Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Vegan Pie in Downtown Asheville

Saturday, October 29th, 2011
Blueberry Pie from A Piece of the Pie

Blueberry Pie from A Piece of the Pie

First, let me say that I love pie. Sometimes, when people ask me what my favorite food is, I just say “pie”. Because it almost doesn’t matter what kind of pie – although I do have my favorites.

Before I ever had a chance to post about the amazing vegan cupcakes at Bake It Pretty on Wall St., it closed down. They sure were delicious cupcakes. I hadn’t finished crying over that loss, when a new little business opened up in its place – A Piece of the Pie. And just like Bake It Pretty, they have a daily selection of vegan options!

I stopped in yesterday to give their vegan pie a try. I had a choice of apple, cherry, or blueberry. I ordered the blueberry, which was still a little bit warm from being just baked earlier in the day. (They will also heat your pie up in the toaster oven if you like.)

If I’d had the sort of childhood where fresh baked pies were laying in the windowsill, I feel certain that this pie would have brought me back to those days. The crust was buttery and flaky, and the filling was a mountain of blueberries without too much goopiness mixed in. It was sweet, but not too sweet.

Eating all that gluten and sugar made me feel like I might pass out, but it was totally worth it. If you like pie, give A Piece of the Pie a try. Located at 54 Wall St. in downtown Asheville.

No gluten-free options, and none of the cookies or ice cream was vegan when I was there. Just the pie.

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Treats from Sticky Fingers Bakery

Sunday, September 4th, 2011
Sticky Fingers chocolate chip cookie (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

Sticky Fingers chocolate chip cookie (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

The all vegan bakery and cafe in D.C., Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. I still haven’t gotten there, but I was blessed with the next best thing: my awesome boyfriend picked up a nice sampling of baked goods for me on his last trip.

Reaching me 2 days and 2 airplane flights later, they are still delicious. He got me a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, a gluten-free chocolate cupcake, and a tiramisu cupcake (not gluten-free).

I don’t prefer a thick glob of icing on my cupcakes, but I do have to say the chocolate cupcake brought back memories of grade school birthday parties. The chocolate chip cookie is completely addictive. The tiramisu cupcake is delicious too, but I have been unable to give it a fair shake, because I was expecting actual tiramisu, so my judgment has been clouded by that disappointment.

I still hope to get to Sticky Fingers at some point because I notice their menu has gluten-free vegan quesadillas. I must try that.

Sticky Fingers cupcakes (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

Sticky Fingers cupcakes (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

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New vegan restaurant – Plant – Now open and exceptionally good

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Cannoli at Plant

Cannoli at Plant

We’ve been waiting for months for Asheville’s only 100% vegan restaurant, Plant, to open and it’s finally here. And wow is it ever good. The menu is full of old favorites that vegans never get anymore, like onion rings and cannoli(!!!) but with all kinds of unique creations like the black pepper tofu and peppercorn crusted seitan. Every dish looks like a work of art and every bite is a perfect blend of interesting flavors. As far as I’m concerned, the chef at Plant is a genius.

There is even a raw dish on the menu – Enchiladas with summer vegetables, annatto cashew cheese, and cacao mole. It was filling without being completely overwhelmed by nuts (which many raw dishes tend to be).

There was a raw dessert last night too, key lime pie, but I’ll have to try that another time because there was no way I was going to miss the cannoli. One of my favorite treats as a kid in NY state, I thought I’d never have one again. The filling was slightly less firm than I remember, but the taste was right on.

One of my friends, who is a regular meat-eater, ordered the “berger” and truffle fries, which he ate and enjoyed for the most part. The problem though was the texture of the burger – it was very stretchy, like pizza cheese, and freaked him out quite a bit. Seeing as how I long for the stretch of pizza cheese, I actually enjoyed that, but it did seem odd. The flavor was amazing even so, and the corn-crusted onions (aka onion rings) that came with it, were better than I remember onion rings ever being.

Berger and truffle fries at Plant

Berger and truffle fries at Plant

There are a number of gluten-free options at Plant but my biggest complaint is that they were not labeled on the menu. I hope that can be remedied soon.

I really can’t say enough good things about Plant. It was some of the best food I’ve had in a long time, the owners were welcoming and attentive, and I left there feeling perfectly full without feeling weighed down. All the food is fresh and made from scratch. It’s my new favorite.


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Local vegan donuts in Asheville

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
Cinnamon-Sugar Donut from Firestorm

Cinnamon-Sugar Donut from Firestorm

Having locally made donuts is a mark of a vegan-friendly city. Firestorm Cafe & Books is now regularly selling various types of vegan donut, usually with at least 2 flavors available on any given day. Moving here from Seattle, home of Mighty-O Donuts, I am quite spoiled when it comes to vegan donuts, but Firestorm has created something pretty impressive.

I tried the chocolate glazed and the cinnamon-sugar donuts. I had planned on only having the chocolate glazed, but it was so surprisingly tasty that I couldn’t stop myself from trying the other. Vegans can definitely get their donut fix here and be very satisfied.

Chocolate Glazed Donut from Firestorm

Chocolate Glazed Donut from Firestorm

Donuts come to $1.87 with tax. They are a little smaller than a standard donut – more like the size of those packaged ones you find in health food stores, only these don’t taste like they’ve been sitting on a shelf for 6 months.

I highly recommend you run out an try one. They do not have a gluten-free donut option at this time. Being sensitive to gluten, I did feel like total crap for a few hours after eating these, but it was worth it.

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Asheville VegFest This Sunday!

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 12pm – 7pm in downtown Asheville on Battery Park Ave. View details on the Asheville VegFest website.

Asheville’s first ever VegFest is a FREE street festival featuring amazing vegan food, entertainment, kids’ activities, beer, education, and more.

Here’s a nice write-up in the Mountain Xpress:

Asheville’s first all-vegetarian food festival, the Asheville Vegfest, takes over Battery Park Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 7, from noon until 7 p.m. The free festival is presented by The Asheville Vegetarians and Goat Mountain Sanctuary, two local nonprofit, volunteer-based organizations. The festival will feature vegan and vegetarian food, speakers, live entertainment and kids’ events, including The Vegetable Circus, a group that uses Big Top-style arts to teach children fun ways to grow up healthy.
Vendors will include such familiar faces as Firestorm Cafe and Books, Rosetta’s Kitchen, Laughing Seed and Chai Pani. Beer will be available from Highland Brewing Company. Avery’s Hot Dogs will be there too, vending their Tofurky veggie dogs.

Other food vendors:
Pachamama’s Meals
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe
Great Eastern Sun
Green Light Cafe
MacDaddy’s Lemonade
Swallow Soup

It seems that Asheville’s first all-vegetarian festival is a great place to debut a number of other firsts. Veggie Love, a local caterer that’s opening Asheville’s first all-vegan, entirely gluten-free food truck in September, will be there. Asheville’s first all-veggie drive-through (opened earlier this year on Merrimon), Vegheads Drive Thru, will have a booth as well. Asheville’s first vegan restaurant, Plant (to be opened on Merrimon later this year), will also be represented. And did you know that there was a local publication that advocates an all-veggie philosophy? Asheville Magazine does not promote any meat products, say publishers. Representatives from the magazine will be there as well.

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Wingbean: Asheville’s All-Vegan Meal Delivery Service

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
Wingbean meal delivery

Wingbean meal delivery

From Wingbean’s website:

Wingbean makes tasty vegan cuisine and delivers it right to your door. We know you’re busy, that’s why we do the cooking for you.

I’m busy, and I like tasty vegan cuisine, so I figured why not check it out. They even have a non-gluten option, which I ordered. The menu for this week was:

  • Senorita Pasta – Delicious pasta dish with a creamy cheesy sauce, mixed with black beans and other veggies. Possibly the best meal of the week.
  • Mini BBQ with Coleslaw. Surprisingly good. Much more interesting and satisfying than I thought it would be.
  • Portobello Tapenade – Kind of weird. I ate it, but I’m not sure I liked it.
  • Chickpea of the Sea – A chickpea “tuna” salad, similar to what Earthfare sells but a little better. Very good.
  • Green Man Lasagna (with rice lasagna noodles) – Super delicious and fun. I don’t get to eat lasagna often.
  • Summer Kale Saute with Shitake Bacon – LOVED the bacon. The kale was OK.
  • Steamed Baby Carrots with Herbed “Cream” Sauce – Very good, but no one could be expected to eat that many carrots in a week.
  • Minestrone Soup – I haven’t tried this yet, there’s just so much food.
  • Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – Delicious, of course. They’re cookies. But they all stuck together so it was more like a bag of cookie pieces.

The service is $70+tax. For this, you easily get enough food for 10 good-sized lunches. The food quality is on par with eating left-overs from a really good restaurant. It’s certainly far better than I would make for myself.

There are a couple things I would change, if it were up to me:

  1. I’d eliminate the cookies, or make the “tasty treat” something that is sugar-free. As it is, I will probably ask to leave out the cookies next time. It’s hard enough to avoid sugary desserts, without having them delivered to my doorstep.
  2. It sure would be nice if the food was delivered on Sunday so that I could have it for my lunches Monday-Friday. It comes on Monday, so I don’t get to use it until Tuesday, and now I still have food going into the weekend, which isn’t quite as useful.

I probably won’t sign up to order meals every week, but I will certainly order again soon. It’s a high quality service, and a good price for what you get. Check out Wingbean here.

Wingbean's lasagna

Lasagna (photo from Wingbean's website)

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Asheville Gets a 100% Vegan Restaurant: Plant!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Asheville will finally have its own 100% vegan restaurant. Not bad for a tiny little city in the mountains. Plant, opening this summer at 165 Merrimon Ave. will feature flavorful vegan dishes by former Laughing Seed chef, Jason Sellers.

From the Mountain Xpress (click here for the full story):

“We will serve flavor-sophisticated, multiculturally influenced food, using techniques that we like the best to intensify flavors based on what’s available to us at the best time,” he says.


Plant’s menu will be kept small enough to enable great attention to detail, he says, with fresh vegetables in the spotlight.

The restaurant also will have a char-grill. “Smoke and flame is something that’s really important to me, especially with vegan food,” says Sellers, who expects to include menu items like smoked potatoes and other dishes with “over-the-top” flavors. The chef will nod to his Italian heritage with seitan marsala and polenta dishes. He will also make his coconut-milk ice cream and other desserts, as well as pizzas and baked goods.

“I think we’ll just really surprise people with increasing the level of vegan food and offering what they may not have expected,” says Armstrong, who admits to a healthy addiction to Sellers’ ice cream.

“The menu is a hit list of all of our favorite flavors,” adds Sellers. “Our goal is lots of grilled and sautéed and cook-to-order vegan food.”

Weekend brunches will feature pancakes and yeasted Belgian waffles. “We want to take vegan brunch to a whole new level,” Sellers says.

Sounds great to me. If the food is good, I will eat at Plant all the time. I can’t wait to try their weekend brunch. Laughing Seed brunch just hasn’t been the same since they took the vegan omelet off the menu. * hint hint, Plant *

In the meantime, you can still support Asheville’s only *almost* vegan restaurant, Firestorm Cafe & Books. Their entire food menu is 100% vegan, but they do sell milk-based coffee drinks.

Update: The chef from Plant tells me that they already have some gluten-free options planned and he is working on ways to expand the gluten-free selection even further. Sounds like there may be some raw options as well, and….possibly….maybe….a vegan omelet in my future!

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Vegan breakfast in San Diego is hard to find

Sunday, May 1st, 2011
Vegan scramble at Rancho's

Vegan scramble at Rancho's

It is not easy to find a decent vegan breakfast in San Diego. It seems that all the good restaurants open after 11am. Luckily, there’s a very vegan-friendly (and carnivore-friendly) restaurant that opens at 8am and has some of the best vegan scramble I’ve ever had, not to mention some other amazing vegan options. Rancho’s Mexican & Vegetarian Cuisine a strange combination of traditional Mexican and super healthy vegan food. We were told that it came to be that way because the owner’s wife was vegan. See also my previous post about the most delicious vegan quesadillas I’ve ever had.

As good as their food is, I really didn’t want to eat there 2 mornings in a row, but I literally could not find another restaurant open for breakfast. For my 3rd morning, I had luckily discovered the Ocean Beach People’s Co-op which has a pretty good hot bar and bakery upstairs and lots of great food downstairs.

In general, it is very easy to find good vegan food in San Diego. Here are the places I had a chance to check out:

  • Evolution Fast Food
    2949 5th Ave.
    San Diego, CA
    (619) 550-1818

    Mushroom swiss burger from Evolution

    Mushroom swiss burger from Evolution

    Drive through or order take-out at the counter inside. They have a few chairs inside. The menu is reminiscent of traditional fast food – burgers, fries, shakes, and sandwiches, but way way healthier. They have several gluten-free options as well as a nice selection of raw food. The gluten-free version of the mushroom swiss burger was very flavorful and satisfying. I also grabbed a banana bread cookie to eat the next morning for breakfast, which was delicious. I came back another night for a smoothie, since they seem to have some of the more interesting smoothies in San Diego. I’m afraid I can’t remember what I got but it definitely hit the spot.

  • The Greenery Raw Food Cafe
    133 Daphne St.
    Encinitas, CA
    Not quite as good as Peace Pies (see below) but similar concept. I think I caught them at a time when they were out of most of their options, which is why it didn’t seem as good. Greenery does have a made-to-order menu for dinner, but I ate there during lunch, which is pre-made raw food items. I had a pretty good pizza and one of the best seaweed salad’s I’ve ever had.
  • Peace Pies
    4230 Voltaire St.
    San Diego, CA

    Raw cinnamon rolls from Peace Pies

    Raw cinnamon rolls from Peace Pies

    “I’ll have one of everything!” OK, it wasn’t exactly like that but pretty close. This 100% raw cafe didn’t look too promising when I first walked in. Most of the lunch options were pre-made in a fridge, not made-to-order. But When I looked up close, everything looked like something I had to try. I had some spaghetti with pesto, a slice of pizza, veggie sandwich, vanilla ice cream, and a slice of coconut cream pie with chocolate on top. I also got some cinnamon rolls to take for breakfast the next day. Everything I tried was outstanding. Truly delicious.

  • Stephanie’s Bakery
    4879 Voltaire St.
    San Diego, CA
    Their website proclaims that they have the “best vegan pizza ever!” so that definitely seemed worth trying. Unfortunately, they were out of the gluten-free crust, but I decided to suffer through the gluten in order to get to try out their pizza. I don’t know if it lived up to the hype, but it was pretty good pizza. Definitely no complaints. I had the “Supreme” pizza which includes vegan pepperoni and several vegetables. They also use Follow Your Heart cheese. I also grabbed a gluten-free brownie, which was very tasty. Their other cakes looked absolutely incredible, but I didn’t want to eat any more gluten than I already had.
  • All Vegan
    4669 Park Blvd.
    San Diego, CA

    S'mores from All Vegan

    S'mores from All Vegan

    Not a restaurant at all, but they had some really awesome vegan treats. The s’mores was particularly amazing. Truly amazing. They also had a nice selection of chocolates. Most of the store is non-edible things like shoes, belts, wallets, and other hard-to-find vegan items.

Overall San Diego is far more vegan-friendly than your average city, but not so awesome as Los Angeles or NYC. There are pockets of the area where good vegan food is very hard to find (ie Coronado Island, where I was staying). If you show up with a good list of restaurants and a GPS, you’ll have no problem finding enough food to eat.

As an aside, an interesting peculiarity about San Diego is that many many restaurants seem to offer young coconut water as a beverage, straight from the shell.

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Daiya Vegan Cheese: So good, I complained to my waiter

Friday, April 15th, 2011
Daiya vegan cheese

Daiya vegan cheese

Any time I see vegan quesadillas on a menu, I have to order them. They were my breakfast this morning at Rancho’s Mexican & Vegetarian Restaurant in San Diego. I became instantly suspicious when my cheese was not only delicious, but also chewy and stretchy. Everyone knows that vegan cheese does not taste and feel like that. Not possible.

I called the waiter over to ask if they had made a mistake with my order, but he said no – it was Daiya cheese. This may be old news to a lot of people, but I’d never heard of Daiya so I figured it was some “lactose-free” cheese with casein in it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, ate my quesadillas, and hoped that I wouldn’t be puking sick later from eating cow’s milk (which I was not).

It turns out that Rancho’s knows what it’s doing. I stopped off at a little hippie food coop to see if I could find it. There it was, Daiya vegan cheese. Holy crap, it’s good. You must eat it. It’s been a super long time for me, but I’m pretty sure this is just what eating cheese used to be like. Close, at least.

Even better, it’s allergen-free for most people. From their website:

Daiya products do not contain many of the common allergens including; soy, dairy (casein or lactose), gluten, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts (excluding coconut)

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Delicious juices and smoothies at “The Farmacy”

Saturday, March 19th, 2011
The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar

The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar

It’s hard for most of us to get too excited about a juice and smoothie bar, but maybe that’s because most of them aren’t as satisfying and exciting as they could be.

The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar, in West Asheville, is appropriate for vegans, raw foodists, those who are gluten-intolerant, or any health-conscious person who also wants to enjoy their meal. They offer juices, smoothies, “super smoothie meal replacements”, raw soup, tonics, and shots. Their smoothies feature such exciting ingredients as chia seeds, coconut yoghurt, cacao, mesquite, spirulina, lavendar, and all the fresh fruits and veggies you’d expect. They also have something I’ve only been able to read about but have always wanted to try: Rejuvelac, as made famous by Dr. Anne Wigmore of the Hippocrates Institute.

Judy and Carl, who operate The Farmacy, do things differently than most places. For instance, you get a coconut water chaser with your wheatgrass shot. And they’ll first bring you a taste of your smoothie so you can ask for changes before they pour it. They are also wonderful, positive, interesting people who enjoy getting to know their customers.

Prices are extremely reasonable and we’ve never been unhappy with our order. Give them a try any Wednesday through Saturday, inside the West Village Market at 771 Haywood Rd. in West Asheville.

Other than bee pollan and honey, there is nothing on the menu that vegans need to look out for.

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