Vacation Recap

5 05 2010

First off, thank you to my man, Robbie, for the beautiful post…now get on it
more often. Turns out, a real camera (and a good photographer…thanks again Robbie) makes a huge difference, so after this post and going forth, I promise to lose the crappy phone camera shots as much a\s possible and deliver better pictures.

Last week, Robbie and I went to the Pacific Northwest. We basically flew into Seattle, then went to Orcas Island in the Puget Sounds, hung in Seattle, hiked a little Mt. Rainier, drove down to Portland, went to Willamette Valley wine country, then made our way up to Multnomah Falls, back to Settle then flew out. We packed our itinerary rather tight, but somehow we didn’t feel rushed.

We really got to see what we wanted to see (except a longer hike would have been great at Rainier), but for a week, I couldn’t have been happier with our trip. What a beautiful country we have…

So, I must highlight a few specific vegan foodie moments that were particularly memorable. First of all, Portland is a vegan HEAVEN. Everybody knows what the terms vegan means, and even the BIGMENLOVEMEAT hot dog truck guy had vegan hotdogs. Dude…it was crazy.

Our first WOW meal was at Portobello, an all vegan Italian-ish spot in Portland. What is awesome about them, besides the kick-ass food, is that they are really into organic, local produce and supporting local farmers. And, they make their seitan in house, which us in NYC know is a rarity. Side note: Sacred Chow does make their own- Kudos! Back to Portobello, though. We had the Pate, which was actually from Field Roast. It was served with an amazing baguette. You can’t get the Field Roast pate in retail, so if you are ever in Portland, eat it at Portobello.

Next, we had the Portobello Steak, with fleur de sel, olive oil whipped yukons and asparagus. The mushroom was perfectly cooked, as was the asparagus and the amazing creamy mashed potatoes. We also shared the Potato Gnocchi with rapini, fennel and cauliflower vellutata. The sauce on these buggers was plate-licking-worthy. It was so exciting to be able to visit a place with dished like this gnocchi, which is something usually seemingly vegan friendly but often containing eggs, or any number of non-vegan sauce ingredients.

We drank a beautiful bottle of Bunny Rouge from Hip Chicks Do Wine. It was such a beautiful, fruit-forward, well-loved wine. And it was local, baby!

For breakfast the next morning, we hit up Voodoo Doughnut. Robbie got the classic Voodoo style, filled with yummy, jammy blood. I barely remember what doughnuts taste like, but to me, it brought me right back to elementary school birthday parties. Robbie said it was spot on as well, and I trust his perspective on such matters. Regardless, they tasted awesome…

For lunch, we hit up Sweetpea. They have some killer lunch sandwiches, and we had one with some Field Roast, seitan, veg pepperoni,  pickled jalapenos, and other goodies. It was pretty awesome.

After a great lunch at Sweetpea, we hit up the rest of the vegan strip mall. YES- really. Next to Sweetpea is Herbivore, where I got an awesome zip-up hoodie and some fun buttons. Then, we went next door to  Food Fight grocery, an all vegan grocery store that I have been aching to visit for years. In case you were wondering, they’re open: EVERY F’ING DAY from 10-8PM (their signage says so!). I finally was able to try and buy Teese for the first time, as well as find a vegan jello mix! Rainbow cake on the way! The Teese is pretty rocking by the way. I love my Daiya (which is apparently pronounced day-ah…I don’t know how to feel about that), but Teese is easier to melt on things like nachos without drying out.

We also made the mandatory visit to Powell’s books. I thought you might be amused by this sign. Check out the “VEGAN” notation on the sign. Veg books took up most of the right aisle- it was a pretty beautiful sight.

Overall, it was an incredible trip. Not just the food, and the wine (oh..the wine…we brought 10 bottles home), but the country out there is really beautiful. And the folks there appreciate the land. They work with nature, not on it. This was made very clear while we were in Willamette Valley, talking one on one with the vinters. They respect the land and what it gives us. They nurture it and treat it as the living, fragile Earth that it is. The commitment to organic/natural/biodynamic farming that is prevalent out West is inspiring.

We’ll definitely be back.

When we got home, it was 30 degrees warmer, and time to take out the picnic basket for its inaugural trip. We had a wonderful picnic in Fort Greene park, with our Field Roast loot (the PATE, baby- and other things..mwahaha)…if you visit the factory in Seattle, you may just get as lucky as we did.

Cheers!

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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.

ON TO THE FOOD!

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:

Hi,
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.
Gary

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…





Keste Pizza & Vino

23 03 2010

Last night we went to Keste Pizza & Vino for the second time. It is so tasty, and I think worth the hype. It keeps getting voted high up on NYC pizza ratings, and to me, these rating are all about the crust. The Neopolitan style pizza has a really light, fluffy crust that is the result of super high oven temps.

One cool thing about Keste is that it is the official USA location for APN (Associazione Pizzaluloli Napoletani), which is an organization that attempts to preserve and promote the tradition and art of making Neopolitan style pizza. There are strict guidelines that must be followed to be an APN member which include:

1. The dough must be made only with flour, natural yeast/brewers yeast, salt and water

2. Dough must be kneaded by hand or mixers that don’t cause it to overheat

3. Dough must be shaped and punched by hand

4. Only wood burning, bell-shaped brick overs are permitted.

5. Pizzas must be cooked directly on the oven’s surface (often made of volcanic stone)

6. Temps must reach 750-800 degrees (which often takes hours before the pizza hits the oven)

The results of all these rules is a seriously yummy, totally different kind of pizza that anyone can make at home (unless, of course you have an oven that will reach 800 degrees- if so, lucky you)!

There is usually a wait to get into Keste during prime dinner times, but it is definitely worth it. Last night, we got there at around 8:15, and had to wait about 20 minutes for a table of 4. Also, they don’t take reservations.

The only vegan pizzas are the Marinara (which I have yet to try), which costs $9.00, and my fav, the  Vegetariana ($16.00), which features tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, artichoke, zucchini and olive oil. This one is great because it comes cheese-free! There are plenty of vegetarian pies as well.

Here’s my pizza:

Robbie had the Pizza del Papa, which has a butternut squash cream, artichoke, red and yellow peppers, and mozzarella- unfortunately NOT vegan at all, but so easy to fake this one at home. We’ve recreated it multiple times, and he’s said (besides the crust), that it tastes pretty much the same. It is great to make when butternut squashes are abundant at the green market. To make the cream sauce, we just baked the squash, and pureed it in a food processor with some soy creamer and sauteed onions, garlic, pepper and salt to taste. Add cream to create desired consistency.

Here’s our Keste inspired home version of their Pizza del Papa, topped with Daiya and Follow Your Heart:

Also, a while ago we hit up Roberta’s in Bushwick. It was great as well and Neopolitan in style. Here’s my Rosso pizza, topped with mushrooms and onion. Very tasty pizza, in a really cool space.

We still have to hit up Motorino, Saraghina, and Co.

LOVE PIZZA!