Friday, September 25, 2009

News Flash!

Hi guys! Guess what? I'm a different domain. From this point on, I will no longer be updating this blogspot site, but instead will be operating over at

Please update your readers, blog rolls, speed dials, etc.

I'll be kicking off the relaunch with a bang: Vegan MoFo. More details at the new site. Thanks guys!

By the way, I'm trying to figure out how to redirect this blogger homepage to the new site as well as the old permalinks. From what I've read, it seems possible, just far too complicated for my technologically challenged self. Anyone have any tips?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Insane yumminess at the super posh XIV

Last night, my uber wonderful boyfriend and I had some celebratin' to do so he took me to XIV where we ordered the eight course tasting menu for $64. I am a cash-strapped lass so pretty much the only time I get to eat anywhere fancy is when my dad is in town once every couple years, so going to XIV was a major splurge and I loved every minute of it! Was every single course so Earth-shatteringly good it made me want commit suicide knowing I would never taste anything better ever again? No, definitely not. In fact a couple of courses were pretty ho-hum. But the whole experience was so fun and some of the food we ate I have found myself dreaming about nonstop since we left the restaurant. Let's have a look at the meal, shall we?

DISCLAIMER: These photos BLOW. This is because a) it was really dark in there b) I was far too preoccupied with the food and my cute company to pay much attention to the photography and c) my FRIGGIN viewfinder is broken meaning I just have to aim blindly and hope the frame at least somewhat encompasses the subject.

I wasn't planning on having anything to drink, but the wine and cocktail menus were just far too irresistible. I ordered a glass of Jezebel Pinot Noir more for the cute name and the cheap price ($11) than for any other reason. The menu describes it as "supple with deep berry fruits and a hint of spice." Yeah, sure whatever. I don't know the first thing about wine, nor do I care to. All I know is that it tasted awesome. My boyfriend ordered the Pear Perfection cocktail which was INSANE. It was sooooooo good. You couldn't taste any alcohol, it just tasted like a super refreshing, crisp pear spritzer. I am definitely going to be going back to the bar at XIV for some more of these in the near future. At $13, it was a typical price for a West Hollywood cocktail.

Onto our First Course: Turnip Tartare with Broccolini, Sesame Oil, and Asian Pear.
This was a good first course because it was really light and refreshing. I normally can't stand pears but XIV changed that for me tonight between the pear cocktail and the crispy Asian pears in this dish. Every time I've had a pear before last night they were totally mushy, but these were more akin to fresh apples.

Before our second course came out, we were served little naan points that was the best naan I've ever had. Served hot out of the oven, they were garlicky and lightly salted. My non-vegan boyfriend's came with raita, but I could have eaten an entire batch of these plain and in fact I had already eaten half of them before I thought to take a photo:

Second Course: Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad with Watercress and Lemon Vinaigrette
When you look at this dish, it looks sorta lame--I mean it really is just two halves of tomatoes and a bite of peach. But holy guacamole these were the best tomatoes I've ever had. The red tomato had the same buttery texture as the peach. I've been thinking about taking a trip to Whole Foods just to see if I can find a similar tomato because this damn dish has been on my mind all day long.

Third Course: Cauliflower Tempura with Passion Fruit and Almonds
This dish was one of my favorites. The fried cauliflower was served on top of a sauce that tasted like apple pie. It may seem like a weird combo, but it was divine. I've never had passion fruit on it's own--does it taste like apples? Because I really swear there were apples somewhere in here, but maybe I'm hallucinating.

Fourth Course: Charred Broccoli Rabe on a Sushi Rice Cake with White Soy Vinaigrette
Not a very exciting dish, but it was tasty. I liked the homemade rice cake (you can't see it, it's under all the greens).

Fifth Course: Padron Peppers, Chantrelle Mushrooms, and Sweet Corn
This course was actually pretty disappointing. It wasn't bad, it just was very "meh." The corn and mushrooms were good, but they pretty much just tasted like corn and mushrooms that I had sauteed myself with some garlic and salt. The peppers had no taste, it seemed like they hadnt been seasoned at all. This was definitely the least interesting part of the meal.

Sixth Course: Falafal Burger with Tahini Sauce and Fries
Best. Falafal. in. the. World. And it's a recipe that chef Michael Mina stole from his mother. The falafal had a nice thin crunchy crust but the inside was extremely creamy. Not counting the dessert courses, this course was my favorite. That falafal is just heavenly. The accompanying fries were also really good. They tasted just how I remembered McDonalds fries tasted, which I'm sure the chef would find insulting, but I mean it as a compliment! I seriously recommend you stop whatever you are doing and get your butt to XIV just to have that falafal.

Seventh Course: Compressed Strawberries with Fruit Sorbet and Violets
After doing some googling, it seems that compressed fruit is a common menu item at upscale restaurants. Apparently, the technique involves sealing up the fruit, then vacuuming the air out and somehow injecting flavoring into the spaces that used to be filled with air. The berries were yummy and the sorbet was great but the best part was this amazing little white chocolate ball out of which gushed a thin berry sauce. It was a delightful little surprise.

Eighth Course: Coconut Sorbet with Peanut Butter Crunch and Basil Syrup

I can't get this dessert out of my head. I just keep reliving every tasty morsel in my brain. Mama pajama it was just absolutely perfect. The peanut butter crunch is hard to was sort of like if a graham cracker and some peanut brittle had a baby. It was chewy, gooey, and crunchy all at the same time. The coconut sorbet was really rich and there was also some sort of coconut dust on the plate as well. Although the menu calls the sauce basil syrup, I swear that our server called it mint jam and it did indeed taste minty. Mixing the syrup, the crunch, and the sorbet together was the most delightful trifecta.

I had a truly awesome night at XIV and I love patronizing a place that is so accessible to vegans. Maybe someday I will actually have a respectable salary and be able to afford patronizing this place more often. Siiiiigh, a girl can dream. In the meantime, I am off to concoct my own dessert recipe that involves coconut, peanut butter, and mint to tide me over until I can go back!

8117 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jose Beans: The Ultimate Comfort Food

The best thing about dating my boyfriend, is getting to spend a lot of quality time with his awesome roommate! I can't believe I spent 24 years of my life sans the wonderful Jose. Rarely do we call him Jose however. Instead we know him as Jose B (pronounced hose bee). The nickname stems from the most hilarious joke: "What did Jose's mother name his brother? hose b! (get it?! you know like jos A and jos B! oh man it tickles me every time.) Jose B is a delightful ball of wit and sarcasm and he just generally brings a little bit of sunshine to my life. On top of all this, he is a really good cook and one of his go-to family recipes has quickly shot to the very top of my comfort food list. It's a soupy bean concoction that has come to be known as Jose Beans (say "hose" beans.) The recipe comes from Jose B's Puerto Rican family. I bug Jose B to make them for me so often that finally he insisted I start making them for myself. He dictated the recipe to me and now I automatically fill up on pinto beans at Nature Mart in preparation for my weekly fix.

This is not a crazy, outrageous new way to make beans. It just happens to be a perfect storm of delicious ingredients. They're kind of like the mac 'n' cheese of Puerto Rico. The cilantro is key. If you don't have fresh cilantro, just don't even bother making these. I usually serve these beans over brown rice but half the time I just end up eating it like a soup.

Jose Beans (hose beans)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 good handful of fresh cilantro
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 eight oz. can of tomato sauce
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
2 cans of pinto beans, or about 1 cup dried pinto beans soaked overnight
a couple shakes of garlic powder
sliced jalapeno pepper, for garnish

Put the garlic, bell pepper, cilantro, and onion in a food processor and blend until you've got an even mixture of minced veggies. This is called Puerto Rican sofrito. Add sofrito, tomato sauce, cumin, and coriander to a sauce pan and saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Shake some garlic powder into the pot. Add pinto beans and one or two tomato-sauce-cans-full of water to the pot, depending on how soupy or thick you want your beans. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 25 minutes or so. Plate and garnish with slices of jalapeno pepper.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SunPower Natural Cafe: Worth the Splurge

I have been dying to try the mostly-raw SunPower Natural Cafe ever since I first read about it on To Live and Eat in L.A. Dying as in, I literally dreamed about it on a daily, if not hourly basis. I'm really trying to incorporate more raw foods into my diet and every dish that Foodeater described sounded totally irresistible. There was just one obstacle standing between me and SunPower: cash flow. That's right. I'm broke.

Well, not broke exactly. You see my t.v. show is on hiatus so I am living off of measly unemployment checks while I look for my next gig and, with rampant runaway production, who knows how long it could be before I find it! Of course I have savings, but I'm hoping those will go towards a big trip to the Yucatan later this year.

It's not that SunPower is particularly expensive, I am just trying to not eat out at all. This past week I realized how relatively easy it is to feed yourself on a strict budget. Last Sunday I spent a combined total of $26 at the farmer's market, Bulk Bin, and Vons and have been eating like a queen all week and I still have enough for at least two more meals for this week! Check out the haul. (I'll have some of the recipes I made this week on the blog soon.)

By the way, I feel like a total sucker for having bought canned beans all these years when you can get dried beans for about a fraction of the price. Never again!!!

Back to SunPower...earlier this week I had to make a stop at Comic Smash in Studio City to pick up Archie #600 (a.k.a. the issue where Archie proposes to that whore Veronica!) so I could mail it to my elementary school friends who used to spend summer mornings with me sitting around reading about the latest drama at Riverdale High. It was 9 bazillion degrees outside and the pup and I were sweating our brains out so I convinced myself that for my own health I needed to stop and pick up one of the SunPower shakes I have heard so much about. Even though I felt guilty knowing the shake would set me back 7 bucks, once I had made the decision to get one, I practically started drooling in anticipation. Imagine the soul crushing defeat I experienced when I tried to open SunPower's door and found it locked. It was 6pm and the place was closed! Quelle horreur!!!

Luckily for me, an employee saw me tearing up at the door and invited me in and said that it would be his pleasure to make me some take-out. How great is that?! This was a full hour after their (crazy) closing time! Soon I was leaving with my Cacao Superfoods shake in tow.

So, was the shake everything it's crack up to be? YES, yes it is. It was so incredibly creamy, chocolate-y, and had a little tang (perhaps that's from the goji berries?) It is everything you could ever want in a dessert. At 7 bucks it costs more than you're average shake, but it's also much better than the average shake, so it all works out. Ever since that le Cacao Superfoods and I met, I have been fantasizing day and night about having it again. I am not exaggerating. Is it weird to lose sleep over a beverage? I should ask Dr. Drew.

The only bummer with my beloved is the calories and fat content. The employee I spoke with estimated the calorie count to be somewhere around 450. I was able to use the shake as a replacement for lunch, however, and it definitely kept me sated until dinner rolled around. I don't even want to think about how many grams of fat that baby has with its half a cup of cashews. Eeeek! But a girl's got to cheat on her diet and budget every now and then!

I absolutely cannot wait until my next unemployment check rolls in and I can splurge some more at the insanely awesome SunPower Natural Cafe where the food is whole and the people are amazing.

P.S. Don't fear, the pup didn't get her sneaky little tongue into my drink. I know all too well the effect chocolate has on dogs thanks to a $650 bill from the animal hospital after Hayley go into a bag of chocolate chips that my roommate had precariously left lying around. Yet another reason why I need to be thrifty with the dollars. Siiiiiiiiigh...

UPDATE: After writing this post I was overcome by the urge to return to SunPower, so I flew over there and got myself a Sweet Kale shake. Holy moly it is blowing my mind!!! It is a lovely pale green and tastes just like pistachio ice cream! How do they do it?!

SunPower Natural Cafe
3711 Cahuenga Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
818.308. 7420

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Super Simple Mexican Black Bean Soup

I am soup crazy. At work, I often skip the cereal and smoothies and have soup for breakfast. Black bean soup is one of my all time faves, mostly because you just can't beat the creaminess that results from blending the beans, and it's very healthy to boot! Black beans are a crazy good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber among other nutritious properties.

This recipe is basic but delicious and only has a tiny iota of fat. I used canned beans here (only because I had them after "borrowing" them from work) but you should used dried beans if you can because they are way cheaper and it's far better for the environment due to the lack of processing and packaging. If you do use dried beans, be sure to soak them overnight beforehand. I do always, however, make use of canned enchilada sauce. The enchilada sauce is used as an easy alternative to using all the tomatoes, spices, etc. that makes other recipes for black bean soup more time intensive. Just make sure to get a brand that doesn't use weird chemical coloring or HFCS. I usually use Las Palmas brand which can be found in the Mexican section of any regular grocery store. For extra texture you can add corn kernals but personally I think this is the best recipe for the ultimate velvety mouthfeel.

Super Simple Mexican Black Bean Soup
1 yellow onion, roughly diced
4 cloves garlic, roughly diced
2 tsp. cumin
2 cans organic black beans
1 ten ounce can enchilada sauce
2 cubes vegetable bouillon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Line a large sauce pan with a thin layer of water. Add onion, garlic, and cumin to pot and saute over medium heat, until onions soften, about 4-6 minutes. Add black beans and one can full of water. Add enchilada sauce, bouillon, and cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly. Use a stick blender to puree soup to the texture you desire. If you don't own a stick blender of course you can pour the soup into your regular blender but that is a major pain in the ass, just invest in a twenty dollar stick blender already! It is a required tool in the arsenal of any avid soup maker.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My new favorite restaurant: Lemonade

Ladies and gentlemen, I recently happened upon the most amazing lemonade in the world. This is exciting news for people such as myself who, for example, recently had a spike in serotonin levels upon learning of Panera Bread's new frozen version of their famously tasty lemonade. The good news is that this vendor of the aforementioned citrus beverage also serves up really tasty food. The spot is the appropriately named Lemonade. I recently had a wonderful meal at their Venice location with my friend Canada.

The restaurant's concept is an upscale take on cafeteria-style dining. When you enter you are given a tray which you bring as you proceed through the line where people on the other side of the sneeze guard are ready to serve you. The first station is an array of cold salads, similar to the deli sides at M Cafe but there are twice as many options. You can choose from 1, 2, or 3 portions. Each portion is two scoops and you can have a scoop of two different items in that one portion if you so desire. Canada and I both opted for two portions with all different scoops. I was pleased to see that about 80% of the salads were vegan and the servers were all very knowledgeable about which contained animals products and which did not. After the salads, you encounter the sandwiches, the hot portions, the soups, and then the desserts. None of the sandwiches or the desserts are vegan, some of the soups and hot plates may have been but I was too busy staring at my colorful salad plate to notice.

At the cash register is a lemon-lover's wet dream: an array of more than five different lemonades. You can have samples of all of them and I highly suggest you do, although then you will end up like me: completely torn about which one too choose. I ended up going with peach ginger and Canada opted for blueberry mint. Both were completely out of this world. The were perfectly sweetened and the peach ginger had a delightful zing. Even if you ignore all the food, you must get your butt to Lemonade to try their signature drink.

My salad plate was made up of roasted beets with red onions and hazelnut vinaigrette, roasted cauliflower with golden raisins and a curry vinaigrette, sunchoke with fennel and mint vinaigrette, and French lentils. I gobbled all my portions up, enjoying every bite. They chefs did not skimp on the dill in the sunchoke salad which scores major points with me and the lentils were perfect--chewy, not mushy. I absolutely loved my meal.

I also had bites of Canada's quinoa, tomato and avocado, and farro salads. Again, all were wonderful. The tomato salad had big chunks of creamy avocado--it's a simple concept but made for an extremely refreshing dish.

With 3 locations around town (Venice, Downtown, and West Hollywood,) you have no excuse to not try this place out! Even if you don't try the food, the lemonade is worth a special trip.

3 L.A. locations
(Note: the website does not list the Venice location, but I promise, it exists)
1661 Abbot-Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Humphrey Yogart in Sherman Oaks

Summer may almost be over but that doesn't mean my seasonal hankering for milkshakes has subsided. Like clockwork, when May dwindles down and June is approaching, I start craving milkshakes like a tween craves a romantic evening with a Jonas brother. This yen isn't really a problem when I'm at home and can make a quick trip to Scoops to sate me but it's a different story when I'm at my boyfriend's place in the Valley.

The only options I was aware of for a cold, creamy, dairy-free treat west of La Brea are Ice Pan and Millions of Milkshakes, both of which are too far from the bf's. I contemplated making my own milkshakes with coconut milk ice cream and rice milk from the Studio City Whole Foods, but having an entire carton of ice cream in the freezer is far too dangerous for me--I have been known to tell myself that I should just polish off the whole carton in order to avoid eating it the rest of the week--does that make sense? No, it does not at all, but my ice-cream-obsessed brain is far from logical.

After doing some hardcore research, I came across Humphrey Yogart (sic--get it? because what they do with yogurt is like art?!) in Sherman Oaks and off I went. You will not find a plethora of vegan options at Humphrey like you might at Millions of Milkshakes or Ice Pan, but what you will find is a vegan, soy-based milkshake base and many vegan mix-ins. These mix-ins range from various types of fruits to espresso syrup and carob chips.

So far, I haven't been able to venture far from my usual combo: the soy base with Oreos. Occasionally I have chocolate syrup added as well (I have been assured multiple times by different employees that the syrup is vegan.) The result is a super-creamy, tasty and refreshing vegan milkshake! My only complaint is that I like my milkshakes to have some chunks in them but I am told they can't control this so they just sprinkle some cookie bits on the top for me. I really don't get it--can't they just stop the blender a little sooner to preserve some intact Oreos??? They always insist they can't, so it's smooth milkshakes for me. But no worries, I will still continue to suck these bad babies down.

Humphrey also stocks all sorts of weird health foods including a lot of vegan cookies, cereals, and granola bars. One of my fave finds is Nutlettes cereal. I've never tried them but I dare you to find a cereal with a more hilarious moniker.

Humphrey Yogart is in fact art to those of use whose milkshake habit is impeded by the lack of vegan milkshakeries in L.A. Get your tush over there pronto!

EDIT: Foodeater at To Live and Eat in L.A. told me that when she went to Humphrey a while ago the soy base contained whey, making it not vegan. I went back and read the ingredients and there was no whey or any other dairy product. Nay to Humphrey for originally serving non-vegan food to vegans, but yay for remedying the problem.

Humphrey Yogart

4574 Van Nuys Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403