While driving home from dinner at Gracias Madre last week, my mind kept coming back to the idea of comfort zones. Namely, how my food comfort zone is calibrated a lot differently than other people’s. I feel perfectly at ease in a dingy restaurant where no English is spoken and offals are served, but take me to a fancy vegan joint in a ritzy part of town, and I feel a little like a fish out of water.
One man’s comfort zone is another’s uncharted course.
I stepped squarely out of my element for a taste of Gracias Madre, a much-buzzed-about and beautifully appointed restaurant specializing in vegan Mexican fare. Chef Chandra Gilbert opened the first Gracias Madre in San Francisco in 2009 along with Café Gratitude founders Matthew and Terces Engelhart. She formerly worked at Alice Waters’ now-closed Café Fanny in Berkeley and Cowgirl Creamery and Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.
The restaurant sources its organic produce exclusively from Be Love Farm in Vacaville, as well as from local farmers markets.
While my dining companions Diana and Valentina sipped spicy cocktails to start, I began with a cool glass of horchata ($5.50). Made of almond milk instead of the traditional rice milk, the agua fresca had a thicker consistency than I was expecting. Considering that horchata is naturally vegan, I found the ingredient swap unnecessary, especially since the end product wasn’t nearly as refreshing.
Continue reading ‘Gracias Madre – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)’
On our final morning in Seattle, The Astronomer and I hopped a bus to the quaint neighborhood of Wallingford to visit Mighty-O Donuts. While I’m usually dubious of fried dough with health claims attached to it, I’d heard such positive reviews of Mighty-O’s vegan offerings that I felt compelled to try them for myself.
I mean, if there’s one town in this world that could produce a delicious doughnut without chemicals, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors, genetically modified organisms, or animal-derived ingredients, I would put my money on Seattle.
Mighty-O has been selling their unique brand of O’s in the Seattle area since the late 1990s and opened this store in 2003. The shop produces over a dozen different varieties of cake doughnuts each day with either a vanilla or chocolate dough and various toppings.
Oreos are a passion of mine, so I chose the “Cookies and Cream” doughnut ($1.85) with a vanilla base, sweet glaze, and crushed chocolate cookies.
Continue reading ‘Mighty-O Donuts – Seattle’
It all began with an invite to a press luncheon featuring Chef Manfred Lassahn’s new vegan menu offerings at Breeze, a restaurant on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. The event was scheduled for a Monday afternoon, which meant that it would be impossible for worker bees stationed on the east side of town to attend. I replied to the invitation thanking them for thinking of me and letting them know that I wouldn’t be able to make it.
A few beats later, I received a follow-up email from the hotel’s director of public relations. She was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to attend the event, but invited me to swing by for a meal anytime and to make it a staycation if I so fancied. Needless to say, I very much fancied a vegan staycation and took her up on the offer. Sometimes, I just can’t believe my good fortune.
The Astronomer and I pulled up to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza late one Saturday afternoon and checked into the most spacious suite ever. We’ve stayed in dozens of hotel rooms over the years, but this was the first one large enough to accommodate multiple cartwheels and a legitimate dance party. We did lots of the former, but left the latter for rowdier guests.
The bedroom was minimally furnished and tastefully appointed. The bed was a dream, of course.
Continue reading ’20 Hour Staycation: Hyatt Regency Century Plaza’
Given my great love of restaurants and their hardly healthful fare, it’s really important that my meals at home provide nutrients that otherwise go missing from my diet. Whenever I’m not painting the town red, I prepare recipes that make tasty use of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. My subscription to Cooking Light magazine has been a great source of inspiration, and of course, the internet is chock full of solid ideas on how to balance the excess in my life.
The majority of the healthy dishes that I prepare serve their nutritional purpose and taste mostly decent, but they’re usually not outstanding enough to be featured on the site. This vegetarian three bean chili is a rare exception. In addition to being a fiberfull powerhouse, this meatless stew is also immensely satisfying. The heat from the chipotles combined with the smoky chili powder makes for an exciting and spicy flavor profile. The trio of beans provide just enough heft to fill one up nicely. Paired with some old fashioned cornbread, it’s impossible to feel deprived when one is eating this well.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 onions, chopped fine
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
- 4 (15.5 ounce) cans of kidney, pinto, or black beans, rinsed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, bell pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, water, chilies, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
Continue reading ‘America’s Test Kitchen Vegetarian Chili’