Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peacefood Cafe: a Juxtaposition of Good Eats and Odd Service

The eats at Peacefood Cafe are consistently stellar, but I always have a service issueALWAYS.  Normally it's just a weird, casual, here's-your-potato-salad-and-I'll-bring-you-the-accompanying-sandwich-in-about-an-hour attitude, but it can get even more bizarre.  Since I go there pretty often and the food is almost always delicious, I am conflicted when it comes to writing about them because of the consistently strange experiences that accompany the otherwise great food.  So, here are some pictorial examples of some recent, really good eats, juxtaposed with textual examples of their inexplicably odd service.

chocolate chip cookie sandwich: om nom
There are always a TON of people working (i.e. congregating in deep conversation at the end of the counter) at Peacefood, so why is it that I recently found myself at the counter being ignored by the two people standing behind it who were blissfully holding hands, giggling, and ignoring me?  I swear I was not wearing a t-shirt that said, "My name is Abby Bean and if you annoy me I'm going to blog about it", so it couldn't have been purposeful.  Were they simply on a work date?  I've heard of a staycation, but...

moist, chewy, almondy, chocolate-covered macaroons: a must order
On another recent visit I decided on my way out to get some goodies to-go.  When I started to place my order at the counter, the cashier interrupted me to instruct that I "take it up with my server".  Seriously  !?  Although I explained that I was long since done eating, she insisted that my server "should take care of it".  I repeated that I was finished dining, but she wouldn't hear it.  I clarified that the bill had already been settled and she finally paused.  I waited to see if she'd concede.  After a prolonged sighed she asserted that, "for future reference" I should let my server handle my entire order.  Why?  The explanation was so that it could be on the same bill.  When I explained that I didn't want it on the same bill she considered my response, ignored me for the length of time it took her to take two telephone orders, and then filled my order wordlessly.  Phew!  For a minute there I thought I'd be going home empty handed; thank goodness she decided to do me the honor of letting me spend more money.  It was a while until I returned after this fiasco.

the best savory biscuits around: filled with cheddar Daiya & lots of roasted veggies
Last time I was there I was with a large group who inexplicably skipped dessert obviously didn't want to be part of my take-home booty, so I meekly attempted the same, separate, dine-in/take-out scenario.  No problem this time, except for that I was curtly admonished that there is a minimum credit card purchase of $15.  Now, you certainly don't have to twist my arm to add an extra cookie to the order, but give me a break; my group had just spent a mint.  And, incidentally, it is illegal for a merchant to require a minimum purchase

satisfyingly spicy chickpea fries with cooling sauce
Another time the owner unexpectedly ran over to our table right after we'd placed our order to point out that there were a number of dinner specials available.  Because the regular menu is printed on the wall and the specials menu is often nowhere to be found, I appreciated the reminder not to stick to the standard menu items; I quickly told him that I wanted to change my order to the curry dinner.  He immediately replied that the kitchen wouldn't start preparing dinner for twenty-five minutes.  Okay, I get that you have delineations between breakfast/lunch/dinner, but if it was too early to honor the dinner menu, why offer?  And, if you had already done so, wouldn't you make the concession?  I stuck with my original order and never did try that curry (but I've heard great things).

yes, a real live chocolate croissant

flaky & buttery just like you remember
The least of my complaints, but not the least odd, is the fact that once you have finished eating the staff seems to purposefully ignore you so that you have to physically (and quite dramatically) flag them down in order to formally request the check.  Now, I've had to do this at The Four Seasons, but is this really necessary at Peacefood?  It certainly doesn't add anything to the experience but frustration.

almond danish in cool, pinwheel shape
I truly enjoy the food here, but I really cannot wrap my head around the weirdness.

looking totally non-annoying from afar

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Seemingly Endless Tempeh Salad Variations

Christine Waltermyer from the Natural Kitchen Cooking School introduced me to tempeh salad and I've been loving it ever since.  Now that I have her cookbook, The Natural Vegan Kitchen, I've been making it even more often and with lots of variations.

No offense to the original version intended, but I am very lazy busy; I don't always have the patience time it takes to follow recipes exactly as written.  So, this is how I've simplified my tempeh salad into a weeknight meal:

Abby Bean's No-Frills Tempeh Salad
(serves 4)

  • Crumble 8oz tempeh into a medium saucepan with 2/3 cup water.

  • Mix 2 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp white miso, 2 tbsp lemon juice, and pour over tempeh; mix.

  • Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Remove cover, mix, and simmer until water evaporates: stirring occasionally.
  • Let cool completely (overnight in the fridge works, but I've been known to speed things up in the freezer) before dressing.

Now for the dressing variations (note that I like mine FULL of crunchy bits):

 Tempeh Salad Frill Options

Curry salad:
Mix 1/2 tsp curry, 1/4 tsp cayenne (or more), and 1/4 tsp turmeric into 2/3 cup mayo before coating tempeh.
Add 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup raisins, and salt to taste.  Add 3/4 cup diced apples if you feel like it; I hate apples and this didn't kill me.

Egg salad:
Mix 1/2 tsp black salt into 2/3 cup mayo before coating tempeh.  Add 1/4 tsp turmeric too if you need it to be yellow.  Add 1/4 cup relish, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 1/2 cup chopped celery, and black pepper to taste.

Tuna salad:
Mix 1 tbsp furikake into 2/3 cup mayo before coating tempeh.  Add 1 cup chopped onions, 1 1/2 cup chopped celery.

Mix 1 tsp dill weed into 2/3 cup mayo before coating tempeh.  Add 1 cup chopped onions, and 1 1/2 cup chopped celery .

Ume Plum:
Sub ume plum vinegar for lemon juice.  After mayo, add 1/2 minced plum, 1 1/2 cup chopped celery.

You can pretty much mix anything- within reason- into tempeh salad.  Once you get the hang of it, it's a great way to clean out leftovers from your fridge for a cool, summertime meal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Catskill Animal Sanctuary: Go There and Love On Some Animals

After having first learned about it at Veggie Conquest II, this past weekend VM and I finally visited the Catskill Animal Sanctuary for the first time: to attend their annual shindig.

Upon arrival, we were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by each of the volunteers that guided us through the farm to the parking area.  I likened the anticipation to myself as a kid finally arriving at Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ; VM compared it to herself as an adult finally arriving at...the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA.  Since it's so close to Vegan Treats, I'll give her a pass.

As soon as we were parked the journey began.  We were audibly accosted greeted by some territorial geese (apparently there is no other kind) that loudly voiced their disdain for our intrusion.

cacophonous gaggle

These gorgeous roosters were quiet, friendly, and not at all camera-shy. 

Then we met some rare, male, battery cage chickens, "The Battery Boys".

Across the way were some colorful ducks:

And another fine couple:

This barn seemed empty.

But upon closer inspection we noticed two smart goats keeping cool out of the sunshine.

This rooster begged me to take a close-up, even pointing out his finer side.

And then he promptly nipped the finger that was wrapped around the camera, technically on "his" side of the fence.  Doesn't he look a little too self-satisfied?


An equine pair in the distance.

A few friendly goats.

I believe this constantly rooting piglet is Amelia, of Facebook fame.

This very handsome guy had a chat with me about how ridiculous he would look with human hair extensionsAhem.

As if all of these meet & greets weren't enough, we even had the opportunity to take a tractor-pulled hayride through the farm!

We hopped on and got right into the spirit.

Our driver and tour-guide, Alex, was phenomenal.

Chili & Alex

We met quite a few horses who, were it not for their obvious affection for Alex, would have otherwise been shy around both the crowds and the strong sun.

The goats who had been elusive to us earlier (and would be again later), came bounding towards Alex when he hopped off his tractor.

The cows were a little less enthusiastic, but seemed to enjoy his affection nonetheless.

This photo fell victim to sun-glare and the motion of the hayride, but that's Babe!
When the hayride was over we continued to explore the farm on foot.  More geese chased us away, even following us as we passed.

These fellas had gone down for a nap.

This horse was extremely intrigued by the live music, which at this point in the day was Marc Black.

Following his ears, he made a beeline towards the sound and, shortly after this picture was taken, turned on his hoof and, dare I say, twirled.

When it was almost time for our barn tour, Kathy Stevens, founder and director of the sanctuary, began to speak, but was quickly upstaged by Ethel.

Kathy is on the right, to Ethel's left.

Ethel immediately took over welcoming duties and, later, let me pet her for a good, long, while.

Once inside, we finally got to meet Rambo, made famous in Kathy's book, "Where The Blind Horse Sings": a great introduction to CAS and the resident animals.  Little known fact: Rambo's coat is as soft as cotton.

There were plenty of precious, special needs animals in the barn, but I had a bit of a love affair with a horse named, what else, Abby.

She seemed to like me as much as I her!

Catskill Animal Sanctuary is one of those places that is hard to leave.  So, we visited with a few more lucky animals on the way out.

Now that I've visited and have had the opportunity to meet the animals in person, I think I'm going to have to re-read "Where the Blind Horse Sings" and "Animal Camp".  Also, a return visit is definitely on the horizon.  If you haven't yet been, I highly recommend a trip to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary.  If you have, you know you want to return; what are you waiting for?