Saturday, December 29, 2012

Interview with Happy Herbivore Lindsay Nixon and Cookbook Giveaway

I had the opportunity several years ago to meet up with Lindsay at the Uptown Juice Bar in Harlem, NY and we got to spend a few hours talking and hanging out with some friends for a few hours.  It was a pleasure getting to know her on a personal level and I had always hoped to meet up with her on one of my charter flights to Ste. Maarten where she was living.  She currently lives in the states but for a charter pilot on the road, making plans is always a moving target, so perhaps it will be another time and another place.

Lindsay Nixon, The Happy Herbivore

I follow Lindsay's fat free/low fat vegan food blog and I had the opportunity to interview Lindsay, (via email), as part of the 31 Day promotion

for her new cookbook, Happy Herbivore Abroad.  Of course I asked Lindsay about a topic near and dear to me, namely, being on the road as a vegan.  I was also invited to do a giveaway of the new cookbook.  You can start entering as of today, 12/30/2012 and the drawing will be on 1/15/12.  (So before I forget, Happy New Year!!)

I enjoyed Lindsay's other cookbook, "The Happy Herbivore," in all aspects except that my old eyes had trouble with the small type.  That problem is unequivocally and thankfully solved in "Abroad"!  I also downloaded the ebook version and although I hate to have electronics in the kitchen, it did solve the problem.

I have so far made 2 recipes from the "Abroad" cookbook and both turned out very well.  Although I live in Manhattan and can easily hop on a train to Little India where I can find some of the most expansive spice stores in the world, and live, literally equidistant between two Whole Food Markets, there is nothing that you can't find in your local supermarket's spice or produce section in this books ingredient list.

The recipes are basic, simple, require no advanced technique or equipment other than a blender or food processor.

The Aloo Gobi used ketchup which I think came out a bit more in the finished flavor profile than I would have liked but I'll play around with tomato puree and sauce to change that up a bit.  (I'm a ketchup addict and pretty much see food as ketchup delivery systems, just so you know).  The recipe turned out a dish that was also a bit wetter than my previous attempts yet was no worse for it.  It did have a nice gentle Indian flavor profile.

Lentil Loaf

Lentil Loaf
 The Lentil Loaf was also a straight forward and easy recipe and the results were a perfectly textured and hearty flavored loaf.  (I cheated and topped it with some pre made vegan mushroom gravy ... I know, I know, I almost just wanted to try the gravy more than I just didn't want to cook up some mushroom gravy.  It was a Shitake Mushroom Gravy from Road's End Organics and was totally acceptable as pre made gravies go.  Just add water.)

Aloo Gobi

I love the fact that "Abroad" is an easy cookbook.  Sometimes you want to put together a recipe with 20 ingredients and sometimes you just want good tasty food, easily made, for your every day meal.  It's also a very nice smattering of recipes from all over the globe, so if you're looking for a particular culinary style, you'll in all likelihood find it here.

Although I did, (in the interest of full disclosure), get my copy as a review copy I can recommend this cookbook wholeheartedly.

Here is the interview and the contest information is at the end of the post.  Enjoy and good luck!!

1)  What was the best vegan meal you "stumbled" into?

I can't think of a favorite -- there have been so many wonderful meals, but I recently stumbled into a cafe in Ireland. It was a small village -- hours from the bigger cities. I didn't know if I'd find anything to eat but the chef was more than happy to create a special vegan meal just for me (and my husband). It was exceptional.

2)  Do you maintain your dietary "restrictions" regarding ingredients when you eat out?  How?

Always. I've never had trouble finding plant-based (vegan) fare traveling. It's not always the most convenient, but what's a little effort for great health?

3)  I've had this issue even in the US when servers' first language isn't English:  How do you handle a situation when you aren't sure what you're asking for isn't being understood completely?  (I've found the Veggie Passport app indispensable).

I speak a few languages, which helps, but I always have a phrase book with me with terms for food and ingredients, plus how to explain my dietary needs in their native language. I've never really had a problem. Even telling people "no oil" hasn't been much of an issue.

4)  If you're leaving on an extended trip, (I go out on the road for 15 days at a time), what few things are definitely in your cooler bag?  I am a coffee junkie, (well, for my first cup in the AM anyway), and my daily treat(s) is to have some vegan coffee creamer.  I usually take a container with me, (as a crewmember I can bring slightly more than the 2 point whatever ounces of liquid through security), along with some vegan protein bars in case I end up working a 14 hour day with no chance to go and find a meal.

I don't have a cooler bag. LOL. I take McDougall soups and oatmeals with me -- just add hot water. I like to have them in case I don't have time to stop and look for a meal. Eating in restaurants also gets tiring on me. so it's nice to have those options. I can't eat those vegan meal replacement bars -- they upset my stomach.

5)  What is the worst travel experience you've had regarding meals on the road?

Someone told me that the bean burrito at taco bell was vegan, if you leave off the cheese. My husband and I were in a very rural area, but they had a taco bell, so we decided to try it. WORST CHOICE EVER. I was so sick -- terrible stomach pains. Even if it was vegan, it's not real food. My poor stomach didn't know what to do with it. A reminder to stay off fast food!

Thanks Lindsay, and good luck with the book tour!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oasis in Sarasota provides for vegan options abundanzza

Florida is nothing short of a vegan wasteland.  There are a few outstanding oasises but for the most part there are cities with no vegan options short of a juice bar or coffee house.  Sarasota is one of them.  I don't actually know how things like this escape me as I've been here more than a few times but through Happy Cow, up pops another place with a full vegan menu.  I am continually blown away by how those of us who are looking for these options seem to have to look far far under the radar.

Vertoris Pizza is just such a place.

It's also really weird since I just looked at HC again for the correct name and nothing came up under Sarasota.
Well, Happy Cow did say there were a few items on the menu and requested a review to see if they should keep this listing.  They most definitely should.  The restaurant comes up under Bradenton.

A mom and pop pizzeria with about 9 tables and a most amazing buzz.  3 TVs played sports channels and the kitchen was grinding out food.  About 30% of the diners are ordering off the gluten free or vegan menu.  I hate when places lump these two dietary choices together as only 1 is really a dietary choice, veganism being a lifestyle and philosophy and belief system.  And there really ARE two different menus.

I went a little (ha) off the gluten free diet I've been following the last few days and ordered the garlic breadsticks with dayia and marinara.  I loved them even though the garlic wasn't pervasive and the marinara was more like a chunky tomato.  Why is this important?  It really isn't but it's hard to scoop up the sauce if the chunks keep falling off the bread.  A milled sauce might have been more appropriate but the crust, (and why didn't I ask for a gluten free crust??), was outstanding.  And what is truly bad with Daiya?  So this dish is a hit.

Garlic breadsticks are really a whole pie with garlic and Daiya.

Potato skins are something I haven't had in years because aside from the potato I won't have the cheese, bacon or sour cream.  Which leaves a potato with skin and why should I waste calories on deep frying it?  These were deep fried.  I think.  But maybe not since the skins weren't really crispy.  I'm thinking now, do I really know how potato skins are SUPPOSED to be prepared?  I always thought baked to a well done state.  There was a meld of textures and there also was a tad of oil in the bottom of each skin, a bit more grease than I'd have preferred, but when you melt Daiya, (there's that layer of miracle again), on anything it ratchets up the vegan desirability a notch or three and when you add the chunky marinara and then put a dollop of vegan sour cream on top it just comes together in a decadent combination of crunch, smooth, and shmoosh.  Another hit.

What can I say about a salad except the wine balsamic dressing was really nice and the greens crisp and fresh.  What else needs to be said about a salad?

My entree got a little confusing as I was matching something off the vegan menu and something else that was labeled Dairy Free off of the gluten free menu.  (I should have checked before and I advise you to also say that you want your gluten free dish to be vegan as egg is gluten and dairy free in some circles.  I later had that thought, did check, and my dish was vegan but still, check).  I wanted the Vegan Eggplant parm but wanted a gluten free breading with daiya and gluten free pasta.  I think I got the eggplant lasagna with gluten free pasta.  At least that's what one of the waiters said I had when he looked half way through the meal.  The eggplant was a tad under cooked, well parts were, but as the dish sat and steamed there were less and less chewy bites and more shmooshy ones.  There was a bit of doughy toothiness to the gluten free pasta but I know my palate isn't accustomed to the different consistency yet.  It had a delicious sauce and daiya and came together very nicely but I missed the crunch of a parm dish.

There were two vegan cupcakes, one a chocolate with peanut butter icing and the other a pumpkin with cream cheese icing.  I liked them both, my vote going to the chocolate, (for obvious reasons), because everyone knows that chocolate kicks any other dessert butt, and the other vote going to the pumpkin.  They were small enough to eat a few more but in the interest of self restraint I kept it to half of each for each of us.

This is by far a go to place not because the it's the ONLY place but because it's a place to find and extensive menu, they are trying to cover different diets, they seem to know what they're talking about, and although this might be a minus to some, there are others with dining companions who are still eating animals and both can find what they're looking for here.  It does mean you might be looking at things that repulse you but I just sigh, hope in the great scheme of things that the animal on the plate next to me is in a better place, that the omnivore next to me is exposed to a different impression of vegan food.  (The pilot I was with was open to trying everything although Daiya didn't bowl him over and convert him on the spot to a tapioca seeking refugee from the dairy side of the street).

We both got what we wanted, the food was good solid Italian hearty comfort food and I'll definitely be seeing the inside of this place again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Trader Joe's Announces Nearly 5,000-Pound Recall Of 'Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice' Over Listeria Risk

I'm going to say it again, and I'm going to keep on saying it. Go Vegan and minimize your risk of getting these food borne illnesses. It won't totally eliminate it because there's always the risk of someone spraying cow poop on your spinach, but you won't likely get it from the source. In addition to health, environmental and compassion or course.

Hey, give it a try for 3 weeks of your life and decide for yourself how you feel:
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, December 3, 2012

Climate Change Study Indicates Amount Of Heat-Trapping Pollution Rose By 3 Percent Worldwide Last Year

"Livestock's Long Shadow" is a report by the UN. It points out the exorbitant amount of greenhouse gas produced by animals raised for food. It takes carbon 100 years to leave the atmosphere but methane, (an even more potent greenhouse gas), dissapates in only several months. The conclusion is that the most immediate and dramatic thing we can, "throw at the problem" is shifting to a 100% plant based diet. Lightbulbs and Prius cars really pale besides dietary change in effectiveness. They are red herrings.

Not to mention the health aspect of a 100% plant based diet. Not to mention the drastic reduction in water use to produce plants to eat as opposed to plants to feed to animals to eat.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blossom, Upper West Side, NYC. THE Haute Cuisine of Vegan Cooking.

Finding ourselves all alone, this happening more often now that we are the parent's of a teenager, we wandered the Upper West Side of Manhattan with the deer in the headlights look of parents suddenly cut loose on an unexpected date night.  One of my favorite places, Blossom, beckoned.

Wow, what a great meal. Home runs all, except for the Sweet Potato Autumn roll which was a single at best.

The roll wasn't as good as it might have been if the carrots were sweeter or the other veggies came through. But they were't and it wasn't more than an ok dish. The the almond ginger was also not remarkable.  I was just waiting for a flavor punch commensurate with the colors and anticipation build up.  The workmanship might be worth the $11 but the taste profile wasn't.  Our waitress did say that it is sometimes better than others.

Wonderfully colorful but the flavor didn't match the technicolor.
I basically ordered this appetizer because I was giving myself a few days of gluten free food.  Aside from the bites of seitan which my wife ordered idolizes everything else, (I ordered), was gluten free.

Seitan skewers were chared and richly deep bbq with a hint of sweet in the smoky flavor.  The slaw was bright and crisp and worked nicely to counter the bbq sauce.  The seitan was moist and almost "fatty" in a luscious sort of way.  How do they DO that?

Stouty dark beer.  Ahhh

The seitan marsala was a convert dish. Any meat eater would swear that vegan food was every bit as good as any with a dead animal ever was. On a bed of creamy mashed with just cooked until tender kale. Home run.

Lasagna was also percect except for the citrus vinegarette which was more like lemon sqeezed with some oil. The poblano dressing which our waitress brought was a delucious almost honey mustard which I'd recommend hands down instead. The layers had a creamy tofu ricotta cheese in addition to melted, stringy soy mozzarella.  The layers of eggplant and zucchini with quinoa for a toothiness was perfect especially so when slathered in the tomato sauce which was also deliciously robust and hearty.

Dessert was insane. If the others were home runs this was a Grand Slam.  A thick chocolate mousse redefining rich with a chocolate cookie crust. Decadent. Glad we split one.

See, the coffee looks a little washed out, especially when viewed in the foreground of
perfection in chocolate.
Pet peeve. A delicious cup of coffee is the perfect end to a meal. Please charge me extra if you must but soy creamer, not soy milk, is what is calling, nay screaming, to make it perfect.

This is not an inexpensive place to eat.  Aside from the first app I mentioned it was worth every penny though.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Make One More" campaign

The other day the cashier at Chipotle commented that she liked my shirt.  I was wearing my Dr. Fuhrman shirt from the Nutritarian Festival in Aspen that I was lucky enough to stumble into a few years ago.  The festival, not the shirt.  It says, "Kale is the New Beef."  It's one of my many conversation starting "tools", and shirts, along with buttons and pins can sometimes start a conversation.  I'm not going to say I've created many vegans a la minute but I know I've gotten a bunch of people thinking about their food.  Like hockey, (come ON NHL), I may not have scored the goal but my pass earned an assist.  I always have SOMETHING on SOMEWHERE that says either, "vegan," or "animals," or "food."

The conversation went like this:

"I like your shirt."


"I'm a vegetarian."

"That's great.  I'm a vegan."

"Oh, really, high five, I am too!"

We slap palms.

"Why don't you say you're vegan?"

"I think it sounds a little ---" (Now in all honesty I forgot what she said.  It could have been presumptuous, or pompous, preposterous or ... it doesn't matter).  

"Well, I think if we all use the word more it will be a lot more common and less --- sounding."

"Hey, you're right.  I'm vegan!"

Seriously, that's how it went. 

In this day and age I think we're at a tipping point.  For a lot of things.  Republican Independent Michael Bloomberg just came out admitting that there is actually something called climate change, (read Global Warming).  It's also a day and age where you almost can't help but to hear the word "vegan" at least once.   People are getting used to the word.  It's not as odd as it once was.  They may even have a curious thought about it. 

I just helped Jordan Wyatt of the Invercargill Vegan Society with his podcast, "CoExisting with Non-Human Animals."  My last message was this:  Make One More.  What I mean is, we're about 4% of the population right now.  If we all just committed in this coming year between World Vegan Days to just "Make One More" vegan, we will have doubled in size.  At that point we'll be bearing down on the magical 10% number.  10% of anything is worth sitting up and taking note of.  It's enough of a number that people who sell things take note of as a slice of market share worth catering too.  It's the start of a movement that has finally gotten a foothold and moved from the fringe looney bin to a bit part on the world stage.  With it comes a modicum of power.  With a modicum of power we can save a lot of lives.

So say it if you are it and let's all commit to Make One More.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Darbster. My reward

I've been stuck in Palm Beach, (how's that for incongruous), with a grounded airplane.  It's pretty amazing how one broken switch can render a whole plane useless but it's the switch to turn on the EFIS tubes, the Electronic Flight Information System.  That's all of the TV screens on one side of the cockpit.  And we can't go with half the instruments turned off.

Of course, as schedule often has it, we got in too late on Sunday to make it over to Darbster and they're closed on Monday and Tuesday.  I've been living out of the hotel room with a fridge full of salad, veggies, Daiya, Tofurky and Amy's.

I'm in a full service Hilton and luckily I was also able to get a microwave.  This situation was ideal since my copilot had friends he hadn't seen in a long time and spend the few days with them leaving me to my in room culinary skills.  (Reheating).  Aside from a can of Sirracha Peas, (think Wasabi Peas), I've been pretty good about the calories and quality of foods so Darbster indeed was a treat.

I've usually ordered off the menu since the specials are raw or on the pricy side but tonight I made an exception.  The other reason is I can't make up my mind.  I want the soup, I want the wings, I want this that and the other thing.  I want a tempeh rueben and a cheeseburger.  My waiter was Drew and we had quite the conversation about vegan foods around the country.  I've definitely put Evolution Food in DC on my list.  It's not only nice to eat at a 100% vegan place where I don't have to ask any of the incessant 500 questions about chicken stock or egg in the ingredients but nice to relate to another vegan.  Comparing vegan mac n' cheese dishes across the country just doesn't happen every day.  I don't think you necessarily have to be a vegan to work in a vegan restaurant but there is that warm fuzzy when you ask and the answer is yes.  There's also live music and the gentle tones of acoustic guitar and a wonderful rich voice set a nice backdrop for a mood of relaxation.

I'm sitting inside, the bar behind and to the right of me and the
outside dining room through the doors.

I thought about my family back in NYC dealing with Sandy's wake but since we live on high ground in Manhattan survived relatively, no not relatively, we survived unscathed.  Sometimes you're just lucky and as someone very wise once said, "I'll take luck over skill any day."  Guilt assuaged.

Tonight I went for broke and ordered two of the 4 specials.  I passed up on the Tempeh Tacos (cooked) and went with the raw Stuffed Peppers and onion rings.  The onion rings intrigued me as they were also raw.  They looked cooked though, don't they?

There were six but that first one was in my mouth almost before the plate hit the table.
Lousy picture.  Hopefully my next iPhone will have better macro capabilities but
you can get the idea of how big each pepper is.
The onions were dehydrated and then coated with a seasoned flax mixture.  They had a little bit less crunch than traditional onion rings (and about a gazillion less fat calories), and were much more chewy as the onion didn't break down but was just dried out.  I found the whole mouth concept very pleasing despite the overpowering onion kick that, well, raw onions have.  I got an onion taste in my mouth and an onion kick in my sinuses.  This was definitely a good substitute for fried rings and Afrin.  

The raw sweet peppers were enough of an appetizer for one.  I'd have hated to share it as there were only three, (sliced in half for 6),  small peppers stuffed with the pate. The pate was supposed to have a bit of jalapeño but I think I was still breathing onion vapors and didn't get the jalapeño flavor from the filling.  Yet there was a bit of heat in my mouth.  The filling itself was cool, creamy and had a fine nut graininess from the almond cashew mix  and left a slight sweet taste on my tongue.  It was an interesting dish, I'm glad I tried it.  I enjoyed it but I'm a comfort food, substantial, stick to the ribs food kind of person and I think I'm going back to the wings next time.

The other special I ordered, (at $17 was about twice as much as some of the other options), was the Chicken Roulade.  I passed on the Collard Green roll as I'm not the biggest fan of wraps in collards.

It was an interesting treatment of the Gardein, (much of the protein at Darbster is Gardein), chicken cutlet, pounded flat and rolled around sautéed onions, green and red and peppers.  The peppers and onions, while bringing color and variety of texture to the dish, didn't add much in the way of flavor.  It was served over a bed of delicious black beans and light fluffy jasmine rice covered with a Guajillo chili sauce with a touch of cilantro.  The dish was beautifully presented and the flavors all worked well together.  The Guajillo sauce had a nice earthy tone and a trace of heat but had a bit less depth of flavor than I would have liked to really put the final wow/zing on the whole thing.  It was a good enough dish and if I had a table of four I'd order it because it would nicely compliment other dishes with its interesting and different taste.  It was a ton of food, (I took half back to the room), certainly a shareable portion and with the rest of the menu beckoning, although glad I ordered it, I'd look to the rest of the menu on my next visit. 

As I said I've been rather under control eating out of a fridge and microwave and thought this a perfectly rational reason to dump 2000 more calories on top of the meal with dessert.  And really, isn't this the perfect dessert picture?  Yes, it is.  The decaf, the brownie, the ice cream.  Awesome end to the meal.  The ice cream was of the coconut variety and the brownie was airy and moist and richly decadently chocolaty.  It was a perfect treat and a perfect ending to the meal.

This wasn't so surprising since I splurged on everything.  You can do Darbster for less, (or more with a few drinks), as you'll see with lunch the next day, (below).

On each rotation I buy my copilot a vegan meal.  I do it for a few reasons but I want to show as many people as I can, (and for the price of an app and a sandwich how can you go wrong?), that vegan food can be tasty and as far from the image of tofu, leaves and twigs as is possible.  Plus, if they like one meal they're more than likely to agree to dine with me at other vegan establishments.

Darbster is a good place to do this.

We started with the Mac N Cheese.  This is a coconut milk and Daiya based sauce with Daiya shreds melted on top and a bread crumb topping.  It has a nice creamy texture, the pasta cook just right, and the bread crumbs adding a nice crunch.  It's a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar so if you like these products, (I mainline Daiya and will buy it in a schoolyard if I have to), you'll love this dish.

Next we had the Tree wings.  I'm not sure where the name comes from but the dish is a Gardein product and is the quintessential fried vegan wing.  It's got a crunch on the outside and moist chicken-y stuff on the inside, served with a house ranch and buffalo hot sauce.  I like them both, alternating between the mild heat of the Buffalo and the creamy basil of the ranch.

We split 2 sandwiches for lunch.  Unfortunately Darbster ran out of our first choice (and Ciabatta bread) but the special was a chicken pesto salsa Daiya and ended up on Rye.  It was our favorite.  The mix of cool salsa with warm chicken and cheese worked well as did the textures of the fresh and cooked.  The only thing was that this sandwich, on the bread that it was served on, became a bit of a mushy mess as the salsa soaked through the bottom slice.

I enjoyed the Reuben more than my friend as the taste is not quite like a Reuben.  It's still a hearty sandwich with kraut and Thousand Island dressing and it worked for me as I was looking more for a good sandwich than to see how close it could emulate something I didn't eat any more.

The fries were outstanding.  Salted just enough and fried to the point of crispness, (which in my view is the way fries are supposed to be, not an excuse to act like a sponge for oil), it was the perfect delivery system for ketchup.

As you can see from the bill it was less for two of us to eat lunch than it was for me to eat dinner the night before. As with any restaurant, some things here are outstanding, some hit the mark squarely and some are just ok.  I'm going to stick to my favorites and walk away with a smile.  Just check the hours before you take a trek down here, (or up here), as they are closed Monday and Tuesday and also close between lunch and dinner, (I think between 3 and 5).  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mellow Mushroom come out of the dark, Savannah GA.

Why have I never heard of Mellow Mushroom?  Perhaps because in NYC there are umpteen billion pizza places, (all Original and all owned by a guy named Ray), and if you live in NYC you rarely will go out of your neighborhood to get pizza from a newly opened parlor.  So probably with righteous management analysis they haven't opened in NYC.

On the road, I am shocked if I find a place that has vegan cheese so pizza isn't usually on my radar.  Savannah seems to be a vegan food desert and searching Google Maps for vegan brought up, among other non vegan places, Mellow Mushroom.  My copilot said she'd heard of them, being from Florida, so off we went.

The city of Savannah is rife with oldness, Civil War feel to this Yankee.  (Met fan yankee).  The tunnels of trees along the streets and old buildings steeped in history, well, you can just imagine what it might have been like 150 years ago during the civil war or 50 years ago during another kind of war.  Charm is a word which must be used to describe the city though.

If I was back in college this is definitely the kind of place I'd hang out in.  It has that hippy/student-y kind of beer bar but with a bunch of flat screen TVs and some outdoor seating.  Some tables had been pushed together for families so it caters to exactly ... well, everyone.

The 5th star pat on the back high five goes to Mellow Mushroom for realizing that it's not a stone's throw away but merely a coin flip off the thumb away from being a mainstream pizza place and offering vegan options.  Make a vegan crust.  (I was at a place that used heavy cream in their dough so this first accomplishment isn't a given ... apparently.  I never would have thought but life is stranger than fiction.  Heavy cream?)

Next you have to NOT put cheese in your sauce.  I thought I read on the menu someplace that the red BASE (they call it a base), was a combination of red sauce and pesto.  I called today and spoke with Tracey who after speaking with 2 chefs there affirmed the sauce had no pesto in it and it was 100% vegan.  It didn't make sense that pesto would be in a red sauce but now if you see it on the menu or hallucinate it as I did apparently, you'll know it's vegan.

Next you have to have veggies.  This for a pizza place is truly a no brainer.  Mellow Mushroom goes one better, (two actually), and offers tempeh and tofu as protein options.  I didn't try the tempeh and how its cooked would be my first question if I go back and remember to ask it but I did have tofu included on my Mega-Veggie.  I wasn't expecting much and got a little more than that.  The tofu didn't have any specific taste that I could pick out but it was a perfect consistency.  Just enough chew to not be mushy and not too much to be rubbery.  So thanks for that but one of the problems with a pie that has 11 ingredients plus sauce and cheese is that no one ingredient would be missed too much if it was omitted.  I also happened to have brought my Tofurky Italian Sausages having just come from the (out of the way) Kroegers, where I stocked up for the next few days.

The last thing you have to have is a vegan cheese.  Since Daiya is available wholesale there is no longer any excuse not to carry it if you serve, well, anything at all.  Mellow Mushroom will always have my business if there's one in my overnight city.  They hit all of these bullet points.

I chowed down before I remembered to take the pic.  The Tofurky Italian Sausage slices were
not offered by the restaurant and were added by me.

The pie was good.  It was flavorful, loaded with veggies and Daiya.  The sun dried tomatoes were a burst of flavor but I did load it up with garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  The other veggies were just members of the orchestra but no particular solos stood out except for those previously mentioned tomatoes.  The crust, although not crispy at all, had a wonderful yeasty fresh baked aroma that is addicting after the first bite and still satisfied my jonsing the next day in the hotel room after a minute in the microwave.

Not the best pizza in the world but clearly way past merely acceptable I will seek out Mellow Mushroom in any city I find they've opened up shop in.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Vegan Fast Food in Philly

I was fortunate to have a layover for a few days in Philly and since I had the cities newest vegan fast food place on my radar for months it was a no brainer.  A short walk from the hotel and 20 minutes on the train ($5 each way but if you buy it at the downtown station it's a buck less), and a short walk on the other end and I was standing in front of what hopefully will be ubiquitous in the future.  I do want to mention that Nicole, the owner of HCV, had spoke on the phone a few times and when I introduced myself, she insisted the meal was on the house.  I always pay for my food when I blog, not that anyone is throwing food at me when I'm NOT blogging but I'm just saying' here, ok?

OK, so what really happened was I borrowed a crew car and drove there the day before but couldn't find parking.  But, being a
New Yorker, steeped in tradition, I did what any self respecting New Yorker would do.
I drove by and snapped a picture.  That's my flash which was on for some unknown reason.
I think that was called a teaser.  I just wanted to show you what happens when you ask.  I was at the Embassy Suites and talked to the waitress, (whose sister happened to be a vegan), about what I wanted.  This was one of the breakfasts.  On another day though, a different chef was there and my waitress wasn't.  I went up to the omelet line and ordered my meal.  I'm watching and see him pour something on grill.  When he gives me my food I asked what it was ... yup, butter.  Then the chef who made this dish below heard what was going on and stepped in.

Ya always gotta ask.  Apparently when I said no dairy it didn't ring the chef's bell.  Okay.

Yes, that is MY Daiya cheese.  I try to always have Daiya cheese and vegan coffee creamer.  Then life can commence.
The kitchen had a few of these patties left over from an affair where a vegan option was requested.  I thought it was
so very nice that they dug these out for me but in all honesty, (and the executive chef agreed), they were pretty bad.

How my day starts when there are no trips happening.
OK, I know, I have work to do.  On to Hip City Veg.  I started with the sweet potato fries which were as good as any I've had.  I think either they're good or they're not and the barre is set pretty low on fries.  These passed but I could have done without the cilantro black bean dip.  I'm much more of a ketchup on my fries kind of guy.  Then again, I'd eat ketchup off of my fingers if I didn't have fries.  Sometimes the Brooklyn in me just comes out and says hi.

I then went on to the Philly Cheese Steak made with seitan.  I was in ooey gooey heaven with this one.  Both sandwiches had perfectly matched bread and the hero, (ha grinder), was great.  The seitan had a meaty feel and the cheese added a nice fatty mouth feel to the whole bite.  All of the wrapping is biodegradable and marked as such in case you feel that eating 100% plant based food doesn't skew your carbon footprint far enough towards "minuscule."

The chicken was amazing.  It all just came together perfectly between the bun and the contents.  I'd like to see a smudge more lettuce for a bit more crunch but ok, so what.  The chick'n had a nice thick crusty crust reminiscent of buttermilk southern fried and the soft crunch soft crunch was actually taking too long to chew because I wanted the next bite.  I'm really raving over this.  The onions, pickles and peppercorn ranch worked incredibly well together.  Texture was also amazing and too close to real chicken to ever need to kill another bird.

Just look at this sandwich.  The only thing missing is a sink to wash your hands and face when you're done.

HCV is a small place.  The line was out the door and Nicole told me that the Yelp word on the street is, "Want to go to Hip City Veg?"
"Nah, the lines are too long!"

So Nicole, start cranking the stuff out the door!

There are a few tables but it's not the kind of place you really want to sit and eat at during lunch hour.  People are standing around waiting for their orders or waiting on line to order.  Rittenhouse Square is just down the block and is a really nice place to people watch and enjoy the food.  In a few months maybe not but I'd drip this stuff all over a rental car if I had to.

The menu on the wall is pretty limited and right now there seems to be a balance of food offered and diners wanting it.

Even if I enlarge it it's still a pretty selective menu.

I had the Groovy, (take on a smoothie, get it?) and it was as good a green smoothie as I've had.  They either hit the mark or they don't and this one did.

The action behind the counter and grill is non stop.
This is the Classic Veg Burger.  I wasn't impressed.  The burger was just ok and thin compared to the bread as opposed to the chicken which was perfectly sized on the bun.  Nicole told me I should have had the Ziggy Burger which adds smoked Tempeh and special sauce.  It made all the difference in the world but if the burger doesn't bring anything to the party and is a platform for other flavors maybe a different burger is in order.  So get the Ziggy and enjoy the gestalt experience.

All I have to say is NICE JOB NICOLE.

... and also saying', "Thank you, Nicole!"