Saturday, 31 October 2015

Culinary Captures - Postcards From America Special - October 2015


I hope that you have enjoyed my Postcards From America series this month following my visit to the States in September. 

It was great to check out how veggies are catered for State-side and overall, whilst their menus have a strong meat bias, it was good to see how accommodating restaurants are to ensure that they provide you with an enjoyable veggie meal as/when requested.

Postcards From America focused on restaurant reviews primarily but my Culinary Captures this month features the other things I came across and found of interest:
 

 
 


For love nor money I can’t find a mock chicken stock in the UK.  But in America there is a brand called ‘No Chick’n’ which has simulated the flavour of chicken (suitable for vegetarians of course) and has created a range of stock products.  Needless to say, I came back with a box of their stock cubes and I’m ready to make a faux chicken noodle soup!  Trouble is then, what happens when the cubes run out…………..?
 
 
 

Vegetarian ‘Chicken’ Powder

Off on a shopping spree with my friend Marialaina during our trip to Texas, she told me about this stock powder which she buys from her local Asian supermarket.  Again, as with ‘No Chick’n’ above, it replicates a veggie friendly chicken-esque flavour. 

She uses it in a number of recipes, soups and even makes a broth drink out a little bit of powder and hot water which she has when feeling under the weather and which she says gives her a little boost!  Of course I bought a tub of it back, so between that and my ‘No Chick’n’ supplies, I’ll be able to vary up my stock flavour repertoire no end.   Well, at least until it all runs out……..
 
 

The Cheesecake Factory - Fort Worth - Texas
Photo Source:  www.fortworth.com
 
The Cheesecake Factory

This encapsulates American dining culture completely.  A popular haunt for many Americans, this chain of restaurants (which is US-wide) is known for its selection of cheesecakes and its extremely generous portions!  Whilst in Texas we went twice, to two different branches (one of which being in Fort Worth).  Our friend Chris says that when his family visits from the UK they always gravitate towards The Cheesecake Factory – I kind of see why. 

If you go for the standard menu the portions are beyond huuuggee, but they also have a ‘Skinny’ version which has the same meal options available but it comes as a smaller portion and to be honest, that is more in line with a ‘standard’ portion size so having that was the best choice – veggie options aplenty. 

Plus, it means you’ll have room for a slice of cheesecake (their raison d’etre).  When I say slice, I mean slab.  Giant blocks of cheesecake in every conceivable flavour and combination packed with calories, but very, very tempting. 

I heard a whisper they are coming to the UK, so watch this space!

 


Fried Pickles
Photo Source:  www.foodnetwork.com
 

Fried Pickles (Gherkins)

This I’m told is a Texan specialty.   Gherkins/pickles (both the same, depends which side of the Atlantic you’re on), are sliced/speared and basically deep fried.  That’s it.
Now, before you dismiss this, hear me out.

The cool, watery base of the gherkin stays intact and the peppered batter encases it and adds a bit of warmth when you bite into it.  On paper it shouldn’t work, but it does. 

Now, I love my gherkins au natural so I did find this a funny old concept but the crispiness of the batter against the sourness of the gherkin was exceptionally delicious! 

Can't get to Texas?  Then try the recipe for yourself - I found one via Food Network which I'm yet to try, but it looks good and very much like the ones I tasted!
 
 

Michelle Bernstein's Vegetarian Sandwich
 

Flicking through a copy of the American Airlines magazine on the flight home, I came across an article featuring a variety of different US chefs talking about their creations. 

One of whom was Michelle Bernstein who is an award winning Miami based chef who has launched her veggie options at the newly renovated Sun Life Stadium (home to the Miami Dolphins). 

Her Vegetarian Sandwich includes:  sprout shoots, carrots, pickled radish, avocado and cheddar on seeded multigrain bread.  Her Kale & Quinoa Salad with Thai green mango, chayote, roasted peanuts in a chilli-lime vinaigrette sounds delish too.

Sounds great – who needs hotdogs at half-time eh?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Postcards From America: Spiral Diner Dallas

In my fourth ‘Postcard from America’, my travels took me to Texas where My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) and I stayed with friends for a few days.

My friend Marialaina, whom we were staying with, is a fellow vegetarian so I knew I’d be well catered for and she’d know all the right places for dining out.

True to that statement, during our stay we visited vegan diner called Spiral which is near to the trendy bohemian area of Bishops Arts District in Dallas.   Marialaina had been keen to go for quite a while and our visit was the catalyst to actually doing it and going.  I for one am never one to refuse a visit to somewhere new and I was also keen to have a wholly vegetarian dining experience USA style so I was totally up for it.
 
Photo:   M Bloomer


Spiral has a very retro feel to it, with a 1950’s canteen/diner style vibe, its style is very informal yet fun.  The walls are covered with interesting kitsch pictures and object d’art.   In addition, the restaurant is also a bakery and has a small shop area selling vegan products.   
From the Shop Area
Photo:  M Bloomer

The menu is 100% vegan with organic ingredients used where possible.  Their mission is to set prices enabling them to cover costs and to offer fair wages to their staff and if ingredients go down in price, so does the menu price.
From the Shop Area
Photo:  M Bloomer

The Server team were exceptionally knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu and everything was very tempting.   The fact that I could choose from the whole menu was sheer bliss!  To see the menu for yourself – view the link for items available http://www.spiraldiner.com/

Wanting to try something different if I could, I opted for a dish that was cutely labelled as ‘Bunny’ which in fact was Seitan with Steamed Vegetables.  Seitan is a type of protein, although new to me, it is available widely in the US.  In principle like tofu or Quorn products, it resembles beef in colour and possesses the texture of faux meats.  It was packed with flavour and served in thin slices over my vegetables. 

I really, really enjoyed it and I’m struggling to find anything like it in the UK although it has been suggested that ‘mock duck’ (which can be purchased at health food shops) is a fair alternative.

A big milkshake to go with it was a must (essential diner culture, whilst in America and all that - no more justification needed).  With it being so thick, it doubled up as dessert – loved it!

In a State that is so focused on Tex-Mex and steak in every which way you want, Spiral is a refreshing change for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.   It is a really relaxed place and a good venue for meeting up with friends.   Proving its popularity, dining as we did at 6pm on a Saturday night, it was quite full with more patrons arriving as we were leaving so I guess meat-free food is more appealing to locals than might be perceived. 

Enjoyed by us, our friends and their friends who also joined us, the recommendation is if you’re down in Dallas, Spiral is perfect for some wholesome food and ideally based before/after visiting the Bishops Arts District.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Postcards From America: Roxy's Diner Las Vegas


Photo:  c/o www.stratospherehotel.com
 
My third little Postcard from America features Roxy’s Diner which is Las Vegas’s tribute to vintage Americana.

The Stratsophere Hotel
Photo:  Francis & Francis Photography
 

Based at the Stratsophere Hotel at the north end of the Las Vegas’s Strip (which is known more for its SkyJump and thrill ride opportunities on the 107th floor), Roxy’s is located on ground level and deserves a bit of a fanfare of its own.



Inside Roxy's Diner
Photo:  Francis & Francis Photography

So, you go in and instantly get transported to 1950-something where the booths are bright red, the floor is chequered black and white and the Server team are all kitted out in 1950’s shirts with some sporting cute pony tail hairstyles.

Its repertoire focuses on burgers and milkshakes in the main as you would expect.  With only a couple of things to choose from for vegetarians, I went for the Black Bean Burger which came with the obligatory fries and pickles (gherkins to us Brits), plus grilled portobello mushroom, roasted red pepper and buffalo mozzarella.  Portion size was nice and hearty (the burger was half-pound to be exact).
Black Bean Burger Meal
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) had a large beef burger with all the trimmings and the meat options on the menu were aplenty.

Glorious Milkshakes!
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

The milk shakes were huge and they were gloriously thick.  Served before our food had arrived, I had to muster some restraint not to consume it all in one go and thus ruining my appetite, but we were in Sin City after all and being hassled by temptation, I did sneak in some cheeky sips but thankfully our food arrived and that prevented any further gluttony.

Thick shakes and 1950’s memorabilia to one side, Roxy’s has a secret weapon that beats any of the other eateries I saw  - and that is the music.  In the main, you hear a host of golden oldies from way back when piped through the speakers and it has you tapping your feet and tra-la-la-ing away but then periodically, it stops.  The Server/Waiting team put their order pads down and break into song themselves!  Again from the 1950/60’s songbook they belt out classics such as ‘To Sir With Love’ whilst skipping round the diner in a bid to ensure everyone hears!  This is wonderful I tell you!

So when the “any requests” announcement was made, I was straight up.  Asking for “anything from Grease” (which encapsulates the 1950’s in cinematic format in my opinion), I was thrilled when our Server (a lovely lady called Monroe) sang ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ from the film! 

Aiming for our table, she then offered the microphone for me to sing into it and putting my shake down I got straight into the lyrics (those that know me well will not be surprised by this) – I could’ve sang all night……….  But this was Monroe’s ditty so microphone back to her and me back to my shake. 

But doesn’t that just add a divine kitsch element to it all and make everyone feel so uplifted?

MCH exclaimed in between dunking his fries in ketchup, “I love it here”.  “And so do I” I said – it was probably our favourite eatery in Las Vegas.    I guess, purely because it was reasonably priced, had something for us both to choose from, was blessed with that nostalgic feel and of course it possessed the uniqueness of the singing. 

I make no apology for this gushy blogpost.  This is a must for anyone visiting Las Vegas – it’s as simple as that (although my only suggestion would be a few more veggie options would be welcomed on the menu). 

 
And next time I hear from something from the Grease soundtrack, I’ll be reminiscing about those big thick shakes, with or without a microphone in hand………… :)

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Postcards From America - Nobu at Caesars Palace Las Vegas


Postcards From America

My second little postcard piece in my Postcards from America series this month focuses on my visit to Nobu in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 
 
I revel in a little showbiz glamour and love the opportunity to experience whatever is uber-trendy and since it opened in the late ‘90’s, Nobu fits the bill well in both realms.

Whilst the Nobu restaurants in London are accessible from home, a visit to one in Las Vegas just sprinkled a little golden glitter over what was already a spectacularly planned itinerary for LV.

With tickets for Matt Goss’s show at Caesar’s Palace already sourced, a visit to Nobu beforehand I felt would start the evening off wonderfully. 

(Matt Goss: aka leader singer from ‘80’s boyband Bros:  incidentally is amazing with a residency in LV and is somewhat of a modern day Sinatra with nods to the heyday of the Rat Pack era – so a well-deserved quick plug for him on here as we absolutely loved his show – check him out)!

So what is all the fuss about Nobu I hear you ask?  Well, in essence, in my opinion, it is stunning.   Assessing the package:  you have beautiful contemporary interiors, a sublime menu and immaculate customer service all of which ticks my boxes of contributing towards a memorable foodie experience.
Nobu at Caesars Palace
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 

Nobu offers a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian food.  Poles apart, but an interesting mix nevertheless.  

Its pedigree is such that it has had Michelin star status and its was the first European venture of celebrated Japanese sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa in collaboration with Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, restaurateur Drew Nieporent, and hotel owner Christina Ong.   Its reputation snowballed and it became the must-visit hangout for the rich & famous celebrity glitterati. 

Back to the food.  We veered down Nobu’s Japanese leaning and when thinking of traditional Japanese food (sushi and the like), they are of course fish based but it turned out not to be a concern for me as a vegetarian.  The attentive waiting staff went through all the veggie options with me (of which there were plenty including veg sushi) and so therefore, I found quite a lot I could have. 

Also, we were mindful of being punctual as instructed on our Matt Goss tickets so they were helpful in ensuring we were served promptly but equally without rushing our session.

My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) decided to eat veggie style with me that night and so we shared Vegetable Sushi, Artichoke Salad and Kelp Salad.

Veggie Sushi
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The sushi was expertly wrapped with a nice balance of rice and small vegetables within and dipping sauces were provided.  The Artichoke Salad was finely shredded, beautifully presented and it was an unusual way of having artichoke.  The Kelp Salad was a mixture of different types of fresh seaweed which was really filling and gloriously chewy.  Kelp of course possesses a lot of different vitamins and minerals so I thought it an opportune moment to have it as a bit of a superfood boost for myself to balance out those Vegas excesses I was having.

Nobu in short:  excellent food, plenty of vegetarian options, beautiful surroundings and impeccable customer service/attention.

Interior at Nobu
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

This is definitely one the best places to dine at in Las Vegas (especially as a vegetarian) and well worth a visit. 

With restaurants in a number of cities/countries worldwide, it’s worth finding out if there is one near to you to experience. 

And keep your fingers crossed that Robert De Niro may just stop by the same time as you – now wouldn’t that be something to talk about………

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Postcards From America - Food in Las Vegas

Postcards From America

So here I am, getting my head out of the clouds, fiercely trying to get myself out of holiday mode and back into normality. 

Having just returned from America, whilst there, I explored what it was like to be a veggie on the other side of the Atlantic.   And now I’m back in the UK, I have been reflecting on my foodie experiences out there.

As part of my reflection, I thought I’d put together some ‘postcard’ style blogposts to share my findings with everyone.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

 

My first little postcard features my overall discoveries whilst in Las Vegas. 

Although a number of cuisine types were available out there, the lion share was taken up by steak and burger outlets or hotel bars providing just that with a token vegetarian offering which seemed to be there in a capacity as a goodwill gesture rather than it standing side by side as an equal on the menu board.

Travelling with My Carnivorous Husband (MCH), all those steak places suited him down to the ground, but with regards to me I felt a little left out.   

But seeking the positive, what I do have to say is that when I told a restaurant server team about being vegetarian, they then really went out of their way to try and find something for me to eat or they would make suggestions of things that could be made to order that weren’t featured on the menu.  So my negative feelings thawed out and my meal experiences were all the more enjoyable rather than just having to ‘make do’ or pairing up a side salad with fries in an attempt to build up a main course.

However, in the hotel buffet restaurants, I did find that many indicated their veggie friendly food with a ‘V’ which was appreciated, but I felt a little more thought around certain offerings to incorporate vegetarians would’ve made things even better – eg: 2 pizzas on the hot plate, both meat – by making one veggie would’ve meant availability for all surely?  Some tweaks needed me thinks.

But nevertheless, I did enjoy eating my way round the Strip in between seeing shows, meandering in & out of huge hotels and ticking off all the usual other tourist stuff.   More postcards to come about that.

~~~

Have you ever been to Las Vegas? 
If so, how did you find the food, especially as a vegetarian?