Tag Archives: eating out

FoodBuzz Festival Day 2: Eating … and more Eating!

After the amazing welcome reception and street food fare from the night before, I was really excited to head back up to SF for Day 2 of the festival 🙂 As I was driving up I just felt so lucky that I live so close to one of the best foodie cities ever – San Francisco. I mean – without traffic it’s only about a 35-40 min drive (which is what it was since I left early on Saturday morning to get to the first sessions of the day!) And what a perfect location for hanging out with fellow foodies and bloggers!

After the morning sessions at the Sir Francis Drake, we headed to the Metreon for the Tasting Pavilion! I tried really hard to capture the essence of the tasting pavilion – which was AMAZING – but quite honestly, I couldn’t balance my bag of swag, my camera, my wine glass and the awesome food I was eating. So I opted to eat first and take pics later – which left me with only three pics from the Pavilion! (Sad!) But here they are 🙂

Above – the first thing I ate when I got inside the Pavilion – spicy sweet potato fries from Alexia! Then I stopped by the Jarlsberg booth which had amazing cheeses, nuts, dried fruit, etc. I could have completely filled up just from that one booth!

Somewhere along the way, I found INNA jam’s station – their spicy jalapeno jam on a crispy toast with cream cheese was to die for!

And alas, my Tasting Pavilion pictures end here. It was such a blur of food and eating – next time I’ll really have to stay focused so I can share more pics! Anyway – one of the best things about the Pavilion was some of the cool people I met – like Julie, Azmina, Chef Dennis (who I have to commend for bringing healthy food to the school he cooks at!), and Mara who takes amazing food pics! So between this event and the Gala Dinner, we had a 3 hour break – so of course I went to H&M 🙂

This has to be one of my favorite places to buy clothes – I found the cutest coat but the line to pay was ENORMOUS… so being a bit too logical I decided to go have coffee with a friend. Now I kind of wish I had that coat 🙂 Oh well – I’ll just have to go back this weekend and get it! Anyway – so before the dinner I met up with my new friends Julie and Diana to get ready, and then we walked down Market St to the Ferry Building for the dinner! But – when we got there, the place was EMPTY

Apparently we had missed the memo for cocktail hour outside the Ferry Building 🙂 But one of the hosts directed us to the right place and soon we were on our way to eating amazing appetizers! Like these Cheese Gougeres with Gruyere Fondue…

Absolutely amazing! The cheese melted in my mouth and oozed all over my tongue as soon as I bit into it! It took a lot of self control to not eat the whole tray 🙂 Next up – Herb polenta cups with Cypress Grove chevre and provencal vegetables!

The warm polenta was so buttery and creamy (thanks to the chevre!) and the veggies on top tickled my palate 🙂 When we finally made it inside, the hall looked as amazing as ever…

I love the Ferry Building! And our table was set to the nines – every course had a separate wine pairing courtesy of Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Julie, Diana and I were at the same table where we met a few other Foodie Friends. Here’s a pic of Julie and Diana that I took right before we sat down to eat!

Now – on to the food! The first course… a Roasted Golden Beet Tart with Crimson Beet, Feta and Currants, Wild Arugula and Basil Puree…

While the tart was perfectly cooked and very flavorful, I think I actually enjoyed the beet salad with feta & currants even more! The tart feta provided a perfect complement to the sweetness of the beets and the spiciness of the arugula just topped it all off. Next up – Tofu Scallops with Braised Fennel, Candied Orange Peel and garnished with Fried Fennel Fonds

While this was the vegetarian option, what surprised me most was 1) how flavorful it was and 2) how much it looked like the Meat option – the seared scallops!

They could have been twins! Soon after, course three appeared – which was some sort of Portabello Mushroom cake served with sauteed local wild mushrooms, basil oil, and butternut squash puree…

Oh and did I mention the wine? 🙂

As if all that wasn’t enough, dessert was just as spectacular as the rest of the food! A Buttery Almond Cake with Oranges and Spanish Sherry Sabayon – just melted in your mouth – and the figs were so juicy and delicious – they went with the cake beautifully!

I told you there was a lot of eating on Saturday! 🙂 At the end of the night I couldn’t believe how quickly it had all gone by. I was so grateful to have been able to attend the Festival – it was really one of the coolest experiences ever and it was so great meeting so many fellow food bloggers! At the end of the night, after I got home, I realized that I didn’t take any pictures of my FoodBuzz badge! So here is a very tired but content me – proudly holding up my badge as my husband takes my picture 🙂

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Evvia Restaurant, Palo Alto – A wonderful dining experience!

This weekend, my husband and I went to Evvia for dinner – a Greek inspired restaurant in the heart of the Silicon Valley. We had been to their sister restaurant in San Francisco – Kokkari – a bunch of times and loved it, but we had never tried Evvia before. As we walked down Emerson Street towards the restaurant, I was really excited – if Evvia was anything like Kokkari, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Luckily, they did not disappoint! The warmth of the restaurant was felt as soon as we walked in the door – which is helped by their rustic, wood decor and ambient lighting. Our waiter greeted us immediately, helped us in choosing two excellent wines and made recommendations that were helpful to us (as vegetarians). The service was prompt and efficient, but friendly – we never felt like we were being rushed. And the food was excellent! Below are the pictures from our meal and the dishes we ordered. If you’re ever in Palo Alto, I’d highly recommend checking out Evvia, especially if you like Greek food with a twist. Enjoy the photos!

We started our meal with a Green Lentil Vegetable Soup, garnished with olive oil. Super flavorful, hearty but still light enough that we were able to enjoy the rest of the meal! The restaurant also split the soup into two bowls for us since we were sharing it, which I thought was a nice touch.

We also ordered crispy zucchini cakes, served with cucumber & mint yogurt as an appetizer. They were perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside with the wonderful texture of shredded zucchini on the inside. The yogurt sauce was a perfect cooling accompaniment to the dish. I think this might have been my husband’s favorite meal of the night!

Oh, and did I mention the wine?? We ordered a glass of the Velio, Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie ’08; and a glass of the Alpha Estate, Axia, Amyndeon ’06 (a red wine similar to a Syrah). Both were excellent. Here’s my husband digging into the soup with the wine glasses on our table 🙂

For our entree, we had the herbed ravioli with heirloom cherry tomatoes, pesto, pine nuts & feta. Note – this dish looks small (only 4 pieces of ravioli) – but it’s actually super filling and very flavorful! For one person it’s definitely enough. For two people though… we were still hungry 🙂 So we ordered another dish – The Evvia Pita with caramelized onions, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, myzithra cheese & Greek basil. We really liked the pita – the sweetness of the onions and what tasted like a honey/wheat dough was balanced well with the saltiness of the olives and cheese. This was a great way to end our meal – the pita totally hit the spot and filled us up!

For dessert, we decided to try the Galaktoboureko, which is a traditional phyllo wrapped vanilla bean semolina custard with pistachio ice cream. It sounded a bit odd, but oh my GOD it was AMAZING. The perfect balance of flavors and a really unique dessert! Note – they also have a healthier dessert option which is the homemade Greek yogurt served with dried fruit, walnuts and honey on the side – which I ordered out of curiosity and that was really good too. But if you’re looking for a real DESSERT – try the Galaktoboureko – I promise you’ll love it 🙂

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Tips for Healthy Eating At Weddings or Dining Out in General

This weekend, we went to Baltimore for our friends’ wedding – and it was an amazing weekend – filled with dancing, good food, and hanging out with good friends. One of the great things about weddings is the awesome food (and cake!) – but that generally also ends up being a diet pitfall for many people who are trying to watch what they eat. A few of our friends suggested I do a post on eating at weddings – to provide some tips on how to enjoy wedding food without breaking your diet. So here goes – tips for eating at weddings – The Picky Eater way! 🙂

So, let me start by saying that weddings are a time to enjoy yourself, have fun and not worry too much about your diet. If you’re the type of person who can have a day of “cheating” with no problems getting back to eating healthy, then my suggestion would just be to have fun at the wedding and resume your diet when you get back home. Even if you ate 3000 calories at the wedding (double the amount normally recommended for a grown adult), you’re not going to gain like 5 lbs just from that one day, especially if you eat much lighter the next day. But – if you’re the type of person who needs to stay on your diet, because if you go “rogue” and pig out at a wedding, you’re never going to return to eating vegetables again, then you might want to try some of my suggestions 🙂

Generally, I think there are three strategies you can use when eating out / eating at weddings:

1) The Small Portions / Picky Eater strategy (recommended for people who don’t want to go off their diet, but still want to indulge and enjoy a bit – I generally eat this way when I go to weddings). You can also use this strategy when you go out to dinner and don’t want to break your diet!

The key here is “a little bit” – those three words will be your favorite words when navigating the wedding buffet or eating the plated dinner. Take a look at this post on Portion Sizes for a bit more guidance on what “a little bit” means. But generally, think of it as little tastes from the buffet, or 1/2 the portion you’re served in a plated dinner.

Other helpful guidelines:

  • Look for healthy items during cocktail hour. Oftentimes people will put out veggies and dip, fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. If you take a ton of the veggies and fruit, complement them with a tablespoon of dip, and 1-2 cubes of cheese, you’ll walk into the reception feeling pretty full and likely won’t feel the need to pig out at the buffet
  • Avoid things that are deep fried, breaded, regular soda (if you want soda – go for the diet version – it has zero calories!), or anything in a cream sauce (salads, pastas, this goes for soup too – creamy soups pack almost double the calories of broth-based soups!). Again – if you want any of these things, try the “little bit” strategy 🙂 1-2 bites of anything isn’t going to break your diet!
  • For salads, take off the croutons – they randomly have tons of calories and fat
  • If there is a bread basket, don’t eat more than 1 roll or 1 slice – each one is about 150 calories at the very least! Think of it this way – if you had a choice between a bread roll now or the cake at the end… which one would you choose? 🙂
  • Beer and wine generally have fewer calories than mixed drinks (which can run up to 500-1000 calories depending on what’s in them!)
  • For dessert, share. That way you won’t end up eating the entire piece of cake yourself. Most buffets will also have fruit options or lighter fare for dessert which you should definitely go for. You can also use the “little bit” strategy with the cake – take a few bites and savor them – if you don’t eat those few bites mindlessly, you might find that your sweet craving has been satisfied without downing the entire slice!

2) The Going Rogue / Detox strategy (recommended for people who can easily discipline themselves the day after the wedding to detox and get back to eating healthy).

This strategy is simple – eat what you want on the day of the wedding, but the day after the wedding – do a complete detox. This doesn’t mean starve yourself by any means. Detox guidelines (note – this is JUST for the day after you get back from the wedding – it’ll revitalize your system and make you feel lighter/healthier!):

  • Eat whole foods. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t understand
  • Eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies – you can have as much of these as you like 🙂
  • Eat whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, quinoa are some of my favorites)
  • Drink lots of water (no sodas, sugary juices, etc)
  • No desserts – 1 small piece of dark chocolate (70% cacao is a good choice) is probably ok though 🙂
  • For protein, try to stay away from meat – focus on dairy (1% milk, fat free yogurt, low fat cheese), tofu, 1/4 cup of almonds or walnuts, etc.
  • Minimize your intake of oils, fats, etc. (so basically, no french fries)

3) The Complete Avoidance strategy (which I wouldn’t recommend because honestly it’s not that much fun, but if you’re the type of person who can’t even have a taste of a cupcake without wanting to eat 5 of them, this strategy will probably work best for you). There aren’t really guidelines here – except that you’d basically stay away from all of the unhealthy foods (all desserts, anything fried, anything made with cream, any entree where the oil is visible or pools out in the sauce, etc.) If you did use this strategy, you’d probably have to bring a few snacks from home in order to supplement your meals throughout the day like fresh fruits, nuts, Lara Bars, etc. otherwise you’d starve!

Phew! I think that’s it 🙂 Hopefully these tips are helpful in navigating the world of wedding food – but remember, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself and have fun!!

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Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco – A Culinary Adventure!

Millennium Restaurant has always been one of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco – it’s an upscale, gourmet, all-vegan restaurant with unique, creative dishes and a menu that constantly changes. I have never ordered the same thing twice there – which makes it an even more fun place to eat 🙂 What I also love about them is they’re committed to using healthy, organic, fresh, seasonal ingredients and turning them into beautiful dishes that are as exciting to the eye as they are to your tastebuds! I would bet that even meat lovers would enjoy this restaurant. Last night, we went there for my husband’s birthday – and it certainly did not disappoint!

Below is a sampling of what we ordered, and pictures from our culinary adventure – hope you enjoy them!

Appetizers

We started with an Indian Spiced Red Lentil Soup infused with warm spices and a dash of coconut milk on top. It was a great way to start off the meal – reminded me a little bit of Indian Daal and Sambar mixed – with a Thai fusion twist. Both warming and simple, it was a perfect balance to the cold SF weather outside.

We also ordered the Black Bean Torte made with a whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantains, smoky black bean puree, pumpkin-habanero papazul, cashew sour cream, and strawberry salsa. The torte just melts in your mouth as soon as you bite into it – with the flavors of the plantains and black bean puree seamlessly melding together. The salsa and papazul add a spicy kick, adding an element of surprise to every bite.

Entrees

We were really excited, and ordered four entrees from the menu. Luckily, we were so hungry and they were so tasty that we finished all of them! First up… the Indian Spiced Potato Cake with cardamom scented grilled eggplant puree, chestnut lima bean coconut saag, tamarind-tomato chutney, pickled fennel and a cherry tomato salad. In the picture below, you can see that the cherry tomato salad is on top of the potato cake. They also added a “pakora” on the side – which is like a vegetable fritter. The tomato chutney added a nice sweet and spicy flavor to the dish, and the saag was cooling against the spiciness of the potato cake.

Next up, the Peach and Pecan Glazed Tempeh with a peach & molasses glaze, a seared white corn grits cake, roasted green chile cashew cheese, seared broccoli rapini, a peach-ginger chutney, and pickled okra. I’m not usually a fan of tempeh, but this one was amazing! It had a very earthy and nutty quality – and the texture was absolutely perfect against the creaminess of the white corn grits cake.

Then we moved on to the Roasted Corn Masa Cake with pozole, caramelized fennel, pinquito beans, tomato confit and exotic mushrooms. It was served with seared kale, mole negro and an avocado-jicama relish. This one might have been my favorite of the night, just because of the strong, bold mexican flavors incorporated with such unique ingredients! The hominy in the pozole was excellent, and the beans were so cute and tiny! I’m also a big fan of avocado so no surprise that I loved the relish 🙂 And given that I’m a health nut, I was estatic to see kale incorporated into this dish!

Lastly, we had the Sesame Seed Crusted Tofu in yellow coconut curry with roasted corn, Japanese eggplant, bok choy, squash, Bhutanese red rice, stone fruit and chile de arbol sambal. It was served with a Thai basil cucumber salad. This was a great light and airy dish – the Thai and Asian inspired flavors binded the dish together, and the tofu was super flavorful and had great texture!

After all this – you can imagine – we were stuffed! But in a very good way 🙂 We also had amazing wine to pair with our meals, and finished off the night with one dessert shared by all – a caramel torte served with a coffee flavored sorbet – which was the perfect way to end the night! Needless to say, this was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a long time – I think Millennium might have even outdone themselves from the last time I ate there – which is definitely a feat! My husband walked out of the restaurant happy, relaxed and very full – it was the perfect birthday dinner 🙂

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My Favorite Restaurants in San Francisco

Recently, one of my girlfriends was visiting SF, and she immediately asked me to recommend a few of my favorite restaurants for her to visit while she was here. I LOVE the food in San Francisco – every ethnicity, every flavor, every style (casual to super upscale) is available within a 2-5 mile radius for your eating pleasure! And of course there’s the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building (and the Ferry Building itself) which are amazing finds for locally grown, fresh fruits and veggies, and all kinds of inventive dishes from small artisan restaurants. The list I sent to my friend is below – obviously this isn’t comprehensive of ALL of my favorites in SF, but these are the ones that we visit the most often 🙂

Hope it’s helpful!

Favorite Restaurants in San Francisco

Colibri (http://www.colibrimexicanbistro.com/)

Amazing Mexican food with tons of veggie options. Their guacamole is made fresh, table side – so you can customize it to your specific tastes. A great assortment of salads and other Mexican dishes with an inventive twist. Tons of drinks, and happy hour too! On some nights they even have live music which just adds to the ambiance of this restaurant.

Kokkari (http://www.kokkari.com/home/)

Upscale mediterranean food, amazing ambience, tons of flavor. Their small plates are great, as is their sweet pea & feta ravioli! Good for groups and even for a special date night.

Greens (http://www.greensrestaurant.com/)

Upscale, all vegetarian. BUT – I promise meat eaters won’t be dissatisfied with this restaurant! With a local menu that changes daily, the food at Greens is warming, tickles your tastebuds, and is a culinary adventure to experience. Set on the marina, the views from the restaurant at night are beautiful, as is the rustic decor inside the restaurant itself.

A16 (http://www.a16sf.com/)

Fun, Italian restaurant in the Marina; also has a wine bar with a very extensive wine list. Their pizzas here are a must have – they have an incredible list of toppings, and the dough is made fresh onsite. Feels like you’ve stepped into little Italy in SF.

Mama’s (http://www.mamas-sf.com/)

The best breakfast and brunch in SF, hands down. Mama’s has something for everyone – from their French Toasts made with a variety of house baked breads, to their “low fat breakfast specials” that taste great, Mama’s definitely will not disappoint! Be prepared to wait in line – especially if you go on a weekend – but I promise, it’s worth the wait 🙂

Dosa (http://www.dosasf.com/)

Indian food, located in the Mission. True to its name, Dosa serves up traditional South Indian fare but has a variety of fusion options that taste great too – like their Organic Aspargus Soup made with shallots, leeks, spring onions, coconut milk and lemon zest. Or their Fiery Fruit Salad dressed with lemon juice, mint, cayenne and ginger. You’ll experience South India in a new way at this restaurant, and since its in the Mission you’re guaranteed a great crowd and ambiance.

Gracias Madre (http://www.gracias-madre.com/web/menu.php)

Mexican food, located in the Mission. But this Mexican food is different than anything you’ve tasted before! Their food is 100% organic and vegan, and their menu changes because it’s based on seasonal ingredients. Their tortillas and tamales are handmade from organic heirloom corn, some of which is grown by them on their own farm! I’d highly recommend trying this place – even meat eaters will love it!

Local Mission Eatery (http://www.localmissioneatery.com/)

A true SF staple, local in every way, with great food and a community feel. They even have cooking labs and allow patrons to stand at their open kitchen and observe them making your meal! Dinners are events, at a shared kitchen and table. Every dinner is a unique, four-course, set menu at a very reasonable price. (Vegetarians can be accommodated ahead of time). The food is local, hyper-seasonal, homemade and refined. Definitely an experience to try if you’re ever in SF!

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Healthy Veggie Eats in Portugal and Spain!

Hi Everyone! I know it’s been a long time since I last posted – and that’s because I was traveling throughout Spain & Portugal for most of June! It was an amazing vacation in two beautiful countries. One of the things I was actually a little concerned about when we left was whether we’d find enough vegetarian and healthy food options on our trip. Now – I am all about indulging when you’re on vacation – but I like indulging in really flavorful, wholesome (and obviously vegetarian) food 🙂 This post is about our 16 day journey, and all the wonderful vegetarian and healthy eats we found along the way. Hope you enjoy and hope it’s helpful for any vegetarians traveling to Spain & Portugal (or non-vegetarians who are interested in some healthy options!)

Day 1: Heathrow Airport & Lisbon

Eating healthy is always a challenge, but even more so when you’re traveling internationally. On the way to Portugal, we had a layover in Heathrow. Airport food options are never great, especially when you have TGI Fridays at one end of the airport and random pre-made food options at the other end. But in Heathrow, they have a surprisingly good amount of healthy food options! I ended up getting my lunch at a place called “EAT” – which has freshly prepared salads & sandwiches, as well as a number of other healthy snacks (yogurt, fruit, etc). I picked up an edamame, sugar snap peas, green beans and spinach salad; and a cup of greek yogurt with just a small sprinkling of granola on top. Super healthy, filling and tasty! It took a little bit of scoping out the airport to find, but once I did it was well worth it!

Our first day in Lisbon was a similar food adventure. Luckily, breakfast was provided at the hotel – fresh fruit, all bran cereal, whole wheat toast with a bit of cheese & jam – great way to start the day! Since we’re vegetarian & also looking for healthy options, Lisbon was a bit of a challenge (as most restaurants are primarily meat with few veggie, let alone healthy options!). We were walking around for an hour, starving, when we came upon Ristorante Momenti Italiani Pizzeria (address: Bairro Alto, Rua Da Misericordia – 93, Lisbon). This was a great find, and had tons of veggie options! We had the minestrone soup (low in fat, lots of veggies); a side salad (again, fresh veggies to add to the meal), and shared a margherita pizza (super thin crust, little oil, and the cheese was a great way to add protein to our meal). We also shared a bottle of green wine – really refreshing and interesting (since it looks like white wine!). All in all, a great lunch. For dinner, we found this fantastic little 100% vegetarian restaurant – Jardim doSentidos. The food was GREAT! And the ambiance was awesome – we sat outside in a little courtyard – had a nice warm breeze in the evening – very relaxing! We ordered veggie kabobs and tofu steaks served with grilled vegetables. Wonderfully tasty and healthy! Then for dessert, we splurged on a banana split and red tea 🙂 All in all – a great first day finding healthy veggie eats in Lisbon!

Day 2 – Lisbon

Again, breakfast at the hotel – you really can’t go wrong – same as Day 1.

Lunch ended up being more like coffee, tea and pastries at this wonderful pastry shop in Belem, called Café Pastéis de Belém. I know, not the healthiest lunch – but definitely an experience and a wonderful find! And this place is famous for its pastries – so definitely worth trying 🙂

For dinner, we went to Terra Restaurante Natural – another all veggie restaurant in Lisbon – what are the odds!! It basically feels like eating an all veggie potluck at someone’s house – the restaurant is set up with seating in a beautiful garden out back; while inside is the all veggie buffet laid out in a kitchen like setting. We had amazing dishes like veggie chili, seasoned corn, veggie couscous with almonds, raisins, peppers and corn, veggie meatballs with sauce & spaghetti, veggie gourmet pizza, a bunch of different salads, falafel balls, and lots of other great dishes! Truly a find in Lisbon.

Day 3 – Porto

Veggie dishes in Porto were a bit more of a challenge to find than Lisbon, but we actually ended up coming across some good restaurants that had some decent veggie options for us. Our first day in Porto we ended up eating pizza at Casal – a very hip, trendy restaurant in the main part of town, with amazing desserts & crepes too! Dinner was at a restaurant called Giroflee – sort of an Italian / fusion type place. We had a really yummy cheese plate, a great Syrah wine, Mushroom ravioli in a cheese sauce, and a tofu steak marinated in an asian influenced, sesame sauce with roasted vegetables. It was a really great meal, but the portions were pretty small so we were still hungry after!

Day 4 – Porto

Today for lunch we ended up at Café Majestic. No doubt a touristy spot, but really good food nonetheless. I had a great sandwich – just typical vegetarian – multi grain bread, an amazing thinly sliced cheese, tomato, lettuce and shredded carrots. It felt really good to eat something nice and “normal” for lunch. My husband ordered a tomato & cheese omelette – which was pretty good but take note – the eggs in Portugal don’t taste like the eggs in the US – they actually look different too – the yolks are much more yellow – almost like a mustard color vs. the yolks in the US.

For dinner, we had two great veggie options – Sitar – an Indian restaurant across the river with the typical Indian fare – channa masala, veggie samosas, mixed veggie curry, saag paneer, etc. The second was a Thai place – Real Thai – with over 10 different vegetarian dishes – all good!  We chose Sitar for dinner, and kept Real Thai for lunch the next day. The food at Sitar was very tasty – but very very oily! However, at that point I was craving something other than bread and cheese so I didn’t mind it as much, and just tried to temper my portions accordingly.

We also did wine tasting at Sandman and Calem – amazing port wines (they don’t serve food but definitely check out the Port tasting at these two wineries!)

Day 5 – Porto & Barcelona

We started our day with lunch at Real Thai – I had a tofu & veggie stir fry and my husband had a veggie / tofu curry. Both were really good – not too spicy and TONS of veggies! It was a really well balanced meal and a good way to start the day. Then we visited

Then we visited Vinologia – a wonderful port wine tasting shop in the heart of Porto. The cool thing about this place is they serve you various dried fruits and chocolates to pair with the wines which makes the experience a lot more fun!

We headed to Barcelona in the evening, and while searching for a vegetarian restaurant, we came across The BioCenter. This place was AMAZING. It’s an organic, all vegetarian restaurant where the menu changes daily. The prix fixe on Fri & Sat is only 15 euros per person and includes 4 very filling, amazing courses! We had a pureed vegetable soup – very flavorful and warming; a seaweed, spinach, sunflower seeds, cucumber, carrot, and pepper salad with a mustard vinagarette; tofu and squash “balls” – baked in the oven and served with couscous & a curry sauce; and a seitan steak which my husband loved. For dessert, we had a baked apple and a vegan chocolate cake – delicious! They also make fresh juices here – which I’d highly recommend trying!

Day 6 – Barcelona

For lunch, we headed to this organic bakery called Artesia. We each had a freshly prepared sandwich with inventive ingredients – for me: a nut & raisin bread sandwich with tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, fresh sheep cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. For him: a nut & raisin bread sandwich with goat cheese, spinach, caramelized onions and honey. Both were grilled in a Panini press and served hot – so good!

For dinner, we visited L’Hortet – another all vegetarian restaurant near our hotel. However, this place didn’t seem very tourist friendly – both of our waitresses got irritated with us for not being able to speak Spanish, and one ended up just refusing to serve us at the end because we weren’t Spanish. This was definitely more of a “local” veggie joint – and while the food was pretty good: We had a margherita pizza with a whole wheat crust, a wonderfully fresh salad with lots of veggies, and a tofu noodle stir fry; the service (or lack thereof) left us feeling dissatisfied with this restaurant. It was good in terms of getting veggie food, but if you care about ambiance, service and a general feeling of being welcome in a restaurant – I definitely wouldn’t recommend this place.

For dessert, we found a great gelato place – one of hundreds that line the streets of Barcelona. So good and refreshing on a hot summer night!

Day 7 – Barcelona

Today we went to the Picasso museum – and on the way back stumbled across a fresh, mostly vegetarian buffet called Fresc Co. It was an all you can eat salad bar that also had soups, pizzas, pastas and prepared dishes; along with free drinks, fresh fruit, dessert and tea/coffee! It was a great find and made for a healthy and light lunch.

For dinner we went to Bar Lobo – amazing tapas place with tons of veggie options! The ambiance in this restaurant is also amazing – it feels like someone’s loft but also has an upscale/elegant vibe. We had pita & hummus (which was freshly made with olive oil), patas bravas (potatoes sautéed with a yummy sauce), a veggie stir fry, and a flatbread with tomatoes, walnuts and cheese. They also had great wines, and served a house bread complementary that was whole grain, freshly baked, and really good!

Day 8 – Barcelona

Lunch today was on the go – we were doing a walking tour of the Gaudi sights, so we didn’t have time to find a good place to sit down and eat. We ended up at a Panini place and had asparagus, caramelized onions and manchego cheese paninis, which actually turned out to be really good!

For dinner, we visited our staple – The BioCenter – had their veggie soup again (which tasted different because each day the veggies they use are different!), a carrot and lemon smoothie, a tofu stir fry with whole grain cous cous, and a raw veggie lasagna – all really good!

Day 9 – Barcelona & Granada

Lunch in Barcelona at Artesia again – I had the 9 grain bread with sheep cheese, onions and honey – definitely good. One thing we learned is when we found a few restaurants that worked for us – we’d just go back and order something different on the menu. This is obviously not necessary if you’re not vegetarian but it really helped us!

Dinner in Granada – was more of a sustenance dinner… we were starving and it was 10pm – so we went to one of the more touristy eateries near our hotel. The dinner did turn out to be pretty good though – vegetable paella with lots of different veggies and a veggie pizza. Not the best, but I had stopped by the market and gotten an apple and cherries so that balanced our meal a little more.

Day 10 – Granada

Today we found a tiny smoothie & sandwich shop called Greens & Berries – we had a wonderful lunch there. I had a smoothie made with just berries, apples and bananas; my husband had one made with pineapples, oranges, coconut and banana – both were excellent. We also had sandwiches made fresh on whole grain bread, with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula. Really tasty, healthy and filling!

For dinner, we went to Chile Grande Cantina Mexicana – probably the only Mexican restaurant in all of Granada – and happened to be SUPER veggie friendly! Their veggie “filling” is very hearty – a combination of pinto beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, peppers, bean sprouts and carrots. This is what came as the filling in the veggie enchiladas and soft tacos we ordered. Additionally, both dishes were served with vegetarian refried beans, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, sautéed corn and cheese. It ended up being a very healthy meal and a nice change from all the bread & cheese we’d been eating! This restaurant also has a great veggie burger that is made onsite – from beans and other veggie ingredients.

Day 11 – Granada

For lunch we just stopped by a cafe and ordered a small sandwich and tea. We walked around the town and found two other good vegetarian options: Raices – which is an all vegetarian restaurant and Restaurant Meknes – a Moroccan restaurant with tons of veggie options and wonderful teas! We wanted to go to Raices for dinner, but when we got there at 7:30 we found out they didn’t open until 9pm! (Take note – this happens a lot in Spain – restaurants will close from 4pm-8pm or 9pm and most grocery stores may be closed during this time too!) So since our Mexican restaurant was near Raices, we just ended up eating there instead because we were too hungry to wait until 9pm for dinner 🙂

Day 12 – Seville

For lunch we stopped by a roadside café, to just get something small to hold us over – we ended up sharing a vegetarian tortellini which (surprisingly) was very tasty! For dinner, we went to Habanita – a tapas style restaurant with a full vegetarian menu. We ordered a black bean, cheese and plantain dip, veggie nuggets with an interesting dipping sauce, and ratatouille. Overall it was a pretty good dinner.

Day 13 – Seville

After a walk through the city, Centro Ecologico Gaia was where we ended up for lunch. This place was also amazing and rivaled the Bio Center from Barcelona! We had a cream of vegetables soup (which was actually pureed vegetables – no cream added) and a tofu “steak” with two types of tofu and sautéed vegetables. We also had sweet veggie croquettes (walnuts, oats, cinnamon, etc) tasted kind of like churros / cinnamon sticks. Great wine, TONS of veggie options – it was hard to choose! They give a wonderful bread basket with whole grain breads to start. Everything is organic & locally sourced; they also have a huge health food store next door with lots of yummy eats. Open for lunch & dinner except Sundays.

Dinner was at Aladdin – a Mediterranean restaurant on Santa Maria Blanca. Their falafel is AMAZING, probably the best I’ve ever tasted. They also have a great Mediterranean style salad called the Aladdin (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, olives & herbs with freshly cut cheese – into mini cubes – on top). No dressing, served with salt pepper & olive oil on the side. The owner is also really nice and they’re open on Sundays which is very helpful (because many restaurants are closed on Sundays too!).

Day 14 – Seville

We had lunch at this Italian place on Santa Maria Blanca called Ristorante Pizzeria Mario – they had tons of veggie options, it was all Italian which looked great. We ordered a margherita pizza and spinach/cheese ravioli. The food would have been excellent, but when it came out it looked like they dumped a cup of olive oil over both the pizza and the pasta! Needless to say, I didn’t eat much, it was just way too oily – kind of a disappointment especially since the food would have been really tasty without the oil.

Dinner was lower key, at Aladdin. Ordered falafel again – so good!

Day 15 – Madrid

Lunch at La Galette – super cute restaurant with a French vibe, the wait staff doesn’t speak English but the owner came out to serve us and take our order himself! He was AWESOME – super nice and friendly and not at all hostile to foreigners. The menu at La Galette is very inventive – they have a huge vegetarian menu – we ordered the lentil soup (amazing), apple croquettes – also very good but more like dessert, and a veggie “burger” which turned out to be very creative – a bundle of rice, lentils, shredded carrots, and zucchini, wrapped in a cooked large leaf of chard, and topped with melted cheese. It was actually very tasty and flavorful – served like two “patties” with no bun. Really creative! The sangria there was also really good – light and retained the flavor of the wine it was made with. They also serve you carrot sticks with a wonderful cream cheese blend and bread as a starter – overall it was an excellent meal.

Dinner at Yerba Buena – definitely the most “high flown” veg food we had the entire trip – dishes with paragraph descriptions, very creative, excellent presentation. We had jalapeno “poppers” and a vegetable puree soup to start which were both amazing. The restaurant also presented us with an “aperitif” – homemade guac & a green shot – I think it was made from spinach. Both were really tasty and very good. Our entrees weren’t as good as our appetizers. I ordered a wheat tortilla stuffed with veggies in a rice & cheese sauce, and my husband ordered a seitan / tofu curry – which ended up being more like  tofu pork chop. Both the entrees were ok but were extremely large portions and super filling (without being amazingly tasty). For dessert, we ordered a chocolate cup & digestive tea – both were excellent. With the check, we were served a box of candies/mints. All in all a pretty satisfying meal – I would recommend focusing on their appetizers and other small plates vs. the entrees.

Day 16 – Heathrow Airport (again)

On the trip back, I had a HUGE delay at Heathrow airport – I was sitting there for over 5 hours. In that time, I decided to stock up on a bunch of healthy eats before I boarded the plane – so I wouldn’t be left hungry and have to resort to plane food / plane snacks which are pretty high in calories & fat. I visited EAT again and picked up two small salads, a fruit cup, a vegetarian sandwich with cheese on whole wheat bread, and a greek yogurt. I also ordered tea to hold me over while I waited. The snacks / food worked wonderfully on the plane as a few small meals until I landed in SFO.

And that’s it! Now I’m back and will be blogging a lot more frequently than before 🙂 I wanted to share a couple of final tips before I end this post on how to eat healthily when you’re traveling:

  • Find a market that has fresh fruits and veggies. We found tons all across Spain & Portugal – they had these open air markets that were just amazing. We picked up fresh fruits there daily, and always had them on hand for a healthy snack or to add some extra fiber into our diet (if we happened to eat a little less “healthy” that day)
  • Walk! If you’re in a city where it’s easy to travel on foot – take advantage of it. You’ll burn off anything “extra” you eat and that’ll also allow you to indulge in the local delicacies more! It’s also a lot more fun to see foreign cities on foot – we had an awesome time exploring and really felt like we got the “feel” for each city we were in because we just walked everywhere.
  • Take a few energy bars and high fiber cereal to snack on – these make for great portable snacks and work as a meal replacement if you’re stuck somewhere and the only thing to eat is oily pizza or fast food.

With these tips, you’ll be all set for a trip with wonderful food, lots of activity and feeling great when you return (instead of feeling like you have to lose the 20 lbs you gained while you were on vacation!) I had an amazing time on my trip, and I hope these tips and suggestions were helpful to any of you traveling to the same cities! Happy eating 🙂

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Ubuntu – Healthy Organic Napa Valley Restaurant!

ubuntu insideA few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to try a new restaurant in the Napa Valley – Ubuntu Restaurant and Yoga Studio. We were intrigued by their menu and mission – most ingredients in their dishes are grown in their very own garden behind the restaurant, everything is organic, all of the dishes are vegetarian and can be made vegan, and we were intrigued by their menu items with names like “gargouillou of the ubuntu SPRING GARDEN (v) today’s LEAVES, FLOWERS, ROOTS, and SHOOTS…hazelnut “soil””

We entered the restaurant and were immediately struck by the warm, cozy ambiance with a touch of elegance. Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable about all the menu items, was very patient in answering our questions as she took our order, and recommended an amazing German Riesling to pare with the food.

Here are some pictures of the food we ordered – it was a journey of gourmet flavors, inventive dishes, and taste explosions. I’d highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to expand their palate and experience a whole new world of food!

Chickpea Fritters with an amazing tomato-type sauce

Chickpea Fritters with an amazing romesco sauce

Another view of the chickpeas :)

Another view of the chickpeas 🙂

Heirloom tomato salad with Burratta cheese and all kind of fresh vegetables and fruits

Heirloom tomato salad with Burratta cheese and all kind of fresh vegetables and fruits

Flatbread with fresh greens, vegetables, flowers from the garden with pecorino cheese

Flatbread with fresh greens, vegetables, flowers from the garden with pecorino cheese, dehydrated beets and hazelnuts sprinkle

Summer squashes with puree of squash and Indian inspired flavors

Summer squashes with puree of squash and Indian inspired flavors

Organic yellow corn grits from arbuckle infused with goat’s milk whey, caramelized wild onion bulbs, “62.5” egg, agretti, garlic

Organic yellow corn grits from arbuckle infused with goat’s milk whey, caramelized wild onion bulbs, “62.5” egg, agretti, garlic

gargouillou of the ubuntu SPRING GARDEN (v)
today’s LEAVES, FLOWERS, ROOTS, and SHOOTS…hazelnut “soil”

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