Side-stepping meat not 100% successful
By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Content Editor
First thing I notice is that this is a southern chain. Next, right off the bat, I see all these messages about healthy eating, then when I get to the menu, I see a lot of meat so I'm a little disappointed. Having seen Speciesism at last year's Cinema Verde Film Festival, I am so close to finally becoming a dedicated vegetarian. Everyone who eats meat should see this movie.
On closer inspection, though, I see enough vegetarian options to satisfy a Meatless Monday meal, although, for the vegans, who can't even have cheese or eggs, it might be a little tougher as there is feta or mozzarella cheese included in some of those meatless options, such as the Greek salad. There is a link to the complete Zoe's menu below.
Also, I do NOT consider fish a meatless option. It's an animal protein. In my humble opinon, fish should be the last thing for anyone to order as overfishing has become a very serious problem. That said, the menu includes a tuna salad sandwich and a tuna pita. Hmm, the tuna pita has capers. I love capers. That's one of ZK's charms: ingredients that are just a little different. On the other hand, they sometimes play a little fast and loose with their food descriptions. More on that as this feature unfolds.
I wanted a strictly vegan lunch, so I was focusing on the sides, specifically the "Braised" White Beans with "fresh" rosemary, Roasted "Fresh" Vegetables, and Rice Pilaf. I thought rice pilaf was vegetarian, but when I asked the waitress whether there were vegetables in the pilaf, she told me there were no vegetables and the rice is cooked in chicken stock. That took me completely by surprise.
"Fresh" crops up a lot on the menu. For rosemary, I think that means it has not been dried. For the vegetables, I guess that might mean they have not been frozen. As my sister likes to say, however, in the battle of frozen vs fresh vegetables, unless the fresh are local, frozen could be better because they are frozen very soon after being picked and probably retain more nutrients than fresh vegetables trucked or flown across country.
As far as the "braised" white beans, I doubt seriously they were actually braised. To be braised, a food must first be pan seared to brown its surface and enhance its flavor, and then it is finished by simmering. This tendency of ZK to use words that suggest health, like "fresh," "homemade," and "braised," is a current advertising craze. Remember when everything was "new" and "improved"?
I ended up ordering the White Beans, Roasted Vegetables, and, even though it was cooked in chicken stock, the Rice Pilaf. I think I was in denial, and my brain just could not accept that the rice was not vegetarian. In my mind, rice and beans is like the vegetarian horse and carriage that just have to go together. So much for a vegan Meatless Monday. :( BTW, as hinted at above, I thought rice pilaf had to have vegetables in it, but according to Wikipedia, rice pilaf is just rice cooked in seasoned stock. I really do learn something new every day.
My sides were very tasty (image at top and right). My main objection (other than the non-vegetarian rice) was that each side was served in separate dishes. All the restaurants do this, and that drives me a little nuts. When ordering several sides, why are they served separately? I acknowledge that some people are fussy about getting foods mixed together so they are probably very happy about the little dishes. I, on the other hand, love to mix it up, so, luckily, at ZK, the 3 side dishes were served together along with a big plate so I was able to dump them all out so I could mix them together. The White Beans were very good with just the right amount of rosemary, which can sometimes be too strong. The beans were almost like a thick soup and were very good on the rice. It would have been perfect if the rice had been cooked in vegetable stock rather than chicken stock. The Roasted Vegetables were also very good – lots of browning that creates that savory sweetness of carmelization. The veggies were great mixed with the rice and beans. The only issue with the roasted vegetables was the lack of variety: There was broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms. It would have been nice to see some squash or maybe even beets or sweet potato.
My companions seemed to be pretty happy with their meals, especially my long-time friend and co-worker until she retired, Joy McCallum (right), who had the Chicken Salad Sandwich, but I was the only one who completely cleaned my plate, plus I helped one of my friends clean hers by eating 3 pieces of crisp apple from the Seasonal Fresh Fruit side she selected to accompany her Egg Salad Sandwich. Thank you Barbara!
In summary, there is healthy vegetarian food at Zoe's but you have to choose carefully - and don't order the Rice Pilaf! Don't forget to see Speciesism if you get a chance. Note to self: Ask if the white beans are vegetarian.
The Pluses and Minuses of Zoe's Kitchen
Zoe's Kitchen + indicators: White beans and roasted vegetables. Use of some interesting "accent" ingredients.
Zoe's Kitchen - indicators: Rice pilaf cooked in chicken stock; loose use of buzz words like "fresh" and "braised."
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- Phone Number: (352) 363-6090
- Address: #220 3730 SW Archer Rd., Gainesville, FL
- Urban GLOB Location: Archer Road
- Web Site: Zoe's Kitchen
- Latitude: 29.621431
- Longitude: -82.379094
Also, went to Zoes Kitchen finally today after seeing your article! Highly recommend the Spinach rolls with chicken! So warm and flavorful, perfect amount too with the Greek Salad with a light yet tasty dressing. But I would opt out of the onions on the salad, as they literally pile a heaping amount of raw onions on there. Salsa delightfully spicy too!
Just thought I'd share :)
Lulu Monday, 14 April 2014 10:34 Comment Link
Blue Agave has now just about the best Mexican food in the N.W. of town. I've had take-out 3 times and last week took some European visitors and were as impressed as I (again)
Their Carnitas, moist, tender and flavorful, chile verde, aromatic and delicious, beans and rice, also held their own. I inquired where the owners were from and they cook Jalisco style, my mother's neck of the woods. So, I'll be back again and again.