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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vegan Cheese Takes Over the Neighborhood!

Upon learning that I'm vegan, 9 out of 10 people will respond by saying some variation of "Oh my stars, I would just keel over and die right here on this spot if I couldn't have my beloved cheese!" For the 6 years I was a vegetarian, I said the same exact thing. But then eventually I went vegan and, oddly enough, I never miss cheese. Well almost never--since I've gone vegan the only time I crave curds and whey is occasionally when I make spaghetti I think it might be nice to have parmesan to go with it. And I don't mean a fresh, gourmet parmesan. I mean the dry, shitty Kraft kind. It's not like I was never into cheese either (au contraire, I was known to go through a small wheel of gouda in one day and I would eat goat cheese smeared on anything and everything). You would think I'd get cravings occasionally, but for whatever reason I just don't.

So when a wave of vegan pizza options popped up around town I thought it was pretty cool but I wasn't in a huge hurry to try them. But when I realized that there was vegan pizza within walking distance of my house, I figured I should go support any establishment that offers vegan options. Off I went to Lucifer's Pizza.

Lucifer's uses Teese cheese from Chicago Soy Dairy. I ordered a pie that was half Hawaiian (sans the ham) and half mushroom. Let's talk about the non-cheese elements first. The crust was good, the mushrooms were fresh, and my favorite thing about the Hawaiian side was that it had a generous sprinkle of coconut flakes on it which was a totally sweet and yummy addition. I had a major problem with the sauce though. It tasted like they just opened up a can of plain tomato sauce and dumped it on. It was completely devoid of seasoning of any sort. It gave the pizza sort of a bitter taste. I tend to prefer my pizza sauce to be more in the vain of Papa John's which is slightly sweet and smacks of basil and oregano. Lucifer's sauce is just lame-o.

As for the was...ok. It didn't have much of a taste. It was pretty melted which is impressive for a vegan cheese. My biggest beef with the Teese was this strange tendency for it to stick to my teeth. Literally every time I took a bite of pizza, I had to use my napkin to scrape the Teese remnants off my incisors. Luckily I was eating this with the boyfriend, so I wasn't mortified to be constantly de-flaking my mouth, but I am here to tell you that this is NOT ideal first date food. Overall, my pizza was enjoyable but I am in no rush to run back to Lucifer's. The next time I'm there I will definitely just get a pizza with no cheese, because the Teese just really didn't do anything for me. Hopefully in the mean time, they will do something with that subpar sauce as well.

A couple days after I had gone to Lucifer's, I heard that ANOTHER pizza place in Los Feliz was now offering vegan pies, this time, with the infamous new Daiya cheese which is so cheese-like it has been known to cause vegans to questions whether it actually contains dairy. The place is Cruzer Pizza and, despite being a frequent customer of Cruzers neighbor Cap 'N' Cork, I never even knew this place existed. Cruzer is literally a hole-in-the-wall with a counter and no seating, so I ordered a half Hawaiian, half vegan pepperoni and mushroom pie to go and brought it to the boyfriend's for lunch.

In general, I am not a fan of meat analogs, but I thought if I was trying the fake cheese, I might as well try it with the other new vegan options offered. Both sides of our pie were insanely delicious. We have to start with the cheese. Cruzer uses a mix of Daiya's mozzarella and cheddar flavors, which seems like an odd choice--I don't remember cheddar as being a typical pizza cheese--but let me tell you, the two cheeses melt together in a delightfully gooey mess. I am struggling to find the words to describe the sheer awesomeness of Daiya, but I feel that any description I could come up with would be inadequate. Let's just say Daiya cheese on a pizza rocks my world. Oddly though, Daiya also has a tendency to stick to one's teeth but it is extremely minimal--nothing like the adhesive bond that Teese seems to posess.

Even more surprising than me loving a fake cheese, is me loving the fake meat Cruzer uses! The ham on our Hawaiian pizza was so delish! The thin squares are sweet and salty bites that thankfully don't taste enough like real ham to gross me out. The fake pepperoni (pictured at top) is not the greasy round slices one finds on regular pizza but instead are little spicy crumbles, more akin to bac 'n' bits in size and shape. As for the mushrooms, they are not dry, limp button mushrooms but are so big and juicy they might actually be portabellas.

Cruzer had me hooked from the first bite, so it wasn't long before I was dialing them up for a delivery, this time going for a pie with fake chicken and mushrooms. Everything was as delcicious as before...except the chicken which was too much like the fake meats that I hate--thick, chewy, and way too close to real chicken for me. But no worries, I just picked it off and crammed an ENTIRE PIE into my big German head (please don't tell anyone this). I had to run an extra 99 miles the next day to make up for it, but it was so worth it!

Until recently, I rarely had any sort of craving for cheese, but now that Daiya has entered my vernacular, I often find myself daydreaming about the gooey, stretchy, tasty pizza served at Cruzer. If Lucifer's has any desire to keep a vegan customer base, they need to ditch the Teese and start piling on the Daiya.

Lucifer's Pizza
1958 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Cruzer Pizza
4449 Prospect Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Monday, August 10, 2009

Exciting not-so-new news!

I dont know how I didn't read about this earlier, but I am very excited about Jonothan Safran Foer's new book Eating Animals. Foer is one of my favorite authors, having written the uber excellent Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and his new book sounds right up my alley. Eating Animals is a non-fiction work about Foer's choice to be vegetarian. From the blurbs I've read it sounds like he visited factory farms as part of his research. One of my favorite authors is writing about my favorite issues! What could be better? I normally get all my books from the library but I already pre-ordered this one because I won't be able to wait for the library processing time. Eating Animals comes out November 2nd. There's a little more information here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hello loyal readers,

I have been completely M.I.A. for a while and I apologize! I basically have no excuse other than being busy at work and having the social calendar of a turn-of-the-century debutante (read: I am just extremely popular, what can I say?) I am typing this hurriedly because I am off to catch a flight to Boston where I will be wreaking havoc for the next week, but I promise that as soon as I come back I will be uber-blogging and even trying to sneak in a little redesign!

Adios for now!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Local: Good Eats from Not-So-Far Away

These days I am really trying to eat as locally as possible. Before this season of our show started I resolved to bring in my lunch at least thrice a week so as to reduce the insane amount of packaging we go through for our daily lunch orders. Unfortunately, I can't say I've lived up to that goal. It seems that the last thing I want to do after getting home from work is pack a lunch for the next day. Le sigh. But fear not, I still manage to do my part by occasionally giving up my paid-for lunch for a thrown together melange of veggies from our kitchen at work and I get 90 percent of all my produce from the farmer's market (I just can't resist the baby brussel sprout bags at Trader Joe's, I just can't! They are so cute and easy to microwave. ok?!?!?!). Luckily, to make up for my slack in the lunch department, I can enjoy lovely local weeknight meals at the appropriately named Local restaurant in Silver Lake.

Local's shtick is that they used locally farmed, organic ingredients whenever possible and they use only recycled or completely biodegradable packaging. Hey, that sounds great! At Local, you order at the counter, get your number, and wait for your meals to be brought to you by the super friendly staff. Most of the seating is outdoors in a comfortable shaded patio. While you're waiting to order you can scope out the pretty awesome salad bar where the selection includes a handful of vegan-friendly prepared salads for 8 bucks per pound. On recent visits there has been a tasty looking wheatberry salad, a raw kale concoction, and a scrumptious edamame mix, among other choices.

Local's menu is definitely more suited to an omnivorous diet but there are more than a few vegan options, one of them being the quinoa burger. When I asked if the burger was vegan, the cashier informed me that arrowroot, not eggs, is used to bind the ingredients. Welllllll it turns out that arrowroot doesn't actually bind all that well. This quinoa creation is really more of a quinoa salad than a burger as the grains barely stick together, but that doesn't bother me too much. The quinoa still tastes great so who cares about semantics!

Most items on the menu come with your choice of french fries, spicy fries, or a side salad. I had the spicy fries on my first visit and found them way too salty to enjoy. Thinking the salt came from the spice mix, I ordered the regular fries on my next go around and found them to be insanely salty as well. It's too bad the seasoning was off because the fries were really good texture-wise.

The Local menu also boasted a Vegan Tempeh Sloppy Joe with Soy Mozzarella. I ordered the soy cheese on the side as I am generally not a fan of fake cheese. The Sloppy Joe was a divine mixture of tempeh, green peppers, onions (and other tasty veggies I am probably overlooking) in a delightfully tangy tomato sauce. While I was thoroughly enjoying my sammy, I noticed that the soy cheese didn't look like any of the brands of vegan cheese I have seen before. After asking the chef for more info on the soy cheese, I informed him that it was a brand that contains casein and is therefore not vegan. He was genuinely surprised and was very apologetic. When I last checked in with Local, they informed me that they were very disappointed to learn about the casein issue and are currently exploring new vegan cheese options. In the meantime, they no longer refer to the Sloppy Joe as vegan but they do instruct customers that the sandwich can be made vegan by asking for the cheese to be left off.

One thing that struck me as odd during my dining experiences at Local, is that you are presented with all these dishes made with awesome local, organic ingredients but yet the condiments provided are anything but. It is a little odd to be eating an organic burger and smothering it in Heinz ketchup which is not only completely mass produced but it contains high fructose corn syrup for pete's sake!

Local is a very bright and pleasant place for a great meal. While the restaurant definitely has a number of great vegan options, it is apparent that the chefs aren't exactly trained in all things vegan (otherwise they probably would have a more burger-y burger). Their mission also seems to be a bit inconsistent--I mean they could at least get the cheap organic ketchup from Trader Joe's or something! Regardless, I will be eating at Local on a regular basis as I want to support their efforts in getting people to eat food grown where they live and I need to satisfy the constant craving I have for that damn good Sloppy Joe.

2943 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The on-set life just got a little tastier thanks to C'est La V

I thought our crafty guy last season was awesome, what with him always making sure there were vegan options out for me, but that was before I met the greatest craft service dude in all the land. At the beginning of the season I mentioned to our brand spanking new crafty guy, Joey, that I was vegan and asked if would he mind setting aside some salad without cheese on it or getting a couple sandwiches sans meat and dairy when he ordered food. Instead of just agreeing, Joey lit up and started asking me to bring in my favorite vegan recipes for his kitchen to make and asking for brand names of my favorite vegan goodies. Not only was he up for the challenge but he was totally pumped about it.

I've mentioned before how the rule in film/t.v. production is that a "snack" must be provided 3 hours after breakfast and how the snack is really less of a snack and more of a full blown smorgasborg. Well, every day, three hours after call time, Joey has been hand delivering a delicious vegan meal to me and my pescatarian boss. One day we'll have an awesome pasta primavera, another day it will be lentils and rice then tomorrow he'll bring us a mexican feast with some KILLER spanish rice and grilled tofu. This alone makes me a very happy lass, but wait, it gets better...

Joey went out and made a deal with C'est La V, one of L.A.'s tastiest vegan bakeries run by the former vegan baker at the now closed Leda's Bakeshop, to get a regular delivery of an amazing array of baked goods every week. Here is Joey this very morning dropping off an awesome C'est La V platter.

This particular tray had the banana tea loaf which I hadn't tried yet, and it did not disappoint. Moist and not overly sweet, the delicate flavor impressed all the non-vegans in the office. Of all the C'est La V goodies I've had though, my favorites are these: (from left to right) snickerdoodles, kourabiedes, and chocolate crackles.

The snickerdoodles are pretty straightforward but it is remarkable how soft and chewy all these little cookie bites are and I am a total sucker for anything cinnamon. The kourabiedes are a Greek version of mexican wedding cookies and they are out of this world. I normally find Mexican wedding cookies to be totally dry and boring and not worth the calories, but these babies are so soft and buttery they just melt in your mouth and are worth every gram of fat. I normally also don't like chocolate cookies but the chocolate crackles have won me over with their insanely fudgy, brownie-like texture.

Somedays, Joey will bring this assortment of scones, biscotti, and chocolate chip cookies:

The chocolate chip cookies are as outstanding as the others. The only problem is that they are so cute and tiny that I convince myself that eating 900 of them at one time is a-okay. If you are on any sort of diet, stay away! I usually have a major aversion to biscotti (it's just like a stale cookie to me) so it really says something when even I thought they were tasty.

The scones are one of C'est La V's standouts. They are so incredibly buttery and flaky, they have quickly become my boss' fave. The two flavors we've had are golden raisin and cranberry orange. The cranberries in the latter add the perfect tanginess to balance the sweetness of the scone. In fact, literally as I was typing this our wardrobe assistant came running in asking who made the scones in the break room. When I told her they were vegan she was in total disbelief.

C'est La V's baked goods really are indistinguishable from non-vegan stuff and I have many omni coworkers who would agree. I can't wait to try their other stuff--they've still got a whole menu of cupcakes, muffins, bars, and rugelach I've got work my way through! Unfortunately the bakery does not have a shop but you can get your orders in 48 hours through the website.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Now Tweeting

I've finally taken the plunge and joined the twitterverse.  There's nothing exciting there yet--I still don't exactly get how it works.  But be my twitter friend.  Is that even what it's called?!

The Biggest Loser loses.

The Biggest Loser is really getting on my last nerve.  The product placement and questionable nutrition advice is getting completely out of control.

The BL has always been one giant commercial for various processed foods and 24 hour fitness but each season the segues from actual content into advertising has become increasingly ridiculous.  Last week I was horrified when trainer Bob excited his team with an advanced copy of the Marley and Me DVD.  He then used that little mention as an excuse to talk about how to not eat popcorn when you go to the movies.  It was just the most nonsensical, blatant product placement in the history of television. At least the other product placement is somewhat related to health.  It doesn't help that this season, the show has expanded to a two hour format.  When you spend 2 of your 4 precious hours between getting from from work and going to bed watching a show, it would be nice if 40% of it wasn't hidden advertisements.   

The show has always been a big fan of totally processed, chemically enhanced food but I am increasingly finding it too much to take when every episode contestants are opting to chew Extra sugar-free (and chemical-full) gum instead of having say, an apple, for a snack.  I also cringe at the point in every episode when the contestants are heading to Subway, having challenges in a Subway, or (my personal favorite from last night's episode), gathering up their Subway packaging for the trash as they head to the gym.  Hope you enjoyed that 300 calorie sandwich and its antibiotic-filled processed meat!

It's a good thing I watched last night's episode alone because there was one segment that made me want to get up and punch someone in the face.  In this particularly irritating bit, trainer Jillian extols the benefits of drinking milk to contestant Helen.  She then recommends drinking at least 3 glasses of milk a day.  I cannot imagine any educated nutritionist recommending anyone drink three glasses of milk a day--especially someone who is trying to lose wait.  Ok wait a minute, I take that back.  This is the good ole U.S. of A where we are indoctrinated with milk propaganda from birth, so there are definitely a number of health professionals who choose to ignore the massive amount of scientific evidence pointing to milk's many adverse health effects.  But it just seems like such a huge disservice, if not an injustice, to have the dairy lobby buying air time to sneak crazy unproven "factoids" about milk to The Biggest Loser's 10.2 million viewers. 

But here's the kicker.  Having started my career in reality t.v., I know a number of people that currently work on or have worked on The Biggest Loser and it just so happens that Jillian Michaels is vegan.  Now Jillian is a big animal lover so maybe she couldn't care less about the nutritional aspects of veganism and is only in it for anti-cruelty reasons, but it still sent me into a blind rage seeing her sitting there talking about milk like its the Mother Teresa of beverages when she won't go near the stuff herself.  As if her carnie based diet books weren't hypocritical enough.  

Sigh.  I am already completely immersed in the plot twists and turns of Season 7 (I know I wasn't the only one sobbing hysterically when Mikey's brother broke down after seeing his newly fit family!) so I would be lying if I said I was going to start boycotting the show.  But I might not start watching the next season.  The Biggest Loser might help inspire people to lose weight but that doesn't necessarily mean they are helping them be healthy and it's getting too damn frustrating to watch.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Samosa House! I want to have like 10,000 of your babies!

If I dreamt up my idea of a perfect Indian restaurant it would be exactly like Samosa House. The prices are reasonable, the food is outstanding, the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, the atmosphere is warm and sunny, and there is not an ounce of meat in the whole damn place! The concept basically takes the idea behind India Sweets and Spices--a buffet-style spread with an accompanying grocery store--and makes it good. Whereas Sweets and Spices tend to be dingy and extremely unwelcoming, Samosa House is just the opposite. Let's start off by talking about the signature dish, the samosa!

These samosas are completely vegan which is a rare find as most samosas use dairy in the dough. When you dip a corner of the perfectly flaky crust into one of the accompanying sauces (cilantro or tamarind) you get a one heavenly bite. At $1.50 a pop these are a great deal--I know because I recently tried to get a bunch of samosas in the valley for a Slumdog Millionaire themed Academy Award party and it was too pricey for this gal's tight budget!

Onto the main shebang...Samosa House offers ten different entrees that rotate throughout the week. I think the best way to go is to order a combo plate. For $7.99 you get your choice of 3 sides with raita, rice, and two pieces of flat bread (which is really like an Indian tortilla). But wait, you are vegan and you don't eat the yogurt-based raita! No problem, the kind people at Samosa House will let you have a fourth choice of entree instead!

In my experience, out of the ten entree choices usually six to eight of them are completely vegan. All the staff members know exactly what each dish contains so you don't have to worry about accidentally chowing down a plate full of ghee. On a recent visit I got this small feast of (clockwise from upper right corner) cauliflower curry, jackfruit, grilled eggplant, and potato curry. All of it was ab-fab.

Samosa House's jack fruit is the same delectable texture as the jack fruit at Pure Luck. It is delicately seasoned and has quickly become a major favorite at our office. So much so that when we order lunch from there we always get one box filled only with it.

If I'm not very specific about the details of each dish, it's because I don't really pay attention. When I go into Samosa House I just point at the four things that look the most scrumptious and I have yet to find a single dish that doesn't completely hit the spot. On one occasion they had this crazy good soy crumble dish (seen below in the upper right corner.) I couldn't really pin point any specific flavors but whatever was in it made one awesome little dish. Also seen below are a lentil dal and some chana masala. I just drooled on my petty cash envelope thinking about those crumbles.

In addition to all this good food, Samosa House also offers your usual array of lassis and a case full of Indian sweets. They also sell a pretty big variety of imported candy like Bounty bars and my favorite-pre-vegan-candy-in-the-whole world: Kinder Buenos. When you're done stuffing your face you should do some shopping in the market for jars of lime pickle or extremely cheap spices. And look out for me because I can't seem to stay away!

Samosa House
11510 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Vegan Night with Jana Kohl and Rory Freedman

Holy cannoli! I have been M.I.A. for quite a while! No, contrary to popular belief, I have not been smuggling coke from Tijuana where I joined forces with the drug lords to bring down the Mexican government. No instead I have left the ranks of the gainfully unemployed and rejoined the work force. Readjusting to the working life has taken some time. Gone are the days of soaking up vitamin D while swinging around in my hammock all day and here are the days of driving east side to west side in rush hour. Oh well, at least I get free lunch again!

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a unique event hosted by First Tuesday Los Angeles. FTLA describes itself as "a women's group dedicated to creating and sustaining a sense of community with like minded women through social connectivity, professional networking, and social service." The theme of the group's February meeting was animal rights and when I heard that Skinny Bitch author Rory Freedman would be there I signed up to attend right away!

The event was staged at a gorgeous home in Pacific Palisades and began with a vegan dinner catered by Great Taste Catering. The food was good, but to be perfectly honest, it was very Vegan Version 1.0. The menu included pesto asparagus, a very basic salad, an under seasoned wheatberry salad, some vegan cookies from Trader Joe's, and a tofu dish that made me chuckle. This casserole was just so obviously made by someone who has no experience with tofu at all. It was whole blocks of tofu covered in tomato sauce, served with roasted potatoes. The tofu hadn't been marinated at all, so you can imagine how plain it tasted.

With that said, everything was tasty and god knows I ate everything on my plate. It's just a tad unfortunate that everyone probably left thinking that veggie food has to be bland. It probably would have been a better choice to have a vegan restaurant like Real Food Daily do the catering but everyone seemed to enjoy the food.

We all packed into the living room--there were probably about 50 ladies there--to hear from the night's speakers. First up was Jana Kohl who wrote A Rare Breed of Love about her adventures with her three-legged pup Baby and their trek across the nation to promote pet adoption. Baby was rescued from a puppy mill and had to have her leg amputated because it deteriorated so much in the mill. As I am already vegan and an advocate of pet rescue, I didn't really learn anything that I didn't already know about the horrors of puppy mills and eating meat. But one thing Jana said that I was not aware of was that rescue groups that are based around one type of breed (like poodle rescues, lab rescues, etc.) sometimes buy dogs from puppy mills--which is good because it gets the dog out of that cruel environment, but it still lines the pockets of the puppy mill owners. The lesson there is to do your homework before adopting a pet. Here is a cute shot we got of Jana and her Baby:

And just for shits and giggles, here is one of Baby with Monsieur Obama!

Mama pajama I would KILL to get a picture of my Hayley (who, by the way, I adopted from an awesome rescue group in my old North Carolina, the BBCRA) with our awesome new prez. In the meantime I'll have to settle for this shot of Hayley with The Food Monster.

Next up was Rory Freedman. I have talked about how much I liked her Skinny Bitch before. I forced my lovely boss Canada to read it at work one day and I suspect it was major factor in her becoming a pescatarian this year. Anywho, Rory was great. She started by admitting that choosing such a sassy title for her book was a total ploy to make people read a book about animal cruelty. Again, I didn't hear anything I didn't already know, but it was obvious that most of the people there were hearing about cruel farming practices for the first time. She ended the night by asking everyone to do a 30 day veg pledge. The April First Tuesday meeting is also going to be vegetarian because hopefully a lot of members will be trying to take meat out of their diets for at least a month! Here's a shot of Rory and I at the end of the night.

I had a great time and met a ton of really cool girls. I definitely recommend checking out both Jana and Rory's books and if you want to hear all about First Tuesday's many events, check out the site!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saint Valentine's Lemon Bars

LinkI have been craving a lemony dessert for a while so when I was trying to figure out what kind of tasty treat I could whip up for Valentine's Day that would be good and easy, I set out on the search for the perfect lemon bar recipe. The Veganomicon recipe was a bit involved with its call for both agar agar and arrowroot powder, so I opted to use the version in The Joy of Vegan Baking.

This is a wonderfully simple recipe. The crust is a simple shortbread made with vegan margarine, powdered sugar, and flour. The filling is simply lemon, silken tofu, sugar, flour, and cornstarch. This was my first time using silken tofu and I'm not sure I used it the correct way. After I had blended all the filling ingredients, the mixture was surprisingly runny. Sure enough, I had to add 12 minutes on to the suggested 20 minute baking time to get the filling to set and not be a runny mess. I am assuming this means I was supposed to drain the tofu first? That had occurred to me before I started but I didn't see any mention of draining the tofu in the recipe nor was it explained in any other part of the book, so I thought that you just must not have to drain silken tofu. Can anyone advise me on this? I'd like to try a silken tofu chocolate mousse next but if it will be runny like this filling was before I baked it, I won't even bother. If you are indeed supposed to drain it, how do you do it? It's very fragile so I can't imagine it holding up well being pressed between paper towels.
The only baking dish I had that was an appropriate size was this round one, so I guess these are more like lemon bar pie slices than lemon bars. I added about 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric to give the filling the yellow hue of traditional lemon bars. I used Twizzler's Pull 'N' Peels (yup, they're vegan!) to form little hearts for a garnish. I didn't really believe the recipe when it said that the powdered sugar on top would sink into the filling, but it's true. After about twenty minutes the powdered sugar had disappeared, so make sure you do that step just right before your about to serve these babies up.

Even with the hardened crust that came with the extra baking time I tacked on, these lemon slices were deeeeelish and the recipe was easy enough for me to whip it up quickly after work. Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flore: Keeping me well fed since 2008

No one in their right mind would ever tell you that I have the world's best apartment. But there are two reasons why I will be staying here for quite a while. One reason is that I have managed to find the one living space in all of Los Angeles county where my dog can bark her heart out all day long if she chooses and no one cares. The other is that I am oh-so conveniently located to my favorite restaurant: Flore.

You would think that with Flore being my fave and all, I would have blogged about it by now. But for whatever reason I never got around to it, and it's really not right of me to not share Flore's wonderful treats with all of yous. So here is a sampling of some of the meals I have had at the little Silver Lake side walk cafe over the past few months:

Let's start with my favorite item "The Flore Burger."
This picture doesn't exactly demonstrate quite how big this baby is. When you take a bite you really have to wrap your mouth around that sucker. This definitely wins for my favorite vegan burger in town. Some people have said it tastes a lot like Veganomicon's black bean burger--I'll have to test that hypothesis some day. Flore's thousand island dressing, which is similar to Pure Luck's special sauce (although admittedly it's not quite as magical as PL's) comes with the dish but I highly recommend doling out an extra dollar for the cashew cheese. It is utterly creamy and lightly cheese-y. It is the perfect topping for this perfect burger. I've had to stop ordering it recently though because, with the cashew cheese, this meal has to be at least 1300 calories. So I tend to save it for special occasions.

A classic staple at every veg restaurant is the Club Sandwich. Again, Flore does a great job.
From the menu: "Battered baked tofu, tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, daikon sprouts, and eggless mayonnaise on toasted organic sourdough bread." They've got the proportion of ingredients here just right. Fresh, light, delish. What more is there to say?

Here is the Burrito Flore:
It's got all the fixin's of your average well-made vegan burrito: rice, beans, tomato, and avocado. But then it is Flore-ified with tempeh bacon, cilantro cream, and the always delectable cashew cheese. With these ingredients, it's pretty much impossible to go wrong. And as always you can see it comes with a vibrant side salad.

Flore doesn't just do wraps and sandwiches well. Their salads are also wonderful. Here is the Mediterranean Salad.
Normally this comes with a heap of hummus but I ordered it without at the time. The salads are huge and super fresh. I consider myself to be a bit of an expert on all types of tabouli and the quinoa version that comes in this dish was perfectly seasoned and not over oily (as many restaurant taboulis tend to be). If you are looking for a healthy but filling meal, you've got to check out one of Flore's salads.

In the back of the picture above you can see the Portabella Panini. Served with a really good soy mozzarella and Flore's creamy dill dressing (which actually may rival Pure Luck's special sauce), this panini is not the thin, greasy stuff of most restaurant paninis but is light and scrumptious.

Now on to what Flore does best: breakfast! Here is a crappy cell phone shot of the Tomato Basil Omelet.
The key to the deliciousness of this wheat and gluten free dish is the abundance of fresh dill. I opted for a side of Flore's roasted potatoes which are fluffy, well seasoned, and not at all greasy.

Here is the Veggie Fritatta (not to be confused with Frittata Flore which is served during weekend brunch).
Slightly nutty and cheesy in flavor, this smallish slice will leave you very full. Here you can see how fresh the fruit is that they serve at Flore. And they are always happy to remove all the melon for me (blech). A big bowl of pineapple is the perfect breakfast dessert after this scrumptious quiche.

Here is another view of the fruit where my friend ordered it with his tofu burrito (another yummy treat).

Flore is basically a dream come true for me. It is a vegan establishment in my neighborhood that embraces my own philosophy of what good vegan food should be. It isn't focused on having meat analogues or knock-offs of traditionally meat-based dishes. Instead it is just good meals made from good ole fashioned whole foods. Sitting at one of the sidewalk tables for brunch at Flore is one of my favorite things to do. And you never know who you might run into, like the other morning when I caught my boss and his son wreaking havoc on their bicycle:

Good ole Flore, what would I do without you???

3818 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026