Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Food Tour de Venice, CA by Avital Tours

by guest blogger @iam_robot

I recently got the chance to check out a one of the walking food tours by Avital, who took us on a tour around the Venice neighborhood.
 This Venice food tour took us deep inside the center of the old city and allowed us to explore real stories of this beachfront neighborhood.  Snippets of lifestyles, cultures, and rich history came into light through bites of puff pastry, savory pizza, and sugary donut. Personally, I think it’s almost impossible to scour best places to eat by driving around aimlessly. A feast of this magnitude must only be countered with serious walking feast – worry not, we all walked ‘kind of’ leisurely. Without the guidance of Avital, I never would have ventured to some of these restaurants (at least not all at once) and certainly wouldn’t have ordered many of the things I tried. So if you decide to join – make sure to bring a hearty appetite, comfortable shoes, and strong sense of humor J

The tour begins with 2 shots of craft beer at Venice Ale House. Located strategically on the boardwalk, you can’t help but watch hipster and westsiders going about with their weirdness.  Moving along, we walked couple blocks to one of the narrow alleys to encounter a sleek, minimal storefront called as Dudley Market. 

Dudley Market Interior
Gnocco fritto, with Calabrian chili salsa and scallops at Dudley Market
After couple of beer shots at The Ale House, I thought we were getting greasy food to wash down the alcohol bloat. To my utmost surprise, a plate of Puff Pastry with scallop and Calabrian Chili Salsa came to sight within 5 minutes. I pretty much inhaled them with sips of fine Cava. I was amazed with Chef Jesse Barber’s (formerly of Barnyard and The Tasting Kitchen) creation – it’s simple, honest, and ingredient-centric. Definitely not the prototypical dish you’d find on beachfronts.
Plant Food and Wine Interior
Carrot Ginger Soup by Plant Food and Wine
The third stop is a vegan hotspot called as Plant Food and Wine. The 65-seat restaurant has gorgeous indoor and outdoor spaces. Inside, the interior is built around the oak floors, reclaimed stone and a fireplace. Outdoor, olive and fig trees provide a canopy for courtyard dining. Warm curry ginger soup was the perfect complement for this rainy day. The next stop turned out to be one of my favorite dining spots, Gjelina. But before we hit Gjelina, we made a brief detour to Cook’s Garden, an urban farm built at a vacant lot right next to Willie Jane restaurant. Master Gardener Geri Miller are growing beds of organic goodness for Chefs Govind Armstrong at Willie Jane and other restaurants in the area. I was practically nibbling raw vegetables on the spot.
Welcome Sign at Cook’s Garden

Chicken Coop at Cook’s Garden
 Moving along, during that 5 minutes (seemingly long) walk, my mind ran wild between Gjelina’s delicious pizzas and gorgeous waitress.  I’m sure by now (if you’re not living under the rock), you’ll know that Gjelina is the furthest thing from a pizza parlor, it’s definitely one of the most ambitious restaurants you could find in LA – delicious seasonal menu, great ambiance, buzzing crowds and pleasantly quite arrogant (the menu specifies “Changes or modifications politely declined”). That day I had a chance to taste a couple of their Pizza offerings: The Lamb Sausage and The Bottarga.  What is bottarga? It is mullet roe from Sardinia. It’s salty, fishy, and quite expensive (I heard).
Lamb sausage, confit tomato, rapini, asiago, pecorino and mint pizza at Gjelina
Bottarga, confit tomato, Jalapeno, Smoked Mozzarella, Arugula pizza at Gjelina
As any saying goes, “Save the best for last”. Indeed, the last stop was the most memorable one. The final stop was Blue Star Donut, the world renowned brioche-style doughnuts from Portland. I had the chance to taste their Mimosa Donut, which is champagne marmalade frosting with candied orange. 
Mimosa Donut at Blue Star Donut
It was probably the best donut I’ve had to date. Aside from their super inventive frostings, the dough felt light, outer-crispy, and greaseless.  Researching more – heard they utilized European style butter that has higher fat content than the typical American butter. Tidbit aside, the first bite was explosion of flavors in my mouth. Can’t wait to go back! Did I mention they have 15 to 20 flavors available daily?

As I look back, I gotta say I thoroughly enjoyed each stop. Sure, the sweetness from the doughnut lingered on my tongue during my drive home but the most memorable part was probably conversing with people who’s just as much into food as I do. Come alone or come in groups, you’re guaranteed to meet new friends at this gastronomy tour.

More info about Avital Tours at


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