Spice Up Your Travels With A Taste Of India in Winchester, VA

by Danielle Bussone

 

As you must know by now, Rich and I are huge fans of Indian cuisine. Indian food is a perfect fit for plant-based diners with a penchant for robust spice blends and mouth-watering preparations. Indian fare varies from restaurant to restaurant just as it does from region to region within India. This provides us with endless opportunities for exploration of this exotic cuisine as this visit exemplifies. Rich and I are delighted to report on dishes we have not previously encountered.

 

 

 

Yesterday, upon returning from a family affair in Syracuse, NY, we stopped at Winchester, Virginia for a sleepover and a meal. Luckily for us, Taste of India Winchester must have been signaling to us telepathically because our fine-tuned culinary antennae honed in on their transmission and directed us right to their location, just as we finished checking into our room.

 

 

 

 

 

Taste of India is a gorgeous restaurant decked out with large comfortable booths, glass-covered tablecloths, a bar with seating, and a splendid buffet area with free-standing tables and chairs. The buffet is served at lunchtime from 11am to 2:30pm, Tuesdays through Sundays. The restaurant is closed Mondays. The buffet boasts at least three vegan items on the menu at all times. There is also a fourth item that may be either vegan or vegetarian, depending on the day. The bar serves a variety of beers and wines but no hard liquor.

 

 

Buffet Area (Tues-Sun 11am-2:30pm)

 

Bar serves beer and wine

 

The first thing I noticed upon opening the menu, is that there is a separate vegetarian section in which vegan options are clearly listed as VEGAN! As much sense at this makes, it rarely ever happens. I usually have to go through the menu ingredient by ingredient, hassling the waiter with dozens of questions, and still I’m not really sure if I’m getting a truly vegan product. Taste of India Winchester has taken the guesswork out of the equation, with the exception of the appetizer section, where one does still have to ask. That list is not long though, and the staff know what they are doing, so even that is not a problem.

A welcome plate arrived with three types of sauces and a crispy flatbread, almost like a cracker, imbedded with cumin seeds. One of the sauces was a sweet tamarind chutney, the second was a chunky savory mint and cilantro green sauce, and the third a crisp onion condiment with tomato puree and spices. All worthy of recognition!

 

Welcome Plate

 

For starters we shared a combination of two fried dishes which were very similar; a Samosa, a traditional triangular-shaped fritter stuffed with Potatoes Masala and peas, and Aloo Tikki, a similar tasting potato patty dipped in chickpea batter and fried. These were served with another amazing sauce, which is apparently a combination of the three mentioned earlier and with an added layer of something extra.

 

Samosa (left) and Aloo Tikki (right)

 

The store owner and manager, Kamal Khatri, has agreed to share his recipes for these fantastic sauces, which are staples of Indian cuisine. Rich and I will be returning in the coming weeks to do a video of of just how these exquisite flavors are achieved so that you will be able to make them for yourself!

Now on to the main course!

For my entree, I ordered Vegetable Patia, a slightly sweet dish of mixed vegetables stewed in a blend mangos and Indian spices and served with jasmine rice.

 

Vegetable Patia

 

Mattar Mushrooms, a house specialty

 

Rich ordered Mattar Mushrooms, a house specialty of mushrooms and peas in a rich and savory stew, also served with rice. They were perfectly spiced with a melt-in-your-mouth yumminess that is hard to describe. Of course, we shared so we each enjoyed both dishes, which were perfect complements of one another.

 

 

We also enjoyed Poori, a balloon-shaped airy unleavened flatbread that must have been quick fried. It left us licking oil from our fingers from its exterior, while still savoring layers of the soft interior. This was a first for me. While I’m not generally a fan of fried food, once in a while I figure I can indulge.

 

Poori

 

This is a definite two thumbs up for some of the most superb Indian food we have found in recent memory. Taste of India Winchester is located conveniently off I-81 and is a perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner to break your travels whether heading north or south across this great country.

 

Fortunately for us, the impending chutney/sauce/condiment video makes our return a fete accompli. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some more of the many vegan options on the menu! 

 

Check with us in a month or so when Kamal shows us how to make his marvelous condiments!

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Green Erth Bistro – Persian Cuisine In North Florida, And It’s VEGAN!

 

by Michael Wilkins

 

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Having a meal at the Green Erth Bistro is like sitting down at the dinner table with your family in your own home. This restaurant is a little slice of heaven, hearkening back to a time when we sat down at grandma’s table for a homemade meal. All of the dishes are made simply with very fresh ingredients. Mashid goes to the market each day to select garden-fresh produce, which she and her staff prepare just prior to opening. The restaurant is designed so that vegans and carnivores can dine together, and everyone can get what they want.

 
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The owner, Mashid,  is a marvelous lady who came to Jacksonville from New York. I spoke with her about her background and the restaurant. She came to the United States with her family at the age of 18. Originally from Iran, she describes herself as Persian. There is a delightfully comforting feel to this place that strikes you from the moment you walk in the door. A central high chair dining area features decor like you would find in your own kitchen, including an enticing jar of marinated vegetables. This is all by design. There are mirrors and items on the walls that add to the familiar homey ambiance.  Green Erth has maintained a manageable size that allows them to offer excellent service without compromising quality and the intimate atmosphere.

 

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While advertised as vegetarian/vegan Persian food, I learned in my conversation with Mashid that this restaurant is vegetarian and vegan-friendly. After doing a little investigating, I discovered that they guarantee their vegan food is 100% pure. I discovered this place a few months ago and vowed to visit it for lunch, but I never made it.  So, recently, as I was driving through downtown Jacksonville on Hendricks Avenue headed for a Tropical Smoothie Café, I passed this Green Erth Bistro. I turned around and headed back, intent on finding out what they were all about. I’m so glad I did;  I had a wonderful lunch in a very comfortable setting with fresh ingredients that express themselves in unmistakable bursts of flavor. Let’s be honest with ourselves here, isn’t this what we all really want?

 
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I ordered a cup of the vegan soup of the day which turned out to be the Barley Aash. It is a hearty concoction of barley, lentils, navy beans, fresh herbs, garlic & onion and is very tasty.

 
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I also ordered a sandwich which is listed on the menu as a TempehWrap. This delectable wrap includes, organic tempeh marinated in-house dressing, served with diced tomato,onion and organic greens wrapped in lavash (a soft, thin flatbread), served with gluten-free chips. I could only finish half of the wrap as it was a sizable portion.

 

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Inquiring about their dessert, I was happy to find out that they have vegan desserts such as ice cream and the weekly special, which turned out to be the double chocolate cheesecake. The cheesecake is sweetened with agave which was pleasing to me since I avoid refined sugar like the plague. When I inquired about the desert, Mashid told me that she does not make them in her kitchen but orders the vegan desert from Shakthi Life Kitchens, located right here in Jacksonville. Shakthi Life Kitchens is owned by a young lady whose father owns European Street Café, which I posted in an earlier blog.

 
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In addition to the food that I ordered there are many other items on the menu that vegetarian/vegans will find delightful, like falafel, baba ghanoush, a hummus plate, tabouli, various salads, vegan chili, vegan soup, and various vegetarian/vegan sandwiches or wraps. One of the unique items in this restaurant is skewers and kebabs.

 

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I cannot wait to go back and try the organic tofu and vegetable kebob. You can also order sides of tabouli hummus, organic tempeh, vegan bread, vegan cheese, and basmati rice. Have I given you the impression that I could eat here every day? Well I’m glad I did, because it’s true.

 

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Lunch is served here Monday through Saturday 11 AM to 2:30 PM. Dinner isserved Tuesday through Saturday 5:30 PM to 9 PM and they are closed on Sunday. If you are traveling through Jacksonville this is a must stop. It is locatedin the downtown area on Hendricks Avenue. Please say hello to Mashid from Mike the Diver, and enjoy all of the great food choices she has to offer.

 

Michael Wilkins is a respiratory therapist, an avid scuba diver and an accomplished photographer. He has been living with hepatitis C for more than two decades and is a cancer survivor. Michael has kept liver cancer at bay by employing the healing properties of a plant-based diet.

A year later, after a strict plant-based regimen, his tumor markers are normal and his MRIs are clean! This has made Michael more passionate about staying on a vegan diet. He has met lots of wonderful passionate people with amazing stories while walking down this path. Michael’s area is Northeast Florida, particularly the Jacksonville area. Contact Michael to share your restaurant finds, make comments, or just to say hello!

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Christian’s in Charlottesville Virginia’s Downtown Walking Mall – Vegan Pizza Just Doesn’t Get Better Than This!

 

by Danielle Bussone

 

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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…)

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Scratch Brick Oven Pizzeria, Serving It Up Fresh In Johnson City, TN

by Danielle Bussone

 

Scratch Front Exterior

Scratch Front Exterior

 

For arguably the best pizza in the Tri-Cities area you need look no farther than Scratch Brick Oven. Located in Johnson City’s historic North Roan Street district, in a restored 1900’s home on the corner of Unaka and Roan, it is only two easy blocks from Interstate 26 in Johnson City, TN.

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European Street Café, A Favorite Vegan Meetup Venue In Northeast Florida.

by Michael Wilkins

 

European Street Café Interior

European Street Café Interior

 

Jacksonville is fortunate to have a strong vegetarian/vegan community. There are a couple of Meetup groups here that host regular functions. The Northeast Florida Vegetarian Society is Jacksonville’s vegetarian society and JaxRaw Meetup Group is for raw food enthusiasts. Recently I had the opportunity to attend one of these gatherings which convened at the European Street Café.

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Plant-Based Fare At Reggae Shack Café In Gainesville, FL

by Michael Wilkins

 

Reggae Shack Cafe Storefront

Reggae Shack Cafe Storefront

 

I attended the Jacksonville VegFest in April of this year which is where I found out about the Reggae Shack and where I met Danielle. The Reggae Shack’s booth at Veg Fest always had a long line. I was busy doing other things and could not spend the time waiting in line to sample their food. I made the decision to visit them on one of my dive trips to Blue Grotto or Rainbow River. I had the opportunity this past weekend to stop there on the way back from Rainbow River. (more…)

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