keep your fingers crossed

when you've somehow sucked it up and gone jogging for the last three nights and eaten mostly fruits and veggies (trying to clean that fridge out before we move!) it's easy to just give in to temptation. especially when temptation is battered and deep fried.

but let's start with the booze. i went to the POPE on tuesday for the tapping of the flying fish exit 11 firkin. this is part of flying fish brewery's "exit series" of beers, which celebrates their home state by brewing a set of beers as diverse as new jersey itself. according to the website:
Exit 11 is a confluence of styles and ingredients, just as exit 11 is the point in New Jersey where the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike and several other highways come together.
cute concept, great beer. i was a bit taken aback to find that the beer was room temperature, but i now see that is the way of the firkin, normally served at 55 degrees. i read that exit 11 is an american-style wheat beer, brewed with english ale yeast, three different kinds of hops and half belgian pale malt and half white wheat. i don't know what all that adds up to except a crisp, clean pint of beer with a tart, fruity finish. and it's a big beer, with a 6.2% abv, meaning at $5.50 a pint, i only ordered (and only needed) one.

then it was on to dinner. i haven't been to POPE since they launched their new menu and i've heard mixed reviews of the veggie burger, the seitan steak and the polenta napoleon. it was hot out and i wasn't in the mood for something super heavy, but damn if i'm not a sucker for junk once in a while. enter: seitan fingers and french fries. these are the veggie version of chicken fingers and they MIGHT fool your carniverous boyfriend if his eyes are closed. the fingers were crisp and hot with juicy tender seitan inside. thumbs up to the fries - and i recently figured out the trick to successful leftovers: eat all the fries while you're at the restaurant and take half the sandwich/fingers/whatever home because those fries just ain't the same on day 2. so i had 2 fingers leftover for tomorrow (or later - drunk midnight snack, don't judge me). oh, how could i forget the spicy bbq dipping sauce? it's like a citrusy spicy light bbq sauce and i shall forever regret not taking a little cup to go with my leftovers.

(you might not think it, but in that condiment cup is liquid gold)

my buddy ciarra basically went the complete opposite direction and ordered the st. pablo's watermelon special which was 3 big slices of watermelon with cayenne, lime juice and salt and a sad side salad (that should be your new band's name).

the bite i had was pretty banging, but i want watermelon when i'm on someone else's parents' backyard deck overlooking the pool i'm about to wash said watermelon juice off in (confusing, i know, but true to life). when i'm at a bar with a pint of strong beer, i want something fried, even if it is 88 degrees out. that's just how you give humidity the middle [seitan] finger.


VR does the vacay

in my opinion, the best field trip of the summer (at least in our fair mid-atlantic region), is the trip to the beach. usually because of work and finances, we are limited to fun - but brief - day trips to the jersey shore. but last week, with a little pre-planning and a wondrous dose of family generosity, we got to stay in a beach front condo at rehoboth beach for 3 days and 2 nights! the vacation party was comprised of sissy lauren, ryan, our friend john e., and myself. so awesome.

oddly, there's not so much to say about food (meal times were sort of replaced with drink times: bloody marys or beer-mosas with lunch, vodka sodas in the afternoon, copious beers throughout the day) and we mostly grazed, and had one so-so meal at the dogfish head brewpub. but we had so much fun, holy crap! enough outta me, i'll just let the photos do the talking:

ok, i can't help it -- just one note about food --> the fridge!! clockwise from the top: marinated vegetables, champagne of beer, our "fancy beers" backed up by a 12-pack of flying dog, raw "egg salad" on top of microgreens, trader joe's hummus & salsa, and some tofurkey in the drawer.

the view from our balcony!

on monday night, we went to the boardwalk

lauren won an awesome banana-dude by beating me at whack-a-mole!

we did the photo booth thing

we won a ton of tickets at the arcade and cashed them in for glow sticks and candy

ryan shredded at guitar hero

then ry & john went on this funny, octopus-esque ride

on tuesday, we took a tour of the dogfish head brewery in milton, de

dude, look at all those kegs! the brewery was huge

we had dinner at the dogfish head brew pub later that night

back from the boardwalk, and on the tipsy side, we decided to go for a late night beach walk

there were righteous vibes alongside the post-midnight ocean

the beach rules and we were sad to leave it

perhaps more photos to come...



too cute to eat

mini donuts!! they've been spotted at such fine cafes as benna's and b2, and lauren brought me some home from the co-op. who makes these hilariously tiny treats? and re: the title of this post - of course i ate it! it wasn't even the best vegan donut i've had, but this is no time for pastry snobbery.



picnic in the park

two days ago we had a bastille day picnic. ok, well, it wasn't for bastille day, and the food wasn't actually french themed in almost any way, but it was a picnic and it was on bastille day. how about transitive property? eh, ehhh?

our good friend and west philly neighbor, halimah, asked if em and i were interested in dinner and a movie. we were both interested in the dinner part - surprise, surprise - but tuesday's beautiful evening was certainly not conducive to sitting in an air conditioned movie theatre (even though moon does look pretty thrilling). em mentioned wanting to eat outside and quickly, excitedly suggested "why don't we make dinner and eat it in the park?!" sounded good to me, and halimah, wisely, got on board. we agreed to make the food, she would bring the drinkables and we would meet in clark park in promptly one hour.

em had brought home a leftover greek salad from her job and we picked out and washed off the feta. from that wet, sad looking salad sprang forth a much larger, more hooked-up salad and also a kalamata olive tapenade. the salad included romaine, red radish, cucumber, onions, carrot, tofu croutons, microgreens and chopped almonds. emily is really good at tofu croutons. they are so crispy and firm! i think i may have eaten 6 before they even left the pan. oops. the dressing was a pesto-like vinaigrette featuring fresh as can be basil from our backyard garden! someone called it 'green goddess' dressing - if basiliness is next to godliness, sign me up for heaven.

the tapenade was the result of some garlic, kalamatas, lemon juice, olive oil, s&p, white truffle oil and red wine vinegar taking a few spins in the food processor. these once forgotten - left to die in a day old salad - kalamata olives were allowed to live again, a life atop a soft fluffy baguette. if gardeners have a green thumb, emily has a sauce thumb...or something that means she's really good at making sauces/dressings/spreads.

bulgar, lentil and chickpea salad came together pretty quickly and emily (did i do anything?) followed a simple recipe from deborah madison's vegetarian cooking for everyone. this dish was really good served room temperature and had a totally fresh, zippy flavor. also, can you say complete protein?

somehow em still had some moxy left in her, and with minutes to spare (we didn't want to be late!) emily threw some vodka, basil simple syrup, frozen watermelon puree ice cubes and blueberries in a mason jar and immersion blended her way to glory. like a boozy slushy, it fit perfectly with our summer picnic.

our plan was to sit on a sheet and eat picnic style on the ground but to our surprise, THE ONE TABLE in clark park was unoccupied! we tossed our sheet on as a makeshift tablecloth and dinner was served. later, our bellies were full, the sun was setting, the booze long gone, us ladies all chatted out. as we packed up our bowls and utensils, i realized, why stress over finding a [vegan friendly] restaurant with outdoor seating, when great food is created in our kitchen and outdoor seating just a 2 minute walk away? no waiting, no tipping, no travel. i think i speak for all of us when i say, the clark park cafe is my new favorite dining location.


tryin to catch me ridin' pretty

the day has finally arrived. it's been over four years in the making. I GOT A NEW BIKE!!!!!

this might not seem that exciting to some of you, but me, i'm simply ecstatic. way back in 2005 i went to the trexlertown bike swap and haggled a bubblegum pink velocity wheel down from $80 to $55! at that same swap i bought a ten dollar 3-speed internal hub. you might not understand what i'm saying, but either way, i bought two parts of a bike over four years ago, and they've pretty much been sitting around ever since. what's more, i bought a velocity deep v rim about 2 years ago and decided i was going to try my hand at building my own wheel. and what do you know, with the help of sheldon brown (rip) i did it! so i then had a set of wheels proudly on display in my room for a good 2 years just collecting dust and looking pretty. after acquiring a few more pieces over time (lots and lots of time) i was getting pretty antsy.

for my birthday this year, mom k gave me some spending money to treat myself to a new ride. finally, my dream was about to become a reality! i browsed about and nothing really caught my eye, until last tuesday, when this kickass cerulean blue frame arrived at the local bike shop, firehouse bikes. the super amazing and helpful lady that works there helped me pick out EVERY SINGLE COMPONENT that goes in to making a bicycle. then i gave her some money and she built it for me. that seemed to be the most efficient method, in my opinion.

commence bike porn:

(pink chain! only $7!)

(they threw the bell in for free!)

(the frame came with this cool old bike pump attached to it)

(it's a 3-speed!)

(it's pretty fly!)

note to friends: if you ever, EVER see someone riding this bike who isn't me, promptly kick their ass. thanks.



farmer's market rainbow

i often have to work on thursday nights, but this past thursday i didn't! so i took the opportunity to stop by the mid-week installment of the clark park farmer's market to re-up our produce drawer. we're getting to the part of the summer where the local produce is ridiculously beautiful, and i just couldn't help myself. this is what i came home with:

a produce rainbow! this spread included some more normal, though no less gorgeous, items (tomatoes & collards), but also some specials, too: a purple pepper, a patty pan squash, and a white eggplant! the white eggplant was so elegant and sleek. much like my late spring score post, the vegetables themselves were enough to get my brain juices flowing, and with wusthof wielded, i went to town.

first things first: get some almonds in the toaster oven to roast for a salsa romesco (inspired greatly by the one we sampled at the blue sage grille). 2nd at bat: crank the oven to 450F, thinly slice up the eggplant, squash and a red onion, coat in olive oil, and get 'em in there to roast. next task: chop the tomatoes, radishes, some cucumbers and the purple pepper, add some juices and spices, blend half the batch, and set in the fridge to chill for a gazpacho. getting going now: prep the collards for a nice steam.

then i kind of hit a roadblock: where is my protein in this meal? some toothy texture to chomp into? i've been trying to rely less on tofu and other meat substitues in cooking, and regardless, no such goods were hiding in the fridge. what i did find, in a quick dig, was a tupperware full of half cooked potatatoes that ryan had abadonded during our lunch cooking session the day before. also excavated was a container about half full of white beans. as if through a hazy fog (or was that just cold air billowing out of the fridge from leaving the door wide open during my space out?), i saw my plan unfolding. potato fritters!!

so i got to work on that (more below), and finished the romesco sauce. the veggies came out of the oven, beautifully browned and softened, and the greens were sprinkled with hot sauce. the plate plated, i was soon sitting in the backyard, bare feet propped up, digging into this plate and listening to the birds sing their sunset songs:

potato zucchini fritters with salsa romesco, confetti gazpacho, and roasted patty pan squash, white eggplant and onions with black bean crema on a bed of spicy collard greens

potato zucchini fritters (lauren called them cutlets)
makes about 12, takes about 40 minutes, including frying

- roughly chop up 2 potatoes (and kind'll do), and get them to a gentle boil in salted water. throw in a whole, peeled clove of garlic while you're at it.

- while the potatoes boil, roughly chop about 1/2 a medium zucchini and sautee gently in olive oil until browned and partly translucent. take them off to cool.

- now check on the potatoes. they should be pretty soft, so drain them and let them cool.

- then, in a food processor, blend up the cooked potatoes and zucchini, with about 3/4 cup white beans (i used some from a can. my new years resolution was a long time ago!).

- when all that is pulverized and mixed up, add a a teaspoon of sea salt, some black pepper, a few sprinkles of marjoram or rosemary, and some water or a few squeezes of lemon juice. pulse again. of course, you can add all kinds of other spices, vinegars, really anything. i wanted to keep the flavor simple, since they would be a bed for the romesco sauce, which is super spicy.

- finally, add some flour - or a combination of flour and vital wheat gluten. add a little bit at a time, pulsing between each addition, until the batter is less sticky and more doughy. there is no real science here, since i was making this up on the fly.

- in a non-stick or cast iron pan, add a nice layer of vegetable oil and let it get pretty hot. then drop scoops of the fritter batter and and fry over medium heat until golden, about 4 minutes on each side.

- drain on a paper towel.

you know what i just realized? in the winter time, you could substitute sweet potatoes and it would be crazy good too! you could even dip them in maple syrup like healthy little pancakes. but you know what? i'm glad it's not winter.



take me out to (dinner, drinks and) the ball game

WOW! best day off ever! yesterday was totally awesome, i would file it up there with "day off at the beach last tuesday" and possibly "day off where i laid in the park all day, reading, writing letters and watching dogs and little kids". yes people, THAT good. well i'll help you off the edge of your seat there and let you know what the deal.

started the day off with some good old yin yoga. i've been meaning to write about this non-food related staple in my life because every tuesday morning at 9:30 i look forward to my body feeling blissfully jelly-like. i won't go into great detail here but will save it for a more deserved solo post in the future. post yoga i ate a leftover tempeh club from the royal tavern for lunch (can't beat two days worth of meal for the price of one) and headed over to firehouse bicycles in west philly to bike browse. guess what? I BOUGHT A BIKE! well, more like i bought every single component of a bike and am having them build it for me. it's going to be so kickass! i'll post pictures of my new baby within a week. i also have to come up with a name for her. yep, i name my bikes, get over it.

oh i'm sorry, am i boring you? fine. here's where it gets good. at 5:30 i headed southward to meet sister dear at the cantina los caballitos for some pre-phillies game dinner and drinks! i'm kind of shocked we've never written about the cantina on here as we've been there countless times and almost nary a bad experience. no one to blame but ourselves, i guess, but i shall now remedy that malady. the cantina is a mexican joint with a pretty wide selection of inventive and exciting mexican food. also the margaritas rule and the tecate & tequila special for $4 ain't half bad either. they have a really great happy hour from 4-6 - although a little on the early side for my taste - featuring $2 cups of classic lime margarita, half priced lime margarita pitchers (that's only $10!), half priced drafts and $2 bottles and cans of mexican beer. i mean, if you want to get sauced at 5:30 on any given weekday, this is a great bang for your buck. em and i split a margarita pitcher and munched on the free chips and salsa that they give every table (really good salsa roja and salsa verde, and the chips are good too!).

however, the cantina truly tugs at my heart strings with the best (only?) vegan fajitas i've ever had. you know when they bring you that sizzling hot plate of chicken, beef or veggies at applebee's? it's nothing like that. these come on a regular plate of the non-sizzling variety and who really cares when that plate is covered with wild mushrooms, peppers, onions, black beans, white rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, flour tortillas and tofu and seitan so smokey and succulent you might think it was cooked over an open flame somewhere in the desert and then brought in by men riding donkeys, for authenticity's sake. i think we call that "liquid smoke" here in desert-less philadelphia. the platter comes in at $14 and is pretty perfect for two people to share or one person to have again for lunch the next day (i do love my leftovers!).

bellies full of dinner and all juiced up we headed south again to watch the phillies take on the cincinnati reds. we were both looking forward to another win after monday night's blowout (22-1)! we had seats in section 416, about 3 rows down from the highest row in the whole stadium. but the view was great and i was glad to be sitting down and relaxing. i've been to two phillies games this year and i must say i'm quite impressed at the beer selections at their "brewerytown" stands. last game we got troegs sunshine pils and victory hop devil and this game we got flying fish extra pale ale and yards philadelphia pale ale (after all that fajita, we decided to keep it light). i mean, yeah, ok we did get the tall 16 oz budweisers later on in the game, but we started off classy.

sadly the phils ended up losing 4-3 after a close but disappointing game. we still had fun! and now we have a reason to go back - we want to see them win!! plus i personally am looking forward to hatfield dollar dog night where ALL DOGS are $1 and they have veggie dogs at citizen's bank park! oh vegetarian friendly stadium, i salute you.

post-loss we met up with ryan at grace tavern on basically 23rd and south street. i've only been here a few times but it always rules. the bartender is the chillest dude ever and calls everyone, ok every lady, "love" every time you talk to him. by this point we were getting hungry again so we ordered double fried french fries and cajun spiced blackened green beans! both dishes were really good and i probably should have ordered large instead of small (sorry guys, i think i ate most of the fries while you weren't looking). it's also worth mentioning that they do a really quality vegan burger at grace tavern as well. a few more beers and a round of soco and lime shots (what?!) and then we strapped on our helmets and rode into the beautiful philadelphia night.

love, lauren