Monday, February 24, 2014

Road Trip! Cinnaholic in Berkeley

Having been a vegan for more than eleven years, most of my cravings for non-vegan foods have long since disappeared. One that's been tough to shake, though, is the longing for cinnamon rolls brought on by the aroma emanating from the Cinnabon store whenever I go to a shopping mall.

Thank goodness for Cinnaholic in Berkeley! I went to the Bay Area last week to visit my parents, and we took a short drive to this vegan cinnamon roll shop across the street from the U.C. Berkeley campus.

The cinnamon rolls I had in my non-vegan days were generally topped with vanilla frosting and raisins, but at Cinnaholic, you can customize your cinnamon roll. A large sign behind the counter lists thirty different flavors of frosting, such as butterscotch, key lime, or pumpkin spice, and twenty-two different toppings, including brownie chunks, cookie dough, and marshmallows.

It took me a long time, but I finally decided on butter pecan frosting with chopped pecans for the topping. It was incredibly good.

They also have some pre-made rolls in their bakery case, from which my parents made their selections. My mom was very happy with her choice of the coconut cream pie cinnamon roll, pictured below. I didn't get a picture of my dad's cinnamon roll, but it involved cookie dough and was apparently delicious.

Not knowing when I might get back to Berkeley again, I placed an order to go. Each cinnamon roll was individually wrapped, and little containers were filled with my choice of frosting and toppings. A card with reheating instructions was included with the order.

As my parents and I left the shop, I remarked that every vegan should visit Cinnaholic at least once.

"Bucket list," my mom said.

Bucket list indeed!

Cinnaholic is located at 2132 Oxford Street in Berkeley, and the phone number is 510-647-8684. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at They are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Saffron Grill

I had lunch twice recently at Saffron Grill in Folsom, a restaurant serving mostly Persian cuisine. Middle Eastern cooking generally includes many vegan options, and the menu at Saffron Grill was no exception.

On my first visit, I ordered Gheymeh Stew, a delicious combination of yellow split peas, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, and potatoes, served with rice. As you can see below, the food looked so good that I forgot to take the picture until after I had already dug into my lunch.

When I went back again, I ordered the Ghormeh Sabzi Stew, described on the menu as "fresh green herbs sautéed and cooked with kidney beans, sun dried lime." It was also served with a bed of rice and was quite good as well.

Other vegan options at Saffron Grill include the Veggie Kebab, Eggplant Dish, Salted Vegetables, and Persian Crispy Rice with a choice of stew. I was much too full after my previous visits to order dessert, but one of these days, I hope to try the Faloodeh Shirazi, a concoction of rice noodles, crushed ice, rose water, and sugar.

I think it's important to mention that there are pitfalls to ordering at Saffron Grill. The first time I dined there, I was not aware that a small house salad came with my meal until it was delivered to my table with a yogurt-based dressing. You'll need to remember to ask if a salad is included with your meal and, if so, request that your server bring oil and vinegar for your dressing.

The second pitfall came during my second visit. I had sent an email to the restaurant listing the dishes that appeared to be vegan and asking for confirmation. The response I received confirmed that the items I had listed were vegan, except for the hummus, which includes yogurt. So when I had my second lunch at the restaurant, I felt comfortable ordering the Persian olives, which were described on the menu as being prepared with walnuts and pomegranate juice. However, when they arrived at the table, it was clear that something else had been added, and that something else turned out to be yogurt. It appears the chef has different ways to prepare the olives, and that day, she had chosen to add yogurt.

The lesson here is that, while there are numerous tasty vegan dishes on the menu, there is no guarantee that something non-vegan won't occasionally be added. Therefore, if you dine at Saffron Grill, you will want to make sure your server informs the chef that you don't want any non-vegan ingredients in anything you order.

Saffron Grill is located in a strip mall at 1300 East Bidwell Street, Suite 100, in Folsom, and their phone number is 916-984-6800. The website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8:00 p.m.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Noble Vegetarian

Every so often, I check the Happy Cow website to see if they've added any new vegan-friendly restaurants in the Sacramento area. Each time, I see a listing for Noble Vegetarian and think to myself that I've got to go there one of these days. This past week, I finally did.

The menu describes the cuisine as Vietnamese vegetarian, and the website says that all items are one hundred percent vegan. The restaurant relies heavily on mock meats, but they also offer a variety of dishes without fake meat.

I ordered the very tasty Flying Wonton appetizer, five fried wontons filled with something chewy that I thought might be mushrooms. I asked the server, and he said it was a gluten-based filling.

The next item I ordered was the Enlighten Thai Hot and Sour Soup, consisting of a spicy broth with tofu, pineapple, pineapple, cabbage, and slices of "vegeham." It was very good, but it was a huge serving and it came out of the kitchen at the same time as my main course, so I only ate a little at the restaurant. Fortunately, it was still good when I had it reheated at home a couple days later.

For my entrée, I had the Curry Potatoes and Tofu, which the server told me was his favorite dish. I really liked it too: tofu, potatoes, carrots, and broccoli in a heavy curry sauce. I ordered mine mild, but you can also request a medium or hot spice level.

Noble Vegetarian is located at 5049 College Oak Drive, just off Madison Avenue, and their phone number is 916-334-6060. Their website address is; unfortunately, the link to their menu doesn't appear to be working. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Vegan in the Land of Beef

Vegans are practically mainstream in California, but what happens when a California vegan travels to Argentina, which has the world's second largest beef consumption rate? The advice to vegan travelers in the Lonely Planet guidebook was not encouraging: “Good luck.”

So it was with some trepidation that I traveled to Argentina during the Christmas holiday with my non-vegan husband Phil and son Zack. Fearing I'd find nothing to eat but boring salads, I packed my suitcase with survival foods: peanut butter, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, and a package of vegan coconut milk caramels called Cocomels, a gift from my friend Katie.

Before we arrived in Argentina, though, we spent a little time in Panama City, Panama, and Cartagena, Colombia. I didn't have high hopes about the vegan options in those places, either.

In Panama, we stayed at a resort where there were limited dining options, so they had a different international buffet every night. The one constant for me was -- you guessed it -- the salad bar. I did have a couple of tasty side dishes at a restaurant where we stopped after our Panama Canal tour: a bowl of coconut rice and pigeon peas and a plate of fried yucca.

Our next stop was the old walled city of Cartagena, which turned out to be pretty vegan-friendly. Armed with a Happy Cow print-out, I had some wonderful meals. At the Sol de la India, a hostel that also serves food, I had a delicious lunch, although I can't tell you what most of the items on the plate were. You go in, you sit down, and the server brings you food.

One Cartagena restaurant that deserves special mention is Torre Luna, which has a separate vegetarian menu. I had a great vegan paella there.

For dessert, there was an ice cream parlor nearby, Gelateria Paradiso, which offered several flavors of water-based ice creams. I had a scoop of coconut and a scoop of corozo, a palm fruit I've never seen here.

In Argentina, I ate mostly salads, pasta with tomato sauce, and the occasional milanesa de soha, a breaded soy patty served on a sandwich roll. But I also had a few memorable meals. With the help of Happy Cow, I found a vegetarian restaurant, Bio::Solo Organico, a few blocks from our hotel in Buenos Aires. The pictures below show my tofu al la mostaza (tofu in mustard sauce) and Zack's curry verde de seitan y vegetales (green curry with seitan and vegetables).

One of my favorite meals in Buenos Aires, not only for the food but for the entertainment, was at the Tiempo de Gitanos, where I had the Paella Huertana (paella with vegetables and mushrooms) while watching a spirited flamenco performance.

In Córdoba, Argentina, where Zack is attending college, we had dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant, Al-Malek, where I had a wonderful fattoush salad and falafel with tahini.

Finding vegan options while traveling in Latin America proved to be much easier than I'd expected. I'm grateful to Happy Cow for providing a comprehensive listing of vegan-friendly restaurants all over the world. Another website, Vegan Food is Everywhere, is attempting to do something similar. It would be wonderful if vegans everywhere would add content to these websites in order to help your fellow vegans when they travel.

Already dreaming about my next trip...