We went to Greece last week (Derek had a workshop there), but most of the time we just ate in our hotel in Kefalonia. The food there wasn’t so inspiring (I guess it’s about what you would expect from an all-inclusive resort hotel), but I did appreciate that there were always beans available. We were there for five nights and they served chickpeas several times, fava beans several times, black eyed peas once, and various white beans.
We spent one day in Athens, and ate at two places that I can recommend for vegetarians—Chemin and Mani-Mani. Read the rest of this entry »
Two weeks ago Derek and I spent four and a half days in Berlin. We were starved for good non-Thai ethnic food, and tried to seek some out some great, low-key restaurants in Germany’s modern, international metropolis. Unfortunately, I didn’t write this blog post quickly enough and many of the details have faded from memory. Below are my somewhat fuzzy recollections. Read the rest of this entry »
In May, Derek and I spent a long weekend in Paris. A friend of ours who is doing a sabbatical in Paris invited us to come for a visit. In planning the visit, I hit upon the brilliant idea of spending Derek’s 30th birthday in Paris. It turned out that our friend was going to be out of town that weekend, but she graciously arranged for us to stay at her place even in her absence. Read the rest of this entry »
I just got back from a week in Madrid. I didn’t read anything about it before leaving (didn’t even buy a guidebook) and thus wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the huge metropolis that I found. Madrid reminded me a lot of New York City–tall buildings, lots of people and traffic, great metro system, millions of shops and restaurants…. The main differences seemed to be that Madrilenos eat dinner at 10:30 at night, and speak Spanish. I think Madrid would be a fun city to live in, but it was a bit overwhelming as a tourist destination, at least for a tourist as unprepared as I was.
Before leaving for Spain, I had read a bit about the cuisine. I mostly found webpages complaining about how veggie unfriendly the country is. I even found one page that claimed that Spain was voted the second worst country for vegetarians to travel in, after Mexico. Supposedly meat and/or fish are in everything. I don’t know if Madrid is different than the rest of the country, but I found the veggie-options to be better than I expected. I was lucky enough to travel mostly with Spanish speakers, which definitely helped. I never ended up being served anything that had any meat or fish in it (at least to my knowledge). Read the rest of this entry »
In October I spent ten days in New York City, and ate out at a number of new restaurants, and a few old ones. We leaned pretty heavily towards Italian this trip, pretty much spurning all cuisines originating east of Italy. Next time we go to NYC we’ll have to focus on Ethiopian, Chinese, and Indian!
This post took me a long time to finish, but hopefully I’ll soon finish up my post about all the cooking we did while we were in NYC, including the cooking class Derek and I took at the Natural Gourmet cooking school. Read the rest of this entry »
Derek and I are going to New York City soon, and I’m looking for great places to eat. Although we’ve been to NYC many times, I can’t really think of that many places that I must return to. I know there must be marvelous places for a vegetarian (and her non-vegetarian foodie husband) to get a great dinner. Do any of you city-dwellers have some favorites you can suggest? If so, please post a comment with your recommendations. Restaurants close to the village are preferred. I’ll post a summary of all our dining experiences after we return.
So far, our tentative plans include Candle Cafe, Blue Hill, Babbo, and maybe Sunday brunch with bagels from Essa Bagels. (Sadly, we can’t get bagels here in Germany).
My blog has languished recently because I haven’t been cooking–I’ve been enjoying other people’s cooking in Scotland. Derek and I spent a week in Edinburgh and three days on the island of Islay. Both were lovely.
I immediately fell in love with Edinburgh. I felt at home from the moment we got on the airport bus and started riding through the suburbs. I liked the Georgian monotony of New Town, the touristy cashmere kitsch of the Royal Mile, and the small town friendliness of Stockbridge. Edinburgh feels like a big, bustling city, yet it’s very easy and fast (and cheap!) to get around on foot and by bus. Plus they’re rebuilding the trams!
I spent most of my week in Edinburgh just walking around, exploring all the different neighborhoods, and checking out the marvelous thrift stores (of which there seemed to be an infinite supply). And I ate. I ate lunch and dinner out every day. After the unvarying German/Italian/Thai of Saarbruecken, it was a pleasure to be able to sample so many different cuisines. Still, as the week wore on, I started to get sick of restaurant food. My normally captious nature blossomed into outright pickiness (as you’ll see in the comments below). But don’t be fooled by all the criticism. I had a lovely time in Edinburgh, and would return in a minute.
Scotland is more vegetarian friendly than Germany–almost every restaurant has at least one vegetarian main dish. That said, the vegetarian fare is pretty predictable. At most restaurants the vegetarian option is risotto, and if not risotto, then it’s almost always ravioli. I enjoy a well-made risotto, and I’ve had some excellent ravioli. (The pumpkin ravioli in a sage cream sauce at Girasole in Pittsburgh comes to mind.) However, when I go to a restaurant and the only vegetarian choices are risotto and ravioli, I become unreasonably acrimonious. So I tried to seek out places with more interesting vegetarian options. Read the rest of this entry »
In October, Derek and I took a belated honeymoon to Tuscany, and lucked into a succession of nine perfect Autumn days: sunny blue skies, warm (but not hot) afternoons, and cool (but not cold) nights. The weather was more consistently fabulous than the food, but in the course of our holiday we did have a number of memorable food experiences. Here are my top ten food memories from our ten day trip to Tuscany. Read the rest of this entry »
I am not an empanada connoisseur. Empanadas are more popular in South American than Mexico, so they’re not that common in Austin. Plus, traditional empanadas are rarely vegetarian. Before I came to Montreal the only time I can remember getting empanadas was in Pittsburgh, at the Peruvian restaurant La Feria. We tried their empanadas once or twice, but they never seemed worth the money or calories (although we did really like the sweet onion relish with which they were served). In Montreal, however, empanadas are more common. There is a small Chilean empanada place called Chilenita, that’s just a few blocks off my walk to work, and I have picked up an empanada for lunch quite a few times. Surprisingly, Chilenita offers five different vegetarian empanadas. When I go on weekdays they usually just have two of the five available, but I dropped by last weekend and they had all five, so I finally got to try them all.
My favorite is La Napolitana, which has green olives and artichokes, tomatoes, goat cheese and mozzarella. It’s a bit salty but very tasty and satisfying. The spinach and cheese empanada is okay, but a bit boring. The végé-champignon empanada includes mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, and corn. I thought it sounded dull, but I quite enjoyed it, especially the corn which was surprisngly flavorful. The végé-tofu version is similar, but the tofu doesn’t really add anything flavor or texture-wise; it’s pretty much just soft unseasoned tofu smushed up with the veggies. The last one is the Mediterranéenne empanada, which I didn’t care for because it has eggplant, my végé-nemesis. All the empanadas come with an excellent spicy red sauce. It’s not quite salsa, or hot sauce, but something in between. Whatever it is, it complements the empanadas perfectly, especially the edges which are somewhat dry. I always ask for extra sauce.
When Derek was in town he tried the La Napolitana empanada, but didn’t care for it. He referred to it as a “starch bomb,” I believe. Certainly, empanadas are carb-heavy, with all that dough, and the dough isn’t all that tasty by itself, but at least the it doesn’t taste extremely rich (although for all I know the dough might be made with tons of butter). Even so, if I eat one empanada for lunch I feel satisfied and alert afterwards, so they pass my after-lunch-coma test.
The Montreal blog Midnight Poutine has a quite lovely and very accurate set of photos documenting both the empanadas themselves and the very tiny but cute restaurant.
La Chilenita’s menu also includes burritos and other latin cuisine, but so far I’ve just stuck with the empanadas, as I’m always in a rush and the empanadas are grab and go.
The Spanish restaurant Sala Rosa has been recommended on the Chowhound Montreal website, for its extensive choice of vegetarian tapas. I finally got a chance to try it last week, and indeed the menu has an unusually large number of vegetarian options for a Spanish restaurant. I went for Sunday dinner with 2 friends and we ordered 4 dishes: the goat cheese with honey and carmelized onions, the fried potatoes with rosemary, the rapini with garlic, and the asparagus tortilla. I was also interested in the carrot salad and the spinach croquettes, but we didn’t want to end up with too much food. The four dishes we did order ended up being just the right amount of food for four people. We probably could have gotten away with just three if we were going to have dessert.
Overall, although the atmosphere was pleasant enough the service was extremely slow (albeit friendly), and none of the food excited me. The goat cheese was quite a large portion, and tasted fine, but I was disappointed in the bread. The honey was standard and I felt like the ratio of cheese to honey was off–it certainly wasn’t as good as the toast and goat cheese and honey appetizers I’ve had in Paris. My friends, however, seemed to really like it, enthusing about the smoothness of the cheese.
The rapini was not bitter at all, but neither was it garlicky enough, and it was a bit under-salted, and rather small for the price (each dish was $8-$10). The potatoes were tasty when slathered with enough mayonnaise and rosemary, but I thought they were way too dry and fluffy–they tasted like the home fries I used to get at the school cafeteria as a kid.
I’ve never had a spanish tortilla before, and so wasn’t sure what to expect. When the tortilla finally came, I thought it looked quite beautiful. The shape was sort of like a sunken cake, and the surface was uniformly browned. Unfortunately, however, given its good looks, it tasted quite bland. It came with some diced tomatoes that didn’t seem to help. Now, perhaps all spanish tortillas are bland, but it still seemed strange that we couldn’t taste any asparagus (although we could see bits of asparagus).
Overall it was a pleasant evening, but I wouldn’t recommend any of the dishes or order them again, although with the help of mayonnaise everything was tasty enough that it got eaten (except the remnants of the tortilla).
I might come back on Flamenco night, but I wouldn’t recommend the place for its food (a least for vegetarians that don’t eat fish). Instead, other nearby options include a Greek Restaurant I’ve heard good things about on Parc, and Aux Vivres, a vegetarian restaurant just down the street that I haven’t had a chance to try yet. Also, Sala Rosa is just a few blocks away from Fairmount Bagels, my favorite Montreal bagel place. Finally, don’t confuse Sala Rosa with Lola Rosa, which is a vegetarian restaurant in the McGill Ghetto.
I’d not heard good things about this Ethiopian restaurant but it’s right around the corner from me and it was raining and cold and I love Ethiopian so I figured I’d give it a shot. The vegetarian selection was a bit shorter than I’m used to, but sufficient.
I ordered the Vegetarian combination plate (spicy) and the Ethiopian tea. My tea came first. It wasn’t hot enough, and the cardamom/ginger flavor was weak. The combination plate was quite large, plenty for two people even. It came with yellow lentils, red lentils, a cabbage/potato dish, spinach, and a small amount of vegetable salad and two bites of a lentil salad. The injera was lukewarm–I know that is traditional in Ethiopia but I prefer it served hot. It was a light brown color, as if it had some teff in it, but was pretty much tasteless, and unusually sticky. The spinach had no detectable spice of any sort, but plenty of oil. It wasn’t unpleasant if you mixed it with something less oily. The potato and cabbage was even more tasteless than usual. The red lentils, which are usually my favorite, were a surprisingly bright shade of red, rather than their usual pinkish/orangish red. They had an okay (if inauthentic) flavor, but were extremely salty. I sort of suspect that in an effort to make them spicier than normal they added more of their seasoning mix, which has salt already added, and ended up with something over spiced and over salted. They yellow lentils, on the other hand, were the one dish I thought was better than average. They were very well seasoned and not too salty. The salad was fine but I wished there was more of it. The cold lentil salad was also nice, at least the 2 bites of it.
I’ve eaten in a lot of Ethiopian restaurants since I first fell in love with Ethiopian food in Seattle. Since then I’ve tried Ethiopian in Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York. None were anything special, but the food at The Blue Nile is probably the worst of the bunch. And it’s more expensive than the others to boot!
The ambience, however, was quite lovely. There were palm? fronds on the ceiling shaped into what I assume are meant to be Ethiopian-styled roofs, which gave one the feeling of eating in a hut. There is a waterfall, and african statues, fake plants, and soft but not-too-dark lighting. There are two booths near the waterfall with their own overhead lights, which are out of the way of the front door (i.e. warmer) and very cozy and private looking. The only downsides to the atmosphere were the strange choice of music (not at all traditional Ethiopian), the regular telephone rings, and the occasional loud grinding noises of what I assume was an espresso maker.
The service was quite inattentive. It took me a long time to get the waiter’s attention, to place my order, to get the check, to get change, etc. Then when they finally brought me my change, they brought me two five dollar bills. I guess they wanted me to tip them five bucks? For terrible service on a bill under twenty dollars? It irked me.
Nonetheless, despite all my complaints, I suspect I’ll be back, at least one more time. The only Ethiopian restaurant in Montreal which I’ve heard good things about just closed, and it’s just too convenient to stay away. I’ll probably try coming with a friend and rather than ordering the sampler just ordering the yellow lentils and a salad. I’m guessing those two dishes will be plenty for two people, and only come to about CAD$9 a person. I’ll come when I want a nice leisurely meal, and maybe when it’s too cold or rainy to venture out further from home.
I was reading the NYC Chowhound reviews and saw Blossom recommended a number of times. It was described as a vegan restaurant similar to Candle Cafe, but perhaps slightly better overall.
I went with a large group last fall and we tried a number of dishes. We didn’t love everything, but overall the quality was excellent. There were few particularly creative or odd combinations, but almost all the dishes were solid and the flavors were well balanced. The prices are high compared to many other vegetarian restaurants (the entrees range from $17-$21), but the portions were quite large.
- Green salad: this salad came with grilled pear that was tasty, and candied walnuts, but the real standout was the tofu cubes, which were slightly dehydrated (so quite toothsome) and infused with a wonderful miso flavor. The dressing was indistinguishable but quite nice, although the salad was a bit overdressed in my opinion–veering a little too close to greasy.
- Mango and avocado salad: this salad was more like a chopped salad. There wasn’t a huge amount of mango or avocado, and neither were bursting with flavor, but the salad was quite tasty. The dressing was light and tasty, and the fennel slices added a pleasant crunch and a bit more bite to the salad.
- Black eyed pea and potato cake. This was a ginormous deep fried patty, but it was so large that only the very surface was crispy, and the rest was more of a creamy, soft texture. I loved the flavors–I’m not sure what was in it, but it tasted almost Indian, with a complex mix of different seasonings that I couldn’t quite place, but worked wonderfully together. The cake was drizzled with a vegan chipotle aioli, that tasted to me exactly like mayo-based aioli (how do they do it?), and went quite well with the other flavors.
- Spinach mushroom and pine nut ravioli with cashew cream. I found the “cream” sauce to be disappointing. It was nicely infused with sage, but the texture was a bit floury I thought, and the flavor odd. Plus I couldn’t taste the ravioli fillings. However, one of our party said that the ravioli was his favorite dish of the evening.
- Oyster mushroom tempura and seitan water chestnut potstickers. The tempura was definitely deep fried, and I’m not sure I tasted the mushrooms (although others said they did), but in any case it was delicious. Everyone really liked it. I thought the potstickers were pleasant, but nothing special, but others liked them more than I did.
- Seitan scallopini. The seitan came in large slices, pan seared, and topped with a caper white wine sauce. I thought the texture of the seitan was perfectly tender and toothsome at the same time, and the sauce was delicious. Everyone loved the seitan. The dish also came with chard (which was nice), and very strongly flavored basil mashed potatoes, that were a hit with everyone but me (but I’m not a mashed potato fan).
- Stuffed portobellos. This dish was two huge mushroom caps stacked and stuffed to the gills with a tofu walnut mixture, and topped with a tahini cashew sauce. Derek adored this dish, and others enjoyed it as well, but I found it too strongly flavored. I’m not sure exactly what the strong flavor was that disturbed me–maybe a excess of red wine or balsamic vinegar?
- Feijoada with smoky tempeh. This dish was the loser of the night. The tempeh was pretty tasteless, the sweet potatoes were tasty but sometimes undercooked, and the black beans were very plain. Overall we found this dish underseasoned and boring.
- Savory seitan. This dish was similar to the scallopini, except the seitan was in a different sauce. I have no idea what was in the sauce but it was light and refreshing and extremely tasty without being terribly greasy. The seitan also came with potatoes, green beans, and roasted tomatoes, all of which were fine but a bit boring.
- Vegan cheesecake. Derek loved the dessert, saying it was the best vegan dessert ever, or at the very least the best vegan cheesecake he’d ever had. It certainly came closer to cheesecake than others I’ve tried, evading the typical soy aftertaste. I asked how they made it and they said tofu and soy cream cheese, so I’m guessing the recipe is similar to the one I have on my blog for vegan key lime pie that uses tofutti cream cheese. I think they also used a very high quality vanilla, which also helps mask the soy flavor.
The service was attentive but not irritating. The ambience was perfectly pleasant, although nothing to rave about. Overall we enjoyed the experience, had lots of tasty food, and will definitely be back.
My apartment in Montreal just happens to be situated directly above a Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant: Yuan. Soon after I moved to Montreal I joined the Vegetarian Meetup group there for a Saturday lunch buffet. Although most of the folks at the Meetup raved about the place, and many said it was their favorite vegetarian restaurant in Montreal, I thought the food was generally pretty awful. I don’t know that I’ve ever had Taiwanese food before but I’ve had lots of Chinese food and this place ranks pretty low, even compared to the standard lunch buffet. Despite my negative experience, I decided to give the buffet a second try today, because I was starving, the place was pretty packed, and quite a few items on the buffet looked really good. Unforunately, however, my experience was almost the same as the last time 6 months ago.
They started me off with a bowl of won ton soup, which I enjoyed both this time and last time. The broth was clearly made with fresh celery, and was quite delicious–an unexpected surprise since vegetable broths are often tasteless or overpowered by MSG. They also have hot and sour soup which isn’t bad tasting, but is too cornstarch-y for my tastes. It has a lot of mushrooms, which I like, but some of them are very tough.
Most of the hot dishes are made with various kinds of fake meats. Although they can sometimes gross me out, I don’t have anything particular against fake meats a priori (I really love the mock duck at Chu Chai for instance). However, I found most of Yuan’s fake meat dishes to taste odd and have strange textures. The sauces were generally no better: they were too oily, too sweet, neither distinctive nor tasty. The vegetables were almost uniformly overcooked and tasteless. (Of course, overcooked vegetables are to be expected in a buffet situation and they might be more crisp when ordering a la carte.) I think I tasted 8 hot dishes today, but with one exception I only took one bite of each. I did go back for a bit of yuba from one of the dishes (I’m a sucker for yuba).
In addition to the fake meat dishes there was vegetable fried rice and some fried noodle dish. Both were greasy but flavorless. They also offered egg rolls, which had a nice light, relatively non-greasy wrapper, but unfortunately the filling was (again) totally tasteless.
Yuan also has a cold section of the buffet which includes cold vegetables salads, veggie maki rolls, fruit and desserts. Last time they had a fresh sesame asparagus salad that I quite enjoyed. Today there was a zucchini salad which was fine but not exciting, a too-old tomato and cucumber salad with too many dried herbs, and a seaweed salad which I didn’t try. I liked their maki rolls quite a bit both this time and last time, as well as their rice balls covered in yuba (tofu skin). They even had pickled ginger and wasabi. For a place that doesn’t specialize in sushi I thought their maki rolls were surprisingly good–they weren’t the most tightly rolled but were more interesting tasting than the rolls at many sushi places I’ve been to!
The baked desserts are uninteresting, but I enjoyed the fresh pineapple and especially liked the very thinly shaved sliced of green mango that they served today. I’m not sure whether or not it was supposed to be unripe, and it didn’t taste anything like mango, but it had a lovely balance of sweet and sour that helped to counteract all the grease and salt I had just ingested. Shaved green mango slices, perhaps wrapped around some kind of savory filling, is now something I want to try at home.
The only dish I’ve ordered a la carte is a bowl of peanut noodles, which were fine. I wouldn’t recommend them but I might order them again in a pinch.
The front of the restaurant where the buffet is located is rather boxy and although it’s decorated with all kinds of Chinese tchockes it doesn’t have a lot of ambience. However, when I went to the restroom today I discovered that there’s a very large section in the back of the restaurant with booths, low tables and cushions, almost Japanese in style. There was nobody there, and it didn’t seem like you were even allowed to sit there, but it seemed quite pleasant and more atmospheric than the relatively boxy front. Perhaps it is used for private parties?
I’ll probably head back to Yuan just because it’s so convenient, but I won’t try the buffet again. I’ll get a bowl of soup and some maki rolls, or perhaps try something off the a la carte menu. If anyone can recommend any particular dishes please post a comment.
Derek and I went to Madre last week, a contemporary latin fusion restaurant on the East Side of Montreal. The restaurant is pretty tiny, and we kept getting glimpses of the chef cooking in the kitchen, seemingly all alone. The space feels kind of like a long hallway, except there are pleasant Mexican-styled drawings on the walls.
Derek called ahead to make sure they could make me a vegetarian meal. They served me a celery root soup as a starter (the other option was a beet salad). The soup was surprisingly light, I almost think it was vegan. The soup was very simple, just tasted like pureed celery root. It was enhanced by the inclusion of some very flavorful and crisp diced cucumber, and some piquant red bell peppers. It was supposed to contain chorizo, which they left out for me, and that probably would have added a missing dimension. Derek had a “duck ceviche” which he loved, and even I agreed it looked interesting and delicious. The ceviche was seared duck marinated in a spicy amarillo pepper sauce (the bright yellow pepper sauce you get at a Peruvian store). It also had onions, parsnip puree, and roasted corn kernels (dried kernels that you use for popcorn). Definitely a winner. I’d like to try to make something similar (without the duck).
For the entree there was no vegetarian option so the chef made me a homey South-American inspired pasta dish. The dish was a large bowl of cavatelli (which were almost gnocci-like in their chewiness) in a pesto sauce, topped with a sunny side up egg, a bit of queso fresco, and a garnish of pickled beets. It was fine, the flavors went together, but it wasn’t exciting, and wouldn’t look forward to having it again. Derek’s main dish was tasty but not very inspiring.
For dessert there was only one option: a tres leches sponge cake, topped in a mango chutney and avocado ice cream. I liked the chutney but found the cake bland and the avocado ice cream was lacking in flavor (not salty or sweet enough). All in all, we had a similar overall experience to our meal at Laloux (not bad, but disappointing), but Madre’s modest decor and (lack of) atmosphere definitely suffered by comparison.
I’ve decided to branch out and include restaurant reviews in my blog. My main purpose for writing this blog has been to help me remember which recipes I’ve tried and how they turned out. It’s also hard for me to remember which restaurants I’ve been to and which dishes I liked; hence, the new section to this blog. I’m going to start with a review of Laloux, a contemporary French restaurant just a few blocks from me in Montreal.
I’ve been to Laloux twice now with Derek. The first time was last summer, and we both really liked it. The food was perfectly executed, and some of the dishes were inspired. We went again last week, and were quite disappointed. Derek was still infatuated with the desserts, but the rest of the meal was pretty dull. Certainly for a vegetarian, the options are slim and I would be hard-pressed to recommend it.
Some dishes of note: The first time we went, I ordered a green bean salad (not on the menu currently) which was simple but delicious–the vegetables were perfectly crisp, and there was an excellent balance of richness and vinegar, without being at all greasy. My entree, a pesto papardelle, was again simple but perfectly executed. The noodles were al dente, the pesto was fresh and flavorful, and it included plenty of perfectly cooked tasty vegetables. For such a common dish, I was surprisingly happy with it. This time we went, there was no vegetarian main on the menu, and the papardelle dish they gave me as a consolation was not in the same league as the previous papardelle. So far, the only non-dessert Derek had that he was terribly enthusiastic about was a scallop carpaccio appetizer, which is still on the menu.
Concerning the desserts, Derek loved all three of the ones that he tried: a chocolate pot-de-creme with caramel and salt, a pistachio shortbread with creamsicle sorbet and cream, and a somewhat bizarre dessert consisting of pecan ice cream, quince jelly, old cheddar, and butter cookies. He felt the last one, while scattershot, was an ingenious reinvention of the “cheese platter” (with nuts, jam, cookies, and cheese). Anyway, he would suggest that you go to Laloux just for the desserts and share a bunch of them (or better yet, to Pop!, the casual wine bar next door, which shares much of Laloux’s menu, including the desserts). Personally, I think the desserts veer too far in the direction of “playful and innovative” at the expense of coherence of flavor, but I can see what he likes about them.