Monday, January 31, 2011

Way Too Much Vegan Yum

I love Vietnamese food. I'm part Vietnamese. How and why did it take me this long to discover Lan Cafe in NYC? Can't believe that I have not been indulging in this delicious vegan Vietnamese food for all these years! Well, no one has to tell me more than once...the first time I went to Lan was about a month ago & I have been dreaming about it ever since. So of course, it was a perfect spot for our vegan Asian girls' night dinner (aka the self-styled vegan Asian mafia-hehehe) with Leinana, Leanne & Sara. There is nothing better than delicious vegan eats & good vegan girlfriends for a fun night out!

Excuse the lighting which does the yumminess no justice, also should mention that Lan Cafe is tiny and decor & ambiance is not a reason to go, but the food absolutely is. Here's how it went down:

We started with the BBQ Seitan, which was super delicate & tender and came with a dipping sauce.

The other appetizer was the "not" Shrimp Papaya Salad- shredded green papaya, carrots, cilantro, onion, chili paste, peanuts, lime dressing and "not" shrimp, served with a side of "not" shrimp chips. I can't wait to bring my grandmother back for this one- it's that spot-on delicious.

We split a few entrees since there were so many things that we all wanted to have- that's the beauty of getting together with a few girlfriends- entrees to share! Yay!

Grilled Lemongrass Seitan on rice vermicelli, peanuts, mint- this was good, but the vermicelli a little overdone, but still tasty.
The Baguette w/ "not" ham, carrots, cucumber, cilantro- this is the ultimate Banh Mi, baguette toasted to perfection- so good.
The Pho is divine because of the broth, rice noodles & veggies. The tofu meatballs- not so tasty, but this is the quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup and trust me, it's all good.

What could possibly follow such a yummy meal & some serious girl talk? Why just the best vegan ice cream on the planet, courtesy of Lula's Sweet Apothecary & a whole lot of laughs. This is where I have truly been a bad vegan- this was my very first time to the temple of vegan ice cream goodness. Vegans everywhere shook their heads in disbelief upon hearing my shame. Well, I finally got there and wow, was I kicking myself for missing out on the best vegan ice cream ever.

Yes, Lula's is so good that New Yorkers trek through the mounds of snow & cold to get that creamy goodness. Lula's is teeny tiny, but it was packed with a line out the door. Look at these girls trying to figure out what to get-
This is what was decided- a sundae with strawberry, coffee and caramel graham cracker marshmallow made with Sara's own Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallows-how cool is that (the best vegan marshies out there!), topped with hot fudge, marshmallow sauce & sprinkled with gummy bears- yep, all vegan. Amazing.

So the moral of this post, get a bunch of friends together and share some fun times & yummy eats!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vegan Kimchi Yum!

Yet another snowstorm is hitting NYC as we speak, it's been such a long winter...the best way to counter more snow, slush & cold? The most obvious would be to book the next flight to anywhere in the Caribbean or Mexico but if that's not happening anytime soon, I say- bring the heat to the kitchen & fortify yourself from the cold with some vegan kimchi!
I live for the tangy, spicy fermented Korean veggie goodness that is kimchi. If you've never had kimchi before, it's similar to sauerkraut but even yummier. It's a perfect condiment for all meals year round, but especially if you get those winter blues. The tanginess wakes up your hibernating tastebuds! And did I mention that it's good for you too? Yep, the good bacteria in live cultured foods such as kimchi, boosts the immune system. The fermentation process also boosts the vitamins & minerals of the vegetables being cultured- kimchi being a great source of B12 vitamins. Homemade kimchi is like a fun magic trick that's delicious & nutritious. You can buy kimchi in stores, but many of them are not vegan since they contain anchovies. Honestly, it's so easy & inexpensive & fun to make, it's a perfect snow day activity!

I veganized & modified this recipe:

MAKE AHEAD: The vegetables need to soak in saltwater for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight (I soaked napa for 4.5hrs-it depends on your veggies/cut, thickly cut daikon, should soak longer.) 

Makes about 2 quarts


1/2 cup sea or kosher salt
1 cup warm water
1 medium head Napa cabbage
1 Asian radish (nu or daikon) - (optional, if you don't like daikon, add more cabbage)

6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2-inch piece peeled ginger root, minced (2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoons soy sauce
6 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
Leaves of 1 bunch mustard greens, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)/ (optional)
3 tablespoons coarsely ground Korean chili powder/ you can get this at asian food market
1 teaspoon sugar or agave (option, you can also add 1/2 apple or asian pear, if so cut back on sugar- but it is the sugar/fruit sugar that starts the process, so you do need some kind of sweetener.)


Dissolve the salt in the water in a liquid measuring cup.

Rinse the leaves of the cabbage and cut into 2-inch lengths (12 to 14 cups). Peel the Asian radish (if using) and cut into quarters, then cut into 1/2-inch slices.

Combine the cabbage and radish (if using) in a large bowl and pour the saltwater over them. Soak for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

Drain the soaked vegetables in a colander, squeezing out as much water as possible. Place the vegetables in a large bowl.

Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce in a food processor or blender; process until finely minced. (I just combined everything together with rubber gloves on- don't rub your eyes!)

Add the scallions, mustard greens, garlic-ginger mixture, chili powder and sugar; toss to coat evenly. (If you use your hands, wear food-safe gloves; the chili might sting or stain your hands.) The mixture will have the consistency of a well-dressed salad.

Pack tightly into glass jars or a large food-safe plastic container- glass is preferable. If there's any liquid leftover, pour into jar so that there are no air pockets. Close the lid, but don't make it too tight because as the vegetables ferment, there may be some leakage. Leave the jar/jars out on the kitchen counter, maybe with a towel underneath, in case it leaks. The kimchi will be ready in 2 to 3 days and then it should be stored in the refrigerator. It will grow increasingly pungent as it sits. It is ideal after about 2 weeks and best eaten within a month. 

Once you start getting a feel for making kimchi, you can experiment with different vegetables & fruits!

Not only is kimchi a delicious condiment for Tofurkey sanwiches & such, you can also make an easy Korean savory pancake called bin dae duk with kimchi. I made mine with chickpea flour, maitake mushrooms, scallions & kimchi.

Have I made a convincing argument for kimchi yet? What's your favorite fermented food?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

L.A. Warmth-A Photo Shoot Recap

Baby it's cold outside! As an arctic gulf blasts NYC, it might be more fun to recap the photo shoot that I did out in warm, sunny L.A. early last year.

All the weeks of shoot prep stress & flight where I never sleep is always immediately relieved by heading straight from the airport to Swingers for my tofu chilequiles fix, trust me it's essential. Swingers is THE happy place for omnis & vegans to dine together in a fun setting- how can it not be fun, their tag line is "ass, cash or grass, nobody eats for free!"
After my Swinger's fix is met, it's time to head to the hotel- settle in,  followed by quick pre-production meeting, dinner with clients, make schedule adjustments and run thru everything with my assistant producer and off to bed.

One of the perks of being the producer is that oftentimes, you get a fancy upgraded room since you are booking a whole ton of people on your credit card. Here's my room at The Mondrian in West Hollywood, it had a full on wet bar (my room could have been fab party central- but alas I no longer party like I did back in my twenties)...
The very large, double sink bathroom...
 The living room...with a giant daybed/couch that was great for my Assistant Producer, who's also a good friend, to crash without incurring extra room charges since she was hired as a local.
 A few days after, I switched to a slightly smaller room, since they needed the suite back...
 It was still a great room, with large bathroom as well...
 However, it no less a "party" room, check out the interesting setup of clear glass wall that divides the shower from the bedroom...yes, with that sheer shower curtain- it's a bit peek show, but that shower curtain pulled aside, it's full on nudity. Um, did I mention that this shower is as long as the length of the bed & has two shower heads at either end? Yep, showcase for two & more in the shower & an audience. Let's say that I definitely didn't feel clean after that shower- you know all kinds of nasty, kinky stuff has gone on in there- eww.  
Okay, enough about dirty thoughts shower...had decent call time next day for the pre-light, so it's not that painful waking, but I do need a grande soy latte. Thankfully the hotel is not too far from Starbucks, which is a quick walk, but since no one walks in L.A., definitely felt cars were slowing & people staring/pointing from their cars....

So we booked a gorgeous location in the Hollywood Hills and of course, nothing ever goes smoothly at a shoot. We were met by the house location rep who apologetically said that there were still people in the house but that they were getting ready to leave in a few hours....That's a problem, since we were paying top dollar for the house rental so it should be empty & ready-to-go at the time we agree to. Not only that, these people had a party the night before & were still cleaning up in the kitchen & bags of garbage everywhere. What the f***??????? I was not a happy camper. And on top of it the gym/office area where our celebrity talent was going to be changing and relaxing, was filthy. The room smelled like sweatsock funk & the bathroom was disgusting. Let's just say that nice words were not coming from my mouth, but even then this person was making no real effort to get the people or garbage out, nor clean the bathrooms properly. The house rep was useless, lazy & incompetent and on top of it, I had to pay for her as part of the rental- um, hell no.

Everything was taken care of eventually, but needless to say, this house rep was not coming back for the shoot day & I was not paying her. The crew unloaded & setup all the equipment and everything was falling into place. Despite, the messy location & the owner's super strict rules (um, if you're going to be so strict at least have the decency to have the place scrubbed down every once in a while), it was a gorgeous view!

Here's our stand-in for the celeb on pre-light day- he's obviously a bit smaller than our celeb, but he'll do...
Here's our celeb on shoot yes, LDC is actually pretty tall in person at 6'2 and more handsome in person (I was never a big fan, but now I am!). He was also extremely down-to-earth. Yep, he drove with his assistant in a small Prius while his publicist & agent came in much fancier vehicles- now that's cool.

Was so busy putting out fires, forgot to take a pic of the gorgeous catered setup- I did have time to get a quick bite of this delicious beet salad...

And after all is said & done, shoot wrapped, equipment load out, house restored, I had to get to M Cafe for some restorative macro goodness- this is another of my favorites in L.A. & also great to for my omni boyfriend because macro places also serve fish.

Couldn't wait to bring my goodies back to the hotel & park myself on the couch in front of the tv- Fizzy Lizzy, inari sushi with hijiki & edamame, The Big Macro (think healthy big mac) & side of kale and the yummiest thing ever, M Cafe's "rice krispie" treat.

Ah yes, another day's work, warm weather & good food- life is good. Let's get through this winter by thinking warm thoughts & cozying up with our furball companion animals. Grateful for all that we have, don't forget the more unfortunates ones out in the harsh winter- provide even simple shelter for strays such as a lined cardboard box, or even better- really help the strays by building an easy-peasy shelter.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vegans Gone Gourmet

The James Beard House, bastion of all things foodie & gourmet, held an event last week with restaurant extraordinaire,Candle 79. The event, Enlightened Eaters: Pig Out On Plants Cocktail Party, featured Candle chef, Angel Ramos and special guest, Ironman Triathelete/Vega Founder, Brendan Brazier. The last time The James Beard House invited vegans into their sacred space, it was the chefs of Horizon in Philadelphia, and I had balked at the hundred plus price tag for dinner. Of course, I've always regretted missing out on since I still haven't made it to Horizons. So when this vegan foodie opportunity arose, I was definitely not going to pass it up, (well maybe a brief second my budget doubted the merits of seventy-five buckaroos for three hours of hors d'oeuvres), but attend I did.

It was so worth it. A fortuitous event that combined vegan food and a term not normally synonymous with vegan, "foodies". Yes indeed, the prestigious James Beard House had vegans in the house! I went with my designer friend, Elizabeth of Olsen haus fabulousness and it was a blast. The food was amazing (to note, the food passing didn't come as quickly nor as copiously as I had expected, but then again, I should have been parked closer to the kitchen where all the smart hungry people were...duh.) and there was plenty of delicious wines from Calypso Organic Selections.

Without any further ado, here's the deliciousness that put vegans on the James Beard "foodie" map:
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Crispy Sage- everything about this was pure yum, down to the crispy sage. There was also the Seitan Grille with Chimichurri Sauce which I didn't catch a pic of because I was probably too busy shoving several down my gullet...
Arancini with Wild Mushrooms, Squash & Truffled Cashew Cream- delicately fried on the outside & creamy riceball on the inside, so delicious.
Seitan Cakes with Cashew Creme Fraiche- this was good, but my least favorite, hence the dark pic- (hehe, not really, just a bad pic).

Ravioli with Tofu Cheese, Roasted Tomato Sauce & Cashew Cheese, this was my absolute fave, tasted a slight hint of Thai spin to it- could that have been? Or too much Shiraz? I tasted a hint of lemongrass in the cheese & Sriacha in the sauce- whatever it was, it was true deliciousness!
And the perfect end to the party, Hot Mulled Apple Cider, Phyllo Cups with Cashew Cream with Berries and Miniature Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Ganache- perfect bites.

Not only was it amazing to see vegan food & Candle 79 recognized by a main "foodie" institution, it was a wonderful event to mix with fabulous vegans. I met the glowing, Kris Carr (she's got a new book out, Crazy Sexy Diet- got to get on that!), Gena from Choosing Raw, Linda Long of Great Chefs Cook Vegan & Vegan Hotspot and Victoria Moran.

Look at the happy, smiling vegans: me with Elizabeth and Joy & Bart of the extraordinary Candle restaurants. Behind us is a portrait of James Beard, Bart joked that the last time vegan food was prepared here, he saw a tear roll down Beard's cheek.

The townhouse was filled with cookbooks, but what most of us found interesting was the area that was James Beard's bedroom- an area large enough for just a bed and this was not a man of svelte girth...but the kinky part, um the mirrored area above...just had to share that!
Hopefully, there will many more vegan events like these and hopefully, more of us will be able to attend & support them. Last week was yet another giant step forward for vegan cuisine and that is definitely another step towards the abolition of animal exploitation.

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