Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Match Meats - Stuffed Vegan Chicken Mediterranean Style

Match Meats is a brand of meat analogs (faux meats) made in St. Louis, Missouri. I have had these meats at a couple of Chinese restaurants and on pizza at District of Pi, but had never seen their packaged products until I stumbled upon them at Pangea. I decided to try the Stuffed Vegan Chicken Mediterranean Style.

The bag of 4 stuffed "chicken breasts" cost $11 -- pretty pricey, so, of course, I was expecting something special. I heated up my skillet with a couple tablespoons of oil and placed a breast in the pan, then covered it and cooked it for 5 minutes as per the directions.

I then flipped it and cooked it for another 7 minutes. When it was "done," I placed it onto my plate and tried it. It was cold. The directions do not allow it enough time to heat so I stuck it in the microwave for 1 minute, which seemed to heat it adequately.

Upon first bite, I really didn't like it. There was entirely too much going on in this breast. They stuffed it with a bunch of stuff such as vegan cream cheese, tofu, soy protein, sugar, spinach, sundried tomatoes, and kalamata olives. They also breaded the outside. I really didn't enjoy these at all. Not to mention that the calories and fat are outrageous!  In just one breast, there are 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 580 mg of sodium. Ugh.

You can see the stuffing here
I won't be buying these again. I'm not entirely turned off of Match Meats yet though. I know some of their other products are much better.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Busboys & Poets, DC

Busboys & Poets in the U Street Corridor has been one of my long-time favorite cafes in DC.  The owner, Andy Shallal, is a self-described artist, restauranteur, and activist. Since opening this location in 2005, they have since opened two others -- another in DC and one in Virginia. He also owns Eatonville, a southern restaurant right across the street that I reviewed recently.  When Busboys first opened, it was really known as an internet cafe. It has since grown to be a gathering place for individuals from all walks of life, often cited as one of the most diverse gathering spots in DC. They regularly have speakers, poets, and political activists (famous and non-famous) as well as live music and films.

The unfortunate result of their popularity is that Busboys is always packed. In my opinion, they are doing two things wrong -- (1) they allow the "internet cafe" people, that is, those who use the free wifi without buying anything, to sit there as long as they want taking up four very large tables that seat about 10 people each, and (2) they don't take reservations. This means that on a Friday night, you could wait 2 hours to be seated because the freeloaders using the wifi won't leave and they wouldn't allow you to make a reservation. And that sucks.

On this night, the Sunday after Hurricane Irene rolled through, I met my friend, David, there for dinner at 6 p.m. figuring that was a safe time at which we'd be seated immediately. I was wrong. There was a 15 minute wait while the freeloaders sat there joyously typing away. We went into the bookstore area and perused the books for a while and were called over to be seated soon thereafter.

We sat down and promptly ordered a couple alcoholic Lazy Lemonades as we looked at the menu.

One of the reasons this restaurant is so popular is that the food is usually pretty good and the prices are pretty reasonable. They also have a great selection of vegan appetizers, entrees, sandwiches, pizzas, and a calzone. As far as I know, this is the only place you can get a vegan calzone in DC complete with vegan pepperoni. Mmmm.

We decided to start with the vegan quesadillas as our appetizer. We placed our order and waited...and waited. About 20 minutes later, they brought our quesadillas out and they were overdone. I was pretty disappointed because they have always been perfect in the past. But, they were still edible so we consumed them as is. The quesadillas have roasted red peppers, grilled portobello mushrooms and onions, spinach, and soy cheese inside while they are topped with vegan sour cream. They are served with guacamole and pico de gallo.  They were still pretty good even though the tortilla was overcooked.  

After waiting way too long for our appetizers, our entrees came while we were eating our appetizers. I really don't like when that happens. We were both in the mood for the hot tempeh panini. I got mine with a fresh salad while David ordered the sweet potato fries.  I was also disappointed with this panini because it wasn't served on rosemary sun-dried tomato bread it was supposed to be served on, which is delicious, btw.  Instead it was on a sourdough bread, which was fine, but not nearly as good as the sundried tomato bread.  I wish the waitress would have informed us that they were out of the bread. Like the quesadiilas, it was still pretty good. The tempeh sandwich has vegan mayonnaise, roasted red peppers, arugula, and sauteed onions. The tempeh tastes like tempeh bacon. It is usually very good.

This review is written as more of a comparison to my other experiences because I've eaten here like 30 times. As I mentioned before, the food is usually really good. The food this time was still good, but not as good as usual and the service was definitely lacking.  Maybe if they had less internet people there, they could have focused on the paying customers. Just my two cents.

Busboys & Poets 
2021 14th Street NW 
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 387-7638

Busboys and Poets on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spicy Tofu Sandwich

While in Berkeley, California, I discovered a couple of interesting products that I wanted to try out. The first was the Tofu Life-brand Hot and Spicy naturally smoked organic tofu.

The other was vegan Miso Mayo made with red pepper, ginger and roasted jalapeno.

Zach and I put these two together to make a deliciously spicy sandwich!

We started off by slicing the tofu lengthwise and heating both pieces of tofu in a pan.

In the meantime, we took 2 ciabatta rolls and spread the spicy red pepper Miso Mayonnaise on one side of them.

Finally, we assembled each sandwich by placing a slab of tofu on top of the half of the ciabatta roll that had the Miso Mayo on it. We put a little more Miso Mayo on top and then topped it with spinach leaves and the other half of the ciabatta roll.

We were amazed at how spicy and how much flavor this tofu had and we loved the Miso Mayo too. It was a great combination!  I only wish I could find these two products in DC. For now, this will be one of the sandwiches I enjoy on the west coast.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cinnaholic, Berkeley

When I dream of baked goodie goodness, visions of cinnamon rolls dance in my head.  I haven't really had a cinnamon roll that knocked my socks off since going vegan, that is, until now. Cinnaholic is this amazing cinnamon roll utopia located in Berkeley, California.  Ever since seeing images of their rolls in VegNews, I've wanted to enjoy one and today was the day.

We spotted the orange awning from afar and parked right in front. When we walked in, we saw the specialty rolls on display and took a look at the menu. The possibilities are endless. You can top your roll with a variety of icings and toppings. It is a bit overwhelming. I mean, I really couldn't deal with it so after much hemming and hawing, I went for the specialty chocolate chip cookie dough roll.  Zach ordered a roll with mocha icing topped with brownie chunks and almonds. 

While we were ordering, one of those crazed Berkeley parking patrol people decided to ticket Zach's car -- a $43 parking ticket after about 3 minutes! You really need to watch it in this area. When Justin, the baker, rang us up, he told us he was allowed to give one free roll each day and he was giving it to Zach to help lessen the pain of the ticket. That was so nice!  He was really cool!

We sat down to enjoy the rolls at one of the tables. I had such high expectations that I was a bit worried they couldn't live up to them, but, boy, was I wrong. My roll was fresh and soft with a light vanilla icing. The chunks of cookie dough sprinkled with chocolate chips were an amazing complement to the icing. It all meshed together just as I had imagined. Wow!

Zach's was really, really good too. The mocha icing and brownie chunks were delish!  I found myself eating his and my roll at the same time.

Afterwards, we grabbed a brownie to go as well. As I was reluctantly moving towards the door, I noticed two tip jars. One was labeled "eat animals" while the other was labeled "love animals." Ack - eat animals?! I asked Justin why that was there and he said mostly to amuse himself and also to get people to make the connection. There was a little more money in the "eat animals" jar, which was very disturbing so I threw a buck into the "love animals" jar. Ha!

I now see why eating at Cinnaholic showed up in the bucket list of things every vegan should do before they die in VegNews. Yeah - this one should be on the top of your list.  These rolls are amazing! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Szechuan Eggplant

Continuing my voyage through The New Fast Food™: The Veggie Queen™ Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes by Jill Nussinow, I decided to cook the Szechuan Eggplant tonight. It continues to amaze me how great these dishes are turning out in so little time. This is really changing my life.  This one was delicious.

Szechuan Eggplant
Serves 4

  • 1 T sesame, grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced hot pepper (I used habanero bc I like it hot!)
  • 4-5 medium Asian, or other eggplant, to equal about 1.5 pounds, cut on the diagonal into pieces about 1.5 inches long and 3⁄4 inch wide
  • 1 teaspoon chile, or black bean, paste with garlic (I used Kikkoman black bean sauce w/garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce 
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sucanat or other sweetener (optional) 
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1-2 green onions, cut thinly on the diagonal
Start by heating the oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Then, add the ginger and hot pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the garlic and eggplant and saute for 2 minutes. Then, add the black bean paste, tamari, Sucanat, and broth and stir.

Lock the lid and turn the heat to high to bring it to high pressure. Then, lower the heat to maintain high pressure for 3 minutes. Use the quick release to release the pressure. Remove the lid by carefully by tilting it away from you. Stir in the green onion. Serve over rice - I like short grain brown rice.

And, that's it, a delicious meal in no time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CityZen, DC

Valentine's Day snuck up on us this year. There we were two weeks out and we still weren't sure where we'd spend it. By the time we finally decided to spend it in DC, we knew we'd have a hard time getting reservations. The good thing was that V-day fell on a Tuesday this year, but we decided to celebrate it the weekend before so we were thinking it wouldn't be too hard to get reservations. But, where should we go? There was one restaurant that has been in the back of my mind for a few years now and once I brought it up to Zach, he agreed that it was finally time to dine at CityZen.

CityZen has been rated in the top 10 restaurants in DC for a very long time. Located in the famous extravagant Mandarin Oriental hotel, this restaurant is known for its sophistication and ambiance. The chef, Eric Ziebold, was a recipient of the James Beard Award denoting ‘Best Chefs in America’, one of only ten chefs to receive this prestigious honor in 2008. Currently, this French American restaurant is ranked as the number six restaurant in DC by the Washingtonian. I called two weeks ahead of time and there was only one reservation left for the weekend -- 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night. It was a bit late for me, but I had to take what I could get.

We arrived around 8:30 p.m., an hour earlier than our reservation, and took a seat in the lounge in the bar area. As I took a look around, I was intrigued by the interesting contrast of contemporary architecture and accents with a traditional feel. A ring of fire lit up the bar as it illuminated the spirits just behind the bartender -- a nice touch.

After perusing the drink menu for a bit, we placed our orders. I went with the Sex and the CityZen -- a mixed drink with Ketel One Citroen vodka, raspberry puree, Triple Sec, and house-made sours. It was a perfect balance of sweet raspberries with light vodka.

At 9:30 p.m., they informed us that our table was ready. We were escorted to a table right in front of the open kitchen -- a perfect spot!

They handed us the impressive wine list and we were immediately overwhelmed. This was one of the most extensive wine lists we had ever seen. I gave it to Zach and after about 10 minutes, we requested to speak to the sommelier. Andy Myers, the sommelier, immediately came to our rescue touching on the notes of particular wines. Based on his recommendation, we went with the Francois Parent Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens (1999).

Once we placed our order for wine, our waitress approached us to discuss the menu. She already knew that I was ordering the vegan tasting menu without me having to say anything.  I did tell them when I made the reservation, but I usually have to tell my waitress as well. I was so impressed that she not only had this information, but was ready to explain to me how the vegetarian tasting menu would be altered to meet my needs. Zach went with the vegetarian tasting menu as is.

To start, I was served a canape of grilled artichoke and pepper coulis. The tiny piece of artichoke was grilled to perfection and paired with the sweet coulis -- a nice balance.

The bread was incredibly soft and fresh. There were three choices and they informed me that two were vegan so I tried both the ciabatta and whole wheat. The whole wheat was a bit denser than I wanted at the time so I ate mostly the ciabatta throughout the meal. The wine was a very light red from Burgundy with a rich nose. It was absolutely perfect for pairing with all of the courses. And I appreciated that it was served in Reidel glasses.

The first course was a Jerusalem artichoke salad with tangerines served with a tangerine-tamari vinaigrette and topped with micro arugula. They replaced the toasted oat mousse with kumquats, which was a delightful surprise.

The second course was a baby fennel bouillabaisse consisting of steamed fennel, sweet peppers, and celery branch in a saffron broth. The tempura fennel was a crunchy complement to the soft vegetables and light sauce.

The third course was a red beet chiboust with pickled yellow and red chioggia beets over sauteed spinach. Sultana raisins complement this hearty dish and shaved truffles topped off a spectacular taste sensation! Zach was beginning to get jealous of my vegan entrees!

The fourth course was a roasted rouelle of green savoy cabbage. This dish was impressive. The cabbage was rolled into this little log shape and served over toasted Farro and pumpkin. Little pickled mustard seeds decorated the green rouelle. Another delicious course.

The fifth course was the CityZen Boudin Noir. This course was my favorite. There were little cakes made of white corn flour (masa) and forbidden rice served over sweet potato puree with roasted pearl onions. It was delicious.

Instead of the cheese plate, we were served an intermezzo of blood oranges topped with sorbet.

Finally, for dessert, I was served passion fruit sorbet with carmelized bananas served over coconut tapioca. This was divine!

Just when I thought it was over, we were served sour apple pectins. (The ones that look different aren't vegan.)

All in all, this was a fantastic dinner! The food was to die for, the service was exquisite, and the wine was amazing. The chef, Eric Ziebold, even came out to talk to us. He inquired as to why I was vegan and we talked for a bit. He seemed like a great guy.  Oh, and I can not say enough about the service. They didn't even leave the wine bottle because there was no chance they'd let us run out of wine. They were attending to our every need all night long. I think it was the best service we'd ever had. The dinner was about $95 per person plus wine, tax, and gratuity so it was a pricey dinner, but well worth it. This is a great restaurant for a very special occasion. Highly recommended! 5 stars.

1330 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 787-6006

CityZen on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 20, 2012

Divvies - Cookies & Chocolate Bars

Lori Sandler is a cookie-making genius! She is the baker behind Divvie's, a bakery inspired by her son's life-threatening food allergies. She set out to create treats without dairy, eggs, or nuts that would be good enough to share and I think she has succeeded. Divvie's sent me a sampler package of two of their cookies and one of their chocolate bars to try. I couldn't wait to dig in!

Being a bit of a chocolate fanatic, I had to open the Choco-lot brownie cookies first. But, before I did, I admired the cute packaging, which is something they are known for. Their logo has cookies dotting the i's and the packaging looks great. But, do the cookies taste as good as they look? Oh my gosh, yes. The choco-lot brownie cookie is one of the best vegan chocolate cookies I've ever had. It is incredibly soft and moist and loaded with chocolate chips. It is melt in your mouth goodness with sugar on top, literally.

Then, I got to the sugar cookies. These cookies are harder than the choco-lot cookies, but they are still somewhat soft.  They also had sugar on the top of them. They were very good, but I would have preferred them to be a bit softer.

Lastly, I tried the chocolate bar.  I really wasn't that excited about it as I haven't been into peppermint in a while, but wow! First of all, again, love the packaging. It is called, "Bingo! Benjamint Crunch." When I opened it up, I noticed that the bar was divided so that 3/4 said "mine" and 1/4 said "yours." That is so cute.  The chocolate itself was delicious dark chocolate with little peppermint bits -- tasted like a peppermint patty and I loved it.

Divvie's has done an excellent job creating cookies, chocolate, and many other items without dairy, eggs, or nuts. I know they target their marketing towards kids, but this stuff is good enough for adults too. Trust me, you'll never know anything is missing!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wheatgrass Guy!

How much fun can you have at home with a packet of wheatgrass seeds? Lots! I was recently given a sampler wheatgrass growing kit that included a bag of wheatgrass seeds along with a container and some gel. The instructions stated to pour water into the gel and let it expand, then push the wheatgrass seeds underneath the gel. I did so and waited a few days, skeptical that this would yield anything, but wouldn't you know it...

Soon enough, I had a wheat grass guy!  I didn't actually juice the wheatgrass, but it did continue to grow for about a week. I just thought it was so cute, I had to share!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heritage India - Georgetown, DC

After dining at the Heritage India in Dupont Circle, I decided to give their other location a try. The host, Andrea Adleman, got in touch with me after my first review and told me there were more vegan options at their Georgetown restaurant.  How could that be?  There were plenty of vegan entrees at the Dupont Circle location so I was excited to see what else they could offer.

The location was pretty far outside of downtown Georgetown -- it was actually really in Glover Park. I guess they call it the Georgetown location because (a) it is close enough to Georgetown and (b) Georgetown sounds cooler than Glover Park.  It was a bit hard to find because we didn't see the Heritage India sign from the road -- we just saw the Heritage Asia sign. Little did we know, the restaurants are right next to each other.  The signs directed us into Heritage Asia and when we indicated that we came for Indian fare, they told us that they serve food for both restaurants in Heritage Asia during the day. The Heritage India dining space is only open in the evenings. As long as we could still get our Indian food, we didn't care where we sat so that was fine with us.

The restaurant was empty on this cold Saturday afternoon. The menu looked completely different than their other location's. They appeared to have many vegan options, but they did not show some of the ones Andrea had mentioned like the vegetable jahlfrezi and vegetable vindaloo. When I inquired about these dishes, the waitress said she wasn't sure they offered them. She checked with the manager and came back and said they do offer those, but they aren't on the menu.

I decided to start with a mango juice while Zach continued to peruse the menu. The restaurant's decor was much more traditional than that of the one in Dupont. It was a much more casual feel from the furniture and tapestries on the wall to the casual dress of the servers. But, remember, we weren't actually in Heritage India -- we were in Heritage Asia's dining room.

We placed an order for the Aloo Tikki appetizer. It took them an extraordinary amount of time to prepare this appetizer so we were pretty hungry by the time it arrived. When it did, it appeared to have yogurt sauce on it. I asked the waitress if it was vegan and she said it was. When I asked if the sauce was yogurt, she confirmed that it was and asked if I didn't eat yogurt. I was getting scared. Once I clarified my dietary preferences, they apologized and made us a new one. And once we were able to try it, we found it to be incredibly good. The dish consisted of spicy mashed potato cakes that were formed into the shape of pears! They were really cool! They were served with spicy chickpeas that had tomato, onion, and cilantro on top. We loved this dish.

Aloo Tikki

For our entrees, we ordered the Vegetable Vindaloo and the Aloo Gobi Masala. The Vegetable Vindaloo consisted of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, and potatoes in a spicy tomato curry with jalapenos and cilantro on top. This curry was incredibly flavorful and great with the basmati rice.

Vegetable Vindaloo
We had also ordered Naan, which was pretty good.

The Aloo Gobi Masala was a dish of potatoes and cauliflower cooked with tomatoes and spices -- it had a really unique taste. The flavors were amazing!

Aloo Gobi Masala

So while there was a long wait for the food, it was definitely worth the wait. The service, however, leaves much to be desired -- not only did the waitress not understand what vegan meant, she also didn't check on us much. We ended up spending nearly two hours there for lunch as we sat and waited for her to check on us. The dishes were reasonably priced at about $10 - $13 each while the appetizer was only $5. The location is in a weird area where there aren't many other good restaurants, but I'd definitely come back. This is a great place to go for more-traditional Indian food in a casual setting.

Heritage India
2400 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-3120

Heritage India and Heritage Asia Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon