Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tomato Garlic Soup with Onions and Spices

Seeking another simple soup to make for a cool night, I turned to 100 Best Juices, Smoothies, and Healthy Snacks and the Tomato Garlic Soup with Onions and Spices caught my eye. This smoothie/soup had a lot of the right flavors, but I think the amount of water was a bit too much. I added 1 cup of water to this and in hindsight, I would recommend adding less water or using vegetable broth instead. That said, a mix of tomatoes, garlic, onion, red bell pepper, avocado, and spices really should be a good mix! *sigh* Maybe next time.  Please use my recommendations and let me know how it turns out for you!

Tomato Garlic Soup/Smoothie with Onions and Spices

  • 2 cups tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/6 cup onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 avocado
  • Pinch of Himalayan salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 -1 cup water or vegetable broth (recipe calls for 1-2 cups, but I recommend decreasing)
Blend everything until smooth. Serve with cilantro on top!

Monday, August 24, 2015

doi moi, DC #2

A friend of mine startled me with a surprise visit so we headed over to doi moi to see if we could snag a seat. This restaurant serves Southeast Asian cuisine, specifically from Thailand and Vietnam. It is headed up by Executive Chef Haidar Karoum, who also heads up Proof and Estadio. As this restaurant does not take reservations after 6 p.m., we were hoping for less than a 30-minute wait.

Our wishes were granted! They told me I'd have a 20-40 minute wait, then came back 5 minutes later and said they'd seat us. Spectacular!  I remember the cocktails having been very good the last time I went so I decided to try the Lion's Tail. This mix of bourbon, all-spice dram, lime and angostura bitters definitely hit the spot.

One of my favorite things about this restaurant is that they have separated all vegan dishes onto a vegan menu.  But, what's funny is that they didn't exactly get it all right. The menu specifies vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. But, some items on the vegan menu are not on the vegetarian menu. Well, sir, I have to tell you, if it is vegan, it is vegetarian. When I mentioned this to the server, she said I wasn't the first to point this out.

I was surprised that many of the same dishes that I had eaten years before were still on the menu. This doesn't give me much opportunity to write about new things, but I did my best and ordered two new items and one old favorite.

The first to arrive was my old favorite -- the Gaeng Par Hed or housemade tofu and wild mushroom curry. This super spicy mix of snake beans, cauliflower, carrots, peas, eggplant, mushrooms, and tofu was in an amazing curry with a strong ginger taste. It was incredibly flavorful and was the table favorite.

Another one I really enjoyed was the Larb Tao Hoo or spicy tofu salad. The tofu in this dish was very different than the other dish as it was cut into tiny pieces and fried to a crisp on the outside while remaining soft on the inside giving it a delightful texture. Then, it was tossed in a lots of fresh mint and cilantro with sauteed shallots and coated in a soy-lime dressing. Delish.

Finally, I tried another new dish called the Kee Mao or stir-fried rice noodles. This dish had thick gooey rice noodles with long beans, Chinese broccoli, carrots, snow peas, basil and trumpet mushrooms. The only thing I didn't love about this dish was that it was super super oily.

The restaurant was packed on this Friday night and service was a little slow. But, me and my friend were so engulfed in conversation that we barely noticed. They recommend two to three plates for a table of two, but we ordered four anyway. It was too much, but it gave me leftovers to take home and I got to try a variety of dishes. At $10 to $15 per dish, you probably don't want to order more than that. All in all, it was a good experience with great food and the vegan menu is like icing on the cake.

Previous Review
December 17, 2013

doi moi
1800 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 733-5131

Doi Moi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Crossroads, Los Angeles #2

I had one night to have dinner in Los Angeles and while I had intended to go to a place I had never been before, in the end, I couldn't pass up a chance to dine at Crossroads again. Crossroads is one of the top vegan upscale restaurants in the country. Founded by Chef Tal Ronnen who is known for his bestseller, The Conscious Cook, as well as having catered many high-profile events for Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Huffington, and Oprah Winfrey. The restaurant is surprisingly easy to get reservations and on this Sunday night, we reserved the private room.

I will preface this by stating that this is not a typical dining experience because not only were we a large party in the private dining room, we also ordered just about everything and it was all brought out pretty much at the same time so by the time I got to try some things, they were not so warm. Regardless, here is what we had.

I think my favorite dish was the Tortelloni filled with almond cheese and served with oven-dried tomatoes, parsley frisee salad, and spinach cream. Fresh made noodles wrapped around creamy goodness. I wanted to take this one home.

The Spicy Meatball is a flatbread that is topped with housemade meatballs, calabrese peppers, almond ricotta, and micro basil. It just melted in my mouth.

The Artichoke Oysters was a favorite I had from last year. Artichoke leaves are topped with artichoke puree, crispy oyster mushroom, yellow tomato bearnaise, and kelp caviar. So many flavors at once -- fantastic!

The Crab Cakes made of hearts of palm, granny smith apples and heirloom beets were show stoppers as was the horseradish aioli that was served with them.

The Spiced Chickpeas was a simple dish of chickpeas with oven-dried tomatoes and parsley. If you could only order a couple dishes, this may not be the stand-out dish you might hope for. In other words, order something else.

A table favorite was the Hearts of Palm Calamari served with house cocktail and tartar sauce. Crunchy on the outside and tasty on the inside, this dish did not disappoint.

I absolutely loved the Pappardelle Bolognese as fresh housemade vegan pappardelle noodles are hard to find and these were particularly excellent.

The Wood-Fired Bolognese Lasagna is fantastic and a meal in and of itself.

My least favorite was probably the Scallopini Parmesan, which is a deep-fried Gardein scallopini patty with a red sauce.

I also love their cocktails and enjoyed the Sazerac made with Old Overholt rye, Peychaud's biters, pastis, sugar, and lemon twist.

For dessert, I tried the Bananas Foster Trifle made with muscavado caramel and almond cream. It was pretty good.

The Lemon Cake was my favorite dessert though as this crusty little cake was made with  Meyer lemon curd and topped with whipped cream and a hazelnut praline. Scrumptious!

What an experience!  The service was great, the food fantastic, and the prices very high. All small dishes ranged anywhere from $12 to $20 each and you typically order several. Although I still haven't eaten at all of the vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, I think this is one of the top vegan restaurants if not the top vegan restaurant in the area. If you can treat yourself to just one meal, go to Crossroads.

Previous review
July 16, 2014

8284 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA  90046
(323) 782-9245

Crossroads on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 17, 2015

Rogue 24, DC #3

Rogue 24 is one of the finest restaurants in DC. The fact that the chef serves vegans is like a gift from above. I've reviewed two 24-course meals at this restaurant in the past and they were spectacular, but now Rogue is offering three- and five-course meals as well. We decided to try the special 4 bites with 4 drinks on this Friday night.

The funny thing was that another vegan couple was having the exact same thing at the exact same time! So, the chef asked if he could seat us all together at the table that faces the fantastic open kitchen. Sure, why not?!

And so the culinary experience began. The amuse was smoked tomato ice -- a cool, refreshing, smoky ice topped with jalapeno and cilantro. Marvelous! This was served with a pickleback drink.

The second drink was an amazing sweet drink with chartreuse and orange peel to complement the dish of dehydrated cabbage with whipped raisins and mustard seeds served on a stone. My friend could not stop raving about this dish. So small, yet so much flavor.

The second bite was probably my favorite -- a fermented mango gazpacho! This dish was pure artwork. Shredded mango in a mango broth with coconut water gelee and puffed forbidden rice -- so you got soft, yet crunchy mango with soft gelee and crunchy rice. It all contributed to phenomenal flavors. The third drink was called the Wild Wild West and was delish -- with Wild Turkey bourbon, angostura bitters, and Swedish punch.

The third bite was also divine! RJ called it a taco, but a traditional taco it was not. This take on a taco had corn, avocado, and tomato in a pumpkin seed soil with a spicy tomato salsa. Could it get better than this?

The final dish was the type of dish I see in fine dining restaurants in top cities outside of DC. The presentation was flawless. A coconut white chocolate with candied black sesame. The flavors of this dish lit us on fire. And it was served with yet another drink.

Be careful -- the dishes are small and the drinks plentiful so you may not be able to walk far.  Be sure to make reservations for the vegan 4 bites with 4 drinks or 3- or 5-course meals at least one week in advance so they can prepare. The price of the 4 bites with 4 drinks is $44, while a 3-course is $55 and the 5-course is $75. Not too shabby and totally worth it. Oh, and the service is spectacular as well. Rogue 24 is a gem in DC and I only hope my vegan friends will patronize it so they will continue to serve amazing, unique, vegan meals.

Previous reviews
January 27, 2014
October 15, 2012

Rogue 24
922 N Street NW (rear)
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 408-9724

Rogue 24 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Vegetable Garden, Silver Spring, MD #3

The excitement that The Vegetable Garden reopened seemed to wear off when I realized it was like a 50-minute drive from DC in traffic. Every time we think about going back, we instead opt for restaurants within walking distance because they are so much easier. But, we could only go so long before heading back. This time, I met my brother, Darren, who I hadn't seen in a while.

We were supposed to meet at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday, but I arrived a little early. Well, it appears that this is no longer a vegan's secret because this place was bustling! My brother informed me that he got stuck at work and would be late so I told them I'd wait for a booth. He ended up getting lost and didn't show up until 7:15 p.m. or so, but it took that long to get a booth, so I guess it all worked out!

I started with a burgundy wine, which, as I knew, was not at all good. I wish I could just bring my own wine to this place. *sigh*  The most exciting part of the night was when I discovered that the warm leek bread they used to serve at the old location is back! Oh, how I've missed you!

We both went with the dinner combo special so we could try as many items as possible. You get an appetizer, soup, and two entrees. I started with a Moo Shi Cilantro Roll, which was loaded with tofu and other faux meats and was pretty good.

The surprise of the night was the Hot and Sour Soup. I don't normally order hot and sour soup, but when they told me that was the spicy soup, I was willing to try it. This soup turned out to be fantastic -- it was thick and full of mushroom flavor and tofu and spice. I loved it!

For my two (side order size portions) entrees, I went with one new dish and one I knew I loved. The one I know I love (on the left) is the Garden Feast filled with soy and wheat gluten beef, chicken, and veggies galore! There are snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, jicama, and kale in brown sauce. For the new dish (on the right), I ordered the Asparagus with Oyster Mushrooms and Yuba. It was exactly as described -- asparagus, oyster mushrooms, and yuba (tofu skins) in a delightful brown sauce.

My brother ordered two that I wouldn't normally order. He got the 8-treasure eggplant (on the right), which was surprisingly good. This dish was loaded with diced eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, yellow squash, zucchini, red bell peppers, lily bulb, pine nuts, cranberries, cashews, and tofu in a spicy sauce. Other than the cranberries, I loved this dish!  He also got the Sesame Beef Taro Root (on the left), which was really good, but a bit too much of the wheat gluten and not enough of anything else. Raw veggies were on the side, but I guess this dish is more for people who don't love veggies and I'm sure there are many people like that!

So, all-in-all, it was a great experience. The food was fantastic and my brother left there thinking vegan food is awesome. The service was great. And the price of the combo was only like $13 so very cheap for what we got. I love this restaurant and only wish it weren't so far away!!

Previous reviews
July 24, 2014
February 3, 2012

Vegetable Garden
3830 International Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20906
(301) 598-6868

Vegetable Garden on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Miso Udon Stir-Fry with Greens and Beans

Simple, low-fat, and umami -- that's how I'd describe the Miso Udon Stir-Fry with Greens and Beans from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  Imagine sauteed broccoli wrapped up in udon noodles with Swiss chard, scallions, and azuki beans in a delicious miso sauce. It's a balanced, nutritious meal with umami.

Miso Udon Stir-Fry with Greens and Beans
Serves 4-6

  • 1 lb. broccoli, stems sliced thinly, tops cut into florets
  • 8 ounces brown rice udon noodles
  • 1 tsp olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, coarse stems removed, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) can azuki beans, drained or rinsed
  • 1/3 cup miso
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 4 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Sriracha hot sauce, to serve
Prepare a pot of salted water for cooking the noodles.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. First, saute the broccoli with a bit of nonstick cooking spray and a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. Cover the pan and flip once or twice. The broccoli should be browned in some spots. Add a splash of water at the end, then cover for another minute. The pan should be steaming. Remove the broccoli from the pan and set aside.

At this point, the water should be boiling. Use a mug to remove 1/2 cup of water; you can use that to mix into your miso in a few steps. Then cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain when ready.

Now we'll put everything together. Preheat the large pan again, over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the oil for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the chard, scallions, and salt, and saute for about 5 minutes, until wilted. Add the beans and let heat through.

In the meantime, in a mug or measuring cup, mix together the miso and warm pasta water until relatively smooth.

Add the drained noodles to the pan, along with the miso mixture and broccoli. Saute for about 2 minutes, using a pasta spoon, making sure everything is nice and coated. Taste for salt. To serve, top with sesame seeds, scallions, and Sriracha.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tico, DC

One of the more popular additions to the 14th Street NW area of DC is Tico, an American restaurant influenced by Spain, Mexico, and South America. Created by Chef/Owner Michael Schlow, a James Beard award-winner who has restaurants all over the country, this restaurant brings color to a block of old and new establishments. From the sign on the outside to the graffiti-inspired artwork on the inside, it is clear that Tico is going for flare and style.

We were lucky to snag a 7:15 p.m. reservation on a Saturday and were seated promptly. What you first notice about this place is the huge floor to ceiling windows from the outside, but from the inside it is just as wonderful as you watch the city dwellers walk by. Inside, the dark wood floors are contrasted with bright graffiti-style paintings on the wall and other more subdued Latin-inspired artwork on the ceiling. The dining room is huge with a full view of the open kitchen. The overall feeling was one of warmth.

I had heard great things about their drink menu so me and my friend, Josh, ordered cocktails. Josh started with the Hibiscus margarita, a fruity margarita made with blue agave tequila, citronge, lime, lemon, and hibiscus. I started with the Papa Made Bail, a delightfully spicy drink with a bit of fruit made with pisco, pineapple, lemon, and chile.  Josh went for the Papa Made Bail as his second drink as well!

This is a tapas restaurant with typical tapas-sized plates so you'll want to order at least five small plates. Vegans have a limited menu to choose from of about eight dishes. We ordered a bunch. First, we got the olives -- a nice mix of green, red, and black olives with orange zest and marcona olives. This was a hit at the table!

Next up was the Brussels Sprouts hold the bacon. This was one of my favorites. Crispy fried Brussels sprouts cooked with sweet red onion and tangy kumquats and garnished with scallions. So good.

Then, we went against our server's recommendation and ordered the Roasted Cauliflower hold the cheese. She mentioned it might taste like it was missing something and right she was. It wasn't bad, but the cauliflower with chipotle and crunchy favas was a bit too dry -- it really needed like a tahini sauce or cashew cream to give it some oomph.

The Shishito Peppers are vegan as-is and I love a good shishito pepper. Made with crispy shallots, lime zest and sea salt, I found them a bit oily, but otherwise pretty good.

Lastly, I wanted to try the Roasted Golden Beets. These were fantastic. The soft roasted golden beets complemented by crunchy pistachios and capers made for a perfect dish.

Other dishes that could be made vegan include the sweet corn, shredded cabbage salad, and spinach salad. Sadly, there are eggs in the edamame tacos so they are not an option. All in all, we had a great experience.  At $7 to $10 per tapa, it is pricey, but in line with DC prices. The atmosphere is lively and the service was great. I will say there is a greater variety of vegan tapas at other places like Zaytinya and Estadio, but this adds another option to the list of good tapas restaurants with vegan options. If nothing else, go to the bar for drinks, olives, and peppers. Next time, I want to dive in to their impressive tequila menu!

1926 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1400

Tico on Urbanspoon