Monday, October 27, 2014

The Butcher's Daughter: Now We Know

A group of us have been wanting to try The Butcher's Daughter for a while now; this weekend our schedules aligned to make it happen.

There's a significant amount of seating outside, so we had no problem getting a table with 89 in tow.  Unfortunately, our table was picnic style, which proved so uncomfortable over the course of the meal that I'm sure it was a decision based on increased customer turnover rather than aesthetic.

The menu states that it's all vegetarian, but there is no clear indication of what is vegan or veganizable.  We asked the waiter for some guidance and he explained that he was new and filling in for someone, so he just didn't know.  Really.  That was it; he made no move to find out.  So, after a short, uncomfortable silence, my friend said, "Well, we're all vegan, so we can't order until we know what's vegan," and he disappeared for about ten years.  I mean, minutes.

When he returned, he told us that everything on the menu was vegan (presumably including the deviled eggs) except for three things: one of which he claimed was the kale salad.  He left again when this declaration was met with four sets of perplexed and incredulous eyes staring back at him.  We were able to flag down another waiter who explained that everything on the menu really was vegan save three things, but that the kale salad clearly was; the eggs obviously weren't.  It never ceases to amaze me how much more difficult it can be to acquire vegan food from a vegetarian restaurant than an omnivorous one. When our waiter returned we finally ordered, but 89 had already had it (I was thisclose).

We were all excited to try the spinach artichoke crock: layers of artichoke, spinach, cashew ricotta & parmesan baked and served with toasted baguette.  But instead of the creamy, cheesy dip we were expecting, it was a sad representation of the non-vegan original.  The small ramekin contained lukewarm wilted spinach and quartered artichoke hearts right from a jar, mixed sparingly with tasteless vegan cheese specks with partially melted cheese shreds atop.

We also ordered a side of the crispy cauliflower to share.

While that was significantly tastier, what it lacked in crispiness (none), it made up for in oiliness (lots).

One friend ordered The Butcher's Burger: vegetable-black bean burger, cashew cheddar, bibb lettuce, tomatoes, pickles & special sauce served on brioche bun with roasted potato wedges and harissa mayo. She subbed sautéed (oily) spinach for the potatoes, but there was no lettuce…no pickles.  We also collectively thought the cheese was Daiya (UPDATE 10/30/14: if you look at this review from March 14 you'll see that what we had was DEFINITELY not cashew cheese, which would have made the price more appropriate).

On top of all that, the burger was obviously fried in oil so that it was crisp as a hockey puck on the outside, yet oozed oil when you pressed on it.  Are you noticing a theme?

From the moment we were seated I knew I was going to order the pulled pork BBQ sandwich: shredded portabello mushrooms marinated in house-smoked BBQ sauce with coleslaw on a brioche bun, served with pickles & potato wedges.  The Butcher's Daughter, however, had other ideas; they were "out."  I wished I was as well.

Instead, I went with the most popular order of the table: spicy kale caesar salad: baby kale, avocado, almond parmesan, toasted almonds, crispy shallots & 7-grain croutons with added tempeh.  It doesn't matter to me, as I like the mature variety better anyway, but the kale was not "baby."  The salad was small overall: consisting of about two, untorn, destemmed leaves of curly kale that prompted a friend to note: "I'd better cut this kale, otherwise I'll have the whole salad in one forkful."  The half of an avocado was perfection; I'll give them that.  I also really enjoyed the dressing, which was only spicy for a half of a second (and didn't need to be at all).  I'll even concede that the toasted almonds added a nice crunch along with the croutons.  However, the "crispy" shallots were cool and oil-logged and the tempeh was flavorless: seemingly un-marinated and inexplicably flash-fried.  The meal was over and I was dissatisfied in every respect.

For dessert, The Butcher's Daughter offers a selection of vegan ice creams: banana-walnut, chocolate, salted caramel, and even a vegan ice cream sandwich.  Our alternate waiter was able to tell us that it was all Van Leeuwen, which I've never tried.  Alas, they were out of it.  All of it.  Nary a sandwich or scoop left.  Another theme.

Before bringing us the check, our official waiter deposited three bottles of elixir on our table; only one was labeled.  We consulted with our alternate waiter again; he informed us that it was a gift, but that he had to swap out two of the bottles because they contained honey- which our original waiter didn't understand was unsuitable for vegans.  If that doesn't give you a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of an altogether questionably vegan meal, I don't know what does.

We'd really been looking forward to this meal and I was inordinately hungry in preparation.  The fact that it was so disappointing was unfortunate; we will not return.  But, as a friend wisely intonated, "now we know."

Come on, New York; you can do better.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Team Vegansaurus

So, I can finally share the ridiculously spectacular news I've been sitting on for some time now...  I'm now a Vegansaur!  Yep; I'm a new contributor to the venerable Vegansaurus team effort and I couldn't be more flattered, thrilled, and nervous to be in the incredible company of the wittiest, most well-spoken, pink, vegan, dinosaur bloggers around.

Is there anything more exciting than seeing a pink-wigged 89 next to the official Vegansaurus?  I THINK NOT!

Please check out my very first Vegansaurus post (on the perils of online dating as a vegan) and, if you don't already, follow Vegansaurus on Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr for lots of amazing content, as well as more me.

Just so we're clear, A (soy) Bean isn't going anywhere.  You'll still be able to find assorted non-Vegansaurus-related rants and raves right here, so do stay tuned.  xoxo

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Bittersweet Farewell to Goldie's

In mid-September, my new favorite restaurant, Goldie's of Asbury Park, began to advertise a limited-seating, 5-course, chef's bar, fall-tasting dinner.  I didn't think I'd be able to fit it into my schedule, but couldn't stop thinking about their new, yet-to-be-revealed, seasonal menu.  Less than a week later, they began to advertise their fall hours, which got everyone thinking about the highly anticipated fall options.  I was wondering how I could arrange my schedule in order to fit it in when, only nine days after that, the dinner party was being unexpectedly advertised as a farewell.   I knew I had to make it my business to attend and so I reserved a coveted seat.

My excitement put my whole day on overdrive and so I arrived to the neighborhood quite a bit early.  I took a final shot of their golden window as melancholia began to set in.

When I found myself bidding adieu to their succulents I knew I had to at least try to pull myself together..

I took a walk as the sun set.  This is the view of the vacant carousel house in the distance.

And, of course, the nearby pedal boats (if I had my own lake I'd steal that dragon in an instant).

FYI: something is afoot in the bierhalle around the block.

And then finally it was time enough to go in.  Due to my canine companion, I'd only viewed the interior once previously- two days prior when a friend and I had visited for brunch on what I didn't initially realize was their last business day.  It looked even more stunning in the evening light. 

The seating was limited to the meandering bar that spans the length of the space and I had the best seat in the house: right in front of the stove and, therefore, all of the action (alas, no pets indoors!).

The evening kicked off with a complimentary, signature cocktail: lemon sage.  It was both refreshing and crisp, but I unfortunately had to nurse it in anticipation of the drive home; otherwise I would have surely had a few.

The meal began a little later than expected.  There was a palpable hesitation cast over the room, as everyone was aware that once the event was to start, the end was sadly inevitable.  I was lucky enough to have been seated next to an extremely lovely couple, Aurora and Frank, whose kindness and conversation made the evening ever more enjoyable.

The meal started off beautifully with an amuse bouche of smoked figs with herbed cashew chevre and Bartlett pear vinaigrette (spherification).  


They were at the same time smoky and sweet; the cheese was enough to turn any reluctant vegetarian vegan.  I'm certain that those who are quick to say they could never give up cheese have never tasted something so decadent.

And then the fun really began.  The first indication of my incredible seat was my enviable view of the choreographed salad plating.

Mache salad with red onion, hazelnut, orange, citronette and warm raisin puree.  It was an exquisite play of tastes, textures, and temperatures.

As if I wasn't already over the moon for Goldie's and the evening's festivities, I positively swooned when this clean fork was promptly placed before me after the salad course was cleared:  Goldie's consistently epitomizing the utmost service and attention to detail right until the end.

Next up was a pear & root vegetable soup with sage, verjus, and poached pear.

Pears are, admittedly, not my thing, but the soup itself was fragrant and extremely satisfying.  I took great care to consume every drop around the fruit, which I left.  Attendees were already remarking what wonderful options these dishes would offer to an autumnal Goldie's menu that wasn't to be.

At this point I could not have told you what I was enjoying most: the impeccable feast, the company, or the view.


For the pasta course, pine nut ricotta and lemon thyme ravioli with pesto, roasted baby beets, pistachio and bitter greens.  This dish was my favorite of the evening: every element was a hit- particularly the note-perfect ravioli and the dehydrated beet slice garnish.  Of course, I'm always a sucker for arugula.

The main was a maple sage mushroom tart with butternut squash custard, pecan puree and charred Brussels sprout leaves.

I was blown away by both the heartiness and layers upon layers of individual elements that formed this inventive and amazing entree.  The crust was flaky, the custard divine, mushrooms sweet and succulent.  Paired with the uber-rich puree and the crisp sprout leaves: I should have stopped eating long before my plate was clean, but I just couldn't.

Full disclosure: I was wary of the dessert.  Roasted apple & sweet potato turnover with sweet and sour kraut, sweet potato pie ice cream and dark cherry bourbon compote; so many unusual elements for my chocolate-centric palate to contemplate. 

To start, I don't like apples.  But, I was willing to forgive anything baked into a mini-pie.  Contrarily, the sweet potato filling made perfect sense as I recalled the sweet potato blondie from VCIYCJ.

I managed to block out the idea of the sauerkraut until I saw it being plated and it looked, well, exactly like sauerkraut.  Sweet potato pie ice cream?  Also weird, and I was beginning to wonder if this would wind up being a dish that simply tried too hard to be different.

When the dessert was set before me it looked harmless, albeit huge, and smelled of fall.  The healthy serving on the heels of 5 previous courses gave me new cause for concern, as I have a clean plate reputation to uphold.  On first bite, the ice cream erred on the heavy side and I couldn't reconcile the sweet potato.  The compote was stellar, and I tasted the pie: astounding.  When it was time to add the sauerkraut to the mix I didn't hesitate; I owed the fine folks who had just prepared the preceding, decadent meal a unabashed, trusting dive in.  And, somehow... it all worked together!  While I might never have an opportunity to consume such a combination again, I'm proud to say that I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of every dish (save the poached pear), including this one.  My stomach was stuffed, my taste buds impressed, and my heart warmed by the kindest restaurant staff I've known.

It was a truly successful event on all counts.  And then, just as if it never happened, the stove was still and quiet.

The incredibly talented folks who I'd come to know over the previous months through their precise and praiseworthy food and service gathered to bid us a heartfelt farewell.  My nearest dining companion and I were not the only two to well up.  I will indubitably miss Goldie's and the folks behind it.  Individually and as a team, I thank each and every one of them for making myself and 89 feel stunningly welcome every single time we visited- which was as often as possible for two fans who live an hour away.

As if all they had done during the short tenure of the restaurant and in this single spectacular evening wasn't enough, they sent us home with a parting gift: two divine smelling cookies that I was too full to consume until the next day.

And so my last Goldie's bite turned out to be as flawless as the first and all in between: a soft, chewy, moist chocolate cookie with chocolate chips, sugar, and a hint of heat that hit as an aftertaste and as a reminder that Goldie's is unexpected, enduring, and will hopefully return.

I still don't know what changed in that short period of time between anticipation of the fall menu and the unexpected farewell.  Every time I visited Goldie's they were crowded and the food, staff, and atmosphere were the absolute best I'd come by in a long time and by a mile. I have detected a bit of concern amongst vegans that this was a restaurant not owned and operated by vegans.  But, while I make it my business to support such endeavors, there is nothing wrong with non-vegans dipping their toe in the water; the more the merrier to spread the word- particularly in New Jersey!  Every vegan bite consumed is one less non-vegan bite born out of violence and cruelty.  Not to mention that I can think of a few vegan-owned and operated establishments that could take a lesson or two from Goldie's.

It is so rare to find a restaurant that is able to consistently deliver what Goldie's mastered with finesse and genuine appreciation for its fans.  I don't know what the future holds for the restaurant or its staff, but I feel like it captured lightning in a bottle for a brief moment and I'd like to once again thank them for everything; we do hope to see you very soon. xo AB & 89

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen: Italian PEACH Cake

This is just a quick, spotlight post solely about my* Italian apple peach cake (torta di mela pesca)! 

You might be wondering where this beautiful cake came from?  Well, my copy of *Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen just arrived and, per usual, I went straight for dessert.

I hate am not a fan of apples, so I subbed fresh peaches (a significantly superior fruit minus the skin) that were a gift from my neighbors.

Here was the cake right out of the oven: pre-flip. Full disclosure: I made two; you can see the second one on the background.






And, devoured.

You can find this cake recipe on Chloe Coscarelli's website (I highly recommend subbing peaches for phenomenal result), but if this is any indication of what the rest of the book will produce it's fair to say that it belongs in your collection asap. Mangia (I couldn't resist).