Hello, all! Happy 2012. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and that you welcomed 2012 with some awesome people – I sure did. I’ll recap my very vegan Christmas soon, but first I have to finish blabbering about all the delicious food S and I ate in Maryland! In Part I, I talked about Great Sage, Sticky Fingers Bakery, and Pho 14. Now to the rest of our eats!
Liquid Earth in Baltimore, MD
Besides hanging out in the Columbia area and visiting DC, S and I also spent a day in Baltimore. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend the American Visionary Art Museum - I’m generally pretty ambivalent about contemporary art (okay, that’s generous… I’m usually not too fond of it!), but I truly enjoyed the amazingly creative and fun works at AVAM. I also appreciated their definition of visionary art: “…art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” It’s so inspiring to see how people from around the world feel the call to creativity and subsequently produce beautiful, thought-provoking art.
But that’s a total digression, because I’m supposed to be talking about food. Our first meal in Baltimore was at Liquid Earth after a morning of wandering around AVAM. Boasting an impressive juice and smoothie menu, Liquid Earth feels a bit like your stereotypical veg restaurant – cozy, with eclectic decor and inked-and-pierced servers – my kind of people! S ordered (and really enjoyed) the Filly Cheese Phake, which substitutes tofu for steak. I didn’t try it because it includes provolone cheese, so I’ll have to trust his review. I lunched on their T.L.T., which featured a house-made organic “bacon.” The sandwich was not really anything to write home about, but that was exactly what I was craving: something simple, tasty, and filling that reminded me of my beloved BLT sandwiches of yore. I also got an Original Strawberry Smoothie, which was sadly disappointing. It’s hard to imagine that you can go wrong with strawberries, bananas, soy milk, and ice, but it seemed as if ice was the main ingredient in my smoothie, rendering it bland and lackluster. However, S’s Ginger Zinger juice totally made up for my drab drink. A simple mixture of Granny Smith apples and copious amounts of ginger, this was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted (yes, my juice experiences are limited). S and I both loved it – it was zesty and spicy and totally, totally delicious. I wish I had a picture of it and its beautiful green hue!
One World Cafe in Baltimore, MD
After an afternoon at the National Aquarium,* S and I met up with his mom and one of his college friends for dinner. We headed to One World Cafe, where I was delighted to discover that it was Taco Tuesday! $5.50 for two tacos and a side of spicy rice? Yes, please! Sometimes a girl craves tacos; what can I say. One World Cafe offers a vegetarian menu with many vegan options, and they happily substituted Daiya cheese for the dairy cheese on my dish. The tacos were exactly what I wanted – simple and spicy, with all the fixings.
My dining companions enjoyed lasagna and macaroni and cheese, so I can’t speak to those dishes, but their reviews were quite positive. Our meals filled us up and gave us the energy to navigate the crowds on 34th street in Hampden to see the houses all decked out in their Christmas light finest. As S’s mom put it, “Tacky but beautiful.”
Busboys & Poets in Hyattsville, MD
I’m a little conflicted about admitting that one of the most pleasant dining experiences we shared on the trip took place in a four-location chain restaurant. But, in the interest of honesty, I’ll say it – Busboys & Poets is a very cool establishment. Although they try perhaps a little too hard to make the decor seem very hip and artsy, the overall ambiance of this place is definitely my style. The menu features meat but is very veg-friendly, with lots of vegan options that go beyond the ubiquitous portobello mushroom sandwich that most restaurants seem to think meets their veg quota. S and I started out with the Coconut Tofu Bites as an appetizer.
Oh my goodness. These were so, so tasty. These bite-sized morsels of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth bits of tofu were encrusted with crispy, fried coconut and dipped in a sweet plum sauce with hints of pineapple. The combination of flavors was just perfect, even for someone like me who is generally wary of sweet dinner items. I’m sure these are terribly unhealthy, but for a rare indulgence, it really couldn’t get much more delicious. And I’m so impressed that a mainstream restaurant did something so very creative with tofu – this little dish would not be out of place at an upscale all-vegan restaurant, yet it’s on the menu at an establishment that also features meat. I really appreciate that creativity in a restaurant!
For our main meals, S and I both ordered the Veggie Burger, a “homemade vegetarian burger with sprouts, avocado, tomato on wheat bun.” It did not disappoint.
Can you see how big and plump that burger is? It was just bursting with vegetables, beans, and lentils – the perfect veggie burger! I loved that it was topped with avocado, too – I need to remember to incorporate that wonderful green fruit into more of my burger-eating experiences. With a side of sweet potato fries, this was a really tasty (and filling – I only ate half!) meal, and I rounded it off with a soy cappuccino – the perfect end to the Maryland portion of my holiday vacation.
So there you have it – all my Maryland eats! I’m drooling just thinking about those coconutty tofu bites.
What’s the most creative vegan dish you’ve had in a mainstream restaurant?
*My views on aquariums are similar to my views on zoos (shared at the end of this post).