Archive for April, 2012
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.