Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Restaurant review: Modern Love in Omaha

I was able to stop in Omaha on my way back from Michigan and boy am I glad I did. The newest (I think) vegan restaurant in the U.S., Modern Love, opened on August 5th right in the middle of beef country. And I got to go!

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a well-known name in the vegan and foodie communities. She created Post Punk Kitchen and is the author of several incredible vegan cookbooks, including one of my all-time favorites, "Vegan Brunch". She is the chef/owner of Modern Love, and knowing how many incredible meals Mike has made from her cookbooks, I just had to dine there while in Omaha. To be honest, it's the only reason I decided to make Omaha a stopping point on my way home.

Modern Love is located just a few minutes drive west of downtown Omaha. I had an airbnb in the north part of downtown and it took me ten minutes driving. As I parked I practically exploded with excitement. I am not a food blogger or recipe creator or anything like that, but I sure do love amazing vegan food. And I just knew that my world was about to be rocked.

Modern Love is cute. And clean. And packed. It seats about 30 - 40 and has an open kitchen. The hostess was kind and seated me immediately. A friendly face upon arrival is always nice.

I also got to say hi to Isa upon arrival. I met her once, last year at Vida Vegan Con II, and was thrilled to see her and congratulate her.  Her kindness and hospitality made me feel right at home.

As did the kindness and hospitality of my server. As you know, service is half of the equation for me while dining out and he rocked it.

I started with the jalapeƱo corn fritters. Not surprisingly, before they arrived I had already struck u a conversation with the lovely couple seated next to me. So when the fritters were all of a sudden in front of me and I took my first bite, I realized that I had to pace myself and not totally freak out my new acquaintances. I ended up savoring every bite. The corn was crunchy. The jalapeƱos not overpowering. Perfect in my mind.

I ordered the Mac & Shews for my entree. It was a tough choice for me as I also wanted the Seitan Marsala. Stephanie, my new acquaintance next door, had ordered that and was loving it. Mac & Shews it was and soon a steaming bowl filled with pecan crusted tofu, creamy cashew cheese, braised kale with okra and BBQ cauliflower arrived at my table.

I thought that I would like the mac n cheese the best. Not surprisingly, having experience with Isa's recipes, I found that I honestly loved all parts of this dish equally, maybe delighting in the okra a tiny bit more than the others. The flavors were crazy delicious. And they all came together perfectly. I took my time with this dish. I was in ecstasy.

The menu is small, and I love that. Four choices for an entree, and as I wrote earlier the decision amongst entrees is not an easy one. Everything is prepared in-house.

Dessert. I ordered the raspberry cheesecake. I have been on an 18-year quest to find the perfect vegan cheesecake. My mission is now complete. Perfect crust. Perfect flavor. Perfect texture. Once again I found myself taking my time. Oh my.

I wanted to order more to give readers a more inclusive review but I just couldn't eat anything else. Everything I look for in a dining experience went way above my high expectations. I wasn't surprised by this, just happy about it.

Go to Omaha. From Denver it is an easy seven hour drive. You gain an hour driving into Central time zone. Omaha is also an easy drive from many other cities in the Midwest. You can make your dinner reservation here. At this time Modern Love is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4pm - 10pm.

I can't stop here. If you are traveling to Omaha and need a place to spend the night, I highly recommend Brent's loft in the north part of downtown Omaha. Affordable, comfortable, clean, and convenient. Brent is super friendly and kind. This is a room, not his entire place. I loved it. Check it out here.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Restaurant review - Detroit Vegan Soul

I recently had to go back to my home state for a family funeral and had the opportunity to go check out Detroit's thriving vegan scene.

Yes, Detroit.

And yes, thriving.

This post was going to be about that scene but it has become all about one place: Detroit Vegan Soul. I enjoyed my time here so much that I need a whole post just for them! I will write a future post about Detroit in general.

My interest was peaked while speaking with one of the owners of The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor (where I was staying and about 45 minutes from Detroit) who told me about Detroit Vegan Soul. I had read about them and am connected with them on Twitter, but I hadn't considered checking them out.

Later that afternoon I called to see what the dress was (casual) and asked about traffic. My conversation ended up being with one of the owners  and she was SO friendly. Because of her friendliness I just had to go, and off I went.

Detroit definitely has it's problems and you see a lot of them while driving to Detroit Vegan Soul. Then all of a sudden you turn a corner and you encounter an oasis of different businesses that includes Detroit Vegan Soul.

I walked in and was immediately greeted by staff, very friendly staff. If you have ever read any of my restaurant reviews you know that staff hospitality is important to me. I was ecstatic to be there. The restaurant was alive with almost a full house and lots of conversations going on.

I started with the Collard Green Spring Rolls which apparently are quite popular. I now know why. They are delicious and a great start to any meal.

I should mention here that the women who own Detroit Vegan Soul started with a food truck. When they opened the restaurant there was a line down the block.

I know why.  My server was friendly and helpful. He suggested, as it was my first time, to try the Soul Platter. Oh my. I loved every bite. The mac n cheese and the yams didn't last long. And the collard greens! All I wanted to do was savor ever bite. And I wasn't alone. I watched as other customers were loving what they had ordered. I just wanted to ask for the menu back and order another dish, but I also had to leave room for dessert. Dessert was Snickerdoodle cake, and I loved it. But keep in mind that the cake changes.

The menu is intense, and I just can't give it justice as I didn't try that many items. I can only imagine how delicious the Okra Stew or the Catfish Tofu are! I am salivating thinking about this place as I write, thinking of what I would order if Mike and I could go for dinner tonight.

I did get to meet the owners, and meeting Kirsten and Erika was truly one of the highlights of my entire trip. I can't wait to see them again and to enjoy more meals at Detroit Vegan Soul. Check them out here.

Finally, I just have to let you know about this photo in the bathroom. It gave me pause. It's hard to see because I didn't catch it in the right light, but the word "History" is etched over the photo.

If you are familiar with Detroit, Detroit Vegan Soul is just a couple of blocks north of Jefferson at Van Dyke. Not too far from Belle Isle.

Detroit Vegan Soul
8029 Agnes Street
Detroit, MI  48214

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Restaurant review - El Camino

The official name of this restaurant is El Camino Community Tavern, a little long to include for a blog post title.

Mike and I were looking for lunch one day and did a search for places around our house. Most of them we had heard of or tried, nothing really exciting. Then we saw El Camino and noticed that they had tempeh tacos! Definitely had to try them!

Lunch was great, but rushed as we had to be somewhere, so we went back for dinner a week later. This gave us a chance to take our time, ask questions, try different items and just enjoy the experience.

And it is indeed an enjoyable experience! Staff is very friendly. We ate once at the bar and once in the seating area and both times had very friendly servers who knew what vegan is and who went through the menu letting us know which menu items could be vegan.

Well we had to get the tempeh tacos. They were perfect. The sauce on them was untypically very hot so the server recommended ordering them with the sauce on the side. She was spot on. The sauce was super spicy and also super flavorful. We like spice with flavor.

The enchiladas can be ordered with spinach and portobello mushrooms. I tried these for dinner and totally enjoyed them. As you might know, Mike makes the best enchiladas at home, so I am quite the enchilada snob. These are right up my alley and I can't wait to try them again.

Vegans can also order chips and salsa, guacamole, and the green chili which is even labeled as vegan on the menu! I will also say that I'm sure the chef would make any changes with items to make them vegan. They also have Soyrizo.

I have always hope for a tavern/bar in the area that would have delicious vegan food and now we have found it. As I wrote earlier the staff is supper friendly, and this includes the managers. We ran into the same manager both times and he was not only very friendly but also very into making sure we were absolutely having a good time and enjoying ourselves.

El Camino is at the southwest corner of Lowell and 32nd at 3628 West 32nd Avenue in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver. Their phone number is 720.889.7946. El Camino is the perfect place for a date night, for a drink with co-workers after work or an easy-going night out with friends. I highly recommend checking them out! Their website is here.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Coming out: I am vegan

I know, you're not surprised. After all, it's in the title of my blog.

I have been vegan for 18 years and am still surprised by the reaction I get. Most notably, that people have to make a point to tell me how delicious their non-vegan meal is, how much they love meat or how they could never go vegan.

Before I proceed, please remember that I believe that everyone is on their own path. I always try to be there to support folks wanting to become vegan or even give it a try, but I am not standing in judgement to anyone who is not vegan.

I didn't become vegan because I didn't like animal meat or dairy cheese or dairy milk. I didn't become vegan to lose weight or try to be healthier.

I became vegan because I want to do the least harm possible while on this earth and did not want any living being to suffer to become my meal. Since then, I have stayed vegan because I decided that I do not have the right to take the life of another living being, whether I actually kill the animal or pay someone else to do so. I have also been able to enjoy the health benefits, of which there are many, of being vegan.

It's definitely a path for me. I learn new things about veganism, animal rights, animal welfare, health, nutrition and fitness practically every day. I pay more attention to what I eat. My body tells me when I am not eating enough of something or too much of something else.

My struggle is always with sugar. Since coming back from vacation a couple of weeks ago I decided (again) to cut sugar as much as possible. I've only had two desserts since and hope to keep limiting my sugar.

I love so many vegetables that I had never really tried before becoming vegan: kale, Swiss chard, dates, collard greens and well over a dozen types of peppers. My food intake is more diverse than any animal meat eater I know.

It is certainly not difficult to be vegan. One makes a decision that they do not want to be part of the inevitable torture, cruelty and fear that animals go through to become food and the culinary adventure begins.

I have some links on the main page of our blog site that can be helpful to folks new to veganism. Nutrition and fitness are very important in my vegan life.

Thanks for reading.