Generally, I am a pretty unrepentant omnivore. I love meat without shame or apology, and in the past, I may or may not have stabbed a man for the last piece of pork belly on a plate. But recently, when Los Angeles became the largest city in the country to officially endorse Meatless Mondays (a movement encouraging people to cut meat out of their diets at least one day a week), I surprised myself at how supportive I was of the City Council's resolution. These feelings are in large part due to a recent visit to Mohawk Bend to sample the new seasonal food and drink items.
First, let's talk about the cocktails. Normally, when we go to Mohawk Bend, we get awfully tunnel-visioned about the rows of amazing beers on tap. But the new seasonal cocktails are definitely worth checking out. If I could, I would swap out the typical Thanksgiving candied yams for My Yummy Yammy, with Crusoe Organic Silver rum, yam puree, and brown sugar (below left, $12) every year. It's lighter than you would expect from something made with puree, and the toasted marshmellow that tops the concoction is a perfect finishing touch. The Drunkin’ Punkin’, with Tru Organic Vanilla vodka, FruitLab Orange liqueur, grenadine, and house made pumpkin pie foam (below center, $12, not vegan) is intensely pumpkin-y but not sickly sweet. And for those with a taste for more herby cocktails, the Thyme Bomb, with #209 gin, thyme, lemon juice, apple cider (below right, $11) is right up your alley.
Now, we've tried and liked Chef Mike Garber's food before at brunch. But this time, we put his vegan cheffing to the test, making our meal entirely out of the myriad meat-free items on the menu. And Garbs hit it out of the park.
It's almost a no-brainer that the salads were fantastic. The endive salad, with kale, pickled Asian pears, red quinoa, pomegranate, candied pecans, and a persimmon vinaigrette (below, $11) is a lovely little plate of autumn, sweet and crunchy.
The beet salad (below, $10) is great as well, hitting you with both roasted and pickled versions of the beloved root veggie scattered across a bed of arugula lightly drizzled with pickled beet vinaigrette. Slivers of apple and hazelnuts add a nice textural contrast, and a smear of earthy, creamy sunchoke puree ties the whole thing together.
The buffalo-style cauliflower with "blue cheese" dressing is Mohawk Bend's most popular item for a very, very good reason. I am not exaggerating when I say I prefer this completely vegan version to the chicken original. Chef Garber's dish hits all the notes of the classic football food - the cauliflower is as meaty as you could imagine a vegetable could be, with a nice, crisp exterior, and the sauce is tangy with just a little bit of heat - without any of the grease and heaviness of fried chicken.
Less mind-blowing, but very solid are the fingerling potatoes with a bright, herby Spanish salsa verde (below left, $7). You can add bleu cheese and bacon to the Brussels sprouts if you want, but for us, the vegan version with apples and almonds (below right, $8) was plenty flavorful.
I was honestly surprised at how much I liked the jerk pizza (below) - the riot of ingredients (sweet potatoes, roasted peppers, pineapple, black beans, and fried plantains) seems like it won't work. But the chaotic combination tastes delicious, especially with Garber's jerk sauce bringing both substantial heat and flavor to the party.
Even better, in my opinion, is the asparagus and potato pizza (below, in mini size, $8). It throws together some of my all-time favorite ingredients - asparagus, roasted garlic, and leeks - adds slices of crispy potato and caramelized onion, and tops it off with a sprinkling of nutty-tasting nutritional yeast. If this item ever falls off the menu, I will cry and stalk the appropriate parties until it is put back on.
And nowadays, on Thursday nights you can get a little show in addition to your dinner. Starting November 1, Mohawk Bend plays host to Ben Fernebok of NITRO DREAMS. Fernebok throws a bit of flair in as he makes tableside ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Less than 5 minutes after parking his cart at our table, he was placing bowls of wonderfully creamy mango (vegan) and caramel almond (not vegan) ice cream before us. And Fernebok and his cart of mystical goodness are available for catering gigs as well.
Listen, I'm never going to give up meat completely. It's delicious and I love it and you can't make me. BUT I personally see a lot of (environmental & health) benefits to cutting back on my animal consumption. Our Mohawk Bend visit inspired me, and for the last couple of weeks Mark and I have made a conscious effort to significantly cut back on our meat-eating - almost all of our home meals have been vegetarian/pescetarian, and even our meals out have been virtually meat-free.
So yeah, Los Angeles City Council, I'm on board with Meatless Mondays. Especially if I can spend them eating food as good as the vegetarian/vegan fare they're slinging at Mohawk Bend.
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