Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Birthday Lunch At Garden Grille

On my birthday, I dined at Garden Grille in Pawtucket, Rhode Island with my family, before picking up my birthday cake next door at Wildflour Vegan Bakery. We had a coupon from the Entertainment book to use, which gave us a whopping $6 discount. We began the meal with one of my favorite appetizers: the Nachos made vegan ($10).

While these aren't the best nachos I've had, they certainly are delicious. Everything from the guacamole down to the chips tasted homemade and the seasonings were phenomenal. There was a very moderate spice, made even more intense by the fairly large slices of jalapeno peppers. The guacamole was smooth and creamy on top of the crunchy chips, which were coated with perfectly melty daiya cheese. There were also some wonderful black beans, which gave the dish a savory taste. I wish the nachos had some taco meat, as this would have taken it over the top.

Next, I had Harvest Wrap ($9) as my entree. I had enjoyed this so much on my prior visit, I knew I had to order it again.

This was as amazing as I remembered it to be. It combined all of my favorite Thanksgiving flavors in a delicate wrap. The portion was gigantic and very filling. It consisted of savory tempeh sausage stuffing, which was a lovely contrast to the sweet cranberry sauce. There was a lovely cashew creme sauce which was not only very scrumptious, but added moisture to the stuffing, which was a little dry on its own.

Lastly, I tried the wrap my mom ordered, which was a special for the day.

This was also very enjoyable. It had wonderful Asian flavors, from the sweet, glazed tofu to the tangy, creamy slaw. There was a fantastic spice coating everything and the fillings were seasoned beautifully.

The meal was fabulous and such a great way to start my birthday. Everything was very tasty and the dishes were eclectic. I only wish this place was closer, so I could enjoy it more often,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Safe Choice At Sabra

Sabra restaurant in Newton, MA is always a safe bet for a delicious meal that is sure to please Omnivores and Vegans alike. They have a small section for Vegetarians that mostly consists of vegan items. Luckily, they rarely use egg and dairy in their dishes, only when necessary. They are also very open about the ingredients in the food and are quick to answer which ones are in fact vegan. The dinner is never very crowded and when we go, we are in fact the only diners in the restaurant. Their lunch buffet is way busier, as it consists of many options at a very low price.

We began the meal with the Falafel appetizer ($7).

The appetizer was fantastic. The balls were very crispy on the outside and were soft and moist inside. There was a generous coating of hummus, which added a light, savory flavor and a mild spice.

Next, I had my favorite entree, the Pumpkin Kibbee ($13).

The pumpkin kibbee was almost like a Mediterranean lasagna, with each layer having its own unique flavor. The pumpkin was soft and crumbly and had a lovely sweetness. The spinach interior was well-cooked and sauteed and coated in a light spice. The accompanying salad was delicious and the dressing had a strong herb taste and was very salty.

Lastly, I tried my dad's entree, the Vegetarian Mousaka ($13).

The mousaka was wonderful, although Sabra's version is more of a stir-fry than a Greek lasagna. The eggplant was soft and well-cooked and coated in delectable seasonings. The accompanying rice had a lovely chickpea concoction that had a light tomato flavor.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. Everything was tasty and composed of Authentic Mediterranean spices and flavorings. We used a $10 gift certificate, which made the meal a little cheaper. The entrees are on the pricey side, but well worth it. I will definitely return on my next visit to Boston.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Finding My Inner Peace At Prana

On my first night back in Boston for the holidays, my parents and I dined at Prana in Newton, a cafe that is attached to a yoga studio of the same name. The cafe recently reopened a few months ago under new ownership. While it was previously a raw vegan restaurant, it now serves as a vegan raw and cooked fusion cafe. The menu is very diverse and has an upscale atmosphere with white table cloths. Prana recently offered a deal on groupon for $15 for $30 worth of food and drink. Of course, we had to snatch a couple of vouchers, since the restaurant is very pricey.

We began the meal with a bowl of complimentary kale chips, brought over by our waitress.

The kale chips were very crispy and perfectly salted. They were made even better by a light coating of sesame seeds.

Next, we ordered a Naan Pizza ($10) to share as an appetizer.

The pizza was delicious and was a wonderful fusion of Indian and Italian cuisine. The bread was thin and a little tougher to chew than typical pizza crust. It was coated with Indian seasonings and spices. The   marinara sauce was sweet and spread thinly, with the melty daiya cheese mixed in. The vegetables were cooked very well and were very flavorful.

Next, our entrees came out. I had the Zucchini Lasagna ($16) warmed.

The lasagna was incredible. It tasted way better warmed than raw, which may defeat the purpose, but I didn't care. The zucchini noodles were soft and easy to chew and mimicked lasagna noodles perfectly. The tomato sauce was rich and creamy, along with the layers of heavenly ricotta cheese. The accompanying salad was very good, yet did not really go well with the lasagna. The dressing was very tangy and had a subtle citrusy flavor. It seemed more fitting for an Asian dish.

Next, I tried my dad's entree. He ordered the Grain Bowl ($14).

I had no idea what this was, but it was very delicious and healthy. The grains looked a little bland from afar, but they were actually quite tasty and were seasoned beautifully. The cream sauce on top took it over the top and had a lovely mixture of sweet and savory flavors.

Last but not least, we ordered a Cheesecake ($9) to share for dessert.

The cheesecake was very fruity, with a sorbet-like topping, which had a slightly tart flavor. The cheesecake itself had a very creamy consistency and was very rich and decadent. Prana did an excellent job at replicating the non-vegan version.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. I always appreciate it when restaurants have diverse and innovative food options that I cannot find elsewhere, no matter how hard I try. The naan pizza was a real winner, along with the not-so-raw lasagna. With the groupon voucher, we spent about $65 (including tax and tip). This was an expensive meal, but so worth it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A SLO Lunch At Me And Z's

After a long drive from Los Angeles to visit my friend in San Luis Obispo, we decided to have a leisurely lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Grover Beach called Me And Z's. My friend had called them earlier after finding a coupon on Bazomb for a buy one get one free entree. She inquired if they had any vegan options, in which the hostess had responded that the vegetable burrito could easily be made vegan without cheese, as the rice and beans did not contain animal ingredients. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with smiles, which seemed to be fitting for a small town restaurant. The waitress brought us some complimentary chips and salsa almost immediately after we were seated and replenished it when she saw how famished we all were. 

My friend and I both ordered the vegetable burrito ($8.50), while her brother ordered a meaty soup. Since our dishes came with the meaty soup, the waitress gave her brother an even larger portion. I would have preferred her to have given us a salad or some extra rice, but I guess they aren't used to having vegan customers. 

The burrito was pretty good. Honestly, I've had way better burritos and the ingredients were definitely lacking. It would have been nice for them to have at least put some grilled tofu in there to spice things up. The fillings were the standard rice and beans and grilled vegetables. Nevertheless, the sauce coating the burrito was very scrumptious and more than made up for the stingy fillings. It had a lovely spiciness with a very subtle sweetness from the tomatoes. 

Overall, I found the meal to be decent. It isn't too often I'm able to eat at a regular Mexican restaurant, since so many use lard or chicken sauce in their ingredients. I appreciated the festive atmosphere and traditional Mexican music playing on the stereo. In addition, since Grover Beach is such a small town with just a tiny percentage of vegan residents, it is quite difficult to find vegan food. I am grateful that this place is so accommodating and that they offer a fabulous discount. The meal came out to about $9, with tax and tip, which is a great deal, considering how filling the food was. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Fast And Fresh Meal At Fresh East

Fresh East is a great place to visit if you want a quick, healthy meal for a low, reasonable price. It's got a great, relaxing vibe that's a great place to chill day or night. Even better, starting at dinnertime, they offer a fantastic happy hour and even provide entertainment. I visited them last week for a post-workout lunch and to use up an expiring LA Voice Deals voucher I had bought for $7 for $15 worth of food. I opted to try something new and was oddly craving a curry dish.

I started the meal off with a bowl of red lentil soup ($4).

The soup was delicious. It was perfectly spiced and the lentils were not too overpowering. They were balanced out well by the taste of ginger and tomatoes. The soup was hearty and easy to digest.

For my main course, I ordered the Coconut Water Curry with tofu ($10).

I found this dish to be mediocre. The curry was way too spicy. I have a fairly high tolerance for spicy food, yet found the dish to be very intense and difficult to eat. The sauce was also very dry and flaky. I prefer sauces that soak the dish and mix well with the accompanying rice. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the tofu and found it to be cooked perfectly. It was slightly chewy on the outside and soft and luscious on the inside.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with the meal. It's odd that the curry sauce on my entree was so overpowering, as this sharply contrasts my first experience at the restaurant with a very bland dish. It's interesting to experience these two extremes and demonstrates the lack of consistency at Fresh East. I would not recommend this dish, but since they have expanded their menu, I am hoping to find a dish I really enjoy. The meal was very inexpensive at only $7 and was quite filling. I appreciate that the food is healthy and left me feeling energized afterward.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Some Real Good Food At Real Food Daily

One of my favorite restaurants of all-time is Real Food Daily. Unfortunately, the prices are pretty expensive and they don't offer any deals. Nevertheless, if you sign up for their birthday club, you receive a fantastic card that gives you $10 off a $20 purchase. Since my birthday is coming up, I was able to take advantage of this offer and dined out with a friend who was also celebrating his birthday.

We were both craving Mexican food, so we decided to share two Mexican themed entrees. The first was the Supreme Burrito ($13), which we ordered wet with ranchero sauce.

The burrito was delicious and one of the best I've had. It was very thick and loaded with tons of ingredients, from the crispy, perfectly salted tempeh bacon to the creamy, luscious cashew cheese. The black beans added a wonderful savory flavor and the spanish rice was well-seasoned with a mild spice. The avocado added a lovely richness to the entree. The ranchero sauce on top was very scrumptious and also added a light spiciness. The accompanying salad was very good and was coated in a creamy ranch-like dressing.

Next, we shared the Papas and Beer Special ($16).

The enchiladas were delicious. They were filled with a moderately spiced, smooth potato mixture and savory seitan pieces. The enchilada was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and delectable on the inside. There was a thin layer of sour cream, which had a very subtle sweetness to it. Scattered around the enchiladas were crunchy, slightly salty pieces of fried onions. The dish was made even better by a wonderfully seasoned rice pilaf concoction and succulent slabs of well-cooked plantains.

We needed to end the meal with something sweet, so we ordered the faux-stess cupcake ($3.75).

I haven't had a hostess in years, but I found Real Food Daily's version to be way better. It had a richer, chocolatey flavor and didn't have the gross, chemical taste that hostesses have. The cake was very moist and the cream was very decadent. The flavors were sweet, but not overly so. There was a slight bitter taste that balanced out the sweetness perfectly.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. Everything was so flavorful and had such a great mixture of textures. I would eat at Real Food Daily way more often if it was a little cheaper or if they had more frequent deals. Nevertheless, with the birthday coupon, the meal cost about $14 a person. I'm already looking forward to my birthday next year, knowing I will be able to eat at Real Food Daily for fairly cheap. If you haven't signed up for their birthday club, you are totally missing out and need to do so ASAP. You can sign up at the restaurant or on their website.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hitting The Gold At Golden China

Golden China is one of those places that reeks of meat and fish, so you would never think they have an amazing vegan menu. Finding vegan Chinese food in LA poses quite a challenge, as there are not nearly enough options. It's odd that many of the restaurants that I've come to discover, I've found on either or a groupon-like website. I'm sure there's way more of them out there that I have still yet to hear about. Anyways, Golden China is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants. Their food is top notch and the servers are so cute and friendly.

We began the meal with some Hot and Sour Soup ($6.55).

This soup is delicious and I always look forward to ordering this when I go to Golden China. The soup is very tangy and is perfectly spiced with a very subtle sweetness. The broth has a savory, beefy flavoring. The tofu and vegetables are soft and delectable.

Next, we deviated from our normal appetizer order of egg rolls to try some Fried Bean Curd ($8).

This was very enjoyable. The batter had a slightly sweet flavor and was a little crispy. The inside was soft and delicate and easy to chew. It was accompanied by a wonderful dipping sauce that had a slightly tangy flavor.

Next, our entrees came out. I first tried the Chicken Broccoli ($11).

The chicken was slightly chewy and a little spongy. The broccoli was cooked well and easy to eat. The dish was bathed in a lovely beany sauce and had a bitter taste.

Next, I had one of my favorites: House Vegetable Pan Fried Noodle On Sizzling Plate ($12).

I love how there was such a varied consistency with the noodles in this dish. Some of them had been soaked in the sauce for so long that they became soft and slurpy. The noodles on top were very crispy and crunchy. The vegetables were stir-fried very well and seasoned to perfection.

Lastly, I had the Curry Vegetarian Duck ($12).

This was fantastic. The sauce was very scrumptious and worked very well with the meaty pieces of soy duck. It was perfectly salted and had a slight bitter flavor and a moderate spice.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. I loved all of the dishes we chose and even with three of us eating, we still could barely finish. I appreciate that the portions are so generous, so we could all fully enjoy each dish. The meal was also fairly inexpensive with the $25 gift certificate and cost less than $13 a person (with tax and tip). I cannot wait to return next month.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Consistency At Rahel Ethiopian

Not many places are as consistently good as Rahel Ethiopian, having both amazing service and delicious food. The prices are also very reasonable, as the restaurant participates in several coupon programs from the Entertainment booklet to Groupon-like sites. The best deal is of course the $25 gift certificate. On a rainy Sunday, my friend and I ventured there, as she had never been to Ethiopian town. While many of the restaurants of vegan-friendly, Rahel is a must, since it is the only establishment that is completely vegan. On this visit, we ordered the Millennium Special ($30), which is a favorite of mine, since it includes dessert. To start the meal off, we placed an order of two sambussas ($5).

The sambussas are wonderful and sadly the only appetizers offered at Ethiopian restaurants. They are so perfectly flaky on the outside, with a luscious, delectable curry on the inside. 

Next, the main course came out. This was just as lovely as I remembered it to be.

This was such a wonderful sampler and a fantastic way to experience all that Ethiopian cuisine has to offer. There was a lovely array of curries that varied in both tastes and textures. There was a great mixture of sweet and savory flavorings. What's perfect about this platter is that nothing is too spicy, yet the food is so well-seasoned and has just the right amount of spice to keep you wanting more. 

Lastly, our dessert came out. Usually, Rahel offers a delectable vegan cheesecake. On this past visit, they brought out some vegan baklava.

Baklava is typically a Mediterranean dessert, so I was a bit surprised to see this at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant. Nevertheless, this was my first time eating the vegan version of this dessert and it was delicious. It was flaky and crispy with a lovely pistachio taste. My only complaint is that it was a little dry and could have used some syrup to add both moisture and sweetness. 

Overall, the meal was very enjoyable. My friend was delighted to discover both a new cuisine and restaurant she now adored. The meal was also very inexpensive and cost us each less than $10 (with tax and tip). We were both stuffed beyond capacity and as we left the restaurant, it felt like our stomachs were about to explode. Nevertheless, I was able to digest the food fairly quickly and did not feel sick at all. I cannot wait to return to Rahel, knowing that the food will be just as delicious and we will be welcomed with open arms. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Pre-Thanksgiving Meal At Madeleine Bistro

Thanksgiving came early for me this year, as a friend and I ventured to Madeleine Bistro the Saturday before Thanksgiving to try out prep ourselves for the big day. Madeleine Bistro had an amazing holiday platter, featuring Thanksgiving favorites. Fortunately, I had purchased a few $20 gift vouchers for $10 through an online promotion the restaurant was doing. This made the expensive meal a bit more reasonable, thus making it blog-worthy.

Since the restaurant was super crowded, we had to wait a long while for our entrees to come out. When it came out, it was lukewarm and not as enjoyable as I imagine it would have been if it had come straight out of the oven. Nevertheless, I could not wait to dig into the Thanksgiving Preview ($25).

This entree was delicious. It had such a lovely assortment of side dishes. The cranberry sauce was wonderful and had a great mixture of sweetness and tartness. The yams were whipped to perfection and had a creamy consistency. They also had just the right amount of sweetness. I normally don't like brussell sprouts, but these were coated in subtly sweet glaze. The stuffing was also amazing and was slightly salty and had a savory flavor. The mashed potatoes were also wonderful, having a creamy texture and being lightly salty. The seitan was a little odd, as it was too moist and overly chewy. It also had a bitter flavor and did not mimic turkey at all. This definitely needed to be improved.

Since we had waited so long for our meal, the owner kindly offered us a dessert on the house. We chose the Banana Foster Split ($12).

The dessert was very rich and decadent. The ice cream was very creamy and had a lovely sweet flavor. The sauce was chocolaty and very heavenly. The softened bananas added a subtle sweetness. The whipped cream took the sundae over the top and was very light and airy. I would definitely recommend this dessert.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. The food was very high quality, although without the deal, would have been a little overpriced. With the discount, the meal only cost $21 (with tax and tip), which was great, since it included the dessert. I was stuffed and satisfied and my Thanksgiving cravings were met. I am happy I purchased more of the vouchers and I will definitely be back soon to use them again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hitting The Spot With A Veggie Burger

It's such a bummer that The Spot is located in Hermosa Beach, a beach town that is far from my Westside abode and where parking can often be a nightmare, especially in the summer. Luckily, I hit up The Spot early on a Friday and since it was late November and a little chilly, I was able to find a meter right in front of the restaurant. I decided to sit outside since their patio is very cute, with a Mexican decor. I had a Groupon voucher for a veggie burger of my choice that I had purchased for $5. I opted for the Guacamole burger ($11) as it not only sounded delicious, but was also one of the most expensive burgers.

First, a complimentary appetizer came out: carrots and a tahini dip.

These carrots were very crunchy and fresh-tasting. The tahini dip had a rich flavor and softened the carrots a bit, making them easier to chomp on.

Next, my burger came out.

The burger was delicious and had a savory, beany taste. It was not too dense, as veggie burgers often can be. The guacamole topping was creamy and had a lovely avocado flavor. It had a light chili flavor and was perfectly spiced. The accompanying almond rice was also very good and delicately seasoned. It was soft and easy to chew.

Overall, the meal was great and the food really hit the spot. The service was also phenomenal and the waiter was very attentive. I love how The Spot has such a relaxed atmosphere, which is very fitting, considering it's just steps away from the ocean. I always enjoy food more when I feel relaxed, so this definitely contributed to my love affair with their food. At less than $8 (including tax and tip), I was completely stuffed and my belly was quite happy. I cannot wait to return and wish they would relocate or add a second location in the Westside.