I'm running an all-terrain, 12-mile, 25-military obstacle race in San Bernadino on Saturday. That's sure to be a challenge, but endurance races also come with their perks. Among them is that you get to carbo-load guilt-free for a few days before the race. Vegan Thai food anyone? Yessir, I'll take a double.
A two-mile walk from from my friend Gia's adorable (and spacious and reasonably-priced... What? No, no, of course I'm not thinking about moving) rental in the Park La Brea neighborhood of Los Angeles, we found Vegan Glory. Literally. It's a restaurant with a six-page menu featuring kamut flour pancakes, lentil wraps, pepper "steak" sandwiches, Pad Thai, and vegan carrot cake. We've got nothing like it in Miami. The selection was actually overwhelming, so we asked our smiling server to steer us toward a few of the best Thai dishes on the menu. She obliged.
We ordered an entree and one of the restaurant's lunch specials to share. The latter came with a cup of coconut soup, a salad, and brown rice, but we opted to substitute flat rice noodles in the spirit of pre-race pasta parties.
The lemongrass-flavored soup was tasty, and loaded with veggies like cabbage and carrot. Then came the sukiyaki stir fry ($11.95), a hodgepodge of tofu, soy fish, soy shrimp, mung bean noodles, celery, spinach, scallion, and Napa cabbage, served in spicy sukiyaki sauce.
It was loaded with greens and had a great spicy-salty-sweet flavor. The fake shrimp were especially fun to look at and play with, but I wouldn't say the texture or flavor was totally shrimp-like. That's okay. The dish was great and we made it disappear really fast.
Next came the vegetable green curry ($8.95). With its skinny bamboo shoot shreds and expertly spiced sauce, I didn't miss the fish-saucy flavor that generally characterizes most Thai food. The vegetables were bright and firm - not soupily overcooked and melting into the sauce like they are at some Thai places. I had a bite of the spring roll and no more - it tasted like any other fried thing and I found the colorful, fresher fare to be more appealing.
Having skipped breakfast, we had a little room for dessert after our meal, and since the fruit's in season, we opted for the mango and sticky rice with coconut cream ($7.65). We smothered juicy chunks of the unsuspecting mango with the steaming rice kernels, which were clustered together in succulent sweet bundles. It was just dreamy.
Beyond good food, our waitress was incredibly attentive; our water glasses never dipped below half full and she was happy to bring us out extra sauce and answer our annoying questions about the gluten content of different dishes. We loved everything about Vegan Glory, and I'm pretty sure we're heading back to try those pancakes tomorrow morning.
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Later, we made a trip to the local Whole Foods, where I was astounded by the selection of bulk items. It must be five times the size of the one in our South Beach Whole Foods. I found things like hemp superfood cereal (which I thought was a bin of weed on first glance), mounds of dehydrated golden berries, and vats of local honey ready for the pouring (though many vegans don't, I eat bee products).
I was in such sensation overload, my eyelids were pulled back to my skull and I couldn't stop circling the bins, running through the produce section remarking on varieties of squash I'd never seen, and marveling at the general abundance. For all the supply, however, the prices were no better than they are at our local Whole Foods, and in some cases they were worse.
Finally, one of my friends had to grab my arm and pull me away. It would, I guess, be ridiculous to spend a big chunk of my vacation in a store I can (and do) visit at home just about every day (even if it is a really big and super cool version of the store).