Sunday, September 25, 2016

Natural Products Expo East 2016

Yesterday was the long-anticipated Expo East -- the east coast gathering for food purveyors and manufacturers! Attending this event reinvigorated my excitement for what I do!  I'll be sharing more about my favorite products in the future. For now, here is my short list of favorites in no particular order:

#1 Suckerpunch Gourmet Spicy Ghost Pepper Bloody Mary Mix

#2 K'ul Chocolate Bars

#3 Veggie Noodle Co. Sweet Potato Spirals

#4 Karma Wrapped Cashews in Lime Twist

#5 EatingEvolved Cashew Milk Chocolate Bar

#6 House Foods Baked Tofu Bar

#7 The Maple Guild Maple Cream

And that's it....until next year!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Paper Horse, DC

Erik Bruner-Yang is a chef who has really begun to make his mark in DC with successes including Toki Underground, which he is no longer a part of, and Maketto. His latest venture is a simple counter at Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom serving just one thing -- ramen and it is called Paper Horse.

Photo via Whole Foods Facebook
To order the vegan version, order the "Keeping It Light" at one of the kiosks, then go to the counter and wait for your number to be called.  They give you a container full of veggies and a separate container for the broth so your ramen doesn't get soggy.

I quickly took it to a table inside and opened it up. How beautiful! Inside, there was fresh spinach, fried Brussels sprouts, potatoes, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, braised daikon, pickled ginger, and ramen noodles. I poured the broth over it and it came alive. The broth is incredibly rich and I loved how all of the flavors came together once it enveloped the veggies. The bowl makes for a huge lunch and somehow I managed to eat the whole thing. I left satisfied and happy.

The ramen was $12 so not cheap, but so damn good. Highly recommended for a quick lunch with or without friends.

Paper Horse
Located inside Whole Foods, Foggy Bottom
2201 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Bombay Club, DC #2

What many people may not know about me is that I work in the corporate world during the week. I am often invited out to lunch with colleagues and/or consultants with which I work closely and there are a few restaurants I favor for a business meeting. One of them is The Bombay Club.

This incredibly classy restaurant is fine dining at its finest especially for a lunch. With low lighting, white tablecloths, and servers in suits, I find their attention to detail impeccable. Each server is also quite versed in knowing which items can be made vegan, which is so, so many.

We started with an order of the Crispy Kale Chaat sans the yogurt. Now I've had the famous spinach chaat at their sister restaurant, Rasika, but never had I had a version with kale. We were not disappointed. Flash-fried kale was covered in an incredible date-tamarind chutney with freshly diced red onion and tomato on top. Everyone at the table raved about this dish.

For my lunch, I went with the Vegetarian Bombay Thail, which they modified to be vegan for me. This is basically a huge vegetarian sampler that is not for the faint of heart for lunch -- it's a lot of food! It came with six samplings and I'll just go from left to right.

The okra dish was really, really good. The cauliflower and peas were very oily, but so tasty and were probably my favorite if I had to choose a favorite. The spinach dish was my least favorite as I found it very plain. Interestingly enough, this was the favorite dish of one of my clients! The potatoes stewed in a tomato sauce were superb. The squash and peas with black mustard seeds was a little odd. Adn finally, the chickpeas in the savory tomato sauce were fantastic.

All of this was served with rice and a delicious roti bread.

All in all, we had a great experience. The food was fantastic, the service was just right, and the atmosphere is very classy. The prices are not cheap at $21 for the thali, but when you aren't paying for it, the price is just right. I should note that the food is quite oily, but it is Indian food. Also, I had asked for spicy and it wasn't very spicy at all. They supplemented my meal with a spicy green sauce that was out-of-this-world so that made up for it. This remains one of my favorite spots for a classy business lunch.

Previous review
May 30, 2012

Bombay Club
815 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 659-5012

Bombay Club on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Laiki - Rice Crackers

Crackers made from rice? I got an email from a company offering me some rice crackers and deleted it along with the other 500 emails I get on a regular basis. Then they wrote again and two times is a charm with me. I looked at the Laiki rice crackers and while boring, they were made with simple ingredients -- rice, oil, salt and nothing else so I gave it a go and it turns out I loved them.

While very salty, these crackers have a unique texture and flavor. Made with black and red rice from Thailand, you get lots of flavor in this crunchy cracker. I found myself a bit out of control with each bag I opened in that I really couldn't put the bag down. They were so tasty!

I'm also happy to see that they are Non-GMO Project Verified!  And also vegan and gluten-free!

Although I haven't seen them in the stores yet, they are available in Whole Foods in northern California.  Apparently, they are also sold locally at Cibo Express in Reagan National Airport. So, pick some up for the plane ride -- a healthy snack that tastes good too.

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fare Well, DC

Fare Well -- love the name. This is Doron Petersan's latest concept. The wildly successful owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery has wanted to open a cafe for a long time and finally, with lots of crowdsourcing, she did so.

I met one of my good friends there for brunch on a Saturday. It was pretty busy and we were lucky to grab the last table in the front. Inside, it's like a cool old-school diner with turquoise counters and a dessert display.

We were there to talk about some serious stuff, so cocktails were in order. I tried the Tiber Creek first -- made with mescal, passion fruit juice, ginger liqueur, lemon grass syrup, and grapefruit bitters. It was fantastic.

For my meal, I went with the Western Omelet, which had been recommended by a friend.  It was also fantastic. Take a tofu-chickpea omelet (it was more like a crepe) and fill it with a funky cashew cheddar, fennel seitan sausage, peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and you have yourself a winning vegan brunch. Served with a nice salad and a yummy potato cake, I was very pleased.

We also tried the Bloody Hot Mary cocktail, which was very well balanced.

Other items on the menu include the French toast casserole, pancake napolean, chilaquiles verde, and seitan and waffles.

That's it for now. The food and drinks were fantastic, the service was great, and the prices were a little high -- $11 cocktails and $12 meal.  I can't wait to come back and try more.

Fare Well
406 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002

Fare Well Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan

The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan: The Secret to Losing Those Last Six Pounds: A Plant-Based Nutrition Program and Recipes by Ella Magers is a comprehensive workout and diet regimen to sexy abs. I have to admit that I didn't have the motivation to complete the program, but I'll review the book based on what I read and the dishes I created.

Ella Magers creates a simple, practical, easy-to-follow formula to get to sexy abs by outlining breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and a workout regimen for six weeks. She emphasizes nutrient-dense, calorie-light, whole plant foods while eliminating refined sugars and decreasing processed foods.  No counting calories!  She also emphasizes the importance of buying organic.

I tried two of the recipes. The Epic Eggplant Mushroom Casserole with White Bean Sauce was right up my alley. Ella combines roasted eggplant with mushrooms, spinach and bean sauce, and tomato sauce to make a satisfying meal. It was easy, delicious, and packed with protein!

Next, I tried the Southwest Tofu Scramble.  Crumbled tofu sauteed with spinach, black beans, cremini mushrooms, onions, and peppers -- yes, please!  I just went ahead and ate this for dinner because I could.

Both meals were great, the pictures are really nice and Ella's abs are spectacular. This book sells for $16 on Amazon here. It'd make a great holiday or birthday gift for sure.

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Shouk, DC

A new 100% vegan cafe recently opened on K Street NW, which is huge news in DC! Shouk features Middle Eastern-inspired dishes including pitas, bowls, salads, and snacks in its quaint location.

The first time I went, I went with a large group of vegans. Despite the amount of people, they really kept the line moving! The cashier was taking orders and the owner himself, Ran Nussbacher, came out with an iPad to speed things up. I ordered the Cauliflower Pita, which was oh-so-good! This fresh whole wheat pita was filled with sauteed cauliflower and roasted tomato, scallions, tahini, and jalapeno oil. It was delicious!

I got their Rosemary Lemonade, which wasn't fantastic and finished it off with an expensive, small chocolate chip cardamom cookie that had flavors that weren't quite balanced, but a great texture.

On my second visit, I ordered the Black Bean Mujadra-style, which is over rice and lentils instead of in a pita. I absolutely loved this one!  Black beans, sweet potatoes, red peppers, tomatoes, and arugula with a spicy harissa sauce! So good!  And the sweet potato fries had an awesome flavor, but they could use a little more crispiness.

The decor of this restaurant is incredibly fun. They spared no expense on the design side. It's very small with a few large communal tables and funky seating.

For my third meal, I had UberEats deliver the Chickpea dish. I asked for it Mujadra-style, but it showed up in a pita. Oh well. I had heard this one had a very strong taste -- and a strong taste is right! They preserve the lemon so it is very lemony and there's a distinctive taste from the seaweed -- plus, olives, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber and tahina make for a uniquely satisfying dish. And I tried the polenta fries, which were equally, if not more, fantastic than the other fries. The thick red sauce it came with was okay, but these fries stand on their own -- crunchy and thick, with great texture and flavor.

Lastly, I tried the Ratatouille Mujadra-style. Unbelievably good.  Roasted tomatoes, radishes, chickpeas, and tahina. Words can't describe the flavors you'll experience.

I'm kind of hooked on this place. Other options include a mushroom-based, fennel and cucumber pitas. Salads include a beet salad with sweet potato, which I've heard is very good, and a salad loaded with fresh veggies. They also serve craft beer and tap wine.

I'm not sure why there is this new trend of not using the term "vegan," but vegans tend to find that annoying. Shouk says they are all "plant-based," which has no practical meaning to individuals who adhere to a diet free of animal products. I hope that Shouk will identify as vegan in the future to show a support of our strong vegan community in DC.

All in all, I found the food to be incredibly good, the service is great, and the prices high. A pita should be like $8 in DC. Theirs are $9.75 each. Even the salads are $9.75 each, which is really high. I hope they lower their prices in the future to be more in line with DC lunch prices for this type of food.  Either way, I'll continue to be a regular here as they have some of the best vegan bowls in the city.

655 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Shouk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Better Batch - Cookies

About a year ago, I met one of the founders of A Better Batch, Hanes Swingle, at a DC VegFest event. With a glimmer in his eye and a smile on his face, he kindly offered me up one of their homemade cookies and I've been in love ever since. A Better Batch is a DC-based vegan cookie company, which is an automatic WIN in my book.

They sent me three flavors to try and I loved everything about them from top to bottom. They package them frozen in boxes with the cookies wrapped in plastic so they stay fresh for like a year! When you open the box, the instructions for baking are right on the inside lid right where you need them. Simply open the plastic, place them on a cookie sheet and bake. That's my kind of baking!

Flavors - loved them all, but my favorite was the Mocha Oatmeal cookies. Chocolate and espresso with chocolate chips -- oh yes, please. They are the perfect chewy texture and the perfect balance of chocolate with chocolate.

The Lemon Poppyseed are fantastically light and airy with a touch of lemon and lots of poppyseed. Another well-balanced flavor.

And then there's your standard Chocolate Chip. Yum.

They use all high quality ingredients of which many are organic, non-GMO, and fair trade. And all are 100% vegan. Are the cookies good for you? No. But, they are cookies and I, for one, am hooked on these. I also love that they suggest that you bring them to a potluck and claim they are yours as each cookie is handmade so they aren't all the same. To order, click here. They sell for $15 per box of 12 -- well worth it in my opinion. Now, those are a better batch of cookies if I do say so myself!

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Founding Farmers, DC #4

Founding Farmers expanded their menu several years ago to add an emphasis on meatless meals. They included an equal amount of vegan and vegetarian offerings. Fast forward to today and I discovered that this is no longer the case when I returned from a three-year hiatus from this restaurant.

It was a weekday afternoon and Founding Farmers was packed! We had a reservation for 11:45 a.m. In most popular restaurants in DC, they begin to fill up around 12:10 p.m. and are packed by 12:30 p.m. This restaurant looked like it just stayed busy all day long. We got there on time, but waited as several parties were also waiting to be seated. They finally seated us by the window on the first floor.

Founding Farmers is a huge restaurant with two floors and a basic, slightly boring decor. They pride themselves on making everything in-house including their breads and they remain a popular lunch and dinner choice in the city.

There is a Meatless section on the menu, but when I inquired as to what I could have that is vegan, the server said there wasn't much. I decided to start drinking and ordered a nice glass of white wine. That usually makes everything better. :-)  The Pickled Seasonal Vegetables were the only vegan appetizer so we ordered that. It was mostly cucumbers that weren't crispy and were in way too much vinegar. We were not impressed.

For my entree, they said there was only one vegan item I could order, so I ordered that. Everything else had some sort of butter in it and she did not offer to see if they could make it without the butter so I settled on the Rice and Bean Burger with Smoked Tofu and a salad. The salad was mostly arugula with some beets in lemon juice and while it was simple, it was quite good.

The Rice and Bean Burger itself was great, but the presentation of the burger under a huge white bun wasn't so great. Neither was the white bread or the iceberg lettuce. They were skimpy on the smoked tofu as well by adding just 1.5 slices on top of the burger. This meal could be much improved with an artisan wheat burger bun, field greens instead of iceberg lettuce and thick generous portions of the smoked tofu.

I also had an herbal tea to end the lunch.

I feel so conflicted as I really like Founding Farmers and what they stand for, but I left disappointed. I know they can make great meals as I've had great meals in the past and I'm disappointed that most of the meatless dishes are not vegan. The burger was good, but the accompaniments were not, which took away from the meal. And for a $13 burger, I expect more. The service was very slow for a weekday lunch as well, but that is something they are known for. Lots of room for improvement here.

Previous reviews
July 4, 2011
January 18, 2013
April 12, 2013

Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 822-8783

Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon