Category Archives: Restaurants

Cafe Momo

I love trying new things in the (vegan) food world, and one of my favorite ways to do that is sampling dishes that hail from other areas of the planet.  You can find “Mexican” and “Chinese” food on every corner around here, but I like to scout out the less common ones — Indian, Ethiopian, Korean.  It’s also preferable to find food that’s as authentic as possible (I’d wager I’ve never actually had real Chinese food).  There are still many, many types of “ethnic cuisine” (what is the real phrase I’m looking for?) that I haven’t yet tried, but fortunately, I’m still young!

All that to say, I’ve wanted to go to Cafe Momo for quite some time now (and my desire to go doubled when I discovered that they won the Hippo’s award for Best Vegetarian Food in Manchester a few years back!).  I realize that Manchester, NH is one of the least likely places on the planet you’d expect to find authentic Nepalese food.  But, surprise!  Here it is.  I hit up Momo one night a few weeks ago with my (omni) mom and (vegan) sister and we were all super-impressed.

Cafe Momo is tucked way waaaay up on Hanover St by the highway.  There isn’t much to see on the outside (it was too dark when I went — check the Yelp page for pics) but they make up for it with the super-colorful interior:

Interior of Cafe Momo -- sorry for spoiling your evening with my camera flash, you two!

I’ll say right up front that it is DIM inside.  I don’t know if it’s any better at lunchtime with the natural light helping, though the Yelp page seems to suggest it is, since other people seem to have gotten some food pictures that didn’t need to be heavily desaturated, lightened and adjusted for temperature.  (And mine STILL look orangey-purple…) So if you have an intense need to see all the details of your food, this is not your best pick for restaurant.  Or at least not your best pick for dinner.

Mom and I kicked things off with some soups:

Bamboo soup. Menu description: "This soup is loaded with hand cut vegetables, textured soy and marinated bamboo shoots."

This was my mom’s choice so I didn’t have much of it, but what I did have was tasty!  At first (aka before I checked the menu) the TVP scared me off — I thought it was meat.  Fortunately, I verified that all the soup choices are vegan!

Gundruk soup

I was more drawn to the Gundruk, advertised as being a traditional homeopathic soup.  It was spicier than I was expecting (the theme for the night!) but I ate it all up anyway.  The stuff floating around the top is soy nuts — a weird addition to soup, I thought, but it worked.

The Momo Mojito: "A balance of fresh lime juice, mint leaves, and rice wine."

I don’t drink, and my sis is only 19, but Mom said this was good!

Flat herbed bread appetizer

My sis, ever the carb lover, opted for the unassuming “flat herbed bread” appetizer.  At $3 this is the least expensive thing on the menu (besides the undescribed “Pickle,” which they curiously charge $2 for) but I’m pretty sure it was the favorite plate of the night!  We all LOVED this bread!

Since we’d all gotten appetizers and the entrees were more expensive here than those at the restaurants we normally go to, the three of us decided to get two to share.  I’d heard great things about their curry, and the Katmandu Thaili sounded like a must-have (“A crepe made of black lentil flour with cilantro and scallions steamed into it… filled with seasoned sauteed vegetables cooked to perfection! This filling entree is topped with avocado cilantro sauce.”).  So we were all set to order one curry and one order of the Thaili… when we received word from the kitchen that the Thaili was all out!  Which leads me to my one complaint: For a cafe that was honored for having the best veggie cuisine in town, there was precious little food we could eat!  There are only 5 entrees on the vegetarian menu: two curries, the Katmandu Thaili, a paneer dish (not vegan), and the Tarkari Bhat — described as being “seasoned vegetables and a serving of basmati rice.”  We were down to two curries or the Bhat, which — no offense — sounded more or less ordinary.  So we decided to split the two curries.

I didn't write down the name of this one! Bad Katy!

Mushroom Curry: "Portobello mushrooms cubed and bathed in a curry along with seasoned vegetables."

Both of these were awesome, tomato-based curries (and they get bonus points for including plantains, which I LOVE!).  The avocado cilantro sauce perfectly accompanied the rice, too!  But the entrees were both pretty similar, and I really wished the crepe had been available.  Also, we ordered “medium” spiciness and it came out so hot I had to take a forkful of rice between pretty much every bite.  Beware!

We also hoped to order a dessert but discovered that there were no vegan options available that day.  Alas.  Probably for the best, though, since we were pretty full at that point.

The bottom line is that Cafe Momo serves great (great!) unique food.  It’s worth a visit (or two, or three!).  Just don’t be fooled by the Hippo award to go here and expect vegan heaven.  The options, though awesome, are limited.

Whatever else you order, though, get the bread!

Cafe Momo is located at 1065 Hanover Street in Manchester, NH near exit 7 on 101.  http://www.cafemomonh.com/

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Holiday brunch, take 2!

Just a heads up that Cafe Indigo is doing the holiday brunch thing a second time!  Awesome!  So if you missed it in November (or, come on, even if you didn’t), check it out this Sunday the 12th from 10-2.  And check their Facebook page for updates!

Cafe Indigo is located at 128 H Hall Street in Concord, NH.  http://www.cafeindigo.com/

Muse Thai Bistro in Manchester

I’d heard great things about the vegan offerings at Siam Orchid restaurant in Manchester, so when an opportunity (in the form of visiting company) arose to try it out, I jumped at the chance.

Siam Orchid is crammed into a little plaza on Second Street (the one with Applebee’s).  The first thing I learned about Siam Orchid is that, despite the name on the sign (“Siam Orchid”) and the name on the takeout menu (“Siam Orchid”), they actually changed their name to Muse Thai Bistro effective several months ago.  A little confusing at present, but nothing that a new sign won’t clear up soon.  (The other location in Concord, incidentally, is still Siam Orchid.)

The ambiance was bright and a little eclectic — but I liked it:

interior of Muse Thai Bistro

They have a pretty decent number of options, but I was surprised by how few of them were actually meatless (we get a “Vegetarian Corner” of the menu).  I wasn’t really in the mood for anything weighty (the “corner” is heavy on the fried tofu) so I thought the Green Garden sounded good:

Green Garden: Boiled fresh green beans, baby corn, broccoli, snowpeas, served with a delicious peanut sauce.

Sounds good, right?  Well…when I happily requested the Green Garden, the waitress actually recommended that I NOT order it and ended up succeeding in talking me out of it!  Apparently it is literally ONLY what is in that description, plain boiled veggies, no frills, with peanut sauce on the side.  Well, hmm.  No thanks, then, I guess?

I wound up with the “Tofu, Ginger and Scallions” (tofu was fried, but what can you do):

Tofu, Ginger and Scallions: Fried tofu with assorted vegetables, ginger & black bean sauce.

The presentation, as you can see, was superb.  Perfect portion size (I finished all the veggies and about 1/2 the rice) and very colorful.  And, yes, it was very tasty.  The fried tofu was yummy (sigh) but it should be noted that it was mooshy rather than crispy.  I would have appreciated a warning about the quantity of mushrooms, as they are not really my favorite thing and they made up the majority of the “assorted vegetables.”  Oh well.  I did enjoy the long ribbony ones and the buttons, and my mom happily ate the weird chewy ones for me, so no harm done.

It should also be noted that the ginger in the dish is straight-up GINGER.  Not pickled, not candied, just a big hunk of ginger in your mouth.  I was fine with this.  In fact, I loved it.  If you aren’t a big ginger fan, though, beware!

Finally, one complaint: where is this “black bean sauce”?  I occasionally spotted traces of a thin, clearish, pretty much tasteless sauce, and maybe that’s what “black bean sauce” is supposed to be, but I was hoping for something more beany and flavorful than, um, not.

Anyway.  Next time I’m there I will probably get a curry, as I was enviously eyeing my mom’s throughout the whole lunch.  You, too should go check out Siam Orchid Muse Thai Bistro, and keep that veggie corner on the menu!  May not have been the best Thai food I’ve ever had, but hey — it was a solid, all-veg, relatively inexpensive lunch.  It’s nice that this is available in Manch!

Muse Thai Bistro is located at 581 Second St #C in Manchester, NH.  http://www.musethaibistro.com/

Holiday brunch alert!

THIS SUNDAY, November 14th, from 10a-2p, Cafe Indigo will be hosting its annual holiday brunch!  I’ll be out of town so I can’t go, but you all should!  Resplendent with seitan “turkey” and other holiday goodies, it promises to be even better than their usual brunch, which is indeed a force to be reckoned with.  If previous holiday brunches are any indication, get there on the early side to ensure you’ll get both seating and food.

Check their Facebook page for updates as it seems their official site is down.

Cafe Indigo is located at 128 H Hall Street in Concord, NH.  http://www.cafeindigo.com/

Cafe Indigo: Still golden

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Cafe Indigo is hands-down your best bet for Sunday brunch in the state of New Hampshire.  If you are within driving distance of Concord, and it happens to be the 2nd or 4th Sunday of the month, you have no excuse not to check it out!  I stopped by with my mom a few weeks ago and it was better than ever.

Brunch hours are from 10-2.  Of course, ever the procrastinators, Mom and I showed up at CI’s door slightly after 1:30.   Nonetheless, we were greeted with a smile and seated promptly.  I was also happy to see that new trays of food were still being brought out to the buffet table despite the late hour.

The way brunch works at Cafe Indigo is pretty awesome.  There is a buffet table of sides, salads, and desserts, from which you can take as much as you want, starting as soon as you’re seated.  Also included is your choice of one entree from their brunch menu, which they cook and bring to your table later.  (You can also order additional beverages and a la carte items if you wish.)  Finally, they have a coffee counter with a pretty decent selection of organic teas and coffees — all self-serve with unlimited refills.

This basically all adds up to A WHOLE LOT OF FOOD.  Fortunately, if you ask nicely they will give you a take-out box for your menu-item leftovers — which is great for me, since I always seem to fill up on the buffet before my order even arrives!

 

Buffet table offerings!

Buffet table offerings!

 

I sampled a little of everything from the buffet spread: cole slaw, black bean and corn salad, hummus with blue corn chips, pea salad with “bacon bits,” and a slice of corn bread.  All of these were as awesome as they look, but my favorites (as always) were the cole slaw and the pea salad.  Not pictured: the pasta salad I tried on round 2.  It was herbed but vinegar-free — a pleasant surprise, since I’m not crazy about vinegar-y pasta.

The only thing that I didn’t get a chance to sample was the gluten-free sesame noodles.  I remembered them from last time and wanted to try them again, but sadly, they were all gobbled up by the time I got there and were the only dish that went un-replenished.  That’s what I get for showing up at 1:30!

I must have been to brunch at CI four or five times by now and every time I get the huevos rancheros, which are just stellar.  This time, however, I decided to break out of my rut and order the sampler plate.

 

Cafe Indigo brunch sampler plate

 

The sampler plate is exactly what it sounds like: miniature versions of three of their other five brunch menu choices (the only two you don’t get to try are the huevos rancheros and their version of the Ruben).  They also throw in two sides: rosemary potatoes and a sausage patty.  Here’s my take:

  • French toast: This one surprised me! The toast had a really convincing “eggy” texture which many vegan French toast interpretations lack. Bonus points for using cinnamon swirl bread.  We all know my cinnamon obsession ;)
  • Cornmeal pancake: A solid “good.”  I kept finding myself wondering why they made it out of cornmeal.  Still tasty, don’t get me wrong, but I wish it had been less, uh, cornmealy.
  • Tofu scramble: There are a thousand versions of scrambled tofu, and while this may not be the best one out there, it’s a contender for sure.  There was no boxed-scramble taste whatsoever, the texture was spot-on and the vegetable selection was just right.  Basically, it was delicious without having to try too hard.  I nearly forgot I was eating tofu ;)
  • Rosemary potatoes: It’s hard to go wrong with rosemary potatoes! These were a great complement to the rest of the meal.  My only adjustment would be to make them slightly less greasy.
  • Sausage patty: Surprisingly, this was my favorite thing on the plate!  Tender, mildly chewy texture + savory flavor with just the right amount of sweetness = best breakfast sausage you could ask for.  It was very clearly homemade, and that is in no way an insult!  No frozen boxed patties here.

Mom opted for my faithful standby, the huevos rancheros.

 

Cafe Indigo's Huevos Rancheros

 

The rosemary potatoes are the same as the ones on my plate, the eggs are not!  The ranchero-style eggs taste totally different – they’re made with some seitan thrown in, I believe, as well as a different veggie/spice combo.  Served with black beans, avocado, sour cream, and pico de gallo.  If you miss huevos rancheros from your pre-vegan days, this will hit the spot.

Mom and I had both polished off two plates of buffet items and about 1/2 of our orders when we decided to box up the rest and try dessert!

 

Cafe Indigo desserts!

 

I tried a ginger crinkle, a small piece of chocolate cake and a cupcake version of their delicious lemon poppyseed cake.  Not pictured: Mom snagged the last piece of their award-winning carrot cake.  I’d had it before and already knew how good it was, but I was more impressed that Mom (who is a serious carrot-cake aficionado and not a vegan) was impressed!  She especially couldn’t believe how cream-cheesy the frosting tasted.

After dessert and the check (did I mention we got $3 off for being facebook fans?!) and one more trip to the coffee station for a refill on my tea, I checked out the bakery take-home items for sale.

 

Cookies/scones/bread for sale!!

 

There is also a fridge full of other goodies, including cheesecake, homemade seitan, Cheezly (all the way from across the pond!), whoopie pies, and cake by the slice (including a gluten-free version of the famous carrot cake).

NH has precious few all-veg restaurants, and Cafe Indigo is at the top of the heap for quality, value and mindfulness.  I think it’s really important to support them and show them that the demand for vegan food is still high!  If you haven’t been to their brunch yet, DO it!   You can go this weekend ;)

Cafe Indigo is located at 128 H Hall Street in Concord, NH.  http://www.cafeindigo.com/

Cafe Indigo: Beyond the Brunch

So it’s pretty much a given that Cafe Indigo in Concord is THE place to be in southern NH for Sunday brunch (well, if you’re a vegan, that is).  And now that they’ve scaled back the frequency to just twice a month (second and fourth Sundays only), it’s even more of a special occasion.

The thing about all this brunch hubbub is that I often forget that Cafe Indigo is open for breakfast and lunch every day during the week, and you don’t even have to pay $15!  My mom and I enjoyed a light lunch here a few Thursdays ago and it was more than satisfactory.

While a few menu items overlap, in many respects the lunch experience here is quite different from the brunch experience.  It’s far less crowded, for one, and far less expensive, for two.  I wasn’t particularly hungry on the occasion in question, so I ordered a bowl of the soup of the day (which the waitress, oddly enough, couldn’t describe to me — she said something to the effect of “it’s seitan…and vegetables…and I really don’t know how to describe it, but it’s good”).

Soup from Cafe Indigo

Soup du jour from Cafe Indigo, served with a slice of homemade cornbread.

I wish she had put a bit more effort into her description because this soup was a DEAD RINGER for chicken noodle, which I unfortunately never liked very much.  But if you do, or you did and now you’re vegan so you miss it, you should try the Cafe Indigo version for sure!  It was served with a big piece of sweet cornbread, which I accidentally ate a huge chunk of before I took the photo — hence the hiding behind the bowl.

The photo doesn’t look like much, but I can assure you it tasted just like chicken noodle soup, only with seitan instead of chicken chunks.  I don’t know how they got the broth to taste so authentic but it was really spot-on.  A bit of a twist, texture-wise, to use orzo pasta instead of more traditional noodles, but the flavor was unaffected.  Plenty of veggies, too, to satisfy us healthy-types.

My mom’s portabella wrap (not pictured — my mom is still a bit wary of the food-blog thing) was also quite tasty.  I was granted a few bites in trade for a few spoonfuls of soup.

We ended the meal with a slice of the famous, award-winning carrot cake, which is definitely not pictured because we dove into it far too eagerly.  Next time I will try to remember to snap a photo for you.

While it still can’t top their brunch, a midday meal at Cafe Indigo is a good, much less expensive way to sample what they have to offer.  I will definitely be back, next time hopefully with more of an appetite so I can try something more personally preferable.  If you find yourself hungry in Concord, I highly recommend stopping by!

Cafe Indigo is located at 128 H Hall Street (off the beaten path, in what can perhaps best be described as an industrial strip mall?) in Concord, NH.  http://www.cafeindigo.com/

Lovely vegan attempt at Eden in Amherst

One of my family’s favorite local spots to eat is Eden Restaurant and Lounge in Salzburg Square off of Route 101.  It’s got an upscale atmosphere but it’s not too fancy, not too expensive, and the food is generally great.  And the complementary bread is a really tasty herbed flatbread with tomatoes, which my (also vegan) sister and I usually devour before anyone else has even noticed its presence.  Basically, Eden is “special” enough that we wind up eating there a lot for special occasions.  There’s a wide variety of omni cuisine there, though it definitely leans toward being Mediterranean-inspired if it leans anywhere.

My standby (a.k.a. the dish I’ve had to order 90% of the time because it is the only vegan option on  the menu that is hearty enough to be considered a meal) is the Lebanese Sampler, recently renamed from the Lebanese Tasting.  It’s served in a square dish with four also square compartments, and each compartment holds a different Lebanese item: hummus, dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice), tabouli salad, and a generous serving of pita bread.  Well, although this dish is indeed delicious, as I’ve said I order it nearly every time, so on the most recent “special occasion” I decided to try something new.

The bottom of Eden’s menu states “Vegetarian items available upon request,” and my mom (who is not in fact vegetarian, but eats that way most of the time) has lauded their “vegetarian sampler” in the past.  So when the waiter got around to me, I asked if it would be possible to prepare a vegan sampler of some sort (and reasoned that if it was too much trouble I could always just go with the ol’ faithful standby).  He explained that for the (ovo-lacto-)vegetarians, the cook usually just takes one of those same compartmented plates used for the Lebanese Sampler and fills it with a selection of side dishes prepared for the (meaty) main courses.  Not the best, sure, but sounded good to me, especially when a look at the non-veg menu revealed that beans, risotto, sweet potato fries, and basmati rice were among the choices — decidedly more filling than a little hummus and pita!  My sister and I decided to go for it.  In a twist of irony, Mom went with the Lebanese Sampler.

About five minutes later the head chef came out to talk to me, basically affirming that he would pick some sides and cook ’em up for us.  I reiterated that we were vegan, so no milk or eggs should be used.  He gave all signs of understanding and returned to the kitchen.

In a short amount of time, the entire rest of the family had their food – everyone but my sister and me.  We waited about 5 minutes more for our meals, which was actually pretty exciting since I figured they must be cooking up something awesome for us if it took extra long.

Ad hoc vegan sampler from Eden in Amherst

Clockwise from top left: Pineapple salsa, dolma and hummus, roasted asparagus and tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Well, as is often the case in life, there was good news and bad news.  First, though, my EXTREME apologies for the low-quality picture: it’s dark in there and I thought a flash photo would attract a lot of unwanted attention. My photo does not do the food justice!

The good news: This food was indeed 100% vegan, and DELICIOUS!  The one place where the picture DOES do the food justice is in what’s evident in the bottom half: the mushroom-and-onion quarter and the asparagus quarter are already half-eaten! Evidently I already had started chowing down before remembering I was supposed to blog about this and needed a picture!  Oops.  The food was as tasty as it should be: sweet but pungent salsa (had red onion and bell pepper chunks in it), above-average hummus and dolma (that really is a compliment – I’m very picky about my hummus), bold roasted veggies, and simple but flavorful mushrooms and onions.  I certainly have no complaints about the cooking – everything was prepared perfectly.

The bad news: LOOK at that plate again.  I mentioned how I’d already eaten some asparagus and some mushrooms, but those sections were certainly not overflowing when they were brought to the table – I don’t even think one mushroom slice arrived overlapping another.  So my dinner consisted of:

  • about a quarter-cup, max, of mushrooms and onions
  • three or four small asparagus stalks and maybe 1/2 of a medium tomato
  • a quarter-cup of pineapple salsa
  • one single dolma
  • and maybe three tablespoons of hummus?!

Does this seem a little, uh, sparse to anyone else?  I know it’s a popular conception that we vegans subsist on iceberg lettuce, air, and our own ethical superiority, but really — that is not enough food!  There is a teeny bit of protein in the hummus/dolma corner, but nothing with real sticking power and definitely not enough calories to be considered more than a small snack.  I wish they’d at least added some beans or basmati rice under the mushrooms.   By the time I got home, I was already considering a snack – not something you want to be thinking about after paying for a relatively fancy meal.  I think the next time I go, I’ll try to figure out a non-rude way to ask the chef if I can be the one to choose the four sides, instead of him.  Maybe he just didn’t realize how sparse it was until it was finished?  Or maybe the basmati rice, the beans, and the risotto are all prepared with cream or butter or something?

One more word of warning if you do decide to go here (and you should go, it really is a nice place – just play it safe and order the Lebanese Sampler unless you’re planning on going to Subway later): the stuffed eggplant roll appetizer is NOT vegan, though the menu says nothing to the contrary – the walnut-pomegranate filling also contains yogurt. Sorry dudes :(

Eden Restaurant and Lounge is located at 292 Route 101 in Amherst, NH, in Salzburg Square.  http://edenrestaurantandlounge.com/