out and about


As mentioned in a previous VeganMofo post, the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is a small piece of heaven for more than a hundred animals. Though it might be a bit early to think about Thanksgiving, WFAS held its 6th annual ThanksLiving vegan feast on Sunday, October 16th to ensure attendees get a glimpse of the fall foliage without freezing their tushes off in November.

Before the feast was served,  we enjoyed some delicious hors d’oeuvres – faux gras from The Regal Vegan, Buffalo Bites and (my favorite!) Cape Cod Cakes from Blossom and “Beef” Medallions with Béarnaise Sauce using a new flesh-alternative called Savage River. While the appetizers were passed, attendees had a chance to bid on a huge table of silent auction and raffle items, including gift certificates to Candle Cafe, Blossom and V-Note,  VIP passes to the Daily Show & Colbert and many other awesome prizes. Also, the bar was pouring stellar drinks, including Smoked Porter, Pale Ale or Arrogant Bastard donated by Stone Brewing Company!

The trays of hors d’oeuvres seemed endless. I had to cut myself off to save room for the main course, prepared by uber-amazing chef Terry Hope Romero. Check out this menu!

Now, onto the entrees….but before we stuffed our own gullets, the guests of honor got to feast!

No guest speakers this year, just Jenny Brown (director/co-founder) “dropping bones of truth on us” and giving many, well-deserved props during the meal. Dinner was brought to your table in one packed plate. The Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque with Cashew Crema was where I started and may have been my favorite part. Rich and hearty with just enough spice. Perfectly paired with Stone Smoked Porter and a great comfort food for the rainy fall evening, The Cornbread Sofrito Stuffing with Veggie Chorizo was a close second…a very creative Latin touch added to the traditional stuffing. I, like pretty much every vegan, am a huge fan of kale and loved the Massaged Kale Salad with Raisins and Toasted Almonds. Finally, the “bird,” Chicken Rajas in Orange Garlic Mojo made with the new Savage River faux chicken. The faux meat market isn’t something I’m big into these days, but this wasn’t bad. I didn’t find it to be much different (if at all) from Gardein, but definitely a lot better than the May Wah stuff, in my opinion. Anyway, a great alternative if you need something meaty to make the Thanksgiving meal complete.

Finally, super-talented vegan baker extraordinaire Danielle Konya of Vegan Treats blew our minds with her out-of-this-world desserts. An assortment of everything from pumpkin pie to peanut butter bomb was served up.

It was yet another hugely-successful WFAS event. If you didn’t make it, be sure to come out next year. Stay up-to-date with WFAS announcements, because the tickets are gone in the blink of an eye and…I say this from personal experience…you don’t want to be that sucker who only gets to read about how awesome it is on the internet :)

Another VeganMofo, is here. That’s cool and all, but I have to say every time I read “vegan mo-fo” I think of Vegan Muthafucka, which is just fucking weird.

Anyway, a week in with no posts, we’re off to a bad start! The first few days of October both Kevin and I were outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire running the Smuttynose Brewing Co. Rockfest Marathon mentioned in the previous post (still time left to donate to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary fundraiser!) The race was pretty horrible for both of us. We each had an illness or injury and the cold, driving rain destroyed any hope of overcoming it. It was quite a challenge, but we both pushed through, crossing the finish line with rather disappointing times. On the bright side, we got to sample some vegan food and beer in and around Portsmouth, which made the experience slightly less painful.

Smuttynose Brewing Company, who sponsored the race, and its sister brew pub, Portsmouth Brewery, are the dominating craft breweries in the area. As you may know, Portsmouth Brewery is creator of the infamous Kate the Great, Russian Imperial Stout. Definitely an awesome beer, but there are so many other great beers poured at the brewery and some stellar vegan options on the menu to boot! We hit up the brew pub the night before and after the race. We had the carb-heavy Smoked Tofu with Rice Noodles, an enormous portion of stir fried noodles, loads of veggies and Tofu Lin style smoked, pressed tofu.

There is also a tempeh wrap on the menu, as well as the usual pub food offerings of hummus and a veggie burger. Note, we did not get a straight answer on whether the Brewery Veggie Burger is vegan. While the ingredients seem straight forward – a blend of tofu, toasted oats, roasted fresh vegetables and spice – when I asked, I was told dismissively “no it’s not vegan, it’s got some stuff in the burger.” Probably worth asking again.

There beers were excellent! Very good timing on our part, as the wet-hop-brewed Hop Harvest II was on tap, which appears to be brewed with fresh Citra hops. This beer is truly outstanding – definitely one of the best wet-hop beers I’ve ever had. Huge fresh hop aroma, lots of tropical fruit flavor. Incredible. I’m not a big Gose fan, but Portsmouth is one of the few pubs where you’ll find one brewed and we were also lucky to be there while it was on.

Also worth mentioning, there is an all vegan raw restaurant called Revitalive Cafe just south in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

I didn’t really enjoy my raw “tuna” wrap so much, but Kevin and Jaime liked their dishes, including the Taco Salad, Raw Vegan Pizza and the Revita-Wrap (shown below).

Finally, I would not leave Portsmouth without an organic vegan pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven at the Flatbread in downtown Portsmouth.

Delicious artisan flatbread pizza with all the fixing and a good number of decent beers. SO good!!

Join us on September 8th at The Half Pint in NYC to benefit the animals and the work of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS). The Half Pint is generously donating 25% of the tab at an upcoming Smuttynose Brewing Co. promo night to WFAS …and insanely amazing vegan fare will be available for purchase (all proceeds benefit WFAS) from Blossom du Jour!

Brett of VeganBrew is hosting this benefit as part of his upcoming marathon run, October 2nd – World Day for Farm Animals – at the Smuttynose Brewing Co. Rockfest Marathon, to benefit WFAS. You can also help raise funds by donating to the Crowdrise project page. We hope to raise $2,620 for WFAS – anything you can give is very much appreciated!

In addition to The Half Pint”s regular lineup of fantastic craft beers, Smuttynose beers featured will be:

Farmhouse Saison
Pumpkin
Robust Porter
Star Island Single

Come out for a few pints for a good cause!

Philadelphia prides itself on being “America’s Best Beer-Drinking City,” which may be a debateable topic (look how many other cities have attempted to copy our “beer week.”)  I’d argue, without question, that Philly is also America’s most vegan-friendly-beer-drinking city.  In other words, when I’m out drinking, I want good vegan pub food.  And without a doubt, I get that at many, if not all, of the establishments I normally frequent.

Here’s my attempt at introducing & summarizing what you can get while visiting the many bars & pubs around town.  My criteria was simple:

  • Must have multiple vegan options on the menu, clearly marked as such.  Lame attempts like hummus & portabello sandwiches don’t count.
  • Must have craft beer.  No crap on tap!

I’ll start from deep South Philly (where I live), working my way north through the city, as far as Fishtown, before swinging out west to University City.  I don’t think I’ve missed anything, but please let me know if I have!

South Philadelphia Tap Room

SPTR has a special place in my heart – for the longest time it was the only craft beer bar in my area of town – and it is the place where I learned to love craft beer.  In fact, I still remember the 3 beers I had my first visit over 7 years ago: Victory Throwback Lager (a pre-prohibition style lager), Hoegaarden, and Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat.

The tap room has 13 taps and one cask-ale hand pump – always filled with a variety of awesome stuff.  Their main vegan option on the menu is the vegan hoagie – grilled tempeh, marinated mushrooms and tofu mayo on a long roll.  I’ve traditionally not been a fan of any mayo-type foods, vegan or not, but this stuff is to die for.  For the longest time I felt this was the best vegan sandwich in the city, though it has some serious competition now (see Khyber Pass Pub below.)  Pair it with the steak fries – which come with the best homemade ketchup in the world (I normally don’t like ketchup, but I love this!)  During weekend brunch, you can get a nice tofu scramble dish as well.  Sometimes the soup specials are vegan; check the menu – they normally label everything appropriately.  They also recently introduced a vegan pizza as a starter – roasted eggplant, spicy marinated cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, black olive olive oil, which is fantastic provided you like the flavor of black olives.

They also own & operate BREW across the street, which is a coffee bar & takeout beer shop all in one.  They probably have the best selection of takeout beer in South Philly.

1509 Mifflin Street, South Philly (Newbold)
From the subway (orange line) get off at Tasker/Morris, walk south on Broad 2 blocks to Mifflin, and head west on Mifflin for a block & a half
http://southphiladelphiataproom.com

Cantina Los Caballitos

The Cantina is probably my go-to spot for food, year round.  On the vibrant and now-hip East Passyunk Ave, this Mexican restaurant/bar has a handful of craft beer taps, but more importantly, vegan fajitas.  These fajitas are no joke: smoked tofu, perfect seitan, wild mushrooms, onions & peppers, black beans, rice, guacamole… It is suitable for splitting between two people (but I rarely do, instead opting to roll myself home afterwards.)  Dining in at Cantina also means a bottomless bowl of freshly made chips and two salsas for dipping (red & verde.)  Like the other bars from this owner (Royal Tavern, Khyber Pass Pub) – everything vegan is marked as such on the specials board & in the menu.

If the vegan fajitas are too much food for you – try the vegan beef burritos, or go light and refreshing with a mixta salad (avocado, romaine lettuce, jicama, orange sections, radishes, almonds, piquin chile vinaigrette.) If you have room after your meal, they always have Vegan Treats cake available for dessert.  Prime eating hours are usually pretty cramped here, with a decently hipster’ish crowd, so be warned.

1651 East Passyunk Ave (at Morris St), South Philly (East Passyunk Crossing)
Via subway (the orange line) – get off at the Tasker/Morris stop and walk east on Morris.
http://www.cantinaloscaballitos.com

POPE

Just a few blocks north of the Cantina on Passyunk lies the Pub on Passyunk East, or as most people call it, The POPE.  This dark bar (with a dungeon-y feel to it) has 14 craft beer taps & several vegan food items on the menu (clearly marked as well – notice a trend?)  Beer-wise, they almost always have Sly Fox O’Reilly Stout on a nitro tap, for those seeking a Guinness-esque (but fishgut-free) dry irish stout.  Their happy hour (4-6pm during the week) offers you half-priced draughts.  They regularly get all of the “good” stuff that gets distributed to Philly – think Russian River Supplication & Lost Abbey Angel’s Share.  On the food side of things, you can find fried seitan fingers, & a seitan cheesesteak (with a cheeze-wiz’esque nutritional yeast-y type of vegan cheese), and a mushroom & nut meatloaf.  (Edit 11/9/11: Menu was recently downsized, and the vegan meatloaf is now gone.) Sometimes their daily specials include vegan options, so check the board outside of the bathroom.  And on the weekends you can stop by for brunch, which always has at least 2 vegan options.

1501 East Passyunk Ave (at Dickinson), South Philly (East Passyunk Crossing)
http://pubonpassyunkeast.com

Royal Tavern

If you continue heading north/east on Passyunk for another half-mile, you’ll reach the Royal Tavern.  Owned by the same people as the Cantina, this really cozy establishment (complete with original tin ceiling & a gorgeous bar) has been cranking out vegan pub food for what seems like forever.  They have 8 craft taps (usually featuring a lot of east coast favorites) and a decent-sized bottle list.  Their menu tends to rotate every few months, but they always have several vegan salads, entrees, and sandwiches (clearly marked) along with daily specials.  Some of the more awesome’r things I have had at Royal: tempeh club (grilled tempeh, vegan bacon, lettuce, tomato, basil aioli) and the sloppy joe (vegan beef, spicy tomato sauce, smoked coleslaw, sliced jalapenos.)  Like their sister establishments, you can find Vegan Treats cakes offered for dessert.  On the weekends, check them out for brunch and try the tofu & tempeh hash (roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, breakfast potatoes, toast.)  Bonus points for having Xlerator hand dryers in the bathroom here as well!

937 East Passyunk Ave (at Carpenter) South Philly (Bella Vista)
http://www.royaltavern.com

Monk’s Cafe

Monk’s Cafe is one of the premier Belgian bars in America.  Tom Peters, Monk’s owner, is directly responsible for first introducing Chimay to Americans, back in the 80s.  Monk’s is also directly responsible for getting some of the west coast’s best breweries to distribute to the Philadelphia area (Russian River, Lost Abbey / Port Brewing.)  You’ll regularly find 13 craft & Belgian beers at the back bar and 6 at the front, along with arguably (actually – this is not remotely debateable) the best bottle list in the city – chock full of all the vintage and hard-to-get beers that people regularly drool over on beeradvocate.com

If you grow hungry while getting your drink on at Monk’s, well then you are in luck!  They always have several vegan options on their seasonally-rotating menu; currently you can find summer wraps (seitan, papaya, peaches, sweet peppers, fresh corn & jicama wrapped in romaine leaf with mint & sesame lime dressing), a vegan burger (2012 Note: the bun is disappointingly no longer vegan) , grilled moroccan seitan pita, a seitan cheesesteak (omit the cheese to make it vegan), and vegan meatballs (seitan & mushroom meatballs over udon noodles tossed with a nut-based romesco sauce.)

Monk’s also has many special beer dinners throughout the year.  If you give them advance notice, they will make sure all of your food pairings for the dinner are vegan (and excellent.)  I’ve attended two of these thus far and they were unbelievable.  A word of warning: this place can get very crowded during peak dining hours & during any special events – and the space is pretty cramped as-is.  But it is a must stop for anyone seeking great beer in Philadelphia.

264 South 16th Street (at Spruce), Center City (Rittenhouse Square)
Via the subway (orange line) get off at Walnut/Locust, walk west on Locust 2 blocks to 16th, then 1 block south
http://www.monkscafe.com

Nodding Head

Walking a few blocks north of Monk’s will lead you to Nodding Head brewpub & restaurant.  A quick warning: Nodding Head fines a bunch of their beers with isinglass, so you’ll need to ask a waiter or bartender which beers on tap at the time are vegan.  Usually, they only fine their hoppy beers (their pales & IPAs) so mainstays like the Grog (a nice sessionable english brown ale), 60 Shilling (scottish ale) and Monkey Knife Fight (lemongrass & ginger lager) are safe.  They also have one of the best American examples of berliner weisse – the Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse, which is never fined.

On the food front, you can find several tasty vegan items: white beans and sage (a tasty stew served with warm pita bread), vegan burger, and polenta puttanesca (polenta, mushrooms, basil tofu in a puttanesca sauce.)  Nodding Head is a very fun place to hang out at with friends (they have dart boards and the 2nd level view of Sansom Street is nice) and the crowd is usually pretty manageable.  If I worked in Center City, I’d probably find myself stopping here for lunch quite often.

2/19/2012 Note: as of recently, the “vegan burger” is served on an egg-washed roll & the polenta puttanesca is no longer vegan (it has actual dairy cream in it, as per the last waiter I had.)  With the diminishing vegan options here, I can no longer recommend a visit.

1516 Sansom St (between 15th and 16th), Center City
From the subway (orange line) get off at Walnut-Locust, walk a block north to Sansom, then head west for a block & a half
From the subway (blue line) get off at City Hall, walk a block and a half south on 16th, then head west a half block
http://www.noddinghead.com

Belgian Cafe

Heading north-west of Center City towards the Art Museum / Fairmount area, you’ll find a plethora of nice bars.  My favorite to go to is the Belgian Cafe, from the same owners of Monks Cafe.  When the weather is pleasant, it is a nice 1.3 mile walk from City Hall up the parkway, past the Art Museum (run up the steps like Rocky if you must!) to the Belgian Cafe, where you will be greeted with 12 taps featuring great belgian imports and craft beer.  The beer list tends to include more accessible beers than the often-rare offerings that their sister bar features, but it is stellar nonetheless.

Foodwise.. the Belgian Cafe never disappoints my friends and I – the menu is borderline epic.  For starters, you can get the stuffed tofu (tofu marinated in Spaten Optimator, stuffed with dried cherries, cashews, cilantro, & garlic), the vegan bbq wings (corn meal crusted seitan “wings” with spicy bbq sauce – be sure to ask for the vegan basil aoli to dip in!), or the vegan spring rolls.  If you want a sandwich or entree, you can go with the vegan burger or vegan tempeh cakes (tempeh with dill-lemon vegan aioli, grilled corn & grilled asparagus.)  If you happen to find yourself at the Belgian Cafe on the weekend during brunch, you can get the vegan cream chipped beef (sliced seitan with well seasoned tofu “cream” served over multigrain toast.)  Bonus points: Xlerators in the bathroom!

601 North 21st St (at Green), North Philly (Fairmount)
From the subway (orange line) get off at Spring Garden, walk west 7 blocks, then head north on 21st for 2 blocks until you hit Green
http://www.thebelgiancafe.com

Khyber Pass Pub

Since the Khyber revamped itself in the last year (new ownership – same owners as the Royal & the Cantina – and new focus on dining & beer) there is no better place to go for pub & grub in Old City. Or possibly anywhere in the city, period. 20 taps (including 1 nitro) & 2 cask hand pumps – few places have such a great selection.  You’re almost always guaranteed to find a fresh cask of Yards ESA on one the hand pumps – few beers pair so well with that style of serving – and they often have beers you just don’t see around town.  I can’t gush enough about the beer here – but what really rules is the food!

The Khyber prides itself on Cajun/Southern BBQ comfort food, and doesn’t leave us vegans out in the wind.  Everything on the menu and the specials board is clearly marked.  For starters, you can have the vegan buttered popcorn (sometimes they have a vegan bacon salt varient as well!), the nachos with vegan bbq pork (sans cheese & sour cream) or one of the daily soup specials (like gazpacho or gumbo z’herbes, which is currently my favorite soup in the entire world.)  If you have room for something bigger, you can get the vegan bbq pulled pork sandwich, the grilled vegan sausage sandwich, or the vegan fried chicken po-boys (complete with an awesome homemade vegan mayo that even I like.)  All sandwiches come with one side; the vegan sides include fries, sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes (my recommendation), collard greens, and vegan coleslaw.  Like their sister restaurants, you can get Vegan Treats cakes for dessert (I’ve sometimes stopped here just for cake after catching a movie at one of the nearby Ritz theatres.)  Bonus points: Xlerators in the bathroom!  Extra Bonus Points: they host many of the Vegan Cocktails Philly events & pull out even more vegan offerings (like vegan “meat” pies) on those nights.

56 South 2nd St (at Chestnut), Center City (Old City)
From the subway (blue line), get off at 2nd st and walk south one block
http://www.khyberpasspub.com

Cantina Dos Segundas

For completeness sake, I’m including Dos Segundas here, even though the menu is very similar to Cantina Los Caballitos (same chef, same owners, same vegan fajitas!)  Last week I heard they had jackfruit tacos as a special.  Yum.  Dos Segunas has a very convenient location in Northern Liberties, a few doors down from the Foodery, who offers the best selection of takeout beer in the city (albeit at very premium prices.)  On Thursday nights, around 7:30, you can usually see me and a pack of 30-50 other crazies running south on 2nd, past Dos Segundas, as we (the Fishtown Beer Runners) often run down 2nd as our route towards Center City bar destinations.

931 North 2nd St, North Philly (Northern Liberties)
From the subway (blue line), get off at Spring Garden, walk west to 2nd St, then up 2nd St for 3 blocks.
http://cantinadossegundos.com

Memphis Taproom

I’ve already detailed the recent Vegan Beer Dinner at Memphis, so it should be no surprise that this place is one of the best pubs in town due to its stellar beer selection (10 taps, 2 hand pumps) and killer vegan food.  The well-marked menu rotates seasonally, so some dishes may come and go (like some of my favorites: the jackfruit “crab” cakes, the beer-battered miso tofu (fish & chips style), and the smoked avocado lettuce & tomato sandwich.)  Currently they have grilled peach (with buckwheat noodles, sesame, cucumber, cilantro), charred string beans, chicken-fried portabello sandwich (not your ordinary portabello & veggie sandwich!  with vegan mayo), a vegan veggie burger, the famous smoked coconut club (grilled lemon garlic tofu, smoked coconut, tomato herb mayo), and shitake schnitzel (smoked potato salad, braised red cabbage, mustard “cream” sauce.)  On occasion, I’ve gotten some vegan desserts like cookies here. For brunch, you can get the veggie burger or the vegan rooster (tofu scramble with vegan blood sausage, smoked coconut, roasted new potatoes and toast.)

Outside, Memphis has a cute beer garden where you can drink cans of craft beer along with gourmet hot dogs (they have vegan dogs there).  Memphis is a little out of the way for anyone that doesn’t live in North Philly – but it is totally worth the trip.  Bonus points?  You guessed it, Xlerators in the bathrooms.

2231 East Cumberland St (at Memphis), North Philly (Fishtown / Port Richmond / Kensington)
From the subway (blue line), get off at Berks, walk north a block to Norris, take a right, follow Norris 4 blocks to Memphis, turn left and walk 9 (short) blocks to Cumberland
http://memphistaproom.com

Local 44

Out in University City (near UPenn & Drexel) – Local 44 is, without a doubt, a must stop.  Owned by the same awesome couple as the Memphis Taproom, with the same genius chef behind the menu, you’ll find yourself staring down 18 taps and 2 hand pumps, then drooling over the extensive vegan food offerings (all clearly marked on the menu.)  Like the menu at Memphis, some of the food changes from time to time, but the vegan options are always plentiful.

For starters, you have the warm spinach dip & pita chips (roasted garlic, fried onions, mornay sauce), chips & dip (sea-salt chips, french onion dip), grilled peach salad (avocado, baby arugula, sesame wasabi vinaigrette), shrooms & chips (chicken-fried portabella strips, maple mustard, red bbq sauce).  If you want a sandwich, try the pastrami spiced seitan reuben or a black bean burger.  Even hungrier?  Go for the mac provencal (sundried tomatoes, soy mornay, olives, rosemary, orange zest.)

If you are looking for brunch at Local 44 – they’ve got you covered there as well!  There is something called migas (tortillas, tofu, peppers, onions, ro-tel queso), tofu scramble, shirred tofu (garlic tofu, sautéed spinach, mornay sauce, roasted potatoes and toast), and shitake scrapple.  For anyone not from the area – scrapple is a “pennsylvania specialty” and involves a gross mush of pork scraps (literally), cornmeal, and flour.  This varient uses tasty mushrooms instead.  The best brunch item they have, however, are the pb&j french toast sticks (with brown sugar banana cream & dark chocolate).  A few months back, a group of 5 of us (longtime vegans) all split this and pretty much ranked it amongst the best dishes we have ever had. Period. You can also get the seitan reuben or the black bean burger for brunch.

4333 Spruce St (at 44th), West Philly (University City)
From City Hall, take the 34 trolley (along Baltimore ave) to 44th St, then walk 4 blocks north to Spruce
http://www.local44beerbar.com

Mad Mex

Mad Mex is a Mexican restaurant nestled right in the middle of UPenn’s campus.  They’ve been offering tofu sour cream & vegan cheese in their burritos for well over a decade – dating as far back as the late 90s when vegan-rella was the best you could get.  I don’t go here as often as I used to, but there’s plenty to be had: over a dozen different burritos, many of which can be veganized by choosing the grilled portabellos or marinated tofu as the protein source.  If you don’t want a burrito (or enchiladas, or quesadillas, you can get the pennsyltucky fried tofu (tossed in sweet soy sauce, peanuts, sesame seeds & cilantro), the chickpea chili soup (you can get the vegan cheese & tofu sour cream on this as well), or the herb-o-vore’s tofu tacos.  Beer-wise, you’ll find 20 taps of mostly craft beer (with some clunkers like PBR & miller lite thrown in there – this is a college bar after all.)  Bonus awesomeness: show a student id from 11pm-1am any night of the week and your food is half price.  (The student id is a new requirement.)  This place gets very crowded late night during the school year.

3401 Walnut St, West Philly (University City)
From the subway (blue line), get off at 34th st and walk 2 blocks South on 34th St until you hit Moravian (after Sansom, before Walnut – it looks like an Alley).  Make a right on Moravian and follow that till it dead-ends.
http://www.madmex.com

Those of us living in Philly are so lucky to have Philly Beer Week – an entire week-plus of events celebrating and sharing awesome beer.  I’ve been to several great events this week, having had the chance to try such rare gems as Mikkeller I Beat U, Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA, several from Lost Abbey (Framboise de Amorosa, Cuvee de Tomme, Red Poppy, Amazing Grace, Veritas 008 & 009, Duck Duck Gooze & Its Pineapple-Guava variant), Russian River Supplication, North Coast Rasputin XII… this list could go on and on.  But the best Beer Week event I attended thus far was the Vegan Beer Dinner at Memphis Taproom.

I’ve been a huge fan of Memphis ever since it opened.  From day 1 they’ve made sure to include a plethora of vegan options on their menu – clearly marked.  I love when restaurants do this – it makes it feel so much more inviting to us vegans, and it avoids the awkward barrage of questions every visit.  Currently their dinner menu (it changes every few months) includes such delightfully awesome dishes as the smoked coconut club & seitan shepherds pie, but in the past I’ve had things like jackfruit “crab cakes” and smoked avocado lettuce & tomato sandwiches. Yums all around.  My only complaint about Memphis is that it is not in my neighborhood – so I usually have to run there (about 6 miles from my house, a good pre-brunch warmup) or take the subway.

Dan Shelton Rambling

Truffled Beluga Lentils: Green Apple, Pickled Beet, Blood Orange, paired with Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

This might have been my favorite course of the night.  We learned during Dan Shelton’s long-winded “introduction speech” (he is the infamous Shelton Brothers beer importer/distributor) that Jolly Pumpkin owner & head brewer Ron Jeffries is himself also vegan.  I’ve always been a fan of JP’s offerings and La Roja, a flanders style amber, is one of my favorites.  Tart, a little sweet, some nice tannins and not too much burning acetic character going on.  I’ve only had beluga lentils before at Horizons but I sure will pick some up in the future.  The sourness from the pickled beet & the sweetness from the apple & blood orange really made the flavors of both the lentils and the beer really pop.  Plus, anything served “truffled” makes me happy. (Do yourself a favor and pick up some black truffle salt; you’ll thank me later.)

Braised Carrot; Beer Battered Miso Tofu, Pea Shoots, Red Wine Chocolate Jus paired with De Ranke XX Bitter

Memphis used to have beer battered miso tofu (“fish & chips” style) on the menu, but its been ages since I’ve seen it.  This was an excellent opportunity to remind me of what I was missing.  Personally, I wasn’t in love with the red wine chocolate jus (I tend to not like combining chocolate with savory foods), but I devoured everything else you see on this plate.  Really enjoyed the XX Bitter as well – very aggressive hop-wise with a little more than a hint of classic (barnyard-y) brettanomyces.  Dan Shelton described the brett character as “what Orval used to be like.”

Shitake and Leek Dumpling; Mushroom tea, ginger, black pepper oil, charred scallion paired with Mikkeller 10

I could eat this soupy dish every day for the rest of my life and I don’t think I’d get sick of it.  All of the flavors here blended quite nicely.  Mikkeller 10 is a followup to their single hop ipa series; in this instance they added 10 different varieties throughout the boil.  Very fruity, a tad bit herbal, all around tasty.

Dessert: Peche Mortel Poached Calimyrn Fig, Toasted Almond, Coffee Caramel, Popcorn Milk, paired with Du Ciel Peche Mortel

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of figs.  I don’t dislike figgy flavors in various dishes, or even in some big, complex beers like Belgian strong dark ales, but I don’t love biting into giant fig chunks.  Nonetheless, I licked this plate clean.  I do wish I asked how exactly “popcorn milk” is made, because I certainly want to try it again.  Peche Mortel was a great pairing here; it is one of the best coffee beers in the world (they use fair trade coffee in it, as well.)

Cheers for Chef Jesse Kimball (Phillies hat) & his crew!

Cheese Course: Aged Macadamia Cheese, Cashew & Crystal Algae Blue Cheese, pickled blueberries, Smoked Coconut Marmalade paired with Spezial Rauchbier

Even back before I was vegan, I was never a “cheese person” – the type of person to go to a wine party with various fancy cheeses that smell funny.  Semi-recently, though, I ordered Dr Cow nut cheese from pangea; it seemed interesting enough to try.  I’m not sure what happened – maybe it did not survive the trip from Maryland well, or maybe it sat in my fridge for too long, but it was dreadful.  This sampling (which was from Dr. Cow), on the other hand, was wonderful.  I enjoyed the texture and the taste, and the toasted bread sticks provided for spreading on were perfect.  The smoked coconut marmalade was great… But we already know Chef Jesse is the master at smoked coconut (see him on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.)

And finally, no trip to Memphis is complete without using the rest room, and drying your hands with an xlerator – the only worthy hand dryer in the world.  I’m trying to figure out how to integrate one of these into my house.

In closing, this event was awesome.  The beer pairings were pretty spot on and the portions were just right. Our table of 5 left very satisfied!  Leigh from Memphis hinted that they will do it again next beer week – I can’t wait!

When seeking vegan-friendly bars, I think I am pretty easy to please.  I basically require just a few simple things:

  1. Craft beer on tap
  2. Vegan items clearly labeled on the menu, so I don’t have to play a game of 20 Questions with the waitstaff
  3. More than 1 vegan choice, excluding hummus, “garden salads”, and portabello mushroom sandwiches. I’ve had enough of all three in my lifetime, thank you very much

One particular chain of bar/restaurants in Philly always fulfills all three of those requirements.  I’m talking about the Royal Tavern and both Cantina locations (Dos Segundas and Los Caballitos.)  The head chef at all three locations, Mark McKinney, does a splendid job of giving us vegans a plethora of delicious menu options.  The recently revamped Khyber Pass Pub is the 4th, and possibly the best of the bunch in my humble opinion!

I strolled up to Old City this past Monday for an evening of food and drink at the Khyber.  The Khyber used to be primarily a music venue with a decent bar.  The first time I went there was more than a half-decade ago – to see Andy Rourke, formerly of The Smiths, spin records.  It happened to be the first time I tried a Victory Hop Devil; I deemed it too hoppy for my tastes at the time (oh, how the times have changed.)

The new Khyber has replaced the music floor with dining tables.  They now boast 20 tap lines and 2 hand pumps for cask-conditioned beer – everything from local favorites like Yards Philly Pale Ale or Victory Storm King to West Coast IPAs like Ballast Point Big Eye or Port Brewing High Tide.  And the food menu – still in “preview” mode for now, is Southern-style, with a bunch of vegan options.

Normally I’d go with seitan po boys or the veggie sausage sandwich – two mainstays on the still-new menu.  On this evening, however, I chose to start with one of the daily specials: Vegan Sausage & Mustard Greens Soup.

The soup was very hearty and tasty.  The sausage reminded me of the vegan chorizo you can purchase at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  The greens and tomato broth complimented it well.

For my entree, I chose to go with the Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.

The mashed potatoes had a really raw (in a good way), un-processed feel to them.  As you can see by the crappy iPhone photo I took, it doesn’t look like the perfectly blended commercial junk you get in the supermarket.  This was a real mashup of potatoes and soy milk.  I think the gravy could be a tad thicker, but overall the taste was spot on (not overly salty, like some veg-gravies can be.)

The pulled pork sandwich itself was a soft bun surrounding a mound of slightly sweet but also tangy seitan covered in some sort of cole slaw.  I’m not a big cole slaw fan – in fact, I don’t like most white, veganaise-y things, but even I found this to be delicious.

I was too stuffed between the beer and food that I had no room for dessert.  They do offer cakes from Vegan Treats in the event that I ever leave room in my stomach during a future visit.

Previously, my go-to, never-dissapoints, vegan-friendly Philly pubs were Local 44 and Memphis Taproom, but I now have to make room for a third.  (It also helps that the Khyber Pass Pub is merely 2.5 miles away from my house, making for a pretty pleasant walk through Philadelphia.) I highly recommend it to any vegans looking for hearty pub food and a few tasty pints.

While the rest of the world is becoming progressively more vegan-friendly, Albany is somehow going in the other direction.  As the SNL version of our soon-to-be former Governor put it:

“…if you’re in Albany, I can recommend a great place to go for dinner. It’s called Manhattan.”

Thankfully, you don’t even have to go that far. For this VeganMofo contribution: a long-overdue review of the only all-vegan restaurant anywhere near Albany, Garden Cafe on the Green in Woodstock, NY.

Visits to Garden Cafe typically follow a day of volunteering at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. That is, on the days that we don’t reek of chicken poo! The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Woodstock and offers an excellent view of the happenings on the Village Green from its garden patio seating.  It’s open every day, except Tuesday, though I believe the hours change seasonally. Check the website for current hours.

The good news is, Garden Cafe is always busy, serving up cruelty-free, organic meals. The bad news is, Garden Cafe is always busy! No worries, we’ve never had to wait long (if at all) for a table, especially when the patio is open.

The daily specials rotate, though most “specials” are items that can be found on the regular menu as well. The exceptions to this typically are truly exceptional, and a bit pricey (around the $20 range). The menu also allows for cheap, simple eats with make-your-own bowls (using a list of grains, greens and beans/tofu/tempeh) and a variety of delicious sandwiches, salads and quesadillas made with Daiya cheese.

Last weekend, a friend of the spiritual, new agey persuasion was in town, so Jaime and I took her down to Woodstock for some groovy shopping and dinner at Garden Cafe. What follows is a description of our meal, which is only a small sample of the goodness Garden Cafe has to offer.

We started with Warm Walnut Mushroom Pate with Horseradish “Cream” Swirl, a rich, nutty paté served with warm homemade whole wheat foccacia. Super delicious, though it needed a touch of salt. Additionally, I had a Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter.  Jaime ordered a vanilla coconut chai and it was delish.

Next, the main course. We each ordered a dish and rotated clockwise when we had a sample of each.

First up for me, Indian Vegetable & Chickpea Enchiladas with Bombay Sauce. Curried potatoes, chickpeas and a few other veggies, wrapped in a large enchilada (basically a burrito), drizzled with what I believe is a cashew cream sauce and a Bombay curry sauce. This is served with curried apple coconut salad and sautéed kale and onions. which are outstanding. This dish was everyone’s favorite.

Next, the old standby: Grilled Curried Tofu Mango Sandwich.  Mango chutney-like sauce on grilled tofu, caramelized onions, roasted red pepper and spiced veganaise (spelled the way it is said by every vegan in the universe on the menu) all pressed in toasted whole grain bread and served with small mesclun salad. Need I say more? Reliably fantastic.

Moving on to a special, Jerk Tofu Salad. Jerk seasoned tofu over a bed of mesclun, drizzled with Dijon vinaigrette and served with whole wheat foccacia. I have to say, this was the dish I was looking forward to the most and I was a bit disappointed in the amount of jerkyness. While the tofu was tasty, it wasn’t what I expected. Not bad, especially if you are not into spicy food (which, as we all know, does NOT describe me). I would highly recommend the vegan Caesar over this salad, but it was nice to try something new.

Finally, dessert. Another reliably good treat is the Warm Chocolate Brownie. Rich and chocolatey, and not overly sweet. Covered in warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Paired well with my second Alta Gracia!

A fantastic meal, as always. This place is truly one of the best. The only thing I think could be improved upon is the beer list, which has shrunk a bit over the years. Of course, this is a challenge when trying to offer only local and/or organic beers. Anyway, you will always find a decent beer (or wine, if you prefer) to enjoy your delicious meal with.

If you are anywhere near Woodstock, make the trip out to Garden Cafe and be sure to stop by the little slice of heaven just outside of town, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (open for tours Saturdays and Sundays, April through October.)

Thanks to my awesome brother, I scored a ticket to today’s Phillies home opener against the Washington Nationals.  Last year, PETA named Citizens Bank Park the most vegetarian-friendly ballpark in North America due to the various veg options. Vegan garden burgers, vegan hot dogs (taste like Smart Dogs), and vegetarian cheesesteaks (vegan if you order minus the cheese.) Well this year they have stepped it up even more – Planet Hoagie now offers crab-free crab cakes (dissapointingly not vegan) and Rick’s Steaks has added vegetarian chicken cheese steaks (again, vegan minus the cheese.)

Since I did not have a very substantial lunch, I started the game off with a vegan hot dog and gardenburger. They have these neat onion grinder thingees that you can use to add onions to your food. You spin a wheel and out comes fresh-diced onions. Yum. A perfect accompaniment to both of those items (especially since I personally hate both mustard and ketchup.)

The second best part about the Phils’ stadium? A stellar beer selection. Pretty much every local brewery (Sly Fox, Victory, Yards, Troeg’s…. Yuengling) are represented on draught, Dogfish Head (Shelter Pale Ale, maybe) can be found in bottles, and the big national craft brews – Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, are pouring also. Good stuff. All very vegan friendly breweries.

I helped myself to a Victory Hop Devil with my burger & dog, which was an awesome trio. I later grabbed a Troegs Sunshine Pils (ridiculously refreshing, but probably better suited for those mid summer 90 degree games, for me). My last beer of the day was somewhat ominous; Yards Philly Pale Ale, probably my favorite local goto beer (deliciously citrus-hop aroma and flavor, reasonable bitterness, light enough to drink lots of) tasted like crap, and it came right around the time that the game imploded for the Phils. I’m not sure what the deal is, but of the past 4 Yards Philly Pale pours I have had (4 different locations) – 2 were delicious, and 2 were dump-worthy. Today, it tasted kind of like malt vinegar (aceto bacteria) with a splash of moldy bread. Not pleasant. Don’t know who is to blame – infected tap lines? Brewing inconsistencies while they continue to contract brew up at The Lion (until the Delaware Ave new brewery opens?) I don’t know. I hope it gets remedied soon!

Side note: I cracked open a finally carbonated bottle of my All-Summit Pale Ale that I brewed like 6 or 7 weeks ago and it is freaking delicious. New. Favorite. Hop. Between the orangey-citrusy hop flavor & aroma and the subtle fruitiness of the Safale US-05 yeast I used, I think I’m in love.

Final Score: Nationals 11, Phillies 6… But at least I ate and drank well!