April 25, 2013

Project Kale Does The Bahamas

Holy hiatus!

Hi my fabulous followers - long time, no blog!  My silence these past couple of weeks has been due to a ton of traveling and just general life craziness.  But I'm back and ready to share with you one of my traveling experiences these past few weeks - Project Kale went to the Bahamas baby!!

February and March are my least favorite months of the year.  I literally think they are evil and should be banished from the calendar.  Come March, I need to be somewhere warm, if only for a few days, or I go crazy.  So this year, my cousin and I decided to do a last minute girls vacation to the Bahamas. 

I've never been to the Bahamas, so I was really looking forward to the white sand, bright blue water, and plentiful pina coladas. 


I was not disappointed. 

After our quick 2 1/2 hour flight from JFK, we decided our first order of business was to dip our toes in the sand.  Check. 

Second order of business?


Pina Coladas should technically be vegan friendly - coconut cream, pineapple juice, and rum.  Sometimes, there is a chance that the pre-made mixes could have a little dairy in them - but on vacation, I have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to pina coladas.  It's my vacation splurge.

We wanted to try to not spend a fortune on this impromptu vacation, so we knew we would have to find deals on food.  So instead of the expensive breakfast buffet at the hotel, we headed right across the street to Dunkin Donuts.



That's right.  There was a freaking Dunkin Donuts directly in front of our hotel.  In fact, our room had a view of the DD (personally, I think they should consider re-naming the room from "city view" to "Dunkin Donuts view").  Quick, cheap, and vegan, DD was a life saver this vacation.  Black coffee and oatmeal or bagel.  Breakfast?  Check.

Breakfast on a budget
 

For lunch, the hotel bar actually had a veggie burger and veggie wrap (as well as salads).  So I had a few great options.  Also cocktails are always a great lunch choice when on vacation.

Veggie burger - didn't eat the bun or fries (okay fine, I had some fries, but not all. Okay, okay, I ate most of the fries.....all of them.  I ate all of them.)



We went out to lunch one day, to Senor Frogs.  As I've mentioned before, Mexican restaurants are always a great option for plant-based rock stars when traveling.  We had guacamole and I had a taco salad loaded with veggies (but don't eat that shell!  Holy fat and calories!).





We spent most of our days on the beach or by the pool, discussing all of the activities we could do the next day.  Parasailing, snorkeling, jet skiing, etc.  We did absolutely none of those things, but it was fun to daydream about them before passing out in the cabana.....



On one of our last days, we decided to venture out and walk around Nassau a bit.  Since our hotel was right in the city, we really had no excuse.  Plus we needed to sweat out some of the alcohol.


The Straw Market in Nassau

Dinner and night time were a different story - we couldn't wait to go out and try some restaurants and explore the area.  I did a bit of research before we left, and found some great restaurants that actually had gluten free and vegan options.  Hooray!! 

First one up was Café Matisse.  It came highly recommended online and by the hotel staff - and they offered a gluten free/vegan gnocchi.  Plus, it's named Café Matisse and I was an art history minor. 

Sold! 

 
Appetizer - I ate the tomato, my cousin ate the cheese.
My yummy salad full of lettuce, kale, spinach, and veggies!
Gluten free vegan gnocchi with veggies - To.Die.For.
 
We loved it so much, we ate there twice!  We also went to another Italian restaurant that was equally as amazing - we couldn't decide which one we liked better.  I also had gnocchi at this place - in fact, now that I think of it, I had gnocchi almost every night.  I guess because I never really eat it because it's so heavy.  Plus, it's yummy and just so much fun to say.  Gnocchi.


View at the restaurant - you can see the Atlantis in the distance!


My chopped salad - SO YUMMY


Gnocchi #2 - with a marinara sauce and mushrooms.  So good


After dinner drink - coffee and Frangelico.


Cheers

After dinner, we ventured to Paradise Island to see what all the fuss was about with Atlantis.  It was actually quite breathtaking and imposing - if I had kids, it would be a must.  But this particular vacation, all we needed was a beach and a drink. 

We hit up the casino at Atlantis.....and then remembered that neither one of us gambles.  Or knows how to.  At all.  So we played a couple of slots just to check it off the list.


And won BIG TIME!



The next morning, we soaked up the last few hours of sun, and cried all the way to the airport.  It was really a perfect little trip.  Here are just a few more photos of the fun:


Dancing!


The Chihuly glass sculptures at the Atlantis - amazing




Two hands = Two drinks


My beautiful cousin at Café Matisse
So even without a ton of planning, and on short notice, you can still maintain a healthy plant-based diet on vacation (a few French fries aside)!  Again, after a while, you don't even really think twice about it!  Plus, eating healthy makes you feel less guilty about all the pina coladas you consume....

**SO - have any of my fabulous followers ever been to the Bahamas?  Planning a summer trip?  How do you plan on staying on track in terms of your diet when traveling??**

Love & Kale,
Ali



April 1, 2013

Candle 79 aka Vegan Heaven

When I first moved back to NY this past fall, my cousin (who is not vegan) was adamant that I try this restaurant in Manhattan, Candle 79.  She had been a few times with friends, who were not all vegan, and absolutely raved about it. 


I knew when I moved back to the NYC area I would have a ton of amazing options in terms of restaurants.  However, that didn't prevent me from freaking out with excitement when my boyfriend showed me an extensive list of the top-rated vegan restaurants in the city.  That's right, top rated.  Because not only do they have vegan restaurants in the city, there are enough of them to be rated!!

Love it.

Candle 79 was at the top of the list.

My first time to the restaurant was actually a few months ago.  My boyfriend overheard me telling someone about my excitement to try Candle 79 with my cousin.  So he surprised me and took me there on one of our first dates.  I have to say, when I finally realized where we were going, I had a permanent smile the rest of the evening.  Seriously.

My expectations were high and I wasn't disappointed.  Literally everything on the menu is amazing.  And you don't have to be a plant-based rock star to appreciate their food.  Like I explain to people - good food is good food.  Good flavor is good flavor.  Whether it has meat or tempeh.....cheese or cashew cheese.....when food is good, it's just freaking good!!!

So in my pure and utter joy and excitement (and slight food coma), I didn't take pictures of the food that first visit.  Plus, I didn't want my date to think I was completely nuts, taking pictures of food.  However, now that he's aware that I'm completely nuts, we went back so I could take pictures!! 

And eat.  A lot.

First, we started with drinks.  As we usually do.  I got an amazing sangria and he got a "Rainforest" mojito-type drink. 


The coolest part of his drink?  Every time you bought one, a tree was planted in your name.  So you could get wasted and plant a forest!!


I love when ordering five drinks at dinner isn't considered excessive or indicative of a potential alcohol problem........it's saving the planet!!

Okay, on to the good stuff.  My dining partner wanted me to try everything at this place, and apparently wants to ensure I don't starve to death because he always orders food for an army when we got out.  So for appetizers, we did not get one, or two, or even three.  We got four appetizers. 

Four. 

First was nachos.  Yeah you heard me.  NACHOS.
They were awesome - seiten and bean chili, cashew cream cheese, salsa, and guacamole.  To die for.

We also got the Seitan Chimichurri - this is one of Candle 79's signature appetizers.  I'm not usually a fan of seitan, but this is so freaking awesome, I didn't mind one bit.  The texture, the sauce - amazing.

Next was the appetizer special - a Chickpea Crepe filled with roasted veggies and topped with cashew cheese.  Again, absolutely delicious.

Onion rings with chipotle aioli.  Enough said.


We were both full from drinks and appetizers, but still managed to get a couple of entrees.  I love tempeh and I can usually never find it out, so we got the tempeh.  It came with a side of ratatouille which was also yummy.


We also got a raw zucchini something-or-other.  I really can't remember because I was getting really buzzed through my effort in saving the rainforest...


It was awesome whatever it was!!

Now that we were officially stuffed, it was time for dessert.  Because in my universe, there's always room for dessert. 

I met a really nice guy sitting next to us - a fellow vegan foodie (we can sense each other).  We chatted on and off throughout dinner.  When it came time for dessert, he insisted that I try the carrot cake.  He was actually nice enough to buy it for us! 



Must have been my lucky night.

It was absolutely amazing - maybe the best carrot cake I've ever had.  But what's dessert without chocolate?  So we also got a peanut butter chocolate mousse cake.


Definitely my lucky night.

Love & Kale,
Ali

So tell me, what's your favorite restaurant?  Ever been so excited about a particular restaurant that you had a perma-smile throughout your meal?  Please tell me I'm not the only one.....