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.