The Blind Burro (San Diego, CA)

It is becoming delightfully common to happen upon vegan staff at very non-vegan restaurants. Through the kindness of my server, Emily, I found my way through the menu modifications at The Blind Burro.

This is the kind of space a vegan would probably not find themselves at alone. A gathering corner a quick jaunt from Petco Park, this is the kind of restaurant your onmi friends will suggest meeting at because they like it. But don’t worry, you’ll like it well enough too.

The only vegan as-is items are the Guacamoles—Tradicional and Especial—I went Especial ($12). Mashed avocado binds chunks of roasted sweet potato, corn, and rajas with house made plantain chips (shared fryer). I scraped some of the salt from Caramelized Pineapple Margherita ($12) to season it.

Pinto beans and rice are prepared with animals, leaving the Veggie Tacos ($14) and Power Bowl ($13) as the substantial entrees. Over two corn tortillas, a generous plop of boiled or fried cauliflower comes drizzled in a fruity chipotle-orange BBQ sauce over kale salad, avocado, and matchstick radishes. I asked for all the hot sauces and received a rainbow of actually spicy house-made pepper slurries.

The Power Bowl is filled with scoops of quiona and kale salad under avocado (subbed for goat cheese) and benefited from what ended up being my favorite disha side of Mole Black Beans that came with the tacos. The spiced, and slightly sweet beans, smothered the blatantly healthy ingredient under better tasting but just as healthy sauce.

The Blind Burro offers an extensive printed allergen listhighlighting what dishes independently have nuts, egg, soy, and dairyalthough deciphering it requires detailed reading while hungry… Which made our friendly server indispensable in creating our pleasant evening in a very non-vegan establishment.

The Blind Burro
639 J St.
San Diego, CA 92101

theblindburro.com

Facebook: @TheBlindBurro
Instagram: @TheBlindBurro
Twitter: @TheBlindBurro

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Vegan Friendly: The Far West Lounge by Modern Times in Encinitas

The Short and Skinny

Large windows open onto Highway 101, pulling the ocean breeze into Encinitas’ newest vegan food and beer destination.

The Vibe

Dozens of cyclist fly by as the crowd slowly forms outside of The Far West Lounge by Modern Times in Encinitas. Within 20 minutes of opening, the bar is full of breakfast sandwiches and beer flights.

Curling around a marble top horseshoe bar, friends sip beer as their kids climb the underlit stadium seating in soccer practice threads. The papered walls wear badges of the company’s strong “mid-century maximalist” branding—from trays of felted TV dinners to cross-stitch rackets by Modern Times’ inhouse “art gnomes.” In the corner, a mini mart offers beer cans, coffee beans, and Modern Times branded swag to-go.

Read more at: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-far-west-lounge-modern-times-encinitas

Jennie Cooks Plant Based Parties (Los Angeles, CA)

There are few chefs I truly trust*—Jennie Cooks is one of them.

Beneath an angled mirror at Surfas, Jennie—my hometown culinary champion—poured a generous amount of olive oil into a pan and whipped up Sweet Potato Pistachio Fritters with Saba and Jaffna Potatoes. I sat there waiting for the non-vegan ingredient to get dumped in—a pat of butter, a drizzle of yogurt —but it never happened. As the Endive Avocado Potato Salad and Cape Verda Vegetable were passed around, I realized every dish she made was vegan—and that never happens on accident.

At that moment I knew I wanted her to cater an event for me. That event turned out to be my wedding reception.

In her Atwater Village kitchen vintage pitchers, cookbooks, and salt and pepper creatures stare down at us. Jennie dances in and out of the kitchen, filling the tables with food. Some dishes are by request, some are by surprise. Wedding meal planning—as I learned—is a strange balance of personal taste tempered with the attempt to please the sometimes irrational and sometimes dietary needs of guests.

First up, a fritter—the overlooked champions of cocktail hour. Jennie’s Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachios and Crema are flecked with meaty bits of pistachios and pan kissed to a crisp. Spinning the globe, we toasted with Sweet Potato Samosas dripping with raven dark tamarind glaze. I loved them both, but sometimes the needs of others trumps love.  Translucent rice paper swaddling bean thread, red pepper, carrot, and cucumber as Fresh Rolls with Peanut Sauce (gluten free) were selected as our tray pass appetizer.

Not shown here are the Chicken and Waffles because there as no questions those would be served.

One of Jennie’s surprises turned out to be my favorite: Korean Dave’s Amazing Tempe with Campania. Caramelized onions, red peppers, and capers pucker with balsamic vinegar over panko crusted tempe—a distinctly Los Angeles ingredient. This chewy cutlet of fermented brown rice and black bean that is a local cult classic. Dave has no online or marketing presence yet almost everyone knows his Framer’s Market food. After sampling Jennie’s prep of this protein, there was no question my guests needed to taste it as well.

To balance the fried dish, we followed with the Spinach Salad with Crumbled Fettata, Apricots and Toasted Walnuts. While I had expected fresh apricots I realized such ideas were ridiculous for a March event. The soft fettata—seasoned tofu—clings to the leaves which we switched out for romaine to accommodate oxalate sensitive attendees.

Roasted Vegetables seemed boring option—one I’ve consumed ad nauseam in my vegetarian then vegan life. I had every intention of nixing this side until suckling on sweetly charred yet still juice carrots, onions, peppers, and zucchini caramelized kissed with balsamic vinegar.

Through the experience of wedding planning I learned that I basically love Thanksgiving food. I fell quickly for legumes melting into the Red Lentil and Apple Load of Love—the flavors blooming in a pool of thyme spiked creamy dijon gravy. Paired with rolling hills of Sourdough Stuffing cradling crescents of celery, carrot, and tart cubes of granny smith apples.

Just to prove that I’m not simply gushing, the soft mash layered inside the Sweet Potato Lasagna became too monolithic for my taste. But when these dishes made their way home as leftovers, my soon to be husband loved the lasagna more than the loaf. So we ordered a half pan of each because compromise and making each other happy is what marriage is all about.

Jennie Cooks
3048 Fletcher Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Facebook: Jennie Cooks Catering & Plant Based Parties
Instagram: @jenniecooks

*They are: Pancho Castellón, Jennie CooksGenet Agonafer, my mom

 

Vegan Friendly: PlantBasedPopUp Offers Fine Dining Vegan Wine Pairing Dinners in San Diego County

The Short and Skinny

“Historically, food and wine events and prix fixe menus with wine pairings have centered around meat,” says PlantBasedPopUp founder Anna Keeve. “Because of this, plant-based eaters miss out on these tyes of experiences. It’s time to reframe the way we look at this concept of pairing food and wine.”

PlantBasedPopUp is here to change that, partnering with top-tiered restaurants to host monthly plant-based wine pairing dinners in San Diego County.

Read more: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-plantbasedpopup-offers-fine-dining-vegan-wine-pairing-dinners-san-diego-county

Vegan Friendly: Comfort Food and Sustainability at Donna Jean in Banker’s Hill

The Short and Skinny

Donna Jean offers a vegetable forward menu with midwestern charm and California sensibilities.

 

The Vibe

Under the dappling of the summer sun, pink radish bulbs push through the dirt under the kale leaves and carrot tops surrounding Donna Jean’s patio. Between the magenta shocks of bougainvilleas, tables fill with dukkah-dusted turnips and pizzas dotted with smoked dates and pickled shallots.

Vegetables drive the menu—but all dishes are quietly supported by the spice and experience.

A midwestern boy at heart, Chef Roy Elam carries the lessons learned there—use everything, force nothing.

 

Read more at: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-comfort-food-and-sustainability-donna-jean-bankers-hill

Vegan Friendly: Harvest By The Patio in Downtown San Diego

The Short and Skinny

In the shadow of the hot dogs and beer of Petco Park sits stylish, vegetable-forward Harvest by The Patio.

The Vibe

Tucked into the former Carnation Dairy Building, the walls of the first floor are lined with cold cases stacked with grab-and-go meals. The plastic clamshells beckon to game goers (you can bring your own food into the ballpark), while wooden stairs lead dine-in customers to the restaurant’s full-service bar and lounge.

Floor to ceiling images of rolling fields of wind swept wheat face the white subways tiles of the beer tap wall. The airy bar anchors the room with open wire shelving twinkling with an array of bottles.

Read more: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-harvest-patio-downtown-san-diego

Vegan Friendly: Blissful Gatherings Monthly Vegan Pop-Up

The Short and Skinny

Each month, plant-based diners gather in the hills of southern San Diego for a stylish, intimate backyard dinner party.

The Vibe

Guests slowly meander along a path winding between Chula Vista homes in order to find the affair, taking in the falling light of dusk.

They know they have arrived when they spot the artfully set table and are approached by staff offering Sol-ti juice and Kombucha, often including Boochcraft, a high alcohol kombucha brewed just a few miles west.

A spray of eucalyptus leaves run along the center of the communal table, while floral vignettes from local growers rise from small globe vases, set mindfully so as to not block plate space or lines of sight.

Read morehttp://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-blissful-gatherings-monthly-vegan-pop

Vegan Friendly: Bar Snacks at Madison on Park

The Short and Skinny

This hip space, which undulates between indoor and out, is known for creative cocktails, but they also have some seriously great vegan options.

The Vibe

The soft blue paint of the simple façade blends into the clear skies above. Window frames popped up like visors offer glimpses of the wood-rich interior. Cedar planked walls are accented by geometric pops of blue, mustard yellow, and soft pink and modern fixtures resemble drops of white glass clenched in brass. Unseen from the street is the modern basilica of a dining room—a breezy semi-outdoor space enveloped by a 20-foot high arch.

Read more athttp://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-bar-snacks-madison-park

Vegan Friendly: BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar in San Diego’s East Village

The Short and Skinny

Quivering curls of springy ramen noodles bathed in a creamy vegan both and inventive vegan buns await under the hospitable gaze of the East Village’s BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar.

The Vibe

Sunlight streams through the floor to ceiling glass walls into the modern interior of BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar. Stamped tin tiles and Gaslamp-style pendants line the far wall, reflecting the historic core of the city. Above a matte black counter, large windows provide an open view into the kitchen where steaming curls of noodles slip into deep bath of carefully crafted broths. Rustic wood tables and steel-backed chairs are set under an industrial steel rack neatly lined with sake bottles.

Owner Ayaka Ito, a certified sake master, opened BESHOCK in 2016, but the journey to get into this space was a long and winding one.

Ito spent nearly three years traveling thought over 100 ramen houses in Japan to learn the craft. Though her eyes were always focused on San Diego, she built her first ramen house—Three Little Pigs—in her hometown of Nagoya, Japan, a sister ramen shop—or “ramen lab” as Ito calls it—where she developed the recipes that would become the cornerstones of her East Village restaurant.

Read more athttp://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-beshock-ramen-sake-bar-san-diegos-east-village

Loving Hut Mira Mesa (San Diego, CA)

 

Delving into new-to-me dishes at Loving Hut Mira Mesa, I was sure to order a known ally: Amazing Chow ($10). Toothsome wheat noodles, echoing the Chinese egg version, twist around charred soy protein and vegetables. The sauce, sweet and one dimensional, caramelized like soy-candy on the seared edges of everything. Overflowing from the plate, this ample dish makes a meal for days to come. 

A wreath of rice paper wrapped around thin rice vermicelli noodles with mint, fried tofu, soy ham, and lettuce fill the plate of the Loving Hut Fresh Roll ($6). Offered with a fragrant pineapple peanut sauce tying together these mild elements at the start of the meal.

Tight buds of brown rice glazed in their own starch, spiked with curry powder, build the base of the Guru Fried Rice ($10).  Strewn with carrot cubes, petite peas, slivered green onion, and haphazardly cut fried tofu, this dishes holds all the notes of a typical Thai style fried rice.

Although I think the portion runs small, the BBQ Noodles ($10) hits all my wants: Cool knots of rice noodles, crispy spring roll, crisp cucumber, herbaceous mint, sharp green onion, mild and sweet soy beef, and dusting of roasted peanuts. Doused in a sweetly diluted soy sauce, this Vietnamese bun-style dish is a little kitchen sampler.

“Amazing Sauce” perseveres through the menu. The sticky sweet brown sauce pours over the Amazing Saute ($12). Similar to the chow but with rice instead of noodles and larger cuts of soy protein.

But, apparently the dish to get here are the Texas Fries ($8.50). According to the internet, Texas Fries are a thing that people who eat at places like Chili’s know and love. Traditionally, sour cream *could* be an ingredient—but more often it’s a cheese slick punctuated with bacon. At Loving Hut Mira Mesa the fries are tossed with raw white onions, scallions, a scant offering of jalapenos, spice powder, and a minuscule sprinkling of vegan cheddar under a huge glob of what the kitchen calls “sour cream.”

It’s a looming—and sometimes legal—question about how we apply words heavily associated with animal products to their vegan alternatives. So while I personally cannot tell anyone what is or isn’t vegan sour creme—to my taste, this is mayo. I’ll do the glob the service of calling it aioli… and aioli and fries…. do you see where I’m going here? These are really pommes frites. Modeled after a beloved world dish, it’s no surprise this is THE menu favorite… despite it’s mistitlement.

Loving Hut Mira Mesa
9928 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92131

lovinghut.us/sandiego2