Green Olive Market and Café

By Jennifer Muller

 

Earlier this year, I noticed a new market called The Green Olive Market had opened in Johnson City, TN. My interest was piqued and I made a mental note to stop by, but I had not yet gotten around to doing so. Word-of-mouth started to travel that a few weeks ago, The Green Olive was serving Ethiopian food!

 


The owner, Meseret Melesse (Marci), is a delightful bundle of energy. She is currently in the “soft-opening” phase of operation until the final preparations can be made. For now, she cooking the dishes fresh each morning and serving them buffet style. Once she has her kitchen fully operational, she is planning a grand opening, at which point she will be offering a sit-down menu while possibly keeping the buffet as a special twice a month event.

 


Of the roughly fifteen items on the buffet, all but five or so were vegan. Some of the vegan options on her buffet were Miser W’at – a semi-spicy red lentil stew,  Kik Alitcha W’at – mild stew of yellow split-peas, Gomen – collard greens, Alitcha Vegetables – a delicious stew of cabbage and carrots, and an excellently made Shiro W’at – a stew made from chickpeas that are sundried, roasted, and ground. The buffet also provided plenty of freshly-made injera – a spongy Ethiopian flatbread – with which to eat all the delicious items. Ethiopian food is not served with utensils, you eat it with the bread. However, utensils are provided if you prefer not to eat with your hands.

 

 


The food was authentic and flavorful, though I tend to enjoy food that is spicier than most people like. After the grand opening, I hope there are spice level options. Other than that, the taste is delicious. There is also a traditional coffee service from 3 pm – 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday. I experienced this service and was treated to the strong, flavored-packed goodness of freshly roasted coffee.

 


During the soft opening phase, the hours are 12:30 pm – 8 pm. After the grand opening, the hours will be 11 am – 9 pm. Veggin’ Out and About! will be following the progress of the grand opening and will report more in detail as that occurs.

Located at 800 West Market St in Johnson City, The Green Olive is roughly 3 miles off Exit 20 on -26. Drive towards ETSU until Roan becomes Market Street. You’ll see it on the right-hand side of the road.

Originally from Louisville, KY, Jennifer now resides is East Tennessee. Jennifer and her daughter are avid travelers searching for new healthy vegan dishes along the way. When she is not globe-trotting, Jennifer enjoys cooking spicy vegan meals at home with her two fur-babies; her dog, Amy, and her cat, Anna. Contact Jennifer directly to share your restaurant finds, make a comment, or just say hello.
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Mona Lisa Gelato & Café

by Danielle Bussone

 

 

It seems that small strip malls are where it’s at these days for discovering quaint little restaurants serving up big flavors. Mona Lisa’s Gelato & Café has been around for seven years.  In Johnson City, TN, it is located at 305 W. Oakland Ave., a connecting street between Roan and State of Franklin, only a mile or so from I-26.

I’m appalled to learn I’ve driven by Mona Lisa’s about a million times without giving it a second thought. Since becoming a plants-only eater, I tune out anything that smacks of dairy or meat. Recently a  reader of Veggin’ Out and About! turned me on to this little jewel.

 

 

Mona Lisa’s is owned and operated by Sheridan and Steve Nice. Sheridan is the chef and recipe creator, and Steve handles marketing, social media, and other such concerns. The two operate an organic garden and have taught a local orphanage how to farm organically. The often trade their homemade gelato for organic produce from the orphanage, which then goes into building their daily menu items. Mona Lisa’s may well be the only garden to table restaurant operating in Johnson City today.

 

 

While the menu is mostly geared to the carnivorous crowd, there are a few items for vegans and vegetarians.

 

 

I ordered the Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich. This is not typically a vegan dish, but they substituted the meat for tofu to accommodate my needs.

I have to say; it is unlike any Bahn Mi I’ve ever experienced. The French colonization of Vietnam introduced aspects of French cuisine to the country’s culinary heritage. Traditional ingredients of Bahn Mi include a French roll or baguette smeared with some kind of mayonnaise or creamy sauce followed by layers of cucumber, cold cuts, or another meat filling (or tofu),  sweet and sour carrot and daikon pickles, a layer of jalepeños, and finally a good portion of fresh cilantro. Mona Lisa’s Bahn Mi was nothing like that.

 

 

This sandwich was more like a panini, with a crisp flattened bread, fermented vegetables, fresh jalapeños, tofu, and cilantro. If you ordered this sandwich expecting to receive a traditional Bahn Mi, you might be disappointed. However, your disappointment will be short-lived once you bite into this little taste of heaven. The crisp bread and crunchy fermented veggies marry beautifully with the soft texture of the tofu and the pungency of the cilantro in a way that surprises and delights. I think this tasty little sandwich deserves a name of its own!

 

 

Rich ordered the Thai Noodle Bowl. Thai rice noodles are served in a vegetable soup of carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and fresh jalepeños drizzled throughout with spicy sriracha sauce. Sheridan is one of the few chefs in the Tri-Cities area who is not afraid to add heat to a dish that calls for heat. Too often, restaurants cater to the boring middle of the road in an attempt to appeal to a larger audience. The price that is paid that the international experience gives way to the staid preferences of the majority. Mona Lisa’s Thai Noodle Bowl has a kick that will make your eyes water!

 

 

At first, we didn’t even look at the gelato bar. Since we don’t eat dairy, we didn’t feel that was an option. However, Steve scooped up some blood orange sorbetto for us that was dairy-free and OMG delicious! This was something that was being whipped up in the kitchen and had not yet been brought out to the gelato bar. Unfortunately, you’ll have to take my word for it. We scarfed that down before we thought to take pictures.

Typically, there is at least one vegan sorbetto option with flavors like pink grapefruit, key lime, lemon cello, blood orange, or tangerine.

 

 

 

Don’t wait seven years before you check out Mona Lisa’s Gelato & Café in Johnson City, TN. It’s about a mile from I-26 from the State of Franklin exit, turn left to go under the overpass, and then right onto Oakland Ave. It’s right next to The Mellow Mushroom.

 

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About!, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles, and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is the author of, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” and is a co-founder of the plant-based cooking blog, Time For Change Kitchen. Contact Danielle directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.
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Spice World International Market – A Must-Visit Market in Johnson City, TN

by Danielle Bussone

 

 

New Apna Bazaar was once a fledgling concern in Kingsport, Tennessee.  After seven successful years, it outgrew its tiny, overcrowded space and migrated to a busy strip mall in Johnson City, TN. The name was changed to Spice World, and the store was a significant improvement in space and location. Cluttered, over-filled shelves gave way to clean lines of orderly products from India, refrigerated shelves of fresh produce, and freezers containing exotic items one can find nowhere else in the Tri-Cities region.

 

 

Five years later, Spice World took over the empty business next door, doubling its size. This acquisition provided an excellent opportunity to expand into other markets, and Spice World has recently morphed into  Spice World International Market.  I have been shopping at this family-owned store since it was the diminutive Indian market in Kingsport. When it moved to Johnson City, I began driving the thirty minutes extra so I could continue purchasing spices in bulk and fresh produce and herbs that are challenging to find elsewhere. I consider it well worth the drive.

 

Bulk herbs and spice blends

 

Hard to find produce, herbs, and spices.

 

Plenty of fresh produce to peruse.

 

Spice World’s owner, Chirag Patel, is knowledgeable and friendly. If you can’t find an item, he will order it for you. Over the years, I have learned from Chiraq how to use products with which I was unfamiliar. I knew nothing about Indian food when I began, other than the fact that I liked it. Now I’ve become a relatively competent Indian cook and a familiar explorer of his aisles.

I once asked Chiraq if he carried jackfruit and was delighted to be presented with a fresh one upon my next very next visit. You can now find baby jackfruit in cans on his shelves; far more convenient than wrestling with the whole fruit, which can be a messy endeavor.

 

Jackfruit in brine.

 

 

Chirag Patel and his lovely wife and partner, Pallavi

 

It is almost hard to believe how much Chiraq and Pallavi have accomplished in twelve short years. From a  cramped little market with only two aisles, the Patels have turned their store into an international supermarket carrying a plethora of supplies from India, Asia, and the Middle East. Yet, Spice World has not lost its homey charm. Chiraq is usually around, beaming a broad, authentic smile and chatting with customers on a first-name basis. He will always stop what he’s doing to answer questions or to explain a new product. One often sees his father there, manning the cash register or stocking supplies. His wife’s nephew is often seen busily stocking shelves or assisting customers. I’ve also met his brother filling in on one occasion when he was visiting Chirag from India. It truly is a family concern.

 

The uncluttered aisles are prominently labeled, but Chirag will gladly direct you to whatever you are seeking.

 

You can find a variety of rice, grains, and specialty oils on shelves against the back wall.

Rice, grains, flours,  & specialty oils.

 

Always available is an enormous selection of spice blends and whole and ground spices in bulk. Organic options are available as well.

 

 

 

As a vegan, I appreciate that the meat is separated from the vegetables in the frozen sections. Chirag works with a butcher who cuts and packages the meat for him fresh with each order. Chirag then freezes it for a longer shelf life.  The meat freezer is along the back wall, easily accessible but entirely removed from the packaged vegan and non-vegan meals.

 

 

A  wide assortment of frozen vegetarian prepared meals (defacto vegan), breads like naan and paratha, cut vegetables, frozen appetizers and snacks and non-vegetarian prepared meals can be found in the freezer section of Spice World.

 

Teas, Coffees, Crackers

 

Packaged Foods

 

Thai Curry Pastes, Soy Sauces, Soup Mixes (I LOVE the Vegan Tom Yum Paste!), Hot Sauces, Rice Noodles, and other Asian Ingredients.

 

Canned fruits, Coconut and Goat Milks, Shiitake Mushrooms, Seaweeds & More!

 

Beans, Sauces, and Indian Condiments

 

I usually make a beeline directly to the cookware area where I’ve found lots of useful items that are now part of my kitchen arsenal.

 

Interesting and Useful Cookware, Gadgets, & Supplies

 

If you arrive famished, no problem. Pallavi keeps an assortment of home-cooked foods available at the checkout counter. I’ve sampled all of the ones that are plant-based. These are what one might think of as Indian street food and are quite good. Most are fried, so I don’t partake of them often. Chirag can heat them for you at the counter.

You may imbibe on chai latte as you shop. The dhokla, a cake made from chickpea flour, is delicious; in fact, I liked it so much I had to learn to make it myself. It is the first thing Indian I learned to cook with Chirag’s sage advice. Now it is a favorite at my table.

 

Indian Homemade Snacks Can Be Purchased At the Counter.

 

Spice World International Market is a beautifully stocked grocery store tailored to meet the demands of the burgeoning Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern communities of the Tri-Cities area. For chefs such as myself who enjoy preparing international cuisine, it is a godsend.

If you love to cook and live in the Tri-Cities area, (Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, TN), you owe it to yourself to check out Spice World International Market. You are likely to find everything you need to go crazy creating foods with astonishing flavor.

It is located only about a quarter of a mile off I-26 on the corner of State of Franklin and Browns Mill Road in Johnson City, TN.

You may run into me prowling the aisles for novel culinary items. If you do, ask me what’s cooking!

 

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About!, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles, and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is the author of, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” and is a co-founder of the plant-based cooking blog, Time For Change Kitchen. Contact Danielle directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.
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Real Thai Fusion Delivers Big Flavor At Affordable Prices

by Danielle Bussone

 

One of the best-kept secrets on the Emerald Coast Parkway is Real Thai Fusion. Tucked into a boutique shopping center in Miramar Plaza, it is not difficult to overlook this sparkling gem of a restaurant. Decked out in Asian decor, Real Thai Fusion is small enough to enjoy an intimate meal for two but will accommodate larger groups as well. I enjoyed the layout which is clean and not over-crowded.

 

 

I have not hesitated to make the thirty-minute trek to Destin on three separate occasions during my visit to Fort Walton Beach. This is how much I like the food at Real Thai Fusion. It is some of the best Thai food I’ve had anywhere.

While there is usually a steady stream of customers dining in and numerous take-out orders being picked up, for a restaurant with meals of consistently high quality,  I have been astonished at the number of empty tables available. I mentioned this to my waitress, who told me that this is a slow season for Thai food. When the weather begins to cool, the place will fill up with customers desiring to warm their bellies with spicy Thai cuisine. That makes sense. With ninety-plus temperatures outside during my stay in Florida in September, one would have to be a serious foodie to pile on more heat. Guilty as charged!

 

 

What sets Real Thai Fusion apart from the typical Thai restaurant is the freshness of the ingredients, the lovely presentation of the food, and the depth of flavor achieved by the chef. One can choose the level of spiciness of each dish. I adore spicy foods, but I also want to be able to taste the individual ingredients which are often masked by the overwhelming heat of chili peppers. I find at Real Thai Fusion that the perfect level of spice for me is medium, or number three. It is enough to leave a little bite at the back of one’s throat while allowing you to enjoy the full flavor of the dish. If you are very sensitive to heat, you may want to sneak up on it and order mild spice or no spice at all.

 

 

 

A lemon wedge is carved to look like a bug of some sort (perhaps a snail?) clinging to the edge of a water glass.  No detail is overlooked in the charming presentation of each course.

 

 

At lunchtime, Mondays through Fridays, you may be served a pre-appetizer at no additional cost. This is a delicious thin soup with garlic and green onions served with a small spring roll with sweet and sour sauce on the side. The chef at Real Thai Fusion understands the needs of vegans and will steer you to plant-based choices or will remove offending ingredients to make a dish that adheres to your requirements.

 

 

 

On my first visit, I enjoyed the incredibly fresh Summer Rolls filled with crisp, fresh vegetables and vermicelli, served with a homemade Thai peanut and hoisin sauce.

 

 

On my second visit, I returned with my sister who ordered the fried spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce. I generally abstain from eating fried foods, but I have to admit I shared a couple of these crispy delights with her. OMG!

 

 

 

 

 

Pad Eggplant is eggplant sautéed with mild Thai spices, onion, bell pepper and a generous portion of Thai basil that yields an unbeatable flavor. This dish, prepared in a dark, savory-sweet hoisin sauce, is melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I chose tofu as my protein option, and it comes with a side of white rice. I didn’t realize at the time that one can order brown rice if one so chooses, which I will certainly do next time

 

 

 

Royal Pad Thai is a well-known Thai noodle dish. The rice noodles are stir-fried with bean sprouts, carrots, scallions, ground peanuts, and egg with homemade Pad Thai sauce. The chef removed the eggs for me and replaced them with tofu so I could enjoy this famous dish without guilt.

 

 

 

 

 

Real Thai Fusion is worth the 30-minute drive from Fort Walton Beach, and if you happen to be in Destin, you should not overlook this delightful oasis in the midst of an overwhelming array of fast food restaurants and shopping centers. With only two days left in Florida, I’m seriously considering making the trek back to Miramar Beach for another fix of excellent Thai food. Keep in mind that your dish is freshly made to order and preparing food from scratch takes a little extra time. Be patient; you’ll find it is time well spent.

 

 

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About!, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles, and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is the author of, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” and is a co-founder of the plant-based cooking blog, Time For Change Kitchen. Contact Danielle directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.
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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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