Posts tagged review
The Chirba Chirba Dumpling Truck just pulled up outside my office, and I couldn’t resist the charm of its mascot. Painted on the side of the yellow truck, the smiling, plump, cartoon dumpling seemed to say “please eat me… I am so scrumptious and cheerful.”
Chirba Chirba’s menu is short and sweet, featuring three types of dumplings – two meaty, and one vegan. Called “Veggie-lings,” the vegan dumplings are moist and savory, containing seasoned mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and soy sheet. A pineapple salsa tops off the dumplings, adding a sweet complementary flavor. The truck also offers a vegan side item, máo dòu, which is your typical salty edamame appetizer. Several complimentary self-serve sauces allow you to customize your meal.
I spoke to Chela Tu, one of the truck’s four co-founders, about the beginnings of Chirba Chirba. She said the truck was the brainchild of her group of friends, all of whom have strong ties to China and a love of dumplings. They chose the name “Chirba Chirba” because it means “Eat, eat!” in Mandarin Chinese, sort of like the expression “Mangia, mangia!” in Italian. The truck is only about ten weeks old, and the Durham-based group is still getting the hang of things in the food truck world, but already has plans to expand the menu. The next addition will be a gluten-free dumpling option, Tu says.
I just spent a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend trip with my boo. We decided to go on a pseudo-staycation, so I wouldn’t have to take time off work. We picked Asheville, NC because of its status as hippie-crunchy mecca of the East Coast, and because we haven’t been to Asheville since the Biltmore Estate field trips of our elementary school days. It was only a four hour drive from Raleigh, but in hindsight, we should have stayed two nights instead of just one.
On Saturday afternoon, we toured the magnificent Biltmore Estate and later attended the Asheville Symphony’s Romeo and Juliet. Both highly recommended, but what had me on cloud nine was the city’s culinary delights. We ended up eating so much, we’re still full two days later.
Saturday night, we dined at Mela, an Indian restaurant on North Lexington Avenue. Mela is an omni restaurant with a heavy vegetarian and vegan selection. I ordered a salad of spinach, mango, beets, candied walnuts, and jicama, along with a raspberry and coconut milk martini, just for starters(!) The salad totally outshined my entree, the aloo gobi masala, which was a wee bit too spicy for my tastes.
For dessert, we headed to French Broad Chocolate Lounge, an all-natural gourmet chocolate bar featuring decadent truffles, cakes, cookies, and mousses. I ordered a slice of the vegan chocolate cake, made with Theros olive oil, rich cocoa powder, and agave nectar. I also got an individual “Buddha” vegan truffle made with dark chocolate and coconut milk. I practically inhaled them both.
The next morning, with martini and chocolate hangovers, we went to the Laughing Seed Cafe for the organic Sunday brunch. With a completely vegetarian menu, Laughing Seed was right up my alley. I ordered the “Tofu Benedictine,” a spin on my old favorite, eggs benedict. My plate was piled high with “scratch-made biscuit, grilled organic tofu, grilled tomato, sautéed spinach, and seitan sausage over grits with herb oil and béarnaise.” Breakfast was so delicious, I finished my meal and wanted to actually lick the plate clean.
So after brunch, we decided to walk around town. Somehow, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge seemed to pull us back in, and we ended up in line for brunch dessert… which is not really a thing people do. But I managed to down yet another piece of that decadent, moist, vegan chocolate cake, and purchase a six-pack of vegan truffles for later consumption. The cashier kindly asked me if I would like a bow for the truffle box, but I pointed to my stomach and said they were going straight in there. “Word,” she said.
After a day of sight-seeing around downtown (two fantastic stores are Malaprop’s Bookstore and Blitzkrieg Games), we headed to Wasabi sushi for an early dinner before heading home. All I can say is Holy Cow they have Tempura Sweet Potato sushi rolls. My boo and I agreed it was one of the best sushi meals we’ve ever had.
I have to say, I am left feeling pretty disappointed after this trip. Not in Asheville of couse, which was like a vegan’s dream world. I’m disappointed that Raleigh is so much larger and more populated, and yet we have only a fraction of the cool eateries and local, sustainable ideology Asheville seems to have. Maybe I’m just bitter, but here in Raleigh it’s like you have to hunt for a nutritious, local, vegan meal. Yes, we have Irregardless and we have Remedy, and I love those restaurants. But in Asheville, we couldn’t walk down the street without finding yet another place overflowing with vegetarian food. In any case, Asheville just became my second favorite foodie vacation spot (I think Western Mass will always be number one for me).
For a special Christmas dinner, my boyfriend and I decided to check out Butternut Squash restaurant in downtown Chapel Hill. Located in the University Square shopping center, around back facing Granville Towers, Butternut Squash is a classy joint perfect for a date night or family meal.
At Butternut Squash, everything on the menu is vegetarian. They also have plenty of vegan options, which are clearly denoted on the menu; plus, our server was very knowledgeable about the vegan items. I’m used to doing preemptive googling and phone calls before going out to eat, so this whole dining experience was a breath of fresh air.
I ordered the Thai Style Seitan Skewers for dinner, and the Vegan Chocolate Cake for dessert. The seitan was deliciously moist and cooked with just a little crispness on the outside. Its accompanying sauce was a mild, creamy peanut sauce topped with black sesame seeds. I enjoyed the seitan so much that since this meal, I have been searching for seitan chunks in my usual grocery stores to no avail. I want to make this dish at home and amp up the spiciness with some sriracha sauce. Prepackaged seitan is available online at bulk food stores, and I’m pretty sure it’s at Whole Foods and Earth Fare, too. Those stores are just too long a drive for me. Has anyone seen it sold elsewhere in Raleigh?
My chocolate cake was great, but I was so enamored with the icing I didn’t eat much of the cake itself. The combination of the chocolate icing and the raspberry sauce was just incredible.
My only gripe with Butternut Squash is their lack of alcohol. They do let you bring our own, but I wasn’t aware of that before we got there, so we stuck with water. Next visit, I will come armed with red wine. Other than that, the meal was perfect. Butternut Squash gets two thumbs up!