Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Merry Listmas 2015: The Food

Before the calendar turns to 2016, let’s reminisce about the finer things that food in 2015 had to offer (click on the picture for recipes and blog posts).

Favorite Sandwiches:

Main Attractions

Favorite Bread Recipes

Favorite Sides

Favorite Salads

Some Other Favorites of the Year:

Favorite I Feel Like a Drinker Drink (Minus the Morning Hangover)
Kombucha. 2015 seemed to be the year of Kombucha (as far as I'm concerned) as all the cool hangouts started selling this fermented tea drink. I drank myself a glass (or bottle) at The Blind Tiger, Kaleisia, Cider Press Cafe, Tampa Bay Veg Fest, Crave and Co. and Market on South. I even experienced a homemade batch courtesy of my friend Bob. Throughout the year I repeatedly found myself enjoying the SCOBY culture created by local brewers Mother and Humble Bumble kombucha.

Best Coffee Class, Coffee Drink and Vegan Brunch Hosting
The Blind Tiger Cafe. In case you couldn't tell, I spent a lot of time there this year.

Best Craft Coffee Bean Roaster:
Buddy Brew. Not only can you choose from a variety of different flavors but you can also talk to someone who knows what the hell they are doing. It has helped me make a much better coffee at home.

Best Holiday Themed Coffee/Drink
Cornerstone Coffee. From their gingerbread chai with coconut milk to their peppermint mocha with cashew milk, I've enjoyed everything I've put my lips around at Cornerstone Coffee. Well, except that one thing...

Best Vegan Dessert
Sweet Action Ice Cream. I had a chance to return to Denver this year. Number three on my list of places to visit was Sweet Action Ice Cream. There product was as creamy and dreamy as I remembered. The only downside, no fruit flavor when we strolled through town. I had to "settle" for a pumpkin dish. If all settling was this good, well, s*** I'd "settle" daily.

Best Vegan Brunch and Burger (outside of the Tampa Bay Area)
City O' City (Denver). Any place that serves savory waffles topped with vegan cheese and green chili is a-ok in my book. Throw in a vegan burger that makes the Big Mac look like a midget and you've got a place that is worthy of traveling long distances for.

Best Vegan Brunch (in the Tampa Bay Area):
Cafe Hey. It certainly ain't cheap, but it is definitely a delight.

Best Vegan Cupcakes in Tampa:
Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen. Not sure where this crew is going to set up shop next but I hope they get to it sooner rather than later. Their cupcakes are on point.

Best Cuban Bread:
La Segunda Central. Actual palm fronds on top tell me all I need to know about this bread. Throw in the fact that it doesn't cost an arm and a leg and I wander why anyone would buy from anywhere else.

Best Appetizer:
Datz's Buffalo Cauliflower. An entire head that is served with a knife sticking out of it. Get it during half price app hour and you will definitely feel like you got your money's worth.

Best Fried Yucca
Las Palmas Cafe

Best Sandwich
The Local House's Fried Green Tomato Sandwich.

Best Snack Bar:
Kind bars. You guys showed up almost everywhere and I enjoyed every moment of it. The fact that you are such a customer driven company is the chocolate drizzle on the granola bar.

Best Bread I Can't Buy In Stores
Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes. I smell your bread baking in Ybor, I have eaten it at The Local Public House & Provisions yet I can't purchase it because you only do wholesale. So, so sad. Thank God I got that new violin for Christmas.

Best You Can Buy Vegan Food Here(?) Bar: 
Stage Left.

Best Corporate Chain Store Vegan Meatballs:
Ikea baby. Their constant pushing of the envelope resulted in vegan meatballs being added to their stores menu. Just another reason they are poised to take over the world (if they haven't already done so).

Most Inventive Vegetarian Sushi Line
Takara Sushi. I wasn't super impressed during my first visit to Takara, mainly because they didn't have a lot of vegetarian sushi to offer. The owner insisted, via Yelp, that his crew was in the process of coming up with a vegetarian sushi line. I made a return trip there this year to try it out (and then another and another). Not only did they make an entire line of vegetarian sushi but they got inventive with it. They didn't just go with the simple, mundane rolls that you can get anywhere. These flavor combinations seemed like they were crafted by people who actually care about vegetables, not just thrown together as an accompaniment to raw fish.

Best Bowl (and food truck)
Give and Grub

Vegan Restaurant of the Year
Market on South. When J-Fur and I travel anywhere, long before we leave the plane/car/boat and set foot on foreign soil, I already have a pretty good idea where I want to eat. That's what makes the fact that we accidentally (read luckily) wound up at my favorite vegan restaurant of 2015 pretty remarkable. When I arrived in Orlando for a weekend stay, I had no idea that Market on South existed. But thanks to a tip by an employee at a disappointing coffee shop, I showed up there. I didn't expect much (that's how disappointing that coffee shop was). What I got was beyond my wildest dreams. What I love about Market on South is that it is a joint venture by three independent businesses, something that you don't see too often in the business world. The restaurant has a total DIY/punk/mainstream f*** off feel to it. But attitude and independence is one thing, delivering the goods is something completely different. All three business partners (Valhalla Bakery, Humble Bumble Kombucha and Dixie Dharma) deliver. Whether you are enjoying the amazing Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, Cheezy Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts dished out by Dixie Dharma or the out of this world Lavender and Vanilla Bean Yolo baked up by Valhalla Bakery or the light and refreshing Citron Kombucha brewed by Humble Bumble, Market on South will not disappoint. That's because these vendors put taste, quality, plant-based and dairy-free first and foremost on their agenda. That's why Market on South is my vegan restaurant of the year.