Thursday, May 26, 2011

Farm Sanctuary's Gala Event

Have been a busy bee as usual and am a tad late on the Farm Sanctuary Gala update! Two Saturdays ago, I attended the best birthday party ever!!!! Farm Sanctuary turned 25! This amazing non-profit organization has been working hard to rescue & protect farmed animals for twenty-five years strong & growing. Farm Sanctuary has campaigned to educate on the horrors of factory farming, and importantly, they work to push legislation to protect & alleviate the suffering of factory farmed animals. Farm Sanctuary is also a haven for lucky rescues- happy, sweet pigs, cows & goats that get to live out their natural lives running around, playing, cuddling- go visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY or in Orland, CA. This is an organization dear to my heart & I was so thrilled to be at Cipriani Wall Street to celebrate their hard work.

Here's my hero & hero for the animals, Gene Bauer, looking so dapper in his tuxedo! Gene started Farm Sanctuary by selling veggie hot dogs out of the back of his VW van. That VW van! It's been refurbished & ready to take Gene on his Just Eats Cross-Country Tour to explore vegan American eats & to celebrate Farm Sanctuary's 25 years. Yes indeed, bet the folks at Cipriani have never had a VW van highlight the entrance to their grand space.
There were vegan pigs-in-blankets served along the red carpet entrance...
And little pig ice sculpture graced the VIP cocktail area:
Just to give a sense of how grand the space is, take a peek at the ceiling:
The lovely Ashley Lou Smith from the Board of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary bedazzled all with the plastic farm animals in her hair:
Ashley, Marisa Miller-Wolfson of Kind Green Planet & new documentary, Vegucated & me posing with the piglet- yes, did I mention the drinks flowed from 5pm-12am?
Me, Elizabeth from Olsenhaus & two talented designer friends from the West Coast:
Ashley again with better hair shot of plastic animals and Rory Freedman, who authored Skinny Bitch...crazy thing, I haven't seen Rory in over twelve years since we both worked at Ford Models...who knew back then that she would go on to be a vegan rockstar & that I would actually be vegan?!?!
Here's Joshua Katcher from The Discerning Brute & Pinnacle with his boyfriend, James:
Leanne from Vaute Couture & I in ambient dinner lighting...haha.
There were a ton of hor's d'oeuvres being passed that I didn't get pics of because of course, my friends & I were too busy taking pics of ourselves ;) Especially memorable was the phyllo cup with porcini mushrooms, had quite a few.

David Lee of Field Roast Grain Meat Co. worked closely with Chef Paolo Dorigato from Cipriani to create the menu.

First course: Heirloom Tomato, fava beans, romaine salad, crostini with tapenade- yum!
Second course: Ravioli with Field Roast Chao Cheese- extra yummy, though the chickpeas draped on were bland & unnecessary...

Main Course: porcini, shitaki mushroom Field Roast cutlet topped with marinara sauce, side of polenta & asparagus
After the delicious meal, was the award ceremony- so many amazing stories of all Farm Sanctuary has done, as well as inspirational people who advocate for the animals:

Here's David Lee from Field Roast- those blurry cow paintings are Peter Max originals of Maxine the cow, a resident of Farm Sanctuary- those paintings were auctioned at $10,000 a piece- whoo hoo, go Maxine!
Kathy Freston was one of many honored  for her work on behalf of the animals.
Plenty of auction items to bid on!
And the cutest dessert ever from Vegan Treats- there were ducks...
And piggies...
And cows...
Oh my...at this point, I was too stuffed to even try dessert, but Vegan Treats is always da bomb, especially the peanut butter bomb...
Animal Planet was there to film Vegan Treats for their new reality show, think working title is Sweet Avenger- yay for vegans on reality tv!
The party went late into the night...
And us girlies couldn't stop taking pictures because everyone looked so damn cute & well had more than our fair share of drinks...

Yep, that Cipriani clock had struck well-past midnight...
An amazing, wonderful evening celebrating Farm Sanctuary....I was so thrilled to be in the same room with so many inspirational people celebrities & not, all with the same purpose to save farmed animals. When Kathy Freston was asked what she would say if she could talk to the animals, she would tell them- "Hold on, we're coming..."

Brings tears to my eyes. The world will be vegan one day- hope springs eternal.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Seitan Worship

Seitan or wheat gluten is the original meat alternative. Developed by ancient Chinese monks, it is gluten which happens to be high in protein that is extracted from washing flour. Now how did this idea even enter these Buddhist monks' minds, I have no idea. It must have been a divine inspiration from the universe! And I was going to have a whole lot of fun cooking with the divine inspiration that is seitan.

The whole lot of fun took place at Natural Gourmet Institute, last Monday night. Had signed up for The Amazing Seitan Workshop with Peter Berley months ago, and after an interminable wait, was excited to learn with my two best buddies, JK & Leinana from Vegan Good Things . Let the kneading begin!

I had assumed that the class would be more focused on different seitan recipes, rather than actual making seitan from scratch since I had heard how hard & tedious it was. I'm used to easy peasy vital wheat gluten from a box. Hmm, boy was I wrong! Lo and behold, we entered class & giant bowls of flour greeted us. Yep, we were going to make seitan from scratch. We were going to extract that gluten ourselves.

After incorporating water and forming a dough bowl, we had to really work the dough by hand- this was a serious workout. Lots of jokes abound about how seitan making could be a gym class.
After working the dough forever by hand to full incorporate the flour & water, we let it rest and then began the process of washing the dough ball in alternate hot/cold water baths, kneading & washing to extract the actual protein. This took about seven washes of five minutes each, til the dough became stringy and soft. What's interesting is that in a Chinese household, I grew up with seitan- in Chinese it actually translates to Flour Muscle/Tendon. Pretty gross looking- the strand look like muscle for sure, yuck. There it was the extracted protein, ready to be cooked. We placed it into the oven to cook in broth.
What really makes a class of course is the teacher! Peter Berley is an amazing instructor. He taught and entertained us and cooked at the same time, quite the feat!

The class split into teams to make the recipes. Leinana & I chose to make Pan-Seared Seitan Steak with Chimichurri.
Since the seitan took sometime to actually cook, we didn't have the proper time to fully marinate it. So after Leinana risked her limbs to sear the partially marinated seitan on an extremely high flame, we covered it with more sauce.
Not the most beautiful dish, but it was easily my favorite dish and us making it notwithstanding- the chimichurri was really just divine & come on, pan searing is so good!
And other favorite dish of the evening was the Eggplant & Seitan Falafel, made by JK & her partner. The flavors & texture was simply delicious!
 

There were Gluten Puffs with Sweet & Sour Sauce- also tasty, because who doesn't love a deep-fried, light seitan ball?
The Seitan Wrapped Burdock, Leek & Carrot Roll was interesting- the marinade for the burdock was quite tasty,but the texture of the seitan was a little strange for me.
Here's a savory seitan cutlet:
And a Seitan roulade stuffed with veggies:


Braised Chickpea Stew with Seitan Chorizo & Fennel:
 Savory Seitan-Stuffed Summer Squash Provencal- might not look so pretty, but was so flavorful and yum!
Love how everyone takes pics before diving into the food- at this point we were all hungry since it was almost 10pm, but come on, priorities people- pictures first!
Look at my cute BFF, JK:
And look at Leinana & I & Peter Berley & our smothered chimichurri seitan! It's a love fest- pure & simple. Am now a serious Peter Berley fan and have just ordered, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. Can't wait!
 All our collective hard work on a plate:


It was nice to enjoy the delicious fruits of our labor. Am definitely looking forward to another Peter Berley class - tofu making perhaps? Now, am going to be making seitan from scratch on a regular basis? Hell no!! Way too labor intensive when vital wheat gluten seitan taste just as good. But I will certainly be making it for special occasions for sure!
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