Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Best Burgers? Next Level Burger at Whole Foods 365

The Bleu BBQ burger

Gone are the days of the sad, uninspired veggie patty. Next Level Burger, a vegan burger chain, has drool worthy vegetarian burgers, dogs and shakes.

Apparently, the burgers are so convincing to meat eaters that you are warned when you order that the food is vegan. Our server was amused by our enthusiasm. Why, yes, this is why we were there.

100% plant based

Next Level Burger (NLB) calls itself "100% plant based" just in case you get confused by a menu item labeled "the animal." This is an over-the-top loaded burger. We had to keep reminding ourselves that the place is vegan.

NLB has a stand in the new Whole Foods Market 365 in Brooklyn. You order at the counter, take your number to a table, and food is quickly delivered.
Sausage bacon plant based burger

Good in your mouth

We shared a sausage bacon burger topped with cheddar and swiss dairy free cheese, egg-free mayo and mustard. It was juicy, messy, and utterly delicious.

We also had the bleu BBQ. an umami mushroom and quinoa patty with more tempeh bacon, BBQ sauce and a blue 'cheese.' Fantastic.

Both burgers had lettuce and tomato. You can add avocado, guacamole, grilled onions or mushrooms.

Baked 'fries'
The oven baked fries were tasty. There are also sweet potato fries or tater tots.

Good for the environment

Compostable plates are used, and only organic produce. You can certainly feel good about reducing your environmental footprint.

More to try

I will return for the chili, the chili dog, and the breakfast sandwiches. There are soy and coconut based shakes that sound pretty awesome. The only thing is, the calorie count is listed. The dark chocolate PB cup shake is enticing. But 1290 calories?

The Animal

This also gave me pause. It's two patties, tempeh bacon, fries, onions, cheese and sauce. And it's 1330 calories.  Maybe after y next half marathon. If I run like a beast, I can eat like a (vegan) one.

Vegetables and Laughs: Bond45

Bond 45 is incongruously located on 46th St. The website recognizes this oddity, writing "Yes, your wife is right. Bond 45 is now on West 46th Street."*

The antipasto platter
Nevertheless, when we arranged to go with a group of friend pre-theater, even my husband questioned my sanity. "Are you SURE it's on 46th Street?"  Well, yes.

The Italian restaurant is great for groups, and for eating before a Broadway show. There are pastas, pizzas and meat and fish entrees, of course. But we went for the vegetables.

Vegetables for non-vegetarians

Although our friends are meat eaters, they wanted something lighter before the show. Bond 45 has family style salads, like the large chopped salad platter we got. It had romaine, chickpeas, asparagus, roasted peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds, avocado and cheese. 

The vegetable antipasto bar had nine different choices. You can get a three vegetable plate as an entree, five to share, or all nine for a group. We choose the latter platter.

Our platter had pickled cauliflower, eggplant part, a vegetable tart, Brussels sprouts, roasted Romanesco broccoli, chickpeas and a large ball of burrata. We spread the burrata on the warm focaccia that came to the table. 

Don't miss the fried artichokes
We didn't need, but had to have, the fried artichokes with lemon aioli. It was delicious.

Cocktails, too

Bond 45 has a number of half bottles of wine and reasonably priced carafes. We went the cocktail route. The apparel spritz had a hit of passion fruit and the Vesper martini had great olives. My Manhattan and an absinthe spray, which may be my new breath freshener. 

Although the restaurant was packed with an after work, weekend crowd, we were able to get our food quickly and get to the theater in time. But we weren't rushed, and our waiter joked around with us. He also pointed out the nearby backstage crew from Hamilton.

Sadly, the show we saw was no comparison.

*Note: Of COURSE I was right!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hello, Old Friend: Greens Restaurant, SF

Winter sampler plate at Greens

Foodie friends supplied with with long lists of the hottest San Francisco restaurants, That was all well and good, but I had to return to an old friend, Greens.

There is a reason this temple of vegetarian cuisine has been enchanting vegans, omnivores and meat and three lovers since 1979. The food is amazing.

Greens & related cookbooks, from my collection
Having only eaten here once, in the late 1980s, I was due for a repeat visit. We cycled past Greens on our way to a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and thanked the ride sharing apps that would later provide our transportation. The restaurant is past Ghiradheli Square, in Fort Mason.
Winter gratin, with sweet potato and butternut squash

We started with the winter sampler, which included lentils with feta, hummus, roasted cauliflower & carrots, pickled beets and muhammara. My husband said the lentils reminded him of something I make at home. I reminded him that I have a pile of Greens - related cookbooks.

Spinach and mushroom filo
Our friend agreed to share entrees, so we got three. It was hard to go wrong here. The butternut squash and sweet potato gratin had grilled polenta and a tomatillo sauce. Perfect for a winter night. Though it was 65 and sunny during the day.

We also shared the wild mushroom and spinach filo. There was a surprising bite of pistachio in the chickpeas. Well, maybe not surprising since it was listed on the menu. But you expect more chickpeas and then there's a nut. It was utterly delicious.

Greens pizza
The pizza with broccoli, feta and olives was ideal for sharing. But I probably could have eaten the whole thing.

Greens also makes a mean martini, with Botanist gin. The wine list, heavy on California wines, is reasonably priced.

I plan to return to California and Greens in less than 30 years. But if I do wait that long, I'm sure Greens will still be kicking it.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Local Foods: For Vegetarians, Vegans AND Meat Eaters

Looking for vegan food in Houston?
Great vegan food in Houston

Eating local can be great for a vegetarian. But what about when you are in Texas, land of the meat eater?

Great vegetarian food in Houston
List of farmers at Local Foods
We 'discovered' a local chain in Houston, Local Foods. This is one of a long line of upgraded fast casual places, where you order at a counter and your food is delivered.

But Local Foods outshines its competition. It offers inventive soups, sandwiches and salads that will please a wide variety of people. And it has local beer.

What it doesn't have is hot coffee.  We were in Houston during a spell of a cold rain, and the nitro cold brew on tap just wasn't appealing. But everything else was spot on.

The delicious sides at Local Foods
We had the garden sammie, with brussels sprouts, avocado, hummus and pickled onions. You get 2 sides with it. We chose beets and chickpeas with cauliflower.

The other great vegetarian choice was vegan meat balls, made from mushrooms and pecans. It had a spicy tomato sauce. With it we had Tuscan Kale salad and a squash said with figs and carrots.

Vegan 'meat' ball sub
My meat eating brothers-in-law raved about their roast beef with curried cauliflower and turkey confit with brie.

Next time I have to try the vegan gumbo and vegan taco salad.

And the Cavo last with pomegranate. And the dinner vegan cheese steak.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Over the Moon in Over-the-Rhine

B&A Street Kitchen
Breakfast quesadilla at B&A Street Kitchen

In the 35 plus years I've been visiting Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine has transformed from a place to be avoided to a must see.

Findlay Market is the center of this foodie destination, and hit quality restaurants keep popping up around it. A great place for brunch is B&A Street Kitchen. In fact, B&A is only open for breakfast and lunch.
B&A Street Kitchen
Hot sauce on the table 

What particularly appealed to me was the chorizo tofu on the menu. Instead of paying for breakfast meat but not ordering it, we could have a vegetarian substitute that was equally yummy.

B&A specializes in Southern and Mexican food. Which means I had to try something from each region. My husband I split a biscuit and breakfast quesadilla.

B&A Street Kitchen
Biscuit with chorizo tofu
At most Southern restaurants, biscuits are served with a meaty gravy. But B&A Street Kitchen has a vegetarian peppered milk gravy. And 2 kinds of pork gravy.

We had the huge biscuit with chorizo gravy. You can also have it with an egg.

On the side, we got creamy savory grits, made with milk and cheddar cheese. There were 2 kinds of hot sauce on the table, but the grits were so peppery that we didn't need much hot sauce. There are also sweet grits.

B&A Street Kitchen
The back room at B&A Street Kitchen
We gilded the lily with the breakfast quesadilla. It comes with either eggs or chorizo gravy, but we had both. It also had cheddar cheese. It came with sour cream and salsa. The medium red was quite spicy.

There are so many other things to try: a biscuit sandwich with caramelized onions and peppers, avocado and spinach; omelettes, burritos and pancakes. And avocado toast. This is just the breakfast menu.

My niece's first food was avocado
At lunch, there are salads and vegan chili. And soup.

It was unseasonably warm, so we had the cold brew. Delicious. There is also nitro cold brew, Mexican hot chocolate and craft sodas.

There are high chairs and a children's menu.

A Touch of Autonomy: Infiniti QX50

 Infiniti QX50
                    All smiles on the PCH with the Infiniti QX50

When a teenager first gets her driver's license, she celebrates her autonomy. Likewise, an aging parent or grandparent doesn't want to give up his license, or car, because of the loss of independence.

 Infiniti QX50
The Auto Hold button lets you take your foot off the brake
I was focused on autonomy when I drove the new Infiniti QX50, a compact SUV (or crossover, if you will) with Pro Pilot Assist.

 Infiniti QX50
Plenty of back seat room. And check out that quilted seat!
This semi autonomous system, an option in the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is like cruise control on steroids. It has intelligent cruise control, which adapts to the speed of traffic around you. You can set the length it keeps you behind other cars to one, two or three car lengths. Then there's direct adaptive steering and lane keep assist. Like other lane keep assist systems, it needs lane markers to work properly. But once it does, it keeps the QX50 on the straight and narrow.

But it's the steering that can take your breath away. You can take your hands off the steering wheel for 10 seconds - enough time to police a sibling spat in the back seat, or open a water bottle if you don't have a sport top.

 Infiniti QX50
Looking at the new La Peer hotel through the panoramic sunroof
After 10 seconds, the wheel vibrates, a haptic reminder to put your hands back on the steering wheel. If you ignore the warning, an alarm sounds. And if you ignore that, (I didn't) the car automatically slows down.

Luxury and comfort -head of the class

The leather seats are comfortable and you can set the driver's seat to automatically recall two settings. What a great feature for those who share driving!

The back seat is surprisingly roomy. No cramped knees if adults are in the back. And with the panoramic sunroof, there is no claustrophobia, either. The trunk space has more room than any other compact SUV in its class.

The fully loaded Infiniti QX50 I drove had 16 Bose speakers, and music sounded fantastic. There is no Apple CarPlay - yet - but it's easy enough to play your phone's music through Bluetooth, or listen to the Sirius XM radio.

Stop and Go from Malibu to West Hollywood

 Infiniti QX50
One of the 16 Bose speakers
Traffic in Los Angeles can be frustratingly dense. Likewise, traffic in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and any number of metropolitan areas. Another cool feature of the QX50 is the auto hold brake. When you set this, you can brake at a light and take your foot off the brake while you sit there.  Often after a long run, my leg cramps up when I drive. How lovely to be able to rest your leg, even momentarily.

Keeping an eye on fuel economy

Infiniti engineers developed a turbo charged variable combustion engine that gives the SUV power while keeping the vehicle fuel efficient. Expect about 27 miles per gallon, less if you chose the sport mode. The eco mode was fine for tooling along the Pacific Coast Highway, but in the windy canyon roads, the sport mode made turns more responsively. And more fun.
Luxury and style

Who is the  Infiniti QX50 for?

According to Infiniti execs, the small SUV was designed with families and empty nesters in mind. The QX50 starts at $37,545 and goes up to $61,995. For those well-heeled buyers, the fully loaded version has lots of luxury touches, like a soft touch ultra suede trim. But that trim, while sensors to the touch, looks lovely, it might not be the best choice for families with small children, who bring stickiness and grime everywhere. For that matter, shedding dogs would wreak havoc on the interior.

The Pro-Pliot assist
The quilted leather seats, on the other hand, make clean up easier. And the heated and cooled seats in the front make the ride ultra comfortable.

If you are one of the targeted empty nesters, you can easily bring your friends with you.