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Archive for the ‘Dining out’ Category

Dining out vegan – tips for the newbie

15 years ago or so I tried to go vegan for two weeks. I redefined the word bitch and nearly killed a few people with my impatience and sarcasm. Not very compassionate at all. I didn’t know then one tenth of what I know today. There also were very few options available and most people with whom I ran circles with were all about partying and indulging. Hey me too! I was and still am, but differently now and with much more compassion. So back then I remember going to my favorite restaurants with my friends and just torturing myself as they sat there and ordered all my favorite dishes. I couldn’t even get a decent order in; the place really had nothing vegan. [Vegan side note: I know! The animals are the ones who are literally tortured, not us with our meaningless cravings and gluttony behavior. I’m talking from my pre-vegan years when I was straight up ignorant and uneducated with regards to the food industry.]

Usually, when I am focused on healthier eating, white pasta, white flours and white rices come out first. Hence.. the bitchiness! Who attempts to eat vegan on top of eliminating refined junk food while simultaneously knowing nothing about juicing or even eating vegetables for that matter. Seriously, how is one door suppose to open until the other is closed. How does one go from junk to health. Oh, for the record, this was an attempt at going vegan for health and diet; not necessarily at this point knowing anything about the animals. There is a difference and in the long run, it does matter.

So I’m trying to order something exciting in a seafood place. All they had to offer me was lettuce and tomato. Just a heads up.. this is when I get really nasty. lol. Where did all that anger come from anyway? I’m guessing people experience moods or feelings of deprivation and lash out. It’s not like I was starving by any means. I was a brat and an indulgent one at that. Why go to a seafood place if you are vegan anyway? I can just hear the waiter thinking it.

I bet the same thome_teaughts go through most minds as if, especially in todays age, there isn’t already enough to worry about with concern for allergies. Oh these vegans, why do they eat here? First of all, there were no vegan restaurants 15 – 20 years ago. Ok.. I exaggerate. I think Souen and Angelica’s Kitchen were around (NYC), both of which weren’t exclusively vegan back then. I could be wrong. Second, if I’m going out socially, my friends are all non-vegan and don’t want to go. Again, I’m talking years ago. Now it’s different. There are options and I have new friends. Hahaha j/k. My friends do love me and will definitely eat vegan to hang out and catch up. If I have no choice though, I will go out non-vegan so here is my survival guide. Keep in mind that I’m vegan and healthatarian – no white crap refined junk. Any place that can create something better than a dish of lettuce, tomato and cucumber is going to be ok. With that in mind, it will be alright and if not, just have a drink and or a cup of tea and be hospitable!

Here is my advice.

(1) Go ethnic.

Japanese is fantastic. I will tell you this though; I have walked out of many a Japanese restaurant for not having brown rice. Don’t get me excited about a maki roll only to tell me you can’t make the rice stick. We all know you add stuff to that sticky rice anyway lol and probably sugar too! Hey.. that’s the hazard of dining out; and this is the good option. They also sneak sugar into the hijiki seaweed salad. At least they have seaweed, and pickled foods, all kinds of tofu, papaya or avocado salads, veggie rolls, miso soup and more. I usually ask if the miso soup has fish. For the record, you can’t say is it vegetarian. Sometimes, people think fish is vegetarian. I get sweet potato rolls if I’m lucky or some cool roll with mango and avocado. The default here is always cucumber avocado.

Korean  restaurants will also usually have a nice tofu dish. They do those sizzling hot bibimbop bowls. Delicious!

Chinese is a good choice but please, if you go out to dinner with me- REMIND ME- sauce on the side! Otherwise that dish of brown rice and veggies is now swimming in a heart attack of high sodium.

Mexican is a favorite of mine. I hate to compromise my values but GMO VS. VEGAN, vegan will win. At least until they genetically modify a burger from some chemical concoction. I think the closest is called in-vitro aka lab meat. Then I will be for it (to cut down the mass production of factory farming); although I won’t eat it. That is a whole nother blog.  So when dining Mexican, I refuse the flour tortilla and go with the GMO corn. Oops.. did I say GMO VS. VEGAN; I meant GMO VS. HEALTHATARIAN. I will not eat white flour. Corn tortilla it will be. I do wish for organic ones but that’s not going to happen mainstream while the entire corn industry is subsidized. Guacamole is a lock but easy on the deep fried chips. Beans and mushrooms are usually an option at Mexican restaurants. Make sure the beans have no animal ingredients. If you are eating at a food truck, be careful; a guy once told me the beans were vegetarian with a little bit of pork fat. You see what I’m saying! Interestingly, I will never buy anything with GMO corn or soy, but if I’m stuck dining out somewhere with not great options, I do cave in. It’s almost always a corn tortilla or a piece of soy chicken. I’m trying! Vegan restaurants are super guilty of this too.  

Indian yes, of course!. They will always have a vegetarian menu. Remember: milk, cheese and eggs are NOT VEGAN! Lentils and peas are my best friends.

Middle Eastern is another good one. Falafel is vegan. Say no more! Well, just one more thing; I love my hummus and vegan sides with whole wheat pita.

Moving along, NO my Italian  brothers and sisters – you are far from making the cut. Why? Perhaps because the only green vegetable you know is broccoli rabe. Annoying. Your spinach is super sautéed with butter and sometimes grated cheese. I can ask for olive oil and then secretly, the next thing I want to know is if it’s a blend. Don’t you dare sneak those GMO oils in my food. All of sudden, I forget I am a vegan and the anti-Monsanto anger comes out. Perhaps I am angry. But today it’s for a reason and it’s targeted! It’s to the factory farming production and it’s supporters and to big bio-tech firms destroying our food, water, air and earth under the good name of saving the world. Honestly, who wouldn’t be mad. Or perhaps too, it’s just because I suspended pasta from my diet. That probably adds to it lol. Once, in an Italian restaurant, the professional waiter said the polenta was vegan no meat. There were no physical signs of meat, as he puts it, and he swears no dairy but personally, it was probably chicken stock, milk, cheese and GMO corn. Sarcasm aside, you could have pasta just fine if you want. Ask questions, learn and move on. For me, Italian is out.

Steak house in. Crazy as it sounds and only if I am forced, I will go and get better vegetables there then most restaurants. One can survive quite nicely on sides. Scared to out yourself as vegan?Just tell them you are allergic to milk and cheese. Don’t assume they know how to define the word vegan. For the record, only my Mom on Mother’s Day or a best friend’s wedding will get me at a steakhouse, otherwise, hell no!

(2) Live on the sideline.

It won’t kill you to amp up your vegetables. Order just sides. Try it. You will be surprised how many things all of a sudden have milk and cheese in it. Otherwise, they are fried, which is a healthatarian no no. It’s getting better in this department. If it’s a good restaurant, they will make your sides look pretty and everyone will be staring at your dish.

2014-11-16 17.17.50 copy(3) Build your own salad.

If in doubt, go green. This used to scare me because of the experience 15 years ago but it’s better now, although I’m not sure by how much. They have to have something, right? Scan the salads and the menu. Choose what you want and tell them. I will generally ask for a combination of salads and then kindly tell them I am a good tipper. I want spinach or kale to be exact. I want something other than tomato and cucumber – say maybe endive, sun dried tomato, carrots, peppers, avocado. Then go for the kill- ask for your protein. Do you have walnuts, almond slices, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or chick peas? Top that beautiful salad off with some sliced apple or pear and dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds. Now we are talking. They have a grain? – well then, fabulous! For the record, if a restaurant has an avocado, my day is complete. Best salad to date was in the tiny town of Pine Hill, upstate New York, in the middle of nowhere. The picture is right here: mixed greens, quinoa, chick peas, tomato, cucumber, squash and guacamole without me even asking a thing!

(4) Power grains and legumes.

Don’t listen to paleo heads. Do you really want to take advice from someone that compares themselves to a caveman. I won’t get started here because that blog is already in the works.  All grains are not created equal. Yeah, avoid processed ones. Reduce your addiction to bread if you have one. If you are lucky, they will have a dish that is a good grain and vegetable combo. You don’t have to have high protein all day long nor do you have to have a protein and a big carbohydrate together in every meal. Your digestion system would actually prefer that you don’t. You can combine either though with greens and vegetables. With these and other choices, your body can still gather all the amino acids necessary to build complete proteins.

Suggestions: Simple.

  • Brown rice with bok choy and acorn squash
  • Wild rice with brussels sprouts
  • Quinoa with asparagus
  • Amaranth with kale and broccoli
  • Lentils with spinach
  • Chick peas with artichoke hearts
  • Black beans and corn
  • Cannellini beans with swiss chard and string beans
  • Barley with mushrooms (not gluten-free)

Speaking of mushrooms, that’s a meal and a half. If you see large portabella mushroom caps –jackpot! It’s a vegan steak. Take it and run.

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If you are super lucky, you will see a nice tofu dish..  seared or grilled; something fancy! I’m not just talking Asian cuisine; some places will go all out. Now if you are really in the right place at the right time look out. I have had quinoa risotto with plantains in a Spanish restaurant done really well. I have had seitan cutlets in a few places. The best yet though, was the cauliflower steak. It was three vegans, three non vegans and six cauliflower steaks. Those copy cats! It could happen.

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(5) You could always call ahead!

They are much more accommodating on the phone prior to a reservation being made. Hosts and managers sometimes have more insight, professionalism and patience than a rushed waiter. They can tell you right away what is vegan and what is not. You can check the online menu too. To be competitive now, restaurants really have to offer something for everyone- vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, nut-free, kosher, vegan and so on. Being vegan today isn’t as hard as years ago.

If you are a newbie, remember to come out of the vegan closet! Represent.. ask questions, make suggestions, be vocal about what you want; spread the love and awareness and heighten the desire for vegan food. With increased demand, comes supply. Support the vegan restaurants and places that go out of their way to veganize. A great example that I have seen lately, is the Yard House with a special GARDEIN section. Some restaurants will have a separate vegan menu altogether. Even Chipotle introduced a vegan item: Sofritas. It has to be something cool – not just an improvised salad or side. Give us some substance that isn’t pasta, GMO corn or cheap nutritionally deficient white bread or white rice. They need to get creative and step up their game. Never know when Beyoncé might pop in.

 

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

Starbuck’s taste test: coconut or soy?

So here I am sitting at the Starbucks on Union Street in East Williamsburg. First things first, it doesn’t look like hipsters are embracing this one or the fairly new Starbucks off Bedford Avenue for that matter. Reason being it’s 8pm and not very busy. When I say hipster I’m talking about the artsy creative types not the bratty pretentious ones. So I’m comfortable, it’s quiet, I have an outlet and actually a heater. I’m happy.. but not about the coconut green tea latte that I came here for – to write round two of this blog experience.

2015-02-19 20.11.39-2 IMG_3843
Yesterday was the real taste test on the very busy corner of 18th Avenue and 65th Street in Bensonhurst. That’s actually a fun Starbucks with a bar I could sit at. I sat there in a neighborhood where you can’t really buy anything vegan (prove me wrong please), where more than half of the people never heard of drinking commercial coconut milk – only cooking with it and where ten out of ten people who came in didn’t even know it was on the menu at Starbucks. That’s ok. I’m here now.

2015-02-18 13.03.28So I order and I take pics. I’m having fun at this Starbucks. I order my tall green tea latte soy milk unsweetened and then a tall green tea latte coconut milk unsweetened. So why do I say unsweetened last? So that they hear me! I try to minimize my sugar. Actually, truth be told, I’m on a no sugar (low) new year’s resolution with two personal allowances. First, I need organic pure maple syrup in my homemade chocolate avocado mousee. I have dried making my own date paste as a substitute but it’s just not as good – not yet anyway. Send me suggestions please I beg of you. Second, when I’m out and about with friends and want that fun coffee break type of pick me up; it’s in that moment that I then turn to Starbucks for my green tea latte fix. So I allow myself the sugar that’s in the nut milk until perhaps I’m done writing this blog and realize that it’s way too much already. So that’s the thing! I think they add sugar to so many drinks without you even asking or knowing. Hello people – that’s why everything taste so good! It’s loaded with sugar. Many of these drinks are no better than a soda. But that’s another blog for another day. If they don’t hear me say unsweetened, wow can I notice the difference.

I unfortunately learned a lot today about the green tea they use too. I’ll get to that in a minute.
So I do the test. I’m so excited to try this coconut milk. I’m a vegan hello – I love coconuts. I enjoy the coconut milk, water and the meat for sure. I try my soy milk latte; it’s amazing of course. It’s my go to. Then I try the coconut one.

2015-02-18 13.33.40

Umm yuk!
What.. this can’t be true! I go back and forth. I wrote down the first three thoughts for each. My soy milk thoughts: full bodied, sweet, delicious. My coconut thoughts: burnt, thin, different. Ok maybe the barista made it wrong.

I’m thinking let me try the milk by itself. She was so nice. The milk is actually delicious. I loved it. Maybe she really did burn it, although I don’t think so since she looked like a pro. My decision was to try it again and so I am as I sit here writing. Just a quick back note here; yesterday I had to drink bitters which rarely ever happens to me. Something really upset my stomach.. hmm! 

So here I go and no. It just doesn’t taste that good. I’m sorry. Maybe it’s the green tea combination or something with the frothing. Maybe it’s just about getting used to the taste. I wonder how it is with coffee; probably good I would hope. There will be no coffee for me right now. I have cut it out of my diet for a while and now I’m not so sure why I’m drinking this green tea. After much calculating, I realize that this green tea (Matcha powder)  is SUGAR. I swear this is a no win. I will eventually go back to some good organic coffee but why does everything have to be so processed? How come everything has to be so secretive too? Don’t get me wrong; I love my teas. I drink regular green tea everyday. I guess you can say this is just a treat. The junk food industry should just embrace it and label it junk. There are enough people who will still eat it. Many people don’t care. I care though. I don’t like the perception of healthy covered in sugar. One Starbucks tall green tea latte soy unsweetened is 10 teaspoons of sugar – just over the suggested allowance of 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Here are a few numbers for those who care:

soy milk 12oz                             with unsweetened green tea

calories           210                         260
fat                     6g                        4.5g
sat. fat              1g                         .5g
cholest.          0mg                         0mg
sodium            150mg                110mg
carbs              26g                        45g
fiber                  2g                          2g
sugar              21g                        40g
prot                 11g                         9g
calcium           50%                      35%
caffeine                                       55mg

*organic soymilk (filtered water, whole organic soybeans), organic evaporated cane juice, calcium carbonate, natural vanilla flavor with other natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d2, riboflavin (b2), vitamin b12

*Canadian soy milk @Starbucks: calories 160, fat 6g, saturated fat 1g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 0mg, carbs 13g, fiber 2g, sugar 10g, protein 12g, calcium 50%   (I don’t know the ingredients; but if you do, please post them here- thanks)

coconut milk 12oz                        with unsweetened green tea

calories           130                        210
fat                     9g                         7g
sat. fat              8g                         6g
cholest.          0mg                         0mg
sodium            160mg                120mg
carbs              13g                        37g
fiber                  0g                         1g
sugar              13g                        35g
prot                 1g                          1g
calcium           35%                      25%
caffeine                                       55mg

*water, coconut cream, cane sugar, tricalcium phosphate, coconut water concentrate, natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, gellan gum, corn dextrin, xanthan gum, guar gum, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)

What’s the solution for my Starbucks love and addiction?  I’m scared to ask the baristas but I’d like to order tall green tea latte half soy half water unsweetened. Am I being a total pain? I’m sure I am but I’m also sure they encounter difficult people everyday and more importantly, at least I tip well. So my vote is for the soy. Let’s be real- they are both processed, I’m not afraid of phytoestrogens and the soy has more protein and better taste, so why not. For the record, the soy milk is organic and the coconut milk has the non-GMO seal. Best yet,  I want to have the Canadian soy milk with less sugar or what everyone wanted to begin with and what has put Dunkin Donuts back on the map in my mind- almond milk!

As I am wrapping up this blog post, I’m realizing that I may just ditch the Matcha green tea sugar altogether and retest the coconut milk with a short latte. I think that’s the best idea – I just hope I don’t get addicted to coffee again!

http://www.fooducate.com/app#page=product&id=52C2C764-4428-11E2-A40C-1231381A0463

http://www.calorieking.com/foods/calories-in-beverages-tea-latte-green-with-soy-milk_f-ZmlkPTEyMDAzNg.html

http://thenakedlabel.com/blog/2013/10/11/starbucks-matcha-green-tea-soy-latte-undressed-6-questionable-ingredients-in-your-healthy-latte/

http://www.starbucks.com/menu/drinks/tea/green-tea-latte#size=195170&milk=64&sweetened=0

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

NOBU- the queen of Japanese dining in London; Is it vegan?

In the trending quest to learn more about vegan food and lifestyle, this is probably the most common phrase around: Is it vegan?
Girls night out at NOBU!IMG_2644
This time it was about celebrating not just birthdays but also wonderful life events  and friendships all in one. The funny thing is my girlfriend asked if I would be ok eating at Nobu, for example, was there anything there vegan for me to eat. That was probably code for “are you going to make a scene?” lol

I do love the consideration, but as a vegan it’s pretty easy to eat at most Japanese and Asian venues. In New York, my favorite vegan restaurants are Korean. Asian influenced cuisine will generally always have tofu so one doesn’t have to resort to a dish of dry potatoes over iceberg lettuce. At the end of the evening upon exiting, I noticed that Nobu had a “Vegetable Dishes at Nobu” cookbook. This makes total sense in retrospect, because their menu was one of the most vegetarian friendly ones that I have seen in quite some time.

IMG_2646The options were almost endless.  I must add here that I love when restaurants use “v” or “ve” for vegan. It makes it easy for both of us and we don’t have to play is it vegan or the replacement game .

IMG_2651 I was impressed to say the least at the vegetarian entrees. I knew at first glance I was having the tofu steak so we go from there.  I was delighted to sit next to a new vegetarian friend and have the pleasure of sharing appetizers, salads and entrees. As I sit here writing, it’s apparent that we had many dishes- and all amazing!

Just as a side note, although it didn’t happen tonight- I am quite often asked if I eat fish.  That’s cute but not really. As a good (non vegetarian) friend once said to me in my shrimp loving days – “shrimps have Mommies & Daddies too”.  Seafood and especially shellfish was probably among my all time favorites. IMG_2649
I don’t really look back now due to the fact that most seafood, although healthy in some regards, suffer from pollution and toxins pretty heavily. You have to really know your stuff to get through the fish maze. Is it farmed? Is it genetically engineered?  Where is it on the food chain?  Which oceans does it come from? What’s the mercury levels? Oil spills.. radiation etc.?

I do believe in the anti-inflammatory benefits of cold water fish for non-vegans but oh the questions that you need to research- good luck! It’s almost harder than is it vegan and simply put by the way, it’s not vegan because fish have a central nervous system.

IMG_2650Continuing on.. dairy means butter, cheese, milk and derivatives like whey etc.  People sometimes think eggs are included with the dairy discussion but technically they aren’t. If you are afraid to use the V word or you are somewhere where people don’t fully understand it’s depth, then it’s best to ask for dairy free, milk free, egg free and pretend you have allergies – that is, if you aren’t in the mood for a food breakdown of animal ingredient conversation.

Back to ordering!
At Nobu, they know what vegan means. We order away asking if the appetizers and such are vegan friendly. I believe everything was but there were bottles of champagne flowing so don’t quote me.

IMG_2655 We decided on vegetable hand rolls, okra vegetable maki, mini tacos, a gorgeous shitake mushroom salad and the the outstanding tofu steak with a side of beautiful roasted vegetables.

Each dish was amazing, again, my favorite being the tofu steak.  It was dark in Nobu, so of course the photographer in me had to come out so I would get great food shots. I guess that’s an advantage of having two phones. One for stage lighting and one for the photo opt.

IMG_2662It was wonderful company all night as we laughed and had fun. At dessert time that we noticed a pitcher of table water with a stick in it.  What was it? I had to google away and figure it out. It was a water filtration carbon stick. Now of course I want one.

IMG_2663After being back home for a few days, I decide to research it further to be sure it’s vegan. You never know- I hear about filtration systems all the time that aren’t vegan like in the processing of cane sugar and beverages like the wildly famous Guinness beer.

Basically, after a few YouTube videos, I learned that the carbon stick comes from charcoal and you can even make your own if you wanted to. Fascinating! This is good to know if I am ever traveling somewhere where the water is not purified.

IMG_2666The dessert by the way was the perfect vegan icing to a wonderful dinner. I think I was happy just to see the option on the menu. It’s the little things in life that excite me.  

Happy vegan travels friends!

How to Make a Charcoal Water Filter

and if you want to take it a step further: you can make your own charcoal too!

Vegan surprises in Bath England

I really should blog my vegan travels more often. Last year for my birthday I was in Amsterdam and Berlin. I will say that although I didn’t blog it because I was probably too busy eating, that dining in Berlin completely exceeded my expectations. I would still like to reflect back with a photo journal of that week for my vegan travel records. Perhaps, it too will be handy for the vegan tourist who like me, will travel far for vegan food.

IMG_2367This time it is about falafel. Surprise #1- I had the best vegan falafel ever! Today it wasn’t about me..  just about finding a spot which served some late breakfast and was somewhat veggie friendly. We stumbled onto this cozy cafe upstairs from a local shop. Somewhere back in my service industry work experiences, I recall learning about the 30 second rule. This is a rule of thumb for a business to welcome or acknowledge you within the first thirty seconds or they could potentially lose business. Well “Americana me” shouldn’t share that with a Brit. Next thing I know the conversation switches to how we are in England not America – and especially not in New York.  Ok fine, I admit that I’m an on-the-go New Yorker with a lack of patience – guilty as charged! It’s true too that I’m on vacation and totally not in a rush. I’ll keep my service industry comments to myself. Lol. The service picked up and they were not only super polite but also extremely accommodating.

I ordered direct off the menu – a vegan falafel. This was the best falafel I have ever had. Being a New Yorker, I think I’m a pretty good judge of falafel. I didn’t ask for this “veganized” since it already was. The falafel sandwich was made with a shaved carrot, radish or cabbage finish and this amazing secret sweet chili sauce. Really wonderful flavor; something like a chutney- they should bottle that dressing alone.

IMG_2365Not that we were competing today but.. I WIN! My friend had a beautiful vegetarian frittata, although it looked something between a quiche and a potato lasagna.  The best part was that when my friend wanted a coke but couldn’t get the waiter’s attention, her British self actually had to eventually get up and get her hehe. Patience! I did get a chuckle. This place I believe was pretty much a vegetarian cafe. They didn’t have any vegan desserts but they are working on it. They had lots of gluten-free options as well soya milk for a latte. Metropolitan Cafe, Bath, England well worth the wait!

During our after lunch stroll around town, I found myself literally being pulled into the Fudge Kitchenfrom the aroma and interesting views through the window. They make the fudge right there in front of you. Of course me… IS IT VEGAN?

I must admit tIMG_2518hat I get somewhat disappointed when places don’t have vegan options. With all of today’s allergies, is it really that difficult to offer something milk free, for example. It’s not just for vegans but most of the world actually is lactose intolerant.

Anyway, I politely make my requests and was thrilled with excitement over his answer;  the gentleman said – sure I can make that fudge dairy free, which one would you like? Like a kid literally in a candy store, I jumped up like a rocket with “Salted Caramel PLEASE”.


IMG_2522Surprise #2 – Salted Caramel Fudge veganized.
The next day we picked it up and I was on a sugar high until it was completely out of my system. I’m good now for another year to my next birthday.

Vegan birthday dinner in Bath

How is it that a non vegan can out order me when it comes to a vegan meal at a vegan restaurant.. and even on my vegan birthday?. I guess sometimes a restaurant can take an ordinary dish and make it exquisite and vice a versa. In any case, it was simply great vs. amazing. I’m delighted that my friends and loved ones can dine out vegan with me on a regular basis. Somehow, my birthday food turned into an exciting foodie competition without really planning on it.

Round one went to my girlfriend. I was totally in the mood for this pâté starter. IMG_2335It reminded me of a few raw pâté dishes that I had learned to make from a Gourmet Institute Raw Food Intensive I had taken a while back.  It was smooth, flavorful and delicious, however it wasn’t made raw which for some reason I had anticipated. Expectations – they always seem to factor in. None the less, this dish was still super: It was the Carrot and Cashew Pâté. This restaurant is so charming too as it left on the side a few cards with the history of the place and a few recipes- this one being included as seen here. IMG_2338

The waiter had suggested the broccoli truffle but my girlfriend went with the squash dish. Again.. Expectations! I had recently had a mediocre squash appetizer somewhere and so therefore didn’t event think to try this. She won. IMG_2336The squash was outstanding and served with a lime freeze which brought out the varied yet complimentary tastes. I have never had this lime freeze before. I would highly recommend it as an accent to a flavorful vegetable dish. I won’t really ever know how the broccoli dish was as this restaurant was all the way over in Bath England. My birthday gift spa day topped off with this amazing dinner at Acorn. As I look back now to add the link, I remember that this is a vegetarian restaurant and the dishes were marked with VG for vegan, GF for gluten-free and N for nuts. I‘m pretty sure my never-ending words “is it vegan” still came out of my mouth.

Round two. I ordered the mushroom dish. IMG_2341 I was thinking it sounded like a hearty type dish with mashed potatoes on the side. I like to get my mushroom quota in whenever I can as they are a healthy super food on their own. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but there is such a thing as too much mushrooms (from a flavor perspective). This dish was a simple portobella with baby mushrooms on the side. It was served on top of what looked like and almost tasted like a vegan mash athough it wasn’t. It was a celeriac puree, like a sauce. This was super delicious but the mushrooms needed a little something (I’m not sure what) or perhaps just another vegetable to accent the dish.

My girlfriend ordered this Chick Pea Fritter. I guess I sometimes stay away from fried dishes but this dish was so much more. It took me a whole bunch of stolen bites to figure out the flavors.  Chick peas, legumes, tiny vegetables and a hint of Indian flavors all stuffed in the fritters as well as under the array of roasted potatoes, cauliflower and baby mushroom caps. IMG_2339 I highly recommend this dish. I should have known she was going to be spoiled here which I am truly happy about. Anytime we can convert anyone for even one meal, the animals secretly thank us. She started the night with a muddled cucumber mint martini. Exactly whose birthday is it?  Just kidding- I’m thrilled to share the vegan love!

Dessert. I rarely lose in this category. The chocolate tart (with raspberry sorbet on the side) that I ordered was amazing!  I thought I won but she raved on and on about her coconut ice scream, sesame candy and how beautiful it was served with the thinly shaved pineapple carpaccio. Ok whatever.. you are my girlfriend after all. You can win it all if it means unlimited future vegan dinners!

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Macro-Licious @ CHAMPS in Brooklyn

2013-11-21 17.20.45 I thought Champs was a bakery. Not that there is anything wrong with that – I will travel very far for vegan food, especially a bakery. Although they do make their own baked items, Champs is a straight up diner.  Well you know.. nothing is really totally straight in Williamsburg. What I mean is that it’s a full on diner with everything from tofu scramble to vegan ropa veija- what? I’m in heaven. This diner “feel” wasn’t just from the menu; I felt like it wouldn’t be odd at all if the staff were to break out in roller skates or something. Champs is authentic ol’ skool – like a trendy 1940’s Mel’s diner except the sassy South attitude is replaced with loud hipster music playing in the background. They have hot waiters with their own style, one friendlier then the next. They have those old fashion soda pop circle spin stools attached to the ground, board games from Spin the Bottle to Ouija, and really trendy fun retro signs.

Everything I have ordered there in the past few months has been amazing. If I’m going to be good.. I choose the Macro plate. If I’m going to be bad, then it’s the shoe string fries, grilled cheese jalapeño or buffalo chicken. I make myself feel better by asking for it on whole wheat. If I’m in between, I go with the tofu/ tempeh club racer on marble rye. I generally know as a rule of thumb that the macro plate is one of the healthiest items to order anywhere in which it is offered. It’s interesting how easily one gets tempted away from that though

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with the vegan-gone-wild imitation of just about anything. Thanks to some courage to stand up to my secret indulgences, I ordered healthy. MACRO-LICIOUS! I was not let down for one second. I loved everything about this from the way it was packed into the round bowl to the sauces they spoiled me with. I normally try to eat half of a macro plate since they are normally quite large. The sesame sauce did me in. I know I ordered well and loved their choices for the macro meal. I had brown rice, black mbeans, tempeh, vegetables and sauerkraut. Usually it’s seaweed but I like the idea of sauerkraut which is healthy and a probiotic if prepared correctly. I couldn’t decide on a dressing so they gave me both plus some homemade hummus. I’m not sure if the sauce is a secret but I ask each time. It’s a sesame ginger sauce that I can’t seem to replicate.

Honestly, everything was incredible from the food to the neighborhood retro diner vibe. You know it’s good when there is a line outside in the freezing cold. Have a mentioned that they deliver too – day and night time. Champs.. doing vegan right!  Thank you xo

Tofu House Bayside

Tofu house.. what? Where’s the tofu?
I should have went with my basic gut instinct because as I was entering, it had that McDonalds’ like feel – like I thought I saw a children’s play area inside. I was thinking.. wow.. It looks like a Tofu McDonalds. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. The positive minded person that I am, found it good so I proceeded in. Actually, all in all the food was good. My complaints are worth mentioning anyway because the experience itself was odd. I’m wondering if this was a Korean restaurant but I’m really not sure. Some of the dishes seemed Korean like the BI BIM BAP. I’m highly spoiled when it comes to Korean food since two of my favorite restaurants happen to be both Korean and VEGAN (Franchia & Hangawi).

We ordered vegetarian style orders and next thing I know food was flying in front of us – raw eggs and dead fried fish with the eye balls itself looking at me.  ME????? I panicked. Lol. She thought we ordered soup and so I guess that accompanied it. Ok… not a big problem.  It was gone before I could scream Instagram.  They sent out a complimentary array of appetizer type dishes. This was not just for us but it seemed customary for all. I enjoyed this part since most were vegan and healthy.Image

Then the main dishes came sizzling out in cast iron pots. There was no broth though. I didn’t remember BI BIM BAP being without some liquid. Small bowls were given on the side with some form of water like liquid. My friend threw hers in. I flashbacked in my  head to a Japanese restaurant where people were slurping their noodle soups and that was actually the way to eat it. Sometimes I think things are odd but the are the norm – so I followed suit and threw it in. As I was stirring this food that looked delicious, I was wondering if that water was to wash your hands with. My friend says other people were dunking food into it. The manager happened to luckily walk by so we asked him and he said “meat water” with an accent. MEAT WATER! Ok I’m a high maintenance vegan but my friend was vegetarian so it wasn’t just me who jumped. We anxiously explained to him that we specifically ordered vegetarian so why would she give us that. He kindly apologized and soon after they came out again with round 2 of the deliciously looking BI BIM BAP.Image

Honestly, the food was amazing! I could do without the experience though so no more make believe Tofu Houses for me. The entrees all seemed to revolve around meat – there really was no emphasis at all on the tofu except that they did apparently carry it. “Tofu House”..   a real Tofu House.. a girl can dream.. right?