Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review Time: Le Pain Quotidien

Aw, it's time for my last New York restaurant review. Sad times. But I promise, I'll get back to posting about recipes soon. I have several all made and photographed just begging to be posted.
The last place we visited before taking our leave of the city was Le Pain Quotidien, a surprisingly vegan friendly worldwide chain of little French bistros. You would never guess that it was a chain, though, because the cafes are so intimate and cozy. You sit at a big communal table and enjoy yummy French comfort food. Heavenly, right? I decided to order a vegan quiche (!) for brunch. I had to ask the waiter to make sure it was in fact vegan, and he assured me that there were no animal products involved, so I gave it a go.

Oh my gosh, so good! My quiche came with a little side mesclun salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, which complimented it well. I was surprised that there were no egg substitutes involved, just pure veggie goodness. The buckwheat crust was also really good and shockingly flaky. How do you make buckwheat flaky? I'll have to figure this one out.  
After my main course, I decided to finish my trip to New York with a vegan pastry. I was intrigued by the vegan pastry, which was kind of like an apple muffin only made with puff pastry. I can't remember the fancy french name of it for the life of me, but all I can remember is that it was one of the best things that ever touched my lips. Even my non-vegan travel companions concurred. 

Oh, Le Pain! Please, come to my town! I need you!

Bubble Tea is Ridiculously Awesome

Guess what I discovered while I was in New York? BUBBLE TEA. I could live off of this stuff. The place where I got it (it was in Chinatown, but I can't remember the name...) has a coconut milk option for vegans. How cool is that? Anyway, for those of you who don't know, bubble tea is like a fruit smoothie (I assume it contains tea, but I couldn't really taste it) with these little gummy balls at the bottom. At first I was a little dubious, thinking that they might contain gelatin, but they're just little tapioca balls. I understand, bubble tea sounds weird, but it's not. It is pure awesome.

Review Time: Organic Grill

The Organic Grill is an adorable little sandwich shop in the East Village that serves (almost) 100% vegan and vegetarian fare. We stopped in for a late lunch one day, and the waitress was super nice and attentive. The restaurant itself is ittybittytiny, but it's okay because it adds to the kitchen-ish ambiance. I ordered the grilled seitan panini, which came with a side of home fries and cole slaw.

Now, let me tell you, I am an eater. I am a small person with a deceptively large appetite. But this was, even for me, a whole lot of food. I had to take some of the seitan of of the sandwich so it would fit in my mouth, but after that it was all good. Damn, it was good. The seitan was almost like meat loaf in flavor and consistency, and it was complimented well by grilled peppers and onions as well as the yummy red pepper aioli spread on the bread. The bread was, in a word, phenomenal. It was truly the star of the sandwich; chewy, just a little bit of sweetness. Mmmm...The home fries, which I only had room for about half of, were also really good, and I finished off the yummy cole slaw. You can also see mi madre's lentil burger in the picture, which was the daily special. It looked really good, but I didn't get a chance to try it. If you're ever in the East Village in need of food, stop by Organic Grill. It will not disappoint. 

Happy me at Organic Grill

Review Time: Yonah Schimmel Knishery

A fact about this vegan nerd: potatoes make me happy. I doesn't matter if they're sweet, mashed, baked, fried, whatever. There's just something oh so comforting about the pure carboliciousness of a good root veggie. So naturally, Yonah Schimmel Knishery on the Lower East Side is the perfect place for me.

As you can see, Yonah's facade is quite uninspiring. That is, unless you take into consideration that this place has been open in the very same location since 1910. I'd say it's actually worn quite well. And I forgot to mention the best part: all of the knishes, unless otherwise specified, contain no eggs, dairy, or animal products! So I could have a knish without cruelty. 

Ok, you caught me. That is indeed a stock photo of a Yonah Schimmel knish. But you will hopefully understand that once I smelled the potato-y goodness of the knish on the plate in front of me, I simply couldn't hold my hunger back for long enough to take a picture. That and I forgot my camera at the hotel. :) Anyway, Yonah's was a hit. The knishes were awesome and the homemade mustard (which is a big part of the knish experience) was to die for. It was also great for my parents because it was vegan food without being vegan food, if that makes sense. Anyway, I was thoroughly thrilled with this distinctly New York experience and will certainly be returning the next time I am struck by the urge for a potato pastry.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review Time: Candle 79=Meaning of Life

Oh, Candle 79. The mecca of veganism. It is almost as if a a vegan hasn't truly lived until she makes a pilgrimage to this glorious locale that lies on the Upper East Side of the big apple. This is why I, the usually non-pushy nerd that I am, positively forced my parents to take me here as soon as I learned that we would be traveling to New York. And goodness gracious, Candle 79, you did not disappoint!
If you go to Candle 79 (which you must do), make reservations unless you dig the idea of a two hour wait. It gets majorly crowded, but lucky for us, our early reservation scored us a prime table on the second floor of the restaurant with a beautiful view out of a giant window overlooking the city. I started of with a Crazy Carrot juice, mostly because I thought the name was adorbs but also because, being an abnormal teenager, I love love love fruit/veggie juices. I think it was carrot, apple, agave and ginger, but I could be wrong. It was delicious, but you could definitely taste the ginger. For me this was awesome, since I'm the kind of person who orders and extra plate of ginger just to eat raw when I go to a sushi restaurant, but it might have been a tad strong for some people.

The next thing our waiter brought out was a little plate of avocado roll-ups, compliments of the chef. Doesn't that sound fancy? Compliments of the chef. Anyway, this caused me a problem, because I think I may be the only vegan on the planet who hates avocado. I think it's a textural thing. So I didn't take a picture of the roll-ups, because I thought I would hate them. That is, until I put one in my mouth. I think Candle 79 must have some kind of special vegan magic, because those little avocado rolls were hella good. I was so sad that there was only one for each of us! 
Next thing we ordered were the dumplings. We got one order of fried and one order of steamed since we couldn't decide between the two. They were amazing. They had a ginger sauce (what else?) with ground seitan serving as the filling and black sesame seeds sprinkled on top.  
Fried dumplings; I didn't get a pic of the steamed

I was having trouble deciding between the herb baked tofu and the spring vegetable risotto, so I asked our waiter for help deciding. Our waiter was absolutely fantabulous! He helped me decide on the risotto. My mom went with the mushroom ravioli and my dad went with Candle's house specialty, the seitan piccata. 
Veggie Risotto

Seitan Piccata 

Mushroom Ravioli

Oh. My. God. My risotto was literally like heaven on a fork. I savored each bite as if it were my last meal. I now know pure bliss. It was also so nice to be at a restaurant where I could sample everybody's food! The ravioli was good, but my dad's piccata was amazing. I can definitely see why it's the house specialty. And how beautiful is the presentation of all the dishes?
Last but not least, I positively had to get myself a vegan cannoli. In my pregan days, cannoli was my very favorite dessert, and I was super psyched that I would get to have it again. It came with a scoop of oh-so-good coconut-based ice cream. There was honestly no distinguishable flavor difference between a Candle 79 cannoli and its non vegan counterpart. So good. 

I can truly and honestly say that my Candle 79 meal was the best one I've ever had. Any vegan who visits New York absolutely must pay a visit. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review Time: Lunella Ristorante/Ferrara Dessert Cafe

I'll say it: Italian food makes my life. There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of pasta and a nice slice of Italian crusty bread. Ahhh, I'm practically drooling just thinking about it! I'm fairly sure that my mother, who is not Italian herself but was practically raised by Italian people, imparted this taste for carb-laden deliciousness into me. So when we were in New York, my mom and I had to make sure we went to Little Italy, the only place in the US to get REAL Italian food. It's a fact. Anyway, we have a favorite place that we always go whenever we're in the city. It's a cheerfully campy little place by the name of Lunella Ristorante. Now, this was my first time visiting Lunella as a vegan, so I was really worried that my favorites would now be off limits. But alas, I was safe. My old favorite, Pasta alla Pomodoro e Basilico (AKA spaghetti with marinara...I'm a lady of great class and distinction), was accidentally vegan. I quizzed the poor sweet waiters in the restaurant about the ingredients, and they were more than accommodating, assuring me that no eggs, dairy or butter went into the pasta or the sauce. I also ordered grilled portabellas and pasta e fagioli for appetizers.
The first thing to come out (that I stupidly forgot to take a picture of) was amazing, fluffy, warm italian bread. It made my heart sing! I doused it liberally in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Next came my grilled portabellas, which were positively amazing! I even shared some with my parents. I can honestly say that there was something almost meaty about them, but not in a weird, unpleasant way.
My pasta e fagioli soup (which I stupidly and possibly offensively pronounced pasta-ee-fag-ee-olee when ordering) was also deelish. It was so creamy from the pureed cannelini beans that I had to double-check to make sure it was vegan!!!

Of course, my entree was its usual amazing self. Homemade pasta, fresh, olive-oily tomato sauce--what more could you ask for?
After dinner, we headed up the street to Ferrara Dessert Cafe, which is something of a Little Italy institution for its amazing gelati, sorbetti and baked goods. I ended up getting mango sorbetto, which was sweet but not syrupy like a lot of sorbetti. You could tell it was the real deal. 

Blog changes and such

Howdy friends! As I'm sure you've noticed (if you possess any powers of observation whatsoever) that my blog title/url has changed! It was only fitting, since my old blog title (Vegetarian Lunch Madness) really has nothing to do with what my blog has evolved to become. My blog has grown beyond lunches, so I truly felt a new title was in order. So, I present to you...VEGAN NERDERY! Being a vegan who is a nerd, I thought this title fit me quite well. And just for grins and's a picture of me!

Aren't you jealous? Not only because of my ravishing good looks, but because that is in fact me at Harry Potter: The Exhibition in New York City. Anyone who knows me knows that Harry Potter is my life. Big nerd confession: I write fanfic. Harry/Hermione all the way, suckas! I don't care if it's not cannon; in my mind, it's what happened and don't anyone tell me different!

Review Time: Global Kitchen

On the third day of our trip, we decided to make a trip to MoMA. You guys, if you haven't been there, you have been missing out on something truly awesome. Given, I am a complete contemporary art nerd (what don't I nerd out about?), but the opportunity to see real live Dalis and Van Goghs should be amazing to anyone. That said, my parents and I weren't really to concerned about lunch that day. We just kind of wanted to get something into our mouths so that we could get back to art-viewing fun. Lucky for us, we found Global Kitchen, a cafeteria-esque place that was literally a few doors down from the museum entrance. It was set up in stations, so there was a salad station, a sammich station, a sushi station, etc. I went for the sandwich station since there was a wrap on the menu that was accidentally vegan! I think it was called the NYU wrap, but I could be wrong...

It was good, don't get me wrong, was a wrap. And that's it. It had some hummus and some veg...but I could have made it at home. My favorite part was actually the Pop Chips I had on the side. I do love Pop Chips, though. Anyway, it satiated my hunger, which was what I needed. So, in conclusion, if you're at MoMA (which you should be!) Global Kitchen is a perfectly OK place to get a perfectly OK vegan wrap. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review Time: Kate's Joint

Here I go with NYC Restaurant Review #2--Kate' Joint!

Oh, Kate's, how I love thee. I'd been hearing about Kate's on the internets for a super long time, so I thought I better check it out while I was in NY to see what all the fuss was about. And now I know. Sadly, we were there on a Sunday at lunchtime, so only brunch was being served, meaning that he menu was really limited. Usually, Kate's has an epic menu reminiscent of your average New York diner, but on the day we visited there  were only about ten options. However, I was super happy with what I picked. I ended up going with the VEGAN apple-walnut pancakes, although I waffled (slight pun intended) between those and he vegan eggs Benedict for a while. The 'rents decided to go with the non-vegan bennies(with eggs instead of tofu), so I went with the pancakes. And man, am I glad I did. Those little buggers were crazy amounts of awesome! There were three cakes on my plate all about the size of my head. No joke. The pancakes themselves weren't too sweet, but they were light and fluffy. They also had little walnut bites hidden up in there which made them all the more delicious and decadent. The sweetness came from the nom-worthy carmelized apples hanging out on top of the pancakes. Oh. My. God. Go to Kate's. Right now. And GET SOME FRIGGIN' APPLE WALNUT PANCAKES!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm Alive! I promise!!! (and an NYC restaurant review)

Oh my gosh, guys, it's literally been months. Life has been kerr-azy for me, so I had to take a prolonged break from my beloved blog. But I have emerged from my not-so-brief hiatus! I got the opportunity to visit NYC over spring break, which was hella fun! I visited some awesome vegan and nonvegan restaurants (you gotta keep the omnis happy) that I'm uber excited to review. I don't wanna overload you guys with veggie restaurant goodness, so I'll take it day by day, restaurant by restaurant for you. Sound good? It sure does to me!
First restaurant is...drumroll please...Mint NYC!
Mint is a super-cool, super-trendy midtown Indian restaurant with a deelish vegetarian menu that the staff is more than happy to veganize. We started out with some funky little rolled poppadoms that came with two dipping sauces, one that was some kind of mint puree, true to the restaurant's name. It was phenomenal. The other one was some kind of plum chutney, but I detest the combo of sweet and savory, so I stayed away from that one. 
For a main course, I ordered the Channa Masala, minus ghee. For those of you who don't know, Channa Masala is like Chicken Tikka Masala but with chickpeas in place of chicken. I also got an order of roti, which is like a whole wheat naan. It was vegan by default according to our waiter, which was a pleasant surprise, since most Indian breads come slathered in clarified butter. 
That's my Channa atop long grain basmati rice. You can see a little bit of my roti squeezing its way into the picture, too. 
Ohemjeezy, this dinner was to die! The Channa Masala had just the right amount of spice and the roti was soft and chewy I thought about going for a mango lassi for dessert, but after about four plates of curry, my tummy couldn't take it. I guess I'll just have to return to Mint another time!