Monday, March 4, 2013

Food, glorious food!

I'm home now and the days have just flown. So fast, in fact, that I think the jetlag is still trying to keep up with me! But I did promise you all a foodie blog post and I do like to keep my promises.

As I mentioned in my previous travel updates, I spent a great deal of my time in the US sampling the vast array of food and drinks available to me. I have to say that being located in LA was a good thing, because the cliches about the organic/vegan/wholefood culture there are, well, a little bit true. And for a gal eating out pretty much every day, that wasn't a bad thing. Not that it means I kept to that unsullied diet all the time. Oh no. I sampled from the meat, carbohydrate, and yellow (deep fried) food groups plenty too.

I'm going to start off covering my neighborhood -- particularly the street I spent most of my time on: Abbot Kinney. For Melbournites, I'd compare Abbot Kinney to Brunswick Street -- lots of groovy stores, vintage shops, and more cafes and restaurants than you can poke a stick at.

I'm going to tell you about my favourites, first.

I have to start with Abbot's Habit. Mostly because I probably went there the most often. As a lunch spot it was perfect -- healthy food, a casual (very!) attitude, low fuss. As a quick lunch break from writing it was perfect. And my favourite was this:
The Alvino wrap: turkey, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, pesto-mayo, onions, sprouts and avocado on a sun-dried tomato wrap (I always ordered no onions, though, ew). I even got used to the compulsory side pickle, strange as it is to Aussie palates. The awesome thing about it was that the turkey was slightly warm, which was just enough to gently melt the cheese. The warm turkey, melty cheese and crisp sprouts and lettuce combined with the sweet tomato and pesto-mayo.... Mmmm.... Have I made you drool yet?

My other favourite "take a break" place was called Zinque. A bar more than a restaurant, Zinque not only had a decent wine list, but was also able to make an outstandingly good cup of tea. (And we know how important that is to Emmie.) In fact, I'm pretty sure I had more tea than wine at Zinque.
How could you not? Especially when they serve proper Jasmine green tea in a beautiful pot like that?

Lemonade, across the road from Zinque, fascinated me with their Coles-Cafeteria-style approach to serving the most delicious, brightly colored and beautifully presented salads I've ever seen. But it headed quickly into 'special treat' territory when a small salmon and salad lunch veered towards $20. Another slight disappointment was the much raved-about Wolf In Sheeps Clothing, where my duck main (or entree, as the US would have it) was very meh and so tiny I was still ravenous afterwards. Luckily my dining companion ordered fried chicken and it was so huge she couldn't eat it all and I got to gobble from her plate. Lucky for me in two ways, because it was also delicious. I would totally go back and order that.

I also enjoyed delicious meals at Wabi Sabi (was with some other Aussies and got a bit tipsy, so to be perfectly honest, I don't remember the food that well, but I'm pretty sure it was good), Primitivo (I ate tapas-style at the bar and it was fine, but not awesome), and Gjelina (very delicious Brussels Sprouts char-grilled with figs!). The Tasting Kitchen was also wonderful, for a delicious Manhattan, beautiful pasta (a rare treat for this gluten-intolerant gal), and a to-die-for waiter. (Don't judge! When dining alone, the scenery is very important. :) )

I also had lunch at Gjelina take-away very early on in my visit but didn't bother going back. My 'grilled cheese' was toasted to the point of charcoal and so oily I couldn't balance it on my lap for fear of imparting grease stains onto my clothes. But it was fun sitting in the little alcove next door, on the milk crates provided as seats, soaking up the sun and watching passersby.

There are two other neighborhood spots I want to mention. First, Oscar's, which is not on Abbot Kinney, but around the corner (sort of) on Rose Avenue. Oscars served me probably the best Mexican food I had during my time in the US.
Not only were the soft-shell tacos delicious, the sangria was totally divine. Not too sweet, not too fruity, but cold and refreshing and alcoholic. Seriously yum.

Also on Rose Avenue is the legendary Cafe Gratitude. At Cafe Gratitude the food is vegan and organic, and every dish is named for an affirmation. So when you order your food you have to say something like "I am relaxed" or "I am peaceful".
To add to your physical and spiritual wellbeing, the waiters have a 'question of the day' for you to ponder while you wait for your order. On the day I went, it was "What brings you joy?". Having just spent that morning working on my new book, then walked in the sunshine to Rose Avenue, and with a catch-up with a screen-writer friend to look forward to that evening, my answer was easy: "Being here, doing this."

I think that's about it, for Venice. Although, of course there were more! Seed down near the beach, and Mao's Kitchen, and more! And I haven't even covered the amazing (and weird and wonderful) edible things I found in Texas! Ah well, another post awaits being written, I think...

Writing this has made me hungry! What a pity there's no Abbot's Habit a short walk away to go grab my Alvino wrap (no onions)!! I shall just have to make do with what's in the fridge...


  1. Trying very hard not to explode with jealousy . . .
    It all looks so awesome.

    1. It all was pretty good, I must admit! And so exciting to have so many new options and new things to try.

  2. I am completely and utterly jealous! What an amazing culinary journey. And so nice to have a whole new neighbourhood of wonderful places to explore. More please!

    1. I am definitely going to do another post -- there's some stuff from Texas that I just have to post. Not quite so delicious, though!!

  3. Sounds fantastic - thanks for posting :)

    I do like the sound of Cafe Gratitude and ordering a meal with an affirmation - sounds cool!

    Can't wait to

    1. I wasn't sure if it was cool or a little over the top. But it was fun to go along with it -- and more importantly, everything tasted delicious!

  4. That's a lot of yummy food Emmie. I'm impressed with your ability to remember all the details. E'hem, when you weren't tipsy. The wrap looks like a huge serving. I wonder if you were able to get through it all.

    1. Thanks Dora! Yes, the wrap was huge! Some days I managed to eat it all, other days I'd take one half home for afternoon tea. It never went to waste!!