Vegan at a Foodie Conference in LA

Fran with Derek Sarno, Tal Ronnen, and Chad Sarno

The International Conference of Culinary Professionals annual conference was held in LA this year. Culinary influencers of all types – cookbook authors, agents, editors, media, test kitchen personal, food manufactures, culinary educators, and cooking school owners, both brick and mortar and online – came to learn, network, and of course, to eat. Most attendees were not vegan but are becoming ever more interested in plant based foods.

Berry Tart with Coconut Cream from Crossroads
Berry Tart with Coconut Cream from Crossroads

I get to LA regularly as the Costigals and their parents live there, but for this now they are in New Zealand. (Imagine my surprise when I got to the conference hotel and saw that it’s right next to the girls’ school!) Every time I book a trip to LA,  I make a reservation at the spectacular Crossroads Kitchen. This trip, I had two swoon-worthy dinners at Crossroads, the first in the private room no less, thanks to chef Tal’s kindness to a long time friend. The Crossroads cookbook was up for an IACP cookbook awards in the Chef and Restaurateur Category. This was the first time a book with the word vegan on the cover was nominated.

Artichoke Oysters at Crossroads
Artichoke Oysters at Crossroads

I made a reservation at Moby’s new restaurant Little Pine, too, as it opened after my last visit.  Terry Romero, Kathy Hester, Jill Nussinow, and I dined lightly on several salads, breads, and spreads, but when it came to dessert, we could not resist ordering two. The Banana Cream Pie, a whole pie, was adorable and creamy, but it was the Vegan Baked Alaska that had us in awe. It was perfection.

Vegan Baked Alaska at Little Pine
The Vegan Baked Alaska at Little Pine was dessert perfection.

Moby donates all of the profits to animal welfare groups, and he sells an assortment of interesting pottery and books in the restaurant. You think I was happy to see this? So there I was, a vegan at a food conference LA and very happy!

Look what I found on the shelves at Little Pine!
Look what I found on the shelves at Little Pine!


Car Vegenz
LA is the center of the plant-based universe

Tour: Los Angeles: Center of the Plant-Based Universe
First stop on the tour was Follow Your Heart, a company that was founded in 1970 by 4 vegetarian friends. Earth Island was created in 1988 to produce FYH proprietary products, including Vegenaise and vegan cheese alternatives – the ones we see in that in supermarkets. These foods are served in restaurants across the country, too. We toured the super sustainable facility and were treated to yummy snacks. Cheeses, gluten-free brioche, and quiche made with the new VeganEgg were well received by the many non-vegans, which was the majority of the group. We left with swag bags.

Gluten Free Brioche Toast at Follow Your Heart
Gluten Free Brioche Toast at Follow Your Heart
Quiche made with Follow Your Heart's VeganEgg
Quiche made with Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg

Next we traveled to Marina del Rey to meet with the culinary and marketing team at Gardein. Twenty-five years ago the founder of Gardein had a dream to make the world a better place using the power of vegetables to create healthy versions of American fast food favorites. I’ve tasted most of the Gardein and Kite Hill products, but had not yet tasted the Fish Fillets. I was astonished. More, please! Chef Jason and the team were gracious and welcoming and generous with the platters of foods to taste. More swag, too!

Gardein's Beefless Tips
Gardein’s Beefless Tips
Gardein Sandwiches
Gardein Chicken Sliders

Now, I can’t say anyone of us was hungry when we found ourselves next on the beautiful patio of Sage Organic Bistro in Culver City, but the dishes, served family style, were irresistible. After eating more than I thought was possible, yet another treat was offered. Chef Mollie is the creator of KindKreme vegan ice cream. Which to order? Well, if you can imagine, we were invited to taste as many of the flavors as we wished. I sure did a wide tasting before settling on the cocoa coffee and super foods. I did pass on the plates of giant cookies. I just couldn’t have another bite. Back on the bus, we had lots of time to digest this meal, the tastes and the day, as LA traffic was serious.

Lunch at Sage Organic Bistro
Lunch at Sage Organic Bistro
Sage Organic Vegan Bistro Nice Kreme
KindKreme at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro

IACP conferencesa are always informative and fun. I’ll be blogging about the food trends next.

Those of you who live in or travel to Los Angeles, I’d sure like to hear about your favorite places. I know I missed Vromage, Plant Food, Real Food Daily, and Shojim this time, but the Costigals will be home this summer, and I’ll be sure to visit LA again soon.


Leave a Reply