31 July 2012

Edina: Raku

Hey, muffins!  Sit down.  Have some grapes.

Tonight I'm taking you once again to the fancy-pants land of Edina, where the streets are paved with gold and every child is going to be in the 2020 Olympics.  All those hockey moms need fancy-pants sushi.  Thus, Raku.

3939 50th St W, Ste 101
Edina, MN  55424
(952) 358-2588

The menu here is extensive, like at any Japanese restaurant worth its soy sauce.  Vegans have lots of sushi choices, including some unusual fruit rolls like apple, mango, and fried banana.  Apple and mango are unexciting, and the fried banana works well as a kind of after-dinner roll.  Fruit.  It's like sweet or something.

Things you'll want to avoid include anything with seafood (except - dare I say - seaweed), meat, or tempura batter.  It is dairy-free, but not egg-free.  Thus, the sweet potato roll is out.  But that's okay.  You have other rolls to live for.

Before you get to the sushi, you might want to order a bowl of legitimately vegan miso soup for $3.  There's not even one drop of fish broth in there.  See the steam rising from the surface?  And the miso broth, all salty and warm?  True, it is just miso.  But it's good miso.

My Avocado Roll for $4.50 tasted just the way it should.  The avocado was perfectly fresh and creamy, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.  These rolls are deceptively filling.  I just love them.  They remind me of the times Matt and I used to go our for sushi and order one thousand avocado rolls to share.  We were so young and naive back then.  (Mostly we just didn't know about Tiger Sushi yet.)*


I finished with the Veggie Garden Roll for $6, which includes lettuce, radish sprouts, avocado, and tsukemono (Japanese pickles).  Says the menu, anyway.  See that orange thing to the upper right of the avocado?  Bonus!  It's mango.

I usually find mixed veggie rolls too starchy and difficult to chew and/or swallow, but this one rose above my esoteric sushi fears to the plane of enjoyable non-Tiger Sushi sushi.  The pieces required a large chewing committment, but they tasted fresh, tangy, and delicious, with crunchy and creamy textures.  I think it was the avocado.  Avocado can make or break a roll.

But gawl, you'd think a fancy-pants place like Edina would have less blurry food.

* Mostly we were really super weird.  I mean, have you ever heard of somebody going into an American restaurant and ordering 5 sides of mashed potatoes?

30 July 2012

St. Paul: Everest on Grand

All the vegans talk about this place.  It was perfect for Matt and I, who, after our breakfast, never wanted to look at sugar again.

Everest on Grand
1278 Grand Ave
St. Paul, MN  55105
(651) 696-1666

Everest serves Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan cuisine of ridiculously high quality.  You'll take one bite of anything here and be all, "My dear, the only possible word I can use to describe this food's quality is 'ridiculous.'"  True story.

If you come for dinner, you can order off the menu.  At lunchtime, you lucky duck, you get the buffet. It's $11 on weekends and $10 weekdays.  And vegans can eat more than half of what's laid out!  There are only two meat dishes.  'Cause who even needs that stuff anymore.

Even better, when you sit down with your menu, the entire buffet is graphed out for you.  Each day of the week means a different variety of soup, salad, curries, rice, and bread.  Before you even lift your butt cheeks from your chair you'll know what to expect up there.  And once you get there, you'll see an amazing labeling system: the ingredients are listed right above the food!  Why didn't anyone think of this before?

Working with the Saturday buffet, I started with Chana Soup.  It's got chickpeas in a deeply flavored, yummy, authentic curry broth with hints of anise.  That sounds weird, but trust me.  It's amazing.  And not at all sweet, thank the great green earth.

The more solid foods I squeezed all onto one plate.  On the top left you can see white rice (boring), and at the top center is fried rice.  That's eggless fried rice.  Have you ever seen such a thing?  I hadn't.  I tried it.  Still boring.

On the right is Aaluko Sabji - boiled and sauteed potatoes.  THAT is good food.  Whoever did the spice job on those bad boys deserves a medal.  That familiar sauteed potato flavor paired with yummy onions and Himalayan spices was stellar.

On the bottom perhaps you can make out the yellow cauliflower - that'd be the Jogi Tarkari, a mixed vegetable curry.  It's good and a teeny bit spicy.  Not quite on par with the Aaluko Sabji, but it holds its own ground as a curry.

And the Pakoda was so good it needed its own picture.  Those are battered and deep-fried assorted veggies, my friends.  Uh, YUM.  They were fried, salty, delicious, fried, and fried.  The taste of each veggie still comes through, like in tempura, but this stuff is a little more... hm.  How can I say this?  More... deep-fried.

Unfortunately, the garlic naan had milk in it, as did the rice pudding.  I wasn't too put-out.  Look at that deep-fried masterpiece.

One trip to the buffet filled both our bellies to bursting.  That was the second-happiest meal of my life.*

* I'm just gonna be honest with you guys - I have a lot of second-happiest meals.

Minneapolis: The Donut Cooperative

Wake up, Captain Adventure!  Time to honor your namesake, Minneapolis-style, beginning with the breakfast of champions: doughnuts!

The Donut Cooperative
2929 E 25th St
Minneapolis, MN  55406
(612) 516-3626

The fact that I'd missed vegan doughnuts in Seattle drove me here.  Nah, that's a lie.  I would've come here anyway.  Vegan doughnuts in my very own city!  Who'd have thought.  I love you, Minneapolis.

If you South Minneapolis folks recall Cake Eater, which used to sell lots of delicious vegan and non-vegan baked items, you know this place.  It's taken up residence in the old joint.  There was a dark time between Cake Eater and The Donut Cooperative, when I wandered in here, lost and alone, looking for a vegan... well, anything.  I was disappointed.  I ambled away, head down and hopes dashed.  How could fate be so cruel?

But now, vegans are back in the game.  The Donut Coop offers vegan doughnuts, cookies, cakes, whoopies, and more.  So, uh.  Matt and I ordered pretty much one of everything.  But vegans beware: their chai mix is made with condensed milk.  You don't want none of that.

Yesterday morning, the place only had one kind of vegan doughnut: iced coconut vanilla, $2.  I'm not really one for super sweet coconut, but I went for it.  Duh.  Vegan doughnut.

Oh.  My.  Agawd.  It's like a Krispy Kreme.  That texture and bite is a total blast from my past, when I used to eat doughnuts at will.  Very well done, little doughnut fox!

One problem, however.  It's a personal problem.  (Don't worry.  I'm not going to talk about pus-filled blisters, just allude to them.)  As I mentioned above, super sweet coconut isn't my thing.  I couldn't get through half of the doughnut because of it.  Matt, however, will tell you that it's a perfectly wonderful flavor.  Since I trust his judgement (unless we're talking about RPGs), I can tell you that you will probably enjoy this thing.

We hold no responsibility for our subsequent actions.  It was morning!*  We were hungry.  We didn't know what we were doing.  I saw all those vegan labels in the bakery case and went just a teensy-weensy bit overboard... and ordered two more super sugary morsels.

On the left is the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie for $1.50.  The girl behind the counter told us it's very popular, and for good reason!  You know how salt can take a perfectly good cookie and raise it to legend if used correctly?  This is a perfect example of that principle.  Lots of salt = lots of yum.  In Matt's words, it's a heavy cookie - full of good, dense, moist texture.  Delicious.

On the right is the Vegan Strawberry Vanilla Whoopie for $2.50.  Is that not just the cutest little pie you ever did see?  That thing was very well done also - it had a more subtle flavor that spoke to the quality of the cookie portion.  The strawberry filling impressed us, too, with it's marshmallow-like texture and sweet flavor.

All three of these items were super high-quality baked goods.  However, at this point, the sugar kicked our butts.  Defeated, I grabbed my wallet and headed back inside.  When I came back out, I had a slice of savory Vegan Pizza for $4!

That was a fun pizza.  Although the crust was super difficult to cut with a fork... or a butter knife... I eventually just picked it up to bite and things improved.  The light brown bits were this super yummy fried mixture with tahini, and the darker bits were basil-filled pesto deposits.  The garlicky sauce and sun-dried tomatoes tasted great, too.  Altogether, an expertly flavored slice.

Sitting outside, nomming our eccentric breakfast under the sun - it was lovely.  Setting ourselves up for a sugar crash?  We didn't care.  That's what movie theaters are for.

* I am not a morning person.  Just because I spring energetically out of bed at 6am every day of my life to throw some shorts on and go for a run does not mean I'm a morning person.

29 July 2012

Bloomington: (Sister's) Starbucks

Ta-da!  Sister works here.  She's so innovative she could run her own coffee shop or write a fun drink recipe book.  If you visit, ask for Birdy,* and she'll make you something amazing.  Even if you're like Matt and have no idea what you want.  Ever.

2555 W 79th St
Bloomington, MN  55431
(952) 888-7701

This happens to be the Starbucks inside the Bloomington Target.  Did you know there were Starbucks inside Targets?  It's like a dream within a dream.  Er something.

First, let's talk ingredients.  I asked Sister if it'd be easier to list vegan items or non-vegan items, and to my relief, she said it's easier to tell you what you shan't be consuming.  (Yep, I said shan't.)

Starbucks Ingredients That Are Not Vegan:
  • Milk (Well.)
  • White mocha
  • Whey protein powder (found in Vivanno Smoothies)
  • Chocolate chips (found in Double Chocolate Chip Frappccino, Java Chip Frappuccino, and Mocha/Chocolate Cookie Crumble)
  • Whipped cream
  • Caramel sauce (used as topping in some drinks)
  • Chocolate cookie sprinkles (also a topping)
That's it.  Everything else is fair game.  If the barista is like, "Do you want classic syrup in that?" and you're like, "WTF is classic syrup?" you can just check that little list.  It ain't on there.  So yes, you do want classic syrup in that, and you want it now.  'Cause it's good.  You can also order any drink without the above ingredients - for example, get a Vivanno Smoothie without protein powder or milk, or order a hot chocolate without milk or whipped cream.  You'll be wanting soymilk instead.

Speaking of soymilk, Starbucks' is a little too soy-tasting.  I find that in a soy hot chocolate I wind up being so distracted by the taste of the soymilk that I can't enjoy the chocolate.  But you can solve that problem by grabbing a shot of hazelnut.  Mm.

Now for the super special drink.  Sister calls it the Banana Cream Pie.  I also call it the Banana Cream Pie.  So we're in agreement.  It's not on the menu, mind you.  She found the recipe in this rather amazing unusual drink recipe book under the counter and improved upon it until it became what you see in the picture.

It somehow really does taste like a banana cream pie.  The cinnamon is key, as is the entire blended banana.  That being said, the fruit flavor isn't overpowering.  It really is a fantastic smoothie-type drink.

How, you say, can you also enjoy this spectacular off-the-menu treat?  Why, I shall tell you.  I'll give you Sister's recipe here - and it probably won't make any more sense to you than it does to me - then you give it to a Starbucks barista.  If she's not busy.  And there's nobody behind you.

Banana Cream Pie
  1. 2/3/4 pumps coffee (optional)
  2. Soy to bottom line
  3. Blender (pink soy)
  4. Banana
  5. 1/2/2 pumps toffee nut
  6. 1/2/2 pumps cinnamon dolce
  7. 1/2/3 scoops vanilla bean
  8. 1/2/3 creme base (even with coffee frap roast)
  9. Tall/grande ice
  10. Blend
  11. Cinnamon sugar on top
And that is a Sister original.  Well, except for step 4 she actually wrote "Blanabba," and step 10 was "BLEND THAT B*TCH."  Poor dear.  We're looking into assisted living.

There you have it, vegans!  Starbucks is now yours to command.  Take control.  Order yourself something crazy.  Just don't cross the streams.

* Despite my sophisticated turn of phrase, you don't actually have to "ask for" Birdy.  You'll be able to read the baristas' nametags.  Unless you're illiterate.  In which case you're doing a really good job of reading right now, so stop telling people you're illiterate, you piece.

Seattle: (the first) Starbucks

Okay, so I pretty much hate chain franchises most of the time, and it's kind of silly to go to a chain while you're traveling because you could have the same experience at home and why not go to an independently-owned coffee shop?  But you guys.  It's the FIRST Starbucks.

And I kind of like Starbucks.

1912 Pike Pl
Seattle, WA  98101
(206) 448-8762

Some might call this a tourist trap.*  I waited in a line for 45 minutes that started two shops down from the door.  But the people watching was great, and a Korean or Japanese mother and daughter were right in front of me in line and took pictures of each other every time they moved up a few feet.  It was pretty cute.  I got to even take a picture of them at one point.  I may or may not have held up the daughter's smart phone with the camera facing me instead of them.

* It's a tourist trap.

Once I made it inside, I saw several hard-working baristas behind the counter and one 20-ish tall guy in an apron doing crowd control.  See him?  He's in the middle-left of the picture with his head turned away.  He talked to everybody who came through that line like they were his best friend.  Somebody knows how to cast.

Of course, the entire time I was in line I fretted over what to order.  It was hot out, so I wanted something iced.  I get sick every time I have a Starbucks Soy Chai Latte (not sure why!), so that was out.  I don't like coffee.  And I certainly didn't want to get a plain old iced tea.  Starbucks iced tea is really good, mind you, but it wasn't special enough for this occasion.

In the end I ordered a Grande Iced Vanilla Rooibos Soy Tea Latte in my travel mug for $4.25.  I'm totally one of those people - who speaks Starbuckese.  But to be honest, it comes in handy when you're vegan.

This drink, though, was SUPER good.  I was surprised, especially because I had never ordered it before.  It was sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and tasted like honey over ice cream, somehow.  But in tea form.  Honey over ice cream is a taste I have been searching for since I turned vegan, and I was delighted to find it in this most unexpected of places.  Props to Starbucks!

Now, muffins, here's the exciting part: this post has a part two.  In the second part, I'm taking you to the Starbucks that Seestor works at and giving you not only all the insider info on what ingredients are vegan, but also a recipe for a super fantastic drink that you can order at any Starbucks.

Try not to wet your pants with excitement until after you drink this drink.

Seattle: Lola

The penultimate Seattle post.  You guys are going to love the last one.  Yes, possibly even more than this amazing Greek place.

Two words for you today, muffins: vegan kebabs.

2000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA  98121
(206) 441-1430

Good Greek places are hard to find.  Greasy street vendor or fast food Greek places are much easier, but we don't care about those.  Puh.  Leeze.  I'd like to eat something that doesn't give my entire body an oil stain, thanks.

Lola has mid-range prices, but you're going to laugh when I tell you how much Mom's Ginger Beer was: $1,000,000.

Just kidding.  It was $6.75.  For a single non-alcoholic drink.  Seriously.  Well, it was locally made with cane sugar, and high on lemon and ginger flavor.  Tasted light and refreshing.  But it was still practically seven bucks.  Which is practically a million bucks.

We shared the Fava Skordalia, much more reasonably priced at $3.75.  The pita, in the right-hand bowl, was warm, moist, and perfectly olive oiled and herbed.  The skordalia was yummy!  Being so used to the potato-based skordalia at It's Greek to Me, I picked up on the faint beany taste here.  Lola's is a bit less garlicky as well.  I guess people who frequent fancy downtown Seattle restaurants inside hotel buildings don't like monster garlic breath for some reason.  Wusses.

Get ready to drool.  I present to you the Portobella Kebab for $13, which comes with oyster and portobella mushrooms, cipollini onions, garlic, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and olives, and a magic garlicky tomato-based sauce.  Make sure you ask the server to leave the feta out of your salad.  The mushrooms, as you can see, were tender and grilled to utter perfection.  And I don't even like mushrooms!*  When you combine the salad, mushrooms, and sauce in a folded pita and take a big delicious bite, you will just explode.  It'll be messy, but worth every dribble.  Just make sure you cover your entire lap with your napkin.  And savor that sauce.  This was a five-star entree.

Hooray!  Vegan dessert.  Apricot sorbet.  It was tart, sweet, and surprisingly yummy.  It had a big authentic taste.  For some reason it took about 20 or 30 minutes for our server to bring it out to me, but it was only $3.  The perfect finish to a delicious meal.

Because this was the last meal I had with Mom in Seattle, I'd like to take this opportunity to say:
You're the best Mom.  And thanks for instilling a love for travel deep in my core at a young age.  It has grown into what some would call a scary soul-eating compulsion, but meh!  Whatever blows your skirt up.  Love you, Mom!

* One of these days I'll be able to admit I like mushrooms and that I chose to eat a portobella steak at my own wedding.  Because 200 of my nearest and dearest didn't see me eating it.  Shh.

27 July 2012

Seattle: The Juice Emporium

It's certainly possible for non-Jamba smoothie joints to offer quality smoothies.  Don't get me wrong.  But I'm always skeptical of smoothie places that aren't Jamba.  Here's why.

The Juice Emporium
85 Pike St
Seattle, WA  98101
(206) 623-5383

I could hardly have a cinnamon roll without a smoothie.  Who do you think I am, an omnivore?  So because this place was just a couple shops down from Cinnamon Works, I popped in for a Real Raspberry smoothie at $5.50 after carefully determining from the smoothie-rista that none of their smoothies have dairy.  Which is definitely commendable.

My first few sips were delicious; I have a healthy appreciation for raspberries and would eat them all day if they weren't so expensive.  The smoothie was smooth and tart, and the fresh raspberries and raspberry juice gave it a very authentic taste.  Things were going well!

A little bit further in, I saw what was happening.  You remember my reference a few sentences ago to the high value of raspberries.  You can't just make a smoothie completely out of raspberries and make it cost $5.50.  It would cost way more than that, right?  So you put lots of ice or water in.  Like, maybe half the smoothie could be ice or water.  Except I could tell so bad.  It got old fast.

Oh well.  I suppose water with raspberries in it is better than water with no raspberries in it.

Seattle: Cinnamon Works

Pike Place Market, for those of you who've never been, is a fun yet disorganized cluster of shops all built on top of each other, like The Burrow or St. Paul.  It's super great for wandering around aimlessly.  It's less great when you're looking for a specific shop you've never been to before.

Plus, it smells like fish.  I had to say it!  It smells like ALL THE FISH.

But it's worth going.  If you plug your nose.

Cinnamon Works
1530 Pike Place
Seattle, WA  98101
(206) 583-0085

Cinnamon Works has a handful of vegan bakery items, like muffins and stuff, along with some gluten free options.  In and of itself, that's not that remarkable for Seattle.  What drew me here was the promise of a vegan cinnamon roll.  I don't think I've ever had one that I didn't make myself.  I would brave the dead fish for that.

The cinnamon roll is $4 and completely perfect.  My first whiff smelled strange; too sweet, like maple syrup.  It may have been the fish interfering.  My first bite, however, was everything I ever dreamed of.  The weird maple taste was gone, replaced by the soft, doughy, chewy, moist texture of the roll.  I died.  Somewhere in the haze, I realized maybe the icing had a little maple taste.  And it was a credit to the confection.

As long as we're talking about bakeries in Seattle, allow me to also recommend Top Pot.  Shelley turned me on to them - they're a chain with several locations around the Emerald City, and apparently they have VEGAN DOUGHNUTS.  Kay.  'Nuff said.  Go get 'em, tiger.

Seattle: Plum Bistro

Have you ever been so tired you could just curl up on the sidewalk and close your eyes for 8 whole hours in spite of the pokings of strangers and rain drops and whatever smelly viscous liquid that puddle contains?  Kay, I was like 99% of the way there.  The ONLY thing that kept me walking - uphill, mind you - was the promise of an all-vegan restaurant.  That might have been the longest mile of my entire life.  It was so worth it.

1429 12th Ave
Seattle, WA  98122
(206) 838-5333

Seattle's got a smattering of 100% vegan restaurants, but I'm glad we came to this one.  It has the urban-beauty feel of having been built out of an old garage by Etsy, and the menu is pricey, but quite impressive.  They cater to gluten free vegans, even!  I wish we could've had lots of meals here so I could try more of the menu - there are burgers, veggies, salads, pasta dishes, tempeh and tofu-centered items, and pizzas.

OH AND THEY USE DAIYA.*  It's stupid how great that menu is.

It ain't every day you see Boylan Creme Soda, made without corn syrup.  I ordered a bottle for $3.  Of course it had pure cane sugar, so it was sweet and yummy.  I savored it like the teetotaler I am.

Mom, who looks great, especially for being none-of-your-beeswax years old, doesn't like to eat creamy sauces because she has a well-maintained figure to maintain.  She was happy to find the it-doesn't-count-because-it's-vegan loophole in the Scalloped King Trumpets with white wine cream sauce and fettuccine for $17.  I found the taste very unique - I'd never had trumpet mushrooms before.  They were squeaky, chewy, tender, and sour all at once.  The sauce was delicious and derived from high-quality wine (unlike the wine sauces I make in my kitchen, like the teetotaler I am), and the roasted garlic gave the dish a nice finish.  Mom gave it her stamp of approval.  And by stamp, I mean she paid for it.

If I had been more awake, I might have agonized over what to order and what would be best thing to show you guys, etc., etc.  Luckily, I saw the words signature dish and went for it: the Spicy Cajun Mac 'n' Yease for $8 from the appetizer section of the happy hour menu.  The non-happy hour price is $9.

I couldn't have been more pleased.  The texture was so creamy and warm and perfect - comfort food to the core.  It wasn't actually too spicy, which, considering my state of mind, was probably for the best.  Despite that, it didn't get boring as I shoveled bite after delicious bite into my gaping maw.  There were greens on the bottom.  Bonus.  I can see why they call this their signature dish.  Little fuzzy on the word Yease.  I'll let it slide.

We know the vegan compulsion regarding desserts: if there's a vegan one, it must be ordered at all costs.  The cost was $7, so.

This Brownie Sundae with Vanilla Ice Cream was GF and vegan, and I have to say it was mediocre.  I immediately recognized the taste of So Delicious coconut-based ice cream, which is good, but I find the coconut flavor a little overpowering.  The brownie was more cakey than dense, and had that taste of amateur GF-and-vegan baked goods.  Overall, I mean, it was still a vegan brownie sundae, so I enjoyed it.

Dude, the walk back to our hotel was way less hungry and just so much more... downhill.  I retracted my limbs at the summit, Violet Beauregard style, and Mom simply rolled me down.

* If you've forgotten, Daiya is the brand of vegan cheese that melts itself and melts vegans.  It melts us into liquid happiness, which, turns out, is a compound you can re-use on your own pizzas, but is not technically vegan.

24 July 2012

Seattle: Roti

To continue the tour of Seattle's ethnic food, we alighted on an Indian place.  That's right.  My mom loves Indian food.  Spicy Indian food.  We came here after going up in the Space Needle and checking out the mini-planetarium show,* both of which are super nearby.  Does YOUR mom like spicy Indian food and planetariums?

530 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA  98109
(206) 216-7684

We arrived at 2:30pm, a mere half hour before they'd be closing the kitchen for their afternoon break.  Our server and the manager both encouraged us to order quickly with the understanding that this would be our only chance to get food.  So, rather than sitting and staring open-mouthed at all the pretty decorations, we checked out our menus.  Took me a whole five seconds to decide what I wanted.

Our free papadum and chutneys came out first.  The papadum was crispy, good, and a little bit spicy.  Spicy papadum was a new experience for me, but I'm happy to tell you that I enjoyed it.  The green chutney looked creamy and I therefore left it alone; the red was a little sweet and tomato-based, and the orange was even sweeter and tasted vaguely of cardamom.  Both were good, but I didn't want to make the same mistake I had the previous evening: eating too much free crispy junk with dip.  I resisted.

The plain naan we got at $2.50 each was phenomenal.  I know what you're thinking: duh, naan is ALWAYS that good!  But please.  You don't even know.  It's the naaniest naan that ever naaned.  All that yeasty warm yumminess kicks all the other naans' butts.

My Chana Masala for $10.50 came to me at a medium spice level and dairy-free, but  only because I requested it to be so.  It was tasty (especially with the aforementioned naan), but didn't seem spicy at all.  Until I got to about the sixth or seventh bite, that is - then my mouth started burning, but in a fun way.  It wasn't quite as good as my old fave, Best of India, but it had its own unique tangy taste.

So we settled the bill and headed back down to Seattle Center for the sci-fi portion of the EMF Museum.  I waddled all the way, my stomach threatening to burst from my skin (please do visualize), the extra naan we couldn't finish in my hand.  I nibbled at it as long as I could stand, but when it became painful I started looking for birds who'd eat it.  Eventually I found some.  They were totally like, "DOOD this naan is incredible," and I was like, "IKR."  Via text.

* This was the greatest planetarium show of all time.  Who WOULDN'T want to see the universe as we know it in a 3D graphic followed by the background radiation left over from the Big Bang?!

23 July 2012

Seattle: Boka

At the school I'm employed at, BOCA means Beginning Of Class Activity in 8th grade social studies classrooms, and is usually accompanied by a thought-provoking question, such as What were 3 of Theodore Roosevelt's accomplishments as president or If you had been in Harry Truman's shoes, would you have dropped either of the atomic bombs?

In Seattle I guess Boka means tofu scramble.  We supplemented my expectations with a lengthy discussion about the historical significance of Andy Griffith over OJ.  Vegans CAN have their social studies and eat it too!

1010 1st Ave
Seattle, WA  98104
(206) 357-9000

First, fresh-squeezed OJ.  Duh.  Goes right to your sunshine gland.  This stuff was good, fresh, pulpy, and apparently free, because it wasn't on the bill.  Oops.

The general fanciness of this restaurant made me surprised that they even offer a Tofu Scramble.  Happily surprised.  For $11, you get tofu with spinach, tomato, pepper, onion, mushrooms, pico, and avocado.  Make sure to ask them to hold the cheese and you're golden.  The spinach and mushrooms were particularly good and earthy, although the tofu was a little bland.  A few shakes of salt fixed that.  The avocado was the best part.  Go for a combo with a little of everything on each fork bite.

For $4, you can get these two little Veggie Sausage patties on the side.  Let me tell you, they are super yummy!  Mom liked them too - she said she's had real sausage that isn't that good.  I detected a fennel flavor under the nice fried/sauteed crispiness, and the aftertaste is worth closing your eyes to savor.

If you're a vegan in Seattle and need breakfast, what should you do?  Boka.*

* Actually, you should eat your homemade granola or buy something to nom at your hotel.  Money doesn't grow on trees, you know.

Seattle: Mexico Cantina y Cocina

This place puts the meh in Mexico.

Do you like that line?  I'm pretty pleased, not gonna lie.  See, apparently there's another Mexican place in Seattle - Mama's - that serves tofu fajitas.  Mom and I realized this only after eating at Meh-xico.  Oh well!  First world problems will be first world problems or something.

Mexico Cantina y Cocina
600 Pine St, 4 Fl
Seattle, WA  98101
(206) 405-3400

Our customary free chips and salsa were pretty great.  Some of the chips were stale, but Mom says that's how you can tell they make the chips themselves.  I would like to add that that's also how you can tell exactly how old the chips they make themselves are.  The salsa had lots of garlicky fresh flavor, and with some extra salt, the warm crispy chips made it a good combo.

I over-ate at this point.  Not a proud moment.

We got a small guac for $6, and were satisfied but unimpressed.  It had too many tomatoes and not enough spice or garlic.  It was, however, better than a sharp stick in the eye.*

My entree?  Grilled Veggie Fajitas for $15.  I told the server I'm vegan, and the dish came without cheese, sour cream, or lardy beans.  I didn't have to order it without meat, though, which was nice for a change!  (Usually you have to pick the chicken fajitas and ask for it without the chicken.  SUPER COOL.)  The fajitas included fabulously spicy, hot, smoky peppers, zucchini, onion, asparagus, and portobellos.  Throw that in a tortilla with guac, pico, and pinto beans, and you got yourself a happy vegan.  But I could only force down one tortilla-full.  Thanks to all those nice salty stupid CHIPS.

Final thoughts: this was a filling and enjoyable meal, if a bit boring.  It was on the fourth floor of a mall downtown, so we had a nice view, but I would recommend trying Mama's.  I didn't make it there, but if it has tofu fajitas how could you not?  Let me know how you like it.

* Just tryin' to keep it on the positive side.  I got lots of comments along those lines, such as "Least we're not Jews in Germany in 1941."