Best of L.A.

Best Of 2010

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best (Raw, Vegan) Ice Cream That Won't Make You Fat, Lethargic or Sugar-Loopy
Kind Kreme

L.A.'s raw-food fanatics — what with their radiant complexions, their sparkly eyes and their sustained energy, screamed a collective whoop of giddy hurrah when Kind Kreme opened this spring. Kind Kreme serves raw, vegan ice cream that it makes on the premises, and despite hard-core purist-steeped honey controversy, no bee flesh is actually used in the crafting of its sweet, creamy awesomeness. KK offers soft-serve vanilla and chocolate, as well as a variety of hard-packed flavors, including Goji-Kumquat, Caramel Apple and Superfood ice cream, made with E3Live (there it is again, that nutrient-dense lake sludge!), maca powder, goji berries and macadamia nuts. The morning smoothie is now rendered obsolete, as now it's easy, affordable and infinitely more fun to lick your daily dose of superhero nutrients than it is to sip 'em. Kind Kreme, a haven for wellness geeks and sweet-toothed neighborhood folk alike, and the sweet, smiling beauties behind the counter amicably offer up as many samples as their clients are inspired to suck down. 3701 Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd. (818) 308-6758, kindkreme.com. —Dani Katz

3701 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 90068
MAP
818-308-6758
Best Place for a Martini With a View (1914)
Yamashiro

Want to feel like the King of Hollywood? More specifically, want to feel like the Japanese King of Hollywood? Technically that would make you emperor. Or do you just want to chill out in one of L.A.'s most opulent and fortuitously situated restaurant/lounges? Do all of the above at Yamashiro, a decent Japanese restaurant and drinking establishment blessed with an absolutely incredible setting. In 1914 the Bernheimer brothers finished their wacky dream of building a Japanese mansion on a hill high up above Hollywood, and filled it with their Asian treasures. Today you can get a martini or a rare sake in the lounge or a truffle hamachi in the Cal-Asian-style restaurant, and take in the incredible minipalace, with its gold-lacquered, bronze dragon–tipped rafters, ornate woodwork and silk wallpaper, and outdoor grounds featuring a 600-year-old pagoda, thousands of specially planted trees and shrubs, Japanese gardens, a koi-filled pond and an inner courtyard. Just watch the extremely steep drive going up and down. 1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Hlywd. (323) 466-5125, yamashirorestaurant.com. —Adam Gropman

1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Los Angeles, 90068
MAP
323-466-5125
I LOVE THE SMELL OF TUJUNGA IN THE MORNING
Aroma Coffee and Tea Company
Orly Olivier

Let 'em have Larchmont. Never mind Melrose. Who needs Montana? Folks who live or hang in the Southeast San Fernando Valley have their own small, fairly well-hidden enclave right near where Tujunga meets Moorpark, a stretch that's leafy, quiet and upscale enough to attract the well-heeled professionals, yoga moms and working screenwriters you might find in those other areas. And the crown jewel of Tujunga is the Aroma Coffee and Tea Company, a former house converted into a very special sort of coffee-tea-and-food place, where the interior feels like a nicely decorated, new-agey bed and breakfast — different cozy rooms, each full of atmospheric well being — and the spacious outdoor grounds feel like some magical garden, surrounded as they are by large trees and tastefully lush patio landscaping. The food — ranging from breakfast quesadilla to New York steak salad with gorgonzola to red velvet cake — is thoughtfully prepared and fairly healthy and the coffee, tea, chai, lattes and smoothies are superb. Aroma's a great place for solo hanging, writing or reading or for any sort of social rendezvous. 4360 Tujunga Ave, Studio City. (818) 508-0677, aromacoffeeandtea.com. —Adam Gropman

4360 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 91604
MAP
818-508-0677
Best New Versions of Old-Time Relishes

There's nothing that says "Hollywood cocktail party" quite like mango chutney and corn relish. Or so it was in the '30s and '40s, when pillows of cream cheese were piled on top of just about every appetizer, and cocktail hour wasn't complete without canapé trays from the best private chefs and caterers. Viola Rowland's mango chutney and corn relish were among those that regularly made the rounds at parties hosted by Doris Day, Dan Duryea and Max Factor. Her granddaughter, Nancy, has been carrying on that tradition since the 1980s by bottling her own versions of her grandmother's relishes using local ingredients. Under her Viola's Gourmet Goodies label, that mango chutney morphed into an orange-apple-tomatillo version now called California relish (still a sweet chutney). Viola's corn version, now known as Baja relish, became a tomatillo relish with jalapeños and cilantro that does double duty as a spicy-sweet salsa for tortilla chips. Viola's Baja and California relishes are available at Vicente Foods in Brentwood, Irvine Ranch Market and at madeincalifornia.net; violasgourmet.com. —Jenn Garbee

YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY HEIRLOOM
Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants

Every spring, Angelenos enter into that sweet madness known as tomato mania: They want tomatoes, they need tomatoes — the fruit, the plant, the seeds, in as many varieties as possible. The savviest of those who have survived the frenzy and lived to tell about it rely on a woman named Laurel Garza to see them through. Garza runs Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants. It's primarily a shipping business. People call in with orders in September, she starts seedlings in December, then begins shipping by end of March. But Southern California locals can pick up their plants in person at Garza's nursery in Torrance. Better yet, they can attend her Sunday plant sales in the months of April and May and behold the tomato wonderland firsthand. From Japanese Black Trifeles to Striped Germans, Bloody Butchers, Chocolate Amazons and Azoychkas, Garza's got tomatoes for every application (sauces, capreses, sandwiches) and location (humble balcony containers to plantation plots the size of Tara). For 2011, Garza is offering 92 varieties. Though other years, depending on her mood, that number can rocket to 150. Always included are her favorites, the Paul Robeson — a black tomato with a sweet, smoky earthiness named for the famous opera singer and civil rights activist — and the old-fashioned Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red. Says Garza, "They have an unruly, rich flavor that's just mind-blowing." 1725 257th St., Lomita. (310) 534-8611, heirloomtomatoplants.com. —Gendy Alimurung

1725 257th St., Lomita, 90717
MAP
310-534-8611
Best Bar in a 100-Year-Old Building (1910)
The Edison

Visionary and renovator extraordinaire Andrew Meieran is responsible for giving a wake-up call to Los Angeles. "I fell madly in love with the Higgins building the day it won the award for ugliest, dirtiest building by the L.A. Times in 1995," he says. "I saw a mixture of the future and the past. Inside there was so much detail worth saving. It is the ultimate in adaptive reuse." Built in 1910 by copper baron Thomas Higgins, the building once housed Occidental Petroleum, Clarence Darrow's office, the Temperance Society and the city's first private power plant. But by 1995, the dilapidated, vacated shell was partially underwater (Meieran toured it by raft) and discarded like much of L.A.'s past. The building now bustles with restaurants, an art gallery, 135 lofts, and the Edison, an ultraswanky art deco "gin joint" so reminiscent of the Golden Age that every element of the décor — down to the preservation of the boiler room and original generators — gives guests an opportunity to walk back in time. On October 10 at 7 p.m., raise a glass at the Edison for the Higgins Building Centennial Celebration. It's what paved the way for L.A.'s historic downtown redevelopment. In other words, it's why you go downtown again. 108 W. 2nd St., dwntwn. (213) 613-0000, edisondowntown.com. —Heidi Dvorak

108 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-613-0000
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Best (Raw, Vegan) Ice Cream That Won't Make You Fat, Lethargic or Sugar-Loopy: Kind Kreme

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