Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NYC Vegan Thanksgiving!

For those of you who'll be in town this Thanksgiving weekend and prefer to avoid the stress that can coincide with holiday dinners with the fam, I'm reposting a fantastic list from SuperVegan.com with vegan Thanksgiving specials around New York City. Remember, stuff yourself, not the bird!

-------

UPDATE 11/24/08: It's Vegan Thanksgiving Week at Perelandra. Fresh
seitan and gravy, stuffing, garlic roasted smashed potatoes, pumpkin
tofu cheesecake and other holiday-ish foods every day this week.
(Probably not in quantity enough to cater your banquet, but perfect
if you're dropping by for lunch.)

Angelica Kitchen is offering a $50 five course prix fixe menu.

Blossom has a $68 four course prix fixe menu, while Cafe Blossom
offers three courses for $58.

Candle 79's four course prix fixe is $69, while sister restaurant
Candle Cafe gives you four courses for $52, plus a la carte options.

Caravan of Dreams will serve a three course dinner for $22.

Counter's got a $45 four course prix fixe, plus an optional $30 wine pairing.

Curly's will be serving a $24.95 prix fixe menu. You can choose
between soy turkey or maple-baked sham for your entree, plus a
variety of sides.

Foodswings is offering their menu for $15 in advance or $18 at the
door; Freedom posted the menu here in our forum.

Organic Grill will have a special Thanksgiving menu; you can choose
between a tofu turkey or stuffed squash entree for $14.95, plus pick
from a variety of Thanksgivingy sides.

Chef Ouiya has both prix fixe and a la carte options for delivery or
pick up. Check out the menu here and make sure to get your order in
by midnight Sunday.

Pure Food and Wine will be serving a fancy schmancy four course prix
fixe for $72. I almost want to go here just to see how they justify
offering the most expensive vegan Thanksgiving meal in NYC.

Red Bamboo will be serving their regular menu and a $20 Thanksgiving
prix fixe menu. If you're going out of town on the day itself, Red
Bamboo Brooklyn will offer their $19.95 three course prix fixe after
4pm on Thanksgiving Day as well as on the Tuesday and Wednesday
before.

'sNice and 'sNice Brooklyn are both closed Thanksgiving day, but we
recommend you stop by in the days before or after to try their
awesome Thanksgiving Leftovers sandwich.

Next to its "normal" Thanksgiving dinners for eight or twelve,
WholeFoods offers that same old Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner for one.
For $19.99, you get curried apple pumpkin soup, a holiday roast
stuffed with wild rice and dried cranberries, green beans with
almonds
, a mini pecan tart, and a firm reminder that the world
considers you an isolated freak.


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And something to pass on to your omnivorous friends & family: tips from About.com on how to accomodate vegans and vegetarian guests for Thanksgiving.

Chinese-Style Marinated Tempeh



Easy as easy can be, especially since all your marinade ingredients can be found in any local supermarket. You can marinate tempeh, seitan, veggies, or whatever you like and toss with soba or somen noodles for an easy weeknight meal that will undoubtedly be much healthier than the greasy takeout from your local Chinese joint!

The Whats:

* 2 tbsp soy sauce
* 2 tbsp rice vinegar
* 1 tbsp sesame oil
* 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce (or plum sauce if you prefer)
* 1 tsp. sambal olek or ground chili paste (omit if you prefer a more mild marinade)
salt & pepper to taste

The Hows:

1) In a large bowl, whisk together all of your marinade ingredients. Toss with tempeh and vegetables until well coated. Allow tempeh and veggies to sit for 30 minutes before stir-frying or sauteeing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the Resto Week Rundown...

I love fine dining, even more so when offerings include $24 lunches and $35 dinners. I'm usually the first to pounce on promotional prix fixe specials, eager to try out all the variety that NYC dining has to offer. And that was no exception this past week for the OpenTable Appetite Stimulus Plan- same deal as bi-annual Restaurant Week, here's the Friendly Veg Rundown:

Vong- a part of the Jean-Georges kingdom for Wednesday lunch. The standard Southeast Asian fusion you'll find at several of his restaurants, minus the fab decor of Spice Market and others. I started with a delicious ginger & basil butternut squash soup- served warm, the ginger, basil, and toasted squash seeds were presented in a bowl with the soup poured over these ingredients, making for sweet-spicy-herbal goodness on a freezing day. My entree was crispy tofu with a radish salad and lavender atop it- though the tofu was crisped nicely, and wasn't spongy on the inside, it was a bit lacking in the more noticable flavors I'd experienced with my soup. Molten chocolate cake with coconut ice cream didn't particularly coincide with the Asian theme, but then again, I don't think you can ever go wrong with chocolate. (I take that back, see previous review of Broadway East) Not the widest variety of veggie options, but my lunch was certainly enjoyed!
Vong- 240 E. 54th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, 212-486-9592


Bar Blanc- a pristine, glowing white interior with an upscale French-American comfort food menu for Wednesday dinner with the girls. Snail's pace service excluded (reservation at 8:30... didn't get seated till 8:55... orders not taken till 9:15... exited Bar Blanc after 11pm... so much for planning other activities for the night!) All of our dishes were hearty and very savory- the perfect comfort dishes on a cold night. I started with their savory carrot soup with coriander oil- not too sweet, not too salty, and the coriander oil was just the right essence for this soup. My butternut squash risotto with wild mushrooms was incredibly rich and heavier than I thought it would be. Creamy butternut squash puree was delightfully mixed with a little bit of saltiness from shaved pecorino. Dessert was a quince crisp with huckleberries and a dollop of fromage blanc ice cream- after a heavy dinner, the tangy fruit was a welcome addition to the table. As with Vong, there weren't a number of vegetarian dishes (and I can't imagine any were vegan-friendly), but the ones I had were spot on!
Bar Blanc- 142 W. 10th between Waverly and Greenwich, 212-255-2330


Ilili- a modern-looking yet warm Lebanese-Mediterranean restaurant in the Flatiron for a Friday date night with the honey. Filling small plates like oven fresh pita, baba ghannouj, falafel, and chankleech (feta, tomatoes, and onions) served as our appetizers; vegetarians have lots to choose from! Many Lebanese and Mediterranean sides have a wonderful way of being light yet filling at the same time; we wondered how on earth we'd manage to find room for our entrees after we not so delicately devoured our delicately plated apps. My creamy vegetarian fatte with chickpeas, eggplant, garlic and yogurt was tangy, lightly spiced, and between the veggies and beans, had great texture. Rounding out the gently spiced meal was a syrupy achta- very creamy and very sweet.
I'd give Ilili a great review if it weren't for being woken up at 4am with horrible stomach pains and nausea (bad yogurt maybe? I'm still clueless!). I'm sure it's a fluke, but I'm noting this nonetheless.
Ilili- 236 Fifth Avenue between 27th and 28th Street, 212-683-2929

I'd originally had reservations at Savoy for Friday night, and shame on them, when I called to ask about the menu that day, they said they would not make any substitutions, including vegetarian subs, to their prix-fixe menu. And believe it or not, this makes Savoy the only restaurant I've been to that has been unwilling to accomodate a vegetarian diner wanting the prix fixe. I'm not being unreasonable here- it's really not that difficult, especially for a place that prides itself on simple and seasonable food, to whip up something veggie friendly, and this was a sincere disappointment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Broadway East

Don't believe the hype. That's all I've got to say.

I've been meaning to go to Broadway East since it opened this past March. Descriptions of the very trendy veggie restaurant definitely piqued my curiosity, even if it meant going to the middle of nowhere Manhattan to reach it. And much like a man you might be going on a dinner date with, just because something is sexy and vegetarian does not necessarily guarantee it will be great.

A friend and I arrived at Broadway East for an early dinner on Tuesday, 6:45pm to be specific- and I couldn't figure out why we had horribly slow service with next to no one in the restaurant. Surely the 240 feet of vegetation that decorated the place did not need anywhere near as much attention as two cocktail-deprived ladies after a rough work day. Alas, this was not the case. When our waitress finally arrived with said alcoholic beverages, we immediately placed our order. My friend and I split an appetizer of sweet potato samosas; and the sweet and spicy flavors of the dipping chutneys were the most standout flavors of our dish. I enjoyed the twists on original Indian samosas- ours were made of flaky phyllo dough, and the slightly sweet mash of sweet potato stuffing was definitely a winter-ready shift from a traditional samosa- and though tasty, they still incited the "hmm, this needs something" reaction.

We still had hope when we received our beautifully plated entrees, but the same could be said of those as well- their signature crispy coconut tempeh I had ordered was uninspiring. There was hardly a hint of coconut in the crust, and the curry sauce that surrounded it was lacking in curry flavor, or any spices for that matter. My friend's veggie moussaka had a great texture, and the light eggplant flavor was enjoyable, but that's all there was to it. And where our entrees were lacking spice, the chocolate cake we split for dessert was over-abundant. I love the combination of spice and chocolate, but this was ridiculous- there should be a slight warm in your mouth with a good chili-chocolate, and not full-on heat.

Perhaps, after hearing rave reviews for months, my expectations were too high. But I don't think it's a crazy expectation to want flavorful vegetarian cuisine instead of the flat, one dimensional dishes we received. I certainly can't knock sustainable, locally grown, seasonal produce, but just because the cuisine has some wonderful green labels attached to it, does not make it worthy of stellar reviews; the food may be in season, but bland cooking is never in season. Sorry Bway East.


Broadway East, 171 East Broadway between Rutgers and Jefferson, 212-228-3100

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Curried Pumpkin Soup



Every vegetarian remembers their first Thanksgiving as a veg... and probably kept their fingers crossed that other dinner guests did not continually bombard them with questions about what on earth they'd eat, make silly comments like, "turkey isn't really meat," or worst of all, as everyone in my house liked to do, wave a turkey leg in front of you while making gobbling noises. No wonder why we get stressed out during the holidays!

And though there was plenty of the aforementioned on my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian, I still remember my mom, days before the bird-roasting bonanza, struggling to find a recipe suitable for her newly vegged out daughter- anything with pumpkin and anything with some spice would definitely score points. And Mom sure racked up the points big time with this curried pumpkin soup recipe! Though I don't miss the tradition of my sibs putting turkey skin on their faces a la The Cable Guy, making this thick, creamy soup in November is the tradition I will keep :)


The Whats:

* 3 tbsp. soy butter
* 1 large onion, diced
* 1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin
* 4 cups vegetable stock
* 2 fresh bay leaves
* 1 tsp. sugar
* 1 tbsp. curry powder
* 1 tsp. nutmeg
* 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
* 1 1/2 cups soy milk
* salt & pepper to taste


The Hows:

1) Melt butter in a 4 to 6 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until soft and golden brown, about 3 minutes.

2) Stir in pumpkin, veggie stock, bay leaves, sugar, curry powder, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and continue to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) In batches, transfer soup to blender to puree, or use immersion blender until soup is smooth. Return to saucepan, and add the soy milk, salt, and pepper. Simmer for ten minutes, but do not allow soup to boil. Serve hot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Is Red Meat's Bad Name Justified?"

As many of us already know, that answer is a resounding YES!

But just in case you had any doubts, the L.A. Times published an article on Monday touching on this issue. Def worth a read... especially when you consider that researchers at well-known names like Harvard, the World Cancer Research Fund, and National Institutes of Health have all linked meat consumption to liver cancer, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.

I already know my omnivorous pals will be saying these studies are all relative, that you've got to consume a lot of meat in order to be affected. Um, yeah, guess what, you DO eat a lot of meat and you ARE being affected! The average American eats a meat-based diet, and we all know that portion sizes are out of control in the U.S. as a whole. Just based on those facts, do the math- that's a lot of meat!

Also published via Associated Press, check out the breakdown of meat consumption, in pounds, of the average American, in 2007:

Chicken: 84.9 lbs.

Beef: 63.5 lbs.

Pork: 48.2 lbs.

Turkey: 17.5 lbs

Lamb & Mutton: 1 lb.

Have you been totaling these up as you go? That's over 200 pounds of meat last year. Ewww!


Just some (veggie) food for thought :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Panzanella



Tradition dictates this Tuscan bread salad be composed of day-old bread, tomatoes, and basil drenched in red wine. But like many classic dishes, every Italian has their own interpretation of what tradition should be. For example, this New York Italian has a tradition of not keeping bulky food items, like baguettes, in her tiny apartment for very long. Leaving bread out to harden isn't the most space-saving thing I can do for my kitchen, so instead of day-old bread, I've toasted my bread for this recipe- I really like the warmth it adds to the salad. My version also includes some zucchini, and you can also substitute with chunks of grilled eggplant; using only tomatoes is a bit too much like a traditional bruschetta. And who needs tradition? We vegetarians don't!



The Whats:

* 1 whole wheat baguette, ripped into bite size pieces
* 4 tomatoes on the vine, large dice
* 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
* 1 small red onion, sliced
* salt & pepper to taste
* about 15 basil leaves, torn
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can get away with using less if you choose!)
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


The Hows:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette pieces on a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until bread is browned and crispy.

2) Toss toasted bread into a large bowl with tomatoes, zucchini, onion, basil, and salt & pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and toss to coat.

3) Allow the panzanella to sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes to let the bread and veggies absorb the oil & vinegar. Toss again before serving. This dish is even more flavorful when you leave it overnight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

2008 Chocolate Show



The 2008 Chocolate Show was a choco-gasmic experience, as it is every year!

Originally concocted by the French (who else?), the Show now travels across the world, from Germany to Japan to New York, for the 11th annual expo at Pier 94... conveniently coinciding with the food & wine festival Tastings NYC. And death by chocolate isn't just some woman's wild PMS-fueled fantasy, au contraire! I've discovered it is fully within the realm of possibility to OD on chocolate. I applied the general munching principle of "as long as it's vegetarian, I'll try it!" and found some new faves, as well as great takes on old favorites... like "firecracker" chocolates from Chuao Chocolatier, pecan pie truffles from Roni-Sue's Chocolates at the Essex Street Market, and my fave green tea ganaches from Mary's Chocolatier in Japan.

And of course, the best chocolate of all... SweetRiot! After walking through the show and having been dragged away from many a booth, SweetRiot was the only vendor selling dark chocolate covered cacao nibs. And though I do work and volunteer for them, I'm a believer that you can't deny an all-natural chocolate fix from an equitrade and eco-conscious company. So go ahead, indulge, and don't look back!

Upcoming November Events!

I'm reminded on a daily basis of how many fun, random, and veg-friendly events are always happening around NYC. After working the Chocolate Show this past weekend (which I'll be blogging about later!), I'm listing several more upcoming foodie events that will help you celebrate Vegan Awareness month:

Green Drinks NYC
- November 11th, 6-10pm at LQ New York- these monthly meetings are the perfect way to interact with other members of the green community in NYC! The first 40 women to arrive get tanks, and the first 40 men get tees from organic clothing line Toggery by Kate D'Arcy.

Go Vegan Happy Hour Party- November 12th, 6-9pm at The Village Pourhouse- mix, mingle, & make new like-minded friends!

Appetite Stimulus Plan 2008- runs November 17th thru 21st- well, at least something good is coming out of recession specials! With $24 prix fixe lunches and $35 prix fixe dinners (including the hot veggie spot Broadway East!), one good Restaurant Week deserves another. Check OpenTable.com for the list of participating restaurants.

Peanut Butter Paradise Tasting- November 18th, 7pm at Vintage Irving- you know you loved PB as a kid, and it's now time to indulge in what childhood memories are made of in a more adult way- through PB cocktails and desserts!

Vegan Drinks- November 20th, 7pm at Angels and Kings- more drinks & more vegans? Just because we don't eat meat doesn't mean we don't know how to have a rockin time!

Undergrounds Unite!- November 14th & 15th, 8pm, location will be disclosed to confirmed guests- underground restaurants/dining parties like the Ghetto Gourmet and Light Bulb Oven present a 12 course feast that surely promise the most innovative dinner party you'll ever attend.

And coming up at the beginning of December, check out another dine-out event, Chefs for a Cure. Select restaurants (including the vegan classic Candle 79) will be donating 10% of their November 30th and December 1st sales to AIDS research. As if you needed more of a reason to feel good about dining out!

Be sure to check back for more Friendly Veg approved events!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

and speaking of Thanksgiving...

Chow.com has made their latest Top Ten list all about Thanksgiving vegetarian dishes, and they sure do sound good! I'm eager to try their recipe for roasted acorn squash with wild rice stuffing! Of course, I'll be posting some more recipes on here that will be sure to please vegetarians & vegans coming to dinner, so be sure to check back!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Honey Balsamic Spinach with Cranberries & Pignoli



Sure, the salad of hearty greens mixed with a variety of add-ins, like cranberries/walnuts/apples/onions/goat cheese is a staple at most restaurants and local salad bars alike, but with the weather getting cooler, I'm adding some warmth to this solid stand-by salad! Now that November is here and you've got to start thinking about the veggie options you'll be bringing to the Thanksgiving table, this dish makes for a great side. With some honey balsamic vinegar to saute your iron-vitamin C-potassium-rich spinach, Mum won't ever have to yell at you to eat your greens before your sweets!


The Whats:

* 1 large bunch spinach, rinsed and leaves trimmed from stalks
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1/4 or 1/3 cup honey balsamic vinegar, depending on your preference (wanna make your own? whisk a little honey and a dash of orange juice or the like into some balsamic vinegar)
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 1/2 cup cranberries
* 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)


The Hows:

1) In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the spinach by the handful and stir into the pan. Add the honey balsamic vinegar to the spinach and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until spinach is slightly wilted, and some of the vinegar has cooked down.

2) Stir the cranberries and pignoli into the pan, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and serve hot.