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burgers, tiramisu, and lots more: a mary’s secret garden adventure

Posted by vegetablediaries on March 6, 2010

tiramisu from Mary's Secret Garden

you can never ever ever go wrong with Mary’s Secret Garden! although i’ve only eaten there a few times, every time has been such a pleasure. you can find my older post on Mary’s here.  i think this is probably my favourite vegan restaurant in southern california. i think i want to tell everyone i know to eat there. i think i’m going to start talking about my dinner now.

we started off with a small order of the fresh thai spring rolls. mmm, you have to order these! julienned carrots and cucumbers, basil leaves, smoked tofu and lettuce all wrapped up in rice paper, and served with a spicy peanut sauce. these are probably some of the best fresh spring rolls i’ve ever tasted (note: i’ve had many many fresh spring rolls!).

the secret burger--mary style at Mary's Secret Garden

for dinner i ordered the thai yellow curry stew, which included stewed kabocha squash, carrots, potatoes, red onions, ginger and basil leaves in a creamy curried coconut sauce. they offer a choice of protein and i went with the tofu. again, i think this thai yellow curry is seriously one of the best i’ve tried! it was seasoned to perfection and topped with lots of fresh cilantro, which i love! my only complaint, if you even call it that, is that it tends to cool down right away. they served it steaming hot but after a few minutes it tended to cool off. but that didn’t keep me from enjoying it. i actually could only finish half of it because it was so big, but i just ate it for lunch today and it was still so delicious!

my friend ordered the secret burger–mary style. oh my lord. i’m not a fan of burgers but this thing was tremendous! we are talking homemade secret sauce, grilled soy patty, melted cheeze (which i’m not a fond of, but it really tastes like cheese), lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onions, and tempeh “bakin.” i think when you order it “mary style” it includes extra sauce, pickles, avocado, and tempeh. it was crazy delicious! it also comes with a good size salad.. it was a caesar salad and off the charts good!

raw cherry ice cream at Mary's Secret Garden

we were both pretty full from dinner but the desserts sounded too heavenly to resist. the cake of the day was tiramisu, and it was the best tiramisu ever! i was expecting it to be heavy and espresso-ish but quite the contrary! it was light and fluffy and had notes of cinnamon, almond and vanilla. it’s not always available but if you see the tiramisu on the menu you must try it! we also tried the raw ice cream du jour, which was cherry almond chocolate something something. it was very yummy, too. the cherry flavor was so rich, and they drizzled chocolate sauce over the top and added slivered almonds for good measure. oh man, what a meal. thank you, Mary’s Secret Garden!

i went back the following day with my not so vegan-friendly mom. we both ordered the burgers (i got mine sans the cheeze) and they were just as tasty as ever. the side salad was mixed greens with a really lovely vinaigrette dressing. my mom was really impressed and wants to go back for more. although my last couple of meals weren’t gluten-free, Mary’s is very gluten-free-friendly and they also have many raw options. everything is clearly marked on their menu.

their menu isn’t posted on their website so here it is for you to see:

mary’s secret garden menu

Mary’s Secret Garden
100 South Fir Street
Ventura, CA 93001
805-641-FOOD
www.maryssecretgarden.com

Posted in gluten-free-friendly, los angeles, raw, thai, vegan, vegan ice cream | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

brunch & madeleine bistro

Posted by vegetablediaries on February 21, 2010

beignets at Madeleine Bistro

let’s say you’re in los angeles on a noonish sunday. when you say brunch, i’ll say Madeleine Bistro and everybody wins! you’ll want to make a reservation, as the space is intimate and a Madeleine Bistro brunch is on a lot of people’s minds. when i visited it wasn’t overly crowded out the door, but just about every table was occupied and there was a hustle and bustle all around. however it was still charming and calm and i didn’t feel rushed to eat.

beignets ready for apple compote at Madeleine Bistro

the food! first we started with a half order of the beignets, which are little cinnamon sugar coated balls of goodness served with organic apple compote. they were amazing! when you smear the apple compote in the middle of the beignet it’s like what i imagine manna would taste like. at least that is what i would want manna to taste like! the texture is incredible.. you have a crisp and sugary outside and a warm and tender inside. if you’re eating brunch at Madeleine’s you must try the beignets! it’s also like eating dessert as an appetizer.

porcini-crusted tofu benedict at Madeleine Bistro

i ordered the porcini-crusted tofu benedict, which is smoked portobella, rosti potatoes, and hollandaise sauce. it was served over a little bed of kale and garnished with asparagus. it was really nice. it doesn’t look as filling as it actually is, but i was satiated and enjoyed the smoky mushroom and potato combination. the porcini is so delicate in texture but has an intense smoky flavour that will knock your socks!

waffles and "chicken" at Madeleine Bistro

my friend ordered the waffles and “chicken”, which is belgian waffles, seitan “chicken”, mashed potatoes, and gravy. mama mia! i didn’t taste it but my friend was quite pleased. i was surprised by how much the “chicken” really looks like chicken! and just look at the size of that waffle!! oh my.

i’ve eaten dinner at Madeleine’s a few times and loved it. my non-vegan friends have loved it, too. it is pricy but for special occasions it’s definitely worth the splurge!

Madeleine Bistro
18621 Ventura Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91356
(818) 758-6971
www.madeleinebistro.com

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a weekend full of mock meats, noodles & cabbages

Posted by vegetablediaries on January 26, 2010

bun bo hue at Vinh Loi Tofu

this might be vegan-sacrilege to say, but in general i’m not very fond of faux meats. i am vegan for so many reasons and one of them is that i have a strong aversion to meats, and another is that i adore plants and naturally vegan dishes, such as my mainstay, dal. however, i am always curious to try new things and my curiosity led my friends and i to experience Vihn Loi Tofu in reseda and Real Food Daily (RFD) in santa monica. i’ve been to RFD numerous times but i haven’t added them to my blog yet, so this is perfect timing.

bun bo hue at Vinh Loi Tofu

this was my first experience at Vihn Loi and it was really fun. first off, this tiny vietnamese tofu factory is located in a ubiquitous little corner mall in reseda, so parking is not ample but you can easily find street parking. there are about a bamillion things to order but we kept it simple and all got soups. one of my friends also ordered a roll.. i think it was a veggie roll but i’m not sure. it was good though and i really enjoyed the dipping sauce. for lunch i ordered the bun bo hue, which is rice noodles in a spicy broth with seasoned lemongrass tofu, shiitake mushroom, vegan chicken and beef, served with red & green shredded cabbages, bean sprouts, mint leaves, and lime. wow, when the soup is on at Vihn Loi, it is ON! the portions are humungous, i ended up taking more than half of the soup home. i loved the mint leaves and lime flavour.. it really makes the soup fresh. the vegan chicken and beef have interesting textures.. it’s not meaty, but i found them to be chewy, maybe like a dumpling. the noodles were really fun to slurp up. i noticed that the menu said to let them know if you’re allergic to gluten.. i’m not sure how aware they are of gluten allergies, so if you’re gf then you’ll definitely want to ask. also, everything at Vihn Loi is 100% MSG-free and they use certified non-GMO soybeans!

at RFD i ordered the yin yang salad with an add-on of blacked tempeh. there was cabbage, romaine, carrots, cucumbers, edamame, cilantro, sesame seeds, peanuts, and peanut dressing. this was also quite a large salad and i had to take it home, but it was delicious and i’m glad i got to eat it twice!

yin yang salad at Real Food Daily

one of my friends ordered the club triple decker, which is seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, vegenaise, and sourdough bread, served next to a big caesar salad. i had a taste and the seitan really does taste like meat, which for me, i’m not crazy about, but it was interesting nonetheless. most of the times i have been to RFD have been with omnivores and usually carnivores, and they almost always end up enjoying the food. and i usually hear how their plant-based meal made them feel energetic and not heavy. YAY! on my way out i stopped in the RFD bakery (which is next door to the restaurant) and i got the pecan sour cream coffee cake to go. i don’t have a photo, but oh my gosh, it was so scrumptious! it reminded me of those hostess cinnamon coffee cakes i would eat as a kid.. but A LOT better, and better for you.

the club triple decker at Real Food Daily

Vinh Loi Tofu
18625 Sherman Way, #101
Reseda, CA 91335
818-996-9779
www.vinhloitofu.com

Real Food Daily
514 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310-451-7544
www.realfood.com
(they also have another location in west hollywood)

Posted in gluten-free-friendly, los angeles, vegan, vegan bakery, vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

vegan in ventura: mary’s secret garden

Posted by vegetablediaries on December 27, 2009

raw apple pie: Mary's Secret Garden

while i was in ventura i had the lucky opportunity to visit Mary’s Secret Garden for lunch. oh my, what a fine dining surprise! i didn’t know what to expect because i didn’t read any of the reviews online, and all i knew was that it was ALL vegan and filled with awesomeness. first off, this place is pretty tiny. we had lunch around noon and didn’t have to wait for a table, however i think you should probably make a reservation just in case.

fresh thai spring rolls: Mary's Secret Garden

the food! wow, what a great menu.. everything is organic and there are cooked and raw food plates available, with lots of gluten-free options (gf is clearly marked on the menu). when our server first came over to greet us he said “Mary recommends you try the fresh thai spring rolls as an appetizer..” okay, i thought this was really endearing because i don’t usually hear what the owner suggests.. it seemed quaint to me and i like that. so, we did order the fresh thai spring rolls and they were amazing! i loved the spicy peanut sauce so much that i ate it by itself when the spring rolls were all finished.

middle east platter: Mary's Secret Garden

for the main course i ordered the middle east platter, which included syrian falafel with tahini sauce, hummus, tabouli, grilled pita bread and kalamata olives (i’m not fond of olives, but there were only two on my plate, so no biggie). everything was delicious and quite filling. my friend ordered the thai yellow curry stew, which was also so tasty! there were stewed kabocha squash, carrots, potatoes, red onions, ginger and basil leaves in a creamy curried coconut sauce; served over brown rice, with your choice of protein (shrymp, tofu or chycken). then they topped the hell out of it with fresh cilantro (my favourite!). i really am excited to go back because there are so many wonderful things to try, including a bazillion shakes!

thai yellow curry with tofu: Mary's Secret Garden

and now for dessert.. i ordered the raw chocolate hazelnut pie ala mode: rich chocolate coconut and hazelnut filling topped with chopped hazelnuts and chocolate ganache and served with homemade raw vanilla bean ice cream. i didn’t even finish it (which is a very very rare thing) because it was so insanely rich!

raw chocolate hazelnut pie: Mary's Secret Garden

my friend ordered the raw apple pie: layered, thinly sliced and well spiced apples, over a pecan date crust, topped with a sweet cashew cream and raspberry sauce. both of these desserts are lookers, but i think the apple pie would win the beauty contest!

raw apple pie: Mary's Secret Garden

after writing about my lunch, i want to go back NOW!

Mary’s Secret Garden
100 South Fir Street
Ventura, CA 93001
805-641-FOOD
www.maryssecretgarden.com

Posted in gluten-free-friendly, los angeles, raw, vegan | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

carpinteria’s chamomile cafe YUMYUM

Posted by vegetablediaries on December 16, 2009

big box o' desserts from Chamomile Cafe

hooray for discovery: Chamomile Cafe! i discovered this delightful cafe in carpinteria, and it’s mostly all vegan with the exception that they serve wild salmon, eggs, and dairy. it’s also mostly organic! as for the bakery part of the cafe, half of the goods are vegan and they are questionably vegan in a major way because they are so incredibly delectable. in my big box o’ desserts i tried the blueberry pie in miniature, pecan muffin, oatmeal raisin walnut cookie, zucchini muffin, and the lemon poppyseed muffin with blueberries sprinkled on top. these didn’t last very long.. i shared them with my family and i sort of ate them up! the baked goods are not cheap, but also not overly priced in my opinion because they use organic ingredients and they are insanely good. that pie is made with organic blueberries! this place was like finding a little gem all covered in tar (did you know the beaches in carpinteria are dotted with tar?) by the way, i’ve learned that mineral spirits are the answer to tar stains!

blueberry pie from Chamomile Cafe

and now onto lunch: i tried the grilled veggie panino, which is made from their handmade organic ciabatta rolls (YUM) and then inside goes the eggplant, mushrooms, red onions, tomatoes, radish sprouts, vegan ranch, and dijon. you’ll want to be a fan of dijon if you order this. although it’s not overly dijon-y, the mustard is quite noticeable in a very delicious way. i really enjoyed my sandwich and it also came with a small side salad. i would like to try their dinner menu sometime because it’s all vegan except for the wild salmon. my pescatarian, gluten-free friend enjoyed the wild salmon tacos. thank you, Chamomile Cafe!

veggie panino from Chamomile Cafe

i should have moved the lettuce off of the tomato, but you get the idea.

Chamomile Cafe

Chamomile Cafe
915 Linden Ave.
Carpinteria, CA 93013
805-566-5954
www.chamomilecafe.com

Posted in gluten-free-friendly, los angeles, vegan bakery, vegan cafe, vegan-friendly | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

eating at gingergrass in silverlake

Posted by vegetablediaries on December 6, 2009

Gingergrass tofu lunch plate

i was really excited to eat at Gingergrass again because it had been a long time, however my experience with my tasty lunch turned into an afternoon of nursing what i think was an MSG overdose. i asked Gingergrass if they use MSG and they confirmed that they do not use it, but it is included in the shrimp chips and hoisin sauce that they don’t make in house, which really means that they DO use it but not intentionally, i presume. maybe you can order your lunch without MSG… it’s certainly worth asking. anyways, i enjoyed my lunch until i got up and walked back to my car. i’ll give you the details of my lunch and you can decide if it’s worth the MSG risk. i personally like to feel fresh and energetic after eating and that was certainly not my experience after eating at Gingergrass, which boasts “fresh vietnamese cuisine.”

so, my lunch! i ordered the gingergrass tofu for $8.95: crispy organic tofu with shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy served with vegan nuoc cham sauce. you also get a heaping scoop of broken white rice and vietnamese slaw. overall i thought the dish was over-seasoned with the sauce and there was too much sodium. however i did enjoy the crispy tofu and shiitake mushrooms. i think they coat the tofu in rice flour, which gives it a light and crisp texture. and for more positives, they have a nice outdoor patio and friendly wait staff. there are also many vegan options.

Gingergrass
2396 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
323-644-1600
www.gingergrass.com

Posted in los angeles, vegan-friendly, vietnamese | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

shojin organic & natural, part two

Posted by vegetablediaries on November 30, 2009

Shojin

i’ve been eating at Shojin since they opened last year and it’s been amazing to see how well they are doing and how their menu is constantly growing and changing. in addition, they also offer cooking classes, which i’m hoping to attend soon. it’s always a treat to eat at Shojin and here are some photos from a recent visit.

the bento box! you must must try the pumpkin croquette and the hamburg steak (i’m not a fan of seitan but Shojin makes it so YUM)! i also tasted the okara cake and spicy tofu and they are delicious, too. it’s truly a hard decision when ordering at Shojin but they offer great lunch specials so you can try different things. the bento box also includes a big bowl of brown rice and a small bowl of the daily soup. it’s a fantastic lunch deal for $10!

Shojin's bento box!

and now to my favourite, dessert! i tried the spiced pumpkin tart with chocolate ice cream and thought it was really good. i was a bit hesitant because i usually don’t like to mix pumpkin with chocolate but it actually went together quite nicely. on my last visit to Shojin i ordered the chocolate and banana parfait and thought it was exquisite. there were layers of vanilla ice cream, fudgey sauce, almonds, and bananas. i don’t have a photo but you can find it on their website.

Shojin's spiced pumpkin tart

i’ve also tried the shitake avocado sushi rolls and enjoyed them. there are so many things to try.. i can’t wait for my next visit! to see my part one review of Shojin you can go here.

by the way, i took my meat loving family to Shojin and everyone, including my finicky-eater-10 year old niece loved it!

Shojin Organic & Natural
333 S. Alameda St. Suite 310
(Little Tokyo Shopping Center 3F)
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 617-0305
www.theshojin.com/

Posted in japanese, los angeles, vegan | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

seed:venice:california

Posted by vegetablediaries on November 16, 2009

blackened tempeh burger from Seed

it’s a little bit difficult to find parking around Seed’s venice location, but if you’re on your bicycle or walking (which, hopefully you are) around the beach path then you might want to stop in for a quick bite at Seed. there are so many vegan and vegan-friendly eateries cropping up around los angeles these days! Seed offers ‘macrobiotique’ vegan cuisine brought to you by chef eric lechasseur. you might know him from his famous cookbook, “love, eric,” and he’s also been featured in many notable magazines. he also did a second cookbook with his wife, sanae suzuki titled, “love, eric & sanae.”

the food: i only tried the blackened tempeh burger with sauerkraut for $9.95. i thought it was average as it didn’t send my tastebuds singing. call me crazy but for ten dollars i was expecting more. it was filling but it wasn’t really what i had in mind for a blackened tempeh burger. i needed more flavour and i would have enjoyed more sauce because it seemed too dry. however, i would still go back to Seed to try other things. their menu includes salads, soups, one-dish grain bowls, paninis, curry bowls and desserts. i appreciate the philosophy at Seed, which you can learn more here.

Seed
1604 Pacific Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
310-396-1604
www.seedkitchen.com

Posted in los angeles, vegan | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

it’s a little more than a mixed green salad

Posted by vegetablediaries on October 11, 2009

grilled vegetable salad from The Landing Grill and Sushi Bar

grilled vegetable salad from The Landing Grill and Sushi Bar

sometimes i get surprised to find a vegan meal in unexpected places. usually if i go to a non-vegan-friendly restaurant there will at least be a mixed greens salad or something similar to order but i was happy to find a big grilled vegetable salad on the menu at The Landing Grill and Sushi Bar located in westlake village. the salad was fresh and filling, and i ate it with balsamic and olive oil. i think the other vegan item on the menu was pasta but i wasn’t feeling a pasta mood, so i stuck with the salad.

we sat outside next to the ducks..

ducks at the lake!

ducks at the lake!

a little bunny hopping..

bunny & duck

bunny & duck

The Landing Grill and Sushi Bar
32123 Lindero Canyon Road
Westlake Village, CA 91361
818-706-8887

Posted in los angeles, vegan-friendly | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

m cafe de chaya- mmm, dessert

Posted by vegetablediaries on October 6, 2009

carrot cake from m cafe de chaya

carrot cake from M Cafe de Chaya

it’s officially fall in many parts of the world, except for maybe here in southern california.. and to celebrate i ate a slice of carrot cake from M Cafe de Chaya! i must say the people at the M patisserie really know their carrot cakes. although i found the frosting too sweet, i enjoyed the walnuty, raisiny, autumny warmth of this dessert. i also bought a gingersnap cookie but i ate in the car while driving home! the cookie was crisp but it also had a nice chewiness from the molasses and raisins. i quite enjoyed it. there are so many sweets to sample at M Cafe. they do tend to sell out of things in the early evening so be quick if you need a dessert fix!

carrot cake from M Cafe de Chaya

carrot cake from M Cafe de Chaya

M Cafe also serves up great non-dessert items like sandwiches, salads, sushi (they do serve fish but none of their products contain dairy), wraps, and more. they call themselves contemporary macrobiotic cuisine; however don’t let that scare you away, the food is tasty! i visited their location on melrose but there are other locations in culver city and beverly hills.

M Cafe de Chaya
7119 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323-525-0588
www.mcafedechaya.com

Posted in gluten-free-friendly, los angeles, vegan bakery, vegan-friendly | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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