• September 27th, 2011quarrygirlLA restaurants, m café

    remember that vegan philly cheesesteak special at m cafe that i blogged about recently? well, the restaurant has decided to make it a “fall special,” which means right now it’s available all the time! i took the sandwich for a spin on friday (minus the bell peppers, because i hate them), and it was all kinds of amazing.

    philly cheesesteak: thinly-sliced seitan, peppers, mushrooms, and onions then smothered melted “cheese sauce”. $9.95

    good god, this is the best philly cheesesteak i’ve ever eaten…

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  • September 7th, 2011quarrygirlLA restaurants, tony's darts away

    it’s my life’s mission to make it through all the rotating vegan specials at tony’s darts away, and i’m doing a damn good job. i was among the first angelenos to feast on the wheatloaf sliders when they came out in 2010, i’ve sampled the fleeting pickle chips, and i’m no stranger to the marinara “meatball” sub. after all that though, i can say with confidence that the “not so french dip” is my favorite special yet, and surely one of the most delicious vegan sandwiches in all of LA.

    not so french dip: thinly sliced seitan on a bun with creamy sauce and vegan au jus.

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  • July 6th, 2011quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), portland

    we just got back from a long weekend in portland, and naturally we made an effort to eat as much awesome vegan food as possible. we only had 4 days, so i knew we couldn’t get to everything…but i think we did a pretty respectable job. shortly after we arrived in pdx, we ran into janessa from epicurious vegan, and she implored us to check out the city’s newest vegan-friendly sandwich shop: brass tacks.

    photo credit: the brass tacks facebook page

    located in northeast portland, brass tacks is owned by 3 lovely ladies who strive to create an environment where omnivores, vegans, and gluten-free folks all feel comfortable. although the restaurant does offer real meat, over half of the sandwich menu is vegan and all condiments, salads, and soups are completely animal-free. what makes brass tacks extremely special though, is that the vegan meats and sauces are all made in house from scratch—inventive stuff like agave smoked “ham”, cashew-based gouda, and white bean meatballs. there are four vegan sandwiches to choose from, as well as a “build your own” option where you can go crazy piling on the faux meats and vegetables.

    salame: french roll, spicy sundried tomato "salami", tomato jam, aioli, yellow mustard, pepperoncinis, lettuce, tomato, red onion. served with chips! $7.99

    my husband and i split the vegan “salame!”, a sandwich packed with spicy seitan, tomato jam, aioli, yellow mustard, pepperoncinis, lettuce, tomato and red onion. fantastic! everything about this sandwich was top notch—the french roll from local bakery fleur de lis was fresh and crunchy, the tomato jam was tangy and flavorful, and all the vegetables were cool and crisp. though the best component, by far, was the homemade salami.

    seitan salami made from scratch

    thinly sliced and perfectly seasoned, it was so reminiscent of real deli meat, and better than any store-bought brand.

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  • April 28th, 2011quarrygirlproducts

    there’s a new seitan in town, and we are completely smitten. upton’s naturals is a healthy vegan wheat meat that comes to us all the way from chicago in four amazing flavors. i honestly can’t get enough of it…and it’s so healthy that i can eat as much as i want. score!

    i met up with the upton’s folks when they were in town a few weeks ago at vegan drinks, and they gave me some samples of their seitan to try. in addition to the stuff that’s already available in stores, they let me sample their food service products, which were absolutely unbelievable.

    vegan pastrami and gyro sandwich made with upton's!

    the first thing we did was make sandwiches using the food service pastrami-style and gyro deli meats…

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  • September 13th, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, shin bbq (closed)

    It’s no secret that Korean BBQ restaurants are the most vegan unfriendly places on earth. There’s never anything vegetarian (let alone vegan) on the menu, and the ritualistic cooking of meat at the table in front of you can be quite disconcerting, especially if one goes with omnivorous friends who are chowing down on ribs, wings and all sorts of unspeakable animal parts.

    Vegan Korean BBQ

    Shin BBQ in Hollywood, though, has reached out to its vegan customers and offers an outstanding set of vegan options all carefully cooked separately in the kitchen. And I’m not talking about the usual mainstay of vegan Korean BBQ dining: Vegetables and rice. No, I’m talking about a full-on Korean BBQ experience where an incredibly tasty marinade is burned on to succulent proteins, combined with delicious sides to be enjoyed in an environment of relaxed, classy attention preferably with alcohol served intravenously (the best way to consume Soju, trust me).

    After being lobbied by a couple of vegan friends we opened up Shin BBQ on a sunny Saturday afternoon to check out the vegan offerings. We emailed in advance, though, to make sure that we could eat the food without it being marinaded and BBQd in meat juices. Within a few minutes of our request, we received the following reply from Mr Shin himself:

    Well, we checked again upon arriving and our server “Dan” (more on him later) was quite positive about the whole vegan thing: “Oh, yes, we have a kitchen policy for our vegetarian and vegan customers. Everything will be cooked separately – we take that very seriously.” So, we were stoked to say the least, to begin ordering vegan Korean BBQ for the first time ever. There were three firmly vegan things on the menu, and we couldn’t help but get one of each.

    Tofu Steak: Firm tofu pan-seared and served with kim chee and salad. $10

    First up was the “Tofu Steak”, a chunk of extra firm tofu that had been flash charred with marinade (making it deliciously crispy on the outside, and surprisingly flavorful on the inside) served with diced kimchi and a luscious green salad, pickled beets and spicy bean shoots. Despite the size of this dish it was gone in about 5 minutes, such was the amazing tasty tofu, perfectly cooked and served.

    vegan sides

    pickled beets, cucumbers, kimchi and bean shoots

    Next up we had the signature vegan dish, “Veggie Bulogi Seitan” which I’m telling you was out of this world.

    seitan bulgogi (vegan): vegan seitan served in shin's secret marinade. $18

    Small seitan slices and onions had been marinated and barbecued in a cast iron dish, and arrived at the table still cooking and steaming right in front of our faces. Despite the fact we’d just eaten one entree, we fought over every last piece of seitan, and yet another side of kimchi, sprouts and beets arrived to help satiate our rapidly waning hunger.

    vegetable plate: a bright assortment of seasonal vegetables. $18

    Seconds after the Bulogi Seitan arrived, the most enormous plate of grilled vegetables known to man or beast arrived at the table. Layer upon layer of squash, asparagus, king oyster mushrooms and carrot were perfectly grilled and spiced for our enjoyment. And enjoy them we did. Mouthful after mouthful of seitan, tofu, vegetables and the sauces and tastes of traditional Korean BBQ rushed on in and were very much welcomed.

    Our server, Dan, was beyond perfect. He was not only knowledgable about the vegan offerings, swift on the delivery and just the right about of attentive, but he occasionally stopped by to ask how things were, and we could tell that he really cared about our experience.

    The location of Shin BBQ is very convenient, located in between Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd. and just steps away from all the fun stuff that Hollywood has on offer. Now, despite the amazing food and service, a word of caution on Shin BBQ: It is a KOREAN BARBECUE, and the majority of the customers will be eating meat, much of which will be cooked at the table in front of them. If you’re squeamish over the sights and sounds of meat preparation, be warned!

    Shin BBQ
    1600 N. Wilcox Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90028

    6pm -12am Tuesday – Friday
    5pm – 12am Saturday
    5pm – 10pm Sunday
    Closed Monday

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  • July 22nd, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, m café

    heyo! this is just a quick informational post to let y’all know that m cafe has launched a new summer grillin’ to-go menu that they will be offering at all 3 locations through labor day…and unless i’m missing something, it’s ALL VEGAN! (no fish, woo woo!)

    the new menu is the perfect go-to food source for any summer bbq, picnic, or party…and features items like big macro patties, seitan cutlets, buns, chili beans, soy cheese slices, and desserts.


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  • May 30th, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, zephyr cafe

    long beach has got nothin’ on LA when it comes to vegan food. it’s actually quite shocking after having been spoiled in this vegan mecca to drive just 20 miles south and be met with so few dining options. lucky for us herbivores, the LBC does have one entirely meatless restaurant and while it isn’t worth a special trip, it definitely fills the void. i’m talkin’ about zephyr cafe.

    mf burger: homemade patty, tofutti cheese, sprouts, tomato, onion, romaine, mushrooms, avocado & vegan mayo

    zephyr cafe is a spacious comfy eatery with lots of hippie vibes and a completely vegetarian menu. i raved about the place two years ago, but looking back on my review i feel like must have not gotten out much back then. now i eat at vegan restaurants like it’s my job, and the zephyr praise just doesn’t hold up. don’t get me wrong, the food is decent and good…but it just hits the spot, without going the extra mile.

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  • March 29th, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, native foods

    In 1796, the 1st Duke of Wellington set off from his native England to the Martha Empire, a Hindu state in what is now known as India. Sadly, his mission was not an honorable one as he was there to overpower the local resistance. Upon hearing, however, that the native Hindus held the cow as a sacred animal and therefore don’t eat beef, he asked for his food supplies to be wrapped carefully in dough such that they “could be easily transported and enjoyed in their entire splendour without offending the local indigenous”.

    This ingenious combination of stealth, convenience and taste created the now-centuries-old tradition of his name-sake “Wellington”: A veritable cornucopia of foodstuffs wrapped tightly in crispy pastry giving way to a highly portable, easy to cook and VERY tasty meal.

    Fast forward a couple of centuries to Southern California, circa 2010, and one of our favorite vegan restaurants, Native Foods, has a completely unique and interesting take on the Wellington: The Spring Wellington, a dish that I’m sure the 1st Duke would have reveled in while he was busy fighting wars and all.

    Spring Wellington (serves 8): puff-pastry filled with fresh asparagus, garlic-roasted mashed potatoes, carrots, Native Seitan, caramelized shallots, green peas, organic kale and portabello mushrooms, served with a lemon tarragon hollandaise sauce. $39.95

    Chef Tanya and her team have really excelled themselves this time around, creating an absolutely scrumptious dish that bakes in under an hour, feeds an army of eight people and has a list of ingredients that reads like a massive main course menu:

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  • February 12th, 2010quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    on our recent trip to nyc, we ate at our fair share of vegan restaurants and a really damn good one was cafe blossom. there are a few blossom locations in manhattan, but we ate at the up town restaurant on the recommendation from vegan beauty review.

    seitan skewers: flame grilled seitan in a bbq sauce served with jicama slaw. $8

    we started with an order of seitan skewers, which were fantastic. thick wheat meat mixed up with a tangy yet not too sweet sauce, served with a refreshing side of jicama slaw. we polished them right off. a+!

    soy bacon cheeseburger: grilled soy burger topped with caramelized onions, daiya cheese, soy bacon, mushrooms, lettuce and chipotle aioli. $13

    we also ordered a soy bacon cheeseburger….and this thing was was not fucking around. it came stacked with a juicy patty, daiya cheese, grilled vegetables and crispy bacon. my only complaint was that the patty was too small for the bun. i mean, look at it—i had to go through two bites of bread before even reaching the “meat”. either way, it was really good and it made me wish LA had more vegan bacon burgers. we ordered it with a side of potato salad, which would have been perfect if it didn’t have bell peppers in it.

    southern seitan sandwich: spiced seitan with caramelized onions, avocado and chipotle aioli on foccacia bread. $14

    we also shared the southern seitan sandwich with an order of fries. the sandwich was good, but from the description i thought it would be much better. overall it was a little dry and just didn’t hold up to the awesomeness of the bacon cheeseburger. the fries were excellent though, long thin and crispy—some of the best i’ve had in a while.

    although the food was on point for the most part, our service was a bit slow. the place wasn’t busy, and we had to go find our server and ask for the check because we’d been sitting there for thirty minutes. oh well, maybe they were just having an off day. either way, i will definitely be back next time i’m in nyc for some more skewers and a bacon cheeseburger.

    blossom up town
    466 Columbus Avenue, NYC

    Open Daily
    Monday – Friday: 11am-10pm
    Saturday: 11am-10:30pm
    Sunday: 11am-9:30pm

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  • February 2nd, 2010quarrygirldenver, more restaurants (not LA)

    there i said it. watercourse is better than any vegetarian restaurant here in los angeles. it’s roomy and comfortable with a long bar, the menu is enormous and every item can be made vegan, and the food is really REALLY good. plus they have a whole cabinet of vegan baked goods and several beers on tap. in fact, i am planning another trip to colorado just to eat at watercourse again.

    country fried seitan: a hearty breaded seitan steak served with mashed potatoes, country gravy, and mixed vegetables. $10.95

    on our first visit to watercourse, our minds were completely blown by the country fried seitan. the massive plate of home-style cookin’ honestly defies description. it is so delicious and so hearty, it’s one of those food food items you’ll remember it forever. the plate comes with a large piece of chewy yet crispy battered and fried seitan with fluffy mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables all slathered with the best gravy i’ve ever had in my life.

    just look at that spiced and creamy gravy perfection. i can’t think of one place in LA to get a decent vegan gravy dish…and i’m seriously considering moving away for that reason.

    po boy: a crispy portobello mushroom cap on a bun topped with chipotle aioli and coleslaw. served with your choice of 2 sides. +$1 for onion rings. $9.25

    we also split a vegan portobello po boy, which came with a huge fried mushroom stacked with slaw and creamy aioli on a soft bun. watercourse does not fuck around…their sandwiches are under 10 bucks and come with not one, but TWO sides! i went with the mashed potatoes and gravy, as well as onion rings (which cost an extra dollar). that additional buck was money well spent, because the onion rings were epic. have a look:

    enormous, crispy, and deep-fried…what’s not to love? oh, and the sandwich was killer too. this place really has some of the best vegan food i’ve ever eaten; and i’ve eaten a lot.

    the atmosphere at watercouse is super chilled out, the staff is friendly, the food comes out quick…i really don’t have one bad thing to say about this place. basically, just go there if you ever have the chance. even if you are merely flying over denver, it’s worth figuring out how to make an extra stop just to eat here.

    i love you, watercourse!

    837 E. 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80218
    303-832-7313 / » Map
    Open Mon – Thur 7am – 9pm, Fri 7am – 10pm,
    Sat 8am – 10pm, Sun 8am – 9pm

    PS: the team behind watercourse are the same people behind city ‘o city….which we LOVE. these beautiful people can do NO WRONG.

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  • January 30th, 2010mr meanervegan cheese, vegan events

    UPDATE: the surly goat is now open, and it’s awesome!

    Two of the nicest and most talented guys you’d ever wish to meet are Alex Brown and Evan George, a duo of vegetarian chefs, beer experts, writers and god-knows-what-else collectively known as Hot Knives.

    The last time we raved about Hot Knives was after attending some patio sessions at Glassel Park’s Verdugo Bar last summer. We whiled away a couple of warm afternoons drinking from an amazing beer selection while Alex and Evan served up some imaginative and very, very tasty vegan food. We’ve also long been fans of their blog where they wax lyrical about beers of the world and publish recipes to die for.

    Imagine, then, how pleased we were to receive an invite for their book launch party to be catered by Hot Knives themselves at a brand new bar that shares some common ownership with Verdugo Bar. We couldn’t believe our luck with a one-two-three punch of Hot Knives’ food, 27 special beers on tap and a book about one of my favorite subjects: BEER!

    This being January and LA storm season there wasn’t much patio action going on, but West Hollywood’s newest bar, The Surly Goat, couldn’t have been a better setting to munch on some food and learn about Hot Knives’ new beer book, “Greatest Sips”. The new bar (it opens to the public Wednesday February 3rd) is in the former 24K club spot and is a welcome addition to a part of town that doesn’t have many great places to drink, being situated a block west of Fairfax on Santa Monica Blvd. The beer selection pretty much mirrors Verdugo Bar (virtually all of it vegan) and there’s a cool, dark environment that’s a pleasure to be in. I know The Surly goat will be on my list of regular haunts, and I’ll probably be at the bar on a highly regular basis!

    Upon arrival we downed a couple of Blind Pig beers from Russian River, and made our way to the back of the bar where Alex and Evan had laid out the most amazing spread. To call Hot Knives perfectionists would be an understatement.

    They wanted just the right kind of bread to pair with their food so they invented a recipe and made a bunch of crispy baguettes (yes, they do taste as good — or better — than they look).

    First order was to grab a hunk of this unbelievable bread and smear their special vegan cashew ricotta cheese all over it. The cheese was a perfect texture, something like cream cheese, but crumbly and tangy just like ricotta. I could seriously have eaten not only every baguette but also the entire hoard of cheese as well as it was so fucking good!

    Just when I thought that I’d reached a state of sublime existence (due in part, I’m sure, to the Blind Pigs) Evan pointed out the second vegan plate which was a spicy habanero seitan loaf. The seitan reminded me a little of the seitan which they put in the Banh Mi sandwiches but the spiciness here was off the charts. A little crispy on the outside yet soft and chewy on the inside made for the perfect combination of mouth textures, while the delicate flavoring hid that fire in your mouth that only habanero chilies can deliver.

    Balancing the power of the chilies was a smooth, cold and creamy sauerkraut sauce (I think they called it a mustard) which just begged to be splashed all over the food. Of course, we had multiple visits to the food tables and were not surprised to see everything disappear pretty quickly.

    We had a chance to briefly leaf through the book “Greatest Sips”, written by the Hot Knives dudes in their inimitable style. Ours is on order now, at the mercy of USPS and will be an indispensable guide for beer drinking at The Surly Goat and elsewhere. Not only are the guys perceptive experts in beer, but they love to tell you about what food to pair it with and even what music to listen to while drinking it. No, I’m not joking! The insight is hilarious and I’m sure a little tongue in cheek. Here are Alex and Evan to tell you all about the book themselves:

    Greatest Sips from Hot Knivez on Vimeo.

    Hot Knives are vegetarian chefs, so they do use non-vegan ingredients in some of their cooking, and are huge fans of cheese..but we won’t hold that against them, rather we’ll hope that they do one day decide to become vegan so that they will be inspired to make more and more inventive and tasty vegan foods.

    Also, on the beer front, do remember to check out Barnivore, a super site that answers questions about vegetarian and vegan ingredients in just about any beer you’ll ever want to drink.

    Alex and Evan, thanks so much for feeding us today!

    For more info on The Surly Goat, check out Eater and LATimes.

    Oh, and finally, The Surly Goat hasn’t got its food menu together yet so they won’t be serving any of this gorgeous food (and maybe never will). Hopefully, though, the Hot Knives guys will show up from time to time and take care of filling hungry vegan bellies.

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  • January 20th, 2010mr meanerdenver, more restaurants (not LA)

    One thing I miss about my vegetarian days is spending an evening with some friends in a pizza restaurant. Take some tasty pizza, a few glasses of wine, and a liberal helping of grated chillies, add in a cool environment (preferably dark, with an extensive bar) and you’ve got a winning combination.

    While many cities have pizza restaurants, and all of them can serve a vegetarian pizza, getting a vegan pizza usually involves a major inquiry into the composition of the dough and sauce then (at best) eating the thing with no cheese, usually a dry, affair. It’s also embarrassing going there with friends and ending up with a green salad, should the crust not be vegan, so I tend to avoid eat-in pizza restaurants these days.

    So, imagine how thrilled I was to visit City O City on our recent trip to Denver. Whomever thought this place up is a complete genius, and I wish they’d open one (or several) in every city in the USA. The place is entirely vegetarian, super vegan-friendly (they make two vegan cheeses on the premises and have a ton of vegan meats) has a full bar, extensive wine selection, cocktails, microbrews, candlelit tables, a rotating art gallery and all the hustle and bustle of a busy, downtown pizza joint. As if that’s not enough, they have several vegan breakfast items, vegan sweets and even an organic coffee bar!

    We hit up City O City on a busy Saturday night, were promptly seated and started to pour over the menu. Oh boy. Before we even got to the pizza section we were pulled in by “Seitan Wings” with a choice of sauces and dressing. We hoped these were vegan, and indeed they turned out to be, so we ordered them along with our drinks while we debated our pizza order.

    buffalo seitan wings. $7

    Within a few minutes a HUMONGOUS basket of spicy seitan “wings” arrived, along with a cool ranch dipping sauce and sticks of celery. This dish was absolutely amazing – crunchy, hotter than hell and chewy beyond belief. The order was only $7, so we thought it would be good to share between two people, but it turned out to be not only much larger than we thought, but much tastier too. It was gone in a couple of minutes.

    For our main dishes, we opted for the meaty “Animal Lover’s” pizza, which came with vegan sausage, pepperoni onion and mushrooms. We subbed jalapenos for the green peppers that usually accompany this pie for a spicy, meaty and hearty meal to warm us up from the sub-zero temperatures outside.

    animal lover's pizza: seitan sausage, seitan pepperoni, fresh chilies, caramelized onion, mushroom, vegan mozzarella. $9

    Cuz we’re gluttons, we ordered another pie, the very Italian sounding “Florentine”, an olive-oil-based pizza with roma tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and fresh rosemary. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. Better, probably.

    florentine pizza: garlic-infused olive oil, mushroom, spinach, roma tomato, fresh rosemary, vegan cheese. $9

    Both pizzas were covered in home-made vegan mozzarella, which was really tasty and melty. City O City also has an option of vegan cashew ricotta which we didn’t try, but looked very tasty on the pie at the table next to us. In fact, when we asked the people eating it what they thought they said it was better than the vegan mozzarella, which was awesome to begin with.

    The crust was thin and crispy, all blackened on the underside and crunchy on the edge, yet soft where it matters (just like me!). The sauces range from the basic (garlic infused olive oil) to the exotic: fig, hummus, chipoltle marinara. The only non-vegan protein topping is an egg, dwarfed by seitan sausage, seitan pepperoni, tempeh bacon, bbq tofu and even falafel. If that isn’t enough, you can choose from 16 vegetable toppings and an array of salads, wraps and fried stuff, nearly all of it vegan.

    I simply can’t sing the praises of City O City enough. The place is awesomely vegan friendly, the food is incredibly tasty and filling and there’s a bar with so many different drinks you could spend a whole day there and never eat or drink the same thing twice. Indeed, I intend to on my next trip to Denver.

    City O City even had cool decorative lamps!

    Talking of Denver, where I was lucky enough to live for a year (sadly before City O City was open), this restaurant attracted a great crowd of hip Denver natives who are that unmistakable vibe of unassuming, pleasant and just pleased to be there.

    City O City
    206 E 13th Ave
    Denver, CO 80203
    (303) 831-6443
    Mon-Fri. 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
    Sat-Sun. 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.

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  • January 5th, 2010quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    one thing i really hate about traveling to nyc, is that i always find a wonderful restaurant with food so delicious and lovely, it makes me sad that i can’t pack a lifetime supply and smuggle it back home in my suitcase. sure enough last week when i visited the big apple it happened again, and the one restaurant that screamed “holy shit why don’t we have this in LA?!?!?!” the loudest, was curly’s vegetarian lunch.

    curly’s vegetarian lunch is a meatless hole in the wall located in the east village, with a larger than life menu full of greasy diner food that more than makes up for their lack of square footage. to call this place vegan-friendly would be an understatement, considering ANY item curly’s offers can be made vegan (and the most appetizing of the selections are already).

    we arrived around noonish on a weekday and were welcomed in from the blustering cold by a friendly gentleman who looked like curly himself, judging by the newspaper clippings hung allover the walls. the service was impeccable; a friendly waitress immediately took our order and was always ready with a refill of hot coffee. we settled on two of the menu items that were vegan by default, the open-faced turkey sandwich and the tofu scramble.

    open-faced turkey sandwich: sage and garlic rubbed soy fillet over corn bread stuffing and toasted rye, napped with gravy and served with cranberry dressing, garlicky kale and butternut squash. $12.95

    while both dishes were great, and the experience overall i cannot fault….the one thing that keeps haunting my dreams is the FUCKING TASTY TURKEY SANDWICH. i know, i know i rave about food a lot on this blog, but please believe me…this deserves extra attention. first off, it was massive. the plate was so full of food, i only ate about half of it and i went from starving to bloated. secondly, it comes with ample servings of all the food groups we vegans crave: tons of greens, check. seitan, check. ridic amount of gravy, check. not to mention the squash, oily yet fluffy stuffing, and sweet chunky cranberry sauce. wowowow. lastly, this plate (enough to feed 3 people) was under $13….in manhattan. that is less than real food daily, and even m cafe holiday plate prices. oh, and this is offered all year round.

    seriously, so many nyc restaurants get talked up, but this REALLY WAS amazing. please put this on your ultimate, must, no matter what, to do list.

    on to the next dish! although it was a little late, it was our first meal of the day….so my husband went with the vegan tofu scramble plus added spinach. (curly’s serves breakfast all day!) this thing came fried up with mounds of yellow tofu, sauteed greens, wedges of toast and deliciously crispy curly fries. not quite as good as my sandwich, but definitely a wonderful indulgence.

    scrambled tofu: with toast and curly fries. plus spinach. $8.70

    look at all that food! eh?!?! i have been brought up to believe that you are supposed to pay more in manhattan for everything…but this was a shit ton of breakfast for under $9, and i challenge you to find a deal that good in LA!

    i cannot even stress how superb our experience at curly’s was, and i urge you to visit them whenever you are in nyc. the place is SUPER SMALL (for the LA crowd, it’s about the size of the meet market/flore cafe/the vegan spot) but they do wonders to actually transform it into a comfortable dining experience.

    i will be back for sure, because curly’s has earned a place in my heart as one of my favorite restaurants ever.

    curly’s vegetarian lunch
    328 East 14th Street
    New York, NY‎
    (212) 598-9998‎
    Mon-Fri: 11am-11pm
    Sat–Sun 10am-11pm

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  • January 4th, 2010quarrygirlflore, LA restaurants

    uneducated people think that vegans only eat salad, but we know better than that. one look around this blog shows that peeps adhering to an animal-free lifestyle can still enjoy ‘meat’, ‘cheese’, sandwiches, burgers, ice cream and cupcakes just like the rest of the world. sometimes, however, a good animal-free salad can be hearty enough to satisfy the omnivores and herbivores alike…and such is true of the avocado seitan salad at flore.

    avocado seitan salad: bed of mixed greens with sliced avocado, grilled seitan, daikon sprouts, tomato and red onion. served with your choice of tahini, 1000 island, vinaigrette or miso dressing. $9.95

    i’m not much of a salad person, but this may very well be one of the best menu items i’ve ever tasted. for under 10 bucks you get a large serving of soft leafy greens (more than i can eat), topped with sexy grilled chunks of homemade seitan and fresh vegetables in a dressing of your choosing, all garnished with generous slices of creamy avocado. i always go with the tahini dressing (it’s thick and rich, yet not over-powering)….but i hear that the 1000 dressing is killer as well.

    if you feel like eating a salad that will actually make you full, head over to flore in silverlake. this dish will satisfy the meatiest of cravings, and it’s still a mere healthy and organic salad! win/win!

    3818 W Sunset Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90026
    (323) 953-0611

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  • January 1st, 2010mr meanermore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    You can tell a classy lady just by looking at her, and the same is true of Manhattan’s Candle 79. Ensconced on a wide, tree-lined street in the affluent Upper East Side and surrounded by some of the world’s finest restaurants (and most expensive real estate), Candle 79 has incredibly sexy curb appeal and, like that classy lady, proves that beauty is not only skin deep but the real treasure is what lies within.

    On our recent visit, we were treated to some of the finest cuisine we’d ever experienced, in an atmosphere that rivals only Sublime in Fort Lauderdale (the East Coast’s only other vegan fine dining establishment). Probably because we reserved for 6pm and arrived a little early, we lucked out with a great table (actually, a large booth beside the cocktail bar).

    Our very attentive server ran over over the menu with us, explaining that the restaurant is entirely vegan, and if the menu said “cheese” or “ice cream” the ingredients were, in fact, vegan. Clearly, this explanation was somewhat reassuring! He then took our drink order, which was a reasonably priced bottle of organic Côtes du Rhône that arrived with a couple of small and complimentary appetizers of sliced zucchini, with a spicy vegetable-infused cream cheese combination atop. They were each gone in one scrumptious bite, and set a realistic expectation for the meal that was to come.

    It took us forever to decide what to order as everything on the menu looked astounding. In the end, we mixed up the flavors by going for a Mexican-style appetizer followed by American and Italian-style entrees.

    The appetizer was “Angel’s Nachos”, an incredible creation that tasted better than I remember vegetarian nachos being. Here in LA, we have a similar dish from Real Food Daily, which not only costs a few bucks more, but uses chips FROM A BAG (yes, the kind you’d get in a grocery store). Not at Candle 79, as these were freshly fried (one could taste the warm oil), and crunchy. Combined with the the vegetables and seitan created an amazing mouth texture, especially when mixed up with the layers of Daiya cheese, fresh guacamole, salsa and tofu sour cream. These are far and away the best vegan nachos we’d ever eaten, and are worth a trip to Candle 79 alone. Even if you have to walk all the way there from Downtown.

    Angel's Nachos: corn chips, cheddar and mozzarella, tomatoes, refried pinto beans, chili-grilled seitan, guacamole, salsa, tofu sour cream, romaine lettuce. $16

    Next up were the two entrees. We opted for the black-pepper grilled seitan, in honor of New York’s legendary prowess as the steak capital of the world. Oh, and this was amazing. I’d never had anything grilled with a balsamic base before, and this turned me on to a whole new avenue of taste. The texture of the seitan was very “grill-like”, with burned edges and a soft, succulent interior – rather like the descriptions I found online of high-end fillet steak.

    Black Pepper & Balsamic Grilled Seitan: sautéed haricots verts, leeks, almonds, cornmeal crusted onion rings, celeriac purée. $23

    This, combined with green beans, and a celery mashed potato-style base, all drizzled with a tasty and tangy sauce was an incredible mash-up (no pun intended!) of taste. I would be remiss not to mention the onion rings, which were perfectly crunchy and had a cornmeal batter, making them rather interesting, and a perfect compliment to the tasty seitan.

    So, after paying vegan homage to NYC’s steak-house history we decided to move things up a notch and go for something Italian-style, as Italian food is usually better here than in Italy itself (go ahead, argue in the comments). Our Italian-style entree was a mixture of succulent vegetables (mainly wild mushrooms) and porcini crusted tofu sauteed up a treat in a smooth and slightly sweet red wine sauce with a layered cheese and root vegetable gratin, all on a bed of spinach, soaked in the red wine sauce.

    Porcini Crusted Tofu: sauteed spinach, root vegetable gratin, wild mushrooms, red wine sauce. $22

    Again, an amazing intersection of taste and textures with perfectly cooked ingredients coming together in just the right way. The layered cheese thing was out of this world – I wish I knew exactly what it is as I’d be most interested in trying to create it myself. Not that I could, but it’s nice to pretend.

    Finally, for desert, we continued the Italian theme with a warm cannoli, filled with vanilla cream and topped with chocolate chip ice cream. The server also bought us some complimentary home-made ice cream (see later for why we got it for free), which went down extremely well with the cannoli. I think one of the successes of a vegan desert is that it should not taste “vegan”, and none of this stuff did. The vanilla filling was like a heavy-cream and powdered sugar filling in a non-vegan cannoli, and the ice cream tasted just like, well, very nice ice cream you’d buy in an up-market ice cream parlor. The desert was amazing, and we were very full upon leaving the restaurant.

    Cannoli: vanilla cream filling, vanilla chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate drizzle. $12

    On this visit, the service was excellent, but being early the place was only starting to fill up as we left. We tried to visit Candle 79 a year or so before, waited 30 minutes for our table (even after our allotted reservation time was up), got the shittiest table in the place and finally walked out after another 20 minutes as nobody came to serve us. Also, even on this trip, we did find the staff a little snooty – I don’t think they appreciated my bright yellow bobble-hat I wore upon arriving out of the 20 degree cold. When we ordered dessert, the server asked if it was our first trip to Candle 79, and we recounted (politely) our experience the first time around. He apologized, and kindly gave us some free ice cream “for your inconvenience last time”. See told you they were a little snooty, but this gesture was much appreciated.

    Homemade Ice Cream & Sorbet Sampler: chef's daily selection. $9

    Also, our server neglected to tell us they had any specials, and I listened to several other customers getting a run-down of some amazing-sounding specials. Not that I’m really upset as I liked what we ordered, but it would have been nice to have the same choices as the other guests. Maybe he was just too much in shock about my bobble hat…?

    So, to sum up, if you’re lucky and you get a nice table and a good server you will have one of the finest vegan dining experiences possible. Yeah it’s was pricey (our bill came to just shy of $150 with tip), but, like a classy lady, Candle 79 really is worth every penny.

    Candle 79
    154 East 79th Street
    New York, NY 10021
    (212) 537-7179

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