Thursday, July 31, 2008

Veganfriendly on Tour: Portland, Or

Earlier this month we took a trip to the west coast and visited what might be the vegan capitol of America: Portland, Oregon. There were so many vegan-friendly places to eat that we couldn't possibly visit them all. But here are a few in case you want to visit Stumptown any time soon:

Hungry Tiger
Hungry Tiger is a cute, dark, and pub-like place with lots of light coming in through the windows. I ordered the mac n cheese which had yummy breadcrumbs all over it. It would've been awesome cold because the "cheese" would've been thicker and tackier but I scarfed it all down before I could test that theory. -Ev
I got the Scrambled Tofu with Biscuits and Gravy. The Scrambled Tofu was actually somewhere between a Scrambled Tofu and a Tofu and Vegetable stir fry, but it was pretty good. The Biscuits and Gravy were great. Hungry Tiger was definitely worth the visit. -Jim

Proper Eats
Sometimes when a vegetarian restaurant makes a big deal about being organic and local and healthy, I start to worry that the food is going to be bland. But sometimes I get pleasantly surprised by food that is all of those things AND delicious. This was the case at Proper Eats. I ordered the Nachos with all the fixins, so the chips came topped with rice, barley, black beans, salsa, corn-pumpkin seed relish, vegan sour cream, tempeh and guacamole. Sounds good, right? It was! It fulfilled my nacho craving but at the same time it tasted healthy and hearty. Also, the food at Proper Eats is colorful and pretty to look at. We heard some rumors about bad service, but it was fine when we went. -Jim
I thought Proper Eats was a a great cure for all the junkfood we had be scarfing down elsewhere. I ordered a side salad and the Cornmeal Tempeh Platter which came with with tofu-cilantro sour cream, pinto beans, quinoa, steamed greens, beets & seeds. This was really delcious, but I'd say to get the sour cream on side because it was all over the place. The basics were simple but tasty. The tempeh was yummy too but also very filling. -Ev

Sweetpea Vegan Bakery
When I first stepped into Sweetpea I was amazed at how huge it was inside. The high open ceilings and well spaced seating were a far cry from the claustrophobia of Atlas Cafe in NY. Everything looked so good we didn't know what to get. On our first trip in we split a big, moist and chewy pecan caramel brownie- which may or may not have been called a Derby Brownie, as I had just watched a Sons-of-Paula-Deen special on Derby Cake a few days before. It was a little dense but tasty. On our second visit I tried a little pink cookie like they serve in the Italian bakeries. I loved it, but would love it even more if it had been filled with jam rather than chocolate in the middle. Jim got a cupcake. We also split a strawberry parfait, which consisted of chocolate cake, yummy vanilla pudding and strawberries. It was so indulgent and so huge that we could only eat half of it. Sweetpea also has beverages. I was surprised at how good the spicy chai was. -Ev
Sweetpea seems to be THE vegan dessert destination in Portland. And it's part of the "Vegan Mini-Mall" which includes the Herbivore Clothing shop and Food Fight Vegan Grocery. -Jim

We went for Brunch at Veganopolis and were greeted by a cute, cafeteria style restaurant where you grab a tray and fill it with all the food you want, and the price is based on the weight of your tray. It was standard brunch fair: scrambled tofu, potatoes, fruit, and biscuit and gravy. Portland seems to be obsessed with biscuits and gravy. I can't think of anywhere in NYC that I can get vegan biscuits and gravy, but you can get it everywhere in Portland! I think the B+G was my favorite part of the meal at Veganopolis. Overall it was filling and good! -Jim
I thought the brunch here was just OK. But I've heard that their other stuff is really good -Ev

Nutshell is amazing! I would put it on par with the high-class vegan restaurants in NYC, but without any gloom or attitude- which is a very good thing! It is a tremendously spacious restaurant. The fuji apple salad was incredible- it had said apples, beets, microgreens and marion berries. YUM! I got the risotto cakes which were also amazing- so creamy and crusty. Probably the best restaurant in Portland. -Ev
I got the green chile and fruit tamales. Very good! Nutshell was probably my favorite out of the restaurants we visited in Portland. -Jim

The Mississipi Pizza Pub
Mississippi Pizza Pub is located on hip Mississippi Ave. We stopped here to grab some Lunch on the fourth of July. Unlike other Pizza places where you need to special-order a vegan pie, MPP has a vegan pie on hand and you can order by the slice. The vegan pie has Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, onions, mushrooms, roasted garlic, sun dried
tomatoes all on a pesto base. The flavor was great and, I know it's sacrilege for a New Yorker to say this about pizza from another city, but I really liked the crust. It was a really good consistency - crispy but not too crispy. -Jim
I loved this pizza! -Ev

Backspace is a sweet place that is again open and warm. I ordered the steak sammich, which had field roast steak, pepperoncini, peppers, and onions with rosemary basil vegenaise on a baguette. I thought it was deeelicious. It was my first time trying Field Roast which is made from veggies and not tofu. I did order pepperoncini on the side though, cause I don't personally don't like the flavor (Jim does). Jim got the El Jefe which had seitan, beans, guac, peppers and couscous inside a wrap. It was yummy but the ingredients weren't distributed evenly so halfway through it just became cold couscous. -Ev
Yeah there was a weird lump of what appeared to be couscous in the El Jefe. Besides that it was great. -Jim

Jáce Gáce
Apparently the cafe/gallery Jáce Gáce was named after a hang glider who really loved waffles, thus their specialty is waffles. I've never been hang gliding, but I do really love waffles. And Jáce Gáce delivers. Not all of their waffles are vegan, but they have several vegan options including a savory, Tex Mex waffle. I'm a waffle purist, so a savory waffle with beans and avocado isn't my cup of tea. But the Apple Cinnamon waffle that I had was awesome. I think I might have to go on a quest to find the best vegan waffle in NYC. -Jim
I loved both the sweet and savory varieties. YUM! -Ev

The Paradox Cafe was one place we had been to before the last time we flew out to Portland, although with new owners. I had the mac and not cheese with broccoli. It was in a thin, more stroganoff-y sauce but was still good. The biscuits n gravy were delcious and huge. We also split spicy potatoes, chili and cornbread. The cornbread was really sweet, almost like a muffin. I would recommend you eat here if you want large portions and a variety of food with fast service. -Ev
The rumor floating around was that Paradox wouldn't be as good as it was when we visited Portland five years ago, but I liked it just fine! -Jim

The Bottom Line
What can we say? There is just so much vegan food in Portland. I don't know if Portland has more vegan-friendly restaurants than NYC, but it certainly has more vegan restaurants per capita than NYC. Portland is a relatively small, cozy city but it's brimming with vegans and vegan food! Not to mention it's fairly close to other vegan-friendly cities like Seattle and San Francisco. Portland might just be the vegan capitol of the USA. -Jim
We barely scratched the surface of restaurants here. We even went to a vegan waffle cart, had amazing soft serve and curry (separately thank goodness) from Blossoming Lotus at the Let Live Conference, and had slammin' Ethiopian food. I also have to plug Food Fight because it was so awesome to walk into a grocery store and not have to read a single label. Hooray! -Ev

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hummus Place

We recently tried out Hummus Place at 109 Saint Mark’s Place in Manhattan. Hummus Place is vegetarian and just about everything can be made vegan if you ask.

Health Salad
This was a healthy serving of healthy veggies- tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in a super light dressing. Although a simple salad, there’s nothing like tiny niblets of fresh cool veggies to balance the face-stuffing that will ensue, what with the piping hot pita bread and ultra creamy hummus. Your tummy will thank you for filling it with some of this. -Ev

Side of Felafel
I've never really had hummus as a meal before, so I ordered falafel to make it feel more like a meal. Well, it turns out hummus makes an awesome meal, but I don't regret ordering the falafel. The falafel at Hummus Place is the kind I like: the moist, crispy ball variety that you get at Israeli places in NYC, as opposed to the dry patty you get at suburban Greek places. You get four balls on a little plate with Tahini and delicious green hot sauce. It's easy to get overly full at Hummus Place, but if you think you'll have room, I recommend the side of falafel! -Jim

Hummus Masabacha
To paraphrase our good friend Eppy, this was the hummus-y nail in the coffin of the Tribe of 40 Sheiks. It was a few years ago that I learned that Israeli-style hummus blew all other kinds away. And after years of enjoyment sampling here and there, the Hummus Place reigns supreme. (Just writing this review has me drooling and wanting some.) The Hummus Masabacha is a large bowl of fresh, creamy hummus with chickpeas and olive oil on top. I wish I could adequately describe how perfect this hummus tastes. Instead, I’ll focus on what it’s not- it’s not dry, lumpy, bitter, overly sesame tasting, overly lemony tasting, heavy or artificial in any way. The chickpeas on top are delicious in their own right, slightly sulfurous, almost eggy but really tasty. FYI, they’ll ask what kind of pita you want: regular or wheat. I always get the regular. Best pita bread evar. You’ll burn your fingers tearing it open but it’s so worth it. Sometimes they’ll ask if you want egg on top of the hummus, so just say no. They also bring out hot green sauce. Slap that shiznit all over. It is so spicy but AMAZING. Hummus is Yummus. -Ev

Hummus Mushroom
I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered this dish. The menu said it was mushroom stew and hummus, and I didn't understand how those two things could go together. It never crossed my mind that you can take a bunch of hummus and make a bowl-shape in the middle of it and fill that bowl-shape with mushroom stew, but that's exactly what this dish is. And it's DELICIOUS. The mushroom stew by itself is awesome. It's kind of hearty and earthy, but at the same time it's got a tangy, almost pickley edge to it. As for the hummus, well Evelyn already told you how creamy and delicious it is. The two go together wonderfully. -Jim

The Bottom Line
It's so easy to write a bottom line for a restaurant that is so good. The bottom line is you need to get your hummus-lovin self over to Hummus Place and eat. The restaurant itself is really cute and deceptively large. You may think that it's just the small front room but it actually winds back to two other larger rooms. Plus the bathroom sinks are really cool. Not that that should be the reason you go somewhere, but still. OK stop reading now and go. Jim will probably just say the same thing. And we'll be here when you get back. So bring us some hummus. Thanks. -Ev
I have advice and a warning. The advice is that, whether you order The Hummus Masabacha or the Hummus Mushroom or some other Hummus entree, get the health salad and the felafel side, and combine it all together to make one big awesome meal. The warning is that what I have just described is enough food to feed a several people, so I recommend going to Hummus Place in a group and splitting things. Otherwise you will be terribly full of delicious food. -Jim