One year young: Caffe Dei celebrates their first anniversary Friday

Tacoma’s heralded vegan/vegetarian coffee shop and cafe celebrates a landmark event tomorrow evening: one whole year in business on 6th Ave. In addition, they celebrate continuously bringing in some of the best single origin specialty coffee roasters and using them to create fantastic espresso-based drinks and proving to people of all dietary preferences that vegan and vegetarian food is delicious.

Photo courtesy of the Caffe Dei Facebook page

I first visited Caffe Dei the week that they opened for business last summer so that I could interview owners Shane Siegfried and Shuanna Holt about their cafe, (it was for work but my motivations were purely selfish – I wanted the lowdown on the new [mostly] vegan place!). I sat down and chatted with both and started to understand in that short time that they both genuinely wanted more – in terms of both better coffee and vegan options – for Tacoma. Since then, new roasters have been featured and impeccably crafted espresso beverages have accompanied them. In addition, the food menu has evolved and changed shape many times for the better. Emphasis has moved from focusing mostly on sandwiches to starting to integrate more living and raw foods into the menu, a personal passion of Holt’s. New products, including beer, wine, books, bulk items and homemade snacks (kale chips and raw trail mix, anyone?) have been incorporated and have proven to be a beneficial delight to customers.

Delicious raw pesto noodle dish

It’s no secret that I foster a lot of love for this establishment. There haven’t been many weeks that have passed by since Caffe Dei opened that I haven’t been in at least once, be it for coffee, lunch with a friend, or grabbing a quick breakfast sandwich to go. I can’t single out just one reason why I appreciate this business as much as I do, but rather know that it’s the combination of many factors. I went over a few more reasons as to why it’s a business worthy of your time here, and they all stand the test of time. Clearly, Caffe Dei was an institution that was much needed in Tacoma, and I for one am thrilled that they’re here and thriving.

My favorite breakfast item on Dei's menu, the aforementioned original breakfast sandwich.

Those who also appreciate Caffe Dei being a part of the neighborhood can come out to the Vegan BBQ Extravaganza party that they’re throwing in celebration of their first birthday tomorrow night. They held a similar burger/brat BBQ last year and I missed it, and I kicked myself for that for weeks. The burgers looked like they were the size of your head and paired with smoothies, they are the perfect summer treat. They’re bringing them back along with beers, (hooray for liquor licenses!), entertainment and more. Here’s the lowdown from their Facebook event page:

To celebrate us turning 1 AND to get a jump start on the 4th of July, we will be doing a HUGE Vegan BBQ party on the 1st! We will be dishing out HUGE homemade burgers and brats. Throw in some summer fruit smoothies or some beers and call it good! Get a good start to your Friday night with a pre-party BBQ with us. This party will be happening at 5pm-8pm. We will be running beer and other drink specials all night. Throw on your flip flops and get a burger! Invite your friends and let us entertain and feed you! We encourage street poi dancers, hoop performers and perhaps limbo performers (we are serious). Come on down to support one of Tacoma’s only truly animal loving food establishments!

Celebrate the beginning of your holiday weekend by getting in all the vegan BBQ food that you (may) not be getting at the Fourth BBQs you’ll be attending, all while hobnobbing with good people and taking in quality entertainment. See you there!

Deets:
Where: 2607 6th Ave.
When: Friday, July 1, 5-8 p.m.
What: A birthday party! A vegan one!
Why: Because we’re so happy they exist
Info: (253) 572-2550 or check out their Facebook page

Foods of late + a Mexican recipe

As promised, here’s a post filled strictly with photos of food I’ve been eating and enjoying lately and another Mexican-style recipe that I’ve been touting on the Twitterverse. I won’t let so much time pass before posting the next recipe, I promise.

 

You like nachos? You like getting in tons of raw veggies and nuts and flavor in your meals, too? Look no further than Caffe Dei and their amazing raw nachos and optional raw nacho salad (same dish, without the raw "chips," add in lots of greens). Their depth of flavor, variety of ingredients and the sheer fact that each dish is completely, 100% raw will blow your mind. Trust me on this, you want to try these! Your body will thank you.

After I tried the raw nachos, owner Shuanna gave me a sample of their sweet homemade raw chocolate almond mylk. So creamy and rich, it's like a dessert in itself.

A few friends and I went to Wayward Vegan Cafe in the U District in Seattle together a few weeks ago after an event. This is their breakfast burrito that I chose, and it's a monster. I believe I ended up eating half and for that I was proud. So delicious, so carby.

My friends Joy, Dan, Lisa and I attended the annual NARN (Northwest Animal Rights Network)'s annual meeting and birthday party, as we've all been getting a little more involved in their great educational demos and events. At this particular meeting, Lisa was nominated to their board (Tacoma represent!) and we got to meet so many great activists who've been around for decades and those who are also newer to the cause. This cake was handmade by NARN volunteer Bethany Ionta/her husband Andy Himberger, and it was as delicious as it was adorable.

Just some bounty from the downtown Broadway Farmers Market all oiled/seasoned and ready to be roasted, no big deal.

I'm not sure, but maybe you've heard something about a little event up north that happened a few weeks ago called the Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off? Well, I baked up some cornbread for said event, and it came out wonderfully, especially since I haven't made it since pre-veganism. This recipe was modified from Colleen Patrick Goudreau's "The Joy of Vegan Baking" cornbread recipe, with the most notable change being the addition of jalapenos. Next time I'll add some more spices for a bit more kick. (Also, this photo is inexplicably upside down. Apologies).

A generously foamy almond milk latte from the new-ish Bluebeard Coffee Roasters on 6th Ave. in Tacoma. As of now I believe they're the only coffee shop in the city that offers almond milk for drinks, so get in there and enjoy it. They also serve vegan/gluten-free cookies from Corina, and I'm pretty partial to the peanut butter variety. The space is large, open and modern, and I get a little feeling of being in a Portland coffee shop while in there. A great place to chat with friends, read or just grab some excellent locally-roasted coffee.

I FINALLY made it to Seattle's mostly raw restaurant Thrive last weekend, and I loved it. In its cozy space there are very talented people whipping up some amazing raw (and a bit of cooked) food, along with some fresh juices, smoothies and decadent desserts. I had the Juggernaut, a salad composed of kale, nut-based "bella" meat, mushrooms, cabbage, avocado, lemon-tahini red rice, spiralized zucchini noodles and their "Juggernaut" sauce, along with an Alive juice (apple, carrot, parsley, spinach). I can't wait to go back and try more.

More eats photos coming soon, including Georgetown Liquor Company and more brunch at Quickie Too after today’s event, Letter Writing to Vegans in the Prison System and Brunch, hosted by the Tacoma Animal Rights Book Club. I should probably eat another non-brunch meal there again soon, too.

And now, here’s my recipe for…nachos! By popular demand, I’ve decided to share my nachos recipe with you. They’re usually made once a week in our apartment and I never get tired of them. Some things are just that dependable. And I’m also generally not one to toot my own horn, but I’m sorry, my silly name for these could be justified!

Dawn’s Best of the West Nachos™, (or any other arbitrary name you want to give them)

This photo captures the second layer (veggies and soyrizo) in action.

These nachos have gone through a few changes, but the essentials remain the same. These nachos are composed of 4 parts (don’t be scared!):

-base: chips

- first layer: refried beans

- second layer: veggie/chorizo mix

- third layer: fixins’

Here’s how to get them from your dreams to your plate. Note that lots of the veggies don’t have specific measurements. I generally just eyeball it so that there’s an equal amount of all veggies in the second layer.

Ingredients:

For refried beans:
- 1 can refried beans, (Duh! Or if particularly industrious, make your own! Equivalent to one can)
- Chopped jalapenos (if you like things spicy. Look below for measurements)
- Chopped garlic (optional)

For veggie/soy chorizo mixture:
- Olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
- A quarter of an onion, (any kind), diced
- 1 chopped zucchini
- 1 jalapeno, chopped into 3 piles (I usually put some in my refried beans, guacamole and in the veggie/chorizo mix. Omit or add as you see fit)
- Half a bell pepper, chopped
- Chopped cauliflower
- 1/4 of a package of soy chorizo (Any will do, but I’m partial to Trader Joe’s)
- Lemon juice and Mexican-ish spices (I use red pepper flakes, black pepper, cumin, cilantro, cayenne and chili powder when making this)
- A fistful of baby spinach or kale, chopped broccoli, diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) and olives if I have them on-hand
- Tortilla chips (we use blue corn)
- Shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole and Daiya cheese to top everything off (or whichever cheese you’re partial to)

Steps to delicious nachos:

1) Prep your toppings of shredded lettuce and guac. Leave the lettuce to the side and put the guac in the fridge to cool.
2) Chop up all your veggies, but keep broccoli, spinach or kale, tomatoes and olives off to the side as they go in next to last.
3) Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and add chopped garlic/onion and cook on low-medium heat. Once translucent and stirred around, add in the zucchini, bell pepper, jalapeno, cauliflower and soyrizo and heat through at medium. Add a splash of lemon juice and the spices now and stir. While that is cooking, begin cooking your refried beans in a small sauce pan and add the jalapeno and garlic to them if using. Heat on low as the other pan will take a bit longer. Stir those beans on occasion to make sure they don’t stick too much.
4) Once the veggie/soyrizo mix is fully cooked through, add in the broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and olives and turn the heat a bit lower. This will need some mixing as the pan should be quite full now! When that heats up (make sure to watch so that you don’t wilt your greens), turn off the heat on both the veggie/chorizo mix and the beans.
5) Bring out all the toppings and put your chips on a plate. Then add some spoonfuls of beans and a couple scoops of the veggie/chorizo mix. Lastly add the toppings! I usually put the Daiya on before the other toppings and heat it up for a minute in the microwave to melt the cheese. Then add the salsa, lettuce and guacamole.
6) Grab your plate and a beer, and relax with the tastiest thing you’ve created all week.

Next post: My write-up of the Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off!

I’m off to head to brunch, hang with friends and have a lovely Sunday. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend with some excellent vegan food!

Caffe Dei: the quality coffee/vegan food champs of 6th Ave.

Caffe Dei is the only all-vegetarian/vegan coffee shop/cafe that exists in Tacoma and when it arrived last summer it was to the delight of many a local vegan. With a dual focus on providing some of the best coffee in Tacoma as well as making more vegan and vegetarian food available to the community, Caffe Dei quickly proved itself as an institution in the city.

Taken many moons ago, shortly after Caffe Dei opened. Their 'sammiches' are a definite staple of mine.

 

I’ve interviewed Shuanna Holt and Shane Siegfried (owners of the business) before but that article came out long ago and so much has changed since then. One of the elements of Caffe Dei that I’ve truly come to appreciate and value that you really don’t see everywhere in the city is the fact that the business is always changing, evolving and adding new elements to it for the better. And as a result of this, customers get to experience these great additions as they frequent the shop.

Let’s get one thing out in the open before I go any further: first and foremost, Caffe Dei is a coffee shop. Shuanna has been a barista, coffee shop manager and roaster, and thus has worked every possible job in coffee. Shane has worked in the food industry and in food management for many years as well. Holt’s wanted to own her own business for years, and now with Caffe Dei, she keeps her coffee roots and still is able to cater to local vegetarians, vegans, those who are gluten-free and now to raw foodists as well. The shop is constantly featuring a new coffee roaster, and only features what they feel are the finest beans they can offer their customers, both in espresso form inhouse or in bags of beans to be purchased and enjoyed later at home. The current batch available is from Barefoot in Santa Clara, CA.

I could go on for ages about both the food and drinks created in this place as I’ve tried almost everything they offer (that’s vegan), but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just review one item out of each major menu.

The selection of house drinks at Caffe Dei is rich and feature spins on traditional coffeehouse offerings. The Arancione Moka is a mocha that features dark chocolate, steamed milk and fresh orange zest, the Picante Mocha boasts steamed milk, Mexican chocolate and a healthy dose of cayenne pepper, but my hands down favorite is the Sasquatch. A love child of the Americano and cappuccino, the Sasquatch is the one that I order nearly every time. Composed of just the right amount of foam and milk of choice (they offer regular milk, hemp, rice and soy) and perfectly pulled espresso, the Sasquatch is the ideal espresso-laced beverage. Caffe Dei features loose, fragrant teas galore that are created locally for those who opt out of extreme caffeination, (all can be ordered traditionally or iced) and as of very recently offers a few carefully selected wine offerings available both by the glass and bottle.

Front and center near the register and espresso machine are an impressive spread of pastries. The cafe brings in Seattle-based Macrina Bakery harvest breads for sandwiches, cupcakes, muffins, macaroons and more, some of which are vegan, some aren’t. The other half of their baked goods come from Flying Apron Bakery based in Fremont, (vegan, gluten-free, sometimes sugar-free) and their offerings include scones, cookies, banana bread and others. The cinnamon roll (below) is huge, flavorful and definitely takes a spin on the classic in its gluten-free form, yet definitely exudes a rich, sweet and savory flavor that’s perfect with any cup of coffee, anytime the day.

A cinnamon roll and a Sasquatch.

A few sandwiches are offered daily and most appeal to vegans in multiple grilled forms. Though I’ve tried all of them, I’d have to say that the breakfast sandwich – ciabatta bread with a house-made tofu scramble, vegan sausage, onions, a creamy, savory sauce and Daiya cheese for a bit extra (so worth it) – is my favorite. I don’t just order it for breakfast, I’ve also been known to order it for lunch or dinner. It’s that versatile and downright tasty.

Within the past month, Caffe Dei has extended their menu to be four pages, and two new sections added to it are the quinoa bowls and the raw salads. I sat down not long ago and was treated to a veritable “sampler platter” if you will of a mix of both of these new offerings, and out of them, a couple stood out to my taste buds.

A spread of samples of three new menu items. I ate like a queen this day.

The Kickin’ Cowboy Quinoa Salad combines greens, carrots, cucumber, fluffy quinoa, faux chicken strips, a homemade barbecue sauce, bell peppers and a nice surprise of black beans. Another sauce created for this dish is composed of tahini and garlic and has a thick, creamy texture that gives an even greater depth of flavor to the meal. I thought this bowl delicious, spicy and something that I could see myself consuming often. Though it’s composed of many elements, everything is evenly distributed, offering a filling meal filled with fresh ingredients.

My favorite of the new raw additions was hands down the Diamond Dragon Eye bowl. Filled with greens, cabbage, lightly steamed broccoli, grated carrot, sesame seeds, spiralized zucchini noodles, a tamari/sesame/ginger sauce with a kick and the centerpiece – kelp noodles – this bowl has got a lot of great things going on. This was my first time trying kelp noodles and though they have a unique texture, don’t let them scare you away as they add to the dish. Every element is crunchy, light and all is balanced with the signature savory strong sauce. You have to try it, and soon. Even if you rarely eat raw, this will make you want to try your hand at experimenting with it more. I consider this and the other additions to the raw side of the menu to be some of Shuanna’s most creative and inspired dishes offered at her cafe, and you can truly tell that these are a labor of love and dedication to her own raw foodism.

Last but not least, is an item that I actually have yet to try, but have heard some already rave about: the new dessert item, affagato. Composed of organic ice cream (vegan options available) with fresh shots of espresso pulled directly over them and topped off with a 100% dark Dutch chocolate, the affagato is a coffee + chocolate lover’s dream come true. While some may have coffee and a dessert post-meal, this new item allows you to combine both into one decadently sweet dish.

Caffe Dei also prides itself on being a true green business, and it recycles, composts and tries to create as little waste as possible. And they’re always looking to improve in this arena. On top of this, Shuanna has started some in-shop raw food prep courses (a two-day Raw 101 class and a 4-week intermediate raw course) to teach others how they can create delicious raw meals right in their own homes. As these types of classes are generally only offered north in Seattle, anyone interested in learning more about the raw lifestyle truly has an inspiration and generous resource here in Shuanna.

After reading all of this, you still won’t fully comprehend how wonderful Caffe Dei is until you go yourself. I’m not just talking about the drinks and the food either. The knowledgeable and friendly owners and baristas, the comfortable, open and inviting space, the art that changes monthly on the walls and the regulars who have taken up residence in their chairs also make it worth experiencing. I’m so glad that Caffe Dei is a part of the neighborhood and the community and that they are definitely helping Tacomans realize that vegan food can taste amazing and be served up in an inviting and welcoming fashion.

Caffe Dei is located at 2607 6th Ave. and is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the shop at (253) 572-2550 or check out their Facebook page.