Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some Really Good Food At Real Food Daily

I was lucky to be invited to the Real Food Daily pre-opening party to celebrate their launch in Pasadena. My friends and I ventured to their brand-new storefront and dined on their chic patio. Included in the free dinner was a choice of four drinks, two appetizers, four entrees, and two desserts.

We began with the Power Green Smoothie.

The name was quite deceiving since the smoothie was purple, not green. It was very delicious and had a fruity flavor. It was slightly creamy and very refreshing.

Next, I tried the Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie.

This smoothie was very decadent and very creamy and frothy. The taste of chocolate was very dominant, while the strawberry flavor was more subtle. I enjoyed that this was not too sweet and was very refreshing.

Next, our appetizers came out. I first tried the Not-chos.

The nachos were delicious and one of my favorite items at Real Food Daily. I constantly find myself craving these. The nachos were loaded with savory beans, meaty seitan chunks, creamy jalapeno cashew cheese, salsa and guacamole. The chips were freshly made and crunchy. There were so many lovely flavors and textures going on. This dish was pure perfection.

Next, I tried the lentil-walnut pate.

The pate was wonderful. It was very beany and nutty, which gave it a salty, bitter flavor. The texture was very thick and worked well with the crispy crackers.

Next, I tried the Mexico City Tacos.

These tacos are another favorite of mine. The crispy taco shell was loaded with savory pieces of mildly spiced tempeh, hearty beans and a layer of creamy cashew sauce. The avocado topping added a rich flavor. The accompanying rice and jicama salad were lightly spiced and delicately seasoned.

Next, I tried the Lasagna.

The lasagna was so scrumptious. There was a layer of herbed ricotta that was very creamy and perfectly salted. The sweet tomato sauce was a lovely contrast to the bitterness of the vegetables. The accompanying bread was lightly toasted and coated with a garlicky pesto sauce.

Next, I tried the Fly Away With me Tonight.

This dish was magnificent. The seitan was juicy and mildly spiced. The rice and beans were very hearty and savory and were well-seasoned. The pesto sauce was creamy and had a lovely garlicky taste. The sweet potatoes were luscious and succulent. The beet topping added an extra sweetness to the dish.

The last entree we had was the pizza, with tempeh bacon.

We had requested mushrooms on the side but unfortunately, they baked it in. Neverthless, the pizza was phenomenal. The cheese was very creamy and the vegetables were crunchy. The tempeh bacon added a lovely crispy, smoky flavor to the pizza that took it over the top. The actually would have preferred that they used daiya on the pizza, since the cashew cheese was a little odd.

Lastly, we had some dessert. We first had the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake.

This cake was amazing. The cake was very moist and had a rich chocolatey flavor. The frosting was sweet and had a lovely peanut butter taste. The chocolate ganache was very decadent and slightly moussey.

We also ordered the Strawberry Cheesecake.

This cheesecake was spectacular. It was very creamy and was so divine. The top tasted like a strawberry whipped cream, while the bottom was more salty to balance out the sweetness.

Overall, the meal was fantastic. Everything we ordered was superb and the flavors and textures were perfect. I was so thankful to have received an invite to this event, since Real Food Daily is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. I cannot wait to return soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Savory Meal At Seabirds Truck

One of my favorite food trucks in Seabirds, which is unfortunately located in Orange County. Luckily, they sometimes drive up to Los Angeles for special events. Since I volunteered at the Los Angeles Vegan Beer Festival a couple of weeks ago, I had first dibs on their scrumptious food. I also had a Groupon for $5 for $10 in hand.

I started the meal off with some Sweet Potato Fries ($4).

The portion of the fries was immense and this was a meal in itself. The fries were coated in cinnamon sugar and delicately salted. They were perfectly cooked and were slightly crispy. The accompanying sauce was very creamy with a subtle garlicky flavor that offset the sweetness of the fries.

Next, I had a Jack Asada Taco and a Beer Battered Avocado Taco ($7).

Both tacos were delicious. The jackfruit taco was very savory and meaty and mildly spiced. It mimicked pulled pork very well and had a lovely BBQ flavor. The mango salsa added a wonderful sweetness. The beer battered avocado taco was even better. It had a rich avocado taste and was deep fried. The beer batter provided a lovely bitter taste. The creamy aioli sauce was a fantastic addition and so scrumptious.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. Everything was tasty and the food was very innovative. I really wish that Seabirds would visit Los Angeles more often and lower their prices a bit, considering they are a food truck. Nevertheless, I got a fabulous meal for only $6. I will definitely dine at their truck again the next time they are nearby.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Divine Meal At Darbster

During my visit to Florida, we hit up one of my favorite restaurants: Darbster. This place has amazing food, a relaxing ambiance overlooking a river and tons of cute dogs. I love that the owners donate the profits from the restaurant to their animal foundation, and it gives me even more incentive to support them. 

We began the meal with the Vegetable Tempura. 

This is one of my favorite things to get at Darbster. The vegetables are deep fried and coated in a scrumptious beer batter. They are perfectly crispy on the outside and so soft and delectable inside. The sesame topping adds an extra crunch and saltiness to the dish.

Next, we had the Palm Cakes appetizer.

These are made to replicate crab cakes, which I have never eaten, so I am not sure how they compare. Nevertheless, Darbster's version is delicious. The outside was flaky and slightly crispy, while the inside was soft and gooey. It was very salty and had a slightly fishy taste. The sauce was very creamy and had a bitter taste. 

Next, I ate my grandma's dish, the raw burrito special. She didn't eat much, since she didn't understand the concept of raw food and was disappointed that it was a cold dish. Since I love raw food, I really enjoyed it.

The burrito was coated in a collared green wrap, which was very crunchy. I'm not a huge fan of collard greens but I still found the dish to be very delicious. The inside was loaded with a walnut meat and salsa. It had a very savory flavor. The jicama fries were delicious and very crispy. The jicama slices were coated in a mildly spicy sauce. 

Lastly, I had my own dish, which was the Chicken Enchilada special. 

I loved this dish. It was coated in a creamy sauce that was perfectly salted and a little sour. The enchiladas were crispy and filled with meaty soy chicken strips and melty daiya cheese. The accompanying beans and rice were very hearty and the guacamole added a rich avocodo taste. 

Lastly, we had dessert, which was also a special, the Creme Brulee. 

This is the first vegan creme brulee I've had and it was just as good as any non vegan version I've had, maybe even better! The caramelized topping was perfection and was so succulent. Underneath it was a lovely creamy concoction that tasted so heavenly. I wish this dessert would be added to the regular menu so I can order it again!

Overall, the meal was fabulous. Darbster is truly a gem and a must when visiting the West Palm Beach area. We used a coupon I received from joining Darbster's e-club, which is good for a free appetizer or dessert when dining on a Wednesday or Thursday night. Thus, our creme brulee ended up being free, which saved us about $9. I cannot wait to return to Darbster on my next visit to Florida. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Juicy Meal At Juice & Java

On a scorching hot day in Florida, my grandma and I ventured to Juice & Java in Boca Raton for a light meal. The cafe was packed during lunchtime and we opted to sit outside in the shade, where there was a light breeze. We looked over the menu, which was overwhelmingly large and had tons of vegan options. My grandma and I began with a small smoothie ($3 each) to cool us down, while we decided what to order.

The smoothie was very fruity and had a wonderful taste of mangoes. It was thick and a little frothy and very refreshing.

For my grandma's main meal, she decided to have the Beet salad ($8).

The salad was delicious, although I'm not a fan of raisins. It was loaded with sweet slices of beet and crunchy carrot pieces. The red cabbage added a lovely bitterness. The vinaigrette was light and refreshing, with a slightly tart, lemony flavor.

Next, I had my dish: the Falafel wrap with avocado ($7.50+$2)

This was delightful. I opted for the tomato-basil wrap, which had a lovely sweetness. The baked falafel was soft and delectable and was very savory. The avocado greatly enhanced the flavor of the wrap, adding a rich, fatty taste. The tahini sauce was very creamy and blended well with the smooth hummus. I enjoyed that this was filling, yet I did not feel weighed down after eating it.

Lastly, we had a Red Velvet cake ($4) for dessert.

This cake was fantastic. It was very moist and had a wonderful chocolaty flavor, with a subtle bean taste. The frosting was very luscious and had a rich cream cheese flavor. This was the perfect way to end a hearty meal.

Overall, I really enjoyed Juice & Java. I was disappointed to discover that their soy cheese is in fact not vegan, despite that menu items using it as an ingredient are labeled so. Nevertheless, there are many delicious and healthy options, such as quinoa salad, grilled tofu and stir-fries. We used a $5 off coupon from Clipper Magazine to save a little bit of money on the meal. I will definitely return on my next visit to Florida.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Smart Dinner At Sophie N Me

On my first night in Florida visiting my grandma, we dined at Sophie N Me in Boca Raton. The quaint little restaurant was nearly packed on a Wednesday evening. The restaurant is organic and strives to serve healthy cuisine, which thankfully includes many vegan options. The vegan menu items are marked with a "V", making them easy to locate. Even better, we had a $25 gift certificate.

First, my grandma and I each had a cup of soup. I ordered the Coconut Curry ($3), which I tried first.

This soup was incredible. The broth was very rich and creamy and had a lovely coconut flavor, with hints of sweetness. It was mildly spiced and perfectly seasoned. There were slurpy vermicelli noodles and soft pieces of spinach.

Next, I tried my grandma's soup, which was the Vegetable soup ($3).

Her soup was also very good, although I much preferred mine. The soup was very savory and hearty and the taste of beans was dominant. The broth was very thick and had a rich flavor.

Next, we shared the Sophie N Me salad ($9).

The salad was wonderful. The papaya added a wonderful sweetness, while the avocado was rich and creamy. The lettuce mix was very crisp and crunchy. The lemon-thyme vinaigrette worked perfectly with the salad, adding a lovely bitterness that contrasted with the sweetness of the fruit.

Next, we had the Samosas ($7.50).

The samosas were way different than I expected and unlike the ones I normally eat at Indian establishments. These seemed to be baked, rather than fried and were not as crispy as traditional samosas. They were still good, however, and the filling had a wonderful curry taste. The tamarind sauce was sweet and enhanced the flavor very well.

Next, I had the Macaroni & Cheese side dish ($5.75).

The plate was a generous portion, considering it was only a side dish. This isn't the best mac n cheese I've had, but it was indeed satisfying. It was very creamy, although it needed a little more salt and seasoning.

Lastly, we had dessert. We ordered the Red Velvet cupcake and the Banana Split cupcake ($3.50 each), which were the vegan options of the night.

The banana split was my favorite of the two. It tasted like very moist banana bread with a heavenly, buttery topping. The chocolate chips and walnuts added a lovely crunch.

The red velvet was very delicious and decadent. The cake was chocolaty and very moist, while the frosting was very creamy and had a wonderful sweet flavor.

Overall, the meal was fantastic. The service was a little slow, but the scrumptious food made up for it. With the gift certificate, the meal cost less than $20 total (with tax and tip). The food was very filling and satisfying and my grandma and I left feeling better afterward than we had when we came in. I cannot wait to go back on my next trip to Florida.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Native Pre-opening Extravaganza

When I received an invite to the Native Foods in Westwood's pre re-opening dinner, I was excited. I've always had a love-hate relationship with Native Foods. Their concept is fantastic and I love that most of the diners are not vegan. At the same time, since their food is pleasing omnivore palates, I have found it difficult to eat, since many of their food is too greasy and oily. Nevertheless, I wanted to support this amazing restaurant for helping to change the world by exposing and converting omnivores to veganism. I also love that they truly appreciate their customers, which was evident in this event in which they invited their loyal customers to dine for FREE. The portions were generous and they allowed each customer to order an appetizer, entree, side, drink and dessert. Here is some of the food that we ordered:

The nachos are my favorite dish at Native Foods and I could seriously eat this dish every day. The freshly baked chips were loaded with toppings. The beans gave it a hearty taste, while the taco meat added a savory flavor. The cashew cheeses were rich and decadent. The guacamole added a lovely sweetness and slight bitterness and was very creamy. 

We also had an order of the Chicken Fingers, which was fantastic. The faux chicken strips were slightly chewy and had a lovely breading. They resembled the real thing quite well. 

Next, we had the Tempeh Cakes. These were made to resemble crab cakes. They were soft and had a subtle "fishy" taste that was not overwhelming. These were delicious. I was not a fan of the sauce, though, as it was too creamy and heavy. 

We tried the french fries, which were pretty good. They were a little too oily and needed a bit more seasoning.

We also had an order of a side of kale. This was lovely and was well-cooked. It had a lemon flavor and was perfectly bitter. 

As one of our entrees, we had the Ensalada Azteca Salad. I really enjoyed this as it was very sweet and refreshing. The flavors were light and heavenly. 

We also had the Spicy Meatball Pizza. I wasn't a fan of the pizza bread, as it was too doughy. The meatballs were also too dense and difficult to digest.

Next, we had the Greek Gyro. The vegetables were well-cooked and the lemon garlic sauce and hummus were quite decadent. Nevertheless, the vegetables needed more seasoning, as they were tasteless.

We also had the Bangkok Curry Bowl. I really did not enjoy this at all. The tofu was the best part, as it was delicately fried and had a meaty taste. The vegetables were difficult to eat, however, as they were flavorless and the sauce was minimal. 

We ordered some parfaits for dessert, which were very decadent but too sugary. 

Overall, I really loved that Native Foods hosted this phenomenal event and am so happy they are growing. I am hopeful that they will work on improving the quality of their dishes, especially their bowls. They have great potential to be spectacular and show the world how delicious vegan food is.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Very Convenient Meals From Vegin' Out

A few weeks ago, I ordered a week's worth of food from Vegin' Out using a Gather Green voucher I purchased for $58. Here are some of the lovely dishes that came:

This was a Chicken Noodle soup. It was very tasty, but needed a little more seasoning to be more reminiscent of a hearty chicken soup. I would have also loved it if there were faux chicken strips to give it a more savory taste. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable to eat and the noodles were quite slurpy.

This was the Coconut Curry Chickpeas. It had a lovely creamy texture and had a subtle sweetness. It was mildly spicy. The chickpeas were nice and soft and the bell peppers added a slight crunchiness.

This was the Santa Fe Pasta. It was very delicious and quite spicy. The sauce was very garlicky and had a rich flavor. The vegetables were cooked very well. The beans gave it a hearty taste, while the corns added a subtle sweetness.

This was the Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots. The broccoli and carrots were well-cooked and easy to chew. They were coated in oil mixed with garlic. It was seasoned very well and very tasty.

This was the Tofu Chilaquile. It was very eggy and cheesy and mildly spiced. The beans were very savory and greatly enhanced the soft texture of the dish.

This was the Kale Salad with Peppercorn Dressing. The kale was well massaged and had a slightly bitter flavor. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy. The peapods added a wonderful crunch to the salad. The peppercorn dressing was very creamy and had a wonderfully bitter taste, with a hint of sweetness.

This was the Three Grain Salad. It was the only dish that I could not stand and had to force myself to eat it since I didn't want to be wasteful. The dish had an odd, fishy taste and the dish was a little too crunchy, which was off putting. 

This was the Spiced Cauliflower. This was my favorite of all of the sides. The cauliflower was well-cooked alongside delectable caramelized onions. The dish was perfectly spiced and had wonderful Indian seasonings. There was a slight taste of ginger, which was very calming.

This was a Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie. It was soft and luscious and had a rich chocolaty flavor. The interior was nutty, which added a wonderful crunch and prevented it from being too sweet. 

Overall, I really enjoyed all of the dishes. Every time I order from Vegin' Out, the food seems to get more flavorful. Many of the complaints I had when I first started ordering from there was that the food needed more seasonings. This seems to have been fixed, although I think the Three Grain Salad had too many contradicting seasonings, which made the flavor seem so disgusting to me. I highly recommend Vegin' Out. The food typically lasts me 9-10 days and is pretty filling. With the deal, it cost me less than $7 a day. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Marvelous Meal At M Cafe

I have had such mixed experiences when it has come to M Cafe. The food can be so spectacular, leaving my taste buds lingering for more, while at times it's just bland. On my last visit to the Melrose location, the food was fantastic, making me wish I had ordered more food to go. I'm not sure why this restaurant is so inconsistent, but I do know that every time I go, I am taking a chance that my meal may be barely edible.

I first ate the Bi-Bim Bop with seitan ($13.25).

This dish was very delicious. The seitan was slightly chewy, was perfectly fried and coated in a lovely crust. The vegetables were nice and soft and very tasty. I was not a fan of the mushrooms, which added an odd mushiness and fungal flavor to the dish. The sauce, however, was very spicy, with a subtle sweetness. It was so scrumptious and greatly enhanced the flavor of the vegetables and seitan.

Next, I had the Chocolate Cake ($6). I had wanted the strawberry short cake, but unfortunately they had run out.

This cake was spectacular. The cake was very moist and had a rich, chocolaty flavor. There was a lovely mixture of frosting in the center of buttercream and dark chocolate. The cake was very decadent, but luckily was not too sweet.

The meal was fantastic and was quite filling. Everything was so tasty and satisfying. I do not usually like dining at the restaurant, as it usually has a fishy smell, but I really enjoyed the mellow atmosphere. With the $10 for $20 Groupon voucher, the meal cost less than $12 total.