Thursday, March 15, 2018

Taylor Gourmet, DC #3

Since my last review of Taylor Gourmet, now one of the best sandwich shops in DC, they have perfected their Cumberland sandwich and added some great vegan salads. They may only have a few vegan options, but the options they have are excellent.

Their Cumberland sandwich with its perfectly spiced chickpea fritters, cucumbers, banana peppers, fresh herbs, pickled red onions, lettuce, and roma tomato topped with roasted garlic tahini dressing is about as good as a vegan sub is going to get.

I love the large dining area of the cafe on 14th Street too. It still has that cool hipster vibe. Great prices, great service, and great food. This place is a win.

Previous reviews
February 1, 2017
October 22, 2014

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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, DC

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams opened in my neighborhood, the 14th Street Corridor, late last year amidst the opposition of those for the local food movement. Jeni's is a chain based in Columbus, Ohio that now operates 32 scoop shops across the United States.

They recently contacted me to let me know that they had a new vegan flavor. Sure, I'd love to try it! The shop is really cute with its retro signage and bright interior. With only window seating, it isn't really set up to hang out in, but it is very inviting. I've seen lines around the block for this ice cream, so I was excited to give them a shot.

They make a Reisling Poached Pear sorbet with non-bone char sugar, but I wanted to try the new vegan ice cream this go-around. When I asked them which one was vegan, they didn't seem to know, so I pulled up my email from their marketing department and figured it out. The Dark Chocolate Truffle is labeled dairy-free and gluten-free, but not vegan, which makes one wonder if it really is, but I can confirm that they said it is in their press release.

The Dark Chocolate Truffle ice cream is velvety rich and smooth. So chocolately--it just melted in my mouth. They say they spent five years on recipe development for their first plant-based ice cream.

“We didn’t try to make something that would pass for a dairy version of ice cream,” explains founder and chief creative officer Jeni Britton Bauer. “Instead, we looked to make something new and different and wondrous all on its own. The resulting Dark Chocolate Truffle is so deeply, primally satisfying that since the first time I had it, I think about it and crave it just as much as dairy ice cream. This flavor is for anyone who wants a truly beautiful, memorable frozen dessert.”

While most other dairy-free ice creams contain vegetable and algae proteins or an overuse of stabilizers, hers uses high-quality coconut cream and Fair Trade cocoa. Well done, Jeni. Just label it vegan, please. And I look forward to seeing you expand this line!

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
1925 14th Street, Suite B
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 621-8625

Full Disclosure: Although the ice cream was provided to me at no cost to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rise Bakery, DC

So many bakeries, so little time. For Christmas a couple of years ago, I received a $25 gift card to Rise Bakery in DC. It's definitely not a bakery I would have sought out, but now I'm so happy to have discovered it!

Rise Bakery is a gluten-free bakery in the Adams Morgan neighborhood that was founded in 2014. They specialize in catering to specialty diets without sacrificing taste, texture, or richness. So they make several gluten-free, vegan items. I absolutely love how everything is labeled as dairy free, egg free, soy free, or nut free, and of course, vegan.

I felt like a kid in a candy store with my gift card, so I got like one of everything!  The Raspberry Jam bar was absolutely delicious. I cut it in half with the intention of only eating half, but that didn't exactly happen.

The vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies are to die for. I mean, I was really impressed with how good they were--soft, rich, and loaded with chocolate--do not buy just one.

The Carrot Cupcake was a little grainy, but I loved the icing.

And, best of all, was the Superfood Bread. When have I ever loved a gluten-free bread? I don't think ever. This bread is some of the best bread I've ever had. Made with amaranth, quinoa, millet, flax seeds, and sesame seeds, you can eat it out of the bag or use it for sandwiches. No matter what though, either eat it quickly or freeze it because it will go bad quickly due to the nature of this fresh bread.

I must say that I wasn't too excited about going to a gluten-free bakery, but after trying their baked goods, I'm very impressed. I can't wait to go back for more.

Rise Bakery
2409 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 525-5204

Rise Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rasa, DC

I practice flying trapeze in the Navy Yard area. When I first started practicing, it was like a food desert. There was absolutely nowhere to eat. That was 2012. Fast forward to today and you will see that the transformation there is amazing. They've even built the fast casual mecca of DC complete with Cava Mezze Grill, Roti, Taylor Gourmet, Chop't, Chipotle, and Rasa. You may recognize all of those except Rasa because this is Rasa's first location.

Founded by the sons of chefs at Indique, one of my old favorite restaurants, and Bombay Bistro, this has quickly become my favorite fast casual restaurant in DC and you know that I don't give praise generously. It's been open for a few months, but I was skeptical. One of my trapeze teachers came to me raving about this Indian restaurant and telling me they had vegan options, but I only half believed her. I took a look at their menu online and wondered if the "v" designation next to certain items meant "vegan" or "vegetarian." A quick call confirmed it meant "vegan."

So, I went over one night after trapeze. Their menu concept is similar to most fast casual restaurants in our area, but what's different is that 83% of their menu is vegan. Oh yes.

You choose a base: spinach, romaine lettuce, sexy greens, supergrains, basmati rice, or South Indian rice noodles. All bases are vegan. Then, you pick a main of which three are vegan: sweet potato tikki, green jackfruit, or tofu and cauliflower. Then, a sauce of which three are vegan: tamarind chili, coconut ginger, or peanut sesame. Then, you can pick one veggie and all are vegan: charred eggplant, tossed green beans, sauteed spinach, or roasted Brussels sprouts.  And they have lots of vegan toppings as well!  Meals are priced from $9 - $11 each.

It was a little overwhelming so I went with one of the preset meals--the Aloo You Need is Love. That is so cute. On top of supergrains is sweet potato tikki, charred eggplant, masala beets, and pickled radish topped with coconut ginger sauce. They actually forgot my masala beets. But, as I was checking out, I introduced myself to one of the owners, Sahil, and that made it all better.

The meal was fantastic. The supergrains were absolutely delicious as was the soft, yet crispy sweet potato and pea patties. My favorite though was the charred eggplant--unbelievably good. And that coconut ginger sauce--more, please!

Sahil told me about how he and his partner traveled to India to do their research before opening the restaurant. It's like fine fast casual, he said, and I agree. He brought me a sampler plate of a bunch of vegan items and the flavors took my taste buds away! Surprisingly to me, the jackfruit was my favorite. I don't usually enjoy jackfruit, but the way they cooked it is exceptional! The sauteed spinach was also exceptional as was the tofu and cauliflower. Honestly, it was all good.

I asked if they had hot sauce and they actually make their own really good hot sauce and are experimenting with a hotter sauce. I got to try the new formula and I love it.

I also love that they not only serve beer and wine, but a Masala Gin & Tonic too. I just had to try it and it was pretty good!

Sahil also let me know that the samosas were vegan, but the mint sauce they serve them with is not, which is why they aren't labeled as vegan. So he brought me the samosas to try with a tamarind chutney. They were incredibly flaky--like pastry and really fresh. They have to be some of the best samosas I've ever had.

Watching Sahil break open a coconut for a customer was also quite entertaining.

It was so good that I returned the next week and ordered another bowl, but this time I built the bowl myself. I ordered the sexygreens with jackfruit, tofu and cauliflower topped with peanut sesame sauce. For my veggie, I ordered sauteed spinach and I topped it with cucumber cubes and pickled onion. This bowl was even better than the first! That peanut sesame sauce is so rich and creamy--it draped all of the vegetables creating a flavor explosion! You won't go wrong if you order this combo, that's for sure.

Oh, and the decor is really bright and beautiful. Rasa is a combination of the owner's names and also means "all emotions." The artwork inside is meant to represent all emotions. It's very colorful.

So, I'm a big fan. It's been a while since a place got me this excited. Highly recommended.

1247 1st Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 804-5678

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Golden Temple, Amsterdam

While looking for a more crowd pleasing restaurant that could satisfy the diverse group of people we had going, I found Golden Temple, a vegetarian Indian restaurant.

Inside, this restaurant was an eclectic ball of fun. Colorful and vibrant, it had traditional tables and chairs on the first floor and lower tables for sitting on the floor on the second floor. We were seated on the second floor. A hodgepodge of colors ignited the spark that drove this restaurant into complete eclecticism.  The entire restaurant is vegetarian and all gluten free and vegan options are conveniently marked on the menu.

We started with an order of the Salt and Pepper Tofu. These tofu sticks were dipped and battered and Chinese green tea salt and pepper covered these fried tofu sticks that are served with salt on the side as well.  They were okay, but nothing to write home about.

For my entree, I ordered the traditional Northern Indian Thali, which is made vegan by request. This sampler platter consisted of Dhal, lentil soup; Saag, spinach dish; Bhand Gobhi, potato and cabbage in a tomato sauce; mild yellow Coconut Curry; basmati rice; and chutney. I really enjoyed it.

More than anything though, I enjoyed the company of my friends who recently moved to Amsterdam and I found this restaurant to be a great place for large groups of people in a friendly, relaxed environment. There's even a yoga studio there. I'd gladly come back again.

Next time, I'll leave room for dessert.

Golden Temple
Utrechtsestraat 126
1017 VT Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Merzi, DC

Merzi means "choice" in Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi and that is the premise behind this fast casual Indian establishment in Penn Quarter. When it first opened many, many years ago, I'm pretty sure they had the distinction of being the only fast casual Indian restaurant in DC. Now, there's competition with the new Rasa in Navy Yard, but Merzi is under new ownership and Rickey, the owner, is setting out to make Merzi better.

When you first step in, you are greeted by inviting red and wood walls. The dining room features booths as well as table seating. It's a pretty standard concept--you build your bowl step by step. The lighter portion is $8.25 and the large is $9.25. Where they are lacking is in options for bases, proteins, and toppings. Maybe I'm just spoiled by Roti and Cava Mezze Grill, but I love having lots of options. You choose your base--rice, salad, or no base for a vegan bowl. Then you can choose from or just order all five vegetables: braised red cabbage, potatoes, green peas, chickpeas, and curried cauliflower. And for protein, they are now offering crumbled tofu.

What is cool is that the new ownership is looking to cater to all diets and they are trying to veganize what they can to make it more accessible to everyone. Before, you could only have one sauce if you were vegan: the "spicy" onion tomato masala. Now, the tikka masala, the creamy sauce, is vegan because they replaced the dairy with coconut milk. Win!

Once you've chosen all the ingredients for your bowl, you can top it with a few toppings such as cucumber tomato salad, romaine lettuce, corn, and pickled red onions along with a tomato or tamarind chutney.

I ordered the salad bowl with romaine, all veggies, both vegan sauces (one on each side), pickled onions and a little chutney.

The first thing I noticed was that the spicy sauce wasn't very spicy at all and Rickey said that that is because it is Americanized Indian--so it is American spicy. Well, that is disappointing. I think for a spicy sauce, it should be a bit more spicy than it is. The veggies tasted unseasoned, except for the cauliflower, which is really good--seasoned with cumin and turmeric. Apparently the veggies were over seasoned before so they went back to the basics with unseasoned veggies. I think a little more seasoning would be nice, but, then again, the sauce is pretty flavorful. The tomato masala sauce is good, but somewhat plain. That new vegan tikka masala sauce, however, is great--it's super creamy and flavorful and brings all the flavor to the dish. I loved the pickled onions too.

The second time I went, I got the rice with all veggies and the new tofu option with the tikka masala sauce. The tofu, because it is crumbled, was hard to taste, but, again, that sauce made the meal!

I also tried the samosas, but I wasn't a fan. They were just way too deep fried. I am a fan of the mango chutney though.

For drinks, they just started offering two freshly made drinks--Chai Iced Tea and Turmeric Mint Lemonade. I only tried the lemonade and I thought it was pretty good. But, where they really shine is that they just made the Mango Lassi vegan--now made with coconut milk and it is absolutely delicious!

I asked Rickey why he cared to veganize more items and he said that he has been vegan on and off and really wants the food to be accessible to all. Everything in the restaurant is gluten free, so now it's time to have more vegan options. I'd, personally, love to see more veggies like eggplant and more protein options like lentils or chickpeas. I think he's on the right track though and I really look forward to seeing this restaurant evolve under the ownership. He even just joined the Vegetarian Society of DC's Green Rewards program, which gives members discounts at local veg-friendly businesses. Thanks, Rickey, we appreciate you.

Be sure to go and try the new tikka masala sauce! It's delish.
415 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 656-3794

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

Full Disclosure: Although the meal was provided to me at no cost to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dophert, Amsterdam

I was on a mission to find good vegan food in Amsterdam and ended up at Dophert. Dophert is an all-vegan two-story cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days per week.

It had an eclectic bookstore feel to me with its grade-school-like tables and chairs, exposed ductwork, and decorative lighting. The hexagons painted on the floors and the artwork on the walls gave the cafe some character.

I was just excited to find a vegan restaurant in Amsterdam! We started with the Bitter Ballen, which are a traditional Dutch snack made with meat served with mustard. This was obviously a vegan version and these gooey balls were served with mustard. They were a little underwhelming, but I was happy to try a traditional Dutch snack veganized.

We tried two other dishes -- the Fried Seitan Sandwich made with seitan, jalapenos, and tomatoes on a sub roll. It was pretty good.

And I had the Quinoa and Black Bean Burger, which was also very good!

The desserts in the dessert case were tempting, but we were pretty full and couldn't make room for them. I'll definitely come back to this place to try more when I return next year!

Spaarndammerstraat 49
1013ST Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cece's Veggie Noodle Co.

Simple meals for people on the go--this seems to be the trend nowadays. And simple meals for people who cook at home are very popular. Often though, those looking for easy meals and drawn to less healthy meals. But, there are so many healthy options. One of them is the Veggie Noodle Co., which apparently recently got renamed to "Cece's Veggie Noodle Co."

I was the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore this past September and grabbed a few of these as I'm already a big fan. What are they? They are simply spiralized veggies. They take root vegetables, make them into noodles, put them in a box, and slap a recipe on the back. And all you have to do is heat them up for a few minutes with or without other veggies and throw a sauce on them. Bam! You got your meal.

Like I said, I am already a huge fan. They sell Sweet Potato Spirals, Butternut Spirals, Zucchini Spirals, and Beet Spirals as well as Butternut Veggiccini and Zucchini Veggiccini. Newer products include their Riced Cauliflower and Riced Broccoli.

I had the pleasure of trying two of their seasonal flavors as well as two classic ones. For the Golden Beet Spirals, I made their Golden Garlicky Lemon Basil Beets recipe. I mixed the golden beet spirals with olive oil, fresh basil, and lemon zest in a bowl, then sauteed them in lemon juice and garlic. So good!

For the White Sweet Potato Spirals, I just sauteed them and topped them with spaghetti sauce and fresh basil. Yum!

I did the same with the Sweet Potato Veggiccini and it was delicious.

I took the Zucchini Veggiccini and sauteed it in oil with dried jalapenos and topped it with spaghetti sauce. It was so good!

I'm a big fan of these healthy "noodles" as they are really just vegetables and super good for you. Quick to cook, delicious to eat, and healthy too. To find a store near you, click here. Bon Appetit!

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Maoz, Amsterdam

We had gotten back from skydiving on the Texel island in The Netherlands late and I was desperate to find some food at 9 p.m. at night!  Luckily, I found the international vegetarian chain, Maoz Vegetarian!

Maoz's menu is simple--falafel in a white or whole wheat pita or make it a salad or bowl with falafel and add fries and a juice if you like.

All toppings are vegetarian and mostly vegan. I topped mine with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, olives, pickles, tahini and more. And as starving as it was, it really hits the spot. There are four of these in Amsterdam and all are open until 1 a.m.

Maoz Vegetarian
Leidsestraat 85
1017 NX Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Whaddyalove Chocolate

Looking for a fun gift of chocolate? Whaddyalove Chocolate based in Los Angeles is making vegan chocolates with pizzazz!

Half of the fun of these bars is in the packaging as they are wrapped with a thick paper with origami folds.  The Classic Bar was psychedelic looking and so colorful. And inside the chocolate was made with cacao nibs.

The other half of the fun is on the inside. The Sparkle Bar has a unicorn on the outside and chocolate with edible sparkles on the inside. Made with pure cacao beans, cane sugar, cacao butter, and Himalayan Salt, you really can't go wrong with these.

These chocolates would make a really fun gift to anyone who is a child at heart. They even come with a card that states: "Share what you love about your life with someone you cherish." So sweet. You can order the bars online for $5.95 each here.

Full Disclosure: Although the chocolate was provided to me at no cost to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.