Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Cupcake EVER

I have been unapologetically stalking Bakesalery online ever since I caught wind of her crazy chocolate/peanut butter concoctions. Besides donuts, cakes, danish, cookie sandwiches, and more: she also does extraordinary things like baking peanut butter cups into blondies! Even more fantastical, she has another creation that consists of peanut butter filling sandwiched between two pretzels and then covered in chocolate. Who wouldn't stalk this kind of food porn?  I finally caught up with Amy at the Brooklyn Lyceum Holiday Market and snagged some goodies. 

The first thing we laid eyes on was this cupcake that was so gorgeous, so perfect...that VM thought it was fake.  Amy assured us that she gets that all the time and I can vouch that not only was it real, but better than any cupcake I've ever had.  The cake was absolutely exquisite: vanilla with the most perfect body and texture.  Not your run-of-the-mill cupcake by any means; instead, a mini-gourmet cake.  And the thing that made it even more incredible was that it was ALL CAKE: iced with a thin layer of perfectly sweet icing and then smothered with a decadent shell of chocolate, topped with a luscious cherry.  Literally: best. cupcake. ever.

That's not a glob of nasty icing under there: it's all cake with a thin layer of fantastic icing and then CHOCOLATE.

While I was cordially allowed to photograph the goods, I apologize that my excitement resulted in a rash of blurry pictures; my bad.  On the left are coconut/chocolate-chip/dried cherry blondies: excellent and jam-packed with goodies so that each bite contained every flavor.  In the middle are double chocolate chip cookies: rich and sweet.  On the right are pumpkin, butterscotch chip cookies that I neglected to try; I was a bit over-pumpkined at that point, but they did look great.

And then there was a tower of peanut butter truffles and a few mini cupcakes.  No offense, mini-cupcakes, but even though I didn't taste you I know you can't compare with your gargantuan, chocolate-covered neighbors.  The truffles were peanut-buttery deliciousness.

In short, everything was outstanding.  But the cupcake was especially exquisite and, quite frankly, the BEST CUPCAKE EVER.  Seriously, I'm not even a big fan of cupcakes in general and this was DIVINE.

You can order any of these desserts and lots more via Bakesalery on Etsy or follow on Twitter to find them around town.  Remember: gift certificates are available!  (hint, hint).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fiery and Sweet Indian Hummus

This recipe for Indian hummus has been floating around my kitchen for some time.  I finally made it, with a few substitutions & additions.  Inspired by the original, this is the recipe I ultimately used:

Fiery & Sweet Indian Hummus
serves 4-6

1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
4 tsp cayenne (not for the faint of heart)
1/2 tsp sea salt
pinch black pepper
3 cloves garlic
6 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp agave
1/4 cup water
2 cans chick peas, rinsed & drained: divided
3/4 cup raisins

Mix all ingredients except chick peas and raisins in a small bowl.  In two batches, combine bowl contents with 3/4 of your chick peas in the Magic Bullet.  Minimally smush remaining chick peas with fork.  Transfer smooth mixture to bowl and mix in raisins and remaining chickpeas (for texture).  Serve garnished with cayenne and raisins.

I used pita chips, but soft pita would be ideal.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vegan Treats for the Holidays...and a chocolate covered Christmas tree!

It's no secret that I'm quite the fan of Vegan Treats, but I've never been to the Bethlehem shoppe at Christmastime.  This year I was in the immediate area to pick up a holiday gift when I happened to recall a recent tweet by Vegan Treats, showcasing "one pound of the best vegan cookies on the planet":

It had to be mine!

Gingerbreads, thumbprints, chocolate peppermints, Mexican wedding/Russian teacakes, cowboys, iced & sprinkled almond drops, and decorative sugar cookies galore.  My one disappointment in the assortment was that there were none of the famed hazelnut pralines.

I mean really, don't you wish you could just go to any holiday party and find these gorgeous, festive, yummy cookies available for your vegan eating pleasure?

Figuring the cookies would make a fine Christmas breakfast, I couldn't leave without something for actual dessert.  They had many options particular to the holidays, but these were the ones that couldn't be beat: chocolate-covered chocolate chip cheesecake slices on a stick.  Yes, you heard right.  Behold:

Oh, did I forget to mention that I had some ice cream while I was there?  In the interest of full-disclosure...Peanut butter soft serve with (holiday) rainbow sprinkles.

Need I tell you that everything tasted even better than it looked?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Southern Fried Drumsticks a.k.a. FoodWINGS

Yes, yes; I know I use the words wings and drumsticks interchangeably.  Get over it and get to Foodswings.  See, I don't really like fake meat all that much, but for some reason there's a special place in my heart for Red Bamboo drumsticks.  Now too there is even more space for Foodswings' version.

You may remember the travesty of my having ordered a southern fried drumstick and having been erroneously served a  sweet southern fried BBQ drumstick instead.  It was delicious, but it was the original that I wanted.  So, when I returned with some vegan peeps I finally got my southern fried wing...oh yeah, and a tempeh reuben.

Make no mistake, this reuben is Foodswings style: greasy (but oh so good)!

And then the wing; exactly what I had hoped: coated in breadcrumbs and fried to crispy perfection!

My fellow drumstick lover got the combo with Daiya mac n' cheese and his fave: the buffalo style wings.

But I'm a purist and once I'd tasted the southern fried marvels I had to get more.  So I did!  (It wasn't the same day; I swear).  Bonus points for the adorable to-go bag that kept the drumsticks in perfect condition.

I suppose you might be able to reheat them in the bag, but I decided against the risk (of ruining my drumsticks, not starting a fire).

They reheated just great; it was as if I was eating them freshly served.  And the sweet mustard that they came with was extraordinary!  Take it from me, you'll need one container for every two drumsticks.  At least

One day I will order one of each wing flavor that Foodswings offers and have a proper taste test, but for now I am extremely satisfied with my southern frieds!

Bonus: Foodswings now carries Lula's ice cream by the pint!

Their delicious shakes are still made with Klein's, so it counts as two totally separate things.  In other words, you can get a shake AND a pint and there's nothing wrong with that.  Take it from me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ever Heard of Quicos? I Found Them in a Cheese Shop.

Before you get all excited, this post is not about vegan cheese.  Instead, it's about a vegan item I picked up from a "real" cheese shop, Murray's Cheese.  But don't feel as though you've suffered a cheese fake-out because this is better than vegan cheese; this is about chocolate.

I'm talking about quicos, people.  They are giant, crunchy corn kernels coated with dark chocolate.  It sounds a little weird, but what's weird about something salty paired with chocolate?  What's weird about anything paired with chocolate?  Nothing, that's what.  With an intensely satisfying crunch, these morsels taste like extra-crunchy chocolate-covered popcorn and they are addictive.

They don't say they are vegan anywhere on the package; there aren't even ingredients listed (why is that legal?).  But I nicely grilled the sweet cashier until she questioned her previous product knowledge certainty and called the manager to confirm.  So, although I don't have proof in writing or anything, both peeps assured me that their quicos are vegan.  I don't know if that means all quicos everywhere are vegan, but the word on the street is that these are.

So, indulge in yet another food item made only better with the addition of chocolate... and wonder if anyone has ever thought of making super-quicos.*

*Quicos quadruple-dipped in chocolate, duh.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Consistently Extraordinary Experience of Hangawi

We hadn't been to Hangawi in some time and this visit was unplanned, as we found ourselves in the area unexpectedly.  Noticing some things on the menu that had escaped our attention previously, we sacrificed some old favorites in order to find some new ones.

VM started off with a white wine and I, the designated driver, chose the mysterious plum juice: mysterious mainly because I don't like plums.  When it was served in this gorgeous mug I didn't really care what it tasted like, but was elated to find that it was extra delicious.  I've had their soju mojito and their takara plum wine, but now I have an official "drink" at Hangawi.

We started off with the spicy kimchi salad.  If you love the complimentary spicy kimchi that is served with your meal at Hangawi, then this is undoubtedly the salad for you.  A giant mound of the piquant, marinated cabbage atop lettuce greens, it also contained a few slices of apple (all yours, VM), and cucumber (all mine).  Topped with crunchy taro sticks, this was a terrific start to our feast  

You may have noticed that we like fried foods: samosas, onion rings, tempura, tempura, fries, fries, fries; you get the picture.  So, we couldn't resist the fritters galore.  Mainly root vegetables and broccoli, this was served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce and was actually a much larger portion than appears below.

At this point I was so freezing from my ice-filled plum juice (so good!) that I ordered the vegetarian dumpling soup.  We're not really big fans of soup in general, but both VM and I agreed that this soup was fantastic.  Tasty broth filled with all kinds of crisp veggies (carrots, mushrooms, leeks, celery, peapods, etc.), as well as two giant dumplings bursting with yummy ingredients; I highly recommend- especially now that the chill has settled in.

Not to worry; we also revisited some favorites.  Both of us independently chose the crispy mushrooms in sweet and sour sauce, so that was a definite.  Delicious on their own, the mushrooms and sauce are further accented by the sweet red and green peppers, zucchini slices, and cabbage shreds.

After the accidental bibimbop incident at Franchia, for which I take full responsibility, I redeemed myself by shouting a preventative "stone bowl rice!" at VM as though she was unfamiliar with my language.  We then calmly discussed, compared, and ultimately chose one we had never tried: the waiter's recommendation of the avocado stone bowl rice.  Unlike the vegetarian stone bowl rice which comes with spicy sauce, this one comes with sweet miso; I think I liked this one even better!

Apologies for the mostly eaten kimchi you see below, but it comes with a tip.  As we both prefer the spicy version to the regular, VM masterminded a genius plan to soak the plain cabbage in the excess spicy juice, so we essentially wound up with two servings of spicy: yum.

In the end, there was an adorable surprise waiting for me when I finished my scrumptious juice.  Since Hangawi sells teacups I asked if my awesome mug was for sale.  The waiter kindly checked, but found that it was not.  I told him that it would fit in my purse without a problem, but he was quick to draw my attention to the security cameras.  I kid!

One note: Be prepared that when you enter Hangawi you will be enveloped by a serene atmosphere that makes you immediately forget the street that exists just on the other side of the door.  The dim lighting, pleasant music, and below sea-level diners all work together to create a calming environment...that is quickly interrupted by an unintentionally abrupt instruction to remove your shoes. The shoe-less-ness is actually an added element of relaxation at Hangawi, but the stern command could definitely be softened.  Don't let it deter you from proceeding inside; accept it as part of the whole experience and be assured that the rest of your meal will be calm and enjoyable: made even moreso by the pleasant, friendly, and efficient waitstaff.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lula's For All Seasons

When you are lucky enough to have a gorgeous, vegan ice cream parlor in your midst, it doesn't necessarily matter that the weather isn't optimal for frozen confections; the temperature is always ideal inside Lula's Sweet Apothecary.  On this visit I enjoyed yet another personal sundae creation: Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Coconut Fudge, and Peanut Butter & Jelly ice creams with hot fudge, graham crackers, whipped cream and a cherry.  I'll let the picture tell the story.

VM also enjoyed a sundae, albeit considerably smaller: Chocolate Raspberry and Coconut Fudge ice creams with marshmallow, graham crackers, whipped cream, and a cherry.

But wait, there's more!  I happened to be passing by a couple of days later when I noticed a new flavor: The Fat Ape: banana ice cream with giant walnuts and chunks of housemade fudge.  Remember Chunky Monkey?  This is beyond.  Oh and what's that on the bottom?  Yep, it's the always delicious, creamy, and uber-decadent Peanut Butter Fudge.

And guess whose fashion-forward VM is already sporting the gorgeous new Lula's shirt?  Yep, mine!  The shirts are no exception to the high quality and perfect detailing that I've come to expect from everything Lula's: extremely soft cotton, nicely shaped & proportioned, and boasting the unmistakable Lula's font.  Here's a tip: go get one...and grab a treat while you're there!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Challah and Hollaback

Despite what many non-vegans think, vegans do not spend their days pining for yodels foods they cannot eat.  But every once in a while we are reminded of yodels something that we used to enjoy, and consider that it would be nice to do so again.  This is how I feel about Challah bread, and so I have Lilly's vegan version every once in a while.

This Rosh Hashanah, Sacred Chow mentioned they were baking some Challah loaves of their own and my heart rate increased.  Since they do everything else so well, I really wanted to try their Challah.  Unfortunately (for me), they sold out in a flash and I missed it.  Fear not, this Hanukkah I had VM on the case, phone at the ready I was much better prepared.

One need only hold one of Sacred Chow's Challah loaves to appreciate the literal weight of the impressive vegan offering.  Here it is, lovingly wrapped & prepared, specifically, for Chez Bean.

I was literally awestruck when I unwrapped it; the distinct aroma was authentic, but this Challah was unlike any I'd ever seen.  From the top it looked like a traditional, braided Challah, but underneath it was obviously more of a loaf: an impressive example of substance and beauty.

The taste was unmistakable Challah, but the texture was more dense, course, and satisfying (i.e., unlike traditional Challah, you probably couldn't eat this in its entirety in one sitting: nub by nub).

Slice it, toast it: however you choose to eat it will make your tummy happy.  For those of you with self-control: it freezes extremely well too.

I believe that Sacred Chow's Challah is by special order only, at certain times of the year.  So, stop in regularly (like you need an excuse) and follow them on Twitter and Facebook to get your Challah back!  Thank you to Cliff, Kyle, and Dino for being so nice and for making this, and everything else at Sacred Chow, so especially extraordinary.

(P.S. Hollaback for real.  Do not accept disrespect.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vegans Unite: Hot Chocolate at The Bent Spoon

Despite all of the rumors I'd heard of The Bent Spoon's soy, frozen hot chocolate, the vegan version never manifested itself this past spring and summer.  Disappointing though it was, with winter almost upon us I am happy to report that the vegan, soy, euro-style hot chocolate has already made an appearance.  Thusly, so have I.

Expect for it to take a few minutes to prepare*, but keep in mind that it will be time well spent.  If you're taking it to go, remember to grab a sturdy lid to ensure that your drinking chocolate stays good and hot; use the cool slide-y mechanism when you want to sneak a sip.

Behold the thick, rich, truly chocolately drink; this ain't no powder mix out of a pouch, people.

And remember to support vegan options wherever you find them-- especially when they are executed as exquisitely as The Bent Spoon's hot chocolate.

Special thanks to Betsy who is always super-sweet & uber-welcoming to vegans!

*UPDATE: As of mid-December, The Bent Spoon has soy hot chocolate on tap!  With some Sweet & Sara mini-marshies we'd really be all set...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day-long Bread, Take Two: Walnut Cinnamon Raisin

After the wholly frustrating somewhat disappointing result of my inaugural loaf of bread, I decided to next attempt a My Bread recipe as stated; this time: Walnut Bread (p. 66).

Excited, anxious, and a bit nervous;  I had the best of intentions.  Yet, ultimately, I still couldn't leave well enough alone.  The recipe called for 1/2 cup each of walnuts and raisins...that didn't seem like nearly enough, so I just about doubled it* and was on my way.

Prepared for the 18 hour rise:

Note: This was the first opportunity I had to use an awesome new gadget that found its way into my kitchen via my Amazon recommendations.  I like unusual utensils I'm not even sure why I bought it (it certainly wasn't mentioned in the book), but the Danish dough whisk is great!  Instead of alternately attacking mixing the sticky dough with your hands, a wooden spoon, and a spatula-- all you need is this.  It takes the place of all three: neatly mixing the ingredients whilst simultaneously scraping the sides of the bowl.  And, unlike your fingers and other utensils, the dough doesn't stick to it like glue.  This is what it looked like after the efficient mix: requiring a simple rinse and toss into the dishwasher.

The dough, 3/4 of a day later:

Time for the second rise:

After the second rise it never looks any different to me.  I suppose it's possible that it's slightly more spread out, but I don't see that any considerable, additional rising has taken place.

I managed not to burn myself on the pot this time, and into the oven it went.  Halfway through and looking good.

The raisins on the outside of the loaf were a little well done, but other than that it was fine.

No, better than fine: really great, in fact.  Cross section:

*The doubled walnuts and raisins were the perfect amount.  Next time I will definitely add extra cinnamon as well!