Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Silver Diner, Reston, VA

An old colleague and good friend of mine who recently moved to West Virginia suggested we meet in Reston, Virginia for lunch on a weekend. Reston?! The thought of venturing that far into Virginia frightened me, but then I thought -- why not check out a new restaurant? But, as I searched around, I didn't find many vegan options in Reston -- maybe I just didn't look in the right place. But, after having such a good experience at the Silver Diner a year ago, I figured that would be a solid place to meet and so we did.

Back in 2013, the Silver Diner expanded their menu to many healthy choices including lots of vegan fare. It was surprising and exciting at the same time. You can read my first review of that menu here. Since then, the menu has continued to evolve and continues to add lots of fresh vegan options. So, we met at the Silver Diner in Reston. It looked the same as the others -- the retro decor inside and outside makes you feel like you are stepping back in time. We were seated at a small booth that did not have a personal jukebox -- oh well.

The menu showed that they still had lots of vegan and gluten-free options. Set on trying something new, I ordered the Teriyaki Glazed Portabellas for $12.99. I just couldn't turn down the opportunity to have farro in a diner! Farro is an ancient grain that is difficult to find. It is hearty and filling and I was pleased to have it here. They placed three teriyaki glazed portabello mushrooms atop chipotle seasoned farro with garlic, cremini mushrooms, asparagus, butternut squash, and scallions and garnished it with cilantro and black sesame seeds. This is not the typical diner fare, for sure. It was absolutely delicious and a generously sized portion. The only thing I didn't like was the amount of salt used. The dish wouldn't have needed much salt at all, but this dish tasted like they dumped tablespoons of salt in it. It was way too much salt.

But, besides how salty it was, it was really good and for what I got, $12.99 seemed like a fair price. The service on this Saturday afternoon was particularly slow and we finally had to flag down the waitress to get her to give us our check. I didn't care that much as we were there to catch up and were too enthralled in conversation to let the slow service bother us. Other than that, it was a great experience and Silver Diner could easily become my go-to lunch spot.

Previous Review
June 26, 2013

11951 Killingsworth Ave
Reston, VA 20194 
(703) 742-0801
Silver Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2015

DC Vegan Catering

Spunky -- that is the word that comes to mind when I think of Leah Curran Moon.  I met her one day in a dance class at Dance Place while she was earning her PhD in Public Policy and Public Administration.  We danced together, we laughed together, and somewhere down the line I discovered she was a feminist, band member, and vegan as well. So, we connected on Facebook, but lost touch for a while. Then, out of the blue, she tells me that she and her husband, Michael, just started a vegan catering company. DC Vegan Catering is the name and fresh food is their game.

Originally from Cleveland, Leah and Michael's friends over at Cleveland Vegan Catering inspired them to start a branch of this business in DC. Entrepreneurs at heart, Leah and Michael's business plan is now coming to fruition and they are excited to not only promote delicious vegan foods, but DC pride as well.

This 100% vegan catering business is up and running and operating out of Union Kitchen, DC's food incubator that serves as a place for budding entrepreneurs to take up shop and use commercial grade kitchen space at reasonable prices. They took us on a tour of the facility and it was, for lack of a better descriptor, super cool. They have access to all of the commercial equipment they could ever need from ice cream makers to large ovens and even a marketing company that houses itself in the same space. The vibe, they say, is inspiring, as the kitchen comes alive during the week with food entrepreneurs excited about their small businesses.

DC Vegan Catering has hired two chefs while Michael also works full-time in the kitchen and Leah manages the business side of things. As they are now set-up to take orders, they treated me and Chris to a meal showcasing a few of their favorite dishes.

First on the menu was the Cauliflower Wings. If I were to describe the perfect vegan buffalo cauliflower dish, it would be this one. On one side of the platter was soft, yet crisp cauliflower slathered and baked in buffalo sauce -- the buffalo sauce that Chris proclaimed was the closest to the buffalo sauce he so enjoyed throughout his life. On the other side, was a yummy mango sriracha version of the cauliflower. Both were made even better with the addition of a Ranch dressing that was very thick and loaded with dill. If I were to have a party, I would order tons of these!

Next up was the entree. I'll start with the main dish -- the Chesapeake Tofucakes. Served over a light coleslaw, these tofu-based crab-like cakes were coated with panko breadcrumbs and baked to perfection. The lemon aioli served to complement them perfectly by adding creamy, lemony flavor to the Old Bay-spiced crispy cakes. On the side were the Mashers, a buttery vegan version of mashed potatoes made with Yukon gold potatoes and sauteed leeks.

We were so full, but when the plate of cookies and truffles appeared, how could we resist?  The thumbprint cookies were sugar cookies filled with sweet raspberry jam and were reminiscent of the thumbprint cookies I so enjoyed as a child.

Also, on the menu are amazing dark chocolate truffles. We, of course, had to indulge in both flavors -- one covered in pecans and one in coconut. These coconut milk-based truffles are made with freeze-dried coffee and flavored with vanilla. They'll melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

The chef even gave me her version of vegan Butterfinger bars and they are really to die for! I'm truly excited about this new business. What I really like is that their menu is diverse enough to cater to a wide variety of events. I could see catering an office breakfast meeting with the Bullfrog Garden Bialy bagels, Lemon Mint Fruit Salad, and Chewy Breakfast Bars. Then, for the Superbowl party, you have Corn and Black Bean Boats, Cauliflower Wings, and a Hummus Platter. And for the wedding, you have Three Grain Bake in a cashew sauce, Beet Burgers, and Chesapeake Tofucakes with Raw Salted Caramel Chocolate Cups.  Yeah, it's like that!

To raise money for their new venture, they are selling these awesome DC Vegan t-shirts as well. View the video promotion here, and order the shirt here. And, yes, the girlie shirts are girlie cut. I am truly excited about DC Vegan Catering and how they will complement our limited DC vegan food offerings. To place a catering order, go here.

Go DC. Go Vegan.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sunflower Vegetarian, Falls Church, VA

Sunflower Vegetarian is one of the few vegetarian restaurants in the DC-metro area that has withstood the test of time. There are locations in Falls Church and Vienna, Virginia. I've visited the restaurant a handful of times and found it to be hit or miss so it's never really been a destination-restaurant for me. This time, I found myself in the area and decided to stop by for lunch.

The Falls Church location is located in this weird area in Virginia that they call Seven Corners because seven roads intersect in one place. It makes it confusing to figure out how to enter certain parking lots and this restaurant is no exception. You can see it from Route 50, but you need to get on Route 7 to get to it.

Once inside, you realize you have entered a hippie paradise. Their website states, "The sunflower which is named for the sun that provides us with life and energy. It is a flower that symbolizes warmth, health and good nature...Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant wishes to follow the example of the spirit of sunflower. With these ideas in mind, we take great pride in introducing more and more people to vegetarianism, and thus, help to avert such disasters of the Earth as war, flood, drought and disease." Yeah, it's like that. Inside, you'll find simple decor and lots of sunflowers. At least they stay true to their theme. And the whole menu is vegetarian. In fact, they simply indicate which dishes are NOT vegan with a symbol. If only every restaurant was like this...but, I digress.

I was pleased to find that they offer some fresh juices and tried the Red Springhead juice made with carrots, beets, spinach, apples, and ginger for $6.75. It was delicious.

I also ordered a Bamboo Fungus Soup for $4.50. I asked for it to be super spicy and boy, did they make it super spicy. In fact, the spicy oil they added overtook the entire soup making it not so pleasant to eat. It was loaded with fresh enoki mushrooms, green peas, tofu, and shredded ginger. I loved the big, plump, fresh peas, but the oil kind of ruined it for me.

For my entree, I ordered the Wheat Gluten with Fermented Black Bean Sauce for $9.50.  This meal was quite delicious. There was wheat gluten with organic tofu, squash, zucchini, and carrots in a delicious black bean sauce served with brown rice. It wasn't spicy enough so I added some hot peppers, then it became even better. And there was enough for three meals so I took half of it home.

The menu is extensive and if you are used to just having three items to choose from on a menu, it may take you a long time to decide what to order. They have something for everyone from faux meat heavy dishes and gluten-free options to raw entrees and vegetable and macrobiotic dishes. I think it is a really nice mix. So on this visit, I had a pretty good meal, the service was pretty good, and the prices are extremely low compared to other comparable restaurants. I guess I'll be coming back more often now. Plus, I love supporting veg places that try to do good in the world. Sunflowers unite!

Sunflower Vegetarian
6304 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22044
(703) 237-3888

Sunflower Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni

For the first recipe I made out of YumUniverse by Heather Crosby, I tried her Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni. I'm not a huge fan of gluten-free noodles, but her deliciously creamy cashew-based sauce was a hit with those noodles and with red peppers and broccoli -- they added the right amount of crunch in this delicious pasta dish. I added some hot sauce for some oomph! This is a great gluten-free potluck dish!

Creamy Broccoli and Red Pepper Macaroni
Serves 4

  • 2 cups gluten-free macaroni noodles
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1-2 Tbsp water
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
Ingredients for sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2-3 drops liquid smoke
Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add noddles and cook according to manufacturer's instructions.
Blend together all sauce ingredients until smooth and set aside. While noodles cook, place coconut oil in a skillet heated to medium and add diced red bell pepper. Stir often for 5-7 minutes. Add broccoli and water to skillet, stir, cover, and steam for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Return to the noodles. If they've finished cooking, drain and rinse and return them to the pot. Mix together cooked and rinsed noodles, veggies, and sauce over medium heat. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste if necessary.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Diner, DC

The Diner, not to be confused with other diners in DC, has been around for a long time. As a staple in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, I can attest to hanging out there a long time ago. So when a friend mentioned that they had some vegan items on the menu, I was more than pleased to give them a try.

We walked in on a slow Saturday night and were immediately seated in the back. They do not take reservations are typically very busy so this was a nice surprise. The Diner is a 24/7 diner that serves a full menu at all times, with some exceptions. It is not decorated like a 50's diner like most, but instead has white walls, a high ceiling, and plain wood tables.

To start, I ordered a lemonade and some kale chips. As we perused the menu, it appeared there were two vegan entrees -- pan-fried seitan with gluten-free mac & cheese or just mac & cheese on its own. So we both went with the seitan.

The kale chips arrived and to my surprise, they were hot. I guess I've only had raw kale chips so warm ones were a nice change. They were really good and simply seasoned with some hot peppers, olive oil, and salt.

The entrees arrived and they weren't exactly what we were expecting. The menu online had called the entree "chicken-fried seitan" and we hadn't noticed that the menu at the restaurant had changed it to "pan-fried seitan," but with the same description. It looked very plain -- just seitan on a plate with steamed green beans and mac & cheese.  As we dug in, we quickly discovered that it tasted exactly as it looked -- plain. The seitan, while it had a nice flavor, was just pan fried and chewy with no gravy or anything. It would have been great if they had served it with some sort of sauce -- a mushroom gravy or red wine roux or something. The green beans were just steamed -- no seasoning. And the mac & cheese was more like mac & peas as it had zero taste. This tasteless concoction sort of looked like mac & cheese with peas, but had zero flavor whatsoever. My friend that I was eating with was from Texas and proclaimed that this was not at all what he expected and remarked that the seitan tasted like a shoe. Yeah.

I'm glad that The Diner has made an effort to serve vegan customers, but hope the options improve in the future. Thanks to our waitress, we had lots of options for hot sauce, which helped us gulp down the meal. The $11 entree was not overpriced, but given the lack of flavor, it wasn't worth it. The service was good though and maybe next time I'll just go back for the kale chips.

The Diner
2453 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 232-8800

The Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce

Even after completing the review of Angela Liddon's cookbook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, I couldn't stop trying her recipes. The pictures make every recipe oh-so-tempting. Enchiladas are one of my favorite things in this world so I decided to make her Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce. It did not disappoint. This is the perfect dinner party recipe because it aims to please. A delicious mixture of sweet potatoes, black beans, red pepper, and spinach are mixed with enchilada sauce and stuffed into a sprouted grain tortilla then topped with cilantro, scallions, and avocado-cilantro cream sauce. Yes, it is just as good as it sounds.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce
Serves 6

Ingredients for the Enchiladas
  • 2 cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped small
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups 5-Minute Enchilada Sauce or store-bought
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 sprouted grain tortilla wraps (I use Food for Life Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas)
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Scallions, sliced, for garnish
Ingredients for the Sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (I thought this was to much so add to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish.

Make the Enchiladas: Place the sweet potato in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium high and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Add the bell pepper, cooked sweet potato, black beans, and spinach. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook for a few minutes more, or until the spinach is wilted.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and salt.

Spread 1 cup of enchilada sauce evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Scoop 3/4 cup of the sweet potato filling onto each tortilla. Roll up the tortillas and place them seam side down in the baking dish. Spread the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas. If you have leftover filling, spoon it on top of the tortillas as well.

Bake the enchiladas, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is a deep red color and the enchiladas are heated through.

Meanwhile, make the Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce: In a food processor, process the cilantro until minced. Add the avocado, lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and 3 Tbsp water and process until creamy, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.

When the enchiladas are ready to serve, plate them individually and drizzle or spread some of the Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce on top of each. Garnish with cilantro and scallions, if desired.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

5-Minute Enchilada Sauce

This recipe is from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. It is the perfect enchilada sauce.

5-Minute Enchilada Sauce
Makes 2 cups

  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 scant cup tomato paste
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
In a medium saucepan, melt the vegan butter over medium heat.

Stir in the flour until a thick paste forms. Stir in the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, onion powder, and cayenne until combined. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.

Stir in the tomato paste, followed by the broth. Whisk until smooth and combined. Bring to a low boil over high heat (covered, if necessary) and then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer. Stir in salt to taste and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened.