Laughing Seed in Asheville, NC
As soon as you walk in the door, there is an immediate European charm. On the left hand wall is a mural of a forest and ocean scene with old world stucco on the other walls. Cast iron accents and whimsical lights decorated the back wall and added to the soft lighting of the restaurant. A hint about the name is that it came from the sugar-coated fennel seeds available as you walk in or as you leave. Although these were a little bit strong for my taste, evidently they made the original owners laugh, hence the name.
The restaurant advertised itself as serving international vegetarian cuisine. Prices ranged from $10 for a sandwich to $15 to a full plate of food. The dishes ranged from a Mediterranean salad to a curry dish and a burrito. They also had a wide range of smoothies and many vegan menu options.
What I ordered:
Uptown Mac ‘n Cheese
Orechiette and a five-cheese mélange with zucchini, red bell pepper, tomato, scallions, housemade vegan sausage, and roasted garlic; finished with herbed truffle oil.
While not your typical mac-and-cheese, this definitely outdid the kind from a blue box. The sauce wasn’t runny at all, but instead proved that the sauce was mostly cheese, thereby delicious and creamy but thick. Having five cheeses provided a depth of flavor although none of them overpowered the others to stand out to the point of being able to identify them (at least to a cheese novice like myself). The zucchini was cut into perfect bite-size pieces, unlike at some restaurants that put huge slices of flavorless, soaked in oil zucchini on the plate. The other vegetables were also cut into small pieces so that the whole dish worked together instead of getting a bite of only one component. The roasted garlic was especially delicious! However, the pasta would not have been as stellar as it was without the vegan sausage and herbed truffle oil; these elevated it from good to really tasty. I was skeptical about the vegan sausage when I ordered it, but was prepared to pick it out if needed. Typically, I don’t enjoy eating things that are just imitations of the real thing. But at this restaurant, most dishes had tempeh, tofu, or some other vegetarian protein that is foreign to me. However, it had a consistency that, although not exactly like sausage, was still appealing. The flavor was slightly spicy and provided a nice contrast to the creamy cheese. The truffle oil rounded out the flavor and was the perfect finish.