Veg Restaurant

The Other Munch

Two restaurants named Munch in one month.

Wednesday was my birthday and I had a big day planned. I squeezed in a short treadmill run before heading over to Akasha Yoga in Crystal Lake for a massage with Jessica at Wild Roots Yoga & Bodyworks. The hour long Thai yoga massage was just what my tight hips needed. After the massage, I headed down to Oak Park to grab lunch and do some shopping. The vegetarian (mostly vegan, but some dairy cheese is offered) restaurant Munch is much better than the Woodstock restaurant of the same name. This was my second time to Munch and the food is decent. It’s no Chicago Diner or Native Foods, but they don’t try to serve you kalamata olives with Thai dressing. I ordered the “Beefy” Tostada Plate with vegan cheese. The “chorizo” seitan was tasty. The salsa was the wrong texture for me – too chunky, but it was fine without the salsa.

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The best thing about Vegetarian Munch is that it serves Temptation ice cream, which means milkshakes! I got the cookie dough shake to go and headed over to Amour de la Terre.

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Amour de la Terre is Chicago’s new vegan shoe store. They had a bunch of great brands, including a new one I had not heard of, Coral 8. Unfortunately, Coral 8’s shoes run a tad big, which is a problem when you wear a size 6, the smallest size they make. I had to say no to these beautiful driving moccasins but I did get some sparkly pumps, which at least have a t-strap to secure them.

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The shoes are not only vegan, but eco-friendly, too. No cheap plastic shoes a la Payless here. The owners are super nice and I am so happy that Chicago has something like this.

They also have a small selection of kids shoes. E and Little H have gone 11 months without wearing shoes, but Little H is almost walking and winter is coming, so it’s time to buy them some shoes. However, the one time I did buy them shoes, they were too small, so the twins need to be with me to try some on. Of course, that means another trip to Oak Park for more milkshakes and shoe shopping!

Vegan Adventure Califonia Part 2

After our sugar overdose, we got on the road towards Mendocino. Some road work and congestion around Santa Rosa made it a tad longer than it should have been. It was a lovely drive through forests and rolling fields of vineyards. We checked in to Stanford Inn by the Sea around 6. H started a fire and we split a chocolate chip cookie, because we certainly had not had enough sugar that day.

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Our first meal at Ravens’ restaurant was on ethnic night. H ordered the special Japanese meal and I got a mushroom sandwich. This was my least favorite meal at Ravens’. The teriyaki was good, but nothing special; same with the sushi. My sandwich, both the bread and the mushrooms were a little dry. The best part of the meal was the roasted potatoes. Still in a sugar shock from Cinnaholic, we skipped dessert.

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The next day we woke up fairly early, as we were still adjusting to California time. At 9:30, we headed over to Ravens’ for breakfast. Breakfast is included in the price of the room, including an entree, coffee and juice. The fresh-squeezed orange juice was delicious. Everything on the menu sounded good and I had a hard time deciding what to order. I settled on the Stanford Inn Florentine with tempeh. H ordered the portabella Benedict. The hollandaise sauce on both dishes was phenomenal. Pre-vegan, I never really liked hollandaise, but I could have licked the plate to get the last drop of this sauce. The sweet potato hash was a good complement.

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I went to a gentle yoga class after breakfast. It was me, a newly wed couple who checked into the Stanford Inn because they were unprepared for the chilly weather during their camping honeymoon, and about 15 elderly people. The average age in the room was about 80. This was a very gentle yoga class using a chair for much of it, but it was just what I needed after a 4 1/2 hour flight and a 4 hour car trip.

Continuing the relaxation, H and I went to our scheduled massages at 1:00. It was 90 minutes of pure bliss. Robin, my masseuse, really went at my back, which has been in pain for several weeks. After massages, we walked around the resort to see the water, llamas and gardens.

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At 4:00, we headed over to the main building for tea, another free treat for Inn guests. The dessert of the day was a plum tart, which went well with my fruity cup of hot tea. H took advantage of half-price cocktails with a Bombay martini.

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For Thursday dinner, we split a Caesar salad with grilled tofu. The croutons weren’t that great, but the tofu and dressing were fabulous. H had Xxx entree and I had the ravioli. It was 4 large raviolis, which was not what I expected, but I’m use to the frozen bags of ravioli you can get at whole foods. This was clearly made from scratch and filled with nutty cheese deliciousness. We finished the meal with a banana split and creme brûlée.

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Friday morning I woke up early and drank a cup of coffee on the balcony while reading Vegan Health and Fitness. At 8:00, H and I went to a much more strenuous yoga class. The yoga room at Stanford Inn is a lovely space. There are forest views and from one corner or the room you can see the llamas. I had never done yoga with llamas watching.

Our last meal at Ravens’ did not disappoint. H loved the portabella Benedict so much, he ordered it again. I had the cinnamon swirl French toast. Not knowing what our lunch options would be, I also got a strawberry scone to go with the last in room chocolate chip cookie.

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Vegan Adventure California – Part 1

Not that I would describe the flights H and I have been on as easy but I can only imagine how hard it will be flying with twins. Our last child-free escape was to California for a vegan adventure. After what happened on our last flight from O’Hare (we missed our flight due to a short, but ridiculously slow moving security line and United closing the gate early), we got to the airport two hours before our scheduled departure time. We breezed through a security line three times as long as the June flight only to find out that our flight was delayed. And then delayed again. And again. We got into San Francisco about 2 hours later than planned, picked up our rental car and checked into a nearby hotel after midnight.

After a leisurely morning at the hotel (Aloft sells soy milk!), we headed out to Berkeley for lunch and cinnamon rolls. We ate at Cafe Gratitude, where we split the I am Magical (black bean burger) and Yo so Bueno (black bean tacos). Both dishes were very good.

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For dessert, we walked over to Cinnaholic and had two amazing cinnamon rolls. H ordered the oreo explosion, but they gave him a s’mores instead: frosting, chocolate chips, crushed animal crackers and Dandies marshmallows. I got the chocolate chip cookie dough roll: frosting, chocolate chips and a mound of cookie dough. I probably gave myself gestational diabetes from eating it, but it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life.

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DC Wrap Up

My trip to DC included many delicious meals: Cafe Asia for veggie sushi combo, Rasika for delicious, upscale Indian food, Busboys & Poets for brunch, Sticky Rice for creative vegan sushi rolls, Farmers, Fishers & Bakers for meatloaf & mashed potatoes, quick meals at Teaism and Sticky Fingers, and hot pot at Mala Tang.

Despite not eating fish, sushi is one of my favorite meals. In McHenry County though, sushi consists of avocado rolls, cucumber rolls, and asparagus rolls, or you can get an AAC, which is an avocado, asparagus and cucumber roll. (In all fairness, there is one restaurant with egg-free tempura rolls). Sticky Rice takes vegan sushi to a whole new level.

We started out with a bucket of tater tots. Yes, the entire bucket is full of tater tots. A dipping sauce with Vegenaise was also included. It’s the first time I’ve eaten tater tots with chopsticks.

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I ordered the Santa Fe (Tempura fried sweet potato with agave, jalapeno and sesame seeds) and the Hot Hippy (Spicy marinated tofu with scallions, peanuts, cucumbers and carrots). Both were good, but I really enjoyed the sweet potato and jalapeno combo.

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For desert, I had some mango sorbet. It was good, but hard to eat with the spoon.

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Busboys & Poets
One of my favorite spots in DC to hang out was the U Street Busboys & Poets. They have expanded and for Sunday brunch we checked out the Shirlington location. There was a decent wait. We killed the time at the bar with some fresh-squeezed orange juice.

There are many vegan options on the menu. I settled on the vegan egg wrap (tortilla wrapped tofu scramble with mixed veggies, vegan bacon and vegan cheese; served with home fries) and a Blueberry Rooibos.

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Le Pain Quotidien

H had a conference on Monday and Tuesday, so I was on my own. On Monday I headed down to Alexandria for lunch and shopping. Le Pain Quotidien is a chain restaurant with a large number of vegan dishes, which it clearly marks on its menu. I ordered the Sweet Pea Hummus Tartine (an open-faced sandwich with sweet pea hummus, organic carrots, spring peas, radish and smoked tea vinaigrette) and a cup of tea. I sat at the large communal table.

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From the bakery, I ordered an apple cannelé. I’ve never had a cannelé before, so I can’t say whether this was a good one or not. It was rather dense and not very sweet. I could only eat half, but I took the other half for a morning snack on Tuesday.

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After lunch, I walked down to the art galleries and water.

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On my walk back to the metro I stopped at a toy store to buy a gift for my friend’s baby and a second-hand store where I bought a flowy floral Tracy Reese shirt and a Valentino jersey skirt.

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Archives and Teaism

On Tuesday, I planned on going to Teaism and the National Gallery of Art. But once I got to the Penn Quarter Teaism I decided to go to the National Archives. I’ve been to the art gallery more times than I can count, but I had never been to the Archives. At Teaism I had the Irish oatmeal without milk and a berry tisane.

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Archives was a fun museum. Although, the room with the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights is so disorganized.It’s a good think we made a copy, because the documents are very faded.

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Sticky Fingers & Columbia Heights
After the Archives, I headed up to my old neighborhood for lunch at Sticky Fingers. I had the tempeh Reuben and a vanilla cupcake.

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Mala Tang
Last, but not least, we stopped at Mala Tang for hot pot on our way to the airport. I liked Mala Tang, because they do individual pots, so I can order my own special vegetarian broth. I got the spicy broth with the American vegetable combination (potatoes, broccoli and mushrooms) and dried bean curd. We also ordered some vegetable baozi, which I thought wasn’t very flavorful on its own, but much better with a spicy dipping sauce.

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Chowpatti

I have been wanting to try Chowpatti vegetarian restaurant for years. H and I finally made it over there. Maybe the build up was too much, but I was a bit underwhelmed. It was tasty enough and it satisfied my craving for Indian without the heaviness that the Schaumburg Indian restaurants offer. It took me forever to decide what to order; the menu is enormous. I finally settled on the combination platter: Aloo Mutter, Chole Channa, Tardka Dal, Paratha and Steamed Vegetable Biryani. You aren’t allowed to change the spiciness level on the combo platter, so I ordered some spicy chutney on the side for a little kick.

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This mango drink, not impressive. It tasted like mango-flavored sugar water; that’s probably what it was.

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Chicago Diner – Logan Square

Chicago Diner opened a new location in Logan Square, which is much easier for us to get to than the original location. We tried it out yesterday during a little day trip to the big city. It has a slightly more upscale feel, except for the servers, which have the same hipster look as the Halsted restaurant.

H had the Reuben with a side of Mac & Teese

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I had Gyros with Sweet Potato Fries

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You cannot go to Chicago Diner without ordering a milkshake. Chicago Vegan Food’s Temptation ice cream is incredible. We shared a Devil’s Food Cake Milkshake: Chocolate ice cream and cake crumbs, ganache sauce, vegan Dandies Marshmallows & whipped cræam. So good!

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It was a Chicago Vegan Foods kind of day. After Mac & Teese, and a Temptation milkshake, we went to the Farewell to Winter Hot Chocolate Party, hosted by Chicago Vegan Foods with proceeds going to Mercy for Animals. We drank vegan hot chocolate with Dandies marshmallows and it was delicious. There was a table full of vegan treats, including Eat Pastry cookies and rice krispies treats. My only complaint is that winter is still here even though we said good-bye yesterday. She is definitely outstaying her welcome.

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Eat Pastry cookie dough is incredible. In fact, it’s so good that I’ve never eaten an Eat Pastry cookie until last night; I just ate the dough from the container. I had the peanut butter chocolate chip and that ended a fun and sugar-filled day.

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Pig Minds Brewing

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A few weeks ago, my neighbor told me that she heard there was a vegan restaurant in Rockford, but she didn’t know the name. I was skeptical, especially when I googled “vegan restaurant Rockford” and got a hit for a “vegan/vegetarian” sushi restaurant that also serves seafood…and steak. I didn’t believe her because how could a vegan restaurant survive in Northern Illinois? But it’s real and its existence gives me hope for humanity.  H and I finally got a chance to try Pig Minds Brewing last night.

We tried some of their beers, of course. H had the Blue Collar (I think); I had the Southy Bitch Slap. I’m not a beer connoisseur, but they were good.

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I was starving (saving all my calories for vegan pub food), so we started with stuffed mushrooms and hot seitanic wings. Both were delicious. The wings were spicy and the mushrooms were garlicky. 20120908-195906.jpg

For our entrees, I ordered the The Greek (a gyro with thin sliced seitan, cucumber sauce, onion and tomato served on a warm pita sweet) with sweet potato fries and H had the Rueben Kincaid (a Seitan Rueben served on marble rye with sauerkraut, 1000 Island and Italian style cheese) with freedom fries.  I got some wasabi cream sauce for the sweet potato fries, which was a great combination.
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Overall, I give it a B. The appetizers and fries were the best part of the meal. It’s hard not to compare it to Chicago Diner and Native Foods. Chicago Diner has an incredible gyro and this one doesn’t even come close to that high standard. The wings were tasty, but more seitan-y than Native Foods, which has wings with a more chicken-y texture. We will definitely be back. It’s a bit of a trek, but it makes me so happy that something like this is in Northern Illinois. I’m sure it’s hard for them to deal with the ignorance of  local meat eaters (I advise against reading the comments on their Facebook page. And vegans are the annoying ones?), but I wish them the best!

Labor Day Weekend in Milwaukee

Our former neighbors had their wedding reception in Milwaukee last weekend.  We went up on Friday night, grabbed a drink at the hotel (the Yard at the Iron Horse Hotel, great cocktails) and made it an early night. I had to run 20 miles the Saturday morning.  When we checked in, a package from Rent the Runway was waiting for me with two beautiful designer dresses from Moschino and Versace Collection.

I had a great run Saturday morning along the lake and up on top of a hill covered withbeautiful houses and parks.  After the run, H and I walked over to Verduras Tea House, a vegetarian cafe with vegan options. I ordered the Italian sandwich and a refreshing Rosewater Lemonade.

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We met up with our friends at Alterra and grabbed a latte, heart-shaped foam art in honor of the wedding.  We went to the location by the lake. It has a great coffee shop vibe, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to hang out there very long.

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The reception started at 7:00 and I wore this amazing Moschino dress.  Rent the Runway is a great resource if you have a habit of buying fancy dresses that you only wear once. It’s hard to sift through the silk dresses, but there are plenty of vegan-friendly dresses on the site. This one was listed as silk on the Rent the Runway website, but it didn’t feel very silky and the Moschino website doesn’t say it’s silk (it’s also on sale on the Moschino website if you want to buy this gorgeous dress at the bargain price of $1,158).

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Scary eyes!

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The lovely bride and groom

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The girls, post-reception.

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There wasn’t much for me to eat at the reception, which was kind of a problem after running 20 miles that morning. Fortunately, the hotel offers a tofu scramble for breakfast, which is just what I needed Sunday morning.

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For lunch, we went to Classic Slice, where we went after the Milwaukee marathon. I ordered the Anne Curry. It was good, maybe not as good as the pizza I had last time, but it was different and a little spicy. And look- they even have nutritional yeast to sprinkle on your pizza!

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My Day in Cambridge

Fortunately, doctors have continuing medical education requirements and many of them in fun cities. H is attending one in Boston, so I tagged along. I had a great run by the Charles River and then met H for lunch. We went to Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, which is what I wish the Olympic in Crystal Lake was. It’s 100% vegetarian and very vegan friendly. I ordered The Club sandwich: tofu, tempeh bacon, pesto, mayo and tomatoes on rye.

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I was so full after the huge meal, but I had to try something from the vegan bakery.

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I went with the Boston Creme Pie (to go).

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I spent the afternoon wandering around Cambridge. There is a vegan shoe store, Sudo, so obviously I had to check it out. You can find cheap shoes in the burbs that happen to be vegan, but there is no place like this. It was fun to see and touch the shoes I’ve Pinned. I bought a pair of Beyond Skin nude suede pumps. I walked from Porter Square to Harvard Square and stopped at Crema Cafe for a watermelon limeade, and Mint Julep, which sounds like a name for a boutique in Savannah, not Cambridge. Mint Julep has lots of cute dresses. I found a fun zigzag dress to wear Saturday night (and a wedding next weekend). It matches my new shoes.

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Valentine’s Day at Expressly Leslie

I have been terribly sick since last Friday with some kind of sinus infection, but after three days of antibiotics, the majority of my remaining ailments are the medication’s side effects (which, honestly, are just as bad as being sick). I have two more days of this nonsense. But fortunately, I felt well enough to enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner with H at the best restaurant in Woodstock, Expressly Leslie.  The only thing that could have made this night better was the bottle of champagne that we had to leave at home because I was still taking antibiotics.

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It started with a buffet of delicious dips and pita bread.

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I tried to get all the vegan dishes, but they didn’t fit on my plate. The spicy potatoes and Muhammara were my favorite dishes.

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The lentil soup was also very good.

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My favorites from the entree were the savory kunafa and the veggie kebab.

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And what is Valentine’s Day without dessert. The oranges and syrup were good and that thing behind the carrot cake was surprisingly delicious, but my favorite was the truffle. I love their vegan truffles!

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