vegansaurus!

05/18/2011

Vegansaurus NYC: John’s of 12th Street’s new all-vegan menu!  »

I heard some chatter that one of NYC’s oldest Italian restaurants had added an all-vegan menu in addition to their regular menu. Naturally I looked into it. Sure enough, John’s of 12th Street has not just vegan options but an entirely separate vegan menu, which proclaims: “We want everyone to be able to enjoy our Italian specialties made with the freshest ingredients available! All of our vegan dishes are plant-based and contain no animal ingredients whatsoever. We use dedicated cooking utensils for preparing vegan dishes.” Wow! I arranged a dinner immediately with a bunch of my vegan friends and we promptly showed up forks in hand.

John’s is an old-school Italian place. It opened in 1903 and the space has an old-fashioned feel. The waiters are all in white button-ups with ties and have Brooklyn accents. And at one point our waiter actually yelled at an adjacent birthday party to keep it down—for the record, they were being wicked loud—totally awesome.

When we sat down, we were asked if we’d like garlic bread; my friend said we’d like the vegan garlic bread. Our waiter asked if we were all “goin’ ve-gaan tonight?” We nodded and he quickly whisked away our menus and replaced them with the vegan ones. Super exciting. Vegan appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, and desserts. We were a large party so I got to taste a wide variety. Two kinds of bruschetta (one with avocado!), Caesar salad, stuffed mushrooms, minestrone soup. All quite good. For my main I order pasta with vegan Alfredo, BECAUSE HOW CAN YOU NOT. It was good. I won’t lie, I put a lot of salt and pepper on it but after that it was delicious. My roommate had the tofu spinach ravioli which I though had really impressive texture, just like a traditional ravioli. Another friend let me taste the seitan parm (it was yum) which came with a SIDE of pasta. Would you like a side of pasta? Only with everything please!

Then came dessert. This was the true highlight. I got the vanilla cannoli. Oh man. Cue picture:


Crazy delicious! Some of my friends got the chocolate version but I didn’t taste it because no one was interested in sharing at this point, just scarfing. There was also a panna cotta (surprisingly good) and ice cream from Lula’s (always a delight).

Bottom line: I was ultra-stoked about this trip because I LOVE Italian food, but I wouldn’t tell a vegan from out of town to go out of their way unless they are a major fan like me. Except for the cannoli which IS worth going out of your way!! You should go get one NOW. This is a great place for a large dinner party, especially if it’s a mixed party with vegans and nons. The food is good. It is not unbelievable or particularly special but it is a solid “good.”

I think its super important to point out that John’s is freaking radical for doing this!! How many restaurants can you just walk into and not just have a few options but your whole own entire menu made with special animal-free pots and pans? Like NOWHERE. Go John’s of 12th Street! You are sexy like a vegan! I hope this is the sign of a trend because I would love for more restaurants/bakeries/delis/etc. to have good vegan options. And I MEAN options; one item is not “options.” Yay for vegan Italian food! Is it the best food ever? No. Is it good? Yes! I’ll take another side of pasta please!

[Ed.: Oh, snap! It looks like you can ORDER ONLINE!! Ugh, do they deliver to Oakland? BECAUSE WANT.]

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Open-Mic Fight” and writes for US Weekly's Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal friendly adventures at Laura Goes Vegan.

12/09/2010

A Vegan in Central Europe: Thanksgiving in London!  »

Visiting London over my Thanksgiving break was awesome thrice over: my cousin lives in London, so I got to spend a lovely Thanksgiving with family, despite the fact that I’ve been living 5,000+ miles away from home; I got to eat hella vegan food; and I saw items in the produce section of Whole Foods (!!!!) that I honestly forgot existed—Prague grocery stores carry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes; kale? fuhgeddaboudit. Japanese eggplant? nowai. Fresh herbs if you’re lucky. While I have a shitty camera, and didn’t keep it with me the whole time, I still managed to take some photos of the damned good food I ate.

For Thanksgiving, I went to Manna with my cousin for the Thanksgiving special. For £27 per person, we got one of the yummiest dinners ever. It started off with a cranberry cordial aperitif, which my cousin and I fucking devoured the hell out of despite neither of us being cranberry fanatics. I was expecting it to taste like old grandma, but it was really refreshing and I downed it quicker than I should have, I’m sure. The first course was a pumpkin soup with rosemary spelt foccacia. I love pumpkin with rosemary, so I was a little let down when my bread ran out and the soup tasted bland in comparison. Then was the wilted spinach salad with walnuts and pomegranate in an apple-cider vinaigrette. Can I just say they know how to make salad dressing? I could have guzzled that shit by the gallon. I could have drained all of the blood from my body and replaced it with apple cider vinaigrette. I don’t know what they put in that other than apple cider vinegar and oil, but they know what the fuck they’re doing, lemme tell you what. The main course (pictured) was an herbed tempeh roast with wild mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and stuffing. I, in general, fucking hate mushrooms. The mere fact that I ate everything on this plate, including the gravy, was a fucking feat in and of itself. Licked our damn plates clean, we did.

The last—and most impressive—course was the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. You can’t tell how delicious the ice cream is from here, but it should officially be renamed to “buttercream” flavor or something; they did NOT wimp out on the rich vanilla. I was so impressed with the texture I asked them what it was made out of, I was sure it was cashews. The manager/owner assured me that no, it was soy. SOY! Who knew?!?!?! She then gave me a sample of their truffles and petits fours ON THE HOUSE. Because we were chatting about the awesomeness of Booja Booja and she liked me, I guess. I got SO fat that night, and left the chocolate gift till breakfast the next morning.

I also had a chance to go to the posh and happenin’ Mildred’s restaurant in Soho. It was too hip and expensive for me, so naturally I pigged out shamelessly. By myself. In the midst of this bustling restaurant that reminded me a lot of Angelica Kitchen in NYC, without the wholesomeness. To the left, you’ll see my starter. It was grilled artichoke with crostini, some basil-soy dipping sauce, and a small green salad (it cost £5.50, not too bad for a starter). I think this was better than what I got for the main course, to be honest; maybe because in my opinion artichokes are the best vegetables of all time and goddamned it all to hell if the Czech Republic needs to get on that shit and zomg you must order this dish if you go to London. My second course (below) was basically this Middle Eastern creation with a harissa sauce on the side, a cupful of almond-scented couscous, and a chickpea-eggplant stew, served with some crispy-ass pita (£8.50 if I remember correctly). It was a real winner, but I think they put too much coriander in it or something.

Also on the list of amazing places to go in London is the pricey but delectable all-vegetarian Italian/Mediterranean restaurant Amico Bio. All I can say is that they really celebrate the vegetables they use, and don’t dress them up that much. It’s perfect. I started with a zuppa di fave secce e brocolli de rapa (£5.50), then had the seitan scallopini on a bed of the most delicious sauteed spinach I have ever had the pleasure of eating (£8), with a side of sauteed kale (could have left this one after all, for £2.80) and finished off with frittele de mele con salsa al ciocollato (£5). The last dish, the fried apple pastry, had the same aroma as every fried pastry that lures you in with its smell but you know isn’t vegan so you cry a lot, but they’re vegan here. GO. Also, go to Pho. I thought the pho I got from Loving Hut here in Prague was baller; clearly I was mistaken. The place is hella cheap, I think £7 for the tofu-mushroom—again, I managed the dish with the mushrooms, it was THAT GOOD.

Lastly, MAKE IT OUT TO THE GREENWICH MARKETS TO TRY SOME FUCKING VEGAN CUPCAKES. This is a picture of me devouring the hell out of a vegan chocolate chip cupcake I got from Ms. Cupcake (£2 each and I bought four). It was one of three that I ate; my cousin was the lucky recipient of the fourth. I ate the Ferrero Rocher-style cupcake as well as a banana cream one, in addition to the chocolate chip one here. I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I make some fucking amazing cupcakes, and Ms Cupcake here makes them better than me. I know, impossible, right?! BUT SHE IS THAT GOOD. GO HERE PLEASE GET FAT FOR ME. Also, Ms. Cupcake, if you’re reading this, can you move to NYC or LA for me pretty please?!

My last suggestion: if you should find yourself in Camden Town, which you will, go to Inspiral Lounge. I went there and ate some HELLA amazing lavender ice cream AND had a pint of beer with it. They also have free internet for you to use, and even a computer if you’re a weary traveler like yours truly.

06/11/2010

Vegan pissaladière, from Beard on Bread!
The recipe calls for a brioche crust, which I also had to veganize. It was way easy because I only had wheat flour, so I just made flax eggs because the wheat grains obscured the flax flecks.
Brioche recipe (adapted from Beard on Bread)Ingredients (makes two)1.5 packages active dry yeast1/2 cup warm water1.5 Tbs. sugar1/2 cup melted Earth Balance1/2 cup olive oil1 tsp. salt1/4 cup flax meal plus 3/4 cup water (equivalent of four eggs)4 cups whole wheat flour
InstructionsCombine yeast, sugar and water, and let sit. Mix up flax meal and water until fully integrated. Add olive oil to melted Earth Balance and salt. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, and mix by hand until smooth (I ended up using my hands). Place in a greased bowl, cover, and allow to sit in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Begin pissaladière.
Pissaladière recipe (adapted from Beard on Bread)Ingredients (makes two)1 pound canned tomatoes (Italian or plain)3 Tbs. tomato pasteOlive oil5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed3 medium onions3 Tbs. Earth Balance1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary1 Tbs. fresh basilKalamata olives
InstructionsHeat olive oil in a skillet. Rinse tomatoes, then add them, tomato paste and garlic to olive oil and let them reduce to a paste over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Peel and chop the onions and steam them in the earth balance over lowest heat, covered, until they form a thick sort of puree. This should take the entire 90 minutes of the first rise of the brioche.
Following the first rise, punch down the brioche dough and separate it into two pieces. Roll each piece out, and line two greased nine-inch cake tins. Cover and let rise “slightly”—I gave mine 20 minutes while I chopped the herbs. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Spread the onions on the brioche dough, then sprinkle them with herbs, then cover that with the tomato sauce. Finally, if you want olives, sink them on the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust has crisped and browned. Serve hot.

Vegan pissaladière, from Beard on Bread!

The recipe calls for a brioche crust, which I also had to veganize. It was way easy because I only had wheat flour, so I just made flax eggs because the wheat grains obscured the flax flecks.

Brioche recipe (adapted from Beard on Bread)
Ingredients (makes two)
1.5 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1.5 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup flax meal plus 3/4 cup water (equivalent of four eggs)
4 cups whole wheat flour

Instructions
Combine yeast, sugar and water, and let sit. Mix up flax meal and water until fully integrated. Add olive oil to melted Earth Balance and salt. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, and mix by hand until smooth (I ended up using my hands). Place in a greased bowl, cover, and allow to sit in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Begin pissaladière.

Pissaladière recipe (adapted from Beard on Bread)
Ingredients (makes two)
1 pound canned tomatoes (Italian or plain)
3 Tbs. tomato paste
Olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 medium onions
3 Tbs. Earth Balance
1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary
1 Tbs. fresh basil
Kalamata olives

Instructions
Heat olive oil in a skillet. Rinse tomatoes, then add them, tomato paste and garlic to olive oil and let them reduce to a paste over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Peel and chop the onions and steam them in the earth balance over lowest heat, covered, until they form a thick sort of puree. This should take the entire 90 minutes of the first rise of the brioche.

Following the first rise, punch down the brioche dough and separate it into two pieces. Roll each piece out, and line two greased nine-inch cake tins. Cover and let rise “slightly”—I gave mine 20 minutes while I chopped the herbs. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Spread the onions on the brioche dough, then sprinkle them with herbs, then cover that with the tomato sauce. Finally, if you want olives, sink them on the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust has crisped and browned. Serve hot.

05/19/2010

You know what’s super-duper easy to make, and super-duper delicious to eat? Focaccia! I made it for the first time on Saturday, and it was good, but the focaccia I made on Monday night was amazing. I could have died of joy, it was so good.
I followed this recipe, about which I was skeptical because of the potato, but my prior recipe didn’t use a potato and it was a bit dry, and one must be bold to reach baking heights, so potato it was.
Per usual, I altered it a little more; specifically,where it calls for 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the dough and 1 tablespoon on the top of the bread, I used 1/4 cup in the dough and 1/4 cup on top, plus chopped fresh rosemary, minced garlic (four cloves), and sliced plum tomatoes, because that was what was around.
Result: rich, fluffy, moist, airy focaccia that, were I not already half-full from a massive long-stemmed artichoke (braised in olive oil; I may have more olive oil and garlic than human blood at this point), I could have completely devoured on my own.
Happily, I didn’t, and now I can have toasted focaccia spread with homemade almond cheese for lunch this afternoon. You guys should seriously make this; it’s so simple and good, you won’t ever want to buy focaccia again.
EtA: This is my almond cheese recipe! I even blanched the almonds for it, which was really annoying.
[I would’ve removed the bread from the cooling rack before photographing, but it was too heavy with olive oil and too hot from being fresh out the oven, and I was too dying-to-eat-it to wait any longer.]

You know what’s super-duper easy to make, and super-duper delicious to eat? Focaccia! I made it for the first time on Saturday, and it was good, but the focaccia I made on Monday night was amazing. I could have died of joy, it was so good.

I followed this recipe, about which I was skeptical because of the potato, but my prior recipe didn’t use a potato and it was a bit dry, and one must be bold to reach baking heights, so potato it was.

Per usual, I altered it a little more; specifically,where it calls for 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the dough and 1 tablespoon on the top of the bread, I used 1/4 cup in the dough and 1/4 cup on top, plus chopped fresh rosemary, minced garlic (four cloves), and sliced plum tomatoes, because that was what was around.

Result: rich, fluffy, moist, airy focaccia that, were I not already half-full from a massive long-stemmed artichoke (braised in olive oil; I may have more olive oil and garlic than human blood at this point), I could have completely devoured on my own.

Happily, I didn’t, and now I can have toasted focaccia spread with homemade almond cheese for lunch this afternoon. You guys should seriously make this; it’s so simple and good, you won’t ever want to buy focaccia again.

EtA: This is my almond cheese recipe! I even blanched the almonds for it, which was really annoying.

[I would’ve removed the bread from the cooling rack before photographing, but it was too heavy with olive oil and too hot from being fresh out the oven, and I was too dying-to-eat-it to wait any longer.]

03/26/2010

It’s FRIIIIIIIIIIIDAY. I’m gonna get you high fat tonight!
Seriously, this is recipe for vegan Cheesy Lasagna from VegWeb the best recipe on the entire internet. Make this lasagna for everyone, including your grandma who eats live chickens because that’s how they did in the old country/she has dementia/hate keeps her alive. I am literally drooling at the screen, I am disgusting. Also I haven’t showered and I’m totally on my period.
And with that, LET’S EAT! Hasta la Pasta, Assholes!

It’s FRIIIIIIIIIIIDAY. I’m gonna get you high fat tonight!

Seriously, this is recipe for vegan Cheesy Lasagna from VegWeb the best recipe on the entire internet. Make this lasagna for everyone, including your grandma who eats live chickens because that’s how they did in the old country/she has dementia/hate keeps her alive. I am literally drooling at the screen, I am disgusting. Also I haven’t showered and I’m totally on my period.

And with that, LET’S EAT! Hasta la Pasta, Assholes!

02/13/2009

Vegan Tomato Meat Sauce   »

This recipe will seem very obvious to a lot of you; for the rest of us who would live in a hotel and order room service every day if we could, this will be a revelation. I hate most commercial tomato sauces because they are too watery and sweet. This recipe is a ragu and is based on a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Cook With Jamie (for fellow cook-o-phobes, I highly recommend Jamie’s recipes because they are incredibly simple.)

A can of Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes

a nice handful of Yves meatless ground round

Extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil (I cheated and used ground but whatever, I didn’t have fresh! It’s okay)

A basic red table wine (the one I used was French)

Salt & pepper

While the water for your pasta comes to a boil, fry up the garlic and basil in the olive oil. It will smell amazing. After a few minutes, throw in the tomatoes, ground round, and a splash of the wine, along with some salt and pepper. Let that simmer on a low flame for 30 minutes. Try to time the pasta so that it is done cooking close to the same time that the sauce is doen simmering. This is not as difficult as you think.

This would be a good time to clean your dirty kitchen and run the dishwasher. And don’t forget to pour yourself a little glass of that table wine—never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink. By the time you are done cleaning up, checking your twitter, and e-stalking your ex-boyfriends, the sauce will have gotten nice and chunky and thick, and the pasta should be done cooking. I trust you know how to cook pasta.

Combine the pasta and sauce. Personally I do not like the taste of the vegan parmesan I have tried, but if that’s your thing, then dress it up! Pour yourself more wine and settle in with some reality television (and please read my other blog, BravoFan) or some shitty intellectual movie you want to watch.

For dessert: Newman-O’s!

12/04/2008

Review: Delfina!  »

I wrote this review of Delfina awhile ago on the Yelp site but I will just publish it here now. Fuck Yelp. I kid, that site is great. I’ll probably update it later but not now, I have about 60 emails to respond to and a million things to do in the hour I get to be on the internet today. Fuck me sideways.

Everyone sit down, Mama has some news. I went on a date tonight. That’s right; I’m not sure if you are ready to let your little Laura fly away into coupledom during which time Yelp will become the red-headed step child I am ashamed of and lock in the basement and occasionally beat. This time, next week, I’ll most likely be engaged to be married. Unless I’m really not. Which brings me the actual date. Here is how the big D went down and I can be 100 percent honest because I’m like 90 percent sure this fool is way too cool for school/Yelp. We met through a mutual friend and he emailed me to ask me to have coffee (GAY) and talk about how the world is fucked. I, of course, am amenable on the world being fucked front and so I said, how about you buy me dinner (as I am poor AND fat! Some might call me a double-threat!) and you have yourself a deal, sir! and by deal, I of course mean, easy lay.

Delfina is the ultimate first date place, according to Yelpers, Zagats, Chowhound, my parents and that homeless dude who soft shoe(lesse)s in front of Tartine. So, I didn’t make the plans but when he suggested Delfina I was like, “PREDICTABLE. SNOOZE.” But again, beggars can’t be choosers and I’ve always had a delicious time at Delfina so Delfina it is! Now, the food was great and the conversation so-so-meh but I have one huge problem with this place and that is this: the waitresses are freaking Goddesses.  I’m not trying to have a first date at some place where I look like I have Down Syndrome in comparison to these beautiful sirens. I felt like fucking Beauty and the Beast up in that bitch. Not cool. Seriously, first date place, Yelp? First date if you want your prospective husband to go home and jerk it to the chick who served you Pasta Putanesca! I mean, for realz. I cry “Uncle” to Delfina. I cannot win in a situation like this.  You know what a perfect first date place is? McDonald’s. And here’s why: They employ actual retards. It’s part of the leg up program or whatever it’s called which is just darling and I love it AND you can’t help but seem attractive and semi-sane in comparison with the differently abled. It’s win/win, people! Man, fools at McDonald’s are having awesome dates and I’m over here at Delfina’s trying to feign interest in what this jackass across from me is blathering on about and it’s damn hard when I want to beat a bitch down based solely on her unholy good looks. I want to beat her and then make out with her, GOD HELP ME. When I decided I wanted to make out with the waitress more than I wanted to make out with Hipster McUseless start-up across the table, I knew this was not MTB (look it up, people. We were all teenage girls once. For some of the women on this site, it was mere weeks ago.) The other clue that this was not the man for me was at this moment in our conversation:

Date Boy: God, it’s such a beautiful day today, don’t you think? And you know what day it is, right? The first day of spring!

Laura B.: GAY!

Anyway, Delfina. Delicious and a few vegan options, and the kitchen is very accommodating. Upon learning I was vegan, the chef made me spaghetti with all sorts of delightful vegetables in it including my favorite, artichoke hearts! I love those little suckers! The fries are always amazing, thin and crispy with herbs and salt…POIFECT! But awful, terrible first date place. Actually, I’m sure it would be fine if you had healthy self-esteem and sense of your own worth, which I’m assuming you don’t as you are a woman. Even if you are a man who reads my reviews, you are a woman and this world can often be hard on the thinking, feeling lady. Now, come tell Mama your problems, it looks like she might not be going anywhere for a long, long time.

I really hope this dude doesn’t read this.

UPDATES FOR VEGANSAURUS
Well, I now have a super-great boyfriend so that has changed.* And Delfina remains a solid choice when you want a plate of no-frills pasta in a semi-fancy environment. You won’t find tons of choices for vegans but sometimes you just want really good spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Also, there is an attached pizza place where the crust is vegan so you can get a cheeseless pizza there too. You can also sit out front with your dog. But if you’re gonna do that, just go to nearby Beretta for as-delicious pizza with the options of vegan cheese and vegan sausage AND THEY ALSO HAVE ABSINTHE. Decision made!

*But I’m still not going anywhere, suckas!

[photos via yelp]

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