Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Peacefood Cafe Uptown- Then & Now

Haven't been to the Peacefood Cafe in a while, so I hit up the uptown location when I was in the area recently. Um, what the hell happened? First of all, this place use to be bustling. It was practically empty on a Friday night. I'm not complaining about that; it was good for us. Or, was it?

We started out by ordering an old favorite: chickpea fries "an award-winning recipe with a hint of Indian spices, served with our house dipping sauce." These hardy and flavorful spiced fries are famous for being served in jenga formation.


On this recent visit, however, they were instead served to us as though they'd insultingly been thrown onto a plate from across the room. They did not taste the same either- likely because the proportions were compromised with the smaller fries. Also, the dipping sauce was in a paper cup such that you might find in a dentist's office to rinse out your mouth: totally unappealing.


For dinner, I wanted to order the PFC unchicken basket of fried breaded plant protein tenders with the option of chipotle sauce. Once upon a time, you could order this considerably sized dish with half the chicken, subbing their delicious potato salad for the the other half. Peacefood downtown has never allowed you to make this adjustment and, now, neither does uptown. With such a small menu to begin with, this seems like an odd place to draw a line.

So, I begrudgingly went with the tempeh avocado sandwich: baked marinated tempeh, creamy avocado, pickled radishes, shredded carrots, and cilantro served on toasted whole spelt rye sourdough bread. This sandwich has always been unapologetic hippie food, but once upon a time it was hardy and decently sized. 


On this visit it was considerably smaller and served rather sloppily- although slightly less obnoxiously than the fries. The bread was heavily toasted, which made me wonder if it was stale, and the tempeh had no flavor whatsoever. It's hard to believe it won "best sandwich" as recently as the 2010 vegan guide when, all these years later, it just seems basic and unimaginative- yet interestingly at a pricepoint that rivals the likes of Cinnamon Snail's behemoth, flavor bombs.


Although not necessarily conscious, I think I originally stopped going to Peacefood because their menu never changed; even their "specials" have remained largely constant. Now I see there are more reasons to avoid. A shame, really; this once popular spot has a niche, so long as their food and service remains thoughtful- which it obviously hasn't. Our waiter never even checked in to see how the food came out or if we needed anything else over the course of our meal. He literally just never came near our table at all- we had to track him down in order to procure the check.

To add to the disappointment, on my way out, I noticed that the dessert case- once boasting one of the most impressively sized and varied offering of vegan desserts in the city, had nary half of what they once had on offer and not a single thing that appealed to me. Mind-boggling.

Anyone else been there recently and can tell me my recent experience was a drastic departure from what's normally going down?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bar Verde

I was really anxious to try Bar Verde, so I was thrilled when a friend planned a holiday din-din there recently. It was a wet, sloshy, slushfest of a day, so obviously our reservation was inside.

The interior is really beautiful- in what seemed like shades of blue, possibly peacock. It was very dark, though; I knew immediately it would be bad for food photography. Don't get me wrong; I get that living in the ambient moment > IG likes, but I feel like restaurants can find a happy medium. I may look better in dim lighting, but my food sure doesn't.

The cocktail menu, though mezcal heavy, looked quite appealing; I'll definitely need to revisit asap for that alone. I'd just come from Oscar Wilde, so I did not want to have another drink. When I ordered a coke, I was offered the choice between a "regular" coke and an "organic" coke. Because the waiter had a gleam in his eye when he said, "organic," that's what I chose. To my surprise, I was served a literal superior Q Kola- which I highly recommend because it was kind of a cross between a coke and a cream soda. Note: since our server had a great sense of humor about the organic coke, I figured it was going to be a fun night AND IT WAS.

The menu is extraordinarily appealing; there were so many things we wanted to try.

We started out with a few appetizers from the "share" portion of the menu. Because we're professionals, two orders of nachos: butternut queso, black beans, pico de gallo, cashew crema, guacamole, jalapeno, (watermelon) radish. This cheese wasn't the best I've ever had, but it was pretty damn great. The proportion and distribution of toppings to chips was almost perfect and the chips remained crisp throughout. I especially appreciated that both the cilantro (worst) and the jalapeno (best) were easy to remove/hoard instead of being hidden throughout and within in tiny dices.

photo credit: Sheryl Yvette

A friend had the elote: grilled corn, chipotle crema, arbol chile, almond cotija, grilled lime; it looked really great and I heard no complaints. My guess is he's already recreated it in his own kitchen because that's how he rolls.

I also shared the smoked potato croquetta: lime cashew sour cream, cacao mole, avocado, pickled jalapeno; it was kind of like deep fried mashed potatoes, but elevated. The thing that made this dish was the varying textures: crisp, creamy, and viscous. I'm not usually a fan of mole, but this was really delicious- particularly mixed with the other sauces. I wouldn't necessarily order this again, but I have nothing bad to say about it.

For dinner I chose the truffle potato flautas with huitlacoche, avocado, marinated kale from the "not tacos" section of the menu. It was kind of small for an entree; I certainly couldn't have eaten just this for dinner and been satiated. Perhaps it was meant to be like a larger plate, not necessarily an entree? That part is a little confusing. To order 2 items from the tacos/not tacos portions of the menu seems overkill, but 1 just under enough even with an app. It was really good; the exterior was crisp and the contents creamy with a taste resembling black beans, although I think that was the huitlacoche. The kale was really exquisite, but the the slices of avocado between the flautas and the kale made the whole dish kind of unnecessarily compact. I think I would have preferred if the kale were served alongside as a salad of sorts topped with the avocado; then the dish would have both appeared larger and would have been cohesive rather than layered.

A friend had the grilled quesadilla with spicy cashew cheese, tomato salsa, salsa verde, flour tortilla. She really liked them. Correction: she LOVED them and "everything else she had." I would have thought plain cheese quesadillas would be boring, but she was definitely not disappointed in the least.

Two friends each had the classic BV burrito: rice refried beans, guacamole, lettuc, salsa fresca, cashew crema. They didn't look too exciting to me and I was warned that the sauce was pretty much pure cilantro, so this one won't be on my must order list.

The wild mushroom tamale with mole, cashew crema, salsa verde was probably the smallest of the entrees. Again, we don't even really know if they were supposed to be entrees. To recap, we ordered from the "share" section of the menu as appetizers and then from the "tacos"/"not tacos" as entrees, but it could be that everything was supposed to be tapas style? TBH, we all steered clear of the taco section of the menu because we assumed they'd be very small entrees. In a perfect world, I'd love to see a mix and match option such as "choose any three" served in a, wait for it, partitioned plate!

For the table, dessert #1: mango cheesecake. The crust was the most impressive factor: very nutty. The "cheesecake" had a nice flavor (not overly mango-y), but was not dense enough to be considered the texture of a cheesecake by any means. I didn't try the dollops because I don't love mango and I figured that's where the flavor would be the most concentrated; others enjoyed, but weren't blown away.

I'd waited the whole meal for our dessert #2, the churros + chocolate. I *think* the waiter threw in an extra churro because he knew I was really resistant to sharing with my tablemates. The chocolate was a dip of medium-thickness; some of my friends had expected it to be an accompanying drinking chocolate and, taste-wise, it was definitely reminiscent. As for the churros...sigh. The ends and edges were crisp, cinnamon sugar deliciousness. The inside may as well have been mashed potatoes; it was so mushy/undercooked.

Overall, we really enjoyed Bar Verde. The space was beautiful, the service was terrific (I love a personality and a sense of humor!), the food was great, and I'd even give the churros another go in case this was an off day. However, if there's an ideal ordering method I should know about, I'm open to suggestions.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Korilla BBQ: Korean Seasonal Kitchen- Quick Review

On Saturday I was trudging through the relentless slushfall with a pal and we stopped into Story to do some holiday shopping. The Korilla food truck was parked out front, but I didn't think anything of it until, when I made my purchase, I was given a token to get a free lunch. So cool!


But, I reserved my excitement until I could get outside to check for vegan options and, lo and behold, I was shocked to find that there were vegan Vs all over the build-your-own burrito/rice bowl/salad bowl menu! My eyes just darted around:

Protein option: organic tofu baked with garlic, gluten free soy sauce, red pepper, and sesame. Vegan!

Seasonal toppings: kale, roasted corn, sweet black beans. Vegan!

Sauce: Vegan Korilla mild & smokey favorite made with silken tofu. VEGAN!!!

All options come with your choice of sticky rice, or a blend of sticky, black and brown rice, which is what I chose for my burrito.

They handed it to me all perfectly wrapped up with a smile and I couldn't wait to eat it.

I brought it home and heated it up in the oven so the burrito even got a little crisp on the outside. Then, with anticipation, I sliced it in half to prepare to eat and... womp womp.

The cross section looked like I'd taken a time machine to the early nineties where wraps filled with unseasoned tofu, greens, and rice were the vegan option du jour. I promise you, I took a bunch of pics and none were any better, so I'm using the one with 89 because at least she's interesting to look at.

I have to say, I just don't get it. Korilla obviously went to the the trouble to include vegan (not vegetarian!) options across the board, but nothing had any taste. After the first bland bite, I specifically ate some of each of the ingredients separately. None had any flavor- let alone any spice, aside from natural flavor. Along with the seemingly unseasoned tofu, the kale tasted like it was sauteed without even salt & pepper; the corn tasted naturally fresh and sweet; the black beans just tasted like black beans. As for the vegan Korilla sauce? I don't know know where it could have gone to, but if it absorbed into any of the other ingredients in its travels, I certainly didn't see or taste it.

Aside from Hangawi, Franchia, and Cinnamon Snail's Korean BBQ seitan, I'm not overly familiar with Korean food, but surely it must be more flavorful than this? I'm grateful for the plentiful vegan options at Korilla, but I'm hoping they can kick this up quite a few notches for future vegan menu choices; if I have to slather your food in pedestrian sriracha, it really isn't cutting it.