Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cava Mezze, DC

Capitol Hill NE isn't an area I visit often, but there's a few good vegan joints there. Cava Mezze may not be a vegan joint, but they have lots of vegan options and I had the opportunity to dine there on my last trip to the northeast quadrant.

On this particular night, it was a very quiet Monday evening and there was tons of seating. Nevertheless, they sat us at a high top in the bar area. Not my favorite place to sit, but I can deal with it. We started with some mixed drinks, which were really fantastic.

For dinner, we ordered a variety of tapas. The menu online lists everything that is vegan, but the printed menu in the restaurant does not. Luckily, the server was very helpful. We started with the Roasted Vegetables, which consisted of sunchokes, salsify, and rainbow carrots topped with mint. These had a bit too much oil, but were otherwise great.

Next, we had the falafel with tahini. As expected, they sure do know how to make their falafel fantastic.

Lastly, we tried the Brussels Sprouts with olive bread crumbs. These were roasted to a crisp and delicious.

Other items on the menu included hummus, purple cabbage with dill, baby beets with kohlrabi, ancient grains with pumpkin seeds, and tabbouleh with fava puree. As I write this, I realize how much more interesting other items sounded. I was with a non-vegan, so I stuck with safe, simple items, but next time, I want to try the more creative dishes.

The service was pretty good. The tapas were $9 - $13 each so on the high side. And the atmosphere was dark and romantic - perfect for a first date. I'd gladly come back and try more.

Cava Mezze
527 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 543-9090

Cava Mezze Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Chaia, DC

Chaia is a very small, fast casual restaurant offering seasonal plant-based tacos in Cady's Alley in Georgetown. I had heard of Chaia for many years -- colleagues raved about these vegetarian tacos and friends suggested we go, but a quick glance of their menu never seemed promising as all items listed cheese and/or yogurt as ingredients.

Their menu is vegetarian, but doesn't mention anything about vegan options, so I assumed they weren't vegan friendly. Luckily, I was wrong. On our first visit, I discovered just how it works. There is a menu of five tacos and three sides every day, which changes seasonally. Although none of the tacos are vegan as-is, most can be modified to be vegan. I chose the taco trio of three tacos for $11.

There was no seating available inside, so we found some seating outside in the courtyard. The smoky eggplant was pretty good, but seemed like it was missing something. The garlic lemon greens was also pretty good, but tasted more like it should be a side rather than a bunch of greens in a taco. The best one was the mushroom, which was fantastic. What I didn't like was that the way they modify them to be vegan is by leaving something off (usually cheese or cream), which leaves one feeling like something is missing. So instead of replacing a creamy milk-based sauce with a cashew-based sauce or chunks of feta with chunks of nut-based cheeses, they just leave it off. For $11, you'd think they could develop a delicious vegan sauce or offer vegan hard cheese as well.

On my second visit, I got two mushroom tacos and the chipotle sweet potato hash. Both were excellent. I used their hot sauce as well, which was actually pretty hot and delicious! And we got a seat inside this time. Win all the way around!

So, all in all, I like this place. The food is pretty good even though I think they could develop some more vegan sauces and/or offer vegan hard cheeses. I also think they should advertise that most items can be made vegan because there is no notion of this on the website. Given how fresh these ingredients are and that they use fresh herbs, I think the $11 price is about right. And although it does take some time to get the food when they are busy, they make it fresh right in front of you. I'd love to see them expand into a space where there is adequate seating because I think they have the business and even more people would come if they could sit and eat there. I also noticed they are now available for order on UberEats, my new favorite food delivery service.

Nice job, Chaia. Looking forward to next time.

3207 Grace Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-5222

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

House Foods - Go Umami

House Foods has come out with delicious baked tofu snack packs called Go Umami! Okay, I know what you are thinking. Who wants to eat tofu by itself? Well, this is baked and marinated tofu and it's really good.

They come in three flavors: Hickory Smoke, Savory, and Orange Teriyaki. I got to try the Hickory Smoke and Savory and the Savory was definitely my favorite. It's got great texture and flavor. And 5 grams of protein!

They are only available in California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii right now, but look for them at a store near you soon!

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Southwest Tofu Scramble

I've been cooking less this year as I've been focusing more on BASE jumping. I still enjoy cooking, but I don't want to do it for hours and hours on end right now. So when I saw the recipe for Southwest Tofu Scramble in The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan by Ella Magers, I knew it would be a winner. Crumbled tofu sauteed with spinach, black beans, cremini mushrooms, onions, and peppers -- yes, please! And, yeah, I ate this for dinner and not for brunch because -- who cares?! You'll love it.

Southwest Tofu Scramble
Serves 2

Ingredients for Spice Mix
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Splash of water
All other Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 cups sliced white or cremini mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • Jalapeno, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped or whole
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, optional
  • Hot sauce and/or salsa to taste (optional)
In a small bowl, combine the spice mix ingredients, adding the splash of water to make it into a sauce. Set aside.

In a large skillet set to medium-high with grapeseed oil, saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Crumble the tofu with your hands as you add it to the pan. Next, add the mushrooms to the mixture and continue to saute another 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and optional jalapeno and continue to saute for another couple minutes.

Last, add the black beans, spinach, spice mix, nutritional yeast, and black pepper and mix throughly until combined and hot.

Top with cilantro, salsa, and/or hot sauce.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Purple Carrot - meal service

After great experiences with Hungryroot and Green Chef, I decided to give Purple Carrot a try. With Purple Carrot, you choose 3 meals for 1-2 people or 3-4 people. The deals for first timers aren't as good here as I ended up paying $43 for these meals on my first order.

Similar to Green Chef, the ingredients come measured and many are chopped for you. They weren't color coded so you had to search through all of the ingredients to figure out which ones went with which recipes. The first recipe I tried was the South Indian Style Curry. This turned out to be not nearly as good as it looked in the picture. The eggplant curry was way too watery and not very tasty. The recipe took about 40 minutes as indicated.

The next recipe I tried was the Kale Caesar.  This salad was also disappointing. The chickpeas were not spiced well, the shallots were too many and too raw, and there wasn't enough dressing for the salad. Also, the dressing wasn't that great.

Finally, I made the Sweet Potato Lasagna. You made a sauce, simmered the sweet potatoes in the sauce, prepared the "ricotta," then broiled it all together. This one was pretty horrible. It lacked flavor all around.

So, I was most disappointed with Purple Carrot of the three meal plans I tried. I would not recommend this one. But, if you do try them, be sure to cancel at some point as you get signed up for recurring deliveries.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Green Chef - meal service

My second shot at these meal delivery services (maybe I should call them meal ingredient delivery services) was Green Chef.  Green Chef has an option for vegan meals -- 3 meals that serve 2 people. That sounded right up my alley. There was a special that allowed me to get this plan for just $26 and that seemed like a great deal.

I placed my order and waited and nothing came. Apparently this shipment got lost in the mail. So, we rescheduled.

The second shipment arrived as scheduled. As I unpacked the box, I noticed that each ingredient had color-coded labels on the outside to identify it for the particular recipe -- well, that's easy!  I tried the Chorizo Seitan Arepas first. This looked really complicated, but it turned out to be easy! Because the ingredients are included and already measured out and the recipe walks you through the prep step-by-step, it turned out to be super easy.

I made brown rice with coriander-spiced pepitas, spinach dressed in lime, arepas, and chorizo seitan with veggies in just 35 minutes. Talk about gourmet!

The next meal I tried making was the Sun-Dried Tomato Farfalle with a Kalamata-Kale Salad. This one was also pretty easy, but not as tasty. In fact, the kale salad with kalamata olives in a caper vinaigrette sauce was better than the farfalle. It was okay, but not nearly as mind-blowing as the previous dish.

Lastly, I tried the Quinoa Veggie Stew with Black Pepper-Thyme Biscuits. It was to die for. In just 30 minutes, I made this delicious quinoa stew with squash, bell peppers, sprouted tofu, and fresh thyme and sage along with biscuits made with almond milk. It was fantastic!

This meal service is the best one I've tried thus far. As with all of them, you get signed up for weekly delivery so be sure to cancel if you don't want it each week. Highly recommended. To try yourself, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hungryroot - meal service

Food delivery services are popping up EVERYWHERE! From the popularity of mainstream companies like BlueApron to small, local shops that just deliver in their cities, these services are at a popularity all time high! So, I figured it would be helpful to my readers for me to jump on the bandwagon. The first stop I made was HungryRoot.

Hungryroot is unique in that it is mostly vegan (as long as you don't add chicken to anything) and the entrees are based on spiralized veggie noodles--strips of veggies made to look like noodles. I found a deal for a bundle for $40 and placed my order. A bundle is a good way to try this service out. There are a few to choose from, but the basic one provides you with 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 2 dinners, 1 side, 1 snack, and 2 sweets.

When my first bundle arrived, a couple of the meals seemed to have gone bad. The white noodles in the sweet potato hash and the same ones in the kale salad were rotting.

But, for the items that hadn't rotted, I really liked them. There were carrot noodles with tangy sriracha peanut sauce, celery root noodles with sweet basil gremolata (shown below), and a lacinato kale salad with caper raisin vinaigrette. You basically take the "noodles" and cook them for a just a few minutes to soften them up, then top them with the sauces. It was surprisingly simple and delicious!

For desserts, the almond chickpea cookie dough made these amazingly delicious and protein-rich cookies that were to die for. Also, the coconut carrot cake bites were delish!

When I contacted customer service about the noodles that had gone bad, they were very apologetic and offered to send me a bunch of stuff for free! So, I tried the daikon noodles with Korean scallion gochujang - spicy and so tasty (shown below)!  I tried the sweet potato noodles with creamy cashew alfredo, which was like a Moroccan spiced meal and not at all what I expected.

They resent the two that had rotting noodles that included the sweet potato hash and the lacinato kale salad. The noodles were rotted in this order too. I was still able to eat the salad after removing the noodles, but I couldn't save the hash once again.

They also sent a chocolate mousse that was out of this world. I topped it with raspberries.

Other items on their menu include:
  • Rutabaga noodles with roasted mushroom pistou
  • Beet noodles with savory almond sesame
  • Boniato noodles with fresh bean salsa
  • Turnip noodles with toasted walnut pesto
All in all, despite these white noodles that seem to rot very quickly, I liked the dishes. They were super easy to make (7 minutes!) and I lost weight after eating this stuff for a week. I'd recommend trying this service if you are curious and want good, healthy vegan food at a reasonable price. Like all of these services, you have to cancel it if you don't want it every week, but canceling was quite easy. You can try Hungryroot here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Taylor Gourmet, DC #2

Since the last time I visited that little sandwich shop on the corner, Taylor Gourmet, they have exploded as they've opened 11 cafes in the area including one in Reagan National Airport. Wow! I didn't love this place when I first went a few years ago, but I loved it this time!

In fact, I've tried to go to the location in the National Airport several times, but, each time, their fryer was down. So on this beautiful, sunny day, I headed in. I was delighted to see that all vegan items were labeled with "Vegan" next to them. I just want to take a moment to applaud Taylor Gourmet for doing what every restaurant should be doing. Just tell us if it is vegan or not without 15 complicated symbols on your menu indicating vegan vs. vegetarian, etc. If it is vegan, it is also vegetarian so just label it "vegan" darn it!

But, while the labeling was clear, the cashier was not. I ordered the Cumberland sandwich and he asked me what kind of bread I'd like. I said I wanted whichever roll was vegan. He proceeded to tell me about the gluten-free wrap to which I responded that I am not gluten-free and would like to have whichever one is vegan. He left to ask questions and came back and recommended the multi-grain. Okay, great!

And in just a few minutes, they had my hoagie ready to go. I took it home and unwrapped it and it looked so good. On soft, doughy bread were layers of chickpea fritters, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, and pepperocini slathered in lemon mint tahini dressing. The chickpea fritters and the bread were so good while the dressing just pulled it all together. Well done, Taylor Gourmet. I think this is my favorite sandwich in the city right now. With a $2 Pellegrino, the whole meal was only $10.50. That, my dear, is a steal. All I ask it to make sure that the individuals working there know which breads are vegan or not and you will have hit perfection.

Previous review
October 22, 2014

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

Taylor Gourmet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato