Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

Upton’s Naturals Jackfruit

September 28th, 2015

Upton's Naturals Chili Lime Jackfruit and BBQ Jackfruit - Nashveggie - Vegan and Vegetarian in Nashville

 

Anyone who knows me knows my love for barbecue. As a vegan I still love barbecue. You don’t have to use pork, beef or chicken to get the smoky goodness of barbecue. As a matter of fact, for me it is all about the sauce. I just need a form of transport for the sauce and sometimes that’s a simple as a spoon. However, being the barbecue lover as I am I was excited to try Upton’s Naturals Jackfruit. I had tried a barbecue jackfruit sandwich once before at Native Foods and we seriously underwhelmed but I believe it had more to do with the fact I had paid $10 for a sandwich that had 2 small pieces of jackfruit and was nearly flavorless.

Jackfruit has recently elevated itself as the new vegan meat replacement of choice among the vegans who like meat replacements. It has a chewy texture and a stringy form when unripe that much resembles pulled pork or beef. Add that to barbecue sauce and you have what could be a nice sandwich for some.

Upton’s Naturals is a Chicago based natural food producer. Their products consist of seitan and now they have added jackfruit to their line. The jackfruit from Upton’s Naturals is available in Bar-B-Que and Chili Lime Carnitas. I tried both.

I prepared the Bar-B-Que jackfruit on stovetop. I heated it slowly in a pan, covered and served it on a freshly baked bun with sweet pickles. On the first bite I felt something was off. The flavor was very vinegary. There was no smokiness or sweetness to the sauce. The flavor of the jackfruit was there in a fruity way but the sweetness of the barbecue sauce which should always be noticeable in a good barbecue sauce was completely missing. I trudged through the rest of the sandwich but was left very underwhelmed. I think this product could benefit from a reworking of the sauce that it is served with.

 

Upton's Naturals BBQ Jackfruit sandwich - Nashveggie - Vegan and Vegetarian in Nashville

Upton’s Naturals BBQ Jackfruit sandwich. Served with sweet pickles on a fresh baked bun.

 

The Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit is similar in form to the Bar-B-Que Jackfruit. I prepared it the same as the Bar-B-Que and serve it with black beans and rice. Upon the first bite I noticed the same acidity present in the Bar-B-Que Jackfruit. There was no lime flavor at all. There was no spice or flavoring to the sauce or jackfruit other than the acidic sauce. There was a distinct fruit flavor to the jackfruit that was entirely out of place as though the jackfruit had been overripe. I had beans and rice for dinner this night and the jackfruit went uneaten.

 

Upton's Naturals Chili Lime Jackfruit - Nashveggie - Vegan and Vegetarian in Nashville

Upton’s Naturals Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit served over rice.

 

If you are a jackfruit fan these two products may be for you. I am not certain of whether these are not good products or I’m just not a fan of jackfruit but I honestly think the issue lies in the sauce and spices used with the jackfruit.

If you’re up for trying your own and forming an opinion for yourself both varieties of jackfruit as well as seitan from Upton’s Naturals is available from Vegan Essentials and other locations. At the time of this article, Whole Foods in the Nashville area does not stock the jackfruit.

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Cori’s DogHouse

June 3rd, 2013

Cori's DogHouse - Jersey Italian Vegan

 

We all have those times when we just want a greasy treat and you want that treat topped with mustard, ketchup, relish and maybe a heap of sauerkraut. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and that hunger hits you should find yourself at Cori’s DogHouse.

You can have your dog served up anyway you like and the menu is fairly extensive. For the vegans and vegetarians you can choose from a Lightlife dog or a Tofurky Italian Sausage or Kielbasa. After that small decision it’s up to you on which direction to travel. I personally go for a New Jersey Italian with deli mustard, fried potatoes and grilled onions and peppers or a Chicago with tomatoes, onions, dill pickle, hot peppers, mustard, celery salt and add sauerkraut. Our first visit we were inquisitive about the buns, which are just sliced thick bread, and the “butter” for the buns which is just a vegetable oil. We were assured both were actually vegan and were shown the packaging to view ingredients.

You can also get your dog with a heaping side of hot crispy fries. I recommend it. I mean, if you’re going to indulge in the dog why not go all the way. You can always run a few extra miles or sweat them off with another hour of hot yoga or something like that.

After you devour that dog be sure to go back for a second and try something new. It’s worth it. I always do.

 

Cori's DogHouse - Jersey Italian Vegan

The Jersey Italian with a vegan Tofurky Italian sausage.

 

Cori's DogHouse - Chicago Vegan

Cori’s DogHouse – Chicago Vegan

 

Cori's DogHouse -  Vegan Dogs

If you’re really hungry just order a group and pig out.

 

Cori’s Doghouse has two locations, Nashville’s West End and Mt. Juliet in Providence Marketplace.

Cori’s DogHouse
106 29th Avenue North
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
(615) 329-9444

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Cori’s DogHouse
401 South Mount Juliet Road
Mount Juliet, Tennessee 37122
(615) 758-6960

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New York City – The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Lunch Truck

July 24th, 2012

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City

People look at me odd when I tell them we vacation for food. It’s true. We always pick a destination based on availability of vegan eats. This is why Denver, Portland and New York City are regularly at the top of our vacation list. Most people head to the beach but I’ll head to the vegan barbecue.

This is not a Nashville post. You can think of it as a wishful thinking Nashville post. Nashville doesn’t have a vegan food truck. In fact, a discussion I had once with a very popular Nashville food truck over adding a single vegan item to their menu was met with a “Why would anyone want to eat that?”  Unfortunately, that pretty much sums up the mentality over vegan food when you mention it to most restauranteurs in this area.  I wonder, why would anyone want to eat decaying animal flesh or pus-filled, molded cow secretions? But I digress. Suffice it to say that food truck will get no attention from me.

On we go to the big city. The land of towering buildings. The streets filled with food and many of them vegan choices!

When I discovered New York City was home to a vegan food truck I was honestly excited. The thrill of the hunt! Would we be in the same area on as The Cinnamon Snail on a given day or would we be hitting the train to search out this animal-free street runner? It didn’t take long to discover via The Cinnamon Snail’s Twitter feed that they would park just 2 blocks from our hotel every Tuesday. Perfect for a quick breakfast bite before hitting the city.

Just around the corner and the kid spotted the graphics-clad truck sitting street side. Now, she’s all about doughnuts. She had that doughnut planned form the time she discovered The Cinnamon Snail served them up in mobile fashion. It didn’t take her long to pick her flavor, raspberry glazed. The doughnuts are not on the small side and definitely not small on flavor. These are not cake doughnuts, they’re the fried type. My favorite, and honestly, the only way to make a doughnut. That doughnut didn’t last long and she was looking for her next morsel form the menu. Mrs. Nashveggie went for a cinnamon roll. of course, she makes her own cinnamon rolls. Her cinnamon rolls are perfect. They have just the right amount of cinnamon sugar stickiness rolled into a soft, yet lightly chewy, dough that comes out of the oven ready to melt in your mouth.  I think she picks cinnamon rolls when she finds them just to compare. We shared the roll and it was very tasty. Not a fluffy dough. This cinnamon roll is denser but still very flavorful. They’re filling and a perfect side to a cup of coffee (which you can also get from The Cinnamon Snail with soy creamer if desired!)

 

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City

The window prominently placed in the front of The Cinnamon Snail displaying the delicious vegan sweets.

 

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City

The sweets window - If raw is your thing, you have choices on the top shelf.

 

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City - Vegan Raspberry Glazed Doughnut

The Kid's Raspberry Glazed Doughnut

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City - Vegan Cinnamon Roll

The Cinnamon Snail cinnamon roll

 

 

The kid, still wanting more, decided to try an apple turnover. Very flaky crust and plenty of filling. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try it so I can only tell you it was good based on how long it lasted. Under 30 seconds and she’s looking for more. That’s a good gauge of great vegan food when it comes to the kid. Her reward for being such a fan of those sweets: A Cinnamon Snail t-shirt from the fine crew of the The Cinnamon Snail. (Thank you guys! That’s was great!)

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City - Vegan Pink Lady Apple Turnover

Pink Lady Apple Turnover

 

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City

Owner/Chef Adam Sobel (Right) and crew. Don't let them freak you out. Always a smile and these guys can whip out some mean vegan vittles!

 

Based on our first visit to The Cinnamon Snail we deemed it necessary to visit again. Not many places will get a second visit from us on vacation but The Cinnamon Snail proved well on our first encounter and sounded good a few days later.  This time we found them to be on Wall Street for the day so we hopped the train for a trip to the Financial District. We walked a few blocks down Wall Street passing other food trucks setup in hopes of grabbing the monetary swingers on their lunch breaks. A person waiting at one, another waiting for customers and most just waiting with no one ordering yet. It wasn’t hard to find The Cinnamon Snail. There was already a good line formed for the vegan eats. In fact, they had the only line out of the other trucks we passed on the way.

This time it was lunch. We needed street-walking sustenance. Looking at the menu we chose what sounded to be delicious, I the Korean BBQ Seitan and Mrs. Nashveggie the Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich. The kid wanted another doughnut which was fine knowing she could share some of our non-sweet vittles.

We found a public area at nearby Deutsche Bank and broke into our boxes. At first sight I was wishing I had went with Mrs. Nashveggie’s choice as my BBQ looked on the small side. I was wrong. Once I took a bite I realized the tortilla was stuffed full and also full of flavor. This thing was delicious. I also tried the Maple Mustard Tempeh and I can understand why it  is one of their most popular menu items. Delicious! The Korean BBQ Seitan was full of seitan chunks. They’re unseasoned when prepared it seems but made so they can take on the flavor of the item the make with them. There was lightly steamed kale in there with a very spicy sauce that didn’t overpower the sandwich.  A great lunch for the three of us and just under $20 including the doughnuts the kid wanted. This is a deal in Manhattan.

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City

The line at The Cinnamon Snail on Wall Street. This is a typical line for The Cinnamon Snail. Vegan eats are popular! (I'm talking to you Nashville Food Truck guy.)

 

After devouring our lunch we thought about a doughnut to-go. To-go being an odd term to use when grabbing one from a food truck. Back to the truck I went and discovered the line was 24 people deep and a bit slow moving. I waited in line for a few minutes. While waiting a few people passed The Cinnamon Snail, took a look in the direction and said “Oh, that’s just sweets.” or “They only have pastries.” This is probably because of the 1. The name. 2. The window beneath the ordering area that displays all of their pastries and doughnuts, the only food display window. 3. The absence of anything announcing anything not sweet anywhere on the truck that would be visible to distant passers-by and “Cinnamon” emblazoned in huge letters, a word most people relate to sweets. Granted, they had a long line so most people are aware they serve savory goods but it seems they could get more with adding perhaps an image of a sandwich somewhere or even a specials board in plain sight on the side of the truck stating something like “TODAY’S VEGAN HOTNESS: MAPLE MUSTARD TEMPEH SANDWICH! SAVORY GOODNESS!” Since the line was very slow to move I decided a doughnut was not going to be had as we had many things on tap for the day and we had to get to the next stop.

 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City - Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich

Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich - There's plenty of delicious tempeh under that.

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck - New York City - Korean Barbecue Seitan

Korean Barbeque Seitan - A grilled tortilla stuffed with seitan, greens, kimchi and spicy vegan butter.

 

If you find yourself in New York City and decide to search them out be sure to check their Twitter as they may not be in the same locations we found them. They’ve had some issues with the NYPD and parking lately that appears to be attributed to other trucks trying to tie up the limited space they find. Overcrowding seems to be an issue.

Unfortunately, this would be our last visit to The Cinnamon Snail as New York City boasts many fine vegan food joints and we must get our eats on in variable fashion. However, when we return to New York City, and we will return soon, I’ll be hitting the streets on the hunt for The Cinnamon Snail. I suggest you do the same.

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My Veggie Chef

March 30th, 2012

 

Things I love: cooking, spending time in the kitchen, planning a great vegan meal and creating recipes. Just because I love those things doesn’t mean everyone does. For those that really don’t like meal planning and cooking there’s My Veggie Chef. Being one who loves all of those things and loves to put a dinner together form scratch I had to put myself in a different mode for this. I’m not accustomed to having a ready-to-cook meal supplied to me. I decided to go through this review with a mindset of someone who needs that ready to go meal waiting. I’ll put away my make it my way ideas and be the kitchen amateur for this. Well, a little bit at least. I did take a few liberties here and there. I couldn’t resist.

My Veggie Chef is a food preparation and delivery service in the Nashville area operated by Kristen Agee. No, Ms. Agee will not come to your home and take over your kitchen like to some high-priced celebrity personal chef in the Bentley-driven hills of Bel Air. Instead she will prepare your completely vegan meals in her kitchen and deliver them to your home. Individual ingredients are pre-measured and supplied in containers with easily followed instructions. All you add is a small amount of time and maybe water where needed. It’s very simple to have a healthy, vegan meal without all the pre-planning required and trips to the grocery store.

 

My Veggie Chef

My Veggie Chef meals are supplied frozen. Just thaw and follow the on-package directions.

 

The week of meals from My Veggie Chef that I was supplied were Veggie Burgers, Tuscan White Bean Soup, Roasted Corn Chowder, Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto and Tofu with Veggies over Tomato Couscous. All five meals were individually packaged in Ziploc bags with smaller bags inside for each ingredient. On the outside of the main bag is a sticker with preparation instructions. Everything is typed out neatly but the only thing I would consider adding to the instructions is prep time. Some people like to know exactly how long it will take from the time they start to pour the first ingredient in the pan to the time they’ll be taking their hot vegan din-din from the oven. For parents who pick up kids at school or whatever practice and have a short time at home before dinner must be served that knowledge is helpful. If I have five meals waiting at home for me to choose form ranging in 30 minutes prep to 2 hours and I know Wednesday night I’ll have only 45 minutes when I arrive home to get dinner made before the kid has to go to bed but Friday night I’ll have all afternoon to get dinner planned. I’ll be saving that 30 minute meal for Wednesday night and the 2 hour dinner will likely be made Friday. It’s better to know at a glance.

 

My Veggie Chef Veggie Burgers

Veggie burger ingredients

 

I’m a veggie burger lover and since the complete prep for a veggie burger is there (including buns!) I made that the first meal to try. A bag of TVP mixed with spices, corn starch and brown rice flour was supplied as well and a smaller bag of ketchup and vegan Worcestershire sauce. The instructions stated to boil a cup of water and pour it over the TVP mixture then empty the ketchup bag into that and stir to combine. Once mixed well I was to let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. OK, here’s where I had time to reflect on making veggie burgers and how I like them. I skewed just a little but not in the basic directions. A hot pan was ready and into it I put a sliced onion to caramelize while I waited for the burger mixture. Once the mixture was ready I made four patties and put them into my hot skillet. The directions stated to cook for 5 minutes on each side. Now, I’m sure that sufficient to heat the burgers through but my crazy cook mentality took over. I wanted to see if these things could hold up to the onions and that meant a nice crispy outside and that meant AT LEAST 30 minutes in the pan if not longer.

 

My Veggie Chef Veggie Burgers

My Veggie Chef veggie burgers frying up. I added some onions because that just how it should be done. Don't be afraid to fry these longer than indicated.

 

The moment you know if you have a homemade veggie burger patty that’s going to work is when you make that first flip with your spatula. I was unsure and honestly had little hope of flipping a burger and it coming down in one piece. No problem, a perfect flip. I covered the pan, a step not stated in directions but a staple in my own veggie burger cooking as it lets the heat cook the burger more evenly and provides a moister burger, and flipped them every few minutes. After about 45 minutes on medium-low the My Veggie Chef veggie burgers were ready. Next step in my veggie burger prep that was not in the directions: a toasted bun! Really, who wants a burger on a cold, clammy bun?I put the buns in the pan with the patties and toasted them well so they were nice and brown on the outside yet warm and steamy moist inside. Time to give these veggie burgers a taste, a patty on a toasted bun spread with some Earth Balance mayonnaise and topped with those delicious caramelized onions. I’m thinking these ingredients are too simple and likely I’m going to have a bland burger screaming for flavor. No, actually a very tasty burger! onions. The burgers were spiced well and the texture was excellent. Actually better that some veggie burgers I’ve had in local restaurants. Is it the most complex flavor with perfect fresh ingredients? Well, no but you’re looking for a ready to go meal and that’s what you get. Still, much better than the over-processed frozen patties you’ll find in the grocery freezer.

 

My Veggie Chef Veggie Burgers

My Veggie Chef veggie burgers ready to munch.

 

The next meal I tried was Tuscan White Bean soup. The contents were in two bags. One bag contained onions and a very important ingredient that was not listed on the ingredient list: garlic. Most wouldn’t think anything of this but if you’re allergic to garlic then this is a big issue. Mrs. Nashveggie is allergic to garlic so luckily I caught it which wasn’t hard since I have a nose in the middle of my face. The second bag contained a white bean tomato sauce mix. The cooking instructions for this one was simple. Saute the onion mixture for five minutes then add 3 cups of water and the contents of the bean bag. Cooking this for 45 minutes you should have a ready to eat soup. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. After the stated 45 minutes at a boil the beans were still hard and inedible. It took a full 3 hours before the beans were soft enough to eat.  For me this soup needed a signature addition to make it Tuscan White Bean soup: Kale. About 15 minutes before the soup was to be served I added 2 cups of shredded kale and it made the dish.

 

My Veggie Chef Tuscan White Bean Soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup ingredients

 

 

My Veggie Chef Tuscan White Bean Soup

My Veggie Chef Tuscan White Bean Soup. I added some kale and a little pasta for a one bowl meal.

 

Next up, Roasted Corn Chowder. Another two bag meal this one was stated to be ready in about 15 minutes with the combined cooking times of each stage. Instructions were similar to the Tuscan White Bean soup. One bag contained onions and peppers to be sauteed for five minutes. The next bag contained spices and corn to be added along with one cup of water. The next step left a bit of confusion. ‘Add soymilk’. How much soymilk? A guess? To taste? Being a seasoned cook I had a general idea but for the person likely preparing these meals it could be a loss. I added 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened soymilk and cooked for the stated time but the flavors just didn’t seem to mesh. I simmered another 30 minutes and this one was just flat. If I added too much soymilk causing the flavor to become bland then there would be very little soup between 2 people by adding any amount less. It definitely needs more in the flavor department.

 

My Veggie Chef Roasted Corn Chowder

My Veggie Chef Roasted Corn Chowder ingredients

 

My Veggie Chef Roasted Corn Chowder

Roasted Corn Chowder cooking directions where in step 4 it does not state the amount of soymilk to be added to the soup.

 

Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto I made for a quick dinner one night after getting home late.  I think “caramelized cauliflower” is a misnomer. It should be “roasted cauliflower” as you’re doing no more than roasting the cauliflower in the oven for a short time until it’s lightly brown. The cauliflower did roast nicely with a little salt and pepper and pasta is simple enough to prepare. The pesto, however, was a bit bland. It could have used some salt and was missing the key nuttiness I find a staple in pesto. I typically use walnuts or cashews in my pesto and I’m not a fan of the traditional pesto ingredient of pinenuts but any of the three would have been a welcome addition.

 

My Veggie Chef Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto

My Veggie Chef Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto ingredients

 

My Veggie Chef Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto

My Veggie Chef Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto

 

The final meal in the pack to be prepared was Tofu with Veggie over Tomato Couscous. This one took a bit more prep time than some of the others. Frying tofu then frying veggies as well as the plan ahead if following the package direction, which I did, meant knowing 24 hours ahead you’d be eating this meal.  The first step is to fry the tofu in a little oil. I did just that but quickly noticed that the tofu was just plain tofu, unseasoned. I did not waiver from the instructions by adding any seasoning but any vegan knows what unseasoned tofu tastes like, nothing at all.  Tofu prepared I sat it aside and went in on the veggies by frying them in the same manner. Nice chunks of artichoke with carrots and small slivers of peppers went into the pan and I quickly noticed this dish was heavy on the cumin as the scent quickly filled the house. Water and tomatoes boiled and couscous was ready. All together and ready to eat this one turned out fairly well except for the tasteless tofu. I would recommend some seasoning added to the tofu beforehand. It would make this dish stand out and give it the flavor where it was lacking. The veggies tasted very good with the couscous, however.

 

My Veggie Chef Tofu with Veggie over Tomato Couscous

My Veggie Chef Tofu with Veggie over Tomato Couscous ingredients

 

 

My Veggie Chef Tofu with Veggies over Tomato Couscous

My Veggie Chef Tofu with Veggies over Tomato Couscous

 

These meals when following directions needed a nudge here and there. If you’re comfortable enough in the kitchen then these will give you enough of a start to where you can add your own touches to make then a little better than out of the bag. As I stated a few places, some extra seasoning, and extra directions, would come in handy.

You can sign up for emails from My Veggie Chef as well. Doing so will get the weekly menu sent to you so you can decide if you’re feeling that weeks flavors. You can then go to the website and order your meals.

The meals I reviewed were enough for 2-3 people but My Veggie Chef has an option for meals for 4-6 people. Meals for 2-3 cost $80 for five meals and the 4-6 serving 5 meal plan is $160. Despite the shortcomings with some of the meals I tried this is an excellent service for local vegans, or vegetarians and even those who just want to eat a little healthier, and those who are in a time crunch to prepare dinner My Veggie Chef can help you out. My Veggie Chef only delivers within a 20 mile radius of downtown Nashville but outside of that delivery area pick-up is available.

 

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Butler Soy Curls

January 14th, 2012

Butler Soy Curls

If you’ve been to Portland you’ll find plenty vegan food and you’ll also likely experience a thing called soy curls. They’re found everywhere from Homegrown Smoker to Native Bowl. Nothing more than dried soybean protein they have a chewy texture and, like tofu, Butler Soy Curls can take on the flavor properties of whatever you season them with. So when given a few bags of these versatile goodies I brainstormed on what I should prepare first. The obvious choice was a simple barbecue sandwich.

I’m no fan of meat substitutes and I’ve made that clear before. I do, however, realize that fake meats have their place for transitioning vegetarians and the occasional vegan who likes the chance of getting with some junk food. I’ll indulge in junk food from time to time and sometimes one of those fake meats might be what I choose if it’s new or really doesn’t have exact properties of actual meat.

I chose to make saucy barbecue sandwiches using some of the peach BBQ sauce I made and bottled over the summer. Instead of simply soaking the curls for a few minutes as the directions indicated I simmered them in a mixture of broth, seasonings and a little of the peach BBQ sauce for about 15 minutes until most of the liquid had boiled away leaving the soy curls well-flavored before I added them to a saucepan of peach BBQ sauce. I turned them down on low and simmered them again for about 30 minutes. Fresh baked buns awaited great vegan barbecue sandwich.

Butler Soy Curls

Butler Soy Curls hydrated. At this point they have a slightly chewy texture and are ready for your recipe.

 

Butler Soy Curls BBQ

Butler Soy Curls simmering in homemade Peach BBQ Sauce. Getting ready for a great vegan BBQ sandwich.

 

Butler Soy Curls - Vegan BBQ Sandwich

Vegan BBQ Sandwich with Butler Soy Curls

 

The soy curls are slightly chewy and have no flavor on their own so they can be made to fit into most any dish you choose. They’re great for stir fries, sandwiches, fajitas and could be chopped slightly smaller and used in soups or stews.

Butler Soy Curls are available from their website as well as many online retailers.

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