Tropical Eats, Hitting the Barre, and Granola with Beets

by Gena on March 9, 2012

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Observe, if you will, that rhyming blog post title. Just when I start to think I can’t possibly get any dorkier, I outdo myself.

When last we spoke, I was summing up a few days’ worth of outstanding vegan finds in the Big Easy. It’s amazing how much travel has changed for vegan diners! Cities that were once short on vegan options now offer them in abundance. New Orleans—the city that brings us gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, and beignets—is a perfect example of an American city that is becoming all the more welcoming to plant-based diners. As a frequent visitor and the friend of someone who calls Cresent City home, I am so excited to watch this transformation in action!

I woke up on Wednesday morning with a craving for the crispy and tasty graw-nola that I’d purchased the day before at Superfoods Bar. This granola has a pink hue because it’s made with beets: needless to say, I will immediately get down to re-creating it when I return to D.C.. Stay tuned. For now, I can tell you that it’s very tasty, and not at all sugary. The only problem was that I’d eaten quite a bit of it as a snack on Tuesday afternoon, so I didn’t have quite enough to satisfy me as breakfast. I mixed it in with some Whole Foods granola that Chloe had on hand, which—along with a banana, a bunch of berries, and almond milk—made for a lovely breakfast.

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So much color and crunch!

An hour or so later, I was off to try my very first Pure Barre class with Chloe! Heather, I thought of you the whole time (even though I know you teach Mind Body Barre)! As we pulled up to the studio, I have to admit, I was a little nervous.

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I took a Physique 57 class years ago and wanted to cry because I was so out of tune with the movements, the music, the style. I was totally unprepared for the rigor of the tiny movements, and I didn’t really warm up to the instructor, who seemed a bit standoffish and cold. While Pure Barre shares a number of techniques with Physique, it was a totally different experience: the instructor was fun and approachable, the class felt a lot shorter than 55 minutes (or whatever it was), and I was in a different frame of mind about rising to the challenges of the workout. Most importantly, four years of steady and dedicated yoga practice have changed my strength in significant ways! Chloe said it didn’t look as though I was working much at all, and while that’s a total exaggeration (I was working plenty), I did feel as though yoga had given me the tools I needed to complete the sequences.

Most importantly, yoga has taught me how to hit an uncomfortable or intimidating moment in a workout and simply power through it. Down Dog, especially, is a rigorous studio, and I have plenty of “I can’t do this!” moments in any given class. I’ve learned to breathe, stay calm, and will myself to go on when this happens (a skill, by the way, that is useful both during and outside of exercise!). I called upon those resources whenever this class felt challenging, and it was very helpful. Thanks to Pure Barre for my first, complimentary class! I hope to try the NYC studio soon.

For lunch that day, and my last meal before returning to NYC, Chloe and I decided to visit Carmo, a “tropical café” in the CBD (Central Business District).


Chloe’s husband (and my source for all things social media), Knud, had recommended the spot, and my quick perusal of the online menu made me eager to try it! Salads, soups, and vegan substitutes galore. When Chloe and I arrived, we were instantly charmed by the cozy interior (with extra seating a-plenty):

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For her meal, Chloe ordered the day’s stew, which was black beans and sweet potatoes with sausage (authentic or vegan) atop rice. She thought it was delicious, though a little thicker than she was expecting:

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As on Monday, I was hungry enough for a double salad header. I went with a small Carmo salad—pineapple, peppers, greens, avocado, almonds, mango dressing, and rice—and a large quinoa and black bean salad with greens.

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Both were very tasty; Chloe and I were especially impressed with the two dressings! One had almost an aquamarine color, so I wondered if it contained spirulina, though I doubt it—maybe just a ton of herbs. And it was perfectly spicy—not too much, not too little. The mango dressing on the Carmo salad was one of the best dressings I’ve recently tried, and I will definitely try to imitate it soon!

My only gripe here was that both of these dishes were grain dishes, not salads. In fairness, I didn’t read the fine print on the Carmo salad enough—I thought it was mostly greens, not a rice dish. Both both could have afforded to be heavier on the fresh veggies, and lighter on the grains. I definitely appreciate that adding big grain portions to salads is a way of helping people to feel satisfied with a vegan lunch, and that’s awesome, but I also think it’s important for vegan restaurants to share the message that vegetables can be satisfying and nutritious in their own right.

That said, these are quibbles, given how healthy and delicious the salad flavors were. And what a terrific alternative to the many non-vegan lunch spots in the area! I look forward to revisiting Carmo and trying out additional offerings!

With that, and some afternoon quiet time, my trip to NOLA drew to a sad close. As I write this post from NYC, I already miss Chloe, Frankie, and Knud, and I can’t wait for my next visit. That said, nothing makes me happier than a flight into New York City. I’ve got a two more days here before I return to the District, so I’ll do my best to savor them in spite of copious amounts of studying on the agenda.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting pictures and diner’s notes from dinner with Brendan after the NYC Vegetarian Festival last weekend. See you then!


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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel March 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Whoa, is that photo of the women one you took at the class? They all have a similar body type and it’s really kind of unsettling. I don’t think I’d fit in or feel comfortable there at all!


Gena March 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Hey Rachel!

It’s not–that was a press photo. I just wanted to give a sense of what the barre work is like. But I don’t like that the image made you feel uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t want others to feel that way, so I removed it! Thanks for commenting. It was a class by and large of women I’d call slim, but it wasn’t a room full of 100% professional-looking dancers, per the press photo.

G :)


Rachel March 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Thanks Gena! :-)


Ashley March 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I’ve enjoyed reading about your awesome vegan finds while you’ve been in New Orleans. It’s really great to see so many vegan/veg/GF options popping up all over. All of our local coffee shops now have almond milk [as opposed to soy/rice], which I’ve been loving! I wonder if these food trends are happening in Europe as well? The 2 times I’ve been there [Ireland + Italy] I don’t remember seeing too many special options, but I also wasn’t seeking them out at the time. Glad you’re getting to spend some time with Chloe! xo


Hannah March 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Hi Ashley – it’s slow going in Europe, this coming from someone who lives in London! But more and more stuff is cropping up, more and more shops and cafés are stocking vegan produce and more and more cafés are offering at least a hummus sandwich if nothing else!


Sylvia @ La Grande Assiette March 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Not in France! :(


Christine (The Raw Project) March 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Great post, adore reading about New Orleans and surprised and pleased at all the vegans options!


Katie (quick cook rice) March 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I’m loving these recaps. Is it possible that NOLA has better vegan eats than DC?! Just throwing that out there.

Also, glad to hear you liked Pure Barre! I enjoy it. There’s a Pure Barre-inspired studio on 14th street that I love, and I’ve been meaning to check out the Barre3, which just opened in gtown.


Gena March 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

We should go sometime!

Possible? Um, yes. It wouldn’t be too hard…


Katie (quick cook rice) March 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Um, yes, two smart gals like ourselves? We can totally figure out how to make it happen! Let’s do it.


Babs March 10, 2012 at 3:01 am

But DC has Everlasting Life, which has the most amazing vegan mac & cheese, “ham” for Christmas, and “chicken” sandwich!


Ali March 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I agree with you. A big salads with tonnes of fresh veggies and greens and a nice dressing can be one of the most satisfying meals. I think it is still hard for people to get out of the mindset of veggies as a side dish that need something with them to add bulk and substance. But we are getting there for sure!!


Gena March 9, 2012 at 9:45 pm

We are! And of course I appreciate the grains for satiety.


Tanya March 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm

You were here in NOLA? Wow, I’m so behind on blog reading :( Anyway, hope you had a good time. I’ve been to Carmo once and enjoyed it. We’ll be back again, especially now that they’ve expanded their seating area. Haven’t been to Superfood, but the granola sounds good. I live in the ‘burbs, so it’s not that easy to get into town to these places. We do it every once in a while though!


Nada (One Arab Vegan) March 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I don’t think I even have to tell you how much I’m eagerly awaiting your take on the beet graw-nola :)


Katharina March 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Everything looks so colorful, vibrant, fresh, and delicious. The decor at Carmo is refreshing as well. I love neutrals mixed with organic colors. Is the Pure Barre studio related to the Barre workout? I have a DVD and I love how you work hard doing seemingly effortless exercises–like a dancer.

How exciting to be having dinner with Brendan! Looking forward to reading about your stay in NYC :)



Gena March 9, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Definitely related! I think that the methods vary microscopically but the concept is the same.


Heather @ For the Love of Kale March 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I’m so happy that you had a better barre experience! I’m sure you rocked it to the core – literally. Bah-dum-cha! I also love how we both always order salads everywhere we go. We need to have a salad date in the near future.


elizabeth March 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I’m experimenting more with beets myself. While juicing them is still my favorite way to consume them, I’m roasting them weekly now to add to salads and hummus, and I recently made dark chocolate and beet brownies. Yum.


Gena March 9, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Yum indeed!


Ela March 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Love the sound of the beet grawnola from NOLA! Happy for you again.


Robyn March 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I’m so excited you were in New Orleans!! My sisters and I (NOLA locals, though I just moved to California, for raw culinary school) loooove your blog. You hit up all of our stomping grounds!! New Orleans is coming along with vegan food and has a community that’s slowly getting bigger. I’m glad our city treated you well. Keep up the amazing work!!


Callie McBride March 9, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I know what you mean about feeling nervous taking different exercise classes; I have wanted to try things like Pure Barre or Body Pump, but I’m always afraid that I will look dumb and won’t be able to keep up. Then I realize…If I don’t try the class, when will I EVER get good at it!? That’s why tomorrow morning I am popping up bright and early for a Hot Yoga class! Feelin’ good about it. :)


jessica March 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Thank you for the great press on NOLA. Most people think of it as the place to come to eat lots of unhealthy things – especially little animals fried in oil. I’m so happy for the vegan options – I love Carmo and Satsuma. Superfood bar is one that I haven’t been to yet, although I’ve met the owner at Veggie Fest the past couple years. Speaking of, NOLA veggie fest is growing by leaps and bounds each year. This is our fourth year! There are many more vegan options here – vegan brunches, korean foods, and lots of great coffee shops for your future trips…


Averie @ Averie Cooks March 10, 2012 at 1:04 am

I want a brick wall like Carmo has…that is just gorgeous and the light and vibe, oh I’d love to just take every food picture forever in there!

Glad you tried Barre. I have their DVD but the in-person class must have been great!


Hannah March 10, 2012 at 1:56 am

I was about to say that I love the emu painting, but then I realised it’s probably an ostrich :P Can’t wait to see your version of the granola, and oh, the Nola delights!! So different to when I visited in 2007 and ended up with a side salad from McDonalds to eat as “greens” because there were no groceries or vegetable-friendly places near my hotel in walking distance!


Alexia @ NamasteYoga March 10, 2012 at 5:25 am

double salad orders? yeah i have been getting into the habit too! unfortunately in austria the “meal” salads are so small that they are not even considered side salads to me. im loving the look of your double salad orders! :)


Dena @ 40 Fit in the Mitt March 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

that salad looks amazing!


Sarah March 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I think on average the US has more options for vegans than Europe (certainly the UK). I was staggered by the choice at Whole Foods, and my goodness I wish there was one over here near me! One of my favourite finds, in Salem MA, was tofu ‘fro-yo’, which I had blended with strawberries. I also had a sumptuous hummus wrap there too :)


pure2raw twins March 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Seeing your trip to New Orleans again and finding all those yummy eats really makes me want to visit that area again. It has been years and I think I need to go back :)
Safe travels back!


Heather March 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm

What awesome eats you’re enjoying on your trip Gena! I’m curious about Pure Barre – looks like something I’d love! Wish there was a studio around here.


melissa March 12, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Barre classes! Pure Barre opened in NYC a while back, I really need to get around to trying it!! Let’s do it next time you are in town :)


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