Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Gotta love Groupon. Or at least, I do. As far as I'm concerned there is no better way to try out new restaurants than on the cheap, so it was with Groupon in hand that the husband and I headed out to Credo a couple weeks ago. Having been eating at all-vegan places pretty often, I was chomping at the bit to get into an omnivorous restaurant and demand things be veganized!

After perusing the menu and placing our order, we enjoyed reading all the "I believe..." quotes splashed on the walls. This would be a great first date place because some of the statements make for excellent conversation starters. I mean, it worked for us and we've been together 10 years! We were noshing on the fantastic focaccia and spicy olives (left) while chatting and, just as our banter was really getting going, we found ourselves with appetizers:

I started as I usually do - with a green salad. This one was particularly good and came complete with slivers of yellow carrots, fresh cherry tomatoes and some wonderful red and green lettuces. It was maybe slightly overdressed, but still very tasty. Good start. For my main dish, I went with three different sides, all of which were inherently vegan so I didn't end up having to demand much of the kitchen after all. Win win!

First I tried the spinach. I love spinach and here it is married perfectly with olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Simple goodness at its finest.

Next to meet my mouth were the potatoes. These spuds are oven roasted with rosemary and olive oil and are so yummy! I mean, I don't think I've ever met a potato I didn't like, but these are really really good.

Saving the best for last, I had the roasted veggies. It's not every restaurant that has a roasted vegetable side dish that includes squash and purple cauliflower. Beautifully seasoned and very colorful, I could have happily eaten my way through a couple bowls of these guys.

So there you have it. Yet another omnivorous kitchen with lots of inherently vegan stuff on the menu. Gotta love it. Even without a Groupon, "I believe" Credo is a good deal!

Next up, eats of the peninsula....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Simply Sublime

Every trip to Florida I take must include a stop over in Fort Lauderdale. Yes, the beaches are lovely, but I go for the food at Sublime. An aptly named restaurant if there ever was one, I have never been disappointed with any dish I've ordered there. Quite the opposite, in fact, and this last trip was no exception. I even managed to forgo my favorite dish on the menu and try something new. Result? New favorite. In fact, this may have been the best meal at Sublime I've ever had!

It all began with the creamy, garlicy, and divine Caesar salad. The lettuce was crisp and the croutons still warm, but really it was all about that luscious dressing. When we mentioned it to the hostess, she informed us they were trying to bottle it and get it into stores. I would be so stoked if I could buy this stuff in SF. So good. In fact, I was still basking in the glow of my salad when my amazing entree showed up!

Sublime does this awesome thing where you can pick 4 sides and call it a meal... and so I did! My motive in doing so was to finally satisfy the mac and cheese craving I've been having ever since that yuck-o experience in NJ, and boy did this ever do the trick. I'm not going out on a limb at all in saying that it's the best mac and cheese you'll ever have. I don't know what kind of magic they put in there, but I know it's all topped with breadcrumbs and gets crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside and it's heaven. In addition, the BBQ tofu was savory, sweet, tangy, and delicious, the kale salad was crisp and refreshing (and added some vague semblance of healthiness to this meal) and the cauliflower mash was just as rich, creamy, and comforting as mashed potatoes. Entree utopia.

Ok, so the truth is I was only able to order my new-to-me entree because my cousin ordered my old fave, the picatta (above), and promised to share a bite or two. Let it be known: The picatta is RIDICULOUS. If you've never been, make it your first meal at Sublime (and get it with mashed potatoes!). Even the one bite I had made me swoon and fall in love with it all over again.

For dessert, she ordered the apple pie and it was all warm and crisp and wonderful, like an apple pie should be. But really? Apples are not dessert. And so I got....

... the Chocolate Nirvana cake of course. It doesn't come with that scoop of vanilla ice cream, but trust me, you'll want to order it ala mode. This is some rich, not-for-the-faint-of-heart, chocolatey goodness, and the vanilla ice cream cuts it just enough to make it humanly possible to finish. Which I did. Easily.

So there you have it, folks. I love Sublime and I already can't wait to go back. You should go. The end.
Oh, and because I have only one pic and it was the only food we ate in Miami, here's the awesome vegan platter at The Cafe at Books and Books in Miami Beach. If, like me, you only have a few hours in South Beach, this is the place you should go. Separate vegan menu, every choice a winner. The black bean hummus alone (see it back there on the right?) is worth the trip.

Next up: Believe it or not, I've been to a few new places in San Francisco since being back home, so stay tuned for some good eats by the Bay!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Central Florida Eats

For whatever reason, the central east coast of Florida is not so hip to the vegan thing. This does not mean there isn't good food to be had. You might just have to work a little harder to find it.

My grandmother lives in Edgewater, right near the very fun town of New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona. The beaches are amazing (as seen from the pic I took above), with soft white sand and warm blue water that I happily lazed in on many a day. However, for vegans, the restaurant options are slim. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like salad and french fries, but not for every meal. Luckily, Heath's Natural Foods is right on the main drag ready to sell you organic produce and pre-packaged vegan delights. Needless to say, I cook a lot when I'm with grandma. But on those nights where we just have to get out of the house, there are a few good options nearby.

First up is the relatively new Big Planet Pizza (view of the ceiling from my seat, above). Right on Route 1 in Edgewater, it is not only convenient to Grandma's house, they serve some good grub!

This Greek salad (without the feta) was seriously yummy and made for the perfect start to my meal. The salty olives, tangy pepperoncini, and lush marinated artichokes married perfectly with the crispy greens and tomatoes. Honestly, it was way better than I expected it would be and I'd order it again in a heartbeat.

And then there was, of course, the pizza. I got the "Veg Head" without the cheese and it was very tasty. True to its name, it is covered with tons of veggies. The tomato sauce wasn't sweet enough to counteract the strong red onion taste, but other than that, it was a damn good pie. I've become such a pizza snob living in SF! Sigh... Next time, I'll probably just do the create-your-own thing and not include any onions.

On another night, we headed to Stonewood Grill in Port Orange for some slightly more fancy-pants food and I was pleasantly surprised by the vegan options. The lighting in there was very dim, so the salad above may not look like much, but it was really good. A light and refreshing vinaigrette plus the lovely additions of pine nuts, mushrooms, and string beans, make this a winner.

For my entree, I had the hummus flatbread. This thing was delicious! A crispy flatbread gets smothered with hummus and topped with tons of julienned veggies like squash, red bell peppers, and cabbage. A winning dish for sure. Just remember to get it without the cheese. Same goes for the salad too.

Okay, so central Florida wasn't so bad, but up next, I go back to one of my favorite restaurants on the planet in Fort Lauderdale. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Always In the Mood for Food

Time to take a break from my summer travel eats and tell you about the amazing meal I had last night. We, lucky folks that we are, headed to another installment of In the Mood for Food's dinner/concert series and were, yet again, overwhelmed with the quality of food and entertainment. The menu was a pan-Mediterranean feast and solo bassist, Mark Dresser, blew us all away with his sensational sonorities. (That's him playing, with Chef Philip watching in awe, over on the left.)

First to hit the table were these accompaniments - a tiny mince of jalapeno, and a cucumber salsa. The straight pepper was a bit much for me but the salsa was perfect. It had just the right amount of heat and I loved stirring it into my....

... gazpacho! This was a delicious blend of tomatoes, veggies, and herbs that really whet the appetite for the rest of the meal. Best gazpacho I've had in a long time if not ever.

Next up we had a fattoush salad. This is exactly the kind of food I love eating - substantial but not heavy. In this case that meant lots of greens and veggies, hummus, and shredded bread all tossed in a light and vinaigrette. The hummus itself was quite impressive - rich and smooth - and I thought this salad was the bee's knees (or some other more vegan-friendly phrase).

The small plate for the evening was the show-stealer for me. These roasted squash blossom were stuffed (2 with a homemade vegan ricotta and 1 with a red lentil pate) and smothered in an heirloom tomato sauce that was to die for. Not only aromatic and visually enticing (the picture doesn't do it justice), this dish was supremely tasty. It definitely rivaled all the best dishes served at high-end vegan restaurants like Millennium. Chef Philip really knocked it out of the park on this one.

But the entree was no slouch either! Bright and vibrant flavors exploded in this stuffed zucchini dish. With a ton of summer veggies, Rancho Gordo beans, and an herb/rice mixture that In the Mood for Food could package and sell, it was a great ending to the savory dishes. We were all completely sated and ready for some music. After that? Dessert, of course!

Still whirling from the vibrations of double bass in our bones, we all turned our attention back the table just in time for this vision of beauty to arrive. Our dessert was a tofu and yuzu 'cheese'cake with a walnut/date crust and a berry sauce to beat the band (unless, of course, the band is Mark Dresser, in which case it's a tie). It was a smooth and creamy, sweet and delightfully tangy, ending to our evening.

I've said it before, but I will go to as many of these dinner concerts as possible. I always leave impressed, inspired, and FULL! :) I highly recommend everyone in the Bay Area makes their way to one asap!

Next up: I return to the summer eats and take you all over Florida, culinarily speaking anyway. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sprig & Vine

Ever since my family did a guest blog post about this new restaurant in New Hope, PA, I've been dying to go. So it was was a very happy day at the beginning of the month when me and my bestest headed over the border to our old stomping grounds. If you've never been, New Hope is a great little town just over the river from NJ. They've got tons of cute shops, good bars and restaurants, and now they have Sprig & Vine too! An upscale, yet casual, vegan eatery is exactly what New Hope was missing, and now they are complete. Seriously, go.

Since it was a Sunday, they were only serving brunch, but what a brunch it is! I was just sad we were too full to try more of the offerings. Here's what we did manage to scarf down:

That, my friends, is a tofu benedict. Two crispy tofu "eggs" sit atop smoked tempeh and spinach which are all piled on english muffin halves. Then the whole shabang gets coated in a rich hollandaise sauce and is served up with the best darn potatoes you've ever eaten. What flavor and texture! It was freakin' insanely good. That's all there is to it.

Up next we ordered the caraway crusted tempeh rueben. Oh lord. I love this sandwich more than any human being should love an inanimate object. It's got thousand island, sauerkraut, pickles.... and the bread is deepest darkest pumpernickel you ever did taste. Heaven. It is making me sad just writing about it because I can't devour it again any time soon. Sigh.

Because we ordered two savory dishes we figured we'd end with a little sweet - an order of the light and fluffy, warm and fresh, cinnamon sugar donuts. I've had quite a few vegan donuts in my day, but none as good as this. They are melt-in-your-mouth fantastic.

So, needless to say, my visit to Sprig & Vine was worth the wait and I'm already trying to figure out how to sneak in another trip when I'm back in the area next time. I mean, if this was just brunch, dinner must be stellar!

Up next: It's off to Florida for good eats of the Sunshine State. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vegan Eats in NJ

Vegan-friendly restaurants are popping up all over the darn place these days, so it should come as no surprise that my home state of NJ now boasts some seriously good eats. I had the pleasure of dining at a few great establishments on my recent trip, and I'm happy to report they were all chock full of patrons happily eating their veggies.

First up? Frenchtown, NJ's Lovin' Oven. It's not all veg by any means, but they are very vegan-friendly (they even serve vegan baked goods!). Plus, I love the name, and I love that they have a huge painting of an oven full-o-love on the wall (above). Of course, all of that would mean nothing if the food sucked. Well it doesn't.

I certainly felt the love in this salad: Fresh-from-the-garden veggies with a perfect mustard vinaigrette. What more can you ask for from a side salad? And then there was the sandwich:

This grilled veggie is served on toasted pita and filled with charred veggies, olive tapenade, and hummus. It may not sound like much, but a grilled veggie sandwich done right can be heavenly, and this one is. Love accomplished.

Next up I hit an old fave in a new spot. The all-vegan Kaya's Kitchen may have moved to a much larger and spiffier location since my last visit, but the food remains superb (with one exception - we'll get to that later). Let's look at some starters, shall we?

On the left, we have Kaya's platter with wings, ribs, nuggets, potato salad and 2 dipping sauces. The bbq sauce on the ribs alone is enough to warrant ordering this plate of faux meat delights. All of it is savory, lip-smacking goodness. If you go, get it! We also tried the mezes platter, which you see on the right. This delicious assortment of grilled pita, falafel, tabouleh, and baba ganoush is a beautiful thing that got devoured by our large group in no time. We were off to a great start.

Then I got my mac-n-cheese. Terrible. Worst ever. Runny, tasteless garbage. I mean, do you ever hear of me not finishing anything? No, because I am a glutton to the Nth degree even if the food is mediocre. This, however, was inedible. My mom claims that she'd had it before at Kaya's and it was good, but that my order looked completely different than was she got, so maybe they reformulated? I dunno, but it was nasty. Moving on....

My uncle's enchiladas were the bomb! Spicy and oozing with goodness, I was glad he asked me to help him finish. I wish I could eat them right now. So so tasty. Next time I'm there I already know what I'm ordering. As for the rest of us, everyone else was happy with their orders which ranged from perogies to burgers to lentil loaf and mashed potatoes. The mac-n-cheese was the anomaly of the evening for sure.

Back in omnivore land, I took a trip to Triumph Brewery in Princeton for a big friends and family meal. Theirs is a beer-focused menu, and heavy on the meat and cheese. However, they are surprisingly vegan-friendly. I don't know too many breweries who have a tasty red pepper hummus appetizer plate (eaten before photographed) or entrees that look like this:

It's a tempeh and grilled veggie panini at a brewery! Gotta love that, but what you really gotta love is the hearty wheat bread, smoky tempeh, and charred red bell peppers. It's a really spot-on sandwich. Vegans can triumph at Triumph!

The rest of my NJ meals were had at home, but there is a new restaurant with spectacular food not far from the state line. That, my friends, deserves a blog post of it's own, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New York!

I love a trip to the Big Apple. I try to make it there a few times a year and I'm always amazed. Vegans in NYC, your cup runneth over. For this reason, my short visits always involve the same question: Do I return to old favorites for the food I love or do I try out any of the numerous spots I've yet to visit? Well, I set out to do a little of both on this trip.... and failed. In a good way. Let's start with something new, shall we?
For dinner we went to the Organic Grill. Cute, no? This small cafe is not all vegan, but there are plenty of options. My choice for the evening was the mesclun salad with cashew ranch dressing and tempeh bacon.

The 'bacon' was beautifully smoky and the dressing was creamy and delicious. One of the better salads I've had for sure, and I would have ordered more but I was saving room for dessert at Lula's Sweet Apothecary - an old favorite just a few short blocks away. So we left Organic Grill and headed out into the city's July heat for some of the best ice cream in the world.... and were greeted by a CLOSED sign. Sadly, Lula's air conditioning was broken and they had to close up shop. On the one day I was in NYC. Boo! (See you in October, guys...)

Luckily, I quickly remembered that Cocoa V, the all vegan chocolate shop I've wanted to try for a while, served ice cream alongside their fantastically decadent chocolates (above). Out with the old favorite and in with the new (to me) place! We got in a cab and were there in no time. Our bellies were hungry for some sweets and boy were we not disappointed.

In addition to the wide variety of chocolates we sampled (all unbelievably good) we also got our ice cream fix. My sundae may have been simple - vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream - but it was divine. A sweet and refreshing way to end a hot day in the city.

But wait, there's more! Earlier in the day I met up with new friend and fellow vegan blogger, Evan of bjorkedoff, who baked me a dozen of the most amazing vegan danishes EVAH. They were flaky, buttery (yes, it is still possible to be buttery without butter) and full of yums like chocolate and peanut butter. If you're in NYC and want some of your own (and you do!) contact Evan through his blog and order some and be happy.

That's it for NYC this time around. I'll be spending more time there in October, but next up: The vegan eats in NJ just keep getting better. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Suburban Boston Eats

Hi, hello, and howdy! I know I've been out of touch for a while. Apologies. I've been eating so well for so long while traveling and it's actually been kind of overwhelming to look at all the great food photos and figure out where to start. Then I had an epiphany: Start at the beginning, dummy. In this particular case, that would mean Boston. Well, not Boston proper, as my friends in that neck of the woods are suburbanites, but whatever. Let's talk food!

My first dining out experience of the trip was at The Pongal in Billerica. This was authentic Indian food, as evidenced by the fact that we were the only white people in the place. Always a good sign. Lover of all things South Indian as I am (yes, that includes my husband), I ordered a dosa:

So good! It arrived steaming hot, stuffed with potatoes and onions and spices, and served with some of the most mouth-watering chutneys I've ever had. I've had many dosai in my life, and this is up there with the best. Way to bring it, Billerica!

The next morning, we headed out to brunch at The Red Lentil. This place is all vegetarian with plenty of vegan options and their brunch is to die for. My friend, and fellow vegan, and I decided that she would order a savory dish and I would order sweet so that we could share. Such a good call:

This tofu scramble was super yummy and even had little bites of squash in it, but the potatoes were the show stopper. They were perfectly crispy with just the right amount of onion and herbs. Mmmmm. But wait, there's more!

Vegan sweet potato pancakes! I mean, right? Amazing. Sweet, but not cloying, and drenched in a lick-the-plate blueberry maple syrup. I died.

After brunch we rolled ourselves out of there and took a road trip to Rawbert's Organic Garden in Beverly and picked up a whole bunch of stuff to have for dinner. This is a mostly raw cafe with tons of options, so it was hard to choose what we wanted. After much debate, here's what we got:

Ok, so I made the salad, but the almond hummus, falafel chunks, and flax crackers are all Rawbert's, and all supremely tasty. The hummus, in particular, was fantastic. Garlicy, smooth, and satisfying.

We also got rich, decadent cashew butter cups. Oh yeah.

And of course we had to get cookie sandwiches. These were not raw, but still vegan, and they totally reminded me of these cookies I used to eat when I was little. Love when food does that. :)

So, on my last day in the Boston area, I had to go back to an old favorite: Veggie Planet. At this pizza and salad joint in Cambridge, most things can be made vegan by subbing the cheese with Teese or with their homemade tofu-basil mash. Here's my already vegan "Oddlot":

This is a tasty combo of tomatoes, olives, garlic, and the tofu-basil mash. Better still, Veggie Planet has, hands down, the best pizza crust I have ever tasted. Ever. It is whole wheat with a cornmealy vibe to it. Honestly, I don't know what goes into it and I don't care. It is superior to all other pizza dough and I worship it. And, to make it even better, it comes from Haley House Cafe and Bakery, a local non-profit restaurant that supports all sorts of good in the community.

So, yeah, I like me some Veggie Planet, and all the other veg-friendly eateries in the Boston area too. I make my way there once a year or so and there always seems to be more options each time I come. Hopefully that trend continues!

Up next: Eating well in NYC.