25 May 2010

C-Town Market and Deli

C-Town Market and Deli is a bodega in Downtown Columbus that has a full-service deli. It is a convenient option that offers a couple of choices for vegetarian diners.

The staff prepares a number of salads and side dishes that are stored in a deli case. The choices included hummus and crudités, tabouli, cous cous salad and chick pea salad.

The chick pea salad contained tri-colored chick peas and corn in an herbed-orange vinaigrette. The dressing was bittersweet and slightly excessive. Other than that minor complaint, the salad was successful.

While the veggie burger was excellent, I had a minor problem with the nomenclature of the dish. The sandwich was made with portabella mushrooms, hummus, roasted red peppers, mixed greens, cucumbers, corn and red onions on a Kaiser roll. While I loved the sandwich, I would have called it a portabella burger or a roasted portabella sandwich rather than a veggie burger. Despite its descriptive deficiencies, the sandwich was well made and flavorful.

C-Town Deli is able to make a cold veggie sandwich in addition to the hot veggie burger sandwich. Diners are also able to build-their-own sandwich with a variety of breads, cheeses, veggies and condiments.

C-Town is a decent deli option with an esoteric set-up. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8 to 8. While diners cannot drink on-site, there is a limited selection of beer and wine available for those who make their orders to-go.

C-Town Deli

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19 May 2010

DeepWood (the vegetarian menu)

DeepWood is a fantastic Columbus restaurant that caters to its vegetarian clientele with as much passion as it does to meat eaters on the other side of the aisle. Previously, I reviewed my lunch experience at DeepWood; this time, I will cover the even-more-spectacular vegetarian menu.

The menu consists of five vegetarian appetizers, two salads, a soup and five vegetarian entrees. Prices are noticeably more inexpensive than those on the general purpose menu.

The meal started with an amuse bouche, a breaded ball of saffron rice and soft white cheese. It was flavorful, with hints of saffron and basil combined with the bright, rich taste of cream.

Appetizer choices for the night included a fresh mozzarella trio, pretzel dumplings with honey mustard and fresh horseradish, avocado spring rolls, a portabella mushroom tart in a muscat reduction, a pea and parmesan dip, a currant and pecan salad with red and green lettuce, a beet salad and the soup of the day (I missed its description).

I chose the mozzarella trio, which consisted of a vine-ripened tomato and citrus crostini, shaved asparagus and mozzarella in a balsamic reduction and a Caprese preparation with a mozzarella slice, tomato and basil leaf in a light drizzle of olive oil. The trio ran the gamut from hot to cold, sweet to sour, and even bright to understated. The asparagus on melted cheese with hints of lemon was particularly great, although all three preparations were excellent.

The entree options were a portabella tian with roasted eggplant, peppers, wilted spinach and chick pea cake in an herb sauce, a lentil patty with spinach, carmelized onion bread and avocado ketchup with a grilled onion and and tomato salad, roasted pepper stuffed with white bean, currant, pine nuts, spinach and parmesan brulee in a minted sauce verte, soft poached eggs with asparagus, mushroom grits, manchego cheese and truffle oil, and house-made spaghetti with broccoli, white wine, garlic, chili flake and toasted bread crumbs.

The tian was a great contrast of earthy and fresh flavors. The chick pea cake was a crispy explosion of flavor. The herb sauce, mushrooms and eggplant ribbons provided great accents. The plating was striking. The dish was a winner.

The beverage menu at DeepWood is outstanding. Wine choices from the bottle and by the glass are a trip from Old World classics to New World favorites. The cocktail and beer selections are also fantastic.

The range of options on the vegetarian menu means that the staff should have no trouble offering a vegetarian degustation. No matter which way you approach the DeepWood experience, however, it's definitely worth the trip.

DeepWood Vegetarian

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17 May 2010

Hal and Al's

The Rad Dog era at Hal and Al's in Merion Village is over. Tawd Bell, proprietor of Rad Dog, has switched back to the mobile cart operation. Plans are in place to consider an as-yet-undecided Rad Dog space later this year when the temperature drops. For now, Rad Dog can be found Downtown during weekday lunch times at the corner of Broad and High streets.

But have no fear. Hal and Al's new kitchen still offers a vegan menu that is full of comfort food favorites in a similar mold to that of its former configuration.

Instead of featuring the delicious predetermined creations from Rad Dog, Hal and Al's now lets you create your own Tofurkey hot dogs, brats, Italian sausage and kielbasa with a choice of toppings including onions, peppers, sauerkraut, soy cheese, relish, salsa, spicy mustard and ketchup.

The menu also features another throwback to the Rad Dog era, which is the locally produced Luna Burger. The soft, crumbly patty is excellent.

The side dishes are also winners. Choices include fries, sweet potato fries, fried pickles, fried mushrooms, fried avocados, chili and nachos.

The nachos come topped with soy cheese, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, onions, black olives and chili. It is a fairly substantial portion. The bartender told me that the plan was to reformulate the cheese so that it melts better at a future date.

The fried avocados were also very satisfying. Wedges of avocado were breaded and served with a creamy dill sauce.

Even though I'm slightly depressed that Rad Dog is no longer in my neighborhood, at least Hal and Al's still has a vegan kitchen. It seems like the menu is still in its formative stages, so look for a few more changes while the project is in its infancy.

Hal and Al's

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11 May 2010


Stella is an amalgamation of international flavors that join hands in New Orleans to create a completely unique fusion cuisine. It combines European, Asian and Gulf Coast American elements that unify into a deeply satisfying package, all contained in a beautiful restaurant with a fun atmosphere.

Chef Scott Boswell brings his fun personality to Stella. His adventurous spirit comes to play in everything you eat at Stella. It quickly becomes evident why Chef Boswell was nominated for a James Beard award this year.

The amuse bouche was a mango puree prepared with taro root strips and spicy kimchi. The sweet flavor of the mango puree is pronounced at first, and the tangy bits of kimchi and the crunch of taro root join into a synergistic whole.

My appetizer was a chef's garden Bibb lettuce and organic purple radish salad with sweet red onions, fiddlehead ferns and blueberry vinaigrette. The salad combined crispy lettuce and crunchy radishes with a tart dressing, and the pop of fresh ground pepper made the flavor explode.

Stella prepares a vegetarian composition daily. Its contents are determined by whatever the freshest ingredients of the day are. The latest creation is cauliflower, beets, turnips and white asparagus with sugar snap peas, wild rice and potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, tapenade butter and a micro green salad. The croquettes were soft, hot and delicious. The veggies were crisp and flavorful. The dish was presented beautifully

The most minor complaint I had about the choices available for vegetarians was that the appetizer/entree combination available for vegetarians on the night I went to Stella was a little too salad heavy. I like mountains of greens as much as the next guy, but the portions might have been more in order if there was a non-salad appetizer available, or if the entree had a smaller green salad and more of the fresh veggies and croquettes. Overall, this is a minor complaint. The fare was so amazing that it overcame this slight oversight.

The dessert grilled cheese (yes, you read that correctly), however, hit the bullseye. Small tea sandwich portions of bread were stuffed with Explorateur triple-cream cheese and luxurious chocolate ganache. It was augmented with artistically applied blueberry sauce and fresh berries. The dessert wa so rich, and it was impossible to tell where the chocolate began and the Explorateur ended. The acidity in the blueberries adds a great contrast to this fantastic dessert.

Dinner came with an additional lagniappe in the form of a plate of delicious candies and cookies. While the strawberry marshmallow wasn't vegetarian-friendly, the chocolate coconut macaroons, absinthe truffles, white chocolate coconut nougat and passion fruit candies were both vegetarian-safe and satsfying.

Service at Stella was outstanding. The staff was jovial, knowledgeable, and deeply capable of addressing vegetarian dining concerns.

The wine list runs the gamut from trophy wines from DRC, Guigal, Margaux, Ridge, Peter Michael and Antinori, to idiosyncratic labels like the Friedrich Becker Pinot Noir from Germany and Surh Luchtel Page Nord Vineyard Rhone blend from Napa. Stella also has a full bar.


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10 May 2010

Green Goddess

Green Goddess is a small French Quarter restaurant with a great array of vegetarian and vegan fare paired with exciting cocktails. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for with gigantic flavors that come from the fresh ingredients.

Calling Green Goddess intimate would be as apt a description as calling Shaquille O'Neal big or Glen Beck opinionated. The place isn't just intimate; it feels like you are sitting in the chef's home kitchen. The decor is eclectic and eccentric.

The menu at Green Goddess allows you to order a degustation or to make selections a la carte. While the degustation may have meat or seafood ingredients, the staff would happily prepare a vegetarian degustation if you ask nicely.

I started off with a cheese plate as an appetizer. The menu features about seven local, national and international cheese choices. I selected Mont St. Francis, a crumbly goat cheese with a full flavor, Veneto d'Estate, a medium bodied cow's milk cheese with grassy, herbal notes, and Brillat-Savarin, an unctuous triple cream. The cheeses were presented with pepitas, olive oil and a soft pita bread. It would have worked equally well as an appetizer or as dessert.

The main course was an example of how Green Goddess turns great ingredients into exciting international fare that defies category. The huitlacoche crepes made with fresh mushrooms in a brandy sauce are a great fusion of French technique and Mexican ingredients that combine into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. There are layers and layers of earthy flavor that pick up additional richness from the crepe and sweetness from the brandy. Still more layers of flavor come from the porcini salt and butter. Any time I see huitlacoche (a corn fungus) on a menu, I must order it, and Green Goddess rewarded my predilection for corn smut kindly.

My dessert, Saturn Calling, is a black rice pudding with rings of coconut milk and Arborio rice stars surrounding it. Instead of being cloying, the rice pudding had a subtle sweetness that envelopes the mouth. The cinnamon adds a horchata note to the dish. It is deeply satisfying.

The beverage list has some very interesting cocktail choices. Since it was Derby weekend, I sampled the See Rock City mint julep, made with Catdaddy Carolina moonshine, ginger syrup, lychee juice and muddled mint. I am not a mint julep fan, but this drink was absolutely delightful. Other cool cocktail options include an absinthe/sugar cane juice drink, a Rob Roy made with Scotch finished in Sauternes barrels with high-end vermouth and a cherry, and a horchata and brandy milk punch. Green Goddess also offers idiosyncratic wines by the glass and bottle, and it also has a decent selection of craft beer.

The staff at Green Goddess is tremendously friendly, and their service is outstanding. They did an excellent job presenting the vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, and the effervescence of the menu is matched by the vitality of the service.

The intimate environment at Green Goddess does create a few issues. The best plan involves showing up early on weekends, because the 25 seats fill up quickly. Once you get yourself in the door and in a seat, however, the fun of the Green Goddess is immediately evident.

Green Goddess

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08 May 2010

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a two week event in late April and early May that celebrates the music, food and cultural heritage of the Crescent City.

You expect the music to be great (see the calendar for details). The bonus is that the fest also has scores of vegetarian dining options conveniently marked by an asterisk for your meatless dining convenience.

Much like New Orleans, the food at Jazz Fest is a melting pot. There is Cajun fare and Creole cooking in addition to food from other parts of the U.S., Italy, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Japan. Most of the vendors are from the New Orleans area.

Jazz Fest provides a tremendous opportunity to try a little bit of everything in the Big Easy. When paired with a great soundtrack, it's a winning combination.

Red beans and rice is about as New Orleans as a dish can get. It's at least as New Orleans as gumbo, jambalaya, andouille sausage, muffulettas and po' boys. Unfortunately, carnivores often up the flavor of their R-B-R with ham hocks, sausage or bacon. Luckily, Burks & Douglas prepares a vegetarian red beans and rice that packs all of the flavor with none of the guilt.

Ya ka mein (pronounced yock-uh-mean) is a dish of indeterminate origins with a flavor that is 100 percent New Orleans. Ostensibly, ya ka mein was introduced to New Orleans by Chinese port workers, and it was later adopted by the African American community. It is sometimes called old sober because it is utilized as a hangover cure. Miss Linda's catering makes a vegetarian ya ka mein (ya ka mein is typically a beef soup). Vegans be warned: it does contain a hard boiled egg. The hot soup has a mushroom broth base turned up by soy sauce and hot sauce, then filled with spaghetti noodles, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, scallions and of course the hard boiled egg. You don't have to know who created ya ka mein to know that this one tastes delicious.

Bennachin is an African restaurant in New Orleans that specializes in the cuisine of Cameroon and Gambia. The vegetarian combo plate that they serve comes with jama jama (sauteed spinach) and fried plantains. The spinach is prepared with onions, garlic and hot peppers. It is soft and satisfying. The plantains are soft and thickly breaded. The savory spinach pairs well with the sweet plantains.

Mona's Cafe is a small Mediterranean chain in New Orleans. Like most Mediterranean places, Mona's features many vegetarian choices. The combo platter comes with falafel, hummus, tabouli and a Greek salad. While the food was tasty, it was definitely a pain to eat salad at Jazz Fest while the sand and wind are whipping you in the face. Unlike myself, I would recommend taking shelter before engaging this dish or you will end up coating yourself and those who surround you with lettuce, dressing and feta cheese.

DiMartino's Muffuletta's makes a vegetarian muffuletta that is absolutely killer. The thick, sesame seed sandwich roll is stuffed with Swiss cheese and covered in an olive salad with red peppers, yellow peppers, mushrooms, green olives, spices and olive oil. Flavor explodes from the olive salad, and it's so good that there are no condiments required.

One of the other New Orleans specialties that was on display at Jazz Fest was the Snoball. If you ask for a Snow cone, a vendor will assume that you are a stupid Yankee and spit in your dessert. Plum Street Snoballs had stands set up all around Jazz Fest. I sampled the chocolate snoball with an extra dollop of condensed milk, which adds both sweetness and richness. It is a great cure for the blazing hot sun (or whatever else ails you).

There were many other vegetarian eats available at the fest that I didn't get a chance to sample. Other options include fried green tomatoes, corn on the cob, spinach artichoke casserole, fried eggplant in marinara, broccoli cheese pie, seaweed salad, Tunisian salad, Jamaican steamed vegetables, grilled veggie pitas and gelato from La Divina Gelateria.

I will have to wait for another time and another forum to extol the music I saw at Jazz Fest. You can see some of the music I caught in the slide show below. However, the food alone makes the Jazz and Heritage Festival a destination all by itself.

Jazz Fest

05 May 2010

Restaurant August

Restaurant August is as fine of a restaurant as there is to be found in the Big Easy. The jewel in Chef John Besh's crown, August does as fine of a job with their vegetarian preparations as they do with everything else on the cutting-edge menu.

For those who are unaware of John Besh (those not interested in fine dining and/or foodies living under a rock), his resume is impressive. Highlights of his career include graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, being named Top 10 best new chef by Food & Wine magazine in 1999, winning a 2006 James Beard Award for best chef in the Southeast and finishing second to Cleveland Chef Michael Symon on the Food Network's Next Iron Chef after beating Mario Batali on Iron Chef America. Besh was a contestant on Top Chef Masters. He is also noted for his service in Operation Desert Storm, and for his brave return to New Orleans post-Katrina, where Besh came with a boat, a gun and enough rice and beans to feed some of the people of the city who were unable to feed themselves.

The atmosphere at August is striking. The restaurant is divided into about four or five intimate dining rooms, and the low lighting shows enough of the beautiful woodwork in the building to impress. The wine loft above the dining room is another beautiful aesthetic accent to Restaurant August.

There are vegetarian appetizers and an entree on the menu. The degustation can also be ordered by vegetarians, although 24 hour advance notice should be given. The chef can also prepare a main course that highlights the freshest ingredients (which is the choice I made).

The amuse bouche was a citrus salad prepared with pink grapefruit, sweet potato, purple lettuce and rosemary. It was a clean, bright explosion of flavor that began the meal with a beautifully understated prelude.

My appetizer was organic greens with pumpkin seed brittle and Point Reyes blue cheese in a pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette. The brittle was a savory addition to an unbelievably perfect salad. The brittle was crunchy, and had a faint spice that made the dish march on in a lockstep unity.

The bread sticks were sourdough, and came with a house whipped butter. They were absolutely fantastic.

The main dish was a vegetarian trio of sweet potato tortellini in brown butter and parmesan, a sweet pea saffron risotto and a dark grilled broccoli and cauliflower combo. All three parts of the dish were great. The tortellini pillows were topped with greens and slivers of cheese, and the rich, herbal butter sauce sings with umami.

The risotto was a bright green foundation supporting herbal foam and chopped tomato, garlic and white onion strings. The risotto was the essence of spring, with fresh flavors that emerged from a creamy base.

The broccoli and cauliflower were deeply charred, and the cooking process added a sweet, smoky note to the veggies. A fresh piece of thyme added another layer of flavor to this simple yet refined item.

The cheese plate came with a variety of local and international selections, as well as another piece of the delicious pumpkin seed brittle. It was served with an herb-infused lavash bread.

The wine list at August is excellent, as one would expect with a restaurant of this caliber. The Dr. Frank Finger Lakes Rkatsiteli, an ancient Georgian varietal produced in New York state, was an interesting selection by-the-glass.

Service at August is also fantastic. The staff did an excellent job addressing vegetarian concerns and creating an experience that sparkled.

Restaurant August is a place that is deserving of its mountain of accolades. The vegetarian experience is as excellent as the reputation of August would indicate.

Restaurant August

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04 May 2010

Jerusalem Cafe

Jerusalem Cafe is a Mediterranean restaurant in Mobile that offers a great abundance of dining options for vegetarians. The food is fresh, healthy and delicious.

Mediterranean food consists of many dishes that are safe for vegetarians, and the fare at Jerusalem Cafe is no exception. Starters include hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, spanakopita, tabouli, fattoush, Greek salad and Jerusalem bean salad. Entrees include a falafel sandwich, a grilled veggie sandwich, eggplant parmesan sandwich, vegetarian lasagna, and a variety of combo platters.

I started out with the hummus/baba ghanoush appetizer. The chickpea and eggplant dips are dusted with pepper and parsley, and then drizzled with olive oil and harissa. It is served with warm pita triangles, and the combination of flavors is fantastic. The hint of heat added by the harissa lends a spicy note to the citrusy hummus, and the black pepper provides a nice contrast to the roasted flavors in the baba.

The stuffed grape leaves are stuffed with rice and tomato. The texture is soft and the flavor is bright.

The falafel and hummus pita is also very good. Soft falafel disks are stuffed into a pita that is slathered in hummus. The pita comes with grilled onions and zucchini as well as fresh tomatoes and lettuce in a tahini dressing. It is served with a side of saffron rice.

Jerusalem Cafe makes pastries, including the ubiquitous baklava in a variety of flavors. Some of the combo platters come with baklava included, so plan your meal accordingly.

The staff at Jerusalem Cafe works briskly and capably. There is indoor and outdoor seating. The restaurant is BYOB. Their website lists specials, including 25% discounts Monday nights, 20% lunch discounts to club members, and Sunday buffets.

Jerusalem Cafe

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03 May 2010


Hopjacks in Downtown Mobile is the second pizza and microbrew spot for this Pensacola operation. I didn't get to try the pizza, but I did approve of their 36 draft selections.

The draft list was heavy on local winners like Nola Hopitoulas (an Imperial IPA), Abita Jockamo and Restoration, Sweetwater pale ales from Georgia and Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan from Mississippi.

There are also many domestic options from Stone and Dogfish Head, and international brews from Belgium and the U.K.

There is an extensive list of bottled beers and beer-based cocktails. The bar in Mobile seats about 20, and the restaurant seats another 40 diners. It is located across the street from where the now-defunct Hurricane Brewing was.


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Dear Continental Airlines

Dear Continental Airlines,

Vegetarians do not eat turkey. There, I said it.

When I bought my tickets from New Orleans to Columbus, I requested a vegetarian dining option. You gave me a turkey sandwich.

There is terminology for part-time vegetarians of all different persuasions.
Pescetarians eat fish. Flexitarians often eat vegetarian meals, but sometimes consume dishes containing meat or meaty ingredients. I am a full-time lacto-/ovo-vegetarian (I will explain the tenets of veganism at a later time when I see that you are able to comprehend the differences between a vegetarian and a flexitarian).

See, you gave me a turkey sandwich. And I'm a vegetarian.

Vegetarians don't eat turkeys, or pigs, or cattle. They don't eat sea creatures. Some (like me) won't eat gelatin because it is made from cow bones.

Apparently I need to come up with a better way of explaining vegetarianism to you. You could have relied on
answers.yahoo.com to find out if vegetarians eat turkey, and the interwebs would have told you that turkey is no good for vegetarians. But I want to create a better definition of vegetarianism for you on the off chance that you get another vegetarian flying with you now that you are the largest airliner in America.

One of the more clever ways I've seen to understand the requirements of the vegetarian diet is that a vegetarian
doesn't eat anything with a face. This seems simple enough for Continental to understand.

However, vegetarian dining to me seems simple to understand, and you brought me a turkey sandwich. I'm afraid that you will interpret the no-faces mantra to mean that a vegetarian will eat worms and sea cucumbers. And they won't. See the earlier entries on
pescetarians and flexitarians for details. Or watch any show with Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain if you want to see video of people eating worms or sea cucumbers.

So now I have to go to the scientific concept of
taxonomy in order to get your head around vegetarian dietary requirements. Your average diner decides that they will eat members of the animal kingdom, thus cutting their dietary choices off at the genus level. This decision, combined with social norms and legal restrictions, keeps people from eating other people with the exception of the book and movie Alive and a few other moments in history, while still allowing them to eat baby cows and baby sheep without conscious guilt.

Vegetarians, however, move up the ladder of taxonomy and choose not to eat things by
kingdom, in the upper echelon of biological taxonomy. This concept would exclude turkey, worms and sea cucumbers from my tray table the next time I fly Continental. Just don't bring me any members of the animal kingdom. No salmon, no bison, and definitely no turkey.

I hope that my angry diatribe will help you help vegetarians who fly Continental Airlines in the future. Luckily enough, the flight was only two hours, and I travel with enough food to nourish a small band of travelling minstrels. However, I don't want the next vegetarian flying Continental to starve because they don't travel with my moveable feast and you bring them turkey sandwiches.

-- Yours truly

The Bull

The Bull is a Southwestern restaurant located in Downtown Mobile. Although the focus of the restaurant is seafood, the Bull also features a couple of options for vegetarians.

The interior of the Bull consists of beautiful wood accents surrounding modern art. The bar is equally stylish, and it offers a fair selection of wines and cocktails.

The vegetarian appetizers are two salads and a chips and dips platter. I started with the Bibb salad with roasted beets, smoked tomato, pecans and quesa fresca in a honey chipotle dressing. Although the flavors were great, there was not enough dressing on the salad to accompany the gargantuan wedge of greenery in the center of the plate. The gamut of flavor was fantastic, while the portions of the ingredients were imperfect.

My main course was the smoked black bean cake with cedar-smoked tomatoes, Spanish rice, salsa verde and sour cream. The black bean cake was a smoky amalgamation of beans, peppers and corn. The sour cream adds richness to the cake, and the rice and green salsa add additional layers of complexity to the flavor profile. The skin on the roasted tomato should have been peeled in order to give the dish greater visual appeal. Other than that small complaint, the dish was a success.

The Bull is an excellent restaurant that offers great choices for vegetarians. Although they didn't hit every pitch out of the park, they definitely got the bat on the ball more often than they were thrown out.


The Bull on Urbanspoon