Friday, November 30, 2012

Conscious Cravings, Austin

From a culinary perspective, Austin offers delicious, fresh vegan fare at extremely low prices. When I started researching the city, I was amazed with how many vegan/vegetarian restaurants there were! I found it very difficult to choose the eight places we would eat during our 4-day stay there, but one of the places I definitely wanted to hit was Conscious Cravings.

On our first day in Austin, we set out to explore the city. Our first stop would be Conscious Cravings. They have three locations and we were heading to the one on Rio Grande. Their website said they were in the Longhorn Food Court. Little did we realize, this was actually a food truck park. Ha! We looked over at the trailer and realized that was our destination!  In DC, there is definitely a food truck phenomena, but the food trucks are in different places every day. In Austin, they are mostly stationary trailers located in a lot with other food trucks/trailers. They even have permanent addresses. It wasn't what we were expecting, but we were still game!

While their menu is short and simple, all of the items seemed appetizing. From the spicy chickpea wrap to the pan seared tofu, it all sounded delicious!  Zach and I both wanted the same item so he gave in and ordered something else so we could try a couple of different things. He is such a good sport. We placed our orders and sat down at the shaded picnic tables. Because everything is made fresh, we waited about 15 minutes for our food, but it was worth it.

I ordered an organic flavored lemonade, which was delicious, and a chimichurri seitan wrap.

Conscious Cravings is all about fresh, organic, local food, which I love. The seitan is housemade and grilled to perfection. I seriously could have eaten it by itself. But, to make it even better, it was slathered in their homemade green chimichurri sauce and paired with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Top it with Daiya and you are in pure heaven. They even grilled the wrap so it was crisp. I mean, this was one of the best wraps I've ever had.

Zach ordered the bella, which was grilled portabella mushroom topped with onions and olives and dressed in herbed vegan mayo. It was also topped with Daiya. It was incredibly fresh, but was definitely missing something. We decided it needed more sauce. So he got more of the herbed mayo and some Sriracha and added it to the wrap, which made it perfect.

We also ordered some of the rosemary salty fries, which were really good.

The total of both of our meals with drinks was $16. Unbelievable. These wraps were better than most wraps I would normally pay $10 for in any other cafe!   I would put Conscious Cravings at the top of my list of all places I ate at in Austin. It is definitely worth stopping by. They mentioned they may actually move into a brick and mortar location soon. I think that would be great. Either way, I'll be back for more the next time I'm in the area.

Conscious Cravings
1901 Rio Grande
Austin, TX 78705
(512) 782-0546

Conscious Cravings (Trailer) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 29, 2012

RawONE Flax Crackers - Rawritos

Doritos are not a snack that I miss -- they are loaded with crap like maltodextrin, cheese, and artificial color -- stuff that I don't eat anymore. So, the name of Rawritos wasn't that appealing to me, but that is about the only negative thing I have to say about these chips. I discovered Rawritos in the Tampa Whole Foods as they are made by a local company named "RawONE." I was on my way out of Tampa so I carefully packed them in my suitcase hoping that they wouldn't be smashed into smithereens by the time I got home. Luckily, they weren't!

Upon first taste, these Rawritos impressed me with their flavorful crunch. Imagine golden flaxseeds pressed together and dehydrated with a bouquet of spices such as tomato powder, red bell pepper powder, coconut powder, nutritional yeast flakes, and cayenne pepper. These chips are so delicious that they stand alone -- no hummus or spread needed!

And, they are an excellent source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Oh, and did I mention that they are made with love? Yep, they are -- it says so on the package. If you come across these in the supermarket, don't pass them up!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Great Sage, Clarksville, MD #4

With the recent closing of three vegetarian/vegan restaurants in the metro DC area, Great Sage is now the only non-ethnic vegan restaurant open daily for lunch and dinner within 30 miles of DC. Sadly, it's true. So on this Saturday, my mother and I went to check out the newly released fall 2012 menu.

Despite it being in the middle of the day, the dining room was still very busy. We were seated towards the back of the restaurant and were immediately greeted with a couple glasses of water. Our server approached the table and we both ordered a glass of wine.  I know it is just lunch, but, hey, it was after 2 p.m. so why not?!

Our server kept approaching us as we took our time discussing the menu items. He had a coarseness to him that was undesirable by us at the time and he really rubbed us the wrong way. He mentioned his favorite dishes when he first approached us, then later when I asked him about one item, he seemed annoyed and remarked, "do you think I'd lie to you?" He was indicating that he already mentioned that item was good. Geez, pipe down, brother.  So we placed our orders.

We both started with the raw Mediterranean salad. The small "side" salad was huge! The crisp romaine heart leaves were piled high with red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and red onion along with crunchy sprouts in a lemon garlic dressing and a dollop of hummus. This salad was way too salty. It tasted like they dumped the entire container of salt into the hummus. It was also way too big for a small salad.

Next, they dropped off my mother's tempeh reuben and brought me some sort of sandwich. I then told them that I ordered enchiladas. My server apparently put in the wrong order for me. I nibbled at the tempeh reuben while I waited [for a long time] for my entree. I think they really need to improve on their reuben. They could learn a lot from Chicago Diner on this one.

Finally, my pumpkin enchiladas arrived. Luckily, they were worth the wait. The enchiladas were filled with pumpkin, black beans, roasted corn, cilantro, and chilis and topped with some sort of vegan sour cream and mole. They were delicious. They were served atop a Spanish quinoa that was cooked with tomatoes. Did I mention that after suggesting a hot sauce, the server still forgot to bring this?! After adding both hots and hot sauce to this dish, I enjoyed it even more.

I was way too full to enjoy dessert, but my mother insisted I take one home so I ordered the new pumpkin pie. It was served with caramel sauce and some sort of vegan cream. It was a great pumpkin pie.

So, in the end, some of the dishes were great and some were not, their prices are on the high end for lunch in Maryland at $13 per entree, and the service left much to be desired. In fact, it was nearly 15 minutes before he brought us the check. That is not to mention his bad, sarcastic attitude throughout the meal despite our attempts to be pleasant. I'm sure I will be back next season, but not anytime soon.

Previous reviews
June 7, 2011
July 12, 2012
September 25, 2012

Great Sage
5809 Clarksville Square Drive
Clarksville, MD 21029
(443) 535-9400

Great Sage on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dr. Cow - Aged Cashew Cheese

There I was at Pangea to pick up a few things when I remembered they had Dr. Cow's nut cheeses. In my head, I always debate about whether I should buy the tiny little cheeses for $10 and my taste buds always win. I've reviewed their kale and blue green algae cheeses here, which were both very sharp. This time I decided to try just their plain aged cashew cheese.

Dr. Cow, based in New York, makes cheeses from raw, organic nuts. They mix the raw nuts with homemade acidophilus and a little royal pink Himalayan salt and age them to perfection. Dr. Cow makes some of the best vegan, raw cheeses you can buy that can be eaten right out of the package.

This particular flavor of plain aged cashew cheese is the most versatile flavor I've ever had. Made of just those three ingredients (cashews, acidophilus, and Himalayan pink salt), this cheese is much milder than the other two I've tried, therefore, making it a great cheese to eat on crackers and to pair with wine.  And, without any preservatives, artificial ingredients or additives, it is 100% natural.

The only bad thing about this cheese is that it was so smooth, that we finished it in one sitting. But, that's because it was so damn good so no regrets by us and no judging by you. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Eatonville, DC #3

Eatonville is a southern restaurant located in the U Street Corridor area of DC. I've reviewed this restaurant twice before so I won't spend a lot of time talking about the restaurant or decor. On this particular occasion, I wanted to try the new vegan items on the menu as they have yet another new chef.

I started with one of my favorite drinks -- the Grown & Sexy. I think I just like ordering this drink because of its name.  It is made with Grey Goose, pomegranate juice, and lemonade. Sweet and sassy!

For my appetizer, I wanted to try the vegan gumbo that has been on the menu for ages. This dish was huge, but delicious! It is a tomato-based stew made with okra, zucchini, yellow squash, corn, carrot, onion, and celery that is served with a mound of rice in the middle. The flavors meshed together so well and I loved how spicy it was. I had half of it wrapped up to go as this dish was the size of a regular lunch.

For my entree, I ordered the pan-seared tofu. It was interesting because I had expected there to be pan-seared tofu. Instead, I was served breaded tofu. That was fine, but it wasn't what I was expecting. The breading was perfectly molded around the tofu, which made the tofu have a fish filet look and taste. It was served with a chimichurri sauce that was incredibly flavorful along with a mushroom risotto. I really liked this dish, but, again, it was huge. It was one of those dishes that I finished, but later wished I hadn't.

Generally, I really enjoy eating at Eatonville. The atmosphere is nice, the service is good and the prices are reasonable. And, it is in a great area.  I hope they'll be adding more vegan dishes soon.

Previous reviews
Eatonville #1
Eatonville #2  

2121 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 332-9672

Eatonville on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sauerkraut Salad with Pecans and Vegan Feta Cheese

I was trying to think of a unique way to use the Wildbrine Red Beet & Cabbage Sauerkraut I had in the refrigerator and thought, 'why not make a salad?!' As a result, I've mixed the delicious flavors of Wildbrine's raw Red Beet & Cabbage sauerkraut with pecans and vegan feta.

Sauerkraut Salad with Pecans and Vegan Feta Cheese


Place some sauerkraut salad in a bowl and top with crumbled soy feta and halved pecan halves. It is that easy. This is a quick, easy, healthy salad that is satisfying as well.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Moo Moo's Vegetarian Cuisine - Poblano Chickpea Patties

As I was walking through MOM's, a local organic grocery store in Maryland, I stumbled across a line of frozen meals I hadn't seen before. The company is called "Moo Moo's Vegetarian Cusine" and they offer vegetarian and vegan meals in the frozen foods section.

I picked up the Poblano Chickpea Patties to try the next day. The patties are made of chickpeas, brown rice, kettle cooked chili onions, and roasted poblano and red bell peppers. They are served over roasted corn salsa. They were soft and spicy, but pretty grainy. They went well with the salsa, but I found myself wishing there was more salsa as the patties were pretty dense.  What was surprisingly shocking was that the entire meal was only 230 calories and 3 grams of fat. You can't argue with that!

Overall, these were pretty good and I love that they are so low in calories and fat. I think they are a nice option if you are looking for something different. I'm looking forward to trying more of this line.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Busboys & Poets, DC #2

Busboys & Poets continues to be one of the hottest spots for brunch in DC. I almost never go out for brunch mostly because by noon, I'm really in the mood for lunch. But, if I do go out, I'll either go to Muse, which offers the only all-vegan brunch in the city, or I'll go to places that actually offer some lunch items. And because most restaurants in DC have a special brunch menu until at least 3 p.m., that means nothing but breakfast items until dinner. Not cool. So, on this rare occasion, Zach and I went to Busboys because they just came out with a couple new vegan lunch options on their menu that are available during brunch.

Well, needless to say, when we arrived at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday, it was packed, as usual. There were many people already on the waiting list and I was really disappointed to find out there was an hour-long wait. Ugh. Busboys & Poets also houses a bookstore so those waiting can peruse the books, which makes it a little better, but we were hungry and not in the mood to peruse. So, we started scouting the bar. I noticed that there was an open stool and took a seat and soon thereafter someone left and voila! within 15 minutes, we had seats at the bar. It wasn't exactly what we had wanted, but it was better than an hour-long wait, that's for sure!

I immediately ordered a mimosa, which was pretty disappointing. It was incredibly watered down. I returned it for my staple drink -- the pomegranate lemonade, which is always good.

During brunch, breakfast and sandwiches are available while appetizers, pizza, and entrees are not. Well, at least they offer the lunch sandwiches so I can't complain too much. As I mentioned, there is a new-ish sandwich on the menu - a vegan tuna salad that was particularly intriguing so I ordered that along with a mixed greens salad.

The artwork and the patrons are eclectic. Busboys is said to attract one of the most diverse set of patrons of any cafe in DC as it is owned by a peace activist. There are poetry readings, book signings, and political speakers on a regular basis.

After a while, our food was served. I absolutely loved my vegan tuna salad sandwich! The "tuna" was made of chickpeas with relish, nori, carrot, celery, red onion, and vegan mayo. It was served on toasted French bread with lettuce and tomato. It didn't taste like tuna, but had a similar consistency and a rich, delicious chickpeaish taste. Now, I'll have to decide between my all-time favorite, the tempeh sandwich, and this one on each visit. But, it is good to have options!

Zach also ordered a side of the vegan sausage. They decided to bring him pig sausage instead. Thanks. I took one look at it and asked if it was vegan. They confirmed it was not and brought the right one out. That said, the vegan sausage was really good. It was thick and incredibly flavorful. They said they didn't make it in-house so I wonder which brand it is. Hmmm.

When we were paying our check, they finally called out my name. Yeah, I guess it really was an hour-long wait. I was happy that we found a seat at the bar and ecstatic that there was a new vegan sandwich available. Busboys has great food, prices, and atmosphere. Now, if only they'd take reservations, they'd be perfect.

Click to see my previous review from  February 28, 2012.

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

Busboys and Poets on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

YogaEarth - Keen-Wah Decadence Bars

Imagine almond butter, coconut nectar, and quinoa crisps molded into a bar and covered in chocolate and you have imagined YogaEarth's new Keen-Wah Decadence bars. And decadent they are! This is a great-tasting, healthy, organic bar that packs a protein punch.

Keen-Wah Decadence bars are the world's first organic, vegan, gluten-free superfood bars made with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), the complete protein revered by the ancient Incas for its nutritional balance. Puffed organic quinoa provides an array of nutrients and fiber and when incorporated into these bars, they give a nice crisp crunch to a great mix of healthy ingredients. The bars come in three flavors: coconut almond, cayenne cinnamon, and chocolate chia.

The coconut almond flavor was my favorite.  Made with chia powder, quinoa, and chopped almonds, this chunky bar is rich and filling with just a hint of coconut.

The cayenne cinnamon was the same chewy, chunky texture, but with the perfect spice combination of cinnamon cassia powder and cayenne pepper. Cover that in chocolate and you have a masterpiece of chocolate coconut almond goodness.

The chocolate chia has whole chia seeds along with Peruvian cacao nibs. If you love cacao, you will love this bar. And chia seeds are a great source of omega 3, which is why I've been eating them regularly.

These healthy bars are filling enough to substitute for meals on the go. And they are packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, and Omega 3s. If you think a bar containing quinoa doesn't sound that good, then you need to try these to believe it. To order some for yourself, go here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Elizabeth's Gone Raw #4

Elizabeth's Gone Raw has outdone itself once again. Just when I thought that DC's only upscale raw restaurant couldn't possibly improve on its already impressive repertoire of dishes, they did. Executive Chef Jonathan Seningen, formerly of Sax and Hook, joined Elizabeth's earlier this year to replace former chef, Thomas Berry. Seningen, having had no formal raw foods training, went to Oklahoma to train with famed raw foods chef, Matthew Kenney. Since then, he has raised the bar for upscale raw food in the nation's capital.

In addition to the new chef, Elizabeth also made aesthetic improvements to her restaurant by adding a back-lit bar on the first floor made of a gorgeous green onyx. Zach and I arrived early to try the special drink of the night at the new bar while we awaited the rest of our party. The drink special that night was the ginger pumpkin snap, which was made with Snap Gingersnap Liquer, Crusoe Organic Rum, Wolaver's Organic Pumpkin Beer, Fever Tree Organic Ginger Beer and garnished with flamed orange zest. Any drink that involves fire is a-okay in my book.

As soon as our friends arrived, we took a seat in the main dining room. With a prix fixe menu, the only choice to make is whether to go with the drink pairing or with individual selections. I opted to order the same Lemelson Pinot Noir I enjoyed the last time, while my friends went with the drink pairing.  In addition to the bar, I noticed Elizabeth made a few aesthetic changes to the main dining room as well including some new, classic artwork.

Soon thereafter, the fun began. We were served an amuse of baby bella mushrooms filled with cashew cheese and sprouted quinoa and garnished with parsley.  The mushroom had been marinated with a hint of lemon and provided a great foundation for the nutty quinoa and creamy cashew cheese. We couldn't wait to see what was up next.

As we waited we noshed on Elizabeth's famous spicy kale chips prepared with jalapeno. I don't think anyone can ever get enough of them.

Next, we were served a warm red pepper soup that had a subtle hint of olive oil along with saffron and fennel cappuccino, which formed the froth on top. Savory and sophisticated.

But, the sophistication did not stop there. The next dish was a gnocchi made of parsnip and sprouted red lentils in a cashew cream with black cardamom paper, chervil, and shaved carrots to garnish. I kid you not.

The intermezzo was a light, refreshing cucumber sorbet, that was a bit sour, but was tempered with sel gris, which helped balance the flavors.

We all could have stopped there and been completely satisfied, but thank goodness we didn't because the next two courses were the best of all. The main dish was a linguini made of celeriac root, which looked amazingly like linguini, with a sun-dried tomato and basil pesto. To top it off was some black truffle creme and sunflower shoots. I thought I had died and gone to heaven by the point. I mean, really, the chef had really outdone himself on this one.

But, wait there's more. The dessert was unbelievable. We are talking a rich, raw chocolate ganache tart with espresso gelato made of cashews, coconut, and cold-pressed espresso in a thyme sauce. This dessert was the epitome of perfection. The pairing was a sake, which was delightful.

This was an impressive menu put together by a chef who had only recently been trained in raw food preparation, making it even more impressive. Not only is he preparing raw food, he is preparing upscale creations that could stand up to the best. Zach and I were blown away by these flavorful combinations as were our friends. We will be back for more. And if you haven't yet experienced these culinary delights, I suggest you make a reservation. Remember, Elizabeth's Gone Raw is only open Friday nights and I really can't think of a better way to start a weekend.

Previous reviews
July 8, 2011
September 28, 2011
March 5, 2012

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

Elizabeth's Gone Raw on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 16, 2012


I've become a bit of a cashew snob.  I can no longer eat the typical brands you see in your local supermarket nor would I want to as they are often loaded with preservatives and chemicals you can't pronounce. So, I often don't even sample nuts from companies displaying at the food trade shows I attend. Nuts+Nuts is different. It was actually their packaging that caught my eye. Packaged in a shiny silver pouch and labeled with bright green and orange colors, it is hard to pass by. But, even more important is what was inside. These cashews are perfectly roasted and perfectly spiced in such a way that they put other cashew importers and growers to shame.

Behind this company are Cyrilla and Caecilia, two sisters who partnered to share their family recipes and aid the local farmers in Indonesia. Cyrilla was diagnosed with lupus and although she could no longer work full-time, she used her love of food and knowledge of design to design the branding and packaging while Caecilia used her passion for cooking along with the family's recipe to create these amazing nuts.

Their main mission is to support the communities in Indonesia so they work directly with the small farmers. Their relationship with the farmers ensures fresh, hand-selected, premium cashews at a fair price with no middlemen. They hand-chop all the ingredients and slow-roast them in small batches using their family's special recipe.  Then, they package them using no preservatives or additives.

I got to try the sweet and salty as well as the spicy flavors and I have to say these are some of the best cashews I've ever had. They have this smoothness to them and you just have to wonder how they could taste so good.  The spicy ones are roasted with coconut oil, fresh chili, garlic, and other spices. There are actually pieces of chili in the package.  The other flavor I tried -- the sweet and salty are just that -- sweet and salty with a hint of garlic. I dare you to eat just one.

And back to the packaging -- these packages are made of natural pandanus, wood bark, and banana bark handmade by local communities in Java and Bali. The packages ensure freshness and crunchiness.

As the holiday season approaches, I think these would make an excellent gift. They are sold at specialty gift stores across the country or you can buy them online for $26 for eight 2-ounce packs.  This is a purchase that will not only make you feel good about supporting the farmers and the community in Indonesia, it'll make the recipient of them happy because the nuts are just that good.