Monday, August 25, 2014

Happy Hour at Downtown & Vine

Lately, when I've wanted to go out with friends for drinks, I've discovered that it isn't that easy to find restaurants with vegan options on their happy hour menus. Tapa the World and Kasbah are vegan-friendly, as is Capital Dime, but most happy hour menus seem to have nothing for vegans.


Last week, when I was searching the Internet for a suitable place to meet my friends Cathie and Bonnie for happy hour, I came across Downtown & Vine, a wine bar on K Street. They didn't have an actual happy hour menu, but their regular menu included several small plates with vegan options. The first thing we ordered was Kate's Hummus, which was served with a beautiful assortment of raw vegetables. We also ordered a side of baguette slices to go with it.




We also had Marcona Almonds and Bruschetta. Other vegan items we could have ordered included the House Olive Mix, Baguette & Round Pond Olive Oil, and Kettle Potato Chips.






If you're looking for something more substantial, they also have a very nice Vegetarian Sandwich, made with hummus, roasted eggplant, red pepper, artichoke, and arugula.




If you're wondering whether the wines are vegan, the resource I use is Barnivore. Unfortunately, most of the wines served at Downtown and Vine haven't been checked out yet by Barnivore. The Domaine Carneros (Taittinger) sparkling wines are listed as vegan-friendly, however, so I had a lovely Brut.




Downtown & Vine is located at 1200 K Street, Suite 8, and their phone number is 916-228-4518. Their website address is http://downtownandvine.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/DowntownAndVine. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 10:00 p.m.




Downtown & Vine on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can Healthy Soil Save Us from Climate Change?



Recently, I attended an event at Sun & Soil Juice Co. to hear from author Kristin Ohlson about her new book, The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet. The event was a fundraiser for Green Restaurants Alliance Sacramento (GRAS), which, among other things, collects green waste for composting from local restaurants through its ReSoil Sacramento program.


I settled in with one of Sun & Soil Juice Co.'s delicious Royal Turmeric Bomb smoothies (orange, banana, mango, coconut milk, coconut oil, turmeric, and ginger) and listened to Kristin Ohlson talk about carbon farming, the practice of building up carbon in the soil to create a healthier environment for plant growth. The plants then pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which helps to reduce and mitigate the effects of climate change. In her research for The Soil Will Save Us, Ohlson visited farms and rangelands in several U.S. states, Zimbabwe, and Australia, and saw firsthand the results of various strategies to create healthier, more carbon-rich soil.


The scientists, farmers, and land managers she spoke with had discovered that many common agricultural practices contribute to the degradation of the soil. I think most vegans are aware of the problems caused by monoculture farming and the use of pesticides, but even seemingly benign actions such as tilling the soil or applying fertilizer destroy the microorganisms that are essential to the creation of healthy soil. According to Ohlson's sources, better options would include no-till planting, sowing a variety of cover crops, rotating animal grazing plots, and spreading the residue from the previous year's planting over the land to reduce erosion and to nourish the soil. The farms Ohlson visited that followed these practices had less need (or no need) for pesticides and fertilizer, and thrived even during times of limited rainfall.


Following Ohlson's talk, the GRAS and ReSoil Sacramento staff led the event's attendees on a walking tour to demonstrate the steps they are taking to help create healthy soil. ReSoil Sacramento picks up kitchen scraps from local restaurants like Sun & Soil Juice Co. and takes them by bicycle to an Earth Tub composting unit at Hot Italian.




When the compost is ready, ReSoil Sacramento delivers it to various local farms or community gardens. The one we visited on our walking tour was a large backyard garden called Midtown Freedom Farm, where partners Adam and Jehfree welcomed us with homemade refreshments and a tour of their garden.




Both the talk and the walking tour were very enlightening for me. As someone with no gardening talents, I tend to forget how much work goes into producing the food we eat, so I appreciated the hands-on demonstration the walking tour provided.


I was especially uplifted, though, by Kristin Ohlson's optimistic view that something as basic as healthy soil could help to save us from the dangers of climate change. The Soil Will Save Us provides a fascinating and forward-looking perspective on a subject that's vital to our survival. I recommend it to not only those who work with the land, but those who care about the future of our planet.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wahoo's Fish Taco

When I heard that a Wahoo's Fish Taco restaurant was opening in Midtown, I wasn't very interested. After all, what could a fish taco place possibly have on the menu for vegans? But when I checked out their website, I saw they actually had a few vegan options, so my son Zack and I stopped in for lunch on opening day.


I ordered the Banzai Bowl, consisting of bell peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, and a choice of protein. I chose the tofu, which was sautéed in a spicy teriyaki sauce. This dish is served with rice and beans. Both the black beans and the Cajun white beans are vegan, so I had both with my meal. I also asked for the brown rice, which is vegan. The white rice is not. This was a very tasty plateful of food and extremely filling!




We went back again later in the week. This time, I ordered the Son of Classic Burrito, which is so new that it doesn't even appear yet on their online menu. In addition to the tofu I chose as my protein, this burrito contained beans (I asked for half black beans and half Cajun white beans), citrus slaw, and roasted red pepper salsa (I asked them to hold the cheese). I liked this dish even better than the Banzai Bowl.




Wahoo's Fish Taco is a national chain. The Sacramento restaurant is located at 1820 L Street, and their phone number is 916-378-0104. The website address is http://www.wahoos.com/home.php and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/WahoosFishTaco. Wahoo's Fish Taco is open daily beginning at 11:00 a.m. Closing hours will vary, with the restaurant closing at around 9:00 p.m. on weeknights and later on weekends.


Wahoo's Fish Taco on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lotus Thai Cuisine



Since it's listed as vegan-friendly on Urbanspoon, I've wanted to try Lotus Thai Cuisine for some time now. The problem was that I could never find it. Driving down J Street near the Downtown Plaza, I couldn't see it, so I just kept on driving. I must not have been the only person having trouble finding the restaurant, though, as there was a sign on the sidewalk the last time I drove by, pointing the way to the restaurant down the stairs in the Chinatown Mall.


The menu contains all the dishes one would expect to find in a Thai restaurant. As always, I asked whether they put fish sauce in their curries, and I was told that they do not. I love Thai curries, but I wanted to try something different this time, so I ordered the Spicy Fried Rice, consisting of wok-fried rice, choice of protein (I asked for tofu), onions, green beans, bell pepper, and sweet basil in a garlic chili sauce. I haven't eaten fried rice in a long time, since it almost always includes egg, so this was quite a treat!




I liked my lunch well enough to go back the next day, but this time, I wanted noodles. I ordered the Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodles, which had pretty much the same ingredients as the Spicy Fried Rice, except that pan-fried flat rice noodles were substituted for the rice, and bean sprouts were added. It was such a deliciously satisfying meal!




It was a treat to visit this quiet little oasis in the middle of downtown. Afterwards, I stopped in at the gift shop across from the restaurant, Feng Shui, and browsed the nice selection of books, Asian gifts, and art. I'm already planning future visits to both the restaurant and the gift shop!


Lotus Thai Cuisine is located at 425 J Street, and their phone number is 916-448-5568. Their website address is http://www.eatlotus.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at this link. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Lotus Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lou's Sushi



I have to admit, I'm not much of a sushi eater. In the first place, it usually contains fish, which I don't eat, or seaweed, which I don't like. But a friend told me recently that Lou's Sushi had vegetarian options on the menu, and since I thought some of you might be interested, and since I'm running out of restaurants to blog about, I decided to try it out.


The menu on the Lou's Sushi website (not the menu in the restaurant) indicates which items are vegetarian, but if you're vegan, questions still need to be asked. For example, there are a couple of tofu dishes on the menu, but they're not necessarily vegan, or even vegetarian. The fried tofu in the Secret Tofu and the Agedashi Tofu is cooked in the same oil as all the non-vegan items. In addition, the Agedashi Tofu is served in a fish broth.


Even so, there are several options for vegans at Lou's Sushi. The picture above shows what I ate during my first visit. On the right is the delicious Avocado Roll, with the rice on the outside. On the left is the Kappa Maki, a cucumber roll which I ordered with a soy wrap instead of seaweed.


On my next visit, I had the Sunomono, sliced cucumbers served in a vinegar dressing and topped with sesame seeds. It was light and refreshing, and it was a nice accompaniment to the roll I ordered.




The Veggie #1 is an inside out roll filled with asparagus, cucumber, and avocado, then topped with spinach and sesame seeds. It was very good, and I enjoyed alternating the taste of the roll with the pungent bits of ginger that garnished the plate.




I'm glad to know that if friends want to go out for sushi, I'll now have a restaurant to suggest where there's actually something I can eat!


Lou's Sushi is located at 2801 P Street, and their phone number is 916-451-4700. Their website address is http://www.lousushi.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/lousushi. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.


Lou's Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Road Trip! LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto



Phil and I were in the Bay Area this weekend and stopped in for lunch at LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto. If you haven't heard about the LYFE Kitchen restaurant chain before, it was started about three years ago by a couple of former McDonald's executives, of all things. Unlike McDonald's, however, LYFE Kitchen promotes healthy eating. Their menu lists the number of calories (less than 600) and the sodium content for each dish. LYFE, by the way, stands for "Love Your Food Everyday." I know, I know, "Everyday" should be two words, but LYFED just doesn't have the same ring to it.


When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a line out the door. Inside, the first thing I noticed was the herb garden in the middle of the restaurant. The second thing I saw was a rack that held a variety of different menus: V for vegan and vegetarian, E for everything, GF for gluten free, and W/B for wine and beer. Obviously, I grabbed the one with the V on it.


Then came the hard part, deciding what to eat among so many great choices! Since it was cooler in the Bay Area than in Sacramento, soup sounded good. I ordered the delicious Sweet Corn Chowder, made with corn, potatoes, peppers, and cashew cream. I was glad I did!




All of the vegan entrées seemed interesting, but I decided to go with Art's Unfried Chick'n, a breaded Gardein chick'n patty served with roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, dried cranberries, and a sauce made from cashew cream and Dijon vinaigrette. I really enjoyed this dish, and the sauce was perfect with the Gardein patty.




I also want to mention the drink that accompanied my lunch. I ordered the Ginger Pomegranate Lemonade, which was sweet and tangy and had a nice little zing to it from the ginger. Loved it!




People were still pouring into the restaurant as we were leaving, and I found myself wishing there were a LYFE Kitchen location in Sacramento. Unfortunately, the Palo Alto location is the nearest one. More information about LYFE Kitchen can be found on their website or their Facebook page. It's definitely worth a visit if you have the opportunity!



LYFE Kitchen on Urbanspoon