India's Most Wanted - Aldergrove Vegan Options

We visited India's Most Wanted when it first opened at the beginning of 2022 and found it quite impressive but that was in my pre-vegan days. Most Indian restaurants can produce decent vegan eats but if you're serious about it, you need to be very clear and communicative to make sure there is no dairy or ghee (butter) as not everyone seems to understand what plant-based actually means. IMW has been good enough to mark vegan items on their menu (although the printed menu and the online menu differ and I am still confused about what Vaades even refers to) but even still, there are paneer items marked as vegan (at least on the online menu)!

We decided to stop by again as it is close by and we really do like the vibe. We thought we'd try some of their plant-based items.
We started with the Tik Tok Samosa Chaat. I'm not sure what the TikTok part of the name is about. Perhaps this dish is blowing up there. At any rate, this is the ultimate comfort dish. Everyone loves samosas so why not bury them in more tasty stuff including tamarind chutney, onions, and roasted chickpeas until it becomes a messy comforting bowl with some samosas in there somewhere. Very good!
I know we are getting boring, ordering this dish everywhere we go (and making it at home), but Veg Manchurian is one of our favourite things. It is an Indo-Chinese dish of veggie balls (See? Don't ever need to make meatballs). The sauce is based on soy ginger and garlic. This was a very good version although I don't think that we have never had a bad one.
Next we ordered the Khatte Anardane Ke Aloo Chole and I'll admit it was partly because of the name. This was chickpeas and potatoes with roasted cumin, ginger and pomegranate. Another very comforting and tasty dish.
Always keen on coconut curries, we tried the Cape Malay Coconut Curry with Mushrooms which was very tasty. I'm not sure if I have seen mushrooms in an Indian dish before but it certainly worked and added substance to the dish. Incidentally, the Cape Malays are an ethnic group in South Africa (that's why I couldn't find it on a map). We give some points for reaching beyond the usual Indian restaurant menu line up!
No Indian meal is complete without bread and they did a pretty good vegan Garlic Naan.
Comfy and classy, this is a very nice dinning experience and we're happy they are catering a little bit to us in the growing plant-based crowd.
BTW, I just noticed that we have been rated #19 on the list of best food blogs to follow in 2024! How about that! Well, you heard them, follow us on this blog and on Insta....please.
Food                                  5 out of 5
Vegan Options                   4 out of 5
Comfort                             5 out of 5
Service                              5 out of 5
Value                                 5 out of 5

Ben & Esther's Vegan Jewish Deli - Portland, Oregon

Ben and  Esther's was our last stop for vegan eats on our little winter Oregon jaunt. We went on a Thursday afternoon and I don't know if it is traditionally Jewish deli day or what but the first thing that they told us when we walked in, was that they had been pillaged by the lunchtime crowd! We were a little surprised and disappointed that they had completely run out of their marble-rye bread but they expressed a willingness to be flexible and mix and match as necessary to feed us.

B & E is located at 1800 NE Alberta Street, another picturesque area, great for drifting aimlessly and enjoying the environs. We grabbed our eats to go this time as we had eaten not long before but didn't wnt to be driving back and forth from our hotel.
We decided to start with a 'Lizzo' Bagel. Their choice of bagels was quite limited due to the lunch run so our sandwich wasn't a true Lizzo with a jalapeno bagel. Still, everything else was true to the singer's preferences i.e. bacon, cheese, egg and a bacon-scallion schmear. This was a great breakfast sandwich and I'm certain that no carnivore would be able to tell that it was cruelty-free.
I'm not sure why I keep ordering knishes when I am at a deli (to be honest, I rarely get to real Jewish delis so this is only like the 3rd time), because they never really amaze me. Its basically mashed potato in dough. It sounds so much more exotic but, meh!
Potatoe Salad is definitely another Jewish Deli thing for me. Making it without egg or mayo (more egg) is a bit of a trick but this was quite good.
I was looking forward to Benny's Brisket on marble-rye but they were out of that. They agreed to make the sandwich on a hoagie which worked out pretty well. I'm not sure what the meat was (seitan? soy?) but it was pretty inspired. This was a beefy sandwich. With Swiss, mushrooms, horseradish and grilled onions, this was a hit. It came with a nice big spear of dill pickle as well.
Matzo Ball Soup is another one of those iconic Jewish deli things that you have to order. We enjoyed this a lot as it was homey and warming and could have been something your mother fed you on a rainy day whether she was Jewish or not.
Finally, we shared a cookie. Sort of an apricot or peach filled short-bread thing. It was pretty tasty. Should have gotten a few more.
So we found this all to be fairly impressive with a lot of creativity shown to reproduce the deli favourites but cruelty-free. Its not hard to see why they would get wiped out at lunchtime. I would thnk that arriving early is the wise strategy. I was impressed by the server's willingness to put together whatever they had left to feed us!
Food                              4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options               5 out of 5
Comfort                         4 out of 5
Service                          5 out of 5
Value                             4 1/2 out of 5

Dirty Lettuce - Plant-Based Southern Eats - Portland, Oregon

This day started with a visit to one of my favourite Portland places and again, Mharie had never been so we had to go! 

The Portland Japanese Garden is part of a huge complex that includes the Oregon Zoo and Hoyt Arboretum. It is easily accessed on transit but today we paid for parking since the rest of our day is more easily accessed by car. We read a comment by someone (not just a random but someone who would know) who rated this as the best Japanese Garden outside of Japan. It is peaceful and beautiful and begs you to meditate. So meditate we did but soon thoughts of vegan soul food crept into our consciousness.
Dirty Lettuce is located near NE 42nd on NE Freemont in a picturesque maybe trendy or touristy area. It was easy to find street parking (of course it was Thursday afternoon). It's a nice area for a post-lunch stroll and we would definitely need it.
Our strategy was to try everything that we could and as I always say, we eat healthy at home. While we ordered a couple of plates with sides, to fit the fried chicken in, we ordered a basket which came with fries. Everything that we tried was made with seitan and tasted similar (although seitan like tofu is a palate to which you add flavours, like chicken flavour) but in each case it was the coating that counted. In this case the fried chicken coating was mouthwatering like your favourite f.c. and crispy. We chose their house comeback sauce for our fries which was amazing.
Next up was the Fried Catfish Plate which was the most amazing of all! Plates come with your choice of sides and we ordered the southern fried squash and the Infamous Bowl. The cornmeal crust on the catfish was legendary and could have fooled the most dedicated catfish eater. The I.B. is infamous for a reason. On a bowl of mashed potatoes there are chicken nuggets and corn, smothered in gravy. This side dish really deserves its own blog post!
Finally, we had the BBQ Rib Plate. Vegan ribs can be challenging but we think that these are the best that we have had. They were fall off the bone (?) tender and smokey and the sauce was sweet and a little spicy. I'm not in a position to argue Kansas versus Memphis, I just know they were very good. With excellent cornbread and tasty long cooked greens this was another amazing plate. There was plenty that we could not finish and a lot of food went home with us.
It feels a little like you've been invited into somebodies kitchen for a meal (presumably someone southern), with mismatched wooden chairs and tables and older wooden floors. The word charming comes to mind. Our server was welcoming and helpful. This is our favourite new place in a very long time! Come here! This could not have been more enjoyable!
Food                         5 out of 5
Vegan Options          5 out of 5
Comfort                    5 out of 5
Service                     5 out of 5
Value                        5 out of 5

Veggie Grill - Beaverton, Oregon

After lunch at Lilli, a little kicking around downtown Portland (is it just me, or winter, or does the downtown seem a little beat up these days?), then a pleasant nap and dip in the hot tub back at our hotel in Hillsboro, we emerged and sought nourishment again. I had spied Mas Veggies on Google Maps, not far away from us in Beaverton and had checked out and approved their vegan taco menu! So off we went and bonus; there turned out to be a branch of Powells Books across the parking lot.

What we didn't find was Mas Veggies but rather Veggie Grill. I was a little confused  but I can't really complain as we had tried and enjoyed Veggie Grill in Seattle. Does anyone know what happened to Mas Veggies? We know they are connected as that is what we were told by the staff. Anyway, no problem.
It feels like we ordered the same thing as last time (in Seattle). I could have just looked it up on our blog here but that seemed like a lot of work. So we started with a Caesar Salad, which is kind of a big deal if you don't consume animal products. Parmesan and Caesar Dressing typically are made with the said animal stuff so when we find someone who is making it without, it is always a treat. They did a good job on this and used quite a bit of kale.
We had a small Housemade Lentil Soup to round things out. They did well with this as well although, we basically live on lentils so I can't claim that it struck us exotic, just comforting.
Next, we tried something that was labelled as "new" on their menu namely the Steak Fajita Quesadilla! Made with Beyond Steak and shredded cheddar, grilled veggies and all the other stuff, we have to say that this was quite good. The steak bits seemed to have a really good texture and we enjoyed the taste although we wouldn't call it beefy!
For sure we ordered a chicken burger in Seattle but I'm not sure if it was the Pesto Chicken Parm Sandwich. This was another hit for us. Crispy chicken with good texture and lots of salty flavour from the pesto and the parm (we eat healthy at home!). This was a pretty good meal overall even though we didn't get our tacos!
One thing that made me chuckle was the decor. When we first stepped into the Seattle branch a few months ago, I assumed that Veggie Grill had set up shop in a former Chinese restaurant. The big round light fixtures had me convinced. Well, low and behold, the Beaverton branch has the same fixtures and really, the same booths and everything else! Imagine my embarrassment! We've heard good news lately that although some Veggie Grills have been closing, there is now a white knight investor who will bring the chain back to financial health complete with a living wage for employees! Nice!   
Food                    4 out of 5
Vegan Options     5 out of 5
Comfort                4 out of 5
Service                 4 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5

Lilla - Plant-Based Pasta & Pizza- Portland, Oregon

At Doe's Donuts, we asked our host if she could recommend any vegan joints that were actually open. It turned out she had a list! Hah! Also, a customer behind us heard us talking and recommended Lilla which is a plant-based Italian eatery. After some high-level analysis of what was open and what was where we ended up going to Lilla. I find the roads in Portland to be a bit of a rat's nest (Oh, like Vancouver, BC, is so much better!) and even Google Maps couldn't prevent us from crossing bridges unnecessarily and driving around blocks multiple times. Still, somehow we made it!

Located in a rather nondescript building on SE Madison at SE 10th, don't let the exterior fool you. There is a very pleasant warm but high-ceilinged restaurant inside.
We decided to order an appetizer, a pizza and pasta and started with the Polenta with Grilled Mushrooms. This was delicious. Creamy polenta that was just nicely salty from the vegan Parmesan and the mushrooms were earthy and rich. A simple starter that hit the right buttons.
Another simple but amazing dish was the Mushroom Alfredo with Taglioni. I realized just now it was basically our starter but with pasta. I did not ask if their pasta was house-made but they were perfectly cooked and the dish was wonderfully comforting.
I usually test pizza makers by ordering their Margherita but somehow the draw of the Pepperoni Pizza was overwhelming. This was not a bad choice. The crust was amazing on this thing but I didn't see anything fancy like a gas-burning brick oven from Italy so the secret to the crust is safe. Simple tomato sauce, dollops of cashew cheese and really good pepperoni (again, I didn't ask what it was) and I am so glad that we ordered this!
Our server was friendly, helpful and dedicatedly vegan. This is a nice high-ceilinged space which is comfortable with lots of Italian-style accents. There are a lot of other things on the simple menu that we would be happy to try if we find ourselves here again.
Food                         4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options         5 out of 5
Comfort                    4 1/2 out of 5
Service                     4 1/2out of 5
Value                        4 1/2 out of 5

On To Portland - A Vegan Paradise and Doe Donuts

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early for the short trek to Portland. The fact is that we blasted right past Portland and on to Multnomah Falls as Mharie had never been and it is a wonderful bit of natural beauty and couldn't be easier to visit.

Located about 30 minutes east of downtown on Hwy 84, this is a popular destination that is worth visiting early in the day (and in the off-season obviously)  to avoid the full throngs. Eventually, I will post a few videos on YouTube from our trip including a bit more of a look at the falls. After a good look at the falls and endless selfies, we headed back to Portland to find lunch in the vegan restaurant capital of the U.S. Unfortunately, some of the top picks from my research are mysteriously gone. Mama Dut which was featured on Evolving Vegan and Plant Based News has permanently closed and Gnarly's has temporarily closed. Being a food truck town, we tried a visit to the Rose City Food Park in which most of the carts were closed (doubtless due to this being the week between Christmas and New Year's).
We did find that Doe Donuts was open so decided to start with dessert first! It turns out that VooDoo Donuts, a Portland institution, also has some plant-based offerings but a) we have been on previous visits and b) we will always give preference to the fully plant-based business.
It may be the middle of winter but Doe's has plant-based ice cream and we didn't drive all this way to not try it! I think this was Holiday Nog (can't remember) and it was very decent ice cream. It was maybe just slightly towards the icy rather than creamy end of the spectrum but not enough to notice or complain about. Apparently, they always have a couple of soft-serve flavours and somehow I missed it! Aargh! Now we have to go back.
We ordered 4 donuts including one of their famous savoury donuts. Starting on the left was the Panettone Fritter. I don't know of anyone who is really a fan of panettone and that would explain why you never see it except at Christmas time. The fritter was nevertheless delicious. The dried fruit was not even a distraction! I can't remember the flavour of the second from the left but there was a little taste of baklava on the top. It was sweet and delicious of course but overall, we find the donuts to be a little on the cakey side (this and the Grapefruit Donut next to it).
The Birria Donut is a stroke of genius and was very good. Maybe a little less of a donut than the Mac'n Cheese savoury donut that we saw on YouTube but impressive just the same. And it was complete with broth just like a taco would be.
Doe's Donuts is all plant-based. Their menu is creative and changes monthly. We loved what we tried although the donuts weren't cheap. Certainly, the price for the plant-based part is worth it to us. There are a few outside picnic tables if the weather is cooperating.
Food                          4 out of 5
Vegan Options           5 out of 5
Comfort                      NA
Service                       4  1/2 out of 5
Value                          4 1/2 out of 5                       

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...