Tag Archives: manchester

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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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/

Taste of Manchester tomorrow!

Has anyone thought about going to the Taste of Manchester?  I’ve been considering it — but I’m leaning more toward not going, simply because the lineup doesn’t look promising for us vegans.  I’d rather not pay $20 only to wind up with some white rice from Thousand Crane and a cantaloupe flower from Edible Arrangements.  But what do I know?  Maybe Fratello’s will surprise us…

If anyone does go, though, I’ll happily post your report here!

Details here from The Hippo if you want to go.  Today is the last day to get tickets at the discounted price — they’re $25 tomorrow.

A Market: Kind of Like Whole Foods, But More Expensive

Those of us unfortunate enough to live in the awkward, politically-undefined space between liberal, neo-hippie Concord and liberal, college-town-heavy Massachussetts have precious few choices when it comes to natural-type shopping.  (Hyphens!)  Even the non-healthy vegans are frustrated by this, as it means a crippling dearth of Daiya cheese, Gardein patties and Follow Your Heart sour cream.  This was never a problem for me when I lived in Chicago, or even Houston for that matter, because I could always depend on Whole Foods — pricey as it is — to fill the gap in my diet that no Kroger, Jewel, or Shaw’s could touch.

Now, I for one would love to have an explanation as to why there are 10 Whole Foods Markets in the greater Boston area yet none in the entire state of New Hampshire (there’s even one in Maine, for goodness’ sake).  But until WFM cleans up its act, or at least brings it filthily to Manchester, we NHers will have to rely on my dear old standby, A Market.

A Market Natural Foods in Manchester

A Market Natural Foods in Manchester

A Market Natural Foods is a solid alternative to Whole Foods in that it fills just that gap I was talking about earlier.  Various fake meats like Tofurky, Field Roast, and Gardein abound, and there’s enough non-dairy dairy to stock any vegan’s fridge with a wide selection of cheeses and milks.  A small coffee bar and modest selection of prepared foods offers a quick choice if you’re in a rush.  They’re also the only store I know of that sells certified fair-trade bananas.  And yes, they do carry both kinds of Daiya.

They’ve really stepped up their game lately, too, as evidenced by the surge in new products carried (e.g.: Daiya, Tofurky’s new line of pre-seasoned tempeh strips, So Delicious coconut milk kefir) and the food sample displays at the end of nearly every aisle.  It’s nice to see that they’ve retained their country store charm while operating, business-wise, more on par with a larger chain.  Granted, you can’t do all your shopping here, unless you’re the sort of person who can afford to live in The Flume, but bounce back and forth between here and Hannaford and I think you’ll be all set.

My personal favorite recent discovery at A Market is We Can’t Say It’s Cheese by Wayfare Foods.  It’s a soy-free cheese alternative that comes in four flavors — 2 dips and 2 spreads — and it tastes like cheese!  It’s made from pureed oatmeal (weird, right?) but they’ve really got that nacho-esque, drippy, goopy orange cheese flavor right on.  And a hell of a lot healthier to boot.

 

We Can't Say It's Cheese by Wayfare Foods

We Can't Say It's Cheese varieties -- image from Wayfare's website. Would have taken a picture of mine but it is all gone! :)

All that said, I will probably continue to make monthly pilgrimages to Whole Foods Andover (the closest one to me, at 37 minutes away) to pick up some essentials that A Market has decided to price laughably high (nutritional yeast at nearly $10 per pound comes to mind).  And, of course, for that unbeatable salad bar.  For most specialty items, though, save the gas and just bike to South Willow instead.

A Market Natural Foods is located at 125 Loring Street, Manchester off of South Willow Street.  http://www.amarketnaturalfoods.com/

Vegan by Design…

…So, did anyone go?

Alert! “Vegan by Design” dinner this Wednesday at Mint Bistro

This week’s Hippo has great news for Manchester-area vegans: a completely cruelty-free five-course gourmet dinner, just downtown on Elm Street!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This kind of event is absolutely unheard of around here, but it’s coming this Wednesday to Mint Bistro nonetheless.

Mint is a relatively new spot — it opened in early 2009 IIRC.  It’s on the northier end of Elm but still in the heart of things.  My grandmother was actually the one to recommend it to me, which might (subconsciously) be a reason I’ve never actually been there yet.  Though the Hippo article mentions that the executive chef is trained in vegan cooking, there isn’t much on their “contemporary fusion style” menu that’s vegan-friendly; but as I understand you can ask for something to be cooked up special for you.

That’s on the average day, of course.  This Wednesday is special.  Here’s the course list for the dinner — ready?!  Straight from the Hippo’s mouth:

The menu starts with baby mustard greens in an herb tahini vinaigrette with falafel and a red pepper emulsion.  Next will be summer rolls made with raw vegetables and avocado with a guava-chili marmalade.  The third course is the tomato nigiri with soy grastique, followed by crispy Japanese eggplant with curried roasted root vegetables, toasted almond faro, and coconut-tomato relish.  The meal will finish with fried dough served with a wildberry compote, Asian pear, Zambuca flambee and cinnamon sugar.

WHAT?!  This is so awesome I can’t even get my head around it.  For one, this is happening at a restaurant that usually has zero vegan entrees on the menu.  For another, this guy knows what he’s doing — those courses aren’t just regular omni dishes with the meat and cheese removed.  Third: IN NEW HAMPSHIRE!  They’re offering a five-course vegan dinner IN NEW HAMPSHIRE!  We don’t even have a Whole Foods up here.  This is serious progress.

Now for the bad part.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it!  I’m still waiting to see what my schedule will be this Wednesday night, but I might end up unable to go :(  So I’m counting on you, my fellow southern-NH veggie-types!  I think it’s important we make a good showing so they see that the demand for quality vegan fare is high.  Otherwise this kind of awesome event may not happen again for a long while…and that would be tragic.  I’ll do my best to be there, schedule and budget permitting, but I don’t know for sure.

“Vegan by Design” dinner details:

  • 5 courses
  • $40 per person (prix fixe)
  • Reservations highly recommended — call 603-625-MINT or e-mail roi@mintbistronh.com.

Mint Bistro is located at 1105 Elm Street in Manchester.  http://www.mintbistronh.com/