Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Susty's Cafe

Although we are extremely lucky to have so many options for vegan dining out here in Worcester, I am always looking for something new.  This doesn't mean we don't have our favorites (this means you, Tortilla Sam's), but on days when it's a special occasion, or we just have extra time, we like to venture out further to find something different, and if possible, something completely vegan.  Contrary to popular belief, it's not difficult to find something we can eat and will enjoy at pretty much any restaurant, but it's also nice to be able to pick out anything on the menu without worrying if it is going to upset our stomachs--or our ethics, since John & I are vegan for the animals as much as we are vegan for our health.  I will post more about that soon, since I imagine quite a few people who know me "in real life" are curious as to why I decided to make this lifestyle change almost 2 years ago.

At any rate, my search for a new place to eat my birthday dinner yesterday led us to Northwood, New Hampshire to Susty's Cafe.  The menu at Susty's describes the cafe as 100% vegan and 99% organic.  We were happy to walk in and find it warm and inviting, and one of the people working there came out and welcomed us and invited us to sit anywhere.  It was not busy at all; in fact, we were the only customers there the entire time.  Here's what we ate:

 Nachos with black beans, cheezy sauce, tomato, & avocado

This appetizer was devoured instantly.  John & I both love Mexican, and this was spiced so delicately and perfectly that it was the perfect start to our meal.  

When it came to our entrees, we both were thinking comfort food.  The weather is not as bad as it could be up here, but it is dark out and kind of chilly, so we were all about eating something warm that would stick to our ribs.  John opted for the Roasted Seitan Plate, and I went with the Shepherd's Pie.  I got a side salad with mine, but I accidentally inhaled it before I remembered to take a picture.  The veggies were so fresh and delicious!  According to the woman who seated us, who I am assuming was the owner, the restaurant has a good relationship with a local farmer, so a good portion of the food they serve is local and as fresh as can be.  The salad was simply mixed greens and shredded carrots with a cucumber slice (which I gave away -- I can't stand cucumbers!  I know I'm weird.), and I opted for a lemon-tahini dressing.  I blame the dressing as the reason I forgot to take a picture.  I can't be trusted around tahini!  Here are our entree plates:

 Shepherd's Pie - Seitan chunks, corn, peas, and savory gravy with mashed potato topping

Roasted Seitan Plate - Seitan slices, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots and kale

This was by far the most fantastic seitan I have ever had, and that includes a seitan piccata that John had at Candle 79.  It was very similar in both taste and texture to pot roast.  Susty's offers classes on a variety of different subjects, and this made me wish I could go to the seitan class!  I have never made it myself at home, so I am a little intimidated.  Alas, their classes seem to be on weekdays, unfortunately.  So I will be making homemade seitan someday soon, and whether it's good or bad, I'll blog it!  For those of you unaware of what exactly seitan is, it is also called "wheat meat," and it is a high protein, "meaty" substance made out of wheat gluten.  It makes a good meat stand-in in many dishes, much like tofu.  I will acknowledge that it does sound kind of weird, but it's actually really good, and it has a long culinary history in other cultures.

I couldn't have a birthday meal without dessert, and there were quite a few options, which was another positive, since dessert is usually a big no-no at regular restaurants (since almost anything includes dairy and/or eggs).  I went with apple pie, and John had strawberry cake with strawberry icing.

Not too sweet, not too small, not too big.  Just right!

John was in heaven eating this cake.  He's a strawberry maniac!

In the end, we were extremely satisfied with our visit to this little restaurant.  The people working there were wonderful, the atmosphere was warm and cozy, and the food was top notch.  Portion-wise, it was just enough that we felt full but not stuffed, and we were able to have a variety of food.  The price was a little on the high side, but you are getting what you are paying for, and with the caliber of food we were eating, it was worthwhile.  We didn't have anything to drink beyond the complimentary water, so that could up the price a bit, but for our appetizer, entrees and desserts, the bill was $51 plus tip.  We can certainly eat cheaper at other places, but certainly not this well.  

I would highly recommend Susty's Cafe to anyone, whether vegan or not.  It's the kind of place that feeds your soul as well as it feeds your belly, and this day in age, when it's second nature of so many of us to just run by Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and McDonald's for lunch, eating real food grown and prepared by real people is more important than ever.

See Susty's Cafe website, including their menu and cooking class schedule here:  Susty's Cafe

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