Picnic Basket on BikeWords by BY SHERYLL ALEXANDER

Need to stay in the city of angels but worried about maintaining your exercise and healthy-eating programs? No problem, Fit Fathers has the ultimate solution. On an all-green visit to LA recently we drove a zero emissions 2013 Nissan Leaf to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar to discover the property’s new free PUBLIC bikes and the Westwood’s best vegan eateries.

 Free Bikes at Kimpton Hotels?

First off, it’s true. All Kimpton hotels nationwide are now offering free PUBLIC bikes to guests. On our visit we were highly impressed with these custom-made two wheelers by San Francisco-based PUBLIC. The brightly-colored Euro bikes come with a cherry-red frame, cream tires, brass bell, rear basket and orange and blue accents. We found these three-speed cruisers to be lightweight, easy to ride and an exercise-worthy way to get around, especially in LA where parking is at a premium. Kimpton is also putting the spin on picnics by offering customized picnic baskets. In fact, Kimpton’s chefs can happily build on-the-go vegan meals such as a plant-based wrap, whole fresh fruit, homemade nut mix and bottled water. To order just ask the Kimpton concierge.

 IMG_3379West LA/Westwood’s Hotel Palomar

Hotel Palomar Los Angeles is one of the best addresses in LA not only for the new bikes, but also for excellence in location, design, ambience, comfort, food, drink and friendly hospitality. Situated right on Wilshire Boulevard and just two blocks from UCLA’s bustling Westwood Village district, Hotel Palomar is central to everything in LA from Santa Monica to West Hollywood to Beverly Hills (which is just a couple of miles down Wilshire Boulevard).

We drove our all-electric Nissan Leaf to Hotel Palomar’s breezy porte cochère and alighted straight into the contemporary lobby, which sports plenty of cozy sofas, pillows and a warming fireplace.  We were greeted by the Kimpton’s über friendly Hotel Palomar staff, who pointed out the hotel’s gym, pool and handed us a jogging map.  Inside our room we were impressed with the modern décor, comfortable beds with European duvets, side lounge chair, outlet-outfitted work desk and spectacular view of the LA basin.

Westwood’s Best Plant-Based Restaurants

UCLA students must love the plant-based lifestyle because Westwood is packed with vegan restaurants. Interestingly, our favorite vegan eateries all just happen to be located on nearby Lindbrook Drive. At breakfast, hit Nekter Juice Bar (10912 Lindbrook Drive) with its cleansing juices, satisfying smoothies and filling açai bowls. Just next door is the surprisingly delicious Veggie Grill (10912 Lindbrook Drive). This fast casual restaurant chain has reinvented dishes such as buffalo wings, fish tacos, chicken sandwiches, chili and even chocolate pudding into delectable and completely plant-based dishes. We loved the “buffalo bomber” sandwich along with the crispy sweet potato fries and the must-have slightly wilted kale salad with tasty soy-ginger vinaigrette. And don’t miss Panini Grill (10861 Lindbrook Dr.) right down the street. This bustling Mediterranean-style café has a mouth-watering saffron-and-lemon marinated grilled tofu dish that also includes loads of grilled onions and peppers, mounds of fluffy white basmati rice (or organic wheat pilaf), a fresh salad (Greek or romaine avocado) and a side of hummus.

IMG_3369Vegan Dining at Blvd 16

We were a bit worried about dining at Hotel Palomar’s swanky Blvd 16 restaurant. Would Chef Richard Hodge truly understand the plant-based lifestyle? But first, we started the evening in the lively lobby where Hotel Palomar hosts a complimentary wine hour between 5-6 pm. We sipped a Napa Cab next to the marble fireplace and skipped the free kobe sliders in anticipation of Chef Hodge’s custom vegan dinner.

 While enjoying a 2011 Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse Burgundy, the chef delivered what turned out to be the best dish of the night inclusive of a warm vegetable salad. This delightful palate opener was made super fresh with hand-picked produce straight from the famed Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Simplicity was never more delicious as he “flash sautéed” lobster mushrooms, bok choi, box tomatoes, yellow squash and sugar snap peas and then added a quick drizzle of lemon as well as salt and pepper. So good! Next, the chef presented a satisfying sweet corn risotto, which also featured green peas, red pepper, heirloom tomatoes and big slices of fresh garlic. For the third and last course, we switched to a 2010 Mac Murray Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. This full-bodied Red went perfectly with the chef’s hearty wild mushroom stew, which sat on a bed of fluffy quinoa and drizzled with a touch of thyme oil. Could a vegan foodie be more happy? We returned to our fabulous room full of healthy food and ready for a good night’s sleep in our cozy bed.

Truly, the plant-based lifestyle can be easily maneuvered in Westwood where Hotel Palomar Los Angeles may be the best address for those seeking an easy way to stay on track when it comes to healthy exercise and eating.

For more information on Kimpton Hotels and Hotel Palomar Los Angeles, visit http://www.hotelpalomar-lawestwood.com/

Sheryll Alexander is a lifestyles writer and automotive journalist based in Costa Mesa, California.