Viva La Vegan!

Wednesday 6 July

Today is the first day of my US adventures for 2011! This time I'm going for 8 weeks and I can't wait. First stop is a 13 hour flight to LA. I arrived at the airport quite early as my Dad was also flying to work this morning, so Mum dropped him off at the domestic terminal and then me at the International terminal. As I was more than 3 hours early for my flight I couldn't check in until three hours before the flight leaving so I caught up on computer work and emails. Had a Subway Vegie Delight while waiting, not the most exciting food to start my journey, but okay.

The flight left Brisbane at 10:25am and was meant to be an early arrival at LAX which ended up not happening. I pretty much fell asleep as soon as I sat in my chair, which was great as we had to wait quite awhile for people to board. I'm glad that I can fall asleep easily when flying otherwise it would be quite tedious. Luckily my ankle seems to be healed since twisting/spraining it on Saturday jumping off of the stage at Jodi's party in Byron Bay.

The 13 hour flight was good, I watched a few movies but nothing really exciting. The food on the flight consisted of penne spaghetti, 2 fruits mix, bread roll, water for lunch. Our snack a few hours later was a salad roll. Then for Breakfast just before arriving at LAX: Stirfried vegetables, 2 fruits mix, orange juice, bread roll. Way too much wheat for me, it's annoying how people think that you can just serve vegans bread, bread and more bread... When I booked my tickets online I selected the option I thought was the vegan version, then I emailed customer service to double check plus confirmed when I checked in my bags. Make sure that your meal has the VGML code (V Australia) and you'll be fine.

I arrived in LA later than expected and removed some of my layers of clothing. I bought a SIM card at a kiosk in LAX and found the SuperShuttle I had booked online before leaving Brisbane. I was staying in downtown LA at my friend Denis' house. Unfortunately because of my flight being late and waiting around for more people for my SuperShuttle ride, I ended up not seeing Denis before him and his business partner, Casey left for Philadelphia to do some filming for their next video project - a documentary on the SHAC7 case.

When I got to Denis' I walked around for awhile and found an Farmer's market with wonderful stone fruits so bought a bag of these:


I found a noodle place around the corner where I ordered a soba noodle dish for takeaway dinner after and forgot to take a photo, sorry. Unfortunately the takeaway container was polystyrene which is really annoying, I can't remember the last time I saw polystyrene takeaway containers used in Brisbane... Then I called some friends, slept for a few hours, woke up to have dinner and do computer work before going to bed at midnight. The weather is beautiful in LA, looking forward to escaping Brisbane's Winter for two months.

Thursday 7 July

I got up a few times but couldn't make myself actually get out of bed, I finally got up late around midday. I didn't sleep well due to jetlag, it's like I'm not fully present where my body is at the moment. I had my leftover noodles and fruit for breakfast and caught up on some computer work. I searched on Happy Cow to see where I was and worked out what places I could walk to for food. My first stop was Tierra Cafe for late lunch. Tierra Cafe is in a small food court on Wilshire Bvld with only about 3 other food vendors. Their meals are vegetarian, with a lot of vegan options, they deliver locally for lunch and are opened Monday to Friday 6:30am - 4pm. I ordered a Green Vegie Juice US$4.5o and a Vegan Taquito with more polystyrene! (Mental note to self: buy one of those stainless stell containers for food.) made up of oven baked taquitos, soy beef and tomatoes, topped with lettuce, soy cheese, guacamole and green enchilada sauce US$5.99:


I have also decided to start a tally for all the people who ask me for directions on my wanderings around LA/USA. I have already been asked by one lovely lass and two guys for directions to an area I've just arrived. (Score:2) Then I headed to Baby Cakes that is well known in the vegan community overseas for having a store at Disney World in Florida. They also have a store in New York which is where they first opened. The store is my sort of style: 50s/60s inspired, girly and a lot of pink! Most of their items are gluten free and they use agave instead of sugar (in the USA sugar is not vegan - see WHY) with many varieties as you can see below:

BCakes BCakes2

I ordered the chocolate coconut covered choc chip cookie US$1.75, Death by Chocolate cupcake US$4.25, mini chocolate brownie cupcake and one each of the chocolate and coconut macaroons US$1.50 each:


I really want to like Baby Cakes as the staff are super friendly and helpful, the vibe and design is cute and kitchy inspired, but the desserts just aren't that great, okay but not great ;( Afterward I walked back to Denis'. Here's some wonderful artwork I saw en route back which made me think of my friend Adele who is a wonderful artist and designer:


I then did computer work for awhile and tried to sort out some phone issues. I had decided to go to Shojin for dinner, a Japanese vegan and macrobiotic restaurant that was walking distance from Denis'. Probably in the area Denis told me not to walk by myself at night, but anyway, I left for dinner sometime after 8pm. The staff are wonderful here, the vibe is great and the food is magnificent. I started with a Detox Elixir containing ginger, cayenne and water US$2.95 then ordered: Stuffed Shitake Mushrooms - mushrooms stuffed with tofu, miso, shiso and mountain potato with soy and tempura sauce US$7.95:


Dragon Roll (one of their top menu items) with shitake mushrooms and avocado with seitan and avocado on the outside. Served with sweet soy sauce US$10.95:


Then followed up with the Rainbow Roll (also one of their top dishes) with spicy "tuna" tofu roll inside and assorted vegetables on top US$10.95:


The photos are taken with my flash on, which I prefer not to do when taking food photographs but if you want to look at other photos of their food see HERE. I was mighty impressed with Shojin but had to takeaway half of my Rainbow Roll as I couldn't eat it all, then I was told there was dessert! Pity I had a late lunch and items from Baby Cakes before eating at Shojin as it's definitely my favourite so far in my trip. Next time I will make sure I don't eat too much that day and make up for it at dinner. I stayed up until 1am talking to my friend Brittyn from Portland, not the best plan to get over jetlag but was still great to speak to her!

Friday 8 July

For brunch I had leftover food from the day before and fruit. I took my time in the morning with computer work and walked to Pershing Square Station to get on the train to Universal Square. While paying for my train ticket an elderly couple asked me for my help in getting seniors train tickets thus I'm changing my help-with-directions tally to my Directions & Help Tally. Score is now 3. Just so you know I'm classing a couple or a group of people as equal to 1 point ;)

My friend Holly picked me up at Universal Square and then we headed to Trader Joe's which is similar to WholeFoods but less expensive as they have their own brand and a lot of their products are vegan and cruelty free. I hung out with Holly last year when I was in LA and it was great to see her again and stay with her and her cat friends, Shiraz & Syra. A mutual friend of ours, Nik Tyler was hosting a party for his friend, Doug in Santa Monica with a few other friends attending. Holly and I went to Pizza Fusion en route to Nik's and it took us quite awhile to find the place which is hardly surprising when they had a name change to The Pour House (badchoice of name) and haven't updated the details on their website. The Pour House isn't vegan but they have Daiya cheese which gets everyone ever so excited! I'm not really into cheese, except raw cashew cheese, so it's not that eventful for me to have food with Daiya cheese, but you know, when in Rome... Holly ordered a Daiya and spinach pizza US$7.25:


Mine was a bit more exciting with a gluten free crust, Daiya cheese, spinach, roasted zucchini, avocado, kalamata olives and jalepenos. The basic pizza was US$7.25 + US$2 for the gluten free crust and + US$1.35 per each topping, so you do the adding... maths has never been my forte:


To celebrate Doug's birthday, we watched Bodysong a documentary about (I think) human life, from birth through to death set to a music score composed by Radiohead's guitarist Jonny Greenwood with no dialogue. Not the sort of film I would have chosen to watch and I watch some unique films. I think it helped that most of the attendees had eaten some of (Doug's girlfriend) Emily's chocolate caramel cups that may or may not have had mind-altering substances within the mix... Emily also made a great cherry chocolate cake with carob frosting and no sugar which sounds a lot worse than it was, it was great:


A group of us hung out after the movie and cake, walking the dog that Nik regularly walks and generally hanging out. It was a great night and much later than Holly and I expected, I think we got home about 2:30am

Saturday 9 July

A sleep in was obviously in order, so Holly and I took our time getting up and hung around Holly's flat doing our computer work. Holly is a Virtual Assistant so most of her work is done online like my Social Media Marketing. Holly is a fan of HBO's True Blood series so she caught me up on a couple of the new epidsodes before the latest episode tomorrow night. We had planned dinner with some friends at Sage in Echo Park. I had been trying to arrange to catch up with Heather & Jenny Goldberg from Spork Online as I'd interviewed them last year for the launch of their online cooking courses - SEE the blog. So when Holly and I walk into Sage, guess who the first person I see is? Yes, Heather who is just the cutest! Here's a photo of the two of us (by Derek):


Heather and a couple of her friends joined Holly, myself, Erin and her partner Chris, Erin's friend Sarah and Justin (who I'd met last night at Nik's) for dinner. Holly and I ordered some entrees - (NOTE: in Australia we call the meal before the main course an entree, in the USA they're called starters. In the USA their main meals are called entrees. This is very confusing.) Polenta Galettes topped with sauteed leeks and rasin, date spread US$7.95:


Succotash Fritters and Fried Heirloom tomatoes over red pepper remoulade, maple syrup and pistachio chutney US$7.50 (I really like my photo below)


And here's some photos of various people's various meals that I have no idea what they are as I didn't write down the names and the menu doesn't help - but the photos are good!






 I had the Sriracha pasta alfredo with tri-coloured farfalle tossed in spicy alfredo with pomegranate seed, pepitas, asparagus and fresh basil US$10.50:


The meal relied on garlic and a lot of spices for its flavour, as in a lot of garlic. I believe in the combinations of ingredients that bring their own flavours to compliment each other instead of outside flavours and rarely eat onion or garlic so this was quite intense. Holly's meal:


Justin had the Stuffed Apple Ratatouille with a sweet red wine reduction, miso boiled potatoes and asparagus US$9.95:


This is some sort of Mac and Cheese deep fried meal that Erin ordered:


We all had dessert even after we were full, I got the rest of my meal takeaway to eat tomorrow for lunch. Most of our group had the KindKreme ice cream which is raw, organic, gourmet, vegan ice cream with three locations in LA. I chose the Brownie Sundae US$9.99 small (Large US$12.99) consisting of a raw brownie, 2 scoops of KindKreme IceKreme (3 scoops in the large) and raw Chocolate syrup. I chose the kale, coconut and lime flavoured ice cream and the ginger and basil flavour to go with my sundae. They are unique flavour combinations but not that exciting.


Justin had a white chocolate cheesecake with chocolate crust, cacao nibs, with chocolate and caramel sauce:


Chris had a waffle with strawberries and ice cream:


Here's a lovely photo of myself, Erin, Holly and Sarah at the front of Sage (thanks Justin):


Sunday 10 July

Holly and slept in, took our time leaving the unit and headed over to Scoops to have ice cream and meet the lovely Joaquin Pastor who starred as Charlie in Denis & Casey's animal liberation fictional film, Bold Native. Joaquin is also a very talented musician whose band, Masxs you should definitely check out. We all ordered the Fig & Pistachio ice cream with the Oreo ice cream as they were the only vegan options. Joaquin had his in a cone, Holly had chocolate sprinkles on hers:


And this was mine:


The ice cream here is great! I especially loved the pistachio and fig flavour. As I'm trying to take more photos of people instead of just food and animal photos, here's a photo of Joaquin and I:


(pic by Holly)

After ice cream at Scoops the plan was to drop by for awhile at Gary & Keiza's place to interview Gary for VLV! and meet Malcolm the beagle who had just been rescued from a research laboratory (where animal tests take place) by the Beagle Freedom Project that Shannon Keith from ARME is involved with. A quick visit turned into about 5 hours later as Gary and I are very similar with our viewpoints and we both can talk - who'd have thought! Gary and his partner Keiza run Evolutus PR providing PR for socially responsible companies. Gary also has a newish blog The Thinking Vegan which is mostly an abolitionist-style blog. When we were filming Gary and my interview, Malcolm kept "helping" with the direction, you know, by biting and scratching at the tripod and moving the tripod at one stage! Keiza took the below photo of Gary, Malcolm and I:


Holly and I ended up getting home in time for the later viewing of True Blood and then trying to work out how to fix an issue her computer was having out. It wasn't going to happen tonight.

Monday 11 July

Today Holly and I woke up early as we had a few things to do before Holly dropped me at the Burbank airport and we had to get lunch first. We went to SunCafe a raw, organic restaurant in LA. Holly had a raw pesto pizza with creamy pesto, marinated mushrooms, tomato, olives, green onion and cashew cheese. Served with kale salad US$13:


I ordered the Pesto Kelp noodles - raw kelp noodles with marianated vegetables smothered in creamy pesto served with kale salad US$13:


SunCafe have great food that you feel full but not bloated when you eat plus wonderful service and feel. Holly then drove me to the Burbank airport where I spoke to some friends on the phone whilst waiting for my flight to Seattle! I had a ball hanging out with Holly in LA, catching up with other friends and making some new ones. I will be back to LA for the Animal Rights conference I'm speaking at, but until then, it's off to Seattle to hang out with Rex & Rebecca!

USA_Adventures_CoverMy USA Adventures - the Book by Leigh-Chantelle (ISBN 978-0-9808484-2-7) is now available to purchase in paperback on Amazon US & Amazon UK, Barnes & NobleEspresso Book Machine and other online retailers. Wholesale info for Retail Stores, Libraries, Colleges, Schools, Universities: Ingram Books.
See HERE for more information.
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