Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Food & Friends in Los Angeles + the Veggie Pride Parade.

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

When I found out the Veggie Pride Parade was happening in Los Angeles, I thought it would be a fun time & a great excuse to see friends & eat my way through the area. Car loaded up & ready to go, Strummer & I headed South to see what was in store for us!

Having lived in San Luis Obispo years ago, I always stop there when I have the chance. While SLO has plenty of vegan dining options, my favorite treat is from Sweet Earth Chocolates, who I've mentioned before & found out about from Amey at Vegan Eats & Treats. As usual, I had to stop by Splash Cafe & pick up an assortment of vegan chocolates, especially the Turtles & vegan caramels!

I started my Los Angeles dining adventure in the Silverlake area, at a vegan raw food restaurant, Cru. While many of the options were tempting, I went with the Mezze Platter, a plate with creamy cucumber tzatzizki, a fabulous beet and apple salad, fig pate, cashew cheese, flax crackers & garlicky rubbed kale. I certainly appreciate the work at goes in to raw food, but not quite enough of the items on my plate wowed me to justify the $13 price tag. That being said, I have heard fabulous things about their desserts & would consider going back to try them!

The next day, I set out for brunch at M Cafe on Melrose. Traffic seemed to have another idea, I slipped in the door just before 11:30am & was able to order the Vegan Benedict! Luckily, I had a great group of gals dining with me, Adriana from Anarchy in the Garden, QuarryGirl, JennShaggy, & Britt from Sick of Lettuce who made me forget all about the traffic. The Vegan Benedict was delicious with a grilled whole-grain baguette topped with steamed kale, tomato, tempeh bacon & a hollandaise sauce. I also had Broccolini Pepperoncini & the Kale with Spicy Peanut Sauce, a dish I have heard about many times from people & it lived up to the hype! M Cafe has an impressive display of desserts, so I opted for the Lemon Tart, which looked just lovely. The tart was sweetened with maple syrup, which was pretty much all I could taste, which was a disappointment when you're expecting lemon. I hope next time I'll be able to try the Banana Millefeuille, which they did not have when I was there, but I have heard is wonderful.

Since I don't get to Los Angeles as often as I'd like, I thought I would organize a little get together to meet up with as many vegans as I could wrangle. It's not easy to find a restaurant large enough to house a group with decent parking, but Vegan Village Cafe fit the bill, as the space happens to be a dance club in the evenings! Quite a few people turned up, including the brains behind Could It Be Seitan?, C'est La Vegan, QuarryGirl, Hugger Food, Afsoon's Posties, plus friends from The PPK forums & Twitter. Vegan Village Cafe serves up soul food & house made cakes, & the staff was friendly & totally accommodating to our needs. I opted for a plate with all my favorites; black eyed peas, collard greens, yams, buttered corn, & cornbread. After stuffing myself with food, I managed to sneak bites of other's people's desserts & found the cakes were moist, fluffy, & unlike other cakes I've had! I especially enjoyed the pineapple cake, which I suspect had some help from a can of pineapple juice.

Speaking of C'est La Vegan, Kim was find enough to bring samples of some of her treats for everyone to try at lunch! I managed to take some back to where I was staying as well, so I could savor each bite. I enjoyed the mini cookies in Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, & Oatmeal Cranberry, the size was super fun to pop in to your mouth. While not normally a biscotti fan, I was pleasantly surprised by the Chocolate Almond & Pistachio Anise Seed, toothsome & flavorful, they were delicious! My favorite was the brownie, deep chocolate flavor & fudginess made this a winner! If you find yourself in LA, check out C'est La V Bake Shop goodies at Locali & local farmers markets.

I love a good brunch, so I headed to Flore Cafe's all you can eat offering on Sunday morning with a few friends. The $10 price tag was certainly worthwhile, as I loaded up my plate with fabulous french toast, waffles, mexican inspired tofu scramble, potatoes, veggie sausages & fresh fruit! I wish we would have something like this in San Francisco, although I hardly need to be eating at buffets weekly! Don't miss this delicious option for brunch with a rotating menu!

After brunch, the next stop was the Veggie Pride Parade in Venice, a celebration of the veg lifestyle & a 5k parade around town. Strummer & I had a great time making new friends, hanging out with familiar faces, being interviewed by VegSource (Strummer is at 2:45 & I'm interviewed at 8:30), & exploring the food & clothing booths including C'est La V Bake Shop! I must admit, the event was a bit cheesy, & I couldn't help but giggle at the people in random neon animal costumes many from the Supreme Master Ching Hai posse (note the rabbit looking nauseous & various other costumed folk), but overall it was a fun day & hopefully the press was effective to inform people about veganism.

For dinner, I headed to Hugo's Restaurant in West Hollywood with friends, including Alex & Kristen who happened to be visiting from San Francisco as well. I opted for the sweet corn tamales, instead of the soyrizo tamales which normally come with the entree, plus a side of flavorful mixed vegetables & kale. While a bit pricey, the dish hit the spot for me. Unfortunately, my dining companions were less than impressed with Hugo's. In the future, I think I'll stick to Hugo's Tacos, home of tasty taquitos, loved by Strummer, Ryan, & myself!

For my final Los Angeles meal, I made the trek to the valley to try the food at Follow Your Heart Market & Cafe, makers of Vegenaise, salad dressings, & O.G. vegan cheese. Never one to pass on a milkshake, a banana & peanut butter shake was promptly delivered to the table & devoured! At the suggestion of To Live and Eat in LA, I opted for the Reuben, which I split with Afsoon. I'm not a fan of Caraway Seed, so we opted for wheat bread, which worked in our favor because we were given two sandwiches for the price of one! Even after splitting things, my plate was filled with the sandwich of Seitan slices, Sauerkraut, Cottage Style Tofu, Thousand Island Dressing, Mustard & Vegenaise plus a side of Dill Pickle & baked fries. My sandwich was a bit overdone, but I still enjoyed the tangy filling & was happy to eat that when the bread proved to be too much. Unfortunately, the cake we ordered was downright disappointing & despite being ordered for 3 people to split, it went mainly uneaten.

Los Angeles is a crazy wonderland of vegan dining! I'm always amazed by the abundant options & they seem to gain more all the time. If you find yourself in LA, I promise you will not go hungry!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brassica Supper Club; New Vegan Dining in San Francisco

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

Recently, a new vegan dining option popped up in San Francisco called Brassica Supperclub. Brassica is not your typical restaurant though, as it only serves on select Friday & Saturday nights, at a secret location that's disclosed once you make reservations. Brassica offers a 4 course meal for $35, which includes a salad, soup, entree, & dessert. The chefs are likely best known for their time at the short lived Usual Suspects Cafe, but they have also worked in the kitchens of Millennium & Cafe Gratitude, so you know they have serious skills. I happened to attend the very first night of this exclusive dinner & thought I should report on my findings.

The meal started with a salad of Baby Lacinato Kale, topped with Orange Supremes, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Avocado, Pickled Onions, & a tangy Orange Vinaigrette. While I worried kale would make for a bitter salad, this was not the case at all! I even found myself enjoying the pickled onions, which is something you won't hear often from me, as I'm not a big onion fan.

Next was the soup, a White Bean Puree. It contained pieces of roasted Turnips & Parsnips, plus it was drizzled with a Ramp Gremolata. The Gremolata added quite the kick to the mellow bean puree & the texture of the veggies were a great addition!

Already starting to fill up, I had to make room for the entree! Berbere spiced Teff Cakes sat atop Fava-Garlic Mash & were paired with a side of Sautéed Bordeaux Spinach & Smoked Tofu with a New Carrot - Chile Sauce. The teff cakes were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with a bit of spice, while a bit plain on their own, they were elevated to delicious with the amazing New Carrot-Chile sauce. The Carrot-Chile sauce was definitely the talk of the table, we all loved it. The Fava Garlic mash had a great zing to it & the Spinach & Smoked Tofu were a nice compliment to everything.

As if the previous three courses weren't filling enough, another course was on its way, this time of the sweet persuasion! Two layers of Vanilla Cake were filled with Tangerine Mousse & topped with Chocolate Ganache & Macadamia Cream, in a Citrus Jus. The spongy cake & decadent ganache & macadamia cream were perfect with the zip from the citrus filling & sauce, plus the candied zest. A lovely finish to a lovely meal!

If you live in the San Francisco area, don't miss out on a Brassica Supperclub event! The next one is coming up on May 29th & 30th, the menu has been posted, & last I checked, tickets were still available for Saturday! Check it out!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cookin' with Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Dandies Vegan Marshmallows!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

Cooking with friends is always fun, so when myself & small group of friends received an email asking if we'd like to cook together, I jumped at the chance. Of course, there was another reason to jump at the chance, the email came from a friend who you may also know, one Isa Chandra Moskowitz of the upcoming Vegan Brunch & a host of other vegan cookbooks.

After a last minute change of plans, the dinner ended up being moved to my house & the emails started flying, brainstorming for menu items. A mention of Matzoh Ball Soup & the proximity to Passover generated a menu & a trip to Rainbow Grocery was in order! We all know I love Rainbow, I think I created another Rainbow lover in Isa, as we easily spent plenty of time perusing the aisles, oohing & aahing over beautiful produce, gorgeous mushrooms, & a million types of dried berries. My stowaway & typical shopping partner Strummer also joined us & Isa also took a great photo of her when she was too happy to stay in her bag!

With oodles of ingredients in tow, we made the trek back to my house & the meal preparation began. Red Bell Peppers were roasted & peeled, then added to hummus flecked with Kalamata Olives & served up with Pita Chips. We roasted Root Vegetables & served them over Arugula with tangy Inca Berries mixed in. The Trumpet Mushrooms we spied earlier were brought home & sauteed to be served with grilled Red Endive with Balsamic Vinegar & Walnuts. Jordan & I had our first lesson in Matzoh with both a Cauliflower Leek Kugel & Matzoh Ball Soup being made.

With so many projects being tackled for dinner, we wanted to keep dessert low-key. A package of Dandies Vegan Marshmallows, the new confections from Chicago Soy Dairy, at our fingertips, we dreamt up "Jewish S'mores"! These tasty treats consisted of pieces of Matzoh dipped in Chocolate, topped with Dandies, drizzled with more dark Chocolate, then finished with coarse flakes of Sea Salt! Simple & amazingly delicious! Needless to say, it was a wonderful meal that came together easily considering how last minute everything was. Read about Isa's account of the night at the PPK blog!

As I mentioned, I managed to get my hands on some Dandies Vegan Marshmallows! I'm sure you've heard the hype about these little guys & believe it, they're downright delicious! Marshmallows were a major love of mine before going vegan, so when I tried these air-puffed little gems, I was thrilled with find they're incredibly similar to the marshmallows I remember! It took all my strength not to keep popping them in my mouth & once I roasted them, OH MY, I was a goner.

The first thing I tackled when the Dandies arrived was a small batch of classic Rice Krispies Treats. I used the basic recipe from Kellogg's, veganized, with bulk brown rice cereal from my co-op. They turned out exactly like I remembered them being; gooey, sweet, & delicious! I can imagine these being turned in to so many treats, butterscotch chip filled, chocolate ganache topped, or even a crust for a crazy layered confection! I ended up having to hide the 2nd bag from myself, so I would have enough to make another dessert for the right occasion!

My grandfather recently celebrated a birthday & as usual, I was the designated dessert maker! Remembering his love for Rocky Road, I decided to use the last of the Dandies & make a big batch of Rocky Road Brownies. I doubled my basic recipe & the end result was uber rich, fudgy brownies filled with Chocolate Chips, toasted Walnuts, & Marshmallows! I made sure to put small pieces of Dandies on top, only to find they puffed up high & made awesome gooey bubbles! To serve them, we decided to top them with Vanilla Bean ice cream & drizzle them with Chocolate sauce for an insanely decadent dessert! Seriously, I thought I was going to have to be rolled home & Ryan found his belly aching after he went back for seconds. Over all, Dandies rock my world & I hope all of you can get your hands on them soon!

Well, I'll off to Chicago! I should be back next week & ready to go with a report on vegan dining in Los Angeles. As usual, if you have places you think I should check out or want to meet up, get in touch! While I'm away, check out Veggie Thing, the new place for major vegan food porn by Citysearch! I'm a "Dictator" there along with many awesome friends & bloggers!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dining with Delta, Candy Craziness, Donut Mania, & Testing for Terry Hope Romero!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

While dining in Europe was a dream, there are these little things called plane rides you have to take to get to your destination. In the 2 weeks I traveled, I was on 10 airplanes, which meant I was at the mercy of airplane food more than a few times. Of course, I pack my own snacks, as I know it's unlikely I'll be satisfied or even properly fed while in the air, but I thought you might like to see some of the food given to me. I flew Delta Airlines for all of the following meals & requested the "VGML" or Vegetarian, Non-Dairy meal.

Vegan airplane dinners seem to be pretty standard across the board; a grain of some sort, vegetables in some unidentifiable sauce, an iceberg lettuce salad, & a bread roll. Often you'll be given a "non-dairy margarine" on the side, which has never been vegan in the history of my flights. Delta did a fine job with dinner food, I appreciated the fruit salad one night, & the beans in my entree the next, but they failed when it came to breakfast. Special dietary meals are brought out before the others, so I was handed my breakfast of a pre-packaged croissant with non-vegan margarine, high fructose corn syrup jelly, an unripe banana & juice from concentrate before everyone else. I inquired about the non-dairy status of the croissant & the attendant said it should be vegan, to which I responded, "butter?" & the attendant revoked it's non-dairy status. The rest of the airplane was served the exact same meal & despite mine being labeled VGML, it was very obviously not. The next disappointment came in the form of a sandwich. I unwrapped the plastic wrapped torpedo only to find a thick layer of what could have been butter or "non-dairy margarine" with only tomato & limp lettuce. Vegan or not, no thank you!

So, why am I complaining about this when all airplane food tends to be bad? It's important that airlines know that when they mark something non-dairy, they are expected to provide something suitable for not only vegans, but people with allergies, people with religious affiliations, & others refraining from it. I make sure to write a letter to each & every airline that gives me something in a VGML meal that is not vegetarian non-dairy. I'm diligent enough to check the labels of food they give me, but how many people have trusted them & had milk solids in their salad dressing? What if someone was to get sick? I encourage everyone who runs across similar issues to contact the company, as it benefits everyone.

On a lighter note, Delta's in-flight snack is the best ever! They serve Biscoff cookies, aka Speculoos Caramelized Biscuits. I first found these biscuits in a market in Prague, then the mania swept the PPK & the Speculoos spread was discovered. I can confirm that the spread is crazy good, as a generous friend sent me some it's difficult not to sit & eat it with a spoon. I love these biscuits & I had no problem collecting the un-eaten ones from my fellow flight goers to savor throughout the journey!

I'm sure I've mentioned in my many posts about Europe that I love shopping for food! I went in vegan shops, bio markets, & everything in between in search of exciting treats & boy, was I successful! The photo you see is all the sweets I purchased over the two weeks & brought home. I gave some of it away, but for the most part, we've been eating it & most of it is gone! While Ryan's happily chowing down on gummy cola bottles, for me the highlights include Peppermint Ritter Sport (which are no longer vegan, watch out for butterfat!), Lemon Cream Manner bars, Gelee Bananen, Maple filled Stroopwafel & my absolute favorite, Sonnina Pfefferminz Taler! Seriously, if anyone can find the Sonnina brand, I NEED more of these York Peppermint Patty replicas & will make it worth your while!

Donut Mania is here! Have you noticed? Maybe you've caught the fever as well? It seems Donuts are the new Cupcakes & everywhere you turn a vegan donut company is popping up. I am certainly not one to complain about this trend, as I spent many days sitting on 50lb bags of flour in the back of a donut shop as a child. I've been lucky enough to try most of the options out there, but two remain my top contenders & I just happened to have both of them hand delivered to me in the past few weeks. As I stepped off the plane from Europe, Ryan was coming home from Las Vegas, home of Ronald's Donuts, aka the best vegan donuts on earth. Needless to say, he brought back a dozen of these perfectly raised, doughy gems & I was thrilled. It's hard to say which is my favorite, I do love a basic glazed, or a cinnamon bun, but the apple fritter is pretty stellar as well. These are certainly not health food, they're the corner shop Sunday morning donuts you remember from your childhood!

On the healthier side of donuts are my favorite cake donuts by Mighty O Donuts in Seattle. Once again, a business trip brought Ryan home with an assortment of donuts & there were no complaints here! Everything from French Toast to Nutty Chocolate to Cinnamon Sugar was at my fingertips, but my favorite is the good old Vanilla Cake Glazed, simple & delicious. Not only are these tasty morsels all vegan, they're organic too! If you're in Seattle, don't miss a stop in to their shop or if you have a friend visiting, do as I did & demand some donuts!

Despite all the sugary foods, I have been cooking as well. Shocker, right?! I'm a tester for a few cookbooks right now, which is always fun & keeps me from making the same 5 dishes over & over. Terry Hope Romero of Veganomicon & Vegan Cupcake Take Over the World fame is writing a Vegan Latina cookbook & it's already knocking my socks off! The most recent dish I made was the Chipotle Seitan & Potato Tacos. Terry's homemade seitan is marinated in a beer, lime, chipotle mixture, then grilled & piled in to soft corn tortillas with Roasted Potatoes, crunchy veggies, & topped with a Lime Yogurt Crema! I'm not a drinker, but the flavors of everything played so well together, I didn't even notice the beer. Ryan flipped for these! By the way, Terry & Isa have a new book coming out called Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, have you ordered it yet?

Next week, I'm headed out to Chicago to hang with my favorite Baker & Destroyer, plus partake in potluck & Dandies eating with the folks at Chicago Soy Dairy. Any recommendations on things I shouldn't miss are always welcome! I know new businesses have popped up since my last visit, so here's what I saw last time; Part 1 / Part 2. As always, if you're in the area & you want to meet up, just get in touch!