George and Julia's Vegan Underground

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Pica Pica maize kitchen at Oxbow

George is gettin down on the La Shuli arepa at Pica Pica Maize Kitchen in Oxbow Market. It consists of black beans, seasoned tomatoes, onions, cilantro and guasacaca on the side. It’s speculated that on the guasacaca has jalapeno olive oil on it. It’s incredible. Very different take on the tasty arepas than the palenque food truck. We love them both!

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Napa’s Oxbow Market

George and I are traveling up the western seaboard (or is it ocean board?) toward Napa, Senoma, and Calistoga areas. We visited George’s cousin who lives in Vallejo and suggested we make a pit stop to Oxbow Market. Well, we did and it was awesome.

It’s a not so little warehouse looking place that’s dolled up and filled with restaurants. Kind of like an upscale food court. You order at the counter and they bring it over to where you’re sitting. We first hit up C Casa which had been recognized THIS YEAR as a noted Michelin Guide Recommend for 2012. It was so fresh and tasty and the servers were super respectful. Of course when in Napa there’s wine too. So I ordered an Avocado taco and paired it with a Chenin Blanc. Delicious. George went the route of iced tea and white bean taco. That too was out of this world. They were more than happy to make it vegan for us, so that was a pleasant surprise after we were told in wine country everything is about over indulgences.

So many food places to choose from here at oxbow market.

The Plant Cafe

George and I are vacationing in the very untropical San Francisco and California’s Bay Area. San Fran is super vegan friendly but there’s one restaurant that keeps calling us back for more. It caters to all restrictive dietary needs; gluten free, vegan, dairy free, juicers, etc. If you are looking for an amazing place that fits every mold head over to the Plant Cafe. The plant burger is no joke.

Vegans That Rock !!!!!!

This man displayed extreme discipline coining and introducing “Straight Edge,” to the chaos-based Punk/Hardcore music scene in the 1980’s.   Going “straight edge” means no drugs or alcohol (no animal products was the natural next).  Often referred to as the “Don Corleone of the D.C. Punk scene,” this vegan recently celebrated his 50th birthday.  Ian MacKaye, you are truly a Vegan That Rocks!  A Vegan that Punk Rocks!

Why vegan?  MacKaye explains: “When people ask me about my diet, ‘Why don’t you eat meat?’ the response is always, ‘Why not? Why should I?’ I can think of a hundred reasons why I don’t. I’d eat a piece of meat just as soon as I’d eat a piece of shit.”

As lead screamer and lyricist of the band Minor Threat, Ian is a personal hero of mine.  His voice is so great, so unique, so recognizable.  After Minor Threat he invented Emocore or “Emo” with his band Embrace (look it up) and later changed everything with his band, Fugazi.  Still political and never apologetic, MacKaye redefined what it meant to be a rock star.  He’s tough, angry and intense with a sense of purpose but lives a life less cliche’.  Believing in a focused head and life without vice as an escape.  He sometimes comes across as self-righteous, humorless and even scary.  Sounds like a vegan to me (insert winking smiley face here).  Today he still rocks with his wife Amy Farina in the two-piece band The Evens.

Ian Today at 50.

Ian today at 50

Ian talks about, talking about being vegan:  “I don’t engage in these conversations. It’s just ridiculous. It’s not my job. I’m not going to defend my diet—they can fuck off. If they don’t like it, that’s fine. I don’t ask people questions about their diets.”  Still punk!  Happy 50th Ian.  You are truly a Vegan That Rocks!

The Thai Dilemma

I had been wondering about this restaurant called “Song.” It was always packed, had a chic dining room and the utilitarian kitchen is in the front window and always appeared to be in the middle of a grease fire. Before I even discuss the food, I’ll point out that the value is undeniable. You will actually be dumbfounded when you get your check. Any complaint you have will end mid-sentence, when you inspect the bill. I wonder how many reviewer’s punned “Dinner for a Song.” I will not stoop. Let me break it down:

Julia’s
Spicy Noodles – sauté ed fresh flat noodles with mixed vegetables and egg(ordered with no egg of course) in a chili basil sauce…$7.50

George’s
Tofu Pad Khing – sauté ed tofu with mushrooms, peppers, cabbage, carrots and onions in a fresh ginger sauce…$7.50

Shared
Tofu Tod- fried tofu with a mild chili peanut sauce…$3.95
Special Papaya Salad…$3.95

The whole bill was like 25 bucks. This at a romantic chichi joint. Julia even mentioned, that it “looked expensive” and “will I be okay in jeans.” I must mention the portions were enormous. When we were finished and stuffed, it looked like we barely touched our food. No matter how much we forked in, it would not go away. The tofu tod came on a plate heaped so high, it looked like we were entering a tofu-eating contest. We saw one couple sharing a dish which, by the way is the correct amount of food. Our doggy bag could easily yield four meals.

Maybe they make money off the drinks (Julia and I are teetotaler s so we have no idea and don’t care). We sat next to the open kitchen which was a perfect model of efficiency and usually on fire. It was awesome. Two guys had 8 woks going at all times and the flames would often reach the ceiling. The flames seemed excessive. It made the Benehana’s grill look like an Easy bake oven. How did these chefs not burn their arms and faces every 10 minutes? I have no idea, skill I suppose (note, neither men had beards).

Was it the best Thai I ever had? No, it was not. It fell in that, good, not great category. Julia’s “spicy” noodles lacked burn and my ginger sauced tofu chunks, worked but did not impress. I noticed at the end that most diners had a mini table top sauce station. Perhaps that would have livened things up. You know us, no pain, so lame. I will say the papaya salad was a refreshing and summary alternative to the standard garden variety. Julia claims it contained fish sauce. Here lies the dilemma. Fish sauce is a Thai staple. Fermented fish wine (or fish sauce) is fish (usually sardines fermented for 6 months or more). It is essential for a lot of authentic Thai entrées.

More specifically, our “Thai Dilemma” is this: I suspect fish sauce lives in most Thai food (even in “vegetarian” dishes) so getting a meal that is truly vegan or even vegetarian might be mission impossible. While I’m sure most of it is cooked off (unless it’s on your salad), it really depends on how strict you are. If you have a zero tolerance, maybe you should take Thai off your personal menu. It’s very possible that I am wrong about this. Somebody please investigate because I’m very lazy and sleepy from yet another Song leftover lunch. Song is at 296 5th Ave (btwn 1st and 2nd), that’s Brooklyn baby!

Tofu Eating Contest

Vegans That Rock!

  

It’s Friday and it’s time to meet another one of the “Vegans That Rock.”  She constructed a metro area using the power of her starship music.   A living Alice in Wonderland, always looking for somebody to love, this vegan was one of the original 60’s bad girls.  David Crosby called her the Chrome Nun but most people know her as Grace Slick.  As singer and lyricist for Jefferson Airplane and other future reincarnations, the acid queen enjoyed a life of excess but not often one of animal cruelty.  Whether she was sleeping with Jim Morrison, trying to slip Nixon some acid or partying it up with former pal Janis Joplin, Grace made her own rules.  How she survived the 60’s, nobody knows for sure but most agree “feeding her head” with animal-free vittles played a big part.

“It takes a little work to be a vegan, but now it’s really possible to have tasty stuff and it’s better for you,” says Slick. “I say the best test is go as far as you can and see how you feel. Personally, I feel great.” 

Her Woodstock days are long gone but this living rock superstar now enjoys a simple life of eating plants and painting psychadelic influenced art.   This vegan legend helped define an era that she can barely remember.  Grace, we salute you because you are one groovy vegan that truly rocks!!!

“I wasn’t always a vegan, I didn’t care about animals one way or the other, they were part of the scenery,” says Slick. “Until one day on tour, I saw a baby panda. I thought that it was the most fabulous animal in the world and made a different kind of connection. I began to understand how animals were part of the greater scheme and I stopped eating them.”

Today at age 73

Getting “Vegucated”

This is a review of a movie called “Vegucated“, a documentary that follows three New York carnivores as they attempt to be vegan for 6 weeks.  Fun right?  The film maker Marissa (Marisa Miller Wolfson) introduced the film as such. There were some real funny parts including “Is It Vegan?” and a great play on the stereotypical, goth vegan.

She did point out that near the middle of the film, there would be some scenes that were not-so-nice, like a pig shot in the head execution style. It looks straight at us as its body twitches and jerks until it finally dies.  The woman behind us bawled(several times).  These scenes were traumatizing but it was not the main focus(just the scene you’ll never forget).  Unlike the film “Forks Over Knives” this film went beyond the vegan-for-your-health reasoning.  (although the honorable Mr.  Esselman is mentioned).

I thought it would be an opportunity for Julia and I to rub elbows with fellow vegans. It was but that wasn’t all.  Let’s just say there were a lot of political soap boxes pulled out for the Q and A.  There were very few Q’s and they were almost never about the film.

I wondered if the comedic beginning was intentionally included to make the animal cruelty even more horrific.  I really don’t think so.  The film didn’t have all the answers and that was OK. I suppose some might say, it lacked focus.  Was it about slice of life becoming a vegan, why to become a vegan, how to stay vegan, incorrect assumptions about vegans, the poor animals, weight loss, health benefits?  It was clearly all of that and yes, many points were not clearly developed.

I applaud the film, enjoyed it and think you should go see it.  Here’s the deal on a film like Vegacated.  It basically had no budget, no actual actors, and it’s possible they used too much of what they shot (the editing room floor was very neat) and the storytelling choices, far from perfect.

On the other hand, I learned a lot. While I don’t necessarily believe in guilting and shaming people into becoming vegan, that is a consequence of the footage shot, footage used. There is an animal cruelty aspect as well as health benefits.  While I personally feel the animal angle is a fortunate result of my healthy diet. For others, it might be the main or only reason.

So bring on the information, propaganda or not.  We’re clearly interested in this stuff.  I hope 100’s of movies like this get made.  Hey, she had me educated when I learned that Oreos are vegan.  I could also relate to the test subjects. The guy’s challenge on his trip home to New Hampshire was very similar to my “Ohio Challenge.”

Yes, there was an agenda but there was real truth there. Forks Over Knives only reported on the people who gained health benefits from the vegan diet.  The rest, “left the study.”  Marissa reported the real facts, a mild weight loss and drop in blood pressure.  Hey, it was 6 weeks.  The real results were the subjects’ change in attitude towards vegans. Only the Mom stayed a vegan, the others on and off again vegetarians. That’s real life people.

Beside, Julia and I discussed it for hours. We questioned where we fit into this whole “vegan thing.”  I suspect Julia may go full-blown PETA. Goodbye leather, hello freetrade poncho.  Stay tuned for our new look Q2 of 2012.

Time to bottom line: It’s not easy being vegan and I’m certainly not going to fight with my own team. We are a small team(the vegans) and we need film makers like Marissa. I hope she has a great life raising her vegan baby. Thanks for all the hard work on this film.  Buy it or go see it.  I’m gonna go get some Oreos.

Nut Cream Cheese

One day when George came back from the Brooklyn Co-Op, he announced he had picked up some Cashew Cream Cheese, and the price of it was a bit of a wallet buster. A pound of raw cashews is roughly $9.00, and to get a 4oz package of cashew cream cheese is around $6.00. If you’re scratching your head at the discrepancy, so am I. Especially since I made some homemade cashew cream cheese this morning. And it took about 15 minutes.

Homemade Nut Cream Cheese

It’s not cheap being vegan, that’s for sure. But if you’re willing to work for your food then it can definitely be super economical. When I’m in Connecticut, I don’t have as many vegan restaurant options available to me so I tend to boogie down in my kitchen. This was the easiest concoction to whip up. The only thing is that it technically takes about over 12 hours… But first things first, go out buy some raw cashews and soak 1.5 cups of nuts in water overnight.

My nuts are submerged

I found an online recipe for this, but the biggest problem was I didn’t really like the recipe and I don’t own a vitamix. If you click the link, you’ll see that her cream cheese was a lot smoother then mine, but that’s cause she used a better blender. I used a Smoothie Jr

Ideal for Smoothies, not for grinding up cashews

I thought the recipe on the link had a lot of water involved, so I used only 1/4 of water (unfiltered and from the tap). The oil I used was part Pecan oil and part Canola. Finally I juiced half a lemon, used the suggested amount of cider vinegar, but added a couple teaspoons of nutritional yeast to get an unmistakable cheesy and tangy flavor. I’ve read that very dry white wine or top shelf vinegar works really well with homemade cashew cheese. Maybe next time I’ll try those tips out, but for now this came out pretty well.

1.5 cups of cashews made over 8oz of cream cheese

So I threw this raw vegan condiment on top of….

A BAGEL!

If you guess bagel, great job. But that wasn’t the only thing. I dipped some celery into the nuttable spread, and of course went a little wild for dinner and used it on my buffalo chick’n sandwich.

A great addition to a spicy sandwich

Popping by the V-Spot

A Park Slope staple, The V-Spot, went on hiatus for a bit but has finally returned with a vengeance. George and I have been waiting for this latin influenced vegan restaurant to open it’s doors again and once we heard it was back in business we wasted no time popping in and getting down on some tasty grub. We swung by for brunch on Mother’s Day, and the cooks have not missed a beat. Unfortunately the service was a bit rusty, but it was easily condoned once George’s Taco Breakfast Plate came out of the kitchen.

There’s a ton of mexican and latin establishments in Park Slope, but when it comes down to getting something vegan or vegetarian, nothing can match up to the V-Spot. The Guacamole is super fresh, the beans are delicious, the tofu scramble rivals it’s eggy step-brother, and the blue corn tortillas are no joke. Outstanding. Even the fake meat is seasoned very well and could easily trip anyone up and be mistaken for the real stuff. If you’re going to grab a meat-free breakfast, dig into the V-Spot.

I had a craving for pancakes but not any ordinary pancakes, I wanted banana pancakes. I was very excited to get them, and the only let down with vegan pancakes is that they’re not as fluffy as egg-inclusive pancakes. I wish the bananas were actually in the batter and not just an after thought and thrown on top. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it was inedible, it was very tasty but I’ve had better.

If you have a sweet tooth but are getting frustrated that there’s not enough vegan options, or you’re tired of the 3 cakes they have at Cocoa Bar, V-Spot’s desserts definitely suffice and will fulfill your cravings. The carrot cake is amazing, and it might be considered blasphemous to say this, but it’s the best vegan carrot cake in Brooklyn (perhaps from Vegan Treats). I’m a carrot cake connoisseur and have been searching high and low for the best carrot cake ever since I was about 7 years old. As of right now, this is pretty high up on my list. If you’re in the area, vegan or not definitely stop by the V-Spot for some quality and scrumptious food, but make sure you are prepared for a little aloofness from the wait staff.

Great place to go for Mother’s Day Brunch!

Vegans That Rock!!!

It’s Friday, Vegans That Rock time.  He’s a flashy dresser and a heart throb to boot.  When Julia’s favorite band Weezer needs a guitar that leads, they call on vegan Brian Bell.  It’s no surprise he made PETA’s list of the sexiest men alive.  When he’s not playing catchy riffs, singing next to Rivers C., or picking out complicated patterned pants, Bell enjoys a variety of herbivore delectables, especially kale, blueberries and sweet potatoes.  He doesn’t talk much in interviews.  Everyone knows it’s the quiet ones that rock the hardest.  They talk with their rock.  Brian, keep living the vegan dream.  You’re a Vegan that Rocks!!

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