salads

Brunch, Lunch & Sundowners in L.A.

If blogs were books on a shelf, mine would be dusty by now. It’s been so long since I have written here! And it’s not that I’ve stopped thinking about food (or eating it for that matter) as my iPhone camera roll would tell you. The storage is full of food photos, so it’s time I started sharing some of the great places I have been lucky enough to go to over the past few months.

Now, if there was one place that would force a food blogger to fire up their blog again, it’s Los Angeles. The epicentre of avocado-based brunches and chia-dotted lunches. Where artisan coffee is followed by a hilltop run and 50 crunches. Los Angeles really is the mecca of inspirational healthy living. It may be famous for all the young starlets who move there hoping to see their names in lights, but L.A. is also famous for it’s relentless dedication to a healthier way of living. If a new superfood hits your local market, you can guarantee the Californians were already eating it last year. How do you think Jennifer Aniston looks so good at 46?!

It is with this hunger (literally) for healthy new tastes, that I touched down in LA. But with only one day to explore this amazing city, it was quite a whistle-stop tour. Here are the places I visited, and loved:

1. Breakfast @ Valerie – 9am

Valerie - LA

A beautiful little cafe in Echo Park that was recommended by our host. Order the omelette or scrambled eggs with will mushrooms and don’t leave without trying the avocado and chia seed salad. Honestly, salad for breakfast is the best! 

Valerie - LA - avocado salad

No morning would be right without a good coffee and the flat whites were excellent here. They also have a range of gluten-free cakes and muffins but they didn’t have gluten-free bread at the time of writing.

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2. Lassen’s Natural Food Store – 11am

Have you ever seen a shop with an entire aisle dedicated to cold press juice? Well I hadn’t either but Lassen’s Natural Food Store has one! Somehow this shop seems healthier than Whole Foods and I could have spent hours in there. If you’re in L.A, I highly recommend a trip to this shop – although you may exit having dropped $50 on juice…

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3. Lunch @ Lemonade – 2.30pm

After a morning spent shopping for hats, shoes, belts (you name it) we were hungry, hot and jaded. The yellow glow of  Lemonade, and all the treasure chests of salad that lay inside, couldn’t have been a better energiser! 

Lemonade is a chain of super healthy fast food restaurants born in L.A. Upon walking in you are given a tray and encouraged to shimmy along a long row of delicious looking salads. If this sounds too much like a school canteen for you, the salads on offer will certainly make you think otherwise. From chargrilled broccoli in a champagne dressing, to coconut infused chicken with butternut squash and pine nuts, the colourful salads don’t disappoint. They make Pret’s offering look positively grey in comparison.

Lemonade - LA

You can order up to six salads in one go, and that gives you a huge portion. So go with friends, order different salads, and taste a bit of everything. They also have hot dishes and cold proteins (chicken, tuna and lean steak) which you can add to the side of your order. Top this off with a huge glass of rose lemonade (or whichever flavour lemonade you fancy – I think they have about six) and you’ve got yourself a plate of salads fit for a king. It is expensive for a fast food joint, but OMG it’s good.

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4. Soho House, L.A. – 7pm+

After more shopping and driving around the long, hot, colourful streets of LA, we arrived at Soho House for our evening plans. Once settled on the terrace of the thirty-somethingth floor, we toasted to the Californian sunshine with a large glass of rose, watching the sun disappear slowly behind the hills. And just when I was getting sad to say goodbye to the last ray of sunshine, the glowing lights of LA came alive – like hundreds and thousands of stars below us in the dark. The sun may have gone to bed but Los Angeles was certainly not asleep.

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As we left, Soho House buzzed with excitement for the weekend and the sound of more drinks being ordered. L.A. may be a beacon of health but I was glad to see the city still had a strong appetite for a good gin and tonic. See you soon L.A., I really do miss you already!

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There’s a fresh prince in town: Bel-Air

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It was one of those cold, grey February Saturdays when I went to the soft launch of Bel-Air – a new healthy food spot opening next week in Old Street, London. The smiling staff at Bel-Air and the sleek marble counter piled high with fresh, summer-style salads greeted me like a ray of Californian sunshine. It may have been drizzling in Shoreditch but the sun was shining in Bel-Air.

Bel-Air London

This bright new joint specialises in ‘feel good fast food’, prioritising ingredients that make you feel great rather than calorie-counting. The cold options include freshly poached salmon, Jerusalem artichoke salad, broccoli and almond slaw, slow roast aubergines with tahini and dukkah. These are ingredients designed to make you glow from the inside out.

Bel-Air London quinoa risotto with feta

The black quinoa risotto was delicious, and much lighter than a standard risotto thanks to the holy grain that is quinoa. Topped with crunchy pine nuts, sunflower seeds and feta cheese, I am now a total quinoa risotto convert. The concept may confuse a few Italians…

Bel-Air London lemon chicken

If you’re craving something more substantial, then Bel-Air’s Ancho Chill Braised Beef (also gluten-free) is heavenly tender and slow-cooked to perfection. With guacamole, lime, salad and fresh coriander you still feel light after eating it.

Bel-Air raw root vegetable saladd

I hear they are also doing ‘build your own breakfast pots’ which will include puffed quinoa, raw oats, along with buckwheat and almond milk porridge. I’ll certainly be going back to try those!

Bel-Air has reminded me about the joys of summer eating and I can’t wait to go back. It’s opening on the 16th March 2015. You can stalk them here and here.

See you in the sunshine.

Bel-Air
54 Paul Street
London, EC2A 4LN