Monday, February 21, 2011

Aloha Ramen

This is a quick update to a previous post about Aloha Ramen in Greenwood. I went again to test the idea that there was more vegan soup available than what the menu indicated, and made a very easy special order: vegetarian ramen with spicy sesame broth. Turned out it was no problem.
It was way more interestingly flavored than the "Veggie Ramen" I ordered last time. Vegetarians and vegans take note, you have options!

Aloha Ramen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NW SnowBuddy!

I've got a little public service announcement: My smartypants dining companion has been toiling away this winter making an iPhone app and it is now live and ready to go!
The app is called NW Snowbuddy, and it does a beautiful job of showing weather and telemetry data relating to snow conditions in the Pacific Northwest. If you're a skier, snowboarder, snowmobiler, snowshoer, mountain pass driver, snow hiker, snowman maker, snow lover, snow avoider... check it out!!

NW SnowBuddy in the App Store

NW SnowBuddy Website

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Snorting Elk

I was recently at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort around dinner time and was thrilled to learn that it's possible to buy dinner at a resort restaurant for a decent price. My dining companion and I ate at the Snorting Elk Bar (which is, I believe, the only place to buy dinner at a decent price).

We started with a $7 salad that exceeded my expectations: giant pile of mixed greens, spinach and lettuce, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, shredded carrots, black olives and sliced red onions in a simple homemade vinagrette.

Next we had a cheese pizza for $17. It was a nice thin pizza with a surprisingly buttery crust. It was large enough that the two of us got full and still had a couple slices left over.

Alpine Inn Snorting Elk Cellar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Henry's Taiwan

Well, a recent trip to Henry's Taiwan in the international district was a roller coaster of disgust and delight. Dinner began with a powerful, immensely stinking smell that hit me like a wave of airborn vomit soon as I opened the restaurant door. I thought I was going to have to turn right back around, but instead made my way into a booth with my dining companion and discretely, laboriously attempted to close off my olfactory senses and gag reflex as my stomach turned.

I later learned that stinky tofu is a specialty at Henry's, and I can only assume that the offending odor was related to a high quality product. When my dining companion asked if I wanted to order some stinky tofu as an appetizer, every speck of my being knew the answer: NO. Perhaps if it had been offered on a windy seaside bluff the spirit of culinary adventure would have over powered the self preserving demands of my appetite. But not tonight.

There was just one vegetarian main dish on the menu: Rice with Tofu, and it sounded pretty boring. So I asked the waitress if they could combine a few items on the menu to make me the dish of my dreams: hand shaved noodles, tofu, vegetables. Her answer? No. You're a vegetarian? You can order rice with tofu.

And so it was. As I sat, doing my darnedest "mind over matter" stomach control I was prepared to really dislike my meal.

And then it came. And the moment the waitress brought it to the table, I knew I was going to love it.

What arrived was a nice size slab of silken custard tofu in a light, crisp batter, with a garlicky savory sauce, a pile of purple rice with some kind of pickled garlic on top, a pile of (mild in comparison) pungent kimchee, and a cute little stack of some sort of cold, slightly cooked but still fresh green leafy vegetable.

Everything was completely delicious and I cleaned my plate.

I realize that I had a pretty classic ignorant "I'm not part of this culture and am too weeny for it's specialties" reaction. I believe this was in large part because I was completely unprepared, unwarned, unaware of the potential smell. Uneducated about both stinky tofu and Henry's, I really wasn't sure what was going on... was I smelling a specialty dish? Or was there an old man with horrible breath throwing up beneath my table? The mystery wasn't a good mystery.

I believe that the power in going to Henry's is in KNOWING that, depending upon what your fellow restaurant mates are ordering, you may well be in the midst of a traditional Taiwanese stink-nado. If you're ready for it, maybe it won' t be such a challenge and you can fully enjoy your delicious meal!

Henry's Taiwan on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


And to finish off my tiny, frugal culinary tour of Maui, I've saved the best for last: picnic dinner on the beach.

My dining companion was really excited about eating some Poke (a raw fish salad that has all kinds of variations) on the trip, and we'd heard that the huge poke selection in the Safeway deli was actually pretty good, and so we went there to supply our picnic.

I was THRILLED beyond expectation to find that there was a vegetarian poke in the midst! It was made of marinated tofu, seaweed (very mild), green onions, garlic, and rich dark, savory toasted sesame oil and fresh greens of some kind. Oh my goodness it was good!

We also had a bagged salad, a warm sunset and a giant beer to round out the meal. (Well, truth be told, salad, sunset, and beer and a nice greasy bag of jojo potatoes. Somehow those didn't make the picture!)

Here's a close up of the vegetarian poke, yum:

Disclaimer: There was some (after the fact) discussion about this salad possibly having Oyster Sauce in it, which could explain why I was hit with an almost obscene savory deliciousness that I didn't recognize as I ate it. The mystery remains.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thai Cuisine

I usually count on Thai food in an unfamiliar city to have something that can be made vegetarian. On my trip to Maui, I looked up reviews of Thai restaurants and found high rating for Thai Cuisine, in the Maui Mall in Kahului.

Eating in a mall, even an open air mall like the Maui Mall, isn't usually a preferred destination, but in this instance is was a great way to eat a tasty, reasonably priced, non-tourism oriented meal.

Thai Cuisine has a nice large selection of "Vegetarian Lovers" dishes that are vegan. We ordered Evil Prince tofu, and Garlic Vegetable tofu.

The Evil Prince tofu was a spicy, rich, flavorful dish made with coconut milk.

The garlic vegetables were especially savory and delicious.

I found both of our dishes to be really tasty... not too heavy, greasy or sweet. What a find!

To add icing to the cake, they brought us a free dish of tapioca coconut pudding at the end of the meal. It was creamy, sweet, slightly salty, and a perfect finish to a wonderful vegan feast.

Thailand Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Aloha Mixed Plate

The Mix Plate is a staple Hawaiian fast food. It's often served out of a truck or bus or shack or little restaurant, and usually consists of two scoops of rice, a scoop of mayonnaise-y macaroni salad, and some sort of specially cooked meat(s). It's honest, unprocessed food, but there's not much to be had for a vegetarian.

Aloha Mixed Plate is a sort of domesticated Mixed Plate eatery... the food and the preparation are similar to elsewhere, but the restaurant itself is located right on the beach in touristy Lahaina Maui and is geared for tourists.

We started with a passion fruit smoothie, which didn't feel like it had much real fruit in it.

While my dining companion mowed down his mixed plate with chicken, beef and mahi mahi, I had one of the few vegetarian options: house made chow mein with tofu in peanut sauce. It was OK enough, not gross, nothing to really write home about.

For dessert we had Haupia, a gelled coconut dessert (made with arrowroot or corn starch, not gelatin). For just $1, it's hard to say no!

Aloha Mixed Plate on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fresh Mint

I just got back from a lovely trip to Maui- what a treat to be able to get a little mid-winter sunshine! Before I left, I spent a little time searching for interesting places to eat while there. As could be imagined, Maui has a lot of touristy restaurants, seafood/meat based restaurants, and expensive restaurants. One of the most promising places that I found was Fresh Mint, a vegan Vietnamese restaurant in the yoga centric town of Paia on the north shore of the island. In addition to everything being vegan, the prices were in line with what I'm comfortable spending (entrees were just under $10).

We started with green papaya salad:

Next, I ordered "Fresh Lemongrass Tofu," which was different from anything I'd ever seen before. It consisted of lemongrass seasoned fresh tofu wrapped in soft bean curd and a layer of crisp fried seaweed. The textures were awesome, and it was a real treat to discover a new preparation of tofu that I'd never had. Unfortunately, the whole dish was smothered in a super sweet syrupy sauce that really detracted from my enjoyment. The sesame sauce, meant to be dipped into and used as a salad dressing (in the little bowl), was delicious. If it were up to me, the brown sauce would disappear and the sesame sauce would take over.

My dining companion ordered spicy fake beef. He also described the sauce as too sweet, and the fake beef a little bizarre (it always is!), but overall a pleasant enough meal.

If you're a vegan or a vegetarian on Maui, I'd definitely pay this little spot a visit! My main advice though would be to try to avoid the dishes with the heavy sauce.

Fresh Mint on Urbanspoon