ROAD TRIP: Vegan in Ridgecrest (aka: the middle of nowhere)

Ridgecrest?  Where’s that?  It’s in the middle of the desert north of the Lancaster/Palmdale area.  Chances are, it won’t be your destination, but you might pass through one day.  Minus being in the middle of nowhere, it actually is a pretty quaint town.

My mom, sister, and I stopped for lunch to visit a relative on our road trip.  Ridgecrest doesn’t have a lot to offer vegans, but we can still find things at certain types of restaurants (Asian being fairly easy for vegans).  Miso Sushi seemed like a great place for us to find at least an avocado roll, but we actually found quite a bit more.

We all opted for the special that includes your choice of 2 items ($12.95) or 3 items ($14.95) from a list of foods (they have a vegetarian section).  Our first item was the Tofu-Avocado Salad which was so good!  The tofu was so perfectly fried.  I asked the waitress if any of these items used any egg or dairy and she tried to ask the chefs in back.  While she was pretty sure there was no egg used, she said the chefs only spoke Spanish so there was a chance there was a mis-communication.  From what I’ve seen in other Japanese restaurants, I don’t see a lot of egg being used on the tempura-style tofu, so I took my chances.  If you’re more conservative in your vegan eating, you might want to learn some Spanish before ordering this.

Miso Sushi Tofu-Avocado Salad

Tofu-Avocado Salad

The second item was some Agedashi Tofu.  Again, I asked about the egg in the batter around the tofu, but didn’t ask about the sauce (dumb, dumb).  I didn’t even think to ask if there was anything in it, but have read Japanese restaurants might make it with fish dashi.  If it is, you can always just opt to use soy sauce.  I wouldn’t order this one again, though, so the sauce is no longer my concern.  I thought the batter was a little gummy (not like the tofu in the salad).

Miso Sushi Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi Tofu

And our third item was an Avocado Roll.  This is your standard roll, but was really good.  I love it when the avocado is so soft and creamy!  Yum!

Miso Sushi Avocado Roll

Avocado Roll

My sister didn’t want the avocado roll and instead got the Seaweed Salad.  I didn’t try this, but she said she liked it.

Miso Sushi Seaweed Salad

Seaweed Salad

For lunch, this was a lot of food (even for dinner!).  If passing through Ridgecrest, definitely hit up Miso Sushi.  “But I’m staying in Southern California and never going to these random places!!”  Well, this is the last post in the mini-road trip series.  Thanks for reading! I’ll get back to local stuff in the next post.

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ROAD TRIP: Vegan Goodness in Sacramento

Let me begin this post by saying that there will be VEGAN DONUTS today!  And not just one place will have them.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Good.

Now let me explain how I got to the first set of vegan donuts in Sacramento.  As you may recall, I had just witnessed the beautiful wedding ceremony of my cousin with my mom and sister.  On our return trip to Southern California, we stopped in Sacramento for the night (it’s a very charming city, by the way).  Because my sister was craving pasta we just had to go to the Old Spaghetti Factory.  I like the Old Spaghetti Factory, but when I’m in a new place, I want to try something I’ve never had before.  One can get Old Spaghetti Factory any ol’ day in Southern California.  There are quite a few vegan options here and most Old Spaghetti Factories have renovated old train stations to make it a very lovely dining experience.  I didn’t snap any photos, because there are lots of resources already out there for vegan dining at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  See lists here and here.

Ok, ok, “When are we getting to the vegan donuts?!!” you ask.

After dinner, we stopped by the Sacramento Whole Foods to get dessert – and that’s where I spotted them waiting for me in the bakery section.  These gems are the creation of Posh Bakery – a wholesale only bakery in the Sacramento area.  The donuts were good.  It was late at night and they had been sitting all day, so they got to be a little dry – I still ate them, though.  The Blueberry Donut was my favorite.  It held its moisture the best, whereas the Chocolate-Nut Donut and Sugar Donut didn’t.  I also got a Whole Foods Chocolate Cupcake which was actually pretty disgusting, so don’t get it.

Whole Foods Sacramento Donuts

Whole Foods Cupcake and Posh Bakery Donuts

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ROAD TRIP: Vegan in Tahoe/Reno

Welcome back to my mini road trip to Lake Tahoe for my cousin’s wedding.  What can a vegan get around Lake Tahoe?  I didn’t see much, but might have missed some things.

Besides wedding food, my mom, sister, and I only ate one meal in South Lake Tahoe.  We went to Sprouts Natural Foods Cafe.     All in all, I liked Sprouts.  My sister wasn’t that hungry, so she got some Chips, Salsa, and Guacamole and a side of Beans.  Their guacamole was really good.  The chips, salsa, and beans were just that – tasty, but not much to say.

Sprouts Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa

Sprouts Beans

Beans

My mom and I both got the same thing: their Couscous and Hummus Burrito ($6.95).  It came with soup or salad, so we got it with their soup of the day – Tomato Florentine.  I thought this soup was delicious!  One of the best tomato soups I’ve had.   As for the burrito, I got it without cucumbers and loved it.  Basically, it’s just a burrito with couscous and hummus (hence the name).  They topped it with this tahini spread, which I didn’t like and scraped off.  Otherwise, I think I might make this at home – seems easy enough.  I also wanted to try their Tempeh Burger, but found out they switched out their tempeh for some generic non-vegan Gardenburger – bummer.

Sprouts Coucous & Hummus Burrito

Couscous & Hummus Burrito

After a few hours of sightseeing, we went to our hotel in Reno (Tahoe has limited nice hotel availability- sorry Motel 6, I’m a snob).  Reno may be a larger city, but that doesn’t mean there is vegan food aplenty!  The one place that seemed to cater most to vegans was the vegetarian restaurant Pneumatic Diner.  I have to say, this was one of the weirdest restaurant spaces I have ever seen.  It certainly wasn’t ADA compliant, because you had to enter and go up a strange set of stairs, then around the corner to the entrance.  If you accidentally went down the wrong hallway, I think you would have ended up at the doorstep of someone’s apartment.  So weird.

Pneumatic Diner

Pneumatic Diner

Upon looking at the menu, it seemed to be very egg and cheese based – not good for vegans.  My mom went with the Oatmeal and it came out watery and bland (just look at how disgusting it looks in the picture!).  She ended up adding a ton of sugar and cinnamon to make it more palatable.

Pneumatic Diner Oatmeal

Oatmeal

I found out that they can substitute a vegan base in their scrambled eggs, so I got a Vegan Scramble with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Cheese.  The base turned out to be potatoes (c’mon, where’s the tofu?!) and their vegan cheese turned out to be a large scoop of nutritional yeast.  While I wouldn’t go here and order this again, it was a decent breakfast in a not so vegan-friendly town.

Pneumatic Diner Vegan Scramble

Vegan Scramble

And of course I had to try their dessert.  They had some pie and some cookies.  I went with a Cranberry Pear Pie that was way to tart and still needed to bake the peaches a bit more (in my opinion).

Pneumatic Diner Cranberry Peach Pie

Cranberry Peach Pie

Oh and we also got a Falafel Sandwich to-go for my sister who was chilling at the hotel.  She ate it later that day and told me it was good (I suggest going with this sandwich should you venture to this diner).

Pneumatic Diner Falafel Sandwich

Falafel Sandwich

The next morning, we didn’t head out to Pneumatic Diner again and instead went to grab some snacks at Whole Foods.  I love supporting local businesses, but if you’re a vegan looking for good food in Reno – just hit up the Whole Foods.  The Blueberry Muffin was a tasty morning treat, as were the two chicken salads we got: Tarragon Chicken Salad and   Sonoma Chicken Salad.  These were delicious and prepared with the newest fake meat – Beyond Meat.  Beyond Meat is only available at Whole foods in the Pacific Northwest and in NorCal, but I wished they supplied the SoCal locations!  So good!  My mom enjoyed a Vegan Coffee drink by Dr. Chao Foods.   And I also enjoyed an afternoon snack of Whole Foods Spring Rolls and an Apple Streusel Pie by Sweet Earth.

Whole Foods Reno Goodies

Whole Foods Reno Goodies

Phew!  For an area that doesn’t have a lot to offer vegans, that was a lot to say!  If you know of other places with good vegan food in this area, please comment below.  If any travelers stumble upon this blog post, I hope my review (and your comments) help!  Good luck.

ROAD TRIP: Vegan in Mammoth Lakes, CA (plus bonus cookie link!!)

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll probably have remembered I just went on a road trip to Oklahoma City for my cousin’s wedding.  Well, my mom and I (and a sister) were at it again and went on a road trip to Lake Tahoe for another cousin’s wedding.  Lake Tahoe is not too far from Southern California, but we wanted to make it a mini vacation, so we decided to have a few stops along the way.

Mammoth Lakes is a hot spot for skiing (so I’ve been told), but also is a great place for summer outdoor fun.  We weren’t there too long, but I did have a chance to notice plenty of bike and hike paths around the town.  And since Mammoth is full of nature loving individuals, it didn’t surprise me that there were a few spots for vegan food.

Our first stop was a place to get some snacks.  Sierra Sundance Whole Foods is an awesome little health foods market.  They had a great selection of vegan foods for snacking or preparing a meal in that cabin you’ve rented.  Being in a small car with three women, we weren’t thinking “healthy snacks,” so we stocked up on some comforting sugary sweets.  They even carried a local company’s vegan cookie!

Sierra Sundance Whole Foods Goodies

Sierra Sundance Whole Foods Goodies

Speaking of that local cookie company – we passed Mimi’s Cookie Bar’s storefront on our way to our hotel and had to stop to see what other vegan selections they had.

Mimi's Cookie Bar

Mimi’s Cookie Bar

This cookie bar is really cute and they have both non-vegan and vegan goodies.  We got some of their daily vegan cookies and their one and only vegan ice cream.  The Mocha Almond Fudge Cookie (I believe was gluten free) was a bit dry, but had a good flavor.  The Coconut-Lime Ice Cream was just ok – sort of gummy.  The Apple-Cinnamon Cookies (from Sierra Sundance) were also getting a bit dry from sitting on the shelf, but would be fantastic fresh.  And the Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies were some of the best cookies I’ve ever had (gluten free or not)!!  We went back and got more of these cookies.

****Seriously, you have to try these cookies – and lucky for you, they are running a deal on Fab.com that allows you to do just that!  But hurry – this deal is only on for another 6 days!!  Go get them. Now.****

Mimi's Cookie Bar

Mocha Almond Fudge, GF PB Chocolate Chip, Coconut-Lime Ice Cream

And finally, on our way out of Mammoth the next day, we stopped to get a breakfast burrito at Stellar Brew & Deli.

Stellar Brew Coffee

Stellar Brew

The Breakfast Burrito ($5.50) was full of carrots, potatoes, bell pepper, and vegan sausage.  I thought it was a bit spicy, but good.  I also had wished they used some tofu and no bell peppers (yuck!).  It did give me that wholesome breakfast feeling so I could face the day of driving.

Stellar Brew Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast Burrito

Stay tuned for more from my vegan road trip, including stops in Ridgecrest, Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento!

Another Lukewarm Review of 118 Degrees

You may recall that I was not too impressed with 118 Degrees from my last post about my meal here.  I have to say, that the feeling was the same on another trip to the restaurant.  I went because of another Groupon.  This time, my mom bought the deal, because the last time I went here with her, we loved their Miso Soup and she wanted to try more.

First we got the Topaz Pizza ($13): decadent pistachio pesto with tomatoes, herbed Italian squash on sprouted grain crust.  Served with warm sun dried tomato topping, chopped olives, and basil.  To be honest, we got this dish, because it had “warm” in the description.  It was edible (obviously), but neither of us really liked it.

118 Degrees Topaz Pizza

Topaz Pizza

The Sweet Corn Tamales were sold out, so we got the Spicy Almond Cheese Empanada with Spicy Vegetables and Avocado Lime Sauce ($15).  While not as good as the tamales, these were tastier than the pizza.

118 Degrees Empanadas

Empanadas

For our first dessert, we got the Drunken Fruit ($9): fruit in agave champagne sauce on top of vanilla creme.  This dessert was so much better than the desserts I got with my vegan guy on my last visit.  It probably has to do with the fact that this dessert focuses on livening up fresh fruit (something I enjoy raw).  The mangoes were perfectly ripe, very sweet, and paired beautifully with the agave champagne.

118 Degrees Drunken Fruit

Drunken Fruit

The second dessert we got was the Fruit Fondue ($9): fruit with chocolate and vanilla dipping sauces.  This was also very good.  The fruit was nice and ripe and the dipping sauces were sweet and creamy.  Our dessert was brought with the vanilla dipping sauce and also a berry dipping sauce even though it stated it was coming with a chocolate sauce.  We asked what happened and they ended up bringing out the chocolate sauce, too.  Score for the bonus sauce!

118 Degrees Fruit Fondue

Fruit Fondue

118 Degrees Chocolate Sauce

Chocolate Sauce for Fruit Fondue

Now that all the Groupons have been redeemed, I have learned that the warm food at 118 Degrees is better than the raw and the fruit desserts are the only ones worth ordering.

Check it out for yourself.

2981 Bristol Suite B5
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714-754-0718

Monday – Saturday 9am – 10pm
Sundays 10am – 9pm
Brunch on Sunday 10am – 3pm

Great Risotto from a Box?

Risotto is that rice dish that takes forever to prepare.  One has to stand at the stove and gradually add in broth to the cooking rice.  And if you’re vegan, don’t even think it’s that easy to find a place to make you risotto free of cream, cheese, or meat broth.  I think I’ve only found one place in my life that was willing to modify their risotto recipe to accommodate my vegan diet – and this was in not-at-all-nearby Oakland.  Luckily, there is a product in a box that makes making risotto a little bit easier.

Caley & Cobb is a small business offering gourmet foods such as risotto mixes, spices, and spreads.  These products aren’t meant to be vegan, but a few of their products actually are.  I love the Mushroom Risotto, because it tastes so good and is pretty easy to make.  It comes with a rice packet and and a spice packet.  Just saute the rice in some olive oil and butter (Earth Balance) and add the spice packet and some vegetable stock.  Keep adding the stock a bit at a time until the rice is fully cooked.  Easy peasy.  I topped mine with some Parma Vegan Parmasean Cheese and ate it up.

Caley & Cobb Artisan Mushroom Risotto with Parma

Mushroom Risotto with Vegan Parmesan

Where can one find this product?  You can order by phone at 909-794-4415, but I always buy mine inside Gerrards Market at 705 West Cypress Avenue, Redlands, CA.

More from Bulan Thai Vegetarian

Back when it was colder, my vegan guy and I went to Bulan Thai Vegetarian.  While it was still tasty, I think the food we order was not as good as what we had ordered before.

I wanted to try the appetizer of Seaweed Rolls ($8): deep fried nori sheet stuffed with tofu, glass noodles, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and served with a sweet and sour sauce.  When they say these are deep fried, they weren’t joking.  I think they might have been too fried for me.  The filling and sauce were mighty tasty, but I think I’ll stick with the Summer Rolls.

Bulan Thai Seaweed Rolls

Seaweed Rolls

My vegan guy got the Rad Nah ($9): crispy vermicelli noodles topped with broccoli, shiitakes, and protein choice in gravy.  He ordered this with tofu.  I had a bite and thought it was good, but would choose pad thai or pad see ew instead.

Bulan Thai Rad Nah

Rad Nah

Because it was a colder day, I was craving a warm soup.  They have a new soup item: Thai Style Pho.  You’ll see it displayed at your table.  I definitely prefer Vietnamese Pho places better, but this soup was still pretty good – especially since vegan Vietnamese pho is hard to come by in the central LA area (don’t you hate going to a Pho place and finding out their vegetable Pho is made with meat broth?! Yuck.).

Bulan Thai Pho

Thai Style Pho

Go to one of these locations – just don’t order these items. (Sorry Bulan!  I still love you.)

7168 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323-857-1882

4114 Santa Monica Blvd
Silver Lake, CA 90029
323-913-1488

Kyotofu Brownies from NYC

Kyotofu in New York City is a Japanese inspired cafe with a large bakery menu.  I haven’t been here before, but I know it is not a vegan place.  Their menu lists what is vegan and what is not, though.  I can’t speak for their savory items, but I can speak about their vegan brownies.

Kyotofu Brownies

I received a box full of individually wrapped brownies from Kyotofu in the mail.  I thought the presentation was adorable.  A fancy brown box with pink accents is my kind of style.  But what did the brownies taste like?…

Kyotofu Brownies

…Not good.  Even though they were individually wrapped and marked with a “best buy” date a week later, they were very dry.  The flavor was also a super deep chocolate – not my kind of brownie.  It could have been better had they just been moist.  I could get over the flavor by warming them up and serving them a la mode, but I couldn’t get over the texture.  I hope they are better fresh from the store.

Kyotofu Brownies

Brownies

Even though these brownies left a bad taste in my mouth, I still might try Kyotofu’s other items if I should ever be in NYC (I hear they have soft serve!).

Bo De Vietnamese in Westminster

The Westminster/Garden Grove area of Orange County has a large Vietnamese population.  Luckily for vegans, there are some restaurants in the area offering delicious vegan Vietnamese food.  One such place is Bo De Tinh Tam Chay– a Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant.

As an appetizer, my vegan guy and I got the Fried Won Ton ($6.99).  I thought these were good.  Not the best won tons I’ve ever had, but good enough to not be disappointed.

Bo De Fried Won Tons

Fried Won Tons

One entree was the Combination Fried Rice ($7.99).  I really liked this dish, because of its simplicity and flavor.  I rarely have fried rice, but was craving it that night.  This dish definitely satisfied that craving.

Bo De Fried Rice

Combination Fried Rice

My vegan guy got the Vermicelli with Shredded Tofu and Eggless Roll ($7.49).  From what I remember, he liked it all right, but has had better.

Bo De Vermicelli

Vermicelli

And we also got their Sauteed Mushroom with Ginger and Basil ($8.99).  This is basically just fried oyster mushrooms with a red sauce.  I didn’t think it was that flavorful.  Most of the flavor came from the sauce.  Plus, the mushrooms weren’t that crispy.

Bo De Mushrooms

Sauteed Mushrooms with Ginger and Basil

Even though what we ordered this particular night wasn’t the best, I have been here before and have had some wonderful dishes.  Of course their Pho is great and I’m sure many other dishes are, too.  Also, beware – they charge $0.50 for a glass of water (that’s tap water, not bottled).

It’s in a shopping complex with lots of parking.

15352 Beach Blvd
Westminster, CA 92683
714-891-4455

Monday – Thursday 9am – 9pm
Friday – Sunday 9am – 10pm

Breakfast and More at Follow Your Heart

I went to Follow Your Heart, because it’s one of the few places to get a vegan breakfast.  I love this place, not only because of their varied menu, but also because they have a wonderful market with hard to find vegan products.

My breakfast meal was the cleverly titled Om Lette ($10.25): an omelette shaped tofu pancake with your choice of three fillings and cheese.  I chose to have my omelette filled with mushrooms, spinach, and avocado.  It also came with a side of hash browns and fruit.  I loved this dish, although I thought it had a bit too much cheese.  It’s nice to be able to get a vegan omelette, though.  Real Food Daily used to have one at their Sunday brunch, but it is no longer on the menu (bummer).

Follow Your Heart Vegan Omelette

Vegan Omelette with mushrooms, spinach, and avocado

I also shopped around the market and found some vegan goodies I haven’t bought before.  I haven’t used the Tofutti Ricotta ($5.79) yet, but now you know where to get it.  Since purchasing this Ricotta, though, I have heard it’s not that great.  Have any of you tried it? Follow Your Heart now carries Upton’s Naturals ($4.89) for those of  you looking to try some new seitan varieties.  I used this to put into a beans and rice dish from the cookbook “Vegan Yum Yum” and it was delicious.

Goodies from Follow Your Heart Market

Goodies from Follow Your Heart Market

Amanda's Bakery Cupcakes at Follow Your Heart

Amanda’s Bakery Cupcakes at Follow Your Heart

Amanda’s Bakery has their cupcakes here and you can get them in the refrigerated section in packs of four.  I got the Maple Cupcake and Raspberry Chocolate Cupcake.  Both were really good.  And even though I don’t know how long they had been sitting there, they still tasted pretty fresh.

Amanda's Bakery Maple Cupcake and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake

Maple Cupcake and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake

Daniel's Choice Mac and Cheese

Daniel’s Choice Mac and Cheese

And they have a new prepared Vegan Mac and Cheese from Daniel’s Choice.  I thought this was very creamy and a good sized quantity.  It did have this one flavor.  It reminded me of when I was a child and I would eat the boxed mac and cheese at friends’ houses and sometimes they would add chopped hot dogs to it (something I did not enjoy).  Even though I would pick the hot dogs out, it still had that hot dog taste.  I’m guessing this smokey taste came from the roasted peppers listed in the ingredients.  I’m weird, I know, and this is probably my personal little quirk, but that flavor just bothered the little child inside me.  Otherwise, it was very tasty.

Daniel's Choice Mac and Cheese

Daniel’s Choice Mac and Cheese

Follow Your Heart’s market has tons of other products on their shelves.  There’s always something new to discover.  If you haven’t been there yet, you’re missing out.

21825 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303
818-348-3240

Daily 8 am – 9 pm