Monday, June 30, 2008
I love my visits to Northern Virginia, because they give me a chance to sample some of the many great vegetarian and vegan restaurants there. (See these two previous posts.) On this latest visit, Daiku, my mom, and I got to visit perhaps the best-known of them all: Sticky Fingers. I don't know why I'd never been here before, because it was definitely worth the visit.
Somehow, even though we were faced with this amazing array of sweets, including a huge selection of cakes and cupcakes, Daiku and I opted to go with savory options. You can see from the below photo that we had a lot to choose from:
(Yes, those red tubes you see are Teese!)
Daiku went with the tempeh chicken salad sandwich. The filling was very flavorful, and punctuated with little bits of red onion and raisins.
I decided to treat myself to a veggie dog. When they asked if I wanted that topped with chili and cheese, I had to go for it. And the result was yummy! Even though it looks really decadent, the chili-cheese dog is a nice, edible portion of hot-doggy goodness, and very affordable too.
My mom was the only one who went for dessert- along with her coffee, she ordered the oat square.
Even though it looked really plain compared to the flamboyant cupcakes and sticky buns in the display case, the oat square was delicious and was definitely an excellent choice. It was not too sweet, and had a pleasant chewy texture with a tasty creme filling. Yum! We had to take some coffee and desserts to go with us.
Sticky Fingers was very crowded and filled with groups of friends hanging out and sharing good food. They also had plenty of take-out options- I wish I worked around there so I could have lunch here every day! I can definitely see myself going back there on future visits, laptop in hand to take advantage of the wi-fi and coffee refills on offer.
Our stay was otherwise very low-key, we enjoyed a lot of home-made meals. However, one thing stood out at my mom's house, that I just had to document and share with you. My mom had picked up some vegan ice creams in anticipation of our visit. My aunt also brought some over during one of her visits. I also found a stash of ice creams on sale at the local Whole Foods. The result? Kind of ridiculous, but also kind of fabulous:
From top to bottom: Sharon's coconut sorbet, Purely Decadent chunky mint madness, Temptation peach cobbler, Sharon's lemon sorbet, and Trader Joe's cherry chocolate chip. It seems like overkill, but when you combine a big family and a very hot summer, we had no problem working our way through these. I was grateful, as always, to have such a thoughtful (if sometimes over-the-top) family!
Sticky Fingers Bakery
1370 Park Road NW
Washington D.C. 20010
Phone: (202) 299-9700
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Hello blogland! As you've probably realized, I'm just not very good at blogging on the road. However, Daiku and I will finally be back home in Syracuse tomorrow after a month away, and I promise to update you all then. In the coming days, you can expect posts on vegan eats and travel in the following locales:
- Washington D.C.
- St. Louis
- Kansas City
- The U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John and St. Thomas)
- The vegan dessert class I took yesterday with Fran Costigan at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City
Thursday, June 12, 2008
image courtesy of: http://trackingtj.typepad.com/
Ok, I promised the recipe for chocolate-mint crumb topping, and here it is! Well, actually, it's not so much a recipe as a bit of a long story. You see, I don't love the creme filling of creme-filled cookies. Those commercials showing people licking their oreos? Yuck! Meanwhile, I love the cookies themselves. Especially cool flavors such as Trader Joe's candy cane Joe-Joe's. I was lucky to be around their stores back during the holidays when these limited-edition cookies came out, and stocked up on a few boxes. I love the flavor, but as usual, not so much the filling. But I felt wasteful when I would scrape it out and throw it away, so a new solution was born. I'd scrape the filling into a covered refrigerated dish. After a few cookies, there was enough leftover filling to experiment with! I notice that most crumb recipes are a mixture of fat, sweetener, and flour. I thought, we already have the fat and sweetener covered here, so I just added some cocoa powder and voilà! A very intense minty and chocolate-y crumb was born! However, I was stumped as to how exactly to convey that without saying "hi! I'm a crazy person who keeps cookie filling in a jar in the fridge! I'm cookoo for cocoa puffs!" But I realize that you don't have to do all that- just combine some shortening, some sugar, a drop or two of peppermint extract, and some cocoa powder, mixing with a fork until you get a rough crumb. Then, sprinkle the mixture on top of your cake or cupcake batter before sticking it in the oven- it can't get any easier than that!
Ok, you are probably thinking that that is enough crazy for one post, right? Wrong! I got one more crazy tip up my sleeve. All of my cake pans (2 rounds and one spring-form) are 9 inch ones. I have often heard that a cupcake recipe is enough to make one round layer of cake (with a higher baking time). However, whenever I made cakes, my layers came out very thin and disappointing. So I thought to myself, what would happen if I multiplied a cupcake recipe by 1.5? With some encouragement from the PPK, I proceeded. My nightmare was that this would be too much batter and that the cake would be under-cooked, or sink in the middle, or have too much baking powder, or some other mishap. However, this did not happen.
What did happen? I present you, THE BEST cake I have ever baked:
I used the marble cake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, multiplied every ingredient by 1.5, and baked it in my 9 inch spring-form pan for about 45 minutes. The results were beautiful, perfectly textured, and wonderful-tasting. Look how thick that cake is! In fact, I thought it was too pretty to frost (I love how the marble pattern resembles the marks on a cow!) so I just topped with with some organic strawberries. Since then, I've tried the 1.5 rule with another cupcake recipe, with similarly pleasing results.
In conclusion, mint crumb topping can be yours even without a stash of Joe-Joe's, and if like me, you don't have any 8 inch or smaller cake pans, fear not! 1 (cupcake recipe) x 1.5 x 9" pan x 45 minutes baking time = perfection!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
**warning** extremely picture-heavy post! (I'll keep my words and descriptions very brief)
Daiku and I got to spend Memorial Day Weekend in New York City. Here is what we did:
we marveled at super-expensive gas prices in the Bronx
I found myself stuck in midtown (horrors! I try to avoid ever being there...) during an appointment that Daiku had. Fortunately, there was the Turkish parade to keep me entertained.
here's the view from one of my favorite gallery buildings in town. I was lucky that even though it was a holiday weekend, some galleries were open. If you're ever stuck in mid-town Manhattan and want a respite from the tourists, business people, and ritzy stores, go to the gallery building at 24 west 57th street. Then, just ride the elevator to each floor, there are at least 1 or 2 art galleries on every (public) floor. One of my favorites, the Galerie St. Etienne (specializing in German Expressionist art among other things)is there.
stopped into Sacred Chow for some beet-apple-cucumber-ginger juice for me
and a meatball and vegan cheese hero for Daiku.
saw some cool graffiti
helped my friend Tony celebrate his 30th birthday with the help of some lychee martinis (yum!) - sorry no pictures of the camera-shy birthday boy!
saluted Lenin (he saluted back!)
tried some awesome raw nori snacks that our friend Dorota introduced us to (seriously addictive- I want to figure out how to make these at home!)
baked some chocolate-chocolate-peppermint birthday cupcakes (I promise to share the recipe for the chocolate-mint streusel soon!)
hung out in our old 'hood in Queens
where we found out our old block (the top apartment is where Daiku and I used to live) has been renamed after our then-landlord ("the king of Long Island City") (!!!)
went to Red Bamboo for a huge PPK meet-up in Brooklyn (including meeting Jess of Get Sconed! yay! pssst- she's the girl with the pink hair hiding behind the menu in the above photo...)
the only food I got to photograph before the sun went down were these collard green rolls and buffalo wings, unfortunately.
aaaaaaand, dressed Dorota's kitty Willis in this awesome skull cap that we found. He seems to like it, no?
The weekend was a blast, filled with friends old and new, celebrations, good food, cute cats, and a chance to visit 4 out of 5 NY boroughs. (I've never been to Staten Island). This was one of our first really good-weather weekends, and Daiku and I enjoyed walking, talking, and laughing a lot. I hope you enjoyed the photos!
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Greetings from Kansas City! I have had a serious internet and blogging withdrawal for the last week. As Daiku and I were visiting my family in northern Virginia and then his family in St. Louis, blogging and blog-hopping were not always doable. But now I'm in Kansas City, in a hotel with wi-fi, and loads of free time on my hands, so expect to hear a lot from me this week as I go back in time to catch you guys up! In this post, I have a restaurant review, a product review, and even a bloggy meet-up, so hopefully it will make up for my recent absence.
First up, a review of Strong Hearts Cafe, the newest addition to Syracuse's vegan dining scene. We all anticipated its late May opening date, and Bridget, Trac, Daiku and I went there for lunch the day after it opened. We all understandably had high expectations- it's not every day that a 100% vegan restaurant opens in our back yard!
The food menu (you can click on the above photo to enlarge it) promised to be exciting, but I was there for one thing and one thing only - milkshakes! When is the last time you had a vegan milkshake? Too long for me! Strong Hearts has an extensive milkshake menu, each named after a particular hero.
After much hand-wringing and deliberation, I decided on the Malcolm X- a chocolate and cherry concoction. As you can see, it was huge! And very delicious.
Unfortunately, I was the only one in our group who was fully satisfied. A lot of menu items were not available. Here's Trac's chickpea salad sandwich. She thought it tasted ok, but better presentation (say some garnish, a pickle, or some chips to liven up the plate) would have improved it.
Service was also really slow. Bridget was on her lunch break, and did not expect to have to wait over 30 minutes for her order. When they arrived, she reported that her BLT and pasta salad could have used a lot more flavor.
Daiku agreed about his BLT- in fact, this entire sandwich only had one strip of bacon inside!
But, I didn't want to leave it at this. This cafe has so much promise, that we all agreed that the food and service must have had an off day, because some wrinkles needed to be ironed out so close to the grand opening. I promised myself I would go back to give Strong Hearts a second chance.
That second chance came a week later with a wonderful opportunity. The lovely Vegetalion was visiting Upstate NY and we got to plan a meet-up in Syracuse! Naturally, we decided to go to Strong Hearts. Here she is with her milkshake- a chocolate peanut butter concoction (I forgot which hero it was named after, though! John Brown?)
And here I am with my "Tiananmen Square Guy" (green tea) milkshake. We both loved our shakes.
The food was a vast improvement, too! Here is Vegetalion's chickpea salad sandwich- served on more substantial bread and with more filling this time.
And here's my chicken caesar salad. The vegan chicken strips were quite tasty, better than a lot of meat served at other vegetarian restaurants. And the dressing, a tangy Asian twist on caesar dressing, was heavenly. It was also such a blast to meet up with Vegetalion and get to know the person behind the blog!
Yay for happy endings! I love that Strong Hearts exists just a short bike ride from my home, and I can't wait to go back and try their breakfast menu. The owners are also extremely nice and responsive. I wrote them with an ingredient question and they wrote back quickly and answered my questions. This is the type of place that I am very happy to support. Their milkshakes drew me in, and I will not rest until I've tried all the flavors! (that could take a while- see for yourself by checking out their menu!)
Strong Hearts Cafe
719 E Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
Phone: (315) 478 - 0000
Fax: (315) 478-0001
Next, a product review. Like a lot of you in blogland, I recently received a shipment of ProBars to sample. Daiku and I were excited to see this beautiful assortment of whole food bars- no soy protein isolate in these! We got to taste 5 flavors: maple pecan, cocoa pistachio, kettle corn, cherry pretzel, and sesame goji.
Here is a close-up of the cherry pretzel flavor- notice the big chunks of pretzel, the cherries, and all the sesame and flax seeds! I love eating a power bar whose ingredients are so easily discernible. These all tasted good, but the kettle corn was our hands down favorite. My only concern with ProBars is that they pack in a hefty amount of calories- over 400 a bar. While they are substantial, I think that they would be ideal for high-level athletes or those looking for a meal replacement rather than a snack. Daiku and I split all of them. I should note however, that all those calories are nutrient-dense and healthy, so I really can't complain all that much!
Finally, an update. You may remember my previous post where I wrote about that large group of rescued rats who needed homes. Well, I'm thrilled to report that a fellow Syracuse blogger, Rachael, and her partner, adopted 3 of them! Click on her blog post to see photos of these adorable little guys! You rock, Rachael.
It's good to be back on-line- hope to post more and pay all of you visits very soon!