Monday, May 22, 2017

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Bluefin

Downtown sushi lounge Bluefin has been around for years, but over the past year, they've undergone an ownership change and, thus, a menu change. I've blogged about Bluefin many times, and they've always been pretty vegan-friendly, even boasting menu items labeled vegan when under the old ownership.

The word "vegan" is no longer on the menu, but the options are still plenty! Bluefin is now run by Mr. Woo, and he's added some Korean fare to this mostly Japanese menu. My friend Susan (managing editor/food editor) of the Memphis Flyer was invited to sample a few dishes for a piece she was working on, and she invited me to join! We stopped by on a Friday night a few weeks back.

We started with the Grilled Tofu Salad, a straightforward veggie salad with lightly grilled tofu triangles and a ginger vinaigrette. This was a nice, light start to the meal.

We also split an order of the Fried Sweet Potato Roll. This is a thinly sliced, generously stuffed sushi roll with tempura sweet potato. I LOVE tempura rolls because, well, fried. And this one was phenomenal. This was one of several inventive vegan rolls on the menu. So often, sushi options at restaurants are limited to just cucumber rolls or avocado rolls, so it's nice to see something fun! Also, that sweet soy sauce was killer.

Mr. Woo brought us out a few extra dishes that we didn't order. There was Tempura Veggies — a platter of deep-fried sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, and tofu. The tempura tofu was a nice surprise! That doesn't typically come tempura platters that I've ordered elsewhere.

Of course, we had to try one of the new Korean dishes! We got the Vegetable Dolsot Bibimbap — white rice with spinach, bean sprouts, cabbage, gochujang, and tofu served in a piping hot stone bowl that continues to cook the rice as you eat. You're supposed to stir the rice so it doesn't get those crusty edges, but I love crusty edges so I don't stir.

All of the dishes were excellent, and we'll definitely be back! Susan wrote a post on Bluefin's new menu — including the meat dishes, if you're into that — on her Hungry Memphis blog on the Memphis Flyer website.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vegan Mexico

Chef Jason Wyrick has a new cookbook out dedicated to authentic, vegan Mexican cuisine from tostadas and tacos to tortas and tamales (so many Mexican food names have such great alliteration!). Jason's mother's side hails from Spain but the family has Mexican ties. Jason grew up in Phoenix eating the standard Americanized Tex-Mex, but he was exposed to authentic Mexican fare when visiting relatives.

His new book, Vegan Mexico, puts a cruelty-free spin on that traditional cuisine. To achieve that authentic taste, he puts a big emphasis on homemade sauces, chile powders, and infused oils. But thankfully for those of us short on time, he includes recommendations for store-bought alternatives to those handmade touches.

The book is divided into chapters on beans and rice, salsas, street food, tacos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales, salads, soups, grilled fare, small bites, larger main dishes, breads, drinks, and sweets. Everything looks and sounds very gourmet, but the two recipes I made from the book were super-simple to prepare.

I went with the Salted Lime Plantain Tacos and a side of Drunken Beans.

The tacos were stuffed with grilled plantains that are brushed with garlic-infused olive oil. I didn't have time to infuse my own oil though, so I used plain olive oil and sprinkled the plantains with a little garlic powder. After grilling, the plantains are tossed with lime juice, lime zest, and salt. Also in the tacos is salsa verde (Jason has a recipe for homemade, but I bought mine at Whole Foods), vegan sour cream, purple cabbage, and toasted pepitas. I added some sriracha because everything is better with hot sauce.

The beans are essentially refried beans cooked with beer. I made mine in the slow cooker overnight, and I left out the vegan shortening called for in the recipe to make these a little lower in fat. They were totally delicious and creamy without the shortening! For the beer, I went with Dos Equis Amber. One note: When making these in the slow cooker, you don't need as much water. I didn't realize that and ended up having to drain off most of the water before mashing. Jason's recipe is just for stovetop.

These dishes were so amazing, and I can't wait to cook more from this book. The Late-Night Snack Chilaquile with jackfruit, corn chips, and avocado is on my to-make list as is the Smoked and Grilled Seitan in Pumpkin Seed Tomato Sauce. The Bean and Avocado Sandwich Drowned in Salsa looks like nothing I've ever seen (it's literally a sandwich covered in salsa that you eat with a fork!). As for tacos, the Pirate Tacos — portabella mushroom and avocado tacos with vegan cheese — have me drooling. The sweets chapter includes a recipe for Conchas (those shell-shaped breads you see in Mexican bakeries), and of course there are recipe for paletas (i.e. Mexican popsicles).

I'm especially excited about the drinks chapter! There's a Salted Beer with Tomato Lime Juice that I will be trying as soon as I restock my tomato juice. I love tomato juice beers (we call 'em red beers down South). There's also a Muddled Sage Margarita that sounds fantastic!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Memphis Food Truck Review: Rio Mix Fit

I met some former Memphis Flyer coworkers for lunch today at the new Rio Mix Fit truck, a Brazilian food truck that's parked permanently at the corner of McLean and Madison in the lot of Midtown Nursery.

Most of our food trucks in Memphis are mobile and appear at festivals, office parks, or other areas at peak times, like lunch or dinner. But a few trucks have permanent locations, which feels more hip and Portland-y. Rio Mix Fit is parked in front of a lovely courtyard with weather-resistant furniture and umbrella tables. A green tarp covers the entire patio, shielding patrons from the sun and creating a sort of homey feel.

The menu rotates weekly, so some weeks they'll have kabobs, and other weeks, they'll have plates or sandwiches. There are also smoothies (not vegan, sigh) and juices.

Today, they had plates, so Susan and I both ordered the Vila Isabel Vegetarian Plate, which came with coconut-curry lentils with tomatoes, steamed white rice, steamed broccoli & zucchini, and grilled bananas.

The lentils were EXCELLENT, and I was surprised by how healthy and fresh this meal was. Typically, when I eat out for lunch, I leave feeling bloated and way too full to face the rest of the day. But this felt light and wholesome.

So wholesome that I figured I needed some sugar to balance that out! I ordered the Ginger-Carrot-Passionfruit-Orange Juice. This was an energizing blend with a tropical kick from the passionfruit.

Shara and Toby ordered meat sandwiches, so I'll spare you the pics (okay, I didn't even take any), but I did photograph Shara's juice, which was made with pineapple, mint leaves, lemon, and coconut milk. She said it was really yummy.

I've seen the smoothies on their Instagram, and it looks like most are served in coconut shells, and some are garnished with ice cream bars. They look very fancy, and I so wish they were vegan. But most contain condensed milk from what I could tell. They also have a vegetarian kabob on the menu that I'd like to try on kebob week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Vegan M&M's!!!!

I know the secret has been out for some time in the vegan world, but I'm just now in on it. Little Secrets are like VEGAN M&M's.

Sorry for this weird picture. Yes, that is my foot.

Sadly, I haven't seen these for sale in Memphis anywhere, which is why I'm late to the party. But I finally found them at Natural Grocers in Jonesboro, Arkansas — my hometown — over the weekend. One bite and I was immediately whisked back to 2004, which was the last time I had an M&M. I don't remember the last time exactly, but that was the year I went vegan.

You don't always realize the things you're missing until you have them again, and that was the case here. I never pined for M&Ms (or any candy, really) the way I pined for mozzarella until Daiya and Miyoko's Creamery came along. But after a bite of a Sea Salted Peanut Little Secret, I was, like, dammmmnnn, I've missed that! Inside that thin candy shell is a thin layer of dark chocolate encompassing a whole, salted peanut.

I also purchased plain Dark Chocolate Candies. These are like regular M&M's. While peanut were always my fave, you can't go wrong with the classics.

Not all of the Little Secrets flavors are vegan though. The raspberry ones are, and I'll definitely be trying those soon! But toasted coconut and peanut butter are not. Makes me sad because I WANT PEANUT BUTTER M&M'S.

There's also a seasonal peppermint flavor that is vegan and a spiced pumpkin pie flavor that is NOT vegan.

Okay, see y'all later. I'm gonna go stuff my face with candy now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stuff I Ate

Hey, y'all! Here's some stuff I ate!

A couple weeks ago, I popped into the Mediterranean Market on Park, looking for matzoh for Passover. It was after Passover had started, and all of the mainstream grocery stores were cleaned out of matzoh. I had hoped the Mediterranean Market would have some but no luck. However, I did find other treasures! Canned Ful Medames! They had my favorite fava bean stew IN A CAN. I grabbed a couple of different brands to try.

This one, which was blended with tahini, was a winner. Didn't even need any additional seasonings aside from some fresh parsley and garlic-chili sauce. I served it with hot pita.

Hey, look, it's a pizza waffle! I had this post-run FitQuick Pizza Protein Waffle with marinara, some vegan mozzarella, and sauteed bell peppers, onion, and black olives.

Another quick post-run breakfast — Cherry-Rhubarb Smoothie Bowl & Chia Pudding Parfait. I combined frozen cherries, chopped rhubarb, almond milk, and vanilla Vega One protein powder for the base, and I topped that with chia pudding (chia seeds + almond milk + agave + vanilla extract thickened overnight in the fridge) and fresh blueberries.

I met Mike and Andy for dinner at Imagine Vegan Cafe last week and ordered my favorite go-to healthy meal at Imagine — the Southern Staple. Imagine is a comfort food cafe, and they specialize in fried, decadent stuff and plant meats. But sometimes, I want a healthier thing like this bowl of brown rice, black beans, collard greens, and garlic aioli with a side of buttered cornbread.

I went to a Street Fighter-themed art show at Crosstown Arts (where I work as the communications coordinator) this past weekend, and they had Adult Snow Cones! These were spiked with Bacardi. Yum. I asked for only a tiny pump of lime syrup in mine, which is why the color is so weird. I didn't want all that extra sugar with my booze. I like my alcohol to taste like alcohol, thanks. Haha.

My friends and I dressed in Street Fighter cosplay attire for the show. I was Chun-Li!

And Nicole was Crimson Viper (I wish this picture showed her entire braid; it went down past her butt!). Vaughan didn't actually pick a character, but rather just threw a random costume together. But we think he looked a little like Dhalsim.


Monday, May 15, 2017

No Meat Athlete!

About a year ago, I started listening to the No Meat Athlete podcast. It's been going on for years, so I was a little late to the party. But I quickly become obsessed with this weekly show on running, veganism, and goal-setting/habit change.

I'm currently attempting to make my way through all of the back episodes, and there are SO MANY. In doing so, I found the old episodes promoting podcast host/blogger Matt Frazier's first book, No Meat Athlete, which was published in 2013. After listening to an episode replaying the talk Matt gave on his book tour, I knew I had to have this book! Plus, he has a new cookbook coming out in a few weeks, so I went ahead and pre-ordered the new book and ordered a copy of the older book. I've been devouring every word of No Meat Athlete over the past few weeks.

It's a health and fitness book with a handful of recipes. The first half is all about adopting a healthy, plant-based diet, which I thought I didn't really need since I've been vegan for 13 years now. But Matt's philosophy is all about eating for health (even though he originally went vegan for ethical reasons, like myself), and — real talk — I can ALWAYS use healthy tips to nudge me away from those Oreos. Nothing against Oreos, but I fall into junk food ruts, like, all the time. Eating salads and smoothies and bean/grain bowls makes me feel better, and when I'm eating that way, I can see a noticeable difference in my running. Plus, there's a section specifically designed to address vegan nutrition for athletes, and that's been very helpful.

In the middle of the book are the recipes! They're very simple, no-fuss meals made with whole foods. I've made a couple of things from the book so far. There's a section on bean and rice bowls with different variations. I made this Asian Adzuki Beans & Rice with brown rice, adzuki beans, mandarin oranges, cabbage, carrots, and bell peppers. Really good! And so wholesome!

There are also a number of hummus recipes (because you know us vegans love our hummus!). I made the Buffalo Hummus last night to snack on and use as a sandwich spread throughout the week. It's lightly spicy, thanks to hot sauce and cayenne, and it gets that orange buffalo color from roasted red pepper. As always, I peeled my chickpeas for extra creaminess (pro hummus tips, y'all!).

I also made Matt's Fancier Sports Drink — a homemade electrolyte water made with sea salt, dates, maple, and lemon. No pictures because it's just brown water. But the salty sweetness has been so very refreshing after my Saturday long runs in the Memphis heat.

Also in the recipe section are some cool formulas for making homemade energy bars, veggie burgers, and smoothies. There are lists of bases, binders, add-ins, etc, so you can use the formula to make your own creation! I love formula cooking! I've used the smoothie formula already a few times, and I'll definitely be trying the burger formula soon.

The second half of the book is devoted to running. And much like in the podcast, there's a lot about goal-setting (Matt says to aim BIG with goals — like next to impossible — and I tend to agree) and achieving goals by making changes in small steps. I'm still working my way through that section, but it's inspired me to aim my next running goal at the 50K level!!! Yep, that's right. I WILL run a 50K (31 miles) someday. I'm not saying when because I'd like to get a few more marathons under my belt first. But No Meat Athlete has inspired me to aim high, so eventually, I will run a 50K.

The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, a recipe book that acts as a sort of companion for Matt's first No Meat Athlete book, will be out later this month. My pre-ordered copy should be in soon, so I'll post a review of that in a few weeks!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Fun!

Hope everyone had a happy Mother's Day! I drove to Jonesboro around noon to have lunch with my mama. Y'all, my mama is the BESTEST!

She's the kindest soul you'll ever meet, and she's so very generous. She'll do just about anything to help someone, and she's never met a stranger. When I was a kid, she'd always talk to people in line with us in the grocery store, and my introverted self just could not understand how she could muster up the courage to TALK TO STRANGERS (somehow, that must have rubbed off on me though because, though I'm still an introvert, I'm no longer the least bit shy).

My mama is also an amazing cook and a clean freak in the best possible way. She makes housework look effortless. And she also happens to be a LOT of fun. She loves going to concerts and having cocktails and riding motorcycles. She's just all around awesome, and I'm so lucky to have her as my mom.

I arrived in Jonesboro just after noon. My dad had a bad sunburn and didn't want to go out for lunch, so we got some Chinese/Japanese takeout from Chin Chin Express (an Asian fusion place) and brought it back. They had Chinese food, but I went with Vegetable Sushi.

And a side order of Hibachi Vegetables and a Spring Roll.

I wanted to eat light because I knew we were having dessert and cocktails later. After lunch, we watched a DVRed episode of last night's Saturday Night Live (because Melissa McCarthy!), and then my mama and I checked out Jonesboro's newest health food store, Natural Grocers, where I stocked up on some fun vegan finds (like Little Secrets!! The vegan version of M&M's!).

And then it was dessert time! I made the Rhubarb Crumb Cake from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook. My mama had never had rhubarb, and she was eager to try it. For some reason, the pink color cooked out of my rhubarb, so you couldn't see it in the cake. But this coffee cake was very good. Lightly tart from the rhubarb but mostly cinnamon-y sweet. I can't wait to have a leftover slice for breakfast in the morning with a cup of some Equal Exchange coffee I scored at Natural Grocers.

Rather than coffee today, we washed our cake down with mimosas (because Sunday Funday!).

Happy Mother's Day, y'all!