Product Review: Higher Taste Buzzitos and Hummus

ATTACK OF THE BUZZITOS.

whoa.

This past fall, The Higher Taste worked 2 Vegan IT products into their line of Buzzitos: Soy Curls and Daiya Cheese.  Way to be on top of the vegan community, really!

Not too long ago, the Veganshizz and I met at the Vegan Mini Mall and had a grand time, squealing as we dispersed an abundant amount of samples from Portland-based The Higher Taste Ltd. The company makes really popular, wholesome, vegetarian convenience foods.  Nearly their entire line is vegan, with the exception of the Bean & Cheese Buzzito (correct me if I’m wrong).

Their products include sandwiches, Buzzitos burritos, hummus and gourmet salads – some of the latter can be found in the new green Hawthorne Fred Meyer deli, by the pound.  Both sandwiches and Buzzitos are found in convenience stores, grocery stores, Food Fight! New Seasons, coffee shops (including K&F Coffee), and more.

Now, I’m not a frequent purchaser of packaged, vegan convenience items these days.  However, I was once a college student and running around with a wrap, burrito or falafel sandwich was a way of life, and some were…gasp! packaged!  With that, some were definitely better than others- and Buzzitos belong in that category.

I took home my Buzzitos and Hummus from that fateful day the vegan mini mall and will be talking about my three favorites today – Karla will soon discuss the rest!

The Buzzitos.

Ya-Hoo! Bar-B-Q

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Ya-hoo! BBQ Buzzito: This new Buzzito features Oregon-produced Soy Curls, chewy in sweet BBQ sauce, with chopped small pepper pieces, mild onions, and brown rice.  This was the first one I tried, briefly microwaving it, and then cooking in a toaster oven, as per Karla’s tips.

Hands down, this was my favorite Buzzito.  It was the easiest to eat, the best tastiest combination, I dig Soy Curls, and I have a soft spot for new-traditional BBQ burritos.

P.S. Soy Curls are also in the new Fiesta Buzzito!

Vegan Surpreme, wearing its sombrero

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Vegan Supreme: This flavor was already popular, and then got blessed with the addition of phenomenally melty Daiya cheese.  Perhaps if you’re come to my site before, you know that I’m not a big Daiya fan.

I went into this burrito open-minded, and I appreciate the warming melt it offers.  I ended up picking around the majority of the Daiya in it and breaking out my fork, due to personal preference, but I was stoked that I still found it satisfying.  I’m sure the remaining Daiya-tolerant, 95% of the vegan cheese eating population would dig this burrito!

Famous Sicilian

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Famous Sicilian: I have deep Sicilian roots and I would have been very upset if I hadn’t liked this burrito – but I did! Selfishly, I would have dug a wee bit more of an olive & tomato presence, but I was really into the flavorful bites of hearty vegan sausage (not sure if it’s homemade), beans, rice and green pepper.

Overall take on Buzzitos:

A versatile line of satisfying, cost-effective vegan friendly burritos packing more flavor than you’d expect!

I dig that they’re locally produced, using special vegan products, aware of vegan trends, and made with fresh ingredients.

They won’t become a regular addition to my shopping trips, but I won’t forget the Ya-hoo! Bar-B-Q as a special, on-the-go purchase or emergency lunch.  Karla’s tips were key – the just so slightly crisped tortilla and heated filling works for me.

There was this moment of calm happiness the day I thought I forgot my lunch at work, and remembered the extra Buzzito in the fridge!

About Hummus.

Higher Taste Hummus – As soon as I tried their hummus, I instantly placed it as the hummus the Basement Pub serves.  If not, it’s ridiculously similar.  That being said, it’s incredibly creamy, but  on the bland side.  This is nice in a comforting way, especially if you’re not into a lot of garlic in your hummus – which I’m sure some folks appreciate – even if they may not admit it in public!

And once again – it’s great to see locally produced hummus, and I’d be down to try new varieties if they come out.

Buzzitos in Action:

Higher Taste BBQ

Ya-hoo!
Higher Taste BBQ

Vegan Supreme, Inside Shot
Higher Taste Burrito

If you have a favorite Buzzito, please share!  There seemed to be a tie between the new Ya-hoo and Vegan Supreme when I inquired via the vegan social internet machine.

This has been a Get Sconed! Product Review.

The company, The Higher Taste LTD., provided the complimentary products for review.

P.S. I shared some with friends!

Update: There are actually 2 vegetarian buzzitos, to clarify.

Cold salads are also available at Zupan’s, both Food Front locations and Ross Island Deli in the Portland area.

The VeganShizzle & Jess present: Our Favorite Vegan Friendly Bars!

Karla, the Veganshizzle, and Jess join forces to present their favorite vegan-friendly bars in Portland, OR.

In Discussion: Tube, Bye & Bye, Basement Pub, Dots, Roadside Attraction, Langano Lounge, Hungry Tiger Too and more.

The Bye & Bye cocktail
The Bye & Bye

Karla’s Five Favorite Bars for a Vegan Drinker:

1. Bye & Bye: Hands down, favorite bar in town! (Possibly in the world?) I spent my birthday here this year. They’re very accommodating with plates and forks for cake eating. I do believe we forgot to tip them nicely for that, but I don’t think they’ve held it against us. We tip them nicely anyways…..Anyways! They’re an all vegan bar, which you wouldn’t know unless you asked. It’s not advertised as such, though it’s a bit noticeable when you peruse their food menu, which is full of good stuff, like my favorite, the BBQ Brussel Bowl. Brown rice, roasted Brussel sprouts, nooched up tofu with a delicious BBQ sauce. Normally the sauce just has a slight kick to it, but there’s been a couple times where my mouth was a bit on fire. Other food options include Eastern Bowl (broccoli, tofu, brown rice with a peanut sauce), Chili Dog, Meatball Sandwich, and Frito Pie. Mainly what I love about Bye & Bye is their delicious signature drinks. There’s a list of them, all for $7, plus a special drink of the day that’s normally $6. They make a lot of their own flavored liquors, like cucumber gin or ginger infused gin. The drink I normally order is the Stockholm, a delightful mix of ginger beer and….some other stuff. I can’t find their menu online and can’t remember what else is in there. It’s got some citrus in there too and anything with ginger ale in it usually has my attention. Especially the good quality ginger ale like they carry there. (which, by the way, you can just order by itself if you’re not imbibing). The ambiance here is lovely. There’s always eye candy for both the girls and the boys, a covered patio in the back, nice sunbasking patio in the front, a good jukebox, nooks if you’re wanting a little tete tete with someone, large tables for the opposite and Hamm’s on tap and Sessions in a bottle for when we’re feeling cheap. Their happy hour is from open until 7pm every day and that means $3 well drinks (I recommend a Greyhound), $1 off entrees, and $6 mason beers. Which reminds me, they serve their signature-signature (called the Bye & Bye, it tastes like Hi-C Fruit Punch mixed with 7-Up) in a mason jar. It’s a freakin’ great idea. Only cons of this bar: Not in the Southeast and it doesn’t serve french fries. Hipstery bar but not with an attitude.

2. Tube: This bar is downtown near Berbati’s and Dante’s, both of which are bars where shows are played. They’ve got nothin’ on Tube though. Their happy hour is until 10pm. 10pm!!! Who does that? That’s just crazy! And awesome! I always liked this when I had a job where I didn’t get off work until 8 or so and was unable to make all those happy hours that go from 4-6 or so. I still like it though. They have a pretty big vegan menu, but the only thing I ever order is their vegan ham and cheese sandwiches. During happy hour (which is until 10pm!!) you can get 2 of the English muffin sandwiches for $5 (or one for $3). I have great nostalgia for hot ham and cheese sandwiches and though these are very different in that the ham isn’t thinly sliced and the bun isn’t a soft white roll, these fill the ham & cheese shaped hole in my belly. They are panini pressed and are delivered to you hot as can be. I normally take the “lid” off so that it can cool off a bit. Inside is “chipotle” vegan mayo, a slice of vegan ham and a small rectangle of vegan cheese. I put chipotle in quotes because the stuff ain’t spicy. At all. For reals. It is a slightly red. I’ve been known to eat 3 of these. Which reminds me, also during the happy hour you can get $2 well drinks or Hamm’s tall boys. Why you would get a tall boy of beer when you can get a delicious cocktail is beyond me, but to each their own, I suppose. Though the drinks are small looking, they pack a punch and I normally stop at 2. I’ve heard people talk shit about the bartenders but I’ve always had a good experience with them. Lots of hipsters pack this place after 8pm, but don’t let that stop you.

3. Bonfire: This used to my favorite bar. I celebrated a couple birthdays here. I used to live down the street at SE 37th and Washington so it was mostly laziness that brought me there. Well, actually what really brought me there was their cheap basket of deliciously “seasoned” french fries. The staff used to consist of douchebags, but now consists of lots of nice boys. (yes, another bar with nary a girl server in sight…and am I complaining? No. I wouldn’t complain if there were girls there, but, yeah, don’t care if there’s not. Is there anyone reading this that has a problem with all guys as staff? This is an honest-to-goodness question, I’d like to know people’s opinions.) They no longer have Boca Burgers, which saddens me, though I had heard that they weren’t vegan anyways. Vegan options: Tofu or TVP tacos, a burrito, and the mushroom & pepper hoagie. There may be one or two other items. Their food does not get me excited and french fries has my vote for best option. Besides the french fries, the main reason I go there is that they have booths. I’m a fool for some booths.

4. Hawthorne Hideaway: There’s not many reasons to like this bar. I like it for their $2 Happy Hour cocktails. You would never expect it, from the looks of the place, but they use fresh squeezed citrus for their drinks! Lime, lemon, grapefruit and (probably, though I’ve never witnessed it) oranges! Their $2 Greyhounds are delicious! There’s a front and back to this bar, with bar itself in the middle. The back part has a couple pool tables, an electronic jukebox (where people end up playing the oddest selection of 90s music, which Jess sings aloud with), 2 coed bathrooms and a bunch of frat boys. The front of the bar has several wooden booths…..and that’s it. One of the pool tables used to be there and I wish they’d put it back. They had switched it out for a closed area for Keno/lottery players, but, thankfully, have removed that monstrosity.

5. Basement Pub/Roadside Attraction: They’re pretty much next to each other, so I’m going to combine them since I can’t decide between the two. These are mere blocks from my abode and therefore I find myself there more often than if I lived in the NE or something. Since the smoking ban, I’ve liked Basement Pub a lot more. It’s a cozy place, with an aquarium in the center and pinball against one wall, a jukebox, a smallish nook that I’ve never really gotten a good look at (it’s on the left side on your way to the bathroom), good beer deals, wooden half-booths. Roadside Attraction is a clean, interesting bar. There’s free pool and jukebox, lots of different types of seating, including an amazing outside front patio with fireplace, swing, picnic tables, a small shed with a heater for you and your 5 friends. Oh, and both are about 5 blocks from the Hawthorne/12 St carts!

Basement Pub beverages

Karla’s Honorable Mentions:

Hungry Tiger Too (this place isn’t very bar-y, more restaurant-y.)

Pros: Wednesday $1 corndogs and PBR Tall Boys all day long

Hopworks Urban Brewery (same as HTT, restaurant-y)

Pros: delicious beer, including Radlers!

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Jess’ Five Favorite Vegan Friendly Bars

Narrowing down my favorite vegan-friendly bars in Portland was really easy, because they’re blatantly places I go to on a semi-regular basis.  There are a few honorable mentions, and a few bars that aren’t vegan friendlier than a hummus plate, fries or chips and salsa that I dig, but let’s keep that my little secret!  And by secret, I mean they’re part of my never-ending search for cheap, cozy happy hours.

My requirement for an establishment on this list is the offering of a full bar, draft microbrews and multiple options of vegan appetizers and entrees.  Novelty, happy hour specials and walking distance to my abode in SE is a plus.

1. Hungry Tiger Too. My top 5 is in no particular order, but one of my favorite vegan-friendly places in general is this casual restaurant and bar; so it’s on this list.  I’ll happily take in a hangover brunch plus my once a year vegan Bloody Mary (make sure to specify vegan, they have two homemade mixes), but Thursday night happy hour plus BBQ and Spicy 40 cent tofuffalo wings is my new favorite favorite favorite. Sandwiches, Vegan Caesars (I dig adding tempeh) sweet butternut stuffed fried wontons, $1 vegan corndogs and Pabst Tallboys on Wednesdays, what’s not to find endearing?

p.s. go early on Wednesday nights unless you’re patient, or really that cool.

2. Someday Lounge – Out of my 5, this is the one I frequent the least, but I heart it just the same.  It’s incredibly appealing to get items available at Backspace Lounge for a tad less during happy hour, and the all vegetarian menu expands after that. Tempeh Reuben? Check. Vegan sausage? Check. Large hummus plate? Duh.  It has a cool vibe, and the upstairs seating is secluded and dare I say, intimate.  Avoid the leather couches if it grosses you out (it does).  The past few times I’ve gone there’s no cocktail list, but they pour strong and have microbrews galore. It’s a place if you actually want dinner, as opposed to a Professor Nanotear.

Sandwich and GF pasta salad from the Someday Lounge

3. This brings us to Tube.   The only thing I haven’t previously said about my precious early happy hour stop is (happy hour daily 5pm-10pm, but I prefer it before 8 to avoid crowds) that they recently switched to cheddar Daiya in their Professor Nanotear muffins.  It works in the small and large vegan ham & cheeze sammies, okay? Okay.  I’m not as hot on the mildly seasoned tofu scramble taco, but its well worth the $3 as bar food.  I’ll repeat myself for a 3 billionth time – the Professor Nanotears are pathetically awesome (2 for $5 or $3 each, just get 2!) and $2 well greyhounds rule. Consider the full vegan ham sandwich and goddess side salad or vegan meatball options if you have a bigger appetite.

p.s. Ham Tube Donut Sandwich.

4. Next on my list is a restaurant, but because they haven’t updated their options in years, I think of them as a bar. I hope that makes sense.  They’re still a staple in my life and a big reason I moved to the Clinton neighborhood, but it would be cool to see an upgrade from Vegan Platters and Falafel.  Don’t take offense Dots, I love you, your spicy tofu dipping sauce, and your velvet walls I can’t help but touch. And can you believe you can actually smell food cooking in there, post-smoking ban?!?

Spicy tofu sauce and fries from Dots

5. Last up is the obvious star, The Bye & Bye. It’s a fantastic place to go whether you’re drinking the peachy signature drink, or the non-boozy Floor Punch. Love the back patio, bamboo and heat lamps. And the bar food? Okay, the best in Portland. I crave their saucy BBQ tofu, brussel sprouts and black eyed peas on a regular basis (and the North Williams cocktail).  Bonus – kid friendly during the day! ENTIRELY VEGAN!

Jess’ Honorable Mentions:

Aalto Lounge – stylin’ hipster spot on Belmont, with a kickass, vegan meatball sub. Housemade balls and sauce.

UPDATE: Liz has brought to my attention that the meatballz are no more. boo.

Langano Lounge – Scary great lentils. Probably just scary. Either way, dive appreciation. Mere two blocks from Cartopia!

Nightlight Lounge – who knew you get could a great tofu stir fry at a bar?

Basement Pub – Cider on tab & bland hummus & spiced black beans, hits some spot or another!

Professor Nanotear
Tube