Present Moment Cafe

Vegans are tricky.

Last week I had the chance to visit the Present Moment Cafe in St. Augustine.  Someone had recommended it to me… with the warning that I shouldn’t let the “vegan-y” stuff scare me away.  We’d been discussing gluten free restaurants and she told me that I just had to try the Present Moment.  Almost everything on the menu is gluten free. Everything is dairy free… and meat free too….. It sounded like something I’d like to try eventually, but… but no meat?  Ummm….

I’ve had Mom and Brian on this Arbonne Thirty Day Detox… forever…. a week.  The Protein Shakes are good and dinners are easy enough, but dining out is a challenge.  No gluten, dairy, soy or corn is really hard at a regular restaurant…. but not at a vegan restaurant!

The Present Moment Cafe is really cute with colorful, eclectic decorations.  It’s not a very big place, but there are lots of little tables, perfect for visiting with friends and enjoying a Detox Smoothie.

The three of us chose a low table near the window, surrounded by two cushy couches. The menu is clearly labeled if the food contains wheat or soy.  Everything is obviously egg and dairy free since the food is vegan.

We ordered drinks while we decided what to eat.

Purple Haze Acai, blueberry, banana, cashew milk.

Detox Cooler Pineapple, cucumber, mint

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After a bit of arguing over who was getting what… we all have to try something different and share… we finally placed our order.

Tacos of Life Pine nut and walnut pate, with fresh
salsa, Mexican “cheese” and guacamole in two romaine
shells topped with cashew sour cream and jalapeno
vinaigrette. Served with two dehydrated corn chips…10

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Mom enjoyed the tacos.  I tried a bite of the Pine Nut & Walnut Pate that was the “meat” of the dish.  It was good.  I’m not giving up meat anytime in the near future, but if I had to… this was a pretty tasty alternative.

Pad Thai Sweet and spicy Asian vegetables, served
over kelp noodles with a sesame garlic sauce, and topped
with curried cashews… 16

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The Pad Thai was delicious.  The kelp noodles weren’t what I was expecting… I was thinking of something green and… sea-weed-ish… The kelp noodles were a bit chewy, but in an enjoyable way.  They had a definite “bite” and “crunch” to them.  We liked the noodles enough that we bought a bag to take home and experiment with.

Okay…. so what would you think if the day’s special was a carrot hot dog? I mean, they had “burgers” that were made out of beans and stuff… and an “Un-Tuna” sandwich.  It’s not crazy to think that the carrot “hot dog”  was made from carrots and other stuff smooshed together to resemble a hot dog, right?

WRONG.  Vegans are tricky!

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It was a damned carrot on a hot dog bun!  I kid you not.. a carrot… smothered in sauerkraut… on a hot dog bun.

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Here’s the really crazy part…. it was actually pretty tasty.  Yes, of course I ate it!  I’d ordered it, I was going to try it. I’m pretty sure those Vegans were laughing at me for paying $10 for a carrot on a bun, but I’d show them…. I’d eat that damn carrot and like it!

It actually was pretty good though.

I only took a few bites of the bun because I am trying to avoid all the fake-y gluten free stuff while I do this detox, so I tried a few bites… (Yummy GF bun!) and then ate the rest of my sauerkraut covered “hot dog” with a fork.

The sweet potato salad was delicious and I’m planning to take a shot at duplicating the recipe soon.  They had a cookbook of restaurant recipes for sale, but of course, that recipe wasn’t in it!

We’d made it this far and not broken many of the detox rules, so we decided to treat ourselves to desert.  (The sugar was a no-no, but I think everything else was okay..) We ordered one Banana Split to share.

Classic Banana Split Homemade vanilla cashew ice cream, fresh berries, bananas, raw vegan vanilla and cacao creme topped with candied pecans… 9.5

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The cashew ice cream was delicious!  I’d rather not have to give up dairy, but I certainly wouldn’t mind having cashew ice cream if it turns out that dairy is one of my food nemeses.

I don’t think I’d like to become vegan, but the food at the Present Moment Cafe is certainly delicious enough that I don’t mind being vegan-ish for a meal or three.  The staff was sweet and great about answering any food allergy/ingredient questions.  The cafe itself is cozy and comfortable; perfect for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch with friends.

 

The Present Moment Cafe

224 West King Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32089

Taco Seasoning – Day 9

Taco Seasoning

When my doctor put me on the allergy diet the first time, at six years old, one of the (many) things that I wasn’t allowed to have was Caramel Coloring.  Of course, caramel coloring is found in all sorts of things. Brown sodas, canned soups, seasoning packets… brown things…. lots of things!

Today, a tad bit older than six, I’ve googled and I see that a number of places are saying that caramel coloring is now gluten-free and doesn’t have any listed allergens…. umm… I dunno… and I still think the crap is bad for you.

Good article about Caramel Coloring: Much Ado About Caramel Coloring

The FDA says its okay (and you know we can always trust the FDA….), and California says caramel coloring will kill us all (paraphrasing a bit, maybe)…. I’m with California on this one. Gluten-free or not… I’m going to cut out all the caramel coloring and additives that I possibly can.

I’ve been wanting nachos since Dad and I got Mexican for lunch last week and I couldn’t figure out if the nachos were made with flour or not.  Dinner wasn’t the best tonight… we tried out a few new recipes and… they kinda sucked.  So we thought we’d have nachos for a movie snack.

Taco Seasoning 

  • 1 Tbs Chili Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper

Stir spices together.  Store in an airtight container.

We combined the Taco Seasoning with ground hamburger, taco sauce (Taco Bell – Mild), sheep’s milk cheese and nachos. YUM!

Taco Nachos

Day 6 – Whole Foods Heaven!

I have found the Disney-Land of grocery!  Whole Foods Market!  Now I was pretty excited by Global Foods Market, but Whole Foods is so Semi-Pescetarian-Vegan friendly!   I kept wandering the isles going “look at this” and picking things up… and adding them to the cart.  Fortunatly for the budget, Brian kept an eye on what I was putting in the cart and asked… frequently… “Do you really want this?” and “What are you going to do with this?”  I did manage to get quite a few items into the cart…. a number of them I even had an idea of what to do with them!  At first it was just so exciting to find things I could eat…. then I was trying to find things I could COOK and turn into dinners.

Whole Foods Market has this amazing bakery… all sorts of bread and muffins, scones and cakes…. Brian had to drag me away.  Around the far side of the bakery, we found gluten-free breads.  I couldn’t find any bread without milk and eggs too, but I did find tortillas.  Brian was so excited… Taco Night!  We found a gluten-free flour (weird, huh?).  Brownies, maybe?  You can find it here on Amazon.com – King Arthur Flour Multipurpose Flour, Gluten Free, 24-ounces.

The cheese section was pretty amazing too.  There were all these different cheeses and these really nice signs over them stating clearly what kind of milk they were made from… Cow, Goat or Sheep.  Woo Hoo!  (NOTE: When I had the food allergies as a kid, Mom was told that I could have sheep or goat’s milk.   There is a protein allergen known as Alpha s1 Casein found in high levels in cow’s milk. The levels of Alpha s1 Casein in goat’s milk are about 89% less than cow’s milk. I have not been retested for food allergies, I’m just going with what I was allergic to as a kid, eliminating them for two solid weeks and then slowly adding things back in and seeing how I feel.  Not super scientific…)  

I found chocolate too!  You have to find a Dark Chocolate and READ the label.  It’s a lot easier to find milk-free chocolate in the health food stores.  I came home with four different chocolate treats.  You should SO try these: Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate — 3.2 oz

Oh! The meat section!  OMG!  Tons of fish and seafood…. we got Mahi Mahi and Tuna… OMG!  I can’t wait to have them for dinner.  Brian is a killer-griller.  I was lost in the seafood section, but Brian wandered off into the beef and pork area… As I said, I’m not usually a fan of pork (I dunno why, I just don’t like it!), but I like sausage and bacon… I know, I’m not consistant.  We found these blueberry pork breakfast sausages….mmmmmm.  Those are for breakfast tomorrow morning…. I’m thinking Brian can give the Gluten-Free waffles a shot too.

If you have a Whole Foods Market in your neighborhood…. you are SO lucky!  Our closest Whole Foods is about an hour away… sigh… but Brian and I are kind of odd…. We think a great Friday night involves going to a fancy supermarket and finding new things to cook.  I can see us having wonderful date nights at Whole Foods.  Find a new fish, a bottle of wine… go home and cook together!

Whole Foods Market Loot

We are odd, but I couldn’t ever do this without Brian’s support.  Food allergies act like an addiction… it’s so bad for you, but you want it.  Since I’ve been off my allergens I’ve had headaches, dizziness, mood-swings… and killer cravings.  It helps being able to see the improvements already… My joints feel better, much of the achiness and stiffness is gone… not totally, but I can feel a real difference.  Lost some weight already.. woo hoo! And I am sleeping better!  I may crave the allergens, but the improvements that I am feeling already are making it easier to ignore those cravings.  Luckily for me, Brian loves cooking (and me) and he’s been really brave about trying new recipes and ingredients.

I’d like to actually maintain this lifestyle…. maybe not to the extreme level forever…. but a semi reasonable level.  Right now I am trying to make sure that there isn’t a drop of wheat, milk or eggs in anything I eat.  I’d like to get to the point where I don’t have to worry about a little bit of one of my allergens in my food…. like butter.  I miss butter….. it’s a major pain to cook without butter!  I’ve found sheep’s butter, but it’s pretty expensive (they way I used butter, anyway…).

Day six… almost a full week in… I’m beginning to think I can do this!

Day 5 – Identity Chrisis

I think I may be turning into a Vegan.

It all started with the chocolate cravings… I just wanted chocolate so bad…. and Brian wanted me to have chocolate pretty bad too. Yesterday he was all tough… He even told my mom to not give into me!  Today Brian’s resolve was wavering a bit too… perhaps the incessant howling …. mine… about chocolate was having an effect?  Before long Brian was beside me at the computer googling for a recipe with chocolate… without eggs or flour.  I figured I could use the Almond Milk to replace any milk.  And I can’t use just any chocolate… but I can use cocoa powder.  (I remember Mom used to let me have semi-sweet chocolate chips when I was a kid, but now they have milk in the ingredients list.)  Who would have thought it would be so hard?

To replace the eggs we found we could use bananas or applesauce.  I’m not a fan of using strange chemicals as replacements…. I’m trying to go clean (I know I can’t go totally chemical free, but I’m aiming for chemical free-er).

SUBSTITUTIONS: 

1 egg – 1/4 cup applesauce PLUS 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

OR flaxmeal (Make flaxmeal by grinding flaxseed in a blender until it has the consistency of cornmeal.) Use two tablespoons flaxmeal plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder plus 3 tablespoons water for each egg called for in recipe.

OR bananas – Substitute 1/2 of a mashed ripe banana plus 1/4 teaspoon baking powder for each egg.

Woo Hoo!

Now we just needed a recipe that didn’t need flour. I know there are recipes that use black beans…. and different kinds of flour…. I’m just not desperate enough to go to beans…. and I’m willing to try the different kinds of flour, but I just don’t have them in the house at the moment.

You know how your Google searches get better the longer you search?  I started out with “Chocolate” and then added “Flour-less” and then I noticed I kept getting Vegan recipes… Umm…. Google?  I’m not Vegan.  I love cows… to eat.  Then again… Looking back at what I’ve been eating lately… OMG!  I’m turning Vegan! (Actually, I”m probably more of a Pescatarian – basically a vegetarian that still eats seafood…. I don’t like pork, I like steak, but not super fond of hamburger, can’t have turkey or chicken….. but I’m more vegan since I can’t have the eggs or milk… does that make me a Pescan?)

We found this recipe for Flourless Fudge Brownies and thought we’d give it a shot and try out our egg alterations.

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Our first attempt came out really oily and wouldn’t solidify…  Brian was ready to pitch it and give up… until I started sniffling… Not cute, or anything… sorta desperate… with wide blinkie eyes.  “Yeah, sure… I’ll try another batch. No problem!”  And so we made a few more adjustments and into the oven batch number two went.

It wouldn’t solidify either…. I’m guessing it really needed eggs.  *sigh*

Brian tried to perk me up with Starburst…. so not chocolate.

Chocolate cravings continue.