Monday, September 29, 2014

The Fourth Annual Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Starts Wednesday

The best month to be a vegan in Sacramento is in October, which is when the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge takes place. Throughout the month, local restaurants will be offering a special vegan dinner menu that includes an appetizer or soup, main course, and dessert. Some restaurants will also serve brunch. Diners will be able to vote on dishes in a variety of categories. Bethany Davis, the organizer of this event, and her team have lined up sixteen restaurants to take part this year. Participating restaurants include some Challenge favorites, as well as a few newcomers:

* 58 Degrees & Holding Co.
* Abyssinia
* Baagan
* Blackbird Kitchen+Beer Gallery
* Broderick Roadhouse
* Capital Dime
* Capitol Garage
* Evan's Kitchen
* Fahrenheit 250 BBQ
* Hook & Ladder
* Lou's Sushi
* El Papagayo
* Pizza Rock
* The Porch
* Shine
* Tower Bridge Bistro

This is our chance to remind local chefs that there's a significant vegan community in Sacramento. If large numbers of us dine at these restaurants and order from their special menus in October, maybe more chefs will consider offering vegan options year-round.

I'm going to try to visit all of these restaurants during the Challenge, and I'll blog about them within a day or two after each meal so you'll have a chance to see what's on the menu. I hope to see many of you out there!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Roaming Spoon's Vegan Farm-to-Fork Dinner

I was really excited about Sacramento's farm-to-fork movement when I first heard about the concept. I thought it would be all about the fabulous fruits and vegetables that are available year-round from small farms in our region.

Not so much. "Farm-to-fork" seems to have morphed into what I call "ranch-to-fork," complete with pig roasts to feed the masses, while expensive meat-centric meals are served to the elite in an annual dinner that takes place on the Tower Bridge. Special farm-to-fork meals are available during Restaurant Weeks in trendy eateries all over town, but I've seen very few vegan options on any of those menus. I was beginning to think I was going to have to sleep through September, just waking up in time for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge in October.

But then Chef Sylvanna Mislang of The Roaming Spoon came through with a six-course vegan farm-to-fork pop-up dinner, and my month was saved.

The Roaming Spoon's pop-up dinners are intimate gatherings, with no more than twelve diners sitting together at one long table. The location varies, with diners informed by email on the day of the event about where the dinner will be held. The cuisine is always vegan, and if you want wine with your meal, you bring it yourself.

Last night's dinner was held at The Mill in midtown. Guests were welcomed with a pear and champagne cocktail and mingled briefly until the dinner began. Chef Syl came out at the beginning of each course to introduce the dish that was being served.

The first course was a trio of roasted peppers, dressed with lemon and served with tiny edible flowers and a line of smoked salt. Only the bravest people at the table ate the small fiery red peppers, but everyone enjoyed the flavors of the other peppers in the trio.

Next, we had a salad of avocado, shaved carrot strips, arugula, and black salt. The produce for this and all the menu items was incredibly fresh and seemed to have been picked at its peak, probably due in no small part to the expertise of Chef Syl, who works in the produce department of Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and has built relationships with the proprietors of several local farms.

The third course was a huge favorite with the assembled guests. It consisted of zucchini ribbons, cherry tomatoes, microgreens, basil, and the pièce de résistance -- "meatballs" made from eggplant, white bean paste, and Panko crumbs. They were the best vegan meatballs I've ever eaten, and judging from the comments around the table, I'm not the only person who thought so.

Our next course was a cheese plate, with crostini slices, a wedge of deliciously creamy cashew cheese, and grapes. So good!

Our cheese plate was followed by a palate cleanser, consisting of bites of sweet cantaloupe topped with a "caviar" of tapioca soaked in watermelon juice.

Dessert was a lovely crème brûlée made of almond milk, sugar, and kaffir leaves. It provided a superb ending to a fabulous meal.

This was the second Roaming Spoon dinner I've attended, and I would happily attend many more. If you haven't had one of these special meals yet, I strongly recommend that you treat yourself to this unique experience soon.

More information about The Roaming Spoon is available at or on Facebook at You can also follow The Roaming Spoon on Twitter at

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dad's Kitchen

Dad's Kitchen is a popular Curtis Park/Land Park restaurant that's been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. While the main attraction for the television show was the Dad's Burger, the restaurant also offers a few items that can easily be made vegan.

I stopped in over the weekend for lunch with my husband Phil. As it turned out, brunch was being served and the only item I could eat on the brunch menu was the Veggie Burger, which was different from most of the veggie burgers I've eaten. This one is a grilled quinoa patty, served with lettuce, tomato, and bell pepper. I asked that the cheese and jalapeno aioli be omitted, and I also had them leave off the crispy onions, which are fried in some type of batter that I assumed would include milk or egg. Even without those ingredients, the burger was a very filling meal. As an added bonus, Dad's Kitchen serves kombucha on tap, so I had a cold glass of Kombucha Kulture's lavendar kombucha with my brunch.

If you're there for a weekday lunch, other menu options might include the Veggie Bean Taco appetizer without the cheese, Spicy Veggie Bean Chili, the Portabella Sandwich without cheese or aioli, or the Green Machine sandwich without cream cheese. The dinner menu includes Dad's Spaghetti with marinara sauce and quinoa balls, or the Veggie Delight (grilled quinoa on pita bread with red pepper hummus). Whatever you order, be sure to let the server know you're vegan so they can ask the chef to make the necessary adjustments.

The Dad's Kitchen location I visited is at 2968 Freeport Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-447-3237. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. There is a second Dad's Kitchen at 8928 Sunset Avenue in Fair Oaks, and their phone number is 916-241-9365.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Coffee Garden

Every so often, I walk from my house to Coffee Garden on Franklin Boulevard. I don't drink coffee, but it's nice to sit there with a glass of iced tea and read a book or do a little writing.

When I was there last week, I checked their menu to see if there was anything for a vegan to have for lunch. I ordered the Vegetarian Sandwich, without the cheese or mayonnaise. The cashier asked if I was vegan, and when I told her I was, she explained that the bread they use for the sandwich isn't vegan, but they can substitute sourdough. She also said the chips that come with the sandwich aren't vegan either, but they could replace them with raw vegetables. Perfect!

I noticed a vegan dessert in the bakery case, so I had to order it, of course. This vegan Coconut Creme tasted as good as it looks!

It looks like other items on the Coffee Garden menu could easily be made vegan. The Greek Salad could be ordered without the feta cheese, for example, and the croutons could be omitted from the House Salad if they aren't vegan. And for those of you who are coffee drinkers, soy milk is available at an additional cost.

Coffee Garden is located at 2904 Franklin Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-457-5507. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Joe Caribé Bistro & Cafe

My husband Phil and I drove to Auburn this weekend so I could check out Joe Caribé Bistro & Cafe, a restaurant with Caribbean cuisine. There were a couple of menu items I especially wanted to try, and rather than choosing between them, I just ordered both and brought home lots of leftovers.

For starters, I ordered a plate of fabulous Yellow Curry Noodles. I'm not sure, but I don't think I've ever had curry noodles before. I always think of curry as a rice dish. These noodles were served in a mild coconut curry sauce and topped with snap peas, onion, dried papaya, and peanuts. They were so good!

I also ordered the Vegetarian Burrito, with no cheese. It was filled with black beans and rice, which were good, but what really made this burrito were the added whipped sweet potatoes and island slaw. I don't remember the last time I enjoyed a burrito so much.

I don't have much occasion to go to Auburn, but I enjoyed the food at Joe Caribé so much that I'll look for opportunities to go back. Maybe next time I'll try the Veggie Curry, which is served over quinoa, or the Vegetarian Curry Burrito. Either way, I know I can't go wrong!

Joe Caribé Bistro & Cafe is located at 13470 Lincoln Way in Auburn, and their phone number is 530-823-5333. Their website address is and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.