Archive for the ‘Food & Dining’ Category

Eat Vegetarian

On Mother’s Day we tried OOAK, the new Asian Vegetarian restaurant in Culver City. We had pumpkin soup and shaking beef (actually mushrooms). The Cantonese food and the service were excellent. I asked for the meaning of the word OOAK. It’s an Internet acronym for “One Of A Kind.”

OOAK, Culver City

This made me reflect on the advantages of a vegetarian diet, that has been popular in the West since the counterculture 60s. That means eliminating any meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal, chicken) or fish from your food intake, eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. When fish and seafood are allowed, that is a pescetarian diet; when eggs and dairy products are included, that is called ovo-lacto vegetarian. No animals are killed when eggs and milk are produced, however, fish are killed for us to eat them, and, as a friend of mine says: “I don’t eat anything that had eyes.” The Macrobiotic diet, inspired by Zen Buddhism, allows fish.

OOAK, Culver City

A vegetarian diet is sometimes chosen for ethical reasons, “do not kill living beings,” even though arguably plants are living as well; but it is also beneficial to your health, reducing animal fat, proven to cause cancer, high-blood pressure, and other diseases.
During the past few years a vegan diet has been promoted as even healthier; that means no animal products at all, no eggs, no cheese, no milk, no yogurt. But often, in order to simulate the taste of meat and cheese, soy products and other substitutes are used.
Even more extreme is a diet of raw food. In addition to no meat or animal products, there’s no cooking, as the heat removes some enzymes from vegetables.

MAKE OUT, Culver City

For me eating meals of fresh fruit, salads and steamed vegetables, cooked lentils and beans, feels healthy, but it’s not a religion. I believe in what novelist Barbara Kingsolver says in her 2007 non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that eating grass-fed beef and organic chicken is okay, and environmentally responsible. Reading that book was eye-opening, and it set me on a path of healthier eating. I love making blended vegan soups with a variety of cooked vegetables and spices. For more on this subject, you may read my article Souping for Health in Cultural Weekly.

MAKE OUT, Culver City.

See below some Westside restaurants that offer vegan, vegetarian or raw food.

SAGE, Culver City

Among the fast food chains, I like Veggie Grill, inexpensive and tasty. Recently I tried Daily Harvest, a vegan food delivery service of fruits smoothies, cooked vegetable soups and legumes.  I really liked it.

SAGE, Culver City

Of course, you are able to make vegetarian food choices at most restaurants; just eat salads, vegetable dishes and legumes. Indian, Thai, Chinese cuisines have delicious vegetarian specialties. My favorites are Szechuan eggplant and Baingan bharta (mashed eggplant).

SAGE, Culver City

OOAK. Asian Vegetarian Cuisine
9540 Washington Blvd, Culver City

SAGE. Plant Based Bistro
4130 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City

MAKE OUT. Raw food
9426 Washington Blvd, Culver City

VEGAN JOINT. Since 2006
10438 National Blvd, LA 90034

ANNAPURNA. South Indian vegetarian
10200 Venice Blvd, Culver City

INDIA SWEETS & SPICES. Indian vegetarian, since 1986
9409 Venice Blvd, Culver City

REAL FOOD DAILY. Organic plant-based
414 N La Cienega Blvd. LA 90048

GRACIAS MADRE. Mexican Vegan
8905 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood

Text and Photos by Elisa Leonelli

Terra opens at Eataly

Terra, the new rooftop restaurant at Eataly in Century City, opens Thursday March 29 at 5pm. They will only serve dinner at first, until 11 pm, later also lunch.
The word Terra in Italian means Earth, soil.

Terra terrace, iPhone photo by Elisa Leonelli

As you enter this 11,000 square feet indoor and outdoor space, the first thing you see is the huge wood burning grill. Nicola, the son of Eataly’s founder Oscar Farinetti, explains that the concept was to have a fire pit in the middle of a restaurant. Their specialties are grilled meats (beef, pork, lamb) and vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, beets, carrots, zucchini). There are also pasta dishes, of course, and fish.

Terra grill, photo by Elizabeth Daniels

The large terrace with cushioned seating has a wooden Botanica Bar serving gin drinks. A variety of gins are imported from Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii, Scotland, and other places. A tasty snack is arrosticini, a typical dish from the Italian region of Abruzzi, skewers of grilled beef, pork and mutton. An herb garden is also on the terrace, as well as a covered seating area for dining.

Terra Bar Botanico, photo by Elizabeth Daniels

Dulcis in fundo, a cart of ice cream is passed around at the end of the meal, only one flavor, fior di latte, with various toppings.
Appetizers, small plates, vegetables and salads are priced from $8 to $19. Pastas from $19 to $23. Main courses from $28 to $42.

grilled beef, iPhone photo by Elisa Leonelli

There is valet parking on Avenue of the Stars, just South of Santa Monica Blvd, and an elevator that zips you up to the 5th floor restaurant. Eating at Terra will definitely a pleasurable luxury experience for those who can afford it.

You may read in Cultural Weekly my articles about Eataly’s opening last November, and about a tortellini-making class at Eataly’s Cooking School this January.

Pasta Sisters in Culver City

Pasta Sisters finally opened on Sunday March 4, at Helms Bakery in Culver City, and it was worth the wait. It was an exciting experience to be there on their first day.

Pasta Sisters, Helms

My family and friends became fans of their storefront takeout place at Pico and Arlington, as soon as they opened, three years ago. We especially love their lasagne and eggplant parmesan.

Pasta Sisters patio

Now that they have a nearby restaurant with two outdoor patios, we will be able to enjoy their delicious food comfortably seated. The menu was expanded from their signature fresh pasta dishes, with the addition of several items, including beef stew and polenta (spezzatino con polenta Valsugana), a specialty of Padova, the Italian city in the Veneto region where the sisters are from.

Paola Da Re

Paola and her sisters Luisa and Patrizia learnt to cook from their mother Maria Giovanna. Paola is the chef, son Francesco, daughters Giorgia and Francesca help her run the family business. Paola credits the enthusiasm of their 40 employees and the optimism of her children for the successful opening of their new venture.


On my first day I tried panzerotti, an appetizer I never tasted before, fried dough with two different hot stuffings, spinach and ricotta cheese, Italian cooked ham and mozzarella. They were amazing. I look forward to going back many more times and trying all of their dishes.

Giorgia, Francesca

For more info on where to find authentic Italian food in Los Angeles, or prepare it yourself, you may read my articles in Cultural Weekly
Italian Bread, Modena style
Fresh pasta, Modena-style

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Pasta Sisters staff

Chocolate on Robertson

At the September 27 SORONC Townhall meeting about the Robertson Great Streets plans, I was impressed by the heartfelt speech of a young man, David, who introduced his handcrafted chocolate to the neighbors. They are open to the public on Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, and offer free samples. So yesterday I went to visit their factory, Letterpress Chocolate, at 2835 Robertson, the same storefront where Sue Leedom used to sell her Mollie’s Cookies, next to Fred’s Bakery, recently remodeled by new owner by Avi Kadmon.

David Menkes with a tray of cacao beans

Letterpress is a technique of relief printing from plates. David used to be a graphic artist, and does all the designs for his artisan chocolate packaging. The logo is inspired by an old US airmail stamp. It means that he comes from the mountains, flies all over the world and brings back chocolate beans.
His wife and daughter work at the family business, where they manufacture small batch, bean to bar, chocolate in different flavors, single sourced from small farms in Belize, Tanzania, Trinidad, Ecuador, etc.

David Menkes with wife Corey and their daughter

This reminds me of the Lavazza coffee that I have been drinking since moving to the US in 1972, to make sure that every morning as I wake up I smell and taste the same flavor I am used to, having grown up in Italy. I buy Lavazza at Bay Cities, World Market and Vons. It comes in cans and in 12oz bags in several flavors, plus 2 single origin coffees: Santa Marta, Columbia and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. A couple of years ago I received a Nespresso machine as a birthday gift, but I load refillable pods with Lavazza. To me this Italian coffee beats the taste of the Swiss brand by far.

Stop by to meet David on Saturdays, taste the various samples, ask him to introduce you to his wife and daughter, who are busy in the back making and packaging the award-winning chocolate they ship all over the world. And if you wish to buy some bars of your favorite flavor, they cost $10 to $12 each.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

For more blog posts on Robertson businesses click here

Food markets

The Santa Monica Coop, at 1525 Broadway since 1995, opened another location in Culver City. It’s called Coopportunity Market & Deli, it’s located at 8770 Washington Blvd and National.

Coop, Culver City

I went to check it out today and found a wide variety of choices, organic fruits and vegetables, grown without pesticides, grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics, cage free chicken wings, crusted wild salmon, hot pizza, poke bowls and much more. It has free underground parking and tables to sit and eat from their salad bar and cooked food selections.

Sprouts, Culver City

It is a welcome addition to the nearby Sprouts that opened last September at 8985 Venice Blvd and to Trader Joe’s at 9290 Culver Blvd.
The Coop is planning a Grand Opening celebration on September 9, don’t miss it.

Trader Joe’s, Culver City

I frequent many other food markets that offer salad bars, hot soups and prepared meals, such as Whole Foods at 11666 National Blvd and Barrington. Amazon already started lowering the prices today, after their recent acquisition.
Gelson’s in Century City, Bristol Farms at 3105 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, Erewhon at 7660 Beverly Blvd and Fairfax LA 90036, Lassens at 710 S LaBrea and Wilshire.

I do love cooking my favorite recipes at home, and I constantly experiment with new dishes, but I also enjoy the quick satisfaction of trying different tasty and healthy foods prepared by others, while shopping for groceries at these markets.

Coop, Culver City

Click on all the red links for more info, please write your comments.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

New Restaurants-Culver City

Baco Shop 17awWe were curious about several new restaurants that opened recently in downtown Culver City, replacing others that closed, so we took a walk, looked at their menus and sampled some of their food. We favored inexpensive and unpretentious establishments, offering healthy choices.
For example the baby kale salad at BACO SHOP (424) 258 6301, 9552 Washington Blvd, the grain bowl with black lentils at CAVA (23) 230 5027 , 9343 Culver Blvd, the Angry Avocado roll at RAMEN ROLL (310) 426 8926, 9900 Culver Blvd.
Ramen Roll 17-2awWe also indulged with the Chicken Karaage at TENTENYU (424) 603 4803, 3849 Main St. It was yummi (and boneless), much better (if not comparable) than HONEY KETTLE’S FRIED CHICKEN, rated number one in Los Angeles by LAist, Thrillist and Los Angeles Magazine (if you don’t mind waiting 30 minutes or more).

For a list of our favorite restaurants in Culver City check the RVNA website.

Please go explore and comment with YOUR favorite choices. Thanks!

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Robertson-Great Street

Tommy's Express Car Wash

Tommy’s Express Car Wash

Many residents were disappointed two years ago when South Robertson Boulevard was NOT included among the 15 “Great Streets” chosen by Mayor Eric Garcetti for transformation.  Last November SORONC (South Robertson Neighborhood Council) leaders applied for a $13,000 matching grant, with letters of support from RVNA (Reynier Village Neighborhood Association) and other community organizations, and on February 3, 2017 the Mayor confirmed that South Robertson (from Cadillac to Kincardine) is one of 7 additional Los Angeles Great Streets 2016.

2512 Robertson

2512 Robertson

I took a walk up and down Robertson a few days ago to see what’s new.  I spoke with Ari Cohen, the new owner of Fred’s Bakery who took over the  business 2 years ago, I checked out Tommy’s Express Car Wash, and I looked at the gated parking lot of 2512-2516 Robertson, a building left vacant for 30 years by an absentee landlady.  We wish she and her son would sell it already and allow a restaurant to open there. It would be a great addition to the existing eateries: Dolce Isola, Argentinian Empanadas, Campos, Monaco Gelato, Undergrind Cafe.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

P.S. For other posts about our “Great Street” click on Robertson under Categories