valerie fidan food photographer in portland, or in the pacific northwest

Hi, I'm Valerie! I'm a content creator and visual storyteller based in Portland, OR. I'm also a wellness writer for SWEATLet's Regale is a space filled with bits + bites of real food, life and travel that are part of my everyday life. It's a breeding ground for ideas and excitement for a balanced and inspired lifestyle.


Insiders Guide to Los Angeles

Insiders Guide to Los Angeles

Three days in Los Angeles is just enough time to see all sides of this sprawling city, especially if you plan your days geographically. A hike is a great way to start the day before exploring the boutique shopping, the plethora of healthy eating options, and enjoying some beach time. A cultural day of museums, galleries and landmarks will highlight the city's center. Head west and wander the beach, boardwalk, and bustling streets will fill day three. And, no matter what time of the year you visit, Summertime weather is in store. 

Having grown up in California, I love to stay on top of what new fitness-eating-health crazes are sweeping the West Coast. Taking time to make a wellness weekend out of LA was just what I needed this winter. 

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My recent trip to LA was short but filled with plenty of fun with plenty to share in this guide of the places that make So Cal feel familiar and quintessentially LA -- of health and wellness, sunshine and kombucha, a healthy dose of meditation, yoga, and yummy eats paired with organic cocktails – it’s LA. It's also a place that was on the agave bandwagon well before it was trending. 

By virtue of being in Los Angeles, the access to fresh produce and vibrant flavors make it a no-brainer to eat clean and alkaline, and to fill your belly with the meals that make you look and feel fantastic. Plus, when it’s bikini season virtually ten months out of the year, you’re sure to find some added inspiration to take care of your body. Above all of that, the way of life in LA is all about taking care of your mind and spirit just as much as your body.

Ready to for another adventure this time by the way of LA? Here is my guide to a healthy LA of favorite eats, hikes, libations, and California love:


Eat Well

The Butcher's Daughter lives up to the hype! The Butcher's Daughter is a plant-based restaurant, cafe, juice bar and “vegetable slaughterhouse." Don't worry I was thrown off by the name as well. It's a place were fruits and vegetables are treated as a butcher would meat: We chop, fillet and carve fresh produce into healthy vegetarian dishes and press them into pretty juices. 

I was pretty darn excited to eat Cafe Gratitude. Years ago there was a Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco that was a favorite. It closed down abruptly, leaving patrons longing for this plant-based cafe. Obviously, this would be on my list of places. Cafe Gratitude is a rite of passage if you're in California. The concept and theory behind the restaurant translate into every aspect: the food, the presentation of the food, the ambiance, and the kind waiters. It's very refreshing to have something like this in today's world and the question of the day is very cute. The care for ingredients, the body, and the environment are staples in why this place does so well. The food was pretty good-expensive but that's what comes with all sourced ingredients made by the house. 

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Moon Juice, a small little shop in Venice with a serious menu of juice options; all with a list of how they help aid and stimulate your system. I first found out about Moon Juice from postings my friend Shayla Quinn had posted about on Instagram. I had to visit especially because of my new found adaptogen craze. I got a couple juices and nut mylks, all filled with adaptogens, to go and they were all delicious. If you're looking for some clean healthful fluids while heading to quirky Venice Beach, Moon Juice is definitely worth the stop!

There is no shortage of cold pressed juices and smoothie shops in LA. But, of course, a stop at Pressed Juicery is a must. And if you want to 'shroom it up (not in the magical mushroom way) there is Four Sigmatic Shroom Room in Venice. Learn and taste the various adaptogenic mushroom and how they can help elevate your health. Fonuts is a baked and steamed, never fried donut shop that will leave you wanting more and more!

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Real Food Daily is the original vegan restaurant in LA – with two locations, and a menu as varied and inviting as it is healthy (think Mexican-inspired vegan tacos, seasonal platters, and delicious cashew cheesecake that’s heavenly). I always crave their “real food meal” which is a perfectly balanced plate of pickled veggies, garlicky greens, beans, grains, and a dressing of your choosing. I love the lime cilantro one, and literally order this to take on the plane before every flight!

A Mexican restaurant which also happens to be vegan and owned by the same people who have Gratitude Cafe, and another San Francisco fave of mine is Gracias Madre. I was surprised to find on in LA as well. The food is delicious and the space is just beautiful – a great spot for drinks, as well as for margaritas laden with agave and fresh fruits.

La Scala  is a Beverly Hills institution, and when I’m home there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t have their chopped salad with turkey. It’s beyond simple – shredded lettuce, shredded turkey, garbanzo beans, and I add cucumbers and tomatoes. This salad is one of those mysteries in life to me – I can try as I might to recreate it at home, but La Scala does something magical to this thing. It’s worth a stop – and great for star sighting as well.

M Cafe offers macrobiotic meals served up daily. Their breakfast burrito in a brown rice wrap is craveable, and their salad selections and miso salmon are equally delicious. I go here for a casual meal or for takeout. The last time I was there I saw Alicia Silverstone. Healthy foodies always find the right spots.

The holy grail of health food stores, Erewhon, how could one not stop here? Whether you are grocery shopping, grabbing a meal to go or sitting at the elixir bar, you will find every product you need that makes eating healthy so easy. Biodynamic wines, house made kombucha, collard green wraps are just the beginning. It’s awesome!

Just hands down my favorite sushi in LA is Sushi Park. Sit at the sushi bar and order omakase. It’s in a strip mall as most good LA sushi spots are, and they have a sign that says “No California rolls.” Don’t come here if you’re looking for cream cheese in your hand roll – it’s just beautiful, clean, fresh sushi... they way it should be.


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Be Well

My favorite workout in LA is Pilates Platinum. There are four locations and they are all just as great for a full body toning experience with great music and awesome instructors. There’s a reason Alessandra Ambrosio comes here to keep her Victoria Secret model figure in shape – the energy is great, the music is awesome, and most importantly – it works. Speedplay, LIT Method, Lagree Fitness, and Playlist Yoga are other places that are worth paying a visit to. 

LA is filled with great hiking trails. My favorite being Los Liones where you can trail run and see a stunning view of Santa Monica, Malibu, and on a clear day all the way out to Catalina Island. I can’t do this list without including Runyon Canyon. My relationship with this hiking trail is love/hate. There are about four different routes at various levels, dogs run free, and the views are beautiful (you can see all of downtown LA and Hollywood). The hate part is that on weekends it can get crowded and there is endless Hollywood talk of auditions and projects that are greenlit. If that’s entertaining to you, or if you just tune it out, you’ll be tapping into a quintessential LA hike.

Vedic Meditation with Light Watkins is a place you must visit! I was introduced to Light through my good friend a while back. Light is one of those people whose energy is palpable the moment you meet him – transcendent, calming, therapeutic. He teaches seminars or privates for those seeking enlightenment. It makes the daunting process of meditation so simple. It’s changed my life.

 Just an hour outside of LA is the Deepak Chopra's The Chopra Center, a center offering classes, seminars for self improvement and a spa as well (where you can get an amazing Ayurvedic massage).

The most perfectly curated shop for all natural products is The Detox Market. Be it beauty products and candles, lovely gifts and chemical free nail polishes. (Plus it’s next door to Beverly Hills juice where you can go to one of the OG places for fresh pressed juice. Can’t beat a classic).

Insiders Guide to Madrid

Insiders Guide to Madrid