Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vida Vegan Con 2013

Wow! That's about all I have to say about this past weekend. Where was I? At the Vida Vegan Con, vegan blogger's conference, in Portland! It was a fun-filled weekend complete with workshops, discussions, networking, and, of course, VEGAN FOOD! Here are my highlights.

SessionsI must say that I enjoyed most of the workshops and discussions that I attended. One of the best ones was the Food Styling class by Hannah Kaminsky. She took a crappy looking brown pad Thai from Whole Foods and demonstrated how to make it beautiful. She is so incredibly talented.

Another great one was the Advanced Photography class by Susan Voisin of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. Completely self-taught, this lady has an incredible blog with beautiful pictures and she shared some of her best secrets with us. Thank you, Susan!

On Saturday night, there was a hosted party to benefit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, which was a great time to network and meet fellow bloggers. The highlight of the night was probably the amazing artisan cheeses by Miyoko Schinner. From the vegan smoked provolone and brie to the truffled brie and aged chevre with smoked peppers, I thought at some point I had died and gone to heaven. I have no idea how she makes these cheeses from nuts, but I think she convinced me to buy her new book.

Oh, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz observed the crazy vegans eating up the vegan cheese like there was no tomorrow and drew up a helpful guide for vegans eating vegan cheese. Tell me this isn't the funniest thing you've seen in a while!

Other highlights included a silent auction, vegan brownies by Capital City Bakery, tacos by the Taco Pedaler, sundaes by So Delicious, and dancing by Robert Cheeke.

The food at the conference was phenomenal, especially the Portland Vegan Breakfast Showcase. This was an opportunity for us to sample food from 10 different cafes in Portland without having to visit any of them. My favorites included an incredible savory pie by Back to Eden Bakery, the meatloaf benedict from A.N.D. Cafe,  and the beautiful artichoke dish by Portobello Vegan Trattoria. It was a vegan foodie's dream come true.

Other lunches were great as well and included food from all of the sponsors.

Of course, the conference couldn't be complete without a swag bag and I must say, this one was impressive. It was filled with a kombucha starter kit, cereals, cookies, kale chips, macaroons, lotions, balms, lube, and condoms. Yep, they covered it all.

And to top it off, I won an awesome cookbook, soy curls, and a bag of beans for answering a trivia question correctly!

Thanks so much to the Vida Vegan Con organizers and all the sponsors for making this happen. I hope to be able to join you for another one in the years to come!

Friday, May 24, 2013


We all know that fruit is good for us, but how often have we bought fruit with the intention of eating it yet watched it go bad in the course of a few days?  I know I have. OneBar are small bars made of pure fruit that are enriched with baobab for added antioxidants as well as chicory inulin for fiber. Why so small? They are exactly the size that equals a serving of fruit so now you can enjoy your fruit without worrying about spoilage.

OneBars are new on the market and I had the opportunity to try them at Expo West. They are satisfyingly good with a rich fruit taste. I honestly can't say I liked one more than the other as all three flavors were delicious.

The apple tastes like you are eating an apple in bar form with a touch of pear.

The mango is like pure mango flavor as that is exactly what it is!

The same goes for the cherry. Absolutely delish.

You are probably wondering what the heck baobab is. So was I. It seems to be a trend for this year -- yet another superfruit. This one is new to the US though the health benefits have been known to Africans for centuries. The baobab fruit is a whole food source of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. It has high levels of vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

The best part about these bars is that there is no added sugar or nuts. And all the bars are vegan and gluten-free as well as fair-trade sourced.  Currently they are only sold in the San Francisco bay area, but you can also find them online here. For only 99-cents per bar, you really can't go wrong.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influences my veracious opinion. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yoga Retreat, West Virgina - May 2013

I bet you think I'm a hippy just from the title of this post, don't you? Well, I'm not. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But, over the past two years, yoga has become an integral part of my life. Since committing to 2-3 classes per week, my flexibility has improved greatly, I've become much stronger, and I've become a much calmer person. I can honestly say that I've become a different person, a greatly improved person, since discovering yoga. So, when one of my instructors, Steve Abate, told me about a yoga retreat in West Virginia, I decided to go.

This was a very short retreat that began on Friday evening and ended on Sunday morning, but the benefits of it are long-lasting. The retreat was held at the Claymont Society in the "barn" in Charles Town, West Virginia. Because there were only 25 of us, even though the barn is set up with 2-4 beds per room, we were all able to have our own rooms, which was really nice. Besides being overridden with stink bugs inside and out, it was an awesome spot for a retreat. There was a huge room that was perfect for yoga and trails outside that were great for hiking.

Why am I writing about this on this blog? Two reasons: (1) to encourage you to go on one of these if you ever have the opportunity, and (2) because the food was vegan and it was awesome. Prepared by Erika and James, who could be chefs, the breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner spreads were fantastic.

For example, Saturday's brunch consisted of vegan mac and cheese, quinoa salad, a green salad, white bean dip and Carr's crackers, and roasted Brussels sprouts. The white bean dip was to die for. More on this at a later time!

Saturday's dinner included ginger red lentil stew, roasted potatoes, garlicky kale, flatbread, and mango lassis.

Saturday night, we roasted Sweet & Sara marshmallows around the fire while we got to know one another. We had vegan chocolate, but were unable to find vegan graham crackers. Mary's Gone Crackers - hurry up and release those crackers you've been working on!

Sunday's brunch consisted of chickpea soup, greens with a lemon vinaigrette, black bean and corn salad, lentil cranberry caper salad, and tofu scramble.

Besides eating, we also did lots of yoga. In fact, I discovered my limit is 4.5 hours of yoga in one day. I was just a tad bit sore on Sunday. :) But, I worked on my tripod headstand and finally figured out how to go from 3-legged dog to wheel seamlessly.

But, the real benefit was putting aside the cell phones and computers, and getting away from day-to-day life. We meditated on Saturday morning and it was truly the first time I've been able to meditate with a clear head as I had no responsibility on this retreat.  I left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to take on the week. And I was so thankful to meet the awesome people who spent their weekend with me as well. Last, but not least, I'd like to thank the yoga teachers, Gracy Obuchowicz and Steve Abate, who really gave it their all as I am so thankful for their generosity during this retreat. Next time, I want to go for an entire week. Now, that would be so wonderful.

I'll leave you with Steve's famous mantra: "Clear mind, peaceful mind, peaceful speech, loving speech, loving heart, clear heart." Om, shanti, shanti. Namaste.

For more info on events, check out Love Supreme Yoga.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chez Marie - Veggie Patty

Chez Marie's new veggie patties are honestly some of the best I've ever had. Launched at Expo West, I predict the popularity of these burgers will grow quickly as their distribution grows. The ingredient list on each bag reads like a recipe with wholesome, whole foods packed into each patty. Three of five of their flavors are vegan while all of them are gluten-free, high in protein, and corn-free.

What makes these burgers different than others is that they truly taste homemade. They aren't oily like a lot of burgers on the market and they actually get soft when you cook them like housemade burgers at restaurants do.

Take my favorite, the Spicy Bean. At first glance, you notice that you can see all of the ingredients in the patty. It is loaded with organic black rice, carrots, anasazi beans, onions, red peppers, flax seed, brown rice flour, jalapeno peppers, pea protein, and spices. And you can really taste all of these ingredients when you bite into it too. Marvelous!

I served this burger with Follow Your Heart Chipotle Vegenaise Gourmet sauce, salsa, lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado on a whole wheat bun. I have to plug the Chipotle Veganaise as it was my first time using it and it is fantastic! It is the perfect consistency with a great chipotle flavor that goes well with this burger.

I also got to try the Hearty Hemp Seed. Again, super delicious. Made with long grain brown rice, onions, mushrooms, whole grain gluten-free oats, hulled hemp seed, flax seed, balsamic vinegar, coconut sugar, and spices, this burger is loaded with flavor. I served this one with Miso Mayo in red pepper flavor along with lettuce, tomato, and pickle.

I am also happy to see that these burgers are Non-GMO Project Verified and that their bags are fully recyclable.  Chez Marie's burgers are available in more than 150 natural grocery stores on the west coast. They retail for $4.99 per bag for four burgers. For more information, visit their website here. For now, I guess I will just dream of more Chez Marie burgers until they arrive in the Mid-Atlantic market.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influences my veracious opinion.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bombay Masala, Vero Beach FL

I know it may seem like I always go to big vegan-friendly cities, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I often find myself in a remote area, two hours from civilization and vegan restaurants, where I have to fend for myself. This was one of those times. Here I was in Vero Beach, Florida, in an area they call "The Treasure Coast" with no obvious vegan meals in sight. My rule of thumb: when in doubt, look for an ethnic restaurant. And so we found ourselves at Bombay Masala, a local Indian restaurant.

As we had read the reviews ahead of time, we knew they didn't serve alcohol and recommended you bring your own. So we had a bottle of wine with us. Inside, it had a typical run-of-the-mill ethnic feel to it with the cheaper line of wood tables and chairs with pleather backing and urns placed around the room. The nice cloth tablecloths and napkins, however, gave it a slightly nicer feel.

They provided us with some housemade papadums to start with a cilantro sauce.

There weren't too many vegan options and it didn't seem like our server knew much about what was vegan or not so she went back to check with the chef.  They recommended we start with the onion fritters and although they were fried, I thought they'd be better than nothing. And, oh, were they fried. We are talking onions dipped in wheat flour and deep-fried. Not very healthy, but they were darned good.  Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside just the way they should be. Note to chef: this isn't the best color plate to serve these on. They would have looked better on a white plate with some contrast.

For my entree I went with the Aloo Mattor Gobi, which was potatoes, green peas, and cauliflower cooked in a delicately spiced sauce. I asked for spicy, but I did not get spicy so I added some of their chutneys to it, which were pretty good. The dish itself was pretty good - I just wanted more spice. I also had their Roti.

All in all, it was a fine option for a non-vegan friendly city. There are a few vegan options, which are better than none and the food is good. The entree priced at $12 was a little pricey, but not too far out of what I would think would be the typical range for this area.  Would I come back? Yep - if I were stuck in this area again - absolutely.

Bombay Masala
2050 11th Avenue
Vero Beach, FL 32960
(772) 770-1120

Bombay Masala on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's My Second Anniversary!

Time sure flies when you are having fun! Today is the second anniversary of my blog -- my blogiversary! As of today, I've posted 477 reviews and recipes and have 1,100 likes on Facebook! Thank you to all of you who have supported me over the past two years during my journey. As I get ready to embark on a trip to Portland to go to the Vida Vegan Con, vegan conference, I leave you with my favorite posts from the past year.

Restaurants (top 10)
Rogue 24

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats

Food Products (not chocolate)
Jem Specialty Nut Butters


Recipes (top 10)
Grilled Kimcheese

Special Events

Thanks again for all of your support. I'm looking forward to another great year blogging! Please feel free to let me know what you'd like to see more of in the comments section below.

Friday, May 17, 2013

CORE Foods - Defender Meal

CORE Foods Defender Meals are yet another meal replacement bar that claims to be a "full meal to go." And I would agree. These nutrient-rich bars make a great breakfast bar for those on the go. All of the CORE Defender Meals are vegan while the Warrior Meals are not, so be careful which one you buy. What I liked most about these bars are their purity--only 5 or 6 ingredients per bar, no sweeteners, and all organic.  What I didn't like about these bars were the amount of spices they contained as they often literally choked me up and left a lasting throat-constricting feeling in the back of my throat as well as an odd aftertaste. It was all very odd.

The only one that didn't do this was the Raw Walnut Banana.  It was super dense and packed with goodness--whole oats, walnuts, bananas, raisins, flax, and ground spices and had a great flavor to it.

Another flavor is the Raw Cashew Cacao made with cashews, cacao, raisins, flax, oats, and ground spices. I loved that there were big cacao chips and raisins, but this was one that left me with a weird feeling in my throat.

Lastly, the Raw Almond Raisin is loaded with, you guessed it, almonds and raisins. Again, the choking, dry feeling, but a nice flavor in the bar.

Since they don't use preservatives, these bars do not last long. You can take them on a week-long hiking trip or store them in the refrigerator for a month, but that's about it. Alternatively, you can freeze them for up to six months. If you leave them out longer than a week, they will mold quickly. 

The other thing you should know is that they are high in calories and fat. For example, the walnut banana flavor is 400 calories and 24 grams of fat. It is all good fat, but it is fat just the same.

So, all in all, I like the concept a lot. I just think they need to go lighter on the spices and then they'd be perfect. They are mostly sold on the west coast, but their distribution is growing quickly. If you can't find them locally, you can order them direct here.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influences my veracious opinion.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

TaKorean, DC

The newly remodeled Union Market in Northeast is DC's attempt to build an indoor farmers market similar to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. Although they aren't quite there yet, they are on the right path and the building itself is really beautiful. More on that at a later time. Inside this market, is a little counter for TaKorean, a successful food truck in DC that has taken to a brick and mortar location. And it appears to have become pretty popular. Every time I've been there, there has been a huge line for these tacos so Zach and I gave them a try.

Their menu is quite simple: choose your meat (or in my case, tofu), and your toppings. For the vegan option, you'd choose the caramelized tofu and napa-romaine slaw then top it with cilantro, sesame seeds, and Sriracha sauce. I went for all of the above.

They wrap each soft taco in two corn tortillas, which I found a bit unusual, so when you take a bite you have a lot of corn tortilla in your mouth. Once you get past that though, they are pretty tasty. The caramelized tofu is marinated in hoisin sauce, then pan fried and has a really nice texture and flavor. The tofu makes the meal. The toppings just add to the flavor. And voila, you have a tasty taco.

I was really enjoying my lunch until it dawned on me that I didn't ask if the corn tortillas were non-GMO. So, when I finished, I asked, and I didn't like the answer. I was told they were conventional and likely made of GMO corn. Not cool, TaKorean. Corn tortillas aside, they are a great lunch spot, but you really can't put the fact that GMO corn is in this meal aside. Hopefully, they'll get with the program and replace those tortillas with organic, non-GMO ones soon. In the meantime, I'll stick with other taco shops that do.

Union Market
1309 5th Street NE
Washington, DC 20002

TaKorean (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blueberry Hemp Smoothie

I did it. I finally broke down and bought a Vitamix. Do I love it? Only time will tell. But, to start off with I thought I'd make a smoothie like all my Vitamix-crazed friends do. This blueberry hemp smoothie turned out great--not too thick and not too thin with a great blueberry, hemp, banana taste to it. And it is simple to make too.

Blueberry Hemp Smoothie
Serves 2

  • 1 fresh banana, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 6 ounces of plain vegan yogurt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes

Place all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Serve immediately.