Saturday, July 1, 2017

Where We Eat: Love Food Central

I was ready to drive all the way to Orlando to celebrate Father's Day when I came across Creative Loafing's 2017 food issue. The issue featured a rundown of the newspaper's 50 favorite sandwiches in the Tampa region. One portion of the rundown was reserved solely for the best vegan/vegetarian sandwiches in the area (dubbed the Classics Go Veg).

Looking thru the list, I realized that I had only eaten two of the five sandwiches highlighted. So I made it a point to knock one of the other three off the list. A friend had hyped Love Food Central in St. Petersburg numerous times the past few months so I selected that as the place.

I knew what I was getting before I even walked through the door. The jackfruit bbq and a nut milk shake called to me and promised that they would do me well. J-Fur came to the conclusion that the g-mash toast (smashed garbanzos, avocado and toast) was where it was at. Z-Bot, who doesn't normally like anything we order for her at solely vegan restaurants, was slightly more of a challenge. I went over the menu three times to no avail. Just as I was about to give up and order her a piece of pie for lunch one of the employees came by to announce the father's day specials. The specials included chocolate chip pancakes. Bing, bing, bing. There it was. Z-Bot loves pancakes like squirrels love to fall in our backyard pool. That is to say, a lot.

The Pulled BBQ Sandwich was everything Creative Loafing and my friend hyped it to be. Love Food Central's "bbq" is created by smothering savory jackfruit in their homemade bbq sauce. The jackfruit is then topped with arugula, avocado and Veganaise and served on toasted sourdough. The subtle flavor of the bbq sauce, slightly peppery arugula and buttery avocado pair nicely with the creamy Veganaise. On typical bread, a sandwich like this would turn into a sloppy mess. But the toasted sourdough that Love Food Central serves (from Sami's Bakery) has some sort of magical ingredient that allows it to hold up to those creamy and saucy ingredients well. It completes the sandwich magnificently.

Pulled BBQ Sandwich

The nut milk shake didn't really do it for me. The shake consists of nut milk and Love Food Central's homemade vegan ice cream. There are a whole slew of toppings that can be added to the shake to pep it up a bit. The shake's taste was fine. It wasn't too sweet or overly strong. That I liked. It was the shake's consistency that left me wanting more. Instead of a uniform creaminess throughout, the shake was very thin in places and slightly thicker in others. That's not how I remember milk shakes being. With all the other vegan desserts on the menu, I regret that I wasted my time, money and calories on the shake.

The Nut Milk Shake

Love Food Central's Father's Day deal was a free soft serve ice cream for all fathers. Even though I had already consumed the milk shake, I wasn't going to turn down a chance to try their free ice cream. The bowl of soft serve was absolutely incredible. As wrong as the consistency seemed with the milk shake, the soft serve consistency was that right. It was absolutely spot on. The flavor was mirrored the shake in that it was not overly sugary like I've come to expect from some vegan ice creams. The flavors of Love Food Central's soft serve changes (not sure how they rotate it daily/weekly/etc.). Unfortunately I didn't catch what flavor they were serving on Father's Day.

Vegan Soft Serve 

While I sort of snickered as J-Fur ordered the G-Smash (what a simple dish!), I wound up being super impressed with this open faced sandwich. The garbanzo mixture had a nice garlicky taste to it. The creaminess of the garbanzos and avocado, offered an incredible contrast to the the toasted sourdough bread. J-Fur (and I) liked this item so much that we have recreated it at home three times since that day. Yes, that includes going to Sami's Bakery and getting our hands on their gluten free sourdough.

The G-Mash Toast

Z-Bot ate as much of the pancakes as her little stomach could. What she left, I finished. By the time I got to them the chocolate chips had melted throughout the pancakes so each bite was a rush of vegan chocolate. Texture wise they reminded me of your typical, non vegan pancakes. That's a good thing, especially when you are trying to get a four-year-old to not think that vegan restaurant food is weird.

Overall I was as impressed with Love Food Central. The only unfortunate thing, aside from the nut milk shake, is that it is such a long drive from Wesley Chapel that we won't be able to visit regularly. Maybe my letter writing campaign to get them to open a location up here near all the other places that are opening up will work. Only time will tell. If not, we always have birthdays and fatherly celebration days.

Food like Love Food Central's is the type of thing you fantasy and dream about. That's why Violet Days single "I'm a Dreamer" was played on repeat during our ride across the bay.