Yesterday, Chicago Soy Dairy hosted an ice cream social at Logan Hardware, a vegan owned record store/arcade near the corner of Western and Fullerton (2410 W Fullerton), to benefit Mercy for Animals. Five dollars got you all the ice cream you could eat!
It was a perfect weekend for the event what with people being in town for Riot Fest and the gorgeous weather. I was super excited because you could also pre-order pints of Temptation and get Dandies and Teese at a discount, so if course I took advantage and ordered 2 pints of Pumkin Pie, 2 pints of Tripple Threat Chocolate and 2 bags of Dandies. I’m going to be on a sugar high for a week!
Sigh, if only I could still get this stuff from stores. Guess the only way to fix that is to have more vegan ice cream socials! 😉
So as you all know we went MIA around the end of August, right before we went to the first ever Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR; which was supposed to inspire more blogging and it did (I have so many notes and ideas – many of which will come to fruition this month if all goes according to plan), except life got in the way.
First we’ll go with the conference highlights (Lisa was the only one able to attend the conference itself) :
I got to meet lots of cool and inspiring vegans from all over the country and put faces to names of locals we’ve followed for a while, like Vegan Milwaukee and Snarky Vegan.
Sweet Pea is located in the vegan mini mall, so you can get your pastry fill either before or after checking out Food Fight (Portland’s vegan grocer), Herbivore or Scapegoat, the vegan tattoo shop. Among their offerings are delicious danishes with sweet creamy filling, the likes of which I haven’t had in ages:
Decadent chocolate mousse pie:
And the Charlie Brown, a classic pairing of peanut butter and chocolate:
Not only were their pastries delicious, many of them were vanilla extract free, which made Nick happy!
The Homegrown Smoker is a vegan food cart with a southern twist. They have delicious macaroni and cheese and I highly recommend the Portorrito (smoked portobello slices, macnocheese, smoked soy curls, grilled peppers, onions, two cheeses and chipotle aioli wrapped in a warm tortilla). Nick got the Reuben with sweet potato fries, it was not Portorrito, but it was good, too.*
*Edge folks: Ask about their BBQ sauce before ordering any BBQ items – I believe I saw something on their sign about it being bourbon based.
Though Sizzle Pie isn’t entirely vegan, they offer quite a selection of vegan pies both with and without vegan meats and cheeses (including our very own Upton’s Naturals!). You can either buy it by the slice or get an entire pie. The slices are pretty big, too!
This slice was my favorite:
It’s the vegan Angel of Doom, which is topped with Daiya mozzarella, jalapenos, pineapple, almonds and fresh cilantro. Something about the jalapeno paired with the creamy Daiya and the pineapple makes this special. It definitely has kick to it, though – you’ve been warned.
Other pies we tried were the Spiral Tap, which is topped with caramelized onion spread, marinara and nutritional yeast:
And the Steve Caballero which is pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, white onion, and Daiya:
Other places you should check out if you have the time are Voodoo Doughnuts, which offers a wide selection of vegan donuts, including the Old Dirty Bastard (right corner, front):
And Prasad, if you’re looking for something healthy after stuffing yourself with junk, like this curry bowl with red rice and kale:
– In case you’re out of the loop, California’s Native Foods vegan restaurant will be taking over Chicago in the coming months with locations in Wicker Park, The Loop and Lakeview. They’re currently hiring for their Chicago locations, so if you’re interested fill out an application here!
– Attention vegan culinary geniuses: Mercy for Animals and Chicago’s very own Upton’s Naturals will be hosting a Vegan Chef Showdown at the Funky Buddha Lounge (728 W. Grand) on Saturday, July 23 from 3-7pm. Each chef or team must create a vegan dish using Upton’s seitan for the public to sample. The event is open to the public free of charge, though there is a $1 suggested donation for each sample, which will go to Mercy for Animals. Interested in competing? There’s a $25 entry fee and you must enter before July 7. E-mail Nicole@UptonsNaturals.com to sign up! For more info check out the Facebook invite.
– Charlotte Cressey, Director of Community Outreach for Orange County People for Animals, will be presenting “How to Return to Wholeness” at Chicago’s MFA Advocacy Center (639 W Diversey Pkwy) on Saturday, July 9 at 2pm. For more information on this event and to RSVP, please email Kenny Torrella, MFA’s Chicago Campaign Coordinator, at KennyT@mercyforanimals.org
I finally got a chance to try Urban Vegan (1605 W Montrose, 773-404-1109) last week with my friend, Dusty. Urban Vegan is a Thai restaurant that has been on the Chicago scene for about a month now. They offer standard Thai fare, a few burgers, wraps and all sorts of tempting beverages on their menu. They also offer both lunch and dinner combinations/specials, and have wheat free menus upon request.
It took a while to decide what we wanted. After all we had a whole menu to choose from. How often does that happen? I wanted to try everything, but I restrained myself. Instead, we each ended up ordering an appetizer and a dinner special.
I got the Steam Curry Dumpling as an appetizer and Praram’s Plate from the dinner combination menu.
The dumplings are filled with veggies and topped with green curry. They were light and the curry sauce was sweet, though not very spicy, which was disappointing, so I don’t know that I’d order them again. But, if you’re not a fan of heat, these are a good starter ’cause they aren’t very filling, which means you’ll have plenty of room for your entree.
The Praram’s Plate dinner combination consists of steamed brown rice, a salad, 2 spring rolls and soy chicken pan fried with peanut sauce and spinach. The plates were beautifully arranged and my meal was delicious! The peanut sauce was creamy and not too oily, the rice was moist and had a nice nutty flavor to it that complemented my entree well and the salad was fresh and came with a really tasty dressing. There wasn’t anything exceptional about the spring rolls, but they weren’t bad.
Dusty ordered the Spicy Seafood Soup as an appetizer and the Green Curry dinner special with peppersteak.
She asked that the soup be prepared at medium heat, since she wasn’t sure how hot they make their food. It seems like they tend to err on the side of caution, so if you’re looking for Spicy Sea Food soup be sure to ask for spicy, because medium was more mild than medium. The soup consisted of soy fish, soy shrimp, veggies and herbs in a lemongrass broth. All of the ingredients in the soup were fresh and despite it’s lack of heat, the soup was very good. It was my first experience with soy fish and soy shrimp. I was never a seafood fan pre-veganism, but I actually enjoyed the soup quite a bit. She also approved, except she didn’t like that there were inedible pieces of lemongrass and other herbs in the broth.
She also ordered the green curry as medium, so it was mild. She felt the rice also complemented her entree very well. It’s rare to find a good brown rice paired with Asian food, usually most brown rice seems to be too dry or the flavor doesn’t complement the flavors of the other foods it’s with, but this one is very good. The pepper steak was a good addition to the curry.
Both of our dinner specials also came with a small bowl of tofu soup, which like the spring rolls, was nothing to write home about, but was a nice addition.
I can’t wait to go back and try some more dishes at Urban Vegan, as well as a smoothie and some dessert!
Mercy for Animals has done it again. Loose Leaf Lounge (2915 N Broadway) will be premiering their new vegan menu tonight starting at 5pm! The vegan menu includes a Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Daiya, tomato and onion, a Ground Seitan Sandwich with avocado, peppers, spinach and Veganaise, a Chorizo Seitan Wrap with avocado, cilantro, and tomato, Vegan Cookies, and more!
These items are being added to their menu permanently, so if you can’t check them out tonight, do so soon! I know I will.
*Note from Facebook Event Invite regarding tonight: Since Loose Leaf Lounge is a small cafe, seating is not guaranteed and they do not take reservations. To increase your chances of getting a seat, arrive promptly at 5 p.m., after 8 p.m., or come for carry-out!
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.
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!
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.
Thanks to one of our readers we recently found out about a new vegetarian Mexican place in Logan Square called Quesadilla, La Reyna del Sur (2235 N. Western, Chicago, IL 773-235-8807), so of course we had to go check the place out right away. According to our reader, Quesadilla used to be on the south side a few years ago before they disappeared. Now they’re back with a menu filled with food which can be veganized, since their soy-based meats are TVP and they offer both dairy cheese and non-dairy cheese (Follow Your Heart), all at taqueria prices!
When we first walked in we went up to the counter to check out the menu and ask questions. When it was established that we were eating in, the friendly woman behind the counter gave us menus and asked us to take a seat at a table. She brought out chips and two types of salsa, both of which were delicious, though she warned us that the chunkier of the two was pretty hot and it was. We munched on chips while we checked out the menu and I was a bit disappointed because the chips were greasy and not very good, but bad chips don’t necessarily mean bad food.
Of course we couldn’t write a good review unless we sampled a little bit of everything, so we did. We ordered a Huarache de Rajas, which is a large piece of fried corn dough topped with beans, lettuce, roasted Poblano pepper strips, tomato, cilantro and in our case Follow Your Heart mozzarella. I used to eat huaraches on a weekly basis at a market after school when I was a kid in Mexico and this one was just as large and delicious as those. Unlike the chips, it wasn’t super greasy and all the toppings were fresh, plus who can beat it at $4.75?
We also ordered two tacos, 1 chorizo and 1 Al Pastor ($2 each). When they brought out the tacos they both looked exactly the same, so I wasn’t sure which was which and after taking a bite of both I still couldn’t distinguish between the two, which was unfortunate, because I love tacos Al Pastor (so far El Faro is the only restaurant I’ve tried that’s been able to make the perfect vegan Al Pastor taco). However, both tacos were good despite their uniformity. They had a chorizo-like flavor and were slightly spicy. They were served with onion, cilantro, lettuce and tomato and two small tortillas, just like they serve them in Mexico.
Finally, we also ordered a Veggie Cubana torta ($5.75) which was filled with soy-sausage, bacon and chicken, as well as beans, avocado, tomato and lettuce. Normally they also top them with mayo they make themselves from almonds, but they were out of mayo last night. Even though the huarache was delicious, this was our favorite item. Nothing beats a warm bolillo filled with delicious food.
On top of huaraches, tortas and tacos, Quesadilla also offers quesadillas, of course, as well as, a wide variety of fruit and vegetable juices. The woman I spoke with there knew what was up when it came to veganism (she marked our ticket – no butter, soy cheese and no sour cream – for the cook, even though we’d forgotten to ask about butter). She said they’ve only been in their new location for two weeks, but that they’ve been well received. So be sure to pay them a visit soon. They’re located on the corner of Lyndale and Western and are currently open from 10am-10pm Sun-Fri.
They’re so close to Second City Vegan headquarters I’ve got a feeling we’ll be getting take-out from them on a regular basis!
*Special thanks to David S. for giving us the heads up on this place. As always, if any of you know of any hidden vegan/vegan friendly gems within the city we don’t have listed on our restaurant page, or of any new places opening up, let us know so we can spread the word.
Last Thursday, El Nuevo Mexicano (2914 N Clark Street, 773-528-2131) premiered their new vegan menu with a benefit for Mercy for Animals. Nick and I were so excited we made a reservation a week in advance in order to make sure we’d get to try it out.
El Nuevo Mexicano, is a small restaurant which has been serving Mexican food in Lakeview since 1983. I had never been there until last week, because my family typically went to the Little Village to get Mexican food when I was growing up, so I wasn’t sure what to expect (other than that their vegan menu would include Daiya cheese and Upton’s Naturals seitan). Since we knew we would be reviewing the place and part of the proceeds were going to charity we decided to go all out and get an appetizer, 2 entrees and a dessert.
We chose the Botana Combinada, which consists of two flautas filled with Upton’s chorizo, carrots and potatoes served with guacamole. It was delicious! I liked it so much I wasn’t entirely sure I’d made the right call not ordering the Flautas de Verduras con Papa y Chorizo Vegano as my entree (next time!). The flautas were flavorful and they weren’t bathed in grease, which can often be the case. The guacamole was fresh and we had an abundance of tortilla chips and salsa to finish off what we didn’t eat with the flautas.
I ordered the Enchiladas de Verduras en Salsa Bandera, which consisted of three corn tortillas stuffed with grilled peppers, mango, plantains, pico de gallo and Daiya cheese covered in chipotle and tomatillo salsas, served with rice and a salad made of fresh greens, jicama, strawberries and mango drizzled with a vinaigrette. I was not disappointed with my choice. I am not someone who shies away from mixing sweet and savory foods or sweet and spicy foods, if you are then this may not be the best entree for you to order. However, neither flavor overpowered the other, which is often what turns people off to such combinations and together the fruits, vegetables and salsa made a unique, healthy, delicious meal, which I look forward to eating again soon.
Nick, ordered the Fajitas Vegano, which consisted of sauteed onions, peppers and seasoned soy strips, served with quinoa, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and warm corn tortillas. His entree was almost enough food for two people. He asked for the quinoa, which was seasoned like Spanish rice (yum!) instead of rice. After trying my entree and our appetizer he was a bit disappointed with the fajitas, because though they were good, he wasn’t blown away by them. He was scared away from some of the other entrees, because unlike me, he’s not really into fruit, so the idea of eating entrees which mixed fruit andspicy/savory things was a bit daunting, so he went with the safe choice. What he got was something we could have easily made at home, though, I had never thought of preparing quinoa like Spanish rice.
We decided to split a dessert, because, Nick’s, entree was so large he wasn’t able to finish it all. At the time the only vegan dessert available was the Chimichangas de Camote en Chipotle Durazno Salsa, so we went with that. The chimichangas were flour tortillas filled with mashed sweet potatoes, served with a scoop of vegan ice cream and drizzled with warm peaches, chipotle powder and raisins. The chipotle powder gave the dessert a little kick and the neutral flavors of vanilla ice cream and sweet potatoes went nicely with the spiciness of the chipotle and the sweetness of the peaches.
Overall it was a very pleasant dining experience. The wait staff were friendly and attentive, never letting our water glasses go dry. The restaurant was cozy and not too loud, and the food was delicious. I’m looking forward to going back and trying more of the vegan menu. Though, we made a reservation, they are not required as the restaurant is pretty casual. Entrees range from $12-$15, which means it won’t be a weekly joint for us, but it also means it’ll be the kind of place we visit more than twice a year.
According to their Facebook page, El Nuevo Mexicano, will be adding/changing items offered on the vegan menu periodically, so check back often to see what new delicious treats are being offered! For those who are interested, they also offer drink specials 5 nights a week and can be booked for parties. Just remember to ask for the Vegan Menu.
Melt Bar and Grilled is a haven for those who love music and cheese, both vegan and not. Their walls are covered with movie and music memorabilia and the entrance and main counter have an awesome mural any fan of independent music can appreciate. As their name suggests, they offer a wide variety of melts, including The Kindergarten, which is simply a grilled cheese sandwich. Many of the sandwiches can be made vegan with either vegan cheddar or mozzarella cheese substitutes and you can add all sorts of toppings to them, from grilled veggies to fried tofu. They also offer soups and salads, which also include vegan options.
This was our second trip to Melt in Lakewood, Ohio. We’d originally planned on stopping in at The Flaming Ice Cube once again, because the last time we visited Melt, there was a long wait and we like supporting vegan businesses, but unfortunately The Flaming Ice Cube is closed on Sundays. When we got to Melt we were informed there was a 2 hour wait to dine in and a 45 minute wait for take-out, so we went the take-out route and ate in the car.
Both Nick and I got The Kindergarten, but with different toppings.
I am a big fan of grilled cheese sandwiches. They were one of the things I missed most when I first went vegan, until I discovered vegan cheeses that melt nicely, like Daiya, Ste Martaen and Tofutti. This sandwich is better than anything I’d ever make myself at home though. The bread was thick, and toasted just right (not too crunchy, not too soft and no burnt spots!). I got mine with mozzarella vegan cheese (I think they use Tofutti for the mozzarella, though they would neither confirm nor deny), tomato, grilled onions and grilled peppers. It was delicious! The only thing that would’ve made it better would be fresh avocado, which was on the menu of toppings, but is $1.50 extra and as much as I like avocado, I decided to skip it. The cheese was melted perfectly, my only complaint was that my grilled peppers were a little over cooked, so they didn’t add much flavor to the sandwich. The last time we visited Melt, I got The Kindergarten with the vegan cheddar cheese and tomato, it was better than my choice this time around, but both were worth the wait.