Editor's note: Fields writes a monthly review of vegan options at local restaurants.
I have a soft spot for tofu - and I have just the tofu spot for you.
Adam's Mountain Cafe recently relocated to the east side of Manitou Springs, helping west-side residents like me avoid summer traffic and helping the restaurant avoid floodwaters. Now occupying the former Manitou Pancake & Steakhouse, Adam's has transplanted its wood furniture and Victorian, farmhouse-style adornments to a new space that offers fewer windows but more natural light from above. The large dining room is bustling at lunch and dinner, as is the semiprivate dining area, which makes the new bar area with high-top tables - serving fresh juice, wine and beer - a welcome addition.
Adam's Mountain Cafe is so vegan- friendly that it's listed as a vegetarian/vegan restaurant on several social media dining sites. Far from it, as five of the eight dinner entrees include fish or meat, but it is indeed a destination for plant-based diners as there are several vegan options on the menu and the option to modify several other dishes.
Daily breakfast is now offered and that's a special treat for lunch diners who can opt for a traditional salad or entrée or partake in the rancheros, vegan- style ($9.75). On a recent lunch outing I went traditional, though, while the table next to me shared a stack of pancakes.
I started with a cup of Cuban black bean soup ($5) with chips (it comes with a dinner roll that is not vegan). The extremely large (for a cup) portion of pureed soup is loaded with peppers and onion slices, making this creamy soup chunky with spice and sweet undertones. For an entrée I opted for the Tibetan vegetables ($10), a quintessential vegan dish - think beans, greens and grains - served over brown rice with added tempeh ($4). The golden toned tempeh and cauliflower shine on the colorful plate, filled with orange carrots, purple cabbage and green pea shoots, broccoli and snow peas. These lightly steamed vegetables and savory cashews (seasoned with tamari, a wheat-free soy sauce) add a crunch to the chewier rice and fermented soybean dish. Tempeh isn't for everyone; for those of you who do, this dish is reliably good.
For dinner, I go for the tofu. This block of bean curd is challenging for chefs and home cooks alike. Most are not aware that tofu slice size matters. Or that sautéing is king and using a stainless or cast-iron skillet is essential, as is a high-smoke-point oil. Adam's Mountain Cafe knows tofu. Sesame seeds are patted into thin slices before sautéing in rice bran oil - a zero trans-fat oil with a nutty flavor. The result is a delicate crunch with a chewy texture.
Served atop the Senegalese vegetables ($14; add $4 for the tofu) - cauliflower, potatoes and onions simmered in coconut milk with fresh ginger - the result is a warm, tangy broth, which makes for succulent and fragrant fare. With the choice of udon noodles or brown rice, opt for the thick Japanese wheat noodles. In one large bowl you get it all: creamy vegetables and noodles, meaty tofu and currants, and crunchy scallions and almond slivers. Warm with ginger and spice, this dish is flawless.
There's also a new tofu offering on the menu. The Laotian lettuce wraps ($9) are large, green butter lettuce leaves used to scoop up crunchy tofu, spiralized carrots and rice noodles. Top with peanuts, mint, cilantro, and chili paste. Don't forget the fresh lime juice: It adds a floral aroma to the raw vegetables. This tasty starter easily stands in for a salad entrée.
If tofu isn't your thing, be sure to try the Pozole Verde ($15), hold the sour cream. This enormous, bowl of colorful beans and hominy with rich red vegetables offers a roasted, smoky taste, common in umami-rich foods that deliver meatiness without the meat.
Adam's is one of the few restaurants in town that offers not one, but two (and sometimes three) vegan desserts ($7.50). The rice pudding, made with almond milk, is a sweet ending staple. The new lemon cake is worth the trip alone. The sweet dense cake is balanced with a subtle coconut milk en glaze, a scoop of homemade cashew creme and a big, red strawberry.
The drink menu at Adam's is as wide-ranging as the food. Juices ($2.25-$3.25), smoothies ($7), hot and iced tea ($2-$3.50), and coffee bar choices from brew to espresso ($2.75-$4.75) complement the bar offerings. You'll find beer on tap and by the bottle ($3.50-$12) and a seasonal wine list ($9-$10 by the glass; $33-$37 by the bottle) that includes organic labels.
Adam's Mountain Cafe is an ideal destination for multivore dining companions, where the vegans can eat as exquisitely as the omnivores.
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