Friday, November 30, 2007

Dining Vegan in New York City!

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New York City has a plethora of Vegan options, from quick food to fine dining there’s never a shortage of options for herbivores. I made my dining wish list before I headed to town deciding to treat myself to all ends of the spectrum.

To review all of my many dining experiences would not only be time consuming, but far too lengthy to read. I managed to check out Blossom, S’nice, Candle 79, Candle Café, Franchia, Pure Food & Wine, NY Dosas, Viva Herbal, B&H Vegetarian, Caravan of Dreams, & that doesn’t even include quick stops for falafel & pizza or dessert spots like Babycakes & Atlas Café!

It seems the most useful information would be the places of note, so here are my selections for the notable vegan dining of NYC! Please excuse the photos, as dimly lit dining rooms seem to be de rigueur in the Big Apple.

Candle 79 is a beautiful restaurant on the Upper East Side, a neighborhood I wouldn’t normally spend time in, but it was well worth the trek uptown! In fact, I enjoyed it so much; I dined here twice, opting to treat a friend I was staying with, as I wanted her to experience the loveliness! First of all, the Seitan Chimichurri is amazing & must be tasted to be believed! Within the first few bites you’ll marvel at the "meatiness" & enjoy the citrus herb marinade that adorns it; Ryan took one bite & was concerned we weren't in a vegan restaurant after all. The Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant is a wonderful combination of flavors & textures, it's creamy, yet flanked with tomato sauce, & topped with crispy shiitake mushrooms. The Black Pepper & Balsamic Seitan is similar to what you’d find in a "meat & potatoes" omni restaurant, but much more refined; seitan atop a celeriac puree with a side of haricots verts & mushrooms. It was well presented, flavorful, & although not the most creative dish I’ve had, it was enjoyed thoroughly. An entrée special we had was a Dijon Lentil Stew with Collared Greens, it was topped with Kabocha Pumpkin wrapped in thinly sliced Yukon Gold Potatoes & shredded apples with a Pomegranate sauce. We marveled at the flavors & enjoyed the use of vegetables versus relying on a meat analog. Finally, the Pumpkin Seed & Sage Crusted Tempeh was wonderful & made its way to my dinner table both trips! Delicately spiced & delicious, the accompanying Garlic Quinoa Risotto with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, & Broccoli was creamy & we seemed to be fighting over the last few bites! Sadly, I found the desserts here to be lacking. The ice creams are nice, but nothing to marvel over. I would skip the dessert & revel in the fabulousness of your meal!
Candle 79: 154 East 79th Street at Lexington, NYC.

Franchia is an oasis in the chaos of midtown serving tea & Korean food. I was lucky enough to have the companionship of the lovely VKO from Lifestyles of the Chic & Vegan while dining here & we opted to share, maximizing the dishes we could experience. We started with the Combination pancakes; the Scallion pancake was a bit glutenous & while it was my least favorite, it was still enjoyed, the better options were the Corn & Cilantro pancake and Spicy Kimchi pancake, both of which were great! NYC must be on a Kabocha Pumpkin kick, as they had a dish utilizing it on the menu & it drew me in. The pumpkin was lovely & accompanied by fried tofu topped with a tasty sesame soy sauce and a side of Kimchi. The Spicy Kimchi fried rice on Lotus leaf was also enjoyed. Can you tell we wanted all things Kimchi?! Yum yum!
Franchia: 12 Park Avenue between 34th & 35th Street, NYC.

Pure Food & Wine is a raw foodist’s dream! My dining companions were both non-veg & have culinary training. Due to their appreciation for food, we decided to go all out & had the 5 course tasting menu. At the tasting, everything is chef’s choice & each member of the table is given different menu items, as to maximize your dining experience. We shared everything & tried so many dishes, it’s hard to review them all, but many were noteworthy! The Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps with Tamarind Chile sauce are a fresh & flavorful starter. The Biriyani topped with Coconut Curried vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, & cucumbers in a saffron oil and the Chanterelle Mushroom and Kalamata Olive Ravioli were both beautiful second course selections. The entree of choice by all parties was the White Corn Tamale with Cacao Mole sauce, mushrooms, salsa verde, & avocado! We had a hard time sharing this dish & I would definitely order this in the future.
The desserts at Pure Food & Wine are outstanding! Stephanie, a former pastry chef, marveled at the 3 desserts we tasted, even noting she enjoyed the use of chocolate, something which is not normally her first choice. Vanilla Pink Peppercorn ice cream was paired with Chocolate Molten Lava cake, Mint ice cream was layered with a center of Raw Cookie Dough to form a cake slice, then drizzled in chocolate. Once again there was a stand out dish in the Classic Sundae; vanilla & chocolate ice cream with cherry framboise, chocolate sauce, bananas, and candied almonds! All in all, I love this format for raw food, it’s fresh, creative, memorable, & not drowning in new age gimmick.
Pure Food & Wine: 54 Irving Place at East 17th Street, NYC.

Not everything has to be fine dining, S’nice is a cozy little spot in the West Village with sandwiches, salads, baked goods, & a coffee bar. It's a great place to bring your laptop, sip coffee, & grab a bite to eat! Although not my taste, Ryan enjoyed his Smoked Tempeh Wrap with spicy chipotle dressing. I had a Black Bean, Corn, & Quinoa salad; which at first glance, I was not thrilled with, due to multiple items I dislike flanking the top, but once I dug in, I was more than happy! The avocado dressing turned out to be fabulous & is still stuck in my mind, which is surprising, as it's not something I'd normally select. Rumor has it, I missed out by not having the Tofu Panini, but there’s always a next time! In a future post, I'll review the house made vegan cupcakes S'nice carries along with other desserts I consumed on my trip.
S'nice: 45 8th Avenue between Jane and Horatio, NYC.

Other casual options I enjoyed were NY Dosas, as I noted in, “Do you know the Dosa Man?”, Mamoun’s Falafel on St. Marks for filling late night fare & the pizza from Viva Herbal. I thought I should have pizza, being in NYC & all, but one place I'd tried was nothing to write home about. Luckily, the suggestion of Viva Herbal was made by multiple friends & it paid off! I had the delicious Santa Rosa slice, a thin whole wheat crust topped with Miso Tofu, Sun dried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Garlic cloves, & mushrooms. They also have multiple other veggie loaded slices on both spelt and whole wheat crusts. They claim to offer non-dairy cheese, but buyer beware, it contains casein- ick! Luckily, their shredded miso tofu resembles cheese, tastes quite good, & does the job, so there's no need for dairy derived additions!
Viva Herbal: 179 2nd Avenue between 11th & 12th Street, NYC.

Thankfully, nothing I consumed on my trip was horrendous, although I would recommend you give Caravan of Dreams and their soggy tempeh a pass. Additionally, I think Candle 79 is worth the $5 - $10 more per plate versus Candle Café, the dishes are far more creative & they don’t utilize any casein cheese like the café does.

Bottom line, if you're looking for a fun city to visit with vegan options galore, look no further, NYC is a vegan mecca!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cookie Mania & an important cause!

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This post is lacking recipes & I'm lacking motivation to wade through New York photos & food notes, but one thing it's definitely not lacking is COOKIES!

I've never considered myself a cookie person. Sure, cookies are tasty & as a child I consumed them in mass quantities, but these days if I'm going to be naughty, I tend to go all out & reach for decadent cakes. I've been recipe testing for Kelly & Garrick who have an upcoming cookie cookbook & with all the cookies hanging out around the house, the tide may be changing!

I love how quickly a batch of cookies can be thrown together, not to mention, they're portable, easy to share, & people love them! Ryan has been taking various desserts to work & the cookies never last long. I think there's a nostalgic feeling people get from biting into a homemade cookie; hooray, you're a kid again! Cookies are versatile as well, a decorated sugar cookie is a canvas for so many options, it's insane!

Some of the cookies I've made so far are Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes, Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins or Chocolate Chips, Amazingly Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, Snickerdoodles, & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip! These have all been tester recipes, but I've been checking out various cookbooks for other options, especially with the holidays coming up. Let's face it; the holidays are meant for cookies!

So, what's my favorite cookie? Right now it's SNICKERDOODLES! I thought I'd be all about chocolate, but the cinnamon sugary soft & chewy 'doodle has a hold on me. The recipe from Kelly & Garrick's book is phenomenal & will be a staple in my house hold for years to come!


On a serious note, I'm currently volunteering for Californians for Humane Farms. Better conditions are needed for the farm animals that provide to our nation, they should be able to lie down, turn around freely, stand, & fully extend their limbs with ease in their enclosures, which is not currently the case.
The Humane Society, Farm Sanctuary, & many SPCA chapters are working together to move this initiative to the ballot for next year. We have to gather 650,000 signatures from California registered voters! If you're registered to vote in California, I urge you to sign the petition, consider circulating a petition in your area, post about this on your blog or myspace, & do whatever you can to help these animals. Please visit to learn more about this exciting ballot initiative for farm animals!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Do you know the Dosa Man?

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I’m back from New York City with a plethora of information to share! While it may take me awhile to sort through all the photos, collect my thoughts, & catch up on blogs & comments, I thought I’d start with a post about NY Dosas!

In Washington Square Park on West 4th Street & Sullivan, there’s a man who sells delicious dosas & other South Indian goodies, cooked to order, all from a curbside quick food cart. This is not quick food though, these are dishes made with care, kindness, & a smile from the generous Thiru, owner & chef of NY Dosas. Best of all, it’s all Vegan! It thrills the hell out of me to see a street cart selling Vegan dishes to the public & there was no shortage of people enjoying them!

On my first visit, I had the most popular selection; the Special Pondicherry, a rice & lentil crepe filled with vegetables & spiced potatoes. The first thing I noted was the freshness of the vegetables, lightly cooked & crispy in the delicious crepe. A coconut chutney & spicy sambar accompany the dosa, all for only $6! In addition to dosas, a small selection of lunch specials, veggie uthappam, and quick bites such as samosas, veggie roti, lentil donuts, and veggie drumsticks are available.

I decided to make NY Dosas my final meal before heading home from my trip. I left my selection to Thiru this time & was not disappointed! He loaded my container with a dosa, uppthapam, a portion of the idly meal, AND a veggie drumstick in addition to the standard sides! I was in shock, very, very full & toting leftovers.

I look forward to next time I’m in NYC, a trip (or three) to NY Dosas is definitely in order! Go support the “vegan dosa cart guy” & enjoy some fun & fresh food!

By the way, in response to NaNoWriMo, a Vegan Month of Food project has been formed called VeganMoFo! While I lack time to participate, there's a lot of great entries being churned out by the many vegan bloggers out there. I'm not sure if there is a complete listing of participant, but check out this listing from Isa & find a new favorite recipe or blog!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

October Celebrations, a trip to Seattle, & delicious Peanut Butter Caramel!

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Oh Fall! I’m not sure I’m ready for you, but here you are! It’s odd, in San Francisco the temperature seems to rise in October giving us 70 degree days, then they drop off to the consistent 55 degrees we’ll see for the next few months. I’m in New York City right now & it’s definitely Fall. We started with some rain & now the temperature has dropped to the mid-40s. I would almost say the heated subways feel good!

Another installation of the brunch cartel occurred awhile back & once again there was no shortage of amazing food! I utilized the apples I picked & made an apple crumble with a toasted hazelnut topping. I made sure to include all the varieties, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, & Fuji. The crumble was great & with the toasted hazelnuts, I was very happy with the outcome! In fact, I wish I had some right now for this cool fall day! I also used the apples to make a vinegar-based slaw with apples cut into matchsticks, plus cabbage & other vegetables. The rest of the crew spoiled us with Vegan McMuffins, Pumpkin Waffles, a Frittata, Home Fries, Biscuits & Gravy, Blueberry Mousse, & Poha, an Indian puffed rice snack. Needless to say, my plate & belly were quite full!

Ryan & I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary at the beginning of October. We kicked off the celebration with a night at Millennium Restaurant for the Aphrodisiac Dinner, which was fabulous! We shared a butterscotch pecan tartlette that seriously rocked my world. On our anniversary, Ryan had to take a business trip, but he was able to get home late that night, so I made a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, inspired by Bazu. For dessert, I made Isa’s Smlove Pie, a rich bittersweet chocolate pie, layered with peanut butter caramel, candied pecans, & drizzled with chocolate. While we loved the whole thing, the peanut butter caramel was the stand out in the dish! It was excellent on the pie, but would also be excellent on ice cream or anything you’d use a caramel sauce for. Additionally, it’s easy to make & you should do so, right away.

Peanut Butter Caramel
1/3 cup peanut butter at room temperature, preferably natural.
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup

Add all of the ingredients to a small sauce pan.

Gently heat everything over low heat, stirring constantly, just smooth & heated through.

The consistency should be somewhat thick, but fluid & will fall from a fork in ribbons. If it's too stiff, turn the heat off & add a bit more brown rice syrup. Different peanut butters have different moisture content, so adjust accordingly.

As I mentioned, we loved the peanut butter caramel & men love peanut butter, so I used it in birthday cupcakes for Ryan’s brother. I’m always trying to think of new cupcake combinations & settled on rich chocolate cupcakes filled with peanut butter caramel & topped with chocolate ganache! They turned out quite well & were quickly devoured by all I offered them to.

That being said, I’m a perfectionist with my baked goods, so I’m still trying to find my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I think I’m quite close, but I’d love suggestions from others as to their favorites. I’m looking for something with deep chocolate flavor, but not too dense in texture, even a bit fluffy. So far, the cocoa based cakes I’ve made & sampled have been a bit bland, but maybe I haven’t had the right recipe. Bring on the recommendations, please!

October also brought on a job in Seattle, a great Vegan friendly city. I made sure to squeeze in some extra time there, so I could eat my way across town. I went to my favorite spot, Sidecar for Pigs Peace to pick up some groceries for workdays. I also went to Carmelita, Araya Thai, & seriously enjoyed a snickerdoodle cookie at Cinnamon Works in Pike Place Market. I was thrilled to see I had food options, even when the crew stopped at Bainbridge Island on the way to Olympic National Park, although Elise & I were content with lovin' on some broccoli!
Of course, no trip to Seattle is complete without going to donut mecca, Mighty O! I couldn’t resist the many types, so I bought a large assortment & brought them home to enjoy in bed with Ryan on a cold Saturday morning. Does it get any better than that?!

Well, I’m back to my insane food fest in NYC. I’ve sampled goods all over town & I’m preparing to bring you the low down on the best eats & treats of NYC in a future post. Until then..