Making Your Home Bedroom Five-Star Hotel Worthy, with Susana Saeliu of Pluto

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It's my dream to one day be able to transform my home bedroom into a restful sanctuary made up of my five-star hotel bedroom favorites: gorgeous, perfectly pressed linens, chic and soothing shades and textures all around, none of my usual bedside table clutter, not too modern but not too old world, and filled with decadently comfortable pillows.

In my lifelong quest to five-star upgrade my bedroom into a non-weird cross between my favorite hotels, Plaza Athenee and Park Hyatt Seoul, I discovered Pluto pillows. They are totally customizable, made with super sophisticated technology that makes them a solid contender for those five star pillows of my dreams. 

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I had a chance to chat with Pluto's founder Susana Saeliu about how those among us who do not live in a five star hotel can journey onward in our quest to convert a home bedroom into the ultimate personal retreat. Here are Susana's words of wisdom about how to decipher the difference between all of the bedding options out there, where she thinks the industry is headed next and some of her favorite bedroom upgrades. 

Susana Saeliu launched Pluto, the first direct-to-consumer (DTC), personalized pillow company in March, 2018. She was previously the founder of Kora Brand, a bamboo bath tissue company, and the COO of Tradex Marketplace, a reverse logistics company that processes customer returns and overstock merchandise from national department stores. She worked alongside the largest bedding manufacturers with years of material research. The woman knows the sleep industry better than most.

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Before we get to pillows, let’s talk mattresses. They are another key to this whole five-star sleep set-up. What is your take on the current set of mattress offerings available?

The number of DTC bed-in-a-box companies that have launched these past few years have really changed the way we buy a bed. Gone are the days of visiting your local brick-and-mortar stores, trying dozens of confusing options, and paying traditional, large markup for these mattresses. Instead, we have intense competition between many DTC mattress companies that compete on price, quality, customer service, trial periods, ease of returns, warranties, etc. We also see some of the old guards coming out with DTC mattress brands themselves due to the impact these new companies have had on the industry. Each of these DTC mattress offerings are also known for a different “feel” from one to another (if you dig a little deeper), but it is still definitely hard to know which one is ultimately best for you – hence the intense marketing of easy returns and lengthy trial periods.

Quality-wise, they’re all pretty similar and it’s frankly too early to say – none of the DTC mattress companies have been around long enough to tell who is truly ‘best in class’.

How are consumers supposed to tell them apart?

It’s definitely hard to tell them apart, and I’ve had conversations with friends who confuse one from another when describing which one they were most interested in for a new home, for instance. That’s why I feel each of these DTC mattress companies spend so much time, effort, and money to carefully craft distinct brand images for themselves: from goofy, memorable commercials, to being the brand that gives back to their community the most, etc.

Do you think the competition in this space is helping people find better solutions and get a better night’s sleep at a better price point?

I believe so! When there’s this much competition in a given industry, there are many more choices available for consumers to compare and contrast, which is ultimately a great thing.

What about the smart sleep systems, like these new, connected sleep pads? Are these helping- have you seen any evidence that tech products like these really aid sleep?

I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of these smart sleep systems aren’t as precise as they claim. The technology isn’t there yet to measure your brainwaves at home (the best way to measure sleep). We toss and turn during restorative sleep stages, so just recording movements can be misleading. However, I feel that if someone can benefit from the placebo effect of these smart systems, and are overall more aware of how much sleep they’re getting, there’s value in that as well.

Your new company Pluto is a non-smart, customizable pillow system. Why didn’t you go the smart route and do you think veering away from ‘smart’ products in the bedroom is a trend?

In terms of pillows, there’s a lot of research pointing out that smart pillows are the least valid and accurate in terms of actual research. Most importantly, we believe that in a fast-paced world filled with great technologies, electronics shouldn’t have a place near our heads when we sleep. Instead, we wanted to focus our efforts on creating quality, innovative, open-cell materials that are temperature-regulating and better yet, personalized to an individual’s preferences and body stats for optimized support and comfort.

We’re not sure if there’s a trend of veering away from ‘smart’ products in the bedroom, but what we do see are new smart sleep products coming to market quite frequently. So there’s definitely people who want data on the way they sleep, but along with that, there are also many others who don’t want electronics in their bedroom or near their heads.

What do you think traditional pillow retailers weren’t doing right, and why don’t you think the now relatively mature DTC mattress brands haven’t gotten pillow systems totally right?

All the DTC mattress brands have changed the way we buy beds. However, we felt that the way we purchase pillows largely remained the same. We go to a store, and we test out aisles of options with our hands, squeezing pillows that say “soft, medium, or firm” and realizing that what’s “firm” from one brand, can mean “soft” from another and a “side-sleeper” pillow from one brand can mean much thinner, etc. We also tend to buy what appears to be a great first impression, taking that back home to sleep on, and realizing that it actually results in terrible sleep.

I was surprised that among all these great DTC brands, no one has really modernized the way we buy pillows and the materials used. Instead, with the surge of bed-in-a-box companies, pillows became even more of an afterthought – something sold along with the mattress, and with one-size-fits-all designs. We truly believe that getting a great night’s sleep is more than having a great mattress -- where our heads rest matters just as much.

So our proprietary model and pillow designs take a more scientific approach in which we create and personalize pillows to you based on your body stats, how you sleep, and your preferences.

Our pillows are also a hybrid-design, with a supportive, high-grade CertiPUR-US inner core, encased within an outer plush pillow, both unique to your individual sleep profile. These materials now combine for over 30 variations.

What can people who are currently overwhelmed by all of the DTC sleep choices do to feel more in control or avoid just shopping on price?

It’s very important to not just shop on price. All of the DTC sleep choices have a ton of five-star reviews. However, you really have to dig a little deeper and find legit customer reviews on three important points:

  • Product feel and durability
  • Ease of returns
  • Customer experience

Ease of returns and customer experience matter most because at the end of the day, you’re buying something you haven’t truly felt in the comfort of your home. Going with companies that have truly great customer experiences can save you a lot of headache – especially in cases where there is some trial-and-error involved before arriving at that perfect sleep product.

How do you ensure you’re getting the best night’s sleep? What is your nightly routine?

To be honest, it’s very hard to shut-off when you’re running a start-up that you’re incredibly passionate about. I’m a complete night owl, but I’ve never regretted going to bed a little earlier than I actually want to – and I try to remind myself of that every night. Before bed, I list out all the things that are top of mind, whether it’s something I have to do tomorrow or even a plan I’d like to execute in the following month – just get it all out. I also tend to keep my workspace very separate from where I relax and sleep. Lastly, going to bed the same time every night (as best you can!) has also been incredibly helpful.

If you're considering a bedroom upgrade, here are Susana's favorites:

  • Google Home or Alexa: I have one and it's the perfect alarm clock, great way to check weather, snippets of daily news, and a great way to play your favorite music.
  • Candles: Love anything from Diptyque, Jo Malone, or even the Blueberry Blitz from Tyler Candle Store
  • Premium nice sheets that are also breathable - I really like the Twill collection from Brooklinen and also the Threshold Organic Sheets from Target that fit very, very well (they don't move around and surprisingly soft for the value)
  • Quiet air filter - I use the Coway AP-1512HH 
  • Ambient lighting, dimmable and not harsh is key

Our Favorite Crystal-infused Beauty Products This Summer

Crystal Beauty Products

Holistic beauty has birthed a new luxury beauty trend that we've been all about this summer: crystal infused serums, oils and luxurious balms. While 2017 had seen an uptick in the use of jade rollers for massaging serums into the face, 2018 has gone full-on, with pieces of crystal included in and infused into products to imbue the user with healing properties. While no clinical trials back up claims of crystal healing, there are long traditions of using gemstones in beauty rituals for a variety of purposes. This new category of ‘crystal luxe’ beauty is growing with a set of up-and-coming indie product lines and major retailer releases. Below are some of the names to watch:

Los Angeles based, natural luxury skincare line Odacite, founded by Valerie Grandury, introduced its first crystal product on June 15, a Co-Q10 lip serum with a green aventurine roller applicator (ed. note: this is one of my absolute favorite new products out there - I am obsessed). Grandury, who remembers her French grandmother saying that she could not sleep without the calming energy of a piece of magnesite on her nightstand, has been a lifelong devotee of the power of crystals. Green aventurine, Grandury suggests, is ‘known to be the luckiest of all crystals. Healers believe that aventurine has the power to absorb electromagnetic pollution created by computers and cell phones, helping you sleep better and wake up with newfound energy.’

It’s not just the luxury-wellness frontier of Los Angeles that is hopping on the crystal bandwagon. Growing natural beauty retailer The Detox Market just launched an exclusive rollout of crystal-infused Nazan Schnapp products on May 15 that lasts through the summer throughout all North America locations. The Zurich-based Nazan Schnapp line has used gemstones as ingredients in its products since the company’s 2011 launch. A Sublime Hydrating Treatment Essence is made with rose quartz, intended to encourage ‘a natural renewal process’ of the skin, and a Regenerating Blue Clay Iris Amethyst & Peony mask uses amethyst for its ‘calming effect’.

More approachable brands are getting in on crystal-infused product, too.  Pacifica released an entire crystal collection called the Crystal Collection in March, available to purchase at Ulta.com, with a range of products containing powdered gemstones, including a Crystal Primer that contains powdered rose quartz and a Crystal Foam face wash that contains rose crystal extracts. Cult beauty brand Glossier’s crystal infused Haloscope highlighter regularly sells out. The most popular color? Quartz, naturally.

Santa Monica's Drive-by Facials are No-Frills Perfection

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Fast facials are quickly replacing luxury day spa visits for the millennial set. We're more interested in results over pampering, as evidenced by the proliferation of drop-in and slightly more affordable facial retailers cropping up across New York and Los Angeles. 

The other week I discovered that Santa Monica's Montana Avenue is one of the ultimate incubators for testing and growing these drive-by pore cleansing purveyors. I checked a few of them out to see just what can be done in the span of a mini appointment. Here is the scoop on some of the buzziest fast facials in LA's most wellness-obsessed beachside community. You better believe these quickie facial chainlets are coming for your town next, if they're not already there! 

If you have 10 minutes:

Dermalogica is Santa Monica’s original quickie facial purveyor, offering a range of aptly named Express treatments that take 10 minutes. A technician asks what skin concerns or requests there are, offers an option of around six facial themes ranging from hydration to peel, and then dives into a super quick treatment targeting specific issues. All Express treatments are $15, which can then be applied to products if any are purchased.

If you have 12 minutes:

Bulletproof Labs on Main Street offers seemingly every machine-based biohack available, including a cryotherapy facial device. Cryotherapy is said to aid in cell rejuvenation, improve skin tone, reduce signs of wrinkles and promote skin tightening. Bulletproof performs its cryo treatment across the face and neck, which in addition to the above reported benefits, can also reduces puffiness and inflammation to help reduce eczema and acne. Treatments are $50, and package pricing is available.

If you have 15 minutes:

Laser facial empire Skin Laundry’s very first laser facial location is located in Santa Monica, and still acts as an incubator for new treatments including a new ‘mini Fraxel’ that is only offered at the Montana Avenue location. This and every other location offers a signature dual laser treatment, administered by registered nurses in private rooms. The first part of the lightning speed treatment is a YAG laser said to deep clean the skin, followed by one pass of IPL on a low setting, said to stimulate collagen production. There is zero downtime and Skin Laundry has most faces out within under fifteen minutes. Treatments start at $65 per appointment.

If you have 45 minutes:

Since opening in 2013, Facehaus has treated over 50,000 faces at three drop-in facial studios across Los Angeles. Having just opened a location on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica this June, the new kid on the block might be the tipping point that makes Santa Monica's Montana Avenue officially Facial Row. Facehaus offers 30-60 minute treatments bookable by the type of results preferred and performed in an open, sterile-chic and spa-like space. A signature Facehaus treatment costs $65 for 45-minutes of straight to business facial work. Boosts like extractions and oxygen can be added for a $10 fee.

The Best Vegan Brunch in Beverly Hills This Summer

Vegan Lunch in Beverly Hills

Vegans staying at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills no longer have to skip their luxurious hotel digs to find one of the city’s best plant-based meals. While always on the forefront of plant-based options, the property has just launched its most ambitious vegan food and beverage endeavor: an entirely vegan summer menu with renowned vegan chef Matthew Kenney. Called Folia, meaning “from the leaves”, the new vegan and often raw menu is comprised of 10 appetizers, entrees and desserts designed by Kenney. The Folia menu is offered at Four Seasons’ Cabana restaurant starting July 25 and lasting through September 7, 2018.

Folia appetizers include watermelon poke, hearts of palm ceviche and beet hummus; entrees include green herb tacos and a kelp noodle cacio e pepe; and dessert includes a coconut cream pie. Prices start at 12 USD per item.

The partnership with Matthew Kenney is the latest in the property’s partnering with local wellness experts. Just this spring, the hotel launched a juice bar partnership with Kimberly Snyder of The Beauty diet.

Of these partnerships, general manager Michael Newcombe says, “Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is excited to partner with Chef Matthew Kenney on the new plant-based menu Folia, as well as celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder on a new juice bar, to further enhance our wellness offerings throughout the hotel. Our new wellness rooms and suites have proven to be very successful, and we are confident that our new food and beverage options will be well received.”

What to Pack for a Yoga Festival

What To Pack For A Yoga Festival

Combing the internet looking for the perfect yoga festival or retreat is the easy part. Harder is figuring out how to pack for early morning hikes, post-breakfast Vinyasa flows and 3pm pool parties. Depending on your location, the amount of layers required might change, but the general formula for packing remains the same. This year I drove up to Wanderlust Squaw Valley with co-pilot and Stretch*d Founder Vanessa Chu, who as a former yoga teacher and current time-strapped founder of a New York stretch studio knows how to pack a perfectly edited yoga carry-on. Together, Chu and myself, a veteran of Wanderlust Tahoe and yoga festival fangirl, put our heads together to come up with the ultimate yoga festival packing list.

Best Mineral Sunblock

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Before you pack anything else, make sure you’ve stuffed a mineral sunscreen into every bag headed to the festival: luggage, backpack, purse. The more the merrier, and in a variety of sizes. Natural sunscreens with high SPF like Coola are an easy pick with bonus points for smelling like the tropics. Chu says she likes Colorescience’s travel-sized Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-on Shield in SPF 50, that she says takes her from, “sweaty yogi to poolside presentable even on a minimalist yoga weekend.”

Best Hiking Boots for Yoga Festival

Hiking boots
Nike Frees are meant for the road or the treadmill - not a dusty, gravelly or muddy mountain. And if you’re used to sitting behind a desk all day, having ankle protection to stabilize joints can mean the difference between having a full weekend of outdoor adventure and having to watch from the sidelines. For a well made, comfortable option that won’t break the bank, Hi-Tec’s Altitude VI boots are an easy go-to. Chu also recommends, “Bombas socks because they are super comfortable and supportive and they don’t slide down, which matters when you’re trekking up a mountain.”

Best Swimsuit for Yoga Festival

Bathing suits
Keep your bathing suit (and a towel) in your backpack at all times - you don’t know when your group of yogis is going to want to ditch afternoon Vinyasa for a dip in the pool (especially if you’re going somewhere warm). Guarantee you’re prepared for any water sports or poolside margaritas that might arise by packing one chic, poolside appropriate suit like the flattering one pieces at Andie plus a stand up paddle-friendly one that is built for movement like the new Malia Manuel collaboration collection at lululemon.

Best Refreshing Facial Spray

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You will be hot and covered in a thin layer of dirt mixed with sunscreen and sweat for the duration of your time outdoors. Do yourself a favor by taking a moment every few hours to spritz your face and exposed limbs with a cooling and luxurious-smelling facial spray. For something summery and natural, Kat Rudu Dewy Botanical Flower Mist has a chamomile rose cantaloupe scent and is made with witch hazel to chase away bacteria from all of that dirt.

Best Linen Top for Summer

Apres-yoga gear
Yes, it’s a yoga festival, but you’re going to want to take a break from spandex by the end of the day. Mix it up with wellness-vibing separates like gorgeous and flowy linen tops and pants or dresses by a sustainable brand like Rough Linen. Or for lounging in your cabin, gear from Spiritual Gangster is one of the comfiest yogic options.

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Apres-yoga shoes
Post-shower, when you toss on your linen separates for evenings of healthy, family-style meals and kombucha or cocktails, having a pair of easy-to-toss on and comfortable slides feels like such a luxury. San Francisco’s Birdies makes the perfect apres-yoga slipper-shoe in a multitude of jewel tones and textures, from citrine to blush.

BKR Bottle Water Balm

Water bottle
It is not possible to over-hydrate at a yoga festival. Many don’t even have bottled water as an option and instead have fill stations scattered around festival grounds. Having a full water bottle will ensure you’re feeling great all day. Bkr makes a variety of sizes, with cheeky details, so you won’t confuse your bottle with your neighbors or forget it after an extra zen meditation session. Even better than a standard bottle is Bkr’s new water bottle with their new water balm snapped onto the cap.

Best Affordable Sunglasses for Yoga Festival

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It’s likely you’ll be under the sun’s rays for a solid portion of your days, so sunglasses are key for protecting eyes and being able to soak in the scenery. But an active-outdoor trip is not the time to splurge on designer shades. Instead try fashion-forward but affordable options from sustainability minded brands like Sunski or Diff. Chu says that “even if you lose them, you know they’ll at least go to another yogi and you’re not out hundreds of dollars.”

Yoga Road Trip

Bottom line
Chu recommends that if you forget all else, remember to, “think survival mode-light. Pack strategically for what you need for the day: you’re going to go from class to poolside to grassy picnic to live music without going back to your home base.” And if you’re making any new purchases, to, “try to buy mission-driven, you are going to a yoga weekend after all!”

Join us this Saturday for a Mother's Day Pre-Game

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It's a sweaty, self-care Saturday for anyone (from moms to those who just want a good sweat and spa day before Sunday's family time) produced by us and hosted by our partners at Hotel Zetta in San Francisco. The morning will start with a Pilates Bootcamp taught by MNTSTUDIO founder (and boss mom) Elaine Hayes, followed by Burke Williams manicures and our favorite new rose by Domaine de Cala

For details and to grab your ticket, visit Eventbrite. Be sure to use promo code WAblog for $10 off of admission! 

The 9 Best Mother's Day Gifts for Health-Conscious Moms

Buying your mom a special something on mother’s day should be simple enough, especially since you’ve known the woman nine months longer than even your dad. So you should understand her and her gifting preferences pretty well. But no matter how many birthdays and mothers days go by, getting her something that will tick all the boxes of being something she wouldn’t buy herself, something she will actually use and not break the bank is not as easy as it might sound. So, the following is a list of health-inspired treats that she likely wouldn't buy for herself.

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For the mom who wouldn’t splurge on herself: A weekend away at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, or at least a spa treatment with resident wellness expert.

Why? There is nothing better than being pampered by the best in one of LA's most oasis-like five-star hotels. The visiting practitioners are leaders in their respective fields and are invited to the property from all over the world.  Regular experts in residence include the London-based Reiki master Shaylini and naturopathic doctor Dr. Nigma Talib.

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For the mom who is diving into healthy cooking: The just-released Wicked Healthy vegan cookbook by Chad Sarno, Derek Sarno and David Joachim.

Why? For moms who are working to ditch the meat or up their plant-based cooking without going full kale salad, this new tome is filled with stunning imagery and ideas for how to serve the gorgeous food on display.

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For the marathoner mom: New Speed Up sports bra by lululemon.

Why? Made of four-way stretch and sweat-wicking Luxtreme fabric, this new release from lululemon is a major gear treat with some of the highest support available. It works just as well for moms who clock miles before dawn to those who prefer a more casual morning walk.

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For the coiffed mom: A 10-free mani pedi at organic-luxe salons like tenoverten and Sundays.

Why? She may have her regular corner shop for a weekly manicure and pedicure, but tenoverten's spa-like digs and chic, chemical-free polishes should be an appreciated upgrade.

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For the mom who says she’s too busy for self-care: An at-home massage by Zeel or a local practitioner.

Why? A spa day is a lovely indulgence, but having the spa come to you is next level. Bonus points for including an at-home spa gift card in a spa care package with other goodies like a soothing candle and a creamy moisturizer.

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For the mom who digs a good soak: CBD bath bombs.

Why? Is there a mom out there who doesn’t deserve a solid hour tub soak with 35 grams of muscle-soothing CBD? 

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For the mom who needs some more shut-eye: A beautiful ceramic diffuser and essential oil kit from Canada’s Saje Natural Wellness.

Why? Because who couldn't use an extra dose of spa vibes in the bedroom? Also, Saje's signature Liquid Sunshine essential oil is a sure way to start the day on a sunny note.

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For the mom who’s still using Pond’s Cold Cream: The new 'it' face oil, squalene, like this cruelty-free version by Mirai Clinical.

Why? Squalene has been said to be one of the most easily absorbed face oils, and this sugarcane-based version out of Japan is the next big thing in skincare. 

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Gift: For the practical mom. Bombas socks.

Why? Even though they are all kinds of practical, this Mother's Day 8-pack is secretly luxe. Who buys eight pairs of premium athletic socks at a time, outside of Costco? The hoardes of Bombas fans who swear by the brand's Honeycomb Arch Support System and extra plush footbed, that's who.

Come Sweat With Us this Sunday in SF!

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This Sunday, March 25, we're kicking off our 2018 monthly rooftop fitness series at Viceroy's Hotel Zetta with a mindful bootcamp taught by our friends at Zenfit. In-store is a 45-minute bootcamp, followed by a meditation with aromatherapy featuring Aura Cacia essential oils. Afterwards, dig into healthy post-class treats from REBBL, Republic of Tea, Rise Bar and more. 

Nab your tickets here

LA’s Best Vegan Ice Cream, Better Than AC

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I popped by Brentwood Country Mart last week to grab a cup of dairy-free ice cream and accidentally spent around 45 minutes in the Goop shop smelling every bag of their very temptingly packaged new bath salts and then (prob on a slight bath salt high) seriously considered buying the entire apothecary merchandise thinking I could transform my tub and vanity games into GP’s. Which, thankfully, the staff ignored me out of doing. But back to the ice cream. I walked around the corner from Goop into Sweet Rose and ordered one scoop each of the vegan versions of dark chocolate and coconut, and left realizing I had just spent almost $10 on a one scoop of ice cream. Which made me think, ‘wow I could have just gotten an entire pint of Vegan Vixen or Van Leeuwen for that amount’. So in the spirit of totally overpaying for one of life’s great simple pleasures, here is a rundown of my favorite, overpriced-but-WORTH-it vegan ice creams in LA:

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Sweet Rose

A medium cup runs around $9, and the selection of non-dairy flavors like dark chocolate, bergamot basil and horchata coconut is small but mighty. There is normally a rotation of around four seasonal flavors, all of which taste like heaven. The place gets overrun with neighborhood kids and their carpool moms between 3-4pm, so plan accordingly. $4.50/scoop.

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Pressed Juicery

Honestly, this is more of a sugar splurge more than anything else. I mean, you’re walking into a juice shop with 10 flavors of green juice and ordering soft serve. Sure, no refined sugars are used in the process of making either the Freezes themselves (sweetened with dates) or the toppings like an amazing cacao drizzle that solidifies once it hits the frozen ice ‘cream’, but they taste pretty decadent. Flavors include a classic vanilla, chocolate, strawberry almond and matcha. $5.95 per 4 oz serving with toppings.

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Craig’s

I feel very strongly that one can never go wrong with a night at Craig’s. Unless you’re on a cleanse, I suppose. Martinis/vegan bolognese/hard-to-find wines/celeb sightings - it’s all right there. But most importantly, they serve a non-dairy ice cream made from a blend of coconut and almond milks brought in daily by a local vendor whose name they will not reveal. I think there are normally two or three flavors in rotation, but the signature peanut butter cup kills me with its richness and sweetness, so much so that I don’t even listen to the other flavors available on any given evening. $11 per massive bowl of ice cream

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Van Leeuwen

I really enjoy indulging in letting anyone/everyone who mentions Van Leeuwen know that I used to make almost nightly ice cream runs to the first Van Leeuwen truck on 75th Street and Broadway, 100 years ago. The thoughtfully designed but modest ice cream truck continues to service it’s OG artisanal best in flavors like vegan Sicilian pistachio, vegan honeycomb made without honey, salted caramel and chocolate chip cookie dough. And then when I moved to Williamsburg, so did the truck (nice of them), and then I eventually moved back to LA and thankful they already had four brick-and-mortar locations here ready to appease all of my Sunday treat cravings. $6 per scoop/$11 per pint.

For a full rundown of all of the vegan frozen desserts in LA, this awesome LAist post is pretty handy. And for a deep dive into Pressed Juicery’s Freeze, Passport to Friday had a wonderfully detailed post here.

 

SoulCycle's New HIIT Class is Murder, in the best way

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Right after our first set of intervals, as I gasped for air amid encouragement from instructor Laura Crago, I thought well, gym cycling classes are toast. After more than a year in a development by a team of master instructors, SoulCycle launched its new SoulActivate class on Tuesday, February 27. And it is a bitch (but in that I DID IT AND NOW I CAN DO ANYTHING kind of way).

Less about the sweaty playfulness and clubby choreography that put SoulCycle on the map, the hour-long, HIIT-style Activate class is the answer to critics who say Soul rides aren't scientifically optimal training for the cardiac system—a number of competing gyms and cycling studios have long focused on "smarter" programming that centers on increasing heart rate and strength training. Now, with an aggressive studio expansion and a following of veteran riders who could complete the traditional SoulCycle class in their sleep, the company is upping its game with the addition of this endurance-building class in studios throughout the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles.

The class begins as usual, with a warm-up song and a series of climbs and sprints with the brand's signature tap-back and push-up movements. At about minute 20, though, things took a more serious turn.

An extended weight-training session gave our legs a break but worked our arms using multiple, heavier weights than Soul's traditional rides. And then our instructor sprang it on us that we were in for some gnarly HIIT.

"This is how Olympic athletes train!" Crago shouted, pumping us up. "Pushing your heart rate as hard as you can, followed by real rest, is proven to make you a stronger rider, make you faster, make you better."

At what would have been halfway through a standard SoulCycle ride, we began a series of six intervals, turning up the resistance on our bikes until it felt like pedaling in quicksand. We spun as hard as we could for 20 seconds, then took a one-minute rest, our legs completely still, our chests heaving. After each run, Crago marked the number of sprints we'd completed on a whiteboard behind her; after the first, my legs felt thoroughly worked, my lungs like they were going to explode; after the sixth and final run, I felt like someone really should be handing me a medal.

After a brief reprieve sprinting on a lighter load, we rolled into a second set of intervals. I think I laughed as Crago announced what was coming—I'd barely finished that last set alive. (At this point in the class, a normal 45-minute ride would be over and I would be halfway down the street grabbing protein waffles at Project Juice.) But she wasn't joking, and we instead embarked on a series of eight sprints, 20 seconds each with just 10 seconds off. I honestly don't know how I made it through, but once we moved onto our final sprint song, I was high on my own oxygen and would do whatever she asked.

It's important to note that this class is definitely not for noobs: SoulCycle recommends riders take at least 10 standard classes before signing up for Activate. For experienced riders who already incorporate SoulCycle into a weekly fitness regime, the brand advises taking the new class about two times per week. For myself, I think once a week, as a way to really test and push my cardio system, is plenty ambitious.

Prices vary per market, more info at soul-cycle.com.

LA’s Vegan In-N-Out is in Chinatown (and it’s better than the real thing)

 @burgerlords

@burgerlords

It’s called Burgerlords. Across the street from a small framing shop that W+A art insider friends swear by, is Chinatown’s vegan-friendly burger joint Burgerlords. Orders get placed at an outdoor, fast-food styled walk-up window, behind which housemade vegan (and meat) burgers, and vegan animal-style fries called ‘lord of the fries’ are made. A handful of picnic-style tables sit in the middle of Chinatown’s Central Plaza for messily (and delightfully) stuffing thousand island-drenched fries, vegan burgers and cheeseburgers into your face. You can go nearly healthy with a traditional vegan burger on a lettuce wrap, or go full treat meal with a double vegan cheeseburger on a traditional bun with a full order of lord of the fries.

 @burgerlords

@burgerlords

It’s fun, worth-the-drive downtown detour for made-from-scratch burgers that are 100% our new favorite veggie burger in town. Fun fact: the whole Burgerlords concept stemmed from a Tumblr. Yup.

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