CITY GUIDE: ETH­I­CAL LA

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Gay book­shops, ve­gan treats and res­cue an­i­mals in LA

Col­la­gen lips, sil­i­cone boobs and vagino­plasty... Los An­ge­les isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the first city you’d as­so­ciate with the words “nat­u­ral” and “eth­i­cal”. But be­yond the crazy Hol­ly­wood hype is a city full of eth­i­cal eater­ies, shops and at­trac­tions.

EAT!

What­ever your diet you’ll have op­tions in LA – and ve­g­ans are no ex­cep­tion. All cafes stock a range of milk al­ter­na­tives, kale springs eter­nal and Miyoko’s Kitchen ( miyokoskitchen.com) makes nut cheeses that taste bet­ter than any dairy. Com­ing from the air­port, stop off in In­gle­wood for a spot of soul food at Stuff I Eat ( stuffieat.com), where inim­itable Chef Ba­bette serves up her di­vine ve­gan Ja­maican- Mex­i­can-amer­i­can fare. Not only is the mac ‘n’ cheese with sweet yams out of this world, but the raw peanut but­ter chilled pie made me squeal. For a nicer noise, ask Ba­bette to per­form her fa­mous ren­di­tion of The Star-span­gled Ban­ner – it’s an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. Health nuts should head Down­town to The Springs LA ( thes­pringsla.com), where chef Michael Falso serves up the most de­li­cious ve­gan or­ganic raw-food cre­ations, wines and juices. Scoff the seaweed cae­sar salad and the ev­er­green juice be­fore re­mem­ber­ing you’re booked in for one of The Springs’ re­lax­ing restora­tive yoga classes. Feel your ten­sions melt away in the fresh, clean, cosy stu­dio. Then wolf the sweet pea pis­ta­chio cake. Or test out some “ve­gan meats” at Fine Gar­den ( fine­gar­den­veg­e­tar­ian.com), where any meat prod­uct you can imag­ine has been lov­ingly recre­ated us­ing soy and veg­etable pro­tein. Veg­gie squid with sour green mus­tard pickle, small fried fishes, prawn dumplings, cumin lamb... With 300 dishes to try you may as well move in.

STAY

The Shore ( shore­ho­tel.com) in Santa Mon­ica caters for all di­ets and is proud of its green cre­den­tials. Built from lo­cally-sourced re­cy­cled and re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als, it’s de­signed to max­imise the use of nat­u­ral day­light, and is one of the few Cal­i­for­nian ho­tels to have earned a LEED Gold cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for sus­tain­able build­ing. It’s a calm place to es­cape the bus­tle of the city and en­joy the sea, sand and beach­side almond milk smooth­ies.

GAY

Sky­light in­de­pen­dent book­shop ( sky­light­books.com) has an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of LGBTQ vol­umes and hosts fe­male-cen­tric events. On Wed­nes­days, Moon­light Roller­way in Glen­dale hosts Rain­bow Skate Night, a gay-friendly roller skat­ing fest which has been at­tract­ing an out-and-proud crowd for 23 years. Les­bian-owned Ma­trix ( mar­ix­texmex.com) does a mean mar­garita, and – if you haven’t kicked the dairy habit – the fun­ni­est fro-yo flavours come cour­tesy of les­bian-owned Yo­gurt Stop (Lezbionic Tonic, I’m Comin’ Out Cake Bat­ter), while ve­g­ans can en­joy the cru­elty-free pro­tein cook­ies.

PLAY

The in­domitable en­ergy of the Spork Sis­ters ( spork­foods.com), Jenny En­gel and Heather Goldberg, has to be one of the best ads for a cru­elty-free life­style I’ve come across (along with their flaw­less skin and shiny hair of course). The pair run ve­gan cooking classes out of their kitchen stu­dio in West Hol­ly­wood. When I met them they’d just stepped off a plane from New York where they’d cooked for 4,000 peo­ple, but that didn’t stop them shar­ing their cheer and cooking prow­ess with me. Book in for a class and learn to make del­i­ca­cies like co­conut and lime sei­tan skew­ers or cin­na­mon-scented tiramisu. Or teach your­self with their cooking bi­ble, Spork- Fed. Gen­tle Barn ( gen­tle­barn.org, open Sun­days) is prob­a­bly my favourite place in Cal­i­for­nia: a ve­gan farm which takes in res­cue an­i­mals saved from slaugh­ter or re­jected by other shel­ters, and runs projects where vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren can bond with the an­i­mals. Lis­ten to founder El­lie Laks give an in­spi­ra­tional talk about com­pas­sion­ate life­style choices – and then hug all the an­i­mals (ex­cept for Sir Fran­cis, the male turkey; he prefers to be ad­mired from a dis­tance). Pre­fer to cud­dle rep­tiles? Meet ex­otic an­i­mals res­cued from ir­re­spon­si­ble own­ers and il­le­gal traf­fick­ers at Star Eco Sta­tion ( eco­sta­tion.org), in­clud­ing snakes, tor­toises, par­rots and igua­nas. For eth­i­cal shop­ping, nip into Phoebe Dahl’s clothes shop Fair­cloth & Sup­ply ( fair­cloth­sup­ply.com) on Sun­set Blvd for min­i­mal­ist, an­drog­y­nous linen shirts, dun­ga­rees and bomber jack­ets. For each item pur­chased, a school uni­form is do­nated to a girl in Nepal, en­abling her to get an ed­u­ca­tion. Fi­nally, stock up on or­ganic ed­i­ble gifts at the “cu­rated mar­ket” Ur­ban Radish ( ur­ban-radish.com); chai-spiced peanut but­ter, any­one?

JOANNA BE­NECKE VIS­ITS VE­GAN WON­DER­LAND

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