Reviews: Fonda and Caravan of Dreams

4 06 2010

This week, Robbie and I finally hit up 2 places we’ve been meaning to go to forever: Fonda, a Mexican restaurant in Park Slope, whose chef is Roberto Santibanez (formerly of Rosa Mexicano). And, Caravan of Dreams– I had been once before but that was years ago.

P.S. We also went to S’nice- both the Brooklyn and West Village locations this week for the first time as well. Suffice it to say I didn’t take time to take pix because eating was more important. GREAT sandwiches. My fave is their Philly Cheesesteak. Pay the extra buck for Daiya!

Okay, so on to Fonda. We went on Wednesday night, and were sat right away in their beautiful garden.

We ordered guacamole, of course, which was great but beware to vegans: It comes with cheese- weird! But just ask for them to leave it off. We asked for spicy, and they actually made it spicy enough, which was great.

Guacamole, served with homemade tortillas

For our entrees, we shared a salad and enchiladas.

The Ensalada Verde was super good. Great dressing. Described as: Arugula, field greens, jicama, carrots & cucumber with almonds, sesame seeds, crispy pasilla peppers, basil-cilantro vinaigrette and cherry tomatoes. SO GREAT!

Ensalada Verde

The Vegetarian Enchiladas, Soft corn tortillas filled with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, chayote and eggplant, roasted tomato sauce, and cilantro were incredible. We asked for no queso fresco or cream, but I didn’t feel like I had deconstructed the dish because the sauce was super flavorful and fresh.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

I love Rosa Mexicano, but what stood out about Fonda was that all the food- especially the ranchera sauce on the enchiladas just had way more flavor. I guess that’s what you get from a small, neighborhood joint that really puts time into their dishes, and believes in their food. It was really well priced too, which is always a plus. I’m excited to go back!

Today, we went to Caravan of Dreams for lunch. I only remember loving the Unchicken Nachos from my past visit, so we got those. They really are incredibly yummy, although the picture doesn’t do them much justice.

Grilled seitan, black bean chili, guacamole, salsa


After the nachos, however, things took a turn for the (somewhat) worse. I got the tempeh ruben which was…fine. Nothing too special, and not comparable to the one I had at S’Nice a few days ago. It was just rather boring for an $11 sandwich.

Robbie ordered the ANGEL’S PESTO PIZZA, with cremini mushrooms, vegetables, grilled marinated seitan. Sounds awesome, right?

The final product:


We expected a pizza…with those toppings.

However, the dish is actually a mound of random veggies (carrots?) with seitan and shrooms, covering a soggy piece of pita (with some great pesto, though- I must say). It was pretty hilarious actually, as there was nothing pizza-like about it, and while the seitan was rocking, it was more like a salad- a warm salad of steamed veggies and seitan. Weird.

We also had a pitcher of sangria which, while tasty, was pretty stingy for the $25 we spent on it.

I hate to give Caravan of Dreams a less than great review, and to their merit, the other dishes people ordered looked fabulous- so maybe we just made some iffy choices.

Has anyone else been there? What did you think?




Cafe Blossom for lunch & TACO NIGHT!

25 05 2010

Friday, Robbie and I had a wonderful lunch at Cafe Blossom on the Upper West Side. We’re big, big fans of Blossom and Cocoa-V in Chelsea, so lunch at yet another Blossom spawn seemed like a great idea. They have a great outdoor seating area, so we were able to bring Stella Adler along as well.

Hey Blossom: May we suggest a mascot?

Stella loves Blossom...

We started with the Black Eyed Pea Cake- which is a regular at Blossom as well, and is a “must-order” until I master it at home…which I haven’t come close to yet.

Black Eyed Pea Cake- more rustic than the one at Blossom, but still so amazing.

Next, for entrees, we shared the Red Quinoa Salad and the Southern Seitan Sandwich. Both were really, really tasty. Robbie and I were especially amazed by the sandwich. The seitan was cooked in a very flavorful breading, and the combo of that with perfectly cooked onions, avocado, and wonderful bread was drool-worthy. The side of sweet potato fries were perfectly cooked as well.

Spiced seitan, caramelized onions, avocado, chipotle aioli, served with sweet potato fries

Red quinoa, navy beans, julienne peppers, watercress, toasted seeds, mango guacamole, lemon vinaigrette

Saturday was TACO NIGHT! We made two different tacos. One was a mushroom taco with shiitake and creminis, cooked with tequila. The other was a peanut-tequila chipotle marinated seitan. After we cooked both, we heated them over a mixture of Daiya and the new version of Teese (mozzarella style). I must say, there was some major melting going on, which for those of us vegan nerds out there, is a little more than exciting. We served the tacos with some of Robbie’s amazing guacamole and black beans. NUM!

Peanut-chipotle tequila seitan over Teese and Daiya

Shiitake and Creminis with tequila over Daiya and Teese

Melty Daiya and Teese goodness. Ohhh, the combination.

All Local Dinner

4 05 2010

Hi everybody. Robbie here. You may have heard of me from such posts as Mexican Explosion or Italian, Chinese, and a Birfday. I am Danielle’s fellow cooker-in-crime/live-in-moocher/all around good guy. This is my first post, obviously, but hopefully there you’ll be hearing more from me as this blog/my not-putting-off-my-first-post develops.

Anyway, a while back we discovered Brooklyn Oenology. They source grapes from the North Fork of Long Island and produce and bottle wine a few nabes away in Greenpoint. We tasted them at Astor last year, and were smitten, as the reds were the only reds we’d had from LI that didn’t taste like metaly, flat, mineraly swill… wow that’s harsh… They do make excellent whites out there though… Channing Daughters, for instance (there, now I feel better). Anyway, their Merlot and Motley Cru were excellent, and we’ve been fans ever since.

But, I digress. We got the ’05 Chardonnay (which has been sold out for a while) a few weeks ago, and I thought it might need something special to go along with it. So we decided to hit up the USQ Greenmarket and do an all local dinner.

We ended up thinking that a wheat meat and potatoes style dinner was what we wanted to go for and immediately Ray’s seitan (made in Philadelphia) came to mind. Now, as far as we know, there’s only one place in the city to get it, and that’s at Lifethyme on 6th, so we headed down there, but they were out of it. We called around a couple other health food stores, but nobody else carries it. At this point, things were looking dire, we had just gotten some beautiful asparagus, potatoes (Norwich Meadows Farm, NY), and mushrooms (Madura Farms, NY) from the Greenmarket , and weren’t about to go down without a fight. So Danielle had the idea to call Blossom, we know they use Ray’s, and it was worth a shot right? Right, because they said it wouldn’t be a problem, and they had it waiting for us when we got there. Thank you VERY much to them. We rewarded them (but mostly us) by going to Cocoa V and  having a glass of wine and getting some amazing chocolate.


Our main dish was the seitan, but we’ll get to that in a second. We also had bread leftover from our first picnic of the season (Fort Greene Park, it was awesome) so we decided to do bruschetta.

There it is, a 7 grain bread from il Forno in the Bronx topped with caramelized onions, sautéed portobello and shiitake mushrooms, PA grown cherry tomatoes, Dr. Cow’s aged cashew and brazil nut cheese (Brooklyn), and fresh basil from Danielle’s mom’s herb garden. It’s alongside the asparagus which we roasted with just a little bit of olive oil and S & P. They were great additions to our wheat meat and potatoes.

This was great. I did my classic mashed potatoes with rosemary again from Danielle’s mom upstate, while Dani seared the seitan and made a red wine reduction to finish it off.

This was a great dinner, and a lot of fun to make. As we get further into the summer season, I want to do this as much as possible, it’s great to get fresh ingredients, and talk to the people who grow them.

But that was last night, and now it’s a new day… and that day eventually turns into TACO NIGHT! So I’ve got to get started on that!

Blossom Review and adventures in seitan! And an amazing dinner by Robbie.

2 04 2010

On Wednesday, Robbie and I were lucky enough to nab 2 free tickets to see te Roundabout’s production of “The Glass Menagerie.”

Before the show, and after much deliberation regarding which of the many amazing vegan spot we could go to for a pre-theatre dinner, we decided on Blossom Cafe. We’ve been here a number of times and every experience has been wonderful.

As an appetizer, we couldn’t help but order the Black Eyed Pea cake- which we have, without fail, ordered every time we’ve been to Blossom. It is just that great. Packed with Yukon gold potatoes and a chipotle aioli, it is really a special dish. I’ve tried recreating it at home, but my version fell short. The deal is, when we’ve made our own home version that rivals Blossom’s, we’ll keep getting it for an appetizer. So, we will probably be ordering it for a long time.

Next, we shared two enterees.

One was the Port Wine Seitan- the port wine reduction is incredible, as is Blossom’s impecible seitan….wowza.

“Seitan cutlets pan-seared in a sauce of port wine and mushrooms, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes, tempura onion, and sautéed garlic spinach.”

The other entree was “Rigatoni in Porcini Cream.” This dish is incredibly creamy, yet light at the same time. All the flavors are beautifully balanced. YUM!

“Cooked with shallots, leeks, and broccoli rabe, finished with pistachio gremoulata and truffle oil.”

We also shared a really nice bottle of Sangiovese.

As always, dining at Blossom is a pleasure.

We asked if their seitan is made in house, as it is consistently the best seitan we’ve had. We thought we may get some secrets for making our own as tasty. To our surprise, they don’t make it. They get it from Fresh Tofu Inc., who distubutes Ray’s brand seitan to a number of restaurants including Candle Cafe and others. If you’re in NYC, you can find Ray’s at Lifethyme on 6th ave. Anyway, I contacted Fresh Tofu and their Pres/Founder Gary was more than willing to give me some tips on making our seitan more kick-ass. He said it’s all about how much starch you rinse out after it is in dough form- this also means using high gluten flour as oppose to my beloved vital wheat gluten. Here is his email reply for all of us nerds:

Use a high gluten flour. King Arthur is 1 brand. Mix the flour and water and knead to make a dough. Let rest for 10 minutes, keep it covered in water. Then rinse with luke warm water until it looks stringy and the water is getting clear that rinses out. This is the point that you need to decide how much starch to rinse out, which will effect the texture. Let it rest a bit, then boil in broth stirring so it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot. When it floats and is cooked through it’s done.
Learn from your errors and improve the next time.
Blossom and Candle are very good at cooking with seitan, that’s why it tastes better. Candle has a cookbook that might help.
I hope this helps.

Another reason to support local, small businesses! So cool.

Lastly, Robbie cooked an incredible dinner fo me last night. We somehow found this Hazelnut roast en Croute from Field Roast at a health food store in Bed-Stuyvesant. It can’t believe we found this- we haven’t seen it anywhere else. Along with that he made twice baked potatoes (with daiya and tofutti cream cheese), and the most gorgeous salad I’ve ever seen. Edible flowers! And, some pear vodka pom lime cocktails…

Amazing dinner to come home to…

A confused local grocer…

17 10 2009

Our local grocery store is the Met- a small, but packed store that carries all the standards, and randomly some really great vegan products. Weirdest of all, they carry Field Roast- vegan grain meat. It is the seitan superstar of all faux meats, and comes in sausages, slices, and even a stuffed “Celebration Roast” with butternut squash, apples, and mushrooms. It tastes incredible, and has become a staple (when we can afford it) on our menu. A few months ago, I noticed a familiar label in the packaged meat aisle at the Met. God knows why I was looking in that direction, but I was- and noticed Field Roast in the MEAT section. Not in the separate vegan/veg section with your standard Tofurkey/Light Life selection. Nope- the Field Roast vegan sausages were right next to the other premade “gourmet” (blech) real meat products. I thought this was hilarious (especially since they cost less here, at the Met, than at Whole Foods), and thought that would be the end of the story. Did they think it was meat? Maybe, but regardless, I was just happy to see it there. Last week, however, the story unfolded. As usual, I always look to see that the Met still carries it, as I have a fear that one day it will just be gone. Today, however, there were not only sausages, but Field Roast meatloaf and Field Roast Celebration Roast (which I’ve rarely seen anywhere). The best part is that it was priced out as an actual meat- handling warning label on it and all. This all confirmed by suspicion- the Met really doesn’t know it is vegan. And that’s good- it is a good enough product to be placed on the same “level” as it’s counterparts. Huzzah! We used it to make a pre-Thanksgiving vegan feast- with gravy, mashed local purple potatoes, and local greenbeans with almonds and rosemary. Vive la Field Roast!


Ancho chiles stuffed with “beef tenderloin”, shitakes, and cremini

26 07 2009

Rosa cookbook to the rescue…again! Their recipes are awesome- not always the easiest because the ingredients usually aren’t on hand- but they aren’t difficult to make once you have everything. The best part of this recipe, to me, is the roasted yellow tomato salsa that the stuffed chiles are served over. The combo of the yellow tomatoes (which Robbie found at the USQ greenmarket!) and the habanero make an incredible, creamy combination. I used homemade seitan to substitute the beef tenderloin, which worked great. Also, the recipe called for goat cheese. Instead, we used Sunergia Soy Feta, in their Tomato and Garlic flavor.

In Tomato and Garlic flavor

I’d never tried this before, and it was awesome. Just like (I remember) feta being…and it worked great in the chiles. We served it with Rosa’s red rice- which has ancho and guajillo chiles- and guacamole.

To drink, we had pretty cachaça (finally pronouncing it right- ka-cha-sa) drinks with sugar and lime. We tried Leblon cachaça at an Astor Wines tasting, and pretty much had to get it. So, Robbie made his version of a Caipirinha- a traditional Brazilian drink. It was pretty great.

Fruit CaipirinhaStuffed Chiles, Roasted Yellow Tomato SalsaGuac and Chips

After dinner, we watched a movie. Yea, it may have been Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze. It was…great…but the NUMNUM scene makes it worth it.


Grilled Pizza…not so much

20 07 2009

This is how much I love Brooklyn. I went to the Trader Joe’s in BK, knowing that I would be next to the Union Square Trader Joe’s anyway when I went into Manhattan directly AFTER- but still chose to lug the bag of groceries from BK into the city. Why? Because the BK Trader Joe’s doesn’t make me want to knock slow moving/clueless/touristy people out blocks of my organic, extra firm tofu. So, once in the city, it seemed like the perfect day to get a cocktail- it was gorgeous out. I’ve always wanted to try Mercadito Cantina out, and now that I like beer (hark!), I was interested in their fancy beer cocktails- I ordered a “Happy-Mich” which was Dos Equis Lager, watermelon, lime, salsa picante, and hibiscus. Robbie had a “Tiki-Mich”: Dos Equis Lager, pineapple, lime, serrano, and spicy syrup. We also got a tasting of 3 salsas: the cacahuate (grilled tomato, toasted peanute, chile de arbol, chile guajilo), the veracruza (roasted tomato, bell pepper, pickled jalapeno), and my fav the habanero (grilled tomato, habanero, garlic, lemon). For $6.50, they were amazing. Each was super-good and fresh.

Happy/Tiki Mich

Being that it is summer, and when it is beautiful out, nothing sounds better than grilling something and drinking a beer, we decided to grill one of our favorite things- PIZZA. Robbie had the idea to make a “meat-lovers” pizza, so we put together a bunch of toppings. Tofurky Italian sausage,  SmartBacon, Tofurky Peppered Deli Slices, Trader Joe’s soyrizo, and the new, amazing Gardein fake meats: “It’s all good” BBQ Skewers. Gardein is the new “it” sub they’re using in a lot of restaurants for seitan, but also now Morningstar Farms uses it. We figured we must try it. YUM. Really great. Except that it’s kind of pricey, which reminded me I need to make more seitan from scratch- because it’s super cheap and more pure. We  also made our own sauce, and shredded some FYH Jack cheese. Blue moon beer in hand, Robbie fired up the charcoal grill out front, while I precooked the dough. I thought we may have some issues grilling the fresh dough on a finicky grill, with no lid or anything, so I pre-cooked it for about 15 minutes. It was too thin, so when we put it on the grill, it pretty much just burned. We gave up on the grilling until we can use a gas grill, or not put the pizza directly over the charcoal, brought the whole thing inside and oven cooked it instead. Anti-climactic, but it still tasted awesome! Robbie made some pretty drinks too- lime juice, muddled mind, pineapple juice, vodka, topped with soda. NUM!