Ten years ago my body decided to go dairy-free: no more milk products for me. My ice cream-loving brain was devastated. Since then, each summer brought along the challenge of watching others devour mint chocolate chip cones and offer me sorbet as an alternative. Sorbet. As if some thin, fruity ice could take the place of a chocolate custard! I quickly banded together with my vegan friends in annual quests for alternatives that don’t, well, taste like alternatives.
Among the many things that LA does well is catering to restrictive diets. This city is home to a plethora of places that show how–by paying attention to the quality and creative potential of so-called health food ingredients–you can produce things that are flavorful in their own right, not merely placeholders. Here are a few places to get your summertime dessert fix on without the dairy.
As far as ice creams go, we’ve talked about Scoops in the past. It deserves another mention, not only for having flavors like brown bread and mango chili whiskey, but also for having several legit (i.e. creamy) non-dairy options daily. For the hardcore, at vegans can order anything without scrutiny. Ice Cream Plus (aka Micky and Sam’s) in West Hollywood inspires the kind of cult-like customer devotion you’d expect from a trendy juice bar, except that it’s a mom-and-pop dessert/sandwich shop with an unassuming strip-mall storefront that has offered solid dairy- and sugar-free options for years.
Then, there is the smoothie. For years I despised smoothies. They just never came close to the joy brought on by a great milkshake. Or so I thought until I came to California, where such things are taken seriously. The Punchbowl is a Los Feliz mecca for vegan treats and cold-pressed juice. I know, juice sounds so wan and green and not dessert-y at all, but prepare to be surprised. Their vegan mango saffron lassi changed my life. Want some chocolate milk without the milk? They got you.
Also in this camp: Naturewell (and Naturewell 2) offer coconut-based smoothies that don’t always rely on banana for texture. The Juice in Atwater is gaining a following for their vegan ice cream-enhanced concoctions, and, of course, the original: Beverly Hills Juice Club’s Banana Manna Shakes. BHJC has been bringing dessert to the non-dairy-eaters for thirty years. Everyone else has finally started to catch up. Take that, lactose.
Photo courtesy of Free to Use Sounds