Apteka

Apteka

“A good appetite needs no sauce” – Old Polish Proverb

It took us a little while to finally dine at Apteka. Not for lack of wanting, the idea of vegan pierogi and Polish fare sounded amazing, but the time had to be right!

Cue the Autumn/Winter season. As light begins to wane and darkness becomes the day, the season of early sunset sets upon us. Chilly air and foggy breath make for ruddy cheeks and hearty appetites, a fitting climate to open this treasure trove of earthy, pungent, and rustic charm.

It was a snap decision, a crisp night stroll through the 300 acres of Allegheny Cemetery led us to Apteka‘s front door. #FoodFate

The approach is streamlined, upon entry you are greeted with a wall-size menu reminiscent of Basquiat’s manic-genius lists. Your order is placed at the counter and you’re given a number and a bottle of water. Food and drinks are brought to your table and the journey begins!

Polish cuisine makes great uses of grains, millet, rye, and wheat. Pungent, aromatic and dense flavor palate, using nutmeg, juniper, mace. Old spice cupboard flavors that taste like something ancient, respected. A feast as homage to an old way.

Earthy flavors, deep browns. Cold weather and dead leaves, crisp frosty airs inspire appetites of starches and root vegetables. Hearty, hefty portions reasonably priced. A treat for the cold-weather season, indeed!

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ecoRDN chose the the Tartines to start. Like crostini or bruschetta, tartines are open faced sandwiches prepared on Apteka‘s grainy house-baked rye. Carrot pâté with pickled cucumber, radish and dill, sweet garlicky toothy bites, polish salad with pickle, celeriac and potato, reminiscent of sweet chunky heavy mayo salads of picnics past. See Apteka’s daily menu for alternating varieties.

The Horse & Pepper jumped right off the page, a sandwich boasting a huge slab of fried veggie pâté served on a hulking crust of baguette holding hands with sweet pepper sauce, crispy cabbage salad, black garlic butter and spicy peppers. The pâté resembles tempeh, in a traditionally set terrine cut into a massive rectangle and cooked to a nice crisp bark. Earthy, rich, and filling.

O M -effing- G, Apteka’s Pierogi are the Apis Patella!!! Heavenly wedges stuffed with a mix of smoked potato or a mash of mushroom and sauerkraut, underneath a sweet nut-based  rich mayo-like yoghurt sauce that tasted like sweet pickle relish, creamy and perfect accompaniment along with the beets and fried cabbage, make it rain with chives. Non-nut options available upon request. The smoked potato pierogi is DIVINE. Smoked potato + parsnip+ turnip greens, a salty woody mash mixed with the carrot-like parsnip and mild bitter turnip greens. The mushroom & sauerkraut provided a perfect balance, earthy deep mushroom flavor marries so well with the pungent aromatic bite of the sauerkraut. A guaranteed umami face explosion!

For dessert we chose the Tarta Jablkowa (apple pie) w/ tart cherry compote. The buttery pastry soaked up the sweet spiced pureed apple, like the consistency of loose pumpkin pie,. A melange of fall aromatics underneath super tart port-y cherry compote, those cinnamony sweet browns, all that good time spice! (OMG, we want more in our stupid faces, rn) The buttery flaky pastry is plant-based, as are all the options at Apteka. Another great place to visit where no-meat/no-dairy gourmands need not worry and go all-in for a memorable feast, perfect for the cold time of year.

Apteka is an absolute treat, highly recommended!

As always, we at ecoRDN appreciate you stopping by and reading our blog. Please share your comments below or give us a like and tell your friends! Thanks for reading, eat well!

For a mouthwatering archive of foodie pics and all things nutritionally awesome, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

©2016 ecoRDN

Philadelphia is a Vegan’s Valhalla

Philadelphia is a Vegan’s Valhalla

After ecoRDN got hip to the abundance of plant based options in Philadelphia (thanks Spat!), we packed our bags and hopped a bus to check things out firsthand! Below is a list of the exciting plant friendly places we visited in during our stay!

Blackbird Pizzeria topped the itinerary, ecoRDN would not pass up a chance to check out an all vegan pizza place that also serves Philly style seitan cheesesteaks! (Look at our pictures and feel the hanger!) Situated next to Starr Garden Park & Playground in a very Sesame Street section of Philadelphia, Blackbird Pizzeria stays good at making amazing foods for the famished. Unique pies and hearty subs accompanied by loaded salads & carnival-style fries… Why yes indeed!

Being in the birthplace of Rocky Balboa, we’da been big dummies to pass over the Balboa slice. With cherry tomatoes, fennel seitan crumble, tofu ricotta, and pumkin seed pesto resting on a chewy crust, all topped with a loaded handful of baby arugula. Oh! The seitan was perfect. Perhaps the finest seitan sausage we’ve eaten. Fennel was a flawless touch, the pungent licorice and salty protein paired well and created the subtle but remarkable flavor. Blackbird’s tofu ricotta was also spot on, rich and tangy lush mouthfuls mimicked the sweet salt fatty hits of dairy-based ricottas. The Balboa is a great slice.

Blackbird’s seitan cheesesteak took the concept of a meat and dairy free alternative to Philadelphia’s historic sammie and broke both its thumbs, and that is meant to be a compliment in the highest regard! Chip chopped seitan served on a blistered chewy baguette, mixed with sweet handfuls of grilled peppers, onions and Blackbird’s own Vegan Whiz, a creamy hit of salty perfection. Blackbirds seitan cheesesteak is no joke, put one in your belly!

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“An all vegan coffee shop called Grindcore House is located on South 4th Street in Philla, Pa?”

“Yes, yes we will.”

Serving Counter Culture coffee along with sweet & savory treats in abundance, Grindcore House was vibrant and abuzz in the early Philly morning. Many dogs and dog-lovers mingled with all the many coffee drinkers and other passersby, in and out of old shop door. Ample seating, great art and a lending library also found within. A very sweet place.

ecoRDN ordered strawberry ginger iced tea and an iced americano. A respective refreshing jumpstart to the immune system, and a smooth icy jolt of dark malty smoothness. Yet still too early for heavy dessert we decided to return later that day. We’d been eyeing the Peanut Butter Bomb sitting tall and inviting within Grindcore House’s cold case.

So! ecoRDN boomeranged later that day on a sweet mission. The Peanut Butter Bomb is a Vegan Treats creation. For those unaware, Vegan Treats of Bethlehem, PA were voted one of the 10 best bakers in the world, pardon us, but holy shit! That is a no-brainer. Peanut butter cream, chocolate ganache and rich black chocolate cake. A huge slice capable of fully feeding two seekers of sweet deep, dark and perfect. We’d had the cake before in Manhattan so it was like a second honeymoon at Grindcore House that day. Highly recommended!

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The Tasty is not an all plant diner (due to the exception of cow’s teat milk for coffee drinks) so not vegan but more instead like 99% vegetarian. All plant diners are a great idea. When ecoRDN ate dairy and eggs, diners were an option all the time. After we went full plant, the egg was gone and so were the omelettes and just about everything dinery, etceteras. During our visit we had the Buffalo Chik’n Sammy (did not enjoy the huge white bun but the buffalo chick’n was delicious) and the Western Omelet (not super hammy and way too heavy for an omelet, more like a dense savory pancake). They were served with waffle fries and home fries respectively. Tasty has some really good ideas that hopefully will continue to evolve forward over time. There were a few hits and a few misses but overall The Tasty is worth the visit (if you don’t mind sharing your space with cow’s teat milk). Oh and don’t forget to bring a sweater in the summer, chilly!

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V Street is a modern & arty sparse take on street-foods from around the world, more about aesthetic than foodie fuel, however there are a few interesting ideas happening on the menu! V Street’s za’atar fries with zhoug is tasty blend of thymey herbed carnival-style spuds topped with fresh chopped cilantro and fresh earthy zhoug sauces. The food is tiny though, to be real. Let this be a disclaimer that we at ecoRDN are often ravenous so V Street wasn’t ideal nourishment prior to an eight hour bus ride. But if you don’t have a date with lengthy bouts of travel and would enjoy a cool plant based haute bistro, we recommend you give V Street a go! (Corrections/Updates: during normal business hours V Street offers two menus with large and small portion sizes, this wasn’t made clear during brunch.)

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Blogging about Miss Rachel’s Pantry is legit saving the best for last. Often one may not realize a profound moment until it is gone, thus their only memory is a remembrance rather than immediate understanding. This was the case for ecoRDN after a perfectly executed dining experience. True story, perfection is an abstract concept but it is possible during dining so bear with us as we #dinesplain. There are only so many variables when going out to eat and many can be reduced to binaries i.e., good food/bad food, good service/bad service, etc. Yet sometimes food stars align and dining plantophiles find their own end of rainbow nosh oases. Miss Rachel’s inspirited plant cuisine topped more best lists than ecoRDN knew we had. The most flavorful love inspired foods prepared amid an amazing buzz from a beautiful staff. Flawless execution in terms of tastes, textures and appearances. ecoRDN will make it simple: do you want arguably the most fully realized plant based mac and cheese ever? Go to Miss Rachel’s Pantry, dummy!

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That was a lot to digest! If you have eaten at any of the planty places mentioned in this article let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading, thanks for looking, and eat well!

©2016 ecoRDN

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All for Spak, Spak for All

All for Spak, Spak for All

Before ecoRDN returned to Pittsburgh from NYC living we made a list of all the many vegan-friendly food hubs to visit upon return to our glorious city and Spak Brothers topped the list. Spak forged a path not many dared back when they first opened their doors. Sure Pittsburgh has seen a vegan-friendly boom over the last five years, but before that boom the vegan scene was practically crickets. There was the dope East End staple Quiet Storm, the Southside Zenith with their epic brunch and all-vegan dessert, however pizza and wings were not yet on the menu. Thus enter the Spak!

Spak Brothers caters to the omnivore, vegetarian and vegan in one swoop. Pizza, wings, hoagies and fries are already famous foods for all the meat-eaters in this Steel City and so it was quite inspiring when we heard about all the vegan options available! ecoRDN were so stoked over the menu we decided to make multiple visits to sample numerous things in order to drop a well researched post into your lap (and eat so much vegan everything!)

ecoRDN made a total of three visits over the span of four months. Ahead is a rundown of all the amazing samples!

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Seitan Buffalo Wings

We ordered wings twice although they weren’t as good the second visit. That’s not to say they were bad, they were delicious, just not as good as the first time. The first batch had gnarly seitan chunks, perfectly toothsome and rich to the eye. Whereas the second visit saw more like shredded chunks of seitan. It looked more like barbecue than wings, but the flavors both times were on point! The sauce remained the same, spicy piquant and buttery vegan buffalo with the sidecar crisp chunks of celery and luscious ranch which boasted an amazing aioli texture with a flavor like sour cream & onion dip, super rich and creamy! The food is quite salty, so be warned. During our third sojourn we schlepped the food back home and steamed up a huge trough of fresh broccoli on the side to cut the salt and it helped a lot. If you are eating a low sodium diet this is not the food for you. But if soulful vegan pub grub is what you’re after, you are in for an awesome treat.

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Seitan Pittsburgh Steak

Shaved hosemade seitan on a chewy lightly toasted hoagie roll topped with banana peppers, mushroom, grilled onion, grilled pepper, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayo and french fries! We in Pittsburgh put french fries on everything from sammies to salads. Gooey rich hits from the mayo and cheese combo lace the umami bomb of savory seitan and all that grilled caramelized mirepoix… Yes indeed! This is a remarkable sandwich. A perfectly executed Pittsburgh hoagie with the chewy crunch of the lightly toasted bun that houses the savory rich marriage of meaty seitan, lush vegan mayo and grilled vegetable umami goodness.

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No toppings, we wanted to taste the cheese, sauce and crust. Absolutely perfect execution! Chewy crust, not too crispy not too soft, not too oily. Sweet sauce though not candy sweet, and not overly pungent with herbs, but mellow and rich. More awareness of the tomato and garlic instead of piney oregano. And the cheese melted up nice, stayed stringy and gave that rich fatty hit to drop the mic. Spak Brothers vegan pizza is exactly what you need for that plant-based Pittsburgh pizza fix. Quite possibly the finest vegan pizza ecoRDN has ever eaten. Two Boots (NYC) and Spak Brothers have set the bar very high, hats off and mad props for that! We can’t wait to eat more after we work off this last round!

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Needless to say Spak Brothers delivered in spades! Although the foods offered are not for ecoRDN’s everyday every meal consumption, special occasions are certainly a go! And those days when ecoRDN feel compelled to put in 15+ miles on foot loading up on that good Spak Brothers fuel prior to the epic jaunt is a no brainer!

Great atmosphere, great attitude, great decor and superb vegan food, Spak Brothers has it all! A true Pittsburgh original we at ecoRDN are proud to support! Hell YES!

As always, Thank You for taking the time to read our post. Feel free to like and subscribe or leave a comment below!

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Stay Cool and Eat Well!

©2016 ecoRDN

Ben & Jerry Go Dairy Free!!!

Ben & Jerry Go Dairy Free!!!

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are sugar superheroes, courageous candymen, bringers of caloric joy. Thank the gooey gods neither had success within the world of higher-education. As you do when institutional life kicks you in the pants, these childhood friends decided to take an ice-cream making correspondence course through Penn State University and opened their first ice-cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont on May 5, 1978. And thus, to this day, they’ve spread sprinkles and chunks of joy throughout the land for  *everyone!

*Everyone who eats dairy…

(insert saddest emoji kitten slowly playing tiny violin)

Whether allergy, diet restrictions, health reasons or personal choice, the dairy-free contingent had to either cheat or outright abstain from Ben & Jerry’s flavor-filled further-minded products for nearly 40 years! FOH.

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Some places the sun don’t shine, as the saying goes, but rainbows now glow everywhere! 2016 marked the release of Ben & Jerry’s Dairy Free Ice Cream! After years of recipe testing the sans-dairy versions hit store shelves at the end of February. Ben & Jerry sell four varieties of vegan verified (made with almond milk), fair-trade certified and non-gmo goodness.

Ben & Jerry’s website offers a Finder option for each variety by adding a zip code to see what stores sell near you.

The Market District on Centre Avenue listed four but only three were shelved when we arrived. Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Coffee Caramel Fudge. ecoRDN decided on the Chocolate Fudge Brownie and the Coffee Caramel Fudge, like bosses.

The good soldiers ecoRDN are, we split a pint of Coffee Caramel Fudge in the Market District bar/cafe and it was worth it, don’t judge. Classic sundae flavorites, you can’t go wrong with the marriage of comfort caramel, sweet fudge and aromatic coffee. Malty, rich, brown and earthy, but earthy like the dirt is cocoa and sugar is sand. Good flavor and solid ingredients are a given from Ben & Jerry. The most important qualities of a dairy free ice cream are their consistency and texture. How it feels on the tongue, is it more frosty like skim milk ice cream or sorbet, or can you feel the weight of the fat? Though almond based, they do contain coconut oil. Coconut based ice creams have that weight, and in this case the coconut oil takes over the mouth and the experience becomes lush saturation. So to the point, Coffee Caramel Fudge has weight! A literal ‘holy shit, this is vegan!” epiphany smacked ecoRDN in the face. Honestly the best store bought vegan ice cream we’ve ever eaten. A damn fine job!

 Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Dense chocolate, cocoa brownie, truffle-like crumble. Thin and ‘frosty’ in the  mouth. Feels like dairy free ice cream in the mouth. The flavor is the game changer, it is a frozen brownie in a cup. Dark decadent chocolate perfection.

There were two varieties left to sample, finding them proven daunting. The Market District carried only three of the four. If we were to find the remaining two we’d need to don our detective hats and get down to brass tacks! So we made tracks to the Giant Eagle in Aspinwall. An eight mile roundtrip jaunt to find the remaining two proved fruitful!

Chunky Monkey is our least favorite. Although the flavor grew on ecoRDN during the second sitting, the first bite was kind of strange. Strange is a difficult word to use in a food review, it’s vague yet conveys myriad flat flavor tones. Yet something in the banana taste threw us off. The banana is all natural, the ingredients list bananas. Banana ice cream perhaps is something that one-half of ecoRDN is simply not into. If you like banana ice cream go and grab this unique flavor. Chunky Monkey is rounded out with walnuts and fudge chunks.

P.B. & Cookie is the BUSINESS end of the sweetest stick swung by dairy-free sugar giants everywhere (so far, challenge accepted Ben & Jerry!). Luscious vanilla bean ice cream loaded with salty peanut butter chunks and ENTIRE cream-filled sandwich cookies! The mouth feels are spot-on! Rich, fatty, full bodied sweet rich and perfect. Wow! Coffee Caramel Fudge and P.B. & Cookie FTW

ecoRDN is impressed, for really real!

Ben & Jerry’s Dairy Free for life!

Stay Tuned for more dairy-free ice cream reviews to follow!

Thanks For Reading, Eat Well!

For a mouthwatering archive of foodie pics and all things nutritionally awesome, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

©2015 – 2016 ecoRDN

 

A Tasty Time At Thai Gourmet!

A Tasty Time At Thai Gourmet!

Pittsburghers and beyond LOVE Thai Gourmet!

Thai Gourmet is a Steel City staple. Located at 4505 Liberty Avenue in a cozy lunchroom with table and counter seating, Thai Gourmet offers a relaxed environment and an abundance of vegan-friendly foods.

The portions are gigantic! Split a meal with somebody you love or take a box of leftovers home and enjoy those leftovers later. Thai Gourmet‘s menu is deep, check it out!

ecoRDN frequented Thai Gourmet since 2005, and every meal experience is gold! We were excited to learn they were among the many restaurants in Pittsburgh certified by Vegan Pittsburgh, who serve plant-based friendly foods with clearly marked menus and the flexibility to add, substitute or remove an ingredient from the dish.

Thai Gourmet is always accommodating. In fact, Thai Gourmet will veganize any dish upon request! How sweet!

ecoRDN wanted a walk so we tied our laces and schlepped ourselves down the hillsides of Stanton Heights to Mossfield, the winding road next to the Allegheny cemetery behind Garfield. Mossfield pops you out onto Penn at Millvale. From there we wove ourselves into Bloomfield and the loving arms of Thai Gourmet!

Thinking back, ecoRDN has begun nearly every meal at Thai Gourmet with their lush tofu fresh rolls. Cold, crisp, chewy – we love those mouth feels! The basil finish really freshens the palate. Served with sweet hoisin sauce and peanuts.

On this day we felt adventurous and for the sake of a good review decided to order outside the box. Normally we go with one of many coconut based silky curries on the menu. The pineapple curry is a rich and profound foodie experience! And Thai Gourmet’s Pad Thai is (in our humble opinion) the best in Pittsburgh! So ecoRDN got fresh with the fresh ingredients and set out to traverse new culinary pathways. Deciding on the Nam Prik and Cashew Nut Stir Fry, we dug in with curious hungry anticipation!

Nam Prik is an event! A huge platter of SWEET mung bean curry, with fresh side salad, rice noodles and vegetable tempura. A mash-up of sweet, salty, savory, crunchy, fresh and smooth. This umami bomb kicked us in the teeth with love. Spice level 8, great kick! Just LOOK at that picture!

The Cashew Nut Stir Fry is gravy savory, with stir fried veg, tofu planks and ample cashews in a brown sauce. Spice level 5, decent kick. Peppery, strong and fresh. Served with fragrant white rice.

Thai Gourmet‘s tofu has ecoRDN tongue-tied! Thai Gourmet’s tofu is simply perfect. Toothy, seasoned, and provides a really lovely texture. and when ecoRDN inquired to their technique, Thai Gourmet responded coyly that their tofu method is a secret. So you know it is special! Trade secret, undisclosed to the prying public eyes!

And you cannot go wrong with the price. Thai Gourmet is a super cheap date, with omg huge portions! Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

We finished half our entrees and schlepped the rest home, our bill was a little over $31 including tip. Amazing! We got two full meals out of one perfect dining experience!

Thai Gourmet is GOLD! Go there, then go back again, and again. We do!

Thanks For Reading, Eat Well!

For a mouthwatering archive of foodie pics and all things nutritionally awesome, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

©2015 – 2016 ecoRDN

 

Easter @Zenith

Easter @Zenith

ecoRDN took to the streets on Easter Sunday and walked 13 miles during another epic bout of urban hiking. The destination? Zenith Tea Room in Pittsburgh’s Southside for their famous Sunday brunch!

Zenith Tea Room is an eclectic mash-up of antiques, pop-art and meat-free food, located on Sarah Street between 25th and 26th, two blocks from East Carson. On Sundays Zenith offers their famous vegan friendly brunch from 11 am until 2:30 pm. They do serve eggs and dairy but also have multiple plant-based options, and the buffet is 100% vegan, including an ENTIRE TABLE of CAKE & PIE! (Let it sink in…)

Pittsburghers love their brunch and so Zenith is a hot destination for meat-free eaters looking to calm a hangover or begin a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Often packed, Zenith’s eclectic set up of various tables of varying sizes allow for communal seating. ecoRDN has made the Sunday brunch twice. The first visit we were seated with a few couples, the cafe was spilling over into the streets. But Easter 2016 was surprisingly calm. The dining area was full but we were seated as soon as we arrived and the turnover allowed us our own space for the buffet get-down.

The food at Zenith is fun but inconsistent. Some of the sweeter dishes were way too sweet. The black bean salad was fresh but the salt was heavy-handed. However, the experience isn’t about the cuisine so much as the atmosphere and having a shared moment with friends and family in a visually engaging environment. And the price is unbeatable, $11.50 gets you brunch with bottomless coffee!

The only real flaw with Zenith’s system is that you must order an entree to get the brunch, and unfortunately all the POP and food-fun happens in the buffet. The entrees aren’t fully realized, they’re typically stodgy without as much pizzaz.. We get it, the idea is to stuff the patron with the entree and they won’t eat as much of the all-you-can-eat buffet. But this could conversely lead to food waste, as most people like us are there for the buffet salads, fresh fruit and cake. The entree is secondary and we end up eating too much so we don’t waste the food.

ecoRDN decided on the bar-b-q seitan and the beans & greens entrees. The seitan bar-b-q is served on a soft white-flour kaiser roll and is really, really sweet. Like pancake syrup sweet. By the time we got to dessert the cakes actually tasted much less sweet. The beans and greens are loaded with overcooked rice, but the flavor is good, savory and herby. Rice though was weird, not how we’re used to traditional beans & greens. Basically just beans & greens, the white beans provide the bulk, no starch needed.

But as we mentioned before, the Zenith buffet is where the magic happens! A nice balance of salads, grains and pulses. Vegan picnic foods like traditional macaroni and potato salad. The spinach strawberry and sesame seed salad was lovely, as well as they the tossed chop-salad with fresh green grapes. The cold peanut noodles are a favorite of ecoRDN, perfectly executed toothy noodles in a rich peanut sauce. Lovely sweet and salty!

And there is the ENTIRE table of vegan cake and pie. Mostly chocolate, all bundts, and topped with assorted icings! Holy Shit! a CAKE TABLE!!!

The cherry pie is alway a go-to, we love it. Sweet tart cherry filling, summer aromas, fresh and luscious. The best part of a good pie or tart is in the bottom crust after it becomes oversaturated with fruit. Toothy, luscious and chewy. Indeed!

The chocolate lavender cake was really interesting. ecoRDN was unsure how that would turn out, but it worked really well. The lavender was understated and married nicely with the spongy dark cake. It gave ecoRDN a few ideas for recipes to follow! Stay tuned!

Afterwards, while digesting the various and many cakes, ecoRDN ogled the oddities in the antique shop and dug the pop-art originals hanging on the walls. Zenith Tea Room has provided memorable experiences to Pittsburgh’s for years, and that’s why the store is still running strong. Another cool plant-based eating experience in the books, we move forward to next week. Perhaps Thai is on the menu? Check back and see…

Thanks For Reading, Eat Well!

For a mouthwatering archive of foodie pics and all things nutritionally awesome, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

©2015 – 2016 ecoRDN

B52 is the Bee’s Knees

B52 is the Bee’s Knees

Let it sink in; ALL-VEGAN, EVERYTHING! Vegan here and vegan there. Vegan, vegan everywhere!

ecoRDN goes into a fit of reverie at the thought of plant-based options far and wide, and in the current climate of this great city, Pittsburgh, vegan food is thankfully not far but spanning wider everyday. And you do NOT need to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy these new options, the dishes are thought out and so lovingly executed they stand up to their meaty competition.

B52 is new, though this is certainly not the first press the establishment has gotten. It opened in January 2016 to widespread arms and excited appetites, grabbing headlines of local magazines and newspapers as one of the 1st 100% vegan establishments in Pittsburgh (Randita’s was here already, but technically not Pittsburgh proper). B52 makes scratch-fusion (Middle Eastern/American), no-bullshit, punch-you-in-the-mouth food. The concept of Omar Abuhejleh, who also owns Allegro Hearth Bakery in Squirrel Hill, was inspired by his upbringing, his Mom’s cooking and travels through the Middle East. B52 is located at the corner of Butler and 52nd in Lawrenceville, hence the name, and so far the most exciting  plant-friendly cafe in the entire East End of Pittsburgh. B52 is that good.

Open for lunch and brunch, with dinner on the way (Update: B52 is NOW open for dinner as well), B52 currently opens its doors from 8-3 Tuesday through Friday and 9-3 Saturday and Sunday. Offering a variety of in-house desserts and specialty teas, kombucha, nitro cold brew coffee and specialty espresso drinks, B52 flexes fresh decor and clean lines throughout their 35 seat dining area.

ecoRDN began our meal with a seasonal special coffee drink and a classic cappuccino. The Cafe Rico is 2 shots of espresso with Tahitian vanilla beans, expressed orange oil, cinnamon and house-made almond milk – creamy and thick, one of the best dairy-free frothed coffee drinks we’ve tasted. Lush. Not too sugar sweet, instead naturally sweetened by the vanilla, cinnamon and orange. Balanced, with appropriate caffeine kick. A splendid aperitif. Filling but well worth it.

The Cappuccino, like the Cafe Rico, is one of the greatest dairy-free frothed drinks we’ve experienced, ever! Loads of body, a cushy merengue-like froth, sweet chewable air. (Mouth Feels ftw!)

We decided on the Mezzo: Taste 3 (three sides with a basket of soft pita) and the Kofta Tofu Scramble.

Baba Ghanouj – smoked applewood eggplant, tahini, garlic and lemon. OMG! Best baba we’ve ever tasted. The applewood smoke makes this! Creamy, dreamy, savory!

Labneh – Fermented cashew, mint and za’atar. There are feta and goat qualities to this nut cheese but the taste is more yoghurt. Tangy and super smooth.

Fried Tomatoes – garlic, zhoug and tahini sauce. A stewed tomato consistency. Zhoug is a piquantly refreshing puree of parsley, cilantro, cumin, salt and green chiles. The tahini added a rich hit that mellowed nicely with the creaminess of the fried tomato.

Kofta Tofu Scramble – seitan kofta, spicy minced seitan. The tofu scramble was a low-key but unique take on the common vegan breakfast dish. This was more like a soft scramble, easter peep yellow, understated flavor. It was different but welcome! Served with a side of whole leaves of wilted kale and seasoned, crispy pita. A balanced plate built with love.

We really, really wanted to try dessert but our stomachs just could not do it. ecoRDN was almost relieved when the last cinnamon bun was sold and the decision to save dessert for another day became a little easier. But don’t worry friends B52 is within easy walking distance and cake will be had in the near future! That we can promise you.

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©2015 – 2016 ecoRDN