15 August 2011

Nouveau comfort food company spreading vegan/vegetarian goodness in LA

My good friend Mike Jackson has done some pretty cool things. He's managed Grammy Award winning singer John Legend, the two now have a production company together, and he's produced some awesome movies that star the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith. Nothing to sneeze at. But it's his new venture that really has my interest piqued. He's joined forces with the owners of the highly popular and members only San Diego restaurant Spread for their new LA store by the same name that sells one thing and one thing only- their delicious vegan and vegetarian spreads.

What kind of spread, you ask? Well, it's kind of like peanut butter on steroids. Every spread is 92% peanut or almond, but with a different dash of tongue tantalizing flavor thrown into each one. Every spread is hand-mashed and organic, and there are over 130 flavors in all: including dark-chocolate-curry peanut spread, "Cannabis Kissed" chocolate peanut spread, butterscotch-almond butter, and if you're like me and like your chocolate really rich, there's a gold and dark chocolate peanut spread, which actually includes 23K edible gold. You can get yourself a 4 oz. jar for $10 each.

It sounded intriguing and equally delicious, so I had to see what all the hype was about for myself. I stopped by the new store on Melrose Ave. last week and was instantly impressed by the adorable decor and clever variations of their catchphrase "Edible Innuendo" that were used as part of their front window display. I tried the spread, and loved it. It was recently featured in Daily Candy and on The Food Network with chef Tyler Florence, I certainly see what all the raving has been about. I would liken the treat to a gourmet Nutella, but this one is, you know...actually good for you and not chalk full of sugar and preservatives. All the vegan flavors I tried were pretty much mind blowing and with more than 130 different flavors to try, even the ones that sounded questionable were quite tasty. I decided to help hand out samples of the delicious stuff to passerby on the street to get their reaction. Not surprisingly, everyone loved it and I quickly became the most popular girl on Melrose Ave.

Just like there's more than 130 different flavors, it seems like there's 130 different ways to eat the stuff too. My favorite of course, being the heathen that I am, is to eat it straight out the jar. But some of the other popular uses are putting it on bread, crackers, and even oatmeal! Waking up early in the morning just got a lil' easier!

I got the chance to interview Andrew Schiff, the man behind it all who runs the business with his wife Robin to find out more about Spread.

What was the inspiration for opening your San Diego vegetarian restaurant?
Vegetarian food - actually, any type of fresh, organic food, is what we naturally gravitate to. Here in San Diego, we're so lucky to have a year round climate and so many amazing farms that provide us with incredible produce. This was the extension of our appreciation of what's local, and we specialize in rare fruit, veggies, and edible produce that farms we work with grow especially for our restaurant.

I see you and your wife are the owners, are you both vegan and/or vegetarian?
We are both vegetarian.

What made you decide to bring the Spreads to LA?
We created the LA Spread pop up because people have been asking us for years to open up another location up here! The LA market has been really excited and welcoming to us, and they really get it.

Should we Angelenos be keeping our fingers crossed for a full restaurant here anytime soon?
We are definitely interested in opening up another Spread restaurant in the LA area in the future.

There are 130 flavors of the legendary Spread, which one is your favorite?
Favorite Spread? Wow, for us, it's almost like asking us which is our favorite kid! We love to use the cinnamon cherry in oatmeal or smoothies in the mornings, we love to put the white chocolate strawberry on a sandwich, and we love the dark chocolate pretzel on ice cream or bruleed bananas. We really love them all!

How many of the flavors are actually vegan?
About a third of our flavors are vegan.

There are also numerous uses for the Spread, where are your favorite places to put it?
We love to dip apples, bananas, strawberries, and other fruit in our spreads.

Spread has been getting a lot of hype in the media, what have been some of the highlights and biggest accomplishments for the brand so far?
For us, its all about the word of mouth recommendations from our happy customers. That's really the best for us.

What is your ultimate goal for the brand?
Our goal? World Domination.

I hear there's a Spread cookbook coming soon...do share some details of what we have to look forward to with this.
Yep, we've been hard at work putting our finishing touches on the Spread cookbook. We'll keep you posted!

Sounds delish right?! If you're an Angeleno, drop whatever you're doing and go pick up a jar or two. And if you don't live in the City of Angels, have no fear, you can order online as well! Don't forget to grab or order a container from their line of Spread for dogs, so your pooch doesn't mad dog you when you get home without a lil' something special for them. Fido will love it and will certainly feel like the most pampered pooch in all the land...or at least on your block.

Spread LA: 7350 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036
Follow them on Twitter here.
And find out more about the San Diego restaurant here.

Hayley Marie Norman | @xoHayleyMarie
Hayley Marie, a vegan, is a Los Angeles based actress that has appeared in numerous films including Hancock and Fired Up, as well as several tv shows such as Crash, CSI:NY, and CSI:Miami. She is also known as being the girl with the wild crazy afro, aka #25, on Deal or No Deal. For more information about Hayley Marie check out her blog.

Photo credit: Screen Capture