Eating out in Santa Monica vegetarian style

Rather than get my seedlings planted outside this Victoria Day weekend, my best friend and I spent the long weekend a few blocks from the pier in Santa Monica, California.

It was great. We left our husbands and dogs at home and spent 4 full days cycling, hiking, shopping, and, of course, eating.

Although I missed EPC and Coco, after spending 4 mornings at Urth Cafe on Main Street in Santa Monica, it was quite disappointing to return home to drip coffee and granola.

There are a few different Urth Cafe locations around the LA area and I highly recommend giving one of them a try (translate: don’t miss it!). They had a wide selection of egg, pastry and whole grain breakfast options. I enjoyed the breakfast burrito one morning and then got stuck in a wonderful oatmeal-with-fresh-strawberries-rut for the next three days. My friend – a tad more adventurous than I - enjoyed poached eggs, quiche, and an omelette.

And the coffee. Ah, the coffee. Absolutely wonderful.

Urth Cafe was so great that we dared not try anything else and so, even though we were on holidays, we quickly got into a comfortable morning routine. Just so EPC wouldn’t be jealous I brought him home a package of their famous granola.

A few blocks further south on Main Street sits the tapas restaurant Manchego. The namesake cheese and standard quince preserve – membrillo – can be found on the menu. I had been wanted to try membrillo since I came across a recipe in one of the fall issues of Vegetarian Times, so we started off with a cheese plate. The membrillo was quite nice with the cheese and baguette, so if I come across quince this fall and I may try my hand at making it.

We then moved on to zucchini rolls filled with feta and pecans, a spanish omelette, and then I enjoyed their delicious gazpacho. The spanish omelette was disappointing and a little rubbery. Perhaps it had been microwaved or reheated?

This was a sign of things to come as the dessert that we ordered was absolutely horrible. We ordered Tiramisu and when it arrived it was still slightly frozen. Truth be told this wasn’t Tiramisu at all, but some pre-made bland cake that the restaurant gets delivered and then stores in their freezer! There was no noticeable coffee. No lady fingers and certainly no mascapone cheese. Had it not been for the $8.00 bottle of wine that we enjoyed with our dinner (Manchego permits you to dine with your own wine sans cork fees!) it would have been a total loss.

I guess I shouldn’t be so scathing, after all I did get to try membrillo.

Fortunately I was able to satisfy my sweet tooth with a to-go dessert from Urth Cafe on our way back to the hotel!

My friend came across our next culinary adventure in Air Canada’s En Route magazine. In the article Zach Braf shares his favourite haunts along Laurel Canyon Drive. Although En Route may seem like an unlikely place to take a restaurant recommendation, we figured it would be the perfect “Hollywood way” to pick a restaurant based on an actor’s recommendation.

Pace restaurant is tucked beneath the iconic Laurel Canyon General Store. We made reservations for Saturday night, got dressed up and made the 30 minutes drive into Los Angeles.

Pace’s menu features Italian food and the two of enjoyed our meals and the atmosphere. The restaurant was busy. I am sure that every table was full, but we felt comfortable and were able to enjoy each other’s conversation. The staff were attentive and personable.

To start, I enjoyed their vegan puree of the day. Sounds unappetizing I know, but it was anything but. The puree was a warm blend of roasted red beets on one side of the bowl and golden beets on the other. I stirred it together and the soup was as beautiful as it was tasty. Since I hate ordering vegetarian pasta dishes (although I am sure they would have been delicious), I went with one of their 3 vegetarian pizza selections – The Aphrodite.  It was served up on a small rectangular cutting board, as the pizza itself was a rectangular personal pizza. The crust was not thin, but it certainly was not too thick.  It was closer to a homemade crust than anything you would find at a traditional pizza joint. It was delicious. If I get the chance to go back to Pace I would order the same thing again! My friend enjoyed meatier fare and started off with a caesar salad and then moved onto the spaghetti bolognese. She was happy with her meal too.

With full belly’s we enjoyed the evening drive back to the beach along Sunset Boulevard.

Speaking of taking actor’s suggestions for restaurants I made use of Alicia Silverston’s blog to source out vegetarian and vegan restaurants. It was here that I found the link to the Real Food Daily restaurant located a few short block from our hotel. I had signed out the restaurant’s cookbook from the library and tried a recipe last year, so I was delighted to learn that I would be able to try their food first hand.

Since it was so close, we went there for our first dinner in Santa Monica. It was a few blocks east of the 3rd Street Promenade.

We both loved it. The restaurant it totally vegan and has a complete and varied menu. We both enjoyed variations on the same theme -The Real Food Meal. This features a grain of choice, vegetable, and protein of choice, topped off with your choice of sauce. If you do make it to Real Food Daily and opt for The Real Food Meal I recommend the wasabi dressing and the pressed salad as a definite must!

We enjoyed it so much that we went back for dinner 3 days later.

My friend got the exact same thing, while I was more adventurous and went for The Club with a side salad.  I was certainly glad that we went to Real Food Daily a second time because the owner Ann Gentry showed up with her husband and children shortly after we placed our order. You can see how excited I was that she was in attendance from the photo of my more than half eaten clubhouse sandwich.  I just plain forgot to take a photo.

When I mentioned to our server how excited I was to come to Santa Monica and eat at Real Food Daily and see the owner in attendance, he said he would ask her to stop by our table. I grabbed a copy of the cookbook which is for sale at the restaurant (Ann’s newest cookbook comes out in the middle of June and looks wonderful) and it was returned to me autographed with a visit from Ann. I was delighted to meet her and although we saw a couple of celebrities (Eric Balfor and Natascha McElhone) this was the closet we got to meeting anyone “famous” and the only autograph we brought home. Apparently Moses Znamier of CityTV fame has picked up an Ann Gentry Cooking show which should begin airing in the next few months. Take a peek at her blog if you are interested.

I guess this makes me a certifiable cookbook geek. If there is such a thing.

I will close out this post with a quick mention of some of the fun things we did while in Santa Monica

  • Rented bicycles from Sea Mist Rentals at the base of pier and rode south to Venice Beach and Marina del Ray.
  • Visited the Venice Canals and Abbot-Kinney Blvd.
  • Enjoyed lunch at 3 Square Cafe and Bakery while shopping along Abbot-Kinney. (don’t miss Bountiful , an eclectic shop beautifully crammed full of antiques and fantastic cake plates – among other things)
  • Checked out The Market for lunch located in the mall at the south end of the Third Street Promenade
  • Hiked up Runyon Canyon for views of the Hollywood sign and the LA basin
  • Set aside a few hours to visit The Getty Centre
  • Window shopped along Rodeo Drive and walked up Beverly Drive to the Beverly Hills Hotel
  • Walked along Wilshire Blvd on Sunday morning, camera in hand,  to check out the Art Deco buildings along The Miracle Mile.

We didn’t make it for a ride on the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica pier, so we will save that for our next visit!  However, when we do return we will certainly repeat our visits to Urth Cafe, Real Food Daily, and Pace.

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3 responses to “Eating out in Santa Monica vegetarian style

  1. Awesome Kelley! So…when are we going back? Soon, right?! And I must add…coming from a meat eater and all…that I loved my dish at Real Food Daily so much that I had to recreate it at home for myself and Joe. Without having the cookbook, I came seriously close to recreating the entire meal along with the Wasabi Dressing. Outstanding!!! Joe was impressed too. I’ll be buying her cookbook for sure! xoxo

  2. What a fantastic holiday! You are so lucky to have a close friend who shares so many personal interests with you. Honestly, I have no one I could travel with except my husband right now. Most of my friends like to shop and I don’t. They also like to rest and relax a lot more than me. I don’t want to miss anything. It sounds like you didn’t either. My gosh, if this is just the food part of your adventure, I cannot imagine the rest!
    I really appreciate the links you included for everything you did. That helps so much for yourself when looking back and for readers like myself. It drives me crazy when someone rants on about a beautiful hotel or this or that and doesn’t include the link.
    Clearly, a well deserved break! :)
    Valerie

  3. Thanks for the inspiration, yet again, Kelley! This past weekend, Kevin & I were in Santa Monica and we enjoyed a long bike ride from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica where we rewarded our efforts with lunch at RFD and dessert at Urth. Awesome! I can’t wait to go back :)

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