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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Kalm Bistro, A Vietnamese Restaurant in Gray, TN Offers Plant-Based Options!

by Danielle Bussone

 

While visiting EarthFare in Johnson City, and cringing at the exorbitant prices of their organic produce (Don’t get me started…), Rich and I happened into a conversation with a fellow foodie. She told us about a Vietnamese restaurant a few miles away that offered a vegetarian menu. We were so excited to learn of this! We adore Vietnamese cuisine, and both of the restaurants that have recently opened up in the city had nothing we could eat that did not include shrimp paste or fish sauce. To our delight, there seems to be an upsurge of interest in East Tennessee of this exotic cuisine.

 

 

Kalm Bistro is a little gem of a restaurant nestled among several bright little stores in what appears to be a relatively new strip mall. Located In Gray, TN about a half mile off Interstate 26, exit 13, Kalm has only been open for a little more than a year. There is no sign from the street nor in the mall billboard, so you have to keep your eyes peeled to find it. This is a tee-niny little restaurant whose advertising has strictly been word-of-mouth.

 

 

Kalm Bistro does not open until noon, so we had to quell our excitement for another hour. We arrived at 12:04 and already most of the tables were filled. That’s a great sign that we were in for a treat! Kim, (who is co-owner of Kalm), greeted us immediately and showed us to our table. She handed us a menu which offered six vegetarian options, which as it turns out, were also vegan.

 

Kim, co-owner of Kalm Bistro

 

Kim has been interested in cooking since she was a little girl. Her dad, however, would never allow her into the kitchen for fear she would hurt herself with sharp knives. Her grandfather, however, recognized Kim’s love of cooking and convinced her father to allow her to attend cooking school when she was old enough. Eventually, she and her family started Kalm Bistro, the capital “K” in the name represents the “K” in her name, Kim.

 

 

So, let’s get to the food! We started with a spring roll. Comprised of fresh, crisp vegetables, aromatic herbs, rice noodles, and a slice of fried tofu, it is a combination of soft and crisp textures is complemented by a sweet and savory hoisin dipping sauce. YUM!

 

 

I ordered the Pho, a rice-noodle soup with an onion-based broth, generous slices of tofu, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and lime. This was a new broth flavor for me; I’ve come to realize that every Vietnamese chef makes his or her own special broth for Pho. This one had a lovely, delicate flavor which allowed the characteristics of the herbs to sing.

 

 

 

Rich ordered the ramen noodle dish. Its flavor is difficult to describe. It tasted to me like a light infusion of peanuts in a sauce with a little turmeric, but I may be completely off-base here. I can tell you though; it was delicious. The thin curly noodles were tossed with a variety of fresh, slightly crisp vegetables, fried tofu, and bean sprouts. The portions were generous and filling.

 

 

 

Discovering Kalm Bistro was one of those happy accidents that occur when discussing food with strangers. We will certainly be visiting Kalm Bistro again when returning to the Johnson City area.

 

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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Vava’s Crêperie Café – An Exciting New Crêperie in Bethlehem, PA With Vegetarian Options!

 

 

by Michael Wilkins

 

I grew up in the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the biggest industry was the manufacturing of steel and Bethlehem Steel was the biggest employer in the Valley. My father worked there all his life and retired from the company before they went bankrupt. I have many fond memories of the city and it’s culture, but in my entire life I never encountered a place like the Crêperie.

 

20160520_094752

 

The Crêperie is is a little French café located in a strip mall right around the corner from the Marriott hotel properties near the airport. When I arrived at the hotel, I inquired about local places to have breakfast that served vegan food and I was directed to the Crêperie. I went for breakfast the following morning and had a great conversation with Kathy (the owner) about how she cooks her food and what brought her into this line of work. She told me her story about leaving corporate America and opening a small restaurant serving food that she enjoyed while growing up. Her grandmother, which she affectionately calls Vava, was a major influence in her life. This is how she came up with the name Vava’s Crêperie Café. We both grew up in a family of six children which gave us the opportunity to exchange stories about our places in the pack. One of her fondest memories is coming home after school to crepes with homemade raspberry jam.

 

Crepe

 

I must admit at this point she almost had me drooling as she described the crepes her grandmother made with great affection. She uses the recipes her grandmother used to make crepes when she was a little girl. Let’s face it folks, don’t we all want to eat the food our grandmothers cooked for us when we were younger. It takes us back to a happy and comfortable time sharing meals with our family in grandma’s kitchen. This is the atmosphere Kathy has tried to create in her café.

 

20140802_071741

 

As is the case with many people working in corporate America, Kathy became disillusioned with her work and decided to open the Crêperie. Her goal was to create a similar atmosphere to a French café, mimicking the recipes her grandmother had made for her. Much of this information is locked away in her memory of growing up as a child. She went back to visit Mery, France her grandmother’s birthplace, which gave her the inspiration for the Creperie. The personal touches with which Kathy has imbued her café is obvious the moment you walk in the door. I had conversations with several of the patrons, all of whom heartily endorse Kathy’s creations. The café is small and friendly, which lends itself to an atmosphere of interaction. The Crêperie is evidence that the culture of the city of Bethlehem has changed a great deal from what it was when I grew up. The breakfast of choice for the blue-collar workers in Bethlehem was quite different from what Kathy has created in her restaurant.

 

20160520_095037

 

As you pick up the menu or look at the choices on the wall where the daily offerings are written, your mind starts to spin trying to digest all of the choices available. You can order anything from a Montecristo, to a peanut butter and banana crêpe. The nice thing about this place is that you can also create your own crêpe from a large list of choices available. The categories include a source of protein, cheese, vegetables, and sauce. There are no strictly vegan options at this point since the crepe batter contains eggs and milk. After our discussion, Kathy has agreed to research vegan crepe options and hopes to have them available in the future.

 

Recommendations

 

The sauces range from a balsamic glaze to a pesto created by Kathy. She prepares everything from scratch and obtains her produce from local sources. I had a blast ordering my meal and going through all the choices available to create my crêpe. Kathy prepared for me a whole-grain plant-based crêpe which included spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes, sautéed peppers and a pesto sauce. Needless to say, by the time I received my breakfast, my mouth was watering. The taste was fantastic and took me back to a time when I was having breakfast with my brothers and sisters in my mom’s kitchen.

 

Menu Board

 

There are plenty of choices here for carnivores and vegetarians. My bet is that everyone will walk away from here delighted with what they have experienced. The Crêperie has been open a little over a year. If you are like me, when you travel it is fun to experience new and different places to eat. It’s great to have an opportunity to experience food that is prepared with affection and passion. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Crêperie. Bethlehem has finally acquired a little slice of French cuisine. I plan to tell everyone I know about what Kathy is doing here so that she has enough business to allow to continue fueling her passion.

 
 
 

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 surviver. 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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