Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Here's the Scoop!


During these hot summer days, one of the hardest times to be a vegan is when everyone else in the family decides they want to go out for ice cream.  While they all try to decide which of two or three dozen flavors to have scooped into their cones or cups, the vegan searches the menu board hopefully for any kind of non-dairy treat, before finally giving up and ordering a small soft drink.

Thanks to Here's the Scoop!, vegans can enjoy ice cream (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) with their families again.  Here's the Scoop! serves the best soy-based "ice cream" I have ever tasted.  They usually have about four flavors available, and I wish I could tell you what they are, but as soon as I see their Very Cherry Chip, a creamy pink concoction with big chunks of chocolate and cherries, I just don't notice anything else.  Well, maybe I have noticed a few other flavors from time to time, including mint chocolate chip, vanilla, and blueberry.  They also make bon bons, molding their soy ice cream into little balls and coating them with dark chocolate.  Heavenly!

The last time I was at Here's the Scoop!, I noticed that they offer all-fruit smoothies too. The fruit is infused with Vitamin C and green tea and made into a drink called Jet Tea.  These smoothies are available in six different flavors.  I thought about ordering one so I could review it for this blog post, but the Very Cherry Chip ice cream wins out every time.

Here's the Scoop! is located across from McClatchy High School at 3051 Freeport Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-446-4478.  They do not appear to have a website.  Here's the Scoop! is open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and Sunday from noon until 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mati's Indian Eats


Indian cuisine offers numerous options for vegans, so I was very excited when Mati's Indian Eats moved from Natomas to midtown earlier this year.  Although there were already a couple of excellent Indian restaurants fairly close by, I like the fact that Mati's is set up so that you can go through the line and see all the available choices, and it's quick and easy to get food to go.

My last visit was during a lunch hour, so I took advantage of one of the lunch specials, which included either plain or garlic naan, basmati rice, and two entrees (they also have one entree and three entree lunch specials).  There were four vegan entrees:  Aloo Gobhi, which consists of cauliflower, potatoes, and Indian spices; Chana Masala, which is a garbanzo bean curry; a curry made with peas and potatoes; and a mixed vegetable curry, which included green cabbage, potatoes, peas, and carrots.  The heat level for the spices was mild for the Chana Masala and the mixed vegetable curry, and medium for the Aloo Gobhi and the pea and potato curry. 

I ended up ordering the mixed vegetable curry and the pea and potato curry, one mild and one medium, and thoroughly enjoyed both.  The cabbage in the mixed vegetable curry was cooked just right -- not too crisp and not too soft. 

I thought I'd better ask if the naan is vegan, and I was assured that it is.  So are the fabulous vegetarian samosas they offer.  It's too bad that I was too full to order one today.

Mati's Indian Eats is located at 1501 16th Street, in between P and O.  Their phone number is 916-341-0532, but they don't seem to have a working website currently.  They are open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fresh Choice


Fresh Choice has to be one of the easiest places for a vegan to go with non-vegan dining companions.  It has something for everyone, and the prepared dishes, such as salads, soups, and pasta sauces, will have a round yellow sticker with a "V" in the middle posted on the label if the dish is vegan.  Some of the vegan options available during my most recent visit to Fresh Choice were Strawberry Fields Spinach Salad, Spicy Chipotle Hummus, and Red Bean Chili.

Fresh Choice appears to be working hard to improve the quality of the items in their already very good salad bar.  For example, I actually used to love the canned diced beets they served, and I was sad when they were no longer available.  But the last time I went through the salad bar, I was impressed to see chunks of fresh roasted beets.  According to the Fresh Choice website, they always offer at least four different vegetables roasted in olive oil, and I guess it must have been my lucky day to be there when roasted red beets were on the menu.

Most of the baked goods are not vegan, so I always just have a slice or two of the sourdough bread with my meal.  The desserts aren't vegan either, except for their fresh fruit selection.

Fresh Choice has two locations in Sacramento, one in Citrus Heights, and one in Roseville.  More information about their restaurants and their menu items is available on their website at

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Old Soul

Sacramentans are fortunate to have the locally-owned, super-cool Old Soul Coffee Houses as an alternative to the ubiquitous Starbucks.  Old Soul has taken up residence in three locations in the midtown and Oak Park neighborhoods, where they roast their coffee themselves and provide a variety of interesting beverages and tasty edibles to their loyal customers.  Among these treats  are vegan muffins (raspberry bran or flax seed) and chocolate cupcakes with a creamy filling, always guaranteed to brighten up my day. 

My favorite Old Soul location is the one at 40 Acres in Oak Park.  The 40 Acres building is made from old brick, which also comprises the interior walls.  The large windows all along the front of the building that face out onto the bustle of Broadway provide plenty of light.  The space is large and airy, with a bar set up off to the side where people can gather for a beer or a glass of wine.  I can walk there from my house, order an iced tea and a vegan chocolate cupcake, and sit at the window counter working on this blog while I watch the world go by.  Life doesn't get much better than that!  If I want something a little more substantial to eat, I order the hummus with baguette slices. 

Old Soul is located in the site of the old Oak Park Starbucks at 3434 Broadway (open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) and the phone number is 916-453-8540; in the rear alley at 1716 L Street (open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) and the phone number is 916-443-7685; and in the site of the old Weatherstone coffee house at 812 21st Street (open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.) and the phone number is 916-443-6340.  They are also planning to open a location at the Sacramento International Airport when construction on the new Terminal B is completed.    Their website address is

Friday, August 26, 2011

Il Fornaio

I've been working on a blog post about the Il Fornaio restaurant chain, but it looks like, a Los Angeles-based blog for vegans, had the same idea.  I'm attaching a link to the blog (, but in addition, here is what I have learned about vegan menu options at Il Fornaio, which is one of my favorite chain restaurants. 

Il Fornaio offers a special menu each month featuring the cuisine of a particular region of Italy.  I have always been impressed that their regional menus state specifically which dishes are vegan, if any, and in some cases, what can be done to make the dish vegan.  For example, the menu will indicate that a certain salad or soup is vegetarian, but can be made vegan by leaving off the croutons.  The only thing listed on their regular menu as specifically vegan, however, is their minestrone soup.  In response to an e-mail I sent Il Fornaio, I was told that their marinara sauce is vegan as well, and that the chef would be willing to work with a vegan customer to come up with a suitable menu option. 

I almost always order the same thing when I'm there, the Insalata Della Casa, which is a chopped salad consisting of romaine, radicchio, cannellini beans, avocado, cucumber, and tomato.  It's supposed to come with a gorgonzola dressing, but I always have them substitute a balsamic vinaigrette. 

Of course, the best thing about Il Fornaio (other than the wine!) is the fresh bread, and that may be a little trickier course for a vegan to navigate.  I've been told by one of the servers that their excellent olive bread and the ciabatta are vegan, but the rosemary bread is not.  Faced with a basket of bread selections, you may want to inquire further of your server. 

There are two Il Fornaio restaurants in the Sacramento area.  The one in downtown Sacramento is located in the Wells Fargo Center at 400 Capitol Mall and the phone number is 916-446-4100.  The one in Roseville is located in the Galleria at 1179 Galleria Boulevard and the phone number is 916-788-1200.  The website address for Il Fornaio is

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jamba Juice

A chain restaurant that deserves a mention is Jamba Juice, which is to be especially commended for having a binder at every location that lists the ingredients for each of the smoothies and food items it offers.  This is an easy way to find out that the apple cinnamon pretzel is vegan, for example, but the pumpkin ginger muffin is not.  They also have nutritional information on their website for each of their menu options, and it allows you to sort them so that you can see only the items that are vegan (
Jamba Juice offers several vegan smoothies, including some that are made from all fruit.  The one that keeps me going back for more is the Pomegranate Paradise, which is made with strawberries, mangos, peaches, and a pomegranate juice blend.  In most cases, even the smoothies that contain yogurt or sherbet can be made vegan by substituting sorbet for the dairy items.  All of their boosts are vegan as well, except for the Weight Burner, Whey Protein, Calcium, and Daily Vitamin. 
Jamba Juice has numerous locations in the Sacramento area.  Their website address is

Jamba Juice on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fox and Goose

My favorite Sacramento vegan breakfast is found at the Fox and Goose, a British-style pub that's been on R Street since before R Street became popular.  When I think of British food, the first word that comes to mind is definitely NOT "vegan," but they make a great tofu scramble (it's called "Creative Tofu" on their menu).  For an extra charge, you can have them add whatever items you'd like to the tofu, such as avocado, broccoli, mushrooms, black olives, spinach, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and other types of vegetables, or even marinated tempeh strips.  The Creative Tofu comes with either fresh fruit or English country potatoes (you'd probably better double check to make sure that they don't use butter to fry the potatoes).  It also comes with your choice of breads, few of which are vegan.  I usually just have them bring me some dry sourdough toast, and then I smear it with their fabulous raspberry jam. 

I hardly ever eat anything at Fox and Goose except breakfast, but I notice on their lunch menu that they serve a couple of different vegan burgers -- a vegetarian burger made of tofu and rice, and a nutburger made of a variety of nuts, carrots, and spices.  They also serve a hummus vegetarian sandwich. 

Fox and Goose is located at 1001 R Street.  Their phone number is 916-443-8825, and their website address is  According to their website, they serve breakfast Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Vegan?

When people find out I'm a vegan, they always want to know (a) how long I've been a vegan, and (b) what made me decide to adopt a vegan diet.  And somewhere during the course of the conversation, most people observe that they think they could probably become vegetarian, but they don't think they could live without cheese.  I never thought I could give it all up either, but here's my story.  

I became a vegan almost nine years ago, in September of 2002.  I had been feeling a little guilty about my meat consumption for awhile, and I was carrying 15 or 20 unwanted pounds, so I began reading John Robbins' The Food Revolution ( the hope that it would inspire me to eat less meat and more produce.  The book started by explaining how harmful an animal-based diet is for our health, followed by a discussion of animal cruelty issues.  Then Robbins moved on to the many ways in which our reliance on an animal-based diet is bad for the environment.  Finally, he talked about worker safety issues for those working in meat processing plants and how world hunger is exacerbated by our meat and dairy consumption. 

At that point, I threw in the towel and decided to adopt a vegan diet from that moment forward.  It was completely unexpected.  Really, I was just hoping to persuade myself to eat vegetarian meals two or three days a week, not go totally vegan without having given any thought to exactly what that would mean on a practical level.  It took me a long time to figure out what options were available to me, not just in restaurants, but at grocery stores.  I'm still learning, and my hope in writing this blog is that I can share what I find with other vegans who may be struggling with questions about where they can find good, plant-based food. 

And with respect to the 15 or 20 unwanted pounds I was carrying when I started reading The Food Revolution, I managed to lose most of the weight that I wanted to lose after I went vegan.  Unfortunately, it all seems to have found its way back.  One thing I discovered is that there is a lot of vegan junk food out there!  In fact, some of the best-tasting vegan options around are the baked goods and ice cream substitutes.  So if you're considering becoming vegan, you should realize that it's entirely possible to gain weight on a plant-based diet, and you'll still need to make sure that you're eating nourishing food, not just empty calories.

It would be great to hear from other vegans about what made you decide to make the switch from an animal-based to a plant-based diet.  I find that most people weren't raised vegan.  Instead, they made a conscious decision to adopt this lifestyle.  If you have the time, I'd love to know (a) how long you've been a vegan; (b) what made you decide to adopt a vegan diet; (c) what your biggest challenges have been in maintaining a vegan lifestyle; and (d) what recommendations you have for vegan dining in the Sacramento area or elsewhere.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Broiler Steakhouse. Really?


A steakhouse?  Really?  Yes, really!

I have been going to the Broiler for almost as long as I've lived in Sacramento.  When I first moved into town, the Broiler was a very popular, very dark, tiny little restaurant with booth seating on J Street.  Sometime in the late 1990's, the restaurant moved into a larger, lighter space on the K Street Mall, where they still have booth seating for those of us who always loved that about the old Broiler, but they also have regular tables and chairs, as well as outdoor seating.

As I mentioned, the Broiler is a steakhouse, and I always loved the food there in my pre-vegan days.  And I am very fond of two of the restaurant's wonderful owners, Larry and Marilou Lords.  After I went vegan, though, I went to the Broiler less often, in part because my office had moved to a new location and it wasn't as convenient to go to the Broiler for lunch as it used to be, but also because the menu really didn't have any options for me.  When I did go to the Broiler, about the only thing I could order was the Steak Salad without the steak.  That was okay -- a pile of mixed greens with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, carrots, and zucchini with a nice champagne vinaigrette dressing (hold the blue cheese crumbles) -- but it wasn't anything that ever made me think, "Gee, I'm dying to go to the Broiler for the steakless Steak Salad."

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when my husband, son, and I went to the Broiler Saturday night for a special family dinner before our son heads off to college, and I found a couple of new items on the menu that didn't appear to contain any animal products.  Just to be on the safe side, though, I thought I'd better ask the waiter.

"Does the Cannellini Beans and Tomato Ragout have any meat or cheese in it?" I asked with my fingers crossed.

"Oh, no," replied our waiter.  "It's our vegan selection."

I couldn't believe it -- the Broiler had added a vegan selection to their menu!  So I decided to push my luck and ask about the Organic Beet Salad.  Same response -- it was vegan too.  So I had a veritable feast at the Broiler Saturday night!

The Organic Beet Salad was actually a fairly substantial salad, and I was almost full by the time I finished eating it.  It consisted of beets, mushrooms, frisee, garlic, candied walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette.  Too bad they don't have it on their lunch menu, though, as I would totally eat that for lunch instead of the steakless Steak Salad.

The ingredients in the Cannellini Beans and Tomato Ragout are described on the dinner menu as including "wild mushroom conserva, broccolini, celery root, parsnip, baby carrots, chili foam," but mine also included zucchini and asparagus.  This dish is described on the lunch menu as including wild mushroom conserva and roasted vegetables, so maybe the chef just uses whatever vegetables are on hand.  At any rate, it was quite good, especially with the lovely glass of Toasted Head Chardonnay I ordered to go with it. 

It will be great to be able to go to one of my favorite restaurants again, knowing that they now have something on the menu that was created especially for people like me!

The Broiler is located at 1201 K Street.  Their phone number is 916-444-3444, and their website address is  According to their website, they are open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Road Trip! Delta of Venus in Davis

Yesterday, I was in Yolo County, so I drove into Davis for lunch at the Delta of Venus restaurant.  I knew it was just the kind of restaurant the Sacramento Vegan was looking for when I saw this sentence on their website:  "Delta of Venus serves wholesome and hearty food for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike."  Located in a converted house, Delta of Venus offers seating in the front yard, on the spacious front porch, or inside the restaurant itself.  I chose a shady table on the front porch.

When I went inside to place my order, my biggest problem was trying to decide among so many vegan menu selections, especially since they were serving from both their brunch and lunch menus.  Any of their eight different omelets or scrambles could be made vegan for $1.00 extra by substituting tofu for the eggs and omitting any dairy products.  The scrambles sounded good, especially the Mexican Scramble (crispy corn tortilla strips, bell peppers, serrano chilies, herbs, and spices).  It would have been served with potatoes and walnut toast, and I was really tempted.

On the other hand, it was their vegan lunch selections that had lured me into the restaurant in the first place.  I wanted to try a couple of different things, so I ordered a half Curry Tofu Sandwich and tried to order a cup of the Delta Curry Stew (made with brown rice, coconut milk, kidney beans, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and spices), but it was already sold out.  So for my second item, I ordered a Rasta Samosa.  I've decided that samosas are delicious from any culinary tradition, and this one was no exception.  It consisted of a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling of potatoes, carrots, peas, bell peppers, and rasta spices, then cooked in canola oil and served with mango chutney.  Two of these would have made a perfectly satisfying lunch on their own.

The Curry Tofu Sandwich, which was served on an excellent half baguette, was good too.  The filling appeared to be crumbled tofu seasoned with curry and mixed together with golden raisins and bits of celery.  Sliced tomatoes and lettuce completed the sandwich.  Delta of Venus also offers a vegan Hummus Sandwich and a vegan Veggie Sandwich.

One of these days, though, I'll have to make a visit to the Delta of Venus at dinner time.  Chef Iwaca prepares family recipes from the Caribbean island of Antigua in a style of cooking called Ital Wadadaly.  The vegan menu items are Curry Tofu, Coconut Tofu, Ginger Tofu, Hot and Sour Tempeh, and Ginger Seitan.

Delta of Venus is located at 122 B Street in Davis, between First and Second.  Their phone number is 530-753-8639, and their website address is  Brunch is served daily from 7:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.; lunch is served Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.; and dinner is served Monday through Friday from about 5:30 p.m. until about 9:30  p.m.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Magpie Cafe

R Street seems to be shaping up as the new go-to destination for Sacramento foodies.  I recently had lunch with a friend at Magpie Cafe, one of the newer R Street restaurants.  When we arrived, I didn't notice any obviously vegan selections on the daily menu that was hanging on the post near the counter, so I took a look at the salads in the refrigerated case.  I asked which of the salads were vegan, and was pleasantly surprised when the man behind the counter responded that they were all vegan except for the pasta salad.  He said the mushroom panini was vegan as well, and that they always have a vegan soup of the day.  He also pointed out a Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich on the menu, which he said could be made vegan by substituting avocado for the beef. 

I decided to order the salad sampler, which consisted of three small salad servings.  The first one was a golden beet salad, with beet greens tossed in with it.  The second one was an incredibly tasty burgundy rice salad (my favorite of the three), and the third salad was made of broccolini and golden raisins.  It was a very satisfying lunch!  I was too full to even think about dessert, but I should mention that during a previous visit to Magpie Cafe, I had a delicious vegan chocolate mousse for dessert.  I checked the menu on their website to see if they still offer this dessert, and was interested to see that they list the mystery ingredient that allows them to make mousse without dairy products -- avocado!  If you still have room for dessert after your next meal at Magpie Cafe, the vegan chocolate mousse is certainly worthy of your attention. 

Magpie Cafe is located at 1409 R Street, Suite 102, in downtown Sacramento.  Their phone number is 916-452-7594, and their website address is  According to their website, they are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

P.F. Chang's and the Trouble with Cane Sugar

In an attempt to find out which chain restaurants offer vegan menu selections, I e-mailed a few different national franchises.  The response I received from P.F. Chang's China Bistro puzzled me, and I had to do a little research to find out about the issue raised in their reply.  The Guest Relations Manager who responded to my e-mail said that their menu contained a couple of vegan items and some others that can be vegan when modified.  And then she wrote, "If cane sugar is not an issue for you, I recommend any items from our 'Vegetarian Plates and Sides" and vegetarian marked menu items." 

What the heck does cane sugar have to do with anything, I thought.  Did I flunk Vegan 101, or is this something that only more advanced vegans would know about?  So I did a little online research and discovered that the process used to refine cane sugar often involves the use of bone char (charcoal made from animal bones), and cane sugar is therefore avoided by many vegans.  Who knew?

I have to admit that I was pretty impressed that the Guest Relations Manager at P.F. Chang's was so well-informed about the intricacies of veganism!  She went on to say that if cane sugar is an issue, she would recommend the Steamed Buddha's Feast, Stir-Fried Spinach, or Garlic Snap Peas.  Soft tofu or pressed tofu can be added to any of these dishes.  

There are two P.F. Chang’s locations in the Sacramento vicinity.  The one in downtown Sacramento is located at 1530 J Street, Suite 100, and the phone number is 916-288-0970.  The one in Roseville is located in the Creekside Town Center at 1180 Galleria Boulevard, and the phone number is 916-788-2800.  The website address for P.F. Chang's China Bistro is

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Capitol Dawg


Before I went vegan, I didn't even like hot dogs.  So, naturally, the minute I switched to a vegan diet and could no longer eat them, I found myself craving them.  I tried veggie dogs once or twice, but they tasted even worse than I remembered real hot dogs tasting.  And then along came Capitol Dawg!  Sometimes it seems as though I'm in there every week now for a couple of their irresistible vegetable and grain protein vegan hot dogs, which they thoughtfully serve steamed so my Veggie Dawgs don't touch the grill or the deep fat fryer where the meat dogs are cooked.  There are no dairy products or eggs in the hot dog buns or the French rolls (which cost a little extra, but are so worth it!).  They offer a variety of toppings and extras either free or for a small charge.  Capitol Dawg's extensive menu lists numerous specialty hot dog items with cute local-interest names (River Dawg, Midtown Dawg, Tesla Dawg, etc.), all of which can be made using veggie dogs.

Capitol Dawg is located at 1226 20th Street, between Capitol and L streets in midtown Sacramento.  Their phone number is 916-444-1226, and their website address is  According to their website, Capitol Dawg is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  On Second Saturdays, they stay open until 11:00 p.m.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar

My family and I returned from a vacation to Tahiti last week.  Tahiti is a beautiful island and we had a wonderful time, but I quickly realized that it wasn't going to be easy being a vegan in paradise.  In spite of the fact that I saw dozens of farm stands all around the island offering a tantalizing variety of fruits and vegetables, and I saw only five cows, it was much easier to find a cheeseburger on a Tahitian menu than anything that I could eat.  I mostly had to resort to my old stand-by order:  hash browns and fresh fruit for breakfast, French fries and green salad for lunch and dinner (and in some cases, the green salad was simply a plate of lettuce with dressing).  I was probably cheating by even ordering the hash browns and fries, since heaven only knows what had already been fried in the oil in which they were prepared.  But it seemed that slow starvation was my only other alternative.  As we flew home at the end of our trip, I remarked that the best meal I had eaten during the whole vacation was the lunch I ate at the airport at the beginning of the trip as we prepared to depart Sacramento.

That isn't as pathetic as it sounds, since the lunch I had at the airport was at the Lemon Grass Asian Grill and Noodle Bar, located in Terminal A at the Sacramento International Airport.  While the guys in the family stood in line at Burger King, I ordered a plate of Jungle Curry, a tasty mixture of tofu, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, broccoli, zucchini, and tomatoes in a Thai yellow curry sauce, served over white rice.  It was fabulous!

But for those of you who aren't planning to fly out of Sacramento any time soon, Jungle Curry is available to you at another of the fine restaurants operated by the inestimable Mai Pham.  Her recently-opened Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar is my new favorite restaurant with multiple vegan options.   Star Ginger features the cuisine of Southeast Asia, and the menu specifically identifies the dishes that are vegan.  There are six such listings on the lunch menu:  Buddha Salad Rolls, Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad, Asian Noodle Salad with Greens, Grilled Vegetables with Shiitake Mushrooms, Jungle Curry, and Vegetable and Lentil Curry.  I have tried each of these dishes except for the Grilled Vegetables with Shiitake Mushrooms and have developed a couple of favorites.  When the weather is hot, I order the Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad, which consists of pan-seared tofu served on a bed of chopped greens and cabbage, then topped with peanuts, crispy noodles, and a ginger-sesame dressing that really makes this dish.  When the weather is cold, I order the wonderful Jungle Curry (although the Vegetable and Lentil Curry is very tempting too).  At lunchtime, I usually wash the food down with a refreshing mango iced tea.

I haven't had dinner at Star Ginger yet, but their dinner menu includes a couple of different vegan menu offerings:  Thai Lemongrass Tofu Salad and Pad Si Ew with Tofu and Mushrooms.  The restaurant recently obtained their license to sell beer and wine.

Star Ginger is located at 3101 Folsom Boulevard, at the corner of Folsom and Alhambra where Togo's used to be.  Their phone number is 916-779-0082, and their website address is  Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Dinner hours are Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Parking tends to be difficult in that area, particularly at lunchtime, as the restaurant has only a small, cramped parking lot and street parking fills ups quickly, so plan accordingly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Celestin's Island Eats and Cajun Cuisine


I've been eating at Celestin's Restaurant since long before I went vegan, and I've always loved the food.  When I made the decision to switch to a vegan diet, I appreciated Celestin's all the more because there were actually items designated as "vegan" on the menu.  For years, I ordered the curry vegetables every time I visited Celestin's, a blend of squash, potatoes, mushrooms, red bell peppers, and cauliflower cooked in a mildly-spicy Jamaican curry sauce.  The curry vegetables are served with chutney and Cuban black beans and white rice.  Earlier this year, though, I went to Celestin's with friends for a Mardi Gras lunch, and it seemed only fitting that I try the vegetarian gumbo.  It was outstanding, and it's become my new favorite menu item there.  No matter what dish I order, I always wash it down with the especially tasty sangria (if I'm drinking) or a zesty fresh limeade (if I'm not).

Other possible vegan options at Celestin's include the creole vegetables, which I suppose I ought to try one of these days; and the tomato-avocado salad, dressed with a black pepper vinaigrette.  Celestin's also offers a black bean veggie burger, which I've been told is vegan, but you'll want to make sure they don't put mayonnaise on the bun (you'll probably want to ask if the bun is vegan too).  None of the desserts on the menu are vegan.

Celestin's is located at 1815 K Street in midtown Sacramento.  The restaurant's phone number is 916-444-2423 and their website address is  Celestin's is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and on Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  The restaurant is closed on Monday.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Vegan Among Carnivores

When I suddenly decided to adopt a vegan diet almost nine years ago, I realized that one of the more difficult challenges facing me was the question of what menu options were available to me in local restaurants.  If my family and all of my friends had decided to go vegan when I did, it might have been an easier adjustment, because we could have gone to vegetarian restaurants (not that there are very many of those!).  But most of my family and friends are still happily eating a meat-based diet, which means that I am generally in the position of having to find something (anything!) to eat in a restaurant that does not cater to people who don't eat animal products.  Paradoxically, the recent movement by local restaurateurs to prepare dishes with seasonal local food products seems to have made my situation more difficult, instead of less.  Even though the Sacramento area produces an abundant variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, most of the chefs in the newer restaurants still rely heavily on meat, fish, and cheese.  By the time I ask them to leave out the cheese or the chicken or the shrimp in whatever dish I order, I'm usually left with a small pile of field greens with dressing.

By starting this blog, I am hoping to make it easier for me and other vegans to feel happy and satisfied after a meal in a local restaurant.  While I may write about vegan or vegetarian restaurants if I think they also appeal to those who still eat meat, my purpose in writing this blog is to help vegans find fulfillment in restaurants that cater to meat-eaters.  Since it may be awhile before I discover every vegan entree in every local restaurant, I hope that anyone reading this blog will let me know of any vegan menu option they've discovered that I may not have found yet.  I also hope you'll let me know if you think I've provided any information that's inaccurate, as I don't want to mislead anyone into eating something that has hidden ingredients containing animal products, such as an Indian curry with ghee (clarified butter) or a Thai curry with fish sauce.

Ultimately, I hope this blog can be expanded to include restaurants in areas outside of Sacramento, since it is always a challenge for me to figure out where to eat when I'm traveling.  If you've got recommendations for restaurants in other cities, or even countries, please let me know!