Friday, August 31, 2012

KUR Organic Superfoods - Delights

KUR Organic Superfoods may be new to the American scene, but not to the Scandinavian scene where they have been pumping out KUR Delights since 2007. KUR Delights are bite-size treats that were developed in Denmark by a dedicated group of health nuts who wanted to create an everyday sweet snack that would be gluten-free, vegan, without any added sugars, and made of all-natural ingredients including organic dried fruits, spices, natural oils, and nuts. Sounds good, right?!

I got ahold of all three flavors -- coconut cream, brownie, and dark chocolate mint.  Because their main ingredient is dates, these treats are very soft and because they are all natural, they really taste like a healthy treat. Don't take that for not being good - they have a great taste as well!

My favorite was the Coconut Cream flavor! Imagine dates pressed with ground cashews and rolled in shredded coconut. Sinfully delicious!

The Chocolate Mint flavor was loaded with cacao and cacao nibs so you had the strong, delightful bite of cacao highlighted by the essential oil of peppermint.

The Brownie flavor caught me by surprise because it wasn't really like a brownie, rather it was more like a good raw date-chocolate treat. The only thing I didn't favor was the added essential oil of orange because I'm not a big fan of the chocolate orange flavor. That said, they were still tasty and I still ate them all. :)

I love that these treats are on the market now because they are a great alternative to high-fat cookies and other baked goods. Oh, and did I mention they are raw; non-GMO verified; Kosher, vegan and gluten-free certified; with no additives, chemicals, or sweeteners?!  To locate a store near you selling KUR Delights, check their store locator here. If you don't see any stores in your area, don't worry -- they are new to the U.S. and are working on rapidly expanding their distribution so they should be in your area soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nature's Express, Berkeley

Zach and I headed to Berkeley to eat at Nature's Express, a small cafe that I had heard good things about. The first thing I saw when we walked up to the front door was a banner that said "Kick-Ass Vegan Food." Love it!

This all-vegan cafe offers an incredible variety of burgers, burritos, wraps, sandwiches, salads, soups, and sides. It was so hard to choose, but the people working there were a big help in helping us understand the differences between the selections.

The dining room was rather small and kind of reminded me of a New York cafe.  Most of the people who were coming in were grabbing items to go. While we waited, I sipped on my water and Zach tried almond water for the first time. It seems like they are making water out of anything these days. As a big fan of coconut water, I wanted Zach to try the almond water to see if he'd like it. He thought it was a bit too sugary. I would agree.

After about 15 minutes, they brought our food out - served fresh. I ordered a salad along with the Cheezy Mushroom Chik-un Melt.  They weren't kidding about how good this sandwich was. The seitan patty, which was made fresh in-house, was incredibly thick and delicious. It was grilled with mushrooms and Daiya cheese and topped with mayonnaise, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. I was amazed at how good it was.

The Essential Greens salad was just as good. I loved how they shredded the kale with collard greens and topped it with a lemon-garlic dressing. The collard greens gave the salad a natural spiciness. It was definitely one of the best kale salads I've ever had.

Zach ordered the Classic Grilled Reuben, which was also delicious. The marinated tempeh was layered with Daiya cheese, sauerkraut, and pickles with their own Thousand Island dressing, served on rye bread. Zach was impressed.

The sandwich was served with a side of sweet potato fries, which were also pretty good.

I think the most amazing thing about this restaurant was their prices. I would have paid $9 - $11 each for these types of sandwiches in DC or NY, but here they were under $7!  And, they were amazing! This is definitely the kind of restaurant that should begin expanding across the U.S. I'd compare it to a Native Foods -- perhaps not quite as good, but could be with a little tweaking. This cafe should be on your must-visit list for northern California. Highly recommended!

Nature's Express
1823 Solano Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 527-5331

Nature's Express on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gardein - Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Wings

Gardein is a gift from above. It is one of the best faux meat products out there both in taste and texture. Zach and I were looking for a quick and easy lunch and as soon as we saw these sweet and tangy barbecue wings in the freezer, we knew we had a winner.

We followed the directions and sauteed them over medium heat until brown on both sides. Because we didn't use oil, they stuck to the pan a bit.

We then tossed them in some barbecue sauce (included) and served them with the rest of the barbecue sauce. And, wouldn't you know it, they were sweet and tangy!

Although there aren't many in the package, they are pretty satisfying and make for a great appetizer or meal paired with a salad.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Gibson, DC

In November of 2008, I had heard that a great new lounge had opened on 14th Street -- a speakeasy-type lounge with incredible drinks. But, where was it? I walked this block every day and hadn't noticed any new places. I finally got ahold of the address and realized it was in the building next to Marvin with the unmarked door - clever. It reminded me of the secret raves from back in the day, but really it is supposed to be more like the secrecy that marked the Prohibition era and that contributed to the mystery of this lounge. Considering it is owned by Eric Hilton of the Thievery Corporation who also owns Marvin, it makes sense that it would be next door.

Since its opening, The Gibson has expanded to two floors and three different areas at which you may enjoy their drinks. The first floor is for reservations only, that is, unless they have some open seats. If you are so lucky, you could snag a table on this floor just by walking in, but it isn't likely. I was able to do that once, but have never been able to do that again. The second floor is for walk-ins. During the summer, there is also an outside patio.

I have had drinks on the first and second floors, but not the patio, where I hear they have a separate menu. My experience on the second floor hasn't been that great. In the past, when I've sat there, I haven't had great service. It is a much less formal atmosphere with chairs and coffee tables spread out across many different rooms.

On this particular occasion, Zach and I were meeting two friends so we made reservations for a table on the first floor for 4 at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. When I arrived, I was carded by the usual guy who works the door who, I should mention, often wears a skinny tie.  The first floor is my favorite of the two floors. It is always dimly lit and has great ambiance. If you are lucky enough to be seated in one of the booths, you can watch the bartenders show off as they shake their drinks. This time though we were seated at a table in the room towards the back of the lounge where the bar was out of sight.  This floor seats 48 total at the bar, tables, and booths. They do not allow standing so it never feels crowded. Our reservation only held the table for 2 hours so I was anxious for everyone to arrive. Within 10 minutes, everyone was seated and we placed our drink orders. The drinks are very strong and very unique. You either love them or you hate them and because of that, they are happy to take drinks back if you really don't like them. With that in mind, I decided to try something new -- the Doe Eyed Farce. This is a vodka drink using Bison Grass vodka with Dolin Rouge vermouth, Dolin Blanc vermouth, orange bitters and Goldschlager. I really liked this one.

My friend, Fernando, ordered the Whisper, which had Rothman and Winter Apricot liqueur, Hayman's Old Tom, Lemon Juice, Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, and champagne. It was light and refreshing.

When I finished my first drink, I decided to order my old favorite, which is no longer on the menu -- the Relapse. They always make it for me when I ask even though it came off the menu a while ago. This is currently my favorite drink in DC because it is really spicy and well-balanced. It has ginger liquor and maple syrup as well as hellfire bitters, which give it its spice. My other friend ordered it and loved it as well.

I should mention that some of these drinks are made the way they were back in the day -- with egg whites so be sure to let them know you prefer vegan drinks if you do.

While we were enjoying our drinks, we asked about the dining menu. At one point, they were offering small plates of food, but for some reason they ceased that. Now they just offer some items to nibble on. I placed an order for the truffled nuts. They were okay, but I thought there was way too much truffle oil baked into these nuts, which took away from the flavor of the nuts themselves.

At midnight, they brought us our check. It wasn't too bad. Even though the drinks are amazingly unique, they aren't overpriced at all as they range from $11 to about $16 each. All in all, it was a good night. The service at The Gibson is always good and the drinks are always something to look forward to.  Considering that Derek Brown was hired to help open this lounge many years ago, it is no wonder that The Gibson and Derek's own bar, The Columbia Room at the Passenger, are my two favorite places for drinks in DC. Highly recommended.

The Gibson
2009 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 232-2156

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just Pure Foods - Raw Snacks

I was hanging out with some of my friends at a booth during a food show in California when a guy came up to the booth and told us about some amazing chocolate kale chips that he had found. Well, I knew I couldn't leave the show without trying them. That is when I discovered Just Pure Foods founded by Justin Feldman in Commerce, California.  Just Pure Foods makes vegan, raw, gluten-free snacks with mostly organic ingredients. But, what really makes this company stand out is that they've created new raw snacks that I've never seen before.

The Cocoa Kale Chips are an example of this. These chips are incredibly delicious. Talk about a healthy dessert! The kale chips are covered in cacao paste, seasoned with sweet agave and mesquite powder, and finished with vanilla bean. The texture is this perfectly crunchy kale chip that melts in your mouth. I'd call it delightfully different.

Next up are their Seasoned Zucchini Sticks, which are zucchini sticks covered in sprouted buckwheat, tamari, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, mesquite powder, salt, and spices.  These were crunchy as well and I served them with a veggie burger and ate them with on the side with some ketchup. What a great alternative to fries!

Now I've had dehydrated tomato chips before and they are usually pretty soft. I'm not sure how Just Pure Foods gets their snacks so crunchy, but it makes them very palatable. Their Spicy Jalapeno Tomato chips have some great spice to them. I dipped them in hummus for a great mid-day snack.

I tried their Cheesy Kale Chips as well, which are unlike any other kale chips I've ever had. The combination of sprouted sunflower seeds, carrots, onion, and chickpea miso gave them a completely different flavor than I'd ever had before. They weren't spicy, just cheesy.

Lastly, I tried their Crispy Onion Rings. Again, super crispy! I tried them right out of the bag at first and found the taste to be a bit strong, but once atop a veggie burger, they were perfect. In fact, the crispy onion rings complemented the soft veggie burger well. And they are made with ingredients such as zucchini, hemp seeds, sprouted buckwheat and sprouted flax seeds so you know they are good for you.

All of their snacks are made from fresh produce and whole foods without any flavor enhancers, additives, or preservatives.  If you are seeking some new raw snacks that have very different flavors -- different than anything you've ever had before, look no further. You can order them online at Just Pure Foods. Now, I'm going to try a bowl of cocoa kale chips in almond milk...goodness, that sounds good!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vegan Brunch at Muse - August 2012 - Giveaway Winner!

I get so excited when I prepare to announce giveaway is just so fun! Anyway, the winner this month is most deserving because she wrote in my comment box, "Thank you for your blog!"  Well, thank you for thanking me!!  But, seriously, that isn't why she won. As always, a random number generator picked the number and the number it picked was lucky number 13 and that was Catherine Cooke's position in the spreadsheet.

Congratulations Catherine Cooke! You have won a complimentary brunch for two this Sunday at Todd Gray's Muse at the Corcoran!

Update: Unfortunately, Catherine Cooke can no longer make it to the brunch. However, fortunately, Katie Shamp of Compassion Over Killing won the second time I drew names! Congrats, Katie!

When I asked all who entered for a chance to win which items they were most excited about, the votes weren't surprising:
  1. Vegan Black Mission Fig Blintzes
  2. Vegan Cheese and Potato Croquettes
  3. Vegan Deviled Eggs with Whipped Tofu "Yolks" and Cavi-art®
We are definitely on the same wavelength because I, too, am most excited about these menu items!! 

Other items you'll enjoy at this brunch include:
  • Barbecued Tofu with Sweet Corn Salad
  • Vegan Pancakes with Summer Berry Compote
  • Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomato and Lemon Citronette
  • Heirloom Watermelon Salad with Jicama, Serrano Chili, and Lime
  • Farmers Market Salad
  • Summer Vegetable and Chickpea Burgers (passed)
Oh my gosh, I'm getting hungry. Anyway...please join me this Sunday at Muse! I'll see you there!

Other Info
The price for adults is $25, which does not include cocktails. Children age 12 or younger dine for $12. Reservations are recommended. There will be two seatings: 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. To make yours, email

Muse at the Corcoran
500 Seventeenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roasted Asparagus with Sliced Almonds

This is a simple roasted asparagus side dish that makes a great accompaniment to a pasta, risotto, or casserole dish.

Roasted Asparagus with Sliced Almonds
Serves 3-4

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Trim the asparagus and chop off the bottom of each stalk. Place the asparagus stalks and toasted almonds in a glass baking dish. Toss them in olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.

Roast for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sophie's Kitchen - Breaded Vegan Shrimp

Vegan seafood - huh?! That is what is on Sophie's Kitchen's website and is exactly what everyone is thinking. How does one make vegan seafood that tastes authentic?  By using Konjac - elephant yam root, that's how. This root has been used by the Japanese for centuries as a high source of fiber with very few calories. Using this root, Sophie's Kitchen has created sustainable vegan seafood products that taste great.

I already tried the calamari and fish fillets, both of which I loved. This time, Zach and I decided to try the breaded vegan shrimp. We wanted to serve the shrimp with cocktail sauce so we found a great sauce made by Wine Country Kitchens in Napa Valley. Beware -- many cocktail sauces contain fish products so be sure to look for a vegetarian sauce.

When we got home, we thawed the shrimp, then placed them on a baking sheet and baked them according to the instructions. The shrimp are made of the konjac powder along with potato starch, paprika, agave nectar, sea salt, cargeenan, alginate from seaweed, and calcium hydroxide. The breading is made of buckwheat, oat, barley, millet, and flaxseed. They are all-natural and contain no artificial ingredients.

We served them cocktail style in little martini glasses with cocktail sauce in the middle. The result was delicious breaded vegan shrimp paired with a horseradish-based cocktail sauce that would please any crowd. The texture was similar to the calamari, but with the shape and color of shrimp. And I really thought it tasted like shrimp.  Zach said it was similar, but not exactly the same. Well, that is to be expected. What a great alternative and a great way to have the taste of shrimp without the cruelty!

What do they look like without the breading? I stripped one down so you could see.

I am such a big fan of Sophie's Kitchen's products that I am beginning to feel like I should be paid for marketing for them! Eh, I get my satisfaction from sharing my experiences with my readers. I hope you have the chance to try the shrimp as well. I have not been able to find it in my area, but it is currently available in northern California. For more information on where to find these products, check here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vegan Brunch at Muse - August 2012 - Giveaway!

This month, the chefs at Todd Gray's Muse at the Corcoran are ready to impress! They've been working all month to come up with a new, exciting menu that is guaranteed to blow you away. Theis month, they are introducing one passed item as well in addition to the buffet items. And I am pleased to announce yet another giveaway for a complementary brunch for two (worth $50)!

Brunch will be served buffet-style in the cafe in the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  

The menu for Sunday, August 26 is as follows:
  • Vegan Cheese and Potato Croquettes
  • Vegan Black Mission Fig Blintzes
  • Barbecued Tofu with Sweet Corn Salad
  • Vegan Deviled Eggs with Whipped Tofu "Yolks" and Cavi-art®
  • Vegan Pancakes with Summer Berry Compote
  • Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomato and Lemon Citronette
  • Heirloom Watermelon Salad with Jicama, Serrano Chili, and Lime
  • Farmers Market Salad
  • Summer Vegetable and Chickpea Burgers (passed)

I must say that I am most excited about the cheese and potato croquettes! Just tell me which menu item excites you the most for a chance to win the complementary brunch for two!

Giveaway details:
  • Prize: Complimentary brunch for two (not including cocktails) on Sunday, August 26 (not transferable)
  • Seating time: must choose either 11 a.m. or 12:45 p.m.
  • Deadline to enter: Thursday, August 23  by 5 p.m. EST
  • Winners will be announced on this blog on Friday, August 24
Good luck!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Masa 14, DC #2

Masa 14 just opened its rooftop a few months ago and even though it has been unbearably hot, me and couple of my friends ventured up there for a Friday night happy hour.  I have always thought that Masa 14 has one of the best happy hour scenes in DC -- good food and drinks for a great price at a great venue.

The rooftop is really nice -- half of it is enclosed with a bar that is backlit at night and the other half is an outside wooden deck.  On this particular night, the weather was beautiful so we sat outside. It was cooler than usual and a bit cloudy, which was a welcome change from most other nights that week when the sun was beating down on us.

I started with an order of a mojito. The mojitos, margaritas, and strawberry lemonades are just $4 from 5 to 7 p.m. every day of the week (including weekends!) as are the small plates. The service was a bit spotty as it seemed like one woman was working all of the tables outside. I really don't know how she did it. At one point she told me she completely blanked on my drink and had to take my order again. Disappointing, but understandable.

After a while, we decided to place some orders for small plates. It was at that point that I realized that the menu for the rooftop was completely different than the menu downstairs. In fact, instead of the happy hour menu being mostly vegan, there were no vegan options. Oh, my. The waitress said that the kitchen was separate upstairs and that they weren't able to make the food that is on the downstairs menu up there. Further, she was not allowed to run downstairs to get the dishes to bring them back up to the rooftop. Well, that was a bummer. Then, we came up with an idea. She asked if we could go downstairs to grab food and bring it back up. The waitress said that would be fine. Okay, great!

The new bar on the top floor.
I went downstairs and placed an order for a couple dishes, then came back downstairs to pick them up 10 minutes later. It was at that point that two different people told me that I was not allowed to do that. What gives? If you don't want me to have to come downstairs to order food, perhaps you should put some vegan options on the upstairs menu. Not a novel idea, I'm sure. With that, they stopped hassling me. Oh, and I was nice about it.

So, I was happy with my spicy edamame and my favorite crunchy wok-fried okra with spicy ponzu sauce. I really love that okra. At some point though, I left to go to the restroom and they took my half-filled bowl of edamame away. I was not happy. So, we complained to the waitress and the manager brought me another bowl. Happy again.

We ended up staying and having drinks until after 10 p.m. It was a gorgeous night and there was a great vibe up there. Other than the issues with the menu, I'd definitely go back. I'm only hoping they'll add vegan options to the happy hour menu upstairs as that is a huge draw for us vegans. Or they could at least allow individuals to get food downstairs without hassle. Worst case scenario - I guess I'll just have happy hour downstairs next time. Either way, I still like this place and am looking forward to coming back.

Masa 14
1825 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 328-1414

Masa 14 on Urbanspoon