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Category Archives: Adventures in Dining Out

Vegan at Disneyland – River Belle Terrace

I have posted about Disneyland before and will continue to update as I try different vegan options in both Disneyland and California Adventure.  Click here to see all posts about Disneyland.  Eventually, I plan to put together my own comprehensive list.

My sister, Samantha, and I went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago and decided to try the famous Vegetable Po’Boy at the River Belle Terrace (across from Tarzan’s Treehouse).

River Belle Terrace, Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

Unfortunately, it looks like that was just recently taken off of the menu.  The new vegan item is Becky Thatcher’s Black Bean Cakes, which are served with pineapple relish, cucumber salad, and red pepper coulis.

Becky Thatcher's Black Bean Cakes - River Belle Terrace | A Vegan in Progress

The black bean cakes were nice and moist.  They didn’t seem to be cooked all the way through, but were warm, kind of like the black bean burgers I made.  The red pepper coulis was delicious and a little spicy.  I’m not really one for pineapple, but it went well with the red pepper coulis and wasn’t overly pineappley.  Definitely don’t let it stop you from ordering the meal unless you’re allergic.  The cucumber salad was refreshing and overall, the flavors balanced really well.  There’s also a small salad bar with assorted salad toppings in the dining area, so we grabbed some pequeno peppers for free.

Pequeno Peppers and Becky Thatcher's Black Bean Cakes - River Belle Terrace | A Vegan in Progress

If other people wanted to eat at the River Belle Terrace, I wouldn’t hesitate to order this dish again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.  I felt it was a little pricy for what you got.

 

Sweet Thymes Bakery

This weekend, Eric and I were in Santa Monica, so we stopped by Viva La Vegan to pick up a few new products to try.  I have heard that they often have Ronald’s Donuts (from Las Vegas) and was thrilled to see a stack of pink donut boxes near the register.  I ended up buying donuts from boxes that said “Sweet Thymes,” a bakery of which I had never heard, so I asked where it was located.  I was told that it was based in Studio City, which is incredibly close to home, so I was really excited.  After a little research, I am disappointed to say that it doesn’t look like they have a store front, but they can be ordered (minimum 12 donuts) for pickup or delivery.

Two Chocolate Donuts, Sweet Thymes | A Vegan in Progress

I got two donuts to try and, of course, they were both chocolate.  I don’t think there’s any donut worth having that doesn’t have chocolate.  First I tried the typical puffy donut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.  The frosting was tasty, but the donut was a tad chewier than I remember typical donuts being.

Sprinkled cupcake, Sweet Thymes | A Vegan in Progress

Next, I bit into the very messy looking chocolate donut filled with chocolate tofu creme.  The center was not as chocolatey as the toppings, but it was very, very creamy.  The filling tasted like rich pudding.  Long after I finished it, I was still thinking about it.  This was the best donut I can remember having.  Ever.  Amazing.  Now, if only they would open a store!

Chocolate Tofu Creme, Sweet Thymes | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan at Hugo’s Restaurant, Post 2

I have already talked about Hugo’s Restaurant, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Hugo’s Restaurant.

After my previous visit to Hugo’s Restaurant with my mom and my sister, I was really looking forward to taking Eric there.  It’s a place where we both have a bunch of options to choose from, which is a real pleasure.

After absolutely loving my mom’s order of Pasta Victor last time, I thought I would try a different pasta order.  I got the Penne Con Verdure, which is described as “Red lentil penne is organic, protein-rich, gluten-free and GMO-free. Served here with a marinara-pesto sauce, chopped tomatoes, Kalamata olives and blend of seasonal vegetables. Topped with fresh basil.”  It was very tasty and well-cooked, but was sort of disappointing because I felt I could have made it myself.  I guess it’s my bad for ordering it, but I guess I just thought I would be blown away like I was with the Pasta Victor sauce.  It was perfectly fine, but I won’t likely order it again.  Sorry for the terribly blurry photo.

Penne con Verdure, Hugo's Restaurant | A Vegan in Progress

Eric ordered their seasonal holiday meal.  It came with stuffing, hash brown cakes, mashed sweet potatoes, and chicken.  Everything but the chicken was vegan, so I tried a bite of each to report back.  The mashed potatoes and stuffing were fine, but they didn’t blow us away.  The little hash brown cakes, however, were somewhat burned as you can see in the photo.

Holiday meal, Hugo's Restaurant | A Vegan in Progress

Overall, this was a bit of a disappointing meal.  I’m sure to be back at Hugo’s again, but I’m not as impressed as I was on my previous visit.

Vegan at El Torito

This year, my bosses chose El Torito as the location for our company Christmas party.  I was a little wary about what my options would be because sometimes company parties are set menus and it can be difficult to order anything else.  In advance, I called and asked if there was a set menu.  The woman who answered the phone couldn’t answer many of my questions, but told me that she thought we could just order from the regular menu and she thought that the rice had chicken stock in it and the beans possibly had lard or cheese.  It wasn’t very helpful at all, so I started searching the internet for any information about what vegan options there may be.  I found out that she was correct, the beans and rice were not vegan.

The vegan options I found through online research are as follows:

Spinach Enchiladas, no cheese or rice or beans:  Sauteed fresh spinach, pasilla chiles, onions, pico de gallo, and fire-roasted tomatillo sauce.

Veggie Fajitas, no chile relleno:  Fresh zucchini, spinach, potatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, green beans, onions, fresh rosemary and mint leaves.

Supposedly there is a Veggie Burrito full of tasty veggies, but I couldn’t find that on the menu.

The guacamole is also vegan-safe.

I went with the Veggie Fajitas.  I didn’t take a picture because no one at work knows about my blog.  Most of them don’t understand the concept of vegan (my boss once told me about a whole, organic chicken she saw and thought I might be interested in, thinking it was vegan) and I tend to get teased in a way that your grandpa or an uncle might tease you about being vegan.

The fajitas came out on one of their sizzling skillets with the tortillas in a warm container.  I assembled them myself with generous heaps of guacamole on top.  The vegetables were julienned and the perfect size, plus they were cooked perfectly.  The rosemary and mint really added an interesting flavor dimension, too.

I surprisingly really enjoyed the meal and would be happy to return.  I just wouldn’t schedule another group meal at the El Torito in Woodland Hills because our waitress was horrendous.  She forgot to put the order in for my food, so myself and a few considerate people sitting around me had to wait a full 15 minutes after everyone was served.  She was also pretty pushy, telling me that I couldn’t get a blended margarita and bringing me one on the rocks, when people around me were able to order blended.  She even patronizingly told another diner that next time she needs to say “tostada” when she wants her salad in a taco shell.  The girl, shocked, mumbled, “but I did say tostada.”  I will definitely avoid her section if I ever go back.

Native Foods, Palm Springs

The day after Christmas this year, Eric and I went to Palm Springs for a few days to stay at a timeshare that my bosses have.  They said they know that I have been working really hard and they appreciated it.  They almost never come in anymore… I run the office and email them everything.  I know it’s really important for them to have someone they trust in the office and for me, it’s important to have bosses who appreciate me.

Before going, I hadn’t done any research into places I could eat.  The timeshare complex that we stayed at had a kitchen in each apartment along with a barbeque, so we planned to cook for ourselves a lot of the time.  One night, he barbequed and I put some vegan frozen burger patties wrapped in foil on the grill.  I topped the “chicken” patty with sriracha, guacamole, and a slice of tomato for a supremely yummy burger.

One day, we decided to go dutch for lunch, thinking that we could each get something at different nearby restaurants (we often do that when we find ourselves hungry in food courts and such), so I googled vegan restaurants in the area.  To my surprise, Native Foods popped up and was less than 2 miles from where we were staying.

Native Foods, like Veggie Grill, is a popular, pretty inexpensive vegan restaurant.  I’ve heard about it since I went vegan, but never had the chance to try it.  They have a few locations that aren’t too far away from where we live (about 25 minutes), but I’m not really one to fight the 405 freeway for some quick dinner.  So, I was thrilled to get a chance to try it while in Palm Springs!  I later found out that this was their original location, tucked away in a courtyard of shops and restaurants.

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The line was a little long when I walked in, but that’s okay because having a full menu to choose from makes it tough to decide!  I was torn between the Scorpion Burger, the Mambo Italiano Wrap, and the Twister Wrap, but I decided on the Scorpion Burger because it was the daily special and came with a free side.  I chose fries as my free side. I also ordered the Sicilian Caponata Crostini.  Then I signed up for their rewards program and got a free drink.  There were a few house-made cold drinks: Lavender Lemonade, Watermelon Fresca, and Iced Tea.  I went with the Lavender Lemonade, which was delicious and refreshing.

Native Foods, Palm Springs - Sicilian Caponata Crostini | A Vegan in Progress

The Sicilian Caponata Crostini is a starter, described as, “savory roasted eggplant, tomatoes, caramelized onions and red peppers in a balsamic reduction with fresh basil, capers and currants on garlic crostini.  It was a great start to the meal.  Although, at $6.95, it was more than $1 per piece, so I wouldn’t likely order them again.

Native Foods, Palm Springs - Scorpion Burger | A Vegan in Progress

The Scorpion Burger is described as, “our original Native Tempeh burger! Homemade blackened Tempeh, chipotle sauce, romaine, carrots, avocado and onions.”  The Tempeh was very good blackened, but in comparison to store bought tempeh (which I am most used to), the tempeh seemed to be made of much smaller pieces of soybeans.  This wasn’t good or bad, just something I noticed.  I liked the mound of carrots and avocado on top.  The chipotle sauce was great.  The only thing I didn’t like was the fries.  They were cooked fine, but I hate shoestring fries.

Native Foods, Palm Springs - Scorpion Burger | A Vegan in Progress

My first visit to Native Foods was great.  The staff was very friendly and helpful and the restaurant was cute.  I really loved how their menu described each of the Native Meats and their Native Cheese (made with cashews and sunflower seeds) so that, if you’re unfamiliar with things like tempeh or seitan or even how a vegan cheese is made, you get a little description of each.  The weather in Palm Springs was perfect, so it was nice that they had a lot of outdoor seating.  My only complaint was that I waited 30 minutes to get my food, while people seated around me who had ordered after me were being served.  I was really impatient and hungry by the time they finally brought me my dish.  This is the only reason we didn’t go back to Native Foods one more time before leaving town – I didn’t want to wait.  I’m sure I will be back, though, to other locations.  There’s still a lot of potentially delicious items on their menu waiting for me to try them!

Vegan at Zia Valentina Cupcakes, Los Angeles Farmers Market

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My husband and my dad have a great relationship and often go to events without me.  They were early for a small entertainment industry event, so they stopped at the Los Angeles Farmers Market to pick up some grub.  Eric noticed a new cupcake stand and saw that they offered vegan cupcakes, so he very thoughtfully stopped and bought me one.  Eric mentioned more than once how friendly and approachable the employees/proprietors were.

Eric got a card from them, so I did a little research and checked out the Zia Valentina website, which is not yet complete.  They boast “fresh and natural ingredients, with no preservatives, no sugar,” which is always good.  The website lists the following vegan options: espresso drinks with non-dairy milks, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal coconut cookies, vegan cupcakes, and a vegan oatmeal coconut chai frosting sandwich.  They actually list 6 different types of vegan cupcakes – take that Sprinkles!  There’s red velvet, s’mores, chocolate coconut, chocolate banana, vanilla chai, and carrot.  However, there’s one major issue.  While kindly telling Eric all about the vegan options, it came out that the red velvet cupcake is vegan except for the frosting.  Apparently, the frosting for this particular cupcake has egg in it.

Eric was assured that the vegan s’mores cupcake was actually vegan, so he brought it home at the end of the night.  After hearing about the problem with the red velvet cupcake, I was a little concerned about the s’mores cupcake, but I took them at their word and tried it out.  It was hands down better than Sprinkles’ yucky red velvet cupcake (found in the same place).  The cake wasn’t dry at all, despite sitting in the car for a few hours until Eric got home and the frosting was thick and creamy.  My only complaint was that the “s’mores” flavor was very faint.  Had I not known that it was supposed to be s’mores, I don’t think I would have realized what flavor it was.

Zia Valentina | A Vegan in Progress

I would definitely stop by the Zia Valentina cupcake stand on a future visit, but I have a few concerns that I hope they address in the meantime.  I applaud their effort to provide healthier cupcakes and other treats, especially vegan ones.  I would just encourage them to do a little more research into the restrictions involved in the vegan diet so that they can truly offer legitimately vegan desserts.  I’m worried that, if the vegan red velvet cupcake has egg in the frosting, the s’mores cupcake may have gelatin in the marshmallow frosting or honey in the graham cracker crumble.  Once they get a good understanding of the vegan diet, I’m sure they will be great competitors to the nearby Sprinkles booth.

On a side note, I still prefer No Udder Desserts and I’m glad that they are the closest to my home.

Doomie’s Home Cookin’, Hollywood – Post 3

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I have already talked about Doomie’s, but I am doing multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Doomie’s Home Cookin’.

Eric and I were generously given free tickets to Universal Studios as well as front of the line passes by a friend of his.  I hadn’t been to Universal Studios in over ten years, so I was interested in seeing what had changed.  It was fun to see the changes and the front of the line passes really helped, but it was otherwise unimpressive.  It really hasn’t aged well and the “newer” rides are just re-dressings of the old rides.  I mean, seriously, the Simpsons ride is literally the same ride as Back to the Future but with different decor and a different video playing on the screen.  I wouldn’t recommend it over any other theme park.

Anyway, since we were in the area, we popped down to Doomie’s Home Cookin’ for dinner.  We ordered the vegan chicken fingers (which are always super tasty) and Eric got the vegan chili cheese fries.  The fries were cooked well and the chili tasted great, but the cheese sauce was a little runny.

I ordered the Chicken Parm Sandwich, which was delicious, but very messy.  I can deal with the messy, but my only complaint is that the “mozzarella” was very thin and sauce-like, almost foamy.  That was a little weird, but the flavor was there and it all mixed together fine, so it was ignorable.

Doomie's - Vegan parm sandwich | A Vegan in Progress

Eric ordered the Western Burger, which came with onion rings, cheese sauce, and some kind of vegan bacon (not made with tempeh).  He liked it very much and said that he would order it again.

Doomie's - Western Burger | A Vegan in Progress

As a last minute impulse buy, I got a “chocolate truffle” from the dessert case.  It didn’t taste bad, but it clearly wasn’t a truffle.  It was obviously a cake ball.  I don’t know if they were purposefully trying to pass it off as a truffle or if there was some sort of mix up, but I wouldn’t buy it again.

Doomie’s has been hit or miss on our previous visits, but this time it was mostly great.  Just a few small complaints, but we will definitely be back when we need an unhealthy vegan fix.

Vegan at Farmer Boys

In past years, Eric and I often stopped at Farmer Boys for breakfast before the Renaissance Faire.  Even though we don’t participate much anymore, when I read that their veggie burger was vegan, I made a mental note in case we were ever in the area.  On our way back from an event way out in Riverside recently, we stopped at Farmer Boys in Irwindale.  According to the Insufferable Vegan page, there are actually two vegan options at Farmer Boys, which is pretty remarkable for a fast food place.  You can either get the veggie burger with no dressing or the veggie sandwich with no cheese and on either rye or sourdough bread since the wheat bread has honey.

Farmer Boys Veggie Burger | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered the veggie burger sans dressing.  The patty was remarkably similar to the Don Lee Farms frozen veggie burger patty.  It was one of those veggie burger patties that didn’t seem all microwaved and dry.  There were distinct veggies in it as well as some sunflower seeds.

Farmer Boys Veggie Burger | A Vegan in Progress

It also came with lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles (I removed those) and I added some ketchup.  It was really filling and pretty moist.  I would actually order this again without feeling like I was making a huge compromise, but I would likely ask for avocado to be added (FYI: Insufferable Vegan says that costs an extra $1.50).  Overall – Not bad!  I applaud the chain for offering two different vegan options.

Vegan at Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, Walnut Creek Bay Area

While up in the Bay Area for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, we planned to spend some time with our close friends, Randi and Ethan.  I’ve known Randi since we were in preschool together, so it’s been over 25 years!  Visiting with her parents and siblings feels like spending time with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We don’t see each other too often because of the distance, but it’s great catching up… it always feels like no time has passed at all.

Anyway, Randi was excited to take us to Ike’s Love & Sandwiches in Walnut Creek since they have a variety of both omnivore and vegan sandwiches.  In fact, the menu says “Most of our 100 veggie sandwiches can be made vegan, so just ask!!”  The menu only listed 12 veggie sandwiches, but their website describes many more.  It would probably be a good idea to check out the website in advance of you visit so that you have more to choose from.

Ike's Love & Sandwiches | A Vegan in Progress

I initially asked for the Meatless Mike: vegan meatballs, marinara, and (vegan) pepper jack, but the cashier told me that they didn’t have any vegan meatballs because their local Trader Joe’s stopped selling them.  Instead, I ordered the Pilgrim on sourdough: vegan turkey, cranberry sauce, sriracha, and Havarti.  I asked if they just left off the cheese to make it vegan or if they had a vegan cheese; the cashier said that they use vegan cheese.  I wasn’t clear on whether it was a vegan Havarti or just some all-purpose vegan mozzarella or something.  I wouldn’t know the difference by taste because I don’t believe I ever tried Havarti before going vegan.  I asked for lettuce and tomato and I detected a little vegenaise in the sandwich upon unwrapping it.

Ike's - Vegan Pilgrim | A Vegan in Progress

I never would have thought to combine cranberry sauce and sriracha, but they were delicious together.  It was the messiest sandwich ever and I went through a ton of napkins.  I thought it was a creative and yummy sandwich, I just feel conflicted about one thing.  I’m pretty sure the vegan turkey was Tofurky brand and they use Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs for other sandwiches.  I just hate paying for what I can make myself.  On the other hand, I am grateful that restaurants are starting to purchase store bought supplies so that they can easily offer vegan options.  I will gladly stop by whenever we are in the area and in the meantime, Eric pointed out that I can use their menu as inspiration for original vegan sandwiches at home!

Ike's Love & Sandwiches | A Vegan in Progress

On a side note, Randi’s mom is interested in making her diet a more plant-based one and she may read this -> Hi Pam!

Vegan at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Daly City, Bay Area

Nerd alert!   . . .   For many years, my family has been heavily involved in Renaissance Faires.  At one time or another we have all been participants, actors in shows, interacting with patrons in the streets, and just adding to the ambiance of the fair in our costumes.  It’s pretty common for fair participants to visit and sometimes participate in multiple fairs throughout the year.  For this reason, we tend to know a few people at any given fair in the state.  This is why we made plans to visit the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City, just south of San Francisco.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair as you may have guessed is a Dickens-era Christmas fair, set in the streets of London.  Not only are there everyday Londoner characters, but you will see many of Charles Dickens’ famous characters roaming the fair as well.  At one point, Eric and I popped into Fezziwig’s Dance Hall to watch some festive dancing and watched Ebenezer Scrooge wander in, wide-eyed, led by the Ghost of Christmas Past.  This was our first visit and our impression was that it was a very family-friendly fair.  We loved seeing little kids everywhere, dressed as chimney sweeps, covered in soot or roaming the streets with a telegraph message.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

As a vegan, when it comes to food at fairs I usually don’t expect more than a few snack options.  I planned ahead by having a full breakfast at the hotel (thanks Homewood Suites, for having soy milk and cereal as well as fruit and tea!) and smuggling in a bag of trail mix and some fruit.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a couple of perfectly yummy vegan options.

I got lunch from the Acropolis Greek Food booth (this is a familiar booth from other fairs) where they have a variety of Greek concoctions.  I ordered a falafel pita with tahini (made from sesame seeds) instead of tzatziki sauce (which is made with yogurt).  It was filling and tasted just how I expected it to taste.  They also offer dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), which are vegan.

Acropolis Falafel Pita, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Eric and I ran into a friend, working at the Bramosia Fine Chocolates & Candies booth.  After chatting for a while, I noticed a small sign in the display saying “Vegan Truffles.”  I exclaimed, “I can’t believe you guys have vegan truffles!”  He then told me that they use coconut milk for the truffles and they actually offer a few candies that fall into the vegan category.  When it comes to desserts, I’m a chocolate person, so I got a vegan chocolate truffle.  They also have a vegan coconut caramel cup and a vegan pear fruit candy as well.  I loved the truffle and went back for another before we left.

Bramosia booth, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Bramosia booth, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Bramosia vegan truffle, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

I didn’t get a chance to try the cinnamon crunch almonds found in multiple locations around the site, but my mom asked how they were made on a previous visit and confirmed that they are vegan.

Overall, I would recommend visiting the fair for a fun, if expensive, holiday activity.  It runs until December 22nd this year.  I read on the website that they heavily discount admission if you arrive after 4pm and I’m confident that you could see quite a lot between then and 7pm.  Now you know that there are some good, relatively affordable vegan options.  Make sure to get a vegan truffle!