A (Yummy) Elephant in the Room

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I went to Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro in Portland, Maine, and it was such a treat! First off, the decor was really lovely — contemporary chic meets classy & cozy. I was with friends, so we ordered several dishes and sampled off of one another’s plates. I started with the Fresh Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce (above), which were extremely light; they were mostly lettuce, with carrots, avocado, rice vermicelli, and mint wrapped in rice paper and served…and they were great for a warm summer day.

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I also tried the Hot & Spicy Soy Sticks (above), which were made of soy chicken on bamboo skewers and were covered in a spicy garlic-chili-cilantro sauce. I also sampled a friend’s salad (below), which was a seasonal special topped with fried fiddleheads! I’d never had a fiddlehead before, let alone heard of one, and they were really scrumptious!

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Finally, to finish everything, I had a cup of tea. Green Elephant serves teas by a local company called Homegrown Herb & Tea, and I had one of their hibiscus fruit teas that was absolutely delicious. It was a nice, light way to round off a fresh dinner.

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Food Alive!

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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.

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Best. Galaxy. Ever.

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The Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It’s an entirely-vegetarian restaurant, but not even the most avid meat-eaters would be able to find fault with it. The food is incredible. The staff is friendly and fun, and really quirky. The diner is super-cute inside. And have I mentioned the food? The food is to die for. I wish I lived in Cambridge just so I could eat at the VG every day. The first time I went (because, yes, even though I was just visiting I ended up making return visits to the VG) I ordered the Cambridge Street Omelette (above). Oh my goodness, was it delicious! The omelette is stuffed with chipotle black beans, roasted red pepper puree, Vermont jack cheese, and sweet corn…and the whole thing is topped with a homemade shallot and apple salsa. It was so good I almost want to fly back to Boston and stop by right now.

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Of course, I also ordered their hot tea, because that’s what I do with breakfast. I had several options to choose from, and was also offered not just cream, but regular milk and soy milk as well. It’s wonderful to have options! And speaking of options, have I mentioned the dessert case yet? The vegan dessert case? I took a picture of it (below) because it was so amazing.

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I ended up walking away with a slice of the Coconut Citrus Layer Cake (front and center in the picture below), and a friend of mine walked away with a slice of the cheesecake (that beautiful concoction that’s topped with strawberries and blueberries in the picture below). I have never had vegan cheesecake, but this one was every bit as delicious as any non-vegan cheesecake I’ve ever had. I don’t know how they did it, but boy oh boy did they ever do it! Both desserts were incredible.

So you can imagine why I went back for more. I returned another day and ordered the Stuffed French Toast for breakfast (below). *Best. Decision. Ever.* What’s it stuffed with? Vanilla Nut Vegan Cream Cheese, that’s what! And it’s topped with Caramelized Banana Butter, Strawberry Basil Sauce (an unexpected but absolutely delicious choice), and Maple Syrup. It was so good! As I mentioned earlier, the Veggie Galaxy is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the world. It’s at least in the top 5, but might be right up there at #1. You definitely have to give it a try if you’re ever in the area. You won’t be disappointed!

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Veggie Galaxy on Urbanspoon

Chicago Dining

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The Chicago Diner is awesome! I have to begin this post by apologizing for the quality of this photograph: the lighting in the restaurant was very red, and this picture doesn’t do the food justice. (In an attempt to rectify this, I’ve pasted a photo of the same dish from the Chicago Diner’s Facebook page below.) The Chicago Diner is an entirely vegetarian (and very, very vegan-friendly) restaurant in Chicago’s Lake View district. I ordered the Radical Reuben at the encouragement of my friend, who introduced me to this wonderful establishment, and I was not disappointed. It was delicious. If I could, I would return to Chicago and eat the same sandwich all over again! If you’re ever in Chicago, whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you should definitely stop by the Chicago Diner for a memorable dining experience. This restaurant is one of my all-time favorites.

 

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Laughing Seed Cafe

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.

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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!

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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….

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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!
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fair-minded coffee house

Photo by Anne Jansen

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.

Photo by Anne Jansen

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as fresh as it gets

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.

Photo by Anne Jansen

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.

Photo by Anne Jansen

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.

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natural nachos

photo by Anne Jansen

It’s both a blessing and a curse that the Whole World Natural Bakery and Restaurant is a 3 minute walk from where I live. These nachos, one of their regular appetizers, are the perfect size to be split by two before a cup of soup or a light meal. I’ve found it difficult to get good nachos here in Columbus (Bodega has some good ones too — I did a post on them this summer), but these are definitely tasty.

whole goodness

photo by Anne Jansen

Lucky for me (and not-so-lucky for my wallet), I live but a 3-minute walk from Whole World Natural Restaurant and Bakery in Clintonville. This amazing little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, boasting a modest 10 tables and booths for its customers, is an entirely vegetarian establishment with a strong local following. The Avocado Croissant (pictured above) is one of my all-time favorites, although I have never eaten a bad meal at Whole World…and I’ve eaten a whole lotta meals there. In addition to scrumptious lunches and dinners (and a Sunday brunch I have yet to experience), the counter houses a wide variety of desserts — about half of which are vegan. Which reminds me, only 5 or 6 of Whole World’s menu items do not come with a vegan option…which means all the rest do! It’s a fantastic little place, and one I will continue frequenting for as long as I live in Columbus. This is made easier by Whole World’s very affordable prices. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or non-veg, you should definitely give Whole World a go!

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