Vegging Out

By staff July 1, 2008

The Middle Eastern equivalent of America’s ubiquitous hot dog, falafel, is sold on street corners from Tel Aviv to Cairo. It’s usually made from chickpeas, but the folks at Sahara Cafe & Mediterranean Market make theirs Lebanese-style—with fava beans and chick peas. Most customers eat it in pita bread with heaping amounts of cucumbers, tomatoes and tahini, but you can also order it on a platter with the best tabouli this side of Beirut. Sahara Cafe & Mediterranean Market, 1121 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 954-1423.

At Kazu’s, you can order sushi without the fish. Get rocking with the John Lennon roll, stuffed with brown rice, carrots, daikon, cucumber and plum paste. (Healthy enough to make Yoko smile.) Follow it with a soba miso soup noodle bowl, a powerhouse combo of miso broth with Japanese buckwheat noodles, carrots, ginger, golden tofu, shiitake mushrooms and crispy greens. Forget the apple; a bowl of miso keeps the doctor away. Kazu’s Sushi and Asian Bistro, 2063 Siesta Drive, Sarasota (941) 951-7778.

If you’re a fan of spanakopita, you’ll want to slice into Chutney’s baked feta and sundried tomato strudel, a spirited banquet of sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, ricotta and feta cheeses, and fresh herbs and garlic baked in a phyllo pastry roll. Co-owner/chef Denise May created this signature dish in 1995; it’s since received many accolades, including a coveted Florida Winefest award. Chutney’s, 1944 Hillview St., Sarasota (941) 954-4444.

What’s paella without meat and shellfish? Vegetarian paella, of course. Ceviche features an exuberant, flavorful version that’s so substantial you’ll never miss the meat. This colorful combo of paprika-infused al dente Spanish rice, colorful bell peppers, tangy artichoke hearts, crispy peas, asparagus and juicy tomatoes is a sumptuous celebration of Spain’s most famous culinary offering. Ceviche, 1216 First St., Sarasota (941) 952-1036.

Crave a burger experience that doesn’t involve grease or cholesterol? Chef Scott Nuss of Simon’s Coffee House obliges with his crisp and crunchy veggie burger, bursting with fresh vegetables and served with mayo, mustard and Swiss cheese on sprouted wheat berry bread. Grease isn’t an option at Simon’s, so if you’re missing the fries to accompany that burger, they’ll happily serve you a bag of baked chips. Simon's Coffee House, 5900 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 926-7151.

With nearly a dozen vegetarian tapas offerings at Sangria Tapas Bar, it’s easy to take a break from fish and meat. And, after sampling the berenjenas braceadas, you’ll be glad you did. These roulettes of roasted eggplant and warm goat cheese are served on a bed of tomato basil purée sprinkled with mozzarella and manchego cheeses. The challenge is not to order another round the moment you’ve licked the last bit of eggplant from your fork. Sangria, 1532 Main St., Sarasota (941) 955-8272.

At Veggie Magic, every dish is not just raw—it’s also free of meat, gluten and dairy. The cheesy no-bean burrito with mock sour cream and salsa is a mouth-watering belly pleaser made with sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, chili, cilantro and cumin, and paired with a velvety avocado “cheese,” crisp veggies, almond “sour cream” and a side of fresh made salsa—neatly wrapped up in a collard leaf. Lesson learned: Food made without fire can be downright delectable. Veggie Magic, 4428 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota (941) 377-6209.

Feel like dining in style—vegetarian-style? The award-winning Colony Dining Room caters to vegetarian gourmands with its Madras curry couscous with thyme-scented root vegetables. This rich, aromatic dish marries the flavors of sautéed wild mushrooms, scallions, asparagus tips, heirloom cherry tomatoes and baby arugula for a taste that will supercharge your mouth and soothe your being. The Colony, 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key (941) 383-6464.

You don’t have to be Popeye to enjoy Carr’s Corner Café’s spinach wrap—a nourishing ensemble of sautéed fresh spinach and mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese all tied up in one tasty and warmly wonderful wrap. We’re talking comfort food at its most comforting. Even better? Your vegan friends can substitute soy cheese or tofu for the cheese—and still be comforted. Carr's Corner Cafe, 3025 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 355-4051.

Zoria has joined Sarasota’s raw food craze by adding a selection of raw dishes to its already eclectic menu. Thai coconut noodles is a festive and zesty stunner; the “noodles” are made from coconut strips and marinated in a colorful medley of red, green and yellow onions, mushrooms, carrots, green curry sauce and spicy peanuts. Rah-rah-rah for raw!  Zoria, 1991 Main St., Sarasota (941) 955-4457.

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