Sometimes you just want to spend the entire day in the kitchen and the entire night in the dining room eating and giggling with friends. It was time for a Winter Dins vegan victuals dinner party.
For starters, “Deviled” Polenta Yukon Golds.
Rye, Kale & Eggplant Dressing with toasted Pepitas
Fennel, Apple & Herb Salad with toasted Pistachios and Horseradish
Harissa & Maple-Roasted Root Vegetables
Spinach-stuffed Rolled Seitan Steaks
Winter’s delights on a plate.
My “White Elephant” gift and my vodka & pineapple
I whipped up adorable meringue mushrooms to garnish the Bûche de Noël.
The Bûche de Noël in the making.
And the finished dessert!
And a gluten free chocolate mousse for the intolerant Max.
Not that I need another reason to eat an all-vegan apple-themed dinner by an aspiring chef, but my birthday is here again. And a Monday night dinner with some dear, old friends is just what I needed to start celebrating. But it was Da’Ves Lee Malone, the sweet and delightfully timid chef of Sprouting Dreams, who was special lady of the evening. We were lucky enough to be part of her very first Pop-up dinner, hosted at Brooklyn’s V-Spot. The 4-course meal was all about apples.
Course 1: Mini sweet peppers stuffed with soy sausage and diced Apples along with a carrot bacon-wrapped apple bite. Tender, delicious bites. A dance of sweet and savory on a pepper dance floor. I wanted at least 5 more of these bites.
Course 2: Apple Forest Salad, radicchio salad with thinly sliced apples, shiitake bacon dressed in a walnut vinaigrette. A chef’s weight can be measured in how they craft a salad. Da’Ves made a mean one, each bite had something wonderful to offer.
Course 3: Seared Seitan Steak with bourbon-poached apples and caramelized onions over a bourbon apple cider reduction along with roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. This was my favorite course. Seitan basked in this umptious reduction, moistened yet sturdy. Poached apples and caramelized onions balanced texture and sweetness. Then roasted veggies became sponges to clean surface area of plate.
Course 4: Apple Fritters with caramel cream cheese and candied pecans. Apple infused each bite of these fritters. It was like a battered a deep-fried apple cake, I think? Cashew-based caramel cream cheese was extraordinary. Bravo, Chef Da’Ves!
After a particularly gluttonous summer so far, I needed to take it down a few notches with a grain-free cleanse–2 days of raw food and juice. I also wanted to take this opportunity to try out some products that I’ve had on my radar in the grocery store, as a new year of work calls for hearty and healthful sustenance. Here is everything I ate today.
My Raw Cleanse, Day 1 (left to right):
Raw Revolution Spirulina Dream bar
tsp. organic apple cider vinegar
blk. mineral water
Organic green seedless grapes
Organic Bartlett pear
Organic raw cocoa goji bar
Brad’s Raw Chips: Cheddar with organic kale and raw pepitas hummus
Health-Ade raw kombucha
Organic banana pie (see below)
BluePrint Beet, Apple, Carrot, Lemon, Ginger juice
Organic Mission figs
tsp. organic apple cider vinegar
With my high-speed blender revved up, I made a raw kale hummus and a banana dessert to appease my appetite. The crust of the organic banana pie: raw cashew, an organic raw cocoa goji bar, and organic coconut oil. The banana filling: 2 organic bananas (speckled), raw cashews and agave nectar (The agave nectar was the only non-raw ingredient I ate today.)
I also made the raw kale and pepitas hummus. Day 1, in the bag. I feel great but am craving the pretzel sticks in the pantry a great deal.
I woke up to the sound of Green Frogs calling me out through the forest and to the Bay with their rubber band snaps. And other morning sounds-a cacophony of sorts. Morning is so loud. Luckily, there was deep, dark coffee to sip as I walked down the trail. I kinda wanted that coffee commercial first cup.
I met the Blue Hill Bay at low tide. So everything was covered in thick yellow seaweed, empty and spongey like the veins of a giant sea creature.
There were several siren perches that’d fit the bill for my hope of a coffee commercial first cup. But ecstatic gnats and flies all wished to enter my eyelids. What do they do that for?
I saw plenty of funghi. I don’t know anything about wild mushrooms, except that it excites me to see ’em!
I took the trail back up the the Institute’s grounds, walking through the tremendous fields of wild flowers.
And they all smiled for pictures. It was a glorious way to start the day.
After a productive morning, we had a delicious vegan lunch. Now, I had half-expected uninspired offerings similar to the options available in town. But IHE practices what it preaches–by way of all-vegan. And because they know that this may be a participant’s first sampling of vegan food, they go all out–much to the enjoyment of long-term vegans like myself. For lunch–a lentil walnut apple loaf with a delicious sweet glaze on top, a heaping spoonful of mashed potatoes…
A stellar salad with a scrumptious orange shallot vinaigrette and delicious vanilla-glazed anise cookies. In a word: Wow.
Dinners are on our own. Declining the invite to the steel drum band playing in town, I headed, instead, to Acadia National Park. But only after a quick and perfunctory dinner at Gringo’s, a burrito joint off the downtown Bar Harbor waterfront tourist spot that can put tofu in the burritos and knows things like whether or not their beans have lard. Good enough for me!
I headed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, the highest point on the Atlantic coast, to watch the sun fade to the east in that pink trail that never photographs well. There were a ton of site-seers waiting for the big show. I love that.
Goodnight, Maine. You’re beautiful.
I always giggle at myself for enjoying my weekend bagel the way I do. I really feel a sense of loss at its last bite. It’s simple perfection. An everything bagel, of course. Then toasted to activate all those seeds’ flavors. A layer of Earth Balance. And a layer of Bonne Maman preserves (today, Cherry). Every side of my tongue is happy. Especially when it finds the lone caraway seed, aaaah. The bagel, best done on Long Island, is to be savored. More so because I am heading west tomorrow. Where bagels suck.
Spring is finally in the backyard–in the form of noisy, enthusiastic birds and a clan of happy-faced daffodils.
The gang’s all here. What’d we miss?
For lunch on this glorious spring day, we headed to Seasons 52 in Garden City, a higher end restaurant chain dedicated to seasonal cuisine. It has a weekly changing specials menu, hence the 52, and it has a separate vegan menu.
I had the Vegetarian Tasting: a quinoa-citrus salad with greens and cranberry bits, a soft taco piled with a variety of seasonal vegetables, two chunks of cedar-roasted tofu [cedar serving tray included], and another pile of blanched veggies. It was fresh and flavorful but lacked a bit of cohesion. I guess it was a tasting plate after all.
We also got sides of potato wedges and a Fiji apple slaw (below).
Then we headed to the local TCBY chain to try their Silk chocolate almond soft serve! I was very psyched about this vegan option which, the friendly employee informed me, rotates. Vanilla had just been replaced with this chocolate almond… and coconut was up next. Kinda excited about that!
I soft served it up and added some of their fruit and nut toppings. They have a whole lot of toppings that are mostly un-vegan.
It was real yummy. Creamy, not ice-y-ish, so you know there are some good and weird stabilizers. I was proud of my creation. Then I ate it all. And loosened my Swatch.
Sometimes–in the world of restaurants–a lone “vegan option” beats an “all-vegan” menu. But would this be true of bakeries too? On a bright Saturday afternoon, a friend and I accumulated research on this query, visiting 6 omnivorous bakeries in the isle of Manhattan in the name of deliciousness and gluttony.
Our first stop was thee best stop: Sprinkles. Sprinkles’ claim to fame is being the first cupcake bakery ever. Now they are a franchise with 15 shops in 7 states (and 1 District o’ Columbia), including seven in their native California. The founder is also the judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, or was at least. So Manhattan has a Sprinkles on Lexington ave with a well-publicized Cupcake ATM that’s open 24 hours. And on a spring Saturday, the shop and ATM was swarmed with tourists. Maybe when they open their ice cream and cookie shop, crowds can divvy up to less annoying levels.
What’s fantastic about Sprinkles is that they offer a lone vegan option that is up to their high standard, and adorned with an adorable scarlet letter: V. V for, well, you know. The vegan option is a moist and balanced red velvet that is… ahem… likely the best vegan cupcake I’ve ever eaten. (And I’ve eaten a ton..) A well-deserved and bold statement… a challenge almost. The cake was perfect. The frosting was perfect. Not cheap-tasting, not overly sweet. Just go and try it in a city near you.
Stop 2 was a little bit of a stray on the cupcake theme: Baked by Butterfield. Baked is an off-shoot of high-end specialty food institution Butterfield Market, a New York City grocer since 1915. Baked’s specialty is doughnuts and they make a regular vegan option–the apple cider doughnut. But coming from Sprinkles, I couldn’t bring myself to buy the bare bones doughnut. I opted instead for another vegan offering–a banana chocolate chip muffin, by-passing their Brooklyn-born delivered treats from Clementine Bakery. This is, after-all, a Manhattan vegan option crawl. It was dense, like the muffin it was, and needed a bit more banana.
Option 3 brought us to the East Village. Tu-Lu’s Gluten-free Bakery has a daily vegan option. Today it was blonde on blonde, a light gluten-free golden cake with great flavor topped with a whipped vanilla cream. Tu-Lu’s cupcakes are always so delicate and beautiful. It is a great vegan option that allows you to daintily demonstrate restraint. Which I wasn’t exhibiting this particular day since it was a part of a procession of cupcakes.
Option 4 was Jennifer’s Way, another safe haven in the East Village for food allergy sufferers. Jennifer’s vegan and non-vegan offerings are made from quality ingredients, as evident by the darling vanilla beans on top their devil’s food cake. The cake was yummy and moist, but that frosting is the real star. Jennifer’s treats are the basics done right. I’d love to see more decadent offerings at Jennifer’s Way. (And a lower minimum on credit cards [$25?!] and a less snarly counter person…)
Option 5 was another tourist spot: Molly’s Cupcakes. Sure they have swings at the counters for lucky patrons who manage to nab them… and a ton of creative, decadent and deliciously decorated cupcake options… as well as basic vegan options–chocolate or vanilla cake with chocolate or vanilla frosting. I opted for my favorite combo: vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. I was delighted that the frosting was thick and fudgey, like the nostalgic kind, and not a light chocolate buttercream. The cake was really good, too. Just a bit soft. But I surely appreciate the option!
Option 6, Georgetown Cupcake, was a bust as no vegan options remained after a busy day of foot traffic in SoHo. But my friend got herself a Key Lime cupcake. And I went to try their vegan option a few weeks ago, which is pictured again below. The cake, an apple cinnamon, was very impressive and worth another mention. I guess the bakeries with multiple locations are doing something right, even in their vegan options. Maybe they’re increase their daily vegan options if vegan cupcakers like me continue to ask for them.
Options I missed:
Every now and again you need to use what you already have–make some movement in the refrigerator. My crisper drawer runneth over. It is not permanent storage. So for my week’s lunch, I’d use it all. It would be brunch for lunch. What better an idea to use leftover veggies and fruits. I started with a hash: diced potato (finished the bag!), diced turnip which I had been avoiding having never “worked with” before, diced leftover roasted carrot from my lunch last week, and the rest of the celery that I had with my Superbowl tempeh “wings.”
The hash was so good, as anything potato-related is. On the right, some marinated tempeh cubes. One day I will measure ingredients when I make my marinade; this one was so good. I hope it wasn’t because of the oozy squeeze of light corn syrup, which I needed for my Valentine sugar cookies, that I added, knowing that this item would be taking up pantry space for a while. I’d rather believe it was the final remnants of organic brown rice syrup I added. More turnover points for that jar!
I love tempeh. It wasn’t always that way. Now I prefer it to tofu. Further back, roasted turnip wedges. After some time in high temps, bathed in salt and olive oil, the turnip was roasted to a creamy state. They were dreamy.
Next up, the fruit. I had leftover pineapple The Electrician picked up for me when I was sick. Then there was the new container of organic berries that was on sale and I couldn’t pass up. I made a compote for the sweet part of my brunch lunch: pancakes!
Then I made the pancakes–flax pancakes with 1) the dried apple ring compote I baked up the Valentine tart with (see interesting history here), 2) the speckled banana ripening away, and 3) almond. 3 different versions of flapjacks that I’d mix and match.
It is going to be an easy week! Turnover points: 10!
In one of those wonderful random gifts to the vegan world, Rutherford, New Jersey’s Rutherford Pancake House serves vegan breakfast options.
They had me at “Vegan Challah” French Toast. I devoured the plate of moist halves of scrumptious French toast thinking, “Is this really vegan?” I get vegan paranoia sometimes… When I’m served an accompaniment of butter with a vegan dish and I’m charged the price of regular French Toast and not the $1 more vegan item, my mind goes reeling. But I’d know; my body would know. It’s vegan.
They also vegan pancakes, including weekend specials like vegan red velvet pancakes. They’ve got a tofu scramble and a couple of other Daiya-ed items. When a “regular” place like this has more than one vegan options, the vegan angels of mainstreaming get their wings. I need to make up a word for vegan-friendly omni eateries like this. They give me quite the thrill.
When one is in Rutherford, a stop at the all-vegan Sweet Avenue Bake Shop is in order. But of course!
And with plans with friends later in the day, I knew I had an excuse to buy most of Friday’s specialty cupcakes, and a gluten-free cupcake for my gluten-intolerant buddy. Clockwise: their Sexy Sadie (red velvet with cream cheese frosting), S’mores, their Boston Cream (vanilla cake with bavarian cream filling), and the Caramel Brûlée. Packaged separately was the gluten-free Red Velvet.
I also grabbed 3 cake poppers. The cake inside was real soft and dough like. That middle one was divine–it was the cookie dough cake popper.
My favorite though–the one topped with marshmallow cream: the S’mores–deep, dark chocolate cake with a top hat of marshmallow cream, a drizzle of ganache and a wedge of graham cracker.
I’m a little ashamed of heading to another cupcakery in New York City immediately after Sweet Avenue. I headed to Soho’s Georgetown Cupcake for their daily vegan option. Georgetown Cupcake was opened by ex-fashionistas in DC several years back (during what I call the Cupcake Boom) and they’ve had a lot of success… hence the storefront in SoHo.
It was standing room only. The 4 tables were filled with folks long since finished eating now watching their phones together. They probably wouldn’t even have noticed if I sat with them. I ate my vegan Apple Cinnamon with cream cheese frosting watching the ridiculousness.
Finally, a savory sandwich at Bombay Sandwich Co. Friends and I met at the newish counter spot for ex-Smorgasburg vendor. I had been meaning to check them out since then… but the prospect of the throngs of Williamsburg-ers was always a deterrent. This bright, quiet location in the Garment District is much better. I had the Pesto Perfect–smashed spaghetti squash with arugula, sliced tomato and their homemade Kale & Walnut Pesto on ciabatta. Very flavorful and with a great kick of heat.
Ok, that’s all I ate today. I’m a total glutton. Dear blog, look what I do for you!
Gorgeous apples of all shapes and sizes. Speckled uniquely, with underbellies, striated skin–a plane of antioxidants and fiber. Fruit–how glorious.
My first bunch would be a batch of scratchmade apple sauce. Simple and easy–but perfect.
Applesauce, to the left, and sweetened yam to the right. Autumn favorites.
In the theme of autumn brown, I made tamarind-glazed tofu in the broiler. My chuck of tamarind dearly needs a turnover. I will deal with this come VV’s Pantry Turnover month (January).
Broiling is my new favorite cooking method for tofu.
Apple use number 2! Quick apple parfaits with coconut whip. Unfortunately the “whip” was more like a milkshake. It was still absolutely delicious. Lunch for the week is squared away. Now, gratuitous apple recipes commence!
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