Sunday, June 26, 2011

JJ's Sweets

Recently, JJ's Sweets generously sent me samples of their Cocomels, Chocolate-Covered Cocomels, and hard candies. The Fleur de Sel and Original varieties of Cocomels were my favorites of the bunch with their coconut milk-based creaminess and hint of coconut flavor. They were delicious!

For my taste, the dark chocolate overwhelmed the caramels, completely masking their delicate flavor. The hard candies were sweet and lemony and reminded me of old-fashioned ribbon candy. There are some very interesting flavor combinations of the hard candies available on their website that would make lovely gifts, too.

You can order directly from the JJ's website or from Vegan Essentials.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

M Cafe de Chaya

It had been a couple years since I last ate at M Cafe de Chaya, so I was looking forward to having dinner there before a play a couple weeks ago. They used to have this amazing vegan caprese panini (a pressed tomato and vegan mozzarella sandwich that perfectly mimicked my far-gone memory of fresh dairy mozzarella) and I anticipated ordering that. However, that is apparently no longer an option. What I found upon arrival was a meager offering and fairly bare (for their standards) deli case. I had a difficult time deciding what to order because nothing really looked great and I finally settled on the Carolina-Style BBQ Seitan Sandwich with a side of Sesame Soba Noodle Salad.

I must be spoiled by Follow Your Heart's amazing spicy barbecue sauce because this one paled in comparison. It was too sweet, not at all spicy, and just not memorable. On this occasion, the "M" stood for "mediocre."

In fact, my favorite part of the meal was the adorable window-sill-style herb gardens lining the patio. With my favorite Cafe Gratitude only a couple miles down the street from M Cafe, I might not be back.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Madeleine Bistro in Flux

About six weeks ago, Madeleine Bistro alerted its Facebook followers that it would be shuttering its restaurant doors forever. Mother's Day weekend was chosen as the finale, but an outpouring of protests resulted in a May 22 closing date. I made sure to have one last dinner at the restaurant I've frequented since it opened.

For what I thought was my last Madeleine's meal, I feasted on Cauliflower Bisque.

Followed by half of a Bigger Mack, as I was saving room for dessert.

The chocolate souffle (I abandoned the accompanying vanilla ice cream) is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable vegan desserts available in LA, so it only made sense for me to order it that night.

After this delicious meal, I made peace with the fact that Madeleine's would no longer be open for restaurant dining. But then there was news of an encore weekend. And then a very last-minute brunch offering this past Sunday, for which I was in attendance with my dad and grandpa.

We split a plate of chocolate-dipped donuts (my first donut in at least two years).

I enjoyed a Cajun Caesar Salad with blackened tempeh for lunch.

Still feeling the need for greens, I drank a greens plus ginger juice.

As of right now, Madeleine's future plans are in a hopeful state of flux. However, the restaurant will be open Father's Day weekend for dinner Saturday and brunch and dinner Sunday. Follow them on Facebook for up-to-date (and often last-minute) updates.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hannah Kaminsky's Vegan Desserts

Very few cookbooks leave me with the desire to make almost every single recipe, but Hannah Kaminsky's newest baking book, Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season, is one of them. I've made three recipes so far and had intended to make one more before writing this review, but found myself lacking an essential four ounces of coconut. Coco-Nut Macaroons will just have to wait, as it's important for this review to be out in the world now.

This gorgeous book features a stunning, full-color photo for each and every recipe, all bound in a hardcover with dust jacket. If you have Kelly Peloza's The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, you'll recognize the size and shape of this book as it mimics that one (Skyhorse Publishing published both, as well as Melisser Elliott's The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life, which I don't have). There are a helpful Ingredients Glossary, Kitchen Tools and Toys, and Troubleshooting sections at the beginning of the book and the back of the book boasts a Food Allergy Index in addition to the regular Index, all of which provide useful information for people new to veganism, new to baking itself, and even for seasoned vegan bakers. The recipes are split into chapters reflecting the flavors of each season, beginning with spring.

My very favorite feature of this book is the chapter titled Components and Accompaniments. Hannah is quite dedicated to making her recipes as accessible as possible, so she set out to create recipes for hard-to-find-vegan ingredients such as Caramel Syrup, Graham Cracker Crumbs, Lady Fingers, Limoncello, and Pumpkin Butter. Now this is how a cookbook should be! I don't have to worry about not having vegan graham crackers on hand because I can just whip up a batch of graham cracker crumbs from the recipe in the book. Hannah has truly thought of everything and we haven't even gotten to the recipes for baked goods yet.

When I was a kid, my mom made meringue cookies often. Far from being vegan, their traditional main ingredient is egg whites, and it's been longer than I can remember since I last tasted one. Naturally, I was immediately drawn to Hannah's recipe for Meringue Kisses and made them first. Being the genius she is, the texture is spot on!

I made the Black Pearl Truffles next, except with regular sesame seeds because I didn't have the black variety. These are spicy, rich, and decadent; such an amazing treat to keep on hand in the freezer for whenever the chocolate desire hits.

Then I baked the Black Cat Cookies (mine are obviously hearts), which were a HUGE hit with the people in my office. They're rich and fudgy, almost brownie-like, and have already been requested again.

On my agenda for sometime soon are too many recipes to list (including the aforementioned Coco-Nut Macaroons), but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I tested recipes for this cookbook at the end of 2008. You can find my posts on the Persimmon Blondies here and my post about the Cherry Macaroon Tart (absolutely the best pie I have ever tasted in my life) and Rum Raisin Brownies here.

Vegan Desserts has already become my go-to baking cookbook in the short month that it's been in my kitchen. The recipes are easy to follow, yet incredibly impressive, and are a good mix of traditional and innovative. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to pre-heat my oven.