the vegan fork

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Soy Luck Club

I've been curious about this place for quite awhile and finally decided to go there. It's a cute little cafe/sandwich and coffee shop. Like the name implies, they have a lot of soy products, but the place is by no means strictly vegan or even vegetarian. They have a bunch of sandwiches and panini on the menu, most of which contain meat and cheese, but they note that they can sub soy chicken and soy cheese for those items. However, it's really up to the orderer to figure out which sandwiches will work out best with the soy chicken and soy cheese. The freedom is nice, but I would have appreciated some vegan sandwiches on the menu that they had thought out and intentionally put together, other than a hummus sandwich (yawn).

The person taking my order was as unhelpful as could be, aside from impatiently answering my questions about which items are vegan and which aren't. I ended up with a sandwich containing soy chicken, avocado, cucumber, dill, and soy yogurt. I was surprised by how good the soy chicken reminded me of the tofurkey deli slices but thicker and better. I had ordered the sandwich because I wanted something containing avocado, but it barely had any on it. The sandwich was fine, but probably not something I would order again.

vegan sandwich from soy luck club

I also tried a panini. I had one with soy chicken, soy cheese (vegan), basil, and tomatoes. This was actually really tasty. The soy cheese was surprisingly good, and the whole thing had a yummy tomato basil flavor.

vegan panini from soy luck club

The strawberry coconut "soyafrost" I had was also good...basically soymilk and strawberry coconut flavor blended with ice. They had a lot of vegan baked goods there, but I didn't try any.

Overall, the sandwiches were okay, but I was so annoyed at how unaccommodating the place was, despite specifically having soy chicken and soy cheese for vegans, that I don't want to go back. The panini was good, but 'Snice is nearby and has a lot more vegan sandwiches available.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cupcake madness

You probably think "madness" is an exaggeration...but...wait until you see.'ve probably heard of the new book "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World," right? Yeah, me too. And I've been making some good progress towards trying every recipe in the book. Okay, I'm not really trying to make every recipe, and I can't resist tweaking them all, but I have been making quite a few cupcakes lately, mostly from the book.

The recipes are great, but really the most valuable part of the book are the tips it offers and a lot of the inspiring pictures. I had never been able to make such fluffy buttercream before I started playing with the techniques (and proportions) suggested in the book. Also, the tips on how full to fill the liners have helped me make my cupcakes consistent and (generally) the right level.

Anyway, on to the pictures of my experiments!

I made the golden vanilla cupcakes, but wanted to make them lemon. I think I had an actual lemon in the fridge, but in a true fit of laziness, I relied solely on lemon extract for the cake and icing....turned out delicious, though.

Fancy cupcakes

I later made another batch with lemon zest and juice (in addition to extract) and it was also delicious. I followed the buttercream recipe in the book, using zest and juice, and I think it actually would have been better with less juice and with a bit of the extract instead. I think the perfect buttercream would be a mix between the two that I made.

Lemon cupcake

I also tried the "sexy lowfat" cupcakes. They were good, but they did taste low fat...a little more like a muffin than a cupcake. I topped them with a dollop of raspberry buttercream (made with raspberry jam). If you make sure to get a bit of buttercream in each bite, the lowfatness of the cakes isn't so noticeable.

vanilla and raspberry

I made the chocolate cupcakes with a bit of black cocoa to make them very dark and rich. I made a kahlua buttercream to go with these. I called them "mudcups" because they're so dark and chocolaty.

Mud cups

And they had a bit of buttercream on the inside as filling (not enough...I was too hesitant with the buttercream filling)

Mud cup innards

This is a mini mint chocolate cake. It was SO good! And SO cute!

Mini Mint Yumminess

I think the best recipe in the book (at least that I've tried) is the carrot cake. I increased the spices some, and I think it's important to use really high quality vanilla, but it's definitely the best carrot cake I've ever had. This one has "cream cheese" icing on top...I did another batch with the "cream cheese" icing and then topped in toasted coconut.

Mini carrot cupcakes with "cream cheese" icing

The chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing are both really good...they're classics, but crowd pleasers!

Mini cupcakes

vanilla cupcakes

The red velvet ("crimson velveteen" in the book) turned out disastrous for me. I tried twice. they overflowed and fell. In my second batch I filled them less, but even when they didn't overflow, they still fell.

Red velvet disappointment

And they weren't red, even though they were when they went in the oven (I blame it on the natural food coloring I use).

Red velvet batter

I recently made some vanilla cupcakes with strawberry "cream cheese" filling, vanilla buttercream icing, and strawberries on top. These were fun to make and fun to come up with. I had tried three different fillings -- strawberry "cream cheese," strawberry buttercream, and vanilla buttercream. The strawberry "cream cheese" was the best so that's the one I went with.


Birthday cupcakes

I tried a few other recipes from the book, but these are the most exciting. I do plan to keep working my way through the book and to keep experimenting, though!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Franchia is a vegan Korean tea house and restaurant. I had previously been to Hangawi, a vegan Korean restaurant with the same owners. My meal at Hangawi was incredible, and the atmosphere added even more fun to the meal. It is very formal and ceremonial. You have to take off your shoes and sit at a low table, there are many different dishes and implements to use, and the servers are very attentive.

Franchia has some of the same food as Hangawi, but the atmosphere is less formal. The place is still pretty, but more relaxed.

Franchia has a reasonably priced prix fixe menu, but the choices are pretty limited, so we just ordered off the menu. We started with the corn scallion pancakes. They were delicious. In a non-vegan restaurant they would probably be made with eggs, so it was fun to be able to order them. The flavor was great, although the texture could have stood to be a little less gummy, but overall they were very good.

corn cilantro pancake

Then I had the crispy mushrooms in sweet and sour sauce. The mushrooms were so good...crispy on the outside and a satisfying meaty texture on the inside. The sauce and veggies were good, too, although I was surprised to discover that the other vegetables were completely raw. It worked, though.

crispy mushroom in sweet and sour sauce

I also had a taste of this soy chicken curry stone rice bowl. It was very good (although I could do without the seaweed as I don't like the fishy taste).

curry "chicken" stone bowl rice

Although I was pretty full, I couldn't resist dessert. I had the mochi, which is filled with red bean paste and rolled in coconut. I love mochi! I love red bean paste! I love coconut! It was perfect!


The meal at Franchia was great. I would definitely go back if I had the chance. In fact, although it's probably a 15- to 20-minute walk from my work, I'm thinking about going there some lunch time to pick up one of their lunch boxes.

We went back the next day for something that we hadn't ordered but had really wanted..."tealattas." It's a frothy concoction of tea (I had green), soymilk, sugar, and ice blended together and topped with soy whipped cream. It was really good, especially on a hot day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Casablanca Tea Room

The Casablanca Tea Room, in Soho, is kind of a weird little place. The decor is really beautiful...but it's all white, and the ceiling and walls are billowy, some of them even obviously just sheets hung to separate the place from a clothing store next door. It kind of made me feel like I was inside a tent. They screen Casablanca all the time on one of the walls.

When I was there the place was almost empty, which was kind of weird but did make for good service. They have some vegetarian couscous on the menu, and it sounded good, but the sample platter of tapas sounded really exciting, so that's what we had.

Sample Platter from Casablanca Tea Room

It included an eggplant spread and a roasted pepper spread, salads of chickpeas, carrots, and beets, and a spinach spread and some olives. And it came with bread. Each of the dishes was really delicious. They all had the right hints of cumin, coriander, lemon, and mint. It was plenty of food for dinner for two (without leaving us too full), and at $24 was a pretty good deal. The cocktails, while also good, were expensive at $12 each (and not very large). I had the "mon chi chi," which consisted of peach tea infused vodka with strawberries and sugar. It was really yummy. They had a cocktail on the list containing harissa, but I wasn't looking for that much of a Moroccan experience.

I would go back, but probably to get the same sample was really yummy and beautifully presented.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Candle 79

I went to Candle 79 for lunch. The menu had so many super-yummy sounding dishes on it...risotto primavera, morel crusted tempeh, and many others. I didn't want a lot of food, though, so I thought it would be safest to go with a sandwich. I ordered the black bean pumpkin seed burger. It had caramelized onions on it and came with a salad with avocado and some polenta fries. However, it was a lot of food.

Black bean burger

The burger was delicious, but it was very big, and, being made mostly of beans, squishy. That means it kept squishing out the sides of the bun, making it difficult to eat. Yummy, though, but maybe better suited to miniature patties (as an appetizer served with salsa?) instead of in a roll? The roll was delicious, by the way.

The polenta fries were incredible. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, and lightly seasoned. The salad was also good, with the avocado being the perfect accompaniment.

Like I said, though, it was a lot of food. It left me pretty full...maybe too full. I also tried a bite of the BBQ Seitan sandwich, and it was delicious, too. The restaurant was very nice....soothing colors, calm environment, very clean and pretty. It was a lot of fun to go there, and I understand why so many people like it, but I wish it weren't so inconveniently located relative to me (Upper East Side). It works great paired with a trip to the Met, though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lima's Taste

In excited anticipation of an upcoming trip to Peru(!), I headed down the street to a local Peruvian restaurant, Lima's Taste, to get a preview of the food. This place has vegetarian options everyday, though, but I'm not so sure I'll find the actual cuisine in Peru as accommodating.

The place is nice but feels very different from other area restaurants...the furniture is all very formal-looking, with dark ornately-carved wooden high-backed chairs, but the walls are painted bright purple and orange with lots of art and some very modern flower arrangements. The service was extremely slow, even before there were many customers, but if you have time for a leisurely meal, it's perfectly pleasant.

They start out by presenting you with a little dish of corn kernels. Our server was silent when she delivered it, but I heard another server, a middle-aged man who seemed incredibly uncomfortable, give a dish to the table next to us and awkwardly state "It's corn. They grow corn in Peru." As if he'd just memorized that fact.

Corn from Lima's Taste

On their menu online they list three vegetarian dishes (one of which is based in a cream sauce, but the others sound vegan) and some vegan-sounding ceviches (mushroom and tofu). However, on the menu in the restaurant, the menu instructs you to ask about the "vegetarian dish of the day" and the ceviches listed were all seafood-based.

Fortunately, the vegetarian dish of the day was the vegetable saltado, which consists of some grilled veggies (broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc) with FRENCH FRIES and some white rice. The French fries are mixed in with the other veggies, and I think it's a genius move on their part. The whole dish has a salty vinegary sauce, and of course that goes really well with French fries! The whole thing was delicious. I was talking for days afterward about how much I loved the French fries in there. It also had a lot of cilantro in it, and I could taste some lime. All together it was a great combination.

Vegetarian entree from Lima's Taste

I would definitely go back, but I would probably call first to make sure the vegetable saltado is on the menu was so good!