Thursday, December 21, 2017

Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

This soup is pretty amazing. With just some cashew cream, mushrooms, onions, thyme, and a few other ingredients, you can whip up a sensational Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup and I'll tell you how. I found this recipe in the cookbook called Homestyle Vegan by Amber St. Peter.  The only flaw in this recipe was too much salt, which I corrected below. This would be a fantastic soup to serve friends and family--loaded with umami and love.

Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup
Serves 6 to 8

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb assorted mushrooms (any kind)
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 Tbsp plus 1/8 tsp salt, divided (original recipe called for 1 Tbsp, but that is way too much)
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
In a medium-size bowl, soak the cashews in the warm water. Set them aside to soften.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic, onion, and mushrooms until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Pour in the sherry and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sherry liquid reduces by about half. Pour in the vegetable broth, fresh thyme, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, and pepper and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

While the soup simmers, make the cashew cream by blending the soaked cashews, the water they're soaking in, and the remaining 1/8 tsp salt to create a thick cream. Pour into the simmering soup, and remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion or high-speed blender, carefully blend the soup in batches or all at once. Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated and reheat as needed for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bekiri's Family Fast Food, Zakynthos, Greece

Oh this beautiful island! We wanted to get away from the restaurant we ate at every day and somehow ended up at Bekiri's Family Fast Food. Not a fast food joint at all, but an indication that they can prepare your food quickly. However, we soon found out that was not the case.

We only had a group of six or so and were in a hurry so none of us ordered alcoholic beverages. By the time they finally took our order, we still had like an hour left before we needed to be back to the hotel. Forty minutes later--still no food.

Finally, when they delivered the food, it was meh. I ordered the simple Spaghetti Vegetarian, which was like an entire box of pasta mixed with tomatoes and mushrooms. It really wasn't that exciting.

Given the slow service and mediocre food, I wouldn't recommend this place.

Bekiri's Family Fast Food
Alykanas 290 90
Zakynthos, Greece
+30 698 626 1124

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Corned Bean Hash

I found a recipe for Corned Bean Hash, a play on Corned Beef Hash, listed in the breakfast section of Homestyle Vegan by Amber St. Peter, and I thought it would make a great dinner.  After mixing simple ingredients together like red potatoes, kidney beans, tahini, and onion, I had a great tasting dish. The fantastic flavor could be attributed to the mix of tahini and cayenne pepper. It is a very filling and satisfying dish. Feel free to double the recipe if you want more.

There was something missing from this recipe--what to do with the beans. So, I'll just write it the way I made it.

Corned Bean Hash
Serves 4

  • 1 cup cooked kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp coconut or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely diced white onion
  • 1 cup chopped red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (I added 1/4 tsp)
  • Chives, chopped, for garnish
In a small bowl, mash about three-fourths of the kidney beans with a fork and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic and onions for 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Toss in the potatoes, beans, tahini, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and cayenne, stirring to combine.

Cover and continue to cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. If things start getting stuck to the pan before the potatoes are ready, you can add 1 Tbsp of water as needed to loosen things up.  Once the mixture is becoming browned and crispy, remove from the heat. Garnish with fresh chives and serve!

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Koukounari Taverna, Zakynthos, Greece

We decided to go to a fancier place for our last dinner on this island. That led us to Koukounari Taverna. This was not the most vegan friendly place on the island, but I had some of the best food on the island.

I also loved that grapes were growing over us!

Of course, we started with wine. But, when it came to ordering, it proved difficult for me. Most of the things that appeared to be vegan were not including the eggplant dip.

So, I went with a Greek salad without feta, which was really great.

And grilled vegetables--eggplant, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, and herbs. It was incredibly good.

I loved this place with its outside seating, nice atmosphere, friendly staff, and great food! Okay, back to BASE jumping over the blue water!

Koukounari Taverna
Katastari Alykes Road,  
Alykes 252 00, Zakynthos, Greece
+30 2695 085009

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Anatolikos Taverna, Zakynthos, Greece

We jumped on our scooters in search of another great restaurant on Zakynthos Island and we found it at Anatolikos Taverna. At this beachside restaurant where most, if not all, of the seating is outside, the weather is amazing and the view is equally so.

I started with a nice glass of white wine--super cheap on this island.

For lunch, I ordered the stuffed tomatoes and peppers. As simple as it sounds, it was oh-so-good. Stuffed with rice and spices, this was a very filling meal. And like everything else on this island, it was served with baked/fried potatoes. Delish!

The Gigandes bean dish is fantastic as well! I just took a few from my friend's dish, which was a huge bowl of tomatoey beans!

Service was a bit slow, but we were a party of 20 or so without a reservation so there's that. But, loved the food, drink, and company!

Anatolikos Taverna
Alykes Main Road
Alykes 290 90, Zakynthos, Greece
+30 2695 083158

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Apollo Restaurant, Zakynthos, Greece

As the restaurant that was directly across from the Letsos Hotel that we stayed at, Apollo saw us about every day during our time on Zakynthos island. The server there was a lot of fun and made it easy for me to be vegan.

Each time, he asked whether I was in the mood for sweet or dry, red or white wine and would choose a wine for me. For just two Euros per glass, I really couldn't ever complain.

On my first visit, he said he'd choose something for me and when he brought it out, I was delighted! It was Briam--roasted vegetables in a thick tomato sauce served with fried potatoes and salad. It was so delicious that I came back several times for this same dish!

I also tried the Dolmades also served with fried potatoes and a salad. Delicious.

The waiter, who may have been the owner (I don't know), also took a selfie of himself when we asked him to take a pic of us. So, I have this. LOL

I loved this place. Fun atmosphere, outside seating, great food, great prices, and great service. Highly recommended.

Apollo Restaurant
Main Road
Alykanas 290 90, Zakynthos, Greece
+30 2695 026562

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Paporo Beach Restaurant-Bar, Zakynthos, Greece

I journeyed to Greece for the first time this year to participate in the Apollo Games. This is a prestigious BASE jumping event where 40 people from all over the world get to jump off a cliff on an island called Zakynthos. It was the most beautiful water I've ever seen.

But, what about the food? I found it easy to find vegan food here. One of our first stops was Poporo Beach Restaurant-Bar, which was right on a beautiful white sand beach with gorgeous blue water. We asked if they could accommodate our party of 20+ and they gladly obliged. They sat us on the deck on the beach at a huge table!

I ordered a fresh squeezed orange juice to start as I perused the menu. Many of the side dishes and salads looked vegan and luckily the server spoke great English. She confirmed that many of the salads and sides could be made vegan.

I ordered a Salad with greens, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions (hold the cheese) and it was great.

I also had the Mushroom Special, which was stewed tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms--a nice hearty accompaniment to my salad.

The service was as good as it could be with a big party and food was incredibly cheap as it was everywhere on this island. This is a great, relaxed place to go with a big party.

Paporo Beach Restaurant-Bar
Alykes 29090, Zakynthos, Greece
+30 2695 083884

Zakynthos, Greece
+30 2695 083884

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Doi Moi, DC #3

Doi moi is still one of my favorite restaurants in Logan Circle. It's varied Southeast Asian menu with lots of vegan options inside one of the coolest dining rooms in town never disappoints and this visit was no different.

We stopped by with no reservation on this Monday night and were seated immediately. I ordered a fantastic cocktail, but can not remember the name of it. I've had a really good experience here with cocktails.

For my dinner, I ordered the Kee-Mao Stir-Fried Rice Noodles. This dish was chock full of veggies with drunken noodles. With wild mushrooms, snap peas, zucchini, carrots, baby corn, and basil, this dish was a culinary delight.

We also shared the Green Papaya Salad. With chili, lime, peanuts, and tomato, this simple, yet satisfying dish was really fantastic.

No dessert this time. The food, atmosphere, and prices were great. Doi moi continues to satisfy my need for upscale Asian food every couple of months.

Previous reviews
August 24, 2015
December 17, 2013

doi moi
1800 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 733-5131

Doi Moi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Thyme, Newark, NJ

Upon landing at the Newark Airport in Newark, NJ, I did a quick Google search for vegan in the airport. Lo and behold, I found that there was a vegetarian restaurant in this airport. Despite all the horrible reviews, I wanted to try something there. And it was conveniently located at the gate at which I was departing. It couldn't have been any easier.

Thyme is a small cafe in the airport. Apparently, the owner of Dirt Candy, a vegetarian restaurant in New York, partnered with United Airlines and OTG to create a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in this airport. The only problem is that nothing is labeled as vegan or not.

Upon entering the restaurant, which is really self-service, I asked the hostess what was vegan. She had no clue and didn't seem to care. I asked if she could check with the chef. The chef came out and was incredibly helpful. She basically said almost all of the salads, sandwiches, and entrees could be made vegan.

I ordered the Mushroom Tacos made with oyster mushrooms and topped with thinly sliced red onions, microgreens, and tomatoes in a flour tortilla. They were good, but didn't taste that fresh. The mushrooms were somewhat lukewarm and the tortillas tasted like they'd been reheated on a plane. I liked them, but they definitely need something else. I did order them without the creme fraiche as that is not vegan. And for $13.50, I expected a little more.

The bad reviews tend to focus on the lack of service and I'll agree. Newark does the iPad ordering thing. There is an iPad at the table and that's how you order. There really isn't any service other than the chef dropping off the food. That kind of sucks.

Other options include the veggie burger, green falafel sandwich, smoked beet club, spaghetti pomodoro, roasted maitake mushrooms, and other various salads and soups. I truly hope this restaurant survives, but adding an element of service and fresher food will definitely help this.

Near Gate C75
Newark Liberty International Airport

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pret A Manger, DC

The international cafe chain, Pret a Manger, has gone vegan-friendly! This is exciting for two reasons--they make really good food and they are located all over the place!

I headed to my local Pret a Manger to check out the many new vegan selections. This cafe operates like a to-go place even though you can take your to-go items and eat them at the cafe. Everything is prepared in advance and available in the hot or cold areas. There is no custom ordering.

The first thing I tried was the Mediterranean Mezze Salad. I loved this salad and I didn't even realize that I could have chosen a dressing as well. Loaded with falafel, butternut squash, beet hummus, beets, mesclun, harissa, chickpeas, mint, and pomegranate seeds, it was delicious. The beet hummus had enough flavor to carry the dish without additional dressing.

Excited about this dish, I went back to try another. The Miso Sweet Potato Bahn Mi was even better than the salad. On a fresh French baguette was miso-marinated sweet potato, cucumber, carrots, pickled cabbage and carrot, sesame seeds, cilnatro and mint with vegan mayonaisse and chipotle sauce. So much flavor, so little time.

Other vegan items include Miso soup, Moroccan Lentil soup, Spicy Black Bean and Mango Wrap, and the Turmeric Tofu and Sweet Potato Balance Box.

My favorite part? Everything is labeled as vegan or not in the store and online. They make it so easy to choose vegan and eat delicious food. With a drink, meals range from $8 to $12. And I love that they offer some natural drinks like Ginger Beer as well.

Nice work--Pret. You are winning at the fast casual vegan-friendly game! Recommended!

Pret A Manger
(many locations)
1825 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Pret A Manger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Honeygrow, DC

Recently, I started receiving updates of a new vegan-friendly fast casual concept in DC called Honeygrow. I received so many that I decided to go there and check it out.

Honeygrow is a concept that was founded in Philadelphia in 2012. Since then, they've expanded up and down the east coast and as far midwest as Chicago so they must be doing well. Upon entering Honeygrow, it immediately felt very stale to me. There is little seating despite a fairly large space. And you order using iPads--no talking to anyone.

That said, the walls are covered with some cool artwork and a plaque states that the artwork is DC-inspired. I failed to see the connection, but enjoyed the bright colors anyway.

There are two items that are clearly listed as vegan, which are the Vegan Kale salad and the Red Coconut Curry. I decided to try both on different occasions.

On my first visit, I ordered the Red Coconut Curry. I tried to customize it by subbing the rice noodles for udon noodles and changing a few ingredients, but I inadvertently omitted the tofu. Sigh. Despite that, I loved it. The coconut curry sauce on the udon noodles with broccoli, jalapenos, mushrooms, beans sprouts, scallions, and cilantro was delicious! The only thing I didn't love was the old-school-style Chinese carry-out container despite the fact that I was eating in. I would have much preferred a bowl.

I also had one of their fresh-pressed green juices called, "Green is Good," made with apple, spinach, cucumber, lemon, and basil, which was great.

On the next visit, I took the Vegan Kale salad to go. When I got home, I must say I was disappointed. I have two comparison points--Chop't and Sweetgreen. Sweetgreen is amazing and Chop't is not. But, the point here is that this salad did not compare to anything Sweetgreen offers. It was smaller, there wasn't enough dressing, the dressing didn't coat the kale well, and the dressing wasn't spectacular.  There also wasn't enough in the small bowl. There was kale, organic roasted spicy tofu (which wasn't that spicy and way too fried), apples, carrots, roasted beets (tasted like canned beets), red onions, and radishes. It was pretty boring, actually.

And they charged me 49-cents for bread, which is petty on a $11+ salad.

The prices, overall, were pretty high. So, while I enjoyed the coconut curry stir-fry, I think they have a lot of room for improvement. If Sweetgreen didn't exist, I might have rated this salad higher, but you need to keep up with your competition. So step it up or step it out. And please get rid of the Chinese containers. It sucks to eat stir-fry out of them. We put up with them from a dive Chinese place with $5 meals, but if you are charging over $10 for a stir-fry, we expect a nice bowl instead.

716 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 804-4282

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thai X-ing, DC

Thai X-ing has consistently been rated as one of the best Thai restaurants in DC. It has been touted by critics all across the city as exceptional. And, yet, I had never been. They serve a vegetarian prix fixe menu on Sundays and Tuesdays, which aren't typical nights that I eat out in DC. So, when my good friend told me she was moving to Amsterdam and we had only Sunday to get together, I suggested we go to Thai X-ing!

At this time, their Florida Avenue location, which I believe was the original location, was closed. So, we made a reservation for 6 p.m. at the 9th Street location.  When I arrived, they had just opened and they let me know right as I walked in that there was no meat tonight. Yes, I know.

They seated me at a table on the top floor by the window. I was surprised at how little English the servers spoke. I let them know I was vegan and they assured me it was all vegetarian. Right, but I want to be sure it is vegan. Sigh. I just had to trust that someone understood me.

We both ordered glasses of wine and immediately food showed up. They brought out several dishes at a time. This continued throughout the prix fixe meal.

It started with a spicy soup, which was quite tasty. 

Along with the soup were two salads--a noodle salad and a rice salad with black bean sauce. Both salads were good, but not mindblowingly so. I was already disappointed. Not only was I disappointed with the dishes, but also at the lack of good service. Bringing four dishes out to people at a time and waiting for us to finish, only to bring the next round of dishes is not exquisite service by any means. I felt like they couldn't wait for us to eat and get out.

Next, came a dry tofu salad that was meh.

There was a pumpkin curry wrapped in some sort of leaves that was outstanding.

There was a pineapple and taro root dish that was fine.

And a Pad Thai that was, well, boring.

Finally, the sticky rice and mango came out and that was good, but it's always like every Thai restaurant.

Honestly, I find it hard to even write this review because they brought things out so quickly and said what everything was very quickly, then walked away--it was hard to catch the names of the dishes we were eating.

I guess I should have known as I was initially put off by the email confirmation of my reservation that stated that they expected me out of there by 7:20 p.m. for a 6 p.m. reservation. That's insane.

For $30 per person plus tax and tip, you get a crapload of food. Some of it is good, some of it isn't, and one thing (the pumpkin curry) is outstanding. None of it warrants a high tip for service though. And I enjoy my dinners at other Thai restaurants where you aren't served way too much food, the servers speak English, and where I feel welcome to take my time and enjoy my dinner company. Not recommended.

Thai Xing
2020 9th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-43222

Thai X-ing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato