Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wildflower, a NYC Vegan PopUp Restaurant

A little over a week ago the NYC vegan community got to experience the pop-up restaurant trend. A pop-up restaurant is a temporary restaurant, great for young chefs starting out or even notable chefs who might want to test out an idea with less financial risk.

Wildflower, NYC's first vegan pop-up was created by Ayinde Howell , with the help of donations large & small of many many other supportive people such as yours truly who contributed via Kickstarter. It was wonderful to see Wildflower come to fruition! And indeed it did, starting the evening of June 10th & serving brunch & dinner thru the 12th. The setting was LTO- Limited Time Only, which is the former space of Broadway East where I had a birthday dinner many many moons ago!

I had sampled Ayinde's food last year at a Gracious Gourmand dinner event. So I gathered up my friend, Elizabeth & new friend, Kera and it was vegan girls' night out for Wildflower's Sunday Vegan Street Food Menu.  Here was the menu:

Sunday Night: Street Food Favorites
Biscuit Slider Duo:                                                                               
featuring the Crazy Jamaican Burger & the Flaming BBQ Burger
Seitan Shwarma                                                                                       
The favorite plant based meat substitute… on a stick
Pineapple Pizza Sliders                                                                     
Hearty tomato sauce, italian tofu sausage, red peppers pineapples & white onion   
Quinoa Nachos                                                                                      
Savory quinoa, onion, black olives, cheesy sauce served over yellow corn chips 
Street Taco Duo:                                                                                              
Ayinde’s twist on two classics, Korean seitan taco & Beer battered tempeh taco
A classic street food served with hot chocolate
Belgian Beer Floats                                                                             
Vanilla ice cream over an ice cold stout.

Featured Cocktail:
Poached Pear Manhattan

And here's the location:
One of my favorites of the evening: the biscuit slider duo- we all agreed that the biscuits were divine, vegan or not, best biscuits ever. And the burger was really yummy- we couldn't believe that it was all tofu. I've eaten a lot of tofu & I have NEVER had it taste so burger like, the BBQ burger was delish...the Jamaican burger was a tad spicy for me & I like me some spice...
Next up, the seitan street meat on a stick- now I've had this before at the Gracious Gourmand dinner where it was absolutely delectable....here, not so much, the texture was a little strange & just tasted oily & strangely bland.
This little Pineapple Pizza Slider was yummy for sure!
And this simple Nacho dish, blew me away- a modified Daiya creamy cheese sauce with smokey quinoa & olives. OMG, so good & the very idea of combining smokey quinoa with nachos was absolute brilliance.
And the one dish that I was looking forward to- the tacos! We were presented with two Korean seitan tacos, not sure what happened to the beer-battered tempeh which sounded amazing...but sadly the Korean tacos were way too salty. The yummy Korean, spicy sesame oil flavor was definitely there, but was oversalted which was really disappointing because they would have been so delicious. Also thought there might be more add-ons on the taco like kimchi or cilantro & salsa variation, that might have cut the saltiness. I'm never one to pass on a taco, but I couldn't finish these....I was very sad.
The Churros with Hot Chocolate never appeared, so not sure if that was crossed off the menu or just never made it to our table...Our meal ended with a Belgian Beer Float - I'm not big on beer at all, but my companions found it interesting & tasty.

 The general consensus was that dinner definitely had highlights for sure. There was a lot of hard work that went into Wildflower & it showed. But of course with anything new, there were kinks to work out, but for certain, I definitely appreciated being able to dine at a vegan pop-up and am certain there are more in NYC's future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Going to Eataly

I love Italy. I have been to Italy so often, one would have thought that I had Italian roots (far from it, I'm of Asian descent)...I fell in love with the country & it's language. For years, it was a nonstop love affair with Italy from Bellagio & Lake Como to Venice, Florence & Naples. I came back from my first visit & attempted to learn Italian. There was the year that I decided to travel to Ravenna and planned on coming back with a new career as a mosaic artist (still love mosaics, but hate the craft). That was also the year, I studied Italian for two weeks in Siena and still only speak rudimentary Italian enough to get by. There was the time some friends & I rented a seriously haunted villa in Lucca- ghostly piano playing at night & traversing the Tuscan countryside by day....And the time that flights to Rome were so cheap, I convinced my dad to pull my sister out of school so that I could take her...I am years overdue for a trip back to Italy.

In the meantime, I make due & peruse old pictures and of course, head to Eataly- the mega-market/eatery Italian food mecca....

This pic is of Assisi:
As one can see from the sign- Italy is Eataly...
This place is filled with gorgeous produce...

And even a Vegetable Butcher- for the New Yorker who couldn't possibly prep their own veggies....
Bottled Italian water con gas & senza gas & soda galore...
An Italian dessert bar...
Aisles filled with Italian torrone candy (no vegan, but I used to love this stuff)....
Jars of jams & preserved fruits...

Walls of Italian candy in super cute packaging....

Fresh pasta....
Dried pasta for miles...
Pesto & tapenade for days...
Freshly baked bread....
And even a restaurant where they only serve vegetables! (they also have other separately sectioned restaurants for pizza, seafood, meat, etc) Haven't eaten there yet, but there are a few vegan options....
Eataly is 50,000 square feet & stuffed with people & products & sights & smells- most of them not vegan sadly...like the giant ham hocks that hang in the wine & cheese eatery or the live lobster tank in the seafood restaurant...boo, but will be back to check out the veggies for sure.

This was my small stash takeaway- it can be quite overwhelming doing any shopping there- picked up some pasta, Balsamic, chocolate, candy, olives & some antipasti.

The olives were cured with citrus & basil & just tasted bright & yummy:
Sundried tomatoes, artichokes & capers:

And my American-Italian Fcat made the most delicious sauteed garlic with fried, crispy basil- so amazing on crusty bread:
And this was Fcat's Italian masterpiece- the best Italian food is simple & fresh, but big on flavor and this definitely delivered on all. This simple little plate of pasta was simply amazing.
Fcat veganized this recipe here which is adapted from Scott Conant of NYC's Scarpetta.
Viva Italia!
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