28 March 2012

alliance bakery. (& other vegan desserts.)

a quick departure from our regularly scheduled programming...

desserts are one of the things i miss the most since transitioning from vegetarian to vegan. a delicious sweet treat is just so hard to replicate without the traditional baking ingredients (aka butter & eggs).

that being said, there are three bakeries and one restaurant in chicago that i know of where one can enjoy a delicious vegan cupcake.

one is alliance bakery, great little bakery on division in wicker park.

i've had their vegan cupcake several times.

chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.
peanut butter frosting = heaven. 

this cupcake is a peeeeeerfect example of how vegan baking can be awesome too! 
i can always count on alliance bakery to deliver the sweetness and satisfy any craving i've got for a pastry. yum.

the other two bakeries i know of that make dayum good vegan baked goods? 

the last spot is the chicago diner ... an all vegetarian/vegan joint in boystown.
their vegan carrot cake (and their vegan reuben!) is uh-mazing.

any four of these are great choices for vegan baked goods. 
if you know of any others, let me know!

25 March 2012

noon o kabab.

jeesh, i've really been hitting the mediterranean spots hard lately.
so yum, that's why!

noon o kabab is a persian restaurant in albany park. i recently ordered carry out from there.

the pro :
 - they know what a vegan is and have lots of vegan items on the menu.

the con :
 - the hummus and baba ghannouj are not vegan. i repeat, they are not vegan. tears.

anyway, i tried a sampling of their vegan dishes. although there are many more!

here's my little platter :
clockwise from the top : vegetarian mix curry & dill rice, dolma grapeleaves, falafel & roasted eggplant. 
thoughts? the vegetarian mix curry was okay ... a little bland. the rice was delish. the dolma were good. the falafel were awesome. kind of the perfect falafel ball. the roasted eggplant was also awesome. and a nice substitute since there was no baba ghannouj. (wah!)

what other vegan items are there at noon o kabab you ask?

appetizers :
 - caspian eggplant
 - dolmel felfel
 - pomegranate mushrooms
 - tabouli
 - persian salad
 - persian garden salad (minute the cheese)

entrees :
 - shirin polo
 - adass polo
 - lobia polo

sides:
 - white rice
 - charbroiled vegetables
 - charbroiled tomatoes
 - torshi

in summation, dining at noon o kabab = a happy vegan. 
unless you are craving hummus & baba ghannouj. then try semiramis next door. 

21 March 2012

nacional 27.

going through my posts, it seems like i reeeeally love lettuce entertain you restaurants. well, i guess i do in reality. and here's another ...

nacional 27 is a "modern latin restaurant, ceviche bar & salsa club."

no, it really is a salsa club. they had salsa lessons the night we were there :
 we did not participate.
anywho, even though i've been to nacional 27 twice before, i did a quick google search for what they might have that's vegan. my results led me to believe there would be very little vegan food. boy, was google wrong this time!

we started off with some complimentary tortilla chips & smoky salsa : 
the chips were super light and perfectly salty. and the salsa was also delish. i used it on the roasted plantains.  *note : my friend said their chips are usually pretty tasteless. but tonight, they figured out the ideal salt to tortilla chip ratio. way to go, nacional! 

next, we shared the hearts of palm salad : 
hearts of palm, avocado, olives, papaya,  lettuce, tomato and a green salsa-ish dressing.
so so so so so light and delicious! it was so fresh and flavorful ... yum. 

a cup of gazpacho for me :
chilled tomato, carrots, celery, jicama, cucumber & roasted corn.
it also had a slight red pepper taste, which was fine with me. again, perfectly fresh. the tortilla strips added a nice crunch and gave the soup more substance. awesome.

last, we shared a side of roasted plantains :

this was a huge portion of plantains. but also quite delicious. they were the salty with a bit of a sweet aftertaste. and dipping them in the smoky salsa was a great idea. (there was some type of herb infused sour cream for the non-vegan.)
also vegan on their menu :
 - guacamole with tortilla & taro chips. 
 - ensalada verde : romaine, pickled onions, cilantro, pepitas & chipotle-papaya vinaigrette.
 - vegetables & rice : grilled latin vegetables, spicy green rice.
 - paella : not on the menu, but they will make it for you. when i had it they made it with orzo. mmm. 

i also think some of the sides are or could be prepared vegan, but i'm not 100% certain. 
either way, nacional 27 is a great place for vegans and non-vegans alike! try it soon! 

18 March 2012

luxbar.

luxbar is a bar/restaurant located in the heart of the gold coast. my most recent visit included a pre-ordered burger (more on that to come) and was accompanied by too many grey goose + sodas ... oops.

here's the rundown ...

traditional hummus : 
with fresh assorted vegetables & pita bread.
olives = surprise!! the veggies were all super crisp and the pita bread was delicious. the hummus truly was a traditional hummus. no complaints here! a perfect appetizer.

veggie burger :
made with basmati brown rice, veggies & cashews on a toasted vegan bun ... 
french fries (cooked in canola oil and not in the meat fryer).
while the veggie burger is already on the menu, the bun it comes with is not vegan. we called the day before to give them a heads up and they had the vegan bun all ready to go. 

a close up :
the burger was really quite tasty ... i didn't eat the bun, per the usual. but it was nice to have the option. 
the flavors of the burger were right on. not like normal veggie or black bean burgers i normally find in restaurants. you could definitely taste that this was home made. it was also a little bit crumbly and hard to eat with a fork, but that's my bad and really not a fault of the burger. my only comment is that the cashews made it a bit oily. either way, it was definitely yum. 

luxbar is a really fun place for eats or drinks ... their staff is super attentive and kind. the man i spoke with about the vegan burger emailed me after to ensure that i enjoyed my meal. now that is customer service! 

14 March 2012

st. louis, missouri : barcelona tapas restaurant.

let's start off by saying ... i think i've made it pretty clear that i love small plates and tapas restaurants.

moving forward ...
i recently went down to st. louis, missouri for mardi gras weekend. before the trip, i knew that one of my favorite indianapolis restaurants also has a location in st. louis. you know what this means.

so, we decided to go to barcelona tapas for dinner one evening. they've got some great, traditional spanish tapas available... and LOTS of vegan options and items that can be prepared vegan.

a couple of notes :
 - the food at the st. louis restaurant was definitely better than the food at the the indianapolis one.
 - the plates look a little sloppy ... besides the first one, this is how they were presented.
 - no bread (more on that later).

i started off with the aceitunas aliñadas :
spanish olives marinated in olive oil & spices. 
obviously i ate the entire plate by myself and obviously i forgot to take a picture before digging in. this is what the plate looked like after i had already eaten half. 

next was the pimientos asados :
marinated roasted red peppers with garlic.
this was tasty & salty, yum. however, it slightly tasted liked chopped up red peppers out of a jar. 
another dislike : it didn't come with bread. i found it difficult to just eat a huge plate of marinated red peppers without something to put them on (besides those little crackers), so we made a request for some fresh pan. mmm. 

third ... brécol rioja :
sauteed broccolini with sundried tomatoes and garlic. 
as my previous posts indicate, i love broccolini. and this was no exception. delish from the sauce to the sundried tomatoes!

and lastly, i shared the trigueros con romesco : 
grilled asparagus with romesco sauce and manchego (sans manchego).
as you can see, no photo here. this  is in protest ...
only 3 spears of asparagus for $6.25? not my cup of tea. 

barcelona tapas restaurant is pretty delish overall... just be sure to ask for extra bread! 

11 March 2012

la lagartija taqueria.

mmm. after my trip to chilam balam, i had been craving some great, more authentic mexican food. and recently, i got just what i needed...

la lagartija taqueria is an awesome mexican spot just past the west loop... so, west town?

their website says that all of their food is "made with the best quality ingredients and prepared right when you order." yum!

i had the vegetarian alambres (with no cheese or sour cream) :
chopped red & green peppers, poblano chiles, onions, corn & tomatoes. 
home made corn tortillas on the side... with fresh salsa verde, smokey red salsa and guacamole. 

i had never had alambres before, so i was a little nervous. but it was super super super delicious! basically like fajitas, but chopped up. these alambres in particular had that awesome fresh taste... and my meal was very light, perfect for lunch. they sent six (yes, six!!) home made corn tortillas on the side... i could have eaten them all. still warm from the oven! mmm.

their salsas were also particularly tasty... the smokey red salsa was perfectly smokey and the fresh salsa verde was perfectly fresh. mmm again.

basically, la lagartija taqueria is an ideal lunch spot... i can't wait to order from here again soon!

food stylist : j. flip

07 March 2012

opart thai house.

thai food is definitely my favorite kind of asian food. give me some tofu red curry any day of the week (delivery, please!), and halley is a happy girl.

we recently found out that our favorite chicago thai restaurant will not prepare their red curry sans fish sauce... boo star of siam.

anywho, we needed to find a new place that would satisfy my craving for thai food. enter opart thai house ... a delicious restaurant that will (!) prepare their red curry without fish sauce. win!

so here it is ...

red curry (no fish sauce!) with tofu & brown rice... 
extra bamboo & extra spicy (obviously) :
gaeng dang (official thai name) : red curry and bamboo shoots sauteed in coconut milk with your choice of protein.
yum, yum, yum & yum.

super tasty, super fast and super large portion sizes. it usually lasts me for two meals.
if you're vegan looking for some awesome red curry, opart thai is the place to try.

04 March 2012

semiramis.

i love mediterranean food.  period. so i was super excited to try semiramis, a lebanese restaurant in albany park.

we ordered carry out from there a couple weeks ago ... i decided to go pretty basic for the first time. everything was super tasty. apologies in advance for the presentation... i was too hungry to put the food on real plates. here's what i had :

house salad : 
 tomatoes, cucumbers and romaine lettuce, mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and mint.
all very fresh and tasty ... the dressing was awesome and you could really taste the mint. yum!

baba ghannouj :
smoked eggplant puree with tahini, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
also super yum. i haven't had baba ghannouj in a while since i found out my favorite place for it (pita inn in skokie) uses yogurt in it. so i've stayed away from it at most places. this was awesome. it was super smokey and fresh. i'm craving it again already. 

hummus :
chickpea puree with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
standard hummus. a little dense for my liking. but again, very fresh and delicious. 

they also gave us 10 pitas (for 3 people) ... 5 white and 5 wheat. awesome. 

other vegan items at semiramis according to the gentleman i spoke with on the phone :
 - the dolmas : grape leaves stuffed with rice, parsley, green peppers, green onions, tomatoes and mint, cooked in olive oil. 
 - the falafel : chickpea croquettes. 

i am assuming that there is other stuff that is vegan as well (fattoush salad, ful, lentil soup, tabbouleh, etc.), but i only asked about the above since that's what i was craving. 

semiramis in albany park : byob + great lebanese food! can't wait for a trip to the actual restaurant!

02 March 2012

vegan alcohol?

if you are like me (meaning you're vegan or just somewhat oblivious to certain things), you've probably never thought about whether or not your cocktail, beer, wine, etc. is vegan.

a friend recently sent this link to me... barnivore : your vegan beer, wine and liquor guide.

you can feel free to browse through this at your own leisure... but let's take a look at a few items that are maybe more or less obvious.

 - grey goose vodka : vegan. phew, it's my fave.
 - miller chill : vegan. another phew. a definite go to for tailgating & sporting events.
 - baileys irish cream : NOT vegan. surprise! (key word cream.)

wheat beer from upland brewery in bloomington, indiana.
 vegan!

ok, maybe all of those were obvious examples.

but that doesn't mean that all alcohol is obvious whether or not it's vegan. i just searched all of my favorite wines on barnivore and none are vegan. that's right. none. however, it's not because there are animal products inside the actual drink ... but the filtration process includes animal products (sometimes casein, sometimes isinglass, sometimes who knows what else).

so next time you sip your alcoholic beverage of choice, take a peek at barnivore before imbibing. you might be surprised at what you find out!