Tag Archives: Seattle restaurants

October Unprocessed: An Update

22 Oct

Time is flying by, and I wanted to do an update of this unprocessed-foods challenge I’m doing for the month of October.

The basics

Overall, it’s going well. For the most part, it’s really not that hard, though it’s making me spend significantly more time in the kitchen. To compensate, I’m often eating much more simply than I normally would. Friday night I took leftover roasted broccoli and sweet potato, added some pinto beans and chopped fresh tomato from the CSA, splashed on my new favorite hot sauce (purchased at Sugarpill Apothecary), topped it with chopped avocado, and that was dinner. No multistage cooking; no custom blend of herbs and spices, freshly ground in a mortar; no multiple dishes–just a melange of stuff heated up and thrown in a bowl. And it was good!

I do miss having so many options of places to eat out–or variety of dishes I can choose from the menus of vegan restaurants–but thanks to Thrive, Chaco Canyon, Veggie Grill and Whole Foods I haven’t had to rely entirely on my own cooking and could have some very tasty food prepared by others now and then. Jud has (as usual!) been quite supportive and flexible with where we eat, and has even forgone some processed foods in my presence in solidarity. And my awesome friends brought lots of unprocessed food to eat at a potluck brunch I hosted, so there was plenty of variety then.

I’ve definitely embraced some routines for the sake of time and simplicity: breakfast is very often a rice cake topped with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, along with an apple or banana. Could I make a rice cake in my kitchen? Absolutely not. But when the only ingredients are whole grain rice and air, I’d say that counts as unprocessed. Lunches are often brown rice + beans + broccoli + oil/vinegar/spices, if I don’t have leftovers from dinner to heat up.

In general, I’m eating far fewer grains because it’s so much less convenient to grab ready-made stuff or make pasta the center of a meal, but since I know grains and grain-like seeds have a lot of valuable nutrients, I’m making a point not to get too skimpy on them. I’m eating a ton of nuts and seeds, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Although I am “allowing” oil in this challenge, I’m being more judicious with it than I normally am, and trying to get my fats from less-processed sources. For example, instead of a standard vinaigrette, I’ve been dressing salads and vegetables with lemon-tahini dressing and sauce.

The low points

For the first two weeks I actually felt pretty lousy. I had a stomach ache almost all the time. I honestly don’t know how much of that–if any–had to do with the dietary change. I’m sure there was some adjustment to the extra fiber I was consuming, but both generally and in this particular case I’m quite skeptical of things like “detoxing,” so I don’t attribute it to that. It’s also fair to say there has been plenty of stress in my life recently, which frequently manifests itself in the form of stomach upset. So there’s that. A bummer, but it’s better now.

Also, it seems I may be more sensitive to soy in certain forms than I’d previously thought, so I’m steering clear of soy milk for now, and when I do eat soy it’s usually as tempeh. I figure that’s one of the least-processed forms of soy anyway.


Freshly made almond milk is fantastically delicious. If you’ve only had the stuff in boxes, I highly recommend trying it freshly made. I’ve been working on a couple experimental recipes to use the pulp from my current batch of milk, and I’ll post soon with the results! I also tried making hazelnut milk–and made hot chocolate with it using roasted-and-ground cacao nibs, cinnamon and vanilla. It was a little more textured than I would have liked, but quite tasty nonetheless. I’d also like to try roasting the hazelnuts first rather than using them raw.

There are some nice chocolate bars out there that arguably fit the unprocessed guidelines–and some that I really don’t like at all. Stirs the Soul makes a line that is not cheap, but in some cases is quite tasty. I particularly recommend the orange goji-berry (even though I’m not particularly fond of goji berries) and the mint. I was much less impressed with the cayenne-cinnamon and the currant-chai flavors, which seemed not sweet enough (all are lightly sweetened only with whole dates) and with poorly balanced flavors. If I’m going to splurge on expensive, raw chocolate, I want it to really satisfy that chocolate craving. Speaking of expensive chocolate, I picked up one of these at Thrive, and it was very, very tasty. This Hibiscus-Ginger chocolate, on the other hand, I didn’t like at all. I might try other flavors from that line, but the tartness of the hibiscus did not work for me in this bar.

I’ve become pretty well hooked on Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar (overlooking the agar, it’s remarkably unprocessed), and today I tried an herb-cashew cheese from Punk Rawk Labs, which was just as delicious as it was expensive ($10 for a 5-oz. tin–ouch!). At the same time I picked up the smoked cashew variety, which I haven’t yet tried. At that price, I can’t see those cheeses becoming a regular item in my fridge, but they sure would be nice for an occasional splurge.

Some things I’ve been eating for dinner

Tabbouli with homegrown parsley and mint, plus homemade hummus and carrots (yes, they’re supposed to be yellow rather than orange!)

A small-plate-style dinner after a late lunch: Rice cake and Triscuit-type crackers with Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar, pickled asparagus and pepper, and an heirloom-tomato-avocado salad with smoked salt

Mexican-inspired dinner of polenta, pinto beans cooked with zucchini and tomato, raw heirloom tomatoes, avocado, pepitas and cilantro

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?

Cafe Munir brings Lebanese delights to Ballard

7 Apr

Last November I saw a tweet that led me to this Seattle Met blog post about a Lebanese bistro opening soon in Ballard.

And I got really excited. I love Lebanese food and try to take advantage of Portland’s many wonderful offerings every time I go. And this lede on the blog item echoed a complaint I’ve had about my beloved Seattle for years:

Rajah Gargour grew up in Lebanon (and Jordan), and has a singular but rather significant complaint about the state of his native cuisine in Seattle: “This food isn’t represented at all,” he says. “It doesn’t exist.”

Lucky for all of us, owner/chef Gargour has changed that with the lovely Cafe Munir in the Loyal Heights area of Ballard, which has been open since January at 2408 NW 80th Street.

My employer just published a nice review of the place, but much of the write-up covered the meaty and dairy-rich offerings. Rest assured, vegans can get stuffed on all kinds of delicious options at Cafe Munir, and our server was helpful in identifying appropriate choices.

We went on a Saturday evening at prime dinner time, and the place was busy enough that we waited about ten minutes for a table. Seated with a view of the dining room with a couple glasses of Lebanese red wine, the time went by quickly.

Cafe Munir at dinner

The space is not super fancy, but it’s got nice touches, like the clean white arches and beautiful decorative light fixtures, mirrored in the style of the candle holders at each table.

After a long walk that afternoon, we were ready to make a solid dent in the menu, though we still had to save several options for next time. There are all the basics you’d expect to be available on hot and cold mezze menus–hommos, baba ganoush, falafel, fattoush (Lebanese green salad tossed with toasted pita)–as well as some less-common items like muhammara (a dip made of roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses) and two that were new to me: Ta’miyeh, a cousin to falafel made with fava beans instead of garbanzos, and mukhaddara, a variant on muhammara made with roasted green peppers, pistachios and mint. We went for a mix of familiar and new:

Clockwise from top left: baba ganoush (in striped dish), pita, Ta’miyeh with tahini and spicy tomato sauces, hommus, mukhaddara, fattoush.

Here’s a closer look at some of those items:

Lebanese Bread Salad (Fattoush), Ta’miyeh, Mukhaddara

Baba Ganoush, with a lovely garnish of fresh pomegranate seeds

The old favorites did not disappoint. The baba was smoky and smooth, and the hommus was substantial and well balanced in flavor. The Ta’miyeh was very similar to falafel (and good), but having two sauces to pair it with instead of just tahini sauce made for some added interest. The mukhaddara was a completely new blend of flavors to me. I’m not a huge fan of green peppers, so next time I will try the muhammara, but I would happily eat the mukhaddara again as well. At once rich and fresh-tasting, the flavor of the roasted poblanos really came through in the finished dish.

We enjoyed the fattoush, and it did add some much-appreciated fresh, raw produce to the table. It wasn’t as interesting as the other dishes we tried, and since we had more than enough otherwise to keep us busy and full, we agreed that we might skip it next time.

Of course, we couldn’t just leave it at small plates, so we ordered a couple larger ones as well. The kosheri we ordered (a rice-lentil-caramelized onion dish billed as “the Egyptian national dish,” and clearly a variant of mujaddara) was delicious, but sadly did not photograph well at all. It came with the same roasted, spicy tomato sauce that we’d had with the falafel, which was a fantastic accompaniment. Ask to skip the yogurt that normally comes with it also.

We also got some vegetable skewers, which came dusted in sumac and served with a side of tahini sauce.

All that (which was absolutely too much food for two people, even hungry ones), plus three glasses of wine, at $9 each, came to $75 with tax, which seemed very reasonable for the amount and quality of food, the very good service, and the pleasant atmosphere. My only wish for the business is that they improve their Web presence. The blog that serves as their website makes it very difficult to find basic information such as address, business hours or phone number, so honestly you’re better off with Yelp if need a quick answer on those details.

By all means, though, go visit! I’m eager to go back.

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?

Northwest Niblets

23 Feb

Ok, I’m going to try to be more regular with this Northwest Niblets thing–a round up of cool little things you may have missed on Twitter or Facebook or the grocery store when you were busy with the rest of your life. If you know of something I should include in Northwest Niblets, please email me or tweet at me.

  • Corina Bakery in Tacoma has new digs, and from the look of it, they’re gorgeous! The new address (their website is not yet current) is right around the corner from their old location. Find them at 602 Fawcett Ave. If you don’t know the deliciousness that is Corina, I suggest you read this right away, or just get down there and discover it for yourself.

  • If you’re a bit farther to the north, maybe you should head to Seattle’s Bang Bang Cafe, where my Seattle Times colleague Tyrone Beason wrote about “a little scoop of heaven that is spicy, smoky and wonderfully crunchy”–that being the vegan mac and cheese that is the talk of Belltown and much of Seattle.

  • Seattleites might also like to know that Rachel’s Ginger Beer is now available, among other places, at Central Co-op. Delicious on its own or as a mixer.

  • Maybe you’re even farther north, all the way into BC! If that’s the case you’re SO in luck next month. On March 10-11, Fairy Cakes Cupcakes is having its Grand Opening, complete with samples (some gluten free, all vegan and free of tree nuts and peanuts) and other great stuff. But wait! There’s more! On Thursday, 3/22, New Westminster is the place to be for a Vegan Wine and Cheese Soiree. Yes, you read that right. And if you’re wondering what else you would do if you were to venture to New West for this event, you should instead be wondering why you’re not already there.

  • Our friends to the south might like to know about the opportunity to help start a vegan, artisanal ice cream truck in Portland. More into savory than sweet? Then check out the Kickstarter campaign to help Homegrown Smoker add a second truck, on Portland’s east side. And if you haven’t tried Homegrown Smoker’s magically delicious street food, you need to plan a trip to their current downtown cart right now.

  • Two favorite food discoveries this week: FatFree Vegan’s Polenta Lasagna, which was deliciously rich, hearty and loaded with vegetables. It’s also gluten free, easy to make and reheats beautifully. And then for dessert, Eat Pastry cookies (or just eat the dough!). Warm, soft, vegan cookies out of the oven in about 15 minutes. And Whole Foods Westlake has three varieties on sale right now, through 2/28. Other Whole Foods stores probably do, too. Now is the time to try this wonderful stuff.

ETA: Thanks to Brooke for reminding me about Jodee’s Desserts in Seattle, which is celebrating its first anniversary this Saturday, 2/25, with special treats in the storefront. You can read how much I love Jodee’s desserts here.

Sutra: When local foods get put to their highest use

7 Oct

When Sutra opened in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood in 2008, it was clear I needed to get myself there to check it out. Creative, gourmet, vegan food with a strong emphasis on local ingredients, sourced directly from farmers and foragers? Could there be a restaurant more suited to lure me in?

This week’s menu at Sutra, packed with fresh, seasonal delights.

I finally got myself there and immediately and unsurprisingly fell in love. The gushing colleague referenced in the lede of this Seattle Times review? That would be me.

At $35 a pop (which quickly turns into $55 with a glass of wine, tax and tip, or more if you go for the excellently chosen wine pairing menu, which splits just fine with your date) it’s not somewhere I can afford to go as often as I’d like, but still, I’ve been there about a half-dozen times and jump at any suggestion to go. It’s just that good, and it’s a chance to truly savor food and its origins that few restaurants can match.

Last night another coworker and I joined a roomful of other people who had waited until the last day to use their Groupon deals for the place, and we got treated, once again, to an extraordinary journey of food.

We sat at the bar, which offered a great view as each course of wonderful food was plated for the full house of 30 diners.

Course one: Habanero-Cinnamon-Cinderella Pumpkin Soup with an Arugula-Shaved Baby Fennel-Honey Crisp Apple-Arame Salad served with a Lemongrass-Miso dressing and Toasted Sesame Seeds

The salad was crisp, juicy, tart/sweet/salty. The arame seaweed had been rehydrated in a house-made ponzu sauce and was savory without being overpowering, as seaweed sometimes can. As one of the cooks explained, the soup got spicier overnight, so they added a drizzle of coconut milk to help cool it down. Alternating bites of soup and salad yielded a wonderful balance of heat and cool, refreshing flavor.

Course two: Lobster Mushroom-Parsley Root-Saffron-Hempseed Broth Gratin with a French Green Lentil-Grilled Eggplant-Nigella Dahl finished with Parsnip Chips.

This beautifully plated course had more muted flavors, but plenty of complexity and a nice variation in textures. I actually don’t like the flavor of saffron, which took a slight edge off this dish for me, but the preparation and presentation were excellent. The flower garnish added a surprising and perfectly suited burst of flavor, slightly orangey and pleasantly bitter. It should also be said that in my book, one can never go wrong with a mound of parsnip chips.

Course three: North Indian-Northwest Cauliflower-Beet-Fermented Cashew Cream Curry served with Toasted Fennel Seed-Basmati Rice. Sauteed Tatsoi and a Pluot-Clove-Urfa Biber Chutney finished with a Plum Wine-Black Lemon Gastrique.

The curry and the tatsoi were delicious, but I thought the most interesting part of this course was the chutney, with nice color and plenty of fresh-fruit flavor sparkling with moments of intensity from the coarsely ground spices.

Plating dessert. The flans were a little reluctant to leave their molds, but the warm sipping chocolate slid right into those cups.

Course four: Wild Blackberry-Cardamom-Coconut Flan served with Madagascar (Theo’s) Sipping Chocolate and Cacao Nib Brittle.

Dessert knocked our socks off. The intense-but-smooth blackberry flavor (not to mention color) of the flan, and the rich, velvety drinking chocolate were served in just the right amounts to pair perfectly with each other. And while the brittle tasted to us a little burnt, I discovered that eating it brought out much more of the coconut flavor in the flan, transforming it into a different experience.

One of the things I love about Sutra is how much they maximize the flavor and texture of each ingredient, never resorting to bland, starchy fillers the way so many restaurants do. The tiny pillar of rice in the third course was the only element in the whole meal that I would describe as neutral; everything else was flavor balanced against flavor, in just the right quantities and preparation to highlight the best things about each component. Overwhelmingly, I would consider the food to be whole food, with very limited reliance on refined products, yet the coarse textures and simplified flavors that I often associate with whole-foods diets are nowhere to be found. This is elegant, refined food, which happens to be minimally altered from the way it came out of the ground.

Beautiful, wonderful, and worth every penny.


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