Monday, June 19, 2017

Chaiwali Love: A Delicious Harlem Haven

I found a dining place with vegan options to appreciate in Harlem. Amazingly enough, it's a four minute walk from my favorite place-- Studio Museum Harlem.
Last Wednesday, I had the most thrilling time in New York City. I saw the latest Kehinde Wiley paintings at Sean Kelly Gallery, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's current works at New Museum (excited about going to her talk next month!), and spent time at Schomburg Research Center for Black Culture Library and their awesome bookstore.

Schomburg Bookshop presents to self: Jean-Michel Basquiat postcard, a Radical Dreams "Unbought & Unbossed" Shirley Chisolm lapel pin, the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's "Kindred," and "Black 20th Century Art" (which the cashier kindly gave me for free). 
The art hopping/book collecting day conjured up a supreme appetite. I had to be at a place near Studio Museum, seeing as it was my primary reason for coming to The Big Apple. The second annual Lea K. Green Artist Talk, a tremendous honor named after a wonderful arts advocate, would be bestowed upon one of my favorite contemporary artists, Jordan Casteel.
Chaliwali, on Lenox Avenue, was listed as a nearby spots with vegan options. I cyber browsed the menu and ultimately decided that it would be the perfect place to have dinner before the event. Of course, I walked down the wrong street. It wouldn't be me if this didn't happen.....  

I'm a big chai tea fan and had to try out their naked house chai tea. Pretty cool that they serve it out of a coffee pot. It's strong, unsweetened, and pure yum.
Beautiful interior shots of the exquisite yet sleek dining establishment. There are fancy chandeliers, warm brown and gold accents, clean, polished surfaces...
I choose to eat at the bar, but this is a look at the tables and outside eating area.
I ordered the kale burger!
I almost died.
Just died.
This kale burger is simply exceptional. And I told Eric, my waiter, that it was perfect. I can see why it's popular. It is giant, crispy, flavorful. I'm not the biggest kale fan, but this burger was swaying with powerful intentions, especially with the tantalizing side dishes--garlic spinach, spiced rosemary potatoes, and chutney. I had one hand holding onto dear life of my burger loaded with crunchy lettuce and juicy, perfectly ripened avocado and the other held a fork, digging into potatoes and spinach with greedy relish. I had Harry Meets Sally moments with that food, closing my eyes, savoring every bite, very happy to alone at the bar. It was that good.
When finished, the whole plate yes, I could barely move.

A close up of this mouthwatering, out of this world burger that made sure I couldn't order dessert. I'll be thinking about the vegan whipped coconut creme, saffron, and mango sweetness that I missed out on. Until next time Chaiwali...
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Chipotle Macaroni & Cheese Salad

This is the macaroni salad your friends will love and beg you to bring to every outdoor party/barbecue/function/what-have-you.
The weather is finally starting to reach scorching level potential.
It's almost at 90 degrees in Philly today. I'm feeling the heat flames. The bugs are already out and taking mysterious bites. My arms and elbows are red, bumpy, and swollen. Scratching is an irresistible (yet considerably annoying) task when you want to read new book releases, draw a bunch of fashionable box braid models, write new blog posts, obsess over the Black Panther trailer, and consume a vegan ice cream cone. Ugh. As I reminisce on yummy fare, at the same time, I'm researching natural bug bite remedies. Still, I plan on slapping a heaping of coconut oil to the problem. That always works, right? I'm glad they haven't eaten my face.....
In other news, macaroni and cheese makes for a great chilled pasta salad. On occasion, I'm finding it hard to find a vegan version hitting the restaurant scene. We definitely need a rich, creamy, plant based version of our own, not butter required.
Field Roast Chao's Tomato Cayenne is my favorite obsession. I have likely stated this love a thousand times. I buy it on the regular. Thus, my pasta mac featuring the amazing vegan cheese has a mild spicy flare. I didn't have any peppers, but will be sure to include them charred and roasted the next time. I believe it'll pull the overall dish together.
This mac salad is delicious. The more difficult challenge is to not eating several bowls. After all, tis the season to hold back.

Chipotle Macaroni & Cheese Salad Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup macaroni
1/2 cup almond milk (or any other dairy free milk)
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
4-5  slices Field Roast Chao Tomato Cayenne
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of paprika
2 tablespoon Hampton Creek's Just Mayo Chipotle

Cook your macaroni to al deinte perfection.
Stir almond milk, tomatoes, Chao cheese, and yeast together, melting these beautifully.
Add salt, turmeric, black pepper, and paprika.
Pour into a large bowl and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
Mix in Just Mayo and serve.

Yummy magnificent mac.

Eat well and share with love.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Banana Tahini Smoothie

Bananas and tahini in smoothie? Who would have thought?
Warmer days call for sweet yummy beverages in tow with generous helpings of water replenishment. In the summer months, I always make sure to have plenty of bananas on hand. They are great for thickening smoothies and milkshakes. Plus the more brown spots they have, the more natural sugars will be available. I wouldn't have to add cane sugar, maple, or date syrup to these drinks thanks to bananas.
With this smoothie, a few spices and nutty flavored tahini bring together a quick, tasty refresher. The sesame seed sprinkle gives a little crunchy texture to ease out the overall creamy smoothness. 

Banana Tahini Smoothie Ingredients and Preparation

2 bananas, ripened
2 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

Blend all ingredients (save for the optional sesame seeds) together.
Pour into desired glass and sprinkle with sesame seeds and extra cinnamon and cocoa powder.
Drink up!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cocoa V: Chocoholic Delights At A Real Life Vegan Chocolat Exists

On a walk fresh from the Whitney Museum, having a hankering for sweets, I spied a chic, romantic haven. I was actually on my way to the library to see one of my favorite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, have a conversation about "Americanah," winner of 2017's One Book campaign in NYC.
Chocolat is real for vegans!
Unfortunately, the beautiful chocolate shop wasn't opened, having a "Be Back in 30 Minutes" sign hanging on the door.
I held an inner battle.
When had the sign been placed? Five minutes ago? Ten minutes? Would it be best to wait another day? Should I just continue on my walking and go to Cinnamon Snail instead (another hike)?
In the end, I waited (my chocoholic heart believes in love at first sight, especially if it's vegan related).
I'm so beyond happy that I did. For Cocoa V is worth the drool and the pining away.

For one thing, they have pastries, milkshakes, and chocolate.....

Inside the brick house location, they have a lovely stacked assortment of ribbon tied barks such as Blueberry Apricot, Cocoa Nib Brittle, Pretzel Caramel, and more.
Small space, intimate seating, charming view.

My seat.

Adorable pieces of chocolate flavors include PB& J, Hazelnut Praline, and Salted Caramel.

The pressed chocolate bars are to die for. I got to try samples of both the Smores and Strawberry Banana flavors. I cannot tell which one reins on top. The sweet marshmallow contrasts well with the rich, divine chocolate. They were out of graham pieces, but I just knew that it would've been exceptional replacement for the popular over-the-fire camping treat. The dried bananas against the chocolate tasted like a cosmic love affair that can only be described by a true romantic. 

Very kind, gracious Chelsea poses with the Smores bar-- a highly recommended delight!

Peanut brittle, cookies, and lemon cake with cream cheese icing (seen in the mirror) are other delights on the chocolate shop counters. I couldn't believe that this astoundingly delicious sight was all vegan, 100% vegan. It was like an awe-inspiring dream, one that I must have imagined a thousand times. I was part Willy Wonka, part Vianne Rocher, and a little part Armande Voizin (because who else didn't love Judi Dench's character!).

Miniature cupcakes with chocolate ganache icing screamed my name (well, everything inside screamed my name), but I ordered something a little more simple, a little more ordinary. It's not to say that I would not have ganache cupcakes or anything else the charming confectionery had to offer. I would eat everything in a heartbeat. Alas, one must think of moderation and loving their bodies with a degree of decorum, especially in the face of something as preciously divine as chocolate seduction.

I had to have the chocolate layer cake.

The cake is moist, rich, and wonderful. I savored the heaven out of this decadent slice, a delightfully wicked interlude to a rather splendid day. It seemed to say, take the time, enjoy this moment. Cocoa V primarily uses Felchlin Chocolate, a Switzerland based company committed to sustainable grown cacao beans from Madagascan farmers, is on the Recommended Chocolate List of Food Empowerment Project. I knew a bliss unlike any other and vowed to return. For Cocoa V promises to be an often serendipitous haven for me, the perfect place to write and indulge in romantic possibilities. Oh, I'm so happy to have found this!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Veggie Heaven is What The Title Says It Is

I loved the beautiful d├ęcor of Veggie Heaven, right in Montclair, New Jersey. It looked like a sweet, homey place to have comfort food and more. An old Ohioan friend and I decided to stop here for lunch. The handy Garmin device suggested Veggie Heaven as the nearest vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Naturally, we headed there with hope and hunger. After all, the previous evening, spent in NYC's Chinatown, proved to be a food disaster that bore no repeating.

Pretty potted plants, white, ornate door frames, and pale pink exterior walls were cleanly designed, attractive to the artist eye.
I ordered the $6.50 lunch special which includes soup or spring roll with main course. The portions are sumptuous enough. I started off with the wonton soup. The light broth had little slivers of mushrooms and green leaf (it wasn't cilantro) with two plump veggie filled wontons. Very hot, but tasty. 

Sweet Potato Rolls (not part of the lunch special, but at $4.25 what's not to love), were absolutely divine. This superb sushi delight features warm sweet potato wrapped in nori and rice and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was sooooooo delicious. My friend also ordered the same. We also received a complimentary pot of flavorful tea. My friend had sugar packets. I did not (despite how this photo looks).

Yummy yummy!

Sesame Chik'n (yes to more sesame seeds!), my excellent main dish, made me swoon deep in my heart and soul. The "meat" was tender and crisp and the sauce was light, not too heavy or salty. Perfectly balanced with the brown rice, broccoli, and sliced red bell pepper. My friend enjoyed her fake "chicken" so much more than what she had the previous night. I'll get to that terrible experience in a later post. For now, I'll just say that our time at Veggie Heaven was divine, near perfection. We had delicious comforting cheap food, wonderful service, and absolutely had no room for dessert. That's the definition of success. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Highlights of Vegan Philly Popup at Tattooed Mom's: Gone Pie & Newman's Boulangerie

A few weeks ago, straight after work, I raced down to South Street just in the nick of time for Philly May Mini Vegan Pop Up Flea. There were vendors galore selling vegan wares, some of which were packing up and leaving for the day. Others were still thriving and relaxing, chatting with last minute stragglers. I finally got to meet the owner/creator of one of my favorite fair trade chocolate brands, Barb of Gone Pie, who kindly set aside my requested IG treats.
In continuing my favorite vegan things for Vegan Minifoo, I wanted to express my joy of chocolate, especially fair trade chocolate and Gone Pie's addictive creativity. At Gone Pie, which offers a unique subscription service as well as being sold at various NYC locations, they specialize in brownies, pies, candies, chocolate covered pretzels, and more. Now this chocolate, Food Empowerment Project approved, is decadent, sweet, and pleasant-- all the adjectives chocolate should be and more-- but with the added benefit of where the chocolate is sourced.

A scrumptious complimentary bite sized candy bar delight. Thank you, Barb. I loved this and all of the other chocolates.

Newman's Boulangerie made out of this world croissants with the irresistible combination of soft and flaky and a not too salty flavor. I look forward to consuming more and more of these in my near future. Maybe someday they'll collaborate with Gone Pie for a special edition chocolate stuffed croissant (best of both worlds!).

More Gone Pie treats galore. I ordered the almond joy (top left), two peanut butter blondies dipped in rich chocolate (diagonal from each other), and a rice crispy treat also dipped in chocolate (bottom right).

A look inside the rice crispy treat. Nom nom!

I saved the almond joy and a peanut butter blondie for my two friends who graduated from PAFA last Friday. They enjoyed them immensely, surprised by the amazing goodness of these treats!

During a quiet moment at work, one must indulge on the final piece of yummylicious chocolate.

Shameless close up.

Definitely enjoyed the variety of flavors in this chocolate dipped peanut butter blondie, especially that salty peanut butter chocolate mouthful at the center of it all, a most wondrous experience.

Snickerdoodle Milkshake

A favorite cookie treat turned into a decadent dessert beverage.
Vegan Mofo Minifoo for May asks for our favorites.
Well, one of my favorite treats is homemade snickerdoodles. There's something irresistible about an entire kitchen smelling of a baking magician sprinkling a vast cinnamon spell that takes over the whole entire home. Plus my hands enjoy the task of forming sugar dough balls and rolling them in cinnamon-sugar mix. It's the best fun!
For today, the guilty pleasure cookie turns into a scrumptious milkshake with the aide of So Delicious's amazing Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Ice Cream and an extra dose of cinnamon fixation.

Snickerdoodle Milkshake Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup So Delicious Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Ice Cream
1 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 tablespoon date syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 little Snickerdoodle Cookies (like Enjoy Life Foods Soft Baked or homemade)

Blend all ingredients together until thick and smooth.

Snickerdoodle + equal cinnamon equals love.

Cinnamon stick embellishment!

And the snickerdoodle cookie drops like a dub step beat.