Tag Archives: vegetarian

New World Cafe: Des Moines, IA

11 Feb
by Deanne

New World Cafe: Des Moines, IA

On the edge of funky East Village in downtown Des Moines, you will find this shining example of the good food movement. It is a small cafe open for lunch, some evenings, and since the first of the year, they are now open for brunch on Saturdays. The cafe is closed on Sundays.  

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

New World Cafe’s mission, stated on the first page of their website, is to support local organic farms. They have an all vegan menu and compost all food scraps.  Photo of Green Burger Windows at New World Cafe

Flavour: 5

Back in November, Luke had been visiting from California and we ate here. He ordered a burger and really liked it. On the first visit I ordered the Mexican Bowl. This time, I had this beautiful Green Burger. All the food choices were made with great ingredients, fresh and served fast.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

I was to surprised to discover the clarity of the mission for this restaurant. They have at least one option a day for people to pay what they can afford. Another interesting factor in their concept is they use volunteers to cover shifts and preparation times. As a former restaurant owner, I have found that running a small independent restaurant, especially one that has a bit of an educational mission, is incredibly hard work.  The rewards are the stories people share about the food and what it means to them.  I am impressed with their goal to educate people about why eating vegan is a smart choice in many ways.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

The service was efficient and friendly. When my food arrived it was presented with pride; a beautifully crafted work of culinary art. The cafe is located in an older attractive building that has nice windows. I savored the warmth of the sun on a cold winter day.

Overall Rating: 13.5+

Brunch on a lazy Saturday morning is brewing on an upcoming weekend. Many people I have met since moving to town have an affinity for this place and I can see the appeal. Who won’t want to eat at a place where they really, really care about the food they serve?

Photo of Education Table

New World Café on Urbanspoon

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Chinese New Year Inspired Dumpling Soup

3 Feb

by Deanne

When I was seven, I experienced my first Chinese or Lunar New Year celebration.  I think it was coincidental as I observed the festivities from a distance. Our family lived near San Francisco and often went to my dad’s office in the city on weekends.  I remember hearing noise and arriving at the window in time to see a colorful dragon as it streamed below us on the street. 

I cherished this memory enough to take my own kids to see a very small Lunar New Year celebration in 1989. It was at a local Chinese restaurant near our home in Louisville, Kentucky.  The kids were too small to remember but perhaps Francine was influenced because she actually lived in China twice as an adult.  Luke had a chance to visit her and travel in China.Photo of Dumpling Soup

This last Friday evening Steve and I set about to make something in honor of the new year celebration.

Chinese New Year Inspired Dumpling Soup

Filling for Dumplings:  (Makes about 30)

1 carrot

2 celery stalks

1/4 head green cabbage

1 cup spinach

1 and 1/2 inch ginger-minced

3 green onions – diced  (reserve green tops for garnish)

5 oz. tofu cut in 1/4 inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons diced cilantro

1 egg

1 package won ton wrappers  (we used square wrappers)

Start by cutting the tofu in 1/4 inch cubes and fry in about 3/4 inch of  vegetable cooking oil in a frying pan until golden brown. While tofu cubes are cooking you can dice the carrot, celery, cabbage, spinach, and onion. 

In a saute pan sweat onions, carrots, and celery.  Add cabbage and cook until softened. Add spinach and ginger and cook until spinach is wilted. Pull off heat. Combine diced cilantro, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Mix together with 1 egg and the drained tofu.

Set each won ton wrapper on a flat surface and use a bowl of water to wet two edges of the wrapper with your finger. Use about a teaspoon of the filling placed in the center of the won ton. Fold in half diagonally and press edges together.  

Gently boil in vegetable broth for vegetarian or (chicken broth if you prefer) for about 3-4 minutes. Serve with broth and garnish with reserved diced green onions. We cooked about 3 to 4 dumplings at a time. 

Does your family celebrate Chinese or Lunar New Year?  San Francisco is one of the best places in the US to experience Chinese New Year. It is not too late to participate in the February 15th celebrations.


Fresh Cafe and Market: West Des Moines

31 Dec
by Deanne

Fresh Cafe and Market: West Des Moines, IA

After a few months of scouting out potential restaurants to review in the Des Moines metro area, I begin with a review of this gem tucked away in a professional building.  I first became aware of this place when I saw their booth at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market.  Photo of Wheatgrass A tray of fresh wheatgrass, sitting in the booth, caught my attention. 

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4.5

What a story there is to be told about local food. According to a bio I found:

Kerri Rush, “the wheatgrass girl” is the owner, farmer and chef at Fresh Wheatgrass Farm in Carlisle, Iowa and Fresh Cafe & Market in West Des Moines, Iowa. She started growing wheatgrass in 1996 when her Mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon, liver and lymph node cancer. After researching “alternative” healthy ways to give her immune system a boost she found it in wheatgrass and juicing. (her mother is now cancer free!) Kerri became hooked on all of the benefits of wheatgrass and her business started growing!

According to the menu the rest of the food is organic, local, gmo and synthetic-free.  They proclaim that they change their menu often because they work with fresh, seasonal products.

FreshChorizoFlavour: 5

This vegan chorizo is loaded with flavor and you can see the presentation is attractive.  The “chorizo meat” is made with quinoa and roasted potatoes, poblano peppers, and corn.  I had a choice of whole wheat or gluten-free tortilla.  I selected the whole wheat.  The topping is cilantro-chile crema and fresh scallions and tomatoes.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

Photo of Fresh signIt was a surprise to find such yummy food in an odd looking professional building.  At first I was excited because I saw a woman with five little girls come out and get in a van.  I thought maybe they were Girl Scouts working on their locavore badge.  Photo of Locavore BadgeYou know, touring the kitchen to learn about food.  Then I realized they had not been at the cafe, they had been dancing in the room next door.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

Three of the walls are each painted a different bright color and the fourth wall is glass which makes for a dramatic and vibrant cafe.  The tables are sturdy wood with substantial chairs.  You order at the counter and the food arrives quickly.

Overall Rating: 13.5+

I’d like to see Fresh Cafe and Market or other favorites like Desert Roots Kitchen, populate the malls, downtowns, and suburban intersections of every city in America.  Making food this good takes a huge amount of effort.  The commitment to quality is the reason we do not often see these types restaurants that offer truly fresh food at a lower this price point.    I leave you with this picture that proves you can get something fresh on an Iowa winter day.Photo of Green Juice

Fresh Cafe & Market on Urbanspoon

Wolf Peach: Milwaukee, WI

5 Dec
by Deanne

Wolf Peach: Milwaukee, WI

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Steve and I went to Milwaukee. Our goal was to volunteer at Will Allen’s urban farm called Growing Power.  

Before our journey, I researched a variety of good options for locally sourced food.  The restaurant that captured my attention was Wolf Peach.  The unusual name that tells a story.  According to their website, the scientific name for tomato translates, literally:  Wolf Peach. 

Photos of Wolf Peach, Milwaukee
This photo of Wolf Peach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

A quote from the executive chef explains the concept further:

I love the idea of turning peasant food into something that people love. Nothing overworked. Nothing crazy. Just really good food.” – Chef Dan Jacobs

Peasant food is something Steve has been talking about for awhile now, so I figured this was our chance to see how one restaurant interprets the concept.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

Local ingredients are the whole premise of the restaurant. It appears, by reading articles in the press, that they preserve tomatoes for use in dishes served this time of year.  Many dishes have tomatoes incorporated into them in some form.  According to the article I read, the restaurant has a farm in Sheboygan County, where they grow their own produce.   If you are looking for meat that is raised on local farms, they mention Yuppie Hill Farms and Hometown Sausage Kitchen.

Flavour: 5

The two of us shared a total of three small plates and one dessert.  For a starter, we had a chickpea bruschetta, with preserved lemon, garlic, and chile.  It was very good and my first time to taste preserved lemons.  The flavor drew out my curiosity without overpowering my senses.  

The next item was pan seared shishito peppers with romesco.  When I got home I looked up romesco and discovered it is a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, roasted pepper, and nuts.  I think it also contained smoked paprika.  When ordering I asked about shishito peppers.  The wait person explained that they are mostly mild but that eating them would be a bit like playing Russian Roulette, because every once in a while a person gets a very hot pepper.  We avoided the lurking loaded cylinder because all  the peppers on our shared plate were pleasantly mild. 

The final small plate was wood-roasted broccoli, apricot with calabrian chile and almonds.  This dish took the flavor scale over the top.  We soured to new heights of broccoli love.  Who knew broccoli could taste so good?

For dessert we had an excellent, but maybe just a tad too sweet rice pudding.

Photos of Wolf Peach, Milwaukee

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The decor was a pleasant surprise.  It is rustic with rough woods elements and community high top tables.  That goes with the peasant food theme. But just when I thought I had the decor figured out, I turned to see a crystal chandelier hanging above our table.  It is whimsical and makes me think the peasants stole a chandelier from a nearby manor house.

This photo of Wolf Peach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

When I arrived Friday night without a reservation, I was prepared to be turned away because the place was buzzing.  The host was very helpful.  He invited me to go downstairs and decide if we would want to sit at the bar but order the full dinner menu.  When I checked it out and suggested Steve park the car, I wondered if the downstairs host might have other opinions about the two of us showing up.  She was equally friendly and suggested we sit at a community table.  We joined a table with seven diners as our wait person arrived.  She was helpful by explaining their service concept of “Como Viene” which means “as it comes.” The food and conversation flowed which made for a fun evening.

Overall Rating: 14+

There are a lot of farm-to-table or locally sourced options in Milwaukee.  I am sad that I didn’t get to try more, based on our time frame.  However, I am supremely happy with our whimsically romantic evening of good food and lovely laid back service at Wolf Peach.  The affordable pricing for ample small-plate portions that can be shared by two or more diners. If you are dining with people who choose different types of diets, there is plenty to choose from for all: vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters.

Wolf Peach on Urbanspoon

Honest Abe’s: Lincoln, NE

18 Nov
by Deanne

Honest Abe’s:  Lincoln, NE

Yet another restaurant review!  The third one in a row.  First was Omaha, then Minneapolis, and now Lincoln.  The drill is the same, I look online for restaurants that would be worth reviewing when I am traveling.  

Driving through Lincoln the other day, I found Honest Abe’s which is part of the Ground Up Restaurant group.  I selected Honest Abe’s because on their website they described it using words like “good food” and “roots.” I interpreted that to mean locally sourced food.

Photo of Honest AbesReview: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)

Localness: 2

As far as I could tell from visiting, the food was honestly good tasting,  but perhaps not honestly sourced from people who are working outside the conventional food service sources. When I looked again,  I could not find any mention on the website or in the restaurant of a specific farm or of grass-fed beef.  This is not really a rant but a statement of reality .  The purpose of our restaurant reviews is to call attention to trendy local lingo and see what is really going on at various restaurant we seek out because of their language.

Flavour: 4

We ordered two fairly plain burgers with fries.  There are a lot of options and a flavor of the week.  We were a bit boring in our choice of the Greatest Burger Ever  (a bacon cheese burger) and The United States of America burger  (a traditional burger ).  Both burgers had high quality ingredients like red onions and applewood smoked bacon, and fresh romaine lettuce.   The fries were too salty but we ate them up like this was the last time we’d ever eat fries or burgers.  Photo of Honest Abe burger

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The place was busy at 5:10 on a Wednesday evening.  We had to wait a bit for a table and then eventually shared a long table with another group of six people. That is a nice surprise because when I visit a busy place, I build anticipation that the food will be good once it arrives.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

The person at the counter was friendly and helpful, the decor is cozy and fun. I liked the black chalkboard walls, mixed with white walls and the hint of Lincoln logs in the rough wooded accents. For the most part I enjoy small spaces and this place was small. One drawback, I didn’t see any rest rooms.

Overall Rating: 10+

I do recommend Honest Abe’s as a destination if you are veering off the road of the standard chain road food. For those that are choosing to eat vegetarian, according to the menu they do let you to “sub a vegan patty for free.”    Located in a strip mall about 10 miles from Interstate 80 it is a worthy side trip for those driving through or those visiting Lincoln. In the parking lot is a cute little hut that sells baked items from the same restaurant group.  It is playfully called Sasquatch.  We didn’t try any of their items but I liked the fact that one item comes in its own little jar.   It is called “cake in jar” and comes in “vampire velvet” or “blackout” flavors.

Honest Abe's on Urbanspoon