Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Couple More Outings

I'd like to show you some beautiful (and delicious) vegan restaurant meals I've eaten recently. Our kids, 16 and 13, are at such fun ages now, but between schoolwork, activities and busy social lives, we all seem to be going in different directions much of the time. Sometimes we like to hold them hostage at a restaurant for a family meal they cannot walk away from prematurely, as they tend to do at home, preoccupied as they are with responsibilities or friends. Today we had our family meal at Taco Mac, a local chain featuring a large menu with plenty of variety. We all like the lively, casual atmosphere and enjoy hanging out together for just a little while.

Today I chose vegetable fajitas, and veganized the entree by asking them to leave off the cheese and sour cream. It was served piping hot, in true fajita fashion. In the first photo I took, the food is not visible due to a large cloud of steam. On the side was some shredded iceberg lettuce with some little tomato chunks, a small bowl of mexican rice and another small bowl of black beans. But the stars of this meal were in the cast iron pan -- quickly seared fresh veggies. I was grateful for the beans for their nutritive value, but they tasted like vinegar so I only had a couple of bites. The rice was fine. The whole meal would have been greatly improved with a large dollop of guacamole. But I'm not complaining. I particularly loved the broccoli, perfectly steamed then seared with the onions, peppers and portobello slices. I only made one fajita. Flour tortillas -- I can take them or leave them, and I certainly would rather fill up on the veggies instead. I ate the rest of the meal with a fork. While I love cooking, on a busy day like today I am thankful for a chance to indulge in some lovely fresh veggies I didn't have to wash and chop myself. But next time I will remember to ask for guacamole!

The other meal I want to feature was consumed last weekend.  The boys went to an air show to see The Blue Angels, leaving me with my daughter for a "girls' day". We did a bit of shopping and enjoyed some beautiful weather, then decided to stop at z pizza for lunch. My daughter has a vegan friend at school who told her z pizza features a vegan pizza! I thought, "I'll believe it when I see it," since I had heard the same thing about California Pizza Kitchen and it did not turn out to be true, at least not here in the deep south.

Anyway, back to our z pizza lunch -- tucked into a nondescript strip mall, the restaurant did not make much of an impression from the outside. But once inside, I could see this place was different from most pizza parlours. The ingredients looked bright and fresh, and the whole interior had a laid-back California vibe. Newspapers and magazines were strewn around the tables, and wifi was available. It felt as if lingering would be encouraged in the way it seems to be at Starbuck's. Thrill of thrills for a vegan, there was indeed a menu item already vegan, with no changes needed. It's called The Berkely Vegan. Though I could have picked and chosen the toppings, I decided instead to order the pizza straight off the menu, just because I could! The Berkely Vegan featured marinara sauce, vegan cheese (it was daiya, I could tell), veggie burger crumbles (these tasted very much like sausage), zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions and bell peppers. The cheese was under the veggies, which worked out well, allowing the vegetables the heat needed to cook without getting soggy. It was delicious. With no camera, I wolfed down half of the pizza and packed up the rest of it for later. This photo is the leftover half after being warmed in the oven.

Normally I am a cheap date compared to my non-vegan family members, but in the case of z pizza this wasn't the case. We spent about $25 for two small pizzas and drinks. My daughter had a dairy cheese pizza. We each only ate half of our pizzas, so the small would have been enough for both of us, but of course I didn't want dairy and she didn't want non-dairy, so we needed two pizzas. We did each have leftovers, and nothing got wasted. We will be doing this again from time to time. It's nice to see restaurants coming up with more options for us!

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