Native Foods – 1, Big Ag – 0

I have this friend that was once a vegetarian for many years and is no longer.  Doesn’t it make you so sad when you see a vegetarian/vegan turn back to the dark side?  I mean, you’ve seen them thrive on a veg diet, watch them eat delicious veg food, and then ultimately go back to eating meat.  Why?  I don’t know – but it breaks a little piece of my heart.

So back to this friend.  Whenever I have a visit with him, we always go to a vegan restaurant.  He knows veg food is good, so why shouldn’t we eat it when he comes to town?  In honor of his latest visit, we went to Native Foods.  I think most vegetarians in California know about this place.  They are popping up everywhere these days.  And, since the founder has stepped aside, the new owners have expanded to even more places out of state (Oregon, Illinois, Colorado…).  It’s a very exciting time for Native Foods.

The menu is quite large at Native Foods and it keeps changing (which can be good or bad, depending on if your favorites get removed or not).  I once had an amazing burger one week, and the next week it was gone.  One menu item that never seems to go away is the Native Chicken Wings ($6.95).  And there is good reason these don’t go away – they are really delicious.  They are lightly fried and not too heavy.  The ranch dressing that they come with is also super good.

Native Foods Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings

The Saigon Roll ($5.95) was once a special, but came back as a smaller appetizer version.  No matter what the size, I love this roll.  It is prepared with lemongrass tofu, pickled daikon, carrot, brown rice, cucumber, cilantro, and basil.  And my favorite part about it is the peanut sauce.  I love peanut sauce!  This is also a good dish for omnivores that like tofu and are weirded out by the fake meats (like some former co-workers of mine).

Native Foods Saigon Roll

Saigon Roll

My friend got the Portobello and Sausage Burger ($9.95) with a side of sweet potato fries.  This burger is prepared with grilled portobello, homemade seitan, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, salsa, pumpkin seed pesto, and mayo.  I think he liked the burger.  I remember his one comment was that it was very garlicy.  I’ve tried this before and thought the seitan was rather chewy.

Native Foods Portobello Mushroom and Sausage Burger

Portobello Mushroom and Sausage Burger

I went with the Twister Wrap ($9.95): greens, avocado, salsa, chipotle sauce and your choice of crispy or grilled chicken.  I really like their chicken and I love wraps, so this one is a no-brainer.  It’s good.  I went with the regular fries as my side, since I’m not a huge fan of their sweet potato fries (I think Veggie Grill’s are better).

Native Foods Twister Wrap

Twister Wrap

And how could we not complete this fabulous meat-free meal without my favorite Native Foods dessert??  The Peanut Butter Parfait ($2.95) always hits the spot.  Creamy and full of delicious goodies – I wish I knew the recipe!

Native Foods Peanut Butter Parfait

Peanut Butter Parfait

So maybe the meal didn’t turn my friend back to forgoing the dead animals, but at least this one meal didn’t need to kill anything.  Now I need to work on the other 1,094 meals this year.

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

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

Yummy Deal at Whole Foods this Weekend!

I hope I have your full attention, because I am about to tell you some terrific news.  There is a special discount on Vegan Chocolate Chip Cremewiches today through Sunday at Whole Foods Market.  This might be all So Cal Whole Foods or only a select number.  I know they have it at the Whole Foods at The District in Tustin and at the location in Laguna Beach.  Call your local Whole Foods to see if they have it.

I just happen to be there today and saw the deal.  It’s not a deal that will save you so much money that it will help pay your student loans, but it’s still something.  Vegans often get overlooked when specials come to town (has anyone ever noticed that most of Whole Foods’ one day sales are of disgusting fish??).  Anyway, this gigantic cookie sandwich is only $3!  They also had a pack of 3 smaller cookie sandwiches for the same price if you want to share with people this weekend.

Whole Foods Chocolate Chip Cremewich

Chocolate Chip Cremewich from Whole Foods

The cookie tasted like a Toll House cookie.  It didn’t hold together well, but still was yummy.  The creamy center was just vanilla frosting, but oh so good!  Look at the size of this thing!

Chocolate Chip Cremewich

Chocolate Chip Cremewich

And while I was in the bakery department, I happened to see this new product:  Whoopie Pies from Cafe Indigo.  This bakery is based out of New Hampshire, so it is something I hadn’t tried previously.  I got a Chocolate Whoopie Pie and a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie.  Each was $2.39.  I almost liked these, but they had a funny flavor.  I looked at the ingredients and nothing stood out as something I’d find weird.  My guess is it’s whatever they used in their “natural flavors.”

Whoopie Pies from Cafe Indigo

Whoopie Pies from Cafe Indigo

And proof that one should never go to the grocery store hungry:  a Chocolate Cupcake made by Whole Foods ($4.99).  I’ve had Whole Foods’ cakes when I’ve travelled, but since I bake cakes all the time when I’m at home, I’ve never had one in So Cal.  The cupcake was pretty large and they say the cake is a chocolate sponge cake.  I don’t remember what animal based sponge cakes tasted like, but this one was the most dense cake I’ve ever eaten!  It reminded me of a processed brownie – like an Entenmann’s brand or something.  I don’t know if this is good or bad:  good, because I used to like foods like this, but bad because I wanted a fluffy cake.  I was also a bit disappointed by the small amount of frosting.  I like a 2:1 ratio of cake to frosting and this one was more like 5:1.

Chocolate Cupcake form Whole Foods

Chocolate Cupcake from Whole Foods

New Veg Coffee House in Fullerton

A new coffee house recently opened in downtown Fullerton.  It’s a cute place that tries to buy local and do other environmentally responsible things.  Green Bliss has an all vegetarian menu with some vegan options.

Green Bliss

Green Bliss

They have inside seating and a few tables in this really beautiful courtyard.  I’ve read that sometimes there are weddings in this courtyard.  You can see why.  Be careful which table you choose to sit – some are designated for other restaurants.

Courtyard Behind Green Bliss

Courtyard Behind Green Bliss

As for the food, my sandwich was very tasty.  I got the Avo-Campania Panini with a Green Bliss Salad ($9).  This sandwich has mushrooms, avocado, artichoke hearts, and hemp seed basil pesto on multigrain bread.  It’s nice and warm with a wonderful blend of flavors.

Green Bliss Panini

Green Bliss Panini

My friend got the Curried Chickpea Salad Panini with a Green Bliss Salad ($9). It’s got chickpeas, raisins, almonds, organic baby spinach, tomato, and vegan mayo on marble rye. I didn’t have a bite, but she and her boyfriend really liked it.  I’m not a huge fan of curry, but I might try this next time.

Green Bliss Curried Chickpea

Curried Chickpea Salad Panini

And there are even vegan dessert options.  I’m pretty sure the cupcakes are vegan from Luscious Organics and there was also a vegan cookie available when I went.

Green Bliss Bakery Display

Bakery Display

If you live or are passing through North Orange County, I’d highly recommend stopping to refuel your body at Green Bliss.  Parking in the area was not bad when I went.

305 N Harbor Blvd Suite 103 (at Villa Del Sol)
Fullerton, CA 92832
(714) 773-0018

Monday – Saturday from 7 am – 7 pm
Sunday 8 am – 5 pm

breakfast (vegans can get oatmeal or a fruit bowl) is served until 11am

Breakfast at Freesoulcaffe

I’ve said this many times, but vegan breakfast foods are so hard to find at restaurants.  Oatmeal or a tofu scramble might be here and there, but sometimes you just want a classic waffle.  I could be wrong, but I think one only needs a single finger to count the number of restaurants offering a vegan waffle in Orange County.  That place is the all vegan Freesoulcaffe in downtown Tustin.  If you know of another place, please let me know in the comments.  Freesoulcaffe is awesome… really awesome.  I’ve already mentioned their delicious lunch and dessert options before, and now I’ve come back to tell you about their amazing waffle.

On their menu, they list their waffle flavors as classic, green tea, and pumpkin.  I ordered the pumpkin, but found out that they were no longer doing this option (sad).  So I got the Green Tea Waffle ($6.95).  You can opt to add fruit for an additional $2.   This waffle was so good!  Nice and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  When lots of people are ordering waffles, it takes some time, but it is worth the wait.  They stop serving breakfast at 11am – no sleeping in if you want to get your waffle fix.

Freesoulcaffe Green Tea Waffles

Green Tea Waffles

But of course I couldn’t leave without getting something from their bakery case.  Dessert at breakfast is what I call living!

Freesoulcaffe Bakery Case

Glorious Bakery Case

The Key Lime Pie ($5.50) has the most delicious and creamy topping.  It’s the same topping they put on their Mocha Pie I mentioned in my last post.  The pie itself was  equal parts sweet and tart.  I shared it with my fellow diners and they liked it, too.

Freesoulcaffe Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

They have an annoying online menu that doesn’t list prices.  Their paninis run about $11.50, sandwiches are $7.95 for a half and $10.50 for a full, soups are $6.50, brownies/blondies are $3.75, and the cheesecakes/pies are $5.50.

They have a lovely covered courtyard that has heaters going on colder days.  Their hours are: Monday – Saturday: 9am – 9pm (closed on Sundays).

191 East Main Street Suite 1B
Tustin, CA 92780
714.371.0976

Vegan Sandwich Shop in Irvine

This new sandwich shop opened in Irvine called Phoney Baloney (awesome name, right?).  It’s a little hard to find.  You first have to find this gym, then go inside, and you’ll see the counter immediately on the right.  They have a small seating area where you can feel guilty by watching people work out.

I got the Cali BBQ ($5,95): grilled Phoney’s beef slathered in cherry chipotle BBQ sauce and topped with slaw, pickles, and mustard on a sourdough sandwich roll.  I love sandwiches in general, but I really loved this sandwich.  The roll was a tad bit thick and hard to bite into, but other than that, the taste was wonderful.

Phoney Baloney BBQ Sandwich

BBQ Sandwich

And of course I had to try their Strawberry Cookie Monster – a spring sandwich special.  If they are still offering this sandwich, you have to try it!  It’s fresh strawberries, cookie butter, cream cheese, and agave drizzle that’s panini pressed between two slices of whole wheat sourdough. Genius combination.

Phoney Balony Cookie Monster

Cookie Monster

Good luck trying to find this gem.  It’s worth it!

4880 Irvine Blvd., Suite 102 (inside  Custom Bodies Fitness)
Irvine, CA. 92620
949-885-6237

Monday – Fri 11am – 9pm
Saturday 11am – 4pm
Sunday closed

Veg Friendly at Taco Loco in Laguna Beach

Taco Loco is one of my favorite places to eat in Laguna Beach.  It is also one of the few places I go and get the same thing every time.  The location has been there for a while and is one of those surfer-type joints that is popular with the locals.

My vegan guy went with the Blackened Veggie Phish Burger ($6.50): spiced and blackened veggie phish served with mushrooms, guacamole, and salsa (make sure you get it with no mayo).  Of course I love this dish – it has a bit of spice and you get that fake meaty texture (if you’re into that).  My vegan guy didn’t have the same love for this dish I as do – whatever: he’s crazy.

Taco Loco Phish Burger

Phish Burger

I went with a different burger, but still wanted a small taste of the blackened phish.  Enter Blackened Veggie Phish Taco ($3.35): same phish as in the burger, but in a small soft tortilla.  It’s the perfect small bite – and a great choice for those small eaters out there.

Taco Loco Phish Taco

Phish Taco

I am not a small eater and needed a burger to go with my taco.  The Blackened Tofu and Mushroom Burger ($6) is my absolute favorite item at Taco Loco.  It’s blackened the same as the phish, but if you’re not into the fake meat, this is a wonderfully healthy way to have your burger.  Just like the phish burger, the tofu burger is served with mushrooms, guacamole, and salsa – and also say no mayo.  It comes as a taco, as well, but I like the burger a lot better.

Taco Loco Blacked Tofu and Mushroom Burger

Blacked Tofu and Mushroom Burger

Taco Loco has some (crazy) great hours.  In the summer, they are open really late (2am on weekends!).

640 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 497-1635

Monday – Thursday, Sunday 11 am – 12 am
Friday – Saturday 11 am – 2 am

Vegan Friendly at Rutabegorz

Rutabegorz is a very vegetarian friendly cafe featuring healthier cuisine.  It used to be not so vegan friendly, but one of my friends recently told me they updated their menu to solve this.  I went in expecting boat loads of new vegan options.  True, they had more, but not as many as I had thought.  They don’t label what is vegan, so finding these new items was hard.  I kept having to ask the waitress if there was egg in this or milk in that.  Rutabegorz, if you are reading this, please add a vegan icon next to your menu items that can be made vegan!

When I used to work near a Rutabegorz, my co-workers and I would get food from here a lot (mainly so “the vegan” could have something to eat).  I used to get their smoothies all the time.  I love smoothies that are only fruit and juices and Ruta’s lets you choose apple or orange juice and some fruits (none of those annoying ice and yogurt fillers).  Back then, the smoothies were bigger and sometimes that’s all I would need for lunch.  Today, the smoothies lost some weight, but not flavor.  I always got my Smoothie ($4.75) with OJ, strawberries and bananas.  Delicious and nutritious!

Rutabegorz Smoothie

Smoothie: banana, strawberries, OJ

While waiting for my meal, I noticed a sign on the table advertising their Mango Salsa with Chips for only $0.42!  Ruta’s always has some deal like this, but none have ever really interested me.  This was a nice little treat and for only 42 cents, not much to complain about.

Rutabegorz Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa

The vegan option I chose was the Falafel Wrap (8.25): falafel patties, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and a creamy herb dressing and served with hummus on the side.  The creamy herb dressing is not vegan, so don’t get it.  This wrap was more of the rustic style Mediterranean food.  It was a good wrap, but did taste a bit on the “healthy” side.  The hummus on the side was also nice, but (again) was more of that rustic style cuisine.

Rutabegorz Falafel Wrap

Falafel Wrap

If you are in the area of a Rutabegorz with a bunch of lunch-seeking meat-eaters, I would suggest a stop here.  I’d like to go back and see if I can find other vegan items on their menu, but I’m not in a huge rush.  It’s a lovely place, but I’d probably go to  a nearby all-veg restaurant if I was on my own.

They have three locations:  Tustin, Orange, and Fullerton.  Check out their website to see which is closest to you.

118 Degrees in Costa Mesa

Awhile back, I had a Groupon to 118 Degrees.  It was a great deal.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, 118 Degrees is one of those reasons why I was turned off to raw cuisine.  118 Degrees was my second raw restaurant experience (after Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco – also not a very good experience).  It just didn’t grab me.  After two not so great experiences, I was not very interested in trying more raw cuisine.  Luckily, I found some raw food in LA that I liked and the best raw restaurant in Oklahoma City.  Be your own judge of the cuisine, but this is what I got.

For an appetizer, we ordered the Fried Avocado Mini Tostadas ($7): crispy buckwheat shells, spicy pepita cheese, chopped spinach, cilantro, corn, and fried avocado.  This appetizer is something I have had before and liked it.  However, on this trip, that crunchy coating on the avocados was lacking and brought the whole dish down.  On a good day, these actually are pretty good.  I can never really say anything bad about raw cheeses – I always like them, but I’m not a huge fan of dehydrated things resembling the bread (in this case: the tortilla).

118 Degrees Fried Avocado Mini Tostadas

Fried Avocado Mini Tostadas

My vegan guy got the Sweet Corn Tamales ($14): sweet corn masa with marinated portobello mushrooms – served warm with rojo salsa, guacamole, and napa slaw.  According to the restaurant, this one sells out fast and I can see why.  I enjoyed this much better than the raw stuff.  Besides being comforting and warm, it also had lots of flavor.

118 Degree Sweet Corn Tamales

Sweet Corn Tamales

I had the Fusion Pasta ($16): sweet miso, squash noodles in a chipotle shiitake creme with shiitake mushrooms, avocado, and dulse flakes.  When I think “squash,” I mainly think of butternut squash.  I’m a fan of butternut squash, so I thought I would like this dish.  When it came to me, I saw it was mainly zucchini noodles.  I hate zucchini.  I had about two bites of this before packing it up and bringing it to someone else.

118 Degrees Fusion Pasta

Fusion Pasta

And for dessert we got the Apple Cobbler ($9).  I love baked apple cobbler, but am not so much a fan of dehydrated apple cobbler.  The creme topping was nice.

118 Degrees Apple Cobbler

Apple Cobbler

And the Raspberry Cheesecake ($9).  I love Earth Cafe’s raw cheesecake, but sadly, I did not like 118 Degrees’ cheesecake.  I think I liked the filling better than the crust, but all-in-all, I would never order this again.

118 Degrees Raspberry Cheesecake

Raspberry Cheesecake

If you are into raw cuisine (and even if you’re not), you may like 118 Degrees.  I encourage you to try it out yourself.
2981 Bristol Suite B5
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714-754-0718

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