Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ich Bin Ein Bjorn!

Pepperoni, Artichoke and Mushroom Vegan Pizza
Pizza. Pasta. Passion! 
     Bjorn Moschinski is a vegan rock star. Not only did he formerly direct the venerable Kopps (my next review!), pen three cookbooks, appearances on TV, but he also has a new Italian venture called Mio Matto, which is conveniently located above the Veganz store. Pretty awesome especially as self-taught chef, I might have a cook crush on him. Anyone wanna translate a cookbook from German to English? Not to mention a conversion from metric to the loving and anachronistic imperial system, because, you know, we Americans love paying tribute to Cesar and the Romans in the form of a measuring system. Regardless, someone needs to tell Huffington Post to pull their heads out of their asses and that, yes, Germany has a celebrity vegan chef. Does that suffice? 

     Enough about america's misguided measuring system and back to food. The special one loves Italian food and so few vegan options exists (except for New York's recently moved and hopefully still open Three Brothers Pizza) so it was a no brainer to check out his new place. Even though it was raining, after a drizzling day at the Berliner Dome, including hundreds of steps to the top and an obligatory umbrella purchase, we splashed down to Mio Matto. Luckily, it wasn't too far from one of the trains. Best of all you can feed two bellies with one stop! Lunch and then shopping inside an all vegan grocery store and shoe store. Pretty sure this is a must when visiting Berlin. And a big middle finger to the Huffington Post, an all vegan Italian place. Boy, it sure was hard to be vegan in Berlin. This city makes New York nervous. 
Pasta Bologense Sauce
Pasta and Passion!

     The Mio Matto motto's is pretty simple Pizza, Pasta and Passion. There's no surprises here. As usual, the special one and I went into divide and conquer mode, though we had to not go overboard because we had dinner reservations for Kopps. We bought wanted the pizza, I saw several different ones that looked interesting, but I decided to go with the pasta bologense because it sounds fancy; it's essentially a meat based pasta sauce. Don't get me wrong, it was tasty, but damn that pizza was fabulous. It was one of those lunch dates where I couldn't stop staring at the special one's meal. The pizza was perfection, a crisp crust, cooked perhaps in a wood fired oven (I'm guessing here) with some of the best vegan cheese I've had. Not to mention the artichokes and the pepperoni. I'm not sure what they are using, but damn Bjorn knows his way around the kitchen. This was perhaps one of the best pizzas I've ever had. All hail Bjorn! 
Decor of Mio Matto
Rustic & Fancy!
     I'm not sure if you can use rustic and fancy in the same sentence, but like the food the decor of Mio Matto shows the attention to detail of Mr Bjorn. As you can see in the picture, wood panels were prominent with a purple tiled roof, complete with chandlers. Yeah, like I said rustic and fancy. Although we were there for lunch, I hard it turns fancier for the dinner service. Like the desk clerk told us, you need at least a week to see (and eat!) all of Berlin! If you're thinking of a vacation, Berlin is the vegan mecca with pretty rad tourist things to visit.

Thomas Henry Ginger Beer
     Along with the food, I was really hoping to try Europe's ginger beers. It's no secret I'm a ginger fanatic, so trying every ginger beer I come across is a given, despite the impressive German beers on tap. This (Thomas Henry) was the first ginger beer I was impressed with, it lived up to one of, if not my favorite ginger beer from maine root. Spicy just like the label says or as I say, like sticking a straw into ginger. 
German Strudel Pudding 
     Remember when I said we had dinner reservations and we had to go light? Yeah, I like to contradict myself in the same review. I couldn't pass this up and almost two weeks of navigating 3 countries public transit system was taking a toll so a latte and this german pudding sounded awesome. The whole trip I've been photographing the menu so I could remember everything or at least connect the bites. Call me lazy. Either way, I didn't at Mio Matto so I declare it to be a german pudding strudel with peaches. Pretty awesome, I dare say. It was the perfect ending to a meal and heading down to Veganz and to tourist trap of checkpoint charlie! 
Mio Matto 

Veganz to the right!

Berlin Dome
One of the few building to surviving the WW bombings!
Berlin Wall Art

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Battle Of The Vegan Grocery Store: Veganz Versus Un Monde Vegan

Wall of Vegan Cheese
Two Full Cases Of Vegan Cheese!!!
    “Veganism is growing in popularity, especially in the cities – Berlin seems to be a vegan paradise filled with vegan shops and cafes. Berlin has 21 vegan restaurants, and more are opening all the time. Being vegan is definitely ‘cool’ right now in German cities. Everyone asks in the non-vegan restaurants ‘do you have vegan food?’ – there is huge demand and it’s quickly becoming more mainstream."-Veganz, Marketing manager, Ivonne Meyer (quoted from 

     I've been sitting around procrastinating writing up the review of my European vacation, because that's what I'm good at. Then, Huffington Post wrote this terrible article about how France and Germany are some of the hardest places to be vegan. I'm actually quite shocked on how little research was done. It reads like trivia pursuit card and is exactly what's wrong with the "b" word (that's blogging for those not in the know. Perhaps the ugliest word in the English language. I'm kinda embarrassed I wrote it). I guess you should never trust an article without a byline.
     I dug up the pictures from our London, Paris and Berlin vacation. You know, actual research, and here is my response to that article (not to mention my two articles on San Antonio, Texas  cuisine Vegeria and Green. Texas was also mentioned in that terrible article). In short, Paris had one of, perhaps the second best place I've eaten, and Berlin is a vegan dream. Surprisingly, london was kinda of a disappointment foodwise. If I can shake this procrastination affliction as Ivonne illustrates. I'll post all the places I've visited and put them on a master page once everything is finished, but don't hold your breath. Until then, this is my cannon fire into the cloud of Huffington Post's misinformation; a battle of all vegan grocery stores, one in Paris and several in Berlin. It sure is hard to be vegan in these places. just do a simple search on
Eiffel Tower at Night
The stars are bright, deep in the heart of Paris!

     Well, I guess this is going to be a silent and picture less battle of Un Monde Vegan, but I hope you'll settle for the Eiffel Tower at night. Not sure what happened, but I didn't take any pictures in the store Well, at least I can't find them. Un Monde Vegan is a quaint little store with just one case of vegan cheeses. I'll post one of their videos below, it is in french, but gives a good look into the store. They did have vegan foie gras, but I'm too scared to open it and try it. Oh, and vegan croissants. One more time for the shameless too scared to put their name on the bylineHuffington Post author, Vegan Croissants. 
     The special one and I headed over to Un Monde Vegan prior to visiting the Eiffel tower. The idea of a croissant, baguette and cheese picnic sounded just the perfect amount of cliche. I'm not trying to rewrite the traveling guide book here. We ended up with croissants, cheezly cheese and these amazing vegan cheese slices from *gasp* Germany. They have a castle on the package, in case you need to find them. Along with enough chocolate, include white chocolate, to fill a suit. Oh, and gummy bears. Don't judge me. They had vitamin C, so I believe they were healthy. Plus, it's best to not get sick when traveling. Either way, if you're traveling to Paris, Un Monde Vegan is worth a visit. It's pretty impressive to visit. It's kinda of exciting to pick anything in a store and not read the ingredients! 

A Chain Of All Vegan Grocery Stores
     The leading photo should give you an idea of how amazing Veganz is. And guess what? There's three throughout germany. Still not impressed? They are expanding to London. Veganz is everything I thought a vegan grocery store should be and more, a fresh produce section, a crazy freezer section of fake meats, meals and ice creams that I've never heard of. Sometimes it was in German so I had no idea what it was, but the best part was I knew it was vegan. Since we only had one more night in Berlin, we skipped the frozen and fresh section and headed for the cheese. I was determined to try them all, those amazing cheese slices from germany, tofutti flavors I've never seen before, cheezly, daiya, vegusto and shreese. I settled for those another german cheese brand (jeezini), parmela and a chives cream cheese from shreese. If you're keeping score that's two all vegan cheese brands in the terrible for vegans country. 
     I've had shreese before thanks to the almighty cakewalk. Unfortunately, shreese is hard to get so it's been a while. Anyway, this was before the daiya cream cheese, but the shreese chives and onion was one of if not the best cream cheeses I've ever had. Yes, better than the daiya version. I hope they start distributing here again. Or perhaps, another trip to Berlin is order. Oh, I also loaded up on chocolate and an ice cream for the road, despite the downpour. I couldn't resit, the flavor was snow white.  The little baby boy ended up with a vegan pig ear as well.
Vegan Bounty
I Miss Those Cheese Slices.
     As if that wasn't enough to get a win. The veganz location I visited had a vegan shoe store, bakery and an all vegan Italian restaurant (Mio Matto)  from one of berlin's famed chef's Bjoern Moschinski. (I'll make that my next post. Since we had lunch there before visiting Veganz). I was in such awe of the vegan industrial complex that I almost walked away with some brand new vegan shoes from Avesu. I've never seen such an impressive collection of shoes. I can fully understand how women feel about shoes. I could've walked away with several pairs, but luckily for my wallet they didn't have my size. 
Avesu: A Vegan Shoe
So Much Selection, So Little Euros.
     After paying for my vegan bounty, the checkout line brilliantly feeds right into a vegan bakery and sandwich shop called Goodies with some of the hardest to pronounce pastries.  It was a point and head nod here, even though the workers spoke perfect English. It doesn't help with my Jersey pronunciation of bagel.  Again, vegan croissants (that's 3 times now Huffington Post!) were had along with some other sweets beginning with a w and a few zs in the middle of it. I wish I knew enough german to let you know what they were. 
     German pastries are everywhere in Berlin. Mainly because the city has the best subway system. Each station and even on the platforms are shops where you can get coffee, pretzels and other pastries. I was always drooling hoping for a vegan version to sample. Goodies was the cherry on top of the visit to the vegan industrial complex and gave me that german experience, even if I have a picture of a french pastry below.
Vegan German Croissants
     So I guess you're keeping score. It's fair to say that Veganz is the clear winner. The shop was bright, inviting and bustling. Pretty much a normal grocery store that happened to be vegan. But honestly an all vegan grocery story in Paris and several in Berlin (and soon to be London), we're all winners here. I declare that both get trophies. If you're in either city or both, be sure to visit. And get that castle cheese. 

Un Monde Vegan Video (yes, they have pictures of vegan croissants!) 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Turning Tricks Into Brunch, SLC's Newest Brunch Spot

"Bacon" Cheese Breakfast Sandwich
Hands Down The Winner!
     It's called the Metro and Cafe 540 now, but the building has a special place in my heart. When I landed in this salty city, the old owners were the first one to give me a job slinging drinks. It's where I met a lot of awesome people and started to acclimate to the city.Then they closed while I was snowboarding (and studying) in the Andes. When they first opened as a bar (Metro), I had to sneak in and see what happened to the place. The new owners kept the charm of the old place, which way way back was a house of ill repute (a plaque outside explains the buildings' past). I was more excited to see the long dormant building vibrant again. As the bar portion, the Metro has been hosting the monthly vegan drinks, including some amazing specialty cocktails and a potluck. No pictures, but I think I had this crazy alcoholic rootbeer float thing that was surprisingly delicious. Not to mention, the vegan white Russians were always on hand! To top things off, they donate a portion of the proceeds to Ching Farm Sanctuary. So when they announced a food menu, my ears perked up.

Vanilla French Toast
Just Like Mom Used To Make!
     After returning from the desolate desert of West Wendover, the special one and I decided to sample their menu. It was only their first week with the brunch menu, so there was some bumps in the road, but the food didn't disappoint. Along with food, they have  intriguing brunch cocktails, but drinks were the farthest thing from my mind. Unto the food, the clear winner was the cheesy bacon sandwich. I'm not sure what they do to the tofu, but the special one and I were fighting over the piece sandwiched between two savory biscuits and slathered in cheese. If I had my wish, I would double or triple the "bacon" on that sandwich and then it would be outstanding. The vanilla french toast was up next. The special one said it tasted just like her grandma's world famous french toast, so I doubt you need any more validation. If you never heard of it, I guess you just ain't in the know. Either way, I won't hold it against you, but it was delicious. 

Biscuits and Country Gravy 
County Gravy!
Vertical Diner got me on the biscuits and gravy kick. Up until then, I've never had them. Vertical sets a high bar with one of, if not the best, vegan gravy I've had. These were pretty good with the country gravy, but I still give the crown to vertical. My only compliant on the menu was that the menu said has browns, but they were really cut up french fries. I'm kinda serious about hash browns, so that was a disappointment, especially since we ordered so much food. Tried as I may and I couldn't finished the third plate of the french browns even with the help of sriracha. Rumor has it there was a vegan omelette but wasn't on the menu. If they iron out the hash brown and get that omelette on the menu (they would be the first to have a vegan omelette in the city!) , Cafe 540 will be a perennial brunch spot. I'll have to investigate their dinner menu. 

Vegan Menu

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hit The Road, Jack! And Get Your Grubby Hands On A BBQ Balsamic Jackfruit Slider

 Shredded Jackfruit Marinated In A House Made Balsamic BBQ Sauce, Topped with Red/Green Cabbage Carrot Slaw On A Locally Made Wheat Bun
Move Over Pulled Pork, There's A New Sheriff In Town! Jackfruit! 
     Or you could just stay home, leave the driving to the fine folks at Grub Truck and mosey down to Food Truck Thursday at the Gallivan Center, especially considering we have some of the worst air in the country (if you're a local come to Saturday's Salt Lake's Biggest Clean Air Rally). It's easy for me to say since I work close by.
     I wrote last week about another food truck thursday regular Off The Grid and their underground Indonesian inspired waffle sandwich. Now, I guess it's a good ole battle royale style rumble. Who has the best vegan options? I think I might have to play the parent card and say I love you both equally. Chiptole tacos or jacked sliders? Decisions. 

Grub Truck  in Action At Food Truck Thursday
     Now you're wondering what jackfruit is? It's a  large fruit out of Thailand. I guess that answers all of your questions. No? Well, apparently, the young jackfruit, when cooked, shreds into a pulled pork looking stringy meaty deliciousness. I have no idea who started cooking with jackfruit but it's just one of the many reasons I love being vegan. The first time I heard of it was when California's Seabird food truck (read the review) came to town as part of some reality show.  Fast forward a few years and the crazy thing is, considering the dearth of vegan restaurants in salt lake, that the Grub Truck is the first to put it on their menu. (UPDATE: I forgot that Buds is the first to put it on their menu with a burrito and a salad. I tend to forget since I only order the balsamic pesto sub there. I have them on my list to review). It started out as a special for the downtown winter farmer's market, but the demand made it a regular menu item. Not only do they serve in the street, but they have their ears tuned into the people. Just one of the reasons, The Grub Truck is one of the best food trucks. It's not just my opinion, but SLC's Eat Local award for best food truck from both the judges as well as audience. Pretty impressive.
Pot O' Jackfruit Sliders
   The best thing is that while my sandwich was cooking, a girl comes up and asks, "what's jackfruit? Is it a meat?" Halie, the Grub Truck's owner, response was awesome with a quick explanation and better yet a taste! Let the taste buds do the talking. The curious customer ended up ordered one as well. Yes, it's that tasty. I even fooled some coworkers that I started eating meat. One coworker, a big meat eater, even said that it's not exactly like meat, but close enough that even he would order it. Score two for the Grub Truck. The coconut curry soup is also vegan, but unfortunately they were sold out when I went to order mine. I won't make the same wrong late lunch choice this week! More points for putting what is vegan on the menu. No wondering or holding up the line with questions. 
Grub Truck Menu
Jacked Sliders and Butternut Curry With Rice Are Vegan! 
     One of these days, I'll resurrect my post about jackfruit and how awesome it is. Until then, head over to the Grub Truck and let your taste buds do the talking. Check them out on facebook or twitter to find out their always roving locations.  Now hit the road jack (sorry I couldn't resist). 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Getting Underground With Off The Grid

Indonesian inspired vegan waffle sandwich 
Garlic and ginger marinated tempeh, grilled pineapple, chili coconut sambal, avocado, bean sprouts, peanut sauce, and fresh cilantro on coconut flax waffles
      That's right, a waffle sandwich. I've been meaning to make a savory waffle sandwich for some team, but I've kinda falling by the way side. But guess what? My 2014 resolution is to post more. Let's hope I can break the statistics and actually succeed. Plus, maybe I'll get inspired again and start cooking more. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Underground Special Numero Dos! Mexican Inspired Waffles! 
Holy Mole! 
UPDATE: This is what won me over with Off The Grid, their second vegan underground special. Garlic cumin black beans and grilled sweet potatoes smothered in a chipotle mole and topped with our coconut lime cilantro slaw, then sandwiched between vegan waffles. It could be how amazing their mole is, but this might be better than their Indonesian waffle special. It's also why I picked them for City Weekly's Best Food Truck award (give shouts outs to awesome vegan businesses like Cakewalk, Frisch and Buds). Everything they do is so thought out and with complimentary flavors. Garlic, cumin and mole. Man, my mouth was happy. The special one and I were eating this on the couch, sharing a few bites of the waffle with our dog and he barked at us because the waffles pieces weren't coming his way quick enough. I tried capturing this on video, but I wasn't recording. You'll have to take my word for it. So it's human and dog approved! 

     Anyway, SLC's food truck Off The Grid pulled me from my deep deep slumber with this week's underground special. The description was enough to make my mouth water. Just read it again and the glands will moisten. In the land of plenty of amazing vegan options, NYC's Cinnamon Snail is the best of the big apple and the long lost Union Street showed me how awesome street food could. With this special Off The Grid is certainly making their case for best SLC food truck. (The closest contender would be the Grub Truck, who makes a BBQ jackfruit sandwich but I've never seen it return since it's one week special). 
Food Truck Thursday!
     The coconut flax waffle was crispy and airy with the perfect hint of coconut flavor in the waffle. I'm a regular weekend waffler maker, so I was kinda jealous I didn't think of it. I kept sneaking pieces off on the way back to my office. Tempeh is one of the hardest to prepare well, so I was skeptical, but the tempeh was perfectly flavored. The whole sandwich was brought together with the peanut sauce the the coconut chili sambal and a burst of grilled pineapple. I've been on a spicy kick, so I would've take the chili sauce up higher, but I know people tend to shy away from the spice.

     Unfortunately, it's a special, an underground special at that. They offer 5 free sandwiches for a photo posted on social media sites. They must have spotted me with a "Will Take Picture For Food Sign" outside Gallivan's Food Truck Thursday. This is the first time the special has been vegan so I jumped at the chance. Hopefully, it'll be put in rotation. I'll, for sure, be a regular, maybe even upgraded to stalker level.

Mt. Olympus and Chipotle Tacos Can Be Made Vegan
     If you hate playing 20 questions, their menu gets bonus points for being clear about vegan options. Two sandwiches the Mt. Olympus and the chiptole tacos can be made vegan. It's been a while since I had the Olympus, I generally tend towards the chiptole tacos. Two corn tortillas, chickpeas, shredded cabbage and the most important ingredient a chipotle sauce that's makes the dish. I was skeptical because I lean towards the tempeh, tofu or seitan being a bare minimum, but they weaned me from tendencies. They also get additional bonus points for a commitment to buying local products. Even more for being East Coast defectors who came to ski the greatest snow on earth. Owning a food truck might disqualify them from being a ski bum, but go support two people making great food and turns. Drop a tip in the jar. So they can park the truck and get some turns. Support your local powder hound. 

Meals On Wheels! 
      I've caught them at the Winter's Farmer's Market and they seem like a regular at the always amazing Food Truck Thursday. But check them out on twitter and facebook for their recent location.
Off the Grid SLC Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Vegan Mecca: Ronald's Donuts

Joey Bag Of Donuts
The Famous Pink Box!
     Most people have drug dealers. I have a donut dealer. Ronald's Donuts are just that good. And, no, I'm not joking. Just in case law enforcement or more likely the NSA is listening, reading and recording this post, this is just a reenactment. The names and stories have been changed to protect their identities and my source. You'll just have to find your own, though checking under "D" in the classifieds probably won't give you any place to start, assuming the classifieds still exist. The following example may be dramatized for internet audiences. 
    Anyway, the way it works is this. My source let's call them Ronald gives me a heads up when he or she is heading into vegas. I...err...Steve places his order, mainly bear claws, jelly and boston cream donuts. Then, upon the safe and undetected arrival of my the source, Steve arrives in a dark and seedy alley, natural territory, of course, money is covertly exchanged, fist to palm style. Then, I , Steve walks away with a pink box filled with donuts. Later, I might be found stuffing my face with donuts. I meant Steve.
\Jelly Donut
An Attacked Jelly Donut
Three Way Tied For First For The Best Donut!
     The first time, I went to Ronald's Donuts, I had mimicked the one from Wayne's World with throngs of people outside, maybe even a once famous sports star associated with the store. and a rotating donut sign announcing that I have arrived at the place. Driving maybe 10 minutes from the strip, crossing into chinatown and a non-distinct strip mall announced our arrival.  Well, it would take some google mapping and a second and maybe third pass to find it. I was really hoping for that rotating donut sign.
Don't Blink You Might Miss It

   Inside with plain plastic benches with a solo man sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup while reading a newspaper with no one at the counter. Did I mention that there was no rotating donut? After the bell on the door announced our arrival, a sweet lady came out and the special one whispered, "how do you know that they are vegan?" I library whispered that I heard the first two rows (of three) are vegan and the sweet lady, confirmed what I heard and even smiled when I said that. It's like a secret word of mouth of club since zero signs indicate vegan donuts. Not to mention, they don't even have a website! Personally, I'm kinda amazed how awesome this has spread and I would be surprised if a vegan visits Vegas without going to Ronald's Donuts. 
Case of Donuts
PSST!!! Pick From The Top Two

 I'm not sure how or who discovered Ronald's Donuts, but I'm glad they did. It's the quintessential vegan donut experience. You might be familiar with my donut obsession spanning from coast to coast from NYC's Cinnamon Snail, and NY's highest rated Dunwells, Texas's Vegeria, Seattle's Mighty O's but Ronald's is something special and just might beat out Dunwells, but just barely. But to be fair, I only had Dunwells once and they were without filled donuts! Ronald's does have the advantage of being the first amazing donut I've had. A few months after moving here, local vegans posted they were going, created an online order and came back with dozens of boxes, brimming with donuts. I was one of the lucky ones with a pink box all to my own. Regardless of the possible prejudices towards Ronald's, further investigation is needed and I'm willing. Perhaps, a cross country road trip is needed eating donuts between the two destinations? Shall I consult kickstarter? Tell my boss I have a donut sojourn? I'm willing...
 Tiger Tail!
Chocolate Striped Donut Braid!
    Ronald's is so good, some vegans don't even believe they could be vegan. Vegan website Quarry girl had them tested for eggs and they passed! If that's not a resounding endorsement, I'm not sure what is. I'm not sure why the Ronald's owners decided to make vegan donuts (I've heard religious reasons such as seven day adventists or buddists), but I'm glad they did. My little pup has been passed out from a long walk or daycare upstairs on the bed, but he hears the box open and runs downstairs to make sure he gets some. Yup, like father like son! 
Famous Pink Box
Ronald's Has Tiffany's Beat!

     Now until my  Steve's next batch comes in. I have the shakes just thinking about donuts to come. Regardless of how you get them, make sure you visit once or twice. Once you get into Vegas and refill before you leave! And don't forget the rest of us!
Bear Claw
Move Over Yogi!
Boston Cream
Wonder What's Inside?
Boston Cream Revealed
Mystery Solved!
Peanut Butter Nut Dohicky
I might get my donut card removed, but I can't recall the technical name
Cherry Strudel
Yet another mystery donut, though perhaps it's a pastry!

Where Do The Holes Go?
Even Donut Holes Need Love!
Donut Holes

We left a tip and we were rewarded with some free donut holes!

Ronald's Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Your Birthday, Go On, Get Zesty Now!

Zucchini Pasta with Pesto and Marinara Sauce
One of the Best Zucchini Pastas I've Had
     It’s been a few months since Veg News declared Salt Lake City the reigning champion of vegan friendly cities over the venerable, but weird Austin. Given the recent changes, the salty citizens have nothing to fear and can keep strutting around wearing their crown of kale. Union Street Eats closed for a while, but will be back on the streets, Frisch, a new vegan café featuring the most amazing kale salad ever opened, and an all-vegan sandwich shop called Buds opened this week, which will feature some Union Street favorites. I promise to put reviews of these places soon, but wait the best is yet to come.
Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita
The Perfect Summer Drink!
     From the ashes of W Lounge and Union Street Eats rises Zest Bar and Restaurant. Not only is it salt lake’s newest offering in healthy eating, but it sets the bar pretty high. The atmosphere is industrial chic. As you enter, a huge chandelier greets you as you check in with the hostess, followed by the impressive center piece bar contrasted with unfinished ceilings and dotted with wooden tables. There is even a couch where you can and drink at for the perfect lounge experience. On the walls are pictures of purple kale, a pomegranate and this took me a while (actually, it was the table next to me), a photo taken from the inside of a bell pepper. It’s one of the most thought out restaurants that I’ve been to in this city, and the closest competitor would be Vedge in Philadelphia. I’ll be honest I was expecting a small café with a few tables and a homey feel similar to Sage’s Cafe, so I was blown away with the scale and how well thought out the atmosphere is. After years of owning W Lounge, Casey really knows the service industry and created, what would be my dream restaurant and bar. But, you’ll just have to take my word for it as I didn’t take any pictures. But don’t worry, I’ll be back so maybe I’ll add some. Oh, and as if the atmosphere couldn’t be better local musician Zach Moon strummed the guitar with some soulful songs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sons of Anarchy episode or opening for Rocky Votolato. For the first song, I was a fan, and would’ve grabbed a cd if I had one less cocktail!

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Ginger Spice
If You Could Bottle Xmas, This Would Be It!
     For many months, Casey has hosted Vegan Drinks at W Lounge and he broke nearly every rule I have about mixed drinks, like don’t use fruit juice or soy milk as a mixer. I’ll be honest; I’m a craft beer guy. Belgium, IPAa and funky beers are my drinks of choice. Each month, Casey would slowly steer me away from the barle malt with creative cocktails, from bing cherry mojitos, white Russians and others too numerous to remember, since he would always change things up. With Zest, he pulled out all the stops, in what is one of the most impressive cocktail menus in town. The first two drinks that stuck out to me were the Ginger Spice and the Jalapeño margarita. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of ginger, but as the special one said. This is what she would want to drink while decorating the xmas tree. Using fireball whiskey (cinnamon flavored) and ginger beer, this drink was warming and exciting. Oh, it had a piece of candied ginger in it, too. I can’t think of a better cocktail. The jalapeño margarita had muddled cucumber in it along with patron tequila and citron. I was expecting a spicy bit, but it was really subtle by the cucumber. My own change would be Don Julio tequila, which I think is the hands down the best tequila.
Asian Salad
Simple, Yet Delectable. The Dressing Is What Makes This
     When Union Street Closed (ever so briefly), I knew not to fret because the chef behind the cart would be on to bigger and better things. I’ve written about Chef Larayn before as she launched Union Street, but I’ll repeat some of it again. Along with hosting Vegan Drinks for almost three years now, Larayn has been one of the most underrated chefs in the Wasatch. Not only a trained chef graduating from The Natural Gourmet Institute, but she sharpened her knife at Sage’s Café, and then moved onto Union Street Eats as well as private catering events. The menu is a vegetable forward, putting the subtle of the vegetable at the forefront of the dish represents the menu.
     As we were admiring our drinks, our awesome server brought out the fresh crudité vegetable sampler with an avocado and cilantro and an almond butter dipping sauces. The picture doesn’t do it justice, because the presentation was impeccable and brimming with color. From slivers of purple, orange and yellow bell peppers, carrots and parsnips, it was simple yet delicious, especially when dipped into avocado cilantro dipping sauce. The special one and I both agreed that this was the best sauce. I liked the almond butter, but thought it paired best the celery and maybe fruit.
From there we moved on to the Asian salad with spinach and mung bean sprouts and topped with black sesame seeds, which featured a savory salad that didn’t have any bitterness, but a nice savory flavor. The watermelon gazpacho provided a perfect complement with a subtle and crisp flavor. The freshness of the watermelon really shined.
Veggie Cruddite Plate
The Avocado-Cilantro Sauce Was The First To Go. This Stuff Needs To Be bottled!
     In the interest of journalistic integrity and to provide readers with complete picture, we decided to sample some more cocktails. The cello driver was a new twist on the screwdriver with a lemon flavored vodka, fresh orange juice and basil. Orange juice is sacred to me, so it should never be mixed with alcohol, but again Casey won me over. Between the kombucha bomb (vodka and the kombucha flavor of the day) and the Nutty X and the beet sangria, I had a difficult choice, but went with the beet sangria. I’m not sure if there was a mix up, but the beet sangria was just a glass of wine without any fruit. The only hiccup of the day, it was still a decent glass of wine.
Cello Driver
Move Over Screwdriver, There's A New Fellas In Town!
     The zucchini pasta arrived topped with a fresh pesto and surrounded in marinara sauce. If you don’t know me, I spent perhaps the first decade of my vegan years eating pasta, because I didn’t know how to cook, so I know pasta. Generally, you’re not fooling anyone with zucchini pasta; they think they are eating a cleverly designed salad. I’m not sure if the folks at Zest marinade it or if it was the pesto, but this dish was perfect and even had a hint of butter coming through from the fresh zucchini. After all the zucchini that I had from my CSA (Bell Organic Gardens), this is what I wish I was making with it. Zucchini is a delicate vegetable and its impressive how they put its buttery and creamy texture to use. I can’t wait to sample more items from the large plates menu, especially the beet raviolis stuffed with cashew cream.
Watermelon Gazpacho
That's Another Word For Cold, Yet Delicious Soup!
     Although mostly vegan, just one sampler and one large plate isn’t vegan, only two of the five options are vegan. Unfortunately, the herbs de Provence sorbetto was not being featured on the day I went, but I’ll have to have it. It must be done. My only complaint and it’s more of a personal preference is that I wish they featured some more meaty dishes, ala the wings at Horizons or the grilled seitan from Vedge. I mean if I had my druthers I would open a vegan steakhouse, but it’s also because I know how awesome Larayn and Casey could conjure up. Just look at how amazing Union Street is. Regardless, Zest is one of the most exciting dining options I crossed the Mississippi many many moons ago. I look forward to sampling everything off their menu and watching their evolution.
Bring On The Nutty X
Might Be The Best Mixed Drink I've Ever Had! The Dude Would Abide!
   As I mention, the dessert weren’t vegan, so it was okay to have another drink, right? Don’t judge me. This is for you the readers. I had to go with the Nutty X, a triple espresso martini made with almond milk and Frangelico. I don’t want to betray the ginger spice but this cocktail had serious wow factor. It’s like a white Russian, but elevated. The almond milk and the Frangelico really make it pop. I highly recommend this drink.
Their grand opening will be on October 2nd from 5 pm until 1 am with their full menu. You're a little weary about zesting on a weekday, the next slc vegan drinks will be at zest on Friday October 5th starting at 7. Go on, get zesty now. And Austin, we’re keeping the crown and might even take on the big apple soon!