Monday, January 31, 2011

Vegan Etouffee-ish Dinner

I was in the mood for some kind of etoufee dish reminiscent of the shrimp dish I used to make.  I tried reconstituting Hijiki and Wakimi but neither of them worked.  Perhaps I needed boiling water, perhaps the flavor is just awful.  I never used it before.  If anyone has any suggestions of what I can put in a dish to remind me of the sea I'd appreciate it.  Someone must know the secret ingredients to Vegan Crab Cakes.

Anyway, half way through the cooking I thought of sharing so I didn't take pics of the onions going in, (1 medium cut in half moons), and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, (I really don't remember ... just until I looked right), 1 1/2 stalks of celery cut in batons, and almost a whole green, (incredibly sweet I started to eat it raw), cut into sticks pepper.  I tossed in a few tablespoons of my cajun mix ... ok, not really mine.  I should have looked at this recipe before I began cooking but didn't.  I didn't add the tomatoes, didn't think of using filĂ©, didn't make a roux but used a buerre manie instead.  I deglazed with Chardonney and let it reduce a bit much then added a bunch of veggie stock I always keep on hand.

I started my soaking of the soy curls and before I added them gave them a really good hard squeeze.  Of course I couldn't find my Tofu Press!!! [arggggh]

It turned out to be a tasty dish of sauteed veggies with soy curls as the protein.  Here are the pics.
Onions, garlic, peppers, celery and soy curls.

Bubbling broth.

Flour mixed with Earth Balance.

Thickened sauce.
OK, so this is all looking sorta good and tasty and I look up and see the one thing my daughter asked for namely Bok Choy.
Chiffonade of Bok Choy.  Doesn't taste really good raw so I added a little more broth, mixed it in and covered it so it would steam.  That diluted it a bit so I added more Cajun Seasoning.  Perfect.

Should say Nola, not Nolo.  Regardless, it's a great go to blend.

For Baby Bear

For Mama Bear

and of course, some for Papa Bear.

How do you act in a restaurant? + 3 Brothers meatballs

First, yay for the website.  I always like welcoming businesses to this century. or you can just click on the link above.

I went again with my wife, daughter and 2 carnivore friends.  I always have this little hope in the back of my mind that because a vegan menu is available I'll be surprised and one of them will take the leap just because, well, because, and order a vegan dish ... but I was the only one who had vegan.

I also tend to feel a lot of pressure.  I want every chef in a mainstream restaurant who holds out a vegan menu to understand this.  A dinner isn't just a time for conversation with friends.  It's a battleground.  It ALWAYS becomes a food centered test of veganism and vegan food.

Tell me if you've heard these statements when dining with carni/omnivores.

"It doesn't taste like mozzarella."

"It's way too mushy/bread-y."

"I don't like the texture."

"It doesn't taste like chicken."

Why am I always defending vegan food?  OK, not always, sometimes someone will evaluate the food on it's own merits and not on a comparison with animal protein but I feel compelled to say, "Here, try this, what do you think of this?" where the answer is invariably, "They don't taste like REAL chicken wings."  At some point I have to question whether I eat food because it's good or because it's vegan.  You can put Louisiana Hot Sauce and Earth Balance on white bread and it doesn't become "Buffalo White Bread," so does putting that same sauce on seitan just interest me or will it ever interest the other 97% of the population who would just as easily pour it on chicken wings?

I was listening to some old podcasts from NZ Vegan podcast (Thank you Elizabeth), and had 2 epiphanies.  1) I realized that talking to people about veganism is sales, pure and simple and I have a sales background.  It's being asked a question, "I can understand being a vegetarian but a VEGAN??!!  That's fanatical!  What if you were out with 50 people, you'd make a big issue of your veganism and inconvenience 50 other people if you couldn't find anything to eat?"

If you think about it, this is an objection.  The first thing a good salesperson does is ask probing questions to make sure they understand the objection.  Also, it can make you realize how stupid some of the points being made are.  (I know you've ALL, (YES, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU), been asked about you and the chicken on the desert island.  You can either answer the question or ask a probing question like, "Do you often find yourself with that dilemma, being stranded on a desert island, or do we live in a society where we do have food choices?"

So I asked my smartest best friend of 45 years, "What scenario would you imagine I'd be eating with 50 people and couldn't find a salad with oil and vinegar?  How would you see that as inconvenient?  Was I just beamed down to this wedding or are all 50 of us having a town hall meeting about where to go to dinner?  What kind of issue are you asking me if I'm going to make a big deal about?  Did someone make a mistake about my meal or intentionally give me something I asked not to be served?"  There was really no answer to my questions because he realized that the questions were really stupid.  Better questions would be why he thinks it's safe to allow GM alfalfa to be grown and why don't you question if there will be any mutants among your grand or great grandchildren.  For a better discussion about this, (I'm only half way through the podcast), see Ask a Vegan with Caryn Hartglass.

2)  The second realization is that the statement, "All vegans are advocates for abolition," is true for all of us on some level.  Regardless of the reason why you eat vegan, regardless of whether you eat vegan on Meatless Mondays, or only Before 6, you are causing a shift.  That shift is occurring whether or not you really care what happens in the world, the health of it's populace, or have deep feelings for animals and their slaughter.  Every day there are more and more people making a conscious decision to omit an animal protein from their plate.  I think this is a laudable occurrence.  I don't fault people for not immediately jumping into the deep end of the pool.  I am happy to see them start to make small changes. Whether my friends ever go vegan isn't the issue today.  Today I just want them to think about, to be conscious of more than the, "What do feel like tasting?" question regarding what they ingest.

So I said the sentence, "I am an abolitionist advocate.  I don't believe any animals should be used for any reason."  And now it's out on the table.

The meal.
Oh yes, I do blog about meals and just don't rant and rave.

This is how the day started.  Bob's Red Mill Organic 6 Grain, Agave, nuts and berries.  I just had no place else to put up the pic so 3 Brothers gets it. 
 Now I do want to apologize but the
Oyster Mushroom “Calamari”
fried oyster mushrooms, served with tomato sauce and tartar sauce 10
and the

Buffalo Soy Drumsticks
your choice of mild or spicy buffalo sauce, served with soy bleu cheese dressing 10

looked so good they were just plowed into.  I also couldn't wait to give out samples.  So I forgot the picture.

Someone commented that the "bleu cheese dressing" just "didn't do it," for them.  I always start defending when I hear that kind of comment.  "Well, it's not EXACTLY Blue Cheese but it's a dressing made with tofu to go on a dish as a compliment to the heat."  Sometimes I add, "... and no animals were killed to make it and we can feed the world with it."

Why do I feel like if someone else doesn't like the food I order I have to defend it for the mere fact that it's vegan?  Would I have done this before I became a vegan?  Do I ever say to a carnivore, "Yeah, it's not like Blue Cheese," and leave it at that?  Must I add a caveat?  Do you?  Is it ever ok to say you don't like some vegan dish when you were the one who dragged everyone into the restaurant in the first place?

I also really didn't know what I wanted.  Something different but familiar.  Our waitress, (yes a vegan), suggested the spaghetti and meatballs.  I realized I hadn't had a meatball in like 15 years so was sold.

Reminiscent of back in the day.
The plate was huge.  I thought the meatballs were a bit on the soft side and suppose I was looking for more of a toothy bite.  I liked the flavor of the meatball and the sauce, (nice pieces of basil), and the whole wheat pasta nuttiness.  I think the pasta was broken in half because I couldn't really get a good fork twirl going as the strands were too short.  Silly point, but still.

The other diners all enjoyed their dishes although the comment about the puttanesca was that it was a bit on the salty side.  I don't know what you expect when you order olives and capers and anchovies but so be it.  The point is that if you're vegan and want to not worry about what's in your food and play 20 questions with your wait person, take them to 3 Brothers in Rockville Center.  And order the desserts.

The desserts should get their own chapter.  They're not made on site and all the desserts are vegan.  There was also an invitation into the gluttony chamber with a 3 for 2 special.  Well, there's always the rational that there are 5 of us so we wouldn't each even be eating a whole dessert.  [HA!]  The cakes come from Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA.  I read one review on Yelp that panned the desserts but we all thought they were fantastic.  My staunch carnivore friend called them "100%" which shocked me but at last, there was something he didn't call, "fake."

Chocolate Cheese Cake
Chocolate Layer Cake
Peanut Butter Bomb

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Terry Hope Romano, "Viva Vegan" Shredded Seitan and Mushroom Empanadas with Raisins and Olives

I've read this book, skimmed recipes, thought about meals, dreamed about a restaurant that has a menu comprised of this book's index but for one reason or another have only found time to steam a batch of seitan in the few months since the book arrived.

I love the steamed seitan.  It's so nice not to have to watch a pot of boiling broth.  OH NO, it's boiling, turn down the flame.  OH no, it's just sitting in warm water.  I just don't usually have an hour to watch boiling seitan.  I mean simmering seitan.

So with 4 loaves of freshly steamed seitan I circle the empanada recipe.  I had made empanadas a few years ago, loved them and of course can't find the book the recipe is in.  I have about 35 cookbooks, some vegan, some veg, and some I have to veganize, (hello Julia Child), but it's lost somewhere on the shelf.

I've made the dough for Sarah Kramer's vegan pot pie and it's come out very nicely.  So with my brand new food processor I thought I'd tackle Terry Hope Romano's, "Viva Vegan" empanadas.  I made the dough and got called out for a flight.  Now I wondered, every day, how long that dough would keep in the fridge.  Apparently about a week because it turned out light and fluffy and flakey.

Here are the production and finished product pics.

Garlic, onions and mushrooms.  I didn't have any porcini so I added a bunch of shitake and button instead.

Steamed Red Seitan from the book.

First one shredded, second one on the block.  Note time is 5:48.  I'd probably been cooking for oh, 20 mins as a guess.

All the shredded seitan in the pan.

Mixture before letting it cool.

Raisins and olives added.

This dough board from Zabars has been a life saver in a small Manhattan apartment with virtually no clear flat space. This is the first time I tried laying it over the sink and it worked perfectly. That is one of the blocks of dough that had been in the fridge for a few days.

Ready to roll.

The recipe says use a 6 inch round, that bowl measured 5 1/2.  Worked out just fine.

The soy milk wash didn't give a very shiny finish but to me that's no sacrifice to veganize a dish.  That odd piece of dough was a bunch of remnants shmooshed together.  I filled it and rolled it up which you'll see later.

First batch out of the oven. 

Second batch.  See the roll?

Finished product.
The finished empanada was great.  The crust seemed to suffer no ill effect from living in the fridge for days.  The filling was savory and sweet and hearty.  The consistency was a bit mushier than I would have liked so next time I probably wont make the mushrooms and seitan so fine or have to make the seitan a little tougher.  I just have to figure out how not to do that because as instructed, I used the big holes on the box grater and the seitan was made line for line.  The seitan was used in other dishes and it was just perfect, I'd just like more "meatiness" in the filling so need to think about another option to more closely mimic a Crumbler or Yves texture.  These were done about 7:00 so about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish.  Not bad for a first time recipe.  I bet next time I can cut that down to an hour.  

It's a lot of work for one dish but they're in the fridge now and even my Chilean carnivore friend enjoyed a microwaved one the other day.  Nice to be able to pull something like this out and in a minute have a nice lunch.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Roughing it sandwich making, Trader Joe's ingredients

Meal planning isn’t always as cut and dried as you might think.  A simple ASAP trip to Pittsburgh started out as a drop off but became a wait and return.  Then the weather decided to have some fun and one airport after another opened and closed as the snow storm pummeled the East Coast.  Each time we went out to the plane and got ready to start we were told our airport of choice was closing for snow removal or the weather had gone below the minimum landing visibility but relentlessly the clock kept ticking and eventually we ran out of legal duty time and had to spend the night in a hotel in Pittsburgh, getting into the room about 1:30 in the morning.  Merely another 13 1/2 hour day.
The next day we dropped our passengers off at one NJ airport.  What should have been a quick hop back to Teterboro and the end of that rare occurrence ... an easy day, was within arms reach.  Call the company and get our release.  What?  Wait?  Huh?  [sigh]

No such luck.  We were told to sit tight and wait, something was brewing.  This is bad.  So we grab a crew car to run out for some food and luckily there was a Trader Joe’s nearby.

I grabbed a few veggies, some Ezekiel bread, (there was no, and I mean none at all, vegan cheese in Trader Joe’s), some microwaveable things I’d never seen before, some raw veggies, and back to the airport I went. Sometimes I get confused when I shop for a quick, on the road, meal.  I usually have a few false starts, the gun goes off twice and I have to put back all the stuff I WANT to buy but can't because I'm not cooking at home in a real kitchen!

What I really wanted was a ciabatta or Portuguese roll but time was of the essence and I didn't want to read the ingredient lists of 15 packages to find one without milk.
I do know, however, that I'm never far from a microwave as a heat source, (and really, one day I hope to save on my electric bill by glowing in the dark).  I opened one package of Chicken-less Stuffed Cutlet, nuked it, sliced it in half and sandwichized it.
As you can see this is smaller than a regular cutlet and doesn't quite fill out a slice of bread.  I'm guessing it's best application is on a plate with some pasta or rice and beans, not on a sandwich.
It was a nice quick meal.  The chicken reminded me of Gardein, not withstanding the “Made in Canada” on the box.  It was chewy and had a very nice hearty texture.  The beans and corn added a contrast in texture and although was supposed to be a Mexican bent I got more like Italian with a little heat.  
It's like a pinata.  
The best thing I ever ate?  No, but an improvised, tasty, "on the road" sandwich and thank you Trader Joe’s for putting “Vegan” right there on the front of the package so I didn’t have to search yet another ingredient list!!!!

Topped with packaged sauce.  You can see the drippage potential.
There used to be a series of detective novels by Lawrence Sanders and the character used to make dry sandwiches and wet sandwiches.  His wet sandwiches had ingredients like cole slaw on them but what I remember is a wet sandwich had to be eaten over a sink.  This definitely was a wet sandwich.  It took as long to clean up the sauce from the conference room table as it did to make the sandwich.  All in all, well worth the effort.

Just as an aside, I tried to look up the ingredient list online but the Trader Joe's website doesn't seem to have a search function.  If I missed it let me know but they do have a multi-page list of vegan options where I did find the cutlets listed.

In the interest of full disclosure and supreme cub reporting efforts, I also got a hummus wrap.  It was edible.  It was appreciated.  It was very alfalfa-y.  It wasn't really wondrously tasty and I'd probably skip that the next time I loaded up on food for a 10 hour extension of my day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blockheads blows it bigtime

In July I had a great meal at Blockheads.

Tonight I am livid and still picking chicken pieces out of my teeth.

I am about to rant, rave, and vent my frustrations on your poor souls who have followed or subscribed to my blog. You've read about the trials, now here's a tribulation.

I know mistakes are made but how stupid do you have to be, how idiotic are you that when I say, and oh yes, I am quoting here, "Ok, the brown rice is vegetarian? Good, because I am a vegetarian so I'll have the brown rice," right after ordering a burrito with tofu and questioning whether the rice was cooked with chicken stock. The waitress said yes it was but the brown rice was vegetarian. How stupid do you have to be to then put in my order as chicken? How moronic is the response, "Oh, I thought you said no dairy?"

Why not just tell me you are about to LIE to my face. You heard me say vegetarian and tofu so don't try to crawl out from under that rock by lying to me.

I have never called people names on my blog before but I asked to see a manager and in my incensed state of mind her response of, "You don't have to shout at me," was totally inadequate.

Don't shout? Really? Apparently there was too much noise for your waitress to hear or clarify my order. Or care.

Don't shout? I haven't eaten chicken in 15 YEARS you dumb twit. And you say to me, "I'll take this off the bill and bring you a tofu burrito." Really? That's what you are going to do? Not charge me for allowing me to put chicken in my mouth and swallow it?

So here it is in a nutshell. I know mistakes are made and I damn well expect ... a realization that vegans take this SERIOUSLY. If you offer tofu sour cream and state on your menu VEGAN soy cheese and offer grilled tofu as an option to LURE vegetarians into your restaurant because you know more and more often we are the veto vote, don't be so goddamn flippant about screwing up. A little CONTRITION goes a long way in my book. Doing anything above and beyond merely exchanging an item works miracles in calming storm waters. Offer to pay for it, buy me a drink, invite me back with a free meal, do something to RECOGNIZE how important this is to me and how CAREFULLY I considered spending my time and money in your establishment.

As you know from reading my blog I don't get many days off. Tonight the kid had a sleepover and we had planned a dinner and few drinks to let loose a little bit. Saturday night no less. Thanks Blockheads for totally ruining our evening.

We got up and walked out.

So a warning to all you vegans and vegetarians living in NYC or visiting and thinking Blockheads might be a viable option. It isn't. They don't care. They're not careful. Don't patronize them. Take yourself and your guests elsewhere.

Blockheads Burritos- Upper West Side on Urbanspoon

Vegan Indian at Monsoon in Palm Springs, CA

One of the reviews I read mentioned that this restaurant had a Vegan section of the menu.  In my wanderings through the Natural's market, Natural's Market (see review here) one of the young ladies told me I just had to have the mushroom dish.  With those two pieces of info, how could I not want to give Monsoon a visit.

Monsoon is located, like most of Palm Springs, in a strip mall.  Not that most of Palm Springs is in *that* strip mall but everything in Palm Springs seems to exist in a strip mall.  I love the area, the weather, (well, for a visit anyhow), but it is the most artificial, pre-fab, built up place I've been to.  I didn't see, (perhaps I didn't know where to look), any kind of "South Beach" or "Santa Fe" old town, old culture, or history unless you count Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore street names or Bing Crosby restaurant.  There are chain restaurants galore so if you're looking for Applebee's or Chili's you'll have no trouble.  I like to think a place is where the locals eat, not where tourists go.  Monsoon had that kind of feel.

Your basic store front restaurant.
Inside is nothing fancy, (thank goodness), but it had a warm feeling to it.  The buffet was empty which I expected but somehow I love a buffet.  It's like an appetizer for my eyes even if I'm not going to eat anything from it and it's just sad to see an empty one.

I never had a Gateway to India beer before and liked it.  I'm not a beer connoisseur and beer to me is either good and refreshing or flat and sucky ... or free in which case it's always outstanding.  This was good.  Beer for me also means I'm off.  I'm done. Can't call me to go to work.  It's almost a statement of implied relaxation.  So sometimes even bad beer is good.

Our papadam was pretty standard and served with a Tamarind dipping sauce along with a chopped onion relish.  The onion had a nice bite to it and the Tamarind had the standard sweet, astringent, tang.

Good beer.
There was a vegetarian section of the menu titled Organic Foods Entrees- Vegetarian.  This was right over the "Cornish Hen Specialty" section.  Oh well, we vegans do have a long way to go before the killing stops and we're reminded of it every day at every meal.

But I digress, again.  As I mentioned, one of the women in the health food market said I simply had to get the best vegan things which was a mushroom somethingorother.  There is a Mushroom Masala, Fresh button mushroom cooked with onion, tomato sauce and fresh spices for $18.99.  (Just as an aside, to pick one dish at random, the Chicken Tikka Masala is $13.99 and there are a whole slew of entrees labeled just Vegetarian and these are $10.99 to $11.99.  Guess there's a very hefty premium for organic.  I probably would have ordered this dish non organic had I actually taken the time and read the whole menu, but of course it wasn't listed there).

There is a section on the menu titled "Appetizers," and another below it titled, "Non-Veg Appetizers."  I didn't get any but this sort of made me think, "Nice when the veg options are the norm and the non veg options need to be labeled."  I didn't order an appetizer but am a starch junkie and did get the Aloo Parantha which is a stuffed whole wheat bread with mashed potatos and peas for 3 bucks.  Unfortunately the first one came with a shiny glaze on it and when I asked what that was the waitress just said, "Butter."  You know the dialogue from here.  Needless to say another was brought out.  The naan, interestingly enough, wasn't vegan.  The two of us talked about this before I ordered so I don't know where the disconnect happened but once again, life in a non vegan restaurant is always fraught with perils, Pauline.

The non buttered version.
The waitress and I talked about the heat level when ordering and I basically said I love spicy but didn't want to die in the restaurant that particular night.  I said, 6 or 7, with that caveat about death.

This dish was excellent.  The heat was part of the dish, not the main attraction.  It was a delicious earthy  mix of mushrooms, I think there were Shitake as well, and peas in a nice rich mushroom sauce.  My buddy's chicken, he said, was noteworthy as well so returning to this place was definitely discussed and if you're so inclined to bring a carnivore they won't be disappointed either.  I just wish the vegan items were marked a bit better and my foodal requests were taken a bit more seriously.  Actually, I wish the world was vegan but that's another story.

Monsoon on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Harmony Cafe, Raleigh, North Carolina

We only had a short time in RDU so our options were limited to someplace sort of near the airport.  The other pilot shows me directions to where the folks at the airport recommended we go for a quick breakfast.  I look and the blood just drains from my face.  I know it's not his fault.  We live in the New York Metro area and there are none of these places around for him to have gone to but one of the least friendly vegan places I've ever been to is Cracker Barrel.  I don't usually say no but VegOut came through again and with both eggs and tofu scramble on the menu off we went to Cafe Harmony.
In a strip mall.  To the right is the natural market.
Cafe Harmony is a brightly lit small cafe with three menus up on the wall.  The funny thing is, I see offering vegan options as being a sign of flexibility.  But you can't order anything from the lunch menu before 11.  And you can't order anything from the breakfast menu after 11.  That's a sort of weird thing to me, sort of being forced into a cubbyhole.  I was sort of looking for lunch but ended up with the tofu scramble.  Not a bad choice but I'd recommend starring a few items that you can order anytime.  

What is really nice is the distinction made on the menu for Vegan, Vegan option, Gluten Free, Gluten Free option, Soy Free, and Soy Free options.  I don't have any food allergies to worry about but as this country moves more into a higher level of consciousness about what is consumed I think we'll see many more alphabet letters on menus.  This is a cutting edge and very forward thinking philosophy for this little cafe to take.

3 menu boards.  No mixing.  "NO SOUP FOR YOU!"
Not that it applies to me but my compatriot also had to get his eggs scrambled and couldn't get them fried.  Apparently North Carolina is worried about salmonella in the egg dishes served.  If we only clarified what this means.  Let me take a stab at this.  "We believe there may be poison in your food and we think we can neutralize it by cooking it.  We think it's ok for you to eat this instead of just eliminating it from your diet because we have a lot of big egg producers around who pay lobbyists a lot of money to influence our politicians to put stupid laws like this on the books."  I have mixed feelings about whether we should regulate how people eat.  I don't have mixed feelings about making sure information, in a usable form, is disseminated in a very simple and understandable format to people who don't necessarily read nutrition newsletters, (like me), every day.

I think such warnings should be like ... mmmmm ... "Hey, there's a lot of salt in this dish and that will raise your blood pressure and burst your blood vessels and either kill you or paralyze you so you'll only be able to walk in tiny circles," or, "Hey, this drink is very sweet and the sugar will mess up your insides and cause you to have to stick yourself with needles for the rest of your life or the fake sugar will give you cancer and your body will start to eat itself until you die."

That might start a small shift in the way people nourish themselves.  I don't know.  Worth a try in my book.
I bet even on a rainy day this place has a sunny and bright feel to it.

Lots of non vegan and non vegetarian options.  What's really nice is they're all very very clearly marked.
Half eaten before I realized I needed a picture.  Nothing like cheese-y, sausage-y, tofu-y scramble with veggies.
Even though everything is marked I still asked what kind of cheese, (Daiya), and what kind of sausage, (Litelife).  Both of course are vegan.  The dish is scrambled tofu, (no cubes here), mushrooms, peppers, and spinach.  The mushrooms really bolstered the earthy flavor, the Daiya added that creaminess and the sausage gave it a heartiness.  This was a good dish.  I don't think tofu scramble can be "bad" but some are better than others.  There were roasted cherry tomatoes and orange slices on the plate.

For a drink I ordered 2 8oz glasses of OJ.  The pricing is a bit weird.  8 oz is $2.99.  32 oz is $10.99.  Who drinks 4 cups of anything?  Anyway, that's why I ordered 2 glasses.  But, and here's the eyebrow raiser, it came in one 16 oz glass.  But I'm a sucker if the OJ is fresh squeezed.  I couldn't care less if I never tasted OJ from a carton again...unless it's going into one of my world famous smoothies.

I had a great meal here and highly recommend the locals support such an innovative place.  I saw on the website there is live music there too so all they need is some seitan wings to go with their wine and beer and they can stay open and busy until 4AM.
Cafe Harmony` on Urbanspoon

Palm Springs Vegan. YES!!!

I feel so "Beach Boys-ey".  Palm trees and everything.  Welcome to Palm Springs, California

We were looking for this place ...

 but instead found this place.

Nice picture.   Well, it's the Nature's Health Food & Cafe in the same shopping center.  555 S. Sunrise Way in Palm Springs.

And the first thing I think is, "Ah, just another health food store," but then I see this counter with this huge sign and immediately notice the word:


So I look on the menu board.  Now bear in mind we're both headed off to Monsoon to get an Indian dinner.  But I can't resist reading these:
Vegan Entrees?  What planet have I landed on?
Gourmet sandwiches?
I am overwhelmed and my mind is reeling, trying to figure out a way, a food plan, a scheme to get something from this bit of vegan heaven and eat next door at Monsoon and still be able to take something with me for lunch tomorrow.  I don't care, my mind isn't functioning clearly.  I just see "Philly Un Steak Sandwich" and can't even finish reading down the list.  I order it.  Funny how I say "vegan" this and "vegan" that and the counter girl still says, "It has regular cheese on it, do you want vegan cheese?"  But she was sweet so I say, "vegan" a few more times in conversation and leave her so I can browse around the store. I find some over sized primal pepperoni and jerky sticks and a container of hemp seeds.  (I had no idea what they were but just happened to have listened to "Ask a Vegan" podcast this very day and learned all about them).

My sandwich came and I opened up the container to take a look and I swear I almost ate it right there and then.  It smelled so delicious.  Now I did ask the chef what brand of unsteak he used and he said he didn't know.  Hmmm.  I'll give them a call tomorrow and add the brand if I find out but here I am, 24 hours later sitting in New Orleans and every place I want to try seems to have closed at 10PM.  This is one of the best sandwiches.  It's loaded with steak and cheese, which I'm thinking is Treese because it just doesn't look like Daiya.  It's packed with onions and green and red peppers and is just amazing.  It is flavorful and peppery and the sweetness from the onions and peppers and bread all mix together.

For a "to go" container this looks pretty inviting to me.
There is no lack of filling here.  This is ANYTHING but skimpy!  And colorful!!
The chips were so "corny" unlike most anything I've had out of a bag.  I do have to get the brand of these too.

The standard "Health Food Store" part of the store.

I did find myself here a few days later, which for me is like lightening striking twice in the same place.  I ran into Bill, one of the owners who answered a few questions.   The "meat" in the sandwich is their own veggie protein steak, marinated and then diced and sauteed up with some onions, peppers, and all the other good stuff I mentioned.  The cheese turned out to be a Follow Your Heart mozz.  It was good but I did also mention to Bill that there was also Treese and Daiya to look into as he mentioned they don't like to use it on the melts because it stays sort of chunky.  As an aside, Bill mentioned to me that there were 103 items on the menu board.

I really didn't want to spend $42 on the 2 pound block of faux meats, fist since Bill described it as about the size of a shoebox and second I didn't want to think about keeping it frozen for 2 more days but it's on my bucket list of things to order.

I hope this first attempt at putting up a video comes out but in any case, this is a great find in PSP for breakfast, (they open at 7), lunch or dinner.

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