Saturday, January 9, 2016

Vegan in Tampa: Brunch Collaboration Between Cafe Hey and The Blind Tiger

"The idea of brunch is like viagra for three piecers. Seriously. Next time you find yourself in a room full of them just yell out 'Brunch' and watch those slim zipper trousers rise to the occasion."
-Tender Branson (Fall 2015)

One of my New Year's resolutions was to stop quoting myself so much. I made it nine days before I felt compelled to restate something from my lip's past. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day, otherwise it would've been full of tiny houses and gladiator midgets. Which brings me to brunch (nothing says brunch to me like gladiator midgets). I'm not much of a brunch guy. I don't get all teary-eyed at the thought of a plateful of fried vegetables, sweet carbs, tomato drinks and baby sandwiches. There are a couple of reasons for this. I'm not going to break them all down for you here, I'm just going to focus on the absolute number one reason I hate brunch. It isn't vegan friendly. It is chock full of eggs, milk, butter, heavy cream and meat. What's in that for me? Not a whole helluva a lot.

But, when the rules of the game change, I can pull off a quick shape shift like the best of them. That change came with the mid-December announcement that Cafe Hey and The Blind Tiger would be partnering for a one off (with possibility of more in the future) vegan brunch. All of a sudden, I was all about the brunch. I heard the word in my sleep, I saw it on every stop sign, I accidentally yelled it out once during intercourse and, yes, just hearing it made my slim zipper trousers rise. So naturally I dug deep into AR's pockets, gathered forty dollars, and set J-Fur and I up for a brunch date.

              Full Plate View

The menu for the brunch was cornmeal grits with mushroom gravy, huevos rancheros and a coffee drink of your choice from Blind Tiger's exquisite coffee bar. J-Fur and I added on a blue rose kombucha (which was paid for separately). I launched myself into the grits and gravy first. I usually avoid grits for the same reason I avoid brunch. People spend too much time dressing them up with milk and cheese and butter. Because of my limited experience I can't really compare these grits to the traditional southern staple served at Cracker Barrel. What I can say is this version was super creamy and smooth. The gravy was light and flavorful, about the opposite of what I've come to expect from vegan gravies. This dish left such a mark on my heart of tastes that I immediately began planning a homemade version. 

Just the Huevos Rancheros (done in a Mephiskapheles voice)

Just like grits, my huevos rancheros history is spotty at best. I think there was this one time, after a swim in the ocean, that I found a styrofoam container full of them lying on the beach that I subsequently ate. The next day I became vegan and the rest, as they say, is history. The Cafe Hey version consisted of two corn tortillas chock full of scrambled tofu, black beans, salsa and covered with a white sauce. It was topped by cilantro (the horror!). Part of the way through, the Cafe Hey chef came around and dropped some avocado on top because he "forgot" to put it in originally. These were superb. I loved the way that all the flavors seemed to melt into one single slightly spicy, slightly salty, avocado-y texture mash. I found the creamy sauce and cilantro most interesting because neither seemed to be out of place. I could barely taste the cilantro, which I can always taste no matter how well it is hidden because I hate it so, and the creamy sauce seemed to serve more as a change of texture than any type of flavoring. This wasn't exactly the case as, when it drizzled onto my plate away from the other ingredients, I tasted it alone and realized it had a distinct flavor. My compliments to the chef who did a fabulous job of melding it with the rest of the ingredients.

             The Rose Kombucha

Just like with most brunches, the price tag of twenty dollars a person is more than I normally spend per person going out. I figure that has something to do with the National Brunch Associations tax of five dollars per usage of the word brunch. Despite the price, I didn't leave the brunch feeling that I didn't get my money's worth. It seemed right in line with other slightly more upscale brunches. I hope this isn't just a one and done deal. I'd love to see this collaboration happen a couple times a year since this meal, along with the monthly vegan one at Trang Viet, was one of the few occasions that being vegan in Tampa wasn't a complete pain in the ass.

Like brunches, The Henry Millers are a band that is really up and down. I get up when "Posies" or "Hop" comes across my speakers and anything else, well, I haven't been super into. The band's newest single "Ready" is one of those tracks that is on the up and up. My love of it comes from it's upbeat attack and sing-a-longy duo delivery. I also can't help but be charmed by the "Heys" that riddle the background throughout. Probably because it pays homage to Edward Sharpe's "Home," one of my all time favorite songs. "Ready" comes from the band's Castle EP.