Pastelaria Adega

After a nice lunch at Olla with my friends, we got dessert at Pastelaria Adega, a Portuguese bakery that just opened in downtown San Jose. The bakery is an extension of Adega, the only Michelin star rated Portuguese restaurant in San Jose. Located on the old and busy Santa Clara street, you might miss the bakery if you’re not paying attention, but I’m telling you now that it’s there, and it’s totally worth a visit.

Pastéis de Nata on the left ($4), Bola de Berlim on the right ($4), Bola de Berlim com creme in the center ($5).
Continue reading Pastelaria Adega

Olla Cocina

While I’m not sure when Olla Cocina opened in San Jose, it seemed relatively new to me. It’s not often that I go out to eat Mexican food because I’m used to eating it at home. However, I’ve recently been in the mood to view Mexican food with new eyes, and it’s helped me see my culinary heritage in a new light. I went to Olla Cocina to celebrate the end of the semester with a couple of friends. It’s located in San Pedro Square in Downtown San Jose and has a cozy and celebratory environment with bright colors and warm lighting. The building has a high ceiling which makes the restaurant feel open and inviting.

Continue reading Olla Cocina

Veggie Grill: Far East Bowl and Tempura Green Bean Stack

The Far East Bowl, one of Veggie Grill’s Winter Menu specials, is comprised of many flavors and textures. The bowl comes with some veggie chicken that is crusted with panko breadcrumbs and black and white sesame seeds. It is then topped with sweet Thai chili sauce and red bell pepper. In the center, there is brown rice topped with a creamy green curry sauce, and to contrast the creaminess there is a green papaya slaw that adds freshness, a sweet vinegar taste, and crunch. It is then served with a side of roasted broccoli.

vg grill tempura green beans and bowl
Clockwise from front: Far East Bowl ($11.50), Tempura Green Bean Stack ($7.95), Luxe Burger ($13.50), and Buffalo Wings ($7.95).

A good appetizer to go with this dish is the Tempura Green Bean Stack. I’ve ordered these tempura green beans multiple times. Their light and crispy texture make them hard to resist. A generous squeeze of roasted lemon and a cool and creamy ranch dip make this appetizer a must-try.

I recommend getting these two dishes together for a veggie-packed dinner that will warm up your soul in the winter.

Vegan Veganos: Tacos 3 Ways

Vegan Veganos Tacos 3 Ways
Papas con chorizo taco with red and green salsa (left), carne asada taco with green salsa (bottom), and Al Pastor taco with red salsa (top). $3 each.  Photo credit: Ana Acosta

This year I went to my first VeggieFest in San Jose. It was a sunny day full of veg and sustainability related vendors as people made their way in and out.

One place I stopped at was the Vegan Veganos food truck. They had three types of vegan tacos: papas con chorizo, carne asada, and Al Pastor. All were topped with onion and cilantro, and served with lime wedges and radish slices to cool down the spiciness. These tacos were packed with flavor in every layer.

Continue reading Vegan Veganos: Tacos 3 Ways

Veggie Grill Wunderbrat

I’ve tried a few vegan hot dogs in my lifetime, but none was as close to a Polish sausage as the Veggie Grill Wunderbrat. This Beyond Meat Original Bratwurst packs some genuine sausage flavor, plus that plasticky pop you get when you bite into a real hot dog. The brat comes between a soft pretzel bun with caramelized onions. Then you can top it with horseradish mustard for a kick, pickled purple cabbage for crunch and tang, and a beer cheese sauce to mellow it all out with some creaminess.

Veggie Grill Bratwurst
Wunderbrat ($13.50), as described on menu: Beyond Meat bratwurst, Pretzilla bun, Sierra Nevada cheese sauce, caramelized onions, mustard, pickled red cabbage and crispy fries.

Although this dish is on the pricier side compared to most of Veggie Grill’s entrée options, this bratwurst is high quality and worth the price, especially if you’re a fan of classic Eastern European flavors such as horseradish, sausage, and pickled cabbage.

Crepes Bistro: French Affection Sweet Crepe and Home Style Fries

Alas, the days of having to go savory at every brunch because there are no vegan sweet options are over. While The Butcher’s Son is a great vegan brunch option in Berkeley, Crepes Bistro is also a must try if you’re in San Jose.

I am not much of a sweet tooth, but having missed out on most sweet brunch options at restaurants, I knew the first thing I’d order there would be a sweet crepe. Just to be clear, this place is vegan and vegetarian, so some things still need to be ordered with no cheese or no whipped cream in order for them to be vegan.

french affection crepes bistro
French Affection Crepe, no whipped cream ($12.63): Chocolate crepe filled with coconut cream and topped with caramel drizzle and candied walnuts.

I chose to go with the most indulgent option I could find, the French Affection Crepe. This is a chocolate crepe filled with coconut cream and topped with a caramel drizzle and candied walnuts. Swoon. The coconut cream slightly resembled the texture of condensed milk, the chocolate and caramel were not too overpowering, while the candied walnuts added some brown sugary tones and crunch.

house style fries crepes bistro
Home Style Fries ($7.50): Hand cut and seasoned fries served with ketchup and lemon tahini.

For you salty heads like me, the fries here made it to the top of my list of best fries. These take a little while because they’re hand cut and seasoned, but they’re worth the wait. Whoever happened to cut them that day cut them the perfect size. The result is a fry that is not too stiff but not too wobbly, and seasoned just right. They’re served in a bowl with a side of ketchup and lemon tahini, which is an unexpected yet bright and yummy pairing with the fries.

This is a good place to go if you’re not in a hurry, as the wait is a little longer than usual but only because everything is being made to order. I’m looking forward to visiting again and trying more from their menu, which includes savory crepes, juices, smoothies, açaí bowls, salads, and more. Next time you’re looking for a veg brunch in San Jose, I suggest you give this place a shot. It’s fresh, tasty, and has a variety of options so there’s a little something for everyone.

The Happy Hooligans: Chick’n & Waffle

Something that I’ve never tried before, even before becoming vegan, is the classic chicken and waffle combination.

Ever wondered what food actually originated in the United States? Chicken and waffles is one of them. My first time trying this classic combo was at The Happy Hooligans. The waffle is sage infused, topped with two pieces of house-made fried vegan chicken, then dusted with a little powdered sugar, and served with butter and molasses cider maple syrup.

The Happy Hooligans - Chick'n and Waffles
Chick’n & Waffle, $12.95 (as described on the menu): Sage-infused Belgian waffle topped with house vegan fried chicken served with molasses cider maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar.

The waffle had a fluffy texture, but the sage flavor didn’t quite come through. I suppose that’s fine though, because you also don’t want the waffle to be too savory, as that defeats purpose of the dish, which is to have that sweet and savory flavor profile.

The chicken, on the other hand, was amazing. I had recently watched a Popeye’s fried chicken ASMR mukbang video which left me craving fried chicken, and this dish did the trick with satisfying that craving. The chicken was perfectly fried and had a thick, crunchy coating, but it was not greasy at all, which was great.

Their molasses cider maple syrup was good too, it was thin and not overly sweet like the fake gooey pancake syrup they sometimes sell at the store. I dipped the chicken in the syrup at first and then towards the end I was topping it with some Tapatio hot sauce they had at the table. It was very tasty both ways, and the dish was very filling.

Nothing was too sweet or too salty, so the flavors merged together very well. This dish is perfect for a lazy Sunday, a late brunch, or a hearty hangover meal. But it’s great for any other occasion as well!

The Happy Hooligans: Backyard BBQ Burger

One of my favorite restaurants for vegan comfort food in San Jose is The Happy Hooligans. This small, cozy restaurant has a varied selection of pastas, salads, sandwiches, burgers, Mexican food, and desserts.

One must-try from their menu is their Backyard BBQ Burger. This burger comes packed with a soy beef patty, mac and cheese, crispy onion rings, house-made bacon bits, BBQ sauce, and white cheese sauce.

The Happy Hooligans Backyard BBQ Burger (edited)
Backyard BBQ Burger ($13), as described on the menu: Vegan beef patty topped with all-vegan toppings of mac and cheese, white cheese sauce, house bacon, fried onion rings, and bbq sauce on a sesame bun. Served with fries or salad.

The patty has a nice meaty texture, and the mac and cheese is creamy but not overly saucy. The onion rings are made with red onion, and offer a crispy contrast to the mac and cheese without making the burger too crunchy either. Although the house-made bacon bits don’t look or taste like real bacon (they’re more like little cubes), they add smokiness, “meatiness”, and great flavor to the burger while the BBQ sauce adds a touch of sweetness. I wasn’t able to taste the white cheese sauce in my burger as much, but I think a little more of it would have been good to contrast the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

Despite this dish being very indulgent, it was not overly-filling. Or maybe I was just really hungry…I’ll let you decide that for yourself. Whether you’re a first-timer at this restaurant, a burger lover, or a vegan food newbie that isn’t really into vegetables, you’ve got to try this delicious burger!

Homemade Blueberry Lemon Hand Pies

Since it was Pie Day in my class the other day, I wanted to bring something to share, while also using some lemons that my aunt brought us from her tree. I stumbled upon a Blueberry Lemon Hand Pies recipe from the blog Shugary Sweets. The recipe calls for store bought pie crust and blueberry filling, but the grocery store I went to didn’t have vegan pie crust or blueberry pie filling.

So instead I went back to the blog Gretchen’s Bakery, where I had previously found a really good recipe for homemade apple cinnamon pop tarts. Surely enough, she also had a Blueberry Pop Tart recipe, so I made my own pie crust and own blueberry filling from scratch using that recipe. I made the dough vegan by using Earth Balance butter spread and almond milk. Then, instead of using egg wash to brush the pies, I used almond milk mixed with agave.

Blueberry Lemon Hand Pies
Vegan Homemade Blueberry Lemon Hand Pies. Recipe adapted from Gretchen’s Bakery Blueberry Pop Tarts and Shugary Sweet’s Blueberry Lemon Hand Pie recipes.

When it came to the assembly of the hand pies and the lemon glaze, I used the Shugary Sweets recipe. The pop tart dough and filling turned out to be perfect for the hand pie recipe. The only thing I changed is I put both the lemon zest and juice into the glaze rather than mixing the zest into the blueberry filling. I’m sure it’d taste fine either way, I just forgot to mix the zest into the filling and didn’t remember until my pies were already assembled.

The result was a buttery, flaky crust, a fresh tasting blueberry filling that wasn’t too sweet, and a perfectly lemony glaze. I’m actually glad the grocery store didn’t have the ingredients I needed, because otherwise I wouldn’t have created these delicious homemade vegan pies!

Luna Mexican Kitchen: Guacamole, Horchata, and Enchiladas El Vegan

There is a new Mexican restaurant that opened in my neighborhood last year called Luna Mexican Kitchen. What I like about this place is that they have options catered to vegans and vegetarians. I applaud this business for catering to both omnivores and veg people. I think that’s a very smart thing to do if you are opening a brand new restaurant business these days. All it means is more customers, and that’s a good thing, of course. As a Mexican, it makes me happy to see more Mexican restaurants starting to get more creative with vegan food.

At the front of the restaurant there is a large window where you can see the kitchen, and when you walk inside, you can see someone cooking the handmade tortillas. They also have a nice little bar inside. We sat outside in the patio which fully covered by a tarp with windows, which was nice because we got the outdoor eating experience without having to deal with wind making our food cold. They were also playing really nice traditional Mexican music in the background.

As an appetizer, we ordered the guacamole. It was good, but nothing amazing and I feel it was a small amount for $10. My dad makes a guacamole that’s slightly spicy and has diced tomato in it, so I kind of always compare other guacamoles to my dad’s. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with this guacamole at all. I guess I just felt it was overpriced and I was missing the tomato and spiciness. But the lime did add a good fresh zingy flavor to it.

Luna Mexican Kitchen Guac
Guacamole ($10): made with avocado, onion, cilantro and lime, served with tortilla chips.

For the entree, I ordered the Enchiladas El Vegan. When I received my plate, I felt a bit skimped on the green rice, but it actually turned out to be a more filling dish than I had expected, so the amount turned out to be perfect. These enchiladas were made with their house made tortillas, and you could tell. The tortillas were thicker and more pillowy than your average store bought corn tortilla. The enchiladas were filled with sweet potato, black beans and spinach, and were topped with tomatillo salsa and chipotle cashew crema (cream). They were served with arroz verde (green rice) and epazote black beans. I really liked the chipotle cashew crema drizzle because vegan enchiladas tend to look naked and lonely since they’re not topped with cheese. So the drizzle made for a very nice presentation and added another layer to the dish. The sweet potato went went with the mild tomatillo salsa, and I liked that the spinach wasn’t overly cooked. I didn’t mind there being black beans inside the enchiladas as well as on the side, since I already eat tons of beans anyway!

Luna Mexican Kitchen Enchiladas El Vegan
Enchiladas El Vegan ($14): Sweet potato, black bean, and spinach enchiladas with tomatillo salsa and chipotle cashew crema. Served with arroz verde and epazote black beans.

For a drink, I ordered their horchata. Horchata is a Mexican drink made from rice, so it’s basically sweet rice milk with cinnamon. However, some places still add real milk or condensed milk to it, and some places make it overly sweet. I asked if there was any dairy in this drink, and luckily there isn’t! It’s just perfectly sweetened, refreshing rice milk with a touch of cinnamon. Yum!

Luna Mexican Kitchen Horchata
Horchata ($4): Lightly sweetened rice milk with cinnamon. 

All in all, I felt like I was eating a truly healthy and wholesome meal. I had my veggies, my rice, my legumes, fresh salsa, and rice milk. That’s what I love about eating out as a vegan. By default, I end up eating a lot healthier when eating out and actually feel good and satisfied after my meals rather than falling into a food coma.

From their ambiance, to their vegan options, to the actual quality of the food, I recommend this restaurant. I loved their homemade, healthy, authentic taste. I feel like when people think of Mexican food, they think of hard shell tacos or food drowned in sour cream and cheese. The reality is, traditional Mexican food revolves around corn, beans, and fresh salsas and it can be quite healthy.  Nothing I ate at the restaurant was too in-your-face or overly rich and heavy, and I love that. The food had the fresh and subtle flavors that you get from home cooking. Give it a try!

P.S. I also read they have a to-go breakfast menu that includes a vegan breakfast burrito, acai bowls, and smoothies. Definitely coming back for this!