Thursday, September 19, 2013

American food #1

It didn't take me long to swing into a food-focused post - and really, how could it? If there is one thing America is renowned for, it is the range of edible options available for those with money to purchase the items on offer. Vegan food is no exception, at least if you know where to look.

This is a pretty good place to look.

To try and put this in perspective, for every one 'exciting' vegan product in Australian supermarkets (by which I mean packaged / prepared vegan foods, rather than natural products like fruit/vegetables/grains) there are perhaps 25 in U.K. supermarkets. In the U.S., I'm going to estimate the count at 100. It is dazzling, dizzying, and a little overwhelming.

In some ways, this array of choice actually helps to keep my excitement in check. Given my tendencies to supermarket over-excitement, this is not a bad thing. There is no way I can sample all of the exciting and/or vegan products on offer, and so I'm able to traverse stores without feeling compelled to throw everything I like the look of into my basket. It is more relaxing to know that I can't have it all and to therefore not try.

With that said, there is still plenty of excitement to be had.

My new non-dairy best friends.

On our first day, we saw the Whole Foods near us (pictured above - enormous) but decided to leave it for a day when we'd be rested enough to do it justice. That worked out very well, because not only did I go with the benefit of sleep, Mr Bite sensibly sent me off solo while he stayed home with the TV. This allowed me to travel every aisle in peace, and saved him the trauma of a wife making noises of delight in the health food, cereal, and freezer sections.

Our first supermarket was thus a Safeway, chosen purely because it was around the corner from us. That provided the peanut butter Cheerios, Almond Dream ice cream bites and snack products shown in my last post, a selection that also included my first pack of Graham Crackers. I had previously believed them to be a bit like U.K. Digestive biscuits, but that belief was completely misguided. I would describe them instead as a cross between Australian Nice and Milk Arrowroot biscuits - with a twist of cracker thrown in (at least based on the single cinnamon flavoured pack I've tried). (For my American readers, our biscuits are your cookies, and our crackers are savoury.)


Safeway also provided some more basic items, including what are among my most loved purchases to date: summer fruit (Australia has just finished winter, so it was 6 months since my last stone fruit) and my first spaghetti squash vegetable.

Spaghetti squash (bottom right)!





I know spaghetti squash is commonplace to many of you, but it isn't available in Western Australia and I have long desired to experience the magic of a vegetable that turns into spaghetti-like strands.

It didn't disappoint. I had it on our first night with chilli pinto beans and baby carrots, and whilst the taste was akin to regular varieties of squash, the texture was quite magical.

Spaghetti squash, cooked.

Mr Bite had a baked potato of enormous proportions on that night, with tuna and cheese. I appreciate this dinner may seem like a boring entry to American food, but it was perfect ahead of collapsing into a real bed for the first time in 3 days.

Since then, of course, we have been able to get a little more adventurous.


Sweetgreen was on my list of D.C. eateries I had to visit, and whilst I had half expected to dine there solo (I wasn't sure if their menu was ideally suited to Mr B), we ended up visiting on a day when lunch was extremely late and I told Mr Bite he would just have to make do. I'm nice like that. I ordered him a wrap with salad, avocado, cheese and egg, and for myself, selected the spicy sabzi salad bowl.

Sweetgreen's spicy sabzi salad.

It has, to quote, "organic baby spinach, shredded kale, spicy quinoa, spicy broccoli carrots, raw beets, basil, sprouts and roasted tofu with a carrot chilli vinaigrette and a squeeze of sriracha".


It was excellent. Spicy, and absolutely excellent. To my delight, Mr Bite also enjoyed his wrap, so I may even fit a repeat visit in before we leave the country.

When I did visit Whole Foods, that was excellent too. Realising there was only so much I could justify buying when we have to pack up and move on this weekend, I contended myself with browsing the non-dairy milks (soy, almond, coconut, hemp, mixed nut milks, sweetened, unsweetened, flavoured), non-dairy ice creams (soy, almond, coconut, bars, tubs, somanyflavours) and non-dairy yoghuts (soy, coconut) without buying. Oh, okay, without buying much. I did purchase the two items below.



You may remember that earlier this year, I tried Coyo's plain coconut milk yoghurt in Australia, for the hefty price tag of $13 per 400g. I didn't particularly like it, finding it to lack characteristic yoghurt tang. The above tub of So Delicious plain coconut milk yoghurt was, I think, about $1.50 for 170g - and I loved it. It actually tasted of yoghurt. I'm yet to try the almond milk caramel latte but also have high hopes for that.

I also showed remarkable restraint in the cereal, health food, and chocolate sections (again - if you can't buy it all, it is somehow easier!), aided in part by extreme prices for some otherwise appealing items. I'm sure last time I was in America food seemed cheap, but most things (coconut yoghurt and similar products aside) now seem similar in price to Australia. In Whole Foods, prices can rise sharply and 'cheap' is not a word that comes to mind.

I did buy a peanut butter Lara bar, a Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cup, some other chocolate blocks that I'll review at a later stage, as well as the cereal snacks below. I do apologise for the quality of some of these photos, our holiday apartment is wonderful but does have sub-optimal lighting!


I also bought provisions for our second self-catering dinner, in the form of tortillas, salad, and vegan barbecue 'chicken wings'. I had to choose between the wings, an array of veggie burgers, vegan fish fillets, and various vegan sausages, so it was a tough choice to settle on these. In the end, their small package was the deciding factor because we really didn't need a multi-pack of the other options on offer. The wings were novel, very barbecue-y, and very like chicken in their texture.


What about eating out? In addition to Sweetgreen, we've enjoyed lunch at the Corner Bakery Cafe, which seems to be a nation-wide chain. They have a diverse menu with plenty of vegetarian options, and I enjoyed a 'trio' deal with a small cup of veggie soup (tomato and basil) and two small side salads (edamame salad and fruit salad). Mr B had a more straightforward roast veggie sandwich.

I am going to post about some of our purchased dinners separately - they deserve their own post - but will note here that we enjoyed Thai take away on our second night from the vegan-friendly Rice on 14th Street NW. I had their ginger stir fried tofu and vegetables with rice, while Mr Bite had pad thai with tofu and egg. Verdict - good.

Rice's ginger stir fried tofu and vegetables with rice.

On that note, I shall end this very full post and ask you - what is your favourite American food (or want-to-try food), regardless of whether you live here or not? And, how do you cope when presented with more food options than you can possible try?!

24 comments:

  1. Now I have American food envy - and confusion - I thought whole foods was a health food store so I was surprised to hear there is a health foods section. The coconut yoghurt sounds exciting (having also tasted coyo) and the salad sounds great - it all looks good (apart from the odd coffee product and perhaps I might not be so keen on the chicken wings - any bones?)

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    1. Definitely no bones! Faux chicken fillets would probably have been a better descriptor. And Whole Foods is definitely a health focused store, but it has all the usual supermarket things too - from pasta to cleaning products - so some aisles were more appealing than others :-) The 'health food section' I was referring to was just their granola mixes and snack bars and raw/vegan cookies and such.

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  2. Bahahaha! Love your completely unfounded "estimates". What's that line about 83% of statistics being made up on the spot? ;)

    Hurrah for getting to sweetgreen! But you're not doing well enough on the vegan desserts and flavoured nut butters front. Try harder.

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  3. I want Whole Foods and Trader Joes here'

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  4. Totally jealous!! I think you have shown great restraint :) I would go nuts buying stuff at whole foods!! Hope you have a great time

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  5. Hehe Kari, you are wayy too cute for words ;). I live here and I still squeal every time I go to Whole Foods. Tim usually likes to go grocery shopping with men but not when we are there for over an hour..hence he doesn't do WF haha. Upon reading this post, I'm reminded of how much I take everything for granted living here in America. I'm glad you and Mr. Bite are being well-fed ;)

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    1. Thanks Min! And I must say, I wonder how many husbands/partners avoid WF - it is definitely a shop with more women in it ;)

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  6. It's so fun to see which foods you picked out! I've lived in the US all my life and still haven't tried many of these :)

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    1. I imagine some of them lose their novelty after a while ;)

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  7. It never occurred to me that America had healthy choices... let alone vegan options... You have really opened my eyes :)

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    1. They pretty much have everything it would seem. I have found it easier finding vegetarian food and salads and things than in Australia, which at first thought may not seem expected :-)

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  8. haha enjoyed reading this :-) i have a loooooooooooong list of vegan foods i want to bring back if i ever get to america oneday - graham crackers being one of them!
    glad i'm not the only one who gets over-excited by a supermarket ;-)

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  9. Sometimes I seriously forget that the UK and Australia don't have all the same brands and products as we do! Crazy. That Silk almond milk is by FAR my favorite nondairy milk. It's so creamy!

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    1. It is! I don't know how they do it!

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  10. ohhh you're in the states! Welcome welcome, you guys! :D Oh mannn don't even get me started on WF's selection. It is a super expensive and sort of overwhelming store, but I just love to browse around and try out new things. Since getting married I've shown SO MUCH MORE restraint in buying whatever I please so nowadays I just get like 2 items that really stick out to me. And I looove corner bakery! they have amazing soup, and I really enjoy their harvest salad because of the tanginess and crunch from the harvest bread they put in.

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    1. The soup at The Corner Bakery really was excellent! I hope we get to visit another branch on our travels :-) And I like the idea of just picking 2 items per WF visit - great idea!

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  11. I'm filled with homesick now :) I'm so glad you're having a good time!

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  12. Our husbands sound a bit similar, mine would be more than happy to lounge around enjoying some TV time while I spent hours traipsing through Wholefoods or Trader Joes. There are so many US products I would love to try, amongst them are Gardein, Beyond Meat, Field Roast, Soy Curls, Daiya. I'm also intrigued about collard greens to the point where I'm going to try growing some soon.

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    1. It's a pity we can't grow all of the products you list to get around their non-Australian distribution ;) We have tried Beyond Meat and I can assure you that is worth seeking out when you make it over here!

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