Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Follow Your Heart" to a Delicious Brunch!!

Yesterday morning, I ventured far from my house, deep into the Valley, in order to use my gather green voucher which was about to expire. Since I could not find a dining partner, I brunched alone, using my voucher for $20 worth of food (which cost me $10). I arrived early, around 11 am, and parking was not only plentiful, but there were many available tables for me to sit at comfortably. For those who don't know, Follow Your Heart is a vegetarian market with a vegetarian cafe nestled in the back. You don't notice it at first, as they keep it fairly hidden behind the well-stocked aisles featuring many hard-to-find vegan goods.

First, I have to say how much I love brunch. It's a luxury I've grown to appreciate and it helps differentiate the weekend from those long, tedious weekdays. It makes me feel nostalgic for long, lazy Sunday mornings before I would have to dig into my homework. When I became vegan, I feared I would never again be able to enjoy that thick, eggy french toast I so looked forward to every weekend morning at the diner/deli we frequented. I now realize I can still enjoy that same meal, only in a more laid back atmosphere.

As I browsed the menu, I noticed how many options were vegan or could be easily made vegan by omitting or substituting one or more ingredients. I also overheard the waitress asking the other tables around me if it was ok for them to have dairy. This place not only clearly understands what a vegan is, but goes above and beyond in making sure vegans are served a complete animal-free meal. Now, that's great customer service.

I began my meal by ordering a cacao shake. This normally costs $4, but it cost an extra $1 to make it dairy-free. Since I had my $20 voucher, I did not mind the $1 charge, since I needed to get my order as close to $20 as possible. When the shake was brought to the table, it came in a huge tin can, accompanied by an empty glass for me to pour it into. I was surprised to get 2 1/2 servings, when I was only expecting one. This shake was so frothy and creamy and chocolaty, you would never know it was dairy-free! It was so rich and decadent and filling, I could barely finish it.

Next, I had the tofu rancheros for $9.50. When it was first brought out to me, I got a little nervous, seeing the big globs of white coating the tortilla. As a bit into it, I immediately recognized the distinct Follow Your Heart cheese. I must say, I am not a huge fan of this cheese. It has a funky aftertaste that remains in your mouth, long after eating it. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the dish. It was so well seasoned, with the soft tofu and creamy guacamole that lightly contrasted the zest of the tomato salsa. The rice and beans were also delicious. I would love to see Follow Your Heart use a better cheese like daiya or teese, but I realize they push their own as it's good for business. Regardless, despite the awkwardness of the cheese that did not melt, the dish was phenomenal and flavorful and I would definitely order it again.

Lastly, I ordered a side of french toast for $5.50. This french toast was up there as one of the best french toast dishes I've had, vegan or not. The bread was thick and had an egg-like consistency and was very sweet. The chunky walnuts added even more flavor and gave it an extra crunch. The only thing I would like to see changed with this dish is caramelizing the walnuts to make them easier to eat and making the dish that much sweeter.

Overall, I really enjoyed this brunch. Follow Your Heart is so delicious and already reasonably priced that you don't even need a groupon (although they constantly participate in a groupon-like site deal so you might as well take advantage!). I will definitely head back there, although I ordered too much food for just one person! You could easily have this meal with two people and feel satisfied. The total came out to $19.95 (plus tax+tip of course), so with the voucher I spent about $15 with tax and tip. Not bad considering I ate enough food to last me the whole weekend!

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