Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New York City, part 2

SATURDAY NIGHT I put on my new shoes and my red dress and we headed to Pranna Restaurant. It had some mixed reviews on Yelp, but my friend told me it was one of his favorite places in his neighborhood.

I was impressed with the clean, modern look. Suitably for old people (that is, over 24), we got there early - around 10:30. We sat at the bar and had some delicious food - my friend had some rice noodles with pork, we both ordered satay and devoured two servings of delicious wok fried cashews with green onions and chilis. My smoked tempeh satay with shitakes was totally delicious. I also enjoyed the "Crispy 5 Spice Mushroom Stuffed Tofu" with tomatillo salsa - very delicious and tasty. Eric picked out a delightful bottle of wine and we enjoyed our food at the bar.

Somewhere around 11:30, the place started to fill up with very young people who could not possibly have been drinking age. One young woman wearing very short denim shorts and a lot of St Patrick's paraphernalia explained that it was St Patrick's day in Hoboken and gave us the run down of a week's of St Patrick's day activities that were not to be missed. We decided to leave when we realized we were being regarded as creepy old people...

On our way out, we went by the Armory on Lexington Ave - there were big, big banners for an art show called "Art for Afghanistan" to support "Operation Homefront" organized by Samson Contompasis and soldier Tamara "Gabby" Gabbard. It was after hours, but we were allowed in anyway - and had a look at some giant installations and talked with the artists. Samson's dad, Pete, was very outgoing and helpful. When I asked if they planned to take this installation to Burningman, he lit up and said that he wanted to go to Burningman on his motorcycle from New York!

Sunday morning, we went to the gym - after 20 minutes on the cardio bike, I decided my time would be better spent getting a (very pricy) massage. I packed for the flight and then we went for a stroll around Madison Square Park to see what sort of lunch we could find to bring to the park and share with the chickens (pigeons) and squirrels. A pizza place named Papou's spoke to me - and I ended up with a gorgeous calzone with no cheese, full of spinach, mushrooms, onions, red peppers, olives and sauce. It took longer for it to bake than to make! Amazingly, the pizza joint gets terrible reviews on Yelp but what I had was so simple and unscrewupable that it was very satisfying.

Eric ended up at a place next door called "Organique" which had a lot of nice looking offerings but the worst and slowest service on the planet. I wanted to get some vegan truffles - but apparently it takes 4 people to make two sandwiches for one person. Seriously. And they got good reviews on Yelp.

After a nice lunch in the park in 65 degree weather - sharing chips with the squirrel and drinking a Sam Adams Boston Lager with my calzone, we headed off to the airport... back to San Francisco for Jenn!

My friend Paul met me at the airport and we headed to another "new to me" place - Waterbar. Though it was after dining hours, we were seated at the bar and had a nice late dinner of a super thin crust pizza with asparagus (yum) and mushrooms, the best frites I have ever had in my life (since Tallulah closed, anyway) , some broccoli rab with olive oil & chili flakes, delicious wine and a glittering view of the Bay Bridge and the bay. The restaurant is pretty and our bartender/server Stefan was attentive and friendly.

A weekend trip to NYC with delicious meals in SF on either end is not a bad way to live. Or to go off diet. Back to diet now.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I AM A WINNAH!!!!! (and in New York)

DEAR VEGAN BLOGSPHERE: I take it all back. You ROCK!

I'm pretty excited to return to my e-mail for the news that I am a winner of a Lexan Juicer from the Legally Vegan blog giveaway. I can't wait to get this juicer - it's going to be so much fun to make fresh juice with leafy greens and wheatgrass. My cats are going to be so excited. I wonder if I could grow enough wheatgrass (ha!) and juice it to make kitty cat wine... stay tuned.

Right now, I am in New York, just for the weekend fresh on the heels of Thursday night's preview dinner for Eric Tucker's new wine bar, Encuentro, which he is opening near Jack London Square with partners Linda Braz & Lacey.

Thursday night's Encuentro preview dinner menu:
  • socca with two toppings: pesto w/tempeh sausage & carmelized onions with smoked gouda, cauliflower bisque, little gems with avocaodo smoked almond & citrus mushroom ceviche;
  • carrot & quinoa polenta topped garlic braised broccolini, kale, gigante white beans served with a syrah black chanterelle reduction and a sundried tomato gremolata;
  • a cheese & chocolate plate from Vice chocolate

Ahh - New York City. Yes, I know it's crazy. It's only like a 5 hour flight and I promise to investigate carbon offsets. My friend who is showing me around lives in the Flatiron District over Madison Square Park.

I arrived in NYC on Friday night, we went straight to Counter Restaurant. We had an amazing dinner - all vegan - at 1AM IN THE FREAKING MORNING! I love this freaking town! Here's what we had:
  • frites with catsup & harissa mayo (vegan)
  • corn beignets with remoulade
  • hand made papardelle pasta puttanesca
  • house made seitan tournadoes with pureed potatoes & garlic seared arugula
Our server/bartender, Catherine (I think!) from Portland was a real gem - personable, dynamic and super on top of everything. We had a fantastic Paul Dolan biodynamic Chardonnay from Mendocino which was just my style of chardonnay (though not so much my friend's preference). We met some of the kitchen crew who were warm, personable and engaging. We had a thoroughly good time!

This morning, we headed to his favorite neighborhood starbucks where my friend read the paper and after finishing my latest National Geo in 30 minutes, went outside to talk to my mother and practice standing up on one leg on some pipes sticking out of the ground next to a fireplug and admiring the human traffic.

We went to brunch at Souen near Union Square - my friend had fruit pancakes and I had a delicious seitan shwarma in a bit of a soggy pita (I had to eat it with a fork & knife) and a yummy salad with the most amazing pickles.

From there, we had a long gorgeous walk through the Lower East Side and the Bowery, stopping for a 40 minute visit in ABC Home Furnishings on Broadway (love love LOVE that freaking place!) . We stopped at the Farmer's Market at Union Square Park and I saw the biggest freaking carrots I have ever seen in my life.

We set out for the Lower East Side and saw the tenement museum, crossed Delancey (ha!) and met two cranky cats at MooShoes - one of whom thought he was a guard dog and tried to threaten a pug wearing a shirt collar and tie through the plate glass window. I ended up with a cute small wallet by Queenbee Creations that will fit in the inside pocket of my borrowed motorcycle jacket which says "yes" on one side and "no" on the other and has snaps (looks like this wallet) as well as two new pairs of shoes: Lola heels from Novaca and Garmont high-top hiking boots.

We went back out the neighborhood to "Organic Avenue" which was a charming raw food restaurant & shop - but terribly pricey, even compared to Cafe Gratitude.

HELLA AWESOME WEATHER: I need to note: the weather was AMAZING today. It was like 70 degrees, and I was warm in my brown organic cords and short sleeve t-shirt which reads "I Hella ::heart:: Oakland."

Do I need to tell you guys that "hella" is apparently a very "West Coast" term? I had about 6 different people ask me what "hella" meant and "does that mean 'I love Oakland' - what language is 'hella'?" Seriously. "Hella" is West Coast. I thought my sister's girls were really cute for saying "heck-a" but... seriously. I did find one 70 year old guy who said he liked my shirt and knew what "hella" meant - "It's a cultural expression for 'very'" and laughed.

After a stroll about the Lower East side where we explored some natural grocery stores, chatted with a Seoul restaurant owner - interesting my friend in the possibility of a really Americanized banh mi (I promise, Eric - you will have real banh mi in Oakland!) - we ended up at his neighborhood where I got frites and he got a falafel and we had them with some killer beer at the "Burp Castle."

Time to go out to dinner now.... yum!

I am now going to head out to Pranna with my friend...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dear Vegan Blogosphere...

EAT LOCAL! Yes, I know I'm "different" and this isn't one of my usual topics because I just assume that most vegans are paying attention to the same things that the greenies are tracking - you know, carbon footprint, eating locally and such.

Sadly, it is not true. I am reading a lot of vegan blog posts lately - esp starting around Valentine's Day - that rely on produce from far, far away. Seriously folks - we do NOT eat strawberries in March in North America. They aren't in season. OK, there are a few in my garden but by the time they ripen, the slugs have already had their way with them and that's fine - just hope they are propagating the seeds for me.

Did you folks ever notice that I don't post recipes with bananas? For one thing, they just don't taste as good here in Northern California as they do in places like Mexico (or even New Orleans) where they can be picked from a tree. I just don't bother buying them because I know what tree-ripened bananas taste like and eating bananas that were picked hard and green and ripened with their own esters (or "rotted") is not the same thing at all. The farthest away I'll buy produce is from Mexico -- and that's a rare thing for me.

Now, I'm not one to issue "challenges" to blog readers but I'm starting to feel like I need to throw down the gauntlet with vegan bloggers.

Here are some resources for eating locally - and yes, this means you don't get to eat all kinds of ridiculous fruit all winter long that is not in season unless you froze or preserved it yourself. If you want to save the planet by cutting out consumption of animals - think about how you are damaging the planet by buying crap from thousands of miles away.

PS: One more thing, vegan bloggers, if I see ANOTHER recipe for applesauce, I will scream! Seriously - there's like a ZERO difficulty level to peeling, cutting up apples and cooking them down. That's about as difficult as boiling water.

PPS: I am NOT ever writing a cookbook. Seriously. Never.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Gumbo z'herbes

SPRING IS COMING! The days are getting longer and the markets in Northern California are full of all sorts of amazing greens. Last week, I bought several bunches of greens and then realized: this is more than one person can/should eat in a week!

A nicely timed newsletter from Grist gave me the idea to make gumbo z'herbes. It's the traditional gumbo during the Lenten season -- all full of good seasonal green stuff and no meat. It doesn't traditionally have a roux (as a commenter corrected the writer of this other article - ignore the first recipe, the one in the last comment is much better).

Basically, you get out your two biggest pots, a whole lot of bunches of greens, take off all the stems and put them in one pot with water to make stock, chiffonade or chop or tear your cleaned greens into the other pot with some stock to start softening it. Most of the recipes call for cooking down the greens for about 2 hours before adding anything else but fail to mention that it takes about 2 hours to clean and trim your greens. Seriously!

Here's the recipe & process I used for my gumbo z'herbes:

1 bunch of beet greens
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 bunch purple spiky kale
1 bunch broccoli rab
1 bunch cilantro
a pound of tatsoi and mizuna
2 small radicchio
15 cups of chard, arugula and parsley from my yard
3-4 6" long wands of fresh oregano
lots of fresh thyme

4-6 turnips (whatever was attached to the turnip greens!) cut into 1" cubes
handful of carrots (more or less to taste) cut into 1/2" rounds

1 large yellow onion
1 lb fresh chanterelles
8-12 cloves garlic

1. Clean, remove the stems and chiffonade all the green stuff. I had 2 c. stock in the freezer from sweating out spinach-dill-garlic-onions for spanakopita, so that worked really nicely as a starter stock. I put all the stems and rejected bits into another pot and simmered it down to make a bit more veggie stock. I added a quart of store-bought veggie broth to the green stuff and continued adding veg and putting stems to the stock pot.

2. Once the green stuff cooked down, I strained it, combined all the stock and let the veg cool a bit in a bowl away from the stove.

3. Simmered down the stock more with 5 cubed turnips, and about 3/4 c sliced carrots.

4. In the other pan, I sauteed 1 onion, 1 lb of golden chanterelles (cut into big chunks), 8 cloves of garlic (pressed). Once the onions are transluscent, add the chanterelles - once they released their water, I added about 3 cups of the green stuff.

5. Puree the rest of the green stuff in my Breville blender.

6. Return all veg puree, veg/onion/mushroom mix to pot with stock, turnips and carrots. Season to taste - salt, cajun seasoning, more thyme & oregano if you have them (I have unlimited fresh thyme & oregano thanks to deleriously happy plants).

I had to do some mixing and transferring since I don't have a big enough stock pot. My biggest stock pot is 6 qts (I know - it makes preserves making challenging but keeps me from going too nuts in terms of quantity - could you imagine last year's output if I had bigger pots?)

The most time consuming part was pulling the stems and ribs from ALL the green
stuff -- I was at this since about 7pm and finished around 11pm! I ended up with my biggest rubbermaid container full of the gumbo - somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 cups.

Serve over rice - or let it cool down, refrigerate it and serve over rice the next day, in my case. Pictures coming if I can manage to not eat it all first!