Having family & friends in another part of the state can have an upside; an excuse to travel! Recently, Ryan, Strummer, & I hit the road heading south in search of all things good & vegan. Boy, did we hit the jackpot!
It all started with Valentine's Day, not a favorite of this crew, but an excuse to dine out nonetheless. Rather than make it a private affair, we rounded up an awesome posse of vegan bloggers to celebrate with! Miss Anthrope & Mr. Meaner of Quarrygirl.com, Ms. Foodeater of To Live and Eat in LA, & Vegyogini from Hugger Food all made the trek to our agreed upon destination, Vinh Loi Tofu in Reseda. Vinh Loi Tofu serves up 100% vegan Vietnamese food & we were lucky enough to be pampered by chef & owner, Kevin, who made sure we were more than full before the night's end.
We all started with a round of rolls filled with Kevin's special mock meats. Faux beef, chicken, ham & house made tofu wrapped in rice paper were delivered to our tables, dipped in to peanut sauce & devoured. If you're faux-meatphobic, be warned, this stuff is serious & I found myself a bit alarmed, but unable to deny the deliciousness! Next we shared Lemongrass + Chili & Mushroom + Noodle fried tofu, another tasty treat that quickly made its way in to our bellies. Shortly after everyone placed their entree orders, Kevin delivered a plate of freshly made tofu to the table, still warm, as he heard I am a fresh tofu fan. WOW, the tofu was amazingly delicious & we devoured it plain, no seasoning needed! As an entree, I ordered the Pho with tofu, instead of the faux shrimp & chicken it comes with, per Kevin's suggestion. This man knows his food! I was more than happy with my selection & filled up on the fresh tofu, rice noodles, & vegetables in a delicately spiced broth!
As if we weren't stuffed enough, the darling Quarrygirl.com duo brought us an assortment of Dee's Donuts for dessert. We tried various flavors from vanilla to chocolate, coconut to sprinkles & everything in between. I found them to be a bit dense for a donut, sitting somewhere between a cake & raised confection, with a slightly too thin glaze. While they weren't bad at all, I have been spoiled by the perfection that is Ronald's Donuts, so I tend to compare all to their mightyness. That being said, if you're in LA & dying for a donut, Dee's may hit the spot for you.
The next day, we took Ryan's family to brunch at a place we've enjoyed in the past, Madeleine Bistro, home of vegan chocolate souffle! I was excited to try their morning offerings & we had high hopes as we rolled in to Tarzana, omni family in tow. Ryan & his father opted for the "Bigger Maque", two no beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, pickles, onions.. ala the fast food chain staple. Neither found themselves disappointed & were surprised to find how much it tasted like a high-end version of its trashy counterpart! Tempted by the sweeter offerings, I opted for the Bananas foster waffles with a side of crispy tempeh bacon. While the caramel sauce, bananas, & whipped creme were lovely, the waffles had a texture I just could not get behind, so they were a miss for me. Ryan's mother enjoyed her Club sandwich though, so 3 out of 4 ain't bad! Actually, we all ended up very happy when the next round arrived.. fresh organic donuts!
Madeleine Bistro makes their own organic raised donuts available at brunch only. I ordered 4 of them to go, but asked that they come on a plate, so I could photograph them. Once everyone laid eyes on them, there was no way we were saving them for later & they disappeared from the plate! The donuts are incredible! Light & fluffy with a sugary coating, you don't know whether to scarf them down or savor each bite. Ronald's may have some competition if Madeleine's ever expanded their flavors! If this wasn't endorsement enough, we ordered 4 more donuts, this time to go. I had the chance to chat with Molly, one of the owners, for a bit & she was just lovely. After our chat, she dropped a container in my hands with two little chocolates in it, their version of Milky Way bars! The little bites were scrumptious & hit the spot later that day.
On our way back to San Francisco, we stopped in San Luis Obispo, a coastal town along Highway 101, home of Ryan's alma mater & our good friend Josh. SLO has quite a number of vegan options, my typical favorite being Big Sky Cafe, but we opted to try a place I have been meaning to check out, Shine Cafe in Morro Bay. Nestled in the back of a health food store, Shine Cafe may not look like much, but looks can be deceiving! 99% of the menu which consists of salads, smoothies, soups, & entrees is vegan, just ask the friendly staff which items are not. We opted for the most talked about items, the Tempeh Reuben & the Tempeh Tacos. Giant plates heaped with fresh produce were delivered to us, giving off quite the hippie food vibe. The Reuben was served on sprouted bread with well seasoned tempeh & sauerkraut, while it lacked the tangy sauce of a typical reuben, it still hit the spot. The Tempeh Tacos were fabulous! I enjoyed the cilantro lime dressing atop a bed of lettuce, carrot, & red cabbage. After eating the "salad" from the top, you'll find a flavorful mix of quinoa & tempeh, housed in tortillas. Overall, Shine Cafe is a great little place for healthy, delicious vegan food, perfect when you're on the road or have consumed too many donuts!
In activist news, the PCRM is currently working to get healthy, vegetarian & vegan options in the National School Lunch program & YOU can help! Please go to http://healthyschoollunches.org & sign the petition to urge congress to include vegan options for children across the United States. Anyone can sign, even kids, so please pass this on to everyone you know!