As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, and the Friendsgiving potluck dinners are in full swing, I thought it would be appropriate to share one of my favorite thanksgiving side dishes, completely revamped and veganized. Growing up, I always looked forward to my mom’s mashed potatoes around the holiday or whenever she felt like making them. I would create mashed potato mountains sky high on my plate and devour every last bite.
Over a week and a half, I had the pleasure of exploring some of the best vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, as well as adventuring around the area with Jasmine of Sweet Simple Vegan. I did my best to recapture the highlights in a day-by-day post featuring some incredible vegan restaurants and some of the activities we enjoyed.
From the breathtaking views of Garden of the Gods to the delectable flavorings of City O’ City and WaterCourse Foods, the first half of my Colorado journey was a satisfying one.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself to explore somewhere new, I always seem to care about one thing first and foremost – eating my way through each place as efficiently as possible, making sure I am able to try all of the noteworthy places, and hope to stumble upon the hidden gems of an area, too.
The Denver experience put an extra notch in my belt buckle, to say the least. Facing the difficulty of wanting to try too many places and specific dishes in a limited amount of time, I may have been slightly overzealous with my food consumption. Upon arrival, our first stop was to WaterCourse Foods, an all vegan bar and restaurant in downtown Denver. With a rustic and welcoming vibe, the atmosphere comfortable and the staff very friendly, I had a feeling we started at the right place. Taking a first glance at the menu I was immediately overwhelmed with the selection. Everything looked delicious, which caused a real problem when it came down to making a decision. As an appetizer I ordered the Memphis BBQ and Buffalo Cauliflower Bites which were stellar. The savory flavor and crunch of the lightly battered cauliflower paired with the sauce was just right. For an entree I felt limited only for the fact that It was Tuesday. I was hard pressed to choose between The Street Taco Platter (Black beans, sweet potatoes, onions, and peppers in soft taco shells, topped with cilantro lime slaw, chipotle aioli, and avocado crème. Served with sides of refried black beans, brown rice, sour cream, and salsa) or the Baja TacoPlatter (Black beans and beer-battered tofish in soft taco shells, topped with cilantro lime slaw and chipotle aioli Served with sides of refried black beans, brown rice, sour cream, and salsa). With a coin toss decision I went with the Baja Tacos. I think I made the right choice (I say I think because I wasn’t able to try the Street Tacos). The tofish paired with the combination of cilantro lime slaw and chipotle aioli was perfect. I enjoyed each bite thoroughly and was sure to lick my plate clean. After eating to our hearts content, my friend Dan and I felt ready to take on the rest of the day.
Maintaining a steady appetite in Colorado was not difficult to accomplish. It wasn’t long before we decided to try our luck with the highly anticipated City, O’ City. Located in a funky little area of Denver surrounded by record shops, bookstores, and bars, I was looking forward to experiencing this revered spot first hand. The menu is vegetarian but almost every item can be made vegan upon request. They offer a wide variety of breakfast foods along with comfort and bar style tastings. During our first of may visits to City O, I ordered the No.5 Pizza which is a combination of tomatoes, seitan sausage and a buffalo ranch sauce topped with Daiya Mozzarella and a killer house made cashew ricotta. I thought the flavor combination here was delectable, and while the crust was tasty, it could’ve been a litter thinner and more crispy. I washed the meal down with the rotating local kombucha they had on tap which happened to be lemon ginger. From there, we took a stroll around the city to walk off the entire pizza we slammed down, and then retired for the evening.
Waking up early the next morning with the deliciousness of City O’ City still on our minds, we decided to take a trip back for breakfast. Without hesitation I ordered the Savory Waffle, which I had set my sights on through Instagram long before I even stepped foot into Colorado. The Savory Waffle is an out-of-this-world combination of a seasonal veggie ragu topped with a vegan fondue sauce. There was an option to add tofu scramble on top of it too, which was a no brainer. W-O-W, I could hardly believe what I was tasting. The flavor explosion of fluffy “buttermilk” style waffles with a savory twist was something I had never experienced. Now that it is after the fact, I can say this was the best tasting meal I had all trip. We had the pleasure of sitting next to this wonderful lady named Alice, who had been enjoying City O’ City since its inception over 20 years ago. She knew the menu like the back of her hand and had some great insight into what else Colorado had to offer. After giving us some area recommendations and engaging in deep conversations about veganism, we were on our way.
We then went on to explore the random local shops, bookstores, and record stores in the area. It wasn’t before long that we worked up an appetite…With a desire to try something new, we decided to hit up Native Foods in the downtown area. This was my first Native Foods experience, and it was an enjoyable one at that. I ordered the Soul Bowl which was a hearty combination of southern style Native Chicken, red beans, brown rice, steamed veggies, and kale, mixed in ranch and barbecue sauce and served with a side of fresh baked corn bread. I thought it was all very flavorful and filling, but I don’t think I would order it again. While satisfying , something about the sauce combination didn’t totally do it for me.
Making great strides to check off all of the vegan foodie finds in Denver, Beet Box Bakery was next on the list. I had heard rave reviews about Beet Box so I was very excited for the experience. Upon entering, my attention was immediately drawn to the glowing glass case filled with all of the most delectable baked goods you could imagine. Cakes, muffins, donuts, tarts, and beyond. Slightly overwhelmed, I was tempted to order one of everything. With the tiniest bit of self control I was able to conjure inside myself, I ordered an apple cinnamon donut, chai spice muffin, cinnamon roll, and maple walnut donut. Again, as tempted as I was to attempt to eat them all right there on the spot, with the last
shred of self control I had, I saved them to enjoy over the next few days. Each and every one of these treats were so delicious.
That evening my friends Shannon (@anotherhungryvegan) invited me over for Dinner. She made these open-faced taco / burrito creations with this fancy cheese sauce that I can’t seem to remember the name of. It was all so good!
The next stop on this Colorado adventure was to the Garden of the Gods. Dwarfed by these giant rocks, I stood amazed by the surrounding beauty. With such intricate formations, the vibrant reddish & orange hues of these natural wonders against the crystal blue sky painted the most perfect picture. After our scenic excursion, we headed back to City, O’ City for a late lunch. This time we were lucky enough to catch the Happy Hour where there were $1 off drafts and select food items offered at a nice price. I ordered the kimchi and “sausage” torta with a side of biscuits and gravy. After a long day in the sun, this meal hit the spot. The soft biscuit paired with mushroom gravy was comparable to good ole’ southern cookin’, and the sandwich was spot-on
too. This trip to City, ‘O was particularly exciting because we brought Dans parents along to experience what we had been raving about, and they absolutely loved it!
The next day, it was back to Watercourse Foods. This time, it was for my favorite meal of the day…BRUNCH. I am a self-proclaimed brunch enthusiast, so I was extra excited to experience what Watercourse had to offer. I order the smoked tofu croissant sandwich with a side of home fries, sweet potato cinnamon bun, and a lemon ginger kombucha mimosa to wash it all down. As I sat there by my lonesome, I let the blend of flavors really sink in. So much was going on in this meal, and I loved every bite. This was the first time trying a kombucha and god help me if it was my last – it is now a brunch essential for me.
After brunch, I headed back to the hotel to find my hungover friend Dan, pack up, and head to Red Rocks to see Slightly Stoopid and Dirty Heads. What a breathtaking place to see a show. If you ever have the chance to visit Colorado, please do yourself a favor and see a show at Red Rocks. A+
And from there it was off to Boulder, where the next chapter of the food journey began…
a savory combination of caramelized mushrooms and onions, panko breaded eggplant, and Gardein “chick’n”, with a creamy pesto base and smothered in Daiya Mozzarella.
1 seven ounce jar of vegan friendly pesto*
2 cups of soy milk
1 teaspoon of salt
create a rue by combining a 1/4 cup of butter with a 1/4 cup of flour in a pot (medium heat) mixing until a paste is formed | (turn off burner) pour 2 cups of soy milk slowly in while whisk vigorously | (turn burner on) allow mixture to thicken | add pesto | mix until creamy | *I used Seggiano, but homemade would be even better
THE MUSHROOMS AND ONIONS
1 eight ounce container of mushrooms (your choice)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup marsala wine
dash of salt
let olive oil and butter heat up in pan | add mushrooms and onions with dash of salt | cook for about 5-8 minutes | add marsala wine | cook additional 5 minutes or until golden brown
2 cups of panko bread crumbs**
1 large eggplant
set up a station of 3 bowls | the 1st with 1 cup of flour | the next with 1 cup soy milk | the last with 1 cup of flour | coat each slice of eggplant in flour, then soy milk, then coat with bread crumbs | bring 1 cup of canola oil to a simmer in a pan | fry coated eggplant slices on both sides until golden brown | **CAUTION: read labels carefully when selecting bread crumbs – some contain partially hydrogenated oils or dairy ☠
1 package of Gardein seven grain crispy “chick’n strips”
cut to preference
bake for 20 minutes @ 430 degrees | cut to preference
1 organic pre-made pie crust***
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 bag of Daiya mozzarella style shreds (or preferred cheese)
all of the above ingredients
preheat oven @ 400 degrees | coat pie crust with a thin layer of olive oil | add creamy pesto sauce | add thin layer of Daiya shreds | add panko coated eggplant| add caramelized mushroom and onions | add Gardein “chick’n” strips | top with additional layer of Daiya | bake for 15 – 20 | enjoy| *** I used 365 brand, but homemade would be better