, but I'm glad they had sold out, because it led us to try the bananas flambe split, featuring caramelized bananas, 3 flavors of ice cream, and an unforgettable homemade whipped cream that had an indescribably amazing taste and, more importantly, mouthfeel.
I really hope Madeleine comes out with a cookbook one of these days, so we mere mortals can have a shot at making some of these dishes at home. This place is worth a trip to the valley, guys!
Thank you all, by the way, for your compliments about my new haircut! Both Daiku and I felt that the new year demanded a radical change in hairdos, since both of us had let our hair grow way too long for way too long. We had our hair cut by my awesome aunt at her salon. This also happened to be the day before her birthday, so Daiku, my brother, and I took her some birthday treats from Leaf Cuisine, a series of raw, vegan, health food restaurants in and around L.A.
On the top was a slice of chocolate cake, and on the bottom, a decadent strawberry mousse creation. We all loved these little treats and could not believe that something so health could taste so rich and creamy. Yum!
Here's one of my favorite treats, from of all places, California Pizza Kitchen. I love ordering their 4 mushroom pizza (hold the cheese, of course) and then sprinkling red pepper over it generously. The woodsy, savory flavor of the mushrooms is always a treat for me- it is intense!
Remember the wall of vegan ice creams at Follow Your Heart market that I showed you in my prvious post? Well, I could not resist going home with two of them (difficult to choose just 2, but our time was severely limited!) Here we have strawberry frozen yogurt from WholeSoy, which was surprisingly sweet and creamy for having few calories and only 1 gram of fat per serving. It also went really well in smoothies and milkshakes.
My favorite, though, was this fudgee fudge flavored ice cream from FreeZees, an Arizona company that I had never heard of. Now I'm sad that I can't access their treats all the time because this ice cream was so good! It was cashew-based, which gave it a very unique texture and taste- like a not-too-sweet fudgesicle. Both Daiku and I liked it a lot. And, surprise! It was carob-flavored, not chocolate. There might be hope for carob-suspicious Bazu yet, if I keep eating carob this yummy!
Just as we were leaving L.A., it started to rain. When bad weather starts, it's our signal to leave a place, it seems! We left Syracuse last month the day before a major blizzard, we left L.A. at the beginning of a rainy and stormy weekend, and now we are leaving Washington D.C. right as the unseasonally warm weather is giving way to freezing temperatures. What will we find in Syracuse tomorrow...?