Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Southern California; Valentines at Vinh Loi Tofu, Madeleine Bistro, Shine Cafe & Donut Mania!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

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!


Anonymous said...

You already had me at100 % vegan Vietnames food...but then doughnuts and milkyways? I should catch the next flight!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

LOOOOVELY eats, Melisser!!

Sal - AlienOnToast said...

You've really made me crave a donut - I haven't had one since going vegan cuz there's nowhere around here that does vegan anything!

and milky ways?? OK now I'm really jealous!

Anonymous said...

epic vegan field trip! great post :)

madeleine bistro sure is getting a lot of attention from the bloggers today, and boy do they deserve it. i'm lucky it's all the way out in the valley, or else i'd be broke and fat from eating there everyday.

it was so awesome to have you in town. i'm glad you hit up the very best vegan spots when you were here. come back again soon! :)

Anonymous said...

OMG! We just tried Ronald's Donuts for the first time about two weeks ago. They were incredible! So incredible in fact that we made our way to that part of town again this week just to get more. Now that I have discovered them my health may suffer! I will be posting up Ronald's Donut pics on flickr later today. People must see how delicious looking vegan donuts are!

Meg said...

OMG donuts! And that pile of tempeh taco salady goodness needs to be in my tummy NOW!

Adriana said...

Melisser in da house!

All looks amazing... even the maque.

dreaminitvegan said...

My in-laws live very close to Madelaine bistro and the couple of times we tried to go their for lunch they were just closing. I'm still going to take my father in law there, I owe him dinner due to a bet. Those donuts look so good! Also, I was just in San Luis Obispo on Sunday and had lunch at Big Sky Cafe. I love that cafe. My son gives it a 5 star rating as well as my mother-in-law.

Anonymous said...

Hell yes for amazing vegan eats =)

Jenni (aka Vegyogini) said...

That was the best Valentine's Day I've had in ages! Thanks for coming out and meeting us for dinner. I'm looking forward to next time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the PCRM shout out! If anyone wants to volunteer in the SF Bay Area, email me at lbeck@pcrm.org!

Also, I WANT TO GO TO LA SO BADLY. Those donuts look amazing. Amazing. And vegan vietnamese food with house made mock meats? YES PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

You always have so much deliciousness! I don't even know where to begin, but I think I'll just fanticise about the tempeh rubens!

Anonymous said...

Was so nice to spend some time with you guys! I'm really glad you enjoyed the food at Vinh Loi, I was worried all the faux-meat would be too much of a turn off, but boy did Kevin wow us with all that awesome tofu action, huh?!

I am so in love with your dog it's not even funny.


All you bloggers are making feel bad about NOT loving Madeline Bistro. I guess I can't get over their mediocre customer service. But You have it the best.
MILLENIUM!!!! I DREAM OF THAT PLACE. By far THE best VEGAN restaurant that my husband and I have ever tried.

Anonymous said...

Oh, those donuts look ridiculously good.

Congrats on being featured in the 20 under 30 article in VegNews! :)

Laci said...

OMG Vegan Donuts!?

Anonymous said...

I was drooooling over your photos on flickr earlier today. I am craving a donut so badly now!

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried Shine Cafe...I'll have to check it out.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...


Unknown said...

i don't think you would last a week in new orleans, melisser! you are too used to the good life. the food in this post fried my brain.


princesstofu said...

i totally love your blog melisser, because i find new places to eat when we visit our brothers in LA and on the drive down and back. thank you!!!!!!! we were down there for valentine's day also and i wanted to do the madeleine bistro VD dinner but the price made me reconsider. next time though--brunch for sure!

jb said...

Wow, all of that food looks soo delicious, and the donuts, oh the donuts. I could use of of those right about now, or two, or three...

julie hasson said...

Another great review Melisser! It also makes me really miss Vinh Loi Tofu. We used to eat there all the time when we lived in LA.

Hope you're doing well!

XO Julie

Bianca said...

Hey Melisser! I saw you in the new VegNews! I was like, I know her! I mean, not really...but I feel like I do. It's hard not to feel like you know someone when you see everything they eat. :-)

The food looks fantastic. I wish I had options like that on my frequent road trips through Tennessee.

Hungry Hungry Dancer said...

Wow what great food!!

And how cool is it that you got together with all of those bloggers :)

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

That is one of my favorite stretches of highway and you found some tasty eats!! I could use a donut to go along with my 20 under 30 article!!

Vegan_Noodle said...

This is making me get on my LA trip that I promised my friend who lives there. All those donuts!!

And how awesome that you were featured in VegNews!! When I saw that article title... I just knew you would be there.

Anonymous said...

That soup looks to die for!

Penny said...

Veg Pho is such a special treat! I'd be lying if I didn't say those donuts didn't rock my world too.

Erin said...

That Vietnamese food is out of control. I could see myself easily eating about a ton of that tofu, too. And the burger, oh how I want that burger.

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