VR birthday!

amongst all of the wondrous holiday bustle, we just want to take a moment to wish the blog a happy birthday!

our very first post was on december 25 of 2008, 1 year and 1 day ago...since then we've written nearly 140 posts about our culinary adventures and our daily lives.

so we hope to continue into this new decade! writing for the blog has given us a new sense of purpose and mindfulness about the steps we take while we're food shopping/menu planning/cooking, and has really just been a lot of fun.

thanks so much to our followers and commenters, and to our family and friends who are so supportive and encouraging.

more to come!

emily & lauren


it's simple

since the summer, i have been experimenting with simple syrups (aka sugar dissolved in water), and their many manifestations. it's just a matter of picking an herb, fruit, spice, or other natural flavor you can think and steeping it in hot sugar-water. then, you can add your sugar brew to any manner of drink or libation (hot or cold! no need to worry about sugar dissolving in a cold beverage once it's already well pre-dissolved). the possibilities are almost too endless to approach: plucked from your garden, scavenged from your fridge, or grabbed from your spice rack, anything edible is up for consideration. please believe it - every drink can be elevated to new gourmet heights with even a tiny splash of homemade infused simple syrup.

among my many batches, i've tried mint, rosemary, citrus, cinnamon, and most recently, ginger simple syrups. ginger has so far been my favorite. now and forever, i love ginger, any way you slice it (NO PUN INTENDED). ginger beer, tea, and those chewy little candies, i just can't get enough of the sweet/spicy/brainy buzz of real ginger. and the best part of ginger simple syrup is that it's simple as shit. seriously, even a complete kitchen amateur can rock this out.

props to our bro karina for the heads up on this recipe concept!

ginger simple syrup

i'm not even going to list ingredients or whatever, k? it's too silly to even bother.

- just put 1 cup of sugar and 1.5 cups of water into a small saucepan over high heat. bring it to a boil, and stir for a few seconds to ensure that the sugar has dissolved. once it seems good and incorporated, throw 4 or so fat slices of fresh ginger into the pot. you don't even need to peel 'em! 4 slices = about 1 inch of ginger root. then let it just sit and steep, without heat, for 20 - 30 minutes.

- then, check it out - it's done. that's it! fish the ginger slices out with a spoon and you've got potent, perfect ginger simple syrup all ready to go.

- once it's cooled, carefully use a small funnel and transfer it into a cute bottle that will live happily in the refrigerator:

then, please dear friends, try this drink i may have invented:

the cold toddy

- pour plain seltzer/soda water over a few ice cubes in a rocks glass. leave a bit of room. add 1 or 2 ounces of whiskey (don't be finicky - any kind will do), then squeeze in the juice of half a fresh lemon. top with a healthy splash of ginger simple syrup (to taste) and mix well. drink, slowly. 3 or 4 of these babies go down faster than you think.

in the words of our dear friend karina (via wayne & garth)..."zang!"



winter light & dark

when it comes to food and drink, as well as films, books, music, art, fashion, bicycles, and almost anything else you can think of - i am no snob. truth be told, i tend to like almost everything, in one way or another. i don't feel that i can rightfully call myself a connoisseur of any of these categories (though i do love them all), and thus give up the right to feign disgust or disinterest in "lower forms" of things.

i can, of course, observe and point out the differences between, say, the 400 blows and the 2000 remake of charlie's angels. sure, both are "movies" in the vaguest sense of the word, but that's about where the similarities end. instead of praising one as true cinema, and panning the other as pure schlock, i'd tend to base their value on context. which am i more likely to watch on an airplane, if i just need to give my brain a rest? on any given day, am i more likely to thumb through a worn copy of anna karenina or a comic book about zombies? in this day and age, with infinite cultural products at our fingertips, it's more important to know what you want and why, than to be a self-proclaimed expert, who dismisses all things "low" just cuz.

and generally speaking, when even the bad stuff is still pretty good, the good stuff is transcendent. that has always been my attitude, especially when it comes to booze & beer. completely without shame, i'll slam a PBR or a schlitz - hell, even some malt liquor - if the occasion calls for it. on other occasions, you'll find me experimenting with liqueurs, fresh fruit juices and herbal simple syrups, creating funny, delicious little cocktails. i've swilled both libations, the 22 oz. high life can & the rosemary grapefruit gimlet, in my very kitchen, just based on my mood. i guess i'm a relativist when it comes to this stuff.

but i DO like good beer, i like it a lot indeed. and sometimes, there is no greater occasion than a very simple meal (juxtaposition of simple and heady is an art unto itself) to pop the tops of some special brews.

lucky for us, there are two excellent craft beer stores, the foodery and hawthorne's, both just a few minutes from our home. and so, while the tomato sauce is simmering, i can call lauren and ask her to grab a 6er on her way home from work. and instead of showing up bearing yuengling or the like, she just come bearing a few thrilling and delightful bottles to pair with dinner.

a few nights ago, two such bottles were from two of my favorite active craft breweries, avery (out of boulder, colorado) and bell's (from kalamazoo, michigan). both beers were decidedly seasonal "winter" brews, but as different as can be:

opposite ends of the spectrum!

the bell's winter white ale (the blondie on the left) is made with american wheat and belgian-style yeast. light and crisp, with just a hint of sweet, this was a delight. i love wheat beers, but sometimes they're too sugary for me. this ale was just right. i'm a bit unclear what makes this a winter beer (for it could be a total life saver on a muggy summer afternoon), but it was nice to know that "winter beer" isn't synonymous with rich and heavy.

the avery old jubilation (brunette on the right) is an english strong ale, that is more along the lines of a classic holiday beer. it was super flavorful but managed to not be cloying or overbearing. especially after sips of the avery winter hefe, you could really taste the hazelnutty, toffee-y notes, and the complex, deep maltiness that characterize this beer. unlike most other christmas ales, this beer doesn't contain any spices, so at no point does it have that mulled wine taste. i like when breweries show some restraint in their recipes! because, though a baking spice mix does signify the season, that aroma is often best left for fresh gingerbread and pretty wreaths on the front door. one more reason to love this beer is that it weighs in at 8%, nice and hefty, so that you can be less self conscious as you belt out your favorite holiday song while doing the dishes.

there is no reason write about mediocre beer (or food) unless to criticize it. so while there is room in my heart and belly for the highs and the lows that the world has to offer, i'm thankful for thoughtfully crafted, well made things that inspire poetry among those who experience them.



truffle shuffle

always the stuff of epicurean lore, i've only ever seen fresh truffles from afar, sitting preciously under glass in a fancy market. the price tag made me gasp for air and i assumed the closest i would ever really get was the lovely bottle of truffle-infused oil that my friend larissa gave me for my last birthday. i will admit - a bit of the stuff drizzled upon some soup or to finish a risotto adds a wondrous, luxurious earthy flavor that's made a believer of me. ryan claims that truffles don't really have much flavor, and are just ghastly expensive hype restaurants use to wow their jaded customers. it is hard to tell with rare things sometimes if they truly are special and worth their exorbitant prices to attain. is it all just a matter of suspended belief on the part of consumers and the crafty marketing of retailers who pander to foodies? or is it real?

despite this philosophical quandary, it is true that a small container of real black truffles (1 oz, to be exact) lives in the bottom of our fridge as i write this. they are nesting in arborio rice, like three wrinkly turds. see?

this way, the rice absorbs some of the flavor for future use!

sis lauren brought some home from her new gig at one of philadelphia's finest food retailers, an extraordinary splurge, even with a 20% discount. so, like true kitchen royalty, for the past week we've been sprinkling and shaving truffles, like so many flakes of gold, on all kinds of unsuspecting and humble dishes: root vegetable soup, pizzas and pastas. and here goes nothing: the hype is real. these bizarre hunks of fungus make shit taste just amazing.

truffles work well, apparently, with simple clean flavors and only the smallest amount of truffle is needed to impart a whopping amount of its flavor. so we've truffed and truffed, and still have so much left. anyone have ideas about how to best use the remainder?

and, as a quick aside, i must attend to one important matter: it is widely known that the majority of wild truffles are sniffed out by trained dogs and pigs. to some very strict animal righters, this might not make them really vegan because of the animal labor involved. while i respect that take on things, it is not the one i subscribe to right now. i'm ok with the truffles labor industry, or at least, i can let it go. in fact, one of the articles i was reading earlier about truffles mentioned that many times, when the pigs find the truffles, they immediately eat them! oh, just imagine a disgruntled frenchmen throwing his cap to the ground and cursing "merde!" at the deliriously happy pig, chomping on its prize.

and finally, if you ever find yourself with your own little truffle cache, you simply must use some in this very seasonal soup, from my girl sally schneider's comfort repertoire.

Root Vegetable Crema
adapted from a new way to cook by sally schneider (adapted from a chef at chez panisse)


2 teaspoons fat (oil, margarine, butter)
1 medium potato, i just can't get enough yukon gold
1 small celery root, peeled and finely diced (3/4 cup)
1 medium leek, or one small onion, sliced (just the white part if using a leek)
2 small parsnips, finely sliced (1/2 - 2/3 cup)
2 - 4 garlic cloves
1 sprig fresh thyme, or a healthy pinch of dried thyme
a pinch salt (about 1/4 tsp)
a pinch sugar
2/3 cup water
3 cups broth, preferably homemade vegetable stock
freshly ground pepper, white pepper if you have it
tiny pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup soy creamer, or real cream if you cook with dairy (optional)
part or all of a fresh black truffle, pounded into a paste with a mortar & pestle, or a drizzle of truffle oil

- heat the fat in a medium or large saucepan over medium heat. add all the ingredients down to water (not the broth) and bring to a simmer.

- cover and cook for 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated.

- add the stock, bring back to a simmer, re-cover and cover for another 15 minutes, until all the veggies are soft.

- puree with your immersion blender. don't stop until it's really, really smooth. or, if you are without, carefully puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. if you want to go the extra mile, you can strain the soup back into the pot for a more dramatically creamy texture.

- season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. careful with the nutmeg - too much will really overpower the soup. add the soy creamer, and then the pounded truffle paste and stir until completely mixed into the soup.

- finito! a perfect winter soup in, like, 40 minutes.



resurrection - not a post on seances

ok, so this is going to be another one of those posts where i talk about how great a bar/restaurant was and then the pictures are so incredibly crappy. i hate to say it, but you just kind of have to deal with it. part of what makes this particular restaurant so charming and cozy is its limited seating area and its dim lighting. these characteristics do not a good picture taking environment make. our table was so close to the ladies' next to us that when adjusting my angle, i almost put my elbow right into someone's french fries! whoops. that being said...

resurrection ale house is a tiny special place. it opened a few months ago and is owned by the same people as the much celebrated local 44. location: closer to our new house! resurrection is on catharine and gray's ferry just a few blocks south of south street. as i mentioned (multiple times), it's pretty tiny inside. and when i said cozy, i didn't mean it like the real estate agent trying to sell a one-bedroom to three people. it's actually charmingly small. the waitress said "as you can see, we're a pretty small restaurant. what that means is, we don't have a freezer, all our ingredients are fresh and everything is made to order." hey, i like your attitude!

i ordered a kwak (this website is freaking adorable), which is a belgian beer that comes in it's own branded glass. it looks like this:

my lady date and i decided to try a few things off of the "smaller stuff" side of the menu and ordered taters & 'snips, roasted cauliflower, the homemade pickles, and balsamic roasted radicchio. then i had another beer called maredsous 10 (10 being the abv, whoa!) and then we got this chocolate thing for dessert that kind of happened before we knew it. oops.

the food was all REALLY good, if not somewhat small portions. this place was more expensive than my normal haunts, but what the hey, it was really delicious and fun and after a few of those high abv drinks, the check stings a bit less. what's that? my pictures make it look less than appetizing? well we've been over this about the pictures, and you'll just have to go see for yourself. it's worth it, if for nothing else than the beer!



california part II

the california trip was just shy of a week, so i should be able to sum up the rest of the journey in this post. man, i wish it was a longer stay, something like 2 weeks, so a multi-day trip to LA could've been squeezed in, and relaxation could've reached truly epic heights (lows?).

either way, that's not how it goes for the likes of ry & me & our bank accounts, so we tried to enjoy each minute of every day, and what a rad trip it was...

on saturday, we woke up to a brilliant morning and biked our way through oakland (so charming!), to a diner called rudy's can't fail cafe. this kitchsy gem combines punk rock aesthetics (without any bad attitude from the servers), with classic comfort food. lots of vegetarian and vegan options, too, oh lordy the menu was packed with choices. however, we had a bit of a wait to get seated, and drank lots of coffee in the outdoor courtyard.

did i mention the weather was amazing? not warm enough to go without a jacket, but still sunny, clear, energizing, lovely.

after our hearty breakfasts and probably too much coffee, we biked into berkeley, and spent many hours in the amoeba records on telegraph. i bought a really good stack of vinyl, including a mae west collection of sultry jazzy numbers called "queen of sex." fighting our way through the crowds comprised of students and burn outs, we stopped in tiny deli for what were fast becoming ubiquitous late afternoon big bottles of beer.

biked up and further up winding hills into a very fancy neighborhood in berkeley, to a park that was essentially a huge rock from which there were breathtaking views of the bay and san franscisco beyond it.

other people slowly gathered across all facets of our little mountain, and we drank our hoppy brews and talked, and watched the lucky residents of the homes below go about their early saturday evenings. at one point, we heard a woman's voice gently shout "dinner time!" and saw a few children scurry out of the yard and up the steps...what a heartwarming little scene. so as the sun began to set, we quieted down, and watched the golden drama unfold.

after the beautiful sun finally sank below the horizon (and you could really see it disappear, until only a glow remained, then finally...nothing), i said "it would be funny if people clapped," and then they did - they applauded the sunset! the lack of irony and cynicism in the people out west is astounding, equal parts weird and comforting to a lifelong east coaster like me. we packed up our bags and empty bottles, and headed back down the steep garden path back down to our bikes.

a relatively quick shop in the berkeley bowl (too much to photograph to even try) for dinner wares, and then back to the apartment to make our meal: a big green salad with blackberries & easter egg radishes, pasta with mushrooms and peas, and an asparagus & brussels sprout salad with almond lemon pesto (one of ryan's new specialties). we ate heartily around their cozy table, sipping wine and listening to the records we'd purchased earlier.

later, a quick bike ride to eli's mile high club, a very divey punk bar (and oddly empty on a saturday night), for a few rounds of drinks and pool...

then we biked further into downtown oakland, toward the ruby room, which was in full swing with some sort of booze-soaked high school reunion where everyone was in costumes. it was a bit odd, and so we only stayed for one drink. back in the apartment, we ate some little snacks, talked some more, and turned in for the night.

after a quick breakfast in the morning, ryan and i swung by a car rental place, got ourselves a nice little 4-door, and headed south toward santa cruz! our friends patrick and janina moved out there in june, and i've missed them so. we drove down the coast, an epic and gorgeous landscape of mountains, gigantic trees, and beaches. we pulled off at pescadero beach to walk off some of the gnarly snacks we bought from a gas station. here is ryan looking very california:

i'd never been to santa cruz before, and it was a quaint beach-y town with a very 50's feel. there is a rad old boardwalk with wooden roller coasters that i sadly didn't take any photos of. also, just past the boardwalk there is the bridge where they filmed that scene in "lost boys." while we stood on the bridge at twilight, looking out over the dry riverbed below, patrick pointed out a blue heron standing gracefully on the riverbank. the night was cool, but clear, and it felt really special to be there with them.

we walked all through the town, to a badass sushi restaurant, whose name i can't remember. i didn't take any photos there either...by that point in the trip i was definitely slacking on the picture-taking. so just take my word for it that the sushi was incredible (there were macademia nuts in one of my rolls, and they have the option to get your rolls tempura-ed, like deep fried, like oh my GOD). full & happy, we walked over to logos, the very cool bookstore where janina is now employed. the store is just huge, so we spent an hour or so perusing all the books and records and meeting her co-workers. it's always nice to get to see a glimpse of a friend's day-to-day life who lives far away from you...like it kind of helps you feel closer to them when they're like "i'm at work, i can't really talk right now," and you can imagine exactly what that scene looks like.

we had some cocktails at a fancy little bar called the 515, including a really wonderful drink that i had, a spin on an old fashioned with herb infused bourbon, maraschino cherry, oranges and champagne. i don't always dig on the overwrought craft cocktail thing, but this was crazy good. and strong!!

back at the apartment, we stayed up late talking, trading stories, watching funny youtube videos and drinking cold bottles of beer. in the morning, we woke up to another beautiful california day, complete with cat:

also, remember how janina is an expert jam maker? well, even on the other coast, she's still at it. check this out: she doesn't have a shelf, or part of a cabinet dedicated storing her canned wares and preserves. no, she has an entire closet!

a very inspiring site to me, still weirdly intimidated by the process of canning. anyway, we had to return the car by 1PM, so we said our farewells with long hugs. the drive back to SF was quick and easy (we took the highway back), and we mentally prepared for our last day of the trip. we bummed around oakland with john in the afternoon, i met up with another friend for coffee in the evening, and we polished off some rippin' 'za at a pizzeria called lane splitters. finally, to our last bar of the trip and undoubtedly the best: a tiny, ancient dive called kingfish. this was my kind of bar: small without being cramped, $1 olympias served up by a wizened but friendly old man, a jukebox, a diverse crowd, low ceilings, a popcorn machine in the corner and...shuffleboard!

does anyone know of bars in philly that have a shuffleboard table? i was too drunk to play very well that night, but i do love a good game of shuffleboard. mary met up with us there after her drawing class, and it just felt so easy and regular to be meeting up in the night to drink and reflect on our days, just like we used to in philly. through my beer + bliss haze, i kind of let myself pretend that this was just another day in our lives, and not the last night of a brief visit.

loving people is hard sometimes. you want them to be near you, but you also want them to be fulfilled, and to explore, and to be where is right for them. you try to enjoy the times you do have together without constantly reminding yourself that soon you will have to say goodbye. you look at their faces and feel them in your arms when you hug, and you know that this is fleeting, and that it will be another 7 months at least before you get to do that again.

when we said goodbye on tuesday morning at the oakland airport, i felt so many things. i remembered the morning that john & mary drove away from our house in west philly for the last time, i remember how mary cried and how touched i was, and how deep it felt to watch them really go. i felt amazed at how many miles separate us now, but how from the moment we arrived, i felt instantly re-connected and happy. yes, the bay area is charming, and abundant and awesome, but we could've been in any little apartment anywhere with them, and i would have felt just as much joy.


carrots roasting over an enclosed oven flame

have i mentioned how much i love fall? i think i may have, multiple times. the kind of cool, crisp evenings where i want to invite a friend over for dinner, make a cocktail(s) and then sit on the couch and talk till midnight. where i know it's not yet 28 degrees outside, and i could go out if i wanted to, but i'd much rather cozy up with a bowl of soup i just discovered the recipe for and have it be delicious and then make a mental note to make that soup all the time through the cold season.

roasted carrot coconut soup
from la dolce vegan by sarah kramer

5-6 large carrots, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 stick fresh lemongrass (tough outer layers removed), chopped (use bottom 6 inches only)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

preheat oven to 400f. in a medium baking dish combine carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, garam masala, coriander and oil until well coated. bake 35-40 minutes or until carrots are tender. just before veggies are done, in a medium soup pot bring stock to a boil. reduce head and add the roasted veggies. simmer for 2-3 minutes. add the coconut milk and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (you can also just blend half the soup and leave the other half chunky for a chunkier soup rather than a smooth soup). stir in lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper and gently reheat. makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

garam masala
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

in a dry frying pan over medium-high head, shake the cumin and coriander seeds continually for 3 or 4 minutes until seeds start to pop and brown. remove from head and let cool. place in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle with peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and grind until smooth. makes about 1/4 cup.



honey i squashed the salad

squash usually signifies fall cooking to me. i mean, sure, there's a whole category of "summer squash" but really, zucchini is just something that tastes good on the grill (zucchini, baby, i didn't mean it, i love you). but oh, the bounty of fall, the family of "winter squash", these truly warm my heart and my belly in a time when i need it most.

kicking off the fall squash-ables is this delectable roasted pumpkin salad sent to me by my culinary confidante mary. this recipe reminds me of her cooking that i miss so much, i knew i had to make it asap. pumpkin (or squash) and shallots (or onions) are roasted until squishy and caramelized, then tossed with wild rice and a cilantro-sunflower seed dressing. pretty darn simple when all you really do is prep the veggies and then roast 'em for 45 minutes and the rice takes 45 minutes too! in the last few minutes you throw the dressing together in the food processor, mix everything up and eat! dinner in under and hour, and leg work comes in at under 15 minutes. enjoy!

Roasted Pumpkin Salad
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

3 cups butternut (or any winter) squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt

12 small shallots, peeled
2 cups cooked wild rice*

1/3 cup pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Toss the squash with olive oil and salt and put on a baking sheet. Do the same with the shallots and put those on a separate baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, giving them a good shake every 15 minutes or so to evenly roast. Everything should be nice and soft and caramelized by the time it's done.

Now get your wild rice going, because it takes about 45 minutes too! Rinse 1 1/2 cups of the wild rice. Bring the rice and 4 1/2 cups salted water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and splitting open, stirring occasionally. This makes a little extra, but you'll find something else to put it in!

Now that the rice is simmering and the veggies are roasting, you have about 30 minutes to do whatever. Go watch the simpsons, but make sure to give everything a stir during the commercial breaks. With about 5 minutes left on everything, get going on the dressing. With a hand blender or food processor puree the pumpkin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and honey until creamy. You'll probably want to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving a little for garnish. Taste and adjust for salt.

In a large bowl, toss the wild rice with a large dollop of the dressing. Gently toss the squash and onions into the rice. Finish with another drizzle of dressing and any remaining chopped cilantro. Enjoy the taste of fall.


saint francis' land of the oaks

big bikes for big trips! ryan and i are in california right now, visiting our BFFs john & mary, who currently live in the mostest adorable apartment in oakland.

we arrived late on thursday night after a 10+ hour day of traveling (don't even want to discuss the food eaten along the way, including a hilariously awful lunch in the detroit airport at a hockey themed bar called slapshotz). mary picked us up in their trusty old volvo, and spirited us to their house, where john was waiting with a hearty seitan stew and much needed beers. we enjoyed each others' company for a few hours and then finally got horizontal and passed out.

on friday, we woke around 10, and went out to coffee at a great little place on telegraph called mama buzz. mary was at work, so it was just john, ry, and me. so some strong-ass coffee and bagels with hummus enjoyed in an outdoor courtyard got things started off right. i forgot how much outdoor eating and drinking space there is in california, but when i'm here, i really appreciate it. also, the bay area weather, though reportedly colder than usual, has been sunny, clear and damn near perfect (especially compared with the dreary, chilly philadelphia we left on thursday morning).

we cruised down telegraph toward the BART station, feelin fine.

trained into san francisco, and kicked it around the mission. what better is there to do in SF on a gorgeous friday afternoon? 22 oz bottles of craft beer purchased in a creaky deli, on our way to dolores park. i rocked a boonts, ry got a lagunitas IPA, and john got a racer 5. commence the afternoon tipsies.

don't you love dolores park? i really do, and i come here every time i'm in san francisco. dogs, hippes, super cute dudes and ladies, everyone's drinking and probably smoking, too. paradise.

after the creeping afternoon shadows chased us out by cold, we wandered back into the neighborhood and briefly popped into a thrift store (i bought a fantastic gary numan & the tubeway army record). then, we stumbled across this alley full of beautiful murals:

our bagels long forgotten, we stopped for burritos at taqueria cancun, and spent the next few hours visiting a series of great bars, happily killing time, waiting for mary to finish with her 6 o'clock soccer game. first to zeitgeist, then to the elbo room, then to shotwells where we finally met up with mary and bert.

we were trying to get into a new, much lauded artisinal pizza place called flour + water, but it was taking forever. it seemed like the restaurant's priority was seating yuppies on spendy dates, and not our motley 5-top, so we decided to skip it. while we were waiting for another 1/2 hour to get seated at weird fish, we went to a raging dive bar - the uptown - to jam PBRs, all the day's booze finally sinking in...

back at weird fish, packed in at a cozy table, we ordered much needed plates of wonderfully fried vegan eats: seitan "fish" and chips, a pitcher of anchor steam...

we sat there for awhile, chatting non-stop with our beloved friends, loving every second of this california trip. trying not to succumb to the ever-present thoughts of "why don't we live here?" and just enjoying the present moment, so far far away from home...

more soon!!



za-nies (pizza and brownies)

we've talked about pizza here on VR before, and it should come as no surprise that we love it and want to make it our best friend. vegan pizza used to seem kinda daunting to me, what with making the dough and the sauce and the fake cheese. now it's something i can throw together (with some help!) a half hour before the ball game comes on. my pizza partner found a recipe for a quick pizza crust on vegweb, and while it wasn't the best crust i've ever had or made, it certainly was quick, which was what we needed. it was also pretty salty, which worked this time because the saltiness complemented the veggies on top quite nicely, but next time i'd cut down by about half.

we whipped up a simple sauce of sauteed garlic, onions, canned diced tomatoes and copious (accidentally copious, but actually made the sauce awesome) amounts of crushed red pepper flakes. after prebaking the crust and simmering the sauce, we heaped arugula, spinach, baby bellas, tofu ricotta and roasted red peppers atop and plopped 'er in the oven for 10 minutes, which is really all you need to warm everything up nice and toasty.

a side of brussels sauteed in red wine and garlic and voi-za. veggies for dinner in all their splenditude.

oh, i also wasn't sure what to do with this bag of dandies vegan marshmallows.

taking a tip from anabell's blog, i decided to top these not to sweet chocolate walnut brownies with the sugary pillows of vegan mallow. i adapted the recipe with pecans instead of walnuts and baked some dark chocolate chunks and dandies on top for the last 10 minutes. oh man, i love marshmallows!!!! what to do with the other half of the bag, vegan mallomars perhaps?



brussels, the vegetable you thought you hated (but you were so wrong)

oh mark bittman, you irreverent, witty and genius bald man, you've done it again. you've posted a superbly simple and delicious recipe that is so easily veganizable we knew we had to get on it asap.

in a recent autumnal recipe posted under "the minimalist" column, bittman praises the little sphere everyone loves to hate: brussels sprouts. when emma and i were little, boiled brussels sprouts were the typical "I WILL NOT EAT THIS" side dish and a forceful threat of no dessert had us hesistantly biting in to the boiled, soggy balls of green. fortunately, somewhere around 17 or 18 i discovered roasted brussels and quickly thereafter, sauteed brussels and a new love was born. gone were the days of cutting into a soggy sprout and having hot water squirt in your eye. au revoir to the threat of no dessert, because i definitely cleaned my plate if a crisp, golden sprout was upon it.

as the name of the column, "the minimalist", suggests, this recipe is simple, no frills and no fuss but allllll flavor. the ingredients are scant: brussels, bacon (we opted for tempeh bacon, thank you very much), figs, salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic. that's only six ingredients, dudes! and s&p barely count! this is how it went down:

brussels sprouts with bacon and figs
adapted from mark bittman

2 T olive oil
1 recipe of tempeh bacon
1 lb brussels
1 cup dried figs, stemmed and quartered
salt and fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

prepare tempeh bacon according to the recipe linked above. set aside in a bowl and try not to eat it all before everything else is ready (this is the hardest part of the recipe).

slice brussels into thin discs by hand, or with the slicing attachment of the food processor, if you're so fortunate to own one. heat the olive oil in a pan over medium flame. add sprouts, figs and 1/4 cup water, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and let that baby go for about 10 minutes until sprouts and figs are tender. crank the heat to medium high and stir for 5-10 minutes until the water evaporates. add the tempeh bacon (if there's any left at this point!) and give everything a nice stir. when thoroughly heated through, add balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.

then marvel at how much you love brussels sprouts.

we served ours with a side of roasted asparagus and chickpea cutlets (from isa's veganomicon) with a wine mushroom sauce. YUM!



pull up the covers

tonight, i'm performing in a cover band (team dresch!!) at a show, where TEN other cover bands are playing. ten!! cover bands are kind of a west philly halloween tradition, and this one just might take the cake. i am ridiculously excited and a little nervous and so amazed by the level of participation that went into this show. from the generosity of the house that's hosting it - The Mitten @ 4918 Kingsessing Ave. in west philly - to all the people sharing and lending musical equipment, to the over 175 confirmed guests on facebook...just totally life affirming. and it's ryan's birthday, so it'll be a hell of a night. fellow philadelphians: maybe i'll see ya there?


p.s. i made that little flyer!


pumpkin party

last night i had the privilege of attending a pumpkin party with my dear friend anabell. her whole foods pals were throwing an autumnal themed party and she invited me along knowing my love of food, parties and themes! fancy cheese platter aside, the drinks, soups and dessert were vegan friendly and certainly delicious. cobwebs adorned the walls, the birds played on the television and the fog machine...fogged all night long.

the root veggie soup was hearty and filling made with turnips, potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, carrots, celery and beets. optional garnishes included toasted walnuts, scallions and goat cheese!

spiced wine with cardamom and a clove studded orange warmed the belly and loosened the tongue, making everyone flush in the face and merry (literally, people were acting merry!). homemade apple cider boiled in a le creuset pan on the stove with orange slices bobbing about, which everyone happily combined with a nip of brandy in mugs.

a bowl of pomegranate seeds on the table made for a light sweet snack and a bowl of pumpkin chocolate chip bars made for a not so light but decadent sweet dessert. candy corn flavored soda was passed around the in the tiniest, cutest little 8 oz cans!

(jones "candy corn" flavored soda!)

then, we carved pumpkins! and it was REALLY FUN!

throw a scarf around my neck and call me cozy, because i sure do love autumn.