Saturday, March 29, 2008


UPDATE: Sadly, Veganopolis closed its doors on September 24th, 2008.

Veganopolis is a joint downtown that styles itself like a cafeteria. You order at the cash register and bus your own table afterwards. There is an extensive vegan sandwich and salad menu, and a hot brunch buffet on Saturdays. The space is clean and airy, with big street-facing windows. You can also pick up a few vegan grocery items over by the cash register. The staff in my experience has always been real friendly. It's one of those places that, if it were in another city, you'd expect to be some sort of mecca for vegans. In Portland, it's sort of just another cool place we can go to eat. There is some novelty to it. They make a number of things, like vegan chevre or ricotta, in house. And it's only one of a few places in Portland where you can go and know that everything is vegan. But I think their hours (closes at 5 every day), the their location (downtown), and the fact that they at least appear a little overpriced, gives them less of a draw. But I gotta say, they win hands down for the best sandwich presentation I've experienced in this city thus far.

And their food is good. And not that expensive for what you're getting, really. We got proof of this today. B. and I split a modest plate of their brunch buffet (a little under 8 bucks a pound) while we were waiting for our sandwich, and it was damn tasty. We passed over the typical brunch stand-bys of tofu scramble, french toast, biscuits and so on for a helping of savory bread pudding with asparagus and mushrooms, a little bit of potatoes and a sort of cabbage seitan sausage mixture and it was all delectable. I was glad we went that route as well, because, at 1 pm on a Saturday afternoon, it was pretty busy in there, and Veganopolis is the kind of place where your food takes time even with less customers. So the brunch held us over 'til the purpose of our visit arrived.

Like I said, pretty, huh? The Veganopolis reuben is "braised corned vegan ham," sauerkraut, your choice of dijon mustard or thousand islands, and soy mozarella (is there a vegan fake Swiss out there?). For a side you can get coleslaw, potatoes or a cup of soup -- we went with the soup, which was a tasty tomato bisque, very flavorful with big chunks of tomato. As you can see, the sandwich came with a couple pickle spears arranged on a small bed of baby spinach, with fresh chopped herbs dusted over the plate. The bread was a "rustic rye," and not a stand-out on its own, but it did the job well and was nice and crunchy. This sandwich met the bar in terms of temperature and textures, though the bread was more on the thin toasty side versus dense and absorbent, so this is one of those sandwiches you'll want at least one extra napkin for.

I liked that we got a side and a generous garnish with the sandwich. I think it was probably worth the extra 1.95 over the Vita Cafe's tempeh reuben, which came with no accompaniments at all. Another way in which this sandwich differed from the Vita's was that I could really taste the fake cheese -- and I liked it. Over all the sandwich's flavors were great, though there was a sort of not-unpleasant sweetness that I couldn't figure out the source of, maybe the Thousand Islands? B. thought there could have been more of the dressing and found the sandwich a little dry. We both wished that some of the sauerkraut had been swapped out for more of the corned seitan. The sandwich filling was easily 80% sauerkraut, and I could barely taste the seitan at all. I found myself picking up a fragment off my plate to eat just so I could see what it was like. I was impressed, which made me even more disappointed that my sandwich wasn't meatier. I understand that the seitan is probably the most expensive ingredient, but at 9 bucks, I'd like to be able to savor it.

Those were our only complaints really -- more dressing, and much more seitan. I love sauerkraut, and I didn't find the quantity overwhelming, but I wouldn't have missed some of it in exchange for the other ingredients. The cheese amount was probably perfect. I would probably get this sandwich again -- or maybe just come for the brunch buffet, now that I'm in the know.

3.5 out of 5

412 SW 4th
Mon. - Sat. 9:30 am to 5 pm.

Corned seitan reuben, $8.95. Choice of coleslaw, potatoes or cup of soup. Also comes with pickle spears and a tiny salad. Many other sandwich and salad options available, as well as various beverages. Buffet everyday from 11am to 3 pm (think it tends towards lunch during the week and brunch on Saturday).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

In the Kitchen: Bazu's Tempeh Reuben

Long overdue for a reuben, B and I tried out this recipe from one of my favorite vegan food blogs, Where's the Revolution? You can read Bazu's original post here. Her recipe is an adaptation of the Tempeh Reuben recipe from The Vegan Cooking School. It's one of only two vegan reuben recipes we plan to try from the web (the other being the Candle Cafe's), so I'm glad to be able to direct you to the full recipe.

Of course we did change it some, just because I was out of veganaise and I couldn't use ketchup since I gave up refined sweeteners for Lent and all the ketchup in the house had sugar or corn syrup. To tell you the truth, I think the dressing suffered a bit for it, but it was a tasty sandwich, and I liked the fact it used white beans in the dressing. We also didn't use sprouts or red onion, just stuck with a more traditional tempeh and sauerkraut combination.

This recipe has further convinced me that baking tempeh is the way to go. I'm usually too lazy to marinate and bake, so I previously tried pan-steaming tempeh for reubens in broth or seasonings, and it just isn't the same. This recipe was nice because it didn't call for marinating in advance. The tempeh turned out great after just baking in the marinade for 40 minutes.

What you see above is my attempt to use up an extremely ripe tomato (I don't buy out of season produce, but I frequently get it free) and replace the 2 tablespoons of ketchup in the dressing with something tomatoey. In retrospect, I should have just broken down and opened a can of tomato paste, but I'm lazy and didn't want to worry about how to use up the rest of the can. So I roasted the tomato with the tempeh. It worked okay, but didn't give the dressing the concentrated flavor kick ketchup would have, and of course it made it more watery as well.

We didn't have to worry about watery dressing too much, though, with this rock star of a bread. I was excited to try out the loaf of Abiqua Farms Old World Rye I'd stashed in the freezer for this occasion. This bread is dense. It soaked up all the juice and still held together. I might slice the bread a bit thinner next time, to help it toast up a little crunchier, but I was happy with it over all. I learned from our last tempeh kitchen experience, and sliced the tempeh thinner, so even with the hefty bread, the sandwich was a very manageable size.

Here's B's, after warming the sauerkraut and spreading on the dressing.

This was a good sandwich over all. The only disappointment was that the dressing was sort of bland, but that was probably mostly due to the omission of veganaise and ketchup. In the future, I might sub a little oil for the 'naise and will definitely use ketchup or tomato paste. I might add some extra spices to the dressing as well, maybe even some hot sauce or red pepper, something to give it a little zip. The other change I would make is to cut down on the soy sauce in the marinade -- the original recipe calls for a whole 1/3 cup, I think a few tablespoons would suffice. I'd also like to experiment with vinegar or lemon juice in the marinade, to see if it gives the tempeh a tangier flavor reminiscent of corned beef. But over all the tempeh was definitely the best aspect of the recipe.

We give this one a 3 out of 5. Thanks to Bazu for the recipe, and if you are in the Portland area, check out that Abiqua Farms Bakery!