Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2013

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Page 17 of 43

taste of health EAT HERE NOW By Jen Jones Donatelli Crossroads: Where every direction is delicious A s a flexitarian edging closer to vegetarian, I'm always looking for tasty new opportunities to take me over the transom. Crossroads, a newer WeHo restaurant, is inspiration for a plant-based dietary direction— thanks to chef Tal Ronnen's inventive twists on old favorites. Take the kale spanakopita, which forgoes feta in favor of almond milk ricotta and pairs nicely with a smoky, spicy tomato fondue for dipping. Or gluten-free artichoke "oysters" with nori-seasoned crispy oyster mushrooms, yellow tomato béarnaise and kelp caviar. And let's not forget the crab cakes—which are actually hearts of palm. "We braise them in kombu seaweed for a seafood-like flavor and use a food processor to give the texture of lump crabmeat," explains Ronnen, who describes the cuisine as "Mediterranean first, vegan second." But the true feat is the dessert menu, which manages to satisfy the ice cream craving even though it's not actually, well, ice cream (in the traditional dairy sense, anyway). Pastry chef Serafina Magnus- 18 wholelifetimesmagazine.com sen's latest must-try frozen confection is ginger peach tea flavor, topped with pecan ginger brittle and fresh peaches. You might also taste some of Magnussen's magic in the cocktails, as she works closely with James Beard Award-winning mixologist Jeremy Lake. "Jeremy does a wonderful job using byproducts like syrups and fruits from our pastry chef," explains executive chef Scot Jones. The experience of eating at Crossroads is also quite different from most on LA's vegan scene. Unlike casual favorites such as Real Food Daily and Sage Vegan Bistro, Crossroads is a white tablecloth fine dining experience. Designed by Studio Collective, the low-lit dining room features lush banquettes and stylized chandeliers, while the adjacent lunch café is modeled after a European cheese shop with white tile and a marble cheese counter. "We didn't want the restaurant to look like what people might normally think of as 'vegan,' with bamboo décor and lime green hues," says Ronnen. When you go, don't be surprised if you spot such celebrities as Anne Hathaway, Emily Deschanel, or Ellen DeGe- neres and Portia de Rossi (whose wedding Ronnen catered). Ronnen is no stranger to the celebrity scene, having risen to culinary fame as Oprah's personal chef during her famed "21-Day Cleanse" back in 2008. Even Crossroads itself has Hollywood origins—Ronnen was first inspired to open the restaurant by Chrissie Hynde's now-defunct VegiTerranean in Akron, Ohio. "[Crossroads partner] Steve Bing was working with Chrissie on her new album and flew out to Akron because he didn't believe there was a vegan restaurant there," shares Ronnen. "He flew back and said, 'We gotta do this in LA.' That was the catalyst." Three years later in March 2013, the restaurant opened its doors and immediately started a foodie buzz. Part of the appeal is the way the restaurant caters to diners' special needs; for instance, Ronnen estimates that 80 percent of the menu is or can be made gluten-free. In July, Crossroads started up its lunch service with a menu "focused on European-style sandwiches and soups." Many of the sandwiches feature Ronnen's own Kite Hill vegan cheese, which can also be found at Whole Foods counters. Ronnen says that one of the breakaway lunch favorites so far has been the Caan (named for James Caan) sandwich, made with sun-dried tomato and chickpea salad, and dressed with basil pesto. Whether you go for lunch, dinner or just dessert (a completely valid reason), you're sure to find something to please your palate. And as for me? I'm one step closer to vegging out for good. —8284 Melrose Ave., LA 90048. 323.782.9245, www.crossroadskitchen.com

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