A friend and colleague of ours was recently traveling up the California coast and reached out to us to ask if we knew about “this vegan eco resort” in Northern California.

Woefully, we have not made nearly enough time to explore our new coast—sure, we’ve spent a good bit of time in Sonoma and Big Sur and Joshua Tree, but we have yet to make it down to San Diego in these past three or so years or up to that crazy Danish-looking town or to majestic Yosemite or even up to San Francisco (one of my favorite American cities) since we moved to the West Coast! I know, despicable.

We’re working on remedying that, but, given that neither of us has ever been south of Portland, Oregon or north of San Fran, suffice it to say that we’ve never been to Mendocino, home to Stanford Inn by the Sea, a coastal sustainably run eco resort that includes a canoe + bike shop, wellness center + spa, California certified organic garden, and an all-vegan restaurant. Stanford Inn is run by Joan and Jeff Stanford, a vegan couple dedicated to bringing the magic of Mendocino to all that stay at the Inn.

We have every intention of making what’s sure to be a beautiful journey up the coast to visit the Inn, but, in the meantime, the whole operation piqued our interest so we reached out to Jeff Stanford to find out more about how two people came to run this earth-friendly, animal-friendly establishment for over 25 years. Jeff was kind enough to oblige, giving us the low-down on how he and Joan came to be innkeepers in the first place, farming organically without the use of animal products, their favorite dishes at Ravens Restaurant—their award-winning vegan restaurant, and how the doctor from Murder She Wrote happened upon a mystery of his own.

No, really.

raven + crow: You’ve got a quote on your inn’s home page by J. Hamrick that greets visitors—”In my dreams I walk on fog-enshrouded cliffs through wild flowers dancing in the wind with the sea booming below me, the mist wrapping about my ankles. And longing fills me, settles over me like a soft summer rain. And I know that I must go to Mendocino.” Who’s J. Hamrick and what’s the origin of the quote?

Jeff Stanford: Joan and I had heard Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s “Talk to me of Mendocino” in the mid 70′s and we found ourselves drawn to this then unknown place. Hamrick embodies the feeling of quiet, fog, the special place that Mendocino is.

We found the quote in a book, years ago. We used it in print brochures and then on the internet. I just googled the quote to find information about the writer and, instead, found one of our fellow innkeepers also uses the quote. Wonder where he found it.

I hope to be mysteriously quoted one day. So, we’ve never been north of San Francisco or south of Portland on the west coast—can you give us an idea of what makes Mendocino so special?

You’ll have to come north to find out. Mendocino is an experience. It is personal! The facts of the place are that it is out of the way; the roads to it are beautiful, winding along cliffs bordering the Pacific, through redwood forests, or through wine country valleys and ridges. The roads are gateways, visitors in a sense earn their experience of Mendocino. The town of Mendocino is an archetypal coastal small town that evokes in some the sense of community as it might have been at some long ago time.

I think you two moved to Mendocino in 1980 or so—where from? What your lives before that and what brought about the move/shift?

We came from Carmel. We had moved there during the recession and economic chaos of the 1970′s. I was an academic and Joan a youth worker. We wanted to live on the West Coast. The way to do it was to help run a small inn.

Where does that fundamental interest in and reverence for the land and environment come from for the two of you?

From meditation—the recognition that “land and environment” are not different than us; they define us as much as we define, describe, enhance or harm them.

And where did the desire to open an inn come from then? Or was it more wrapped up in the land and the working of it?

We didn’t open an inn. We purchased an operating motel. We did this mostly with borrowed money for the down payment and we were able to do so because a number of people believed in us. We knew how to operate and enhance the motel, converting it to an inn. The desire was simply to live, work, raise our family, explore life in one place, grow within a community much of which we had to create for ourselves. Best part of this place, then called Big River Lodge, aside from the energy here, was that there were no owner’s quarters—we didn’t have to pay for them—and we moved into a unit. We eventually took over a second room, added on a small reception area, and operated that way for eight years. We did not have to pay rent—only lost the deprecation on the part we lived in.

Was everything pretty much in the state it’s in today when you took the property over or did the two of you end up putting a lot of work into it?

The lamps were bolted to the night stands, the nightstands bolted to the walls. There were sliding aluminum and glass doors and windows, and shag carpeting. There was one deck everyone shared, providing access to the rooms and a view into them—not private. We began making changes: First, we unbolted lamps and furniture to show that we trusted our guests (and also to provide more room on bedside tables). Second, we removed baseboard heating and replaced with fan-forced resistance heating, dropping our utility bill. Third, borrowed more money and ordered furniture. We received a $20,000 loan from good friends as a “kicker” and they helped us contract for furniture. Fourth, began putting in wood burning fireplaces, seeded the pasture on which the motel had been built and began general landscaping.

Wow. Were the gardens, restaurant, spa, or canoe/bike shop already part of the land or did you develop those over time too?

None were here. Catch A Canoe had been started in 1972 and was no longer operating when we purchased it in 1983 with help from the realtors who loaned us the down payment. It was a necessary purchase to protect the inn from the potential shopping center that zoning allowed. The property which is a part of Catch A Canoe is in front of the Inn.

As mentioned above, we began landscaping when we bought the inn. First we purchased fuchsias which we hang from eves of the building, and then planted flowers, trees, and bushes as we could afford them.

In 1986-88 we brought in different bike lines and changed the name of Catch A Canoe to Catch A Canoe & Bicycles, too! which we adapted from “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!”

In 1985 we expanded our “landscaping” into areas that we had no money to improve and began organic farming. Originally a friend and I dug five beds and began truck farming, but it soon grew to many more beds. We were guided by the work of Ecology Action and John Jeavons, not knowing that they had relocated from Palo Alto to Willits, an hour away from the Inn. We now partner with John to promoted small scale farming as a response to climate change.

How did all of that work affect how you all thought about the land and the whole venture?

There’s a strong spiritual component to our lives here. We found ourselves living within it. It was here before we were and rather than fight it—I don’t think we could—we try to understand its movement and its movements toward us. It was not until trees fell that we expanded. They came down not during a storm, but unexpectedly on two sides of the property and I suppose others might have taken the falling as just random; having not experienced this before, we took it as having meaning. When Joan wanted a better view for the rooms, literally trees fell down creating the view. This was 35 years ago and she still refers to this as an important awakening for her—the interrelationship and lack of fine distinctions between us and our environment.

I’ve personally moved around a lot in my life, but I could see having spent so long in one place—especially a place as special as this seems—being formative and impressive. It seems like you have a lot of staff that’s been at the inn for a pretty long time too; many of your employees are full-time as well, I think—is all that purposeful or key to the idea you have for the business, providing a larger, long-lasting relationship with your staff?

It is purposeful. It is based on how we would like to live and be treated if we worked for someone. Plus, the energy here is life-affirming. It is amazing and although many may not be aware of it, they work here because of that intangible.

I know you use some pretty specific methods in your garden beyond just run-of-the-mill organic gardening—can you talk about those a little bit?

We use the techniques developed primarily by Jeavons and his somewhat philosophical predecessor, Alan Chadwick. We also use our own approaches based on the micro-climate here.

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I was talking with a friend recently with regards to veganism as it impacts organic farming and vice versa. His point was, if, in ideal world, someone championed a lifestyle of no animal use whatsoever, organic farming wouldn’t be an option and you’d need to rely instead on chemicals to fertilize the plants one grows for food. I just wonder if that’s something you all have ever tackled in terms of the philosophy of running an enterprise that’s both very vegan-minded and very organic-minded.

They are wrong and the science is there to establish that. We have been vegan farming for years. We don’t use animal products—none of those allowed in organic process. The idea is to create a growing soil, one replete with the “soil bacteria” that humans evolved with. Animal product used as fertilizer can kill the bacterial. We compost and the best way is to form layers of plant materials above fallow beds. Sometimes there are weeds, but it all decomposes to create healthy soil.

Steiner’s method is based around cows—Biodynamics. We use use a process developed by Alan Chadwick and refined by John Jeavons and his Ecology Action combining French Intensive and non-animal biodynamics in regard to timing, planting techniques, and so on. Check out Jeavon’s How to Grow More Vegetables, Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine.

In the future a “sustainable movement” will have to measure true organic production by the bacteria and other microorganisms present in the soils in which crops are grown. Need a soils scientist for this, but organic growers would be rated on the basis of the health of their soil. Most people do not recognize that soil should be the emphasis. All micronutrients, all the components of the plant are manifested through the action of bacteria, funguses, and viruses that make them available for plant uptake. See for example, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets.

A bit more on biodynamics—there are people in Britain that are working to create vegan ‘potions’ to address the cow-part potions used by followers of biodynamics to realign or align energies. Making potions is about bringing awareness to perceived distresses in the garden and the potions focus intent to realign garden energies. The process is about awareness and intent to heal the garden and this is all energy. Energy is motion and movement and doesn’t need to be mediated by cow or plant parts. This is one of the great realizations achieved in full-on awareness, choiceless, sensitive, and acute observation. What I am writing is that what’s important is awareness of the garden, it’s energies, its movements or lack of movement—impediments. The solution is in the awareness of the garden and our intent to align with its energies. Everything else is simply ritual—a method of bringing attention and intention into the garden.

That’s a lot to take in, but thanks for clearing that up. It’s something that’s bugged me since I heard it as it didn’t add up in my head, but, lacking the background in farming (despite my surname), I couldn’t really make sense of the reality of the situation. I read that your garden provides produce to your restaurant and others in the area then?

It did. We now use most all of it and the rest goes to staff.

Your gardens aren’t the sole source of ingredients in your restaurant though are they?

No. We estimate about 20% of produce, not including citrus.

Why was it important for you to create a vegan dining experience for guests with Ravens Restaurant?

We are vegan. Selling anything other would disconnect us from ourselves; cognitive dissonance. We don’t want to live with that—plant-based or no restaurant.

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Did you get any pushback from either the community or friends with that move? I know a lot of environmentally minded people who don’t necessarily see a strong connection between the ecological sustainability and veganism.

Yes. First we were vegetarian. We didn’t know about what happens in dairies and certainly knew nothing of hatcheries. When we learned, we became “vegan” or as we rather put it, “plant-based and thoughtful/scientific.” What that means is that some products (non-animal) are better than plants. Example—the production of cotton, organic included, wrecks havoc on the environment. Using a petroleum recyclable material such as microfiber is more environmentally friendly. Some people don’t like using non-plant fibers. Hemp may someday replace cotton—thus far it hasn’t been widely used.

And with regard to to those “who don’t necessarily see a strong connection between ecological sustainability and veganism,” they are missing the point. First, science fully establishes that the most ecological action a person can take is to adopt a whole food, minimally processed plant-based diet. Second, the disconnect between claiming to be sustainable and continuing to eat animal products is simply damaging to one’s psyche as he or she twists together rationale to support eating animals. That twisting impairs growth. It ties up energy.

Agreed, agreed, and agreed. Back to the restaurant, does the menu there change a lot based on seasons or over time from year to year?

The menu changes in subtle ways as availability of ingredients change. Larger changes are usually thematic: Last year we had theme of haute Mexican. Now we have a theme of a widely varying ethnic fusion menu. We offer special menus for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, mushroom season and crab season (like crabless cakes).

I have no idea when crab season is, but I’m going to look that up and start planning travel around it. And you’ve got a cookbook now too, right? Was that fun to put together?

Work. The recipes are from nearly 20 years and had to be tested and photographed. We use a co-creative model to develop the menu and recipes. Everyone can contribute to recipe development—prep cooks, line cooks, serving staff. Final decisions are made by me who serves in the role of executive chef. We now have a position which is “chef instructor and creative chef” whose primary job is to teach cooking classes and work with SidGarza-Hillman (our kitchen director and nutritionist) and me to refine recipes. Many of the ideas come from experimenting in Canada where Joan and I are free to play around when we are on vacation.

No, we have many friends who’ve written cookbooks and I certainly don’t envy them the time and work that went into them. How long have you two been vegan and what brought you to making that life choice?

I injured myself in early 1985. During the prior 4 years, Joan and I had been working long days, 7 days a week. Our two children were born at the Inn and we were trying to make the Inn into a true destination. We didn’t stop. I did not take vacations. Cracking my hip, I had to slow down. I reflected on chicken and ethics and became vegetarian. I “realized” that I would not kill a chicken to eat it and that I was wrong to ask someone else to do it for me. It was that simple. My family quickly followed. None of us had any idea about the practices within hatcheries and dairies and almost 20 years later, the Humane Society of the United States (if I remember correctly) designated the Clover Stornetta Organic Dairy as the most humane in the US. I knew owners of the dairy. Their children went to school with ours. I read their website which I found damning and became vegan. That was 12 years ago—the end of 2004. At the time the restaurant was ova-lacto vegetarian, as it had always been.

By 2007 we had converted dinner service to vegan and all morning recipes to vegan as well. We still provided eggs and dairy on request.

We didn’t like the slowness of the change. There were reasons we went slow, however the reasons did nothing to assuage our cognitive dissonance. We had to move a large staff and guests away from casomorphins and eggs without further damaging our ability to pay our mortgages. I don’t believe there were any full service hotels that were vegetarian when we opened the restaurant in 1996-97. Former guests actually yelled at us then for making the change. Breakfast was always vegetarian and we hadn’t served dinner until then. In 2007, we were still recovering from the dot-com crash. The principle source of our guests—the San Francisco Bay Area—was undergoing a huge real estate bubble and many of our guests no longer traveled to us. They stayed home to pay for increasingly expensive mortgages and rents. Adjusted occupancy went from nearly 80% to the mid 40′s.

In 2012 we quit providing dairy and egg options. We still suffer the harpoons thrown by those who don’t want to be reminded of the choices they might better make. Literally, not having eggs or half-and-half sticks in some of their craws.

I can only imagine. Hopefully the longer you’ve done it, the more accepted it’s become and the more you attract a specific set of visitors (like us) who are willing to travel further because of the changes you’ve made though. So what’s your all’s favorite menu item?

Joan’s favorite is our ravioli. Mine is potato salad. We have sea palm strudel, a wonderful barbecued portobello, paella (which I learned to make in Spain), and others. But it is potato salad. We don’t serve it all year, but when we do, I enjoy it. The dressing recipe was created alongside Lake Winnipeg in the tiny community of Matlock in Joan’s cottage.

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Well I hope to be able to try it myself. And—obviously we have to ask this—where does the name for the restaurant come from?

On May 31, 1995, 5 months before we broke ground to build the restaurant and additional rooms, a pair of ravens showed up perched on top of a dying Grand Fir, behind our main greenhouse, which encloses the pool. Nearly 2 months earlier, we were visiting my Dad and stepmom in Carmel, when my Dad told Joan that he felt a special affinity to crows (we didn’t know the difference between them and ravens then). He said, when he died, he would return as a raven, pointing to an opportunistic raven on the pavement in New Monterey. He died in May and two weeks later the raven pair appeared in Mendocino. We had been here for 15 years and had never seen ravens here. There are now hundreds that often soar above the gardens and land in fruit trees to knock down pears and apples.

Well, that’s lovely. Do you have any other favorite vegan or vegetarian restaurant around the US?

We don’t travel often except to Washington DC and to Manitoba, Canada. We have found a few vegan restaurants that are just fun, such as peacefood cafe in NYC—their fluffy quinoa salad and chocolate cookie—and Hangawi in NYC—their appetizers are creative and unique. Our daughter recommends Vedge in Philadelphia—we haven’t made it yet. Boon Burger in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada offers a variety of different vegetable-based burgers. Sanctuary Bistro in Berkeley, California.

Joan and I prefer to eat at restaurants where we can learn something, but we avoid stressing staff. This means we check out fine dining restaurants when we travel and, if they have even interesting side dishes, we will eat at them.

Ah, Hangawi’s one of our favorites in New York. And I haven’t been to peacefoods in years, but I have fond memories of it. I know you all allow pets at the Inn and have had some interesting ones (Vietnamese pot belly pigs‽)—are you two big animal people (besides the whole vegan thing)?

We have two horses—a pinto and bay quarter horse—that were “rescued” in the sense that they had to be moved from land that could not support them, literally—the horses broke down the soil causing it to go into a protected waterway.

We have two rescued miniature donkeys. Seems that people like to buy them as pets, find them like a dog, and then hand them over to a donkey sanctuary which then tries to find homes for them.

Three male llamas live on the land with us, still cared for by the breeder who bred them, but living here. Four cats and two dogs and 4 geese round out animals that live (sort of) with us.

That’s a veritable ark. Any interesting pets in the Inn stories you can share?

Guests booked for Christmas three years ago. Just before the holiday they called again and asked if they could bring two pet geese, Snowflake and Cupcake. We said, “Yes.” They then asked if they could leave them in our pond because they were going to be traveling beyond Mendocino and past the holidays. We said, “Of course.” Snowflake, an Embden goose, is still with us. Cupcake, a Toulouse goose was killed by a fox. To provide Snowflake with company, we adopted three younger geese, one Toulouse and two Embden. Now we don’t know which is which Embden. We haven’t had geese for many years with the exception Cupcake and Snowflake. Geese serve as excellent alarms at night. By the way, we have arranged our fencing so that the geese can get to water if a predator gets into the area, which is always possible. Cupcake was only 20′ from water, just enough distance that the fox got her.

Other potential predators reported along the coast include raccoons, skunks, opossums, bobcats, and cougars. The larger cats don’t like that we have many dogs and dog smells. Our pet policy has protected our donkeys, horses, and llamas, as well as our pets—cats and dogs.

It’ll never cease to amaze me how wild the West Coast is as compared to back east in so many ways. How about in general—you two have run the Stanford Inn for over twenty years? What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened under your watch?

Seems to me that most of what has happened that’s crazy shouldn’t be repeated. At least those are the ones I am remembering.

I want to note that we have been here going on 37 years. One story that’s not crazy and describes the nature of some guests’ experience was 20 years ago. A well known public relations executive stayed with us with his ten year old son. Here, he experienced an epiphany. He wrote us to tell us about it and suggested that we tell people that the Inn is a place of amazement and growth. I replied that we were aware of the changes that occur for some, but noted that the experiences behind them should not be expected—not anticipated. He tacitly agreed that raising expectations might not be a great idea.

The most unusual story but not so crazy that Joan could remember concerns an actor in a detective television series who was in Mendocino taping. He came to the Inn’s Catch A Canoe and wanted to rent a solo canoe. We always warn a solo paddler that the conditions on Big River can change and that it is a great idea to have someone along to help paddle. He assured us that he was an experienced outdoors man. He went out, alone. He had been told that we close at 5:00. At 5:30, the time staff actually leave, I became worried. It was summer. The sun would not set until between 8:30 and 9:00 and I decided to give him until 7:00 to return. At 7:00 I went to the dock to launch a boat to go looking for him. I didn’t have to. He pulled up in his canoe and laid out clothing on the dock deck.

I went down to the dock. He and I went trough the “treasure.” Shorts and underwear and t-shirts for a man and woman, two pairs of shoes (if I remember correctly), and an envelope with a small amount of change. On one of the t-shirts was brown stain that could have been blood. He had found all this in a paper bag that was hanging from a branch of a tree whose trunk was embedded in the bottom of the river. We called the sheriff who took a report and took away the clothing and money. The actor was William Windom who played Doctor Seth Hazlitt on Murder She Wrote.

Oh, and the prosecutor from To Kill a Mockingbird! Wait, Jeff, is that the end of the story‽ Was foul play afoot? That’s a bit of a cliff hanger there!

And so it remains a cliffhanger. This is what I think happened—a couple was out camping and hiking along the river and had brought along lunch. Because no one reported seeing or hearing about naked people, they were probably camping on higher ground nearby. This is a very rural area. They were eating and lounging on the river beach and decided to swim, and placed their gear in the bag where their lunch had resided. They swam as the tide brought up the water level and launched the bag, which they were then unable to find. The bag became hooked on a skag and was found by our canoeist perhaps even a day later.

OR Doctor Seth Hazlitt didn’t see them skinny dipping nearby and inadvertently punked them! That’s so Doctor Seth Hazlitt.

Wait, I almost forgot to ask—what’s the story behind the logo for the inn?

It is a stylized fuchsia. The first plants we bought for the inn were fuchsias. An artist rendered them and they became our logo. When we redid our website 10 years ago, we adopted a more stylized single fuchsia.

I see it now! Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Hopefully we’ll see you all soon!

Visit the Stanford Inn’s site to find out more, see photos, watch videos, and book your visit.

Video by Rystar Productions; photo of Jeff + Joan courtesy of Gathering Green; all other photos, Stanford Inn.

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"Land and environment" are not different than us; they define us as much as we define, describe, enhance or harm them
Stanford Inn Co-Owner Jeff Stanford on their connection to the land.

A while back, a friend introduced me to the concept of “bullet journaling”—a quick, customizable system of journaling and organization developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY. This introduction was sparked by a generous gift from said friend—a set of three Field Notes paper journals and a Blackwing pencil re-issue. A lot of friends know that I still make a habit of writing in paper journals and have a longstanding personal obsession with pencils of all kinds.

Though my friend prefers traditional wooden pencils that can be sharpened, I’ve always leaned more towards the precision of mechanical pencils, especially drafting pencils. But this preference has always come with caveats and acknowledgement of inherent problems with mechanical pencils; first and foremost, the pencil leads break far too often, especially if you prefer thinner leads and tend to press down hard, both of which I do. Secondly, there’s a certain sentimental loss of the warm wooden feel of traditional pencils with mechanicals. Even that unmistakable pencil smell that’s wholly functionless but nonetheless pleasant in a very nostalgic way is left by the wayside when you limit yourself to mechanical pencils.

Enter the Prime Timber 2.0—a collaboration between Penco + Tokyo-based Kita-Boshi Pencil that combines the best qualities of mechanical and traditional pencils.

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Made in Japan, the pencil uses California incense cedar for the pencil barrel (giving you your nostalgic wooden pencil smell) to house an elegantly simple mechanical system that pushes out a solid 2.0 mm graphite lead which you sharpen to a point with an included, compact plastic pencil sharpener.  And it comes in a variety of color combinations for the design-conscious.

I bought mine at Abbot Kinney purveyor of all things Japanophilic, Tortoise, but Portland’s Little Otsu carry’s the pencil in a variety of colors too, all available online.

Long live the digital analog.

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There’s a new vegan bang mi in town, people, and it is fucking good.

If you know us, you may well know that we love a good vegan bahn mi (please see Blue Window; please see Urban Radish around the corner; please see Brooklyn’s Toad Style; please see the bahn mi champion, Hanco’s also outta Brooklyn). The shiitake one at Urban Radish is good and nearby, but we’re pretty big fans of a good, plant-based-protein one too that approximates a traditional chicken bahn mi.

Last week, on our way to pick our copy of the anniversary issue of Popeye at the local Japanese Bookstore, Kinokuniya in Little Tokyo, we stopped in our tracks as we noticed a menu taped up at a luncheonette featuring—you guessed it—a vegan bahn mi.

The story goes that downtown LA’s very modestly and conspicuously named Sandwich Shop—located at 6th + Grand—opened a second location just late last month in the very same complex as Kinokuniya (and awesome Japanese supermarket Marukai).

And the verdict on the bahn mi? Impressively large, scrumptious, and craveable, with a superb showing of the sandwiches characteristic combination of spicy, fresh toppings and savory, rich proteins and spreads, all stuffed into the perfect example of that monstrous, crunchy French bread that totally, lovingly shreds the roof of your mouth as you eat it. The shop uses a Vege USA/Vegetarian Plus style vegan soy chicken (the kind you can get in the freezer section of good Thai markets) that’s fried and coated in a ginger marinade. And in addition to the traditional cilantro, jalapeño, pickled vegetable toppings, they use a Whole Foods brand vegan mayo on the bread, which most non-vegan restaurants (Hanco’s included) don’t bother to do.

So if you’re in Little Tokyo or our nearby neighborhood of the Arts District, stop by the Sandwich Shop—123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #108. And yes, that is an awesome street name. If you’re further west in the downtown area, their original location’s at 531 W. 6th Street.

And according to the shop via Twitter, you can sub in the vegan chicken in the miso salad too.

New favorite work lunch spot—check!

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Last week, listening to one of favorite radio shows—KRCW‘s Press Play with Madeline Brand—we heard a piece on a Japanese men’s magazine named Popeye that was celebrating its 40th anniversary. The magazine’s debut issue hit the shelves in Japan in 1976 and it focused nearly all of its pages on California, most specifically Los Angeles.

As reporter Julie Makinen points out in her Press Play spot and her Los Angeles Times piece, Japan in the mid-70s was a far different place than it is now. Far from a trend-setting, hi-tech mecca, the country was still going through struggles and growing pains of all kinds; to most, Los Angeles looked from afar like a blissed-out, care-free paradise full of inexplicable-yet-fascinating cultural trends. As the Popeye‘s original editor—now 86-year-old Yoshihisa Kinameri—told Makinen, “In Los Angeles, people looked happy and cheerful. It was magical; it was like heaven.”

Kinameri sent four of his staffers to southern California to capture that magic and bring it back to Japan and, as Makinen points out, the now re-issued inaugural issue reads like a time capsule that evokes either a wistful nostalgia or kitsch depending on when you were born.

Amongst other topics, the first issue of Popeye—”Magazine for City Boys”—covers such subjects hang-gliding, skate-boarding (along with a “Who is the hottest?” spread), the idyllic and very un-Japanese at the time UCLA campus (complete with dorm room + dining hall visits and a full map of the campus), “Healthy Californians,” sports vans and how to airbrush them for maximum radness, and jogging, along with a detailed spread on how to jog and three spreads full of awesome running shoes of the time—according to Kinameri, “In Japan at the time, students had maybe two kinds of sneakers, and they were cheap and not stylish at all.”

The full first issue of Popeye was printed as it first appeared in 1976 (minus vintage ads being swapped out for a modern sponsor—smart) and is included in the current anniversary issue of Popeye, which takes a much less culture-shocked, very savvy look at Los Angeles and surrounding environs 40 years later, when we’ve both changed so much. And they are very on-point—not only do they feature some of our favorite spots for food in LA (Night + Market Song, Donut Friend, SQRL, Dune), they also feature some of our favorite people—shout-out to Clara from Clara Cakes and her tour of Atwater Village!

Below, some of our favorite moments in the 1976 reprint, followed by Clara, a road trip spread, and a nice illustrated map of Los Angeles in the 2016 anniversary issue.

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It’s hard to capture the feeling now, but then, it was just all so different. We had seen running in the Olympics, but seeing jogging in real life was completely strange.
Popeye's original editor to the LA Times

Last year, we stumbled across the sunny, California sounds of the band Tall Tales and the Silver Lining and immediately fell in love. With their hearts clearly rooted in folk-rock’s golden age but their heads in the here and now, their wistful-but-hopeful music painted the perfect backdrop to driving down the California coast in our new home state. We first wrote the band up briefly after discovering them as part of last March’s mixtape and then at year’s end when naming our favorite albums of 2016. So, needless to say, we were bummed to hear that the band was breaking up this spring, so soon after us first finding them.

We recently reached out to Tall Tales founder + frontman Trevor Beld Jimenez in hopes of finding out more about the band’s beginnings, influences, and ending and he kindly obliged.

One of Tall Tales’ more recent track “Burning Out” is below and you can scroll down to the end of the interview to see the official video from one of our favorite tracks from their full-length, “Something to Believe In.”

raven + crow: So, outta the gate, I’ve gotta ask about the name—Tall Tales and the Silver Lining. It’s such a unique name and one I’ve always been intrigued by in terms of the story behind it. How’d you come up with that? Where’s it from?

Trevor Beld Jimenez: Thanks, brother! Originally it was gonna be more of a solo endeavor, so I wanted a moniker cause I was too scared to use my name. Tall was a play on my height and Tales was a play on the songs. As the band started to develop live, and transitioned into more a real band feel with mainstays in the lineup, I thought it would be cool to have a back up band name, like the E Street Band or something of that nature. I’ve always liked the idea of silver linings.

Poetically logical. I like it. We sadly first heard about you all just last year, when the record label arm of Other Music—my favorite record store of all time (RIP)—signed you guys. How did a southern California band get connected with a New York City mainstay like that?

We came into contact with Josh from Other through Domino Publishing. He flew out to see us play in Los Angeles, and shortly after that we decided to put out a record together.

I know Other’s label is still around, but were you as sad as I was when you heard they were closing?

We played at the record store on an East Coast trip in 2015. Everybody there was super cool! Totally a bummer, but I know they’ve got great things ahead of them collectively and individually.

It’s pretty well-ducmented and definitely very talked about at this point, but how do you think the music scene—both in terms of record-buying and in terms of being in a band—has changed for better and worse in the past few years?

It’s changed in different ways, but in many ways has stayed the same.

When I first started playing music 17 years ago as a 16-year-old kid I can’t even remember how we booked shows. I feel like people would call you on the phone or maybe you would see them at a party and they would say “Hey do you want to play on this date?” Now it’s all done through email. Been that way for at least 10 years or so (I got internet for the first time in ’09). I’m a late bloomer, so I’m kinda just catching up in many ways.

Maybe it’s always been like this, but it also seems like pretty much anybody can start a band these days. All you need is a name and an account on all the social media platforms and you’re good to go. It’s easy to have a fling with music, but you can still spot the lifers out there. I don’t think that is necessarily a new concept, or a bad thing, it just seems to be the times right now.

It’s also pretty hard to sell records. I know that this is not new information. Definitely got to play live and tour to get those records out there!!

People can find it for free somewhere out there on the Internet. It’s a double edged sword for sure. As an artist you want people to hear your music and appreciate it, so sometimes you’re willing to not put a price on it. Music can heal and the world needs it right now, but it takes time, soul, energy and of course money to make. It’s always nice to feel like the feeling and effort between you and the audience is mutual.

All true. And likewise, having played and toured with a band pre-Internet/-email myself, it’s crazy to think back to how we did things back then and how shows across the country even happened.

How did Tall Tales start in the first place?

Tall Tales started in Ventura California around 2007. I played bass in this band for many years up there, and was writing songs as well for that band, but more behind the curtain. I wanted to step out a little bit more and felt like the time was right. I started the band as a kind of solo project with my wife Tania getting my back on the recordings and live sometimes, but mostly myself. Then it just became an official band. It was fun times.

We really loved your sound. Having recently moved here from New York purely for the good vibes and lack of terrible winters, I felt like you all really gave us a soundscape for the feeling of California, if that makes any sense. The band’s music really so expertly captured the expansiveness and sense of scale of California’s natural landscape—I feel like that was even reflected in some of the album artwork. Is that sound something you tried to actively cultivate or was it just natural in the music and the way you all presented the band’s work?

Thanks again! Appreciate that. I’d be lying if I said at certain stages during Tall Tales it was not a conscious effort to be part of our identity. I definitely grew up listening to a lot of the 70s “California sound” bands, and then as a young adult rediscovering it through bands like Beachwood Sparks and Little Wings. Those bands felt like home.

Oh, yeah, Brent seems to be really be keeping the Beachwood sound alive with his new project, GospelbeacH too.  Who were some other musical influences for you?

So many! Everyone from Burt Bacharach to Tom Petty to Joni Mitchell.

Man, really hear the Petty influence in a great way too. But now, sadly, Tall Tales is no more—can you talk about what brought about the end of the band?

Basically, my best explanation is bands break up. Over time, so many factors play into it that it’s even really hard to pinpoint one. Ultimately, we tried to end it on a high note and with love instead of dragging the horse through the mud. We wanted to set the horse free!!

We last caught you up at a show at El Rancho Inn in Ojai (pictured below), one of a string of shows you announced as your final before the band officially called it quits. It was such an amazing, beautiful setting for a show—did you all enjoy it?

Love that place!! Ojai is kind of like a third or fourth home to Tania and I. I used to teach music at a school up there and every day the drive from Ventura to Ojai was like driving through God’s country. Very beautiful!

TTSLFam

Yeah, my partner Katie + I totally love it there too, so much. That show also introduced us to Elisa Randazzo, who we really enjoyed. Do you all go way back?

Tania and I met Elisa in Big Sur at the Hipnic Festival about 6 years ago. We watched her set and were blown away. Afterwards we went up and said hi and she was talking to Neal Casal (who ended up eventually moving to Ventura and we would play shows and music together soon after). We all became friends from that day on. She and her family are some of our dearest friends.

And your final show was up at Hickey Fest, right? How was that?

The Hickey Fest show was really cool. We played at sunset. The crowd was really mellow. People were still showing up to the festival, but it was apropos. We went out the way we came in: In the woods, at sunset, amongst friends and family singing along.

Sounds like a fitting way to end things. So what are your plans now that Tall Tales is no more? Are they musical? Non-musical? Both?

Some of the folks are starting new rad projects and out playing shows already. Some are playing with the other bands/people they were already playing with, or they have joined other bands around the Los Angeles area. Tania and I are being parents, working, and enjoying this life. Exciting times for all!

Well thanks again for making the time to talk. I hope to hear from you again some time soon, man.

Peace and love always.

We’ll keep an eye out for new musical projects from Jimenez + co.; in the meantime, we’d recommend checking out Tall Tales’ back catalog via Other Music, iTunes, your local record store, or whatever you use to stream music.

Music can heal and the world needs it right now, but it takes time, soul, energy, and of course money to make. It's always nice to feel like the feeling and effort between you and the audience is mutual.
Trevor Beld Jimenez on the ever-changing economy of music.

We’re happy to bring you the August 2016 edition of our monthly mixtape series and, with it, a significant change in form.

Up to this point, we’ve always made use of SoundCloud to post our mixes. We’re longtime users and fans of the online audio platform and, for some things, remain so to this day. It’s always been a great way for independent musicians to get their music out there in front of a huge audience in an easy manner and we’ve discovered countless bands with it. A little while back, SoundCloud started dropping ads in-between songs when streaming which, while annoying, I totally get. They remain a relatively small company, based in Germany with only about 200 employees from what I understand and those employees need to get paid.

Back at the end of March though, Soundcloud debuted their Soundcloud Pro service, a pay streaming service seemingly created in an effort to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, and the like. And, you know, continue to pay their employees. Part of that fee vs. free bifurcation meant that some songs—usually more popular ones—were only partially available to the free SoundCloud users as 30 second “previews,” many long after having been posted by the artists themselves, much to most artists’ surprise and with none of the profits for this pay service going to the artists. You can read various articles and reddit posts that go into more detail on the subject, but suffice to say that SoundCloud went from something that was great for everyone to…well, the opposite.

Again, we get it—it’s a business; businesses need to have employees; employees need to be paid; businesses need to make money so they can give some of that money to employees. But, with those changes that restricted access to songs for both us and all other listeners and the questionable-at-best relationship to artists,  who’ve not-so-arguably fueled the popularity of SoundCloud, we decided to step away from using the platform for our regular mixtapes. Plus, we’ve had a few minor but consistent gripes with this service not quite matching the needs of what we want to do (for one, if a song hasn’t been posted by an artist, we can’t share it and, for another, songs that are taken down after we post a mix obviously disappear from the mix forever, meaning many of our old 15-song playlists have far fewer than 15 songs these days).

So we’re giving something new a try this month—Mixcloud, a crowd-sourced streaming service used largely by podcasters, DJs, and Barack Obama. We first took note of the service when David Byrne sent a recent mix through using it. We figure, if it’s good enough for David Byrne, it’s good enough for us. We’re only testing the waters here, but we’re hoping this will really open things up for us, allowing us to post anything we have an audio file for (including any pre-release promos we’re given the go-ahead to share) and ideally giving the mixes a bit more longevity.

As a listener, your experience is going to differ depending on your country and their respective copyright laws. In the US, for instance, we can’t rewind because rewinding is somehow unfair, I guess, to artists? Point being, let us know what you think—if you like it, drop us a line; if you don’t like it, also drop us a line; if there’s something that you think would work even better for us—you guessed it—drop us a line.

In the meantime, enjoy this new batch of new sounds from France’s Faker featuring Rae Morris (a lovely track that we’ve wanted to bring you for months but remains unavailable in the US via SoundCloud); Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ecuador’s Maria Usbeck, who gives us the beautifully blissful song “Moai Y Yo”; the ESG-esque, radio-friendly project from Troop Beverly Hill’s own Jenny Lewis, Au Revoir Simone‘s Erika Forster, and the Like‘s Tennessee Thomas  Nice as Fuck; Blood Orange who gives us an addictive new track featuring Empress Of; new (to us) Brooklyn band Bella Mare; Flock of Dimes, the solo project from Wye Oak‘s Jenn Wasner, who gives us a poppy number reminiscent of Everything But the Girl at its height; Brooklyn’s Sidney Royel Selby III (AKA Desiigner) who totally loves Pokémon Go; Los Angeles harpist Risa Rubin; DC electro R+B trio SHAED; longtime favorite Icelandic artist Sin Fang (who interviewed a few years back), who returns with a bizarrely beautiful new track featuring Sigur RósJónsi; Melbourne’s Kllo; Júníus Meyvant (another Icelandic import—you can tell by all the accents); a bedroom recording project from Brooklyn’s Oliver Kalb (AKA Bellows), who’s part of the creative collective The Epoch (which you can read more about in our November interview with Eskimeaux); Oxford’s newemo trio TTNG (FKA This Town Needs Guns), who gives us some of today’s most intricate, hyper-melodic guitar work; and ending with a tranquil track from Sweden’s modestly named The Amazing.

Enjoy.

She has sang since she was a little girl, and plays the folk harp (along with the keyboard) despite its utter lack of popularity.
Risa Rubin from her band camp page

One of our favorite vegan restaurants in Los Angeles right now is Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine in Venice. We don’t usually make it that far west very often, but, when we do, we end up there 80% of the time (the other 20% of the time belongs to Gjelina, who does amazing things with vegetables). The restaurant opened up not too long ago after Kenney shuttered his old nearby Santa Monica outpost M.A.K.E, which was equally impressive and raw, which is saying a lot in our book (you can see 2014 write-up of M.A.K.E. here on the journal).

A little while back, PF+W announced that they’d be doing an eleven day pop-up of Matthew Kenney’s Asian-inspired Belfast, Maine culinary incubator project, Arata. Our friend and Director of Culinary Operations, Scott Winegard, had been hard at work at the Maine project, so we were somewhat aware of what they were doing. As they put it: “Arata, which is Japanese for fresh and new, offers plant-based ramen noodles, steamed buns, small plates, desserts inspired by Far East flavors, and an original cocktail and organic wine program.” All of that’s right up our alley, so, despite the truism-ism of east-siders never traveling west and west-siders never coming east, we’d been meaning to buck the trend and come by since the July 28th opening.

Alas, packed schedules and snarling traffic delayed our westward venturing up until the very last night of Arata’s Venice residency, this past Sunday. But we finally made it over, and, man, are we glad we did.

Winegard and company have taken traditional Japanese and pan-Asian dishes and transformed them using bright, vibrant, ultra-fresh local farmers produce and a shit-ton of creativity. The result’s almost as satisfying to adoringly behold as it is to eat. Another aspect of this menu that Scott pointed out to us when we were there—this is one of the first times a Matthew Kenney restaurant has employed soy, in this case in the form of fresh tofu + tempeh from a Bay Area organic soy farm.

The starters were our favorites—two sets of soft, fluffy buns (or bao), one filled with smoked king oyster mushrooms, cashew hoisin, scallion, and cucumber, the other with grilled tofu, mustard miso, pickled chile, and napa cabbage. Then we got kimchi pancakes with sesame-chile sauce and some really fucking great crispy fried maitaki (sometimes known as hen-of-the-woods mushrooms) with a sweet soy dipping sauce.

The noodle dishes and bowls were pretty great too though, with the ramens employing a lighter, thinner broth to showcase and highlight the vegetables used in the soups. We ordered Chile Ramen—smoked tofu, charred chiles, and red pepper purée—and the Spicy Udon—a broth-less noodle dish that actually used flat rice noodles rather than rounded wheat udon noodles and was far from spicy but really good nonetheless, tossed with a sichuan tempeh, radish slices, and a creamy cashew sauce that struck us as almost linguine-esque. We got a good look at (but didn’t eat) the Arata Ramen too, which was chock-full of pulled mushrooms, bak chop, dulse seaweed, and accented by a corn purée.

Sadly, as mentioned above, the short-lived pop-up has now left the west coast, but who knows—maybe they’ll seek a repeat performance given the response. Or maybe we’ll make it to Belfast, Maine some time?
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Arata, which is Japanese for fresh and new, offers plant-based ramen noodles, steamed buns, small plates, desserts inspired by Far East flavors, and an original cocktail and organic wine program.

Something significant for us happened this week.

More accurately, something significant didn’t happen for us this week—after nearly a year-and-a-half of continuous, uninterrupted week-daily posting to our studio’s web journal, we made the conscious decision to break from that daily schedule.

The initial move to daily posting came in February of 2014 and coincided with a massive overhaul of our studio’s web site wherein we pulled our journal into the fabric of the site in an effort to merge two established online personas. Before that, via Google’s Blogger, we’d started the blog that became this journal (formerly and separately branded as Kindness of Ravens) way back in 2008. Those four or five years, we ran it much more as a personal, more casual portal for our creative output when Blogging was more at its height, thus the separation from our professional persona. We also only posted every now and then, not on any sort of schedule. The move to daily posts in 2014 was an experiment to see how it affected our output—sticking to a scheduling and folding the writing and coverage more into raven + crow as a professional design studio, we wanted to see how it would change and hopefully improve what we did and how we did it.

Taking this more measured approach to the journal definitely affected things in a positive aspect—we feel the writing refined and, more importantly, the focus on what we wrote about, why, and how grew more sharpened. We reigned in our focus to coverage of design, art, music, culture, and the vegan food scene and, as a result, felt more motivated and engaged both with our subjects and our audience. What’s more, making this move gave us a kind of excuse to reach out and open up communication with groups and individuals in and outside of our field, which, likewise, opened up our lives professionally and socially. Very much like that picture of a salad in early 2013 that very much led to both longterm clients and professional partnerships, we can draw direct lines from work we’ve done on these pages and outreach behind the writing to real-world relationships we’ve developed. Which is clearly awesome.

Now, after stepping back and seeing the results of this deliberate shift, we’re making yet another move for greater focus by not holding ourselves to a daily schedule. It was a successful experiment and one we’re glad we embarked upon, but we feel we can both further curate the content that appears here by posting less and, honestly, devote more time to other, non-online things in the real world, be them professional, personal, or something in-between.

Below, an outtake from our 2014 shoot for the new site + about page where we look way too much like your new favorite band.

raven+crow_8093

We feel we can both further curate the content that appears here by posting less and, honestly, devote more time to other, non-online things in the real world.

We’re in the midst of both peak pepper season and peak tomato season here in southern California and it really shows on our weekly visits to the Hollywood Farmers Market. They’re so plentiful and so beautifully enticing, it’s been a war of the wills every Sunday not to walk away with armfuls of each.

For the peppers, we’ve gotten really into homemade hot sauces (more on those later); and for the tomatoes, you name it—heirloom tomato + cucumber salad in olive oil, fresh tomato sauces, roasting on the grill, eating them whole + raw. One farmer—a new one on the southern-most side of the market whose name I have yet to take note of—offers up more varieties of cherry tomatoes than I thought possible, all of which are sweet and fresh and irresistible.

This past Sunday, I came away with more than my fair share of these cherry tomatoes and was hit with a sudden craving for fresh pasta lasagna. What we ended up with was a simplified, deconstructed take on the traditional mainstay that was truly craveable. What’s more, it was really pretty easy to make and nice in terms of not having a giant tray of left-over lasagna a week after the initial cooking.

We’ve been trending towards writing up less strict, measured-out recipes of late on these pages and more just walking readers through the general concept of a dish and leaving the particulars to taste and individual creativity—this is no exception.

Not including the pot I used to flash-boil the pasta, I actually did this as a single-pan dish. Everything was farmers’ market sourced with the exception of the flour and tempeh (both of which actually would be options at our market, now that I think about it).

For the fresh pasta, first off, I assure you, it may seem daunting, but it’s really very easy to make and is so, so good. Many modern recipes don’t even incorporate semolina and instead just use fine quality white flour (we like King Arthur). The Kitchen has a good recipe that walks readers through it all pretty thoroughly; the only caveat for fellow vegans would be to bring in the ‘flax egg’ to sub in for the chicken eggs, detailed on this previous post. So, in the case of this recipe, we halved it for a recipe for two (and even then, ended up with about twice as much pasta as we needed), so it was 1.5 flax egg (1.5 TBSP ground flax + 4.5 TBSP warm water, chilled). Following that pasta recipe, you can make that ahead of time and set aside for 30+ minutes at room temperature and even fridge if you want to do it way ahead of time.

Once that was done, I sautéd half a sliced sweet onion in olive oil on medium-high heat in my small cast iron skillet, letting it brown and caramelize only for a few minutes before adding half a block of tempeh, sliced thinly and then crumbled up by hand. I browned that and then added a little salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and fennel seed before lowering the heat a bit and carefully adding about a cup of homemade vegetable broth. Then I let that reduce and thicken and set aside, scraping as much out of the pan as possible.

While that was going, I blended up a homemade cashew cheese. It’s kind of different every time, really, and you can read a little more (and get an actual recipe via a chef friend) on a previous post, but I’d say the general keys are soaking the raw cashews the night before when possible (for maximum creaminess), having a really good blender (especially if you don’t soak the night before), using some nutritional yeast and a decent amount of salt, and, if possible, getting a little cheese-like funk in there via some brine, ideally some that’s homemade and, thus, a little more subtle (I like using homemade Swiss chard stem brine).

While that was blending and after I’d scraped out the skillet, I halved my cherry tomatoes—kinda the more, in terms of quantity and variety, the better—and peeled and sliced five or so cloves of garlic, adding it with a generous amount of olive oil to the skillet, and cooking under the broiler, watching carefully to make sure tomatoes are cooking to the point of bursting but not overly blackening. I then scraped that out into an empty dish and set aside.

Now back to the pasta—we don’t have a pasta maker; I like to do it by hand. So, in my case, I took the ball of dough and cut it in half and then rolled it out on a long cutting board with plenty of additional flour to prevent sticking. In this case, I made one big, long noodle—maybe 1.5′ x 6″. Then I cut that in half length-wise so I ended up with two long, rough-hewn noodles. I then took my first noodle and placed it in boiling water for all of one minute, until it started floating at the top of the water and looking more cooked than…not cooked. I gently removed the noodle from the water, placing one end—about 1/5th of the length—in that same skillet with a little olive oil in the pan’s bottom and gently laid the remainder of the noodle on an adjacent cutting board (see the photo to the right). Then I repeated for the second noodle.

Then it was a simple matter of adding alternating layers of fillers—tempeh mixture + cashew cheese + tomatoes—and folding over the length of the noodle; filling, fold; filling fold, until you’ve run out of noodle. So like an accordion noodle pasta—one sheet, folded over and over again. With most of the layers, I wouldn’t do all three fillers for the sake of stability, but you do you. One tip—end by topping with first cheese and then the tomatoes, then carefully roast under the broiler until the cheese has browned well. Then top with some cut fresh basil.

Enjoy! And get to those tomatoes while they’re good, California!

vegan-lasagna_4406

With this unrelenting heat of late, we needed a little relief this past weekend. What better solution than a visit to the newly opened, vegan-friendly soft serve joint in Silver Lake, Magpie’s Softserve?

We keep hearing about this place from friends and have been meaning to check it out for far too long. They boast inventive flavors (Thai Iced Tea? Strawberry Cheesecake? Peanut Butter Pretzel?), work from a chef-inspired, from-scratch recipe for the soft serve, and always have at least two vegan soft serves on tap and at the ready.

Past non-dairy flavors have included such scrumptious contenders as Chai Coconut, Dark Chocolate Mint, and Blood Orange Creamsicle, but they were featuring a coconut-y Almond Joy flavor and the popular mainstay, the Corn Almond, which we both opted for. And it’s certainly earned its popularity—it had a rich sweetness to it and you could actually see the tiny specs of corn in the soft serve.

Katie topped hers with candied pecans whereas I opted for the excellent maple coconut flakes (which are mellow and not too coconut-y) and the vegan fudge sauce—heaven in a cone!

With an oft-rotating menu of flavors and rare reviews of their other vegan offerings, we’re sure to be back to be back for another visit soon…especially since the merciless sun seems to be on a mission to melt Los Angeles.

Magpie’s is located at 2660 Griffith Park Boulevard in Silver Lake, just off of Hyperion, down from that Trader Joe’s with the terrible parking lot and across the street from that Gelson’s that now has a bar inside…for my fellow grocery store aficionados.

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We wanted to expand the flavors of typical soft serve ice cream from the traditional vanilla and chocolate by creating flavors of soft serve that bring us back to our childhood, flavors that inspired us to become chefs.
Magpie's Softserve
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