Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cafe Asia, DC

As I was trying to find a suitable restaurant to meet a friend at for lunch in the downtown area, I took a look at COK's  It listed Cafe Asia as being veg-friendly and located in the right area so I made a reservation. The last time I dined here, I did not have a good experience, but that was four years ago so I thought I'd give them one more chance.

I arrived slightly earlier than the time of my reservation and decided to check in. There were about 15 people waiting to do the same. The hostess finally got to me and asked if the other individual in my party had arrived yet. I told her she had not and she immediately told me to take a seat -- in a very rude manner.  Strike number one.

As soon as my friend arrived, we were promptly seated downstairs. The space looked fairly large and was obviously a club at night as there was a projector and screen. I went to use the restroom and was surprised to find a unisex bathroom, which seemed very unusual for an Asian restaurant. This was weird. I mean, I've seen these at clubs, but not at restaurants and this place operates as a restaurant during the day.

When I got back to my table, I ordered a lemonade to start and began looking at the menu. COK's website said they offered dozens of Asian-inspired vegetarian dishes and that a few items listed contain fish sauce so one should check with the server before ordering.  I asked my waiter which items could be made vegan and he said there was only one!  I was sure this was incorrect so I asked him to check with the chef.  When he returned he confirmed that only one item on the extensive menu could be made without fish sauce. He said that all items on the menu have a little fish sauce in them and that the base for the sauces is premade so it can't be changed. Wow. So, I ordered the one item I could have -- Panggang (grill). I had no idea of what it was, but I guess that didn't really matter. Strike number two.

I received my lemonade, which was nothing special and we continued to talk while waiting for the food. The service was incredibly slow given that the restaurant was half empty.  When my entree finally arrived, it was not what I expected. The menu stated that it was a tofu dish with Indonesian style sweet soy sauce & galanga topped with crushed peanuts, which was fairly accurate. I guess I was expecting something different.  It was like a whole package of firm tofu sliced into thirds, fried and encrusted with peanuts. There was also cabbage and carrots with peanut sauce. The tofu was hard on the edges and there were way too many peanuts. The sauces were not very good and didn't seem to help the dry peanutty tofu. And, the portion size was ridiculously big for a lunch entree. Strike number three.

During a weekday at lunch, usually restaurants are quick about giving you the check as they realize you need to get back to work. Not so here. It took him like 10 minutes to bring us the check after we finished our food. If there was a strike number four, this would have been it.

So, all in all, considering that the hostess was rude, the service was poor, and there is only one vegan entree which isn't good, I would highly recommend staying away from this place.

Cafe Asia
1720 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 659-2696

Cafe Asia on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

N2nourish crackers - savory herb flavor

Continuing on my raw cracker kick, I picked up a bag of N2nourish raw crackers in the savory herb flavor.  Instead of grinding up the seeds, then pressing and dehydrating them, this cracker had the seeds intact. It was made of all organic flax, chia, sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds with basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt.

I really liked the texture of these crackers -- nutty and a bit soft like a raw cracker typically is. By dehydrating the crackers at under 118 degrees, the enzymes are kept intact making raw crackers easier to digest. The result is that they are a bit softer than baked crackers, but generally healthier.

The herb mix wasn't exactly what I was expecting though -- there seemed to be a bit too much of the dill, in my opinion.  Don't get me wrong, these are good crackers -- just too much dill for me. So, I liked the texture, but not necessarily this flavor.  Next time, I'll try a different flavor instead.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Heritage India, DC

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.

After a long day of shopping, we headed over to Heritage India in Dupont Circle for a nice dinner.  When I glanced at the website, it listed dress as business casual. Since we had spent the day shopping in the summer heat, we were dressed very casually, but once we were inside, this did not appear to be much of an issue.  This restaurant is very nice -- it has a fairly large dining area with servers who are formally dressed. The host sat us near the front of the restaurant and handed us a couple large menus.

We decided to order a couple of cocktails to start. I had a vodka-based one and Zach ordered one with bourbon in it. The cocktails were way too strong. Zach's tasted like it could have been purely bourbon and mine was lip-pursingly strong as well.

The menu is extensive and lists lots of options from full-sized entrees to street food-style tapas. I asked a lot of questions of our waiter about the vegan options and he was extremely helpful. He knew exactly which ones were vegan and which ones could be made vegan.  Zach and I finally decided to share two tapas and one full-sized entree.

The tapas we ordered were incredibly delectable. The first one was the Bhel Puri, which was described as the quintessential image of street food. It was served in a shell with a combination of puffed rice, chickpea vermicelli, diced potatoes, chopped shallots, and fresh cilantro. It was topped with sweet and sour chutney. This dish was a like a flavor explosion. It had a nutty texture to it because of the peanuts, which complemented the puffed rice and veggies. I absolutely loved this dish.

We also had the spicy tofu that was listed on the menu as a vegan's dream come true! And that it was. It was just tofu and plum tomatoes in a spicy chili sauce with black mustard seeds. I found it sweet, yet spicy -- a great combination.

Next, we had the entree. As we mentioned we were splitting the entree, they were kind enough to bring us separate plates with separate orders of rice and vegetables, which came with the dish. The entree was the Dhingri Mattar, which was a yellow curry with mushrooms and peas. It was pretty tasty though not as spicy as I had requested. But, they kindly brought me some fresh jalapenos, which fixed that pretty quickly.  The Roti was also vegan and very tasty.

Even though the drinks were way too strong, the service and food were great. I would definitely recommend this restaurant.

Heritage India
1337 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-3120

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Everlasting Life, DC

A long, long time ago I went to this little place called "Everlasting Life" which was a natural grocery store with a little counter in the back at which they sold mostly raw food. Today, it has been transformed into a humble, little cafe on Georgia Avenue in NW that is 100% vegan.

The area that used to be a store is now a dining room with simple tables and chairs. There is no table service at this cafe, rather it is more like a take-out place with a full dining area. We walked straight into the back to where you place your order and was immediately greeted by the friendly chef behind the counter. There is a set menu of hot food for each day of the week, but the raw salads and cooked sandwiches are available all of the time. The best part is that you can try any of the hot items on the bar or raw salads before you buy them!  We sampled a bunch of salads before making our selections.

We ended up ordering a couple combination platters of two and three items and a few small salads.  We walked up to the front to pay and noticed they had a bunch of fresh juices available as well as soft serve vegan ice cream!  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! They let us sample the chocolate ice cream with the coconut milk base and it was delicious!  I also grabbed an apple ginger juice.  All together, we paid $36 including the drinks, which were $4 each.  Not too bad considering that they filled our containers to the brim with food!  You certainly won't go hungry here.

The veggie pepper steak, which was made of wheat gluten, had a nice texture and a tasty sauce. It was tossed with red and green peppers and onions. We also got a side of broccoli and a side of the macaroni and cheese. The mac and cheese will leave you wondering if it is really vegan! It is really good, but could be a bit creamier.  Additionally, we got a garlicky kale salad, which was super garlicky and tasted great. We also got a chickpea salad and a potato salad. All of them were pretty good.

In sum, the food is good, plentiful, and 100% vegan. This is a great place to stop by for a quick bite for lunch. Just be prepared to take half of your food home with you because the portions are very generous!

Everlasting Life Cafe
2928 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 232-1700

Everlasting Life Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rasika, DC

The name "Rasika" is derived from the Sanskrit language meaning "flavors," but to us in DC, it just means incredible Indian food! Rasika has been rated the number one Indian restaurant in DC by Zagat in the past and I am happy to second that. Being part of the family of restaurants that includes The Bombay Club and the Oval Room sets the expectation that the food would be top notch and it doesn't disappoint. This is not your typical homely Indian restaurant, rather a trendy, upscale restaurant with eclectic decor both in the bar and dining room.

On this particular trip, I was just going for a business lunch. I wasn't able to get a reservation for any time between noon and 1:30 p.m. so we made a reservation for the only time available -- 11:45 a.m. A word to the wise: make a lunch reservation far in advance! We were promptly seated and greeted by our waitress who strongly recommended we start with the Palak Chaat (hold the yogurt), a favorite at this restaurant. So, I ordered that along with their only juice offered that day -- an apple juice. I was initially disappointed to hear there was only apple juice, but when it arrived in a wine glass and was green, I was definitely intrigued. I wish the waitress had mentioned how good the juices were as I'd never tried them before!  Apparently they only offer one juice each day, which is freshly made. The juice was green because it had just been made from fresh green apples.  It was very good.

We ordered our entrees, then the appetizer arrived. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. When I think of spinach dishes at Indian restaurants, I think of sauteed spinach with spices and perhaps some chickpeas, but this dish was very different. The spinach had been flash fried with chickpea flour to get it extra crispy. Then, it was cooked with onions, tomatoes, and mango and topped with tamarind sauce.  Together all of these flavors were amazing!  This dish is sure to delight.

My entree arrived next -- I ordered the Gobhi Mattar. I had initially wanted to order a couple of the smaller portions, but my waitress told me this isn't really a tapas-style restaurant and that most people order a full-sized entree along with some sides. Well, after I received my entree, I wished that I had just gone with my gut and ordered a couple of smaller entrees. The dish had cauliflower, peas and onions sauteed with curry spices. It was very good, but it left me wanting more. I have dined at this restaurant several times and with so many vegan entrees, I'm sure I haven't tried them all. I should have ordered this dish with another one like the Bhindi Amchoor (sliced okra) or Dal Makhani.  Oh, well....I guess this just gives me a reason to come back and try more!

The chef, Vikram Sunderam, does an excellent job of taking traditional Indian dishes and transforming them into delicious modern versions of the same. The service was impeccable as each course was served at just the right pace. The manager even stopped by after our meal to ask us if we had a good experience, which I always appreciate. This was my first lunch experience at Rasika and I really enjoyed it, but I think this is an even better restaurant for a dinner date. It has an intimate feel even though it can get loud at times. But, no matter which time you choose to dine here, you will not disappointed.

633 D Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 637-1222

 Rasika on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chocolate Inspirations toffee

I'm gonna start this off by stating that I am not big on toffee, but oh my gosh, this is so good.  Chocolate Inspirations is a small company located in Chicago that just happens to make some of the best vegan chocolate confections in the world. After trying their amazing chocolate caramel bar, I knew I had to get my hands on some of their toffee as well!

The first flavor I tried was the vegan cinnamon toast toffee. Imagine this - first, you bite into this smooth, soft Swiss dark chocolate, then you get to the goodness of toffee and then just when you think you are in toffee heaven, you get hit with the wonderful taste of cinnamon sugar! And there you have it -- cinnamon toast toffee! Yum!

Then, I tried the vegan English toffee and it was equally as good!  The layer of chocolate was even thicker on this one and it was topped with crushed pecans giving a nutty flavor.  Lastly, I tried the English toffee with almonds and it was delicious as well.

I don't think I've had toffee since I went vegan, but from what I remember this sure tastes authentic. If you love toffee, you should give these a try. Chocolate Inspirations first impressed me with their chocolate caramel bar so now I'm on a mission to try all of their vegan treats. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Daiya Vegan Cheese Giveaway

Every vegan out there loves Daiya! And, if you don't, you probably haven't tried it yet. It is the best-melting vegan cheese ever...and it tastes great too! Whether you've tried it a million times and just want more (greedy) or would like to try it for the first time (deserving), this is your opportunity to get 2 coupons -- each for a free bag of Daiya cheese. Just describe in 50 words or less what kind of dish you will make using Daiya brand vegan cheese. Then, I'll choose a winner at random.

What is Daiya?
Daiya is a revolutionary dairy-free vegan product that shreds, melts, and stretches like cheese. Daiya is a healthy alternative that you can enjoy in any of your favorite meals and recipes at home. These products are free of dairy (casein and lactose), soy, gluten, eggs, rice, peanuts, and tree nuts (except coconut oil). Daiya is also free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics. Now everyone can enjoy a delicious deep-dish pizza or bowl of mac & cheese using Daiya cheese!

The Daiya Vegan Cheese Giveaway Summary
  • Prize: 2 coupons (to 1 winner) -- each for a free 8-ounce bag of Daiya vegan cheese
  • Deadline: Friday, August 5, 2011 — 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern time
  • Eligibility: Contest open to residents of the U.S. only.
  • Winners will be announced on this blog on Monday, August 8, 2011. 
  • Entry: you may enter up to two times.  
    1. To enter the first time, please complete the form below.
    2. To enter the second time, just either click the Facebook "like" button on the left-hand side of the blog OR click the Google Friend Connect at the bottom of my page. Once you "like" my page or become a follower of my page, you will have effectively entered the contest a second time.  (Or feel free to do both!)

Good luck!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

GoodBelly 12-day challenge - finale

Today was the last day of my GoodBelly 12-day challenge. Although I can't say that I feel any differently, all the research would suggest that my belly is happier and healthier!  I've been drinking the black currant flavor and while I like it, I would still say that I prefer the cranberry watermelon flavor to all of them -- it is so refreshing!

It's been fun learning about probiotics as well as GoodBelly's patented vegan probiotic strain. I'm glad to see that vegans finally have a great way to get probiotics, which improve your belly health. Probiotics work by displacing harmful microorganisms, lowering the pH in the intestines (thus creating an environment unfavorable to the growth of harmful bacteria) and stimulating the immune system.  GoodBelly's drinks are dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan so they are suitable for most....and they taste good too!

I guess the big question is whether I'll continue drinking GoodBelly on a regular basis and I can't say that I know for sure yet, but I think it may become an intermittent part of my diet.  Thanks to GoodBelly for making this great, nutritious drink and thanks to all of you for following me on the 12-day challenge!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Highlands, DC

Recently, I purchased a Groupon for a restaurant called, "The Highlands," for their new vegan dinners on Friday and Saturday nights.  I was surprised to see a Groupon for vegan food at a restaurant I had never heard of and was curious to see what they'd be serving. Their website appears to be updated each Friday with their vegan menu for the weekend. We went on the Saturday before July 4th so that weekend it was a cookout-inspired menu.

Caution: this restaurant isn't in the nicest of areas. It is located north up 14th Street past Mount Pleasant so I would recommend not going too late. The restaurant looked pretty run down from the outside, but was your typical divey-type dining room on the inside.  I was disappointed to find that there was only one vegan option this weekend when on prior weekends there had been several options.  This option in particular was a cookout basket that was priced at $13, which seemed really high for this kind of place.

The woman asked me if I was eating in or taking out before I ordered, then she asked me again when I ordered, then once we sat down, the server asked me again. You'd think they might just make note of this. It was 100 degrees outside and there wasn't any A/C inside so it was unbearably hot. The fans they had setup were just blowing hot air around the dining area.

They brought my meal out in a basket, which consisted of coleslaw, baked beans, ruffled potato chips and a portobello sandwich. The portobello sandwich was called a "vurger," which I thought meant vegan burger, so I was expecting a veggie burger. Not so. This was a small portobello mushroom on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and pickle with some sort of vegan mayonnaise and yellow mustard. It was not good.

First of all, one of the options was to add cheese for $1 more. When I tried to order the cheese, they told me someone threw the vegan cheese out by mistake. Well, I was so glad they didn't have it. Why would anyone put vegan cheese on a portobello sandwich?  My next question is...Why would anyone put yellow mustard on this sandwich?  And a pickle? This was the epitomy of terrible sandwiches.

To top it off, it was served with canned baked beans and cheap ruffled potato chips. All, for $13?! I could have made this at home for half that and it would have been 10 times better. I appreciate that this restaurant is offering vegan options, but I would not recommend that you go out of your way to go here. The food is over-priced and not good at all.

The Highlands
4706 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20011
(202) 829-6200

 Highlands Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Boulder Canyon - Rice and Adzuki Bean snack chips

I don't often eat snack chips, but today I was in the mood for something crunchy and salty. I picked up a bag of Boulder Canyon-brand Rice and Adzuki Bean snack chips because they sounded somewhat less unhealthy than a typical bag of chips. Yeah, I tried to justify this one. :-)

Well, I was glad I did because these chips were yummy! They were much thinner than your typical chip so they had a lightness to them. They were crispy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness with an adzuki bean twist! Quite honestly, I thought they tasted like black bean chips so I glanced at the ingredients, which listed them as adzuki and/or black beans. Ha! I was right.  Then, there is a slight spiciness from the peppy red chilis tempered by the "natural" salt. These chips are really good! Try them if you come across them sometime! 

If you want to go all out, you can order a pack of 12 at Amazon by going to: Boulder Canyon Rice & Adzuki Bean Snack Chip, Natural Salt, 5-Ounce Bags (Pack of 12)Potato Chips).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Todd Gray's Muse at the Corcoran, DC

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.
Before the Mitsitam Cafe opened in the American Indian Museum, vegan options at the Smithsonian museums consisted of old, hard pretzels and water from the food carts outside the museums. Now, there is a new player in town. While Todd Gray's Muse is not at a Smithsonian museum, this quaint cafe inside the Corcoran Gallery of Art is yet another example of how life in DC is getting better for vegans every day.

The cafe is located in the atrium of the museum. When we walked in, there was already a long line so we got in line and took a look at the menu. The first think you notice is that the menu denotes vegetarian and vegan items with different colored leaves -- that gets them a plus one. I can't tell you how often I've been at cafes indicating that items are vegetarian and upon further investigation, I find there is nothing vegan -- for vegans, I know I am preaching to the choir. When I made it to the front of the line, I was delighted to find Ellen, Todd's wife and co-owner of their restaurants, working the counter and Todd himself working the kitchen. Zach and I ordered a few dishes off the menu and sat down at one of the little tables in the atrium. I picked up a Vignette Chardonnay soda and Zach had one of their house-made iced teas. Both were good. They also offered a number of delicious-looking freshly-made drinks such as lemonade at the counter.

Ellen brought us a wonderful sampling of some of their salads to try first. One of the items on the menu, the falafel salad, is marked as vegetarian, but can be made vegan without the dressing. So we tried the falafel with the fresh cabbage salad. This falafel was different in that it wasn't deep fried like most and I liked that it tasted incredibly fresh unlike other falafels that taste like they were deep fried yesterday. I also liked the fresh red onion in these falafels. When I asked Ellen about this dish, she told me about the challenges of running a cafe inside a museum as they are not able to run the ovens over a certain temperature so as not to damage the artwork. They are experimenting with a number of dishes to find the best offerings that can be cooked at lower temperatures for this cafe. So, for the falafels, they are sauteed rather than deep-fried, hence the light taste. I do think the falafel would have been better with a sauce and with the ever-changing menu, perhaps they will develop a vegan sauce as well. They also gave us a sampling of the ginger soba noodle salad with cilantro, lime and green onion and the tomato and watermelon gazpacho with cucumber, sweet red pepper, and Thai basil. Both were yummy as well.

I also got the warm spinach wrap with grilled veggies. Ellen and Todd go to several farmer's markets during the week to get all the local produce they can find so the veggies in this wrap can change seasonally. This particular wrap had grilled eggplant, red peppers, arugula, and squash with a light dressing. I really liked that they grilled the wrap. Everything just tasted so fresh!

We couldn't leave there without trying the vegan brownies too! So, we grabbed one of the pre-made brownies out of the baskets. This brownie was denser than most with a cake-like topping that had granulated sugar in the chocolate. The top was crusty, but the brownie soft, which made for a delicious taste. We tried to save the brownie for later, but finished it within an hour of leaving the museum. Oh, well.

I'm just so happy to see another museum cafe with fresh, vegan options. They also sell a variety of vegan snacks including the ABC cookies and vegan jerky.  So, go check out the artwork while they have free Saturdays at the Corcoran, then muse away with Todd Gray and call it a day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

GoodBelly 12-day challenge - Day 8

Today is my eighth day on the GoodBelly challenge and I'm feeling fine.  I am a little bloated, which they say is normal in the beginning, but, I'm not really sure my bloated feeling can be attributed to the GoodBelly drink.  I wish there was some test I could have had done that tested my intestinal microflora before and after this challenge as I'm really curious as to how this is affecting my body. I did a little more research on microflora on the GoodBelly website and found the top 5 ways to restore a healthy microflora balance, which are as follows:

  1. Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Particularly important are non-digestible fibers or prebiotic fibers, such as those found in whole grains, onions, bananas, garlic, leeks and artichokes. These fibers are sort of like food for the probiotics and enhance their effects.
  2. Limit antibiotic use to help you keep the healthy bacteria flourishing. If you do need to use antibiotics, supplementing with probiotics following the course of treatment can help you restore balance.
  3. Reduce stress. Whatever this may mean to you, altering your lifestyle to reduce stress will have a positive impact on your microflora balance. Consider taking up walking, deep breathing, or cutting down on your work hours. Do things that make you laugh really hard – at least once a day.
  4. Exercise! There’s nothing like some exercise every day to keep you in good health, for all sorts of reasons. Walking, swimming, yoga, biking…. there are lots of ways to get in shape, stay healthy and have fun.
  5. Consume a probiotic daily. When you’re on the path to wellness or especially when you’re off kilter, a probiotic can help restore and maintain a healthy balance. GoodBelly contains the well-studied, patented probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (Lp299v) which has been shown to promote core digestive health and support the immune system*.
Based upon this, I think I'm doing everything right!  For now, I'm going to continue with 8 ounces of GoodBelly each day...4 more days to go!

Monday, July 11, 2011

SABABA On-the-Go, Make It at Home Kit, DC

After enjoying those incredible falafel sandwiches at SABABA Market at Eastern Market (see my previous review), I found out that, due to customer demand, they recently developed a new take-home product!  For just $42, you can pick up a falafel kit for six people that includes the falafel mix, bread, toppings, and sauces. I began thinking...I've been to a lot of dinner parties, but never a cooking party so this sparked an idea. Why not pick up one of these kits and host a cooking party?!  And that is how the idea was born.  I quickly contacted three friends and told them that Zach and I were hosting a falafel party!

I placed an order for a SABABA Make It at Home Kit (see last paragraph for instructions), then picked it up at Eastern Market on Sunday. Our party was planned for the following Thursday. I was a little worried because they recommend consuming all items in the kit within three days, but my friends and I weren't able to get together until four days later. Oh, well...I figured it would be just fine. *crosses fingers*

David brought lemonade and watermelon, Susan brought chips and guacamole, and Yassir brought wine and salad. And so the party began! We started by heating canola oil in a medium-sized pot.  The instructions were very specific -- they recommended forming the falafel balls using the official falafel tool, then dipping the falafels into oil heated to 375-degrees using a frying basket.  Although I have a lot of kitchen gadgets, it seemed I chose the kit that required all of the gadgets I didn't have!  I didn't have a thermometer, frying basket or the falafel tool. Luckily, you can purchase the authentic Middle Eastern falafel tool from Sababa for just $10 so I got one of those as well. I figured we'd make due without the other tools.  :)

The falafel tool was relatively easy to use once we all got the hang of it. We each took turns holding the lever down, then scooping the mix into the tool and rounding off the top of each ball using the teaspoon. We tested the oil by dropping a tiny little ball into the pot. If the oil is heated to the right temperature, the balls should cook within two minutes. After two minutes, the little ball was perfect so we were ready to go.

Zach cooked about six balls at a time and placed them into a tortilla warmer to keep them warm as he cooked more. Yassir prepared the salad and salad dressing while we all poured wine and got the toppings ready to go. As per the instructions, I kept the pita bread in the freezer.  So, once all of the balls were cooked, we heated the pita bread in the microwave for 35 seconds, which made for the perfect softness!  We cut the pita bread in half, spread the fresh-made hummus on the inside and filled each half with two or three balls each. While the kit is supposed to be for six sandwiches with five falafel balls each, there is a little extra and we were actually able to make 34 falafel balls!

So, now came the best part -- toppings!  The kit came with so many delicious vegan sauces and toppings!  We got to choose from the following:
  • Cucumber and tomato salad garnished with cilantro and parsley 
  • White and purple cabbage salad with olive oil and lemon 
  • Pickled baby eggplant, sauerkraut, Israeli pickles 
  • Fresh made Hummus
  • Homemade Tahini
  • Homemade hot sauces, red (pureed hot Asian peppers) and green (pureed jalapeno peppers, lemon and spices)
  • Amba sauce (pickled mango and cumin)    

Once again, I will warn you -- the red hot Asian pepper sauce is truly super hot! Be careful. I love it, but in moderation.

Once we loaded all of our sandwiches with toppings, we sat down to enjoy this falafel feast. My friends were really amazed at how good these sandwiches were...I mean we have a lot of falafel places in DC so it takes a special place to get noticed these days. Susan remarked that this falafel was "unusually good."  Yassir was impressed with how fresh and delicious the pita bread was, which is locally made. And, everyone loved the toppings. We had more than enough for all of the sandwiches. My favorites were the pickled baby eggplant, Israeli pickles, hummus, homemade tahini, and ALL of the sauces. I really love the green and red sauce and the Amba sauce is amazing. Here are pics of some of our combinations.

We paired the sandwiches with salad and wine and finished it off with fresh organic watermelon -- a great combination. One of the wines we had was the Domaine Des Homs la Tersande (2009) from France -- a spicy red wine recommended by my friends at Cork and Fork that paired great with this meal.

So, if you are looking for something different to do and your friends love falafel, I would highly recommend purchasing a kit and holding your own falafel party. It is guaranteed to be a hit!  To order, contact SABABA by calling (571) 224-4063. All orders must be placed by Saturday at noon for pick up in any SABABA market on Sunday. Falafel afficianados can even order them already cooked for $48, but that may take the fun out of the experience of being an authentic falafel chef. For more information visit:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

GoodBelly 12-day challenge - Day 5

Today is Day 5 of the GoodBelly challenge and so far, so good. Today I tried the cranberry watermelon flavor and loved it! It is a refreshing light drink that is perfect for the hot, summer months. Surprisingly, I actually prefer it over the mango flavor and I love the taste of mango.

I haven't noticed much of a difference in my body so I started doing a little research. I'm curious to learn more about probiotics and more specifically, GoodBelly so I started poking around on their website and here is what I have found:

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help restore a healthy balance to intestinal microflora, some of which have been found to ease symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and other common digestive ailments, as well as supporting proper immune function. GoodBelly's probiotic, Lp299v, is shown to promote core digestive health and support the immune system when taken daily. Lp299v survives the passage through the stomach's acids where it can reach the rest of the digestive system and provide these benefits. Lp299v is one of the most well-researched and documented probiotics with more than 16 research trials supporting its efficacy.

Wow - sounds like a superfood to me.  So, I'm going to continue on this 12-day challenge. I'll be back in a few days with another update!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Elizabeth's Gone Raw, DC

Elizabeth's Gone Raw is the premier, upscale all raw vegan restaurant in DC.  Zach and I had dined there for Valentine's Day and it left us wanting more. The venue is this beautiful townhouse-like restaurant that is elegant from the exterior to the interior. From the street, you see the gas lamp burning next to the front door. Upon entering, you are greeted by the host who promptly walks you upstairs to the dining room. Be advised - you must have reservations to dine here. We were seated at a table against the wall in kind of quaint setting away from others. We met our two foodie friends there who had never had raw vegan food before and I was really interested to see what they'd think.  They were already drinking a watermelon-mint margarita, which sounded great so we ordered one as well. The amuse at Elizabeth's is always her famous kale chips, which we devoured pretty quickly. :)

The restaurant is only open on Fridays so it is generally pretty busy. There is not a regular menu, rather the prix fixe tasting menu offered each Friday, which is usually $75, is always unique. You can also opt for the wine pairing for an additional $35, which we did. The sommelier quickly greeted us once we placed our order to tell us about the first wine. The wine was a 2006 White Bordeaux Blend from Chateau Milon in France. It was a good, light, oaky wine with a hint of cardamom spice to it. This wine was to be paired with the first course -- an amazing coconut wrap prepared by Executive Chef, Thomas Berry. Imagine coconut meat and milk pressed with cilantro and rolled paper-thin, then dehydrated to make a wrap with an Indian-inspired filling of cauliflower seasoned with cumin and curry. To top it off, there was this delicious spicy, green curry sauce with a cashew sour cream. The first dish had the whole table raving and excited for the rest.

Next, we were served a salad of fresh spring peas and carrots on butter lettuce and arugula, but it was the citrus dressing that truly made this dish a hit. The wine pairing with this dish was a 2008 Viognier Blend from the Chapoutier estate in the Crozes-Hermitage appellation in France. This wine had a good acidity for pairing with the salad -- a good crisp wine.

For the intermezzo, we were served a pineapple-ginger sorbet -- refreshing and light, but could have used a bit more sugar. I wanted a little more sweetness in this sorbet.

The main course was an heirloom tomato stack with "farmer's cheese" and pesto in between the layers. The tomatoes were incredibly ripe and fresh and the macadamia nut cheese was deliciously light with a tasty flavor-rich pesto made with basil oil. It was tantalizing. The kale salad was crunchy, but not too crunchy and had a great lemony dressing on it. I enjoyed this wine the most, probably because it was a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley - my favorite area for this varietal.  The sommelier actually took the time to come to our table before each course to describe the characteristics of each wine and why he chose the wine for each dish, which made the experience that much better.

Then came the dessert and what a finale this was! We were expecting the black raspberry tart listed on the menu and that we got, but we also got a gift from the pastry chef of a chocolate caramel bar. The black raspberry tart had a dense coconut crust layered with a cashew cream and topped with raspberries. It was delish.

The chocolate caramel bar was quite a surprise. The thin layer of chocolate was much lighter in taste than I'm used to - it was more like milk chocolate than dark chocolate and the vegan caramel was, surprisingly, very much like caramel. This caramel had a texture similar to the Chocolate Inspirations bar, but had a fresher taste.  The raspberry sauce paired well with both desserts giving them a bit more sweetness. The pastry chef, Calvin Lee, is a genius.

At the end of the meal, everyone at the table, including my friends who had never had raw vegan food before, was impressed with the food, service, and venue. Elizabeth walked around throughout the night going from table to table speaking with many of her patrons. You can tell she truly cares about the experience of individuals who choose to dine at her restaurant. She is an amazingly caring person who opened this restaurant for all the right reasons. You can read her story on her website, but in short, she had a not-so-good diet before she was diagnosed with breast cancer and after spending some time at the Hippocrates Health Institute, went mostly raw vegan.  She now has a desire to share this wonderful food with all to show them how good raw vegan food can be and I can assure you that she has inspired many.  This restaurant should be at the top of the list of anyone visiting the DC area. 5 stars.

Elizabeth's Gone Raw
1341 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 347-8349

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