Friday, October 31, 2014

Polish Summer Soba Salad

My second attempt to make a recipe from Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero came out as great as the first. The Polish Summer Soba Salad mixes crunchy cucumbers accented by fresh dill and warm noodles with warm roasted beets, crunchy walnuts, beans, and scallions in a deliciously fresh dill dressing. If you want a dish that will impress your friends, this is it. And it is super easy to make. Roast the beets, boil the noodles, and chop the rest and you are done!

Polish Summer Soba Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients for Soba Salad
  • 1/2 pound uncooked beets, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 tsp celery seeds
  • Pinch of salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces of soba noodles
  • 2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced into half-moons
  • 1 cup cooked white beans
  • 3 Tbsp chopped roasted walnuts
Ingredients for Dill Dressing
  •  1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the diced beets on the parchment paper, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, celery seeds, salt and pepper and toss and roast. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender and easily pierced by a fork.

Prepare the soba noodles according to package directions, but slightly undercook them to al dente. Drain, rinse with plenty of cold water, and transfer to mixing bowl.

In another mixing bowl, combine the scallions, cucumber, and white beans. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Pour half over the bean and vegetable mixture, and toss. Add the remaining dressing to the soba noodles and toss.

Divide the soba noodles among serving bowls and twirl into a mound in the center of each bowl. Spoon the bean and vegetable mixture over the soba, garnish with roasted beets, and sprinkle with roasted walnuts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mintwood Place, DC

Nestled in the heart of Adams Morgan next to the dive restaurants the neighborhood is known for, lies what might be the only somewhat fancy restaurant around. Mintwood Place is French-American restaurant headed by Chef Cedric Maupillier. When it first opened last year, it was very difficult to get a reservation. While still quite popular, a week's notice is all you'll need to reserve your optimal time on any night now.

With reservations on a Friday night, me and my friend headed over to Adams Morgan. After spending 30 minutes looking for a parking spot, we opted to pay $15 for parking in the tiny lot next to the restaurant. This neighborhood has always been hard to park in and it seems to be getting worse by the minute. Once parked, we relaxed and walked over to the restaurant.

When we arrived, there were over twenty people at the bar and every table in the dining room was occupied. That said, we were seated immediately. The restaurant is well-lit and very loud. Along the ceilings, exposed ductwork is painted white and on the shelving that separates the bar and dining room, there lies eclectic wrought iron wheels and vases filled with stalks of wheat. It is quite random.

The cocktails sounded very good so we both went for a cocktail. The Tipperary was excellent with Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Green Chartreuse, Sweet Vermouth, and Lemon.

My friend liked his as well -- the Bardstown Square made with Redemption Bourbon, Snap, Punt E Mes, and Aztec Chocolate Bitters.

Beware -- the bread they serve when you first sit down is not vegan.  I called before visiting the restaurant so I already knew the vegan options were extremely limited. We started with the Blistered Shishito Peppers. These peppers were fairly good and I probably would have thought they were fantastic had I never had the same at Estadio. I will say that Estadio's peppers are much better.

After the initial shock of seeing that there was a wood-grilled calf's heart on the menu wore off, I ordered the Mixed Greens salad. This was really just arugula tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I enjoyed this light start to the meal.

For my entree, I first inquired about the spring vegetable composition, but was told that it is served with a morel mushroom cream and that the chef wasn't willing to serve it without this. Hmmm...not very flexible, are we? So I ordered the one item that could be made vegan -- the Risotto made without butter or cheese. This was a unique take on risotto as instead of arborio rice, it was made with a creative mix of farro, wheatberry, bulgar wheat, pearl barley, and buckwheat groats. On top was perfectly roasted diced eggplant and zucchini with a flash fried green leafy vegetable of some sort. I thought the dish was pretty good with a smoked tomato sauce and well-cooked vegetables, but it was definitely missing something. It needed some fresh herbs or something and a little more pizazz to the sauce.

After dinner, I had a nice chamomile tea as we continued to reminisce about the good old days.

I enjoyed my visit to Mintwood Place, but do not see what all of the hype is about and perhaps that is because they are not very vegan-friendly. They were only willing to modify one dish on the menu to make it vegan even though there was another dish made up of just vegetables that could have also been offered had the chef been willing to modify his morel cream to make it vegan. The food was good, but overpriced for what it was as my risotto alone was $25. The service was not that great as the server often didn't know the ingredients in the dishes when I asked nor did she check on us much.

The highlight of the meal was really the fantastic cocktails.  In the end, I'd recommend that vegans just go to the bar for drinks and snack on the shishito peppers.  Oh, and I forgot to ask, why is it called Mintwood Place when it is not on Mintwood Place? It is located on Columbia Road, next to, but not on, Mintwood Place. I guess "Columbia Road" didn't seem that catchy.

Mintwood Place
1813 Columbia Road NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-6732

Mintwood Place on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2014

Grilled Kale Salad with Spicy Lentils

I'm not sure I'd really call this a salad, but that is what Terry Hope Romero calls it in her new book,  Salad Samurai. She refers to it as the Grilled Kale Salad with Spicy Lentils, but what it really turned out being was an incredible gourmet vegan meal. I never really thought to grill kale before, but it turns out wonderfully! Seared kale and scallions marinated in a coconut milk and lime juice dressing served with tomatoes, onions, and almonds in a similar dressing with spicy sriracha and lentils. The mix is akin to a plate at an upscale restaurant.

Instead of fresh lentils, I used Hope Foods' Habanero Lentil Dip just because I had it and needed to use it. It is absolutely delicious -- made with lentils, onion, garlic, lime juice, and habanero powder. This versatile dip could be served as a dip or used in a salad like this as an accompaniment.

I also used this as an opportunity to open my new bottle of Organicville Sriracha. Why do we need another sriracha? Well, first off, it's made with many organic ingredients. They use high quality cayenne peppers and red jalapenos with garlic to create a much fresher tasting sriracha than the well-known one made by Huy Fong Foods. And they don't use potassium sorbate or sodium bisulphate as preservatives either. So it tastes fresh and I think it tastes even better than the original.

Serve this dish to your friends at a dinner party and see if they aren't impressed.

Grilled Kale Salad with Spicy Lentils
Serves 4

  • 1 pound lacinato (Tuscan) kale
  • 1 bunch scallions, root ends trimmed
  • 1 cup coconut milk (full fat or reduced fat)
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (about one lime)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha (I used Organicville Sriracha)
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, cooked; or cooked and canned lentils drained and rinsed (I used Hope Foods' Habanero Lentil Dip instead)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup toasted, chopped almonds
  • Lime wedges, for garnish
  • Avocado (optional)
Trim away the tough bottom inch from each stem of kale and discard. Slice the stems into 3-inch long sections. Transfer to a bowl and add the scallions. Pour in the coconut milk and lime juice, add a pinch of salt, and massage the kale and scallions just enough to coat them with a dressing. Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat.

Remove only the kale from the bowl and grill it for about 30 to 45 seconds, flipping once, until it is tender and perhaps slightly charred. Transfer to a dish. Grill the scallions for about 1 to 2 minutes, transfer to a cutting board, and slice into bite-size pieces when just cool enough to handle.

In the bowl with the leftover coconut lime dressing, whisk in the vinegar and sriracha. Add the lentils, onion, tomatoes, and almonds and toss to coat with the dressing. Mound the lentil mixture in individual serving dishes, arrange the kale and scallions on top, and serve with lime wedges and sliced avocado.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Zoe's Vegan Delight, DC

Eastern Market is the famous year-round market in DC where you can get anything from dill pickles and exotic mushrooms to artwork and t-shirts. On this beautiful spring day, we arrived around noon so first on the agenda was lunch. I hadn't been here in about a year and was delightfully surprised to find Zoe's Vegan Delight!

Zoe is the owner and chef of her own catering business in Landover, MD and she runs a booth at Eastern Market. She has a few options to choose from as well as vegan dessert. I chose the stir fry with vegan chicken. This stir-fry had kale, broccoli, squash, carrots, and faux chicken over rice. It was absolutely delicious. And she had a variety of hot sauces to add to it as well.  The only thing I'd change is to request she use less oil as the meal was very oily. But, it is still one of the best vegan meals you'll find at Eastern Market. Thanks, Zoe, for bringing your goodness to us! And thanks for using all non-GMO ingredients!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Taylor Gourmet, DC

When Taylor Gourmet first opened on H Street NE, everyone was talking about them as if they were the best sandwich shop to hit DC.  Then, when they opened on 14th Street last year under Yoga District, all the yogis were excited because they thought they could stop by and get some fresh eats after yoga class. We quickly discovered though that Taylor Gourmet did not have a vegan sandwich. Further, when we asked them if they'd use vegan cheese, they told us they would and asked us to check back, but when we did, we found that they never purchased any. After a few months, we all gave up.

But, now there is a vegan sandwich on the menu -- the Lehigh Avenue. It is named after a street in Philadelphia as are all of the sandwiches.  I was excited because it was cauliflower-based like the one at G, which is amazing, so I figured it would be just as good and on vegan bread, unlike the one at G. But, when I opened it up, it looked like there wasn't much on it. It was made on a deliciously fresh, seeded hoagie roll with white bean hummus, arugula, roasted cauliflower and spicy red pepper dressing. Sounds good, huh? But, it turned out to be meh. The roasted cauliflower tasted like it was roasted in the morning and was cold and soggy. The hummus seeped into the bread and wasn't that flavorful and the dressing was just okay. Overall, I was pretty disappointed.

I also got a Puck's natural soda in Black Cherry. That was the highlight of my meal.

The coolest thing about the shop was really its decor. It has exposed brick walls, wood furniture, and buckets as lights that hang from the ceiling. It's a fun atmosphere.

But despite the atmosphere, unfortunately, I would not say that it is worth visiting Taylor Gourmet as a vegan. I think that if they put more hummus on the Lehigh Avenue, roasted the cauliflower fresh for each hoagie, and loaded the bun with cauliflower, it would be great. But, as they are making it now, it just isn't. They also offer an Indian Curry Lentil soup, which is vegan as well.  I hope to give them another try in the near future. In the meantime, Taylor Gourmet, let us know if you improve on the sandwich.  We really want this relationship to work.

Taylor Gourmet
1908 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 588-7117

Taylor Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Arugula and Potato Salad

I picked up a bunch of red potatoes at the farmer's market thinking I'd make a potato salad, but not your typical potato salad. I wanted to do something a little more creative with them. So I found this fantastic recipe for a Farmer's Salad in my Crazy Sexy Kitchen cookbook by Chad Sarno and Chris Carr, which I am going to call Arugula and Potato Salad because it is really two salads in one. Take warm potatoes and coat them in a aioli made with lemon zest and capers and top it with zesty arugula in a dijon vinaigrette and you have a masterpiece. It's a great summer entree or accompaniment to a great meal. Please note that I have altered the recipe from the original.

Arugula and Potato Salad
Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 Tbsp Basic Aioli plus another 3 Tbsp Vegenaise
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp capers, strained
  • 1 Tbsp minced chives or green onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tarragon, coarsely chopped
  • Approx. 12 new red potatoes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon Vinaigrette
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Boil water in stockpot. Add potatoes and cook approximately 20 minutes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, but still maintain their shape. Drain and let cool about 20 minutes. Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters.

Mix the Basic Aioli recipe in a bowl with more lemon zest, capers, chives, and tarragon. Toss the aioli mixture with the potatoes and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the watercress and Dijon Vinaigrette. Toss gently.

Place a portion of the potato salad in the center of the plate and top with a handful of the arugula. Top with bell pepper slices. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

DC Dosa, DC

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.
If you put DC in your name, you've already won my heart over as I'm all about DC pride.  Okay, seriously, as the veracious vegan, I need to be objective in my review so I'll overlook the fact that DC Dosa is using local pride to win me over. And in case you don't know -- dosas are lentil and rice crepes/pancakes with a vegetable filling served with chutney that hail from South India. Yum.

DC Dosa offers 3 different kinds of dosas, 3 fillings and 3 chutneys to choose from. My first experience was going to the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods where owner, Priya Ammu, set up shop in 2013.  You place your order on a computer, then go pick up your dosa where it is made fresh right before your eyes.  The wait is quite long, but well worth it.

For my first one, I chose the four-lentil dosa and she let me try both the special cauliflower and pea mixture and the eggplant and sweet potatoes. I loved both of them. Of the three sauces: cilantro, tomato, and peanut, my favorite was the cilantro with the peanut a close second. I love that they fill spongy, thick pancakes with these delicious Indian fillings and serve them with chutney. It is a great idea.

My second visit was to their new location in Union Market. The menu is the same here. You can choose from a four-lentil, petite yellow lentil, or whole mung lentil dosa and fill it with your choice of curried potatoes, eggplant and sweet potatoes, and cabbage and carrots. They just had one person working the entire operation so, again, service is quite slow. This time I tried the mung bean dosa with the eggplant and sweet potato filling. This was a true winner. And we had some sort of onion tamarind chutney that made us both smile. I think I could eat these every day! I will say that the take-out container they put the dosas in is very awkward to eat out of as it barely fits the entire meal inside. I hope they find a better solution in the future.

I was disappointed to find that even though all of the dosas, fillings, and chutneys are vegan, the drink they serve is not. I hope they make their lassi vegan in the future. I've also heard that they may be coming out with a vegan sambhar stew soon. I can't wait to try it!

You'd be hard pressed to find a heartier meal in the area for just $8. All of the dosas are made with fresh ingredients -- no processed products or preservatives are used and they are cooked before your eyes. Their spices are even roasted and ground in-house. And they use organic produce, when available. I predict they'll be expanding to more locations soon. In the meantime, take advantage of their two locations and meet a friend at one for a delicious, hearty lunch.

DC Dosa
Whole Foods
2201 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

DC Dosa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cityzen, DC #2

After having dined at Cityzen in 2012, I found myself comparing other restaurants to it time and time again as it set a high standard for what I expected in a fine dining establishment. Eric Ziebold is the mastermind behind Cityzen located inside the beautiful Mandarin Oriental. This well-acclaimed chef began his career at Vidalia in DC, then moved on to Spago in LA. After that he worked at the world renowned French Laundry in California, then Per Se in NYC. If that isn't one of the most impressive resumes you've ever seen, throw a James Beard award in on top of it and then I think you'll find that hard to top.

So when Chris asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, my first thought was to go to Cityzen! After all, it has been two years and since then I've dined at Michelin-starred restaurants so I wanted to see if my first impression would remain. To be clear, Michelin does not come to DC, for whatever reason, because if they did, Cityzen would surely be rated. But, don't get me started on that.

We were seated promptly at 7:30 p.m. on this Tuesday night. Shortly thereafter, I realized the memory card was not in my camera so I had to take photos on my iPhone and I'm apologizing upfront for the crappy photos I have posted here. Let's move on. We had informed the host when making the reservation several weeks ago that we'd be dining vegan. Then, I called to follow-up a week later and they confirmed the note. Two years ago, when I dined here, they were ready for me. The server was ready to explain how the vegetarian menu would be modified to be made vegan. This time, however, that was not the case. I was handed a menu and once I realized the server wasn't aware that we were dining vegan, I stopped him and let him know. I was trying to avoid the explanation of the many meat dishes. Did this deter him? Oh, no, not at all. He acknowledged my mention that I'd be dining vegan, then suggested we take a look at the menu anyway as if I'd have options to choose from. So, he continued his spiel of how you can choose from four-course prix fixe, six-course chef's tasting, or six-course vegetarian tasting all the while highlighting the meat and cheese. I was so perplexed. Was he wondering if perhaps I might change my mind this instant upon hearing that the crispy skin filet of Florida red snapper was available? I, again, reiterated that we'd be dining vegan and he seemed to get the point.

I asked the sommelier to stop by and discuss the wine pairing as it related to the vegan menu. In the meantime, they put butter on the table. I inquired as to whether it was real butter, they confirmed, apologized, then removed it. I began wondering if this was the same Cityzen I had dined at a few years ago. At least when they returned with the bread basket, they informed me which bread was vegan so that was good.

The sommelier informed me that the vegetarian menu was nearly vegan and that few substitutions would have be to be made so the wine pairing would be the same. That sounded great to me.

The amuse bouche was some sort of croquette with a strong turmeric taste to it -- soft on the inside and crusty on the outside. What a great way to start the meal! The pairing was a Prosecco with pomegranate syrup and it was so delicious.

The first course was marinated avocado and toasted hazelnuts with a coriander mousse and peaches. The pairing was a Reisling from Germany. It was pretty good, but I liked the amuse bouche better thus far.

The second course was the Cityzen succotash. I absolutely loved the complexity of this dish. Spiced okra and tempura baby corn was placed atop a corn grit coulis. In the middle, red pepper sorbet with hyacinth blossoms became the centerpiece of the meal. For creativity, I give this dish a 10. Tempura baby corn with red pepper sorbet in a savory dish? It worked and it worked well! Definitely one of the highlights of the night.

The third course was a slow baked roma tomato with the skin removed atop quinoa with toasted sunflower seeds and English cucumber with a mint vinegar dressing. Very creative.

The fourth course was roasted chanterelle mushrooms with walla walla onions with anise hyssop and anise puree. It was very good and the Melini Chianti (1999) was one of my favorite wines of the night.

The fifth dish was the scalloped zucchini couscous with pimenton dulce sauce. I think this was my least favorite dish of the night as I found the zucchini to be quite plain.

The intermezzo was a poppyseed sorbet over a blueberry compote. Yum.

Finally, to end a wonderful evening, we were served a vegan cake with poached pear, chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream. It was spectacular.

The final offering was a petit fours made with ginger and lychee.

If I go over the night in my head and I think about the highlight, it was probably the fantastic wine selection. Every wine was very good and made an excellent pairing with the dishes. But, really the food was spectacular as well. I didn't love every single dish, but all of them were beautifully plated and thoughtfully put together. And I did love many of the dishes so Eric Ziebold continues to impress. The service was very good throughout the night, but the only thing that bothers me was my server's behavior when we first arrived. If you have a diner with specific dietary needs, you should be sensitive to that, especially at a fine restaurant. In the end, I thought the food was great, the wine was fantastic, and the service overall was so-so. The price was fair as well at $110 per person plus $85 for the pairing.

I wasn't as impressed as the first time I visited, but Cityzen still remains one of my favorite spots in DC. I look forward to dining with them again in the future.

Previous review
February 21, 2012

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

CityZen on Urbanspoon