Monday, January 31, 2011

More Fun Home Stuff: Vegan Cannolo!

Quick note on what I prepared for dessert for some guests recently: Vegan Cannoli:
Pictured here is a cannolo - according to Wikipedia, font of all knowledge, the word "cannoli" is plural of the word "cannolo".

To make the shells, I needed a pizzelle iron, which I easily found on eBay. You'd be amazed how fierce the bidding wars get for something as obscure as a pizzelle iron.

The recipe came from the blog Conscious Kitchen, but it seems to have disappeared. Shame, really - was a great site and blogger Emilie had lots of pictures of her amazing cannoli creations that make you ask "Damn, that's vegan?" I hope for a speedy return of the blog.

As a community service, I will repost her brilliant recipe for the shells here - these are her words:

Traditional-Style Vegan Pizzelle (to be formed into cannolo shells)

*1/2 cup unsweetened soy yogurt
*3/4 cup cane sugar
*3/4 all purpose flour
*1/2 cup mild-tasting oil or margarine, melted and returned to room temperature
*1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*1 1/2 teaspoon toasted green anise seed, ground

With a stand mixer or handheld, beat the soy yogurt and sugar together until well incorporated. Add the oil (or melted and cooled margarine) and vanilla, mix well. Sift flour and baking soda together and mix with the ground anise seed into the yogurt mixture. The resulting batter will be very thick, but will spread out on the iron when pressure and heat is applied. Follow instructions to bake on your pizzelle iron.

*My note: remove the pizzelle quickly from the iron and roll them on the cannoli form before they harden. They will harden on their own. Cannoli forms are simply metal tubes for the purpose of rolling the pizzelle to shape the cannoli shells.

For the filling, I put a pound of tofu, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and some maraschino cherries in a food processor. Then put the mixture in a pastry gun and filled the shells, sprinkling with fair trade semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Local to Me: Thai X-ing

Note: click on an image to see it full-size

Thia X-ing (click for their website)
515 Florida Ave. NW Washington DC 20001 (click for a map)
(very close to the U Street corridor)

Phone: (202)332-4322

Thai X-ing is one of those well guarded DC local secrets. I've been by it dozens of times not even noticing the place. It wasn't until I heard about on our local NPR station when a guest on the Kojo Namdi Show was raving about it. It I learned that it was not actually called "Thai Xing" or "Thai X Ing", it's Thai Crossing. Silly me.

The place is known for being the most authentic Thai you can find on this side of the planet. Plus, Chef Taw prepares everything fresh, thus they need to know days in advance what you want. Call ahead days in advance for carryout and a week in advance for dining in. The place is tiny. I'd say it's like eating in someone's living room, but it is eating in someone's living room.

We were seated at a very short table in the corner, and I had to lean over the table every time someone wanted by. Marya had to chase a cat off of her seat. Yes, they have a cat walking around mingling with the diners.

The place doesn't serve alcohol. You can get water, tea, or coconut water there. However, you can bring your own hooch. The table of 6 behind us brought in 4 or more bottles of wine, plus a 12 pack of beer. I want to party with them.

They have many vegetarian options on their menu, and I'm sure they can all be made vegan. Sundays they are all vegetarian, which is when we went. For a $30 prix fixe tasting menu, it's quite a good deal.

First thing we had was...I believe, the Tom Yum soup. I asked what it was, but could not quite make out the response. Yes, there's soup among all that cilantro.
It was a bit more vinegary than I like, but overall, okay. And not nearly enough cilantro.

Next was perhaps the best dish of the night: Pumpkin Curry.
An amazing blend of spices that combined nicely with the pumpkin made this a favorite of the evening. It came with white rice that was topped with barley.

And the other best dish of the night. Again, couldn't make it out what our waitress called it, but I believe it was their Pad King.
It has heavy on the ginger, which I liked.

Next came the Drunken Noodle. This is my go-to dish in most Thai places, so it was a good opportunity to compare. This one was a tiny bit better than most, but now that I think of it, this normally spicy dish seemed bland compared to the previous two dishes.
We got about 1/2 way through the dish when Marya said, "I think it's got egg in it." At which point, I flagged the waitress down, who confirmed that it did, indeed, have egg in it.

Here's the thing on that - when I called to make a reservation, I left a message stating that we're vegan. When I got a call-back to confirm, they never asked what our dietary restrictions are, so I was assuming they understood. Plus I figured, if it's Asian and vegetarian, what could they add to make it not vegan? I forgot about eggs. Also, it's possible they couldn't make out what I said on the message because I've dropped my cell phone way too many times and I've gotten complaints that I'm more difficult to understand than usual. Any rate, we were forced to abandon this dish. Lesson learned: make damned sure they understand you're vegan.

For dessert we had this sweet sticky rice with mango in coconut milk. They threw in some more pumpkin, which was a nice addition.

We enjoyed our visit and look forward to going back. But next time I will make sure I have verbal verification that they understand we're vegan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Miami Beach - The Bad Experiences Just Kept Coming

Note: click on an image to see it full size

Okay, I've been dreading writing this bit on Miami Beach. I don't like to be so negative. But we had issues at every turn.

First it started with Larios, right on Ocean Drive. I really wanted some Cuban food, and this Gloria Estefan owned place was a convenient choice. Of course, normally I'd mention the website, address, and phone number. But there's no point - read on.

Their mojitos were fantastic.
I loved chewing on the sugar cane that came in the drinks. Mine was the watermelon mojito in the foreground.

Now, our waiter at Larios assured us that the black beans were vegetarian. It seemed among the few items on the list we could actually eat.
But, alas, half-way through it, Marya discovered bacon in it. Not good. Way not good.

This cassava was fantastic, and hopefully vegan:
But who can say for sure that it is vegan? Surely not our waiter.

Next stop was Escopazzo:

  • Escopazzo
  • 1311 Washington Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Phone: (305) 674-9450

    Escopazzo, an Italian restaurant, is quite vegan friendly. If you go to their website, you'll notice they even have a separate raw vegan menu with entrees priced roughly 30% less than their cooked counterparts. This is rare because usually raw prepared dishes are expensive, and this was a rather expensive restaurant to begin with.

    Here's the weird thing about this place - when we were there, the waiter couldn't provide us with the vegan menu. He said that it wasn't formatted properly. Of course, we didn't care how the thing looked, we just wanted to know what our options were. Instead, our only choices were what vegan options the waiter could commit to memory.

    I ordered the one thing the waiter could remember from the raw menu, this vegetable lasagna:
    Eggplant and zucchini wrapped around pesto and pine nut ricotta. It was fantastic.

    It was remarkably cold when we were in Miami. Marya, usually one to gravitate to raw dishes given the chance, went for this warm pasta with vegetables:
    I sampled it, and it, too was very good. Not sure it was worth the $26, though.

  • The Big Pink
  • 157 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Phone: (305) 532-4700

  • We liked this place. It's like a diner, only with beer taps at the counter. They had a few vegan options on their rather large menu, and it was conveniently located just around the corner from our hostel. We stopped in for a quick bite, and Marya got these Chinese Mushroom Kebabs. Chinese - no chance of dairy in that, right?
    She lifted the kebabs to discover they were sitting in a pool of some sort of cream sauce. "Brilliant!" we thought. The overwhelming majority of Asians are lactose intolerant.

    Our last stop was at the Lido Restaurant and Bayside Grill.

  • Lido at the Standard Spa
  • 40 Island Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Phone: (305) 673-1717

    This place provided us with the oddest experience on our journey to Miami Beach. We made a reservation for 7:00PM. When we arrived, we learned that our reservation had been lost, or perhaps canceled, because it started to rain - they had to move the guests sitting outside to the indoor dining room, thus, no room for us, thus, we got screwed. They seemed unremorseful about the situation. After expressing some serious anger, they found us a cozy lounge table near the bar, with promises that someone from the wait staff would be by soon to take our orders. After a very long wait, we decided to order directly from the bartender, who didn't exactly have the sunniest of dispositions.

    When our food finally came, without prompting, the person who brought our food explained that everything gets delayed when it rains. The kitchen, located outside, had to close up shop and move to the indoor kitchen. For one, the outdoor kitchen was covered. For two, it was hardly a rain - more like a slight mist. For three, it didn't explain why we never saw a waiter.

    At least the food was very good. It knocked my rage down to "very miffed".

    We had this fried platter w/ salad to share - it had battered tofu, fried chick peas, french fries, and fried artichoke (I think), with a lovely vegan dipping sauce.

    Marya got this lovely marinated tofu with quinoa:

    And I got the Living “Lasagna” Vegetable Terrine - again with the raw lasagna. It had sliced zucchini, cashew cheese, raw tomato sauce, and nut/vegetable "sausage".

    Even though The Standard Hotel that houses Lido is a new-agey health spa/resort, Lido isn't vegan, just very vegan friendly.

    So, there you have it. You can get vegan food in Miami Beach. But they'll serve it to you with a swift kick in the nads.
  • Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Miami: Coconut Grove Farmers Market

    Note: please click on an image to see it full size

  • Glaser Organic Farms Farmers Market
  • 3300 Grand Avenue
    Coconut Groove, FL 33133
  • When: Saturday from 10:30AM - 7:30FM

  • Though we found Miami Beach to be rather un-vegan friendly (more on this soon), there is this awesome organic farmers market in Coconut Grove that is mostly vegan and very raw friendly - who'd guess? I say mostly vegan because they do sell eggs and honey. Oh, and I should add that most farmers' markets are vegan and raw friendly, too, seeing as they mostly sell vegetables and fruits. But this one is vegan friendly in a different way. Read on to see what I mean

    It appears they source some of there items from other farms and some of the fruit and all most if all of the spices they sell, too are from external sources. So it isn't completely what I've come to know as a local farm market in DC, but this place is amazing in its own right.

    In addition to many of the typical farmers market fruits and vegetables, they have many prepared raw foods cooked...made in their own kitchen.

    We had fun browsing through all they had, including these sprouted nut cheese spreads and patés:

    And this bin of sprouted green pea or red pepper hummus, and sprouted sunflower "Mock Tuna":

    They have some unique prepared raw delicacies such as these dehydrated plum tomatoes stuffed with an herb cashew paté:

    We wished we could have taken some of these pickled vegetables home, particularly the brussel sprouts:

    And here's a list of some other things they make on the spot - vegan raw sushi, tacos, and pizza:

    And some lovely raw desserts:
    The guy behind the counter carved out the center flower of this beautiful raw cake to serve to a young girl. It was a sweet moment, though the flower was as big as her head.

    They also have raw ice cream - made from nut milks and coconut water and sweetened with dates and agave nectar. The chocolate ice creams (not pictured) have fair trade!raw cacao

    We just had to try it.
    It's just like regular old ice cream, perhaps a bit better, and a hell of a lot better for you.

    The next day we had some of the mock tuna on the bagels we got at our hostel. We picked up some brazil nut milk for coffee, not realizing how incredibly sweet it would be. Had we read the ingredients, we would have seen that it contained dates and agave nectar.
    It was quite tasty, just not good coffee creamer.

    We knew about this place long before we came here, but I surely had no idea we'd be visiting such an amazing raw/vegan farmers market. Go visit their online store to see all the goodies they have!