A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

Tag Archives: San Diego

Donut Panic

[caption id="attachment_2893" align="alignnone" width="640"]Donut Panic Sign Donut Panic Sign[/caption]

 

MISSION VALLEY/MISSION GORGE.  Donut Panic proves that vegan donuts can absolutely compete with their non-vegan counterparts.  Located on Mission Gorge Road off of the 8, Donut Panic provides inventive and tasty vegan donuts flavors like Maple “Bacon” and Earl Grey.  Although Donut Panic also offers traditional donuts, it’s obvious that Donut Panic puts considerable time and energy into their vegan offerings.

Who are the masterminds behind these delectable vegan donuts?  Linda Dami — a former baker at Sipz — and her father.  They recently found themselves unemployed at the same time, saw a listing for a donut shop for sale on Craigslist, and decided to dive head first into the donut making business!  And I’m so glad they did!!

I pulled into the parking lot and saw the sign below advertising for Sunshine Donut Bakery.  I was a little confused but figured it must be the right place.  Once inside, I spoke with Linda who let me know that she is planning on changing the sign to the black Donut Panic one depicted above but was still waiting for her landlord’s approval.  SO, if you make a trip for some donuts soon, be on the look out for either sign.

 

[caption id="attachment_2885" align="alignnone" width="640"]Old Donut Panic Sign Old Donut Panic Sign[/caption]

 

For donut novices, there are two main types of donuts (1) cake and (2) yeast.  Linda specializes in making yeast donuts which are generally lighter and fluffier than cake donuts.  If you would like to know even more about the differences between the two donut varieties, check out this blog post!

The first vegan donut that grabbed my attention was the Maple “Bacon” — after all, it doesn’t sound like it could possibly be vegan!!  The donut icing was sweet with a distinctive maple flavor and somehow the coconut shavings did taste like bacon!  A delicious sweet and salty combination.

 

 

[caption id="attachment_2886" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Maple Bacon Donut Vegan Maple Bacon Donut[/caption]

 

Then, because I am in love with all things chocolate, I tried the chocolate and coconut donut.  I don’t want to play favorites, but this donut was GOOD!  It might not have been the fanciest of all of the flavors, but the sweet chocolate paired with the light coconut shavings was a winner!

 

[caption id="attachment_2887" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Chocolate with Coconut Donut Vegan Chocolate with Coconut Donut[/caption]

 

I was also intrigued by the donut topped with cardamom icing and almond pieces.  As previously noted, I am drawn to chocolate.  Even I have to admit that this donut was something special.  The creamy icing had a delicious dash of spice mixed in, and I enjoyed the crunch from the almonds.  It made me think of fall — which was quite a feat since I was eating this donut in the San Diego 91 degree heat wave!  I think this donut would make a perfect breakfast when paired with a cup of tea and a brisk morning!

 

[caption id="attachment_2888" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Cardamom with Almond Donut Vegan Cardamom with Almond Donut[/caption]

 

I then moved on to the Earl Grey Tea donut.  This is a must try for anyone who loves drinking the tea.  The frosting had the distinctive Early Grey taste, but it was like someone had already added milk and sugar for you!  A subtle flavor that again, in my opinion, would be great paired with a hot tea!

 

[caption id="attachment_2891" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Earl Gray Donut Vegan Earl Gray Donut[/caption]

 

Vegan donuts are currently available at Donut Panic on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays after 9am.  On Fridays, vegan cupcakes are available (this will definitely be a future blog post!).  Also, Donut Panic is looking to expand to some area farmer’s markets.  If you’re lucky, it might be one near you!

For more information on Donut Panic, check out their website.  Or take a look at their frequently updated Facebook page — this is where you can find mouth-watering donut pictures and updates on their current flavor offerings.

 

 

Assortment of Vegan Donuts

 

6171 Mission Gorge Road, #113

San Diego, CA 92120

619.280.1894

NaPizza: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2839" align="alignnone" width="640"]NaPizza Sign NaPizza Sign[/caption]

 

LITTLE ITALY, 4S COMMONS, and OPENING SOON IN HILLCREST.

I am always on the look out for places that serve vegan pizza.  After all, is there anything better than biting into warm dough that is covered with tomato sauce and delicious toppings?  Although I always wish there were more vegan pizza options, NaPizza reminds me that it’s not the quantity but quality of those options that matters.  And NaPizza does an excellent job of focusing on quality by offering pizzas, soups, and salads that are made with fresh and local ingredients.

 

Soups:

 

NaPizza offers a vegan soup every day — on my last visit, they had Potato Onion.  The soup exceeded my expectations (after all we’ve all had bland potato based soups before!).  The onion flavor popped on my tongue!  And with a cup of soup (pictured below) costing $2, it’s an economical addition to any meal!

 

[caption id="attachment_2840" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Potato and Onion Soup Vegan Potato and Onion Soup[/caption]

 

Salads:

 

The salads at NaPizza are special.  I thoroughly enjoyed the “Superfood Me Salad” made with an organic spring mix, kale, quinoa, walnuts, avocado, blue lake beans, sprouts, and apples.  It traditionally comes with a basil lemon dressing but upon recommendation from the NaPizza server, I added the tahini dressing instead!

 

[caption id="attachment_2841" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Superfood Me Salad Vegan Superfood Me Salad[/caption]

 

Pizza:

 

NaPizza, of course, also offers delicious pizza.  NaPizza believes that a piece of pizza is only as good as its dough — they source a low-sugar, high protein flour from a small, family-owned mill in Rome.  NaPizza then mixes the flour with yeast and allows it to rest and rise for 72- hours.  This process creates a dough that is light and digestible.

Wondering about the specifics of NaPizza’s vegan offerings?  The restaurant makes a “Veggy Me” pizza — a pizza that is topped with a combination of locally grown veggies (the day I went it was eggplant and peppers!).  This pizza is made without cheese BUT if you prefer, you can ask for Daiya cheese to be added.  Personally, I like adding the Daiya cheese but whatever your choice, you’re sure to end up with a delicious piece of pizza!

 

[caption id="attachment_2842" align="alignnone" width="640"]"Veggie Me" Vegan Pizza “Veggie Me” Vegan Pizza[/caption]

 

NaPizza also offers an array of meal specials.  They can be a great way to try more items on the menu!

 

[caption id="attachment_2845" align="alignnone" width="640"]NaPizza Specials NaPizza Specials[/caption]

 

NaPizza has their mouth-watering pizzas on display when you enter the restaurant.  Customers order at the register and receive a number to take to their table.  A NaPizza server will bring the food to the table when it’s ready.  And because NaPizza cares about the environment, you will be eating in a green certified building under energy efficient LED lighting!

 

[caption id="attachment_2843" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior NaPizza Interior NaPizza[/caption]

 

NaPizza also offers outdoor patio seating — it’s a great place to enjoy a warm San Diego afternoon!

I hope you make it out to NaPizza to enjoy one of their vegan options soon!

 

[caption id="attachment_2844" align="alignnone" width="640"]NaPizza Patio NaPizza Patio[/caption]

 

Little Italy:

1702 India Street

San Diego, CA 92101

619.696.0802

 

4S Commons:

10550 Craftsman Way, Suite #186

San Diego, CA 92127

858.312.1036

Wet Stone Wine Bar and Cafe

[caption id="attachment_2721" align="alignnone" width="640"]Wet Stone Sign Wet Stone Sign[/caption]

 

BANKER’S HILL.  I recently made my first trip to Wet Stone Wine Bar and Cafe.  And now I can’t wait to go back again.  It was quiet, peaceful, and the food was simple but delicious.  Wet Stone has an unassuming exterior and is tucked into a quiet part of Banker’s Hill.  It’s the type of place you might walk by without even noticing it.  But that would be a mistake.

We arrived for lunch hungry and decided to start with the Garbanzo and Avocado Sandwich.  A puree of chickpeas, avocado, and basil make up the base of this sandwich.  You then pick your bread: multi-grain, pita, or ciabatta (we picked pita).  The sandwich usually comes with piquillo aioli which is NOT vegan.  However, our very accommodating server brought us a side of home made chimichurri sauce instead.

Sandwiches also come with a mixed green or the grain of the day.  After learning the grain of the day was farro, it wasn’t even a choice!  The grain salad was mixed with greens and topped with a light dressing.  It was light and flavorful and the perfect accompaniment to the sandwich.

 

[caption id="attachment_2722" align="alignnone" width="640"]Garbanzo and Avocado Sandwich Garbanzo and Avocado Sandwich[/caption]

 

I was also excited to try the Hummus plate.  And let me reassure you that this is not your ordinary Hummus plate — the hummus is accompanied by pita, medjool dates, and pomegranate seeds.  The pita was soft and the hummus fresh and smooth.  Add a piece of date and some pomegranate seeds to any bite, and you have a perfect taste combination!

 

[caption id="attachment_2723" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Hummus Plate Vegan Hummus Plate[/caption]

 

We were eating at Wet Stone on a hot day, and I decided to order an iced tea.  My expectation was for a drink that would cool me down.  What arrived was so much more.  The tea was obviously fresh brewed and was infused with a hint of lemon and mint.

 

[caption id="attachment_2724" align="alignnone" width="640"]Iced Tea Iced Tea[/caption]

 

The interior of Wet Stone is peaceful, calm, and inviting.  The perfect place for a quick rejuvenating meal on your own or a a place to settle in with friends to catch up.

 

[caption id="attachment_2725" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Wet Stone Interior Wet Stone[/caption]

 

If you’re ready to soak up some of the San Diego sun, there are also a row of benches at an outdoor bar.  I hope you enjoy your trip to Wet Stone as much as I did 🙂

 

[caption id="attachment_2726" align="alignnone" width="640"]Wet Stone Outdoor Seating Wet Stone Outdoor Seating[/caption]

 

1927 4th Avenue

San Diego, CA 92101

619.255.2856

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Native Foods: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_2533" align="alignnone" width="652"]Native Foods Cafe Sign Native Foods Cafe Sign[/caption]

 

POINT LOMA and ENCINITAS.  If you have never been to Native Foods, you are missing out.  It is a haven for vegans and is guaranteed to impress even habitual meat eaters.  The menu boasts an array of starters, salads, bowls, burgers, and desserts that will leave you feeling satiated, happy, and planning your return trip!

On my most recent trip to the new Point Loma location, I started with the chili — white beans and Native chili meat simmered with tomatoes and special spices — and cornbread.  I thoroughly enjoyed this starter.  It has a great flavor thanks to the spices, and I enjoyed dunking my generous piece of cornbread in it!  We’ll just say that it disappeared (with the help of my lunch partner!).  Quickly.

 

[caption id="attachment_2534" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Chili and Cornbread Vegan Chili and Cornbread[/caption]

 

You can’t go wrong when ordering one of the bowls from Native Foods.  The Rockin’ Morrocan is a satisfying mix of grilled veggies and quinoa mixed with tofu or Native Chicken and topped with homemade Moroccan sauce, currants, and toasted almonds.  There is a lot going on in this bowl, but it is all good!  I love the crunch from the toasted almonds mixed with the sweetness from the currants.  Plus, you end up eating a good number of veggies without even realizing it!

 

[caption id="attachment_2535" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Rockin' Moroccan Bowl Vegan Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl[/caption]

 

I have fond memories of inhaling fish tacos on San Diego’s pervasive “Taco Tuesdays.”  Since becoming vegan, I’ve looked for a replacement.  And I finally found it in Native Food’s Baja Blackened Tacos.  These tacos are comprised of two grilled soft corn tortillas stuffed with blackened Native Tempeh and topped with creamy chipotle sauce, salsa fresca, shredded cabbage, and guacamole.  Delightful!!    Native Foods completely transforms the tempeh, so it is soft and tender to bite.  The best part?  The creamy chipotle sauce and guacamole give these plant-based tacos a rich, full flavor and ensures they are not dry.

 

[caption id="attachment_2536" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Baja Blackened Tacos Vegan Baja Blackened Tacos[/caption]

 

Native Foods doesn’t rely on typical offerings to prop up the burger section of their menu.  Instead, you will find unique items like the Portobello and Sausage Burger.  Juicy grilled portobellos and home made Native Sausage Seitan make up the base of this burger.  It’s then topped with caramelized onions, salsa pomodoro, sweet roasted garlic, creamy pumpkin seed pesto and mayo.  The full-bodied sausage seitan contrasted nicely with the mellow portobello flavor.  Plus, the caramelized onions were cooked to perfection.  And who can say no to pumpkin seed pesto?  This is a choice that is sure to please everyone.

 

[caption id="attachment_2537" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Portobello and Sausage Burger Vegan Portobello and Sausage Burger[/caption]

 

Native Foods has some great home made beverage options that are great alternatives to soda.  Pick from Lavender Lemonade, Watermelon Fresca, or home brewed iced teas.  The Hibiscus iced tea pictured below was a refreshing option.  Particularly, if you are visiting Native Foods during part of a heat wave like I was!  And did I mention that you get unlimited re-fills?  That means you can rotate among the drinks if you want to try them all!

 

[caption id="attachment_2540" align="alignnone" width="460"]Hibiscus Tea Hibiscus Tea[/caption]

 

Of course, I couldn’t get out of Native Foods without a dessert.  They are too good.  And for a chocoholic like me, the chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting was the perfect choice.  The desserts are all made in house, and you can tell.  Each chocolately bite was well worth the indulgence.

 

[caption id="attachment_2538" align="alignnone" width="523"]Vegan Chocolate Cupcake Vegan Chocolate Cupcake[/caption]

 

Native Foods has a friendly, bright interior.  It’s perfect place to pick up a “to go” lunch when you’re in a hurry or to sit and linger with friends and family.  The staff is also extremely helpful in offering suggestions whether it’s your first time visiting or you just want to try something new.

 

[caption id="attachment_2539" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Native Foods Interior Native Foods[/caption]

 

Native Foods also provides outdoor patio seating with umbrellas.  A perfect spot to enjoy warm weather and relax.

 

[caption id="attachment_2541" align="alignnone" width="640"]Native Foods Interior Native Foods Interior[/caption]

 

Native Foods is also a great to place if you have any additional dietary restrictions or preferences.  The restaurant offers gluten-free, soy free, and nut free menus for customers’ convenience (check out the links below).  So enjoy!

 

 

Point Loma:

3369 Rosecrans Street

San Diego, CA 92110

619.225.1155

 

Encinitas:

127 N. El Camino Real

Encinitas, CA 92024

760.634.7607

 

Mama’s Bakery and Lebanese Deli: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2414" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mama's Bakery Sign Mama’s Bakery Sign[/caption]

 

NORTH PARK.  A friend of mine recently told me about Mama’s Bakery.  I had never been, but when I heard they specialized in Lebanese food, I knew I would be visiting soon.  Mama’s Bakery is quite simply mouth-watering.  Home made flat bread, hummus, baba ganouj, and falafels feature prominently on the menu, making this a spot that should not be missed!  So thank you Andrew for the great suggestion!

 

I arrived hungry.  I decided to order the Fool Mudamas over Hummus.  The Fool Mudamas, a fava and garbanzo bean stew, arrived layered on top of a deep layer of hummus.  Another bonus? The sides of flatbread (I saw them making it in the kitchen!) and pickled vegetables.

 

Mama’s Bakery flatbread is special.  It was soft and still steaming when it arrived.  I began enthusiastically dunking pieces of it into the Fool Mudamas and hummus.  So delicious.  There’s something special about home made hummus.  It has so much more flavor than anything that can be bought in the store.

 

[caption id="attachment_2415" align="alignnone" width="640"]Fool Mudamas Over Hummus Fool Mudamas Over Hummus[/caption]

 

While eating the Fool Mudamas, I intermittently took a few moments to have some pickled vegetables.   I particularly liked adding the olives to my flatbread, hummus, and Fool Mudamas!

 

[caption id="attachment_2416" align="alignnone" width="640"]PIckled Vegetables Pickled Vegetables[/caption]

 

Next up, was the Fried Eggplant Wrap.  A home made wrap encases fried eggplant, baba ghanouj, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, and pickles.  If only all places made home wraps.   The best part about this wrap? Double eggplant!  Fried eggplant plus baba ghanouj!  Add in some parsley and pickles and you have a filling and tasty lunch or dinner!

 

[caption id="attachment_2417" align="alignnone" width="640"]Fried Eggplant Wrap Fried Eggplant Wrap[/caption]

 

Mama’s Bakery has a cozy indoor seating area.  The walls are painted green and red with plenty of wall hangings and pictures for customers to examine.  I especially liked that the roof allows some of the natural sunlight to shine through.

 

[caption id="attachment_2418" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mama's Bakery Interior Mama’s Bakery Interior[/caption]

 

Mama’s Bakery also understands that San Diegans like to get their time outside.  Patio tables with umbrellas are set up for those to enjoy their food.

 

 

[caption id="attachment_2419" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mama's Bakery Patio Mama’s Bakery Patio [/caption]

 

4237 Alabama Street

San Diego, CA 92104

619.688.0717

 

Enoteca Style Wine Bar: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2359" align="alignnone" width="640"]Enoteca Style Sign Enoteca Style Sign[/caption]

 

LITTLE ITALY.  Are you bored with your lunch and dinner routine?  Perhaps, you are on auto-pilot eating uninteresting sandwiches and salads.  If so, it’s definitely time for you to visit Enoteca Style and Wine Bar.  Their menu offers an array of unique vegan options in a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Have a hankering for a panini? Enoteca Style piles Portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, caramelized onion, baby spinach, and marinated artichoke spread onto their Hawthorn Panini.  Just remember to order it without goat cheese to make it vegan!  I often substitute avocado for the goat cheese which has yielded delicious results.   The warm bread encasing the flavorful, veggie filled contents will ensure that this sandwich disappears.  Fast.

 

[caption id="attachment_2364" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Hawthorne Panini Vegan Hawthorne Panini[/caption]

 

Or maybe you’re ready to dig into a salad.  Enoteca Style offers the Totally Vegan Salad, made from a base of organic greens topped with paprika spiced quinoa, tofu, vine-ripened tomatoes, carrots, chickpeas, and organic sprouts, that is topped with a miso vinaigrette dressing.  I love the interplay between the spiced quinoa and the miso vinaigrette in this salad.  I usually arrive at Enoteca Style hungry and order the large portion (pictured below).   Enoteca also offers small portions of their salads for those looking for a lighter meal.

 

[caption id="attachment_2363" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Tofu Salad Vegan Tofu Salad[/caption]

 

My favorite item on Enoteca’s menu is the Moroccan Couscous Salad.  The salad is made from organic greens, Moroccan spiced couscous, asparagus, black currants, toasted almonds, mint, scallions, and is topped with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.  Order the salad without feta to make it vegan.  The fluffy couscous mixed with crunchy almond pieces, black currants, and mint make this salad truly special.  You won’t find anything like it on other menus around town.  Definitely worth trying!

 

[caption id="attachment_2362" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Cous Cous Salad Vegan Cous Cous Salad[/caption]

 

Can’t choose between the panini and the salad? You are in luck!  Enoteca Style offers an excellent meal special — half a panini, a house salad, and your choice of a drink.  It’s also possible to upgrade from the house salad to the Totally Vegan or Moroccan Couscous Salad upon request!

 

[caption id="attachment_2366" align="alignnone" width="640"]Enoteca Style Lunch Special Enoteca Style Lunch Special[/caption]

 

Enoteca Style has a quiet interior removed from the noise and bustle of the street.  It’s the perfect place for a relaxing lunch or a quiet dinner.

 

[caption id="attachment_2360" align="alignnone" width="640"]Interior Enoteca Style Interior Enoteca Style[/caption]

 

Enoteca Style’s outdoor patio area is a great place to eat when the weather is warm.  It’s also the perfect place for people watching!

 

[caption id="attachment_2361" align="alignnone" width="640"]Outdoor Patio Enoteca Style Outdoor Patio Enoteca Style[/caption]

 

1445 India Street

San Diego, CA 92101

619.546.7138

Amarin Thai: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2191" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Sign Amarin Thai Sign[/caption]

 

HILLCREST.  Amarin Thai offers a wide variety of vegan appetizers, soups, entrees, and curries.  In short, it is a vegan’s paradise.  Amarin Thai is open for both lunch and dinner, but the highlight, for me, is their lunch special (offered Monday through Friday from 11am – 3pm).  The special includes soup, an entrée, an eggroll, and a side salad for $5.99.  The best part? The food is GOOD!  Well worth a special trip.

When I arrived for lunch, I was ready to eat!  We quickly ordered and had a bowl of Miso Soup sitting in front of us within 5 minutes.  I slurped my soup happily and enjoyed munching on the chunks of tofu bobbing in the broth!

 

[caption id="attachment_2185" align="alignnone" width="640"]Miso Soup Miso Soup[/caption]

 

We first tried the Drunken Noodles, an entree made from wide rice noodles that are stir-fried with Thai chilies, bell peppers, basil, and bean sprouts, that is then topped with cilantro leaves.  Amarin Thai lets you pick your spice level.  I went with a conservative 3 and was pleased with the results.  The noodles were soft and tender and had absorbed the flavors from the various spices and peppers.

 

[caption id="attachment_2186" align="alignnone" width="640"]Drunken Noodles Drunken Noodles[/caption]

 

We then moved on to the Rama with Tofu entree, a mix of steamed broccoli and mixed veggies smothered with spiced peanut sauce, that is served with a side of rice.  The peanut sauce in this dish is creamy without being overly sweet.  It makes eating broccoli fun!

Once we had devoured our main dishes, we moved onto the eggrolls (which are somewhat of a misnomer, since I checked and there definitely isn’t egg or any other non-vegan ingredient in them!).   The eggrolls’ crispy exteriors house crystal noodles, cabbage, and carrots.  Mine was gone in two bites!

 

[caption id="attachment_2188" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rama with Tofu Rama with Tofu[/caption]

 

Amarin Thai’s interior is simple but comfortable – beige walls, dark chairs, and white tablecloths welcome customers.  The true highlight has been interacting with the servers.  They welcome you with a smile and patiently answer menu questions.

 

[caption id="attachment_2189" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Interior Amarin Thai Interior[/caption]

 

Amarin Thai also has a covered patio with booths and tables for those who want to eat outside.   The patio is also equipped with space heaters to ensure you have a comfortable dining experience!

 

[caption id="attachment_2190" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Patio Amarin Thai Patio[/caption]

 

Amarin Thai’s unique hours are also worth mentioning.  On Friday and Saturday they are open until 3am!  So whether you are stopping in for lunch or a late dinner, I hope you enjoy Amarin Thai as much as I have 🙂

 

9/22/2014 NOTE: A Fussy Fork reader recently went to eat at Amarin Thai and obtained some information important to vegan customers!!  Amarin Thai uses the same oil to deep fry their tofu and their meat.  Good information to know so you can make an informed choice during your next visit there.  Thanks for the email Sally!!

 

3843 Richmond Street

San Diego, CA 92103

619.296.6056

 

Plumeria: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_1676" align="alignnone" width="640"]Plumeria Sign Plumeria Sign[/caption]

 

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS.  Plumeria is a vegetarian, Thai restaurant that offers a wide array of vegan appetizers, salads, entrees, curries, noodle dishes, and desserts.  I’ve received a number of emails from The Fussy Fork’s readers asking me to blog about Plumeria, so here it is!

Plumeria is committed to using quality ingredients.  They pledge to use organic vegetables when available, not to use MSG or products containing MSG, use non-GMO and gluten-free tofu produced locally by San Diego Soy Company, and use organic, gluten-free soy milk!  Their quality ingredients and clearly labeled vegan menu items help to eliminate the guesswork when dining out!

We arrived hungry for lunch and decided to start with the Fresh Spring Roll appetizer made with rice noodles, tofu, and lettuce wrapped in rice paper and served with home made peanut and pineapple sauces.  The rolls were fresh and light.  They took the edge off my hunger without filling me up too much!  Don’t miss out on the peanut sauce — it is rich, creamy, and obviously full of fresh ingredients!

 

IMG_3127

 

Next was the Eggplant entrée made from sautéed eggplant, bell peppers, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, crushed chili, and basil in house sauce.  We added fried tofu (you can also add vegetables, steamed tofu, or vegan duck, chicken, beef, or shrimp).  This dish is truly special.  The eggplant practically melts in your mouth, the veggies are tender, and the sauce flavorful.  Definitely worth ordering!

 

IMG_3135

 

My favorite item on the menu is the Pumpkin Curry entrée made from pumpkin, eggplant, bell peppers, bamboo shoots, and fresh basil in a red curry sauce.  I love all things pumpkin, and this dish is no exception.  The spicy curry highlights the sweetness of the pumpkin and the eggplant.   Add in some fresh vegetables, and you have a winning combination.  I really could eat this every day.

 

IMG_3140

 

Entrees also come with a side of rice (in the shape of a star no less!).  Choose from white rice, brown rice, or…

 

IMG_3138

 

A mix of white and brown rice!

 

IMG_3132

 

And don’t forget dessert!  We ordered the fried banana with vegan coconut ice cream.  A crisp, warm exterior with a warm, creamy banana interior.  It is then all topped with agave.  Heavenly!

 

IMG_3143

 

Plumeria creates a cozy dining environment with purple seat cushions and a beautiful wall mural with blooming flowers.  A great place to settle in for a meal.

 

[caption id="attachment_1741" align="alignnone" width="640"]Plumeria Interior Plumeria Interior[/caption]

 

There are also a few tables outside if you want to soak up the sun or enjoy a warm night.  It’s also perfect for those who want to dine out with their dogs!

 

[caption id="attachment_1742" align="alignnone" width="640"]Plumeria Patio Plumeria Patio[/caption]

 

Bottom line, if you haven’t eaten at Plumeria, you are missing out!

 

4661 Park Blvd.

San Diego, CA 92116

619.269.9989

 

Station Tavern: Vegan Friendly

SOUTH PARK. Call me pessimistic, but I don’t walk into burger taverns with high expectations for vegan options.  So thank you Station Tavern for proving me wrong.

 

[caption id="attachment_1374" align="alignnone" width="640"]The Station Sign The Station Sign[/caption]

 

Salad:

 

We started with the Farmer’s Market Salad, a mix of organic greens with local grown offerings and Vinaigrette dressing on the side.  What were these “local grown offerings,” you ask?  Fresh red beets, carrots, cucumbers, and a pile of red tomatoes covered my vibrantly colored mixed greens.  A real salad!

 

[caption id="attachment_1378" align="alignnone" width="640"]Farmers Market Salad Farmers Market Salad[/caption]

 

Burgers

 

(1) Spicy Black Bean Burger

 

Station Tavern offers two vegan burgers.  First up was the housemade Spicy Black Bean Burger, a veggie patty made from a blend of black beans, bell peppers, and spices.   Note:  The lime cilantro spread is NOT vegan.   One fun solution is to sub in mustard for the spread!

The black bean patty was thick and had a good consistency.  And it did not crumble or fall apart!  Although the name is a bit of a misnomer – as the burger is not particularly spicy – the patty is well seasoned and tasty.  I particularly liked that I could see some actual black beans poking out of the patty!

 

[caption id="attachment_1375" align="alignnone" width="640"]Black Bean Burger Black Bean Burger[/caption]

 

(2) House Veggie Burger

 

Next, we had the House Veggie Burger made from chickpeas and mild spices.   Again, the smoky paprika sauce that comes with the burger is NOT vegan, so we again subbed in mustard.

 

[caption id="attachment_1376" align="alignnone" width="640"]House Veggie Burger House Veggie Burger[/caption]

 

This chickpea burger is another satisfying success.  Station Tavern has clearly acquired the secret to cohesive vegan patties – not an easy feat.  I also appreciate that it offers two vegan options.  One option brings us in.  But the second makes us feel welcome.  Especially when both are well executed.

 

[caption id="attachment_1379" align="alignnone" width="640"]Veggie Burger Cut in Half Veggie Burger Cut in Half[/caption]

 

 Fries:

 

Would a burger experience be complete without fries?  We decided to order a full order of sweet potato fries. It turns out that Station Tavern has my favorite type: medium sized with a crispy, salty exterior and soft, sweet inside.  And the full order is substantial – best for sharing.

Not a fan of sweet potatoes?  No worries.  Station Tavern also offers regular fries, garlic fries, and tater tots!

 

[caption id="attachment_1377" align="alignnone" width="640"]Sweet Potato Fries Sweet Potato Fries[/caption]

 

Station Tavern also has a casual, laid-back atmosphere.  The inside seating boasts plenty of light with wood tables and chairs and a bar area.

 

[caption id="attachment_1381" align="alignnone" width="640"]Station Indoor Seating Station Indoor Seating[/caption]

 

Station Tavern’s best feature, however, is its expansive outdoor seating.  Picnic tables adorned with umbrellas (if it’s hot) and space heaters (if it’s not) create a cozy and inviting area for those looking to share a meal or drink with a significant other, a group of friends, or your dog!

 

[caption id="attachment_1380" align="alignnone" width="640"]Station Outdoor Seating Station Outdoor Seating[/caption]

Final Note:

 

Station Tavern also offers a Tofu Pup – a tofu dog on a bun that is vegan.  If you try it, let me know what you think!

 

2204 Fern Street

San Diego, CA 92104

619.255.0657

Anthem Vegan: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_1392" align="alignnone" width="640"]Anthem Vegan Logo Anthem Vegan Logo[/caption]

 

If you think being vegan means giving up your favorite Philly Cheesesteak think again.  Anthem Vegan will wow you with their take on traditionally meaty dishes.  What else will wow you?  The friendly service.  The founder and main cook, Patrick Murray, welcomes new eaters, speaks passionately about his menu, and cooks with gusto.

My favorite menu item? The Quinoa Black Bean Tacos.  Two soft tortillas hold basil garlic quinoa with carrots, onions, kale, black beans, and pico de gallo.  Why two tortillas?  Because these are serious tacos, and a single tortilla would likely crumble under their weight.  After eating two, I usually can’t move.

 

[caption id="attachment_1420" align="alignnone" width="640"]Quinoa Black Bean Tacos Quinoa Black Bean Tacos[/caption]

 

Sometimes the best dishes are made from an eclectic group of ingredients.  Anthem Vegan’s menu describes the Breakfast Sausage Hash as “a big pile of pretty much everything.”  As the menu suggests, there is a lot going on in this dish.  Potatoes, seasoned herb tofu, breakfast sausage, and onions combine together to create a tasty entrée.  It’s the kind of food I’d be happy to eat any time of the day!

 

[caption id="attachment_1385" align="alignnone" width="640"]Breakfast Sausage Hash Breakfast Sausage Hash[/caption]

 

One of Anthem’s most popular entrees is the vegan Philly Cheesesteak.  Karne, red and green bell peppers, onions, Daiya Cheese and Cheese Whiz lie invitingly on a roll.  Anthem Vegan’s karne is good.  So good, that I have seen non-vegans pause for a sample at the Ocean Beach Farmers Market and decide to eat dinner there based on their taste.  My non-vegan friend who ordered this sandwich reported between mouthfulls that she would happily eat it again!

 

[caption id="attachment_1386" align="alignnone" width="640"]Philly Cheesesteak Philly Cheesesteak[/caption]

 

Another great option is the SoyCAL Burrito made from karne asada, soyrizo, rosemary garlic potatoes, guacamole, and chipotle aioli.  This time the karne is chopped into smaller pieces and plays more of a supporting role.  The flavors of this burrito, especially the smoky chipotle, set it apart from the masses.

 

[caption id="attachment_1384" align="alignnone" width="640"]SoyCal Burrito SoyCal Burrito[/caption]

 

Below is Anthem Vegan’s full menu.  Its rumored that Anthem Vegan also sometimes features amazing specials.

 

[caption id="attachment_1391" align="alignnone" width="565"]Anthem Vegan Menu Anthem Vegan Menu[/caption]

 

Where Can You Find Anthem Vegan?

 

Monday: 1st and 3rd Monday @ Ritual Tavern from 6pm – 9pm

Tuesday: SD Humane Society from 11am – 2pm

Wednesday: OB Farmers Market

Friday and Saturday: 30th and Lincoln (Auto Zone parking lot) from 11pm – 2:30am.

Sunday: Hillcrest Farmers Market

 

[caption id="attachment_1389" align="alignnone" width="640"]Anthem Vegan on Patio of Ritual Tavern Anthem Vegan on Patio of Ritual Tavern[/caption]

https://www.facebook.com/AnthemVegan

 

Rickaroons: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_1335" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rickaroons Logo Rickaroons Logo[/caption]

 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a macaroon is “a small cookie composed chiefly of egg whites, sugar, and ground almonds or coconut.”  In other words, a traditional macaroon is neither vegan nor healthy.  But Rickaroons has changed the game by reimagining this cookie as real food – vegan, nutritious, and delicious!

 

My Experience with Rickaroons

 

How responsive is Rickaroons?  Well, when I sent a message to the company’s Facebook page – during the evening – I received a response from Rick (THE Rick of Rickaroons) less than 30 minutes later.  And not only was he supportive of my idea to write a review, but he also offered to answer questions in person!  This is what makes local small businesses so inspiring.  They care.  And when they have a product like Rickaroons, it is only a matter of time before the business becomes wildly successful.

Rickaroons come in four decadent flavors: (1) the Chocolate Blonde, (2) the Brunette, (3) the Mocha, and (4) the Megaroon.

 

IMG_3024

 

(1) Chocolate Blonde (Original):

 

The Chocolate Blonde Rickaroon is made from a base of coconut (oil, flakes, and nectar!), dark chocolate chips, and almond butter.  It is moist with a light coconut flavor, punctuated with rich chocolate bursts.  The Chocolate Blonde is reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie, without the butter and refined sugar to bring you down!

Coconut oil has been shown to help our bodies fight off viruses and bacteria that cause illness, boost thyroid function, and increase “good” cholesterol.  Check out the link below for more information on the health benefits of coconut oil.

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil

 

Besides tasting good, dark chocolate has antioxidants that can help prevent health issues like heart disease.  Consumption of dark chocolate has also been shown to improve mood, because it stimulates endorphin production!  To learn more about dark chocolate click on:

http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/3-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate/

 

The almond butter that holds the Rickaroon together, besides having a lot of protein, also helps balance electrolytes and provides dietary fiber!  Here are the additional benefits of almond butter:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/376742-almond-butter-benefits/

 

[caption id="attachment_1279" align="alignnone" width="640"]Chocolate Blonde Chocolate Blonde[/caption]

 

(2) Brunette

 

The Brunette builds on the base of the Chocolate Blonde by adding cacao powder and a hint of coconut palm nectar.  It is double the chocolate and sure to satisfy any sweet tooth!

 

[caption id="attachment_1280" align="alignnone" width="640"]Brunette Brunette[/caption]

 

(3) Mocha

 

And for those of you who crave coffee with chocolate, Rickaroons has you covered.  The Mocha adds cacao and espresso to the Chocolate Blonde base.  This will get you moving!

 

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="alignnone" width="640"]Mocha Mocha[/caption]

 

(4) Megaroon

 

Finally, the Megaroon injects the Chocolate Blonde base with chia seeds and cacao nibs.  Rickaroons refers to the Megaroon as its Super Food option.  Why you wonder?

First, chia seeds are full of nutrients like fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese and protein.  Chia seeds can also help stabilize blood sugar and are being studied as a possible treatment for diabetes:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html

 

Second, cacao has high levels of antioxidants and may help improve heart function and alleviate stress:

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/beverage1/a/raw-chocolate-nutrition.htm

 

The cacao nibs and chia seeds also give the Megaroon a satisfying crunch, helping to make it Rickaroons’ best seller!

 

[caption id="attachment_1282" align="alignnone" width="640"]Megaroon Megaroon[/caption]

 

In my opinion, the quality of Rickaroons is a function of its core ingredients.  The Chocolate Blonde – the base – is my favorite.  The combination of the coconut, dark chocolate, and almond butter is so perfect, and so powerful, that the “base” has shattered my expectations (and surpassed the competitors).  This guarantees that the other three flavors stand on a sturdy foundation.  So from here, Rickaroons has nowhere to go but up.

 

A rewarding dessert, the fuel for your workout, or a tasty snack.   Bottom line, you can enjoy Rickaroons in any way you see fit.

 

[caption id="attachment_1283" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rickaroons Flavors Rickaroons Flavors[/caption]

 

 

Other Interesting Rickaroon Facts

 

  • Rick has been vegan for 6 years.
  • Rick was a professional tri-athlete in 1983 and has a long history of participating in Frisbee tournaments.
  • Rick eats multiple Rickaroons every day.
  • Rickaroons has a bakery facility that yields batches of 2,000 – 4,000 Rickaroons!
  • You will see Rickaroons on Amazon and vegan-oriented websites in the near future.

 

Coupon Code — “fussyfork15” — Plus, Where Can I Find Rickaroons?

 

Rickaroons is offering a coupon to those ordering through The Fussy Fork.  Type in the code fussyfork15 during checkout, to receive a 15% discount on your order!  The coupon expires December 10th, so don’t miss out!

http://www.rickaroons.com/buy

 

To find the nearest store selling Rickaroons, click on:

http://www.rickaroons.com/map/

 

If you live in San Diego, you have an extra opportunity to find Rickaroons.  They attend the La Jolla, Pacific Beach, and North Park farmers’ markets.

Donut Bar: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_1308" align="alignnone" width="640"]Donut Bar Sign Donut Bar Sign[/caption]

 

DOWNTOWN.  Donut Bar understands vegans need donuts too.  So even though Donut Bar serves the traditional favorites (including apple fritters to celebrities – see below!), it always offers at least one vegan option.

 

[caption id="attachment_1299" align="alignnone" width="343"]Donut Bar Menu Donut Bar Menu[/caption]

 

Donut Bar sits on a quiet block in Downtown, but the word is definitely out.  If you are planning on grabbing a donut before heading to work, be ready to wait!  It is part of the experience.  While the line moves forward, you can examine all of the donuts.  Donut Bar focuses on presentation, so the time passes quickly!

It was in this line that I first glimpsed the Vegan Chai Donut…

 

[caption id="attachment_1300" align="alignnone" width="640"]Tray of Vegan Chai Donuts Tray of Vegan Chai Donuts[/caption]

 

The donut was thick and cakey.  The chai icing was sweet with warm spices.  And the whole thing was gone before I left the building.

 

[caption id="attachment_1301" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Chai Donut Vegan Chai Donut[/caption]

 

On my next visit, I tried the Vegan Matcha Green Tea donut.  Although I often drink Matcha as a tea, I was surprised to see it used as an ingredient for a frosting.

Matcha Green Tea originates in Japan and is made from ground green tea leaves.  It has high levels of antioxidants and helps to boost memory and concentration.  If you are want to know more about the health benefits of Matcha Green Tea, check out:

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/10-amazing-benefits-of-matcha-green-tea/

I’m sure you get more benefits from drinking the tea than eating this donut, but special treats get a free pass, right?  (I hope so anyways.)  I’m looking forward to having another one soon!

 

[caption id="attachment_1303" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Matcha Donut Vegan Matcha Donut[/caption]

 

And there can be no donut post without a chocolate donut.  So I began monitoring Donut Bar’s Facebook page.  Eventually, the Vegan Chocolate Donut appeared on the menu, and I made an emergency phone call to Tom, who works downtown.  This is a nice perk.  Later, Tom came home with two donuts: (1) a plain chocolate and (2) chocolate with almonds.  He “says” he bought two donuts because he didn’t know which one I would prefer.  I suspect he simply wanted more donuts.

 

[caption id="attachment_1305" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Chocolate Donuts Vegan Chocolate Donuts[/caption]

 

Donut Bar’s ground floor is simple and utilitarian:  display cases of donuts and a cash register.  The upstairs is cozy, a place where people can sit down and enjoy their donuts and coffee.

 

[caption id="attachment_1310" align="alignnone" width="300"]Donut Bar Interior Donut Bar Interior[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_1311" align="alignnone" width="300"]Donut Bar Upstairs Interior Donut Bar Upstairs Interior[/caption]

 

And if you are like me and have a weak spot for celebrity gossip, you will be interested to know that an assistant recently picked up an Apple Fritter from Donut Bar for Brad Pitt.  Donut Bar has now permanently renamed the Apple Fritter the “Brad Fritt-er!”

http://sandiego.eater.com/archives/2013/10/22/brad-pitt-totally-ate-an-apple-fritter-from-donut-bar.php

 

Donut Bar is open 7 days a week.  Monday through Friday, it opens at 7am.  Saturday and Sunday, it opens at 8am.  When do they close? When the donuts are gone, of course!

 

Ready to check out Donut Bar’s menu? Take a look at the Facebook page.

Donut Bar also takes special orders and is available for catering.

 

I hope you enjoy their donuts as much as I have!

 

https://www.facebook.com/DonutBar

http://donutbar.tumblr.com/

 

631 B Street

San Diego, CA 92101

310.625.5571

 

 

Southern Fried Vegan BBQ: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_1190" align="alignnone" width="640"]Southern Fried Vegan Sign Southern Fried Vegan Sign[/caption]

 

Sure, vegans like to eat veggies and fruit but sometimes you want something you can sink your teeth into – something sinful, sweet, and perhaps even fried!  When this craving hits, I recommend locating the Southern Fried Vegan BBQ food truck!

I caught up with Southern Friend Vegan BBQ at Modern Times Brewery in Point Loma.  I arrived with some hungry friends, ready to eat and drink!  My friends’ plate arrived first, featuring two BBQ sliders, tater tots, and a side of collard greens.  Conversation ceased as they devoured their food (but I managed to snap a quick photo before they dug in!).  Later, with big smiles and full tummies, they would tell me that everything was “really good.”

 

[caption id="attachment_1184" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan BBQ Sliders with Collard Greens and Tater Tots Vegan BBQ Sliders with Collard Greens and Tater Tots[/caption]

 

I love avocados.  And why shouldn’t they be the focus of a taco?  There’s no need to relegate them to secondary topping status!  Here, the fried avocados are a warm and creamy centerpiece.  Add some delicious tangy dressing and coleslaw and you have yourself a noteworthy vegan taco!

 

[caption id="attachment_1185" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Fried Avocado Taco Vegan Fried Avocado Taco[/caption]

 

Next up was my order: the Fried Chickun Waffle Sandwich with sides of jambalaya and macaroni and cheese.   The prize for the day went to the Fried Chickun Waffle Sandwich.  This dish arrived with a piece of “chickun” and creamy dressing lying on top of a waffle.  The sandwich was then doused in syrup.

I understand that Chicken and Waffles is a traditional southern dish, but I had never seen the appeal.  Why would chicken be good with waffles?  Now I know what all the fuss is about!  This sandwich was good.  Really good.  The combination of a soft waffle, sweet syrup, and savory chickun must trigger the happy place in the brain.   After the sandwich disappeared (and I had wiped the sticky syrup from my hands!), I finished off the tender macaroni and cheese and zesty jambalaya.  True comfort food.  I was blissfully lethargic for the rest of the day!

 

[caption id="attachment_1195" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Fried Chickun Waffle Sandwich with Macaroni and Cheese and Jambalaya Vegan Fried Chickun Waffle Sandwich with Macaroni and Cheese and Jambalaya[/caption]

 

Everything at Southern Fried Vegan is “made to order” – you won’t receive anything pre-made.   Quality can take time, so be aware that there can be a wait, especially if others have ordered before you.  But the food rewards patience.  While I don’t think the road to being a healthy vegan is paved with Fried Waffle Chickun Sandwiches, I do think it’s important – as a special treat – to enjoy true comfort food.  Thank you Southern Fried Vegan for filling a critical gap in the universe of vegan food!

 

[caption id="attachment_1191" align="alignnone" width="300"]Southern Fried Vegan BBQ Tent Southern Fried Vegan BBQ Tent[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_1179" align="alignnone" width="300"]Modern Times Brewery Interior Modern Times Brewery Interior[/caption]

 

Where will Southern Fried Vegan be next?  Check in with their social media!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SouthernFriedVegan

Twitter: @sfvbbq

 

Veggie Grill: 100% Vegan

 

Veggie Grill Sign
Veggie Grill Sign

 

LA JOLLA/UTC and CARLSBAD. Could a vegan enterprise be the darling of corporate America?  Yes, according to Forbes.com, which recently added Veggie Grill to its list of “15 Explosively Growing Companies to Watch This Year.”  In fact, during the past year, Veggie Grill successfully raised $20 million to further fuel its expansion.  As a result, its 20+ locations in the western states might be only the beginning! . . .   

So what’s all the fuss about?  Well, each Veggie Grill is 100% vegan and offers a wide variety of convenient, healthy dishes.  With vegan versions of comfort foods like buffalo wings, cheeseburgers, and steak tacos, Veggie Grill proves that it’s not boring to be vegan.

I am thankful that Veggie Grill decided to open up its newest location in San Diego, at the University Towne Center (UTC) Mall.  Although I am not a big fan of malls, I can be lured in with the promise of good vegan food.  (See previous posts on True Foods Kitchen and Seasons 52!)

Veggie Grill offers a well-rounded menu.  The diverse menu spans from salads and sandwiches to plates, wraps, and tacos.   On a recent visit, I tried the Gluten Free Power Plate, featuring a stack of blackened tempeh, portobello mushrooms, and caramelized onions with a side of kale and sliced tomato salad and chipotle Ranch dressing.  There is a lot going on in this dish!  And I love that Veggie Grill showcases kale as a staple side dish, complete with a creamy dressing and sesame seeds to reward the adventurous.

 

[caption id="attachment_1116" align="alignnone" width="640"]Gluten Free Power Plate Gluten Free Power Plate[/caption]

 

Next up was the Cheeseburger, ordered “El Dorado Style” – topped with jalapenos and caramelized onions.  The burger is served with vegan cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and chipotle ranch on a wheat bun.  I enjoyed the vegan patty – it was thick and juicy – but the best part was the layer of warm, perfectly melted “cheese.”  A great example of the recent evolution of non-dairy cheese.

 

[caption id="attachment_1117" align="alignnone" width="640"]Veggie Grill Cheeseburger Veggie Grill Cheeseburger[/caption]

 

The first trip to Veggie Grill was so good, I went back less than a week later.  Plus, the menu presents a lot of real estate to cover!

We ordered the Baja “Fish” Taco Plate.  Three flour tortillas arrived cradling crispy “fish,” green cabbage, original Baja sauce, cilantro, and lime.  The plate also included a side of roasted corn salsa, and “Bean Me Up” Chili.  The Baja sauce and salsa provided fresh flavor, but this is a light entrée that pairs well with the hearty and well-spiced side of chili.

 

[caption id="attachment_1118" align="alignnone" width="640"]Baja "Fish" Taco Plate Baja “Fish” Taco Plate[/caption]

 

The All Hail Kale salad exceeded all expectations.  It is a mix of marinated kale and red cabbage, corn salsa, and agave-roasted walnuts with a side of ginger papaya vinaigrette.  A beautiful medley of bright colors.  We also added Blackened Chickin’ strips, which added even more substance to the salad with their firm texture and grilled flavor.

 

[caption id="attachment_1119" align="alignnone" width="640"]All Hail Kale from Veggie Grill All Hail Kale from Veggie Grill[/caption]

 

And because I can’t go anywhere without ordering dessert, I succumbed to the Grilled Cookie.  Veggie Grill takes dessert to the next level by warming the chocolate chip cookie (and what cookie doesn’t taste better warm!) and topping it with chocolate pudding and vegan crema.

 

[caption id="attachment_1120" align="alignnone" width="640"]Veggie Grill, Grilled Cookie Veggie Grill, Grilled Cookie[/caption]

 

Veggie Grill has a relaxed and casual atmosphere.  You place your order at the front counter, then sit at a table with a number until some friendly youngster delivers your food.

The interior is bright and cheery – red red walls and green chairs with huge windows to let in the natural light.  The outdoor patio allows customers (especially those withe dogs!) to enjoy warm San Diego days under bright, yellow umbrellas.  Need one last reason to eat at Veggie Grill?  It is clean!  I don’t know how they do it, but the counters and tables gleam, and the floor is free from crumbs.

 

[caption id="attachment_1121" align="alignnone" width="300"]Veggie Grill Interior Veggie Grill Interior[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_1122" align="alignnone" width="300"]Veggie Grill Outdoor Patio Veggie Grill Outdoor Patio[/caption]

 

La Jolla/UTC:

4353 La Jolla Village Drive

Suite, H28

La Jolla, CA 92122

858.458.0031

 

Carlsbad:

965 Palomar Airport Road

Carlsbad, CA 92011

760.438.0034

Casa de Luz: 100% Vegan

[caption id="attachment_941" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casa de Luz Sign Casa de Luz Sign[/caption]

 
UPDATE: AS OF 12/9/2013 CASA DE LUZ IS CLOSED.  THEY WILL BE MISSED 

 

NORTH PARK.  Casa de Luz is a 100% vegan, 100% macrobiotic, 100% organic, and 100% gluten free restaurant in North Park.  Further, Casa de Luz offers itself as an educational community center.  This is what makes it special.  Casa transcends the common boundaries of a restaurant to focus on events, classes, and bringing the community together.

What is Macrobiotic Food?

 

For most folks walking into Casa for the first time, the question immediately becomes:  “What is macrobiotic food?”  Turns out, however, that this is a challenging question to answer.

The word “macrobiotic” derives from Greek and means “long life.”  But the diet originated in Japan, then spread across borders of nationality and culture.  Today, many advocates of the macrobiotic diet embrace both principles of East Asian philosophy and the objectives of the western vegan diet.  And for many, it is a lifestyle choice.

Whether a diet or a lifestyle, macrobiotics promotes eating local, seasonal foods that are “balanced.”  Specifically, this targeted balance is a function of (1) each food’s inherent acidity versus alkalinity, and (2) the dueling energies of yin and yang.  First, because most people in modern society consume highly acidic foods – which yield a lower pH level in the blood – macrobiotics recommends more alkaline food and drink.   The list of highly acidic foods is long and surprising.  For example, both milk and sugar are highly acidic. Alkaline water is optimal for humans, check it out for yourself on sites like AlkalineWaterFilterExperts.com. If you want to see where other foods land on the spectrum of alkalinity and acidity, here is a good website:

http://landsofwisdom.com/?p=3820

Second, and much more mystifying to me, is the pursuit of a balance between the energies of yin (the expanding, outward force) and yang (the contracting inward force).  The good news:  the body seems to crave a balance between the two.  The bad news:  it often craves the extremes, paired together.  Wine (yin) and cheese (yang).  Beer (yin) and burgers (yang).  Unfortunately, each of these foods is highly acidic and – huge surprise – not so good for you.  As a result, macrobiotics relies on foods that are inherently balanced – even on their own – such as certain grains and most of the plant kingdom.  Here is a more robust listing:

http://macrobiotic.about.com/od/gettingstarted/a/YinYang.htm

Bottom line, with macrobiotics, it feels like you need at least a Masters degree just to put together a single meal.  But this is where Casa de Luz comes in!  Casa has the experts who do all the thinking, all the planning, and all the cooking for us simple folk.  All we have to do is show up!

 

Meals at Casa de Luz:

 

The menu at Casa de Luz changes daily.  If you don’t like surprises, simply check Casa’s website for the daily menu!  You can also consult the schedule outlining which cuisines (Asian, Italian, etc.) are served on certain days.  Except for Friday and Saturday, because those days are Chef’s Choice!

 

[caption id="attachment_942" align="alignnone" width="680"]Casa Theme Nights Schedule Casa Theme Nights Schedule[/caption]

 

Lunch: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Dinner: 5:00pm – 9:00pm

 

For both Lunch and Dinner, Casa offers two options: (1) Plate or (2) Seasonal Bowl.

 

1. Plate:

The Plate consistently offers the same building blocks for a true macrobiotic meal: leafy green + grain + bean + veggie + pickle.  The Plate also comes with soup, salad, AND tea.   In fact, you pick up your soup and salad immediately after ordering and paying at the front desk.  Then, later, a Casa staff member will bring the main Plate to your table.

 

[caption id="attachment_943" align="alignnone" width="640"]Sample of Casa Lunch and Dinner Menu Sample of Casa Lunch and Dinner Menu[/caption]

 

On my most recent visit, the soup was Wild Rice and Veggie.   The veggies, celery, zucchini, onions, and carrots, were perfectly tender (but not overly soft).  The flavor, sublime and wonderful, is an excellent example of how macrobiotic food stands apart.  It is not salty, not spicy, and not infused with other flavors seeking to dominate the taste buds.  This soup relies on the quality of its vegetables.  And this soup disappears quickly.

 

[caption id="attachment_944" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Wild Rice and Veggie Soup Casas Wild Rice and Veggie Soup[/caption]

 

Next up was the salad: mixed greens, carrots, and cabbage with a nutty fig balsamic dressing.  Casa’s salads never disappoint.  The greens and veggies are always fresh, and the salad dressings are unique and home made.  The nutty, fig, balsamic dressing was a special treat.

 

[caption id="attachment_945" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Salad Casas Salad[/caption]

 

The Plate showcased how simple, sturdy blocks can build something wonderful.  The leafy green was kale with a walnut-dill sauce.  The grain was a blend of coconut quinoa and brown rice.  The bean of the night was the reliable black bean, and the vegetable was lemon-herbed broccoli.  Finally, the pickle was not a single stick of cucumber but, rather, a fun medley of unexpected veggies.

The delight is in the details.  The walnut-dill sauce brings the kale alive, and the grains are cooked to the point of perfection – not beyond.  Also, pickled vegetables inject the plate with acute flavor that somehow ends up on the alkaline end of the spectrum.  It is a weird science, but delicious.

 

[caption id="attachment_946" align="alignnone" width="640"]Sample of Casas Entree Sample of Casas Entree[/caption]

 

2. Seasonal Bowls:

Your second option when ordering lunch or dinner is one of two Seasonal Bowls.  These bowls are a recent (and welcome!) addition to Casa’s menu.  They are great for those times when you are not hungry enough to eat a soup, salad, AND entree plate (or when you don’t have a lot of time to eat).

 

[caption id="attachment_947" align="alignnone" width="380"]Casas Bowl Sign Casas Bowl Sign[/caption]

 

The two Seasonal Bowls available right now are the: (i) Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread and (ii) Grilled Pineapple Curry with Brown Rice.  I recently tried the Tempeh Chili.  Wow.  The chili was warm with a hint of spice.  The tofu crema was creamy (move over, sour cream) and the cornbread was soft, moist, and full of actual kernels of corn.  Always real food.  Always amazing.

 

[caption id="attachment_949" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread Casas Tempeh Chili with Tofu Crema and Cornbread[/caption]

 

Weekend Brunch

 

Casa de Luz has recently stopped serving breakfast on the weekdays.  However, rumor on the street is that Casa will begin a weekend Champagne/Kombucha brunch in November.  This is one brunch I don’t want to miss.  Stay tuned for a follow up post!

 

Dessert:

If you have room for dessert after your meal, take a look at Casa’s display case to the left of the cashier.  Cookies, puddings, maple bars, cheesecake, and more!  How are they vegan?  Casa magic.

Most recently, I tried the Mexican Chocolate Mousse.  To say it exceeded my expectations would be a gross understatement.  This was the richest, most intensely chocolate mousse I have tasted.  Ever.   The type of rich where you close your eyes each time you take a bite.

 

[caption id="attachment_950" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Mexican Chocolate Mousse Casas Mexican Chocolate Mousse[/caption]

 

Smoothies and Juices:

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special smoothies and juices offered at Casa de Luz.  Casa offers four smoothies or you can create your own juice!  Because the ingredients are of the highest quality, each smoothie and juice is a standout.

 

[caption id="attachment_951" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Smoothie Board Casas Smoothie Board[/caption]

 

I enjoy the Leafy Green Smoothie.  Made from kale, green, apple, cucumber, Vitamineral Green, almond yogurt, almond milk and dates, it is smooth and creamy.  You would never know by its taste that it’s full of veggies!

 

[caption id="attachment_953" align="alignnone" width="547"]Casas Leafy Green Smoothie Casas Leafy Green Smoothie[/caption]

 

Drinks 

Water: 

Even Casa’s water is special, as it is somehow filtered and transformed to an alkaline friendly pH level of 9.5.  Drink it straight up, or infused with cucumber.

 

[caption id="attachment_954" align="alignnone" width="400"]Casas Alkaline Water Dispenser Casas Alkaline Water Dispensers[/caption]

 

Tea and Coffee:

I have mentioned that the lunch and dinner plates come with complimentary tea.  Customers are able to fill (and re-fill!) their glasses with Kukicha Tea.

Before Casa de Luz, I had never heard of Kukicha Tea.  It is made from the twigs of the same plant that produces green tea.  Because they come from the same plant, Kukicha Tea shares the same antioxidant properties as green tea.  It has a smoky flavor and has 90% less caffeine than coffee (green tea has 60% less caffeine than coffee).

http://www.oprah.com/food/Superfoods-List-2012-Sunchokes-Adzuki-Beans-Chia-Seed/5

If Kukicha tea doesn’t sound appealing, Casa also has a variety of herbal, green, and black teas available by the pot.

I don’t drink coffee but if I did, Casa de Luz would be my first stop.  I often see individuals sitting with a blissful look on their faces as they wrap their hands around their Guatemalan French Press Coffee.  And don’t worry, Casa has non-dairy creamers and sweeteners if you don’t like your coffee black!

 

[caption id="attachment_955" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casas Tea and Coffee Board Casas Tea and Coffee Board[/caption]

 

Seating:

 

Casa’s space is the product of the owner’s passion for community.  The main floor has beautiful dark wood tables of all shapes and sizes, including large community style seating.  The outdoor patio offers a sunny spot for those with dogs.  And the upstairs features an educational utopia, complete with extensive seating, state-of-the-art kitchen, and vast counter space for demonstrations.  Casa is ground zero for food and cooking enthusiasts.

 

[caption id="attachment_956" align="alignnone" width="400"]Casa Interior Casa Interior[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_957" align="alignnone" width="400"]Casa Outdoor Patio Seating Casa Outdoor Patio Seating[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_960" align="alignnone" width="400"]Upstairs Learning Space at Casa Upstairs Learning Space at Casa[/caption]

 

Events:

 

As I mentioned earlier, Casa de Luz is more than a place to eat.  Casa’s online calendar shows the upcoming community events to be hosted in house – check it out at: http://sandiego.casadeluz.org/events–classes.html

 

[caption id="attachment_958" align="alignnone" width="640"]Casa de Luz Calendar of Events Casa de Luz Calendar of Events[/caption]

 

I could never list all of the events Casa offers, but I will take the time to highlight a few!

 

Test Kitchen Tuesdays:

Test Kitchen Tuesdays is a series of vegan cooking classes, taught by Liz Gary, that are held every Tuesday morning from 9:30am – 11:30am.  The class is a donation based, hands on cooking class – attendees break up into groups to make the recipes in Casa’s amazing upstairs educational space.  I attend almost every week.  Our creations range from vegan doughnuts to quiche!

 

[caption id="attachment_959" align="alignnone" width="377"]Casa Test KItchen Tuesday  Doughnut Casa Test KItchen Tuesday Doughnut[/caption]

 

Casa de Luna:

Casa de Luz holds its donation based “Casa de Luna” celebration on the first Saturday night of every month beginning at 9:30pm.  The event features activities like partner yoga, meditation, and an art show.  And no event would be complete without delicious food and drink: Casa offers organic wine and sake, juice, tea, and desserts to attendees!

 

Kale University:

On many Wednesdays at 6:30pm (check the Casa calendar for an detailed list!), Casa de Luz is home to the Kale University Meetup group.  Kale University advocates a whole-food plant-based diet and is open to individuals who are interested in taking health into their own hands.  Kale University uses Wednesday evenings to bring in speakers and to provide classes for its members.  To learn more check out Kale University’s Meetup page at:

http://www.meetup.com/KaleUniversity/

 

In sum, life at Casa de Luz is always evolving.  Although breakfast will be missed, I expect that the upcoming brunch program will be something special.  Hope to see you there!

 

UPDATE: AS OF 12/9/2013 CASA DE LUZ IS CLOSED.  THEY WILL BE MISSED

http://sandiego.casadeluz.org/

 

2920 University Ave

San Diego, CA 92104

619.550.1857

 

 

 

 

 

Ranchos Cocina: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_913" align="alignnone" width="600"]Ranchos Sign Ranchos Sign[/caption]

 

NORTH PARK AND OCEAN BEACH.  Long-time San Diego vegans know Ranchos.  Both locations feature a multitude of vegan options, including vegan pancakes, burritos, tortas, soups, salads, enchiladas, tacos, and desserts.  YUM!!

First, no Mexican restaurant would be complete without chips and salsa.   Here, we have a hand-crafted, mild salsa that disappears almost immediately.

 

[caption id="attachment_907" align="alignnone" width="600"]Chips and Salsa from Ranchos Chips and Salsa from Ranchos[/caption]

 

Second, I love that Ranchos serves breakfast all day, because sometimes dinner is the perfect time for breakfast.  On my most recent visit, I ordered the Vegan Breakfast Burrito, a mix of tofu scramble, house made tempeh sausage, potatoes, and beans and wrapped in a tortilla.  The tempeh sausage is spicy, which compliments the light scramble and hearty potatoes and beans.  This is a well-rounded burrito, a personal favorite, and something that I would recommend to vegans and non-vegans alike.

 

[caption id="attachment_909" align="alignnone" width="600"]Vegan Breakfast Burrito from Ranchos Vegan Breakfast Burrito from Ranchos[/caption]

 

Next up was the Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Torta.  Recently, I learned that a torta is really just a sandwich!  And this particular torta comes stacked with hearty tofu slices, black beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and onions.  The tangy guacamole is excellent.  Another great dish.

 

[caption id="attachment_910" align="alignnone" width="600"]Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Torta from Ranchos Grilled Tofu and Black Bean Torta from Ranchos[/caption]

 

If you are craving a burrito, but aren’t in the mood for breakfast, the Chipotle Seitan Burrito is a great option.  You might be thinking, “What the heck is seitan?”  Seitan is made from wheat.  It has a firm texture, making it a popular meat substitute.  If you want to know more about seitan, click on the link below!

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/glossary/g/Seitan.htm

Back to the burrito in question.  The chipotle seitan in the burrito gives the burrito a smoky flavor.  The guacamole helps to temper the spice of the seitan, resulting in a tempting burrito.   I planned to eat only half, so imagine my surprise when when I looked down and saw a clean plate!

 

[caption id="attachment_911" align="alignnone" width="600"]Chipotle Seitan Burrito from Ranchos Chipotle Seitan Burrito from Ranchos[/caption]

 

Even though I don’t drink dairy, I still enjoy creamy beverages.  So I was excited when I saw that Ranchos had a vegan Horchata drink made from soymilk, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla.  This drink can definitely pass as a dessert.  It tastes like a sumptuous, vanilla, cinnamon milkshake.

 

[caption id="attachment_908" align="alignnone" width="301"]Vegan Horchata from Ranchos Vegan Horchata from Ranchos[/caption]

 

Things to know about Ranchos.  Although there is some overlap, Ranchos North Park and Ranchos Ocean beach have DIFFERENT menus.  My blog post is based my most recent trip to the North Park location.  However, both locations offer numerous vegan options!

Ranchos Ocean Beach is also known for their salad bar.  Aside from having the usual fresh produce and veggies, the salad bar also boasts a wide variety of raw, vegan options and salad dressings.  (For an explanation on raw food, see my post on Go Raw L.I.F.E. Center: www.thefussyfork.com/go-raw-life-center)

Both locations have a relaxed and inviting interior with wooden tables and chairs.  But, again, the following photo depicts the North Park location.  Both also have a few tables outside for outdoor dining.  This option is particularly popular with dog owners!

 

[caption id="attachment_912" align="alignnone" width="600"]Interior of Ranchos Interior Ranchos[/caption]

 

North Park

3910 30th Street

San Diego 92104

619.574.1288

 

Ocean Beach

1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

San Diego, CA 92107

619.226.7619

 

 

 

Moncai Vegan: 100% Vegan

IMG_2120

 

NORTH PARK.  Participating in Meatless Monday just got easier.  Moncai Vegan has partnered up with Mike Hess Brewing to serve delicious vegan dinner and dessert starting every Monday at 4pm.

Each week, partners Don Jackson and Princesa Vitela create and serve a new vegan meal.  On Monday, I showed up hungry.  So obviously I decided to try one of everything!

First up was the Cauliflower and Potato Soup with fall greens, served with a side of bread.  The soup was strikingly flavorful, and the potatoes, cauliflower, and kale were tender, but not mushy.  (Expertly done.)  The bread – topped with a garlic and kalamata olive spread – was a special treat and perfect for dunking in the soup!

 

IMG_2121

 

Next, we tried the Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with Creamy Kale Sauce which came with Caesar Salad, and a side of bread.  I love that Moncai served an entrée that is normally full of meat, cheese, and dairy, because the easy comparison showcases how vegan food can just as easily be comfort food.  Sandwiched between layers of firm noodles, the zucchini and broccoli burst with flavor.  The creamy sauce was decadent.  And all stray pieces of lasagna were quickly mopped up by my bread!

The vegan caesar salad was fresh, crisp, and delicious – the perfect complement to the warm, filling lasagna.

 

IMG_2125

 

There were two doughnut options: (1) chocolate topped with vegan marshmallows and (2) vanilla topped with pistachios.  And the chefs told me that they had mixed Hess beer into the doughnut batter.  Wow!  It was a tough choice with no wrong answer.  Ultimately, however, my sweet tooth decided the issue and I walked away with the chocolate version.  A masterpiece.  It was dense, rich, and deeply satisfying.  And how in the world did they make these vegan marshmallows?

 

IMG_2131

 

Monvai Vegan does not have a storefront.  Yet.  They are currently fundraising to open a bakery in North Park and hope to have it open in the next 4-5 months.  They are using IndiGoGo as one of their fundraising tools:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/moncai

 

IMG_2129

 

So where can you find Moncai until the bakery opens?  Happily, they go to a variety of farmers markets.  There’s probably one near you!  For a full list of the markets Moncai attends, click on:

http://moncai-vegan.com/where-to-find-us/

 

Moncai is excellent at updating their website to reflect the current menu.  For their current selection, check out:

http://moncai-vegan.com/

 

Mike Hess Brewing

3812 Grim Ave.

San Diego, CA 92104

619.786.4377

 

 

The Mission: Vegan Friendly

The Mission Sign

 

NORTH PARK, DOWNTOWN/LITTLE ITALY, and MISSION BEACH.  Every table occupied?  On a Wednesday afternoon?  After my visit to the Mission, I understand why.

We started with the Vegetarian Roll-Up – pan friend noodles, sprouts, julienne vegetables, and cilantro are wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and served with Thai peanut sauce.  The pan fried noodles are the standout ingredient – crunchy, light, and an excellent contrast to the softer veggies in the wrap.  And the creamy peanut sauce, with just the right amount of salt, was artistically drizzled on the rim of the plate, complete with a light dusting of sesame and poppy seeds.  Throw in the side salad and you have a well-rounded meal!

 

Vegan Vegetarian Roll Up

 

Next, the Ginger Sesame Tofu with Brown Rice.  This dish includes brown rice with zucchini, gold bar squash, bean sprouts, broccoli, and braised ginger sesame tofu with peanut sauce.

I know some people have lukewarm feelings about tofu.  The most common complaints I hear are: (1) the texture is too soft and (2) it is tasteless.  These complaints are often justified, but you need not worry at the Mission.  Each piece of tofu is firm and infused with a penetrating ginger, sesame sauce.  In fact, in my humble opinion, it even edges out the hand crafted treasure of Dao Fu.  Regardless, the competition for the best tofu in San Diego is strong.

If you want some more information about the different types of tofu, how it is made, and how to cook it, check out:

http://happyherbivore.com/2011/08/what-is-tofu/

The vegetables and rice in this dish are also prepared with care.  They are soft, but not soggy.  When mixed with the peanut sauce (also artistically displayed on the rim of the plate!) and the tofu, magic happens.  Bottom line, the Ginger Sesame Tofu entrée is a new favorite.

 

Vegan Ginger Sesame Tofu With Rice

 

The interior of the Mission has inviting dark wooden tables and warm reddish, earth toned walls.  The servers were extremely attentive – my water glass was never empty – and my waitress patiently answered my inquiries regarding vegan food.

Also, the Mission is committed to supporting the community.  Local artwork adorns the wall of the Mission, with 100% (!) of the proceeds going directly to the artist.  Further, the restaurant donates to a variety of charities and participates in a number of annual fundraising events.

I am going to do my best to return to the Mission soon!

 

The Mission Interior

North Park:

2801 University Ave

San Diego, CA 92104

619.220.8992

 

Downtown/Little Italy:

1250 J St

San Diego, CA 92101

619.232.7662

 

Mission Beach:

3795 Mission Blvd

San Diego, CA 92109

858.488.9060

Soltan Banoo: Vegan Friendly

Soltan Banoo Sign

 

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS.  Soltan Banoo delivers on its promise to serve eclectic Persian cuisine.  Flavorful and spiced to perfection, the vegan food here does not disappoint.

Arriving hungry (as usual!), we decided to start with the “sambosas” – savory pastries stuffed with spinach, potatoes, green peas, curry, and spices.  The sambosas are usually served with Mast o’khiar, a yogurt sauce, but our server suggested the vegan sesame dipping sauce.

As illustrated by the following photo, these “sambosas” look different than the “samosas” served in Indian restaurants.  Is it the same dish with a slightly different spelling, or a different dish with a strangely similar spelling?  The “name variation” chapter of the following Wikipedia article suggests the former:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samosa

Regardless, Soltan Banoo’s version is crispy on the outside, and soft and flavorful on the inside.  My only regret is that I had to share.

 

Vegan Sambosas

 

Next up was the Adasi, a dish of brown rice, lentils, mung beans, and squash.  We added organic tofu (shying away from the chicken and lamb shank options).  The Adasi has mild flavors and the consistency of risotto.  And like risotto, it will not leave you hungry.  The lentils, beans, and rice make for a substantial dish – I was only able to eat half of it!  (The upside, of course, was my free lunch the next day.)

 

Vegan Adasi

 

We also ordered the curry.  I had never had Persian curry before, and it definitely stands apart from its Indian and Thai peers.   Specifically, our server explained that Iranian cooking does not rely on creams or coconut milk.  As a result, Soltan Banoo uses a traditional tomato base for its curry.

This was my favorite dish of the night.  In addition to the tomato base, the carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes are cooked in yellow curry and served with basmati rice.  We added organic tofu again (surprise!).  Although filling, as well, there were clearly no leftovers.

 

Vegan Curry

 

There is plenty for a customer to observe while dining in Soltan Banoo.  The interior of the restaurant pairs dark wood chairs and tables with blue walls, decorative wall hangings, and colorful linens and pillows.  And the patio even has dark pink cloth billowing from the rafters.  Like several restaurants on this block, Soltan Banoo occupies a small house on Park Boulevard and exudes charm.

 

Soltan Banoo Interior   Soltan Banoo Patio

 

4645 Park Blvd.

San Diego, Ca 92116

619.298.2801

Vitality Tap: 100% Vegan

Vitality Tap Sign

 

DOWNTOWN/LITTLE ITALY.  You might walk by Vitality Tap without noticing it.  But that would be a mistake.  Because Vitality Tap, though it is tucked away inside a Nutrition Zone store, fills a critical void in the downtown area – superfoods.  Specifically, the newly established Vitality Tap sells vegan smoothies, juices, superbowls, sprouted nut milks, shooters, coolers, kombucha, boosts, and juice cleanses.  And it’s 100% organic!

We arrived hungry and focused first on the “Superbowls.”  You can customize the bowl by choosing from different bases, like acai and pitaya, and then a list of toppings like granola, berries, and other fun options.

I took our server’s recommendation:  the vegan Half & Half Bowl made from acai, pitaya, banana, and coconut water, topped with granola, goji berries, coconut, and extra almond butter.  Success!  The smooth base was not too sweet (like so many bowls are these days), and I enjoyed the combination of coconut and almond butter.  I would definitely order this bowl again!

 

Vegan Half & Half Bowl

 

We also ordered the vegan Almond Butter Bowl.  Here, the almond butter is part of the base, which also includes acai, banana, and almond milk.  We topped it with granola, coconut, and goji berries.  (Again, superfoods are running wild at Vitality Tap.)  The Amond Butter Bowl is equally delicious, but thicker than the Half & Half Bowl.  I highly recommended it for the hungry crowd.

 

Vegan Almond Butter Bowl

 

In addition, Vitality Tap has a large selection of vegan juices and smoothies.  Most impressive, however, is the variety of “Superfood Boosts.”  The menu offers 33 boosts and illustrates their respective health benefits through in a helpful diagram entitled, “Superfoods Directory.”

 

Vitality Tap Boosters Chart

 

I am a fan of green juices, so I ordered the vegan Popeye Juice – a blend of kale, spinach, romaine, celery, cucumber, and jalapeno.  I “boosted” with the nutrient dense, tasteless Chaga mushroom.  I loved this juice, but WARNING:  it is NOT for those looking to dip their toe in the juice pool.  It has an earthy taste with a spicy kick from the jalapenos.  However, if you prefer sweeter juices, there are plenty of options on Vitality Tap’s menu.  One insider described “Drop Some Beets” as liquid candy.

On a side note, I was curious to learn more about the Chaga mushroom.  The Chaga mushroom is not soft like traditional mushrooms, but hard like wood.  In order to survive harsh climates, the mushroom stores nutrients for its protection.  These nutrients are then passed on to the lucky person who eats the mushroom.   It’s essentially a party of phenols and minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and iron.  If you want to know more about the Chaga mushroom check out this link:

http://www.chagaknowledge.com/chagabenefits.htm

 

Vegan Popeye Juice

 

Vitality Tap also has a tap for their homemade kombucha.  Kombucha is a vegan, carbonated, probiotic, fermented tea.  Kombucha is my “go to” drink when I’m tired, starting to feel sick, or want something to quench my thirst.  Usually, I buy bottles in the grocery store.  To drink it as a “draft” was a treat.  To learn more about kombucha click on:

http://beyondkombucha.com/about/what-is-kombucha/

 

Vegan Kombucha Tap

 

Another reason to love Vitality Tap, you ask?  Free samples.  After making a vegan juice or smoothie, they pour any extra into sample cups for customers.  I was able to try both the Lunch Box and Stay Classy smoothies while waiting for my food!  (The Lunch Box is now first on my list for next time.)

The biggest highlight of Vitality Tap was the service.  Everyone was super friendly and patient while I asked my many, many questions.  And knowledgeable – I received excellent menu recommendations.

Vitality Tap does not have indoor seating, but the outdoor space is plentiful.  The tables are a great place to get some sunshine, relax, and enjoy the superfoods!  The patio is also a popular option for those eating with dogs!

 

Vitality Tap Interior   Vitality Tap Patio

 

Vitality Tap does not have a menu listed online, so I am posting pictures I took of the menu.

 

Vegan Menu 1

Vegan Menu 2

Vegan Menu 3

 

650 First Avenue

San Diego, CA 92101

619.237.7625

Queenstown Public House: Vegan Friendly

Queenstown Sign

 

DOWNTOWN/LITTLE ITALY.  General rule: a “pub” is the same thing as a “public house.”  Exception to the rule:  Queenstown Public House, which pairs its drinks with thoughtful dishes in a historic building restored with cutting edge design.  Months ago, I discovered Queenstown while strolling through Little Italy.  It was not yet open, but the exterior was stunning, the interior intriguing, and the owner slipped a menu into my hand.

Queenstown has since opened for business, so I drove back downtown to follow up on a great first impression.  I started with a side of Fresh Corn Medley.  The dish – white corn, red and green bell pepper, and yellow onion – exceeded my expectations.  The corn had a vibrant color and sweet crunch.  Does anything scream summer like fresh corn that is in season?  So far, we are off to an excellent start.

 

Vegan Corn Medley

 

My friend ordered the Quinoa Salad, which provides a mix of red and black quinoa over a base of bright, green spinach.  The “salad” is further infused with white wine and garlic, faro, chopped carrots, celery, pear, sunflower seeds, parsley, asparagus, and feta.  And if you order the salad without the feta, it becomes vegan!

Note:  My photo shows the salad with feta cheese.  But because my friend was eager and kind enough to eat all the feta, I was able to try – and love – the salad.  The dressing is light and allows the quinoa and various nuts and seeds to take center stage and deliver a substantial salad.

 

Vegan Quinoa Salad

 

Next, I tried the TJ Burger, which features a house-made black bean patty that is normally served with fresh jalapeno, corn, cilantro, hot sauce, and crumbled blue cheese on a toasted focaccia bun.  However, Queenstown confirmed that the burger is vegan if ordered without the blue cheese.

 

Vegan TJ Burger

 

This black bean burger is substantial in size and delivers a tantalizing combination of sweet and spicy flavors.  Hungry vegans rejoice!  Although the competition should be chronicled in a separate blog post, Queenstown just might have my new favorite vegan burger.

 

 Vegan TJ Burger

 

Located in a historic Victorian house — the former office for California Assembly members — Queenstown Public House offers its patrons a special ambiance created by designer Michael Soriano.  Mr. Soriano’s portfolio includes San Diego spots like The Pearl Hotel and Vin de Syrah.  To see more of his impressive work:

http://onairosdesign.com/Queenstown-Public-House

As you step from the sidewalk into the Queenstown dining experience, a hostess podium stands at the threshold of the dog friendly front patio.  There are dog biscuits to welcome the pooches, a tricycle to welcome the toddlers, and a rocking chair to welcome the rest of us.

 

Welcome Dog Biscuits   Queenstown Exterior

 

Whether eating inside or outside, you can’t go wrong.  The inside boasts beautiful wood floors, an impressive bar, and intimate seating with unique décor — a sheep hanging from the ceiling? Why not!

 

Queenstown Parlor   Queenstown Bar

 

The outdoor patio area is equally fun.  It feels like you’re sitting on the porch of an old southern house.  The patio is equipped with a covering to keep you cool during warm weather and with space heaters to keep you warm when it is cold! Thank you Queenstown for thinking of everything!

 

Queenstown Patio

 

1557 Columbia Street

San Diego, CA 92101

619.546.0444

 

Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens: Vegan Friendly

Stone Sign

 

POINT LOMA and ESCONDIDO.  Quite simply, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens is like no other restaurant in San Diego.  Stone Brewing’s food – the restaurant is committed to using local and organic produce and its ambiance – quiet, nature inspired open spaces, make a trip to the restaurant an unforgettable experience.

 

Meatless Mondays:

I first heard the phrase “Meatless Monday” a few years a go on an NPR segment reporting on a group of Manhattan restaurants that had decided to take meat off of their Monday menus.  I was excited that some of the most talented chefs in America were going to devote their efforts to meatless dishes!

It turns out that Meatless Monday has a surprising history.  During World War I, the United States was focused on feeding its soldiers and its European allies.  The newly formed U.S. Food Administration declared that “food will win the war” and encouraged Americans to participate in “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” so more food could be sent to Europe.  If you are interested in learning more about Meatless Monday’s history click on the link below!

http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/meatlesswheatless/meatless-wheatless.php

 

In 2003, two heavyweights re-introduced the idea of Meatless Monday.  Health advocate, Sid Lerner, in association with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, framed Meatless Monday as a health campaign to raise awareness about excessive meat consumption.  In the following years, the idea has gained momentum worldwide.  More information can be found at the following website:

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/international/

 

San Diego is also part of the Meatless Monday movement!  In March 2012, San Diego County public schools incorporated Meatless Mondays into their lunch program.

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/meatless-monday-is-on-the-menu-at-san-diego-schools/

 

Stone Brewing and Meatless Mondays:

Stone Brewing has two locations: Escondido and Liberty Station.  Every Monday servers hand out special meatless menus.  All items are vegetarian and many are vegan or can be made vegan.  Although the regular menu is also available, Stone Brewing Liberty Station estimated that 55% of the patrons order from the Meatless Monday menu!

 

The Options…

Appetizers:

  • Housemade Hummus
  • Mushroom Ceviche
  • Housemade Kimchi
  • Soft Pretzel (Escondido location only)

 

Entrees:

  • Tempeh Chili
  • BBQ Avocado Taco Trio
  • Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie
  • Tempeh “Fuego Burger”
  • Tofu Soba Noodles**
  • Tofu Stir Fry**

 

**  The menus at the Escondido and Liberty Station locations contradict each other.  For example, the Escondido menu notes that the Tofu Stir Fry is vegan.  By contrast, the Liberty Station menu does not identify the dish as vegan.  Similarly, while the Escondido menu does not list the Tofu Soba Noodles as vegan, Liberty Station features the dish as vegan.  Is this confusing? Yes! But the folks at Stone Brewing provide excellent service, including a rapid investigation that revealed both dishes are vegan.  So enjoy!

 

 

I was very excited to have my first Meatless Monday experience at Stone Brewing and started by ordering the Housemade Kimchi—a spicy Korean style mix of fermented cabbage and vegetables.  This appetizer is spicy and tangy.  It takes the edge off of hunger without ruining your appetite.  I don’t want to digress too many times, but in case you haven’t heard, fermented foods are GOOD for you! For more information on why, check out this link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/fermented-foods-bubble-with-healthful-benefits/2012/11/19/db70ea76-329b-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_blog.html

 

Spicy Vegan Kimchee

 

Next up was the BBQ Avocado Taco Trio.  Fried avocado, Stone Levitation Ale BBQ Sauce , microgreens, and habanero-pineapple salsa are served on local Esperanza corn tortillas.  Brown rice, black beans, and tomatillo salsa dress up the rest of the plate  Don’t forget to ask your server to skip the Asiago cheese to make this dish vegan!

Fried avocado for the base of this vegan taco embodies creativity.  The breaded exterior of the avocado contrasts nicely with its smooth, creamy interior.  The BBQ sauce and habanero-pineapple salsa add spice and additional flavor.  The tortillas are soft and warm, and the beans and rice are expertly seasoned.  A great choice for a lunch or dinner entrée.

 

Vegan BBQ Taco Trio

 

Finally, we tried the Tempeh “Fuego Burger.”   The burger is made from house-made tempeh, topped with aioli and sliced jalapenos, and served with a side of chile lime tortilla chips.  Again, don’t forget to order this one without Cheddar cheese to “veganize” the dish.

For me, tempeh has the best texture of all the meat substitutes and gives this patty a hearty consistency.  Plus, the jalapenos added spice.  However, I suspect that this burger benefits from the salty Cheddar cheese that tops the non-vegan version.  Perhaps, Stone Brewing will start offering vegan cheese in the future.  Normally, I am not a “chip person.”  I tend to like sweets.  These chips, however, were special.  They were extra crispy and had a delicious salty lime flavor.  I could not stop eating them.

 

Vegan Tempeh "Fuego Burger"

 

If you should find yourself at Stone Brewing on a day besides Monday, don’t worry! Vegan options are still available.  There is an excellent Housemade Hummus appetizer, and many of the salads can be made vegan, if you order them without cheese.  The vean Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie entrée is available on the regular menu.   The Fussy Fork Tips: (1) you can substitute tofu for Chicken to make the Yakisoba vegan and (2) Stone can prepare vegan mashed potatoes!

 

Stone Brewing: Escondido

The attention Stone Brewing gives to its dining spaces deserves special mention.  The flagship Escondido location encompasses almost 12,000 square feet of dining space and a one-acre beer garden.  Stone used reclaimed materials and quarried stone and leather “rejects” to create a luscious, green oasis that has won numerous landscaping and architectural awards.

Stone’s 19-acre farm is close to the Escondido location and offers guided tours.  For more information on the farm click on:

http://www.stonebrewing.com/farm/

 

Stone Brewing: Liberty Station

After 4 years of development including 2 years of construction, the Liberty Station location rivals its Escondido counterpart.  On May 15, 2013, the doors opened and the crowds followed.

The restaurant was huge, the ceilings tall, and the outdoor patio expansive. Upon further exploration, I found dining alcoves, indoor and outdoor bars, seating areas with rocking chairs, and a bocce ball court.  Stone can seat 720 but holds 1,200.

 

Interior Stone   Stone Patio   Bocce Ball Court

 

The word is definitely out.  Both locations are BUSY.  Make a reservation or arrive ready to relax until a table is ready.

 

Escondido:

1999 Citracado Parkway

Escondido, CA 92029

760.294.7866

 

Liberty Station:

2816 Historic Decatur Road, #116

San Diego, CA 92106

619.269.2100

 

Sloppy’s Burritos: Vegan Friendly

Sloppy's Sign

 

HILLCREST.  Sloppy’s is tucked into a small strip mall in Hillcrest on 4th Avenue.  The menu is refreshingly simple.  Burritos, which can also be ordered as bowls (no tortilla), and salads (no tortilla plus some lettuce), are the cornerstone of the menu. Sides include blue or yellow corn chips, salsa, and guacamole.

One of my favorite things about San Diego is the abundance of avocados.  So, obviously, I love good guacamole.  Sloppy’s guacamole is light and smooth, and the corn chips are crisp, with a hint of salt.  A great snack while you’re waiting for your food!

 

Chips and Guacamole

 

The Vegan Delight has organic baked tofu, organic brown rice and black beans, grilled peppers and onions, organic romaine lettuce, organic guacamole, and salsa.  I tried the Vegan Delight as a burrito, which wraps the above ingredients up in a spinach tortilla.  The burrito was very satisfying—the tofu was firm and well seasoned, the beans and rice soft, and the lettuce crisp.

 

Vegan Delight Burrito

 

Sloppy’s also provides a home made hot sauce for those who like spice.  The big surprise – it has a smoky flavor, in addition to the expected spice.

 

Sloppy's Hot Sauce

 

We also tried the Vegan Delight bowl.  As you might imagine, it is equally delicious, maybe even more so, because there is no tortilla to undermine the freshness of the Vegan Delight’s ingredients.  It is the epitome of healthy Mexican food – ingredients that do not need the traditional “crutches” of cheese and sour cream.  They shine on their own.

 

Vegan Delight Bowl

 

The restaurant is modern looking with lots of silver accents.  And it is CLEAN!  The counter space and tables were all immaculately wiped down, and I swear I could see my reflection on the floor.  Tables on the outdoor patio are waiting for those who want to sit outside and enjoy their meal with a pet!  Also, the staff at Sloppy’s was incredibly friendly.  It was my first visit, and the server personified patience as she answered my questions.

 

Sloppy's Interior   Sloppy's Interior   Sloppy's Patio

 

UPDATE: AS OF SEPTEMBER 2014, SLOPPY’S BURRITO’S IS CLOSED.  THEY WILL BE MISSED.

 

3884 4th Ave

San Diego, CA 92103

619.269.2697

Dao Fu: Vegan Friendly

Dao Fu Sign

 

NORMAL HEIGHTS.  Dao Fu (formerly known as Tao) provides excellent vegan Vietnamese and Japanese food.  The restaurant recently changed its name, but the owners, ambiance, and menu remain the same.

The restaurant is best known for its homemade tofu.  In a word – delicious.  Not only is it made from non-GMO soybeans, it has more flavor and the best texture of any tofu that I have ever tried.  Ever.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the debate regarding GMO foods, this is an article that provides both sides of the debate:

http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

Did I mention that a complimentary salad with tofu is given to every table?  You get greens, beets, and tofu, topped with a tangy dressing.  A healthy and tasty way to start the meal.

 

Vegan Tofu Salad

 

Usually I think of soup as an appetizer.  Dao Fu, however, changed my mind with its arsenal of substantial, satisfying soups.  I most recently tried the Vegetarian Sukiyaki, which is served with noodles, tofu, Shitake mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, snow peas, and scallion.  The broth of the soup is flavorful, the vegetables fresh, and the mushrooms rich.  I would be happy eating this soup every day.

 

Vegetarian Sukiyaki (Vegan soup!)

 

My lunch partner decided on the Eggplant Tofu (and when I say he decided on the Eggplant Tofu, I mean he orders it every single time we go to Dao Fu!).  The Eggplant Tofu is appropriately named, as it is served with eggplant, tofu, and snow peas covered in a light garlic sauce.  Customers are given the choice of a side of white rice, brown rice, or half white rice and half brown rice.  Dao Fu also lets you pick the spice level of your dish from 0 (no spice) to 10 (hot).  Beware, Dao Fu is not afraid to use spice! Talk to your server about choosing the appropriate spice level.

It’s worth taking a moment after this dish arrives to appreciate the artful arrangement of the food.  Eggplant and snow peas radiate out from the tofu and rice center.  The eggplant is soft, while the snow peas add a nice crunch to the dish.  The addition of a generous serving of homemade tofu makes this one entrée that shouldn’t be missed.

 

Vegan Eggplant Tofu

 

The interior of Dao Fu is elegant and quirky at the same time.  The tables are set with formal linen table clothes, traditional water glasses, and flower centerpieces.  But the walls of the restaurant are a covered in messages customers have written over the years, and a large spoon and fork hang on the back wall.  Most importantly, the servers always engage in pleasant conversation and are ready to answer questions about the menu.

 

Dao Fu Interior

 

3332 Adams Ave

San Diego, CA 92116

619.281.6888

Veg-N-Out: Vegan Friendly

Veg-N-Out Sign

 

NORTH PARK.  I have fond memories of foods like pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers.  I associate them with the 4th of July, helping my dad grill, and outdoor summer parties.  Luckily for me, Veg-N-Out’s menu provides a huge selection of vegan items that satisfy my nostalgia.

Veg-N-Out has a 100% vegetarian menu and many items are vegan or can be made vegan.  The menu is huge—it is not unusual for customers to take at least ten minutes to read through the descriptions of the appetizers, burgers, hotdogs, desserts, smoothies, and juices available.  A green “V” indicates that a menu item is vegan or can be made vegan.

On my most recent trip to Veg-N-Out, I was fresh off a run and ready to eat.  I scanned the menu for a vegan starter and found Vinny Bread—a pizza bread that could be veganized!  I had my doubts, because vegan cheese can be tricky, but I should not have been worried.  The final product of wheat bread covered in homemade marinara sauce, vegan Mozzarella, garlic, and basil surpassed my expectations.  The bread was soft and chewy, the marinara sauce was fresh and tangy, and the cheese was warm.  The garlic and basil gave the appetizer a delicious and fresh final taste.  A great start to the meal.

 

Vegan Pizza Bread

 

Burgers:

Veg-N-Out is best known for its burgers.  Each veggie burger is served on a wheat bun with a side of potato wedges, a homemade daily side salad, or a green salad.  Customers pick their own patty from the following choices:  (1) homemade veggie burger, (2) soy patty, or (3) Boca burger.  Each patty is vegan.  The homemade burger (my favorite!) is made from veggies, brown rice, rice flour, quinoa, and spices.

My wingman and I decided to split two burgers.  First up was the North Parker, a patty topped with “Swiss” cheese (we asked for the vegan cheese), onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and vegenaise (mayonnaise is not served at Veg-N-Out!).  The caramelized onions bring this burger to life.  They add a deep flavor that complements the Swiss cheese, making a thick and satisfying final product.

 

North Parker Vegan Burger

 

Our second burger was the Ultimate Vegan Burger: a patty topped with vegan Cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses, sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and vegenaise.  The mix of vegan cheeses provided a layer of rich, creamy flavor, which paired nicely with the crunch of sprouts, onions, and pickles.  I have a strong suspicion that I will be ordering this burger again.  Perhaps a new obsession.  (Luckily, North Park is out of my way.)  Also, the light and sweet cucumber and mango salad was a great side dish.

 

Ultimate Vegan Burger

 

Although I was full at this point, I dug down deep and ordered one of Veg-N-Out’s Super Food Smoothies.  The Mystic Mayan is a blend of banana, dates, maca, cinnamon, raw cacao, chia seed, and rice milk.  Maca, raw cacao, and chia seeds are all considered “super foods.”  There is no exact definition for a “super food,” but the general idea is that they are nutrient dense and provide health benefits.

 

Maca:

Maca root is part of the cruciferous family (broccoli and radishes are also members).  In commercial form, it is usually ground into a very soft powder.  (Think of the old can of Nesquik powder from your childhood.)  It has an earthy, nutty taste and goes great with oatmeal and nut milk smoothies.  Maca is native to the Andes Mountains and was used by the Incas for energy and . . . um . . . well, it is known as nature’s Viagra.

http://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/what-is-maca-why-put-in-smoothie

 

Raw Cacao:

As a chocolate lover, I know that my chocolate cake and hot chocolate would not be possible without the cocoa bean.  I became confused, however, when I realized cacao existed—the color and the smell (not to mention the spelling!) of the two items were so similar.  So I did some research.  The final answer was simple: a cocoa bean is roasted while a cacao bean is NOT roasted.

Raw cacao tastes like very, very dark chocolate.  It has high levels of antioxidants and may help to improve heart function and to alleviate stress.

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/beverage1/a/raw-chocolate-nutrition.htm

 

Chia Seeds:

Chia seeds are full of nutrients like fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese and protein.  Chia seeds can also help stabilize blood sugar and are being studied as a possible treatment for diabetes. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html

 

So back to the smoothie.  The bananas and rice milk provide a smooth base..  The dates dial up the sweetness, and the cinnamon and maca powder add spice and flavor.  The cacao nibs add bursts of chocolate goodness.  And the black chia seeds are along for the ride – no flavor, but add nutrients and an aesthetic appeal.  Overall, the smoothie was satisfying and guilt free!

 

Mystic Mayan Vegan Smoothie

 

The inside of Veg-N-Out is casual with a beach and surf theme.  Bamboo and light toned wood surround the register.  Artwork of waves and other beach scenes adorn the walls. There is also an outdoor patio space available for those who want to soak up some sun or eat with their pet!

 

Veg-N-Out Interior  Veg-N-Out Exterior

 

3442 30th St

San Diego, CA 92104

619.546.8411

Nekter Juice Cleanse: 100% Vegan

Nekter Sign

 

LA JOLLA.  As promised, I am chronicling my Nekter juice cleanse experience.  To say that I got “off track” during my recent vacation would be an understatement  —  Norwegians still prefer reindeer to plants – so I was thrilled to start the cleanse when I returned to San Diego!

 

THE BASICS:

 

Nekter offers 3 different cleanses: (1) Classic, (2) Advanced, and (3) Premium Organic.  Each cleanse can be 1, 2, 3, or 5 days, and all of Nekter’s juices are vegan, raw, and “cold pressed.”

What is the big deal about “cold pressed” juice, you ask?  Well, a traditional centrifugal juicing machine has a motor and can heat up the blades that cut the fruits and vegetables.  This heat can harm nutrients and enzymes.  But the cold pressed method involves squeezing the produce with an extreme amount of pressure in order to extract every last drop of “nectar.”  The end result is a juice especially dense in nutrients.

At Nekter, each day of any cleanse includes six bottles (500mL each) that are numbered from “1” to “6,” so even I could manage the proper sequence.  Also, it is recommended to drink plenty of water.  (Interesting note:  my friend found that hot water curbed his appetite between the juices.)  And for those of us who want to work out during the cleanse, Nekter has created a special two-drink bonus (for immediately before, and after, the workout) to supply the extra protein and calories.

I elected the 3-day Premium Organic Cleanse, with the workout drinks.  Let’s get started . . .

 

Nekter Organic Juice Cleanse, Bottles 1-3

 

WHAT AM I DRINKING, AND WHY IS IT GOOD FOR ME?

 

Bottle 1 Ingredients:

Apple, grapefruit, celery, kale, parsley, spinach, and mustard greens

  • Benefits:  

    The grapefruit in this juice is included for its soluble fiber and liver detoxifying benefits.  The greens provide a powerful cocktail of antioxidants, especially the nutrient dense mustard greens and alkaline celery.

  • My Take:  

    The juice had a beautiful emerald, green color.  The apples make the juice sweet, but the rest of the greens ensure that it is not overly sugary.  A great way to start a day!

 

Bottle 2 Ingredients:

Water, lemon, turmeric, cayenne pepper, agave nectar

  • Benefits:

     Cayenne pepper and turmeric have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.  These ingredients help the body bring blood to the surface so toxin elimination can begin!

  • My Take:  

    This lemonade has a bright, golden hue.  It is tart, but delicious.  It also helped to curb my hunger.

 

Bottle 3 Ingredients:

Carrot, celery, kale, parsley, spinach, ginger

  • Benefits:

     This is an alkalizing green mix with carrots that eliminates free radicals and gives the body a good dose of Vitamin A.  The ginger aids digestion, circulation, and helps reduce inflammation.

  • My Take: 

    Don’t worry about the murky green color — it’s delicious.  The carrots provide a mild, sweet flavor.

 

Nekter Organic Juice Cleanse, Bottles 4-6

 

Bottle 4 Ingredients:

Water, lemon, agave nectar, beets, ginger

  • Benefits:

    The beets help purify blood and assist in toxin elimination.

  • My Take:  

    Beets dress up this lemonade and give it a beautiful bright, pink color.  It is slightly less tart than the other lemonade (Bottle 2), and helps give variety to the cleanse experience.

 

Bottle 5 Ingredients:

Celery, lemon, apple, kale, parsley, dandelion greens

  • Benefits:

     The dandelion greens provide calcium while working with the lemon and apples to help flush out the gallbladder and the liver.

  • My Take:

    This juice is a vibrant green and screams, “I’m healthy!”  Fortunately, the apple makes this veggie bomb easy to drink.

 

Bottle 6:

Cashews, water, dates, cinnamon, nutmeg

  • Benefits:

     This drink packs a protein punch and provides minerals like zinc, which help the lymphatic system to eliminate waste.

  • My Take:

    Nekter describes this drink as a “dessert,” but it’s more than that.  Yes, you think you are drinking a cinnamon, vanilla milkshake, but it is thick and deeply satisfying.  It is your reward for staying on track.  It will lift your spirits, and you will go to bed happy.

 

Nekter's Protein and Mojo Drinks

 

Pre-Workout Drink (Mojo) Ingredients:

Coconut water, lime, mint, apple, AFA (live blue-green algae)

  • Benefits:

     The coconut water helps to hydrate the body pre-workout.  Blue-green algae has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  To learn more about blue algae click on:  http://www.livestrong.com/article/398318-blue-green-algae-benefits/

  • My take:  

    I loved the taste of this drink.  As the name suggests, it is sweet and minty like a mojito.

 

Post-Workout Drink (Protein) Ingredients:

Raw almonds, dates, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla bean

  • Benefits:

     This drink delivers necessary calories to your body post-workout.  The vanilla beans help calm the body while the cinnamon helps to steady the blood sugar.

  • My Take:  

    This drink is similar to Bottle 6.  And you know how I feel about Bottle 6.  More, please!

 

Nekter Premium Organic Juice Cleanse

 

DAY #1 RECAP:

 

I woke up and drove to La Jolla to pick up my cleanse package!  The bottles were nicely packaged in a refrigerated bag.  And I confess, at this point, my stomach was beginning to growl, so I opened up Bottle Number 1 for the drive home.  Am I desperate already?

After a few hours at home, I drank bottle number 2 and headed off to work.  Where was I going?  A vegan bakery.  That’s right.  While cleansing, I would be making cookies and icing cupcakes.  This was the ultimate experiment in self-control as there are MANY opportunities to “test” our creations in the bakery!  The upside of being at work, however, was being busy.  The hours flew by, and I finished bottles 3, 4, and 5.

Back at home, I was tired and starting to feel a little cranky.  But this is the genius of Bottle 6.  It is the velvet hammer.  And I went to bed full and slept very well.

 

DAY #2 RECAP:

 

On day 2, I woke up after nine hours of sleep.  (This is a good sign for me.)  I started with the Mojo bottle, because the day started with a workout.  My legs felt fresh.  I had been worried I wouldn’t have enough fuel in the tank to power through a full run.

When I got back to the house, I was definitely ready for something substantial.  And the Protein post-workout drink was ready for me on the counter.  It was perfect.  It is obvious that somebody put a lot of thought into this program and provide my body with exactly what it needed.  I enjoyed the rest of my cleanse day without feeling deprived.

 

DAY #3 RECAP:

 

I had some reservations about doing a 3-day cleanse.  Previously, I had participated in a 2-day affair with mixed results.  Although I felt some benefits, I also felt sluggish and developed headaches in the afternoons.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up on the third day, feeling good and ready to work out.  I even had the energy to accompany my fiancé and a visiting friend to both lunch and dinner and watch them eat while I drank my bottles!  Even though I was starting to fantasize about what I might eat the next day, I noticed my head felt delightfully light and clear during the long walk to dinner.  There was no tired fog or exhaustion.

 

Nekter Cleanse Relaxation Time

 

CONCLUSIONS:

 

The Premium Organic Cleanse surpassed my expectations.  To ditch the stress of finding food and cleaning dishes for three days – without the expected drop in energy or mood – was a liberating experience.  It allowed for some introspection and forced some relaxation.  For all these reasons, I recommend a Nekter cleanse.

Nekter has an informative FAQ page that may be able to help with additional questions: http://www.nekterjuicebar.com/c-8-faq.aspx

 

UPDATE:

A lot of readers have been wondering about the specific nutrition content for the different drinks and cleanses.  I was able to get ahold of the information for the Nekter’s Advanced and Classic cleanses.

 

Advanced Cleanse:

 

Drinks 1-3:

 

[caption id="attachment_1811" align="alignnone" width="640"]Nekter Advanced Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 1-3 Nekter Advanced Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 1-3[/caption]

 

Drinks 4-6:

 

[caption id="attachment_1812" align="alignnone" width="640"]Nekter Advanced Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 4-6 Nekter Advanced Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 4-6[/caption]

 

Classic Cleanse:

 

Drinks 1-3:

 

[caption id="attachment_1813" align="alignnone" width="640"]Nekter Classic Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 1-3 Nekter Classic Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 1-3[/caption]

 

Drinks 4-6:

 

[caption id="attachment_1814" align="alignnone" width="640"]Nekter Classic Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 4-6 Nekter Classic Cleanse Nutrition Information, Drinks 4-6[/caption]

 

I hope that helps everyone, and happy cleansing!

 

Naked Cafe: Vegan Friendly

Naked Cafe Sign

 

POINT LOMA, SOLANA BEACH, ENCINITAS, and CARLSBAD.  Naked food is good food.  Specifically, Naked Café offers satisfying dishes built from natural, whole foods.  Beans, greens, and rice play a large role in the bowls, plates, and wraps, while fresh herbs, spices, salsas, and sauces produce robust flavors.  The vegan options are excellent.

My favorite item on the menu is the “OM.”  The product of an enlightened yogi, perhaps?  Lotus root, corn, celery, carrots and shitake mushrooms are sautéed to perfection, then laid enticingly over brown rice and black beans. A whole grain tortilla and fresh salsa come on the side.  I like to mix everything up together and pile it onto my tortilla.  This dish is filling, but not heavy.  Perfect.

While writing this post, I realized I didn’t know anything about one of OM’s ingredients, the lotus root.  I have learned that the lotus root is an aquatic tuber that offers a strong nutritional punch with nutrients like Vitamin C, copper, and iron.  For more information and facts on the lotus root check out:

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/lotus-root.html

 

The "OM" Vegan Bowl

 

Next, the Green Transcendence Wrap.  With a name like that, how could it not be good for you?  Your spinach tortilla holds tofu, siracha, basil, onions, tomato, and fresh spinach.  The tofu in this wrap may catch your eye, but it is the siracha, basil, and onions that will make your taste buds dance.  The dish comes with two sides: (1) organic quinoa and  (2) organic baby greens.  The quinoa is light and fluffy with a tangy dressing.  I could eat a whole plate of it.  And the greens do not disappoint.

 

Vegan Green Transcendence Wrap

 

And what would lunch be without a sweet ending? Cool and refreshing, the Banana Blackberry Smoothie is an excellent choice.

 

Banana Blackberry Vegan Smoothie

 

Naked Café has four locations.  The restaurant in Solana Beach is tucked away next to the grass park overlooking the ocean.  It is a beautiful spot to walk around with your smoothie.  The Point Loma and Encinitas locations are ensconced in strip malls.  It is a testament to the quality of the food that people drive into these vicious parking lots.  As for Carlsbad, it is next on my list!  Note: all of the locations I’ve visited have outdoor seating areas that are pet friendly and the perfect place to enjoy the San Diego weather.

Finally, keep your eye on the clock.  Naked Café closes at 2:30pm, because it is focused on the breakfast and lunch crowd.

 

Naked Cafe Interior

 

Point Loma

3555 Rosecrans St #109

San Diego, CA 92110

619.226.7866

 

Solana Beach

106 S. Sierra Ave.

Solana Beach, CA 92075

858.259.7866

 

Encinitas

288-C N. El Camino Real

Encinitas, CA 92024

760.635.7866

 

Carlsbad

300 Carlsbad Village Dr.

Suite 107A

Carlsbad, CA 92008

760.720.7866

Lean and Green: Vegan Friendly

Lean and Green

 

LA JOLLA.  Lean and Green stays true to its name.  The restaurant, set back from the busy street, is an oasis for those seeking organic and vegan wraps, bowls, smoothies and juices.

Slight digression.  Being a soup loving vegan is not easy, right?  Often the following scenario plays out when I go to a new restaurant.  I flip to the soup section of the menu and see an option like tomato soup.  I smile, thankful that the restaurant has a vegan option.  But just to be safe, I ask the server whether the soup is vegan (it is surprising how often restaurants fail to list a soup’s ingredients!), only to learn that there is cream in the soup.

Lean and Green avoids such disappointment with its seasonal, vegan soups.  My most recent obsession is the Spicy Pumpkin Soup.  A combination of pumpkin, coconut milk, and curry, the soup weaves rich, smooth, and spicy flavors together.  A strong start to the meal.

 

 Spicy Pumpkin Soup

 

I love that Lean and Green dedicates a whole section of the menu to “Bowls.”  The bowls have a base of organic brown rice.  Next, there is a layer of vegetables, nuts, beans, and other delicious toppings.  An enticing sauce tops off the bowl.

My current favorite is the Miso Bowl made from brown rice, broccoli, carrots, fresh jalapenos, and topped with a sesame miso sauce.   The miso sauce is tangy and lightly coats the rice and fresh vegetables.  Perfect.  (Note: the bowl portions are not huge.  If you are super hungry, you might need more than just a bowl!)

 

Miso Bowl

 

Another great option is the Teriyaki Bowl – brown rice, broccoli, and pine nuts, topped with gluten free teriyaki sauce.  The pine nuts take this bowl to the next level.  They add crunch and a richer flavor.  (Veterans of the bulk foods aisle know that pine nuts are ridiculously expensive.  So I appreciate a restaurant willing to include them in a dish.  Crazy delicious.)

 

Vegan Teriyaki Bowl

 

Not feeling like a bowl?  Lean and Green makes a delicious Vegan Delight wrap.  Roasted eggplant or tofu is wrapped up with basil, roasted red bell peppers, baby spinach, sunflower seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  A great meal on the run!

 

Vegan Delight Wrap

 

The menu would not be complete without a selection of juice and smoothies.  My favorite is the Crazy Jungle smoothie made from almond milk, spinach, cucumber, avocado, banana, and ice.  This bright green smoothie is sweet and creamy.  An easy way to get some vegetables without trying!

 

Crazy Jungle Vegan Smoothie

 

Upon entering Lean and Green, your eye is first drawn to the tree growing out of the middle of the floor.  The two walls are made completely of glass and ensure that plenty of light enters the restaurant.  Customers order at a register and are then able to sit at either indoor or outdoor tables.  It’s a great place to grab a quick bite or settle in with a book or laptop.

 

Lean and Green Interior   Lean and Green Interior

 

7825 Fay Ave

La Jolla, CA 92037

858.459.5326

Underbelly: Vegan Friendly

Underbelly Sign

 

LITTLE ITALY.  Arsalun Tafozoli and Nathan Stanton have a good thing going in San Diego.  They create restaurants with character, unique décors, and creative menus that bring loyal followers.  Craft and Commerce, Neighborhood, Polite Provisions, Soda and Swine.  And Underbelly is no exception.

Curiosity, tempered with skepticism, brought me to Underbelly.  People told me that it was primarily a “ramen noodle restaurant” that had some vegan options.  Ramen?  Really?  My experience with ramen was limited to the Machuran noodles and flimsy flavor packets that we grew up eating as kids.  To say that Underbelly exceeded my expectations – and redefined my understanding of ramen – would be an understatement.

Underbelly has two ramen bowls that can be made vegan: (1) the Vegetable Ramen and (2) the Spicy Kimchi Ramen.  To make either of these bowls vegan, simply request vegan noodles when placing your order.  (Otherwise, the default noodles are made from egg.)  The broth is made from dry Porcinni mushrooms, miso paste, sesame seed paste, and vegetables.  The result is a strong foundation – full of flavor – for both bowls.

My “go to” bowl is the Vegetable Ramen.  The Vegetable Ramen comes with truffle oil, Shiitake mushrooms, Hon Shimeji mushrooms, Oyster mushrooms, Enoki mushrooms, and white asparagus.  I pretty much love any dish that includes truffle oil, which makes everything taste richer and more decadent.  So good!

The mushrooms are exceptional.  If you are like me, you grew up eating bland mushrooms stocked in a blue styrofoam container, wrapped in cellophane.  The mushrooms in the Vegetable Ramen could not be more different.  They bring gravitas to the bowl, a centerpiece, and burst with flavor as if glazed with some buttery coating (which they are not).  Even the asparagus is interesting—white asparagus has a milder taste than its green counterpart.  (It’s white because it lacks chlorophyll.)  Bottom line, if you are going to Underbelly for the first time, and want to try a dish you are sure to love, try the Vegetable Ramen.

 

Vegetable Ramen (vegan style)

 

The second vegan ramen option is the Charred Spicy Kimchi Ramen.  It comes with napa cabbage, rainbow carrots, and Sishito peppers.  I have to confess that my love affair with the Vegetable Ramen caused me to wait almost a year before trying the Kimchi Ramen.  But I am so happy I finally did.  The kimchi gives this bowl has a stronger taste than the Vegetable Ramen.  I love the Sishito peppers.  They are not spicy – in a traditional sense – but provide a smoky and mild flavor.  This bowl is now in my vegan rotation.

 

Charred Kimchi Ramen Bowl (vegan style)

 

Fun fact:  Underbelly does not have spoons.  Instead, patrons are encouraged to eat the best they can with chop sticks and slurp from their bowls.  Loudly.  Because it’s way more fun (and somewhere in the world, it’s also good manners.)

If you want to customize your ramen experience, Underbelly offers creative toppings for the bowls.  The majority of these options are meat, but there is also a vegan option: the eggplant wrapped tofu.  Also, if you need food in your belly before the bowl, you can’t go wrong with the edamame.

Now for the condiments.  Although condiments don’t usually merit their own section, these are special.  Half the fun of eating at Underbelly is playing around with different spices and oils to customize your bowl!

The first option is the chili pepper sauce that is served in a mason jar.  Underbelly uses Ghost and Scorpion peppers, some of the hottest peppers in the world, to create this sauce.  I would recommend adding this to a bowl in SMALL increments.

Second, there is Togarashi.  Typically, Togarashi contains Chinese chile, orange peel, seaweed, ginger, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds.  It is NOT spicy and adds remarkable flavor to any bowl.

Finally, customers can choose to add sesame oil to their dishes.  This oil has a mild taste with toasted sesame undertones.

 

Underbelly Condiments

 

The restaurant sits under an apartment building.  To enter, you walk through a hallway lined with succulents and stand in line to place an order.  There are seats at the bar (with quality craft beers).  There are also seats on the perimeter of the restaurant—both inside and outside (dog friendly!)—allowing for friends to face each other.  And there are also seats on a small outdoor patio for good people watching.  Perhaps most exciting is the fact that Underbelly is currently remodeling.  The restaurant is creating a new, upstairs dining space.  Why more space, you ask?  Because the food is excellent, and the word is out.

 

Underbelly Patio   Underbelly Outside Bar Seating   Underbelly Outside Patio

 

750 W Fir St

San Diego, CA 92101

619.269.4626

Nekter Juice Bar: 100% Vegan

Nekter Sign

 

LA JOLLA/UTC and ENCINITAS.   The vegan movement in San Diego is building momentum.  Menus are dedicating more space to vegan options, the farmers markets are flourishing, and bold establishments are opening with exclusively vegan fare.  On June 21, 2013, another key player opened its doors in San Diego.  Nekter Juice Bar has taken over a charming cottage in the heart of La Jolla, offering a full menu of vegan juices, smoothies, and snacks.

Steve and Alexis Schulze founded Nekter in 2010 and opened the first location in Costa Mesa.  Then, explosive growth.  Eleven locations sprouted from Orange County to Los Angeles.  Now, the San Diego grand opening.  Next, more cities in California, Arizona, and Texas.  Vegan wildfire!

Juices:

On opening day, I tried “The Cure,” made from beet, broccoli, kale, parsley, celery, grapes, and apple.  The beets produce a vibrant pink color.  Even better, the beets, grapes, and apple sweeten up the hard-core healthy green goodness.

 

"The Cure" from Nekter

 

Smoothies:

So obviously I’m hooked – a few days later, I’m back at Nekter.  (I don’t live anywhere near La Jolla, but this doesn’t seem to matter.)  This time around, I ordered the Tropical Cooler—a puree of spinach, kale, pineapple, banana, coconut water, and coconut butter.  Yes, coconut butter.  Is there anything more delicious?  And the combination of coconut and pineapple is well established magic, decidedly tropical.  I couldn’t even taste the spinach or kale, although the bold green color of the smoothie assured me that they were in there!

 

"Tropical Cooler" from Nekter

 

Bowls:

Nekter provides a selection of vegan bowls—most are acai based.  However, I decided to try the Pitaya Bowl made from a blend of pitaya, banana, pineapple, coconut butter, and coconut water and topped with hempseed granola, raw coconut flakes, and bananas.  For more information on pitaya, see my post on Lotus Café.  And if you are looking for a more comprehensive run down, click on the link below:

http://pitayaplus.com/what-is-pitaya-plus/

The bowl was big and delicious.  The bright, pink pitaya tasted sweet and smooth.  The hemp granola gave texture to the bowl, and the bananas sweeten things up even more.  Shredded coconut on top?  Yes, please.  (Are you getting the tropical vibe yet?)

 

PItaya Bowl

 

Nekter simplifies everything for the customer.  Three separate menus for juices, smoothies, and bowls are posted on the wall for easy reading.  There is also a refrigerated section where you can pick up snacks, pre-bottled juices, and even cocktail mixers!

 

Interior Nekter

 

Nekter also dedicates space to its first ever Nekter Cleanse Bar.  A cleanse specialist will be available to answer questions.  And in July, I’m going to tackle one of Nekter’s cleanses.   I will document my experience on The Fussy Fork, so be sure to check back soon!

 

Cleanse Bar

 

Nekter’s indoor and outdoor patio seating areas create a fun, casual atmosphere.  It’s the perfect place to sip on a juice after a workout, escape from the office for a restorative smoothie, or sit with a book and a snack.  As an added bonus, Nekter provides free WiFi!

 

Nekter Patio

 

834 Kline St

La Jolla, CA 92037

800.385.1650

The Joint: Vegan Friendly

Joint Sign

 

OCEAN BEACH.  The Joint sits in the center of downtown Ocean Beach, on Newport.  From the sidewalk, it looks like a typical sushi spot.  The menu, however, reveals that it is more.  It is a sushi spot with excellent vegan options.

 I love seaweed salad.  And the Joint offers the Spicy Wakame Salad, a fun twist on the traditional dish.  Chili oil, serrano peppers, and jalapeño peppers spice up the seaweed.  Even better, the peppers are large enough so you can decide how many peppers to put in our mouth – it’s like having your finger on the temperature gauge.

 

Spicy Wakame Salad

 

The Joint offers three vegan rolls (nicely labeled with a “V” on their menu!): (1) Super Tempeh Salad, (2) Hippie Dream, and (3) The Green Machine.

The Super Tempeh Salad is my favorite vegan roll at the Joint.  But first, a quick digression.  I have received requests for definitions of the more obscure ingredients.  Personally, I had never heard of tempeh until I moved to San Diego, so….

Question: What is tempeh?

Answer: A popular meat substitute made from fermented soybeans that has a nutty flavor.

If you want to learn more about tempeh click on this link:  http://www.tempeh.info/

Now back to the Super Tempeh Salad roll!  The inside of the roll is tempeh, avocado, and a salad made from veganaise (vegan mayonnaise), mango, macadamia nuts, cilantro, and lettuce.  This vegan goodness is then rolled in soy paper and topped with a sweet chili lime sauce.  For me, the magic of this roll comes from the macadamia nuts.  The nuts provide a crunch and sweet taste, and in combination with the mango, give the roll a slightly tropical taste.

 

Super Tempeh Salad Roll

 

The Hippie Dream rolls up tempeh, enoki mushrooms, asparagus, pickled shallots, avocado, chives, kaiware, and hemp seeds in soy paper.  Kaiware was new to me.  Turns out it is a type of sprout popular in Asian cuisines.

The more “typical” sushi ingredients like the mushrooms, asparagus, avocado, and sprouts provide a satisfying base.  The chives, pickled shallots, and hemp seeds give the roll a more complex and unique flavor.

 

Hippie Dream Roll

 

The Green Machine is also a strong choice.  It is made from cucumber, yamagobo, bell pepper, kaiware, chives, enoki mushrooms, and topped with avocado.  I had not heard of yamagobo, either, but learned that it is pickled burdock root.  Who can resist burdock root, I ask?  All in all, the variety of color, texture, and taste makes the Green Machine another home run for the Joint.

 

Green Machine Roll

 

Additional Vegan Things of Note:

Lunch Menu: includes a Tempeh Ruben that can be made vegan if ordered without cheese

Starters:  Edamame, Miso Soup, and Shisito Peppers are available

Salads:  Spinach Salad and Sunonomo (Cucumber) Salad are available

Hand Rolls: In addition to the specialty vegan rolls, the Joint also has a Cucumber Roll and a Veggie Roll.

Happy Hour Menu: includes the Veggie Roll

The Joint oozes cool.  It is equal parts trendy bar and sushi bar.  On most nights, it is packed, bustling, and full of happy patrons.  And it has heart.  Every time I have been to the Joint, a manager has come around to check on my table and make sure everything was going well.

 

4902 Newport Ave

San Diego, CA 92107

619.222.8272

 

Seasons 52: Vegan Friendly

Seasons 52 Sign

 

LA JOLLA/UTC and DOWNTOWN.  I usually avoid eating at malls (see the True Food Kitchen post!).  However, Seasons 52 is well worth a trip to the mall.  The restaurant strives to prepare fresh and delicious dishes, all with less than 475 calories.  The restaurant offers a seasonal menu—the Spring Menu is currently being offered.

First up was the Double Hummus (edamame and roasted red pepper) and Crisp Sea Salt Lavosh.  I had never tried edamame hummus and immediately dug in when it arrived.  The lavosh was soft and warm and provided the perfect delivery device for the mild tasting edamame hummus.  Equally pleasing was the roasted red pepper hummus, which was smooth and creamy with a slightly smoky flavor.

 

Double Hummus

 

For my entrée, I tried the Vegetarian Tasting.  I loved all of the 4 vegan components that made up the plate.  (1) Quinoa and Citrus Salad: the quinoa was firm and the citrus flavor mixed in provided for a refreshing taste.  (2) Soft Taco: the taco was filled with black beans, roasted peppers, pico de gallo, and guacamole.  The guacamole was smooth, the black beans well seasoned, and the roasted peppers and pico de gallo added additional spice.  (3) Cedar-Roasted Tofu: the tofu was firm and served warm with mango chutney on top.  (4) Vegetables: fresh grilled asparagus, red peppers, and snow peas, and golden beets.  All of the vegetables were fresh and tender.  I particularly enjoyed the sweetness of the golden beets.

 

Vegetarian Tasting

 

Dark wood tables and comfortable chairs with soft lighting create an inviting atmosphere.  It is a restaurant in which customers can settle in for hours to share food and conversation.

Also, for those diners who are want to know more about the nutritional information of the food at Seasons 52, it can be found at:

http://www.seasons52.com/menu/nutrition.asp

 

Seasons 52 Interior   Seasons 52 Interior

 

La Jolla/UTC:

4505 La Jolla Village Dr C1

San Diego, CA 92122

858.450.1252

 

Downtown:

789 W Harbor Dr Suite C-2

San Diego, CA 92101

Pokez: Vegan Friendly

Pokez Sign

 

DOWNTOWN.  Vegan Mexican food can be difficult to find.  Especially downtown.  Most Mexican restaurants rely on greasy meat and cheese for taste and flavor.  Pokez proves that these fat bombs are unnecessary.

Pokez has a huge selection of vegan dishes, including tortas, tostadas, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, salads, and breakfast options all day long.  Making a decision was tough!

But some traditions persist.  While perusing the voluminous menu, we munched on chips and salsa.

 

Chips and Salsa

 

Before becoming vegan, enchiladas were my favorite Mexican dish.  So I ordered the Mixed Vegetable Enchiladas, curious to see how this traditionally cheese covered (or filled) dish could be made vegan.  At Pokez, the answer is two flour tortillas rolled around mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.  The enchiladas were then smothered with a house made vegan red sauce (made primarily from chile, water, and flour).  The dish did not disappoint.  The vegetables were not too oily, and the vegan sauce was mild but added significant flavor to the dish.

 

Vegan Enchiladas

 

Next, we tried the Tofu Fajitas.  They arrived in two parts.  First, a sizzling platter arrived with tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions.

 

Vegan Tofu Fajitas

 

Second, we received an additional plate of tortillas (customers choose between flour and corn) and fajita toppings like guacamole, salsa fresca, rice, beans, and limes.  The highlight of the plate is the seasoned tofu, sliced in long pieces with maximum flavor.

 

Vegan Tofu Fajitas

 

One of my favorite parts about Pokez is the interior décor.  Stickers cover the front door, and a life size cut out of a person holding a taco stands in the entranceway alerting customers to “Please Wait to Be Seated.”  (Curiously, most people simply walk in and sit down.)  Add in the vibrant green walls and eclectic artwork, and you have a fun place to eat.

 

Pokez Interior   Pokez Interior

 

947 E St

San Diego, CA 92101

619.702.7160

Saffron Noodles and Sate: Vegan Friendly

Saffron Sign

 

MISSION HILLS.  The Saffron dynasty began in 1985 when Su-Mei Yu opened Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken, a restaurant focusing on . . . you guessed it . . . chicken.  In 2002, Yu opened Saffron Noodles and Sate next door.  A welcome addition, as it offers a plethora of vegan options.

The first time I went to Saffron (thanks to a tip from my aunt and uncle who used to live in San Diego!), the host told me that Saffron can make almost any dish vegan by substituting rice noodles for egg noodles, or tofu for meat.  The power to “veganize” a menu?  Yes, please.

First up, we tried the Salad Roll with tofu.  The rice paper rolls up rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, daikon, mint, and cilantro.  It is fresh and light.  And when dipped in a side of peanut sauce, delicious.  A great way to start the meal.

 

Tofu Salad Roll

 

Next, I tried the Noodle Soup with Vegetables and added tofu.  I chose the wide rice noodles.  (There is also a thin noodle option.)  The soup has a broth flavored with star anise and features zucchini, broccoli, green beans, carrots, and mushrooms.  I made my soup spicy, which involves a paste of chiles, Lao ginger, lemongrass, salt, and pepper.  Chunks of tofu floated with fresh vegetables in the flavorful broth, above a generous layer of rice noodles.  It was a bowl of warm comfort on a cloudy and cool San Diego day.

 

Vegetable Soup

 

Wingman Pablo ordered the Stir Fried Vegetables and Jasmine Rice and added tofu.  (Yes, we went nuts on tofu that day.)  Through vigorous nodding and raised eyebrows, he gave the dish high marks.  Note: Saffron offers red, organic rice for an additional 80 cents.

 

Stir Fried Vegetables

 

Finally, Saffron offers four desserts, all of which are vegan: (1) Sticky Rice with Banana, (2) Tapioca with Coconut Pumpkin Sauce, (3) Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, and (4) Banana Sticky Rice.  The last three desserts are seasonal and are not always available.  I tried the Sticky Rice with Banana.  The dessert arrived in a banana leaf, and once I peeled back its protective layer, I was left with what looked like a sticky rice burrito.  Cutting it open revealed a banana filling.  Sweet sticky rice + sweet chewy banana = sweet way to end the meal.

 

Sticky Banana Rice

 

Saffron provides a friendly and casual atmosphere.  Orders are taken at the counter and assigned a number.  Customers are responsible for picking up a tray with their order.

 

Interior Saffron

 

 

The artwork on the wall is eclectic and colorful.  Additionally, customers with a keen eye can enjoy beautiful blown glass creations on the upper shelves of the restaurant.

[caption id="attachment_415" align="alignnone" width="300"]Interior Saffron Interior Saffron[/caption]

 

There are also a variety of outdoor tables for those who want to enjoy the weather or eat with their pet!

 

[caption id="attachment_1755" align="alignnone" width="300"]Saffron Outdoor Tables Saffron Outdoor Tables[/caption]

 

Saffron offers a program aimed at reducing waste.  If you bring in your own dish and utensils or carryout container you will receive a 10% discount off of your purchase.

The restaurant also recognizes that you might be in a rush to pick up food.  So they offer “curbside service” — if you order by phone, then call again when you are in front of the restaurant, they will come outside to swipe your credit card curbside!

 

3731 India St

San Diego, CA 92103

619.574.7737

 

Ritual Tavern: Vegan Friendly

Ritual Tavern Sign

 

NORTH PARK.  Ritual Tavern sits quietly on 30th Street in North Park with an unassuming wooden structure and a beautifully crafted sign.  There is no large awning with its name or neon sign announcing it’s open.  A person could pass by without noticing.  But that would be a mistake.  Ritual Tavern is my “go to” restaurant when I am taking a group out to dinner.  When my family last visited, Ritual Tavern provided chicken, steak, fish, and vegan dishes, with compliments all around.

The two vegan appetizers are onion rings and a scalloped beet salad.  The beet salad offers roasted beets, grilled endive, arugula, and grapefruit.  The beets provide the fresh, sweet centerpiece of this salad.  In contrast, the arugula, grapefruit, and endive inject citrus and slightly bitter flavors.  A light and fun way to kick off dinner.

 

Beet Salad

 

Sometimes, I admit, I miss the traditional meals like turkey at Thanksgiving.  Especially with family gathered around hot, steaming food on a cold day.  Food that warms the belly, warms the room, and makes a nap the top priority of the afternoon.  For me, Shepherd’s Pie fits this category.  And so I am grateful that Ritual Tavern has crafted a most satisfying vegan version.  This is a hearty dish that will warm you from the inside out.  The vegetables in the bottom layer are soft and flavorful, and the toasted mashed potato topping is light, yet filling.  And the vegetables in the dish change with the seasons, strongly suggesting that Ritual Tavern actively seeks the freshest ingredients.

 

Vegan Sheperd's Pie

 

My fiancé picked the other vegan entrée: the lentil burger.  The patty is made from lentils, brown rice, oats, carrots, and shallots.  It is substantial and does not fall apart after one bite (a pet peeve of mine with veggie burgers!).  Ritual Tavern then tops the patty with greens and a spread of tomato and red bell pepper, served on foccacia bread.

On the side, the house cut fries are especially crispy and alluring – I routinely steal them off nearby plates.  The pickles, too.  And be sure to try the house made condiments—ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce—for additional flavor!

 

Vegan Lentil Burger

 

For me, the only thing missing from Ritual Tavern’s menu is a vegan dessert.  On my last visit, however, we learned that the chef is focused on the issue and hopes to add a vegan dessert to the menu.  I wish him swift inspiration!

Ritual Tavern boasts a variety of seating areas.  There are front and back patios, both equipped with space heaters and dog friendly!   The inside seating area feels like an upscale English pub.  Beautiful dark wood floors, chairs and tables are set in soft lighting that provides a relaxing, warm atmosphere for diners.

 

Back PatioInterior

 

4095 30th St

San Diego, CA 92104

(619) 283-1720