Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vegan MoFo: One More About Candle

We have returned from our 16 day Road Trip Extravaganza. I'll post more restaurant reviews in the weeks to come. It has been a let down, to say the least, to return to my refrigerator that is need of a grocery run. I feel like my face is in a scowl as I stare at its contents, wondering what to fix...thinking of the "good 'ol days" when I could just sit and choose from an array of vegan gourmet meals...then someone would serve it for me with a smile on his face.

And all I had to do was say, "Thank you!"

Those were the days.

I wrote about our first night in NYC at Candle Cafe and our other trip to Candle 79, its sister restaurant. We made one other visit to Candle Cafe this trip.

There was an hour wait for a table, therefore we ordered our food to-go. I finally got my Cajun Seitan Sandwich that I was merely teased with, from one bite of my husband's the other night. I wrote last time that this is one of our favorite sandwiches ever. This is the inside view of "pan-seared seitan with steamed greens, onion, avocado, and ancho chili aioli, served on toasted foccacia."

This time the greens were a little bitter, so I picked them off and ate them first so they wouldn't distract from the otherwise perfect taste in my mouth.

Ryan chose the Barbecue Tempeh & Sweet Potato Sandwich (with wilted kale, onion, and shallot sage aioli), and it was definitely another hit!

We also shared the Classic Caesar Salad. I really love caesar salads. I like to order them because they always vary from restaurant to restaurant.


A week or so before our trip, I had made Aztec Salad (from the Candle Cafe Cookbook) for dinner. It really and truly, at that point (before I went on vacation, of course) was the tastiest, most wonderful food I'd eaten in quite awhile. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I am making this again as soon as I get back from the grocery store.

The only downside to this salad is the many steps involved. (The recipe is actually online at this site where the book can be purchased. Click on the Google Preview under the photo and there are many recipes included from the book.)

One layer of the salad is this Quinoa Salad, which is tasty enough to eat by itself. I used red quinoa, organic frozen corn, onion, cilantro, bell pepper, black beans, lime, and a tiny bit of vinaigrette (store-bought, not the recipe version, for sake of time).

I also used seitan instead of tempeh because that's what I had. The marinade (which consists of apple juice, tamari, garlic, agave, and chipotle barbecue sauce - I did NOT use as much agave as it called for) is phenomenal.

Another fun, tasty aspect of the salad is the toasted pumpkin seeds on top. This is another step I cut out; rather than toasting them myself, I bought some tamari roasted seeds in bulk at WF.

The seitan and quinoa salad layers were bursting with so much flavor I didn't feel any need to add more dressing on top.

I'll pick a winner for the Candle Cafe Cookbook tonight!
Last chance to enter HERE.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan MoFo: White Beans, 3 Ways

I am interrupting my vacation stories to finish this post I started before I left. In my continuing effort to cook more frugally - and to...well...cook at all...here is what I did one week with a bag of Great Northern Beans from Wal-Mart:

First night: White Bean and Kale Enchiladas

homemade enchilada sauce (tomato paste, water, chili powder, garlic, other spices, organic cornstarch), beans, thawed frozen kale, Daiya, organic corn tortilla shells

roll 'em up, cover with more Daiya and bake

served with romaine on the side

Second night: White Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers
food process whole cooked sweet potato,
whole wheat bread crumbs, sesame seeds, beans
I wrote down the quantities, but as usual, have misplaced it. These particular ingredients, though, make a great patty that cooks up nicely and evenly in a skillet.

Third night: White Bean Chili

I had intended to make Heather's (from Where's the Beach?) Spicy White Chili, then I discovered I was out of some of the ingredients, including vegetable stock. I used her white beans and soy chik'n as inspiration, though. I mixed pasta sauce with water and spices for the base, then added the beans, sauteed Gardein Buffalo Wings (plain without using the sauce), and sauteed spinach.

Don't think any of us were sick of white beans. The dishes were so different, we weren't at all. In fact, my daughter woke up one morning and asked for "beans with ketchup" (with the small amount of beans that were leftover) for breakfast.

Breakfast is served.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vegan MoFo: Candle 79 and Giveaway!

After spending a couple of hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday, we walked a few blocks over to Candle 79. We weren't definitely going to eat here during this particular trip with the kids because it's the upscale version of Candle Cafe. It is intended for the "sophisticated eater," whereas our family as a whole is a little more...I'd say redneck than sophisticated.

It was so close to the Met, though, and I just couldn't pass it up. Ryan and I had the best experience eating there last summer on my birthday/anniversary trip. (Last time, we sat upstairs at a window seat: see above - very romantic!) Fortunately, the kids were well-behaved, and the staff welcomed us with open arms.

They even brought us out a complimentary plate of polenta fries as an appetizer. So nice! The fries were really good - I don't know if I've ever had polenta fries - and served with chipotle ketchup.

We also chose the Angel's Nachos for an appetizer. I'm pretty sure it took us about one minute to empty this plate.

Ryan and I shared two entrees. The first was the BBQ Seitan Sandwich: carmelized onions, garlic-herb kale spread (yum!), & avocado, served with lettuce and polenta fries on the side.

My pictures are strangely lit because I didn't want to use my flash. It's not bad to use your flash once or twice in a restaurant, but when you end up with as many dishes as we do, it's too much of a show. Therefore, I feel badly that the photography doesn't do this delicious food justice.

Ryan had picked the Burrito as our other entree. It might not have been the best choice since it seemed like something we would eat at home regularly, but that isn't a complaint about the food itself. It was loaded with chili-herb grilled seitan, carmelized onions, sauteed greens, chipotle black beans, brown rice, (non-dairy) cheese. The sour cream, sauce, and guacamole on the side were perfect additions. It was definitely big enough to give Sissy half of mine.

The boys shared the Spaghetti and Wheatballs. We are unsure if they gave us a half portion because we were discussing that option, or if this is the complete $18 plate. (Some of their dish portions are a bit on the small size for the price.) The boys liked their spaghetti and thought it was fun to order "meatballs" at a restaurant.

They offer a tempting, hard-to-choose-from dessert menu. We might have ordered more desserts, but at around $12 apiece, we stuck to two. (We're nearing the end of our trip, and we've already ate our way through our budget. It's sort of unreal how much money a family of five can spend during two weeks at vegan restaurants.)

Anyway, I was very excited to try the Cannoli (vanilla cream filling, vanilla chocolate chip icecream with chocolate drizzle) because that's one of those desserts it's hard to find vegan. I only took one bite since it was technically the boys' dessert, but I loved it! I'd definitely order that one again.

However...my favorite dessert not only at Candle 79 - but indeed on the ENTIRE PLANET is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss. I wrote about trying it for the first time on this post. I've mentioned that other restaurants haven't had my favorite type of dessert. This obviously falls into my "favorite type of dessert" category.

It's so cute and teeny-tiny, but the taste more than makes up for its diminuitiveness.

There is a chocolate mousse layer and a peanut butter mousse layer. Both are surrounded in a chocolate shell and sitting on a chocolate wafer. It is decorated with a berry coulis and peanuts. (And good news for you gluten-free people, it's listed as a gf option!)

My only complaint was not being able to savor each bite the way I would have liked. I was sharing it with my daughter, and if I let up for a second, she would have gotten it all. I'm like Mother of the Year, aren't I?

So...the owner of Candle 79 and Candle Cafe, Joy Pierson, came to our table to greet us and thank us for coming. I always love that; I think it's a very memorable touch. We started talking about how we are from Arkansas, home of zero vegan restaurants and how much we just love coming to hers. She was sooo nice; I almost felt like I was meeting a celebrity - the owner of two of the best restaurants in the world, in my opinion. :) We talked about my blog and Vegan MoFo, and she wanted to give me a cookbook! I told her I actually already own it, so she gave me a copy of this book, a collection of wit and wisdom from the co-owner and founder of Candle 79 and Candle Cafe, Bart Potenza.

Apparently, these aphorism became known as he posts them in his restaurants, then he put them together for this book.

He happened to be sitting at the bar, eating lunch, and she rushed over to get him to sign it for us. We loved that.

I enjoyed reading the history of their establishments on their website. Bart purchased the Upper East side health food store, Sunny's, in 1984. The previous owner lit candles every night to bless the establishment. He renamed it The Healthy Candle, and it grew from a vitamin shop/juice bar to a full service cafe. He had met Joy, a nutritionist, as she was coming into his store, and they had become partners. They wanted to expand...then in 1993, they won $53,000 in the lottery! Isn't that so fun?! That is how Candle Cafe ultimately came into existence, and now we can all benefit from their lottery win. :)

Obviously if you aren't going to be in NYC anytime soon, then I'm just being mean, taunting you with these pictures. I can offer one person a little something in consolation: a copy of The Candle Cafe Cookbook. I have enjoyed using this book myself, and I just love the recipes I've tried.

As Bart Potenza says in his book, "If you want a piece of the pie, you may have to bake it yourself."

To enter, just leave a comment on this post! You're welcome to do any other entries that ya want: follower, blog roll, subscriber, tweet, whatever you want to do - enter as many times as you want. You can even be creative with your entries if you feel like it. (Flattery is always welcome.)Open to anyone, anywhere.
I'll pick a name on November 30, the last day of Vegan MoFo, before I go to bed.

Update: I just wrote another Candle Cafe review here, including a delicious recipe I made from the book. Our first visit to Candle Cafe on this particular trip is here.

Happy Thanksgiving, by the way, to those who celebrate.
I hope your day was filled with blessings.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vegan MoFo: Angelica's Kitchen

One of our best dining experiences this week in NYC took place at Angelica Kitchen. We have nothing but positive things to report. Located in the East Village, the restaurant space is pleasantly designed, clean, and peaceful. Our server was sweet, helpful, and complimentary toward my family (which is always a plus; we're either annoying or endearing, depending on how you want to look at us). The owner (or manager?) also came to our table to check on us, asking where we were from, had we ever eaten here before, etc.

Ryan and I had eaten here many years ago (when Tornado was a wee little guy), and although we did like it, we didn't stop back in on our following trips, for some reason. On this trip, I have been craving healthier meals (rather than my novelty burgers/fries/milkshakes I sometimes aim toward on vacation). And that is what we received here.

For an appetizer, we shared the Agrarian Selgado, which is "baked rounds of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and seitan, with a parsley-almond pesto center; topped with dill-tofu sour cream and garnished with piquant marinated kale." Yum! It was sooo good. I loved the mixture of the sauce with the greens, and the baked shell over the soft, delicious mashed potatoes.

This is listed as the "Special Appetizer," with proceeds of the sale going toward Friends of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement. Angelica Kitchen seems very committed toward charity, fair-trade, local farming, sustainability, and composting.

Ryan and Tornado both ordered the Hot Open Face Tempeh Sandwich: slices of sourdough baguette topped with slightly marinated & baked tempeh...with savory mushroom gravy. Served on a bed of raw spinach, garnished with ruby kraut. They also added the optional scoop of mashed potatoes. (Tornado would order the optional scoop of mashed potatoes NO MATTER WHAT he was eating...the kid loves mashed potatoes.)

Ryan now officially declares this to be his favorite meal in NYC.

I had been trying to avoid ordering a sandwich at every single restaurant (I love sandwiches!), but this one seemed quite a bit different than my regular fare, so I chose it.
Sam or I Sandwich
Herbed baked tofu layered with marinated hiziki & arame,
crisp grated daikon, ruby kraut, a smear of mellow sesame spread & lettuce

It wasn't overly flavorful, which is less of a criticism toward them and more of a problem of MINE. I'm too addicted to salt, and I'm not the most flavorful cook. Therefore, my food usually tastes salty. I'd like to get used to enjoying a variety of flavors in food, you know? My meal felt very light and healthy. And I don't know if I've eaten daikon much before. The ruby kraut felt new to me, as well. I also love sea vegetables, but I don't know if I've ever thought to put them on my sandwiches.

I ordered the 3-item Pantry Plate for my daughter, and she chose hummus (which came with crispy pita and veggie sticks, baked tofu, and the daily vegetable, which happened to be this quinoa salad with carrots, beets, etc. I thought her little plate looked so cute.

My 5 year old has a a bit pickier palate. He just ordered tofu and rice, which didn't make for an interesting photograph.

Angelica Kitchen does not use refined sugars or preservatives (OR any animal products). They have a very unique dessert menu, which admittedly looks a little healthier than I usually choose for my desserts. (Daily desserts may include choices like strawberry jam dot cookies, date ginger muffins, raspberry crumb tart, etc.) Therefore, I told Ryan to choose, since his taste buds lean toward healthier creations. The five of us shared this warm bread pudding with fruit (pears?) and maple tofu whip. It was sooo good.

We also took a bag of Organic Brittle with us to eat on the subway ride home. We had never eaten anything exactly like this before, and it happily vanished from the bag in no time.

We have encountered our fair share of rude people and bad service while in NYC this week. It was such a relief to enjoy a nice meal served by nice people. We will always come back to Angelica Kitchen whenever we are in town.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vegan Essentials Winner and New Product Review!

Thanks to all of you who entered the Vegan Essentials giveaway. The entries were pouring in during my long car ride, and reading them provided much entertainment! Since I'm still traveling, I haven't replied to all of my emails and blog comments yet...oh, but I will eventually! I loved them all! I still have some new blogs to visit, as well.

I know Vegan Essentials also appreciates the love you threw their way. So thanks from them! And keep supporting them and all of our other fun vegan companies.

THE WINNING NUMBER belonged to: THE GOOD LUCK DUCK who said she was so hungry that even the soy candles looked good. So apparently this gift certificate is going to a worthy recipient. :) Enjoy your Angell bar or Kringle or queso sin queso while riding around in your RV!

Those of you who haven't tired of entering giveaways or can't stand the thought of leaving MoFo without winning SOMETHING, I have ONE MORE PRIZE to hand out. I'll post it tomorrow: there's a hint in THIS POST. (And no, it's not a trip to NYC...)


While milling around the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle, my eyes (bright and happy) settled upon these little treasures I'd never seen before.

Justin's (have you tried all of their chocolate nut butters?) organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups: organic dark chocolate (evap. cane sugar, organic chocolate liquor, organic cocoa butter, organic soy lecithin, organic vanilla), organic peanut butter (organic dry roasted peanuts, organic palm fruit oil), evaporated cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla flavor, sea salt.

They also sell a milk chocolate version; don't get them confused.

Delicious! I've had other peanut butter cups (homemade or from companies) but had yet to ever find any locally. These were closer in size and texture to (insert that mainstream brand of peanut butter cups)than some of the other (yummy) nut butter cups I've ordered. As much as I long to be a pure, very raw, fresh foodie, I receive great joy from buying fun, new vegan treats in packages!!!

I went back and bought another package the next day. There was also $1 off Justin's nut butter coupons inside. We'll use those!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vegan MoFo: the one where we arrived in nyc

Although Wednesday started out with my family and I enjoying the fun sights in Philadelphia, soaking in the wonderful experience of an ACTUAL northeastern autumn...the day somehow eventually went very, very wrong. Our trip seemed to take many wrong turns, literally and metaphorically.

Things like running over our stroller because we both thought the other one had put it in the car...

And just lots of other things...I won't air our dirty laundry or spend time complaining...no one was sick or hurt so in that case, I always know that it was "just a bad day," and life goes on. I'm a "look on the bright side," kind of person, and even I felt hopeless by the end of the night. I was feeling like, "WHERE IS THE BRIGHT SIDE?" I burst into tears several times over the course of the evening...

It was entirely too late to drag our kids out for supper by the time we got situated in our apartment.

However, I felt the only thing that could save our night was a visit to

Candle Cafe.

I can't emphatically say that Candle Cafe is the absolute best vegan restaurant in NYC. (It's too hard to choose! There are a few, including Candle, that are in a tie with me. Ryan did just say that it IS his favorite.) It was the first really amazing vegan restaurant Ryan and I had ever went to together (9 years ago on our first trip to the city). It has special meaning to us for that reason; I had faith it might brighten our moods.

Above: Seitan Chimichurri appetizer (citrus herb marined seitan skewers)...the kids split these as a part of their meal, along with the fruit and a grilled tapioca cheese sandwich. I taste tested everything they had; it was all great!

I knew before he picked up the menu what Ryan was going to order: the Cajun Seitan Sandwich. We've had these a few times before, and we just loooove 'em. In fact, "Cajun Seitan Sandwich" has become a utopian metaphor between us.

As in, if he was having a bad day at work a few weeks ago, I probably said, "Just think...you're going to be eating a Cajun Seitan Sandwich soon." Or if we're somewhere hungry, we might toss out, "Don't you wish we had a Cajun Seitan Sandwich right now?"

Yes, "Cajun Seitan Sandwich" is a phrase that gets brought up in our house regularly. Strange but true.

It is "pan-seared seitan" with "steamed greens, onion, and avocado. Served on toasted focaccia with an ancho chili aioli and coleslaw."

Shockingly, I did not order the Cajun Seitan Sandwich. The theme of this trip for me is "trying new things." I am so predictable when I order from a vegan restaurant, my sister Cary will even guess correctly what I would ultimately order. (Does anyone else just look up vegan menus online to decide what you would order...just for fun? We do...)

I ordered a daily special, the Lemon Basil Grilled Tofu with couscous and vegetables with a light tomato type gravy. I liked it; it was flavorful and felt very healthy.

All five of us split this one piece of cheesecake with chocolate crust and berry topping. That's my only bone with Candle Cafe: it doesn't have MY favorite desserts. I mean, they all LOOK good, and every dessert I've ever ordered there WAS good. There are just other places that have choices I prefer. I have no complaints about this cheesecake (although I prefer the fluffier, lighter, whipped kind of vegan cheesecake...okay, now Ryan is saying he likes the desserts here, and THIS cheesecake is his ideal kind of cheesecake so there you go.), and it was downed in about one minute by five greedy forks.


I can't say that I went to bed with a smile on my face after my disastrous evening...but Candle Cafe definitely took a little bit of the sting out. I can't wait to head back there another time or two this week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan MoFo: Blackbird Pizzeria...part 3...and softserve!

Sooo...have you read enough vegan pizzeria accolades yet? You're going to have to sit through just one more.

Truly, Philadelphia is such a vegan-friendly city, and there is no reason to get stuck going to the same place three meals in a row. It's just that sometimes when you're tired, hungry, and you don't feel like wandering off into bad-traffic parts unknown, it's easier to stick with what you know. I wondered if the employees would recognize us and question whether we ever feed our children any other food groups. Even though I changed Sissy's hairdo and added a cap to my head, lo and behold, the jig was up; we were declared "their best customers." If only they knew they how generous I am with free advertising.

I learned that Blackbird has only been open for about "a month and a half" claimed the cashier.

Let's look at this potato pizza close up. We are all just raving about this stuff.

I will say that the 2nd time we came, the potato pizza wasn't quite as tasty as the 1st and 3rd times. Almost, just not entirely. Maybe it wasn't as fresh, or maybe there weren't as many spices the 2nd time.

Clearly, I'm going to attempt a potato pizza when I get home.

Here is one I think is lovely with different colored potatoes.

The actual main reason we sojourned back to Blackbird was Ryan's feelings that a Philly Cheesesteak was imperative for celebrating our visit. (I actually had a "duh!" moment when I made the connection of Philadelphia with its cheesey successor.)

I've ordered cheesesteak sandwiches from a few different vegetarian restaurants, and I've yet to find one I didn't like. This one was heavier on the bread than I may have preferred - and light on the seitan, but I liked it and would order one again. (Well...if they were all out of pizza that day, then I would.). Also, this was just one sandwich; I definitely don't think I could have eaten both halves by myself.

I wasn't pleased with myself for all of that flour running through my veins, so I shared my sandwich and ordered a caesar salad, as well. This one had onions, artichokes, and crouton, among other things.

Later, we stopped by B2 because I had heard they served "vegan softserve." It's a small, eclectic coffee house. They aren't entirely vegan, but there are many vegan simple sandwiches and vegan desserts.

We all liked the ice cream. It tasted like homemade icecream. Ryan said it definitely had a soymilk taste to it, which wasn't a bad thing.

They were very nice because when my 3 year old dropped her icecream cone on the ground, they replaced it for free. I offered to pay, but they refused.

Some preferred their softserve in a cone.

And the rest of us ordered ours in cups.

I would have chosen cone if it had been chocolate.


Tomorrow, I'll try to write about my afternoon/evening from "you know where" which was at least pleasantly topped off with a visit to one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Candle Cafe.