HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Beyond Vegan

When it opened, just after I moved to LA, I spent several months deconstructing the Father's Office burger (long since a cliche activity). I drove around LA in search of anything even close to the cheesesteak of my Philly college years. When I went home to NY, I ate dirty water dogs in NYC and Italian wedges in Westchester. I craved and ate
copious amounts of Pepes bacon pizza as often as I drove within 10 miles of New Haven. I ate a lot Brats Brothers. I grilled a lot of excellent steak. My ten hour pork roast brought me neighborhood fame. The first meal I had at Animal -- fried egg over fois gras over spam over a burger -- was sublime. I could go on....

Despite all this gluttony, I was 6'2" and around 195 lbs. -- pretty much right where I should have been. I've run a marathon and did triathlons. Though, I smoked in my 20s.

Three months ago, one week before my 44th birthday, I had an emergency angioplasty and stent put in and was diagnosed with heart disease.

With young twins, there is not a thing on Earth I wouldn't do to help that condition. So, I am now on a strict vegan diet AND I have also eliminated all oil from my diet. Coming from where I came, described above, to say this is a whole new world for me would be a gross understatement. All the recipes I read look aweful!! I'm sick of rice end beans, Boca burgers, and rice and beans, roasted vegetables, and rice and beans.

Can you recommend any vegan restaurants (Valley or Weho area) who can work with me on providing great dishes with no oil (that part seems to be a huge challenge) so as to learn appealing dishes and flavors i can emulate at home? Or, a great private cook to teach me?

I'd like to enjoy eating during what I hope will be a long life.

Thank you.

PS - Good snappy, hot dogs, I'll always love you.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The vegan part is pretty easy…the oil part, not so much. Cafe Gratitude, Mas Madre, Real Food Daily and Hugo's are all good places to try. If you find yourself in Santa Monica, True Food is wonderful. If I were you, I'd stop by Erewhon and speak to an employee or even the manager about your diet. I'm sure they will have a million ideas for you, as well as advice on supplements if you want it.

    And FWIW, I think Veganaise is almost better than mayo. And I love me some mayo!!!!

    6 Replies
    1. re: schrutefarms

      veganiaise contains oil.
      that said, my favorite is the shelf stable 365 brand of Vegan Mayo that whole foods carries.

      when you say no oil, do you mean no extracted oil or no foods that naturally contain oil ( like the original dean ornish diet?

      if you mean no extracted oil, then avocado is open to you and can open all sorts of culinary doors (such as a bean burrito with sliced avocado on a whole wheat tortilla with 7 types of salsas at freebirds). also nut butters (you'd be surprised how versatile Thai peanut sauce can be).

      if you mean all your food needs to be low/no fat as well as vegan, that is a much greater challenge.
      what about edamame? tofu? can you eat those?

      whatever you do, don't go on the special diets board of chowhound which is dominated by high-saturated-fat/meat-eaters (the "pork rinds are healthful" folks that view carbohydrates as being poisonous.)

      1. re: westsidegal

        Oh yeah. The oil thing threw me. My head was in "vegan". I'll try the Whole Foods one!

        1. re: schrutefarms

          Thanks everyone. Yes, oil is the very difficult part. I used to think Vegan must be tough but not so much anymore. It is the Ornishoe Esseltyn diet so no liquid oils, or nuts, avocados and seeds.

          1. re: ed fontleroy

            If you haven't been then you should go and check out Follow Your Heart http://followyourheart.com/market-cafe/ out in the hinterlands of Canoga Park.

            1. re: Servorg

              i like the food at Follow Your Heart, but i couldn't recall any menu items that are oil free.

        2. re: westsidegal

          I heartily endorse your last paragraph.

      2. "Despite all this gluttony, I was 6'2" and around 195 lbs. -- pretty much right where I should have been. I've run a marathon and did triathlons. Though, I smoked in my 20s.

        Three months ago, one week before my 44th birthday, I had an emergency angioplasty and stent put in and was diagnosed with heart disease."

        Sometimes Life Just Sucks.

        From a low-fat vegetarian non-smoker, runner-cyclist.

        Who had a massive stroke at 46.

        I'm snarky and dark...but I have pretty much come to the conclusion that NOTHING we ingest matters all that much.

        It is more important to live and love well.

        Eat what you LOVE. LOVE your friends and family. Play and eat and cook and have a good time! THIS IS ALL YOU HAVE.

        4 Replies
        1. re: pedalfaster

          You're experience was horrible and I'm glad you are happy with the course you have chosen.

          I intend to improve everything that is in my control as much as possible -- most centrally what I eat. Of course life may still have its own plans for me, but it's not going to be because I didn't do something I could have.

          But I will continue to eat vicariously through Chowhound and elsewhere!

          1. re: ed fontleroy

            I agree and if it helps u sleep better at night with your little ones it's worth it. Food and drink are good but those little rascals ... I've been making changes myself for same reason ... And my doc says one to two drinks are good too...the end of the day beer is nice.

            1. re: ed fontleroy

              Please be aware that new research from the health community confirms that oil is NOT the villain, and a certain amount of oil is, in fact, necessary for your good health.
              The villain is carbs.

              1. re: VenusCafe

                VenusCafe: given the choice between "new" research, or the Ornish research (which has been replicated again and again and again over decades), AND if this was a life or death matter, i'd go with the Ornish research every time just as ed has done.

                there is good reason that Ornish is and has been a GIANT in this field for as long as he has.

          2. Hi Ed,

            I greatly admire what you are doing. I'm working on it myself. Visit healthygirlskitchen.com. She has lots of vegan fat-free recipes, including a great list of oil-free salad dressings.

            2 Replies
              1. re: eatinginsf

                eatinginsf: that is GREAT website! thank you so much for posting it!

              2. Stay away from Veggie Grill.

                1. Stuff like papaya salads in Thai town are nice many varieties and options. Singapore banana leaf does a good similar dish too in farmers market b

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jessejames

                    Just remember to ask for no peanuts in the OP's case - sob.

                    1. Steamed whole fish at many Chinese places is good. Sashimi and sushi are healthy things that don't get old. I like snacking in pickles but some sodium.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: jessejames

                        the OP is trying to adhere to the Ornish protocol which does not allow fish

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          well than there are other healthy tips for other healthy protocols...

                          1. re: jessejames

                            that be true. maybe start another thread that isn't titled BEYOND VEGAN for the folks who are seeking non-vegan protocols using a different title?

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                I probably should have titled it Ornish diet but I thought that would garner less people to be interest in reading and replying.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              The Ornish Spectrum from his website says that fish (*many* types) are in Spectrum 3 ("intermediate"). I'm not familiar w/ what he published in 1990 but his current recs do NOT put a prohibition on fish....

                              Again, if the OP doesn't want any animal-based products, then more power to him, but to say that the Ornish Spectrum does not allow for fish is inaccurate, based on what I'm reading....

                              1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                Group 3 is good for healthy people. Group 1 is for people with CVD.

                                1. re: ed fontleroy

                                  OK here are some cooking suggestions for you--

                                  bake whole bulbs of garlic till soft, squeeze out garlic pulp and use as a kind of creamy spread on rice cakes, potatoes, etc.

                                  ditto with slow roasted whole onions--you can blend the very very soft pulp for a creamy spread

                                  you can also cook lots of sliced onions slowly on a very low heat and season generously with salt and pepper for a carmelized onion tasty treat/spread

                                  you can also blend any of these with some liquid and lemon juice for a "creamy" dressing

                                  ditto with eggplant roasted till it's very very soft and the skin is black. Peel off the skin, blending with onions, salt, lemon juice

                                  vinegars, ponzu, soy sauce, fresh herbs, fresh ground pepper, freshly grated horseradish--these are all your friends

                                  boil down sweet fruit juices--orange, apple--and mix with something savory and peppery (soy sauce? cayenne?) for a sweet savory barbecue glaze

                                  roast sweet potatoes and winter squash till they're very soft and dark brown

                                  Use flavor and texture contrasts--grilled marinated tofu with cool sweet sour grapefruit wedges

                                  charcoal grill tofu and tempeh if you can for a smoky taste

                                  if not, a tad of smoked paprika works wonders

                                  lots of tastes here to explore, and lots of creamy and crisp mouthfeels possible, even in the absence of oil

                                  splurge on different mushrooms--shitakes, portobellos, masutakis

                                  good luck and enjoy exploring

                                    1. re: ed fontleroy

                                      You're welcome.

                                      A couple of more thoughts--

                                      check out different kinds of pastas--soba noodles, rice noodles

                                      and different kinds of misos--I think you can have these, and they make very easy tasty soup bases--and different ones (barley, white rice, etc.) really have different flavors

                                      check out many many different salsa recipes--hardly any of these have oil

                                      and if you like spicy, you're in luck--lots of different spicy peppers

                                      and Indian dahls--even though these often get an extra kick from spiced oil, in the absence of oil you can toast the spices in a dry frying pan and include them in the cooking

                                      also I don't usually go for non-stick cookware, but in your case, it's going to be an absolute necessity

                                      chickpea flour makes a nice flour/egg substitute, and can bind potato pancakes, vegetable croquettes, etc.
                                      you can even make a crepe just from chickpea flour--in provence, it's called socca--you'll be able to "fry them" on your nonstick skillet, and create ersatz falafel and latkes and the like.

                                      also you can toast nori (the black seaweed product that sushi comes wrapped in) over a gas flame, and it creates a crispy potato chip like texture, ditto with kelp

                                      and you can buy salted red seaweed which is not so crispy, more chewy and snack like

                                      try stuffing and baking or stewing tomatoes, peppers, grape leaves with rice mixed with lots of herbs, salt, and some raisins

                                      dried fruits, soaked and pureed (apricots, prunes, etc) make the nice base for a sauce or desert

                                      enjoy--let's hope you dissolve all your plaque
                                      and it won't be forever

                                      1. re: ed fontleroy

                                        Here's a quote from the review of a Laotian restaurant in NYC, Khe-Yo, that might inspire you--

                                        "You'll also eat a lot of sticky rice. It arrives at the beginning of the meal and is meant to be eaten through, and is hidden in many dishes in another form, toasted and ground up. The resulting powder is similar in appearance and umami finish to old-school supermarket Parmesan. Sprinkled liberaly, it practically declares an intention to mess with your tongue, as in the spectacular roasted kabocha squash sald, made with little beech mushrooms and mint. While a more traditional Laotian preparation would use chicken, pork, or duck in place of the squash, the sticky-rice powder, along with red onion, Kaffir leaf, and chili, renders a familiar vegetable alien, in the most pleasantly disorienting way."

                                        (from the New Yorker, January 13, 2014)

                                        Nothing in that salad you can't have! Go ahead and experiment with toasted ground sticky rice.

                                        1. re: femmevox

                                          Sounds awesome. Heading to NYC soon anyway, so thank you!

                                          1. re: ed fontleroy

                                            I think you can try stuff at Hangawi in NYC, a vegan Korean place.

                                            My sisters took me there for my birthday, and it was not fabulous.

                                            But I hear the mixed mushrooms are very good.

                                            With the exception of fried things, you can have most things on the menu there.

                                        2. re: ed fontleroy

                                          One more thought--I actually went out and tried Boca Burgers to see what you are up against (I did pan fry them in a little oil, so not totally what you are up against.)

                                          I think you are going to be stuck with them, but you can just use them as a protein base to make things you maybe used to like

                                          for example, make a mushroom and onion gravy (thicken with cornstarch) and served with mashed potatoes (use cooking liquid instead of milk)

                                          make a Japanese curry sauce using onions and apples
                                          top your boca burger and serve with a scoop of rice--voila, Japanese curry

                                          make a sweet and sour sauce, using chunks of pineapple, onion,carrot and green pepper--cut up your panfried boca burger, made in a non stick skillet--voila sweet and sour something

                                          Ok--it's not optimal, but it's better than just putting it on a bun and feeling glum

                                          also, a trick to making your life palatable is finding/devising a couple of very good tasty vegan stocks--like maybe one with a base of soaked dried shitake mushrooms? another with soy sauce, sugar and Chinese five spices? These are going to add savor to anything you cook with them--braised rice, stirfries, and also serve as a basis for vegan soups--like your own version of hot and sour, miso soup, etc.

                                          keep playing--it will be okay

                                          1. re: femmevox

                                            Youre awesome. I'm so appreciative.

                                        3. re: femmevox

                                          may i add:
                                          a trip to the spice store, penzey's may give you inspiration.

                                2. For the valley, I would look at the menu for Take a Bao and Sun Cafe in Studio City to see if anything looks interesting. Vinh Loh Tofu has a vegetarian/vegan menu that might have options for you.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Kalivs

                                    Is Take a Bao the same one that was at the Century City mall? If so, I imagine that even the vegetarian choices might have oil and/or a ton of sodium....

                                  2. As mentioned Vinh Loi in the Valley, and Vegan Plate in Studio City might be worth looking into. Both have menus you can check out online.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. I have heard the owner of Vihn Loi Tofu (Sherman Way near Reseda) accommodate special requests many times. And the food is terrific!

                                      1. ed: after looking at the website
                                        that was recommended by eatinginsf, i doubt that there will be a better source of recipes for home cooking for you.
                                        all the recipes (and there are MANY of them) are right up your alley.

                                        1. Regarding restaurants, the vegan spots with raw food leaning are going to be the best places to find foods prepared without oils. I would recommend the follow:

                                          SunCafe (Studio City)
                                          Raw (West Hollywood)
                                          Cafe Gratitude (Venice, Larchmont, DTLA)
                                          Au Lac (Fountain Valley)
                                          NV-DA (San Pedro)
                                          RAWvolution (Santa Monica)
                                          M.A.K.E (Santa Monica)

                                          I would also recommend treating yourself to a Banana Manna at Beverly Hills Juice Club!

                                            1. i just realized that the burrito that i had for dinner tonight at Freebirds (a build your own burrito joint) in the marina was both vegan and, i believe, fat free.

                                              the ingredients my burrito:
                                              whole wheat flour tortilla
                                              pinto beans
                                              black beans
                                              tons of cilantro
                                              tomato/onion salas
                                              corn salsa
                                              jalepeno salsa
                                              avocado slices (is the oil in the avocado acceptable on your diet?)

                                              sorry about it's simioarity to rice and beans. but the salsas and cilantro lift it somehow from being plain

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                Hmmm, I'm inclined to think there is some sort of fat (i.e. olive oil) in them flour tortillas ...

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  good catch, ipse.
                                                  may need to substitute either:
                                                  1)the salad greens for the tortilla, making it a "bowl"
                                                  use the salsas and lemon juice for dressing
                                                  2) corn tortillas for the flour tortilla

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    Thank you so much!! Sounds great overall! Avocado is off the menu, unfortunately.

                                                    Also, the flour tortillas may have oil, as mentioned, but corn tortillas are usually fine. In fact, they're unrefined carbs, so generally healthier - even without oil.

                                                    I made a yummy tempeh chili tonight (because it's so cold in Studio City) and a good gazpazho yesterday. Seitan is my new prime steak.

                                                    .....I'm starting (just barely) to figure this out.

                                                    1. re: ed fontleroy

                                                      it's the salsas (unlimited amount and several varieties) that pull this thing through.

                                                      it would take an inordinate amount of time and waste to make 9 different types of salsa to mix and match at home. also, , imho, tomato-based salsas don't do well stored in the fridge for days, so going to a place like Freebirds for this sort of dish is cheaper AND better. also, they have a specialized steamer in which they could soften the tortillas

                                                      1. re: ed fontleroy

                                                        Yes, seitan with lots of mushrooms in a pinch can sub for scallopini--can you cook with a little sherry? Or vermouth?

                                                2. I've always been tempted to try the engine 2 lasagna recipe, it just sounds so satisfying. You could leave out the cashews and if you can have it, throw in some nutritional yeast for that kind of nutty/cheesy taste. I'll dig up a link for you later.

                                                  For an interesting texture try a recipe for oyster mushroom stem "scallops"- I bet most can be done without the oil if you have a good veggie broth, white wine, and lots of garlic. I like mine with my lots of lemon too.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: PinkLynx

                                                    here's a link: http://engine2diet.com/recipe/raise-t...

                                                    ...and that lasagna recipe reminds me of one of the most intriguing sandwiches I've ever had in my life, it was a sweet potato poboy (more like a banh mi) in the back of a bar in NOLA- a baguette filled with sweet potato, cooked greens, a citrus pepper jelly, and a black eyed pea puree. It was sweet, hot, tangy, salty, sour, and just a hint bitter to round it all out. A fantastic combo.

                                                  2. Wow you've been on a journey!

                                                    I wish you and your family well.

                                                    For restaurants, True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica should give you some good options. And Cafe Gratitude is handy as well.

                                                    Plus, you can go to Costco and get their vegan dolmades and be very happy.

                                                    My brother in law is a low/no fat vegan and he does great stuff with the soy sausages at Trader joes, and makes all kinds of vegan soups and stews. IT is doable!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. I follow the same diet, though I do have some small amount of non-oil fat in my diet. I'm actually in the middle of creating a blog for this stuff and every time I see a question like yours I'm even more frustrated that I haven't gotten the site up yet :). Otherwise, I love love the website thugkitchen.com, which uses some oil but you can often leave it out, or water sautee, or sub applesauce or pumpkin if it's a baked good. I also recommend: http://amysnutritariankitchen.blogspo...
                                                      http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/ (although she has now switched to including some whole food fat after reading the negative effects of being on a too low fat diet, but you would still only need to make minor changes to her recipes, and her early recipes should be perfect for you!
                                                      http://www.helynskitchen.com (this one has lots of oil free recipes
                                                      )And a shameless inclusion of my http://www.notjustsalad.net which will be up and running aaaaany day now...

                                                      Good luck with your new diet and I hope it makes you feel amazing! Also, explore the wonders of unsweetened dried fruit. Dried peaches, dried mango, dried pineapple, dried dragon fruit, dried cherries etc etc can be a great way to fix a sweets craving.

                                                      Oh and if you use a mandolin to slice a white or sweet potato, lay the slices flat on a piece of parchment, salt or season, then microwave for 4-6 minutes until brown and crispy, then let them rest a minute you'll get chips that are as crunchy as Lay's but better tasting and with no fat! It's my favorite trick.

                                                      Sorry I can't help much with the restaurant part of the question! That's donething I've had a lot of trouble finding.