Monday, October 31, 2016

Another Fabulous Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Wraps Up

We're at the very end of this year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, and what a great month this has been! I managed to make it to sixteen of the participating restaurants and enjoyed delicious, creatively-prepared vegan dishes at each one. After so much good food, I hate to see October coming to an end.

I visited two participating restaurants this past week. The first one was Pizza Rock on K Street. Pizza Rock is known for its award-winning Pizza Margherita, and for this year's challenge, they made a vegan version with their house-made vegan mozzarella. It was fabulous! Too bad they don't have this dish available on a more regular basis!

I had lunch with a friend at El Papagayo in Carmichael on Wednesday. They offer vegan options all the time, but they had some special items for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge too.

We both ordered the Corona battered mushroom tacos, which came with rice and beans. It was a wonderful dish! I really wanted to try the choco flan for dessert, but they didn't have it at lunchtime.

You still have one more day -- today -- to try to visit another restaurant or two before the challenge ends. For those looking for a way to celebrate Halloween, there's even a vegan Halloween bash planned tonight at Capitol Garage.

Kudos to Bethany Davis for organizing another wonderful Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, and many thanks to all the participating restaurants and chefs. Events like this are proof that Sacramento is becoming more vegan-friendly every day!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week Three of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2016 -- So Much Good Food!

There's just one more week left in this year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, and there are still so many menus left to try! Here are the four restaurants I visited this past week.

Monday, I had lunch with my friend Greta at Orchid Thai Restaurant & Bar. They regularly offer a wonderful variety of vegan options, but they've created two new dishes for the challenge.  I had the flavorful marinated tofu and grilled asparagus, with mushrooms, red onions, carrots, and cilantro in a soybean paste reduction sauce.  Their other Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge dish is caramelized tofu skewers.

I visited Metro Kitchen + Drinkery for lunch on Thursday and ordered from their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge three-course, fixed-price menu.

I chose the spicy, but tasty, three bean local heirloom chili; the fabulous rainbow in the round, a salad consisting of pears, persimmons, pecans, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, pepitas, radicchio, and greens, served with a balsamic vinaigrette; and a very good pumpkin spiced apple pumpkin tart.

Friday, I stopped in for lunch at the Rind, which offered one of my very favorite items during last year's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, their Milano sandwich. This year's sandwich, the Impostor, is excellent as well. It's a grilled sandwich consisting of two house-made vegan cheeses -- a red bell pepper cashew cheese and a cilantro-jalapeño sunflower seed cheese -- crimini mushrooms, cucumbers, and mixed greens on sourdough. The chef is planning to offer this delicious dish next month too, so be sure to give it a try while it's available.

Finally, I had dinner Saturday night with my husband Phil at Saddle Rock Restaurant. Their three-course Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge wasn't written down -- the server just explained what was included when I ordered it. Since I can't remember everything she said, I'll just say that the pictures that follow are of a wonderful meal consisting of cauliflower chowder, acorn squash stuffed with wild rice and root vegetables, and fantastic chocolate cake.

I hope you're all enjoying the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge as much as I am! I'm looking forward to eating my way through yet another week.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Another Great Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Week

Trying to visit as many restaurants as possible during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is a tough job, but someone's got to do it! This past week, I checked out the fabulous vegan offerings at four more restaurants.

After my Spanish class on Monday at Casa de Español, I headed over to Nido at 14th and R. This is Nido's first year participating in the challenge, and they pulled out all the stops, offering dragon mushroom & heirloom bean soup, a seitan bao, and a chocolate cupcake with coconut cream whip. 

It was clear that I was going to have to try one of everything on this creative menu, so that's what I did.

Tuesday, I had lunch at VEG, upstairs from Thai Basil at 25th and J. I love the ambiance there, sitting at a sunny table overlooking J Street while soothing music plays in the background. I also really love the food!

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, so I was delighted to try the hearty spiced cauliflower steak, served over pearl barley. The curry fries with house-made ketchup were tasty too. My favorite part of the meal, though, was the delicious nectarine cobbler with whipped coconut cream.

Wednesday night, my husband Phil and I had dinner at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Old Sacramento. Chef Clay Purcell always offers several different options on the three-course fixed-price Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, which makes deciding what to eat very difficult!

I finally chose the rich, creamy butternut squash bisque, the tasty spaghetti with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and yellow wax beans, and the outstanding chocolate panna cotta with amarena cherries.  What a fabulous meal!

Over the weekend, Phil and I stopped in for a late lunch at Highwater on Q Street. They had a few interesting options on their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu.

The street tacos, with "chicken" lettuce, avocado crema, and salsa were very good and were just the right amount of food, since I wanted to make sure to save room for the fabulous Christina's Butter Cup Sampler, which had come highly recommended!

I can't wait to see what amazing vegan creations are in store for me this coming week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week One of the 2016 Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge -- Delicious!

I've been happily eating my way through this first week of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge.  After the meals at The Porch and Thai Basil that I wrote about last weekend, I hit four more great restaurants during the week.

I stopped in for lunch at Evan's Kitchen on Tuesday. As most local vegans know, vegan options are on the menu there all the time. But when the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge rolls around, Chef Evan pulls out all the stops.

The menu item that caught my eye was the eggplant lasagna, a thick slice of eggplant in marinara sauce, topped with vegan mozzarella.  It was served with mixed vegetables and garlic bread, and it was really good. I had hoped to try one of the fabulous desserts on the dinner menu, but the only vegan dessert they had was sorbet. I don't know whether the special desserts are available only at dinnertime, or whether they just weren't available the day I was there.

Thursday, I went to Old Ironsides at lunchtime.

I was eager to try their baked ziti, and I was so glad I did! It was a hearty blend of pasta and tomato sauce with vegan sausage, and I ate every bite.

I topped off my lunch with this amazing rich and chewy carob peanut butter cup. That's my favorite challenge dessert so far!

Friday, I had lunch with Mary Rodgers from the Sacramento Vegetarian Society at Capitol Garage, another restaurant that always offers vegan options. The challenge menu was proudly displayed in bright colors outside the restaurant door.

I ordered the fireman wings, breaded fried tofu dipped in hot sauce and served with an avocado cucumber sauce. Mary got the country dreamer hash, a mixture of sweet potatoes and other vegetables, scrambled tofu, and mushroom gravy, topped with avocado slices. Both dishes were good, but I'd have to give the edge to Mary's hash, which was excellent.

For dessert, I ordered the delicious, moist honey hush cake, an orange cake topped with a sweet syrup and served with pear slices and blueberries. Yum!

Finally, my husband Phil and I went to Localis for dinner Saturday night. For the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, they are serving a three-course, fixed-price dinner. The menu wasn't printed so you'll need to ask your server to explain the courses, but here's the short version of what I had.

For starters, there was this fresh and colorful beet salad, my favorite part of the meal.

The main course was a spicy and filling risotto served with roasted fall vegetables. 

Dessert was a cascara sorbet, served with dark chocolate bark and coconut. Maybe you know what cascara is, but I had to look it up.  According to, it's the dried skin of coffee cherries, which doesn't sound nearly as good as the sorbet turned out to be. It was a nice way to end the meal.

I'm looking forward to more vegan delights in the week ahead! Six restaurants down, nineteen to go!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Opening Weekend for Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2016

The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge started Saturday and will run through the end of the month.  With 25 restaurants participating this year, I made sure to visit two of  them over the weekend.

My husband Phil and I went to brunch at the Porch Restaurant and Bar Saturday morning. As local vegans may know, the Porch changes its menu daily and always offers vegan options. In addition to their regular menu, they also had a separate Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu available.

The Mac & "Cheese" was calling my name, but not as loudly as the Vegan Waffle on the Porch's regular menu, especially since I had come in with the expectation of eating brunch.  So here's what I ordered:

I hope to get back to the Porch while they're still offering the Mac & "Cheese," though, and I'll also order one of my all-time favorite vegan appetizers -- the Cajun Fried Beets.

Saturday night, Phil and I had dinner at Thai Basil, where I wanted to try everything on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, but had to face the realization that I wasn't going to be able to eat all that.

I always order aloo gobi in Indian restaurants, so I knew I was going to have to try the Aloo Gobi Croquettes.  It was an amazing dish -- cauliflower and potatoes in a spicy masala sauce.  The coconut milk added a touch of sweetness and a touch of Thai to this traditionally Indian food combination.

Next, I had the Vegan Hung-Le Curry, a delicious mix of tofu, zucchini, pumpkin, and peppers in curry sauce, topped with avocado slices and served with brown rice.

I was pretty stuffed after that, but Suleka Lindley, the restaurant's owner, brought Phil and me a dish of her vegan dessert to try.  This lovely combination of tapioca, taro root, mango, pomegranate seeds, and sweet black rice capped off the dinner perfectly.

Not all of the participating restaurants have finalized their challenge menus yet, but you can check the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge website to see what's currently available. There's also a passport you can use to check off the restaurants you visit.  I'll continue to post updates on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook and Instagram pages to let you know which restaurants I've tried. 

Have fun out there! October is a great month to be vegan in Sacramento!