Monday, April 30, 2012

Wild Boar Sausage

A friend recently shot a wild boar in Central California 
and gave me several packages of sausage from it. 
I previously cooked a wild boar roast which I purchased commercially and it did not turn out well, so I was anxious to try it. At least I knew this was fresh. 
He had some red pepper added to some of the sausage and it was labeled "hot." I got a little of both kinds. For my first batch I cut up some potatoes, whole cloves of garlic, onions, carrots and small yellow, red and orange peppers and fried them in olive oil, 
then added the wild boar sausage and a liberal amount of cayenne pepper as the vegetables softened up in the pan. 
I was blown away by how good it tasted. It was some of the best meat I've ever had. 
The cayenne pepper added a little heat, the meat was a little sweet and the garlic was particularly good in the mix, but all of the vegetables took on the nice sausage flavor. My friend had recommended putting country sausage gravy on it, using a packet from the supermarket. So, for my next batch, I used sausage gravy. 
I used a similar vegetable assortment to fry up before adding the sausage, then put on some of the thick gravy. I enjoyed the gravy, but it hid some of the wonderful sausage taste and I ended up eating most of it without the gravy. 
The first two batches turned out so well, that I invited my friend up for Sunday evening dinner to try some, as well as our local missionaries. To extend it, I put in substantially more vegetables, including a whole eggplant, a bulb and its stalks of fennel, as well as the other similar vegetables. 
When Andrew had tried part of one of my earlier batches, he added some raw kale to it and it was a very nice addition. So after cooking up the mixture 
and putting it in a serving dish, I added in quite a bit of kale and stirred it up so that the kale would wilt a little bit and pick up some of the sausage taste. The result was awesome. 
Even with substantially more vegetables, the sausage flavor came through and infused its wonderful taste throughout the whole dish. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bright Star Thai Vegan: Rancho Cucamonga

For my birthday, with my restricted vegan diet, we decided to eat at Bright Star Thai Vegan located at 9819 Foothill Blvd, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730 (909-980-9797). 
I got the Bright Star Soup which contains wonton, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, baby bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, napa cabbage, baby corn, celery, onions and tofu. 
It was very, very good. The vegetables were a nice medium between soft and crisp, still containing some body. The vegetable broth had some flavor, but was not overly salty, and the wontons were nice and soft and contained a filling of mixed vegetables. The soup, by itself, would make a great lunch and I would like to go back and get it again. The Thai Yellow Curry contained coconut milk, which ordinarily is not on my strict diet, and I know why, because it is so wonderfully sweet and smooth, something that good can't be good for you. It also contained large pieces of potato that I cut up into smaller pieces and peas and carrots that I've not normally found in yellow curries. 
I really liked them as an addition. I had a few pieces of the tofu, which was okay, but next time I'll probably try the soy chicken, pork or beef. I left most of the tofu, but ate all of the vegetables and coconut milk. I had steamed brown rice on the side and ate it all, covered with the sweet curry. Yum. Between the soup and curry, I was stuffed. I got my curry ala carte, but Judy got her Thai Green Curry as part of a dinner special, that also included a spring roll, salad, fried brown rice and miso soup. 
The green curry had bamboo shoots, bell pepper and basil leaf and was good, but not as good as my yellow curry. I also got more of the curry itself, ala carte, than she got as part of the dinner special. We liked it very much as a vegan option and will go back.

As of this update, on October 20, 2012, I've been back to Bright Star Thai Vegan an additional five or six times. It is my favorite vegan restaurant in San Bernardino County and I think has the best curry I've had anywhere. It is a little sweeter than other curries I've had. I particularly like the yellow curry, but with extra vegetables instead of tofu. I recently tried the pineapple curry with extra vegetables,
pineapple curry
instead of tofu, and it was sweet, with a nice bite to it. I always have the curry and I always get the Bright Star soup which is absolutely delicious. I've been with others who have ordered other things, and so far nothing is going to break me away from my traditional order. I've had the steamed dumplings 
steamed dumplings with mixed vegetables
which are stuffed with vegetables and they are basically the same dumpling that is in the Bright Star soup, so get the soup. The coconut palm juice
is syrupy and sweet and I like it a lot as well. I've tried both the carrot cake and coconut cake. 
coconut cake
Both are just okay, the coconut a little better, but not something I'd get again. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sage's Cafe - Vegetarian Organic: Salt Lake City

After our recent trip to Texas where I ate so much barbecue, I was not feeling well. Even after we got home and several weeks went by, I just couldn't seem to shake it. Judy and I watched "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead," about an Australian man who went on a 60 day juice diet. I was so inspired I went out the next morning and bought a juicer and began a juicing diet that I followed for nine days. I lost about 12 pounds and felt much better. I introduced some avocados into my diet for several days, the only solids I'd had in eleven days, and then went out to a French restaurant for Judy's birthday dinner where I had a normal and very wonderful meal. Then I had to travel to Salt Lake for my cousin's funeral. On the flight up I started to read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., a book mentioned to me by several friends, two of whom have had heart attacks and had this book recommended to them by their doctors. I was compelled to try out the lifestyle he recommended which is basically a vegan diet with no added fat. Without my juicer and my own kitchen, I went online to find the highest rated vegetarian restaurant in Salt Lake which was Sage's Cafe located at 473 East 300 South (801-322-3790). 
I ate there twice, 
the first two days of my vegan diet. As I write this I have been on my vegan diet for ten days. I have been to two vegan restaurants with my son, Andrew, Sage Organic Vegan Bistro in Echo Park, which I went to before starting my vegan diet, and Flore Vegan Cuisine in Silver Lake, which I went to after starting my vegan diet. I also went with Judy on my birthday to Bright Star Thai Vegan in Rancho Cucamonga. I have learned that being vegan and going to these restaurants still involves a lot of fat, primarily oils, that Dr. Esselstyn recommends not eating. I have found that the diet is almost impossible to follow, even at vegan restaurants, and I have given in to some extra oils when going to those restaurants. That said, Sage's Cafe doesn't hold a candle when compared to the California restaurants I just mentioned, from the standpoint of the number of options available, but I found the food good. I had an apple and pear juice 
which was very tasty and a side salad with carrot, tomato, daikon, beet, zucchini and different types of lettuce. 
I avoided the vinaigrette on the side which would have made the salad much better, but had the oils I'm trying to avoid. The nice thing I have found about vegan/vegetarian restaurants is that the fruit and vegetables are very fresh and good. I got an entree which included a salad very much like the side salad I ordered, and a dish I don't recall the name of with brown rice, black beans, tomatoes, Greek olives and zucchini. 
It was bland, but very good. The next day I had a spicy cabbage soup which was wonderful. 
It had some sort of vegan version of sour cream on top, but it was nice and spicy and very good on a cold Salt Lake day. It was by far the best thing I ate at Sage's. It was wonderful. I also had grilled vegetable tacos on thin corn tortillas which were paper thin and broke easily. 
I appreciated the tortillas, because not knowing what was in them, they seemed relatively free of fat. I avoided the extra guacamole, which Dr. Esselstyn recommends not eating, and the sour cream. 
As a first time vegan on a restrictive diet, it was nice to have the option that this provided. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sage Organic Vegan Bistro: Echo Park

Several weeks ago we met Andrew and Lauren 
at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro located at 1700 West Sunset Blvd, Echo Park (Los Angeles), CA 90026 (213-989-1718). This was my first time at a vegan restaurant and just a mile or two from Flore Vegan Cuisine in Silver Lake, also on Sunset Blvd., which I did my last post on, but ate at later.  Andrew and Lauren eat a largely vegetarian diet, something that has become more intriguing to me as I get older and concerned about my ongoing health. Andrew works nearby and eats from the menu virtually every day. So he has had everything on the lunch menu. This was a very encouraging start to seeing that vegan food can actually be delicious. Andrew ended up having to work late, so Judy and I arrived first and ordered several appetizers. First we got the Sample Plate, which was a selection of their sauces, "cheeses," and spreads with a baguette, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.  
I'm not sure what all of the sauces were, but they were excellent. The one in the far back of the plate was guacamole and I believe several were variations of hummus, including a red pepper hummus. One was the creamy horseradish sauce with a nice horseradish taste to it and I believe another was a nacho cheese substitute. Second, we got the Buffalo Croquettes, which consisted of three falafel tossed in buffalo sauce served on top of sage polenta, with crispy onions, arugula and creamy horseradish sauce. 
The outside of the falafel was harder and different than any other falafel I've had, but it was excellent, quite a bit of crunch, and taste. 
After wading through the appetizers, I was getting pretty full. Judy, Andrew and I each got juices. I don't remember what all they were. 
Andrew's, the orange one, was especially good, consisting in part of carrot and beet juice and was quite sweet. Judy's had kale, apple and some other ingredients, and had a grassy taste. Mine, the pink one, was lemon and strawberry, with agave sweetener. It was a little weak, I'd have liked it stronger. For an entree, Judy got the Potato Broccoli Pierogies, seared with soy ginger sauce and served over lemon kale. 
This is their best selling entree and was very good. 
Andrew, who knew what was best, ordered the Bistro Po'boy sandwich, which consisted of breaded seitan, tomatoes, deep fried cabbage, homemade dill pickles and lettuce on grilled olive rosemary bread with caramelized onion barbecue sauce. 
This was as good as any sandwich I've ever eaten. It had a nice chewy consistency, the flavors were varied and strong, and it was juicy. It must have been packed with oil because it just tasted too good to be good for you. Seitan is a product made from wheat gluten, which is the main protein in wheat. Flour dough is washed with water until the starch dissolves, leaving an insoluble elastic mass. It is an alternative to soybean based meat substitutes and has a chewy texture that resembles meat. Seitan was originally developed in Japan in 1962 and was first imported to the U.S. in 1969. Lauren got the Soul Bowl, which contained roasted sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, okra, baby corn, sauteed kale, garlic polenta, horseradish and deep fried mac and cheese with pickled jalapeno cabbage. 
Other than a little taste of the mac and cheese, which was okay, I didn't have any of Lauren's food, but the proprietor said it was one of their most popular dishes. I got the Chipotle Bowl which consisted of quinoa, grape tomatoes, chipotle pepper, grilled onions, black beans, sauteed kale, avocado, baby corn, pico de gallo, sunflower sprouts, battered, deep fried jalapeno and an organic corn tortilla, with a side of nacho cheese. 
I loved the fried jalapeno, the nacho cheese added a nice bite to it and it was a good mix. 
It was not as good as Andrew's or Judy's dishes, but was good. Finally, I got a side of grilled vegetables which was very good, including broccoli, carrot, squash and a type of beet I've never eaten before. 
The rest of our group shared some ice cream at the end and I had a few tastes and was not impressed. I don't recall exactly what they were, but one was a cacao which was quite bitter, along with cinnamon, and I'm not a big dark chocolate fan. It was a very nice meal with many, many options. I look forward to going back again and trying many more of their dishes. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flore Vegan Cuisine: Silver Lake

Andrew and Lauren took us to Flore Vegan Cuisine 
located at 3818 W. Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake (Los Angeles), CA 90026 (323-953-0611). 
We had to wait nearly an hour to get in, but had a nice cultural experience people watching. I felt as though we'd been transported back to Berkeley in the mid-60's or to a foreign country. So many people were dressed colorfully and uniquely that the wait became a pleasure. There was limited seating outside, and not much more inside. But we discovered why people are willing to wait: the food was fantastic. I am new at the vegan thing and how people can prepare vegetables, grains and fruits to taste great is an eye opener and boundary expander. I had no idea. First, we got some juices. 
I got one called "The Tonic" which was a mixture of grapefruit, kale, apple and lemon. It was the best juicer juice I've had. The grapefruit dominated and it was refreshing and sourly sweet. A perfect drink on a warm day. Judy got the same thing, but substituted lime for the lemon. Hers was a little more tart. Andrew got "Fresh Ginger Ale" which was a mixture of ginger, raw agave, lemon, lime and sparkling water. It was a little weak, but still good. Judy got the best dish, the Tempeh Reuben, something that both Andrew and Lauren had ordered before.  
Tempeh is a soy product originally from Indonesia made by a culturing and fermentation process that binds the soybeans into a cake form. The tempeh served as the pastrami substitute along with cashew cheese, tofu cheese, sauerkraut and 1000 island dressing on rye bread. It was amazingly good, something I would pick over a real reuben sandwich. Anyone who wants to knock vegan food needs to try that sandwich. It was a mind blower. She also got a side of potato salad which was okay, but not real flavorful.  Andrew got a Club Sandwich 
which consisted of battered baked tofu, the turkey substitute, tempeh bacon, tomato, avocado, lettuce, daikon sprout and eggless mayonaise on sourdough bread. 
He also got a side of potato salad. It was not as good as the reuben, but was smoky and tasty. The tempeh bacon is not as good as regular bacon, but is a good substitute. Lauren got the best looking dish, the Burrito Flore, 
which consisted of brown basmati rice, black bean, tempeh bacon, cilantro cream, cashew cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato wrapped and grilled in a whole wheat tortilla. 
It was served with pico de gallo and a green salad. It was not as good as it looked, it was a little bland, but it was juicy and had a nice mild flavor. I got The Wrap, 
brown basmati rice, roasted vegetables, kale, baked tofu, and creamy dill dressing wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. The baked tofu was a very firm consistency and worked well with the rice. 
I got a side salad, consisting of carrots, bean sprouts and various types of leafy greens, including arugula, and also a side of black beans, rice and pico de gallo, which I mixed together into a bean, rice and lettuce salad with vinegar. I was trying to avoid as much oil as I could, so I ignored the dressing, other than a little taste. For dessert we shared a piece of cheese cake with strawberries on top. I'm not sure what the cheese substitute was, but it 
was very nice and moist. 
We also got what I think was a chocolate vanilla cupcake. I'm not sure what the frosting was on top, but it was very sweet 
and about overpowered my no sweet, vegan familiarized taste buds. I really enjoyed the couple of bites I had. This was a wonderful adventure into well-prepared vegan food and a restaurant I would love to go back to many times.