Il Gelato at Eataly


If you love Italian food and you haven’t been to Eataly at the Century City Mall, you need to go. This marketplace, which the LA Times calls “Disneyland for Italian food lovers,” contains pasta, pizza, and seafood restaurants; a bakery; a butcher; an espresso bar; a grocery store; a gift shop and more. If that sounds overwhelming, I sympathize. The first time I went in there, I got a glimpse of the eight hundred or so kinds of olive oil and went into tilt mode. I left without getting anything.

So I’ll make it easy for you. Head straight for the gelato shop on the first floor.

Being lactose-intolerant, I can’t eat gelato (sad face). But I can eat sorbet. Sorbet does not contain dairy; instead of milk or cream, water is the base. The best sorbets, however, don’t taste watery or icy. They have a creamy texture like ice cream.

Most of Il Gelato’s sorbets have that delectable creamy texture. Their standout sorbet, in my opinion, is the chocolate. I get very excited about sorbets that aren’t fruit-flavored because they’re rare. It’s much more common to get a mango or lemon sorbet than a chocolate or vanilla one.


Il Gelato’s is, hands down, the best chocolate sorbet I’ve ever had. It’s super rich, chocolatey, smooth and creamy. If I didn’t know it was sorbet, I’d assume it was a high-end dark chocolate ice cream like Berthillion in Paris. It’s better than the one at Treats in Santa Monica, which has a lighter mousse-like texture.

As you can see in the picture above, we had a scoop of the chocolate and a scoop of the mixed berry — they were having a two-for-one special and my husband loves a bargain. The mixed berry sorbet was fantastic, with a very strong, tart flavor.

I’ve been to Il Gelato several times to check out their selection, and it seems like they have a few flavors all the time and a few that rotate. Of the sorbets I’ve tried, I recommend, in this order:

  • Chocolate
  • Mixed Berry
  • Strawberry
  • Passion Fruit

The ones I didn’t care for were:

  • Lemon & Basil (strangely herbal tasting)
  • Pear Vanilla (more pear-like than vanilla)
  • Blood Orange (icy, not smooth and creamy)
  • Chocolate Banana (just gross)
  • Apple & Celery (Celery in ice cream? Who thought that was a good idea?)
Menu on a Thursday in January
Menu on a Saturday in February

I wouldn’t make a special trip to Eataly just for sorbet, but if I were already at the Century City Mall, I would highly consider swinging by for a scoop. Especially when the weather gets hot. The fact that Il Gelato has so many dairy-free options is enough reason to celebrate its existence.

IL GELATO, Located at Eataly, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067


Improved Daiya Dairy-Free Cheddar Style Slices


As someone who is lactose-intolerant, I’ve tried a lot of Daiya dairy-free cheese products, and this improved version of their cheddar cheese is by far the best. Not sure what they did to improve it, but here’s what I like about it:

(1) Melts better.
(2) Sharper flavor.
(3) Doesn’t give me gas.

In fact, the third reason is why I stopped eating Daiya cheese, other than the vegan mozzarella shreds they put on the pizzas at Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza. The mozzarella gives me gas, too, but it’s a sacrifice I make in order to be able to enjoy pizza.

But this improved Daiya has so far not given me that problem. Yay!

Here are the cons about it:

(1) Round slices work great for burgers, not so much for grilled cheese.
(2) Tastes more like American cheese than cheddar.

So without further ado, I’ll let these pictures tell the rest of the story.

Melts pretty well, even without heat from above. This was cooked on the grill. (That’s real cheese in the background.)
Burger with Daiya cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions and arugula on a pretzel bun.
Quesadilla made with Daiya cheese.

Do you have a favorite Daiya product? Or know of a great dairy-free cheese? Let me know in the comments!

Homemade Dairy-Free Lebanese Rose Milk Tea


In honor of the roses we all want to get on Valentine’s Day this week, I’m making a copycat version of the Lebanese Rose Milk Tea from Labobatory, a boba tea shop that I always visit when I’m in San Gabriel. Mine doesn’t contain boba, but that’s better for me anyway, as those starchy tapioca balls are bad news for my waistline.

I love copycat recipes because every time I make one of these, I think, “I’m saving five dollars!” Not to mention, a long drive out to San Gabriel.


All you need is Zhena’s Gypsy Rose Organic Black Tea (available at Whole Foods or online), rose water, ice, and a non-dairy creamer such as Coffeemate. The rose water is really the key — it’s what gives Labobatory’s rose milk tea that Middle Eastern flavor. You can find it at Persian or Indian grocery stores.

Labobatory uses non-dairy creamer, but you can substitute almond milk or coconut milk instead. You can also add sugar or another sweetener if you wish.


1 cup boiling water
1 tea bag of Zhena’s Gypsy Rose Organic Black Tea
1/2 teaspoon rose water
1 cup ice
non-dairy creamer, to taste

Steep the tea bag in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag, and let the tea cool for 20 to 30 minutes. If you like your tea strong, do this step a few hours before you plan to drink it, then refrigerate it (otherwise the warm tea will melt some of the ice and dilute your drink).

Add rose water to the tea and stir to combine. Fill a glass with the ice. Pour the tea over the ice, and add non-dairy creamer to taste. Stir and enjoy. Makes one serving.

Vromage Artisan Vegan Cheese


When I heard that a veteran cheesemaker opened up a shop selling dairy-free cheese in West Hollywood, I couldn’t wait to try it. The reviews for Vromage were fantastic. I pictured a cozy little spot like the Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City, where you can get beautiful sandwiches and salads — but without dairy!

Well, when I walked into Vromage, located in a tiny strip mall on Sunset Boulevard, I was worried. There was no one behind the counter and no menu posted on the wall or printed on paper. After several stressful minutes, a man finally emerged from the kitchen and greeted me. He didn’t introduce himself, but I deduced that he was Youssef Fakhouri, the founder and inventor of Vromage.

“Where’s the menu?” I asked him.

“Right here,” he said, pointing to himself. “What would you like?”

I didn’t even know where to begin. I’m the kind of person who likes to order my food off an iPad so I don’t have to talk to anyone. “Do you make sandwiches?” I asked. Youssef said yes. “What kind?” I asked. This was way too loosey-goosey for me. I was starting to wonder if this Youssef guy was like Willy Wonka and I was going to end up getting turned into a giant blueberry.

At last, Youssef gestured to a chalkboard behind me.


I was confused. What exactly is on this sandwich besides mozzarella or taleggio, and does it really cost $1250? ‘Cause that’s a bit overpriced, if you ask me. (Turns out there was a decimal point missing.) And why is there a paté sandwich on the menu if everything here is vegan?

I had questions. But at this point, I was feeling stupid and hungry. I asked if I could sample some cheeses. First I picked the goat, since I used to love goat cheese and I’d never had dairy-free goat before. Youssef handed me a generous slice on a slip of parchment. It was pure white and had dried herbs around the edges. I tried it. Unbelievable. It had that sharp, tart flavor I’d missed for so long, and the texture was smooth and fluffy. Not as dense as real cheese, almost mousse-like.

“Yum,” I said. “That’s really good.”

“You like it?” said Youssef. “I’ll make you a sandwich.”

And before I could try any other samples or ask him just what he was planning to put on this sandwich, Youssef disappeared into the kitchen again and I was left standing there, hoping he wouldn’t come out with a pumpernickel roll with olives and yellow mustard (all foods I do not enjoy). He didn’t even ask me if I was allergic to anything. The only way to describe how I felt at that moment is… helpless.

But when Youssef came back out a few minutes later with his mystery concoction, it looked delicious.


The sandwich contained nothing but vegan goat cheese, arugula, and sliced heirloom tomatoes on a crusty French baguette (luckily, all foods I do enjoy). An inveterate meat eater, I feared that the lack of protein would leave me hungry and reaching for a snack in an hour. But I was committed at this point, so I took my plate over to the teeny counter by the window and took a bite.

It was fantastic. Everything tasted super-fresh and the goat cheese packed enough flavor to carry that sandwich. Would I have liked some prosciutto or wine-soaked sopressata in there? Hell, yeah. But if you’re a vegan, this is as good as it gets.

And by the way, I wasn’t hungry an hour later. Perhaps the nuts that the cheese was made of provided me with more protein than I’d expected. All of the cheeses at Vromage are nut-based. They don’t contain soy.


Later I tried samples of the spicy cheddar and the brie, but neither were as good as the goat. The spicy cheddar in particular was disappointing because its texture was grainy. I also sampled the vegan “paté,” which tasted odd and nothing like real paté. Apparently, Youssef hasn’t yet perfected the art of imitating liver.

But I liked the goat cheese so much that I bought a chunk of it to take home. Vromage sells all its cheeses by weight, and most of the customers I saw that day came in to take some cheese home for their vegan cocktail parties in Laurel Canyon.

It’s not much of a sit-down restaurant — only a handful of seats and zero atmosphere. But as far as vegan cheese goes, Youssef Fakhouri is on the cutting edge. If you’re willing to hand over the controls to this eccentric cheesemonger, go for it.

VROMAGE ARTISAN CHEESE, 7988 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046