Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vegan Potluck for May announced

VeganEarth's monthly meeting and vegan potluck dinner will be held on at 3:30 p.m. on May 15 at Clifton United Methodist Church, 3416 Clifton Avenue, Clifton. The topic will be "Networking for Sustainability" with guest speaker Mark Keillor, co-founder of OneVoice4Change, a Cincinnati-based social network focused on the world-wide sustainability movement.

The program is free; please bring a vegan dish to share, as well as compostable or reusable dishes and cutlery. For more information, call 513-929-2500 or visit

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Blind Café: Who says Cincinnati isn't cool?

The last time I was in England I heard about a restaurant called Dans le Noir in a London neighborhood called Clerkenwell where everyone eats and drinks in complete darkness. The idea behind the concept is that it allows diners to re-evaluate the notion of taste; without sight, other senses kick in to offer a new sensation and emotions. As intriguing as it sounded, we didn’t have a chance to get there during our visit.

Unbeknownst to me, Brian Rocheleau, a musician who goes by the name of Rosh, was inspired to set up Blind Cafés in the United States after visiting one in Reykjavik, Iceland while he was on tour. The Boulder, Austin and Portland Blind Cafés were such a success that Rosh had decided to take the concept around the country, and the next one will be here in Cincinnati! Hey, who says Cincinnati isn’t cool?

The Blind Café will take place Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 at the North Presbyterian Church, 4222 Hamilton Ave., Northside, giving diners a chance to share in the unique experience of having a three-course, completely vegan, gluten-free meal served by blind wait staff, as well as a music concert by Rosh & One Eye Glass Broken, all in pitch darkness.

The event costs $50 per person and begins at 5:45 p.m. each night. For more information or to register for this distinctive event, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pho Lang Thang

Pho Lang Thang
112 W. Elder St.

This cheerfully cozy Vietnamese restaurant, located in the Market District Shops of Findlay Market, is a vegetarian's dream. Five of the 13 menu items are vegetarian-friendly, and three of those choices are completely vegan!

Pho Lang Thang

While the names of the dishes are not easily pronounceable nor as recognizable as those of other ethnic eateries, the descriptions are clear and the Vietnamese food dictionary on the bottom of the menu is a handy reference guide. If you are unsure about something, just ask; the friendly servers are happy to help.

The menu is broken down into sections: starters, salads, sandwiches (banh mi), rice noodle soup (pho), and rice vermicelli noodles (bun). The vegan option on the starters section is goi cuon chay (vegan mixed salad roll), which consists of fresh tofu, crimini mushrooms, pickled white radish and carrots (known as do chua), and fresh cilantro wrapped in rice paper for only $3. The rolls are a little bland on their own, but with a touch of the accompanying peanut-hoisin dipping sauce they absolutely sing with flavor.

Goi Cuon Chay

Other vegan selections include pho chay (rice noodle soup - $5/small $6.50/large $8.50/extra large) and goi bap cai chay (salad served in a toasted black sesame rice paper bowl - $6).

While the vegetarian bun chay (vermicelli noodles with fried tofu - $7) sounded very tempting, I chose instead the banh mi chay ($6), a soft French baguette lightly smeared with a very tasty garlic butter mayo and stuffed with lightly fried tofu, do chua, cucumber, and cilantro. It's a wonderfully light combination of flavors, especially the melt-in-your-mouth tofu, which is nothing like the heavily fried, chewy kind one finds at area Chinese restaurants. Superb.

Banh Mi Chay

My friend chose the bun thit nuong, comprised of rice vermicelli noodles and your choice of beef, chicken or pork in a large bowl of lettuce, bean spouts, cucumber, fresh herbs and crushed peanuts, with a side dish of sweet and sour fish sauce for pouring over. The difference between the vegetarian and meat version of this dish is the substitution of fried tofu for the meat, and sweet and sour mushroom soy sauce instead of fish sauce.

Bun Thit Nuong

Pho Lang Thang also serves imported Vietnamese coffee, soybean milk and an incredibly sweet limeade called da chanh. They are open Tuesday through Sunday at 9 a.m. for coffee; food service begins at 11 a.m. What a welcome addition to the neighborhood!

Pho Lang Thang on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 8, 2011

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille at The Banks
161 Joe Nuxhall Way

Holy Grail's downtown phone number reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg joke:
"I hope the next time I move I get a real easy phone number, something that's real easy to remember. Something like 222-2222. I would say, 'Sweet!' And then people would say, 'Mitch, how do I get a hold of you?' I'd say, 'Just press 2 for a while. And when I answer, you will know you have pressed 2 enough.'"

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille

All joking aside though, Holy Grail is a great place for a brew or two while watching the ballgame, but it's not so great if you are a hungry vegetarian. I had checked their online menu prior to visiting and saw a couple of veggie-friendly entrées that sounded appealing, but upon entering the establishment and perusing the menu I noticed that most of those selections were missing. No veggie quesadillas, no black bean veggie burger, and no build-your-own pizzas. Our server explained that those selections were available at the other Holy Grail locations, but that their menu was much smaller. The only vegetarian entrée listed at the Banks location was a veggie wrap.

You won't miss a moment of sport - TVs are everywhere

As tempted as I was to order the wrap, after speaking with the server I'll admit that I wasn't convinced that the filling of sautéed peppers, onions and mushrooms wouldn't be contaminated with meat juices. Instead, I ended up ordering an overpriced appetizer. The nachos ($7.49) were fine; afterall, it's hard to go wrong with such a simple dish, but it wasn't a meal.

The Holy Grail of Nachos

Steve opted for the Black & Bleu Angus Burger ($8.99), which looked freshly made instead of the standard frozen patty you normally see at sports bars. He thought it was pretty good, albeit somewhat dry. The limp fries that came on the side could have used another 30 seconds in the deep fryer.

Black and Bleu Angus Burger

I was surprised that Holy Grail's beer selection was not on the same par as other local sports bars/watering holes. Does anyone know if their beer menu is also an abbreviated version compared to their Clifton and Delhi Township locations, or are they just not that into craft beer? The beer menu was full of the usual suspects but had only a few craft selections.

I was intrigued enough to order their signature Blueberry Grail Ale (brewed by Barrelhouse) and found it to be delightfully refreshing. It was slightly sweet but not sickeningly so, with somewhat of a hoppy finish. I wasn't prepared for the spoonful of blueberries floating in it, nor was I prepared for the price: $6.50 a pint. Ouch. No wonder everyone else in the place was drinking Bud Light.

Blueberry Grail Ale

The restaurant's design incorporates several large glass-fronted garage doors that can be opened in nice weather, blurring the barrier between inside and out. It's a great concept, marred only by the amount of cigarette smoke that blows in from the patio while you are trying to eat. It also gets really LOUD when it starts to fill up. Steve and I had to yell at each other to be heard above the din, and we were sat right next to each other. I've no idea how people sitting across from one another could carry on a conversation.

Bringing the outside in

We had high hopes for this place, but really the best thing going for it is the great location - right across the road from Great American Ball Park. It will do well enough without us.
Holy Grail Tavern & Grille at The Banks on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April vegan potluck announced

The fine folks at VeganEarth are holding their monthly vegan potluck at 3:30 on April 17 at the Clifton United Methodist Church, 3416 Clifton Avenue. Rachel Lewis and Richard Brown will discuss the progress of their program to bring the pro-vegan film "Eating" to area audiences.

Please bring a vegan dish to share. For more information, call 513-929-2500 or visit