Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Scrambles

I'll warn you ahead of time, this is a long, wordy, picture-filled post with no recipe - just so you know! Keep reading though, there are some great local restaurant ideas!!

OK, so, this weekend brought the unexpected blessing of 70-degree temperatures, clear blue skies, a free schedule, and a few tax-return dollars in the bank. What to do but spend it in as fun and frivolous a manner as possible...

So, the Sprouts and I headed up to Seattle for a few hours Friday afternoon, doing some window shopping and randomly hitting up Wallingford Center, Trophy Cupcakes (not vegan but then, my cupcake-obsessed daughter isn't either, and they do have some amazing flavor-combinations I need to copy), Mighty-O Doughnuts (winners of Food Network's recent 'Doughnut Challenge' and definitely vegan!) and the novelty-toy emporium of awesomeness known as Archie McPhees.

(As you can see, I made fast friends with Mr. Bacon, an Archie McPhee invention, while there. We discussed tempeh and other bacon-like step-cousins of his.)

After an afternoon of fun, quirky browsing, we headed to a Seattle icon, The Five-Point Cafe, to meet my friend Jen (AKA "Jane Danger") for supper.

I love the history of this place - they're the one of the oldest bars in town dating back to Prohibition!

They also proudly hold the well-deserved title as one of the "world’s best dive bars and diners". Don't go expecting bubbly service or fancy garnishes, this is basic food and lots of beer. They have several options for vegans (and more for vegetarians) and I'd been told they had an "awesome" tofu scramble.

So, of course, even though it was dinner time, we both decided to try this awesome-sounding Curry-Tofu-Scramble concoction.
Sadly, though it LOOKED lovely, it didn't quite live up to the hype. And I'm bummed, because it has a LOT of potential. I'm hoping this was an 'off' day for them, I've had many other good (previously non-vegan) meals at Five -Point.

See, the first problem was that Five-Point claimed it was the "Best Scramble In The World". This must be a bit of an exaggeration because I (humbly) have it on good authority that I make the "best tofu scramble in the world". Sorry, what can I say? I've spoiled my own tastebuds apparently.

Second, though the scramble was bright yellow (indicating there should be curry in there somewhere?) and the vegetables were beautiful and crisp, neither my friend nor I could detect ANY curry, or any other spices or seasoning flavoring the tofu. In a word it was plain tofu and vegetables, bland-bland-bland. :cry:
Third, while the carrots and broccoli were perfectly tender-crisp (they do get high points there) the potatoes were distinctly under-done. Almost crunchy in the middle. It's a pity, because it LOOKED great and I wanted very much to like it, a lot.

I'm willing to give Five-Point the benefit of the doubt. And even try the scramble again soon. Doctoring with the provided soy sauce, Aardvark sauce, salt and pepper improved it somewhat, and while I understand some people prefer things more seasoned than others, I still would have preferred SOME flavor, and having to do less of my own adjustments. And it wasn't just me, Jen concurred that there seemed to be no seasonings evident.
All that said, the scramble, once I fussed with it, was edible. Aside from the potatoes, the other veggies were perfectly done, and the tofu was fresh-tasting (also a plus) and crumbled in large, firm chunks (another preference) rather than mashed into mushy oblivion, or cubed.

I hate to be critical, because while Seattle IS very vegan friendly, there isn't a huge selection of tasty breakfast options and I appreciate every offering I run across. I'm especially appreciative of those dishes available at otherwise omni-focused restaurants because those are the places I invariably end up with family and friends. Five-Point has a large menu, and several obvious concessions made for vegans and vegetarians, (they have an "No-Huevos Rancheros" with soyrizo I'd like to try, and vegetarian bacon available!) so I DO applaud their efforts. My daughter had a beautiful, fresh, green salad and some perfectly delicious, crispy, salty, greasy diner-fries made from REAL potatoes. As I said before, I hope our bland, unseasoned scramble was a fluke, I've eaten at Five-Point before, I KNOW they can do better.

So, on to better things: The next day, with sun still shining (two days in a row!) we decided to venture out again, this time to Tacoma.

First we picked up coffee and treats at my favorite coffee spot of all time, the delightful, FABULOUS, all vegan/vegetarian Caffe Dei. They will blow you AWAY with awesome coffee, tea and wine - plus their (recently expanded) menu has something for everyone, even several pages of beautifully executed raw-items!!

I can't say enough about how much I love this place. I only wish it wasn't 25 miles from my house! I plan to devote an entire blog post to their wonderousness, very soon!!

After fortifying ourselves with caffeine, we went in search of the city's recently completed graffiti mural - we'd only heard rumors, but were delighted when we discovered it was an amazing rendition of the "Alice-in-Wonderland" characters.

There's no way to take a decent picture so you can really appreciate this thing unless you see it in person!

Locals, if you're ever on Market Street, keep your eyes open!!

We then continued our explorations (discovering yet another cupcake bakery, still not vegan) and random exploring.

After considerable time absorbing warmth, sunshine and people watching on Tacoma's beautiful waterfront, we headed back downtown to Shakabrah Java, another little diner that supposedly had a "really good tofu scramble". Hmmm, I've heard that before somewhere...

But this time I was completely happy, Shakabrah managed to get the whole scramble thing JUST RIGHT.

I will say, their menu doesn't list vegan selections but don't let that throw you - it does say in large letters "Ask Your Server About Vegan Options". Which I did.

Any of their egg dishes can be made with their completely delicious (and SO flavorful!!) marinated tofu subbing for eggs. Definitely a must-try.

My spinach-mushroom-tofu was absolutely delicious and one of the best I've had. (Sorry Portland!)

The spinach was NOT overcooked, the potatoes were perfect and the tofu had a GREAT flavor!
If I were being picky, I'd still prefer my tofu crumbled rather than cubes, but that's simply a personal preference and easily overlooked, as this stuff was seriously GOOD!!

A tip: Go to the back and order straight from the counter, they don't do table service.
While you wait, there are plenty of used books on the cafe's shelves should you be needing reading material (which apparently my children did!).

I was not a huge fan of the slight bacon-smell to the air in the cafe, but, oddly, my (vegetarian) kids LOVED it, saying it reminded them of their Grandma's kitchen. To each their own, and it wasn't overpowering, just making a note...

So there you have it. Two scrambles in two diners in two days in two cities. (Oh, and some AMAZING coffee too!!)

Good, bad, average or otherwise, I don't get out much, but when I do, I definitely appreciate all the efforts, and am SO GLAD that more places are offering vegan options! If you live in or around Seattle or Tacoma, please check one of these places out!!

Here's hoping everyone had a perfectly wonderful Easter weekend too. I'll leave you with proof positive that the Easter Bunny (and his helper-bunny-pal) really DO exist!!
My daughter's friend and classmate caught them in the act, the little guys even have the eggs, and muddy paws to prove it!!


Marlene Elliott said...

Thank you for this post! I am a Portland transplant living a little outside of Tacoma and had completely given up eating out. I tried a couple of places in Olympia (long drive!) but their tofu scrambles were *terrible*. I can't wait to try this place in Tacoma.

Stephanie said...

I felt the same way about Five Point's tofu scramble! I ordered it a few months ago and it was SO disappointing. Not to mention that it (and most of the other food at our table) was served cold. However, the No Huevos Rancheros were actually very delicious. So if you ever decide to return to Five Point, I'd recommend trying one of the other vegan dishes. Thanks for the heads up about the place in Tacoma!