Our day in the Gardein kitchen was obviously the standout day of our Los Angeles visit. It was magical, and one that I wish I could re-live. The rest of the trip had some highs and unfortunately, some lows.
Let’s start with the highs…
When we arrived at the hotel, the woman working the front desk noticed that I was there from Gardein. She loves their products.
I explained that I’d won a recipe contest, and she was thrilled for me. Then she said, “So wait. Does that mean you’re vegetarian?” I said that David and I are both vegan.
She was instantly very excited and said, “Well, you’re the person I need to talk to then!”
She explained that she wants to go vegan and told me about her family cooking history. We hit it off right away, and I gave her my card with blog address.
Then she started clicking through her computer and said that they had a room overlooking the water that she’d move us to instead. I’ve never been offered an upgrade for a room in my life. So it was such a wonderful surprise.
On our way out for dinner that night, I stopped by the desk again to give her an extra copy I had of Kristy’s book, But I Could Never Go Vegan. (I had already purchased a copy when the publishers sent me one for review. I figured I’d pass the extra to a friend while I was there.)
She was so tickled, she came out from behind the desk to give me and David hugs. It was such a great moment of connection.
That night David and I went to dinner at Sage Vegan Bistro. I’d been to their Echo Park location, but never the one in Culver City.
They have an outdoor seating area. And the inside has a vaulted ceiling/warehouse feeling to it.
After a full day of travel, David and I were both famished. We started with an appetizer of fried artichoke hearts. The appetizer came with two dipping sauces – ranch and marinara.
Living in Iowa, I really miss decadent appetizers at restaurants. Here, vegan appetizers are rare. And if they exist, they’re usually things like an olive plate or pita and hummus.
This one was definitely decadent. And as a huge artichoke heart fan, I was all over it. By the time dinner arrived, I was pretty much full.
David had the spicy pineapple fried rice and salad, which was very tasty. The fried rice included tofu, broccoli, almonds, and onions.
I ordered the spicy Brazilian burrito. I am crazy about plantains. So when I saw the burrito was stuffed with them along with black beans, rice, and avocado, I had to order it.
Unfortunately, they seemed to have forgotten the plantains. I opened the tortilla and poked around looking for them, but they were nowhere to be found. The burrito was still good, though.
(Update: Once I got home, I created this vegan black bean burrito recipe with plantains to scratch that itch.)
The following day was the cooking class in the Gardein tasting kitchen.
When I woke up and opened the curtains, this was the view. The light was that perfect, hazy Southern California glow that they captured beautifully in the Christmas in LA video.
(Have you seen that video? It’s my favorite melancholy love song to Los Angeles.)
Looking out, I felt so overwhelmed with joy at my good fortune. Knowing that the day before the icy wind had been whipping my face, and that day I was soaking in palm trees was almost too much happiness to contain.
And now for the lows…
The following day, our luck shifted. When we woke up, David was burning up with a fever.
We were supposed to spend the day hiking with our dear friend, Leah. But David was in no condition to go anywhere.
I offered to stay with him. But he insisted that I go see Leah. He just wanted to sleep all day. And he knew how much I’d been looking forward to it.
I went to Whole Foods and picked up some juices and food for him. Then I went to see Leah.
Leah and I went for lunch at SunCafé. They’ve moved locations since I was last there. They’re now in a larger space with an outdoor seating area.
I felt delighted for them that their business is booming. There were loads of people inside.
It was a far cry from when I used to be the only one in their smaller location while people walked inside, heard the place was vegan, and then left. Now the tables were packed.
Leah and I split the cashew kale shake, which was amazing as always. (You may remember that I recreated the drink here.)
Then I ordered the French onion soup.
It was fabulous. It tasted like a mushroom broth base, lots of sautéed onions, and cashew cheese with croutons on top.
I made a bit of an ordering blunder by then having the farmers market pizza with mushrooms and onion on a cashew cheese base.
The pizza and soup had similar flavor profiles. In retrospect, I would have enjoyed something with different vegetables more.
I wish I would have stuck with my usual favorites, the raw supreme pizza or the kale colossus salad. The pizza was very filling and plenty for two to share.
It was while we were eating lunch that I started feeling the pangs of David’s illness creeping up on me. David had flown to San Jose for a conference just a few days before our LA trip. And unbeknownst to us, all of his coworkers on that trip got hit with the same thing. I started feeling achy all over, weak, and congested.
However, I had so been looking forward to that day, I pushed on. Leah and I drove to the starting point of my favorite hike.
It starts by the carousel in Griffith Park. And it ends at a helipad at the top of the mountain with an amazing view of Los Angeles and the Griffith Park Observatory. I have made that hike many, many times. It is my happy place.
We had a wonderful hike and a lovely talk. But by the time we were back down, I was feeling the worse for it. I went back to Leah’s house and slept until we were meeting up with friends that night.
I so badly wanted to cancel. But I had made a general call out to friends on Facebook. I didn’t know who was coming or how to let them know that we weren’t feeling well.
I pushed through. It was so good to see our friends. But I wished I was feeling 100% for it.
The next day, David and I couldn’t leave the hotel room. Just outside, there were people riding bikes, paddling on the water, running along the beach, and I was too weak to even make it to the patio.
Our appetites were nil. I was supposed to go to a party Kristy was hosting with some of my blogging buddies, but I was too sick to go. So disappointing.
The next day, we went to a walk-in clinic. We had now checked out of our hotel. Leah was kind enough to let David rest at her house, while we caught up in the kitchen.
Then that night, Kristy and Chris had us over for bowls of soup. Kristy is such a phenomenal cook. And it was a bummer that with our appetites diminished, we could barely taste it.
However, we were thrilled to see Kristy and Chris. I would have been really disappointed to be that close and miss them altogether.
And that night, we left.
I didn’t get to see so many of the people I’d planned on seeing. We weren’t able to go to Crossroads with the gift card that the folks at Gardein had given us (although, we can use it on a future trip). We didn’t make it to Gracias Madre or the new vegan cheese shop, Vromage, both of which I’d been wanting to try. I didn’t get to go to my favorite dress shop.
We were so close to everything we wanted to do/see, but so far away. I couldn’t believe the timing since neither of us had been sick like that in years.
So that’s it. The highs and the lows. Thankfully, we’re both feeling better now.