Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tempeh Reuben, The Plant Cafe, San Francisco, CA

Though the Plant Cafe is perhaps most famous in veg circles for their house-made Plant Burger, I'd heard good things about their Reuben as well. At 9 bucks, the Reuben is easy to veganize (they just leave off the cheese).

My first impression was that the sandwich was light yet creamy at the same time--like a toned down version of the hearty, messy, unapologetic reuben, rather the tempeh reuben you would serve at tea. Definitely not very messy, and the portions weren't very large, but I thought the flavor balance was good. I found the sandwich had a surprising hint of olive flavor---maybe it was the kraut or they use olive oil in the vegan Thousand Islands. The sandwich was a light caraway rye, crunchy and warm. The side salad was generous and the complementary "pickle" was actually some slices of cucumber that I assume they brine in the store, nestled atop the salad. They tasted of dill and were not bad at all. The tempeh was understated, not bland but not memorable.

B. was not impressed. He said he would give it a 2.5. He found the sandwich too dry and observed that the kraut was not evenly distributed. He also didn't like the addition of a slice of tomato, commenting that it dominated the sandwich. I didn't mind the tomato, or the lettuce, but again, the effect was a sandwich pretty different than what we've come to expect. I think we both liked the Plant Burger better.

The Plant Cafe is a pretty nice dining option for the Financial District, if you don't mind the expense. The menu is extensive, very vegetarian and vegan-friendly, and the staff are warm and cheerful. The food is consistently fresh and flavorful (and I think all organic). Next time I'll go for one of their salads or bowls, though.

The Plant Cafe
101 California Street (actually at the corner of Pine and Front)

The Cafe is only open for lunch (and is often crowded, though service is quick). There is also a Plant Cafe restaurant on the Embarcadero which is open later.

Friday, July 30, 2010

TRUEBEN: Homegrown Smoker Food Cart

The Third Annual Try Vegan Week PDX is coming up in two weeks! What better way to observe it than engaging with the varied, vegan-friendly and much-lauded Portland food cart scene? Consider it a challenge--can you not only try vegan for a week, but try a week's worth of novel food cart creations?

Homegrown Smoker would be the ideal place to start. This cart is a dream come true for the vega-loca-cartavore; most everything seems to be from scratch, including the home-smoked fake meats, the servings are ample and well-priced, and not to mention bursting with flavor and deliciousness. I had almost given up on hounding out another vegan reuben in Portland to review, but on a brief visit early this summer, a post about a reuben special at HGS caught my eye. (Twitter is good for something). HGS serves quite a variety of Southern BBQ and comfort-food type dishes, and I'd been interested in visiting for awhile. Needless to say, this announcement trumped any reluctance I had to journey over to the PSU-region of Southwest Portland.

I could hardly wait to dig in to this unique take on my favorite sandwich, served to me by the owner's own sons. It hits all the right notes---messy, juicy, good temperature and ingredient balance (especially impressive considering it was constructed in a cart), and at 7 dollars, a good deal. 7 bucks is especially a good deal when you take into account the big side (and there's a lot of choices here, no 'salad or fries' but a variety of Southern-styled goodies). By comparison, it's more food than Vita Cafe, at a few dollars less. The bread was good, and we definitely enjoyed the fact that pickles and seared, grilled mixed peppers were snuggled up to the seitan pastrami. My only complaint would be that the meat flavor was a little hidden. The Daiya cheese was creamy and welcome, but I think the HGS-meister uses a Cheddar-like flavor as opposed to the Mozzarella-like flavor--maybe if the milder light cheese was used the smoky meat flavor would come through more.

We give this a 4.5, hats off again to the price, cart-ness, and the home-made smoked gluten pastrami. And let us not forget that this is an all-vegan establishment! I hesitate to rate this the best in PDX, but taking into account the price, novelty and DIY awesomeness, it's definitely tough. I'm a little on the fence--if the flavor was kicked up a bit, the meat made a little bolder, I think I could easily tip over into rating this the best vegan reuben in Portland.

Homegrown Smoker
SW 4th and College

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vita Cafe, Round 2

A few things seem to have changed at Vita Cafe since our first visit, right at the start of this blog. The restaurant relocated, just across the street, to a slightly more intimate but relatively similar building. The Reuben (available with vegan cheese or regular Swiss, but always with vegan protein and vegan dressing) is now available with house faux turkey, as well as with tempeh. I didn't recall the faux turkey being an option before, and was surprised to note it when perusing the Vita Cafe's menu recently. I felt compelled to return to Vita and review this iteration, especially because we found the tempeh version to be somewhat underwhelming, especially in contrast to the sandwiches we would go on to try for the blog.

The Vita reuben still comes on grilled marble rye, with kraut, vegan Thousand Islands and a vegan cheese that it neither bad nor particularly memorable. It doesn't melt much---clearly Vita has abstained from making the Daiya switch so many Portland restaurants have latched on to. I feel the Vita automatically loses points for having a fairly expensive sandwich (7.50 before veganization, a dollar extra for vegan cheese), that comes with no sides. With the Reuben, they do include some pickle slices nestled next to the sandwich, which other sandwiches there, such as the BLT, do not enjoy.

Though my memory of the tempeh reuben sampled at the Vita Cafe years ago was hazy, the version with faux turkey (basically a mild seitan that doesn't particularly resemble turkey but I guess resembles it just as well as any other sliced meat), was better. Instead of a bland hunk of tempeh you had a somewhat greasy, salty, chewy seitan layer pressed between the kraut, cheese and dressing. Again, the bread fell apart a little, which isn't entirely bad (but again caused B. to comment that he doesn't recommend a marble rye for a reuben). Though I enjoyed the sauce and cheese flavor combo, I would have recommended that this sandwich be a bit meatier (that is, add more seitan!)---both to balance the sandwich and make the price a little more worthwhile.

This version of the Vita Cafe reuben gets a 3.5, compared to the 3 we awarded the tempeh version.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Chicago Diner, Chicago, IL

Yes, finally, the time has come. I know I'm certainly not the first vegan blogger to write about the Radical Reuben at the Chicago Diner. It seems as though every vegan who visits the windy city (at least, every vegan who also happens to write online), is careful to make a stop at this famed restaurant, serving delicious vegetarian and vegan cuisine since the 1980s, and almost all of them seem to know to try the Reuben.

Finally, I can get over my jealousy. (Of course, now I'm just jealous of those who live in Chicago and can visit the Diner on a regular basis). This sandwich is certainly special. It's been called the best vegan reuben in existence and even though VegNews published their recipe, replication is not easy, as Upton's seitan, the brand they purportedly use, is not available in stores.

After an evening in Hyde Park, and on our way north to Milwaukee, I had to insist we make a stop. After a 30 minute wait (not bad for what I believe was a Saturday afternoon), we got a booth and I was able to sample not only the famed Radical Reuben, but it's counterpart, specially available for the spring/summer only, the California Reuben.

The California Reuben is similar to the Radical Reuben except that the seitan is marinated and prepared to resemble 'turkey' rather than corned beef or pastrami (being from California, I had to laugh), and instead of kraut the sandwich is topped with a crunchy slaw. I was also somewhat confused when the sandwiches arrived, as with the Radical Reuben the dressing for the sandwich was on the side, whereas with the California Reuben, I suppose it's mixed into the slaw. This led to me demolishing my half of the Radical Reuben without even adding the sauce. What can I say, I was hungry and it was still incredible.

The Chicago Diner has also wisely adopted the popular Daiya cheese on their sandwiches. I am a fan of Daiya in general, but I do feel it has a slightly sweet flavor that now I notice it, can be a little distracting. Not being a big fan of fake cheeses in general, I don't claim to be an expert, but in my limited experience, I do feel Daiya is the best and approve of this choice.

I'll just get the obvious over with and reassure you that yes, the Chicago Diner Radical Reuben is just as mind-blowing as everyone says. I think I was literally speechless after my first couple bites. It is very meat-like, which means that vegans with an aversion to the texture and appearance of meat may be put off by it. But those of us with some nostalgia for this messy, hearty deli sandwich, it hits the spot. (And I am in no way a vegan that 'misses' meat or cheese--not at bit).

That said, the sandwich is very juicy, so the bread got a bit soggy. But over all, the proportions were good, the flavors were perfect, the sandwich was very filling and satisfying...and you even got a nice range of choices on sides.

In case you were wondering, the California Reuben was different -- the seitan didn't just have a different color, but tasted different, too, though it was hard to pinpoint in what way exactly--slightly more 'chickeny' perhaps. It was just as juicy and delectable as the Radical, and the slaw instead of kraut was a nice variation. If you can only choose one, I leave it up to you. You can't really go wrong with either.

All in all, it seems redundant to try to rate it. I understand why this is the best, and I certainly urge another in the area to try it out. Followed by a Temptation soy ice cream shake, no matter how full you are.

The Chicago Diner
The Radical Reuben - Seitan, onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan Thousand Island, cheese on marble rye. (May need to specify vegan cheese).
The California Reuben (available Spring-Summer 2010) - Roasted agave mesquite "turkey" seitan with vegan coleslaw and cheese on marble rye.
Both 10 bucks.

Served with one side.

And a pickle!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Adventures in Milwaukee

To celebrate finishing graduate school, I prolonged my journey back to the West Coast with some stops in Illinois and Wisconsin, to visit friends and family. Milwaukee was a pleasant town with a surprising number of intriguing vegan options, including at least three vegan reubens. However, we found that--perhaps in order to deal with the brunch crush familiar to many Stumptowners--various places modified or limited their menus on Saturday afternoon, making the delicious sandwich seem at first unattainable. With my good friend and native A. as back-up, we made a few rounds before finally achieving success in the evening.

With a vegan reuben not really described on the menu (denoted only by a * next to their traditional reuben advertising it could be made vegan for a $1 extra), but lauded by many on Yelp, Comet Cafe seemed to me to be the first choice. Though the menu wasn't very specific, it gave me good reason to believe that the reuben was made with Field Roast, which, while I'd tried this combination before in Seattle, made it more interesting to me than the typical tempeh reuben common about town. Unfortunately, at brunch-o-clock, Comet was our first fail. After waiting half an hour for a table, we were told that they don't serve the Reuben before 3 pm on weekends.

We had just been wandering around Riverwest, a sort of up-and-coming hipster neighborhood, and had stopped in at the Riverwest Co-op to investigate and drool over the number of tasty sounding vegan options on their small cafe and deli menu. After deciding to move on from Comet, we returned there, since we recalled a tempeh TRUEBEN listed under lunch. However, what we didn't recall with such clarity was that this place, too, only served breakfast until much later in the afternoon. With an extremely small kitchen, the cooks were firm on this. Foiled again, we settled for vegan biscuits and gravy and a take on bi-bim-bop, incorporating tofu, that was actually quite satisfying.

Somewhat disappointed but not entirely deterred, we resolved that we could get a tempeh vegan reuben at Beans and Barley, a frequently recommended, veg-friendly spot also part of a market, which was already under consideration for dinner that evening. After a local brewery tour (hey, this is a Portland-based blog after all) and various shenanigans, we showed up at Beans and Barley that evening, a little toasted. Again, there was a lengthy wait---which gave me time to scrutinize the menu. One reason Comet had been first on my list for a reuben despite the numerous folks who pointed me towards Beans and Barley was that the menu at Comet made clear that veganization was straightforward and easy. Clearly vegan-friendly, I anticipated no hurdles with this place, but asked the hostess anyway, since the tempeh reuben listed on the menu clearly included real Swiss cheese. Without batting an eye, and extremely cordial, she assured me that veganizing it would be easy -- just substitute the rye bread for white.


That stopped me in my tracks. Dear readers, you probably know that rye bread is typically vegan. You probably also share my feeling that a reuben is not a reuben if it is not on rye bread. In fact to reprise the definition of a vegan reuben, my standards only include: a vegan protein, sauerkraut, rye bread and a vegan sauce of some sort. I've even been known to accept mustard when vegan Russian or Thousand Islands is not available. But white bread? This could not stand.

Fortunately, A. is very patient and flexible (in case you are wondering, my usual dining companion, B., was busy driving all of our stuff back across the country), and we high-tailed it back to Comet again, full of anticipation.

The place was still crowded, but we avoided a wait and snagged seats at the perfectly comfortable but admittedly dim bar, where we continued to get inebriated and ordered the vegan reuben as well as the vegan gyro.

Man, that is a lot of Field Roast and I have to respect it. The bread was a light caraway rye and probably grilled coated in margarine, as it was quite crunchy and salty. Though B. was not present, he would have appreciated the presence of a pickle spear. The heap of fries was very generous. I found the sauerkraut to be a little sparse, but perhaps that was in contrast to the huge slabs of Field Roast. Despite the excessive grease and salt (or perhaps because?), it was pretty tasty. Admittedly, given the lack of light and the speed at which I wolfed it down, I didn’t notice too much about the sauce (or whether or not there was vegan cheese, which I doubt). A. however, recalls the sauce being “really good” (he also agreed there was possibly too much Field Roast, though it paired well with the rye). All in all, I was quite satisfied, and not to mention pleased that our Milwaukee vegan reuben quest had ultimately been successful. The gyro wasn't bad either, also generously proportioned, though with not quite as high a ratio of the chewy seitan to other ingredients.

Thanks to A. for the phone shot, as my camera was not coming through.

Comet Cafe
1947 N. Farwell, Milwaukee
Veganized reuben (Field Roast with kraut and Reuben sauce on a light caraway rye, fries included). $9.50.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Important news!

For one, I am back in Portland, albeit only for a few weeks. In the process of re-immersing myself in the vegan food culture (that is, acquainting myself with all these new food cart options), I have good news in that I have discovered a new vegan reuben to review, one which sounds quite unique and exciting. Just when I thought I'd exhausted the possibilities here in Stumptown! Look for that in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, you should know that the Radical Reuben at the Chicago Diner will soon be featured on TLC in an episode of Best Food Ever, a new food series narrated by John Goodman. The Radical Reuben has been praised up and down by various vegetarian and vegan outlets--about time the general public got a closer look, too. Don't miss it on Monday, May 24th--check your local listings for the air time.

Til later!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Corned Seitan Reuben

I modified this recipe:

1/2 cup pinto beans, mashed well
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar (didn't have any apple cider vinegar)
1 cup water combined with 2 teaspoons miso to create broth
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp molasses (optional)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten

Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls, then add the wet to the dry, mixing well with your hands.

I used my pressure cooker to cook the seitan. The cooker I purchased in India has a metal insert, essentially two small stacking pans that fit inside the cooker, used to cook dal and rice at the same time. I thought the steel cylinder would be a good stand-in for the foil wrapping called for in the original recipe.

I kneaded the seitan dough then shaped it into a rough ball and plopped it into the cooking container (the lower of the two sections). I added a bay leaf to the steaming water. Instead of steaming for 50 minutes as the original recipe calls for, I pressure cooked it for about 45 minutes.

The unusual, um, texture you see there is the fact that my home-cooked, fork-mashed beans were not quite as well mashed as they could have been.

After cooking the seitan had expanded some, but not a ton, but was nice and firm so I pulled it out and let it sit.

We made the standard dressing of 2 parts vegan mayo, 1 part ketchup (or if like us, you don't use ketchup often enough to have it in the house, use tomato sauce), 1 part mustard, 1 part capers or minced pickle and 1 part minced onion.

B. baked this rye bread from a recipe I found online -- we just happened to have all the ingredients. Pretty good for a first attempt at baking bread (though he's become an expert bagel-baker).

After letting the seitan sit for about 20 minutes, we toasted the bread (the loaves were small, per the recipe, so a sandwich was about the size of a half sandwich), warmed up the kraut on the stove, and assembled!

Over all, I thought the recipe was pretty solid, though not too much different from other steamed seitan recipes I've tried. I like that I now have a method of cooking seitan that doesn't involve using tin foil, and look forward to experimenting to see if I can get a denser, firmer 'meat' by cooking longer. B. thought the cloves were a bit strong, so I might leave those out in the future. I've made steamed seitan before, and can't believe this is the first time I've offered a recipe. It's no Chicago Diner, but not bad, and incredibly easy. We recommend the bread, too!

Friday, April 9, 2010

TRUEBEN: Tempeh Reuben on Rye at The Green Sage (Asheville, NC)

Sorry for the bad photo--the Green Sage had a nice atmosphere but was admittedly a bit dimly lit.

Here, however, is a beautiful photo that I found on Flickr.

Though ultimately the tempeh reuben at Green Sage was nothing revelatory, after various veganization fails, I was grateful to finally sit down to this hearty and comforting, though familiar, vegan reuben.

Though the Green Sage is clearly very vegan friendly (as well as environmentally friendly, like most places in Asheville, with composting and bike delivery), you do need to request the reuben vegan. (I'm labeling it a trueben nonetheless because the vegan option is clearly indicated on the menu and easy to order). There are four side options, all vegan: regular fries, sweet potato fries, soup (they have a vegan vegetable lentil) and salad. We went for the salad, which you can tell from the picture, was pretty generous.

Though the website claims they are open late, and that the kitchen is open til close, I would call if coming for dinner. Our first attempt to go failed because I called ahead and the staff informed me the kitchen was closing shortly, well before 9 pm.

As for the sandwich, it includes tempeh, sauerkraut, russian dressing and a modest amount of avocado on a light caraway rye. B. thought the tempeh had a slightly mushroomy flavor. I definitely detected a lot of soy sauce in the marinade. Over all the sandwich was pretty well-balanced. The tempeh didn't overwhelm, but I might have liked a little more kraut.

Over all this is a solid sandwich, and if in Portland, we'd probably give it a 3.5. There are more exciting options in Asheville, to be sure, but I appreciated the easy veganization (including a clearly marked menu) and hearty portions at Green Sage. At the price (8 bucks) it seemed like a good deal, and avocado was subbed for cheese without any fuss. Also a nice local beer, Pisgah Pale, is to be had on tap. The Green Sage seems like a good spot for various dietary inclinations--the vegan breakfast menu looks great and they also offer omni as well as gluten free options. In the heart of downtown Asheville, it's a convenient spot for visitors, especially those of us who like to eat healthy, local and organic, to grab a bite.

The Green Sage
5 Broadway Street
Asheville, NC

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March Reuben Roundup

Okay, and yes, I can't help reporting that Ruben Studdard has gone vegan.

In Chicago, a new brewery offers a Tempeh Reuben with cheese, but vegan russian dressing and bread--begging to be veganized. Though some may argue that Chicago doesn't really need another vegan reuben, I am willing to bet that the offering of Cafe Samana, in Tulsa, OK, is probably welcomed by local vegetarians and vegans. Meanwhile, The Urban Housewife chimes in on some L.A. reuben finds. And if you are ever driving from Providence to New York, check this place out. The Cornell Daily Sun reports on a tasty-sounding spicy tempeh reuben at the Giving Tree Cafe. Those in Ohio should seek out the Mustard Seed Cafe, according to this blogger. Upscale vegan dining in West Virginia's oldest town at the Stone Soup Bistro, tempeh TRUEBEN included.

Earlier I blogged about new Berkeley addition, Nature's Express. Check out this review.

And on to the recipes!

For a change of pace, and in honor of St. Patty's Day, here's a fresh kraut recipe, recommended for vegan reubens.

Here's another recipe I haven't posted yet--a seitan reuben.

Not that you need more instruction, but here's another vegan tempeh reuben, this one poached and fried. And here's another creative tempeh reuben recipe that bears mentioning. Though I often prize my IPA too much to cook with it, this seems like a tasty approach to a tempeh reuben marinade.

This one looks good, too.

After all that, I for one intend to test this recipe for corned beef seitan myself!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Crunch and Munch at the Green Republic, Key West, FL

We entered this spare, hip, eco and veg-friendly sandwich, salad and smoothie shop in Key West because we'd heard it was one of the top three destinations on the island for vegan food. When I saw that the sandwich called the Crunch and Munch was essentially a reuben -- with vegan "corned beef," sauerkraut, cheese and mustard subjected to a panini press -- I knew I had to try it, despite the fact it was $5.95 with a $1.50 bump to make it vegan.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed, and not so much about the price of this slender sandwich (you can make it a double-decker for a total of $8.95, before veganization), but the lack of imagination. The bread, a light caraway rye, was warm and crispy, but the insides were still a bit cold. B. agreed it would have been better cooked more. I was surprised that it contained such a small quantity of vegan meat and cheese, with a modest application of kraut and mustard. Over all, I would say it was a good sandwich, but not great, and there are probably better options on the menu, which was extensive and creative. Truthfully, we had a vegan Cuban (Fidelito) first, and perhaps the Crunch and Munch simply paled in comparison to that flavor combination.

Isn't a Cuban sandwich -- with ham, swiss cheese and pickle -- basically a Latin Reuben anyway?

Green Republic
521 Fleming
Key West, FL

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February Reuben Round-Up

"Healthy vegan fast food"? Apparently Nature's Express, founded by an oncologist in Yuma, Arizona, is expanding across the U.S., including a location recently opened on my hometown drag of Solano Ave in Berkeley, CA. Existing locations in Rancho Mirage and Yuma boast reubens on the menu, so something worth keeping an eye on.

This veggie mom brings us a Vegan Reuben Salad recipe--yes, I think it's worth scrolling down to the bottom past all the pics of her rugrats. (She understands the importance of a pickle on the side).

We have more to come on L.A.'s vegan reuben wars, but apparently folks go crazy for them in NYC, too--or one in particular. The news that Park Slope eatery Organic Heights is re-opening as Sun in Bloom had writers at SuperVegan fretting about the fate of their well-loved tempeh reuben.

Speaking of tempeh reubens, here's another recipe for you to try.

Here's another recipe, unlike anything I've seen before (involving TVP and an everything bagel!)

Even though Quarry Girl has moved on from the reuben reviews after declaring Locali a clear favorite (and various Yelp users agree), others are still discovering new L.A. vegan joint, Elderberries.

A blogger in Dallas gives us a recipe for a portobello mushroom reuben, a unique turn I appreciate and would like to try, but B. is not a big fan of the mushroom cap as meat replacement. I appreciate the recipe, but not the fact that I am apparently "some guy in Portland" (female, thanks) could anyone find the idea of a tempeh reuben disgusting? I mean, tempeh wrote the M.F.-ing book on vegan reubens! Maybe he should try this recipe--yes, another tempeh reuben recipe, but can you ever get enough?

Well, I guess portobello reubens aren't as unique as I thought, because here's a recipe for another one. I'll just assume that because the authors claim to be vegan, they mean fake when they reference Swiss cheese. Sundried tomatoes sound like a nice addition, too!

Okay, forget portobellos, did you know there's a recipe that doesn't just put avocado on a reuben, but is pretty much just avocado? A little rich for my blood, but probably tasty.

If you are poking around the DC-area, here is a PPK forum post on vegan options in Falls Church, VA, including Mike's Deli, which guessed it.

If you are looking for other restaurant options in the South, The Wild Cow has a much-praised vegan or vegetarian reuben. My favorite thing about the website though, is the section, "What's tofu?"

And apparently other restaurants are trying their own take on the Field Roast reuben--like The Swan Dive in Louisville, Kentucky, reviewed in this local rag. With the microbrews on tap and the vegan options, almost sounds like it should be in Portland. But the news keeps coming from Kentucky. Apparently, this new joint, Veg-O-Rama, also has a reuben to offer.

Last but not least, for you Oregon residents, our new favorite, Viva Vegetarian Grill in Eugene, has a Facebook page, so go become a fan!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Recipe: Baked Tofu Reuben

After B.'s mother served us a delicious dinner that involved baked tofu with braised peppers and tomatoes, B. discovered a new appreciation for the soy food and requested we make another attempt at tofu reubens. I combined our tested and true approach of the marinate and bake method with this reuben recipe by Vegan Dad. Basically, instead of pan-frying and simmering tofu, I sliced it ultra-thin and used a slightly altered version of Vegan Dad's "corned tofu" seasoning mixture as a marinade. I also added apple juice to the marinade since we've had such luck with it in the past.

Slice a block of firm tofu (about a fourth of a block of tofu per person) thinly, into rectangles about a quarter inch thick. The orientation and size doesn't matter too much. If desired, press tofu with a heavy weight while you make the marinade.


1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1 1/4 cup water
4 tsp seasoned salt
4 tsp paprika
4 whole cloves
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp garlic powder

Bring to a boil on the stove-top and then cover and turn off. Meanwhile, make the dressing: equal parts minced pickle, vegan mayo, ketchup and mustard (we did about a quarter cup each, not worrying about having extra). Chill spread until ready to eat.

Arrange the tofu slices in a single layer in a Pyrex baking dish. Pour the warm marinade over the tofu and set aside to marinate (refrigerating is probably not necessary--we didn't have room so we stuck it in the wintry-cold garage), for at least 3 hours.

Bake tofu for 45 at 375 (this was an experiment, all our marinade had evaporated after 45 minutes---I would have done it longer). About 15 minutes before serving, slice and caramelize half an onion. Add sauerkraut to the pan and warm through. Prepare the bread by sprinkling about two tablespoons of Italian Blend Daiya cheese on one piece of bread per sandwich, and toast in a toaster oven on medium. Toast other half of bread and spread with dressing. Layer tofu, sauerkraut and onion on top of cheesy bread, add the other piece of bread and grill briefly. Slice in half and serve with a petite dill pickle.

As a change of pace, we used Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted rye (a nice, healthy vegan option found in most grocery stores these days), and some standard jarred kraut. Mostly this was an excuse to try out Daiya cheese--I had heard varying things about it, but one theme was that it's better the more melted it is, hence the open-face toasting to get it good and melty.

As for the review, the sandwich was good, one of the better tofu reubens I've had, though the tofu could have marinated and baked longer. We should have increased the marinade. It's always better to have too much rather than too little. As it was, after 45 minutes the marinade had evaporated. While the tofu had a lot of flavor (and actually, I thought was a little too salty), we would have liked it even chewier and more saturated. We were also a little overly hesitant with the Daiya--I could taste the light layer of shredded cheese but not quite enough to really evaluate its contribution. We'll probably try this recipe again. B.'s parents, open-minded omnivores, claimed to enjoy it.


We used up the Daiya cheese for pizza night, but wanted to give the tofu another try, especially since we had extra Reuben sauce. We used about 1/3 of a cube of tofu (previously frozen) and the following marinade (basically just increasing the water and apple juice concentrate):


1 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
2 cups water
4 tsp seasoned salt
4 tsp paprika
4 whole cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried mustard
1 pressed garlic clove

Like before, I brought the marinade to a boil and then let it sit for about 5 minutes before pouring it over the tofu, which I had sliced thinly and arranged in a single layer on a Pyrex baking dish. I did this all at about 5 pm the night before we planned to eat the reubens for lunch, letting the tofu marinate for about 19 hours. I only baked it for about an hour at 350. B. was really interested in getting a chewy texture on the tofu, so we finished it off by pan-frying it in some olive oil right before we put the sandwiches together. The steps were:

1. Remove tofu from oven
2. Caramelize onion (about a third of an onion for two people) and set aside
3. Pan fry tofu slices in olive oil until browned
4. Deglaze pan with some sauerkraut juice; add desired amount of sauerkraut to pan with onions and warm through
5. Meanwhile, toast bread and spread with Reuben sauce
6. Construct sandwiches and enjoy!

This worked out pretty well. The tofu and kraut-onion mixture were warm enough to give the sandwich a good temp despite the fact that the toasted bread had time to cool down. B. liked the approach of marinating and baking and then pan-frying, and thought that slicing the tofu a bit thicker would give it a good variation of textures--chewy on the outside, soft on the inside. The tofu was chewier and more flavorful than the first attempt, due to a very long marinating period and extra apple juice. I also think the fact that the tofu had been frozen and then thawed before marinating made it a bit chewier as well. Over all, a pretty good sandwich.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Reuben Round-Up for the New Year

Yes, it's hard to believe, but the reuben news just keeps coming. I hope to bring you more reviews and recipes soon, but I'll take advantage of this holiday break from school to let you know what's been going on in the world (wide web) of vegan reubens. As always, in no particular order.

I've had the vegan philly cheesesteak at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, but apparently this lively open-air gastro-paradise is also a good source for vegan reuben ingredients. This blog post from My Life in Sandwiches focuses on bbq, but holds some good ideas for reuben-loving yinzers.

Maybe not as exciting as the reuben wars in L.A., but diner rivalry is alive and well in New Haven, and healthy vegan food -- including a tempeh reuben -- plays a role. "Georgie’s is old school and new school at the same time, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu options alongside traditional takes on omelets, hamburgers and fries." Here's a little more on Georgie's from a local vegan chef.

From CT to Hawaii, and this review of a new macrobiotic restaurant called Hale, tempeh reubens are garnering praise. Even in Minneapolis. And Ohio. And if you find yourself in Tampa, here's a good bet. Whereas, as well as know by now, seitan is the protein of choice in Chicago.

This should come as no surprise, but did you know there's a recipe for Tempeh Reubens in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking? But if you aren't feeling like a complete idiot, luckily Julie Hasson, that vegan internet cooking show maven, has some ideas for you as well. And for gluten-free vegans in Portland, this new bakery might be a good source for your sandwich bread.

And one last bit from the Pacific Northwest, Hillside Quickie, which B. and I visited long ago and which I noted at the time didn't have a reuben, but did have a tofustrami sandwich that sounded much like one, has reopened under the name Sage Cafe. And lo and behold, a reuben is now on the menu. Something to note if we make it up North again.

Just to make this post a little more interesting, here's a cashew cheese I invented a couple months ago -- my first real attempt! I imagine it will find its way into a reuben sooner or later and I'll share the recipe if and when that happens, but here's a hint: it's mostly raw cashew pieces and nooch.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

TRUEBEN: Tempeh Reuben at Viva! Vegetarian Grill, Eugene, OR

It's fun to learn about a new vegan-friendly joint and be able to hop to reviewing it in a timely manner. I first learned about the Viva! Vegetarian Grill food cart just a few days ago, thanks to the warm reviews on Yelp, and with Corvallis as home-base, it was easy to convince B. that we should take the 45 minute drive into Eugene for a lunch-time review. I'd never really been to Eugene, and with 30-degree weather we didn't hang out long, but it was nice to get a glimpse of this college town which I really only heretofore knew of as the Asheville of the West Coast.

With no listed address, the cart was a little challenging to locate, but once we found the right intersection, the green sign emblazoned with a hot dog at the entrance to the parking lot led the way.

Despite the cold temperatures, the owner Dave seemed relatively busy, but took our order quickly and efficiently with just the right amount of conversation. The menu had a number of options, all vegan. The sandwiches were served up with a minimal amount of paper; we couldn't help polishing off the first order while waiting for the star of show.

Back at the car, with the juicy vegan cheese-steak as an appetizer, we dug into this trueben with gusto. B.'s first comments were compliments to the bread and the kraut, the latter of which he swore had an especially good flavor. He also appreciated the temperature and moisture of the kraut--cool, without too much liquid, but not too dry either. He also said it was the right amount, which might be a first. Most reubens seem too low on kraut in comparison to other aspects. He also enjoyed the flavor of the tempeh. We were both impressed at how well put-together the sandwich was, especially considering it came from a cart with limited amenities. The tempeh was marinated and grilled, which gave it a slightly crunchy exterior; the bread was warm and perfectly toasted. The dressing was great, too. It reminded me of the cashew cheese that had been wonderfully slathered on our cheese-steak and I suspect it was a similar base, with some tomatoey-ness added to make it into a Thousand Islands dressing. It was creamy and savory without the heavy unctuousness of veganaise.

B. loved the sandwich--well worth the drive, I gathered--and his only recommendation for additions would be more dressing and a pickle on the side. I agreed that more dressing wouldn't hurt. For me, this sandwich was quite good and presented a worthy rival to various reubens in Portland (for example, the Red and Black, which also uses tempeh and I think the same bread). The tempeh did seem a little dry, something which perhaps a bit more dressing would fix. Even with no side, $5.50 is a good deal in my book, and the service was friendly and lightning fast---definitely more than I can say for the Red and Black (or most vegan reuben-serving restaurants in Portland, for that matter).

We have to give Dave extra points not only for being a cart, but for being an all-vegan cart (definitely try the cheesesteak--the hot dogs seemed to be selling well also, and the tempeh satay presented a unique yet intuitive and tempting option). Ultimately, we give the Tempeh Reuben 4 points out of 5, and encourage you to check it out yourself. Though it has a long history serving veggie dogs at events, the cart itself has only been in place for about a month--let's keep it going! (Even better, get $1 off for biking, being a student, or showing up in the rain).

Viva! Vegetarian Grill
E 12th and Willamette Street
Eugene, OR
11 am - 4 pm, Monday-Friday
Tempeh reuben on Dave's Killer Bread with kraut and vegan Thousand Islands.