Monday, September 30, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Starts This Week!

October is almost upon us. For many people, that means falling leaves and Halloween pumpkins. But for me, October means it's time for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge!

During the challenge, fourteen local restaurants will offer menus featuring special vegan dishes. Some of these restaurants don't generally offer specifically vegan options, so this is a great opportunity to try out dishes prepared by talented local chefs whose menus aren't always vegan-friendly.

The challenge has been shortened this year, so instead of running during the entire month of October, it will take place from October 4th to October 20th. This will take some pressure off the participating chefs, but it means the rest of us will have to seriously compress our restaurant visits in order to try as many of their special vegan menu items as possible. Personally, I can't wait!

The restaurants participating in this year's challenge are listed below. It doesn't appear that any of these restaurants have posted their vegan menus yet, but I'll post any updated menu information on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook page. I plan to visit as many of these restaurants as possible during the challenge, so I'll blog more frequently than once a week. I hope you'll share your impressions of this year's vegan menu items too, by commenting either here or on Facebook.

Good eating!

blackbird kitchen+bar
UPDATE: Blackbird Kitchen+Bar has apparently closed permanently.

Cafe Capricho

Capital Dime

Capitol Garage

Cielito Lindo Mexican Gastronomy

The Coconut Midtown

Evan's Kitchen

58 Degrees & Holding Co.

Hot City Pizza

Magpie Café


The Porch

The Press Bistro

Tower Bridge Bistro

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vegan Delights at the Midtown Farmers Market

UPDATE: Several Cultured Kitchen products have been recalled due to Salmonella risks. Please follow this link to find out whether any items you may have been purchased are subject to the recall.

The Midtown Farmers Market is a treasure trove for vegans. Not just because of the fabulous bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale by local farmers, but because of the other vegan goodies provided by a variety of vendors.

My first trip to the Midtown Farmers Market was three weeks ago with my friend Melissa, who had been talking up the fresh pasta at the Pasta Queen. It's easy to find fresh pasta, but finding fresh vegan pasta is another story entirely. So when I stopped at the Pasta Queen's booth and found that she had vegan ravioli, I knew I had to try it. The first week, I bought the Roasted Artichoke & Spinach in Sweet Red Pepper Ravioli. It was outstanding. The next week, I tried the Sweet Corn & Summer Squash in Spinach Ravioli. Loved it too. This past weekend, I had the Roasted Vegetables in Chili Pepper Ravioli, and it was another big success. I can't wait until October, when the Pasta Queen begins selling Roasted Butternut & Chestnut in Pumpkin Ravioli!

The Kombucha Kulture truck caught my eye this past weekend. I'd never had kombucha, a fermented tea, but since I was looking for products to include in this blog post, I decided to give it a try. I asked which flavor was recommended for new customers, and I was told the grapefruit sage kombucha is very popular. After experiencing my first kombucha drink, I could only wonder why I had waited so long to try it. I think I'll have the blood orange flavor next time.

I tried spreads from the Cultured Kitchen at an event a couple of months ago and thought they were wonderful, so I was happy to see the Cultured Kitchen booth at the Midtown Farmers Market. They make cashew cheeses, energy bars, chocolate and caramel sauces, and various other vegan treats. The picture I took of their booth didn't turn out very well, but here's a picture of the delicious Herb Cashew Cheese I bought.

At the Crazy Gringo Taco Wagon Salsa Co. booth, you can buy excellent vegan black bean and corn tamales. The first time I got them, I ordered only two, which didn't stay in my refrigerator for very long at all. When they were gone, I couldn't wait for the next Saturday to roll around so I could go back to the Crazy Gringo booth and double my order.

Zena Foods carries a product that is probably a staple for most vegans: hummus! In addition to their basic roasted garlic hummus, they carry a variety of other flavors, including artichoke, avocado cilantro, and roasted red pepper, to name just a few. The hummus is a great dip for all the fresh vegetables you buy from the other Midtown Farmers Market vendors!

Even though the Midtown Farmers Market debuted in April, my first visit wasn't until this month. Fortunately for me, it's a year-round farmers market, and I expect to shop there regularly. It's located at 2020 J Street, and it's open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More information is available on their website or their Facebook page.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Coconut Midtown

No sooner had Negril on J closed its doors for the last time than a new Thai restaurant, the Coconut Midtown, opened in its place, creating quite a buzz in the vegan community.

Thai restaurants can be very vegan-friendly, since tofu can be substituted for meat in many of the dishes. However, fish sauce is ubiquitous in Thai cuisine, so any visit to a Thai restaurant means that I have to start by asking whether the dish I want to order contains fish sauce and, if so, whether it can be omitted.

If you visit the Coconut Midtown, be sure to let your server know you're vegan. You'll probably be given a marked-up copy of the menu that indicates which of their dishes can be made vegan. As you can see in the picture below, they can make a vegan version of most of the items on their menu. The owner of the restaurant has a vegan friend who has helped to educate her about vegan concerns. Judging from comments I've seen on Facebook and other social media, local vegans are very happy with the food at the Coconut Midtown.

I ordered Pad Thai, something I rarely have since it generally contains egg. At the Coconut Midtown, I was able to order it without egg. I enjoyed the combination of the chewy rice noodles, crisp vegetables, and golden tofu cubes. The sauce was light, with a slightly citrus taste. I could have used a little more of the chopped peanut garnish, but that was my only quibble with this dish.

The Coconut Midtown is located at 2502 J Street, and their telephone number is 916-447-1855. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Insight Coffee Roasters

I've been attending occasional meet-ups called Shut Up & Write! People meet at local coffeehouses to spend an hour working on their current writing projects. For me, those projects are this blog and a mystery I've been working on for the last couple of years.

The only reason this matters to you is because I always check to see whether the coffeehouses where the meet-ups take place are vegan-friendly. More often than not, there's something in the pastry case that I can actually eat.

I've attended a couple of Shut Up & Write! meet-ups at Insight Coffee Roasters in the Southside Park neighborhood. As with most coffeehouses, soy milk can be substituted for dairy milk in their coffee drinks. But the best thing about writing at Insight is that when I asked if they had any vegan pastries, I was told that they serve vegan donuts from Doughbot. The picture above shows my mid-morning snack of iced tea and two Doughbot donuts: a Lime-Coconut Malasada and a Picard (Earl Grey). Another morning, I ordered the Rosemary Lemon Poppy donut. They were all wonderful. Make sure to ask for the vegan donut selection, though, as they sell non-vegan Doughbot donuts at Insight too.

Of course, Doughbot is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, which means no vegan donuts are available at Insight on those days. I asked if they had any other options for vegans, and they do: pre-packaged Fruit & Nut Granola Bars from Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery. Needless to say, I love it when Shut Up & Write! meets at Insight.

Insight Coffee Roasters is located at 1901 8th Street, and their phone number is 916-642-9555. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at They are open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wicked 'Wich at the Downtown Plaza


While most businesses seem to be fleeing the Downtown Plaza, the owners of Broderick Roadhouse and the Wicked 'Wich food truck have decided to move in. I don't know why they're bucking the trend, but I'm really glad they are. What a treat to visit a shopping center food court and find something I actually want to eat!

I had lunch at Wicked 'Wich last week and found a couple of vegan options on the menu. I decided on the Tree Hugger, which can be ordered with either their vegan burger or portobello mushroom. I opted for the vegan burger. The sandwich is served on thick sliced Italian bread, and it includes melted Daiya vegan cheese, vinaigrette cole slaw, and French fries -- delicious! The other vegan option is the BBQ Tofu 'Wich, similar to the Tree Hugger except that marinated and baked tofu replaces the vegan burger or portobello mushroom. I've had that before at Broderick Roadhouse, and it's really good too.

The vegan goodness doesn't stop with the sandwiches at Wicked 'Wich. They also sell vegan chocolate chip cookies. I have to say, this was the best food court lunch ever!

Wicked 'Wich is located in the Downtown Plaza food court at 547 L Street. Their Facebook page, which can be found at, doesn't list a phone number or hours of operation, but the Downtown Plaza is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.