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Green is Good

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As a customer of Green Bowl, my favorite sauce combination was chosen to be displayed for the month of March! I love my Thai/Peanut/Ginger Soy/ Super Hot combo and winning a $20.00 gift card made me appreciate it even more.

I went in to claim it last night and had a big bowl of veggies with that exact sauce combo to celebrate! I also took a photo of my name and combination on the suggested combos board. I haven’t done too much to win me fame so I wanted to get a shot of it before the month was up.

I love getting the little extra “V” on my stick so my food is cooked separately and away from the meat. The flavors were perfect and the veggies and tofu cooked just right. Jim and I had a great meal out at what is the 2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie award winner for Best Ethnic Restaurant. Looking at all the options they have for vegans and vegetarians, they are going to be hard to beat in 2012.

I couldn’t get enough green and decided to make Manzana Chile Verde from Veganomicon today for lunch. The recipe is out there, if you do a web search, but I won’t post it because I don’t change the recipe at all from what is published, nor have the authors posted it on the internet as far as I can tell. It is perfect and worth the price of the whole cookbook.

Here are a bunch of the green ingredients that go into the recipe. They are just so beautiful together, I couldn’t resist photographing them to go with this color themed post.

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Ethnic Restaurant

Indian Pavilion lunch buffet

Some of the best food vegetarians and vegans can have when dining out can be found in different ethnic restaurants. Grape leaves and falafel are wonderful things to order in middle eastern restaurants because they can be a pain to make for yourself at home. Similarly, the many curried daals, chutneys, pakoras, samosas and raitas that you can order on a vegetarian sampler platter or buffet at places like Indian Pavilion take a lot of effort and may make too much for just one or two people at home.

Veggie Boxty - Kildare's Irish Pub

We are lucky to live in an area that can support many Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Asian fusion restaurants although the menus are usually much different, Americanized if you will, from what you would ever eat in the countries of origin.

Mexican, Italian, Ethiopian, Irish, and Greek are all such different cuisines. When choosing a “best of” it came down to a matter of our personal tastes and what vegetarian options each restaurant had to offer when we were able to visit. It was difficult to compare each and a most enjoyable chore over the course of the year. A nod must go to Addisu Ethiopian Restaurant in Lancaster for being runner up.

Red Curry Tofu- Cozy Thai Bistro

Like the restaurants that we take time to rate, we aren’t considering national chains like P.F. Changs, Pizza Hut, Benihana or Loving Hut. Extra consideration goes to places that are trying to incorporate foods from local sources.

This year we give Green Bowl in State College the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards for Best Ethnic Restaurant. This restaurant stocks local veggies from Greenmore Gardens and each month has been featuring a few different special items. One of two Mongolian grill styled places in the area (Chen’s Mongolian Buffet near Boalsburg is the other), you pick from an assortment of toppings, which include proteins, vegetables, noodles, nuts as well as sauces to accompany them.

Green Bowl grill

I reviewed Green Bowl earlier this year and shared in great detail the care they go to for vegetarians, vegans, and people with specific food allergies. Sauces are clearly marked if not vegan, separate cooking areas if you so choose, and a bounty of fresh vegetables go into exactly what you make of it. I suppose this might not be award worthy if you make a lot of foolish choices when selecting what you wish to have cooked but I can’t think of anyone who would do that to themselves.

Green Bowl, one of many creations you can come up with.

The Hoisin, Thai, Black Bean, Teriyaki and Orange Ginger sauces are all great flavors for the Asian Fusion theme. Frequent veggie options of Sugar Span Peas, Bok Choy, Water Chestnuts and Baby Corn with a few Peanuts or Edamame allow for enough variations right there. If you factor in huge hunks of Tofu, Rice Noodles, making it all into a bowl, a soup or a wrap… I think you can see the combinations are endless.

As I congratulate Green Bowl as Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards’ – Best Ethnic Restaurant, I will take the lead of the one chalkboard in the restaurant that shares the employees’ sauce combination suggestion. Pennsyltucky Veggie suggests, 1 scoop Peanut Sauce + 1 scoop Thai + 1/4 scoop Super Hot + 1/4 scoop Ginger Soy = sheer delight for your taste buds.Do you have a favorite ethic restaurant that you want considered for the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards in 2012? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and has regular vegetarian menu items, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Green Bowl

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Green Bowl is a fun Asian Fusion restaurant with a twist. I am told it is a lot like a Mongolian BBQ Grill. Thinking that my readership is vegetarian I will assume that you also do not know what that is and will describe it to be like a salad bar style set up where you leave your bowl filled with chosen veggies to watch them cook it on a huge shared grill. You might think of the many obvious problems with a shared grill and cross contamination from other customer’s meat choices but Green Bowl has a great system to make sure every diner is suited so read on!

The Location

When you enter the right of the 2 doors at 131 W. Beaver Ave., State College, you might wonder why the one is locked. The restaurant as it is now was originally 2 different stores, the entrance you use was the old location of Svoboda’s where I bought some of my first vegetarian cookbooks in the 80s. The old wood floor has taken a beating and the walls have been painted bright green since the mid 1980’s when the main space was a short-lived upscale vegetarian restaurant that may have been named Croney’s and was later Irving’s. What was counter seating is now the open area that surrounds the big flat grill where you can watch the cooks frying up everyone’s creations.

Bright and open but sometimes noisy this popular spot draws many from the downtown businesses and nearby university. You can feel comfortable dressing casually. As a note to theater goers or business lunchers, because of the open grill area your clothes might come away with a bit of a fried food smell that drifts through the seating area.

Kids who are old enough to appreciate dining salad bar style will love to be able create their own meals and watch them being cooked. I am sure those younger than that can have a great meal too but I am not sure if the price, which is set for eat as much as you care to, would be worth it.

The moment you plop down onto the padded seat at one of the 20 black lacquer tables, your wait staff will firstly ask if you have been to Green Bowl before. Newbies are never treated as though teaching them the procedure is a waste of time. It’s explained how the numbered popsicle stick each customer is given at their table will make sure the meal they have created will be returned to the right person. You may also choose white or brown rice to go with your stir fry/ soup/ or wrap.

The Fun
If you are a vegetarian, you can tell your waitress and she will scribe a “V” onto your stick so that your meal will be cooked separately from the main grill and eliminating the chance of other patron’s meat selections getting flicked into your selection of veggies.

S/he will also tell you that upon making it to the point where you leave your bowl at the grill area, there will be a few cups of differently colored sticks. Many are animal flesh choices (chickens, shrimps, cows, pigs) but do not totally ignore them. This is where is you want a vegetable soup broth or a wrap that you will choose a colored stick to alert the cook to that.

When the wait staff gives you the go ahead to start to create your bowl of green goodness, take a tip from BiNaH (Bacon is NOT an Herb) and look to see if there is a line. If there is and you mind standing use this moment to read over all of the sauce choices. You can do this while you stand in line too since the colorful chalk board is at the start of the veggie selection area.

The Food

A vegetarian needs to be aware that a few of the sauce selections are not vegetarian – NOTE, they have them listed as not “VEGAN” but they aren’t vegetarian either. The current sauces to avoid are Bourbon BBQ (has beef), Oyster Sauce (oysters), Brown Bowl (oysters and Worcestershire) and Golden Curry. Golden Curry was new and not even on their ingredients and allergy list (just ask to see it). See photo for other cool sauce choices and amount suggestions or check out the other chalk board for staff suggested sauce combinations – FUN!

My creation, ready to be cooked!

Have you remembered your numbered stick? If so you are ready to being your choosing of the veggies! This store stock local veggies from Greenmore Gardens and each month will feature a few different special items. The July features included Scallions, Peaches and Cucumbers. The regular veggies may include Red and Green Peppers, Sugars Snap Peas, Tomato Wedges, Baby Corn, Carrot Coins, Cabbage, Bok Choi, String Beans, Zucchini, Bamboo Shoots, Water Chestnuts, Pineapple, Tofu, Mandarin Oranges, Onions Slices and Broccoli.

Next are some extra items like Peanuts, Edamame, Noodles (Rice/Glass/Egg), Eggs, Minced Garlic, Cilantro and Parsley. Then you get to dip into the sauces. I chose 1 Orange Ginger, 1/2 Italian, 1 Peanut, 1/4 Sesame Oil and 1/8 Super Hot sauce ladles. That adds up to about 3 ladles full of sauce for a big bowl of veggies and tofu.

My creation, ready to be eaten!

It is after the sauces where you are instructed to leave your bowl for the next cooking process. Between the sticks for Soup/Wrap/Flesh choices (you don’t have to choose ANY) and the rack of seasonings (Wasabi Sesame Seeds, Emeril’s BAM and Chinese 5 Spice amongst them) you slide your bowl into the cue.

In the winter you can choose from bagged Twining Teas to warm you up. In the summer a nice iced tea or Coke products can be had. For at least the past year they have also been offering breakfasts but since the menu is different and I am unfamiliar with it I will not include that in this review.

For being a restaurant that serves meat, this is about as vegetarian friendly as you can get. You pick exactly what goes into your bowl and can see it cooked away from meat products by a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Non-vegetarian items are marked and the staff is ready to make sure every dietary concern is met. Some folk’s reviews of Green Bowl have balked at the prices but it is worth every penny for fresh, unprocessed food. No Wi-Fi and Majic radio station as the music of choice don’t help the atmosphere but you almost don’t notice because the food is so good. Not to encourage wastefulness but if you don’t like what you got, make another bowl with different ingredients.

Here are a couple of related links for their page on Restaurant.com coupons and
FaceBook page.

Winner Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011Best Ethnic Restaurant.
Green Bowl on Urbanspoon

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