Monday, November 17, 2014

Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table

Do you already miss the excitement and the variety of great vegan dishes you sampled during last month's Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge? If so, you may want to attend the Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table at Tower Bridge Bistro this Thursday.

This five-course vegan meal will feature dishes prepared by five of the outstanding chefs who participated in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge:

• Chef Clay Purcell of Tower Bridge Bistro
• Chef Raphael Kendall of Capitol Garage
• Chef F. J. Villalobos of 58 Degrees & Holding Co.
• Chef Carina Lampkin of Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery
• Chef Joelle Dennis of Capital Dime

The only thing better than enjoying the food at this wonderful vegan meal would be if the money raised at the dinner were used to help low-income residents in our community. Guess what? It does! Two awesome nonprofit organizations will benefit from this fundraiser.

Alchemist Community Development Corporation is one of my favorite local organizations, and I have done volunteer work for them in a variety of capacities. Their staff works with Sacramento area residents in an effort to create vibrant, equitable, healthy and diverse communities. Their main focus in recent years has been to increase access to healthy food in underserved neighborhoods. Alchemist CDC has made it possible for low-income families to use food stamps at local farmers' markets, an option that was previously unavailable to them. They are also working to bring fresh produce into corner stores in low-income neighborhoods.

Family Promise of Sacramento is a program that helps homeless families achieve self-sufficiency and regain a home for themselves and their children by utilizing an interfaith hospitality network of diverse faith communities throughout the Sacramento.

The Vegan Fall Harvest Chef's Table will be held this Thursday, November 20th, at Tower Bridge Bistro at the Embassy Suites Hotel beginning at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Road Trip! Taste Restaurant in Plymouth

About an hour's drive from Sacramento, in a town that has only a sprinkling of businesses on its Main Street, is an amazing restaurant that's been mentioned in the New York Times, has been named as one of the Top 100 Wine Restaurants in America by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and boasts a chef who's been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York. But the best thing about Taste Restaurant in Plymouth is that it's very vegan-friendly!

I had lunch there recently with my friends Cathy and Sandi. I had checked the restaurant's website beforehand and saw that they offer a vegan menu, and they were kind enough to email it to me before my visit. With six vegan "small tastes" listed and four vegan "large tastes," I knew my biggest problem would be to narrow down my selections.

For my first course, I ordered the Roasted Pear small taste. The pears were served with fig jam and pistachio dukkha, then garnished with sprigs of mache. The menu indicates that this wonderful dish is served with grilled naan, but the naan isn't actually vegan, since it contains yogurt. Instead, they substituted little seeded crackers, which went beautifully with the other ingredients.

Next, I had the Grilled Tofu, three little stacks of goodness with fried marble potatoes on the bottom, followed by a slice of grilled tofu, and then topped with eggplant and roasted red peppers in an agro dulce sauce. Fabulous!

One vegan dessert is prepared daily, so you'll just have to ask your server about it when you get there. The day I was at Taste, the vegan dessert was banana donuts with coffee gelato. It was the perfect way to end an incredible meal.

Taste Restaurant is located at 9402 Main Street in Plymouth, and their phone number is 209-245-3463. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at Lunch is served only on Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Dinner is served Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

Taste Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 3, 2014

Road Trip! Cozmic Café in Placerville

My parents and I took a drive up to Apple Hill this past week. It was fun to check out all the crafts for sale at High Hill Ranch and to stock up on my favorite apple variety -- Granny Smith. I was happy to find that the Dutch Apple Pie at High Hill Ranch had shortening and margarine listed in the ingredients, rather than butter, so I brought one home.

Afterwards, we drove into Placerville for lunch at Cozmic Café, a restaurant that has all kinds of vegan options. Going in, I already knew I was going to have the Vegan BLT, but I was keeping my fingers crossed that the "bacon" in the sandwich would bear some resemblance to the real thing. It did! Cozmic Café uses Fakin' Bacon, and its delicious smoky flavor was perfect in this sandwich, which also included tomato slices, organic greens, and vegenaise, served on a toasted organic sprouted grain bread. For an extra cost, I added avocado. It was a wonderful sandwich, with a helping of tasty blue corn chips served on the side.

Other vegan options at Cozmic Café include a tofu scramble, rice bowls, wraps, salads, sandwiches, and vegan tacos. Many of the menu items that aren't actually vegan look as though they could be easily made vegan by just leaving off the cheese.

The restaurant is also concerned about food ethics, an issue that matters a great deal to most of the vegans I know. According to their website: "At the Cozmic Cafe, we not only place great importance on the quality and taste of food, but the ethics of food, and the health of our community and earth. Which is why we proudly serve organic & G.M.O. free foods, as well as locally grown organic food when seasonally available! Cheers!"

Cozmic Café is located at 594 Main Street in Placerville, and their phone number is 530-642-8481. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Cozmic Café & Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant

I had dinner at Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant tonight, a restaurant I'd never visited before. One of my favorite things about the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is that it provides me with the opportunity and the encouragement to try new restaurants.

The Challenge menu at Abyssinia lists several vegan options. I was reading the list and trying to figure out how I was going to decide what to eat when I came across these magic words: Combination Platter. That made ordering much easier. Eating all the food that appeared on the platter was another problem entirely, but it means I'll have leftovers for a couple of days, at least.

The Combination Platter begins with a plate-sized piece of injera, a sour spongy bread, and the other items are served on top of it. Clockwise, starting at the top of the picture, are Duba Wot, a very spicy pumpkin stew; Abeba Gomen, steamed cauliflower with bell pepper and onions; Kayser & Fosolia, a mix of beets, green beans, carrots, potatoes, and onions; Alicha Miser Be-Dinich, slow-cooked lentils with potatoes; and in the center, Abyssinia's Cabbage Salad. Two more large pieces of injera were served on the side, and I used those as utensils to scoop up my food. It was a very satisfying meal!

Abyssinia is vegan-friendly all the time, serving a vegan lunch buffet Monday through Friday, and offering several vegan items on their regular menu.

Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant is located at 1346 Fulton Avenue, and their phone number is 916-481-1580. I wasn't able to find a website for them, but their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9:00 p.m.

Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- 58 Degrees & Holding Co.

I had a great time Friday night with my friends Bonnie and Cathie at 58 Degrees & Holding Co. This restaurant participates in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge every year, and I was eager to see what Chef F.J. had created for this year's Challenge.

My first course was this tasty Warm Fennel and Mushrooms dish, served in a soy milk mushroom bisque. The menu says it comes with a truffled cracker, although one didn't come with mine. I always think that Chef F.J.'s dishes are beautifully presented, and this one was no exception.

The entrée was Roasted Taro and Tofu, consisting of tofu squares in a lemongrass coconut béchamel sauce topped with caramelized squash, bell peppers, and roasted taro cubes, and garnished with crispy rice. This lovely dish was pleasing to both the palate and the eye!

My favorite part of this meal was the incredible dessert -- Montana Huckleberry Cake. There were little chunks of rice milk cake served with huckleberries, agave-sweetened granola, and chocolate sauce. My friends and I split one dessert among the three of us, but I think we secretly wished we'd each ordered one of our own!

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 restaurant is open Monday and Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Pizza Rock

My son Zack took me to Pizza Rock for lunch on Thursday so I could check out their Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu, which includes several lunch, dinner, and brunch items. I know when a person goes to a pizza parlor, it's expected that they'll order the pizza, but since several local vegans had already posted beautiful pictures of the vegan pizza that Pizza Rock is serving up this month, I decided to try some of the other items on the Challenge menu.

I started with the 3 Bean Balela Salad, a tasty mixture of garbanzos, black beans, kidney beans, cherry tomatoes, red onion, mango, and mint, tossed with a serrano citrus dressing. Such a beautiful, colorful salad!

I followed up the salad with a nice hot bowl of Hearty Vegan Chili, made with kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, green beans, peppers, onions, and dark chili tofu. Since it's finally starting to feel like fall, this spicy bowl of chili was just the comfort food I needed.

I was really glad I saved room for dessert, an incredible Vegan Tiramisu. I haven't had tiramisu since I went vegan, since it's one of those dishes that's usually chock full of non-vegan ingredients. Somehow, the chef at Pizza Rock managed to create a delicious vegan version of this fabulous dessert. According to the description on the menu, it's made of "house-made lady fingers dipped in chilled coffee and layered with house-made vegan sour cream and cream cheese, organic cornstarch, vanilla and organic powdered sugar, cocoa powder and chocolate shavings." Amazing!

This was actually my second trip to Pizza Rock this month. The first week of the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, I went there to try the Vegan Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. The menu gives the option of a small, medium, or large order of pancakes. I opted for a medium order, which turned out to be four enormous pancakes. They were delicious, but I couldn't even eat half of them in one sitting. I took the leftovers home with me and discovered that they were just as good reheated. I managed to stretch that one order of pancakes into three breakfasts! I noticed later that a few pictures on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Facebook page showed these pancakes served with fresh fruit. Mine didn't come with fruit, and apparently if you want them that way, you need to order them "ambrosia-style." Either way, you're in for a treat!

Pizza Rock is located at 1020 K Street, and their phone number is 916-737-5777. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday and Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2014 -- Capital Dime

I finally made it to Capital Dime last night with my husband and son so I could check out the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge menu. I'd been reading great comments on Facebook about the vegan raviolis, and I was eager to try them.

First things first, though. The appetizer offered on the fixed price Challenge menu was an order of Sweet Potato Hush Puppies served with a sweet chili sauce. I'm one of those people who likes almost any kind of fried dough, but these hush puppies were especially good, and the sweet chili sauce was the perfect accompaniment.

Next came the ravioli I'd heard so much about, with a filling of mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and a "ricotta" made from tofu and cashews, and a coconut tomato basil sauce. These excellent raviolis certainly lived up to all the hype!

By the time I polished off the first two menu items, I was almost too full for dessert, but couldn't possibly pass up this ice cream sandwich: two delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies and a filling of chocolate avocado ice cream, drizzled with chocolate and garnished with slivered almonds. So good!

Capital Dime is always vegan-friendly, so be sure to check it out even after the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge ends. The next time I'm there, I'm planning to try their vegan jambalaya.

Capital Dime is located at 1801 L Street, and their phone number is 443-1010. Their website address is and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is available only for dinner, which starts at about 5:00 every evening.