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!



Monday, July 3, 2017

A VEGAN CHUCK WAGON – NOT AN OXYMORON


I pass a chuck wagon every day on my way out of town. Bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, nothing for me, right?  Wrong.  How I dreamed of the day I’d see the “V” word on their menu chalkboard, and then it happened.  Jackfruit tacos.  Time to do a U turn and go back and be sure I didn’t read incorrectly while travelling at 30 miles an hour.

The Green Goat, found at the corner of Martin Luther King and Wood Streets in southern Fayetteville, offers Cuban-Florida cuisine with a nod toward Ozark cooking.  Owner Erin Walsh brings innovation to the menu, with the vegan tacos being a good example.

Jack fruit is a giant relative of the fig family.  It yields a starchy, fibrous pulp which carries a subtle sweet flavor which tends to blend well with sauces and spices, much like tofu.  Put a little BBQ sauce on it and you’ve got a vegan’s answer to pulled pork.  These tacos come with homemade mojo dipping sauce - cumin, garlic, olive oil and just the right amount of tangy lime.
Rice & Bean Empanada, Mojo Sauce and the Jackfruit Taco (open faced)

While I was there, my vegan exploration carried on to the empanadas.  They substitute rice and beans for the “meaty” filling.  There’s also vegan Thai coconut soup, fried avocado, and yuka fries.

It didn’t matter a bit that I was standing alongside the truck when the heavens opened and soaked me to the skin.  I was carrying a vegan feast to-go from….a chuck wagon.  Who knew?!

The Green Goat
583 S Wood Street
Fayetteville, AR

479-310-5444

Monday, June 19, 2017

HAMMONTREES - Fayetteville AND Rogers - and lots 'o vegan choices

Friends were visiting from out of town.  I picked a gourmet boutique restaurant that would impress them with local cuisine.  Only problem was, we were ready to eat at 4:30 and the fancy place didn’t open until 5:00.  We started to scope the area and came across Hammontrees.  It really could be called “Ham and Cheese” since its specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches.
Ah cheese.  Probably the most difficult hurdle I faced in shifting to the vegan diet.  And here I was in a place that served such temptations as smoked mozzarella, sharp white cheddar and wild mushroom goat cheese.  It just wasn’t fair.

But wait!

Turns out they can substitute Daiya vegan cheese at no extra charge.  So I ordered the vegan grilled cheese number called Where the Wild Things Are (ask them to grill in olive oil rather than butter).  These sandwiches are not the pathetic white bread slabs with a thin sheet of processed semi-melted American cheese that we’ve all gotten at the local diner.  Hammontrees takes the humble grilled cheese to a whole new level.  My choice included sautéed mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes incorporated with perfectly melted vegan pepper jack cheese.  Other sandwich creations include such mouth-watering avant guard additions such as caramelized onions, poblano peppers and artichoke hearts


No photo on this visit, as this happened in pre-blog days.  However, I returned recently to try the Hot Dog side of the menu.  
Cali Dog and trimmings - no take home this time....

They’ll substitute a veggie dog for the sausage or frankfurter at no extra charge.  I was envisioning a tiny tofu pup getting lost in a (vegan – I checked) scali roll, but no, this is a hearty veggie brat that is spicy and satisfying.  The Cali Dog came with slices of avocado and cherry tomatoes, complimented by a cup of chips, dill pickle, and a cherry pepper.  (Ask for the lime cilantro dressing to be left off, as it uses sour cream – you won’t miss it.)  It was a hot dog so plump I had to grab my knife and fork.  I’d planned on take home left overs.  Nope.  Just tooooo good.



Yummy vegan Cheese Sandwiches and "Dogs"
at  326 N West Avenue, Suite 8, in Fayetteville

and 113 W Walnut Street in Rogers, Arkansas


Friday, June 9, 2017

A VEGAN IN BURGER LAND

Delux Burger, now known as Beer Kitchen and Liquor Bar, for its wide selection of craft beers, is located just in back of Chipotle on Fayetteville’s Dickson Street.  During my recent visit to The Catfish Hole, their hostess recommended the Chipotle bean burger available at Delux Burger.

Beer Kitchen has a casual bistro atmosphere which makes for a refreshing place to gather and celebrate life’s victories, even if it’s just getting through another work week.  And for those of us whose friends think “burgers and fries” are two of the four basic food groups, we can join them in the festivities here and enjoy a vegan meal.


The Chipotle Bean Burger is mildly spicy and satisfying, and it comes with  meaty (well, you know what I mean) fries.We’re pretty sure the brioche bun is vegan, (I do wear out my servers with questions they are not expecting), although I was sorry I hadn’t opted for the alternative – a large flour tortilla which would make my burger a wrap.  
Next time.

Or, I might try the Asian or Kale Salad with a bean burger patty crumbled over the greens in place of the chicken.  Mmmmm…..  Then there is the Fried Pickles (you don’t have to be pregnant) or “Bomb” Onion Rings, as I have the assurance from the kitchen that no milk or egg are used in the batter for these appetizers.

Something to note - I might not have discovered this dining spot if not for the thoughtful and genuinely enthused recommendation by a carnivore at the Catfish Hole.  Keep your ears perked and your mind open for tips from unexpected sources!


Beer Kitchen & Liquor Bar


550 West Dickson Street, Fayetteville AR

479-445-6086

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

THINKING OUT OF THE BOTTLE

This is not the typical restaurant review you’ve come to know in this blog.  This involves an observation I made on healthy eating and sustainability while attending a weekend retreat.  Since I believe these two topics are inexorably linked, I wanted to share what I witnessed.  And it’s good news!

At this retreat, I volunteered in the kitchen.  I saw massive amounts of waste of both food and containers, but I pulled what I could out of the trash to recycle.  One of the main recycle items I rescued was the humble water bottle.  I pulled over fifty of these crinkly little critters from the trash, and then, on the final morning of the outing….we ran out of bottled water.

I filled a pitcher of water and left it at the beverage station alongside a stack of cups (I wish I could say the cups were reusable or compostable, but we’re not there yet).  I fully expected those in attendance to ask me where the bottled water was, and to mope when they found we’d exhausted the supply.  I also assumed the pitcher would sit quietly, gathering dust like some artifact from the 1950s.

But to my surprise and delight, the lowly tap water in the pitcher was poured again and again until I had to refill it – twice.  Oh, I forgot to mention, the attendees were young people, ages 10-18.


Gives me hope.












Monday, May 8, 2017

SOME LOCAL TALENT COMES TO THE TABLE

The Farmer’s Table Café is a must-stop for vegan eating, found on south School Street in Fayetteville.  Co-founders Rob and Adrienne Shaunfield have come miles in the two short years their doors have been open.  Their mission of bringing locally sourced whole and healthy foods to the Fayetteville community has received a warm welcome.  They pack in the customers with friendly service and delicious platters.

My friend Dolores and I lucked out and were able to sit alfresco, tolerating only the occasional siren or Harley which passed the dining terrace on this fine spring day.
Dolores ordered the A M Power Bowl, which promotes the humble bowl of cooked oatmeal to royalty.  Spiked with red quinoa and slivered almonds, and presented with a ruff of apple crescents and a mound of dices strawberries, you can eat your fill and feel
entirely virtuous.
Doesn't she look virtuous?
Good food never has the ingredient of guilt.
Not having had pancakes in quite a while, I was intrigued by the Sweet Potato Pancake.  These were fluffy discs of rich orange batter topped with sugared pecans and complimented by a side of maple syrup.  (To keep it vegan, just asks them to leave off the butter – and believe me, you’ll never miss it.)

I was allowed a side with this meal, and I know it sounds like an odd combination, but I wanted to try the sautéed local greens and veggies - kale, carrots, green beans and mushrooms sparkling in organic coconut oil, with just the right amount of salt and spices.  I called that my lunch and had the sweet potato pancakes for dessert.


Sweet Potato Pancakes with a side of sauteed greens -
lunch is served - and so is dessert.
There was even one pancake left over for a home meal. I try to remember to bring my own to-go container when dining out, to keep the Styrofoam epidemic at bay, but in this case, I just asked for the pancake to be wrapped in tin foil.  It made it home just fine and was already wrapped for warming in the oven.

Even with a companion ordering a second dish, I still couldn’t scratch the vegan surface of their menu.  Several items on the dinner menu are specifically marked “Vegan”, which is beyond helpful and right up there with thrilling as far as I’m concerned.  We are no longer foodie orphans!

My “next-time” options include The Garbanzo Burger, Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Wine Sauce and fresh veggies, the Moroccan Salad and Mediterranean Lettuce Cups (substitute maple dressing for the yogurt mint on these last two) as well as the Stuffed Sweet Potato.  But keep in mind the menu for The Farmer’s Table Café is a moving target.  They source locally and go with what’s seasonably available, so the menu changes often – which makes your dining experience spontaneous as well as scrumptious!

The Farmer’s Table Café
Open for Breakfast and Lunch, Tuesday-Sunday; Dinner Friday and Saturday.  Closed Mondays
1079 S School Ave, Fayetteville, AR 72701

Monday, March 20, 2017

THE CATFISH HOLE - Angling for Vegan Options in a Southern-Fried World

So I’m once again at a conference and they come to the “you’re on your own” lunch break.  I head to the parking lot not sure what I’ll do, amid a freezing rain down pour and a growling stomach.  Fellow attendees are nice enough to invite me to join them.  We pile into the RV and head for the Catfish Hole.

In ordering such things as green beans and fried okra, I don’t ask the right questions.  Turns out the green beans are cooked with bacon, and the batter for the core contains eggs.  Sigh.  Perhaps it was wishful thinking.  The corn on the cob is delicious – just be sure they don’t dip it in butter prior to serving.

I space about taking a photo of my plate upon arrival, and given the missteps in my ordering vegan, it’s hardly necessary, but here’s my “after” shot.  

One okra nugget left.  Corn on cob was yummy nostalgia.  Contraband hushpuppy front and center.


As you can see, I enjoyed the repast.   The pickles were also a vegan option, and I might have ordered a baked potato – naked of course, or its cousin, an order of fries.  I could have gone for the dessert of mandarin oranges as well.  Lots of options.  I just have to be a little creative and inquisitive.

And then there was that complimentary plate of hushpuppies.   They’re fried balls of fluffy cornbread that are made with eggs.  The Catfish Hole is known for these little bites of crispy fried heaven and I down two of them.  Delicious.  When you’re the face of veganism, sometimes a little compromise gets you a lot of cooperation and appreciation.

But the luncheon is anything but a loss for the vegan cause.  The questions I do ask start a conversation around the table about why I’ve adopted this lifestyle.  I’ve found the conversations about the plant-based diet are much more pleasant these days than in years past.  Or maybe I’ve mellowed.  People seem genuinely curious and respectful, rather than argumentative and obsessed with whether or not I am getting enough protein.  Times have changed.

The management is equally receptive, gladly answering my questions about ingredients (belated though they might have been) and one of them even offers to pass my business card on to a vegan relative.  I couldn’t  ask for a more pleasant experience all around.


The Catfish Hole
4127 West Weddington Drive
Fayetteville, Arkansas
479-521-7008
www.thecatfishhole.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

HELLO NINJA - Rogers, Arkansas

Like so many vegan finds, I just stumbled on this one.  Attending a conference where lunch break came and I suddenly found myself alone, I went out prowling.  Saw an Asian place - a good bet for vegan cuisine.

Hello Ninja features sushi rolls and grilled Japanese main dishes.  I tried to experience both sides, and the menu made it easy with little leaf symbols alongside vegetarian dishes.
Asparagus roll with a side of lacy beets


I can recommend the asparagus sushi rolls, expertly made with sticky rice complimenting crispy thin spears of kelly green asparagus.

Hibachi Noodles with stir fried veggies















And for the hot dish, you can’t beat the hibachi noodles.  A bed of staming semolina noodles topped with savory stir fried onion, cabbage and bell peppers.


The service was excellent.  It should be noted I tend to drive my servers mad with numerous questions and trips to the kitchen to check ingredients and prep procedures.  If I ever get famous, I’ll no doubt have one of those reputations that make an establishment dread my appearance for this reason, but I am a good tipper.    I’ll be back to Hello Ninja to try the teriyaki tofu and the vegetable fried rice, and I’ll bring a few extra bucks to make my server not cry in her miso over so many questions.

3000 S Pinnacle Hills Parkway
Rogers, AR
479-268-5630
http://www.helloninjasushi.com/






Monday, February 13, 2017

Meeting a Kindred Spirit

When you are a vegan, it can seem lonely and discouraging to have adopted a lifestyle that’s not mainstream, so when I strike up a conversation at a food stop and discover a soul mate, it’s warm and fuzzy time.

Such an encounter occurred at the Public Library in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  I’d stop to peruse their offerings - I was considering the latte with coconut milk or a full-fruit smoothie -when my queries about vegan food brought a young woman to my side who’d overheard my comments.
She was not purely vegan.  After a trial period of being vegan, she found the diet did not meet her health needs.  She eats free-range eggs and sea food occasionally, but has eliminated meat, pork, poultry and dairy from her diet.

Now in my book, that’s terrific.  I was further heartened because she’s young.  She’s the future.  It is my firmly held belief that her generation will tip the scale when it comes to agribusiness and factory farming.  Her food choices multiplied by millions of millennials will result in a seismic shift in our global practices with respect to food production.

Who would have thought I would have such a spiritual awakening over an apple with peanut butter? (That was what I chose for lunch there at the Asaga’s Café at the Fayetteville Library.  Very satisfying.)

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, I lunched recently with a woman who’s in her senior years.  She is a polite but firm advocate for animal rights.  She eats fish and has not eliminated all dairy from her diet, but she knows the issues and she’s heading in the right direction.
And here’s the point – most of us, myself included, are not going to become pure vegans overnight.  We might not ever be totally vegan; however, a move towards this lifestyle in degrees has a tremendous impact on our own health, the health of the planet, and the lives of farmed animals. 
We shall soldier on!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Art of Fine Dining

My Trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

I happened to be with a group attending a special exhibit at The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  We stopped for lunch at Eleven, the chichi café on the premises.  (Eleven gets its name in honor of the Museum's opening on November 11, 2011 at 11:11 am.)

Eleven is pleased to offer gourmet food, light years ahead of the standard cafeteria fare which tarnishes the reputation of many a fine museum.  Vegan options were advertised in the menu’s legend, along with vegetarian and gluten-free selections, but the menu changes every three to four months, and this “season” didn’t offer any actual vegan dishes.  I had to be creative.

The white bean soup lived up to expectations.  Even without the jalapeno cornbread (it contains butter) it was a filling bowl of savory beans in a rich vegetable broth with a stewed tomato as the centerpiece.  You know you’ve picked a good dish when several people at your table want to taste a sample.  

But there was still plenty left to warm my tummy on this frigid winter day.  Had it not been so bitterly cold, I might have considered the Autumn Harvest Salad (have them leave off the parmesan), or the Ozark All Seasons Leaf Salad (substitute the yogurt cucumber dressing with a balsamic vinaigrette.)

There’s also a coffee bar at the opposite end of the dining hall, and their latte was delicious.  (Yes, they have both soy and coconut milk.)
This was a simple enough lunch, but very filling.  Prices are a smidge high, but then, you’re in a world class museum whose admittance is free, so enjoy the fabulous collection before and after your vegan repast.  It’s food for the soul.

The cornbread I took a pass on at lunch reminded me of my own beloved vegan version of this classic dish:
1 cup each whole wheat flour and stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil
4 tablespoons melted margarine (cooled)
1 cup soy or almond milk
Mix all ingredients, but not too thoroughly; leave texture course
Pour into a greased 9” pan and bake at 400 ° 25-30 minutes
Serve hot with non-dairy spread and agave syrup – D-lish!


Monday, January 16, 2017

KHANA INDIAN GRILL

Khana is a very user-friendly purveyor of Indian cuisine.  They’ll cheerfully answer any questions which might come from the uninitiated, and believe me, I put them through their paces.  I got both a meal and an education on my lunch hour.

Indian cuisine is all about the spices, lots of them.  As many as ten spices can be combined to form what is known as a masala, which is then used to flavor sauces, soups or a main dish (known as a curry).  This isn’t the pitiful shake of salt and pepper Americans are used to.  Exotics such as saffron, cardamom, and curry leaves are added to more familiar players such as ginger, nutmeg, and hot chilies to create unusual yet mouth-watering combinations.

The Vegan Coconut Malai Curry  comes with slender, long grain basmati rice, blended with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves.  Malai translates as “cream”, but in this vegan incarnation it’s rich nutty coconut milk, blended with a flavorful curry.

The Vegan Coconut Malai Curry
For the side carbohydrate I substituted the traditional naan flatbread because naan contains yogurt and egg.  Paratha bread is a flaky wheat flour creation that is India’s answer to the croissant.

My lunch partner ordered the Samosa.

Samosa and Sambar

It is little crispy pastry pillows stuffed with potatoes and peas. They are complimented by ramekins of tamarind (a pulpy fruit) and cilantro chutney.  It was a cold day, so she also ordered the Sambar, a spicy lentil soup with green beans, carrots and squash.

Neither of us left hungry, nor did I suffer the indigestion for which I had braced myself.  Either my pallet has matured, or these folks really know how to make excellent Indian food.  I would check the box next to “both of the above”.

A word about where we ate as well as what we ate.  The décor is as authentic as the food.  Check out the imported hand-carved pendant lights.  Khana is also eco-conscious, outfitted with sustainably forested furniture, and using biodegradable serving ware for to-go orders.

So, for your next vegan adventure, travel to the subcontinent, or better yet, to 2101 North College Avenue in Fayetteville to Khana Indian Grill.

 https://khanaindiangrill.com

Monday, January 2, 2017



The best resolution for a new year is...
pledging to give the vegan lifestyle a try!

Hope this video gives you some inspiration!