Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NYC for Xmas!

So I headed home for Christmas and planned a whirlwind trip of NY and the surrounding areas.

First off.  I stopped in Richmond for snackiepoos on the way up, and shock shock, Harrison St Coffee was CLOSED.  Oh well, I hit Panda Veg.  I ordered the home style tofu, a spring roll and the sesame balls.  The tofu was not the tofu I'd had at the buffet, and I ended up throwing most of it in the trash, but can I expound for one moment on the joy and beauty that is sesame balls?  Okay
, so you have these little balls that get put
 in the deep fryer and expand to 3x their size.  Nothing amazing there.  What is amazing is the crispy, sesame seed coated outside, which yields to a hot, doughy, sticky bun with dense, molasses flavored peanut butter core.  I didn't want to eat all of them before I got out of Virginia, but I totally did.  They were fantastically delicious.

My first night, I had dinner at new restaurant Dirt Candy.  Dirt Candy is a very small restaurant on 9th ave, devoted to, as they 
say "leaving the 
vegetables to professionals."  A 3 person operation, it is a 
little snug, but uses that size issue to its advantage.  The front-of-house man is very helpful, 
charming and friendly.  He asked us and all parties seated after us if anyone at the table was vegan and made reccomendations on dishes accordingly.  The menu is very small-- 9 items total. We ordered everything on the menu except spinach soup and carrot risotto.  Here's how it went down:

The "snack" of jalapeno hush puppies was tasty, but I wish that chef
 Amanda Cohen had devised a more inventive way of combining the popcorn sized snacks with the perfect condiment that is maple butter.  If Cohen ever decides to make brunch, this would be the perfect thing to serve with, well, every breakfast item possible.  It would be ideal on waffles, pancakes and toast.  It does complement the puppies, but swabbing them across the butter is a little awkward.  I'd like to see a chef who seems interested in advanced techniques like Cohen try something like flash freezing the butter, then surrounding it with hush puppies.  

The star of this meal, as far as I was concerned, was the appetizer.  My father ordered the greek salad-- I didn't try it due to the cheese, but the
 portabello mousse.  Can we talk about this mousse for a moment?  Honestly, I was scared, but t
he waiter sold me.  My love for mushrooms can turn to hate very quickly, particularly when they are pureed, mixed with gelatin and served in futuristic style cubes.  BUT these totally scored.  The mousse tasted like mushrooms, almost more so than the thinly sliced pile that accompanied it on the plate.  The pear confit was a surprising
 burst of sweet that worked out.  The crostini
 added salt and a little crunch to what would otherwise be a mushy dish.  I really loved this.  I probably could've eaten two of them.  I kind of want to 
make portabello mousse squares for my friends, but I don't think they'd understand.  My mom ordered the regular garden salad, which looked pleasant but was really saved by the grapefruit
 pops.  The grapefruit pops are essentially grapefruit sections, coated in a hard candy shell.  They were divine and have resparked my interest in grapefruit brulee.  Hooray butane torches.

I went and saw Playing Dead and Autumn People at Mr Beery's in Farmingdale.  Playing Dead are friends of a friend who played the Stately on Labor Day Weekend.  They serve up radio friendly rock which holds echoes of local Long Island heroes 
Taking Back Sunday.  Autumn People are devoted psychadelic noise rockers.  I didn't expect to like their set as much as I did, but I really liked the show.  Fabian's voice is unexpected, the bass player can really write a bassline and their drummer managed to continue playing as feet, beer, instruments and band members came hurling at him and knocking over his drumkit.

The next day was Christmas, and for Christmas I made the I'm Fucking Hungry Fajitas for my main dish, and a slight variation on VWAV's Tuscan White Bean soup.  Add about 2 cups of spinach, then tell me how much you love me.  My family was, sadly, pretty wary, but my dad tried some and drank a whole lot of soup the next day.
I also made an apple-grapefruit pound cake.  I love pound cake.  It's very beautiful, but doesn't keep extremely well because it's so moist, and because the grapefruit on top starts to go bad.  Photo at right shows the Cake, and a slab cut off of it, for your delicious joy.  I did kind of nick and modify this recipe from my friend Rachel, so I'm going to share my changes with you.

Fruit Pound Cake

1.5 C flour
1 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C apple cider (or go half and half, cide and grapefruit juice)
1 Tbsp grapefruit zest
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp almond extract

1/2 C shortening
1/2 C margarine
2 T apple cider vinegar
2-2 1/2 C powdered sugar
Grapefruit zest to taste

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a pan.  Mix all dry and wet ingredients separately, then mix together quickly, for no more than 2 minutes, then get it in the oven.  If you use a bread pan (to make a little loaf cake like me) it will need about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you use an 8x8 pan bake about 30 minutes. You can also double the recipe and make a big honkin' cake with two 8x8s.

While your cake is cooling and shortening and margarine are approaching room temp, peel and section a grapefruit.  Then you can mix the icing ingredients together, adding more sugar if it's too loose and more cider if it's too stiff.  Ice the cake as you would any other.  Part of the beauty of this cake is that you can sub in/out almost any fruit and be alright.

On the way home, I got to go to my favorite place in the world: Vegan Treats. 
(Warning, this post is about to become a love song)

How do I love vegan treats?  Let me count the ways.  Observe the look of almost-mindless ecstasy as I bite into the love of my life, the Berliner.  Oh, how I miss jelly donuts.

I have lots of pictures of this donut because i wanted to remebmer it forever, but I won't make you look at them.  I also got a slice of chocolate covered strawberry shortcake, two (yes I know) cinnamon buns and a couple of mini cakes to taste.  They were so pretty!  How could I resist?

The cinnamon buns were exactly as I remembered-- overbearingly rich, smothered in icing, soft and chewy...so totally effing wonderful.  I shared them with my bandmates and it got everyone's seal of approval.

I'm just going to leave off with photos of all the wonderful treats now, but I propose a question or a challenge-- does anyone have any *idea* how they get their icing so fluffy and wonderful?  I know transfats are involved and don't really care.  Most baked goods are not that healthy anyway, and a little transfat to make the difference between satisfying and I-will-eat-this-until-I-cannot-physically-swallow-any-more seems like a fair trade.  Maybe it's because my real dream in life is to have a Vegan Treats Satellite here in Durham.

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