Vegan Treats Aplenty in Omaha, Nebraska

Saint Cecilia Cathedral - Omaha, NebraskaLast weekend David and I took a brief trip to Omaha for a friend’s wedding. Other than driving through while traveling across country or using their airport, I hadn’t spent much time in Omaha. We’d been hoping to make it more of an extended weekend, but with a kitty still under the weather, we had to make our trip brief. Nevertheless, we crammed a lot of fun into our time there!

The ceremony was at Saint Cecilia, a huge cathedral with high ceilings, stained glass, and lavish flower arrangements. It was a beautiful wedding, and the bride and groom were overflowing with happiness. It’s always such a boost to be around people who are at the beginning of a great adventure with optimism and excitement for what is ahead.

There was an hour and a half break between the ceremony and reception, and we knew there wouldn’t be much on the buffet line that was vegan-friendly. So we ventured downtown to Block 16.

Vegan options at Block 16 - Omaha, NebraskaVegan options - Block 16 - Omaha, Nebraska

After perusing their menu online, I had planned on getting the gyros, but then David spied a reuben on the menu. Obviously my choice was made. I read online that Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who lives in Omaha, helped them with their seitan recipe.

Vegan reuben at Block 16 - Omaha, NebraskaThe thick pieces of seitan had a nice, chewy bite to them, and you could tell it was made in house. The sandwich had slices of pickled beets, which I worried I wouldn’t like since I tend to be anti-beets. However, they didn’t have any of that telltale dirt beet flavor. They just tasted pickled with a faint sweetness.

Vegan reuben at Block 16 - Omaha, NebraskaThe messy sandwich, dripping with dressing and sauerkraut, was a risk while wearing a special occasion outfit, but I made it through unscathed!

Veggie burger at Block 16 - Omaha, NebraskaDavid ordered the veggie burger, which was topped with a choice of traditional burger fixings or pickles and peanut butter. David was intrigued by the peanut butter idea and chose that option. The sandwich was pressed until the peanut butter was warm and melty.

I had to have a bite of it, and it was really good. I was surprised that the peanut butter was chunky, but it was fun having a little crunch in the sandwich – kind of like when you added potato chips to sandwiches as a kid. It definitely got my wheels turning for other peanut butter burger ideas, like a Thai burger with a peanut satay sauce… I’ve got to make this happen!

Wedding receptionWith full bellies, we returned to the reception for drinks, toasts, and celebrating with the bride and groom.

Even though it was only an overnight trip, it wouldn’t be one of our vacations without a trip to a natural grocery store. We wanted to have provisions for a late night picnic back in the hotel room, along with a couple of episodes of Episodes. (Do you watch that show? It’s the series with Matt LeBlanc of Friends fame, playing a parodied version of himself in a comedy about two British writers who have their TV show produced in Hollywood. The show offers a hilarious take on the perils of the entertainment industry. Episodes’ third season was finally available on iTunes, and we just finished it. So good.)

Hotel picnicWe picked up some baked tofu, kale salad, and blackberries. We also grabbed chips and guac-kale-mole, which is guacamole made with kale! I’d never heard of such a thing, but for a person who madly loves both kale and avocados, it was a big hit. I’m definitely making my own version of that this weekend.  (Update:  I did it!  Check out my own version of guac-kale-mole here.)

Vegan options at Benson Brewery - Omaha, NebraskaThe next day before heading out of town, we visited Benson Brewery. We got there around 11 am, not realizing they have a different brunch menu on the weekends. We’d both really wanted to try their buffalo seitan strips, but they aren’t offered on the brunch menu. However, David asked the server about them, and they were able to make them for us anyway!

Benson Brewery vegan options - Omaha, NebraskaVeggie Brew Wing Basket (buffalo seitan) - Benson Brewery - Omaha, NebraskaWe split all of the dishes, so that we could try a bit of everything.  The Brew Veggie Wing Basket came with a choice of hot sauce, spicy mustard, or both. We chose both and I’m glad we did. Buffalo sauce is so crave-able and tasty, but the hot mustard might have been even better. It had undertones reminiscent of wine and a rich umami flavor that was really lovely.  We also split an order of french fries dusted with tarragon and sea salt.

Tofu sandwich at Benson Brewery - Omaha, NebraskaThen we shared the battered tofu sandwich, which was spread with a thick layer of tartar sauce and citrus coleslaw on top.  On the side was a green salad with dried cranberries and a mustard vinaigrette that was particularly good.

(I noticed as we were leaving that they also have malt vinegar for fries and tofu sandwiches! I always have malt vinegar with my fries at home, and so I was bummed I missed an opportunity to have it. Take note if you go to ask for the malt vinegar!)

Even though Omaha doesn’t have a vegetarian or vegan restaurant (yet!), they have lots of really interesting vegan-on-purpose (as opposed to accidentally vegan) options that were terrific. There were many more possibilities than we were able to try on our short trip. However, I’m sure we’ll be back later on in the summer when Omaha’s first vegan restaurant opens, Modern Love Omaha.

One more thing: On Fridays I post over at Feelgood Style, often with entries about natural beauty and style.  Yesterday I shared my thoughts on aging with a post called, How young were you when you became old?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic!  

Soul Food at Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, California

Organic Soul Food Platter - Stuff I EatAfter last Thursday’s post about making my own soul bowls at home, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite restaurant soul food platters in recent memory.

When I was in Los Angeles a while back, I made it to a restaurant that I’ve been hearing about for eons – Stuff I Eat in Inglewood.  It’s a place that I have meant to visit again and again.  However, it seemed that usually when I was in the area, I was either on my way to the airport and in a hurry or coming back from the airport and in a hurry.  But as luck would have it this time around, I needed to pick up my rental car by LAX, which put me in the neighborhood at just the right time for lunch at Stuff I Eat.

Stuff I Eat - a vegan restaurant in Inglewood, CaliforniaStuff I Eat has been around since 2008.  Their food is 100% vegan and 95% organic.  It’s on the main drag of Market Street, along with other shops and restaurants.  The street was pretty quiet while I was there, as it was still early in the lunch hour.  Even though there’s a large awning outside with their name on it, because of the dark windows, I missed it and kept walking.  Even after I turned around and started walking back, I almost missed it again.  So etch this exterior into your mind’s eye and don’t make the same mistake I did.

Stuff I Eat - a vegan restaurant in Inglewood, CaliforniaStuff I Eat - a vegan restaurant in Inglewood, CaliforniaThe restaurant is clean and nicely laid out with café-style tables. The staff at the counter was all smiles and really helpful with ideas of their most popular items.  They’re well-known for their tacos, but obviously I had to go with another popular item on their menu, the Organic Soul Food Platter.

Organic Soul Food Platter - Stuff I EatI ordered a half order of the platter, which came to $12.  There was so much food, I easily could have shared it.  Instead, I took half home and finished it with breakfast the next day.

Organic Soul Food Platter - Stuff I EatThe platter came with generous helpings of yams, black-eyed peas, barbecued tofu, slow cooked kale, a cornbread muffin, potato salad, and mac and cheese.  The greens may well have been the best I’ve ever had.  They were melt-in-your-mouth good with that wonderful tinny-ness you get from cooking greens for a long time.

Organic Soul Food Platter - Stuff I EatThe black-eyed peas were also particularly well seasoned, and since they’re not always my favorite bean, I was surprised at how good they were.

Stuff I Eat is definitely one of those places where you can get caught in a circle of “just one more bite.”  With so many complimentary flavors and huge portions, this is the restaurant to visit with friends and/or a big appetite!  It is sure to be on my must-visit list on my next trip to Southern California.