CITY GUIDE: ETHICAL LA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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