Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bea Bea's - Burbank, CA

Tucked away inconspicuously at the far end of a strip mall in beautiful Burbank is a breakfast joint flipping some of the flapjackiest flapjacks in town. You may recognize this diner from paparazzi photos in US Magazine with some pop icon or B-list celebrity emerging from its doors with a belly full of batter. Though you're sure to spot a famous face here, the real stars at Bea Bea's are the pancakes.

For non-vegans, the menu is a carnival of decedent delights, such as waffle, pancake, french toast and crepe creations slathered and topped with everything from Oreo cookies and peanut butter to fresh fruit and Nutella. There are so many options on the Bea Bea' menu, you could eat here every day for months and never have the same thing twice. The good news for vegans is that some (not all) of Bea Bea's pancakes can be made egg and dairy free, like my favorite: blueberry buckwheat.

Stacked high, served piping hot and exploding with juicy blueberries, these are the absolute best pancakes I have tasted in LA. Other joints in town tend to get fancy with their vegan pancakes, adding orange zest and walnuts and other stuff that distracts from the simple goodness of the berries and the batter. Bea Bea's gets it right, which is probably why the average wait to get a seat here on the weekends is close to 40 minutes.

If pancakes aren't your thing (what the hell is wrong with you?!), there's another killer vegan meal on the menu: the tofu scramble. Bea Bea's puts a unique spin on it by adding veggie sausage and chorizo to a mix of shredded potatoes, tofu, rice, sweet onion, spinach, basil, tomatoes and avocado. Full disclosure: because I'm such a pig and both of these meals are equally delicious, I order both when I go there. Yes, the portions are huge and yes, I clean both plates completely. Hello, binge-eating disorder.

There are plenty of weekend brunch options in Burbank, but I would highly recommend checking out Bea Bea's. There's something for everyone's diet and the coffee and juice selection is almost as massive as the food menu - which by the way, also offers lunch items like salads, sandwiches and wraps. The joint is clean, the servers are nice and the prices aren't astronomical. The space is rather tight though, so don't be surprised if you're rubbing shoulders with the peeps at the table next to yours. Who knows, those shoulders could belong to a big Hollywood so-and-so.

Bea Bea's Breakfast
353 N. Pass Avenue
Burbank, CA 91505

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dom DeMarco's - Las Vegas, NV

Spawned from the legendary 
Di Fara Pizzeria in Brooklyn, NY, Dom DeMarco’s — located just a short drive west of the Strip in Summerlin — boasts a stellar reputation among locals as baking some of the tastiest pizzas in Sin City. Even President Barack Obama, who requested a top secret deliver during a recent visit, is a mega fan. The story behind owner Albert Scalleat’s relentless seven-year pursuit to bring the beloved Di Fara pie to Vegas is a testament to its exceptional quality. A few months ago, Dom DeMarco’s upped the ante by introducing vegan and gluten-free options to the menu. I swung by last weekend to sample the new plant-based offerings and to taste for myself what everyone in Vegas is raving about.
The people have spoken
Before we talk pie, let’s talk vibe. The lively atmosphere, friendly staff and tantalizing aroma wafting from the oven sets the tone as you walk through the door. The décor is somehow a perfect mélange of casual pizza pub with a nod toward vintage charm and sophistication. The full bar, with extensive wine list, is a great spot for watching football with your boys or getting cozy with your favorite lady friend. There’s even an outdoor patio for soaking up the desert sun or hosting a large gathering of your bestest besties.
Artichoke on Sicilian deep dish, no cheese
But the real reason to venture off the Strip to Dom DeMarco’s is the food. The ample menu selections combined with the scent of garlic and tomatoes in the air is enough to make your taste buds twerk. Good thing Michelle Cabrera, Director of Operations  and longtime vegetarian, was there to put me at ease. Michelle is very vegan savvy and guided me through my options while emphasizing that Dom’s happily goes to great lengths to accommodate any customer’s dietary needs no matter how strict. After a quick briefing on the menu, I placed my order.
Only the finest ingredients
Here’s the lowdown: Dom DeMarco’s uses straight-up fresh ingredients imported directly from Italy on all its pies, including a hand-crushed San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh basil and Italian extra virgin olive oil. Every measure is taken to replicate Di Fara’s classic recipe, all the way down to a special water filtration system installed by Scalleat to replicate authentic Brooklyn H2O. Vegans can choose from all three styles of crust: New York thin, Sicilian deep-dish (a thick, square crust baked in a cast-iron pan) and a gluten-free crust for those with allergies. Every pizza on the menu can be veganized by substituting Daiya cheese (or no cheese at all), and obviously, by eliminating any meet or dairy cheese toppings. You can pick one of Dom’s signature pies or create your own from a list of toppings. With so many choices, I couldn’t settle on just one. It is Vegas, after all! This town is all about overindulging, right?
My order:
-        White Truffle on NY thin crust 
         (Daiya cheese, mushrooms, chopped garlic, truffle oil)
-        Artichoke on deep dish 
         (no cheese, marinated artichoke hearts, tomato sauce, basil & EVOO)
-        Bella Napoli on NY crust 
         (San Marzano tomatoes, spinach, chopped garlic, EVOO
         w/onions and mushrooms added on and no cheese)
White Truffle NY thin crust, Daiya cheese
Bella Napoli w/onions and mushrooms, no cheese

Chef Ramon be tossin'
Before chowing down, I got to meet the man behind my pizzas, Chef Ramon. This dude is passionate about his pie and aims to please his customers’ palates with each toss of the dough. I left Chef Ramon to his business, and shortly after, my pizzas arrived in succession like the beautiful daughters of a wealthy noble, all clamoring for the attention of the prince.  
I quickly tore in, working clockwise around the table, alternating between all three pizzas. The deep dish Artichoke won me over right away. It’s soft in all the right places and crackles with a gentle crisp on the bottom from where it baked in the pan. The artichokes explode with a tangy zing and the residual olive oil absorbed into the crust gives each square cut a savory, buttery flavor.  A word of warning to the calorie conscious: these pies are heavy on the oil, especially the deep dish. You better hit the gym before tackling one of these sat-fat loaded monsters. By the way, that’s only a HALF order you see in the picture. If vegan deep dish is your jam, Dom’s comes correct.   
The White Truffle with Daiya cheese and the Bella Napoli with the addition of the mushrooms and onions are also very good. The tomato sauce on the Bella has a distinctive flavor that pops with hints of fennel, while the truffle oil and mushrooms on the White Truffle pie give it a delicious earthiness that works well with the melted Daiya. I’m not sure I would call this crust traditional NY thin. The outer ring has a crispy, cracker-like crunch — not soft and resilient like you might expect from a NY slice, but still tasty nonetheless.
I wolfed down three cuts of Sicilian and six cuts of the thin crust like a boss before hitting my pizza wall. I wish I could have stayed and killed all three pies, but the good news is there was plenty left over to help absorb all the Maker’s Mark in my system the following morning — and each pie held up well after sitting in a hotel room over night.
Dom DeMarco’s is definitely worth a visit. There’s something for everyone in your crew, from pizza, pasta and wine to salads, sandwiches and suds. You may find Albert laughing it up with customers, or a local softball team downing a few post-game pints on the patio, or you may even see a parking lot full of ridiculously expensive cars on certain Sundays when one of the big wigs at Tesla Motors stops in for lunch. Dom DeMarco’s hosts a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. and a killer happy hour with 50% of pizzas and beer. Visit Dom DeMarco’s online to view the menu and check out their latest specials. I’ll for sure be back next time I’m in Vegas, and if you decide to swing by too, make sure you give a shout out to The Vegan Man Cave. They’ll hook you up right. 

Dom DeMarco's Pizzeria & Bar
9785 W. Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89117
Chef Ramon and Michelle Cabrera

Full Bar

Enormous Pie Oven

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lust For Leaf Cookbook - Hot Knives

"Sitting limp and milky in a plastic shooter like semen in a used condom, coleslaw is the stuff of crappy diners. Kaleslaw by contrast is the side-dish stud. This salad can go all night."

This is the intro passage to the Kaleslaw recipe in Alex Brown and Evan George's latest cookbook, Lust For Leaf, and it's just one perfectly perverted taste of the irreverent humor, chill vibe and crazy delicious recipes you'll find inside.

The boys of Hot Knives and I are kindred spirits; we like to throw down in the backyard with cold brews, loud music and char-grilled food that smacks you in the face with flavor.  That's what Lust For Leaf is all about; it's the ultimate recipe guide for your next summer bash, weekend kegger or holiday BBQ. With recipes like "Kill Your Idols Cornbread" p. 77, "Hobo Franks & Beans," p. 34 and "Booze Holes" (Gin-drenched donuts balls) p. 103, these gents gotcha covered with everything from salad to dessert.

The book itself reflects the attitude on its pages. It pops with vibrant, glossy color photos and has a layout that's both easy and fun to read. Lust For Leaf is broken down into sections like Taco Zone - everything you need to add authentic south-of-the-border spice to your fiesta,  Bro-tein - manly meat alts like burgers, wieners and Seitan, and Pizza Pool Party - a how-to for making fresh pizza pies on the grill. Plus there are ice cream, pie, tart and pastry recipes in the dessert section that'll have you drooling like a special needs kid.

Not every recipe is straight up Vegan, however a helpful "V" stamp alerts you to which ones are cruelty-free. Alex and Evan created this book specifically with the backyard grill in mind, so many of the recipes encourage you to fire up those mesquite coals. Unfortunately since I'm currently kickin' it in a tiny one-bedroom with no grill, I had try one of the recipes I knew I could make in my kitchen.

Kaleslaw, p. 70, is super simple to prepare and even comes with a music and beer pairing: Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild and "Raw Ramp" by T. Rex. It took me 30 minutes from start to finish and it tuned out great. My favorite part is the slight kick you get thanks to the Louisiana hot sauce and dijon mustard in the dressing mix. The recipe as shown in the book serves 15, so I cut everything in half.

Lust For Leaf is one of those essential vegan cookbooks. You won't find anything necessarily  "healthy" inside, just good old fashion summer comfort food. This is the cookbook for people who know how to have a good time, enjoy getting wasted in the sunshine and crave wicked tasty rations hot off the grill. I'm looking forward to whipping up more recipes from Lust For Leaf, especially the Summer Seitan, Peach Ketchup and Pea Pod Pesto. Step one: get a grill!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cactus Taqueria #3 - Studio City, CA

When you're a plant-based nosher and a new taco stand opens less than five blocks from your apartment, only one thought echoes through your head: "For the love of guac, please let them have vegan options!" Good news for the denizens of Studio City's trendy Tujunga Village section; Cactus Taqueria #3 brings the noise with delicious, Mexican magic not just for vegheads, but for everyone in your crew.

Tonight I douggied down to the corner of Tujunga and Moorpark to see if the rumors were true about Cactus #3 being secretly vegan-friendly. There I met Christine, one of the owners, who gave me the lowdown. Though not marked as such on the menu, the beans are cooked in oil, the rice is cooked in tomato sauce, the tortillas contain no lard and they offer both Daiya cheese and soy chorizo as alternative fillings. Pretty much everything at Cactus can be made vegan when you adios the meat and cheese. Game. On.

Your boy ordered two veggie burritos (beans, rice, tomato, avocado, cilantro, onions and salsa) and made quick work of them back at the Cave. These belly busters are loaded with flavor and bloated with fillings. A drizzle of tomatillo salsa down your burrito's innards unleashes a spicy hotness that slaps your tongue like an angry lover. It's no wonder this place is packed every time I run by. The menu features a variety of tacos, tostadas, tortas, quesadillas, bowls, fajitas, breakfast items, nachos, french fries and more.
Many will compare Cactus Taqueria #3 to the beloved Henry's Tacos, which occupied the space previously, but the vegan crowd is more likely to draw parallels to Hugo's Tacos in Sherman Oaks. Here at the Cave, we don't like to compare - we like to eat - and when we're hungry for a south-of-the-border mouth fiesta, proximity and deliciousness makes Cactus Taqueria #3 our new #1.


Since posting this blog, I've returned to Cactus to try the soy chorizo - and it's AWESOME! For those vegans who miss the taste and texture of ground beef - this is for you. With just the perfect amount of spice and flavor, it's a MUST addition to your meal. They don't mess around with measly portions either; when you order soy chorizo in your burrito at Cactus, you get a boatload.

Also since this original post, owner Christine tells me Cactus is now offering all three flavors of Daiya cheese and that they are currently experimenting with possible new vegan menu items, including a tempeh-centric taco creation.

Cactus Taqueria #3 is taking Studio City by storm, and adding a separate vegan menu with signature animal-free dishes would certainly put it over the top. Support Cactus by stopping by for lunch or dinner, and when you do, let them know how much you appreciate them looking out for us vegheads!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Palm Greens Cafe - Palm Springs, CA

Palm Greens Cafe is a tropical oasis in the desert. With a Hawaiian vibe, Tiki décor and cult-classic surf flick, Endless Summer, playing on a constant loop in the dining area, this vegan-friendly joint is a must-stop on your next weekend getaway to Palm Springs.

I strolled in for lunch last Friday and was overwhelmed by the selection of sandwiches, salads, wraps and smoothies on the menu. I settled on the Reuben – tempeh patty, melted Daiya cheddar cheese, sauerkraut and dressing on rye with a side of potato salad. The Reuben was very good; ooey, gooey, savory and delicious. I only wish they would have dialed it back a little on the cheese. I could feel the sat. fat thickening in my arteries after the first bite! Unfortunately I was too full for dessert, but knew I’d have a second chance because I was definitely coming back again in the morning for breakfast.

The next day it was all about the buckwheat blueberry pancakes. I planned on sharing the breakfast special (three flapjacks, tofu “eggs” and choice of veggie meat) with the mrs., but my appetite was pretty enormous after a 6 mile morning run, so daddy ordered a breakfast burrito as well.

The buckwheat pancakes at Palm Greens are phenomenal, and the burrito ain’t bad either. Still regretting not getting dessert the day before, I soldiered on after that huge meal and topped it all off with a homemade vegan tiramisu. Game. Set. Match.

Palm Greens Cafe offers something healthy for everyone in your clique, even the meat eaters. Owners Jeff and Greg are super friendly and the restaurant is totally chill. Breakfast is served from 7a-3p, dinner from 5p-9p and grab-n-go smoothies and food items are available in between from 3p-5p. Located at the south end of the Palm Canyon Drive. Check out their website or Facebook for more deets. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sunrise Coffee - Las Vegas, NV

In Vegas, it seems like all the rad spots are hidden away off the strip; that's why it's good to make friends with the locals. Thanks to Paul Graham's blog, Eating Vegan in Vegas, I was able to discover a vegan-friendly coffee joint not far from the airport that sells a wicked pumpkin muffin: Sunrise Coffee.

Sunrise is locally owned and legit indie, serving organic coffee, loose leaf tea and a menu of vegetarian/vegan grub including sandwiches, salads, burritos and bagels. Whether you're just in the mood for a mocha or have a hankerin' for a full-blown meal, Sunrise has you covered.

I rolled in early Easter morning to celebrate my huge slot jackpot with a soy latte and a couple of muffins, but when I saw something on the menu called the Alien Burrito, I couldn't resist its probe.
Unfortunately I wolfed it down so fast I forgot to snap a photo. Needless to say, it was awesome. The flavors all worked so well together and the way the cheese and the couscous melded together inside the tortilla was otherworldly. (Get it? Alien burrito. Otherworldly. See what I did? Someone kill me.)

Almost everything on the menu can be made vegan by substituting vegan cheese, veganaise and soy cream cheese.

Oh, and I have to mention the baked goods. I had a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin that blew my mind and a blueberry crumble muffin (pictured) that tasted more like a corn muffin, but was still moist, sweet and blueberry-y.

There's so much to like about Sunrise Coffee. The staff is friendly, the joint is clean and modern and the vegan options are on point. Sunrise offers soy, almond and rice milk alternatives for its coffee and tea drinks and the prices are way reasonable. It's too bad there aren't more places like this on the strip, but then again, maybe that's what makes joints like Sunrise so cool; you have to go on a Vegas adventure to find them.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pop Up Pizza - Las Vegas, NV

Ever since Pop Up Pizza popped up inside the Plaza, people have been pouring praise upon this pie. While kickin' it Easter Sunday-style this weekend in Sin City, I hit up Fremont Street to try a few slices for myself - and Holy Saturday, was it good Friday!

The menu at Pop Up features signature pizzas with uniquely Vegas names like The Goodman, (caramelized onions, red potato, spinach and roasted mushrooms), The Newport (Ricotta cheese, artichoke and eggplant) and of course,  The Soho (Vegan cheese, spinach, mushrooms, peppers and artichoke). You can also create your own pie or sample them all by-the-slice. Like a dirty peepshow brunette, The Soho beckoned me from behind the glass display. I could hardly keep from tongue-kissing the counter it looked so sexy.  I ordered me up a menage-a-trois of slices and took this party down to chow town.

First: the crust. Thin, crackery and unbelievably tasty. Straight from the oven, it crunched when I bit into it, but didn't crumble, and held the toppings firmly in place. Pop Up makes both their dough and tomato sauce fresh daily and you can tell by the exceptional quality of the crust.

The toppings were killer as well. Fresh ingredients are clutch when it comes to making a pie, and the artichoke, spinach, mushrooms and peppers on this bad boy tasted like they were plucked from the dirt that morning. The SoHo could have easily been ruined - RUINED! - with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes. I hate sun-dried tomatoes and have seen them added to this same topping combo at other pie joints to my great disgust. Pop Up wisely left them off, and thus, created what I consider to be THE BEST vegan pizza in Las Vegas.

But wait - there's more! Pop Up is even looking out for its vegan homies on the dessert tip too with non-dairy soft serve ice cream! What?!!! After a warm slice of pie, finish yourself off with some cool vanilla, chocolate or choco/vanilla swirl soft serve. Seriously, kids, Pop Up is the perfect afternoon fuel stop, late night nosh pit or hangover recovery room. Open daily from 11:00am 'til 2:00am inside the Plaza Hotel and Casino, you will not be disappointed by this pizza. Always bet on black, always double down on 11 and always hit up Pop Up when you're craving pie in the Dirty V.