Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant

During our recent trip to Carmel By The Sea, we came across this wonderful restaurant. It’s mainly vegetarian but almost everything can be ordered vegan.  It is the perfect place to grab a healthy bite and carb-load before the Big Sur International Marathon. It’s conveniently located in Pacific Grove, only a few miles from the running expo. Their motto is: 

“We are a bunch of fun, loving, festival going, home-cookin’ folk here to provide you with quality vegetarian food with flare”

We ordered fresh watermelon & mint “agua fresca” to drink. For entrees, I had their seasonal wild mushroom pizza with a gluten-free crust. 

My husband ordered a scrumptious tamale pie – a layered Mexican style casserole with polenta, spinach, mushrooms, pinto beans, poblano red sauce, served with a tomatillo guacamole and roasted vegetables. Is your mouthwatering yet?

Because I was only running the first leg of the marathon ( 5 miles) the next day, I decided not to order dessert. If I would have known that I would end running 17 miles, I would have also tried their Ginger Apple Spice Cake. I guess I have an incentive to come back next year ūüôā    

I am glad we found this place. No doubt it would be our mandatory eating stop every time we visit the Monterey – Carmel area. I highly recommend it!

For more information about this restaurant, check out their website Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant – Pacific Grove, CA

Vital Restaurant & Juice Bar

On a recent trip Montclair (NJ), we discovered this casual Caribbean infused restaurant.  Their menu offers a great selection of vegan and non-vegan options and plenty of Jamaican favorites.

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It’s nicely decorated with framed chalkboards and “earthy” messages:  “Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You either grow flowers or you can grow weeds”.

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Vital Signs III

We were seated almost immediately and ordered some drinks.  We enjoyed their signature Vitality smoothie prepared with pineapple, ginger, spinach and coconut water as well as their Milkless Milkshake made with raw almonds, dates, cinnamon and vanilla. Joining us in the background with its relaxing music, Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Vital Green Juice

Ciry at Vital Dining

For starters, we ordered their Stuffed Avocados with arugula, almonds, pico de gallo and house vinaigrette. Simple, yet rich in flavors!

Vital Salad

For the main entrees,  I ordered the Curry Quinoa Wrap with avocados, mixed greens and tomatoes. My husband ordered their Black Bean Burger with sun dried tomatoes spread, mixed greens and mango salsa.

Both dishes were offered with either  chips, okra fries or side salads. We decided to try the okra fries. Now, I am not  a big fan of okra ( I blame it on my Cuban family for making me eat Cuban Quimbombo)  but Vital’s fries won me over. I was pleasantly surprised with both its flavor and texture. 

Vital Wrap

Overall, the food was fresh and spicy, a feast for the senses! The service was fantastic and the Caribbean atmosphere was nicely recreated.  I can’t wait to go back to this place next year!   I strongly recommend Vital to everyone visiting New Jersey. 

For more information, check out their website: Vital Dining

SunCafe Organic

Last Saturday afternoon, I headed to Los Angeles to visit some friends. I had signed up for the Art Of Chocolate class on Sunday at Matthew Kenney Santa Monica Culinary and I wanted to stay close to the area. Lucky me, it was also dineLA restaurant week.

Dine LA

What is dineLA? It’s a 14-day dining event that takes place bi-annually in the summer and winter. During dineLA, hundreds of fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles participate in this showcase of culture and diversity as they offer prix fixe meals for a fraction of their normal price.   This year dineLA takes place from July 14th to 27th. 

After a quick look at the impressive list of participating restaurants we decided to check SunCafe Organic Cuisine, a new restaurant in Studio City. All we knew about this restaurant is that they offer organic vegan and raw options. We had no idea it was awarded Top 10 Restaurant in L.A & Orange County.

From their website,  “SunCafe is a celebration of food prepared in their natural state. Our chefs start from scratch with the freshest organic ingredients to create rustic World Cuisine for the liveliest, most flavorful food you may ever taste. All of our dishes and desserts are gluten free, or they have that option”

We made a reservation for 8:30 pm but arrived fifteen minutes early. This was good since parking was a little tight and the restaurant was packed. We ended up  parking on the street, in an adjacent semi residential neighborhood. As we walked to SunCafe, we saw their big bright orange-yellow neon sign. In the background a billboard stating: SATISFACTION. “Will see!”, I told myself.

suncafe The space is gorgeous, open and welcoming. The food looks amazingly healthy and the atmosphere is fantastic. I really think they need to update their website because their pictures don’t do it justice ( except for the one I am posting below)

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Photo Credit: SunCafe

Their dineLA fixed menu was very attractive too. For appetizer, a choice of: Lettuce Leaf Tacos, Sun Nachos or Mezze Plate. For entree, a choice of:  Mac & Cheese, Zucchini Lasagna or Mushroom Spinach Quinoa Risotto. For dessert, a choice of: SunCafe Shake, Cast Iron Cookie or Key Lime Pie (raw). Al for $25 per person. What a bargain!

However, since we were six people, we decided to order from the regular menu and share. For appetizers, we ordered the (Raw) Sun Bruschetta with  fresh tomato, basic, garlic, cashew ricotta on raw sunflower & buckwheat “bread”, balsamic reduction. Simply delicious!

Bruschetta

We also placed an ordered for (Raw) Sun Nachos with chorizo, nacho cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalape√Īo, green onion and cashew sour cream with both raw thin-sliced jicama “chips” and baked blue corn chips.  This is the best raw nachos I have ever tried! 

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For the main course, I ordered the Sun Pad Thai with golden beet noodles, sunflower sports, basil, cilantro, tossed with a zesty tahini sauce, topped with crushed pistachios. 

sun pad thai My friends ordered the Roasted Vegetable Curry, the Kale Colossus and a Pesto Pizza.

The winning dish of the night, however, was  the Mushroom & Spinach Quinoa Risotto. It was made with crimini mushrooms, shallot, garlic baby spinach and cashew milk. I’ve never tasted anything like it! Not even at Candle 79, my favorite vegan restaurant in New York City. This risotto is to live for. So rich and decadent, I spend the next 24 hours thinking about it. 

No wonder this was voted Top 10 Restaurant in L.A! As for the billboard, it was right: SATISFACTION guaranteed! ūüôā

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Native Foods Cafe – Palm Springs

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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 Caf√© our food is made fresh daily‚ÄĒfrom 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.

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

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

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It was creamy and insanely delicious!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.