Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two Boots kicks it through the wickets and SCORES!!

After a NYC Vegetarian Meetup at The Vault at Pfaffs on Broadway, (history steeped wonderful venue but not exactly what I'd call a vegan friendly menu), I was walking to the train on Bleeker and spotted Two Boots Pizzeria.  I heard they were going all Daiya and poked my head in to see.  Eureka my friends.  Here's what I saw standing up in all it's glory on the glass countertop above the pizzas. 

By popular demand.  Popular demand.  Know we know it worked at least once, where we popular people demanded and the powers that be, listened and acted.

One day signs like these will fly off the printer's shelves faster than they can make them.

I found out later that a slice could be made specifically on request that just had Daiya vegan cheese on it.  I'm going to assume that any combination you desire could be made with vegan cheese.  I personally think it's a boon for people who are lactose intolerant also and why the Pizza Makers Association of the World hasn't picked up on this and they all don't have big signs saying "We Now Serve Vegan and Lactose Free Cheese" in their windows just baffles me.  I've been to a few local places trying to do some outreach and lemme tell you, they're not following in the footsteps of trendsetters like John's of 12th Street, Viva Pizza, Three Brothers and now Two Boots.

The slice came with artichokes, shitake mushrooms, red onion and a criss cross of basil and red pepper pestos.  

I enjoyed the slice but I'm not sure how much the artichokes really added to the flavor profile.  The mushrooms look and taste like they were sauteed inhouse but the artichokes were more like the canned or jarred variety.  The other thing with any pizza slice is that when you load it up it doesn't get that crispy crust but becomes more steamed and soggy-ish (soggier).  Next time I'm going to try a slice with less on top.  

Daiya is daiya and it's not like there are nuances and different flavors as with the tons of different animal cheeses so that is a baseline wherever you go.  I'm so glad a new place picked up on it.  I love pizza and the more places with vegan options the better.  Thanks Two Boots.

Now lets get some home made seitan in the mix!

Two Boots Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vegan Making Saturday

Saturday was a whirlwind.  First a lecture by Melanie Joy, author of "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows."

It was held at the Universalist Unitarian Congregation in Long Island.  The Long Island Vegan Meet up group was also, (entirely?) involved in it's organization.  I finally met Jennifer Green who heads up that group.  Coincidentally, a friend of mine sent me a Newsday article about her.  It mentioned that she works for HSUS.  I wish I had known about that before as I'd love to talk to her about some of the things they do.  Today however, she and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job of putting on this event.

For a 10 AM lecture it generated about 70 people which was outstanding.  I read Melanie's book a while back and it makes a lot of sense to explain why meat eating is so pervasive in our culture.  Just like sexism, speciesism, and racism, we look upon our meat eating as a belief system.  We don't even give it a second thought and that keeps the belief system alive.  She's named it "Carnism."

Melanie takes us flowingly from the innocence of childhood and Old MacDonald through the meat indoctrinated society of factory farming we live in today.  How we came from, "Be kind to animals," to "I'd like my steak medium rare."

The presentation was a multimedia one, with short clips of animal cruelty and animal farming, all to help bridge the gap between the "meat" and the "person" it once was.

Melanie explains that on some level we don't want animals to suffer yet have created a belief system that puts it out of our minds.  We don't see different things, we see the same things differently and this is how people can stop thinking about death and animal "personhood" whilst chomping down on a double bacon cheeseburger.

She takes us through the 3 justification myths of meat eating: 

Its natural
Its normal
Its necessary

and how the agricultural industrial complex and their millions of marketing dollars have turned them from myths to "facts."

Her lecture then turned towards what we can do and integrating our beliefs into our daily actions.  If we believe animals have a life that matters to THEM then we can consciously stop eating them, create other solutions to be the change we want to live.

One quote I've used a few times already came from a question about perfection.  "Perfection is the enemy of good." We can walk through life with intent and not worry about the few percent that we can't change.  I told someone the other night to stop eating the cow.  That takes care of 90%.  If you make a 90% change that is pretty good and not to worry about how and where animal products end up in foods and products that you don't know about.  If you try and avoid and something slips through your net, don't get all tripped up about it.  You're not eating the cow.

Afterward there was food put out.  Vegan food.  How nice not to have to ask.  (That of course was after someone pointed out to the event coordinators that when the coffee was put out with cow's milk that might not go over so well with many of the guests.  Kudos to whoever ran out and picked up a few containers of Soy Delicious!)

A nice little spread.  It was bigger than this pic makes it look.

Various roasted veggie wraps.
2 of these platter were set out.
To show how far vegan meat analogues have come, a platter of (delicious) Field Roast Chipotle sausage.

A plate of Tofurky slices.
How come I don't know where to look on my own iPhone?  Melanie Joy (Left...ha!) and Captain Marty
I had agreed to meet up with a parent of my daughter's classmate to partake in the Queens, NY part of the National Protest Against Kill Pounds.  Now I'm all against kill pounds.  I can talk to you for an hour about single issue campaigns and putting time into protecting one species and not another or one abuse and not another but I had the time and made the commitment and besides again, I had picked up a ton of Vegan Starter pamphlets at the UU Center.  If nothing else I thought I'd like to know, speaking about the gap in connecting that we just spoke about, how many of the anti dog and cat protesters aligned with veganism.

I didn't take any pics of the protest.  Don't know why I didn't think of it but amazingly, many of the people I talked to were vegans.  Everyone I talked to about it was receptive to the discussion and I handed out pamphlets to everyone I talked to.  (Passersby too!).

So who knows?  Maybe I made a vegan or two.

Then onto the presentation by Jenny Brown of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary at the Jivamuktea Cafe, a part of the Jivamukti Yoga Center on Broadway and 14th Street.  First a bit of dinner though.  Caesar salad, romaine with croutons.  A delicious creamy dressing.  It didn't quit get the anchovy taste in there but was a well dressed salad with neither too much or too little dressing.  The smoothie was a tart/sour with a tinge of sweet.  Well played.

Caesar Salad with bread and tempeh croutons and Green Machine, (Kale, apple celery and of course, a green apple).
Juvamuktea serves healthy food ... and these addictive baked goods.
Jenny is one of the most impassioned people I ever heard talk about animals.  She went from A to Z and although she talked for almost two hours it was engrossing.  From Descartes, "Animals are mere machines", through "Live your values if you truly are opposed to animal cruelty," she took us through a history of attitudes towards animals.
Jenny spoke about environmental issues, health issues and compassion.  She spoke of the animals, how they live in prisons we create, their abilities and intelligences and conditions and how they literally are driven mad.  She spoke of many animals, from fish to goats to elephants and cows, giving a synopsis of their miserable lives.

If you can catch her at a speaking engagement, do.  She will relight the fire within if you ever feel it waning.

Afterwards I asked her a question that had been on my mind for a long time.  "If we have limited resources, why spend them to keep a few hundred animals alive as opposed to spending every dime on vegan outreach?"  Her answer surprised me.  She spoke of the transition in the minds of people when they see an animal up close and personal for the first time.  She talked of the realization that this is a someone, not a something and he or she has a personality, loves to play and relax and clearly shows they have their own reasons for living.  Jenny said the sanctuary is a vegan-maker.  Ahhh. Grasshopper understands now.

The other thing that impressed me is that Jenny is an abolitionist like myself.  She is less interested in making conditions in concentration camp like prisons better for the short miserable lives of the animals than she is in making vegans who won't eat them in the first place.  To her I say, "Rock on!"

One of my new heros.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sacred Chow I idolize you, NYC

After the Marathon orientation was over I wandered aimlessly around the village.  It's what many people who are there are doing.  Nothing's changed in 40 years and I like it that way.  So my wanderings take me past the old "Googies" bar.  It looks all slicked out Irish Pub style now but the bar itself looks like it did from back in High School.  High School?  Maybe I'm not remembering it right.  Maybe. Since it is actually "Miller Time" I thought about grabbing a brew for old times sake but really, I didn't want to hassle with Barnivore, (a searchable listing of which beers and wines are vegan), and do a bunch of research at the moment.  It's actually quite easy to use, just enter the name of the beverage or click on a letter but I wanted easy-ier.  Perhaps another time for reminiscing.

 A few doors further south, more importantly, I found Sacred Chow.  This place has been on my radar for awhile.

Ever since I got my new Cuisinart Blender I've been shying away from buying smoothies.  Besides, I was in a beer mood.
This is the kitchen item I use to make a smoothie (or two) every day.  I can't recommend this enough.  You can attach the blade to the tumbler and blend, eliminating one extra item to clean.  Plus it grinds ice so if you just add a bag of frozen fruit it makes an almost calorie free slushy.

I most definitely had a hankering for kale.  A la nutritarian Dr. Fuhrman.
After having that Arepa a few hours ago I was looking for a home made, sit down, comfort food meal.  I love sampling in house made seitan.  And here it was.  BBQ.  What a bullseye.

It did seem like so much food but my waitress, (whose name I neglected to get but who was super sweet and helpful), suggested the Souper Hero.  $14 for half a hero and side of kale caesar?  Done.  And a beer.  Yes, what goes better with BBQ than a beer.  Didn't even have to pull out Barnivore.  No questions about chicken broth or other silliness.  Just relax and put the mind in a good place.

Sacred Chow is a small place.  It wasn't crazy the night I went and there were actually 2 open tables.  I would imagine that this place ends up with a line out of the door, (and possibly down to Googies), on a busy night but I was lucky.  The tables weren't packed in.  I liked the vibe.

The meal surpassed my expectations in both size and flavor.  I was truly impressed by a sandwich and a salad.  The bread, which in my opinion can make or break a sandwich, was perfectly suited to the consistency of the filling.  It had a nice toothiness but neither too hard to cause contents squirt or too soft to fall apart after soaking up the sauce. The seitan was excellent, having just the right amount of "meatinesss" without being rubbery or too soft like a matzoh ball.  The onions were cooked to a sweetness and the tomato based BBQ was sweet without being clawing.

The kale salad also was surprisingly better than I had expected.  The kale had picked up the flavor of the Caesar dressing and was nicely coated without being drenched.  But, but but the croutons were the surprise.  Less like tofu cubes and more like thick heavy bread in consistency.  My hat is off to the chef on this simple meal that raised the barre.

The best part was that after eating half the food on the plate I was full.  I can't imagine how much food a full sandwich and full salad wold have been.  I had enough for a meal the next day.  I do think I'll be back.

'I Am an Imperfect Vegan'

This says it all:

"... the best I can do is to consciousl­y exclude as many animal products from my life as is within my control."

It's not about perfection but intent cannot be said often enough.

Marty from Marty's Flying Vegan Review


Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, November 4, 2011

Drugstores ... Would Hippocrates be proud?

Everyone seems to be selling everything these days. I remember when I first saw a clothes rack in a supermarket and thought, "How odd.  Who would eat shirts?"

Before long you'll be able to get your hair cut whilst waiting for an oil change and your hairstylist will also do your dry-cleaning.

New York City has always been the place that has no bedtime. One of the icons here has, as far as I can remember, been the 24 hour Korean grocery store. The moniker comes from the fact that most were started and operated by Korean families and if you have to ask, yes, the one across the street from me also has Kimchee. They are like mini supermarkets with some unusual emphases such as an extensive selection of hot and BBQ sauces and a broad choice of imported beers. The also have a few different kinds of frozen entrees and dumplings and more than a few Amy's products in addition to an actual produce and herb selection. And fresh tofu and sprouts too.

A few years ago the CVS drugstore went to a 24 hour operation. I understand the possibility that you might need toilet paper at 3 in the morning but that begs the question of wouldn't it sort of be too late if you made that discovery at that time? And if you did, at that point, well you probably could put off your purchase until the next morning, no? Anyway, the Korean store sold t.p. but if you really weren't feeling well they also had a whole selection of small packages of over the counter meds so this 24 hr drugstore, (the pharmacy is closed in case that's what you were thinking), never made sense to me.

The last 2 drugstores that opened in my neighborhood had a bad case of steroid addiction. One is over a half block long and the other is the entire ground floor of a high rise building. Both open 24 hours. That's 3 super drug stores in 7 blocks, all having a food section.

I don't know if it's a nationwide inventory or just some marketing guru's idea if what hip (chic) Upper East-siders go for but there was almost a whole freezer case of Amy's Frozen entrees. Yes right next to the emergency bags of spinach and romaine hearts.
Should you buy this?  From here?  Should this even be in a drugstore?
At least insomniacs now have a healthier (and vegan) choice. Oh wait. My little family owned store had been carrying them for years. So is corporate America going to stomp out the family grocer? By offering health(ier) choices to either the impulse buyers or someone who can't walk across the street to buy food in a food store (well, it IS called convenience food so who WOULD it appeal to?), are we actually going to put small business out of business and ultimately reduce our choices in the long run? Do we support a business like Duane Reade, CVS, or Rite-Aid or Walgreens for diversifying and offering vegan and healthier options (perhaps in neighborhoods where there isnt a Korean store with fresh foods and vegetables) or do we eschew healthier fast and processed foods and buy fresh tofu, sprouts and basil and mint and a few fruits and veggies across the street? I think mega chain drugstores should stick to drugs and Bobby pins in my neighborhood but might be able to break through the food deserts in underserved markets. Yet at premium prices this may not be an option for the low income residents who inhabit those places within a food desert. My question is, "Is this the way we want to change the way America eats, by filling the shelves of our drugstores with high salt, high fat, (although vegan) frozen foods and a bag of lettuce?
Are our priorities to buy vegan?  to keep the mom and pop small grocery open? to support vegan business? to support large corporations as they attempt to ride the "VEGANWAVE" to profits?

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Palenque Columbian Food truck with vegan options

For the past six years or so I have volunteered to be a on the medical team at the NYC Marathon.  I love it.  Its my way of giving back to the community.  This year the orientation was at NYU.

One of among 1500 volunteers.

49,000 runners.  "Can I take care of that blister, Sir?"

and right outside the building is a food truck.  

photo by Nicole G.
I usually don't give food trucks a second glance but I see this:

"Vegan"?  Whoaaa.
Now I do a double-take.  Not only the vegan word but a vegan section of a menu!  I start asking questions and yes, they know not to put butter or cheese if I asked for something vegan.  I'm ok with that.  I order a Vegan brown rice and flax arepa with Seitan.  I added onions and tomatoes, ($2 extra) and 3 sauces; guacamole, vegan chipotle mayo, and cilantro).

How can anyone say vegan food is boring.  Just look at these colors!
This was an incredibly flavorful dish.  It was standard commercial seitan, a bit on the rubbery/chewey as opposed to fluffy side but not in any sort of off putting way.  It had a nice meaty savory flavor.  The combination of salt and flavors, spices, cilantro and creaminess of the guacamole sauce came together for a multidimensional flavor. The tomatoes had a cooling offset texture and temperature.

See that fork and knife on the plate?  Well, I was eating this on some steps in front of the building and it was a bit cumbersome.  I also had no idea if eating it like a taco was the way to go. The arapa itself wasn't pliable enough to fold.  I thought it would break and then I'd end up with a mess o' food on my lap.  So maybe like a slice of pizza?  No, best to cut it and eat it bite by bite.

This is definitely a fast food surprise.

They tweet @palenquefood and I'm going to follow them just to see where they frequent.  Unfortunately the web address links to one of the owners of the truck, Angela "nena" Sierra and has nothing about the truck.

Happy Vegan Day Tofu Scramble

Serves 3 to 4

-spray of oil (you can do this entire recipe as a water saute)
-3 med potatoes diced
-2 med onions chopped

-1 red pepper

-Pinch or two of mixed spices to taste (Spice mixture from "Fresh at Home" by Ruth Brown Tal)

-12 baby bello mushrooms, more or less
-chicken seasoning (I used the No Chicken Broth Powder from "The Happy Herbivore" by Lindsay Nixon)

-squirt or two of Braggs Liquid Amino)
-3 bkfst sausages (Vegan Diner by Hasson) or any vegan mock meats, chopped

-2 chard leaves, stems removed (You can use the stems if you remember to chop and add in beginning of recipe.      They take longer to cook than the leaves). You can also use any other greens but cooking times may vary ie, Collards a bit longer, spinach almost no time at all.  De-stem as appropriate; kale-necessary, spinach, not really).

-block of pressed tofu (I use the Tofu Express).  I leave it in the fridge so I always have pressed tofu ready to go. Crumble in a separate bowl and mix with 1 Tbs of Turmeric

-handful of Daiya cheddar

The great thing about a scramble is that you can use anything you have handy.  This is more like a suggestion list than a recipe but just think about which vegetables take the longer cooking times, (potatoes, onions, mushrooms, etc), add those first, and think about which ingredients you would eat raw or just warmed up, (tofu, chard, cooked breakfast sausages, processed vegan meats like Lightlife Ham, etc), and add those later.  Omit or add whatever your ethics or taste buds, (or the bottom drawer of your fridge happen to contain), dictate.

Heat pan and spray with light dusting of oil.

Add potatoes and saute for a few minutes.

Add onions and peppers.  Saute until the onions start to look translucent.
Add water as necessary to prevent burning and to get fond (cooked on bits from the bottom of the pan) mixed into a brothy type liquid.  Don't over water or you'll steam everything.

Add mushrooms when mixture has absorbed most of the liquid.  Mushrooms have a lot of water.

Add pinch or two of spices.  You can use any blend you like.  Salt if you like but I suggest you wait until the end as some chicken flavor has salt in it and Braggs is a soy sauce substitute.  Speaking of Braggs, give the mixture a squirt or two of Braggs.

Add greens.

When greens are wilted, add tofu and sausage.

When these are warmed through, add the Daiya.  Turn off heat and stir until Daiya melts into mixture.

Put in a wrap or soft bread.  Soft filling, soft bread. Hard crusty bread with soft filling = filling squirt.

The wrap will hold everything together plus you can add more greens into the wrap.

Hot sauce to your palate's delight.