One of my favorite things about moving to Southern California has been, in a word, options. There are so many options as the SoCal farm-to-table movement and culinary entrepreneurial spirit continually spread roots here.
I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a cooking class, and I read a piece in the October edition of Los Angeles Magazine, about classes at South Coast Plaza. Writer Linda Kissam notes that the roster at Sur La Table is completely booked up for the next round. We Southern Cali’s love our food: the process, the progress and the product of it.
A lot of sharp, inventive chefs are introducing new foods and perspectives to the restaurant scene. Of the fresh minds with fresh in mind, Chef Michelle Wilton and her teams at Four Cafe‘s two locations, are among the foremost. Their signage first caught my eye at the Fairfax location, “Fresh, Local, Seasonal” touted next to the minimal, quad fold of green leaves in their icon.
My first stop was in the summer. The coconut corn chowder was unlike anything I’ve tasted. I know that’s a heavy statement, but it’s true. Delicately sweet coconut milk and corn; cool and just hearty enough. I had it with a big salad (their salads are big) and I was stuffed at the end of the meal.
I’ve actually thought about that chowder amidst the daily rounds of life on several occasions since I had it. It just pops into my head. When a few months have passed and I’m entertaining the idea of a dish, like a vaguely meandering crush that comes and goes, I put it on my favorite foods list.
A huge advent is their house-made sparking water and sodas. Huge! I don’t drink any soda or fruit juice, so sparkling water is a pleasure for me. It makes a meal more ceremonious and special. Served in tall glass bottles with generous tumblers, they don’t skimp on the refreshments either.
All of their sodas are made with fresh-squeezed juice and muddled fruit. No artificial flavors or syrups. So for those of you who can drink fruit juice, get it here – to sparkle. On my last visit, I actually had a glass of their cranberry ginger soda. It’s sweetened with a tinge of agave. My first fruity type drink in over a year!
The host got right to the heart of me as I surveyed the menu, considering whether my candida levels were low enough to risk the tinge of sugar in the juice and slight sweetness of agave.
“It’s very Thanksgiving” he said. I was struck. Had. Sold.
“I’ll take it.” I said
“But I’ll only drink half.” I thought. And I stuck to my guns, too.
It. was. a. dream. It was so Thanksgiving: only slightly sweet, warming and playful on the tongue. I slipped on my brain and forgot to snap a picture of it, but it’s on the fall menu. You’ll see it when you order it.
On my second visit I had the chopped miso salad with a half order of salmon and a flourless peanut butter brownie sweetened with agave. Again- stuffed! But never in the heavy, “What have I done?” sense of the word. Just satisfied and, in fact, feeling pretty good about it.
I loved the chopped miso salad of raw, organic cabbage. I could practically feel the vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics at work. The accompanying salmon was perfectly seasoned and cooked. Only downside to this salad was, being of mostly crunchy red and green cabbage, my jaw actually got tired of chewing. I recommend splitting it with somebody to cut down on chew time. It’s just the nature of that type of cabbage to fight back.
Behold the flourless peanut butter brownie. I was a little nervous about this one as it’s got a lot of candida no-nos: chocolate, peanut butter, it’s sweetened- albeit with a safer sweetener. But I had been feeling well and had been really careful before and after, and suffered no ill effects from this special bite. I seem to tolerate agave fairly well, to a point.
It’s a gooey, decedent brownie. I’m a life-long chocolate and peanut butter girl too, so it was next level for me after so long without anything like it.
Four Cafe recently added a breakfast menu starting at 9 am on weekends, so you don’t have to wait ’till lunchtime, thank goodness.
This sexy little shot is a selection from their breakfast menu. Smoked salmon with frisee and hollandaise sauce atop a potato pancake made of nothing but potato and egg. Gluten-free, grain-free, aromatic and pretty.
A stereo-type of organic cafes being strange spots with tiny cheap display cases featuring, maybe good for you, but weird tasting food, has been undone. To my exuberant pleasure, places like Four Cafe have disproved the odd, bland connotation of these places for me.
Both locations maintain an open space atmosphere, with chefs mere steps and a quick shout away from answering any questions you have regarding ingredients. This layout is consistent with the restaurant’s sense of responsibility as it utilizes reclaimed wood along the walls and seating.
You feel like you can breath here. The structure, the space, the friendly service all make it a nice spot to take a break. And the food helps you breathe easy, knowing that you’re making a good decision for your body. The boon to the local economy and the freshness of local, organic food is distinct. Four Cafe is a must.
- Delicate Foodie Rating (Based on the current Fall Menu)
- Vegetarian – The veggie crowd has a lot of exciting options here. From their small bites, to each of their imaginative salads and soups, all of these are vegetarian by nature. Meat is an optional ad-in. But they go beyond salads! Tempeh sloppy joe, lentil meatball sandwich, oven roasted tomato panini, take heart vegetarians, you split the menu with your carnivorous counterparts. Nothing meager about it.
- Candida Diet – If you’re in the early phases of the diet, it’s best to cook at home so you have complete control over every ingredient. The olive oil here is organic as is a majority of their ingredients, but they do use a couple of other oils that aren’t. Later in the diet, a single meal with this here and there won’t hurt, but early on it might. The sides, soups and salads are nearly all fair game for us, a few with the request to leave the cheese off or hold the bread. And the breakfast menu has a few items for the low carb crowd as well. Plus don’t forget the sparkling water! Most of their sweets are made with sugar, but they do offer a few with agave, which can be enjoyed in moderation once you’ve got your balance back. Please do so mindfully.
- Vegan – Both the red curry kabocha soup and the vegetarian chili can be made vegan, as can the tempeh sloppy joe and the roasted tomato panini, plus your pick of the sides and salads, sometimes requiring you to request the cheese stand alone and not on your plate. There are even vegan sweets like their raw vegan cheesecake!
Over all Four Cafe offers a lot for even the pickiest of eaters, while wielding the culinary smarts and honesty of flavor to put a smile on the face on the hungriest of omnivores.
Have you made it out the Four Cafe yet? What’s your favorite dish?