Monthly Archives: June 2014

My Business Lunch Marathon

As you might know already, I eat 100% plant-based no  sugars and no grains or PPNSNG.  Every now and then, however, I like to “put a little bit of life into living”, as trainer Vinnie Tortorich like to say. For the special occasion, I usually drink a glass of wine or a beer. Last week, my entire team flew to town. They  came from Miami, Phoenix and Vancouver (Canada). Guess what one of them requested as soon as he landed? “Please take me to In & Out Burger”. Seriously? No way! I had better plans.”What about a place where we can all be happy?” First stop, the Stone Brewery World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido.



I had been to this brewery a couple of times before but never since I started eating 100% plant-based. Still,  I knew I would be able to order something good off the menu. To my surprise, the menu was full of delicious vegan options! It was nice not having to ask the waiter if there was shrimp in the house-made kimchi or dairy in the tofu masala.


I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie. This is spicy tempeh with locally grown vegetables, garlic and mashed potatoes. I asked the waitress to pair it with a good vegan beer.


“I am in heaven”, said one of my co-workers, while chewing on some BBQ Duck Taco Trio. “No, my pull chicken and wild boar sandwich is the best”, said another one.  While their dishes didn’t look appealing to me,  we were all in agreement: The food here is fantastic! As we were leaving the restaurant, I learned that they have a  Meatless Monday Menu. YES, I will be back soon! The next day, we headed to the Karl Strauss Brewing Company for a late lunch.


I ordered the Spicy Tofu Curry with bok choy, mushrooms, sunflower sprouts, citrus-glazed crispy tofu and thai basil green curry.  It’s usually served with long grain rice.  This meal was simply delightful. It’s sweet, tangy and rich.  The waiter couldn’t tell me if their beers were vegan or not ( strange, isn’t it?) so I opted out.


The following day we went to King’s Fish House in Carlsbad. We arrived at the perfect time. This place can get a little bit crowded sometimes. I ordered one of their signature salads, the Roasted Beets Salad with baby arugula, toasted pecans, dried cranberries and grapefruit & red wine vinaigrette. No goat cheese for me. This is probably the best beet salad I’ve ever eaten.


On our last day together, we only had 30 minutes to eat. Guess where the guys went for lunch? In & Out burger! Creatures of habit! I just stopped by Chipotle an grabbed a quick bowl of sofritas over lettuces. Nothing too glamorous! Still, I am amazed at how easy it is to eat 100% plant-based nowadays, at least in Southern California.


And this concludes my business lunch marathon. Hope you enjoyed it!

I am going Global!

About two months ago or so, I posted this in Facebook after purchasing THE knife at Sur La Table.

Welcome to the newest member of my family, Mr. Global! He is Japanese, sophisticated and has some “edge”. I am very lucky that I had the chance to pick him up yesterday with a friend of mine, Chef Eric Haruki.

Global Knife

Eric explained to me that “when selecting a chef’s knife there are many variables involved like weight, handle size and shape, blade length, whether forged vs. stamped, blade shape – curved for rocking vs. straight edge for chopping.  You’re going to want something on the smaller size that fits your hand, but also has sufficient weight to impart the needed force to get through carrots, jicama, butternut squash, dense cabbages, etc.  You don’t want a blade that’s going to flex or a handle shape that twists in your palm.  Some handles are roundish like Globals and can be slippery.  Some have square edges like the German knives, while some like my Japanese Miyabi have its edges curved off”

With all this information at hand, we headed to Sur La Table since they have a nice demo station. What can I say? I really felt like Harry Potter in Ollivander’s Wand Shop. Should I pick acacia or alder? ash or birch? Oh wait, we are talking about knifes here! After trying 8 different models on several potatoes, the knife chose me (just like the wand does to its wizard) ha!

I must admit that my overall knife knowledge and skills have dramatically improved since I posted this. I have Rouxbe Cooking School and Chef Haruki to thank, as well as a couple of 20-pound bags of carrots and endless hours in my kitchen.

Small dices (1/4"x 1/4"x 1/4") and gazpacho in the making!

According to writer Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master. If that’s what it takes, that’s what I am doing. My ultimate goal: To become a lean mean cutting machine!

My apologies to all my friends in North County San Diego. If you can’t find carrots at the local grocery stores in the next few months, you know where to find me.  My kitchen will always be open to you!

Rancho Bernardo Farmers Market


The RB Farmers Market opens every Friday from 9 am to 1 pm. It’s located in the Rancho Bernardo Winery. They have a good selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables. They also offer fresh-cut flowers, home-made salsas, hummus and spreads, organic breads, few handcrafted items, green drinks and crepes. This farmers market is the perfect size and not overcrowded. They have few but very selective vendors.


I love this zucchini blossoms.  I have never cooked with them but I recently came across a couple of recipes that uses them, including  a Cashew (Vegan) Cheeze Stuffed Squash Blossoms from Vegan Appetite. I purchased a bunch to give it a try.


I also tasted the GreensPlease’s Green Green Green. It was earthy and very VERY … take a guess … GREEN!


I purchased an interesting item, a Spanish Rasca Ajos or garlic grater. It’s a hand-made hand-painted ceramic grater. It can be used with garlic, chocolate, ginger, etc… Chef EJ, the owner, showed me videos of the Spanish artisans making these pieces of art. He informed me that he just returned from Cordoba, in Southern Spain, where these are made.  I paid $20 for this grater plus a garlic peeler and brush.  If you want to learn more about this product, check his website: Buy Garlic Grater


My final stop was Cassie’s Crepes. They offer several vegan options. I ordered their Green Garden with garlic, mushroom, avocado, tomato, spinach, caramelized onions, cucumber, yellow squash and fresh pesto sauce.  It was the perfect brunch! If you are not into veggies, don’t worry. Everyone else around me was ordering crepes with fruit and chocolate.


This was my first visit to the RB Farmers Market. I have been to the Rancho Bernardo Winery several times so I didn’t stop by the Village Shops or the Tasting Room afterwards but I truly recommend it. I wish I worked closer to this place. I could have breakfast at this Farmers Market every Friday!

Address: Bernardo Winery 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte San Diego, CA 92128.

Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa – Indian Wells

This is my favorite family destination for Memorial Day Weekend. The Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa offers reasonable prices with Marriott points, nice and clean rooms, beautiful views of the mountains and an oversize pool with a mini-beach for the kids. Over the holidays, they have plenty of fun activities for the youngest ones, including arts & crafts as well as free movie nights on the hotel lawn by the pool. My kids always look forward to this.


What I like the most about this hotel, however, is breakfast at their CAVAS restaurant. It costs around $20 per adult and $10 for the kids. The selection is exquisite with many options for the vegan, gluten-free and paleo members of the family.  I especially like their Squeeze Bar with the two Robot Coupe J80 Ultra juice machines, available to the customers along with dozens of fruits and vegetables ready to be squeezed.


This is our #1 place to go for Memorial Day Weekend! It’s ideal for families with young kids.

Native Foods Cafe – Palm Springs


Native Foods Cafe was founded in 1994 in Palm Springs (California) by chef Tanya Petrovna. It’s now a 16-unit restaurant chain with an entire 100% plant-based menu.

“At Native Foods Café our food is made fresh daily—from our homemade tempeh and seitan, to our Native Cheese, to our sauces and drinks, dressings and desserts too! …  We strive to create a compassionate dining experience serving up homemade meals that are good for you, your family and the environment” ~ From Native Food Cafe’s website.

This is one of my favorite vegan restaurants in the US. It’s also our #1 mandatory stop when visiting Palm Springs. We used to frequent the original Native Foods Cafe, off trendy El Paseo in Palm Dessert.  This placed was closed down a few years ago and reopened in a not as popular area, few miles down the road.  Other than location, there are only positive things to say about this place.


My family loves the refillable watermelon agua fresca and the lavender lemonade.


For starters, I ordered the Soup Du Jour: Coconut Corn Chowder.


It was creamy and insanely delicious!


For the main course, I  actually ordered 2 appetizers: the Butternut Polenta Bites and the Native Chicken wings.


The Butternut Polenta Bites were served with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and toasted pumpkin seeds in a balsamic over arugula. It tasted similar to a vegetarian Cuban “tamal en cazuela”, my all time favorite dish. It was so good, we decided to go back the next day for seconds.


The Native Chicken wings were served with ranch and buffalo sauce on the side. We have tried a similar dish at both Veggie Grill and Whole Food Market. This was as good if not better.


My kids ordered the Native Chicken Nuggets with brown rice and dipping veggies. They also enjoyed Freddie’s Mac and Cheese made with quinoa “super” pasta,  cow-friendly cheese sauce and broccoli.  My oldest asked if we could go back to this restaurant again.  Of course!  I happily mentioned to her that there is a new Native Foods Cafe in Encinitas which is 5 minutes from my work!

I highly recommend this restaurant to everyone: vegetarians and meat-eaters. 

Espresso Cielo


We stumbled across this cafe while walking through downtown Palm Springs.  The interior was painted in cool temperature colors ( French blue, black and grey) which contrasted the high dessert heat. The cafe has a very unique European flair.


The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. We ordered an iced americano and a coffee soy latte with cinnamon. As you can tell, we are not necessarily coffee purists. According to the experts, a good coffee must be black like the devil, hot as hell, pure like an angel and sweet like love.

At Espresso Cielo, they serve delicious coffee from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters.


This cafe lives up to its name. My coffee soy latte and the overall experience was a little bit of “cielo” (Spanish for heaven) on earth.


When visiting Palm Springs, check this place out!IMG_1594