Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bethlehem Brew Works' Vegan Falafel Pita

A lot of folks, myself included, travel to Bethlehem for Vegan Treats.  The more often you make the trek, the more of Bethlehem you find yourself taking the time to explore- around the epicenter of the bakery.  While I could fill my bag with donuts & cookies and subsist on sweets for weeks the entire day, other people generally crave savory food at some point.

Recently, a friend of mine found Bethlehem Brew Works to fit the bill.  While certainly not a vegan establishment, their menu is very specific with regard to ingredients and they offer an explicity vegan falafel pita: house-made vegan falafel served on toasted pita with avocado hummus, lettuce, red onion, and tomato as a new addition to their signature sandwiches.

The sandwich is generous, as is the portion of fries that accompanies (please see comments for another customer's experience).  The falafel seems baked and exists within the sandwich in strips rather than the custumary balls; the bread is more of a grilled lavash than a toasted pita.  Although it was a hardy and enjoyable sandwich, I would recommend that the restaurant offer the addition of sauce (perhaps tahini?); the bit of lettuce and tomato did little to assuage the predominant dryness of the bread/falafel/hummus combination.  It would probably help if you like beer (I don't); it is, after all, a brewery.

Overall, it was very nice to have a tasty and filling vegan offering at such a mainstream establishment.  When you're in the area, give it a try.  There are some shops in the vicinity if you're inclined to walk around and soak in the small-town aesthetic (and have patience for finding parking). 

I recommend Blue Cactus for an eclectic assortment of lighting options (like the one I purchased above), but I'll have to reserve my review of the town's other offerings until I can return on a Saturday when more shops are open for business.  I can tell you that there's a store entirely dedicated to pepper spray, which I find both odd and intriguing...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Busy Day: Bagels, Markets, Sushi, Eclairs, Party, Peacefood

One recent* Saturday was a ridiculously busy one; luckily I have a very good friend who can plan and execute with the best of them!

We started off at Ess-A-Bagel: my first time there!

They had a number of different vegan cream cheeses (Tofutti?): scallion, raisin walnut, plain, and veggie.

And they make their giant bagels fresh right behind the case (ours was served warm).  My friend- who is vastly more familiar with the shop, told me that they boldly have no toasters on premises.  Judging from the constant line, I can't imagine they'd ever need them. 

Bagel flavors:

blurry because I was being jostled by the crowd

We went with whole wheat everything...

blurry because I was hungry

with veggie cream cheese.

Then we visited the Union Square Farmer's and Holiday Markets.

After that we grabbed another friend and headed over to Beyond Sushi, where we wanted to try their new(ish) bowls.

Since it was so early, they only had the coconut curry soup base as an option; the miso and spicy broth were still being made.  Carrots, baked tofu, asparagus, roasted romain hearts (YUM), and choice of noodes.

With udon and cilantro:

not mine

 With soba, hold the cilantro:


Another great juice; this one is my favorite so far: freshly squeezed strawberry, kiwi, yuzu juiceAs anticipated, I craved this again during a recent Shop-up and bee-lined to Beyond Sushi on the way back from Brooklyn.

I also got some rolls as take-out to share with VM (for the next day; I'm not a bottomless pit).

Everything was packed neatly; even the sauce came in squeezable containers for home-adornment.

November roll of the month: sweet persimmons, allspice roasted parsnips, & grilled haricot vert topped with seaweed salad, white miso sauce and toasted chili-spiced panko flakes.

Pickle me: six grain rice, gobo, carrot, pickled daikon, and avocado with carrot ginger sauce.

The la fiesta: black rice, avocado, pickled jalapeño, chayote, and cilantro leaf with mango chili sauce.

Sweet Tree: six grain rice, avocado, sweet potato, and alfalfa sprouts with toasted cayenne sauce.

It wasn't plated as nicely as at the restaurant, but I did okay for a first-timer.

Later, on the way to the Bust Holiday Craftacular, two of us picked up an eclair (yes, you heard me) from VivaA friend of a friend had tried one and reported back on the authenticity; we had to give it a try.

It looked, smelled, and tasted like a traditional eclair; there was just one problem: the cream was almost completely frozen!  We guessed that they'd been delivered frozen and hadn't adequately defrosted yet- either that or Viva needs to turn up the temperature in their fridge.  Also not sure exactly whose eclair it was; Viva's treats are usually from Vegan Treats, but this wasn't marked as such (and I do consider myself a bit of an aficianado). 

After that we went to another friend's birthday celebration, where the outpouring of warmth for the newly out-of-city transplant was palpable (had some AWESOME trail mix there too) and, finally, ended the day at Peacefood.

One friend went with the Charlie Brown rice: red bean chili, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, radish, cilantro, and fried tortilla:

I had a savory cheddar and roasted veggie biscuit that was hugely disappointing; they're usually great, but this one tasted as though it hadn't been thoroughly cooked; wah.

And two of us had the Asian greens salad, "seasonal baby Asian vegetables, mixed sprouts, shredded carrots, tomatoes, marinated and baked tempeh, and ground peanuts in a garlic, ginger, cilantro [you can't taste it], ponsu, and sesame dressing."

You might not believe this, but the service was the best I've ever experienced at Peacefood- by a mile.  The server was friendly, efficient, and actually had personality; thanks, Sam.

Finally, inspired by this NY story from foodfeud, I thought I'd share mine.  When I was attempting to park in the East Village on this day, it wasn't going well.  Finally I spied a spot, but there was a giant, fluorescent orange, pick-up truck parked significantly over the line.  I couldn't pass up the space, so I tentatively pulled in and took a second to decide what to do.  Then I noticed that Mr. Fluorescent-Orange-Pick-Up-Truck was actually standing right behind his truck!  I backed up a bit, rolled down my window, and asked if everything was ok (he was fiddling with something on the truck).  When he said yes, I informed him that he was parked so far over the line that he would have to hit me with his door in order to get into his car.  He told me he was leaving, so I offered to give him time to get in before pulling fully into my space.  "That's ok; I'll just get in from the passenger side: go ahead."  So, I pulled in as far to the opposite side as possible, and jumped out to tell him he should be okay.  True to his word, he was already climbing in via his passenger door.  Thanks for the chivalry, sir.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blogger's Resolution to Eradicate Outdated Drafts (and try new things!)

There are all kinds of New Years' resolutions to be made, and I suspect many of you have already broken a few.  One that I'd like to keep is to eradicate my blog of the ridiculous amount of posts that hang out in the drafts section- at a 10% ratio to my actual published posts.

So, if you'll forgive me the delay, I hope you will enjoy the somewhat belated posts that are to come your way in the early part of this year.

In other news, how on Earth have I never paired Daiya with avocado before?

What started out as a gourmet (to me) grilled cheese turned into a whole wheat quesadilla of sorts.  One one side, the cool: mashed avocado with salt, pepper, onions, and tomatoes.

One the other, the hot: cheddar Daiya, black beans, and fresh jalapeno.

All I did was microwave the hot side for a minute, slap on the cool side, and flip (crucial because otherwise the hot side sticks to the plate in a mushy mess).

If you too have yet to try this pairing, don't just take my word for it.  This is a quick assemble and munch; you won't be sorry.

Old(er), as-yet-unpublished blog posts comin' atcha soon...

Friday, January 11, 2013

VMNYBD 3/3: More Vegan Struffoli!

It's a good thing I have my blog around for I-told-you-so fact-checking purposes, because otherwise I never would have believed that- after perfecting the recipe, it took me 3 years to get VM to make me struffoli (aka sticky balls) again.  But, much like my revered rainbow cookies, even I have to admit that the fabulosity of the result doesn't always warrant the time and mess of the effort.  Of course, tell me that when I have a perfect struffoli in my mouth and I'll never agree.  Behold:

Granted, as we collected our ingredients with our mulled wine steeping, we were oblivious to the fact that we were going to be exhausted, somewhat drunk, and covered in dough by the time we were done.

apparently an entire bottle of wine fits into two mugs

Our dough came together easily and these were the first (of many) dough logs.

Dropped in:

Just about done:

I should note that it's quite funny to cook using a recipe you posted.  "What is she talking about?" becomes a ridiculous question to ask aloud, but you can't help yourself.  As this was our second try and we're each 3 years older with much less patience, I've added a few notes to the original post to aid us in the next batch...probably in 2016 or so?

If you read nothing else, it is most important that you forget anything I ever said about using agave/brown rice syrup blah-blah-blah and just use Suzanne's Specialties' (same gal who brought you ricemellow) Just Like Honey, which is INCREDIBLE, and consists primarily of a mixture of brown rice, agave, and maple syrups. 

The only time I ever ate honey was on sticky balls, and Just Like Honey has now perfected our vegan struffoli. 

Don't forget the non-pareils either.  NON-PAREILS only; never sprinkles.

Edward & Sons calls them confetti
When we were about 85% done and I was asleep on my feet from the wine, I had the epiphany that we could have put the batter in a squeeze-bottle, squirted it abstractly into the oil, and had instant funnel cakes!  VM, her stovetop splattered with oil, with about 50 balls left to cook, was not amused.  Maybe next time?

Usually we just drizzle the Just Like Honey on the cooked balls, but in the midst of our cooking frenzy, a friend sent me a link to Mario Batali's (awfully messy) struffoli from The Chew, and I decided to try coating the balls via the same method: heating the "Just Like Honey," mixing in the struffoli, allowing to cool for a few minutes, and then arranging on a plate.

I found this to be an unnecessary step, as the drizzled, sticky balls tasted more authentic and also fared better after a day's storage in an airtight container at room temperature.  Note: the un-"honey"ed balls stored the same way got mushy.

So, while your best bet is to eat them all up right away, if you do have any leftovers you should try the drizzle and store technique.  You might have to add more Just Like Honey and non-pareils when serving, but it's your best option.

See you again in 2016, vegan struffoli!

And that concludes VMNYBD 2013; I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as VM enjoyed (most- not the cooking) of her day!

Monday, January 7, 2013

VMNYBD 2/3: Herbivore Clothing Good Luck Elephant

You may not know this, but VM became a vegetarian in 2009, around the time we took our trip to Portland.  One of the highlights of that trip was visiting the vegan mini-mall, and Herbivore Clothing was an especially pleasant stop.  VM is an elephant collector from way back, so Herbivore's recent introduction of their line of Good Luck Elephant items made choosing her birthday gift a snap.

The design is both gorgeous and adorable, but I also have to mention that the Alternative Apparel shirt is made of eco-fleece and feels as soft as advertised- if not softer.  She hasn't worn it yet, but it looks like it's going to be truly cozy.


I want to especially note that ordering the shirt was the most pleasant experience I had all holiday season; the staff could not have been more patient (I had a bazillion sizing questions in order to avoid the necessity of an exchange), nicer (they found the size I needed even when it seemed they were sold out), or prompt (it shipped the next day).  Thanks so much, Herbivore!

I can't blame her; it does look like a box of munchkins.

So, if you want to be like VM, start by getting the same shirt from Herbivore!
If you want to be like me, pepper your kitchen with snarky and true Herbivore message stickers!

As always, support vegan businesses.

(Catch up with VMNYBD 1/3 and stay tuned for 3/3!)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

VMNYBD 1/3: Banana Bread French Toast With Blueberry Sauce

Happy New Year!  January 1 happens to be VM's birthday, so after Hanukkah and Christmas, we still have a reason to celebrate.  We started out the day with a fantabulous breakfast- a recreation of the banana bread french toast from Sacred Chow: "a gargantuan slice of our banana pound cake griddled up with a house made french toast dip, till crispy outside and steamy sweet inside, topped off with Sacred Chow’s blueberry compote."  Behold my version:

I've been meaning to make this for a while, but only remembered with a few days' notice.  OD was kind enough to pick up some bananas for me, but they were not at all ripe enough for banana bread.

I Googled "how to ripen bananas quickly" and wound up with a perfect solution courtesy of the Clean Green Simple blog.  I highly recommend this option for whenever you're in a similar bind (pun intended).

Note that I did make the banana bread two days in advance- both because of time constraints and because I wanted it to have time to firm up in the fridge before frying. 

Yep, frying.  I made the PPK fronch toast batter, cut the loaf into 4 thick slices, and got to work.

Then I topped with blueberry sauce from VWAV (p. 39) and served with maple syrup; it was utterly amazeballs.

89 didn't have any, but even she was impressed.

Happy New Year.