At the urging of several friends, I ventured into the San Fernando Valley this afternoon to tackle health food from one of the original restaurants in the genre. This is the place that invented veganaise, which as you can imagine is the vegan equivalent of mayo. I don’t like mayo, and I don’t eat mayo, but I respect the fact that these peeps are breaking barriers.
Anyway, it was a bit of a trek, but since this week is weight reduction awareness week (see how I keep changing names) without further ado, I give you Follow Your Heart.
Follow Your Heart – On Sherman Way east of Topanga Canyon in the SFV
The first thing I noticed about this place was that it was PACKED. It’s Wednesday afternoon at around 12:30 so I understand that this is probably the lunch crowd, but still, it was impressive. I am used to being the only guy walking through Lassen’s at 6pm, so it was strange for me to see so many people psyched about health food.
Luckily, I was flying solo, so I was allowed to grab a seat at the counter. The groups had to wait, and it looked to be about 15-20 minutes at least, which is pretty considerable for a restaurant run out of a grocery store. At soon as I sat down, I was greeted warmly and asked if I had any questions on the menu. The guy helping me out had a chill vibe which helped with the nervousness I always feel when at health food restaurants. It’s one of my irrational fears, being found out that I have been a regular consumer of Babe and his farm cohorts for pretty much my entire life.
Anyway, my guilt eased and I started to look at the menu. I had already tried the Follow Your Heart burger, so I wanted to give something else a go this time. I was hoping to stay vegan with my choice and noticed that they had a “meatball” sandwich that could be done vegan. What that meant, I found out, was that the mozzarella cheese was replaced with vegan cheese instead. A girl sitting next to me at the counter assured me that vegan cheese was “not bad” so I went all in. Vegan cheese… FTW!
See that stuff under the bell pepper? That’s vegan cheese. It looks like real cheese but it doesn’t really taste like anything. I asked the guy if vegan cheese was one of those things that we’re better off not knowing how it’s made, and he said “it’s a pretty natural process, it’s mostly oil.” What a relief. So I dug into the “meatball” sandwich and here are my thoughts:
- The “meatballs” were really good. They were dense enough to make me feel like I was actually eating meat. And had enough flavor to stand on their own.
- The wheat roll was great. It was hot. It was light. It was magic.
- The vegan cheese was nothing special. It was little more than eye candy for the sandwich.
- The portion size was generous and I had 1/2 a sandwich left to take home.
I also enjoyed the fact that they gave me carrot “chips” to go with my sandwich. I love me some carrots, but don’t eat as many of them as I should. The roasted bell pepper and marinara that came with the sandwich were great compliments to the “meatballs.”
Like I said before, this is a cafe inside of a grocery/health food store. If you are health conscious, I highly recommend taking a look in their book section. There are some great reads to be found, including one that I personally endorse called “Healthy at 100” by John Robbins.
As far as the rest of the store is concerned, I found it to be a little on the expensive side. But they have a pretty good selection of fresh, organic produce and if they weren’t so far away, I would probably shop there. I guess I’ll have to stick to Trader Joe’s for now.
Finally, in the interest of full disclosure. I took a piece of their vegan carrot cake to go. (Told ya I like carrots) I hope to eat it later tonight or tomorrow and to give it it’s own review next to the current carrot cake champion (I like alliteration also).