Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two (More) Reasons We Love Sacred Chow

In the time I've been writing this blog, I have been called many things: harsh, knit-picky, critical, and mean (Bean rhymes all too easily)...all by my friends!  Yet I make no apologies for my standards or my opinions; in fact, they're really not all that harsh.  I simply prefer great food, nice atmosphere, an A rating, and waitstaff that smile, say hello, and are generally pleasant throughout the meal.  I appreciate splitting shared dishes when appropriate and swapping silverware between courses, but it's the basics and friendliness that's the major bonus. 

And when all aspects of a dining experience come together delightfully, I make a point to mention it.  In fact, precisely because I am so attuned to service, I believe it is all the more sincere when I say that it is good, great, outstanding even.

And at Sacred Chow, Eli and Brian are all that and more.  Just as Cliff and Dino are from behind the scenes, these gentlemen exude warmth and genuine graciousness on the front lines of the dining room.  As a complement to the spectacular grub, their service makes our dining experience infinitely more enjoyable than ever before; you just can't get any better than a meal at Sacred Chow.  Thanks for making us feel so welcome!

Some recent noshes:

root vegetable latkes with Indonesian date butter:

sunflower lentil pate with crostini:


(from the day's special tapas- bean of the day) Daal Makhani: "tiny little French lentils simmered in a stock spiced with tomatoes, cumin seed, white mustard seed, coriander seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, and a hint of coconut milk for creaminess", served over brown rice.

A friend's power bowl lunch special- cannelini beans with escarole, collards, and brown rice.

A new favorite amongst my good friends former pals, kale Caesar with tofu "croutons".

No matter what, Chow has the best kale around.  But, I'm still a staunch dijon marinated raw kale fan.  Here it is with (from the day's special tapas- grain of the day) quinoa and marinated fennel.  Team dijon!

Chocolate “Nutella” Creme Torte: with "chunks of toasted almond & almond butter folded into Chow’s house-made chocolate creme; baked in a flaky pastry". This dessert comes in a host of variations (pistachio, almond, peanut butter, etc.); try them all without hesitation.

Peppersteak hero: "grilled seitan strips, peppers, onions, & cheese, served on whole wheat baguette [MVG and I shared the wrap version], with a side of home fries" 

Souper hero special: half hero and small salad- MVG's BBQ seitan hero: "chunky seitan & onions in Thai BBQ sauce" with his preferred kale Caesar.

My souper hero special: shredded tofu spa salad hero "light & creamy tofu salad, dill soy mayonnaise, mixed greens" with the far superior dijon marinated kale substituted by special request <3!

Chocolate truffle cake: "dense, rich, chocolate cake filled with raspberry ganache and topped with chopped pralines"  All I can say about this cake is that you need to eat it immediately, if not sooner.

The menu at Chow is pretty extensive, and there is also a considerable list of specials daily.  I'd recommend everything I've ever had, but especially our faves.  What can I say, Chow?  Thanks for being so fantastic.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bean and Rice Chips: Vegan Doritos?

When Beanfields Snacks contacts you to see if you'd like to sample their vegan, gluten-free, corn-free Bean and Rice chips, you say yes!  For one, they're chips.  Secondly, you should always be open to all things "bean". 

A short time passed and I thought they'd forgotten about me, but it turned out they were just packaging samplings for bloggers far and wide: an impressive and generous assortment of their chips: nacho, sea salt, and pico de gallo.

Of course I was most excited to try the nacho flavor because I'd been hearing that they are the healthy, vegan, Dorito

Besides that stunning comparison, I was thrilled to see the word "vegan" emblazoned on the bag.

I can't lie, though; part of me was disappointed that the chips were not radioactive orange: old habits die hard.  While the chips definitely have a pleasant nacho flavor, the fact that they look and taste so obviously healthy prevents me from calling them the "healthy, vegan, Dorito"; that's too much of an oxymoron!  I'd say this is the healthy, vegan alternative to the Dorito: for the matured palates of the vegan and health-conscious community.  Whether or not I fall into either of those categories is still debatable...  

As I was chomping I noticed that the packaging of the other flavors were missing the "vegan" heading, so I contacted the company to confirm before tasting.  Their reply was, "Yes - all of our chips are vegan. We only printed it on the nacho bag because most tortilla chips are vegan, but a nacho typically would be made with dairy, so we wanted to highlight that it truly was unique."  Since vegans are forever reading labels and really appreciate when companies make things easier to identify, I'm not sure I follow their logic.  But they are confirmed vegan and that's the most important thing.

Next up on the tasting calendar was the sea salt flavor.

I expected more of a salty bite; after the nacho they tasted more like "plain".

And by "plain" I mean begging to be smothered in pepperjack Daiya and other various nacho toppings... don't mind if I do.  Please note that these chips lose some of their crunchiness when heated.

I'd been avoiding the pico de gallo flavor because I associate pico de gallo with cilantro.

To be more precise, I consider pico de gallo to be salsa's evil, cilantro-laden sister: yuck.

But while this variety does contain cilantro (dehydrated), I couldn't taste it; instead, it came across as a salsa-y chip...begging for some salsa dip!

Thanks so much to Beanfields for kindly sending me their products to sample.  If you'd like to do the same and you can't yet find them in a store near you, buy them online.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Does Starbucks Hate Vegans?

Most people have a special affinity for Starbucks; vegans are no exception.  Once they added soy milk to their regular repertoire, the floodgates of possibilities opened.  Unfortunately, "soy, no-whip" does not necessarily vegan make, as evidenced by all of the surprise non-vegan ingredient information that seems to crop up every once in a while.

There is a reason why my post about frappucinos averages the most popular on my blog; it's because vegans are obsessively trying to determine the veganity of Starbucks' products.  But, although many vegans love Starbucks, Starbucks couldn't care less about accommodating them.  And, worse, we know it.  But, for some reason, we seem intent on exerting our considerable consumer effort in order to continue consuming their questionably vegan products.  Is it the taste?  The ubiquitous cup?  Exactly what makes us try so hard to patronize an establishment that is consistently disrespectful of our needs and, for that matter, that of any other dietary restriction?  In an increasingly aware society, why does Starbucks get away with being so blatantly disingenuous?

Their ingredient information is not at all transparent; rather, it's often unavailable or incomplete.  And, it would seem, they don't have a problem with that.  For such a considerable chain, their staff remains consistently uninformed about allergens and often exhibits hostility when such an inquiry is made.  The website suggests you discuss it with the baristas, the store's staff tell you to contact Customer Service...it's a purposefully frustrating circle of incorrect, incomplete, or non-existent information- intent on offering no final resolution.

Perhaps their egregious disinterest is best exemplified by the response I recently received from their Customer Service department when inquiring as to the increasing difficulty in ascertaining the ingredients of their product offerings:

"Greetings Abby!
Thank you for contacting Starbucks.

While we understand that some customers may have a need to know specific ingredient information prior to consuming a product, unfortunately we are unable to provide more in-depth information than what is currently available in the ingredient statement [I have no idea what this is or where it can be found]. If there are concerns about this product possibly containing an ingredient derived from a source that you do not wish to consume, we would recommend that product not be consumed.

Thanks again for writing us. If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don't hesitate to get in touch [presumably so that they can be equally as obtuse].

Elizabeth R
customer service"
Is it just me, or does this loosely translate to, "We don't make specific ingredient information available; if you don't like it, don't eat/drink it"?

See for yourself:
questions about Starbucks ingredients 1-800-235-2883
Starbucks customer service 1-800-782-7282

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vegan Mother's Day Extravaganza: Brad's Kale Chip Factory, Sprig & Vine, Vegan Treats, French Toast, and More...Not Necessarily In That Order

Phew; that was some weekend.

The planning started somewhere in the midst of my kale chip addiction when I did some googling and found out that Brad's kale chips were created in nearby Pennsylvania.  Now I'm no map wizard, but it seemed to me that its location was smack between Sprig & Vine and Vegan Treats, which got me to thinking.  I called them to see if they had a store and they told me that they were in the process of building a juice/kale chip bar adjacent to their factory and to stay tuned.  I did, and before I knew it I received my invitation to the Grand Opening, to take place Mother's Day weekend.  A plan was hatched.

Saturday started off with a visit to Sprig and Vine.

We both went for our staple: cauliflower Banh Mi(s)...

with a side of potato wedges.

Then it was off to the Grand Opening of The Chip Factory.

They were not kidding; a grand opening indeed.

The event, off a rural road in Pipersville, PA, was held both indoors...

and out, on a pleasant and sunny day.

There's Brad drinking some of his own water!

Yep, Brad's raw, vegan water:

There were a lot of things going on at the event.  A Vita-Mix demo...

with a raffle to win one.  We didn't, but that's ok; I still can't do the green stuff.  Besides, my loyalty lies elsewhere.  Power to the Bullet!!

They were giving out samples of banana whip, a la The Bent Spoon...

and also an assortment of Brad's kale buttons.

I even got a t-shirt to really show off my kale pride.

We were a little disappointed to find out that all of the kale chip packages containing the winning tickets to various available prizes had been claimed by noon- only an hour earlier, on this, the first day of the event.  Moreso when it was brought to our attention that there were no tickets- winning or otherwise, contained in the kale chip packages bought in cases.  Guess who bought a case?  Bummer!!  At least we "won" 12 boxes of naked leafy kale chips.

It sounds like a lot, but look how many we left behind:

They're really serious about the kale theme; even the lights were green!

In addition to the outdoor musicians,

there was a roster of health and wellness speakers presenting in the indoor event space.

Also outside: various notable vendors.  I really liked the upcycled, art clothes from Pantaluna.

I look forward to visiting their store in Frenchtown.

Then there was Renaissance Sausage, a sausage company with vegan options.

They used their better judgment and didn't include their meat variety in the day's offerings.

The vegan one was pretty darn meaty tasting in and of itself.

Oh, and did I forget to mention there was Brad's raw wine as well?

It's not all about the green juice, folks.

Of course the event wouldn't have been complete without an emergent dog situation.  On the way to The Chip Factory, we'd already brought a dog who'd wandered into the road back to his house (Stay safe, Arthur!!).  Then, midway through our time at the grand opening event, an announcement was made that someone had left a dog in their car in the hot parking lot; this when the iPhone was registering 80 degrees.  As we made our way to our car a half hour or so later, we found the poor pooch still sweltering in the hot car, pawing at an uncovered, half-full bottle of water in the cupholder- to no avail.  Another samaritan from the event joined us and we had no choice but to take matters into our own hands and call the police.  While we waited, the owners of the car returned- claiming to have only been gone five minutes and not to have heard the outdoor announcement from the confines of the indoor presentation space.  Halfway through their cavalcade of excuses and professions of undying love, it took another attendee- a stranger, to finally offer the panting and exhausted small dog some water.  VM and I left the jackass in good hands: being reamed out for her selfishness and foolishness by a more vocal compatriot.  Should you find yourself in the same situation, I implore you not to hesitate to do something: try to find the offender and, if all else fails, notify the authorities.  If you choose inaction, prepare to share the blame; creatures need all the advocates they can get in this world.

After that we headed over to Vegan Treats where the spread was even more impressive than usual, no doubt in honor of Mom's Day.

We started out with a seemingly innocuous chocolate truffle.

It was eye-poppingly good!

Can't go wrong with a rich, moist, chocolate, glazed donut.

Who can turn down the best vegan cannolis?

Throw in a gluten-free hostess cake for good measure.

I also couldn't resist a bowl of chocolate peanut butter twist ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

VM looked on, ice cream-less, staunchly supporting Team Lula's.

After that it was off to the casino to ring in Mother's Day playing Let it Ride, where VM kicked butt and I remained in the pity seat of the table for the duration of the night.  Ever wonder what losers buy in the casino gift shop at midnight with their comps?  Crazy ridiculous sunglasses, that's what.

When I got home in the wee hours, I remembered that I was bound and determined to make a nice, first, Mother's Day brunch in my new house.  I'd spent a ridiculous amount of time finding a vegan loaf of white bread (thanks to the Animal-Free app for cluing me in to animal-derived "datem" that seems to be in every commercial bread loaf), but forgotten that said loaf should ideally be stale in order to lend itself to authentic French Toast.  So, before going to bed I fought all urges to the contrary and left the fluffy, fresh slices unwrapped on the counter.  Yep, that's what I was doing at 2:04am.

Then I was up by 7:00 ready to make VM proud.  I'd thrown in a load of wash, cleaned the bathroom, and even done some dusting by 8:00.  The table was set and, by 11:00, I was ready to tackle brunch.  For the most traditional French Toast I could muster, I used  "Fronch Toast", courtesy of the PPK, as suggested by MVG.  I tripled the recipe for an entire loaf of sliced, white bread, and added cinnamon and nutmeg.

The ingredients came together ridiculously easy and before I knew it I had two slices of what looked and smelled just like the French Toast my mom used to make me!

I'm happy to report that it tasted the same too.

And, to show her appreciation, VM did not admonish me for eating the syrup off my plate with a spoon my syrup over-indulgence.  I can't help it; I love syrup.

As you might imagine, the rest of the day was spent in a food coma. 

Happy Mother's Day to all the special moms out there; they say motherhood is the hardest job in the world.  Or is that just for VM because I'm such a giant pain in the butt?  You be the judge.  No, wait; don't.