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

003

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!

IMG_20160325_071501[1]

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: Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze

20160215_180322[1]

Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze

Product: Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze – $6.99+

A little while ago, I posted a blog about a new product I discovered at my local Whole Foods store…a vegan cheese spread by a company known as Heidi Ho.  I was beyond impressed with not just the texture, but also the flavor and taste of the cheese.  And from there…so many people began to sing the praises of their products, specifically their Creamy Chia Cheeze.

Let it not be said that I can’t take a hint!  HA!

With the holidays now out of the way and the budget not as stretched, I am able to indulge a little more these days.  And, that is how a container of Heidi Ho Organics Creamy Chia Cheeze wound up in my basket at Whole Foods…and then in my fridge at home.  Funny how that happens, right?  With this week being a little…hectic…with my training and just life in general…I chose to make a version of mac & cheese using some of the Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze instead of Daiya and all the cashew milk and gluten-free flour and bake method.  Simple is what I like.

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 Creamy Chia Cheeze will “blow your mind for Mac N Cheese” and they are absolutely correct.  Not only does this have a fantastic flavor, but it is rich and creamy and tastes like cheese…not like something plastic.  It has a great texture too.  And it’s like having a real melty cheese.  I was so happy with the way this worked on the gluten-free noodles that I cooked up and poured this over.  Creamy, healthy, and guilt-free.  My dairy-free fridge will forever have one of Heidi Ho’s cheezes inside.  That’s for sure.

Let’s talk about what goes into the Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze, shall we?  This product is made from a veggie puree (water, red potatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, onions, garlic), cashews, safflower oil, sea salt, lemon, chia seeds, citric acid, paprika, mustard seed, black pepper, and cayenne.  A majority of their ingredients are organic!  The Hedi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze contains NO nutritional yeast (thank goodness, as I’ve started to have reactions to it), soy, and is free of gluten and dairy.  In other words, perfect for me!

So, let’s discuss nutrition.  A serving of Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze is 1 ounce (28 grams).  The container has 10 servings inside.  A serving of Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze will provide you with 50 calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, 1 gram protein.  So much healthier than actual cheese too!  Trust me, even you who can have dairy will LOVE this cheese.

If you haven’t been over to Whole Foods to pick up one of Heidi Ho’s vegan cheeze products, then you need to hurry over there now and try it out.  Seriously…it is one of the best vegan cheezes that I have tried.  No weird taste, creamy, delicious, and made with real and clean, organic ingredients.  What’s not to love?

For the record…tonight I poured it over gluten-free rice chips and made nachos…and it was awesome.

Seriously…awesome.  Your turn to try it so you know how awesome it is too!

 

 

 

Product Review: Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers

Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers

Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers

Product: Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers – $4.59+

Growing up, I remember eating Dare Breton Crackers (the wheat versions) at my friends houses at little get-together or parties.  I remember schmearing port wine cheese over them and devouring them by the box-full.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to see boxes of Gluten Free Breton Crackers on the shelves of my local Kroger and Walmart stores.  Yep.  Very excited.  But, I never really could think of something I could use with them.  And being on a super-strict budget these days, I had to pass them over time-and-time again.

Well, when I went home for Christmas, my mom picked up a box of the Herb & Garlic Breton Gluten Free Crackers…but we never quite got around to eating them.  While I love cooking and making homemade dishes, with the craziness of the holidays and all the family, we tend to eat out more than in.  And that’s fine.  But it means the crackers remained untested and untasted.

However, the other day while killing off some time on a Sunday morning (after a snowstorm), my roommate and I were walking the aisles of our local Fresh Market, because we hadn’t gone out there in months.  On sale, there in the cracker aisle, were boxes of Dare Breton Gluten Free Crackers.  Of the gluten free varieties available, my roomie suggested we begin sampling them by going with the original flavor.  So, it was settled.  A sale meant they came home, so a box of the Dare Breton Gluten Free Original Flax with Crackers made it to my pantry.

And didn’t stay there long.

This week’s meal planning called for 2 days of soup and some chili too.  I was participating (and ended up winning) in the office chili cookoff and…hey…crackers are great with both soup and chili.

So, Monday morning, out came the crackers, stashing some in little traveling baggies for my roommate and I to have at lunch when we heated up our homemade vegan Smokey Potato Soup.  Lunch time rolled around, soup was assembled, and the crackers came out.

One bite…and I knew…I knew this was cracker gold.  Gluten free crackers either are amazing or they taste like cardboard.  These…are amazing.  Light and buttery in flavor, these Breton Crackers reminded me so much of their original counterparts.  They were great for dunking in the soup, piling chili on top and noshing, and just busting up to have a little added crunch in the soup. They’d be great to schmear whatever schmeary things you like to schmear on crackers.  Cheese, butter, peanut butter, hummus…whatever.  These crackers are perfect for all of it.  The box even comes with two cracker-type recipes on it, in case you’re feeling uninspired.  But crackers this good will leave you feeling anything but uninspired.  Trust me.  Love their crisp and flaky texture.  So amazing.  And, with the added addition of flax, the Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers add a little bit of omega goodness to each serving.

I will probably always have a box of these in my pantry.  No doubt.  And one can always use crackers, yes?

Let’s talk about the ingredients that go into the Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers.  These crackers are made from corn starch, arrowroot flour, canola oil, coconut oil, green lentil flour, rice bran, flax seeds, sugar, salt, sesame seeds, modified milk ingredients, baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, and natural flavor.  They are processed in a peanut-free facility also.

As far as nutrition information goes, you’ll love this!  The rather large,  circular crackers that are Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers are a great way to enjoy a snack without the guilt.  A serving size is 4 crackers (18 grams) and the box contains about 8 servings.  One serving will provide you with 90 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0.5 grams polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 12 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram fiber, less than 1 gram sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.  They won’t fill you up or really wipe out your calorie count for the day.  Gotta love it.

So, if you are still on the hunt for a cracker that lives up to the standards of the crackers you may have grown up with…try to find the Dare Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax Crackers.  Their tender-crisp texture and wholesome taste are reminiscent of the Breton crackers I devoured before the Celiac diagnosis.  What a great way to bring great taste from a trusted brand to the gluten free community.  And for a very fair price.

So happy.

 

Restaurant Review: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii

Kalapawai Cafe, Kailua, Hawaii

Kalapawai Cafe, Kailua, Hawaii

Restaurant: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii

Normally humidity and heat don’t get to me.  I thrive in warmer temperatures, to be completely honest.  But the sun, heat, and humidity that were brought to Hawaii by the hurricanes and tropical storms is a new level of humid.  And it’s a level that, being so close to the equator, I am not used to yet.

I was melting.  Literally.  Melting at Pearl Harbor yesterday afternoon.  But, myself and my traveling compatriots all survived and had quite the experience at Pearl Harbor.  Totally…unforgettable.  It was the one place I was making a requirement…and the other two also felt the same way.  Despite the intense sun, the humidity, and the heat…it was all worth it.

All that being said, afterwards we headed toward Kailua, which was home to the restaurant we would be having dinner in that evening.  The little restaurant is Kalapawai Café, this quaint little café and market.  We were early, as they don’t start serving dinner until 5 p.m.  So, while waiting, we scoped out a bit of Kailua.  We went to Walgreens so Jenn could pick up more Ibuprofen (sunburns suck!).  We dropped by this little bookstore called Book Ends.  It was in disarray, but it killed a bit of time.  And as we were heading out, it was time for dinner.  Talk about timing, eh?

We were greeted at the door as we entered and were able to ogle the dessert case, where I spotted macarons immediately.  Jenn noted the Flourless Chocolate Cake as well.  Mmmm…dessert.  But, our hostess guided us to a nice cool spot (we must have looked hot!) right under the air conditioning and got us situated with menus.  Our waitress soon followed, bringing us glasses of water and asking us if we wanted anything besides water.  We were all trying to rehydrate after Pearl Harbor, so we just stuck with the H2O.  She went over the specials and over what the Auction Price Fish of the Day, Auction Price Fresh Fish for the risotto was, and what the Auction Price Fresh Fish for the Greek Salad was.  She gave us a moment to peruse the menu.

Upon her return a few minutes later, we were pretty much set.  We mentioned that I was a Celiac vegetarian and she said…”Okay…so no wheat no meat…” She asked if I did dairy…I said I can…but I don’t always handle it well.  So she recommended the meal I had been eyeing in the first place due to the fact that it was labeled gluten-free AND contained no meat.  She said she’d just have the chef leave off the cheese.  Perfect.  Jenn and Cathy put in their orders too…and we cooled off, chilled, and got to watch the kitchen work.  I love open kitchens.  Hearing the expediter call off the orders was awesome.  Seeing the small line of chefs preparing at their different stations…yep…I love this stuff.

And soon…it was our order being made and being delivered.

Oddly enough, I had pegged what Jenn was going to order.  I know my friends!  Jenn ordered the Crab & Artichoke Dip ($12.00), which contained huge chunks (I mean HUGE) of blue crab, chopped artichoke (which didn’t overwhelm), fresh mozzerella, provolone, parmesan, red bell pepper, sweet onion, and served with toasted crostini.  Her meal looked cheesy good.   And it was delicious according to her.  Especially since they used great care to put chunks of crab meat into the dish itself…instead of skimping on the prize protein.  That was a huge plus.  The plate got polished.  She said she’d offer me some, but basically everything about the dish offended me.  LOL!

Kalapwai Cafe's House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ asparagus, roasted grape tomato & lemon-thyme brown butter sauce

Kalapwai Café’s House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ asparagus, roasted grape tomato & lemon-thyme brown butter sauce

Cathy had gone back and forth on what she wanted, opting between the ravioli and the shepherd’s pie.  In the end, she ordered the House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15.00), served with asparagus, roasted grape tomato, and a lemon-thyme brown butter sauce.  She said the pasta was okay (duh!), but the star of the plate was that sweet potato and goat cheese.  The star of any ravoili should be the filling.  That’s the entire point.  The pasta…it should definitely be homemade and good…but it it simply a way to hold the delicious filling inside.  She devoured her meal.  In fact, for the first time, she was the first one done eating.

Kalapawai Café's House-made gluten free potato gnocchi w/ grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom & tomato, ver’jus & sauce romesco

Kalapawai Café’s House-made gluten free potato gnocchi w/ grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom & tomato, ver’jus & sauce romesco

As for me, I ordered the House-made Gluten Free Potato Gnocchi ($16.00), served with grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom and tomato, ver’jus and a sauce romesco.  It normally would come with Manchego cheese, but they left it off my dish since dairy and I are broken up.  These “gnocchi” were toasted potato puffs.  Sort of like…a naked tater tot.  And to be honest…that’s exactly what they tasted like.  This dish was like eating breakfast for dinner.  The gnocchi had this great toasted outside, think…perfect hashbrowns, and then were soft like the inside of a tater tot, on the inside.  The vegetables were grilled and cooked to perfection, pairing nicely with the breakfast-like gnocchi on my plate.  And the sauces gave a nice hit and addition of flavor to be sure.  I loved it…because breakfast is one of my favorite things in life.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  Definitely less pasta more potato.  And I was okay with that.  It just wasn’t what my palate had been expecting.  It was a nice surprise.

Afterwards we were asked if we’d like to see a dessert menu.  As we never turn down looking at least, we perused and finally opted on splitting the macaron plate (it came with 3) ($5.00).  Normally this was an assortment of vanilla, lemon, and lime ginger, but they were out of vanilla, and I wasn’t too sure on the lime ginger…so we went with three of the lemon macarons.  They were retrieved from the case and…oh…oh yes…they were worth it.  Little pillows of lemony flavor.  Like…big lemon flavor too.  None of this fake stuff or lack of flavor.  It was like a lemon bar and lemon chifon cake.  It was just…yummy.  And we were happy that we went that way with the dessert in the end.

I was actually quite impressed with the service and the food that came  out of Kalapawai Café.  I would return there to eat in a heartbeat.  I loved the dish I was served, even if it wasn’t what I expected.  And having macarons on the dessert menu always wins, because they are a light option that still feels like a treat.

What a way to end the first night in O’ahu.

Kalapawai Café's Lemon Macarons

Kalapawai Café’s Lemon Macarons

Restaurant Review: Caffe Coco, Kapaa, Hawaii

Caffe Coco, Kapaa, Hawaii

Caffe Coco, Kapaa, Hawaii

Restaurant: Caffe Coco, Kapaa, Hawaii

Today was one of the best days I have had in Hawaii.  Oddly enough, it also falls on the day that I was supposed to run the Kauai Marathon.  And given the circumstances, that would be a huge bummer.  And it was.  It really, really was.  But, to take my mind off of the situation, Cathy had a plan to drive up to the North Side of Kauai and spent the afternoon at Hanalei Beach.

Happiness is me and a beach.  And thanks to my ankle, doing fun beach-y things aren’t easy for me.  So, while my roommate gets to paddle around in the surf…I’ve been strolling the beach a little…carefully and slowly…wishing that the currents and waves were a little easier for me to swim around in, but the injury is a little too new at the moment.  Sometimes standing on the beach is a struggle.  But that was the day.  We packed up just before the heavy rains hit and went and grabbed some shaved ice from JoJo’s Shave Ice while waiting for it to lighten up.  When it became evident that it wasn’t happening, we decided to go driving to a scenic place to wait it out because dinner was to be up on the North Side.  When that looked like it wasn’t going to happen, we opted to drive back down to Kapaa before roads were flooded and figure out dinner somewhere down here.

One place we had been eyeing last night before deciding on pizza was this great place called Caffe Coco.  Caffe Coco is a quaint cottage cafe with an outdoor garden setting on the island of Kauai.  This adorable little restaurant strives to serve Island grown produce, fresh Island fish, organic chicken, and whatever else that will help support local farmers.  LOVE that.  This restaurant specializes in vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.  Making it ideal for me.  BUT…that being said, they do serve a few dishes that offer a seafood or chicken option.  A little something for everyone!

We all finally decided that we were a little hungry after assessing sunburns (Jenn and I got nailed today!) and putting some aloe after sun gel on it.  Hoping that helps ease the sting and cuts down on the redness.  So…we headed out for the short drive down to Caffe Coco, being greeted upon entering and being shown to seats out in their cute garden setting.  We immediately loved the quirky, free, hippy-ish setting, the glass that coated the ground and the rustic setting.  It was a very happy place for me.  We had glasses of water poured while we browsed the menu.  And soon, our waitress came over and asked if we had any questions regarding the menu, but by that point, we had it all pretty figured out.

Caffe Coco Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Caffe Coco Jamaican Jerk Chicken

So, orders went in.  Jenn decided on the Organic Pasta Shrimp Fresca ($28.00) which is organic pasta and shrimp tossed with local tomatoes, basil, white wine, Parmesan, balsamic reduction and served with a green salad and garlic toast.  Cathy got the Jamaican Jerk Organic Chicken ($28.00), served with purple sweet potatoes, coconut creamed kale, pineapple salsa and server with a green salad.

As for me…I went with two of the Starters listed on the menu.  The first was a cup of the Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup ($5.00) and the Vietnamese Summer Rolls ($10.00) with organic greens and a peanut sauce.  And after seeing it come out, I also decided to add their Hibiscus Iced Tea ($4.00) to my meal as well.

We could see the kitchen from where we were sitting and could hear the fuss with the chefs.  Turns out a 20 person wedding party was set to arrive and they were working on getting out food to clear everything down to be prepared for the wedding orders.  It was a little chaotic, but everything came out to the waiting tables, and all of it looked great.  And soon…ours came out as well.

Everything looked and smelled amazing.  Jenn’s shrimp and pasta looked amazing…and she said the sauce with the garlic toast was phenomenal.  Not to mention, they didn’t skimp on the shrimp, but served her up a perfect number and all a great size.  No small shrimp here.  No way.  Cathy fell in love with her meal at first bite, but LOVED the creamy sauce that everything was set in.  That was her favorite part for sure.  But it looked amazing.  And colorful to say the least.  She said it was spicy without being overly spicy and ‘tasty.”  She was in a happy place for sure.

As for mine.  HOLY COW!!  LOVE.  Just pure love.  I loved everything about each dish.  The soup had this rich depth of flavor.  I loved the floating pepitas that were resting on top and the various onions and creaminess that came with each bite.  Just…YUM!!  I ended up saving most of this to the last bite.  The Vietnamese Summer Rolls were delicious.  Packed with greens laying in this delicious peanut butter and sriracha sauce.  You brought me a bowl of peanut butter…I’m now a very happy girl.  It paired well with the organic greens and veggies that were stuffed into each roll.  And I devoured every last bite…and every last bit of that sauce.  This was amazing, delicious food.  Happy place…discovered.

We were given a dessert list to look at, being told that the pudding was vegan and gluten free…and the brownie and chocolate chip cookie were gluten-free as well.  They were out of their homemade ice cream at the moment.  We considered it for a brief moment, but decided we were ready to call it a day and we would return to the resort for the Macadamia Nut Hershey’s Kisses we had stashed there.

OH…yeah!!  That soup was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  I was beyond happy and satisfied…and we all left there content and full…without being too full.  Love is definitely finding a great place to eat that honestly has a little something for anyone and everyone.  And I felt completely comfortable eating there.  Even moreso when the check arrived and my order was circled with a note that read: “**Celiac & Dairy Allergy**”.  Oh yeah…that was so nice to see.  It means they take their customer’s dietary needs to heart.

Everything was delicious and we all left happy plates and walked out comfortably full.  Feeling good about our meal choice and loving the food we ate.  This was one of the best places on the Island of Kauai.  It might seem pricey, but the food is worth the stop and the price.  You will not be disappointed.  I was beyond impressed with service and food.

I’d go back again in a heartbeat.  Hell, I’d go back tomorrow!

Caffe Coco's Thai Pumpkin Curry Soup and Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Organic Greens and Peanut Sauce

Caffe Coco’s Thai Pumpkin Curry Soup and Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Organic Greens and Peanut Sauce

Restaurant Review: Bandar, San Diego, California

Bandar, San Diego, California

Bandar, San Diego, California

Restaurant: Bandar, San Diego, California

It’s not every day that I get to travel somewhere new and exciting.  But this current week, I’m off on an adventure.  Albeit (see an upcoming post), not the adventure that I was expecting, but you make the most of the cards that are dealt to you.  You can’t change the circumstances, but you can change the attitude, right?

You betcha!

So, for one day only, I was knee-deep in the surroundings, hills, and the beautiful bay of San Diego.  While my traveling buddies (Cathy (aka: the roomie) and Jenn) went to a local taco stand for lunch, I made my lunch out of a protein bar that I brought with me.  I hadn’t planned on lunch, and when I can’t check out places online, I get a bit cautious.  I like to read reviews and look at menus and be confident in my choice to eat somewhere.  When you have food allergies, you just learn not to take risks.  It was all good.  My bar was filling and got me through to dinner time.  Because Cathy had made reservations at a place called Bandar in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego.

Bandar is a Persian restaurant of all things.  Now, I’ve had a lot of different cuisines in my life, but my taste buds had never had a go at Persian cuisine.  Bandar’s owner, Behrooz Farahani, graduated with a degree in architecture and originally owned his own architectural firm.  When he visited San Diego in 1986, he decided to move his family (a wife and twin daughters) there to provide them with a better life.  Behrooz and his wife, Shokooh, purchased the historical buidling in the Gaslamp Quarter…and soon Bandar emerged, becoming an overnight phenomenon.  This husband and wife team raised Persian dining to new heights, using authentic marinades for signature dishes involving beef, lamp, chicken, and fish.  Using only the finest ingredients, Farahani insists on personally choosing each cut of meat that is served in his restaurants.

The restaurant, Bandar, is best known for its use of healthy ingredients and bold, complex flavors, bringing the flavors of saffron, limes, and other Persian spices to the forefront of each dish, highlighting the amazing flavor that comes in such a healthy and exotic cuisine.

It had been a long, long day.  I was sore from making the hikes through airports to get to my flights.  And then hauling around San Diego.  But, it was all culminating with the final outing of the evening…dinner.  And Cathy chose Bandar as our place to eat as it had great reviews on Find Me Gluten Free…and mostly everything (save the bread) is gluten-free in the restaurant (although I think the desserts are also an exception, but we were too full to even consider dessert).  Therefore, this made it a great place to check out.

We were there a little earlier than the reservation and for most of the meal, we were the only ones in there.  Considering it was prime dinner time, I was a bit surprised by this.  But, what do you do?  You get seated early (we all decided we could eat…although I’ve realized that traveling still does a number on my appetite and most times I’m not exactly hungry, but I know I need to eat something.  The hostess seated us near the back at a gorgeous table and left us with menus.  Water was poured and we settled in for a moment.  Flat bread and butter were brought out…and to be sure we asked (because the menu misleadingly says that all food there is gluten-free) about what I could have…and the bread was a no-go.  From what I was told…it was good.

The first thing we noticed was the price of the food.  Holy hummus, foodies…it was pricey.  And with Hawaii on the horizon, we weren’t looking for an expensive meal, for sure.  I mean, the cheapest (and pretty much only) vegetarian entree on there (Eggplant Stew) was around $26.  I wasn’t sure how big the entree portions were either, and, as I said, I wasn’t all that hungry to begin with.  A combination of fatigue and the heat, I believe, are to blame for that.  My internal clock was three hours ahead, so in my mind, it was bedtime, not dinner time.

While we decided on what to do for dinner, Cathy placed an order for the Hummus Classic ($10.00) that we could split.  With that order in, we continued discussing whether or not to split some appetizers or just let me get an appetizer size plate and Cathy and Jenn split an entree.  This actually went on for longer than it should have, but mostly because we were all just tired, and probably hungrier than we realized.  BUT…with that being said…our Hummus Classic arrived, without anything to dip in it, so I guess that was meant for that flat bread.  Cathy asked our waitress if we could have some tomatoes or something so that I could have some too…and she very quickly said she would bring out some cucumbers for me.  YAY!  Cathy and Jenn each scooped up a little.  This was actually Jenn’s first time (she is a bean-hater, BTW) trying hummus and she did not like it at all.  To dry and beany she said.  Cathy, however, did like it, and when I got my cucumbers and was able to try it…it was actually really good.  Smooth, seasoned with paprika and just…yummy.  It had that bit of olive oil to finish and it made for a flavorful touch.  It was a nice little appetizer to help get us more focused.  And while we enjoyed the hummus and Jenn enjoyed some flat bread, we finally decided on dinner.  YAY!

Bandar's Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice and Chicken Kebab)

Bandar’s Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice and Chicken Kebab)

Jenn and Cathy, in the end, decided to split the Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice with Chicken Kebab) entree ($26.00).  This is exactly what the dish sounds like…chunks of grilled chicken tenderloin served up with rice and black cherries.  The waitress asked if they liked sweet things because it was a sweet dish.  The two poultry-loving sweet-toothers were okay with that.

As for me, I went with the Dolmeh (Stuffed Grape Leaves) starter ($12.00).  I have had horrible grape leaves at a local place in Louisville, Kentucky (oddly enough called The Grape Leaf) and then had some fantastic ones at a Mediterranean chain called Taziki’s.  So, this is like my go-to food.  This version of Dolmehs were large grape leaves stuffed with split peas, tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, rosemary and basmati rice.  When I ordered it, she said it was like a meal…so that was a good sign.

The food actually took a little bit of time to get to us.  That was fine, because everything at Bandar is cooked to order.  Although, it did get to the point that Jenn and I were joking about having to go find a chicken, kill it, pluck it, debone it, etc.  But, lo and behold…as a few more people were coming in, our food arrived.  I am very glad that Cathy and Jenn opted to split the entree they got because that platter was HUGE.  It easily could have fed 3-4 people.  Honestly.  And the waitress said that she has seen diners finish it on their own.  How that is even possible, I’ll never know.  They let me try the black cherry rice, and it was really tasty.  But I had my own food to dive into, so I left them to their chicken platter of DOOOOOM, while I settled in to feast on my own meal.

The starter size Dolmehs at Bandar come with four (4) very stuffed grape leaves, each one resting on a fresh slice of tomato.  That was a nice touch.  After photos for the blog, I carried over the first Dolmeh to my plate and settled in with fork and knife to give it a taste.  I sliced through the cooked grape leaf, seeing the seasoned basmati rice, split peas, and herbs poke out and fall onto my plate and the tomato.  The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The flavors were awesome.  My first bite and I got the fresh herbs immediately in the rice, the spices, and even the peas.  It was a great texture, the rice soft, but not mushy, the peas the same…and that grape leaf…it was cooked to perfection.  Pairing it with a slice of tomato brought a nice added touch and I ate it, whether it was a garnish or not.  I love tomatoes…I could eat a full one as a snack.  Needless to say…it was worth the wait…and the indecision…and the price.

And, in case you were wondering, Cathy and Jenn loved their Albalu Polo dish too.  Not only was the rice cooked to perfection and paired beautifully with sweet black cherries (I never would have imagined that combination to work), they said the chicken was moist, tender, and tasty.  But they hardly made a dent in the actual entree dish itself.  But, they did what they could. In the end, Cathy said she could always eat the leftovers for breakfast (which I didn’t believe for a moment, and lo and behold, I was right), so they boxed it up and we left with full and happy tummies.

So, in the end, expensive, but damn, you really do get what you pay for.  Honestly, I was not expecting that much food.  So, honestly, when you look at it in perspective, Bandar is giving you your money’s worth on their expensive entrees.  I was relieved I didn’t attempt the Eggplant Stew on my own after seeing the Thanksgiving Day platter of food that Jenn and Cathy attempted (and failed) to make a dent in.

Bandar was an interesting experience and got Jenn to at least try something new.  I’m still working on getting her to try avocado.  She says it scares her…but I’ll work on it.  That being said, Persian food is very interesting, delightful, and delicious.  And I was beyond happy with the food I was able to eat at Bandar.  They brought out a tray of cakes to offer us dessert, but we were done and ready to head back to the hotel, cycle through the shower, and get ready for a 3 am wakeup call to get to the airport and continue on our way to Hawaii the next day.

And by the time we were leaving, there were a few more people inside eating.  I guess the Gaslamp Quarter (home of SO MANY restaurants) isn’t quite as busy on a Thursday night.  But that worked in our favor, as we never felt rushed, and our food was given extreme focus and care.  It showed.  It was everything I hoped for…and a little more.  I’d be more than tempted to go back should I ever find myself back in San Diego.

Bandar's Dolmeh starter

Bandar’s Dolmeh starter

Product Review: Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter

Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter

Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter

Product: Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter – $12.99+

When it comes to food, nothing completes me more than any sort of nut butter.  Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter (technically, not a nut butter…but close enough!), etc.  I love them.  Give me any flavor (add in honey, chocolate, coconut) too.  I love it.  It is, perhaps, my ultimate comfort and snack food.  When I’m stressed out, I just want a spoon and the nearest container of peanut butter.  No joke.

For awhile now, I’ve noticed and heard of a brand of nut butter that contains seven different nuts and seeds.  Needless to say, I knew a few people who swore by this stuff.  Loved this stuff.  And…as chance would have it…I found this stuff at my local Whole Foods Market.

Problem…it was between $12.99 – $17.99 a jar.  And, as much as I love nut butters…even I couldn’t justify spending that much on a simple (seven variety) peanut butter.  As much as it intrigued me.

Until…it went on sale.  Granted, the original crunchy is in the lower end ($12.99) regular price, but it was on sale for $9.99 one day I was in Whole Foods.  I still have money on a gift card I received for Christmas (best gift ever!), so I figured…why not?  I wouldn’t find it any cheaper.  I made my purchase and never felt one iota of remorse.  YAY!  Expensive peanut butter.  Now I’m living large.

So what is it about Nuttzo?  Nuttzo is a gourmet nut and seed butter that, each variety, contains seven different nuts and seeds.  It is billed as the healthiest and most unique super-butter on the planet.  They have three different flavors…available in the crunchy and smooth varieties: original, power fuel with chia, and Peruvian dark chocolate.  Said to be, perhaps, the next big next big thing in nut butter.  They are easy to spot too…standing upside down on the shelf.  Why upside down?  Because they are a little “nuttzo.”  Heh.  Actually, it’s because all the oils that naturally separate in natural peanut butters will now be at the bottom of the jar and not the top.  Open it without the mess.  YAY!  All of the Nuttzo flavors and products are 100% organic, contain no added sugars or oils, are high in healthy fats and protein, contain flax in every flavor for your daily Omega 3 ALA’s, are gluten-free certified, non-GMO certified, and kosher certified.

I love it already.  Good to know there are ways for a gluten-free. dairy-free, vegetarian to get those important Omega 3’s.

So, while the price had me doubting my purchase…on Sunday, I needed a light lunch (as I had made an epic breakfast and would be making an epic dinner!), so my roommate suggested open face peanut butter sandwiches.  I said, “Should we try the expensive peanut butter?”  She said that it had to happen sometime.  So…down from the top shelf of the pantry my jar of Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter came.  I flipped the jar over, opened it up, looked inside and the chunky, nutty and seedy goodness, and gave it a swirl.  I doled up spoonfuls for my roomie and I to “sample” while I put a schmear of it on two pieces of gluten-free toast.

My roomie thought the honey I was going to drizzle on top would make it better.  Me…I was quite happy with all the different things going on in the Nuttzo.  I love smooth peanut butter, but chunky peanut butter…that’s another level.  And this…this is the supreme being…the god of all crunchy and chunky nut butters.  You actually have, swimming in this smooth sea of nutty goodness, chunks of cashews and peanuts and the other nuts (which I will get to), not to mention flax seeds and sunflower seeds, just adding to the texture.  Happy day.  I loved it straight off the spoon.  I loved it spread across a toasted slice of gluten-free bread.  I loved it driizzled with honey.  The only thing I don’t love about it is the steep price tag.  But with all those expensive nuts and seeds inside…I can see why that’s the case.  It just means that if I decide to splurge on nut butter…it will happen only once or twice a year.  This stuff is fantastic…but it is pricey.  Like…I could buy 13 individual cups of Greek yogurt for the price of one jar of this nut butter.  Is it worth it…yeah.  I think it is.  I mean, what’s not to love about something that excites your palate and is smooth and chunky and gritty and rich and tasty and just everything you want from a nut butter all in one?  Absolute nothing.  Except Nuttzo.

Granted…I have a great Vitamix now.  I can probably make this myself for a lot less…but sometimes…convenience wins out.

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  With nut butters you usually have 1 to 2 ingredients.  Well, if you buy organic and natural, like I do.  This is that…but loaded with nuts and seeds.  In fact, the Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter is made up of organic peanuts, organic cashews, organic almonds, organic flax  seeds, organic brazil nuts, organic hazelnuts, organic sunflower seeds, sea salt.  LOTS of flavorful nuts and seeds…all that give it this fantastic flavor, sweetness, and texture.  All without adding unnecessary things like sugar.  LOVE!!

As far as nutrition information goes, this is one very super-nutritious, high protein, amazing nut butter.  One serving, of the Nuttzo Original Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter is 2 tablespoons.  This serving will provide you with 180 calories, 16 grams (healthy) fat, 70 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 3 grams fiber, and 7 grams of protein.  Like I said…powerhouse.  This nut butter, for someone with my dietary restrictions, is definitely worth the cost.  Heck, it’s worth it’s weight in gold!!

Love comes in so many different forms.  When you’re an athlete with food allergies, sometimes love is as simple as a jar of expensive nut butter called Nuttzo.  I might be “Nuttzo” for being willing to pay for said nut and seed butter, but this gives me so many nutrients in just a serving that I think it’s worth it.  Bought it on a whim, scoffed a little at the price, loved it when I tried it…now…completely obsessed.  It’s hidden so I just don’t take a spoon and eat the entire jar.  Because, trust me, it would happen.