Archive for September 2011
I spent last weekend in New York with dear friends, and even though the purpose of the trip was shopping (for a very special item!), we managed a culinary tour of the city that left me breathless. Literally, in my skinny jeans. Here’s the day-by-day tour. It’s OK to be jealous.
We arrived in New York to a soaking rain that lasted all day, and a creamy sweet potato soup couldn’t have been more perfect for our late lunch at Blue Fin in the W Hotel in Times Square. Not a trace of touristy madness.
That evening, we had dinner at Dovetail, in the Upper West Side. Best dinner of my life. You know it’s good when vegetarians and vegans get their own incredible menu: I had the gnudi with asparagus, chanterelles, spring onion, and winter truffles, and it was all I could do to refrain from licking my plate. Everything was perfect: from the falafel amuse bouche, to the melt-in-your-mouth white cheddar cornbread, to the dainty milk chocolate gianduja bar for dessert. Heaven help me.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien near Central Park. I love that the main seating area is a communal table, and I had a perfectly moist, not-too-sweet cherry scone to energize me for a day of shopping. Plenty of delightful vegetarian and vegan options on the brunch menu.
That afternoon, we visited Chelsea Market and had a late lunch at the Green Table: organic, farm-to-table deliciousness. I had the seasonal vegetarian farm plate with a blue corn empanada, summer vegetables, black beans, cheese, and fruit salsa. Out of this world.
Our walk from Chelsea Market to Soho took us through West Village, where we visited Milk & Cookies to pay homage to that eponymous duo. I rarely drink milk, preferring almond milk instead, but the locally-sourced milk there was worth the departure. It all just feels right – a charming side street off Bleecker, a cozy store front, royal blue tile table tops, and a smell I hope I never forget.
That evening, we met up with my friends’ family at the Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall. A far cry from the typical food court (not surprisingly), the Plaza Food Hall has stations – seafood, sushi, grill, etc. – with seating areas, many of which overlook the chefs’ workspaces, and a delightful array of food choices and ample vegetarian options. I had a tasty portabella-spinach flatbread pizza topped with just the right amount of chili flakes; I also hear the English pea ravioli is molto bene.
The last thing any of us needed at that point was dessert, but our evening walk took us by the Magnolia Bakery on Columbus, and, well, who can resist? I had the de rigueur vanilla bean cheesecake, but that pumpkin cheesecake (above) was oh-so tempting.
Everything about Greensquare Tavern, where we had Sunday brunch, makes me happy. Every item on the menu is local and organic; as Chef John Marsh writes, “Returning to the agricultural practices of our American Melting Pot heritage, that are in harmony with nature, we can look forward to a healthy future sustained by delicious nutrition.” Suffice it to say I will never be satisfied with veggie burgers again.
Our last stop was the nearby L.A. Burdick, where the smell of gourmet hot chocolate was as intoxicating as the mimosa I had at brunch. A chocolate lover’s paradise. And they ship their haute mixes – with a whisk for the perfect consistency – to places like Mississippi. Just sayin’.
Who doesn’t love pound cake? I love the simple, rich flavors and moist texture, but I figured the pound-of-eggs-and-butter effect wouldn’t likely translate to a vegan version. I’ve been suspiciously eyeing a few vegan pound cake recipes for the last year, but I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that tofu and canola oil could make pound cake magic. Finally, about a week ago, I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to know.
I started with this recipe – and if you’re looking for Southern Living-style sweetness, this is the one. It is fabulously rich and tastes just like a good southern pound cake ought to taste. And it’s super easy to make. So once my craving for traditional pound cake was satisfied (after just a few bites, really), I began looking for a slightly less sweet version (and one that doesn’t call for margarine). I found this recipe from the Vegetarian Times website and made it this weekend for a girls night in, and I decided not to tell my friends it was vegan until they’d eaten a few bites and reacted. (Classic annoying vegetarian/vegan trick.) They loved it and were genuinely surprised to find out it was made with tofu and canola oil. Another win for vegan baking, and another win for tofu, especially.
When I (finally) became a vegetarian two years ago, my college roommate, who is also a vegetarian, sent me a recipe for asparagus boursin pasta – and it rocked my world. Daniel loved it, too, and we have been making it regularly since. It’s my go-to dish for entertaining non-vegetarians for the first time, and it’s always well received. Plus, it’s super easy and quick. Win.
I can’t even begin to give specific measurements for ingredients, and I make it a little different every time. For Hattiesburgers, there’s the question of finding decent asparagus. But take heart: the dish is still good, if a little less interesting, without the asparagus. If I were making this for the first time, I’d follow this recipe, which seems to be pretty close to the recipe my roommate sent. (I’ve been using walnuts instead of pine nuts, lately, because the latter are hard to find in this town. And, as usual, I add black pepper and use more lemon pepper than the recipe calls for.)
Last night, we threw this together to serve as a side dish/vegetarian entree at a casual dinner with friends. I’m enjoying leftovers today – brain food for writing a certain book chapter that is due soon.