Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Sweet Freedom, Round 2

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While I was in Philadelphia, I couldn’t help but take a trip to Sweet Freedom Bakery. I came here the last time I was in Philly and fell in love. It’s the only bakery I’ve ever been to where I could order absolutely everything there and not have to ask about the ingredients(which they proudly display), and their baked goods taste just as good as any others.

I intended to a couple of their cinnamon buns(which are incredible) but sadly they had none this time around. There menu had changed a lot since the last time I was there and a lot of the pastries were seasonal. The “cupcake tops” caught my eye.

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I’m a huge frosting fan. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve had layer cakes where I just ate the frosting and filling and left the cake part. Cake just isn’t as delicious. Naturally, anything with a frosting to cake ratio of 2:1 is right up my alley. I tried the chocolate flavor; while the frosting was great, the cake was a little disappointing, which made me glad I didn’t get the whole cupcake. It tasted a little starchy from the gluten-free flours used; I’m guessing the recipe has a bit too much potato or tapioca starch and it overpowers the cocoa.

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The other dessert I tried was their “magic bars”. It looked small and unassuming, but ended up being my favorite of the two. The bottom tasted like a homemade graham cracker-peanut butter crust. On top was a chocolate ganache and flaked coconut. I don’t think I could get tired of chocolate and peanut butter desserts, and this just attested to that. It’s something that also looks easy to make at home so I’ll be trying to replicate their recipe soon.

Obviously I’m a fan of Sweet Freedom Bakery, but I could have told you that before I went. I’d definitely recommend visiting if you’re in the neighborhood.

Sweet Freedom Bakery Review

August 22nd 152

One place that kept coming up when I mentioned that I was going to Philadelphia was Sweet Freedom Bakery. So many readers, bloggers, and tweeters recommended this place that I couldn’t not go. I’m happy with anywhere that sells gluten-free treats, but Sweet Freedom goes above and beyond selling only gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, and vegan desserts. I visited Sunday morning before lunch with Cynthia and Katie.

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The selection was—in a word—overwhelming. There were cupcakes, cookies, hand pies, brownies, and bars. It took me 10 minutes just to settle on something.

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I ended up getting a brownie sundae cupcake(top left) for myself and a Samoas(top right) and chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting(bottom) for Madeline and Boots.

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I love that they showed you the ingredients for all of the items. Not only does it help people with allergies know what they can have and can’t, but it helps nosy bakers like me know the secret ingredients of their baking.

The brownie cupcake was good, but nothing outstanding. The frosting was delicious but then again when isn’t frosting delicious? The Samoas cupcake was seriously impressive, with a coconut cream filling that looked incredible. But the real stand out was the cinnamon bun. 

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Photo from Katie

I wasn’t planning on eating one of these, but Katie bought one and insisted that we share. Twist my arm why don’t ya? There was some serious moaning from our side of the table as we ate this. It wasn’t the best gluten-free, vegan cinnamon bun I’ve ever had; it was the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had—period. It was so light and fluffy you could tell it had to be fresh and homemade. The glaze was sticky and sweet but didn’t overpower the spiciness of the cinnamon. Every part of it was pure bliss.

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I can’t lie: I’m as excited as going back to Philadelphia in November for the cinnamon bun as I am the marathon. Carbs have never tasted so good.

When In Providence…

Time has really flown by lately. Yesterday I went to spend the day in Providence with a friend leaving soon and realized it’s been about a month since I was on campus.

A month since I walked across the main green.

A month since I last drank a GTS Kombucha from the bookstore café.

And a month since I last made a trip to Wildflour Bakery.

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I really can’t resist this place. There’s no where like it in New England. They have the greatest selection of raw and vegan food with a bakery selection equally as fantastic. My friend suggested we go there(probably because I went through a phase when that’s all I would suggest we do) and I was no one to say no.

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I’ve heard a lot about Wildflour’s raw lasagna and even though it was mid afternoon a filling, savory meal sounded great to me.

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This reminded me how much I love raw food when it’s well prepared. Their lasagna is made up with layers of zucchini, tomato paste, and a herbed nut cheese. Even though none of it’s cooked, the flavors are complex and developed and the whole dish was rather filling.

To wash it down I grabbed one of their seasonal juices.

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This was refreshing, but had a little too much lime juice for me. I would have liked a softer lime flavor and a touch of salt. I could never get enough of watermelon and salt.

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Of course no trip to Wildflour is complete without grabbing something from their bakery. They have a huge selection of vegan baked goods. They have a good selection of gluten-free things, too, though I can’t say I’m not jealous of the chocolate peanut butter cup cupcakes and peanut butter brownies.

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Since I’m probably not going to be back for at least another month, I got a trio of desserts: Chocolate coconut rum ball, raw coconut macaroon, and raw chocolate ganache(aka the best dessert money can buy). So far I’ve only had half of the raw chocolate ganache; it’s as good as I remember and blows the pants off of my version. But I think I’m one step closer to figuring out the recipe.

So when in Rome, do as the Romans do, minus the public urination and slave-driven gladiatorial games because they don’t like those so much anymore. And when in Providence, go to Wildflour Bakery. They won’t do you wrong.

London: Desserts Edition

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Whereas the food in London wasn’t so great, at the end of the day there was always something sweet and delicious offered up, from meringues the size of my head to vegan, gluten-free banoffee trifles from Manna.

This wasn’t the best dessert I had(that’s a little lower down) but it was definitely the prettiest. Layers of gluten-free chocolate cake, caramel sauce, soy pudding, and banana slices. I felt compelled to order this after another restaurant had banoffee pie on their dessert menu that same day and everyone in my party had to ask me what that was. It was also dessert on one of the flights; who knew it was that popular? The chocolate cake in the trifle was delicious, rich, and moist. The pudding, although it had good flavor, also had a strong soy aftertaste. If I tried to recreate this vegan I’d probably use something neutral in flavor for the custard base like cashews.

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One thing that was everywhere in England was fudge. It must be the national dessert, because you could get it on any street corner. This brand apparently won awards so I just had to try it, and a chocolate fudge by the same manufacturers. The chocolate fudge wasn’t very chocolaty—I prefer my microwave chocolate fudge—, but the manuka honey fudge was excellent. It had a strong amber flavor to it that made it taste like a soft, butter toffee.

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The best dessert I had was from a vegetarian restaurant called saf located at the Kensington Whole Foods. We didn’t eat at the actual restaurant but I grabbed a raw pudding cup from their to-go section. It wasn’t very pretty, but what it lacked in looks it made up for I flavor.

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Mmm, doesn’t that look appealing, especially when you know that spirulina and moss are what make that bright green color? As off-putting as it was, I just had to lick the sides of the container clean. It was that good. I will definitely try to make something like this at home, perhaps without the moss.

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Even though it wasn’t English, I’d give honorable mention to the chocolate covered vanilla-infused ganache from La Maison Du Chocolat. This came from the confections room at Harrods, which was quite literally a room full of gourmet chocolate stands. I was in heaven. It was hard to choose just one thing but I think I made the right choice with this; the inside was impressively soft and a nice contrast to the chocolate shell. I wanted to stay in that room all day.

Isn’t dessert grand?

A Taste Of London

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For the last 5 days I’ve been on vacation in London. I’ve wanted to go to London for years now and it was everything I hoped it would be; the sights were incredible. The food, however, was very hit or miss. To be fair, I wasn’t going to London for the food, and most of the meals my group ate were in between famous landmarks. Food just wasn’t our priority.

Some of the meals were impressively bad; those ones I didn’t bother taking a picture of. English food doesn’t have the best reputation and when you’re limited to gluten-free, vegetarian(ish) options it’s even harder to find something edible and delicious. Salt was missing from practically every meal; and if I never see a plate of french fries again in my life I’ll be OK with that. So instead I’ll just point out the highlight meals.

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My favorite restaurant experience was at Manna on Primrose Hill. This was actually the only restaurant that I knew I wanted to eat at before going to it. It’s a small vegan restaurant with lots of gluten-free options. I immediately went for the enchiladas, made with corn tortillas, beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seed puree and baked in a tomato sauce. It wasn’t outstanding, but I liked it and would definitely order it again.

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I just had to order their onion rings as a side, because how often do you see vegan, gluten-free onion rings? I’m guessing the batter is rice flour and soy milk. It was impressively crispy and not oily at all. The only problem I had was that it lacked season; a little more salt would have gone a long way.

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Another night we had Indian food near Swiss Cottage. Indian food is all over London; it’s practically the cuisine London is known for. Since so much of English food is only lightly seasoned, it’s easy to understand why the spicy punch of Indian food is so popular.

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I ordered the house’s chana masala and a dish called veggie veggie 5 with 5 different vegetables sautéed in spices. The masala was good but again not outstanding. The vegetable dish had a great heat to it and was refreshing. I could have eaten Indian every day in London since this is the sort of food I’m naturally drawn to.

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I have to give honorable mention to the food court at London Tower, which surprisingly had a great menu. Their sesame carrot salad had just the right amount of dressing and was one of the few times a restaurant made a meal out of vegetables. The bean salad was also very delicious. The restaurant even had a gluten-free brownie which looked dense and gooey but I was so excited to have a plate full of vegetables that dessert wasn’t even on my mind at that meal—weird, I know.

I would recommend London for the culture, the friendly people, the historical sites and terrific museums. I would not recommend it for a foodie vacation. Tomorrow I’ll post about London’s redeeming quality: Their desserts.

The Providence Plate Lickers Club’s First Outing

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My favorite thing about Rhode Island is that it’s small. Like, super small. And the people are terrific, too. Setting up a local blogger’s dinner was a no brainer and after talking the talk for a while Erin, Becky, Lauren and I finally all got together at Garden Grille. I met Erin the week before my marathon for coffee, and Becky at the Healthy Living Summit and in DC for the National Marathon. Lauren and I had never met despite running the same half marathon and full marathon and living 2 miles from each other. Crazy, huh? Like I said, super small. image

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I ordered the cauliflower steak mostly because I wanted to see what the heck it was. This actually turned out to be really good! I was sure that that garlic white bean puree was actual potatoes. Even after eating it I wasn’t sure exactly everything in there, which I like because if I knew exactly how to make it I wouldn’t want to order it again.

After dinner we went right next door to Wildflour to have dessert and talk more. Fact: It’s impossible to say no to a trip to Wildflour.

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This time I tried the vegan/gluten-free pound cake that was staring me down. Normally I’m not a huge fan of cakey desserts but this one was just moist enough; the chocolate frosting didn’t even seem necessary(though it definitely didn’t hurt). Plus, ordering THE dessert twice in one week would have felt like overkill.

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It’s always nice meeting other bloggers, especially when it’s to eat and not run. Can’t wait to do it again!

The Best Dessert Money Can Buy

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I’m actually really hard to please when it comes to store-bought desserts. I often think “I could make that” or “I’ve had better” whenever I get a pastry from a bakery—or worse—a prepackaged dessert(Trust me, I know I’m impossible to shop for). But this dessert I would buy and buy again. It’s just that good.

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The first time I saw the raw chocolate ganache at Wildflour, I wasn’t even that interested in it; the raw cheesecake was what I was actually there for. But after talking to the friendly staff, one woman said this was “heavenly” and another her “vice”. I was intrigued so I went for it.

I’ve never looked back.

Simply put, this is the greatest. It’s soft and smooth yet firm at the same time. It just melts in your mouth and has just the right balance of sweetness and bitterness for a chocolate dessert. It’s not really a “ganache” but there’s no other words to describe this except for amazing.

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As for the recipe… I have no clue. I assume I would have to kill somebody who works there to get it(and even that’s barely stopping me from trying). My guess is that the ingredients and preparation are very similar to my raw vegan truffles except with a slightly different proportion and poured into a torte mold. There’s also a slight crunch to the bottom of this which makes me think coconut palm sugar is used as a sweetener. The top is finished off with a dusting of cocoa powder.

If you live near Providence I would recommend coming to try this. Also, if you live near Manhattan or Kennebunkport I would recommend coming to try this. It’s the best dessert money can buy and probably will be until I can figure out that damn recipe.

Oh, and don’t think that you’ll have the willpower to just eat half. You won’t.

The Elephant Walk In Boston

Today is a special day if you’re from Boston; it’s Patriot’s Day, also known as Marathon Monday. Growing up I always looked forward to having this one day off from school and watching the marathon coverage on every network station. Now that I don’t live in Boston, it makes me sad that I have to go to school and miss all that. But yesterday I was there with some excellent company and excellent food.

I met Matt and his family at The Elephant Walk on Beacon St. for a Sunday brunch. Matt is running the marathon today as his 8th or 9th marathon; he’s just that awesome. He also has a very cute baby who turned one yesterday(happy birthday, Holden!) so we just had to go out and eat grown-up food to celebrate. The great thing about The Elephant Walk was that the menu had lots of gluten-free(me) and vegan(him and his wife) options for us to choose from; eating out with food restrictions sometimes makes it hard to find something on the menu to eat but here we were all struggling to narrow it down to one option.

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I got the prix fixe menu which started with a fresh fruit plate. It was a little plain but the pineapple was especially delicious and a good fresh way to start.

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For the second course, I tried the S’ngao Mouan described as “Cambodian chicken soup with chicken breast, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, basil and scallion.” I had never had Cambodian food before but really liked how most of the flavors were drawn from citrus and herbs. This tasted especially light and refreshing with Thai basil which has an almost minty tone to it.

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For an entrée I chose Poulet a la Citronelle “sliced chicken breasts sauteed with lemongrass, onion, red bell pepper and scallion, sprinkled with freshly roasted crushed peanuts.” This dish has a much richer flavor than the soup but was very good. The peanuts added a strong punch of flavor and the sauce was great, too.

I would definitely eat at The Elephant Walk again, or even any other Cambodian restaurant. I’m very intrigued by their flavors and food after trying them once.

And congrats to Matt and all the other Boston Marathon runners! Go ahead and eat a brownie sundae from J.P. Licks today for me.

The Dog Days of Winter

Today is April 2nd and there is snow on the ground.

But on Wednesday it was bright and sunny at the temperature almost hit 50! That’s about as close to any dog day we’ve gotten. I spent the day in Boston with one of my best friends from high school. After about 3 hours of walking, we stopped at The Asgard in Cambridge for lunch.

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I scoped out the one thing on the menu that was vegan/gluten-free and ordered that(I’m not vegan, I just pretend to be 90% of the time). When I asked for a salad without meat the waitress was shocked. Apparently pubs don’t get a lot of vegetarians(again, I’m not, I just pretend).

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The salad was really good. It came with chickpeas and grilled vegetables. The reduced balsamic vinegar made it all come together.

Of course after 3 hours of walking there was no way I wasn’t ordering pub fries.

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These were definitely the best part of the meal, especially smothered in salt and ketchup. They should just add a french fries salad to the menu and I’d be all over that.

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I promise I was much more happy than I look.

And then there were actual dogs!

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We borrowed these dogs from their owner and walked them around Cambridge and Boston. They had much more energy than we did. I was tempted to steal one but something about running down Comm. Ave holding a dog with people chasing me would have been a little obvious. We gave them back and the dog day was over, and everyone sang Florence and the Machine happily ever after.

Cupcake Tour of DC

When you’re a foodie, the best part of visiting a new city isn’t the historical monuments or the shopping centers. It’s the food—more specifically, the cupcakes.

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My partners in crime, Holly and Madeline share this same sentiment. After over a year of stalking reading there blogs I was ecstatic to finally meet both of them. On Friday after finding each other at the race expo we down to Georgetown to Georgetown Cupcakes.

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If you aren’t aware of the gem of a reality show that is DC Cupcakes you really should be. The TLC show focuses on two sisters who opened up a cupcake bakery and… well, that’s the entire premise. But I promise it’s funny. The storefront offered some amazing sounding flavors. I was most surprised when I saw they had a gluten-free lava fudge cupcake for me!

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This might have been the best cupcake I have ever eaten: a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla cream cheese frosting and a fudge sauce filling. The filling was delicious and entirely unexpected. And the cupcake part didn’t taste starchy at all which can be a problem with gluten-free baked goods. But the best part was the frosting; Madeline and I both agreed that we would have bought a tub of the frosting if they sold that.

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On Sunday the three of us headed to Sticky Fingers Bakery for breakfast. The owner of the bakery won season 1 of Cupcake Wars on Food Network(another show that I admit is awful and yet 100% addicting). Sticky Fingers is an all vegan café with plenty of gluten-free options, too.

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I ordered the gluten-free pancake plate which came with maple syrup, tofu scramble, and vegan grits.

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Simply put, the pancakes were amazing. They were thin but the taste and texture were dead on. They even soaked up the maple syrup perfectly. I have no idea how they made these without eggs or gluten but I want the recipe.

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The vegan grits came with Daiya cheese. I’m still not even sure what grits are or how these were made. They were filling and tasted OK but could have used a pinch more of salt.

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Sticky Fingers was definitely a winner in my book.

On the way out we all grabbed some cupcakes. I meant to save it for the bus ride to the airport but ended up eating it at 11am. Hey, I did run a marathon the day before.

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I got the gluten-free chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. The cupcake itself was excellent and reminded me a lot of Georgetown Cupcake’s gluten-free cupcake. The frosting, however, was a little boring and just tasted generically sweet. I enjoyed Georgetown Cupcake’s cupcake more but if I were vegan I would not at all mind settling for Sticky Fingers. My only wish would be that cupcake stores make more interesting gluten-free flavors than chocolate(I swear I ordered it both times not because I’m a chocoholic but because that’s all there was).

I have to say thanks to my hungry companions, Holly and Madeline, for the awesome time! The only question left is what city should we hit up next?