Monday, June 10, 2013

Come swimming!

Dear Seattle vegans and vegetarians,
Considering a triathlon? Love swimming but hate chlorine? Want to exercise outside? Come take a class with Seattle Open Water!! We offer individual sessions and 3-session group classes. Check it out!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kedai Makan

Kedai Makan is the brick and mortar version of the popular Malaysian food truck. It is located on west Capital Hill, and consists of a small take-out only menu (it is suggested that diners take their food a few doors down to Montana Bar and eat there).

There are two vegetarian items on the menu (an appetizer and an entree) and I tried both:

TAUHU SUMBAT, described as crisp & firm roasted tofu. spicy sweet chili sauce, cucumber, cilantro, bean sprouts & sesame. This was served cold and was a little too sweet for my taste.

NASI GORENG, described as Malaysian style fried rice cooked with kecap manis, chili. served with a runny fried egg and choice of tofu & sprouts or roast pork. I ordered mine without the egg and it was quite the delicious chewy, fried, intensely flavored delight. Mixed in with the rice were tofu, greens, herbs and chilis.

It was pretty awesome to have a full-on delicious vegetarian entree available amidst what appear to be meat specialties. My beef-chowing dining companion was thrilled with his order.

Kedai Makan is open from 4pm til "late," and I'd imagine a plate of this fried rice would taste mighty fine at closing time.

Kedai Makan on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hummingbird Saloon

The Hummingbird Saloon is a new bar in Columbia City and I am pretty darn excited about its existence. The bar is  owned by the same southend locals who own Full Tilt ice cream, and it is located right next door in the same "transitioning" parking lot a smidge south of the heart of Columbia City. The aim of the bar is to be a neighborhood hangout, and the proprietors have made all kinds of good decisions to make it so: cheap drinks, good food and games.

First item of business: The hummingbird has tasty, stiff,  $6 well cocktails, made with attention and care by a skilled and friendly bar tender.

Second: The Hummingbird Saloon is still working on building their menu, but has chosen to go the route of high quality food. In addition to a handful of salads, there are currently at least two satisfying vegetarian options on the menu, including a crumbly, spicy, savory scone with homemade marinara sauce for dipping (can be made with a homemade meatball if you eat meat), and a "Butter Pie," which is an intensely delicious, flaky-crust savory hand-pie filled with a confetti of chopped veggies, potatoes, and butter (of course there are meat pies as well, and a vegan and gluten-free option coming soon). The Hummingbird Saloon has an in-house baker who creates the baked goods, and I found both of these to be dangerously easy to eat alongside my drink. I'm excited to see how the food menu continues to fill out.

Third: The Hummingbird Saloon has shuffleboard. And pinball. And vintage video games. AND a giant chess set. 

There are a few additional things that I really appreciated about the Hummingbird Saloon, including the fact that the owners are dedicated to keeping music volumes low enough for conversation, there is a "phone booth" in which you can duck to get a little quiet to use your cell phone, it is clearly owned by real people who are dedicated to the vision of the approachable neighborhood bar, there is a good happy hour ($2.50 wells), the owners are aware of vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free needs and are giving good options that satisfy those restrictions, and it is in position to stretch the "cool" part of Columbia City another block or so to the south. 

I hope word spreads and folks are willing to venture a few paces south... this is just the sort of hangout that the neighborhood has been missing. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Northwest Tofu

Northwest Tofu is a dingy looking restaurant/factory on Jackson, near the Moonlight Cafe. I had long desired a trip to taste the fabled salt and pepper tofu, but had been thwarted by the lunch-oriented hours. The stars recently aligned, and I went in for a lunchtime feast. 

The restaurant was small and packed with people. The menu is loaded with tofu, but has a relatively small number of vegetarian and vegan options. My dining companion and I ordered vegetarian MaPo tofu, Chinese broccoli, and salt and pepper tofu. 

The dishes came to our table in a massively time staggered way. We received the broccoli first. It was mediocre in the MSG/cornstarch/oil sauce kind of way. 

Then came the mapo. I appreciated the addition of the edamame, and the tofu was silken and fresh, but this dish was also mediocre. Rather than spicy or rich, the sauce was excessively oily and laden with MSG. 

At first we attempted to nibble our first two dishes and save some appetite while we waited for the star to arrive. Unfortunately this took so long, we had polished off the broccoli and the MaPo by time it finally did. This was a shame, because the Salt and Pepper Tofu was truly a delicious, satisfying dish and I was too full to really enjoy it.

The Salt and Pepper tofu felt to me like a perfect vegetarian junk food, like the vegetarian equivalent of fried chicken on the comfort food satisfaction scale. The inside was custardy smooth and piping hot, and the outside a light and perfectly fried crust flavored with salt and pepper. If I were to visit NW Tofu again, it would be to order this dish.

I had high hopes for NW Tofu, and was a little disappointed to discover that most of the vegetarian options, with the exception of the delicious salt and pepper tofu, were somewhat mediocre. 

Northwest Tofu Inc. on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 5, 2012

El Camión

I had long heard about the mystical "best taco truck in Seattle" taco truck in the Home Depot parking lot in the far north (hinterland, from my native perspective) of Seattle. The truck is El Camión, and I am pleased to report that it was indeed fantastic.

If a taco truck can be judged by its salsas (and it can, IMHO), El Camión is in a very special league. In addition to the usual roasty red, and tomatillo green, and creamy thin avocado sauce, El Camión has a handfull of other hard to describe but fantastically delicious homemade salsas, all available on a "take as much as you desire" salsa bar (YES!).

I was hungry, and never fully knowing how large a taco truck taco is going to be, ordered four vegetarian tacos. I was shocked at the heft of the food I received. The hearty (vegan?) tacos were covered in stewed black beans, grilled veggies, and pico de gayo. I added a generous amount of salsa and pickled onions and found that two tacos made a filling meal.

El Camión is totally going to be a requisite stop any time I find myself in that neck of the woods! (An internet search indicates that there are additional locations in SODO and Ballard... got to investigate.)

El Camión on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 29, 2012

Empire Espresso

It has been years since I first reviewed Empire Espresso, the now thriving Columbia City coffee shop and neighborhood hangout. In that time, I more or less transitioned out of my previous line of work (the work that brought me and my laptop to coffee shops for hours at a time), and I sort of forgot about many of my favorite old haunts, including Empire.

That is, until recently, when some neighborhood friends rented the space (including the outside courtyard) for their absolutely gorgeous wedding reception. And at a point at this reception, late in the evening when the guests were euphoric with good wine and the stars of the late summer night, the ever handsome Tino came through the crowd with his fresh, hot, cornmeal waffles.

I don't usually get excited about standard breakfast foods, but the taste I had the night of the reception inspired a recent Saturday morning return. The waffles are a delightful dimension of the evolution of Empire Espresso. Now, in addition to doughnuts and freshly pressed paninis, Empire cranks out slightly sweet, slightly salty, cornmeal waffles all day long. On the weekdays, they have a standard menu with both sweet and savory toppings. On the weekends, diners dress the waffles themselves from a high quality topping bar (butter, strawberries, syrup, cinnamon and sugar, shredded coconut, bananas, etc).

Empire Espresso also continues to make one of my favorite coffee drinks, the cayenne mocha. It is made with good chocolate and includes just enough heat to create a slowly building warmth.

How wonderful!

Empire Espresso on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 22, 2012


There is a new fine dining option on Vashon Island: Nirvana (recently revamped with new decor and a new global menu to replace its previous Indian menu). I had the recent pleasure of dining out here with two lovely family members who live on the island. We began with drinks. The two ordered white wine and I ordered a rose mojito, which was a beautiful shade of pink and had the not-too-sweet flavor of a cocktail made with fresh lime juice and real mint. Also on the table was this unusual appetizer of hard bread sticks in a small stemmed glass of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

True to my standard tendency, I ordered contrary to every instinct I had and ultimately chose poorly. The reason for this poor choice was that, while there were many tasty sounding vegetarian dishes on the menu (pasta with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella, curries, veggie burger, tabbouleh, salads), the vegan, gluten-free, roasted vegetable tamale with homemade mole just sounded like the vegetarian pièce de résistance. And even though I wasn't in the mood, and I often don't like restaurant mole, and every ounce of my being protested, I ordered it.

And it was not so great. Unfortunately, the tamale itself was a rather large and dense role of polenta that, rather than encasing a delicious interior filling, was simply speckled with small bits of what I presume to have been the roasted vegetables. The mole itself spared itself my usual complaint of "too sweet," and had a rich and relatively balanced flavor (though a bit heavy on the salt). The salsa on top was tasty, but the avocado promised on the menu was absent.  For the price of this meal ($14), I would have really appreciated a small pile of beans (also for a little added protein), and maybe some sauteed greens or veggies or something to break up the monotony of the polenta log.

All that said, both of my dining companions ordered the Tandoori chicken, and graciously shared the vegetarian bits (roasted potatoes, broccolini) with me and they were deliciously roasted and spiced. I suffered felt meal envy throughout the entire meal, and suspect that the rest of the menu at Nirvana is actually quite delicious.

The new decor was classy, and the entire staff was beautiful and entirely friendly. I am excited for new and varied dining options on the island, and I hope that these guys work out the kinks and thrive!

Nirvana on Urbanspoon