Monday, November 20, 2017

MAMA'S GONNA BUY YOU LUNCH AT MOCKINGBIRD

Fayetteville has a number of eateries which are locally owned and operated, and Mockingbird Kitchen is one of the most charming of these establishments.  

Even their name celebrates the state bird of Arkansas.  The signature bird graces the walls of this contemporary café, situated in a cozy corner of the Evelyn Woods Shopping Center on College Avenue in Fayetteville. 

With study at The American Culinary Institute and co-ownership of Bordino's Restaurant in her portfolio, Chef Chrissy Sanderson fuses her extensive experience with treasured family recipes.  The result is a selection that delights and surprises. Her menu denotes dietary needs, and vegan dishes are flagged by a cute little leaf.

Our server cautioned that the ripple-cut fries were prepared in the same oil as some of the meats on the menu, so they can’t be called vegan.  However, vegan selections include the Sautéed Greens which are prepared in a vegetable stock, as well as the Three Bean Salad (kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and edamame melded with a red pepper vinegrette). And on a cold autumn day, you can’t beat a warm bowl of savory Tomato Soup.

I decided on the Stir Fried Farro and Vegetables.  Farro, a nutty wheat-grain derivative, is paired with carrots, edamame, kale, mushrooms and tofu in a savory soy sauce.  It’s a filling bowl of goodness, so filling that I easily had enough for take home.  My remaining portion was placed in a reinforced cardboard container rather than Styrofoam – yeah!  (Vegans notice these things.)






I’ll admit to a moment of jealousy when my dining partner received her Veggie Burger.  This is a patty of pureed vegetables, quinoa, and oats, stacked high with tomato slices and a vegan focaccia bun. It’s a mighty mouthful which threatens to unhinge your jaw, but one does has the option of eating this creation open faced. And even the mayo is edamame-based – how refreshing that she didn’t need to say “hold the mayo”.



Mockingbird is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.  Come and luxuriate in this casual chic atmosphere, know you’re doing your part to support a locally-owned business, and send the message that vegans are the fastest growing demographic on the foodie landscape.




Monday, November 6, 2017

Pizza Lovin’ Chicago Girl Embraces Fayetteville Pieology

A while back, Mercy for Animals noted the pizza chain Pieology was now offering vegan cheese.

Oh, Feytteveille Arkansas won’t have anything as chic and boutique as Pieology, I thought.  They did!

Oh, Feyetteville’s Pieology won’t have anything as specialized and cutting edge as vegan cheese, I though.  They do!

Start with
wheat crust and red sauce....
So off I went, and was greeted by a sparkling clean eating area that showcased the brick oven which would cook my pizza.  You know it’s a well-run establishment when the kitchen operation is this transparent.
add vegan cheese and veggies....

Just as you build your sandwich at a Subway (I recommend their falafel sandwich, by the way), I was helped through the choices for crust, sauce, and toppings to create the culinary delight of my vegan pizza pie.

I mistakenly got the wheat crust.  It sounded so healthy but I discovered it contains honey.  As I began with my battery of questions, my helpful server, Matthew, retrieved an employee information card which outlined dining choices for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets.  Turns out the gluten-free crust is a bona fide vegan option for next time.


I did OK keeping it vegan on the red sauce. (In my day they called it tomato sauce, but I’m getting older.) Stating the obvious, the fresh vegetables were also listed as vegan on the employee dietary needs card.  I topped my creation with spinach, mushrooms and bell peppers.  If I had wanted to be more adventurous, such choices as hot peppers, marinated artichokes and cilantro could have been added.
Since the price of any pizza (one size fits all, by the way) comes with unlimited toppings, I then had them add another lacey sprinkle of vegan cheese atop the toppings – holds everything in place and it makes for great presentation.

....bake 'til pipping hot...
and let "pizza love" take over!

Coming from Chicago, the land of legendary deluxe deep-dish pizza, Pieology’s crust was a bit on the cracker side by comparison, but I do so appreciate the fresh veggie toppings and corporate’s decision to make vegan cheese available.  On behalf of all the factory farmed animals who are suffering in the food supply chain from hell, as well as those human animals who insist on the plant-based diet, thank you Pieology!

Fayetteville Pieology

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Taste of Thai - make that Taste of Tofu

Pad Thai.  It’s a passion of mine.  I’ve eaten it across the country during road trips, sought out favorite nooks in my home town of Chicago, actually purchased a box of it in the frozen food section (not recommended) and thought about attempting to create it myself, then went out to a restaurant instead.

And so it was that I found myself in Fayetteville’s Taste of Thai on East Central Street.

The room was decorated as you might expect - lots of red and gold, mirrors and elephants and tiny twinkle lights.  My server, Molly, reviewed the menu with me, which was extensive even for vegans. Many entrees and appetizers are already vegan, and those that aren’t can be easily adapted by the removal of eggs or the substitution of tofu.

Tofu.

This much maligned bean curd (think block cottage cheese) carries on despite rude jokes and barbs on the part of those who flirt with obesity and high blood pressure.  It’s actually quite a chameleon, adding heft and texture to everything from fruit smoothies to the Pad Thai I was about to order.


My luncheon came with Vegetable Soup. Maggie assured me the broth was fully veggie, so I enjoyed this little bowl of warmth before my entree arrived.  Diced celery, zucchini, cabbage and carrots swam around – yes, tofu.  The owners of Taste of Thai are at work in the kitchen, which means each order is handled with care and pride.  Special requests such as adding tofu or leaving out eggs are accommodated cheerfully.



The complimentary Summer Rolls which arrived at my table had little blocks of tofu among the bean sprouts, lettuce and carrots, all skillfully bundled in translucent rice paper.   The rolls were perfectly complimented by a sweet dipping sauce with crumbled peanuts.


Having swirled in my soup and nestled in my summer rolls, tofu then appeared in my Pod Thai.  This time it was a firm, fried version which took on the curry and the chili flavors amid the green onions, broccoli and the shredded red cabbage. It made a scrumptious lunch with plenty to take home for delicious left overs.


There are dozens of other dishes I’d like to try for several “next times” – garlic pepper, red and yellow curry, and even creative titles such as Evil Jungle Prince and Drunken Noodles.  There’s pages of dishes to explore!  Vegan Heaven.



Monday, October 2, 2017

Mangia at The Olive Garden

I’ve come to almost the year mark in this blog, and have yet to do Italian.  Amazing.  So, it’s time for a little Tuscan comfort food, and where do I end up?  Well…..

While I usually prefer to give my restaurant business to the Mom and Pop establishments, there comes a time in every vegan’s eating-out journey when they find themselves at a national chain restaurant.

I chose Olive Garden.  The restaurant itself was clean and atmosphere was good, what with big band American song book music crooning to me, helping me to forget I was surrounded by giant flat-screen TVs (but then, they did seat me in the bar, and one doesn’t want to lose track of the score, right?)

My server, Leah, was as helpful and understanding as a busy waitress at the start of the lunch rush could be, but the ingredients for bread and the ravioli stuffing remained a mystery that only corporate could solve.

Their Minestrone -
Mmm mmm vegan!
There’s not a vegan restaurant chain out there (yet), but I was pleased to discover Olive Garden actually touts a “vegan classic” with their minestrone soup.  I explored the bowl with my little soup spoon and discovered quite a vegetable family among the broth – tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, green beans, and zucchini, as well as fava and kidney beans and cute little pasta shells.  The bowl also contained enough sodium for a week, but hey, let’s remember, it’s a “vegan classic”, although I’m not sure the concept of veganism has been around long enough to have anything connected with it be considered a classic.

I eschewed the breadsticks but later learned, online, that they too are vegan. 

I decided to try the portabello mushroom ravioli. Ravioli is the perfect example of an item I’ll order in a restaurant because I’m not industrious enough to attempt it from scratch at home alone.  The cream–based sauce that would have normally come with them could be substituted by marinara, and it made a real pretty plate.


I felt a little foolish when I did my research online later that same day, and discovered the ravioli contained both egg and dairy (for heaven’s sake, Diana!).  But I was pleased to find Olive Garden had dietary charts on their website which answered just about any ingredient question I had.  Next time, I’ll do the angel hair or whole grain linguine with the aforementioned marinara sauce, along with all the breadsticks I can eat, and I’ll be back in the vegan community’s good graces.



Monday, August 21, 2017

OPA! Greek cuisine goes vegan at KOSMOS GREEKAFE


A Greek friend of mine in Chicago took me out to dinner every so often.  We’d start with Saganaki – the famous Greek flaming cheese.  The pyrotechnics never failed to thrill me.  We’d both shout “Opa!” – that rallying cry of celebration – and I would almost break into a knee-slapping dance to the balalaika, That crusty, melted cheese was soooooo so good.  But alas, ‘twas not vegan (yet J).



Fast forward to Fayetteville circa 2017.  I stand at the counter of Kosmos Greekafe on north College Avenue, and I discover that Greek cuisine includes vegan options which aren’t set on fire.


I go to restaurants to get something I can’t easily make myself, such as falafel and stuffed grape leaves.

Falafel in a blanket - a savory bargain 


Falafel - patties of ground garbanzo or fava beans mixed with Middle Eastern spices including dill, cumin, and coriander, comes served on a bed of crunchy chilled lettuce for the Falafel Pita.  It's one of the best bangs for the buck on the Kosmos menu.  Traditionally served with tzatziki, a vegan will want to ask to have this yougurt-based dipping sauce left out, but  if you’re doing the to-go route, you can whip up a small dish of tzatziki with vegan mayo and a dash of lemon juice.
 Dolmades
It's a vegan's answer to cocktail weenies

Dolmades - stuffed grape leaves, rolled up like little sausages, are plump with rice and herbs, served cold on a bed of lettuce with the house Greek salad dressing (an olive oil-based vinaigrette) and slices of soft, warm pita bread.


The Portabella Mushroom Salad was a meal for two.  A suggestion for the persistent but diplomatic vegan diner: I didn’t realize this dish came sprinkled with feta cheese. Not wanting to be difficult and trying not to wastefood, I did not send it back.  The feta was a note of authenticity, but I don’t think I will miss the cheese when I order the portabella mushroom salad in future.  The dish is quite salty and that would have saved me some sodium intake.  No worries. I’ll get it right the next time.  The portabella slices, sautéed in olive oil, were meaty and filling - rather like a vegan answer to sardines.

I didn’t have room in my tummy for their vegan side dishes, but for snacks at your next football game – skip the processed meats and plastic cheese slices.  Consider trying pita triangles with a variety of freshly pureed hummus spreads – the roasted red pepper, Kalamata olive, and eggplant varieties meet the vegan requirement.  They’re are buffet treats that are both festive and healthy.

Didn’t have room for a dessert of sopa-petas either - crispy pita chips tossed in cinnamon-sugar.  But if you’re stopping by for a mid-morning or afternoon pick-up, try this treat with a demitasse of Greek coffee.  It might have you dancing and slapping your thigh..... 
OPA!
 

Kosmos Greekafe
2136 North College Avenue, Fayetteville, AR

Thursday, July 27, 2017

VEGAN VERSION OF THE HOUSE BREAD? - Just ask.....

In my lead blog, I mentioned I bend the rule of no dairy in my diet for a sumptuous sour dough that’s sold at the Roger’s Farmers’ Market.  It has that tang of sour dough with the soft, cake-like texture of Hawaiian rolls.

Heather Meis of Meissterbrew Bakery and I had a pleasant exchange over her tempting display, the aroma of fresh buttery bread seducing anyone within 20 yards.

I explained I loved her bread, but would she be able to make a vegan version?  She was most eager to rise to this challenge.  The regular bread has butter, but darned if I miss it.
Dessert for Breakfast


If I want a buttery taste, I spread a bit of Earth Balance on a fresh slice.  There’s also what I call “dessert –for-breakfast”, achieved by topping this bread with a generous dollop of orange marmalade.  But this manna passes the ultimate bread test – you can eat it naked.  (The bread that is, although how you dress for dinner is your business.)

Meissterbrew Farms

749-359-2061
heathermeis@yahoo.com

Monday, July 10, 2017

TJ's SANDWICH SHOP - Quick and Satisfying


Virtually any Sandwich place, from Subway to Jimmy John’s to this delightful find on north College Avenue in Fayetteville has a veggie number you can call lunch or dinner.  The trick is to get them to leave off the mayo and the cheese.  Most places I’ve visited have been very accommodating.

TJ’s gives an added twist in their Garden Guru – it’s hot.  Steam actually rose from inside the sandwich when I placed it open-face for the photo.  Adds a whole new dimension to the “veggie sandwich”.

Jules (but she goes by Julie) takes great pride in her work, having trained under Chef Todd over at the seafood emporium Mermaids. TJ’s was Todd’s brain child, further expanding his culinary contribution to Fayetteville.

The décor is ‘50s retro, with red plastic pedestal seating and lots of aluminum furniture – clean and sparkling and just ready for me to sit down and enjoy my meal.  So I get my warm bundle of foil over to a cozy table and unfurl a sandwich that can stack up to any deli creation in New York’s lower east side.

The Garden Guru - it'll warm your tummy and your heart
The roasted red and yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms and – wait for it – artichoke hearts have been sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, and topped with a sun dried tomato black olive relish that pulls it all together.  This casserole for the soul is served on a crispy fresh Vie de France hoagie – but it’s one I could get my mouth around, unlike some insurmountable loaves that have arrived on my plate over the years, threatening to give me lock jaw.

Not much else on the menu comes in under the vegan flag, as the pre-made pasta salad already has feta cheese in the mix, and there’s cream and butter lurking in the tomato bisque, but hey, there’s always Lays potato chips and a big cup of sweet tea.  So if you find yourself out at TJ’s with friends who are ordering turkey and ham and roast beef, no need to feel like the poor relation.  The Garden Guru is sandwich royalty.

P.S. Sandwiches are half price on Wednesday!