Sprig and Vine – New Hope, PA

Laura and my birthdays were both in the last month, so we decided to jointly celebrate by going to dinner at Sprig & Vine, a vegan restaurant in New Hope, PA. The chef/owner used to work at the now closed Horizons in Philly. The atmosphere was nice – quiet and relaxed even though the food is fancy.

They have a lunch, dinner, and brunch menu. As tempting as brunch was, we decided to go for dinner. I ordered the blackened tofu, and it was really yummy. It came with sweet potatoes mashed with coconut (milk, I think). It’s not a combo I would have thought of, but the flavors really work well together.

Sprig & Vine - Blackened Tofu

Laura got the Parsnip and White Sweet Potato Ravioli. As good as my tofu was, I think the ravioli dish was the star of the show! The ravioli filling has a lot of fennel in it giving the ravioli a slight taste of licorice, which we both really liked. The cashew cream sauce was really good as well.

Sprig & Vine - Ravioli

Try as we might, we couldn’t leave without dessert! We don’t eat out at restaurants much any more, so we decided to treat ourselves. Laura got vegan tiramisu, which was really good! I love tiramisu and haven’t tried making a vegan version yet.

Sprig & Vine - Tiramisu

I ordered the Chocolate Mousse Pie with a black cocoa crust which turned out to be my favorite. It came with a little scoop of sesame tahini ice cream and was drizzled with salted caramel. The mousse was smooth and creamy and not overly sweet. The salted caramel added a little extra sweetness and saltiness. And the caramel with the sesame ice cream was a really amazing combo. Sesame is one of my favorite flavors, and I don’t know why I never thought of making sesame ice cream before! I will definitely have to make this at home.

Sprig & Vine - Chocolate Mousse

It was a great way to celebrate our birthdays! We’d been wanting to go for a while, and it was really worth the wait. If you find yourself in New Hope, you should definitely give it a try!

Pasadena Day Trip: Green Earth Vegan and Huntington Botanical Gardens

It’s been a while since I posted last…busy week! But I have more to share from my trip to California a couple weeks ago. I ended up taking a day trip to Pasadena for work, so I decided to check out a vegan restaurant while I was there. Pasadena seems to have a decent number of vegan options. This one was called Green Earth Vegan.

It was a cute place with a nice ambiance, and the food was good. I had a really hard time choosing what to order, so I asked the waitress what her favorite thing on the menu was. She said the Classic Burger so I choose that to end my indecisiveness. I normally wouldn’t order a veggie burger at a vegan restaurant, but since it came with a recommendation I went for it. It was actually pretty good! I didn’t get a photo though…guess I was too hungry! I did get photos of the other things we ordered though… Spring Rolls, Chow Mein and Crispy Chow Mein.

Overall, I liked this place and I would go back if I found myself in Pasadena again. They have an eclectic menu and a lot of other dishes that look pretty yummy.

While we were in Pasadena, we also took a trip to the Huntington Botanical Gardens. We only had a couple hours there, so we focused on the Japanese Garden and the Cactus/Desert Garden. It was a good excuse to try out my new Lens Baby.

They also have a variety of other gardens such as Australian, Chinese, Herb, Jungle, Shakespeare, etc. It’s a pretty big place! I would like to go back someday and explore some of the other gardens that I missed.

The Desert Garden fed my growing obsession with succulents and cacti. I’m slowly gathering a small collection on my kitchen windowsill. They’re just so cute and the only plant I can seem to keep alive! The two little pots with jade plants are cuttings from my sister’s backyard.

Vegan Adventures in Minneapolis

This month is shaping up to be quite busy, so I may be continuing on this one-post-per-week pace I seem to have gotten into. I chalk it up to having too many hobbies and too much to do! This past weekend I spent in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was my first time in Minnesota, and really my first time in the mid-west, besides a trip to Ohio years ago.

Whenever I travel I like to find a local vegan or vegetarian restaurant to try out. I wasn’t expecting tons of options in Minneapolis, but after a search on Happy Cow I found the Hard Times Cafe. The description on Happy Cow boasted vegan breakfast with pancakes, tofu scramble, seitan, and more. That definitely piqued my interest!

After reading the reviews  however, I was a bit wary. Reviewers warned about the dive bar/unkempt feel of the place, gross bathrooms, and disgruntled service, but mostly claimed that the food was good. After a bit of debating, my rumbling stomach and I decided to give it a try anyway. I can’t say I wasn’t forewarned of what I was getting into.

Let me preface this by saying that I really try to find the positives about a restaurant when I’m blogging about it. In general, I like to be supportive of any restaurant that is offering vegan options because I think it’s great that they exist. But this place was unlike any restaurant I’ve ever been to.

Let’s start at the beginning. The road in front of the restaurant was completely torn up, so it had the feel of a run down construction site from the beginning.

You walk in and there’s no menu posted on the wall. There’s just a big chalk board full of instructions about how to order your food. You have to find a menu, choose what you want, write it down on a slip of paper along with the price, and slide your slip of paper over to the cashier. The cashier wasn’t overly friendly, but not rude either. I placed my order and took a seat in a torn up booth. This place fit the description of being a dive pretty completely.

It was about 10am, and the music of choice was death metal… a little much for me before my morning caffeine. The way that they alert you to your order being ready is to have the rather disgruntled chef scream loudly, “HEY! (PERSON’S NAME)!” It was quite alarming the first time it happened, but by the time my order was ready I had gotten quite used to it. So I heard a “HEY! KATHRYN!” and I wandered up to pick up our food.

What we got was one giant pancake, two sausage patties, and a plate full of hash browns, tofu scramble, and biscuits and gravy.

It looked good, but as soon as I tasted it, the predominant flavor was grease. There was really no seasoning, and it was so heavy I couldn’t eat much of it. The tea we ordered had the taste of cigarette butts. I don’t want to know why. I was really disappointed because the food was the one upside people talked about in the Happy Cow reviews. We ate less than half the food before we gave up on it.

I tried to take a photo of their front ordering area, and the chef screamed at me from the back that I couldn’t take any photos. I’ve taken photos at many restaurants and have never had anyone say anything to me, nevermind scream at me from across the restaurant. A polite or at least quieter, “We don’t allow photography,” would have sufficed.

So, although I try to find the positives about the vegan restaurants I visit, I can’t say that I could find any positives about this place. Oh wait! It was incredibly cheap, so there you go. It did provide me with a unique experience and a story to tell, so I don’t regret checking it out. Would I ever go back? No, no I wouldn’t. But chances are I won’t find myself in Minneapolis again anytime soon anyway.

The rest of the trip was quite nice though, and I did manage to find plenty of vegan food at stores nearby. The Minneapolis airport even surprisingly had vegan eggplant parmesan.

I saw the giant spoon bridge in the sculpture garden, and I went to the Mill City Museum. This museum charts the history of flour mills in Minneapolis – the Gold Medal brand and then later General Mills. In general, people in Minneapolis were quite friendly, but sadly, the Minneapolis vegans were the least friendly bunch, at least the few that I encountered. If I’d had more time, I would have liked to explore some of the other vegan options in Minneapolis… like the Triple Rock Social Club a few blocks over from Hard Times. They also have vegan pancakes and tofu scramble, and maybe a better atmosphere. Maybe next time!

Francia – Korean Vegan Cafe

We went into NYC today to see Wicked. For some reason I hadn’t seen a play on Broadway yet, so it seemed about time to go see a show.

Afterwards we decided to try out a restaurant we haven’t been to before called Franchia. It’s a vegan cafe that has “Korean inspired Asian fusion vegan cuisine” according to their website. The atmosphere was really nice, peaceful and relaxed, but still had a fancy feel to it. There are three tiers of dining levels, draped fabrics, and simple Asian design, which I love.

We ordered two “small plates/quick bites” as they call them, the crispy scallion pancakes and the soy ‘chicken satay’ sticks with barbeque sauce. We were almost brought down by the metal chopsticks. I’ve gotten much better at using chopsticks after a long lesson at a restaurant with one of my friends a few years ago, but I’d never encountered metal chopsticks before. They’re so slippery! I really liked the scallion pancakes and would get them again. They came with a tasty soy and scallion dipping sauce. The ‘chicken satay’ sticks were decent, but they didn’t stand out as something special to me. Also, the sauce didn’t taste like barbeque sauce to me, more of a peanut sauce maybe.

As an entree I ordered the Soy ‘Beef Cutlet’ Stone Bowl. In the menu they claim the stone bowl comes “out sizzling hot to create a layer of delicious crispy rice all around the bowl”. They’re not lying when they say it comes out sizzling, you can literally hear the sizzle…and I have a burn on my wrist to prove it! Injuries aside, the presentation of the appetizers and the entrees was really nice. My entree was also decent, but not special. I haven’t had much Korean food before, so I wonder if Korean food just isn’t my thing, or if I just need to try other things on the menu. The food was made well, but just wasn’t really my taste.

The atmosphere was really nice though, and there are other menu items that look intriguing to me like their dumplings, their wide tea selection, some of their noodle dishes, and banana fritters on the dessert menu. I would definitely go back for another try.

Blackbird Pizzeria

One thing that can be hard to find is really good vegan pizza. Most vegan cheese is just not that good. Daiya cheese is the best I’ve had, but it’s only good in small quantities and has to be melted enough.

If you’re craving pizza and you’re in Philadelphia, you have to go to Blackbird Pizzeria. Even though I live near New York now, I still go back when I can. I just went last weekend while I was in town. They have by far the best vegan pizza I’ve tried. Everything on the menu is vegan, so it’s nice to be able to order whatever you want without thinking. It’s a casual place where you can order at the counter by the slice or order a whole pie. They also have sandwiches, salads and desserts from Vegan Treats.

This time I tried a new slice I haven’t had before. It’s called the Haymaker, and it has garlic butter, seitan sausage, onions, tomato sauce, and fresh oregano. The garlic butter adds an extra layer of flavor that’s really good. I would definitely get it again.

I have a few favorite menu items I get often. The pepperoni pizza is awesome. It’s simple, but so tasty. I’m not sure what kind of vegan pepperoni they use since I haven’t found something comparable anywhere else. I wish I could track it down to use at home. If you’re more in the mood for a sandwich, I would recommend the chickpea salad hoagie. It has artichoke and fresh dill in it, which is a really good combination. I’ve recreated this at home and will share that recipe with you sometime. I would also recommend their hand cut fries which are made fresh to order. Again, simple but so good!

I’ve brought vegans and non-vegans here, and it’s always gotten great reviews. Another upside is that it’s not too expensive, especially since eating at vegan restaurants tends to be a little pricey. It’s definitely worth a stop, or two, or three, if you’re in Philly.