On one of our pilgrimages to Knoxville to visit the Apple Store and the most wonderful Asian market EVER (Sunrise Market on Kingston Pike), we discovered a restaurant we have somehow missed on previous visits to this bustling city. Gosh is one of the few family-owned restaurants in Knoxville where you can find a healthy, plant-based meal without the bother of a litany of questions. Ethiopia has a long history of religious fasting days in which no animal protein is allowed, so whenever you order vegetarian at an Ethiopian restaurant, vegan is what you get. You can count on that!
The menu offers individual stews a la carte from $7.99 to $8.99 each or you can opt for a vegetarian (actually vegan) four dish option from the vegetarian menu, plus a salad for $9.99. Finally, there is the option of six vegetarian dishes plus salad for $11.99.
We chose the six veggie combination plate including Kik Alicha (mild pureed yellow split peas seasoned with onions and turmeric), Yemiser Wot (red split lentils cooked in a uniquely Ethiopian spice blend called Berbere), Yemiser Alicha (red split lentils cooked in a mild sauce of onion, garlic and curry), Tikil Gomen (a mild stew of carrots, potato and cabbage), Gomen ( a mild stew of collard greens cooked with onions, garlic and jalapeño peppers), Shurro Wot (ground split peas cooked in Berbere spice blend with onions and fresh garlic), as well as a house salad. This is served with a special flatbread native to Ethiopia called Injera, made from teff, a highly nutritious grain that is fermented to give the bread its unique sourdough flavor. It’s texture is somewhere between a crepe and a pancake and it is used not only as the lining of your plate, upon which the various stews are placed, but will also serve as your utensils. To eat Ethiopian food, unroll a piece of injera and pinch a portion of the stew within the folds of your injera. Then just pop it into your mouth!
Clearly the gods were with us. Rich and I arrived at Mela’s minutes before the lunch crowd overtook the place, and a parking spot opened up for us right next to the restaurant. Entering, we stepped into an inviting, spacious room and were greeted by a gracious hostess. Directly before us was a bountiful buffet bar of mouthwatering Indian specialties in which fully half of them were vegan! Everything is made from scratch at Mela, from as many organic ingredients as possible and locally sourced when available. Many of the dishes are naturally gluten free. The price for the buffet was $9.95. Add chai tea or a beer from the full bar and the cost is $12. One can, of course, order off the menu during the lunch hour.
Ordering the buffet was a no-brainer. With a profusion of colorful and fragrant temptations we could contain ourselves only long enough for Rich to order a beer and we were off to the buffet bar. By the time we returned to our seat, the restaurant was jammed packed with enthusiastic diners and filled with laughter and conversation.
Plant-based is the name of the game in this all vegan restaurant in Asheville, NC. Everything in this restaurant is plant-based, hence the name, Plant. There are no animal products of any kind available in this cruelty-free, environmentally friendly and health conscious establishment. Of particular note, there are no genetically modified products in any of the foods prepared at Plant.
Plant management has made a commitment to use only the finest ingredients available. Therefore, much of what you are served will be organic, to the extent it is available, and are sourced as much as possible from local farmers. Chef and co-owner, Jason Sellers, is fanatical about finding organic, quality ingredients. He has been instrumental in convincing other local chefs to buy organic products so that food venders will readily carry them. (more…)
Step into Mooney’s off of fourth street in Winston-Salem and the first thing you’ll notice is the chic interior for such a quaint little café. Actually, if you’re there during the middle of lunch, like my dining partner and I, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s jam-packed and you’ll worry about your chances of getting a table. Luckily we snagged one of two vacant ones in the house; business is bustling and turnover is fast during lunch, where mostly business people from downtown are on their lunch breaks.
During lunch, customers order at the counter from the menu above it written in chalk on a blackboard. With tons of options–vegan, vegetarian, and meaty, too–in small handwriting and the long line that was moving fast, I didn’t have long to deliberate and quickly picked something that sounded vegan and delicious: the Tempeh Pita.
During my lengthy conversation with owner Ameen David, I learned that my wrap was developed by a strict vegan employee, Stephen (minus his consumption of two eggs a week per doctor’s orders, Ameen recalls). The Tempeh Pita isn’t the only menu item developed by his employees. Leah, one of Mooney’s servers, and her boyfriend, a chef at a neighboring downtown restaurant, suggested that Ameen start using olive oil rather than butter in the couscous when they became vegan. He listened. And every time his wife saw him, Ameen says, he was eating this sandwich that wasn’t on the menu. “What is that?” she asked. Thus the Falafel Burger, the brainchild of an employee named Scott, was born.
Once in a blue moon I’ll discover a truly unique gem of a resource that I simply feel duty bound to share with the world. Natural Imports of Asheville, NC, is one such discovery. Natural Imports is a purveyor of traditional Japanese culinary products of the highest caliber. Great care is taken to assure excellence, offering foods of a medicinal quality, prepared in time honored traditions by skilled Japanese craftsmen. Mass production and quicker, low-quality methods are threatening the livelihoods of these Japanese artisans, who prepare foods using the principal of Ishoku Dogen, “medicine and food have the same source.” You’ll find no mass market food and no arsenic laden Chinese seaweed here, only traditionally crafted products and sea vegetables grown in deep waters of Japan, protected for centuries with organic, sustainable practices.
Bruce MacDonald, now semi-retired, is the founder of Natural Imports. His daughter, Crystal, has been his partner and business manager since its inception in 1993, since she was 19 years old. Crystal speaks fluent Japanese and is a wealth of information about all aspects of how the seaweed is harvested, the medicinal and nutritional ingredients of every product, the sustainability practices of her suppliers and any glitch that effects the ecosystem and thereby affecting the quality of their products. She is a dynamic powerhouse who stays on top of all issues pertaining to Natural Imports.
Crystal essentially grew up in the business. Her parents divorced when she was young and she spent summers working at Commodities, a Japanese import store Bruce owned in New York City, where she learned about Japanese food. Bruce had previously worked for Erehwon in Boston, which was the original importer of natural foods in the US and subsequently for Erehwon West in California and later for Bread and Circus, which was sold to become the original Whole Foods Market.