Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2015 -- 58 Degrees & Holding Co.

My friend Greta and I had dinner last night at 58 Degrees & Holding Co., where Chef F.J. Villalobos offers tasty and creative vegan menu items every year during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. This year is no exception!

We started with the Autumn Tartlette, a tiny tart filled with roasted eggplant caponata, tomato confit, preserved lemon, and herbs. The tart's crust was sweet, which really complemented the flavors of the filling.

Because the tart was so small, we ordered another starter from the regular menu -- the butternut squash, braised greens, and pecan bruschetta. I'm not usually a fan of cooked greens, but they were excellent in combination with the butternut squash and pecans.

For our entrée, we both ordered the excellent Griddle Cake & Caps, which consisted of polenta triangles, pesto, a ragout of smoked wild mushrooms, and almonds. It was a delicious and very satisfying dish.

The other item offered for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is a roasted vegetable consomme, made with butternut and spaghetti squash, daikon, longbean, and vegan fish sauce. Sadly, 58 Degrees isn't offering a vegan dessert this year, which is a big disappointment after the beautiful desserts Chef F.J. has created in the past.

58 Degrees & Holding Co. is located at 1217 18th Street, and their phone number is 916-442-5858. Their website address is and their Facebook page can be found at The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu items are available for dinner only, which is served nightly beginning at 5:00.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2015 -- The Rind

One of my favorite things about the annual Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is that it gives me a chance to check out restaurants I wouldn't otherwise visit, since they don't usually offer vegan options. One restaurant that's participating in this year's challenge, the Rind, has been open for more than two years, but I'd never visited before today since, as you may have guessed from the name, their menu revolves mostly around cheese.

I stopped in for lunch at the Rind this afternoon and asked for their challenge menu. As it turns out, they're offering only one item for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. That one item, though, was completely worth the visit. It's a sliced zucchini sandwich served on a baguette and spread with a house-made olive tapenade and Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive vegan cheese. It was a perfect blending of flavors, and I ate every bite. It was served with a side salad of mixed greens, dressed with oil and vinegar. I'm glad I had this sandwich early in the month, because now I can go back and have it a few more times before the challenge ends.

The Rind is located at 1801 L Street, and their phone number is 916-441-7463. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open daily beginning at 11:00 a.m., and closing at 10:00 p.m. weeknights and midnight Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2015 -- The Porch

The Porch is always one of my favorite restaurants to visit during the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge. The menu changes frequently during the challenge, so you never know what exciting vegan masterpieces you might encounter.

My husband Phil and I went to the Porch for dinner Saturday night, and there were lots of choices on the challenge menu. Since the vegan desserts at the Porch are always spectacular, I didn't want to fill up too quickly, so instead of getting an appetizer, I ordered the special cocktail on the vegan menu -- the Farm to Smash. It was a tasty mix of vodka, lemon, grapefruit, and muddled red bell pepper, served up in a Mason jar.

For my entree, I got the soyrizo and rice tamales, served with green tomato-tomatillo salsa and vegan sour cream, and with a side of cole slaw. The tamales were really, really good. In fact, I wish they were available on the Porch's regular menu. Other dishes on the challenge menu Saturday night were the green veggie bisque, Porch pickle jar, crispy fried hominy (why didn't I try that?!), sauteed seasonal veggies, shaved broccoli salad, and Frito pie.

Two vegan desserts were on the menu: banana mocha cake and a chocolate-whiskey poached pear. I opted for the poached pear, and I was so glad I did. Look at this gorgeous dessert -- a perfect pear poached in whiskey and vanilla bean, then dipped in dark chocolate and served with vanilla bean-coconut creme and pecan pralines. If it's still on the menu when you go to the Porch, I highly recommend it!

The Porch is located at 1815 K Street, and their phone number is 916-444-2423. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at Lunch is served Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2015 -- Capitol Garage

The moment I saw pumpkin pancakes listed on their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, I knew a trip to Capitol Garage was in my immediate future.

Even though it was lunchtime when I arrived today, I ordered breakfast, which is served until 3:00 p.m. A plate with three huge pumpkin pancakes appeared in front of me, along with vegan butter and cranberry syrup. The pancakes were so good, and really filling. I only ate about half, and the rest will be my breakfast tomorrow.

Other items on Capitol Garage's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu are beer-battered shishito peppers, a veggie burger and fries, and strawberry shortcake. Guess I'll have to go back for lunch or dinner soon!

Capitol Garage's address is 1500 K Street, and their phone number is 916-444-3633. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2015 -- Thai Basil

It's Day One of the fifth annual Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, so I had lunch with my friend Cathy at a restaurant that's new to the challenge -- the always vegan-friendly Thai Basil. There seemed to be a little confusion about whether the challenge items were available at lunchtime or just for dinner, but they decided to go ahead and let me order from the challenge menu for lunch.

Everything looked good, but I couldn't possibly order all of it, so I skipped the winter curry (for now) and feasted on smaller items.

First to come out of the kitchen was a delicious plate of spicy fried okra and pumpkin, breaded in a gluten-free flour and, according to the menu, "sprinkled with heirloom garlic infused sea salt." Sorry for the blurry photo!

Next, I had a cup of pumpkin coconut soup, consisting of a wonderful coconut broth filled with cubes of pumpkin, a few different types of mushrooms, and a variety of herbs and spices. It was excellent!

The third dish was a beautifully-presented miang kum, individual endive leaves filled with a surprising mix of ingredients so that every bite was different. Bits of lime, ginger, garlic, shallots, coconut, tofu, and I don't even remember what else created an amazing flavor explosion.

Even though I was stuffed, I couldn't leave without ordering dessert -- a fabulous plate of mango sweet rice. The sticky rice, served with coconut syrup, and the mango provided a refreshing ending to a lovely meal.

Thai Basil is located at 2431 J Street, and their phone number is 916-442-7690. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2015

Local vegans know the best month to be plant-based in Sacramento is October, when the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge takes place. Chefs throughout the city create special menus for the month, with vegan appetizers, entrees, and desserts. This coming Thursday marks the start of the challenge for the fifth year in a row.

Here's the list of restaurants that are participating this year:

* Tower Bridge Bistro

* Capitol Garage

* The Porch

* Evan's Kitchen

* 58 Degrees & Holding Co.

* The Rind

* Lou's Sushi

* Metro Kitchen + Drinkery

* Orchid Thai

* Andy Nguyen's

* Thai Basil

* El Papagayo (Carmichael)

* Abyssinia Ethiopian

* Baagan (Roseville)

* Green Boheme (Roseville)

* Nectar Cafe (Auburn)

In addition, Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, which has been closed due to flooding, will offer new vegan items beginning October 23rd, and the Roaming Spoon will host pop-ups at various locations throughout the month.

It's a great mix of old favorites and newcomers to the challenge. While some chefs have provided sneak previews on Facebook of some of the items they'll be offering, most of the menus aren't set yet. I'll try to post the menus on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook page as they become available.

As always, my plan is to visit as many participating restaurants as possible, and I'll blog about them within a day or two of each meal so you can see what's being offered. I may not make it to all of them, but I'll give it my best effort!

For more information, be sure to check the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge website and Facebook page. They're also on Instagram. Happy eating!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nido Bakery

Nido Bakery opened recently in the space on R Street formerly occupied by Magpie Cafe. Nido, which means "nest" in Spanish, is one of Magpie's bakeries. Yellowbill at 14th and O is the other one.

I stopped in for lunch last week and asked at the counter what was vegan. I was told they could make a vegan soup and salad combo. The bean soup with roasted vegetables and miso was really good, although it would have been better had it been served hot, rather than lukewarm. The salad was a burst of colors and flavors -- mixed greens, several varieties of tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Presumably the salad dressing choices at Nido are not vegan, as I was given oil and my choice of vinegar (red wine, rice, or white wine) for my dressing.

For dessert, I had the peanut butter sandwich -- two delicious peanut butter cookies with a peanut butter filling. And then, just because I can never resist, I ordered a small container of the wonderfully rich and creamy chocolate and avocado mousse to go.

Nido is located at 1409 R Street, and their phone number is 916-668-7594. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The bakery is open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.