Friday, November 13, 2009

Who Wants Earrings When I Can Eat Vegan Creme Brulee?

Fine jewelry? Not my thing. My favorite ring is a $15 "splurge" from the CATS Resale Shop. Perfume? Not so much. Electronics? My 10-year-old television set and old cell phone work just fine.

Instead, I was treated for my birthday to one of my favorite passions in life: food! Here's a recap of my humane dining experience at vegan Blossom Restaurant in Chelsea.

To drink, New York City tap water. Free and refreshing. Even when I'm not paying, $9 plus tax/tip for a glass of wine is simply too much.

To start, a Caesar salad, $8 (there's a larger entree size available). I love trying vegan versions of classic recipes, and this didn't disappoint. It was much lighter than the standard take, and no chickens or cows had to suffer.

Two entrees to share. First, Phyllo Roulade: French lentils and root vegetables in a phyllo crust, a carrot-cream sauce, with caramelized onions and Swiss chard, $18. A hearty and satisfying meal.

I couldn't wait to try the Wild Mushroom and Seitan Stroganoff on their online menu, but the waitress said they didn't serve it and the web site wasn't accurate. Sigh.

I couldn't sample the Bolognese sauce in Bologna, Italy, but I could try the linguini Bolognese, $21, here. As the judges on Project Runway might say, "I was a bit underwhelmed." The sauce was good, but didn't pair well with the spinach linguini and the vegetables, including the broccoli rabe, overpowered the dish.

French food loving-moi loved the lavender coconut creme brulee, $11. What a treat!

Apple cinnamon 'sticks' with vanilla soy ice cream and caramel sauce, $10. A comforting fall dessert.

But...these prices are too high, especially the desserts. Creme brulee is a rarity, so that was worth trying once. The high quality of the ingredients are worth more, and paying for the Chelsea real estate is part of the deal. But their prices limit this to a once, maybe twice a year, restaurant to visit.

One thing never to skimp on: the tip. Hard-working waiters and waitresses often have to share their tips with bus boys and food runners, are almost never provided with health care coverage, and shouldn't be nickle and dimed over the tax and alcohol. I say if one can afford to go out to eat, one can and should leave a descent tip for good service.

In an economy still struggling, it was encouraging to see such a bustling vegan restaurant. Visit Blossom Restaurant, 187 Ninth Ave., New York City. Find slightly more reasonable prices at their sister restaurant, Cafe Blossom, 466 Columbus Ave.

My favorite fine vegan dining experience in New York City? The Natural Gourmet's Friday Night Dinners still takes the vegan cake.

Dine at home for a fraction of the cost. Check out chef Karl Schillinger's recipe for Spaghetti 'Bolognese'. With the chilly nights ahead, have Italian night. Drink some wine if you imbibe, throw on an Italian film and enjoy the La Dolce Vita-frugal-style!

Check out Alicia Silverstone's Caesar Salad from The Kind Diet, available at local libraries. I would try this an even simpler recipe for Vegan Caesar Dressing from VegCooking, and top with Trader Joe's chickenless strips or Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips for an inexpensive and tasty lunch.

Follow Alicia's adventures in The Kind Life. Just in time for Thanksgiving, check out her pumpkin pie recipe.


Cate said...

That creme brulee looks delicious! Lavender and coconut is such an interesting combination.

Angela said...

Everything looks and sounds delicious. But I'm not a vegan or even vegetarian and I'm confused-why would cows or chickens have to suffer for regular caesar salad. I make a "fake" caesar that uses olive oil, garlic, parmesan, and lemon juice for the dressing, but my understanding is that the regular kind has anchovies (not chicken or cows). Is it your contention that eating eggs causes chickens suffering? I'm not trying to be a smart aleck, I really want to know. We eat organic/free range/ cage free eggs. But we don't have our own chickens.

Vegan Good Life said...

Hi Angela. Thanks for the question. I was referring the parm cheese from cows milk that usually tops the salad and eggs that are typical in Caesar dressing. If most people ordered a Caesar salad, the dressing's eggs would come from a chicken that lived in a battery cage.

When I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I bought free-range and organic eggs thinking I was supporting small farmers and good conditions for the birds. Buyer beware, I found.

Farm Sanctuary looked at the issue. I quote here from their release:
• Overcrowding: Egg laying hens in cage free operations are typically crowded by the thousands in large barns, with approximately one square foot of space allotted each bird. "Cage free" laying hens are not required to have access to the outdoors, and for "free range" and "free roaming" hens, access to the outdoors can be severely restricted and poorly designed. Under these labels, there are no limits on flock size and their outdoor area may be little more than a barren dirt lot that is difficult for them to access.

• Debeaking: Virtually all hens slated for egg production have the ends of their beaks removed without anesthesia, causing both acute and chronic pain.

• Inhumane culling: Commercial hatcheries supply hens to both factory farms and smaller egg farms, and the male chicks are unwanted and treated as a waste product. Common methods of killing and disposal include suffocation and being ground up alive. When egg laying hens’ productivity declines and they are no longer profitable to the egg industry, they are sent to slaughter or otherwise killed.

On 'humane' milk:
• Just like humans...cows must give birth to produce milk. Their calves are taken away after birth, usually immediately. This is known to cause psychological trauma for both cow and calf.
• At about two months into their lactation cycle, dairy cows are typically re-impregnated to ensure ongoing production. Carrying a baby and producing milk at the same time is physically taxing.
• Pushed to their biological limits, dairy cows' bodies commonly wear out after just a few years in production, and they are sent to slaughter. Most become ground beef.
• Male calves born on dairies are of little value to the dairy industry. Some are slaughtered for cheap (bob) veal shortly after birth, while others may be kept alive for about four months and chained inside dark crates, before they are slaughtered for "white" veal. Others are raised and slaughtered for beef.

Other resources:

Steps like baking with Ener-G egg replacer, or making tofu eggless sandwhiches with eggless mayo (the Trader Joe's reduced fat mayo is vegan) and tofu scrambles instead of scrambled eggs have become so easy, I can't justify for myself needing to have an egg. The same goes for dairy. It's no sacrifice for me to put almond or rice milk on my morning granola instead of cows milk.

Egg replacers:

Non-dairy milk alternatives:

Thanks again.