Farmer’s Market + Green Elephant Veg Bistro: Portland, ME
After our fun interview with personal vegan chef, Chris McClay we had some time to kill before our scheduled lunch at Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro. So, we decided to wander around Deering Oaks Park and discovered a Farmers Market in full swing. What a beautiful setting!
Oh yes, this was a great start to a wonderful day. And THEN it was on to lunch at Green Elephant. Every single person who knew I was headed to Maine recommended this restaurant. So we had set some pretty high expectations.
We arrived and were greeted by Corin, the restaurant manager. We sat down, had a look over the menu, began to drool a little, placed our orders, and chatted with Corin during her few free moments. She was working while also stopping by to answer our questions. It was very nice! The interview audio and transcript are below. But I know what you really want… food details and pics, comin’ right up!
For an appetizer we ordered these amazing brussels sprouts. Now, I know being the vegetable-loving crowd that you are, you might actually like brussels sprouts already. But for those of you who didn’t like ’em as a kid or who’ve maybe never tried them because of their bad rap, it’s time to turn your taste buds on to these bad boys from Green Elephant.
Seriously, the best most flavorful brussels sprouts I’ve ever tried. They were absolutely delicious and tastefully compelling all the way through. And by that I mean, when you bite into these things, there’s flavor through to the core. Ya know how sometimes undercooked b-sprouts can have a tangy or ‘off’ kinda taste? Yeah, these didn’t have that at all. Each bite was amazing.
Wow. I really want these now. Like. Right now. *sigh*
Anyway, get these. They’re amazing!
Shortly after the b-sprouts arrived we were pleasantly surprised to receive some edamame as well. Can never go wrong with delicious, delicious edamame! :) The presentation was nice too!
For my main course I ordered the spicy pad-sha rotini: stir-fried tomato and spinach rotini with cherry tomatoes, basil, onion, bell peppers, bamboo shoots, string beans, soy meat, and kra-chai.
It was excellent. The noodles were cooked wonderfully, the veggies tasted fresh, the sauce was great – not too heavy or spicy – and the soy meat was very, very good!
Ethan ordered the Peanut Curry, a slow cooked dish with coconut milk, soy meat, chickpea, sweet potato, carrots, and onion served with mashed buttercup squash and brown rice.
I had a few bites and it was mighty tasty. That curry sauce was phenomenal! Ethan – do you want to say a few words?
As a huge fan of Thai food, it is hard as a vegan to get a Thai-style curry made with the same love once you ask for the dish to be made without fish sauce. I feel as though every time I am at a non-veg Thai restaurant, the chef is like ,”OK, whatever! Here it is!” and the curry never comes out as good as I remember from the days before I became vegan. Yet I refuse to believe this flavor discrepancy is due to the use of fish sauce. Ladies and gentleman let me tell you how correct my assumptions are. This Peanut Curry at Green Elephant is that favorite Massaman curry style that I have been seeking. Massaman curry has its origins in southern Thailand and is considered one of the more popular contributions to the culinary arts from Islamic influence. Goodness! No more searching. I am home! I know the trip is young and I am bound to run into some other peanut curry dishes down the road. I can’t wait to see how they compare! Back to you Kristin!
After our meals we asked Corin if there is ONE thing on the menu that we MUST try. Then she began to describe their award-winning chocolate orange mousse pie.
Hold onto your hats because at this very moment, this is the best vegan dessert I’ve ever, ever, ever had. I AM already a chocolate lover. So that might have something to do with it. But we’re talkin’ rich, creamy, melty-in-your-mouthy moussey goodness that I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing until this day. I actually needed to take a time out so that my taste buds could catch up. Wow.
I would drive to Portland JUST for Green Elephant’s chocolate orange mousse pie. I’m not even kidding. I’m gonna start crying now. I miss it so much.*tear*
Just look at this beauty! And I know what you’re thinking – but trust me, the orange flavor does NOT overpower the chocolate at all. It’s actually quite wonderfully balanced. And this is coming from someone who never liked those chocolate orange ball things, growing up. Do you know those things I’m talking about… they come in a box and it looks like an orange, but it’s chocolate, and the pieces break away into what look like orange slices. Anyone?
But seriously, this was phenomenal. If you’re in Portland and you don’t make it a point to get this, we can no longer be friend. I’m sorry. ;)
Let’s talk a little about the restaurant’s interior. I LOVED the brick wall, the lighting was great, the seating was comfy — we were seated in the booth to the right. You can see the back of Ethan’s head there… see it?! Black hat. Over there –>
So yes, lovely colors, lovely decor, great service. Oh and the place was packed within a matter of minutes. It’s a popular one for sure!
Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro
608 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04101
Interview with Corin
As I mentioned earlier, we were happy to have a few moments of Corin’s time as it was quite busy. But she was always pleasant and stopped by a few times to answer our questions. Some interesting points, that I learned while talking to Corin, is that the owners of Green Elephant aren’t veg but do believe in providing tasty veg food AND some of their staff-favorite meals mean I need to go back for more! :)
Below is the audio and transcript for your perusing. :)
[audio:http://wtfveganfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/coringreenele.mp3|titles=Green Elephant Interview with Corin]
Kristin: [ 0:00:06.6]Corin, can you tell us a bit about how the restaurant was started?
Corin: [ 0:00:10.7]The owners are from Thailand. The Buddhist culture is a big influence in their lives. We have a sister restaurant called Boda. It is not vegetarian.
It represents the two cultural ties that they have. That restaurant is traditional Thai street food. This one represents the Buddhist ideal of vegetarianism.
The moving force behind it all is that they want to make good food. They learned to cook from their moms. It’s been in their family.
At the time Portland didn’t have any full-service vegetarian restaurants. There we were. We took that spot.
Kristin: [ 0:01:01.5]That’s nice. Is that what inspired them to have a vegetarian restaurant? Are either of them vegetarians?
Corin: [ 0:01:07.7]They are not vegetarians themselves. Buddhism is a moving force for them. We have tea for Buddha on the top shelf every day.
Kristin: [ 0:01:18.8]OK.
Corin: [ 0:01:21.3]It’s in honoring of that influence. The kitchen just buzzed me.
Kristin: [ 0:01:29.0]OK. Are you or any of your staff vegan?
Corin: I am vegetarian, not vegan. I’m a lactose intolerant vegetarian.
Corin: [ 0:00:03.7] I’ve been a vegetarian for 21 years. There are five of us that work in the front of the house. Three of us are vegetarian, one of them being a very strict vegan.
The other two call themselves “flexitarians.” They try to stick to a vegetarian diet. Sometimes they stray due to circumstances. For the most part, the kitchen is not. The front of the house is.
Kristin: [ 0:00:40.7] Are there any dishes or items on the menu that are a must? If someone came in for the first time, is there something you would recommend?
Corin: [ 0:00:49.7] My favorite thing on the menu is the tofu tikka masala. I eat that about five times a week out of the nine shifts that I work. That’s the majority of the time. That’s a staff favorite.
Another one is the basil fried rice. One girl swears by it. She also eats that about five times a week. She gets it vegan because that dish does contain egg.
I lied. There are two strict vegans on our staff. She just became vegan a couple of months ago.
Kristin: [ 0:01:29.3] That’s great. I think that’s everything.
Corin: [ 0:01:33.9] That’s good because the kitchen just buzzed me again.
Kristin: [ 0:01:36.0] Thanks for chatting.