Monday, October 17, 2016

Another Great Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Week

Trying to visit as many restaurants as possible during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is a tough job, but someone's got to do it! This past week, I checked out the fabulous vegan offerings at four more restaurants.

After my Spanish class on Monday at Casa de Español, I headed over to Nido at 14th and R. This is Nido's first year participating in the challenge, and they pulled out all the stops, offering dragon mushroom & heirloom bean soup, a seitan bao, and a chocolate cupcake with coconut cream whip. 

It was clear that I was going to have to try one of everything on this creative menu, so that's what I did.

Tuesday, I had lunch at VEG, upstairs from Thai Basil at 25th and J. I love the ambiance there, sitting at a sunny table overlooking J Street while soothing music plays in the background. I also really love the food!

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, so I was delighted to try the hearty spiced cauliflower steak, served over pearl barley. The curry fries with house-made ketchup were tasty too. My favorite part of the meal, though, was the delicious nectarine cobbler with whipped coconut cream.

Wednesday night, my husband Phil and I had dinner at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Old Sacramento. Chef Clay Purcell always offers several different options on the three-course fixed-price Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, which makes deciding what to eat very difficult!

I finally chose the rich, creamy butternut squash bisque, the tasty spaghetti with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and yellow wax beans, and the outstanding chocolate panna cotta with amarena cherries.  What a fabulous meal!

Over the weekend, Phil and I stopped in for a late lunch at Highwater on Q Street. They had a few interesting options on their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu.

The street tacos, with "chicken" lettuce, avocado crema, and salsa were very good and were just the right amount of food, since I wanted to make sure to save room for the fabulous Christina's Butter Cup Sampler, which had come highly recommended!

I can't wait to see what amazing vegan creations are in store for me this coming week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week One of the 2016 Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge -- Delicious!

I've been happily eating my way through this first week of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  After the meals at The Porch and Thai Basil that I wrote about last weekend, I hit four more great restaurants during the week.

I stopped in for lunch at Evan's Kitchen on Tuesday. As most local vegans know, vegan options are on the menu there all the time. But when the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge rolls around, Chef Evan pulls out all the stops.

The menu item that caught my eye was the eggplant lasagna, a thick slice of eggplant in marinara sauce, topped with vegan mozzarella.  It was served with mixed vegetables and garlic bread, and it was really good. I had hoped to try one of the fabulous desserts on the dinner menu, but the only vegan dessert they had was sorbet. I don't know whether the special desserts are available only at dinnertime, or whether they just weren't available the day I was there.

Thursday, I went to Old Ironsides at lunchtime.

I was eager to try their baked ziti, and I was so glad I did! It was a hearty blend of pasta and tomato sauce with vegan sausage, and I ate every bite.

I topped off my lunch with this amazing rich and chewy carob peanut butter cup. That's my favorite challenge dessert so far!

Friday, I had lunch with Mary Rodgers from the Sacramento Vegetarian Society at Capitol Garage, another restaurant that always offers vegan options. The challenge menu was proudly displayed in bright colors outside the restaurant door.

I ordered the fireman wings, breaded fried tofu dipped in hot sauce and served with an avocado cucumber sauce. Mary got the country dreamer hash, a mixture of sweet potatoes and other vegetables, scrambled tofu, and mushroom gravy, topped with avocado slices. Both dishes were good, but I'd have to give the edge to Mary's hash, which was excellent.

For dessert, I ordered the delicious, moist honey hush cake, an orange cake topped with a sweet syrup and served with pear slices and blueberries. Yum!

Finally, my husband Phil and I went to Localis for dinner Saturday night. For the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, they are serving a three-course, fixed-price dinner. The menu wasn't printed so you'll need to ask your server to explain the courses, but here's the short version of what I had.

For starters, there was this fresh and colorful beet salad, my favorite part of the meal.

The main course was a spicy and filling risotto served with roasted fall vegetables. 

Dessert was a cascara sorbet, served with dark chocolate bark and coconut. Maybe you know what cascara is, but I had to look it up.  According to, it's the dried skin of coffee cherries, which doesn't sound nearly as good as the sorbet turned out to be. It was a nice way to end the meal.

I'm looking forward to more vegan delights in the week ahead! Six restaurants down, nineteen to go!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Opening Weekend for Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2016

The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge started Saturday and will run through the end of the month.  With 25 restaurants participating this year, I made sure to visit two of  them over the weekend.

My husband Phil and I went to brunch at the Porch Restaurant and Bar Saturday morning. As local vegans may know, the Porch changes its menu daily and always offers vegan options. In addition to their regular menu, they also had a separate Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu available.

The Mac & "Cheese" was calling my name, but not as loudly as the Vegan Waffle on the Porch's regular menu, especially since I had come in with the expectation of eating brunch.  So here's what I ordered:

I hope to get back to the Porch while they're still offering the Mac & "Cheese," though, and I'll also order one of my all-time favorite vegan appetizers -- the Cajun Fried Beets.

Saturday night, Phil and I had dinner at Thai Basil, where I wanted to try everything on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, but had to face the realization that I wasn't going to be able to eat all that.

I always order aloo gobi in Indian restaurants, so I knew I was going to have to try the Aloo Gobi Croquettes.  It was an amazing dish -- cauliflower and potatoes in a spicy masala sauce.  The coconut milk added a touch of sweetness and a touch of Thai to this traditionally Indian food combination.

Next, I had the Vegan Hung-Le Curry, a delicious mix of tofu, zucchini, pumpkin, and peppers in curry sauce, topped with avocado slices and served with brown rice.

I was pretty stuffed after that, but Suleka Lindley, the restaurant's owner, brought Phil and me a dish of her vegan dessert to try.  This lovely combination of tapioca, taro root, mango, pomegranate seeds, and sweet black rice capped off the dinner perfectly.

Not all of the participating restaurants have finalized their challenge menus yet, but you can check the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge website to see what's currently available. There's also a passport you can use to check off the restaurants you visit.  I'll continue to post updates on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook and Instagram pages to let you know which restaurants I've tried. 

Have fun out there! October is a great month to be vegan in Sacramento!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Starts Saturday!

I'm always so excited when October rolls around because that means it's time for the annual Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  For the sixth year in a row, local chefs will be preparing a variety of fabulous vegan dishes all month long.  Here are the restaurants that have signed up to participate so far this year, and it's the biggest group yet:

The special vegan menus aren't available yet, but I will post updates on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook page as I find out about them.  With so many restaurants participating this year, I know I won't be able to get to all of them, but I'll visit as many as I can.  I'll post pictures on Facebook and Instagram of the wonderful vegan dishes I order, and I'll do a blog post every Sunday night with a wrap-up of the restaurants I visited and the food I ate during the previous week.  I can't wait!

One caveat:  most of the participating restaurants do not serve vegan food exclusively.  They probably do not have separate frying equipment or a separate spot on the grill just for vegan food.  If this is a problem for you, you may want to patronize only the vegan restaurants or order only foods that aren't likely to have come in contact with non-vegan items.  

More information on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is available on their website at or on their Facebook page at

Monday, September 19, 2016


My husband Phil and I stopped in for brunch recently at Highwater, the new restaurant on Q Street that was formerly home to Pour House.  I had seen a couple of actual vegan items listed on their menu and was eager to check them out.

I ordered the cleverly-named Vegan Hangover Helper Scramble.  It consisted of a tofu, soyrizo, and spinach scramble, breakfast potatoes, fresh fruit, and toast.  It was an incredibly satisfying vegan brunch!

I had hoped to get back to Highwater for lunch last week, but that didn't work out.  They do have a vegan plate on their lunch and dinner menu, though.  It's the Vegan Stuffed Portabello Mushroom, with marinated zucchini, squash, red onion, artichoke, and a balsamic reduction.  The Deli Lama's Grilled Veggie Sandwich looks like it might be vegan too, although you'll probably want to double-check before you order it.

Highwater is located at 1910 Q Street, and their phone number is 916-706-2465.  Their website address is and their Facebook page can be found at  The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Road Trip! Tender Greens in Walnut Creek

I had lunch with my parents in Walnut Creek last week at Tender Greens, a California restaurant chain that I hadn't heard of previously. I was happy to see that this cafeteria-style restaurant had some menu items that were clearly marked as vegan, as well as a few that looked as though they could easily be made vegan.

I ordered the Happy Vegan, a salad sampler consisting of several different items. It included farro with cranberry and hazelnuts, quinoa with cucumber and beets, green hummus, tabbouleh, and salad greens. I'm not a fan of tabbouleh, so I got more of the quinoa instead. The quinoa was good, but if I had it to do over again, I'd get more of the farro salad, which was delicious.

I don't know about you, but I hate it when I go to a restaurant that has vegan options for the main course, but no vegan options for dessert. That was not the case at Tender Greens. In fact, they had two vegan desserts in their display case. Naturally, I had to try them both. The creamy chia pudding with strawberry glaze and fresh blueberries was wonderful. I had the jam thumbprint cookie at home later, and wished I'd gotten more than one.

Tender Greens has locations throughout California, although the closest one to Sacramento appears to be the one in Walnut Creek. Information about their locations, hours of operation, and menu can be found on their website at or on their Facebook page at

Monday, September 5, 2016

Umai Savory Hot Dogs

If you live in the greater Sacramento area and don't have an Umai Savory Hot Dogs near you yet, don't worry -- they're popping up all over! I've been hearing about this unique new hot dog restaurant on Facebook, so I visited the Howe Avenue location over the weekend.

Umai offers numerous variations on the sausage in a roll concept. There are several different hot dog or sausage choices, as well as lots of bun, sauce, and topping options. They have four different vegetarian sausage options, all of which are vegan.

I like my hot dogs pretty basic, so I tried to order the vegan frankfurter. Unfortunately, they were out of that one, so I got the vegan Italian sausage instead. I had checked the nutritional information on Umai's website ahead of time and knew that the only vegan bun option was the gluten-free bun, so I ordered that. Be forewarned, though -- the gluten-free bun costs an extra $2.00. For my sauce and toppings, I just asked for mustard and sauerkraut. It turned out to be a really good sausage sandwich! I plan on being a regular customer once they open a location a little closer to where I live.

In addition to the Howe Avenue location, Umai Savory Hot Dogs has restaurants in Natomas and Roseville. According to their website, they're planning to open restaurants in downtown Sacramento, midtown Sacramento, Elk Grove, Davis, and San Jose soon. For more information about their locations, hours, and menu, visit their website at or their Facebook page at