Sunday, January 31, 2010

LA Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti TODAY

I'm bringing these veganized classic Rice Krispies Treats to today's bake sale for Haiti. Made with Chicago Soy Dairy's Dandies, they are exactly like the treats I remember from childhood. All of LA's most accomplished bakers are donating spectacular treats, so please come out to support the relief efforts. All proceeds will go to Doctors without Borders.

Where: Locali, 5825 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles
When: Today, January 31, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

See you there!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Valentine's Day (or Any Day) Gift Guide

We're now about three weeks from Valentine's Day, the "holiday" people seem to either love or dread. Despite my track record on this day of the year, I've always thoroughly embraced it and approached it with a positive spin. I choose to be love, as some might say, and so I present you with a Hugger Food approved gift guide suitable for this or any occasion.

Late last year, I fell in love with the t-shirts from Blend Apparel. Blend's super-soft, eco-friendly t-shirts are made of organic cotton and bamboo with a percentage of gross revenue contributed to thoughtfully-chosen charitable organizations. All of their designs come in both male and female t-shirt cuts (price range is $24.99-29.99), not to mention the bumper stickers and posters available. I bought myself these three t-shirts (third image obviously borrowed from the website), which arrived with a sweet hand-written, personalized note and business cards to share:

I also really like these Valentine's Day (or any day!) appropriate designs:

One of my favorite hoodies ($40) also fits with the theme of today's post (image borrowed from the To Write Love on Her Arms website):

The To Write Love on Her Arms Mission Statement is truly beautiful and I encourage you to read it in its entirety when you have a moment. For now, I'll excerpt a couple lines so you're aware of their vision: "To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."

If chocolate is what you're after, the best vegan chocolate assortment I've tried so far is the Sjaak's Organic Chocolates Nuts & Chews box available at Vegan Essentials, Pangea Vegan Store, Food Fight, and Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe for $8.50-9.99. These online vegan stores also carry a multitude of other chocolates and gift-worthy items.

Xan Confections chocolates seriously rocked my world the time I was lucky enough to sample them. Their Lifestyles Chocolates, which include the Saintly Sins and Jewel Collections (their other collections are NOT vegan, so please read the website carefully) are absolutely delicious, vegan, and gluten free. As a bonus, the Saintly Sins chocolates are also low-calorie, low glycemic, and diabetic friendly!

I'm dying to try these gorgeous Coracao chocolates made from sustainably-grown cacao trees!

Sweet & Sara has heart-shaped, Belgian-chocolate dipped vegan marshmallows for the holiday!

Some like to give luxurious bath and beauty products and you couldn't do better than Strawberry Hedgehog's hand-crafted, 100% vegan, all-natural products. From the inspired and delectable scents of their renowned soaps to the organic raw sugar scrub to customizable bath crystals, you're sure to find many things with which to spoil someone you love.

A Scent of Scandal offers tons of cleverly-named, 100% soy wax, lovely-smelling candles to set any mood you're seeking. There are seasonal Valentine's Day themed scents available now here ("Me So Thorny" rose scent, anyone?) in addition to all the other scents in their five categories.

If you're in the Los Angeles area and you want to spoil someone with lovingly-made and amazing cupcakes, check out Vegan Bake Sale, whose menu is what dreams are made of. Similarly, to spoil those you love with cookies, cinnamon rolls, biscotti, and more, C'est la V Bakeshop offers wonderful treats to satisfy the sweet tooth.

I'm sure you already know your options for incredible Valentine's Day (or any day!) restaurant meals and, of course, there is a plethora of remarkable vegan cookbooks from which to choose. When it comes to the cookbooks, may I suggest buying said cookbook to give as a gift and preparing a meal or a baked good from it as part of the gift?

For those of you who are skilled at baking, cooking, crafts, writing, art, and other creative things, thoughtful, homemade gifts are usually the best gifts! When something, including one's own precious time, is given from the heart, those are the gifts people remember most.

On Valentine's Day this year in Los Angeles, there will be an event benefiting Compassion Over Killing at 2 Headed Horse (1770 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles 90026). The event will run from 7 p.m. to midnight with the $20 ticket covering a drink ticket, delicious vegan food, music, dancing, karaoke, and more. I know it'll be a great event and it benefits a wonderfully worthy cause!

Whatever you decide, I hope you're at least inspired by all the stellar vegan gift options available to us for Valentine's Day, birthdays, holidays, or just any day. Oh, and please don't forget that it's fun to buy little gifts for yourself, too! We should always strive to treat ourselves well.

On an unrelated note, on January 31, we will be holding a Los Angeles vegan bake sale to benefit the relief effort in Haiti. Please see this post for details.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Real Food Daily: The Club

On the last Wednesday of 2009, I had the pleasure of dining at Real Food Daily in West Hollywood with one of my closest friends. Hours of chatter over dinner at RFD used to be an extremely regular occurrence for us, but hasn't happened in well over a year. In the ensuing time, RFD revamped their menu and increased their prices. They kept all of my favorite menu items, though, so I didn't expect much of a difference.

I started with the Sweet Green Juice (from the menu: cucumber, celery, parsley, spinach with a splash of apple) and added ginger. It was fresh and a tiny bit sweet, but I wished it contained kale for a heartier taste.

With my impending cleanse only days away, I decided to order my very favorite menu item, which is The Club Triple Decker (from the menu: Seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, vegenaise, sourdough bread) minus the avocado and tomato and with a Caesar side salad (from the menu: Romaine hearts, capers, wheat-free blue corn croutons, Caesar dressing). I'm sorry to say that what once was a very flavorful sandwich with soft seitan and smoky tempeh bacon was quite bland this time (Real Food Daily, if you happen to be reading this, please reinstate the original version of The Club. Thanks!). The Caesar was crisp and garlicky and I've always loved the touch of capers.

For dessert, we split one of the December specials: White Iced Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake (from the menu: ginger cake, light white icing, toffee sauce). The cake was soft and lightly spiced, but the sweet, thick toffee sauce was the star, in my opinion.

In a fortuitous coincidence, Quarrygirl just wrote a post about Follow Your Heart's vegan club with a plan to review all of the vegan club sandwiches in Los Angeles. I've also tried and enjoyed the FYH club, but it has been so many years that I think I need to order it again!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Lest the details slip my mind, I'm welcoming 2010 with last night's prix fixe New Year's Eve Tasting Menu at Madeleine Bistro, L.A.'s only all-vegan gourmet restaurant.

With too many friends out of town for me to pull off a New Year's Eve vegan potluck at home, I happily agreed when a friend suggested we celebrate with this tasting menu followed by fireworks in the Hollywood Hills. It turned out to be a fabulous evening that was made even better when I spotted another friend at Madeleine Bistro who graciously agreed to join us. We were there, talking away, for over three hours.

Our 7-course extraveganza began with Dim Sum (from the menu: steamed bun, tempeh "lollipop," crispy wonton). A spicy sesame dipping sauce perfectly complimented this trio of a steamed bun filled with almost-sweet seitan, soft, meatball-like tempeh pierced with a lemongrass stalk, and a fried wonton.

Clam chowder topped with a delicious split biscuit, which I tried to eat before it had a chance to absorb too much liquid, arrived as the second course. Thick, rich, and full of vegetables, this was the only course I wasn't able to finish. While I thought the mushrooms (shiitakes, I believe) were meant to stand in for the clams, our server informed me that the potatoes held that role. Fortunately, all that mattered was that the chowder was good!

The next course was a Chestnut and Apple Salad with pickled pearl onions, fennel puree, and mulled cider vinaigrette. After swiftly transferring my peal onions to one of my dining partners' plates, I dug into this lovely mix of greens. The chestnuts, chopped in a way that initially fooled me into thinking they were walnuts, provided a soft, yet dense texture and mild flavor, while the cooked apples brought a subtle sweetness. The puree to be a wonderful accompaniment to the salad.

The fourth course was Quinoa-crusted Moroccan Seitan with artichoke and chickpea tagine, lemon confit, and harissa emulsion. I don't remember artichokes or a lemon confit in this dish, so that could have been a last-minute change. The seitan was extremely soft, which nicely contrasted the red quinoa crust. It also sat upon a tasty bed of more red quinoa mixed with a small amount of dried fruit. I think, although I'm not sure, that the chickpea tagine also contained eggplant. This was good and festively topped with a smattering of chopped edible flowers. To give it some spicy heat, I ate the tagine with the harissa emulsion.

The fantastically crispy Portabella Chasseur with house-cut arugula tagliatelle and wild mushroom ragout also featured Brussels sprouts and microgreens. The pasta reminded me of tofu shirataki noodles in texture and I didn't detect the bite of arugula, but they were still good. The mushrooms were nothing short of amazing.

Popcorn and Cheese (from the menu: herb-crusted cashew cheese, kettle corn, crackers, popcorn ice cream) greeted us sixth. The homemade crackers tasted of rosemary and had a very crisp bite to them, which was nice with the creaminess of the cashew cheese (I only wasn't 100% sold on the cashew-cheese because I could detect chives, but I generally love the cashew cheese at Madeleine's and specifically their smoked cashew cheese). I enjoyed the gentle sweetness of the kettle corn and, although I didn't taste popcorn in the mildly-flavored and almost dense ice cream, really liked this playful dish.

Dessert was the 3 x 3, a trio of sweets each containing chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel. On the left is a rich dark chocolate disk acting as a crust to a peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate mousse. A raspberry coulis and peanutty powder garnished the plate. In the center, there are three candies: a peanut butter cup, a Butterfinger-like bite, and a plain caramel (I believe I tasted the delicious brown rice syrup in this caramel). Finally, there was a rope of fudge (which I ate separately) decorating a crispy peanut patty (this did taste like the interior of a Butterfinger) that was topped with caramel. The crispy peanut patty covered in caramel was my favorite part of the dessert plate.

Today, I started a month-long cleanse, but that is a topic for another day so as not to distract from the above.

May 2010 be a peaceful and joyous year for you!