Monday, October 28, 2013

Temple Fine Coffee and Tea

I'm encouraged by all the Sacramento coffeehouses that include vegan baked goods among the pastries they offer for sale, including Old Soul, Peet's, and Insight Coffee Roasters.

On a couple of recent visits to Temple Fine Coffee and Tea, I was happy to discover that they are part of this trend too, serving delicious muffins from Sacramento's own Sugar Plum Vegan. At the Temple location downtown on Ninth Street, I had a fabulous Morning Glory muffin, which turned out to be the only vegan muffin they had left. At the 28th and S Street location, however, three different types of Sugar Plum Vegan muffins were available. I chose the excellent Almond Raspberry muffin shown in the picture.

Coffee and tea drinks can be made with soy milk, like the artistically-presented cappuccino I had with my muffin. I don't generally drink coffee, but I ordered this because I knew it would look pretty in the picture.

The downtown Temple Fine Coffee and Tea is located at 1010 Ninth Street, and the phone number is 916-443-4960. The midtown Temple is located at 2829 S Street, and the phone number is 916-454-1272. Temple's website address is Both of these locations are open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- Magpie Café

I had my last Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge meal of the year Saturday night at Magpie Café, a restaurant that offers options for vegans year-round, not just during the challenge.

Two items were being offered specifically for the challenge: an appetizer and an entrée. The appetizer sounded great -- mushrooms cultivated in Natomas by Dragon Mushrooms and served with purée of white bean, truffle oil, and crostini -- but I knew if I ordered that and the entrée, I'd be too full for dessert, so I skipped it.

The entrée, Autumn Chanterelle and Runner Bean Ragout, was perfect for a fall evening. It consisted of golden chanterelles from Oregon, heirloom cannellini beans from Mohr Fry Ranch, fingerling potatoes, winter squash, herbs, and marsala, ingredients that all worked well together in this delicious ragout.

I was glad I had saved room for Magpie's fabulous chocolate avocado mousse, garnished with a thin line of powdered chocolate and a thin line of salt. It's hard to believe that a mousse this decadent doesn't contain eggs or cream. I ate every bite.

If you weren't able to get to Magpie during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, don't worry. The server told me that the chef will continue to offer the Autumn Chanterelle and Runner Bean Ragout for a while longer as a special on their fall menu (dinner only). The amazing chocolate avocado mousse is always available at Magpie.

Magpie Café is located at 1409 R Street, Suite 102, and their phone number is 916-452-7594. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- Hot City Pizza

Time is running out on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. I've already resigned myself to the fact that I won't be able to visit all of the participating restaurants before the challenge ends Sunday, but I'm fitting them in where I can.

I had a writing group meeting last night, which meant a sit-down meal in one of the remaining restaurants was out of the question. Instead, I stopped by Hot City Pizza and picked up their vegan pizza to share with the group.

The pizza had a whole wheat crust spread with marinara sauce and then topped with carmelized red onion, a little housemade vegan cheese, roasted potatoes, roasted kabocha squash, yellow squash, zucchini, and basil. I really enjoyed it, but more importantly, it received an enthusiastic response from the other members of my writing group, none of whom are vegan. Sorry for the picture quality -- I don't know why it turned out so orange!

While this pizza has been very popular at Hot City Pizza this month, there are no plans to continue offering it after Sunday, so if you want to try it, you'd better head on over there this weekend.

Hot City Pizza is located at 5642 J Street, and their phone number is 916-731-8888. Their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant will be open from noon to 9:00 p.m. today, and from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- Cafe Capricho

Cafe Capricho is one of the few participating restaurants that offers their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu all day, so I headed over there for lunch today.

I ordered one of everything on their challenge menu. Since ordering is done at the counter, rather than through a server, this meant that all of my food arrived at the same time.

The first course was the Spicy Fruit Salad, consisting of mixed lettuce, jicama, orange, cucumber, mango, and pineapple, topped with chia seeds and spicy apricot chipotle dressing. The dressing had a kick to it, but it worked well with the refreshing fruit selection.

The main course was Revoltijo--The Mix. It was a bed of wild rice served with a mixture of garbanzo, fava, and green beans, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, butternut squash, and Swiss chard, then topped with pine nuts. This was a delicious and satisfying fall dish, combining a nice variety of tastes, colors, and textures.

After such a filling entrée, I was glad the dessert was fairly light. The Alegria--Joy was an amaranth pudding made with almond milk and agave, and topped with pecans, which added a nice crunch to the sweet grainy pudding.

Cafe Capricho is located at 3269 Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento, and their phone number is 916-457-3916. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu will be available through October 20th.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Road Trip! Saha in San Francisco

My husband and I spent the weekend in San Francisco where, among other things, we saw the hilarious Beach Blanket Babylon for the first time. Afterwards, we went to dinner at Zagat-rated Saha, where the website describes the food as "a unique blend of Yemenese Arabic Cuisine and boundary pushing California cuisine with French hints mixed in for good measure." While that description sounded intriguing, the main thing that attracted me to this restaurant was the large number of vegan selections on the menu.

Rather than ordering everything à la carte, I decided to go with the fixed price option, which included a salad or soup, a small plate, and an entrée. For my salad, I ordered the Stuffed Avocado. The avocado was coated with knaffe (shredded phyllo), lightly fried, then stuffed with tabouleh and served with two slices of marinated tofu. So good!

I had a terrible time deciding which small plate to try. There were so many tempting vegan choices that I seriously considered just making a meal from several small plates. But I finally chose the Vegan Knaffe, described on the menu as "vegan shredded phyllo with vegan cream cheese and wild mushrooms baked in ramekin and served over coconut-chermoulah-chipotle sauce." Chermoulah is a spice mixture, and I'm not sure which spices it included, but I'm pretty sure cinnamon was one of them. By this time, I had already decided that my food review vocabulary could never do justice to Saha's cuisine.

My entrée was the Saha Red Curry, which consisted of butternut squash and tofu in a red curry sauce, served with Palestinian couscous and fresh vegetables. It was delicious.

I was much too full for dessert, but I decided to order something anyhow. I asked the server which of the vegan desserts he would recommend. "This one," he said, pointing at the menu, "despite the name." The dessert's name was, I kid you not, "Slap ya mama." I took his advice and ordered this heavenly confection, which consisted of roasted fruit, date and almond marzipan, and chocolate, baked in a phyllo dough shell. The picture is blurry, probably because I was so eager to dig in that I didn't take the time to focus properly.

This was one of the most exciting meals I've had in a long time. Middle Eastern cuisine is generally vegan-friendly, but this went far beyond the usual hummus, baba ganoush, and falafel. I can't wait to go back to Saha again.

Saha is located inside the Hotel Carlton at 1075 Sutter Street in San Francisco, and their phone number is 415-345-9547. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at Saha is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- Capitol Garage

With such a short time frame for this year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, it's hard to fit in dinner at all the different restaurants. So when I realized that Capitol Garage is one of the few participating restaurants serving the vegan menu at both lunch and dinner, I decided to head over there for lunch. I'm so glad I did!

The challenge menu at Capitol Garage offers pure comfort food. Amazingly, all of the dishes are oil-free. Each item on the menu can be ordered separately, or you can pay a fixed price for all three, which is what I did.

The first course was a generous serving of roasted tomato curry almond bisque. I loved the touch of curry in this dish, which added interest to a soup that might otherwise have seemed ordinary. You may want to avoid filling up on the toast that accompanies the soup, however, and save room for the enormous amount of food that comes with the next course.

The entrée was a mountain of delicious coconut chive mashed potatoes, topped with broccoli and maple pepper tofu, then drizzled with a warm carrot sauce. I rarely find vegan mashed potatoes that I like in restaurants, and I can't usually be bothered to make them myself, so these were a real treat. The broccoli was bright green and lightly cooked, just the way I like it, and I really enjoyed the tofu with carrot sauce. Actually, I loved everything about this dish!

Dessert was vanilla banana cake, spiced persimmon compote, and lemon pomegranate drizzle. I was a little worried when I saw the cake, as it gave the appearance of being dense and heavy. After the huge quantity of mashed potatoes I'd just eaten, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to eat more than a bite or two of the cake. But when I tried the first forkful, I was happy to discover that the cake was very light. It was so good that I ate almost the whole thing, even though I was pretty stuffed by then.

Capitol Garage is also serving a vegan brunch during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, a butternut barley hash consisting of roasted butternut squash, barley, roasted tomatoes, peppers, onions and spinach.

Capitol Garage is located at 1500 K Street, and their phone number is 916-444-3633. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at 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 p.m.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- Tower Bridge Bistro

I always look forward to dining at Tower Bridge Bistro during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge because Chef Clay Purcell creates such wonderful dishes for this event. Instead of preparing just one appetizer, main course, and dessert for the challenge, he offers a three-course prix fixe menu with two different choices for each course. Last night, I had dinner there with two non-vegan friends who decided to order from the vegan menu. Among the three of us, we tried all six dishes.

The appetizer course featured either Purple Peruvian Potato Bisque with Leeks and Smokey Chipotle, or Moroccan Style Carrot and Parsnip Salad with Buckwheat Crêpes. I chose the bisque, which was spicy and very flavorful, a great dish for this cooling fall weather.

I had a bite of the carrot and parsnip salad ordered by one of my friends and thought it was very good too. I don't think I've ever had parsnips in a salad before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked with the carrots and Moroccan spices. The salad was ordered without the buckwheat crêpes, which is why they don't appear in the picture below.

For the main course, I ordered the delicious Thai Coconut Curry Tofu, Roasted Cauliflower, Jasmine Rice, Spaghetti Squash and Sunflower Seeds. I love an entrée that combines so many of my favorite ingredients into one dish. So far, this is my favorite main course of the challenge.

The other entrée was Rainbow Stuffed Swiss Chard with Quinoa, Tofu, Peppers, Scallions and Squash topped with Creole Sauce and Chervil. I didn't personally try this dish, but I'm told it was very good and quite spicy.

Choices for dessert were either Cappuccino Mousse with Almond Milk Foam or Italian Pear Tart with Apricot Essence. I'm not much of a coffee fan, so I went with the pear tart, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

The cappuccino mousse was cleverly presented to look like an actual cup of cappuccino. The friend who ordered it said the texture wasn't as firm as it would be for a traditional mousse -- it seemed a little more liquid -- but she liked it very much.

Tower Bridge Bistro is located inside the Embassy Suites Hotel at 100 Capitol Mall, and their phone number is 916-326-5050. Their website address is and their Facebook page can be found at Tower Bridge Bistro's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu will be available for dinner through October 20th.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- The Porch Restaurant and Bar

I'm continuing to eat my way through the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. Saturday night, my husband Phil and I had dinner at the Porch Restaurant and Bar, known for its Southern-style cooking.

The appetizer was fried beets, a concept I'd never even considered before. According to the menu, the beets are first dredged in flour, then deep-fried and coated with Cajun seasonings. They were served with a Vegenaise remoulade dipping sauce. I know we're still in the early stages of the challenge, but I can't imagine that I'll find another appetizer I like as much as these fried beets, which were outstanding. I'm not sure they're available every day, though. I noticed that on the first day of the challenge, the Porch was serving eggplant fries instead, which were prepared the same way. Sounds like that would be pretty good too.

The main course was a tasty black-eyed pea burger, served on a potato bun with a side of mango slaw. Very filling!

Dessert was banana pudding, topped with fresh strawberries and delicious coconut whipped "cream." It was a lovely way to end the meal.

The Porch Restaurant and Bar is located at 1815 K Street, and the phone number is 916-444-2433. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant's vegan menu is available for dinner every night during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, which ends on October 20th.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2013 -- The Press Bistro

My husband Phil and I had dinner at the Press Bistro last night so I could try the items on their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu. We don't generally eat there, since their regular menu isn't particularly vegan-friendly, so I was looking forward to seeing how the chef would respond to the challenge of preparing vegan cuisine.

I'm happy to say the food was fabulous. The prix fixe menu included four dishes that were creatively prepared and beautifully presented, highlighting a variety of late summer and early fall produce.

The first course was a small salad made of beets, shaved fennel, watercress, and pomegranate seeds. It was delicious!

The next course was a creamy butternut squash soup, always a good choice for fall. This one was a little different than most because it was garnished with fried brussel sprouts and apples. I don't always like brussel sprouts, so I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about having them in my butternut squash soup, but their crunchy texture and smoky flavor provided a nice contrast to the silky sweetness of the soup.

The main course consisted of beautiful and very tasty orange gypsy peppers stuffed with a mixture of couscous, eggplant, olives, pine nuts, and raisins.

The meal ended with just the right amount of dessert: a small port wine poached pear, a scoop of pear sorbet, and a couple of sugared walnut halves.

This was a very satisfying meal, and I'm so glad the Press Bistro decided to participate in this year's challenge.

The Press Bistro is located at 1809 Capitol Avenue, and their phone number is 916-444-2566. The restaurant's website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The Press Bistro is open for dinner Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sacramento Vegan Chef's Challenge 2013 -- Evan's Kitchen

I was so eager to get out and start sampling the vegan dishes local chefs are preparing for this year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge that I just couldn't wait for dinner. So I headed over to one of the few participating restaurants that offers special vegan items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Evan's Kitchen.

Chef Evan participated in last year's challenge too, and he's included vegan options on his menu ever since. I stop in for breakfast from time to time just so I can have his delicious vegan French toast. When I saw that the special breakfast item he was offering for this year's challenge was Rice Crispy French Toast with Strawberry Compote, I couldn't wait to try it.

I was not disappointed, to say the least. The toast had been dipped in a sweet vanilla-flavored batter, and then dredged in crisped rice cereal to give it a satisfying crunch. I usually want maple syrup on my French toast, but the strawberry compote was the perfect complement to this dish. I hope Chef Evan adds this item to the menu permanently!

Evan's Kitchen's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menus for breakfast and lunch are available at this link: The dinner menu can be found at

Evan's Kitchen is located at 855 57th Street at the 57th Street Antique Row, and the phone number is 916-452-3896. Their website address is and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.