Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

…these are a few of my favorite things!

December 23, 2010

Dishes 215-218: Sea bass at Fish, 17th and Lombard

Chicken Vindaloo at New Delhi, 40th and Chestnut

Tofu Aphrodite at Caffe Galleria, Lamberville

Sweet Potato Casserole at Marsha Brown, New Hope

The best part about black tie season is the perpetual sensation of being in a James Bond movie. (And better yet if you are sitting opposite Bond, no?) There is such excess and romance of going to a local BYO for a bite before an event in full attire. So there we are, sitting across from one another in sumptuous burgundy velvet seats, abstract kitchen images lit from behind by spotlights in the background, and perfect slivers of fish sitting center stage. I can’t imagine anything better…

sexy lighting

…until two nights later, standing in the kitchen around a white Styrofoam takeout container loaded with chana masala, dal, and naan. “The trick I found,” I said, mouth full, “to getting the most of the takeout buffet, is to put down a moderate layer of rice, to keep the liquids from spilling. Then load up on the dal and chana masala. Then stuff as much naan as you can in the upper section of the container.” Tim laughed. “Molly and I are still trying to find out if Olive Garden will let us do take out of the never ending soup, salad, and breadsticks. I’d bring a garbage bag and fill it up with lettuce.”…

…Lettuce was hardly the only item available on the vegan-friendly menu at Caffe Galleria, “where the unapologetic carnivore and the dedicated vegan dine together, happily”. I had the Tofu Aphrodite, three thick slabs of breaded tofu baked until crisp and smothered in garlicky vegetables. The tofu was prepared with care and expertise—however, I stuffed myself to the brim with the rich, flavorful veggies on the side. Oops.

Gustav’s friend Sandy showed him, me, and Tracy through the best vintage shops in Lambertville, where we found a delicious Tiffany blue v-neck dress to wear for our Mad Men party the same evening. After working up a bit of a lather, we walked the bridge to New Hope and to Marsha Brown.

Caleb Lentchner of Marsha Brown treated us to the sweet potato casserole, a side dish that could comfortably make a home on the dessert menu- but why? It’s such a scrumptious surprise where it is. Afterwards, we enjoyed a tour of the premises, dominated –of course—by the massive mural in the dining room, an arched painting of several lions and men in combat. My favorite painting has to be the inside of the elevator shaft, which depicts—you guessed it—heaven, on the upper floors, and the descent into hell, with cherubs guiding you all the while.

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Juicy Redemption- Blueberry Mango Pie Recipe

May 31, 2010

Hi friends!

In light of the catastrophic attempt to make green vegan mac ‘n’ cheese earlier in the day (Note to self: putting avocados, spinach, nutritional yeast, and broth in a blender does not make cheese.), I sought redemption through pie. Juicy, delicious redemption.

There was no sugar in the pantry, so I ad-libbed a little:

Crust (modified from Quick ‘n’ Easy Pie Crust from the original Joy of Cooking)

2 c. flour

½ t. salt

1 t. baking powder

¾ c. butter

¼ c. ice water

Mix dry ingredients. Cube the butter into the dry mix. Break down the pieces until it makes crumbs. Add as little water as possible to stick it all together. Pat into a disc and allow to hang out in the fridge while you set up everything else.

Filling (Just use whatever you have that’s oozing ripeness.)

A pound of blueberries

A mango

Half a can of sweetened condensed milk (or sugar)

Cinnamon

Splash of water so everything goes together

Splash of vanilla

Pinch of salt (NOT. OPTIONAL.)

Set oven to 400* F. Then mix all these together until they taste good to you, and you’re in business.

Roll the crust out, cut a circle for the pie pan and lay it in. Bake about 15 minutes, until light golden brown. Pour in all the good filling, and do whatever you want with the remaining crust. Mine was a little dry so I made crumbs. Sometimes a lattice is nice. Whatever you do, make sure that there is some type of hole or air valve to allow the filling to bubble. Bake this for about 30 minutes, give or take, until the top crust looks nice and golden.

Punch and Pie!

Now you have a pie! You can eat it now, or let it cool and pair it with coffee tomorrow morning, or use it to entice people to attend an event you are holding, if you serve it with punch. Enjoy!

Maybe We Shouldn’t Try So Hard to Broaden Our Horizons

May 30, 2010

Dish 93: Jamaican BBQ Seitan at Horizons, 7th between South and Bainbridge, http://www.horizonsphiladelphia.com

Dani, Gustav, and I had dinner last night on the skylit second floor of Horizons. Lifelong vegetarian, recent dietary vegetarian, and conflicted omnivore, respectively, we were all eager to broaden our Horizons.

Dani motions emphatically describing the yin nature of the downstairs seating area.

Gustav contemplates the yang atmosphere induced by skylights.

Seitan is a chewy, semi-fibrous wheat product that comes about as close to meat in taste and texture as any vegan product can. But we were left asking ourselves why? Dietary vegetarians and vegans may disregard this postulate, but to those who feel that eating animals is immoral- then is it not also immoral to attempt to mimic the flavor and texture? On a less fundamentalist note, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of wheat products tastier than seitan. (Same goes for tofu and tofurkey.) Why not just use a tasty wheat or tofu product? I would eat grilled tofu slathered in Horizons BBQ sauce. I would probably also eat pasta slathered in BBQ sauce. Or eggplant.

Ooooooooooooo

We all agreed that –whether Dani’s Vietnamese tacos made with tempeh or the grilled seitan Gustav tried—the protein aspect of the dishes tended to be sauce- and spice- centric, instead of food-centric; whereas the outstanding sides—the jicama slaw with the BBQ seitan, the garlicky spinach with the grilled seitan, or the robust yet fresh corn chowder—all allowed the vegetables to take center stage. The kitchen still seemed to think in a traditionally American omnivoric way, that a dish is meat with sauce, carbohydrate, vegetable; rather than in a holistic way, taking the best available protein, carbohydrate, and veggie options and putting them together in harmony with spice.

Swimming in an ocean of fresh corn chowder.

While the food was good and the conversation was easy, there was a sense that the meal was trying too hard. And maybe it should just relax, stop worrying so much about what Philly may think, and cook more like vegans cook.

Special Report: Innocent Celebratory Lunch leads to Existential Crisis

May 26, 2010

Dish 91: Octopus at LaCroix, 210 West Rittenhouse Square, http://www.lacroixrestaurant.com

Octopus is an upsettingly tasty food that I can barely bring myself to eat. Most other types of meat barely resemble the animal from which they came, which makes it easier to compartmentalize. Think of sliced deli ham. It does not oink or snort, or snuffle in any cute fashion. Or a hanger steak, does not moo, nor is it furry. But octopus, is simply octopus, skin and suckers and all. It seems so barbaric to me, straight out of Arabian Nights, to cut off another’s limbs and eat them for dinner. Or lunch. At LaCroix. I just picture a man with a machete, heartlessly hacking at a sea creature made defenseless by its removal from the ocean. Octopi can hold their own in the water; some even have venom with the same toxin as the fugu fish. But on land, what can it do? Would you ever kick a man if he was down? We don’t need meat to live. So why kill?

I apologize. Certain foods get to me. I’m not against eating meat; I am against me eating meat. The given of my argument is that evolution exists. Suppose that certain animals have the right to eat meat—carnivores. Omnivores. I argue that if one animal needs meat to survive and thrive, and can overpower another animal in combat, that one predator has the right to eat the meat, and perhaps his immediate beneficiaries—cubs, girlfriends, baby daddies, etc. Depending on whim, I occasionally expand this combat to include simple tools like a bow and arrow, a rock, basic traps and nets, but never guns. Unless you plan on giving a deer a gun, you shouldn’t be shooting at it. Back to the point. I cannot kill an animal. Not only would I be completely incapable of trapping a squirrel or a bunny or something, I could not end its life. So, therefore,  I do not deserve to eat meat. I cannot earn it. I do it for the blog—but I  think Mr. Jeffers might soon find himself with a new eight-armed assignment.

LaCroix is amazing. What else is new?

On the topic of tasty but unsettling foods, the octopus from LaCroix was incredible. The menu claims to serve it with coconut and lime (coconut and lime? That sounds like the exquisite coconut and kaffir lime chocolates from Antoine Amrani. Haven’t tried them yet? Get moving!!), except when it arrives, there are no coconuts or visible limes! The smoky octopus is served with tiny gelee cubes of a blandish sweet lean, and sprinkled with what appears to be parmesan. In fact, the “parmesan” is a sticky white powder, like confectionary sugar, but its salty and sesame-y. Strange but interesting. And given the perfectly orchestrated and executed service, I can’t wait for my next visit. When I will order something a little more mainstream.

Antoine Amrani: http://www.antoineamrani.com

How to Find Your Bromeo- Let Go.

April 15, 2010

Dish 64: Cochinita Pibil, Las Bugambilias, 148 South Street, http://lasbugambiliasphilly.com/

Chemistry was one of my favorite subjects in high school—we used to find any reason we could to run flame tests—remember those? Where you soak a wood strip in solution and then spark it alight to determine the mystery chemical in the solution? The sparks, the fluorescent colors—tiny fireworks, right in your hands…

I am continually in pursuit of this spark; architectural brilliance, gastronomic perfection, deep friendship, clothing that re-imagines the bounds of fashion—people, places, things, and ideas that exercise our full range of taste, touch, happiness, sadness—and because one only feels emotion to the fullest extent that one has felt the contradictory emotion, pure hedonism is self-defeating. One must embrace sadness and anger in order to more fully enjoy happiness and contentment.

Dani and I intended to go to Horizons the other night; we thought we had double checked that it was open Mondays, but we were mistaken. After consulting The List, we opted for Las Bugambilias and minutes later found ourselves in the enveloping familial dining room that recalls the warm squishy hug of a beloved chubby aunt. (Editor’s Note: None of my aunts are chubby. This is a theoretical situation.)

We mixed and matched the little heaps on our plates- rice, beans, chopped salad adorned with pickled onion, plantain, pulled pork, to varied results— a smear of beans with a scoop of rice was mundane, but a bite of plantain with a smidge of pulled pork was explosive—the smoke of the meat! The creaminess of the fruit! The light sweet and the heavy sweet, the molasses… it was Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun—hot, heavy, hold-your-breath drama, culminating in the satisfying, “I’ll be your wingman anytime.”

Gastronomic Diagram of Bromance between Kilmer and Cruise in Top Gun

Why is it that my heart races and my breath stops when Iceman turns from his locker to criticize, to offer condolences, to embrace Maverick into his life—but when Maverick and Charlie profess their love to one another, I am left cold?

Iceman and Maverick possess that elusive ember, that strange conviction that binds friends and enemies through fights and ennui, the intrinsic knowledge that we belong together; the flame instinctively recognizable to all humans that makes life worth living and cinema worth watching.

Think of how frequently we are entirely surprised when the spark unveils its tormenting, tumultuous, glorious self. There is no pattern between the sparks in my life, save for an intelligence and depth in my cohort (save for Demon Bunny, who admittedly possesses only the intelligence of his German engineers), and a complete submission to life’s waves and troughs at that moment. It follows no rules and knows no bounds.

I wonder if the casting directors knew what was occurring when they cast Val Kilmer across from Tom Cruise in Top Gun—I like to think the heat was undeniable to all in attendance, but that could be the bromantic in me. Perhaps the directors were simply trying to have dinner on South Street, and ran into Val when the restaurant they chose had closed for the night.

Going Home: A Journey of Laundry and La Bouche

April 7, 2010

Dish 58: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, Ristorante San Marco, Ambler, http://sanmarcopa.com/

Dish 59: Wedge Salad, Bridget’s Steakhouse, Ambler, http://www.bridgetssteak.com/

Dish 60: Penne Arrabiata, Café Lombardi’s, Horsham, http://cafelombardis.com/

Thursday, March 31, 2010

10:30 am

I look hopelessly across the expanse of wool and cotton piled on my bedroom floor. A month of dirty laundry. A winter of ugly sweaters, wool reindeer, cashmere bunnies, and polyester neon squiggles. A day of gifts for Dad’s birthday. Graphic novels for Kelly. A stuffed cow for Amy. A pirate hat. Three trips worth, down three stories, out to the car, and back up again. I turn to La Bouche for assistance.

10:32 am

Two minutes of “Be My Lover” has reignited my will to live. <http://www.lala.com/#search/be%20my%20lover&gt;

11:42 am

Giant heap has transformed into four plastic bags, one laundry bag, and two duffel bags. They refuse to carry themselves out to Demon Bunny. Ungrateful beasts.

12:15 pm

One trip out to the car has exhausted my boundless stores of energy and I collapse into a kitchen chair, desolate. There’s no way that I can load the car and still make it to Ambler and Horsham in time to pick up dishes from Ristorante San Marco, Bridget’s, and Café Lombardi’s before they close for the afternoon. I text Mom an apology for my failures as a daughter. The New Jersey contingent will have to wait until they visit to partake in my mission.

12:23 pm

A surprise email from Brian ends my pity party. Clearly Michael Buble has it much worse if he is being stalked by a velociraptor. <http://bubleraptor.tumblr.com/&gt; I check MapQuest again, run the numbers. We can do this. We can DO THIS.

The Plan. And my Grocery List.

12:45 pm

Demon Bunny is loaded and filling up with delicious 91 octane. I call the restaurants.

Demon Bunny Packed to the Gills

1:30 pm

Ristorante San Marco.

San Marco-- gorgeous interior, filled with intricate wood carvings and the Venetian red and gold symbol of St. Mark

1:45 pm

Bridget’s Steakhouse.

2:00 pm

Café Lombardi’s.

Cafe Lombardi's-- Yes, equally underwhelming in person. But very tasty.

4:45 pm

Home Sweet Home! Hugs and kisses for Madre and Padre, pat on the head for Indy, bear hug/emphatic chest bump for Brian. We toss the pastas in the oven to heat.

Chow time- Introducing: Dad's torso!

5:15 pm

Family gathers for collective chow down. The Tagliatelle alla Bolognese from San Marco is a hit among the men of the family for it’s “homestyle” “soul-comforting” “MEATINESS”, while Mom raves about Café Lombardi’s Penne Arrabiata because it reminds her of the villa where we stayed in Tuscany a decade ago. “Remember the olives they gave us?” “No, Mom.” “Oh, they gave us these olives when we first arrived, and they were salty and smoky, and I can see them when I taste the penne. I miss it there. We should go back. But the salad—I don’t get it. Is it the dressing that makes it special?” Was it! I think I’ll be driving back to Ambler just to get more of that chunky, blue-cheesey, thick, sticky… oh… that dressing!

5:45 pm

“So… what now?”

5:50 pm

“Mom, Dad, Tracy is coming over!” “Good, Dad’s making brownies!” It’s good to be home.

Tracy with characteristic albeit faux brownie-induced joy; at this moment, she has 54 hours of a vegan Lent left.

New Hotspot: Hanging out with Mom & Dad

March 6, 2010

Indy & fresh-pressed Demon Bunny with his winter tires

Chilling with Mom & Dad, (undisclosed location in North Jersey), <http://www.loqiii.wordpress.com&gt;

Busy weekend so far, keeping up with Mom and Dad. Yesterday Mom and I embarked on her goal to walk the entire length of Fifth Avenue; we started at 60th and walked down to 30th, with a quick pit stop at Connolly’s, on 47th between 5th and Madison (three other locations as well, http://www.connollyspubandrestaurant.com/dev/), and at Dylan’s Candy Bar, on 60th and 3rd (http://www.dylanscandybar.com/). We always go to Connolly’s on St. Patrick’s Day amidst the revelers (Brian at 13 years old: “Mom, there were guys peeing in the sink!”). We had the lobster clam chowder, a creamy, addictive interpretation that brings to mind a fine tomato basil soup, and the smoked salmon potato pancakes, which piled the salmon generously on some deep fried heaps of mashed potato. Delicious. We couldn’t resist braving the throngs of preschoolers to fight for some green M&M’s at Dylan’s after dinner.

Today, Dad and I took on the filthy Demon Bunny and brought it back to life; we clayed the car, then he polished and I followed with Black Magic wax. Six man-hours of labor later, DB was restored to its former glory, and we discussed strategic modifications to keep it in top shape for the upcoming autocross season without bumping ourselves into the next more competitive class.

Meanwhile, Mom and Indy took on the recipe for vegan Mac N Cheese that Kate sent me earlier in the week; an inventive take on the traditional dish that successfully re-creates the unholy yellow tinge of Kraft’s classic, vegan Mac combines vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, and turmeric with a box of macaroni with mixed results. We plan to re-attempt the recipe in the near future, with the addition of avocado, for creaminess that might better mimic cheese, garlic, for taste, and peas, to break up the monotony of fluorescent noodles.

I tried to give Indy a bath earlier in the day, but his scabs from surgery are still a little too fresh. He is off the hook for now, and is currently out cold at my feet, from all the excitement of the day. In about a half hour, I will be in the same boat; whoever said Boomers were starting to slow down was clearly mistaken.

Spring Break at PSU: Vegans Are Apparently Not Crackpot Fools

February 28, 2010

It’s a little thing, but one of the reasons I love visiting Penn State is that it is like stepping in a four year time machine. It’s me and Tracy and her friends and sometimes our girl friends from high school, depending on the visit. And everyone I meet calls me Loqi, just like it used to be.

Tracy is carnivorous. Correction, Tracy WAS carnivorous. She is a regular at Herwig’s, “where bacon is an herb”. She can eat a rack of lamb. By herself. Tracy was so carnivorous that when we made a secret society for our friends in high school, we named it Mu Epsilon Alpha Tau. MEAT.

Tracy went vegan the Wednesday before last. She wanted to get her ducks in a line and iron the indulgent collegiate wrinkles out of her J. Crew sweatervests. She read Skinny Bitch and discovered the meat eating, chemical laden error of her ways. She went to what Pete calls the “nuts and berries store”, bought a whole new pantry and started over.

I have read bits of Skinny Bitch before and had written it off as extremist propaganda on the scale of Glenn Beck. I expected to find Tracy holed up in her apartment, shivering, rocking back and forth, twitching and mumbling about meat products. But she is fine, and very happy! So I decided not to be an ass and ask her to come with me to Herwig’s; instead, she has been preparing vegan delights for us, and the challenge of eradicating meat, dairy, and chemicals from her life has only made Tracy a better and more determined chef.

When I arrived, she had a plate of hot pecan and raisin muffins waiting, where the eggs had been replaced with a powder substitute, the milk with soy milk, and the white sugar with a more natural brown cane alternative. The muted sweetness of the muffin was elevated by the raisins and the nuts seemed so rich. Yesterday we had a quesadilla of epic proportions when we got back from the gym (Oh, you thought college students visit PSU to DRINK?), and I liked the spicy chili and the chunks of avocado much better than chewy meat and sour cream.

This morning I read Skinny Bitch and it appears that I had judged it (her?) too soon. Vegans aren’t crazy hippies. Well, yes, they are. But they’re on to something. I think I’ll be making some modifications to my own pantry, and when this two hundred and thirty nine dish mission is complete, I may iron the indulgent wrinkles out of my own J. Crew sweatervest.