Lollicup Fresh


I recently stopped by Lollicup Fresh on Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA for some boba and was thrilled to find out they’re having a special through the month of March: $2 for a 16-ounce boba milk tea. That’s half price! I love a bargain!

Even though I rarely get a plain boba milk tea and usually opt for more fanciful flavors, it’s nice to go back to basics sometimes. The boba milk tea is made with non-dairy creamer, so it’s safe for lactose-intolerant and dairy allergic folks. You can customize the sweetness level, even going for no sugar at all, like I do. To read more of my musings on boba, click here.


I’ve always thought of Lollicup as just a place to get boba, but they have a much bigger food menu than most boba shops. It’s Taiwanese comfort food, like beef noodle soup, sweet Taiwanese sausages, and popcorn chicken (little pieces of fried chicken with a spicy kick). It’s not the greatest food, but when you’re grabbing a boba tea anyway, it’s super convenient.

Here’s one of their newest offerings, the braised pork belly plate. It comes with pickled vegetables, rice, and my favorite thing of all, a seasoned boiled egg. The pork belly is very fatty, so this isn’t the kind of lunch you want to eat before heading into a business meeting or doing a Zumba class. But it’s tasty and cheap — the whole meal, including my $2 boba milk tea, cost less than $10.


Think of Lollicup as Taiwanese fast food. Not something you want to eat every day, but satisfying as a sometimes treat. And if you want to try their boba milk tea at a discount, get thee to a Lollicup before the end of this month.

LOLLICUP FRESH, 2206 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025



Trader Joe’s Vegan Matcha Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream


The first time I tried mochi ice cream was in Honolulu back in the mid-nineties. It was at a revolving sushi bar, one of the things I love most in the world. That little ice cream bomb wrapped in a light, chewy dough was the perfect ending to the meal — compact, cute, and a little strange.

Ever since I gave up dairy, I’ve been looking for a dairy-free version of my favorite flavor of mochi, green tea. Imuraya makes a good dairy-free strawberry mochi, but I tried their green tea flavor and didn’t like it. Too coconutty.

Then I strolled past the frozen dessert section at Trader Joe’s, always a dangerous thing to do. Trader Joe’s constantly rolls out new snacks that are irresistible. Then, as soon as you get hooked, they mysteriously disappear, leaving you bereft and bitter. Just take a look at this non-dairy mochi display and tell me how you could pass this by!


Yes, I know the coffee mochi with the “saucy mocha center” sounds pretty insane, like, have-to-try-it insane. But the green tea was the one calling out to me. Given the Imuraya green tea mochi, I knew the odds weren’t good; Trader Joe’s mochi (actually made by Buono) also uses coconut milk, and I was worried that it, too, would taste too coconutty. But I gave it a shot.


As you can see, there are two differences between the mochi and the picture on its package. One, the mochi have a lot more powdered sugar on the outside. Two, the dough is thinner than pictured.

But I have to say, this mochi rocks. The strong green tea (matcha) flavor gives this dessert a bold, almost savory quality. Given this, the generous amount of powdered sugar on the outside actually helped balance it out. As for the dough, it was the perfect thickness. Any thicker and it would’ve been too doughy.

And although it’s made with coconut milk, I didn’t detect the coconut flavor at all. Just green tea. Excellent.

So a big thumbs-up for Trader Joe’s non-dairy green tea mochi. As a footnote, though, I’d like to add that not all of Trader Joe’s non-dairy items are this good. For instance, I also bought some of their coconut milk yogurt on a whim, and it was horrendous.


I didn’t want to devote a whole blog post to it because I’ve written a lot about bad dairy-free yogurts. But I just felt the need to warn you all about this one. If you’re jonesing for a dairy-free yogurt, try Coyo Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative; it’s the only one I’ve had that isn’t awful.

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

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.

Dairy-Free Wedge Salad


Like many people, I’m not a big fan of iceberg lettuce — or as my favorite YouTube food reviewer Daym Drops calls it, “crunchy water.” Pretty much the only time you’ll catch me eating iceberg lettuce is in a wedge salad, a classic that you find at old-school steakhouses.

A wedge salad traditionally consists of a wedge of iceberg lettuce (hence the name), smothered in crispy bacon, tomatoes, and bleu cheese dressing. Because I’m lactose-intolerant, when I order a wedge salad in a restaurant, I ask for Thousand Island dressing instead of bleu cheese. But I must admit I miss that cheese.

Recently I discovered Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing and knew I had to try it on a wedge salad. It worked beautifully. The recipe is simple, but there’s one part that can be tricky…

The key to a successful wedge salad is crispy bacon. After years of making limp, chewy bacon, I finally rolled up my sleeves and did some research. Here’s the trick: Start with a cold (not preheated) pan and add a little water before cooking.

Probably should’ve used a bigger pan, but you get the idea.

As the water evaporates, it renders the fat from the bacon, and you end up with leaner, crispy bacon that doesn’t get burnt — unless, of course, you wander away from the stove and forget about it. The water step doesn’t add that much cooking time, and it always results in bacon with that proper “crispity-crunch.” As Daym Drops would say, “This is how bacon is supposed to be.”


4 slices bacon (not thick-cut)
1 small head iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges
1 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion (optional)
ground black pepper to taste

Lay the bacon slices in a cold (not preheated) skillet. Add enough cold water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the water evaporates, leaving melted bacon fat. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking the bacon, turning frequently, until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces.

Place one lettuce wedge on each of four plates. Top with dressing, tomatoes, red onion (if desired), and bacon. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a fork and knife. Makes 4 servings.


Paradis Handcrafted Ice Cream

Last week I was trapped in the San Fernando Valley during a heat wave, and I did what any sane person would do: I got ice cream. But this isn’t so easy for us lactose-intolerant folks. The options for us are usually very slim.


I looked up “vegan ice cream” on Yelp and found Paradis Handcrafted Ice Cream in Sherman Oaks. A look at their menu made it instantly clear that this place has more interesting vegan options than most ice cream shops. (One nitpicky point: I wish they separated their vegan flavors from the dairy ones on the menu.)

On the day I visited, the three vegan flavors were strawberry sorbet, elderflower sorbet, and peanut butter coconut cream caramel chocolate chip. The strawberry is a constant, but the other two vegan flavors change daily.



I love the taste of elderflower, but this sorbet is a little too subtle for me. The peanut butter coconut cream caramel chocolate chip is better; it reminds me of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies.

But the best vegan flavor was the strawberry sorbet. It’s smooth, creamy and fluffy — not dense, icy or overly sweet. (Actually, none of their ice creams is too sweet, which earns Paradis five stars in my book). There are bits of real strawberries mixed in, but they aren’t big enough to interrupt the smooth texture.

Simply put, it tastes like real strawberry ice cream.


Full disclosure: I was a bad girl and sampled a spoonful of the Afternoon Tea ice cream, even though it contains dairy. I’m sorry to report that it is absolutely delicious. It’s like having a cup of Earl Grey and a tea biscuit… in ice cream form. I pleaded with the guy behind the counter to tell the powers-that-be to make a dairy-free version of it.


You can check Paradis’s Facebook page to see each day’s flavors. A soon as they have Grandma Margaret’s Apple Cinnamon Pie Sorbet, I’m making a special trip to Sherman Oaks.

PARADIS HANDCRAFTED ICE CREAM, 14512 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403


Rose Watermelon Juice


It’s summer, and chances are you’ve sliced open a watermelon for a barbecue and ended up with more leftover watermelon than you know what to do with. Well, here is a simple and delicious answer: watermelon juice. It’s a healthy beverage that is, of course, dairy-free.

My cousin Jane told me that an Indian friend of hers would add rose water to her watermelon juice to give it a little something extra. I tried this and it’s genius! If you’ve been following my blog, you know I love rose-flavored drinks, and this touch of floral works perfectly with the naturally sweet taste of watermelon.


Obviously, watermelon has a high water content, so you don’t need to add a lot of liquid to the blender. You can use plain water or, if you want some extra nutrition, coconut water. Keep the juice in a pitcher in the fridge and you’ll have a fresh, healthy beverage on hand that tastes way better than any soda.


So, without further ado, here is the recipe. I guarantee you’ll love it so much that you’ll be hoping for leftover watermelon.

Rose Watermelon Juice Recipe

4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 teaspoon rose water
1 cup water or coconut water

Put all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth and frothy. Serve ice cold. Makes 2-4 servings.

Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Salad Dressing


Giving up creamy salad dressings is a hardship for those of us who can’t eat dairy. I’ve written about my perennial search for a good dairy-free Caesar dressing, and as U2 would say, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

But Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Dressing is far better than any of the store-bought Caesar dressings I’ve tried. I’ve loved the flavor of ranch since I first tasted it in the mid-80s at a friend’s party where her mother served us crudité with Hidden Valley Ranch dip. Incidentally, ranch dressing was invented in the 1950s by the owners of the Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in Santa Barbara County. Even though it’s popular in the U.S. and Canada, if you ask for it in any other part of the world, you will probably get a confused look.


I wouldn’t say that Follow Your Heart tastes exactly like traditional ranch dressing. The most noticeable difference is that it lacks the tanginess of the buttermilk. Ranch usually contains buttermilk, mayonnaise, and a bunch of spices. This vegan version uses “Vegenaise” instead of mayo and nothing but lemon juice concentrate for tartness. The result is a dressing that tastes pretty good, but doesn’t scream “ranch.”

What I like about this dressing is that it’s thick, creamy, and white, not an unappetizing shade of beige. Let’s be honest, salads need to be as attractive as possible or a lot of us won’t bother to eat them.


Perhaps the real test was when I served it to two people who can and do eat dairy regularly. Both of them liked it and said it didn’t even taste dairy-free. So I’m giving a thumbs-up to Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch and looking forward to dipping some carrot and celery sticks in it…

But not buffalo wings. Those are supposed to be dipped in bleu cheese dressing (although a lot of West Coast restaurants don’t understand this and insist on ranch instead). And yes, I’ll definitely be trying Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing, hopefully alongside a big plate of very spicy buffalo wings.


Breyer’s Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream


Breyer’s has always been one of my favorite ice cream brands, after Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s respectively. For a mass-produced ice cream, Breyer’s is a consistent winner. It’s also one of the first brands to come out with a lactose-free ice cream. Several years ago, before I stopped eating dairy completely, I tried their lactose-free vanilla and was impressed.

Well, now they’ve got dairy-free ice creams. And one of those is Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream, made with almond milk and real Oreo cookies, not some Hydrox shit. I love Oreos and I love vanilla ice cream, so naturally I love cookies ‘n’ cream.

In one of my previous blog posts, I reviewed Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies, which also has an almond-milk based vanilla with Oreo-like cookies. Ben & Jerry’s nailed it. But they also threw in crunchy peanut butter swirls. This creates a wonderfully complex flavor, but sometimes you want something simpler.


Breyer’s Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream tastes just like real ice cream, except that its texture is lighter and less dense. I always enjoyed the heavy creaminess of, say, Haagen-Dazs, but when you’re lactose-intolerant, you have to recalibrate your standards.

Breyer’s texture, though fluffy, is perfectly smooth — except for the generous chunks of Oreo cookie, of course. The Oreos aren’t soggy, a feat of food science that amazes me. And the base doesn’t taste like almonds at all. It actually tastes like a giant Oreo filling with bits of cookie mixed in.

If you love Oreos, this is pure heaven.


Incidentally, these Oreos that I garnished my ice cream with are limited edition Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Oreos. The filling tastes like Dunkin’ Donuts’ famous coffee. As the Today Show website put it when announcing this new flavor (yes, this is the kind of “news” they report on): “A Dunkin’ Donuts-flavored Oreo: It just makes sense.”

Just to digress a little more, it may be relevant to my readers that Oreo cookies are, in fact, vegan. My friend Jill pointed this out to a vegan friend of hers who replied, “That’s because they don’t have any real food in them.”

Real food or no, Oreos and ice cream are a classic combo that us dairy-free folks can now enjoy, thanks to Breyer’s. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

NadaMoo Dairy-Free Ice Cream


I’m always looking for dairy-free ice creams, especially vanilla ones. I guess because vanilla is like the crisp white button-down shirt of ice creams — it goes with everything and never goes out of style.

I found NadaMoo at Gelson’s and was immediately charmed by its name. For anyone who doesn’t speak Spanish, “nada” means “nothing.” Indeed, this ice cream contains “nothing cow.” It’s made from coconut milk but looks like the real moo.


There’s not much to report about this one except that it’s smooth and creamy and  tastes like Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island, only less coconutty. Ideally, I don’t want my vanilla ice cream to taste like coconut at all. But so far I haven’t found a dairy-free vanilla that achieves this ideal.

As I did with Coconut Bliss, I tried using NadaMoo to make a root beer float and it just didn’t taste right. The coconut flavor was too strong.


But when I used NadaMoo to make a sundae topped with fresh raspberries and chocolate syrup, the result was much better. The coconut flavor went well with the fruit and the chocolate.

I imagine that NadaMoo would be great served alongside a slice of banana cream pie… Now if only someone would make a dairy-free banana cream pie.