Monday, June 29, 2015

Road Trip! Taste of India in Buttonwillow

Like an oasis in the desert beckons the parched, the words painted on the roof of the Taste of India restaurant in Buttonwillow call out to the plant-based diner traveling on I-5 between here and Bakersfield: TRY OUR VEGAN FOOD.

How could I not? So my husband and I pulled off the freeway and found our way to the restaurant. Inside, the menu on the wall listed some vegetarian items, but nothing marked as vegan. I thought there must be more, considering the insistence of the words on the roof. I asked the man behind the counter which items were vegan, and he handed me an entire one-page vegan menu.

Now, that was more like it! My husband ordered the samosas, delicious turnovers stuffed with a seasoned potato and pea mixture, and promised to share them with me. They were wonderful!

Since I love Indian appetizers, I decided to get an order of vegetable pakora too. These fritters, made of chopped vegetables mixed with a chickpea batter and then fried, were quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the yellow dal, described on the menu as a mixture of "fresh-cut cauliflower and potatoes cooked with blend of herbs and spices." It was good, although it would have been better if I'd ordered rice to go with it.

I noticed that vegan mango lassi made with soy milk was on the menu, and I just had to try it. Lassi is a drink that's usually made with yogurt, and I don't think I've ever seen a vegan version of it before. It was a delicious and refreshing drink, perfect for a hot Central Valley day.

Taste of India is located at 20687 Tracy Avenue, just off I-5, in Buttonwillow, and their phone number is 661-764-6464. They don't appear to have a website, but their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Monday, June 22, 2015


When the weather heats up, I start looking for frozen vegan treats to cool things down. This weekend, my son Zack and I went to Pinkberry so I could check out their new dairy-free Tropical Mango sorbet. Not only is it dairy-free, but it has no added sugar.

I picked the size I wanted (small), and then chose from a variety of toppings. I decided on flaked coconut, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. There were other fruit toppings available as well, including pineapple, mango, and kiwi. It was a delicious and very refreshing dessert.

Other frozen yogurt shops offer sorbet as well, but they're not always vegan. I really like berry-flavored sorbets, for example, but in looking at the ingredient listings at some shops, I found that the beautiful red color in those flavors came from the addition of carmine to the sorbet. Carmine is a food dye made from cochineal insects. So not vegan!

I guess I'll just have to stick with non-red sorbets in the future unless I know for sure they don't include insect dye. The Tropical Mango at Pinkberry really hit the spot, so that may be my go-to frozen treat this summer.

Pinkberry is an international franchise, with several locations in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, check out their website at, or their Facebook page at

Monday, June 15, 2015

Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale -- Sacramento Edition

My friend Kathy and I went to the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale -- Sacramento Edition at the Embassy Suites in Old Sacramento over the weekend. Twelve different chefs offered their amazing desserts for sale, with proceeds going to YEA (Youth Empowered Action) Camp. YEA Camp is a leadership camp to help teens learn about community service, activism, and social justice.

I thought I'd write about all the goodies that were available at the bake sale, not to make you feel badly about not attending, but to let you know where you can buy these wonderful treats on non-bake sale days.

I worked my way around the room, starting with Plant Chef, which was offering cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and truffles. I bought a gluten-free chocolate cherry muffin and a couple of ginger cardamom dark chocolate truffles. Plant Chef's Andrea is a blogger, not a professional chef, so unfortunately, you can't find her delicious baked goods in stores. You should check out her blog, though, and try out her yummy recipes yourself.

At the next table, Butterfly Vegan Bakers were selling cookie mixes and peach or blackberry crumble cups. I couldn't decide which crumble cup I wanted, so I bought one of each. Butterfly's baked goods can be ordered online. They're also available at the Davis Co-op.

Capitol Garage was offering their amazing almond Amaretto dark chocolate truffles for sale. The truffle flavors on their menu change from time to time, but they're always fabulous.

Chef Clay Purcell of Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites outdid himself with a delicious French cherry tart on almond cookie crust and vegan pastry cream drizzled in chocolate. This isn't a regular menu item, but may be on the menu when Tower Bridge Bistro's Vegan Weekends resume soon. It was great that Chef Clay arranged for the bake sale to be held at the Embassy Suites.

Shine was the next restaurant represented at the bake sale, offering nutty crunchy bars. These scrumptious treats were made from crisped rice cereal, brown rice syrup, almond butter, pecans, almonds, cranberries, and chocolates. You can always find great vegan desserts at Shine!

At the next table, I was so excited to find vegan peanut brittle, in both regular and spicy varieties. It was made by the folks at Sweet Sugar Vegan, who will be opening a vegan coffee house on Arden Way next month. Can't wait to check it out!

Up next was Garden to Grill, with a nice assortment of cupcakes, brownies, creamies, and baking mixes. The cream filling in the mint brownie was calling to me, so that's what I took home. Garden to Grill always has a great dessert selection at their restaurant on K Street.

Dr. Bob's Donuts & DoYos brought their wonderful healthy donuts and donut mixes to the bake sale. I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to donuts, so I bought their handy four-pack of donuts with toppings. If you visit Dr. Bob's Roseville location, you can get vegan frozen yogurt on your donuts too -- delicious!

Sassy Oh Baking Co. was selling all kinds of great things -- pies, cookies, cookie sandwiches, muffins, and breads. By that time, my shopping bag was getting pretty full and I still had a few more tables to visit, so I had to limit myself to a couple of lemon cornmeal sugar cookies. Sassy Oh's baked goods are available on Saturdays at the Oak Park Farmers Market.

Baagan from Roseville was offering two types of vegan brownies at the bake sale, so I had to buy one of each. I knew I couldn't go wrong with either the maple pecan blondies or the salted caramel brownies, and I was right!

Melissa from Sugar Plum Vegan was there selling a nice assortment of her amazing products. She had donuts, creamies, a gorgeous cake, cookies, and a few loaves of her new gluten-free Nourish bread, which she hopes to have available in stores soon. Sugar Plum Vegan's products can be ordered online, but they can also be found at Shine, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Nugget Markets, Temple Coffee and lots of other places.

Last, but definitely not least, were the incredible mini cupcakes from Pushkin's. They weren't labeled, so I'm not sure what all the flavors were, but I bought one of each and they were a huge hit at my house. Full size cupcakes are available at Pushkin's Bakery.

Those of you who follow the vegan scene in Sacramento will not be surprised to learn that the vegan bake sale was the brainchild of Bethany Davis, who founded the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge that takes place every October. Thanks for another great event, Bethany!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Opa! Opa!

In doing some routine maintenance on my blog this past week, I found that my post about Opa! Opa!, a Greek restaurant in East Sacramento, seemed to have disappeared. It had been awhile since my last visit, so I decided to go there for lunch with my son Zack and write a new blog article about it.

The menu items I wanted the most were appetizers, so I ordered two to share with Zack. The hummus at Opa! Opa! is excellent, consisting of pureed garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, and garlic. When Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi first came to the U.S. from Israel, hummus was the food he missed the most, but he felt a little less deprived after trying the hummus at Opa! Opa! I like it too, so I order it, served with fluffy pita triangles, whenever I eat there.

The other appetizers I really like are the dolmathes, grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. I enjoy them served cold, but you can order them hot for an extra charge. They come with tzatziki, a non-vegan dip with a yogurt base, so you may want to ask them to omit it from your order.

After all those appetizers, I didn't have room for much more food, so I got a half order of the orzo pasta salad, a hearty mixture of orzo, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, garlic, and fresh herbs, with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It was a nice way to round out the meal.

Opa! Opa! is located at 5644 J Street, and their phone number is 916-451-4000. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Sunday through Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Orchid Thai Restaurant & Bar

Businesses are beginning to open at the new 16 Powerhouse building at 16th and P. Insight Coffee Roasters and Sun & Soil Juice Company are already serving customers, and Magpie Cafe is expected to open there shortly.

The reason I stopped by the building for lunch last week, though, was to try the new Orchid Thai Restaurant & Bar. I was not disappointed. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, and they have a vegetarian menu the server told me is completely vegan -- no fish sauce in any of the vegetarian items. With that in mind, my biggest problem was trying to decide which of the long list of dishes to order.

I started with the Tofu Thai Lettuce Wraps and received a plate of lettuce leaves, tofu, slivered ginger, peanuts, coconut flakes, and lime, served with sweet chili sauce. This dish usually includes red onion, but I had them leave out the onion in mine. I really enjoyed the mix of flavors in this appetizer.

The server brought me a complementary portion of Tofu Satay, deep-fried tofu served with a thick peanut sauce and a light cucumber sauce. The tofu was delicious, especially dipped in the sauce that came with the lettuce wraps.

For my entree, I ordered Pra Ram, a stir fry with tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, and a thick peanut sauce. Loved it!

Orchid Thai is located at 1609 16th Street, and their phone number is 916-476-3681. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.