Friday, July 20, 2012

Baba's Med-ley Plate and cool drinks at home

Recently I visited Baba's Mediterranean Kitchen, located halfway between Federal Hill and Locust Point. (There is a handy stop on the free Charm City Circulator's new Banner Route.) This Med-ley plate was just the thing for the hot weather of late. All the mezza (appetizers) at Baba's are vegan with the exception of the spanokopita. The helpful staff graciously let us swap it for "Baba's Gannouge," a creamy baba ghanoush. The appetizer plate also had lemony dolmas, green falafel with tahini sauce, garlicky hummus, and salty olives. It was a great combination with lots of variety--and this is just the "small" version. In addition to the tasty food, the restaurant is also BYOB.  

I forgot to snap a photo of the tea that I enjoyed at Baba's. But above are two drinks that I've been relying on to beat the heat at home. On the left is iced matcha. On the right is a cold brew of Celestial Seasoning's Red Zinger, a hibiscus tea blend. These beverages are healthy and refreshing. And, in my opinion, they don't require any sweeteners, just lemon. Both of these drink selections were inspired by watching Dr. Michael Greger's videos. In particular, I recommend these three videos:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

L.A. bites - Hollywood and Venice Beach

Here's part two of my L.A. food tour, with Hollywood and Venice Beach spots highlighted this time. Wow, my boyfriend and I ate out a lot this trip. Overall, I was very impressed with the food quality and quantity at each restaurant. However I was surprised how much romaine lettuce was used in the salads and as garnish. I made sure to eat some dark, leafy greens upon our return to the East coast.    
In Hollywood, we ate at Doomie's, 1253 Vine Street. The mock chicken drummies (pictured above) are an example of the crazy homestyle menu at this laid back restaurant. These spicy BBQ sticks came with a creamy ranch dressing and celery.  The pulled pork sandwich was sweet and savory, disappearing quickly.   
Also in Hollywood, Truly Vegan, was another winner, located at 5907 Hollywood Blvd.  I had the high protein salad, which again featured avocado* and garbanzo beans. The main dish was "Truly Spicy" noodles, featuring flat rice noodles, tofu, basil, and veggies.  

*For the record, I don't normally eat avocados, because of Dr. Michael Greger's recent, must-watch avocado video. So this California avocado overload was a treat.

Finally, in Venice Beach, we visited Cairo Cowboy, a vegan-friendly Mediterranean restaurant. Located near the oceanfront, at 46 Winward Avenue, Cairo Cowboy has a colorful storefront with a nice back patio. They also had a food truck parked out front when we visited. The falafel sandwich was great, very fresh-tasting with pickled turnips. The twisted potato kabob was a "beach food" novelty order. It tasted like chips on a stick. Cairo Cowboy also has excellent hibiscus tea, which can be hard to find when traveling.

I'm keen to return to Los Angeles area and explore more.  These websites and blogs were a great help for my L.A. veg food research:

Monday, July 16, 2012

L.A. bites - Downtown eats

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Los Angeles. It was my first visit to "The City of Angels," and my boyfriend and I went car-free. So we focused our eating on downtown, Hollywood (easily metro-able), and Venice Beach (handy by bus). L.A. seems like a very veg-friendly city, with a global range of dining options. This post features our downtown eats. Hollywood and Venice will appear tomorrow.    
First up was vegan menudo (pictured above) at Más Malo, 515 W 7th St. Más Malo is swanky spot, with a spacious bar and restaurant. Like most of downtown L.A., it was an architecturally stunning space, that once a fancy jewelry store. I've never had regular menudo (ugh) before, so I don't know how to compare but it was subtly flavored, served with lime, avocado, and other fixings. We also tried a great messy soyrizo torta (sandwich) that didn't photograph as nicely but was delicious.  Más Malo serves inventive cocktails and Mexican beer.  
Next was taquitos and vegan french toast from Tierra Café. Located in a food court at 818 Wilshire Blvd, Tierra Café was my favorite spot of the trip. It had great, affordable food that was proudly served by a gracious Asian couple. Their menu is ambitious, featuring many breakfast and lunch options, plus juices and elixir tonics.  The café is all vegetarian, with vegan options for everything upon request. The taquitos were the winner of these two dishes, topped with guacamole, soy cheese, and a delicious green enchilada sauce. The french toast was also tasty; made with wholesome whole wheat bread. It came with real maple syrup and soy butter. We also enjoyed an excellent beet juice.       
These half sandwiches were from Mendocino Farms, a busy California Plaza lunch spot.  The menu lists these sandwiches as "vegan...that taste good," which seems like a left-handed compliment. However they did, in fact, taste good. On the left, is the vegan bahn mi, which was full of crunchy pickled veggies and tofu.  On the right is an inventive shawarma, that had chick peas swimming in a tzatziki sauce.    

These sweets were from BabyCakes NYC, 130 East 6th Street.  I've never been to a BabyCakes bakery before and I was impressed.  The chocolate dipped donut was out of this world. Homer Simpson-worthy! The brownie bite was a decadent nibble and the cookie was freshly-baked, gooey, and warm.  
To balance out the sweets, we had great whole fruit smoothies at Sustain Juicery, located at 6th Street and Harlem Place. This smoothie-of-the-day was berrylicious. I also tried the "Endless Summer," an inspired combination of raw cacao, maca, coconut, and banana.       
Finally, these brunch plates were from Nickel Diner at 524 Main Street. It was fun to visit a diner again. (I miss The Lost City Diner in Baltimore and hope it reopens soon.) These two vegan options were excellent.  Although I didn't need all the vegan cheese, what with the rich avocados. On the left is the vegan ranchero made with tofu. On the right is a spicy chili. Both were super satisfying. And the attentive diner staff hooks you up with both Tabasco and Tapatío hot sauces.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New veggie menu at Thai Landing!

I love it when restaurants debut new vegetarian menus. Thai Landing, located at 1207 North Charles Street, was already a satisfying Thai restaurant for veggie diners. Now, it has taken the top position for vegetarian Thai options in downtown Baltimore, with little fanfare. In fact, if I hadn't spotted the cute new menu sign displayed in their window (while on my vegan froyo mission--see an earlier post), then I would not have known to revisit this spot post-haste.  
Unfortunately, the new vegetarian menu doesn't appear on the restaurant's website yet. But it is an impressively large menu. It also helpfully denotes which dishes are gluten-free or contain eggs. (I wonder if a local veggie group like Compassion Over Killing or The Vegetarian Resource Group has been working with them?) And, although it was a separate menu, we didn't have it ask special for it.  It was placed on the table with the regular menu.  

We started our meal with the "Guiltess Fried Chicken." These were two flaky soy chicken drumsticks with foil wrappers, served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. I'm not sure if these drumsticks are made in-house, but they were tasty. The second appetizer, called a "yum dish," was Neur Nam Tok Jae. It was a generously spicy and tangy dish of soy beef, mushrooms, and onions. It was served with some listless iceberg lettuce, which we ignored.       
We also ignored the bowls of white rice came out with our main courses, as both dishes were rather noodley. (It would be nice if Thai Landing had a brown or red rice option, in general.) Served in a silver pan is the Obb Woon Sen, a hot pot filled with noodles, tofu, veggies, and mushrooms. This flavorful dish was unlike any that I've had at a Thai restaurant before. It had a fine mix of spices, including ginger, garlic, and cilantro. The second entree, Pad Woon Sen, was a stir fry with bean thread noodles, tofu, and veggie chicken. It was also full of veggies, including baby corns, and reminiscent of a Chinese-style stir fry.
Overall, it was an excellent veggie meal. I'm eager to return to explore more of the new menu, including the vegan Thai iced drinks.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vegan Froyo

Tutti Frutti, the world's largest self-serve frozen yogurt brand, recently opened a tiny location at 1209 North Charles Street.  This spot wasn't on my radar until a "Love Hate" shout out in the Baltimore City Paper swooned about their vegan options.  So I decided to check it out, expecting a fruity sorbet at best.  They do have a sorbet, orange-flavored the time I visited.  (Their website lists many more exotic options: lychee, kiwi, mango, etc.)  
More thrilling than a banal sorbet, is the non-dairy egg-free soy frozen yogurt.  "So fresh, so light, so tasty" is how they plug this "healthy" and "green" alternative.  I wouldn't tout this vanilla froyo as healthy, as the second ingredient is sugar.  But it was a tasty treat--ice cold and super sweet.  It didn't taste strongly of soy but wasn't overly "creamy" either.  I was thrilled to find fresh berries and diced fruit on the toppings bar.  (Amid lots of junk food, some nuts, and syrups.)  Maybe the thing to do go skimpy on the froyo and have a fruit salad focus instead.  Priced by weight, the toppings bar must be where the chain makes it real green.