Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sacramento Vegan is taking a holiday break

I'll be taking a break from this blog until after the first of the year. If you'd like to follow Sacramento Vegan on Facebook, I'll post occasional updates and news items there. Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Garden to Grill

The Plum Cafe & Bakery, midtown's all-vegan restaurant, recently changed its name to Garden to Grill. I stopped by for lunch a couple of times recently to see if there have been any changes besides the name. Those of you who have enjoyed the plant-based cuisine at the Plum Cafe for years will be happy to know the menu is still the same; the purpose of the name change is simply to highlight the restaurant's farm-to-table philosophy.

I ordered the Tempeh Reuben, which has received rave reviews from local vegans. It consists of tempeh bacon, avocado, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and pickles, served on rye bread and with a side salad. The sandwich was very tasty, and I can see why it's a Garden to Grill favorite. I followed it up with a yummy carrot cupcake.

On my next visit, I ordered the Gardein Breaded "Chicken" Strip appetizer with ranch dressing. I'm not usually a big fan of faux meats, but I liked this well enough that I thought about ordering seconds. After much deliberation, I decided to have a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting instead.

Garden to Grill also serves breakfast, including a weekend brunch buffet. I've got to give that a try one of these days!

Garden to Grill is located at 2315 K Street, and their phone number is 916-706-3302. Their website address is http://www.plumcafebakery.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ThePlumCafeBakery. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Road Trip! Ike's Love & Sandwiches in Walnut Creek

I had lunch with my mom a few days ago at Ike's Love & Sandwiches in Walnut Creek. My son had been raving about the sandwiches, and since there are several vegan options on the menu, I'd been wanting to try it out.

As it turned out, there were so many vegan choices that it took awhile to decide what to eat. The veggie menu is full of tempting items like vegan meatballs, vegan turkey, and vegan chicken. This doesn't necessarily mean that the sandwich itself is vegan, though -- you'll need to veganize whatever you decide to order. All the breads are vegan, except the whole wheat, which contains honey. The veggie bacon is not vegan, since it contains eggs, and the pesto is not vegan, since it contains Parmesan cheese. All the sandwiches include Ike's Dirty Secret Sauce, which is a garlic aioli containing mayonnaise, but an egg-free version is available. The key is to make sure that the person taking your order knows you want a vegan sandwich so he or she can help you avoid any hidden non-vegan ingredients.

With all that in mind, I finally decided on the Sally Ride, made with vegan turkey, avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and egg-free sauce, served on a sourdough roll. The only vegan cheese available was Daiya provolone, but that turned out to be perfect with this sandwich. The sandwiches at Ike's are served warm, so the cheese was melted and delicious. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was the best sandwich I've had since I went vegan!

Ike's has several California locations, but the closest one to Sacramento is in Walnut Creek. I just hope their expansion plan includes a Sacramento restaurant at some point down the road. More information is available on their website or Facebook page.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Gifts for Vegans

If there's a vegan on your holiday shopping list, or if you're a vegan who wants to buy gifts that reflect your values and prove to your friends and family that being plant-based doesn't mean being deprived, here's a list of great gift ideas. These items are available online, but for those of you in Sacramento, I've also listed locally-owned businesses offering these or similar products.

Chocolates: I haven't tried Sjaak's chocolates before, but I saw them mentioned on Facebook this weekend and immediately ordered a pre-holiday gift for myself! All of their chocolates are organic and vegan. If you're looking for vegan chocolates in Sacramento, Le Grand Confectionary on Fair Oaks Boulevard sells delicious fruit glaces dipped in dark chocolate, as well as two kinds of dark chocolate bark.

Purses: Check out the gorgeous faux-leather bags at Alternative Outfitters and MooShoes. Clearly, being vegan doesn't mean giving up on style. Both websites also offer faux-leather shoes, wallets, and belts. In Sacramento, the Pink House usually has some vegan handbags in their inventory.

Cheese: If you haven't had the vegan cheese from Miyoko's Kitchen yet, you're missing a treat! My favorite is the Classic Double Cream Chive, but the other varieties I've tried are great too. You can order a collection online, or if you live in Northern California, you may be able to buy individual cheeses at your local Whole Foods Market.

Beauty Products: Say no to animal testing when you buy vegan cosmetics or bath and body products from 100% Pure or vegan shaving products from Vegan Essentials. Looking great while using cruelty-free products means everyone wins! The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op also carries a great assortment of cruelty-free beauty products.

Books: Some great new vegan cookbooks have come out in 2014: Lindsay Nixon's latest book, Happy Herbivore Holidays & Gatherings; Mayim's Vegan Table, by Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler in television's The Big Bang Theory; Bryant Terry's Afro-Vegan; and The China Study All-Star Collection. If these books aren't available at the Avid Reader in Sacramento or Davis, or at Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills, they can probably order them for you.

Shoes: I love buying shoes from TOMS! They're stylish, comfortable, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that for every pair I purchase, a pair of shoes will be donated to a child in need. TOMS offers vegan shoes for men, women, and children. A portion of the proceeds from some of those shoes even go to help the mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo through TOMS Animal Initiative. If you're looking for TOMS in Sacramento, Krazy Mary's on Folsom Boulevard or Sugar Shack on J Street both carry a nice selection.

If you have other gift ideas for vegans, I'd love to hear about them. Here's to a kinder, gentler holiday season!

Monday, November 24, 2014


It's really not ice cream weather, but that didn't stop me from driving to Elk Grove Sunday to check out Cream, which opened last weekend. I wasn't the only one who was eager to try it, judging from the line of people out the door. I'd heard about Cream's vegan options from my mom, who lives near one of their Bay Area locations, and from a reader on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook page. It was definitely worth a visit!

The specialty at Cream is ice cream sandwiches made to order. For vegans, they have three different flavors of soy ice cream and four different kinds of vegan cookies. I ordered two different sandwiches: snickerdoodle cookies with soy blueberry ice cream, and tuxedo cookies (chocolate dough with white chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips) with soy vanilla ice cream. There's no place to sit at Cream, so I had the sandwiches boxed up and I rushed back to Sacramento to put them in my freezer. They were delicious, and I'll definitely go there again.

The other vegan ice cream choice is soy mint chocolate chip, and the other vegan cookie choices are banana walnut chocolate chip and lemon pecan. Make sure you specify that you want vegan ice cream and cookies so you don't inadvertently end up with a similarly-named non-vegan item. Also, be prepared to pay more for your vegan ice cream sandwich than your non-vegan friends pay for theirs -- the dreaded "vegan tax." Still, as far as I was concerned, it was totally worth it.

Cream is a Northern California chain, with Elk Grove and Davis being the two locations closest to Sacramento. The address of the Elk Grove Cream is 8469 Elk Grove Boulevard, their phone number is 916-896-5537, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CREAMofElkGrove. They are open Monday through Thursday from noon to midnight, Friday from noon to 2:00 a.m., Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

The address of the Davis Cream is 110 F Street, their phone number is 530-750-1905, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/creamofdavis. They are open Monday through Wednesday from noon to 10:00 p.m., Thursday from noon to 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 1:00 a.m., and Sunday from noon to 11:00 p.m.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table

Do you already miss the excitement and the variety of great vegan dishes you sampled during last month's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge? If so, you may want to attend the Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table at Tower Bridge Bistro this Thursday.

This five-course vegan meal will feature dishes prepared by five of the outstanding chefs who participated in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge:

• Chef Clay Purcell of Tower Bridge Bistro
• Chef Raphael Kendall of Capitol Garage
• Chef F. J. Villalobos of 58 Degrees & Holding Co.
• Chef Carina Lampkin of Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery
• Chef Joelle Dennis of Capital Dime

The only thing better than enjoying the food at this wonderful vegan meal would be if the money raised at the dinner were used to help low-income residents in our community. Guess what? It does! Two awesome nonprofit organizations will benefit from this fundraiser.

Alchemist Community Development Corporation is one of my favorite local organizations, and I have done volunteer work for them in a variety of capacities. Their staff works with Sacramento area residents in an effort to create vibrant, equitable, healthy and diverse communities. Their main focus in recent years has been to increase access to healthy food in underserved neighborhoods. Alchemist CDC has made it possible for low-income families to use food stamps at local farmers' markets, an option that was previously unavailable to them. They are also working to bring fresh produce into corner stores in low-income neighborhoods.

Family Promise of Sacramento is a program that helps homeless families achieve self-sufficiency and regain a home for themselves and their children by utilizing an interfaith hospitality network of diverse faith communities throughout the Sacramento.

The Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table will be held this Thursday, November 20th, at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites Hotel beginning at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at http://sacveganchallenge.com/morevents/fall-harvest-chefs-table/. I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Road Trip! Taste Restaurant in Plymouth

About an hour's drive from Sacramento, in a town that has only a sprinkling of businesses on its Main Street, is an amazing restaurant that's been mentioned in the New York Times, has been named as one of the Top 100 Wine Restaurants in America by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and boasts a chef who's been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York. But the best thing about Taste Restaurant in Plymouth is that it's very vegan-friendly!

I had lunch there recently with my friends Cathy and Sandi. I had checked the restaurant's website beforehand and saw that they offer a vegan menu, and they were kind enough to email it to me before my visit. With six vegan "small tastes" listed and four vegan "large tastes," I knew my biggest problem would be to narrow down my selections.

For my first course, I ordered the Roasted Pear small taste. The pears were served with fig jam and pistachio dukkha, then garnished with sprigs of mache. The menu indicates that this wonderful dish is served with grilled naan, but the naan isn't actually vegan, since it contains yogurt. Instead, they substituted little seeded crackers, which went beautifully with the other ingredients.

Next, I had the Grilled Tofu, three little stacks of goodness with fried marble potatoes on the bottom, followed by a slice of grilled tofu, and then topped with eggplant and roasted red peppers in an agro dulce sauce. Fabulous!

One vegan dessert is prepared daily, so you'll just have to ask your server about it when you get there. The day I was at Taste, the vegan dessert was banana donuts with coffee gelato. It was the perfect way to end an incredible meal.

Taste Restaurant is located at 9402 Main Street in Plymouth, and their phone number is 209-245-3463. Their website address is http://restauranttaste.com/newtaste/pages/home.cgi, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TastePlymouth. Lunch is served only on Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Dinner is served Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Road Trip! Cozmic Café in Placerville

My parents and I took a drive up to Apple Hill this past week. It was fun to check out all the crafts for sale at High Hill Ranch and to stock up on my favorite apple variety -- Granny Smith. I was happy to find that the Dutch Apple Pie at High Hill Ranch had shortening and margarine listed in the ingredients, rather than butter, so I brought one home.

Afterwards, we drove into Placerville for lunch at Cozmic Café, a restaurant that has all kinds of vegan options. Going in, I already knew I was going to have the Vegan BLT, but I was keeping my fingers crossed that the "bacon" in the sandwich would bear some resemblance to the real thing. It did! Cozmic Café uses Fakin' Bacon, and its delicious smoky flavor was perfect in this sandwich, which also included tomato slices, organic greens, and vegenaise, served on a toasted organic sprouted grain bread. For an extra cost, I added avocado. It was a wonderful sandwich, with a helping of tasty blue corn chips served on the side.

Other vegan options at Cozmic Café include a tofu scramble, rice bowls, wraps, salads, sandwiches, and vegan tacos. Many of the menu items that aren't actually vegan look as though they could be easily made vegan by just leaving off the cheese.

The restaurant is also concerned about food ethics, an issue that matters a great deal to most of the vegans I know. According to their website: "At the Cozmic Cafe, we not only place great importance on the quality and taste of food, but the ethics of food, and the health of our community and earth. Which is why we proudly serve organic & G.M.O. free foods, as well as locally grown organic food when seasonally available! Cheers!"

Cozmic Café is located at 594 Main Street in Placerville, and their phone number is 530-642-8481. Their website address is http://ourcoz.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cozmic-Cafe/709086525810907. The restaurant is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant

I had dinner at Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant tonight, a restaurant I'd never visited before. One of my favorite things about the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is that it provides me with the opportunity and the encouragement to try new restaurants.

The Challenge menu at Abyssinia lists several vegan options. I was reading the list and trying to figure out how I was going to decide what to eat when I came across these magic words: Combination Platter. That made ordering much easier. Eating all the food that appeared on the platter was another problem entirely, but it means I'll have leftovers for a couple of days, at least.

The Combination Platter begins with a plate-sized piece of injera, a sour spongy bread, and the other items are served on top of it. Clockwise, starting at the top of the picture, are Duba Wot, a very spicy pumpkin stew; Abeba Gomen, steamed cauliflower with bell pepper and onions; Kayser & Fosolia, a mix of beets, green beans, carrots, potatoes, and onions; Alicha Miser Be-Dinich, slow-cooked lentils with potatoes; and in the center, Abyssinia's Cabbage Salad. Two more large pieces of injera were served on the side, and I used those as utensils to scoop up my food. It was a very satisfying meal!

Abyssinia is vegan-friendly all the time, serving a vegan lunch buffet Monday through Friday, and offering several vegan items on their regular menu.

Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant is located at 1346 Fulton Avenue, and their phone number is 916-481-1580. I wasn't able to find a website for them, but their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/AbyssiniaEthiopianRestaurant. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9:00 p.m.

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- 58 Degrees & Holding Co.

I had a great time Friday night with my friends Bonnie and Cathie at 58 Degrees & Holding Co. This restaurant participates in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge every year, and I was eager to see what Chef F.J. had created for this year's Challenge.

My first course was this tasty Warm Fennel and Mushrooms dish, served in a soy milk mushroom bisque. The menu says it comes with a truffled cracker, although one didn't come with mine. I always think that Chef F.J.'s dishes are beautifully presented, and this one was no exception.

The entrée was Roasted Taro and Tofu, consisting of tofu squares in a lemongrass coconut béchamel sauce topped with caramelized squash, bell peppers, and roasted taro cubes, and garnished with crispy rice. This lovely dish was pleasing to both the palate and the eye!

My favorite part of this meal was the incredible dessert -- Montana Huckleberry Cake. There were little chunks of rice milk cake served with huckleberries, agave-sweetened granola, and chocolate sauce. My friends and I split one dessert among the three of us, but I think we secretly wished we'd each ordered one of our own!

58 Degrees & Holding Co. is located at 1217 18th Street, and their phone number is 916-442-5858. Their website address is http://www.58degrees.com, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/58-Degrees-Holding-Co/361925419790. The restaurant is open Monday and Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Pizza Rock

My son Zack took me to Pizza Rock for lunch on Thursday so I could check out their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, which includes several lunch, dinner, and brunch items. I know when a person goes to a pizza parlor, it's expected that they'll order the pizza, but since several local vegans had already posted beautiful pictures of the vegan pizza that Pizza Rock is serving up this month, I decided to try some of the other items on the Challenge menu.

I started with the 3 Bean Balela Salad, a tasty mixture of garbanzos, black beans, kidney beans, cherry tomatoes, red onion, mango, and mint, tossed with a serrano citrus dressing. Such a beautiful, colorful salad!

I followed up the salad with a nice hot bowl of Hearty Vegan Chili, made with kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, green beans, peppers, onions, and dark chili tofu. Since it's finally starting to feel like fall, this spicy bowl of chili was just the comfort food I needed.

I was really glad I saved room for dessert, an incredible Vegan Tiramisu. I haven't had tiramisu since I went vegan, since it's one of those dishes that's usually chock full of non-vegan ingredients. Somehow, the chef at Pizza Rock managed to create a delicious vegan version of this fabulous dessert. According to the description on the menu, it's made of "house-made lady fingers dipped in chilled coffee and layered with house-made vegan sour cream and cream cheese, organic cornstarch, vanilla and organic powdered sugar, cocoa powder and chocolate shavings." Amazing!

This was actually my second trip to Pizza Rock this month. The first week of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, I went there to try the Vegan Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. The menu gives the option of a small, medium, or large order of pancakes. I opted for a medium order, which turned out to be four enormous pancakes. They were delicious, but I couldn't even eat half of them in one sitting. I took the leftovers home with me and discovered that they were just as good reheated. I managed to stretch that one order of pancakes into three breakfasts! I noticed later that a few pictures on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Facebook page showed these pancakes served with fresh fruit. Mine didn't come with fruit, and apparently if you want them that way, you need to order them "ambrosia-style." Either way, you're in for a treat!

Pizza Rock is located at 1020 K Street, and their phone number is 916-737-5777. Their website address is http://pizzarocksacramento.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/PizzaRockSacramento. The restaurant is open Monday and Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Capital Dime

I finally made it to Capital Dime last night with my husband and son so I could check out the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu. I'd been reading great comments on Facebook about the vegan raviolis, and I was eager to try them.

First things first, though. The appetizer offered on the fixed price Challenge menu was an order of Sweet Potato Hush Puppies served with a sweet chili sauce. I'm one of those people who likes almost any kind of fried dough, but these hush puppies were especially good, and the sweet chili sauce was the perfect accompaniment.

Next came the ravioli I'd heard so much about, with a filling of mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and a "ricotta" made from tofu and cashews, and a coconut tomato basil sauce. These excellent raviolis certainly lived up to all the hype!

By the time I polished off the first two menu items, I was almost too full for dessert, but couldn't possibly pass up this ice cream sandwich: two delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies and a filling of chocolate avocado ice cream, drizzled with chocolate and garnished with slivered almonds. So good!

Capital Dime is always vegan-friendly, so be sure to check it out even after the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge ends. The next time I'm there, I'm planning to try their vegan jambalaya.

Capital Dime is located at 1801 L Street, and their phone number is 443-1010. Their website address is http://www.capitaldime.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CapitalDime. The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is available only for dinner, which starts at about 5:00 every evening.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Broderick Roadhouse

I stopped in for lunch today at Broderick Roadhouse in West Sacramento, which is taking part in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge for the first time. Unlike most of the participating restaurants, Broderick Roadhouse is not offering a multi-course vegan menu. Instead, they are offering one vegan special that's available all day, so I didn't have to make any hard decisions when I ordered my food.

The Challenge special is an order of three Dragon Oyster Mushroom Tacos. The tacos also include carmelized onions, pickled peppers, avocado puree, mixed greens, and corn salsa. Come to think of it, I don't think the corn salsa was included in my tacos, but they were very tasty nonetheless, especially when dribbled with a little of their special hot sauce.

Broderick Roadhouse is always vegan-friendly, so even after the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is over, you'll find a lot to like on their menu. For lunch or dinner, they offer a veggie burger, a barbecue tofu sandwich, a vegan pasta and "cheese" dish, and, my personal favorite, a no egg salad sandwich. Their weekend brunch menu includes a vegan tofu scramble.

Broderick Roadhouse is located in West Sacramento at 319 Sixth Street, and their phone number is 916-372-2436. Their website address is http://www.broderick1893.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Broderick1893. The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

With less than two weeks to go in this year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, I'm scrambling to get to all the participating restaurants I haven't visited yet. Sunday night, my husband and I headed over to Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., where a three-course fixed price Challenge meal is being offered.

I knew that a two-for-$40 Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge special with wine pairings was offered on Sunday nights, but I didn't realize that meant it was not possible to order the Challenge menu for just one person. Fortunately, my non-vegan husband was willing to share the two-for-$40 vegan special with me. If you're planning on dining alone or with someone who is not going to want the vegan menu, you may want to find somewhere else to eat on the remaining Sunday night this month. It is my understanding that on nights other than Sundays, the Challenge menu is offered at Hook & Ladder for $28.00 per person, but does not include the wine pairings.

Since the meal is apportioned for two people on Sunday nights, each course comes to the table on one plate, and each person dishes up however much they want from that plate. The first course on the Challenge menu is the End of Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad. In addition to the delicious tomatoes, this beautiful salad includes roasted corn, English cucumber, baby kale, and grilled tofu.

The entrée was an excellent Roasted Kabocha Squash Risotto, which was garnished with sautéed baby squashes, rainbow chard, crimini mushrooms, and toasted pine nuts. This was a very satisfying dish, and perfect for fall.

The dessert was a delicious Blackberry Apple Tarte Tatin. It was very rich and sweet, and just the right size for two people to share.

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. is located at 1630 S Street, and their phone number is 916-442-4885. Their website address is http://hookandladder916.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/HookandLadderSacramento. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Lou's Sushi

I had lunch with my friend Melissa today at Lou's Sushi, which is participating for the first time this year in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. I was pleasantly surprised to see several different items offered on their Challenge menu.

We ordered the Tofu and Grilled Asparagus Salad to share, squares of soft tofu and perfectly cooked asparagus served in a slightly sweet sauce and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was a very simple salad, but we both really enjoyed it. I hope they keep it on the menu after the Challenge ends.

For my entrée, I ordered the Veggie OMFG roll, without onions and with a soy wrapper instead of seaweed. This delicious dish was a daikon and oyster mushroom roll with avocado and grilled asparagus, garnished with a spicy garlic "mayo." The flavors went well together, and I liked the slight spiciness. It also looked beautiful on the plate.

I'm not used to having dessert in sushi restaurants, but a special dessert of Tempura Strawberries had been created for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, so Melissa and I decided to give it a try. We loved it -- ripe strawberries in a sweet tempura batter with a mint-infused coconut milk dipping sauce. It was the perfect way to end a very satisfying lunch.

In addition to these items, the Challenge menu at Lou's Sushi includes two other salads, two appetizers, and three other types of rolls.

Lou's Sushi is located at 2801 P Street, and their phone number is 916-451-4700. Their website address is http://www.lousushi.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/LouSushi. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Tower Bridge Bistro

My husband, son, and I had a wonderful dinner Saturday night at Tower Bridge Bistro. Chef Clay Purcell has participated in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge ever since it began, and his vegan creations never disappoint. What makes it even better is that he offers so many vegan options during the Challenge. This year, his menu includes three appetizers, three main courses, and two desserts.

For the first course, both the Watermelon Gazpacho and the Quinoa Tabbouleh sounded good, but the Roasted Beet Bruschetta was the dish I decided I couldn't live without. It was a beautifully presented plate of crostini topped with hummus, roasted beets, and basil. Some of the dishes I've enjoyed the most during this year's Challenge have involved beets, and this dish just got added to my list of favorites too.

The entrée selections were Vegan Cassoulet, Sweet and Spicy Cous Cous, and Vegetable Bibimbap. Tough choice, but I finally decided on the cassoulet, a flavorful mixture of white beans, chickpeas, kale, and spinach cooked in a vegetable broth and topped with bread crumbs. It was an excellent dish for a fall night.

Dessert was a choice between the Chocolate Shake, made with chocolate, sweet potato, and almond milk, and the Panna Cotta, a vanilla-flavored custard made from soy milk and topped with a fresh strawberry compote. I picked the Panna Cotta, which turned out to be just enough dessert to top off a fabulous meal.

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 http://www.towerbridgebistro.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/towerbridgebistro. The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu is available only during dinner, which is served Sunday 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.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- The Porch Restaurant and Bar

When I saw that The Porch Restaurant and Bar was going to be offering a fried beets appetizer during this year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge like they did last year, I knew a trip to the Porch was going to be in my very near future.

My husband and I headed over there Sunday night, and I was broken-hearted to discover that they were already out of the Cajun Fried Beets. Clearly, I wasn't the only vegan who had been looking forward to those beets since last year. So I skipped straight to the main course, where I had a choice between Frito Pie and the Pulled Squash Sandwich. I had seen a picture of the Frito Pie on Facebook, and it looked really good, so that's what I chose. It was a delicious casserole of corn chips and black-eyed pea chili, with a garnish of avocado and vegan sour cream.

The special Challenge dessert that night was the Apple Pear Crisp, served with vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream. So good!

I couldn't get those fried beets out of my mind, though, so I went back for lunch Thursday and made sure they had them available before I even sat down. They did -- chunks of Cajun-seasoned and floured fried beets, served with a lemon garlic aioli. They were just as good as I'd remembered them.

I also had a small Charred Avocado Salad, consisting of mixed greens, charred avocado, sliced almonds, radish, fresh orange segments, and a burnt orange vinaigrette. It contrasted nicely with the fried beets.

A new Challenge dessert was being offered in place of the crisp I'd had before -- Banana Cake with chocolate "butter cream" frosting and pecans, served with a side of vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream. Just look at it! There was no way I could pass it up, and it was worth every single calorie.

The Porch Restaurant and Bar is located at 1815 K Street, and their phone number is 916-444-2423. Their website address is http://www.theporchsacramento.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ThePorchRestaurant. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The Porch is serving their Challenge menu during both lunch and dinner. They are also offering a special Challenge brunch on the weekends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery

I met a friend for lunch today at Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, which is participating in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge this year for the first time. They are expecting to offer different vegan items throughout the month, but at the moment, most of the vegan dishes they're serving are already on their regular menu.

The first course options were either the Pan Blistered Shishito Peppers or the Baby Beet + Brussel Sprout Salad. I'm not big on Brussels sprouts, but I love beets, so I opted for the salad. When the server brought it out, I was surprised to see that, instead of whole Brussels sprouts, there were individual leaves from the sprouts. I don't know how they prepared them, but they were crispy, as though they had been toasted briefly. The beets were diced and marinated, then served on a bed of lentils and some greens that I couldn't identify. As it turned out, those greens were shredded Brussels sprouts. This salad was excellent, and I'm so glad it's on their regular menu.

Next, I had the Risotto Burger, which has received rave reviews from many vegans I know. I liked it too -- a nice thick risotto patty topped with lettuce, tomatillo pico de gallo, and what the menu refers to as "vegan awesome sauce," served on a fresh bun. I can definitely see why it's so popular.

The only disappointment was that the vegan dessert created by Blackbird's chef specifically for the Challenge isn't available at lunchtime. Guess I'll have to head over for dinner some night so I can try that Poached D'anjou Pear with Sangria Sorbet.

Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery is located at 1015 Ninth Street, and their phone number is 916-498-9224. Their website address is http://www.blackbird-kitchen.com/ and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/BlackbirdKitchenBar. The restaurant is open Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 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., and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Evan's Kitchen

I had a lovely lunch at Evan's Kitchen Tuesday afternoon. I know I'll go back there at least another time or two before the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is over, especially since their breakfast is always so good. But rather than writing a big long blog post after I've tried more of Chef Evan's Challenge dishes, I thought I'd go ahead and blog about my lunch experience now, and write another blog post when I go back again.

There are always multiple items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Evan's Kitchen during the Challenge, so I had some choices to make for lunch. There were two soups: Minestrone or Sweet Potato, Leek and Ginger. Since my favorite minestrone soup is the one I make myself, I decided to have the sweet potato soup. It was so good that I wished I'd ordered a bowl instead of a cup.

The lunch choices were the Smokey Mushroom Burger, Grilled Eggplant Sandwich, or Eggplant Lasagna. I went with the lasagna, which was very light and quite delicious. The menu didn't list the ingredients, but there didn't seem to be any pasta in the dish. It had eggplant, tomato sauce, bread crumbs, I think, and vegan cheese. It was excellent.

I don't know whether Chef Evan has decided not to make a special vegan dessert for the Challenge, or if it's just not available for lunch. At any rate, the only vegan dessert available was a simple but refreshing raspberry sorbet.

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Fahrenheit 250 BBQ

My husband Phil and I had dinner Saturday night at the already vegan-friendly Fahrenheit 250 BBQ. Since this restaurant just opened several months ago, this is its first time participating in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.

I told the server I wanted one of everything on the Challenge menu. The first item was a Wedge Salad, two crisp wedges of iceberg lettuce with a "blue cheese" dressing made from silken tofu, then topped with cherry tomato halves and "bacon" made from roasted coconut. The dressing was excellent, with a texture and flavor very much like the real thing. I thoroughly enjoyed this salad.

The main course was Smoked Avocado Pesto, angel hair pasta in a sauce of smoked avocado, pine nuts, basil, and olive oil, tossed with chanterelle mushrooms. Very tasty!

The final course was the wonderful Quinoa and Coconut Parfait. Puffed quinoa, fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries were served in a glass that was filled the rest of the way with whipped coconut milk. The crunch from the puffed quinoa added interest to what was already a creative and delicious dessert.

Fahrenheit 250 BBQ is located at 7042 Folsom Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-476-4508. Their website address is http://fahrenheitbbq.com/, and their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/fahrenheitBBQ?ref=br_tf. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8:00 p.m. The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu is available for both lunch and dinner.