Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Parties at Non-vegan Restaurants

'Tis the season for holiday parties -- office parties, family parties, get-togethers with friends -- and you may not always have a say as to which restaurant is chosen as the location for these gatherings.  Today, I'm writing about two restaurants that are favorite holiday party venues and letting you know what you can do if you end up eating a holiday meal at one of these restaurants.

Buca di Beppo

Considering that this is an Italian restaurant, I'm always surprised at how few choices there are for vegans on the Buca di Beppo menu.  Almost every dish includes meat, cheese, or fish.  Fortunately, there are three menu items that save me every time:  spaghetti marinara, green beans, and Chianti. 

As you may know, portions at Buca di Beppo could feed a small army for a week, so I always order the spaghetti marinara side dish, which is just about the right size for one meal for one person.  But what I really love is the green bean side dish.  The beans are always sautéed in olive oil and lemon juice to just the right level of crispy perfection.  You can order either the small size or the large size, so figure out ahead of time how many of your fellow diners you're going to have to share your green beans with.

Buca di Beppo also offers a mixed green salad that's vegan, as well as a few items that could probably be made vegan:  bruschetta, without the cheese; apple Gorgonzola salad, without the Gorgonzola; the Margherita or veggie pizza, without the cheese; and the Italian broccoli Romano, without the Parmesan.

The website address for Buca di Beppo is

Ruth's Chris Steak House

It's fairly easy to be a vegan at some of the big steak houses because everything on the menu is usually served à la carte.  What I've learned when dining at one of these restaurants, however, is to pack a small container of vegan margarine in my purse so I've got something to put on whatever vegetables I order.

At Ruth's Chris, the vegetarian option is the Personalized Potato & Vegetable Selection, which allows you to choose three items from the side dish section of their menu.  Since most of the potato dishes include either cheese or butter, or have been fried in oil that was probably also used to fry non-vegan items, I always choose the baked potato.  This is where my hidden container of Earth Balance margarine comes in handy.  The other two items I usually order are the sautéed mushrooms, which I ask to have sautéed in olive oil instead of butter, and the fresh asparagus (hold the hollandaise).  Other vegetable options include the broiled tomatoes, the baby spinach, if sautéed in olive oil instead of butter, and steamed broccoli without the cheese sauce. 

I generally order the fresh seasonal berries for dessert, without the sweet cream sauce, but they also have sorbet on their dessert menu.  Add a glass or two of wine, and this is a pretty good holiday meal.

The website address for Ruth's Chris Steak House is

Monday, November 28, 2011

Indo Cafe

I decided to do a little holiday shopping in Old Sacramento recently.  All that shopping made me hungry, and I had to find a vegan-friendly restaurant for lunch.  Happily, I discovered Indo Cafe, a small restaurant on Front Street serving Indonesian and other Asian cuisine.

I asked the man at the counter what they had that didn't contain any animal products, and he said that since most of their dishes are made to order, tofu could be substituted for meat in almost everything on their menu.  So I asked him what he would recommend, and he suggested fried tofu with peanut sauce.  I decided to give it a try.  He brought out a dish shaped like a small rowboat that contained a bed of shredded cabbage and chopped peppers topped with fried tofu cubes, covered in a spicy peanut sauce, and served with a mountain of white rice.  It was delicious! 

If peanut sauce isn't your thing, there are numerous other sauce options, including curry, teriyaki, and sweet and sour, to name a few.  Really, I was so happy to find this little restaurant, since it's not always easy finding something that's both good and vegan in Old Sacramento.

Indo Cafe is located at 1100 Front Street, Suite 150.  Their phone number is 916-446-4008, and their website address is  They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the winter, and from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the summer.  On Sunday, they are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The restaurant is closed on Monday.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sacramento Vegan Is Taking the Week Off

Blogging will resume on Monday, November 28th.  Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Sandwich Spot

Where can a vegan go to get a decent sandwich in this town?  Most sandwich shops anymore offer a vegetarian sandwich, but the main component is almost always cheese.  So once you ask them to leave off the cheese and the mayonnaise (and, in my case, the onions!), you're often left with little more than bread, lettuce, tomato, and mustard.

That's why I'm so glad I discovered the Sandwich Spot, which has a few locations in the Sacramento area.  The sandwiches all have different names at the different locations (for example, the vegetarian sandwich at the Sandwich Spot in Land Park is called "The Scholar," while at the Midtown Sandwich Spot it's called "10-Speed").  But regardless of what name it's been given, it's always item number 10 on the menu.

Once you leave off the cheese and the mayonnaise, what's left on this sandwich is avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickles, peperoncini, onions, mustard, and secret sauce.  The secret sauce is basically a garlic olive oil, and it's what really makes this sandwich.  I always have them make mine on a San Francisco sourdough roll, but when I asked which of their breads were vegan, I was told that they all are.  So your other sandwich roll choices would be sweet, wheat, or crunch.

In addition to the Land Park and Midtown restaurants, the Sandwich Spot has locations in Natomas, Rancho Cordova, and on Marconi Avenue.  More information about their menu, locations, and hours of operation is available on their website at

I'm going to take a break during Thanksgiving week, so the next new blog post will appear on Monday, November 28th.  Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pizza Rock

With all the news lately about K Street Mall re-opening to automobile traffic for the first time in 41 years, I decided it was time for me to check out the Pizza Rock restaurant that opened on K Street earlier this year.  So I walked in at lunchtime yesterday to order a pizza to go.

The founder of Pizza Rock is Tony Gemignani, whose claim to fame is being the first American to win first place in the STG category for the best Neapolitan pizza at the World Pizza Cup competition in Naples, Italy, in 2007.  Pizza Rock actually offers a cheeseless pizza on their menu -- the Marinara 11, which is listed in the Pizza Napoletano section of the menu.  It consists of a paper-thin crust spread with a flavorful sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil, and dotted with cloves of garlic.  Basically, it's a Pizza Margherita without the mozzarella.  I wanted to try it hot out of the oven, and I knew that it would cool down too much if I waited to try it until I got home.  So I ate a slice as soon as I got back to my car, slinking down in the driver's seat to keep people from seeing me and thinking I was about to give up my parking space.  I'm glad I did, because this is a pizza that's best when it's piping hot.

Other than the Marinara 11 pizza, there's not much else for vegans on the menu at Pizza Rock.  But you should try this restaurant at least once, not only for the pizza, but to check out the decor.  The exposed brick walls and the mural on the ceiling are interesting, but the real attention-grabber is the shiny cab of a big rig mounted over the bar, looking like it just crashed through the wall.

Pizza Rock is located at 1020 K Street.  Their phone number is 916-737-5777, and their website address is  Pizza Rock is open Sunday through Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Loving Hut


The vegan dinner I attended last week (Vegan Heaven) reminded me about how nice it is to be able to eat everything that's being served without having to ask for a list of all the ingredients.  So last night, I decided to order take-out from Loving Hut, a restaurant on Stockton Boulevard in the Oak Park neighborhood that serves vegan Asian cuisine. 

Loving Hut has an extensive menu, and the hard part is trying to choose among so many options.  So I decided to order a few things.  First, I ordered the fried tofu appetizer, described on the menu as "golden tofu served with soy sauce."  It's true that the sauce looked like soy sauce, but it was both sweet and salty.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious fried tofu triangles. 

Next, I ordered the Mongolian Delight, which consists of sliced soy protein (this looks like bite-sized bits of thinly-sliced beef), green onion, and red bell pepper in Mongolian sauce.  This is one of their spicy dishes, and you can request mild, medium, or hot levels of spice.  I ordered medium, which I thought tasted more like mild.  Quite good, though.  I also ordered one of their clay pot dishes, the Sweet Chili Tofu Clay Pot, a mixture of tofu, peas, carrots, and onions, also with a medium spice level.  This was excellent too.  The best part is knowing that I have leftovers in the refrigerator (minus the fried tofu appetizer, which was gone in no time), so I can enjoy this meal again at lunchtime.

Loving Hut is part of an international chain.  In addition to the restaurant on Stockton Boulevard, there is a Loving Hut in Elk Grove.  And for those of you who expect to do some of your holiday shopping in San Francisco, I was happy to find a Loving Hut location at the food court in the Westfield San Francisco Centre the last time I was there.  How cool is that?! 

Sacramento's Loving Hut restaurant is located at 3500 Stockton Boulevard.  Their phone number is 916-451-6842, and their website address is  They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  Saturdays and Sundays, they are open for lunch from noon to 3:00 p.m. and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  They are closed on Mondays.

The Elk Grove Loving Hut is located at 8355 Elk Grove Boulevard.  Their phone number is 916-478-9590, and their website address is  They are open Thursday through Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and closed on Wednesdays.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vegan Heaven

I just got home a few hours ago from a fundraiser for Alchemist Community Development Corporation, a wonderful organization that strengthens the ability of Sacramento residents to shape the future of their neighborhoods and benefit equitably from development by helping them identify the best ways to improve their communities.  In recent years, their main focus has been to establish urban farm stands in low-income neighborhoods that may not otherwise have easy access to fresh produce, either because there are no nearby grocery stores or because of transportation issues.

What was special about tonight's fundraiser was that it featured a fabulous six-course vegan dinner prepared by traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg, who has written several vegan cookbooks, the latest being In Search of Lost Taste.  Here is the incredible menu Chef Ploeg served at tonight's event:

Hors d'Oeuvres: Baby Mole Tarts with Caramelized Veggie Mince, Cornmeal-Almond Crust, Sweet-Spicy Chili Glaze and Cilantro-Sesame Tahini

Appetizer: Pate Trio-Garlic Lemon Cannelini Dip, Date-Kalamata Spread, Roasted Vanilla-Infused Kabocha "Baba Ganouj" with flatbread and crudites

Soup: Wild mushroom soup ladled over fried bread

Salad: Taro Root Fries, Salad Greens, Mung Beans, Black Lentils, Carrots, Peppers, Daikon, Roasted Green Onions and Toasted Sesame Shiitakes with Lime "Caesar" Dressing

Main dish: Breaded Garlic veg “Chicken” with Olives in roasted Pepper Cream Sauce with Basil Zucchini Fingers and Apricot Orzo

Dessert: Walnut-Pecan and Chocolate Tarts with Espresso “Cream” and Candied Sage

Creme de banana coconut soda
Tamarind lemonade
Wine from Pescatore Winery and Robert Mondavi.

So tonight, I'm one happy vegan!  Chef Ploeg is based in Los Angeles but cooks for dinner parties in Sacramento from time to time.  If you want to know how to hire him for your next party, check out his blog at  Information about Alchemist Community Development Corporation is available at

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I stopped in for a quick lunch yesterday at Muntean's, a small cafe on J Street across the street from the Sheraton.  Muntean's is known primarily for its soups, including several that are vegetable-based.

It was relatively late by the time I arrived, so there were only three vegetarian soups left, and only one of those was vegan.  I was able to try a sample of the Tomato Amza soup, which was a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and very tasty.

But what I decided to order instead was one of the day's Romanian specials, the Vegetarian Ghiveci.  This is a very hearty dish consisting of barley and a variety of vegetables -- I identified tomatoes, carrots, onions, and bell peppers.  It was a great dish for this fall weather.

Muntean's offers vegetarian salads and sandwiches as well, some of which appear to be vegan or capable of being made vegan.

Muntean's is located at 1225 J Street.  Their phone number is 916-498-9340, and their website address is  They are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taste of Thai

I stopped in for lunch last week at Taste of Thai on Broadway, and was seated at a nice table by the window.  I took a look at their lunch menu and asked the first question I always ask when I visit a Thai restaurant -- does the curry contain fish sauce?  Unfortunately, the answer to that question was yes, so I stopped looking at the curry selections on the menu and started looking at the other options.

There were several Pad selections, each with a different combination of vegetables.  I decided to try the Pad Prik Khing, which the menu describes as consisting of a choice of vegetarian or meat (if you choose vegetarian, the dish comes with tofu), chili paste, kaffir leaves, bell peppers, and green beans.  I was surprised when the server asked me if I wanted them to leave out the fish sauce, since there was no mention of fish sauce on the menu.  I asked that it be omitted, and then I asked if fish sauce was an ingredient in most of their dishes.  It apparently is, so if you're vegan, be sure to ask them to leave it out.  It can't be left out of the curry, however.

At any rate, I had a choice of soup or salad to start, so I ordered the soup, which was a tasty vegetarian hot and sour soup containing tofu and baby corn.  Then my entree was brought to the table, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it included even more vegetables than had been listed on the menu -- cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, and baby corn.  The vegetables were cooked just right, crunchy without being raw, and the dish was mildly spicy.  Served with white rice, it turned out to be a very satisfying lunch.

Taste of Thai has three locations in the area.  In addition to the restaurant on Broadway, there is one in Natomas and one in Roseville.  More information about their locations, hours, and menu is available on their website at

Friday, November 4, 2011

Road Trip! Alebrijes Mexican Bistro in Lodi

I drove to Cosumnes River Preserve last week to see if the sandhill cranes had arrived for their winter stay yet.  They had, and it was wonderful to watch dozens of them fly in to the fields along Desmond Road.  Afterwards, I decided to drive to Lodi for lunch at Alebrijes Mexican Bistro, which features a number of vegan items on the Heart Healthy portion of their menu. 

I ordered the stuffed portobello, which consisted of a marinated portobello mushroom cap stuffed with seasoned brown rice and topped with steamed spinach.  It was served with black beans on the side.  It was tasty and very filling.  Their Heart Healthy menu also offers vegan tacos with soy meat, fajitas, and burritos.  I was really glad to see such an extensive list of vegan options.

Alebrijes Mexican Bistro is currently located in a strip mall at 1301 Lockeford Street in Lodi, although their Facebook page ( indicates that they'll be moving to downtown Lodi as soon as they get their liquor license.  Their phone number is 209-368-1831, and their website address is  They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  They are closed on Monday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Wrap-up

The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge has ended, and I want to thank Bethany Davis at California Vegan Restaurants ( for organizing this fun event.  I loved having the opportunity to eat wonderful vegan dishes at so many Sacramento restaurants.

To wrap up, here's a list of my favorite foods that were served during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge:


No doubt about it, my favorite appetizer was the plate of beer-battered fried green beans served with chipotle ketchup at Capitol Garage.  The green beans were crispy and flavorful, and the chipotle ketchup was exactly the right accompaniment.  This dish was so good that I think Capitol Garage should keep it on the menu permanently!

A close runner-up in the appetizer category was the Mushroom Trio at 58 Degrees & Holding Co.  Of course, my favorite mushroom of the three was the tempura trumpet.  So I guess what all of this says about me is that I really, really like deep-fried, batter-dipped vegetables!


My favorite soup was the very first dish I experienced during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  The roasted pumpkin soup with pepitas & parsley oil at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites was creamy and delicious and really set the tone for the entire month of vegan creations, as far as I'm concerned.


I absolutely loved the jewel quinoa salad at Cafe Capricho, which consisted of quinoa, dried apricots, cranberries, and dates with chopped pecans and a citrus vinaigrette over a bed of mixed greens. It was so good and fruity that it felt like I was eating dessert instead of salad.


I liked several of the entrees, but I can't say that any one of them was a slam-dunk favorite for me.  So I suppose I'd pick the Muti panini at Hot Italian.  I really liked the pizza dough flatbread the chef used for the panini, as well as the chef's light touch with the Daiya vegan cheese.

I also enjoyed the chana sag at Bombay Bar & Grill.  This dish, made from garbanzo beans cooked with fresh spinach, herbs, and spices, was a pleasant surprise for me, since I don't usually care for cooked spinach. 

Neither Hot Italian nor Bombay Bar & Grill offered a special menu just for the challenge because they have vegan menu offerings all the time.  So I'm happy to know that I'll be able to order these dishes again even though the challenge has ended.


I had several marvelous desserts during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, so it's very hard to pick a favorite.  I finally just closed my eyes and thought about which one I would choose if I could have seconds of just one more of the challenge desserts.  My answer?  The buckwheat blinis with raspberry coulis and chocolate dipping sauce at Tower Bridge Bistro.  I guess it's hard to go wrong with a mix of raspberries and chocolate!

A close second would be the peanut butter gelato that was part of the vegan dessert trio at 58 Degrees & Holding Co.  Delicious!

I really enjoyed the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, and I hope it becomes an annual tradition.  Of course, what I really hope is that there was enough interest in these fabulous vegan dishes to persuade the participating restaurants to continue to offer delicious and creative vegan menu selections all throughout the year.