One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Restaurant Review: Lov'n It Live East Point, GA

When most people think of raw foods they think of salad, baby carrots and those little fresh vegetable trays that are at every party. Lov'n it live ( 2796 East Point Street, East Point, GA 30344) has set out to change that mindset. Instead of baby carrots and boring salads Lov'n it live serves up a menu of lasagna, tacos, nachos, battered "fried" cauliflower, pizza, chicken strips, sun burgers, apple pie and even ice cream. And it is all raw, all vegan and most importantly all good for you.

There are four basic premises to the raw food "movement". First, raw foods contain live enzymes that aid in digestion and other metabolic processes. Heating foods above 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys many of these essential enzymes. Additionally, over-processing and cooking certain foods also destroys the vitamins within them. Secondly, eating food that is devoid of these essential enzymes makes digestion more difficult because the body has to work hard to produce it's own enzymes, which deplete over time. It is believed by some that this could lead to toxicity in the body, and cause excess food consumption leading to weight gain (obesity) and all the health "baggage" that comes along with it. Thirdly, as eluded to before, raw foods are believed to have a higher nutrient and mineral composition than cooked food. Last but not least the food is just incredible and the fact that it is good for you makes it even better. I can say from personal experience that even though being vegan makes me feel energetic and alive eating Raw is an amazing experience. When I eat raw I not only feel more energetic and alive but I feel like my body is working in perfect harmony, it's an exhilarating feeling.

Lov'n it live turns the philosophy of the raw foods movement into reality in a brilliant and flavorful way. Even their salads are masterpieces. I crave their kale salad with marinated kale, fresh tomatoes and avocado. And I can't say that I've ever had anything on their menu that I didn't like. I hate mushrooms and even though their chicken strips are made out of mushrooms I still devoured them in record time.

They have a rotating menu of specials depending on what is fresh and in season and everything is organic. As an added bonus the majority of their produce comes from local growers so you can support local organic farmers while eating increidble food. I highly recommend the battered cauliflower, nachos or spaghetti for any first timers. You won't be disappointed.

As much as I love Lov'n it live they do have 1 Achilles heel, timing. Everything at Lov'n it live is made to order. The only items that are ready made are the flax crackers or other types of "breads". Making food to order means that there is a considerable wait time. I live about 10 minutes away and usually get my food to go. I either call my order in 30 minutes before I leave the house or give my order at the restaurant then run some errands. The average wait time is between 30 and 45 minutes for call in orders. If you prefer to dine in order multiple courses and try their Irish moss shake or fresh raw sorrel ( both are available to go as well). When ordering in I always start with and Irish moss and kale salad so while I'm munching and sipping my food is being prepared and I'm not sitting there starving.

The chef's at Lov'n it live also offer raw preparation classes so u can prepare the same amazing dishes at home. The classes are custom built around your schedule and you get hands on experience and knowledge. I've already mastered the art of raw lasagna, nut cheeses, and desserts but I would take this class just to learn how to make their battered cauliflower, raw Jamaican patties, and the raw cheesecake (you read right...CHEESECAKE!).

Timing aside, you won't be disappointed with Lov'n it live. It was my first dive into raw foods and although I've since been to raw food restaurants all across America I can still say that Lov'n it Live has the best raw food I've ever tasted.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Restaurant Review: Eden'z Vegetarian Restaurant Macon, GA

When it comes to vegetarian and vegan cuisine its not too hard to find in Atlanta. However, a short drive will reveal that there is a vast difference between Atlanta and the rest of Georgia and the rest of Georgia isn't too kind to veg*ns. However, there is a little beacon of hope in Georgia's original capitol of Macon. Eden'z vegetarian restaurant (617 Poplar Street, Macon, GA 31201) stands as the only vegan restaurant in middle Georgia. Like many vegan restaurants they advertise themselves as vegetarian so passers by aren't scared off by the unknown. But once you try their food it is undeniable why Eden'z has been in business so long and why there success has recently allowed them to open a new location in the nearby town of Warner Robins.

Eden'z features a daily special for $7.95 that I get every time I go, no matter what the special is I'm never disappointed. The eggplant lasagna and chicken salad sandwich are hands down some of my favorite items that have graced the daily special menu. They recently opened up a lunch buffet as well for $8.95. All you can eat vegan goodness - the world just isn't ready. They also offer a wide array of fruit smoothies, ice cream and 46 different types of fresh healthy juices. If you call ahead they'll even bake you up a loaf of their amazing flax seed bread or zucchini bread.

Recently, Eden'z has also started selling their famous (well it should be famous) Sorrel and Vanilla Sweet Tea. Both are southern sweet and strong. I usually dilute my sorrel with a little bit of water so 16 ounces goes a long way in my house. Today when I stopped in for my bi-monthly visit I saw that they now are selling some of their most popular side dishes to go. In the case today was sautéed spinach, macaroni and cheese and collard greens. If I didn't have an 1 1/2 hour drive home with no cooler I would've bought at least 2 packages of sautéed spinach, it is some of the best spinach I have ever had!

Although I love Eden'z I do have a couple words of caution. Beware of the desserts! I have never, and I mean never, had a dessert from Eden'z that I enjoyed. Twice a month for a year I came in and tried every dessert they had on the menu or on the "specials" board hoping for something spectacular but ending up with a dense and inedible block instead. I'm not sure what they use to make their desserts at Eden'z but the cakes are far from light and fluffy (although the icing is always good) and the muffins have a stiff texture to them. Additionally, Eden'z used to have vegan Jamaican beef, chicken and spinach patties that were worth selling your first born for. When I inquired about them I was told they came from a lady in Conyers, GA. Unfortunately, one day the Jamaican patties went away. Every time I came into the restaurant hoping for vegan patties I was sent away with my daily special but no Jamaican patty. Finally they started showing up on the menu again, but they were obviously no longer coming from my Jamaican patty princess in Conyers. The dough on these new patties is anything but authentic. It's spongy and way too sweet, if you've ever had a real Jamaican patty then you would cry at the disservice that has been paid to them at Eden'z. The filling is great but the filling is only a small part of what makes Jamaican patties so good. I've given up on trying desserts and Jamaican patties at Eden'z for good.

But other than those two missteps Eden'z is a vegan oasis in middle Georgia. Now I know you probably would never have a good reason to be in Macon, unless you lived nearby, but just in case you happen to be driving from Atlanta to Savannah (or vice versa) one day you should take a quick detour to stop by Eden'z and fill your soul with amazing food! If you're in a hurry they accept call in orders 478-745-3336

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Vegan Bikini Wax...

It's been almost a year since I started this blog and somehow I haven't managed to get around to anything in Atlanta. Not one restaurant review, vegan hot spot, nothing. I've let my adopted city down, but now it's time to lift it's spirits. Before this month is over I'm going to churn out at least 4 Atlanta-centered reviews. So if you don't live here it's time to come visit!

Sweetgrass Health center, Day Spa and Salon is my own little vegan oasis in the middle of little 5-points, right next door to Sevananda (the best vegetarian co-op in the world!). They are an Aveda salon and also carry the Dermalogica brand (which is mostly vegan, I think one of their moisturizers contains silk protein). The services on Sweetgrass' menu range from sugaring and waxing (they do a male Brazilian bikini wax if you're feeling adventurous) to massages, reiki and everything in between including a full-service hair salon fit for all hair types with a multicultural staff.

One person and one person only has been the sole reason that I return to Sweetgrass every 3 weeks religiously: Marisa, esthetician extraordinaire and VEGAN!!! She is the facial goddess and has turned my skin to pure silk! She is an expert at the product lines offered at Sweetgrass and will create a custom plan for your skin that will yield amazing results. Not to mention, this girl can give a shoulder massage that will make you fall in love with her. I know she grimaced the first couple of times I came in at my overly tense and stressed out shoulders but I'd like to think that over the last couple of months I have mellowed out quiet a bit and I'm more than happy to give Marissa credit for it!

Although Marisa is the only vegan that I know of on staff I have heard whispers that there might be more than one around (I feel like I'm describing a rare bird in the South Pacific, lol). Needless to say every person who works at Sweetgrass is absolutely amazing, accommodating and collectively have some of the best tattoo art I have ever seen - now what other Spa can say that?! The prices at Sweetgrass are some of the most affordable in the city, which is why I originally chose it over other more well known spas. A 60-minute massage is $75 and you can buy services in bulk at a discount price, kinda of like if costco was in the relaxation business. Facials just recently went up to $80 which is still amazing considering the place I used to go to charged me almost $100 and left me with more breakouts than what I came in with.

In addition to the discounts Sweetgrass offers for buying services ahead of time in packages of 3 or 6 they also have a great custom made spa package with an 2 services bundled together you save 5% and any 3 services you save 10%. I used this on my birthday to get a massage, waxing and a facial and the savings added up quick.

Lastly, Sweetgrass has just recently opened a new location in Candler Park (although I'm sticking with Marisa at the L5P location). The Candler Park location is at 1643 McLendon Ave in Atlanta and the L5P location is at 483 Moreland Avenue.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, Marisa no longer works at Sweetgrass Salon and Spa. However, she can now be found at BB Salon at 2227 College Ave, Atlanta, GA 30317. To make an appointment call her at 404-665-7497

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Restaurant Review: Tillman's Bar & Lounge New York, NY

Wow! I can't believe it's been over a month since I blogged last. It was a great break and I have a stack of restaurants, vegan food goodies, cookbooks, etc. that are waiting in the wings to be posted.

So what finally brought me out of hiding? An unexpected little piece of vegan goodness from Tillman's Bar and Lounge (165 W 26th Street, New York, NY). Tillman's is an omni establishment and when my friends and I arrived there, somewhere around 1am and hungry, I assumed that starvation was eminent. The drink menu at Tillman's gives you the sense that you have just died and gone to libation heaven. No matter what your poison: vodka, tequila, rum, gin, etc. they have a full list of unique flavor combinations to go with each. My only complaint on the bar menu was a particular drink called the Matador ( a tequila inspired creation). All my friends raved about it and it was my first choice on the bar menu but when the bar tender refused to substitute out the honey, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. Fortunately that was quickly remedied by taking a quick tour of the vodka drink menu. As you know from my post on Izze, vodka is my first love anyway and it was partly my fault for betraying it.

Drinks in hand and the perfect mix of R&B, Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop playing in the background we finally sat down to eat. Browsing through the appetizers my expectations were low, I could omit a couple things from a salad and make it vegan but salad and vodka aren't the ideal combination. Then there was a robust grilled cheese sandwich menu. At first I just put the menu down, knowing full well that there would be nothing for me on a grilled cheese menu. But I decided to pick it up and look over the ingredients one more time to see if I could get some inspiration to create my own vegan goodness at home. Low and behold, 2 items down there was a Vegan Mozzarella Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Nothing could have prepared me for the culinary masterpiece that was placed in front of me. I felt like I was on "Top Chef" vegan edition. The grilled cheese was more like a panini, layered with basil pesto, roasted red peppers and sliced portabello mushrooms with a side of sweet black eyed peas and homemade potato chips dusted brown sugar.

When I arrived back home in Atlanta on Monday I immediately ran to my vegetarian co-op, and bought vegan mozzarella, pesto, fresh sourdough bread and roasted red peppers to recreate this masterpiece at home. But nothing beats the perfect combination of good friends, good food, good drinks and good ambiance to make a night complete.
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