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Monday, December 19, 2011

LYFE Kitchen Vegan - No Animals Were Harmed in Making This Meal

By now my affinity for LYFE Kitchen is no secret. I posted about their Forklifting Ceremony this summer and then again for their Grand Opening in October. As often as I have eaten at their flagship Palo Alto, California location I simply cannot tire of it. The flavors are great and the menu is so expansive that there is always something new to enjoy. They make it quite easy to "Love Your Food Everyday" at LYFE Kitchen.

This time I was invited along with my foodie friend, Stacie Tamaki, to sample their vegan menu created by the renowned purveyor of veganism, Chef Tal Ronnen. To see Stacie's recap of our sampling session with Tal click here. To see the complete vegan lunch and dinner menu at LYFE Kitchen click here.

We also ordered a couple of smoothies because we couldn't make up our mind which flavor sounded the best. Pictured here are Strawberry Banana and Very Berry. Each one was so rich and smooth you would have sworn that some kind of dairy product was making it so delicious, however, they were both completely vegan.

LYFE Kitchen Smoothies are all vegan and $4.49

One of our first samplings was a Caesar salad. I have a great vegetarian recipe for a mock Ceasar salad but this one was completely vegan and absolutely delicious. Tal mentioned that he uses capers to get replicate the saltiness which comes from anchovies in the traditional version.

Caesar Salad with multigrain croutons - $6.49

A first for us this visit was the BBQ Flatbread Pizza with Gardein "Chicken"pieces. Stacie and I both voted it the best bite of the night. The whole wheat flatbread crust means a very short preparation time and their tangy house made agave bbq sauce takes the flavor over the top. Daiya vegan cheese is a subtle part of the flavor profile but adds to the whole pizza eating experience. This rich pizza would easily satisfy most carnivores and big eaters as well.

BBQ Flatbread Pizza with Gardein "Chicken" - $7.99

One of our regular favorites at LYFE Kitchen is any variation on the Gardein version of chicken and their Crispy Gardein Chicken Sandwich is no exception. It is piled high on a great flat multigrain bread and dressed with fresh tomatoes, garlic aioli, chayote slaw, and housemade agave pickles. This piled high sandwich is fun to get your mouth around and really hits the taste and texture bulls eye.

Crispy Gardein Chicken Sandwich with side salad – $7.99

Speaking of housemade pickles our server brought us a side of them for everyone to taste. They are sweetened with agave nectar and super fresh tasting. Even the generous slices of onion and bell peppers that are pickled with the cucumbers have the same great sweetness from the agave.

Bread and Butter pickles sweetened with agave nectar

Another sandwich on the menu which was new to me was the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich served on the same multigrain bread as the chicken sandwich. It was piled high with fresh cucumber, onion, tomato and their fantastic edamame hummus.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich with side salad – $7.99

On a side note I love the LYFE Kitchen sense of humor and the way they brand their name. For example the sandwich section of their menu is called [GRAB LYFE WITH BOTH HANDS]. The newest item from this section of the menu are the Tofu Tacos. Although they also offer a fish version of this popular item with grilled Mahi Mahi the one we enjoyed had strips of breaded tofu. As you would expect from any good fish taco they were served on warm corn tortillas and loaded with all the fixings like chayote slaw, avocado, chipotle aioli, cilantro and a chipotle vinaigrette.

Tofu Tacos with kale side salad and salsa – $8.99

LYFE Kitchen's two signature entrees from their main dish menu were next. We enjoyed both Art's Unfried Gardein Chicken and Tal's Ancient Grain Bowl. Chef Art Smith created this hearty main dish which is delicious yet only checks in at 388 calories. The vegetables on the side (roasted winter squash, brussels sprouts with dried cranberries, cashew cream and dijon vinaigrette) are so good they almost take center stage on this dish.

Art's Unfried Gardein Chicken – $11.99

My favorite entree at LYFE Kitchen has been Tal's Ancient Grain Bowl and I have even tried to make it myself at home. Again, Gardein beef tips stir fry nicely with Asian veggies in a sweet chile-ginger sauce. The key to this dish is the surprising combination of two whole grains, farro and quinoa. They pair up for an extraordinary texture combination and a delightfully refreshing alternative to rice.

Tal's Ancient Grain Bowl – $11.99

Although all of this tasting had fill us to the brim we could not resist what they call [THE SWEET LYFE] to complete our all vegan experience. Another thing I appreciate about this company is the focus on simplicity. We tried two desserts and both were full of flavor but did not overwhelm you. I can always eat lots of food at LYFE but never do I walk away feeling bloated or overstuffed. Non-dairy Banana Rum Cheesecake is made with a pecan crust and topped with rum sauce. And yes, it tastes every bit as good as it looks! It has all of the flavor and none of the guilt.

Banana Rum Cheesecake – $3.99

And what's not to love about a chocolate chip cookie to grab and go? The LYFE Kitchen people know that flavor comes first but they also make everything healthy, inexpensive and fast. It is a combination you just don't see at other restaurants.

Only $1.29 for here or to go makes their Chocolate Chip Cookie a big favorite

You notice that I have not been beating you over the head with healthy facts about the LYFE Kitchen vegan menu. The reason is that I was there just to sample but I got completely wrapped up in how great everything TASTED. The fact that no animal products were used in this food was amazing but also kind of secondary to me. I loved every bite and did not even miss the dairy products even though I am a big cheese eater. Part of the beauty of the LYFE Kitchen mission is people like Tal Ronnen. It was such a pleasure to talk with him. He is low key and non-judgmental. His knowledge of food is immense and yet he talked with us on a level we could all understand. His great tasting food sells itself and I know his mission to promote veganism will succeed without having to wage a war on carnivores. Thank you Chef Tal for your continued inspiration that makes us strive to eat better.

On a closing note I want to mention the special gift card promotion taking place now through January 31, 2012 at LYFE Kitchen. If you buy a $50 gift card, you'll receive an extra $10 gift card with it. If you buy a $25 gift card, you'll get an additional $5 card. These card make great holiday gifts so surprise someone who has yet to experience LYFE Kitchen. It will be a gift that tastes great and is good for them too!

My parting shot is of the very cool GPS table locators at LYFE KItchen. These devices are the best I have seen at any quick service restaurant. Everything about this place just rocks. I am a person who frequently dines out and pays a lot of attention to the food trends. I try every new dining out concept that comes along. LYFE Kitchen not only tastes great but is a very big step in the right direction to change our eating habits for the better.