I took a couple of days this trip to catch up with a friend in Los Angeles, specifically Santa Monica, an area which is the epitome of the relaxed cool and funky organic Californian lifestyle.

We headed to nearby Venice to Café Gratitude as I had met the owner Ryland when he was in Auckland as a speaker for 'The Healthy Living Show'. There he was in his porkpie straw hat and faded organic tee shirt running, in a relaxed manner, the holistic, but very slick Café Gratitude, started by his father. Raw food at its most abundant and appealing. Beautiful looking raw cakes, a large choice of smoothies and juices and savoury dishes with names like I AM PURE, I AM DAZZLING, I AM HONORING... Full of beans, grains, sprouts, chilli and cashew nut butter. Thank God they still serve decent espresso (called I AM AWAKE - of course!).

For the locals who rode their bikes there, the bike rack was a sculpture of the same - and there were dedicated car parks underneath the building for the not-so-organic transport.

Next a visit to the rather large Wholefoods store in Venice. Again - choose from their large range of smoothies and vegetable juices or request your own combo. Pizza to the left, premade salads opposite and further round a rather large range of big and quite garish looking cakes. Many of which were organic or gluten free of course. Not sugar free though.

We headed to their cheese counter which had an impressive array and selected a couple of recommended US ones to try, as well as a piece of Montgomery Cheddar from London's Neal's Yard, we had arranged to visit. Of the local, Humboldt Fog, not only sounded interesting, but was - being a soft goats' cheese with a morbier-like line or blue mould in the centre.

Dinner that night was at Rustic Canyon - more grains and vegetable dishes and lots of low level lighting. I finally realised how easy it was to use the torch on my phone - otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see a thing on my menu.

Breakfast was at Superba, another menu with a lot of vegetables and grains - an interesting offer too, featuring sunny side eggs with kale pesto; cauliflower t-bone; potato and rosemary waffle, ham, mornay and poached egg; patatas bravas with smoked paprika aioli; farro salad with roasted fennel; and chorizo, sunny side eggs and green tomatoes - though it's filtered coffee only.

Dinner was at The Tasting Kitchen, also extremely low lit, which makes photography impossible. Good menu, good wine list - and very crowded.

Going between Venice and Santa Monica means you only see the best of LA, and a microclimate of trends including a noticeable number of dogs - some pedigree but many of the 'rescue' variety - and charming things like a set of bookshelves on the corner of one street full of books where people can and do swap. Unlike Auckland, there's not a lot of rain in LA, so it works. Great pit stop!



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