Vegan Eats in Maryland and DC: Part II

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.

Tacotastic!

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.

Coconutty and crispy.

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.

A bit of an indulgence, but totally worth it.

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).

Vegan Eats in Maryland and DC: Part I

Greetings from Rhode Island! After spending five fantastic days in Maryland with S, I hopped on a quick one-hour flight to Rhode Island. Now I’m chillin’ with my family until S joins us late Christmas night. So far I’ve baked one batch of cookies (Five-Spice Snaps from Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season), taken the train up to Boston to visit friends, and otherwise just schlepped around in my super-comfy new plushy bathrobe. Tomorrow we’ll do lots more Christmas baking and food prepping, so I’ll feel a bit more productive.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – I have some Maryland-related eats to share! I was blown away by all the veg-friendly restaurants S and I encountered in MD (and DC), so I figured I’d share ‘em! I highly recommend all of these places – each one was impressive in its own right, and definitely worth a visit. I’m splitting this post into two, though, because I’m prone to ramblin’ and it’d get mighty lengthy if I didn’t!

Great Sage in Clarksville, MD

S’s mom treated us to dinner at Great Sage on one of our first nights in Maryland. Their menu is totally vegan, and their dishes feature local and organic ingredients. We started with the Artichoke-Spinach Dip appetizer, a chunky dip with just the right amount of mozzarella Daiya. Spooned onto crusty crostini rounds, it made for a creamy and satisfying start to our meal. For my main dish, I went with the Santa Fe Salad because I was in the mood for something a little on the light side. The salad was fantastic. Mixed baby greens, black beans, roasted corn, red onions, and tomatoes were perfectly coated in a delicious house-made lime-cilantro dressing, then topped with a generous scoop of guacamole, a light sprinkling of cheddar Daiya, and finished off with tortilla strips and big cubes of marinated tofu. The combination was perfect, and I really loved the dressing – it was tangy and flavorful without being overpowering. I was slightly disappointed with the tofu, which seemed a little bland for my tastes – grilling or broiling it might’ve fit better with the theme of the dish. But otherwise, it was perfect and completely filling.

If only you could smell the dressing!

Sticky Fingers Bakery in Washington, DC

Man… I am so envious of anyone who has easy access to an all vegan-bakery like Sticky Fingers. On our list of stuff to do in DC, “visit Sticky Fingers” was right alongside things like “go to museums” and “visit the Botanic Gardens.” As soon as we arrived in the District, we headed straight for the bakery for breakfast and a coffee fix. S enjoyed the Breakfast Burrito, a whole-grain tortilla filled with tofu scramble, black beans, Daiya, tomato, and a generous helping of spinach. Because he’s a generous gent, he offered me many bites, and I can attest that it’s a solid breakfast option. The addition of ketchup made it even better, until some uptight indie boy came over and demanded that S return the ketchup then didn’t even crack a smile when S laughingly apologized for hoarding it. Uptight Indie Boy, you give vegans a bad name and I do not want to be associated with you. Anyway, S also sipped this pretty cappuccino:

Swirly!

I did not get anything nearly as fancy for my breakfast. I enjoyed a simple (but really tasty) cup of coffee along with a Cranberry-Ginger Muffin, their seasonal muffin flavor. I can’t remember the last time I ate a muffin that neither I nor my mom baked, so it was a real treat to enjoy a light, fluffy, bakery-style muffin that I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare. If the ginger had been a little more prominent, it would’ve been an absolutely perfect breakfast! In fact, it was so good that I forgot to take a photo until I was halfway done eating.

Proof of this muffin's deliciousness.

S and I had plans to return to Sticky Fingers for dessert later in the day, but that didn’t pan out. Alas! I really wanted to try a Peppermint Fudge Brownie. Maybe one day!

Pho 14 in Washington, DC

After a morning of ogling gems and minerals and questioning the necessity of a Chilean miners exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, S and I met up with two of his college friends for lunch. S introduced me to pho when we were in Chicago over the summer and I really enjoyed it, but sadly, Madison’s vegan pho offerings are non-existent. We made our own version once, but it wasn’t quite the same. So, S was pleased to discover Pho 14, which offers both traditional pho options and a more animal-friendly variety. While S opted for a veg bowl of pho, I went for something slightly different – Bun Chay, described rather sparsely as “vegetables with fried and dyed tofu.” I received a big ol’ bowl of yummy tofu, slightly pickled veggies, thin, round rice noodles, and even more fresh veggies, all of which tasted fantastic when doused in a sweet chili sauce. It was the perfect meal, the kind that fills you up yet doesn’t leave your tummy feeling heavy or uncomfortable. It was light, clean, and absolutely delicious, and it provided me with lots of energy for perusing the fantastic collections at the National Gallery of Art.

…and that’s it for this installment! I’ll talk about the rest of my yummy eats soon. But first – what fabulous restaurants did I miss in DC?! What’s your favorite travel destination, food-wise? 

And also… happy holidays! :)