Saturday, October 31, 2009

VeganMoFo: Happy Halloween!

Los Angeles Vegan Drinks held its Halloween party Thursday night at the Little Bar and a wonderful time was had by all (the RSVP count was 120!). Those in costumes were rewarded with cupcakes from Jamaica's Cakes, generously provided by our gracious organizers. The Frankenstand, L.A.'s very own vegan hot dog cart, was on hand to provide dinner to the hungry.

While there were three people dressed as pirates (at least three that I counted), there were some unique costumes, including a corporate green-washer, a cow with a sign reading "Thank moo, Animal Acres," Punky Brewster, a shower a la Karate Kid, and my personal favorite, a garden gnome.

On this final day of VeganMoFo, I'm thinking back on all that has happened this month. It has been full of wonderful things that I never would have expected and I can only hope that the magic continues.

Have a very fun and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

VeganMoFo: Rome Apples

When I saw these perfectly red Rome apples, reminiscent of the poison apple from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I knew I had to relax my rule about avoiding red apples. You see, red apples tend to have a mealy texture and I don't care for that. I knew I was taking a risk, but the Romes were just so pretty that I had to give them a chance. I wish I could tell you that I'd had nothing to worry about, but the Romes I chose were, in fact, mealy despite the fact that they seemed firm. Disappointing, but sometimes its worth it to venture into new territory.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

VeganMoFo: Hugo's Tacos (Studio City)

I've told you so much about Hugo's Restaurant, but I've yet to disclose my favorites at Hugo's Tacos, which has a clearly-printed list of its vegan menu items and carries Follow Your Heart cheese. I ate quite a few meals there this summer as I was planning my move and top honors go to the dish that is simply called Salad (from the menu: Romaine lettuce, green beans, corn, zucchini, pico de gallo, cotija cheese and vegan spicy caesar dressing.). They swap out the cotija cheese for Follow Your Heart (you can see it in the little container in the foreground) to make it vegan and that's all there is to it. On the particular occasion captured above, I also ordered a tasty side of white beans.

If I'm feeling particularly hungry or indulgent, I'll order a Burrito (from the menu: Flour tortilla with organic spanish rice, organic white beans, choice of filling, choice of salsa, onion & cilantro.). Hugo's Tacos offers two vegan "fillings" to add to its menu items and my preference is for the zucchini, corn, and string bean option. I believe this one contained the soy chorizo, potato, zucchini filling, but I don't care for it, as it contains onions. What I do love, however, is that there's a choice between an all-vegetable vegan filling and a meat-analogue vegan filling to suit everyone's tastes.

If you're in the mood for dessert, Hugo's Tacos delivers with a creamy, cinnamon-laced Rice Pudding to end the meal on a sweet note.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VeganMoFo: End of Summer Bash

Our Los Angeles Vegan Drinks chapter has grown to epic proportions. At the end of August, well over 100 people came out for a meet-up event at Mama's Tamales in downtown L.A. Mama's Tamales, which has been vegan-friendly (check out the menu!) for quite some time and which introduced Daiya vegan cheese to its menu earlier this year, kindly closed down its regular business to host a fully-catered vegan event with live music.

As the event died down, a choice of savory and sweet tamales were served, but I didn't have a chance to try them because I was already full from this beautiful assortment of dishes:

Daiya-filled pupusas with a pickled vegetable garnish.

Quinoa and cranberry stuffed tomatoes.

Roasted vegetables and olives over polenta.

Daiya enchiladas with choice of salsa.

Also among the goods were Daiya quesadillas, assorted olives, and vegan-friendly libations. There was even a videographer at the event, meaning that you can join in the party, too!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

VeganMoFo: Roasted Butternut Squash

Despite our weather being sunny and mid-80s, we're still reaping the benefits of autumn. I've been having squash cravings, so I roasted this small butternut squash at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (it probably could've used another 5 minutes). When it was cool enough to handle, I scooped the flesh out of the skin and ate it plain for lunch. Butternut squash really doesn't need any adornment; it's perfectly sweet and flavorful on its own.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

VeganMoFo: The Ginger Man

Although it has been a long while since I was last there, I used to attend screenings of restored classic films through the UCLA Film & Television Archive very often. The best films I saw there were Ernst Lubitsch's The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) and One Hour with You (1932). Oh, how I wish those were available on DVD to watch anytime I'd like.

This is supposed to be about the food, though, and there is a food-related story to tell. At one of these UCLA Archive screenings, I'm going to guess about 8 or 9 years ago, a man sat in a seat a couple down from mine. He had long, unkempt hair and hemp sandals. He pulled out a bulk-bin bag of crystallized ginger and started snacking happily. I thought to myself, "How can he so easily eat all that spicy ginger?"

Fast forward to some point thereafter when I, too, discovered the joys of sugared ginger. Except that I take it so far as to prefer uncrystallized ginger (the Trader Joe's brand), forgoing the extra layer of sugar in favor of an even more intensely spicy and warming ginger bite.

VeganMoFo: Peanut "Better" Cookies

More often than not, I get the best cookie results by veganizing my childhood favorite recipe. I didn't grow up with one for peanut butter cookies, though, due to my brother's peanut allergy. So, when my assistant repeatedly asked me to bake peanut butter cookies for her, I gave the recipe in Dreena Burton's Vive Le Vegan a shot.

While I don't usually have high hopes for cookies that contain oil rather than vegan butter, Dreena's Peanut "Better" Cookies live up to their name. The cookies were soft and chewy, unlike some other peanut butter cookie recipes that produce crunchy, crumbly cookies. My assistant, who is not only an omnivore, but an extremely picky one, proclaimed these the best peanut butter cookies she'd ever had and has been begging me to bake them again ever since. Mission accomplished.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

VeganMoFo: With a Flourish

In Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have a multitude of vegan restaurants from which to choose. Opening earlier this year, Cafe Flourish is one that boasts a mixture of comfort food with innovation.

The first time I hit up this mid-Wilshire cafe was with Foodeater and we split dishes to be able to taste more of the menu.

We started with the Flourish Roll (from the menu: Carrots, red bells, cucumber, cilantro, sunflower seeds, green onion, mint, peanuts & rice noodles snuggled in a leaf of red lettuce with a coconut tamarind sauce. Addictive.) minus the onions. The combination of fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables, and the wonderful tamarind sauce was perfect for an appetizer or for a light meal.

Next up, we tried the Mi Casadilla (from the menu: Creamy mashed cassava root with garlic sauteed kale & roasted poblano pepper in a spelt tortilla. Paired with guacamole, pico de gallo & “sour cream” of course. A spicy number.). While I avoided the guacamole and pico de gallo, I absolutely loved the casadilla itself. What an incredible idea to use mashed cassava in place of cheese! With the delicious kale and spicy, smoky poblano, this dish tied for my favorite of the meal.

At the time, this SMac "N" Cheese (from the menu: Gluten free! Rice elbow pasta in a super creamy “cheesy” sauce with house salad.) was a special, but it's since been added to the menu. I didn't care for the cheese sauce, though I liked that the pasta was gluten-free for those who normally can't have pasta.

The other dish to tie for my favorite was this Thank God (of your choice) for BBQ! Be Love Corn-Crusted Pizza (from the menu: Marinated baby jackfruit with soy monterey jack, crispy onions & jalapenos. Spicy!). My half was sans onions and I savored the spicy-sweet, BBQ sauce-covered jackfruit, topped with what I believe was Follow Your Heart cheese, and the occasional bite of jalapeno to add to the heat. The cornmeal crust was a bit thicker and crunchier than a flour pizza crust and I enjoyed the change.

On a subsequent visit on my own, I ordered the Raw Beauty Love Salad (from the menu: Packed with omega 3’s to give you the glow. Mixed baby greens, kale, corn, dried figs, cucumber, basil, mint, hemp seeds & granny smith apple rounds with a tangy flax dressing.). I'm sure this is a salad I could whip up at home, but I wouldn't have thought to add the fresh herbs and dried figs. It was an incredible salad that I often crave. If only Cafe Flourish were a little closer to where I live or work...

Friday, October 23, 2009

VeganMoFo: Quinoa and Veggies

Lunches this week have been nutrient-packed steamed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and peas) with protein-rich quinoa, along with my lunch staple, the red grapefruit. Simple and healthful, it's consistently kept me satisfied until dinner time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

VeganMoFo: Seed

Last night, I was fortunate to be able to catch up with a good friend over a healthful dinner at Seed in Venice. After all the rich meals I had last week, I have been focusing solely on whole foods this week. In keeping with that, I ordered the Saisai Donburi Macro Bowl (from the menu: kabocha, kale, shiitake, arame, bean sprouts, daily bean [black bean, in this case], saurkraut, balsamic-miso sauce). Served over organic brown rice, this macrobiotic bowl was exactly what I wanted; a delicious bowl full of perfectly prepared vegetables, legumes, and grains.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

VeganMoFo: Four-Course Meal at Madeleine Bistro

I've written about Madeleine Bistro many times in the past, as I've been dining there since they opened, but this my first experience with their tasting menu. To celebrate a friend's birthday, we hit Madeleine's this past Saturday night and decided to go all out on the four-course tasting menu.

I started with a freshly-made Green Juice of kale, apple, ginger, and beet (hence its purple hue).

My first course was the velvety Butternut Squash Bisque topped with spiced apples and fried sage leaves.

Next up was a dish I'd been waiting to try for ages: the Green Papaya Salad with tofu, rau ram, peanuts, and chili-lime marinade. I feel confident in saying that this is the best dish I've ever eaten at Madeleine's.

This beautiful plate is the house-made Smoked Cheese with poached pears, spring mix, and candied walnuts.

While I really wanted to try their Caramelized Apples dessert, it wasn't available, so I ordered the Holiday Pie Trio (Pumpkin, Pecan, French Apple) with Cinnamon Ice Creme. At left, the pumpkin pie had a wonderful custard-like texture that I much preferred to the standard Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. It was very lightly spiced and actually made from kabocha squash that day. In the center is the French apple pie, which had a custard top that I wasn't expecting and really enjoyed. On the right is the pecan pie topped with (as the pumpkin pie was) a wonderfully light and delicious whipped cream. This pecan pie tasted like it was made of roasted nuts stuck together with maybe molasses and brown rice syrup or maple syrup instead of pecans suspended in the bizarre goop of a standard omni pecan pie that I never liked. It was rich and delicious.

We had an amazing conversation with the owners of Madeleine's that night. They took a generous amount of time with us, despite having a completely packed restaurant (including the owners of Millennium where I haven't yet had the opportunity to dine). When the conversation turned to some of the other menu items, they were so proud of the new Philet No Phish (from the menu: panko-crusted seitan, cheese, tartar sauce, whole wheat bun) that they offered to send us each home with one to try. I ate mine for dinner the next day and it was really good. The juicy seitan was nicely coated with crispy panko and there was just enough sauce and cheese.

Madeleine Bistro seems to get better every time I go, making me look forward even more to my next meal there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

VeganMoFo: Fall Dinner Party

A couple weekends ago, I was invited to an incredible fall-themed dinner party with friends. We all got together to prepare the meal, having a blast cooking, laughing, and eating in the kitchen. My plate, at top, featured a spicy and delicious mug of chili, roasted acorn and butternut squash, rice crackers dipped in the most wonderful homemade tahini sauce, and roasted beets and Brussels sprouts.

Appetizers, including two varieties of homemade hummus and homemade dolmas.

Homemade tahini sauce.

Squash risotto.


Roasted squash right out of the oven.

Fruity chocolate truffles.

I brought the crustless Chocolate Pumpkin Pie I make annually for Thanksgiving.

Dessert was S'mores with Dandies marshmallows roasted over the fire pit, Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Halloween Treats, and Health Valley amaranth graham crackers.

I can't imagine a better way to spend a Friday night in autumn.

Monday, October 19, 2009

VeganMoFo: Short but Sweet & Sara

Over the summer, Sweet & Sara, the gourmet vegan marshmallow company (my favorite are the Toasted Coconut), released two new flavors: Cinnamon Pecan and Strawberry.

Cinnamon Pecan Marshmallows are nicely spiced with a smattering of pecans to give a contrasting crunch.

Strawberry Marshmallows truly are packed with real strawberries; there are even seeds dotting the confections.

There's a great interview with Sara Sohn, the proprietor of Sweet & Sara on the Veggywood blog if you'd like to read more about this lovely company. Also, make sure to check the Sweet & Sara website linked above for adorable ghost-shaped Halloween marshmallows and mini marshmallows for your vegan hot cocoa (although I'd like to ask Sweet & Sara to please offer the mini marshmallows in a 10 oz. bag to make vegan Rice Krispies Treats easier to prepare). Thank you, Sweet & Sara, for paving the way to amazing vegan marshmallows!