Archive for the ‘Travel’

Springdale, Utah: A Vegetarian Oasis

November 17, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

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As a vegetarian, I often lower my culinary expectations when traveling because sometimes I’m faced with pretty limited options.  I was pleasantly surprised when we reached Springdale, Utah. A small town right outside of the Zion National Park gates.

Springdale is about three hours outside of Las Vegas Funny enough, I discovered the vegetarian options even before we set foot into a restaurant. In our room at the Cable Mountain Lodge was a Zion Canyon Visitors and Menu guide so I was able to check out all the options from the comfort of our couch. Just from perusing that guide, I deemed Springdale a “vegetarian oasis.”

On the same property as our lodge was the Sol Foods Restaurant with vegetable wraps, mezza platters and a salad bar of which they boast is the “largest and freshest in town.” Right across the parking lot was Thai Sapa which marked over fifteen items on its menu as vegetarian. They state that their “eclectic menu features dishes from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, and Springdale.”  Meanwhile, the Whiptail Gourmet Grill features a sesame encrusted tofu while the Zion Pizza and Noodle Company has a vegetable calzone.

During our stay, we ate at two of the restaurants in the menu guide. Our first stop was the Pioneer Restaurant.

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We arrived at around 4:45, before the dinner rush, apparently. We couldn’t quite help it because we were still on East Coast time and were starving.

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This café/diner had six vegetarian options on its menu including a veggie burger (with all the trimmings), a double veggie burger, veggie lasagna, grilled veggie sandwich and a cold vegetable sandwich. Order a 16 ounce beer, and you’ll be served in a strong arm mug. If you’re not so adventurous, order a 10oz beer and it will be served in a boot.

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The enchilada came to the table piping hot served atop a bed of rice. I remarked that it tasted slightly like an Amy’s brand enchilada, but it didn’t really look like it. It’s a hearty option after a long day’s hike. It doesn’t have a lot of “zip” to it, so be sure to take the server up on her offer for Tabasco sauce.

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The wild mushroom ravioli is another hearty option. It came to the table a little undercooked and the mushroom stuffing could have used an additional ingredient that I couldn’t put my finger on – either basil or just a bit more salt. So, I wouldn’t describe it as “amazing” like the menu did but it was pretty tasty.

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Later on in the week, we ate at the Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon, a Mexican restaurant and cantina, which had at least five items on its menu that are vegetarian. This restaurant had a great casual atmosphere which served up  some great margaritas and guacamole. They have a seasonal menu and house favorites available all year long.

The mushroom stuffed poblano was filled with sautéed mushrooms and goat cheese and served over a smoked cheddar sauce. (The original version also has toasted walnuts but they were kind enough to leave them out due to a walnut allergy.) The beautiful field green salad served alongside the poblano had a zesty balsamic vinegar dressing and was refreshing after a long day of hiking.

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The butternut squash cannelloni, had a blend of spinach, shallots, goat cheese atop a flavorful heirloom tomato sauce. This dish was also served with the same leafy salad served with the poblano.

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The chile relleno was stuffed with jack cheese and served with black beans, rice and salad. When asked how it tasted, my friend noted that it was really good but “her homemade version was better.” She explained that it’s because she separates the eggs then whips the whites separately from the yolks before coating the chile and frying them. (I’ll have to get her recipe.) Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad.

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Springdale, Utah was a huge surprise for me. Even the local grocery store had a lot of vegetarian provisions available which certainly helped after completing some challenging hikes like the one’s we did!

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Pioneer Restaurant
838 Zion Park Blvd.
Springdale, UT

Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon
1212 Zion Park Boulevard
Springdale, UT

A Vegetarian Down Under: Fresh Espresso and Food Bar, Katoomba, Australia

August 23, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

Rarely do I encounter a veggie burger that makes me want to cry because it’s so good. Ok, well, perhaps I should say that never have I encountered such a burger, until now. In the small town of Katoomba, Australia in the Blue Mountains, is the Fresh Espresso and Food Bar – the location of the best veggie burger that was so phenomenal that I wish I could have exported them back to the United States.

Don’t let this small cafe fool you, they have a pretty extensive menu filled with fresh and organic ingredients. (I know they are fresh because the produce guy brought in box after box of great stuff while we ate.) The place gets a bit crowded which is indicative of how good their food, and coffee, is.

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The veggie burger on the menu was described as roasted vegetables, chickpeas and semi-dried tomato burger served with fresh tomato. I have no idea what secret ingredient they put in the burger was but it made it so moist and delicious.  As a vegetarian, I was most pleased to have accidentally discovered this cafe after a day of driving.

A Vegetarian Down Under: Fresh Espresso and Food Bar,

A Vegetarian Down Under: Fresh Espresso and Food Bar,

We also ordered the linguini with garlic mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil, marinated feta, roast capsicum (red peppers), English spinach and pine nuts. Of course, it couldn’t hold a candle to the great veggie burger I was eating, but it still held it’s own for a great bowl of pasta.

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The meal was washed down with a home made lemonade made with sparkling fizzy water, fresh lemons and fresh mint. It was really refreshing on quite warm winter’s day.

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The menu also featured a salad baby beets, roast pumpkin, English spinach, avocado, goats cheese, roast cherry tomatoes and pine nuts with sweet balsamic reduction. I’m sure you couldn’t go wrong ordering that either.

On your way to a hike through the Blue Mountains, I highly recommend stopping by Fresh Espresso and Food Bar to fuel up. And, seriously, order the veggie burger – you won’t regret it.

Fresh Espresso and Food Bar
Shop 5, 181 Katoomba Street,
Katoomba NSW

A Vegetarian Down Under: Vegetarian Options in Sydney, Australia

August 21, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

Going “Down Under” does not mean that a vegetarian has to starve. In fact, there is a wealth of options for us that don’t go for rumps, ribs, roasts or roos.

In the United States, my typical experience with restaurants is that there is usually a little tiny “vegetarian” section on the menu. Or, even worse, listed in tiny print under the burger section is the option to get a veggie patty substitute (which invariably is some frozen hockey puck). It’s more often than not that restaurateurs in the US seem to just sigh, shrug their shoulders, and just throw in one option to appease us non-meat eaters.

In Sydney, however, vegetarian options were sprinkled all over the menus and, lo and behold, these options were thoughtful and creative. The wealth of local organic vegetables must inspire chefs to develop these great vegetarian dishes.  When I perused menus there wasn’t just one veggie burger option but two, three and sometimes even more, in the burger section. Was I in heaven?

I had a chance to check out some of great places around Sydney that I stumbled upon just wandering around the city.

Iku Whole Foods
Multiple Locations in Sydney
Map of location visited

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The Iko Whole Foods we went to was in a large food court at the bottom of a downtown office building. The really extensive menu featured wraps, soups, casseroles, tarts, pies and more. All of it vegetarian or vegan. All organic.

My black bean curry was served steaming hot with brown rice. The curry included zucchini, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes and tofu in a really fresh and tasty sauce.

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The minestrone with pasta soup was hearty, filling and delicious. How often do you get this type of good food in a food court?

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(Note: There were several other stalls in the food court that had great vegetarian choices including Sumo Salad. I had a couple of the toasted wraps from there and they were quite good.)

Bodhi Restaurant+Bar
Cook & Phillip Park (between pool and cathedral on lower mezzanine)
Map

On a walk to the Manly Ferry, we stumbled across a vegan oasis in the middle of the city.  What a great way to start the day! Bodhi is located in a very relaxed and scenic part of the city in the Cook & Philip Park between a pool and St. Mary’s cathedral. There is ample outside seating which provided us with front row seats to watch all the early morning swim class attendees march by with their parents.

The breakfast menu includes a variety of yum cha (dim sum) to choose from. My steamed dumplings included a sticky rice, sweet potato and spinach. It was a unique and satisfying breakfast. Not sure what the crowds at lunch or dinner look like, but we spent a nice quiet time eating and planning our day at Bodhi.

Moo Gourmet Burgers
Bondi Beach
70A Campbell Parade
Map

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not personally experience Moo Gourmet Burgers, but someone that went there gave me rave reviews after he ate there.  Apparently, he was one happy vegetarian after eating a red kidney bean burger and even happier after washing it down with a nice Aussie beer.

The Moo Gourmet Burger has three vegetarian burgers which include:

  • Chickpea burger – Chickpea & couscous patty, Swiss cheese, baby spinach, tomato, home‐made mayonnaise & tomato relish
  • Red kidney bean burger – Spicy red kidney bean patty, mixed leaf lettuce, tomato, home‐made mayonnaise & tomato relish
  • Falafal burger – Falafel, hummus, cucumber yogurt & chili jam& tomato juice

You can top off your veggie burger with extra toppings such as pineapple, avocado, mozzarella cheese, Swiss cheese, aged cheddar, sweet potato, tomato, beetroot. (I discovered on this trip my love of beetroot on a veggie burger. The earthiness of the beets is something that is quite good.)

Peace Harmony Vegie House
29 King Street
Sydney

Take out spot – 29 King Street
Restaurant – 44 Erskine Street

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This vegan Thai restaurant was right around the corner from our hotel and only steps from Darling Harbor. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to check out the food, but just by looking at the menu, I knew it would not let anyone go away hungry or disappointed. The chef specials included BBQ soy chicken, mushroom steak, soy fish and soy nuggets in plum sauce. They also had several thai salads with veggie lamb, beef or duck. There are also 15 stir fries, 6 curries, and 7 noodle dishes to choose from. Just a heads up, if you’re not specifically looking for this take out spot you may end up just walking by it.

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Looking for fancier fare? Check out my review of Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant. Well worth a visit if you’re in Sydney.

By the way, if you’re looking for a specific type of restaurant or location, check out Veggie Friendly for a quite extensive review of vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants around Sydney.

A Vegetarian Down Under: Review of Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

August 19, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney did not disappoint…I think. I say that because we were quite jetlagged during our dinner that we were hoping that there wouldn’t be a full plate of food in front of us when our heads hit the table in exhaustion. A 14 hour time difference hit us hard and hit us right during this meal.  That said, we were glad that we fought through the tiredness as this meal was really quite good.

Harvest Vegetarian is located in the Rozelle area of Sydney and off the beaten tourist path so we ended up taking a quick cab ride from Darling Harbor. When you approach the restaurant, it seems like you’re in the wrong place to find a restaurant because the area looks a bit residential.

We were the first to arrive in the restaurant so it was a little quiet at the beginning of the meal. But by 7:00 the place was filled with several couples and larger groups. It’s an intimate setting so it was easy to overhear all conversations in the place, but, trust me, that helped to drown out some of the really strange music coming over the speakers. Apparently, this restaurant can get a bit crowded so, it’s probably best to call for reservations if you’re not planning to get there right when it opens.

As with many vegetarian restaurants, it was hard to decide which entree to get. The menu was pretty extensive and included a harvest curry, a nutty cheese and leek tart, soba noodle stir fry, and a savory mushroom pancake stack. There was a wide variety of flavors and dishes to get from all around the globe. Our server was very polite and even informed us that the main dishes would take a little bit to cook as everything is made from scratch. We took that opportunity to order the twice baked goat cheese soufle as a starter. I’m glad we did because it was a great way to start the meal. The souffle was a delicate cloud bursting with goat cheese flavor. (The room is brightly painted but the lighting is dark – that’s why most the photos came out a bit blurry as my camera was working on mostly candlelight.)

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

The zucchini boats served on a bed of English spinach were the highlight of the meal. The stuffing inside the zucchini was pureed and smooth. The stuffing was unique because it included a slight hint of lemon which freshened the taste of the dish.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

The English spinach and kamara gnocchi were quite large and dense. The menu explained that sweet potatoes made the base of the gnocchi so that added a unique twist to the dish. They were more like large dumplings, and I really prefer my gnocchi to be smaller and lighter.  There is a choice of either a lemon and garlic cream sauce or a roasted tomato sauce. The roasted tomato sauce was hearty and was really what made the gnocchi taste delicious.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

My arm was twisted into getting desert even though my thoughts were more towards getting to bed, but I’m glad I acquiesced. I had the white and dark chocolate truffles and they were heavenly and decadent.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

With full and happy stomachs, we were ready to head back to our hotel. Our server gladly called us a cab which arrived a few short minutes later.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant is one of the few fully vegetarian restaurants in the Sydney area that featured more than just Asian dishes and it’s worth a trip over to Rozelle. Just be sure that you have conquered your jet lag and you’ll have an even better time.

It turns out that this restaurant has been around for many years, but it does not seem to have its own website. It’s a shame, because the place has great character and an interesting menu and their own website will allow them to  share their vision of the restaurant in their own words.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant
71 Evans St
Rozelle NSW 2039
Phone (02) 9818 4201

harvest vegetarian restaurant - outside

(Due to the aforementioned jet lag, I completely forgot to take a picture of the outside of the restaurant. The exterior shot was actually taken by Scotticus_ via flickr)


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