Archive for May, 2010

h1

Some Tasty Toronto Treats

May 25, 2010

While I was still in Toronto, I received the excellent recommendation to go to the Urban Herbivore in Kensington Market and check out some of their many fine baked goods. I had to restrain myself to purchasing only two of the tantalizing options they had on display that day, but the two I chose were thankfully completely satisfying.

My first treat was a Sweet Potato & Date Muffin, the baked good that I was specifically recommended to try. But even if I hadn’t been, I think I would’ve naturally gravitated toward this amazing little muffin anyway. The photo almost speaks for itself: a massive top, a crispy crust, and two of my favorite things inside. Happily, the taste of this muffin met all my expectations. Two big thumbs up, Urban Herbivore!

My second treat was what they called a “Gorilla Bar”—a mashing together of tons of good things, such as raisins, oats, various seeds, and lots of other things I can no longer remember. Although I didn’t like this bar nearly as much as my muffin, I definitely appreciated its unconventionality. Until other snack bars, this Gorilla Bar was not at all sweet and very very wholesome. Also, it held together remarkably well for what little was in it.

So Urban Herbivore definitely rates high from my brief drop-in, and I am already hankering to go back (maybe when I return to T.O. next month?!). But for now, I will just exhort all you Torontonian readers to go and give Urban Herbivore some business. You won’t regret it, and they’ll surely appreciate it.

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Enjoying Other People’s Food

May 23, 2010

Dear everybody,

One night while I was back in Toronto, I had the pleasure of enjoying a big meal with some friends, an event that has been happening every two months or so. It’s always a great time involving lots of tasty food, and this dinner was no exception. Here was the amazing spread I got to gorge on.

The night started off with some tasty appetizers, such as this deliciously fresh guacamole. I love love love avocados, but rarely make guacamole for myself, reserving my avos for salad use instead. However, avocados are excellent in guac form as well, and I heartily enjoyed lots of this tasty dip.

There was also a massive platter of crostini with roasted red peppers, onion, and garlic. Although this looks like a huge amount of bread (and from what I remember, there was plenty more still waiting in the kitchen), our party quickly devoured these tasty little starters.

The meal’s first course was salad, featuring watercress, broccoli, quinoa, zucchini, and some seeds and dried fruit as toppings. I make lots of salads for myself (I think this was my second salad of the day), and I always enjoy trying the salads other people make. The combination of veggies on this plate was really good, and quinoa just makes everything better.

The main (vegetarian) course was roasted vegetables in some sort of mandarin orange sauce (sorry I don’t remember more exactly what it was). What I do remember was that it was delicious, and it worked very well with the assortment of veggies on the plate.

My contribution to the night’s meal was a batch of Lemon Poppyseed Crackle Cookies, probably my favorite cookie recipes from Dreena Burton’s treasure trove of vegan cookie recipes, Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Although I intended these to be a dessert course, the majority of them were already gone by the time dessert rolled around! If you haven’t tried these irresistible cookies yourself yet, you absolutely must.

Finally, the in-house dessert was an interesting plate of pear, walnuts, and goat cheese in a balsamic vinegar dressing. This was a wonderful and unconventional dessert, not at all sweet but nonetheless very satisfying as an end to our wonderful meal. Best of all, our host found the recipe in a cookbook for pregnant women that he was flipping through at a bookstore earlier that day. I don’t know what exactly makes this a preggers-friendly recipe, but I definitely think its appeal outstrips its intended audience: this is a dessert anyone can enjoy.

And that was the end of our lovely meal. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Gumborritos

May 18, 2010

Helloooo readers!

So Caitlin and I are now back in New York City, where we’ll be spending the bulk of the summer together. But for the moment, I’m still in the process of getting around to all the blog posts I’ve been accumulating from my last few weeks in Toronto. Eventually I’ll catch up, I swear.

All belatedness aside, today I have a very special kitchen creation to share with you all: Gumborritos! If the etymology doesn’t make it clear enough, these are a cross between gumbo and burritos—specifically, burritos with a gumbo filling. I’m proud to say that I came up with this mash-up idea all by myself, and from what I can tell from some quick Googling, I may just be the first one to do so. At the very least, I’m the first one to come up with the name “Gumborrito”, and that’s good enough for me.

Okay, but coming up with a tasty dinner idea is one thing—actually making it into a tasty reality is quite another. My basic tack was to find a solid gumbo recipe and then mix that with some buckwheat groats to form my burrito filling. For my gumbo, I turned to Susan V. at Fat Free Vegan, whose Southern credentials I knew would provide me with an excellent soup. I chose her recipe for Sweet Potato, Okra, & Chickpea Gumbo, and let me tell you—this made for one BIG pot of gumbo.

Seriously, I filled the biggest pot in my house right to brim with vegetables, beans, vegetables, broth, and vegetables. Here it is close up:

That’s not very clear, so here is a spoonful close up:

If these pictures don’t make it obvious enough, this gumbo was delicious. Which was good, since I still had lots leftover after I made my burritos, which I heartily enjoyed on its own. But back to the burritos. As I said, all I did was mix some of the gumbo with buckwheat and then plopped some of that down into a tortilla, topped with some Sriracha chili sauce:

Then I just folded it up, fried it a bit, and dug in! Here is the final product, sliced open:

So how did my gumborritos end up? Well, they were certainly very tasty, but the filling was a little too mushy and formless to really work as a burrito. Maybe that’s why no one has ever tried this before. But with a little tweaking, I’m confident that a quality gumborrito can be made. And for a first step, this was a good dinner!

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Tso Good

May 10, 2010

Hi everybody!

When I got back to Toronto from NYC, for some reason I was in the mood for General Tso’s. I really can’t explain my craving. It’d been years since I last had it, and it’s not even particularly my favorite Chinese dish. But that’s how cravings are sometimes. However, I wasn’t about to go to some cheap Chinese restaurant to fulfill my yen—rather, I used my sudden craving as an excuse to try to recreate the dish at home!

As I poked around the internet for a tasty (and vegan) General Tso’s recipe, I was a little bewildered by the great variety of recipes I was finding. As I soon gathered, there seems to be no general formula for General Tso’s, beyond “a sweet-and-spicy sauce”. Some of the recipes I found called for Asian ingredients I’d never heard of, and others just seemed too complicated. Eventually I found an easy, straightforward recipe here—I was excited to try it out as a new vegetable bowl (or, rather, vegetable plate) topping!

In the end, the recipe was even easier to make than I thought it’d be, and quick too. However, I’m not sure it exactly captured the true General Tso’s flavor. For one thing, it was way spicy, which I admittedly should’ve expected, since the recipe called for 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes. In addition, this sauce was not very sweet, and so the spicy flavors definitely dominated. So I didn’t end up with a real General Tso’s dish. That being said, it was still good, and I liked finding a new quick and simple sauce for vegetables, and I will definitely consider making this sauce again—or rather, some variation on it—again in the future!

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Restaurant Review: Life Cafe

May 9, 2010

Hello readers!

After leaving Jacksonville, I stopped in NYC for a day to briefly reunite with Caitlin on my way back to Toronto. During my short visit, we decided to go out to lunch at a local place we’ve been meaning to try for a while: Life Cafe in Brooklyn. Here’s how our meal went…

As we first entered the restaurant, I was surprised to see that the atmosphere of Life Cafe was definitely not one of a cafe, but rather one of a bar. A little misleading, given the restaurant’s name, and a little disappointing, given our intention to stay there after our meal to do the New York Times crossword, since we could now see that this was not the place to do that. Anyway, we still had the food to look forward to at least. Or so we thought.

My choice was the Life Veggie Burger with an add-on of guacamole. I always appreciate when a kitchen offers an in-house veggie burger, and Life Cafe’s was a nice mix of vegetables, brown rice, black beans, and soy. The addition of the guacamole was definitely a good choice, and the whole wheat pita it was served in was an interesting twist. Overall, though, I’d rate this burger as fair: not bad in any way, but nothing particularly special either. In addition, the side of fries it came with was very disappointing in my opinion—and I’m not the kind of person to take a lousy side of fries lightly.

Caitlin’s choice was the Eggless Rancheros, Life Cafe’s vegan twist on Huevos Rancheros. It consisted of sauteed tofu, corn, onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro over some tortillas, topped with soy cheese and served with brown rice and black beans on the side. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of this dish. The soy cheese was not any good in my opinion (and this is not because I’m flatly against soy cheese—there are some I like and some I don’t, and this was definitely one of the kinds I don’t), and the rest of the plate was just average, and tasted more like a hodgepodge of things thrown together rather than one cohesive dish. As Caitlin noted, this was probably something she could make at home, only better, and that’s definitely not the sort of experience one wants when eating out.

So all in all, Life Cafe gets low marks in my book, and will likely not be getting a repeat visit from either of us any time soon. Although we appreciate finding nearby Brooklyn restaurants with vegetarian friendly menus, this is not an unconditional appreciation. If you’re looking for a place to grab a nice vegetarian lunch and perhaps spend some of your afternoon, I’d suggest avoiding Life Cafe—and check out Little Skips instead.

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Restaurant Review: The Present Moment Cafe

May 7, 2010

Today I bring you a restaurant review from the last day of my visit to Jacksonville, Florida. However, I will not be reviewing a Jacksonville restaurant. This is because Jacksonville is a desolate wasteland as far as vegetarian—or even vegetarian friendly—restaurants go. So, for my last day down south, (Jacksonville) Caitlin and I went to nearby St. Augustine, to a little place I found called The Present Moment Cafe.

Although you wouldn’t know it from their website or storefront, The Present Moment is a 100% raw, 100% vegan (and I believe 100% organic) restaurant (actually, I shouldn’t vouch for these “100%”s; there may be a few select items on their menu that don’t fit the bill, but I can confidently say that they’re at least 90% those things). The space is cute and cozy, easily working as both a nice cafe to go to spend one’s afternoon and a casual restaurant to enjoy one’s evening. But I know that what you’re really here for is the food. So let me give you the lowdown (and apologies for the darkness of the photos).

We started off with an appetizer plate: Holy Guacamole & Salsa, served with dehydrated corn tortilla chips. The guacamole was indeed divine, the salsa was good, and the chips were excellent. The biggest downside to this plate was the fact that they only gave us 6 chips. Now I know that dehydrated chips don’t come cheap, so a plateful of chips was out of the question, but there was definitely more dip than there was chip to dip it with, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to have provided us with some other dippers (vegetables, for example). As things were, we ended up just eating the remaining guac with our spoons (which was, of course, still absolutely delicious).

This is the Present Moment Salad, (Jacksonville) Caitlin’s entree. It normally consists of avocado, red pepper, tomato, onion, sprouts, and citrus dressing, but (Jacksonville) Caitlin had them hold some of that off. I didn’t try this, but judging from the ingredients, it seemed like a pretty tasty salad, and very reasonably priced at $7.

This was my entree: Portabella Croquettes with Zucchini Pasta & Caesar Salad. What a plate! I chose this mostly for the croquettes, which were very very good, but to my disappointment smaller than golf balls and only two in number. The Caesar Salad, though, was surprisingly good and plentiful. And the Zucchini Pasta, served with marinara sauce, was satisfying, but eerily similar to Gena’s Zucchini Marinara, which I’ve made for myself before, and so not as exciting.

Last but not least, I got myself one of their smoothies, the “Universe Drink”, which consisted of cacao, goji berry, maca, and banana. It tasted mostly like cacao, though, and I wasn’t that impressed with this in the end.

Overall, though, The Present Moment Cafe scores well on both taste and atmosphere in my opinion. Despite the drawbacks I’ve mentioned, the menu is varied enough that I would definitely want to come back if I were in the area. Even more so, in fact, since this is certainly the only restaurant of its kind in probably 100 miles. In addition, I think the menu was generally cheaper than other raw restaurants I’ve been to, which is always nice.

That being said, I would like in closing to draw attention to what was definitely the biggest downside to our dining experience: the service. Granted, it was late on a Tuesday evening (not exactly prime time for business) and so there was only one server working, but she was just barely doing so. From flirting instead of waiting on our table (or any of the several other diners), to forgetting my drink order (though she did give it to me on the house), our waiter made our night a much less pleasant experience. Thankfully, the food sort of made up for it, but I can only hope that if you go to The Present Moment Cafe, someone else is working that night. Someone more, should we say, “in the moment”.

Until we eat again,

Willie

h1

Jacksonville, pt. 2: Desserts!

May 6, 2010

Hello friends!

For the second installment in my Jacksonville travel (b)log series, I’m dedicating this entire post to all the lovely desserts I ate while in Florida. My two friends (whom I was visiting, in case you don’t remember) are fantastic bakers, and put their kitchen skills to work to create delicious dessert after delicious dessert.

The first dessert was awaiting me upon my arrival in Jacksonville, being made beforehand by (Jacksonville) Caitlin:

That’s Blueberry Crisp, folks, made from local Florida blueberries! This was fantastic, and that’s coming from me—someone who does not consider himself a berry person by any means.

The second dessert of my visit was something I had in fact tried before, but definitely delicious enough to eat again (and again and again):

That’s Carrot Cake with Maple Icing, à la Happy Herbivore’s stupendous recipe! This wonderful treat was made my friend Ellie, who is a baking powerhouse (she also made me some vegan cookies, which I somehow neglected to photograph—and by ‘neglected’ I mean ‘instantly devoured before the thought of taking a picture crossed my mind’). When Caitlin made me this earlier this year, we had them in cupcake form, but it turns out that the recipe works just as well as a cake!

The final dessert of my trip was another delicious treat from (Jacksonville) Caitlin:

These are Supernatural Brownies, courtesy this recipe from the New York Times, of all places. These were super rich and super super good. I really could not get enough of them.

So with so many amazing dessert options, how did I choose between them, you ask? I didn’t:

I love vacation. Thanks again to (Jacksonville) Caitlin and Ellie for making my tummy very very happy all week.

Until we eat again,

Willie

%d bloggers like this: