Saturday, February 23, 2013

Valentine's Recap

What?  You didn't think I was done, did you? Impressive as it was; that was just a preview.  I ate all of those chocolates pre-Valentine's Day so you would know what you were getting into.  Admittedly, there was an unexpected supplement.  And then even more rolled in (pun intended).

It was quite the Valentine's explosion, actually.

89 had already swiped this toy from the shopping bag moments after I'd carried it in the house I'd already given 89 this cool alligator; it looks like she's snuggling, but she's really chewing on his foot (that's her m.o.).

Valentine lovin'

Further proof of her ferocity (and affinity for animal feet):

For myself, I was expecting my annual chocolate feast from my parents.

yes; this a real note

To my surprise, I came home to find that they'd delivered not only a selection of Rose City Chocolates:

But also chocolate-covered pretzels.  Unfortunately, they turned out to be unsalted (I do not recommend unsalted chocolate-covered pretzels; they should have come with a warning).    

Gorgeous sterling roses:

And even a Valentine's bagel (otherwise I would have just eaten chocolate until it was gone):

There was even a few more things from Vegan Treats: chocolate lollipops (swoon):

And...wait for it....

peanut butter twix!  They taste even better than they look and are one of my new favorite things from VT.  Positively outstanding.

As if all of this wasn't enough, I'd swung by Vegan Treats myself to pick up a few things for my parents (and me):

Red velvet cake:

V-day confetti cake:

Valentine's-themed, chocolate-covered, cheesecake on a stick!


Suffice it to say I've had more than my fair share just enough chocolate and sweets as of late. 

And plenty of Valentine-themed revelry.

It's exhausting!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gone Pie Galentine's Treat

This year was the first I'd heard of Galentine's Day, but I like it; it's got spirit.  And in that spirit, I was invited to a Galentine's Day party, wished a happy Galentine's Day, and received a Valentine's Day gift that I independently dubbed a Galentine's Day gift from an extremely swell gal.  Let me present to you the new, gluten-free, chocolate, almond tart- courtesy of Gone Pie Vegan Bakery.

The tart was part of Gone Pie's treat of the month club and, truth be told, I'd been eying it and hoping that a friend would have been able to pick one up for me from the Vegan Shop-Up, if wasn't.

So, I'm extra-especially glad I got my hands on it!  Filled with Gone Pie's standard, impeccable ingredients; I'm not surprised it's another masterpiece.

It's topped with a decadent layer of chocolate- kind of like an upscale magic shell: "organic, gluten-free, vegan, fairtrade, semi-sweet chocolate (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, non-dairy cocoa butter); organic cocoa butter; organic blanched almonds."

My initial intention was to cut it "for photographic purposes only."

The center filling of the tart is dense and chocolatey with a kiss of almond: "organic almond paste (almonds, sugar, rice syrup, salt); organic, gluten-free, vegan, fairtrade, semi-sweet chocolate (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, non-dairy cocoa butter); organic almond milk; sorghum flour; organic vegan fairtrade sugar; tapioca flour; organic coconut oil; organic vanilla; organic flax seeds; non-aluminated baking powder; sea salt."

I quickly abandoned that idea and got myself a fork.

The crust is just nutty deliciousness reminiscent of the one I love in Gone Pie's pecan pie: "gluten-free oats, gluten-free flour blend (organic rice flour, tapioca flour, gafarva flour, sorghum flour, organic coconut flour, organic buckwheat flour), organic maple syrup, brazil nuts, organic coconut oil, arrowroot, xanthan gum."

This is the point at which I abandoned my fork and just shoved it in my mouth.

This was a huge hit- not only with myself, but also with VM, OD, my boss, and a good friend.  See; I share!

I also received a few of Gone Pie's new, lemon, tahini cookies

Go Nepie or go home

I have a love/hate relationship with tahini, so I wasn't sure what I would think.  But, one bite in and I thought O.G.P. (Oh Gone Pie!); they were fantastic.

It took me only a moment of savoring to realize that the flavor was reminiscent of a pignoli cookie.  Next I'll have to try the non-lemon, chocolate-covered version.  VM says ditto.

I often hear people say that they don't like certain holidays because they're manufactured.  That may be true, but anything that gives you a reason to let someone know you're thinking about them is okay by me.  I'm lucky to know so many people that are thoughtful and generous in every way and for no reason at all- especially when it comes to sweets.  With extreme gratitude for all of you.

Warning: there's still one more Valentine-related post coming your way!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The (first ever, NYC) Vegan Bake-Off

I was on the fence about attending the first ever NYC Vegan Bake-Off; vegan food events tend to be a little too full-body-contact-sport for my taste.  But, a friend convinced me go and I'm thrilled that I did.

The event was held at The Bell House.

It was a much larger space than I had originally anticipated.  There was a large room in the front with a full bar:

Another larger event space in the back with its own bar...and chandeliers; this is where the Bake-Off took place.

I was initially concerned when I realized that there was no seating set up for the event.  It's not that I have to eat while reclined, but I was concerned that without the decorum forced by the Veggie Conquest model of "tasters" remaining seated while being served the participants' entries, it could easily turn into an NYC Vegetarian Food Fest-scale madhouse.  Little did I know that the organizers were well on top of it.  And, speaking of Veggie Conquest, I managed to snap a shot of the masterful creator/coordinator herself with those at the helm of The Vegan Bake-Off.

Jessica, Rob, Chris

Now let's get to the grub!  The wide space was set up so that the 20 baking participants were lined up facing the room.  I was stunned at how beautifully everything was presented and the excitement in the room was simmering to a boil.

In the center of the sweets' tables there was a table set up with plenty of plates, napkins, and forks.  Rob did an excellent job of conveying to the crowd that both time and samples were aplenty, and offered direction as to how the flow of obtaining said samples was to commence. Although seemingly impossible, it worked without incident!  Nary an elbow was thrown.

The crowd moved at such a pleasant, leisurely pace, in fact, that there was even time to snap a few (often blurry) photos as I collected my tastes and tried to impart my appreciation to the participants for all of their efforts.

 My plate after visiting the first ten contestants:

Ok, I admit I may have started nibbling while on line to collect the second half of the entries.

Thanks, Dayna!

great job, Janet!!!

Minus a couple of already ingested sweets (for those of you counting!), my haul:

While the lack of cumbersome tables and chairs in the event space initially lent itself to more mingling, it ultimately prohibited too much discussion outside your own group.  Since it wasn't very comfortable to stand, balance, and discuss the entries, friends and I wound up sitting at a table in the front room in order to best facilitate a serious (and fun) conversation about the entries.  Much like at supper clubs and Veggie Conquest, the communal tables are a big part of the event because it fosters gathering; they'd be great at this event as well.

Prior to the event I was surprised that so many people could be heard and overheard lamenting the supposedly daunting task of ingesting so many sweets at once.  I scoffed openly at the absurdity, dubbing them lightweights.  And then something unheard of happened: I hit my wall.  I have no explanation for this, other than to say that many of the desserts were different in flavor and combination than I usually gravitate towards, so perhaps the mixture of tastes did me in.

and then I gave up

When I say that the desserts were not necessarily the type included in my regular repertoire, I should note that my choices for award were mostly out of my comfort zone!

Shhh! (in no particular order)

Yes, you are reading that right.  This fruit eschewing, chocolate and ice cream lover chose the following:

The sticky orange Lady marmalade tea cake was one of the first things I tasted while online for the second half of my collection of samples.

Compared to some of the other more fancifully decorated entries, the tea cakes looked relatively unassuming.  But the taste, texture, and pure fluffiness of the cake was phenomenal.  I'm a chocolate girl all the way, but I could have eaten an entire sheet cake of this.

Trio of fruit sorbet: grapefruit, honeydew, and cantaloupe.  I admit it; what I initially found most appealing about the sorbets was the blue cup.  When I passed the Rescue Chocolate table, the woman running it exclaimed excitedly at the inclusion of a cold dessert and I almost gave it to her.  But something told me to give it a try, and it was terrific: the cantaloupe was spot on, the honeydew superbly refreshing.  Surprisingly, it was the tart grapefruit that really got my attention.  All together, it was win-win-win.

Maybe I was channeling VM's tastebuds for this one, but the raspberry hazelnut brownies were impeccably decorated and understatedly yummy.

All told, there were 6 prizes awarded: 3 peoples' choice and  3 judges' choice.  The judges?  Sarah Gross of Rescue Chocolate and the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, Comedian Myq Kaplan, and Adam Sobel of The Cinnamon Snail.

 As it turned out, none of my choices won!

The winners were all visibly thrilled, none more so than Girlfriend in a Sugar Coma, the creator of the speculoos cookie sandwiches.  These looked to me like macarons, but tasted like snickerdoodle cookie sandwiches.  She definitely deserved extra credit for affixing her name to each paper!

Did I also mention that I was a winner?  Yep; and I didn't even have to bake anything.  There was a raffle and yours truly was the recipient of the prize package: the cookbook Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Choscarelli:

and an assortment of FIVE Rescue Chocolate bars!

For any of you that were there, you might have noticed that I was supremely excited.  Who wouldn't be when each number called out corresponded to those on your ticket?  Almost makes up for the giant Snoopy I never won at the Long Island square dances of my youth...

It was really great to see so many people I don't get to see nearly often enough, as well as to meet plenty of new.  The bottom line is: if you missed this event, keep your eye out for the next one.  If the inaugural Bake-Off could be this fun, well-attended, and impressively organized, I can't wait to see what's next.