Monday, December 19, 2011

Andy Nguyen

After today's post, I'll be taking a holiday break until January 4th. So I thought it was only fitting that for my last blog post of the year, I would write about a vegetarian/mostly vegan restaurant, Andy Nguyen.

When this restaurant first opened in Sacramento in 1984, it was a very popular restaurant serving Vietnamese cuisine. But it wasn't a vegetarian restaurant. That transformation came much later after the owner made a decision to honor her Buddhist principles by no longer serving meat in her restaurant. The new philosophy at Andy Nguyen is summed up on their website: "Focusing on respect for people, animals, and the environment we hope to be a positive influence on our customers and our community."

Since the guys in my house were busy with other activities last night, I decided to treat myself to a nice solo dinner at Andy Nguyen. While everything on the menu is vegetarian, some dishes contain egg, so if you're vegan, you'll want to make sure that whatever you order has a (V) after the listing on the menu. I began with a Crispy Lotus Rolls appetizer, described on the menu as "fried golden brown vegan egg rolls" with a "soy vinaigrette and chili dipping sauce." The rolls were hot and crispy and quite delicious, especially when dipped in the tasty sauce.

I ordered two different entrees, which means that I have leftovers for lunch for the next couple of days. The Flower Adornment Sutra (don't you love the name of this dish?) consists of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and broccoli sautéed in a spicy sweet basil sauce. Yum! And the Mandala Fry Rice included chopped vegetables, tofu, and soy ham. I'm not usually a fan of fake meats, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the soy ham in this dish.

No alcohol is served at Andy Nguyen, so if you want to have a beer or a glass of wine with your food, you'll want to order it to go.

Andy Nguyen is located at 2007 Broadway. Their phone number is 916-736-1157, and their website address is The restaurant is open Sunday and Monday from noon to 9:00 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Season's Greetings to you and your family, and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Monsoon, Cuisine of India


I noticed yesterday that the new Monsoon, Cuisine of India, restaurant had opened in midtown.  So I called in a take-out order and tried a few of their dishes for dinner last night.

I started with the vegetable samosa appetizer, four small turnovers filled with seasoned potatoes and peas.  They were flaky and delicious, and I'm sure I'll order them every time I go to Monsoon from now on.  I also ordered the aloo gobi, which is a cauliflower and potato curry toasted with ginger and cumin seeds.  I think it was the best aloo gobi I've ever eaten.  The third dish I ordered was the vegetable biryani, which consisted of seasoned rice with vegetables, mostly potatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  The entire meal was excellent.  I shared it with my son Zack, and he thought it was delicious too.

There appear to be several vegan options on the Monsoon menu:  tomato soup, vegetable pakoras, grilled fresh vegetables, a few of their curries (eggplant, chickpea, or okra), and one of their dal (lentil) entrees.  I know I'm going to enjoy eating at this restaurant!

Monsoon is located at 1010 16th Street in the space at 16th and K formerly occupied by Spin Burger.  Their phone number is 916-469-9999, and their website address is  The restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lemon Grass Restaurant

Since I'm such a fan of Star Ginger, I don't know why it took me so long to check out the mother ship of Mai Pham's dining establishments, Lemon Grass Restaurant.  But yesterday, I finally had lunch at Lemon Grass, and it did not disappoint.

As with Mai Pham's other restaurants, the menu at Lemon Grass indicates which items are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian.  In looking at the list of ingredients for each vegetarian dish, it appears that they are vegan as well.  My friend Kristine and I started with the Crispy Veggie Rolls, which are filled with shredded taro, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, green onions, and herbs, and served with lettuce and basil leaves in which to wrap the rolls and lime-soy dipping sauce.  These were very tasty, and a nice start to the meal.

For my main course, I had the Ginger Tofu Salad, which consisted of fried cubes of tofu, green beans, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and fresh basil, with a roasted chili-soy vinaigrette.  The tofu was fried to a perfect golden brown and the vegetables were cooked to just the right level of crispness.

Other vegan items on the Lemon Grass lunch menu include Garden Rolls, made of soft rice paper-wrapped tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and mint; Vegetable Stir-Fry on Cool Rice Noodles with shiitake mushrooms, tofu, vegetables, herbs, and roasted peanuts; Su Co's Delight, which is tofu, baby bok choy, broccoli, bell peppers, and mushrooms sautéed in shallot-soy broth; and Monk's Curry, which consists of tofu, kabocha squash, broccoli, zucchini, and carrots in a mild Thai yellow curry sauce.  The dinner menu at Lemon Grass includes a special vegetarian section with some of the same items that are on the lunch menu, plus a few additional items. 

Lemon Grass Restaurant is located at 601 Munroe Street, just behind Loehmann's Plaza.  Their phone number is 916-486-4891, and their website address is  The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  They are open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  The restaurant is closed on Sunday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Road Trip! 1515 Restaurant & Lounge in Walnut Creek

I was in the Bay Area over the weekend, and had dinner with family Saturday night at 1515 Restaurant & Lounge in Walnut Creek.

While there weren't many vegan options on the menu, at least the vegan options they had were interesting.  I ordered the Primavera, which was penne pasta with seasonal vegetables, walnuts, and a choice of either tomato, olive oil and garlic, or pesto sauce.  I always assume that pesto sauce will include Parmesan cheese, and I get tired of always having pasta with tomato sauce, so I ordered the olive oil and garlic.  It blended well with the vegetables, which included squash, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms.  I really enjoyed the addition of the walnuts to this dish.  The menu indicates that whole wheat penne pasta is available by request.  The menu also says that the pastas are topped with Asiago cheese, so be sure to ask your server to omit the cheese if you're vegan.

The other vegan entree is the Vegetable Medley, which consists of mandolin sliced carrots, eggplant, zucchini, and squash in a homemade tomato sauce with garlic, herbs, and spices.  There is also a salad that sounds delicious and looks like it could easily be made vegan: the Fuji Apple Salad, which includes butter lettuce, Fuji apples, plum tomatoes, pistachios, red onions, and avocado, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.  It is normally topped with Feta crumbles, which could be left off.

1515 Restaurant & Lounge is located at 1515 North Main Street in Walnut Creek.  The phone number is 925-939-1515, and their website address is  According to their Facebook page, they are open Monday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 a.m., and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until midnight.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cafe Morocco

I was out running errands yesterday and decided to stop in for lunch at Cafe Morocco in the strip mall at the corner of Capitol and Alhambra. 

I ordered a cup of their delicious harira soup, made with rice, lentils, and garbanzo beans in a tomato base.  I also asked for an order of dolma, grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice.  I always like the dolma at Cafe Morocco because the grape leaves don't have such a strong brine taste as I've encountered when eating dolma at other restaurants.  I had them omit the tzatziki sauce, however, since it's not vegan.

While I was there, I asked which of their other menu items are vegan, and there are several.  On the appetizer list, the humus, baba ganooj, falafel, olive mix, and torshi (pickled peppers, wild cucumbers, turnips, baby carrots, and cauliflower) are all vegan.  The tabooli salad is vegan, but most of their other salads include feta or a non-vegan dressing, so be sure to ask about the ingredients if you order a salad.

At lunch time, it appears that the only vegan entree may be the falafel sandwiches.  But if you go in at dinner time, there are a few options:  vegetarian couscous Maftool, vegetarian Musaka, vegetarian Mujadara, and vegetarian curry.  Cafe Morocco appears to be a very easy place to be vegan!

Cafe Morocco is located at 1221 Alhambra Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-731-4637.  In theory, their website address is, although I didn't have any luck when I tried that link a few minutes ago.  The restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  As an added bonus, they have belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.  Cafe Morocco is closed on Sundays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Part-time Vegan?

I'm probably wading into a minefield here, but I'm going to do it anyhow.  In Sunday's Sacramento Bee, restaurant reviewer Blair Anthony Robertson critiqued two local vegan restaurants:  The Green Boheme and Loving Hut.  First, let me just say that I love the fact that he wrote a thoughtful review of these restaurants.  But secondly, I appreciated this quote from the article:  "I love animals and believe there is a moral responsibility that comes with being at the top of the food chain. I'm also interested in a healthy lifestyle, and these days that means that two of my three daily meals are entirely fruits and vegetables, i.e. vegan."

Robertson is not a vegan.  He still eats non-vegan food items for one of his three daily meals.  I know there are purists out there who think that anything less than all vegan, all the time, is unacceptable.  But I believe that this approach discourages people from making changes to their diets that would be beneficial, not only to their own health, but to the health of the planet as well.

I happen to know that many of the people who read this blog do not follow a strictly vegan -- or even partially vegan -- diet.  But the fact that you read the blog at all tells me that you think about what you eat and that the idea of vegan eating isn't entirely abhorrent to you.  So the purpose of this blog post is just to plant the seed that, even if you don't believe that you could ever embrace a strictly vegan diet, maybe you could think about eating a vegan meal once in awhile.

How hard could it be?  Think about some very common items that people eat all the time without giving any thought to the fact that they're vegan:  spaghetti with marinara sauce (but no Parmesan on top, okay?); a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on sourdough bread; minestrone soup; oatmeal with apples and cinnamon; chips with salsa or guacamole.

Then expand that to include some vegan items from local restaurants that are similar enough to your regular diet that you might not even notice that you are eating something vegan:  create your own salad at Jack's Urban Eats using only vegan toppings and balsamic vinaigrette; have the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps or Vegetarian Dumplings at P.F. Chang's China Bistro; order the Spaghetti Aglio-Olio at La Trattoria Bohemia; try the Vegetable and Lentil Curry at Star Ginger; or treat yourself to the Vegan Boca Bacon Cheese Burger Combo at Downtown's Kitchen at the Round Corner.  And if you are looking for something sweet to top off your meal, stop in at Here's the Scoop! and get a cup of absolutely decadent Very Cherry Chip soy ice cream.

You may not have any intention of ever going totally vegan, but you might want to think about at least trying to eat a vegan meal now and then.  You may be surprised to find out that it's not as hard as you think.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thai Basil

I had lunch last week at the popular Thai Basil restaurant on J Street in midtown.  Like the other Thai restaurants I've written about, Thai Basil is able to make many of their dishes vegan because they allow you to pick the form of protein you want added to your meal.  However, their curry dishes cannot be made vegan because their curries contain fish sauce.  Still, there are numerous other choices available for vegans.

I ordered one of their rice plates, the Gra-Tiam-Prik-Tai, which consisted of carrots and snow peas pan-fried in a mild Thai garlic pepper sauce, with tofu added as my protein selection.  It was served with white rice and a salad of romaine, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  A sweet chili sauce, which was actually quite spicy, was served in a bowl on the side.  Since it was lunchtime, I was able to order a small plate, which was just the right amount of food.  I thought it was a very satisfying meal. 

Thai Basil offers several different rice plates, all with a different combination of vegetables or sauce.  They also have salads that appear to be vegan, such as the Lap-Jay, which is a Thai spicy salad served with grilled tofu, the som tum, which is a green papaya salad, and the mixed green salad.

The Thai Basil location I visited is at 2431 J Street, but there are also Thai Basil restaurants in Elk Grove and Roseville.  More information about their locations, hours, and menus is available at

Friday, December 2, 2011

SactoMoFo This Weekend!

I just noticed that the Sacramento Mobile Food Festival (SactoMoFo) will take place tomorrow, Saturday, December 3rd.  I checked the websites or got in touch with several of the vendors that are scheduled to participate to see who will have vegan menu options, and here's what I found out:

Wicket 'Wich offers sandwiches made with vegan Italian sausage, vegan kolbassi, or portabello mushroom.  They can make these sandwiches with vegan Provolone cheese, and their coleslaw is vegan.

Hapa SF is a San Francisco-based food truck offering modern organic Filipino cuisine.  They have indicated that they offer a vegetarian pancit that can be made vegan.  I have never had pancit, so I had to look it up to see what it is, and it's basically noodles.  So if I can make it to SactoMoFo tomorrow, I'll definitely give the vegan pancit a try!

Emma's Tamales lists several different vegan tamales on the menu on their website, so let's hope they bring an assortment of them to the festival.

Smoothie Patrol says that all of their smoothies can be made using soy milk in place of milk.!/SmoothiePatrol

The festival will be held at the weekend farmer's market location under the freeway at 8th and W  between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.  It will be a benefit for Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, so please bring canned food or new unwrapped toys to donate.   A map showing where each vendor will be located can be found at  More information about SactoMoFo is available at

If I find out about any other vendors offering vegan menu items, I'll update in the "Comments" section of this post.

Road Trip! San Francisco Soup Company

My mom and I took a day trip to San Francisco yesterday, and while we were there, we had lunch at the San Francisco Soup Company.  This restaurant offers a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches.

There were three vegan soups available on the menu:  southwestern corn chowder, smoky split pea, and Indian lentil.  I decided to have a soup and sandwich combo with a cup of the southwestern corn chowder and half of a hummus wrap.  The soup was wonderful, the predominant flavors being corn, potatoes, some kind of spicy peppers, and the cilantro garnish.  The online menu says the hummus wrap includes roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives, cucumbers, and Romaine lettuce, but mine seemed to consist of just a little hummus and a whole lot of lettuce.  If I had it to do over again, I'd probably order a whole bowl of the chowder and skip the half sandwich. 

Other vegan items on the San Francisco Soup Company menu include side salads of either mixed greens or seasonal fresh fruit, and custom wraps or salads that allow you to choose the ingredients you want from a long list of options.

The San Francisco Soup Company chain has several restaurants in the Bay Area and one in Boulder, Colorado.  The restaurant where my mom and I had lunch was at the San Francisco Shopping Centre on Market Street, which has a very impressive food court with several unique restaurants, many of which appeared to have vegan menu selections.  The San Francisco Soup Company's website address is

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Parties at Non-vegan Restaurants

'Tis the season for holiday parties -- office parties, family parties, get-togethers with friends -- and you may not always have a say as to which restaurant is chosen as the location for these gatherings.  Today, I'm writing about two restaurants that are favorite holiday party venues and letting you know what you can do if you end up eating a holiday meal at one of these restaurants.

Buca di Beppo

Considering that this is an Italian restaurant, I'm always surprised at how few choices there are for vegans on the Buca di Beppo menu.  Almost every dish includes meat, cheese, or fish.  Fortunately, there are three menu items that save me every time:  spaghetti marinara, green beans, and Chianti. 

As you may know, portions at Buca di Beppo could feed a small army for a week, so I always order the spaghetti marinara side dish, which is just about the right size for one meal for one person.  But what I really love is the green bean side dish.  The beans are always sautéed in olive oil and lemon juice to just the right level of crispy perfection.  You can order either the small size or the large size, so figure out ahead of time how many of your fellow diners you're going to have to share your green beans with.

Buca di Beppo also offers a mixed green salad that's vegan, as well as a few items that could probably be made vegan:  bruschetta, without the cheese; apple Gorgonzola salad, without the Gorgonzola; the Margherita or veggie pizza, without the cheese; and the Italian broccoli Romano, without the Parmesan.

The website address for Buca di Beppo is

Ruth's Chris Steak House

It's fairly easy to be a vegan at some of the big steak houses because everything on the menu is usually served à la carte.  What I've learned when dining at one of these restaurants, however, is to pack a small container of vegan margarine in my purse so I've got something to put on whatever vegetables I order.

At Ruth's Chris, the vegetarian option is the Personalized Potato & Vegetable Selection, which allows you to choose three items from the side dish section of their menu.  Since most of the potato dishes include either cheese or butter, or have been fried in oil that was probably also used to fry non-vegan items, I always choose the baked potato.  This is where my hidden container of Earth Balance margarine comes in handy.  The other two items I usually order are the sautéed mushrooms, which I ask to have sautéed in olive oil instead of butter, and the fresh asparagus (hold the hollandaise).  Other vegetable options include the broiled tomatoes, the baby spinach, if sautéed in olive oil instead of butter, and steamed broccoli without the cheese sauce. 

I generally order the fresh seasonal berries for dessert, without the sweet cream sauce, but they also have sorbet on their dessert menu.  Add a glass or two of wine, and this is a pretty good holiday meal.

The website address for Ruth's Chris Steak House is

Monday, November 28, 2011

Indo Cafe

I decided to do a little holiday shopping in Old Sacramento recently.  All that shopping made me hungry, and I had to find a vegan-friendly restaurant for lunch.  Happily, I discovered Indo Cafe, a small restaurant on Front Street serving Indonesian and other Asian cuisine.

I asked the man at the counter what they had that didn't contain any animal products, and he said that since most of their dishes are made to order, tofu could be substituted for meat in almost everything on their menu.  So I asked him what he would recommend, and he suggested fried tofu with peanut sauce.  I decided to give it a try.  He brought out a dish shaped like a small rowboat that contained a bed of shredded cabbage and chopped peppers topped with fried tofu cubes, covered in a spicy peanut sauce, and served with a mountain of white rice.  It was delicious! 

If peanut sauce isn't your thing, there are numerous other sauce options, including curry, teriyaki, and sweet and sour, to name a few.  Really, I was so happy to find this little restaurant, since it's not always easy finding something that's both good and vegan in Old Sacramento.

Indo Cafe is located at 1100 Front Street, Suite 150.  Their phone number is 916-446-4008, and their website address is  They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the winter, and from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the summer.  On Sunday, they are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The restaurant is closed on Monday.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sacramento Vegan Is Taking the Week Off

Blogging will resume on Monday, November 28th.  Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Sandwich Spot

Where can a vegan go to get a decent sandwich in this town?  Most sandwich shops anymore offer a vegetarian sandwich, but the main component is almost always cheese.  So once you ask them to leave off the cheese and the mayonnaise (and, in my case, the onions!), you're often left with little more than bread, lettuce, tomato, and mustard.

That's why I'm so glad I discovered the Sandwich Spot, which has a few locations in the Sacramento area.  The sandwiches all have different names at the different locations (for example, the vegetarian sandwich at the Sandwich Spot in Land Park is called "The Scholar," while at the Midtown Sandwich Spot it's called "10-Speed").  But regardless of what name it's been given, it's always item number 10 on the menu.

Once you leave off the cheese and the mayonnaise, what's left on this sandwich is avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickles, peperoncini, onions, mustard, and secret sauce.  The secret sauce is basically a garlic olive oil, and it's what really makes this sandwich.  I always have them make mine on a San Francisco sourdough roll, but when I asked which of their breads were vegan, I was told that they all are.  So your other sandwich roll choices would be sweet, wheat, or crunch.

In addition to the Land Park and Midtown restaurants, the Sandwich Spot has locations in Natomas, Rancho Cordova, and on Marconi Avenue.  More information about their menu, locations, and hours of operation is available on their website at

I'm going to take a break during Thanksgiving week, so the next new blog post will appear on Monday, November 28th.  Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pizza Rock

With all the news lately about K Street Mall re-opening to automobile traffic for the first time in 41 years, I decided it was time for me to check out the Pizza Rock restaurant that opened on K Street earlier this year.  So I walked in at lunchtime yesterday to order a pizza to go.

The founder of Pizza Rock is Tony Gemignani, whose claim to fame is being the first American to win first place in the STG category for the best Neapolitan pizza at the World Pizza Cup competition in Naples, Italy, in 2007.  Pizza Rock actually offers a cheeseless pizza on their menu -- the Marinara 11, which is listed in the Pizza Napoletano section of the menu.  It consists of a paper-thin crust spread with a flavorful sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil, and dotted with cloves of garlic.  Basically, it's a Pizza Margherita without the mozzarella.  I wanted to try it hot out of the oven, and I knew that it would cool down too much if I waited to try it until I got home.  So I ate a slice as soon as I got back to my car, slinking down in the driver's seat to keep people from seeing me and thinking I was about to give up my parking space.  I'm glad I did, because this is a pizza that's best when it's piping hot.

Other than the Marinara 11 pizza, there's not much else for vegans on the menu at Pizza Rock.  But you should try this restaurant at least once, not only for the pizza, but to check out the decor.  The exposed brick walls and the mural on the ceiling are interesting, but the real attention-grabber is the shiny cab of a big rig mounted over the bar, looking like it just crashed through the wall.

Pizza Rock is located at 1020 K Street.  Their phone number is 916-737-5777, and their website address is  Pizza Rock is open Sunday through Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Loving Hut


The vegan dinner I attended last week (Vegan Heaven) reminded me about how nice it is to be able to eat everything that's being served without having to ask for a list of all the ingredients.  So last night, I decided to order take-out from Loving Hut, a restaurant on Stockton Boulevard in the Oak Park neighborhood that serves vegan Asian cuisine. 

Loving Hut has an extensive menu, and the hard part is trying to choose among so many options.  So I decided to order a few things.  First, I ordered the fried tofu appetizer, described on the menu as "golden tofu served with soy sauce."  It's true that the sauce looked like soy sauce, but it was both sweet and salty.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious fried tofu triangles. 

Next, I ordered the Mongolian Delight, which consists of sliced soy protein (this looks like bite-sized bits of thinly-sliced beef), green onion, and red bell pepper in Mongolian sauce.  This is one of their spicy dishes, and you can request mild, medium, or hot levels of spice.  I ordered medium, which I thought tasted more like mild.  Quite good, though.  I also ordered one of their clay pot dishes, the Sweet Chili Tofu Clay Pot, a mixture of tofu, peas, carrots, and onions, also with a medium spice level.  This was excellent too.  The best part is knowing that I have leftovers in the refrigerator (minus the fried tofu appetizer, which was gone in no time), so I can enjoy this meal again at lunchtime.

Loving Hut is part of an international chain.  In addition to the restaurant on Stockton Boulevard, there is a Loving Hut in Elk Grove.  And for those of you who expect to do some of your holiday shopping in San Francisco, I was happy to find a Loving Hut location at the food court in the Westfield San Francisco Centre the last time I was there.  How cool is that?! 

Sacramento's Loving Hut restaurant is located at 3500 Stockton Boulevard.  Their phone number is 916-451-6842, and their website address is  They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  Saturdays and Sundays, they are open for lunch from noon to 3:00 p.m. and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  They are closed on Mondays.

The Elk Grove Loving Hut is located at 8355 Elk Grove Boulevard.  Their phone number is 916-478-9590, and their website address is  They are open Thursday through Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and closed on Wednesdays.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vegan Heaven

I just got home a few hours ago from a fundraiser for Alchemist Community Development Corporation, a wonderful organization that strengthens the ability of Sacramento residents to shape the future of their neighborhoods and benefit equitably from development by helping them identify the best ways to improve their communities.  In recent years, their main focus has been to establish urban farm stands in low-income neighborhoods that may not otherwise have easy access to fresh produce, either because there are no nearby grocery stores or because of transportation issues.

What was special about tonight's fundraiser was that it featured a fabulous six-course vegan dinner prepared by traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg, who has written several vegan cookbooks, the latest being In Search of Lost Taste.  Here is the incredible menu Chef Ploeg served at tonight's event:

Hors d'Oeuvres: Baby Mole Tarts with Caramelized Veggie Mince, Cornmeal-Almond Crust, Sweet-Spicy Chili Glaze and Cilantro-Sesame Tahini

Appetizer: Pate Trio-Garlic Lemon Cannelini Dip, Date-Kalamata Spread, Roasted Vanilla-Infused Kabocha "Baba Ganouj" with flatbread and crudites

Soup: Wild mushroom soup ladled over fried bread

Salad: Taro Root Fries, Salad Greens, Mung Beans, Black Lentils, Carrots, Peppers, Daikon, Roasted Green Onions and Toasted Sesame Shiitakes with Lime "Caesar" Dressing

Main dish: Breaded Garlic veg “Chicken” with Olives in roasted Pepper Cream Sauce with Basil Zucchini Fingers and Apricot Orzo

Dessert: Walnut-Pecan and Chocolate Tarts with Espresso “Cream” and Candied Sage

Creme de banana coconut soda
Tamarind lemonade
Wine from Pescatore Winery and Robert Mondavi.

So tonight, I'm one happy vegan!  Chef Ploeg is based in Los Angeles but cooks for dinner parties in Sacramento from time to time.  If you want to know how to hire him for your next party, check out his blog at  Information about Alchemist Community Development Corporation is available at

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I stopped in for a quick lunch yesterday at Muntean's, a small cafe on J Street across the street from the Sheraton.  Muntean's is known primarily for its soups, including several that are vegetable-based.

It was relatively late by the time I arrived, so there were only three vegetarian soups left, and only one of those was vegan.  I was able to try a sample of the Tomato Amza soup, which was a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and very tasty.

But what I decided to order instead was one of the day's Romanian specials, the Vegetarian Ghiveci.  This is a very hearty dish consisting of barley and a variety of vegetables -- I identified tomatoes, carrots, onions, and bell peppers.  It was a great dish for this fall weather.

Muntean's offers vegetarian salads and sandwiches as well, some of which appear to be vegan or capable of being made vegan.

Muntean's is located at 1225 J Street.  Their phone number is 916-498-9340, and their website address is  They are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taste of Thai

I stopped in for lunch last week at Taste of Thai on Broadway, and was seated at a nice table by the window.  I took a look at their lunch menu and asked the first question I always ask when I visit a Thai restaurant -- does the curry contain fish sauce?  Unfortunately, the answer to that question was yes, so I stopped looking at the curry selections on the menu and started looking at the other options.

There were several Pad selections, each with a different combination of vegetables.  I decided to try the Pad Prik Khing, which the menu describes as consisting of a choice of vegetarian or meat (if you choose vegetarian, the dish comes with tofu), chili paste, kaffir leaves, bell peppers, and green beans.  I was surprised when the server asked me if I wanted them to leave out the fish sauce, since there was no mention of fish sauce on the menu.  I asked that it be omitted, and then I asked if fish sauce was an ingredient in most of their dishes.  It apparently is, so if you're vegan, be sure to ask them to leave it out.  It can't be left out of the curry, however.

At any rate, I had a choice of soup or salad to start, so I ordered the soup, which was a tasty vegetarian hot and sour soup containing tofu and baby corn.  Then my entree was brought to the table, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it included even more vegetables than had been listed on the menu -- cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, and baby corn.  The vegetables were cooked just right, crunchy without being raw, and the dish was mildly spicy.  Served with white rice, it turned out to be a very satisfying lunch.

Taste of Thai has three locations in the area.  In addition to the restaurant on Broadway, there is one in Natomas and one in Roseville.  More information about their locations, hours, and menu is available on their website at

Friday, November 4, 2011

Road Trip! Alebrijes Mexican Bistro in Lodi

I drove to Cosumnes River Preserve last week to see if the sandhill cranes had arrived for their winter stay yet.  They had, and it was wonderful to watch dozens of them fly in to the fields along Desmond Road.  Afterwards, I decided to drive to Lodi for lunch at Alebrijes Mexican Bistro, which features a number of vegan items on the Heart Healthy portion of their menu. 

I ordered the stuffed portobello, which consisted of a marinated portobello mushroom cap stuffed with seasoned brown rice and topped with steamed spinach.  It was served with black beans on the side.  It was tasty and very filling.  Their Heart Healthy menu also offers vegan tacos with soy meat, fajitas, and burritos.  I was really glad to see such an extensive list of vegan options.

Alebrijes Mexican Bistro is currently located in a strip mall at 1301 Lockeford Street in Lodi, although their Facebook page ( indicates that they'll be moving to downtown Lodi as soon as they get their liquor license.  Their phone number is 209-368-1831, and their website address is  They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  They are closed on Monday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Wrap-up

The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge has ended, and I want to thank Bethany Davis at California Vegan Restaurants ( for organizing this fun event.  I loved having the opportunity to eat wonderful vegan dishes at so many Sacramento restaurants.

To wrap up, here's a list of my favorite foods that were served during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge:


No doubt about it, my favorite appetizer was the plate of beer-battered fried green beans served with chipotle ketchup at Capitol Garage.  The green beans were crispy and flavorful, and the chipotle ketchup was exactly the right accompaniment.  This dish was so good that I think Capitol Garage should keep it on the menu permanently!

A close runner-up in the appetizer category was the Mushroom Trio at 58 Degrees & Holding Co.  Of course, my favorite mushroom of the three was the tempura trumpet.  So I guess what all of this says about me is that I really, really like deep-fried, batter-dipped vegetables!


My favorite soup was the very first dish I experienced during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  The roasted pumpkin soup with pepitas & parsley oil at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites was creamy and delicious and really set the tone for the entire month of vegan creations, as far as I'm concerned.


I absolutely loved the jewel quinoa salad at Cafe Capricho, which consisted of quinoa, dried apricots, cranberries, and dates with chopped pecans and a citrus vinaigrette over a bed of mixed greens. It was so good and fruity that it felt like I was eating dessert instead of salad.


I liked several of the entrees, but I can't say that any one of them was a slam-dunk favorite for me.  So I suppose I'd pick the Muti panini at Hot Italian.  I really liked the pizza dough flatbread the chef used for the panini, as well as the chef's light touch with the Daiya vegan cheese.

I also enjoyed the chana sag at Bombay Bar & Grill.  This dish, made from garbanzo beans cooked with fresh spinach, herbs, and spices, was a pleasant surprise for me, since I don't usually care for cooked spinach. 

Neither Hot Italian nor Bombay Bar & Grill offered a special menu just for the challenge because they have vegan menu offerings all the time.  So I'm happy to know that I'll be able to order these dishes again even though the challenge has ended.


I had several marvelous desserts during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, so it's very hard to pick a favorite.  I finally just closed my eyes and thought about which one I would choose if I could have seconds of just one more of the challenge desserts.  My answer?  The buckwheat blinis with raspberry coulis and chocolate dipping sauce at Tower Bridge Bistro.  I guess it's hard to go wrong with a mix of raspberries and chocolate!

A close second would be the peanut butter gelato that was part of the vegan dessert trio at 58 Degrees & Holding Co.  Delicious!

I really enjoyed the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, and I hope it becomes an annual tradition.  Of course, what I really hope is that there was enough interest in these fabulous vegan dishes to persuade the participating restaurants to continue to offer delicious and creative vegan menu selections all throughout the year.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe

UPDATE: Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe changed owners and is now called the Plum Cafe. It is still completely vegan. Information about the baked goods that were sold at this restaurant under the previous ownership can be found at

I visited my last restaurant in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge this weekend -- Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe, which, of course, is all vegan, all the time.  The entree they created specifically for the challenge is a black bean and  corn enchilada plate, which consisted of whole wheat tortillas wrapped around a black bean and corn filling, then topped with Daiya vegan cheese, pico de gallo, and avocado slices.  A salad of mixed greens was served with the three enchiladas.  This is a very heavy meal, so you may want to split it with a friend or wait to order it until you've got a really big appetite.

As always, my favorite part of any meal at Sugar Plum is the dessert.  Their display case always contains at least a dozen things I want to try, and this visit was no exception.  After agonizing over all of the vegan cookies, cupcakes, whoopie pies, and other tempting baked goods, I finally decided to go with a slice of their pumpkin pie, which was delicious.

Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe is located at 2315 K Street.  Their phone number is 916-706-3302, and their website address is  They also list their daily menu on their Facebook page, which can be found at  Sugar Plum is open Tuesday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  The restaurant is closed on Monday.

Friday, October 28, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, I'm scrambling to finish visiting all of the restaurants that are participating in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge before the challenge ends Monday.  So tonight, I headed over to Kru and managed to snag the very last stool at the end of the sushi bar.

I have to admit that I was dreading my visit to this particular restaurant because I was convinced that I didn't like sushi.  I didn't eat it before I went vegan, and I really haven't liked the vegetarian sushi I've tried since becoming a vegan.  And I don't like seaweed! 

But I wasn't going to be able to write about Kru for this blog if I didn't check it out, so I ordered the Marinated and Grilled Shiitake Mushroom Nigiri and the Go Green Roll, and settled in with a lovely glass of Chardonnay.

When the food came out, I discovered that I still don't like seaweed, but I loved every other thing about my visit to Kru.  It's a very friendly, very high energy restaurant, and I enjoyed sitting at the sushi bar watching Chef Billy Ngo work his magic.  I can understand why Kru is the restaurant where other chefs come to eat!

The mushrooms in my Marinated and Grilled Shiitake Mushroom Nigiri seemed to alternate between a smoky taste and a light teriyaki flavor.  They were served over rice in two little bundles that were held together with a strip of seaweed.  Very tasty!

The Go Green Roll was especially creative.  It was made with grilled green and yellow wax beans, Granny Smith apples, and cucumber, and topped with avocado, beet and radish sprouts, and miso mustard sauce.  The creamy avocado was a nice contrast to the crunchy beans, apple, and cucumber.  And it looked beautiful on the plate!

They also had a salad on their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, which I didn't try.  It's a Crispy Burdock Root Salad, with mixed organic greens and kimchee ponzu.

Kru didn't have a vegan dessert on their menu, but the server said they could put together some fruit for me and I took her up on the offer.  The bowl of strawberries, blackberries, grapefruit wedges, and green apples slices she brought to me was exactly the right thing to top off my excellent meal.

Kru is located at 2516 J Street.  Their phone number is 916-551-1559, and their website address is  They are open Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to  11:00 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friday's blog article will not be posted until Friday evening

I'm scrambling to visit all of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge restaurants before the challenge ends on Monday.  I have two restaurants left, Kru and Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe.  My plan at this point is to visit Kru for dinner Friday night and to post an article about it shortly thereafter.  I'll visit Sugar Plum sometime this weekend and post an article about it for Monday's blog.

So check back Friday night to find out about my dinner at Kru!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hot Italian

I had a great Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge experience a couple of days ago when I stopped in for dinner at Hot Italian.  Unlike some of the other participating restaurants, Hot Italian's vegan menu offerings will continue even after the challenge ends on Monday. 

The vegan entree at Hot Italian is the Muti, which includes grilled seasonal vegetables, tomato sauce, and arugula.  Icons printed next to the menu items indicate the form in which the ingredients can be prepared, and the available preparations for the Muti were either a pizza or a panini.  I decided to order the Muti panini, and it was terrific!  The bread for the sandwich was like a flatbread made of pizza dough, and the grilled seasonal vegetables were cherry tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and kalamata olives.  I also ordered my panini with Daiya vegan cheese for an extra cost.  Normally, I don't care much for vegan cheese, but the panini had just enough cheese to add flavor.  Paired with a refreshing glass of Prosecco, it was an excellent meal.

I really didn't need dessert after that, but thought I'd better check it out anyhow so I could report about it on this blog.  The vegan dessert selection at Hot Italian is Sorbetto in seasonal flavors.  My choices were mango or pineapple, and I opted for the pineapple.  It was tasty and had a nice creamy texture.

The other two vegan items on the Hot Italian menu are an appetizer -- a selection of California and Italian olives -- and the Marcuzzi salad, which consists of mixed greens, shaved fennel, carrots, radish, red onion, and castelvetrano olives.

Hot Italian is located at 1627 16th Street (corner of 16th and Q).  Their phone number is 916-444-3000, and their website address is  The restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until late night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Blogging Schedule

Sacramento Vegan is switching to a new blogging schedule.  Beginning this week, new blog articles will be posted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only.  As always, if you know of restaurants you think I should write about, please let me know.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Noodles & Company

I was at Loehmann's Plaza last week and noticed a Noodles & Company restaurant, a chain that I hadn't tried before.  So I decided to check it out. 

As its name would suggest, Noodles & Company specializes in noodle dishes, specifically noodle dishes from three different regions:  Asia, the Mediterranean, and America.  The menu indicates which items are vegetarian, which they define as excluding meat and fish.  The menu also says that they'll customize anything:

            "We're happy to make your meal just the way you want it.  Most of our
            dishes start out vegetarian, so you can add your favorite protein.  Make
            it more or less spicy.  Add, subtract or substitute veggies, cheese or
            noodles on any dish."

There is also a disclaimer on the menu that says:

            "We have The Big Eight (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, fish,
            shellfish and wheat) in our restaurant and there may be cross contact.
            Our menu descriptions do not include all ingredients.  Please see a
            manager if you have food allergies, dietary restrictions or preferences."

So, now that I have that out of the way, what did I order?  Well, I decided that the Asian menu options probably required the least amount of tinkering with ingredients, so I opted for the Japanese Pan Noodles, described as "carmelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame and cilantro."  I added tofu for an extra cost.  I thought this dish was quite good, and just exactly the right size for lunch, which means I didn't end up taking any leftovers home. 

The other Asian options were Pad Thai (I'm going to order this next time, without the scrambled egg), Bangkok Curry, Indonesian Peanut Saute, Thai Curry Soup, and Chinese Chop Salad.

The Mediterranean and American dishes looked like they would be a little more problematic for vegans, since many have cheese or cream cooked into the sauce.  Of the Mediterranean dishes, the Pasta Fresca and the Med Salad looked as though they could be made vegan.  I'm not sure any of the American dishes can be made vegan except possibly the Spaghetti & Meatballs without the meatballs.

In addition to their restaurant at Loehmann's Plaza, Noodles & Company has locations in Elk Grove and Roseville.  More information about their menu, locations, and hours of operation can be found at

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bombay Bar & Grill

I had an outstanding dinner with my friend Deborah tonight at Bombay Bar & Grill, another restaurant participating in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  Bombay Bar & Grill has always offered numerous vegan menu selections, but their new menu has a separate listing specifically for vegan dishes so you won't have to ask any annoying questions when you're out with your non-vegan friends. (Does this curry contain ghee?  Would you please ask the chef?)

Deborah and I decided to share the Vegan Thali, which is a sampler of various menu items, and the Chana Sag, a dish made of garbanzo beans and spinach cooked with herbs and spices.  The Vegan Thali included mixed vegetables, puri bread, five vegetable momos (steamed dumplings), two samosas (fried turnovers), garbanzo beans, and steamed rice.  Everything was excellent, although, as usual, I liked the samosas the best.  The vegetables momos were fairly spicy, but still very good.  I was a little worried about the Chana Sag, since I'm not usually a fan of cooked spinach.  But mixed with the garbanzo beans and various herbs and spices, it was delicious and I would definitely order it again.  And since we were there during happy hour, the Century Cellars BV Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon was only $3.00 per glass.  It just doesn't get much better than that!

Other vegan choices on the Bombay Bar & Grill menu include Chana Masala (garbanzo beans), Cauliflower and Potatoes, Alu Baigan (potatoes and eggplant), Alu Mutter (potatoes and green peas), Bhindi Masal (okra), and Dal (lentils).

Bombay Bar & Grill is located at 1315 21st Street.  Their phone number is 916-441-7100, and their website address is  The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Capitol Garage

I had a great dinner last night at the sixth restaurant I've visited as part of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge -- Capitol Garage.  I'm glad I did, because the beer battered and deep fried green bean appetizer, served with chipotle ketchup, turned out to be my favorite of all the dishes I've tasted so far during this challenge.  They were fabulous and they deserve a place on the Capitol Garage menu even after the challenge ends later this month.

I also enjoyed my entree, the South West Barley Risotto, consisting of pearl barley and several fresh vegetables, including corn, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, topped with slices of grilled eggplant.  It was very hearty and quite filling, which presented a problem for me because there was no way that I was going to skip the vegan dessert -- Chai Coconut Chocolate Cake.  So I ordered the cake to go.  Lucky me -- I got the very last piece, and ate every single bite when I got home.

Chef Raphael Kendall, who created this menu, is a vegan himself and was featured in the Sacramento Bee article about the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge last week (  He will be the head chef at The Porch, a new restaurant that the owners of Capitol Garage will be opening soon at the location formerly occupied by Celestin's.  Let's hope that Chef Kendall will add some of his amazing vegan creations to the menu at The Porch!

Capitol Garage is located at 1500 K Street.  Their phone number is 916-444-3633, and their website address is  The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I'm enjoying my visits to all of the restaurants that are offering special vegan selections this month during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  But I also want to acknowledge a restaurant that offers vegan menu items all the time -- Malabar in Natomas.

Malabar has a separate vegan/vegetarian menu, clearly indicating which items are vegan and which items are vegetarian.  I had dinner there with my husband last night and ordered their delicious Fire Roasted Stuffed Portabella, which was filled with artichoke hearts and red bell pepper, and served with jicama slaw and very tasty black beans.  Other vegan entrees listed on the menu are the grilled vegetable risotto with pomodoro sauce, risotto primavera, a wrap containing grilled zucchini, yellow squash, and oven-roasted tomatoes in pomodoro sauce, rice vermicelli noodles with pomodoro sauce, and stir-fry vegetables and rice noodles in a sesame-soy glaze.  There are also a couple of vegan salads and several vegan side dishes.  Alas, there are no vegan desserts, but other than that, I really appreciate the effort they have put into making vegans welcome at Malabar.

Malabar is located at 2960 Del Paso Road, just off I-5.  Their phone number is 916-574-9074, and their website address is  Malabar is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Aioli Bodega Espanola

I had dinner last night with my husband and son at Aioli Bodega Espanola, the fifth Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge restaurant I've visited this month.  This was a vegan-friendly restaurant even before the challenge, and I was eager to see what additional vegan dishes they were offering this month.

The first thing I discovered was that, at least for this month, their menu has a (V) next to each of the dishes that are vegan, and they had several vegan items listed.  I decided to start with the Sopa de Tomate y Trigo, a very flavorful pureed tomato soup with cracked wheat added.  Other vegan starters I've enjoyed in the past include Setas Con Comino, which are mushrooms marinated with cumin, garlic, sherry vinegar, and olive oil, and Aceitunas Variadas, a tasty selection of mixed olives. 

For my main course, I ordered the Paella Vegetariana, a sizzling pan of saffron rice cooked with julienned fresh seasonal vegetables, including zucchini, onions, carrots, and eggplant.  This is a staple on the Aioli Bodega Espanola menu, but it's usually available only for two people, not as a single serving.  For October only, they are offering it as a single serving, so if you haven't had it before, this is a great opportunity to try it.

I was looking forward to a pear poached in red wine with cinnamon, the only vegan dessert on the menu.  Unfortunately, they didn't have it, and the server didn't seem to think they would be serving it any time soon.  So the remainder of my second glass of their excellent Sangria was my dessert.

Aioli Bodega Espanola is located at 1800 L Street.  Their phone number is 916-447-9440, and their website address is  They're open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

BJ's Restaurants

BJ's Restaurants

BJ's Restaurants are popping up everywhere, including at Arden Fair Mall in the space previously occupied by the California Cafe.  With the holidays coming up, I'm sure that we'll all be spending more time at the mall, so I thought I'd find out if there is anything vegan on the BJ's menu.

I sent an e-mail to the restaurant's headquarters and received a response from their director of operations for the Bay Area and the Central Valley.  Mostly, it appears that if you're a vegan eating at BJ's, you'll need to order non-vegan menu items and ask them to leave off the things you don't eat.  Here is your list of options:

·         Chips and Salsa
·         Vegetarian Pizza, if ordered without cheese
·         Garden Medley Salad, if ordered without feta cheese
·         House Salad, with either balsamic vinaigrette or oil and vinegar, if ordered without croutons, which contain Parmesan
·         Garden Vegetable Potato, if ordered without cheese or Alfredo sauce
·         Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta, if ordered without Parmesan topping

There were a few things on the menu that I thought might be vegan, but they are not, so I want to point those out so you won't order them by mistake:

·         The Hearty Minestrone Soup is made with beef broth
·         The Veggie Burger has cheese in the patty itself
·         The Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce has Parmesan cooked into the sauce

In addition to the BJ's at Arden Fair Mall, there are BJ's Restaurants in Natomas, Elk Grove, Folsom, and Roseville.  More information about their restaurants and their menu is available at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cafe Capricho

After reading the glowing review of Cafe Capricho in Sunday's Sacramento Bee (, I was eager to check it out as the next stop on my Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge restaurant tour.  So I drove to East Sacramento yesterday for a very late lunch/very early dinner.

The menu board and the specials board posted above and next to the counter included several vegan options, and I'll definitely plan on visiting Cafe Capricho again so I can write a blog article about the vegan items on their regular menu.  But the purpose of my visit was to try the dishes that had been created specifically for the challenge. 

The first item on the special challenge menu was the Jewel Quinoa Salad, which, according to the description, consisted of quinoa, dried apricots, cranberries, and dates with a citrus vinaigrette over a bed of mixed greens.  As a bonus, chopped pecans topped the salad.  It was fabulous!  I didn't go so far as to lick my plate clean, but there was nothing left but a little dressing when I finished the salad.  I think this salad is probably one of my top three favorites among the dishes I've tried so far during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.

I also ordered the Capricho's Stew, described as lentil stew with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, plantains, and Swiss chard, topped with flax seeds and toasted coconut over savory coconut polenta.  I would really have loved to have tried that savory coconut polenta, but unfortunately, they were already out of it at 4:30 in the afternoon, so I had the stew over brown rice instead.  It was very good, and extremely filling, so I'll be having the leftovers for lunch later this week.

I was really sad to find out that they were also out of their special vegan dessert:  Strawberry Shortcake, which would have consisted of a vanilla sponge cake (made with quinoa flour and soy milk), fresh strawberries, and coconut milk cream, and would have been topped with sliced almonds.

I can only hope that the reason Cafe Capricho was out of both the polenta and the strawberry shortcake is because so many people are eating at the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge restaurants that they can't keep up with the demand.  Part of the problem may be that Cafe Capricho is serving the dishes from the special challenge menu all day, instead of just for dinner, so maybe the lunch crowd finished off those items.  At any rate, if you have your heart set on trying a particular dish, you may want to call ahead to make sure they have it.

Cafe Capricho is located at 3269 Folsom Boulevard.  Their phone number is 916-457-3916, and their website address is  They are open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.