Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nacional 27

Paella for one at Nacional 27.

I was a little apprehensive to dine at Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron) earlier this month. Some friends from out of town had made reservations there to kick off Green River/St. Patrick's weekend on Friday, March 12. It's a hip restaurant and I had never been, so I decided to go anyway. Note: if a restaurant has margaritas or even mojitos on the menu, I can be persuaded regardless of food choices.

After checking over the menu I figured my best bet was the paella. The waitress, after reciting the specials for a solid 10 minutes, told me that because they did not have many vegetarian options she could let me have the paella for one, instead of the stated two-person minimum. I was pretty grateful for the accomodation. I asked the very knowledgable waitress for my usual requests: no cheese, no butter, no beef/chicken broth, etc. Then she asked "so you would like it vegan-style?" YES! Thank you awesome waitress and Nacional 27.

The vegetable paella is made up of roasted corn, peppers, chayote (squash), calabaza (another squash-y vegetable), orzo and green olives. Served piping hot. Also there was something leafy but I can't remember if it was basil or spinach. Either way, this was a delicious veggie dish at a decidedly meat-friendly restaurant.

Product of the day: Larabars. All of them. I had the cinnamon roll bar for breakfast this morning. Larabars have no added sugar, preservatives...nothing. These guys have quite a few calories and fat for a little snack, but they are just about right for a small meal or big snack, and the fat is mostly the good kind from walnuts. Walnuts are important for vegans because they are a good source of omega-3s, which we get less of than our fish-eating friends.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beach weather

The daily temperature is regularly reaching the mid- to upper-40s here in Chi-town, and you know what this means: day-drinking outdoors. Yes. I don't care if I still need to wear mittens to prevent frostbite while I hold my beer, we're drinking outside, damnit!

You know what goes really well with beer? Burgers. More precisely, veggie burgers. Twice last week I had the good fortune to dine with friends at Dunlays on Clark (2600 N. Clark St.). The Dunlays veggie burger, available at dinner and brunch, is a delicious blend of rice, beans, walnuts, sweet potatoes and wild mushrooms. In addition to being delicious, this burger is actually quite nutritious. We've talked about the benefits sweet potatoes recently, and the substantial walnuts provide some much-needed and under-consumed omega-3 fatty acids. (Does anyone else think "fatty acids" is a horrible term for such a nutritious substance?) Dunlays also offers a small but decent selection of sides to go with your burger: on Thursday I ordered grilled asparagus, and on Sunday at brunch I caved and got the shoestring-cut french fries, to go with my mimosa, obviously.

Product of the Day: Imagine Foods soups. I just finished a carton of the Organic Creamy Broccoli Soup. It is delicious both while you are waiting for dinner to cook or when you wake up from a hangover craving green and salty food (another strange side effect of being vegan). The soup is low in calories and has no unpronounceable ingredients.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Grove

Hello friends. I've had a busy week with moving, a visit from my family and the arrival of my new puppy Seven. Well actually I've been on vacation this whole week, so don't feel too sorry for me. I moved most of my things last Thursday and my parents and brother helped me finish the move when they arrived on Saturday, along with the puppy and his dog-mother Pearl.

With all this moving and puppy-walking we were all pretty hungry Sunday morning, so we set out for the Panera a few blocks away. However, on our way we got distracted by a cozy little diner on Diversey called The Grove (501 W. Diversey Parkway). I had been here before and had some decent oatmeal, but nothing to write home about. I figured the family would like it though so we went in. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did they have mimosas for $2.50, they had added a breakfast dish to their menu called "The Vegan Skillet." I seriously could not believe it. It was a very simple mix of hash browns, red and green peppers and onions topped with tofu "cheese." It also came with a side of toast.

Absolutely delicious! They were generous with the peppers and the tofu cheese gives this dish a nice boost of protein. Since I had last visited The Grove they had added a few vegan, vegetarian and other healthy options. Of course they still had all kinds of traditional diner breakfast offerings to cure your hangovers. This just goes to show you that even a "greasy spoon" (no offense, I love a good greasy spoon) can offer some great vegan options. It's 2010's only getting easier to be vegan, especially in a big city like Chicago.

Where have you found vegan fare in an unexpected place?

Product of the Day: IntelligentsiA Papua New Guinea: Agoga coffee. I am drinking this stuff like water this week and will be a little sad to go back to our office coffee next week. Let's be honest: coffee, sustainably produced and sourced of course, is the real glue between vegans and non-vegans.