Archive for the 'Vegetarian' Category

Gracias Madre – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Gracias Madre - West Hollywood

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.

Gracias Madre - West Hollywood

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.

Gracias Madre - West Hollywood

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.

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Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se – Artesia

Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se - Artesia

Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se, which literally means “from the streets of Mumbai,” is the only restaurant in Los Angeles specializing in Mumbai-style street food. Here in this nondescript dining room in a nondescript strip mall in Little India, former software engineer Sailesh Shah and his wife, Shruti, prepare sweet and savory snacks from their hometown, and the results are fantastic.

Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se - Artesia

The completely vegetarian menu lists close to one hundred Maharashtrian delicacies. Taking a cue from Miles Clements’ article in the L.A. Times, The Astronomer and I stuck to the quintessential street food offerings on our visit. Or at least we tried to…

Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se - Artesia

To drink, a tall cup of sweet yet tangy piyush, a cooling beverage made from yogurt, saffron, cardamom, pistachios, and almonds that takes three days to prepare. Every sip was delightful to the nth degree.

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Hà Tiên Quán – San Gabriel

Ha Tien Quan - San Gabriel

Dining at a single restaurant on five different occassions in the span of two months has got to be some sort of record for me. While this type of behavior is generally considered quite normal, it’s really very notable in my world because food blogging tends to discourage restaurant monogamy—there’s always something newer, more exciting, or tastier just around the corner.

Ha Tien Quan - San Gabriel

Hà Tiên Quán in San Gabriel has reeled in my promiscuous dining ways with its tremendous Vietnamese cooking. The restaurant’s lineup of regional noodle soups never fails to warm and satisfy, while the vegetarian fare packs a wallop of flavor.

With nearly every Vietnamese restaurant in town serving up the usual pho, vermicelli rice noodles, and and banh mi, it’s been a breath of fresh air diving head first into Hà Tiên’s anything-but-predictable menu. Best of all, I’m constantly tasting new dishes that I didn’t grow up with or encounter while living in Vietnam. This place is my edible playground.

Ha Tien Quan - San Gabriel

The family behind the restaurant is comprised of Larry Ta, his wife Thu Trang, and their daughter Carolyn. Thu heads up the kitchen, while Carolyn and Larry greet, seat, and tend to customers. Both Larry and Thu are from Ha Tien, a city on the western end of the Mekong Delta near the Cambodian border. Hà Tiên Quán opened its doors last October.

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Cutty’s – Brookline

Cutty's - Brookline, MA

There’s little worse than boarding a flight on an empty stomach, so The Astronomer and I took Steph‘s advice and walked to Cutty’s for an early lunch following our tour of America’s Test Kitchen.

The gourmet sandwich shop is owned by Rachel and Charles Kelsey, Culinary Institute of America grads and Test Kitchen alums. In fact, it was inside the Test Kitchen where Rachel and Charles met, fell in love, and got married. Romance over recipes—what could be better?

Cutty's - Brookline, MA

After years of working to perfect recipes for home cooks, the couple ventured out on their own in a quest to construct the best sandwiches using the best ingredients.

At Cutty’s, meats are all-natural and roasted on-site, eggs and dairy come from small, local farms, and potato chips, salads, pickles, sauces, and sweets are made in-house. Bread is delivered daily by Iggy’s Bread of the World in Cambridge.

Cutty's - Brookline, MA

The thing to order at Cutty’s is their famous “Roast Beef 1000” with crispy shallots, Thousand Island dressing, and sharp cheddar on brioche. Sadly, both The Astronomer and I were reeling from palate fatigue at the tail end of our trip, so we passed on the beef and opted for vegetarian creations instead. Next time!

The Astronomer absolutely adored his “Greens Shallot” sandwich ($7.65) with sautéed Swiss chard, crispy shallots, and saffron yogurt on ciabatta. The deeply caramelized shallots, along with the hefty greens, packed a whole lot of oomph. The creamy saffron yogurt not only tied everything together, but kept our attention bite after bite.

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