Saturday, August 28, 2010

Adios for now!

It's my favorite time of year- vacation time! I'll be heading to Cartagena, in Colombia, for the next week, so I won't be updating the blog until Labor Day. There is ONE vegetarian cafe in Cartagena, so I'll have a full report when I return, and of course, pictures!

Have a great week everybody!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gracious Gourmand

Thank goodness for Twitter, because I'd be out of the loop! I feel like a slack ass for not even knowing about this dining series... but that just means more people need to spread the word about gourmet vegan dinners in the city!

Be sure to check out the Gracious Gourmand series tonight- a vegan, local, and organic six course meal by vegan chef Lagusta Yearwood.

Ready to drool? Check the menu:

   ♦ AMUSE BOUCHE: Baked scalloped local corn in cashew cream sauce.

    ♦ STARTER: Yellow tomato aspic, red tomato aspic, green tomato aspic, and tomato essence aspic with yuzu juice, micro basil, aged cashew cheese, and smoked Hawaiian guava wood sea salt.

    ♦ SALAD: Timbale of watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, and Chioggia beets with Kalamata olive vinaigrette and amaranth chiffonade.

    ♦ ENTRÉE: "Eggplant and squash, inside and out:" Syrian-stuffed eggplant with deep-fried spaghetti squash garnish, heirloom tomato sauce, and eggplant caviar-stuffed fried squash blossoms.

    ♦ DESSERT: Local stone fruit pudding parfait with coconut cream

    ♦ DESSERT: Lemon-verbena pine nut cookie sandwiches with creamy fruit fillings

    ♦ DESSERT: Chocolate truffles with olive oil ganache infused with Genovese basil, rolled in corn powder

Oh.Em.Gee. Forget the last of Restaurant Week, this is $50 well spent on fine dining! The first seating is at 7pm and the second seating is at 9:30pm. Get your tickets here. And while you're at it, check out The Discerning Brute blog, which is organizing this event- Joshua has some veggie recipes here too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boozy Sorbet

If you didn't get it from one of my previous posts, I think frozen, boozy treats are the most awesome thing that summers in NYC offer. And if you've never tried Brooklyn based Wine Cellar Sorbets, clearly, your summer is not over yet. Their sweet (and vegan!) sorbets are fabulous on a hot summer day- I particularly enjoyed their Sake Sorbet while sitting along the waterside park in LIC- and if you're curious about their other offerings, be sure to visit their Greenpoint factory at 76 Kent Street this Friday, August 27th, between noon and 8pm, for a free tasting! They'll have their nine alcoholic and some of their non-alcoholic sorbets available for tasting and purchase.

If you want to discuss our shared loved of frozen debauchery, you know where I'll be on Friday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Everyone has their favorite resto in each of their favorite culinary traditions- their favorite Italian place, their beloved neighborhood Chinese joint, their fave Thai, their go-to falafel cart. For the closest you can get in NYC to dining out in Greece, I always go to Taverna Kyclades in Astoria- it always has fresh, delicious vegetarian options and is worth the 45 minute wait on a Saturday night.

Well, this past Saturday, it wasn't- I was getting over a cold and just couldn't deal with standing outside on loud Ditmars Boulevard. This time, we opted to visit a quieter stretch of Ditmars, near the park, and found that Agnanti might be another go-to for quality Greek food.

Lines outside restaurants in Astoria are generally a sign that a resto is worth waiting for, especially when Greek people and not just Americans are waiting outside. I tried reading Agnanti's mixed messages- there wasn't a particularly long wait to get in, but the fresh aromas wafting into the night air were irresistible. Compared to the wait at Kyclades, it took as long as our wait here (about a minute actually!) to decide on a table for two at Agnanti.

With a wood burning stove in the back of the restaurant, warm colors, and Greek shadow puppets on the walls, Agnanti feels comfortable and homey. Our tzatziki and bread, Greek salad, and horta (which are boiled chicory, amaranth, or dandelion greens with olive oil and lemon) came out immediately- they clearly know that hungry people need their appetizers- and we found the very garlicky tzatziki to be perfection, along with our salad and greens. On the vegan front, you'll also find tomato-herb fritters, some generous, grilled portobello mushrooms, fried zucchini & eggplant, and hearty mashed fava beans. Gotta love Greek food.

Post salad, out came the slightly unhealthier version of more greens, in the form of kolokithokeftedes- fried zucchini-feta fritters, which were, okay I'll say it, dill-icious, even more so with a dollop of tzatziki! We rounded our meal off with baked yigades (giant lima beans, referred to on the menu as 'fasolia plaki'), which are hearty, satisfying, and with a tomato-carrot sauce, almost sweet! Fresh watermelon with yogurt and cherries in syrup on the side was brought out to us for dessert- yup, they just bring it out for you, and I couldn't imagine a better way of ending the meal. Except for maybe some more retsina, but not necessarily when you're getting over a cold.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Agnanti, and even my Greek honey, with his discerning "I only want to eat authentic" palate, loved the place. And we feel lucky enough that we now have two go-to places for quality Greek food.

Agnanti, 19-06 Ditmars Boulevard (at Astoria Park), 718-545-4554, Astoria, Queens

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Snap Pea & Apple Salad

When at your local farmer's market over the summer, do you pass by the apple stands in favor of the vendors with more berries? Do you figure, "I've got all of autumn to eat apples, I want my berries while I can get them in-season!"

Allow me to give you a reason to visit your apple guy.

Don't worry, you can still stock up on summer faves, like asparagus and snap peas. In fact, you can get the best of both worlds... in one salad. Since all the ingredients were looking pretty amazing on market day, I decided to make a quick salad with crunch! It's perfectly sweet and perfectly summery. I love adding cilantro and lime juice to salads, but you can vary it up with some parsley and apple cider vinegar if you choose!

Save the rest of your apples for pie, but you'll definitely want to enjoy this salad before September.

The Whats:

* 1/2 lb. snap peas, trimmed
* 2 apples, diced
* 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1 in. pieces
* 1 small yellow onion, diced
* 1tbsp. chopped cilantro
* 2 1/2 tbsp. lime juice (or apple cider vinegar)

The Hows:

1) In a large mixing bowl, add snap peas, apples, asparagus, onion, cilantro, and lime juice and toss until well-mixed. Serve chilled.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Zengo and La Biblioteca

 The original plan was to get drunk, but along the way, we discovered a great place to eat. Don't many great NYC culinary journeys happen in this way?

Tequila snow cones were the three words that kickstarted our night out. These citrus, hibiscus, and tamarind flavored icy shots came as a flight of 3 for $12 at La Biblioteca, on the downstairs level of E. 40th and 3rd Avenue. And if those weren't enough (in all fairness, they probably were), our planned drinking shenanigans coincided with their Tuesday night tequila tasting, and for $15, we sampled a flight of 4 tequilas from one of the last independent tequila distilleries in Mexico.

I was feeling good. And hungry.

Luckily, the ground floor restaurant, Zengo, that we completely bypassed in favor of all things tequila, was still open. Though not abundant in vegetarian or vegan options, the available veg selections of Asian-Latin cuisine kept the happy buzz going!

The edamame we started with was clearly grilled, which stood out more than any other salted, steamed edamame I've eaten. Great inventive call, Zengo! I chose the crispy tofu for my entree, and was presented with three generous blocks of panko-battered tofu served over a bed of green beans, sprouts, and chunks of ginger and garlic with a sesame-chili sauce. The tofu was perfectly crisp and satisfying, and the lightly spiced sauce was a great complement to the tofu and the sauteed veggies, which were tender and not overcooked.

I do enjoy Latin-Asian fusion, and Zengo is a great spot to visit if you're looking for solid, creative dishes. But really, as long as it's warm outside, it'll be the tequila snowcones that keep luring me back. That's what "fusion" is really all about!

Zengo and La Biblioteca, 622 Third Avenue at 40th Street, 212-808-8110

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taste of Groupon

Can you possibly say no to an event when there's free vegetarian and vegan food?

And though one of my faves, Bombay Palace, was only offering tandoori chicken and no veggie dishes (booo!), I found plenty to eat at the Blossom table at last night's Taste Of Groupon event at Chelsea Piers.

Groupon, for the uninitiated, is a play on "coupon", and offers up discounts for restaurants, dessert shops, yoga classes, golf lessons at Chelsea Piers, walking tours, kickboxing, and a variety of other cool things your city has to offer- I myself  have snagged a pole dancing class, a month-long pass to a yoga studio, and 2 sandwiches for the price of 1 at vegan sandwich shop Terri.

I was super excited to find vegan restaurant Blossom at the tasting, serving up tofu "crab cakes", porcini-phyllo "cigars" with cilantro pesto, and perfectly soft, warm chocolate chip cookies. As you can see from the quick shot I took of the table, the Blossom crew could barely keep up with the demand!

Other veggie picks included Shorty's, which in addition to their three varieties of Philly cheese-steak, thankfully also offered a broccoli rabe and melted provolone sub- way to go Shorty's! Poco Restaurant's veggie option were arancini with parmesan and mushrooms, and though Yorkville Creperie did not offer any savory vegetarian or vegan options, they did offer some fabulous sweet crepes, like chocolate & Nutella and banana.

Another night of happy noshing... I better run that treadmill into the ground this week to make up for it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Chiocciole with Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes got lots of hype in the foodie blogosphere in June and July- though I don't always follow trends (really, how many different cupcakeries or gelato bars can you visit without getting bored?), I do know that I really enjoyed crunching on them in the tacos I made last month! If you've bought some scapes and are now wondering what else to do with them, you can always go with my standby, pasta!

Fresh scapes are so flavorful, you really don't need to add extra garlic or onions. I did opt for a small shallot, though you can feel free to omit it if you're not a fan. I also decided to add a bit more flavor to the olive oil dressing by whisking together some basil and parmesan (use your fave vegan parm to make the dish totally vegan). Rather than saute the veggies, I tossed them cold into the pasta pot and served up a warm pasta dish- which, for a summer dinner, I found more satisfying than a hot one.

Alright scapes, you win this one! Though, unfairly, I think you'll win me over every time.

The Whats:

* 1/4 lb. garlic scapes, chopped
* 7 small campari tomatoes
* 1 shallot
* salt & pepper to taste
* 12 basil leaves
* 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tbsp. white wine
* 1tsp. pepper
* 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
* 2 tbsp. grated parmesan (or grated vegan parmesan)
* 8 oz (half a package) chiocciole pasta

The Hows:

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chiocciole pasta and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.

2) Whisk together the olive oil,  white wine, pepper, garlic powder, salt, pepper, basil leaves, and parmesan in a small bowl. Toss with the hot cooked pasta until coated. Add the scapes, tomatoes, and shallot to the pasta, and season with more salt and pepper if desired; toss until ingredients are mixed. Serve warm.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Calista Superfoods

I was excited to read about the new Calista Superfoods in a recent edition of the Vital Juice newsletter- healthier lunch options in Midtown are welcome ANY day! Eager to visit a lunch spot that wasn't one of the four neighborhood Pret a Mangers (seriously, how many of these sandwich shops do you really need?), I stopped in today to look at my options- homemade veggie burgers with several suggestions for toppings (guacamole & pickled jalapeno, spinach & mango mustard chutney), smoothies, and a great make-your-own salad or wrap bar with brown rice, a three bean medley, roasted veggies, spinach with zucchini puree, and plenty of other veggies to choose from. I liked having options, and I liked knowing that they were healthy!

What I didn't like? The fact that all the tofu options (and there were several!) used baked ponzu tofu. One of the ingredients in ponzu sauce? Bonito flakes. Bonito, if you didn't already know, is dried mackerel flakes. Not very veggie friendly, so why they chose to bake tofu in ponzu sauce is beyond me! Definitely disappointing that Calista did not have vegetarians in mind for that one.

Sigh. Instead, I ordered a whole wheat wrap with some brown rice and roasted veggies with the mango mustard chutney- though the chutney was a fun, different flavor and I liked the selection of eggplant, cauliflower, carrots, red pepper, and red onion in my wrap, I wasn't impressed. It may be a novelty for an omnivore to order a customizable bison or salmon lunch, but I can still easily frequent my local Hale & Hearty for my fave healthy salad add-ons, or even a Pret shop. I'll try Calista Superfoods once more for their veggie burger and decide then if I'll visit again.

Calista Superfoods, 301 E. 49th Street at 2nd Avenue, 212-223-1050

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Healthy Shopping!

Wanna spend less money on your grocery bill and supercharge your pantry? I'm feeling inspired by two articles I've just read on those topics, and before I hit the Greenmarket today, I wanted to pass 'em along to you!

Believe it, some of the 20 Healthiest Foods you can eat are some of the cheapest. And of that list, only 3 are non-veg friendly. Try using that in your next argument with an omnivore! I found some delicious faves on the top 20- kale, potatoes, garbanzo beans, whole grain pasta, and butternut squash.

And who better to ask about stocking a super food pantry than Ann Gentry, of L.A.'s renowned Real Food Daily restaurants? In Gentry's article, she advises consumers to pick up grocery staples like avocado, blueberries, dark chocolate, soy, and spinach. Instead of worrying about the quantity of calories, focus on how nutrient dense your food is and get the most out of what you're eating.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Calendar Updates!

Just a heads up that I've put a few more event listings for August on the Calendar page. Be sure to check out some fun events like this Sunday's Food Truck Fest, a two part raw food workshop at the Brooklyn Kitchen, and a presentation and book signing for "The Inner World of Farm Animals". 

As always, if you know of any cool vegetarian or vegan or eco-friendly events or workshops, send 'em my way because I'd love to post them! 

Other good news- Restaurant Week has been extended through September 6th. Check which restos are still participating and get yourself some high-end veggie munchies!