Normally, if someone were to offer me a nice little cup of "vegan-aise," I would look around for a stick with which to beat him. The only mayonnaise I'll eat is the fresh-made, lovingly whisked variety, preferably created shortly after stealing a warm egg from under a hen. It's not snotty; I just think mayonnaise in a jar from the store tastes like…nothing.
But the garlic vegan-aise served at Annapurna's World Vegetarian Café—recently re-opened in its new location on St. Michael's Drive—is a little cup of wonder. It's equally capable as a dipping sauce for the ayurvedic establishment's mercifully greasy french fries and as a pick-me-up for its blander dishes, such as the basic kitchari.
Billed as the "ultimate ayurvedic dish," kitchari, like the other offerings at Annapurna's, is made in the sattvic tradition of pure food. Theoretically, all foods prepared this way blend the six sattvic flavors: sweet, bitter, sour, astringent, salty and pungent. But those flavors can apparently be, um, subtle when your primary cooking aim is "easy digestion." I felt like yelling, "Can I get some pungent over here? No? What about some salty?" Heck, I would've settled for astringent.
But it turns out half the fault was mine. One is meant to balance one's own dosha—a sort of categorization of physical and psychological characteristics that ayurvedic practice claims may be managed with the proper diet—with useful sides such as ginger, ginger and more ginger (I think my dosha is pitta). In any case, the improvised addition of garlic vegan-aise drastically improved the kitchari.
But for those wondering if they’re going to have to take a dosha test at the door, lest they suffer bland foods and complicated culinary calculus, the answer is no. Annapurna’s has a quite-substantive menu, and many dishes are reliably seasoned. The mataar paneer ($9.95), a luscious coupling of peas and tomato with house-made paneer—a simple cheese—is a case in point. Most items on the menu are understandably Indian in origin, but there are salads, pastas, wraps, sandwiches and even pizzas. The staff and menu are plenty friendly and, as long as you’re willing to go without meat, every palate can find some peace—especially if you choose something from the extensive tea menu to accompany your meal.
Santa Fe’s time without Annapurna’s has been difficult. After its previous location in Solana Center was closed following a kitchen fire, vegetarian foods prepared with great detail and consideration for kitchen materials, allergies, organics and a host of other criteria that Annapurna’s embraces were in short supply. If all goes well, Annapurna’s new digs will help anchor strong, vibrant redevelopment on the currently less-than-frisky St. Michael’s Drive. Beyond, that, Annapurna’s should be a point of inspiration for restaurateurs and cart operators looking to ground themselves in ayurvedic food principles before pushing the practice into some bold new territory.
As final evidence of Annapurna’s easy acclimatization for all Santa Feans, the chapati-wrapped breakfast burritos ain’t bad. And if someone offers you vegan-aise, don’t hit them—they’re just trying to help.
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