Vegetarian-friendly restaurant coffee shop with Natural Gluten-free Options in Tehachapi, California

March 26th, 2009 yum Posted in California, Coffee shop, Restaurant Review, Travel 1 Comment »

mamahillybeansMama HillyBean’s Cafe
426 E. Tehachapi Blvd,
Tehachapi, California 93561

This weekend we went on an impromptu trip to Death Valley, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. On our way out, we happened to drive by an unexpectedly appealing coffee shop in Tehachapi, California. They were closed at the time, but the sign featuring Rosie the Riveter and just plain appealing exterior made us think it was somewhere we’d like to visit. One great thing about coffee is that it is generally gluten-free as long as you keep an eye on flavorings and syrups. Granted, I’m pregnant so no longer downing the double-shot lattes as I once was, but there’s always decaf or herbal tea. On our way home from our long trip the DH happened to remember this coffee shop and so we made sure to stop. When we walked in the door, I was really glad we had. Funky, home-grown and eclectic artistic decor was everywhere- and a bright, cheerful menu sign immediately grabbed our attention, not just with an extensive coffee and tea menu but also with a light lunch menu. mamahillymenu I had been eating gluten-free snacks and the odd microwaved potato or In-N-Out fries for days, and when I started reading their (largely organic and healthy sounding) menu, I went a little crazy. Note: this coffee shop does not have a gluten-free menu or any special gluten-free goodies, but they do have simple and natural ingredients and were more than willing to check on items for me. I was intrigued by their customizable salads and baked potato with broccoli-cheese toppings, although I didn’t check on the GF status of the latter.
Here’s what they say about their food:
“All of our food is made from scratch and is about 95% organic. If we can find it organic (preferably local), it is organic. All of our coffee and tea is organic and fair trade.”
Couldn’t sound better to me! (Unless of course there was something about gluten-free items in there too.)

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After much agonizing, I ordered their vegetarian Cameron Salad, which featured fresh organic greens, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, feta and pumpkin seeds with a light and refreshing lemon olive oil dressing (house made). mamachaiI also had an organic Chai latte, which is not only available decaf, in black tea or green tea versions, but can also be made with regular or nonfat milk, almond milk, soy milk, or even Hemp Milk! mamamaryskissThe DH ordered a VERY customizable (pescatarian) salad and this lovely creation called “Mary’s Kiss”- made with shots of espresso, chocolate, and (optional) real whipped cream. We sat down at one of their funky tables, listening to the hippie coffee shop music and the sound of the waterfall fountain (complete with koi). memamahillymamadhandsalmonsalad They have a great internet corner and free wi-fi for them as what wants it- as well as a fun collection of magazines. I sat down with some ecologically-friendly Mother Earth magazine and waited. Service isn’t especially fast, but it’s friendly and cozy- with a real small town hippie vibe. I couldn’t have been happier after all of the desolate post-mining towns we’d driven through- and it was even a great antidote for our very mass-produced Las Vegas, Nevada experience.

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Gluten Free Vegan Bakery in North Seattle Washington: Fremont’s Flying Apron Baked Goods Reviewed

September 24th, 2008 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Gluten Free bakery, Restaurant Review, Seattle, Vegan, Washington State 4 Comments »


Flying Apron Bakery
3510 Fremont Ave North
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 442-1115
http://www.flyingapron.net

On a recent trip to the Northwest, I happened to have some time to kill in Seattle, Washington. I did a little online research and somehow stumbled upon a gluten-free VEGAN bakery hiding in Seattle’s Fremont district called The Flying Apron. I was charmed by the name, and excited by the thought of a vegan and gluten-free bakery. Many gluten-free bakeries attempt to replicate standard American (non-veg) dishes, and I’ve been disappointed by the lack of veggie pizza (or other savory veg options) at otherwise wonderful and entirely gluten-free bake shops. I had a feeling this place wouldn’t disappoint me, especially once I looked at their enticing menu with plenty of savory vegan dishes along with sweets. According to this article, the Flying Apron was started by father Bill and his daughter Jennifer Dowd. Initially they had two locations in the U-District and Elliot Bay but have since consolidated into a single North Seattle location in Fremont.

As they explain their mission:
Flying Apron Bakery in Seattle provides vegan, gluten-free and wheat-free morning pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, breads, savory snacks and more which are made using the finest organic ingredients; whole grain wheat free flours and organic non hydrogenated oils. The Flying Apron is a wheat free, gluten free and vegan bakery. Many of our products are alternatively sweetened as well. (source:http://www.flyingapron.net)


click to enlarge

When I walked into their charming Fremont location, I was immediately impressed by the warm, cozy atmosphere. They were also bustling with customers; always a good sign. The people behind the counter were friendly and cheerful, and the extensive array of baked goods behind the counter was truly impressive. It felt like the perfect Seattle coffeeshop/bakehouse- and it was a bakehouse that just happened to be gluten-free and vegan. Dizzied by the selection, I had to find a table and find my bearings at first. What to get, what to get? As might be expected from a place with mostly organic, specialty ingredients, prices were a trifle steep. And since the DH and I had literally been gluten-free dining our way through the Northwest, I didn’t want to go too crazy. I asked the staff for suggestions- unfortunately, they tended to like the gluten-free oat based goodies, and I didn’t want to try them while on the road. I was on my own.

I knew I wanted something savory, but I was torn between the Individual Pizzas ($4.25), pot pie ($6.95) or Calzones ($ 6.95). I narrowed it down to calzones, but even then I had to choose between Italian, Moroccan, or Curry veggie fillings. It was torture, but finally I decided on the curry filling. Coconut milk was just too tempting to pass up. While I was drooling over the savory goods, I decided to pick up a loaf of their hearty, artisan style House Bread ($7.95). It’s always handy to have GF bread when traveling, right? Right? Ok, I was looking for any excuse, I’ll admit it. Then I wanted something sweet, but not too sweet. What to pick… I ended up with an adorable Berry Scone ($3.25). I did consider getting a soup or salad, but when they very nicely offered a small sample of the tomato-bean soup, I found it a bit bland. Both the bread and the scone were for later, but I wanted to at least try the calzone in the cozy shop. They warmed it up for me and DH and I sat at one of the large, wooden tables and had some with water poured from their adorable blue pitcher. Vegan friends and a couple on a date sat all around us and the shop hummed with activity and voices- the ideal environment. But how was the food?

*entirely subjective review follows. I highly recommend you try these dishes for yourself and see if you agree- and if not, tell me about it in the comments, so other readers can get a more varied perspective*
I cut open the calzone and was impressed by the vibrant, lovely vegetables inside as well as the curry aroma. When I took a bite, I could taste the freshness of the vegetables as well as the smooth, rich coconut milk. It was good, although I thought the yams could have been a little smaller and flavored with a little more onion, garlic… and maybe ginger. I was impressed by the sturdiness of the calzone casing- I know from personal experience how difficult that kind of pastry can be to work with, and I’d never tried making one so thick before. Due to that thickness, I did find that some parts of the pastry were a little chewy rather than crunchy, and I ended up leaving those bits rather than eating them. The sealed edges were nice and crunchy, and I appreciated the whole-grain flavor, although I think it’s a dish you need vegan sensibilities to truly appreciate. DH refused to even try it… he’s not a big fan of curry and is very, very picky about vegan foods. *sigh* To be fair, he also wasn’t feeling well, so he was an unusually difficult sell at the time. Rating? 10/10 for offering it… 6/10 for the filling, 5/10 for the crust… I liked it, but couldn’t possibly eat the whole thing and… well, probably wouldn’t order it again. I just prefer my own samosa/calzone recipe with its thinner, crunchier crust (although there is more fat in my recipe). Also, although I liked many elements of the filling, I like the filling I’ve made with more traditional Indian recipes better… However, I would definitely give their other savory dishes a try, and I have to say that they have the most interesting vegetarian options I’ve ever seen at a gluten-free bakery. Yay for creative gluten-free vegetarian bakers!

After having enjoyed half of the enormous calzone, we drove on to visit my grandparents and spend the night at their home. The next day I had what I am almost certain* was the Flying Apron’s delicious [blue]berry scone ($3.25) made from organic brown rice flour, organic garbanzo bean flour, organic evaporated cane juice, and organic canola oil. While some might not care for the healthy, whole grain flavors of the scone- I loved their contrast with the crunchy sugar crystals on top and soft, melt-in-your-mouth blueberries. DH didn’t covet it- but I loved it and would definitely, absolutely order it again. It suited my palate exactly. 10/10 for offering such an adorable vegan blueberry scone… and 8.5/10 for flavor and execution, with the caveat that those not accustomed to vegan products or looking to exactly replicate a buttery gluten scone may not find it as much to their taste. (But definitely give it a shot!)
*my confusion comes from the fact that I didn’t photograph the scones with their sign and their menu doesn’t include photos.

The final product I tried from the Flying Apron was their House Bread ($7.95) made from organic brown rice flour, organic garbanzo bean flour, organic pumpkin, and organic flax meal (among other goodies). I was intrigued by the artisanal qualities of the bread; its round and crusty exterior, as well as the hearty flour base. However, this was no light and fluffy loaf in its paper brown sack- this was a sturdy loaf of bread for survival. I had a bit of trouble carrying it, to tell you the truth. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Terry Pratchett’s indestructible “dwarf bread.” (If link doesn’t take you to pg. 65, press go on the search for dwarf bread and select the first option for pg. 65) When I cut it open later, I felt it had more the texture of a heavy muffin, and I was sorry to say that the flavor just didn’t work for me. I used it for some extremely crumbly sandwiches for on the road and ended up pitching the rest. I know it is a huge challenge to make vegan, gluten-free, healthy bread… but if you’re going to use garbanzo bean flour, I have personally had the best results with Bette Hagman’s recipes, substituting egg replacer and non-dairy milk if needed. However, I have to give them huge kudos for the effort- and the bread isn’t without its fans, so you might find it worth a try. 10/10 for offering such a cool-looking gluten-free round loaf, 8/10 for the crust, and 3/10 for flavor and internal texture. I would not buy it again.

The fun thing about a place like this is that if you don’t like one or two of their offerings- there are lots more to choose from! I don’t know how strong the appeal will be to gluten-free folks that aren’t vegan and can and choose to consume dairy and eggs, but I thought this was a really fun and cozy local business that I’d love to support if I lived in the area. Luckily lots of other people seem to like it too, so I have high hopes that this is one gluten-free bakery that will be around for a nice long time.

A good review of Flying Apron Bakery by a Glutenoid
Please let me know in the comments if you’ve got your own review of Flying Apron Products and I’ll add a link here!

Updated Jan 2010: News about Jennifer Katzinger of the Flying Apron- yes, there is a cookbook!

Other fun things: The Fremont neighborhood is an adorable, up-and-coming area with cute restaurants, fun shopping, Peet’s coffee, and even a grocery/yuppie health food store, PCC, down the street. If you have time, wander the area. We enjoyed some lovely tea at Peets and I prowled the PCC grocery store. Besides the usual gluten-free mixes and a few gluten-free pastas, the most interesting find was WOW cookies, made in Kent, Washington. While they’re not vegan, they are gluten-free, and I find their brownies absolutely delicious. I tried each of the cookies, and while I enjoyed the peanut butter cookie, the chocolate chip and ginger molasses both had a rather strong buttery flavor that I didn’t care for. I love the convenience, though- and the fact that at last we have a decadent, individually-wrapped gluten-free cookie option. Now if they will just start selling them outside of the Northwest…

(Speaking of Kent, Washington- While I was looking for WOW’s web site, I found a new gluten-free bakery in Kent called Haley’s Corner. Let me know if you get a chance to try it! Why is the Northwest such a hotbed of awesome gluten-free bakeries and restaurants??!! Seattle has tons of gluten-free bakeries and we all know how wonderful Portland’s gluten-free bakeries and restaurants are!)

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