A New Cure More space, more dishes at the expanded Salt's Cure

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When Salt’s Cure arrived in West Hollywood five years ago, the American eatery made a splash with their clean, locavore sourcing and whole-animal butchery program. But how they managed to butcher a steer for their standout steaks in such a tiny space was mystifying. The small space meant a small menu, with everything available for the day written on a bulletin-board-sized chalkboard.

Now that they’ve moved into more spacious digs (the old Ammo space on Highland in Hollywood), the printed menu is nearly a legal-sized page long, with double the protein and veggie choices. That means you’ll get to sample more of the Golden State’s best, since Salt’s Cure sources its meat and produce almost exclusively from small, sustainable California farms and its fish from Pacific waters.

Rich woods and warm lighting make for a cozy vibe at Salt’s Cure.

The chefs and servers can wax poetic on the provenance of everything on your plate. Your salad ($12) might include chicories, radishes and pecans from Santa Barbara and aged goat cheese from Tomales. The grass-fed steaks, which hail from Marin County, go pretty fast; here, the chalkboard is used to tally the number of Kansas City strips and ribeyes left for the night.

While the butchery program—which originally emphasized beef, pork and chicken—has broadened to include more veal, duck and lamb offerings, new meatless choices like potato dumplings with wild mushrooms ($25) will satisfy vegetarians. The new wood-burning oven turns out roasted carrots ($8) and cedar plank salmon ($18).

Pork lovers, don’t worry: You can still get the signature, grilled bone-in Berkshire pork chop with house-made applesauce ($34). Salt’s Cure wouldn’t be going whole hog without it.

Salt’s Cure
1155 Highland Ave., Los Angeles
323-465-7258
saltscure.com 

High Tea American Tea Room elevates tea and cuisine

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Start by sniffing the heady aromas. Take a sip to savor complex flavors. Then, pair with food for an unparalleled taste experience. Are we talking about wine? Nope. Tea!

At the American Tea Room’s new downtown teahouse, the tea-drinking experience approximates a fine wine bar. The industrial-chic cafe—set in an Arts District warehouse—offers 200 varieties of premium tea sourced primarily from organic, small-scale growers around the world. To help narrow down your selection, visit the shop’s interactive Tea Zone, where you can smell each tea and learn about its origins.

Sip your tea on American tea room’s gorgeous patio.

At the tea bar, you can opt for a pot of tea, matcha or one of the global-inspired specialty tea drinks. Hot specialties—perfect for warming up in the winter cold—include Okinawan Life Tea (a mix of jasmine green tea with turmeric and ginger, $5) and Himalayan butter tea (Nepalese black, oolong and pu-erh teas blended with organic butter and honey, $8).

Food wise, chef Valerie Gordon (of Valerie Confections) has crafted a menu of delectable salads and sandwiches made with mostly organic, local produce and organic meats; some dishes, like the grass-fed, Lapsang Souchong tea-braised short rib sandwich ($17) and the oolong chicken salad ($13), incorporate the shop’s teas. The chopped salad with Marcona almonds and dates ($13) and the kale hand pie ($6) are vegetarian standouts.

With such clean, delicious food and the numerous wellness benefits of the tea, why not raise a mug (instead of a wine glass) and toast to your health?

American Tea Room
909 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles
213-239-9100
americantearoom.com

Healthy Is Sexy Take your date to Local Kitchen + Wine Bar

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When it comes to eating out on date night, the last thing on your mind may be where your food is sourced. As you gaze at your companion starry-eyed in an intimate cafe, we’re pretty sure you’re not thinking about pesticides and pastures.

Luckily, the folks at Local Kitchen + Wine Bar are. This buzzy Ocean Park newcomer with a chic, upscale-casual vibe has date night written all over it. As the restaurant’s name implies, Local’s Italian-accented New American menu is driven by produce sourced from mostly organic farms almost exclusively on the West Coast. It’s the second restaurant from chef-owner Maire Byrne, whose more casual Thyme Cafe and Market is just up the block.

Warm brick and soft lighting create a casual yet romantic atmosphere.

If you want to get really cozy with your mate, consider a seat at the bar in front of the wood-burning pizza oven, which keeps things toasty. Pizza offerings change with the seasons, but you’re bound to find veggie-laden pies like the verde ($14), an indulgent vehicle for broccoli rabe with burrata, garlic and basil.

Beyond pizza, you might start with grilled persimmon and prosciutto ($5), move onto a salad of Kenter Canyon Farms lettuces topped with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds ($11) and dig into a plate of Swiss chard malfatti with heirloom squash fonduta and roasted pear ($16).

Meats are also sourced with care. Succulent lamb meatballs ($14), served on a bed of crispy wood-fired cauliflower, are made with pastured Colorado lamb. The smoked, bone-in Duroc pork chop ($24), served with apple mostarda and chestnuts, is organic, as is the chicken under a brick ($22) glazed with chile and balsamic.

It’s a truly delicious place to nurture a healthy relationship.

Local Kitchen + Wine Bar
1736 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 396-9007
localkitchenandwinebar.com

Cake Re-Mix Do-It-Yourself chocolate cake from Sweet Laurel

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When you want to bake a cake at home, conventional store-bought mixes are awfully tempting…until you read the ingredient labels. Sugar, bleached flour and partially hydrogenated soybean oil are typically the first ingredients—and don’t even get us started on what’s in the companion frostings.

That’s why we’re ecstatic that L.A.’s Sweet Laurel bakery has introduced a new chocolate cake mix that makes healthy baking a snap. The bakery, launched in 2015, crafts gorgeous custom layer cakes made with all-natural, all-organic ingredients and without any grains, gluten, dairy or refined sugars. The new mix, along with Sweet Laurel’s collection of baking supplies, allows you to replicate their creations at home.

No grain, gluten, dairy or refined sugar in this beautiful Sweet Laurel cake.

Start with the dry mix ($20), which contains a blend of almond meal, cacao, baking soda and Himalayan pink salt. Add eggs, water and Sweet Laurel maple syrup ($21.50) to whip up two six-inch cakes. Stack and frost them with Sweet Laurel’s raw vegan caramel ($19.50), a lip-smacking blend of almond butter, coconut oil, dates, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Speaking of which, Sweet Laurel also sells their own paleo vanilla extract ($16.50) blended with tequila (instead of grain alcohol), which is naturally gluten-free.

While gluten-free cakes often taste about as good as tree bark, this cake is unequivocally delicious: moist, nutty and—especially with those drizzles of caramel—decadent.

To learn more grain-free baking tricks, sign up for one of Sweet Laurel’s workshops led by founder Laurel Gallucci, who just might be the health world’s answer to Betty Crocker.

sweetlaurel.com

Where’s The Beef? You won't miss the meat at eLOVate

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Whether it’s a juicy burger slathered with thousand-island dressing or shredded pork simmered in chili sauce for a carnitas taco, there are certain dishes that we assume are dependent upon meat. But chef Roberto Martin, whose eLOVate Kitchen recently opened in Santa Monica, is proving otherwise with his unique approach to vegan cooking.

Martin developed his style as a private chef for vegan power couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. A carnivore at the time, he focused on replicating flavor combinations typically associated with meaty dishes. The resulting meals were a huge hit with DeGeneres and De Rossi, who enthusiastically endorsed his appropriately named first cookbook, Vegan Cooking for Carnivores.

eLOVate’s interior is cozy and chic.

Martin is now sharing his flavorful plant-based fare at eLOVate, an intimate café and bar where he sources all-organic and primarily local ingredients (“LOV” stands for local, organic, vegan). You’ll find familiar vegan fare like the quinoa bowl ($14) and grilled vegetable sandwich ($14), but the emphasis is on dishes that, in Martin’s words, “don’t taste too hippy dippy.”

The American spring rolls ($11)—filled with lettuce, tomato, pickle, caramelized onions and thousand-island dressing—capture the essence of a burger without the beef. Shredded jackfruit in guajillo sauce is a dead ringer for carnitas in the tacos ($15). Sizzling skewers of ancho-marinated maitake mushrooms ($14) topped with chimichurri sauce are a succulent stand-in for steak.

It’s satisfying food. But when you spot the agave-sweetened strawberry-cinnamon ice cream ($4) for dessert, you’ll be glad you haven’t eaten any meat to weigh you down.

eLOVate Kitchen
1705 Ocean Ave., Ste. 111, Santa Monica
424-272-8700
elovatekitchen.com

Yes, Please Snack time is sweeter with The YES Bar

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For clean eaters like us, the holiday season involves a lot of saying “no.” No to the sugar cookies, no to the pecan pie, no to the gingerbread—at least the conventional white flour/white sugar versions.

So when we find a sweet treat we can confidently say “yes” to, it’s a little piece of heaven. We’re nodding affirmatively to The YES Bar, a delicious, cookie-like snack. Biting into it is sort of like sinking your teeth into a chewy, soft-baked oatmeal cookie, except The YES Bar is free of oatmeal (and all grains), gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and refined sugar.

Smart snackers: YES Bar creator, Abigail Wald, with her family.

The circular bars are the brainchild of Abigail Wald, who first baked them up in her Laurel Canyon kitchen for her son. At 15 months old, he suffered an encephalitic reaction to a vaccine; the strict anti-inflammatory diet he needed to heal meant that Wald was constantly saying “no” to his favorite foods. So one day she combined everything yummy from the pantry that was on his “yes” list—dried fruits, nuts, seeds, chocolate, coconut butter, spices and maple syrup—and The YES Bar was born.

Packed with organic and non-GMO ingredients, the bars ($4 each) come in two flavors that both offer a sweet-salty taste adventure. The macadamia-chocolate flavor combines dark chocolate and macadamias with tart dried apricots and cherries, crunchy pumpkin and sunflower seeds, Celtic sea salt and more. Ground espresso, cinnamon and cayenne lend the mocha-cayenne flavor its warm spiciness. Two new flavors—strawberry-coconut and black-sesame sea salt—are set to debut at the beginning of 2016.

Let’s just say we know what we’re bringing to the cookie exchange this year.

theyesbar.com

Clean Cafeteria Grab a tray for healthy meals at Urban Plates

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Remember the school cafeteria line? It was often an unpleasant journey past a steam table of limp vegetables, oily tater tots and mystery meat.

But Urban Plates, which just arrived in Playa Vista, is proving that dining-by-tray can be a healthy and delicious experience. The growing restaurant chain puts a super-fresh spin on the cafeteria concept with an abundance of organic produce, clean meats and culinary preparations.

As you proceed through the line, you’ll pass various stations dedicated to salads, sandwiches, hot plates and braises. Stop along the way to chat with the cooks and sample anything you want until you settle upon your order.

Can’t decide what to eat? Sampling is encouraged at Urban Plates.

The seasonal menu changes every three months, but we’re partial to the generous salads ($11) like the arugula, beet and fennel salad tossed with almonds, avocado and blood orange vinaigrette. The transparent menu denotes which fruits and veggies have been sourced from certified organic producers; the goal, says executive chef Zac Lennox, is to source the “Dirty Dozen” organically whenever possible.

There’s no mystery meat here: at the hot plate station, you can get grilled line-caught albacore, Jidori chicken or grass-fed beef ($11), along with sides like sesame broccolini and roasted Brussels sprouts. But there are also ample vegan choices, like the vegetable curry ($11) with organic tofu and veggies simmered in green curry-coconut sauce.

Sorry, no chocolate milk here: Opt instead for organic ginseng mint green tea sweetened with local raw honey ($3.50). Yep, this urban cafeteria is just too cool for school.

Urban Plates
12476-3 W. Jefferson Blvd. Ste. 3140, Playa Vista
424-256-7274
urbanplates.com

Wild At Heart Lodge Bread bakes up good-for-you loaves

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Remember when a slice of toast used to be one of the simplest culinary pleasures? Now, with everything we know about the hazards of gluten-laden, industrialized wheat, commercially produced bread has become Public Enemy No. 1.

But before you put all bread on lockdown, check out the revival of ancient bread-making techniques going on at Lodge Bread, a new bakery/café in Culver City. Chefs Alex Phaneuf and Or Amsalam are baking up loaves with organically grown, seasonal whole grains and using a slow, wild fermentation process. The end result: Breads that deliver the nutritional goodness of whole grains with almost no gluten.

Lodge Bread’s freshly baked loaves include whole wheat, spelt and red quinoa–wheat.

All of Lodge Bread’s loaves begin with their sourdough starter, which is simply water and flour that’s been naturally fermented by leaving it open “wild” to the air for at least 16 hours. “When we ferment for these long periods of time,” says Phaneuf, “the natural enzymes in the bread break down the gluten.”

The breads contain no dairy, eggs or sugar—just whole grains like wheat and rye, sourdough starter, filtered water and sea salt. Choose from six seasonal loaves ($7 to $9), which right now include country, whole wheat, seeded, khorasan and olive.

At the toast bar, you can order a thick slice of toasted bread accompanied by house-made organic cultured butter ($4.25); slathered with organic, ground-in-house cashew or almond butter ($4.25) or topped with mashed avocado and crisp radish coins ($8.50).

Been on a bread fast? It’s time to go wild.

Lodge Bread
11918 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
424-384-5097
lodgebread.com

Winging It Better-for-you wings and fries at Love Baked Wings

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They’re eaten at bars and Super Bowl parties by the dozen. They’re often paired with beer and blue cheese sauce. And their finger-licking goodness usually comes courtesy of the deep-fryer.

Yes, we’re talking about chicken wings—the quintessential “bro” food. But thanks to recent Melrose arrival Love Baked Wings, this bar snack is getting a healthy lift.

Chef Michael Shand (who’s cooked for the likes of Adele and Beyoncé) knows his way around a bird: He grew up on a poultry farm in New Zealand. At Love Baked Wings, he’s sourcing hormone- and antibiotic-free Mary’s chicken wings and baking them in special ovens with a high fan speed that render the wings crisp and juicy with absolutely no cooking oil ($11 per pound).

Hearty sandwiches are also on the menu at Love Baked Wings.

Boost the wings’ flavor with your choice of made-in-house seasoning, ranging from garlic, parmesan and rosemary (mild) to sesame ginger (medium) and burning jerk (hot). Not a meat eater? Try the novel and tasty chickpea “wings” ($9 per pound), which are vegan wing-shaped bites made from chickpea paste.

Pair your wings with another healthy take on bar food: carrot “fries” ($5). Shand rolls carrot wedges in gluten-free flour and bakes them until soft on the inside and crisp on the outside—just like their potato-based counterparts but with a whole lot more vitamin A and no frying.

Organic, locally sourced salads ($8) put some green in this bar-snack scene. If you can’t resist a soda, try a fountain drink sweetened with organic agave. But sorry, bros…no beer.

Love Baked Wings
7350 Melrose Ave. #A
323-424-4300
lovebakedwings.com

In The Zone Green Zone brings organic Chinese to Pasadena

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The San Gabriel Valley rules for authentic Chinese food. But finding healthy options can be like searching for a chopstick in a haystack. Many places use MSG, and ingredient-sourcing is often way less than transparent—especially if you don’t speak Mandarin.

Green Zone, an organic Asian restaurant with Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese influences, has been a rare bastion of clean dining in San Gabriel since 2006. Now with their new location in Pasadena’s Old Town, you can enjoy their fresh fare without heading so deep into the Valley.

Green Zone puts the spotlight on super-fresh organic produce.

Though the neighborhood is tonier and the contemporary décor is sleeker, the food at the Pasadena location maintains its real-deal integrity. Hainan chicken rice ($10) is the house specialty, and it’s a super-clean version with organic chicken breast flavored with fresh ginger scallion paste and garlic chile sauce and served over lemongrass rice or wild rice.

To us, though, the stars of this show are the abundant vegetarian dishes that let the restaurant’s organic produce shine. Grilled organic vegetables ($10) is a bright assortment of eggplant, zucchini and squash served with yakitori sauce, while vegetarian sukiyaki combines mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli and more in a sizzling Japanese-style hot pot ($14).

The generously sized salads are brimming with crisp produce; standouts include wild-caught sea bass over organic greens with flaxseed and dried berries ($16). Wash it all down with a wide selection of organic teas ($4 to $6).

And it almost goes without saying: This is a MSG-free zone.

Green Zone
34 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
626-535-9700
greenzonerestaurant.com