Restaurant Review: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

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Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

I am a foodie.  Hard to believe with all my food allergies and intolerance…and the fact that I am a vegetarian…that this is a true statement.  But I LOVE food.  I love to eat food.  I love to enjoy food.  And I love to cook food.  I love to share food.  Food is love.  And, as an athlete, food is also fuel.

I am on a nice vacation at the moment, enjoying myself and my time away from the stresses of life.  And, as is the way me and my traveling compatriots do vacations…we work in one nice meal out.  And, as we were enjoying some time at Universal Studios today, we opted to eat on the Universal Studios Citywalk…at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.

Now, I have loved Emeril Lagasse for a long time.  He is, not only, one of the most recognizable and quotable chef’s (“BAM!”)…he is just awesome.  His food is simple, pure, cajun goodness!!  He is pure Louisiana.  And that’s what we went there for.

We were in for a treat.  White tablecloths.  Chairs were pulled out for us.  Napkins were dropped into our laps.  I sort of felt under dressed with my roller-coaster windblown hair and my Wonder Woman t-shirt.  But, none of the staff minded.  We were greeted soon after by our waiter for the night…which was actually going to be three people seeing to us.  Our waiters were amazing and funny and extremely helpful.  We were given the menu to look over and I mentioned that I was a gluten free vegetarian…and after some witty bantering…he pointed out the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day (which changes from day to day) and explained to me that it was a noodless lasagna…where the chef layers squash, zucchini, eggplant and roasted red peppers, all seasoned with amazing herbs, and makes them into the noodles.  They could even make it vegan for me.  They let us peruse the menu and I noticed the special as well being a Roasted Cauliflower in a tomato broth with crispy kale that sounded SO good.  I needed to ask about it being gluten free.  Cathy had settled on the Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop and Jenn said she was getting the Shrimp and Grits (I had a feeling all the veggies would be tossed aside…LOL!).  But then, after checking with the chef about the gluten-free status of the cauliflower special (it was), and answering Jenn’s question as to what an étouffée was (all the veggies)…he went on to say that the Shrimp and Grits was the best dish on the menu.  So…Jenn was sold.  He also went on to say that the other dishes he considers the best served there were the Scallops and the Short Rib.

So now Cathy was undecided.  And I still was torn between the special and the menu special.  Both were special.  LOL!  But…both were different enough that I knew that I couldn’t get them anywhere else.  So, once Cathy decided on the Scallops instead, I was still torn.  And my dinner buddies weren’t making the decision any easier.  Back to our waiter for his opinion…and with his help, I opted for the Vegan version of the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day.  This meant none of the cheese or alfredo would be added to the dish.  Gluten free and vegan vegetable goodness.

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Emeril’s Cast Iron Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam

As we were going to have a little wait while our food was prepared, Jenn and Cathy decided they were going to split an appetizer.  They ordered the Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam ($8.00).  The cornbread looked fantastic.  They said it was light and fluffy and just soft and amazing.  Cathy was a big, big, big fan of the Bacon Jam (pork belly cooked in butter with brown sugar and reduced).  Jenn said she could take it or leave it…but the honey butter at the bottom was just soaking into the bread.  I thought it was just…awesome looking.  But, alas, so not something I could eat.

Before too long, our entrees were being served.  They had Cathy and Jenn’s backwards, but that was easily fixed.  The plates were changed out and we were ready to dive in.

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Emeril’s Shrimp + Grits

Jenn ordered the Shrimp + Grits, which was Louisiana shrimp, étouffée, Anson Mills rice grits, and local cherry tomatoes ($30.00).  She said the shrimp was nailed to the perfect cook.  The grits were smooth and creamy.  I looked at them.  I thought it was rice at first…with all the cheese.  Much of the étouffée was cast aside, as she is not a cooked vegetable person, but the rest of it was devoured.  I really do think it was a 1/1 ratio of cheese to grits…but it looked awesome.  Her only qualm…the tails were left on the shrimp.  It’s kind of hard to be classy in a nice restaurant when you have to use your fingers to remove the tails.

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Emeril’s Blackened Diver Scallops

Cathy went with the Blackened Diver Scallops, which was served with a Creamy Corn Moque Choux, Wilted Greens, and Local Tomato Jam ($32.00).  It looked GORGEOUS!!  The corn sauce fascinated her.  She said it was almost like a corn chowder.  The greens were cooked perfectly.  They weren’t mushy or overly done.  She said the tomato jam was sweet and paired beautifully with everything.  But the star…the scallops.  They were tender and buttery and had a perfect sear.  She said they were the best scallops she ever had.

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Emeril’s Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day – Noodleless Lasagna (tightly stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash and roasted red pepper) with a marinara sauce and greens

So…my perfectly gluten-free and vegan dish is now up.  As I stated, I ordered the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day ($23.00).  This was a noodleless lasagna, where the noodles were stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and roasted red pepper.  The seasonings were crazy good.  And all of this was topped off with an amazingly rich marinara and greens.  I could hardly make out the noodles, and I didn’t want to destroy the dish to get a picture.  So, trust me…there are tightly stacked veggies under there.  OMG.  The tomato sauce, for starters, was killer.  Just mouth watering, savory, amazing flavor.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly…not limp and wet, but perfect, with still a little crisp to them, but tender to bite into.  Almost like real noodles.  I didn’t miss the cheese or the heavy Alfredo.  This was pure perfection.  Why go back to noodles when you can do this to have lasagna?!  Seriously…so glad the waiter talked me into this one.  I was one happy girl.

And while we were all rather full from dinner…we decided we had to do dinner.  The waiter had tempted me with a Flourless (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Torte earlier that evening.  And I had been on the fence.  He did deliver dessert menus to us, to let the Cathy and Jenn choose what they might want to have…and then said the sorbets (strawberry lemonade, coconut, and passionfruit tonight) were another option for me.

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Emeril’s Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with Butter Pecan Sauce

In the end, we decided to split the Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with a Butter Pecan Sauce ($10.00) between the three of us.  I am so glad we did.  While the slice of torte isn’t as huge as say, a slice of Emeril’s famous Banana Cream Pie…it was rich.  Smooth, perfect, rich, creamy, amazing, sinful, decadent, chocolatey goodness.  Pure sinful goodness in each bite.  And that butter pecan sauce…oh yeah…that just tied it all together.  Cathy and Jenn split the whipped cream.  I ate the strawberry.  This…was a perfect end to a perfect meal.

I was beyond impressed with the service, setting, and food that we received at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.  They were so good at working with me and my dietary needs.  Didn’t even bat an eye.  Immediately knew what to ask about and explained to me what I could eat and what was delicious.  Our waiter was awesome.  He made me laugh, he made me feel so good about the food that was going to be made for me, and he even helped me make a decision on my dinner that night.

If only more restaurants turned out a meal and an experience like this one did.  Emeril is an amazing chef…and his restaurant didn’t let me down.  This was a meal I will be talking about for a very long time.

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Restaurant Review: Toasted, Orlando, Florida

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Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Sometimes I find food places to try in the most peculiar and unexpected places.  As I was prepping to head out to Orlando, I was sitting on my couch at home, scrolling through my Instagram feed…when I spotted an amazing looking photo on #NationalGrilledCheeseDay from someone that I follow on there.

And it just happened to be in Orlando.

And it also just happened to feature grilled cheese and…FRIES.

Fries.  I rarely get to eat fries when I go out to eat.  And it’s potato.  And potato is one of my favorite things in life.  So, naturally, I had to check them out.

The place was called Toasted.  And I suddenly needed to know more…like…was there more than just gluten free fries that I could eat there?  Like…did they have…vegan cheese??!!  Was it possible??!!

I went to Toasted’s Web site..and lo and behold…they had a regular menu, a vegan menu, and a gluten free menu…and they were all interchangeable.  They even have a gluten-free vegan burger if I wanted to do burger rather than sandwich.  And as tempting as a burger was…GRILLED CHEESE!  Hello!!

I was handed the gluten free menu first and was looking it over…and when I asked about vegan options, I was handed that menu as well.  And the first thing that caught my eye was a sandwich that involved all the spicy goodness that I love.  Sriracha, jalapeno, and then…random tomatoes.  Mmmm.  That was easy.

So, my traveling brigade and I decided to get our orders in because we had been on the go pretty much all day (since downing bagels from Erin McKenna’s at Disney Springs around 10 am.

Jenn ordered the Truffle Melt ($6.25), which is a sammie made from Havarti, truffle oil, arugula, and fresh ground pepper.  Mmmm…cheese-y goodness.  She got the Truffle Fries ($2.50) as her side.

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The As Gouda As It Gets with Rosemary Truffle Fries from Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Cathy ordered the As Gouda As It Gets ($6.75), which is a sammie made with Smoked Gouda, pulled chicken, roasted red peppers, and garlic spinach.  She also got the Truffle Fries ($2.50) as her side.

As for me…as I said…I saw some spicy goodness listed on the vegan menu.  So, I ordered the Vegan Fireball ($5.75) done Gluten Free (+1.25).  This was gluten free bread with Housemade Vegan Cheese with jalapeno, sriracha, and tomato.  And I went for broke and ordered the Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries ($3.50)…which was a happy accident, as I really just wanted the Truffle Fries.  Oh well.

We were given one of the signs, which contained a code from their Periodic Table of Cheese.  We had Gr (Gruyere).  It was a short weight…long enough to listen to a woman having a loud conversation on her cell phone and discuss how excited we were about dinner.  Maybe about 10 minutes later, our food arrived.  This was when I realized I had somehow got the Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries.  Like I said…happy accident.  I was ready to dive in.  I needed to slice my sandwich in half and it made for a gooey (yes…GOOEY VEGAN CHEESE!) sandwich mess.  And I loved it.  Usually vegan cheese doesn’t melt to the point of epic gooeyness.  This one…this one did!  God bless amazing housemade vegan cheese.

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The Gluten Free Vegan Fireball Sandwich with Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries from Toasted, Orlando, Florida

One bite…and I no longer want Tom + Chee or….well…that’s really the only place I’ve been able to have a gluten free and vegan grilled cheese.  And they don’t get gooey runny vegan cheese in theirs.  THIS WAS LIFE CHANGING!!  I loved that it was spicy, without being too spicy.  It had a nice balance with the warm, melty, messy cheese (YAY!), the jalapeno slices, the cooling tomato, and just the right hit of sriracha.  SO good.  I was seriously dredging the crusts of the bread through the cheese puddle on my plate.  And the fries…oh…those were good.  I was sort of disappointed at first because I’m such a huge fan of ketchup, but the vegan cheese was delicious with the truffle and rosemary flavors.  The only downside…was when the cheese got a bit cool.  Nevertheless, despite saying I wouldn’t be able to eat them all…I did.  Happily.

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Look at the GOOEY vegan cheese in the Gluten Free Vegan Fireball from Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Cathy loved the fries…and thought they were amazing.  She liked her sandwich, but despite being a fan of Gouda, she felt the sandwich needed a stronger cheese to pair with the boldness of the garlic spinach.  But she LOVED it. She also stole some of my Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries and thought the vegan cheese was awesome.  Nice smokey flavor.

Jenn gives two thumbs up to her sandwich and fries.  Wouldn’t change a thing.  We all just hoovered and loved every moment of our culinary sandwich and fries.

Yeah…Toasted is just that good.  It’s simple, easy, but crafted and amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.  If you aren’t into sandwiches (and if not…what is wrong with you) they have burger options (also available gluten-free and vegan), salads, amazing side dishes, and even a kids menu.

If you are going through Orlando, Florida…not doing the whole Disney thing where you pretty much just stay on Disney property and don’t leave until you are forced to go to the airport…check out Toasted!  They have two locations in Orlando – Winter Park and Lake Nona.

Seriously, I’d go back to eat here in a heartbeat.  When you give me one of my favorite comfort foods and do it up beyond my expectations…you have my full and undivided attention.  Toasted…thank you!  I am one happy gluten-free, dairy-free girl!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels – $7.25

I.  LOVE. BAGELS.

I come by it honestly.  As I’ve stated before, I was raised in New York.  New York is the birthplace of the bagel, I’m pretty certain.  New York is the land of these carby rounds of delicious bread-y goodness.  I have loved them for as long as I can remember being alive.  And that’s a damn long time.

One of the hardest things for me when I was diagnosed with Celiac was to say goodbye to my bagels.  Sure, there were plenty of gluten-free versions out there…but nothing like a classic New York bagel.  Some were small like a doughnut.  Some were light and fluffy.  Some were just…wrong.  All wrong.  Some were close or came close…close enough at least in flavor.  But what I truly missed was that dense, small round that was schmeared with some variety of cream cheese and devoured while on-the-go or at the table or wherever.

That is…until Sweet Note Bakery found me.

Yes…they found me.  Through Twitter.  And they told me I needed to try their bagels.  I shrugged it off the first time, but they came back…and so…I decided to blindly place an order.

It was the best decision of my life.

Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

And today…until they release a new flavor or put that Gluten Free Rainbow Bagel up in their online store…I devoured the last of their four (4) new flavors they released earlier last month.  Hey…new bagels means I get out my credit card and buy, buy, buy.  With all that being said, I sense that it’s time to place a new order.  I don’t like my freezer to be empty of these.  It’s nice to have some on hand.  So, the four flavors that they released were Tomato Basil, Garlic & Herbs, Salt and Garlic.

Today…was all about Garlic!

I grew up in a family of garlic lovers.  Perhaps that’s why we always seem to carry mints with us.  Like…all of us.  HAHA!  Anyway, if my mom was making garlic bread…it was butter and garlic for days.  Just heaped on there.  And we loved it that way.  There is no such thing as too much garlic.  So…garlic bagels…right up my alley.

I was both excited and sad to return from spin class this morning and pull the last package of bagels out of my freezer.  Sweet Note…be forewarned…an order is coming your way.  *cough*  Anyway…

GARLIC!!

ALL THE GARLIC!!  These bagels have a nice coating of garlic right on top of it, so be cautious of the bagels beneath the one you are removing…and be sure to leave some garlic on them.  Mine pulled apart just fine, without stealing any of the garlic-y goodness. I used my current method for perfect defrosting in the microwave…30 seconds on one side, then flip it over for another 30 seconds.  Let it sit for a moment and then slice in half.  If you’re not into toasting (like a true New Yorker), then go ahead and schmear this bagel up with whatever goodness you like.  If you are a true New Yorker (or not) but love a toasted bagel (like me!)…toast it up.  If you have a toaster…go to town.  If you, like me, don’t own a toaster, simply put these beauties on a baking sheet and into an oven heated to 350°F for about 15-20 minutes.  Since my roomie was awake at this point, I went to shower while our breakfast was toasting up.  By the time I was dressed and out of the bathroom…it was time to pull them out.

The apartment smelled SO GOOD!!  I was practically drooling as I pulled the pan out of the oven and then schmeared some vegan cream cheese over the tops of each half.  I served one bagel to my (gluten-eating) roommate and I took the other one.  And grabbed coffee…because…I need to be human.  HA!

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

My roomie was already digging in, so I asked what she thought.  She muttered something incoherent as she took another bite.  So, I took that as a good thing.  This was the flavor she had been waiting for…and somehow managed to save for last.  I think she was beyond happy with it.  And with that…I took a bite.

Oh…yes.  Even with the nice coating of garlic on the top of the bagel, this does not overwhelm or overpower.  It is a nice balance, especially with the dense bread of the bagel.  This would totally make a great base for a bagel pizza…but it’s all about breakfast for me this time.  And this…was heaven.  I’m contemplating a bagel sammie with the other ones in the freezer…a nice fried egg on the inside…mmmm…

When I’m daydreaming about the next time I eat a product, you know it’s a winner.  I loved the crispy crust and soft insides of this bagel.  The bread is chewy and perfect, right at that perfect bagel consistancy.  This isn’t your average gluten-free bagel.  This feels and tastes just like a “normal” bagel…a “regular” bagel.  You know…the kind you buy from a corner bagel shop in NYC.  There are plenty to choose from.  No other bagels on the market live up to that…and I don’t think any others will.  Sweet Note Bakery has the magic touch…and the perfect recipe for the ultimate Garlic Bagel. I might have devoured this faster than I intended today.

Record time.  The coffee had to wait.

One of the things that sets Sweet Note Gluten Free Bagels apart from others on them market is the old-school style that these gluten-free bagels are produced in.  They hit that traditional New York Style, not only in size, but in texture too!  And, yes, I am 100% certain these are gluten free!!  You wouldn’t believe it to taste it for yourself, but it’s on the packaging and a big part of the business.  The authentic nature of all of the gluten-free bagels from Sweet Note Bakery is that they take you back to the classic 3-inch size of the traditional bagel.  No mega-bagel here.  You don’t need it.  Instead of a 6-inch monstrosity, you’re chowing down on real, natural ingredients that will leave you feeling full and content.  Trust me.  And, with the way these are constructed, you get an amazing crispy outer crust and that warm, chewy middle that New York bagels are known for.  Bagel perfection.

In this case…Garlic Bagel perfection.  HA!

Let’s talk about what goes into Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels, shall we?  These bagels are made with love (yep…real ingredient!), white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, brown sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, garlic, and salt.  As always when it comes to Sweet Note’s bagels, these bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  Made with love, indeed!!

As far as the nutritional information goes, these bagels really do stack up to the competition.  In fact, with real ingredients, it makes every bit of these even better for you.  A serving size is 4.5 ounces (128 grams), or one bagel!!  Yep…one full bagel.  YAY!  This one bagel will serve up 280 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 62 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  This bagel kept me full all morning, thanks to that high protein and fiber count.  YES!  Loving it.

If you have been hunting for the perfect gluten-free bagel…or just bagel…you need to turn your attention to Sweet Note Bakery.  Their bagels (every single flavor…and I have tried them all) has been amazing.  They all are packed with flavor, taste amazing, and give you a true texture and mouthfeel of an authentic bagel.  Life is so good…thanks to Sweet Note.  Don’t just read my blog though…try it for yourself.  If your local natural food stores don’t carry Sweet Note Gluten Free Bagels…hop over to their Web site and order from the shop.  Keep in mind that the Garlic Bagels, as well as the Garlic and Herb, and the Salt are online exclusive…so get them while you can.

And love breakfast again!

Product Review: Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze

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Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cream Cheeze

Product: Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze – $7.99+

Not surprisingly, one of the things I miss the most is real…actual…cheese.  My lactose intolerance has not only gotten worse over the past year, but it makes indulging in things like cheese…virtually impossible anymore.  The same goes for ice cream, but, I sometimes try and pray that the lactase enzyme supplements help (sometimes they do…more often than not…they don’t).  But cheese and I don’t really get along at all these days.

Which sucks.

Mightily.

But then…by magical happenstance (perhaps rainbow unicorn pixie dust)…one day while “just browsing” at Whole Foods, I stumbled upon Heidi Ho Organics, which was apparently featured on Shark Tank and has really made a name for itself in the vegan cheese market.  I figure there must be a vegan cheese markets.  Vegans love cheese too…they just don’t eat it. But, obviously, they want to…because vegan cheese is made.  And consumed.  A lot.

Heidi Ho was created by Heidi K. Lovig, a fanatic about farm-to-table dining, sustainability, seasonal menus, and buying local.  This vegan chef honed in on her skills during her time living on the Big Island of Hawaii in a sustainable community where she managed an eco hostel and farm.  She trained with vegans and raw foodies from around the world, thus developing a deeper connection to the ingredients she uses in her cooking.  Lovig moved to Portland a few years ago and began training at Le Cordon Bleu to obtain her degree in Culinary Arts.  With a focus on local, organic, and sustainable practices, she turned her attention to the environmental issues humans have created due to food supply structures and our current system of distribution.  At her side is Lyssa M. Story, “the Boss” at Heidi Ho.  She runs the show and is the brains behind every facet of its operations.  From HR to business plans and projections, to law, licensing, accounting, banking, money, organization, and keeping Chef Heidi on track.  Story has an extensive background in the food and beverage industry, and attended the Western Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu, where she received an Associates degree in Occupational Studies – Hospitality and Restaurant Management. Story was raised on the standard American diet, which, over time, jeopardized her health.  At the age of 22, she began a plant based and whole foods diet.

So, these two ladies set out to create delicious plant-based cheezes using ingredients that are healthier for their consumers…as well as the planet.  Hedi Ho is the future of cheese – aiming to be the cheese that creates change.  They take great pride in the values they uphold in their company and products.  They sell cheeze that is superior in flavor and quality over the rest on the market.

Guess what…they succeed.  The introduction of this plant-based comfort food is a game changer for vegans out there.  They say on their Web site that their Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze  is “a delicious live culture cashew cheeze made from simple plant-based ingredients.  It’s like goat cheese without the goat.”  In fact, Ne Chevre means “No Goat” in French.  So…that’s really straight forward.  HAHA!

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Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze on a Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagel


The Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Cultures Cashew Cheese is a fantastic spreadable cheese that would be perfect for crackers, or sprinkled over salads, or even just spread across a savory gluten-free bagel (which is what I did with it!  Oh, and then later did it again, topping it with marinara and dried basil for bagel pizzas…oh yeah!).  Who needs vegan cream cheese when you can spread a non-goat goat cheese over something packed with tomato and basil flavors, right?  A great product to pair with white wines, grapes, walnuts and spicy jams, this is a versatile and crazy-good spread.  I loved the texture (creamy, not gritty) and the wow-power of the flavor (not as strong as goat cheese, but bringing this powerful flavor that mimics goat cheese).  Seriously, this would be good in just about anything.  Maybe even subbing it for ricotta cheese in lasagnas or such.  I know, for me, it upped my bagel game to 11.  Heidi Ho Organics may have created the Spinal Tap of vegan cheese here.  I honestly loved the sharp, tangy and creamy mouthfeel that came with each bite of this cheese.  It had a bit of a salty flavor, but it didn’t distract from the flavor of the cheese itself.  Beyond impressed!!  No surprise though, as I fell in love first with the Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Lava Cheeze (which I thought I reviewed, but didn’t), and the Heidi Ho Organics Creamy Chia Cheeze Sauce and the Spicy Chia Cheeze Sauce (also didn’t review that one…what is wrong with me??!)

So…now that I’ve went on and on and on with how (honestly) fantastic the Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze is…let’s take a look at what makes it that way.  I absolutely adore an ingredient list that has ingredients that I, not only recognize, but also can pronounce.  The Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze is made from organic cashews, water, sea salt, organic lemon, live cultures, nutritional yeast, and citric acid.  All Heidi Ho vegan cheeses are organic, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, low in sodium, and low in fat (although they taste like they are SO fattening…so you gotta love that little added bonus!).

Speaking of which, how about these nutritional facts?!  A serving of the Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze is 1 ounce (28 grams…or about 1 tablespoon).  This serving will provide you with 80 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 4 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 3 grams of protein.

I have now tried (but apparently need to blog about two of them) the four (4) versions of Heidi Ho Organics products that my Whole Foods currently carries.  And I am absolutely enamored with them.  They are a bit pricey, but you do get what you pay for.  Heidi Ho Organics definitely delivers a delicious, amazing, and high quality product.  I’m beyond impressed.

Also…it’s already gone…

I am not ashamed.

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels

Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels

Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels – $7.25

I just got home from New York City.  When you’re in New York, you eat bagels.  It’s what you do.  Fortunately for me, there are a lot of places that offer gluten-free bagels throughout the city.  Most of the bagel shops use a store brand version (like the one I went to…Tompkins Square Bagels), but at least I got to indulge.  BTW…if you go to Tompkins Square Bagels, they have a variety of tofu cream cheeses (for people like me who don’t handle dairy well), which makes the bagel experience that much more authentic.  For the record, I got a plain gluten free bagel there which I had them load up with the tofu veggie cream cheese.   It was mighty good.

But…you can tell when a bagel is a store brand.

Tompkins Square Bagels could really benefit from picking up bagels from a company that does New York-style bagels right!

SWEET NOTE BAKERY!

You want to talk about an appropriate bagel…you look to these ladies (and gentleman).

What’s even more exciting is that Sweet Note has expanded their flavor profile on their bagels.  While they are getting rid of the Sesame Bagels (due to allergen concerns with sesame seeds now), they have added 4 new varieties to their already sought-after, highly delicious, amazing bagel lineup.

I think I have stumbled upon my new favorite from their latest creations.  Seriously…i should have ordered 10 packs of these…

While I have already reviewed their new Garlic & Herb Bagels a few weeks ago…today I stepped it up, reached into my freezer, and delivered to my oven the epitome of every gluten-free bagel out there.  Seriously…no comparison…nothing could live up to the flavors, texture, and sheer awesomeness of every bite of the brand new…

…wait for it…

SWEET NOTE GLUTEN FREE TOMATO BASIL BAGEL!!!!!!

Before I begin to wax rhapsodic about this bagel…let’s start with the basics.  Keep these frozen . Do NOT thaw them out to room temperature ahead of time.  It’s on the instructions on the packaging and in the box they arrive in.  Do not ever think you know best.  Simply place in the microwave for a minute to begin to thaw bagel from frozen.  I have found that if I start with 30 seconds, then completely flip the bagel over for the remaining 30, they thaw out evenly and perfectly.  If you eat a bagel in true New York fashion…stop here.  If you, like me (despite being a New Yorker), like to toast up that bagel a wee bit…then stick it in your toaster (or if you, like me, do not own a toaster, get that oven going at 350°F and place on a baking sheet…toasting for about 15-20 minutes or less).  My roommate was awake at this point, so I let them toast lightly while I went to shower, since I had just returned from my Friday morning spin class.

Timing is everything…and that just seems to be the perfect toasting time for these bagels for me.  I don’t get them to the crispy on the inside point, but do get a nice, light, golden color to them.  My apartment smelled frickin’ awesome this morning while these were working.

Since Tomato Basil is a bit more of a savory flavor, I opted for something different than your standard cream cheese.  Because…why do anything normally?  This was a brand new, exciting, culinary adventure.  LIVE IT UP!  I had a container of Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Pure Live Culture Cashew Cheeze.  I used that!  I’ll review Heidi Ho in a little while..but this is some of the best plant-based cheese I have ever had!!  Goat cheese without the goat!!  OH HELL YES!!  On a tomato basil bagel…now I’m just out of control!!  Somebody stop me!!

Or don’t…because…

HOLY GARDEN OF EATING!!  Let me just say…the Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels are like eating a pizza first thing in the morning.  It’s a bagel..that tastes like pizza.  In fact, if I wanted to make bagel pizzas like I used to…this bagel would be the ideal base.  No joke…packed…just loaded…overloaded…full of flavors.  It has this rich tomato flavor to it, but the herb-y nature of the basil keeps the flavor profile balanced and just…awesome.  Yep.  Awesome is now a flavor profile descriptor.  There are no other words to describe how life changing just one bite of this bagel was.  If you are into savory flavors…THIS bagel will blow your culinary mind!  Your taste buds will applaud each and every bite you take…whether you savor it (I tried…I tried…) or mow it down on the go (I might have power ate mine…a little…).  If you’re a pizza freak (she’s a pizza freak…pizza freak…so hot and cheesy)…like I am…this bagel is calling your name.  Loud and proud, my friends.  I am in total and absolute love and now needing to go and buy at least 5 more packs of these.  I will not rest until my freezer is properly stocked.  Just…WOW!!  Wow-factor…off the scale…off the chart…OFF THE CHAIN!!!  Pairing it with a more “cheezy” spread was a wise decision I think too.  While regular cream cheese would work just fine…this…highly complimented every bite.  It was…virtually…pizza for breakfast.  Just like when I was in college…ah…those good ol’ days.

Gluten Free and Vegan Pizza Bagels made with Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Tomato Herb Bagels

Gluten Free and Vegan Pizza Bagels made with Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Tomato Herb Bagels

And…if that wasn’t enough, I went back for more. YES…MORE!!  I came home from work and toasted up another round of these bagels.  This time, along with the Heidi Ho Organics Ne Chevre Cheeze, I topped it with marinara and some dried basil…making bagel pizzas for dinner.  And they were BEYOND fantastic. They were superbagelfragalisticexpizzalidocious!  Blew me away. Pizza bagels…now that really did bring back some memories, LOL!!  You’d think I was carb loading or something.  But I’m not.  I’m just LOVING these bagels.

If I don’t have your attention yet…then you’re not reading a thing I’ve written.  But in case you need a little more…let’s talk about all the good things that go into the Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels, shall we?  Real ingredients for starters.  And it all starts with…LOVE.  Yes…that’s an actual listed ingredient.  Everything that makes these amazing New York-style, gluten-free bagels is listed here:  Love, water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, brown sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, garlic, salt, tomato paste, and basil.  Nothing fake or processed…just high quality, real products to make a high-quality real product.  Eating a clean breakfast just got so much tastier.  Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  LOVE IT!!  Vegan & Gluten Free bagels are now ready to be delivered right to your doorstep!

As far as nutrition goes, I LOVE that these bagels keep calories and fat in check.  Honestly!  A serving size is one (1) full bagel (not a half a bagel, but a full)…which is about 4.5 ounces (or 128 grams) of bagel-y goodness.  Each pack of bagels comes with four (4) bagels inside.  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Tomato Basil Bagel will deliver unto you…290 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 62 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 5 grams of protein.  We are talking about the ultimate powerhouse of nutrients in a delicious carby package.  Mmmm…carbs.  With the high fiber and protein, you’ll feel full and satisfied long after your bagel is gone.

This flavor is not an online exclusive, but in case your local stores don’t carry Sweet Note Bagels or have yet to get their hands on the new flavor…you can order this (and go overboard, for real!) in their ONLINE STORE!

There is nothing better than taking your first bite of breakfast and being blown away by the intense, amazing flavors that touch your palate.  This was the ideal way to start my Friday.  Definitely sets the standard for the rest of what I consume today…which is in no way as interesting as my breakfast.  For real.  I mean, a gluten-free peanut butter & jelly sammie just isn’t the same as a gluten-free tomato basil bagel with a schmear of ne chevre cheeze.  When you hear the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…believe it…and make it epic.

Sweet Note Bagels will definitely take you above and beyond that epic level.  Don’t wait any longer if you haven’t tried these yet.  DO IT!!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels

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Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels – $7.25

You know, I’m already one of those “crazy bagelers” that your parents warned you about.  I’m a girl who grew up in the capital of bagel country.  New York.  If you are from New York, you better know how to get your bagel on.

Bagels, while they get a bad rep, are one of my most favorite things in life.  Mmmm…carby goodness for sure.  They are filling, crunchy, chewy, and slathered with some sort of delicious schmear of goodness…making it both an epic morning breakfast and a treat.

And while the gluten-free market is becoming inundated with gluten free versions of bagels…none have really had that authenticity…that dense, chewy, but crispy on the outside authenticity of a true New York-Style bagel.

Until…Sweet Note Bakery

Now, Sweet Note and I have a really fun history.  It all began with a simple tweet.  Yep.  The Twitter is what brought them into my life.  I had reviewed Canyon Bakehouse’s new bagels and Sweet Note chimed in with how if I liked Canyon Bakehouse…I’d love their stuff.  So, I took the bait…went to their Web site…and found a plethora of gluten free and vegan bagel goodness.  It took me awhile to talk myself into ordering anything…but when I did…it was the start of something good. Now, my freezer is never without some variety of Sweet Note Bagels.

And, with winter finally leaving and spring warming our hearts and bodies, Sweet Note decided to spread a little spring fever as well…with the introduction of not one (1) but FOUR (4) new bagel flavors.

I must have died and gone to gluten-free bagel heaven.  The four flavors are Tomato Basil, Salt, Garlic, and Garlic & Herb.  The last three are exclusively available ONLY online in their shop.  When the release date for the bagels came…I immediately placed an order and got all four new flavors.  When it comes to bagels, I don’t mess around.  They arrived on Thursday of last week…so this week…I’m starting to try them out.

I asked my roommate what flavor she wanted to try first, and, without any hesitation, she said, “Garlic & Herb.”  I had a feeling that would be the case, though.  Anything with garlic makes her happy…throw in some herby goodness…and she’s in food heaven (or coma…depending…).

Yesterday was the big premier.  After my 5:30 am spin class, I came home and pulled the Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels out of the freezer and pulled 2 from the packaging.  I thawed them for a minute (I have discovered that if you do 30 seconds on one side, then flip it over and do 30 seconds on the other, you get the perfect thaw) in the microwave and sliced each one in half, placing it on a baking sheet  and prepping it for some toasting while I took my shower.  Into the preheated 350°F oven it went.

I showered, I dressed, I came out of the bathroom and noticed that the aroma in the apartment was crazy goodness.  It was like I stepped into an Italian Trattoria or something.  Roasted garlic and those powerful herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano…plus others) just invaded the apartment…and it was enough to set my mouth to watering.  I couldn’t wait to get these out of the oven and tried them.  If they tasted as good as they smelled…these could be dangerous indeed.  A few more minutes (between 15-20 total) in the oven, and I pulled the bagels out, noting the light toast on the cut side and the golden color of the crust…a perfect bagel toasting if I did say so myself.  Each half got a hearty schmear of Daiya Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Style Spread and…breakfast was served.

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Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels with a schmear of Daiya Onion & Chive Cream Cheese Style Spread

I didn’t wait to even sit down before taking a bite of mine…

The Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels…are bagels at their finest.  Rich with powerful flavors and packed with hearty and healthy herbs (that can come straight from an herb garden!), this bagel was one of the most delicious things I have put into my mouth.  And, as a marathon runner, I eat a lot.  HAHA!  The garlic was a strong flavor, but it was tampered down and kept in balance by the earthy and robust flavors of the herbs that were incorporated into the batter.  I loved the intense, but subtle flavors each bite brought.  I love how Sweet Note Bakery makes their bagels in the proper New York-style.  Not the size of a steering wheel, but smaller…denser…thicker…yummier.  Hey…I know a good bagel when I bite into one.  These toasted up to perfection.  These tasted of perfection.  The ladies (and gentleman) of the Sweet Note Bakery team hit this one out of the bagel ball park.  MVB (Most Valuable Bagel)…right here.  SO GOOD!

So…let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels.  These bagels are made from LOVE (yep…that’s an ingredient!), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, brown sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, garlic, salt, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and oregano.  As always when it comes to Sweet Note’s bagels, these bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  LOVE IT!!

As far as nutrition goes, I love how all four of the new flavors are under 300 calories per bagel.  One full bagel (not half a bagel…but a full bagel) with under 300 calories.  Yep…speaking my language.  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic & Herb Bagels come with four (4) bagels per package.  The serving size is one (1) bagel.  This one bagel will deliver unto you 280 calories, 3.5 grams fat, .5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 60 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  POWERHOUSE of nutrition…especially for the endurance athlete.  And the higher fiber and protein content will keep you fuller longer!

This flavor is only available in their ONLINE STORE!

I am so thankful for Sweet Note for bringing authentic bagels to the gluten-free world.  No fillers…just real ingredients.  That’s one reason their bagels are so amazing.  Making them in the classic New York-style also helps.  So, my dearest friends at Sweet Note…keep making these awesome breakfast goodies…keep exploring new flavors…and keep bringing only the best…because it is companies like you…and products like this…that make the this gluten-free girl rise and shine in the morning.  Your Garlic & Herb Bagels are a ray of sunshine…schmeared with a healthy dose of awesomesauce!

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Mac & Cheese Pizza Flavor

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So Delicious Diary Free Mac & Cheese Pizza Flavor

Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Mac & Cheese Pizza Flavor – $2.99+

 

It was in a recent issue of Gluten Free & More that Erica Dermer (aka: Celiac & The Beast) brought to my attention the fact that So Delicious Dairy Free was coming out with a new product.  Two (yes…TWO) versions of a boxed mac & cheese.

Gluten free and dairy free…perfect for this girl.  I figured it would take an eternity to find in Louisville, but…a couple of weeks ago, it was out on the shelves of the local Whole Foods.  So both flavors (Pizza and Cheddar) came home with me.  And this week was an ideal week to try one of them as my endless quest to clear out the pantry continues (I know…if I’d stop buying things it would be so much easier!).

I know, I had a vegan mac and cheese on Monday…but who says comfort food can only happen once a week, right?  Besides…this was a different mac and cheese. This one came in a box.  HAHA!  And since today was my (allergen-free) Soft Pretzel Wednesday lunch tradition, and I bought an amazing (allergen-free) Confetti Cupcake from my local bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café, I figured, why not go for broke?  Have some mac & cheese!  Thanks to the (not-so-expensive) splurge at Whole Foods…this was possible.

Nothing could be easier to make.  Simply bring a pot of water to a boil and pour the noodles in.  Allow them to cook for about 8-9 minutes.  Drain.  Once drained, return noodles to the pot and add in 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (I used unsweetened cashew milk) and 2 tablespoons of a dairy-free buttery spread (I used Earth Balance).  Add in the packet of powder-like-cheesy-stuff and stir until mixed well.  Serve.

So, my roommate opted to have the Pizza Flavored Mac & Cheese from So Delicious first before the Cheddar.  I think she’s having a hankering for pizza.  Well, she said it’s because I made “regular” mac & cheese on Monday.  Whatever.  Regardless, we started off with the odd-flavored one!  (That’s odd as in…not a normal flavor you would find).  I served it with a slice of vegan garlic bread (from Annie May’s Sweet Café)…and dinner was super-easy, super-quick, and hopefully super-yum!

As far as boxed mac & cheese goes, this ranks up there.  I thought the gluten free noodles were amazing.  They didn’t get gummy or fall apart.  They held up to draining and constant mixing when everything was added in.  That really was a high point for me, since so often these boxed gluten-free pastas just fall apart.  So…YAY!  As for the flavor…it…kind of tastes like pizza.  There is a hint of tomato flavor in the sauce, for sure.  And the sauce is darker than the orange boxed powder stuff that people are used to eating.  It didn’t punch me in the tastebuds and make me think I was eating pizza instead of pasta.  Like I said, it had more of a rich tomato flavor than anything.  What I did love most, however, was that it didn’t have a weird tangy fake cheese flavor to it.  No plastic residue.  Nothing that can be such a turn off (for me, anyway) when it comes to vegan cheese products.  The sauce was creamy and cheesy (without the cheese!)…and for that I am happy.  I think I liked it best when I was scooping it up with my garlic bread though.  More powerful flavors there than on its own. That being said, I wasn’t disappointed in the least, and will probably end up keeping a box of the So Delicious Dairy Free Mac & Cheese in my pantry for nights where I need something quick and easy…and delicious.

All that being said, let’s talk about what goes into the So Delicious Dairy Free Mac & Cheese Pizza Flavor.  This product is made up of organic gluten free pasta (organic white rice flour, organic green lentil flour, organic corn flour), algal protein, veggie blend (carrot, tomato), sea salt, natural flavor, coconut oil powder (maltodextrin, organic coconut oil, rice starch, natural flavor), guar gum, pizza seasoning (spices, garlic, salt, onion), mustard (seed), annatto, and lactic acid.  This product us Kosher Parve, Certified Gluten Free, and Certified Vegan.

As for nutrition, a serving of the So Delicious Dairy Free Mac & Cheese Pizza Flavor is 2.5 ounces (71 grams…or about 1 cup prepared) and there are about 2.5 servings per box.  My roommate and I just split it in half.  An actual serving (as packaged, not prepared), will give you 260 calories, 2 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 50 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams sugars, and 10 grams of protein!  LOOK at that protein!!  It is definitely filling.

No worries…I still ate the cupcake afterwards!

Anyway…while the So Delicious Dairy Free Mac & Cheese Pizza Flavor was a nice way to have a stress-free night of cooking, I still felt that it was lacking somewhat in flavor.  That being said, the texture, taste, and creaminess were right up to par…especially for a powder-base.  I was impressed and surprised that I liked it that much.  And that’s a good thing, for sure.  But, I sure was glad I picked up that garlic bread today…

Bottom line…it was good.  Not outstanding.  But good.  And different.  I have yet to find another gluten free and/or vegan pizza mac and cheese on the market.