Currently viewing the tag: "kosher"

Like New York, Philadelphia’s vegan options are ever-evolving.

From the vegan mock meat Asian restaurants I visited decades ago when I briefly contemplated moving to Philly with a friend to all the brief day trips through the passing years, today’s highlights are a quick skimming off the mound of Philly vegan options to get to. Being barely less than 2 hours away, a quick trip is easy and does not require too much pressure or cramming. First, a stop The Market at Miss Rachel’s Pantry.IMG_8510

A fan of Rachel’s vintage aesthetic, her space is adorable firstly. IMG_8501

The case is stocked with some truly unique vegan finds. Golden beet “lox,” “whitefish” salad, housemade nut cheeses, knishes, cakes, quiche pies, etc. These, along with her Market dishes, are a new genre–southern down home Jewish deliIMG_8506

I had the Hummingbird Cake to start, which is one of those things I will always have to get if available. Trouble is, besides my own attempt, I’ve never seen it vegan! So it is wonderful to have this tall, beautiful slice staring at me. IMG_8487

Nutty, banana-y, spiced–Miss Rachel does a lovely Hummingbird Cake. Though it’s a bit of a southern thing, I am hoping more vegan bakeries will take the cake on!IMG_8490

Next was a grilled cheese on housemade challah bread… with the housemade cheese and tempeh bits. It was a glistening, oozy, salty piece of vegan goodness. But it maybe got a little too salty after repeated bites.IMG_8492

Other vegan challah breadmakers, Maywood Pancake House and Rutherford Pancake House, have also stayed with your standard slices rather than the traditional braided. I wonder if a vegan braided challah was ever attempted… Oh, Isa did it! And Blossom! [And this recipe from Earth Balance looks pretty darn good.]IMG_8494

The innards.IMG_8499

CP’s big ol’ bowl of Mac and Cheese. IMG_8502

Later, another meal. We headed to Front Street Cafe in the heavy gentri neighborhood of Fishtown. I had excitedly viewed the menu from afar and was really looking forward to a vegan Tofu Benedict, my brunch favorite. DSC_0118

I enjoyed this dish a great deal despite it being pretty cold upon arrival… despite it not being a Benny, but more a tofu scramble piled on thick bread. The mushroom-lentil scrapple was yummy, as were the bites with the bright, vegan Hollandaise. I guess the dish just needed much more of that sauce as textures were pretty dry. So yes, thin down that Hollandaise and douse all those other delicious ingredients. IMG_8617

Before heading out, a quick stop at Hip City Veg for a cupcake and a vegan Philly Cheesesteak to go (more on that later).IMG_8624

Though it isn’t really “urban exploration” if you pay an admission fee and grab a headphones set for an audio tour, Eastern State Penitentiary is great stop to explore and roam if you’re in the Philadelphia area. I’m going to tag this post under “urban exploration” anyway, by merit of the beautiful peeling paint.

Opened in 1829, it was radically different in its form and intent. Born of The Enlightenment, the Eastern State was the first “penitentiary,” a place where isolation, labor, along with the centrally heated individual cell–each with its own skylight and flush toilet–was thought to bring prisoners to penitence, regretting their wrongdoing. Though the exterior of the building seems Medieval and foreboding, inside it was a “forced monastery,” built to move prisoners to reflect on their actions and heal with the glory of the heavenly light streaming through the skylight. Though this model seemed a more humane approach then previous dealings with those who broke the law, I find agreement with Charles Dickens’s take on the system:

In its intention I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and meant for reformation; but I am persuaded that those who designed this system of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentleman who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are doing….I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye,… and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment in which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.

Read more of its rich history here.

At the forefront of modernity and progressive institutional architecture, inmates had running water in their cells in a time when President Andrew Jackson had no such thing in The White House.DSC_0030

It was left abandoned between 1971 and the mid-1980’s.DSC_0059

Saved from demolition and redevelopment in 1988, how wonderful the site exists to tell the rich history of these walls.DSC_0080

Tours began in 1994. Visitors needed to sign liability forms and wear hard hats.DSC_0089

Trivia: Philadelphia’s Dead Milkmen used the prison as a backdrop to their catchy single, Punk Rock Girl. Other filmings include a Tina Turner video, vegan-centric dystopian 12 Monkeys, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the one and only movie I’ve viewed at a drive-in, oddly enough.


Many of the original details were left as-is, like this mop station.IMG_8536


You can step into many cells for small, related exhibits. Though it is a crowded, tourist stop, there are opportunities for–isolation. IMG_8610

A gold leaf art exhibit in one of the cells. IMG_8569

Along with other notable prisoners, Al Capone had a cell here. This art installation shows the set-up of his cozy cell.IMG_8592

IMG_8608Though Eastern State Penitentiary is worth a trip for many reasons, nothing made more of an impact than the small guided tour of penitentiary Chaplain’s office and its amazing collection of 23 murals painted by reformed inmate Lester Smith. The collection depicts his spiritual reform. Though abused during the years of abandonment in the 70’s and 80’s, Lester Smith’s murals have been beautifully conserved, making a stop in the Chaplain’s office a must.

At the close of the short talk, one of our tour guides shared his moving story, which paralleled the reform of inmate Lester Smith. Incarcerated as a young man, art helped save him. “Curtis” offered an inspiring and hopeful end to a space that ached with the collective misfortune of the penitentiary’s inmates.

Lieber’s, a Brooklyn-based Kosher food company, makes butterscotch chips for baking. Kosher marts are a great place to look for dairy-free items (or parve items, the Hebrew word for foods that are free of dairy and meat) as those who practice Jewish dietary law “answer to a higher authority.” Though egg and fish (and insect derivatives maybe?) may still be contained in parve food item, non-perishable pantry items usually do not contain these ingredients. Kashrut, Jewish dietary law, is directly linked to the Old Testament. It’s all very interesting to me. Anyway, Lieber’s makes a slew of products, many that can supplement a vegan pantry. Omni-staples, like gel(atin-like jello stuff), white chocolate chips, and… butterscotch chips.An important distinction: Just because an item is vegan, does not mean it is uh, healthy. I feel like many still make this incorrect assumption. (And just because an item is vegan, doesn’t mean it is a quality food product.) Lieber’s butterscotch chips are vegan… and they’re also artificially colored, waxy and made of partially hydrogenated palm kern oil. Taste-wise, they smell better than they taste. Mostly because their waxy texture and after-feel taints a bite. They also don’t melt, making them stand out awkwardly like teenage pimples.

In a cookie made of the finest flours and sugars and deep, dark real chocolate, these butterscotch chips are out of place. All that being said, these are cookies. I extend flexibility to cookies because they are portion-controlled and meant to be sweet treats. I really can’t eat more than one at a time.

I do love the pretty contrast with the chocolate chunks. In my next batch, I’ll add some walnuts to up the heartiness.

And this has been in my head since I bought these chips.

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Oneness-Fountain-Heart is a vegetarian restaurant in Flushing, Queens run by devotees of the late spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy. Sri Chinmoy advocated for international harmony and… vegetarianism, hence the vegetarian cafes in his dedication in NYC (Annan Brahma and Cafe Panorama in Jamaica Hills, Queens) and across the country in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego. Vegetarianism, under Sri Chinmoy’s teachings, is a means to establish purity of the mind and body. He believes that

“when we eat meat, fish and so forth, the aggressive, animal consciousness enters into us. Our nerves become agitated; we unconsciously become restless and aggressive. The mild qualities of vegetables, on the other hand, help us to establish in our inner life as well as in our outer life, the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity and purity.”

There are many spiritual paths that include vegetarianism in their practice as an extension of non-violence, a par for the path of spiritual progress, and/or the embrace of simplicity. Why on this very blog I have included reports on 7th Day Adventist eateries, to whom vegetarianism is a necessity and 130 year old tradition “to honor and glorify God and preserve the health of the body, mind and spirit” (source)(here); a cluster of Ital Rastafari eateries, to whom vegetarianism signifies a connection to nature (here); vegetarian, or Jai, Thai food straight from the source (here) and piggy-backed on the dairy-free Kosher (or Parve) world (here), as well as the “playing-animal-rights-videos-in-a-loop-on-a-prominently-displayed-television” type eatery, usually Asian and usually involving Supreme Masters (I’m talking about you Loving Hut). Though I respect these faiths, and all others, as an Agnostic, I’m in it for the food collaboration and accessibility. It is always a given that cities will have a Krishna eatery or a Buddhist vegetarian mock-meat dive in their international district. In a land where chicken is in all the salads, sometimes these options are a… godsend.

Getting back to my visit to Oneness-Fountain-Heart and the Sri Chinmoy Centres, who used to run a laundromat called Newness-Brightness-Happiness-Fullness (And yes Seattle, the restaurant Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont). I had been to Oneness-Fountain-Heart once before years ago and had left with the eerie feeling that the all-male wait staff seemed far too benevolent to be normal. Putting aside those still-vivid feelings and my general suspicion of organized movements of faith aside, I focused more on the food this time around. Wanting to push to the presses my part 3 Burger Report (see previous post), I ordered their Ponderosa platter: a soy-science meat patty topped with a huge portobello mushroom that I mistook for a bun, grilled red onions, veggie bacon, tomato, lettuce and sprouts on a toasted whole grain bun with a very yummy BBQ sauce. The mash potatoes were not vegan so I had the side salad with mango-lime dressing.

Since I had no potatoes with dinner, I had enough room for dessert. They offered several vegan options, including a chocolate cake, apple tarragon sorbet and my choice below, a passion fruit pie. It was very delicious! The crust was a soft coconut-cookie base that complemented the two other layers nicely, a sweetened tofu layer and a soft, delicate and perplexingly textured tropical fruit chiffon. Perplexing because I wasn’t sure about how they got such a texture without whipped eggs! Very delicious and worth the trip back to Flushing on its own.

I’m going to keep on preaching… I plan to continue to honor the diverse faiths of the world through their cuisines as so many embrace vegetarianism, although I am quite sure the sensual delight I attain through eating is considered quite the vice…

For the past two years I have made yearbooks to celebrate the turning of time’s speedometer. Fiddling with Blurb‘s bookmaking software in December, I was forced to meditate on just how much I could fill in a week, a month, a year. In 2009, the me in January was lifetimes away from who I became 11 short months later. As I look through 2010’s pictures, thus far, I will have significantly less material in which to draw wisdom from. My pictures are mostly of food. Perhaps the path of the who and the what and the where behind their macro-views will reveal a bit of discovery; but for now, let’s just look at the food.

I tried VeganDad‘s southern-style BBQ tofu sandwich. It didn’t work out all that great as I am often a bit too scatterbrain to handle multi-tasking in cooking. (This is why I prefer the precision and singular flow of baking.) 

Bone Shakers. I kinda go nuts about this place. I’ve said it at least twenty times before (Okay, 10 times) and I’ll say it again: I love Bone Shakers. Where else can you get a vegan deli “egg” sandwich with cheese and sausage for like $5? Wrapped in waxed paper on a soft roll, it sits on your lap patiently on the BQE merge to the LIE.  

Amy’s. You know her; you kinda dig her line of frozen foods, especially if you’re in a bind. They’re everywhere! Amy makes the best frozen vegan burger, in my humble opinion. And it’s easy to dress ’em up with fresh accompaniments so it seems a little less like a frozen endeavor.

From Amy’s to Olga’s on Smith. Little did I know there was a nice Kosher sandwich shop on Smith street mere blocks from my job. When a colleague told me she had stumbled into the place and heard it was vegan, I was a bit skeptical. I know about every vegan place in New York City, thank you very much! But it was true. The Kosher sandwich shop has a section of vegan panini and I plan to try each one. Starting with the hearts of palm panini (below)… very yum.

In my Sunday pantry raid, I had to seriously put some currants into action. I threw together some red lentils, chick peas, currants and golden raisins with a heavy douse of tamarind concentrate for a Middle-eastern medley of waste-not. Up next, how to use three tubs of tofu by their expiration date.

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I have been ingesting far more calories than I need these days, in light of my sedentary lifestyle. Weekends of horrendous weather don’t help either. Catching up…

I headed to the East Village’s cramped lil’ Kosher counter staple, B&H Vegetarian Restaurant, after the person who answered the phone earlier told me their veggie burger was vegan. A bit obsessed with my veggie burger field reporting, I was quite disappointed to learn it contained eggs from the informed friendly counter guy who then pointed out the only vegan option in the place, besides soup. Ok, the vegetable soup is below. But wait, back to the counter guy. The next best thing to getting a vegan meal is finding a waiter who knows what’s vegan, declaratively, who saves you an upset stomach. That’s my silver lining.  

So the soup was okay, even though I couldn’t enjoy any bread dipping like my friend across from me did with her stack of soft challah. My entree was just eh. It was veggie chili over brown rice, something I could have made ten times better at home. But B&H isn’t fine dining! And had it not have been for my hope for thorough burger reporting, I wouldn’t have gone in, like I hadn’t during the 17+ years prior of perusing the East Village’s eateries. The vegans and the Kosher folk have some common ground when it comes to food. Especially in the cream cheese department, thank you very much New York City bagel joints. But it would be against spiritual law to mix meat up with all B&H’s dairy however, it has a ton of poultry (egg).

I have sung grand praises of Bone Shakers before. Okay, like a million times before… but I can’t stop. Bone Shakers, In the words of David Cassidy, in fact, while he was still with the Partridge Family – I think I love you. You’re my kind of eatery. And now you have cheddar and sage biscuits?! I… uh.. made cheddar biscuits too (look here). Don’t we have a lot in common?

And here is their delicious French Toast. They do what they do perfectly. Quality from stern to bow. Fresh, thick crusty bread that’s innards are soft and “eggy”, subtle cinnamon, real maple syrup, EB, topped with fresh fruit: an ample portion at a good price served with a smile by gals with beautiful forearm tattoos. My only suggestion starts with a “B” and ends with an “A”. Not Beatlemania but banana!

I did make some things on my own too. Finally perfecting an olive-infused French bread with a mix of whole wheat, dark rye and bread flours, my bread machine did me good. He fizzled and popped; he rattled and knocked; finally he just stopped. I sliced my 2 lb loaf and dipped it in some olive oil and fine fig balsamic vinegar . Ah, I was transported from Olive street to a balcony off the Mediterranean somewhere. 

Having a ton of ripe bananas to use, CandyPenny and I whipped up some of my intestine-scraper muffins with the remains of my neglected pantry. Said bananas, pecans from when I intended to make molasses-pecan rolls, frozen black cherries from when I made the pineapple upside-down cake, golden raisins from when I made the golden raisin semolina bread, and sliced almonds back from when I made my Christmas cookies. If only I could have added the arugula.

In the dash to make use of my perishables before going abroad, I will be in the kitchen a great deal during the next 2 weeks. The first ingredient in this marathon of efficiency is only a semi-perishable… but something I have a huge quantity of and not much of a desire to eat: raisins.

This recipe from VegFamily called for a half teaspoon of nutmeg, something I rarely use. The nutmeg I had on the spice shelf was inheritted from my grandmother almost 5 years ago and I’m not quite sure how long she had it sitting around. It smelled a bit suspect to me. After perusing the web to track down its shelf life, I learned:

Nutmeg contains a substance called myristicin, a narcotic with very unpleasant toxic side effects if taken in large quantities. Ingestion of small amounts of nutmeg is harmless to the body, however the consumption of one to three whole nutmegs (in excess of one teaspoon ground) can cause wild hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, and/or circulatory collapse within one to six hours after consumption. Very large doses can be fatal. It is also an astringent and stimulant, as well as a purported aphrodisiac.

I opted on purchasing a brand new jar of ground nutmeg only to realize that the suspicious smell was quite normal… and that $1.99 is a bargain price for a hallucinatory narcotic/aphrodisiac.

The end result was moist and well-binded but not as sweet as I wished it to be, as I ran out of maple syrup. Because I am not the biggest fan of cinnamon and raison in excess (I’ve been throwing them everywhere lately.), I’ll be passing off this dessert to friends and co-workers who keep Kosher Parve. Who wants some?

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