Restaurant Review: Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

Red Rooster, Harlem, New York
Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

Restaurant: Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

I totally broke tradition.  I did.  I was in New York City to run the TCS New York City Marathon…and so far I had managed really amazing gluten-free pizza the night before the race.  Normally, after I race, my friends and I go to a pub to celebrate the occasion.

Not. This. Time.

But, it was of my own doing that we ended up in Harlem just after 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

How?

Well…since we were going to be in New York City, I thought it might be fun to check out a restaurant that belongs to one of my favorite chefs of all time.

The venue: Red Rooster.

The chef: Marcus Samuelsson.

After all, we were celebrating my finish at the marathon earlier that afternoon.  Why not make it special.  So, yeah…I broke tradition and decided to forgo the pub for something…a little different.  And I have never made a better decision in my life.

Prior to heading to New York City, I had told Cathy that I really wanted to go into Harlem and eat at Red Rooster.  She knows how much I adore Marcus Samuelsson.  And, honestly, we’re both foodies…she was right there with me.  So, she went ahead and called the restaurant and talked to them about reservations on marathon eve.  She mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian and they said that food for me would not be an issue.  With that done, Cathy set up a reservation for 6 p.m., giving me plenty of time to run, shower, walk around, come back and change, and get there with my group of friends.  We had reservations for 4 people…me, Cathy, Heather, and my good friend Marisa.

So, that night, I dressed up in this elegant vintage dress…but kept on my recovery compression socks (and wore them with my heels, HA!), and my three friends and I went down to the subway and hopped the train to Harlem.  We emerged steps away from Red Rooster.  Literally.

And about 10 minutes late.  Whoops.  But…we got there…before they handed our table away.

We were seated near the kitchen, which was fantastic for me because I could see the people bustling around in there, working hard at the various stations.  I loved the feel of Red Rooster…very chic casual.  A fun, vibrant, laid back, but classic vibe.  It was the kind of place I would want to return to and bring everyone I know…at least once.  Totally my style.

Our server, Ryan, came over to greet us.  He said that if we had any questions regarding the menu to let him know.  I mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian, and he said that wouldn’t be a problem.  In fact, he would go and talk to the chef and see what they could do for me.  I thanked him and we all studied the different menu options.  At one point, I know Cathy was trying to convince Marisa to try the soup with tripe in it, but that wasn’t happening.

Ryan returned, and said that he mentioned that I had run the TCS New York City Marathon and was a gluten-free vegetarian, to which he said the chef would like to create a dish for me.  I was thrilled and thanked him for checking.

Glasses of Brotherhood Riesling
Glasses of Brotherhood Riesling

With that said, Cathy took one matter into her own hands.  We were, after all, celebrating.  So, she ordered a bottle of wine for the table.  We went with a sweet wine (Heather prefers dry…but she was a good sport), opting for a local Riesling – the 2013 Brotherhood from Washingtonville, New York ($48.00).

We were ready to order, it seemed.  Ryan already had mine.  He said the chef was going to do up a Vegetable Plate ($21.00) for me.  So, I was excited to see what would emerge from the kitchen.  Cathy went with Marcus Samuelsson’s signature dish – Helga’s Meatballs, which are served with lingonberries, braised green cabbage, and buttermilk mashed potatoes ($23.00).  Heather ordered the Triple-Double Burger, which is served with bacon, jarlesburg, and rooster sauce ($19.00).  Marisa did a little picking and choosing, and went with the Upstate Farms Squash Soup, which includes yogurt, honeycrisp apples, and lentils ($12.00) with a side of the Cornbread ($4.00).  And, because they sounded good…Heather and I split a side of the Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($8.00).

Red Rooster Entrees: Helga's Meatballs, Upstate Farms Squash Soup, and Triple-Double Burger
Red Rooster Entrees: Helga’s Meatballs, Upstate Farms Squash Soup, and Triple-Double Burger

Ryan went to put or order in and we all got down to talking about New York, about work, about life, about the race, about food, about events…whatever we wanted to talk about.  We were in no rush and the restaurant was not rushing us.  I loved being able to just drink in the atmosphere.

Just before the food arrived, Ryan returned with our Riesling bottle, pouring a little bit into Cathy’s glass.  Cathy lifted the glass and took a sip.  And it was love at first taste for her.  So he poured some in each of our glasses, and I made sure to keep drinking my water too.  No dehydration here.

And then…our entrees arrived, each one settled down in front of us carefully.

The plates…were gorgeous!

Chef Creation: Vegetable Plate - Curried Black Eyed Peas, Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Chef Creation: Vegetable Plate – Curried Black Eyed Peas, Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The chef created a fantastic dish for me.  In a bowl on my left was Curried Black Eyed Peas.  And on the platter beside it…Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Oh…I will note, these Brussels Sprouts tasted different than the side that Heather and I were splitting.  It was chef magic.  And it was a beautiful and gorgeous plate.  One that I looked forward to eating.

Let’s start with the Curried Black Eyed Peas.  Just…WOW.  WOW!  So much flavor.  Lots going on.  And yet…simple.  I like to traditionally have black eyed peas on New Years Day…and this is how I would want them this year.  For real.  Just this incredible depth of flavor with the curry spices.  Not hot…just simply bringing out more of the peas themselves.  One of the best dishes involving peas of any sort I have ever had in my life.  And, trust me, I’ve eaten plenty.

The vegetables that the chef prepared were a delicious and filling treat for me.  The broccolini was gorgeously cooked and vibrant green.  It had the right amount of crisp to it, yet, still soft and easy to bite through.  I love broccolini, and this was just as it should be…simple and delicious.  The Brussels Sprouts were roasted to perfection, giving that outer layer some depth of flavor, yet keeping the vegetable itself soft on the inside.  Fork tender perfection.

My favorite thing, however, on that plate was the Berbere Carrots and Parsnips.  HOLY COW!  This side is exactly why I rushed out to a spice store in order to purchase berbere.  This spice is awesome.  It has this great flavor to it, followed with a little bit of heat at the end.  It paired beautifully with this root vegetables.  In fact, these were what I saved for my last bite.  Completely in love with a plate of vegetables.  How amazing!  My compliments to the marathoning chef.  My meal was sheer perfection.

Red Rooster's Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Red Rooster’s Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts

And I know you’re wondering about the Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts that Heather and I split, right?  Of course you are!  These were different from the ones that were on my plate.  These sprouts had this amazing char to them, but also hit up with a bit of a lemon or citrus flavor.  Sprinkled on top were macadamia nuts.  It was a combination that I hadn’t had before with Brussels sprouts…and I liked it.

But, wait…there is more!

Because when we celebrate we get dessert too!  We were handed the menus so we could peruse the options.  Ryan was taking care of another party at that moment, so I asked the new server about gluten-free options.  She highly recommended The Green Apple Viking Delight ($11.00).  I was game.  Heather actually ended up doing that too.  Leave it to the Scandinavian Minnesotans to order something with the word “viking” in it.  HA!  Cathy knew she wanted to have cheesecake in New York City, so her choice was the obvious one…Vanilla Cheesecake, served with yogurt, a granola crumble and pomegranate sorbet ($11.00).  Marisa went for the signature dessert of the restaurant, the Red Rooster Doughnuts, which are filled with sweet potato and coated in cinnamon and sugar ($12.00).  It came with an icing to dip them in as well.

Red Rooster's Vanilla Cheesecake and Red Rooster Doughnuts
Red Rooster’s Vanilla Cheesecake and Red Rooster Doughnuts

 

Red Rooster's Green Apple Viking Delight
Red Rooster’s Green Apple Viking Delight

Desserts arrived shortly after and…yeah…we were quite happy with our choices.  I thought The Green Apple Viking Delight was like a cold crème brûlée.  It was a green apple sorbet set on top of a white chocolate fennel cream.  On the side was chopped apple and fennel.  And a little tuile was set on top, giving it a little crunch and texture.  I was totally in love with the flavors, even though I wasn’t completely certain, at first, that they would work.  They complimented each other perfectly and each bite was a burst of sweetness, with a bit of richness from the white chocolate.  Divine.

Cathy loved her cheesecake (it looked deconstructed…so cool!) and Marisa was more than pleased with the doughnuts.  Needless to say…we are girls.  Desserts are awesome.  But these…these took awesome up to the next level.  Which I guess is phenomenal.  Or, in the culinary world, a sweet note to end the night on.

We left the restaurant completely satisfied with the meal.  The ambiance of Red Rooster was like no other restaurant that I have been in to date.  A live jazz band had started to play during our desserts and we really just took a moment to not only savor the food, but savor the experience as well.

I have been a Marcus Samuelsson fan for years…being able to eat at his restaurant was a dream come true.  Having a dish created for me, and having a careful and very caring staff made it unforgettable.  I was congratulated so many times on finishing the marathon.  It was an amazing day, but that night really just sealed it as one of the best days of my life.  Good race…good friends…good food…good times.

Thank you, Marcus Samuelsson and Red Rooster.

Product Review: Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce

Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce
Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce

Product: Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce – $9.95

When your Cuisine Cube delivers a box that is 1/2 meat-friendly…you get a little creative.  Honestly.  I was willing to part with the Field Trip Cracked Pepper Turkey Jerky, as there was no way I could possibly eat that being a vegetarian.  But the other two items…the sauce and seasoning meant for burgers…those I could use.  I just had to get a little creative in my kitchen.

And I do love it when a cooking gauntlet is thrown down.  And this box did just that.  For months now, I had a recipe idea just percolating, and the inclusion of the previously blogged on Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning Mix and the Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce meant that I was being issued a veggie burger challenge, whether Cuisine Cube knew it or not.  And I guarantee you…they didn’t know it.  Ultimately though…the challenge was accepted.  Using items in my pantry (lentils) and from my CSA bin (VEGGIES!), I set out to make a specific veggie burger that I had been talking about creating for awhile, just never really had a reason to actually do it.  I admit, it was a whole lot of fun getting into that kitchen and getting my creative chef’s hat on.

And that’s how it worked out in the end.  I made this amazing burger with lentils and farm-fresh ingredients, topping it off with some Russian red kale and a green tomato.  But this burger needed that condiment to tie it all together.  And that’s where the Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce came in.  While the label itself touts this sauce as being perfect to use with any meat (from poultry to beef to elk to pork and so on)…I was really going to put it to the test by pairing it with…a veggie burger of my own making.  I hope the Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. doesn’t hold it against me for not using meat.  But this vegetarian was still willing to give their product a vessel…albeit made from lentils and veggies.  Would it matter?

Let me tell you, this sauce is awesome.  This is literally AWESOMESAUCE!  HA!  The Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce was a great flavor elevator.  It brought this nice tangy flavor to the burger.  The sauce brought together both sweet and savory, enhancing each bite.  The Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce honestly lifted every bit of my veggie burger and just added a nice sweet and tangy touch.  While it is advertised as being rich and thick, I found it to be slightly runny, and I promise, I did shake it up.  That being said, it went way beyond delicious.  Now I’m trying to figure out how to get more without the $10 price tag.  Because I’m hooked.

The Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce is made from what the company describes as a secret blend of Lowcountry herbs and spices that help bring flavor to any meat (or in my case…veggies and lentils).  It is made from water, distilled water, vinegar, molasses, sugar, onions, salt, garlic salt, cloves, tammarind extract, chili pepper extract, tomatoes, onion powder, garlic powder and gluten free xanthan gum.

A serving of the Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce is 1 tablespoon.  This serving provides you with 15 calories.  It is fat free, cholesterol free, and contains no fiber or protein.  The sauce, however, does provide 200 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.

Yet again, Cuisine Cube brings a product I never, ever would have heard about or tried without it surprising me with its inclusion in the box.  Very happy with this month’s offerings for sure.  And my roommate is already pondering other ways to use this sauce in the future.  Delicious!

Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce on my Homemade Gluten-Free Veggie Burger
Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce on my Homemade Gluten-Free Veggie Burger

Product Review: Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning

Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning Mix
Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning Mix

Product: Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning – $3.95+

Maybe it’s the “end of summer” last call in this month’s Cuisine Cube, but I was hit up with a product I couldn’t eat (Field Trip Cracked Pepper Turkey Jerky) as a vegetarian, and then, as I was eagerly pulling products out of the box…noted the burger sauce and the burger seasoning.

You’d think I would do as I did with the turkey jerky and put it in the break room as fair game for any hungry or burger-loving co-workers.  But not me.  You see, one thing I love doing is creating products in my kitchen.  And never have burgers been completely limited to meat.  Especially where I am concerned.  What I did was started to ponder what a vegetarian could create using these products meant for burgers and lo and behold…it came to me.

I decided I would create a veggie burger (using green lentils for the main source of protein) and figured I could use the Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning Mix as I would if I had been cooking with meat.  It was brilliant.  It was…a good reason to dig out those lentils.

Last night, I donned my skull and crossbones apron and set myself to work, creating my veggie burger.  Lentils, mushrooms, and more all got cooked up, and after giving it a little mash, in went the seasoning.  I immediately loved how light and citrus-y it smelled.  It had this very bright aroma to it and I knew it was really going to elevate my veggie burger.  Happiness.  I chilled the base and after about 30 minutes, pounded out about 10 actual patties, freezing 8 of them and using two for dinner (one for me and one for the roomie!).  Some olive oil on my skillet and down went the patties.  No cheese necessary…I was topping these with Russian red kale and green tomato.

Within a couple of minutes, the burgers had a beautiful sear on them and I lifted them off the skillet and put them in the gluten-free buns (which I purchased from my local gluten-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café).  Dinner was served (with a side of smashed purple potatoes!).  I topped these off with the Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. Burger Sauce (see next review!) and then…settled in to see how my own play on a veggie burger came out.

I can honestly say, thanks to the Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning, I didn’t need to add anything more to these burgers as I formed the base.  No extra salt.  No other spices or herbs.  This was just what these lentils, mushrooms, and other veggies needed.  The seasoning itself wasn’t too strong, but you could definitely taste the variety of flavors that made up this mix.  The veggie burgers that I made with the Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning were pure perfection…especially when it came to balancing flavors.  Brilliant.

The Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning Mix is made from garlic, thyme, black pepper, salt, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, onion, parsley, natural lemon juice powder, sugar, and citric acid.  This mix is all natural, cholesterol free, and gluten-free.  And…it’s perfect for carnivores and herbivores alike.  Trust me.

A serving of the Dinner Tonight Burger Seasoning Mix is 1 teaspoon.  This one serving will provide you with 5 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.  You will be taking in 135 mg sodium.  Finally, this serving gives you 0 grams of protein and fiber.

Once again, Cuisine Cube provided me with a product I never would have known about or tried…but thanks to it being in my cube, I found a purpose for it.  I’m not going to let a vegetarian keep me from trying whatever I can in these boxes of happiness each month.  The jerky was one thing…but burger seasoning…hell, I can figure out a use for that!  One delicious veggie burger later, not using it with a meat base made no difference, this seasoning mix should be raved about.  Absolutely loved it.  And now, I have my first official recipe for my own cookbook.

Thank you Dinner Tonight and Cuisine Cube!

Product Review: Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger

Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger
Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger

Product: Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger – $5.49+

I remember, back in the days before I was diagnosed as a Celiac, I was simply a vegetarian.  And as a vegetarian, I often would pick up different meat alternatives to try out for dinner.  One of my favorite brands I would return to was Gardein.  Gardein was a company that began with a simple dream – to use the power of vegetables to create healthy fast food.  It was something the CEO and the company did very well.  In fact, Gardein products are now served in various restaurants, including numerous restaurants at the Wynn in Las Vegas.

I do, however, remember and even recall someone asking…and did so myself…after I had to go gluten-free…for Gardein to consider making gluten-free products.  The original response those three years ago was that taking the vital wheat gluten out of the products would jeopardize the integrity of said product.  Therefore…no go.  In fact, so many of the vegetarian/vegan meat companies took that stance.  And for a long while, a vegetarian meat product didn’t cross my lips.  Sure, there were a few options I tried and some that I liked.  But none were like the ones I used to devour every week.

Until…

Gardein announced that it had some gluten-free products coming out to the market.  And lo and behold, my newest local grocery store in the Louisville area happened to have some of these products.  I have a CSA bin that gave me TONS of leafy greens this week.  So, I figured it would be a good time to perhaps make up some veggie burgers.  I was pretty set on one of my standards…Hillary’s Eat Well or Qrunch or something along those lines.  But as I was passing by the freezer section in Lucky’s…there they were…a beacon of refrigerator light shining down upon them as if they were a gift from the gluten-free gods themselves.

Gardein’s Gluten-Free Veggie Burgers.  In fact, there were a couple of different varieties to choose from: Garden Veggie Burger and a Chipotle Black Bean Burger.  My roomie and I actually swear there was a gluten-free beefless burger there as well.  Honestly!  Not just the Beefless Ground.  But I can’t find anything on that on their Web site.  But…trust me…we saw it because it was in the running to come home with us.

Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burgers (cooking)
Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burgers (cooking)

Anyway…dinner time tonight meant…veggie burger time.  Gluten-free veggie burger time.  So, I started up the oven to cook the remaining sweet potato fries to go with the burgers and then pulled out my skillet to get it heated up.  The Gardein Garden Veggie Burgers were taken out of the freezer and I carefully (NOT!) pried them apart with a sharp knife so I could have two of the four in the package.  Then, I placed a bit of coconut oil in my skillet, let it melt, then put the patties down to cook.  The bag said it would take around 4 minutes on each side.  This was perfect.  I got my gluten-free hamburger buns (Rudi’s Gluten Free Multigrain Hamburger Rolls, in case you were wondering!) out, sliced, and put in the oven to toast.  Then, I flipped the veggie burgers over to get the other side cooking as well.  As things were finishing up, I sliced a tomato, rinsed some of the lettuce I had in my crisper drawer, and got out some vegan cheese to melt over the top of the patty.  As the fries finished up and the buns finished toasting, I placed a cheese slice on each patty, tossed a bit of water into the skillet, and then covered it so that the steam would perfectly melt the cheese.

As that was happening, I placed some condiments on each bun, then got the lettuce placed onto the bun itself.  I removed the Gardein Garden Veggie Patties from the skillet and let them sit (per instructions) for one minute. Then I placed them patty over the lettuce, topped it off with the tomato and the top of the bun and VIOLA…dinner was served…with a side of sweet potato fries!

Settling in for dinner, I was really looking forward to trying a new brand of veggie burger.  Especially since it was from a brand I used to trust as a vegetarian.  They definitely didn’t disappoint.  Whatever integrity Gardein thought it would lose by making gluten-free products…didn’t happen.  Honestly.  The Gardein Garden Veggie Burger was amazing.  It was perfectly crusted on the outside, but the inside was soft and bound together with real vegetables, brown rice, and oats.  I loved that I could not only take a bite of the burger and have it taste like a real burger…but I also got a bit of a serving of vegetables (corn, peas, peppers).  I could see the brown rice cooked throughout and giving the patty some depth of flavor and a bit of volume and density.  This burger was a very good size too…no skimping by Gardein.  I loved seeing that.  And it had a great, almost nutty and fresh taste to it.  It was love at first bite with me.  And I am happily assigning this the top spot on my gluten-free veggie burger list.  Yes…it really is that amazing and that good.  And…it will actually fill you up!

Now that I’ve mentioned that…I might as well get down to the ingredients and nutrition, yes?  Yes!

Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burgers are made from water, cooked brown rice, roasted vegetables (non-GMO corn, red and green bell peppers), carrots, onions, gluten-free rolled oats, peas, non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil, non-GMO soy protein concentrate, modified vegetable gum, dehydrated garlic, organic cane sugar, onion powder, sea salt, spices, yeast extract, natural flavors (contains gluten-free soy sauce), paprika, citric acid.  Simple ingredients…but huge flavor.  These burger patties are gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and non-GMO.

Nutritionally speaking, I am so in love with these stats, you just can’t imagine.  So often, the gluten-free veggie burgers are laden in calories and fat.  I guess it’s just how the companies try to make up for it being (GASP!) gluten-free.  But Gardein turned out one fantastic product and managed to do it and keep both calories and fat in check.  A serving of the Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burgers is one burger.  This serving will dish up 110 calories and 4 grams of fat.  Yep…you read that right!  LOVE IT!  One burger will also give you 280 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  These burgers are cholesterol free.  One burger patty will also give you 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.

Did I mention how delicious these are?  Delicious and nutritious!  Gardein was a little gun-shy to take on gluten-free.  It tookk them a couple of years, but after listening to the numerous requests by consumers, they have entered the gluten-free market.  And they did so with a bang.  If you are looking for an amazing gluten-free veggie burger, run to your store and find the Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger.  Trust me…it will be the best you’ve ever had.

Amazing.

Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger (with lettuce, tomato, vegan cheese on a Rudi's Gluten-Free Multigrain Hamburger Roll)
Gardein Gluten-Free Garden Veggie Burger (with lettuce, tomato, vegan cheese on a Rudi’s Gluten-Free Multigrain Hamburger Roll)

Product Review: Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup

Sir Kensington's Classic Ketchup
Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup

Product: Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup – $4.99+

Thank you Jungle Jim’s and your amazing prices!  Seriously.  For years now I have been wanting to try Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup.  Because I’m the type of person who puts ketchup on my ketchup.  This is the condiment of my life.  Ketchup is life changing.  It’s good for most things.  And I never have enough of it.  If I were told I could only have one condiment to use for the rest of my life…it would have to be ketchup.

So, when I was paging through the myriad of magazines I get each month…I kept seeing the award winning Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup.  Gourmet ketchup.  GOURMET KETCHUP!!  There was such a thing and I hadn’t tried it yet?  Unfortunately, the few stores I spotted this in had it at a price I seriously couldn’t justify.  So…it never happened.

Why gourmet?  Why this ketchup?

First of all, as I mentioned before, this is award-winning ketchup.  I didn’t know ketchup could win awards.  But this one had and still continues to do so.  And…it is made with only all-natural ingredients.  And you know how much of a stickler I have become about what is in the food I am eating.  This made me happy.

And then Jungle Jim’s up in Cincinnati, Ohio, made me even happier by having this ketchup at a decent price.  You better believe that made it into my grocery basket and then…into my pantry.  And what better time to bust out gourmet ketchup than when you are cooking up veggie burgers and sitting down to the Uruguay v. Costa Rica match of the World Cup.

So, with the burgers constructed, each gluten-free hamburger bun got a liberal serving of the Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup. Had I baked some fries, this would have been served on the side as well for dipping purposes, but I chose to use a product from my June Cuisine Cube (stay tuned for that review!) to serve with the burgers.  So the ketchup was it for the condiment factor and it was teaming up against an amazing veggie burger and the toppings (vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, and sliced avocado).  It was really going to have to shine.

Well, it did.  Wow…it did.  What I found I loved best about the taste of Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup was that it wasn’t overly sweet.  It wasn’t heavy.  And it wasn’t too strong.  If you think all ketchup is created equal…think again.  Not only does this one have a very short list of ingredients, but it tastes fresh and clean.  It doesn’t feel bogged down with unnecessary sweeteners and chemicals.  It has a lively, mild flavor.  This is the Captain America of condiments.  This will make you rethink ketchup forever.

The ingredients in Sir Kensington’s Classic Ketchup are basic, simple, and fresh.  They include: tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, raw sugar, onion, honey, olive oil, lime juice concentrate, green bell pepper, salt, agave nectar, and spices.  Simple.  Clean.  And, when combined, a brilliant use of ingredients for ultimate flavor and perfect gourmet ketchup.  The tomatoes they use are never from concentrate.  This brand boasts 50% less sugar (because it’s a condiment, not a confection) and 45% less sodium (because…why pickle yourself) compared with the leading national brand (and I think we all know what brand that might be…).  Don’t you just love it?

As far as nutrition goes, a serving size is 1 tablespoon.  Which is perfect for a condiment (even when I multiply it by 10 sometimes!).  This serving will provide you with 15 calories.  This ketchup is a fat free food!  This ketchup is also cholesterol free.  It contains only 105 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  Ketchup contains no fiber or protein.  But veggie burgers do!  HA!

Oh…this will forever be the ketchup that finds it way into my fridge.  I mean…wow.  Gourmet ketchup.  Yeah…I’m feeling posh as I sit down to watch the World Cup.  My burger has Sir Kensignton’s Classic Ketchup on it.  What about yours?  Hmmm?  You might want to rethink your red sauce.  Give your burgers and fries a gourmet sauce.  You and your food deserve it!

Product Review: Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger

Hilary's Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger
Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger

Product: Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger – $3.99+

It’s World Cup time!!  YAY!!  I had the honor of attending a World Cup match back in 1994, when the USA was hosting the matches.  It was so much fun.  And while I’ve never played soccer…I love the sport.  I could go to a match and have the best time of my life.

And with the World Cup kicking off a couple of days ago…and with my favorite player (Diego Forlan on the Uruguay National Team) playing a match late this afternoon, I figured we needed some sort of game-day grub for the occasion!  Back in 2010, you couldn’t pull Cathy or I away from the matches on television or online.  We watched the hell out of them.

Those days are back with a vengeance.  And…although Uruguay lost today to Costa Rica (BOOOO!), at least I made a fun “pub grub” like meal.  The main focus of said World Cup meal was…veggie burgers.  And…more to the point…one of my favorite brands so far…Hilary’s Eat Well.  This time, instead of her original veggie burger…I was told to choose one of the options at our new local grocery store (Lucky’s).  They had three other ones I had yet to try…and in the end, I went for the Adzuki Bean Burger.  Why?  The words green chili and cumin caught my attention!  And we had purchased an avocado…so that would pair well, I figured.  Green chilies and avocado are best mates!  I think.

With kickoff happening, I got up to make the veggie burgers and prepare the toppings.  I had thawed out some of the Rudi’s Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns that were in my freezer and put them in the oven to toast.  I caramelized some onion…sliced tomatoes…tore up some lettuce…and sliced up the avocado.  As I finished that up, the Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers came out of the freezer and hit my skillet with just a touch of oil.

These don’t take long to cook at all.  About three to five minutes on each side.  And then, because I melt a slice of vegan cheese on mine, a moment longer with some water thrown in and the lid topping it to allow it to steam and the cheese to melt (as well as vegan cheese can melt).  The buns were toasted, so I pulled them from the oven.  I topped them off with gourmet ketchup (because every burger needs gourmet ketchup), the lettuce, the patty itself (which was crusted on the outside…and soft on the inside), and capped with the tomato, caramelized onion, and sliced avocado.  I served this up with some gluten-free potato chips.  Dinner was easy, early, and served with a side of World Cup!!

Hilary's Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers (frozen)
Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers (frozen)

I went for the burger first, of course.  The Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger is the perfect size for a veggie burger patty.  Sometimes they can skimp on size, but not on fat and calories and that’s a problem.  But this was a really great sized patty.  It was a perfect circle of bean and grain goodness.  And yes…you can visibly see the ingredients.  Nothing hidden.  Love it.  One bite…and it was love.  Again.  I raved about the Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger…but this…this one might even top that one.  As I mentioned, when I cooked it up in my skillet, it got this perfect crispness to the outside and remained soft (not mushy…just soft) on the inside.  A perfect burger bite.  It browned up beautifully and maintained amazing flavor throughout.  Even better…the taste.  Oh…my…god!  Seriously…this burger isn’t trying to replicate a beef burger.  It’s trying to let the grains and beans be the stars of the patty.  And I applaud Hilary’s Eat Well for that.  Fantastic flavor.  There is a slight hint of spice from the green chilies as well as the chipotle and chili powders, but it doesn’t overpower and it’s not hot.  Trust me…my roommate never said a word about the “heat” level or it being “spicy.”  You can just taste it.  The millet and quinoa add a bit of a nutty flavor to each bite.  And the beans…that creates that amazing texture!

So…let’s look at nutrition.  And far as ingredients go, this is a fantastically constructed veggie burger.  For real.  Hilary’s Eat Well prides itself on using real-food ingredients that nourish the body and support a healthy ecosystem.  So…the Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers are made from a combination of water, millet, adzuki beans, quiona, expeller-pressed coconut oil, sweet potato, onion, mild green chilies, psyllium husk powder, arrowroot, real salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic, cumin, chili and chipotle powder, and lime juice.

I recognize everything listed above.  I love it when food is made from real food.  These burgers are also non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, egg-free, yeast-free, and nut free!

As for the nutritional information, a serving size is 1 veggie burger patty.  One of the Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers will serve you up 190 calories and 7 grams of fat.  This burger will also be giving you 290 mg sodium.  These burgers are cholesterol and sugar free.  LOVE!  Finally, you will be taking in 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  I consider this to be a very healthy burger with trusted ingredients.

So, even though Uruguay lost to Costa Rica, my taste buds were engaged and happily savoring every bite of the Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger.  Delicious!  I can’t wait to try the other burgers that the few stores that carry these have in stock.  Super delicious!!

Hilary's Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger (cooked)
Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger (cooked)

Recipe: Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters

I admit it…originally, I was going to take my zucchini and pull out my handy-dandy Cusinart food processor and make some more gluten-free zucchini bread.  Why?  Because I love my family recipe for zucchini bread (which very successfully bakes up gluten-free from the original not-gluten-free recipe).  I was so tempted.

But…I’m going out of town this weekend…and need to use up produce without having too much left just sitting around in the crisper drawer or in the fridge and freezer.  So…I hunted down other ideas.  And thanks to the magic of Pinterest…I stumbled across a recipe that would not only use up the zucchini in my crisper, but also one of my two sweet potatoes.  It was from the blog Averie Cooks and I had everything necessary to make these that night for dinner.  I sent the link to my roomie and she mightily approved.  I gave her the option of two sweet potato recipes…and she went with this one.  And so…dinner was decided…just like that.

Upon returning home from the office on Friday, I set myself to work in the kitchen, cleaning and shredding up a large sweet potato and a large zucchini.  And when all was said and done, these baked up to be a soft, but delicious treat for dinner.  Honestly, I can’t wait to make it again.  The flavors are amazing and they even go well in a skillet and served up like a veggie burger on a bun (that’s what I did with the leftovers!).

Check out this easy recipe:

Recipe: Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato Zucchini Fritters

 

Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters (with Gluten-Free Baked Zucchini Fries)
Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters (with Gluten-Free Baked Zucchini Fries)


Servings: 6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (or vegan butter)
  • 1 large egg (or egg replacer or flax egg)
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle seasoning (I used ancho chili powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose)
  • about 3 cups coarsely grated sweet potato (1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and grated)
  • about 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (1 large or 2 small zucchini)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.  Sp with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.

To the melted butter, add the egg and beat with a fork to combine.

Add the chipotle seasoning, salt, pepper, and stir to combine.

Add the flour and stir to combine.

Add the sweet potato, zucchini, and toss to combine.

Mixture will be loose and a bit soggy.

Using a 1/2-cup measure, form fritters by transferring one heaping half-cup of vegetable mixture from mixing bowl directly to baking trays.  They will be about 4-inches in diameter.

Bake fritters for 10 minutes at 375°F and if fritters have “leaked” or released any liquids, either from the zucchini releasing water, or the butter-egg mixture, just “push” the liquid back into a fritter using a spatula.

Lower oven temperature to 350°F and bake for about 15 minutes.  Carefully flip fritters over (they will be soft and delicate, so be careful to flip them without breaking them) and bake for about 15 more minutes, or until browned.  Fritters will be browned but soft upon removal from oven.  Allow them to cool and firm up on the baking trays for at least 10 minutes before moving or serving them.

~*~*~

Really, really fantastic flavor!!  Honestly.  My roommate raved about them.  They are still quite soft, but they are delicious and amazing.  I fell in love with these at first bite.  And so did the roomie.  In fact, we were thrilled to come home tonight and eat the two leftover patties as veggie burgers.  The night I made these, we each had 2 fritters each (about 100 calories per fritter), and I baked up some gluten-free zucchini fries with the leftover zucchini.  One of my favorite dinners to date.

I encourage you to give these fritters a shot.  They are definitely worth the time they take to make and eat.  Trust me…you’ll love them.

 

 

Restaurant Review: Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Game, Louisville, Kentucky
Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Game, Louisville, Kentucky

I admit it…there isn’t too much a gluten-free vegetarian can say about a restaurant called Game, right?  Well, honestly…yes.  There really isn’t.  After all, Game, a hot restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, is known for it’s variety of different proteins that it serves up in various forms, but specifically as a burger.  Although, you can do a meatball flight if you want.

Why was I at Game?

Well, you see…for a long time now, the roomie has been wanting to check out this restaurant.  For one thing, it is the one place in Louisville where she can try bone marrow.  For another thing…she’s turned into quite the foodie as of late.  As for the other reason, the biggest foodie we know, our friend Indy, from California, was in town.  When we first mentioned her coming out to visit, this restaurant seemed like a point of great interest.  Therefore, we made it our first official meal together on her first full day in the area.

We arrived shortly after they opened, having had a light breakfast that morning in preparation for a great lunch.  We walked in and took a seat at one of the tables.  Our server came over with menus and left us a drink menu.  I’m in training for more marathons, so I stuck to water.  So did Cathy.  Indy was hoping to try a local brew of beer, and we finally found one for her to give a try.  And as we were helping, we were all taking a look at the menu.  Cathy and Indy decided they would split the bone marrow appetizer…just to see what it was like.  So, when our server returned, all I had to do was explain that I was the oddball as a gluten-free vegetarian.  She suggested the Seasonal Salad, which, honestly was the only thing I could eat on the menu.  With that being said…we placed our orders.

Cathy and Indy did, in fact, order the Bone Marrow ($8.00) to split as an appetizer.  Then, Cathy went ahead and ordered a Wild Boar Burger ($9.00), which came accompanied with greens, tomato, goat cheese, and cranberry-jalapeno jam, served on an everything bun.  Indy ordered a Meatball Sampler, consisting of Elk ($3.00), Antelope ($3.00), and Wild Boar ($3.00).  So, the carnivores in the group were happy.

I went ahead and, instead of eating my protein bar I packed…just in case…I ordered the Seasonal Salad ($6.00).  The waitress also recommended the fries, which were gluten-free as nothing is fried there except potatoes.  And it was done in Canola oil.  So, at the prompting of Cathy and Indy…we ordered a Basket of French Fries ($4.00) to split amongst us.

And so, we started to get caught up since it had been since September since we last saw each other.  There was much to discuss and talk about.  We were distracted when I guy walked into the window…which was utterly hilarious.  Everyone else in the restaurant thought so too.  Especially his buddies.  It really was funny.  But, soon, the bone marrow made it’s way to the table.  It was a half of a bone, topped with parmesan, poblano, and rosemary.  It was served with crostini as a vessel in which to eat it on.  Cathy was the first to dive in.  She, however, managed to only get the cheesy, bread-y topping on the first go, leaving the gelatinous bone marrow down.  She remedied that, however, and then Indy had a go.  And…they seemed pretty indifferent, both agreeing that it definitely needed the topping so that it just wasn’t this oozey gooey…stuff.  So…they feasted on that and finished up just as the entrees were arriving.  Good timing.

So…a salad.

Not much I can really say about it.  It was a mix of greens topped off with Craisins and some herbed goat cheese.  It has a delicious strawberry dressing, however, I will give it that.  Otherwise, it was a simple salad.  Nothing that really set it apart, save that it was served on a wooden plank with a few apple slices.  I enjoyed munching on the apple slices in between bites.  As for the fries…well…they were really good.  But there were a lot of them there.  The three of us did what damage we could, but there were still too many for us in the basket.  They had the perfect crispness outside with the soft potato inside…yummy.  And definitely fried to perfection.  But, I can only tolerate so much fried food these days and I was done with these pretty quickly, despite how delicious they are and the fact that I love fries.  Eating them in a restaurant is a treat for me, so I’m very glad we ordered them.  Perfectly seasoned.  And really good.  Is it odd I went on more about the fries than the salad?  Let’s face it…if you don’t have something about a salad that sets it apart…it’s greens, cheese, and sometimes nuts or dried fruit.  That’s what this was.  I can make that salad at home, in all honesty.  But the dressing was stellar.  For real.

And that was that.  A vegetarian with food allergies went to eat at a meat-heavy restaurant…and survived.  It was definitely an interesting experience, and I would go back again.  Especially since Cathy has voiced some thoughts on trying other types of meat there.  They do have veggie burgers available for those vegetarians that do not have a gluten allergy.  The problem is they use breadcrumbs as a binder…so that wasn’t going to work for me.  The two different vegetarian patties that they do offer sound amazing, however.  If only I could have eaten one.

So…chalk it up for an interesting experience at Game in Louisville, Kentucky.  I’m glad both Cathy and Indy got to experience it and take in a few different proteins they normally wouldn’t have been able to find on a local menu.

Game's Seasonal Salad
Game’s Seasonal Salad

Product Review: Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger

Hilary's Eat Well World's Best Veggie Burger
Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger

Product: Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger – $3.99+

When you have a product that is actually called the “World’s Best Veggie Burger”…then, by God, you better have the best damn veggie burger in the world.

Prior to having to go gluten-free…I went vegetarian, so I have had pretty much every veggie burger out there.  By having to go gluten-free has only helped me to step beyond the very chemical-laden Morningstar veggie burgers and discovered healthier and much tastier options.  Made with…REAL ingredients.  Loving that.

After reading crazy-good and amazing reviews on the veggie burgers that are done by Hilary’s Eat Well…I knew…absolutely knew I had to try them out.  And, on a recent journey over to my local Whole Foods store, my roommate told me to go grab one of the Hillary’s Eat Well veggie burgers from the freezer section.  They had quite a few varieties…but I thought it best to start with the original.  The burger that started it all.

Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger.

Hilary's Eat Well World's Best Veggie Burger (frozen)
Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger (frozen)

Quite a reputation to live up to, yes?  Yeah…

A little history on this burger.  Hilary created this recipe back in 2005 for her restaurant, Local Burger, wanting to have it be free of all the common food allergies and artificial ingredients…yet still be packed with great flavor.  It was a hit at the restaurant…and now…it’s available to the general public in your natural food stores.

Ready to dive into a delicious new veggie burger and test out my brand new vegetable spiralizer to make sweet potato curly fries…the other night I got down and dirty cooking this frozen patty up.  Nothing was easier.  I preheated my electric skillet and put a little coconut oil in there.  Once it was heated up, I threw both of the patties in, hearing it immediately begin to sizzle.  With my spiraled sweet potato going down, I was able to focus on cooking these patties perfectly.  These easily took about 3 minutes on each side.  Not too long at all.  And when I flipped the burgers, they didn’t fall apart at all.  Most of the time, my gluten-free veggie burgers crumble.  Not these.  They held together amazingly well.

Hilary's Eat Well World's Best Veggie Burger (cooked)
Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger (cooked)

I plated the burgers on a gluten-free bun from my local gluten-free bakery, topped it with a bit of red leaf lettuce and some tomatoes.  A squirt of Dijon mustard and…there it was.  Dinner was served.

Even better…dinner was awesome.  One bite and I knew exactly why these is called the World’s Best Veggie Burger.  This burger is awesome.  Packed with flavor.  Not flat at all.  And, as I mentioned above, they don’t fall apart as you bite into it, or hold it in the bun.  It’s sturdy, yet soft and delicious.  And I am now hooked, very eager to try out the other offerings from Hilary’s Eat Well.

The Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger is made up from water, organic millet, organic quinoa, expeller-pressed non-GMO coconut oil, organic sweet potato, organic spinach, organic onion, organic psylliam husk powder, organic arrowroot, organic apple cider vinegar, salt, organic garlic.  Real ingredients!  Real, recognizable ingredients.  I LOVE this!  It is corn-free, yeast-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free.  It’s perfection!

As for nutrition, the serving is 1 of the 2 patties that are in the package.  This one veggie burger will serve you up 210 calories and 9 grams of fat.  It might seem high, but much of that comes from the coconut oil.  The Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger also serves up 340 mg sodium.  This burger is cholesterol free and sugar free.  In addition, you will be getting 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  Trust me…you will be FULL!

I love polishing off a meal and feeling full for hours afterwards.  And that’s what happened here.  I didn’t even have popcorn that night for a snack.  It’s not every day a meal fills me up.  Very impressed.

So far, the two products I have tried from Hilary’s Eat Well have blown me away.  I am SO in love with the World’s Best Veggie Burger.  And, as of right now, it really does live up to its name.  Brilliant.  And delicious.  I’m hooked!

A gluten-free and vegan burger made with Hilary's Eat Well World's Best Veggie Burger
A gluten-free and vegan burger made with Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger

Recipe: Gluten-Free Smokey Purple Sweet Potato and Chickpea Veggie Burgers

While out grocery shopping this weekend…my roommate and I both made it abundantly clear that we were craving burgers.  Now, she’s a carnivore…and I’m a vegetarian…but she loves veggie burgers…especially when I make them out of real ingredients…fresh…not frozen…not a patty of artificial preservatives and more chemicals than a science lab holds.

Which…makes me incredibly happy!

I’m heading to Chicago this weekend…nothing major…just RUNNING IN THE CHICAGO MARATHON…that’s all.  So, I’m trying to use up as much of my produce that will inevitably go bad while I’m out of town.  So…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance while out running 4 fast miles this morning.  Because…when I run…I think about food.  And I thought…purple sweet potato…and some sort of bean from the pantry.  I have cans and varieties, folks.  When you’re a vegetarian…this happens.  So…after returning home and taking a shower…I got to work in the kitchen creating my base for my veggie patties that I would form upon returning home from work.  A sit in the fridge might actually help the mixture, yes?

I seasoned it up with paprika, cumin, salt, onion powder, and a little hit of black pepper.  That’s where the smokiness comes from.  The rest…well…see for yourself…

Recipe: Gluten-Free Smokey Purple Sweet Potato and Chickpea Veggie Burgers

Gluten-Free Smokey Purple Sweet Potato and Chickpea Veggie Burger (with a side of homemade beet chips)
Gluten-Free Smokey Purple Sweet Potato and Chickpea Veggie Burger (with a side of homemade beet chips)

Servings: 8
Time: Prep 20 minutes; Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarsely mashed sweet potatoes (or yams), about 2 large potatoes (I used purple sweet potatoes, but you can use any variety)
  • 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs (I used Southern Homestyle Gluten-Free Corn Flake Crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup flour (I used Better Batter Gluten-Free All Purpose)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Pierce the potatoes (I used 2 large) all over with a fork and place on in the microwave on a paper towel.  Microwave for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the potatoes and slice them in half, allowing them to cool enough so that you can scoop out the flesh.

In a large bowl, coarsely mash beans with a fork.  Add the sweet potatoes and mash together.  Add in the cumin, paprika, onion powder, spices, salt, pepper, minced garlic, egg, breadcrumbs,  and flour.  Mix together until combined.

Refrigerate the mixture for 15-20 minutes or all day while you’re at work (like me).  This will help make it easier to form them into patties…but they still can be quite messy.  Trust me.  then place bowl in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. This helps form them into patties, but as a warning they are still somewhat messy.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil).

Remove the mixture from fridge and form into 8 equal patties.  Once the skillet is hot, place the patties in the pan and allow to cook on one side for about 5-6 minutes.  Make sure it has a nice crust on that first side before carefully flipping it over and allowing to cook for another 5-6 minutes.

Toast buns if desired.  I toasted the gluten-free hamburger buns I picked up from my local allergen-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café.

Assemble the burger with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

I served mine with homemade beet chips.

Yum!

~*~*~

These burgers can be a bit crumbly…but they are so packed with flavor.  I loved the smokiness brought on by the paprika.  And the sweet potatoes and chickpeas definitely made a nice base for this patty.  All it took was a little binder and my favorite toppings (kale, caramelized onion, and avocado slices)…and dinner was an epic burger of vegetarian awesomesauce.  I also made a vegan roasted garlic sriracha aioli to top off the burgers.  DELICIOUS!

I am so glad I have 6 more of these patties in my freezer.  They were truly fantastic.  A lot of flavor in each bite.  That’s how veggie burgers should be done.  They were a bit crumbly…but on the whole…a total win.

Try them out…and see for yourself!