Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Burrowing Owl, Colorado Springs

According to Wikipedia, the burrowing owl is a small, long-legged owl found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. It is one of only two owls that are social, hence the name of this cute, new, vegan bar in Colorado Springs called The Burrowing Owl! With such a cute name, how could anyone pass up the chance to eat and have drinks at the Burrowing Owl?!

The inside of this place had so much character. The tables were shellacked slabs of wood with big wood benches and there was a hodgepodge of differently colored barstools at the bar. The drink menu is extensive with everything from cocktails in jars, shots, shots, wine, and beer. Me and my friends tried a couple of cocktails. I went for an odd one -- Squash Yo Beef! It was made with Benchmark Bourbon, Squash, Cayenne, and Agave Nectar. The squash made it interesting. The best drink we had was The Mother made with Benchmark Whiskey, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Agave Syrup; oh, and a cute big ice cube. Delish!

The menu is simple bar food with many items being a variation on others. Everything is vegan so no worries here. One of my friends is allergic to soy, gluten, and many other things. I was so impressed with how nice one of the owners was in trying to identify what she could eat. We started with the Dips with Seasonal Vegetables. This came with watermelon radishes, purple beans, pears, and carrots with kale walnut dip, spicy peanut dip, and white bean rosemary dip. I loved the kale and white bean dips the best. There was also a lovely jalapeno jam!

After that, I orders The Slopper. This was an open-faced sloppy joe made with beans, chili, relish, queso, mayo and red onions. It was bar food and I enjoyed it.

My friend got The Messy Sloppy - yet another sloppy joe with Worcestershire mayo, pickles, queso, and slaw on a gluten-free bun.

My friend with the allergies had a wonderful Potato Soup.

More than anything though, it was the fun atmosphere and being in a vegan bar with friends that made the night. Other options include nachos, salad, tacos, and burritos. When I asked why the menu wasn't posted, they said they were still trying to figure out what to keep as they were still new. Everything is around $5-$8, even the drinks, so you really can't go wrong.

The Burrowing Owl
1791 S. 8th Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80905
(719) 434-3864

The Burrowing Owl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rice & Spice, Moreno Valley, CA

While in Perris, California, we headed out to have a nice Thai meal at a little place called Rice & Spice in Moreno Valley. It looks like a little house from the road. Inside, it's a small, simple joint with Thai artwork and not a lot of flare.

We had a large group of nearly 20 so we took up most of the restaurant...and probably annoyed the regulars. They were extremely accommodating stating they could make almost any dish vegan. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon how you view it, they didn't serve alcohol, so I just had water.

We started with a Garden Roll, which was your typical rice paper roll with veggies and tofu served with a mustard sweet and sour sauce. The rolls were large and filling.

For my entree, I went with the Bai Kaprow, a spicy Thai stirfry made with green peppers onions, red peppers, and fried tofu in a savory sauce with brown rice. I really enjoyed it.

We also ordered some veggie tempura that was greasy, but good.

What was interesting about the menu was that the starters pretty much cost the same as the entrees -- everything was $6 - $8 each. With no alcohol license, I don't know how they make much money. But, for these prices, the appetizers are a tad bit overpriced and entrees are super cheap so I guess it evens out. Given how much service we required, I thought they did a great job. And I love how accommodating they were to my dietary preferences. I'd recommend this as a great place to go in Moreno Valley.

Rice & Spice
22720 Alessandro Boulevard
Moreno Valley, CA 92553
(951) 697-1222

Rice & Spice Thai Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Adam's Mountain Cafe, Colorado Springs

Beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado -- the land of mountains and crisp, clear skies. Unfortunately, it is not the land of vegan restaurants or even vegan options! I had to reach far and wide to find them and Adam's Mountain Cafe was one of my best finds.

Nestled in a stone lodge, was a quaint, warm restaurant. With a very old-school feel, the restaurant's decor was cabin-like with large wood beams across the ceiling and old-school wood furnishings. Me and my friend were seated near the bar. We were warned that Adam's is all about slow food rather than fast food -- real food cooked slowly. That sounds like my cup of tea. The warning came from someone who was insinuating that it may take a long time to eat there. But, it actually didn't.

I started with the Tree Line Martini made with small batch whiskey, Three Pins Alpine Herb Liquor, fresh lemon, house ginger simple syrup, and bitters. It was good, but not fantastic.

For dinner, there were a few items marked as vegan on their small menu like a spicy curry. I went with one of the "favorites" -- the Sengalese Vegetables. This dish was huge. Served over udon noodles was a mix of snow peas, carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower, and potatoes in a thick peanut sauce. And I added sesame crusted tofu. I found it to be very, very filling and a good hearty meal, but there was a bit too much peanut sauce. I think it needed some fresh herbs for some oomph.

Where this restaurant really shined though was with its dessert menu!  A menu that changes regularly is printed on a blackboard. There were three vegan options on this day including a rice pudding. But, I ordered the Vanilla Bean Cake because it looked most interesting. The super moist vanilla cake was topped with a lavender anglais and served with cashew cream ice cream. It was spectacular!

All in all, of the few options in Colorado Springs, this is one of the best. The main dish was filling and fresh and the dessert was truly spectacular. The service was so-so as the restaurant was very busy. And the prices were high with my main dish being $18 alone. With two drinks, a main dish, and a dessert, my total with tip was about $60.  But, hey, that's what you get in this small mountain town. I'd recommend giving it a try if you are in the hood.

Adam's Mountain Cafe
26 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685-1430

Adams Mountain Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hana Sushi, Menifee, CA

Ah, sushi. It seems to be the go-to cuisine for skydivers out looking for a decent meal. I'm always hesitant as some Japanese restaurants are very vegan friendly and some aren't.  On this particular night, I wasn't incredibly hungry so I figured I'd find something and we all headed out to Menifee to go to Hana Sushi.

This was a good-sized sushi restaurant with a rose-colored interior and yellow walls. This inviting atmosphere featured an open sushi bar with rose chairs, black tables, and wood floors. Traditional Japanaese artwork adorned the walls with orchids placed here and there.

We requested to sit outside on this beautiful night. To my delight, there were tons of vegan options! But, before we get to that, sake, please! Okay, now on tot the food. We started with spicy and regular edamame. It hit the spot, but wasn't anything particularly special.

Next, we had the seaweed salad with cucumbers and sprouts, which was quite tasty.

The mixed vegetable maki rolls were filled with lettuce, cucumber, sprouts, and avocado. They were really good.

The avocado roll nigiri style was yummy. There was avocado inside and on top -- you really can't go wrong with that.

My favorite though was the tofu avocado roll made with inari. The layers of tofu skins and avocado were the perfect complement.

We also tried the tempura -- broccoli, asparagus, onion, etc. I didn't think the batter was very good.

All in all, I was happy that there were so many options at a typical sushi restaurant. The service was very good and the atmosphere was fun. The only thing I didn't like was how expensive the rolls were. Each dish was $6.50 - $12 each. Our meal ended up being nearly $90 including sake, which seemed pretty expensive. I'd come back only if I planned to order just a few rolls as the prices are particulary high.

Hana Sushi
30098 Haun Road
Menifee, CA 92584
(951) 672-0110

Hana Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mantra Indian Cuisine, Temecula, CA

For our second night in Perris, California, we wanted some good Indian food, which didn't appear to be available in that city. Instead, we found ourselves on a 20-minute journey to the city of Temecula to Mantra, which dubs itself as fine Indian cuisine.

The restaurant itself is huge as they typically offer buffet style meals. On this Tuesday night, however, it was pretty empty. They had a vegetarian section of their menu, which is always encouraging, and were willing to make many items vegan. The pappadums served with cilantro sauce were quite tasty.

Many of the appetizers were already vegan like the samosas and pakoras, so we started with those. The samosas were your typical fried pockets filled with potatoes and peas. They were okay. The pakoras were mixed vegetable fritters that were very oily. Both were quite filling.

For our entrees, we ordered Tofu Masala and Bhindi Masala. The Tofu Masala is typically not vegan, but they made it with coconut milk for me instead of cream. It turned out to be a creamy tomato sauce with a lot of tofu, bell peppers, and onions. It was a bit too creamy for me.

The Bhindi Masala, on the other hand, was a delicious dish of fried okra cooked in tomatoes, onions, ginger, and garlic with mild spices.  We decided they were better mixed together as I wanted more veggies and my friend wanted more sauce. Voila!

They said they couldn't make the rice vegan, but they did cook the Roti vegan. Other vegan options included the Aloo Gobhi, Chana Masala, Aloo Matar.

We left pleased with our meals. The service was attentive, the restaurant was nice, and the prices at only $10 per entree were just right. I'd definitely recommend this place if you are in or near Temecula.

27645 Jefferson Avenue
Temecula, CA 92590
(951) 506-1800

Mantra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tarasco, Perris, CA

As we were working on setting the Wingsuit World Record in skydiving, we had a week to spend in Perris, CA -- a small town in a valley with mountains on either side. There isn't much to this town, so, as always, I was a bit worried about the vegan food situation. The first place we saw that looked like a possibility was Tarasco, a Mexican restaurant in the downtown area. We thought, 'why not?'

It turns out that they are open to fixing many items vegan, so we gave it a shot!  The server was oh so helpful and her name was conveniently Margarita. Not surprisingly, she recommended we try the margaritas, so we did. They had a lower alcohol percentage due to their license, but were still good just the same!

We started with some chips with guacamole and salsa. The chef threw some cucumbers on the side for flare. It was good, but nothing to rave about.

The courtyard was really beautiful and on this 70-degree day, the temperature was perfect.

They didn't have vegetable fajitas on the menu, but offered to make them for me anyway. This nice mix of peppers, onions, and mushrooms came out great. They served it with corn tortillas as they weren't sure if their flour tortillas were vegan, along with pinto beans, guac, avocado, and a salad. I was very happy.

For this tiny town, I'd say we hit the jackpot. The food was good enough, the service was great, and the courtyard was a nice setting. I'll definitely be back when I jump in Perris again.

539 S D Street
Perris, CA 92570
(951) 657-6353

Tarasco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato