Monday, December 11, 2017

Korilla BBQ: Korean Seasonal Kitchen- Quick Review

On Saturday I was trudging through the relentless slushfall with a pal and we stopped into Story to do some holiday shopping. The Korilla food truck was parked out front, but I didn't think anything of it until, when I made my purchase, I was given a token to get a free lunch. So cool!

 

But, I reserved my excitement until I could get outside to check for vegan options and, lo and behold, I was shocked to find that there were vegan Vs all over the build-your-own burrito/rice bowl/salad bowl menu! My eyes just darted around:

Protein option: organic tofu baked with garlic, gluten free soy sauce, red pepper, and sesame. Vegan!


Seasonal toppings: kale, roasted corn, sweet black beans. Vegan!


Sauce: Vegan Korilla mild & smokey favorite made with silken tofu. VEGAN!!!


All options come with your choice of sticky rice, or a blend of sticky, black and brown rice, which is what I chose for my burrito.

They handed it to me all perfectly wrapped up with a smile and I couldn't wait to eat it.


I brought it home and heated it up in the oven so the burrito even got a little crisp on the outside. Then, with anticipation, I sliced it in half to prepare to eat and... womp womp.

The cross section looked like I'd taken a time machine to the early nineties where wraps filled with unseasoned tofu, greens, and rice were the vegan option du jour. I promise you, I took a bunch of pics and none were any better, so I'm using the one with 89 because at least she's interesting to look at.


I have to say, I just don't get it. Korilla obviously went to the the trouble to include vegan (not vegetarian!) options across the board, but nothing had any taste. After the first bland bite, I specifically ate some of each of the ingredients separately. None had any flavor- let alone any spice, aside from natural flavor. Along with the seemingly unseasoned tofu, the kale tasted like it was sauteed without even salt & pepper; the corn tasted naturally fresh and sweet; the black beans just tasted like black beans. As for the vegan Korilla sauce? I don't know know where it could have gone to, but if it absorbed into any of the other ingredients in its travels, I certainly didn't see or taste it.

Aside from Hangawi, Franchia, and Cinnamon Snail's Korean BBQ seitan, I'm not overly familiar with Korean food, but surely it must be more flavorful than this? I'm grateful for the plentiful vegan options at Korilla, but I'm hoping they can kick this up quite a few notches for future vegan menu choices; if I have to slather your food in pedestrian sriracha, it really isn't cutting it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I'm breaking up with Soyatoo!; Trader Joe's new vegan whipped cream is far superior

Soyatoo!, we've had some good times. Back when you were the only game in town, I was satisfied to wait a half hour for you to "defrost" from the fridge- despite the fact that your can claims that you only need to take it out 8-10 minutes in advance for it to be "ready to serve." Never mind that non-vegan whipped cream is ready at a moment's notice; we vegans are used to accommodating weird inefficiencies. I was even long-accustomed to throwing out what were probably half-full cans of Soyatoo!- simply because I couldn't, for the life of me, get it to come out even when I could feel that there was still cream left in the can. That problem just got chalked up to the vegan tax- paying twice as much money for half as much product. I was willing to accept all of this in order to fill the whipped cream-shaped hole in my life in any way I could. But, no longer.


Veganism has come so far into the mainstream that I am able to be discerning in my quest for vegan whipped cream. Don't think I made this decision to ditch Soyatoo for Trader Joe's new coconut whipped topping lightly. I did what any responsible, whipped cream-loving vegan would do: I conducted a proper taste-test.

First, I had to wait the requisite eons letting my Soyatoo! warm up from the fridge. In case you're wondering, leaving the can in the sunniest spot in the house is the whipped cream equivalent of pressing tofu with a stack of cookbooks and cans. I know I'm not alone in getting creative with this.


Anyone familiar with Soyatoo! knows that it can come out of the can relatively slowly (i.e. snail's pace)- even when full, and appear kind of, well, slug-like. To be fair, I made sure to squeeze out a pretty, Soyatoo! floret to visually compare with the creamy dollop of TJ's whipped cream that burst airily from the can DIRECTLY FROM THE FRIDGE. If it sounds like I'm bitter, it's because I am. Is it too much to have vegan whipped cream and be able to enjoy it on a whim? Must I plan a half hour ahead of time? And, as VM pointed out: imagine passing the sputtering can around the table at a large dinner party? It would be laughable.


Admittedly, I'd never had an issue with Soyatoo!'s color, taste, or consistency until I compared it to TJs.
  • TJ's is white; Soyatoo! is ecru- far less appetizing from a visual standpoint. 
  • TJ's is sweet and coconutty; Soyatoo! is far less sweet and bland in comparison.
  • TJ's is light & fluffy; Soyatoo! is creamy, but oddly thick in comparison.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, TJ's comes right out of the can as soon as you want it to.

I estimate that it took me .0002 seconds to generously spritz TJ's on the left pie slice. I had to work for the plop of Soyatoo! on the right pie slice for about 4 minutes*: three sputtering tries and two unsuccessful attempts included. *This after the 30 minutes of defrost...


All of this to say: it's over, Soyatoo!; I am never, ever, ever getting back together with you and your stupid "!," which- by the way, is an indication of SO SLOW!!

If you need me, I'll be stocking up on TJ's. One for home, one for VM's, one for the car, and one for my purse. Two extras just to be on the safe side.

UPDATE: before I even had the chance to post this, I stopped by Trader Joe's to pick up a bushel more cans of whip. To my dismay, I was met with this sign.



The cashier kindly told me that there would be a delivery the next day and that I could call in the morning to ask if they'd hold a can or two for me. In order to "hold" a case, I'd have to place an order in advance. What? You didn't think I'd ask?

Anyway, because I am awfully impatient, I chose to drive to the next closest TJ's in the meantime. Not only were they out as well, but there was not even a sign there. So, I panicked and inquired at customer service. To my surprise, they told me the product is "on hold" as they deal with a "quality issue." "QUALITY ISSUE?," I demanded, "It's practically the world's perfect food!" One of the nearby staff members instantly agreed with me: nodding his head and recommending it on pina coladas (genius). I was assured that the issue was with the packaging, but the whole thing sounds suspect to me. I wanted to blame someone. The USDA, the National Dairy Council...BIG AG? So, this morning I called the original location to request a hold. Sadly, the gentleman I spoke to told me the cashier had been mistaken and went on to reiterate the 2nd location's explanation about the quality issue. He confirmed that it is a problem with the packaging. Apparently they identified an issue with getting the whip to dispense, AND THEY ARE ADDRESSING IT. Imagine that, Soyatoo! Oh, the irony.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of my quest over on Instagram; in the meantime, think positive thoughts on the matter. I meant what I said about Soyatoo!; our breakup was final. Now that I know how good it can be, I'll wait for TJs to make a comeback.

UPDATE 12/5/17: I went back to TJ's yesterday (I'm nothing if not persistent) and customer service told me the issue is that the can originally stated erroneously that the item was a product of Canada, instead of Indonesia. The person I spoke with said this is an "easy fix" but that it "could take some time." In the meantime, I went to Whole Foods to snag their vegan whipped cream (that I just learned about from Jesse) and there wasn't even a spot on the shelf for it. Is there a vegan whipped cream conspiracy going on? Now I just blame Soyatoo! !

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thanksgiving/Thanksliving Recap

Non-vegans always ask me what vegans eat for Thanksgiving. My answer? SO, SO MUCH!

 

First let me give a shout-out to the best-dressed pooch at the holiday dinner: 89, who now has her own insta!! She's wearing a silver hoodie from Dog & Co, adorned with a Compassion Co. pin (gifted from Gone Pie) that says, "Give thanks for all life."

 

Since my family has the veganized Thanksgiving meal down to a science, I'll give you the complete breakdown for your records. But, first: let me note one important factoid... moments before we were about to sit down to dinner, I found this in my parents' kitchen cabinet.


Looks weird, right? A little too tropical for a fall holiday? Well, how about full of vegan, cruelty-free, Thanksgiving goodness?

 

I know; it's hard to believe you ever ate your Thanksgiving meal any other way. It's THE perfect plate- even if it could have used one extra compartment. 

So, let's break it down, shall we? In no particular order:

PPK chickpea cutlets- I know it's not called Post-Punk Kitchen anymore, but that's what it says on my printout from eons ago, and that's what it's gonna stay to me. I miss VM's breaded chicken cutlets with applesauce and this is a superior substitute! Make no mistake; you definitely want to use the double batch recipe (I've actually been known to quadruple batch). The double batch makes 8 and they're never as large as Isa recommends stretching them to. You'll want one every day you're eating those leftovers, with a few left over to eat in sammies.

 

VM's sweet corn stuffing: my mom has been using this recipe forever; she sometimes makes them as stuffing "balls" in cupcake trays and asks guests if they want gravy on their balls. That embarrassing anecdote notwithstanding, it's the best stuffing I've ever had and don't try to tell me otherwise.

 

VM's horseradish mashed potatoes: So, VM is one of those Italian cooks that doesn't read recipes or ever write anything down. She can't explain how to make 99.9% of her amazing dishes, but it's easier if she makes it for me anyway, so I ain't mad. I've watched her mash these suckers and eyeball the butter, almond milk, and horseradish proportions. I couldn't replicate it, but hers comes out amazing every time.

 

Isa's green bean casserole: I don't know when the green bean casserole was invented, but I do know that I can't quit it. If you've never had it, YOU ARE MISSING OUT! I am not in the habit of tweaking recipes, but I've made this so often that I've had the chance to perfect it to the tastebuds of my audience & that means the following:
  • Use two pounds of fresh green beans instead of one, so there's proportionately more beans to liquid. Cut them in half at the onset, but don't bother boiling them if you don't mind them slightly al dente (and also want to skip having to wait for water to boil & then having to wash a pot and strainer).
  • Use cream of leek soup instead of mushroom; this way it's not as shroomy.
  • Use double the fried onions: double the mix in, double the topping. I use Trader Joe's brand because the ingredients are not icky.
  • I use water instead of broth and no bouillon because I never have any.
 

Chloe Coscarelli's Brussel's sprouts: You might not think you need a recipe to roast Brussel Sprouts, but you'd be wrong. We sub chestnuts for hazelnuts and use swanky maple syrup, but neither are deal-breakers. Okay, deep breath. I'm not going to lie to you. VM burned the sprouts. Worse, she burned them last year as well. They were so glorious and then she forgot about them like they're not the most important part of the meal. It was a heartbreak (X2).

Also, creamed corn for color (per VM).


Baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows & cinnamon: This one isn't really tough to figure out. VM picks the long, skinny sweet potatoes because we like them like that (and, they also fit in the chopstick section of my tray that way). When they're hot, I stuff 'em with vegan marshies: minis are better, but I had these giant ones left from the summer when we never got around to making s'mores at a pool party. Sprinkle with cinnamon & voila! Note about the marshie's: I've been buying the Trader Joe's ones and they're pretty fab and extremely reasonably priced.


And, in case you were wondering, 89 got her own plate of goodness as well:


I am totally embarrassed to report that we had no room in our tummies to consume dessert on Thanksgiving night. So, we reconvened the next day for a repeat performance of dinner with leftovers:

it's appropriate to come to leftover dinner in your PJs

And we all saved plenty of room for this smorgasboard of Vegan Treats.

 

Dessert breakdown: VM & OD couldn't remember what this one was (they made the trip and chose everything), but I thought it was a pumpkin streusel donut with pumpkin Dandies, which 89 promptly ate. Top right: chocolate pecan pie, which was really delicious and FULL of pecans. Bottom left: traditional pecan pie, which for some reason I liked even better than the chocolate version. Bottom right: apple crumble pie, which I tasted to be polite and reminded myself that apples are only appropriate in sauce. Also cannolis and chocolate-covered cannolis. We'd also shared a pecan bun that morning. And I'd eaten VT pumpkin cheesecake softserve the night before. But. that's it (there may have also been cowboy cookies and jelly donuts).



89 got dessert as well, in the form of a pumpkin pie toy from Barkbox. This was her really excited about it.


And then this was her when she realized it wasn't really edible (but damn if those Barkbox toys aren't sturdy; it's still 100% intact).


Lest I forget to mention... per usual, we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. This was my fave balloon this year: Grinch and Max!

 

One more autumnal snack to brag about before the next post, which is going to be about something else FAB-U-LOUS I ate on Thanksgiving!

This Parker's maple cotton candy is maybe the best cotton candy I've ever had- especially since I already love both cotton candy AND maple syrup. I got mine at Orchard Grocer! and they still have some left as of this weekend (you're welcome). I can't promise anything after I go again to refill my supply...


Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one and that you're ready for the holiday onslaught! In the meantime, 89 is waiting for more leftovers...



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Double Zero Al Fresco

Double Zero (formerly 00 & co) is relatively pricey pizza resto, there's no getting around that. It's up to you if you decide that a $20 personal pizza is worth it to you; I'm not judging. Under normal circumstances, I'd say it's worth it to me. The pizza is good and the location is killer (for me).


But, something is off. The prices have increased incrementally, but I'm not sure the food has kept up. And the service? Therein lies the problem. A place with a limited menu shouldn't have such a hard time getting the service right.

On my most recent visit there were three of us. We were seated right away, but then it took an inordinate amount of time to acquire an iced tea- even longer to get sweetener. So long, in fact, that we guessed they made hot tea and let it cool to room temperature before adding ice. There are only two non-alcoholic spritzers on the menu and they were out of one. The waitress suspiciously told me there isn't much taste difference between the two even though they're lemon basil and rosemary cucumber.

Our appetizers didn't come out together. We hungrily watched OD eat his sunflower Caesar with baby romaine (not loving the choice), capers, sunflower parmesan (excellent).



He was long finished when our oven roasted fingerling potatoes with spicy marinara finally came out. Luckily VM and I are nice, so we shared.

 

For entrees, VM's brunch cauliflower parm sandwich with spicy marinara and cashew mozzarella was a nice choice. It was way too messy to have been served on the slate slab, but I could have overlooked that had our other two entrees not taken an additional 20 minutes to come out. Because she is the most polite person I know, she waited and ate it cold. In case you were wondering, cold cauli parm is not ideal.

 

89 ate some spinach while we waited because she's not nearly as polite.

 

My dad chose the tomato, basil, cashew mozzarella pie and gobbled it up; that's the best review you'll get from him. You'll notice their signature pile of red pepper flakes is missing from the corner of the pan. I asked for some on the side and the server apologized for the oversight, but never brought any.


I ordered the eggplant bacon, tomato, garlic mozzarella, olives, oregano, arugula pizza. The eggplant bacon was amazing, but there wasn't even a piece per slice, and the pieces were pretty small. Same for the olives (sliced, not whole). I don't expect toppings such as these to be piled on, but for at least one piece of each ingredient  to make it on each of the 6 slices isn't too much to ask.

 

We were interested in dessert, but honestly didn't have the time to wait. As it was, we had to flag down someone for the check after sitting with our empty plates in front us for some time. Don't get me wrong; I hate to be rushed. But surely there is a happy medium?

In case you were wondering, we weren't alone in experiencing this service dilemma. A lady dining next to us ordered a hot tea and gave her credit card at the end of her meal. Twenty minutes later she asked to cancel the tea and just have the check. She was told "it had already been put in." Really? The tea order couldn't be recalled after twenty minutes? Honestly, they should have just left it to cool for the next person who ordered an iced tea.

All of this is to say- I love the idea, I love the location, and who can resist a dog-friendly (outdoor seating only) establishment? Not this girl. I'm hoping that this was just a fluke.



We were very happy to see that Bar Verde, another Matthew Kenney establishment, was coming soon (now open). I'm anxious to try it for a multitude of reasons- not the least of which is to see if the service is any better.


And in the hopes that they too, are pet-friendly.


Monday, October 30, 2017

89 as beta fish, Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade, and more

Even though 89 had a superb, VM-original costume last year, we wound up missing the Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade. It was a scheduling issue, but it ultimately wound up being a not-ideal weather day, which assuaged our disappointment a bit. Also, it was good to take a year off from the crowded, sometimes discombobulated event within the dusty (by design) dog park where it all began as a fundraiser to keep the popular dog run open. I was a bit jaded that the winners are almost guaranteed to be those that spent the most money on their costume- generally in the form of an enormous float, with little attention paid to those with heart (i.e. everyone). But, lest I be labeled a spoilsport, I digress.

This year, we commandeered VM's services once again- this time for a beta fish costume. The idea was my coworker's when, through a series of unusual events, our office wound up fostering two temporarily abandoned beta fish for a short time and she noticed that 89's tail had the natural movement of a fish fin.

 

I was all about this costume and I immediately taped photos of inspiring beta fish to my office wall so I'd see them every time I looked up. Betas are unique creatures- both unto themselves and also in their relationships with humans. I rarely go into pet stores because the confined animals of all kinds make my heart ache, but betas are some of the worst cases: dishonored in their tiny, solitary bowls and being marketed as little more than decoration. In the midst of the costume execution, this article came out about depressed fish, and the friends not food aspect was not lost on me either. It seemed like a win-win.

VM was dubious from the start, even though we found the perfect fabric to begin construction.



"We'd" gotten off to a late start, so many design decisions had to be made via text. For instance, how many layers of netting best resemble fish scales? Answer: 1.
 
 
Then, VM had a tough time fitting the unforgiving fabric to 89's long, slender (ironically fish-shaped) bod, let alone doing so with 100-ply of delicate fabric in order to obtain the optimal shimmer.


But, per usual, 89 was a trooper throughout.


The construction of the fins brought it's own set of issues because 89's enormous ears blocked the neckline during fittings. This was my solution.


In the end, while VM put her best work into the endeavor, I couldn't help feeling like it wasn't reading BETAFISH. I was definitely to blame for what I saw as the non-ideal finished inference. It was beautifully made and VM had executed exactly what I'd requested; I'd just somehow missed an element along the way and I couldn't figure out the solution that would bridge the gap between my vision and the finished product. My biggest complaint was that it unintentionally had some 80s prom dress vibes, which perhaps says more about 80s fashion than it does about 89 pulling off a betafish costume.

In any event, we all- me, 89, OD, and VM, decided to head to the parade together. We stopped off at The Bean for breakfast... 


...before heading off to the event.


To my surprise, the parade had been delightfully relocated from the dog run to the basketball court. Since it was a sunny and warm day, this not only meant it wouldn't be dusty, but it also wouldn't be stinky (sorry, pooches; it's a fact of life). There was also a ton more room for pooches, humans, and spectators who I heard, much to my innate disappointment, referring to 89 as a princess and, more insultingly, Rainbow Brite. OD claimed to have heard a couple of "fish!" proclamations and friends graciously insisted that they saw a fish right away, but overall it wasn't a slam dunk in my opinion. I'd hoped the fish would be easier than explaining Adele Bloch Bauer, but it just seemed to bring its own set of issues. WAH!


I'd brought 89's stroller with us because I figured she'd get tired and I knew my weak arms couldn't hold her for hours. In my disappointment over what I perceived to be a non-perfect costume, I did a less than ideal job "decorating" the stroller- using only what I considered to be a water-colored sheet.

 

Total fail on my part and I own it. Perhaps if I'd taken the time (there wasn't any) to have transformed the stroller into an underwater-theme, what would have been helpful. But, I hadn't and it wasn't. In my defense, I was also worried that such a theme would dilute her costume, but surely there was an ideal, middle ground solution. Thankfully, 89 immediately showed herself to be having a great time, so that made me slightly less grumpy.


These front fins were particularly fabulous.


In case you're wondering, the dogs are all really well-behaved at this event- even 89!
Some of our faves:


You can see some of the dogs she visited with here.


This was the most organized Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade we've attended. We had a great time and saw some great costumes- full of heart and happiness and the love between humans and pets. Naturally, we didn't win. In fact, as we exited the stage we were once again guided past the large, expensive floats and were told that they would be "sticking around" because they were under "consideration." Sigh. There were so many funny, punny, original, and heartfelt costumes that weren't "considered," but I think that's okay since we had appreciated them and so did countless others.

 

The fact of the matter is that we don't do it to win; we do it to have fun. So, mission accomplished!

 

Who knows? Maybe next year we'll consider a huge float if we find an idea that we fall in love with. But, there's a lot to consider. I learn lessons every year about what 89 likes, what she'll put up with, and what is just not feasible over the course of the event. 


In the end, we accomplished together a great more than I could have alone (I can't sew and I am always amazed the tricks VM has up her sleeve). But, most importantly, just look at how resplendent 89's tail looked! Mission accomplished indeed.

 

PS: I shamelessly plugged 89 at the event.

 

The fun didn't end there. Thankfully, once we escaped the throngs of people attending the parade (it goes on for hours; we didn't stay for the whole event), we were mere blocks from Confectionery! . So, we all essentially trick-or-treated; cookies and shortbread for the humans, Sweet Maresa's cookies for 89. Here she is showing off those fins again.


Some street art showcasing 89's daily nemeses.


And then we scored outdoor seating at Double Zero for lunch.


This turned out to be a lucky break, because soon after the outdoor dining area was full- of pooches!



89 was super pooped.

 

But she did manage to perk up when the food started arriving.


Vegans...always with the salad...


One final rendezvous with a spider before departing.


THEN we went to MooShoes! Well, 89 went to MooShoes while I went to Orchard Grocer.


 First I shared my pumpkin/vanilla soft serve with this dog.


THEN I shared it with this dog.

 

And then we headed home. 89 slept the whole ride.


She woke up when we got home so she could eat all of her trick-or-treats from Confectionery and MooShoes.


The next day we went to the Red Bank Farmer's Market for some Cinnamon Snail!


This is 89's "feed me" face.


This is our obligatory don't-be-ridiculous-it's-an-outdoor-farmer's-market photo.


 As such, we finally completed our pumpkin/gourd collection at home.


 

So, now we're just waiting for tomorrow, actual Halloween, to complete the festive season. Hope you get a lot of trick-or-treaters!

PS I heard that some towns do Halloween on the Friday before Halloween. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL? Do we have to over-schedule everything? Halloween is Halloween, which means it's October 31, regardless of what day that is. That is some BS, that's what it is.