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Vegan at Hugo’s Restaurant, Agoura Hills

I’m lucky enough to have this week off, so I visited my mom’s preschool this Wednesday for her cooking class.  She does a special, weekly cooking class focusing on whole foods, making treats that are all vegan.  Her students were very excited, open minded, and asked great questions.

After a nice visit and some pipe cleaner art, we went to Hugo’s Restaurant in Agoura Hills for lunch.  I checked out their website before our visit and noticed that they were owned by the same people who run Hugo’s Tacos, one of my favorite places, so I was really excited to try something different from them.

Hugo's Restaurant | A Vegan in Progress

What first struck me was how nice and clean their decor was.  There was an air of fanciness that wasn’t stuffy.  Their staff was also impressive.  Our waitress first asked us if we were vegan, vegetarian, etcetera, then showed us the symbols on our menu that indicated which items were vegan or could be made vegan, but meat options were available.  Just like their Hugo’s Tacos menu, most items could be made vegan.  What was most exciting, though, was the variety of dishes offered.  They have everything from pasta, sandwiches, wraps, salads, shepherd’s pie, to Indian food.

My mom, my sister Samantha, and I decided to eat sort of family style – and by that, I mean, eat off of each other’s plates.  We each ordered a different entree and got an appetizer to share.

To start, we got the Asian Spring Rolls, which are described on their menu as “Vietnamese style spring rolls filled with sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, kelp noodles and fresh herbs with a mild sesame-chili dipping sauce”.  They were fresh and tasty, although a little large.  My favorite part was the mouth-watering sesame-chili dipping sauce.  I could have eaten just that poured over broccoli and been very happy.

Asian Spring Rolls | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered Tikka Masala Plate because prior to becoming vegan, I loooooved Chicken Tikka Masala.  I absolutely love spicy Indian food and really wanted to try a vegan version.  For this entree, you get a choice of their American veggie patties or grilled organic tofu.  I chose the veggie patties.  They come covered with an Indian inspired sauce of tomato, onions and spices and are served with turmeric rice, steamed broccoli and cilantro-mint chutney.  It was a spot-on veganized Tikka Masala.  It wasn’t as spicy as I like, but most restaurants don’t make traditionally spicy dishes spicy enough because they try to please everyone.  It was a little heavy, but that’s probably because I ate too much since it was so good.

Tikka Masala | A Vegan in Progress

Probably my favorite element of the meal, though, was the sauce on my mom’s Pasta Victor.  This is a pasta dish with tofu, garlic, sun dried tomato, corn, chilies, cilantro, parmesan cheese and a light chipotle-cream sauce.  That cream sauce was incredible.  I would totally buy it by the jar if they offered it.  I would definitely order this for myself on another visit if I weren’t so excited to try everything on the menu one at a time.

Pasta Victor | A Vegan in Progress

Samantha ordered the Ginger-Tamari Salad with herb marinated organic grilled tofu cooked in a sauce of tamari, orange juice, mango chutney, ginger, garlic and scallions. Served atop finely sliced Napa cabbage and baby bok choy blended with slices of roasted sweet pineapple, julienne red peppers and yellow squash. Garnished with black sesame seeds and pickled ginger.  This salad was pretty much tailor-made for her.  She loves pickled ginger.  It tasted fresh and light and the tofu was a very nice, firm texture with a flavorful marinade.

Ginger-Tamari Salad | A Vegan in Progress

We were completely stuffed by the end of the meal, so we couldn’t try a dessert at the time.  However, I got one to go because I couldn’t resist.  I ordered the Brownie Tort, described on their website as “a wonderful chewy chocolate pecan brownie topped with a fudge frosting and a ripe strawberry. They are so full of whole ingredients we consider them a more nutritious food source than any ordinary dessert.”  Since I ordered it spur of the moment at the end of our meal, it took a while to get it.  Once the waitress brought it to the table, she kindly described how to warm it up at home.  Many hours later, once the food coma wore off, I warmed up the torte and tried it.  The slightly gooey top of the tort was delicious, although the rest was a bit dense and heavy.  The strawberry was a lovely touch, though, cut into the shape of a flower.

Brownie Tort | A Vegan in Progress

I am already looking forward to my next visit to Hugo’s Restaurant and highly recommend it for groups with mixed diets, since it can please everyone.  The only downside is the prices.  You are definitely getting what you pay for, but Hugo’s is too pricy to be a casual, common dining establishment.

Vegan at Falafel Palace, Northridge

Falafel Palace is a little Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant near Cal State Northridge.  I have driven past the place thousands of times over the years and sadly, never stopped in.  However, Eric and I were attending a comedy show on campus (Jo Koy, Natasha Leggero, and Josh Wolf) and arrived early and hungry, so we decided on Falafel Palace.  For those unfamiliar with falafels, they are very filling grilled or fried balls made of chickpeas, parsley, and spices.  I walked in knowing that Falafels and hummus are safe bets, but was thrilled to see a vegan section of the menu.  In fact, the restaurant was so vegan-friendly that they had labels on sauce containers identifying them as non-dairy.

Listed as vegan are the following items:

  • Falafel pita with lettuce, tomato, and tahini (sesame seed sauce)       $6.75
  • Chickpea wrap with falafel, tahini, avocado, lettuce, and tomato       $8.99
  • Garden burger with veggie patty, vegan mayo, lettuco, tomato, and grilled onions       $8.95
  • Vegetarian Gyro with falafel, hummus, tabouli, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and tzatziki       $7.25
  • Falafel Plate with salad, rice, 2 sides, and pita       $9.95
  • Homemade Baklava       $2.25
  • You can also get falafel balls and dolma as sides.

I ordered the chickpea wrap because I had never tried falafel with avocado before plus a small side of hummus and 2 pitas.

I loved the wrap.  It was fresh and warm and the avocado added a great creamy element to the falafel, which often can be heavy and dry.

The hummus was a little on the bland side and slightly thin, but the pita were so soft and warm.  We didn’t need the side, though because we were both full from our respective meals.

Falafel Palace, Northridge | A Vegan in Progress

We will definitely be back.  It’s even close enough to my office that I may be able to squeak in a visit for lunch.

Vegan at Disneyland – California Adventure’s Lucky Fortune Cookery

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, Sammi, decided to get an Annual Pass and came to Disneyland with us this weekend for her first visit in a long time.

We decided to go to Lucky Fortune Cookery in California Adventure this time, since I hadn’t yet had a chance to try it.  It’s in the Pacific Wharf area along with many other restaurants.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Exterior | A Vegan in Progress

They offer Asian rice bowls, each with steamed rice and seared Asian vegetables.  First you choose your protein, then you choose your sauce.  The fact that they offer both tofu and meat options makes this a good place to go with others that allows everyone to get what they want.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu board | A Vegan in Progress

Sammi is vegan too, so we agreed to order difference sauces so we could try both.  She ordered a tofu bowl with Spicy Korean sauce and I got a tofu bowl with Teriyaki sauce.  We realized later that we may have been able to ask them to substitute brown rice, since they offer it in their kid’s meals.

The Spicy Korean sauce was flavorful, but a little too spicy for my taste – and I usually like things spicy!  Sammi really liked it, she has a higher tolerance.

The Teriyaki sauce was just as flavorful with a little less heat, but still on the spicy side.  It was my preference.  I didn’t think it had quite enough sauce.  Sammi thought hers had enough sauce, but it could have been because it was so spicy that she appreciated a little plain rice in there to cool off her tongue.

Both of them came out piping hot and perfectly cooked.  The used silken tofu, which isn’t my favorite – I like it a little firmer.  We were given pretty good portions, but when compared to gumbo in an edible bread bowl, it seemed a little expensive.  It was originally $10.49, but after a Premium Annual Passport holder discount, it came to only $9.63 including tax.

I would eat here again to break up my habit of ordering Veggie Gumbo from Royal Street Veranda, which remains my favorite.  However, I did prefer this meal over the N’awlins Vegetable Ragout from Cafe Orleans, which is more expensive.

More reviews to come as I try different dishes around the parks!

Veggie Grill, Encino – Post 2

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

I love Veggie Grill because it’s like a better version of fast food, only vegan.  Everything is quick and it isn’t too expensive, and there are many yummy items from which to choose.

Occasionally, Eric and I met my sister Allison and her boyfriend Zack at the Veggie Grill in Encino.

Veggie Grill Encino | A Vegan in Progress

On one of our recent visits, I got the Buffalo Bomber sandwich (Crispy Chickin’ tossed with spicy Buffalo sauce, tomato, red onion, lettuce, creamy ranch dressing) with Sweetheart (sweet potato) fries.  I love buffalo sauce and I love chickin’ sandwiches, so this is a no brainer.  It’s delicious and so far, my favorite on the menu.

Allison ordered sort of the salad version of my meal, the B-Wing Salad (Buffalo Wings over chopped romaine, avocado, celery, roasted corn salsa, creamy ranch dressing), which she really enjoyed.

Veggie Grill B-Wing Salad | A Vegan in Progress

B-Wing Salad

On another visit, we started with an order of VG Rollers (Blackened Chickin’, cabbage and creamy Santa Fe spread, grilled taquito-style in flour tortillas, served with salsa, mashed avocado) which were aesthetically pleasing, but a little boring.  Allison loved them, though.

VG Rollers | A Vegan in Progress

VG Rollers

I tried the Bayou Chickin’ sandwich (Blackened Chickin’, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, spicy vegan mayo) with a side of Cauli-mashed Potatoes.  The sandwich was spicy and creamy with the avocado and the cauli-mashed potatoes were a great side.  They came with a little bit of vegan gravy on top.

Bayou Chickin’ sandwich | A Vegan in Progress

Bayou Chickin’ sandwich

Eric ordered the Grillin’ Chickin’ (Grilled Chickin’, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro pesto, chipotle ranch) with a side of chili.  He thought the sandwich was good, but the chili was terribly bland.  I have to agree on that point.

Grillin' Chickin' | A Vegan in Progress

Grillin’ Chickin’

I love Veggie Grill and their superb customer service.  I will definitely be back!

Vegan at The Brite Spot, Echo Park, Los Angeles – Post 2

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I have already talked about The Brite Spot, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about The Brite Spot.

The Brite Spot is a cute little diner in Echo Park that we pass all the time when visiting the in-laws.  This time, I ordered a bowl of vegan chili and vegan nachos.

When the chili first arrived, I was worried that it had beef in it because the imitation ground beef looked so much like the real thing.  I double checked with the waiter and he said it’s definitely vegan, they only make vegan chili, so you can rest assured that they haven’t mixed them up.  It was hearty and flavorful and not a bad deal at $5.50 for the cup.  It was pretty large.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I also ordered the vegan nachos wish their awesome soy chicken.  They were great, although a little dry.  I still don’t understand why they only have a lactose free, but not vegan cheese.  They need to get on that to improve their vegan dishes.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

The soy chicken was amazing, I couldn’t get enough.  It both looked and tasted a lot like chicken.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

We’ll definitely be back.  This would a great place to meet non-vegans for dinner so that you could have a satisfying vegan meal without making a big production out of it.

Vegan at Cafe 50’s, Santa Monica

Eric and I recently found ourselves at Cafe 50’s in Santa Monica after a morning of helping our friend Jessica prepare to move out of state.  It’s a cute little themed diner and, once upon a time, I loved their chocolate milkshakes.

Anyway, after looking at the menu and deciding that I didn’t want a mere salad, I ordered the Healthy Sandwich.  It usually comes with tomato, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, onions, fresh mushrooms, and Swiss cheese on toasted ten-grain whole wheat walnut and sunflower bread with a touch of mayonnaise.  I of course ordered it without the cheese or mushrooms and subbed mustard for the mayonnaise.  Here’s where I fail as a vegan, though.  I didn’t ask about the ingredients in the bread.  This sounds like a sorry excuse, but I really just didn’t feel like dealing with it that afternoon.  I realize now that a simple solution would have been to order it on sourdough bread, which is almost certainly vegan.  If there’s a next time, I will definitely remember that option.

Originally, it came without the avocado, which was the whole reason I was drawn to the sandwich in the first place, so I asked them to fix that.

It ended up being a filling sandwich and the fries were great.  I would rate the dish about a B minus.

Cafe 50's - Healthy Sandwich - veganized | A Vegan in Progress

Wheel of Life Restaurant, Irvine

Eric and I met up with some  of his family in Orange County a couple of weeks back.  I had Yelped ahead of time and suggested Wheel of Life Restaurant in Irvine.  Their menu is 100% vegan, which makes ordering completely stress-free.

Overall, I would rate it a B+.  The focus seemed to be on traditional Thai dishes that were veganized, with most dishes including some kind of meat replacement.

They serve family style, so we got to try a number of dishes.

First, we tried the Thai Spring Rolls and Golden Papi Wraps.  The spring rolls were pretty basic, but the Golden Papi Wraps were awesome.  They were like Thai Samosas.  They were my favorites of the evening and I would definitely order them again.  The only disappointing aspect was the serving size.  The pictures in the menu show just three spring rolls, but I figured we would get more in actuality.  No such luck.  Three measly spring rolls for $6.

Next, Orange “Chicken” and “Chicken” Fried Rice.  I never ate a lot of fried rice and I never really cared for orange chicken in my pre-vegan days, so I’m not a great judge of these dishes.  I thought they both tasted fine, but I wouldn’t order them again.  Eric really liked them, however.

Eric’s a big fan of Satay, so we got an order of that as well as an order of Pad Thai “Chicken.”  The Satay was pretty decent, texture-wise.  It was just a little spongy, but the outer texture was a little tougher.  The Pad Thai was very good.  It seems like that dish is always well done when veganized.

I also got an order of Cashew “Chicken,” which was very tasty, but not spicy enough for my liking.  Sorry for the blurry photo.

Wheel of Life - Cashew "Chicken" | A Vegan in Progress

Cashew “Chicken”

Eric loved the meal and wished that it were closer so we could frequent it.  However, I preferred VegiLicious in Huntington Beach and would choose to eat there if I were in the area.

Most importantly, it was nice visiting with family.  This is me and our youngest niece, Olivia.  She’s a smart little handful.

Little Miss Olivia

Little Miss Olivia

Vegan at Disneyland – Cafe Orleans, post 1

Eric and I just got Annual Passes to Disneyland again to celebrate his 30th birthday and my college graduation.  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.

Vegan at Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

It seems like it has been a really long time since we had passes.  We’re looking forward to making it a main source of entertainment for the next year.

Vegan at Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

Now population 650,000,002!

For lunch, of course, we beelined to the Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square for some long awaited Vegan Gumbo.  It didn’t disappoint.  I love that stuff.

For dinner, we decided to eat at an old pre-vegan favorite, Cafe Orleans.  We made reservations for sunset and requested a table outside so we could watch the park go from day to night over a nice meal.  Thanks to the blogs I linked to in a previous post about vegan options at Disneyland, I knew that there was an entree that could easily be made vegan.  I got the N’awlins Vegetable Ragout (no cheese, with the corn cakes on the side for Eric to try) for $15.49.

N'awlins Vegetable Ragout - Vegan at Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

The vegetable ragout (like a stew) included eggplant, red onions, bell peppers, squash, zucchini, and fresh garlic, with a tomato sauce.  The vegetables were cooked very well and the sauce was delicious, but the dish felt like it was lacking in substance.  Without the corn cakes to mop up some of the sauce, I was simply eating vegetables topped in sauce.  This dish would have been so much better on top of some pasta or accompanied by some sourdough rolls.  As it was, I would grade it a B level meal.

We also ordered the Pommes Frites ($5.99) to share.  They very nicely veganized the traditional French-fried potatoes with garlic and parsley by omitting the Parmesan cheese.  These tasted kind of boring… they were definitely lacking in the garlic department.

Vegan at Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

As a nice treat, the Cafe Orleans offers a Mickey shaped Beignet (a French pastry, similar to a puffy donut without glaze) for guests celebrating a birthday.  I always loved those pre-vegan days and enjoyed celebrating.

BEIGNET

I have to make one more note about the Cafe Orleans and probably all restaurants in Disneyland.  This has never happened to us before, but their water on this visit was nasty.  Eric’s water tasted soapy (probably a soapy glass) and mine had a *cue Psycho music here* brownish ice cube in it.  I’m not saying this is an ongoing problem, but I am saying that I will be ordering drinks without ice from here on out.  Gross.

Stay tuned for more Disneyland reviews.  We’ve already planned visits for the next two weekends!

Vegan at The Rabbit Hole Cafe, Agoura Hills – Post 2

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I have already talked about The Rabbit Hole Cafe, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about The Rabbit Hole Cafe.

On a previous visit to The Rabbit Hole Cafe, I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie and a Whoopie Pie.  This time I decided to try the Vegan Panini and Sweet Potato Fries.  The menu describes the panini as a layered sandwich of hummus, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and grilled eggplant pressed in Ciabatta bread.

Rabbit Hole Cafe Panini | A Vegan in Progress

It was very moist and flavorful and while the Shepherd’s Pie was good, the Panini was even better.

The Sweet Potato Fries were not overly sweet and went very well with ketchup.  I’m not one for Sweet Potato Fries, but I enjoyed theirs.

Rabbit Hole Cafe - Sweet Potato Fries | A Vegan in Progress

The Rabbit Hole Cafe has somewhat recently taken over the consignment store next door, making for a lot more seating.  It’s still as cute as ever and the staff is always very nice.  It’s a great place for Eric and I because we can both find food that we like.  We will definitely be back.

Vegan at Rustic Eatery in Valencia

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Eric was working for a while in the Valencia area and got to try out a few of their restaurants during that time.  I have never personally been to Rustic Eatery, but Eric picked up dinner for us on his way home one night.

Rustic Eatery has one of the simplest menus I have ever seen.  You pick your style, pick your protein, and pick your marinade.  We both had rice bowls with tofu and oven roasted vegetables.  I tried the grilled tofu with Sweet & Spicy Red Chile marinade while Eric got the fried tofu with Yakiniku Sweet Soy Sauce.

We aren’t likely to end up getting their food again, but it was tasty.  There was a good ratio of rice to vegetables to tofu and the spicy tofu was very spicy and flavorful.