Sunday, June 28, 2009

What was on my Clean Plate this week: Tex/New Mex/Mex Brunch

Let me start off by saying I love Mexican food. Let me follow that up by saying that it is hard to find good, authentic Mexican around here that doesn't contain lard or other such nonsense. I normally quell my cravings with Qdoba or Chipotle, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Lucky for me, Elle of Clean Plate caught my psychic cravings for good, vegan Mexican and responded with a Tex/New Mex/Mex brunch.

As always, it was an impressive spread and this week it consisted of tamales with mole, spicy beans, hard and soft tortillas, two types of flatbreads (both awesome, obviously), turnip and beet salad, lots of salsas, Mexican chocolate truffles and waffles. For me, the standouts were the tamales and the various types of salsas. The tamales had definite cheese flavor to them and were easily the best tamales I'd ever had. Take that, Whole Foods deli case! I was also in love with the salsas: a tomatillo salsa and a mango jicama salsa. Both were light and flavorful and managed to acheive spice without all that pesky heat. If they would have been for sale in jars, I definitely would have bought a bunch, and I'm willing to bet others would as well (hint hint).

It was so great to spend my Sunday morning in Elle's backyard with my friends, and it was set off by being able to enjoy a delicious, vegan Tex/New Mex/Mex brunch. I will be dreaming of those tamales and salsas for a long time to come.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nebraska Vegans May be Spoiled: Part Four

Vegans have long resigned themselves to only being able to enjoy a select few rolls of sushi at most restaurants: the avocado roll, cucumber roll, veggie know the drill. However much I love those plain avocado rolls, sometimes I just want a little more variety. I shoot jealous sideways glances at my friends who are having a difficult time deciding between all their different fish filled rolls, while I made my decision within 30 seconds. Avocado roll and an inari, please.

This is why I'm constantly thankful for Matsu Sushi, located at 1009 Farnam Street, in the beautiful Old Market. Out of the 23 vegetarian rolls available, an astounding 21 rolls can be made vegan. Simply ask that the tempura be rolled in oil rather than egg, and you are good to go. Going there is a deliciously overwhelming experience. My favorites include the tofu yasai maki, which includes lightly fried tofu, green onions and peanuts, and the yasai maki, which includes cucumber, avocado and tempura battered asparagus and sweet potato. The next roll I intend to try is the mangotini, a concoction of mango, various veggies and no rice, all wrapped in nori.

My one caveat with this restaurant is that the service is not...brisk. Thankfully, the atmosphere here is very relaxing and the music is quiet enough that you can talk to everyone at your table. In short, bring someone you truly enjoy having conversations with, order an appetizer of edamame and then simply enjoy the evening as it happens.

The next time you are craving something beyond your basic cucumber roll (which is all the time for me), definitely hit up the Omaha's own, local Matsu Sushi.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nebraska Vegans May be Spoiled: Part Three

The image to the left is of mojitos. The mojito is a tasty summer drink made out of mint leaves, simple syrup, lime juice, club soda and rum. These particular mojitos are also organic, with locally grown mint and with simple syrup made in-house. Interested?

What if I told you that while these organic mojitos are available in the summer, there is another equally tasty drink available during the winter months? Does that pique your interest? What if that drink was hot rum and cider? Would you want to know what wonderful, magical place had these drinks?

Well, you're in luck. These delightful concoctions are from Brothers Bar in Omaha, located at 3812 Farnam St. Please note that this Brothers has absolutely no affiliation with the Brothers Bars in Lincoln or Lawrence. This means that the popped collars and hot wings you may be associating with Brothers are now null and void. This Brothers is vastly superior, with a fantastic jukebox full of punk music, a pool table, pub games, darts and the nicest staff I have ever encountered at a bar. The atmosphere is also wonderful. I have never felt like I had to guard my butt from being grabbed or that I was in danger of immediate gropage. There is a laid back atmosphere overall, and it is immediately apparent upon entering Brothers that you should grab a drink and a seat (there is almost always one available) and sit back and relax.

But let's go back to how wonderful the staff is. Not only do they make the strongest, yet most delicious, drinks I've ever had, they will actually come out from behind the bar to take your order and have it waiting for you when you get to the counter. Seriously. It's amazing. If you are having trouble deciding what you want, instead of getting an eyeroll, you are handed a menu of their specialty drinks and given suggestions with a smile. The drinks are also cheap, which doesn't hurt.

So yes, this post may not be specifically vegan, but vegans in Nebraska are definitely spoiled by having this bar in their figurative backyard. Fantastic staff, amazing, cheap drinks (try the Moscow Mule!), great atmosphere, impressive jukebox and a location across the street from McFoster's make this bar in the bar that I like to spend my money and time at. So come support one of Omaha's best local bars. I know I will be!

Monday, June 22, 2009

What was on my Clean Plate....two weeks ago: Middle Eastern Brunch

I'll admit it. This little blog hasn't been my number one priority. I've relocated to a new city and started two new jobs, so I've been a little busy. However, now that my wonderful life is a little more settled (I have a sofa bed now!), I can return to the important things in life: talking about eating.

What could be more appropriate for a return to form than reminiscing about the Clean Plate brunch I ate two weeks ago. It was Middle Eastern themed and it was wonderful. I apologize for the shoddy photo, but I was seriously excited about digging in, and I was talking about cats, so you know nothing good can come of that combo. I was especially excited about the return of the best tofu scramble I have ever had in my entire life. Other players were hummus, baba ghanoush, dolmas (I love dolmas so much), a minty watermelon fruit salad, pita, halvah and the classic waffles, this time with the addition of a super tasty orange sauce. The surprise favorite for me were the coconut date balls. I'm sure there is a more formal term for these, but all I know is they were delicious and I could have eaten them for days.

I am most definitely looking forward to Elle's upcoming Tex/New Mex/Mex brunch. It has been far too long since I 've been able to enjoy the culinary work of Clean Plate. Yay!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What was on my Clean Plate this week: Picnic Brunch

Ah, picnics. That seasonal outdoor dining that so many of us have an idealized version of that we can never seem to achieve. Lucky for me, I was finally able to experience my ideal picnic this week at the Clean Plate brunch.

Elle opened up her lovely backyard to host her picnic brunch, with a menu that was easily the most gourmet picnic I've ever experienced. From raw sloppy joes to carrot-peanut salad to a mint melon smoothie to a rhubarb tart, it was the picnic of my dreams. There were even raw onion rings, and they were delicious. There were also the weekly waffles, which are the only things currently giving any order to my chaotic life. It was a perfect meal, with my personal highlights being the ultra refreshing mint melon smoothie and the pesto pasta salad. The pasta salad was raw and was even better than that wonderful live pasta at Portland's Blossoming Lotus.

Each week, I go in with high expectations and they are always not only met, but exceeded. I definitely suggest giving Elle's brunch (or her restaurant in August) a try, vegan or not. Don't you deserve the best? I thought so. Elle's food is the best. You should eat it. Next week's brunch is going to be Middle Eastern foods, and I am amped to stuff myself with dolmas, halva, spinach scramble and date rolls.

Flower photo by Alaina Hickman, President of the Nebraska Vegetarian Society