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Today I want to talk about a totally unexpected find! Hubby and I were taking a road-trip in February that unexpectedly took us through Charlotte, NC (lost my passport, had to drive back to NYC – long and stressful story!). I had always wanted to visit so we took a quick drive around; nothing like having your priorities straight!. Once again, we got hungry and decided to try and find a vegan restaurant. I was totally surprised to see all the great options! I love when this happens. I sometimes feel like there are not many vegans and vegan places and I LOVE being proven wrong. We have so many options every time. Brilliant!

In Charlotte, we even found a RAW vegan place!  Since I love to try different raw places, I dragged the hubby in for lunch at Lula’s Living Kitchen. We took a while to find the place because it is a little hidden. It is a small and totally adorable entrance with flowers and cute little outdoor seating. In we went, not expecting anything and boy were we in for a treat!

Already, the vibe in the cozy room was one for me. Everyone looked super friendly and rather cool. Right away my attention was caught by the most amazing juice collection! Even better, packaged in cute glass jars. All the main ingredients were organic and if possible, local. They even have juice cleanses.

We sat outside and I started with a Pina Colada Smoothie, while I studied the exciting menu. The smoothie was great; pineapple, banana and coconut milk. Yes please!

For the entrees, I was undecided between the:

IMG_0062LIVING BURRITO

Sunflower seed refried beans, cauliflower rice, salsa verde, pico de gallo, onion, sprouts and cashew sour cream wrapped in a collard leaf. Served with a side of our house hot sauce and a local green salad

RAWCO TACO SALAD

Slices of avocado, pico de gallo, meaty walnut‐almond crumbles and cashew sour cream atop a bed of organic lettuce. Served with hot sauce and raw, herbed veggie triangles

LUNASAGNA

Layers of tender, crisp zucchini noodles, sun‐dried tomato sauce and mushrooms. This dish gets rave reviews for its velvety, vegan cashew‐basil cheese made in house. Served with a local green salad

 

I finally decided on the Rawco Taco Salad. It was AMAZING! The walnut-almond crumbles idea isn’t something I had tried before and it really worked very well in the dish. I didn’t feel like I was eating nuts, or train mix! The cashew cream was decadent and the veggie triangles were really interesting, a type of dehydrated cracker. A really good ‘taco’!

IMG_0059My hubby even decided to get lunch there after repeating on the way that he would stop for a vegan pizza at another place, but even him (totally allergic to healthy food!) couldn’t resist this charming spot and their great menu! He decided on their Fire and Brimstone veggie burger – 

Our famous quinoa‐kamut veggie burger served on locally baked, vegan, multigrain bread.

Spiced with chipotle sunflower hummus, onion, cucumber, salsa verde and house hot sauce.

He was super happy and excited with it! It really had quite a kick and delicious flavor. It was also incredibly beautiful and colorful. It really belonged with the other raw dishes. It was a healthy alternative for people who might not feel comfortable with raw food just yet.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to hang around as we actually had lost a ton of time and had a long way to go still. So we took our lunch with us and had it in along the way. I would totally go back to Charlotte just to go back to that restaurant! Their breakfast menu sounded mind blowing as well!

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IMG_2076Today I wanted to stray a little from my own kitchen and talk about one of my favorite restaurants around here. This weekend, hubby and I went to Milano for ‘date night’. Whenever we have a special evening or want to bring friends to an original restaurant, we go to Joia. Joia, meaning joy in italian (but written a ‘wrong way’) is an all vegetarian restaurant (everything can be made vegan – 75% of their menu is already vegan) that is super artistic and original. It is one of the few vegetarian restaurants that also has a Michelin star. What I love the most is the way every dish has a story and imaginative name. You feel like a lot of thought has gone into their creation. Their plating is also pretty amazing, every dish is like art.

Every time we plan an evening there we reserve ahead and let them know we are 2 vegans. This usually gets us very attentive service (and very KIND! Unlike most places.) Once, the bread roll of the day was a brioche and we got our own vegan ones made. That was beyond nice. The great thing is that a lot of the menu is also gluten free. So, everyone can find something to indulge in while there.

Hubby and I usually get the tasting menu. We eventually decided to do this after trying to order our own plates a few times and never enjoying the experience as much. Reasons why I love the menus: one, being that they know what plates work best with others, while we tended to order very similar things. Second, you get more variety as the portions are smaller and therefore you can really taste the best the kitchen has to offer, without feeling like you are going to explode. This was our menu this week, each dish name/ description doesn’t tell you a lot about the dish. I took some pictures of my favorite courses, excuse the really bad lighting!

L’Enfasi della Natura

Wild

Di non solo pane

Il sole a occidente

L’ombelico del mondo

Il tao della farfalla

Madre Terra

Il dolce che preferite

Dinner was a total discovery as usual. I wasn’t crazy about the first two dishes as I felt like they missed some sort of ‘wow’ factor, so I didn’t take any pictures of them either! The ‘Di non solo pane’ (‘of not only bread’) was a multicolored ball of tiny cubed pieces of veggies (carrots, celery..) stuck together by vegan mayo and all encompassing a soft ball of bread and wasabi. The look was great, but you tasted the mayo way too much. It overpowered all the actual veggie flavors. I felt like it was too acidic, and I don’t do well with acidic foods.

My favorite dish was the ‘Il sole a occidente’ (picture up top). The large raviolo was gluten free and made from corn flour, steamed and filled with porcini mushrooms and cauliflower. The green soup was warm zucchini cream. I loved it!

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The risotto dish was ‘L’ombelico del mondo’ (center of the world). The beautiful pink risotto was made with blueberries and, it was lovely. As a vegan option we didn’t get the usual dairy on the top but we got a delicate bean paste to mix into the risotto. It was completed with some roasted seasonal vegetables and mushroom.

IMG_2081Another thing I like about this restaurant is that it always puts a good emphasis on raw foods. The first 2 courses were mostly raw and the last course before dessert went back to raw again. I like to think it gives a good balance of vitamins and cooking techniques. The last savory course was the ‘Il tao della farfalla’ (the tao of the butterfly), a raw roll made to look like a butterfly. The stuffing was made of sprouted quinoa, smoked cauliflower, shiitake and ginger. And the sauce was a delicious raspberry puree. I really liked this course. I loved the little smoky flavor it had.

IMG_2084Since you could pick the dessert, hubby and I got two different ones. Hubby went for the ‘Gong’ which is a very famous/popular dessert which is usually not vegan! For this menu they made it vegan using almond milk mousse. So we obviously wanted to try it. The Gong is a sort of parfait served in a closed jar which you open once the waiter has hit and actual gong disk. It is really a creative dessert. Usually, over winter they have chestnut cream inside which is to die for! This time it was layers of wild berries, corn crumble, raspberry jam, vanilla and mint and some apricot compote. It was delicious.

IMG_2089My dessert was the typical choice for a chocoholic. The ‘5 Minutes’ is a medley of chocolate desserts which you need to eat in more than 5 minutes. They serve it with a 5 minute hourglass and it’s super fun. It’s all about taking time to enjoy life. Or in this case, chocolate! Served was a chocolate and raspberry terrine, a raw chocolate mousse, a coconut truffle and a palate cleanser of melon. Surprisingly enough, my favorite component was the coconut truffle! Best thing all evening! It was so flavorful and totally decadent, I loved it!

So, this was our little escapade to Italy! Now back to my own kitchen!

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Okay, I am posting this one day late! Let’s just pretend it’s Friday!

IMG_0216Today, I wanted to talk about Atlanta, GA. This is probably one of my favorite cities in the US. It is extremely vegan friendly, modern and totally beautiful. We passed by in April on our way to the country-side for our honeymoon. We made a few stops to fill our tummies (and incredible sweet tooth) and check out a bit of the town.

Our first stop for an early lunch was Village Pizza in Cabbage Town. I loved Cabbage Town, it was so funky and cool with colourful little houses mixed with old industrial factories. The pizza place had gotten great reviews on Happy Cow so the hubby and I were excited and ready to go all out on some junky vegan pizza – fake cheese and meats included! (hey, the wedding was over so there was nothing to stop me!)

The pizza place was really cute, with outdoor seating right on the street, so we could enjoy the energy of the place. The staff was super friendly and welcoming to vegans, even if the place isn’t 100% vegan. We ordered the Village Vegan pizza fully loaded with spinach, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, soy pepperoni, soy Italian sausage and soy cheese! A total treat! Our first ‘fake pizza’ and it was great! Their crust is nice and thin and crunchy and I believe they use Daiya Mozzarella as cheeze.

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After that we did a bit of sight seeing, took a walk in Piedmont Park and headed out to Dulce Vegan, that had been recommended by some ‘local’ friends of mine. Apparently, their cinnamon rolls were to die for and I was ready to taste them. After arriving, I felt like I needed a warm drink so I ordered a chai latte (one of my favorite all time drinks) and it was SO PERFECT! I am always in search of bold and flavorful chai lattes and this one did the trick. It was really wonderful! So then and there I loved the place already! By the time we had finished our warm drinks, it was time for an early dinner (!!!). So we ordered two veggie burgers that our table neighbours made us drool for. Let me tell you that those were some seriously good burgers! Crispy and chewy to perfection. We were both too stuffed to have dessert, but we packed some cinnamon rolls, a few cupcakes and a few cookies to last us our few days in the country. And let me tell you, their cinnamon rolls are seriously pretty darn great!!! I don’t have a picture of them because they didn’t last very long. But they were perfectly moist, a little sticky, and with just the right amount of sweetness. WOW! I so very highly recommend this place. My favorite place in Atlanta.

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