It all Makes Sense at “Pure Vida Bakery and Bystro”
When I pulled up to Pure Vida Bakery & Bystro for brunch with my husband, Ernie, I had my doubts. I’m not vegan. I’m not even vegetarian. Yet for years now, since moving to Las Vegas from San Diego, I’ve heard the legend of Chef Mayra who I was told makes vegan food decadent.
You certainly wouldn’t expect the words “vegan” and “decadent” to appear in the same sentence. I didn’t think so, either. As it turns out, decadent is an extremely accurate word to describe the food there, and, I’m pleased to share my experience with you.
The place is small, really small. Fifteen small tables and four more outdoor tables. It’s tucked into a semi-industrial area where I’d expect to find a tool and die shop, not world class vegan cuisine. The interior is bright and happy. Jamaican background music sets the mood for something special and different.
If you’re wondering what classifies food as vegan, Chef Mayra will tell you plainly, “It’s food that never had a face.” That means no meat, no dairy, and no eggs. Nothing that ever came from a living animal. But if you think that means being reduced to salads and tofu, au contraire.
Honestly, it’s been a couple days since our visit; I’m still mystified how vegan food can taste hearty, homey and rib-sticking. I’m blown away by how it’s possible to make a pancake without eggs and it still manages to be fluffy and delicious.
What you absolutely know about the food at Pure Vida, as it arrives at your table, is that may not have anything animal in it – but it sure is filled with a lot of love. Chef Mayra is like the Italian or Jewish Mom of vegan food encouraging you to eat, eat and enjoy.
We really didn’t know what to expect as we walked in and tucked ourselves into a table right next to the pastry case. After less than a minute we were greeted with samples of Rooibos Iced Tea. Apple-Orange Water and a beverage menu.
I ordered an outrageously sybaritic hot chocolate concoction with pumpkin spice and topped with soy whipped cream. Starbucks better watch out. It was creamy, rich and luscious. Husband Ernie had the Café no Leche Carmelo. The Vegan equivalent of a Carmel Machiatto. It was strong, creamy and not overly sweet with caramel. We probably could’ve stopped there and just shared a bowl of fruit. Little did we know…
Our server Christy gave us a tour of the menu, which is extensive and well detailed. Everyone at Pure Vida seems to care passionately about food.
We were dining together with Paul and Cindy Rodriguez, publishers of Vegas Scene Magazine, so we all decided to order the big brunch. It was served family style in generous dishes in the middle of the table. Everything is fresh and pure. I swear we could’ve dragged in another couple off the street and still had plenty of food for six people with our four orders of brunch.
The first dish that came out was called Jace Salad. Okay, I know it’s called salad, but it was similar to an ol’ fashioned chicken salad with mayo. But all vegan. The menu claimed its roots are from India. It didn’t seem Indian, my husband is originally from India. We all still enjoyed it. The Jace Salad was made with tofu that goes through two marinating steps and I promise you – it doesn’t taste or feel like tofu in the mouth. The entire dish is creamy, summery and spicy.
Next, Chef Mayra brought a virtual smorgasbord of dishes to our little table. The food is a riot of color. No “all brown” food here. Spicy potatoes, vegan sausage (tastes like Italian sausage), a dish she calls “The Love” because as she says it “everyone loves it” and more. All hearty and creatively garnished with green pea shoots. The shoots add a little sweetness rather than the typical parsley sprig.
Once again, throw away the thoughts you may have had of airy, light vegan food picked at and pushed around the plate by an anorectic starlet. Banish those thoughts forever and drive over to Pure Vida. It’s hearty, richly-layered with spices and an explosion of taste. Paul said, “It’s just spicy enough to make you want to take another bite and another and another.” I did.
After all that Christy brought us Banana Empanadas with Cranberry Chutney. Just a couple bites to cleanse the palate before the “dessert” course with our brunch.
Out from the tiny kitchen came a gorgeous Belgian waffle (well, one-fourth of one) and a couple very small pancakes. It was all beautifully garnished with blueberries, banana slices and blackberry. The whole thing is topped with a little Pure Grade B Maple Syrup.
Just then, Christy brought to the table next to us a stack of pancakes topped with bananas, blueberries and strawberries. Next time…
If you come to Chef Mayra’s for a meal be sure to come hungry. If you come for just a cup of herbal tea and a pastry like the Red Velvet Cake come hungry. In either case be ready to be amazed.
Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro
1236 Western Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 722-0108 – call for hours
Denise Michaels is author of the business bestseller, “Testosterone-Free Marketing” and creator of the popular “Occupy Your Life… NOW!” workshop. What most people don’t know is she’s also a gourmet cook trained by an Executive Chef who cooked for three US Presidents. She shares her food experiences here at The Adventurous Foodie.
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First, my husband Ernie and I went for a walk at gorgeous Pueblo Park. It was a sparkling morning of 50-something outside. It’s filled with trees, grass, chipmunks and mountains in the distance. What a great way to start the weekend. We talked, laughed and he gave me that look that made me fall in love 13 years ago.
I was scrounging around in my produce drawer yesterday and found not one, but two bags of lemons. What was I thinking? One bag looked like if I don’t use it soon they just might go south. I hate throwing food away because I forgot I bought it. Ernie’s not happy about that either.
After all, groceries are one of the highest monthly expenses in a household. When you figure how much you spend in an entire month on groceries it kills me to think I’m throwing something out because I forgot it was there and got too busy.
I also bought lower fat cream cheese to make my Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake soon. When I got home I realized I had one too many bricks of cream cheese in the grocery bag.
Hmmmm… lemons and cream cheese. What to do?
Winter arrived in Las Vegas this week. It was the end of summer less than a week ago – temps in the balmy eighties. Suddenly it was gusty, chilly, better pull-a-jacket-on-with-a sweater weather. That’s how it happens around here.
After nine years in Las Vegas I’ve learned the drill. It takes a long time to make the agonizingly slow descent from the scorching, oppressive, make-you-want-to-cry 110 degree heat in August, to the cooler but still summery October.
Yesterday I wanted hot cocoa. I wanted my coziest, ugliest chenille sweater and a good, engrossing book. Instead I had meetings with two mentoring clients and a prospective client.
Plus, our carpet was cleaned. So, at 7:00 am, Ernie and I had to move furniture. Almost everything had to be up off the floor. My leather office chairs were in the bathroom. The dining table was in the kitchen. The side tables were on top of our bed. The carpet looks great, though. We’re ready for the holidays. The Christmas tree will go up next weekend.
Today, I intend to tuck into a good book underneath a cuddly afghan.
This time of year we want hearty, rib-sticking foods that make us feel nurtured. Even here in Vegas But we don’t want to pack on pounds. Because after the holidays we’ll set New Years Resolutions to lose those same pounds. As a result my favorite mashed potato recipes (I’ve got some good ones) will have to wait.
If you know anything about Greek food you know pizza really isn’t a Greek thing. But who can resist some of the flavors of Greece – lamb, oregano, feta cheese, spinach and red onions on a pizza. Okay, okay – I know it’s not authentic. But believe me, if you like the flavors of Greece you will enjoy this. And pizza is always fun, right?
I think of pizza as one of those foods you whip together when you don’t really want to cook too much. That’s why I use the Boboli crust. I’m sure there are great cooks out there who feel using a Boboli for anything is an abomination. And I believe 100 percent that that’s your opinion. I beg to differ.
I know a homemade crust tastes better. However, I’m not too into bread. Yes, I had an ill-fated experience with a Brioche recipe I tried last week. But for the most part I don’t eat a lot of white flour as bread – so I just choose not to spend a lot of time cooking it. Because if I cook it – I know I’m going to want to eat it. You know how it is – if you cook it, you feel you have the “right” to eat it. Or, you somehow talk yourself into thinking it doesn’t have any calories.