Sunday, December 26, 2010
Of course I can only speak from my personal experience, and given that I've been an office slave since I came to this funny little part of the country, I can speak pretty knowledgeably about Midtown East. As luck would have it, this happens to be a GREAT place to find Japanese vittles. As I mentioned in my post from way back when, 47th Street between 3rd Avenue and Lexington is a nice epicenter of all things Japanese.
On 51st between 3rd and 2nd Aves lives Tanaka, a place near and dear to my heart for two reasons. 1) It's the first place I ever experienced a peanut roll - yes, maki with peanuts as the filling, which is strangely delicious, especially when they also include avocado. 2) The wacky, 4 foot tall plastic Japanimation figure that stands outside the front door beckoning you to come inside! He never fails to put a smile on my face. Other standouts here include the sweet potato roll and the mango roll. (Trust me, after working in Midtown for five years, these things are exciting. Tanaka is a pretty small place, and if you show up during lunch with more than one other person, expect a long wait. At any other time of day, you'll waltz right in. But don't be surprised if you feel like you're sitting in the lap of the strangers at the next table.
I've only recently discovered Tanzen on 2nd Avenue near 53rd, a restaurant that is positively enormous for a Manhattan scale. It's lovely too, with a central sort of waterfall. It's a bit more expensive for the three roll special (that's what you get for a waterfall), but they are much better at handling large groups and are significantly less crowded. They too feature the beloved peanut avocado roll; mango's not on the menu, but my guess is they'd make it if you asked. It's a good place for an office birthday.
A few blocks south (45th between 3rd Ave and Lex) there is now a rice ball place called Oms/b. It's tiny, and mostly caters to the Midtown lunch crowd, so if you stop in on a weekday between 12 and 2:30 pm, don't plan on sitting down. They generally have at least three or four all-vegetable and/or tofu varieties of omusubi (also known as onigiri) on hand. Don't get the soup combo deal though: when last I checked, all of their soups were made with a fish base. (This makes me shake my fist at the sky demanding, "but why? WHY?!?" in frustration.)
Are there Japanese places further south (like, below 14th Street)? Sure! Plenty! But once I'm down there I tend to go to the actual vegan restaurants... though I am still waiting for the day that someone realizes there should be a vegan Japanese place. I will be up in there like white on rice.
OK, so that's all fine for sit-down, service meals, but what about grab-and-go food? Well, there is no shortage of Japanese markets. I'm a sucker for these places for one main reason: DAIFUKU! I adore anything that's made of rice flour dough. Fill it with sweet red bean paste and cover it with sesame seeds, and I'm like putty in your hands. Japanese markets never fail me for these sweet treats, that somehow pack a ridiculous amount of sugar (often around 60 grams). Dainobu on 47th Street is really a full blown, if small, grocery store, and it does not disappoint in the daifuku department. Or in any other department, for that matter. There are many prepared meals here, but careful label reading is required.
There is a great little Japanese market much further downtown, not far from Astor Place, called Sunrise Mart - though it's a little tricky to find. It's upstairs, so you have to take an elevator! It's above St. Mark's Bookstore. Though it's well known among the neighborhood college students and hipsers, and everyone else for that matter, the majority of other shoppers that I usually see there are Asian family types going about their shopping for dinner. Make sure to check the far back corner - it's a hectic array of merchandise, and you might just find yourself a pretty little tea pot.
Not far from that up by 10th Street there's a much bigger place called M2M (Morning 2 Midnight). This place is predominately, though less specifically, Japanese, and has a more pan-Asian feel to it. There's a tiny seating area up in the front corner, if you want to sit down for five minutes to wolf down your avocado roll. Just around the corner really, at 2nd Ave and St. Mark's (8th Street), you'll find JAS Mart, which has two other locations as well - on 23rd just East of the Flatiron building, and on Broadway above 110th in Harlem.
For any newbies out there, packaged foods are pretty easy. But in restaurants, some things to watch out for: miso can be made with fish stock, bonito flakes are made of fish (but can often just be left off), and tempura batter is sometimes made with egg. Kani is crab, so that's a no go. But oshinko is pickled cabbage, daikon is radish, and ume or umeboshi are pickled plums. And while natto is technically vegan, you really might not want to go there...
So there you go. Be safe, have fun... peanut avocado rolls for everyone! :D
Saturday, December 25, 2010
And here is where I once again promise to share recipes! I really will this time. Swear. Any day now. Uh huh.
But right now I gotta go watch It's A Wonderful Life - I haven't seen it yet this season!!!!! Priorities, people, priorities. ;)
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Hi Melissa,I swear to you, I have only changed this to take out identifying details. "explore the edges of the Food Revolution", "ideation", and "yummy food" are all straight from the horse's mouth. When I first skimmed the email, I assumed that I'd just gotten stuck on some mailing list, and that it was a workshop that I'd have to pay through the nose to attend. Upon more thorough reading, I realized that they were actually offering to pay me. That's when I got really suspicious.
I would like to invite you to join a group of food writers, bloggers and chefs for a Food Revolution Roundtable next Tuesday, 12/14. With your passion for food and your influential talent for writing/blogging about food, you would be the perfect addition to this group!
The details are listed below. Please say yes!
An invitation to a Food Revolution Roundtable
Bird’s Eye, in partnership with their Ad Agency Chiat/Day, is hosting a 2-hour Food Revolution Roundtable in NYC on Tuesday, 12/14. They want explore the edges of the Food Revolution among people who are really passionate about food -- chefs and/or writers like you. Bird’s Eye wants to bring revolutionary thinking to their brand at every step, from sourcing to prep to recipes to packaging. The roundtable will be approximately 10-12 influential people (including you, we hope) and will be really energizing and fun… full of projective exercises and invigorating chat.
For your time, you will be paid $350.
Also, if you would like to recommend a friend or two who fits this description, and would enjoy participating, let us know!
WHERE: Wine Shop, NYC, NY
WHEN: Tuesday 12/14, from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
WHAT: 2 hours of ideation, and yummy food!
If this sounds like something you’d like to do, please email me back, or call me at 555-555-5555.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
So I turned to tha internets. I know who Bird's Eye is - who doesn't? Frozen corn, right? Ah yes, but also major players in many frozen meats - particularly in the fish stick market, apparently. Who knew. What about Chiat\Day? A positively ENORMOUS advertising agency. We'll call that strike two - anyone know why I don't own a television?
And then, exactly what I'd been suspecting: I started finding articles like this one. Since July, Bird's Eye has been working on an initiative it is calling "Forever Food". Supposedly the company's effort to make its food production more "sustainable", this push is pretty much entirely focused on reducing energy usage during production. They're quite proud of figuring out how to use less energy while flash freezing their fish sticks, for instance.
So, after a day or so of careful consideration, I sent the following reply:
Dear Sarah,I hope you're not wondering why I'm referring to "Forever Food" as greenwashing. But in case you are, I will briefly explain my problem(s) with it. First of all, there's the name. Forever Food? Really? We'll have food forever and ever because you're putting your damn fish sticks in a smaller box, and meanwhile still pillaging the oceans dry to produce overprocessed junk? Second, there is no such thing as good aquaculture. Even putting animal ethics aside, the environmental ramifications of even the best run captive fish operations are just obscene. Wild harvesting poses completely different problems that are just as awful. Third, why would we put animal ethics aside? And all of that is really just the tip of the iceberg.
Your offer is both flattering and intriguing. However, I must decline for two reasons. The first is logistical: I work a 9 to 5 and am not available mid day on a Tuesday. The second, though, outweighs the first: I do not feel comfortable contributing to "ideation" with a company that sells a proliferation of animal products.
Honestly, it strikes me that this "Food Revolution Roundtable" is part of the company's ongoing effort to engage in greenwashing - via the so called "Forever Food" initiative. While cutting resource use is of course necessary for all, from my perspective the project is essentially wrong-minded. Personally I'm far more interested in supporting the small, independently owned vegan businesses already in existence than helping to create more fake "natural" brands or products. Encouraging "sustainable fish sticks" is simply not something I will do.
If Bird's Eye truly wants to bring "revolutionary thinking to their brand at every step", it should take this revolutionary step: Consider the number of animals it currently kills; the environmental destruction caused by raising (or "harvesting") those animals; the conditions of the workers who raise, harvest, and slaughter them; and the dozens of other ramifications easily avoided by simply not selling meat. And please note, fish and marine invertebrates are animals too.
Before sending my response and ever since, I've been plagued with the feeling that I'm passing up an opportunity to be heard. But I have a strong sense that Bird's Eye and Chiat\Day do not want to hear me. Or rather, they do want to hear me, but only just enough so that they can figure out how to defeat or defend against the arguments of me and those like me, and/or to exploit the lot of us. (By exploit, I of course mean more effectively market to.)
If they were interested in genuine change, they would be consulting with environmental engineers - not bloggers and chefs. They would be rethinking their factories and processes from the ground up - not asking me what I think about their packaging. They know damn well what they need to do to make genuine change. It's just that that's not what they're interested in. What they want is what all the big food companies want: to appeal to the growing market of people on the "edge of the food revolution" - or those who think they are. The pescatarians, the locavores, the "happy meat" people. Well they can go right ahead and try, but I sure as hell am not going to help them.
And so, while it is my nature to doubt myself, I do believe that I made the right decision by turning the offer down. (Incidentally, I make WAY less than $350 a day at my job! So it would have been a nice little monetary gain 'round x-mas time. But so it goes.)
Surprisingly, Sarah did write back:
Hi Melissa,I'm sure they would be interested too, but for all the wrong reasons. And that's pretty much the point.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am sorry you won't be able to weigh in on the panel discussion this Tuesday. Believe it or not, I believe your arguments are points that the Bird's Eye folks would be interested to hear during this session. Feel free to send us any references of vegan bloggers or chefs you know who might be interested in participating in Tuesday's group.
P.S. - If any of my vegan friends also received this offer and have chosen to go, I respect that - and I hope they hear you.
Friday, November 26, 2010
The menu, in whole, when we finally did sit down 'round 4:30 or so, looked like this:
- Spinach Dip with Herbed Crosstini*
- Field Roast cranberry and hazelnut roast
- Roasted root vegetables with apples and chikn*
- Roasted sliced potatoes with savory herbs*
- Whipped potatoes with onions and corn
- Green Bean Casserole (amazing as always - thank you Liz!)
- Macaroni and Cheeze with quinoa pasta*
- Classic bread stuffing with mushrooms and onions
- Spiced sauteed apples
- Fresh Cranberry Sauce with orange rind and warm spices*
- Crimini Mushroom Brown Gravy
- Chocolate Creme Pie with chocolate graham crust*
Are there pictures, you ask? Yes! There are pictures! That are still sitting in my camera. Good things come to those who wait. Like pictures... and recipes. ;)
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
I always say "I need to do a cleanse", but I don't feel like I've ever done it in a way that really suits my needs or my life. Which means that I've pretty much always immediately and spectacularly failed. This is in truth part of a larger problem of mine. I have spent years, and I mean years, doing research on nutrition and the food industry. But I seem to have some sort of disconnect with actually applying my collected knowledge to what I eat. Perhaps this is a vestige of the ability I had when I was younger: to recognize animals as individuals capable of suffering and yet continue to eat them, to know how wildly unhealthy our processed "foods" are but keep putting them into my sick body.
Clearly I made it far enough to become vegan, and sheesh did that take long enough. I still have difficulty with individual meals on a frequent basis, which has to do with my troubled relationship with food. (How could it not be troubled? Have you walked into a supermarket lately?) And somehow even though I know what nutrients the body needs, what alkalizes and what acidifies, what stagnates and what purifies, and so on, and so on, when it comes to "doing a cleanse" I allow myself to become befuddled.
So I've been searching los internets for guidance, and separating the wheat from the chaff is a big job. There is so much nonsense, so many fad diets. Oprah did this, Hollywood is doing that - oh just eat nothing but coconuts! And by the way, buy my miracle product!!!!!! Bla, bla, bla. In my heart of hearts I believe I know what to do. But to accomplish it I need to lay out a reasonable plan, pace it feasibly, and then actually do it.
Here's some of the useful advice I have found. I like to share!
How do you know if you need a detox?The long list of symptoms in the first paragraph could of course be caused by any number of things, including an acute illness. If you do actually have something like a bacterial infection, a trip to the doc really is in order. But in any case doing some cleansing will never hurt. (I am not suggesting anything like the "master cleanse" - I don't think it's a good idea for anyone to try to live off of spicy lemonade for any period of time.)
You know you're suffering from toxic overload if you are experiencing fatigue, memory decline, difficulty focusing, allergies and infections, irritability, anxiety and depression, difficulty with weight gain and weight loss, muscle and joint pain or weakness, skin rashes and outbreaks, recurrent yeast and fungal infections, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and indigestion.
Your Detox Meals
These meals are designed to jump-start your body into becoming healthier.
• Breakfast: Eat oat bran cereal, brown rice, or any other whole grain cereal as long as it is unbleached and does not contain any added sugar or chemicals. Pair with unflavored soy milk.
• Lunch and Dinner: Eat any combination of beans, brown rice, oat bran, vegetables, and organic chicken, turkey, or soy-products. When you eat, notice how your food affects you. You should feel satisfied and energized. If you feel tired and sluggish, try eating smaller meals so that you don't overwhelm your digestion and interfere with the detoxification process.
From the "Detox Meals" paragraph, I must note that the idea of eating any animal products during a cleanse strikes me as pretty silly, even for someone who hasn't adopted a vegan lifestyle. If the goal is cleansing or "detoxifying", at the very least organic meats should be chosen. "Conventional" meat is toxic city. Also, there is a reason there is no dairy listed in the suggestions - dairy is inflammatory to many people who don't realize it, even in the absence of lactose intolerance.
I found this recipe, which I don't think I'll use but may substitute with green gumbo instead:
Detox Broth: Add as many of these ingredients as you can into a large pot of filtered water: collards, Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, dandelion, Brussels sprouts, daikon radish,watercress, seaweed, shitake mushrooms, cilantro, garlic, leeks, fresh fennel, anise, fresh ginger, and turmeric. Boil until all ingredients are soft. You can make in a large batch and refrigerate for up to three days.Depending on what school you're in on onions (I think they're just fine), I'd say caramelize one in two tablespoons of really good olive oil in your big pot before following the above directions, and you'll come out with much more pleasing results. Also, unless you are having blood pressure issues, a little bit of salt really isn't so terrible.
I have now formulated a plan, which will be fully revealed to you in future blog posts. I know, you can't wait.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
So then you go to Whole Foods. It's mobbed there too. And you're totally frustrated with their produce, most of which is conventionally grown anyway. The organic stuff is grown either on the other side of the country or better yet in another country altogether. You get excited about the huge honking sign proclaiming "LOCAL PRODUCE!!", and deflate quickly when beneath that sign you find three kinds of (conventionally grown) apples.
It would be so great if you could have just joined that CSA you heard about from your friend, but the membership waiting list is just ages long; they're all like that aren't they? But no, then you'd just end up with three pounds of radishes and a bunch of parsnips anyway.
Ahem. Enter Holton Farms of Westminster, Vermont and their fabulous new CSA Select program. A bit of a neighbor to the north, I'll grant you, but at a four hour drive locovores shouldn't be scoffing. I cannot take credit for this discovery; after being in my neighborhood for approximately 12 minutes, my friend Liz Cherry of the Excellent Name discovered Holton, which is so conveniently dropping off about eight blocks from my house. They're probably dropping by somewhere near your place too, or by your work maybe, since they have nearly 30 stops around the city throughout the week.
It gets better though. This ain't your mama's CSA. Unlike the others you've heard of, you don't just get a bag of whatever produce they feel like schlepping your way. You get to choose. It's like you're actually shopping for the food that you want to eat! Crazytime! Naturally what you can choose from depends on what they're growing and what is ready to harvest at that particular time, but this is one heck of a farm and the variety is great. So what you choose from is in peak season, just picked, and nearly all organic! Seriously, this is what it looks like when you log in:
As you may have gathered, the hubby and I have jumped right onto this here bandwagon. And it's kind of awesome. Last Sunday morning we strolled on over to the truck to pick up our produce - in the ecologically friendly reusable tote provided to us by Holton, of course. This week's picks included raspberries, blueberries, yellow squash, zucchini, parsley, red lettuce, a bunch of carrots, and a bunch of bok choy. The guys in the truck are so awesome - even though I know they've been awake since some obscene hour, they are still enthusiastic and funny and helpful, and really excited about the work they do. Call me idealistic, but to me there's something special about getting your food from people who actually know where it came from and are happy about providing it to you.
You get to guess at how much of our haul was actually for our darling furchild, Harvey the Rabbit. I will say that Harvey is now in LOVE with blueberries, which he had never had before this week. And he hearts carrot greens just about as much as the carrots themselves. Needless to say, the Holton Farms CSA Select program is Harvey-tested, Harvey-approved.
CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. And the more members they get, the more work they'll be able to do within the community. So if you've been meaning to look into a CSA but just haven't quite gotten around to it, THIS IS SO YOUR CHANCE. You know you want to. Is this the summer when you learn to eat local, seasonal, organic foods? It just might be...
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
OK, so I know you're not *demanding* an explanation for my three-month-long absence, but I'm going to provide a bit of one anyway. The short version: my body is trying to kill me.
The slightly longer version: Immediately after returning from the wedding in March I had to schedule a wee bit of oral surgery (wisdom teeth removal). It took place in mid-April. Given that I must do everything the hardest way possible, of course after the surgery I got a dry socket. So there were many weeks where my gustatory world consisted of little other than smoothies, yogurt, lukewarm soup, and other soft food objects that one can eat sitting up in bed. Which brings us to about mid-May.
I had just really started to recuperate and get out into the world again - Jonathan and I went to the Cloisters for our fourth anniversary, and then ate at Peace Food Cafe. Terrible name, fantastic food, just by the way. And then the very next weekend... KIDNEY STONES! An emergency room visit, four days in the hospital because my kidneys got infected (I had an obstructed ureter), a handful of minor surgeries and procedures, and ten to fourteen glasses of water or other clear liquids per day. For the past month and a half. I'm telling you, I don't walk; I float.
But anyway, it's sort of kind of beginning to resolve now. Anyway, about that gazpacho.
I believe I've talked here before about Le Pain Quotidien - let's just call it LPQ for short. The waitstaff does, so I don't see why I can't. When I first dined at an LPQ I had very mixed feelings about it: it's a chain, albeit a European one. It's definitely a bit overpriced. But they do have a location a mere block from my office, their soup of the day is always vegan, and they nearly always have one or two vegan baked goods in the cases up front. This was enough to sway me to their favor over this past long winter.
Winter is most definitively gone. We are in the middle of a nasty heat wave - so bad, in fact, that it has forced me to finally go out and buy air conditioning units. Today is what I am truly and sincerely hoping will be our hottest day of the year - 98*. And come lunchtime, the dining option that popped into my head was the good old LPQ, and the cold gazpacho that's been on their menu for the past month or two.
Any gazpacho in the world has a tough measure to live up to: my mom's. Hers is killer, and since it's practically the only one I've ever had it's what I know the dish *should* taste like. I am happy to report that LPQ can give my mom's cold soup a run for its money (not that I wouldn't still eat hers any day of the week). It is pungent, perfect in consistency, extremely flavorful, and topped with a swirl of a deep green sort of basil aioli/puree that adds both visual interest and an increased depth of flavor. The occasional small chunks of mango and avocado take it right over the top - I do believe this is my new favorite summer dish.
Here's a question: what other cold soups are there? The husband and I can't think of any, other than variations on gazpacho which really don't count. Three points to whoever can tell us one!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
So, let's talk about Sunday, shall we? Sunday is always a bit of a sad day. Whereas Saturday morning is full of the promise of the entire weekend, stretched out ahead like a thousand miles of highway and a full tank of gas (plus a fully charged battery, because naturally we're in a hybrid), Sunday is more like the the last hour of a party, when you know you'd better squeeze whatever fun you can from the song that's playing because it's about to come abruptly to an end.
For this reason, I feel the need to indulge on Sundays. How? Push all thoughts of work to the deepest darkest recesses of my brain, sleep in, never put on real clothes - and of course eat. Eat plenty of rich, fatty, salty, sweet, wonderful food. Lately going into The City for brunch to do this has become far too much work; after all, that involves putting on shoes. So I've been an at-home glutton. Not a particularly fancy one, but with the proper spirit nonetheless.
If I'm lucky, I can get the hubby to make me waffles or pancakes. He does make excellent pancakes, and he really enjoys doctoring up special sauces for them out of ingredients like fresh figs. But that's a longshot. More likely, I'll make myself up a pot of smoky grits - smoky because they get a shot of smoked Tabasco sauce. Oh, yes. Maybe I'll follow that up with some Sweet & Sara marshmallows that happen to be waiting for me in the fridge? If you haven't tried the strawberry kind yet, you simply haven't lived. And really, who says you can't eat Tofutti Cuties in the afternoon?
I've come to the conclusion that brunch does not have to be fancy. It's just got to be properly enjoyed.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I'll be back home (the other home) in a few days, and then maybe I'll get my ass in gear and tell you about a few things: the beans I've been cooking, the three amazing restaurants I've eaten at down here, that little shindig of mine, et cetera. For now, my husband awaits... ;)
Friday, February 26, 2010
Remember all those issues I was having with trying to get someone to bake me a vegan wedding cake? I had practically resolved myself to baking my own when I got an email from a vegan-network-friend of mine who lives on the Northshore (New Orleans speak for the north side of Lake Pontchartrain). One of her friends opened up a bakery in Mandeville a few months ago, she wrote, and baked vegan cupcakes pretty regularly.
To which I said, YES PLEASE THANK YOU.
My parents are not so into the idea of a cupcake tower for the wedding, but they'll suck it up. I admit, I did have my heart set on a "real" cake for a while, but a delicious, gorgeous, vegan presentation is what it comes down to.
And after my meeting with KC of KC's Babycakes, I am absolutely convinced that it's exactly what I'll have. She came highly recommended from a trusted source, which is always good. But you just never know, particularly with vegan baked goods I think, until you sit down and sink your teeth in. This is precisely what I did last Monday. KC spent two full hours with me, and as those of you who know me are well aware, that is a LONG time to spend with me when I'm really excited about something. I sampled six (count them, six) different flavors of her vegan cupcakes. Somehow, each was more extraordinary than the last. You want to hear about them, don't you?
Cookies n cream: a crazy moist rich chocolate cupcake with just a hint of almond, topped with an intensely sweet vanilla buttercream speckled with crumbled oreo-style cookies, crowned with a whole cookie nestled in the middle for good measure. This is an excellent showcase for just how good a simple (but extremely well-baked) chocolate cupcake can be.
Coconut and Coffee: a subtly flavored caramel brown coconut cupcake, slathered in rich coffee buttercream then rimmed with a ring of toasted coconut shavings. Gourmet, doubtless; this cupcake is somehow simultaneously exotic and extravagant while also being comforting and homey. It may be KC's favorite of her vegan creations; me, I am having a very difficult time choosing a favorite.
Vanilla Chocolate Swirl: a basic made fancy, two moist and delicious cakes marbled in the cup and topped with a generous helping of vanilla buttercream, finished with miniature chocolate chips. It's hard to describe how decadent this cakelet is as it sounds so simple, so you'll just have to believe me.
Lemon Macadamia: a lightly lemon cupcake punctuated with chunks of real macadamia nuts, topped with a pungent, bright frosting made with real fresh lemon juice, and finally rimmed with colored sugar for a look that is both sophisticated and fun. (This one happens to be modeling the cupcake wrapper I've chosen - "Aloha" from Paper Orchid. Many thanks to KC for cluing me in on this new cupcake trend!)
Banana Split: here's where we really start getting crazy! A cupcake with a banana bread like consistency - because it's made with real banana, making it ultra dense and moist with true banana flavor - but sweeter and with mini chocolate chips in it. Then topped in a lush twirl of delicately banana flavored buttercream frosting. The cupcakes I tasted were sprinkled with pecans and then topped with a cherry, which was a great finish. However, to be more friendly to my nut-allergic guest(s), for the wedding they'll be drizzled in chocolate ganache before being cherried. Too divine!
Wedding Cake: a flavor that I *believe* was developed just for me! In case you don't know, in New Orleans there is a flavor actually known as "wedding cake flavor" - you can order it at any good snowball stand. It's generally a creamy almond flavor, and it's been a tradition at Nola nuptials since anyone can remember. This cupcake did not disappoint. A perfectly dense, moist, rich, creamy lightly almond and vanilla white cupcake, topped with wonderfully rich almond buttercream, and finished with the most darling candy pearls you'd ever wish to see. Simple and elegant, this is the flavor that really made the set for me. We'll also have a 6" cake atop the tower that will be baked from this batter. I really couldn't be more pleased with how this one came out.
I'll stop killing you with cupcake descriptions now - except to say that we actually haven't decided between doing the cookies n cream described above, or a classic red velvet. I didn't get to sample KC's red velvet, but based on what I've seen and tasted, I have zero doubt that it is exquisite. And I can't help thinking of some kind of chocolate-and-strawberry concoction... Maybe a small groom's cake? What can I say? Life is full of so many difficult decisions.
Some day soon I'll tell you what happens when you take a dozen of the fabulous cupcakes described above over to the only vegetarian restaurant in town (Cafe Bamboo), have a couple of Abitas, and start getting generous. But that, loves, is a story for another day.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Now, I am not under the impression that I can cure myself and feel fantastic for this event. But I do think that I owe it to myself and to Jonathan to do everything in my power to feel as good as I can. I think it is far past time to buckle down and do what I need to do with my diet, at least up until the wedding. It's quite simple really, and it is I'm sure what I really should be doing all the time. But like all of us I live in this modern world with my bad habits only being encouraged by an overly taxed schedule. Perhaps I'll be able to develop new good habits though, or eat more along these lines, once I've been doing it for a couple of weeks.
So what does this plan entail? I want to really focus on whole foods - like as in only eat whole foods. Foods that I can see the structure of: beans, rice, whole grains (not whole grain products like bread, mind you, but actual whole grains such as quinoa and oats), fruits, vegetables. My hummus I think is still good, because even though it ends up as a paste-like substance, I myself see it in whole bean form first.
I'll also be cutting out sugar, and really making an effort to drink more water. I've been doing fairly well on the water front, but I want to step it up. On the sugar front I've been terrible, and it needs to stop.
So that's pretty much it. Breakfast will be muesli soaked overnight in almond milk (one of my few concessions); lunch and dinner will be some combination of beans, grains, and raw and cooked vegetables; and snacks will be vegetables and fruit. There will be plenty of water, and of course my herbal teas with just a smidge of agave, because it is warm and comforting and sweet and filling and is somehow the one thing that can calm my sugar jonesing.
I re-invoke my old plea: keep your fingers crossed for me.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Slowly I rose to prepare for the challenge which I had, of my own volition, chosen to accept: to arrive in Hoboken, New Jersey by 9:00 in the morning on a Sunday. Bravely, as a partner should, Jonathan stood by me. In fact, he made me coffee.
The N train was on our side, arriving only moments after we had mounted our cold, exposed platform in Astoria, Queens. We were running late, however, and tensions ran high - impossible to know whether we would make that crucial 8:44 am PATH train. Our subway proceeded at a snail's pace - irony? - spending extra time at each intervening stop and prolonging our anxiety.
Arriving at the 34th Street PATH station at last, we flew through the terminal to find, thankfully, that the gods of transit had been watching over us all along: our train was running four minutes late, and we even got seats approximately sixty seconds before the doors closed for departure.
At 9:00 am exactly, we arrived at that far southeastern corner of Hoboken and emerged into the cold crisp sunshine, happy and determined on that Valentine's morning.
As usual, I know what you're thinking. Alright, she's officially lost her mind. She got up at 7am on Valentine's day to go to freaking New Jersey, and dragged her man along with? There is no good explanation for this. It's just not possible.
Oh ye of little faith. I in fact have the best reason *ever* for being in New Jersey at 9am on a Sunday.
DONUTS. No, wait, it gets better. FREE DONUTS!
See, in case you haven't heard, Sunday was the grand opening of the Cinnamon Snail Vegan Organic Food Truck, which - weather and parking permitting - will be making daily weekday appearances in the Hoboken area. There are two vegan food *carts* that I know of in Manhattan, but the consensus seems to be that this is the very first truck. (Hear that Portland?!) For now it's just in Hoboken, but husband-and-wife owner-and-operator team Adam and Joey hope to make it over to Brooklyn as well at some point.
So what's the story on the Snail? Well, I'd heard all sorts of good things, but what really caught my attention was the offer of free donuts to the first 100 customers that opening day. That's the kind of offer I can't refuse. Pair it with gorgeous breakfast offerings from 9 to 11 am and lunches that will blow your mind from 11am to 3pm, plus a fully stocked pastry case all day long, and you've got a truck that will get me to Joisey.
And so travel we did. As it turned out, in all of our mad hustle, we were the first to arrive at the truck. No problems there though; as luck would have it the weather was lovely, and the view of the Hudson and Manhattan from their chosen parking place on Sinatra Drive was a sight to behold. It also allowed us a good view of the truck itself, which is a work of art. And when Adam cracked open that side panel and was ready for business, we quickly discovered that it had been well worth the wait.
First of all, we were immediately handed an apple cider donut covered in cinnamon sugar. It was definitely one of the best donuts I have ever eaten, vegan or not. From the breakfast menu, which is somewhat limited at the moment but will likely be expanded soon, Jonathan ordered the breakfast burrito and I ordered the kale baguette. While we waited, we split one of the cinnamon rolls... and saw a little bit of heaven. Think a vegan cinnamon roll can't be moist, soft, flavorful, and just melt-in-your-mouth amazing? Well then you think wrong, and apparently you need to get to Hoboken on the double.
The baguette was pretty fantastic for more or less being bread with kale on it. Sauteed kale on a nice soft baguette, slathered in tofu cream cheese, with capers thrown in for zest. (I skipped the olives.) The burrito seemed pricey at first, until we saw it! It is enormous, and delicious, crammed full of scrambled tofu, refried beans, and guacamole. Jon actually couldn't finish it and had to save some for later - after all, we needed to save some room...
Because at 11am the truck switches from the breakfast menu to the lunch menu. This is a significantly more extensive offering, and it pains me that I won't be able to go back every day to try something new. (Anyone know of job offerings in Hoboken?) From this menu, we ordered a mustard marinated tempeh sandwich and a grilled tofu sandwich. Both turned out to be enormous and divine. The tofu sandwich incorporated at least a third of a brick of tofu! And it was truly grilled - a rare gustatory pleasure.
While we were waiting this second time around we did a bit more pastry shopping: we got a mini chocolate ganache bundt cake, a Mississippi mud cupcake, a maple raspberry cookie (which Adam affectionately referred to as a "really legit pop tart"), and two of the two-bite sized peanut butter and chocolate cheesecakes - which naturally we ate while waiting. After all, they didn't fit in the box. We have Joey to thank for the absolutely fabulous baked goods that were on offer on Sunday; she had done the baking knowing that on opening day Adam would be at the grill while she hovered on site and tended to their youngest child. Joey told me that going forward both she and Adam will be doing the pastry baking, but that Adam is always the cook!
The truck on its opening day did not draw hoards, but there was an unwavering steady stream of customers. Many people came out specifically for the opening day event (hello, free donut?), while others simply happened by and were drawn in by the stunning truck, alluring pastry case, and enticing smells emanating from the truck's kitchenette. Comments overheard from patrons included such [paraphrased] sentiments as, "I'm so glad we finally have a real vegan option in Hoboken." and many versions of "OMG, this is the best ____ I've ever eaten!"
Nearing the end of the first day out on the street, Adam was feeling hopeful about his new enterprise, which has been about eight years in coming to fruition. "It's been so much fun - it's been a thousand times smoother than I could have ever hoped for. People have been very very sweet and accommodating." In talking about his food, Adam had no reservations. "I'm so confident about the menu - I love everything on our menu."
But when it came to his own lunch, Adam didn't take the easy chance to tout his own offerings; instead he sang the praises of the yerba mate which he was drinking from a special pot, and which he drinks daily. He hopes to serve it from the truck eventually. An avid yoga practitioner, he likes to "keep it light" during the day, and says that the raw pizza and salads from the lunch menu would be the most likely choice of fare for his mid-day meal.
The truck's location on the streets of Hoboken is subject to where they can find parking each day. As such, the best way to find them is through the miracle of the internet: they frequently update their Facebook and Twitter pages to let us know where they are and where they'll be next. The truck's hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm.
Adam described the Cinnamon Snail vegan truck project as his "life's dream", declaring "I'm determined to make it work out."
Friday, February 05, 2010
Throughout the day, more bakers and volunteers appeared; the number of people who showed up to help, eat, and party was pretty astonishing. For the first few hours, and then for several other stints during the day, it was a bit hard to walk through the store for the crowd! Any direction I looked, all I saw was happy people holding bakery boxes filled up with homemade vegan treats.
The day flew by, one giant blur of a cocktail-esque cookie dance party. I got to sample many extraordinary goodies, including homemade green tea red bean buns, pesto pinwheels, double dark chocolate truffles, buckeyes, mini tomato muffins, pizzelles, danishes!, twinkies!!, and probably a few other delicacies that I've forgotten in my post-bake-sale-sugar-crash delirium.
That list doesn't even compare, though, to what I missed out on: I don't even know how many kinds of gorgeous cupcakes including fauxstess!! and my own chocolate orange with princess frosting and maple with black walnut frosting - nope, never got to try my own cupcakes! - adorable heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly cookies, many other kinds of delectable truffles, oatmeal pies, pretzels, scones, fudge, rocky road brownies, chocolate dipped fresh and dried fruits, splendidly adorned sugar cookies, cheesecake... I think I have to stop thinking about it or I'll cry. Why, oh why, didn't I bring one hundred dollars and ten tupperware containers? Learn from my mistakes people. Let's just say this: if ever a bakery carried the array of vegan deliciousness that was displayed at the NYC bake sale, none of us would ever leave that bakery again. So when you go to the Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti in your area, stock up!
The whole day through, our tables of baked goods were a feast for the senses. We had a continual supply coming from the back with which we restocked the tables, and we just kept selling through! Not to mention the raffle table - at times we got so busy back there I could barely keep up; at one point there were three of us taking tickets, and it needed all three of us just to hold it down. And no wonder: local businesses and crafters were very generous in donating some truly awesome prizes.
And all of that leads to the really fabulous part - the point of the whole shebang. By the end of the day, we had raised nearly $46oo to donate to Doctors Without Borders, to support their current work in Haiti! And with the last few baked goods left over being sold at places of work the following Monday, plus a few other contributions that trickled in, we've actually now reached $5k. We'd love to find a sponsor to match us, so that we can send a full $10,000 - if you have any ideas for that please leave a comment. But either way, I'd say not too shabby for a lil' ol' bake sale, now is it.
Sadly, little can be done to alleviate the grief caused by the loss of so many lives. But work can and should be done to help heal the sick and wounded and begin to rebuild. Therefore those of us in a position to offer assistance must focus on these immediate and pressing needs. The organizers of the NYC bake sale feel that Doctors Without Borders is doing important work that is making a real impact in Haiti right now, literally at this moment, and we're excited to be able to send them a donation that will give tangible support to that work. There are of course other very worthwhile groups on the ground in Haiti doing work very much worth supporting, including Partners in Health, WSPA, and Mercy Corps.
I continue to be moved and inspired by the wave of vegan bake sales across the country and, in fact, throughout the world. At last count, we have collectively raised something in the neighborhood of $35,000 to support Haiti relief efforts through various organizations. There's a common misconception that vegans care more for animals than for people; anyone who believes that, please consider yourself corrected. The point of true compassion is that we don't draw a species line! I am so proud of the vegan community, but more importantly I am so thrilled that we've been able to come together to do something that will actually make a difference for the Haitian people.
And it doesn't end here! The coming weekend brings vegan bake sales in D.C., New Orleans, Little Rock, Falls Church, and likely others. If there aren't any set up in your area, well why not go ahead and organize one! Or if baking isn't your thing, get creative - teach a yoga class for Haiti. Sell ice cream sundaes for Haiti. Organize a five mile walk for Haiti where participants ask friends and family for sponsorship. Put out a donation jar at your office or place of business. Have a plant sale. Finally have that yard sale you've been thinking about and donate the proceeds - get the whole block in on it and place a small ad in the newspaper so that you draw a crowd. Throw a party with a $5 cover charge! There are so many things you can do to help people get involved, and generate a sizable contribution in the process. And if you don't have the time, of course there's nothing wrong with a plain old donation. :)
Disclaimer: The really awesome photos (top pic of cupcakes, pic of twinkies, pic of fauxstess, pic of cinnamon rolls) and the pic of me (immediately above) were *not* taken by me! The rest were. You can see a whole set of photos from the NYC Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti on our Flickr Pool.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Going once, going twice, going three times... SOLD to the compassionate landowner instead of the slaughterhouse!! (If we'll give a hand, that is...)
Jodi of the amazing VET shop This Is It! Creations made a terrible discovery over the weekend: that these three bulls who graze on her property were to be sold for slaughter in short order. Being a person of high ideals, naturally Jodi immediately started looking for an answer - that is, a way to keep these three gorgeous animals from such a brutal and unnecessary death. The solution? Buy them! But cows don't come cheap; their freedom can indeed be purchased, but it will come to the tune of about $3600. Not only that, but the payment must be made by the end of next week!
And so, friends, we ask for your help. Chip in to save Pooka Cow, Spotty Friend, and Less Spotty Friend!
Several VET member shops including 3 AM Art Productions, Veganosaurus, Holistically Heather, and Cards and Jewelry by Michele as well as Etsy for Animals' Lola Lynn are donating portions of sales through the zero hour, and Jodi's own shop will be putting 100% of all sales from today, Wednesday February 3, towards saving the boys. So get shopping already!
Just a few dollars from each of us can make a big difference. These lives matter! Help Jodi to help her friends. What's their alternative to a terrifying slaughterhouse? Says Jodi:
"We've been asked where the cows will go if we do raise enough money to save them - they will stay here, at least for the short term. We have 11 acres of land, a barn, and a stream. We are planning to create a line of products where all of the profits will go toward their care (hay, vet bills, fence mending, etc.) If we can find a loving family with enough land to adopt them, we are definitely open to that as well."Country idyll or the abattoir - three lives are on the line. So, wanna buy a journal? :)
Monday, February 01, 2010
Yesterday was the NYC Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti. The main organizers were the Vegan Etsy Team's Lisa of Panda with Cookie and our good friend Dayna of the awesome blog Seitan Said Dance; I played a distant third fiddle and MANY others contributed very significant help, like the amazing Janice who designed our flier.
Well, to put it lightly the event was a raging success! A completely astounding number of wonderful people baked a ridiculously delightful array (and quantity) of baked goodies. People came out en masse to volunteer, buy, eat, purchase raffle tickets, donate, and generally support the cause.
Thanks to this outpouring of awesomeness, we were able to raise approximately $4600 in a single day, every penny of which will be sent directly to Doctors Without Borders to help fund their current work in Haiti.
To everyone who was involved in this and all of the other Vegan Bake Sales for Haiti that have been happening and continue to happen all over the world - collecting over TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR HAITI to date!! - thank you, thank you, thank you.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Well that's just great. Crap!
Being a person who had my own city destroyed in a semi-natural very-disaster not so many years ago, I have to say that sitting here watching this happen is really, really anxiety provoking. I have absolutely zero connection to Haiti, other than the facts that it's also populated by humans and cool animals and is on the planet earth. Nevertheless, the mere thought of the magnitude of human suffering that is happening there right now makes me start to freak out and cry a little bit. So honestly I'm trying not to think about it, and but by the grace of dog there go I, to have the happy privilege of not being one of the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are directly affected by this earthquake.
What's giving me some consolation, though, is that it seems the whole world has jumped to action. Everywhere I look, everyone is trying to send help to Haiti or to groups that are helping Haiti. And by help I mean money, because let's face it - when a whole slew of people are in need of medical care and a significant portion of your infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, what you need is money and plenty of it.
Even my stupid FaceBook games are getting in on the action! (And so help me, they had better be on the level about it.) Zynga's top three games as well as FishVille (and maybe others?) have all instituted features that promote donating to their Hatian fund, and their blog also has links for direct donations to the nonprofit they're partnering with, the World Food Programme. They're claiming that 100% of profits are being donated!
So... why am I writing about this on the vegan blog? Because! The response that the vegan community has had to this egregious event is quite astounding. We're all having bake sales!
OK. Now, on its face that sounds really stupid. But hear me out. When done right, a good bake sale can bring in some dough. (Ha ha! Pun enjoyed but not intended.) And believe me when I tell you we're doing it right. You get some vegans together who are really into baking, and the delicacies that come forth are out of this world. And then there's the matter of quantity. So check it: so far, that I know of, there are 14 vegan bake sales already organized across the U.S.! And counting! Of course Isa Chandra Moskowitz of Post Punk Kitchen fame has been a major catalyst in making this bake sale thing happen and for this, Isa, NYiG applauds you.
I'll be participating in the bake sale here in NYC - it's going on all day long at Moo Shoes on Sunday, January 31st. Yeah, I'm making cupcakes. You know it. We're donating the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders - those docs do pretty amazing work, and amazing doctors are definitely needed over there right now. I'll also be stopping by this month's Vegan Drinks on Thursday the 28th, which will be featuring its own mini vegan bake sale for Haiti! Like that event needed to get any awesomer. They will be supporting Sodopreca, a group of veterinarians heading across the border from DR to help out.
[Geography Lesson] Hispaniola = the island on which are the countries of Dominican Republic and Haiti.[/Geography Lesson]
But guess what? Bake sales aren't it! There's also the amazing Josh Hooten and his partner Michelle of Herbivore Clothing Company: they teamed up with Ink Brigade to create this fab t-shirt. Naturally proceeds are going straight to the epicenter. I've already ordered mine... you're waiting for what, exactly?
Below you will find a list of all the vegan action happening for Haiti thus far, lifted directly from Animal Rights & AntiOppression (thanks, you're totally awesome!). When something this drastic happens, it's crucial that we all realize it could happen to any of us. Really. And please, please, PLEASE remember that this is not going to be over in a week or a month or even a year. These people are going to be suffering and rebuilding for a long, long time. Just because it's not the top news story, that doesn't mean it's done with. Keep these people in your hearts and minds (and prayers, if you're so inclined), and do whatever it is you can do to help... with or without chocolate chips. :)
1/23 (Sat) Sacramento
Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe
2315 K Street
11:00 – 3:00 pm
Benefits Food for Life Global
1/23 (Sat) Sacramento
2500 16th Street
10:00 – 3:00 pm
Benefits the American Red Cross
1/23 (Sat) San Francisco
Hayes St. at Octavia
11:00 – 4:00 pm
1/31 (Sun) Los Angeles
5825 Franklin Ave
Benefits Doctors without Borders
1/30 (Sat) Minneapolis
317 West 48th St
1/24 (Sun) Omaha
McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe
302 S. 38th St
Benefits Mercy Corps
1/28 (Th) New York City
Angels and Kings
500 East 11th St.
Benefits Sodoprec (Dominican veterinarians, site in Spanish)
1/31 (Sun) New York City
78 Orchard St.
11:30 – 6:00 pm
Benefits Doctors without Borders
1/23 (Sat) Akron
21 Furnace St.
Benefits Doctors without Borders
1/31 (Sun) Portland
3029 Southeast 21st Ave.
Benefits Mercy Corps