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Un-Granola

Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

Monthly Archives: February 2012

It’s tough out there. You know what would fix you right up? An elixir. Or maybe a potion. Good thing Shine in Boulder offers both. (They also have alcoholic drinks, if elixirs and potions made with roots/herbs aren’t your thing.)

I ordered a firewater potion shooter. It came in a tiny cup and was extremely gingery. No watering down of potent ingredients here:

A dining area, a bar, a lounge, and a performance space fill Shine’s cavernous space. There was lots going on the night I visited. The space is dominated by a huge graphic of a tree – modern hippie chic.

The menu comes in a binder complete with dividers. If you need more than elixirs/potions/wine/cocktails, there’s food. While not vegetarian, Shine has  many vegetarian and vegan plates, including beet hummus, coconut kitchari (an Indian lentil/rice dish), and jack fruit soft tacos with quinoa and black beans. The dishes are nutrient-rich, which I appreciate. There are also gluten-free options.

First up for me, the probiotic slaw sampler, made by a local company:

The sampler had kim chi, sauerkraut with caraway seed, and beet and citrus ginger slaws. All were delicious. The garlicky kim chi was easily the most complex.

Next, the Colorado Winter Squash soup:

The soup was sweet with coconut milk, and the kale chips on top added a slight bitter note and some crunch. It was a tasty, hearty winter dish.

In the menu, Shine’s owners state that their goal is to offer good food at an affordable price. The entrees range from $11-17 a plate, and the salads and starters are of course less. This is a chill spot.

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I love Italian food, but I feel like, in the U.S., it’s often dumbed down to gummy pastas tossed with red sauce and smothered in gooey cheese. Olive & June has pasta, sauces that are red, and lots of cheese – but in dishes that are cool, creative, and adventurous.

The setting is gorgeous, built around a huge old oak tree in the space formerly housing El Arbol. The interior is bright and modern, with sleek white banquettes, a huge patio on the second floor, and an open kitchen on the ground floor:

Our wonderful server explained that the menu offers piccoli piatti (little bites, appetizers to your appetizers, she said) and contorni (sides) as well as the more familiar antipasti, entree, and soup/salad sections. She was very helpful in steering us to vegetarian options.

Which are plentiful except in the entree section. Eating bits of different things suits my ADD personality, but vegetarians who want just one dish will have to go with the pasta.

First though, they can have, as we did, crostini with lima beans and mint, involtini (zucchini roulade with breadcrumbs), and testaroli (little crepes) with basil pesto. You can get veggie protein with the farm egg on polenta or with the bean-topped crostini.

Little touches, like the mint with the crostini and the fresh tomatoes in the involtini, really stood out.

I liked all our starters, especially the crostini.

While we were waiting for our main course, we had a bit of Olive & June’s bread — with light, fluffy, delicious homemade ricotta in place of butter.

For our main course, we had butternut squash mezzalune and cauliflower/mascarpone ravioli and , as well as the kale contorni.

Golden raisins in the mezzalune brought out the sweetness of the butternut squash. The ravioli were terrific — light, with cauliflower florets, greens, and orange/grapefruit segments adding depth of flavor to the cheese-filled pasta.

In addition to wine, Olive & June has Italian liquers. My friend had a grappa. Next time, we will try something more unusual.

And there will be a next time, I hope, maybe out on that patio. I still haven’t had the burrata, marinated beets, grilled pumpkin, risotto…this is awesome Italian food.

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A few years ago, I was lucky enough to travel in Tibet. I was unlucky that it was December and miserably cold. I remember looking enviously at the yaks, who looked perfectly comfortable in the cold, and wondering how many cups of yak butter tea it would take to get an insulating layer of fat going.

(Glad I made the trip — I haven’t been near that part of the world with time to travel since then.)

Dushanbe Teahouse reminds me of some of the beautiful buildings I saw on that trip to the world’s high plains – and of the romance of travel.

The structure was built by the people of Dushanbe, Tajikistan (Boulder’s sister city), taken apart, and shipped to Colorado. Boulder in turn sent Dushanbe a cyber cafe.

The intricate Tajik woodwork is enhanced by Persian carved plaster panels, colorful textiles and paintings, and an indoor pond with plants and fish.  The overall effect is lovely and calm.

The menu is literally all over the map: Italian pasta and polenta, Asian noodles, and Indian items, including masala dosa and saag paneer (highly recommended on Yelp). Lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options. The menu has only one Tajik option, a dish called plov made with seared beef.

I ordered the Persian Chickpea Kufteh:

That’s a plate of chickpea balls with Persian tomato sauce, pomegranate molasses reduction, spinach, and a soft cooked egg. I liked the chewiness of the chickpeas and the contrast between the tart sauce and the lightly sauteed spinach.

I liked the extra protein, but the chickpeas would have been fine without the egg. The Tuscan wine recommended with the dish was fruity and complemented the rich flavors.

The menu has an extensive tea section with lovingly written descriptions, and a beautiful tea bar.

Dushanbe Teahouse made me feel like I was delightfully far from home, if only for a couple of hours.

 

 

 

 

 

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What people say they want and what they really want are often different things. My husband, for example, has learned that the friendly words “let’s split dessert” really mean “good luck getting a fork in, sucker” when coming from me.

The folks behind Green Vegetarian Cuisine seem to know that while people say they want healthful vegetarian food, what they really want is cheesy goodness.

Green’s menu tells you that the monk’s bowl (quinoa, beans, kale, chipotle mayo) has 20 grams of fiber and 24 grams of protein. Surely, you think, some of that nutrition will leak into the buffalo fingers, made from breaded and fried tofu and located just a few inches away from the monk’s bowl on the same menu?

There are plenty of healthful options: raw wrap, macrobiotic bowl, quinoa burrito. And a lot of heavy options, including fries with chili cheese, fried wheat meat dishes, and mock BBQ. This is a great restaurant for vegetarians who miss Southern specialties. And for vegans, since Green will sub dairy cheese with Daiya. And for carnivores accompanying veggie friends – a lot of fake meat dishes here.

Green is San Antonio’s only vegetarian restaurant and has two locations. (San Antonio also has Vegeria, a vegan restaurant, which I’d like to try one day.)

The downtown outpost of Green is located in a great space, in what was once a bakery. The decor is funky in a good way, with photos of old movie theatres, a wall of pastel light fixtures, and cool signage.

Out of all those options, I ordered the green tomatillo enchilada plate, easy on the cheese.

I liked the squash/mushrooms filling the enchiladas, and the tomatillo sauce was tart and delicious. I wish they’d gone on a bit easier on the cheese, but everyone has a different definition of “light.”

The pinto beans were so smoky I would have worried they had bacon in them, but this is — yay — a vegetarian restaurant. Overall, it was a very satisfying plate of food, though way too much for me. Next time, I’ll skip the Spanish rice and get a kale salad instead.

Or maybe I’ll get the nutritionally virtuous macrobiotic bowl. You can get what you say you want, or what you really want, or some combination of the two, at this wonderful restaurant.

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I read an interview once with Kylie Minogue in which she described herself as being “at that wine bar age.” She made it sound kind of glam —  a word that definitely describes Vino Vino, in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood. I love the reclaimed wood floors, long bar, dim lighting.

I also love the wine, which they are very serious about (racks cover the walls of the big room) and happy to talk over with you. Even though I come here pretty regularly, I forget that they are equally serious about the food.

The vegetarian options are limited: salads, cheese and olives, and one entree. On the night I visited, the entree was broccoli stew with mushrooms, couscous, and harissa (a North African spice mix). Our cheerful server let me sample a couple of wines before picking a Riesling that he said would go nicely with the spice of the stew.

He was right — the wine and stew were perfect together. The mushrooms were hen of the woods — a real step above your average white button shroom. These woodsy, chewy morsels (photo below — that’s a mushroom!) in the harissa broth were delicious.

My friend loved his quail dish — there are lots of hearty meat options here.

I hope they add more vegetarian options to their menu. The veggie dish I had, and the Riesling I had with it, make me happy to be at that wine bar age.

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