As carefully-conceived as a test tube baby, Tustin’s immaculate new vegan restaurant, Free Soul Caffé is a warm, sunlit room with brightly embroidered barstools and a huge window overlooking the Old Town street scene. Multiple built in niches feature French presses and tea brewing apparatuses. Counter tops are full of pretty German tea tins and ceremonial grade matcha. There is a fireplace, cool music and a sweet counter person named Paul who is always helpful with suggestions.
Blackberry Red Velvet Cake.
I would show you a picture of the interior, but after We Like to Eat Vegan ‘s October 17, 2010 account of being asked not only to stop taking photos, but to delete the photos they had already taken for their blog, I didn’t want to risk it. I was torn. This is the first vegan restaurant in OC that seemed to have it all: atmosphere, friendly staff and food that would appeal to most of us, regardless of culinary creed. But I needed photos.
The Earth Salad
Most vegan or vegetarian restaurants in OC are either massive corporate ventures or directionless vitamin shop/cafes with seventies macrame and graphic pamphlets touting the benefits of high colonics. Free Soul Caffé is neither. They are, rather, a fastidiously-wrought neighborhood café with super fresh offerings that vegans, flexitarians and carnivores will all love.
I prefer to photograph food anonymously and in its natural habitat, but I knew my 20 D would never make it past the hyper-vigilant staff described in We Like To Eat Vegan’s post. Rather than risk the embarassment of a botched shoot with the hidden Galley Girl brassiere-cam, I opted for take-out and styled the food in the Galley Girl test kitchen, away from the prying eyes of potential spoil sports.
Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Chocolate Ganache
We ask alot of vegan and vegetarian restaurateurs. Namely, for the rest of us to be able to eat in their establishments without feeling something is missing. This sentiment has spawned dozens of meat substitutes faster than you can say Tofurkey. Since I get my share of the real thing, I prefer those items that don’t try too hard to mimic meat.
I loved the earthy roasted portobello mushroom sandwich pressed on warm, rustic sourdough with fresh spinach and aromatic pesto. A greek salad with avocado, spinach, red onion, and cucumber was super fresh, but the vegan ‘feta’, a spongy crumbled substance, I could have done without. The Earth Salad, a vinaigrette-doused spinach-based salad rife with roasted artichokes, radishes, shaved fennel, red onions, grape tomatoes and candied pecans is abundant and flawlessly fresh.
Desserts at Free Soul Caffé are miraculous by any standards. A pumpkin pecan cake enrobed in dark chocolate ganache is rich, but not cloying with a moist, dense crumb. We Like to Eat Vegan’s account says that Free Soul Caffé’s owners are worried about recipe theft. I have no interest in breaking down the DNA building blocks of Freesoul’s creations via surrepticiously-taken photos. The only thing I want to do with their fare is wash it down the Galley Girl gullet with a latte, soy of course.
Free Soul Caffé 191 East Main St. 1B Tustin, CA 92780 714.371-0976
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