Vegan travels: eating Mexican food in the South Caucasus! »
I’ve been living in the Kakheti region of (the country of) Georgia since late February of this year, and though there’s plenty to eat, it’s rarely “foreign” and it’s never explicitly vegan. Well, once I walked by a gelato place in Tbilisi whose sign said (in English) “Coming soon, vegan ice cream!” but that was in March and I haven’t been able to check it out since.
Some of my friends had spoken of a Mexican restaurant in Sighnaghi (სიღნაღი)* called Pancho Villa, saying that not only was it good, it had vegetarian options, as in “fake meat in your burrito” vegetarian options, so of course I had to go. For Vegansaurus, and for myself.
Sighnaghi is the City of Love, for reasons unexplained by the country of Georgia. It is also really small and cute and on a bunch of hills with terrible cobblestone-esque streets that trip you like they were designed to cause maximum ankle damage.
I was not feeling much like beans when we went, so I ordered the “fajitas,” and also a margarita despite its being super-expensive because you know who loves tequila? ME.
It came with a basket of fresh warm tortillas! And tasted a little bit like really Americanized Chinese food! Which was weird! Like, there was no cumin or chili powder or anything in the spice mix, mostly a lot of hot pepper flakes, and the nationally mandated gallon of oil. But you know what? Still good. I wanted it to be better, but after four months without a single soy product, it made me happy.
The restaurant is pretty adorable, too; painted up all “Mexican” with blankets and sombreros and (prints of) photos of Pancho Villa on the walls. The view was typically spectacular. Maybe my experience was soured by the 90 minutes I spent smashed into the back of a taxi to get there. Georgia is a small country, but because the public transportation is almost all minibuses and taxis, getting places can be a serious hassle and take a really long time. It’s smaller in theory. I miss home.
My gorgeous, delicious, lemony margarita. The rim of the glass was salted and spiced!
If you ever find yourself in Georgia—let me know if you’d like to! I’m helpful!—and you’re tired of potatoes and bread and vegetables called like tchintchris (nettles) or jonjoli (pickled elderberry leaves? I will eat any vegetable)—because every vegetable wears out its welcome, let me tell you—maybe go to Pancho Villa and eat some vegan Georgian Mexican. Sighnaghi is adorable, anyway.
*I know another alphabet! Those “gh”s are pronounced like “rh.”
Restaurant review: Nick’s Tacos at Underdog, plus your weekend plans! »
Underdog is a sports bar that serves Nick’s Tacos, located in an area of San Francisco I like to refer to as the Mid Sunset. Not quite Outer, not quite Inner. Technically, what is 19th and Irving? I have no clue.
Nick believes in slow food, fast, which I guess I love. I don’t respect the Slow Food movement so much, as it tends to be super meat-heavy/hypocritical. Unless we are talking about cooking dinner in my apartment! My old roommate Vanessa said I am a great cook, but she can’t wait two hours to eat. What?! I like the flavors to meld—and I cook on low so I can check Facebook every two seconds.
I went to Underdog’s on a whim last year with two friends, as one of them knew the bartender and we NEEDED to make it for beer-and-taco happy hour. Taco happy hour, by the way, is only for ‘street-style’ meat tacos, but Nick’s is so inexpensive, you won’t stay too mad about that. Perhaps they will make the street tacos sans meat, I’ve never asked.
Drinking and tacos are two of my FAVORITE THINGS! I could tell I was gonna like the food as soon as our chips and salsa came. SO COLORFUL AND FRESH! I mean, really? In a bar? I was not expecting this.
That first time, I ordered the vegetarian tacos, which come Nick’s Way in a crispy corn tortilla wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. YES AND YES.
The second time I visited UnderNick’s, I had the taco salad. SO AMAZING. The best part is that it is a vegan entree, so I didn’t have to waste time asking for no cheese or sour cream and then stress out it’s going to come with those condiments anyway. Cilantro-lime vinaigrette? Done. Fresh tomatoes and delicious guacamole? Done. The best part, other than how it tastes, is that it doesn’t come in a heavy, fried tortilla shell, the part of the salad I always try to abstain from and then demolish in 30 seconds flat. Instead they decoratively top the salad with tortilla curls!
The first time I went to Underdog’s, my friend informed me of second Underdog up the street (different place of business completely). So after gorging on chips, salsa and tacos, I found room in my stomach for a vegan sausage dog with sauerkraut. And then went home and made seitan (while checking Facebook constantly).
Here’s your itinerary for this weekend (whenever your weekend is. Mine is Mondays and Tuesdays, holla!). Go to Ocean Beach, try to stay warm and work up an nice appetite/beer buzz on the sand, and as you are heading back to the city stop at Nick’s. Scarf down your food so that before your stomach can register it’s full, you can demolish a vegan sausage dog down the street. Sounds like a perfect day to me!
Underdog Sports Bar and Grill is located at 1824 Irving between 19th and 20th Avenues in the Sunset. It can get pretty bro-y on game days, so I’d avoid it at all costs then. Here’s the menu [.pdf]. [Ed.: I’ve heard that on Fridays during happy hour, they have $1 margaritas. Girrrrrrrl…]
Chipotle experimenting more with Garden Blend burritos; meaty-meat chef Nate Appleman is all OMG VEGGIE BURRITO »
What’s your usual order? I’m not joking when I say that I eat a Chipotle vegetarian burrito every single day. It’s rice, black beans, peppers, onions, and guacamole. I’m thinking a lot about vegetarian food these days, which is kind of funny when you consider what I’m known for. Right now I’m experimenting with something called Garden Blend for Chipotle, which is a soy and protein combo. I’m going for vegetarian food more often and now it’s my goal to only eat very good meat, which means eating it much more rarely than I used to. I’m treating meat as something special.
That’s pretty cool because he’s one of those celebrity chefs who is usually all OMG MEAT and now he’s all OMG VEGETARIAN BURRITO. So, you know, Go on Nate Appleman, and Go on, Chipotle. Rock out that Garden Blend (made with Gardein!) and make that shit even more delicious and then put it in all of your “restaurants” and finally make us vegans happy for once in our miserable lives. Sheeeeit.
Garden blend burrito photo from quarrygirl, who also has the update on them stopping Garden blend sales! But perhaps this Nate Appleman character can change all that!
Whoa, check out reader Seana’s glorious Mexican repast:
1) Potato and kale enchiladas, adapted from a PPK recipe
2) Spicy roasted tomatillo enchilada sauce
3) Mexican rice, courtesy of Herbivoracious
4) Refried beans from a can (courtesy of Amy’s).
DANG! Start with the internet, add your personal culinary talents, and combine until PERFECT. Nice job, Seana!
The delightful Tamara from SFoodie reports on the new PUMPKIN TAMALES at Papalote. They’re here every weekend through November so get it while the getting is good get it while you can you should. Oh, and they’re only at the Mission location, natch. Oh, and Tamara writes that they’re sweet enough for a dessert but a great main dish, as well. Plus, it’s PUMPKIN in a TAMALE. God is good.
[photo from SFoodie!]
Tasty vegan recipes from non-vegan blogs! Holla! »
Apparently “The American People” (shittiest expression ever) aren’t eating produce anymore. WELL WHY??? Vegansaurus to the rescue! The recipes below leave you no excuse for not getting your 5-Alive. Do it up, fatties!
Bay Area Bites wants us to make apple butter (DO IT!), and The Paupered Chef has some Mexican food snacks that aren’t deep-fried (don’t hold it against them!). You could easily veganize this Avocado Milkshake over at The Kitchn by subbing coconut creamer (yum!) for condensed milk. Have you ever had an avocado milkshake? It’s like a party in your mouth meets a party in your pants and everyone wants to do it with each other. GNARLY MAGIC. Seriously, make one! Or, if you’re too lazy, buy one! And if you’re into doing it in the raw (NO COMMENT), check out Blisstree's Sun-Dried Tomato and Sunflower Seed Burgers. I’m only 1/4 hippie, and those look damn good to me!
Finally, because you’re all a bunch of fucking lushes, you should probably check out The Acadian from Beretta. SFist has the recipe and it’s so easy to just replace the honey with agave and have a par-tay. Haven’t tried absinthe? Well, you’re in for a hallucinogenic treat! Also, get some vegan pizza while you’re there—it’s the shiz!
Also, if you’re eating downtown in the FiDi, our Megan Allison says that the Siam salad (sub avocado for cucumber DO IT UP, FATTY) at Mixt Greens is the only food that does anything for her anymore. She ain’t mad atchu, lemongrass vinaigrette. Also funny that at salad place Mixt Greens, that’s the only salad that’s vegan by default. AMERICA!
[photo by Nick Kindlesperger of The Paupered Chef!]
I’ve been not totally head-over-heels for Gracias Madre in the past but three things redeem it for me:
1) This cauliflower and cheese dish with the breadcrumbs on the top. sometimes they have it with Brussels sprouts too. either way, it’s cheesy, spicy, and amazing. order it.
2) GET THE FLAN. It’s FLAN. But without eggs. IT’S EGGLESS FLAN. It’s perfect and delicious and I want to bathe in a pool of it with you OMG this just got hot all of a sudden.
3) Sweet happy hour deals with cheap beer, mojitos, and sangria. I think it goes from 5 to 7 p.m. and they’re all $3. This helps make up for the fact that you’re about to pay $13 for some rice and beans. I KNOW, I KNOW, it’s all organic and fair trade and that shit is important and I’m willing to pay for it (I’m lucky I can afford to do that and so are you!) but yeah, it’s expensive for Mexican food in the Mission. You can hate all you want but I said what I said and I never go back on what I say 50 percent of the time, OK!?
Definitely worth a visit, and you’d be wise to heed my recommendations. NAMASTE, BITCHES!
Los Jarritos! »
In San Diego there is this phenomenon known as the “Potato Rolled Taco” [Ed. Generally, a “rolled taco” is a taquito if it’s made from a corn tortilla, and a flauta if it’s made from a wheat tortilla]. Jonas is from SD and practically never shuts up about the magicallity of the PRT at Pokez. Having never been to Pokez I can neither confirm nor deny that they are magical but I can say that my boyfriend knows what’s up when it comes to food. He is skinny but he is fierce. In a related note, god bless a skinny person who can throw down when it comes to food. I am bigoted to assume that skinnies can’t bring it when it comes to the dinner table but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few in my day. In fact, I know a girl in NYC who is built like a brick house but regularly eats five sandwiches for first dinner. FIRST DINNER. I don’t even want to tell you about second dinner because that shit is not fit for prime time. Needless to say, I curtsy to you, madam.
ANYWAY, the point is, if Jonas said the PRT is the bomb, it probably is. AND I WANT IT. But also, when the hell am I in San Diego? I’m not Republican, I don’t surf, and I can get all the (LEGAL PRESCRIPTION) drugs I need without hopping over the border so really, there is no need. That’s where Los Jarritos comes in. Los Jarritos is a family-owned sit down Mexican food joint at South Van Ness Avenue and 20th Street in the Mission. You walk in, sit down at a table with menus, order potato flautas and a Jamaica and eat chips and salsa for five minutes until your meal arrives. SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD NOTE:
1) The agua frescas are the size of toddlers. Delicious hibiscus-flavored toddlers. LOOK AT IT NEXT TO THAT CHIP, it’s 50 times its size! Amazing!
2) POTATO ROLLED TACOS ARE THE POTATO ROLLED BOMB. Eat them always. Also, the lovely waitress knew what vegan meant and that just put me at ease. Jonas got the sopes and I can report that they were also the bomb. The veg ones are made with nopales (that’s cactus, gringo) and they are deeeelicious!
3) This place is EL CHEAPO. All you can eat chips, a giant agua fresca, and two HUGE meals set us back 20 bucks! Cha-ching!
Over all, 50 million stars, will be back for more, more, more, more, more I LOVE YOU, LOS JARRITOS.
From the vegetarian artislovely comes this recipe for Mexican Fiesta Soup, which looks delicious and seems totally appropriate for a blustery spring day.
4 tomatillos, peeled and rinsed
2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, packed, rinsed well
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 small white onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced, plus more sliced for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
One 28 1/2-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (about 8 tomatoes), drained and crushed
3 ears corn, quartered
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 ripe avocado, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Nonstick cooking spray
Freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place tomatillos on a small rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven, turning once midway through, until they are softened and slightly charred, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor; add cilantro, one garlic clove, and lime juice. Process until smooth and combined; set aside.
2. Lightly coat bottom of a large nonstick saucepan with cooking spray. Add onion, remaining garlic clove, and diced jalapeno; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Add cumin, tomatoes, corn, and chicken vegetable stock. Bring liquid to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
3. Remove from heat; stir in 3 tablespoons reserved tomatillo mixture, and season with pepper. Add sliced avocado. Ladle into serving bowls; garnish with jalapeno slices, if desired. Serve with remaining tomatillo pesto
Your Vegansaurus knows that some of you have issues with cilantro, so for you we recommend substituting some tarragon, a pinch of rosemary, maybe a pinch of thyme—all fresh!—and a couple extra garlic cloves. Try it and see!
[photo from Whole Living via artislovely]