30 April 2010

Fuego Coastal Mexican

Not unlike most of the rest of America, Mexican restaurants in Mobile tend to be of the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all variety. Fuego breaks these shackles and delivers fantastic fare that makes it a dining destination on the Gulf Coast.

The Perez family transplanted the cuisine from their former stomping grounds (San Diego) to the Gulf Coast. Mike and Rosana Perez tired of the aforementioned characterless fare that is found in most Mexican restaurants in this country, and along with a like-minded chef, they decided to open Fuego. It gives diners who expect more from their South of the Border fare a new and better option.

Fuego always has a couple of vegetarian items on the menu. The pinto beans, refried beans and Spanish rice are not vegetarian. However, Fuego prepares black beans and puebla rice that are safe for vegetarians.

The margaritas at Fuego are fantastic. They pack tons of flavor into each drink, and they offer varieties that are far more exciting than the traditional frozen lime concoctions that most places offer. The watermelon cucumber margarita is a refreshing blast of fruit that lingers beautifully on your tongue.

Fuego also prepares tableside guacamole. Along with the chipotle salsa, it is a great starter.

The veggie enchiladas are stuffed with rice, red peppers, zucchini, corn and beans, topped with red sauce and queso fresco, and served with black beans, rice and a delicious dollop of mashed corn meal that ties the dish up with a bow.

The interior of Fuego is tastefully decorated with bright colors. The staff provides excellent service, and they are attuned to vegetarian dining concerns.


Fuego Coastal Mexican Eatery on Urbanspoon

20 April 2010

What is the fossil fuel content of your veggie burger?

Mother Jones published an article that identifies the brands of veggie burgers that contain soy protein isolated with the chemical hexane. It cites a Cornucopia Institute study. Organic veggie burgers are not made with a process that uses hexane, which has been identified as a neurotoxin. Often times, the major brands of veggie burgers offer a non-organic veggie burger made with hexane as well as organic version that does not use hexane. It might be worth reading the links and checking your freezer.

Sugar Inc.

Sugar Inc. is a bakery/restaurant in Dublin that specializes in funky cupcakes of the gourmet persuasion. In addition to the delicious individual pastries, Sugar Inc. also makes sandwiches, soup, salads and smoothies alongside a variety of artisanal teas.

Proprietor Ava Misseldine has taken the cupcake craze a step further. While many places in Columbus offer cupcakes (see Bakery Gingham, Surly Girl or Pattycake for a few examples), Sugar Inc.'s products have the extra bonus of being organic. They also produce gluten-free cupcakes for those with allergies.

The interior of Sugar Inc. is mostly blue with a modern art accents. There is seating for about 25 diners, although I imagine most cupcakes are enjoyed off-site.

Cupcake flavors include Madagascar bourbon vanilla, dark chocolate, buckeye, red velvet, strawberry merlot and chai honey cream cheese. The lineup changes regularly, although the bourbon vanilla and dark chocolate are regular choices. There are normal and baby sized cupcakes in most flavors.

The bourbon vanilla cupcake was excellent. The sweet notes of whiskey smoke are tempered by rich vanilla that is a perfect foil to the cupcake. The dark chocolate had a sweet icing that rounded out the bitter chocolate in the cake. The buckeye is the heavenly Ohio staple combination of chocolate and peanut butter. The chai honey cup cake has more in common with a muffin than a true dessert, with spicy ginger and cinnamon elements that add new and exciting elements in each layer of flavor. The strawberry merlot is what a wine critic would call a fruit bomb. Imagine it as a strawberry shortcake with a darker hue and hints of cassis.

The lunch menu features a vegetarian sandwich wrap and salads. The Scioto Trail veggie wrap comes cold or toasted. I ordered mine toasted, which makes the Jack and Swiss cheeses ooze perfectly out of the sandwich. The wrap holds spinach, mushrooms, carrots, cucumber, artichoke and red peppers in a dill dressing with a side of Thai peanut sauce. It comes as a half or whole order.

The Sugar signature salad is also delicious. It is intensely flavorful, with pickled beets, cranberries, dates, grape tomatoes, dates on a bed of spinach with brie and cherry rosemary vinaigrette.

Sugar Inc. has been in the news lately because Miss Misseldine is auditioning to appear on the Food Network's latest foray into battle food programming Cupcake Wars. With Columbus getting on TV often for foodie-related activities lately (two different 614-area-code bakers on Ultimate Cake-Off, Jeni's ice cream on Best Thing I Ever Ate and Anthony Bourdain filming in Columbus), this could be another bit of cool publicity for Columbus.

Sugar Inc

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16 April 2010

Aab India Restaurant

Aab India is the new Indian restaurant located amongst the endless sea of fine dining in Grandview. Aab's fare is flavorful and presents plenty of options for vegetarian diners.

Aab India Restaurant is owned by the same family that owns Ambar India, Cincinnati's favorite Indian establishment. The menu consists of a variety of choices from Northern and Southern India.

The interior of Aab is tastefully decorated. The tables are topped with a white table cloth, which ends up covered in chutney and other sauces when a barbarian like me is eating. The decor is mostly brown and beige interspersed with primary colors. The staff is capable although the service is somewhat uneven. Hopefully they will work out the kinks as time passes.

The chutneys at Aab are extremely flavorful. The mint chutney was chunky and fresh. The tamarind chutney had a bracing acidity. The onion chutney had an interesting pickled flavor.

I sampled the vegetarian appetizer platter. The paneer pakora was great. Paneer cheese is given a thick coating of batter that adds a crunchy element to an already tasty ingredient. The vegetable pakoras were crispy and satisfying. The aloo tikki (breaded mashed potatoes) is also delightful. The samosa, which was made with mashed potatoes rather than whole pieces of potato, was good but served slightly cooler than it should have been. Although the appetizers were delicious, additional care could have been taken to make sure that the items were evenly cooked and served at a uniform temperature.

Aab offers a wide range of breads, from naan to paratha. They are flecked with everything from onions to garlic to paneer. The paneer naan was mild and delicious, with a perfect texture.

I got the aloo vindaloo as a main course. Potatoes were cubed and prepared in the classic Southern Indian spicy sauce. The potatoes were cooked to a tender consistency, and they soaked up the notes of red chiles, cardamom and tumeric. The vindaloo was excellent.

The bar at Aab features a full selection of beer, wine and cocktails. Aab also offers lunch and dinner portions of meals. The dinner menu is much larger than the lunch menu.

Overall, Aab shows a lot of promise. With the exception of a few miscues in service, the experience at Aab is definitely good for vegetarians.

Aab India

Aab India Restaurant on Urbanspoon

12 April 2010

Da Levee

Da Levee is a low-key Cajun/Creole outpost in the Short North that has plenty of inexpensive options for vegetarian diners. While the cuisine of the Gulf Coast is somewhat at odds with the vegetarian dogma, Da Levee offers meatless fare that has the same explosion of flavor found in its meat- and seafood-laden counterparts.

The menu at Da Levee is drawn up on a chalk board each day, and it typically consists of about seven choices. Three of these options were vegetarian dishes, and one was even a vegan dish.

The staff was very friendly, and they allowed me to sample all of the vegetarian dishes. Lunch service was extremely brisk, getting me in and out the door in less than 20 minutes.

Each dish individually comes with rice and crunchy garlic bread for $6. $7 will get you a split portion of two dishes. Dinner and a drink is only $7.50.

The B and B is essentially the New Orleans classic bumblebee stew. A tasty melange of sweet corn, black beans and tomatoes in a mildly spicy sauce, the B and B is absolutely divine synergy of sweet, spicy and smoky flavors.

The spinach and mushroom etouffee is a creamy blend of veggies prepared in a mildly seasoned dark roux in a distinctly Cajun style. While the sauce is rich, it is rounded out nicely by the earthy mushrooms and the bright flavor of the sauteed spinach.

The succotash is another corn and bean dish that is both milder and much sweeter than the B and B. Besides being the second part of Sylvester the Cat's sufferin' catch-phrase, succotash is a dish with deep roots in Native American culture, including the cuisine of the Gulf Coast. Obviously, when the abundance of corn is combined with the ingenuity of American know how, the flavorful result is succotash. The succotash at Da Levee is also a vegan dish.

The garlic bread that comes with the dishes is also very good. Instead of being a last minute throw-in, the garlic bread has a crusty layer of garlic that adds a nice accent to the meal.

Since I'll be in the Crescent City at the end of this month, Da Levee gives me a good chance to get my palate acquainted with the cuisine of New Orleans. Luckily for me, when I return, it will still be there to transport me to New Orleans in my mind on my next lunch break in the Short North.

Da Levee

Da Levee on Urbanspoon

08 April 2010

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is Columbus' oldest Indian restaurant. Located on North High Street in the heart of campus, Taj Mahal prepares a ton of things that are safe for vegetarians (as you would expect from an Indian restaurant).

The menu at Taj Mahal has about 15 vegetarian entree choices as well as four appetizers. I sampled the lunch buffet, which had four vegetarian entrees as well as vegetable pakoras and naan.

The vegetable pakoras had a crunchy breading that snapped with each bite. The veggies were a mix of cauliflower, carrots and spinach. It paired well with a puddle of mint chutney.

The dal makhni was also very tasty. The Indian specialty is spicy and had a hint of garlic flavor. Another vegetarian option from the buffet was the malai kofta. Malai kofta is deep fried potato and cheese balls in a cream sauce. It is a rich, savory delight.

The roasted eggplant curry was a little hit or miss. While the veggies were mostly crisp and flavorful, the eggplant had an overly chewy consistency that was unpleasant. The dish might benefit from not sitting on a hot plate at the buffet for extended periods after cooking.

There is also a full salad bar and rice pudding available as part of the buffet. It costs $9.50.

There is plenty of seating at Taj Mahal. There is a full bar. Taj Mahal closes for a few hours between lunch and dinner.

Overall, Taj Mahal is a decent option for vegetarian diners. Personally, I prefer the quality of the food at Bayleaf, Indian Oven and Taj Palace to that of Taj Mahal. However, Taj Mahal still makes decent enough food to make it passable.

Taj Mahal

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02 April 2010

Mazah Mediterranean Eatery

Mazah Mediterranean Eatery is a fast casual spot in Grandview. The food is inexpensive, and it's tasty enough to stand out from the many other Mediterranean eateries that have opened in the last year.

Like most restaurants of Middle Eastern origin, Mazah is tremendously friendly to vegetarian diners. In addition, the menu also contains a number of dishes that are vegan and/or gluten-free.

There are many vegetarian starters, including hummus, baba ghanoush, mashed foul (fava bean salad), fatayer, falafel, stuffed grape leaves and a variety of salads. Vegetarian sandwiches include falafel, mojadara and grape leaves.

I tried both the falafel plate and hummus as appetizers. The hummus is light, and it possesses hints of garlic, lemon and red pepper in its flavor profile. It comes in both a small and large size. It is served with pita triangles.

The falafel balls were great. They had a crispy outside that encased a soft, spicy interior. The falafel was drizzled with tahini and served on a bed of lettuce and carrots.

The mojadara sandwich was also excellent. Mojadara is traditionally a rice and lentil dish commonly served in the Middle East. The lentils, rice and veggies are stuffed into a giant pita with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and tzatziki.

The inside of Mazah is bright. There is seating for about 30 people inside. Service is brisk and unobtrusive.

Mazah is making it tricky for me to pick out a Mediterranean restaurant to eat at. Before, I was limited to Aladdin's. However, in the last year or so, Ali Baba, Lavash, Shish Kebab Express and Mazah have all opened, making the decision harder on me. I guess I'll have to spread the love around.

Mazah Mediterranean Eatery

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01 April 2010

Bagels by Captain Cream Cheese

Bagels by Captain Cream Cheese shares the same space as the recently opened Late Night Slice in the Short North. It is open during lunch and dinner, and it features many flavors of bagels in addition to soup and sandwiches.

The bagel flavors of the day included plain, egg, salt, poppy, garlic, gouda, edam, onion, Italian, apricot, spinach and three cheese. Topping options were butter, peanut butter, plain cream cheese, garlic cream cheese, jalapeño cream cheese and a hummus that was described by the proprietor as "way too garlicky" hummus. I considered myself warned and ordered a salt bagel with jalapeño cream cheese.

The bagel was soft, and the granules of sea salt that speckled the top of the bagel added a delicious crunch to the bread. The jalapeño cream cheese was creamy, rich and possessed an understated spice.

The soup was lentil ditalini. The chunky vegan soup was made with brown lentils, tomatoes, chard, onions, carrots, celery and short pasta tubes. The soup rests somewhere between a dal makhani and pasta fagioli. It is very good.

Bagels by Captain Cream Cheese also makes egg sandwiches on a bagel. All I can say to the ovo-vegetarians is that if the egg sandwich is half as good as the bagel and soup, it will be delicious.

BbCCC has a limited drink menu. Prices are very cheap. It is open until Mikey's Late Night Slice opens at about 8:30 pm.

Bagels by Captain Cream Cheese

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