30 March 2013

Still not eating sugar, still actually enjoying life

So, you guys.  I ditched sugar about 8 months ago.  Becca made this amazing - do you hear me?  AMAZING. - sugar-free vegan pineapple upside-down cake yesterday, and I am pulling my hair out because I don't have a picture of it to show you.  It was glorious.

I don't bake that often anymore.  Well, I mean I still make myself granola and Fruity Oaty Bars, but that doesn't count.  I used to make cookies, cupcakes, cakes, brownies, muffins, and/or pies at least once a week.  Since sugar and I parted ways I just haven't been that interested in baking.  Once in a while I'll make super duper healthy muffins with like, oh... bananas, oats, and agave, or something like that.  My co-workers gobble them up.  And, of course, Becca treats me once in a while.  (You're totes jelly she's my best friend and not yours.  I can see it in your face.)  But for the most part I'm over it.

Thing is, I don't crave sugar.  I do still eat up to half a bar of 70%+ dark chocolate per day, but that's as sweet as I get.  You shove a vegan cupcake in my face, I will actually feel revulsion.  The frosting will make me throw up in my mouth a little.  Don't even get me started on candy.  If sugar texted me, I would not text it back.

Running, though?  Still the best thing ever.  Since the last time we talked about it, I've upped my mileage and my body and I are loving it.  Every week I have 4 days of 4 miles each, 2 rest days, and a nice long 9-12 miler on the weekend.  There is no question that my body is getting exactly the nutrients it needs with no extra crap to get in the way.

Let me make it clear that my intent is not to brag or get positive strokes.  I'm telling you this because swearing off sugar has really made a positive difference in my life, just like it would in yours, if you cared to give it a shot.  Sister rather hilariously insists that I not tell people I don't know very well that I don't eat sugar - she thinks it makes me sound crazy and/or pompous.  Like, crazier than being vegan.  More pompous than Percy Weasley.  It's true - even counter-culture America isn't very well acclimated to a sugar-free mindset.  Happily, I have at least 5 social graces and have managed to maintain all 332 of my facebook friendships throughout this transition.

But omg, you guys.  My life is awesome.

Also Matt and I are going to Ireland tomorrow.  While you suckers are soaking up the sun and heat in Minnesota, we'll be getting drenched and shivering in some dank ruins somewhere!  Don't bother hiding your envy.  International vegan food awaits!

28 March 2013

Minneapolis: Wally's Falafel and Hummus

About one million grillion years ago, when I was in grad school at the U, my stellar fellow cohortian (totally a word that we made up) Betsy told me about this place in Dinkytown.  It was a magical place where you could get mountains of delicious, delicious Middle-Eastern food for dirt cheap.  I thought, "I want to go to there."  Then I just didn't go there, because everyone else in the cohort kept wanting to go to Potbelly, Qdoba, and Tony's, for some reason.  The first two were great, just like my fellow cohortians (still totally a word).  But eugh.  Tony's.  Don't even EVER go there.

Matt and I finally decided to visit Wally's.  You should always go to there.  (I'm turning into Liz Lemon?)

Wally's Falafel and Hummus
423 14th Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 746-4776

Betsy was so right.  This place is incredible.  We spent $17 to share a thousand-course meal.  Check it out.

First you order at the counter.  Then you sit down and one of the staff will bring your food out to you.  Eat it.  And bus your dishes.  If you can still walk after stuffing yourself silly.

The Veggie Samosas will set you back $5.  They come out of a frozen box, but goddammit they're good.  You know, every once in a while there will be something frozen that, once reheated, makes you completely forget that a little old lady didn't make this in her kitchen in some faraway country?  This is one of those things.  Skip the yogurt sauce in the middle, but the 'mosas are stuffed with ground chickpeas, onions, peas, chili peppers, and yummy Indian-ish curry flavor.  Somehow, they are 100% vegan.

Only thing is, they're a little tiny.  You get 6 of 'em, but they're only each about the size of a big ravioli.

The Mediterranean Vegetarian Plate for $10 had everything we wanted: fries, falafel, tabouleh, hummus, fried veggies, and pita.

On the bottom left, you can see some lemony fresh tabouleh underneath the surprisingly tasty, hot, salty fries.  Some of the falafel is on the bottom, to the right of the tabouleh.  No joke: this may very well be the best falafel I've ever had.  It was moist inside but full of flavor, and nice and crispy on the outside.  The fried cauliflower, eggplant and zucchini are on the right, and see how nice and brown they are?  That's not batter, that's just pure vegan fried veg.  The eggplant is, just.  Wowie.  Melty and amazing.  Cauliflower and zucchini are less amazing, but still pretty fab.  Above those guys is the hummus.  It has a lovely, addicting flavor - light and tangy, kind of like Holy Land's.  (And we all know how I feel about Holy Land hummus.  It makes me wish my mouth were a vacuum cleaner.)

Then: Baklava!  For $2.  It's a totally vegan adorable little triangle of phyllo dough, oil, walnuts, pistachios, and rosewater syrup.  The cinnamon flavor is stellar, and the overall affect is kind of cerealy.  You know, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  The lightness of the pastry is complemented well by the dense nuts.  And it was pretty sweet.  Matt did a majority of the damage on that little beaut.

Dinkytown has a few more gems.  I'll tell you all about them if I can find good parking spots.  But I won't be telling you about Tony's, unless I'm telling you how much I hate it.  Seriously.  How greasy do fries need to be?  Apparently, the answer is: as greasy as a stick of lumpy, yellow, melting butter.

18 March 2013

Minneapolis: Chiang Mai Thai

Perhaps you read about our fiasco last week.  You know, where we went to a Thai place expecting Thai?  Which was apparently too much to ask for.  So for super special BFF girl time, Becca and I made up for the disappointment by venturing into Uptown - a trusty bastion of quality food - and alighting upon Chiang Mai Thai.  It's been recommended more than once by my brother-in-law, who happens to be a food enthusiast.

Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
I'll tell you now: Chiang Mai Thai is at least 10,000 times better than Thai Table.

Chiang Mai Thai
3001 Hennepin Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 827-1606

The menu was a little confusing for us because although it's very well-labeled for those avoiding gluten, the vegan tags didn't seem to match the menu descriptions.  We found several items that appeared vegan, and upon asking our server, discovered that we'd been correct.  I recommend you drop the V word as you order and check to make sure your dish fits the bill.

The Fresh Spring Rolls at $6 were pretty amazing, considering they didn't even contain any grilled tofu or anything.  It was all noodles, lettuce, sprouts, carrots, and mint wrapped up in rice paper and dipped in peanut sauce.  Or, should I say, awesomesauce.  The fresh simplicity of the rolls did them credit.  We loved them.

Becca ordered the Yellow Curry with mock duck for $13 - the menu calls it vegan, but the description includes fried potatoes, yams, carrots, rice, and crispy, ahem, EGG noodles.  She went over the issue with the server, who said it's easy as pie to leave the noodles off because they're kind of just a crunchy garnish.  And was this thing delicious!  If you've ever wondered what Thai comfort food would taste like, it's this.  The curry is sweet and flavorful without hitting spicy.  It filled Becca up quickly.  If you have a friend, family member, or acquaintance who thinks they don't like Thai, bring/kidnap them here and feed them this dish.  They will see the light.

My Good Luck Salad with tofu was $9, and I checked with the server to make sure that it's vegan.  Isn't it pretty?  It comes with rice on a separate plate, and the main dish consists of a wedge of lettuce, sliced tomato and cucumber, and a medley of fried tofu, onion, fresh mint, and some kind of salty-tangy amazing flavor that develops slowly in your mouth as you chew.  How is this a salad?  I'm not sure.  But I can pretend.  YUM.

Our server also let us know that, along with the two dishes we ordered, the Garlic Pepper Stir Fry is one of his favorite entrees.  This is ironic, considering that this is the very same dish that brought Becca's and Matt's hopes and dreams crashing to the ground at Thai Table.  I have no doubt that Chiang Mai Thai's is at least 100,000 times better.  Thank you, Uptown, for restoring our faith in humanity.  I mean, Thai food.

15 March 2013

Plymouth: Thai Table

I rarely venture into the 'burbs for blog fodder, now that I've gone through all the conveniently located vegan-worthy places in Edina.  So when Becca found this Thai place in Plymouth, we got excited!  Branching out and all.  Plus, it's Thai.  Can't go wrong.

Except... 'member that time we went to that "Vietnamese" place in Mankato and it turned out to be poorly disguised mediocre Chinese?  Um.  I have bad news, Plymouth.

Thai Table
10100 6th Ave N #115
Plymouth, MN 55441
(763) 591-6085

The $4 Fried Tofu we started with was promising.  Oh, it had it's flaws, alright, but it didn't suck.  The tofu was unbattered, and as far as I could tell it wasn't seasoned either.  The slightly bitter aftertaste was allayed by the sweet and sour sauce that comes with the dish.  Honestly, the tofu was good.  Hot, crispy, and fried.  They could've cut it into smaller pieces in order to have a higher ratio of crispy edges, but overall, this didn't make me want to invert my digestive system.

Enter the #36: Pad Puk, $8 with tofu.  The menu's description is so enticing; it promises all these yummy-sounding veggies.  And then, look!  Doesn't it appear to be absolutely delicious?

One bite, and my illusions of spicy, snappy, fresh Thai vanished.  My mouth was filled with warm, mediocre reality.  This was crappy Americanized Chinese food!  The sauce had so much sugar in it I had to throw in the towel.  Well, I had to pick out all the tofu and onions for consumption, first.  Then I threw in all the towels.  As Liz Lemon would say, BLERG.

What would you do if you read about a dish where you could add the protein of your choice to the flavor of stir-fried garlic and crushed black pepper on a bed of lettuce with tomatoes and cukes with that classic Thai flavor for eight bucks?  Like any unsuspecting hungry citizen, you would order it.  Just like Becca, who got it with mock duck, and Matt, who requested tofu.  Then the dishes would be placed in front of you, like so.  First, mock duck.

Then tofu.

And you would immediately start shoveling in the disappointment.  Oh, and how bitter it tastes.  Once again: these are two more variations on mediocre Chinese.  They tasted different from each other, but in ways I'm too apathetic about to even describe properly.  Matt mentioned he wished it was more than just tofu.  Becca, when I asked if she would come here again, said something along the lines of, "... Ugh."

Well said, Becca.  Well said.

If, for some reason, you wind up here - perhaps you've lost a bet or been blackmailed - your safest bet is to order from the wok menu.  Ask your server if there's fish sauce in it.  The curries aren't vegan for sure, and neither are the amazing-sounding Tofu Wontons.

Okay, I'm done complaing.

NO I'M NOT How this place got the apparent Google+ rating of 22 out of 30 when Roat Osha's stuck with a measly 18 is beyond me.  I mean none of this is even REMOTELY authentic!  At least, as far as I understand Thai, which is to say, I've never been to Thailand, and I suppose I've also never even been to China, so...  BUT STILL.

I'm thinking of changing my middle name from Rose to First World Problems.