Sunday, May 10, 2015

DC Spotlight: Veggie Dogs at Nationals Park

I am a huge Washington Nationals baseball fan, so in celebration of today's three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves, I am including a post about vegetarian options at Nationals Park.   

While the food may not be first class, the team (in my biased opinion) certainly is, and it makes me very happy that vegetarian fans who pay good money to see a game are not treated like second-class citizens.  In fact, last year PETA ranked the Nats ballpark fifth in its list of most vegetarian-friendly ballparks!  As indicated on the Nationals website, plenty of meat-free eats are available throughout the park.  On a cold night at the beginning or end of the season (or during the playoffs, because hey, we're talking about the Nats here!), a cup of vegetarian chili from Ben's Chili Bowl really hits the spot.  

(Photo from Ben's Chili Bowl website)
But during the hot summer months, I usually stop by the Field of Greens concession stand in Section 136, which is entirely vegetarian.  

And because a baseball game just wouldn't be the same without one, I always pick up a veggie dog! 

While I am hopeful that one day veggie dogs will be available throughout the park (as I found they were at Citi Field in New York when I took in a Nats-Mets game a couple of years ago), I am content for now that I can find them at Field of Greens.  

Go Nats! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Miami Beach, FL (Apr.-May 2015)

I just returned from another long weekend in one of my favorite cities.  Regular readers know that, among Miami Beach's many first-class restaurants, I also love the city's casual, family-owned Cuban restaurants (click here for my previous Miami Beach posts).  For years my favorite was David's Cuban Cafe, which sadly closed last year after nearly four decades in business.  This weekend I learned, however, that the family decided to reopen on Alton Road, which is a bit off the beaten path for tourists and in a much more affordable rent district for the restaurant's owners.  David's Cafe Cafecito is a smaller version of David's Cuban Cafe, but still serves all of the great vegetarian Cuban staples that I love. 

Cuban black beans, white rice, fried yuca, sweet plantains, and salad at David's Cafe Cafecito

After getting my fill of casual Cuban food, I was ready to find that perfect first-class dining experience.  I could not have been more pleased with the food and elegant atmosphere at Oolite, just off Lincoln Road.  This beautiful restaurant by Chef Kris Wessel specializes in fresh and healthy regional cuisine, which includes influences from Florida, the Caribbean, the Gulf, and the American eastern seaboard.  The restaurant is 100% gluten-free and offers a number of vegetarian options, including a separate vegan tasting menu.  The items from the tasting menu also are available a la carte, so I mixed it up a bit and ordered a vegetarian appetizer from the regular dinner menu and a vegan entree from the tasting menu.  Both dishes were delicious.

Fried green tomato arepas

White chayote stuffed with red rice and mushrooms over a black bean and grilled corn guajillo

Oolite Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 5, 2015

DC Spotlight: Dinner at Doi Moi (redux)

About a year ago I visited Doi Moi shortly after it opened.  At that time the restaurant still was working out the kinks, and the menu changed before I even had a chance to post my write-up.  I recently returned to Doi Moi and was very pleased that the restaurant continues to offer a separate (and somewhat improved) gluten-free/vegan/vegetarian menu.

The restaurant is first-class all around -- from its elegant atmosphere and exceptional service to its extensive wine list.  That it caters to vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions without compromising the quality gives it a high rank in my book.  The food is beautifully presented and, if you can stand the heat, quite delicious.  Both the dishes I ordered (pictured below) were very spicy. 

Crispy radish cakes made with wild mushrooms and peanuts and served with a mushroom-soy dipping sauce

Fried tofu salad with mixed greens and fresh cilantro, spearmint leaves, red onion, and red pepper

TIP:  Doi Moi does not accept reservations after 6pm, so go early or plan to wait for a table, especially on weekends.

Doi Moi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 5, 2015

DC Spotlight: Lunch at China Chilcano

Regular readers of this blog know that very few things excite me more than a new Jose Andres restaurant.  China Chilcano recently opened in Penn Quarter, and by my count is Chef Andres's fifth restaurant in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, I was not able to score a dinner reservation until next month, but finding a table for lunch was no problem.  The restaurant's warm and colorful dining room could not have been more inviting on a cold winter day.
China Chilcano dining room (photo from restaurant's website)
China Chilcano features contemporary Peruvian cuisine, which reflects a fusion of native Peruvian and Chinese and Japanese ingredients.  Like Chef Andres's other restaurants, the menu includes numerous vegetarian options.  The choices were overwhelming, but fortunately a couple of work colleagues were willing to help me sample some of these delicious small plates.

Yuquitas rellenas (yuca fritters with dried potato, yellow pepper, and wood ear mushroom)

Jiaozi de la chacra (dumplings stuffed with yellow potato, rocoto pepper, yellow squash, cilantro, and black vinegar-yellow pepper sauce)

Ajonjoli (cold wheat noodles with sesame seed sauce, carrot, cucumber, creole sauce, peanut, and star anise)

Tallarin zhen fe (Hong-Kong style rice flour noodles with cilantro, tomato stew, black garlic, egg, and five spice)

The food is light but very satisfying with many complex flavors.  I cannot wait to return for dinner next month to try the rest! 

UPDATE:  I returned to China Chilcano for dinner in April 2015 and had an equally pleasant dining experience.  I also was excited to learn that the restaurant now offers a separate "makeshift" vegetarian menu (the regular menu with vegetarian options highlighted) as well as separate gluten-free and food allergy menus.

China Chilcano on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Orleans, Louisiana (Feb. 2015)

I just returned from my second Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and I am happy to report that the city continues to be surprisingly vegetarian friendly.  While I revisited old favorites such as Carmo (cheery tropical cafe in the Warehouse District), Gumbo Shop (authentic New Orleans cuisine in the French Quarter), and Bennachin (home-cooked West African food in the French Quarter), I also discovered two new spots where vegetarians can dine in style (and without having to call ahead to warn the kitchen).  

For a true first-class experience, check out the vegetarian tasting menu at the very upscale August (in the Central Business District), a restaurant by chef John Besh.  I felt like a movie star sitting in the 19th century French-Creole building's gorgeous dining room, dressed in my formal wear along with other Mardi Gras ball-goers.  The impeccable service, beautifully presented dishes, and extensive wine list made for a perfect evening.  The tasting menu features five courses of farmers market vegetables, three of which are pictured below, along with a screen shot of the complete menu.

Salad of charred broccoli and romanesco

Parsley root ravioli

Smoked hen of the wood mushrooms

I had another lovely meal at Latitude 29 (near the river in the French Quarter), an elegant Polynesian-themed restaurant, which boasts its "beautifully composed, modern, playful Tiki Cuisine that includes options for our gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan guests" (not to mention an extensive selection of strong and tasty cocktails!).  I was pretty excited to see tofu bahn mi on the menu, but at my server's suggestion, I opted instead for the noodle bowl and an order of taro chips (served with two highly addictive spicy dips).   

Chilled rice noodles, grilled shitake mushrooms, young coconut, and basil
Taro "chips" seasoned with curry and served with sriracha mayo and kimchi ketchup

TIP:  As I've previously written, vegetarians need not worry about going hungry in New Orleans.  Most nice restaurants are extremely accommodating, even if their menus do not include meat-free options.

August on Urbanspoon

Latitude 29 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New York, New York (Dec. 2014)

As I've previously written, I am very content eating at restaurants in New York City that are exclusively vegetarian because so many of them are first class.   

V-Note (Upper East Side) is no exception.  I dined there over Christmas weekend and could not have been more pleased with the elegant atmosphere, personable service, and extensive wine selection.  The food was delicious and beautifully presented.  Everything is vegan, organic, and mostly kosher.  V-note also offers a separate gluten-free and nut allergy menu.  My dining partner and I both enjoyed our tofu entrees, as well as the carrot-ginger soup du jour.  It was a perfect evening.

The soup du jour was carrot-ginger.

Pistachio and pepper dusted tofu with lemon-truffle emulsion and frisee salad with beet vinaigrette

Tofu "salmon" and mushroom scallops with dill leek sauce, black rice, fennel and broccollini in white wine mushroom reduction

On Christmas Day I returned to an old favorite, Hangawi (Koreatown), a vegetarian (mostly vegan) Korean restaurant, which also offers a separate gluten-free menu.  Fortunately we made reservations well in advance because the place was booked all night long.  Hangawi's hot stone bowls are perfect on a cold night!

Avocado stone bowl with rice, vegetables, tofu, and miso sauce

Finally, for a delicious casual meal in a place that your omnivore friends will surely love, check at the Caracas Arepa Bar (East Village), where you can try an authentic Venezuelan corn meal cake stuffed with your favorite ingredients (TIP: go early or be prepared to wait in line, as the Manhattan location is quite small).  The menu includes many clearly-marked vegetarian items, and baked tofu can be substituted for meat in most of the the non-vegetarian arepas.  I loved "La Mulata," which came with grilled white cheese, jalapenos, black beans, sauteed red peppers, and fried sweet plantains.

"La Mulata" arepa stuffed with grilled white cheese, jalapenos, black beans, and sauteed red peppers

V-Note on Urbanspoon

Hangawi on Urbanspoon

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 29, 2014

DC Spotlight: Sundays at Thai X-ing on 9th Street

For years, friends would tell me that I just had to try the delicious home-cooked vegetarian Thai food at Thai X-ing (pronounced "Thai Crossing").  And for years, I declined -- for one reason only:  the "restaurant" reportedly was the chef's living room, and the living room reportedly was a favorite hangout of the chef's cats.  No thanks.  But my years of waiting are over, because Thai X-ing recently opened a new location near the corner of the 9th and U Streets in a bona fide, first-class restaurant space.

Sunday nights are 100% vegetarian (no fish sauce!), and for only $30.00, you get an unbelievable nine-course meal.  Although the new space has a full bar, everybody brings their own bottle(s) of wine, because a $5.00 corkage fee in DC simply can't be beat.  The menu is prix fixe (chef's choice, although I'm told the menu does not vary much from week to week, and the famous pumpkin curry is a staple), and most dishes are naturally vegan and gluten-free.  Everything is fresh, spicy, and delicious.  The only challenge may be getting a reservation, which should be done in advance on the restaurant's website.  See below for some pictures of my unforgettable vegetarian Thai feast.

Papaya salad and vegetable soup

Starting at the bottom and going clockwise: noodle salad, pineapple curry tofu, pumpkin curry, mushroom string bean tofu, and a side of brown rice with beans (not pictured:  vegetable stir fry)

Drunken rice noodles
For dessert, sticky coconut rice with mango

Thai X-Ing on Urbanspoon