Friday, December 12, 2008

Not feeling the Doomie's Hype

I have been having a lot of "last meals" lately with everyone's favorite Food Monster who is leaving our fair city of Los Angeles to return to the fair state of North Carolina. It's sad but true and I have finally stopped trying to twist his nipples until he agrees to stay and have instead focused on having the most fun we can before his inevitable departure. For we two foodies, that means eating a lot of good food. We agonized and debated for a full hour today before finally settling on lunch at Doomie's Home Cookin' the newly opened vegetarian/vegan spot in Chinatown. There's my pup hanging out on the patio at top.

I had high hopes for this place after reading the great reviews on Quarrygirl, To Live and Eat in L.A., and Kirby Von Scrumptious among others. But I was pretty disappointed and The Food Monster was downright horrified. But really, he always has had a flare for the dramatic...

We knew we had to try the vegan mac n cheeze. Everyone else's pictures of it looked so good and Kirby said that it rivaled Taste of Life's version! So we went ahead and ordered an appetizer portion. To my surprise, the mac n cheeze was just like almost every other vegan mac n cheeze I've ever had: absolutely flavorless. The macaroni was covered in a sauce that had absolutely no taste whatsoever. A six dollar bowl of oily noodles is not the best way to start off a meal.
For my entree, I ordered the philly cheese steak sandwich because, again, I just kept remembering how good it looked on everyone else's blogs. But the problem was that the key ingredient in the sandwich was the same flavorless cheese sauce. The sandwich probably could have been pretty decent if it had been sauce-free. Then I could have tasted the peppers, onions, mushrooms, and chewy seitan strips. But instead that cheese sauce masked any taste and also managed to turn the white bread into a soggy mush. The Food Monster got a burger and I'm sure he can't wait to blog all about it himself. One thing that was really damn good at Doomie's were their onion rings. They tasted just like regular non-vegan onion rings you would get anywhere else. Everyone at the table agreed they were great. The fries were pretty good as well.
Our friend JD ordered the B.L.T. I have said many times that the B.L.T. is a staple of any vegan restaurant and it is almost impossible to make a bad one. Doomie's did make a good B.L.T. but it's far from the thick piles of tempeh bacon that you would find on the club at, say, Flore or M Cafe. There was barely any filling, although they did not skimp on the veganaise which some places tend to do.
For dessert, I finally got to try the uber-celebrated vegan twinkie. The Vegan Spot (r.i.p.) was out of them every time I tried to get them there so I was psyched that Doomie's sells them. I haven't had a real twinkie since about 1992 so I might not be the best judge, but that thing really did taste just like a real twinkie! There it is, split in half so you can see the creamy filling.

I think overall I am just less a fan of vegan versions of traditionally meaty dishes and more a fan of cuisine using veggies and other proteins, so Doomie's concept is just not compatible with my taste. Our waitress told us that Doomie started the restaurant because he had dated a lot of vegan gals and hated being dragged to vegan restaurants where he could never find anything to his liking. Other restaurants, namely Taste of Life and The Vegan Spot, have adapted traditional comfort food far more successfully than Doomie's has, so in the future, I shall be heading down the road to Taste of Life instead of trekking to Chinatown.

Doomie's Home Cookin'
686 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(714) 883-7657

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanksgiving Mania 2008

Let's finally get around to talking about our wonderful thanksgiving feast! The Food Monster (that's me and him working on our yummy food at top) and his three lovely roommates had me, my mom (who came in from North Carolina), and a couple of our other friends over for lots of delicious food and jolly company. I think I ended up making seven dishes in all but unfortunately I was so busy cooking/serving/drinking that I only remembered to photograph a few of those. So the best dishes will just have to be recreated for Christmas dinner and I shall post them then. In the meantime, let's start us off with three of the easiest things.

First off we have a VERY quick appetizer: dill spread. In my pre-vegan days, if ever I needed some comfort food, I would head to La Brea Bagel on Beverly in West Hollywood for a sesame bagel smothered in their dill cream cheese. Sad were the times when I got drunk on Friday and desperately craved one of those bagels on Saturday morning only to remember that the bagelry owners were honoring the Sabbath! Now I am not a fan of plain fake cream cheese. It tastes okay but it is definitely not the real thing. However, when you jazz it up just a little you'd never know it has no dairy! So I simply chopped up a ton of fresh dill and stirred it into some Tofutti cream cheese and served it with whole wheat crackers. Even my mom, who is really quite horrified by vegan versions of dairy products, was shocked at the great taste. Chop, stir, serve. It doesn't get easier than that.
Next up we have another appetizer inspired by a blurb in the latest Rachael Ray magazine: croissant wrapped asparagus. Again, this couldn't be any easier. Simply unravel a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Dough and sprinkle liberally with a vegetable seasoning spice blend. Slice into 1/2 inch strips and then wrap around raw asparagus spears. Pop in a 350 degree over for 20 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Full disclosure: these particular ones didn't turn out the best because a) I should have used olive oil spray to prevent the spears from sticking and b) I had to put these in an oven that was way hotter than the desired temperature, so the bottoms were burnt and the spears got a tad mushy. But, I am fairly certain that if these were cooked properly they would have been grrrrreat. I ate a ton of them as they were anyway :)
And lastly, for today, we have my simple cranberry sauce. I was pretty perturbed to read the cranberry sauce recipe in Veganomicon--it calls for agar agar and vinegar. To me, the beauty of cranberry sauce is that it is so simple and lets the awesome flavor of cranberries speak for itself. It seems a tad blasphemous to me to call for an obscure ingredient like agar agar. My cranberry sauce is as easy as it gets and the results are pretty damn good if I do say so myself. The Food Monster even told me that he normally really dislikes cranberry sauce but he liked mine. Thanks Monster Man!

Old Fashioned Traditional Cranberry Sauce is Good Enough for Me
8 oz. fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest

Place cranberries and just enough water to cover in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop and sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Serve at room temperature.

It was a wonderful thanksgiving dinner with my little L.A. family and we spent the rest of the evening plopped on the couch watching cheesy movies. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't have a cow just yet about The Vegan Spot's closing!

Uh oh! I better get on to posting all my backed up restaurant reviews, recipes, etc. because now it looks like one of the downsides of getting behind on posting is that the restaurant I'm reviewing may close down before I get around to talking about it. Ooooops, this is what has happened with The Vegan Spot over here in Silver Lake. An off-shoot of everyone's favorite Flore which specialized in vegan versions of meaty classics has sadly shuttered its doors. But wipe those tears away my vegan friends! Yesterday, during an amazing breakfast at Flore with Kirby Von Scrumptious and others, I chatted up our waiter about the closing and he said that, despite rave reviews from the food blogging community, the place just didn't do that much business. (I find that very easy to believe because every time I went in there it was totally empty.) However, the owners are working on plans to turn the space into a vegan coffee shop complete with the much celebrated vegan twinkies and a smaller version of The Vegan Spot's sandwich selection. The waiter added that he has seen the plans for the redesign and was excited about how great the new interior will look. So while it is sad that the short-lived Vegan Spot is now gone, we can all look forward to a new vegan coffee joint which, as far as I know, cannot be found anywhere else in LA. proper. It always seemed a little strange to me to open a vegan restaurant a few blocks down from your other vegan restaurant anyway.

So just as Quarrygirl has reminisced about the Vegan Spot on her latest blog post, I would like to take a brief stroll down memory lane and remember a lunch I had there a while back with my dear friend Craig.

Craig ordered the club sandwich. There he is, at top, showing his excitement over this juicy plate. Craig's club came with fake turkey, fake bacon, sprouts, tomato, avocado, and veganaise. The club is a staple of all vegan restaurants and it is pretty much impossible to make it taste anything but delicious. The Vegan Spot's version did not disappoint.

I ordered the Chef salad which came with fake chicken, fake bacon, and fake roast beef as well as some vegan mozzarella.
I am not the biggest fan of faux meats but the Vegan Spot's knock offs of animal goods were pretty outstanding. They were nothing like the spongy chunks you find at many Asian vegan places. Instead the chicken, turkey, and roast beef were very thinly sliced tasty treats! Note my adorable pup hanging out under our table.

The one thing Craig and I really didn't like about our meal was the water. At Flore they infuse the water with refreshing mint, but on our visit to The Vegan Spot the water was infused with rosemary. Our dishes were pretty savory and we would have loved to have been gulping water down but the rosemary flavored water was just gross. It kind of tasted like drinking dirt. Hopefully the new coffee shop will abandon this practice. I will probably be the first in line when it opens!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hello world!

Hayyylooooo readers. Longtime no see. It seems that I have managed to accomplish almost nothing on my very long "List of Things to Accomplish During Hiatus" which leaves me scrambling to get everything done before I leave in two weeks to go home for Christmas. This was not a good move on my part as now I've got to do all this stuff plus get all my holiday crafting/cooking/gifting projects done and all of this happens during the most social month of the year. So needless to say, I am a busy gal. In addition, I decided to accept a couple days of work on a commercial this week in order to remind myself what work is, as our hiatus will soon be coming to an end and I'll need to get used to waking up every morning at the crack of ass again.
The moral of this story is that I have a ton of posts to catch up on, including many from the thanksgiving feast that The Food Monster and his housemates hosted. In the meantime, allow me to inform you of an awesome event at everyone's favorite gelateria Scoops:

This Saturday, December 6th, there will be a taste testing at which you can pay $5 to try three mysterious vegan gelato flavors. If you correctly identify the flavors you will be entered to win a prize! Omnivores can pay $10 for a ten flavor tasting! All proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You can find more information at the event's facebook page.

I'll definitely be there, that is, if I get off work in time. Sigggghhh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Easy-As-Can-Be Cheese Danish

I have been a baking lunatic lately! First I went on a cupcake craze, then I got sick of making frostings and went through a muffin phase, and now I am graduating to the world of vegan pastries. My friend Jose has developed an obsession with the cheese danishes from Porto's Bakery in Burbank and so I made it my mission to create a comparably tasty vegan version.

Today I used this recipe from the Compassionate Action for Animals website. I didn't want to go to the trouble of making my own pastry dough unless I knew I'd be able to make a decent tasting cheesy filling first. So this recipe was perfect because it just calls for a couple tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough (which is vegan). This turned out to be a great recipe, although it could have been written a bit better. For starters, the size of the cream cheese tub isn't listed--you need 8 ounces.

Instead of laying one whole tube of crescent roll dough on top of another, I chose to cut each tube of dough into 4 long rectangles. Then after I put the filling on, I simply folded the rectangle in half and pinched the edges together. Make sure you really pinch the perforations together very well because they will definitely split right open during baking.
Next time I won't bother with the teaspoon of vegan sour cream. It is such a minimal amount and it really adds nothing. Unfortunately now I have a giant tub of sour cream which I never liked, even in my omni days. Does anyone have any good recipes that will use up some of it?

The proportions of the ingredients in the icing part of the recipe are totally wonky. I had to add way more soy milk than the tablespoon that is listed. I just kept pouring in more, little by little, until I had the right runny consistency.
In the end, I was extremely pleased with the cheese filling. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn't think it tasted exactly like the real thing. When I make these again, I will definitely be making my own pastry dough. The Pillsbury stuff tastes fine but it tastes like crescent rolls and not like the delicious puff pastry that makes danishes so damn good! So will these suckers be able to compete with Porto's? I think they are definitely going to give them a run for their money--I'll let you know what Jose's verdict is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Berry Coconut Crisp

I spent election day being a jittery mess. I was so anxious all day long--I couldn't sit still and I just wanted to roll around in the streets screaming praise for Barack Obama, in case I might inspire some otherwise Republicans to switch their votes at the last second. Instead I sat at my computer, constantly refreshing in the hopes that maybe some state decided to start counting their votes early. But of course, that didn't happen so I just kept seeing the two candidates with zero electoral votes. It became clear that I needed a project to keep me busy. So naturally, I started making a Barack Obama outfit for my lovely daughter/dog.

Hayley was the life of the party as we walked to the nearby fire station to cast my vote. (Sadly. pups are not allowed to vote yet in the state of California, so the pup came just to keep me company. Let's hope there is a prop on the next election granting pups the right to vote!!!) The strong support for Obama was clear on our short walk, but we are in Los Angeles after all. I was still really worried about how the rest of the country would be voting.

When we got home, my nervous energy had only increased. So it was time to get elbow deep in baking. I wanted to do a red-white-and-blue themed dish for our election night festivities to be hosted by Kirby Von Scrumptious. I found some blueberries and strawberries still frozen from the summer and decided to make Veganomicon's Berry Coconut Crisp.
This dish was incredibly easy to make--just throw a few ingredients in a pan and cover with this delicious mix of unsweetened coconut, sugar, and flour and bake for about 40 minutes. In the end, the colors ended up being purple and off-white, buttttttt whatever. My only disappointment was that the flavor of the blueberries was so strong, it really covered how amazing the coconut crisp was. The raw dough was so good I'm planning on experimenting to make a coconut sugar cookie based off of this recipe. In the meantime, this is a great dessert that will get gobbled up quickly.

In the end my anxiety subsided as we watched Barack Obama elected the new president. What a happy, proud moment. Viva Los Estados Unidos!!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hugo's Tacos: One Reason to Not Hate the Valley

I recently got some terrible news: A really good friend was VALLEY. (Insert scary horror movie music here). Now, I'm not some snob that refuses to go to the valley ever or give it its props for certain things. It's just that I have the unique pleasure of having all of my close friends live within walking distance of me, so actually getting in my car and getting on the *gasp!* freeway to get somewhere seems like a big pain in the ass. And it's no exaggeration that it's often 10 degrees hotter in the valley than in the rest of L.A., and in the summer that is no picnic.

Upon my first visit to the new pad, however, I changed my tune. Pulling off the 101 onto Coldwater Canyon, there on the corner was Hugo's Tacos and then I crossed the street and saw Hugo's restaurant and I was reminded that the valley is full of amazing veg-friendly restaurants that I rarely get the chance to go to! Looks like there will be lots of new culinary adventures in my future!

When I first moved to L.A. and lived in West Hollywood, I would go to the Hugo's restaurant on Santa Monica quite a bit. I could not get enough of their veggie-packed sweet potato bowl and other vegan goodies. So I was so incredibly pumped to see that my friend lives mere blocks from Hugo's Studio City locations. Hugo's Tacos is the restaurant's sister stand with a choose-your-own-adventure style menu: you choose the type of meal you want (ranging from tacos to salsa burgers), and then the filling and sauce you want to go with it.

On my first visit I ordered a bowl with the soyrizo, potato, and zuchinni filling, and the honey chipotle salsa (yes, I am a honey-eating vegan). The bowl comes with organic Spanish rice, organic white beans, onion, cilantro, lettuce, guacamole, and cotija cheese (which Hugo's happily offers to sub out with soy cheese). Stir all these lovely ingredients together into a gooey mess and you get one big bowl of delicious!
On my many subsequent visits (eek! How am I supposed to avoid going there when it's right there by the freeway entrance just begging me to turn in???) I have been unable to force myself to order anything different because I just love the bowl so much. I now ask for no cheese--the soy mozzarella has absolutely no flavor and I don't see the point in adding extra calories onto this already heavy dish. Although I do love the pain of being so full you want to die after eating the whole thing. I also LOVE the honey chipotle salsa. It is a perfect combo of spicy and sweet and is the element that pushes this dish into the realm of the super tasty.
Hugo's food is enough to bring me there time after time, but their daily rotation of agua frescas will keep me a fan for life. Their watermelon agua fresca, which is my drink of choice--I would mainline the stuff if I could--is sublime. If their horchata--an excellent balance of cinnamon, sweetness, and rice milk--is any indication of how good their (completely vegan) rice pudding is, I will definitely be hitting up some of that next time so I can have a sugar high on top of my food coma.
Between the icy agua fresca and the misters that are constantly on (and are pictured at top with some awesome skeleton garland), the valley heat doesn't even interfere with the meal. Recently as I was chowing down and being thankful that there isn't a Hugo's closer to my house because I would surely gain a dubrillion pounds, I saw a sign advertising a new location right over the bridge from me in Atwater Village! Le sigh, guess I'll just have to put in a few more hours at the gym every week...

4749 Coldwater Canyon
Studio City, CA 91607

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Farmer's Market Fun: Taste of Life, krispy kale, and samples galore!

My weekly routine is to go to the Hollywood Lemon Grove farmer's market on Wednesday and to the Silver Lake farmer's market on Saturday. But this Sunday, Kirby Von Scrumptious, The Food Monster, and I piled into a car and headed out into the warm sunshine to THE Hollywood Farmer's Market. Because of my frequent trips to the two other closer markets, I haven't been to the Hollywood market in a few months but I'm glad my two fellow bloggers brought me back because I had forgotten how absolutely awesome it is.

First of all, the weather was perfect. The weather in L.A. is pretty much perfect all the time, but it was extra perfect on Sunday. Because I had just stocked up on produce at the market the day before, I didn't plan on buying anything. I mostly went to try the free samples and to get some Taste of Life vegan delicacies. The Food Monster and I definitely tried produce samples from every vendor in the whole place (and trust me, there are a lot). After all the avocado samples we ate I'm pretty sure we probably ate the equivalent of two whole avocados each. We also sampled a refreshing corn and basil salad that I will definitely be recreating in the near future. Because I just couldn't control myself, I ended up picking up some pomegranetes, limes, kale, and yellow tomatoes (I was so happy to see these babies aren't totally gone for the season!!!).

Yesterday I was in the mood for something crunchy so I jumped on the baked kale bandwagon and made some kale chips. At the last minute I decided it might be fun to try using my Sesame Ginger dressing from Trader Joe's on the kale instead of the usual oil, vinegar, and salt. To be honest, I wouldn't do that again. The chips weren't inedible but the dressing made them too tangy and a little bitter. But they were still good enough for me to happily stuff it all into my big face! Here's how I made the chips:

Tangy Kale Chips
Spray oil
one bunch kale
sea salt, to taste
2 tbsp sesame ginger salad dressing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with the spray oil. Tear the kale off its stems into shreds and put in bowl. Toss with the salad dressing and the sea salt. Spread onto cookie sheet and cookie for 15-20 minutes or more depending on how crisp you like your chips. Remove from heat, cool, and enjoy!

After drooling over pictures of Taste of Life's vegan soul food on many other blogs, Kirby Von Scrump and I finally got to take some drool-worthy pictures of our own. A Taste of Life is a regular stand at the market but they also have a restaurant on Fountain, not far from my casa, but because of my Pure Luck addiction, I haven't made it over there yet. I first sampled their vegan lasagna which was absolutely delicious and I am fairly positive it would totally fool an omnivore. After debating with the insanely friendly and funny server, I opted to go for a side of Mac N Cheez instead. My last taste of vegan mac and cheese was not good at all so I was skeptical, but it looked so good and gooey bubbling on the buffet. I got a slice of cornbread and was ready to go.

Except for wait--what would I wash all those carbs down with? I needed some watermelon agua fresca of course!!! Watermelon agua fresca--let's call it WAF--is my beverage of choice at every given moment. It is basically like heaven juice sent from the gods. So I hopped by a kabob stand that had a big ole vat of it, threw the guy two dollars and was on my way. Lucky for us, we were able to snag some of the few seats that are provided next to where the Thai food stand is.
Taste of Life's Mac N Cheez was absolutely amazing. I think it could maybe possibly even trick an omnivore just like the lasagna. Maybe that is a little extreme, but regardless, the stuff was finger lickin' good. A "side order" of it is also enough to put you into a serious food coma. Kirby got the same thing and we both had to keep taking breaks from eating because we were stuffed, but we are no quitters. We polished that stuff off like champs!!!!! And then we wanted to die. But in a good way. Ya know? The cornbread was also absolutely delicious and was on the sweet side. I absolutely cannot wait to go back to the Taste of Life stand and to try out their restaurant. I think next weekend Kirby and I are going to split the dinner platter which gives you a sample of four different dishes and will surely force us to loosen our belts. Three cheers to the Hollywood Farmer's Market! Just another reason to fall in love with this fabulous city of ours.

A Taste of Life

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crazy for Caponata

Every time my dad and step mom come into town, they drag me to Il Fornaio in Beverly Hills for dinner. Ok, so they don't exactly drag me--Il Fornaio is super tasty, pretty fancy, is surprisingly very accommodating to my vegan self, and--best of all--they foot the bill. The menu changes often but we always, always order caponata for the table. Sometimes this amazing eggplant appetizer isn't on the menu, but the restaurant must keep a secret stash of it somewhere for people like us who cannot stand to have an Italian meal without it.

When the farmer's market was teeming with gorge eggplants this week I knew there was a big batch of caponata in my future. Most caponatas usually have a few more ingredients, such as red peppers and capers, but I just used what I had on hand. Try your hardest not to eat the whole batch right away--this stew gets even more delicious after sitting in a fridge overnight. It's usually served cold and tastes great as an alternative to bruschetta, but I like it so much I just throw it on a plate and call it a meal. Enjoy!

CrazyGood Caponata

1 large eggplant
1 medium onion, sliced into short strips
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can tomatoes
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Use a fork to pierce the eggplant all over. Create an aluminum foil cradle for the eggplant and roast in oven for 40 minutes. While the eggplant roasts, saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat until the onions soften. Add the tomatoes (along with any juice), the red wine vinegar, and the sugar to the pan.

Remove eggplant from the oven and cool until it can be handled. Cut into small chunks (leave the skin on) and add to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer the mixture for another 20 minutes. Remove from heat and chill overnight.

Makes 4 side-dish servings or 2 main course servings.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Meanie

I recently picked up Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book follows Kingsolver's family's year of eating as strict locavores--they farmed a lot of their own food and sought to obtain all other food items from sources less than 100 miles away from their home. I enjoyed the book but was highly perturbed by Kingsolver's attitude towards veganism. She describes vegans by relating a story of she and her daughter reading about a vegan starlet in a gossip magazine. She basically equates all vegans with moronic, superficial, stereotypical Hollywood types. Her argument is that it's crazy for the celebrity (or any vegan) to expound the advantages of a vegan diet and the benefit to animals while buying products such as tofu that are shipped from god knows where and wrapped in loads of packaging, thereby having a big ecological footprint.

She also provides all the scientific evidence that humans are not designed to consume milk after infancy and completely acknowledges the adverse health affects of eating dairy (According to a Cornell study, between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant), and then proceeds to describe the great lengths she goes to to make her own dairy products that her lactose-intolerant-self can stomach. Of course it is her prerogative to knowingly consume something that she knows her own body rejects. It's also my perogative to find it irritating when someone is educated about an issue and doesn't have a proportional, sensible response. It's kind of like if you knew John McCain was terrible but voted for him anyway.

I cannot fathom how Kingsolver, who is so conscious of the major environmental and social impacts of what we eat, someone who went to such extremes as to be a complete locavore--which is not an easy task in the slightest--could fail to acknowledge the environmental and social benefits of veganism. This uninformed view of the vegan diet really bothered me and made it very difficult to relate to the book's main message.

A few days after I finished the book, I got to thinking. I realized that, although I'm still annoyed by Kingsolver's vegan stereotyping, she actually has a point. I thought about all the vegan products I buy like tofu, tempeh, canned soups, soy ice cream, et cetera and started thinking about the fuel and packaging they require to be shipped from wherever the product originated (which I'm sure in most cases is nowhere near my L.A) So I have made a conscious decision to, from now on, be as local of an eater as possible. I have stopped buying all the pre-made meals that I have relied on from Trader Joe's and I am ready to start eating seasonally, even if that means I can't have my beloved watermelon year round. Our world is in dire straights and it is simply irresponsible to blindly contribute to our own demise.

Ok this is sounding a little intense for my happy vegan blog. I know I won't be able to stay totally locavore--there are gonna be times when I'm working long hours and just need to nuke some veggie patties for dinner. But I am making a conscious effort to get all my produce from the farmer's market and to never ever buy those fruits and veggies at TJ's that come in tons of totally unnecessary plastic packaging.

On my first trip to the farmer's market after returning from Michigan, I was thrilled to find these yellow bell tomatoes. I really don't like eating regular raw tomatoes, but for whatever reason I can eat these little yellow suckers like candy. I was first turned on to them when our on-set caterer had them one day at the salad bar. They advised me how best to prepare them: slice them in half, splash them with red wine vinegar, some olive oil, salt, and pepper. I could eat a whole carton of these babies for a meal.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen these at the market since, so I guess I'll have to wait until next summer to have another heavenly bowl! I'm ok with that--it's getting to be root vegetable season and potatoes will hold me over until next year. Hopefully the return of the yellow bell tomatoes will coincide with the Dodger's pre-season so I can bring them to the stadium for a snack. Oh my close, so close. But I sense that 2009 is our year!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Californians: Vote Yes on Prop 2!!!!!

Hey California voters! The new president isn't the only important vote you'll be making in November. There are some really important propositions on our state ballot and I want to make sure you all know about Prop 2.

Proposition 2 requires that "calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely."

Here is how pigs are kept today:

Imagine how you would feel if, for the duration of your life, you were kept in a space where you couldn't fully extend your limbs.

This is an important piece of legislation which, if passed, will help improve the lives of the 40 million animals raised for commercial purposes in California. Hopefully the proposition's passing will also create momentum for similar laws in the rest of the country.

The law is just common sense if you ask me but if you need more reasons to convince you to vote yes here are a few:
* The risk of salmonella poisoning will decrease
* The law favors family farmers who already practice better farming practices and will force giant factory farms to have to compete with the better quality family farm.
* By phasing out the worst animal confinement practices, there will be a reduction on the intense pollution of our waterways and groundwater by contamination from untreated waste.

Are there any negative consequences of Prop 2? Yes--the price of eggs may increase by less than a penny per egg. So you may have to fork over an extra 12 cents per dozen at the store. Something tells me your budget can handle it though.

More information can be found here. Please spread the word to other Californians to VOTE YES ON PROP 2!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

These October Days Really Rock my Socks Off!

Sunday was the perfect day for pumpkin picking: it was sunny but a little cooler than usual and it's early in the season which means the pumpkin selection is at its best. So Kirby Von Scrumptious and I, along with a couple other jokers, trucked down to Orange County to Tanaka Farms. When we got to Irvine, however, we were famished, so before we could play in the hay bales and get lost in the corn maze, off we were to one of the best vegan joints in SoCal: Veggie Grill.

Veggie Grill's concise menu is entirely vegan so there is no need to ask about which dishes contain what products, although I asked anyway because their dressings looked to0 thick and creamy to not be made with eggs. I have been dying to try the Baja Fiesta salad since drooling over a photo of it on another vegan blog (can't remember where exactly). Delightful is the exact word I would use to describe this mix of romaine, papaya, avocado, quinoa, roasted corn salsa, cucumber, cilantro, and tortilla strips. The ginger-papaya vinaigrette was perfectly light and tangy.

We got an order of Sweetheart fries for the table. They were delish but it's pretty difficult to make sweet potato fries that aren't. My sweet-potato-fry-heart will always belong to Pure Luck where they are actually baked, not fried, and are thick and super chewy and come with the world's best special sauce. But Veggie Grill's own special sauce--a tangy, vegan ranch-style dressing--was also very tasty and were great on the fries. I washed everything down with a combo of iced teas (black with sweetened peach for me, please!).

Everyone else also really enjoyed their meals. My meat-eating friend Derek even questioned whether the "chicken" was real or not--and everyone knows an omnivore being tricked by fake meat happens about as often as Sarah Palin kisses a polar bear.

I might not drive all the way down to Orange County just for Veggie Grill, but it is so good that I just might consider driving to the west side to the El Segundo location--which says a lot because y'all know how much I don't like going west of Vermont!

P.S. Look how cute we are in that picture at top. I <3 my fellow pumpkin-picking amigos!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vegan Comfort Food + Exotic Soy Gelato = One Happy Vegan

Here I am, back from a wonderful weekend in Detroit. Luckily I got there just in time to make it to the cider mill which is a Michigan tradition. Apple orchards across the state crank out hot batches of their own homemade spiced ciders and I assure you there is no better beverage on the planet. Now I'm back in L.A where it is 92 degrees today. Lame! Oh well, it hasn't been that hot all summer so I guess one little heat wave in October won't kill me.

Right before I took off on my trip, I had a little Pure Luck/Scoops excursion. There has been some discussion lately about Pure Luck's decline, but I think they are as amazing as ever! (Excuse the crappy photos--my camera is broken so I have to resort to my friend's iPhones.)

We started the meal off right with an order of pickle chips. The only way to make a near perfect food like the pickle taste even better, is to fry it. These are self explanitorily delish.

Lately I haven't been able to make myself order anything besides "Kristen's Carnitas Wrap." Juicy jackfruit and Pure Luck's spot-on Caeser dressing knock off is a winning combo in my book. Add chewy sweet potato fries and magical tangy BBQ sauce to that equation and I am over the moon. (My order is the one at top).

My friend ordered rosemary fries, but alas, there was not a trace of rosemary to be found on the fries. They were good fries, it was just kind of a bummer that they didn't come as advertised. Luckily the rest of our food was so good we were willing to overlook this omission.

I find it physically impossible to leave Pure Luck without being sucked into Scoops like Ahab getting sucked into Moby Dick's giant whale mouth. This time around I ordered a scoop of Salty Chocolate and a scoop of Banana Oreo. T'was orgasmic as usual!


Friday, September 26, 2008

Dosa Update

An employee at Dosa came across my last post about their lovely South Indian restaurant and sent me a very nice e-mail. They wrote:

"I did want to mention that we can make our dosas vegan by holding back on the "ghee", which as you might know is an integral part of vegetarian food. Next time just ask your server and we'll be glad to serve you a delicious vegan dosa."

And I thought that place couldn't get any better!!! It almost makes me want to shoot up to SF sometime next week just go get some more scrumptious curry.

In the meantime, I am off to Detroit to hang out with the fam a bit--ahhh yes, hiatus means I get to take a lot of vacations. I'm thinking about catching a flight to Mexico sometime next month if the ole bank account can handle it. Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see y'all next week!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jumping for Vegan Joy in San Francisco

Ahoy Mates!

I'm not sure how it's possible, but I seem to be 100 times busier on hiatus than when I was working. Go figure. Anywho, as I mentioned, I made a quick trip to San Francisco last week when I caught a ride with my friend Neal who was driving back to Norcal from San Diego. Therein lies the beauty of being unemployed--I can just decide at the last minute to drive up state in the middle of the week for no other reason than just wanting to be in weather cold enough to actually merit wearing one of my many scarves.

On to the food...

Basically every restaurant we saw looked incredible. I could spend decades there and probably never make it to all the awesome dining options. So for our one day in the big city, we had to choose wisely. I checked out Quarrygirl and To Live and Eat in L.A. for ideas and they both seemed pretty smitten with Herbivore, so that's exactly where Neal and I went after a wonderful morning at MoMA.

My fellow bloggers raved about the grilled seitan shwarma wrap, so it didn't take me long to order. Soon out came my wrap packed with grilled onions, tomatoes, hot sauce, hummus, tahini, pickles, and the awesome seitan. Would I like to add eggplant and potatoes to that? That would be a yes--I'm on vacation after all! I could easily eat this wrap every day for the rest of my life--it was that good. Neal ordered the falafal wrap which was also delicious. I was also very pleased that the wrap was totally easy to eat--it wasn't constantly in danger of exploding and dripping like wraps are wont to do. (These pictures are much better than mine)

The desserts sounded uber delish, so we couldn't resist ordering a slice of german chocolate cake. The server brought out this huge slab of heaven, which we devoured even though we were already so full we wanted to die. The fudgey icing was the best I've had--vegan or otherwise.

The added bonus of eating at Herbivore, was that while we chowed down in the sunshine, we spotted a very cute looking Indian restaurant. When we were craving Indian later on, we knew right where to go. It was back to the Mission for us!

Dosa serves South Indian cuisine which is different than the stuff one sees on a usual Indian menu. I was pleased to see a note at the top of the menu pointing to the vegan options. I ordered the Tamil Vegetable Curry which was made up of cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, plantains & cherry tomatoes in a "Chettinad-style" curry. Spooning the curry over coconut basmati rice made for one of the best meals I've had, period. The menu described the curry as mild which makes me fear what they find spicy because it was actually quite hot. Neal ordered a dosa which was unfortunately not vegan, because it looked amazing.

Neal and I had an amazing time in SF and I cannot wait to go back--especially because I found it to be even more vegan friendly than L.A. which is very impressive! Thanks to Foodeater and Quarrygirl for the great advice! Also, after eating at Dosa I really want to start cooking obscure Indian dishes more often. Anyone have a good suggestion for a vegan (or easily veganizable) Indian cook book?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Howdy Pardners,

I'm off on a last minute trip to San Francisco! While I'm gone, you should check out the guest blog I did over at The Food Monster about our night in Little Ethiopia. See ya on the flip side!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Meh" Cafe: fool me once, shame on you...

I was never too successful trying to get our little art department to go to M Cafe for lunch--not only does the macrobiotic cafe offer very few meat options (and only seafood at that) but the place is a tad outside of our usual budget and the portions are smallish. During our last week, our crew members slowly started dropping off until the last two working members in the art department were me and my coordinator. We took the opportunity to eat at the places that everyone else always scoffed at. So we found ourselves ordering one last time from M Cafe.

I ordered the Gado Gado salad which is described as "organic mixed greens, napa cabbage, crisp vegetables, golden tempeh triangles marinated with ginger, lemongrass & lime, frizzled onions & spicy peanut dressing." While that is basically an accurate description of the salad I got, I was still disappointed. The lamest thing about M Cafe is that over fifty percent of the items on the menu are prepackaged and sit in their display cases for who knows how long. This salad is no exception and it is just plain outrageous that M Cafe gets away with charging $12 for a teeny tiny salad that has been sitting out. If work hadn't been picking up the tab, I would have felt like a total sucker. I just kinda overlooked this lameness before, but I can't get over the fact that I would have been much better off grabbing a sesame tofu salad from Trader Joe's for three bucks.

We also ordered a couple chocolate truffles which were good but, again, were they worth $1.50 a pop? Not really.

I think the idea of M Cafe has been fooling me into thinking it's pretty good all this time. Maybe it's because I'm on hiatus now and I have to --gasp!!!--pay for my own food, but I won't be going back there anytime soon unless I have a hankering for being ripped off.

M Cafe de Chaya
9343 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Friday, September 5, 2008

The key to a poor doctoral student's heart is chocolate chip cookies

Jason is the first person I met at college. He was the roommate of my friend from high school. Six years later, he is still one of my best friends in the world. Whenever I'm super upset about something, I call my mom first and then Jase. His birthday is at the end of August which was perfect because we got to have a party every year right when we went back to school. Sadly, we haven't been together for his past couple birthdays and this year he is all the way in State College, PA where he is starting his six year PHD program, eek! I wanted to send him a little something for the big 25th b-day, so I found the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies in VWAV and got to work.

I did my homework and saw that a lot of bloggers had problems with the dough being too crumbly. So I added the flour 1/2 cup at a time and in the end I obtained the perfect texture with about 1/4 cup less flour than is called for in the recipe. The recipe says that it will prove to any non-vegan that you can make vegan chocolate chip cookies that taste just as good as regular ones and when I tasted them I was shocked at how they tasted exactly like the normal kind! Before I mailed these out I had a couple coworkers try them and they both said that while the look and texture were spot on, the taste bore no resemblance to real chocolate chip cookies, adding that they just tasted like molasses cookies. Siiiigh. Next time I am going to get them to try them without knowing they are vegan first.

I was slightly worried about how the cookies would fare in the mail, as the last time I sent cookies they arrived at my friend's house in Argentina a month later, melted into one giant cookie blob. These suckers arrived in three days however and Jase assured me they hadn't blobified. As for Jason's review, he said "these are really good considering they contain none of the ingredients needed to make chocolate chip cookies." Hmmm, not sure what that means, but he ate them all soooo whatever! Actually, Jase may not be the best judge of any food. In college he would routinely bake up a dozen Jiffy blueberry muffins and eat six of them for dinner and then have the other six for breakfast the next day. So he's not exactly a foodie.

If we aren't dating someone when we're 45, Jase and I are going to get married, so I've got a few years to perfect the recipe. But in the meantime, I still say that these suckers are delish.

Happy 25th Jayyyyseeee!!!!!

P.S. The recipe says it will yield 36 cookies, but unless you like your cookies to be no bigger than quarters, that is definitely not the case. This made about 20 average sized cookies.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Better Dodger Dog

Last night the art department went to see the Dodgers defeat the Padres in a good old fashioned baseball showdown. George (pictured above) and I managed to kill off an entire bag of whole peanuts in the first four innings, but insanely, I was still hungry. So I went in search of the one stand in the whole stadium that sells veggie dogs which happened to be quite close to our seats. Truth be told, I wasn't exactly in the mood for a veggie dog--I was eyeing those giant super pretzels--but I wanted to cast my vote, so to say, with my hard earned $6.25 for the veggie community. The thinking being that if items like the veggie dog sell well enough, they will become more prevalent throughout the stadium and maybe there will even be more vegan items added to the usual stadium fare.

The hot dog itself was nothing out of the ordinary by any means--just your average vegan dog on a white bread bun. But it was nice and hot and if you slather anything in enough ketchup and mustard, you are bound to have a delicious treat. The price is outrageous of course, but it also costs 5 bucks for a pop or a regular hot dog, so basically everything is super expensive. It was also blanket night though so we all got some free hideous fleece blankets that I will probably only bring out of the closet when Leif gets drunk and passes out on my couch (which is often).

The moral of this story is that I love the Dodgers, my friends, peanuts in the shell, and I love that I live in a town where vegan options are offered in even the most carnivorous of places.

Look forward to a deluge of posts, as I am finally finding time to catch up on my life in food from the past week!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hey there!

I have been M.I.A. because the Yo Soy life has been super crazy as of late. But fear not--I am now on hiatus and so starting this week I'll have all the time in the world to eat and post. Woo! And I have had some good vegan adventures this past week to gab about. See ya soooooooooooon!!!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Get Wael Soon Mujadarrah

I always take any chance I get to eat with my friend Wael's family. Even their regular weekday dinners are massive feasts. There's usually smoky baba ghanoush, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush, lentil dishes, and lots of pita to scoop it all up--all made from scratch of course. Wael makes fun of me for still talking about this dinner we had at his sister's house in New Jersey a few summers ago. It was one of the best meals of my life but for them it was just another Sunday night. Thanksgiving at the Abifaker house is a whole other story--the amount of American and Arabic dishes covering the table is rivaled only by my Oma's Christmas smorgasbord.

Last October, Wael got in a terrible car accident and I quickly learned that the Lebanese answer a crisis with lots and lots of food and chocolate. The hospital room was like a little cafeteria--everyday we visitors were treated to a new middle eastern delicacy. And that was when I became obsessed with Mujadarrah.

Mujadarrah is the best kind of dish: simple and reeeediculously good-tasting. I managed to completely mess it up when I made it today by using precooked lentils. The texture of mujadarrah is supposed to be kind of like guacamole, but today mine came out more like just beans and rice. Because I used precooked lentils instead of boiling dry ones, there was no lentil slime to mix with the rice and onions which creates a delightfully mushy consistency. Today I added some guacamole I had laying around to try to fudge the texture.

So go! Make it! Eat it! Luvvvv it! Here is the recipe, straight from Mrs. Abifaker herself. (There is also a recipe for it in Veganomicon but c'mon now, would you rather have this middle eastern dish from two chicas from Queens or from a true Lebanese cook?)

Get Wael Soon Mujadarrah

1 cup lentils
1 onion
1/2 cup rice
3-4 tbs of oil (your choice)
3 cups water

Heat the lentils in water until they boil. Once they have boiled add the rice and allow to boil. While the other stuff is boiling, chop up the onion and sauté it in a pan with the oil until they brown. Add the onions to the rice and lentils and set the heat to low and simmer. Stir occasionally (the more you stir the creamier it will be). Add more water if you feel the rice and lentils are not soft enough. Once it's at your desired texture,salt to your liking and serve.

And in case you are wondering, Wael is doing much better now. Here he is looking super cute back in the fall when he was still in his wheelchair. I can't wait for that bugger to get his little tush back to California!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

La Vida Dolce

Tuesday was our last day of principle shooting! We had Chipotle for lunch, which everyone seemed to agree was bad. You can absolutely tell that the place is owned by McDonalds. Everyone's food was tiny, gross, or both. I ordered a fajita salad which was slimy black beans with a truckload of guacamole and two slices of bell pepper. It was totally unappetizing and I am totally dumbfounded that when this Culver City location of the franchise opened recently people waited in line for over an hour to get lunch there.

After our disappointing lunch, Canada and George went to walk down the street to get some cupcakes from Bluebird. They took forever though and when they returned I found out why--they had actually gone to Dolce Isola and brought back sorbet!!! Literally every time we went to lunch at Dolce Isola over the season, I would ask for a taste of their peach sorbet and come back and tell everyone how mind blowing it is. So those two tricksters brought back peach and coconut. The coconut turned out to be even better than the peach! It wasn't really sweetened which was awesome. You would never guess that either one didn't have dairy. See George and Canada digging in above. What a sweet way to end season five!

Dolce Isola
2869 S. Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA