Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Veracious Vegan ranks #18 on 101 Leading Sites for Healthy Vegan Eating

I'm thrilled to announce that I was ranked #18 on the list of 101 Leading Sites for Healthy Vegan Eating by Holistic Nutrition Degree. This list ranks all the top healthy vegan sites in the world.

They provide the following description: "Holistic nutrition is all about getting the proper balance of nutrients from healthy sources, free of toxic additives, and one of the most popular ways to move towards a more holistic diet is veganism. Our readers are mostly students who want to become holistic nutritionists, and it is important for them to know about current dietary movements like veganism, so we built this list as a resource for them, and for anyone interested in trying a more nutrition-oriented lifestyle."

I'm pretty stoked about this one!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Gazpacho

Summertime is here and what better way to celebrate than with a fresh bowl of gazpacho and some crusty French bread. Williams Sonoma always has such beautiful pictures of food so I decided to try the gazpacho recipe printed in one of their catalogs to see how it turned out. And it turned out great! This tomato-based gazpacho combines the flavors of heirloom tomatoes, parsley, and fresh lemon juice to produce a deliciously satisfying gazpacho.

Summer Gazpacho
Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 lb. heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 5 tsp. fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil (I cut this down to just 2 Tbsp.)
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar (I used oregano balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 cups cubed French bread
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

  1. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup onion, 1 cup tomatoes, 3/4 cup cucumbers, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. oil, parsley, and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. In a Vitamix blender, combine remaining onion, 4 tsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. salt, garlic, thyme, vinegar, and bread. Turn blender on, slowly increase speed to highest setting and blend until smooth. 
  3. Add half of remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell pepper; blend until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Blend remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell pepper until smooth. Season with pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
  4. Just before serving, transfer soup to blender. With blender on lowest setting, slowly stream in 3 Tbsp. oil (I only added 1); blend 1 minute. Ladle gazpacho into bowls. Garnish with heaping spoonful of diced vegetables.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Purely Elizabeth - Granolas

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I get super excited about some products and are just "meh" about others. I had seen Purely Elizabeth's booth at the food shows and had heard about the products, but really didn't understand why there was so much hype about granola. Well, now I understand and this is one product I am going to rave about.

Purely Elizabeth's granola is just plain delicious. Take the Original flavor for example. This cereal is made with mostly organic ingredients including gluten-free oats, coconut palm sugar, raw virgin coconut oil, puffed amaranth, quinoa flakes, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, and sea salt. It is chunky with burnt undertones and sweetened perfectly. I chose to eat it as a cereal, but you could use it as a topping for vegan yogurt or just eat it out of the bag.

There are 3 other flavors as well. All are pretty similar to the original with a few added perks. I have to say that my favorite flavor is their newest one -- Blueberry Hemp. It is basically most of the same ingredients as the original flavor with blueberries and hemp added.

The Cranberry Pecan will delight your taste buds with ancient grains, cranberries, and pecans.

And the Pumpkin Fig will fill your mouth with pumpkin seeds, figs, and joy!

This cereal was created by Elizabeth Stein, a holistic health counselor, who wanted to offer nutritionally sound products to make healthy eating easy.  Her mission was to recreate the most delicious baked goods using the highest-quality natural and organic ingredients, loaded with health benefits and free of the bad stuff. So in September 2009, she launched Purely Elizabeth, a line of all-natural and organic foods using nutritious alternative grains and superfood seeds, free of sugar, dairy, wheat and gluten. All products are certified gluten-free, vegan, and Non-GMO Project Verified.

As far as nutrition, the quinoa is a complete protein; amaranth is high in b vitamins; and chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants.  The raw virgin coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that get used as energy rather than stored as fat. This granola is about as healthy as you can get.  So there you have it. I once shunned granola, but now no more. If you are interested in trying the granolas for yourself, a 12-ounce bag retails for $7.99 per bag and you can find them here.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Silver Diner, Tysons Corner, VA

The Silver Diner is a locally based diner with locations in Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey that has been around for over 20 years. So imagine my surprise when they contacted me to inform me that they just revamped their menu to add vegan options and would be offering four consecutive days during which bloggers could come dine for free, if approved, of course. So although I don't usually accept a complimentary meal, I thought this would be a great opportunity to try this new menu at no cost to see what it was all about.

I met a friend at the Silver Diner located in Tysons Corner, Virginia. This classic looking diner with its mirrored front and 50's-style font looks resembles the diners from the Fonzie ages. As soon as I walked in and they heard that I was an invited blogger, I got the red carpet treatment, so I will tell you that I'm unsure of whether the service here is always great as I got special treatment up front.  The server informed me that they had recently surveyed their customers who asked for healthier meals with vegan and gluten-free options and they obliged by revamping their menu. They seemed very excited to introduce the new menu to me and mentioned they'd been getting a lot of positive feedback. Okay - you got me excited.

I started by taking a look at their wine list - of three winerys' wines. They are all about buying fresh and local so they offered two Virginia winerys' wines and only one other (Argentinian) winery's wine. Having only had one Virginia wine that I've ever liked, I played it safe with the Argentinian Malbec. After I tried it though, I wasn't sure I should have ordered anything as it wasn't that great. But, I was at a diner.  Shortly thereafter, I realized there was a Chocolate Raspberry vegan shake made with Silk soy milk and soy ice cream. Dammit. I missed out.

The new menu is very colorful, but very confusing.  On page one, they emphasize that they buy from local farms and that Executive Chef Ype Von Hengst has created a flexitarian menu of healthier choices that incorporate the highest quality, all natural ingredients available. So as I started looking through the multi-page menu, I noticed that everything is labeled vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten-free. That is spectacular. Then I noticed that there are lots of vegan options and I was truly impressed -- such variety. The reason I say the menu is confusing is that some of the vegan appetizers and salads are listed on two pages -- they are listed on the Starters, Salads, and Soups page, then again on the Healthier Flexitarian Recap page. I find that to be a bit confusing. Then there is the Warm Roasted Local Veggie Salad that is listed on the Salads page, but not the Flexitarian Salad section even though it is vegan.  I was so confused. I think it would be better to just list each dish once in only one section.

As diners are known for their all-day breakfasts, I was slightly disappointed to find that there was not one vegan option on the breakfast pages. As I turned to the lunch and dinner pages though, there were plenty. From appetizers and salads to chili and entrees, there were plenty of options. We started with the Black Bean Hummus priced at $7.99. I will say that I really thought the prices for this small diner were high until I saw the size of the portions. Everything is huge. The name of this hummus is deceiving though. I've had black bean hummuses before that are made with pureed black beans. This one could more accurately be called hummus with black beans as it is a hummus with whole black beans mixed in. It was served with oven-toasted ciabatta and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. And it was so delicious. There was just the right amount of cumin and fresh herbs to make this hummus nearly perfect. It wasn't too thick or too thin and had a great texture. It was topped with kalamata olives as well. This was a great start to the meal.

Since we were offered up to $60 to spend, we decided to order 4 entree-sized meals to share in order to sample the menu. So, we started with two salads. The first salad we ordered was the Summer Citrus Salad priced at $10.49. This salad was enormous and could have been shared as our entree. You will notice a trend if you keep reading. I was really impressed with how fresh the salad looked and tasted. It was loaded with fresh baby spinach, mango, strawberries, carrots, pecans, and dried cranberries tossed in a fat-free citrus vinaigrette. I thought it was just perfect while my friend found it a bit too sweet. This is a salad fit for an entree.

We also ordered the Warm Roasted Local Veggie Salad priced at $10.99. Wow - this dish was huge! It was a ton of roasted veggies including Brussels sprouts, beets, squash, eggplant, red peppers, rocket greens and kale tossed with basil, sunflower seeds, pecans, and dried apricots in a housemade champagne vinaigrette. It was very good. This is a great vegetable-based healthy entree.

For my entree, I went with the Pesto Veggie Pasta listed under the Vegan Entrees heading priced at $11.99. Do you know how much I love that they have a heading called, "Vegan Entrees?" So much. This dish was not as good as it sounded or looked as I found it to be a bit too oily and the pesto not tasty enough. It was definitely missing something. It was made with garlic roasted eggplant, butternut squash, roasted red pepper, spinach, basil, whole wheat angel hair, lemony pine nut pesto, and sunflower seeds.

For my friend's entree, she went with the Santa Fe Roasted Veggies priced at $10.99. Again, this was a large-sized meal. I was a bit disappointed when it came out as I realized it used most of the same veggies that were in our Warm Roasted Local Veggie Salad.  They redeemed themselves though when I realized the taste was completely different. The veggies were all seasoned with chipotle and served with oaxaca black bean salsa, salsa roja, and cilantro over quinoa. We really enjoyed this dish and felt it was perfect as is.

I should mention that each table has its own personal jukebox so we were jammin' to the oldies while we enjoyed our meals. Other vegan options that we didn't try include the veggie chili, mango vegetarian stir-fry and many of the sides including southwest quinoa, garlic spinach, edamame beans,  and brown rice. We were so full by the end that I neglected to notice that there is also a vegan dessert! Wow! There is a Soy Dream Sundae made with vanilla soy ice cream, chocolate syrup, and raspberries. So it is quite similar to the milkshake.

I must say that I am particularly impressed. The Silver Diner has gone out of its way to accommodate vegans and gluten-free diners and has gone above and beyond with the number of dishes it is offering to this market. I can see how this chain has already grown to 15 restaurants in only 22 years. It is evident that they listen to their customers and care enough to offer healthy, locally sourced options. Now when I'm in Tysons Corner, I will choose to eat at Silver Diner and I can't say that I would have said that in the past. Their salads and entrees are all vegetable-based and loaded with antioxidants. Good work, Silver Diner. Keep it up!

Silver Diner
8101 Fletcher St.
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 821-5666

Silver Diner on Urbanspoon

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Living Raw

The best product I tried at the entire Expo West show was the Living Raw truffles. Living Raw is small company that just makes raw truffles. Each truffle is hand-crafted with wholesome ingredients that are all raw, organic, vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO. So why was I so excited about these raw truffles? Because they are some of the best I've ever had--no joke!

These truffles are the most decadent raw truffles you will ever try. They are incredibly large and super soft and smooth. Take the Coconut Karma Truffles made with cacao powder, cacao butter, coconut oil, agave, coconut, vanilla, and pink Himalayan sea salt. This truffle will leave you saying, "wow," as bite into its smooth coconut-covered outside only to find chocolate goodness inside.

The Kickin' Cayenne Truffles were just as good with that bit of spice that I like! There were chunks of cacao nibs layered with cayenne all throughout each truffle! Goodness gracious.

But, perhaps best of all were the Darkest Cacao Truffles coated with huge cacao nibs. These must be enjoyed with a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Why raw? As Living Raw states, "raw food is unprocessed living food, complete with all of its naturally occurring enzymes and vitamins. Raw foods do not undergo any blanching, chemical bleaching, pasteurization or altering of any kind. Eating food in its natural state is a simple way of eating, and it's easy to incorporate into our daily lives. Making wise choices with food habits will add up to make a profound difference in our lives and in our bodies." I couldn't have said it better myself.

This is perfection in a raw truffle. No two ways about it.

If you'd like to try them yourself, you can order them here. A container of 9 truffles costs $18 with free shipping and believe me, it is totally worth it. These would make a great gift! 

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cirque Cuisine, DC

It's officially food truck mania in DC. And although the city isn't quite as food truck-friendly as Portland or Austin, there still seem to be more and more food trucks appearing every day. I see them outside my office window lining up in the early hours of the morning hoping to get a spot for the lunch crowd, but yet I almost never consider them as a lunch option. For one, I haven't had the best experience with food trucks in DC. They just don't seem to have healthy vegan options like other cities. So when I was in my trapeze class one day (yes, I do trapeze) and discovered that one of my instructors owned a food truck with his girlfriend and that they served organic vegan food, I knew this was a food truck I had to check out.

So on a Wednesday, I headed out to Franklin Square to the line of food trucks. As I passed by some nasty mystery meat trucks and others that appeared to also have a few vegan options, I came upon the bright purple striped Cirque Cuisine truck. The name is inspired by Sean Swartz's career as as circus performer and the cuisine is inspired by Jessica Shields, a CIA-trained chef. Together, they started a food truck to serve healthy organic food in DC with a vegan option each day.

The menu changes regularly so I had no idea what to expect. To my delight, the vegan item of the day was Tofu-Charred Veggie Tacos and they were even marked as vegan. At $10, I thought the price was a bit steep for a food truck lunch, that is, until I actually saw the lunch. The plate they gave me of three corn tortillas loaded with blackened chipotle-mango tofu with charred onions, peppers and zucchini topped with pico de gallo, salsa rojo and verde, cilantro, and crisp radish was as good as it sounded. I have never seen such fresh delicious food from a food truck in my life.

I also ordered their fresh made Honeydew Cucumber Mint Limeade, which was deliciously fresh and refreshing.

I enjoyed my meal so much that I came back a few weeks later and ordered the Quinoa Veggie Burger. Oh my goodness, was this good. It was a thick housemade patty made with quinoa, sunflower seeds, and other good-for-you stuff topped with tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, and lettuce on this amazing grilled multigrain bun with sunflower seeds. It was served with a mango-jalapeno sauce that really made the meal.

I am so impressed. Yes, my lunches with a drink cost $14 in total and no, I wouldn't buy an expensive lunch like this every day. But, once every couple of weeks, I plan to splurge. This is great, healthy, organic food and I am proud to spread the word about this one. Bravo Sean and Jessica! Keep the vegan specials coming!

Cirque Cuisine Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 21, 2013

Allison's Gourmet - Artisan Chocolate Assortment

You love my blog and you want to shower me with gifts, right?! So, since you asked, one of my favorite gifts to receive is a box of Allison's Gourmet truffles. Allison's only makes artisan, vegan treats that are so good, no one would ever know that they were vegan as they'd stand up to the best traditional chocolatiers.

The artisan chocolate assortment I received included some of the most delectable truffles I've ever tasted. From the orange blossom topped with orange zest to the raspberry blush with freeze-dried raspberries, there is at least one chocolate in this assortment to please everyone. The peppermint swirl is sure to capture your taste buds as the coconut joy gives you joy in a way that only a coconut would understand.

Besides the truffles, this box included 4 different caramels and caramels are what I miss most in this world. My favorite was the salted chocolate, but the pure vanilla, butterscotch pecan, and mocha weren't far behind.

Their signature purple gift box makes such a nice presentation as well. The only complaint I really have is that they are super expensive. This box of 20 cost $55 plus they suggest you ship it with a $4 cold pack by 2-day air. All encompassing, this would cost you $78 to ship to DC. Yikes! That is $3.90 per tiny truffle!

So while they are delicious, I won't be buying these for myself anytime soon. Oh, so back to my first suggestion -- if you'd like my shipping address, just let me know. I'm happy to send it to you! Thanks, in advance, for your love.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Raw Hummus Vegetable Wrap

I often fly into a larger city, then drive to the middle of nowhere land where vegan options are not a-plenty.  I also tend to be out and about at events where there is only one food vendor serving fresh food who doesn't usually offer anything vegan. So what do I do? I bring my own!  So I thought it would be nice to share with you my standard raw wrap that not only gets me through the day, but also has everyone asking, "Where did you get that?"  Because it looks that good!

My other secret is that I travel with a cutting board, knife (when I can check my luggage) and large plastic bags that I use to carry my wraps. These are essential if you don't want to have to buy them everywhere you go.

I was lucky enough to stop by a Whole Foods in Tampa on this occasion to pick up tortillas, hummus, and fresh veggies. Yep, that's it. In particular, I was excited to find Food for Life's Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortillas. I don't know why I haven't noticed this company before, but it seems their distribution has really expanded as they are in all of the Whole Foods I've been in recently. These tortillas are high in protein, amino acids, fiber, and flavor! I love that they are made from sprouted grains and no flour as well. All that's in them is sprouted wheat, sesame seeds, sprouted soybeans, sprouted barley, sprouted millet, sprouted lentils, sprouted spelt, and sea salt. And they are organic as well.

Raw Hummus Vegetable Wrap
Serves 6

  • 1 package wraps/tortillas (I used Food for Life Sprouted Grain Tortillas)
  • 1 container of hummus (any flavor)
  • 1 package of greens (I use baby kales or spinach)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 package mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced (optional, for heat)
  • Other optional ingredients: sprouts, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes
Heat the tortilla up for a few seconds to make it more pliable -- via microwave or stovetop. Spread hummus in middle of the tortilla, then top with greens,  red bell pepper, mushrooms, avocado, and jalapeno, if desired. Roll up, wrap in a napkin so it keeps its shape, then put it in a large plastic bag. Voila--you have a portable lunch!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Estadio, DC #2

Estadio is a trendy, Spanish restaurant located in the heart of Logan Circle. My last experience was very enjoyable so I was really looking forward to dining there again.

We showed up around 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday at which time they told us we'd have a 45-minute wait for a table. Luckily, this is what I expected so it didn't bother me much. I think my only complaint about this restaurant is that they don't take reservations for parties under 6 after 6 p.m. There really is no good reason not to take reservations and it really doesn't make business sense since it annoys most of the patrons. One woman, in particular, who was standing at the bar was quite upset about the wait. I made my way over to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. About 15 minutes later, they informed me that a large party had canceled their reservation and some tables had opened up. Great! We were seated at one of the nice two-person tables along the window.

We immediately asked for the vegan menu and they brought it over to us. (I love that there is a vegan menu!) It appears that they added a bunch of new vegan items and we were having a really hard time trying to decide what to order. My friend wanted to order everything, but we eventually agreed that that wasn't the best idea. So, instead, we ordered 7 dishes!

All of the dishes are small plates so you are encouraged to order lots and share. As we waited for the first dish, I remarked that the restaurant hadn't changed much since the last time I visited. But, that isn't a bad thing. The tables and chairs are made of a dark wood and have a stoic feel to them almost as if you are dining in a castle. There is an open kitchen in the front of the restaurant where you can watch the chefs and a bar in the middle of the restaurant that has an open feel to it as well.

Our first dish was the Grilled Country Bread. This time (as opposed to last time) the bread was grilled perfectly and topped with a delicious tomato, olive oil, and onion spread with chives.

Next, we had the House Marinated Olives, which was a great mix of black and green olives with marinated orange peel.

Then, we tried the Fava Bean and Almond spread served with Picos, a Spanish cracker. I liked the spread, but the crackers tasted like generic crackers to me. They just weren't very exciting.

Our fourth dish was the Roasted Beets, Endive, and Orange salad -- a great mix of flavors.

Next, we had the Roasted Wild Mushrooms with Parsley and Garlic.  The mushrooms are roasted with the perfect amount of oil and tossed with parsley and garlic. You really can't go wrong with this dish.

The Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts & Currants was by far my favorite dish. The brussels sprouts were blackened to a crisp and served with paprika-spiced pine nuts and currants.

Lastly, we ordered the sauteed Pea Shoots, which also turned out to be great although they were very oily.

As this restaurant is known for its wine list, I am usually very satisfied with the wines they serve and this visit was no different. The food, wine, and service were great while the dishes were appropriately priced at $5 to $9 each. I think this is a great restaurant for a meal with friends or a long-term significant other as it is quite lively and loud. It probably wouldn't be the best for a first date though. All in all, I really like Estadio and look forward to coming back again soon.

Previous review of Estadio - March 2012

1520 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 319-1404

Estadio on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ape Man Foods

I truly believe in the nutritional value of raw vegan foods. I mean what could possibly be bad about plant-based foods in their most natural state? So when I received a press release in early May announcing there was a new raw foods company in town, I nearly rejoiced. Ape Man Foods is what they call themselves and good food is what they make -- as they like to say, "only pure, unadulterated, delicious plants."

The woman behind the company is Valerie Grissom and she has worked in the restaurant industry since she was 16 years old including a stint at Equinox in DC. With a strong work ethic, she worked throughout college and has since had several former careers as a lawyer and an accountant, but ultimately found herself returning to the kitchen to do what she loved. Her husband was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a very young age and Valerie wanted to see what effect a raw vegan diet would have on his condition. Together they discovered that they felt so much better living a raw vegan life 6 days per week -- she felt like she had found her calling. A self-taught chef, Valerie learned most of what she knows from books published by the most famous raw foods chefs including Matthew Kenney and Roxanne Klein. With this knowledge coupled with her restaurant experience, she began developing her own recipes and feeding her friends and family until one day, the owner of the juice bar, Puree, in Bethesda asked if she might be willing to prepare her foods to sell at the cafe. And just like that, in 2012, the company was born. Just a year later, Valerie has moved her distribution from Puree to Whole Foods in Friendship Heights and is hoping to expand to other Whole Foods in the area soon. She brought me the five items they are selling in Whole Foods to try and boy, was I impressed.

If I had to pick a favorite product, I'd have to say the Walnut Meat Tacos were the ones that really blew me away. From the dehydrated nut-based shells to the walnut meat inside, I was impressed with every aspect of this dish. Filled with lettuce, tomato, and onion, and topped with a raw sour cream, you'll find you won't be able to eat just one.

The Portobello Caprese Sandwiches are mind-blowing as well. The bread is made of spiral-sliced onions, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, tamari, and olive oil and dehydrated for a total of 36 hours. Yeah, this is why I don't make much raw gourmet food on my own. Inside the sandwich was a marinated portobello cap, ripe tomato slices with spices, fresh basil, and cashew cheese paired with sundried tomato marinara sauce. This is a very rich, filling sandwich.

Then there is the Pistachio Pesto Lasagna. The top and bottom noodle layers are made of dehydrated zucchini while the middle layer is made of yellow squash. Inside you'll find thick layers of pesto, corn, nut-based ricotta, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. Again, very rich and very good.

There is also a Garden Blend Soup with Eggplant Bacon. I could eat that eggplant bacon sans the soup as a snack like every day.

And for dessert, there are Brownies with Chocolate Sauce and Raspberries.

Best of all, their foods are raw, vegan, organic, and gluten-free. As you may already know, the time and labor-intensive processing and pureness of the organic ingredients drive up the cost of raw foods, and these products are no different. The lasagna and portobello caprese retail for $11.99, the tacos for $9.99, the garden blend soup for $8.99, and the brownies for $7.99.  Are they worth it? Yes, I'd say so. To find out more about this company, click here. In the meantime, I'll be emailing the P Street Whole Foods on a daily basis begging them to bring these items to that location.

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gourmet India, San Diego

There are only a few vegan-friendly restaurants in downtown San Diego and Gourmet India is one of them.  Gourmet India takes it one step further by labeling some items as vegan so you can be assured they actually know what that means. I had a great experience when I dined there a few years ago so when I had the opportunity to meet an old friend downtown, I jumped at the chance to go to this restaurant with him.

Gourmet India opened its doors in May of 2006. Inside, there is a warm feeling projected by the red walls and deep red draperies. You can choose to sit on traditional Indian floor level seating on cushions or at more American-style tables in the dining room. We chose a regular table.

They immediately handed me a gift of jeweled stickers for fun so I placed one in-between my eyebrows. At that moment, I became Indian.

We were served a papadum with a spicy red sauce to start as we perused the menu. I ordered a glass of California wine while my friend ordered an Indian beer. I was told that Indian wine selections are only available on Tuesday. Bummer.

For an appetizer, we ordered the vegetarian pakora, which was spinach, cauliflower, and potato fritters served with tomato chutney. So bad for you, yet tastes so good! Bad me.

For dinner, my friend and I ordered two plates to share off the Vegetarian and Vegan menu. Yep, it is actually labeled as such. The first dish to arrive was the Aloo Gobi -- cauliflower and potatoes sauteed with fresh tomatoes, ginger, green chili,  and ground coriander. Despite our waitresses warnings, we ordered the highest spice level and boy, was it spicy!

The other dish was the Tofu Jahlfrezi -- tofu and mixed vegetables simmered in a red curry sauce, again super spicy.

I am so thankful that Gourmet India is still here because I had just as good an experience as I did the last time I was in this city. The food is great, traditional Indian food priced at $13 to $14 per entree. The service was great and we really liked the ambiance. Maybe next time I'll be more adventurous and dine on the floor. We'll see.

Gourmet India
810 4th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 702-7967

Gourmet India on Urbanspoon