Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flavor of the Minute, aka Five Current Faves!

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While raindrops on roses & whiskers on kittens aren't too shabby, they're not currently on my list of my favorite things. Instead I'm enjoying everything from food to friends & thought I would share what I'm crushing on at the moment; maybe you'll find a new love as well!

In my VegFest post, I mentioned a super fun sampler pack of spreads from Artisana. I tried all 11 flavors & boy, do we have a winner! Goji Bliss is SO good, I've been eating it with a spoon! A little bit goes a long way as this coconut butter flanked with everyone's favorite superfood Goji Berries, is rich & creamy. I can't wait to try baking or making frosting with it, but I'm perfectly happy eating it on toast, so it may disappear before I have a chance!

Halloween is here! I hope you're all dressing up & planning to share photos! I'm having a potluck, of course, & the place I sent my guests for ideas is Wing It Vegan, home of "Halloweegan" & the best posts on festive & cute food for the big day! Someone needs to make Mashed Potato Ghosts & Spookitty Heads for me, pronto!

I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with Amanda from Walking the Vegan Line. It's not our first time meeting, but I always enjoy meeting up with fellow vegans & bloggers from all corners of the earth. We tried to grab pizza at a new spot, but ended up having an Ethiopian feast, husbands in tow, while we chatted for hours. She also ordered some mini cupcakes with red frosting for a company event from Sugar Beat Sweets. How cool is that?!

While it might seem quite obvious, I am obsessed with my puppy, Strummer. Well, she is currently obsessed with a new toy given to her by the always awesome Laura B. It's a big orange skull & yes, it's larger than her! Check out the video to prove it. The cats received new toys as well & it looks like it's a love fest; here's Beamish & Scurvy.

Finally, TRAVEL! We all know I love to travel & bring you the vegan goods in cities far & wide. Well, I'm at it again. New York City & I have a serious love affair & after landing an insane bargain on airfare (another favorite thing of mine), I will be biting in to the Big Apple from November 15th through the 19th. I'm ready to chow down, like you can see I did last time! Anyone want to join me at Lulu's Sweet Apothecary for sundaes?

These are just some of the items on my radar & I'll be sure to share more in the future. What are some of your favorite things right now?

Monday, October 20, 2008

World Vegetarian Day & VBC Picnic Edition!

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This year was the 9th annual World Vegetarian Day in San Francisco & Sugar Beat Sweets was lucky enough to have a table selling vegan treats to the veg masses! While the focus of my booth was cupcakes (I made over 1,000 in 8 varieties) , I also decided to do some special treats which included cinnamon rolls, brownies in both chocolate & peanut butter swirl, & of course, the infamous candy corn from the recipe I shared last year.

As I'm sure you can guess, making 1,000+ cupcakes takes a bit of time, so I did 2 days of baking for the 2 day festival & also had to fill the orders for my regular customers! It was quite the undertaking, but luckily I had Mel from veglicious helping me on both a day of baking & a day of the festival. She also took the photos you see here, as I was busy slingin' sweets!

VegFest is always a great place to see old friends & make new ones; Amey from Vegan Eats & Treats, Laura & Meave of Vegansaurus, Megan of The Sisters Vegan, & Erin from Vegan Homemade are just some of the bloggers I was able to chat with! Also seen over the weekend, Colleen Patrick Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks, who had a booth next to mine, many of the Farm Sanctuary family who were repeat customers, chef Jesse Miner, who brought us goodies from his heirloom beans demo & of course, the crew at VegNews, who wrote a bit about us on their blog. I talked to so many awesome people, I know I am missing some here! By the way, SFoodie, the blog of the SF Weekly, did a piece on Sugar Beat Sweets, including a video. Check it out!

So, what else was there? Awesome speakers including John Robbins & Howard Lyman, food demos by everyone from Sarah Kramer to Antonio Magana, entertainment from musicians, belly dancers, & a vegan acrobat, plus free food samples! Coconut Bliss, Sheese, & Artisana were some of my favorite treats & I picked up an fabulous sampler with 11 flavors of Premier Organics spreads. Mmm, Goji Bliss!

VegFest was a fun & rewarding experience, I can't wait to do it again next year! Just don't ask me to bake 1,000 cupcakes until then. I'll have a booth at the upcoming Bazaar Bizarre, but the production scale should be much smaller.

On a beautiful sunny September day, the VBC convened for another brunch cartel. This time we opted for Dolores Park & an open invitation for all to join us, which didn't disappoint! Many new faces showed up & the food was outstanding! Best food ever? Maybe. I made a coleslaw & a Southern Style Banana Pudding with Vanilla cookies to stand in for Nilla Wafers; it turned out pretty darned good! Vanilla beans flanked the smooth, yet fluffy pudding mixture, while layers of bananas & cookies added texture.

Some of the other dishes we enjoyed were avocado potato salad, chickpea curry, tempeh sausages with roasted red pepper sauce, brownies, pasta salad, homemade beer brats with sauerkraut, & freshly baked rolls with cinnamon butter! Needless to say, it was quite the feast & I always look forward to future brunches.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chicago, the Sugar Shack; part two.

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You would think by reading part one of my Chicago adventure, I might have exhausted all the vegan options in the Windy City, but I'm happy to say there were many more eating adventures, including dessert, of course!

Despite being full of cupcakes from both The Bleeding Heart Bakery & Sweet Cakes Bakery, Natalie & I were not done with our sweets tour! We had a rest after our rainy day at Renegade & then we were off to Blind Faith Cafe & Bakery in Evanston, home of "innovative vegetarian cuisine" & a large selection of vegan treats. I started with a wonderful Lemon Seitan dish, my first non-baked good of the day, & it really hit the spot. For dessert, I ordered an assortment of desserts for the table to split. Once again, they were refrigerated, so my order was placed in advance. We noshed on a tasty maple spice cake with cream cheese frosting, a firm, but tasty cappuccino brownie filled with walnuts, peanut butter chocolate cake with lovely frosting, & both a chocolate & a vanilla cupcake. The cakes were all on the dry side & the frostings on the cupcakes were far too sweet for me, but Blind Faith had a nice dessert assortment, many of the items were very tasty, & I would go there again.

The next day, Natalie & I set out to bake together. With two bitches who love to bake in one house, how could anything go wrong? Well, let me tell you, it can & it did. Not once, but TWICE. The great vegan cinnamon roll experiment = FAIL. The yeast never activated, yet we kept going & ended up with half baked lumps of dough, that I still tried to eat. Natalie documented our failure best & even includes the recipe. (Side note: It's a great recipe I have used with success!)

Post baking failure, I headed out in to the rain to meet up with Kelly of Vegan Cookies fame. Let me start by saying, she's young, motivated, & writing an awesome cookie book; make her Snickerdoodles now! We met up at Pick Me Up Cafe where I had a cup of chili to balance out the sugar intake & Kelly had vegan cheese fries. Photogenic? No. Tasty? Yes. After a bit of wandering around & a photoshoot by Kelly (she took the photo at top), we walked multiple miles in the rain back towards Renegade Craft Fair, where we shopped around a bit before she had to catch a train home.

For dinner, I headed over to Earwax Cafe, the spot with a not-so-appetizing name, but a nice vegan selection. I got a Jamaican Jerk Seitan salad & sadly, it was so spicy, it was hard to enjoy. Luckily, the most amazing milkshake ever was there to keep me happy! Freshly squeezed orange juice + Temptation ice cream = OMG, so good! Seriously, skip the other flavors (I almost went peanut butter, but it was hydrogenated) & get this! I still dream about it!

Monday was my final day in the windy city & I decided to check out Karyn's Cooked for my final meal. Let's just say, I should have listened to what others had to say. I ordered Thai skewers in peanut sauce & a trio of sides which included Southern greens, cole slaw, & potato wedges. Unfortunately, the portions were small & most everything was bland & uninspiring, although with a hefty dose of salt, the greens were quite nice. For dessert, I ordered a slice of tiramisu cake, which was, of course, refrigerated. Coming in at $7, this was a pretty generous slice & probably best shared between two people. The cake was hearty & wheaty, almost like a coffee flavored bread with a creamy coffee frosting that was not very sweet. I found myself taking bite after bite, trying to figure out this cake, but I can safely say I wouldn't order it again.

So, where was the best dessert in Chicago? I think I may have found it in the kitchen of Natalie Slater of Bake & Destroy; enter the Chai-cago cupcake! This lovely spiced confection with sweet & festive Bears themed frosting made my tastebuds dance. I've heard it's a bit heard to get a reservation at the Slater household, but luckily you can check out BeBoBa for Bake & Destroy sweets. Overall, I thought Chicago was a great city with fabulous people! I'd love to go back sometime when the weather isn't such a downer & explore some more!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chicago, the Sugar Shack; part one.

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On a whim, I booked a trip to Chicago recently. I always like to explore new cities & Chicago has long been on my list of places to see. Not only do they have a selection of vegan options, they also have the awesome Natalie from Bake & Destroy & the posse at Chicago Soydairy! When contemplating dates, I noticed an upcoming listing for Renegade Craft Fair. How could I resist?

The trip started Thursday afternoon, when I flew in to town & caught the El to my friend Joy's house to stay with her & her dog, Rosetta Cheese. After a bit of rest, Joy & I headed over to Handlebar to meet up with Joel & Meave who also happened to be in town from San Francisco. Handlebar is a pescatarian bar & grill frequented by bicyclist & has a menu with a selection of vegan options. The Buffalo 'Chicken' wrap & seitan Tortellini were ordered among the table & despite the lacking amount of buffalo & ranch sauces in my wrap, all satisfied with our selections. Joel opted for mini apricot hand pies for dessert, which I was lucky enough to get a nibble of; they tasted like jelly filled donuts!

The next day I headed out in to the rain to the Chicago Diner, famous veg dining spot since 1983. Between suggestions from Steven, my dining companion & some online research, I chose "The Radical Reuben" & boy, was it a good choice! The combination of the grilled seitan, sauerkraut, & thousand island dressing was wonderful & I've been trying to recreate it at home ever since. I also had "Stuffed Potato Skins" with melty Teese all over them! Of course, I had to try the baked goods, since the diner has quite the selection of vegan cakes, cheesecakes, & other treats. The first thing I noticed was the cakes were refrigerated. As someone who's not a fan of cold cake, I asked them to pull my selections out of the case before my meal, so they could come back to room temperature. I insisted Steven split the Cocoa Mousse cake & the Cookies & Cream cake with me & luckily they were almost at room temperature when we were ready for them. The cakes have a hearty, wholesome taste to them, likely due to the wheat flour used. Unfortunately, the refrigeration had got to them a bit, so they were on the drier side, but I enjoyed all the different frostings & wondered how they made the nice whipped cream-like frosting. Rumor has it, the weekend specials are the best treats to try, so I'll be sure to check those out next time!

Later that night, Steven & his friends had a potluck! You know I love a good potluck, so I was thrilled to be invited. The Chicago crew knows how to do it up & I was stuffed with tons of amazing food including "Isa Pizza", mini cucumber sandwiches, roasted potatoes, Teesey bread, & more. Much like myself, everyone loves to make dessert, so the sweets spread was phenomenal! Apple pie, Mint Devil dogs, Zucchini muffins, homemade Caramels, & 3 awesome types of Temptation ice cream filled my plate! I think I surprised everyone with the amount of dessert I consumed, but I may have shocked them even more when I couldn't resist going back for another round of ice cream; Lemon Verbena & Blueberry Temptation?! I mean, c'mon, amazing!

On Saturday, the gruesome twosome, aka Natalie & myself, embarked on a sugary tour of Chicago, that would make even the sweetest tooth cry. Chicago decided to hate on me by pouring down rain, but we were determined to get sugared up & started off at The Bleeding Heart Bakery! The Bleeding Heart Bakery may be the coolest pastry shop I have ever laid eyes on. I felt like I was walking in to my dream bakery, from the brightly colored kitsch to the cupcake tables. After browsing around & meeting Michelle, we settled on 2 organic, vegan cupcakes; Chocolate peanut butter & Chocolate vanilla. The cases here are kept at room temperature, thankfully, & while the moisture of the two cakes was inconsistent, the chocolate peanut butter was downright lovely! If nothing else, it's worth a visit to see the amazing shop, but I say grab yourself a treat. I only wish I had made it to Chaos Theory Cakes as well since it's the home of unique flavors.

Next, we braved the rain again & headed to Renegade Craft Fair where we got soaked, I spent a bunch of money at Circa Ceramics, & I ordered a custom bag from Made by Hank. Who I am kidding? I bought a lot more than that, for I am a sucker for cute. For the rundown of awesomeness, check out Natalie's guide to Renegade which includes a ton of links to businesses & is far better than I could scare up.

Tired of the rain & ready for sugar shock, round 2, we headed to Sweet Cakes Bakery. While they don't advertise as being a vegan destination, the owner is actually vegan herself, so many of the cakes are as well, despite not being labeled as such. Luckily, her father runs the counter & can tell you what is vegan. Being the end of the day, the case was a bit bare, but we each had mini Mint Chip & Orange Vanilla cupcakes & I ordered a small Peach pie. Once again, the case was refrigerated, so the cupcakes were a bit dried out, but the orange had some nice flavor to it. Outside Sweet Cakes, Natalie & I had some fun in the courtyard taking pictures with the odd stacks of trucks & giant horse statue. I hope the owner will make use of the patio in the future, it was a great space!

Jittery & ready to be out of the rain, we headed back to Natalie's house. You may be surprised to find out, we headed to yet another vegan baked goods spot, but I'll be saving that until next time!

By the way, many of you asked for tips on the taquito making from my previous post. One of our chefs that night, Mark, was cool enough to post 10 taquito making tips on his blog, so you can get your fry on!
Also, for those of you in the San Francisco area or those who are planning to come visit, check out for an often hilarious guide to eats & treats in the Bay Area!