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Archive for the ‘Conscious Eating’ Category

From 2008 to 2010, I ate a completely vegetarian and then I became vegan. But because I started to travel so much (both for work and leisure), it was very difficult to maintain a healthy routine on the road. In many places I visited vegetarianism wasn’t even a term, so I ended up eating a lot of bread, pasta, noodles, and rice. After putting on some pounds and feeling pretty pooped out all the time, I decided to revert back to being an omnivore. After a few weeks my boss actually said to me, “Yvonne, you finally have some color in your face!” It was then that I realized that veganism is not for everyone. In the past two years, I’ve still tried to eat my vegetables, but my love for food has increased exponentially. I’ve gained a true appreciation for cooking, baking, and seeking out delicious foods wherever I go.

However, very recently, I’ve come to the realization I may be loving food a little too much (not possible, but hear me out here…). What I mean is that I’ve lost sight of eating healthy. Now that an entire menu is available to me, of course I’ll choose the duck confit entree instead of having a vegetarian dish. But I realized that I’ve been skipping out on my fruits and vegetables. Even though my energy levels in general have gotten better, I’ve felt my immune system getting weaker. Recently I’ve found myself getting colds pretty frequently. Yes, I can attribute that to the stale air on the airplanes that I go on every week, but I truly do believe that my diet has a lot to do with it, too. I’ve been slacking on those veggies, and it’s time to get back into eating a more plant-based diet, because plant-based foods are known to strengthen the immune system. According to the USDA Agriculture Research Center,

A diet high in plant-based foods has been shown to protect against many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and birth defects. It can also contribute significantly to reducing obesity, preventing cataracts and lowering cholesterol. Plant-based diets are, for the most part, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

No, I won’t be giving up those pork soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai or the pizza from Luzzo’s, but they will become a once-in-a-while treat instead of a typical Saturday night. I am definitely going to be making more of a conscious effort to include whole foods into my diet, which means lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. I’ll be monitoring how I feel, and we’ll see if the frequency of my colds will improve throughout the next few months!

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Last night I took my mom to Gobo, a vegetarian restaurant in the Upper East Side. Upon walking in we were impressed by the relaxing and atmosphere. I enjoyed the wooden decor, along with the open kitchen and organic juice bar. Everything was very zen-like, and I was happy to see that the vegetarian menu was actually pretty much vegan. It only had about 3 dishes that were non-vegan, and they were clearly noted.

Overall, I thought Gobo was pretty good. The food didn’t blow my socks off, but I would be willing to go back because of the wonderful atmosphere, the delicious dessert, the friendly service, and the extensive menu of vegan options. What to do about such a large menu? Get a lot of food! And that’s exactly what we did…

All the wines on the menu were either organic or sustainable. However, I’ve never gotten drunk with just me and my mom, and I wasn’t about to start last night. So we opted for some healthy, non-alcoholic drinks. She ordered the New Yorker smoothie made with blackberries, banana, strawberry, and soymilk. It was a very good, but it could have used some agave syrup. I also liked my Rejuvenate juice made with carrot, apple, spinach, and ginger. I wish the ginger taste was stronger, but I felt super healthy drinking it.

For appetizers we got one Quick Bite, the Vietnamese spring rolls with spicy honey dip, and one Small Plate, the pine nut vegetable medly with lettuce wraps. Both dishes were decent. The veggie medley could have had more greens, and the spring roll dip could have been more spicy. But overall they were still pretty good.

We shared the pineapple fried rice as our entree. I really liked the chunks of pineapple, but I felt the avocado was a bit out of place and it was a little too oily for my liking. But it was good enough for the both of us to polish off!

“So Mom, for dessert, do you want the mango, coconut, and tapioca pudding with macademia nut brittle or the apple and pear crisp with soy vanilla ice cream?”

“Let’s get both!”

“Um…ok!”

So we got both. And they were both so delicious. This course was definitely the highlight of the meal. The pudding just melts in your mouth, and the mango-coconut combination was divine. And the tapioca balls were a plus – they reminded me the bubble tea places back in Taiwan. The apple and pear crisp was great too – and I am picky about my fruit crisps!

I had a wonderful time at Gobo, and even though the food wasn’t amazing,  it’s one of those places that is good enough to go back to. But with Candle Cafe only a few blocks away, I’d def choose Candle over Gobo! But there’s a Gobo in the West Village, and I’d love to check that out as well.

Gobo UES – 1426 Third Ave, and 81st St.

Gobo WV – 401 Avenue of the Americas, and W 8th St.

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My friend Mike sent this clip to me recently, and he said, “thought of you when I saw this…crazy enough that I could even do it!”

I personally do not eat meat seven days a week, but I understand that some people are just not ready to made that commitment. And I think it’s wonderful that a lot of people are trying to cut down their meat consumption through structured plans such as Meatless Mondays and VB6 (Vegan Before 6 PM, a la Mark Bittman). Right now I want to share another option called “Weekday Vegetarianism”, started by TreeHugger.com founder Graham Hill.

Below is a clip of Graham Hill discussing how he became a weekday vegetarian. Weekday veg cuts down your meat intake by a whopping 70%, which means you will become healthier, live longer, and do your part in saving the animals and the environment. Monday through Friday, nothing with a face. Saturday and Sunday, “your choice”. I also loved his last point, which is definitely some food for thought: “If all of us ate half as much meat, it’s like half of us were vegetarians.”

Today’s Friday – maybe something to think about over the weekend?

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For dinner last night, I chose Jean George’s ABC Kitchen for a few reasons. First, the Jean Georges restaurant in Shanghai was one of my favorite restaurants that I’ve been to as a non-vegetarian/vegan. Secondly, it has been getting rave reviews since it opened in March. And thirdly, and most importantly, it is committed to serving fresh, local foods and to being as eco-friendly as possible. Sure, plenty of restaurants nowadays are going the green route, but it’s mostly a marketing tactic, and the food is still so-so. So can a world renowned chef pull off green AND flavorful? I had to find out for myself.

First, a few facts about how the restaurant itself is green. All organic matter, from the 100% recycled paper place mats to receipts, is composted. The bathrooms has low-flow toilets and high-volume air hand dryers instead of paper. Cleaning products are Department of Health approved and all natural. Halogen and LED lighting, which uses less energy, is used. Soy based candles. The art on the walls and the ceramic plates are made by local artists. The silverware is antique. The toothpicks are made from sustainable trees. Even the uniforms are mostly vintage and from local thrift stores. Food-wise, the restaurant sources at least 70% of the menu from within 90 miles of the restaurant between May and October. Most of the food comes from the Union Square Greenmarket a few blocks away. The remainder is organic and/or sustainable. Herbs and microgreens are from the building’s roof garden. Meat, fish, and dairy are pasture fed, antibiotic and hormone free and humanely raised.

Enough about the facts. What did I actually think about the place?

It was so delightful. The decor was wistful, vintage-esque and beautifully shabby-chic (did I mention the furniture is mostly recycled, too?). I loved the mis-matched bread plates and the low hanging chandeliers. We sat next to the market table that beautifully displayed that day’s fresh veggies (I loved that huge stick of cinnamon). And there was more than 1 vegan option on the menu! Which is more that I can say for some other restaurants I’ve been to. So…what did I get?

Drink: House made ginger-lime soda. It was so fresh. You could taste the raw ginger flavor, and although it was sweet, it didn’t taste like processed sugar.

Appetizer: Sweet pea soup with carrot and mint. It just blew me away. Even the omnivores raved about how flavorful it was and couldn’t comprehend how it had no dairy products in it. The croutons drenched in the soup were the best part.

Entree: Roasted carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds and citrus, without the dollop of sour cream that usually comes with it. No sour cream was needed at all. The carrots were roasted so well that it almost tasted like sweet potatoes. Again, the non-vegans went gaga over it.

Dessert: Strawberry-red wine sorbet with fresh strawberries. It had a hint of vanilla and mint that just made it pop. My friend said she liked my sorbet over her very-well reviewed caramel ice cream sundae!

Overall, everyone had an amazing experience. Some non-vegan dishes that my friends raved over were the peeky-toe crab toast, the fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil salad, the mackerel sashimi with ginger and mint, the morel, parmesan and farm egg pizza, and the organic crispy chicken. I highly recommend ABC Kitchen to every type of eater – vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, pescetarians, omnivores, carnivores, etc.!

ABC Kitchen

35 E 18th St

Between Park Ave S and Broadway

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Meatless Mondays is an international movement that encourages people to cut down their meat consumption. By not eating meat one day a week, you are reducing your meat intake by 15% (well, 14.28% to be exact). First, people are just eating too much meat. On average, Americans consume 8 ounces of meat per day – 45% more than the USDA recommends. Secondly, less meat consumption can lead to healthier bodies (lower chances of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc) as well as a healthier planet (reduces fuel dependence, water usage, carbon footprint, etc). A lot of people have been jumping on the Meatless Mondays bandwagon, including the entire Baltimore City Public School system, 32 US hospitals, and celebrities including Michael Pollan, Al Gore, Sir Paul McCartney, and Simon Cowell.

Now even renowned Italian chef Mario Batali is joining the gang. Every Monday, every one of Batali’s 14 restaurants will feature at least 2 vegetarian entrees. Many of the restaurants will even designate the dishes with his own B&B MM logo (below). That’s good news for me, because I no longer have to order only side dishes or a plain pasta with tomato sauce. The only thing I have to ask for now is to hold the cheese!

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On Friday I checked out The Pushcart Market, New York City’s first vendor-led street fair that celebrated small businesses and immigrant entrepreneurs. It was pretty cool to see food carts featuring food from around the globe, including Jamaica and Taiwan. But the real reason I went was to check out The Cinnamon Snail, a vegan & organic food truck. The Cinnamon Snail is actually located in Hoboken, NJ, so I was pretty excited to find out that it would be parked in Manhattan for a day.

Even though the menu of entrees and sandwiches looked impressive, what looked even better were the desserts. It was a tough decision choosing what pastry to get, but I opted for the Cinnamon Snail. I figured if they named their food truck after this dessert, it better be amazing. And it was! The cinnamon roll was REALLY REALLY good. Even all my coworkers thought it was such a treat, and couldn’t believe it was vegan. As a kid I was a huge fan of Cinnabon’s cinnamon rolls, but I think this quite possibly could have been better. I think of the Cinnamon Snail as Goldilocks cinnamon roll – it had just the right amount of sweetness, the right amount of cinnamony-ness, and just the right amount of icing. I remember the Cinnabons were often too sweet, had too much cinnamon, and was too gooey and gloppy. The one thing I wish I had was an oven, so I could pop those yummy snails into the oven, let the icing melt, and enjoy it nice and hot.

Now I can’t wait for Cinnamon Snail to come to New York so I can try more of their vegan fare! Hurry up and cross that river! (or bridge, or tunnel, or whatever)

All the desserts looked soo good

What a treat!

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Di Fara’s Vegan Pizza!

For lunch today my team and I trekked to Brooklyn to try the famous Di Fara pizza. We got there at noon, the time it opened, and there was already a line of about 15 people outside. The ordering process was not painful at all – we walked in, waited in line for about 5 minutes, and then I was able to order a slice of cheese-less pizza with mushrooms, onions, garlic, and peppers. The rest of the group ordered 1 plain square pie and 1 round pie filled with lots of toppings.

The painful part was the wait. It took almost an hour for me to just get my 1 slice of no cheese pizza. When it came out, Mr. Dom actually sprinkled cheese on it by accident (it’s so routine for him to do so that he doesn’t even think twice about it). His daughter was really apologetic and said she’d have him redo it if I wanted. I just stared at that slice of pizza, filled with oily goodness and peppered with parmesan cheese, thinking how good that would taste. I was extremely tempted to just tell his daughter to not bother and I would eat it, but I decided to stay true to veganism, and accepted her offer to make me another slice. When it finally came and I sat down to eat it, it truly was the perfect pizza. I didn’t even miss the cheese. The crust was the perfect thickness and was crisped to perfection. There were plenty of veggies warmed to just the right temperature. And there was so much olive oil – I personally saw Dom Demarco just liberally POUR olive oil all over his pies. My vegan pizza was so good that I ordered a second slice hehehe (so much for me trying to cut my portions!).

This was the first time I had pizza since becoming vegan, and to be honest, I’m not sure I can eat pizza again for a very long time. And there are a few reasons behind this. First, I’m not sure I can find vegan pizza THIS good anywhere else. Secondly, I’m STUFFED. I think I need to go run a half marathon and then detox by drinking only lemon water for the next week. And thirdly, on a more serious note, it really upset my stomach. Since becoming vegan, I haven’t eaten very oily foods. So gobbling up such an oily meal made me feel pretty sick. Even after four hours of digesting, I’m still not feeling so hot.

Also, I wasn’t happy that they charged me $6 a slice for getting no cheese. It’s $5 for a slice with cheese. Is it really that much effort to not put cheese on a slice of pizza??? But vegan taxes and stomach pains aside, this was one of the best pizza experiences I’ve had EVER, including all the non-vegan pizza I’ve eaten in the past. Di Fara is JUST THAT GOOD. It’s far for a Manhattanite like me, but I think it was definitely worth the trip!

Di Fara Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY

The famous Dom DeMarco

Delicious!

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