Thanksgiving Pop-Up with The Lusty Vegan(s)

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I had the great luck of catching up with Chef Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg on their Culinary Art Tour for their relationship manifesto/cookbook The Lusty Vegan. The post is live on The Vedge which I strongly encourage you to read {wink}. The tour concludes next week in Los Angeles with a chance to meet and eat with the dynamic vegan duo:

20141114-Kelly Bone-Lusty Vegan At Mohawk Bend (1)

On Monday November 24th, Chef Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg are bringing their new cookbook The Lusty Vegan to Mohawk Bend and preparing a monstrous Thanksgiving feast. I got ahold of the menu to share and frankly cannot wait to dive into this vegan holiday blowout! Yes, there are still some seats left…

First Course:
Waldorf salad

Second Course:
Corn and potato chowder with cornbread

Third Course (Served Family Style):
Savory bread pudding
Yams w/marshmallow
Wild rice stuffing
Seitan Wellington
Vodka cranberry sauce

Fourth Course:
Peach and plum cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Monday, November 24 @ 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35/pp
Mohawk Bend, 2141 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
RESERVE: authors@mohawk.la
Event details here

The Vedge: The Springs LA

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Life changed a lot this year. My beloved Slice was laid to rest along with my monthly pizza column. Unsure of future writing pursuits and research, I meandered through restaurant news in Los Angeles but have been mostly disconnected from it all. Slowly, the void filled with vegan food options research throughout Southern California. In the most lovely happenstance, just as I was feeling comfortable speaking on vegan dining options, The Vedge put out an open call for writers. I had a new writing home with a new vegan focus.

The Vedge writers are a dedicated group located across the country who will be sharing national vegan food news and reports. I’m thrilled with my first post, The Springs LA Combines Raw Vegan Food with Yoga, Music, and Pure Class, and look forward to sharing many more vegan adventures.

Kimberly Helms (Co-Founder of The Springs) and Joyce Rockwood (Colon Hydrotherapist) sharing a sweet moment during our tour of The Springs.

Eat the Veggie Grill Menu Challenge: Sandwiches

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This summer I won a $200 gift card from Veggie Grill in their Taste the Sunshine Instagram contest.  While my first instinct was to stuff my face with $200 worth of Crispy Cauliflower, I reluctantly let that dream go and instead committed myself to eat everything on the Veggie Grill menu! Two months later, I’ve burned through the gift card and have just a handful of items to go. This week I closed out my first category: Sandwiches.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is every sandwich on Veggie Grill’s menu:

Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ ($9.75) Fried Chickin’, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, spicy mayo. Blackened (non-fried) upon request

Possibly the most enduring of the Veggie Grill Sandwiches, the Santa Fe Crispy Chicken is often cited as the gateway dish for omnis to ease into vegan fast food. The breaded patty holds a juicy chickn’ slab so convincing I’ve seen people not realize it’s vegan

Grillin’ Chickin’ ($8.95) Grilled Chickin’, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro pesto, chipotle ranch

Part of the beauty of my Eat the Veggie Grill Menu Challenge is dropping my assumptions about dishes I haven’t tried… Like the Grillin’ Chickn’ Sandwich. I always figured it’s the same as the Santa Fe Crispy Chickn’ but without breading… and why would I want it without breading?! But, as it turns out, the “Blackened” Chickn’ is actually *more* flavorful than the crispy. In fact, this maybe a new favorite.

B.T.L.A. ($9.95) Smokey Tempeh bacon, sliced tomatoes, avocado, cilantro pesto tossed arugula, aioli mayo, grilled sourdough

During the Eat the Veggie Grill Menu Challenge I finally tried the universally loathed B.L.T.A.! Every Instagram post I’ve seen on this sandwich has given it a big fat thumbs down. Having now tried it, I’m unclear on where the yuck-factor comes from. I did order it with the garlic aioli on the side because I’m not a fan of aioli on anything. Otherwise, I’d say this a perfectly good sandwich that I probably would order again… in fact, I did!

Following @lxestrada‘s Pro-Tip, I ordered the B.L.T.A. as a wrap with Crispy Chickn’. OMG SO GOOD! I could eat this allday/everyday–except it cost $14. Le sigh…

Glazed Tofu Banh Mi ($9.95) Glazed 5-spice tofu, chargrilled eggplant, house-pickled carrots, white cabbage. Fresh jalapeños, basil, cilantro, mint leaves

Recently, new fall items arrived at Veggie Grill, like this awful Glazed Tofu Banh Mi! The tofu and herbs are fine, but it tastes like it’s served on a Generic Supermarket Brand hot dog bun… Ugh, maybe it’s better as a wrap. Update: It is not.

VG-Cheeseburger ($9.95) Topped with VG-Cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch. El Dorado Style upon request with jalapeños and caramelized onions.

Inside and out of food challenges, my go-to comfort item at Veggie Grill is The VG Cheeseburger Eldorado Style with tempeh bacon. It tastes like a Gardein/ Daiya mashup… completely fake, majorly messy. I’m sure it is terrible for me but I love it.

Buffalo Bomber ($9.65) Crispy Chickin’ tossed with spicy Buffalo sauce, tomato, red onion, lettuce, creamy ranch dressing

I use to LOVE the Buffalo Bomber at Veggie Grill… but then I discovered the B-Wing Salad and have never gone back. After revisiting this sandwich during the Eat the Veggie Grill Menu Challenge I still feel the same. For you see, I adore buffalo sauce and by slicing the fried chickn’ leads to an exponentially higher amount of buffalo soaked surface, hence more buffalo flavor. Plus the bun muddles the buffalo sauce further. So, in conclusion, the B-Wing Salad is better than the Buffalo Bomber because of math.

Bali Bliss™ ($8.45) Organic tempeh, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch. Blackened or Buffalo-style upon request. Add avocado 1.50

Not to be missed is the Bali Bliss BUFFALO STYLE. This sandwich is massive! I wouldn’t recommend getting the additional avocado. It make the sandwich too ‘creamy’ since it already has an ample amount of ranch dressing.

“Crab” Cake ($9.45) Crispy “Crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion

On the last day of the Eat the Veggie Grill Menu Challenge: Sandwiches, I tackled the two I dreaded–the most horrifying of which is the “Crab” Cake. The thick breaded patty is loaded with lumpy hunks of fish-like protein that mimics the real thing far too closely for this seafood loathing girl. The sweet relish of tarter sauce helps cut the ocean of flavor bellowing forth with every bite–but not enough, no, not enough for me. The flavors of the sea linger on my tongue, mocking me as my face crumples into a sour cringe and I push this dish into the arms of my gleefully awaiting BF. He devours it with innocent gusto. To those who enjoy the taste of seafood, per haps you will enjoy this dish; but to though whose bodies involuntary retreat at the mention of fish, this dish is far too “real” for us.

Papa’s Portobello ($8.95) Grilled mushroom, chopped tomato, basil and garlic pomodoro, caramelized onions, cilantro pesto, lettuce, red onion, chipotle ranch

There are lot of people–vegan and omni–who rag on Veggie Grill for focusing “too much” on imitating meat. My junk food heart completely disagrees. But for these folks interested in wholer-foods, the disgusting Papa’s Portobello is for them. The supple slab of charred portobello is loaded with chopped tomato, basil, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, cilantro pesto, lettuce, red onion and chipotle ranch. Much like seafood, I cannot even pretend to tolerate slippery mushrooms attempting to pass as burgers and this one packs way too much for me. I *know* I’m in the minority on ‘shrooms, but I also know there are others out there who deliver the long eye roll when a grilled portobello is the only veg option. For those like me, your mind will not be changed by this burger. For the other 70% of you who dig putting fungus in your mouth, enjoy.

BBQ “Steak” ($8.95) Veggie Steak in tangy BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, chipotle ranch, coleslaw

Bonus Sandwich! So, in the middle of this challenge, Veggie Grill transitioned to a new menu and dropped the BBQ Steak sandwich. Can’t say I’m surprised. Stuffed with strips of veggie-steak in tangy barbeque sauce, caramelized onions, chipotle ranch and coleslaw, this heavy, condiment soaked sandwich (I got it as a wrap) is not what appeals to me today. But it was the sort of dish I gravitated towards in the past. The BBQ Steak one of the very first things I tried at Veggie Grill when I moved to LA–and I totally hated it for all the same reasons I hate it today. I think it is way too saucy but I know a lot of people love this crap.

Wheatsville Food Co-Op (Austin, TX)

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The Instagram community amazes me. While frolicing thought Austin, reccomendations came pouring in. There are a few particular Instagrammers whose recommendations I always heed to, such as Alex Estrada (of Silver Snakes). Thanks to Alex, I hopped a bus up Guadalupe St and entered Wheatsvile Food Co-Op just in time to duck out of a passing downpour. The goal: Popcorn Tofu.

I entered the Co-Op with only those two words to guide me. After meandering through aisles, past generously stocked grab-and-go cases and a hot self-serve bar, I spotted the words at the Deli Counter.

The Deli offered two types: Popcorn Tofu and Buffalo Popcorn Tofu. Since it is impossible for me not to order vegan buffalo anything, I got a half and half pile of both. KFC’s Popcorn Chicken wasn’t a thing that people regularly ordered back when I was an omnivore, so I’ve never tried the popular original. Still, on its own merits, this is good stuff!

The tofu is frozen, thawed and pressed removed as much water as possible resulting in a denser/drier interior than most maybe use to. The chunks are coated in a wet (instead of the 2-3 step wet/dry process of dredging for a fried cutlet) seasoned cornmeal batter and deep fried for a firm bite of subtlety spiced favors.

Eating this big paper tray of relatively dry tofu may seem monotonous… and it was. But still delicious and totally worth going out of your way to try. I only wish my Instagram friends had told me before gorging myself on Mt. St. Tofu that the best way to consume Wheatsville’s Popcorn Tofu is inside of a Po Boy. Or at least with a side or their vegan Blue Cheez or Cashew-Tamari dressings which I had no idea was an option until I was far far away from Austin. Ahhhhh! Next time!

Wheatsville Food Co-Op
3101 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78705
wheatsville.coop

The Lusty Vegan or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Veg

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For months I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Manifesto for Vegans and the People Who Love Them, by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Actually, I’m still waiting—and you can wait with me by ordering a copy here. But until we all get our copy of this sexy cookbook, I got my hands on one of the recipes to try out now!

I tackled the Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa. Here is what Ayinde Howell’s version looks like:

Here is what mine looked like:

Not are pretty, but pretty close (except I burned the tofu and onions). Before you tackle this too I’m going to share a little knowledge nugget: Don’t use a cheap Cajun seasoning blend. Why? Because it is mostly salt and will make your dish very very very very very salty.

Not satisfied with my salty attempt, I tried again the next day:

Rounds two was much better. I picked up a salt-free Cajun seasoning. Losing the high dose of sodium brings out the herby nuance of the spice rub and highlights the white wine and butter sauce. Want to try you hand at this? Here is all you need to know:

Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes | Serves 2

Every now and then, I get lazy and hit the easy button. Often, this includes falling on my favorite prepared spice staple: Cajun seasoning. This rub is a nice blend of salt and red spices that can act as the undertone or the main flavor. In this recipe, it’s the main flavor. Traditionally, dirty rice is made with meat, rice, and herbs. I stripped it down to the main flavors and switched the rice to quinoa for extra protein. It is a flavorful dish guaranteed to satisfy. (From The Lusty Vegan © 2014 by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Used with permission from Vegan Heritage Press.)

QUINOA
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
1 tablespoon grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt

TOFU
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, frozen and defrosted
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari

BUTTER SAUCE
1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

GARNISH
1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

  1. Quinoa: In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then stir in the quinoa. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Set aside.
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly from the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional minute.
  1. Add the cooked quinoa and mix well. Add the tamari, Cajun seasoning, thyme, and red pepper flakes (if using), and mix until all ingredients are well-incorporated. Remove from the heat.
  1. Tofu: Cut the tofu into 4 slices, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Use a paper towel to press out as much water from the tofu as possible, then transfer the tofu to a shallow bowl. In a separate small bowl combine Cajun seasoning, basil, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and sage and mix well. Use your hands to gently rub the seasoning mixture onto the tofu, coating well. Set aside.
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and sear for 3 minutes on each side, until brown and slightly crispy. Add the water and tamari to the skillet and allow to reduce for 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the dirty quinoa onto the plates and top with the tofu.
  1. Butter Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the Cajun seasoning, basil, and sage. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup of the white wine and the cornstarch and sauté until mixture begins to bubble rapidly. Mix continually with a whisk or fork. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of white wine and allow the alcohol to burn off. It may flambé, but the fire won’t last long. Remove from the heat and stir until the sauce becomes cloudy. Immediately spoon the butter sauce over the plated quinoa and tofu and garnish with sliced grape tomatoes.

Blossoming Lotus (Portland, OR)

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When selecting a restaurant for our first breakfast in Portland I didn’t take kids—especially non-vegan kids—into account. Turns out, it didn’t matter.

The serene dining room at Blossoming Lotus did not immediately seem kid friendly. But without promoting, the waitresses dropped off a plastic cup of water with lid and straw along with our glasses. Maybe this is common, but because I’m not around kids often this move really impressed me. The Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll was his first choice, but the young man’s nut allergy preventing us ordering him one. Instead he ordered the Belgian Waffle ($12) topped with blueberry syrup, coconut whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, and powdered sugar. It was a kid pleaser! Even without maple syrup, dairy whipped cream or butter, he practically licked the plate clean.

I rarely pass up a vegan biscuit despite being constantly disappointment by them. But no disappointment found in the buttery Lotus Benedict ($13). A tender biscuit split in half and topped with tofu scramble, sausage patties, sliced tomato, wilted spinach, and hollandaise. Served with steamed kale and a slice of grapefruit to balance out the complexity of the Benedict.

When handed the menu, the Fig and Brie Sandwich ($10) immediately caught my attention. A ciabatta roll stuffed with creamy house made cashew brie, tempeh bacon, and arugula, spread thickly with fig jam and a coarse mustard. The sandwich was neatly stacked, with no fillings spilling out as I chowed down on this dish. Smokey and sweet, this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

Even the side of Roasted Potatoes ($3) is excellent. With enough salt and char to not require any accouterments.

For those lucky enough to have traveled to Kapaʻa, Hawaii on Kauai, yes this is the same restaurant you’ve encounter there. It’s a little slice of paradise in the PDX.

Blossoming Lotus
1713 NE 15th Ave.
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 228-0048
blpdx.com

Learning New Tricks With Vegan Cuts

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I’ve had the good fortunate of joining a vegan food swap earlier this year; but then the group took a two month hiatus. At that same moment, Vegan Cuts stepped in with this bounty. What arrived was a shockingly tiny box brimming with sample and full sized items… each and everyone new to me.

I had herd about Vegan Cuts previously, but never looked too far into it. I had assumed it was geared toward people in less vegan bountiful parts of the country. Living in Los Angeles I thought I had been exposed to all the best vegan snack items; but this little box put me in my place.

The immediate favorite was the Cinnamon Crunch nuggets by Somersault Snack Co. Crispy bite sized balls of wheat and sunflower seeds from a brand carried at the supermarket 50 feet from my office. I now have a hug bag of these on my desk… and to think, I would have never known about them without Vegan Cuts.

Other items included the by Snikiddy, the sample taste of Coromega Be Bright Superfood Oil, awesome vegan Watermelon Gummies by Surf Sweets, a huge bag of Ziggy Marley Salt & Pepper Roasted Hemp Seeds, Chic-a-Peas Falafel Roasted Chickpea (huge hit a party), Smooze Pink Guava Coconut Ice Pops and samples of pur-Absorb Iron supplement.

I was so impressed with every item. This box is very much worth the $20.00 price tag; plus it comes with free shipping. Vegan Cuts is a winner!

SunCafé (Los Angeles,CA)

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I rue the day I assumed SunCafé was a commonplace sandwich/salad/smoothie joint. It is so, so, so much more. The converted 1920’s ranch home (formally Zach’s Café) on Ventura Blvd extrudes warmth and comfort while the menu promotes whole food in comforting and familiar forms.

Chef Roy Elam—who shreds guitars along with carrots—heads the inventive menu of colossus salads, raw burgers, golden beet linguini and Reuben themed pizzas… but we had no room for those because we—Elana, Hanna, Alice and I—filled up just about everything else.

Sun Nachos—one of the most popular menu items—were the obvious starter. While debating whether to get the dish with baked blue corn chips or with raw thin-sliced jicama chips, the waitress chimed in “You can do a split order.” So that’s exactly what we did. Topped with “SunChorizo,” nacho cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeño, green onion and cashew sour cream this concoction makes the best vegan nachos I’ve had to date. Half of us loved the corn chips, the other half loved the jicama, so a split order is the perfect way to go! Me? I preferred the chips.

The Caesar Salad was not what we expected.  Crisp leaves of romaine lettuce and quartered cherry tomatoes are tossed in raw Caesar dressing with capers then lightly coated in garlic pecan crumble. Apparently there was also raw croutons in here… do you see them? I don’t. We asked the waitress and she swore they crushed up in there. Still, the subtly dressed salad refreshed the pallet; although I may eat my way through the rest of the salad menu before coming back around to the Ceasar.

Raw Cream of Mushroom Soup… I didn’t care for this one. The taste is subtle and refined, but the thick and frothy texture is not for me.

I had nearly given up on all vegan mac & cheese. From the ashes of the sloppy glue or watery plastic of most vegan versions rises the glory of SunCafé’s Mac & Cheese—and it’s gluten free to boot! Slender tubes of quinoa pasta are tossed with tiny diced tomatoes and then broiled in the smoothest-richest-most-perfect-ever cashew cheese sauce. Browned tips of pasta periscope up from the bubbling bath as chewy charred bits stick to the sides was we scrape it from the cast iron dish.

The Farmer’s Market Pizza was an unexpected pleasure. While the gluten free rice flour crust is mearly passable, the toppings sing. Market fresh figs sit atop white sauce (a blend of cashews, garlic, shallots, and nutritional yeast), with smokey tempeh bacon, peppery arugula, meyer lemon vin and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Owner Ron Russell approached our table as we debated who got the last slice. A tall (or so I think… we were sitting down) man with a beaming smile who accepted our raving compliments on the pizza but deflected them into the kitchen. “The kitchen suggested this combination… I wasn’t too sure about it. I mean figs? On a pizza…?” We all laughed. This moment of commodity distracted everyone as I stole the last slice.

I would have been happy to end the meal here, but most people love dessert. My friends are no exception. The loose, mouth-coating texture of cheesecake is one of my least favorite desserts ever; but cheesecake is the star of the menu here. I quickly learned why. The Cookie Dough Cheesecake is firm and dense—perfect for me—not too sweet and plenty for four hungry girls. The base is a mixture of cashews, coconut oil, and cacao nibs with other stuff (I’m not sure what) on top. It made a fan out of me; I still haven’t shut up about loving this cheesecake!

SunCafé
10820 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 308-7420
suncafe.com

Zoetic Supper Club: A Vegan Pop Up Dinner (Los Angeles, CA)

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The Californication of Detroit’s popular vegan pop-up dinner series Chartreuse unveiled this month as the Zoetic Supper Club.  In the spring of 2013 Chef Corinne Rice moved to Venice, CA, bringing her organic, plant-based pop up dinners with her. A graduate of the raw culinary Matthew Kenney Academy, her dinners express restrained elegance bursting forth with complex flavors that I’ve rarely encountered in raw vegan dining.

All of Zoetic menus are organic, gluten- and soy-free elegant displays of local produce and healthful intent. With roaming locations and musical accompaniment, each Zoetic Supper Club experience will be unique; no two venues, menus or musicians will ever be the same.

I was fortunate to attend the very first of the series—held May 22, 2014 at the G2 Gallery—and enjoyed an evening with new friends and four artistically crafted courses. The incredible Sasha Mari played tunes for us throughout the evening; and through she has directly behind me her music was like a hushed secret in my ear. An intimate dinner like Zoetic brings together like minded people, so although I arrived alone, I carried on conversations with everyone around me. I left with the contact information of a found wood craftsman, a new found interest in exploring the culinary offering of Reno, NV and a new PETA-employed friend.

At my seat I found a BYOB glass of wine and eatable words. Nestled in each napkin was a poem by Jacqueline Suskin to guide us through the evening.

To begin we pluck purple from earth
and know the tender tune of carrot,
sweetness of pea and all hints
of bitter blended with cool cream,
with kind herb and gentle seed.

Follow this with the warmth
of soup that sings its healing verse,
spice of ginger, bright bloom
of chamomile and bold bite
of nasturtium yo balance the cure.

Reliable brassicas steady
the tradition of curry
made sweet by calming coconut
and even sweeter by the grand guide of grape.

Southern sugar sends the final
message with what Mexican reds
can conjure in custard and pulling
its weight in purity the pistachio
provides proof that all can be good
when topped with wisdom
of relish held well by chocolate
and smoked salt.

first | purple carrots. peas. brussel chips. avocado cream. mint. basil. black sesame foam.

This was my favorite dish of the evening. Young peas and floral herbs play so well together. But it was the curls of purple carrots, crisp and smoked with a subtle ‘bacon’ flavor that  amazed me. Before this meal I’d never encountered these flavors in raw food. Simply astounding!

second | ginger. chamomile. nasturtium.

The unexpected soup, different from the published menu. Afterward Chef Rice explained she felt the menu might be too puree-heavy so changed this course to a vivid vegan consommé.  A mild broth with the heat of ginger and one peppery bite of nasturtium.

third | brassicas. saffron coconut curry. cilantro pesto. grapes.

The pale green puree hide a simmering spice that lingered after every bite. The plump florets of rainbow cauliflower, steeped in the coconut curry, were a satisfying end to the savory courses. I swept up every last bit of the cilantro pesto… with my finger!

fourth | Mexican red velvet custard. pistachio pastry. reishi chocolate sauce. smoked salt.

A stunning end. Two quenelle of raw chocolate custard splatted in chocolate relish—a ruddy mushroom—sauce holding a delicate pistachio wafer. It tasted as beautiful as it looked.

The next dinner will he held Saturday July 26, 8pm at C.A.V.E Gallery 1108 Abbot Kinney, Venice… and it’s BYOB!

Basil Thai (Paso Robles, CA)

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Driving the 500 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles I planned to take my vegan boyfriend to my favorite veggie friendly spot in central California: Thomas Hill Organic in Paso Robles. Unfortunately a private event derailed our plans. Scrolling through Yelp we saw the v-word pop up for Basil Thai and headed that way.

It’s a traditional plastic gilded interior on the Paso Robles square. The staff is friendly and thankfully knowledgeable:  Our waitress let us know that EVERYTHING is made with fish sauce. Releasing exacerbated sighs, the kind that only come after hours of highway driving, the waitress leaded in and whispered that there were two things we could order.

The first dish out were little bites of Meaing Kum ($7). Fresh leaves of spinach leaves are stuffed with roasted coconut, ginger, onion, lime and roasted peanuts. The traditional Miang Kham sauce is made with fish sauce, so the waitress replaced it with a sweet chili sauce. Unsure of what to do, we placed bits of everything into the leaves and shoved it into our mouths. Mixed together, these elements normally used as garnish make a sweet-tart-crunchy starter. I loved it!

Made with sweet soy sauce, the Pad See Eaw Noodles ($15) is the only vegan noodle option. The price is excessive considering the portion, but the wide rice noodles with tofu, carrots and broccoli were fresh and filling. The charred crunchy bits of the chewy noodles noodles were the best part of the dish. We quickly devoured the carrots and broccoli then hopped back on the 101.

I’m incredibly grateful that Basil Thai accommodated us on the long drive home.

Basil Thai 
828 11th St
Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 238-9945
basilinpaso.com

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