Reviews


So you are skipping the turkey this Thanksgiving. To most Americans this seems almost sacrilegious to serve Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Likening the bird to the first Thanksgiving, however, many people including vegetarians, vegans, health conscious folks, and just people looking for a change opt out of meat for the holiday. So if you are looking to lose the meat, try out a few of our suggestions below. If you want a rating of them, check out this comparison on Slate.  Have a happy meatless Thanksgiving!

Tofurkey: Aww the Tofurkey, it’s very name fills the air with the scent of Thanksgiving.  It has been a staple of vegetarian Thanksgivings for over a decade.  It is fairly inexpensive, around $9.99 and comes with stuffing and gravy. The brand does an excellent job of tasting turkey-esque and definitely completes your holiday meal. The Slate comparison gave it a 19 out of 25 rating.

Field Roast Celebration Roast: Although the Field Roast,  looks much more like a holiday ham, it definitely will fit in on the Thanksgiving table.  It’s texture and spices have a turkey taste, but the stuffing is a little more mushy than the Tofurkey. You can’t beat the sweet potatoes and apples in the stuffing. Slate gave this centerpiece a rating of 12 out of 25.

Gardein Stuffed Turk’y:  Gardein, although new on the market, has made a huge splash. They have come out with all sorts of delicious meatless options including crispy “chicken” and beefless tips. Their biggest contribution is their Stuffed Turk’y. Even though, these are a lot smaller than the above roasts, they win out in flavor. This is hands down one of your best options for fake meat. Slate gave it a winning 22 out of 25!

Homemade: Instead of buying your main dish this year, consider making your roast from scratch. We posted a great recipe last week on homemade gluten roast. It’s very easy and will make your whole feast a more homemade feel and taste. You can also try these recipes for ideas.

 

Vegan Seafood? What the heck is that?!  Well, beyond being an oxymoron, vegan seafood is popping up all over the place. For years you could find wheat gluten spiced with seaweed formed into a lump and titled “vegetarian fish” at many a restaurant. But a new company challenges the idea of vegetarian seafood, Sophie’s Kitchen.  According to their website, they began their company due to seafood allergies that plagued they founder’s daughter, Sophie and the environmental impact of the seafood industry. Together they created an interesting new substitute for those who love seafood, but don’t partake: whether they be vegan, environmentally aware, or deathly allergic. 

They offer an amazing range including vegan shrimp, prawns, fish cutlets, squid, and calamari. All the products are based with the Elephant Yam Root, which has been used in Asia for centuries. High in fiber the Elephant Yam Root, or Konjac, gives the “seafood” a low calorie count and plenty of flavor.  So how do these products taste, you ask? We just had to find out for ourselves.

We honestly couldn’t decide which one to try, but finally decided on the Fried Calamari.  The calamari is already breaded and just needs a pop in the oven or deep fryer!  We promptly returned home and followed the instructions on the box. Between the two of us, one has been vegan for over a decade and never tried calamari, where the other is a vegan sophomore and at one point in time loved regular calamari.  Needless to say, we both definitely enjoyed the vegan calamari. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty close to the real thing: chewy and a little fishy. Not sure if we would eat it all the time, but it would make a great appetizer on special occassions!

Needless to say it was a winner in our book! Although the concept is, well, nothing short of strange, the execution is great. Plus you can’t beat the price! A box will only run you about $3.99-%5.99 depending on the store. Since our foray into vegan calamari, we have also tried the Vegan Fish Filets while on recent camping trip. We have to say those were mind blowingly delectable! Not a fan of fish before going vegan, these were even better than the real thing. We shared our treats with omnivore family members and the concesus was the same: they thought it tasted real (although some agreed it was more like chicken than fish)!

We highly recommend you try these delicious, unique oxymorons! Honestly, we can’t wait to try the prawns and shrimp. They are available at Whole Foods and natural health food stores around the country. Dig in and let us know what you think!

During a recent adventure, we were lucky enough to spend a day in the beautiful city of Seattle. It had been a while since we had taken the time to enjoy such a city and were happy to walk along it’s docks and overcast skies.  Since we only had one day, we sought out a great vegan restaurant to try our taste buds on. We had heard through many a friend to definitely try this new vegan bar called the Highline, rumored to have the best vegan reuben in America. We walked, with luggage on our backs, over a mile to the bar. As we climbed the up the streets to Capitol Hill, a hip and culturally rich neighborhood, we found our destination. Unfortunately, to our dismay, the hours were listed incorrectly online and the Highline didn’t open for four more hours!

Our hearts were crushed and feeling rather defeated we sat on the steps outside the bar and regretfully used our smartphones to find a close vegan restaurant. Luckily, being in Capitol Hill, there were many options at our disposal. After much debate, we decided to walk another several blocks to a cute relatively new vegan restaurant Plum Bistro.

Set in a revamped warehouse that housed a few other businesses, Plum Bistro had an upscale industrial feel. The exposed pipe and roll up windows gave it a very unrefined look, while maintaining a classy feel with a full bar and nice furniture. The service was friendly and relaxed, helping us right away. While we looked over the menu, our server brought over some water. Now this wasn’t just any water, it was refreshingly tasty with fresh cucumber, lemon, and oranges, perfect after a long walk.

The lunch menu was limited, but literally everything listed on the menu sounded amazing with items such as Crispy Tofu Teriyaki Bowl and Spicy Jamaican Tempeh Wraps.  Most of the menu contained tofu or tempeh with a few “fake meat’ options such as seiten and tofustrami.  After much debate we settled on one appetizer and two dishes. We decided to try the Crunchy Garlicky Yam Fries with Aioli, ‘Strami on Rye Panini, and Quinoa Sliders.

The Garlicky Yam Fries were served first with a healthy amount of garlic. These well cooked sweet potato fries were crunchy, just as the menu boasted and definitely garlicky.  The fries were tasty, but what really won us over was the delicious aioli! It was incredibly full of flavor and gave the fries the extra oomph it needed. At this point, their fruity water just wasn’t doing the trick. We opted for a some dry natural soda, splitting the Rhubarb flavor. Definitely a great choice, as the soda was fizzy but not very sweet, just the way we like them!

We had almost finished off our yummy fries when the kitchen sent out our main courses! Even if they didn’t taste good (stay tuned), the presentation was beautiful!  Although we were salivating, we had to take a moment to take our customary photos! We couldn’t wait to dive in and decided to sink our teeth into the panini first! What a wonderful choice to begin with, this delightful panini. The tofustrami was really flavorful and not sure if it tastes like pastrami, but the taste was accented by melted vegan cheese (Daiya, we believe), tomatoes, and spicy mustard all on rye bread.  Mmmmm….

The panini was appetizing, but we still had not tried coup de grace. The next dish, we devoured in a manner of minutes! The Quinoa Sliders were adorable and came in a pair. Seriously, these may have been some of the best food we have ever eaten. They were made “sloppy joe” style with a millet and quinoa blend and topped with grilled onions, jalapenos, and orange slices. To top it off they contained more spicy aioli sauce that was to die for. Literally, these were creative, unique, and amazingly delicious. We have made a commitment to figure out there recipe at home in order to replicate it and if we can’t, maybe Seattle will be seeing us more often!

Plum Bistro turned out to be a gourmet, pleasant surprise, especially for a Yelp search.  Even though our hearts had been set on trying Highline, we were impressed with Plum Bistro’s unique and quality menu. Sometimes the best surprises in life are when you are exploring.

-Gina Williams 

So, who told you only big cities have great vegan food? Sometimes the best spots are the big fish in little ponds, which is exactly what is occurring in upstate NY. Rochester, a pretty little city who is often overshadowed by New York and Boston, especially when it comes to restaurants, now has a big vegan fish! Within the city lives a delicious gourmet restaurant who caters to people who love food no matter what their diet is.  The Owl House, which opened it’s doors in the Fall of 2010 focuses on local, gourmet American foods and specialty beers and cocktails. Although the restaurant serves meat and dairy, it also has tasty vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes including desserts!

On a recent road trip through upstate New York, we had the chance to indulge in this restaurant. After driving six hours we were more than happy to see the adorable Owl House, which living up to its name is in a house in a residential area. One step inside and we felt like we were at part 20’s style bar, part art gallery, part cafe, and part cozy house. Needless to say, we found it hip and relaxing.  After a long drive we were happy to treat ourselves to their unique cocktails such as the Townsend, Bright Eyes, and Upstate.

Vegan Mozzarella Sticks

And what goes better with drinks than appetizers? The Owl House boasts a vegan appetizer we have never seen elsewhere:Vegan Mozzarella Sticks! These definitely live up the hype. We really don’t know how they’ve done it, but it is quite possibly the best mock vegan dish we’ve ever tasted! The “cheese” was perfectly melted and the crust delicious. Honestly, they haven’t left our minds since and the non-vegans among us were just as enthused!  We also tried their Rosemary and Cracked Pepper Fries with house made ketchup, House-made Pickles, and Marinated Olives. We love how everything here is house made and it definitely shows.

Tacos with Smoked Tofu

Next we shared the Viva Verde Tacos with smoked tofu (you guessed it, done in-house) and the Saigon sandwich.  The tacos were delightful, especially with the house smoked tofu and black bean and corn salsa. They were filling and really great. We also enjoyed the Saigon sandwich which is a modern take on the Vietnamese Bahn Mi. The sandwich was made with more of the great smoked tofu, pickled veggies, and roasted garlic Vegenaise on a baguette! Boy, were we satisfied! As Bahn Mi connoisseurs this sandwich, although not traditional, was tasty and it was great to have the Vegenaise, which is normally hard to find unless added yourself.

Vegan French Onion Soup

Even though the Owl House has a great list of vegan desserts, we opted for a bowl of soup to round out our meal. One of the best features of the Owl House is their daily specials. Some recent specials include: Grilled Citrus Tofu, Tomato Braised Seitan & Chickpeas, and daily soups. The daily soup for the day was Vegan French Onion soup with vegan cheese! Once again, the Owl House surprised us with a dish almost impossible to find vegan. And let us convince you, this soup was wonderful. The Daiya cheese and soup flavor was perfectly blended. To see their daily specials which include appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts, and drinks, check their Facebook page, which often causes us to almost buy a plane ticket to Rochester just from checking our news feed.

It is too bad the Owl House is so far from us, well perhaps it is good for our hips, we wish we could eat every meal there! However, it provides a haven for vegans living upstate that have limited choice. This restaurant makes visiting Rochester completely worth it, even on top of its quaint beauty. It is clear the Owl House offers unique vegan dishes and really takes care in the food they prepare. We must say, it has landed itself a spot on our Top 10 Vegan Restaurants!!

Last week we were happy to attend San Francisco’s first annual Green Film Festival!  About a month ago the festival organizers gave us a ring and ordered custom fair trade tees from our wholesale department. We were honored and pretty excited they would choose us to make their festival tees. But we were also excited to attend the festival. Due to us always working hard at Autonomie and with so many new products coming in for Spring, we could only make it to one film!

This was a difficult choice as the festival was stocked with tons of great environmental documentaries from all over the world. Almost every film on the list was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.  Many films were making their US or West Coast premiere, so we had a tough time choosing which film to attend. Titles included “They Came for the Gold, They Came for it All,” “In the Wake of the Flood,” and “Plato’s Cave,” just to name a few.

After some pondering, we finally decided on the film “Heavy Metal,” a submission from China which explored the issues of e-waste and documented people in China who have created their own “e-waste dismantling army.” It was going to be paired with the short “The Story of Electronics,” by the people who brought you the “The Story of Stuff.” Immediately following the film was the panel: E-Waste and Green Design. We were really looking forward to this panel, as it was going to be a discussion about the destruction caused by electronics and an exploration on ways to make the industry more sustainable.


So we hopped on the train and headed to the Embarcadero, but to our dismay, the film and panel had been cancelled. Apparently, the filmmakers were unable to make the trip from China. Luckily, one of our second choices was starting in only 15 minutes time. We decided to go see the movie “Soundtracker” with the short “The Coral Gardener.” Although initially disappointed about the cancellation of “Heavy Metal,” we were pleasantly surprised with our choice.

Before the film started, we made a pit stop to the cinema cafe, where we were delighted to find fair trade organic coffee as well as vegan cookies and vegan “sausages.” Well stocked on snacks and already in a good mood, we headed for our seats. The first film, “The Coral Gardener” was a quick eight minute short from the BBC about a passionate man working to replenish coral on the coast of Fiji. Corals are beginning to disappear from our seas due to coral bleaching caused by environmental stressors. There is a movement to grow healthy coral and re-plant them in hard hit areas.

The short was informative, inspiring, and made us want to get involved in the movement.  In fact, during the Q&A, we found out there is a whole organization: Corals For Conservation dedicated to this cause and they are always looking for volunteers. Snorkeling in tropical waters to help the Earth? We are there!  We also learned this short was made as a part of a BBC series on passionate people and may be turned into a full feature at some point. We will keep our eyes out for that!

The second, longer film: “Soundtracker” was actually a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Not only was it an interesting and largely ignored topic, but the cinematography and insight were truly a treat! The film follows Gordon Hempton, an Emmy award-winning sound recordist, as he travels through the Northwest on his search for the sounds of nature. Throughout the film you see Hempton attempt to record beautiful natural sounds, only to be interrupted by constant “noise pollution,” such as airplanes, helicopters, and cars. He points out that nature’s noise is disappearing at an alarming rate and man-made sounds are becoming the norm.

Hempton is an eccentric man, who has an obsession, much like a visual artist, to prefect sound. He seems to have made personal sacrifices and lives a fairly solitary life on his pursuit of the sound of nature. It may seem like an abstract concept and in reality it is, but Hempton has a point.  He is a very gripping person who almost turns his quest spiritual.  The film really drives home the lack of connection between humanity and the Earth. At one point in the film, he visits a large cedar tree that has been turned into a monument with the trunks of cut cedars all around it. He begins to get emotional and see it as almost a battle memorial to the fallen forest that once stood here.  To him, it is clear we have lost much of our connection as no one is “listening” and he even references the hum of electricity as “America’s mantra.”

By the end of the film, we felt connected to Hempton and  realized what a beautiful artist he really is. It also made you really, really think how little we get to hear complete natural sounds. We started to think of all the times we have had moments camping or out in the wilderness and how often we hear human noise pollution. It was definitely a different take on what is happening to our planet than other green films we have seen.

We also noticed that after the movie was complete, our ears were far more sensitive. We could hear our hands brush our hair, the sound of someone tapping their feet, and even people breathing. As we left the theater and walked through the rainy streets of San Francisco, we noticed we could hear the sounds of birds thundering over the horns, trains, and human voices. This deep film really is an abstract look on the destruction of our planet and will leave you seeing, or rather hearing nature in a different way.

We enjoyed both films immensely and certainly hope the Green Film Festival becomes an annual event in San Francisco! If you missed the festival, be sure to check out some of the films discussed above!

I’ve only had vegan food once or twice since there aren’t many in my hometown East Side San Jose/Milpitas, so when I discovered that Green Café Vegan Cuisine had opened up in McCarthy Ranch in Milpitas, I called up my friends immediately to schedule a lunch date.

Milpitas is a tiny suburb between San Jose and Fremont. It’s definitely no Berkeley or San Francisco when it comes to vegan cuisine. The vegan chain restaurant Loving Hut is the only other vegan choice in Milpitas, so I’m certainly glad Green Café opened up here.

Green Café is located next to Banana Leaf in the McCarthy Ranch plaza, a popular spot for residents like me because of its many restaurants. The restaurant was fairly easy to find, and at 2 PM I had no trouble with parking.

Happy Drumsticks

As I enjoyed the soup—which was flavorful and light—I scanned the decent sized menu. The menu provided the name of each dish in both English and Vietnamese. The menu includes agood selection of appetizers, salad, soups, noodle dishes, and sandwiches. They offer many popular Vietnamese dishes like Phở and Bún Huê.

As we waited for our items I finally had a chance to really take a look at the restaurant. It was small, clean and cozy restaurant that had an at-home vibe. Natural sunlight streamed in from the large windows and two doors that were propped open. The place was very quiet—probably because it was already late in the afternoon, or perhaps because this restaurant opened up just last November.

Golden Rolls

We didn’t have to wait long for the appetizers to arrive, and when they did—boy it was difficult to resist for a few minutes as I shot a photo of each. They were DELICIOUS. I’ve always beenwary of vegetarian or vegan meat (the time I accidentally got a veggie burger at my school’sdining hall was definitely not a pleasant meal), so I was hesitant about getting the HappyDrumsticks. It’s fried soy protein served with a spicy sauce. The inside was moist and theoutside was perfectly fried and crispy. The texture was a lot like chicken, though it wasn’t as chewy as meat. They alternated the regular drumstick bone with a piece of yummy sugarcane that you can munch on. Our other appetizer, the Golden Rolls, was very good as well. They’re crispy fried rolls filled with vegetables, tofu, carrot, taro, and bean thread. It was full of flavor and the sauce gave it a little spicy, sweet kick.

Spicy Fried Rice

Our orders came out as we were eating the last of our appetizers. You can tell they care about presentation—each item was lovely, colorful, and looked delicious.

I thoroughly enjoyed the spicy fried rice, which was fried rice with tofu, soy protein, carrots,green beans, basil, and Thai spices. The slight spiciness lingered after each bite and it was neither too dry nor moist. It was just perfect—and I’ve tried a lot of fried rice! I definitely recommend that dish. The Humble Curry was good as well. The potatoes and tofu in the curry were cooked nicely. Overall, though, my friends and I agreed we still prefer Indian curry over Vietnamese style.

Hot & Spicy Noodles

My vegan friend, Niv, had the Special Vegetable Noodle. Although she enjoyed the dish overall,she found that other vegan restaurants, like Di Lac in San Jose, had more flavorful noodles. My other friend only liked—not loved— her order of the Hot and Spicy Noodles. She agreed with Niv that she’s had better noodles elsewhere. The noodle items they had just weren’t really anything special—they said—although they reassured me that they were still both good and cooked well.

We wanted to order vegan Caramel Flan as dessert, but unfortunately they were out! I will have to get it next time.

Overall if you are in the South Bay, I recommend Green Café for casual, affordable vegan dining. I particularly recommend getting and sharing one of the many entrees with an order of fried rice, rather than ordering individual meals like the noodle soup dishes. I’m no vegan or vegetarian (though I am cutting down on my consumption of meat!) but I definitely put Green Café on my list of frequent dining spots because of its affordable price, friendly service, and overall good food.

-Michelle Thai

It was the best of brunches, it was the worst…er, I mean, also best of brunches? Alright, enough with the Dickens’ reference. This past weekend we had a good old-fashioned AP road trip, where we traveled to Washington DC and Philadelphia for a vegetarian festival. The DC Vegfest was a blast and we met a ton of great people, not to mention we were nestled in the booth next to Vegan Treats, where we were tempted all day with delicious cakes.  Before setting up for the Vegfest, we arose early enough to stop and have brunch at DC’s own Sticky Fingers Bakery. Once finished with the Vegfest, we headed to Philadelphia, where we had the chance to also eat vegan brunch at a restaurant called Mi Lah’s Vegetarian. We thought since we had the opportunity to try the same brunch dish at both restaurants in two different cities, two days in a row, we would compare them!

Sticky Fingers’ French Toast

Let’s start with Sticky Fingers Bakery. The bakery nestled in a busy part of DC, has a bit of a deceiving name. Although, it is entitled, bakery, and they do offer multiple baked goods, they also have a pretty extensive brunch and lunch menu. We were really excited to be there and had trouble deciding what menu item to choose from as they ranged from “Blueberry Pancakes” to “Tuna Melt.” With a little help from the friendly staff, who were as sweet as their pastries, we were able to decide upon two items: the Biscuits and Gravy and the French Toast. For about $6 you can order either but if you make it into a meal for $9.99 you get your main dish plus home fries and tofu scramble. Also, of note, while we were waiting for our plates, Ian MacKaye of the band Minor Threat and a longtime vegan strolled in and ordered breakfast. This spurred childhood memories to go along with our brunch!

Sticky Fingers’ Biscuits & Gravy

For the sake of this article we will focus on the Biscuits and Gravy, although the French Toast was exceptional. Because I knew I would be eating vegan goodies all day, I opted just for the main dish but added a side of tempeh bacon. When the dish was served, it looked delicious and very presentable on a cute colorful plate. The biscuits were delectable: light and buttery, just as you would expect them. The gravy was also quite delicious and tasted homemade with fresh herbs sprinkled upon it. This definitely gave it an extra flavor. I also really, really enjoyed the tempeh bacon, which had a nice full smoked flavor to it. My only disappointment was that the gravy had no meat substitute to imitate traditional biscuits and gravy. Although, not normally a fan of mock meat, I thought adding some tempeh or tofu would add to the dish. Still, it filled me and sent my taste buds soaring for the rest of the morning.

Mi Lah’s Tofu Florentine

The following day we stopped in Philly on our way back to Boston. We were excited to find good reviews online about a restaurant called Mi Lah Vegetarian. Judging by the name and the decor (Asian Buddhist style) you might expect this to be a pan Asian restaurant, however, they mostly serve American and International style dishes.  In the window, they proudly display their “BYOB” sign, although it being about noon, it was a little too early to bring our own booze. We were met with friendly service as well and also relied on the waiter to help us with our decision. After much contemplation and a coin flip or two, I decided to try the Biscuits and Gravy once again to see how it would compare to the previous day and we also ordered Tofu Florentine. The Tofu Florentine was deliciously served with plenty of tofu and a side of kale and tomatoes. Both dishes came with sweet potato home fries and fresh fruit.

Mi Lah’s Biscuits & Gravy

But since our focus is on the Biscuits and Gravy, I will tell you it was unique and mouth-watering. The first thing we noticed was that the portions were HUGE. In fact, this meal filled us for the remainder of the day! The Biscuits and Gravy were served with fried mushroom that closely reminded me of fish and I had to share it with the rest of the table, who loved it. The Biscuits and Gravy themselves were quite good although not as soft and flavorful as Sticky Fingers’. The best thing about this dish is that layered on the biscuits were a veggie sausage patty and a giant scoops of avocado. That may seem odd to pair avocado with gravy but it was unique and scrumptious. I devoured mine in minutes and savored  it thoroughly!

Both restaurants offer delicious vegan brunches as well as dinner items. I enjoyed both styles of restaurants as well, counter service and sit down. I think both biscuits and gravy were delightful, yet different in their own way. We are sure to visit both restaurants again soon to try some of their other items but can assure you that both places offer a mighty tasty Biscuits and Gravy and we are sure glad we tried it. It is a far, far better brunch that I tried, than I have ever tried before.

-Gina Williams

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