Posts tagged fieldtrip

MSP on the Road: Atlanta’s Cafe Sunflower

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting my BFF, Sarah, in Atlanta. We had an amazingly fun time preparing for her wedding with spa pedicures, sorbet, and a delicious meal at Atlanta’s premiere vegetarian/vegan restaurant, Cafe Sunflower. The cafe offers a wide variety of international vegetarian cuisine, serving everything from Jamaican Black Bean Cakes to Wild Mushroom Fettuccine. To start, Sarah and I ordered the Rainbow Pancakes –  “crispy wedges of carrot-scallion flour pancake with a sweet plum dipping sauce” – a scrumptious appetizer that reminded me of moo shu. For our entrees, Sarah ordered the Spicy Pad Thai Noodles and I had the Sweet and Sour Soy Chicken.  The portions were huge and the food was amazing. What really blew my mind was when our waitress asked if she could bring out the dessert tray. Um, YES you can! There were several different cake options, like gluten-free chocolate, vegan cheesecake, and coconut cake, but we had our sights set on the raspberry chocolate mousse slice. It was so decadent, and did not have a hint of “fake” flavor that vegan desserts sometimes have. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the area!

Sarah eating Pad Thai

Sarah enjoying her Pad Thai Noodles

Sweet n Sour Soy Chicken

My Sweet and Sour Soy Chicken

Vegan Raspberry Chocolate Mousse Cake

Our Vegan Raspberry Chocolate Mousse Cake

North Raleigh Whole Foods Sneak Preview Tour


Image taken from Market at Colonnade website

Disclaimer: Upon re-reading this post, it sounds like a love letter to Whole Foods/like I work for them. I don’t. They did not compensate me in any way, I’m just a girl who likes squash and squash purveyors.

It’s no secret that I am crazy excited for the new North Raleigh Whole Foods Market to open! Officially opening Wednesday, March 16, at 9AM, this Whole Foods store is located at 8710 Six Forks Road at the “Market at Colonnade” shopping center.

I have been following this store’s construction on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, where I was able to register for a sneak preview tour this weekend. Touring a grocery store may not sound like a thrilling Sunday afternoon to most people, but I couldn’t wait to see all the vegan offerings this store will have for my tummy. Plus, our tour guide, Wendy, started off by saying we would be “eating our way through the store,” tasting free samples from virtually every department. And we got goody bags at the end.

Too soon to have veggies on display, the produce section wasn’t stocked yet. But it was huge! And we got free samples from the made-to-order guacamole and salsa bar. Mmmmm….

Next, our tour guide told us that 85% of the garden section, located at the entrance and front of the store, comes from farms and gardens that are located within two hours of the store. I love that they are supporting local agriculture, and it means that the plants and local produce are fresher and less traumatized in shipping.

We also checked out the “Health Starts Here” Demo Station, which provides cooking information from a nutrition specialist. This Whole Foods will have hands-on demonstrations, cooking classes, and a supper club. I’ve never participated in these learning activities at other Whole Foods, but if you have, leave a comment and tell me what you thought.

The store was built keeping greener practices in mind, which is so nice to hear since I will be spending my money in it. An 11,400 gallon cistern collects rainwater from the roof that is then used to water the grounds and garden center. That water is also treated and dyed blue (to differentiate from potable water) for use in the restrooms. LED lights, recycled signage, doors in the frozen foods department, skylights, and biodiesel trucks are also being used by this store. A lot of the green materials used in the construction process are highlighted in an art project called the Green Wall above the cheese section.

All in all, I’m glad to have this grocery option so close to my apartment. Maybe I will be singing a different tune later, when I realize I’m broke from spending all my money on mock crab cakes and vegan cookies in the pre-made foods section.

If you are in Raleigh and you’re looking for obscure vegan ingredients and meat alternatives, I suggest you first go to Harmony Farms, a small mom and pop store near Crabtree Mall. They are so knowledgeable and health conscious, and it’s always good to support your local business. But if you can’t find what you need there, now you can get your Daiya and Tofutti Cuties at Whole Foods. Even though it’s a huge national chain, from everything I’ve heard it’s one with good business practices that will hopefully get involved in the community and partner with some great vendors and local NPOs in the future.

Welcome to the hood, Whole Foods!


PS – As part of my goody bag, I got some gourmet dog treats… anyone have a deserving pup that would gobble them up?

Non-dairy Milk

Tons of Non-dairy Milk

Meat alternatives

Great faux meat selection

Wall Art

Wall Art in the Cafe

Goody Bag

Thanks for the goodies!



My Big Fat Vegan Asheville Vacation

I just spent a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend trip with my boo.  We decided to go on a pseudo-staycation, so I wouldn’t have to take time off work. We picked Asheville, NC because of its status as hippie-crunchy mecca of the East Coast, and because we haven’t been to Asheville since the Biltmore Estate field trips of our elementary school days. It was only a four hour drive from Raleigh, but in hindsight, we should have stayed two nights instead of just one.

On Saturday afternoon, we toured the magnificent Biltmore Estate and later attended the Asheville Symphony’s Romeo and Juliet. Both highly recommended, but what had me on cloud nine was the city’s culinary delights. We ended up eating so much, we’re still full two days later.

Saturday night, we dined at Mela, an Indian restaurant on North Lexington Avenue. Mela is an omni restaurant with a heavy vegetarian and vegan selection. I ordered a salad of spinach, mango, beets, candied walnuts, and jicama, along with a raspberry and coconut milk martini, just for starters(!) The salad totally outshined my entree, the aloo gobi masala, which was a wee bit too spicy for my tastes.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Vegan Chocolate Cake at French Broad Chocolate Lounge

For dessert, we headed to French Broad Chocolate Lounge, an all-natural gourmet chocolate bar featuring decadent truffles, cakes, cookies, and mousses. I ordered a slice of the vegan chocolate cake, made with Theros olive oil, rich cocoa powder, and agave nectar. I also got an individual “Buddha” vegan truffle made with dark chocolate and coconut milk. I practically inhaled them both.

Tofu Benedictine

Tofu Benedictine at Laughing Seed Cafe

The next morning, with martini and chocolate hangovers, we went to the Laughing Seed Cafe for the organic Sunday brunch. With a completely vegetarian menu, Laughing Seed was right up my alley. I ordered the “Tofu Benedictine,” a spin on my old favorite, eggs benedict. My plate was piled high with “scratch-made biscuit, grilled organic tofu, grilled tomato, sautéed spinach, and seitan sausage over grits with herb oil and béarnaise.” Breakfast was so delicious, I finished my meal and wanted to actually lick the plate clean.


Vegan Buddha Truffles collection at French Broad

So after brunch, we decided to walk around town. Somehow, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge seemed to pull us back in, and we ended up in line for brunch dessert… which is not really a thing people do. But I managed to down yet another piece of that decadent, moist, vegan chocolate cake, and purchase a six-pack of vegan truffles for later consumption. The cashier kindly asked me if I would like a bow for the truffle box, but I pointed to my stomach and said they were going straight in there. “Word,” she said.

After a day of sight-seeing around downtown (two fantastic stores are Malaprop’s Bookstore and Blitzkrieg Games), we headed to Wasabi sushi for an early dinner before heading home. All I can say is Holy Cow they have Tempura Sweet Potato sushi rolls. My boo and I agreed it was one of the best sushi meals we’ve ever had.


Avocado and Tempura Sweet Potato Rolls at Wasabi

I have to say, I am left feeling pretty disappointed after this trip. Not in Asheville of couse, which was like a vegan’s dream world. I’m disappointed that Raleigh is so much larger and more populated, and yet we have only a fraction of the cool eateries and local, sustainable ideology Asheville seems to have. Maybe I’m just bitter, but here in Raleigh it’s like you have to hunt for a nutritious, local, vegan meal. Yes, we have Irregardless and we have Remedy, and I love those restaurants. But in Asheville, we couldn’t walk down the street without finding yet another place overflowing with vegetarian food. In any case, Asheville just became my second favorite foodie vacation spot (I think Western Mass will always be number one for me).

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