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Tasty summer bites

Observer by John Pixley

 

Who knew that a can of vegetarian chili, a can of white hominy and some shredded cheese could taste so good? It was something my mom would just whip up when I was young and something I would have when I had my first apartment in college.

Actually, after years of living in the dorm and eating in the dining hall, coming up with this recipe—if that was what it was—was downright special, sort of exotic and homey at the same time.

Yes, it was always good, a simple comfort-food dish, but a few weeks back, it was extra tasty. This is probably true of any cooking on a camping trip.

Really, a can of pork and beans is pretty good cooked over a camp fire or a Coleman stove.

That’s what my friends and I were doing a couple weeks ago. We were camping at Morro Bay State Park for the weekend, using a large Coleman I had bought, and that old chili and hominy recipe was better than ever. No doubt it was because we were camping. What’s more, we were camping and also able to cook organic baby spinach from Trader Joe’s.

I call that living the high life in the rough. It was even higher the night before, when we had spaghetti with marinara sauce and vegetarian Italian sausage with zucchini.

I’m thinking of having pork and beans on the next camping trip. But it will be vegetarian baked beans and tofu hot dogs. With maybe broccoli on the side.

And it will be extra tasty, no doubt.

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Tofu hot dogs are one thing, but tofu shrimp, or vegan shrimp, is a different story.

I told a friend that Junction is a whole other world.  Actually, what I said was that the restaurant on Indian Hill in the Village is like something in LA.

But that’s not the only way it’s so different. The restaurant specializes in dishes that feature Mexican and Korean elements, making for a spicy, succulent blend.  The menu, some of which appears to have started off in a food truck, includes kimchi tacos, and I’ve had a burrito with chicken marinated Korean-style. So tasty. On my last visit, I had a rolled spicy quesadilla, presented like sushi rolls, which was stunning.

There’s more. Not only is there this crazy, wonderful fusion, truly a junction, but there are vegetarian/vegan options on many of the items on the menu.  I had my burrito with vegan chicken and my quesadilla with vegan shrimp.  For me, the fact that it’s not a vegetarian/vegan restaurant but has these options (at no extra cost) sends it over the top.

Another world—LA and beyond—indeed, and right here in Claremont.

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I was glad to see that Junction was featured during Claremont’s Restaurant Week last month. It certainly does deserve every promotion. In fact, wasn’t it noted in Sunset or some such magazine—maybe it was Gourmet—not long ago?

It’s great that Claremont has a Restaurant Week. Many cities have one, and it’s good to see Claremont getting in on the act. Yes, it’s a gimmick, just a promotion, but, again, a bit of promotion doesn’t hurt.

I have to admit that I don’t usually think of eating out unless I’m away. I have several restaurants that I like to go to when I’m in Los Angeles, for example. But that has been changing in the last year or so. It’s just nice to eat out now and then, and with exciting places like Junction right here, I don’t have to wait until I go to LA. Plus, it’s less of a hassle, with no traffic for one thing.

One question I do have about Claremont’s Restaurant Week: Why is it held during the summer when the college students are gone? Don’t the students want to know about nearby restaurants? Don’t they want a break from dorm food?

Maybe not. From what I’ve seen, the students these days at the colleges have little reason to venture off campus to eat. Not only do these students have more attractive choices, with a number of themed stations in the dining halls, than I did in the eighties, when the vegetarian option was mac and cheese or sometimes fettuccini alfredo, their vegetarian and vegan choices are impressive. They may not have vegan shrimp—although I wouldn’t be that surprised if they did—but what they do have is a real improvement from 30 years ago and worlds away from the “mystery meat” that my mother said everyone got when she was in college.

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Vegan pulled pork, anyone?

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