Archive for the ‘Gluten-Free’ Category

Treats from Sticky Fingers Bakery

Sunday, September 4th, 2011
Sticky Fingers chocolate chip cookie (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

Sticky Fingers chocolate chip cookie (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

The all vegan bakery and cafe in D.C., Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. I still haven’t gotten there, but I was blessed with the next best thing: my awesome boyfriend picked up a nice sampling of baked goods for me on his last trip.

Reaching me 2 days and 2 airplane flights later, they are still delicious. He got me a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, a gluten-free chocolate cupcake, and a tiramisu cupcake (not gluten-free).

I don’t prefer a thick glob of icing on my cupcakes, but I do have to say the chocolate cupcake brought back memories of grade school birthday parties. The chocolate chip cookie is completely addictive. The tiramisu cupcake is delicious too, but I have been unable to give it a fair shake, because I was expecting actual tiramisu, so my judgment has been clouded by that disappointment.

I still hope to get to Sticky Fingers at some point because I notice their menu has gluten-free vegan quesadillas. I must try that.

Sticky Fingers cupcakes (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

Sticky Fingers cupcakes (after surviving a flight from D.C. to Asheville)

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New vegan restaurant – Plant – Now open and exceptionally good

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Cannoli at Plant

Cannoli at Plant

We’ve been waiting for months for Asheville’s only 100% vegan restaurant, Plant, to open and it’s finally here. And wow is it ever good. The menu is full of old favorites that vegans never get anymore, like onion rings and cannoli(!!!) but with all kinds of unique creations like the black pepper tofu and peppercorn crusted seitan. Every dish looks like a work of art and every bite is a perfect blend of interesting flavors. As far as I’m concerned, the chef at Plant is a genius.

There is even a raw dish on the menu – Enchiladas with summer vegetables, annatto cashew cheese, and cacao mole. It was filling without being completely overwhelmed by nuts (which many raw dishes tend to be).

There was a raw dessert last night too, key lime pie, but I’ll have to try that another time because there was no way I was going to miss the cannoli. One of my favorite treats as a kid in NY state, I thought I’d never have one again. The filling was slightly less firm than I remember, but the taste was right on.

One of my friends, who is a regular meat-eater, ordered the “berger” and truffle fries, which he ate and enjoyed for the most part. The problem though was the texture of the burger – it was very stretchy, like pizza cheese, and freaked him out quite a bit. Seeing as how I long for the stretch of pizza cheese, I actually enjoyed that, but it did seem odd. The flavor was amazing even so, and the corn-crusted onions (aka onion rings) that came with it, were better than I remember onion rings ever being.

Berger and truffle fries at Plant

Berger and truffle fries at Plant

There are a number of gluten-free options at Plant but my biggest complaint is that they were not labeled on the menu. I hope that can be remedied soon.

I really can’t say enough good things about Plant. It was some of the best food I’ve had in a long time, the owners were welcoming and attentive, and I left there feeling perfectly full without feeling weighed down. All the food is fresh and made from scratch. It’s my new favorite.


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Asheville Gets a 100% Vegan Restaurant: Plant!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Asheville will finally have its own 100% vegan restaurant. Not bad for a tiny little city in the mountains. Plant, opening this summer at 165 Merrimon Ave. will feature flavorful vegan dishes by former Laughing Seed chef, Jason Sellers.

From the Mountain Xpress (click here for the full story):

“We will serve flavor-sophisticated, multiculturally influenced food, using techniques that we like the best to intensify flavors based on what’s available to us at the best time,” he says.


Plant’s menu will be kept small enough to enable great attention to detail, he says, with fresh vegetables in the spotlight.

The restaurant also will have a char-grill. “Smoke and flame is something that’s really important to me, especially with vegan food,” says Sellers, who expects to include menu items like smoked potatoes and other dishes with “over-the-top” flavors. The chef will nod to his Italian heritage with seitan marsala and polenta dishes. He will also make his coconut-milk ice cream and other desserts, as well as pizzas and baked goods.

“I think we’ll just really surprise people with increasing the level of vegan food and offering what they may not have expected,” says Armstrong, who admits to a healthy addiction to Sellers’ ice cream.

“The menu is a hit list of all of our favorite flavors,” adds Sellers. “Our goal is lots of grilled and sautĂ©ed and cook-to-order vegan food.”

Weekend brunches will feature pancakes and yeasted Belgian waffles. “We want to take vegan brunch to a whole new level,” Sellers says.

Sounds great to me. If the food is good, I will eat at Plant all the time. I can’t wait to try their weekend brunch. Laughing Seed brunch just hasn’t been the same since they took the vegan omelet off the menu. * hint hint, Plant *

In the meantime, you can still support Asheville’s only *almost* vegan restaurant, Firestorm Cafe & Books. Their entire food menu is 100% vegan, but they do sell milk-based coffee drinks.

Update: The chef from Plant tells me that they already have some gluten-free options planned and he is working on ways to expand the gluten-free selection even further. Sounds like there may be some raw options as well, and….possibly….maybe….a vegan omelet in my future!

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Vegan breakfast in San Diego is hard to find

Sunday, May 1st, 2011
Vegan scramble at Rancho's

Vegan scramble at Rancho's

It is not easy to find a decent vegan breakfast in San Diego. It seems that all the good restaurants open after 11am. Luckily, there’s a very vegan-friendly (and carnivore-friendly) restaurant that opens at 8am and has some of the best vegan scramble I’ve ever had, not to mention some other amazing vegan options. Rancho’s Mexican & Vegetarian Cuisine a strange combination of traditional Mexican and super healthy vegan food. We were told that it came to be that way because the owner’s wife was vegan. See also my previous post about the most delicious vegan quesadillas I’ve ever had.

As good as their food is, I really didn’t want to eat there 2 mornings in a row, but I literally could not find another restaurant open for breakfast. For my 3rd morning, I had luckily discovered the Ocean Beach People’s Co-op which has a pretty good hot bar and bakery upstairs and lots of great food downstairs.

In general, it is very easy to find good vegan food in San Diego. Here are the places I had a chance to check out:

  • Evolution Fast Food
    2949 5th Ave.
    San Diego, CA
    (619) 550-1818

    Mushroom swiss burger from Evolution

    Mushroom swiss burger from Evolution

    Drive through or order take-out at the counter inside. They have a few chairs inside. The menu is reminiscent of traditional fast food – burgers, fries, shakes, and sandwiches, but way way healthier. They have several gluten-free options as well as a nice selection of raw food. The gluten-free version of the mushroom swiss burger was very flavorful and satisfying. I also grabbed a banana bread cookie to eat the next morning for breakfast, which was delicious. I came back another night for a smoothie, since they seem to have some of the more interesting smoothies in San Diego. I’m afraid I can’t remember what I got but it definitely hit the spot.

  • The Greenery Raw Food Cafe
    133 Daphne St.
    Encinitas, CA
    Not quite as good as Peace Pies (see below) but similar concept. I think I caught them at a time when they were out of most of their options, which is why it didn’t seem as good. Greenery does have a made-to-order menu for dinner, but I ate there during lunch, which is pre-made raw food items. I had a pretty good pizza and one of the best seaweed salad’s I’ve ever had.
  • Peace Pies
    4230 Voltaire St.
    San Diego, CA

    Raw cinnamon rolls from Peace Pies

    Raw cinnamon rolls from Peace Pies

    “I’ll have one of everything!” OK, it wasn’t exactly like that but pretty close. This 100% raw cafe didn’t look too promising when I first walked in. Most of the lunch options were pre-made in a fridge, not made-to-order. But When I looked up close, everything looked like something I had to try. I had some spaghetti with pesto, a slice of pizza, veggie sandwich, vanilla ice cream, and a slice of coconut cream pie with chocolate on top. I also got some cinnamon rolls to take for breakfast the next day. Everything I tried was outstanding. Truly delicious.

  • Stephanie’s Bakery
    4879 Voltaire St.
    San Diego, CA
    Their website proclaims that they have the “best vegan pizza ever!” so that definitely seemed worth trying. Unfortunately, they were out of the gluten-free crust, but I decided to suffer through the gluten in order to get to try out their pizza. I don’t know if it lived up to the hype, but it was pretty good pizza. Definitely no complaints. I had the “Supreme” pizza which includes vegan pepperoni and several vegetables. They also use Follow Your Heart cheese. I also grabbed a gluten-free brownie, which was very tasty. Their other cakes looked absolutely incredible, but I didn’t want to eat any more gluten than I already had.
  • All Vegan
    4669 Park Blvd.
    San Diego, CA

    S'mores from All Vegan

    S'mores from All Vegan

    Not a restaurant at all, but they had some really awesome vegan treats. The s’mores was particularly amazing. Truly amazing. They also had a nice selection of chocolates. Most of the store is non-edible things like shoes, belts, wallets, and other hard-to-find vegan items.

Overall San Diego is far more vegan-friendly than your average city, but not so awesome as Los Angeles or NYC. There are pockets of the area where good vegan food is very hard to find (ie Coronado Island, where I was staying). If you show up with a good list of restaurants and a GPS, you’ll have no problem finding enough food to eat.

As an aside, an interesting peculiarity about San Diego is that many many restaurants seem to offer young coconut water as a beverage, straight from the shell.

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Daiya Vegan Cheese: So good, I complained to my waiter

Friday, April 15th, 2011
Daiya vegan cheese

Daiya vegan cheese

Any time I see vegan quesadillas on a menu, I have to order them. They were my breakfast this morning at Rancho’s Mexican & Vegetarian Restaurant in San Diego. I became instantly suspicious when my cheese was not only delicious, but also chewy and stretchy. Everyone knows that vegan cheese does not taste and feel like that. Not possible.

I called the waiter over to ask if they had made a mistake with my order, but he said no – it was Daiya cheese. This may be old news to a lot of people, but I’d never heard of Daiya so I figured it was some “lactose-free” cheese with casein in it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, ate my quesadillas, and hoped that I wouldn’t be puking sick later from eating cow’s milk (which I was not).

It turns out that Rancho’s knows what it’s doing. I stopped off at a little hippie food coop to see if I could find it. There it was, Daiya vegan cheese. Holy crap, it’s good. You must eat it. It’s been a super long time for me, but I’m pretty sure this is just what eating cheese used to be like. Close, at least.

Even better, it’s allergen-free for most people. From their website:

Daiya products do not contain many of the common allergens including; soy, dairy (casein or lactose), gluten, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts (excluding coconut)

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Delicious juices and smoothies at “The Farmacy”

Saturday, March 19th, 2011
The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar

The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar

It’s hard for most of us to get too excited about a juice and smoothie bar, but maybe that’s because most of them aren’t as satisfying and exciting as they could be.

The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar, in West Asheville, is appropriate for vegans, raw foodists, those who are gluten-intolerant, or any health-conscious person who also wants to enjoy their meal. They offer juices, smoothies, “super smoothie meal replacements”, raw soup, tonics, and shots. Their smoothies feature such exciting ingredients as chia seeds, coconut yoghurt, cacao, mesquite, spirulina, lavendar, and all the fresh fruits and veggies you’d expect. They also have something I’ve only been able to read about but have always wanted to try: Rejuvelac, as made famous by Dr. Anne Wigmore of the Hippocrates Institute.

Judy and Carl, who operate The Farmacy, do things differently than most places. For instance, you get a coconut water chaser with your wheatgrass shot. And they’ll first bring you a taste of your smoothie so you can ask for changes before they pour it. They are also wonderful, positive, interesting people who enjoy getting to know their customers.

Prices are extremely reasonable and we’ve never been unhappy with our order. Give them a try any Wednesday through Saturday, inside the West Village Market at 771 Haywood Rd. in West Asheville.

Other than bee pollan and honey, there is nothing on the menu that vegans need to look out for.

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Healthy vegan food in a Charlotte shopping mall

Saturday, January 15th, 2011
Blynk Organic

Blynk Organic

I wound up spending more time at the Southpark Mall in Charlotte today than I had planned. Way more. So of course at a certain point I got hungry for lunch. In desperation, I visited the food court thinking maybe there would be something that passed for edible food, but I was not optimistic.

Walking past all the crappy fast food, probably scowling without realizing it, I spotted a little booth hidden way at the end called Blynk Organic. Holy crap, that sounded promising! And then, written in chalk next to their soup of the day, “vegan and gluten-free”. I could not believe it.

I got a soup and salad combo. The soup was a simple Indian chick pea dish they called “Taj Mahal”. The salads are made to order from a variety of organic vegetables (as are the wraps and sandwiches). I had mixed greens, cucumbers, chick peas, marinated eggplant, and tofu.

Honestly, it was one of the most satisfying and delicious meals I’ve had in months. And I got it in a shopping mall. That’s amazing.

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Gluten Intolerance – Not just for Celiac sufferers

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

If I’d had the benefit of an article like this 5 years ago, I could have saved myself months of illness, frustration, and anxiety. The battery of tests that doctors performed on me failed to diagnose that it was my diet that was making me feel chronically fatigued and “under the weather”. Sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, and a general fatigue apparently do not fit into doctors’ narrow view of what gluten intolerance looks like.

This article, entitled “Gluten: What You Don’t Know Might Kill You” touches on a lot of different aspects of gluten intolerance, beyond just the immediate symptoms associated with it. If you have any issues with chronic illness, however slight, I highly recommend reading this article to see if gluten could be a part of it.

Remember, gluten intolerance can be a real blessing. It forces us to remove a lot of unhealthy foods from our diet, although not quite as much now that there are so many gluten-free junk food products on the market.

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Monday, February 4th, 2008

foodscout logoIf you’ve spent any time reading my blog, you probably noticed that I’m a bit of a health fanatic. I love learning about new ways of healthy living and healthy eating. It’s been something of a hobby for me for the past few years.

About a year ago, I was reading a health food book and started feeling overwhelmed by all the information I was taking in. It was all fascinating. I was learning so much that I wanted to apply to my diet. But how would I possibly remember it all for long enough to benefit from it?

And so, was born.

I started to create a database for all the foods I was reading about along with their nutritional value and the health benefits they provide. It was becoming so handy that friends would often ask me for advice and information from my food database.

It finally occurred to me to put this information out on the internet and share it with the world. I hope it helps you on your path to better health!

Check it out at

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Asheville, NC raw and vegan restaurant reviews

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

There are many restaurants in Asheville that have vegan or raw food options. Some are fantastic while others are quite disappointing. I’m listing all the restaurants I’ve tried, whether they are worth eating at or not, so don’t assume a place has good vegan or raw food just because it’s on this list. Read the review.

  • Laughing Seed Cafe (All vegetarian)
    40 Wall St.
    Asheville, NC
    Laughing Seed is a vegetarian restaurant with many vegan and gluten-free options. The food is healthy and very delicious. I’ve enjoyed the sea vegetable salad, shitake corn cakes, a few smoothies, the Harmony Bowl, and all the raw dishes on the menu, and all have been very good. They used to have a great raw tapas special on the menu every day that came with dessert, but now it’s just available randomly. Call to make sure they are serving it. There are some raw sprouted salads that are a part of their regular menu. Laughing Seed is definitely my favorite restaurant in town and the prices are not much worse than any other restaurant, depending on what you order.
  • Firestorm Cafe & Books (All vegetarian. Mostly vegan.)
    48 Commerce St (downtown)
    Asheville, NC
    For a gluten-intolerant vegan, this cafe has much more to offer than their menu lets on. They bill themselves as a vegetarian restaurant, but actually all of their food is vegan. The only non-vegan item in the restaurant is a milk option for your coffee. I also found out, from talking with staff, that they have gluten-free bread available for sandwiches. It isn’t listed on the menu – you just have to ask. The ginger sesame wrap is fantastic. In addition to food, this shop operates as a community space for movies, discussions, speakers, and all sorts of interesting events.
  • Rosetta’s Kitchen (All vegetarian. Mostly vegan.)
    111 Broadway
    Asheville, NC
    Rosetta’s Kitchen is easily the most vegan-friendly restaurant in town. The vast majority of their menu is vegan, although they do have a few vegetarian items. Rosetta’s Kitchen specializes in comfort foods. Since I prefer healthier meals, I haven’t loved everything I’ve ever ordered. I find some meals, such as the hot wings, to be lacking in vegetables. But they do a fantastic job with tofu, tempe, mashed potatoes, southern greens, biscuits, and plenty of other dishes. And their desserts are out of this world.
  • BoBo Gallery (Not sure if they still serve food.)
    22 Lexington Ave.
    Asheville, NC
    What a little gem this cafe is! BoBo Gallery is also a vegetarian restaurant that is mostly vegan and has an extensive raw menu with many appetizers, entrees, and desserts. A substantial portion of their menu is also gluten-free. The best part is that all of the menu items are very clearly labeled as vegan, gluten-free, and/or raw. I enjoyed their Thanksgiving raw dinner which featured mock turkey, dressing, mashed “potatoes”, corn pudding, pumpkin pie, and a heavenly glass of almond nogg. This is a new favorite of mine. I hope the community supports BoBo Gallery so that I can continue to enjoy this amazing menu.
  • Green Sage Coffeehouse & Cafe
    5 Broadway St.
    Asheville, NC
    How did I miss this place for so long? I’ve walked by it a hundred times and never bothered to look at the menu until I happened upon it today (8/23/2009). Breakfast all day, sandwiches and wraps, soups, salads, smoothies, and fresh juices. They also have mate lattes which are not easy to find around town. Almost everything on the menu can be made vegan and/or gluten-free. Their tofu scramble is amazing, and I don’t usually care much for tofu scramble. This is worth trying. I wasn’t crazy about the sweet potato home fries – very bland. But the scramble and the rice biscuit more than made up for it. This will absolutely be a regular place for me. Also be sure to check out their mission and “food and beverage goals” on their website. They are a model local business supporting best practices and the local economy. Eat here!
  • Chai Pani
    22 Battery Park Ave.
    Asheville, NC
    Chai Pani serves Indian street food and comfort food. What I love about this restaurant is that their vegan and gluten-free options are very clearly labeled on their menu. And sometimes they even overlap! The food is delicious and is a fun alternative to the standard American hippie food served at most restaurants that cater to vegan and gluten-free diets. The staff is very friendly and the restaurant has a happy feel to it. I have heard that the wait can be long and service can be slow, but I didn’t experience that when I went there.
  • Ophelia’s Restaurant & Bar
    15 Eagle St.
    Asheville, NC
    Ophelia’s isn’t a vegetarian restaurant but they do specialize in vegan and vegetarian options. They have a multi-course organic raw dinner special every weekend – starting Friday at 5 PM and continuing through the weekend for as long as the food lasts. I enjoy their raw soups very much and the salad and entrees have been good, but not spectacular. Their pumpkin pie is phenomenal. Call for price and menu. I’ve heard that they have an inexpensive lunch buffet with many vegan options, but I haven’t tried it for myself.
  • Heiwa Shokudo
    87 N. Lexington Ave
    Asheville, NC
    This little Japanese restaurant is a big favorite among a few vegans in town, which means that the staff is very knowledgeable about what is vegan on the menu. There are plenty of dishes to choose from if you’re vegan. The gluten-free options are not so plentiful, but there are a couple of good choices. Don’t be fooled by the buckwheat noodles – they have some regular wheat flour in them. The only item that approaches raw food is the seaweed salad, which is quite good. The entrees are rather pricey but you get a lot of food in each dish. Heiwa would be a great restaurant to visit for a mixed crowd with varying diets.
  • Early Girl Eatery
    8 Wall St.
    Asheville, NC
    I doubt if I’ll ever eat here again. Early Girl Eatery is a well-known restaurant in Asheville, and they have several vegan items on their menu. I ordered a tofu scramble with some mixed vegetables and it was not good. It wasn’t inedible or anything, but I could have done better at home. The vegetables tasted like they came out of a can.
  • Mellow Mushroom Pizzeria
    50 Broadway St.
    Asheville, NC
    If you really need a pizza, this is as good of a place as any to go. You can order the veggie and tofu pizza with no cheese. But that’s pretty much all they have. Their fake cheese isn’t vegan and they don’t have any interesting fake meats. The staff is very helpful and they have some nice outdoor seating right downtown. I’ve heard that service can be painfully slow there, but I didn’t experience that.
  • Mela Indian Restaurant
    70 Lexington Ave.
    Asheville, NC
    I tried Mela’s lunch buffet at the insistence of some omnivore coworkers. The upside is that Mela’s labels all of their vegan options, which I love. The downside is that they really don’t have very many vegan options. Even their rice isn’t vegan. It filled me up and I enjoyed the company, but I wouldn’t every bother going their on my own.
  • Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co.
    675 Merrimon Ave.
    Asheville, NC
    I got talked into going here with coworkers and was already committed to my gluten-free diet at the time, so I didn’t pay too close attention to the pizza selection. I do remember there were a couple of vegetarian pizzas that I’m sure could be ordered without cheese. I ordered a big salad that was pretty good…. for a salad.
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