Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cafe Gratitude, warm vegan welcome in the shadow of Kansas City's meatpacking history.

Kansas City, the words are almost synonymous with meat.  Beef.  Stockyards.  Amazing that there are 3 vegan establishments here.  Fud is not open for dinner during the week and Mud Pie Vegan Bakery wasn't what I had in mind for a dinner, so what turned out to be a good choice was made by default.

But first, KC you do have your progressive shite together.  Rentable bikes that you can return to different locations  than where you rented them from.  These automated kiosks caught my attention in a double take and I pulled over to take a few pics.  The only question I have is what if you're taking a bike to a place that is full.  Then what, since you're charged by the hour while you have the bike.  The clock apparently stops when you bring it back and you can take the bike as many times as you want during the period you paid for.  Interesting concept.

Now just to give you a feel for the place, here's something you don't see in my neck of the woods everyday ... but it's one of the first things I noticed at MCI, the big airport:

And one last thing.  Here's the view from my hotel.  Actually not a bad looking city:

Now for the food part.  I made you wait.  I'm sorry.  No I'm not.  But here:  Cafe Gratitude 

The interior is a warm brick and wood interior with a bar running about half way down the dining room.  I found the environment very relaxing.

I don't really like when dishes have cute names and every dish here does.  As a newcomer to a menu I just find it just a bit harder to decipher.  Here are a few shots of the menu.  That being said it is a pretty extensive menu and you do have lots of options and cuisines to choose from.

The conversation sounds like this, "Did you want to be comforted or are you connected?"
"I don't know, I just want the potatoes."

I got the I Am Comforted as an appetizer.

I Am Transformed is their best seller and since I'm still on a quest for the world's best veggie burger I tried that too.  I Am Magical.  "poof."

Just so you know, I put gluttony aside and took home half of everything I ordered.  Except dessert.  That didn't make it back to the hotel room.

Natalie the owner asked me if I liked chocolate and mint as she put this in front of me.  I LOVE chocolate and mint.  This was a shake and although I thought it was cool and refreshing and enjoyed the crunch of the nibs I think the mint, from fresh mint leaves, was a bit too "green" if that makes any sense.  It had a great taste but had a "leafy" quality.

I love the mission statement although it didn't want to cooperate with the setting sun for a good picture.

My potatoes were delicious but I was expecting, for some reason, more like a potato skin appetizer.  This would have been great as a side.  The cashew cream is just that, creamy and cheesy and has a great kick (as in heat).  The Mama Tutu's sauce was unnecessary.

I can see why the tacos are their best seller.  They were fantastic and had a combination of almost every Mexican flavor and ingredient.  Beans, rice, guac, cashew cheese, corn, yada yada, all on a soft corn tortilla.

You can see how bright and lightly dressed the greens are with the flash but the cashew cheese looks blanched and gloppy,
which it wasn't.

The burger was ok.  It wasn't the burger of my youth that I was looking for from a consistency stand point.  The waiter did warm me about the in-house mustard.  It did have an over powering flavor and I'd definitely recommend getting it on the side.

The mixed greens served with both entrees were fresh and the vinaigrette was crisp and bright.

A confluence of Mexican flavors and textures.
OK, now the dessert.  Called a mocha cheesecake.  Misnomer.  It bears little resemblance to the ricotta curdy-ness texture of a true cheesecake but more like a thick chocolate mousse.  The flavor was outstanding and the meld of chocolate and coffee and nuts was over the top.  I broke my vow to take half of my food home with this last plate of food.  You won't be able to help yourself either.

The bill for the one app, 3 entrees and 1 dessert with tax was $42.29 and that turned into almost 2 meals.

I'd go back to Cafe Gratitude in a heartbeat.  I found the environment warm and relaxing and the success with the tacos and dessert well worth another trip to sample other offerings.  One note though, there are a few items that have honey from the bar.  I think 1%?  So why?

The next morning before flying out I stopped called ahead for a Vegan Kitchen Sink at Succotash, an omni place that offers a few vegan options.

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vegan options in Long Island's Bay Shore

What a great little find in Bay Shore, while on an overnight in Islip, (ISP).  Although not a 100% vegan restaurant Tula Kitchen offers more than a gratuitous one or two vegan options.  I felt welcome.  The waiter knew what vegan was.  The kitchen apparently knew what vegan was.  Even though I have recurring nightmares about eating in mixed food establishments, (yes, Dr. Freud), I felt at ease here due to the relative abundance of vegan options on the menu.  It was not an appeasement one or two items but a rather noticeable chunk of the menu.

The decor is warm and welcoming, with a wooden banquette along one wall covered with pillows, and an almost hookah lounge feel to it.  Not that I've ever been to a hookah lounge, nor is it a smoke filled environment.

There are much better pics of the place on the website.  Apart from the bar,
every table was filled.

The meal starts out with a complimentary vegan dish of seasoned toasted pita with a small dish comprised mostly of chickpeas, garlic, and onions.  Although tasty and a nice way to start the meal, the pita wasn't exactly the right instrument for scooping up the contents. No worries, place settings are available at each seat.

6 vegan options made my choice rather difficult.  Tofu veggie crab cakes?  Oh, I'm coming back for this one!  But for my main dish I went with the Tempeh Reuben.  Sometimes you just have a hankerin', know what I mean?

The dish was served with an Asian slaw.  Crisp and fresh beyond a doubt, it had the perfect blend of acid and sweet.  And crunch.  It tasted like it was tossed and put on the plate as it was headed through the pass, not tonged out of a vat of pre made slaw sitting for hours.

The Reuben comes with cheddar or vegan cheese so make sure you specify.  

This was one of the most perfect sandwiches I've ever had.  And it surprised me because I was expecting, well, you know, a sammich, not a dining experience.  The bread had the perfect toasted crunch, the cheese was gooey, the kraut was not overpowering but balanced the creamy house made, (with Veganaise), vegan Russian dressing and the whole thing just came together.  Although it was made from Tempeh it didn't have any trace of a "tempeh-ish" flavor.  The quantity of ingredients was also balanced with no search party needed to find any one thing and no culinary riot police needed to hold back any one flavor.  As perfect as a sandwich can be, this was.

Vegan dessert was of course the chocolate cake.  The consistency was almost like a mousse.   It was gone in no time.  My flying compatriot, (who didn't order a vegan entree, btw, and thoroughly enjoyed his food, in case you're thinking of coming here with a carnivore), thought it tasted a bit "healthy."  I know what he meant but since I haven't had a "regular" piece of dessert in so long I only noticed it after he pointed it out, being too busy smooshing the cake/pie around my mouth in near ecstatic savoring-ness.  He did finish his half though.

Tula is not a person, it's not "Tula's" Kitchen.  As explained on the website, Tula is a sanskrit word for "balance." They certainly have found it here.

Tula Kitchen on Urbanspoon