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Today is our one year wedding anniversary!  We spent the weekend relaxing in Nevada City enjoying the beautiful weather, stunning art, brilliant wines and satisfying locally brewed beers.

We also ate.   And ate.  And ate the most inspiring local and organically grown foods and culinary creations, the darkest chocolate cakes and the most decadent truffles.

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butternut squash tacos

The California Food Literacy Center is a phenomenal new organization whose objective is to educate our community about healthy food choices, the environmental impact of our food system and our local community contribution to the food we eat. The Center involves students, teachers, parents and the local agricultural community to teach these issues. They are currently working in an under-served and low income school in Oak Park, Sacramento teaching children how to read labels, and introducing them to wonderful winter vegetables such as broccoli.

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The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

We have been hearing quite a bit of excitement around town about The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar in Midtown Sacramento, so we decided to go see what this hot new restaurant has to offer vegetarians.  We made an appointment and headed down to interview Chef/Owner John Bays, Barman/Owner Matt Nurge, “Super Connector” Sonny Mayugba and two investors Larry Barrows and Laurie Rich.  We were also given a sampling of the food and drink.

From the moment we walked in, it was apparent that the team at The Red Rabbit are clearly committed to serving vegetarian and vegan guests. Larry and Laurie were brought into the project early and began talking to the team about menu options so that the restaurant could be all inclusive.  As vegetarians, they felt it was a smart business decision and they were met with zero hesitation.

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Dad's Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Dad's sign

As a vegetarian diner at a sandwich shop, it is a really exciting day when I can order something more than bread, tomato, cream cheese and cucumber. Whoever deemed cream cheese the be all and end all for vegetarians should hide under a rock in shame.

That’s why I am actually giddy about the vegan meatloaf sandwich at Dad’s.

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Mayahuel Tequila Museo on Urbanspoon

Team Mayahuel

Creating a vegetarian menu

Tequila Museo Mayahuel (ma-yah-oo-well) is a phenomenal fine dining Mexican restaurant on the corner of K and 12th Street in Sacramento.  The restaurant is presented as an interactive museum that houses three culinary exhibits showcasing authentic Mexican experiences and culture.

The first exhibit is Mexican tequila, its namesake.  Learn the history of tequila and sample some of the finest traditionally made from Mexico.  The second exhibit is “Maya’s Kitchen”, a hub that features a bar setting offering a demonstration of traditional Mexican street food (with the preparation of a well trained chef).  The central exhibit is the main dining experience.  Each dish is an exploration of authentic Mexican preparation techniques and ingredients.

Until now, when eating at Mayahuel, I found very few items on the menu that I could eat as a vegetarian. I have enviously watched on as friends enjoyed culinary delights such as mole. Until now.

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Cafe Capricho on Urbanspoon

The Strand salad

Cafe Capricho is a true “mom and pop” cafe.  Ed is generally in the front and Marina is the woman behind the curtain, making the delicious, honest and fresh food we all love.  The cafe itself is full of life and family centric.  The Mexican art and the brightly painted walls make you feel like you can let your hair down and stretch your legs out under the table.  The owners, Ed and Marina, have a strong sense of the community.  They have always known us by name, so I know they value us.

The food ranges from hamburgers and fries to burritos loaded with a variety of meats, to the freshest fruit topped salads, to vegan bowls loaded with greens and squashes.  My all time favorite dishes are the butternut squash quesadilla and the side of platanos fritos.

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Maalouf's Taste of Lebanon on Urbanspoon

 

I was raised appreciating the finest Mediterranean foods.  Hummus, falafal, fresh pita, rose water and skewered foods dipped in garlic infused butters.  Nothing brings me back to happy childhood memories more than a perfect falafel.  Growing up in Los Angeles, I have unreasonably high standards for texture, moisture and flavor.  That is why I will only eat it at one restaurant in Sacramento- Maalouf’s.

When I moved here years ago, I asked folks where to find the best falafel.  My good friend Christine, who has never steered me wrong on a recommendation for anything from food to hotels, told me that I could end my search.  All I needed was Maaloof’s.  Hello, King of falafel, my search ended.  Maalouf’s- Taste of Lebanon, is a small family style restaurant in a strip mall on Fulton Avenue sandwiched between a cultural center and some irrelevant pizza shop.  It is a diamond in the rough.

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Maria Apolinar stands behind the counter inside a small square structure called Island Tacos at the corner of Folsom and 51st.  She’s the neighborhood mom serving up all the basics- tacos, burritos, quesadillas and tamales. Anything you can heat up and serve up from a hot plate.  She is completely charming and accommodating.  A little known fact is that all the cooking is actually done by her husband, Antonio.  They have been married for thirty years and have four children.  On weekends and some evenings, you can meet two of her sons who help out regularly.

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Magpie Cafe is spectacular in so many ways. Their focus on local, organic and fresh ingredients got me through the door. And then…I had the pleasure of sitting at a bar table next to the kitchen counter so I could see every single dish coming out. My poor waitress had to deal with me every time she walked by answering all my extremely excited questions.

I was slightly distressed to see the majority of the menu being meat heavy. Most dishes looked like they could not be pulled apart easily, yet all had exquisite line-ups of seasonal vegetables and carefully crafted risottos.

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