Friday, May 30, 2014

Nii Bars

As I stand in front of the bar aisle at the grocery store, I am constantly reminded of how unpure many of the bars are. And even those that seemingly have pure ingredients often are not organic. So when I discovered Nii bars, I was delighted. It really is the wholesomeness that got me excited. These bars are vegan, certified organic, gluten-free, raw, and made with cold-pressed ingredients.

The Cherry Coconut was definitely my favorite.  Made with raw cashew butter, dates, coconut nectar, dried tart cherries, walnuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, rice protein, hemp seeds, and sprouted quinoa, it had a smooth texture and great flavor.

I also loved the Peanut Butter flavor loaded with chocolate chips! Who knew there were chocolate chips in there? I think this one should be called Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, but, regardless, it was yummy. I should mention that it is on the high side of fat content at 12 grams of fat for a small 1.8-ounce serving, but it is all good fats so I didn't mind. The calorie content was 220.

Then there was the Almond Chocolate Chip. This one was particularly chewy and sticky, but I loved the big pieces of almonds and chocolate chips.

The Berry Cashew as probably my least favorite as it had a few too many berries in it for me. This one would be great for all the berry lovers out there! With cranberries, blueberries, and strawberry flavor, you'll be rolling in berries.

So who is behind these bars?  Shanais Pelka is her name and nutrition is her game. As a mother with three active children, she was on the search for the perfect on-the-go food, but didn't want to compromise her health just because they were busy. So she began the quest to develop the perfect nutrition bar. And the rest is history.

As a new company, the bars are not yet widely available and are not at all available on the east coast. You can currently buy them online for $2.99 each on the Nii website or search for a store near you here. With Nii bars, you can Own the Day!

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Teak Wood, DC

I remember when Teak Wood first opened and everyone was like, "Wow - that Thai restaurant is huge!"  Teak Wood has been on 14th Street in the Logan Circle area for a few years now, but every time I've walked by, it has looked empty so I've never been. I recently heard from some of my friends that they liked it so I snagged a Living Social coupon to check it out.

Teak Wood has the feel of a large chain restaurant when you first walk in, but only because of its size. If you put that aside, I think the atmosphere is very cool. Dimly lit, with hardwood tables and chairs and statues and artwork featuring Thai elephants and Buddhas carved out of teak wood, ornate mirrors, and splashing waterfalls -- it really does feel like Thailand. We started with a couple Manhattans as we perused the menu. The Manhattans were strong and good.

There are actually two flavors in this restaurant as they serve Thai and sushi. We opted for the Thai meals and immediately turned to the Green Valley section. Not seeing anything very unique, we started with the Garden Herb Rolls. Expecting your run-of-the-mill rolls, we were pleasantly surprised to find that these super fresh rolls filled with rice noodles, cabbage, carrots, and other veggies went great with the thick peanut sauce. Very nice.

For my entree, I ordered the Basil Jae. I requested Thai spicy and the waiter asked me if I was sure because there was no going back. I assured him that I was sure and got excited at the prospect of a spicy meal!  The dish was loaded with carrots, cabbage, broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms, and tofu in a delightfully Thai-spicy garlic sauce with fresh basil. I was pleased.

My friend ordered the Vegetable Curry with a red curry, which was also quite good. Note that at least one of our meals came with fish sauce in it normally so we had to specify "no fish sauce."

To end the night, we ordered sticky rice with mango. It was served on a heart-shaped plate with the mango arranged in the shape of a heart and the black sticky rice and coconut milk inside the heart. We loved the presentation as much as we enjoyed the dessert.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to try this restaurant. I think it is one of the better Thai restaurants in the city. I love the atmosphere, the service was great, and the prices at about $13 per entree were appropriate. Teak Wood -- I hope you are here to stay.

Teak Wood
1323 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 290-1856

Teak Wood on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tofu and Avocado Sandwich

Sometimes simple is perfect. I present to you a super easy sandwich with a lot of flavor and I'm calling it the Tofu and Avocado Sandwich. On grainy bread, I spread roasted garlic Vegenaise, then placed baked Italian-flavored tofu with greens, tomato, and avocado on top for a hearty and deliciously satisfying sandwich. You could really use any flavor of the Vegenaise Gourmet spreads for this sandwich and any grainy bread.

I chose the Silver Hills The Big 16 that has 16 grains.

And the Vegenaise Gourmet in Roasted Garlic for a garlicky kick.

For tofu, I used a baked tofu by SoyBoy in Italian flavor. If you've never tried tofu before or never really liked it, this is a great one to start with. The texture is absolutely perfect.

Try this sandwich on a warm summer day with a nice citrusy salad for a perfect lunch.

Tofu and Avocado Sandwich
Serves 1

Put Vegenaise on one side of two pieces of bread. Place three pieces of sliced tofu on one piece of bread. Top with greens, tomato, and avocado and put the other piece of bread on top. That's it!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vintner's Alliance - Wine

Since 2013, Vintners' Alliance has been serving the online community with an exceptional wine selection.  But, what caught my eye was that they recently expanded their portfolio to include an exclusive selection of vegan wines! For a regular website that is not a vegan-specific website to offer this is pretty unusual and gets me excited about the future of the vegan wine market.

Vintners' Alliance sent me three wines to try -- two from Girasole Vineyards and one from Parducci.  The Girasole Chardonnay was probably my favorite. With hints of golden apple and ripe pear, this $15 bottle is a steal and would be perfect for a summer picnic.

The Girasole Pinot Noir ($18) and Parducci Grenache Reserve ($27) were medium-bodied reds that would best complement heavier meals like a pasta or casserole.

I usually view online wine buying as a pain in the butt mostly because of shipping fees. What makes Vintners' Alliance great is that they offer one-cent shipping. Yep, just a penny! And there is no minimum number of bottles to purchase. So you can just buy one bottle, if you choose, for just one-cent shipping.

They recently partnered with select producers to offer an outstanding assortment of vegan wines. What makes a wine vegan?  Well, a lot of wines use animal-derived ingredients in the filtering or fining process. This process removes tiny particles such as grape skins, stems, and yeast from the wine. Examples of products used in this process are egg whites, gelatin, and isinglass (fish bladders). Wines that are unfiltered are usually vegan as are those that are certified vegan or labeled vegan as were the wines they shipped me.

Additionally, they also offer an organic wine selection. To view both vegan and organic wines, go to their website and scroll down to the lifestyle heading on the left-hand side and make the appropriate selection.  I, for one, am excited to see that they are selling vegan wines and hope this new area of business really takes off for them.  Now for a glass of wine...!

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rogue 24 SpiritsBar, DC

As a big fan of Rogue 24, I realized that I never tried their SpiritsBar. This four-seat bar is located at the far end of the dining room with a full view of the open kitchen. Reservations can be made for 6 or 7:30 p.m. seatings. So we made a reservation for a Saturday night.

When we arrived, we were immediately seated at the bar. Luckily, no one else had a reservation at that time so we had the bar to ourselves. Chef RJ Cooper is more than willing to accommodate his vegan diners and, as always, we were really impressed with this spread. You typically get four drinks and four small plates for $44 so it's a similar concept to that of the Columbia Room in the Passenger, but much more gourmet.

My night started with a Pickle Back -- a rye whiskey shot followed by pickle juice. That was a strong start to the night.

The first plate of items was amazing -- an assortment of vegan delights! There was cucumber in sake served with sea salt, celery root ravioli, tapioca puffs, stuffed red peppers with chorizo, and vegan mozzarella balls tossed in basil powder with tomato powder, breaded and fried. Very creative. The cucumber with sea salt and celery root ravioli were my favorites by far.

The next drink was really good. It had blood orange tincture, cognac, and simple sugar and on the glass was a carrot sugar ash that you could lick before you drank the cocktail.

Next up was this funky looking vegan egg made of potatoes! A potato spherification over potato puree with blossoms. Not too shabby!

Then we got a tempeh "taco" wrapped with collard greens and served over black bean puree. It was topped with sweet pepper relish.

My next drink was as good as the last. Made with Michter's rye whiskey, wine, chartreuse, and celery bitters, it was very nice.

Next up -- a mushroom forest with beech, pini pini mushrooms and other exotic mushrooms with tarragon powder and mushroom soil. Loved this one. And the presentation was exquisite.

My last drink was my favorite. For dessert, it had grilled apples, El Dorado rum, Smith & Cross rum, and St. Elizabeth allspice dram.

For dessert, we had chocolate sorbet with chocolate hazelnut rocks. It was so decadent. I want to come back just for dessert sometime!

Honestly, even though I think the 24-course meals here are exceptional, I wasn't expecting the same level of food for the bar, so I was blown away. And the drinks were amazing. This is an incredible deal at just $44. I can see myself coming back pretty often. I think I'm about to go rogue.

Previous reviews
October 15, 2012
January 27, 2014

Rogue 24
922 N Street NW (rear)
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 408-9724

Rogue 24 on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 16, 2014


Minestrone is an Italian-based mishmash of all good things. Loaded with vegetables, herbs, beans, and pasta, you really can't go wrong with this soup. This particular version comes from Mayim's Vegan Table by Mayim Bailik and Dr. Jay Gordon. I love how many different ingredients there are and how all of them are good for you. Onions, celery, carrots, and zucchini complement the fusilli pasta and cannellini beans perfectly. This is a crowd pleasing soup.

Serves 8

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 6 cups vegan vegetable stock
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes or 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed plum tomatoes
  • 2 14-ounce cans white cannellini beans
  • 1/2 lb green beans or zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 bunch kale, leaves only, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 cups slightly undercooked pasta (fusilli or penne)
  • Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil over high heat. Saute the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic until soft, 4-5 minutes.

Add stock, squash or potatoes, herbs, and tomatoes and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add the white beans, green beans or zucchini, kale, and pasta and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Health-Ade Kombucha

I have to say that I love it when I meet entrepreneurs who are passionate about their business. Daina Trout is no exception. As the creator of Health-Ade out of the Los Angeles area, Daina's mission is to provide the world with a healthy kombucha. And when I say healthy, I mean healthy. Kombucha is a fermented tea that has long been touted for its health benefits, but in the process of its gaining popularity, a number of manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon and started cutting corners. Daina, who possesses Master's Degrees in Nutritional Biochemistry and Public Health as well as other credentials, utilized existing research to create one of the healthiest kombuchas on the market. So what makes her product stand out?

Well, let's first start with what everyone cares about -- flavor. There are currently seven seasonal flavors listed on her website. I was lucky enough to try five of them.  Instead of infusing her kombuchas with juice concentrates, she uses only fresh cold-pressed fruit to ensure maximum nutritional benefits and optimal flavor. Her flavoring is also very subtle so if you like a pure kombucha with just a hint of flavor, you are going to love these.

The Pink Lady Apple was my favorite as you get a perfectly mild kombucha with just a little bit of apple on the finish.

Let's take a step back and talk about kombucha in general. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that is naturally rich in friendly probiotics, not to mention high in antioxidants and nutrients. It has been used in countless cultures to help improve health, in particular to boost immunity and energy, balance metabolism, and aid in digestion. Real kombucha is made only one way, with 3 simple ingredients: tea, sugar, and water.  Combining these with the kombucha culture, called a “scoby” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), in just the right temperature and for just the right amount of time will make kombucha.The bacteria and yeasts in the culture “eat” the sugar, resulting in a slightly effervescent and delicious drink that ends up being very low in sugar and caffeine, and great for your health. 

I also enjoyed the Original flavor as I found it incredibly palatable with its mild taste and just a little fizz. Kombucha becomes naturally carbonated over time from the yeast. Health-Ade does not add any artificial carbonation into its kombucha unlike other manufacturers as that can destroy the probiotics. Health-Ade only ferments its tea in glass to naturally produce healthy probiotics. Daina says that she would never ferment in plastic because it can corrode and erode and ultimately damage the kombucha scoby, which is what allows the tea to ferment and product healthy characteristics.

Another thing they are adamant about is storing the kombucha in amber bottles as UV light can damage kombucha and reduce the probiotics.

Health-Ade's kombucha is 100% raw. They do not pasteurize their kombucha as the kombucha itself acts as a preservative. The symbiosis of cultures does not allow bad bacteria to grow. Other brands pasteurize, which can also reduce the probiotic content.

Other flavors I enjoyed were the Cayenne Cleanse, California Grape and Pomegranate.

Best of all, they are all certified organic, certified vegan, gluten-free, raw, and pending certification from the Non-GMO Project.  They are currently being sold in select stores in California, Utah, New York, West Virginia, Arizona, and Maryland for $4.99 per bottle, but distribution is quickly expanding so keep your eyes open for a store near you. For a complete list of stores, click here.

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

Monday, May 12, 2014

Busboys & Poets, DC #4

I've written about Busboys & Poets three times now, mostly because I live fairly close to one. It's my go-to for when I want a good, quick meal, assuming there is no wait. This place is super popular because the food and drinks are really good and appropriately priced. We only had 45 minutes to eat, early on a Thursday night so we ran over to Busboys to see if we could get seated. And sure enough, we could.

I wasn't all that hungry this time so I decided try one of their salads for once.  This past season they added a new vegan salad to their menu -- the Vegan Cobb Salad. It was so good. It was just a heap of arugula with crispy tofu, blackened tempeh, avocado, tomatoes, and cashews tossed in a hemp vinaigrette. The tempeh and tofu really brought the salad to life!  And it was served with pita triangles. It was really good.

I also ordered a new mixed drink off their cocktails menu. They just changed many of the cocktails so I decided to try something new -- the Proper Kappa. I'm not sure what exactly is in this, but it lists elderflower liqueur, pomegranate, and lime. It was a light drink, slightly fruity drink.

The service was okay, the food was great, and the drink was pretty good. I love this place as a meeting spot for friends.

Previous reviews
July 12, 2013
November 21, 2012
February 28, 2012

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

Busboys and Poets on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 9, 2014

Turlock, the documentary

The new documentary, Turlock, chronicles the largest rescue of chickens from animal neglect in U.S. history. It all began in Turlock, California in 2013 when the animal sanctuary, Animal Place, was informed that the A&L Poultry Farm abandoned 50,000 egg-laying hens in their battery cages without food. In fact, they hadn't eaten in two weeks and many of them were still alive.

Animal Place volunteers and employees rushed to action, organizing one of the largest animal rescue efforts in history. Throughout this documentary, you witness not only the rescue taking place, but you get an insider's view of the emotional toll it takes on those involved through in-depth interviews with the volunteers and employees.  If you always viewed chickens only as food, this documentary will make you see them as individuals for the first time.

They show thousands of sick, emaciated hens piled on top of one another living in the horrific conditions that are your typical factory farm. There, egg-laying hens live in battery cages so small they can not spread their wings. And they never see the light of day. One worker stated that most people see chickens as trash and that they are only as valuable as their productivity. This is sad, but true. Below is a picture of the facility as they found it laden with feces and feathers.

After two weeks of hard work, 4,500 hens were rescued and Animal Place employees and volunteers began around-the-clock care to try to save all of them.  These chickens had never known freedom and didn't know what to do when they had space to move around. The images will bring tears to your eyes. After a few weeks, they began displaying the behaviors that normal chickens display when allowed to live freely -- sunbathing, dustbathing, and digging. It was miraculous. And in the end, they lost about 400 birds and still saved 4,100.

The information about factory farms will make you think twice about continuing to consume eggs. Normal chickens only lay about 30 eggs per year. Factory-raised hens lay about 300 -- their bodies are so spent from all this work that they only live a little over a year. Their male babies are ground up as they are useless to the egg laying industry and female babies are put into production as soon as they are ready.

All of the workers were touched deeply by what they experienced. At the end, they described the efforts they put forth to get all of the chickens adopted and interviewed some of the new caretakers of these birds.  I commend filmmaker, Keegan Kuhn, for producing this touching, eye-opening story as I'm sure it will make people think twice about the eggs they consume. What's the ultimate message? Go vegan. But, even if you aren't going vegan right now, please watch this movie as it is an incredible story that shows how a community can come together to save individual's lives. To host your own screening of the movie, go here; otherwise, the DVD will be out soon!