Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegan Brunch Featuring Chef Mya Zeronis

Steve and I ventured into Oakland this morning to attend a vegan brunch buffet at the Burma-Tokyo Restaurant on Atwood Street. Neither Steve nor I are vegan/vegetarian, but as I venture deeper and deeper into the world of clean eating, the more curious I become about creative, unique, and different uses of food. This vegan brunch buffet was hosted by Chef Mya Zeronis of Lean Chef en Route/Zest Wishes, and, despite not being vegan/vegetarian, Steve and I both agreed the food was fantastic!

Mya Zeronis, who has been featured in Pittsburgh Magazine as well as in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, devotes her life to cooking and serving the cleanest eats possible. Her dishes do not include GMOs or any chemical, artificial, or processed ingredients; likewise, she prides herself on utilizing local, organic, and fresh ingredients. This shows greatly in the quality of her food--- the tastes are vibrant, refreshing, and unique. So what vegan clean eats did we get to nosh on today? Read on...

Muddy Melissa sipping on some fair trade organic coffee at Chef Mya Zeronis' pop up vegan brunch
Before brunch was served, as we waited for all of the guests to be seated, we sipped on some fresh orange juice and tomato juice. There was a juicer available for use, and Steve and I tried both types of juices. We both preferred the orange juice, and we were astonished by the fresh, citrusy, crisp taste of the orange juice--- nothing like the so-called "juice" you'd buy from a carton at the grocery store! We both agreed that we should look into purchasing a juicer ASAP! Neither of us cared too much for the tomato juice, although I felt it would have been divine with a bit of fresh basil tossed in!

You can't get any cleaner than this!
The first dishes out at the buffet table included an organic baby spinach salad with maple-apple vinaigrette, red onions, toasted rolled oats, and cashew "ricotta," homemade sprouted organic tofu sausages, wrapped in organic kale leaved then grilled, and an Asian-inspired chili with organic black beans, coconut jasmine rice, tamari sauce, and organic chilies.

The chili spooned over the coconut jasmine rice was pure perfection; the flavors, together, were the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Even Steve (who, as you know, detests all things spicy) gobbled up a bowlful of the chili and rice. No meat was missed in this hearty, savory, and flavorful dish; the black beans provided more than enough heartiness to this spicy chili! All around the room, we heard other diners rave about the delicious chili.

Spicy with a hint of sweet--- a chili lover's (and probably even a meat lover's!) delight
As for the tofu sausages--- rethink your idea of vegan/vegetarian "sausage." We're not talking about the processed to heck and back faux-meat sausages you'll find in the frozen food aisle. These little babies were moist inside, and the grilled kale on the outside offered a "crunch" to them. Steve and I each snacked on one, but I couldn't help myself... that chili was so darn good, I ended up dipping my tofu sausage in it!

Crunchy Kale and moist tofu... a clean eats culinary power combo!
I honestly didn't try any of the spinach salad, although Steve had some of it. He absolutely raved about the maple-apple vinaigrette. Seriously, he could not stop talking about it, even after we'd left he was still talking about it on the car ride home. I did taste some of the cashew "ricotta," and I thought it was delicious. It did, indeed, taste like ricotta--- only better! Not overly nutty by any means, but bursting with fresh flavor. A big yes to that cashew "ricotta!"

The next dish that was brought out also featured this cashew "ricotta"--- whole wheat macaroni with homemade unprocessed "cheddar" and cashew "ricotta" topped with shitake mushroom "bacon" bits. This was my second favorite dish of the entire brunch, reminiscent of homestyle macaroni and cheese--- only better. The flavors were savory with a subtle hint of sweetness, beholding a mild cheese-like quality (yet not overbearingly so such as with traditional blazingly bright orange macaroni and cheese). I challenge any non-vegan or non-vegetarian to NOT enjoy this dish. Impossible!

Kraft Mac-N-Cheese, you've been bested (not that Kraft Mac-N-Cheese is tasty anyway, ha!)
Next, Chef Mya Zeronis served sprouted organic tofu-cauliflower scrambled "eggs" with nutritional yeast, chickpeas, and homemade almond milk along with organic cornmeal-coconut grits. I have to admit, I was not a fan of the cormeal-coconut grits. They were not bad, per se, but I would have preferred more coconut flavor. Just my personal preference! As for the tofu-cauliflower "eggs," this was, hands down, my favorite dish of the day. I could eat those tofu-cauliflower "eggs" for breakfast! Who would think that tofu and cauliflower would mesh so well together, but indeed they do! Chef Mya Zeronis offered an e-book to all diners filled with her recipes from today's brunch, and, let me tell you, I will be awaiting that e-book with baited breath, because I NEED that tofu-cauliflower "eggs" recipe in my life--- desperately! So clean and so yum!

Tofu-cauliflower scrambled "eggs" for breakfast... yes, please!
Afterward, out came some organic sweet potato hash browns with cajun seasoning and caramelized onions. Unfortunately, this was the other one of the two dishes I did not favor so much. I felt the caramelized onions were overpowering, and the cajun seasoning was all but absent. Additionally, the sweet potatoes were rather mushy. I thought some nicely grated sweet potatoes, still retaining a bit of their texture, would have been better suited for a sweet potato hash brown dish. But, again, that is just my personal preference!

Not my personal favorite... but would be for an onion lover!
Lastly, Chef Mya Zeronis saved her pièce de résistance for the final dish: blueberry-banana pancakes with chia seeds, flaxseed meal, organic spelt flour, and organic virgin coconut butter. Drizzled in dark amber maple syrup, these pancakes were to die for! Bursting with fresh blueberry flavor, these pancakes were also moist, fluffy, and rich. Each bite was filled with juicy blueberries intermingled with the fluffy spelt-flour pancake batter. Again, I don't think any non-vegan or non-vegetarian could deny that these pancakes were fantastic!

Moist, fluffy, and rich... bursting with fresh blueberry flavor!
Knowing ahead of time all of the good food to be served throughout the vegan brunch buffet, I only ate a bite or two of each dish (okay, those tofu-cauliflower "eggs" received more than a couple of bites from me...), but I still left full from my vegan clean eats. No part of me left brunch thinking "but where's the MEAT?" whatsoever! The entire brunch was unique, filling, and decadent. Chef Mya Zeronis hosts pop up vegan brunches and dinners each month (and next month, due to her growing vegan food fan base, she will be moving her pop up vegan brunch to a larger location on the North Side!), and I can tell you that Steve and I WILL be returning for more vegan clean eats! 

We cleared our plates!
Moreover, the atmosphere of the brunch was fantastic. Chef Mya was extremely hospitable, going above and beyond to ensure everyone was taken care of, and taking time to answer everyone's questions about her food. Likewise, the diners were all friendly, talkative, and personable in the coziness of the brunch's settings at the Burma-Tokyo Restaurant. It was great to hear from everyone--- vegan, vegetarian, and neither vegan/vegetarian (like Steve and myself!)--- and discuss their thoughts about clean cuisine and overall health. Have you ever noticed how obnoxious people can be at fast food restaurants? Well, this was a totally different atmosphere, and, after today's brunch, I'm beginning to hypothesize that clean eaters are much healthier and, thus, much happier--- making them, in turn, much more pleasant people to be around! Just kidding, guys... maybe!

I'm looking forward to next month's brunch, and if you'd like to attend one of Chef Mya's events, here's a copy of one of the flyers passed out at today's brunch. I'm also posting a link to her website here as well!

Happy clean eating!