Happy New Year, Long Beach!
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been consuming wonderful “Best of 2017” restaurant and dish lists, while contemplating my own picks and eagerly bookmarking what I have not yet tried.
But, in addition to it being the time for listicles, now is also about the time we make all those grand promises to better ourselves for the year ahead. So, in lieu of a list of my favorite restaurants from 2017, I thought I’d give you some of my food resolutions for 2018.
While I love a good brunch, the dinner party is a cornerstone of civil society that has the potential to turn the tides. Whether it’s inviting friends and neighbors to break bread inside your home, collaborating on a progressive dinner, or simply gathering a group at a local restaurant, dinner parties force everyone to stop, exchange words face-to-face and learn to better coexist with each other.
And while brunch easily turns into an all-day affair with unlimited, sleep-inducing mimosas, a nice dinner party provides a short, social respite without killing an entire Sunday.
I know I’m not alone in this endeavor; there are locals who are actually driving the dinner party renaissance. Khanh Hoang, Long Beach native, nurse and self-taught chef, has been organizing pop-up dinners locally and, more recently, across the U.S.
Through these immersive, thoughtful experiences, she proves that food is more than simple sustenance. It’s educational, it’s culturally significant, and—most importantly, since many of us are stuck behind screens all day—it brings people together.
We could all stand to get a refresh on our three R’s from elementary school—reduce, reuse, recycle—to help cut down on waste. This applies to every aspect of life, but it’s especially easy to waste food and produce food-related trash. Even when we ensure our trash goes in the proper receptacle, a simple stroll around town or on the beach can serve as a reminder: We are just producing too much of it.
Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to make small changes to the way we eat. I’m now more vigilant about not needing a small, disposable plastic tube to sip from, thanks to the documentary “Straws” that was shown at the Art Theatre and Aquarium of the Pacific last year.
Most local coffee shops, including Portfolio and Steelhead, will fill your to-go mug in lieu of using the typical paper cup. Many local takeout and delivery spots such as Chaski’s now use compostable utensils and will only include them in your order if you request them—a great way to reduce food-related waste.
No, I’m not going full on vegan just yet, but it’s now easier than ever to eat a plant-based meal in Long Beach. Under the Sun, downtown’s raw vegan café, offers great dishes such as wraps, zucchini noodles and indulgent desserts with nothing prepared over 118 degrees.
Seabirds Kitchen opened up on Fourth Street this past year, while Steamed has been holding it down in the East Village Arts District since 2011. My personal favorite vegetarian spot, The HipPea, reinvented the small space next to the Art Theatre with beautiful bright green falafel in 2016.
The Wild Chive’s vegan brunch outgrew its pop-up at Portfolio and recently moved over to Made By Millworks, where you can get tasty vegan comfort food. Even the Caffeinated Kitchen—where many of our local coffee shops get their (surprisingly delicious) vegan doughnuts is based in right here in Long Beach.
So I’ll make it a point to eat more of my veggies in the next year; it’s great for the environment and great for my health.
Celebrate Local … More
I started this column in 2016 because I love food and I love Long Beach. Especially in the past year, it’s been amazing to watch the city’s culinary landscape evolve and catch the attention of Orange County, Los Angeles and wider Southern California.
In the age of internet trolls, it’s easy to leave a snarky comment or bad review on a restaurant’s Yelp page—and if you had a bad experience, you have every right to do so. It takes time and effort, however, to find the places you really love and patronize them, get to know the staff and owners, and celebrate what they add to our community.
So out of all of these resolutions, probably most importantly, I’m aiming to do more celebrating in 2018 and I encourage you to do so, too. Happy eating, everyone!