Thursday, May 21, 2015

Memphis Vegan Drinks Crosstown Takeover!

We had our Memphis Vegan Drinks meetup at Midtown Crossing Grill tonight, and it was the biggest one ever! I counted 27 people! We've been doing this event — monthly happy hour meetups at vegan-friendly places — for a couple years now. We've had big events with 15 or so folks, and we've had meetings where only four people showed up.

But tonight took the cake — literally. Because Midtown Crossing is the home of Cassi's vegan Pink Diva Cupcakery, we had lots of cupcakes with our beers, pizza, and banh mi sandwiches! We were greeted outside by this sign! Yay!


Yep, that's a reference to the Bianca Banh Mi, the vegan Vietnamese sandwich named after me! Also, outside was Cassi's Pink Diva delivery vehicle. She delivers cakes on this adorable scooter!


Here's most of the crowd, but we had a few more people off on a side table because they wouldn't all fit.


We typically only go to bars with full bars so that those who don't drink beer can order whatever they want. Midtown Crossing only serves beer though. I love beer, so I went with a locally brewed Ghost River Riverbank Red. Later, I switched to Yuengling to mix things up.


They do, however, have an awesome BYOB policy (no corkage fee!). Clarita and Bert brought their own wine!


I started with a cupcake because I always do dessert first in restaurants. That way, I definitely have room for dessert. Priorities, right? I picked Cassi's Adult Peanut Butter & Jelly — a peanut butter cupcake with a jelly center and buttercream. Oh, and it has peanut butter beer in it too! That's what makes it adult.


Here's Cassi slinging cupcakes.


Several others started with dessert, too, as we waited for folks to roll in. Nico got the giant Cherry Garcia cupcake. And there's Dennis in the background.


I recently blogged all about the new vegan options on Midtown Crossing's menu, including the Bianca Banh Mi. But tonight was my first time trying the vegan Greek Flatbread. House-made red bean hummus, olives, radishes, and greens on a thin, crisp flatbread. It was so good! I was worried at first that this might be arugala (the only lettuce I don't like), and maybe it was. But you know what? I liked it, whatever green it was! It worked so well with the hummus and olives. Very tasty!



Paul and I split an order of the Vegan Spring Rolls, which are stuffed with cabbage, basil, pickled carrots, and candied pecans and served with a wasabi vinaigrette. OMG! Best spring rolls I've ever had. The candied pecans and pickled veg really step these up, adding a lot of flavor and crunch.



Not everyone who comes to Vegan Drinks is vegan. And that's okay. We don't have restrictions on what you can order, so some folks order vegetarian things with cheese and some even order meat dishes. I don't like to push veganism on people. I believe they'll come around in their own time. Autumn usually orders a meaty dish but tonight, she went with a vegetarian (not vegan) option — the Portabella Melt. I was so proud! Also, this looks like something that could easily be veganized if you asked them to leave off the cheese.


Melissa and a number of others ordered that Bianca Banh Mi! It has the house red bean hummus in place of traditional pate. And there's marinated tofu, pickled veggies, jalapenos, and cucumbers. So good! Melissa got hers with jalapeno chips on the side, which she regretted since the sandwich also has jalapenos. Lots of hot stuff! You can also order it with a side salad (or not-so-hot chips).


Hurray for Midtown Crossing and Pink Diva! I'm so excited that I have leftover flatbread for tomorrow's lunch!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vegan Dinner + Bikes ... Again!

Tonight, the Dinner + Bikes tour — a traveling ensemble of awesome vegans who cook delicious food, show short films about bicycling culture, and sell zines and tees — made a stop in Memphis. Portlanders Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing and Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics and lots of other stuff, showed eight short films about cycling equity and led an audience discussion on the topic. And chef Joshua Ploeg cooked an delicious seven-course vegan meal.

So of course I went! It wasn't the tour's first stop in Memphis. They came through in 2012, too (and I was there for that). Memphis has increased bicycle ridership 500% in the past several years by going from a city with no bike lanes to one with well over 100 miles of lanes that span across the city. So the tour is a perfect fit for Memphis. The event attracted a large crowd and filled up the dining hall at First Congo Church. First Congo, by the way, is a progressive church that's also home to the event's host, Revolutions Bicycle Co-op. I'm not usually a fan of churches, but First Congo isn't like other churches.

As we walked in, we filled our plates from chef Joshua's buffet. There was a Madras Curry with Zucchini, Mushrooms, and Black Chickpeas served over Jasmine Rice; Smashed Potato Salad with Okra, Green Olives, Pimentos, & Capers; Masoor Dal with Cauliflower, Garlic, Fenugreek, & Mint; Mixed Green Salad with Honeydew, Dates, Cherry Tomato, and Rose Vinaigrette; Cabbage with Persian Cucumber, Coconut, Flax Seed, Palm Puree, and Cardamom; Masala BBQ Eggplant; and Spicy Grape Leaf Chutney. Oh, and not pictured — amazing Rosewater Lemonade!


I've had the pleasure of eating Joshua's food three times now on his stops through Memphis (the last Dinner + Bikes event and a stop at the DeCleyre Co-op way, way back in the early 2000s). Love this dude and all of his food and cook zines. I own most of them. In fact, his Something Delicious This Way Comes was one of my first vegan cookbooks ever! Joshua was hiding most of the night, but I found him at the end. Check out his latest Microcosm book, This Ain't No Picnic: Your Punk Rock Vegan Cookbook.


After dinner, Joe Biel ...


... and Elly Blue ...


... showed a series of shorts about bicycling culture. One was about a Mexico City superhero — Peatonito — who stands up for cyclists and pedestrians by pushing cars out of bike lanes and painting crosswalks. And another featured a group that organized a bike ride to combat gang violence.

Microcosm was raffling off zines between each film, and at the end, Revolutions raffled off this awesome bike. And my friend Steven, who comes to our vegan meetups, won!


Of course, there were lots of zines for sale!


And tees!


I usually have a hard time resisting tee-shirts, but I'm trying to save money for Vida Vegan Con (it's a week away!) in Austin. So I just got a couple of books instead. I went with Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills (this is packed with DIY recipes for cleaning stuff, body care, and health salves and tonics) and Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling (how to do yoga poses on your bike!). Also, got this cute new bike sticker for my cruiser.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mashed Potato Pancakes!

My dad recently suggested that I add mashed potato pancakes to my in-the-works retro vegan cookbook. He said he wasn't sure what decade they were from but that he grew up eating them and loves them. I grew up eating them too. Often, when my mama would make mashed potatoes, she'd use the leftovers to make these fried, flat potato patties for the next night's dinner.

They're not latkes. Those are usually made with grated potatoes. Delicious too. But mashed potato pancakes are different. I did a little research and couldn't find a decade of origination. But I did see a few websites that said these were popular in the 1940s, which would make sense. During war time, people didn't waste food. So you'd use your leftover potatoes for pancakes!

A couple nights ago, I made a batch of mashed potatoes just for making Mashed Potato Pancakes!


Yum! All you do is take mashed potatoes and add flour until the potatoes form a light dough. Then you scoop up the tater dough and flatten into a pancake. They're pan-fried in canola oil, and I used lots of garlic in the potatoes. Good stuff. I served them with ketchup and applesauce and lots of fresh chives from my herb garden.

On the side, I made Earth Balance Mac & Cheese and some frozen Sweet Peas. This is pure comfort food!!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Fueled By Hemp!

When I was at Seattle Veggie Fest back in March, I sampled my way through just about every vegan product on offer. On Saturday of the fest, I literally ate enough samples to cover me through two meals. Some were junk food (doughnuts, chips, ice cream). Others were real-meal-style vegan foods (Field Roast burgers, cashew cheeses). And a few were actually really healthy (bars, protein powders).

Of the healthy stuff, the one product that made the biggest impression on me was Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro70. Y'all know I'm a protein smoothie-aholic, especially when I'm able to run (still mostly down with runner's knee though). And I'm very picky with my powders. I'm a Vega purist, but I'm always willing to try new ones. And I tend to hold them to Vega standards. Manitoba Harvest meets those standards, taste-wise! I made contact with their people at the fest, and later, they sent me some product to review! My kitty Gelfling is helping me out here with the sniff test.


At 15 grams of protein per serving, Hemp Pro70 doesn't have quite as much protein as the new Vega formula. But that's okay right now. I need that high-protein stuff when I'm getting close to race day and going on longer and longer runs. But right now, I'm only doing short, occasional walk/runs and lots of muscle-building, strength sessions for my hips, thighs, quads, and glutes. That's the best prescription for runner's knee, and this Hemp Pro70 powder has been the best thing for my smoothies after my weekly Butts & Guts class at the gym (yes, that's the class name!). All the protein comes from hemp, as you probably guessed by the name.

Not only does Manitoba Harvest's powder have a nice, moderate amount of protein, it's also delicious and makes for a thick and creamy smoothie. The powders are sweetened with organic coconut sugar. And the chocolate is flavored with fair trade cocoa. The vanilla has organic natural flavor. In fact, each powder only has four ingredients! And both powders are only 130 calories per scoop!

I came up with a couple of quick and yummy smoothies using the powders. Here are some recipes! Note: Check out my awesome Grit & Grind glass. That's a Memphis Grizzlies thing. We got beat by Golden State in the NBA play-offs last weekend, but we'll be back next year.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Maca Smoothie
1 cup coconut milk
1 frozen banana
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. maca
4 Tbsp. Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro70, Chocolate

Blend ingredients together in a blender. Enjoy after an awesome workout!


Raspberry Orange Creamsicle Smoothie
1 cup vanilla cashew milk (or any vanilla plant milk)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
4 Tbsp. Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro70, Vanilla

Blend ingredients together in a blender. Enjoy after an awesome workout!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Update on Vegan Options at Chiwawa

Quick announcement: Dinner + Bikes, a vegan cycling advocacy tour, is stopping through Memphis on Wednesday, May 20th at Revolutions Bicycle Co-op. The talented Chef Joshua Ploeg will be cooking up a seven-course vegan meal, while Microcosm zine publisher Joe Biel and Elly Blue discuss and present short films about social equity in city efforts to increase options for bicycling. I went to the dinner on the last stop through Memphis a couple years ago, and it was awesome. Great food by Joshua! Sale of vegan cookzines! Informative discussion and films! I'll be there again this time. Click here for tickets.

Hey there! To my non-local readers, I apologize for the third post in a row about Memphis restaurants. I promise I'll be back with something more universally appealing tomorrow! But I wanted to take a second to update folks on vegan options at Chiwawa, an Overton Square Mexican and American street food joint that's currently reworking its menu. Here's Chiwawa's awesome sign.


Memphis Vegan Dineouts and Potlucks had a meetup there today during brunch hours. In case you're interested in hanging with other Memphis vegans, check out our group page on Meetup.com. And here's a post I did about our last meetup at Fuel Cafe last week. Here's the brunch crowd at Chiwawa today!


Anyway, Chiwawa is formerly the home of the Bianca Dawg. It was a spicy vegan hot dog with slaw on a pretzel bun (an early version was served on a tortilla, and in its last days, it was served on a gluten-free bun) named after yours truly. But they're currently reworking the menu, and sadly, the Bianca Dawg won't be on it (it's okay because I have a new sandwich named after me at Midtown Crossing!). I'll admit that I'm sad to see my namesake hot dog go, and I'm not totally sure why it's leaving the menu. But from what I've heard, that's the case.

While it was cool to have my own hot dog on the menu, I'm more sad about its loss because it was a great vegan option. And I hate to see vegan options being taken off a menu. But I emailed management, and I've been assured that Chiwawa is looking to have plenty of vegan options on the new menu. And most importantly, Chiwawa now fries their tortilla chips in vegetable oil! Shortly after they opened, I learned that they were frying in beef fat, and I had to avoid the chips. And that made me sad because I love chips! But now, everyone can eat the Tortilla Chips with Guacamole!!! I ordered some at brunch today to celebrate.


Chiwawa offered us some special off-the-menu items at brunch that, while I'm not sure if they'll make it onto the new menu, I'd bet they'd be willing to make these dishes by request. I hope some of these make it to the new menu!

I ordered the Stuffed Bell Pepper with Black Beans and Rice. Loved the herbed rice in this! I topped it with some extra guac leftover from my chips.


They had two kinds of vegan tacos — Mushroom Tacos (which were on the old menu too) and Fresh Avocado Tacos. The fresh avocado taco was a vegan spin on the Chubby Vegetarian Taco, which was also on the old menu (and was named for my friend Justin Fox Burks' blog!). That taco had an egg-battered avocado filling. But they made the vegan ones using fresh avocado. Lots of people at the table ordered these, but I didn't sneak a taste.


Chiwawa is also now offering some new side veggie items. Most of them are made with butter, but they were more than willing to make ours with olive oil. So I'm sure they'd do that by request anytime. The Red Potatoes on a stick were pretty popular at our table. Stephen dipped his in guac, and that looked like a great idea.


Nick got the Asparagus Spears prepared with olive oil. Sorry for the crappy photo. I was in a hurry because Nick was about to grab one and stuff it in his mouth. I did get a bite of one of these, and it was fantastic. Very well-seasoned.


If you're local and vegan, stop by Chiwawa soon and let them know you're interested in vegan options! And celebrate their decision to fry the chips in veggie oil by ordering a big ole batch!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Top Vegan Brunch Spots in Memphis!

It's the weekend! And you know what that means? Sleeping in, parties, hangovers, movie nights, snack binges, and most importantly, BRUNCH! I've been meaning to put together a guide to the best vegan brunches in Memphis. And I'm finally getting around to it. The following are my top four faves, though there are a couple of other places to score a tofu scramble.

1. Imagine Vegan Cafe (2299 Young Ave.)
Imagine is the only all-vegan joint serving brunch. So there are no egg or meat dishes wasting space on the menu. And bonus: You never have to smell bacon frying. That's truly one of the grossest smells ever. Here are a few of my favorite dishes, though the brunch menu offers so much more. Note: You can also order anything from their regular menu during brunch hours if you're not feeling breakfast-y. They only sell beer, no liquor.

If you order one thing for brunch at Imagine ever, make it the Memphis Slam — two split biscuits topped with tofu scramble, vegan sausage, vegan cheese, and gravy. Boom. If that seems like too much food, they're happy to make a "half slam" by request.


You can't go wrong with their Breakfast Platter — tofu scramble, biscuit, hash brown, grits (with or without vegan cheese), and your choice of sausage or bacon. I always go sausage because sausage.


Stephanie, Imagine's baker, delivers fresh desserts every Sunday. And she also delivers a vegan tofu quiche. She varies up the flavor. I think this one was a Vegan Sausage and Cheese Quiche. Comes with a salad.


Imagine even has brunch appetizers, like these Sausages In Blankets! Served with maple syrup.


And brunch wouldn't be complete without Waffles!!! They have the most amazing fluffy waffles, and they come heavily buttered and served with tons of syrup. Your choice of sausage or bacon. You know what I'm having.


Remember when I said Stephanie delivers fresh desserts every Sunday? Well, she doesn't mess around. Stephanie's dessert is on point. She varies the selection up weekly, but my faves are her Caramel Pie, Banoffee Pie, Orange Creamsicle Cake, Insanity Bars, Maple Bacon Cupcakes, and Cinnamon Rolls (pictured below).



2. Fuel Cafe (1761 Madison Ave.)
This vegan-friendly joint has one of the best patios in Memphis. It's located in an old service station, so most of the seating is actually outdoors. Inside is very small. Brunches at Fuel are best in the warmer months! Fuel doesn't serve liquor, but they do make creative cocktails with their beers. This is their Fuel Mimosa (hard apple cider with mango juice).


The Tofu Migas is beautiful and delicious — blue corn tortilla chips, tofu scramble, vegan cheese, salsa, and avocado. I love how generous they are with the avocado.


Fuel uses a star-shaped biscuit cutter to make their Biscuits & Gravy!! The gravy is chock full of vegan sausage. On the side is some watermelon.


Fuel has a pretty solid Tofu Scramble. It's heavy on flavor and loaded with veggies.


And if you're not feeling tofu-eggy, there are always Vegan Chili Cheese Fries on the brunch menu. Guaranteed to cure what ails you! The chili they use is made with red beans and quinoa.



3. 3 Angels on Broad (2617 Broad Ave.)
Located in the Broad Avenue Arts District, this kitschy diner is rather small. So arrive early to grab a table or sit at the bar. You might want to sit there anyway because you'll have easy access to these! This is the Margarita Mimosa — a marg spiked with champagne.


3 Angels isn't totally vegan, but they have a few options, including Tofu Scramble. The scramble isn't as well-seasoned as Imagine's or Fuel's, but it's decent. I do love the mushrooms and red peppers. And they serve you a massive plate.


The scramble doesn't come with a side, but they always have a rotating cast of vegan veggie sides to order a la carte. These are the Flat Top Potatoes. Tasty skillet taters with onions and peppers.


3 Angels also has Vegan Biscuits and Gravy, so check that out if you're in the mood for bread.

4. Brother Juniper's (3519 Walker Ave.)
This University-area diner only serves breakfast! And while the vegan options are slim, they do have a few. And they happen to have the BEST TOFU SCRAMBLE IN TOWN. Yes, that's right. If you're in the mood for scramble, go here. Note: This place is ultra-popular. Expect a good long wait for a table, but enjoy a soy latte from the coffee bar while you wait.

On the menu, you'll see a Veggie Sausage Tofu Scramble. Don't order that. The sausage is not vegan, at least not last time I checked. You could order that without the sausage. But I have a better idea. Trust me on this one — go off-menu and order the Fahim's Special. It's a tofu scramble (pictured below) with portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and green onions. It used to be on the menu, but it contained kalamata olives. And they stopped carrying olives, so they removed the item from the menu. They're still happy to make it, just without olives. Hint: Always carry kalamata olives in your purse for these occasions!


So there you have it! Now go make brunch your bitch!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Vegan Meetup at Fuel Cafe!

For the past year or so, I've been going to the Memphis Vegan Dineouts and Potlucks meetups, which are organized through Meetup.com. The group was started by a lovely lady named Susan, who moved to Memphis awhile back and couldn't find any vegan social clubs. So she started one on Meetup.com.

Susan actually came along at JUST THE RIGHT TIME! For about a decade, my friend Vaughan and I ran Food Awareness, a vegetarian/vegan group that gathered once a month for meals at local vegan-friendly restaurants. But Vaughan decided to put Food Awareness on hiatus while he moved into a new house last summer. And well, after that break, he decided he didn't want to organize anymore. I was already organizing Vegan Drinks, and just in the nick of time, Susan arrived and set up this Meetup.com group.

The meetup group gathers more often than Food Awareness ever did or more often than Vegan Drinks does, sometimes with two or three meetings in a month. I can't make it to all of them, but I did get to tonight's meetup at the vegan-friendly Fuel Cafe. Here's who else showed up (Susan is the one in the foreground with the curly hair and black shirt).


I knew I just had to get to this meetup because I love Fuel. I've eaten (and blogged about) brunch and lunch there a few times. But I'm not sure I've ever eaten from their dinner menu. I went with the Veggie Plate with Pan-Fried Tofu, Tarragon Carrots, Smoky Miso Greens, and Brown Rice with Mushroom Gravy. Mmmmm ... gravy. Also, they do tofu right!


This was my first time meeting a few of these folks, so I failed to get their names! I'm so bad with that. But I did get pictures of their food. Hey, I wasn't the only one sticking my camera in other people's plates. Harry was doing it too!


Susan ordered the Dragon Bowl with Tofu — organic brown rice stir-fried with veggies, cashews, teriyaki, and quick pickles.


Rosa got the Quinoa & Red Bean Chili with Vegan Cheese. I've had this a number of times, and it's one of my faves.


Dinesh ordered the Vegan Burger. Fuel has, hands down, the best veggie burger in town. It's homemade, and it's what they use in their vegan tacos on their food truck and in their vegan reuben (served at lunch). Fuel even sells their patties in the deli at our Whole Foods.


Steven and Karen both ordered the Vegan Chopped Salad — lettuce, potatoes, green beans, kalamatas, shaved veggies, artichoke hearts, and crostini. I'll have to try this soon!


Fuel also has vegan cheesecake for dessert, but we were too stuffed to even try it! Anyway, if you're local and want to get in on the meetup group, check it out here. Our next meetup is this Sunday for brunch at Chiwawa!