28 April 2013

mana food bar.

last summer, my friend (hi, blair!) suggested we try mana food bar, a vegetarian (but w/ a vegan menu & gluten-free menu) restaurant on w. division in wicker park. 

we never made it to mana ... so when i was looking for a tasty dinner spot w/ another friend (hi, carly!) ... off to mana food bar we went!! 

why vegetarian? you might ask. the answer : "the creators of mana desired a meatless dining option in a warm tasteful environment." well there you have it.

here's what i had ...

 custom juice :
collard greens, pear & ginger.
i'm not one to pass up the opportunity for a green drink. so with a little help from our server, i created this. and it.was.awesomeee.

sampler :
from the top ... 
- panzanella : ciabatta bread salad w/ shallots, tomato, cucumber, basil & red wine garlic vinaigrette. -- quite tasty.
- avocado, arugula & tomato : w/ picked red onion & roasted garlic chili dressing. (gf.) -- super delicious. my favorite of the three. 
- endive : grilled endive & radicchio, toasted hazelnuts & white balsamic. (gf.) -- also yum. the white balsamic was unique & flavorful.

gyoza :
pan seared dumplings w/ soy dipping sauce :
the best vegan gyoza i've had in a long time. (and maybe ever since i've been vegan?) perfectly crispy.

brussels sprouts :
w/ miso mustard. (gf.)
the best brussels sprouts. the shredded preparation was great ... and you could really taste the freaking great miso mustard in each bite. mmm.

rice noodles :
w/ green curry, sweet potatoes, garlic chives & spicy peanuts. (gf.) 
slightly spicy, a variety of textures, overall amazing. my favorite dish of the night. if you like it extra spicy (like me), they give you a hot sauce to pair with it. yum. 

mana food bar is my new favorite vegan/vegetarian place. the dishes are great for sharing and all were super flavorful & delicious. i can't wait to go back this summer & enjoy their outdoor seating!  

24 April 2013

ohio & tennessee : jeni's splendid ice cream.

recently, there were rumors that jeni's splendid ice cream was coming to chicago ... and had chosen a home right near me on southport ave.

unfortunately, i didn't believe them, as we already have anthony's italian ice & paciugo is like 2 seconds away. (i had also heard forever yogurt was coming, but that seems to have fallen through also.)

so when the rumors were squashed, i was upset, but not surprised.

that's okay though. because we visited jeni's on our trip to columbus, ohio! per the jeni's website : "every single thing we put in our ice cream is legit. generic chemist-built ice cream bases and powdered astronaut-friendly gelato mixes? no, ma’am." love.

here's what i had ...

me outside jeni's : 
enjoying my riesling poached pear sorbet.
mmm. delicious. sadly, it was freezing when we decided to get this tasty treat. so i didn't finish my cone out of pure cold-ness. but it was damn good & super flavorful.

the girls at the shop looked up all the ingredients in the cones to find which were vegan. (both the safety/wafer cone & sugar cone are, but the special waffle ones they prepare fresh right in the stand are not.)

you can see all the ingredients to jeni's frozen treats on their website. each location's menu rotates, but it seems like they would (read : should) have at least one vegan option at all times. i am sure you all spend lots of time in ohio & tennessee ... but check them out!

and let's petition to bring jeni's to chicago!

21 April 2013

namo thai cuisine.

pretty much everyone in my life knows that i am always looking for some great vegan grub. so mah pal / co-worker, erik, recently recommended namo thai cuisine on lincoln ave. in north center. tasty thai, close to home? yup, sounds good.

"namo's inspiration integrates traditional & authentic thai taste with a modern & contemporary experience." a great start ... but the best thing? they've got a separate vegan & vegetarian menu. (!!!)

since josh was working late, i kind of went a little crazy with my delivery order. i just wanted to try a bunch of things!

here's what i had ...

vegan fresh spring rolls :
tofu, cucumbers & bean sprouts w/ plum sauce. 
sprouts scare me a little, so i picked most of those guys out. the remainder was tasty & simple. oh, and the plum sauce was awesomeee.

vegan thai basil fried rice :
bell peppers, chilies & garlic puree. (no mushrooms.)
ok. yum. this was my first time having basil fried rice. i've seen it on plenty of menus, but just never tried it. i'm so glad i did. sooo sooo good. i snarfed this bowl right up. you could really taste the basil in each bite, which i really loved. again, yum.

vegan pad thai :
thin rice noodles, green onions & special homemade sauce. (no bean sprouts.)
i decided to go with a classic here. ain't nothing to complain about when eating a tasty bowl o' noodles & tofu.

there's something special about any non-vegan restaurant that offeres a vegan menu. ergo, namo thai = amazing + quick, easy, delicious. 

17 April 2013

columbus, ohio : katalina's cafe corner.

i know we've discussed vegan hangover food before. but nothing i've experienced has come close to the delicious relief that katalina's cafe corner brings.

katalina's is "a tasty twist on convention ... the little cafe with lots of loco goodness." the loco bit should be a hint that many of their offerings appear to be mexican inspired. perffffecto.

another plus? katalina's is located in harrison west ... right near dear ol' pete's apartment. an easy walk. phew.

here's what i had ...

veggie tacos :
veggie crumbles, alfalfa sprouts, red onions, tomatoes & avocado on corn tortillas w/ a mixed greens salad. 
ok, i don't usually go for the fake meat. but this little gem was so easily veg-ified, i had to go for it. (hold the cheese & sour cream.) oh.um.wow.yum. i added a little cholula ... and then literally inhaled these puppies. i also love a corn tortilla (boo, flour!), so that was just an added bonus.

soup of the day :
vegan tomato & basil. 
and labeled as such! i really didn't need to eat this bowl of soup, but since it said vegan right on the little chalkboard, i had to go for it. a perfect addition to my already huge meal.

vegan awareness at a restaurant is always a win in my book. so having these awesome vegan options on the menu made me a happy girl. katalina's is definitely worth checking out in you're ever in the hood.

14 April 2013

ethiopian diamond.

ah, african food. not an everyday place for dining. which makes it that much more special when you get to go.

recently, josh, my mom & i ventured up to ethiopian diamond, a fabulous restaurant located on n. broadway in andersonville. (this is the original location, but there is also one located on n. clark street.)

per ethiopian diamond's website : "dining in ethiopia is characterized by the ritual breaking of injera & eating from the same plate." lovely! i'm a big fan of hands-on eating (i mean, that's what they're for, right?) ... so i was pumped!

but the really great thing about ethiopian food? a lot of it is already vegan. their website notes, "at ethiopian diamond restaurants, all dishes are free from artificial coloring, artificial flavoring & artificial preservatives. we use vegetable oil in all vegetarian dishes, no butter, no eggs, no milk, no honey." well, that about covers it! this means, all vegetarian dishes are vegan! ummm ... awesome! 

per the usual, my mom & i decided to share all our items. more sharing = more trying new foods.

here's what i had ...

vegetarian sambusa combo :

whole lentil, spinach & potato/carrot.
i believe my exact words upon eating these were : "fried food is so freaking good." such a delicious little bite ... the kind of thing i could sit around snacking on all day. but honestly, who couldn't? 

vegetarian combo :
yemisir watt (spicy red lentils), chickpeas, duba watt (spicy pumpkin), gomen (collard greens) & tikel gomen (sliced cabbage & carrots) w/ injera bread.
ok, first things first -- injera is delicious. it's spongy & flavorful. yum.
my order of preference : 1. yemisir watt, 2. tikel gomen, 3. duba watt, 4. chickpeas, 5. gomen.
but really, it was all so tasty.

i will say this isn't for everyone ... the flavor combinations are not what you would call "mainstream." and some people might be turned off by sharing or eating with their hands (i.e. josh). 

but for any adventurous eaters out there, ethiopian is a definite must try. and ethiopian diamond is the place to do it. 

10 April 2013

columbus, ohio : marcella's.

first, a note about columbus, ohio ... vegan options galore! ok, back to post.

on our recent trip to columbus, our first dining stop was a dinner out with friends at marcella's short north.
   1. short north is a super cute & fun area.
   2. marcella's short north is a super cute & fun restaurant.

a bit about them ... "marcella's is a bustling burst of italian flavor & energy. the lively atmosphere is perfect for sharing a meal w/ friends or family." well, sounds like a great first stop to me.

and it was. our server was awesome. she wasn't sure of vegan items, so she checked on several things (some of the pastas are also vegan) ... back and forth until i could make up my mind.

here's what i had ...

assorted olives :
cerignola, picholine, gaeta, beldi.
obviously. delicious. the super dark black ones + bright little green ones were amazing. enough said. 

veggie classic pizza :
whole wheat crust w/ tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers, banana peppers, zucchini & arugula. 
wow, i have never had so many awesome veggies on one pizza. putting banana peppers on top is freaking genius. i'm not sure i can ever eat thin crust pizza again without banana peppers. they added the perfect little kick. my vertically enhanced, non-vegan friend bob even loved this veg-ified pizza. oh, and i also thought the whole wheat crust was great. yum all around.

marcella's also had a great cocktail menu. the sangria was a little punchy, but i also had one grapefruit & basil martini. (okay, i had two.) holy deliciousness. 

so, my traveling vegan friends -- if you find yourself in columbus, marcella's is a lovely spot for a nice dinner out. be sure to try the martini. 

07 April 2013

tavernita.

everyone has a place that they've been wanting to try for a while. mine was tavernita, a small-plates-centric restaurant located in river north ... at the corner of erie & lasalle.

tavernita "offers a mix of american dishes, using influences from france, italy & spain." sounds pretty much like perfection. they also feature "an innovative beverage program, showcasing creative selections from around the world."

the about section notes that it's a menu that is "designed to encourage sampling & sharing." this sometimes makes a vegan nervous ... as there are not always a lot of vegan items to go around. but that was definitely not the case at tavernita. so so so many easily convertible vegan options.

here's what i had ...

 beet salad :
artichoke, arugula & artichoke chips. 
um, all delicious, fresh ingredients topped w/ artichoke chips (amazing, i had never had before). kind of salad perfection. i'd love to eat this pretty much every day. it regularly comes with bleu cheese, which can be omitted or put on the side for non-vegan dining partners. 

artichoke crostini :
chickpeas & arugula. 
this was reminiscent of the ceci bean bruschetta from la madia, but sadly - not quite as good. the picture is terrible (sorry, amateur iphone photographer), so you can't see that it's basically hummus on crostini. still, a great & tasty vegan option. again, cheese on the side.

brussels sprouts :
blood orange & salsa verde. 
yum. everyone at the table loved these. they were fresh, (almost) all perfectly cooked & super flavorful. and the blood orange added just the right amount of sweet. meat bits omitted.

crispy potatoes :
spicy tomato sauce.
these definitely brought me & my girlfriends back to our days in spain. the sauce had a nice little kick to it, but wasn't overwhelming. and the pots were perfectly crispy. fried egg on the side.

all in all, i loved tavernita. and i will definitely go back. one thing i must note is how awesome our server was. she knew exactly what could or couldn't be prepared vegan off the top of her head. (including that one of the salad dressings had some egg whites in it ... tiny fact! much appreciated!) ... there were (i think) two other items that i could have had, as well. it's not like i even exhausted the menu!

so vegans - if you're looking for a lively dinner spot, look into tavernita. you won't be disappointed. 

03 April 2013

karyn's cooked.

"hip. vegan. gourmet." these are the words that describe karyn's cooked, a vegan spot in river north near the corner of chicago ave. & wells st.

karyn of the karyn's restaurants & vegan lifestyle brand is well known among vegans & non-vegans alike in chicago (and maybe the world!)... and while i've ordered delicious delivery for lunch from karyn's cooked, i thought it was about time to try it out in person. [note : yes, i have "forced" my co-workers to eat vegan from karyn's once or twice. most have liked it!]

the karyn's cooked websites notes, "we do consider this to be a vegan restaurant. however, some dessert items do contain honey & we do use organic raw honey from local beekeepers." i know honey is a topic of debate among some vegans ... so it seems strange to me to characterize the restaurant as "vegan" when they use ingredients that don't always fit the description. oh well!

anyway, i recently dined there with a lovely blog reader, mikie ... i can only speak for myself, but i had a great time and did really enjoy the food at karyn's.

here's what we had ...

tofu quesadilla :
extremely spicy mexican seasoned tofu in a tomato tortilla, served w/ a side of guacamole, oven baked vegetables & chipotle sauce.
we both ordered this off the brunch menu. mmm. the sauces were delicious. the white was a garlic sauce (we think? the menu called it soy cheese) ... but i preferred the chipotle. it was quite tasty on the roasted veg. my only complaint is that there was no vegan cheese in the quesadilla. it fell apart -- and i think some faux cheese would have held it together nicely and added a perfect taste & texture. 

banana french toast :
coconut milk battered french toast glazed w/ cinnamon sugar & topped w/ sliced bananas, raspberry coulis & maple syrup.
this.is.amazing. french toast perfection. and plenty to share. i was never a huge french toast fan (even before i became vegan) ... so this was literally the best version i have ever had. you could really taste the coconut milk. and mikie & i kept commenting on how perfectly thick cut the bread was. yum! this is definitely the kind of dangerous/delicious vegan food that should be reserved for special occasions and/or eaten infrequently. yum.

karyn's cooked is another dining establishment that is a must try for vegans. the brunch menu is awesome, but smaller than their regular lunch/dinner menu. so keep that in mind. either way, it's a great spot.

buckeye country.

hi, veggies!

a quick update.
this upcoming weekend, josh & i are heading to columbus, ohio to visit our friends, pete & bob.

me & pete, tailgating before the bears game this winter :

me & bob, also tailgating :

pete, bob & josh :

pete has pre-scoped a few great spots for our c-bus dining experience. 
so be on the lookout for some exciting vegan dining options from "the heart of it all" ... ohio.