Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Clay Oven, Irvine, CA

Deanna was searching for some vegan Indian food in Orange County and found an OC Weekly article claiming that Clay Oven was the best Indian food in OC. So she called the place and asked, "Do you have vegetarian dishes?" and the man on the phone answered back, "Yes, many vegan dishes too!" And that was all we needed to hear. When a place understands the word 'vegan' you are off to a good start. (As a side note, we heard good things about Chakra (another Indian place in Irvine) and tried it out. We went at dinner time, and NOBODY was in there. Bad sign. And then we asked our waitress what things were vegan and she looked at us with a blank stare like we were speaking Russian. She had to go back and ask the chef. And when she came back, we were informed that not much could be modified to be vegan. (At and Indian place!) All that did was reveal that the food is not fresh, and the chef is an amateur. Or probably it was just cooks back there, heating up pre-prepared food. Alas, the food was not so good.)
Let me start by saying this IS NOT a vegan restaurant, they serve meat, but they have plenty of vegan options. This place makes everything fresh. And changes the menu seasonally. We asked them why they didn't have Aloo Gobi, and his answer was basically that it would be too typical to have that on the menu. (But he would make it for us if we wanted!) They prefer to do things differently. When we asked about the Naan bread, it was vegan too, and he was super flexible when we expressed that the rosemary naan AND the garlic basil naan sounded good, he just said, "We will make you rosemary garlic naan, no problem!" (A great sign that the food is freshly prepared.) (I didn't have my regular digi-cam, so had to use crappy iPhone - sorry for image quality.)
 We had one of the best dishes we have ever had at an Indian place, and one that you will never see at another Indian restuarant, Brussel Sprouts! (Choti Goghi $14.95 (ouch!) Brussels sprouts in a tomato masala) Well worth the price!

We started with artichoke pakoras (not typical!) and samosas (vegan on request)

This place was very good. A bit pricey (we did order a lot of stuff), but it's Irvine, and the food and service was impeccable. So you get what you pay for in this case. We didn't feel ripped off. And we will be going back for sure, and ordering less food! I think everything on the menu under the "vegetables" heading was already vegan or could be made vegan. And they had a cauliflower soup on the menu that we didn't get to try that sounded really good. A reason to go back before the season changes.

Napfenyes Etterem/Sunshine Restaurant, Budapest, Hungary

I was going to be in Budapest for 2 and a half weeks setting up an art exhibition at the Ernst Museum, and on the very first night thanks to Happy Cow, we found Napfenyes Etterem, which translates into Sunshine Restaurant, it was so good we never ate anywhere else the entire time we were there.
The front of the menu.

One of the very nice waitresses who (lucky for us) spoke English and made ordering much easier.
Also, we were lucky that they had menus in English

The "Cheese and sour cream" fusili.
The Hungarian stuffed pickled cabbage.
Two views of the spaghetti bolognese.
And the ratatouille seitan cutlets.
 We basically tried everything over the two weeks, so what follows is just straight food-porn from Budapest.

 A traditional cabbage based dish.

 The director (at the time) of the Ernst Muzeum, Zsolt Petranyi and his lovely wife.
 Yes. Applesauce.

 This corn pizza was pretty good.
Another menu detail.

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"Gelatinous cube eats medieval village, priceless."
Chocolate smothered crepe.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cafe Gratitude, Los Angeles

Alternative title: "I am Broke!"
Cafe Gratitude is an all vegan restaurant with raw options. There is a bit of  a hippie vibe. (For instance, the servers ask you a Question of the Day such as, "What are you grateful for?" and leave you to contemplate it while you wait for your food. (or laugh, thinking you are on an episode of Portlandia.)
(There is another location in Venice that seems a bit less crunchy)

This dish is the "I am Fortified" (Note the very new-age names that I try to avoid saying.) Sautéed seasonal vegetables & kale, brown rice or quinoa,  topped with your  choice of sauce:  sesame-ginger, garlic-tahini, red pepper harissa. We had the Garlic-Tahini.  It set us back $12.75 (with added avocado for an extra $2.25!)(Or did it push our health forward? Deanna adds.)
This is the "I am Dazzling" a Caesar Salad with romaine lettuce, avocado, brazil nut parmesan and capers tossed with Caesar dressing for $8.5 with added olive tapenade for $2.
This was roasted potatoes with spicy cashew cheese sauce. It's not on the current menu since they change items seasonally. So we don't remember the silly name of this one. It was an "I am" something certainly. (Not Pictured but highly recommended, the "I AM ECSTATIC" - Brussels sprouts roasted with Maple Miso sauce.)
This was their version of a BLT - the "Bacon" was made from coconut, with lettuce, tomato and avocado. Not on the current menu anymore, but it was really good. (Our friend Kevin went back again just to get this!)

To sum it up: We love this place! We just visited the Venice location and found it easier to get a seat, but parking at both locations can be hard. It's well worth the hassles for the great vegan food they are serving. Also, the desserts are REALLY fantastic! The vegan tiramisu lives up to all the hype that we had heard.

Portico, Nuoro - Sardinia, Italy VISIT 2!

In May of 2011 we had the pleasure of re-visiting this restaurant!
We first visited Sardinia
, Italy in July 2010, (see older food post here.).
(I know it's 2013 now, so excuse the lateness.) I can't even describe all of these dishes. But they all tasted incredible. This place is primarily a seafood restaurant, but the chef knows vegan food and just whips these dishes up off the top of his head. All veggies, no fake meats, just ingredients from a master chefs' kitchen. Sweet potato and arugula tempura? Yes. It was again a "Parade of Food" and the mini dishes kept on coming! The ender was a Sardinian specialty, Fregola. Ashley was having anxiety about having to try some fish that the chef was making special for her! Grant was like, she be trippin! But then consoled her. Hope to visit again soon!