Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guru's Cafe, Provo, Utah

Guru, Provo, UT
Here it is again.  Low expectations get blown out of the water.  I mean Provo, Utah?  Vegan.  Just another 2 words that don’t seem to go together until I sat down and ate at Guru’s Cafe.  It was a short walk from the hotel and there seem to be a plethora of restaurants on this street.  I had actually seen it driving in and remembered it from my Happy Cow search.
As we passed the one or two tables in each of the restaurants on Center St. I was getting depressed at how dead this city was.  Even the tables and umbrellas outside Guru’s were pretty much empty but then the light shone in:
Guru’s had live music and maybe that was the draw.  Well, the place had more filled tables than empty and that was a good sign, no 2 drink minimum, (no alcohol at all ... ), but these people weren’t only here for the music because there was food on almost every table.

3 acoustic guitars on stage to the right, ordering line on left and open kitchen in the back.

The live music was 3 folk singers and acoustic guitars.  I was digging that as anyone who knows me knows.  This place has like a hippy/bohemian/folksy/upscale modern kind of college-y/working class/professional kind of vibe.  Hard to pinpoint but very likable.  It is not a strictly veg place as there are animals on the menu.
I saw vegan, I saw vegetarian.  I didn’t put the two together and ordered a half bowl of the Curry and a Veggie Burrito.  They had little “v”s next to them.  Yup, you know it, I did the ASSUME thing again.  Only read half the description.  I ordered on the line, took my plastic number for the table so the server could find me and sat down.  For some reason  this feeling of dread came over me, I grabbed my buddies menu, saw Monterey Jack and bolted back to the register.
I apologized and said I didn’t see that the burrito wasn’t vegan and could we make it without the cheese and veganize it.  Some minutes had passed since my order went in and I saw food coming out of the kitchen pretty quickly so was resigning myself to paying for another one.  The guy behind the register asked if the cheese and ranch dressing were an issue, in a nice way though, a way that didn’t put the thought, “duh” in my head.  He asked the chef who was working in the open kitchen right behind the register.  The chef pointed to the salamander, (broiler), and there was a burrito.  I sort of deflated.  But ... but ... and this is a big but ... the chef and the guy, (again I am bad at asking for names sometimes), just said no problem, they’d make me another.  
I apologized again, said it was my fault for not reading the fine print, and once again, they said, “NO PROBLEM.”
Attitudes like that should be bottled and sold.
Spicy Curry Bowl

The food was tasty and fresh.  The edamame had a cooked just right crunch/mush.  The corn kernels popped, the peppers, green beans, snow peas and veggies had the right cooked/crunch to them and the tofu squares were a good size to, well, not really taste like tofu having been coated with cornstarch and a seasoning mix before being deep fried.  The sauce had a nice spice, more of a subtle background heat than hot and a really nice coconutty and nutty flavor.
Half order of the Spicy Curry Bowl
Zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, green beans, snow peas, edamame, bean sprouts, cashews, and tofu in a spicy coconut curry sauce over rice. Vegan item.
half 5.99 full 8.99
Veggie Burrito
Iceburg lettuce?  
You can see how the veggies are all intact, fresh, and not cooked into mushdom.
Zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, green beans, edamame, mushrooms, corn, peanuts, tofu, brown rice, Ched. & Mont. Jack cheeses, and cilantro-lime ranch rolled in a spinach tortilla topped with Pico De Gallo and guacamole. Served with chips and salsa fresca.
You can see why I ran to omit the cheese and ranch dressing.  It’s interesting that the veggies in both dishes are so similar and yet so different tasting when the spices change.  This was a great burrito and aside from the lettuce on the place which I wasn’t sure what to do with, (yes, eat it thank you), the burrito was tops.  The veggies had a bit more steamed to them being all bundled up in the burrito but still retained their snap.  The guac was garlicy without being overpowering and the hot sauce on the salsa fresco added another dimension of flavor.  
I could only eat half of each and with two bucks thrown in the tip jar at the register the whole meal was $17.06.
I can see why this place had the clientele it did.  The food was inexpensive, fresh, and way better than good.

Guru's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dempsey's Cafe

Leaving Darbster's I frantically am looking for some dinner. I have to be back in 45 minutes and will probably be working from 5:30 until around 11 and definitely don't want to eat peanuts for dinner.

I think there's a Whole Foods around Palm Beach somewhere, (it was a Publix), but couldn't find it anywhere on 2 gps units. I drive by a sandwich shop with the word "wraps" and "smoothies." I can live with that.

I park my car in the alley. Meters. I have no change. What's this? You can pay your meter by phone? Get outta here! This was worth being turned away at Darbster's alone.

I find a typical deli counter.

It's a really cheery kinda place, upbeat and bright.

On the menu board are all kinds of wraps and smoothies.

I wish I asked the name of the person behind the counter because he was extremely helpful.  I told him I was a vegan and he made all kinds of suggestions.  I ended up with a whole wheat tortilla, lettuce and tomato, hummus and avocado, peppers and carrots and cucumbers.  It was as hearty a sandwich as any salad sandwich could be.

That is fresh fruit in the tin foil.  Puzzling why it's not in a container of some sort...that would have made it a little easier to eat.  Now, that green stuff.  It was a suggestion from my deli-man as I randomly threw out different combinations of fruit.  Apple juice.  Kale.  Spinach.  Pineapple chunks.  Soy Protein Powder.  That's it.  The Green Monster.  (I suggested changing the name to something more delicious sounding).  He said he came up with it last week.  It was the creamiest smoothie I ever had with no dairy (of course), or soy or nut milk of any kind.

You should make the trip just to get this drink.

I have this feeling that sandwiches of this ilk taste too "healthy" and I was sure in the mood for some home cooked, comfort, burgery kind of food but I'd dash down here on a quick stop in PBI in a New York Minute.

Dempsey's Cafe on Urbanspoon


OK, so first let me tell you this meal was eaten last week. I’ve been pondering this place and this meal for that time and I’ll get into that in in a bit. Today I had an opportunity to return to Darbster. I made a mad dash to the place after borrowing a crew car. I had the keys in my hand at 16:30 and had to be back at the airport at 17:30. That’s 4:30 and 5:30 PM for you clock in the kitchen types.

Last week I had a delicious appetizer and an ok entree. More about that later. I was so looking forward to the sliders since I mourned the loss of the sliders at Sublime, (and told Nanci that). Leo, (an omnivore buddy I used to fly with and who had an appreciation of good food regardless of the protein source), always said that he could sit at the bar and chuck those sliders down with a cold beer for hours they were so good. So I was looking forward to them. In a big way.

Guess what? Being a vegan in a non vegan world is pretty tough sometimes but I just discovered that being a vegan in a vegan restaurant can be pretty daunting too ... yeah right?

I get to Darbsters in 15 minutes. I have 30 minutes to order, take a pic or two, eat and scadaddle. Very doable. Well, not quite, see at 4:45 I was told that the restaurant didn’t open for another 15 minutes. I was invited to have a drink and wait. I said, really? I’m in sort of a rush and could we get an order in now?

Nope, I was told, We’re so far behind that if we put any order in it would just jam up the whole evening. I’m not paraphrasing here. They said I could maybe get a plate of rice and beans but I probably didn’t want that. (I just passed the Havana Restaurant on the way there. Why would I want rice and beans from Darbster? At this point I’m getting so aggravated that lard and beans is looking pretty good. Not really but you know what I’m saying. I can’t get served? Really? But I’m a vegan. I’m one of you. I came here especially to eat MORE of your food and give you a good review!!!  (I didn’t say anything like that of course).  This is the second time I’ve had bad timing with this place but if you’re closed I get it. If you tell me you have the nuclear launch codes and the kitchen will only open in 15 minutes to save the world ok. You got me there pal. But to tell me this is, “... as it says on our website, our downtime ... ” is nuts. You got the signs out on Dixie Highway. You’re open. You just seated two women. And you cant fire an order of sliders like I asked. Nope.

Ooooooh Kaaaaaaay. But you’re not gonna like this.

Here you go bucko.  I want to say nothing but outstanding things about you.  I want whoever reads this blog to be blown out of the water and beat a path to your door.  I don't want you to end up like Red Bamboo in New Orleans.  But ...

You’re in the service business. I’m in the service business. I’m a make it happen kind of guy in a make it happen kind of business. I serve some of the toughest people in the business, high net worth individuals, show biz types, businessmen, and none of them, ever, want to be told, “No.” Oh sure, sometimes I have to say no. No, we can’t go there the runway is too short and I don’t want to be the one to make this airplanes last full stop landing. Nope, we’re not going through that thunderstorm so we can see what hail damage really looks like when it’s NOT in a photograph. I’m two hours early so I’m not one minute late. So I don’t get this prima donna attitude. NOTHING is ready 15 minutes before service? You couldn’t offer me ANYTHING? But an excuse that this was YOUR time? Nope, this was MY time. Your door was open and I walked in. You WELCOME me as a CUSTOMER with MONEY to spend ... unless you’re so packed the lines around the block will keep me out until I win the seat at the Governor’s mansion. Nope, you’re not RAO. I’m sad to say this because I like dogs and Darby must have been a great pooch to have the honor of a restaurant named after him but I ain’t coming back.

The reason I pondered was that most of the cooked stuff on the menu is Gardein. Now Gardein is great stuff. It tastes great and has a great mouthfeel. But it’s like saying you serve Boca burgers. Or stuff from May Wah on Hester Street. It’s pre-made. I wanted to ask the chef a bit more about what he/she does with it and what touch of culinary magic, if any, they work with the basic product. I wanted in the worst way a slider!!!  (Ehhh, not tonight, eh?). It’s not like you made the bestest seitan in the world or you came up with some concoction that I just couldn’t live without. You bought some stuff and served it.  I really really wanted to see and taste the "more" factor.  I also want a place that I can call up, order, make a 30 minute dash over and pick up some great food and be back at the airport on my way with a good vegan meal.

OK but there’s a good part to serving that kind of stuff too, right? Absolutely. When all you have is Havana restaurant, or Denny’s or the million other mainstream restaurants in Florida it’s nice to be able to go to a place and not start with the, “...and is the rice made with chicken stock or water? Is there honey in the salad dressing?...” kind of regular litany that all vegans eating out know only too well. So it’s really really really nice to be able to sit down and order right off the menu. Anything you want. Yeah, think about those sliders and beer.

Now, untouched, here’s the review I wrote, (as I ate the meal sitting at the table, laptop open ... a first time for me):

Like an upscale shack but driving up Dixie Highway you really have a hard time finding it if you’re not looking. Well, even if you are looking. I guess not really a shack but it is al fresco with a deck area and an indoor area. Actually it’s quite nice.

The chef is formerly from Sublime and the menu is heavy on the Gardein. I’m not sure if this is good or bad but simply is their protein of choice.

This is the most tropical looking view.

In perusing the menu, (the lunch menu), I was really happy to see that there were appetizers for $8/$5/$4 which were the sliders, wings and Mac and Cheeze. I do so miss the sliders at Sublime ever since they morphed into a big burger monstrosity...but my waitress recommended 2 things to my, “What would you recommend if I could never ever ever come back here, what should I try?” query:

The wings.

Fried and lightly crisped Gardein with a nice heat. Not enough for my steel tipped tongue but the batter had a nice  heat lingered.  Combined with the Buffalo Hot Sauce it worked just like it should.

The vegenaise green ranch dressing is a cooler alternative but I was here for the heat baby. It worked very nicely with the few forks of greens, real mixed greens, that I sorely needed after last nights romaine fest.  Gardein has an amazing real "chickeny" feel and this dish is a fantastic appetizer.

The Palm Cake.

A play on a crab cake that almost makes it. Very close but the crab, (duh, of course), is missing. Maybe it needs sea vegetables or more salt. I love the crunch and would order this on a bed of greens but unfortunately, (and my waitress said she preferred it on just wheat bread). I heard her recommend the bread only to the table behind me but not to me so I got the big thick whole wheat bun. It was a wonderful bun but the crunch gets lost in it and it’s a very light crust so it gets very lost.

All the pieces are there, the peppers, (green and red), and the consistency of a crab cake is quite close but misses the stringy-ness of the crab, although the palm does give the cake the nice bits of bite and the sprouts do step up to play that part. The sandwich is topped with lettuce and romaine which adds another depth of crunch. It also adds some rigidity that smushes the cake down even more when you bit into it, squeezing it out the sides of the bun. I also swore I tasted the crunch of pickle, (as in relish, as in tarter-ish sauce), ever so subtly in the background but I was told not really.

It was a pretty decent lunch and it’s not too long a drive from PBI, (although I was staying in Boca), so I’m sure I’ll be back. It might become my MacDonalds, quick stop in PBI, gotta grab lunch, but with no air conditioning, perhaps not a place for a longer sit down meal.

I might be here again and again solo.

And that was the original review.  If you go make sure you find out when they serve because although this place purports to be casual they do not have anything close to, "drop by if you're hungry," hours.

Darbster on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin

73 NE 167 St, North Miami Beach Florida (33162) 
Vegan, Caribbean, Juice bar, Take-out, Delivery
Price Range: Inexpensive
Miami vegan restaurant. Has daily specials, vegan pancake breakfast. Small and casual. Accepts credit cards. Open Mon-Thur 7:30-9, Fri 7:30-3, Sun 7:30-5, Sat closed.

Website link just says "Coming Soon" as of this writing.

Well, if the name isn't the most generic sounding name of any restaurant I don't know what is.

After a GPS navigational error I found the unobtrusive place at the corner of a strip mall.  It's not a a *corner* just the corner of this group of stores.  There are more things to the left.

Looks easy but traffic is oncoming just at your right.  There were some obstructions, (trees), that blocked the unassuming non eye catching signage.
The place had both a too small cramped feeling about it to the left, where the counter was with a (really?) massage chair stuffed into the corner,  (Not for waiting, only for massage customers), and an open airy stay as long as you want zen mediation health food items on shelves for sale kitchen chairs on tables sort of feel to it.

Yeah, this is to the right.

This is to the left but you can't see the massage chair way to the left.  Just a bit in front of the plants is the line of demarcation between functional and zen.

I sort of had a need for a true Jamaican Veggie Pattie.  They homemake 4:  Soya, chicken, spinach and I can't remember.  (Served only to us pre alzheimers folks).

There was no chicken, (of course), so I had a soy.  It was soooooo good.  Little bits of soy protein that gave the patty a nice chewy mouthfeel and the corn just popped with sweet explosions and mixed with all the other veggie flavor.  The crust was a tad on the crumbly/dry side but it was whole wheat and there was more than enough moist filling to go around.

I scarfed that one down in the store.

The dark brown on the outside is a paper bag.

I had to be in Miami to take care of some stuff and did manage to wait to eat the ... of course you know what it is, the Philly Cheeze Steak sandwich.

Man, I think this was one of the best I ate ever.  The whole wheat bread had that perfect crust and chewy middle with a great combination of sweet and yeasty.

The seitan was definitely home made and was combined with the cheese to form this mushy yet textured meaty filling.  And, and, and, there was enough of it to nicely fill the bread.  (You really can't tell from the angle and the way the top half of the sandwich is splayed open.  It had a nice, yes, I'm going to say it, Philly Cheese Steak sandwich taste.  There were onions and peppers and I'd swing by this place every day for lunch if I could.  Honestly, I thought the salad was silly.  It was a good salad but I thought the dressing was a bit on the thin side and although had a nice fruity essence didn't really stick to the lettuce.  Besides, and I do appreciate some nicely prepped greens and veggies, this is pure, unadulterated comfort food and if you eat it you shouldn't need a few bites of salad to make it ok.  Just shove it in your face and enjoy.

I also wish I could share some of the other items on the menu with you but unfortunately their menu is written on the wall on a dry erase board so you'll have to go there and get what you get.  I will definitely get off I95 to hit this place again.  It's one block away on the 167th Street exit.

I think this is a stop for when we go to Opa Locka airport.  Not too far away and worth the quick dash in the crew car.

Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin on Urbanspoon

Anatolia Medeterranean Cuisine

I keep hoping that if I find mainstream restaurants that I can get by eating at my land shark carnivore compadre will one day look up at me and say,  "Hey, isn't there a vegan restaurant we can go to?"  Well, I just wanted to tell everyone that today wasn't that day.

Anatolia came as most do from a Happy Cow recommendation.  Dead animals served for those that still eat them and "vegan" options for me.  I have nightmares once again about some grilled veggies on a plate and something gratuitous being said.  (Hey, look what we went out of our way and did for you.  We took VEGETABLES and GRILLED them for you).  Sometimes I have no idea why I think the things I do.

The place was a cross between a pizzeria, (replete with pizza oven), an open kitchen along one wall and a semi upscale subdued dining room.  (We were the only ones in tee shirts, yes.  But I had on my good jeans and he had on kaki shorts.  We bring such class with us wherever we go, especially since this is a BYOB place.  I like B.  He VERY MUCH likes B.  We had a cooler with us.  Like I said ... class).

They put some bread down and the busboy had no idea what I was asking when I said, "Is the bread made with butter?"  He said he'd be right back and I thought he was going to bring me butter but brought us olive oil instead.

See, the last people ate the rest of those olives.  No just kidding.  I did.  And those that you see here had a very short life span.

The waitress couldn't have been nicer.  Since she was young and I like to stereotype I just thought I'd have an uphill vegan explanation thing about to unfold but no ... that will teach me to stereotype ... like all those other times.

She asked to make sure that butter, eggs, and other things a vegetarian might allow were definitely not of interest to me.  She was caring and thoughtful but still needed a tad of prompting.

The menu would be limited but there were still good choices.  At this point I knew I wanted something fried and I was craving greens.

Sublime addicted me to fried cauliflower and I went for it here along with the mixed green salad.  Ah, was the batter for the fried cauliflower made with egg?  She's have to check.  I figured I was going to work off at least 4 pounds with all the running back and forth I was going to make her do.  She didn't mind at all.  I think she sort of thought she should know the answers and it was ok that I was making her jog the night away.  It was made with egg but the chef said he could make it without.  I asked if that meant he was going to dip it in milk instead and then just asked her to make sure.  She did.  It wasn't.

The cauliflower was perfect, salted correctly and with a crisp exterior and a meaty scalding hot inside.

The dipping sauce was an oregano and garlic flavored olive oil.  A squeeze of lemon and it was ... well, I just said this ... perfect.  It was $5.50 for the 4 pieces you see here.  Eeeeh.

My mixed salad was a mixture of romaine and a few field greens.

It was covered with an oil and vinegar, nicely balanced but it was really sort of a Caesar salad without the dressing.  I was hoping for something different although it was green.

Here's another shot of the salad in case you like pictures of salad.
My entree was, I thought, going to be a dish with cooked vegetables and then I asked to combine the next dish on the menu with it because it had spinach.  What I got, (and the links to the menus on their website as of this writing was broken and I can't look up the two dishes), was a dish more reminiscent of Indian Saag, a puree of cooked greens, in this case spinach.  Before ordering we had a little discussion about the rice and bulgar both being cooked with butter but later it was ascertained that only the rice was buttered and I was served a delicious carroty sweet savory bulgar.

This was the most delicious entree.  I wasn't expecting much but there was such a subtle balance of flavors and although it was a spinach dish it had none of that taste of childhood spinach always lurking in the back of my mind causing amazement and wonder about Popeye's mental status.  This was phenomenal.  I wanted more.  I thought there was a hint of cinnamon but was told nope.  Anyway, I had to stop myself from eating past the halfway mark and what I ate I spooned on top of the bulgar and mixed it all up like I was a 7 year old.

This would be a place I'd go back to in a group, knowing they had vegan options.  The problem for me is that the vegan options, while delicious, are very limited.  My bud enjoyed his meal so apparently there is enough of a draw to bring the locals in for the main menu.  I wish there were more of these delicious vegetable, (and you know I don't really like being served veggies as a meal), options available but for that reason I can't make it a primary destination.

Anatolia Mediterranean on Urbanspoon

Pine Garden, Mock Meat Chinese in Boca Raton, FL

A revisit on July 30, 2011 results in a very satisfying meal.  The parking lot was more crowded, the proprietor much friendlier and it was earlier in the day.

My other pilot, who chose the place for our diner because of its vegan offerings, had a bum first glass of wine but rectified it with a whole bottle of a much better brand.  My Tsingtsao was perfect.  So was the next order of wine.  And the next Tsingtsao.

He went his animal food ways and I stuck, of course, to my vegan food.

I tasted his pan fried dumpling which was a nice mixture of flavorful veggies but the sear brought a smoked flavor to the party.  Something I don't experience since I always get my dumplings steamed or boiled.  Nice change.

Boneless Ribs and a peek inside a dumpling.
My Boneless ribs were a meaty chewy protein covered with typical chinese restaurant sweet BBQ sauce.  The meat was a bit chewy but it was a satisfying dish.

For my main dish, I asked for the chicken kew with lots of veggies.  I had mushrooms, carrots, onions, broccoli, and bok choy in a deeply earthy brown sauce.   I doused it with hot chili oil and it was perfectly spiced for my palate.  The chicken was amazingly tender, meaty without being chewy and soft without being like Aunt Minnie's Matzo Balls.

I ordered the shrimp fried rice and didn't care for the shrimp at all.  It was a very tough rubbery rendition of the real thing with a tinge of saltiness.  The fried rice was delicious but next time I'm going to go for the ham.

$41 bucks plus tip with 2 beers.  A typical mock meat Chinese meal in interesting sauces,  satisfied my craving for a flavorful vegan meal.

Original post:
Another selection from Vegout and after being in a place for a few days you're just looking for a meal. Every meal isn't going to knock your socks off but you just want good honest food.

I drive up and the parking lot is empty. Well, there is one car right outside the restaurant.

The sign just says, "Pine Garden Restaurant." Now for all you know they might serve air freshener here.  Lucky for me they didn't but the inside was like stepping back into Polynesian Paradise sans the Luau.  Bamboo and I suppose Pine everywhere.  I sort of liked it.  But it was empty.  Empty.

So I always worry about how fresh stuff is when I see this kind of volume.  I was greeted by a guy.  You know, every family restaurant has one.  He's the guy, the family is gone, kids in bed or home with mom doing homework, almost every one is gone and he's counting up  receipts.  Or on a day like this maybe counting up receipt.

So I figured I'm like the hero diner now and I'd be greeted with open arms if not a welcoming parade.  Nope, he says it's 930 and they close at 10, can I finish in time.  Awwww, I really am trying to give you my money here.  

I say sure and think I've eaten more in less time and what the hell, they have a friggin' VEGETARIAN MENU, (strictly vegetarian it says).  I double check and vegify.  Yup, no animal products at all in any of the items on that menu.  Great.

I start out with the Teriyaki Beef on a stick.  It's wheat gluten.  I find the size amazing, since I'm expecting something like the satay at Candle, (see pics in the Candle review).   4 hugh skewers.  I think they're a little tough and chewy.  I'm not sure this is bad but it's not the mouth feel of a beefy item I was expecting.  As far as the taste it was more like a peanut sauce.  I also thought it tasted like it was coated with corn starch for a crust and then just a scosh undercooked.

But it was tasty, salty, chewy in a jerky kind of way and if I put the disappointment of Teriyaki Beef Skewers out of my mind wasn't half terrible.

Next I had a House Fried Rice with pork (gluten), chicken (soy), and fake ham.  That was great, a nice subtle flavor and seasoned just right with flecks of each of the proteins and some broccoli florets, onions, carrots and peppers.

My entree was a Pork in Garlic Sauce.  I enjoyed everything except the pork which was a glutenous, more rubbery texture than I like in my gluten.  I've had this before and just don't care for it but had it come with the ham or chicken in bigger chunks than were served in the rice it would have been an excellent dish.  The veggies were all fresh and crisp except for the chestnuts which, as is usual in chinese restaurants, was definitely canned.

As it was I had no trouble eating half of it and taking the other half back to my room.

In a hurry.

I thought this needed another go so I went back with the other (carnivore) pilot 2 nights later.

Pine Garden Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moaz Vegetarian in the Town Center at Boca Raton

I'm just wasting time wandering around the mall after the iApple geniuses fixed my email problem.  I wander into the Food Court and see a guy in a Tee shirt with a plate with toothpicks sticking out of something and I'm all ready for my, "I'm a vegan I don't eat chicken," remark when the guy stops me in my tracks and says, "Wanna taste of falafel?"

Whoa there buckaroo.  Where am I?

So it's Moaz.  I just read an article about them opening up a new restaurant in New York or NJ and the cord on the lightbulb got tugged pretty hard.  Ah, ... THIS ... is it.  (Insert sounds of heavenly strings here).

Well here's the thing.  I don't get excited about falafel in and of itself.  There's one on every other block where I live but Florida is pretty much a veggie wasteland with billabong here or there.  Malls are other examples in the book of great vegan, (or any other culinary), wastelands too.  So here was a falafel joint.  Clean, bright, upscale with mounds of fresh salady and other good stuff.

I didn't want to eat a full lunch but that taste got me right in the buds.  I ordered a side of 5 balls.  You know, just to support the business.  He said they had been there two years and still, when he offers samples people have no idea what it is.  None.  Whatsoever.  At all.  Nada. Bupkis.  And yet here is a phenomenally good hearty tasty sandwich that I don't see how you carnivores wouldn't want to eat AS A TREAT every time you came back to the mall.

I, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were.  Went over to the tahini sauce and, (verified veganality first of course), sprayed my balls with the white stuff.  Then I asked about shchrug, which is a middle eastern cumminy spicy chili sauce.  Nope but they did have a nice warm green chili sauce so I got a little cup of that.

Unfortunately I did devour all except for a little ball-ey bit at the end before I remembered why I eat, yes for you and only you my loyal passengers on this culinary flight, and snapped the pic.

Yum.  Go ... Food Courts.  Yeay!

Maoz on Urbanspoon

Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar, Boca Raton, FL

You get to the hotel and want to take a quick drive away for some reason ... well, you have the rental car for 3 days so why just go where you might have to go if you DIDN'T have a car? I can't answer that but sometimes we have to pick our battles and this one wasn't even worth fighting. Mexican? I mean, onions and peppers and badabing, we have fajitas, right?

I lucked out with Rocco's and our waitress Sarah.
I had to question her about the jalapeno poppers even after she explained that they were made individually and could have the cheese omitted but when I asked her if there were any eggs or milk in the batter she had an "ah hah" moment and the vegan thing came just a bit closer into focus, which I don't mind at all.  Enjoy it sometimes actually.  She asked about the table-side Guacamole and for a half order for $6 who could have said no?

I mean really, in the land of supersize every friggin' thing we had a hugh bowl of chips, a half bucket of pico and a ton of guac.  It was just made, crisp, fresh and delicious with a touch of extra cayenne pepper.

I could probably have stopped there but I talked to Sarah some more and we discussed the rice, (no stock), the ingredients in and the cooking of a vegan chimichanga with rice, beans, peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach.

Another example of scarfing down a half a meal before I remembered you my loyal readers, and took the picture.

It was about the size of my forearm and loaded with fresh tasting ingredients.  I tend to the heat and when the green and red salsas added little more than tomatillo and tomato depth I tried the 2 house sauces.  The made a valiant effort but for some reason I took a tiny bottle of Blair's Original Death Sauce with Chipotle and that definitely gave it the boot in the butt I was looking for.

A frozen margarita to balance the heat, (not that it really does but I find them refreshing), and a shot of El Mayer tequila to sip at the meal's end ... only a cigar might have added to the illusion that I was of the gilded class.

Excellent surprising vegan meal and felt like they cared about my meal.

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