Saturday, March 30, 2013


We celebrate a lot of holidays in my family; sometimes they get a little muddled. 

What they all have in common is yummy eats. 

For Passover seder, VM's famous matzoh ball soup.  Don't bother asking; she's still not sharing the recipe.  Maybe next year?

Before that, there was her incomparable charoseth- a.k.a. the one time a year that I eat apple.  Apple, walnuts, cinnamon, wine- all atop matzoh.

For dinner: peppery mashed potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts, Veganomicon's chick pea cutlets with apple sauce, and (something she decided to do with) mushrooms and onions.

Onto dessert!  Courtesy of Gone Pie vegan bakery:

I know I'm always saying this, but this is my new favorite thing from Gone Pie.  Imagine moist coconut in a thick, chocolate, spring-themed shell...then get your own because I already had to battle VM for hers.  Officially: coconut filled chocolate eggs: "Each dark chocolate egg is filled with a rich coconut cream that is a simple, creamy agave sweetened coconut mixture."

Unbaked brownie bites: "A smooth and rich blend of organic dates; organic blanched almonds; organic walnuts; organic cashews; organic fairtrade cocoa powder; sea salt; and organic fairtrade vanilla, that we dip in 70% dark, vegan, fairtrade, organic chocolate and garnish with a blanched almond slice."  In other words, a brownie truffle!  The almond sliver is the piece de resistance.

And, finally: a macaroon that spent a little too much time in the chocolate bath...just the way I like it: "organic coconut, organic agave nectar,organic coconut milk, organic coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, organic coconut oil, grain-free vanilla or cocoa and spices, sea salt."

The bunny?  The one that's "over 1 1/2 ounces of fairtrade, organic chocolate blended with cashew and coconut based caramel, giving the chocolate a creamy, rich taste"?

Oh, that hopped into my belly long before it could get ready for a close-up.  Get your own!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lula's Sweet Apothecary: Still My Favorite

Forgive me if I've mentioned this before, but when I was a kid working in an ice cream shop, I would periodically make myself mini-sundaes: just enough ice cream to warrant all the toppings I wanted to enjoy.

carob ice cream, caramel sauce, graham cracker crumbs, whipped cream, cherry...bonus cherry

This past weekend I skipped dessert at the restaurant where I had dinner- specifically so that I could indulge at Lula's Sweet Apothecary.  I had my mind set on a sugar cone of whatever peanut butter flavor variation was on offer, but decided- once inside, that I was in the mood for a sundae.  My favorite employee stopped me before ordering, suggesting that I try a flavor I'd never had before: carob.  "I'm not a fan of carob," I insisted, but he assured me it tasted like a fudgesicle.  Although unconvinced, I tried it.  And, I have to admit, it was even better than a fudgesicle; it tasted like a chocolate pudding pop (don't act like you don't remember them).  My friend- who actually likes carob, was enthralled by it as well.  I quickly amended my order and assembled an upscale mini-sundae that was prepared and presented as if fit for a queen.

There are a lot of new products out and about, many making proclamations about being the best.  I'm not sure how you go about proving such statements or what kind of research supports them, but personally: Lula's is still my favorite.  Welcoming atmosphere, creative branding, impeccable options, and employees that treat every customer like a friend; what's not to love?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Peacefood Cafe Downtown: Same and Different

For everyone who prefers to remain below 14th Street, Peacefood's Downtown location has finally opened!

We were reminded of their recent opening when we spied the crowd that had formed around their USQ table after the Veggie Pride Parade.

There, they were giving generous samples of chocolate chip brownie bites and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and macaroons.

The sweets were yummy and the ladies were extremely friendly and popular with the crowd; it was just too bad they were tabling next to Green Compassion / Youth Buddhism Communications (whose website doesn't seem to exist) as they munched on McDonald's of all things.  Yes, really.

Anyhoo, a small group of us decided to check out the new Peacefood outpost for dinner.  We were immediately impressed by the beautiful and spacious dining room- much more upscale and less of a frenetic atmosphere than uptown's comparatively cramped and often noisy space.

I was surprised to find that the menu and "specials" are exactly the same as the uptown location, but it turned out being kind of nice to have the familiarity of the highly-regarded, original menu to choose from. 

We shared the chickpea fries: an award-winning recipe with a hint of Indian spices, served with house dipping sauce for an appetizer.  In keeping with their sister restaurant's habit of unorthodox timing, our appetizer was inexplicably presented at the same time as our dinners. We noticed this was a trend throughout the dining room even though there was no one waiting for a table and warranting a rush.  The poor party behind us was forced to eat their soup with their parmesan!

For dinner, one friend chose the protein-packed kale salad: kale leaves, diced seasonal tofu, tempeh bacon, pumpkin seeds and raisins tossed with our chef's secret dressing, a longtime favorite of hers.

The others of us went a different route.  In case, like us, you're wondering if Peacefood Downtown honors the uptown location's habit of allowing you to have a half order of the pfc unchicken basket with a half order of the chef's potato salad: chunky potatoes mixed with celery, capers, a touch of onion juice, and vegan mayo; they do not!  To remedy that unfortunate decision, simply take matters into your own hands: find a buddy who likes it too, order a full order of both, and share (don't forget to ask for side plates; they seem not to bring them otherwise).  You're welcome.

Everything was as delicious as always and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that our waitress- a new addition to the Peacefood family, was extremely friendly and attentive: the most pleasant and professional service I've experienced at Peacefood- by far.

I'm also happy to report that there was no shortage of enticing and familiar dessert options. 

After considerable conversation, we determined that the offerings were the same in number and variety as uptown- exhibited in a much larger case.  You know what that means?  Room for more!  I nominate the tri-colored cookies that were spied recently as being part of the pastry chef's repertoire...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is already planning to visit Peacefood much more frequently now that the downtown location has opened.  Gorgeous space, upscale atmosphere, consistently good food, and a significant improvement in service?  See you again soon.  Now if only the museums would relocate, I might never have to venture uptown again.

 I wish them lots of success.

Friday, March 22, 2013

VEGAN LONDON: Salt and Vinegar Crisps!

I'm not as big of a potato chip fan as some people (VM), but I do like me some salt and vinegar chips.  A while back it came to my attention that Kettle makes a sea salt and balsamic vinegar flavor, but that it was only available in the UK.  I emailed them and they responded- something to the effect of "too bad" (in a nice way).  I'd forgotten all about this until we arrived at Heathrow and found them in the first airport shop we passed! 

Disclaimer: I didn't initially buy the 5-pack; that came later (that same day).

The sea salt and balsamic vinegar crisps were better than I could have expected: salt, vinegar, and a hint of sweet.  Plus, who can resist this?

As it turned out, salt and vinegar chips were aplenty in London.  While most in the States contain milk products, we found very few (Harrod's: fail!) with that problem while abroad.  And believe me, I looked.  I bought these at the local supermarket, Waitrose: Kettle salt and malt vinegar crisps.  Extra credit for being ridgies!


These REAL sea salt and cider vinegar crisps came from Starbucks. 

They were decent, but this lady's face was false advertising; they were barely tart.

I found the Mackie's of Scotland sea salt and vinegar crisps at Whole Foods in Kensington.  They were thick cut and basically the bomb.

I'm sorry to say that these Barrow Boys salt and vinegar crisps from (spoiler alert!) Ms. Cupcake were the dud of the bunch.  It's a shame because they seem to be a very vegan-friendly company; unfortunately, it was a small bag of browned, oily chips that neither of us enjoyed.  I hate to admit it, but we- gasp- threw out half the bag and didn't really continue our salt and vinegar crisp tour of London any more afterwards.

This may seem like a lot of crisps, but I promise I shared.  Not with strangers, mind: with my traveling companion.  Also, we did so much sightseeing that we really didn't have time for lunches, so every day there was a pack of crisps in the bag for emergency snacking.  I can report that I ate crisps at just about every main tourist sight in London (zones 1-6)!

London tip: Potato chips are called crisps.  If you say chips, people could assume you are referring to French Fries.  I can imagine more awful things than receiving French Fries when you want potato chips, but now you know.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

VEGAN LONDON: Let the Trip (recap) Begin

I've just traveled to London, England- exciting for many reasons: vacation, first trip off the continent, first stamp in my passport, and, well...LONDON!

I approached the impending travel with the same research techniques I'd employed in preparation for Portland, Oregon- namely, blogs.  Who needs guidebooks?  My vegan peers did not steer me wrong; special thanks to QuarryGirl, Fat Gay Vegan, and Vegan in Brighton.

I came down with the flu almost immediately upon return and could do nothing but watch Downton Abbey and snuggle with 89.  So, it's going to take some time, but I'll soon be organizing my trip photos and blog-worthy stuff and off we'll go.  I assume that the easiest and fairest way to blog will be as close to the order that everything occurred.  In that vein, let's start with the special "vegan" meal on our British Airways flight out of America.

Upon delivery, it looked relatively impressive: fruit, salad, questionably vegan (no ingredient list) dinner roll...

Upon further inspection it became clear that the reality would be a significant downturn from my first impression.  I'll get to the main course- which was just plain icky, but it was the inclusion of blatantly dairy creamer and non-vegan butter that really got my blood boiling.  If you offer a vegan option, people assume you know what that means, dig?

I'm not much for bad language, but, if I had to guess, this is the point of the trip when I began cursing heavily- if only in my mind.  Limp eggplant is bad enough, but half-covered in awful tomato sauce and half-covered in gravy; what the eff is that about?  And don't get me started on what I can only assume were once nutrient-dense broccoli florets.  As if the flight itself weren't enough to make me gag.

A little later on, a snack appeared.  It felt cool and substantial; we were excited.

We needn't have been.  Another questionably vegan roll, more dairy creamer & non-vegan butter, orange juice, and apple sauce. What vegan wouldn't want this random mess assortment?  Total gagfest (Although I did drink the OJ).

Bigtime fail, British Airways.  I'd joked that the vegan meal would wind up consisting of all vegan things I happen not to like: apples, cilantro...but I'd given you much too much credit.  Those things are actually vegan and would have gone together better than this hot mess.

Fear not, though; the eats vastly improved upon arrival; stay tuned!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blossom On Carmine

A few friends and I scheduled a catch-up brunch and wanted to do it up right.  We considered returning to V-Note, but after considering the trek to the UES, chose instead to make an inaugural visit (for most) to the new (Cafe?) Blossom on Carmine.  The visit started off on an especially high note when we entered the restaurant and were greeted by one of our favorite waiters from Sacred Chow.  He was as charming as ever and our waitress was just as friendly.

Blossom on Carmine serves four small black-eyed pea and potato cakes with chili pepper aioli as their version of the coveted appetizer.  They are as good as any, but there is a contentious debate brewing as to the best offering of the pea cakes in all of the Blossom restaurants.  In contrast to these four small, Blossom on the UWS serves two medium pea cakes.  But, at this meal it was definitively decided 2 - 1 in favor of the large, sole black-eyed pea cake offered at both V-Note and Blossom on Ninth.  Frankly, there isn't a pea cake I'd turn down, but BoC's fell a little heavy on the breading side for me; I prefer a much higher proportion of potato: 2 mediums or 1 large prevail.

I really like that BoC offers a "lunch" menu that includes both brunch and lunch offerings.  Two of my friends ordered the southern fried seitan: with herb and cheese biscuits, gravy, sautéed kale and they both loved it.  I'm not a huge seitan fan, but I thought it was delicious.  And, while I don't like even the idea of biscuits and gravy, I find brown gravy significantly more appetizing than white; nice choice.

photo courtesy of JD Gut
Our server was kind enough to let one friend sub the brussel sprouts special for the standard kale: a generous portion of humongous sprouts that rivaled the somewhat less impressive (but nicely prepared) serving of kale.

As much as I hate to say it, my banh mi sandwich: with marinated tofu, kimchee, sprouts, cucumber, carrot, mayo, avocado, cilantro, basil, mint, toasted baguette was almost a total fail.  For starters, it was served sloppily on this odd, airy, thick bread instead of a baguette.  The pickled vegetables (carrot, kimchee) were limp instead of crisp, and there was no cucumber or basil to speak of.  Instead, there was the unexpected additon of a sea vegetable- which, in and of itself is unpleasant, but- as an accompaniment to the non-traditional inclusion of avocado, was extremely off-putting.  The only thing good I can say about the sandwich is that the tofu was prepared nicely.

I don't think I've ever in my life sent a dish back, and I didn't make this an exception.  I could almost have forgiven the poor execution, but it would have been nice if I had been- at very least, informed that they were out of baguettes; who eats a banh mi on bread most likely intended for French toast?  And the un-advertised sea vegetable?  I'm sure it's not just me that doesn't like to be surprised with seaweed: blech.

To make matters worse, while our server was kind enough to let me sub their mouth-watering sounding salt and vinegar garlic fries for regular, there was no discernable salt or vinegar taste detected.  Fine fries with lots of garlic- that's it.  Boo.

Because I was headed to The Vegan Bake-Off later that day, I made a conscious decision to skip dessert at brunch.  My friend, however, could not resist the chocolate kahlua tart: with date and hazelnut crust, vanilla ice cream that we were all eyeing.  And, when it came out beautifully presented in a mini cast-iron pan on a slab of wood we were all struck unusually giddy with admiration.  This is where the photography stopped because none of us could resist digging in- it was adored even by the non-chocolate lover of the group.  As good as the food generally is, I've never enjoyed a decent dessert at Blossom...until now.

To re-cap, the space is pretty and the staff is refreshingly pleasant, accomodating, and efficient.  Despite my meal having been a huge disappoinment, I would definitely return to give them another chance- perhaps for dinner.  However, it has not gone unnoticed that Blossom isn't new to the game; misses like this plainly shouldn't occur.  They are easily avoidable and won't be forgiven twice.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What 89 Thinks of V-Dog Breathbones

The second ever product offering from V-dog: Breathbones!

89 has been enjoying her V-dog dog food for months now: breakfast lunch and dinner.  Augmented with whatever else is around on any given day, she really loves it.

Her favorite snacks thus far are carrots, beans, spinach, radicchio, chick peas, red pepper, nutritional yeast, and tempeh.  What she's been missing, though, is a "bone".

I recently got her the V-dog breathbones, in lieu of a non-vegan bone, and the results have been a little silly. 

I bought her the large bones because she's quite a destroyer chewer; it's about 5 1/2" long and 1" wide. 

don't sweat my Simpsons' ruler

I mention this because- for whatever reason, V-dog does not currently indicate any specifics on their website: there are no size guidelines or quanitities listed (in fact, the bag of large bones pictured indicates 6, but the bag I received stated- and contained- only 4).

In any event, in the weeks since I've given her two- one at my house and one at my parents' house, and she's done one of two things with them... and neither involve chewing.

She either walks around with it in her mouth, whining (with excitement?  see above).

Or, hides it somewhere- like under the piano or behind the sofa cushions.

secrets aren't her strong suit

Weeks have passed and nary a tooth impression has been made.  This is saying something considering I'm dealing with someone who does this on the regular:

It smells good and seems like it should offer considerable chew resistance.  My friend's (much larger) dog demolished his in 5 minutes.  So, I'm anxious to see what happens when she finally takes a bite; I'll keep you posted if anything changes.