The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge has ended, and I want to thank Bethany Davis at California Vegan Restaurants (http://www.californiaveganrestaurants.com/) 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.