Sala Thai, U Street, DC

Garden Roll, Citrus Cosmo, Sala Thai

Where can one find cheap drinks and live music in U Street? The answer: Sala Thai. After dinner, we popped in here after spotting a “live jazz” sign outside. Scored a table near the band, and we were all set for the next hour or so. I snacked on the veggie loaded garden roll ($6) while sipping on a refreshing citrus cosmo cocktail ($9). Not the most amazing food, drinks, or ambiance in the world, but a pretty good spot for catching up with friends without breaking the bank.

1905 Bistro, U Street Corridor, DC

1905 Bistro, U Street

During our DC visit last October, our dinner at 1905 Bistro was the nicest meal of the trip. The small space could easily feel dark and dingy, but it was tastefully decorated and has a nice date night feel. As it got more crowded later in the evening, the atmosphere was more hip and lively. On top of that, the decor looked better with dim lighting.

Bistro-style comfort foods seems to be the best way to describe 1905’s menu. They take comfort food favorites, such as hush puppies and shrimp and grits, and give them more upscale, bistro twist. There were some good options for vegetarians too.

Grilled Green Tomatoes, 1905 Bistro

I went back and forth between the wild mushroom toast and grilled green tomatoes, before settling on the tomatoes ($8). Nice grill on the tomatoes, topped with wild cress, smoked almonds, pickled chilis, sprouts, and creme fraiche. Nicely presented and tasty with the bubbly I was sipping. Does it really need that much creme fraiche?! I barely had half of that creme fraiche with my tomatoes.

Brussels Sprouts, 1905 Bistro

John decided to pass on the appetizers and entrees and just opt for a couple sides. The sauteed brussels sprouts with peanuts ($5) were pretty good. He also got the fries with green tabasco mayo ($5). At a lot of restaurants, ordering sides is a good way to go. The booze here were a good deal too, or maybe I’ve just gotten so used to NYC prices, heh.

Frites with Green Tabasco Mayo, 1905 Bistro

Cauliflower “steak” has been popping up on menus all over, and I was excited to finally try this dish! At 1905, the roasted cauliflower ($16) is served with quinoa, almond crunch, maple-sherry vinegar, and pickled raisins. The combination of flavors were very good, but my main issue with this dish was the thickness of the cauliflower steak. It was cooked through, but a thinner steak would have a better balance of the contrasting interior/exterior textures.

Roasted Cauliflower Steak, 1905 Bistro

Chalait, West Village

Chalait Matcha Cafe, West Village

Back in December, my sister and I stopped by Chalait for a casual weekday brunch. This adorable matcha cafe was made for Instagram with its latte art, marble tabletops, soft wood textures, chalkboard menus, and almost too pretty to eat tartines. There’s not much seating, but we managed to grab one of the little tables for two.

Chalait Matcha Cafe, West Village

At Chalait, their specialty is matcha, but there’s coffee and tea on the menu too if that’s your thing. It’s not a full service cafe, but they do have a good selection of tartines and sandwiches, plus a handful of baked goods upfront.

Chalait Matcha Cafe, West Village

Naturally, we both got a matcha latte ($4.75). It was 50 cents extra to get mine made with milk that doesn’t come out of a nipple. The latte art is spot on. My sister said the milk overwhelmed the matcha in hers, but I found my matcha soy latte just right. At some places (*cough*, Starbucks) they use so much matcha, it feels like I’m choking on it. Definitely not the case here.

Matcha Lattes, Chalait

I got the avocado sunrise ($11) tartine. The name may be cheesy, but this had many of my favorite things stacked together: poached egg, avocado, arugula, tomato, roasted pepitas, and chimichurri sauce. Pretty and tasty, but a bit steep at $11. The egg, even though it was nicely poached, and avocado were both icy cold. Maybe they were having an off day?

Avocado Sunrise, Chalait

The miso butter toast ($8) came with a soft boiled egg, avocado, sesame seeds, and arugula salad. Wen said the miso butter flavor was salty, but very good with the toast. Unfortunately, the soft boiled egg was cold too, but it’s a nice little bit of yolk porn, isn’t it?

Miso Butter Toast, Chalait

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

Marty’s V Burger, Winter Village Pop-Up

Marty's V Burger Pop Up, Winter Village

For years, John has been talking about how great it would be if there were a vegan version of McDonalds. So when I tasted Marty’s V Burger‘s Original World Famous Burger at the Burger Supremacy, I knew that John and Marty were meant to be. I suppose that would make me the third wheel, huh?

Over the winter, Marty’s V Burger had a spot at the Winter Village at Bryant Park. I got a big order of Marty’s to go before they closed the Winter Village. If you missed out, don’t fret! Marty’s will be opening a permanent location at Lexington Ave and 27th St soon!

Crabby Patty Burger, Marty's V Burger

John had the Original World Famous Burger ($6.50), which I had previously tried at the burger tasting contest. I got their crabby patty burger ($7.50). It’s a vegan patty with a crab-like texture and a lightly crispy exterior, jalapeno tartar sauce, and shredded lettuce on a sesame bun. I prefer the crabby patty to the original patty as it’s got a better texture and is, in my opinion, much tastier.

Crabby Patty Burger, Marty's V Burger

We also got an order of their meatless drumsticks ($8 for three) with buffalo and blue “cheese” sauce. I have no idea what these are made of. My guess would be seitan, but they’re gluten free, so it can’t be wheat gluten… hmmm. The mysteries of Marty’s. Anyway, love that these come on a stick, and the veggie meat is tasty, tender and juicy. Since there were three drumsticks in an order, we had a Nerf gun battle to determine who got the last drumstick. I lost!

Buffalo & Blue Cheeze Drumstix, Marty's V Burger

And of course, I had to try the cajun mac ($5.50). I wanted to like this, but I found it a bit dry. Maybe it needs to be eaten immediately after purchase, not taken home at as takeout, oops. It had a nice cheesy flavor, but needed more of the sauce to take it up a notch. I like things real saucy. ;)

Cajun Mac & Cheese, Marty's V Burger

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac & “Cheese”

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac & "Cheese" Recipe

Over the years, I’ve had a long, delicious love affair with mac and cheese. What started as a casual relationship with microwavable easy mac in college developed into something more serious post-graduation. Mac and cheese became a specialty of mine and one of my favorite dishes to experiment with. Mac, cheese, and I, we’ve had some wonderful times over the years. However, as I shift more and more toward veganism, mac and I are ready to part ways with cheese and move on to the next phase of our lives. Our love is strong!

Earlier this week, I entered U.S. Veg Corp’s first Vegan Mac Throwdown! I’ve designed for and attended their burger and taco tasting events, but it was a new experience being on the other side. (“Hello from the other side!”) It’s one thing to cook for your friends and family, but if you’re passionate about food, I’m sure you’ll also want to share it with other food eaters/lovers too. Food is about bringing people together, right?

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac & "Cheese" Recipe

I wasn’t the only home cook participating in the event, but many of the entrants were professionals chefs, restaurants, and caterers. It was exciting, but a bit scary to make 100 samples (!!!) of mac and compete alongside pros and amateurs alike! Everyone put so much love into their food. I was exhausted by the end of the night, but it such a pleasure to be a part of this! Check out more photos from the event on Facebook.

The 30 minutes before everyone arrived for the event reminded me of crunch time just before a big deadline in architecture school. This was more intense though as people will be eating your final project! Thank goodness no one had to eat my chipboard and Elmers glue models from my archi days.

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac & "Cheese" Recipe

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac
There are many directions you can take mac and cheese, but I wanted to take a path less traveled. Miso and sesame flavors are unexpected for mac and cheese, but still offer an indulgent richness and creaminess. I developed this recipe during the week before the contest and ate way too much mac and cheese in the process. Enjoy!

2/3 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours1 acorn squash
1 lb egg-free macaroni
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
4 tbsp white shiro miso paste
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp vegan sriracha
2 tbsp sesame oil
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac & "Cheese" Recipe

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet and spray the exposed flesh with olive oil. Bake for 45-60 minutes until you can easily pierce it with a fork. Let cool, then scoop out of the flesh. (Don’t throw out the seeds! Toss them in olive oil and salt, then bake for 20-30 minutes at 300F for a crunchy snack.)

Cook the macaroni to al dente accordingly to the package directions. Save 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Rinse the mac with cold water, then set aside. If you’re cooking the mac in advance, toss it in a little olive oil to prevent stickiness.

Spray a frying pan lightly with olive oil. Over medium heat, add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Be careful not to let the onions brown.

Drain and rinse the cashews in cold water. In a high speed blender (yay, Vitamix!), combine the following ingredients in this order: soy milk, garlic and onion mixture, acorn squash, cashews. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. You will need to use the tamper tool to assist with blending.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the miso paste and 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Stir with a spatula until the miso paste is completely dissolved. Add the blended mixture, nutritional yeast, and hot sauce. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and stir in the sesame oil. (It’ll be very heavy on sesame flavor, but keep in mind that you’ll be adding mac to this.)

Fold half of the cooked mac into the miso sesame “cheese” until the mac is thoroughly cooked. Fold the remaining half of cooked mac in. You can keep it warm over low heat, if needed.

Vegan Miso Sesame Mac & "Cheese" Recipe

The toppings are not strictly necessary, but they give the mac an extra special touch. The portobello adds a savory, chewy bite, while the slaw adds brightness and refreshes your palate. You can also top it off with scallions like I did.

Marinated Portobello
Preheat the oven 350F. Cover a large baking sheets with foil and spray lightly with cooking oil. Remove the stems from 2 portobello mushrooms and slice the caps into pieces that are approximately 1/4″ thick. Cut the longer pieces in half so everything is roughly the same size.

Combine 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp of water, and 1/4 tsp oil in a medium bowl. Add a dash of black pepper and garlic powder. Place the portobello slices in the marinade, a few pieces at a time, coating them on both sides, then place them on the baking sheet. Repeat this process until all the slices are done. Let it sit for 15 minutes for the marinade to soak in.

Bake at 350F for a total of 30 minutes. You’ll want to check on it every 10 minutes to make sure everything is cooking evenly. Depending on your oven, you may have to rotate the pan from time to time. The portobellos should be tender and juicy — don’t let them burn!

Parsnip & Carrot Slaw
Using a spiralizer or grater, cut one parnsip into noodles that are approximately 2″ long. Do the same with a couple carrots, or do yourself a favor and pick up a bag of shredded carrots from the store.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar. Mix well. Place the shredded parnsip in a large bowl and add 1/3 cup carrots. Add 2-3 tbsp of the dressing and toss well. Sprinkle black sesame seeds just before serving.

Chuko Ramen, Prospect Heights

Chuko Ramen, Prospect Heights

My final bowl of ramen in 2015 was at Chuko Ramen in Prospect Heights. Oh man, and what a great bowl of ramen it was! I’ve been trying to get out more to Brooklyn to explore its ramen scene, and this turned out to be a great catchup session with Kevin, an old friend from high school, over piping hot noodles on a chilly day. #winteriscoming #winterhascome

At 1:20pm, Chuko was packed and I was told it would be a 20-25 minute wait for a table for two. Our table was ready at 1:45pm. I was not expecting to be hit by humidity when we stepped inside Chuko.

Pork Bone Tonkotsu Ramen, Chuko Ramen

Kevin got the pork bone ramen ($14). At Chuko, meat eaters can choose between roasted pork, steamed chicken, or ground pork. You also have the choice of a hard or soft egg. This looked lighter than a typical tonkotsu, and I was surprised that they used thinner noodles. Nevertheless, Kevin looked very happy as he was slurping down those noodles.

I got the veggie miso ramen ($14) with a soft egg. The noodles were the thick, curly kind. The veggie toppings are seasonal, and in this case, included spinach, cabbage, squash, bamboo, and scallions. There was also a light sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Veggie Miso Ramen, Chuko Ramen

The noodles were very nicely done, the kind bouncy al dente that always wins me over. Toppings were very good, but there was one mouthful of cabbage that was icy cold. They weren’t kidding when they said this was a soft egg. When I tried to pick it up, the egg broke so I mixed it into the miso broth.

Veggie Miso Ramen, Chuko Ramen

The veggie miso broth was really tasty. It has a lightness and brightness, but it’s also quite rich for a meatless broth. I remember reading somewhere that Chuko’s miso broth is emulsified, then topped with ginger-scallion oil. You can see the shine of the oil in the broth, and that oiliness is a very delightful thing.

When I posted a photo of my ramen on Instagram, someone I know from college commented that the veggie ramen is their favorite at Chuko. I can totally see why! This bowl is very high on my veggie ramen list and worth coming back for!

Veggie Miso Ramen, Chuko Ramen

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

Nish Nush, Financial District

Nish Nush, Financial District

Earlier this month, I was invited to Nish Nush to sample their vegetarian Mediterranean food. Great for grabbing a quick, healthy bite, the newest location on John St has an unusual rustic industrial vibe and plenty of seating for those busy lunch hours. From soups and salads, to platters and smoothies, there’s something for everyone at Nish Nush.

The evening started with a light, but satisfying cauliflower soup. It’s just a simple veggie soup, but I think we all needed it to warm up from the cold. I liked that it had a subtle hint of heat. P.S. All of the tabletops are covered in a layer of chickpeas. How fun is that?

Cauliflower Soup, Nish Nush

The highlight of the evening was a fully loaded Mediterranean platter. Three types of falafel, creamy hummus, smoky babaganoush, roasted cauliflower with tahini, roasted beets, Moroccan carrots, and of course, some freshly made pitas. It’s no secret that I love Mediterranean food, so when presented with a colorful Mediterranean platter, I had to stop and marvel at it for a few minutes before diving in.

Mediterranean Platter, Nish Nush

The hummus and babaganoush were lovely, and the veggies were good too. I haven’t had roasted cauliflower in a while and was reminded of how much I enjoy it, especially with the tahini dipping sauce.

For me, the best part of the platter was the falafel. I’m fully aware that’s the fattiest part, but hey, a girl’s gotta indulge from time to time, right? The green falafel and spinach & mushroom falafel were tasty, but the roasted red pepper falafel was hands down my favorite. It’s not spicy on the first bite, but the heat slowly sneaks up on you.

In addition to the Mediterranean eats, Nish Nush also serves up some pretty nice smoothies. I enjoyed the raspberry, mango, yogurt blend, as well as a pineapple, melon, ginger smoothie. The limonana frozen mint lemonade was such a treat too. I could drink that all day long in the summertime. Many thanks to owner Eyal Hen for bringing out a steady stream of smoothies to our smoothie obsessed table. It was great to chat with him about the food too!

Note: I was invited as a guest to this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Nish Nush Nish Nush Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Peacefood Cafe, Greenwich Village

Vegan Cheeseburger, Peacefood Cafe

It’s been a while since my last visit to Peacefood Cafe, and I feel foolish for not paying them a visit sooner considering how convenient the downtown location is for me to get to. I’m glad Kunal, a fellow vegetarian, recently suggested Peacefood for lunch.

We both decided to order the vegan cheeseburger ($14.95). In retrospect, getting one burger to share would have been the better way to do it. These burgers were huge and should have come with some sort of warning. As soon as one of the servers saw that we had ordered burgers, she quickly brought over more napkins. Hah!

Vegan Cheeseburger, Peacefood Cafe

The menu mentions a “garden protein patty”, but the moment I tasted it, I immediately recognized it as a Gardein beefless patty. As much as I love Gardein, it was disappointing that a $15 burger didn’t have a homemade vegan patty. Thankfully, it was loaded with really good toppings: Daiya cheese, avocado, sprouts, jalapeno, lettuce, pickles, and caramelized onions.

The homemade focaccia bread was good, but the slices were too thick for a burger. We had no choice, but to take our burgers apart and eat them with a fork and knife, which isn’t a real burger experience. To be honest, this burger was a bit of a letdown.

Chickpea Fries, Peacefood Cafe

We also got an order of their chickpea fries ($9.50), which apparently has won awards. Before you balk about paying that much for fries, let me just point out that these were REALLY good. They might look dense and heavy, but are surprisingly light and have a lovely hint of Indian spices. Kunal mentioned that they reminded him of an Indian dish that his mom makes. The white sauce is a vegan caesar dipping sauce that goes nicely with the fries. I’ll definitely get an order of these all for myself next time.

P.S. You can find the recipe for these chickpea fries and caesar sauce here!

Peacefood Café Peacefood Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

Brunch, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

Back in December, I was invited to check out Hummus Kitchen on the Upper East Side. I’m surprised I’ve never come across place before as 1) I love Mediterranean food, 2) it’s very vegetarian friendly, 3) there are four locations in Manhattan, and 4) there’s a great boozy brunch deal. For $16, you get a brunch entree, several appetizers, and Turkish coffee or tea. Add $7 for unlimited mimosas or sangria.

Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

It’s best to visit the UES spot for dinner and on weekends as they’re, unfortunately, right by the subway construction. It might be pretty noisy during weekday lunchtimes. The space feels comfortable and homey, and the staff is very friendly and welcoming.

Turkish Coffee, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

I’m always a fan of anything with fresh mint so I opted for tea. John got the Turkish coffee. If you’re not familiar with Turkish coffee, it’s unfiltered and the coffee grounds are left in the pot that it was simmered in. Small, but mighty!

Sangria, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

We also tried the sangria, which had a kick of cinnamon too… pretty tasty, but might not be for everyone. The sangria was on the sweet side too.

Masabaha, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

Our brunch entrees came with four small plate appetizers to share. First up, the masabaha. Served with tahini and garlic, this is a variation of hummus, where the chickpeas are slow cooked, but remain whole. This was okay, but I personally prefer blended hummus as for its smooth, silky texture.

Cabbage, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

The cabbage with lemon juice, sesame oil, and roasted sesame seeds was a simple cabbage slaw. This could be refreshing for the summertime, but it wasn’t the most exciting salad dish.

Grape Leaves, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

My favorite of the appetizers was the grape leaves. They’re stuffed with basmati rice and served with a tahini mint dressing. I love stuffed grape leaves, and these were tasty. Each one is a couple of yummy, savory bites.

Pitas, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

We also received a basket of pitas and a Mediterranean tomato stew that might be the same stew used for the shakshuka. This is basically the Mediterranean version of tortillas and salsa. The pitas were warm and fluffy, and I quickly lost track of many we ate.

Brunch, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

John got the omelet filled veggies and served with a side salad and fries. He seemed to enjoy the omelet and salad. I had a taste of the fries, and they were very crispy.

Mediterranean Omelet, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

I obviously went with the shakshuka, always a favorite of mine. It’s listed on the menu as “green shakshuka”, which initially made me think there would be green tomatoes involved, but that’s not the case. The green comes from the wilted spinach on top. The stew of Mediterranean tomatoes, peppers, and onions was vibrant and good with the eggs. You need the pitas to mop up that tomato stew!

Shakshuka, Hummus Kitchen, Upper East Side

Note: I was invited as a guest to this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Hummus Kitchen Hummus Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Loaded Butternut Squash & Potato Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Squash Seeds & Home Fries

Winter is officially here, which means it’s time for warm and satisfying squash soups. Have I got a treat for you today! I recently whipped up this butternut squash soup and immediately knew this one was worth sharing as soon as I had it ladled into bowls and looking pretty.

Vibrant and silky, this pureed soup is a blend of roasted butternut squash and potatoes. I’m a big believer in using all of the vegetable, so I roasted the squash seeds and sprinkled them on top. The seeds make such a fun, crunchy snack! As if that wasn’t enough, I also topped the soup off with some home fries because why not?!

The recipe looks long, but it’s actually quite simple, only uses four ingredients (not counting seasoning and oil), and there are overlapping steps. While you’re waiting on one item, there are other things you can work on. And of course, if you don’t use butter, this is 100% vegan!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Squash Seeds & Home Fries

Loaded Butternut Squash & Potato Soup with Home Fries
Serves 4 | Prep: 45 minutes

1 butternut squash
2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cups vegetable broth (or water)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Butternut Squash
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Set the seeds aside in a colander.

Place the butternut squash cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until tender enough to poke with a fork.

When the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, cut it into cubes or scoop it out with a spoon, if you prefer not to eat the skin. It all gets blended anyway, so it makes sense to me not to throw out the skin. I’ve found that butternut squash skin is pretty tasty and unlike acorn squash, it’s not thick and waxy.

Squash Seeds
While the butternut squash is roasting, separate the seeds from the flesh of the squash. Running the seeds under water helps, and it’s okay if some of the flesh still remains attached to the seeds. Spread the seeds out on a clean surface and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Lightly toss the butternut squash seeds in olive oil and sea salt. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the seeds are starting to brown.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Squash Seeds & Home Fries

Onions & Potatoes
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Saute half of the chopped onion over medium-high heat until translucent. Set aside for blending.

Microwave or steam the cubed potatoes until they’re just cooked through. Set aside half of the potatoes for blending.

In the same skillet that you used earlier, melt 2 tablespoons of butter/margarine. Add the cubed potatoes and saute over high heat until golden (about 15 minutes). Add the uncooked half of chopped onion. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes, until the mixture starts to blacken.

Blending the Soup
While the home fries are cooking, you can get started on blending. You’ll most likely need to do this batches; it took me 2 batches with a Vitamix.

Start with 2 cups of broth and roughly half the onion, butternut squash, and potatoes. Puree until smooth, then transfer to a large pot. Repeat the process until all of the soup ingredients have been blended.

Taste the soup and season with sea salt and pepper. If the mixture is too thick, you may need to stir in more vegetable broth to achieve the right consistency. Heat the soup over medium heat, if necessary. Your blender may have already done all the heating for you.

To serve, ladle the soup into soup bowls. Top with home fries, sprinkle with squash seeds, and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Squash Seeds & Home Fries