• Restaurant Review: Natural Selection

    Happy Wednesday everyone!

    I’m always on the hunt for new restaurants and obviously healthy ones. That’s one of the main reasons I started this blog. I wanted to have a place to put all the spots I love and have come to love and discover. I felt like it was something other people could appreciate as well. Enough back story though! Here is a restaurant I stumbled upon while out and about. They have two different locations one in LA and one in Arcadia. I went to the Arcadia one, so if you’ve been to the Los Angeles one don’t be thrown off by the pictures! ;)  Here is my review for Natural Selection, a restaurant committed to healthy eating by sourcing their produce locally and serving only organic and in season fruits and vegetables.

     

    Natural Selection

    305 N. Santa Anita Ave.

    Arcadia, CA 91006

    p. 626-294-0466

    Hours: Mon-Sat 7AM to 7PM Closed Sundays

     

    646 Main Street

    Los Angeles, CA 90014

    p. 213-265-7470

    www.eatnaturalselection.com

     

    First Impression: I thought it was very cute when I first got there. I really liked all the outdoor seating. I’m always sold on a place when they have that option!

    Taste: I liked my meal. Simple but tasty. I had the spinach quesadilla with black beans. The sauce they serve with it is so good! (They make all their own sauces!) I’d really like to try one of their bowls or wraps next time! I also had the Tropical Breeze smoothie, which had apple juice, strawberries and banana. It was definitely tropical tasting!

     

    Décor: The décor in here was very simple. Plenty of seating inside and outside and a few things hanging.

    Price: Very reasonable! Everything is pretty much under $10.00.

     

    Service: Good! No complaints here!

     

    Ambiance: It was very quiet in here. It probably had to do with the time I went. It wasn’t a place for a real romantic meal but perfect for lunch on the weekend with friends, by yourself or with coworkers for lunch.

     

    Overall Experience: Overall, I liked Natural Selection. I felt like they had a lot of options on the menu. I think it’s a great place if you want to grab something healthy but don’t have a lot of time to eat or maybe you do and just want to chat for a while with friends. A really laid back atmosphere with good food.

    Credits:

    Written, reviewed and photographed by: Kristen Tola Hettich

  • Local Business: Gina Ragnone of Fala Bar

    Happy Wednesday everyone!

    I’m so excited to share today’s interview with Gina Ragnone of Fala Bar! Fala Bar is one of the newest restaurants to open in LA. It’s situated on the trendy street, Melrose Avenue near Fairfax. Founded by Mike Shab and Andres Izquieta, these two have perfected, with the help of Gina’s vision as a Holistic Health Coach, a health food restaurant for on the go. A common topic I have with friends and acquaintances about when will there be a fast food restaurant that’s all healthy, why has no one done that yet?! I always believed it was in the making and here is the first! I met Gina who helped fuse Andres and Mike’s original concept to what is now today, Fala Bar.

    I cannot say enough great things about this restaurant! I loved everything from the menu, décor and the entire concept! I’ll be the first to poke fun at the fact falafels are fried and, as you know the blog is called, “Steamed Not Fried,” but I admire the approach Fala Bar has towards how they fry their falafels, which definitely sets them apart from traditional frying. I was hooked immediately after trying their falafel sandwich and the Gigi’s snack cup, which was an accidental menu item Gina created one afternoon, Andres told her to definitely add that to the menu and I’m so glad they did! Having been open only a month, I’m already anxious for them to start expanding so I can have one in my hood! Check out my interview below with Gina and how the concept behind this great café was born, the challenges of opening a restaurant and sourcing local produce for the restaurant.

    What is Fala Bar? What can people expect when they go there?

    "Fala Bar is a vegan falafel and salad bar featuring traditional Middle Eastern cuisine with a healthy twist. Our menu is entirely vegan, organic, dairy free, nut free and gluten free with the exception of our pita bread. People can expect a "Fala Experience" as opposed to just ordering food and leaving. We like to educate our customers about what we are doing and why. For example, where we source all of our 100% organic and local produce along with our eco friendly and biodegradable cutlery and containers. Furthermore, why we use grape seed oil to fry our falafels versus other oils that cannot handle a high smoke point, etc." 

    What is the most popular item ordered? What is your favorite thing on the menu?

    "The most popular item is definitely our Fala Sandwich, which comes on our only gluten offered item of pita (not made in house, so safe for gluten intolerant people to eat with us) or for those avoiding bread, wrapped in a cabbage leaf. My favorite items are the Fala Me to Kaleifornia salad for lunch or dinner and the Gigi's Snack Cup for well, a snack." ;)  

    (Pictured Above: Gigi's Snack Cup)

    I absolutely love the concept of Fala Bar! How did the idea of Fala Bar come about? And why did you choose falafels to be the main focus of the restaurant and it’s dishes?

    "Mike Shab had the idea to create a traditional Middle Eastern type of falafel restaurant with shawarma (meat) because of his family's amazing recipes. When he approached Andres Izquieta about becoming his business partner on the project, Andres wanted to bring LA what they all seem to love: healthy, fresh, organic food. They then took it a few steps further and made it vegan, dairy free, nut free and gluten free---basically "allergen free" with the help of myself, since I am very in tune with a holistic approach to living. Although there are vegan, healthy restaurants popping up all over LA, the difference with Fala Bar is that it's basically "fast food" with our quick service approach giving even those on the go a healthy alternative to what is offered out there." 

    Fala Bar’s tagline is “Always vegan. Always fresh. Always organic.” Do you follow a vegan diet? 

    "I have followed every diet you can imagine in my past and I am here to say that I have learned there is not one diet that fits all. At the age of 6 years old, I started refusing meat and even dairy or anything else I discovered came from an animal... it grossed me out and drove my parents crazy! That lasted for a good 13 years before I ventured into some fish and then later some eggs and poultry. Nowadays, I keep a very plant based diet, but I listen to my body and incorporate fish and eggs occasionally and even red meat once in a blue moon. I will say that whenever someone walks into Fala and realizes we don't serve meat and are about to walk out the door, I encourage them to try having a meatless meal once a week, They never leave disappointed once they try the food." :)  

    What is your favorite dish to cook at home?

    "I love to make huge veggie salads, soups in my Vitamix, roasted veggies, cauliflower mash, grilled salmon--- just to name a few! Oh, and avocados are my best friend!"  ;)  

    Fala Bar is very new! What has been the most challenging part during the beginning stages of opening a restaurant/café/falafel bar? What has the feedback been like?

    "One of the most challenging parts is making sure everyone who works with us is all on the same page in order to keep consistency of the Fala Experience and of the dishes. The food seems to speak for itself and has received a lot of positive feedback as well as a lot of "thank you's" for opening. Our neighbors along Melrose are thrilled to have a healthier option during their lunch breaks."

     

    Do you source your produce/ingredients locally? If so, where do you go to pickup these items?

    "Yes we have suppliers who are all within 200 miles of our shop. We also have a list of every Farmer's Market taking place daily in the Los Angeles area in case we run out of anything or if our suppliers run out of something we need for the week. We love trips to the market!" 

    I really hope to see Fala Bar expand! I know having been open only a few weeks, I’m sure it’s hard to think that far ahead but would expanding be something you might do in the future?

    "It does seem like it would be difficult to think that far ahead already, but I know it's been on the minds of Mike and Andres since day one! We would most definitely like to see Fala Bar expand and have been brainstorming on future locations."   

    FalaBar

    7751 1/2 Melrose Ave.

    Los Angeles, CA 90046

    323-424-7131

    www.FalaBar.com

    Credits:

    Written, Interviewed and Photographed by: Kristen Tola Hettich

     

  • Local Business: Melina Davies of Olive & Thyme

    Happy Tuesday friends!

    I had the opportunity to sit down with Olive & Thyme owner, Melina Davies, having never worked in the food/restaurant industry in her life she has managed to take her dream and make it a successful reality.  Originally, Melina worked as a producer for the studios. “I took a complete gamble with opening this restaurant. I had no prior experience with opening a restaurant. I had never even worked in one! All of my chef friends said don’t do it, which of course made me want to do it even more! I had put so much into this venture that I couldn’t fail. I can’t fail.” Melina’s drive, dedication and passion for following her dreams of having a restaurant are truly inspiring. Check out my interview with Melina as she talks about the inspiration behind the interior of her restaurant and her favorite dish!

    Have you always been involved in the food industry?

    No, I worked as a producer in the film industry. I never had worked in a restaurant before.  I loved my job a producer but I also loved throwing dinner parties and found joy and happiness in cooking.

     

    What inspired you when creating the interior of your restaurant, Olive & Thyme?

    The South of France, European culture. The kitchen in Nancy Meyers’ filim, It’s Complicated, was a perfect example that I could show to our architect of what I had been envisioning.

    Do you follow any specific diet? (Vegan, Vegetarian, etc.)

    No, I eat everything.

     

    What is the most popular dish at Olive & Thyme? Which is your favorite?

    For meat lovers it would be the Short Rib Sandwich, for vegetarians it would be the Fattoush Salad. My personal favorite is the Egg Salad Sandwich. I also really like the raw Brussel Sprout salad.

      

    At home, what is your favorite meal to cook?

    Bucatini pasta with lemon, peppers and prosciutto.

     

    Do you have plans of expanding?

    We are! We haven’t commited to the second location yet but we are very close to deciding!

    Credits:

    Written, Interviewed & Photographed by: Kristen Tola Hettich

     

  • Restaurant Review: FarmShop

    Happy Wednesday everyone!

    If you live on the Westside of LA or are in the area, I have a great restaurant/market for you to visit, FarmShop! This is a great place to grab premade salads, pastries, drinks/juices/coffee, meats and veggies and wine for a quick bite to eat or to bring home to cook with later. You can also dine-in in their restaurant area on the opposite side of the space! Today’s review is on FarmShop’s restaurant! Loved their food and the space! :)

     

    FarmShop

    225 26th Street Ste. 25

    Santa Monica, CA 90402

     

    310-566-2400

    www.FarmShopCA.com

     

    First Impression: The first thing I noticed (and I’m sure a lot of people notice) is how pretty the space was and the overall cool vibe, not in a pretentious way though! ;) There is so much to take in when you walk in, do I want to eat at their restaurant or do I want to grab something to go…or both?! Really great concept and loved the layout inside!

    Taste: So yummy! Everything is obviously really fresh here. I tired the Caramelized Brussel Sprouts, which were so good! I always base the quality of my meals on not only the taste but also how memorable it was. These were definitely some memorable brussel sprouts! I also had the Country Line Harvest Lettuces, which were also very tasty. There was a lot that sounded good on their menu, would love to try everything!

    Décor: Beautiful! I am someone who loves big open spaces with lots of white (and subway tiles!) FarmShop definitely has both! I love the mix of rustic vibe, with (exposed beams and wooden tables) a clean/modern vibe. I especially loved the pop of peacock color on their booths!

    Price: Their prices are reasonable but leaning more on the pricier side with some of their items. The cheapest plate for lunch is $8 and goes up to $30 with their Scallops.

    Service: Great! Their staff is all very friendly! Always makes for a great experience when dining out!

     

    Ambiance: FarmShop did a great job of separating their two different areas (Market and restaurant) and while you’re dining in the restaurant area you almost forget there is even a market. It would be a great place to go with friends and co-workers. It didn’t really have a romantic vibe to the restaurant but it would still be a cute place to meet up for a date.

    Overall Experience: Lovely! They have really great food and a beautiful restaurant/market! Definitely a great place to know about if you are in the area and want to grab a bite to eat!

    Credits:

    Written, Reviewed and Photographed by: Kristen Tola Hettich

     

     

  • Restaurant Review: Olive & Thyme // Gourmet Cafe & Marketplace

    Happy Thursday friends!

    Today I’m sharing a restaurant that is not only beautiful but they have amazing food! Not to mention all the other goodies they sell such as, chocolates, pastries, juices, books, olive oils, the list goes on! Olive & Thyme offers dishes for everyone! There are vegetarian friendly options as well as meat options! Check out my review on this super cute cafe!

     

    Olive & Thyme

    4013 Riverside Drive

    Burbank, CA 91505

     

    818-557-1560

    www.OliveandThyme.com

     

    First Impression: Immediately when I walked in I thought, “what a beautiful and cute restaurant!” Olive & Thyme really has a unique vibe and great menu!

     

    Taste: Amazing! I tried the Grilled Vegetable Panini with goat cheese, salad and their secret sauce! (Which tastes incredible!) Definitely one of the best panini’s I’ve had!

    Décor: So beautiful! I really love the interior of this café/market! I love the mix of rustic, the wooden chairs and table, with a touch of modern/clean look with lots of white and subway tiles.

     

    Price: Very reasonable for great tasting and quality food!

     

    Service: Great! All the staff at Olive & Thyme is extremely nice and helpful! Makes for a real pleasant dining experience!

    Ambiance: Cozy and relaxing! I can see this café getting extremely busy during the week for lunch and also on the weekends. It’s located right near all the studios in Burbank, so I assume they get a big lunch crowd. They have lots of seating indoor and outdoor as well so I feel even when it does get busy it doesn’t feel crowded or overwhelming. Definitely during a lower traffic time it can be a place where you could read a book and enjoy a glass of wine or sip on some coffee.  

     

    Overall Experience: Great! I highly recommend trying this restaurant! They have great food, great ambiance and a beautiful space! Would be great spot for a date, casual lunch or even just to go have a drink and yummy meal by yourself at their bar.

    Credits:

    Written, Reviewed & Photographed by:  Kristen Tola Hettich

     

  • Restaurant Review: SweetSalt Food Shop

    Happy Thursday everyone!

    I recently stumbled across a hidden gem of a restaurant near my neighborhood that was really tasty! SweetSalt Food Shop is a café and bakery that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have a large variety on their menu, catering towards vegetarians and meat lovers! There really is something for everyone here! Don’t forget to try some of there homemade pastries!

     

    SweetSalt Food Shop

    10218 Riverside Drive

    Toluca Lake, CA 91602

     

    818-509-7790

    www.SweetSaltFood.com

     

    First Impression

    As soon as you walk up to SweetSalt you get this neighborhood friendly vibe. The location is so cute! It’s nestled in between other stores along Riverside Drive in a busy area or “main drag” of Toluca Lake. This area is popular for lunchtime with all the studios nearby. Once I went in I got another vibe that this was somewhere some come to have lunch everyday with friends and co-workers.

    Taste

    So good! I was really impressed with all the items on the menu and especially with my meal! I had the Kale and Brussel Sprouts Tacos. The flavors in these tacos were amazing! Also, being mostly vegetarian I appreciated their twist on the taco! They do offer the option to add Chicken or Salmon to these!

     

    Décor

    The décor was really simple inside SweetSalt but it had style. There are mainly hues of gray, black and brown in the restaurant. There is almost a vintage vibe, with lots of wooden chairs, wooden floors, and black crow decor found throughout the restaurant.

     

    Price

    I thought it was pretty reasonable and standard for lunch in LA.

    Service

    Great! Everyone working there was very friendly!

     

    Ambiance

    Relaxing. Although they were busy it did not feel uncomfortable or overwhelming. There were a couple of people who were just working on their computers. If you can work from a restaurant it must be relaxing in some way! ;)

     

    Overall Experience

    I really liked this restaurant! Great food (I would definitely go back for those tacos!) and pleasant atmosphere! I recommend giving this spot a try!

    Credits:

    Written, Reviewed and Photographed by: Kristen Tola Hettich

  • Restaurant Review: M.A.K.E. Santa Monica | Matthew Kenney Cuisine

    Happy Thursday everyone!

    Last week I had the opportunity to dine at the Matthew Kenney restaurant, M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica. M.A.K.E. is located in the new mall area, Santa Monica Place, at the end of the 3rd Street Promenade on the top level in The Market. Matthew Kenney has written 11 books on raw recipes. Raw is any food that is cooked below 118 degrees Fahrenheit, usually at 105 degrees, depending who you talk to! ;) As someone who has tried a raw vegan diet, I can honestly say how great such a diet made feel mentally and physically. Although, I no longer follow this type of diet I still can appreciate and enjoy it! And that’s exactly what I did while dining at M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica!

    M.A.K.E. 

    396 Santa Monica Place

    Santa Monica, CA 90401

    310-394-7046

    www.MatthewKenneyCuisine.com/Restaurants

    First Impression:

    Immediately when I saw M.A.K.E. I was impressed with the design aesthetic. It had it’s very own unique vibe to it, it definitely stood out from the other restaurants in The Market.

    Taste:

    I first have to say I was overly impressed not only with the taste of every single thing I tried but also by the presentation! So beautiful! It was almost too pretty to eat! (But I’m glad I did because it was all extremely delicious!) I think it’s safe for me to say that even if you are not a raw vegan, you would really enjoy the food here and probably not even be able to tell it was raw and/or vegan! That’s how good it was!

    The first thing I tried was an amuse-bouche. This hors d’oeuvre was made up of a walnuts and apples wrapped in a nasturtium leaf. So delicious! Thank you chef! :)

    To drink Bethany had the Sweet Green Juice, which is made up of Green Apple, Kale, Cucumber, Celery, Lemon and Lime. She said it was very tasty and would definitely order again! I tried the Tropical Green smoothie, which had Pineapple, Kale, Ginger, Coconut Butter and Almond Milk. This smoothie was one of the best ones I’ve had in a while! Very good! I too would definitely order this again!

    Our second course was two items from their share plates, the Tree Nut Cheeses with Pears and Pickled Cauliflower, Sweet & Spicy Mustard seeds and Fennel Crisps and Mushroom Pate with celeriac (which is a root vegetable) served with Herb Mustard Crackers. Both dishes were very good! I have to say out of the two I really enjoyed the Tree Nut cheese dish the most, as I am not a huge mushroom person. Bethany and I were really impressed at how the “cheeses” tasted exactly like cheese but were obviously not!

    Next, we had the Kimchi Dumplings with Ginger foam and Coriander. I absolutely loved this dish! So tasty!

    For the main course we had two of their most popular dishes, the Black Pepper Kelp Noodles made with Mushroom Snap Peas, olive crumb and pea vine. The other dish was their Market Tomato Lasagna made with Zucchini, Macadamia, Santa Barbara Pistachio and Basil. One word….AMAZING! So impressed with the presentation and the taste of both of these dishes! I would come back just to have either of these! If I were to pick one over the other though, it would be a hard choice, but I’d have to say I liked the Black Pepper Kelp Noodles the best!

    For dessert we had their Chocolate Cake and their Peppermint Ice Cream. Again, two amazing dishes and as someone who LOVES sweets I really enjoyed both of these! It made me wonder why anyone would want to eat “regular” cake or store bought, unhealthy ice cream when you can have sweets like this that are way better for you and leave you with little to no guilt!

    Décor:

    M.A.K.E. has a modern yet rustic vibe, which I think is definitely cohesive with the focus of their menu being raw vegan. It feels earthy but also clean and has feel of being a little upscale. Not the stuffy, uptight upscale but not your typical vegan restaurant either. There is a lot of wood in the restaurant, dark accents and succulents on each table and on the wall by the kitchen. Each table is also made of wood but to add that sense of modernism to the restaurant they have iron chairs and bar stools and a marble countertop at the bar.

     

    Price:

    I think for the quality of food you get along with the vibe of an upper scale vegan restaurant, I think it’s very reasonable! You can expect your main course to run you about $15-$18.

    Service:

    Great service! Everyone at M.A.K.E. is very friendly and polite!

    Ambiance:

    Very quiet and relaxing. I was also dining here during rush hour in LA, so that might have had something to do with that! ;) I do think though that M.A.K.E. is probably pretty low key as it’s located in The Market area away from the other food court, so you most likely will experience that type of ambiance while dining here. Not super noisy or pretentious. It feels cozy in there because of the wood, which also makes it feel darker in there but with all the windows it keeps it pretty well lit!

     

    Overall Experience:

    Amazing! I was really impressed with how good the food was and the presentation of it! It is definitely worth taking a visit to try! Or you can always grab a smoothie, juice or dessert from, M.A.K.E. OUT, their stand alone shop adjacent to M.A.K.E.!

    Credits:

    Written & Reviewed by: Kristen Tola Hettich

    Photographed by: Bethany Nauert

  • Restaurant Review: Clementine


    Happy Thursday friends!

    Today I’m reviewing the wonderful restaurant, Clementine, which is situated between Beverly Hills and West LA in Century City. (There is a location in Beverly Hills as well!) Clementine is a great café/ bakery owned by chef Annie Miler. This restaurant definitely gives you a comfortable homey vibe that pairs well with all of their homemade treats and dishes! 

    Clementine

    1751 Ensley Avenue

    Los Angeles, CA 90024

    310. 552. 4774 

    First Impression:

    Before I had heard any great things (which is all I have heard about Clementine!) It first caught my eye as I was driving. The awning alone gave me an indication that it looked like a cute little restaurant, sure enough it was! Right when you walk into Clementine you feel “at home.” Lot’s of wood details, warm colors and smells of yummy food!

    Taste:

    Amazing! Everything we had was so delicious! (And all made in house!) First we had the Cranberry Corn Muffin and the Whole Grain Muffin with Dried Cherries. Both were so tasty! We came during breakfast so we decided to try some of the things on the breakfast menu. I had the Breakfast Scramble #1 which comes with baby spinach, three cheeses, basil and mushrooms. With the scrambles you can choose between toast or a biscuit and fruit or baby greens. I had the biscuit, which I had to try because I just knew it was going to be delicious! The entire meal was filling and tasted great! I would definitely come back just for this meal alone! Bethany tried the Two Poached Eggs, which comes with fruit and your choice of biscuit or toast. Bethany also tried the biscuit, which was so good! She would definitely order this meal again too!

    Décor:

    Very traditional! It reminded me of a place you would find in a small town or in the North East. It definitely stands out from most restaurants you’d find in Los Angeles. The back wall to the right of the restaurant is covered with Clementine's posters from each years National Grilled Cheese Month. There are lots of pastries, pre packaged food and tasty treats that almost act as décor that line the front and sides of the check out.

    Price:

    Very, very reasonable! Especially for the quality of food you’re getting! Nothing on the menu is over $13 that is unless you are buying a family sized Heat–at–Home Entrée.

    Service:

    Great! Everyone working there is very friendly!

    Ambiance:

    Warm and welcoming! You feel at home while dining here. You also have the option to sit outside, which is always nice!

    Overall Experience:

    Great! I would definitely recommend trying this restaurant out if you have not already. I will be back very soon!

     Credits

    Written & Review by: Kristen Tola Hettich

    Photographed by: Bethany Nauert