Friday, April 18, 2014

Nellie's Sports Bar, DC #2

It's Friday night. You are with a bunch of friends. You just ate dinner and had a glass of whiskey and are ready to start the night. Where do you go? Well, I guess it depends on your mood. But, if you are in the mood for a great time with friendly people, you head to Nellie's Sports Bar.

As the neighborhood gay sports bar, Nellie's sure has created a welcoming scene for all. We arrived around 10 p.m. on a Friday and were immediately coaxed over to the bar by the friendly bartender. I had him make me something fruity and in the tradition of Nellie's, it was, of course, a strong drink.

Then we headed upstairs and grabbed a table.  After enough drinks, one must eat something unhealthy. So we ordered the tater tots. Yum.

We hung out for a few hours as the place filled up. Everyone was friendly and outgoing from the employees to the patrons and we had an awesome time. Good drinks, good appetizers, and good times. That's Nellie's. Duh!

Nellie's Sports Bar
900 U Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-NELL (6355)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flow Foods - Chocolatl

One way to really boost the level of antioxidants in your body is to consume raw chocolate. Raw chocolate is pure chocolate that is minimally processed and is an abundant source of beta-carotene, zinc, chromium, and magnesium. There are many raw chocolate producers in the industry and one of my favorites is Flow Foods. Flow Foods makes raw chocolate pieces, bars, and chocolate sauce.

I found their chocolates when I was shopping in Berkeley, California. They call their brand "Chocolatl" and it is one of the finest raw chocolates on the market. The chocolate pieces come in three flavors and I love all of them.

My favorite is the Goji-Maca. Made with the purest of ingredients including raw cacao, coconut sugar, raw cacao butter, raw cacao powder, maca root, goji berries, mesquite pod meal, shilajit, vanilla bean, and Himalayan salt, the mix of maca powder and goji berries will knock your socks off. You will get the richness of raw chocolate sweetened with coconut sugar with the added layer of goji berries in chocolate pieces that are just the right thickness for snacking. And, just so you know, maca root is great for increasing energy and endurance so this a great snack to eat prior to running a race!

The Cordyceps-Maca flavor was also very good as it is made with cordyceps mushrooms, maca root, and lucuma. I love that these chocolate pieces are covered in cacao nibs for extra crunchiness too. Cordyceps mushrooms have many health benefits as touted by Chinese medicine. Whoever thought you could have great chocolate with so many health benefits built in?!

There is also a Mystic Mint flavor that includes a 5-mushroom blend, maca root, and wild blue-green algae. Blue-green algae is a good source of protein, b-vitamins, and iron.

Additionally, they came out with a number of chocolate bars. The only one I had the pleasure of trying was the Illuminate Bar made with cacao, coconut crystals, and cacao butter. I found the bar to be a smoother texture and taste than the chocolate pieces. It was also very good.

They say that Chocolatl is "a delicious treat that heightens mental and physical well being with essential antioxidants, minerals, and uplifting brain chemicals." I believe that to be true as raw cacao provides five times more antioxidants that roasted chocolate.  And I love that most of the ingredients are organic as well. To buy some for yourself, you can order the chocolate pieces for $7.99 per box or the bars for $4.25 each here. Now you can have your chocolate and eat it too.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

We Animals by Jo-Anne McArthur

Jo-Anne McArthur's new book entitled We Animals offers a captivating and intimate look at the lives of animals used for humans' convenience. As an award-winning photojournalist and activist for more than 10 years, Jo-Anne's book includes more than 100 photographs shot over the last decade in 40 countries.  McArthur investigates the ways in which humans create perpetual barriers that allow us to treat non-human animals as objects to be used for fashion and entertainment, food, and research.

Each photograph includes a short narrative about how it was obtained, the location, and the situation. For example, one picture depicts the sad story of Foggy the Hippopotamus as he lives out his life in captivity in the Calgary Zoo.  Another picture shows how an circus elephants spends his time when he isn't in the circus lights -- shackled to a stake in the ground for many hours of the day.

The pictures of animals used for food were most disturbing. In one, you see a baby cow with the following excerpt: "After the calf's birth, and once the mother had licked and nuzzled her baby and watched over her as she stood for the first time, one of the farm hands picked the calf up and dropped her into a wheelbarrow, taking her to the other side of the farm where the veal calves are kept."

I also enjoyed the section on research because not only did it show the animals who are tortured for the purposes of research, but it also showed the heroes -- the animal activists who rescue them.

The photography is some of the best I've ever seen as Jo-Anne is a very talented photographer. These pictures will touch your heart in ways that may change your views forever. If nothing else, this book makes an incredible coffee table book because even without reading any of the narratives, you are sure to be moved by the photography alone.

It retails for $40 and can be found on Amazon for $36 here. You can view a selection of photos from We Animals here.

Full Disclosure: Although the book was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cava Mezze Grill, DC #2

After my recent review of Cava Mezze Grill, their marketing department immediately contacted me asking if I wouldn't give it another try. Sure, why not. I'm not sure what difference it will make, but I'll take a free meal when I can get it. So they gave me a few tips that I wasn't aware of and I headed back over to Cava Mezze in Columbia Heights for a quick Monday night meal.

As I mentioned in my last review, Cava Mezze Grill is a Greek-inspired Mediterranean cafe. What I didn't realize is that there is a salad option for which you can choose from a number of healthy greens including a supergreens mix, romaine, arugula, mesclun, or baby spinach. One of the things I didn't like about my last visit is that they loaded my bowl with way too much rice and there weren't many veggies at all. I didn't even see the lettuces!  So this time, I still ordered a bowl, but I asked for only one scoop of brown rice along with the supergreens mix. Then, I added hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, and harissa. For my protein, I chose their delicious falafel. And for the toppings, I loaded it up with tomato & cucumber, cucumbers, pickled onions, quinoa tabbouleh, kalamata olives, and more. This time, they asked me if I wanted a dressing and I chose the lemon herb tahini.

Was I pleased this time? Yes!  The supergreens mix was chock full of shredded kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and chicory and was really good. That mixed with just the right amount of rice and quinoa and all the veggies I desired made for a delicious bowl. I still think the harissa is a bit too strong of a flavor for the bowl, but there are only three spreads that are vegan so I had to choose that one again.  I also loved the lemon herb tahini -- a great dressing! My only recommendation is to start allowing quinoa as a substitution for the rice. Right now, it is just a topping they sprinkle on top. If they had allowed me to sub a scoop of quinoa for the rice, it would have made this meal perfect.

I really like the unlimited toppings for just one low price as well. So, Cava Mezze and your marketing team, you have turned me into a fan. Well done.

Cave Mezze
3105 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 695-8100

Full Disclosure: Although the meal was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Woodlands, Chandler, AZ

I was stuck in a remote town in the desert of Arizona and desperate for some real food so we found this Indian restaurant listed about 40 minutes away and began the trek. Woodlands is a vegetarian South Indian restaurant located in Chandler, Arizona about 20 minutes south of Phoenix.

When we arrived, we immediately realized it wasn't all I thought it would be. Located in a strip mall, it was a tiny little take-out joint with inside seating for about 20. We took a look at the menu and were pleased to see items that were marked "vegan" so we ordered and took a seat at a booth. The restaurant had a plain interior with cheap tables and black chairs. Towards the back, there was a toppings bar with lots of options. We chose the hot peppers to add to everything we had ordered and waited for our food.

We started with the Iddly steamed rice and lentil cakes. These plain, mostly flavorless cakes were served with a somewhat-runny sauce that left much to be desired. That's not to mention that everything was served on styrofoam plates, which I only tend to see in cities in the middle of nowhereland. So weird.

For our entrees, we ordered two curries. I had the Vegetable Curry that had green beans and cauliflower in a coconut-tomato-based curry. My friend ordered the Dhall Curry, which had lentils with mustard, cumin, and spices. Neither of them were anything special.  And we also asked for super spicy, but they weren't spicy at all.

We also ordered the Parotta Kurma, which turned out to be really odd. They took the bread and sliced it up into pieces, then put a red curry on it. The bread was chewy and slightly spicy, but just odd.

All in all, it wasn't worth the drive out. The guy at the counter wasn't very helpful or personable. The meal was mediocre at best. And the entrees at $8.50 each really could be priced less for what we received. Oh, and the styrofoam and paper plates for those dining in the dining room were pretty tacky.

4980 W. Ray Road
Chandler, AZ 85226
(480) 820-2249

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Green Restaurant, Phoenix

I had only one night in Phoenix to catch up with one of my oldest and dearest friends and based on reviews and the menu, I decided to go to Green Restaurant. Green is a 100% vegan restaurant that features new American-style comfort food. They also try to use organic ingredients when possible. But, it was really the chef's statement on the website that made me want to visit. It is owned by Damon Brasch, a vegan chef and restauranteur who is now living his dream by having opened this restaurant. He wanted to create a menu that would please any palate and that was influenced by many different cultures and cooking styles.  And it was so successful that there are now two locations as well as a separate vegan dessert place called "Nami."

My friend alerted me that it was a very casual place so I was prepared to dine super casual on this Friday night. When we arrived around 8 p.m., it was packed and there was just enough seating for our group so we snagged it right away. We took a look at the menu for a long time. As everything is vegan, it was very difficult for me to choose what I wanted. The menu features appetizers, bowls, salads, sammies & burgers, and sides so there was a lot to choose from.  I was also pleased to see that they served beer and wine as well. Once we made our selections, we ordered at the counter, then sat down and waited for our food.

I started with a locally brewed beer -- Four Peaks Peach Ale. Then, our appetizers started arriving. First, we had the green hummus made of garlic, poblano chilies, and chickpeas with fried pita. This one was a winner.

Next,we had the spicy buffalo wings, which were probably my favorite item from the whole night. They were tender with great spice and served with a delicious vegan cucumber ranch.

Our last appetizer was the samosas filled with curried potatoes, peas, carrots, and garlic served with a tamarind dipping sauce. These were okay, but nothing to write home about.

For my entree, I ordered the Clexico Burger. This was their homemade burger with organic garbanzo hummus, cheddar cheese, mayo, and spicy chipotle sauce. The burgers were a bit too meaty for me and not vegetably enough, if you know what I mean. And there were no veggies -- no lettuce or tomato so it was just a lot of fake meat with a nice chipotle sauce. I thought the burger was good, but definitely not what I should have ordered given the other healthy options.

I ended up wishing I had ordered the Singapore orange bowl that my friend had. Filled with fresh broccoli, zucchini, and faux meat, it was delicious.

Another girl got the Coconut Curry Bowl filled with broccoli, zucchini, and potatoes in a curry sauce.

My out-of-town friends tried their famous version of a Big Mac, the Big WAC! This was way too much burger for me. It was two patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame bun just the way I remembered. I have to admit that it was good, just too meaty and too much.

In the end, I was so glad I chose this place. Though I wish I had ordered the fresh bowls, I was still satisfied with everything I tried and some items were exceptionally good. All of our bowls and sandwiches were about $9 so pretty cheap. And I love that they offer beer, wine, and soft serve ice cream. This place is a win-win.

Green Restaurant
2022 N 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 258-1870

Green on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saffron Road - Crunchy Chickpeas

I'm a big fan of Saffron Road's products.  Saffron Road is a socially conscious company that was founded in 2010. Since then, the popularity of this brand has skyrocketed and their products can now be found all over the country in natural foods markets. I previously reviewed their frozen entrees and simmer sauces and am excited to now review their crunchy chickpeas as well.

Crunchy roasted chickpeas seem to be a hot snack nowadays. As a great source of protein, chickpeas can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet. Saffron Road now makes five flavors of these chickpeas, all of which are vegan. I tried three of the flavors -- Falafel, Bombay Spice, and Wasabi.

I have to say that the Falafel was my favorite. With a mix of delicious spices, it is the onion and garlic powder that stick out the most. These chickpeas will take you on a journey to the Middle East.

Then there is the super strong Wasabi! This is a spicy wasabi-flavored snack that will leave you clamoring for some water and then...more wasabi chickpeas! These are incredibly addictive.

Last, but not least, are the Bombay Spice chickpeas that incorporate the bold flavor of Bombay spices. You'll feel like you are skipping through the marketplaces of Bombay while enjoying crunchy flavored chickpeas.

All of the flavors have a really nice texture -- not too hard, but just crunchy enough. And most of all, I like that the chickpeas are organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. They are also certified gluten-free.  At about $5 per bag, these are a great on-the-go snack. They also have two new flavors of Chipotle and Korean BBQ, which I'll be trying next.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.