Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mama Gaia Opens in Crosstown!

This is a post about a new vegetarian restaurant. And I'll get to that. But first, some context.

I live and work in Crosstown — a Midtown Memphis neighborhood that's centered around a million-square-foot former Sears headquarters that was erected in the late 1920s. It's a beautiful, old, art-deco-style building that served as the central hub of this neighborhood for decades. But the building was shuttered in the late 1990s, and it sat vacant for years. In fact, it was still a blighted, old hulk of a building when I bought my house in the Evergreen Historic District, just blocks away from the building's shadow, in 2012. Here I am at a festival earlier this year with the Crosstown building in the background. This gives you an idea of just how massive it is! It takes up an entire city block.

For the past few years, there's a been this awesome grassroots movement to revitalize and repurpose the building. A massive construction project has been underway for over a year now, and soon, the building will re-open as Crosstown Concourse and house all sorts of retail, restaurants, a craft brewery, art facilities, medical offices and clinics, education organizations, a high school, and lots of residential apartments. My office at Crosstown Arts will relocate there, and we'll have galleries, a film screening room, music spaces, an artist residency program, a shared art-making lab, a plant-based cafe, and eventually, a performing arts theater. It's all very exciting!

Even though some apartment residents have been living on-site on the completed floors since January, so much of the building is still a construction zone. Yet new life is happening! This weekend, the first restaurant in the building — Mama Gaia — will open to the public. And guess what? It's a vegetarian restaurant, and everything (EVERY. SINGLE. THING.) is organic! I was invited to Mama Gaia several times this week to sample a few dishes.

On Tuesday, a co-worker and I stopped by, and I ordered the Cena Bowl — quinoa, sauteed mushrooms, and asparagus. The mushrooms were coated in a tomato-y, white wine sauce and were bursting with flavor. 

Nicole ordered the Asia Salad with sesame-crusted tofu and bell peppers. 

I also sampled some of the Oogave agave-sweetened sodas. These are low-calorie and all-natural.

I was back on Wednesday for a Crosstown Arts staff meeting. I got the Asia Pita with sesame-crusted tofu, Asian slaw, red bell pepper, and Mama Gaia sauce. Wow! That tofu was AMAZING. It's baked and every inch is coated in crispy sesame seeds. 

On the side, I had some Hand-Cut Baked Fries, served with organic ketchup. Nothing at Mama Gaia is fried, so you can feel pretty good about whatever you eat.

Mama Gaia specializes in pita sandwiches, which are stuffed with veggies, quinoa, tofu, hummus, and various sauces. But they also offer those same pitas as bowls and salads, both of which make them gluten-free. It's a vegetarian restaurant, so they do serve some cheese. But vegan items are clearly marked with a V, and many items can easily be made vegan. Gluten-free items are marked with a GF. They also indicate which items contain nuts with an N.

Oh, and there are desserts! Healthy ones! On Wednesday, they let us sample the Vegan Brownie Bites. These are vegan and sweetened with dates. They also have a hint of coconut, and they boast a rich cocoa flavor.

Owner Philipp snuck me a Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Ball as well! These were like little energy balls made with dates, nuts, and carrots and taste exactly like carrot cake. The finished product is coated in coconut flakes, but either way, these were delicious.

On Thursday night, I attended a VIP party at Mama Gaia, and they had small samples of menu items available. So much goodness!


Mama Gaia officially opens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 25th! And then they'll be open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with plans to open earlier for breakfast in the near future.

I'm so excited to have Mama Gaia in the neighborhood. My office won't be moving into the building until later this year, but I can't wait to just pop downstairs for a quick lunch pita. Still yet, it's literally across the street from my house and current office, so those quick lunches are still possible now. 

More vegan-friendly eateries will be opening in Crosstown Concourse very soon, and I'll be sure to update you as they do!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dave's Bagels!

If you're a non-local reader, I'll just go ahead and apologize because tonight's post and tomorrow's post are dedicated to some Memphis stuff. But y'all — I've got a bagel hook-up, and I need to spread the word.

Meet Dave. He makes bagels.

Dave moved to Memphis from Portland less than a year ago, and he'd previously dabbled in the bagel-making business. After moving here he quickly realized that Memphis was seriously lacking the bagel department. There are a few decent bagel shops out east, I hear. But Midtown was a bagel desert. Not anymore. By the way, you can read all about Dave in my friend Susan's Memphis Flyer blog post.

Dave started selling his bagels at the now-closed Curb Market in Cooper-Young, and even though I'd heard he was there, I never made it over there to try them. But anyway, that Curb Market closed because it's moving into Crosstown Concourse (the same building that will house my office when construction is complete! Yay for me!). And Dave will be slinging bagels at the new Curb! But until then, he's taking orders online from his Dave's Bagels page and selling them out of a commercial kitchen on Madison (next to the Trolley Stop Market).

I finally placed an order several weeks ago, and I've since become a bagel addict. I've gone through nearly a dozen and a half bagels in, hmmmm, less than a month? Yea, I have a problem. But they're so good! My fave is probably the Apple Cinnamon because the top is coated in cinnamon sugar.

And the insides are stuffed with bits of real apple! These are amazing slathered in nut butter.

While we're on the subject of sweet bagels, the Cinnamon Raisin are also stellar. I had one this morning with Daiya vegan cream cheese. They're just lightly sweet and oh-so cinnamony.

Deep down though, I'm a savory kinda girl. And even though the Apple Cinnamon are my fave (because they're basically dessert for breakfast), I'm probably equally in love with the Everything Bagels. I've used these as sandwich bread, enjoyed with hummus, and of course, with garlic & chive cream cheese. How cute are these little Go Veggie cream cheese tubs?

You can also get savory bagels with just one or two toppings — like Onion Bagels, Poppyseed Bagels, Garlic Bagels, or Sesame Seed Bagels. The sesame ones can be used with sweet or savory toppings! Here I had some Soom Chocolate Sesame Spread on a Sesame Bagel with Fresh Berries!

Here's an Garlic Bagel before I slathered it with hummus!

The Plain Bagels are the perfect stand-ins for sandwich bread. I got some Buffalo Soy Chicken Salad from Whole Foods and made this yummy sandwich!

And I showed this pic to you a couple days ago, but it was so delicious that I'm showing you again. Here's a Vegan Egg, Seitan Bacon, & Cheddar Sandwich on a Plain Bagel!

Local folks, you can place orders with Dave by sending him a Facebook message through his Facebook page. He takes orders throughout the week, and then you pick them up between 4 and 7 on Friday afternoons. Minimum order is six, but I recommend buying them by the dozen because you'll need them. Trust me. And they freeze wonderfully. You can also find his bagels served in local restaurants, like the Bayou Bar & Grill, Otherlands (they have vegan cream cheese!), and Strano.

When Curb Market opens in Crosstown Concourse later this year, you'll also find Dave's Bagels there!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quinoa Puffs!

Do y'all remember that "Afro Puffs" song by Lady of Rage from 1994? She was all "I rock rough and stuff and with my afro puffs," and Snoop Dogg would chime in with "Rock on with your bad self." Well, my best friend Sheridan and I loved that song, except we thought the lyric was "I get rough and tough with my afro puffs." I didn't realize what she was actually saying until a few minutes ago when I googled the lyrics to be sure.

So I've had the wrong lyric in my head for years. And when Bake and Destroy blogger bud/I Heart Keenwah marketing whiz Natalie Slater shipped me some samples of I Heart Keenwah Chocolate Puffs, that song got stuck in my head again. Only now it's "I get rough and tough with my quinoa puffs!" And of course, Snoop is still there — in my head — telling me to rock on with my quinoa-loving self.

Have y'all tried these yet? OMG! They're like a healthy vegan version of malted milk balls. The outsides are coated in this thick, dark chocolate that's accented with Himalayan pink salt.

And the insides are all light and airy and crunchy. I have no idea how they get those teensy quinoa grains to poof up into a giant, crunchy ball. Magic? Probably. But whoever discovered this is a genius.

They also make some Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter ones that I MUST get my grubby little hands on. There are savory ones too — Sea Salt Truffle, Sweet Chili, and Herbs de Provence.

These chocolate puffs are perfect snacks on their own. But they're also great for adding into a popcorn snack mix! Last weekend, when Susan and I went to see Get Out in the theater, I snuck in some homemade, oil-popped popcorn mixed with I Heart Keenwah Chocolate Puffs, Go Max Go Snap! crisped rice chocolate squares, Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids. YUM!

Alright, I'm gonna go post up in my PJs in bed and stuff my face with chocolate puffs! See ya!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ostara Eats!

Today is the first day of spring! Yay!!!!!! I cannot tell you how excited this makes me. I hate everything about winter. HATE IT. But I love spring and summer, and I can't wait for the day when I can seriously put all of my coats, jackets, hoodies, and sweaters on a long hiatus. I'm ready for flip-flops and shorts and tank tops!

It was 80 degrees here in Memphis today, so it feels like we're already almost to summer. Hoping for no more cold snaps! Ostara is the traditional pagan celebration of the spring equinox, and it's long been associated with eggs since eggs represent fertility (that's why the Christian Easter co-opted eggs and other fertility elements, like bunnies). But you know, as a vegan, I don't eat eggs. But I can still celebrate the Earth's fertility with vegan eggs! I made it a point to eat cruelty-free, eggy dishes all day.

Breakfast was a Bagel Sandwich with Vegan Egg, Seitan Bacon, Vegan Cheddar, & Spinach on a locally made bagel from Dave's Bagels (more on Dave's in a post later this week).

I used Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg here (just one serving, which is two tablespoons of the powder). My parents gave me an immersion blender for an early Easter gift, so I used that to whip the Vegan Egg. Before, I always used my Vitamix, which worked great, but it meant more clean-up and you tend to lose a little egg as it sticks to the side of the blender. A commenter suggested an immersion blender in my last Vegan Egg post (so thanks, commenter!!). The bacon is Upton's, and the cheese is Daiya.

That hearty breakfast kept me satisfied until lunch, when I went home from work and had this quick meal of a Sweet Earth Get Cultured! Breakfast Burrito and chips. These are a new line of Sweet Earth burritos, and they're the best. This one had a Korean flair with tofu scramble, fermented cabbage and peppers, and sesame.

For dinner, I chose a few dishes from the Easter chapter in The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook, since the secular elements of Easter and the traditional themes around Ostara are very similar. I'll revisit the Easter chapter for that holiday as well though! But for this one, I chose to make the Cucumber Cups with Picnic Tofu Salad because vegan egg salad!

This is a pretty basic tofu egg salad with dill pickle, fresh dill, vegan mayo, and carrot. I stuffed it into English cucumber cups as the recipe suggested. But I also had some on whole wheat toast because this girl needs bread.

On the side, I had the Cream of Carrot Soup from The Superfun Times. This super-simple, creamy soup is made with carrots, garlic, onion, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. It's very light, so you can eat a ton of it! I typically prefer chunky soups over creamy ones, but a creamy soup just seems right this time of year.

For dessert, I made the Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Scones from The Superfun Times. These taste exactly how I imagine spring would taste if spring were a food. Light and fruity with crisp hints of lemon and a sweet sugar glaze. Lovely with a glass of chilled white wine on this warm afternoon.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

St. Patty's Day Eats!

I totally nerd out for holidays (and if you're a regular blog reader, you probably already know that!), and St. Patrick's Day is no exception. I wear green. I eat green foods and/or Irish-inspired meals. I start the day with liquor-spiked coffee. I go to bars. I do pub runs. I fully embrace all aspects of the holiday. In fact, I'd say St. Patrick's Day falls in my top five fave holidays.

This year, my celebration started the night before! On St. Patrick's Day Eve, Misti and I had plans to do the Breakaway Running St. Patrick's Day Pub Run, which is exactly what it sounds like. You run from the running shop to a bar, drink, run to another bar, drink, run to another bar, drink, and run back to the running store.

It started at 6 p.m., right after work, so rather than eat a heavy dinner, I had a quick Chocolate Chip Mint Protein Smoothie with fresh mint, almond milk, banana, Nutiva chocolate protein powder, and chocolate chips.

Then I met Misti at Breakaway, where we changed into our free pub run shirts (top left). We ran from there to Memphis Made Brewing Co. (top right), where we had some small 10-ounce beers (Plaid Attack Scotch Ale for me). Next stop was Hammer & Ale (bottom left), where I had a Terrapin Mosaic IPA. And our final stop was Slider Inn (bottom right), where I ordered a Memphis Made Firewide Ale.

By the time we made it to Slider, we were pretty hungry, so we split a plate of sliders and fries. Misti ordered a meat slider, and I had a Vegan Triple B (beet, brown rice, & black bean burger with avocado and sprouts). We split a Nuts & Berries (PB&J) slider and an order of fries.

The next morning, on St. Patrick's Day, I started with another minty smoothie! The Shamrockin' Shake from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook has a base of avocado and coconut milk (from a can), so it's super-thick and creamy. I think it's actually supposed to be a dessert, but it's healthy enough for breakfast. It's loaded with fresh mint and sweetened with agave.

A few days prior, I'd made some Vegan Irish Cream from Joni's Vegan Good Gifts cookbook. I make it every year for spiking my morning coffee. There's only a small amount of Jameson in the whole recipe, so don't worry — it's not potent enough to cause a buzz before work!

My lunch was also from The Superfun TimesHerbed Couscous Salad with Green Apple & Pine Nuts. The homemade dressing was a beautiful shade of green and was filled with lots of fresh herbs — basil, parsley, and thyme — and bright lemon. The recipe called for baby kale, but unless it's massaged to death, I'm not really into baby kale. So I subbed out baby spinach instead. This tasted like spring!

Dinner was a more Irish-inspired meal, also from The Superfun Times. I made the Pepperoni Potato Stew with Kale. Now, I know pepperoni isn't Irish, but what's more Irish than potatoes? And the kale is there for a little green. That pepperoni was created using the seitan steamer method — where you make seitan dough, season it with spices and herbs (in this case, I used fennel for a pepperoni taste), wrap in logs with foil, and steam for 40 minutes. Then it was sliced and added to the stew.

You can't have stew without bread, but The Superfun Times doesn't have a St. Pat's bread recipe. So I made my old standard — the Irish Soda Bread from Celebrate Vegan. I've made this hassle-free quick bread for St. Pat's many times, and it never disappoints. It's dense and hearty with just a hint of sweetness. Perfect with vegan butter.

After dinner, my friend Andy came over and we did some car bombs (I know this isn't PC, but I don't know what else to call them, sorry) using this amazing chocolate coconut Irish potrter by Oskar Blues and the vegan Irish cream I made. I love car bombs SO MUCH. Something about that sweet cream and the thick, cold beer! Mmmmm.

We went from my place to Ghost River Brewing, where we met up with our friend Wes.

And Simon and Jennifer. Ghost River was offering $1 off their Riverbank Red Irish Ale for those who wore green. As you can see above, Andy and Wes FAILED at wearing green. Ugh.

Later, we ended up at Dru's Place — our favorite gay karaoke bar! Cheers!

My friend Shara joined us there too!

Fun night! Hope y'all had a lovely St. Pat's too!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

More Stuff I Ate

I'm back with more random meals! But first, I have a couple of announcements. For one, I have to say that I'm super stoked to be featured on my blogger bud Kayle Martin's Collards & Cowgirls blog today! Check out her post where I shared my going-vegan story, my favorite foods and hobbies, and some Vegan Crunk blog history.

And, for Memphis vegans (or anyone visiting here soon!), note that Mama Gaia — an all-organic vegetarian restaurant — is opening Saturday, March 23rd, inside Crosstown Concourse! This is my future office building (moving in when our Crosstown Arts spaces are ready!), and it's in my neighborhood, so I'm pretty darn excited. I'll be doing a full Mama Gaia preview post next week!

Okay, now here's a snapshot of how I've been eating over the past few weeks. Yesterday's post was devoted to all of the junky things, and tonight, I've got some healthier meals (and a few more junky things because — well, that's just how I'm living my life these days).

We'll start with one of my favorite new junk food finds — the Ben &Jerry's vegan Cherry Garcia ice cream, which I finally found here at the Ben & Jerry's store. The other new vegan flavors were sold out though. This ice cream is sooooo good. Even better topped with So Delicious CocoWhip and Hershey's chocolate syrup (yes, it's vegan).

And another decadent meal — Vegan Turkey Cutlets with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Broccoli & Cheeze, and Seasoned Collard Greens from Imagine Vegan Cafe. Love this meal because most entree plates there come with two sides, but since the turkey comes served atop mashed potatoes, you basically get a bonus veggie.

More gravy! The bitches and I had brunch at our friends Nigel and Andrea's house a few weeks back. They have a secret brunch club in their home, and the food is always amazing. I had the Roast & Gravy Sandwich with Roasted Potatoes. They use Field Roast slices, and they're wonderfully seasoned and then sauteed (way better than I could ever do Field Roast at home).

Hey look — a Ramen Bowl! Rice noodles, baked tofu, mushrooms, frozen veggies. Enjoyed in my PJs last Saturday morning while watching Homeland.

Okay, I promised some healthy things! Susan gave me some of the locally made Guilt-Free Pastries Vegan Granola she bought last week. It's mostly chopped nuts, but they're seasoned really well. LOVE this stuff. Enjoyed here atop Forager Vanilla Bean Cashewgurt with Strawberries.

And here atop Kite Hill Plain Almondmilk Yogurt with Apples and Raspberries.

This morning, I ran a couple easy miles, and I followed that with 12 grams of plant-based protein in this REBBL Cold-Brew Coconutmilk & Super Herbs. Man, this stuff is SO GOOD. REBBL is by-far my fave protein milk company. We don't have all of the flavors available in Memphis, but my hometown — Jonesboro — stocks them in their health food store (The Truck Patch).

My co-worker Emily gave me some leftover spreads from a mezze platter she ordered from Casablanca. I used hummus, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh on this Mediterranean Toast — a pre-yoga snack yesterday.

And I also used the spreads to make yesterday's lunch — a Falafel Chickpea Bowl (base of wilted baby spinach, toasted quinoa, tomato, air-fried chickpeas, tabbouleh, hummus, baba ganoush, and ajvar — that's a roasted eggplant/pepper dip).

I've been doing the bowl thing for the past couple days to balance out all that junk I've been eating. Today's lunch was another bowl — leftover Smoked Basmati Pilaf, Steamed Broccoli, Baked Tofu, Ajvar, and Tahini. YUM!

Earlier this evening, I did the Breakaway Running St. Pat's Pub Run again! We ran from bar to bar and drank at each one. Yay! And I've got a full line-up of awesome St. Pat's eats ready for Friday. I'll check back in on Sunday with a St. Pat's recap.