Day Two: Green Elephant and Mead

We woke up fairly early on Saturday morning, despite our late night Friday.  All I could think about was lunch, but breakfast had to be first.  We found a great bagel shop with a wide selection of whole grain bagels and tofu cream cheese.  The bagels were so fresh—crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside—that my husband bought a dozen to bring home with us, lugging them across the city all morning while we poked around in book stores and galleries.  We checked out of the hotel and made our way over to Green Elephant.

The restaurant was in full swing for lunch, and although there was no line, many tables were filled when we arrived.  I was pleased with the clean, olive-y-lime-y green paint job inside, and the warm atmosphere immediately made me feel welcome.  A brightly colored chalkboard boasted of all the locally made ingredients the restaurant used.

Green Elephant Chalkboard

Our waiter came quickly to our table with menus and water.  I ordered one of their hand-mixed teas; my husband opted for a glass of the locally brewed mead.

Dry Mead from Maine Mead Works, Portland

Although we had studied the menu beforehand, I took my time deciding what to order.  The crispy wontons stuffed with soy cheese and spinach, served with chili sauce was my first choice, and we decided to add steamed vegetable dumplings with a tamari dipping sauce to start.  Both appetizers were delicious.  The wontons were indeed crispy. Fresh, hot, and flavorful with the chili sauce, these were a vegan delight, although the soy cheese was undetectable.  The dumplings were good, but not particularly special; they were reminiscent of the vegetables dumplings served at my favorite dim sum restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown.

Crispy Wontons stuffed with soy cheese and spinach, served with Chili Sauce

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings with Tamari Dipping Sauce and Hot Sauce Smear

We decided to try a soup, and when the waiter came back for the order and I asked for the Asian Vegetable Stew, he gave me a look that said maybe that was not the best choice.  He recommended the Fragrant Coconut Soup with Tofu and Baby Bella Mushroom.  I looked at my husband, shrugged, and we decided to try both.  The bowls came steaming hot; the Asian Vegetable Stew was more like a soup, with a thin broth.  It was packed with greens, turnip, carrots, and a couple of pieces of fried tofu.  The flavor was outstanding.  The rich and complex broth was the perfect vehicle for the tender Asian greens.  The Coconut Soup with Tofu and Baby Bella Mushroom was thicker, but the flavor of coconut, which I really do adore, was so dominant that I could barely taste the mushroom.  This soup came in a larger bowl, but was more broth than substance.  The richness of the coconut milk was very filling.  I wondered how we would have room for our entrees.

Asian Vegetable Stew (bottom); Fragrant Coconut Soup with Tofu and Baby Bella Mushrooms (top)

The waiter seemed a little annoyed that we were not ordering everything at once.  I figured since we were trying so many things, he should be a little more patient.  My husband ordered Chines Broccoli with Crispy Breaded Soy Filet.  I had a hard time deciding and asked the waiter what he would recommend.  He was non-committal; I chose the Stir-Fry Asian Vegetables and Tofu, served with 5-grain tempeh and brown rice.

The dishes came and right away.  I thought my husband’s looked better.  The greens were bright and fresh, the cutlet was enticing in its crispiness.  Mine looked like something I could have made at home.  I tasted the tempeh.  Cold, a bit mealy.  But the rest turned out to be wonderful.  The vegetables were fresh and hot, the rice steamed to perfection.  The tofu had been lightly fried first, then left to soften in the sauce with the vegetables. The Asian flavors of the sauce were rich but not too salty.  Leaving the tempeh, I dug in.

I looked across at my husband.  He was picking at his plate, pushing the food around.

“Full?”

“Well, not really.  This just isn’t very good.”

We switched plates and I tasted his cutlet.  Bland.  Then the vegetables.  Salty.  Very, very salty, and not much else.  Although the plate was artfully arranged, the actual food was not good.  We signaled the waiter, who eventually came over.  He took my husband’s plate, offering to bring something else.  My husband declined, and I shared some of what was left from my meal.

Chinese Broccoli with Crispy Breaded Soy Filet

Stir-fry Asian Vegetables & Tofu

The other server, on her way by, noticed we were finished and offered us dessert.  We checked out the menu and decided to share the vegan pumpkin cheesecake.  We asked for two forks and a take-out box, but when we tasted what we had ordered, I knew the box would go unused.  Rich, creamy pumpkin, spiced as for a holiday pie, was mixed with what could only be the most perfectly redefined cream cheese made from tofu filled a light, flaky crust.  The top of the small slice was garnished with pepitas, and there was a dollop of vegan whipped cream on the side that was so light and sweet!

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vegan Whipped Cream

I wanted to ask to bring the rest of however much they had left in the kitchen home with me.  Or finish it up right there.  We left full and mostly satisfied, but a little disappointed in the entrees.  Will have to go back and try it again, in case they were not having their best day.

We went from Green Elephant directly to Maine Mead Works.  This tiny mead brewing plant lies on a quiet street on the outskirts of the city.  We were greeted by an enthusiastic woman who gave us samples of each type of mead the company makes, then a tour of the brew tanks, hold barrels, and a preview of next year’s mead flavors.  We left with four bottles of mead— two dry, one lavender, and one cranberry.  We headed home, relaxed, full, and happy.

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One Comment on “Day Two: Green Elephant and Mead”

  1. Sharon Says:

    What a wonderful weekend you and Craig shared! Thanks for your food descriptions; everything sounds and looks delicious! Glad you were able to get away!


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