See you at the Crossroads – my latest California Trip

I decided after this last trip to California in August that I needed to stay home for a little while and I’m starting to go a little stir crazy! I miss the coast! I want the tropics! I went to visit my mom in Sacramento August, after a couple of days we trucked down to Monterrey & Carmel to see the sights. We took a whale watching tour and my life was complete when at one point there 12 humpbacks jumping for joy all around us.

I also saw jellyfish and sea lions and all kinds of birds. The Monterrey Bay is pretty magical. I was ready to move and work on conservation but, dang, it was too cold for me. Even Miss Sasha had her little jacket on. She wasn’t that excited by the whale watching even though she’s originally from Illinois. 

We found a place called Hula’s Island Grill & Tiki Room which was perfect for us because they have tons of vegan options and seafoody type stuff for my mom.  They would substitute tofu in any fish dish! Why can’t every place do that? It was perfect I had Jerk rubbed tofu one night with plantains and then a jungle tofu dish another night. 

We also went to an amazing spa called Refuge in the mountains, they didn’t allow pictures but this golf course was next door. It was one of those places that had different hot tubs, cold dips, dry saunas, and eucalyptus steam rooms that you rotate between. I also had the best massage of my life and I almost proposed marriage to my therapist. It was amazing and not expensive so if you are ever out that way check it out, it was what I always thought spas would be until I sadly found that they are mostly about trying to make women remove skin and flesh. The whole area was so gorgeous.

And I loved that there were sea lions everywhere.

After a few days in Sacramento I flew down to LA to visit my friend Laura where the mission was to eat all of my favorite things and see as many sights as possible. I sent Laura a list of my favorite foods and we basically hit them all in an eating out odyssey. The first stop was Seed in Venice, for tacos (of course). 

I loved these tacos, I think they had fried zucchini and all sorts of vegetables under that creamy sauce. California Mexican food is so different from our Mexican food. It’s so fun to try other styles. I have a feeling that everything at this little macrobiotic cafe would be super tasty even though it caters to the healthy crowd. We didn’t stick with healthy for long though, after a walk on the beach, I think we headed directly to ice cream.

Maddy’s in a tiny little cafe and vegan ice cream parlor which is packed with gourmet flavors. I think we tried just about every flavor between us but I went with peanut butter crunch.

Growing up with bi-monthly trips to Chicagoland it is always sad when I return and can’t get deep dish stuffed pizza. Laura promised to take me to a Chicago-style place Masa and, wow, it was really good pizza. The crust was perfect and sauce was really good.  I was so happy that they didn’t use daiya cheese because I’m not a  fan but I still would have preferred Follow Your Heart over the Teese. We still ate enough that we had to lie down and watch Veronica Mars for a while when we got home.

Although everyone knows I’m quite the breakfast taco aficionado I love a good breakfast sandwich too! The Badassarie had, maybe, the best I’ve ever had? It didn’t even sound good since there was maple syrup and cheese with the sausage patty but I will remember it fondly whenever the wind whispers breakfast sandwich.

After the sandwiches we barely made it down to Hollywood Boulevard for the TMZ tour, I really wanted to do the cheesiest tour out there because, that’s what your supposed to do in LA, right? What a scene it was in front of the theater with all the superhero impersonators and gaggles of tourists. It’s maybe the most American spot I’ve ever been. On our tour I got to learn all sorts of things like where Brad Pitt used be a bouncer. We didn’t see one celebrity but Laura did win a T-shirt.

I think, maybe more than any other restaurant on the trip, I was excited to go to Doomie’s Home Cookin’. I love Southern Comfort food and we just don’t have anything like that here, well besides the Wheatsville hot bar, so it’s always a highlight. We ordered everything but don’t worry, this time we didn’t come close to eating it all. I was so jealous knowing that they would have all the leftovers for a week. I adored the jalapeno poppers

The amazingly creamy mac and cheese

buffalo wings

And the best vegan fried chicken, probably in the world.

There is a layer of “skin” and then a layer of gravy, and then the “chicken” so it completely replicates the juicy crispy aspect. I haven’t had anything like it. well except for real fried chicken in my pregan days but I would much rather enjoy a version where no one gets hurt.

We also went to the Griffen Observatory for what was probably my greatest planetarium experience ever. The performer who lead us through the cosmos was so into it and I was so excited to be where I’d once seen Kelly & Dylan make-out. And the Leonard Nimoy theater is there too! I love Hollywood!

Another favorite food of mine is Vietnamese and Vin Loi Tofu did not disappoint, in fact we were all kind of overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the menu that we just asked the owner to bring out whatever. I was ready to move in next door. They even had doughnuts!

My last stop before the airport was for fine dining at the famous Crossroads, Chef Tal Ronnen’s restaurant. We tried so much of the seasonal menu and I can’t even remember it all because, like at most fine dining places, the light was not very conducive to photography. I love the cheese they put in everything, it tasted exactly like dairy cheese to me. This watermelon salad was vibrant and salty and perfect.

The tiny paella appetizer was another favorite.

But, for me, my the best was definitely the meaty cheesy lasagna. No wonder why this place is so popular. The food is all perfectly prepared, with a nice casual but classy atmosphere and the chef really knows how to put a menu together with seasonal vegetables and even plate everything beautifully.

Now I’ve been to most of the fine dining vegan restaurants in the US and Crossroads is towards the top for me, although I haven’t tried Vedge yet, I have to go to Philly next! I didn’t even mention the spanikopita egg rolls, the crab cakes, the cocktails, and the amazing flatbread. It was all so good. I’m ready to go back. This break from vacations is never going to work.

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8 thoughts on “See you at the Crossroads – my latest California Trip

  1. veganinbrighton

    OMFG, I can’t even handle this post. That mac & cheese! The fried chicken! The breakfast sandwich! I just got back from California and now I need to go again! We had an amazing whale watching experience on our trip too. The main difference is that I thought the weather was perfect, so much warmer and nicer than UK weather.

  2. Abby Bean

    Ermagherd: that coat! And sea lions! Ok, there’s just so much here that I’m choosing to focus on the PB crunch ice cream; why wouldn’t I? I’ve never been to L.A.; I’d probably explode.

  3. rika@vm

    Man these tacos look phenomenal! What a great post filled with amazing vegan finds – the mac n cheese looks so creamin’ delish and of course, the miniature paella – simply adorable?! I’m heading to Philly on Tuesday ;) and I can’t wait to try The Vedge!

  4. Jes

    Vacation breaks are so nice (as in, yay, I can finally clean my house and get stuff done) and the worst (as in, damn, there’s no awesome food here or sunny warm weather…) You really hit up an amazing array of places in LA though! I’m going to have to remember the recs for when I head out there in 2014.

  5. Randi (laughfrodisiac)

    OH man I have never been to LA and now I just want to go even worse! It all looks amazing. You are so cute with the headscarf :) I want to go to Crossroads so badly. And the Vietnamese place. And everything.
    And when you finally do come to Philly and try Vedge, know that if you don’t invite me to come with you I will be throwing stones at you throw the window and having them land in your food. Oh I will be there.

  6. Jenny Bradley

    I just went to LA myself! I didn’t get that much restaurant food in on this trip, but I did eat the Badass Breakfast sandwich for the first time! Haha, just bought ingredients to make my own, except with tofu and Upton’s bacon seitan! I definitely want to do the TMZ tour sometime. Was hoping to hit up Doomies or Crossroads but alas, another time.

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