Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vegan in Sacramento

Whenever I make plans to travel to a new city, the first thing I want to know is how vegan-friendly it is. With a big, beautiful Whole Foods store, (where I was very naughty and indulged in a decadently rich Sweet and Sara Smore), a fabulous food co-op, a handful of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, an impressive collection of ethnic restaurants and seemingly more Thai restaurants per capita than any other city I've ever visited, it's safe to say that Sac-Town is very vegan-friendly. Several small vegan companies are also based in Sacramento, including V-Dog and Sun Flour Baking Company.

While winter seemed to drag on into summer here in Oregon, (my husband reported that it was as gray, wet, and chilly as any winter day), I got to unabashedly enjoy bright, sunny, breezy and balmy 85° weather in Sacramento. After checking in at my hotel, I made my way to Au Lac Veggie restaurant to check out their vegan Asian fusion fare. Vibrant aromas wafted into the parking lot from the kitchen—a good sign, for sure. Au Lac is simple and casual, and the prices are startlingly inexpensive, with entrees ranging in price from $5.95 to $7.95—about what you'd expect to pay for street food, not at a restaurant! Most of the dishes rely on soy-based meat analogues, something I have been avoiding of late (although there are dishes made with only vegetables), but I figured that once in a blue moon, it wouldn't kill me. I also wanted to avoid anything deep-fried (Orange Veggie Chicken Nugget sounded enticing), so I decided to try the Veggie Chicken Vegetables (#29).

The sauce was delicately seasoned and flavorful and the texture of the mock chicken was surprisingly pleasant. Sadly, I often find the food at Asian vegetarian restaurants to be drenched in salt and oil, but joyfully, this dish was neither excessively oily nor salty. It was quite delicious and left me feeling healthfully satisfied.

My dining companion, Laurel, ordered Veggie Beef Broccoli. I didn't taste her dish, but the broccoli looked as though it was cooked to perfection, and I could only imagine that the mock beef was as good as the chicken.

Being the Thai food freak that I am, I had to try at least one Thai restaurant during my visit. With so many to choose from, I would have been taking a shot in the dark honing in on one. Fortunately, my friend, Alicia, already had a favorite and brought me to Takieng in the Fair Oaks neighborhood. The decor was very pretty, with wood accents throughout.

It's been awhile since I've enjoyed Peanut Curry, so after asking all the right questions, (read the comments section of the previous post), I chose the Pra-Ram Curry with Tofu.

It was lunchtime, and I didn't think I could eat all that tofu and cabbage. But it tasted so yummy, I almost finished the entire dish!

Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe opened its doors about three months ago in a cute little Victorian house on K Street in downtown Sacramento. I couldn't wait to check it out and invited Alicia to join me there for dinner.

Once inside, we couldn't help but get all googly-eyed over the display case that showcased some very scrumptious-looking cookies, cupcakes, pies, macaroons, and other assorted pastries and confections. (Can you say "Whoopie Pie"?)

Alicia eyed this gorgeous California Chop Salad that Walker brought out of the kitchen. Without even so much as peeking at a menu, she decided on the spot that this was what she wanted to order.

I had a much more difficult time deciding what I wanted. Choosing between the Baha Street Tacos made with portobello mushrooms, cabbage, and guacamole or the Sweet Potato Avocado Panini seemed almost impossible. I finally decided on the Sweet Po and Avo, and my only regret was that I promised Alicia that we'd share our dishes. This was one yummalicious sandwich, and I wanted it all for myself!

Imagine sweet potatoes, avocado, Daiya vegan cheese, tomato, and roasted onions bathed in a poppy seed aioli and served on grilled ciabatta, and you'll begin to have some idea of how incredibly delicious this sandwich was. I could have eaten three of them over the course of the weekend and never grown tired of them. It was that good! I'm determined to come up with a vegan poppy seed aioli recipe, so that I can recreate this incredible sandwich and enjoy it at home.

I never did make it to Andy Nguyen's Vietnamese Restaurant in Rancho Cordova (a must-visit restaurant, according to a several reviews I've read), but on my way out of town I did make it to Noble Vegetarian. This unassuming Vietnamese restaurant serves up tasty vegan food with friendly service at modest prices (entrees are $8.95 or less) making it another Sacramento vegan treasure. Since the temperature reached a sizzling 95° at about 5 PM the day I left, I decided I didn't want anything hot, so I ordered the Prawns Perfection Roll and Taste of the Tropics Salad.

The little rice paper rolls filled with veggie prawns, noodles, and greens were served with a tasty peanut sauce.

The salad was made with jackfruit, peanuts, more prawns, sesame, mint, coriander, and wonderful little fried onion shreds in a very light citrusy dressing.

This was a filling and refreshing meal, and a most pleasant end to a wonderful culinary adventure. If you visit Sacramento, bring your appetite. You'll both be treated to some very tasty vegan cuisine. What's your favorite vegan-friendly city?


Anonymous said...

Wow! Everything looks so good! I'd love to visit Sacramento. I imagined it to be a very conservative place, but with all those veg options, it sounds pretty progressive. And I'll bet the weather is so much better than it is here in the Pacific Northwest.

Donna said...

Oooh, I'm going to Sacramento next month! I was dreading it, because everyone keeps telling me how hot it's going to be. But now I can't wait to go to Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe! Thanks for posting this!

VeganMarr said...

I love when restaurants open up in
an architecturally interesting house!
Oh & vegan whoopie pies, wow! We made the non vegan ones often when I was a kid! Haven't had em in ages!
That alone could be worth the trip!! ;-)

Kathryn said...

I'm a very proud Sacramento Vegan (even my name on twitter!) Looks like you hit most of the hot spots! Way to go! That panini at sugar plum is insane. I'm the Sacramento Vegan Resturant Examiner too, so if you are back I'll hook you up with some more info!

We have a bomb veggie food cart, soy ice cream bon bons, Ethiopian food to die for and much more! So glad to see you give some Sac Town love!

Vegiegail said...

Thanks so much, Kathryn! I'll take you up on that!

Suzanne said...

I bet the only place w/more Thai restuarants is LA! We have ALOT of vegan ones as well as non vegan ones.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I had no idea the vegan eatin' was so great in Sac Town! Looking forward to my next visit now, for sure.

Rikki Cupcake said...

i know where my next vacation will be! thanks for all of the great info!

The Vegan said...

You go on one delicious looking trek after another. All the dishes look very tasty. I am very jealous though because you got to go to Sugar Plum Cafe. I think they have some gluten free deserts and possibly a gluten free mac and cheese.

Anyway it looks like you had a wonderful time again. Thanks for sharing your latest adventure with us.


blessedmama said...

Hey, welcome to Sacramento!! Glad you liked our food here. I'm feeling shamefully proud, right now...sniff. Come to my blog next time you're in town to let me know you're here, for a big halllooo!

Anonymous said...

Your site is amazing. As a vegetarian I can find a lot of useful stuff here. This meal specifically reminded me of some of the stuff they cook on Extreme Check. Check it out
Thanks for the recipes:)