Robert Cheeke’s experience as a competitive bodybuilder and long-distance runner gives him a unique perspective on how to create the body you want. As a runner, his goal was primarily to consume calories for energy, while as a bodybuilder, his goal was first to gain muscle and then to lose layers of fat so those muscles could be better defined for competition. In his book, “Shred It,” Cheeke shows us that we have complete control over our bodies if we follow simple methods that all serious bodybuilders know. Robert Cheeke explains a few of these principles in his interview with Danielle Bussone.
En-route to Tampa Bay, Florida, for their annual Vegfest, Rich and I stopped at a lovely little restaurant in Jacksonville to sample Ethiopian cuisine. Since I am in the midst of writing an Ethiopian cookbook, I’ve made it my business to try Ethiopian food in cities across the country, comparing and contrasting the different dishes, the methods of preparation and, of course, the variations in the Injera flatbread. After many hours on the road, Ibex Ethiopian Kitchen was an especially welcome treat.
A little over 15 months ago, at the prompting of her best friend, Tsione (pronounced Tzani) Chiksemo moved to Jacksonville where she opened up Ibex Ethiopian Kitchen. Rich and I arrived after the lunch rush and we were greeted at the door by Tsione personally and we were joined shortly by her fiance Teddy Aboye. Ibex is named after a type of goat. Go figure, we never figured out exactly how this fits into the picture, but there you have it.
A table of four was busily finishing off their meal. The members of the group were Ethiopian, distinguished by characteristically high foreheads and delicate features. It’s always a good sign to find native diners at any restaurant of a specific ethnicity, and this was no exception.
The dining area is open and casual with paneled walls and several televisions spaced strategically throughout. A combination of booths with wooden tables hugged one wall while several tables seating four occupied the center of the dining room. Along another wall is a bar for singles as well as a couple of two-seater bistro tables.
Ordering was easy. On the first page of the menu, all the vegetarian (vegan, in fact) options are listed. Dinech (potatoes and carrots simmered with garlic and onion), Tomatim Fitfit (a salad of tomatoes, injera, green peppers, and onions tossed in a lemony dressing), Miser Wot (spicy red lentils), Tikel gomen (a mild stew of cabbage and carrots cooked with garlic and ginger) and Aterkik Alitcha (mild yellow split peas cooked with onion and garlic). Each dish is $9.95 or you can get the Ibex Vegetarian platter for $12.95 per person. The vegetarian platter contained numerous other dishes which may or may not appear on the menu, such as Fasolia (a mild dish of green beans, onions and peppers), Shiro (a spicy puree of chickpeas) and Gomen (collard greens).
You won’t find vegetables smothered in spices at Ibex. Understated is the name of the game here. In the mild dishes, the veggies are sauteed to perfection in onion and garlic, along with a little peanut oil, so that the flavor of the individual vegetable shines, not the spice. This was a surprising and refreshing change from our accustomed Ethiopian fare.
The spicy dishes, prepared with the essential Ethiopian spice blend, Berbere, were the traditional foods we have come to know and love and were as good as we’ve experienced anywhere. Especially noteworthy is the quality of Ibex’s Injera, that wonderfully spongy, sourdough flatbread ubiquitous in Ethiopian kitchens worldwide. This is some of the very best Injera we have had to date and we know of only one restaurant in all our travels that can rival it. It is delicate and light while maintaining its consistency.
The Fit-fit was also a bit unusual. At first appearance, it looks like a mound of crumbled injera but one taste puts that notion immediately to rest. It is saturated in a purée of lemon, tomato and jalapeño peppers and the combination of flavors were out of this world. It is far and away the best Fitfit we’ve tasted anywhere.
For our purposes, we’ll disregard the children’s and the dessert menus, since they are not vegan-friendly. However, you should know they are available for your carnivorous companions.
If you are a lover of Ethiopian cuisine and find yourself in the Jacksonville area, be sure to stop by Ibex Ethiopian Kitchen for a meal that will delight you. If you have no experience with Ethiopian food, prepare to fall in love.
If I told you we were going to have lunch at the Garden Truck, it would bring to mind images of a food truck located in a parking lot where one could stand outside to order food. In this case, The Garden Truck Eatery is a trendy restaurant located in North Jacksonville, Florida.
I learned about this place through the North Florida Vegetarian Society here in Jacksonville. This Meetup group visits different restaurants in the area serving vegan options once a month. The Garden Truck Eatery was on their list one evening and we found it packed with happy hungry vegans and vegetarians. Ron and Gail surprised everyone by creating a sampling of most of their entire menu. Needless to say, everyone was delighted and vowed to return.
Two of the great experiences here are the Saturday brunch and the Friday themed dinners. Garden Truck’s mission is to create a memorable culinary experience with favorite American food. The food is plant-based, served in a modern upscale environment while providing excellent service. I have visited this restaurant on several occasions and I must tell you that it is one of my absolute favorites. Proprietors, Gail and Ron Patak, are wonderful people and a pleasure to be around. On any given day they can be found behind the counter creating culinary excellence for their customers. I have enjoyed sitting at the counter talking with Ron on many occasions while he prepares dishes for the customers.
Gail began her career as an artist and you can see her creativity not only in the dishes but in the design of the restaurant as well as the decor. Her career path migrated back and forth between art and culinary adventurism. When Ron’s work took him to Alabama, Gail created a business catering to corporate events. It was during this time that Gail decided to move toward a plant-based lifestyle. This drove her to create savory vegan fair and dessert items for customers.
In June 2014, she received an Instructor Certification from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. She has also received an IEWP certification in event planning. According to Ron, Gail has a unique ability to be able to take regular recipes and convert them into plant-based creations.
Ron has had an impressive career in the restaurant business working with such notables as Roy Yamaguchi, Outback, and others. He has developed everything from casual dining experiences to ultra-fine dining. His experience in this area proved very useful when the couple decided to open The Garden Truck Eatery. One of the unique things about this eatery is that they are able to get locally grown produce virtually year-round for the dishes they create in the restaurant. They have a unique relationship with a hydroponic grower in the area who supplies them with virtually everything they need. This assures their menu doesn’t change very much based on seasonal availability.
One of the menu items you will want to try is the sausage and peppers. Ron makes his own sausage in the restaurant and I have found it to be extremely tasty. I have bought some of this to take home and used it in my own culinary creations. It has been fun to share some of these experiences with him. One evening we made our own marinara sauce with the sausage, fresh mushrooms, sliced green pepper and quinoa spaghetti. I have to tell you that it was excellent, but what made it successful was the vegan sausage from The Garden Truck Eatery.
By now you must be wondering what did you eat and how di it taste? I will give you a few of the items here as I have sampled many of them. The Buffalo Chick-Un unwrap consists of vegan blackened chicken tossed with vegan mayonnaise, grapes and walnuts, mixed with fresh herbs and Himalayan pink salt, finished off with lettuce and tomato. All this can be had on your choice of bread or in a wrap. The sausage and peppers consists of their mildly spiced fennel sausage served with caramelized onions and sweet peppers topped with a spicy aioli sauce on Ciabatta bread. Their daily soups vary depending on what is being created that day. The sides such as the red bliss potato salad and green cabbage and granny apple slaw are also very tasty. On a recent trip home from picking my wife up at the airport we stopped at the Garden Truck Eatery for lunch.
I sampled the Marinated Portabella Mushroom Melt Panini which is Portabella mushrooms marinated in Garden Truck vinaigrette topped with “cheese”, smoky tomatoes, watercress and a spicy aioli pressed hot on a ciabatta Panini. Marjie tried the Roasted Vegetable and Artichoke Panini, layers of roasted zucchini, yellow squash, sweet red peppers with artichokes and spinach topped with spicy aioli and roasted garlic spread on sour dough bread pressed hot. We both opted for the Red Bliss potato salad. Sorry, I had to stop for a minute since my mouth is starting to water at the mear mention of the food. The smoothies are nothing short of wonderful, my favorite being the Apple Pear crisp. It consists of nondairy milk, apples, pears, garden truck granola, and fresh ginger with agave. If the crab cakes are on the menu that day, you definitely must try them. Vegan crab cakes you say, yes vegan crab cakes.
If you are traveling in or near Jacksonville you must visit this establishment. I promise you will walk away satiated, happy and wanting to come back. The restaurant is located at 2467 Faye Rd. in North Jacksonville. Take the Alta Road exit (exit 40) off of I-295 North, head East across the railroad tracks and turn left at the light. The Garden Truck Eatery is located in the strip immediately to your right after you turn left at the light. This is an experience I know you will enjoy. Please tell Ron that you were sent there by Mike, the Diver.
Our own Danielle Bussone was back on the road again doing a live demo in October at the Space Coast Vegfest. Naturally, I was curious as to what this festival had to offer so I tagged along to take pictures and gather information. This festival is the brainchild of a group of individuals committed to the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle on the Space of Florida. According to the website, Kim Smith, owner of A–Live and Healthy Café is one of the driving forces for putting this event together.
I spoke with a lady named Trish at the main tent and she told me that when they attended Central Florida Vegfest in Orlando, they decided that they could do something like this on the Space Coast in Cocoa Beach. It was obvious from the start that a lot of hard work went into planning this event. There were quite a few booths representing everything from nutritional guidance to housecleaning with green products. Some of the booths featured things like body cleansing and building products. There were organic soaps and cosmetics, lean protein sources such as hemp, brewed chocolate, yoga and others too numerous to mention. I spoke with quite a few of the vendors and they were all excited about the opportunity to participate in this event. The event was well attended and attendance exceeded the organizers expectations.
The food was amazing and the samples being given away by the vendors were tasty and at the same time intriguing. Appleseed Health Foods offered samples of vegan pumpkin pie filling. She handed out the recipe on the back of her business cards and I cannot wait to try this recipe as it was very tasty when I sampled it. I also got a chance to visit several other booths sampling brewed chocolate, lean hemp, organic cinnamon raisin bread, and Spirulina Ice.
The three main food vendors at the event all had fairly long lines of people waiting to get their food. This did not dampen their spirits, however, since everyone was looking forward to getting a taste of something healthy and nutritious. One vendor was selling drinks out of carved coconuts which were quite a hit. The main food vendors were Jersey Girl Super Foods, a food truck called Veggie Love and Oasis (Vegan Mediterranean Food). I sampled a little food from all the vendors and my favorites were the ratatouille from Jersey Girl Super Foods, the vegan sushi from Veggie Love and the stuffed grape leaves from Oasis. I worked up an appetite talking to the vendors and taking pictures, so it was a pleasure to have the different foods choices available.
There was plenty to occupy young minds. A face painter was very busy painting up all kinds of smiling faces, including children, old and young. That’s right mom and dad, we saw you walking around with face paint on. A playground at the entrance to the park kids found an opportunity to run gave the kids a chance to get rid of that pent up energy playing on the slides and swings. The best experience seemed to be running through the fountain while the water shot up and receded as they moved through the circle. A children’s craft area was also set up by Sunseed Food Co-op where imaginations could flourish.
At the Cooking demo tent, Shana Fabian: Raw Food Chef and creator of the famous raw lasagna, Susie Fricker of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Danielle Bussone: Author of Time for Change – Whole Foods for Whole Health, did demonstrations on healthy and nutritious cooking. This was great fun as it gave people a chance to learn about healthy cooking and sample tasty dishes. The speakers tent was also busy with individuals like Ellen Jaffe cookbook author, chef and marathon athlete, Robert Cheeke vegan bodybuilder, Dr. Samadhi Artemisa Holistic Health Consultant, Dr. David Daly: Owner – Daly Chiropractic and Wellness Center, and Dr. Brendan Zachar: Back on Point Acupuncture.
Throughout the day there was a great variety of good music taking place on the main stage. There were also demonstrations on yoga and various fitness regimens. Always a crowd-pleaser, the highlight of the day on the main stage was the pie eating contest. I think it would have been more fun if they had made the contestants eat cream pie and do it without their hands. This is a great start for the Space Coast Vegfest and I look forward to attending this event next year. So if you are in the area or traveling through when this event takes place next year it is a must-see because it will be even better next year.
Join us at the Tampa Bay VegFest, November 7th, beginning at 10am! Danielle will be demonstrating how to make Coconut Curry With Indian Spices from her new book, Time For Change: Whole Foods for Whole Health!
This Sunday, Oct 11th, Riverfront Park is the place to be in Cocoa Village, Florida, where Healthy Planet of Brevard will be celebrating its first ever vegfest from 11am to 5pm.
Healthy Planet of Brevard is a vegan/vegetarian organization that has been operating for 20 years. Founded by Susie and Eric Sricker, Healthy Planet is a local organization that promotes plant-based living through education and entertainment.
To celebrate a wonderful week filled with friendship, family and sport we went out to Hot Woks Cool Sushi to celebrate. Combining the philosophy of balancing Ying and Yang in our bodies, the restaurant has two separate kitchens: one for cold dishes (Ying) and another for the hot dishes (Yang.
Hot Woks Cool Sushi offers many choices for vegans and omnivores – a good compromise for my family as I am currently the only plant-powered person. Introducing my family to spicy edamame beans was a big hit with my (very food-stubborn) father declaring that these are now his favorite pre-dinner nibble!
Competing for Australia in triathlon permits me to travel far and wide for competitions and this year, I had qualified for five World Championship Triathlons, three of which were held in the same city, in the same week: Chicago!
I packed my bike, my trainers and my passport and headed towards the Windy City for a whistle-stop 6-day trip.
Arriving two days before my first race, my focus was on race preparation: Registering for the competitions and getting to know the course, as well as waking up my legs from a long overnight flight from London, UK.
Christian’s in Charlottesville Virginia’s Downtown Walking Mall – Vegan Pizza Just Doesn’t Get Better Than This!
This is a post that is long overdue. In June of this year we attended the Richmond Vegetarian Festival and stayed in neighboring Charlottesville at a homey Air B&B where our dogs were welcomed. After the festival we arrived back at out lodging, tired and hungry. We sought out the quickest solution for a vegan meal. Calling around to various pizza establishments, we finally settled on Christian’s in downtown Charlottesville. Located in the walking mall it was a barely over a mile from where we were staying, at Fairhaven Guesthouse, located just minutes from downtown. (more…)
It’s that time once again to make the long anticipated trek to the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival, held in Lee Park, just one block off the historic downtown mall in Charlottesville, from 11am-5pm. It is shaping up to be a stellar event and the weather forecast looks promising!
Enjoy live entertainment throughout the day while sampling some of the best vegan and vegetarian food in the area. Vendors showcasing animal friendly products, rescue organizations, fitness organizations and more will be available for your perusal.