Oatly Dairy-Free Ice Cream (and a New Blog)

After retiring this blog, I haven’t felt a burning desire to write another post until I discovered Oatly Dairy-Free Ice Cream on a recent stocking-up-for-the-apocalypse shopping trip. We are in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, and it’s obvious that people are buying up all the comfort foods: frozen pizzas, pasta, and — believe it or not — dairy-free milks and ice creams. In the nearly bare freezer case at Gelson’s, I saw this cute pink carton of Oatly strawberry ice cream and thought, “If not now, when?”

Turns out this oat-milk-based ice cream is as close to perfect as you can get. It’s smooth, rich, and creamy. It tastes like real strawberries. And there’s no weird aftertaste like so many dairy-free desserts have. (Trader Joe’s coconut-milk-based strawberry ice cream is very good, but it does have a coconutty flavor.)

So, if you’re sheltering in place, feeling anxious, and needing a hit of almost guilt-free comfort food, hunt down some Oatly ice cream the next time you’re braving the supermarket or ordering a delivery.

Meanwhile, I’ve started writing a new blog called Apocalypso Now as a way of sharing my thoughts and feelings about everyday life during this global pandemic. Please check it out and follow me if you’re interested.

Be safe and take good care of yourselves. I hope to hear from you.


Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream


Sour cream is one of the extras I learned to live without when I went dairy-free. I used to put it on baked potatoes, nachos, quesadillas… and the tanginess and cooling quality of the sour cream were a nice finishing touch. But even with the plethora of dairy-free alternatives available today, it’s been hard to find dairy-free sour creams.

Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream is one of the few I’ve seen. As the name suggests, it contains tofu, so it’s not suitable for those who can’t eat soy. But that’s a moot point, because no one should be eating this stuff — it’s terrible.


As you can see in the photo above, it looks like the putty you use for spackling. Good thing I tasted it before actually putting it on my food. It wasn’t sour or creamy — in fact, it had no resemblance to sour cream at all. It was pasty and just tasted odd.

Tofutti is one of the older brands of dairy-free products; I remember seeing Tofutti Cuties — soy-based ice cream sandwiches — back in the early 2000s. But they’ve been lapped by newer brands with better food science. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found any that make a good imitation sour cream. If I ever do, you’ll be the first to know.

Cocobella Creamery


Cocobella Creamery is one of the few ice cream parlors in Los Angeles that serve vegan ice cream exclusively. Having thoroughly disliked another one—Kippy’s in Venice—I was skeptical about Cocobella, until I found out they use oat milk as the base in half their flavors. Since I’m currently on an oat milk kick, I decided to give it a try.

I sampled four oat milk flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Forbidden Horchata, Hong Kong Milk Tea, and Moose Tracks. The first three were so-so—not bad, but not great. They all lacked a strong flavor. I was especially disappointed that the Hong Kong Milk Tea was so “subtle,” as the woman behind the counter put it. I would kill for a dairy-free ice cream that tastes like boba tea. Alas, this one did not deliver.

But I did like Moose Tracks, a vanilla base with chunks of chocolate and sunflower butter cups (which taste like peanut butter cups). It wasn’t as rich and smooth as real ice cream, but it wasn’t grainy like Kippy’s. And it didn’t have a weird aftertaste as so many non-dairy ice creams do. (I didn’t bother with their coconut milk flavors for his very reason; the taste of coconut tends to dominate.)

A kid’s scoop of Moose Tracks.

The biggest draw of Cocobella is the sheer variety of flavors. If you eat a lot of vegan ice cream, you will appreciate this. And I like that they’re diving into oat milk territory. But here are the problems with Cocobella:

(1) It’s expensive—$4.25 for a kid’s scoop, the smallest and cheapest thing on the menu.

(2) The parking can be a hassle. Before 5 p.m., the lot is free. But when I came on a Saturday night, the lot was valet-only and cost $12. (Blame the bar and Cuban supper club next door). Apparently, Cocobella customers get ten minutes free, but I didn’t know this so I took my chances and parked illegally on the street.

Am I going to run back to Cocobella anytime soon? No. I’d rather go to Ralphs and get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which kicks Cocobella’s ass. But if I’m in the neighborhood on a hot day, I might stop by to check out their flavors… as long as I can find free parking.

COCOBELLA CREAMERY, 1253 Vine St., Suite 12, Los Angeles, CA 90038


Oatly Dairy-Free Oat Milk


Scanning the dairy shelves at Ralphs, I ask myself, “Do I really need to try another dairy-free milk?” I’ve already had soy, almond, coconut, almond-coconut, cashew, macadamia nut, hazelnut… How many more things can you make fake milk out of?

But oat milk is the big new player on the market, supposedly the most environmentally friendly milk there is. And the oat milk latte I had at Balconi Coffee Company was pretty good. So I give in and buy a carton of Oatly.

First of all, you’ve got to give them points for creative packaging. My favorite part of the carton is not the hippie font or the wacky artwork, but the part that says, “You are one of us now.” It sounds so sinister that it cracks me up. This is the kind of carton that will entertain you while you’re eating cereal.



When I drank it straight up, it did actually taste like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cereal. It’s slightly sweet, and the oat flavor is reminiscent of Cheerios.

But in coffee, Oatly loses its cereal-ness and has a smooth, inoffensive flavor. It’s thicker than almond milk, which is my usual go-to in coffee. I added it to iced coffee, and its lack of a distinctive flavor allowed the coffee to really shine.


I also made a latte by foaming Oatly in a manual milk frother. Because of its thickness, this was far more successful than trying to get almond milk to foam. Coconut milk is even thicker, but it tastes like coconuts — not what everyone wants in a latte.


My next mission is to make a dairy-free chocolate pudding using Oatly. Stay tuned!

Daiya Dairy-Free Swiss Cheese Slices


Daiya makes a lot of dairy-free products and they’re not all created equal. I like to review as many of them as I can, so you’ll know which ones are worth eating and which aren’t.

When I saw Daiya’s Swiss Style Slices, I was optimistic. I love the Cheddar Style Slices in this same product line. Swiss was one of my favorite cheeses back in my dairy-eating days — it’s the only cheese I would want in a turkey, pastrami, or corned beef sandwich. I started having fantasies of being able to eat chicken cordon bleu and double-decker Reubens.


I tried not to be bothered by the appearance of this “cheeze.” Its uniform roundness and lack of distinctive holes that Swiss cheese is known for make this stuff look like it was manufactured on an assembly line. It reminds me of Oscar Mayer bologna, that round “mystery meat” cold cut that I loved as a child. I used to fold the circle into quarters and strategically take bites out of it so when I opened it back up, it would look like a snowflake. Ah, fun with processed foods.

But I digress. Daiya’s Swiss “cheeze” unfortunately tastes as artificial as it looks. It melts as nicely as Daiya’s cheddar slices, but it has a decidedly weird, chemical aftertaste. It was so unappealing I threw out the package after trying only one slice, in a ham-and-Swiss omelet.

So much for the dairy-free chicken cordon bleu. For now.

If you’d like to read my other reviews of Daiya products, click on the Daiya tag below.

Cassell’s Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie


I consider myself a burger snob, and Cassell’s Hamburgers, an upscale lunch counter in Koreatown (downstairs from the Hotel Normandie), is one of the few burger restaurants that I actually get excited about. Not just because their beef patties are flavorful, juicy, and cooked to order, but because they have vegan cheese! That means I can get a dairy-free Patty Melt — a burger on rye bread with grilled onions and American cheese, a classic that I love not just because it’s got my name in it.

But Cassell’s is also known for its delicious homemade pies, and I was super-excited to try its vegan (and gluten-free) pie: the chocolate peanut butter pie. You can never go wrong with the chocolate and peanut butter combo. Even E.T. couldn’t resist it.


The chocolate filling in this pie is the best thing about it. It’s silky-smooth and rich. The server didn’t know what it was made of, but I assume it wasn’t soy-based because I had no trouble digesting it. The peanut butter frosting and chopped nuts were delish as well.

Really, the only fail was the gluten-free crust. It was hard, dense, and thin — almost like a cracker. Not flaky like a pie crust should be. The server told me it’s made from oats soaked in apple juice. There you go.


I get annoyed when restaurants offer only one “alternative” dessert, lumping all dietary restrictions together. For people like me who are lactose-intolerant but eat gluten, I would like a pie that’s dairy-free but has a regular crust made of flour.

That said, Cassell’s does have more dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian options than most burger joints and diners like it. So I’ll keep going for those dairy-free cheeseburgers and hope they add more dairy-free desserts to their menu.

CASSELL’S HAMBURGERS, 3600 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020


Oat Milk Latte at Balconi Coffee Company


Years ago I walked into Balconi Coffee Company in West L.A. and asked if they had any non-dairy milk. By this point, almost every coffee shop offered soy, almond, or coconut milk. But Balconi didn’t have anything but cow’s milk. I walked out and never went back.

Until last week, when a friend of mine urged me to try Oatly Oat Milk and I found out, using Oatly’s “computerized oat milk locator,” that Balconi is one of its purveyors. I’d heard that Balconi’s coffee was the bomb, and my friend told me that Oatly was so good that “people drink it because they want to, not because they have to.” So naturally, I had to check it out.

Indeed, Balconi now offers one kind of non-dairy milk: Oatly. I ordered an oat milk latte and waited while the baristas painstakingly prepared coffee drinks for the patrons ahead of me. This place is not about getting your coffee fast. It’s for people who like to chat with their baristas about what they did over their Christmas vacation and how many miles they’ve been biking. The regulars here clearly love being regulars. And they love to watch their coffee made with seriousness.


Balconi specializes in the Siphon Method — see the science lab-like photo above — and they serve a rotating selection of brewed-to-order coffee. After they grind your coffee, they even let you sniff it before they start brewing it. This is part of the ritual.

But I didn’t get any of this treatment because I ordered a latte rather than one of their fancy roasts. I waited for at least ten minutes for my coffee, which is a long time for a former New Yorker like me, but the ambience at Balconi is cozy enough that I didn’t really mind.


They have barstools covered in fake grass, and there’s interesting music playing at an innocuous volume, so you can still hear yourself think. The vibe there is pleasant. Unlike at chain coffee shops, you don’t feel like half the customers are having business meetings or working on their screenplays. There are paintings by local artists on the walls and cute little touches like tiny seagrass baskets filled with sugar packets.


As for the oat milk latte, it was pretty good. Not mind-blowing but good. The oat milk gave it a slightly earthy flavor that reminded me of oatmeal. Would I prefer oat milk to almond milk? No. I find almond milk to be a little smoother, and I prefer the nutty undertone to the oaty one. Although I enjoyed my latte from Balconi, it didn’t top the almond milk latte at Peet’s. Peet’s espresso has a bolder flavor that I prefer.

But if you’re allergic to nuts and you don’t like the taste of coconuts, oat milk could be a godsend.

When I asked the barista about Oatly, he told me they were the best oat milk company, but they have a “supply chain problem.” So at the moment, Oatly can be hard to find. You can look up locations where it’s being sold using their locator. Try it and let me know what you think!

BALCONI COFFEE COMPANY, 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 124, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Trader Joe’s Almond Nog (Dairy-Free Eggnog)

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas has exploded all over the place. Even if you’ve been avoiding the Black Friday madness by steering clear of shopping malls, you still have to buy groceries. And even in supermarkets you’ll be hit in the face with a dizzying array of holiday products.

Like Trader Joe’s Almond Nog, an impossibly dairy-free version of eggnog — you know, that sweet, thick wintertime beverage that people either love or hate. I happen to love eggnog, but I haven’t had it since I gave up dairy years ago. Because the kind I liked was basically 80% heavy cream and 20% raw eggs. That’s a recipe for digestive distress if there ever was one.

So when I saw this almond-milk-based eggnog, free of cow’s milk and even eggs, I gave in to my curiosity. Once again, Trader Joe’s sucked me in with cute packaging. How could I resist an almond wearing a “Where’s Waldo” scarf?


I was skeptical about its claim of being “rich and creamy.” Based on past experiences with non-dairy beverages, I expected it to have a thin, watery consistency and an artificial flavor.

But this eggnog is indeed thicker than I expected. Not as thick as one made with heavy cream, but that may be too thick for many people anyway. It’s definitely thick enough to coat your mouth for a good five seconds after you’ve swallowed it.

And it tastes fairly natural. There’s no obvious almond flavor. That’s remarkable considering its main ingredient is almonds.

A dusting of nutmeg is a must.

But this eggnog is very sweet, which makes it more of a dessert than a drink you’d have with food. (Then again, there are people who suck down milkshakes while eating cheeseburgers, so I could be wrong.) To cut the sweetness level, I added a little non-dairy creamer and it worked like a charm.

Traditionally, eggnog is spiked with rum. So I tried the almond nog with a tablespoon of rum mixed in. Yum! The alcohol, like the creamer, tones down the sweetness. You can use a lighter rum like Bacardi, but I like this Koloa Kaua’i Dark Hawaiian Rum because it has a hint of vanilla flavor that goes well with desserts.


So if you’re lamenting about having to “do without” this Christmas because every treat seems to be loaded with dairy, give this almond nog a try and let me know how you like it!

Daiya Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake


This fall I’ve given in to the pumpkin spice craze that seems to have started when the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte became mega-popular. So far, I’m not impressed. I thought Peet’s Pumpkin Latte was okay, but not something I would order again. And now I’ve tried Daiya’s limited seasonal flavor, the dairy-free Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake.

Although I liked Daiya’s New York Cheezecake, this pumpkin-flavored one was not a winner. The cheesecake itself is smooth, creamy, and tangy, as a cheesecake should be. But the pumpkin spices give it an artificial taste that I did not enjoy. I kind of felt like I was eating a Yankee Candle.


The graham cracker crust was disappointing. It, too, had an artificial flavor and its texture was pasty. I don’t know if this was a result of it sitting in the freezer too long at the store, but whatever it was, I have to give the crust a thumbs-down.

I was hoping that the Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake would be a viable alternative to pies and other dairy-laden desserts that are popular at this time of year. But this is one of those “free from” desserts that isn’t worth the calories.

Stay tuned for more reviews and recipes for fall-themed dairy-free goodies!

Winston Pies in Brentwood


I know, I just wrote about pie last week. But that was a peanut butter pie, and this time I want to write about fruit pies, because that’s what we think of when the Fourth of July rolls around. On our nation’s birthday, there’s nothing more American than apple pie — but really, any fruit pie is a fitting dessert at an Independence Day picnic or barbecue.

The thing I love about fruit pies is they’re usually dairy-free, unless you count the butter in the crust and unless, of course, if you eat it with a glob of whipped cream on top or ice cream on the side. (Please don’t eat pie with ice cream on top. It makes the pie soggy, dude.)

One day, walking along San Vicente Boulevard in the Brentwood neighborhood of West Los Angeles, my husband and I stopped in at Winston Pies, a small local bakery that serves homemade pie. We ordered a slice of the blueberry pie and an almond milk latte.


Yes, the pie tasted as good as it looked.

The crust was flakier than any pie crust I’ve ever had. I don’t know much about baking, but I do know that making a pastry that flaky is a difficult task. Unlike a croissant, this pie crust is not flaky and light; it’s flaky and dense. You will either love it or hate it. I’m in the love category.

As for the blueberry filling, it tasted fresh and not too sweet. Many fruit pies have a syrupy-sweet filling that’s either too liquid-y or weirdly gelatinous. This filling was the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

The coffee was just okay. But points for the non-dairy milk options and the cool hand-glazed mug.

More points for the seating inside: There’s a wooden bench hanging from the ceiling that actually swings a little, so you feel like you’re eating pie on a front porch in the South.

July 4, 1970: My mom grills several pounds of meat in Madison, Wisconsin.

The pie flavors at Winston Pies rotate seasonally, but right now there are about six out of twelve flavors that are cream-free. That’s a pretty good ratio. I can’t wait to try the Orchard Peach & Nectarine. Stone fruit + pie = awesomeness.

Right now they’ve got a special called “A Berry American Pie” that has a vanilla filling with raspberries and blackberries, so that it’s red, white and blue. It’s got a gluten-free shortbread crust, which I haven’t tried yet but I’d be willing to bet is pretty damn good.

Whether or not you’re eating pie, have a great Fourth of July!

WINSTON PIES, 11678 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049