Paolo Bonomelli Olive Oil

Paolo Bonomelli Boutique Olive Oil

Every food enthusiast has a bottle or two of olive oil in the kitchen. It’s a must for any food lover, especially if Italian is one of your favorite cuisines. (If you don’t like Italian food, then I’m not sure we can be friends!) However, not all olive oil is created equal and that becomes quite clear once you’ve had the good stuff.

I recently received a sample of Paolo Bonomelli’s Ca’ Rainene Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is currently ranked #6 on the World’s Best Olive Oils of 2015/2016. This bottle of golden deliciousness comes from the picturesque Paolo Bonomelli olive farm in Torri del Benaco, located in the Province of Verona in Veneto, Italy. Their award-winning olive oil is grown and bottled directly on their farm of 5000 olive oil trees. For those of you who live in NYC or plan to visit soon, you can find Paolo Bonomelli products at Eataly NYC.
(Photo below c/o Paolo Bonomelli Farm)

Paolo Bonomelli Boutique Olive Oil

What’s your favorite way to enjoy premium olive oil? You can use olive oil for all sorts of things, but for a clean, uninterrupted taste of the olive oil, I kept it simple with bread and balsamic vinegar. Paolo Bonomelli Ca’ Rainene is rich and fragrant on the nose, and it was lighter in color than I had expected. Very enjoyable with bread and balsamic — the simple joys! It’s fruity flavor makes it a good option for lighter dishes, like salads. Be careful not to go overboard when drizzling this oil… too much of it could get too bitter. Less is more when it comes to EVOO.

Paolo Bonomelli Boutique Olive Oil

In addition to the tasting, I decided to cook up a quick and simple gnocchi dish with Ca’ Rainene. Olive oil and pasta are always a winning pairing. The olive oil packs plenty of flavor on its own, so you don’t need many other ingredients for a satisfying meal. After cooking the gnocchi, I decided to fry some sage in Ca’ Rainene for an extra special touch, but couldn’t resist snacking on the pillowy gnocchi in the meantime! If you’re planning to pair this dish with wine, I’d reach for a light-bodied white wine.

Paolo Bonomelli Boutique Olive Oil

Gnocchi with Paolo Bonomelli Ca’ Rainene & Fried Sage
Serves 2 as an entree (or 4 as an appetizer)

1 lb package of potato gnocchi (or homemade gnocchi if you’re up for it!)
Paolo Bonomelli Ca’ Rainene olive oil
12-16 sage leaves, washed and dried
Black pepper

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions, making sure that your water is heavily salted before you add the gnocchi. Strain the gnocchi as soon as it floats to the surface of the water. Set gnocchi aside.

Add enough olive oil to cover the surface of a skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until oil is hot. Add sage leaves and cook for a 3-5 seconds until crispy. Larger leaves will take longer to fry. Transfer to paper towels to cool, then sprinkle with salt. (You may need to fry the sage leaves in two batches.)

Drizzle the gnocchi with olive oil. Season with black pepper. Sprinkle with sage leaves. Toss gently and serve immediately. Buon appetito!

Paolo Bonomelli Boutique Olive Oil

Note: I received a complimentary olive oil sample from Paolo Bonomelli. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Vegan Brunch: Tofu Florentine Benedict

Tofu Florentine Benedict, Vegan Brunch Recipes

Let’s talk brunch. It’s the perfect weekend ritual whether you’re looking to nurse a hangover or fuel up for your next big adventure. It’s a meal where you can have your pick of savory, sweet, or some combination of the two. And it’s perfectly acceptable to have a cocktail (or two, or three!) with your meal. I think we can all agree that brunch is pretty darn fabulous.

But when you’ve decided not to eat animal products, that’s where brunch can get a bit tricky. It’s easy to avoid meat, but most brunch menus list one egg dish after another. If you go the parfait route or opt for a salad, you’ll often run into dairy. I’m sure some of you will remember how much I used to love poached eggs, especially in benedict dishes.

I’ve come a long way from there, and I’m excited to share this meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free brunch with you. It’s a tofu florentine benedict complete with a creamy, tangy hollandaise! Unlike the classic florentine, I used kale instead of spinach as I prefer the texture of kale. There’s also an easy chia seed pudding recipe so you can end your meal with a little sweetness.

I’m also thrilled to announce that I’ve partnered with jessicaNdesigns to bring you a fun collection of veggie themed spoons! There are five vintage spoons in my collection, hand stamped with Let’s Nom Nom, Kale Yeah, Plant Strong, Smoothie Criminal, and Turn Up the Beet. Brainstorming ideas for this collab inspired this brunch menu and vice versa. So much fun! You can check out the collection here and enjoy 15% off all orders from her website with code “JNDWAZ15”. Valid now through 12/31/2016.

Tofu Florentine Benedict, Vegan Brunch Recipes

Tofu Florentine Benedict
8 oz firm tofu, drained
3 tbsp soy sauce
6 oz kale
4 English muffins
Vegan butter

Vegan Hollandaise
2 tbsp vegan butter
3/4 cup soy milk, divided
1 tsp arrowroot powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder

Slice the tofu into 4 slices of equal thickness, then cut each slice in half so you end up with 8 slabs of tofu that are roughly the same size. Place the tofu and soy sauce in a large tupperware to marinate overnight. The tofu should, ideally, be arranged in a single layer.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add 1/2 cup soy milk and bring to a simmer. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, paprika, and garlic powder. Stir well. Combine the arrowroot powder and remaining 1/4 cup soy milk in a small bowl, then stir well until the arrowroot is fully dissolved. Slowly add the arrowroot mixture to the saucepan. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. The sauce will thicken after sitting for a few minutes.

Coarsely chop the kale into bite sized pieces. Lightly spray a skillet with cooking spray. Add the kale and 2 tbsp to the skillet. Cover and cook until tender. Transfer the kale to a plate.

Using the same skillet, lightly saute the tofu in batches. You may need to add more cooking spray to prevent the tofu from sticking. You’re not frying the tofu, just giving it a light saute so it’s heated through and has a little color on each side.

Cut the English muffins in half, then toast and butter them. Top each muffin half with kale and 1 slab of tofu, then drizzle with hollandaise. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Tofu Florentine Benedict, Vegan Brunch Recipes

Brussels Sprouts & Arugula Salad
8 oz brussels sprouts
6 oz arugula

Cut off the ends, then halve the brussels sprouts. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Place the brussels sprouts cut side down in the pan. Saute until fork tender and slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, toss the brussels sprouts with the arugula. The olive oil from the saute acts as a dressing, but you can drizzle more olive oil, if desired.

Tofu Florentine Benedict, Vegan Brunch Recipes

Beet & Onion Hash
1/2 yellow onion
3 medium beets

Preheat oven to 400F. Chop onion. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Peel and chop beets into 1/2 inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange beets on a baking sheet/pan in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, making sure to stir the beets every 10 minutes.

Combine the caramelized onions and beets before serving.

Chia Seed Pudding, Vegan Brunch Recipes

Chia Seed Pudding
1/2 cup chia seeds
1-1/2 cup soy milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
Agave syrup, optional
Shredded coconut
Fresh berries

Combine the chia seeds, soy milk, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Drizzle with agave syrup, if additional sweetness is desired. Stir well. Place in fridge and let sit overnight.

Before serving, give the pudding a good stir to ensure an even texture throughout. Divide evenly among four small bowls or glasses. Top with shredded coconut and berries.

Tofu Florentine Benedict, Vegan Brunch Recipes



Best Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants, NYC

Best Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in NYC

“What are the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in NYC?”

I’ve been asked that question again and again, and after years of exploring NYC’s meatless food scene, it’s time to put together a list. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just ten spots, but moving away from NYC gave me clarity on which places are the true standouts and which ones I miss the most.

Here are ten restaurants that I would happily return to in a heartbeat. There are even places on this list that were my favorites before I went vegetarian. I’ve recommended and visited these places with veggie and non-veggie friends, and everyone left with smiles on their faces. From fast casual to upscale dining, here are my top picks:

Avant Garden
Avant Garden is by far one of the most refined vegan restaurants in NYC. Beautiful plates of vegetables in a cozy setting with a view of the kitchen. It’s no surprise that I and many others have fallen in love with this place.
East Village,

Beyond Sushi
Whenever I tell people about Beyond Sushi, they ask “But what’s the sushi made of?” Vegetables, of course! Colorful, refreshing, delicious. No one does vegan sushi like Beyond Sushi. Don’t worry, there are no boring cucumber rolls in sight.
Union Square, Chelsea Market, Midtown West,

For over 10 years, Blossom has been a leader in NYC’s vegan restaurant scene. From tofu benedicts and hefty burgers, to canapé sampler plates and pasta dishes, there’s something for everyone. Blossom has, without a doubt, played a role in me saying farewell to meat.
Chelsea, Upper West Side,
(Not to be confused with their casual chain Blossom du Jour.)

By Chloe
By now, anyone who has paid any attention to food news in the past year has heard of breakout brand By Chloe. While this casual eatery is not the first of its kind, Chloe’s photogenic and tasty comfort foods have been taking NYC by storm.
West Village, Flatiron,

Champ’s Diner
Champ’s is an all vegan diner that will satisfy any craving. Whether you’re in the mood for poutine, seitan asada fries, pancake stacks, milkshakes, or burgers with names like The Gutbuster and Behemoth, they’ve got your back.

The Cinnamon Snail
Famous vegan food truck, The Cinnamon Snail, has finally found a permanent home at The Pennsy. Their donuts are the best I’ve ever had (even counting non-vegan versions), and their burgers will forever have a special place in my heart and belly.
The Pennsy, Food Truck,

Dirt Candy
There are restaurants that cook vegetables, and then there’s Dirt Candy where everything you know about vegetables is turned inside out and upside down. This is the most creative veggie restaurant in NYC. Book your dinner reservation at least 2 months in advance.
Lower East Side,

Hangawi / Franchia
Sister restaurants, Hangawi and Franchia, serve up vegan versions of Korean favorites like sizzling bibimbap and kimchi pancakes. If you’re in need of a zen-like escape from the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan, you’ve come to the right place.
Midtown East,
Midtown East,

When I heard that John Fraser of Dovetail and Narcissa fame was opening a vegetarian restaurant, I had a feeling that I would soon have a new favorite restaurant. Turns out I was right. Nix is home to some of the most flavorful and prettiest veggie dishes in NYC.
Greenwich Village,

Screamer’s Pizzeria
My vegan pizza dreams have come true with this no fuss pizzeria that’s a spinoff from Champ’s Diner. I only visited Screamer’s once before leaving NYC, but this place is a winner. Be sure to get a slice of the Screamer.


One thing I’d like to point out is that a few restaurants opened after I left NYC (*sob!*). Modern Love Brooklyn and Urban Vegan Kitchen, I’m looking at you! There’s also no ramen on this list because veggie ramen deserves an entire list of its own. Last, but not least, here are a few special mentions:

Candle Cafe
I remember Candle Cafe as a cozy, elegant space with a fabulous seitan piccata. However, my last visit was over two years ago, so I can’t tell you much about Candle Cafe these days.
Upper East Side, Upper West Side,

Little Park
The small plates at Little Park are beautifully executed, and the space resembles an upscale farm house. While they do vegetarian very well, I don’t think they are able to accommodate vegans given how egg and dairy-focused the menu was.

The tasting menu at Semilla was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in NYC, but I left it off the list for two reasons: 1) they can do a separate vegetarian tasting menu, but not a vegan version, and 2) that Michelin star will make your wallet cry.

Long before the By Chloe craze hit NYC, Terri was already slinging tasty vegan fast food. I’ll forever love Terri as I discovered their sandwiches right as I was getting serious about going vegetarian, but it didn’t make the final ten. Sorry, Terri!
Flatiron, Financial District, Midtown East,




ThanksLiving Feast / Vegan Thanksgiving

ThanksLiving, Vegan Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes

Let’s be honest, it’s been hard getting into the holiday spirit over the past few weeks thanks to this whole voting thing and the aftermath. On top of that, if you dwell too long on the fact that Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates the genocide of a group of people (who still don’t have equal rights) with a high calorie meal laden with animal products, I guarantee you won’t be feeling any warm, fuzzy feelings. So here is my solution: say goodbye to Thanksgiving and celebrate ThanksLiving instead.

Last weekend, we threw together a colorful vegan ThanksLiving feast to celebrate life. This holiday menu was haphazardly planned one day in advance (I know, I know, what was I thinking?!), but with minimal scrambling and a little help from our dear friend Trader Joe’s, we pulled it off in record time!

Vegan & Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes

Every item on the plate is vegan, but that does not mean it’s not satisfying and comforting. Vegan comfort food is a marvelous thing. You have to get creative when meat, dairy, and eggs are off limits. I mean, would you guess that my mac & cheese contains an entire pound of carrots? Many Thanksgiving dishes tend to fall in the brown to beige category, so we made sure to spruce up our holiday spread with some color.

Jellied Cranberry Apple Sauce Recipe, Vegan Thanksgiving

Every year, I kick off holiday cooking with this Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Fuji Apple recipe from Food & Wine magazine. This has been the tradition for the past eight years. All it is is 12 oz fresh cranberries, 1 fuji apple (peeled), 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water. Cook over med-high heat until most of the cranberries have burst, then transfer it to a bowl and cool for at least 3 hours. This year, I added a heavy sprinkling of cinnamon and served it up all pretty in a crystal bowl.

Kale & Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa recipe, Vegan Thanksgiving

I know green beans are a classic dish, but I’ve never been a huge fan so I whipped up some Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa. Saute 5 oz of halved brussels sprouts in a little olive oil until they start to caramelize (about 8 minutes). Chop 6 oz of kale into 2-inch pieces, then add to the pan. Add a little water, then cover to cook until kale is tender. In the meantime, cook 1/4 cup of quinoa according to package directions. Toss the cooked quinoa with the veggies, then season with salt and pepper.

Trader Joe's Vegan Roast, Thanksgiving

For the past few years, we’ve made our own seitan roast from scratch with some wheat gluten and good ole elbow grease. That definitely beats Tofurky’s spherical roast. This year, Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast caught our eye. It comes with a miso gravy, which saves me the trouble of making my miso gravy recipe. After this meal, I can confirm that this vegan roast has won us over. The flavor and texture is similar to Gardein, but I can’t be sure if it’s the same product with different packaging. Either way, it’s worth a try, especially if you’re short on time.

Vegan Stuffing Recipe, Thanksgiving

Stuffing is a must, am I right? I adapted this not vegan friendly stuffing recipe from Food & Wine magazine and added vegan butter, green apple, vegan sausage, much more celery, miso soup (for the broth), and flaxseed meal (to replace the egg). Remember to give your stuffing time to soak up the broth and all the juices from veggies. Using miso soup instead of regular veggie broth is oh so delicious!

Beet & Sweet Potato Hash, Vegan Thanksgiving

I love mashed potatoes, but wanted to take more colorful direction with this Beet & Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Onions. Peel and chop two beets and two sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast at 400 F for 30 minutes, making sure to stir the veggies every 10 minutes. In the meantime, chop 1/2 onion and caramelize in a pan. Combine all the veggies together before serving.

The mac & cheese was a trial run for a family Thanksgiving dinner next week. I experimented with tapioca starch this time around, but it still needs some tweaks before it’s ready to share here. If you’re interested in vegan mac & cheese, here is an older recipe from earlier this year.

After seeing a few too many expensive vegan pies at local bakeries, we were ready to dive right in and learn how to make vegan pie crust from scratch. Seems like a rather ambitious endeavor to attempt at the last minute, but then Trader Joe’s came through for us with an accidentally vegan apple pie! Phew.

Remember when I assembled the leftovers into a hefty breakfast sandwich last year? Well, I think I’ve outdone myself this year with this ridiculous beast of a creation that I had to eat with a fork and knife. Behold the vegan ThanksLiving breakfast stack.

Vegan Thanksgiving Leftovers Breakfast Sandwich


Marukin Ramen, Pine Street Market

Marukin Ramen, Pine Street Market, Portland

After five years of eating my way through NYC’s ramen scene, I’m ready to get my ramen on in Portland. As the most vegan-friendly city in the country, it’s no surprise that every ramen joint here offers at least one vegan option on the menu, so my plan is to try all the meatless options at each spot before reporting back here. Here we go!

First up is Marukin Ramen, a renowned ramen chain of over 20 years with several locations in Tokyo, Japan. Their two Portland locations, Ankeny and Pine Street, are their first in the US. So far, I’ve only visited the Pine Street location inside Portland’s first food hall, where Marukin always draws a crowd even at 10am. I’ve been told that ramen in Japan is typically enjoyed at counters or in tiny stalls in busy train stations, so the bustling vibe of Pine Street Market seems like a fitting home for this ramen chain.

Vegan Shoyu Ramen, Marukin Ramen

At Marukin, they specialize in hakata-style ramen, and every good ramenologist knows that means tonkotsu broth. But what does that mean for the vegan bowls? All three of Marukin’s vegan options have a base of garlic, onions, shiitake mushrooms, and kombu. The noodles are thin, non-curly noodles, which I’ll admit are not my favorite kind of noodles, but when cooked to a proper al dente, is still enjoyable.

Unfortunately, on two out of three visits, my noodles were softer than I would have liked. Interestingly enough, lots of folks on Yelp had complained about the noodles being too al dente. They consistently had a nice slipperiness though.

Vegan Shoyu Ramen, Marukin Ramen

If you’re interested in getting a clean, uninterrupted taste of Marukin’s vegan broth, I recommend going with the Vegan Shoyu ($10). The broth is light and bright, but is still satisfying and even suitable for summer days. I’m not going to be dreaming about this broth for days to come, but it is a refreshing change of pace. For those who insist on a rich, heavy ramen broth, this one isn’t for you.

Standard toppings in Marukin’s vegan bowls include tomatoes, spinach, napa cabbage, tofu, mushrooms, and scallions. Sorry, never been a fan about long cut scallions. The tofu has a spongy texture that soaks up the broth nicely. Tomatoes can be hit or miss as a ramen topping, but Marukin does it well and never serves up soggy tomatoes.

Vegan Red Ramen, Marukin Ramen

The Vegan Red ($10) is my favorite of the three. They take the basic vegan broth and build an additional layer of flavor upon that. The spiciness is fairly mild, but stills warms the soul. I slurped this bowl on a hot summer day and didn’t break a sweat. When I ordered the Vegan Red, they were more generous with the mushrooms. Those juicy slices of mushrooms were real savory and meaty.

Vegan Red Ramen, Marukin Ramen

Available only during the warmer months, Marukin offers a cold Hiyashi Vegan Ramen ($10). I tend to stick to hot ramen even during the summer, but I’m glad I took a chance on this one. Despite being chilled and clear in color, the broth is packed with flavor. The pickled veggies and spongy tofu are nice, but the spiced shiitake mushrooms were the winning topping in this bowl.

Cold Vegan Ramen, Marukin Ramen

Marukin Ramen Marukin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

Quinoa Veggie Stew - Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

I recently signed up for a one week subscription of Green Chef organic food delivery. I’ve been invited to try out and review similar services in the past, but this time around, I signed up on my own after receiving a $50 off coupon in the mail. I thought this might be an interesting little experiment. The 2-person vegan meal plan with three meals came out to just under $80 before applying the coupon. Everything was delivered in one big insulated box straight to our doorstep.

The truth is I have a hard time getting excited about most meal delivery and food delivery services, but let me take you through the pros and cons of my Green Chef experience:

• With most delivery services, the vegan and vegetarian options are a sad afterthought. That’s not the case here. As someone who is almost entirely vegan and a food blogger, I thought Green Chef’s vegan and vegetarian menus were very appealing. The $50 coupon wasn’t enough to get me to sign up, but the vegan menu and mouthwatering photos did the trick.

• Each of the three meals in my delivery took 30-35 minutes to prepare, and I kept the visual recipe cards so I can recreate the recipes on my own. It’s handy that all the ingredients are color coded by recipe; not all food deliveries have adopted that system.

• I love cooking with fresh herbs, but when I buy herbs at the grocery store, I don’t always use it all up in time. Green Chef gave me exactly the amount I needed for each recipe, which usually just a sprig or two.

Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

• You already know this one: delivery services are expensive compared to the grocery store. In this case where they’re only delivering ingredients, you still have to do the cooking! It varies slightly depending on where you live, but it is possible to eat out at restaurants for the same price as Green Chef and not deal with cooking or washing dishes.

• When you’ve got three meals of ingredients in the fridge, you’re pressured to cook ASAP before anything goes bad. My delivery arrived on Friday evening and with Halloween weekend plans, I didn’t get around to cooking any Green Chef meals until Sunday. At that point, the leafy greens were not in the best shape and had to be picked through.

• Green Chef’s eco-friendly packaging is reusable and recyclable, but it’s still A LOT of packaging. Every recipe had around ten ingredients, and I was surprised by how much room it took up in my fridge. The insulating blankie made of plant fibers is compostable, but my apartment building, unfortunately, doesn’t have a compost bin.

• While the dishes are relatively simple, they are not one pot meals. You need to have a well equipped kitchen and enough counter space for basic prep. One of the recipes needed two pans and one pot, as well as a microplane for zesting. I own a microplane now, but it wasn’t in my arsenal when I was a cooking newbie. Back then, I might not even have owned two non-stick pans.

Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

Whenever I use a service like Green Chef, I always wonder who the average user is and who I would recommend the service to. John describes any and all meal delivery services as “millennial yuppie nonsense,” and we both agreed that it would be absurd to use a food delivery service on an ongoing basis. That said, if you’re new to cooking, a food delivery service isn’t a bad way to get inspired and learn some new kitchen skills.

Let’s talk about the food! Just focusing on the food alone, I’d say that Green Chef’s vegan options are the best I’ve seen from any food delivery service. They’re not sad, boring salads, but filling and satisfying meals that even a non-vegan would enjoy.

Quinoa Veggie Stew with Bay Leaf Tofu, Squash, Black Pepper Thyme Biscuits
The quinoa veggie stew with flaky biscuits were perfect for a chilly fall evening of binge watching Harry Potter movies. I enjoyed this so much that I’ve already recreated this stew on my own using odds and ends from the fridge. Adding quinoa to a stew is such a great idea.

Quinoa Veggie Stew - Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

Sun-Dried Tomato Farfalle with Kalamata Kale Salad, Caper Vinaigrette, Pine Nuts
To be honest, the farfalle with kale salad was the recipe I was least excited about mainly because I cook pasta regularly. The sun-dried tomato sauce with cremini mushrooms and artichoke hearts was tasty though. The artichoke hearts gave it a real meaty feel.

Sundried Tomato Farfalle - Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

Chorizo Seitan Arepas with Pepita Brown Rice, Pinto Beans, Corn, Cashew Crema
I’ve never tried Upton’s Naturals seitan chorizo before, so this was a nice introduction to that as well as cooking arepas. This was my favorite of the three recipes in the delivery, and it also turned out to be extremely filling. I divided my half of the recipe into two portions: one for dinner, one for lunch the next day.

Seitan Chorizo Arepas - Green Chef Organic Food Delivery

Frank’s Noodle House, NE Portland

Frank's Noodle House, NE Portland

What do you do when you’re missing the hand pulled noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods in NYC? You hop on Google to search for the next best thing. Frank’s Noodle House in NE Portland was the first result to pop up, and next thing you knew, we were heading there for our hand pulled noods fix.

Turns out this place is appropriately named as it is literally a house. The dining room is on the first floor, and my guess is Frank lives upstairs. It’s charming and very Portland. We decided to grab a table on the porch as the dining room was filling up with the lunch crowd, and honestly, the ambiance is far better outside.

Frank's Noodle House, NE Portland

Frank’s got some lunch specials at a good price, and if you visit during lunch hours, they also throw in a few complimentary items: a cup of soup, pickled daikon, kimchi. The hot and sour soup is actually vegetarian. We got a couple beers too because $6.50 for a large bottle of Sapporo is pretty great. Or maybe this is normal for Portland, and I’ve still got NYC pricing on the mind.

Frank's Noodle House, NE Portland

I got the hand pulled noodles with black bean sauce ($10.95), which is only on the dinner menu. The noodles are thick, chewy, and enjoyable. They’ve nailed that part, but the rest fell short. Unfortunately, if you order the vegetarian version with no pork, it’s just a big pile of chopped onions. Wish there were some mushrooms mixed in there. The sauce wasn’t bad, but milder in flavor than other black bean sauces I’ve had. Overall, not too greasy, and the cucumbers are a nice touch.

Handpulled Noodles with Black Bean Sauce, Frank's Noodle House

John got the hand pulled noodles with tofu ($7.95) off the lunch menu. You can specify how spicy you want your noodles to be, and if you enjoy some heat, I recommend going up on the scale. These noodles were slightly thinner, but still had a great bouncy texture. Overall, a much more flavorful dish than mine.

Handpulled Noodles with Tofu, Frank's Noodle House

Since #liftingnoodles are all the rage these days, here’s a lifting shot to wrap up this post. I always try to go for the mega lift, but it’s hard when you’ve got metal chopsticks and such slippery noodles!

Handpulled Noodles with Black Bean Sauce, Frank's Noodle House

Frank's Noodle House Frank's Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2016 Portland VegFest

Herbivore Clothing, Portland VegFest

You guys know that I’m no stranger to vegan festivals, and as it turns out, Portland has more than one! We missed the big, boozy festival along the waterfront earlier this summer, but caught the 2016 Portland VegFest at the convention center last weekend. At $9, tickets are extremely affordable compared to many other festivals, and the exhibitors are comparable to those at other events. I lucked out and won a pair of tickets in an online sweepstakes. Kale yeah!

Oh Kale Yeah Clothing, Portland VegFest

Our first stop after checking in at VegFest was the Pear Room for Alan Roettinger’s cooking demo. I didn’t realize this at first, but the demo ended up lasting an entire hour, which was a bit much for a salad and whisked dressing. We were starving by the time the demo was over and headed straight for the food vendors…

Giant Tater Tots, Obon

One thing I learned soon after moving here is that Portland seems to be obsessed with tater tots. Not a problem for me as I’m slightly obsessed with tots myself. I got an order of the giant tater tots from Obon. They fry ’em up on the spot, and the tots are lighter than the average tot as there are veggies mixed in there with the potatoes.

Vegan BBQ Combo Plate, Home Grown Smoker

I know, I know… I can get Home Grown Smoker anytime from their deli or food cart, but it was hard to say no to the combo plate. The soy curls are tasty, but their smoked tempeh ribs have an incredible texture. No one does tempeh like Home Grown. John and I made the right call and shared the combo plate so we would still have room for food samples later.

Jem Nut Butters, Portland VegFest

At every VegFest, you’ll run into a lot of the same major brands, like Daiya, Tofurky, The Jackfruit Company, etc. Out of all the usual festival exhibitors, the Field Roast burger was hands down the best savory sample! (I didn’t get any photos because people were swarming the Field Roast table, and it was difficult enough to grab a sample.) It’s fun to snack on samples from the usual suspects, but I’m always on the lookout for tasty newcomers. Here are some of the highlights:

Tofuna Fysh uses jackfruit and seaweed to make their tuna salad. They also have vegan fish sauce made of seaweed.

Tofuna Fish, Portland VegFest

These might be the best kale chips I’ve ever had, and Starbucks apparently carries Rhythm snacks. They also make crunchy broccoli bites!

Rhythm Kale Chips, Portland VegFest

If I had not just purchased a vegan cheese making book and the ingredients pictured here, I probably would have picked up one of these cheese making kits from Urban Cheesecraft.

Urban Cheesecraft, Portland VegFest

When you get thirsty, there are plenty of hot or cold beverage samples to sip on. My top pick was the white rose kombucha from Brew Dr. Kombucha.

Brew Dr Kombucha, Portland VegFest

I tasted the hisbiscus health tonic from Fire Brew. Warning: these apple cider vinegar tonics are not your normal sipping vinegar!

Fire Brew Health Tonic, Portland VegFest

Then it was time for dessert samples, and Monkfruit sugar free chocolate did not disappoint.

Lakanto Monkfruit Chocolate, Portland VegFest

My favorite dessert sample was Almetta’s almond milk mousse. They’re based on Oregon, and they make tasty dairy-free treats. That dark chocolate mousse!

Almetta Almond Milk Mousse, Portland VegFest


El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

Portland gets pretty gray and gloomy for a good part of the year. If you need a little pick me up, it’s worth stopping by El Cubo de Cuba on Hawthorne Boulevard. At Cubo, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, the Cuban food is down to earth, and the rum cocktails are plentiful. When you think of Cuban cuisine, I’m sure that classics like ropo vieja and lechon asado come to mind, which aren’t veg-friendly at all. But this is Portlandia, the happy vegan land, so naturally Cubo has vegan and vegetarian options available too.

I was invited to Cubo to try their vegan options and learn more about the restaurant. I had never had Cuban food until I met John, who is half Cuban and grew up with this type of cuisine in Florida. It was good to have my resident Cuban food expert tag along for this visit.

El Cubo de Cuba, SE PortlandEl Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

Even though I visited Cubo during off hours (when it’s better for photos), the space was filled with energy thanks to the pops of color, delicious smells from the kitchen, and the cheerful owners, Emily and Milko.

Born and raised in Havana, Milko moved here from Cuba in 1995, and his recipes are based on what he remembers of home cooked Cuban food. Milko explained that he tries to keep the food authentic, but recognizes that you have to adapt to what Portlanders want. For example, traditional Cuban food is not spicy, but due to demand from customers, there’s hot sauce available for the folks who insist on adding some heat.

El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

I also learned that Cubo, like many other Portland restaurants, started out as a food cart, and there’s a framed illustration of the original food cart over by the picnic tables. The cart made its debut in 2010, and by 2013, Cubo was ready for a brick and mortar restaurant.

El Cubo de Cuba, SE PortlandEl Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

At Cubo, you order at the counter, then grab a table. Whether you’re looking for a small snack or ready to wolf down an entire plate, there’s something for everyone. We tried the full range of vegan dishes at Cubo, and overall, the flavors were simple and approachable. No frills, no nonsense here, just good homey Cuban food.

Vegan Cuban Dishes, El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

Cuban food is good with beer, but make sure you don’t miss out on Cubo’s rum cocktails. Better yet, make your cocktail a double for an extra $4. The Havana Sunrise momentarily transported me to somewhere tropical. The Sangria has refreshing notes of citrus, and if you’re lucky, there might be some mango and guava in the mix too. If you stop by for happy hour, cocktails are only $5, and you might catch Milko on the drums with his band.

Havana Sunrise, Sangria, Cocktails, El Cubo de Cuba

One of the newest additions to the menu is the empanadas ($2.50 each). If you don’t eat meat, there’s a vegetarian guava and cream cheese empanada and a vegan soy picadillo empanada. Look at that golden color! Nice crust, not too heavy or greasy. The soy picadillo filling was warm and juicy. Give me a couple of these, and I’ll be very happy.

Vegan Cuban Empanadas, El Cubo de Cuba

The Caribbean salad ($6) is loaded with cucumber, mango, red onion, and avocado. That’s a lot of avocado, but I have no complaints about that. For a side dish, this was a pretty large salad. The lime juice dressing doesn’t seem like much, and there’s some flavor from the pickled cucumbers. If I were to get this salad again, I might add on some guava sauce.

Vegan Caribbean Salad, El Cubo de Cuba

For all of Cubo’s bowls and plates, you can choose between white rice, brown rice, or spiced yellow rice. I opted for yellow rice for my vegan Portland bowl ($7.50). The black beans, mango, and avocado were enjoyable, but the maduros and tostones were the best parts of this bowl. The plantains used for the maduros were perfectly sweet and soft, but not mushy. And those tostones… such a good crispy fry on them!

Vegan Portland Plate, El Cubo de Cuba

The Picadillo de Soya is Cubo’s vegan alternative to the traditional beef stew with tomatoes, olives, and raisins. Using soy in this dish is not unusual as beef wasn’t available to everyone in Cuba in the early 1990s, and picadillo made with soy became a household staple. Cubo’s version is delicious, and it is definitely worth coming back for.

Vegan Picadillo de Soya Plate, El Cubo de CubaEl Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

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.

El Cubo DE Cuba El Cubo de Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monk’s Meats, Smorgasburg 2016

BBQ Seitan, Monk's Meats, Smorgasburg

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Smorgasburg. It’s the most popular food market in NYC, and the crowds will test even the most patient person. On top of that, with all the meat heavy and dairy-ful options at Smorgasburg, it’s not exactly a happy vegan land. It’s gotten more vegan friendly over time though! Lots of Smorg vendors now have a vegan/vegetarian option on the menu, but I’m here to talk about my favorite all vegan vendor: Monk’s Meats.

2016 seems to be the year of vegan BBQ and vegan butcher shops. There are only a handful of them across the country, but they’re gaining in popularity and hitting the foodie news regularly. In NYC, the vegan BBQ scene is lead by Monk’s Meats, a Brooklyn-based team that makes seitan from scratch, then smokes and grills the seitan like you would like traditional meats. Their market menu features burgers and sliders, but keep an eye on social media for specials.

You can catch Monk’s Meats at Smorgasburg on weekends, and they’ll be moving to the indoor market in November. You can also find them at vegan popups and events. This summer, they earned a well deserved 2016 People’s Choice in the Vegan category of the Vendy Awards. THIS JUST IN, FOLKS! Yesterday, Monk’s Meats launched a Kickstarter to help make Monk’s Vegan Delicatessen & Kitchen a reality. Fingers crossed, hope there will be a Monk’s brick and mortar next time I’m in NYC!

Bulgogi Seitan, Monk's Meats, Smorgasburg

In this post, I’m focusing on the two burgers I tried on my last visit to Smorgasburg. Out of the four options on the menu, I was most excited about the bulgogi seitan burger ($10). Surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve seen someone take seitan down the bulgogi route. Thinly sliced, nicely seared, juicy seitan packed with flavor. The gochujang mayo is tasty, and the kimchi and pickled daikon are refreshing toppings. The burger fillings are definitely a knockout.

BBQ Seitan, Monk's Meats, Smorgasburg

Our other pick, the BBQ Seitan burger ($10), was made for BBQ lovers. This one features mesquite smoked seitan slices with maple BBQ, cabbage slaw, and whiskey sour pickle discs. Another great combo of satisfying flavors, and the seitan had the meaty texture.

In both burgers, the seitan is clearly the star of the show. The veggie accompaniments are enjoyable, but the tuscan roll is pretty hefty. Just a matter of personal preference… I’m not a big bread person even though I love other carbs. Probably should have gotten sliders instead, but sliders wouldn’t look as impressive in this photo below, right?