Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My favorite meat-free menu items

Keeping meat out of my kitchen wasn’t too much of a struggle during our vegetarian stint in January. Avoiding it when dining out? Not quite so easy.

As mentioned in my previous post, we don’t typically keep a lot of meat in the house, so as long as I kept up with my meal planning and grocery shopping we didn’t have any must-have-meat-now! breakdowns.

I don’t know about you, but when going out to eat I try to order something I wouldn’t normally have at home. I’m going for elaborate, rich, and, in most cases, meatier-than-usual options. It’s tough to focus on the roasted beets when you’re normally cruising the menu for filet mignon.

However, we stepped outside of our routine when dining out in January and were rewarded with some wonderful dishes.

We finally got around to checking out Andy Nguyen, and the Buddhist-inspired vegetarian offerings were fantastic.

Buddha Rolls: Lemongrass-infused shiitake mushroom, rice noodles, carrots and daikon wrapped with lettuce in rice paper and served with a soy ginger dipping sauce

Limitless Compassion: Spicy Mongolian “beef” (they have a lot of vegetarian “meats” on the menu) sauteed with broccoli, bell peppers and carrots

Universal Love Lemongrass: Sauteed mushrooms, onions, tofu and mixed vegetables with soy chicken in a spicy lemongrass sauce

We headed to the mountains a couple weekends ago searching for snow and discovered the Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar, which overlooks downtown Truckee -- you can see the glowing red sign atop this ski-lodge-turned-eatery’s roof from the bottom of the hill. Chris and I were impressed with our meal from start to finish: roasted polenta gratin with fresh mozzarella, tomato and roasted garlic with an almond and red bell pepper romesco; a salad of warmed chevre cheese, spiced pecans, roasted garlic and spring greens; and some heavenly butternut squash enchiladas with ancho chile mole sauce, cilantro, white cheddar and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Orphan serves the best breakfast (at least, in my opinion) in Sacramento. Ordering is always tough because their menu is amazing. On a recent Sunday brunch I opted for the soy chorizo breakfast, an amazing pile of scrambled eggs, soy chorizo, jack cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, green onions, cilantro and avocado served atop corn tortillas and black beans. So good!

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