30 May 2012

Ann Arbor: Tea Haus

Have you ever had high tea?  I think that question could best be rephrased as:  Are you British?  Well, I hadn't and I'm not.  So this was new for me.  Luckily, I cope well with change.  Also, Alana - Tura's awesome sister and maid of honor - arranged the whole thing and made absolutely sure I'd have something to eat.  I even got my high tea cheaper than the omnivores because I had fewer options than everyone else.  Don't worry - I was more than full by the end.  And all for just $10!

Tea Haus
204 North 4th Ave
Ann Arbor, MI  48104
(734) 622-0460

I tried three of the several billion teas offered, and upon ordering the first, I asked for soy milk with it.  My wish was granted.  That little porcelain vehicle got me through 800 cups of tea.

The first I tried was Strawberry Mint Lavender Black Tea.  I loved it.  Both fruity and minty, it made my mouth feel clean.  You may know that's not always a given with tea.  You may be British.

Next I tried the Iced Fruit Paradise Tea.  Yum!  It was refreshing yet dry, with a strong raspberry taste.

My last tea was Caramel Rooibos.  I tasted caramel and possibly coconut.  As Becca said, it tastes like Christmas.*  Bittersweet.

Now.  Get ready for these fancy and/or Victorian foods.

Cucumber Sandwiches!  Can you even stand it?  I couldn't.  So I ate them.  They're the triangular ones with white bread, vegan cream cheese, and fresh cucumber.  Everything about them was fancy and perfect, right down to the refreshing aftertaste.  I gotta make these at home.  Wonder if I could get the recipe.

The teakettle-shaped sandwich on wheat bread had apricot jam and vegan cream cheese.  This one was good, but a little bitter.  I liked the cukes better.

Next - Chocolate Strawberries.  To those of us who aren't fancy/British, that means fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate.  Who doesn't like those?  The delish chocolate definitely took a backseat to the tartness of the ripe strawberries.  And that was okay.

Um, okay.  Finally, it's time for me to relive this freakin' INCREDIBLE parfait.  In the immortal words of Donkey, "You know what else everybody like?  Parfaits.  Have you ever met a person you say, 'Hey, let's get some parfaits' and they say, 'Hell no, I don't like no parfaits.'  Parfaits are delicious."  Let's philosophize about the nature of the parfait.

Actually, let's talk about when I ate one.

The thing was made with cold coconut cream, sweet and thick as ice cream, as well as a luscious berry compote, toasted oats and coconut, and cashews.  Let me tell you, whoever decided to throw cashews in there is a genius.  The sweet and salty combo was heavenly.  The whole parfait had an amazing depth of flavor, with rich coconut and berry overtones.

If I could time travel, I'd go back to the time when I was eating that parfait.  Or my honeymoon.  Not really sure.

* Becca is Jewish.

Ann Arbor: Pilar's Tamales

Our very dear, very sweet, very adorable friend Tura got married this weekend in Ann Arbor.  She's a big part of why Matt and I wound up together, plus she sang at our wedding.  At hers, Matt DJed and I made 2 dozen of these cupcakes with help from Becca and John - a vegan accessory to the main non-vegan cake.  We were overjoyed that Tura married the very Tura-worthy man of her dreams.

We hadn't been to Ann Arbor before, but for only spending two full days in a new place we sure ate a lot of good food!  My little vegan belly was so happy.  This will be the first of 5 super exciting amazing spectacular vegan-filled Ann Arbor posts.

Please take your index finger, place it on the bottom of your chin, and press firmly upward.  You have nice teeth, I just don't want you to drool on your shirt.

Pilar's Tamales
2261 West Liberty St
Ann Arbor, MI  48103
(734) 929-4161

Pilar's Tamales catered a lovely lunch.  Thanks to the legendary hospitality of the bride, I had 4 vegan dishes to pick from.  So I had some of each.  Duh.

I started with a Spinach Tamale.  Hell yes.  It was full of creamy, tangy goodness.  Becca and I couldn't really taste the spinach because the other lovely flavors took over - and that was just fine.

Next I tucked into some awesome Casamiento - that's beans and rice to you non-French speakers.*  If you've ever had authentic small town Central or South American beans and rice, you know you'd rather have the kind with salt and flavor - this stuff definitely delivered on that front.

There was some yummy sour fresh coleslaw too.  Mix that with the Tamale, Casamiento, and the lovely Enchilada Sauce, and you are in vegan heaven.  The sauce isn't spicy, but like the rest of the food it doesn't skimp on good taste.  It's smooth and tangy.  Pilar's even used vegan Worcester Sauce in there.  Did you know Worcester Sauce usually has anchovies in it?  Now you do.

Everything led up to the final moment: sweet plantains.  I think they were roasted with brown sugar and cinnamon.  They melted in my mouth with amazing banana flavor.  I ran around asking people, "Have you tried these things?!  Fruit really IS nature's candy!"

Surprisingly, I was not locked in my hotel room for the rest of the weekend.

* Pilar's is Salvadorian, so I don't know where les escargots and les napoleons were.

22 May 2012

Minneapolis: Galactic Pizza

You guys know the mugging rescue story, right?  Kay, about three years ago this woman got mugged in Minneapolis.  A Galactic Pizza delivery guy (Luke Pie-Rocker, dressed in the usual delivery-optimizing superhero outfit) ran after the mugger, wrestled away the woman's purse, and gave it back to her.  As Pie-Rocker said,
"I don't think I could have attained the necessary speed had I been in my civilian wear.  The spandex really helps.  It steamlines me.  Makes me more aerodynamic.  It allows me to pursue evildoers at nearly twice the speed of a pair of jeans and a T-shirt."
Can't really beat that.

Galactic Pizza
2917 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapoils, MN  55408
(612) 824-910

Why don't I just live on Lyndale?  I don't know.  That's a good question.

Galactic's recently been remodeled.  It was super wonderful and charming in a hole-in-the-wall kind of way before.  Now it's a place you can take your mom to!  So I did.  Why, with their GF pizza crusts, I could even take Sister there!  So I did.

The menu comes with 3D glasses (which you'll see below, behind my pizza).  It turns the menu into an intergalactic phenomenon.  There are a lot of vegan pizzas in space.  Who knew?

The vegan garlic cheese bread is totally worth your time, by the way.  Like you could resist.

I nabbed a small vegan Alamo for $13.10, mostly 'cause the three of us don't share food well.  I could've split this thing with someone.  It was yummy, full of an almost sweet, non-spicy BBQ sauce and melty vegan cheese.  The veggies were lovely, and the blend of flavors said to me, comfort food.  It freaked me out a little.  Vegans don't like it when their food talks.

Sister ordered a small GF pizza with bianca sauce and vegan cheese for $13.10.  She'd like you to know it tastes exactly like the same thing at Luce.  Nice and crispy, prolly sprinkled with garlic salt.  Delicious in its simplicity.

The Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake, $4.25, is going on your bucket list right now.  I don't care whether you're vegan - you have to eat a slice of this stuff before you die.  Or I'll kill you.  Think of all the wonderful Little Debbie flavors from your childhood.  It's like that, but better.  You can't tell it's vegan.  And I think $4.25 is a small price to pay for an out-of-body food experience.  It'll change your life.

All the vegan pizzas will delight and amaze you.  My favorite is the Second Harvest Heartland.  It's almost spicy and has these great wholesome, yet simple, yet also flavorful ingredients.  When you order one, Galactic donates a buck to Second Harvest Heartland, a non-profit that fights hunger.  Speaking of good deeds,* Galactic's superhero delivery men and women drive electric cars.

Our server, Aaron, was pretty awesome.  An "it-getter," as Mom would say.  He convinced her the wild rice on the Paul Bunyan pizza really does work.  Once Mom tasted it she agreed.  Pizza + rice = tasty.  Aaron knows.

Thanks for defending the universe, Galactic Pizza.  You're fighting the good fight, and you're fighting it with pizza.  Maybe it doesn't explode on contact or function in zero-g, but not even an intergalactic villain would want to destroy the planet when there's pizza to be had.  I just hope that when evil aliens do invade, Aaron is there to explain the rice thing.

* Show me when Galactic's NOT doing a good deed.  It's never.

21 May 2012

Minneapolis: French Meadow

To accurately express the affection I feel for French Meadow, I'd have to write a musical.  It's literally* the only way.

Here's a sample of FRENCH MEADOW: The Musical.  Think to the tune of The Wizard and I.

And I'll eat there at French Meadow
Tasting tastes I'd never know'd
And since I'd eat to bursting
I'd be so happy I could 'splode!

I know.  I know.  It'll be on Broadway soon.

French Meadow
2610 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55408
(612) 870-7855

This is another restaurant on Lyndale (gasp!) with a vegan-friendly menu.  All the vegan dishes have a little v next to them.  If you get here before 5 any day of the week, you're good to go for counter service using the giant menu on the wall, and they'll bring your food out to you.  After 5, you're in for a table service experience and a separate dinner menu.  There's always a vegan special.

Oh, and remember Peoples Organic?  French Meadow got together with Edina to birth it.  And now Mama Frenchie serves Peoples Organic coffee and tea.  Or is it Peoples Organic's coffee and tea?  A whole new realm of apostrophe debate has now been opened.  What now.

Speaking of tea, I ordered a soy chai for $4!  Unfortunately, I've always found the chai here a bit off, but it's improved somewhat lately.  All the right spices are there, and the soy milk is much better than it used to be, but the tea is just too sweet.  It definitely tastes like it's from a syrup mix.  And maybe the distaste for sweetness is a personal preference, but... this is from the woman who drinks Almond Breeze vanilla almond milk every day.

Now.  Have you ever been vegan at your average brunch-serving restaurant?  If so you know the literally* physical pain that emerges when you realize that while all your table mates can get pancakes, you are stuck with OATMEAL.  AGAIN.  (Nothing against oatmeal.  It just gets old.)  Don't even talk to me about Original Pancake House.  Oh, and then there are places that don't even HAVE oatmeal!  I'm looking at you, IHOP.  I'm looking at you so bad.  (They only serve oatmeal to seniors.  I'm not going to IHOP again until I'm 55+.)

Luckily, French Meadow does better than that.  Yes.  A vegan blueberry corn pancake with 100% pure maple syrup can be yours for $6.  Plus, it's GF.  The key here is that the pancake isn't too sweet.  It lets the syrup take care of that.  The blueberries are perfect.  And the pancake carries a hint of that cornmeal taste.  Lovely.  It is literally* my own personal heaven.

Matt and I are less impressed with the Healing Plate, which hits you at $11.  Captain Adventure was ravenous and ordered it because it's a ton of food... but we knew from previous experience that it's not the most flavorful dish.  It comes with grainy brown rice, smoky sauteed greens, nice brothy tempeh, and fantastic savory squash.  Everything is drizzled in a balsamic sauce which adds a good flavor.  Problem is, there's not enough of it - and no garlic or onion.  Silly French Meadow.  We LIKE flavors.

After his mediocre meal, Matt craved more of an adventure.  I suggested ordering 3 of their 12 (yes, 12) vegan desserts.  I'm a genius.  Matt rallied.

The Chocolate Mini Cupcake at $1.75 was... underwhelming.  Too sweet.  Good thing it was tiny.  But overall, it was pretty good!  Hey, it's a vegan cupcake.  Just because I can make better ones doesn't mean I don't appreciate the effort it takes to make them.

The Black and White Cookie rocked at $2 - nice and crumbly with good dark chocolate and yummy vanilla icing.  I could definitely stomach it better than the cupcake, unlike Jerry Seinfeld.  I can hardly imagine a NYC-style black and white cookie purist living in Minneapolis, but if you happen to be picky about this kind of thing, know the cookie does not have the authentic cake texture you're used to.  But it's still super delish.

Most impressive was the Berry Cream Tart for $6.  It's GF too, and so good and creamy it'll blow your socks off.  Literally.*  It was like fruit mousse in there.  I could've eaten a mountain of that stuff.

I've tried virtually every vegan thing here.  My faves are the salads (especially ones with tofu) and the Tempeh Stroganoff on the dinner menu.  Matt loves the Butternut Squash Gnocchi.  Everything's good.  Except the Healing Plate.

Just so you know, 3 desserts is a lot of dessert.  Even when splitting with someone.  God, I wanted to barf.  I wanted to barf so bad.  But I was so happy about it.  Just like in FRENCH MEADOW: The Musical.

* For those of you who don't know this about me, when I say literally, 95% of the time I'm being sarcastic and making fun of Stephenie Meyer.

20 May 2012

Minneapolis: Ginger Hop

The trick to writing is being able to stop cramming your face with cookies long enough to type.  This is a skill I am currently honing.  With practice, I hope to improve.

Becca, why do you have to make such good cookies?

Ginger Hop
201 E Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55414
(612) 746-0305

Oops, I just ate another one.

Fresh Spring Rolls *
My homies over at Mill City Vegan and Minnesota Vegan have shared their fabulous dining experiences at Ginger Hop, and because Matt and I enjoy knowing ahead of time that food won't suck, we decided to check the place out.  By a happy coincidence, old friend Anna and new friend Fiona happened to be in the neighborhood and willing to join us.  To the noms, friends!

Cookies, just go away.  I can't eat you all day.

Ginger Hop has a great southeast Asian-inspired menu, its handful of vegan dishes prominently labeled.  Plus, the menu says the place composts all the food you don't finish.  Bonus points, Ginger Hop.

Fiona suggested we share the Fresh Spring Rolls with tofu for $5.50.  We can see why Anna keeps her around.  The rolls were delish.  If you don't mind dropping bits of food down your shirt, you will love these.  The veggies were fresh and crisp, and the peanuts nice and crunchy.  The real star here, though, was the dipping sauce.  It was the perfect blend of salty and tangy.

Steven Segal Burger *
Having caught on to Fiona's winning streak, I copied her and ordered the Steven Segal Burger for 9 bucks.  Now, I don't know who Steven Segal is, really.  I've heard his name and can pronounce it.  But I just looked him up on Google and discovered he's a reserve deputy sheriff, if you can trust Wikipedia these days.  His namesake burger says yes.  (Perhaps he and Dwight Schrute should get together.)

Enough witty commentary!  I must tell you how awesome this meal was.  The server will offer the choice of sweet potato fries, wonton crisps, or a side salad to go with your Steven Segal Burger.  I, like a vegan boss, chose the salad.  It came with fresh and crispy mixed greens, red bell pepper, carrot, and bean sprouts.  The dressing was fruity - yum!  And somehow floral.  I enjoyed it.

Yellow Curry *
The burger was basically a sloppy Joe.  An amazing, inexplicably divine sloppy Joe.  It was spicy yet addictive, full of tempeh, fresh veggies, and that sauce.  What a sauce.  This place, I'm telling you, knows how to make sauce.

Fiona and Matt got sweet potato fries with their entrees, so I stole a few.  YUM!  They're nice and crispy.  Think of the best sweet potato fries you've ever had.  You're thinking of these.  They came with spicy, barbeque-y ketchup for Matt (possibly because he ordered the Fish and Chips) - and it was also super tasty.  Amazing sauce #3.

Anna let me try her Yellow Curry, which was $10 and slathered in amazing sauce #4.  Heavy on the coconut milk and crispy veggies, this thing was full of flavor.  I found the taste comforting and spicy. I'm actually not sure if I could tell you whether I liked the burger or the curry better.  Both favorite.

We hoped to try dessert, but alas!  None were vegan.  It's okay.  Now I have infinite cookies.

Maybe just five.

* Matt's camera malfunctioned.  AKA, I may or may not have been distracted by Anna and Fiona's wonderful personalities and forgotten to take pictures.

13 May 2012

Minneapolis: Pepito's

Or is it Pepitos?  The website makes it rather unclear whether there's actually an apostrophe.  Perhaps they're indecisive.  Well, Pepito, I forgive you, but only because your food makes me want to live at your house.

4820 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55417
(612) 822-2104

My aunt and uncle* have been coming here for date night every Thursday for as long as I can remember.  If you look hard enough, I suspect you could find a secluded wooden pillar with their initials carved into it.  If you're lucky, maybe you'd find some extra chips, too.

The first drops of magic you'll experience here are the free chips and salsa.  All you can eat.  Remember when every Mexican restaurant used to give you those, but now they make you pay?  Well, they can suck it.  We always knew Pepito's was better than them.

The corn chips are awesome: dense, crispy, and great with salt.  Becca and I have this tradition of practically removing the cap from the salt shaker and pouring it over chips.  It's good.  Also great not to be at that age where you start worrying about how much salt you imbibe.

The server gives you a choice between mild and hot salsa, so we requested both, which was still free.  The salsa on the left is mild and DELICIOUS.  It has a nice onion and garlic bite that amps up the fresh quality.  The salsa in the jar on the right is the hot stuff, which came with a chunk of pineapple.  We are never opposed to pineapple.  The salsa's spicyness is there, but not out of hand.  I could take a bite of it and have another bite right away without a sip of water in between - it was right at the heat threshold.  Yum.

Becca and I shared Veggie Fajitas.  It's an idea that sprang fully formed from Shelley's enormous brain - last time we came here, the three of us shared the same order.  It's a lot of food.  When you order this amazing plate for $16, you'll need to specify that you're not interested in either of the choices on the menu (beef or chicken), but that you'd rather have veggies.  To go totally vegan, when requesting the two sides that go along with the dish, ask for both to be black beans.  And no cheese with that.

One of the best parts of ordering fajitas is the way they come to you on a hot cast-iron pan still sizzling from the stove.  Everyone in the room stares jealously over as you grab a tortilla and load it with steaming awesomeness.  Then everyone in the room orders fajitas.

There are a few vegan things you can get here, but I think Becca and Shelley would agree when I say the fajitas are the best.  THE BEST.  The peppers are fresh, crispy, and hot, prepared with lovely spices.  Pineapple chunks are mixed in there, too!  The beans are perfect and creamy.  They're everything beans should be.  When that stuff hits my esophagus, I feel warm all over.  Comfort food times a grillion.  The tortillas, guac, and iceberg complete the experience.

I think the iceberg is meant to form a salad, judging by the tomatoes and olives sprinkled on top.  But.  Who would eat a salad when you have a FAJITA?!

In perusing other options on the menu, keep in mind that many items have sneaky meat slipped in.  The rice is cooked in chicken broth and the refried beans are prepared with lard.  Make sure you check with your server when ordering.

Best Mexican in town.  I wonder if Pepito has any rooms to rent.

* If you live in South Minneapolis and you heard a rockin' party last night that you're totes jelly you weren't at, sorry for the noise.  My aunt and uncle host a mean family bash.  That, plus the angry horseshoe-obsessed drunk guys across the street, probably made your Saturday night lame.  Sorry you had to stare at the wall in sheer envy while listening to us have fun.

11 May 2012

ask alli: would you raise your children vegan?

This question is from Katie, who I've known since you were in diapers.*  Ironically, diapers are a perfect segue into chilluns, who sometimes wear diapers.

You may be thinking of that vegan couple who raised their newborn baby on soy milk and apple juice.  You may also be thinking about how that baby died of malnutrition, and the parents were thrown in jail because they're vegan.

Wait, WHAT?

No.  They were thrown in jail because they were cray cray.  They watched their boy shrink to 3.5 pounds and didn't realize he needed different nutrients than the ones they persisted in feeding him.  Just like Eddie Izzard insists that crazy transvestites make the public think ALL transvestites are crazy, this couple with the malnourished baby makes people think all vegans are crazy.  Really, the couple was crazy.  They also happened to be vegan.  I would like, once and for all, to distance myself from that couple.  I am not a crazy vegan.  I'm an Executive Vegan.

One Green Planet
Now, when and if Matt and I have kids (not that I have definite plans, but I'm thinking 17 girls and 1 gay boy), I may have to be what is known as "pregnant," at which point I will continue to be vegan.  I can say this with 100% certainty.  No matter what craving I get, there is something vegan to satisfy me, and I've been vegan for so long that it shouldn't be a problem anyway.  There have been plenty of vegan pregnancies that have gone off without a hitch.  I already know how to get every single vitamin and mineral the body needs without delving into animal products.  Easy peasy.

Once the babies start flying out, I will breast feed them.  Again, I know how to supply myself with the proper nutrition, so my milk will be perfectly healthy.  I will NOT do the cray cray soy milk diet for the babies.  They need breast milk.  Biological fact.  Done.

After the breast milk stage, we'll start all the babies on a vegan diet - full of essential nutrients - at home.  If the kids go to a birthday party where a cake full of eggs and dairy is being worshipped and consumed, the kids will be allowed to partake if they so choose.  Or say they go to school and want the beef tacos for lunch - fine by me.  If they get sick from it, that's a different story.  But we want them to make their own choices.  Forcing veganism kind of defeats the purpose for me.

At home all the food will be vegan because I'm in charge of the kitchen.  (Ask Matt to prepare a meal and see what happens.  You may or may not receive a bowl of rice with soy sauce an hour and a half later.)  If the chilluns get to the cooking age, I wouldn't mind if they used their own money to go out and buy animal products to prepare themselves.  But it'll be very clear that I refuse to get involved in the process.

Any offspring will be educated about food completely.  I won't suddenly spring up behind my 15-year-old at McDonald's as she's biting into a quarter-pounder and say, "Enjoy your dead cow and etc., as it rots in your gut and its soul wanders the Earth in misery for all eternity and stuff."  But I will tell them why I'm vegan, what happens to animals, and how much I care about them.  At a non-meal time.

I'm no magical dispenser of medical advice, nor am I Oprah.  All I'm offering are personal opinions, which I have carefully researched and thought about.  Thanks for the question, Katie!

Did I mention I've known Katie since before Tupac died?

* This is only true if you were born in or around 1996.  I could have also said, "Katie, who I've known since Hootie and the Blowfish were cool," but then my clever segue wouldn't have worked.

07 May 2012

St. Louis Park: Mill Valley Kitchen

Captain Adventure was in the driver's seat.  I watched from shotgun.  We were the first car in line at a red light, and we wanted to turn left.  Fast.  We had food to eat, dammit.  Left turn light?  Check.  Foot ready on brake?  Check.  Light... almost green... wait for it...

Green!  But the SUV coming from the other direction just.  Sat there.  The seconds stretched.  The enormous cage of the vehicle made the man inside seem minuscule as he texted.  And texted.  Aaaannnnd texted.

Captain Adventure's knuckles tightened around the wheel.  Instinct rocketed through him.  Before I knew it, we were turning left RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SUV.

Epic.  I love my husband.

Mill Valley Kitchen
3906 Excelsior Blvd
St. Louis Park, MN  55416
(952) 358-2000

Hold up, homies.  Mill Valley Kitchen is another fancy pants restaurant.  You must be financially prepared to see a light meal between two people cost upwards of $40.  Yes, they have these kinds of places outside of Edina.  St. Louis Park is just full of surprises!

MVK harkens back to Northern California in style.  The menu is very clearly marked for vegans and GF-ers.  However, there are at least twice (if not thrice) as many GF items as there are vegan ones.  If you want a full vegan meal - an entree, if you will - you'll need to piece together a bunch of sides, which can wind up being more expensive than any one non-vegan main course.  In addition to several vegan side dishes, there is some quality spicy chili and a couple killer salads.

In case you're wondering, the smoothies are not vegan.  They can't even make them vegan.  This happens to be the exact reason I ordered African Tea for $4.50.  The pot contains about 4 whole cups of tea, so it's a good deal - as long as you can drink that much tea, or are willing to share.  This particular blend had a hint of spice and some stronger floral tastes.  I liked it.  I liked it even more when I added sugar.

Are you a tea person?  If your answer is no, skip to the next paragraph so you feel less like poking your eyeballs out.  I'm vaguely a tea person - I drink Tazo chai every day and if I'm sick, I drink roughly 5,000 times that amount.  MVK's tea comes in a swank little French press.  They use loose leaf tea instead of the bag variety.  When you ask for hot tea with any lack of clarity, they bring you this box with 8 different unlabeled glass jars that the server will allow you to smell before making your decision.  It's quite fancy pants.  I recommend closing your eyes and pointing.

Anyway, on a less depressing note, let's talk about my salad.  It's called the Kale and Cara Cara Orange Salad, and it was $8.  I don't even care how small it looked or how few calories the menu said it had (let's just say it was more than a stick of gum).  It was de-freakin'-licious.  It came with fennel, red onion, and avocado, which had been blended with some kind of magical flavor and acted as a dressing.  Everything tasted earthy and fresh.  Perfect for spring.  "Hello, world!" the salad seemed to say.  "Bite me!"  Don't mind if I do.

Matt and I shared a side of Gingered-Shitake Quinoa for $5.  My first thought was: mushrooms.  The shitakes tasted like mushrooms.  You know, like the detritus from which they grow.  Matt seemed to enjoy them because he appreciates mushrooms more than I do.  We agreed the dish was definitely a side, meant to soak up the sauce of some bigger, better flavors, or at least the table's salt and pepper.  It'd be great with onion, garlic, currants, or some other addition.  But it was definitely comforting and rustic.  And, overall, I'd have to say mostly likable.

I happen to know through vicarious experience (thanks Jana and Carla!) that the hummus, carrots, green beans, and fresh berries are all lovely.  Which ones are spicy?  You'll never know until you try.  I'll give you a hint: it's not the fresh berries.  Gross.  What were you thinking?

If you're not a grammar nerd, stop reading now.  Remember when I told you to stop reading at the second tea paragraph, but you didn't listen and you read it anyway and regretted it?  This time I mean it.  Okay, fellow grammar aficionados: if you look at the menu section of MVK's website, you will see an inappropriately placed apostrophe.  And then you will keep reading.  Until you see ANOTHER inappropriate apostrophe in a sentence that may or may not make sense.  Oh, the humanity!  First one to find them get's ten point's.

05 May 2012

ask alli: the self-indulgence increases

I love my friends.  3 of my faves - Kasey, Jana, and Carla - met me for lunch today at Mill Valley Kitchen. We had a blast!  Alas, I cannot blog about the meal because Matt's camera is out of town with Matt.  I was too busy enjoying the company to take notes on my food, anyway.

Carla just decided to go vegan!  She's done 3 days so far, and she's loving it.  Her constant stomach ache is gone.  I sat next to her the whole time trying to keep a lid on my excitement.  I didn't want to be that person.  You know, like when you tell your mom that yes, you have finally taken kind of a liking to broccoli but only a little, and your mom gets SO inordinately happy which makes you not like broccoli after all?*

Nah.  Carla's too fabulous to be perturbed by my crazy projecting.  Anyway, she had lots of questions for me, like, "Is gelatin vegan?"  (No.)  "What do you eat for breakfast?"  (Amaranth with homemade granola and almond milk, washed down with OJ in a plastic Care Bears cup.)  And, "Whenever you decide to get pregnant, are you worried about staying vegan?  What about MARSHMALLOWS?"  (No, and yes.  What about marshmallows, indeed.)

Eventually Jana suggested I start taking questions on the blog; an Ask Alli feature, if you will.  I, ever the egomaniac, immediately latched onto the idea to feed my swelling vanity.  Plus, I can't eat out forever.  I don't want to run out of restaurants and have to do something drastic, like move to St. Paul.

So!  From here on in, feel free to submit questions to me in any medium you see fit.  I'll tell you anything you want to know about being vegan.  If you want, I can even post recipes.  Please, do not ask me how I got so awesome, unless you like looking directly into the sun.

* My own mother and I never had this problem, although on an unrelated note, please don't mention parasailing to her.  LOVE YOU MOM

01 May 2012

Edina: Rice Paper

Don't you just love southeast Asian cuisine?  So many sauces, so little time.  Although there's always a chance fish sauce could pop up, there's also a chance of peanuts or mangoes.  Yes, please.  Both would be good.  Not fish sauce.  That's not included in the both.

Just get out of here, fish sauce.  You smell.

Rice Paper
3948 W 50th St
Edina, MN 55424
(952) 288-2888

Downtown Edina, as 50th and France is sometimes called, is the fanciest little downtown I've ever seen.  The clothing stores are fancy, the athletic stores are fancy, the kitchen stores are fancy, and even the consignment shop is fancy.  (I went to said consignment shop once and couldn't find anything for under $100.  I'm sticking to Turn Style and Buffalo Exchange.)

Once we fancied our way into Rice Paper, Sister and I shared a special menu.  It was created just for people like us: gluten and dairy free.  You'd think that would cut the menu down to a couple of options, but no.  This place is way more awesome.  There are at least 20 items on this menu.  Okay, granted, the menu doesn't say meat or fish free.  So once you get your happy vegan hands on the thing and order, make sure you ask whether your item is vegetarian.

Case in point:  I, a sucker for mangoes, ordered Echo of the Tropics.  They give you a choice between chicken and tofu, so.  Duh.  It ran us $18, at which I confess myself surprised and chagrined.  But, after all, this is Edina.  Fancy fancy.

I asked our server if Tropics was completely vegetarian, and she said yes... except for the fish sauce.  She thought a second and told me she could replace it with peanut sauce.  "Why, I just happen to love peanuts!" I exclaimed in characteristic exuberance.

Yes, this is how I talk.  If you don't ever want to be seen in public with me, I'll understand.  I also have poor volume control, which is ironic considering I work with kids who are on the autism spectrum.

Anyway, my server turned out to be an utter genius.  Peanut sauce plus fried tofu plus freakin' MANGOES.  How is this not served everywhere all the time?

The mango slices were perfectly fresh and chilled, spiced with a dash of what I'm pretty sure was Sriracha.  A lovely combo.  There were even carrots and cucumbers so I didn't get overstimulated by pure mango.  The rice had tasty toppings but was a little bland for me.  Would've been better with soy sauce, but like at any fancy restaurant, the salty condiment is not automatically provided.  Seestor liked the rice, though.  Underneath laid wonton crisps: good, crunchy, and also bland.  But great when incorporated into the same bite as the spicy mango and tofu.

Now, the peanut sauce on the tofu was heavenly.  The tofu itself was well-cooked: fried and crispy.  But without the sauce it was a bit bland.  Luckily, the sauce was plentiful.  And so perfect.  While it wasn't spicy, it did have enough flavor to whisk me away to my happy place.

In a sated stupor, I "breezed" out the door and into bed.  There may have been a car ride involved.  Good thing I have a husband.  He won't let me sleep on benches in Downtown Edina.