Monday, March 2, 2015

The Best Thing I Ate This Month That Wasn't A Veggie Burger

(technically last month - February)

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This was an exciting "best thing I ate this month" - I was so excited to try the new Chao Slices made by Field Roast (the same company that makes those delicious vegan sausages, and the veggie burger patty I was finally able to try while I was in L.A. last year!)

I had been stalking the vegan foods section of Whole Foods for weeks looking for these, but finally found them at a local natural food store in my neighborhood.

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The Chao slices are sealed in one package together, but surprisingly come apart easily without sticking to each other. This is one of those rare vegan cheeses which tastes good plain! I ate some slices on their own, and then a few on crackers. One evening after a friend and I finished a bottle of wine, I drunkenly ate several chao slices, and they were just the perfect craving-satisfier at that moment! So this product should definitely be included when you have a vegan wine and cheese party.

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Of course, the real test for this vegan cheese was the grilled cheese sandwich.

The verdict? Delicious!
It did seem to take a bit longer to melt than other vegan cheeses, but it was worth it - so yummy! Perfect comfort food on these cold winter days!

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I can't wait to try the other flavors once I am able to locate them in stores... especially the spicy tomato cayenne pepper one! And you can bet I will be putting these slices on my veggie burgers quite often from now on!

Chao Slices
Purchased at Greenbay Marketplace in Astoria, NY
Check Field Roast's website to see where else they might be sold.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Ode to the The Cinnamon Snail (and their Smoked Chili Bourbon BBQ Seitan Burger)

Do you passionately love and adore the Cinnamon Snail vegan food truck? Or do you still have yet to try its delicious sandwiches, burgers, donuts and other mind-blowing desserts? Either way, you only have two weeks left to get your hands on some of the best vegan food in the city…

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Tragically, the Cinnamon Snail announced that at the end of this month, their food truck will no longer be operating.

This news hit me hard, like the way you feel as a kid when you drop your ice cream cone on the ground (or, even as an adult, still!) – I have always looked forward to days off when I can grab breakfast or lunch from the Cinnamon Snail, or weekends when I happily find excuses to run errands in Manhattan near where the truck will be parked, so I can pick up a box of donuts to bring home. It’s hard to believe that these days are coming to an end!

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Seriously, how incredible are these donuts?!?!

What the future is for the Snail crew and their amazing food is uncertain at this time (read their facebook post for more details), so if you have been craving a bourbon crème brulee donut or a decadently delicious veggie burger, now is the time to get one, before they are all gone! And if you still have not tried the Cinnamon Snail’s food, please do yourself a favor and try it at least once before you no longer have the chance to – even if you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan, I promise you will be blown away!

Which brings me to the subject of this post…

The smoked chili bourbon BBQ seitan burger with jalapeno mac-n-cheese, smoked almond bacon, arugula, and chipotle mayo on grilled herb focaccia.

Yes, you read that correctly. Are you drooling? I was, the minute I saw that sign advertising the daily special.

My most recent trip to the Cinnamon Snail was on a Saturday when I had an early morning appointment in Manhattan. Remembering that the Snail had said they would be parked on 14th street that day, I eagerly made my way there for lunch. Bonus: no line! A rarity for the Snail!

Because it is FREEZING outside in NYC right now, I resisted the temptation to be one of those people messily eating a meal on the subway, and patiently waited until I got home to dig into what sounded like a veritable holy grail of veggie burgers.

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And I was not disappointed!

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The toppings are a foodie/vegan/glutton’s dream come true. Just look at that mac-n-cheese! Okay, it’s a little smushed from being carried all the way back to Queens, but just take a minute to pause and process all the delicious flavors that are combined in this incredible burger: bourbon, barbecue, mac-n-cheese, bacon, jalapeno. And it's all vegan. Holy hell! And each one was as delicious as it sounds, coming together to create a masterpiece.

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The seitan patty was sweet, spicy, smokey, savory, hearty, and simply amazing. It’s thick, it will fill you up – and it holds together like a proper veggie patty should!

The herbed focaccia bun was sweet and soft, and tasted oh-so-good. My only complaint (literally, my ONLY complaint about this entire burger) was that the bun was a bit large for even this monster patty and luxurious array of toppings (probably because of the fact that the bun is square and has all that extra bread at the corners with no patty or toppings to fill it - but this is a pretty minor, nit-picky complaint in the face of so much awesomeness).

If I could narrow down all my gushing praise of this burger to one word, that would be simply:
WOW!

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This burger was the weekly special last week, but I don’t think it’s on the specials for this week (or I would probably be seriously considering skipping work to go eat it).
However, you can try the Ancho Chili Seitan Burger which I have also reviewed (and also gave 5 stars to) and which is on the regular menu! And hopefully if the Cinnamon Snail is reincarnated as a brick-and-mortar restaurant or some other type of food vendor, they will bring back the smoked chili bourbon BBQ seitan burger… as its #1 fan, I think I would cry if I never had the chance to taste that deliciousness ever again!

And of course, don’t forget to try a donut (vanilla bourbon crème brulee donuts – need I say more??? The Cinnamon Snail understands my love/need for all things bourbon-flavored!) or another dessert!

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I got a bourbon hazelnut cheesecake brownie, which I shamelessly ate on the subway on my way home (dessert before dinner is allowed when the dessert is the less messy of the two options, and the food is so good you can’t wait until you get home!).

Go out and show your love for the Cinnamon Snail and eat some amazing food in the next week and a half before the truck is off the streets for good!

Cinnamon Snail, you are so loved – and you will be so missed!
Thank you for all the love and deliciousness you have shared over the years!

Cost: $11.00
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 5       Bun: 4      Toppings: 5

The Cinnamon Snail
Parking in various locations around Manhattan - but only until the end of February 2015! - check their Twitter feed for current location
201.675.3755
YumVeggieBurger review #154

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Venice Ale House

Okay, this is the last belated veggie burger review from my trip to Los Angeles last December – I’ve got some great NYC veggie burger reviews to post soon, for those who are sick of seeing the lovely warm-weather California photos and want a local veggie burger here in NYC to warm you up on a cold snowy day (like today…)

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Venice Ale House was just down the street from the hotel we stayed at in Venice Beach, and with its outdoor seating looking out onto the beach, we couldn’t resist stopping here for brunch one afternoon. I had already seen a few vegan items on the menu before I spotted the veggie burger, but once I saw that it was called “The Mother Trucker Veggie Burger” I laughed and knew I had to try it!

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Yes, that’s a huge sprig of rosemary sticking out of a really deliciously tasty bun (soft and sweet, studded with sesame seeds).

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The patty could stand to be a little less mushy – the texture ended up feeling like a thick paste in my mouth – but the flavor was excellent! In particular, I enjoyed the spicy kick that hits you after the first bite! The standard toppings the burger came with were lettuce, tomato, raw red onion (ehh, I think I’ve expressed my dislike of raw onion on burgers before) and chipotle aioli (although the staff said the burger was vegan, I’m guessing they were not thinking about the aioli). Because I was on vacation, I splurged and spent an extra dollar for avocado as well.

Mushiness of the patty aside, taste-wise, this was one of the better burgers I had on this trip! And the roasted potatoes it was served with were quite enjoyable as well. I wish we could have stayed longer, because I would have been glad to come back and try one of the vegan breakfast scrambles on the menu too.

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Sunset over Venice Beach

Cost: $11.00 (plus $1.00 extra for avocado)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4       Bun: 5      Toppings: 4

Venice Ale House
2 Rose Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
310.314.8253

YumVeggieBurger review #153

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Neptune's Net

Wow, January was a busy month! I moved into a new apartment, and am still unpacking… which explains why I have still not finished posting all of my veggie burger reviews from my trip to Los Angeles back in December!

So here’s another California veggie burger review:

One of the best parts of our L.A. vacation was driving up the coast for beach days in Malibu.

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One evening, after watching a beautiful sunset, we realized we were starving, and the closest place was a seafood restaurant called Neptune’s Net. Hopeful that I would find something there that I could eat, we ventured inside.

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Lo and behold, one of the few vegetarian items on the menu was a “garden burger”!
They could not tell me if it was vegan or not, so I’d err on the side of caution and assume it’s only vegetarian, as many pre-made patties unfortunately are (and some of the yelp reviews sound pretty certain that it’s not vegan).

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It was pretty simple, just some shredded iceburg lettuce, a pale tomato slice, and a generous serving of mayo, all on a very standard, squishy, fast-food-esque bun studded with sesame seeds on top.

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The patty itself wasn’t bad. A rather standard “garden burger”, it was fried well, and maybe I was just hungry, but it even tasted pretty decent for a pre-made patty! It was more of a vegetable mash than faux-meat texture. I was trying to figure out if it was a brand I had tried before, but couldn’t quite place it.

Overall, not a great veggie burger – but after a day on the beach, if you’re a starving vegetarian and just need something in your stomach, at least Neptune’s Net offers that!

Cost: $8.45
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 2      Toppings: 1

Neptune’s Net
42505 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA
310.457.3095

YumVeggieBurger review #152

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Field Roast Hand-Formed Veggie Burger

This probably officially makes me a dork, but one of the things I was looking forward to as I planned my visit to Los Angeles was not just the new veggie burgers I could try in local restaurants, but the possibility of new veggie burgers at the grocery stores as well.

I’ve been wanting to try Field Roast’s veggie burgers for ages (I stalk them on facebook) because I love their vegan sausages so much. But, alas, I have been unable to find them in New York! I’ve checked multiple Whole Foods locations and numerous local natural food stores, but it seems they have just not made it to the Big Apple yet.

So I was thrilled to find them at a Whole Foods in California!

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At $8.99 for a pack of four, they were a bit pricy, but I was so excited to try them that I figured the price would be worth it.

Eager to finally taste them, I didn’t even wait for lunch or dinner – I fried one up for breakfast the next morning.

I was a bit dubious about the look of the patty as I dropped it into the frying pan (but I guess that’s the “hand-formed” shape the packaging advertised?) and they seemed thinner than I was expecting a good, hearty burger to be (they come with all four smashed together in the package and you kind of have to peel them off of each other).

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And I was unfortunately kind of disappointed with the result when I tasted my breakfast burger patty. There were some good flavors in it, but it was super oily. I had fried it in a tiny bit of butter, but it seemed like the patty had plenty of oils in it already, and by the time it was cooked up it was extremely greasy. The texture was pretty good though – a bit like the Field Roast sausages, but different (heartier, and… meatier?).

As underwhelming as my breakfast had been, I was determined to give these burgers another chance. The guesthouse we were staying in had a rooftop deck with a barbecue grill, and we’d been planning to cook dinner up there one night:

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So that’s what we did.

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Knowing from my earlier experiment that the burger already contained plenty of oil, I didn’t even bother to brush olive oil on the patty like I normally would when barbecuing veggie burgers. I just dropped it on the grill, and let it cook…

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…and it turns out, these might be the BEST veggie burgers EVER for cooking on a barbecue grill!

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It cooked perfectly, heating up all the way through and getting nice char marks from the grill, while never sticking or falling apart (a flaw of many other veggie burgers). I was amazed!

And then for the taste test:

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I went a little overboard with the ketchup…

DELICIOUS! It seemed that grilling was the secret to success with these patties. It no longer tasted too oily, and the texture was perfect. The flavor was rich and hearty – they’re made with barley, carrots, and celery, and you could see bits of the actual vegetables in the patty, yet the seitan base of the patty held it all together so well. Paired with some roasted habanero peppers and a toasted bun, it was a perfect burger!

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I was so happy that my first impression of these burgers turned out to be wrong. Maybe there is a way to cook them in a frying pan that works better than the method I used, but I think these burgers are designed and destined for the barbecue grill. And if you have ever been frustrated by veggie burger failures on the grill, you should definitely try these! They will change your life! And they’re vegan, so everyone can enjoy them (unless you can’t eat gluten, then you’re out of luck with these).

It’s just too bad we don’t seem to get them in New York yet… but maybe by the time summer (and barbecue season) rolls around…

Or, you know, you could just fly out to L.A. – it’s a pretty cool city, afterall!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Field Roast Hand-Formed Burger
purchased at: Whole Foods in Venice, CA
price: $8.99 for a package of 4 patties

YumVeggieBurger review #151

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Café Gratitude

I was really excited to try the veggie burger at Café Gratitude, because numerous people had recommended this restaurant to me as one of the best vegan spots in L.A.!

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The veggie burger is described as “magical” on the menu, which made me smile (all of the menu items get their own creative adjective).

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The burger arrived on a hearty, whole grain bun. This bread was pretty great quality bread, but it was far too large and thick for the size of the patty and toppings! Unfortunately, all I could taste in the first few bites (in most bites, actually) was bread. And it was so filling I could not eat it all, and resorted to eating the second half of my burger as an open-faced sandwich, removing the top half of the bun.

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The patty itself was much better – a tasty blend of beans and spices. I wish it had been larger, as it seemed surprisingly small to be paired with such an oversized bun! It was also a bit mushy, and I thought it would have benefited from a crispier outside or some other texture mixed in.

The toppings were pretty simple: lettuce, tomato, raw red onion, and pickled cucumbers. The pickles were nice, but there weren’t many of them, so I was only able to taste them in a couple bites. I think the mustard sauce and spicy chipotle ketchup just got absorbed into the mushy patty and bready bun, as I only tasted a hint of them. And again, like the patty, there were not enough toppings to match the oversized bun!

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Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed with Café Gratitude’s veggie burger (especially for $13…). It was a decent burger, definitely higher quality than the average veggie burger from a non-vegan restaurant, but I think it was too over-hyped for me. I would love to hear what others liked about it, since I feel like I must be missing something, or maybe my taste is just very different (or I’ve been spoiled by some seriously stellar veggie burgers?).

But my omnivorous boyfriend, cheerfully game for another vegan restaurant adventure with me, absolutely loved the “Humble” Indian Curry Bowl that he ordered – so Café Gratitude must be doing something right to win over an avid-meat-eater like that!

I wish we’d have more time in Los Angeles (2 weeks is not long enough!) to come back so I could try some other dishes on the menu, as I have noticed that sometimes the best veggie burgers are not found in all-vegan restaurants, and sometimes the best all-vegan restaurants do a lot better on other menu items than the veggie burger.

Cost: $13.00
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 4       Bun: 3      Toppings: 3

Café Gratitude
639 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
323.580.6383
additional locations in Venice, Santa Cruz, and Berkley, CA as well as one in Kansas City, MO (check website for addresses)

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View from our hike to the Hollywood sign

YumVeggieBurger review #150

Friday, January 9, 2015

First Veggie Burger Review from California: Seed

Happy New Year!

2015 has been non-stop so far – but all good things. After a lovely vacation and Christmas in Los Angeles, I’m back in New York, back at work, and catching up on veggie burger reviews. And as promised, I tried a few veggie burgers while I was out in California...

First up: Seed.
I picked this vegan restaurant to try because it had so many good reviews on Yelp, and had SIX veggie burgers on its menu! (The fact that it was close to where we were staying in Venice Beach helped too, of course).

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I ordered the Simmered BBQ Seitan Burger, because it sounded like something unique that I had not tried before.

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It came topped with greens, sprouts, vegan mayo, and of course the barbecue sauce which the seitan patty was smothered with. Yum! I liked the barbecue flavor. The ciabatta bun was very good, with great flavor and texture, and just the right size for the burger – not too big or too small. I’m a bit of a Goldilocks about burger buns!

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Now, I’ve had some seitan-based burgers before, where the seitan is mixed with other vegetables or proteins to create a unique burger patty. But this is the first time I’ve just had a slab of seitain on its own as a burger patty, and I have to say it was a little disappointing. I find the texture of seitan enjoyable in something like a stir-fry, for example, but it was a bit too soft and spongy for a burger.

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Simmered BBQ Seitan Burger
Cost: $11.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 4      Toppings: 4


My boyfriend, normally a meat-eater, had generously agreed to accompany me to a few all-vegan restaurants on this trip. And since he ordered a burger at Seed as well, I got to try two burgers in one meal!

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He chose the Mediterranean Burger, which came on the same delicious ciabatta bun, and was topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a very tasty red pepper vegan aioli sauce.

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The patty was described on the menu as “Eric’s original bean & grain burger” and was a much more traditional veggie burger patty than my seitan patty. It was really tasty, albeit a bit crumbly, and fell apart as I ate it. I’m not sure what about the patty or the toppings was necessarily “Mediterranean”, but whatever the flavor profile was, I liked it! I actually had food-envy as I found my boyfriend’s burger much more enjoyable than my seitan burger (that might have been a first for our relationship!).

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Mediterranean Burger
Cost: $10.95
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4       Bun: 4      Toppings: 4


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Seed
1604 Pacific Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
310.396.1604

Everything else on the menu at Seed sounded delightful (so many yummy vegan dishes!), and I had hoped I would have time to return and try something else – but there are so many vegetarian/vegan restaurants in L.A. (I never thought I’d say this – but I think L.A. has NYC beat for sheer quantity of vegan food!) and I only had two weeks to explore and try as many of them as I could! More veggie burger reviews coming soon...

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Sunset over Venice Beach

YumVeggieBurger review #149

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Poe's Public House

The morning after Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I ventured out of our hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia to find a place serving breakfast (well, really brunch by the time we woke up, but it was a Friday). As one might expect, most of the local restaurants were closed for the holidays. But we found a pub (yet another new establishment that has opened since the last time I visited) that was open and serving food, and that sounded good enough to us!

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Yup, Poe’s Public House is named after that Poe – Edgar Allen himself. There was a lot of tacky signage referencing the poet, and particularly celebrating the fact that he dropped out of the University of Virginia (this pub is right across the street from the university). So you can pretty well imagine that when students aren’t away for the holidays, this pub is frequented by heavy-drinking frat boys more than studious poets.

There were not a lot of vegetarian choices on the menu – but I got excited when I saw that they had a veggie burger made with a No Bull veggie patty!

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Served on a brioche roll (not the best brioche I’ve ever had, but it was okay for a pub) the burger was topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, and Sriracha mayo. The mayo gave a nice kick of spice to what was otherwise a pretty standard pairing of bun and toppings.

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But patty itself was delicious, as expected!

Recognizing the strong flavor of sundried tomatoes in it, I realized it was the Sundried Tomato varity of No Bull Burgers – which is actually one of the vegan patties, even though some of their burgers contain eggs. But our waiter could not tell me whether the bun the patty was served on was vegan or not (and obviously the mayo was not), and there’s no guarantee that they always use the sundried tomato variety since the menu made no mention of it (they could switch it up with the Original flavor), so vegans should proceed with caution. But Charlottesville vegetarians, I kind of envy you for living in a place where No Bull burgers are on the menu at your local restaurants! (can we get some up here in NY?)

Once again, I was distracted by my burger and forgot to take a photo of the pub itself. Oops! I promise I will be more diligent about documenting each restaurant I visit on my upcoming trip to Los Angeles!

Cost: $10.00
(fries included) Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 5       Bun: 3      Toppings: 3

Poe’s Public House
1517 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
434.984.4653

YumVeggieBurger review #148

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tell me where to find the best veggie burgers in Los Angeles!

YumVeggieBurger is going to California!

I'm so excited to finally try some veggie burgers on the west coast! I'll be staying in LA, but there's always the possibility of driving down to San Diego or somewhere else... so please send me any and all of your veggie burger recommendations for the state of California!

california

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Blue Mountain Brewery

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

I spent the holiday weekend down in Virginia visiting my parents. On the day after Thanksgiving, we took a drive through the mountains and stopped at the Blue Mountain Brewery for dinner (and drinks, obviously). Either we were still full from Thanksgiving dinner, or the portions there were really large – but we ended up with more food than we could eat!

Including, much to my surprise… a veggie burger! (I ate about ¾ of this and I was too full to finish it!)

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Note the flight of beers in the background!

I was very happy to see that the patty was a house-made black bean patty. Unfortunately, it was quite heavy on the beans, so even though I could see some bits of peppers and onions in it, it felt like I was just eating a bunch of beans mashed together and fried a bit on the outside. Note: the patty contains cheese, so it is not suitable for vegans!

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The avocado, lettuce, and tomato were nice and fresh (I love avocado on a burger – especially when you don’t have to pay extra for it!) and the chipotle sauce was a slight kick of spice but it seemed like they were keeping it pretty mild to appeal to customers who might not like spicy things (same for the patty, which had some seasoning but I would have liked to taste more!). I requested my burger without cheese, but it does come with cheese if you order straight off the menu.

And the organic 7-grain bun was soft and fresh as well (from a local bakery), nice and tasty, and a good size to accommodate the patty and toppings. They do have gluten free buns available upon request, which was a nice touch to see.

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The burger came with a choice of side – I got the potato salad, as if I hadn’t eaten enough potatoes at Thanksgiving the night before… ha!

I realize I can’t expect a 5-star burger from a place that is focusing its energy on beer, of course. And while I’d rank this one as “average” it was still far better than a generic frozen veggie patty, and it was the perfect food to fill my stomach while I drank a couple pints of cider (I’m not a beer drinker – so I left the flights to my parents and my boyfriend, but Blue Mountain Brewery serves Bold Rock cider which is an awesome local Virginia cider that I wish I could buy in NY!).

I didn’t know I would be reviewing a burger here until we sat down and looked at the menu, so I did not get a photo of the outside of the brewery – and by the time we left it was dark. But here’s a photo of the view at one of the scenic overlooks we stopped at on the way to the brewery:

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And you’ll have to trust my word that the view from the brewery itself is just as gorgeous. Go at sunset, get a seat by a window (or outside, in warmer weather!).

Cost: $9.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 2       Bun: 4      Toppings: 4

Blue Mountain Brewery
9519 Critzers Shop Road
Afton, VA 22920
540.456.0820

YumVeggieBurger review #147

Thursday, November 20, 2014

MorningStar Farms Roasted Garlic and Quinoa Burger

I spotted these Roasted Garlic and Quinoa Burgers in the frozen food section at my local grocery store and thought I’d give them a try:

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Unlike some of MorningStar’s products, these burgers are vegan! Since they are branded as “new” I wonder if this is a conscious effort on the brand’s part to make products that are accessible to more people.

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They fried up well in my cast-iron pan with a bit of olive oil. The quinoa and rice seemed to really soak up the oil, so careful how much you fry the patty in if you don’t want it to get too oily! The quinoa and rice made for a rather soft patty, so although it held together just fine in the frying pan, I don’t imagine it would survive as well on a barbecue grill.

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I kept my burger simple, serving it on a whole wheat bun topped with just a couple tomato slices and mayo. I wanted to be able to taste the patty without masking it with too many other flavors.

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The taste was very pleasant – just a faint hint of garlic, not too strong (when “roasted garlic” is the first flavor listed, I worried it would be overpoweringly garlic-y, but that was not the case at all!). The quinoa and rice were the most prominent ingredients, but the peppers also stood out – as well as a few lentils scattered in the mix, much to my surprise! It was very light, not a super filling patty – you’d probably want a heartier one if you were really hungry, but for a light, healthy meal this would be perfect.

Overall, this is a nice addition to MorningStar’s line of products. It’s not a hearty, “meaty” burger like you might traditionally imagine, but it’s a tasty patty that would be just as good served on its own as on a bun, and a nice new option to have available in the vegetarian frozen food section.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

MorningStar Farms Roasted Garlic and Quinoa Burger
purchased at: Key Food in Queens, New York
price: $5.99 for a box of 4 patties

YumVeggieBurger review #146