Sunday, October 31, 2010

Peacefood, What Happened?

It's no secret that VM and I are big fans of the grub at Peacefood, but their service often leaves a lot to be desired.  This time, though, enough was really enough.

VM ordered her standard black coffee.  For some inexplicable reason, at Peacefood they have a no refill policy on coffee.  Even thought it's extraordinarily chintzy, they do state it right on the menu, so there's nothing you can do about it.  Worse, though, is the fact that they've taken to serving it not in their generous, bulbous mugs, but instead in a proportionately miniature mug.  Tacky, Peacefood. 

Since I'm not a fan of their Brazil nut chai, I decided to splurge and get the mocha breakfast smoothie: banana, cocoa, espresso, soy milk, agave.  Sounded delicious, but what a disappointment!  Forget smoothie, this should have been called warm mocha banana water.  What kind of a smoothie- with a banana in it, no less- is watery and warm?  Not amused, Peacefood.

Thankfully, the rasberry crumb bar was fantastic.  Instead of straight crumbs, this was filled with all kinds of crunchy nuts (and crumbs) to complement the just-sweet-enough raspberry filling.  Two thumbs up, Peacefood.

It was so good I forgot to take a pic until there was only a small piece left.
As someone who buys them by the truckload a repeat fan of their chocolate chip cookie sandwich, I know that there is a difference between a fresh, crisp one:

served fresh
and a mushy one that has been sitting in a refrigerator for 24 hours or more:

after spending one night in the fridge
The reason I know this is because I once bought an extra cookie sandwich for the next day and after only one night of being refrigerated it was a soggy mess.  But something getting soggy in your own fridge is one thing, receiving a soggified one at a restaurant who is passing it off as fresh is quite another.  When we explained our disappointment to the waitress she didn't hesitate to take it away and bring us something else.  However, she also took it upon herself to put it back in the case for sale.  Can you say un-hygienic?  Even if she didn't want to take my word that the cookie sandwich was stale, I obviously touched it in order to confirm; how can you turn around and sell it to someone else?  Unacceptable, Peacefood.

In the place of the mushified cookie sandwiches we wound up eating the magic cookies, which were not as good as last time we'd had them, and the chocolate covered macaroons, which were thankfully as good as ever.

You'll notice someone snagging the last bite of raspberry crumb in the back!
Overall, it's hard to reconcile the overall tackiness of this experience with the couple of tasty bites: especially since the good far outnumbered and outweighed the bad.  We have given Peacefood a good many chances to get their act together and it just hasn't happened; we probably won't be returning any time soon.  This is unfortunate, and I hope Peacefood improves.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Boatload of Broccoli from the Farmer's Market

The broccoli at my local farmer's market was gorgeous, so I accidentally bought two heads even though one would have been sufficient.  There really isn't a bad way to prepare broccoli, but I decided to try two totally different recipes.  The crowns were so dense that I was able to be rather wasteful* with the stems and use only the coveted florets.

The first thing I made was an uncomplicated Alfredo with roasted broccoli.  I started by tossing the florets with minimal olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper: roasting them for 1/2 hour at 420 degrees. 

While the broccoli was cooking I set my pasta water to boil and began making the sauce. I used Vegan Yum Yum's Hurry Up Alfredo recipe, subbing roasted cashews for raw (it's all I had), and adding 1 tbsp agave for sweetness. I just threw everything in the Magic Bullet and it was done in a flash.

The finished dish was delicious.  I'd consider adding a tbsp of olive oil and/or perhaps another of water to the sauce next time, in order to thin in out and make it a bit creamier.  But other than that it was really good and very quick to prepare. 

Note: regardless of what you do, your leftovers will be a bit pasty.  To re-creamify, incrementally add water to the noodles while heating & stir intermittently.  It will be just as delicious, if not moreso, as leftovers.

Next up, slaw.  I think Veganaise is amazing, but the idea of mayo and broccoli just didn't seem right.  It's already too cold for a light, vinegar-based dressing, so, I checked my arsenal of Natural Kitchen Cooking School recipes and found this one for broccoli and carrot salad from a cooking class I'd taken a couple of years ago.

In the interest of using what I had in my pantry, I made a few substitutions:

  • raisins for currants
  • toasted almonds for toasted pumpkin seeds
  • blood orange juice for apple juice
You might also notice that I didn't have any carrots.  Taste-wise this didn't bother me, but it would have made the dish look prettier (thus the tomato for contrast).  I would also suggest cauliflower and/or sweet peppers for variation; the dressing is delish.

* They didn't actually go to waste; they made the local animal population very happy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chickpeas Work, But Try a TEMPEH Salad Sandwich

Because most of my lunches consisted of American cheese & mayo sandwiches Inexplicably, tuna salad was a favorite as a kid, as was egg salad, although it was served far less frequently.  What do these things have in common?  Lots of celery (if done right).  I've purchased store-bought tofu salads of all kinds: tofu, "chicken", "egg"...but none of them have been filled sufficiently with the best part of the salad: the crunchy celery.  I've always meant to make a chickpea version but, although I've amassed quite a few recipes (mashed, whole, etc.), I've never actually done so.  Then, with a brand new jar of Vegannaise in the fridge, I recalled a recipe from a Natural Kitchen Cooking School class that used tempeh instead of chickpeas: tempeh "tuna" salad.  Guess who happened to have a coupon for Lightlife?

open-faced sandwiches are for suckers;
this was uncovered for photo only!
If you want to make a sandwich JUST LIKE MINE (who wouldn't?), do the following:

  • omit the celery seed (you don't have it)
  • use 2 tbsp of sweet relish in place of the dill pickles (cuz it's already chopped)
  • quadruple the chopped celery
  • substitute sweet white miso (because that's all you have)
  • Inexplicably ignore the directions to grate the tempeh first, and instead cook it in chunks-- only to have to wait for it to cool in order to smush it with a fork. (you're a dope)

Then garnish it with parsley because you have it leftover from another recipe to make your photo look super swanky because you're fancy like that and enjoy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Candle Cafe is Just Not My Style

I visited Candle Cafe once years ago as a new vegan; it was probably the very first vegan restaurant I'd ever encountered.  I recall that it gave off the expected crunchy granola vibe and I was wholly unfamiliar with many of the menu ingredients.  Besides seitan and tempeh I had never even heard of edamame; watching someone eat it for the first time was quite bizarre!  Trepidatiously, I decided to be safe and just go for dessert: chocolate layer cake.  I remember thinking from the first bite that it was exactly what I was afraid of; it didn't taste "right".  My fears had been confirmed: being a vegan was not going to be tasty.

Fast forward many years and a bazillion sweets later; there are plenty of vegan sweets to choose from and most of them are divine.  I haven't been back to Candle since that fateful day, but I became a huge fan of Candle 79 shortly after they opened-- dessert included.  After dining at C79 recently within a limited time frame (we didn't have a reservation), I thought to give the original Candle another try for dessert.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the interior didn't strike me as vegan hippie as it had the first time; we've probably both grown in that respect: me in my tolerance and they in their decor.  The hostess was pleasant, conscientous and extremely efficient.  By his ease and familiarity with the patrons, it was obvious that the manager ran a friendly and well-oiled machine.  Our waitress, however, seemed the anomaly.  I quickly ordered a hot chocolate, because C79 has some of the best around; VM went with her standard black coffee.  The coffee was lukewarm at best; I've never met a waitress who couldn't tell that the cup she was serving did not contain a hot beverage.  And, while my hot chocolate was fine, it certainly wasn't the wondrous version that I have become a fan of at C79. 

Because I'm not a fan of fruit (or vegetable) desserts, am spoiled by Lula's ice cream, and did not want to revisit the chocolate cake incident of so long ago, I have issues, choosing a dessert was no easy feat.  I decided on the chocolate chip pecan cookie and the vanilla cheesecake.  Yes, two; mind your business this was research.  VM chose the chocolate macadamia cookie.

Although visibly filled with chips, the chocolate chip pecan cookie wasn't nearly sweet enough
 for my taste.  Also, the whole pecans didn't bode well with me; I like nuts in cookies to be bits and prefer them toasted before becoming a cookie ingredient; these were neither.  As a more normal person someone who appreciates dessert nuttiness and isn't as much of a sweet fanatic as me, VM enjoyed this cookie, but agreed it was nothing that she'd go out of her way to have again.

Despite looking like the less appetizing of the two, VM's chocolate macadamia cookie was clearly the better choice.  It was not fudgy as I had expected, but instead simply dark chocolatey and peppered with macadamias.  We both agreed that this one was good, but again nothing particularly special.

As soon as the vanilla cheesecake with an almond cookie crumb crust and a strawberry topping was served, it brought me back to the chocolate cake incident of years gone by.  The color, texture, scent; there was nothing seemingly decadent about it.  And, just like the previous visit, the first bite confirmed why: it wasn't.  On a sliding scale where one end is what you'd expect of cheesecake and the other tofu, this cake, unfortunately, erred much closer to the tofu side.  I'm sure there are some people who enjoy healthy tasting desserts, but I am not one of them.  I have acquired a tolerance, but maintain that if you are eating dessert you are looking for decadence.  You will not find it on this plate.

To make matters worse, we were barely halfway through the dessert when the waitress, who had yet to even check on us, unceremoniously plopped the bill down on the table and wordlessly ran away.  VM had to flag her down to request a coffee refill, although she was right on top of us when it came time to retrieve the credit card.  The final affront was when we asked for something to put our leftover cookie in and she flung a brown bag at us. 

Perhaps if I had stumbled into Candle Cafe without the knowledge that it was related to Candle 79 I wouldn't have been so judgmental.  I still would have left unimpressed, but perhaps not as disappointed as I was having just come from Candle 79.  But the fact is, I had. 

  • While the entire atmosphere at C79 is serene, CC is frenetic with its too-close-together tables and, worse, distractingly noisy with the constant and irritating scream of the juicer. 
  • The service at C79 is consistently stellar: the hosts, waitstaff, and definitely the bus-staff is exceedingly more friendly, refined, accomodating, and knowledgable than any I've come across.  Our waitress at CC behaved as though we were in a dive diner.
  • Every plate at C79 is divine; nothing at CC was above mediocre.
I realize you cannot judge a restaurant on the merit of two slices of cake alone, but it is my opinion that Candle Cafe can keep their noisy room and poor service; you'll find us at Candle 79 exclusively.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Balsamic. Spinach. Tabouli?

With a bounty of the last nice backyard (not mine) tomatoes of the season, I decided to make tabouli.  I started with the recipe from the Candle Cafe cookbook (p. 16), but quickly began subbing things at random whim.  In lieu of parsley and mint I was going to showcase basil, but my previously flourishing basil plant has seen better days.  Eventually I decided to use fresh spinach, but the result was a "tabouli" salad that was missing something.  I added balsamic and knew I was on the right track.  When I thought to add avocado I finally had something to write about.

camera shy: avocado
Balsamic Spinach Tabouli (?)
serves 3-4

4 tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
4 tbsp balsamic
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp evoo
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz fresh spinach
2 avocados, cubed

Prepare 1 cup uncooked bulgar by pouring 1 3/4 cups boiling water over & letting sit for 1 hour (water will absorb).  Let cool in the fridge for an hour before adding the tomatoes and onions.  Next, mix the balsamic, lemon juice, evoo, garlic, and salt & pepper in a separate bowl.  Pour over bulgar mixture and gently toss.  If you don't want your spinach leaves to wilt into the salad, keep them crisp by adding them right before serving.  If you don't mind them wilting, mix it all together.  I'd like to say the avocado is optional, but you know you want it.  Add this when serving too, in order to avoid the ugly oxidation.  Tip: I find if you keep a halved avo in a sealed container in the fridge with the skin on and the pit in, there is very minimal browning.

Note: This recipe is good when you make it and possibly better after having "stewed" overnight, but by the 3rd day it's on the decline.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We Heart Candle 79

We generally reserve Candle 79 for special occasions, but since we're uptown so infrequently, it's hard not to take every such opportunity to visit a restaurant where you're practically guaranteed an incredible experience.  So, the other day when we found ourselves facing the dilemma: pop into C79 without a reservation or go somewhere else...we quickly decided to pop in and take our chances.

Although they had just opened, the dining area was filling up quickly and we could overhear the hostess saying that many of the still open tables were reserved.  When it was our turn, it was explained to us that there was a table for two available, but we would have to be out in an hour and a half.  Hmm, enjoy a less leisurely meal than usual or go somewhere else?  Enjoy!

Since we usually can't resist over-indulge and order soup to nuts, VM suggested that in light of the time constraint, perhaps we should just order one giant meal rather than courses.  It was genius.

Per usual, the bonus amuse bouche.  Presented with a flowery description of which I only retained the key words: tomato, rice cracker, and pureed potato; I was afraid.  Pureed potato?  If I pureed a potato it would taste like, um, pureed potato.  VM ate hers and gave me the go ahead.  I should have known; in C79 land pureed potato tastes like a delectable spread of unknown, vegan origin.

It's been years since I'd had them and VM is a huge fan, so without hesitation we chose a side dish of the onion rings with chipotle aioli.  Giant rings of thick onion battered in a crisp, but not greasy coating; these were only enhanced by the delicious dipping sauce.

Next up was a side dish of the you-cannot-go-to-C79-and-not-order the polenta fries with chipotle ketchup.  These never disappoint!  I have literally never been to Candle 79 and not ordered these.

I was surprised that the roasted brussel sprouts were not crisped to perfection the way VM makes them, but were instead rather soft and buttery.  Luckily you can't really go wrong with brussel sprouts and we gobbled them all up anyway.  The creamy garlic cloves that melted in your mouth didn't hurt either.

For the main dish we agreed upon the Moroccan spiced chickpea cake with seasonal vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry, ginger-apricot-date chutney, and toasted almonds.  The cake is the same one that resides in their falafel sandwich, but the dinner version is served upon a coiffed bed of potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and onions.  Both the curry and the chutney (which tasted like tamarind to me) really made the meal. 

And, finally, you'll be happy to know that we also chose the grilled kale salad with haricots verts, [fresh!] figs, red onions, turnips, avocado, sunflower seeds, speltberries, and chive vinaigrette.  I'm not one to order salad at a restaurant, but Candle 79 does it up right.  There must be a more appropriate word for these "salad" concoctions they come up with, because to consider them in the same category as the standard iceberg and tomato plate is an injustice.

While I would have liked to have squeezed in dessert, our time was up.  Our polite waiter, Eliot, didn't point it out but we had kept an eye on our watches.  Glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy this fine dining unexpectedly, we certainly didn't want the diners who had had the forethought to make a reservation to suffer as a result of our gluttony.  Instead, we headed over to Candle Cafe for dessert.  Thank you for another wonderful evening, Candle 79.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thanksliving Again

This weekend was the annual Thanksliving event at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Contrary to the turkey-as-meal tradition associated with Thanksgiving, the shindig that is Thanksliving is held in their honor, along with the bonus attendance of (and opportune frolic with) other WFAS residents: friendly pigs, chickens, rabbits, cows, ducks, etc. who represent their brethren who continue to be considered "food animals".

Unlike last year's cold, rainy, and therefore muddy day; 10/10/10 was gorgeous.  While walking up to the entry barn we spied an assortment of friends outside, living in peace.

Harmony abandoned, a couple of spunky goats then chased these crazy turkeys back inside in time to greet us face to face.  They were like synchronized trotters; they turned in unison, walked in cadence, and even sported identical mood coloring on their noggins throughout the day.

Then another cordial turkey made our acquaintance.

Since we were early we had plenty of time to visit with the residents.  Unfortunately there weren't any volunteers around to chat about the animals with the other early arriving attendees, but we made our way around the now familiar farm just fine on our own.  It was hard not to make a beeline for Dylan, who I think may never stop growing.

Although he wasn't within petting reach, I was instead able to formally meet a bull.  I even got to glimpse his awesome teeth up close!

The ducks, geese, etc. were well acclimated to their "new" habitat and didn't seem to pay us any mind.

And then I noticed this one who was pretending to be sleeping, but really had his eye on us.  Faker!

Time again to visit the beautiful chickens of WFAS, shown here trying to get a glimpse of what was being served for dinner.

You can't help but pet all of the giant pigs at the farm, but these new additions were the stars of the show this day.

And then it was time for the event.  After consuming as many black-eyed pea cakes as we could fit into our bellies, we took our seats.  Bruce Friedrich gave a very informative presentation and Jenny Brown was as endearing as ever, but it was Dan Piraro who stole the show.  Besides being funny, we applaud him exponentially for having taken the stage during the meal to specifically call out the the seemingly clueless folks in the audience who thought it was a good idea to come to an hours long vegan event and leave their dogs in the car.  One particular jerk waited until the second such announcement (the first was a non-confrontational plea from Jenny) to actually get off his can to retrieve his pet.  Perhaps it was Dan's having pointed out that vegans at the event would not hesitate to break into cars to liberate such animals that finally got him to move.  Really, people?  I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, however, since his friend spent the meal explaining to us how much better she feels after having added fish to her "vegetarian" diet.  Am I a magnet for these people? 

Onto the grub.  Why have I never had this yummy Teany flavor before?  It's vanilla berry hibiscus for my far-sighted friends: pleasant, sweet, not too tea-y, and not at all flowery.  VM went with some Frey wine AND Brooklyn lager; can I get a holla for the designated driver!?  The meal was courtesy of Second Helpings, an independent vegan caterer who provided kale salad, a cranberry rice concoction, vanilla sweet potato mash, and an awesome butternut squash soup with corn.  Had I had some hot sauce on hand this might have been one of the best soups I've had outside of home (Mom's matzoh ball, woot!).  Speaking of, VM was too full so I got to chow down on her portion as well; second helping indeed.  Hey, check out the fab gourd that I unceremoniously absconded with.

But you know what we really came here for, right?  Per usual, massive quantities of decadence donated by the uber-generous and incomparable Vegan Treats (with a couple of mini cupcakes and very good chocolate chip cookies courtesy of Cocoa V).  For those of you not in the know, you are looking at fabulous desserts pumpkin cheesecake, tiramisu, peanut butter bomb, and chocolate-covered strawberry shortcake...X 2!

As if that wasn't enough, there was more time with the animals afterward.  Time to revisit the pigs.

And wouldn't you know it, a turkey came to bid us goodbye until next year.

If you haven't yet visited Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, I recommend that you do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pate is a Fancy Word for Dip

I don't know what makes a pate different than a dip, but I've got a good one for you nonetheless.  Christine Waltermyer of The [all vegan] Natural Kitchen Cooking School presented this dish at one of her classes.  It was outstanding and, to my surprise, I was able to make it myself with ease.  I'll let you head over to her website for the exact recipe, but I'll give you an idea of what's in it: lentils, walnuts, parsley...and what's not: oil.  Sounds good, right?

pssst, I grew that tomato in my Topsy Turvy!

The result is a delicious, robust, slightly sweet dip/spread/pate of epic proportions.  I've tried quite a few of the similar ingrediented versions on the market that tout themselves as imitation foie gras (shudder); this one trumps them all.  The recipe says that it serves 4, but I'm assuming that's meant for non-gluttonous people small appetizer purposes.  I doubled it and ate it with crackers and raw veggies for dinner twice, but take that for what it's worth.  Incidentally, if you are preparing with a Magic Bullet it is easiest to fit the measurements as listed in one mug or the larger vessel.  As you can see, all I needed to do to double the output was to follow the recipe to the letter: twice.

While it tasted delicious, I do think I added a tiny bit too much water.  As you know, this simply makes for a thinner consistency.  Unfortunately, with this recipe it also makes the dish look a bit like, um, well, pooh unappetizing.  But, rest assured; it is delicious.  I'd recommend using as little water as possible (it doesn't firm in the refrigerator as much as other dips) and perhaps using a large pastry bag to make a fancy presentation.  Me, I'm too lazy; after the pics I was just dipping my celery & crackers right into the bowl like I had no manners at all!  But note: I did not double dip.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gratuitous Pictures of a Squirrel Eating My Lunch

Ever since I shared my peanut butter white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with the neighborhood squirrels, one in particular has taken to waiting for me outside the entrance to my building at lunch time, following me, and striking the international "please feed me" posture when he gets my attention stalking me.  Because it's difficult to resist feeding small creatures, I usually comply. 

Today I went one better, as I was prepared with peanuts in one hand and my camera in the other; the pause in my stride enough to immediately alert the squirrel of my impending intention.  So, tapping my foot continuously in order to prevent said anxious squirrel from crawling up my leg, I removed a peanut from my container, closed the lid, and dropped it into my pocket.  Then I tossed the nut midway between the squirrel and my foot, and slowly took a step back.

For those of you who are wondering, it then takes exactly the same amount of time for me to crouch down and capture one photo as it does for a normal sized squirrel to consume 1/2 peanut.  This is an important equation to note, as at this point it is necessary to emphatically jump up, lest the excited squirrel follow the container of peanuts into your pocket.

You may repeat the process infinitely, as your lunch hour will come to an end long before the squirrel's appetite is satiated.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Things You Should Be Eating RIGHT NOW

This is a chocolate covered marshmallow bat that I've been saving  (thus the less than perfect appearance) ever since I received it at the Our Hen House launch last week.  The always generous Sara, of Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallow fame, was handing them out to as many people as she could reach within the overwhelming crowd that was packing MooShoes for the event.  Normally I would have just happily stuffed it in my face and been done with it wouldn't blog about one single solitary thing, but especially after having patiently saved it (ok; it was only four days and they were filled with cookies), I was floored by the decadence.  True to Sweet & Sara's extraordinarily stellar standards, it was far too incredible a treat not to make mention of: especially since they are seasonal.

It must have started out as a sweet, vanilla marshmallow bat, but was made only better by the generous dip into what I can only assume is the same decadent, dark chocolate that comprises the sinful rocky road bark.  As if that wasn't enough, it's finished off with white chocolate eyeballs!  So.  Good.  I am a firm believer that everything in the world at Sweet & Sara should come in a chocolate dipped version, but if you prefer your marshmallows straight you can always get the marshie ghost with it's little "boo" face.  

Also available for your seasonal whim: new marshie flavors chocolate peppermint and/or pumpkin.  I just heard about them yesterday, so I haven't tried them yet.  When placing your order, it would be easy to send me some pumpkin marshies (& bats).  My other favorites include toasted coconut covered marshies, biscotti, macaroons, and rice crispy treats.  Sara has my address, but make sure you use your credit card.  Meanwhile, remember that these seasonal goodies are ONLY AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME, so go get me you some

This is a pumpkin ice cream cone from Lula's (of which I'd already snarfed up quite a bit of).  I have been lamenting the fact that I managed to miss this flavor every single time it was offered last year and now that I've had it I have confirmed that all of my whining was justified; can you say best pumpkin ice cream ever?  They make a soft ice cream version and a hard; so far I've only had the latter and it was dee-licious with a capital DEE.  Follow them on Twitter & Facebook to track their flavors, but know that flavors often sell out quickly; don't you know Lula's always has a line?  or, better yet, just get your butt over there.  The worst that could happen is that they don't have the flavor you were thinking of and, instead, you have to choose from the ridonkulous list of all-vegan ice cream delicacies they happen to be offering at that particular moment.  Go!