Tag Archives: Indian food

A Gluten-Free Vegan Tour of Seattle

24 Apr

Last weekend, my sister and her boyfriend came up for some vegan food tourism (inspired by Jud’s and my visit to Portland last fall). Since Maren’s been eating gluten free for the past several months, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to round up Seattle’s vegan, gluten-free dining options.

There are so many! With little more than 24 hours in their visit, there were only so many places we could cram in (despite our very best efforts!), but safe to say, a vegan avoiding gluten could last a long time in this town before needing to return to the same spot. I should note, though, that only a few places are gluten-free establishments. If you’re sensitive enough to gluten that cross-contamination is an issue you should (as you surely already know) ask the staff at other places about how well they’re able to manage contact with gluten ingredients.

We started at Pizza Pi, source of many delicious vegan pizzas over the years. Sure enough, they offer a gluten-free crust, and since their sauces and cheese are already gluten free, there are lots of options on the pizza menu. We started with a “Saucy Sampler,” with one order of regular bread and one order of gluten free, both smothered in Teese.

Four sauces to go with gluten-free or conventional breadsticks

We all found the gluten-free crust (used both for breadsticks and for the 9″ personal size pizzas) to be quite respectable, even to those of us still used to eating gluten, and the sauces were all the same delicious ones I knew from the regular menu.

Maren tried the St. Patrick’s Revenge pizza (spinach and artichoke sauce, green peppers, broccoli, spinach and fresh basil), and I had a sample of it (the rest of us ordered gluten-containing items):

For some reason, it didn’t taste as good as usual (that pizza is one of my favorites), but I don’t think the different crust was the reason–maybe just an off day. I wouldn’t hesitate to order a gluten-free pizza there, or a St. Patrick’s Revenge, again, though just in case I might try a different combo next time.

We were all stuffed by the time we left, but of course we had to stop at Sidecar for the World Wide Vegan Bake Sale. In addition to the many gluten-free items the store carries regularly, the bake sale had an entire section of gluten-free treats. We picked up an assortment of goodies for later and headed off on a walk–mostly to make room in our bellies for the next stop: Jodee’s Desserts.

I’ve written about Jodee’s before, so I’ll just say that it once again delivered the goods–this time in the form of a slice of Key Lime Pie that we shared, along with some samples of other flavors. I’ll also point out that the menu is entirely gluten free (and vegan), so sample and order anything you want!

After some visits to Pike Place Market and the Olympic Sculpture Park, we were (eventually) ready for dinner. Maren and Brian hadn’t yet been to Travelers Thali House, which I’d recently discovered to be very friendly to GF/V diners.

My first meal at Travelers, with different dishes but the same format each month.

Sure enough, we had another great meal from the April menu, different from the one featured in my post, but in the same thali format. We made sure to order extra papadams to avoid having to fight over the two that came with our order.

For breakfast we hit Wayward. I wouldn’t have thought they’d have so many gluten-free options, but they really came through! As you can see from their gluten-free menu, many of their regular items are already gluten free or can be made so pretty easily.

I’ve been wanting to try their Club sandwich for ages, and I decided this was the time since a gluten-free version was available:

Gluten-free Club at Wayward. Be sure to specify, since there’s also a Club with gluten.

Normally, this comes with vegan turkey and ham along with the tempeh bacon, but the first two things must contain gluten since they’re excluded here. Thus, the Club really turns into a BLT, but it’s quite a tasty sandwich, even on rice bread. The French fries that came with it were excellent, and getting a pickle on the side (hidden behind the sandwich) always wins me over.

Brian tried the Gluten-Free Sampler (scrambled tofu, hashbrowns, greens, and tempeh bacon):

He enjoyed it, and having tried each of those things via their regular menu, I can vouch for them all being good.

Maren got one of my favorite items from the standard menu, which happens to be gluten free: the Very Veggie Omelet, served with home fries:

Vegetable-rich, filling and very tasty!

Of course as long as we were in the U-District we couldn’t miss Chaco Canyon, so we headed there to get some baked goods to eat later.

With a case like this right up front, you know you’re in good hands:

…and when you realize that the much-larger case below it contains a majority of gluten-free items as well (clearly labeled along with indications of raw items and those without soy ingredients), you start to feel the panic of very difficult choices:

Of course, writing a food blog gives you license (right??) to make all kinds of choices that would otherwise be ridiculous, so I got a chocolate-hazelnut cookie, a piece of rhubarb upside-down cake, AND a piece of that vanilla-lemon cake. The cookie was tasty, if a little dry and crumbly, as gluten-free cookies nearly always are. The cakes, though, were outstanding. Chaco has really mastered the art of making gluten-free cakes (and muffins) that you wouldn’t guess were gluten free. You taste rhubarb (and maybe a hint of fennel?), not garbanzo bean flour, and the texture is moist and only slightly more dense than a comparable counterpart would be with gluten.

This time I reluctantly skipped one of my very favorite desserts that they carry–raw chocolate brownies with hazelnuts. More like a truffle in bar form than a brownie, these things are so decadent, smooth and rich I would put them high on the list of things to feed skeptics who think that vegans eat unsweetened tree bark for dessert.

Chaco also serves “real food” if you want breakfast, lunch or dinner, and there are lots of gluten-free options (raw and cooked) on those menus also.

Finally (after a long walk around Discovery Park), no gluten-free tour of Seattle would be complete without a stop at Flying Apron in Fremont. This all-vegan, all-gluten-free establishment has been around for years, and I’ve heard many times how beloved it is by locals who avoid gluten. I confess that my experiences with their baked goods have been pretty hit or miss, so I hadn’t been by since they opened their storefront in Fremont. A couple weeks ago, I decided I needed to give them another try, and I’m so glad I did.

The new (not so new anymore, but new to me!) storefront in the middle of Fremont is adorable and welcoming–a huge improvement over the tiny, basement-level counter they used to occupy in the U-District.

There’s even a bit of sidewalk seating for nice days.

When I visited recently with Jud, I tried a couple baked items and a few things out of the savory case.

A hit and a miss: LOVED the lasagna; was disappointed in the Ginger Wheel cookie.

I must say, that experience reinforced my earlier experience with their baked items: dry and gritty. I will add that the cookie and the pecan cinnamon roll we also tried had really good flavor–they just fell far short of my hopes for texture. The cookie was quite hard, which would have been less annoying if it hadn’t also been quite thick. I think the cinnamon roll would have been much more enjoyable if it had been called something else. “Cinnamon Spiral,” maybe? For me, a cinnamon roll is soft and pillowy. This was crisp and brittle, much more like a scone. Again, the flavor was very good, but I had a hard time getting past the texture based on my associations with that particular baked good.

The Pecan Cinnamon Roll that should perhaps be called something else.

But. The stuff we got out of the savory case knocked my socks off. That lasagna you see up there? It’s one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had, bar none. Complex flavor, plenty of veggies, and I would never guess that the noodles are made of rice and gluten free. Jud’s shepherd’s pie was not quite at that level, but it was very enjoyable, and I’d definitely order it again if I wasn’t in the mood for lasagna.

Shepherd’s pie at Flying Apron: rich and savory.

Jud also ordered a broccoli salad, with which I am now officially obsessed, so he ordered a large when we returned with Maren and Brian:

I could eat this daily for a good long time.

Raw broccoli (of which I’m not usually a fan, but gladly make an exception here), cabbage, and carrots with plenty of cashews and raisins in a lightly sweet, creamy dressing. Holy cow. Don’t miss this if you go.

On this most recent visit I also tried the Mac and Cheese, which is mixed with spinach:

Again, the rice-based pasta did not betray its gluten-free nature, and this was a very well-made mac and cheese. I appreciated the added spinach, both for nutrition and for flavor and visual interest, and the garlicky sauce was nicely creamy without being over-the-top greasy like some versions are.

I also tried a few other baked goods:

Russian Tea Cake (Have you ever seen one that big?! It’s easily 3″ across.) and Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate Shortbread Cookie (and blue sugar cookies I didn’t try)

Finally, we had some winners. I actually liked all three of these quite a bit. The Russian Tea Cake was my favorite, with nice walnut flavor and subtle sweetness that didn’t take over the cookie. Because these cookies tend to be crumbly anyway, the texture achieved with gluten-free flours wasn’t far at all from the traditional results. I was pleasantly surprised to find the chocolate-chip cookie to be soft and even a little chewy, and the shortbread had a pronounced chocolate flavor while maintaining the just-crumbly-enough texture of a shortbread–with an unusually attractive presentation.

Fortunately, Flying Apron has a wonderful policy of a 100% guarantee: if you try something you don’t like, they’ll give you a refund. I didn’t take them up on this, but I hope it takes out enough of the risk factor for you to try some of their wares. You may not like all of them, but I bet you’ll find some that you do. And in any case, don’t miss the savory items! The only thing I haven’t liked so far was the vegetable-topped flatbread that features more peppers than I prefer (and many would consider that a plus).

There are lots of other places that would be high on my list for gluten-free, vegan dining in Seattle. We only skipped Bouteloua Bakery because it was closed for the weekend, but they do an excellent job with gluten-free cupcakes and cakes by the slice. Thrive on 65th is another place that’s entirely vegan and gluten free, serving mostly raw food with a few cooked items. Sutra, which I’ve also raved about before, is so focused on vegetable-centered dishes and local ingredients that many of its menus are already gluten free, but if you alert them ahead of time they can assure you of a gluten-free meal. St. Dames, in Columbia City, is an ovo-lacto place with a good assortment of vegan, gluten-free, and GF/V options for brunch/lunch/dinner. Finally, Plum Bistro and Sage Bakery and Cafe are well-loved vegan restaurants that cater easily to those avoiding gluten.

You want a map? Of course you do.

This is still just the tip of the iceberg. Where have you found good gluten-free vegan food in or around Seattle?

Travelers Thali House: No dairy, no gluten, no soy? No problem.

26 Feb

About a month ago, I got an email from my friend Bernie, asking for Indian food recommendations in Seattle. A long-time vegan newly directed to avoid both gluten and soy, Bernie saw an opportunity in focusing more on Indian food, which has a lot of options that don’t include those ingredients.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of recommendations up my sleeve, but that very same day I saw a tweet from Michael Natkin, a local ovo-lacto food blogger (and soon to be cookbook author) you should follow. The food in that thali looked awfully tasty, and both Michael and the Travelers website offered good reason to believe that this vegetarian restaurant could do right by vegans. Bernie, Jud and I resolved to check it out.

Travelers has a tea room on Capitol Hill, which also sells snacks and a nice assortment of spices and kitchen implements suitable for Indian cooking. For a weeknight dinner, though, we headed to their Beacon Hill location: Travelers Thali House.

The space is in fact a converted house, and it’s both casual and inviting. The menu didn’t make clear what was vegan or gluten-free, but invited us to ask. When we did, we learned that most of the menu was or could be made vegan, and that nearly everything but the breads were gluten free. Avoiding soy was also no problem. For the three of us, we split a Deluxe Thali ($20), a Full Thali ($15) and a plate of samosas ($5), which was a good amount of food to fill us up.

Full and Deluxe Thalis, free of gluten, soy, or any animal ingredients (except the chapatis, which contain wheat).

The difference between the Full and the Deluxe is that the latter adds an order of bread (all contain gluten; only the chapatis are vegan), a beverage (tea, chai, coffee or soft drink), and dessert. Each one came with a large papadam; if you wanted a gluten-free deluxe you might ask if they’d give you a second papadam for the bread. If you want less food, there are smaller options (with fewer dishes) for $8 or $6. There’s also a “light fare” menu that breaks out of the thali format, offering dal, rice, salaad and a couple condiments for around $5. Safe to say, the menu can easily accommodate any size of appetite, and the prices seem very reasonable for what you get.

A closer look at a Full Thali

What you see here (clockwise from front center; italicized descriptions are quoted from the menu):

  • Masoor Dal (red lentils, cooked with ginger, garlic and chilies, topped with fried onions and roasted black cumin seeds)
  • A chickpea curry not listed on the menu
  • Nepali Lauki Ki Sabzi (lauki is a gourd that grows on lush vines that cover houses and haystacks throughout India. This authentic recipe – with potatoes, tomatoes and onions, lightly seasoned – comes from our Bhutanese-Nepali chef)
  • Papadam (poking up from center of tray)
  • Sesame Potato & Cucumber Salaad (nearly hidden behind the papadam: a Nepali salaad of potatoes and cucumbers, coated in a dressing of toasted sesame seeds with ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and fried fenugreek seeds)
  • Steamed basmati rice
  • A simple fruit salad with orange, fresh pineapple and pomegranate seeds
  • Kadhi Pakore (fried chickpea dumplings that would have been smothered in dairy products if we hadn’t ordered vegan)
  • Achaar Pachranga (the famous mixed pickle of Haryana – sour, salty, spicy – stimulates the digestive fire)
  • Mango Chutney (sweet chutney from the mango fields of northern India, preserved with vinegar, sugar and salt)

All of the elements were well prepared. The curries had a nice balance of flavors and weren’t overly spicy, and the potato/cucumber salad was an interesting combination of familiar flavors I would never have thought to put together. I wouldn’t say that any one thing jumped out at me as outstanding, but the generous variety of textures, flavors and visuals made for a very enjoyable meal. We also appreciated the fact that, unlike most Indian restaurant food, this seemed to be prepared with a reasonable amount of oil. The thali format also meant not having to coordinate our ordering to get a nice balance of food groups on the table.

The two tasty, piping-hot samosas (not gluten free) came with both a tamarind and a mint chutney:

Not pictured is the delicious chai I enjoyed as part of the Deluxe Thali. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better chai, with a nice mix of fresh-tasting spices and tea, both peppery and slightly sweet. If you don’t have time for a meal, I’d urge you to stop in to either location just for that. They also sell packages of the spice blend and tea to make the chai at home yourself. This would give you nice control over the sweetness level, in addition to being very cost effective. There’s even a rooibos version if you’d prefer to avoid caffeine.

Jud had a glass of wine, which came amid apologies from the server that recent changes in Washington State liquor laws have limited the variety of wines they have access to. Sure enough, the wine was drinkable but probably not anything we’d order again. They do offer a short list of beers also, which I would guess to be less affected by availability issues.

The Deluxe came with a little plate of dessert, also:

Dessert, plus two polished-off thalis

The rectangles were Besan Burfi (“chickpea flour fudge”); the balls were Ganesh Ladoo (“sweet balls of chickpea boondis”). I had had besan burfi before, but never ganesh ladoo. Like many desserts in Asian cuisines, the primary flavor is “sweet,” which is not generally what I enjoy in a dessert, preferring less sweetness and more complexity of flavor. Given that, I’m probably not the person to ask whether these were good examples of those dishes.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the experience. The thali menu changes monthly, so unless you go very soon you’ll have some different dishes in the rotation. If you’re working around dietary restrictions beyond veganism like we were, this place is a great, no-fuss way for everyone to get a nicely varied meal. One more bonus is that the restaurant is just a couple minutes’ walk from the Beacon Hill light rail station, making for very easy access if you don’t already frequent that neighborhood.

Thali House Restaurant
(206) 329-1465
Open noon to 9pm, Wednesday – Sunday
Happy Hour 4:00 – 6:30
Closed Monday & Tuesday
2524 Beacon Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98144

Where do you go for vegan Indian food in the PNW?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers