Jin Ramen, Morningside Heights

Vegetable Mushroom Ramen, Jin Ramen

After the event at Cheri, Sanne and I walked over to Jin Ramen for a late night snack. It’s been a while since my last visit, and I was thrilled to see that there are now four broths available for the vegetable ramen: mushroom, shio, shoyu, and miso. The shio, unfortunately, contains fish flakes. You can also ask for less salty versions of every ramen on the menu.

I ordered the Vegetable Ramen ($11) with the mushroom broth. The noodles was nice, and toppings included tofu, corn, bok choy, bean sprouts, leeks, scallions, and kikurage mushrooms. All the veggies were fresh and nicely cooked. I was expecting a richer mushroom flavor from the broth, but it was very light. It was an okay veggie broth, but I added a lot Japanese chili flakes to spruce it up. When our check came, I noticed that my ramen was listed as vegan. It’s great to discover another vegan ramen option!

Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen, Jin Ramen

Sanne ordered the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen ($13), which combines Jin’s creamy 6-hour pork broth with a spicy mayu sauce made of soybeans and roasted garlic and a spicy sesame oil. I’ve had the Spicy Tonkotsu in the past, but don’t remember it being such a vivid red color. I gave in to temptation and had a little taste of the broth. Tasty and rich, but not overwhelming and with the right amount of heat. Sanne mentioned that this was as good as the ramen she’s had in Japan. Well done, Jin!

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Media Event at Cheri, Harlem

Cheri French restaurant, Harlem

Earlier this month, my friend Sanne aka the one and only Mitzie Mee was invited to a media event, and she invited me along as her plus one. Cheri is a French bistro located in the heart of Harlem, and in just 14 months since its opening, TripAdvisor has named Cheri the #1 restaurant in Harlem. The event was a celebration with plenty of cocktails and small bites.

As you enter Cheri, it feels less like entering a restaurant, and more like entering someone’s home for a home cooked meal. At Cheri, there’s a touch of classic French elegance and the whimsy of pop art. The fireplace, grand piano, photo collages, and cozy armchairs add to the relaxed, homey feel. It’s like stepping into Chef Alain Eoche’s living room.

The most charming part of the restaurant was the garden. I always love mixed textures and blurring the interior and exterior. The white chairs add a nice contrast to the long dining table. A mirror is used to expand garden space. However, the talk of feng shui and Buddha statue in the garden is odd for a French restaurant.

Cheri French restaurant, Harlem

We nibbled away on finger foods and crostini, while sipping on champagne and sangria. The sangria had a lovely hint of ginger and cayenne, which I’ll have to remember next time I’m making sangria at home.

After politely declining several items with meat, the staff surprised me and another vegetarian attendee with plates of tasty meatless treats. At the end of the night, we enjoyed the most addictive little desserts, which were reason enough to come back.

The man behind Cheri is Chef Alain Eoche, who ran a successful restaurant in Paris for over 20 years, before deciding to embark on a new adventure in NYC. Incredibly passionate and humble, Chef Alain spoke to every attendee at the event and shared his love for food. You can tell that Alain and his team have all poured a lot heart and soul into this place.

On the weekends, you can catch jazz singer Lady Leah while you’re enjoying a home style French meal at Cheri. Lady Leah performed solo at the event and was later joined by Chef Alain!

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Soom Foods, Open Sesame

Soom Foods Sesame Tahini, Dip, Chocolate

Earlier this year, the ladies at Soom Foods sent me a package with their full line up of sesame-based dips and spreads. As a vegetarian, I’m no stranger to tahini and Soom’s sesame products fit right in to my kitchen and everyday meals. Soom is used at several restaurants in NYC, so you may have already experienced Soom without realizing it!

Even though I was sent free samples of Soom, this is in no way a paid post. All opinions are my own, and this review is based on my (and my husband’s) taste preferences. Everyone’s taste buds are different, but I think it’s definitely worth giving Soom a try if you see them at your local grocery store. Next time I’m at the store, I’m going to look for Soom!

Soom Foods Sesame Tahini, Dip, Chocolate

What is Soom Foods?
You can read all about Soom and the health benefits of sesame on their website, but in short, Soom is a Philly-based, women owned business of the three “Soom” sisters. Yeah, #girlpower! All of their products are made of sesame and are vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and kosher. They’re also made in a peanut-free facility for those of you with peanut allergies.

Soom Sesame Tahini
Soom Sesame Tahini ($6.99 on Amazon) is their main product, and it consists of just one ingredient: Ethiopian sesame seeds. So far, I’ve only used this product in a simple lemon tahini dressing for my go to zucchini noodles salad, but I can see Soom tahini doing well in marinades, as well as desserts and baked goods. The texture is what you would expect of tahini, but the flavor is richer and slightly sweeter than other brands of tahini I’ve tried. As with all tahini, separation is natural, so be sure to give it a good stir in the container before you use it.

Soom Foods Sesame Tahini, Dip, Chocolate

Soom Sesame Dips
Even though the tahini is Soom’s flagship product, it’s the sesame dips that really shine! There are four flavors: Classic Sesame, Zesty Mediterranean, Spicy Sriracha, and Thai Red Curry. Soom Dips are versatile and were great as a veggie dip or in sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. If someone served Soom Dips to me without telling me it’s made of sesame, it might take me a while to figure out that there are no chickpeas involved. Silky and creamy just like hummus, but there’s a nutty sesame flavor that kind of gives it away though.

Think of the Classic Sesame as your basic chickpea hummus, but made with sesame instead. Pure sesame flavor, sweet and slightly roasty. If you wanted to mix up your own flavor, the Classic Sesame is the perfect starting point. The Zesty Mediterranean is similar, but with an extra punch of garlic and lemon… they did say it’s zesty, after all.

Soom Foods Sesame Tahini, Dip, Chocolate

The two flavors I was most excited to try were the sriracha and curry as both of those are things I love and eat regularly. The Spicy Sriracha dip wasn’t spicy at all. Maybe I’m just used to having lots of sriracha, but I wished it packed way more heat! My beloved sriracha flavor was there though and complemented the roasty sesame. The Thai Red Curry dip was an easy favorite. Again, not very spicy, but offered a big, bold curry flavor that was yummy with the sesame. If I were to buy just one Soom product again, it would have to be the Thai Red Curry dip.

I have not had a chance to try the Soom Creamy Chocolate Spread yet, but will be adding my review here when I do. Please check back soon!

Shake Shack, Battery Park City

Shake Shack, Battery Park

Yup, it’s true… I’ve lived in the NYC area for 4 years, but I’ve never visited Shake Shack until now. Every time I’ve walked by a Shake Shack, the lines have always been absurdly long. We finally decided to suck it up and visit the Battery Park location on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

We arrived at Shake Shack around 1:30pm, and the line was out the door, but moved quickly. It’s helpful that they give you a menu while you’re in line, so there’s no dilly dally when you reach the front. At 2pm, we were happily chowing down on food, and there was no longer a line.

Shake Shack, Battery Park

Our order consisted of a Shroom Burger, a Downtown Butter Brown Concrete, two orders of cheese fries, and a ShakeMeister ale. Since John doesn’t eat mushrooms, he just planned on having cheese fries and beer. It’s too bad they don’t have a veggie hot dog.

Shake Shack, Battery Park

The Shroom Burger ($6.99) is the only vegetarian burger at Shake Shack. Crispy fried portobello mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and shack sauce. Can’t believe it took me so long to try this beautiful fried baby…

Shroom Burger, Shake Shack

It was love at first bite! The crispy batter was spot on and the melted, gooey muenster and cheddar cheeses explode into your mouth with every bite. You can’t go wrong with a giant portobello mushroom with lots of cheese. A nicely done meatless burger!

Shroom Burger, Shake Shack

I didn’t have high expectations for the Cheese Fries ($3.95), but ended up enjoying them too. Not too greasy with crispy edges and fluffy centers. Since they’re crinkle cut fries, the wavy surface does a good job at picking up the cheese sauce.

Cheese Fries, Concrete, Shake Shack

It looks like a mess, but the Downtown Butter Brown Concrete ($4.50) was a real treat. Vanilla custard blended with Milk & Cookies Bakery hazelnut brown butter streusel bites, and citrus-marinated raspberries. Rich and creamy, and I loved the streusel and raspberries! I enjoyed alternating between the salty and sweet flavors of this meal.

Downtown Butter Brown Concrete, Shake Shack

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Sushi Samba, West Village

Sushi Samba, West Village

Angela and I visited Sushi Samba in West Village for our monthly dinner date. The space has a trendy, but casual lounge vibe. Sleek, modern interiors with natural touches. We were seated in outside, away from the dining room, which ended up getting very noisy later in the evening. Wish we had known about the rooftop terrace!

Sushi Samba serves Japanese, Brazilian, Peruvian fusion cuisine. I’m glad I had a $50 gift card as the menu as a whole seems a bit overpriced. There weren’t that many meatless entrees on the menu, but they did a nice job with the dishes we ordered. The vegetable dishes were also more reasonably priced.

We started the evening with the Brisa Caliente ($13) cocktail. A strong and spicy mixture of tequila, ginger liqueur, mango nectar, lime, passion fruit, and serrano chili.

Mushroom Tobanyaki, Sushi Samba

As a fan of mushrooms and poached eggs, I had my eye on the Mushroom Tobanyaki ($15). Japanese mushrooms and garlic croutons on a sizzling platter topped with an organic poached egg. You have to break the egg and mix it into the dish. It was quite salty, but I enjoyed this mushroom dish. Check out the hot sizzling action!

Our other appetizer was the Grilled Eggplant ($8) with pickled oshinko (Japanese radish). Eggplant can be a little tricky to cook, but this was beautifully grilled. Nice flavor, meaty texture, browned exterior. The large pieces of eggplant were very filling.

Grilled Eggplant, Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba’s rolls are pretty interesting. Angela ordered the Ezo Samba Roll ($12.50) with soy-marinated salmon, asparagus, red onion, chives, sesame, and tempura flakes. Instead of a seaweed wrapper, the Ezo is wrapped in soy paper and served with wasabi mayo.

Ezo Samba Roll, Sushi Samba

I ordered the Amazonia Samba Roll ($11) that has a swiss chard wrapper. It’s filled with portobello, takuwan (pickled daikon radish), and cucumber. Not quite as spectacular as Beyond Sushi, but not bad overall. The swiss chard wrapper was a bit annoying to bite through though.

Amazonia Samba Roll, West Village

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Hangawi, Koreatown

Hangawi, Koreatown

Last week, I met up with Sanne aka Mitzie Mee for a blogger lunch date at Hangawi. We met up once a little over a year ago, and I had been looking forward to lunching with her again as she’s so much fun to chat with. This time she’s in town for a little longer, and we already have other delicious meet ups planned. Love how blogging brings people together!

I came here for dinner once 4 years ago before I even had a food blog, and it was a good time to go back as Hangawi was recently named the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in NYC by the 2015 Zagat Restaurant Guide. Even though Hangawi positions itself as a vegetarian Korean restaurant, I suspect it might actually be completely vegan like its sister restaurant Franchia as I didn’t spot anything that was obviously non-vegan when I browsed the menu.

Kimchi Mushroom Pancakes, Hangawi

We started with an order of the Spicy Kimchi Mushroom Pancakes ($13). This was not on the lunch specials list, but how can you pass on kimchi pancakes? I really enjoyed all three of the dipping sauces, and the pancakes had great flavor and texture.

Because there’s no such thing as too much spicy food, we both ordered spicy hot pot entrees off the lunch specials menu. Who cares if it’s summertime and hot hot hot, right? Sanne ordered the Tofu Kimchi Hot Pot ($13), which looked like it had plenty of tofu and veggies. It looked very spicy to me, and Sanne described it as Korean spicy.

Mongolian Hot Pot & Tofu Kimchi Hot Pot, Hangawi

I’m glad that my Monoglian Hot Pot ($13) had a milder spiciness, which allowed me to sip on it like a soup. It was really comforting and warms the soul. My hot pot was loaded with tofu, wild bracken shoots, mushrooms, and many other tasty veggies. We also received kimchi, sauteed greens, and pickled veggies on the side. All very good.

Mongolian Hot Pot, Hangawi

Love the authentic atmosphere and wooden at Hangawi. It’s very refreshing to step inside the peaceful space and enjoy a good vegetarian Korean meal, which is not something you come across every day. One thing I have mixed feelings about is the shoes off situation here. I appreciate that it marks a transition from outside to inside, but I worry it might smell a bit funky.

P.S. Click here for Sanne’s blog post about our blogger lunch date. She was using a real camera and got some nice food photos, as well as a non-blurry two-in-one selfie of us!

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Parsley & Potato Soup

Vegan Parsley Potato Soup

Our grocery store sells parsley in huge bunches for just $1.49 each, and since many recipes don’t need much of it, I always end up with leftovers. I love the peppery-ish flavor of parsley and the idea of a parsley potato soup popped into my mind. A quick Google search suggested that this soup is fairly common, especially in the UK, and very easy to prepare.

I didn’t measure out the amount of parsley used in this vegan soup, but it was almost the entire bunch from the store. It was A LOT of parsley, and I was a little worried the flavor would be too overwhelming, but the end result was green, velvety, and tasty.

Vegan Parsley Potato Soup
Serves 4, Prep: 30 minutes

2 large russet potatoes, cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, sliced
5 cup vegetable broth (or water)
1 large bunch parsley (curly or flat)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the onion and cook until translucent.

Add the potato cubes and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The potatoes should start to soften. Add the broth/water and bring to a boil.

Reduce to low heat and stir in the parsley and crushed red pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Transfer the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in batches. A high speed blender, like a Vitamix, is ideal, but an immersion blender works too. Remove the pot from the stove before you blend with an immersion blender.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra parsley for garnish.

Vegan Parsley Potato Soup

Maple, Columbia Heights, DC

Maple, Washington DC

Located in Columbia Heights, Maple is a neighborhood wine bar and restaurant just a short walk from where we were staying in DC. We showed up for brunch right when they opened at 10am. It’s nice that they have outdoor seating, but the streets in this area are very noisy. We eventually had to migrate inside once it started drizzling.

Maple offers a solid selection of brunch entrees for under $15 each. If you plan on drinking, get the $24 carafe of mimosas instead of ordering mimosas individually for $6.

Maple, Washington DC

John basically had dessert for breakfast that day! He had the Sweet Breakfast Panini ($7) with nutella, smashed banana, and toasted hazelnuts on brioche. On the side, he got the flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte with raspberry coulis ($7).

Nutella Panini, Flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte, Maple

I ordered the Poached Eggs with Spinach ($12), which sounds like Egg Florentine, but was a slightly different. The eggs were served on toasted baguette slices with shaved parmigiana reggiano and topped with arugula oil, which I initially mistook for pesto.

Poached Eggs and Spinach, Maple

The eggs needed some salt because the arugula oil didn’t do much. The shaved cheese added a nice salty flavor that went well with the spinach. The potatoes tasted good, but were quite greasy. All in all, not too bad for the price, and it helped that the mimosas were spot on!

Poached Eggs and Spinach, Maple

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Open City, Woodley Park, DC

Open City, Washington DC

We recently drove to DC to visit Matt and Nikita before they move away from the East Coast. They live within walking distance of the DC zoo, and after a brief visit there, we stopped by Open City for lunch on the patio. It was a little late for lunch, but the restaurant was still busy, probably because they serve breakfast all day and have ample outdoor seating.

Open City, Washington DC

John, Matt, and Nikita all ordered the Veggie Burger ($10), which is actually vegan if you don’t add cheese. The patty is made of lentils, barley, oats, and veggies. Comes with crunchy lettuce, red onion, and tomatoes. I stole a couple of John’s sweet potato fries when he wasn’t looking. The fries were good, and the burger itself looked promising.

Veggie Burger, Open City

I was the odd one out and ordered the Quinoa & Tofu Bibimbap ($12). Another vegan dish, and this one also happens to be gluten-free. A generous portion of quinoa is topped with grilled tofu, kimchi, pickled cucumber, picked shiitake, carrots, zucchini, scallions, and nori.

The tofu, kimchi, and shiitake were the best parts of this dish. As a whole though, it was a bit underwhelming. I wish they had shredded all the veggies in the same way as the carrots, and maybe added more seasoning overall. It was filling and packed with veggies though.

Quinoa & Tofu Bibimbap, Open City

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Narcissa, East Village

Narcissa, East Village

Narcissa is a farm-to-table New American restaurant in an inviting space on the first floor of The Standard in East Village. After I visited Dovetail earlier this year, Narcissa, another John Fraser restaurant, immediately went on my “to try” list. I think of Dovetail as fine dining with a capital “F”, while Narcissa offers similarly elegant, refined cuisine in a more casual, relaxed setting.

Despite being named after a cow from a Hudson Valley farm, Narcissa is quite vegetarian friendly. Chef John Fraser sure knows how to work magic with vegetables. Every bite is wonderfully rich and full flavored. I visited for dinner on a Monday evening with Ling. Food brings people together, and it was great to bond with a new foodie friend over a delicious meal.

We were seated at the bar, right in front of the appetizers station. The main dining room was very noisy, but the bar was much more comfortable. I really enjoyed watching the cooks prepare the beets and gnocchi throughout the evening. It’s nice that they space each party out along the bar, so you don’t feel like you’re intruding the parties on either side of yours.

I ordered the In the Tall Grass cocktail ($14). Cucumber, vodka, apple, champagne, grapefruit, and riesling. Very refreshing and light in flavor. I highly recommend it for summer.

Rotisserie Crisped Beets, Narcissa

I’ve read a bit about Narcissa’s beets and was really looking forward to trying this dish. Rotisserie-crisped beets ($15) with bulgur salad, apples, and creamed horseradish. The beets are slow roasted for about 5 hours, then grilled, halved, and crushed. Loved the contrast between the charred crust and the soft interior. The salad was light and complementary.

Rotisserie Crisped Beets, Narcissa

Narcissa strikes me as a place that would have a killer gnocchi, and I’m glad we also shared the potato gnocchi ($16) with morel mushrooms, asparagus, and parmesan. Amazingly light and fluffy with perfectly golden exteriors. Don’t think it needed quite so much sauce, but the sauce sure was tasty. We shared the half portion, but I would happily eat the full version myself.

Potato Gnocchi, Narcissa

Ling ordered the steamed bass ($29), which came with a fragrant French curry broth, lentils, and toasted almonds. Looked like a lovely, colorful spring dish.

Steamed Bass, Narcissa

After years of watching beef wellingtons on Hell’s Kitchen, you have no idea how delighted I was to learn of John Fraser’s signature carrots wellington! The carrots wellington ($24) is artfully plated with bluefoot mushrooms, sunchokes, gremolata, baby leeks, and pearl onions. Possibly the most interesting and creative dish I’ve had this year.

Carrots Wellington, Narcissa

The roasted carrots were tender, and surprisingly not that caramelized, but the flavors were balanced within the dish. The flaky puff pastry was coated with a rich espresso and walnut crumble. I couldn’t figure out what this crumble was made of until I looked it up later at home. The sunchoke puree was smooth and creamy. The mushrooms were earthy and chewy.

Rhubarb Hisbiscus Pavlova, Narcissa

Last, but not least… the beautiful rhubarb-hibiscus pavlova ($9) with chamomile-lavender meringue and viognier granite! This was almost too pretty to eat. I enjoyed how the tart rhubarb was balanced by the sweet hibiscus. Lots of fresh, floral flavors. Everything melts in your mouth. This looks like it came right out of your garden. There’s even a blue candy worm!

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