Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Partaking in the Passover Gefilte Fish Course

As a kid, even though I ate things like hot dogs and bologna, I would not go near gefilte fish.  There really isn't anything appetizing about those non-descript, beige lumps- especially when they're suspended within gelatinous goo.  The odor is no picnic either, but in my house it's superseded by the pleasantly tear-inducing scent of horseradish.  I usually spend the gefilte fish course of the seder trying to come up with an idea of what I could use as a vehicle to get some of that tangy horseradish into my mouth.

This year I found such a vehicle in Debra Mazer's recipe for Raw Vegan Gefilte "Wish", found via GirlieGirl Army

I did make a few adjustments to the recipe: 

  • Since I don't follow a raw diet (and I'm lazy), I used "regular" almonds that didn't require soaking.  
  • I don't have a dehydrator, so I used my toaster oven at it's lowest setting of 150 degrees.
  • Despite considerable effort I couldn't find dulse flakes, so I substituted Furikake (seaweed and sesame seeds). 
I had no idea what to expect when I began preparation, so I halved the recipe. I would suggest that you remedy my error by doubling yours; everyone is sure to want seconds- including you.  I, of course, served my "Wishes" with horseradish, but I will note that they have such an unexpectedly pleasant taste that you probably won't want to overpower it with much.

It's hard to describe the overall flavor of the wishes and, even though I had prepared them, eating them whole you cannot pinpoint most of the varied ingredients.  Fear not, "they taste nothing like gefilte fish" (spoken by my omni guinea pig as he gobbled them up); instead, simply a tastier, animal friendly substitution.  The carrots add the most discernable flavor and crunch, the almond dough-- while not identifiable-- offers an overwhelmingly pleasant texture, and the kelp & seaweed add a subtle hit of the sea.

I highly recommend adding these easy-to-prepare, delicious, nutrient packed morsels to your next seder.  Or, simply enjoy them anytime: with the warmer weather coming they would make quite a nice, cooling meal.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Hamantaschen Massacre

So one day I'm minding my own business when Isa tweets something about a hamantaschen recipe.  Well, I guess lots of folks replied requesting the specifics because the next thing I knew she tweeted a link.  Since I usually have considerable luck following the recipes in Isa and Terry's cookbooks, I printed the "friend's" recipe and decided to try it out.

I followed everything exactly and even doubled the recipe because I figured if I was taking out the rolling pin, I wanted to wind up with more than a dozen cookies. 

Right off the bat there were issues.  For one, I needed lots of extra flour handy for the dough, the cutting board, and the rolling pin.  Without it the dough was an unmanageable ball of stickiness. 

Next, it seems that my martini glasses must be much larger than those belonging to the recipe's author, because my doubled ingredients somehow still managed to yield only the 12 cookies promised by a single batch.  Kind of disappointing when you are expecting at least two dozen.

But really, all of these setbacks are neither here nor there.  Look at my yummy hamantaschen.  Obviously homemade, but a respectable effort.  Unfortunately, the rest of the batch looked like this: The Hamantaschen Massacre (insert creepy music).

What happened?!  I honestly don't know.  Is there some secret to corner pinching that was left out of the recipe?  And, if so, why did a few survive intact if not only to taunt me? 

Ultimately I wound up with three authentic hamantaschen, a hamantaschen omelette, quite a few hamantaschen pizzas, and an epic mess to scrape off of my baking sheet (silicone scraper to the rescue).

I will note that the intact cookies were delicious, but I hold too much of a grudge against the failures to give them much credit (not that I won't eat them cuz I so will).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweet & Sara Continues to Be Fabulous

I love dessert, but it's also important to note that I am a sucker for efficiency.  You'd think the one thing would have nothing to do with the other, but Sweet & Sara seamlessly combines the two with service and product that borders on incredible.  Okay, it doesn't border; it is

Let's start with the goods.  I discovered Sweet & Sara marshmallows years ago when I spied her toasted coconut covered variety and couldn't believe my eyes.  I had been a fan of the non-vegan version that comes out every Passover, and it was high on my list of things I'd been missing as a vegan (yes, that list was all dessert and cheese; don't judge me-- I've been vegan a long time!).  I excitedly bought a box and presented it at my family's multi-denominational seder; it was a huge hit with vegans, vegetarians, and omnis and we all agreed that it wasn't simply a toasted coconut covered marshmallow, but rather dessert.  So yum, yum, I kept stuffing my face with them, the regular version ("plain" vanilla), and the smores: regular and peanut butter, when all of a sudden that sneaky, talented Sara comes out with MORE marshmallow flavors: strawberry & cinnamon pecan; is there no end to her genius?  No, no there is not.  Because then came the highly revered Rocky Road Bark, the chocolate-loving mother of all vegan "chocolate bars".  If you love chocolate, this is the bar for you.  It is a thick chunk of sweet, dark chocolate packed to the brim with fluffy vanilla marshmallows and toasted almonds: overall, one of the few chocolate desserts that I find sufficiently chocolatey.

Now on to the service.  I usually buy my marshmallows at Pangea, or get my fix at Lula's as a topping or within rocky road ice cream.  But since becoming acquainted with Twitter, I've accessed the Sweet & Sara website more often for things like coupon codes, seasonal products, and even video of their "Unwrapped" segment.  So, when I was about to place my relatively significant holiday order this Easter/Passover, I turned to the website. 

It is ridiculously easy to navigate and woot to the shop online option, wherein the mind-boggling efficiency really begins.  Despite "special instructions" (I am admittedly a pain in the butt), my order shipped within a few hours of being placed.  Not only did I receive an immediate receipt upon placing the order, but I was then notified that it had shipped, and received the tracking information in the blink of an eye.  The only thing that would have been more impressive would have been if the mallow goodness had beamed instantly to my table.

Perhaps because I can eat my weight in toasted coconut marshmallows, or maybe just because I don't hesitate to stop traffic for squirrels, I had the fortunate opportunity of being able to try Sweet & Sara's macaroons, which are currently under development.  My guess is that this is code for "they are so good that the staff is eating them faster than they can be produced".  The texture of these luscious domes was spot on and they were moist and delicious: better than any non-vegan macaroon I can recall.  Is there anything Sara can't do (please make yodels)?  But seriously, it's macaroon season; I say, "Sara, they're ready; dip them in your scrumptious chocolate and sell them to me by the dozen!"

On top of everything else, I do want to mention that not only is Sara ridiculously generous, but she's super nice!  Certainly not one of those stuck-up entrepreneurs, she actually answers her email (but please don't use this as an excuse to send her nonsense because I want to keep in the good graces of the rocky road bark queen).  In conclusion, I heart Sweet and Sara.  Not only do they make it much more yummy to be vegan, but their mere existence educates the masses as to why mainstream marshmallows are gross.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Red Mango Muffins and Scones at The Bean

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Red Mango Bakery's red velvet cake.  But since they're not so great at updating their website, it's kind of hard to find places that carry their goods.  If you know of any place, please let me know!  So far I've found Red Mango at The Bean and T-Salon, but only once did I forego the red velvet for something else, and that was understandably for chocolate peanut butter cheesecake

Then recently I was in The Bean for coffee and, while I was purposefully ignoring the beckoning red velvet, I couldn't help but to notice a considerable influx of additional "Vegan" signs in front of all sorts of baked goods.  Besides the insistent red velvet cake, there were also various flavors of cupcakes, muffins and scones; oh my.  It was my duty to partake; as long as it wasn't the red velvet it was technically research.

The mixed berry scone was terrific: crisp on the outside, yet fluffy and moist inside; it was brimming with berries.

My companion chose the cranberry orange muffin.  I don't particularly like cranberries, but I am now considering that perhaps it is because many people utilize craisins (ugh) as an ingredient under the guise of "cranberry" and it isn't the real cranberry that I dislike at all!  For the record, craisins ARE NOT cranberries and clearly Red Mango knows this because the muffin was filled not only with plump, juicy, delicious, actual cranberries, but you could also see the particles of orange zest throughout the muffin. 

For more yummy items and for causing me to reconsider the cranberry, bravo, Red Mango.  I hope to keep stumbling upon your goodies, but if you could update the "new retailers" section of your blog that would be great.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who shamelessly stalks your red velvet cake assorted line of baked goods, so any help would be appreciated.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello Halushki

A while back The Urban Vegan had a recipe for Halushki on her website.  I'd never heard of it before, but it sounded enticingly easy, required few ingredients, and looked tasty.  I filed it under recipes to try and then, with cabbage 19 cents a pound, I figured it was time to give it a go.

The noodles and softened cabbage & onions all wound up having similar textures and, on the whole, it was very slippery because of all of the butter!  Couple those things with the fact that I normally like things very spicy, and you'd think that I wouldn't like this dish, but there was something about the mellow flavors of that I really enjoyed.

Whenever I get around to trying it again I will definitely go with olive oil instead of butter and will probably see how it turns out leaving the cabbage relatively crunchy.  Perhaps I'll add potatoes, carrots, and string beans and leave out the pasta...oh wait, there I go daydreaming about Atakilt Wat again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Poor Service At Franchia Compromises the Experience of the Delicious Food

When we arrived at Franchia, we were barely acknowledged before the unsmiling "host" sprinted up the steps ahead of us, tossed our menus onto a table, and passed us in the opposite direction as we were still making our way behind him.  It was not a good way to start off a meal we had been looking forward to, after having had such a divine experience at Hangawi.  In addition to the nonexistent welcome, he had inexplicably stuffed us in the farthest corner of the third tier of seating next to a large group, even though the ground level was empty and there was still a table or two available on the busy, second level.  Not wanting to take it too personally or start off on the wrong foot, we decided to stay put.

But, after fifteen minutes passed without anyone returning to take our drink order, we decided to relocate ourselves.  As we made our way down the stairs with our menus, the "host" peered up at us from the first level, seemingly disgusted that we hadn't stayed where he had hidden put us.  I told him that we preferred to sit on the first level and he gestured that we should seat ourselves...beside another table that had come in since we had and were already enjoying tea! 

Lucky for us, Mr. Smiley the host turned out to be our server as well.  He eventually came over and was completely disinterested in engaging in a conversation about the available beverages, even though both water cups he had placed on the table were immediately deemed off-limits because they contained some kind of unidentifiable crusted and/or floating matter that he should have noticed.  So, we placed the water aside, chose two cocktails at random, and began to peruse the food menu. 

Our drinks arrived and they were both served beautifully with fresh orchid garnish.  The Pink Moon was made of Shissandra, lime, and Soju; the Kamasutra contained pomegranete tea, grapefruite juice and Soju.  Both were pleasant, but extremely mild: neither tasted alcoholic.  We think Mr. Smiley, who also prepared the cocktails, merely showed the Soju to the cocktail glass rather than having properly introduced them.  I don't care for strong drinks, but these may as well have been juice.

For no apparent reason, Mr. Smiley decided to serve our appetizers and salads all at once.  This made the table quite cramped and prevented us from focusing separately on each delicious course.  Despite this easily avoidable faux pas, everything was exquisite.

The combination pancakes (corn, scallion, and kimchi) were slightly different than the same flavors at Hangawi and the dipping sauce was considerably more flavorful: filled with leeks and sesame seeds.  All were fantastic, but the kimchi variety was our favorite as it had a discernable spice.  The scallion was also yummy: bursting with scallions, and the corn a nice and mild contrast.  We agreed that it would be difficult to pick just one flavor to order.

I decided to try the steamed buns with crispy duck because whenever my Dad orders real duck (scowl) I'm always intrigued by those little white pancakes.  Well, I am happy to report that they are delicious.  I don't know what duck tastes like, but the fact of the matter is that they could have called what was in that bun faux anything and it still would have been delicious: crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and accented with crisp veggies and a delicious plum sauce: highly recommended.

The asparagus and avocado salad consisted of crisp romaine generously topped with carrot ginger dressing.  It was chock full of fresh avocado and the asparagus was nice and crispy, but I did wonder what they do with all of the heads?

One of my favorite things at Hangawi and Franchia is the complimentary kimchi. I have always been served one complete, dense roll of each variety-- standard and spicy, on separate plates. Imagine my surprise when, on this visit, we were served a smidgen of each nestled next to each other on the same tiny plate: I estimate that it about 75% less than the usual amount.  I was so flabbergasted that I didn't even remember to take a picture.

For dinner we skipped the delicious crispy mushrooms in sweet and sour sauce and instead tried the spicy Franchia noodles.  Although the garnish contained a couple of dried chilies to put you in the mindset, this dish was not at all spicy, but delicious.  Tasting like a non-oily Lo Mein, the noodles were delicately flavored and mixed with assorted vegetables, bean sprouts, and crunchy peanuts.

We also chose the avocado bibimbap, which I take full responsibility for having mistaken for Hangawi's avocado stone bowl rice.  The bibimbap was good, but lukewarm (is that how it's supposed to be?).  We had both been looking forward to the steaming hot, crispy rice kernals of the stone bowl rice, but the contents of the bibimbap were neither hot nor crispy.  However, it was filled with fresh produce and the tofu was prepared the way I like it to be in cold dishes: firm and dense.  Had I not been expecting something else I surely would have no complaints about this dish.  Hearty and definitely a good choice in the warmer weather, but give me the crispy rice stone bowl any day!

Because the experience with our server never improved we decided to forego dessert.  And, just as there had been no welcome, there was also no thank you.  So, while the food was outstanding, we both agreed that we would sooner return to the slightly higher prices and nicer atmosphere of Hangawi rather than risk the severely unfriendly service we experienced at Franchia, which spoiled our otherwise phenomenal meal.  Luckily, as we exited another server thanked us: allowing us to leave on a good note.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Irish Soda Bread/Cake/Scone/Biscuit

My vegetarian Mom eats very little dairy, but for some reason she can't resist buying non-vegan things like Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day and Hot Cross Buns in spring.  In my ongoing effort to veganize everything she craves so that she actually becomes vegan, I tried to re-create Irish Soda Bread.  With my copy of The Vegan Table en route, I turned to Vegweb for a recipe.

The visual result was impressive, but I found it to be a little more moist and cakey than the dry, dense bread I had expected.  Although it looks crumbly in the picture, it was downright spongey; my cakes should only come out this moist.  Not to mention that even though I had doubled the amount of raisins the recipe called for (chip habit), I could still detect an aftertaste of the tofu.  That was either in my head...or it wasn't.  And I couldn't ask anyone else what they thought because I never tell people when there's tofu in something because I don't want them to be skeeved.  I mean, it creeps me out and I actually like tofu (when it's not just a seemingly unrelated ingredient).  Drat.

So then I tried the recipe in The Vegan Table and the visual results were confusing.  Initially I thought it looked really appetizing but then it occurred to me that was because it looked like a giant scone-- not Irish Soda Bread.  Reason being, it was all nook & cranny covered rather than the smooth non-vegan loaves I've seen my Mom bring home.  Hmmm.  That's easy enough to chalk up to baker error; perhaps there's an Irish Soda Bread smoothing technique I'm not clued in to?

As far as the taste, it was a cross between a buttermilk biscuit and a raisin scone: very light.  These aren't necessarily bad things, but neither is reminiscent of Irish Soda Bread.  Am I the only person seeing the humor irony in the fact that I am having this much difficulty getting a vegan recipe to come out dry and weighty?

Both versions were sufficiently tasty in their own right, but I am certain that neither would be confused for Irish Soda Bread in a blind taste test.  I realize I'm a novice and I've only tried two versions, but maybe this is just one of those things that can't be veganized authentically.  Do I care?  I've got ice cream and donuts and cakes and cookies.  I don't even think I'd ever even eaten Irish Soda Bread as a non-vegan, so it's not something I miss.  Yodels, however, are another story.

Monday, March 15, 2010

PHYLLO FIESTA (Teese Challenge: Mozzarella)

A short while ago, Chicago Soydairy put a call out to vegan foodbloggers.  In exchange for samples of Teese, they wanted said bloggers to come up with new and interesting recipes using their vegan cheese varieties.

Complimentary vegan cheese?  I quickly threw my hat into the ring, forgetting for the moment that I can't cook.  I decided I'd deal with that later.  The cheese arrived shortly thereafter: one tube of mozzarella & one tube of cheddar; I was elated at having received such a care package.  But the excitement was fleeting; I soon recalled that not only can't I cook, but I certainly can't come up with an original recipe!  What was I thinking? 

So, every time I opened the fridge those two tubes of cheese sat mocking me and I wanted to just eat them plain and get it over with.  I could have, but I didn't.  Instead, I masterminded came up with what I thought was a good idea for the mozzarella and got to work.  The results were unexpectedly successful and this is my (very first) recipe:

Phyllo Fiesta (serves 6)
prep time: 1 hour, cook time: 1 hour

1 tube mozzarella style Teese
1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed overnight in fridge
1 bag frozen corn
1 large container fresh mushrooms
2 large onions
1/2 small jar of sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1/2 small container of dry sundried tomatoes, re-hydrated
2 cups fresh basil, loosely packed
1 cup chopped walnuts
spray olive oil
olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon


1. As you begin to prepare your ingredients, remove box of phyllo dough from fridge and place on counter to bring to room temperature.  

2. Prepare ingredients:
  • slice onions paper thin, stir fry with salt & pepper
  • thinly slice mushrooms, stir fry with garlic, salt & pepper
  • cook corn until bright yellow (or roast if you'd like)
3. Prepare pesto:
Combine basil, walnuts, lemon juice, some olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Pulse in Magic Bullet until smooth.

4. Prepare sun-dried tomato paste:
Drain and quarter rehydrated and oil-packed tomatoes.  Combine and pulse in Magic Bullet with olive oil until paste consistency.

5. Shred Teese.

6. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 

7. Lightly oil 9 X 13 baking pan.

8. Roll phyllo dough out onto a wet towel.  Keep another one handy to cover the remaining dough as you prepare the layers of your Fiesta.

9. Fold one sheet of phyllo in half and lay in bottom of pan, spray generously with olive oil.  Repeat so you have 3 doubled layers.

10. Evenly spread your onions and mushrooms, sprinkle 1/3 of your shredded Teese.  Repeat step 9.

11. Evenly spread your sundried tomato paste and sprinkle 1/2 of your remaining shredded Teese.  Repeat step 9.

12. Evenly spread your pesto, corn, and all of your remaining Teese.  Repeat step 9.

13. Depending on your oven, bake at 350 or 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Let cool for five minutes, slice and serve. 

The beauty of this recipe is in the melange of many simple flavors.  While I am a fan of exotic spices, pungent flavors, and considerable heat, this recipe was absolutely delicious without any of them.  I served it to myself (vegan), a vegetarian, and an omnivore: all thoroughly enjoyed. 

*Also makes great leftovers. Re-heat in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes covered, then 15 minutes uncovered.

I've never tried Teese before and I was very happy with the results.  Plain, I thought the taste, texture, weight, and consistency were very authentic.  It worked incredibly well in this particular recipe by deliciously fusing each and every layer so that every forkful was a complete tasting of all of the ingredients.

I'm anxious to try the cheddar variety, so keep an eye out for my second installment of the Teese Challenge.

As always, special thanks to my sous-chef!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Ate Kale! (Chips)

Kale is so pretty and inviting, but everytime that I try it (except once) I find that it's much too bitter for my taste.  On the other hand, I love chips of all kinds and have recently noticed an influx of kale chips on the market.  Hmm, quite the conondrum.  I had psyched myself up to buy a bag and try it, but who wants to pay $7.99 for something they most likely won't like?  And then it occurred to me that I could just buy a fresh bunch for less than $1.00 and try to make my own.

So, I watched a video on how to de-stem kale and set to work.  Looks easy in the video, right?  Of course it didn't work out exactly like that in my kitchen.  But, nonetheless, the final results were so good that even my green vegetable-eschewing omni Dad liked it.

After googling a bunch of very similar recipes I wound up doing this:
  1. wash & de-stem one bunch of kale
  2. rip into chip-size pieces
  3. toss with 1/8 cup olive oil & 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  4. sprinkle with sea salt & red or cayenne pepper
  5. douse with nutritional yeast
  6. spread out on lightly oiled baking sheet & bake for 10-15 minutes @ 350-375 degrees
FYI, I also cooked the stems.  They took a bit longer, but also had a very nice taste and satisfactory crunch.

So, who knew?  I might actually like kale. 

I still don't like pears, though.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Terri Wows Us in the Flatiron District

Recently we found ourselves hoofing it over to the new vegan cafe in the Flatiron district, Terri, to check it out. We had just eaten dinner, so we were really just planning to show our moral support for the newest vegan eatery on the block (I'm lying, I knew I was having a shake no matter how full I was from dinner).

We were instantly impressed by the inviting space: bright, open, clean, and appetizing; we had to grab something. Really, it would have been rude not to.

The staff was refreshingly warm and friendly without being at all phony or elitist in any way.  The person who helped me even let me choose my preferred cupcake from the batch (swoon!).  In addition to the scrumptious sounding made-to-order menu offerings, the fridge was packed with fresh juices, prepared salads, etc.: presumably for customers who need to literally grab and go.

While we didn't have any "real" food ourselves, the sandwiches that were being presented to our fellow customers were looking mighty good; the bacon cheddar chicken ranch is on my list for the next visit, with my companion eyeing the chickpea tuna melt.  This trip, however, was all about dessert.  The chocolate cupcake with vanilla bean frosting was moist & yummy, with refreshingly soft-- not stiff-- frosting (did we detect a hint of banana?).  The chocolate chip (mocha?) brownie was more like a very dense and chocolatey cake: very filling.  I will note that it was kind of strange eating these items off of recycled paper towels, as the cafe doesn't seem to offer plates (!).  **update 3/11/10: Terri says plates are coming!  

More importantly though, let's turn our attention to the shakes.  I don't know about you, but when I read a menu that includes smoothies I'm thinking one thing: there had better be a chocolate peanut butter option that is simply masquerading as a "smoothie".  Well, Terri goes one better.  In addition to their assortment of smoothies, they offer six (!) varieties of SHAKES: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, java, Butterfinger, and chocolate peanut butter; rejoice!  Of course I had the chocolate peanut butter shake and it was delicious.  You know how some places are super-stingy with the chocolate and especially the peanut butter in shakes, smoothies, etc.?  Not Terri!  The shake was delicious and exactly as advertised (i.e., sufficiently chocolatey, peanut buttery).  But shockingly, my companion had the Butterfinger shake and it was EVEN BETTER!  Tasting like Butterfinger deliciousness multiplied by 1000 and turned into a shake, this is clearly the star of Terri.  I asked the counterperson who made both delicious shakes how they pull off the Butterfinger.  Surprisingly, he explained that the contents are chocolate, peanut butter, and cookie dough.  I'm not sure how that equals Butterfinger, but my tastebuds don't lie.  These are the goods, people.

I'd be remiss if I didn't reiterate that in addition to the illustrious Butterfinger shake,Terri also offers an impressive assortment of sandwiches, salads, wraps, juices, smoothies, and snacks.  But first and foremost, do yourself a favor and get a Butterfinger shake!  As a matter of fact, go there right now, get the Butterfinger shake, digest, eat a sammie, digest, and then get another Butterfinger shake.

It is wonderful to welcome Terri's refreshing cafe to the otherwise lackluster barely existent midtown landscape of fairly-priced vegan eats (I still love you Maoz & Chipotle).  And, for the record, many more upscale, vegan, dining options in the city would do well to take note of Terri's warm staff, fair prices, and overall welcoming vibe.  I will be back!

Note: watch yourself on their minimalistic stools; they're a little wobbly and you don't want to fall on your butt and risk wasting any of your goodies.  Bones heal, but a cupcake on the floor is ruined for good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Maoz Grand Opening in New Brunswick, NJ

I happened to find myself in New Brunswick, NJ yesterday, for the "Grand Opening" of the first Maoz in NJ.  Having visited locations in New York and Philadelphia, it was nice to walk into the very first New Jersey franchise of the delicious, international, vegetarian, falafel phenomenon!

Surprisingly, besides balloons there wasn't anything spectacular going on in honor of the inaugural day: no free samples to lure the public or coupons to win over the patrons, like myself, who were clearly already fans.  Nevertheless, the restaurant was almost full, but I still felt like I knew a secret that it would take the town a while to catch onto.  I was excited. 

The restaurant was bright, cheery and medium-sized: managing to fit in seating for about a dozen.  The salad bar was, per usual, a thing of beauty (thanks for the non-vegan notation on the cole slaw; good looking out!).

My falafel-loving companion went for the traditional, royal sandwich, but I went for the salad box because I cannot resist all that the salad bar has to offer.  And, thanks to QuarryGirl, I have long been well-versed in Maoz etiquette (and by "etiquette" I refer not to manners that should be exhibited in Maoz, but rather full enjoyment of their salad bar). 

For those of you who don't know, Maoz offers variations on two basic options: a falafel sandwich or a falafel salad.  You can dress either from the fresh and varied vegetarian (predominantly vegan) salad bar for no extra charge.  While the sandwiches are delicious accented with the extra offerings, if you play your cards right the salad can become a monster of epic salad bar offering proportions...and you can order a plain pita to go with if you choose.  So, having not been to Maoz in a while I went to town and ultimately should have weighed my finished salad; it was a thing of beauty packed with more than enough for two meals.

Believe it or not, this beautiful specimen was handed to me containing "only" lettuce, five falafel patties, hummus, and babaganoush.  I topped the patties generously with tahini and then began building my salad.  Chick peas, broccoli & cauliflower, beets, purple cabbage, pickles, olives, pickled eggplant, carrots, hot sauce, and onions.  It was as delicious as it looks and will be again when I tackle the leftovers tonight.

I also want to note that Maoz offers Belgian or sweet potato fries, both non-greasy, super-potato-y and delicious (I add salt).  Additionally, the menu I picked up also lists 4, low-priced alterna-sandwiches that I've never before noticed at Maoz: two vegetarian and two vegan.  I would be interested in trying the Verde: avocado, lettuce, cucumber, roasted peppers, tahini sauce, & cilantro sauce or the Garbanzo: hummus, sun-dried tomato paste, & arugula; but the truth is that I probably will never be able to resist the salad bar.

Happy to have Maoz in NJ and hopeful that more will follow; I will definitely be returning.  One suggestion for Maoz, though.  Everything about your cool restaurants scream fresh, healthy, and simple.  However, you are forgetting that the public isn't always so swift-- especially when they're hungry.  Please mastermind some effective way to post simple order & prep instructions, because it can get a little confusing when there is a crowd.  Viva la Maoz salad box!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

VTs' Almond Joy Cheesecake

Of course I have plenty of favorites at Vegan Treats, but since they're always coming up with new things I do what I can to stay on top of whatever is new or new to me. 

This is a cross-section of the impressive Almond Joy mini-cheesecake from Vegan Treats. 

Basically, it consists of four main parts. 
  1. The bottom layer is a chocolate cookie crust. 
  2. Next is their incomparable cheesecake generously flecked with slivered almonds. 
  3. On top of that is a thick layer of sweet coconut, also chock full of slivered almonds. 
  4. And lastly, a coating of dark chocolate encasing the top half of the cake. 
What some might consider an auxillary layer is a sprinkling of edible gold dust.  And anyone who's anyone knows that a sprinkling of gold dust makes just about anything better.  Even Vegan Treats.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Soft-Pretzel Attempt

I haven't been to Sigmund's yet (nothing that close to Lula's has a chance) and I found myself with some roasted habanero mustard from Kalustyan's that was about to expire.  Instead of eating my weight in tofu pups (which I could do), I decided to try and make my own soft pretzels.  The recipe seemed easy enough, but it was all new to me and nothing seemed right.  My yeast mixture didn't foam and my dough didn't rise.  I got some Twitter suggestions from the genuis GonePie (who I'm convinced can cook anything perfectly) and hoped for the best; this is what I wound up with.

They were certainly edible, but didn't have much of a pretzel flavor and were just too doughy for my taste.  Couple that with the fact that all of the coarse sea salt in the house had been used up on edamame and you can see that I wasn't really batting 1,000.  Oh yeah, and I totally get that they don't look much like pretzels either, so no need to point that out specifically to ridicule me (just chuckle to yourselves).  It turns out that those Auntie Anne's peeps have some kind of PhD in pretzel knotting, along with being able to waft the smell of cinnamon sugar throughout every nook & cranny of the mall.