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I am on Day 30 of trying to complete 30 Days of Vegetarian eating. This was lunch. Meaning I only technically have one meal – dinner – and possibly an evening snack to go before I can successfully say I did 30 days with zero meat. So to not bury the lead, that is why I’m eating vegan bacon this lovely Thursday afternoon.

Vegan bacon is an odd thing. It looks like a thick dark brown popsicle stick that is slightly chewy and flavored with liquid smoke and a lot of salt. You know just like real bacon. No seriously, it’s bacon-ish at best. While bacon-ish is the best I can say about the vegan bacon itself, I am happy to share that the B.L.T.A. (Tempeh Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado) I ate it in was pretty good.

You’re probably scratching your head wondering how can a chewy, smoke, salt popsicle shaped substance taste good in anything? It’s a fair thing to wonder, but I swear it really does work in this vegan version of a B.L.T.A. sandwich.

The combination of the fresh ingredients and vegan mayonnaise with the grilled sourdough bread makes it a solid sandwich and one I’d definitely order again, even if I wasn’t doing a no meat personal challenge. Does that mean this sandwich is better than the real thing – a B.L.T.A. with real “B”?  Possibly. I’ve had some poorly executed real B.L.T.A. sandwiches that I’d pass for the vegan alternative. I still prefer real bacon and yes I did miss it in the rest of this perfectly executed sandwich. And that’s okay. I survived vegan bacon and it wasn’t that bad when the rest is right.

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The sandwich comes with a couple choices for sides including mixed green salad, coleslaw or potato salad. I went with the potato salad.  I prefered this vegan version over the typical potato salad with egg whites which is something I pick around, as I’m not much of a fan of eggs. It was a nice compliment to the sandwich as I’m sure the salad or coleslaw would be as well.

Overall, I enjoyed this quick lunch.  The sandwich was reasonably priced at $12 including the side.

I look forward to coming back and trying some more from the menu. The Burrito Fore and some of the vegan tacos sound delicious.

Learn more about Flore Vegan on their website: http://florevegan.com/

Address: 3818 W. Sunset Blvd. Silverlake, CA 90026

Phone: (323) 953-0611

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Review: Candle Cafe in New York City

On September 26, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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Corn Chowder on a cool late September evening

One of the most compelling attributes of New York City is its rich variety of restaurants. A stroll down any avenue or side street is like walking down the cookbook aisle of a bookstore.  You are sure to pass steakhouses, Italian cafes, Indian houses, French bistros, and just about anything else your palate desires.  Choosing can be quite exhausting. However, this last weekend I was in Manhattan and I knew exactly where I was going to sit down to explore a new experience in my culinary travels.

The Candle Café is often referred to as the best vegan restaurant in New York.  Whether it is or not, I honestly cannot confirm as this was only my second vegan restaurant in the city.  I can confirm it is a must stop for diners interested in the pleasures that can come from a menu limited to fruit, vegetable and grain.

Some of the farm-to-market entrees

Limited is not the right word as the menu explores the great bounty that can come from so many options the soil provides us and one is sure to be debating which dish to get instead of the typical struggle a non-meat eater has at most restaurants in this county – where there is a token dish for vegans, if there is even one.

That’s the beauty of a place like Candle Café. It demonstrates vegan cooking can excite even the most boorish gourmand.

It was a busy Saturday night, yet getting a table was still possible. Unfortunately, this demonstrated quite possibly the best vegan restaurant is still an oversight in Manhattan.  I was dining alone and sat at the bar near the front door. The bar is more juice bar than cocktails, yet the restaurant does feature many organic wines.

I opted for a smoothie, a bowl of corn chowder, and something called “Paradise Casserole.”  The menu also features a full page of seasonal items that was due to change next week as one customer informed me. She was eating a delicious looking marinated, sesame seed crusted tofu salad.

The corn chowder promptly arrived following my smoothie.  Since vegan uses no dairy, the chowder was more of a broth than creamy puree.  There were whole kernels of corn and diced carrots and celery.  The broth was full of flavor with a bit of thickness that did border the line of soup versus chowder.

Paradise Casserole lives up to its name

Soon after finishing my soup and it being cleared away, the Paradise Casserole arrived. It’s a layered dish compromising of sweet potato puree, black beans, and millet. The millet acted as the foundational integrity as the casserole lay on top a bed of sautéed kale. A small cup of warmed balsamic vinaigrette rested to the side, which a poured gently around the edges of the kale.

Casseroles have pretty much died a much deserved death since their over use in the 1970s, yet Candle Café makes an argument for the return of the casserole.  The layering adds to the experience where one bite can comprise of sweet potato and kale while other bites may include the sweet potato, black bean and millet.  The warmed vinaigrette added another level of interest. It all ended well as I mixed in some more dressing with the sautéed kale.

Candle Café was a pleasant departure from my normal stops in New York and its menu made me consider future dishes to prepare at home as we have transitioned to three to four days of vegetarian or vegan meals each week.

Sound proofing the Vitamix

I did leave one final takeaway. The juice bar has a Vitamix blender that was encased in Plexiglas to reduce the loud noise of the machine. Having the same blender at home and knowing the deafening sound it blares, perhaps a Plexiglas project is in my near future.

 

Candle Café
1307 Third Avenue
New York City, NY
http://www.candlecafe.com/

 

 

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Restaurant Review: Mind, Body, & Spirits

On March 1, 2009, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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The above photo is the Half Roasted Chicken at Mind Body & Spirits a new restaurant in Rochester Hills, Michigan that we enjoyed last Friday night. And by enjoyed, I mean the food but also leaving the boys with the in-laws.

Mind Body & Spirits is a very unique restaurant. We discovered them when I came across some Vegan cookies at Plum Market. Oscar is allergic to egg so finding Vegan treats is a rare thing even if the bag of cookies was a hefty $8.99 for eight. Stephanie checked out their website and noticed the restaurant. The place is an “eco-conscious restaurant.” A what? Eco-conscious? But I just want some good food. Do I really care if they have a high capacity food waste compressor, bamboo floors, on-site greenhouse and solar panels? Not really, but it is unique and if the food is good, I’ll be really impressed.

We started with a fairly unusual appetizer, Tarragon Gnocchi. It was made with homemade potato gnocchi, tarragon, balsamic vinegar, arugula, and Hoisin sauce. It was very different and at first bite not sure if either of us liked it. Second bite, I think this is good? Third…fourth…fifth bites and I’m starting to wonder how to make this at home (yes, expect an attempt on the blog soon.)

For dinner, Stephanie had the chicken dish which was flavored by a Hoisin glaze and I went with one of their Vegan dishes, Winter White Bean Cassoulet. Both meals were very good, but we had to try some desserts. I went with a small plate of Madelines (not as good as my friend Lorriane, but still very enjoyable with my coffee.) Stephanie went all out with an impressive brownies and cookies and cream (see photo at right.)

We will definitely return to try some other meals and were impressed by a kids menu too.