Category Archives: Interviews

Paper Moon Pastry

A few weeks ago Nick and I stopped into Paper Moon Pastry’s new brick and mortar location (3523 W. Fullerton Ave) for an event and we were pleasantly surprised by all of their delicious vegan goodies!

Roasted Dandies on Chocolate Custard? Yes, please!!
Roasted Dandies on Chocolate Custard? Yes, please!!

Nick purchased a chocolate covered rice krispy treat with dandies in it, which I was unable to photograph since he ate it before we got home.

We also picked up a few treats for the pups made by All My Friends Are Bread, which they went crazy over!

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Ian's nickname isn't Monkey just because he's rowdy. He also loves bananas!
Ian’s nickname isn’t Monkey just because he’s rowdy. He also loves bananas!
Hooray for vegan dog treats that will make Harlow do pirouettes!
Hooray for vegan dog treats that will make Harlow do pirouettes!

After our visit I did a brief interview with Ana:

SCV: Do you always have several vegan options available and marked or is that something you just do for the vegan events you host?

TB: Vegan options are ALWAYS available, but we recommend that our vegan customers ask what’s vegan because sometimes we have top-secret vegan items that we don’t mark. The reason being that non-vegan customers are sometimes hesitant to try vegan pastries. This way, they eat and love vegan food without knowing it’s vegan, and we get to have sneaky secrets with our vegan customers.

SCV: I saw in one of your previous interviews that you’re planning on keeping a portion of your shop as a boutique for local vendors, which is totally cool! Will these vendors rotate or will they stay the same?

TB: The plan is to rotate the vendors on a monthly basis so there’s always new and exciting things available. We’re trying to stick to local vendors, importing from other cities ONLY when the items are particularly cool and made by people we really love.

SCV: My dogs went crazy over the All My Friends Are Bread treats, please tell me you’ll be carrying those on the regular.

TB: Absolutely, AMFB is a staple at our monthly vegan markets – she’s the best!

SCV: Besides Café Mustache and Wormhole, are there any other places people may have tried your vegan goodies before?

TB: At The Dill Pickle Food Coop, Township, New Wave Coffee, and also in their wildest dreams.

SCV: I think your shop is pretty cool and I read in one of your interviews that you’d eventually like to turn the basement into a venue for shows/a community space. That’s pretty rad!

TB: Definitely looking to book shows of all kinds when the basement is finished – punk, metal, weird performance art, comedians, DJs – anything that makes us happy!

SCV: Can’t wait to come back and try some more vegan goodies and get more dog treats. I wish you the best of luck!

TB: Thanks for stopping in!

Paper Moon Pastry is located at 3523 W. Fullerton Ave and is currently open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9-5pm.

They host a monthly vegan pastry , confection and gift market, called, The Vegan Vortex. The next one will be held March 29-30 and they are currently trying to raise money to re-sign their lease and open the store on week days, so be sure to check it out!!

This month’s market will include:

Special guest Kelly Peloza, author of Cheers to Vegan Sweets
Vert juice: fresh squeezed juices made by two super pretty girls
Vintage Clothing and Accessories from Poly Golightly Vintage
Literary matchboxes by Lauren Reese (Piedra Papel Tijeras)
Jewelry, Handbags, Wallets from Tarnish
Cards and Stationary from Anxious Alphabet
Vegan handmade soaps from Bitter Betty Bath & Body
All natural lip balm and body care from Lola Moon
Cookbooks from Bake and Destroy
Vegan bike bags from Po Campo
Vegan Chocolate Boxes from Katherine Anne Confections
Celiac safe gluten free treats from Bot Bakery
Tarot Card decks and Candles from Last Craft
Crafts and necklaces from artist katie holland
Vegan all natural dog treats from all my friends are bread
Greeting cards from Betty Turbo
Vegancentric Jewelry from The Lucky Cupcake Company
Used books on consignment from Uncharted Books
Paintings on glass: new work by Brett Whitacre

Brand New issue of Monsters and Dust hot off the presses”pink/punk”.

The event’s menu includes:

$1 metropolis coffee
so many cupcakes
chili cheese nachos with teese vegan cheese
brownies
krispy treats
hot chocolate tarts
cookies
pot pies
pulled “pork”
roasted tofu burritos
granola
apple crumb pie
pecan pie
maple sugar sandwich cookies
and SO SO MUCH MORE

Can’t wait!

Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season is No Ordinary Cookbook

I must admit that when I first flipped through Hannah Kaminsky’s latest book, I was a little skeptical, despite it’s enticing cover and photographs. Avocado in a pie? Basil in cookies? Olive oil ice cream?!? I was mildly terrified, but decided to be adventurous and chose 4 recipes to test – 3 adventurous ones and 1 safe one; just in case the rest failed. I went with the Avocado Creme Pie, Mexican Chocolate Creme Caramel, Sweet Basil Shortbread Cookies, and my safe choice was the Marbled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread. I lined up several recipe testers: my friends Dan & Amy, Nick, our roommate, Tyler, and, of course, myself  and spent a weekend baking.

Avocado Creme Pie

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The Avocado Creme Pie was cool and creamy and the avocado flavor wasn’t overwhelming (which was a plus in my book, because I’m not a huge avocado fan so I only eat it in small doses), the Mexican Chocolate Creme Caramel was incredibly rich, the Sweet Basil Shortbread Cookies were a unique twist on an old favorite and the Marbled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread was moist and absolutely delicious!

Sweet Basil Shortbread

I had all of my testers try every dessert, but the Mexican Chocolate Creme Caramel, because half of it was a failure and half of it came out great, so there wasn’t enough for everyone. The common consensus (3 out of 5) was that the Avocado Creme Pie was “Amazing!” Tyler was so into it he probably could have eaten the entire pie by himself! The second most popular item was the Marbled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread (recipe after the interview with Ms. Kaminsky!), which was my favorite. The Mexican Chocolate Creme Caramel was only tested by Nick and myself; we both thought it was rich and delicious, though a little grainy (perhaps I need to blend the tofu longer next time). The underdog was the Basil Shortbread Cookies, I enjoyed them, but no one else was a fan. I must admit I was forced to use dry basil in them because I couldn’t find any fresh basil anywhere, so they had a vague tea-like quality. I want to give them another chance and try them with fresh basil, like the author intended.

All of the recipes I chose were from the Spring section of Vegan Dessert: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season. I can’t wait to try out recipes from the rest of the seasons. Summer includes recipes like Mean, Green Pistachio Ice Cream; Raspberry Cheesecake Popsicles (yum!); and Red, White and Blue Layer Cake. Autumn features favorite fruits and veggies of the season, like pumpkin and apples in recipes like, Candied Apple Cookies; Cranberry Custard Pie; Stuffed Cider Donuts and Pumpkin Butter Cookies! Winter includes Chestnut Muffins; Marzipan Tea Cake; Meringue Kisses (vegan meringue?!?); and Triple Ginger Cheesecake. Winter is followed by Components and Accompaniments, which includes recipes for Canine Cookies; Lady Fingers, Whipped Cream and more!

Ms. Kaminsky’s instructions are clear and concise and she uses ingredients that are fairly easy to find. All of the recipes are accompanied by stunning photographs that make your mouth water, taken by Ms. Kaminsky. The book includes an ingredients glossary, troubleshooting tips, a regular index and a food allergy index, which has the recipes broken up as gluten free, peanut free, soy free and tree nut free, which is very helpful. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to break out of traditional baking and explore all of the flavors and tempting treats each season has to offer.  I was so happy with the results of my test that my curiosity was piqued, so I did a short interview with Hannah Kaminsky:

SCV: What inspired you to use ingredients more commonly found in savory cooking, like avocado and basil, in your baking?

HK: I think that there are so many wonderful flavors and ingredients that are simply underutilized when it comes to desserts. So many fruits and vegetables that we might not think of as “sweet” actually have very powerful sweet flavors when coaxed through cooking and seasoning properly. It seems a shame to overlook these unique tastes, just because they’re not as familiar! There’s also that ever-present sense of seasonality that I take with me into the pastry kitchen, that pushes me to use what I have and what’s at its prime in that moment, rather than reaching for the mealy apples from cold storage in summer for example.

SCV: This book focuses on the seasons. When it comes to baking, do you have a favorite season? Why?

HK: Now that’s an easy one: Summer! It seems like everything is ripe and delicious all at once, with an abundance of berries, stone fruits, and so many other delicious ingredients that are practically self-contained desserts withough any further tinkering necessary. Savory chefs get more excited about Spring, what with the wild greens and baby vegetables that it brings, but summer is the height of seasonal baking in my eyes.

SCV: You wrote your first cookbook (My Sweet Vegan) at an early age (she was in high school!) – how long have you been baking/cooking?

HK: It’s curious to look back through my blog archives, because it ended up unintentionally chronicling my journey as a baker. As I started sharing my sweet creations about 5 years back, I started getting more and more experimental, writing my own recipes and sharing the resulting successes and failures. I was never formally taught, so it’s been a great learning experience just through trial and error, and the feedback through the blog. Cooking is in my blood though; my mom and both grandmothers are quite accomplished cooks and even before I realized that food was my passion, I was working at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, Health in a Hurry, at age 16. It was my first job…and I still have it actually! Now I’m helping develop recipes and consult on marketing more often, but I still throw down in the restaurant kitchen at least once or twice a week these days.

SCV: So far both of your cook books have focused on sweets, any plans to write a book focusing on savory recipes?

HK: No solid plans right now, but I’d certainly love to explore my savory side more sometime in the future! For the time being though, I do frequently post main dishes, sides, salads, soups – you name it – on my blog. You can get all of those recipes for free, too, so be sure to check out the recipe index at http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/recipes-a-z/

SCV: I couldn’t help but notice that you included a dog treat recipe. I have yet to bake for my dogs (Ian and Harlow), but can’t wait to try it. Do you have a furry friend? If so, what’s their favorite treat?

HK: Yes, I make a point to always include at least one treat for our canine friends in each of my cookbooks! My constant companion is Isis, a sweet little Basenji, who is always willing to “help” clean up my edible messes, so it seems only fair that I reward her with a little something special every now and then. She’s not terribly picky, but some of her favorite morsels are actually cucumbers – stems, peels, pieces, anything! I guess I’m lucky she has such healthy preferences.

Marbled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread

6 Tbsp Non-Dairy Margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1 2/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 cups Shredded Zucchini (2 small zucchinis did the trick)
3/4 cup Non-Dairy Milk (I used almond)
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract (I used Frontier’s non-alcoholic vanilla)
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate (I used Whole Food’s brand regular sized vegan chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

With your stand mixer, cream the margarine and both sugars together thoroughly. Mix together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and cinammon in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the dry mix, giving the mixer time to catch up and incorporate the new ingredients. Mix until mostly smooth, but don’t go crazy and overdo it; a few lumps are just fine. Squeeze the shredded zucchini lightly to remove some of the excess water, and add that in along with the soymilk, vinegar and vanilla.
Divide the batter, pouring half into a separate bowl. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips to one half and mix so that it’s smooth and homogeneous. Add alternate dollops of the plain and chocolate batter into your prepared pan until both are used up, and then run a spatula through the whole thing to lightly marble the two together.
Bake until wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out and moving to a wire rack.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season
By Hannah Kaminsky
Skyhorse Publishing Hardcover
On Sale: May 20, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61608-220-8
Price: $17.95

Upton’s Naturals: An Interview with Dan Staackmann

Upton’s Naturals is my favorite seitan and not just because they’re from Chicago. Upton’s is produced in a small warehouse hidden in an industrial park in Skokie, IL. They offer a wide range of flavors (chorizo, ground beef, Italian sausage, gyros, bacon & more!) to local eating establishments, as well as at select grocers AND they have “grab & go” items, like the Gyro Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich! We recently sent Dan a few questions to find out a bit more about Upton’s and here’s what he had to say:

SCV: First off, who is the mysterious mustachioed man?

Upton. No, he’s not flesh & blood, but was created by us along with our friend & illustrator, John Sampson.

SCV: Upton’s has been around for 4 yrs now, tell us how the company started and how it’s changed since it’s early days.

Although it says “Since 2006” on the retail packs, we actually formed Upton’s in August of 2005 and were developing the products about a year before that in a shared kitchen. I started the company with a good friend of mine who has since gone on to pursue other interests. We’d both been vegan for 10+ years and were looking for a project to work on together involving food. We did some thinking and realized there was a hole in the seitan market, especially for restaurants, so we decided to try and fill it. Neither of us had a culinary background, so it was all trial and error. We began selling to a handful of restaurants in Chicago and about a year in to that we decided to launch the retail line. We started with 7 stores in Chicago and delivered to them ourselves…then started working with a distributor and expanded to about 20 stores in IL & WI until earlier this year when we began selling to stores throughout the Midwest and Southwest. How things have changed…the first 3 years we did everything ourselves, just the 2 of us. We’ve added an employee about every six months since then.

SCV: How come your seitan is so delicious?! We can’t get enough Upton’s Chorizo or Bacon!

We just use the most simple ingredients and try to base our flavors on traditional recipes.

SCV: Are all of your products produced in your warehouse in Skokie?

All of the seitan and ready-to-eat items are made in Skokie, but we do use a third-party to produce the tamales.

SCV: How many people does it take to keep Upton’s running these days?

5 total. Three people handle all of the production and two of us keep things running in the office.

SCV: You recently added some new sandwiches to your offerings, how do you come up with such tasty sandwiches, wraps, etc.? Are any of them based off of customer suggestions? (We’re particularly fond of the Chicken Bacon Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich with Bacon).

We just try to put out products that we think are good. We tried soliciting ideas for new ready to eat items a few times, but didn’t get much feedback.

SCV: Is there anywhere in the city we can get your sandwiches, wraps, etc. besides Whole Foods?

The only independent store currently selling the ready to eat items is W Grocer on North Ave. The retail seitan packs & tamales are available at most of the indie shops (full list on our website). Some restaurants don’t like it when their “secret” ingredients are made public, but we occasionally Tweet about new places that are serving Upton’s.

SCV: Are there any super secret recipes in the works for new items?

No, we’re trying to focus on widening the distribution of current products over the next year or so. After that we’ll likely package a couple more varieties of seitan for retail… bacon and chicken are at the top of the list.

SCV: We own some of your shirts & buttons and all the cool kids we know want them (especially the pin collection of mustachioed men, though I’m partial to the clean shaven guy). How can they go about getting their own?

They should be available on our website soon. Also, we occasionally give them away at events, so keep an eye out!

To find out more about Upton’s, including recipe ideas, check out their website: http://www.uptonsnaturals.com/

If you want the inside scoop make sure you follow them on Twitter & Facebook!

The Soul Veg/Ste Martaen Food Truck: An Interview with Ste Martaen

We recently got the scoop on the Vegan Food Truck from Ste Martaen Vegan Cheese co-owner, Nahum St Martin.

SCV: Chicago’s never had a vegan food truck (as far as we know) what inspired you to team up with Soul Veg to bring us one?

I’ve worked for and with Soul Vegetarian for just over 14 years. I learned how to cook vegan through the Soul Vegetarian Cookbook and working in their kitchens. Soul Veg is Chicago’s oldest vegan restaurant, so it’s fitting that they are a part of Chicago’s first vegan food truck.

SCV: How long has the food truck been in the works?

Soul Veg has been operating the food truck for the past 4 years on the South Side of Chicago. I figured it was time to expand their operations.

SCV: Will the food truck be roaming every night for a while or is this just for a limited time?

The truck operates on the South Side Mon through Fri and we will be operating [in the rest of the city] Tues through Sat nights initially. If all goes well, we’ll continue to expand.

SCV: Is lunch delivery exclusively food from Soul Veg?

It will be a combination of Soul Veg favorites and new creations I have been developing.

SCV: How do you decide what you’ll be serving on any given night?

We’re still testing new entrees…Chicago will ultimately decide if they’re good or not. If they don’t sell, we know they didn’t pass the test. Of course, Soul Veg favorites like mac n cheese, greens and BBQ delights will be featured.

SCV: What are some of the dishes you’ve been offering?

We [have been] concentrat[ing] on a couple of sandwiches, a daily Soul Veg meal and Soul Veg side dishes. Also, my wife will be providing desserts like a Chocolate silk pie and pecan pie. All vegan, of course.

SCV: How has response been so far?

We have only operated 3 days, but the response has been fantastic. Chicago loves their food and the vegan community is ultra supportive of positive, healthful new ventures. We are so grateful.

SCV:Will you really go to ANY neighborhood so long as vegans create a demand?
Absolutely. The best thing about the food truck is its mobility. Chicago is so diverse and we enjoy traveling the city.

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There you go Chicago, they’ll go to ANY neighborhood if you create demand! So start following them on Twitter (@stemartaen) or Facebook and let them know where you’d like to see them next. I know we’re looking forward to checking them out next time they’re roving our neighborhood, which just might be tonight, considering it’s already Tuesday!

P.S. They’re giving away a vegan pecan pie to the Name that Sandwich contest winner, plus the winning sandwich will be featured on the Food Truck’s menu!