Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vegaritos, DC

By the owners of two other vegan restaurants in DC, Everlasting Life and Evolve, comes their newest venture -- Vegaritos. This hole-in-the-wall cafe serves vegan burritos and bowls and that's it. It's a simple concept.

I had a Groupon for $20, so like everyone else with a Groupon, I showed up a day before it expired! Each bowl or burrito is $6.99 so my coupon bought me three meals! Wow. There was no one in this tiny cafe in Takoma Park and with just four tables, it definitely had a take-out feel so I just took everything to go.

Again, the concept is simple.
1. Bowl or burrito
2. White or brown rice
3. Black beans or red beans
4. Vegan steak or vegan chicken
5. Choose toppings: lettuce, spinach, onions, tomatoes, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, jalapenos, guacamole, or olives

For my first burrito, I went with just beans and rice and a variety of toppings. It was hearty, but nothing I couldn't make at home.

For my bowls, I got one with steak and one with chicken. I'm not too much of a faux meat person so the vegan steak didn't really add anything for me. In fact, I preferred just beans and rice.

I felt the same way about the chicken. They were both good, but I could have done without the soy meat analogs. The toppings were nice. The guac was so-so. And the service very friendly. Also, did I mention they were each only $7? Yeah. It's a great option for take-out especially if you are in the area for lunch.  Evolve, which is right around the corner is much better, but more expensive.

6904 4th Street NW
Washington, DC 20012
(202) 882-8988

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cafe Gratitude, Venice, CA

Oh Cafe Gratitude, amidst the controversy and closings of your restaurants, I still seek you out whenever I'm in California. I was recently made aware of the news that long-time vegetarian owners, Matthew and Terces Engelhart, founders of Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre, have decided not only to start eating meat, but also to start killing animals on the same farm they use to supply produce to their restaurants. I was not aware of this when I went to dine at Cafe Gratitude in LA though so this may affect my desire to eat there going forward.

Putting that aside for now, let's talk about my most recent experience. I sought out Cafe Gratitude in LA because all of their restaurants closed in northern California, so now I'll have to visit them in southern Cali instead. There are apparently a few different partners in the southern Cali venture so ownership is a little different than it was up north.

Upon arrival at the Venice location on this Saturday morning, it was pretty busy. I was immediately amazed by how beautiful this restaurant was. Unlike the former northern California locations, this restaurant was bright and modern with white wooden floors, high ceilings, exposed ductwork, and light wood tables. It was very inviting!

I started with a Complete pressed juice made with kale, apple, celery, cucumber, lemon, and ginger and I added cayenne. It was incredibly fresh, healthy, and great tasting.

For my meal, I ordered the "I am Nourished," which was delightful! The gluten-free French toast, was dense, but delicious! The tempeh chorizo was spectacular. And the sauteed kale added a delicious veggie to the meal that I slathered in their housemade hot sauce. Also, the coconut bacon and cashew cream was great on the French toast. It was all very filling. I definitely felt nourished!

My friend ordered the "I am Bonita," and I loved his meal as well. This consisted of sprouted probiotic brown rice and black beans with pico de gallo, avocado, cashew nacho cheese, spicy pepitas, and corn tortillas. So good.

As I was leaving, I decided to get lunch to go. I ordered the "I am Liberated," a kelp noodle dish made with cherry tomatoes, basil hempseed pesto, marinara, kalamata olives, arugula, cashew ricotta, and brazil nut parmesan. I ate this four hours later on the plane and it was as good as the server described. Because they used kelp noodles, it kept the dish light even with the heavy delicious pesto and parmesan. Such a perfect combination.

Don't leave without checking out their amazing dessert section, but be aware they use honey in some of the desserts. I also took an Almond Butter Cup to go. It was amazing!

I feel so conflicted. I had a great experience at this restaurant -- great food and service, but now I know about the owners and their quest to kill animals at their farm. I don't know what to say about that. We'll all have to decide on our own whether to keep supporting them or not. The fact is that their almost-vegan restaurants have great food and are staffed with great people. Their prices are high, but their ingredients are very high quality.

Cafe Gratitude
512 Rose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA90291
(424) 231-8000

Cafe Gratitude Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sticky Rice, Baltimore #2

Having been to Sticky Rice in DC, I thought it would be fun to check out the Sticky Rice while in Baltimore too!  Sticky Rice is known for its vegan options including lots of interesting sushi rolls.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and there were very few people in the restaurant at the time. We started with a big ol tin of their famous tater tots. I also had a glass of Prosecco that was quite lovely.

We tried lots of things. One of my favorites was the Vegan Gyoza dumplings that were fried and served with a delicious spicy soy dipping sauce.

Another of my favorites is the Gardens on Fire roll. This roll is filled with tempura carrots, cucumbers, and avocado rolled with wasabi mayo and umeboshi paste along with sambal, which adds the spiciness. These are incredible.

The Hot Hippy rolls were okay, but not as good as some of the other rolls. These had spicy marinated tofu with scallions, peanuts, cucumbers, and carrots.

Then there was the Santa Fe roll and despite being made with tempura fried sweet potato, was my least favorite.

So, we had some great dishes and some so-so dishes. I still think they have the best selection of vegan rolls in the DC-Baltimore area so I invite you to go try for yourself. There's lots of other vegan options including noodle bowls and tempura rolls. They are reasonably priced and the service is good. Recommended!

Previous review
July 2, 2013

Sticky Rice
1634 Aliceanne Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
(443) 682-8243

Sticky Rice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mantra Indian Cuisine, Temecula, CA #2

After having had a great experience at Mantra the last time I was in the area of Temecula, I headed back as soon as I could. We arrived early on a weekday night and there were very few people in the dining area.

We sat down and started munching on the papadums.  As soon as I asked my server about the vegan items, he got really excited and told me he was vegan as well and they were collecting contact info for their vegan patrons. Sign me up!

Based on his recommendation, we started with some Indian beer and an appetizer. For the beer, I ordered the King Fisher and found it light and refreshing. For the appetizer, we ordered the Aloo Tikki, which were deep fried patties of mashed potatoes with herbs and spices. Yum! We dipped them in the cilantro mint sauce.

It turns out that many of the items on the menu are vegan or can be made vegan including the Chana Masala, Aloo Matar,  Bengan Bharta, Bhindi Masala (very good!), and Tofu Masala. They can even make the rice vegan even though last year they incorrectly told me they couldn't! And the Roti bread is vegan too.

I went with the Aloo Gobhi, which is the simple dish of cauliflower with potatoes, with rice and Roti. It was super good and extra spicy!

My friend went with the Garlic Mushroom, which he really liked. I didn't like it as much as my dish, but it was good.

All in all, it was a great experience. Good, flavorful food, entrees for $10, and great service. I will come back every time I'm around Perris or Temecula!

Previous review
March 14, 2016

27645 Jefferson Avenue
Temecula, CA 92590
(951) 506-1800

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Eggplant Mushroom Casserole with White Bean Sauce

Easy, vegetable-based, and high in protein -- this meal seemed right up my alley! The Epic Eggplant Mushroom Casserole with White Bean Sauce from The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan by Ella Magers combined roasted eggplant with mushrooms, spinach and bean sauce, and tomato sauce to make a satisfying meal. The instructions did not specify how long to roast the eggplant -- I found it took about 15 minutes. I also increased the amount of garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Please adjust to fit your preferences. Serve this with a light salad or veggie on the side.

Eggplant Mushroom Casserole with White Bean Sauce
Serves 4

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 1/2 cups organic red pasta sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced white mushrooms (1 package)
Ingredients for White Bean Sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can Great Northern Beans
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup spinach, firmly packed
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
Preheat oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel the eggplant and slice it into 1/4-inch slices. Place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle the slices with salt. Place the eggplant in the oven and bake until the slices are partially dehydrated and slightly browned for about 15 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and then turn the oven to 425-degrees.

Meanwhile, make the bean sauce by putting the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until fully blended.

Grease a casserole dish with oil and pour a thin, even layer of red pasta sauce into the dish. Place half of the eggplant slices in a single layer on the sauce. Next, spread half of the bean sauce over the eggplant slices. Place half of the mushroom slices on top of the bean sauce.

Add another thin layer of red sauce, followed by the rest of the eggplant slices, bean sauce, and mushrooms and top with a final layer of red sauce.

Bake uncovered at 425-degrees until fully cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.