Monday, November 30, 2015

Nourrie Cuisine

With the holidays right around the corner, there's no better time than now to start thinking about catering for your holiday party. Nourrie Cuisine may be a new caterer in the area, but its President is certainly not new to the food industry. Elena Johnson spent years in corporate food service management, training, and sales before moving to the nonprofit sector. She's also worked part-time as a caterer, personal chef, and restaurant consultant before launching Nourrie Cuisine. Today, in addition to catering and prepared meals, she conducts cooking demonstrations at festivals and speaks at national conferences.

Why is it called "Nourrie Cuisine?" Nourrie is derived from the French words meaning "to feed" and "nourished," which is exactly her mission. She dropped off three dishes for me to try and I will say that I was very impressed.

My favorite was the Rosemary Braised Seitan. This meaty and incredibly flavorful seitan was pan-roasted with rosemary and garlic in a scallion pan sauce. Wow! It was served with green beans and mashed potatoes.

The Spinach Rolls were very doughy, but also very good. They were filled with a delicious spinach-tofu mix.

Lastly, I tried the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas. Again, great flavors. I wasn't a huge fan of the long-grain rice because I prefer shorter grain rice, but other than that, it was great.

Nourrie Cuisine offers catering for weddings and events and also sells these prepared meals for $12.99 each. The will deliver to DC, DE, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WV or you can pick them up in Ellicott City, Maryland. To learn more about the prepared meals, go here. To get in touch with Elena directly, you can reach her at or (410) 419-0504.

I am excited to have yet another vegan caterer in the area who uses organic ingredients whenever possible. And I hope her business flourishes this holiday season!

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tofu-Dill Salad Sammiches

Quick, easy, simple -- that describes the Tofu-Dill Salad Sammiches out of Vegan with a Vengeance. In just a few minutes, you are whipping up a tofu-based egg-salad-like salad filling that is satisfying and tasty. I will say that with such a light taste, I felt it needed a little more oomph so I put Dijon mustard on both sides of my bread before topping with the tofu-dill mixture and that made all the difference. Serve these for lunch with chips and/or a pickle.

Tofu-Dill Salad Sammiches
Makes 4-6 sandwiches

  • 14-ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 3 Tbsp red onion, minced
  • 3 Tbsp vegan mayo
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard, plus extra for serving
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Lettuce, tomato, and onion for topping
In a large bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands until you reach a crumbly, but still somewhat firm consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients (through the pepper) and mix well.

Chill for about 15 minutes. Serve on whole wheat bread with extra Dijon mustard and lettuce, tomato, and onion.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sunflower Vegetarian, Vienna, VA #3

It is the year of the Sunflower! I commend Sunflower Vegetarian restaurant for stepping up its game. It is my third visit to these restaurants this year and I continue to be impressed. Watch out Vegetable Garden, there's a new Asian almost-vegan restaurant in town!

On this particular Saturday, I met a couple friends for lunch at the Vienna location. It's a super casual place that is perfect for catching up with old friends. We started with the Spicy Organic Spinach Wonton in Red Sauce. Even though they were in a brown sauce, we absolutely loved these flavorful, fresh, and soft spinach wontons. This started the meal off right!

Before our meals, we were served a simple salad with an Asian dressing. It was simple and tasty.

For my entree, I ordered the Golden Nugget. Over a bed of steamed napa cabbage, bean thread noodles, and carrots were marinated yuba (bean curd) wrapped with shredded shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, spiced dry tofu, and soy protein in a sweet brown sauce. Steamed broccoli garnished the plate. This dish was really good, but a little sweet for my palate.

My one friend had the Eggplant Medley -- lots of eggplant served with carrots, water chestnuts, tomatoes, mushrooms, and baby corn. The sauce was excellent.

I can say the same for my other friend's dish -- the Zen of Greens. Kale, watercress, snow peas, broccoli, and baby bok choy in a delicious light ginger and veggie-oyster sauce.

We were all so pleased with our meals that we decided to try dessert as well. This is where it went south. We ordered the Chocolate Cake with mousse and glaze. It tasted like a dry sponge. When the server asked whether we liked it, my friend told him that she didn't and he excused it with the fact that it was vegan! How dare he? Go to Sticky Fingers and you will see that you can absolutely make vegan chocolate cake that tastes great! In fact, she has her own book -- buy it!

I won't end this on a bad note though. These meals were $6.95 with salad included and were excellent. There is nothing bad to say about that. The service was attentive as well. The changes they have made have been for the better and I look forward to continuing to patronize this establishment. Sunflowers everywhere!

Previous reviews
February 27, 2015
June 24, 2015

Sunflower Vegetarian
2531 Chain Bridge Road
Vienna, VA 22181
(703) 319-3888

Click to add a blog post for Sunflower Vegetarian on Zomato

Friday, November 20, 2015

Real Food Daily, LAX #2

I was flying out of LAX early on a Monday morning when I found Real Food Daily in the terminal! How awesome is this?! Real Food Daily is a vegan restaurant with three locations around the Los Angeles area. But, I guess now this is the fourth. Founded on the principles of serving high-quality, organic, plant-based foods, this restaurant is known for its delicious and healthful cuisine.

So, I couldn't help but check out their menu in the airport. It's pretty simple. They serve a burrito, platter, and sandwich for breakfast and soups, sandwiches, wraps, and burgers for lunch. Luckily, the line was short and soon I realized why. Holy moly -- they are expensive!

I chose the RFD Burrito for $16.50! I kept it and brought it onto the plane and dug in around lunchtime. This whole wheat tortilla was filled with scrambled tofu, roasted potatoes, black beans, peppers, and cashew cheese. It was supposed to come with guacamole and pico de gallo. I only got the pico de gallo. The grilled burrito was filling and satisfying, but definitely not as good as a burrito costing $16.50 should be. And the fact that they forgot my guac made me grumpy.

I'd say it wasn't worth the money, but, quite frankly, I'd buy it again because it is fresh, organic, vegan food in the airport and there sure ain't a lot of competition in that market. And their drink selection is pretty good.

Previous Review
August 9, 2013

Real Food Daily

Click to add a blog post for Real Food Daily on Zomato

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff

Rich and creamy -- this stroganoff will knock your socks off! Thick meaty portobello and cremini mushrooms along with hearty seitan in a savory sauce over fettucini, topped with fresh parsley. It's mmm mmm good. This recipe hails from the 10th anniversary edition of Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the queen of vegan cookbooks. Don't let the list of ingredients and length of instructions intimidate you -- once you chop everything up, this dish is easy to make.

Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff
Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 Tbsp organic cornstarch
  • 2 cups cold vegan vegetable broth
  • 4 cups seitan, sliced into 1/4 inch thick strips
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 portobello caps, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 pound fettuccine
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 cups of broth; set aside.

Heat a large, cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Saute the seitan in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the seitan to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to the heat, but lower it to medium.

Add the shallots and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, cremini, and portobello mushrooms, and thyme. Saute for about 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have browned slightly and released their moisture.

In the meantime, prepare a 4-quart pot with lightly salted water for the pasta. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

Back to the sauce. Add the salt, wine, and paprika to the mushroom mixture. Turn up the heat to high to reduce the liquid, about 10 minutes.

Add the cornstarch mixture, stir well, and let the sauce thicken, about 7 minutes. Add the nutritional yeast, milk, and mustard. Mix well and lower the heat to low; be very careful not to let it boil because it could make the milk and mustard bitter. Add the seitan and peas; cook for 5 more minutes.

The pasta should be done by now. Divide the noodles among bowls and top with the stroganoff. It is best to serve immediately so that the pasta doesn't stick. Garnish with fresh parsley, if you like!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Vegan With a Vengeance: 10th Anniversary Edition

It was only a month ago or so when I was thinking that my favorite cookbook ever is Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the vegan blogger conference a few years ago. And just recently, her publisher informed me that the book is now 10 years old and they republished a 10th anniversary edition with new recipes and pictures. So, I just had to get my hands on it!

This book is beautiful as compared to the one 10 years ago. She updated it with glossy colorful pages and beautiful pictures of most recipes.  She also updated the instructions to simplify them and streamlined the ingredient lists for all recipes. She even added a few new recipes. I gave a few of them a try.

To start, I made the rich and creamy Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff, which knocked my socks off!
Thick meaty portobello and cremini mushrooms along with hearty seitan in a savory sauce over fettucini, topped with fresh parsley is mmm mmm good.

Next up, the Tofu-Dill Salad Sammiches. In just a few minutes, you are whipping up a tofu-based egg-salad-like salad filling that is satisfying and tasty. I will say that with such a light taste, I felt it needed a little more oomph so I put Dijon mustard on both sides of my bread before topping with the tofu-dill mixture and that made all the difference. Serve these for lunch with chips and/or a pickle.

Lastly, I tried a simple, yet satisfying recipe -- Black Bean and Quinoa Soup. This hearty soup filled with onions, carrots, black beans, and quinoa is a meal unto itself and once topped with avocado and cilantro, it'll be sure to please.

Other fantastic recipes include my classic favorites of Scrambled Tofu and Fronch Toast as well as Potato Samosas with Coconut-Mint Chutney, Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing, and Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

As a classic, this book really is a must-have. I can asssure you that you will not be disappointed with the quality of these recipes. She is one of the innovators of vegan recipes and I promise you'll find something you didn't know buried in this book. For just $15, you can get your own copy on Amazon here. Bon appetit!

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veggie Grill, Los Angeles #2

I first visited the Veggie Grill back in 2013. As a very casual cafe, you really go here expecting a good, comforting, wholesome vegan meal. And on this trip, it was no different. I had just completed 15 skydives over the past three days and I wanted some real food. Luckily, my hotel was just 10 minutes away so the journey to Veggie Grill was a short one!

Veggie Grill has restaurants all over California as well as other states, but this particular one was located in plaza in El Segundo. I kept it simple and ordered the Harvest Bowl because veggies and Field Roast sausage sounded really good at that moment.

They brought it out to me in just a few minutes. Atop a bed of kale and quinoa was roasted zucchini, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and Field Roast sausage in a porcini mushroom and miso gravy with hemp seeds. And, I thought it was okay. It was hearty and filling and good, but nothing to really write home about. I appreciated it just the same. For $10.95, I did feel that I got my money's worth.

The All Hail Kale salad I got the last time I was here impressed me a bit more. They have an extensive menu of snacks, bowls, salads, and sandwiches and although you are always going to get fairly simple meals at Veggie Grill, some are definitely better than others. Pass the hot sauce, please!

Previous Review
February 28, 2013

Veggie Grill
720 Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 535-0025

The Veggie Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 9, 2015

Flore Vegan Cuisine, Los Angeles

One meal. I had one meal in Los Angeles on this trip and it had to be a casual lunch. I scoured the Yelp reviews and blogs and decided to meet a friend at Flore Vegan Cuisine near Hollywood.

From its website, I got the feeling that Flore Vegan Cuisine was a fancy little cafe. When I found it on Sunset Boulevard, however, I realized it was more of a deli and take-out joint. Go figure. Around the glass case displaying all of the delicious fruit, spreads, and desserts were a few tables. My friend and I grabbed one of the few booths and perused the menu.

Despite its size, the menu is extensive. From breakfast including veggie frittatta and appetizers including a kimchi quesadilla to salads, sandwiches, tacos, and bowls, there was a little something for everyone. Our server kept sort of lingering so once we were ready to order, we flagged him down. In such a small place, there it isn't like they have very far to go to reach all of the tables. :)  I started with a delicious juice called the Ginerizer made with ginger, apple, and lemon.

For our appetizer, we went with the Cashew Cheese Plate. And, boy, was this fit for a party?! The platter came with a salad and grapes along with toasted batard and housemade cashew cheese. The cashew cheese was okay -- a little gritty and not mind-blowing, but a great way to start a meal and a nice platter to share with a friend.

For my entree, I went with the Burrito Bowl with Seitan. This meal came on a plate not a bowl and was quite simple. Brown basmati rice was topped with black beans, fresh pico de gallo, enchilada sauce, and avocado. On a bed of sauteed kale was sauteed zucchini, onions, and housemade seitan. The seitan was really good -- crispy and cooked just right with lots of flavor. I, of course, added hot sauce in addition to the enchilada sauce and really enjoyed this natural meal.

My friend ordered the Southwestern Seitan Quesadilla filled with cashew cheese, seasoned seitan, tomatoes, and shredded lettuce. It was served with cilantro cream, pico de gallo, and a red sauce. I did not try this, but my friend seemed to like it.

I took a peanut butter chocolate cupcake with me to go and it was absolutely fantastic especially while I sat in three hours of traffic in LA!

At $11.95 for the appetizer and $11 - $12 for our entrees, this place was not cheap, but not overly expensive either given the fresh organic food. I found it to be simple comfort food - not a place to go out of the way for, but a good, wholesome cafe. If I find myself in this area again, I'll definitely stop by...even if just to get more of their scrumptious desserts.

Flore Vegan Cuisine
3818 W. Sunset Boulevard
Silverlake, CA 90026
(323) 953-0611

Click to add a blog post for Flore Vegan Cuisine on Zomato

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, DC #6

Admittedly, I've been avoiding Sticky Fingers because I can't control myself around those cupcakes. On this visit, my friend and I were just going out for breakfast on a Sunday morning so I figured I'd be in control. After all, it was 9 a.m. on a Sunday.

They've got a few interesting items on their Sunday brunch menu like biscuits and gravy. We both stayed with simple choices, grabbed some drinks and sat down. I ordered the Breakfast Burrito with a side of Roasted Potatoes.  The roasted potatoes were pretty fantastic -- seasoned and cooked just right. The burrito was also pretty good. It was a whole grain tortilla filled with tofu scramble, black beans, tomatoes, spinach and Daiya vegan cheese. I found it very filling, but felt with little tweaks, it would also be fantastic. It needed something else - perhaps cooking the spinach in olive oil and adding mushrooms would make it perfect. Or just adding a bit more spice and/or cheese. In this case, I added hot sauce.

My friend got the French Toast made with French bread dredged in a nutmeg and cinnamon batter. This was my favorite dish of all and better than any French Toast I've ever had at a restaurant. The bread was cooked just right so it had that nice crusty cover of batter caked on - and with butter and syrup it was ooh-la-la.

My plan went south when I realized that they now serve doughnuts on Sunday.  My friend got the vanilla doughnut -- this one was my favorite -- chewy and just the right amount of icing.

I went for the Maple Bacon -- I liked it okay, but it was a bit too sweet and I didn't like the tempeh bacon much on this doughnut. I wonder if coconut bacon would have been better.

All in all, we loved our breakfast at Sticky. At $5.50 for the French Toast and $7.75 for the Breakfast Burrito, the prices are great and you can't get vegan doughnuts at very many places so regardless of how much they cost (I don't remember), the price is great! I can't wait to go back and try all the other new menu items I saw on the menu. And I can't wait for the new shop to open around H Street NE!

Previous reviews
November 19, 2013
August 5, 2013
March 5, 2013
Jan. 31, 2012 
Nov. 16, 2011

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats
1370 Park Road NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 299-9700

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Gadarene Swine, Los Angeles

Prior to revisiting any city, I conduct a thorough search of vegan options with the purpose of identifying new restaurants that may have opened since I had last visited. This certainly was not my first visit to LA, but it is the first time I noticed an unusually named restaurant come up on the list of vegan restaurants -- The Gadarene Swine.

Why would a vegan restaurant have the word "swine" in it? I first figured it wasn't really vegan, but upon further research I found that it was mostly vegan with the occasional use of honey. So why the name? It's apparently not well described and the word "gadarene" refers to the many demons in the Gadarene men. Jesus transfers the demons into a herd of swine who then rush to the sea en masse and drown themselves. So one has to wonder how this applies to a vegan restaurant. Well, the menu indicates that the biblical tale inspired a philosophical conceit called the Gadarene Swine Fallacy saying the fallacy is the belief that, “because a group is in the right formation, it is necessarily on the right course; and conversely, of supposing that because an individual has strayed from the group and isn’t in formation, that he is off course.." If you are still confused, so am I, but please leave your philosophical interpretations in the comments below.  I might interpret that to mean that just because you are an omnivore does not mean that you can not enjoy the bounty of vegetables in their purest form as the chef, Phillip Frankland Lee, is also an omnivore, but appreciates vegan cuisine so much that he has dedicated an entire restaurant to it.

The restaurant is beautiful. From the outside, it reminds me of a French chateau with its brick facade, scripted font, and outside wine garden. On the inside, it is quaint and elegant with its rustic wood tables, tree-inspired plates, and unusual artistic elements such as the rope in the box above the semi-open kitchen. It is dimly lit and perfect for a romantic evening for two. We were dining on a Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. We started with a Rosato rose sparkling wine -- quite refreshing.

Our server was pleasant and recommended we go with one of the many tasting options from which you could choose seven, nine, or 12 courses. We went with the seven-course meal. We also ordered two cocktails of which the Bangkok Dangerous was my fave. The Bangkok Dangerous made with nigori (sake), pinapple, ginger, and turmeric had a really nice spicy kick to it that was somewhat dampened by the fruit. The Hibiscus cooler made with junmai (sake), hibiscus, and lime was light, but tasted like it was missing something.

The amuse bouche consisted of Roasted Garlic and Fresh Thyme popcorn with a light dusting of sea salt. So much flavor and so little time. Lemon and Pistachio Kale Chips were also served. I felt like some of these needed more of a coating of the lemon marinade.

The first course was the Fried Olive Stuffed Olive. An interesting dish, they take Calastrano olives and stuff them with a Kalamata and sweet potato puree, then deep fry them with a lime vinaigrette. The flavors were unexpected and bold.

The second course was the Hummus made with garlic oil served with purple potatoes and tomatoes and topped with pistachios and seaweed. The tomatoes added a nice sweetness while the pistachios added crunch to a spectacular hummus dish.

The intermezzo was eggplant three ways. Over a dehydrated slice of eggplant was chopped eggplant with red onions and pickled pomegranate topped with pickled eggplant. What a delightful bite!

The third course was a shaved heirloom carrot salad infused with nutmeg and cinnamon with sweet potato curls on the side. The emulsion of pineapple, ginger, and fennel really made the dish for us.

The fourth course was the Strawberry Salad or strawberry tacos as the server liked to call it. This complicated compilation featured Grenada and champagne, cucumbers, white onions, and thinly sliced apples with arugula and pickled onions. Sweet and satisfying.

The fifth course was one of our favorites. The Blackened Cauliflower dish was made with lots of blackened cauliflower and romanesco with pureed white cauliflower with garlic oil, chopped chives and Thai basil. It was so damn good. The pieces sticking up are crispy slices of broccoli stalks.

The sixth course was another favorite. Maitake and shimeji mushrooms with cayenne in portobello puree with rosemary, and sweet potato chips. This dish was complexly satisfying.

The final course was a coconut pudding with maple brown sugar, streusel, and Thai basil. Very filling!

For just $50, this tasting menu was a steal. Since we shared every dish, the portions were quite light, but the pudding at the end really filled us up. The service was good, but a bit too fast. They had called us beforehand asking if we could come earlier and it was clear they wanted to go home by the time we were done. We felt the dishes arrived too quickly generally. But despite that, we felt our server was very knowledgeable about the dishes and was quite attentive and the food was spectacular. This is one of my new favorites in LA! Oh, and I've heard this chef is currently competing on Top Chef so you can watch him there as well.

The Gadarene Swine
11266 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91804
(818) 508-5500

Gadarene Swine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato