Friday, December 9, 2011
Croissants and Kombucha at Karmavore
If you've never heard of Karmavore, it's a vegan store with a deli and mini-supermarket downstairs. Upstairs there's belts and purses and shoes and stuff -- all vegan! Both upstairs and downstairs have chocolate bars. That says something about chocolate, I think.
Food orders (takeout -- although there is a bit of a seating space downstairs) are placed with Samantha who runs the deli counter, but everything is paid for upstairs with Sara at the till. You can also get a "karma card" points reward card to accumulate savings.
I only heard of Karmavore through hanging out with too many herbivores, so it was a wonderful surprise to discover how good their sandwiches were. That, or I was just starved for a really good, well-put-together sandwich.
Depending on when you get there and how busy it is (and how many sandwiches are in the display case), you may end up with a shrink-wrapped prefab. I didn't have that and if possible I recommend you give yourself a bit of extra time and ask for a freshly made one. Fresh always tastes better.
At Karmavore, it's "sandwich of the day", so offerings may vary. When I dragged my friend to it on Thursday morning, there were two choices: egg salad and smoked tomato, in either regular white or whole wheat croissants.
The croissants are shipped in as frozen dough croissants which are then allowed to proof (roughly, left out to rise) to about double size before being baked in-store. Not exactly made in-store, but baked in-store means you're liable to get a reasonably fresh croissant as the foundation of your sandwich. Our two sandwiches had beautifully baked croissants. Not as buttery and oily as a "real croissant" (and being vegan, butter is a no-no) but presentation and crunchiness was very nice.
The egg salad sandwich was, of course, not made of real eggs, but a type of tofu. I'd had bad experiences with "tofu scrambles" and the like before, so I balked at ordering it but went ahead in the end. The tofu base is mixed with mustard and veganaise (a vegan mayonnaise substitute). There was a generous amount of it in our croissants, about a centimeter thick in some places. The mustard and veganaise wasn't overpowering, and I think hid any of the usual bitterness from tofu nicely. It sat on a bed of alfalfa sprouts.
Reasonably fresh croissant plus tasty filling = very good sandwich.
The "smoked tomato" sandwich uses Field Roast Smoked Tomato Deli Slices -- basically it's a phoney salami sandwich, with a fair amount of reddish fake meat in it. The Smoked Tomato flavour slices are apparently not available locally and has to be brought in from the US by Karmavore staff who get it from a factory outlet. The texture and firmness is like meat, but the taste is not exactly meaty here: The predominant flavour is the smoked tomato part, so you can't really expect to compare it with meat. Still, beats tofurky style slightly bitter tofu meat by a long shot.
This sandwich was alfalfa sprouts, overlapping slices of fake meat, and some kind of melted milk-white vegan cheese which I doubt was Daiya mozza, since that has a certain smell to it after experiences of it on vegan pizza at the WallFlower. Possibly Chao Cheese from Field Roast -- worth looking into if you're vegan and desperate for cheese.
Again, here was a delicious sandwich freshly made on a reasonably fresh croissant. Presentation was good and assembly was excellent on both -- nothing falling out on each bite except loose alfalfa and a bit of crust from the sandwiches. Even the egg salad sandwich was devoured cleanly with no salad mess.
For a beverage I was determined to look for something strange, and as luck would have it, there was just one bottle of kombucha left -- GT's Synergy kombucha, GingerBerry flavour (blueberry juice and ginger juice). Kombucha is a fermented tea with the fermenting bacteria part still in it and apparently alive. DON'T SHAKE IT. If you do, let the bacteria culture ("mother") settle first.
Sounds yucky, and flavored or not, it smells like something's rotting in there, but kombucha is apparently good for you.
This particular flavour had enough berry and ginger to drown out anything that might taste gross about it -- it definitely drowned out anything that I might have identified as "tea", leaving a pleasant berry and ginger mix that wasn't too sweet or overly gingery. If you smell it, though, you can make out the fermentation, which is not unlike the smell of yeast.
Kombucha was $3.85. Croissant sandwiches were $5.99 each, which might seem a bit steep, but considering you get generous filling in a regular-sized croissant, plus made fresh for you, it's not bad. If you got a slightly refrigerated shrink-wrapped croissant sandwich, then it might be a bit sad and who knows what that might taste like.
Trust me -- get it freshly made.