NATIVE FOODS . . .
Vegetarian the Way It Should Be
By Tanya Petrovna.
“The Aquarian Age is here now, and it is happening first in Los Angeles,” a wise sage once said. Having heard this we knew the time had come to open a restaurant in the Los Angeles area. Not really. The truth is, one fine spring day someone called our Palm Desert location and asked if we were interested in a location in Westwood Village.
My partner Ray and I drove down for the day. When we walked into the building we knew it was right. Aside from the large and ominous glowing blue and white light, the feeling was the same as when we expanded our Palm Springs location to encompass its satellite Palm Desert site.
It seemed a timely move, after all it had been more than ten years of making fresh tempeh1 and gourmet seitan2 and the yearning for “alternative” has become commonplace in music and lifestyles . . . why not food styles? Maybe it was no coincidence that the word “native” is part of the word “alternative.”
Westwood Village was put on the map. The Insight West team of interior decorators was called. We knew they were the chosen ones because they go barefoot in Baja while watching whales and have been loyal customers of ours for more than ten years. We surmised this store should be a prototype of the many stores to follow and would be more of a quick- service format with a large take-out capacity.
The tempeh-savvy customer will appreciate the difference of “homemade”. The comparison to store- bought tempeh has been analogous to the difference between a canned green bean and a fresh one. Viva la differences! Tempeh menu choices range from the infamous Bali Surf Burger (great with caramelized onions), the Gandhi Bowl (featuring blackened tempeh), tasty Thai Sticks, and the Baja Surfer Tacos, which are primo. Once one has had fresh tempeh it’s hard to go back. Native Foods is definitely where you should have your first tempeh experience.
The “made-from-scratch” seitan (wheat-meat) is an alluring treat. It has a chewier but yet delicate texture and is enticing in its preparations. We have added flavors ranging from Kalamata Olive to Peppercorn, which make them comparable to gourmet deli roasts.
The Philly Peppersteak Sandwich is our peppered seitan seared with shallots and a splash of cognac before being slathered with a sauté of mushrooms, onions and bell peppers, then topped with a squeeze of the creamy Native Cheese. (Native Cheese is made from cashews and sunflower seeds). There’s nothing better, except for maybe some Jerk Burger once in a while. You can find us selling our popular seitan roasts of all varieties at the Malibu Farmers Market, Sundays 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
A big seller and some of our hippest menu items use textured soy proteins. These resemble textures from ground beef to chicken breasts. I try not to think about these comparisons but they are great for people transitioning or, to quote some customers’ definitions of themselves, “big meat-eaters”. I prefer to call the product “taco meat” and “save the chicken!”
Desserts are fun and vegan too, not rock hard and heavier than metal as some would think. The Elephant’s Revenge Chocolate Cake is made with French cocoa powder and keeps you running for more. Debb’s Cheesecake makes your tongue feel creamy with no dairy and the Tiramisu picks you up without dropping you down. Upon consuming Angel’s Apple Cobbler one can see the halo overhead that can sometime get lost in L.A. traffic.
Native Foods is a place where vegan3 diners can bring their most avid carnivore friends and have fun. I would recommend the Mad Cowboy, Bongo Congo, Philly Peppersteak, Tijuana Tacos, or Indonesian Tempeh Chips for the first-timer. These all have chewy textures with degrees of familiarity. The adventurous should try the Killer Weed Salad, Jamaican Jerk or the Moby Dick, but be careful with the latter as it is addic(k)tive!
Throughout the years customer comments that echo the most loudly have been,” I’m not a vegetarian and I really liked it,” and “I would eat this way all the time if it were easily available.” It has become our mission to make it incredibly delicious and very available.
For more menu information, recipes, cooking class info, photos and more, check out our website at www.nativefoods.com or come visit us at 1110-1/2 Gayley Avenue in West-wood Village, 1-1/2 blocks north of Wilshire. Our hours are 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays, but find us at the Malibu Farmers Market. (310) 209-1055
Thank you for having the courage to try something new!
1. Tempeh - an Indonesian staple made from cooked and cultured
A mild flavor and delicate texture.
2. Seitan - the protein from wheat, aka “wheat-meat.” A soft, meaty
texture, can look like deli slices.
3. Vegan - abstains from eating any animal products at all.
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