Pass the Vegenaise

Houston's top 10 vegan restaurants.

3. Cafe TH

This adorable EaDo banh mi shop doesn't bill itself as vegetarian or vegan, but offers excellent vegan Vietnamese food nevertheless thanks to conscientious owner Minh Nguyen, who's always looking to accommodate his loyal customers. Its coconut milk-thickened vegan curry has swayed every carnivore I've introduced to the stuff, and even landed on my list of 100 Favorite Dishes (as did the vegan fried avocado taco from Radical Eats). Cafe TH also offers vegan pho, vegan bun, vegan com dia, vegan bo luc lac (all made with tofu) and vegan eggrolls.

2. Green Seed Vegan

This is a torta at Ninfa's.
Courtesy of Geralyn Graham
This is a torta at Ninfa's.

The original vegan food truck has expanded into a brick-and-mortar operation, although it's kept its base in the Third Ward — a neighborhood that's underserved by restaurants with healthy options. Green Seed's location on Almeda serves all of the food truck's popular items — and more. Juices and "elixirs" made with wheatgrass, fruits and veggies are made to order. All of the menu items, including the juices, are vegan — and many are entirely raw. But your best bets are the tempting Dirty Burque, which is good enough to stand up against any meat-based burger, and the spicy Tosh panino with maple-jerk tempeh made in-house with garbanzo beans instead of soy.

1. Radical Eats

Vegan Mexican food? Why not? Lard makes a lot of things better, but its use is rendered moot here at Staci Davis's all-veggie paradise. Instead, she's perfected a tortilla recipe that features no lard at all — nor are her tamales, enchiladas or tacos laced with the fatty stuff. Instead, she batters and fries avocados and stuffs them into tacos with a creamy, spicy slaw and makes spinach-and-corn tamales that are just as good as the "real" thing, especially paired with cold aguas frescas. Most of her food comes from the garden out back or local farmers, and the cooking is mostly done by volunteers. Sunday brunches are lavish affairs, but are also first-come, first-served, so get there early.

Wine Time

Unusual Wine Descriptors
Cat piss, horse sweat, wet dog, barnyard.

One of the pet peeves at our house is gooseberries.

No, not the berries themselves, but the people who use the descriptor gooseberry when writing a tasting note.

As one wine blogger put it, "New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc's classic description is smelling like cats' pee on a gooseberry bush. If you grew up both cat-less and gooseberry-less, you might be clueless as to what that smell might be like."

I can't say that I've ever plucked a gooseberry from a gooseberry bush and tasted it. Nor have I tasted elderberry flower, star anise or "burning embers," to borrow a descriptor that the "emperor of wine," Robert Parker Jr., once used to describe a 100-point wine.

Many wine writers and wine bloggers employ a healthy dose of braggadocio when composing their tasting notes, often using aromas and flavors that the rest of us humans do not commonly come into contact with (see this great post on the nature of tasting notes by BrooklynGuy, "Writing Tasting Notes Is Not Easy").

The other day when we posted on "What Is Terroir and Why Is It Important in Wine," a reader asked about the relationship between (the descriptor) barnyard and (the notion of) terroir.

That got me thinking about some of the more curious and often counterintuitive tasting descriptors used in wine writing. Here are some of my favorites:

Barnyard, a term often used to describe the nose of red wine, particularly Burgundy. It's a euphemism for shit.

Cat piss, one of the classic notes in the nose of Sauvignon Blanc, often euphemized as tom cat (but if you've ever smelled a great expression of Sauvignon Blanc, you know that it smells like piss).

Wet cardboard, sometimes used to describe cork taint but also often used in tasting notes for Chablis. As one wine professional once said to me, "It's either corked or it's Chablis."

Wet dog, a term that once caused a major kerfuffle when employed by a famous Wine Spectator editor to describe a revered Barolo.

Horse sweat, a canonical descriptor I often reach for when tasting red wines from the Rhône.

Dirty socks, a term often used to describe reduction in wine (when a lack of oxygen makes the wine smell like farts when first opened). Jeremy Parzen

Restaurant News

Changes Downtown
Openings and closings, October 2012.

Once again, last week's big restaurant news takes us to downtown, where Ziggy's Healthy Grill at 702 Main has closed. Owner Kevin Strickland has decided to take a completely different approach with the 18-year-old restaurant and is rebranding the remaining Montrose location to gratifi (pronounced "gratify").

But when one door closes, another one opens. Such is the case next door to Ziggy's, where The Burger Guys opened their new downtown location at 706 Main. Their grand opening was Wednesday of last week, serving an estimated 350 hungry customers at lunch. "Well, we no doubt made a ton of mistakes, but we are still alive and so very grateful for customers' patience today!" Tweeted owner Jake Mazzu afterward.

Speaking of new locations, Union Kitchen has just signed a lease that will give the restaurant a spot in the Heights. Its first two locations in Bellaire and Memorial are already doing well, and now the locally owned mini-chain hopes to conquer the popular Heights restaurant corridor. Swamplot reports that Union Kitchen will open in the ground floor of a new six-story apartment/condo building at 1111 Studewood.

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