Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sacramento Vegan is taking a holiday break

I'll be taking a break from this blog until after the first of the year. If you'd like to follow Sacramento Vegan on Facebook, I'll post occasional updates and news items there. Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Garden to Grill

The Plum Cafe & Bakery, midtown's all-vegan restaurant, recently changed its name to Garden to Grill. I stopped by for lunch a couple of times recently to see if there have been any changes besides the name. Those of you who have enjoyed the plant-based cuisine at the Plum Cafe for years will be happy to know the menu is still the same; the purpose of the name change is simply to highlight the restaurant's farm-to-table philosophy.

I ordered the Tempeh Reuben, which has received rave reviews from local vegans. It consists of tempeh bacon, avocado, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and pickles, served on rye bread and with a side salad. The sandwich was very tasty, and I can see why it's a Garden to Grill favorite. I followed it up with a yummy carrot cupcake.

On my next visit, I ordered the Gardein Breaded "Chicken" Strip appetizer with ranch dressing. I'm not usually a big fan of faux meats, but I liked this well enough that I thought about ordering seconds. After much deliberation, I decided to have a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting instead.

Garden to Grill also serves breakfast, including a weekend brunch buffet. I've got to give that a try one of these days!

Garden to Grill is located at 2315 K Street, and their phone number is 916-706-3302. Their website address is http://www.plumcafebakery.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ThePlumCafeBakery. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Garden To Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 8, 2014

Road Trip! Ike's Love & Sandwiches in Walnut Creek

I had lunch with my mom a few days ago at Ike's Love & Sandwiches in Walnut Creek. My son had been raving about the sandwiches, and since there are several vegan options on the menu, I'd been wanting to try it out.

As it turned out, there were so many vegan choices that it took awhile to decide what to eat. The veggie menu is full of tempting items like vegan meatballs, vegan turkey, and vegan chicken. This doesn't necessarily mean that the sandwich itself is vegan, though -- you'll need to veganize whatever you decide to order. All the breads are vegan, except the whole wheat, which contains honey. The veggie bacon is not vegan, since it contains eggs, and the pesto is not vegan, since it contains Parmesan cheese. All the sandwiches include Ike's Dirty Secret Sauce, which is a garlic aioli containing mayonnaise, but an egg-free version is available. The key is to make sure that the person taking your order knows you want a vegan sandwich so he or she can help you avoid any hidden non-vegan ingredients.

With all that in mind, I finally decided on the Sally Ride, made with vegan turkey, avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and egg-free sauce, served on a sourdough roll. The only vegan cheese available was Daiya provolone, but that turned out to be perfect with this sandwich. The sandwiches at Ike's are served warm, so the cheese was melted and delicious. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was the best sandwich I've had since I went vegan!

Ike's has several California locations, but the closest one to Sacramento is in Walnut Creek. I just hope their expansion plan includes a Sacramento restaurant at some point down the road. More information is available on their website or Facebook page.

Ikes Love & Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Gifts for Vegans

If there's a vegan on your holiday shopping list, or if you're a vegan who wants to buy gifts that reflect your values and prove to your friends and family that being plant-based doesn't mean being deprived, here's a list of great gift ideas. These items are available online, but for those of you in Sacramento, I've also listed locally-owned businesses offering these or similar products.

Chocolates: I haven't tried Sjaak's chocolates before, but I saw them mentioned on Facebook this weekend and immediately ordered a pre-holiday gift for myself! All of their chocolates are organic and vegan. If you're looking for vegan chocolates in Sacramento, Le Grand Confectionary on Fair Oaks Boulevard sells delicious fruit glaces dipped in dark chocolate, as well as two kinds of dark chocolate bark.

Purses: Check out the gorgeous faux-leather bags at Alternative Outfitters and MooShoes. Clearly, being vegan doesn't mean giving up on style. Both websites also offer faux-leather shoes, wallets, and belts. In Sacramento, the Pink House usually has some vegan handbags in their inventory.

Cheese: If you haven't had the vegan cheese from Miyoko's Kitchen yet, you're missing a treat! My favorite is the Classic Double Cream Chive, but the other varieties I've tried are great too. You can order a collection online, or if you live in Northern California, you may be able to buy individual cheeses at your local Whole Foods Market.

Beauty Products: Say no to animal testing when you buy vegan cosmetics or bath and body products from 100% Pure or vegan shaving products from Vegan Essentials. Looking great while using cruelty-free products means everyone wins! The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op also carries a great assortment of cruelty-free beauty products.

Books: Some great new vegan cookbooks have come out in 2014: Lindsay Nixon's latest book, Happy Herbivore Holidays & Gatherings; Mayim's Vegan Table, by Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler in television's The Big Bang Theory; Bryant Terry's Afro-Vegan; and The China Study All-Star Collection. If these books aren't available at the Avid Reader in Sacramento or Davis, or at Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills, they can probably order them for you.

Shoes: I love buying shoes from TOMS! They're stylish, comfortable, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that for every pair I purchase, a pair of shoes will be donated to a child in need. TOMS offers vegan shoes for men, women, and children. A portion of the proceeds from some of those shoes even go to help the mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo through TOMS Animal Initiative. If you're looking for TOMS in Sacramento, Krazy Mary's on Folsom Boulevard or Sugar Shack on J Street both carry a nice selection.

If you have other gift ideas for vegans, I'd love to hear about them. Here's to a kinder, gentler holiday season!

Monday, November 24, 2014


It's really not ice cream weather, but that didn't stop me from driving to Elk Grove Sunday to check out Cream, which opened last weekend. I wasn't the only one who was eager to try it, judging from the line of people out the door. I'd heard about Cream's vegan options from my mom, who lives near one of their Bay Area locations, and from a reader on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook page. It was definitely worth a visit!

The specialty at Cream is ice cream sandwiches made to order. For vegans, they have three different flavors of soy ice cream and four different kinds of vegan cookies. I ordered two different sandwiches: snickerdoodle cookies with soy blueberry ice cream, and tuxedo cookies (chocolate dough with white chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips) with soy vanilla ice cream. There's no place to sit at Cream, so I had the sandwiches boxed up and I rushed back to Sacramento to put them in my freezer. They were delicious, and I'll definitely go there again.

The other vegan ice cream choice is soy mint chocolate chip, and the other vegan cookie choices are banana walnut chocolate chip and lemon pecan. Make sure you specify that you want vegan ice cream and cookies so you don't inadvertently end up with a similarly-named non-vegan item. Also, be prepared to pay more for your vegan ice cream sandwich than your non-vegan friends pay for theirs -- the dreaded "vegan tax." Still, as far as I was concerned, it was totally worth it.

Cream is a Northern California chain, with Elk Grove and Davis being the two locations closest to Sacramento. The address of the Elk Grove Cream is 8469 Elk Grove Boulevard, their phone number is 916-896-5537, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CREAMofElkGrove. They are open Monday through Thursday from noon to midnight, Friday from noon to 2:00 a.m., Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

The address of the Davis Cream is 110 F Street, their phone number is 530-750-1905, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/creamofdavis. They are open Monday through Wednesday from noon to 10:00 p.m., Thursday from noon to 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 1:00 a.m., and Sunday from noon to 11:00 p.m.

Cream on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 17, 2014

Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table

Do you already miss the excitement and the variety of great vegan dishes you sampled during last month's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge? If so, you may want to attend the Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table at Tower Bridge Bistro this Thursday.

This five-course vegan meal will feature dishes prepared by five of the outstanding chefs who participated in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge:

• Chef Clay Purcell of Tower Bridge Bistro
• Chef Raphael Kendall of Capitol Garage
• Chef F. J. Villalobos of 58 Degrees & Holding Co.
• Chef Carina Lampkin of Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery
• Chef Joelle Dennis of Capital Dime

The only thing better than enjoying the food at this wonderful vegan meal would be if the money raised at the dinner were used to help low-income residents in our community. Guess what? It does! Two awesome nonprofit organizations will benefit from this fundraiser.

Alchemist Community Development Corporation is one of my favorite local organizations, and I have done volunteer work for them in a variety of capacities. Their staff works with Sacramento area residents in an effort to create vibrant, equitable, healthy and diverse communities. Their main focus in recent years has been to increase access to healthy food in underserved neighborhoods. Alchemist CDC has made it possible for low-income families to use food stamps at local farmers' markets, an option that was previously unavailable to them. They are also working to bring fresh produce into corner stores in low-income neighborhoods.

Family Promise of Sacramento is a program that helps homeless families achieve self-sufficiency and regain a home for themselves and their children by utilizing an interfaith hospitality network of diverse faith communities throughout the Sacramento.

The Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table will be held this Thursday, November 20th, at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites Hotel beginning at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at http://sacveganchallenge.com/morevents/fall-harvest-chefs-table/. I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Road Trip! Taste Restaurant in Plymouth

About an hour's drive from Sacramento, in a town that has only a sprinkling of businesses on its Main Street, is an amazing restaurant that's been mentioned in the New York Times, has been named as one of the Top 100 Wine Restaurants in America by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and boasts a chef who's been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York. But the best thing about Taste Restaurant in Plymouth is that it's very vegan-friendly!

I had lunch there recently with my friends Cathy and Sandi. I had checked the restaurant's website beforehand and saw that they offer a vegan menu, and they were kind enough to email it to me before my visit. With six vegan "small tastes" listed and four vegan "large tastes," I knew my biggest problem would be to narrow down my selections.

For my first course, I ordered the Roasted Pear small taste. The pears were served with fig jam and pistachio dukkha, then garnished with sprigs of mache. The menu indicates that this wonderful dish is served with grilled naan, but the naan isn't actually vegan, since it contains yogurt. Instead, they substituted little seeded crackers, which went beautifully with the other ingredients.

Next, I had the Grilled Tofu, three little stacks of goodness with fried marble potatoes on the bottom, followed by a slice of grilled tofu, and then topped with eggplant and roasted red peppers in an agro dulce sauce. Fabulous!

One vegan dessert is prepared daily, so you'll just have to ask your server about it when you get there. The day I was at Taste, the vegan dessert was banana donuts with coffee gelato. It was the perfect way to end an incredible meal.

Taste Restaurant is located at 9402 Main Street in Plymouth, and their phone number is 209-245-3463. Their website address is http://restauranttaste.com/newtaste/pages/home.cgi, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TastePlymouth. Lunch is served only on Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Dinner is served Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

Taste Restaurant on Urbanspoon