One drizzly Wednesday morning, I ended up in an eclectic little restaurant called Savory Maine, located in the village of Damariscotta, Maine. Savory Maine is housed in an old church, and they’ve made it a wonderful space. It’s full of character: one table is housed up where the altar would have been located, and the tables in the main body of the room incorporate old pews into the seating against the walls. The walls are covered with local artwork, and the food reflects this interest in the local. One feature of Savory Maine’s food is that 90% of the ingredients come from Maine, and 99% of the ingredients are organic. The result? The food is wonderful. I ordered the breakfast sampler (and the waitstaff was more than willing to substitute strawberry rhubarb for bacon to accommodate my vegetarian needs), which was delicious. It was a simple assortment of foods — a pancake, an egg, and home fries — but was very nicely done. I’ve had my fair share of mediocre breakfasts, and this was definitely not one of them. I also ordered a nice hot cuppa tea, which was delightfully presented: the tea selection came in a cute wooden basket, the cream came in a ceramic cow, and the hot water came in its own ceramic tea pot. Savory Maine is a lovely place, and the food is truly exceptional. If you’re in the area, you should definitely make time for a visit to this great little restaurant!
I walked by Life Alive several times before I finally went in (mostly because every time I walked by, I had just eaten). I ordered the Island Alive smoothie, and it was delicious! It is made from banana, mango, pineapple, coconut oil, coconut-based ice cream, and almond milk. It was one of the most delicious smoothies I’ve ever had — and that’s saying something! I tend to compare all of my smoothies to the Santa Barbara, California-based smoothie company Blenders in the Grass, and Life Alive was the first one I’ve ever had that actually stood in the same league. Their style was very different from what I’ve usually had in a smoothie — it was more full of texture than it was ice-creamy, and it was completely delicious! I wish I’d stopped in sooner and tried some more smoothies, or even some of the food they offer.
I love the Blue Angel Cafe in South Lake Tahoe, California, and I was really excited to get to eat there again this winter. It’s been a couple of years, and I missed their innovative and veg-friendly menu. This time, I ordered their Butternut Squash and Walnut Ravioli (pictured above). It was really good, with just a light butter sauce and some walnuts and parmesan flakes on top. The ravioli were filled with the butternut squash, and the whole dish was very flavorful and mild. To drink, I got the hot cocoa (pictured below), which (like their coffees) comes from the Alpen Sierra Coffee Roasting Company — just one example of Blue Angel’s dedication to local, natural, and organic foods. The food and service were so good that I went back the next day and got…
…the buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and avocado sandwich (pictured below) with a side of the quinoa, served cold. It was just as delicious as it sounded, and I really enjoyed the quinoa salad. If you’re ever in South Lake Tahoe, you really should try to get in to Blue Angel. They won’t disappoint you, and they have the friendliest staff around. Plus, there’s a stone fireplace and some couches where you can get some work done if you find yourself needing a place to hole up and hop online.
Some friends took me to Chow Food + Bar in Lafayette, California, and I loved it. To start with, while we waited for our table, they had a little grocery area with all sorts of great cheeses, desserts, baked goods, and beer for us to look at (and we got some beer while we waited). It was so much better than sitting in a waiting area or, even worse, wandering around outside in the cold with one of those stupid vibrating coasters in your pocket. When we were seated, we ordered the Arancini (pictured below), which were absolutely delicious. They were perfectly moist inside, but still nice and crispy on the outside…and not too rich, as arancini can be. For my entree, I ordered the Organic Vegetable Noodles with tofu, squash, and broccoli in a chili-citrus-miso-sesame sauce. I couldn’t really imagine what that sauce would taste like, but it was truly a taste adventure. It was sweet and spicy, and warmed me through and through. I so badly wanted to keep eating even when I was already full because it was just such a creative and interesting flavor explosion. Most of Chow’s menu was really innovative, and they use a lot of organic and natural ingredients, which I always appreciate. If you’re in the area and are looking for a unique and fresh meal, you should swing by Chow and give ’em a try.
It’s always a treat to discover a good restaurant that is super veg-friendly, and that’s just what the Urth Caffé in Santa Monica, California is. I ordered the Urth Tamales, and they were incredible. The ground corn was sweet and fresh, and the cheddar and green chillies were the perfect filling — not overkill on the cheese, nice and spicy with the peppers. I ate this so fast it was literally gone in the blink of an eye! I also enjoyed a Green Matcha Boba Tea (pictured below) which I split with my sister. It was light and refreshing, and we got it with the vanilla flavoring, which made it even more tasty.
My sister ordered the Mediterranean Platter (pictured below), which I sampled liberally as we ate. Everything was fresh and light, and the spices were excellent — not too heavy, but full of flavor. The olives (a personal favorite of mine anyway) were particularly fabulous. This is one of my all-time favorite restaurants, and I am already looking forward to the next time I’m in the area so I can visit one of the 4 Urth Caffé locations!
Once again, the Northstar Café in Columbus, Ohio came through for me. This vegan tomato soup with olive tapenade and bread was served up as a daily special at the Northstar located in Easton Town Center. In the background, you can see the winter salad I enjoyed (and boy did I ever enjoy it!). Notice the hearty chunks of butternut, the modest cubes of beet, and the nice mixed greens. This place never disappoints!
I ended up at the Laughing Seed Café somewhat haphazardly as I wandered around downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was one of the best mistakes I’ve ever had. The service was friendly and quick, and the ambiance was cozy and romantic.
The beverage pictured above is their Freaky Tiki smoothie: a delightful concoction composed of strawberries, coconut milk, pineapple juice, mango, and lime. I downed it in no time, it was so good!
For the main course, I had the Low Country Rollups — tofu BBQ wrapped in whole wheat tortillas and drizzled with house-made tahini-mustard sauce. On the side you can see the brown rice and “southern slaw” that come with this amazing dish. I couldn’t finish the entire thing, but I sure tried! It was sooooo good, and I’m glad I got to experience “Carolina barbecue” while I was in the area. When in Rome….
To wrap things up, my husband and I split this dark cherry and chocolate chip cookie. It was a hearty cookie, and went perfectly with the Earl Grey tea I ordered. I can’t emphasize enough what an amazing dining experience the Laughing Seed was. At the end of a very long, tiring day, this little restaurant was a haven of warmth and great food. If you’re ever in Asheville, you have got to go to this place!
The Global Gallery Coffee Shop in Clintonville is a fair-trade, ethical coffee house and gift shop. They have the best hot chocolate in at least a 5-mile radius — it’s light and airy, and has a delicious milk-chocolate base. Their food is also healthy and lite, and a step up from the usual coffee shop fare. I tend to order the house-made granola with vanilla yogurt (plain if they have it in stock, but this is something they do to accommodate my specific preferences — they’re very willing to do what they can to please their customers) — it’s a hearty treat that sits lightly and keeps me going for hours.
I recently ended up at Dragonfly for brunch. Dragonfly is Columbus’ favorite all-vegan restaurant, and with good reason, too. Our waiter, who was friendly and attentive, told us about the garden in back of the restaurant where most of the fresh fruits and vegetables found in the dishes are grown. On our way out, we swung by the garden only to find Chef and co-owner Magdiale Wolmark tending to the plants. He warmly invited us in to look around, and talked to us about his biodynamic farming methods (for more on this, see Wolfgang Steiner’s book Agriculture Course, which Magdiale recommended to us). We chatted about his lifelong love of plants, how inspired he is by the produce they grow behind the restaurant, and his philosophies on food and agriculture. He was generous with his time, and when the conversation was over I was so inspired I wanted to eat another meal and go play in my own garden.
I ordered the Pancakes of the Day, which turned out to be blackberry & chocolate chip lying in a pool of wonderfully thin syrup. The pancakes were light and fluffy, with a perfect crispiness to them. The berries sprinkled on top of the pancakes were both sweet and tart, and complemented the blackberries very nicely. Even though I was full after finishing the pancakes, I couldn’t help but order dessert.
I got the Fruit Bisque, which is essentially fresh sliced nectarines, black currant sorbet, vanilla sorbet, and a sprig of pineapple mint in a chilled vanilla soup. It’s a colorful blast of flavor that I ate in less than 15 minutes. Everything about this meal was fresh and adventurous. If you are in Columbus, you have to visit Dragonfly. It’s culinary magic, and the ethos behind the food is refreshing.
I stopped in for a hearty lunch at Hopworks Urban Brewery, aka HUB, after hiking around in the lava tubes at Mt. St. Helens. It turns out they make a mean burger. I ordered their House Burger with their house-made veggie patty (consisting most prominently of black beans), which was served on an onion cheese bun. It was delectable, but still not as good as the house-made organic root beer! It had some serious bite to it, but also had a crisp sweetness to it. If I lived in Portland, I’d be a regular at HUB.