Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sweet Maresa's Vegan Italian Rainbow Cookies

I have been eating a lot of yummy things over the course of this holiday month, but Sweet Maresa's Italian Rainbow Cookies are the official, award-winning dessert of my season.

Friends of mine visited the first of the two, December, Brooklyn, Vegan Shop-ups in my stead and reported back that Sweet Maresa, purveyor of the previously elusive vegan macarons, had created said tri-color treats in two sizes: individual cookie and full-on cake-size. The reviews were consistently positive, so I immediately confirmed that the cookies would make an appearance at the next Shop-Up and counted down the days. 

Rainbow cookies are a lifetime favorite of mine and my singular foray into their creation was successful but wholly consuming and, thusly, dubbed, "Why Vegan Rainbow Cookies Should Cost A Million Dollars a Pound." I was ecstatic that someone far more capable than I had taken up the cause.

At the next Shop-Up, I waited my turn as ridiculous (to me) questions were posed to Maresa. Accordingly, I made the requisite jokes to pass the time. 
customer: "How long will they last?"
Maresa: "Refrigerated for up to 3 weeks."
me: "No one has ever tested that theory."

customer: "How many servings are they?"
Maresa: "About 25."
me: "One. Two at the most. They're meant to be eaten like a candy bar."
I mean, they're VEGAN RAINBOW COOKIES; shove them in your face, don't discuss them! Measure and test for longevity on your own time and get outta my way because you're blocking the cookies. 

And then it was finally my turn. Only the largest size was available (and not around for long)- which would suggest that the universe was sending me a clear and direct message. 


I presented it to VM, my fellow rainbow cookie connoisseur, the very next day.


We marveled at it for more than a few minutes before digging in. 

Okay, maybe it wasn't so much a marvel-fest as a mutual sizing up of whether or not our blood bond necessitated sharing.

Ultimately, we did.


From Sweet Maresa:
"Italian rainbow cookie, family style. Made with natural colors (obviously), homemade organic almond paste, and filled with a peach beebalm jelly made by yours truly from summer fruit and flowers, encased in fair trade dark chocolate. 6.75" by 3.75" and a whopping 1.3 lbs. Cut as desired."

You may or may not know that traditional rainbow cookies are quite pricey- due in no small part to the time-consuming nature of their production. Taking into account that Sweet Maresa's version is not only vegan, but meticulously handmade with natural, organic, fair-trade, and homemade ingredients: this is a steal.

These rainbow cookies are vegan, cruelty-free, taste wholly authentic, and are all-around stellar on all accounts.


I'm going to assume that this will be a seasonal item for Sweet Maresa, so count yourself in the next time they come around. I'll already be in line.

Monday, December 22, 2014

M.O.B. For Two Celebrations

So, I'm embarrassed to say that this post is SO overdue: I started it in 2013! Apparently, this is an M.O.B. theme of mine.
Still, YUM!

Last year for Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve a bunch of us went to M.O.B. for dinner. Though their menu is small, it is varied. So,it's hard to make a decision (also vegans are programmed to accept the single veganizable menu item, so choices can sometimes make our heads spin).

These are the kale chips they give you while you're pondering.


One friend ordered the corn soup: popcorn, curry, sea salt, corn, miso, soymilk that I always covet. It's amazing but somehow I never order it for myself.

Roasted sunchokes were a special of the day (so long ago).

World's tiniest salad or largest citrus wedges?

Somehow my lemonade wound up all over the table. No one had been drinking heavily; it was pure clumsiness.

Ok, does anyone remember what or whose this is? VBA, I'm looking at you.

None of this matters, of course, because so many of us ordered M.O.B.'s incredible mac & cheese: in a creamy sweet potato and cashew cream with smoked pecans, grilled broccoli rabe and sauteed artichokes (note: it's now served with oyster mushrooms instead).


This is a rich, satisfying meal that I'm pretty sure you could eat all day every day if given the opportunity. In advance of our visit we'd ogled many IG photos in anticipation, then posted a trillion of our own in appreciation.

THEN a big group of us visited again in the summer for another special occasion.
This time my lemonade stayed in the glass.

Because it had piqued my interest at our Christmas Eve dinner (I try not to make a habit of photogging everyone's dish), I ordered the MOB dog deluxe with all the fixings: traditionally spiced carrot, mushroom, and chickpea dog, mustard & ketchup, Brooklyn brine sauerkraut & relish on a sweet potato dog roll with choice of crispy fries, potato wedges, salad (what do you take me for?). I loved the presentation:

The dog, however, did not live up to my extremely high expectations...or the impressive plating and assembly. For starters, it's HUGE! The frank itself could have easily been halved and that would have made it much easier to stuff in my face enjoy. Great bun & condiments but everything was overshadowed by the enormous furter. Second, the dog is kind of Yeah Dawg style, but...I'd choose YD over this one. Also, the fries were kind of meh. Don't get me wrong; I ate them all, but overall I wouldn't order this again. I will take my own advice and eat the mac forever.

A bud of mind ordered the MOB burger deluxe: crimini mushroom burger, your choice of freshly baked whole wheat or potato roll, secret sauce, Brooklyn Brine pickles, charred onions, tomatoes, smoked eggplant and lettuce with choice of crispy fries/potato wedges/salad. Again, great presentation (though sub-par photo on my part).

I'm not a huge burger fan, but he liked it a lot- particularly interesting given he's not a mushroom lover. In my opinion, the (healthier option) potato wedges were good but not great (yeah, I stole one).

So, another vote for the mac!

Overall, I'm a fan of M.O.B. and I'm glad to see that they've added a few new options- particularly to their appetizer menu. It has a great interior and a nice vibe, so I look forward to what direction their menu takes in the future. In the meantime, MAC 4eva!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I think I'm the only person not in love with the Field Roast Chao cheese and that's....okay

I love vegan cheese.
I particularly love Dr. Cow and Treeline.
I love vegan cheese so much that I even love vegan cheese that I have to enjoy begrudgingly because it's produced by a cheese company who makes vegan cheese but is consistently disrespectful to their vegan clientele.

As you probably already know, Field Roast- purveyors of my favorite franks and my annual Thanksgiving roast, makes a new sliced cheese called chao. Sliced vegan cheese is a game changer!! I wanted to love it and was thrilled when I found it.

Because I wanted to present the illusion of self-control, I purchased only two of the three available cheeses: coconut herb with black pepper and tomato cayenne with spicy peppers, leaving the comparatively boring sounding creamy original on the shelf.

The slices were thicker than what I remember of the old, non-vegan, American cheese slices of my childhood. They also weren't individually wrapped- probably because they needn't be. Unlike said American cheese, chao slices aren't sweaty and damp. And remember how non-vegan cheese used to mysteriously adhere to surfaces...like plates? Obviously, I still have unresolved issues on the subject; it's because I find non-vegan cheese repulsive for a multitude of reasons: cruelty and grossness highest on the scale. But, in direct contrast, the chao slices are very appealing!

89 agrees.

We figured it was our duty to taste it plain; 89 went first and she was all about the tomato cayenne! Contrarily, she was not a fan of the coconut herb. She kind of rolled it around in her mouth and then spit it out, so I decided to forgo that portion of my taste-test.

I evenly prepared the simple components in anticipation of grilled cheese perfection- the ultimate cheese test.

I heated it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes: my usual grilled cheese m.o.

I let it sit for a minute or two, then assembled the sandwiches and let them sit for another minute or two so that the two sides would synthesize appropriately. The smell was extremely appetizing and I couldn't wait to dig in. I left my arugula and sliced tomato off to the side because I wanted my first taste to be all cheese.

When I took my first bite, a good ten minutes since removing the grilled cheese from the oven, the cheese squirted into my mouth like liquid in a most unpleasant way. No matter how long I let the sandwich sit, the cheese remained less viscous than I would have preferred- a consistency that prevented me from noticing anything else.

Undeterred, the next day I decided to get back to basics and try the slices plain. I had the same reaction as 89; the tomato cayenne had an amazing enough taste for me to look past the texture that wasn't authentic for me. I was less impressed with the coconut herb flavor, however, and found it to be a little on the rubbery side- something I hadn't noticed with the tomato cayenne.

When I made a second sammie I knew I wanted to cook the cheese less in the hopes of keeping it in solid form. I pre-toasted the bread a little (I like it toasty) and then melted the cheese on it for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. That did the trick. Melted this way it remained sufficiently solid and, served with the obligatory arugula and tomato as well as tomato soup, this was a major improvement over the previous attempt. The tomato cayenne flavor is totally spicy and delicious, but there's still something un-cheesy about the texture that I can't quite put my finger on. I want to love it but there is definitely a roadblock.

Next I decided to have an un-melted sammie with the coconut herb, arugula, and veganaise. It still just didn't do it for me. I might even go so far as to say it was a little pasty.

Ultimately, I finished up my preferred flavor, tomato cayenne, with another grilled cheese. I accidentally left it in a minute too long and wound up with another liquidy sandwich. I take full responsibility for this- particularly because I was aware of the issue and I should have been more careful, but frankly I can't deal with such finicky cheese!

In the time it's taken me to formulate this review, I've heard most people raving about the flavor that I neglected to buy: creamy original. Perhaps that's the missing link in all this? I'll give it a go next time I find it and will report back.

I do want to stress, though, that this is not a bad review. And that? Not a disclaimer. This just happens to be a product I didn't love, but I'm weighing in anyway because I'm an unfiltered blogger; it's what I do. I am 100% a fan of Field Roast as a company- both because I really enjoy many of their products and because I respect them as an ethical company.

Every once in a while there's some blogger backlash over "bad" reviews not being helpful to the vegan community and I just wanted to chime in that this type of admonition is misguided, in my opinion- particularly in the vegan community. Who says vegans have to love everything vegan? We don't. It's not giving your opinion that's bad for veganism; it's the actual bad vegan food, bad vegan service, and bad vegan products that are bad for veganism.

In this case, it's not that I think the chao cheese is bad; it's just not for me. And this is not to say that I wouldn't tell you if something was bad (duh) or suggest that you must believe something is bad because I deem it so. But I'm guessing you already knew that.

That being said, feel free to let me know if you love chao, because judging by my social media feeds I'm definitely in the minority!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cocomels: Vegan Chocolate Covered Caramels from JJ's Sweets

Stop what you're doing and buy yourself some chocolate-covered cocomels from JJ's Sweets. I'll wait.

I've bought cocomels coconut milk caramels as gifts tons of times. Vegan caramels are one of those things that not only make a great gift in general, but also make a terrific statement- that being, "Vegans have caramels and they're better than non-vegan caramels for countless reasons!"

But, I admit that for me caramels are just okay. I mean, I want to love them, but where's the chocolate? I'm all about the chocolate! Well, JJ's Sweets apparently heard my internal plea, so they also offer chocolate-covered cocomels! As if that wasn't enough, the further beauty of it all is that if you shop online, they only sell them by the case; thereby, it's not your fault that 15 packs are the minimum. I'm just saying.

Sooooo, because I've been spending gads of money (mostly on me, mostly on edibles) since Black Friday/ Small Business Saturday/ Cyber Monday, I figured why not also have a box of 15 2-packs of chocolate-covered cocomels delivered to my door? Why not indeed. I placed my order with ease and the box was delivered in just a few days. It was wrapped precisely and garnered interest from you-know-who almost instantly.

Upon initial inspection, they seemed a little small. But each package had some heft to it and when I opened one I immediately saw why.

The contents are two glorious and significant, dense and chewy, sweet & salty (I ordered the sea salt variety), chocolate-covered caramel bars. Don't let the fact that they come in a wrapper fool you; they are absolutely exquisite chocolates. If someone gave me a giant box of all chocolate-covered cocomels for Valentine's any day, I'd think they were from the finest chocolatier and would be forever grateful.

I honestly can't say enough about how magnificent these are, so if you haven't already (why didn't you listen to me?) I do highly recommend that you order your own pronto. Particularly because I'M NOT SHARING no matter how hard you stare.

Not even with you*.

*dogs can't eat chocolate! Probably not caramel either!

Friday, November 28, 2014

What Do Vegans Do On Thanksgiving

Earlier this week as almost every conversation was revolving around holiday plans, someone earnestly asked me what vegans do on Thanksgiving. It struck me as funny, not only because the comment was  indicative of how veganism is most notably associated with a dietary choice, but also because it suggested that vegans aren't too heavily invested in a holiday that essentially revolves around food.

On the contrary! Vegans are the biggest eaters and most insatiable group of foodies I've ever come across. They also tend to know more about nutrition and eat a more varied range of foods with significantly more adventurous preparation. But, I digress. Here's what this vegan does on Thanksgiving.

For starters, this is what vegans wear on Thanksgiving.

Even the furry vegans represent.

Because we're likely to be in the company of non-vegans, vegans also spend much of their day recounting their path to veganism- inclusive of obligatory photos of themselves with turkeys that are very much alive. #guilty

On a more traditional note, some of us even watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (see; we're just like you). This year I was lucky enough to have a friend send me a live shot of the Hello Kitty balloon flying into view.

This was almost as exciting as watching the Sea World protest via Jane Velez-Mitchell.

As for the food? This shizz is serious and we document every crumb of it.

Our celebration started off with a nosh of Treeline soft cheeses: scallion and herb garlic.

 Then the cooking commenced. PPK green bean casserole, of course.

Feeling the pressure as I carefully cleaned millions of Brussels sprouts.

Trying new things based on recommendations (I wasn't a fan, but the meat-eater at the table sucked it in, so that's saying something).

Aaaand, reliving some old food memories. You're never too mature to melt marshmallows on your sweet potato!



We tried a new recipe for Apple Cider Brussels sprouts that was posted in Cosmo by the incomparable Laura Beck. It lives amongst other simple but extraordinary recipes in Chloe Coscarelli's new book, Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen, and was devoured to rave reviews (chestnuts were added independently).

The PPK string bean casserole was authentic and crowd-pleasing yet again.

 Overall, a most stupendous meal. ALL VEGAN.

A lot of preparation, a ton of eating, and plenty of clean-up.
89 in her glory on pre-rinse duty:

 During the break between dinner and dessert: nap time.

And then my favorite part of any meal: dessert. This time from Vegan Treats.
These chocolate cakes were pomegranate and malt.

The malt didn't get it's own photo because, well, how do you not just immediately eat a malt ball?

This was the favorite of the evening: a double chocolate adorned pecan pie.

It was made all the better with the new So Delicious coco whip, in which I shall face plant until the container is empty.

Between the two of us, VM and I went to about 8 stores before we found it and then I sounded the alarm to my friends. Because that's another thing vegans do: if you see something, say something!

Finally, if all of this isn't enough, vegans also try to spread the love by extolling the virtues of a compassionate lifestyle. Everyone has different styles; this is 89's.

Hope all this clears things up about what vegans do on Thanksgiving. Hope yours was a happy one.