Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hope Hummus

Hummus here, hummus there, hummus hummus everywhere! That is how I feel nowadays at the grocery store where the popularity of hummus has grown exponentially. What used to be considered a hippie food has become a trendy and very popular food. But, with all its popularity, not many innovative companies have been emerging from this industry until now. Hope Hummus was developed by a guy named Ryan Weilert out in Boulder who was working as a Whole Foods cashier at the time. He realized that there was a niche market that hadn't yet been developed -- that of good, unique, organic hummus so he started his own company and developed new flavors of hummus.

He started with 3 flavors -- original, spicy avocado, and sweet potato. Those last two sure are different!  I tried the spicy avocado first. Zach and I really liked this spicy hummus paired with savory Dr. in the Kitchen Flackers crackers. It had a mild avocado taste with a nice kick from the jalapenos.

Next, we tried the original flavor, which is just a regular hummus flavor. What I really liked about these hummuses is how creamy they were. They are somewhat fluffy, not packed down like other hummuses so they make for a great dip. I paired this hummus with Jovans all natural whole food crackers in spicy el paso flavor because the hummus was a neutral flavor and needed a bold pairing. These crackers are made of tomatoes, red peppers, onion, garlic, an Mexican spices.

Lastly, we tried the sweet potato flavor. This flavor had the bold taste of sweet potatoes and paired best with the neutral flavor and crunchy texture of cauliflower.

The only thing I didn't like about these hummuses is that they tended to mold pretty quickly--much more quickly than any other hummus I've ever had. I'm not sure if the loose lid caused this or what.

Either way, I enjoyed all of the flavors and enjoyed learning about the company. Hope Hummus is proud of their Boulder community and they even donate 10% of the net profits to the local community in need. And all of their products are organic, vegan, and gluten-free. Hopefully, they'll be coming to my neck of the woods soon. For now, they are being sold at select Whole Foods Markets.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Native Foods, Costa Mesa

When I was in the Los Angeles area, I decided to stop by my favorite chain restaurant in the U.S. -- Native Foods. Native Foods was started by Chef Tanya Petrovna back in 1994 and has since expanded to 14 restaurants in four states and is growing by the minute. The menu for all locations is the same and since I have been to several others, I wanted to try something new this time.

I find it interesting that while the menu is the same, each restaurant is set-up in a different way. This one had a circular counter area in the center of the restaurant with booths along the windows. I sat down at the funky counter.

I started with lavender lemonade that was delicious.

For my meal, I ordered the Chicago Dip Au Jus, which consists of thinly sliced housemade peppered seitan on a freshly baked baguette topped with their housemade giardiniera. This sandwich was huge! The seitan was delightfully soft and peppery while the giardineira was unusually fresh -- with pickled onions, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and jalapeno. I folded the sandwich up and dipped it into the au jus sauce and voila - a perfect sandwich.

I also ordered a side of their kale salad that had a lemony dressing and chopped red pepper. Yum!

This really is the best chain in the U.S., at least as of now. The food is consistently good, the prices are right, and the service is great. They don't serve your table, but they do walk around to be sure everything is as you expected. I only hope they open a restaurant in DC some day!

Native Foods
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 751-2151

Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 27, 2012

Black + Blanco - Sandcastles

Interestingly enough, I nearly missed the chance to try the best cookies I've had since I first discovered Uncle Eddie's.  The company Black + Blanco and their cookies will be making the headlines soon. But, unlike Uncle Eddie's, their cookies are truly unique in that they are a Moroccan sandie cookie turned vegan! I almost missed these cookies at the food show because there was no indication that they were vegan anywhere on their booth! How dare they try to sneak a cookie by me?!  That's when I met Steve and Heidi, the makers of these delicious cookies. They said they used to have vegan on the front of the packaging, but found that people didn't understand how good vegan cookies could be so they moved the vegan statement to the back of the package. Okay, fine.

The cookies are called Sandcastles -- they are little organic rye cookies made from whole grain rye and organic virgin coconut oil. They look like simple tea cookies, but their flavors are anything but simple. With flavors such as Vanilla Black Sesame, Marzipan, and Maple Dusted Cardamom, you know they aren't your typical cookie.

The first one I tried was the marzipan flavor and I couldn't believe how good it was. This little crumbly cookie was satisfyingly sweet with the goodness of almonds baked in.

The vanilla black sesame will blow you away. I promise. Vanilla, black sesame and sea salt - how did they even come up with this flavor? Amazing.

The maple dusted cardamom, however, is my favorite. It is the same amazing cookie, but with cardamom and I'm obsessed enough with Indian cuisine to love a cookie with cardamom. You will too!

Black + Blanco's cookies are about as healthy as a cookie could be as they are free of refined sugars, cholesterol, trans fat, dairy, preservatives, wheat, and GMO's. You may be wondering why one would use rye. Rye grain contains phenolic acids, lignans, alkylresorcinos and many other compounds with potential bioactivities. Research indicates that consuming whole grain rye has many benefits including: improved digestion and better blood sugar control, thereby reducing your risk for diabetes. All this in a cookie? You better believe it. Black + Blanco cookies are melt-in-your-mouth goodness (not literally) and you need to try one soon. They are mostly sold in NYC at the moment, but you can order them direct through their website here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich

We were looking for a quick and easy recipe to make on a Sunday night and I found the BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich recipe in Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. It was simple and easy, but I did modify it a little.

BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich
Serves 4-6

Ingredients for the slaw dressing
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 T plain soy milk (optional)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • Pinch of mustard powder
Ingredients for the slaw
  • 3 cups finely shredded purple or white cabbage
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • Pinch of dried dill
Other ingredients
  • 1 pound of seitan
  • Red onion, sliced (optional)
  • 1.5-2 cups barbeque sauce
  • Peanut oil for grilling
  • 4 hearty sandwich rolls
  • Vegan mayonnaise
First, prepare the slaw. Whisk together the slaw dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Tip: I found that the soy milk was unnecessary and actually made the dressing taste weird. Add the shredded cabbage, carrot, and dill. Toss to combine with dressing, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pour the BBQ sauce into a glass rectangular dish and keep it near the stove. Heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium heat and brush generously with peanut oil. I used my silicone pastry brush to do this. Place a layer of sliced seitan on the grill, brush with more peanut oil, and grill on each side for about 3 minutes until browned and sizzling. Use metal tongs or a fork to turn the seitan. Grill in two batches.

When cooked, toss the seitan in the BBQ sauce.  Brush the grill with a little extra peanut oil and grill the sauce-covered seitan in two batches, turning strips once. We also added red onion to this. The strips should be slightly browned and some of the edges just beginning to crisp when it's ready to remove from the pan. Place the seitan back in the glass dish. Grill the bread, if desired.

To assemble: spread mayonnaise on the rolls, pile the seitan on the bottom half of the rolls and the coleslaw on top and press down on the top of the rolls.

I thought the seitan had a great tangy taste to it that went well with the coleslaw.  Simple and easy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chia\Vie - Chia Smoothie Drinks

Chia has taken the world by storm as the most popular superfood of 2012. An ancient grain, this seed packs a nutritional punch of Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. In fact, chia contains one of the highest levels of naturally occurring essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in nature.

Chia\Vie is a new drink out on the market that contains chia seeds. But, it isn't just any drink -- it is the world's first bottled chia smoothie.  I've tried some other chia drinks and found I really didn't like drinking the gooey seeds. Chia\Vie provides the benefits of chia seeds without the gooeyness by grinding the chia seeds. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all three flavors had a great taste and smooth texture.

They are a lot like a Naked-brand smoothie, but thinner, and with ground chia seeds. I found the Mango-J to be pretty good. It contains orange juice concentrate, mango puree, apple juice concentrate, and banana puree.

The Acerola-Pina was a different flavor that I wasn't used to, but it just tasted like tropical orange juice.  The acerola berry is also known as the Barbados cherry. It has 32 times as much vitamin C as orange juice giving this smoothie 240% of your RDA for vitamin C!

The Banapple-Berry is made of banana, apple, blueberry, and blackberry puree. I found this one to be the lightest of the three and the one I'd choose to drink out and about as it wasn't as smoothie-tasting as the others.

All of the drinks are about 160 calories and 3 grams of fat per bottle. Chia\Vie has an interesting comparison chart of their drinks compared to Pom, Naked, Coke, and others. They claim they are the only drink to contain ALL of the following: the most omega-3s, the ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, antioxidants, all natural ingredients, and fiber while also slowing digestion and helping to control cholesterol. I think these drinks are a great alternative to the sugary drinks on the market and even to some of the healthier drinks on the market. To see where they are sold or to shop online, click here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seed Bistro, Los Angeles

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.

Seed Bistro, the sister restaurant to Seed Kitchen, is a new macrobiotic, organic, vegan restaurant that opened a few months ago in Los Angeles. Chef Eric Lechasseur, the owner and executive chef of both restaurants, specializes in vegan macrobiotic cuisine.

From the outside, the facade and logo are simple, yet understated. Inside, the restaurant is fairly small and bright with a green ceiling and yellow lights. There were only about three other tables occupied when I arrived. Once I was seated, I was immediately greeted by my waitress who asked if I'd like to start with a drink. I think I shall!  She recommended a glass of Carmenere from Santa Rita, Chile, which sounded great. This was a good choice.

I wasn't that hungry so I decided to just go with an entree and a dessert. The menu was not extensive, but there was a good variety of small plates, sides, salads, entrees, and even a raw option. Additionally, there were many specials that sounded great. I asked a lot of questions and ultimately went with the seitan pepper steak because it is made in-house. I love a good house-made seitan!  When it arrived, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting though. Because seitan is very hearty, it needs to be balanced with something light, which is what I thought the watercress was for. It was served with fork mashed potatoes and watercress, but the watercress was just wrapped with a carrot and served raw like a garnish. The plate was 3/4 seitan and 1/4 mashed potatoes with a garnish of watercress. The seitan pepper steak was incredibly hearty and rich with a peppery finish. It had a delightful texture that went well with the savory gravy. I was very pleased with the seitan. The potatoes were good too, but I really wanted a cooked vegetable with this dish. My only criticism is that it was a really heavy combination. But, don't get me wrong, the food was great!

For dessert, I ordered a special -- the chocolate mousse. Eric gets an A+ for presentation as this dish was beautiful. It was a chocolate mousse made with silken tofu, molded into a round disk and served on its side. It was surrounded by two crackers made with brown rice syrup and pralines and served with mixed berries, cashew cream, and pistachio nougatine. All of these flavors went together very well, but I really felt like the chocolate mousse needed some spice -- something unique that would make it stand out from other mousses. When I come to an semi-upscale restaurant, I expect to be wow'd and I just wasn't sure I was leaving wow'd.

I do love that Eric has expanded to a more upscale rendition of his other restaurant. The decor is classy and I like the use of color. I just think it should be a bit darker in the dining room. The food is good, but I think there is still some work to do in refining the recipes and combinations. The prices are very reasonable - surprisingly much lower than I had expected. The service was fantastic and Eric seems like a very nice guy. He was kind enough to come out and talk to me after my meal, which I always appreciate. I'll definitely be back and hope to discover new, interesting combinations from this up and coming restaurant in the future. I recommend checking it out if you are in the area.

Monday, July 23, 2012


The raw scene is really heating up (get it? - ha!) in DC -- first came Elizabeth's Gone Raw and now we have Goûter! Goûter is a new local business in DC that focuses on making the vegan lifestyle as approachable as possible. Goûter means "to snack" or "to taste" in French, which is exactly what they'd like people to do. It was founded by Violaine and Steve who formerly worked in the hospitality industry together. They teamed up to form this new company that focuses on creating raw organic vegan treats and providing home delivery of superfoods such as hemp seeds, trail mixes, raw drinks, and more.

Violaine, or V as she prefers to be called, contacted me to see if she could bring me some of her treats. I'd be silly to say "no!" So, V and Steve brought me some of their treats to try. They even live right up the street from me. So cool.

I have to admit I loved everything they brought me!  The first thing I tried was the crunchy sprout salad that was loaded with beets, apples, celery, and cabbage in a mustard vinaigrette. I just felt uber-healthy while eating it. I think fresh sprouts do that to me.

I also tried three flavors of her little macaroon-like treats. My favorite was the chocolate chip cookie bites. These raw wholesome bites were packed with deliciously raw cacao nibs, oats, and date paste. They were very dense and filling, but in a good way.

The other ones were great too. The chocolate cake bites were like raw chocolate macaroons. They had a great soft texture to them and seemed like just the right balance of nuts, coconut, cacao, and dates.

The vanilla macaroons also had a great flavor.

Lastly, I tried the superberry bark and oh, what a treat this was! It is thick, fresh, raw cacao with gojiberries, gooseberries, and mulberries.  The gooseberries provided a nice surprise to the typical gojiberries and a boost to the nutritional value. This bark was as silky as milk chocolate.

Goûter conducts classes and workshops at DC-area Whole Foods, makes their own fresh juices, and hosts a supper club here and there. I, for one, am really excited to see a new local raw business making such great food. They are even selling their treats at Budda B Yoga studio and Smucker Farms. For more info, just go to their Facebook page.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Salad with Asparagus & Olives and Oregano Balsamic Vinaigrette

After enjoying the spectacular vegan brunch at Todd Gray's Muse at the Corcoran, I was inspired by the Chef de Cuisine, Scott Gallegos. He created a delicious salad with grilled asparagus that inspired me to create something similar. I had a bag of the Pitted Salad Mix olives from Gloria's Harvest (see below for a coupon) that I wanted to use for something and this salad seemed perfect for them. I recently used their kalamata olives in a Greek Salad and discovered how amazingly fresh they are. They are imported from Greece, marinated in olive oil, and sealed in 8-layer bags that keep them fresh. They taste better than jarred olives and I think I may be turning the other cheek after having been a jarred olive lover since the beginning of time.

This salad meshes the flavors of roasted asparagus with olives complemented by the sweetness of roasted red peppers. Add my original balsamic oregano vinaigrette and you have yourself a perfect salad!

Salad with Asparagus & Olives and Oregano Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 8

Ingredients for Salad
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus 
  • Olive oil
  •  1 head of romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • About 35 salad olives (I used 3/4 bag of Gloria's Harvest pitted salad mix including kalamata, green, black, and blond olives)
Ingredients for Dressing
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 T oregano balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • Sea salt to taste

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. I used a panini grill -- a grill pan may also work. Hold one asparagus stalk at the white end and break it off. Wherever it breaks off is where you can slice the rest of the asparagus stalks as that has been established as the natural breaking point. Once the grill has heated up, brush the asparagus with olive oil and grill them until charred. This took 5 minutes on the panini grill.

Chop the bottom off the romaine lettuce and chop from the bottom up in 1-inch slices.  Place the lettuce in a large bowl.

Chop the roasted red peppers and put them in the bowl. Then, add the whole olives.

Once the asparagus is done, chop the stalks into three parts and add to the bowl.

Then, make the dressing. Put the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and sea salt in a bowl and whisk. Add as much dressing to your salad as desired.

I really loved the oregano balsamic vinegar I picked up in Austin at Con' Olio Oils & Vinegars. But, feel free to use any balsamic vinegar in this dish.

Bon appetit!

UPDATE: Gloria's Harvest is offering my readers 10% off any order through August 15. Please use the following coupon code when ordering online:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vinoteca, DC

After spending the evening in the theater, we headed over to Vinoteca for some light food and drinks. Vinoteca is a wine bar and bistro in the U Street Corridor located at the corner of U and 11th Streets NW. We had made reservations online for 10:30 p.m. not knowing that to make reservations you need to be eating dinner. So, when we arrived we were told we couldn't be seated at a table unless we were having dinner. We said that we'd be having a few bites and after some coercing, they allowed us to sit at one of the small two-person tables.

The bar area was packed, which is the area you sit in when you are just grabbing some glasses of wine. The tiny dining area was busy as well. But, this place isn't that big so it doesn't take too many people to fill it up. I really wasn't that hungry so I ordered a glass of wine. They have an excellent selection of wines by the glass here.

The wine I ordered was a French red by Chateau des Jacques (2009). It was a gamay with a medium body that had a hint of red cherries. It was very nice.  Zach ordered a Pinot Noir by Jezebel (2009) from Willamette Valley.  His was much lighter than mine also with hint of red cherries. This was a great pick as well.

Zach was hungry so he asked about the vegan options of which there were a few. He ordered the grilled hen of the woods mushrooms. The mushrooms were seared and served with baby leeks over white bean and truffle puree. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this dish was pretty good!

We also ordered the spicy pecans and figs. Yum.

(Sorry for the overexposed pic!)

The atmosphere felt more like a loud pick-up joint than a wine bar.  It was too loud for us to really hear each other because we were sitting very close to the bar. It isn't at all like a classy wine bar that offers separate seating for everyone. I think this is a good place to go with friends, but not so much with a date. I am glad that they have a few vegan small plates available and am pleased with the wine list, but, on this particular occasion, we would have preferred a quieter area to talk.

1940 11th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-9463