Monday, April 26, 2010

Andy Nguyen's

Andy Nguyen's has literally been around forever in Sacramento--it's one of the very few all vegetarian restaurants that has endured.  Since changing the menu 99% of the food is vegan, and what is only vegetarian is labeled as such so vegans can rejoice!  Andy's has everything you would expect in a Vietnamese Buddhist restaurant as far as music and decor.  It's lighting is forgiving and dim at night, bright and awake during the day from the wall of windows and mirrored wall.  It is not a huge restaurant, more on the small side for number of tables.  Sometimes there is a wait, sometimes not.  I suggest going early to avoid the crowds because....*wait for it*...the service can be really slow.  And by really slow I mean painfully starving for your food slow--however, if you are knowing that you are in for the long haul dining experience the pay off can be probably one of the very best meals you have ever eaten.  THAT GOES FOR YOU TOO, OMNI'S!  It just might turn you out vegan! :)  Can I just recommend leaving the kids home for this one?  They won't understand the wait even if you bring snacks to keep them tied over.  There is always at least one cryer in there at all times belonging to well meaning parents.  It's too small to walk around and as a mother I am just trying to keep it real.  As much as I would love it to be kid-friendly, the fact is save this place for your adult friends/dates/meet-ups sans the little ones.

Now,  the food is just delicious.  I mean everything is so fresh and flavorful I have never gotten a bad dish.  The mock-meats are all soy (but not GF) and very, very "meat-like".  Some vegans are in to that (moi) some are not, but there are also tofu dishes to choose from.  If you had to wait 45 minutes with your chosen company this will salve over any hard feelings you might be starting to get.  Enjoy your company, savor the time and just you wait for your meal.  MMMMM.

We normally get the "soft garden rolls" to start:   cold rolls with flavorful tofu, cabbage, herbs and carrots wrapped in rice paper.  It comes with a delicious peanut sauce and we love to get some chili sauce and put a dash in the middle so you get a swab of hot with every bite.  Since they no longer have a true pho, the next best soup is the "patience noodles".  The "pho" noodles are swimming in such a savory asian spiced broth along side soy ham and beef, tofu and vegetables/mushrooms.  It's perfect for sharing.  Another favorite of mine is the "pure heart nori fish".  This is a huge dish!  The soy nori wrapped fish is grilled and has a citrus/ginger sauce served over lettuce/basil/tomatoes.  (Vegan fish is my fetish, seriously.  When I can get it done well I am all about it, and this dish is done right!)  This last time we went in, there was a new specials board.  I didn't note the name of Shawn's dish, but it was an okra tofu veggie medley.  Okra can be badly cooked but he noted it was done quite well and complimented the softly sweet and sour sauce.

There is an extensive tea menu and they serve coffees and thai iced-teas.  They had 3 vegan deserts out of four on their special board as well.  With appetizers, drinks and deserts you can easily spend over $50 for two people.  Although not the least expensive vegan Asian option in Sacramento, it is honestly one of the best.  Try it with an open mind, and bring at least one meat-eater with you to check out some good eats!

They also do take away:  I am thinking that if you want to share this experience with friends and family out of the restaurant calling WAY ahead for your to-go order is prudent.  Just add 20 minutes to the time they quote and you won't be waiting around too long. 

I am giving 4.75 tomatoes out of 5.  The only draw back is the wait/service *sometimes*, and the lacking of kid-friendliness.  Be prepared and you won't be disappointed!

Andy Nguyen's
2007 Broadway, Sacramento CA 95818

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Here's the Scoop

I am sick to death of all the "fro-yos" popping up around town.  VEGANS LOVE FROZEN DESSERTS TOO.  Just the kind that don't include a heaping helping of rape, plundering and murder of innocent cows.  Hello soy ice cream, how YOU doing?  Granted, Here's the Scoop is a proud dairy ice cream establishment, but they are gracious and smart enough to offer a small selection of soy ice creams in the usual flavors:  cherry, vanilla, mint chip and blueberry (where's the chocolate?!?!).  They make sure the classic cone is vegan and they offer a "mallow" topping and your choice of almond slices or peanuts.  What does that mean for us?  Banana splits, 1, 2 or 3 scoop sundaes, shakes...oh baby.  They also offer vegan bonbons and chocolate covered cherries with dark chocolate.  mmmm mmmm!  They also serve Gunthers freezes if you like, but you have my permission to get that 3 scoop sundae, ok?  Haven't you had your fair share of freezes as a vegan!

HINT to Sacramento:  if you got a strictly vegan ice cream place it would be out the door, man.  Speaking of out the door, be aware that HTS is directly across the street from the high school so either a masochist or a person REALLY needing ice cream would think to go in there during after after school hours.  They are open late, so you can go after dinner (or at the dinner hour and *call* it dinner!).  There are a few chairs, and some outside seating but with the bbq cooking hot dogs and different meats we like to get ours "to go" if you know what I mean. 

I am strictly reviewing the soy 'cream here with 4.5 tomatoes.  How else could you rate a sundae?  The rest of the menu is about as NOT vegan as you can get but I take it as I can get it sometimes!

Here's the Scoop
3051 Freeport Boulevard, Sacramento CA 95818
(916) 446-4478

Monday, April 19, 2010

New China Restaurant

Located in the Greenhaven/Pocket area, the New China was the one place I actually CRAVED the whole time I lived in Oregon because no one made a veggie Mongolian "beef" like they do.  I had jonze for this place during my pregnancy with Lucy in 2004, then again after I delivered here we were still quite the regulars. When we moved and I realized no body does it better when it came to the Mongolian. Needless to say literally the minute we got back to Sacramento I NEEDED to get me some of that. I don't know if it's the spicy sauce, the green onions or those little crunchy white glass noodles on the bottom but I find it to be delicious.  I think you would too.
 As far as veggie options, the New China has several dishes with analog meats with a small "vegetarian" section on the menu.  But they also are quite helpful with switching out tofu for Shawn who is gluten free.  Although there are no vegan options in soups or appetizers, the fast service makes up for it.  Who has time for appetizers when the food comes so quickly?  I like to get right down to business here.

One of our favorite rice dishes is the garlic ginger fried rice.  The kids really enjoy this or the regular vegetable fried rice...we are somewhat of regulars so we don't need to even say "no egg", the staff knows we are vegan and are totally helpful.  Speaking of the kids, this is the Chinese restaurant you went to with your family as a kid.  There are big round glass topped tables complete with lazy-susans to spin.  That same hot tea flavor with a TV mounted in the corner with the news on mute, subtitled.  Big fountain sodas in plastic coke cups take me way back, too.  Seriously, I am not sure how long it has been at that location but it could have been there in the '70s in my home town.   It is never too busy, and they do a great business in area delivery/take-out. The hallway to the bathroom can be weird, and sometimes they could use a good scrubbing but hey--I am there for the grub. 

Before Shawn went gluten free, his favorite dish was the general tso's veggie chicken.  It is totally fried to perfection and just spicy enough.  Even though he can't have it, from time to time I crave this dish too.  And I get my Mongolian veggie beef to go! :)

I am giving the New China a consistent 3.5 tomatoes.  Go get your Cantonese on!
New China Restaurant 6363 Riverside Blvd Sacramento, CA 95831 (916) 424-1717

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sugar Plum Vegan

Open just one month, Sugar Plum Vegan is proving to be just what the Dr. ordered for midtown.  Now, full disclosure:  I am friends with Melissa the owner, and I nanny for her as well…BUT I am something of a Vegan Food Expert so I feel totally qualified to review the cafe.  :)

The locale is perfection, nestled in Midtown Sacramento in the old True Love 2 coffee-house.  There is a nice size front patio, and a huge covered back area that practically begs  you to hang out for longer.  Inside is cozy, with a sofa seating area, and indoor dining area as well.  SPV is perfect for big groups, meet-ups, receptions…and a big plus for us is it’s kid/family friendly.
Now, Sugar Plum Vegan is known for its baked goods.  Or was because the menu is holding its own against the whoopie pies, muffins, cakes…oh my.  But this review will focus on the new savory fare.  Of course you would not be disappointed in ANY way if you just came in for desert and coffee.  You would just be missing out on some seriously good food.

Soups, salads are a main staple of the menu, but Melissa is adding different specials weekly as well as weekend all you can eat brunch buffet.  So far we have tried the nachos (several times), a variety of the sandwiches and panini’s.  On this day, I was sad to hear they were out of sauerkraut for the tempeh ruben (I will so try again for that sandwich…those are one of my all time favs!), so today I tried the grilled ‘chicken’ quesadilla.  My dish was chocked full of grilled Match brand mock chicken, daiya mozzarella, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, olives and the most generous glop of vegan sour cream ever.  Thank you!  My eyes lit up, I swear. Next time, Ruben…you will be mine but I wasn’t disappointed at all with my 2nd choice.

Shawn was happy to see that a gluten-free bread was available for each sandwich.  His sandwich was the Portobello mushroom complete with the daiya brand vegan cheese.  His only comment between bites was something that sounded like “this is amazing” but I can’t be sure. I was hearing a lot of “yummy” noises, though. The mushroom was cooked perfectly, not slimy or overly oily.  The vegan cheese made it even better than you thought you ever could make at home.  I suggest don’t even try, because you don’t have the kitchen gear and you would make a mess.  :)

Each plate came with a garden salad that was perfectly dressed and fresh, which we finished with relish.  Eat yer greens!  As I digested,  I looked around and noticed a man taking his GINORMOUS half-eaten nachos to go (that dish is more than enough for two people to get stuffed), a college study group drinking coffee and eating cupcakes while chatting and typing on their laptops, a couple of young punk girls relaxing on the couch area.  The thing they all had in common was they were relaxed, diverse and happy.  And VEGAN.  All walks of life, all types of people, no pretentiousness.  It seems we got smiled and nodded at more times than I can remember anywhere in midtown:  I think it’s because we are in on the little Vegan Secret of eating with compassion.  Or maybe it’s that Sugar Plum Vegan is the only place that serves Daiya vegan cheese…you decide!  It could be a little of both.

SPV gets 4.5 tomatoes out of 5, go there without delay!  Thank me later.    
Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe, 2315 K st., Sacramento Ca.  916-706-3302. Check the website for days and hours of operations.  Call ahead for big groups/meet-ups.

Why I am a Vegan, and why you should be too :)

When I was a young child I found the family cat dead in front of my house, he had been hit by a car and tried to crawl back home. I remember feeling a immense sense of loss and always missed my cat. A couple of years later I met a kid visiting his family at my grandparents neighbors. He had a BB gun and thought it would be fun to shoot a rabbit.  I remember him shooting it and then watching it die. I could see the pain in the rabbits eyes and I felt horrible , I could see the life drain out of the body as the blood flowed. I cried and the kid made fun of me.  I am still haunted by this event to this day.
As I got older I met some people and we joked about being a vegetarian.  I got dared to not eat meat for a month.  I did but at the time I was still stupid and thought fish and chicken where not meat (I am sure we have all heard this before). I made it past the month and kept going.  About a year later I discovered one of my favorite bands The Smiths and heard a song of theirs called Meat is Murder:  it changed my outlook. I quit eating meat altogether and learned about the cruel treatment of animals.
As fate would have it in 1990 I sprained my ankle skateboarding and got stuck on the couch.  While I was watching bad day time TV shows I came across the Oprah episode with River Phoenix and Lisa Bonet and a guy who I had not heard of named John Robbins. John  was talking about his book Diet for a New America. I was amazed to see other people like me and I went out and got a copy of the book from the library.  I read it on the way to my first Animal Rights march. I went vegan that weekend and have not looked back 19+ years later.  I am living proof that a person can lead an active healthy and very happy vegan life.
I hope if you are not vegan you will give it a chance.

*post by Shawn

Capital Dawg

Capital Dawg, vegan dog!
Capital Dawg, vegan dog!

Sometimes you just want a hotdog.  And not a nasty mystery meat dog (gross!), a GOOD veggie dog.
Sometimes you want someone else to make you that veggie dog, too.  When I heard about Capital Dawg, we had to swing by and check it out.  This particular building has been a few things to my recollection–one of them being a rib joint way back in the day.  The location is midtown, the destination:   to fill my belly!  When you walk in, it has that 50’s diner vibe with lots of hot dog, diner and signed quasi-celebrity headshots.  (hey–check out Byrd from Judge Judy’s!  I love him!)
The menu is totally overwhelming and I knew going in there would only be ONE choice for my dog, but lots and lots of topping combos to chose from.  We enlightened ones can choose the number 3, the “govenor vegan dawg”.    (Now, who does a girl have to #%*@ to get them to make the “senetor veggie dawg on a stick vegan???  Get that whey and egg outta that batter and I promise you I would be in on the regular to consume that vegan corn-dog!!!)
I only see one thing on there that is edible!
I only see one thing on there that is edible!
The gal at the counter eased our confusion and was very vegan-friendly and knowledgeable.  She knew the chili was vegetarian, but not vegan, and also informed us the buns are different for the vegan dogs than the omni’s.  Heck, I am liking this place more and more just for having a vegan selection, and that they know their stuff.  And the fact they have beer!
There are kids meals available, but forgo the gummy hot dog, which much to my kids shagrin, has both agar-agar AND gelatin.  Why the ground up cow, gummy hot dog makers?  HMMMMM????  Oh, and the yoohoo.  Noonoo on the yoohoo–luckily they offer a juice box.
Pricing was kind of steep, at $6.59 for the adult basket meal (drink and fries).  But for a simple one-handed clutch-able meal you can do just the dog for $3.09.  $5.29 for the kids basket.
We decree Capital Dawg 3.5 tomatoes.  They could easily get the top honor of 5 if they re-thought up their corn dog batter!  I am serious, please listen Capital Dawg!

*Capital Dawg–1226 20th st., Sacramento, CA.  916-444-1266. (tell em’ about making a vegan corn dog batter!!)

Au Lac Vegetarian

Landing back in Sacramento we where pleasantly surprised to find a veggie restaurant about 5 minutes away from our house. Huzzah!

Au Lac Vegetarian restaurant is what you want out of a veggie Asian place.  Our first visit we got the fried tofu appetizer, which is basically tofu cubed and fried until brown with soy sauce.   It is plain, but a nice start to your meal.  We also got the wonton soup which was really nice and flavorful with a  clear broth and nice big chunks of vegetables (carrots, broccoli  and cabbage) and really delicious wontons. Jen got her favorite Mongolian beef– done perfectly with a nice spicy sauce, chopped green onions and peppers and “beef” chunks.  The girls got chicken chow mein it has a  mild sauce,  good mix of veggies (carrots, onions, bok choy) and a decent chicken replica.   I got the fish clay pot which was a simple dish of sliced of veggie gluten fish in a really flavorful sauce.

We have been back a few times and we deiced to try out the lunch menu which is the best value around:    $4.95 for a cup of soup (soup of the day), one crispy roll,  an entree of your choice and white rice (.50 more for brown rice).  So far we have had the sweet and sour chicken, the mixed veggie with tofu, the Mongolian beef, the grilled chicken and tofu with eggplant and basil. The food is the perfect portion, you leave full but not stuffed.   My favorites are the grilled veggie chicken which comes with a salad.  The chicken is a delight with the  salty sauce and green salad.   My other favorite is the mixed veggies with tofu:  the tofu is lightly fried, a good mix of veggies including carrots, broccoli and cabbage in a simple clear sauce. You really can’t go wrong for the price– if you are on a budget but still want to eat out from time to time this lunch menu is perfect.
I give them 4 tomatoes!  The service is always fast and polite, the food is consistently good and they have vegan thai ice tea !  woohoo!

*note:  These pictures aren't exactly what wrote about above, but I can't seem to find *those* pictures in particular.  Forgive! Just go there and check it out for yourself, ok?  

Welcome, and who are we?

(This blog was brought back to life after a half-hearted attempt originally on wordpress when we first came back to the Sacramento area in late 2008.  We promise not to be such slackers this time around!  :))  There is too much good vegan food to not be had!)

Our family is back in Sac!  After 3 years and some odd months of living in Portland, OR we are a mixed bag of emotions returning to California.  We have been spoiled ROTTEN with all of the effortless vegan delights to be had on every street corner.  OK, it wasn’t quite like that, but darned near I tell ya!
We poked around on the internet to find precious few places you can find vegan eating guides for the Sacramento area.  We thought we would take a page out of several comprehensive sources in PDX for vegans (and veggies alike) we use often, and compile our own list with more in-depth reviews, pictures and links.  Since we have young kids, we will also be interested in the “kid-friendly” factor.
So let me introduce ourselves and tell why we feel ever so qualified to lend our take on all the various eateries:  we LOVE food.  We love talking about food.  We love going out to eat and being merry.  We also love our fellow earthings, the animals.  We are a vegan family with a nice camera, compassion and a serious appetite!
Shawn will be making most of the informative posts regarding animal rights and vegan activism–he has his finger on the pulse of veganism, lol.  I, Jen, will be amateur photog and restaurant/food reviewer.  We will review separately and together, as it is necessary.  I just may throw in a few recipes from our perpetually in the works cookzine when going out to eat is not possible.