Out and About it

November 22, 2010

We’ve made some interesting culinary journeys recently. We hadn’t visited our standby, Bela, for a long time, and our meal made us think we should come back more often. We had tempeh and kale with a delicious miso-sesame-chili sauce. It was spicy, sweet and savory and so satisfying.

We also had a great meal at Sacred Chow in the West Village. Nicole and I both opted for the “small plates” entree and sampled a lot of tasty dishes.

Traveling to New York again a few weeks later, we visited Angelica Kitchen, which has been successful and vegetarian since the 1970s. It shows, too. Nicole made an apt comparison to Moosewood. It’s good food, but vegan and vegetarian cuisine has moved beyond their oeuvre. We want and expect more from our food, especially when we go out in the City.

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Cold Comfort

November 3, 2010

It’s been too long, but I love the fall, especially for cooking. It’s time for comfort food. To me, that means squash, beets, turnips, soup and Octoberfest. Abiding by this primal need or just my cravings, we’ve cooked and eaten many squashes in many forms.

We made a delicious squash and pear soup with sage, which surprised us with its robustness. Chunky and rich and satisfying. One of my favorites of the season. I love turning on the oven and roasting vegetables from the previous day’s harvest or Farmer’s Market. We did this with our potatoes and fennel (from the Co-Op), too. We also made a creamy butternut squash pasta with sage and nutmeg, a pear-squash soup and an acorn squash pie with a cider and Grape Nut crust. The flavors of the fall really speak to my palate.

For Labor Day weekend, we traveled to Jersey to see our people, and made plans for a dinner to impress. Radicchio is also a fall friend. And artichokes, tofu sausage, preserved lemon and pasta never go out of season, so we made a memorable meal from these ingredients that included a creamy lemon-white wine pasta with sage, sausage and grilled artichokes. The accompanying salad, which was inspired by a visit to Hope & Olive last year, was comprised of grilled radicchio, almonds, carmelized onions, lettuce mix and a great balsamic dressing.

Speaking of Hope & Olive, my sister took me there for a birthday party, and we ate well once again. We shared a radish and turnip salad and each got a tasty grilled miso and pickled veggie sandwich. I wish we could afford to go there more often (and that it was closer).

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Corn, zucchini, tomatoes have all been superb this summer. I guess that’s what happens when the sun to rain ratio is ten days to one day? Anyway, we’ve taken advantage of this by making some tasty things like squash and corn tacos. We’ve also eaten a lot of corn on the cob with herb dipping sauces.

We’ve also eaten a lot of tomatoes in a lot of forms. We tried gazpacho, salsa, pizza, various salads and sauces, stuffed tomatoes and a tomato-puff-pastry pie with tofu pesto

Another of our favorite summer experiments was making micheladas — a kind of Mexican beer cocktail with tomato juice, lime, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. It’s like a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka. One probably can’t drink a lot of these, but they are delicious, refreshing and so flavorful.

Recently, we also made dumplings. I can’t say how many we ate, but my stomach expanded to an extreme extent. Excellent!

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How our garden grows

August 15, 2010

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Just when we were starting to think that this was an off year for the garden, we were blessed with some pleasant surprises. We very much enjoyed out recent trip to Oregon, but our plants say that were very unhappy for those 10 days of 90 degree + weather with no rain. We came back to some very thirsty plants. A friend did step in to water a couple times while we were gone, and without her we probably would have come back to a wasteland. Here’s what’s going on:

The Hungarian and jalapeno peppers are doing pretty well.

The tomatoes are delicious and have mostly made their way through the bottom rot and early blight that we saw early in the season. Those sungolds are the best!

The kale and collards are finally starting to get a little bit large. They were really suffering at the hands of rabbits up until now. Is the scary garden owl finally doing his job? Who (hooo) knows?

The basil is being attacked by some kind of bug. Cayenne garlic spray seems to be helping, but this wont be a big pesto freezing year.

The potatoes somehow disappeared while we were away, and what’s left looks mostly like a field of unmowed grass. We’ll see what happens when we get the pitchfork out in September.

We have loads of garlic curing in the garage. I doubt we’ll have to buy any for quite some time.

The squash had powdery mildew and bugs. I used lime and some organic spray and think it’s helping some. We have squash blossoms and a few squash now.

Our pear tree looks beautiful and has loads of fruit on it. I wish we could say the same about our raspberry and blueberry bushes.

We’ve agreed to scale down the garden a bit next year and join a CSA. Some of the novelty vegetables we planted just don’t seem to be worth the effort.

Tastes of Oregon

August 10, 2010

We ate as well as we drank in Oregon. Portland is the vegan mecca we expected, and we fared well outside of Portland, too. Here are some of the highlights:

Bye and Bye – Really great bar (as mentioned below) with great staff and really satisfying food. On our first visit, we had some of the best nachos we’ve ever had. On our second visit, we ate full dinners. I had a BBQ Platter with BBQ tofu, collared green, black-eyed peas and potato salad. Nicole had a broccoli bowl with tofu and brown rice. Just based on the staff and drinks, we didn’t think this place could get better, but …

Blossoming Lotus – We didn’t fully plan to eat here until a lot of locals told us we should. This place has mostly raw food, and all of it is executed scrumptiously, freshly and attractively. We ordered raw nachos (with guacamole and cashew sour cream), a sampler plate (with beet salad, raw falafel, cilantro pate and more) and a brown rice bowl with soy curls, kale and avocado. We also couldn’t resist the raw cheesecake with raspberry sauce.

Portobello – This was the queen destination. We knew we had to go, had big expectations, and they were fulfilled. I can’t think of the beet tartar without thinking of how lovely the flavors were — earthy beets, creamy and salty cashew ricotta and fruity olive oil. So glad we ordered that. Nicole had bracciola and zucchini alfredo with mushrooms. I had an eggplant raviolo and gnocchi with a chili-tomato sauce. Everything was just expertly crafted. It’s like this place had been doing what they do for decades, like some Arthur Avenue Italian restaurant.

Kebaba (Bend) – Probably one of the finest Mid-East feasts I’ve had. Great falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, zatar pizza, curried tempeh and the carnabeet (cauliflower with tahini, sumac and lemon) was the true standout. Lovely preparation and flavor overall.

Vita – We had two marvelous breakfasts here. Separately, I had biscuits and gravy and huevos rancheros. Nicole had a pesto tempeh scramble and a breakfast burrito. Great food here. I don’t think there’s a better breakfast place in Portland.

Los Gorditos – This place started as a carnivore lunch cart. Now, it has a full vegan menu, and the breakfast burritoes here are killer. They’re huge, and the flavor is as good as any Mexican dish I’ve ever had. I wish I could get one overnighted.

We also had good meals at Junior’s (fennel potatoes), and in Eugene at Sam Bond’s Garage (tempeh Sloppy Joe’s) and Laughing Planet (gazpacho and chard rice bowl). I wish Massachusetts had so many options.

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July 23, 2010

The bar scene in Portland is different. They take a culinary approach to cocktails, and we appreciated that. We also appreciated the beer selection. We appreciated so much that we drank more than I can remember us drinking in several years.

It started at our hotel bar (Clyde Common), where we had a whiskey and gin drink and also ordered olives and fried almonds. The Clyde Common was stocked with liquors and liqueurs we’d never seen before. It was also stocked with hipsters and beautiful people like we’ve never seen before. Cool place to hang out, and everyone was unbelievably and genuinely helpful and friendly. We went back at the end of our trip for more cocktails and some inspiring popcorn.

At Bye and Bye, one really can’t ask for more — friendly service, good layout, great cocktails, wine and beer. And vegan food. Everything there is top notch. Do not miss out if you’re in the city. We had “Lefty’s Prayer” (beet infused tequila, rosemary syrup and lime with salt), “Three Liars” (Cucumber gin, lime and sugar), “My Father’s Son” (Whiskey, Averna, bitters and a cherry) to start and then started in with beer. And again, we had to return.

The beer selection is different out west. They just have access to different distributors, and I would say overall the beer is higher quality. The following list covers almost all of what we had (I starred the ones we really enjoyed):

EKU Pilsner*

New Belgium Brewing Sunshine, Skinny Dip* and 1554

(think grassy, malty, manurey)

Full Sail Amber

Alaskan Summer (Kolsch style)*

Wakonda Firthr

Deschutes (so many)*

Ninkasi (a bunch)

Goose Island Matilda*

Pinku Pils*

Trumer Pils

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July 15, 2010

Our fourth foster dog, Jake was adopted by a wonderful family last week while we were enjoying ourselves in the vegan capitol of the world, Portland, Oregon (more on that later). I think we’d both that Jake was our favorite foster yet. Six years old, extremely handsome, calm and lovable; he had it all. Jake was surrendered by a family who was building a new house and did not want to take him along. He was a delight from the get go. We whipped him into shape quickly with frequent trips to the dog park where he swam and trotted along beside his pals Wiggy and Oscar. Jake was a lover in every sense of the word, he loved all dogs. In fact, he’d almost always begin following strange dogs down the path in order to have a little extra time to get to know them better. There was just something special about him as he had that “old soul” look to him. We wish him the absolute best and can’t wait to visit with him and his new family on Monday!

And…since I’m off for the summer, I picked up another foster yesterday! Ben is a 10 month old goofy yellow lab that we can’t wait to get to know better. Photos of Ben coming soon!

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Out and About

July 15, 2010

Sierra has always been a staple in our weekend and/or downtown visits. We’d generally have snacks there, and the vegan sides (including hummus, potatoes, green beans, olives, asparagus and special soups) are always great. It wasn’t generally a go-to full meal place though. This changed recently because we tried their grilled tempeh during a recent family dinner. It was excellent. We paired it with the ale-onion-mushroom sauce, potatoes and a special quinoa salad. Great dinner in addition to their always superb drinks.

Nicole sat atop the Sierra recently, too, when she ventured downtown to Mulino’s. Probably an overdue visit, and it turned out to be rewarding. Nicole went with her mother and enjoyed a plate of puttanesca.  She also enjoyed the bread, wine and especially the company.

Before our trip to Oregon, we also visited Chatham, NY to see friends. Chatham is a nice, small town with a great bar and an excellent Mex place with a bunch of vegan options. We had outstanding guacamole, enchiladas and tofu fajitas. The fajitas had a wonderful grilled taste, and I think they used soy sauce, so my eastern/western mingling aversion might have relaxed.

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Homemade Yums

July 15, 2010

In Albany, I often visit a Mediterranean café called The Hidden Café. On their menu, they have a pesto chicken penne salad. And though I’d never eat it, It sounded intriguing enough to duplicate.  So we’ve been cooking pasta, using lots of veggies, herbs and greens and tofu dressings for cool summer dinners. They’ve been great, and I think they are now are a staple of our diet.

We’ve also been using rice and udon noodles for the same purpose – cold summertime salads with texture and weight. After we dogsat for my sister, she came, and we made a great miso-white wine-almond butter sauce for a greens and noodle dish. Again, great results.

We’ve been inspired to cook with puff pastry and filo dough, so we did a spinach strudel. We combined a few recipes and used mushrooms, spinach, onions, puff pastry, tofu ricotta and a balsamic sauce accompaniment. We will remember that strudel.

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Garden 2010

June 8, 2010

This is our second year doing a garden at the house. Last year, I found the task a little stressful at first, but this year it’s been pure pleasure. It’s a little smaller this year, but will still give us (and probably our friends) everything we need. In terms of non-edibles, I added a super cure perennial garden near our side door and have been making some fun trellises with bamboo stakes. I also did a sunflower and morning glory patch to cover up our large compost pile.

Here’s what’s growing this year:

Radishes (already coming up, cucumbers, potatoes (about 50 plants), turnips, loads of tomatoes, kohlrabi, broccoli, happy rich (an Asian green), kale (2 types), collards, chard, beets, scallions, onions, garlic, red cabbage, peas, various beans, asparagus, peppers (Hungarian, yellow bell, and jalapenos), various lettuces.

For herbs we have cilantro, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, dill, chives, parsley, marjoram, and lavender.

Soon we’ll have our strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries again. We planed three raspberry bushes near the road that will hopefully provide some privacy when they get larger. Even our pear tree seems happier this year.