Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On the Road: Avanti Cafe, Costa Mesa, CA

Over Christmas I was in California visiting family. I had two family holiday celebrations to attend, and even though we stayed in a hotel suite with a kitchenette, I had no intention of making my own meals. It was the perfect chance to try out the local vegan restaurants and their holiday menus.

I bought two holiday to-go meals from two different restaurants, Avanti Cafe and Native Foods, and took them to share with my family. Today I will tell you all about Avanti's meal.

I knew almost nothing about Avanti Cafe as this was my first visit to the vegetarian restaurant. I had read that the OC Weekly selected them for the 2010's Best Cupcakes award and that was about it. The restaurant is in a little strip mall in Costa Mesa and it is pretty 'tiny' but upgraded to 'small' with its patio seating. But it didn't matter to me as I was just picking up my goods for the next day.

Here's what my dinner plate looked like:

l to r, from top center: Golden Garlic Greens, Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce, Holiday Galette, Smashed Spuds with Miso and Hazelnuts, Avanti Corn Bread Sage Stuffing topped with Red Miso & Oregano Gravy 

The Holiday Menu:

~Holiday Galette: Cippolini Onion & Roasted Cumin Tomato w/ Parsley
~Roasted Whole Kabocha Pumpkin: Pistachio Chive Stuffed with Harvest Vegetables (not pictured)
~Smashed Spuds w/ Miso and Hazelnuts
~Golden Garlic Greens
~Avanti Corn Bread Sage Stuffing
~Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce
~Red Miso & Oregano Gravy
~Olive Hearth Bread (not pictured)
~Roasted Apple Cinnamon Cream Tart (not pictured)

As the restaurant was closed on Christmas Day, I picked up the meal on Christmas Eve morning. Most everything was premade and just needed reheating. I did have to cook the galette for about 15-20 minutes in my hotel suite's oven before leaving for the party, but it was a breeze to do and it was still warm and tasty when I got there. I microwaved everything else seen on the plate rather than reheating it all on the stove to save time. Plus, I just didn't have the space and equipment to do it. It was a bit chaotic and crowded at my aunt's house and I even forgot to take a photo of the tart dessert!

The mashed potatoes were good but a little too liquidy. The stuffing was ok, but I had just had this awesome quinoa stuffing from Whole Foods the day before that pretty much kicked its ass into an 'ok' rating. The cranberries were a bit tart for me, and the greens were greens...I am just not a fan of cooked greens by themselves, I like them in things or I prefer them raw. The galette was good. And the dessert tart was ok.

I ended up skipping the bread and the stuffed pumpkin for Christmas dinner because I already had plenty of food and the pumpkin needed to be heated in the oven for too long a time frame. I left them in the hotel fridge, and I ate the bread and wild rice and vegetables stuffed in the pumpkin a few days later with the leftovers. The pumpkin didn't heat very well, which could have been my grandmother's oven, and I ended up microwaving the stuff from inside it. Sadly, while it looked so very pretty, I thought it tasted a bit bland.

Overall, the meal was ok, but too much trouble for what it was worth. Also, I only had two purchase options; buy a couple of things a la carte or buy a holiday dinner for 6 people. They ended up being about the same price, so I went with the bigger dinner even though I didn't need that much. I would have much preferred a dinner for 4 people as an option or cheaper a la carte prices.

In the end, I would probably try them out again on a future visit as a lunch place or to try their award-winning cupcakes. But I wouldn't get the holiday dinner there again. Part of this decision is based on my comparison with what Native Foods offered me, which I will talk about in the next post. And honestly, there are quite a few vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Southern California, and nothing there impressed me so much that I would jump Avanti to the top of my list of places to dine.

Avanti Cafe
Ranking: ***

***** awesome! Highly recommended.
**** hey, this is pretty dang good.
*** not bad at all.
** eh.
* bad. Keep looking for alternatives.


Avanti Cafe
259 E.17th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 548-2224

Monday - Friday  11AM - 10PM
Saturdays 10:30AM - 10PM
Sundays 10:30AM - 8PM

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