Decadently modern … author Kathy Freston at Craig’s in West Hollywood.They’re glamorous, powerful and vegan — and they’re changing the Los Angeles dining scene, writes Jeff Gordinier.
It was a warm evening in West Hollywood and Kathy Freston was sipping a martini. “Just because you’re a vegan doesn’t mean you don’t want to have fun,” she said, sitting in a booth at a restaurant called Craig’s.
“I’m a decadent gal. I want to drink. I want to feel full at the end of a meal. I just don’t want it to have any animals in it, for a variety of reasons.”
Freston is the author of Quantum Wellness and The Lean and she strives to consume nothing that can be traced back to sentient creatures: no meat, no eggs, no dairy. But chilled vodka with extra olives? No problem. Nor does she have any qualms about eating from a menu that includes an 18-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak.
Craig’s, hatched last year by Craig Susser, is not a vegan restaurant. It represents a new culinary wave that can be felt in southern California, that reliable ripple-generator of so many trends: the omnivore’s restaurant that courts vegans and vegetarians, particularly the glamorous and powerful ones who are a crucial engine of the Californian dining economy.
“You picture vegan restaurants with a lot of people with sandals and dreadlocks drinking carrot juice,” says Ellen DeGeneres, who stops by with her spouse, the actor Portia de Rossi, to chat with Freston. At Craig’s (see craigs.la), the mood is more high heels and blonde locks. In fact, from power tables in Beverly Hills to pubs in the San Fernando Valley, the surging popularity of plant-based diets is drastically changing the dining landscape. That shift is under way in various cities around the world but it’s happening in an explosive way in and around Los Angeles.
Actors and talent agents hammer out script deals at SunCafe in Studio City (suncafe南京夜网). Vegan celebrities have become a fixture at Cafe Gratitude (cafegratitude南京夜网). Elegant spots such as n/naka (n-naka南京夜网) and Hatfield’s (hatfieldsrestaurant南京夜网) have extensive, ever-changing tasting menus for vegetarians.
The after-work crowd can also head to Golden Road Brewing (goldenroad.la) – a craft brewery in the Atwater Village neighbourhood – for vegan Super Bowl grub (a quinoa burger, a hot-dog with deep-fried avocado slices, meat-free chilli).
“I’m not the food police but I like opening the vegan door for people,” says Tony Yanow, the entrepreneur behind the brewery, as well as the vegan Mohawk Bend on Sunset Boulevard (mohawk.la) and Tony’s Darts Away (tonysda南京夜网), which serves a “vegan tailgate dog” and Buffalo-style cauliflower florets. “People will order food like that because it tastes good.”
It’s also health, the environment, an aversion to animal cruelty and (let’s face it) rank vanity that sees more and more Californians going vegan or vegetarian. Chefs and restaurateurs want to attract them, especially the beautiful and famous because that will draw more customers. And they face stiff competition. Vegans and vegetarians know they don’t have to settle for a baked potato when there’s a sublime raw pea and coconut soup at Cru (crusilverlake南京夜网) or parsnip-bacon and creamy corn ravioli at Hatfield’s.
The New York Times
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