The Veggie Grill: A Restaurant Review

This past weekend I indulged in some delish fare from The Veggie Grill, located in Irvine California at the Irvine Spectrum.

Strolling through the overly crowded outdoor mall on a Sunday can be a draining event, so as my stomach began to rumble I decided to take a lunch break at The Veggie Grill.

The Veggie Grill is an all Vegan restaurant, offering even the most squeemish eaters a delicious introduction to the world of soy meat and vegetables. Here, even the most manly of men can order a crispy ‘chickin’ sandwich with a side of fries (SWEET POTATO FRIES THAT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL THEYRE SO GOOD).

Anywho, I walked up to the counter and ordered my chinese ‘chicken’ salad and a side of sweetheart fries, took my number and sat down at a fabulous table outside in the sun. My salad came and though I was a little skeptical to try the ‘chickin’ I was VERY pleasantly surprised with the texture and overall taste. As you folks know, sometimes the vegan stuff can taste like absolute cardboard….not very good press for those promoting healthier eating.

The ambiance is a little stark but they do a nice job to keep the atmosphere as warm and friendly as possible. And honestly, the line is constantly out the door, something I found quite surprising considering vegan food isn’t the most tempting cuisine for those who aren’t gastro-curious.

Overall Review? 4/5 stars.

  • Great Service
  • Great Food
  • Close to my house (always a plus, less carbon emissions from my car….)

It’s not an upscale place, but a great place to grab a casual bite to eat.

For more info check out: The Veggie Grill

Advertisements

No Cooking Necessary: The Raw-Food Revolution

Fad diet or healthy lifestyle change? The Raw Diet has created a new relationship with the food we eat; Americans should love going raw because it allows the convenience of not having to cook at all. But what is the raw deal?

Being that I’m in San Francisco for the week, I thought it would be appropriate to write about one of the diet trends that continues to sweep this city. The Raw Diet.

This is an entirely different echelon of Veganism folks. Like regular vegans, raw eaters do not eat meat or dairy products; however, the raw diet takes things above and beyond by requiring everything come from unprocessed and processed plant foods (beans, nuts, fruit, veg, grain, etc.)To go along with the ‘raw’ theme, raw eaters do not prepare their foods with temperatures exceeding 116F. Why? This seems like quite the arbitrary restriction.

According to raw eaters, cooking food diminishes its nutritional value 10 fold as valuable enzymes are destroyed with high temperatures; enzymes that assist in the digestion/absorption of food.  Essentially, sucking the life out of the ‘life-food’. I guess it would make sense why most people with a Western diet are victims of various dietary and digestive issues…are we cooking the ‘hell-th’ out of the foods we eat?

Health Benefits of the Raw Diet:

  • ^ Energy
  • ^ Radiant Skin
  • Weight Loss
  • Decrease in embarrassing digestive problems
  • Reduced risk of heart disease (the raw diet is significantly lower in saturated fat than the regular Western Diet.

Also, eating raw doesn’t necessarily you are restricted to eating the most boring foods of all time. Not only can you purchase interesting and delicious heirloom fruits/veg at your local farmers market (*nudge, nudge*) but restaurants all over California are coming out with new and interesting raw menus to cater to this growing new gastronomy. Raw food can be gourmet? Fo’ Realz?!

Life Food Gourmet "burger"
Life Food Gourmet "burger"

This is a raw ‘burger’ made to look like your greasy mystery meat patty.  Instead of the fat and health problems, the raw burger is made out of beans and grains, providing the hearty meat taste with a healthy twist. No reason to fear fruits and vegetables anymore, they can be prepared in more ways than simply lifeless on a plate.

Granted there are many benefits to the Raw Diet, it is a difficult one to maintain. If you are thinking about beginning the journey to raw-ify your life, make sure to consult a doctor and make the transition slowly…you don’t want to shock your body into submission. But I promise in the end your intestines and colon will thank you 😉

The diet is also what we would consider a low-carbon diet due to its lack of meat, dairy, and foods that require serious processing. The only carbon producing part of this dietary equation comes from the methane gas produced by…you after a feeding frenzy on beans and raw vegetables (you might want to date other raw eaters so at least this becomes a mutual understanding).

So the answer to my original question?

-The Raw diet might seem like a passing fad soon to join the diet graveyard of past-Hollywood ‘miracle’ diets, but a raw eater would beg to differ. According to the movement (yes, I’ll call it a movement) eating raw is simply a means to reconnect with the ways that humans ate in the beginning of time, when diets consisted mostly of fruits and vegetables with very minimal cooking. Evolution proved this one to be a success folks 😉

Here’s a recipe to start your raw life off right. Thanks to The Daily Raw Cafe Blog

Strawberry Panna Cotta with Blackberry Compote (aka YUMMMM)

Strawberry Panna Cotta with Blackberry Compote
Strawberry Panna Cotta with Blackberry Compote

Blackberry Compote

6 oz blackberries
2 T agave nectar
1/8 t sea salt

Marinate blackberries in agave nectar and sea salt in the refrigerator for two hours (overnight is best).

Place two 4-inch springform pan (without the bottoms) in the freezer on top of saucer plates or dessert plates. Chill for an hour.

Strawberry Panna Cotta

1 c strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 t sea salt

Marinate strawberries in lemon juice and sea salt for an hour.

2 c cashews, soaked for an hour
1/4 c water
3 T agave nectar
1 t ground flax seeds

Blend cashews, flax seeds, agave nectar adding water one tablespoon at a time until cashews are blended well. Add strawberries and remaining water until very smooth and firm

Pour mixture into chilled 4-inch springform pan. Chill in freezer for 2 hours to set.

Carefully remove molds from panna cottas. Leave it on the saucer plates and put in the refrigerator overnight. Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes to soften slightly. Serve panna cottas with compote.

Alright folks, back to my San Franciscan getaway, hummus and Birkenstocks anyone?

Native Foods: A Restaurant Review

This past weekend I decided to do the vegan thing and eat at Native Foods, located in glorious Costa Mesa, California.

First of all, this restaurant is located at The Camp shopping center, full of outdoorsy places to shop (think REI but more bohemian), buy your nalgene’s and eat some hippie food.

The Native Foods architechture is also particularly interesting, It looks like a big tin can from the outside, complete with a large propeller fan(interior) which I assume is some type of energy saver. (even if this addition is only for aesthetics, it does the trick to attract their target demographic.)

Interior of Native Foods Costa Mesa
Interior of Native Foods Costa Mesa

Native Foods prides itself on preparing food that is kind to environment (low carbon b/c it is Vegan) without compromising taste. You aren’t going to find a white slab of tofu on rice at this place, even though the majority of menu items are high in soy content.

I ordered the Greek Euro Hot Bowl which came to me complete with Gyro “meat” (seitan, a wheat gluten compound that has a meat-like texture) steamed veggies, and rice. Honestly, it was very good. I usually am not a huge fan of the fake meat thing, but this place does it right, it’s all about seasoning folks.

Native Foods Hot Bowl
Native Foods Hot Bowl

The meal I ordered was a little pricey ($11) but I suppose that is the price you have to pay these days for a restaurant that is committed to using the freshest and highest quality ingredients…however the architechture saves them a lot on their utility bill so I’m still a little skeptical..

The only downside? The restaurant was chock full of pretentious vegan hippies that will rip your heart out for so much as HINTING you MIGHT be interested in eating an animal product.

Here, you get the feeling that you’re not actively destroying the environment with your meal; however who knows if the ingredients they use are coming from local sources. Either way, at least eating here decreases your carbon footprint a shoe size or two 😉

The restaurant’s mission statement is as follows:

  • A commitment to promoting greater human health, compassion to all living beings and environmental preservation with the utmost integrity.
  • To serve and set the standard on what delicious, fresh, organic and artful vegetarian / vegan meals should be and to make them convenient and affordable to all.
  • Ultra clean and stylish presentation of food, people and products.
  • Utmost customer service by enthusiastic and hard working individuals while creating a respectful “family” of staff and customers.

The final verdict? Native Foods is good at what they do, but you do have to pay a price. This restaurant is for the person who is too lazy/busy to prepare these types of vegan/vegetarian meals at home…

Gastronomic Racism: Italy’s xenophobic foodie.

I was sitting at my desk just doing mindless internet surfing when I came across an news article about Italy’s new effort to ban any new foreign food restaurants into cities. Starting in Lucca and spreading to other cities in the Lombardy region, Italian president Silvio Berlusconi really feels strongly about Italians only eating italian food…. as a means of cultural preservation of course.

Alright so, a little background. I lived abroad for about 6 months in Parma, Italy… home to Italy’s booming food industry, and when it comes to food, Italians are not kidding. There is so much diversity across the different regions in Italy that apparently there is absolutely no room for the cuisines of immigrant cultures from Africa and the Middle East….at least not anymore.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on non-Italian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

Mehmet Karatut, who owns one of four kebab shops in Lucca, said that he used Italian meat only.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge supporter of eating local and maintaining national food traditions, but is this taking the “eating local” thing too far, and turning into a gastronomical form of racism? In Italy the culinary culture is synonymous with nationalism, but is this enough justification to completely ban other forms of cuisine?

What if someone is craving a burger, or a kebab? NO! *slaps hand* PASTA FOR YOU!

Anyway, go read the article. It’s a real trip.

And yes, Italians really are this crazy. (If you are Italian and reading this, I hope you are not offended, pero e’ davvero cosi in Italia, tutti politici pazzi.)

The ‘mazin raisin..

This morning I was doing my usual thing, having a snack, checking my vitals online, and I bit into the most disgust-o raisin my tastebuds have ever encountered.

Randomly, my room is equipped with two variations of raisin: the store-bought trail mix variety, and a huge tub of organic raisins I picked up from the Irvine farmer’s market last week.

Inspired by the rancid taste in my mouth, I made a video comparing the two. Check it out below: Also, I’ll apologize in advance, I realize the frozen picture looks like something you might find in your hamster cage, but I swear they’re raisins, my camera just cant handle their intensity

😉 

So which would you prefer to eat? Raisins grown in California, a climate that is notoriously known for the best damn grapes this side of Italy? Or the generrrric zommbiee rawwwwwrrrrr

Homegrown Education

Has all this talk about pesticides and genetically modified seeds killed your appetite for the commerically produced stuff??

Good.

You are now ready to start considering the many alternatives to your consumerist lifestyle. No longer do you need to be dependent on the faceless grocery gods to put food on your table. Now you may be asking, “How am I supposed to get fresh zucchinis, and lettuce, and tomatoes, and and and ALL THOSE OTHER FRUITS AND VEGGIES, if I boycott the supermarket?!”

Well my dear friends, the simplest answer is to grow them yourself! Yes! that’s right, growing your own fruits and vegetables not only shrinks your carbon footprint and saves your funds, but it’s also immensely satisfying! What could be better than biting into a tangy, juicy, ruby red tomato that you plucked off the vine from your own garden? The students of the Garden Club at Pitzer College in So Cal seem to understand the distinction…

I was lucky enough to meet with these students to discuss some of the benefits of growing your own produce. They even offer some really great tips on how to go about starting your own garden. Check out the video below to learn from these groundbreaking (hah no pun intended) students.

…P.S. I shot/edited this video in a very short amount of time because I wanted to put it up onto the site as soon as possible…It says it’s 7:37 mins long, but its only about 5:30.

No more complaining about the high cost of buying organic, because nothing is cheaper than doing it yourself!! Thanks Pitzer Kids… I’m going to go pick myself somethin’ tasty.