Monday, January 28, 2013

A Golden Lunch At Golden Mean

On a warm January early afternoon, I ventured with my friends to Golden Mean in Santa Monica. This hidden gem is tucked away on Wilshire Blvd, just blocks away from the gorgeous beach. The air has a hint of salt when you walk in: a combination of the fragrant food and crisp ocean breeze.  The establishment is fairly small, with the giant deli and dessert case in clear view. The restaurant has a cozy feel, but the tables are far enough from one another that you don’t have to worry about other diners listening in on an intimate conversation.  On this day, the restaurant was packed with diners eating lunch, as well as out of work writers drinking coffee and finding inspiration for their next screenplay.

My friends and I were seated upstairs where there was an even more energetic vibe from the customers. It made it a little difficult for us to hear one another. Since the service was so slow, we were given ample time to look over the menu, which included an eclectic offering, from salads to sandwiches to Mexican and Italian food. Since it was still early in the day, I decided to order something light. I began with a drink, which I wouldn’t normally have ordered, but since my two friends were so enthusiastic about it, I gave in, so as not to be left out.

The Hot Maca Drink was a delightful way to begin the meal, but would have been even better as a decadent dessert.

At first glance, it looked like hot chocolate. The drink had a rich cocoa flavor, but had bit of a kick to it. It was sweet with a hint of spiciness. It had a very subtle herb flavor that reminded me that I was drinking something healthy and kept it from being too indulgent.

For my entrée, I had the Arugula Salad.

I found this salad to be quite enjoyable, but was overwhelmed by the arugula. It gave the salad a rather bitter taste, which was contrasted by the succulent apple and beet slices. The dressing was also very tangy and lingered in my mouth. The candied pecans were phenomenal and were perfectly glazed in sugar. My favorite part of the salad of course was the faux cheese croquette. It was essentially deep-fried cashew cheese coated in a savory breading. The “cheese” was very creamy and had a lovely salty taste.

Finally, both the drink and food was delicious, although a bit overpriced. The salad was $12, which was a bit much, considering the portion was fairly small and the salad was mostly composed of arugula. The cashew cheese croquette almost makes it worth it. The maca drink seems reasonably priced at $3.75, considering it is a superfood. Since I have a membership to the Green Menu Card, I received a 10% off discount, which slightly reduced the price. I recommend dining at this restaurant if you’re in the Santa Monica area, but I’m not sure that it’s worth the drive, since there are so many other fabulous restaurants in LA.  Some of my favorite items I’ve had in the past include the Club Sandwich and Breakfast Burrito. I was too full to order cake (which is spectacular), but I highly suggest a visit just for a luscious, moist slice of heaven. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Beautiful Meal From Bella Luna Restaurant

On a snowy night at the end of 2012, my family headed to a swanky restaurant/lounge called Bella Luna, which had a fun, outer space decor, as well as a relaxing, cozy atmosphere. The menu was vast and filled with endless possibilities, which thankfully included many vegan options. It also included a wide range of cuisines, from Mexican to Italian to American.

We began with a Peruvian dish, which was veganized: the Hearts of Palm Ceviche ($8).

This dish was very good. The hearts of palm had a lovely bitter taste, which was contrasted by the luscious, juicy tomatoes. The citrus vinaigrette was both tangy and cooling. The plantain chips had a subtle sweet taste and were very crispy.

Next, I had my entree: Grilled Stuffed Avocado ($15).

This dish was spectacular. The avocado was grilled to perfection and retained its rich, buttery taste. The avocado was stuffed with a hearty lentil concoction, which had a savory flavor. The red bell peppers mixed in added a slight sweetness to the dish. The grilled zucchini on top had a burnt charcoal taste and was lightly coated in oil.

Overall, the food was very good. It was quite refreshing to go to a restaurant that doesn't rely on processed food to create flavorful dishes. My only complaint was the lack of vegan dessert option, except for sorbet. We used a Groupon voucher which we purchased for $20 and was worth $40. This provided a significant discount and made the pricy food a little more reasonable. I would return again, but probably not without a deal.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Amazing Meal At Allston Diner

On a cold frigid morning, my dad, brother and I ventured to Allston, MA to dine at the delectable Allston Diner. The quaint establishment had a cozy retro interior and since it was just a couple days after Christmas, the diner was almost empty. This was good for us, since it meant the server was very attentive and made sure our food was to our liking. I was pleased that they had a variety of enticing vegan options. Unfortunately, my dad and brother opted for egg omelets.

I first had The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast ($11).

This truly was the ultimate breakfast and had a lovely variety of flavors and textures. The tofu scramble was very moist and eggy and mixed with perfectly sauteed veggies. I opted for spinach, onions, and sundried tomatoes. The onions added a wonderful bitterness, while the sundried tomatoes added a tartness. The faux sausage was also delicious and had a savory flavor. The consistency was wonderful and it was slightly juicy. The home fries had a light coating of oil and was sliced thin. It was almost resemblant of a potato chip. The texas toast was thick and had absorbed the sweet vegan butter very well.

As a side, I had a Vegan Flapjack ($3).

The flapjack was very tasty and had a fantastic buttery flavor. It was very fluffy and perfectly moist. I also liked that it wasn't too sugary. It was the perfect compliment to The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast and balanced out the savoriness of the entree.

Overall, the meal was fabulous. I really enjoyed the food and felt very relaxed in the warm ambiance. We used a Groupon voucher that we purchased for $10 and was worth $30 (giving us a wonderful $20 discount). I hope to return to Allston Diner again soon and would love for them to add even more vegan options (especially since the ones they currently have are so scrumptious).

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Pleasant Meal At Peace o' Pie

On my recent visit to Boston, my parents took me to one of my favorite places, Peace o' Pie, a completely vegan pizzeria in Alston, MA. We went on a Wednesday and took advantage of one of the spectacular deals: Buy one large, get a large 1/2 off.

The first pizza we got was the Fried Tofu Parmesan ($21).

This pizza was fantastics. The tofu was coated in a lovely breading and was so juicy. The tomato sauce had a creamy consistency and a garlicky taste, which balanced out the sweetness of the tomato chunks very well. The mozzarella daiya cheese was perfectly melted and scrumptious. The parmesan cheese took the pizza over the top, adding an extra saltiness and nutty taste.

Next, we had the Garden Pizza ($21) without the mushrooms (since I loathe mushrooms).

This pizza was also very good. The vegetables were well-cooked and tasted very fresh. The pizza dough was also fantastic and was soft, but not too doughy. The tomato sauce was succulent and the daiya cheese added a wonderful gooeyness to the pizza.

Overall, the meal was fantastic.  Both pizzas were delicious and very flavorful.  I particularly enjoyed the Tofu Parmesan, since it's such a unique item I've never seen before. Thankfully, Peace o' Pie always offers superb deals, including daily deal vouchers and their exclusive Facebook offers. An extra tip is to sign up for their e-club to receive even more deals. I cannot wait to return to Peace o' Pie on my next visit to Boston.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Grateful Deal From Cafe Gratitude

Cafe Gratitude has quickly become one of my favorite vegan dining establishments in Los Angeles. The food is always fresh and inventive and very tasty. I love how they utilize only fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains to develop unique concoctions with a variety of flavors. An extra benefit is that since the food is so healthy, I never feel weighed down after a meal, despite eating so much. While the menu items can be quite pricey, the restaurant is very generous in providing "deals" for those who are on a tight budget. The menu always includes an item that is donation-based and every Thanksgiving, the restaurant offers a three course meal for free.

Today until Saturday, Cafe Gratitude is offering a fabulous deal for a pick your own prix fix menu that includes a choice of any juice/elixir, starter and entree for only $17 a person.

Entrees range from $10-13.75, thus this is a superb deal. On my last visit to Cafe Gratitude I ordered a torta sandwich, which was very tasty and I highly recommend. I cannot wait to try more of the delicious, enticing menu items with this great deal.

Friday, January 4, 2013

An Organic Deal

For the next few days, Organix, a new vegetarian food market in Echo Park, is offering a fabulous deal for $12 for $24 worth of items at their store.

50% off items at Organix

While I have yet to visit this establishment, I have heard great things about it. The market is the sister location to the beloved Figueroa Produce, which also has many superb vegan options. From organic produce to hard to find vegan items to a delicious deli, there are so many enticing ways to use this deal. I cannot wait to venture to Organix and am excited to discover all the store has to offer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Addicting Meal At Addis Red Sea

Just when I thought I was tired out of eating Ethiopian food, I experienced the amazing, addicting food at Addis Red Sea in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My family headed there the weekend before Christmas and fairly small restaurant was nearly packed. The tables and seats were low to the ground, yet very comfortable. The staff was kind and considerate and very attentive.

We first tried to place an appetizer order of Sambusas. Sadly, they were all out of the delectable fried pastries, with the exception of the one filled with beef. Instead, we placed an order for Dado, an Ethiopian style bread that was accompanied by a hot red pepper sauce.

The bread was very soft and spongy and lightly coated in oil. It absorbed the scrumptious red pepper sauce which had lovely spices.

Next, we had the Vegetarian combination plate, with the addition of an extra Vegetarian entree.

The dishes we chose for this were fabulous. First, there was the Butecha, which was a wonderful chickpea paste that was smooth and had a rich flavor. Next, there was the Atakilt, which was a mixture of various vegetables that were well-cooked and seasoned. There was also the Yesmsir Alcha, which was a fantastic lentil concoction with a strong ginger taste. In addition, there was the Mittin Shuro Wat, which were split peas with the same scrumptious spicy sauce that was in the appetizer. Finally, there was the Tikle Gomen, which was a cabbage dish that had a light coating of oil and lovely seasoning. There as also a refreshing salad which had a slightly tangy vinaigrette. The accompanying injera bread was much lighter than the Ethiopian bread I am so used to at restaurants in Los Angeles, but was much easier on my stomach. Despite the airiness, the bread still absorbed the flavors of the dishes very well.

Overall, the food was very good. The dishes were flavorful, yet were very light. I found myself able to eat more than usual, and did not feel weighed down after the meal. We used a Groupon voucher which cost us $15 (with a $5 off deal we received via email) and provided us with $40 worth of food. The $25 discount greatly reduced the cost of the meal.