A Review of Liquiteria’s Explore and Nourish Cleanse

Do you ever feel that when winter hits, your body goes into hibernation mode, and you start eating everything in sight, even though in modern day times you no longer have to build up layers of fat to survive the bitter winters, just like our caveman ancestors once did?

If this isn’t a problem you struggle with, lucky you. Unfortunately, my vestigial winter survival instincts were kicking in high gear, and I was snacking like a mad woman. I felt like a cleanse was in order to reverse some of the damage, so when Liquiteria offered its Level 1 Explore and Nourish cleanse on Gilt City, I bought one asap.

meet the cast of explore and nourish
meet the cast of explore and nourish

The Level 1 cleanse is designed for beginners and consists of 6 juices. I feel like I’m more of an intermediate cleanser, but the Level 2 cleanse had two All Greens juices in it, whereas the Level 1 only had one, and that was honestly the deciding factor. Also, level 1 cleanses tend to showcase overly fruity and sweet juices to appeal to beginners, but this one was actually light on the fruit basket.

Here’s a rundown of the juices in the cleanse:

All Greens – this is probably one of the more challenging juices on the cleanse. I remember hating it when I was on Juice, Eat & Repeat. It basically tastes like sweet liquid grass and cucumber. Surprisingly I couldn’t really taste the parsley in here, but the cucumber was front and center.

All Greens with Apple – this tastes like apple juice with some celery and parsley, which is awesome, considering you had to drink liquid cucumber right before it. Even though it has apple in it, it isn’t overly sweet and is one of the better sweet green juices that are out there.

Skin Trip – this is the worst juice out of the bunch. It looks like toilet water and tastes like it too. To be fair, it actually tastes like carrot juice, but you eat with your eyes, not your stomach, and I couldn’t get over the sketchy dark brown color. Because it’s so awful, it usually takes me 45 minutes to drink it, whereas I can drink an All Greens with Apple in like 5. It also feels a bit more full bodied than the other juices, maybe it’s because of all the earthy root vegetables like carrot and beet in there.

Beets Me – pretty self explanatory, it’s a sweet beet juice with a lot of ginger. I have to warn you, sometimes the ginger is intense, and it hurts if you drink it too quickly because all these gingery fumes get caught in your sinuses.

Royal Flush – the last juice of the day is this pineapple apple juice with again, lots of ginger. Obviously this juice is very sweet and pleasant, but I was hoping for something more comforting and substantial, like the cashew nut milk on the BluePrint cleanse. Oh well, at least it’s not a Skin Trip or All Greens.

Day 1 – Started out with the All Greens juice at 8:30 am. I was dreading this juice, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. I was too distracted by work to realize how hungry I was, and at 12 I quickly finished off my bottle of the All Greens with Apple. I was really hungry throughout the day–I guess my stomach stretched in the winter or something–but I managed to hold out until 3:45 for the 3rd juice, the Skin Trip. Drinking the Skin Trip was by far the most traumatic part of the cleanse, it was horrible. At around the third juice my trips to the bathroom became much more frequent. And my productivity sort of shut down at 4 pm. In addition to the constant hunger, I had a light headache throughout the day, probably because I didn’t have my daily cup of caffeinated tea. After the horrible Skin Trip, the All Greens with Apple tasted especially heavenly and I finished it in 5 minutes. When I came home from work, I finished the Beets Me juice, which was extra gingery. I couldn’t drink it too quickly because of the kick from the ginger. 2 hours later I had the Royal Flush and went to sleep soon after.

Day 2 – Wow, I had the best sleep ever last night. I felt so well rested. This is the best part of cleansing, the quality of your sleep definitely improves. I was surprisingly less hungry today than yesterday. Maybe my winter stomach was shrinking back to its normal state. My slight caffeine withdrawal headache also went away. Normally on the second day of the cleanse my mind gets a little foggy and I get fatigued very easily. I did almost pass out in a group meeting but my mind stayed pretty sharp in the early part of the day. After 3 pm I was starting to struggle and became very uncoordinated, and at the market, I had such a hard time getting a bunch of kale into a plastic bag. I also noticed that this cleanse really gets the digestion moving, like really moving. That’s something I didn’t experience on other cleanses. The worst drink of the day was still The Skin Trip, although I’m beginning to feel it’s the reason why my digestion has improved…so I won’t write it off completely. It’s a little TMI, but it felt liberating knowing things were moving out of my gut.

Day 3 – again, another great night of sleep. There weren’t that many differences between Day 2 and 3, except I was starting to get bored, and all I kept thinking about was my solid meal the next day. I was less tired and could concentrate better today, although that was offset by me getting really cold and having blue fingernails at times. I loved getting good sleep and having great digestion, and the 4 pounds of weight loss are nice (but temporary), but nothing beats solid foods. They say you should ease into meats and dairy, but I’m probably going to ignore that suggestion…

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival 2015 Recap

This is my third year covering the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, and I’m always impressed by the devoted crowds that line up before the official opening time of 11 am each year. Interest in a vegetarian lifestyle continues to grow, and although the percentage of vegetarians in the United States is a small 5% (Gallup), the group of Americans who frequently go meat-free is 33% (Harris Interactive).

nyc veg 2015 - signage

As the statistics show, people are curious about meat-free products, even if they don’t necessarily want to commit to a meat-free lifestyle. Food companies have responded to this rising demand by producing high quality and tasty products that can hold their own against the non-vegan competition. Each year the festival showcases the latest in vegan snack food innovation, and here’s a rundown of the brands that really stood out in the crowd.

Palm Frites – The name Palm Frites is a play on “pomme frites”, but these coconut fries have little in common with traditional french fries. Young Thai organic coconuts go through a dehydration process that transforms the fruit into crispy chips, no frying vat of oil required. The churro and bbq flavors were my favorites, although the flagship garlic fry was a little too intensely garlic for me. A gluten free source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, packed with essential vitamins and minerals–what’s not to like?

palm frites' coconut fries
palm frites’ coconut fries

Bixby & Co. – Everyone loves chocolate, and luckily dark chocolate happens to be naturally vegan. Chocolate, after all, comes from cacao beans, and it only becomes un-vegan when you add dairy milk to it. The Whippersnapper chocolate bar had great texture and the dark chocolate wasn’t bitter at all. It’s a great way to indulge, cruelty-free.

bixby chocolate bars
bixby chocolate bars

i heart keenwah – The quinoa clusters from i heart keenwah were my favorite samples at the festival. They tasted like a cross between a rice krispy treat and those asian sesame seed candies, crunchy and sweet, but with a more complex, nutty flavor. I was also a fan of the quinoa puffs, which resembled the cheez balls of my youth, only packed with protein, denser in texture, and flavored with better seasonings like sea salt truffle and aged cheddar.

quinoa clusters
quinoa clusters
quinoa puffs
quinoa puffs

Karmalize – Karmalize sells 100% organic, GMO-free nuts, quinoa, chia, coconut sugar and beans. I wasn’t able to sample any due to the nature of the product being raw ingredients rather than a finished snack product, but I was intrigued enough by the founders’ energy and commitment to socially responsible practices, that I bought a bag of the white quinoa. Another distinguishing characteristic of Karmalize products is that they are sprouted, meaning the seeds in the grain, nut or bean are germinated, which naturally increases the mineral and vitamin content in the product, and improves digestion and absorption of those nutrients.

karmalize’s raw, organic nuts
karmalize’s organic white quinoa

NotMilk – NotMilk is a brand of fresh nut milk made just from water, nuts and dates, and currently these nut milks are only sold in NYC by delivery service. The company was started by two sisters who are lactose intolerant and needed an alternative to dairy milk, but weren’t satisfied with the mass-produced, chemically enhanced nut milks available in grocery stores. They decided to produce nut milk that they and others could drink in good conscience. I liked the Vanilla and Original NotMilk–they certainly beat the Whole Foods almond milk that I’ve been buying regularly.

notmilk's nut milks
notmilk’s nut milks

Love Beets – There’s this funny episode of Portlandia where a marketing exec tries to make celery as sexy as kale. He should take a few cues from Love Beets, a company that sells pre-marinaded beets in fun snack packs. Let’s be honest, beets are very earthy and not the most accessible of vegetables, but these bite-size, tasty servings and the whimsical packaging should change this perception.


what's not to love about beets
what’s not to love about beets
love beets' juices
love beets’ juices

Hope Foods – It’s hard to find innovation in the hummus and dips space. Yes, you can add some garlic and chili to some chickpeas, but it doesn’t get much more exciting than that. Hope Foods’ hummus, on the other hand, actually bring something new to the table, infusing their spreads with ingredients like vibrant, spicy avocado and sriracha. They also have a chocolate version that surprisingly works really well with the garbanzo beans.

hope foods' chocolate spreads
hope foods’ chocolate spreads

Cocoburg – Coconut is having a moment at the festival. Cocoburg is another vendor capitalizing on the potential of coconut, hand making raw vegan coconut jerky in small batches at its Brooklyn headquarters. The coconut jerky is intended to be a meat substitute that tastes great and doesn’t have a whole bunch of additives in it. I was convinced by the texture of the jerky samples–it did have that chewy, meaty sensation that you would get from chunky bits of beef jerky.

coconut jerky
coconut jerky

Fruit Bliss – Fruit Bliss sells naturally sun-sweetened, organic whole fruit snack packs that are handy when you simply don’t have time to cut and peel your own fruit (which is like everyday for me!). These fruits are great in that they still retain the plumpness and moisture of fresh fruit, but they aren’t overly sweet like the dried cranberries and apricots in your calorie dense trail mix.

fruit bliss dates and plums
fruit bliss dates and plums

Rukhi – I eat Kind bars nearly everyday for an afternoon snack, but sometimes I wish they weren’t so sweet, and I sometimes wonder why there’s soy lecithin and other unfamiliar things in there. I stumbled upon Rukhi’s gluten free and vegan fruit snacks at the festival, which featured all natural combinations of raw ingredients such as dates, figs, cranberries, apricots, almonds and walnuts. The snacks tasted wholesome, fresh and nutritious, an improvement upon the sugary, processed aftertaste in a lot of mass produced food bars. The fig varieties are especially impressive.

rukhi's fig and almond snack samples
rukhi snack squares
nyc veg 2015 - rukhi snack squares
rukhi snack squares samples


Botched Vegetarian Brunch @ The Butcher’s Daughter

When you walk up to The Butcher’s Daughter, you’ll notice a bunch of lovely ladies sitting at the tables up front, taking a lot of brunch selfies and drinking the requisite pretty girl drink of green juice. Clearly they are here to stick to their juice cleanse and not for the food, because the food here is honestly terrible. Someone needs to let Dad back into the kitchen, because the butcher’s daughter is making a mess of things in the back of the house.

I hate to say it, but the food here represents the worst of vegetarian cooking. You know those nightmares you have where you order a mock “meat” sausage, and it ends up tasting like dried dog biscuit? Those nightmares come vividly to life at The Butcher’s Daughter. An order of the Full English Breakfast consisted of eggs, breakfast “sausage”, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms, and the sausage looked like something out of my dog’s Pup-Peroni Mix Stix package. It tasted like dried dirt and fennel, in case the awfulness did not come across. Again, I get that sometimes vegetarians miss the flavor of meat and want to eat something reminiscent of it, but the mock meat here would only serve to quickly remind them why they converted in the first place. The most edible part of the breakfast platter was the beans, but even so, I’ve had much better beans elsewhere.

butcher's daughter - full english breakfast v2
full english breakfast – eat at your own risk

My smashed avocado eggs benedict was similarly inedible. There didn’t appear to be any seasoning at all in these sad, pallid poached eggs, not even a pinch of salt. The avocados were also extremely plain and bare. It didn’t help that everything was piled on top of the most unappetizing slice of dry, cardboard-like wheat bread ever. Supposedly there were curry, lime and mustard seed in the avocados, but I didn’t taste them at all. We had to apply liberal amounts of hot sauce and salt to get these things to taste somewhat better, but at the end, I gave up and didn’t even bother finishing the other poached egg. And don’t get me started on the “hollandaise” sauce. This non-dairy version had a strange texture and a flavor that was nowhere near the creaminess or the brightness of the regular version. I was very appalled and disappointed by the whole thing. I did eat my pan-fried potatoes. They weren’t that great, and they lacked that crunchy, starchy coating that the best hash browns and potatoes usually possess, but these were desperate times, and I was so grateful to eat them.

butcher's daughter - avocado toast
smashed avocado toast benedict, with mystery sauce…

It wasn’t all bad at The Butcher’s Daughter, I guess. The heritage juices are legitimately tasty–I loved the Goddess of Green juice, one of the best green juices that I’ve had in the city, but at $9 it’s a little steep. The Honey Bee was also sweet and refreshing, although probably a little too sweet for my taste. I didn’t like the smoothie of the day, which was a mango lassi that used coconut milk instead of yogurt, because all I tasted was shredded, frozen coconut flakes and zero mango. It was yellowish-orange though, I have to give them credit for replicating the appearance, I suppose.

butcher's daughter - juices
from top left, clockwise – goddess of green, honey bee, mango lassi

I’m the type of girl who likes to eat, and I usually end up finishing anything that’s on my plate, so the fact that I left a whole egg untouched is a pretty big sign of how bad the food here was. Afterwards, we walked to the Hester Street Fair and ate some pork sandwiches from Arrogant Swine to wipe out the horrible memories from The Butcher’s Daughter.

arrogant swine 1
thank god for the pork sandwich at arrogant swine.

I kind of get why the pretty fashionistas line up here for brunch every weekend–bad food is an extremely effective way of sticking to a dainty cleanse. Maybe “eating” at The Butcher’s Daughter will be my post holiday New Year’s clean eating resolution–nothing like recoiling from fake egg sauce to whip you back into cleansing shape.

The Butcher’s Daughter
19 Kenmare St (and Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 219-3434

The Butcher's Daughter

Vegan Dinner at Blossom on Carmine

I am absolutely obsessed with Blossom Du Jour, a vegan take-out restaurant near work on 43rd and 9th. I almost look forward to late nights in the office, because that means I can order a bowl of Blossom’s awesome tomato lentil soup and karmic kale salad. In fact, when I was walking back home today, I was very tempted to trek out to Chelsea and order take-out at another Blossom branch, even though this is nowhere near my East Village address.

So when I saw a Groupon deal for Blossom on Carmine, a sit-down restaurant in the West Village that’s part of the Blossom empire, I was all over it. I recruited my vegan enthusiast partner-in-crime Cat to save the date for a vegan dinner at Blossom. Of course, the one day that Ruoxi the hardcore carnivore was free for dinner was the day we had scheduled vegan night, so he too joined us as a very reluctant third wheel.

The restaurant itself felt like a neighborhood joint with a nice ambiance, a quality enhanced by all the atmospheric candle mood lighting that surrounded us. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of couples on dates and small group dinners taking place around us. If you ever wanted to make a good impression on an attractive vegan, then taking her here would be the way to do it. And yes, I used the pronoun “her,” a lot of chicks happen to be vegan. If you ever attend some sort of vegan or vegetarian food festival, you will be surrounded by tons of white chicks.

We had scouted the menu out beforehand and decided to avoid any “mock meat” creations. I’m not opposed to seitan or soy by any means, but it’s highly unlikely that a vegan chik’n wrap can completely measure up to a real chicken wrap. I wanted to avoid unfair comparisons like this and felt original vegetable creations would allow for more objectivity.

I thought the vegetable dishes we ordered were really well done. The brussels sprouts, while sauteed, still retained a fresh crispness about the leaves, and the garlic seasoning provided a lot of nice flavor. The kale and baby bok choy were grilled, and the slight char and the sweet honey glaze went extremely well together.

blossom - shredded sauteed brussels sprouts
sautéed, shredded brussels sprouts
blossom - garlic grilled kale and baby bok choy
garlic grilled kale and hefeweisen/honey glazed baby bok choy

My favorite “vegetable” by far were the french fries. I know this is totally the biggest vegan cop-out order, comparable to proudly ordering a California roll or chicken teriyaki at a sushi restaurant. But there are tons of regular restaurants that mess up fries, and Blossoms’ are some of the best. Thin, golden and perfectly crispy, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

blossom - french fries
french fries

Things started to get a little more interesting with the arrival of the buffalo risotto croquettes. This dish was the first that we ordered that had more conspicuous roots in a meat-inspired dish. Clearly one might draw some parallels between this and the infamous buffalo chicken wing, but capturing the spicy spirit in an arancini ball, which had no obvious ties to chicken meat, avoided the comparisons. The chewy texture was extremely satisfying, and the rice was super concentrated with buffalo sauce. It was definitely one of my favorite non-vegetable items from Blossom.

blossom - buffalo risotto croquettes
buffalo risotto croquettes, pickled carrot ribbons, bleu cheese sauce

I was looking forward to the tagine dish–the warm, intoxicating Middle Eastern stew is something I love. But the tagine at Blossom didn’t have that same soulful warmth about it. Things just didn’t seem to be cohesive. Usually in a tagine the chicken and the surrounding sauces seem to melt into one another, but the elements in Blossom’s version seemed very separate, like let’s technically execute a tagine, but let’s not edit and experiment to make sure the spices and the textures are in harmony.

blossom - tagine
tagine with orange scented millet, chickpeas, dried apricots, and oil-cured olives

The most challenging dish was probably the mushroom pizza, and that was because of the vegan “cheese” that was used on top of it. I think they used daiya cheese, a vegan cheese substitute made from cassava and arrowroot, which are two ingredients I’ve never heard of before. And clearly these unfamiliar and foreign qualities were front and center in the flavor of the pizza. All that I could think about was how this “cheese” tasted nothing like real mozzarella cheese. I tasted something nutty, sometimes a little bbq sauce, which is not what mozzarella tastes like. Everything else–the crust and the vegetables and sauce–were excellent, but the daiya flavors were so strange and obtrusive. If you’re down with daya, though, then this pizza is for you.

blossom - mushroom pizza
mushroom pizza with “mozzarella” cheese

Luckily dinner ended on a high note. We ordered the blueberry bread pudding, which was fantastic. It was crispy, with the texture and pleasing warmth of a freshly cooked waffle. The citrus notes from the lemon provided some bright layers to the dish, and I liked how it wasn’t so sweet–such balance and thoughtful preparation all around. While not every dish hit it out of the park, I did appreciate how the dishes were original and well-executed. Blossom didn’t sit on its laurels knowing that its captive vegan clientele had limited dining options and so it didn’t have to try very hard to please them. Much like its name, this restaurant will continue to blossom if this dinner is any indication.

Blossom on Carmine
41 Carmine St (between Bedford and Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014
(646) 438-9939

Day in Brooklyn: Smorgasburg, Oddfellows, Dun-Well Doughnuts

The weather in New York this weekend was picture perfect–sunny and clear, with nary a cloud in sight. It would have been criminal to spend time indoors, which is why I took my meals outside and spent the day grazing on delicious grub from Smorgasburg, the outdoor food festival in Williamsburg.

There were nearly 100 vendors that set up shop on Saturday. At around 12, the crowds and the lines weren’t too bad, with the exception of the ones for Mighty Quinn’s bbq and that ramen burger place. There was a lot to choose from, but ultimately I felt like I was in an Asian mood, so I tried some dan dan noodles from pop-up restaurant Noodle Lane and an order of the nuoc mam cham brussels sprouts from Martha, a restaurant in Fort Greene.

smorgasburg - sign for noodle lane
noodle lane menu
smorgasburg - dan dan noodles from noodle lane
noodle lane’s dan dan noodles

Noodle Lane uses egg noodles as opposed to Shanghai-style noodles in their dan dan noodles. As a result, the noodles were sturdier and thicker, and it took a little more work to swirl them around in the savory sauce and other ingredients. The noodles were tasty, although I wish the flavors from the pork and the surrounding oil and sauce were stronger. It needed a little more savory kick to it. I also should have ordered it spicier. You get the option of mild, medium, hot and extra hot, and I chose medium, which ended up being extremely subtle.

smorgasburg - sign for martha
martha’s smorgasburg offerings
smorgasburg - brussel sprouts from martha
martha’s nuoc mam cham brussels sprouts

The brussels sprouts from Martha ROCKED. First of all, they were deep fried, a technique that can transform most ordinary vegetables into insanely good ones. The outer leaves had a fantastic wilted char that was packed with flavor. Smokey, salty and sweet, all three flavors were concentrated into the leaves, as well as the inner core. The hint of fish sauce in the sprouts was a unique way of imparting an additional depth of umami flavor to the dish. It was distinctive, comforting and delicious.

I also tried some of my friend Sylvia’s chicken arepa from Palenque, but it was frankly pretty dry and tasteless. After enjoying some wine and beer in the inner quad, we decided it was time for dessert. The lines by this point were a bit long, especially the one for The Good Batch’s ice cream sandwiches. Instead of waiting it out, we decided to leave the market and walked over to Oddfellows Ice Cream Co, an ice cream shop run by Sam Mason, former pastry chef at wd-50.

oddfellows - storefront
oddfellows old-fashioned parlor
oddfellows - burnt marshmallow and english toffee
burnt marshmallow and english toffee ice cream

We ordered the special flavors of the day–burnt marshmallow and english toffee. I’m not a big ice cream person, but I was immediately blown away by Oddfellows’. You know how most ice cream flavors are loosely inspired by a fruit or a dessert? The ice cream at Oddfellows is less an intrepretation and more of a true embodiment of the original inspiration, and it’s because the quality of their ingredients are so good. The english toffee actually had generous bits of crunchy toffee dispersed throughout, probably made fresh in their kitchen, as opposed to some expired, frozen, chopped up Heath bars. Same goes for the burnt marshmallow. The marshmallow was soft and pliant, as opposed to resembling rock hard frozen nuggets. Even the cone was delicious–I think there was a hint of cinnamon in the waffle mix. I am very excited that they are opening a second branch in the East Village in May!

dun-well doughnuts in east williamsburg
smorgasburg - dun-well doughnuts
dun-well doughnuts at smorgasburg

Because I had the time, I sauntered off to Dun-Well Doughnuts, a vegan doughnut bakery over on Montrose Ave in East Williamsburg. I’ve tried several varieties of vegan doughnuts, and the most successful creations have been cake doughnuts smothered in a lot of chocolate or strong toppings to mask its veganness. Dun-Well doesn’t hide behind a lot of flashy trappings, because their doughnuts speak for themselves. They can very well hold their own against the regular yeast doughnuts from your neighborhood doughnut shop. I was especially a big fan of the fruity lemon blueberry doughnut, which they were selling at Smorgasburg.

It’s days like these that make New York so awesome. Hoping more sunny weekends spent noshing outdoors come our way in the following months!