Tag Archives: restaurant review

The Cinnamon Snail

No, I have not taken to eating snails–or any mollusk, for that matter–doused in cinnamon. Ew.

The post title refers to a vegan food truck which can be found parked and serving up delicious–and organic–plant-based food in New Jersey and New York. And its signature dish is–what else?–the cinnamon snail.

But this truck is so much more than snails! [Side note: imagine reading that sentence out of context. Ha!]

The menu also features such mouthwatering eats as a breakfast burrito, fresh fig pancakes with pine nut butter and vermont maple syrup, hemp seed and coconut-crusted french toast, raw pizza, maple mustard tempeh sandwich with roasted garlic aioli, kale, and tomato, Korean barbecue seitan, and more.

Naturally, I beelined straight to The Snail at the food festival Tom and I hit up on Saturday.

I went with the lemongrass 5 spice seitan with Szechuan chili sauce, curried cashews, greens, and wasabi mayonnaise on a grilled baguette.

Firstly, it totally passed the presentation test. In other words, it looked good. Really good.

And then I took a bite.

It was awesome! Such a great mix of textures and flavors. It wasn’t as spicy as I was expecting, but still tasty. Tom was a huge fan, too. The Snail can do sandwiches, too. Who knew?  

My only qualm was that the baguette was not whole grain. And this isn’t a criticism of The Cinnamon Snail; the bread was admittedly delicious. It’s just that I’m a whole grain kind of girl, through and through. I know this may sound extreme, but I just don’t see the point of white bread. And I happen to like the taste of whole and sprouted grains. Don’t get me wrong–I do indulge in white bread from time to time, usually at a restaurant (or food truck, in this case). And I love carbs. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I am much happier with whole and/or sprouted grains!

Anyway. I digress.

I also got dessert–a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. Surprised? ;) I toyed with the idea of trying a cinnamon snail (when in Rome…), but it just didn’t appeal to me on such a hot day after consuming a monster of a sandwich.

This was great. Not at all dry or overly sweet like some vegan desserts I’ve tried. It was a delicious cookie, plain and simple. I would have liked a few more chocolate chips (I think I counted four–total), but I loved that peanut butter was the star.

My kind of cookie! :)

If I’d had any room left, I would have also gotten fresh juice from the good ole’ Green Pirate.

Juice does a body good.

But, alas, it didn’t make the cut this time. I see this truck quite often in Brooklyn, though, so I don’t feel like I missed my chance.

Tom got a slushie from Kelvin’s Natural Slush Co.

He went with the Arnold Palmer–half tea slush, half citrus slush + white peach mix-in. Though a little too sweet for my taste, this was perfect for a hot summer day–cold and refreshing.

Do you have food trucks in your area? If so, what’s your favorite? 

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The Windy City

I left you hanging with the answer to my little guessing game, didn’t I?

I know you’ve all been dying to know the answer, and if the title of this post hasn’t already given it away, I’ll tell you now: I finished my tour of the Midwest in Chicago, visiting my sister and several of my good friends.

And, as I mentioned, I had a long run to complete–a 9-miler. This was a welcome step back from the previous week’s 12-mile run, as my muscles had been feeling tight.

My sister joined me at the start with plans to turn around earlier but ended up running the whole thing! It was so fun–and absolutely gorgeous; we ran along Lake Michigan toward downtown. Here are a few (slightly warped?) photos I managed to take with my cell.

By the end, the sun was out and the heat was on–but we stuck it out and managed a decent pace. I was so impressed by my running buddy’s impromptu long run.

Perhaps it was the overnight oats we enjoyed together…?

Although we enjoyed these after the run, so that can’t be it.

We made a version of my PB & Strawberry Jam Protein Oats. Like my mom a few days before, this was Abby’s first overnight oats experience. I think it’s safe to say we have another convert. Success!

Perhaps, then, it was the raw food we enjoyed the night before the run? ;) Not really–raw food is very healthy but certainly not magic. But it was a great meal. We dined at Karyn’s Raw Cafe with one of my friends from college.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere was a little…stale. We felt like we had entered a yoga studio with a strict no-talking policy. Adding to this, the menu didn’t serve booze. The only shot offered was wheatgrass. Granted, it is a raw cafe and alcohol is certainly not raw (read: I shouldn’t have been too surprised)–but because of my glorious Pure Food & Wine experience (which does serve alcohol) I had never really considered it before.

None of this is a huge deal, of course. And maybe it could be a nice change of pace! But it’s not the ideal place if you’re wanting to catch up with friends over dinner and a glass of wine. Despite the unimpressive atmosphere, we had a lovely time–and the food itself was wonderful. Which is ultimately what matters. The lighting was so terrible, I debated whether or not to even share the photos, but here goes…

We started with the hummus appetizer–made with creamy cauliflower and red peppers and served with crispy flax crackers and veggies.

This was awesome. The hummus was creamy and had a lovely kick. And the veggies and flax crackers were the perfect receptacles. This was my second raw hummus experience (my first at Sun In Bloom) and I have to say I have yet to be disappointed.

And then came the entrees.

My sister got the Tamales–corn husks filled with organic masa, tomato puree, mushrooms, asparagus, olives, and extra virgin olive oil, drizzled with a raw béchamel sauce and side of chipotle salsa.

This was very flavorful and interesting. Abby was impressed.

My friend got the Basil Scented Ravioli–half moon shells filled with macadamia whipped crème, dressed with an Italian olive marinara sauce.

This was my least fave of the bunch. It was okay, but the olive was overpowering and it didn’t resemble ravioli in the way that raw food often can. In fact, the thing I love about raw food (besides the health benefits) is the creative ways it captures the essence of a food. This one missed the mark for me.

I ordered the Empanadas–flax and corn masa pastry dough stuffed with three pepper chorizo and house blend chili spice, served with a side of authentic raw chocolate mole and a salsa verde.

Oh my goodness. So. Good. This was by far my favorite dish. (Am I allowed to say that if I ordered it??) It was so flavorful, textured, and spicy. It had lots of cilantro and the mole sauce and salsa verde were out of this world. I actually loved it. I think I would even go back for these alone!

All in all, it was a fun–and filling–meal.

The rest of my weekend–which I’ll leave to your imagination (blogger fail!)–was full of awesome sushi (I heart sweet potato rolls!), Mana Food Bar (if you’re in Chicago, go!), lunch on my sister’s deck, naps (yes, plural), reading, walks around the city, and catching up with friends I don’t get to see very often.

A perfect way to end my trip. :)

Raw food: yay or nay? 

How much does atmosphere matter to you when it comes to dining out? 

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Roast & Toast

Today I’m on the road, driving from Michigan to my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. It’s good to be a student again (read: not working). ;)

I have so much to post about, but I won’t be able to blog from the road so that’ll have to wait. The unplugging continues….

To fuel us through the drive, my dad, sister and are headed to the Roast & Toast on our way out of town–an adorable cafe in downtown Petsoskey–for one last coffee.

It’s full of delicious soups, sandwiches, teas, juices–and famous for its whimsical coffee (etc.) drinks such as “The Chocolate Overdose” (hot chocolate made with Ghirardelli chocolate), “The Accidental Tourist” (latte with peanut butter syrup, chocolate milk, and toffee), “The Milky Way” (candy bar in a cup!), “The S’More,” “Cinnamon Toast” (hot chai with cinnamon and vanilla), and so much more.

They offer soy milk for vegans, too (although, incidentally, that’s not such a great idea for me).

But what I love most about it is not its creative dessert coffees, hearty soups, adorable atmosphere, or nondairy milk option.

No, what won me over was the peanut butter syrup.

All coffee shops have a shot of vanilla, or chocolate–or even hazelnut. Most even carry raspberry and mint. But I have never met another that offers a shot of peanut butter. It’s pure genius!

Earlier this week, I ordered a decaf (yep, that’s how I roll) iced americano with a shot of peanut butter syrup–and I might have to do it again today.

A little B.Y.O.M. action would have made this even better, but it was still delicious. The peanut butter syrup adds a nutty, sweet flavor that is such a treat.

Peanut butter makes everything better, no?

And with that, we’re off!

What’s the craziest coffee flavor/drink you’ve ever tried?

or

What’s the strangest food/drink you’ve combined with peanut butter? 

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My Life Is Complete

Last Saturday night was dinner and a movie for Tom and I–but it was far from ordinary; the dinner was Candle 79 and the movie was the latest (and final) Harry Potter.

So pretty much my perfect evening. You can officially sound the Nerd Alert! alarm and I’m not ashamed. :)

Allow me to share the grub. For those who aren’t familiar, Candle 79 is a fabulous and somewhat fancy vegan restaurant in Manhattan. I’ve frequented its delicious (and more casual) sister restaurant, Candle Cafe (love), but had yet to try Candle 79.

I was so excited all Saturday that I kept my meals light. Breakfast was a collard green wrap. (Yes, I went to not one, but two amazing vegan restaurants in one day. It was borderline greedy!)

Then, because it was one of the hottest days of the summer, I enjoyed a Strawberry Blonde Smoothie.

And for a late lunch (our reservations weren’t until 9pm), I stuffed a flax, oat bran, and whole wheat pita with mixed greens, tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds–and, naturally, a lot of Sun In Bloom’s raw hummus which I had picked up that morning.

The hummus is seriously amazing. It tastes so fresh and creamy–and has a lovely, surprising kick. Must try to recreate!

I held off on snacking for the rest of the day in preparation for Candle 79–so worth the wait.

It was love at first bite–which, by the way, was an amuse bouche, compliments of the chef. (This is the point I upgraded Candle 79 from upscale to officially fancy.) The taste went into our mouths before a photo could be snapped, but it was a lovely bite of tofu, tomato, and olive with an amazing miso sauce. If it sounds strange, believe me when I tell you it made perfect sense to my taste buds!

We decided to share an appetizer since we I really wanted to save room for dessert.

We went with the Grilled Kale Salad with haricots verts, beluga lentils, red onions, turnips, avocado, sunflower seeds, spelt berries, dressed in a chive vinaigrette.

It was one of the best salads I’ve ever tasted. I could have ordered two of these and called it dinner.

It left me wondering what took me so long to try this place!

Seriously.

And then came our entrees.

I ordered the Caribbean Jerk Grilled Seitan with collard greens and caramelized onions, plantains, a black bean-rum sauce, pineapple-mango salsa, and a habañero-cilantro coulis.

In a word, awesome.

I paired my meal with Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager.

Love this beer.

Tom ordered Candle 79′s signature dish–the Seitan Piccata with creamed spinach, grilled potato cake, oyster mushrooms, and a lemon-caper sauce–and was not disappointed.

In fact, he absolutely loved it. I snuck a bite and I totally get why it’s so popular. It’s absolutely divine!

Tom paired his perfectly with a red wine.

And then there was dessert. Unfortunately, the photos I snapped are extremely blurry and would not do the sweets justice, so I’m sparing you. Apparently I must have been in too big a hurry to dig in to take a decent photo! What can I say? Chocolate and peanut butter have that effect on me. ;)

I went with the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss which is essentially rich chocolate mousse atop rich peanut butter mousse. While every dessert looked divine, this was a no-brainer; I can’t pass up chocolate and peanut butter together. As a rule. And it was delicious. The ratio of chocolate-to-pb wasn’t quite right (the peanut butter was overpowered by the chocolate, as is often the case), but I can’t complain; it was amazing.

And Tom got (and loved) the Fruit Crumb Pie with blueberries, crumb topping, and french vanilla ice cream.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and Harry Potter was the icing on the cake Candle 79.

My life is now indeed complete. ;)

Happy (almost) weekend! 

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Sun In Bloom

Yesterday, Tom and I went to one of my favorite vegan, gluten-free breakfast (and brunch) spots: Sun In Bloom.

It was lovely–just as its name suggests. (Isn’t “sun in bloom” a beautiful phrase? To me, it is the image of happiness.)

But my perfect morning actually began the night before with a much-needed yoga class–where I learned, incidentally, that during the summer in New York City, every yoga class is Hot Yoga.

Needless to say, I sweat. A lot. But I loved every second; it was one of those yoga sessions where you just know you’re doing something wonderful for your body. Everything about it felt right. It was a total sun-in-bloom moment. And it really loosened my muscles up–which had admittedly been really tight since this run. It reminded me that I need to make time for yoga more often–especially the further along in my training plan I am.

I came home craving something light for dinner. Does anyone else lose some of their appetite in the heat? I settled on a lot of edamame (more than what’s pictured) alongside avo toast with sea salt and red pepper flakes on Ezekiel sprouted grain bread.

It hit the spot.

Later I had a small bowl of this granola. I’m usually a morning granola girl, but it makes for a tasty dessert.

I woke up with a bit of marathon training reprieve: this week’s long run was just six miles, a nice break for my body.

I fueled pre-run with a banana and homemade cinnamon-raisin peanut butter.

And then I was off to Prospect Park. It was a tougher run than I expected because it was so. effing. hot. out. Still, I’ll take running outside (under the literal sun-in-bloom) over running on a treadmill any day!

I’m going to purposely brush over the part of my run where I tripped and wiped out on a dirty New York City sidwalk, slip ‘n slide style. Yeah, that was not a sun-in-bloom moment. Ha. (I am happy to report, I sustained no injuries.)

Anyway. Aside from my fall (Idon’twanttotalkaboutit!), I was happy with my run. Who needs coffee with a little thing called a runner’s high?

Happily, Sun In Bloom took care of my post-run grub. Casual and unpretentious, this Brooklyn “eco-eatery” is a wonderful place to dine.

I always have a hard time deciding what to order because everything sounds amazing. Not only is their menu vegan and gluten-free, a lot of dishes are raw or macrobiotic. Decisions, decisions!

It’s not a bad dilemma to have (read: I was in heaven). There was certainly no vegan brunch conundrum here!

After much debate, I finally settled on the “Rockin’ Veggie” with live hummus, marinated bell peppers, cucumber, and cabbage, dressed in an invigorating raw lemon vinaigrette–all in a collard green wrap.

I’m so glad I did! It’s almost as if this was created to satisfy a craving I didn’t even know I had. Maybe for this reason, I deemed it–on the spot–the best thing I’ve had on the menu thus far. It was so flavorful, crunchy, and fresh.

And because you can never have too many greens, I ordered the “Sweet Lady Green,” a juice made with kale, collards, romaine, cucumber, celery, and parsley.

Delicious and fresh. To his surprise, Tom even liked it. The only downside? It’s pricey, so not something I’d splurge on every time.

Tom ordered a brunch special–the energizing breakfast burrito in an Ezekiel wrap with butternut hash.

I’m not sure exactly what it contained–other than avocado, brown rice, tofu scramble, black beans, corn, and some sort of ranchero sauce–but it was really good. (Tom and I traded bites.) And the butternut hash? Out of this world.

All in all, another great meal. And I love that the portion sizes aren’t crazybig; I always leave feeling satisfied but not stuffed.

I also walked away with a tub of their raw hummus, because it was that good. I can’t wait to recreate!

Brunch with a side of hummus?

Perfect. 

What’s a sun-in-bloom (read: happy) moment you’ve had lately? 


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The Brunch Conundrum

There was one thing conspicously missing in my Memorial Day Weekend recap.

No, I don’t mean nut butter. While that was absent from the post, I can assure you I had peanut butter for breakfast pretty much every day in some way, shape, or form. ;)

I mean brunch. And not just any brunch: New York City brunch. New Yorkers love their brunch. It’s ingrained into the culture; it’s built into the week. Every Sunday starting at noon–and Saturdays, too–the brunch menus come out and tables are bustling with people enjoying a lazy meal served with cocktails.

Sounds awesome. So, then, what’s the condunmdrum?

Well, it turns out, brunch is a tricky meal for vegans. It’s rare to find a brunch menu that doesn’t include eggs in every. single. dish.

Think about it: French toast? Eggs. Omelet? Eggs. Pancakes? Eggs. Eggs? Eggs.

Yeah.

And even if breakfast choices like oatmeal are offered, it’s often cooked with milk or butter; granola, served with milk or yogurt.

So what’s a girl vegan to do?

Here are the options:

A.) Keep the Bloody’s coming. Ha.

Mimosas do the trick as well. ;)

B.) Make it work. It is possible to still have a decent meal. I’ve ordered various combinations of fresh fruit, spring salad, whole wheat toast, and hash browns (cooked in oil). I’ve also been known to pack snacks and sneak in nut butter packets when the options are limited, not gonna lie.

Banana bread anyone?

C.) Stay home and quit your complaining. Make your own brunch! Try Mama Pea’s Tofu Breakfast Burritos or Apple Spice Coffee Cake; Angela’s Sweet Potato Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole or Pumpkin Butter Pancakes; Gena’s Classic Tofu Scramble or Vegan Streusel Muffins. Or Elise’s Quinoa and Buckwheat Granola. Mmm.

Or how about some Peanut Butter Pancakes?

Or a basket of Lemon Poppy Seed Scones?

The options are endless.

D.) Choose a vegan-friendly restaurant. I love Sun In Bloom, a vegan brunch spot in Brooklyn, but my favorites tend to be places that offer something for everyone.

Case in point: Last Sunday’s brunch. I made reservations at the Essex–a popular brunch spot that I hadn’t been to in a while. It’s in the Lower East Side–a light, open space, and each menu option comes with up to three cocktails. Done.

To my delight, I discovered they offer a vegan option: Vegan Matzo Brei with tofu scramble and soy cheese.

Yum.

Matzo brei is essentially eggs scrambled with matzo, so this dish was like scrambled eggs-meets-huevos rancheros: A “cheesy” tofu scramble, black beans, salsa, guacamole, and kale. Absolutely delicious.

So flavorful and filling.

I mean, with guac, how can it not be amazing?

So, so tasty!

My brother got the non-vegan Matzo Brei.

He was a big fan, too.

And in true New York fashion, we were scrambling to get to the theater district after brunch to make our off-Broadway matinee. Here are the boys running from their cab to the theater–just in time.

Whew.

Aside from the Essex, Tom’s scoped out Flatbush Farm, a Brooklyn restaurant which offers a tofu scramble brunch option. Can’t wait to try.

The point is: Don’t fear brunch.

It’s still a beautiful thing.

Which option would you choose: A, B, C, or D? I say all of the above, but ideally either C or D.

What’s your favorite brunch item? I love french toast. And my tofu matzo brei was up there, too. I may need to attempt my own Mexican-inspired tofu scramble soon…

Happy brunching!

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I Heart NY

The great thing about living in New York City is that it’s so big, there’s always something you haven’t seen or done (a.k.a. fun to be had!). I love when family and friends visit because, first of all, I get to hang out with them, but also because it’s a total excuse to spend time with the city.

This past weekend with my brother and his girlfriend’s visit was no exception.

The weekend was full of (among other things)…

D.I.Y. TOURS

Instead of a bus tour, we opted to explore the city on bikes.

Over the Brooklyn Bridge…

…up the west side…

…to Central Park.

which is worse: helmets or helmet hair?

And, of course, we stopped to refuel with beer and grub on the way back at a bar/cafe right along the Hudson–perfect.

Because it was a casual spot, I was slightly concerned the food would consist of fries and hot dogs. But I found hummus! :)

Okay, so it wasn’t the very best hummus I’ve ever tasted, but it totally hit the spot. I never thought I’d say this, but it was too garlicky! Did not know that was possible.

But washed down with a cold, refreshing beer in the sun while overlooking the river, I was unfazed. :)

We also fit into the weekend a boat tour (read: we rode the free Staten Island Ferry) and got a closer look at Lady Liberty.

Another lovely day.

AMAZING SUSHI

New York has a million sushi places, and, really, it’s hard to go wrong. We went to a small B.Y.O.B. place in the East Village called Akina Sushi. I’d been before and it didn’t disappoint.

Edamame for the table.

Miso soup.

Love love love.

Sushi feast!

Rows of rolls.

And now for my brown rice veggie sushi which got its own plate…

I ordered the cucumber, asparagus, avocado roll as well as the sweet potato roll–two of my faves. Yum!

ZOMBIE PARADES? 

Only in New York.

Hundreds of zombies strolled on by us in Williamsburg, no. big. deal.

They were all in character, too! Apparently they were headed to the park to “blood wrestle,” take part in a zombie burlesque show (which featured the removal of body parts), and, well, hang out with other zombies.

Sweet.

VEGAN DINING

We ended up going to Wild Ginger one night, a delicious vegan restaurant that you may remember me talking about before. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually choose or even suggest the restaurant (it was Briana’s friend’s pick), so it was a pleasant surprise for me. :)

I love how their mains always come with either salad or miso soup.

I think you can guess which one I went for.

I can’t pass up miso!

I’ll share each of our mains because I can. :) And because they were all blog-worthy.

Black pepper seitan with broccoli rabe, served with brown rice–one of my personal favorite dishes.

The General Tso’s Soy Protein with broccoli, served with brown rice.

Shredded Moo Shu Vegetables with wrappers. (This tasted so amazing as leftovers; thanks, Briana!)

And lastly, the orange seitan with broccoli, served with brown rice.

Everyone left very happy. Success!

I realized I really need to branch out next time I go; there’s so much on the menu I still want to try!

BREATHTAKING VIEWS

We headed up to one of our favorite rooftop bars for a view of the city–Rare View.

Who needs to go up the Empire State when you can enjoy the view of it from a lovely rooftop?

Speaking of great views, we ended the weekend with Alma–which you probably remember me raving about here.

A rare view indeed. This place is a true gem.

The menu didn’t have the seitan tacos I loved last time, but I wasn’t disappointed for long because the vegetarian fajitas sounded amazing.

Delicious margaritas, fresh chips and salsa, yada yada yada–let’s cut to the chase.

Check out that spread! Grilled mushrooms, squash, and chayote (a type of Mexican squash), fresh salsa, creamy avocado, lettuce, and a side of grilled asparagus.

Delicioso!

Slightly blurry photo, but at least it captures the glow of the city, right? Right!

We may not have gotten in much peeking this visit, but, as promised, we did have a lot of great food!

It was a lovely way to end an epic weekend with great company. I really wish they didn’t live so far away! Tom and I will just have to plan another trip to San Francisco! ;)

What was the highlight of your last weekend? 

Happy Friday! 

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Twin City Take-Aways

As most of you know, I was in Minneapolis for my sister’s graduation this past weekend.

While the graduates were clearly the most learned among us…

…I did leave with a few take-aways from the weekend myself.

Take-away #1: It is possible to get sunburnt in the Midwest in May. While attending an indoor graduation.

Who knew?

We were only in the sun for the photo shoot.

And my chest was fried…

sunburnt

Can’t tell my chest is bright red?

Yeah, I couldn’t either. Until later, that is.

I should have known, as my skin burns just thinking about the sun. But did I wear sunscreen? Nope.

There wasn’t even a beach involved! #notcool

Take-away #2: Vegan options exist in Minneapolis!

As we headed to Pizza Luce, I was envisioning trying to finagle a cheese-free portion of a pie. But to my surprise and delight, the restaurant was vegan (and even gluten-free!) friendly. I know.

They even welcomed gluten-free vegans and vegetarians with a message:

I was blown away, as normally vegans don’t get an entre option, let alone special recognition.

Vegan menu options include a vegan hoagie, vegan muffeletta, and chocolate peanut bars. AND most of their pizzas are vegan-upon-request; you can replace the cheese with either Follow Your Heart vegan cheese or a “rincotta” sauce made with cashews and tofu. Mmmm.

Done.

The Lil’ Gracie pizza even includes veggie sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, green and black olives, garlic, and roasted red peppers. I’m not big into immitation meat myself, but impressive nonetheless.

We ended up ordering some starters for the table, including a few different salads.

And we got two large pizzas to share.

The vegan pie got all my camera’s love….

Pretty, eh?

We ordered the Pizza Athena with fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, calamata, artichoke hearts, red onions, Greek oregano, and toasted garlic, and–instead of feta cheese–the vegan “rincotta.”

Holy flavorful amazingness! Loved this.

It had a lot of textures and flavors going on–and even a little kick.

Delicious. And I’m not just saying that; my brother was almost converted to veganism from this pizza. True story.

We also had a feast our first night at Chino Latino–specializing in “street food from the hot zones,” or cuisine from countries near the equator, which inevitably meant a very exotic menu.

I went with sushi–although last time I checked Japan isn’t exactly close to the equator, so not sure how it fits into the restaurant’s theme. But we won’t over think it. ;)

Because the point is, it was tasty.

The sushi role was “The Weed Eater”–and it was way more appetizing than it sounds! It had cucumber and shiitake mushrooms layered with avocado and toasted sesame. Mmmm.

Everyone else was pleased and full after shared plates ranging from curry to jerk chicken to tostadas. Plus, the ambiance was very modern and swanky. All in all, it was a winner. :)

Take-away #3: Sometimes, vegan options don’t exist.

I wish I had all happy vegan tales to share, but not every restaurant had a special message welcoming vegans with open arms and special dishes.

Unfortunately, the very cool Townhall Brewery did not pull through on the vegan front, so I went into default mode and ordered a salad.

The good news is, I love salad.

Sure, I usualy prefer my salads a bit more tricked out–and to include a protein source such as nuts or seeds–but as long as the ingredients are fresh, you can’t go wrong.

I may have been *wishing* the black bean burger on the menu (served with fresh guac!) was a vegan patty, but you can’t win ‘em all.

And the mango beer was refreshing.

A taste of summer.

Speaking of which…

Take-away #4: Summit Beer is brewed in Minneapolis. And it’s reallly delicious.

99 bottles of beer on the wall

Unfortunately, this was about all I learned from our Summit brewery tour–which I highly recommend, by the way.

The taste test was my favorite part.

It’s pretty delcious while you bowl, too.

Yes, my family went bowling; that’s how we roll. Terrible pun intended. :)

our team, "striking" a pose--again, terrible pun intended. I can't help it!

And it’s pretty good out of a tower as well.

my cousin Mike and the beer tower

Who needs pitchers?

Take-away #5: Minneapolis is beautiful in the spring. The river shaping the city, the blossoming trees, the greenery….

Yes, nature is neat. ;)

[If you haven't laughed yet today, watch this. I would embed the video into my post, but I'm not sure everyone will think it's as hilarious as me. If you're like my family, you'll love it.]

Take-away #6: Snacks are essential while traveling in any situation. Okay, obviously this isn’t a take-away so much as it’s a tenet I live by. Ha.

I’ll leave you with some highlights.

Banana bread breakfast.

Delicious flavor.

Raw energy to power through the graduation ceremony…

Two Moms in the Raw bars are amazing.

Apple on the airplane.

With delicious Artisana almond butter.

Kale chips along side a clementine and H2O–30,000 feet in the air.

Kale does a body good. :)

And, finally, on the last day, my mom and I hit up the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, and lo and behold, there was a big pot of fresh oatmeal with toppings galore!

It was a dream come true.

I topped my bowl with sliced almonds, strawberries, sliced banana, shredded coconut, and of course, a Justin’s peanut butter packet I smuggled in. Because what’s oatmeal without nut butter? I mean, let’s be real.

This was perfect–but the lighting was not great. My mom probably thought I was nuts as I took about six different angles. 

Lovely way to start my day of travel back to New York. And it goes to show that carrying around packets of nut butter does come in handy from time to time.

And I’ll leave you with that little take-away. ;)

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A Day Late

…and a dollar day short.

I’m back to New York! Before I share any trip updates, I present you this week’s lunch post, which is a little different than usual, as it’s not coming to you on a Monday and I only have four (rather than five) days of lunches to share.

But fret not; it’s here. ;)

(I know you were all worried haha.)

MONDAY

Apple. Hippie Smoothie with almond milk, frozen banana, frozen blueberries, lots of kale, and hemp protein powder. Rice cakes with PB&J dip.

I was a little worried about hemp protein powder in my smoothie because it’s a strong flavor, but with the fruit, it was delicious. And such a great, easily digestible protein source. If you make your own, just be sure to taste test as you go and add fruit and/or sweetener if necessary.

I also brought an almond-coconut oat ball for a mid-morning snack.

Scrumptious

TUESDAY

Apple slices with cinnamon. Wrap. Trail mix with peanut butter pretzels, cashews, dried cherries, and carob chips. 

Plus, more PB&J hummus for apple dippage.

Love it.

Let’s take a closer look at the wrap.

Start with a whole wheat tortilla with lots of hummus. Sprinkle with hemp seeds.

Add greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber.

Top with sliced dill pickles! Pickles = best decision I’d made all week. :)

WEDNESDAY

Same trail mix as above. Salad with greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, chopped pickle, and a cut up Sunshine Burger–dressed with ume plum vinegar, olive oil, and pepper. Apple. 

As the above photo does not have the best lighting, let’s get a closer look at the yummy salad.

Sunshine Burgers are officially my new favorite veggie burger! Such a hearty texture. I can’t wait to try other flavors.

I actually wasn’t feeling my usual trail mix that I had packed, but I was hungry for something in the afternoon. So instead I turned to my snack stash at work.

snack stash at work

It’s getting a little out of hand, I know. I haven’t been snacking on bars lately because I haven’t been very hungry, so the collection has only grown. Decisions, decisions.

I settled on a Peanut Butter Bum Bar made by the Brooklyn-based company Luminous Kitchens.

I’d had the Hemp Bum Bar before and really liked it. Not surprisingly, the peanut butter flavor was a winner, too.

The texture was a little chewier than I remember, but that may have had to do with the fact that it was past the sell-by date. Ooops. ;)
Still a great treat.

THURSDAY

I was low on groceries and inspiration, so I decided to get food out for lunch. I just packed snacks: an apple and another almond-coconut oat chew.

For lunch, I decided it was time to use up a Groupon I’d gotten a while ago for Crisp–a delicious falafal place near my work. I had been once before when my brother visited New York over a year ago and loved it, so I was excited to go back–with a discount no less.

I ordered a hummus bowl served with hummus (duh), falafal, fresh salsa, pine nuts, greens, and extra tahini. It came with warm whole wheat pita as well.

Holy yum! This was so flavorful. The creamy tahini, crunchy pine nuts, flavorful salsa…love it. I couldn’t finish even half, though, so I brought the rest back for Tom.

FRIDAY

Friday was my snack-a-ton travel day which you read all about, so I won’t bore you with more of the same. I will say, it featured red roasted pepper hummus from Crisp, which was so creamy and delicious.

A great note to end on. :)

Do you keep a stash of snacks at work and/or school? What are your staple snacks? Larabars dominate my snack drawer, but I would like to expand my options…

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I’m No Fun

This past weekend, Tom and I went to dinner at one of our all-time favorite Italian restaurants: Noodle Pudding.

The name doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, but it’s a lovely place with amazing food.

After I placed my order–the arugula salad (sans parmesean) to start and the eggplant rigatoni (sans ricotta) for my main–our waitress said, “You’re missing out on all the fun!”

Really? Ha! Thanks for that.

Obviously I beg to differ!

With that said, I realize that most people share this belief–that vegans miss out on all the fun.

I know our waitress didn’t mean anything by her comment; she was actually a lovely person. It did, however, get me thinking about one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place: I wanted to show my friends and family that veganism doesn’t suck. It’s not boring or plain, radical or restrictive. Veganism is eating whole, nourishing, delicious, plant-based food. It is fun.

See, when I get asked why I’m a vegan, I have a really hard time providing a sound bite that sums it up. There are a bazillion reasons–and what ends up coming out is a rambling of random facts about everything from America’s agriculture industry and the treatment of animals to the body’s pH balance and the alkalinity of foods, probably leaving the person more confused than enlightened. Let’s just say, it doesn’t do veganism justice.

As I’m far more articulate in writing than I am when I speak, I figured a blog would be a good way to spread the vegan love. With this in mind, I plan to do more informational posts about veganism–to answer some of the more frequently asked questions. And in composing these, I hope to learn new things, too.

In the meantime…

Veganism looks like this.

This.

This

This. 

And even this!

And for the record, my dinner at Noodle Pudding was absolutely delicious. I’ve always preferred eggplant rigatoni sans cheese; I find the eggplant melt-in-your-mouth good on its own.

Mmmmm. Fresh basil is my JAM. :)

And you know what? Being vegan’s easy!

Sure, there are times when the vegan options are not ideal. This past weekend I was celebrating a friend’s birthday at a beer garden and dinner ended up being a slice sans cheese.

Is it just me, or is the pizza smiling? 

Tom actually ordered the pie from an Italian pizza place in Williamsburg, and when he asked them to leave the cheese off of one slice for me, the owner agreed and said, in a thick accent, “I’ve got one of those in my family, too!”

Awesome. :)

In other words, it’s doable. If you missed my post on how to navigate dining out as a vegan, check it out here. And even though eating out can present challenges, it doesn’t always. I’ve also had gourmet dining experiences, such as when I went to Pure Food and Wine, and even amazing meals at non-vegan restaurants–most recently at Alma–to name just a couple.

Do I miss cheese?

This is probably my most frequently asked question. I honestly can’t say that I do. Yes, cheese is delicious. I used to love it. Especially on pizza. But there are yummy vegan pizzas that I love. And I can easily do without it. I thought this would be really difficult for me when I first became vegan, but I crave it less and less as time goes on. In fact, it’s starting to look less appealing. And in general I try to focus on the good foods I’m discovering as a vegan, rather than dwell on what I’m missing. Plus, from a nutritional standpoint, I’m more than happy to cut it out.

Other FAQs/topics on veganism I hope to cover:

- More on dairy (and the “milk does a body good” myth)

- Plant-based protein (how do you get protein? –another frequently asked question in my 15+ years as a vegetarian :))

- Reasons I love veganism

- A post about animals :)

If you have other burning questions or topics you’d want me to cover–whether you’re already vegan, interested in exploring veganism, or know it’s not for you but want to introduce more plant-based foods into your life–let me know! And if you skip these posts altogether, that’s okay, too. :)

I’ll leave you with my dinner last night…just ‘cuz. Tom and I bought empanadas at a local health store this weekend which were made at V-Spot (restaurant review here), and enjoyed them with a side of steamed kale seasoned with salsa, s+p, and topped with leftover Mexican-flavored tempeh, sauteed.

Random, but a fiesta in the mouth. These Columbian-style empanadas are so good.

See? Vegans have fun. ;)

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