Sunday, September 26, 2010

That's My Desire

Over fancy jewelry that comes in little blue boxes; over high-end phones or gadgets that cause a line when the first day of sale arrives; over expensive clothes I will tire of or grow out of; over pricey hair cuts; over keeping up with the Jonses, or anyone else. Over all this: I will always choose travel (food being an integral part of the experience).

Each day in New York City, I pass legions of suitcase-lugging tourists. It's with a happy and grateful heart that I announce I will soon be a suitcase-lugging tourist myself in the cities of Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon and hitting the road throughout Spain (think Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow, but without all their money!)

This humble little blog is on hiatus as I prepare, travel, and recover from it all. I shall be back, hopefully full of sangria, vegetarian paella and a lifetime of memories. Hope to see you then.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Save The Date: For the Earth, Animals, and Your Fellow Citizens

Three causes, all very close to my heart, I wanted to share with those in my area.

Help fulfill Action Against Hunger's goal of reaching 100 tons of food for their food drive on Sunday, October 3rd in northern New Jersey. Click here for the dropoff locations and most needed items. Please, if you can afford to, donate food to this very worthy cause.

Gather by candlelight, enjoy music based on water themes, and hear readings of river stories at the Hackensack River Story Night to benefit BergenSWAN. This all takes place Friday, October 1st, at 8:00 pm, at the Church of Holy Communion in Norwood, New Jersey. Tickets are $25. Learn more.

BergenSWAN's good work is evident in Pascack Brook County Park in Westwood, New Jersey, where I so admire the trees they planted this year. On the way to my local farms and the park, I drive by the Emerson Woods Preserve, which they were crucial in helping to preserve, and participated in a clean-up of those very woods with them a few years ago. Your money will be well-spent. Communities need these environmental friends and watchdogs.

A favorite ode to the river is certainly Natalie Merchant's Where I Go.

Farm Sanctuary's annual Walk for Farm Animals, a nationwide event to raise awareness and funds, is coming to New York City's Central Park on Sunday, October 24th. Come here Farm Sanctuary Co-founder and President Gene Baur, enjoy a bagged vegan lunch, a raffle and much more.

The Biggest Loser celebrity trainer Bob Harper is the first-ever celebrity spokesperson for the Walk for Farm Animals. Read his interview here.

One of my earliest entries on this blog was about my visit to the Watkins Glen, New York, sanctuary, which I had to visit after reading Gene Baur's moving and compelling Farm Sanctuary. I enjoyed vegan eats all around town, and have fond memories of my visit there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome Fall!

Fall is officially here, and I'm welcoming her with big, open arms. The season's delights are everywhere I look.

At this "free iced tea" stand (I left a donation, of course). The chatter: all about the day's 'weigh-in' for football and last night's game.

At the new Goodwill store in Paramus, New Jersey. An aspiring young Wonder Woman was thrilled to find the costume of her dreams!

At a little roadside farm stand on Oradell Avenue in Oradell, New Jersey (right near the post office). Find hardy mums and apples for sale here.

Apple crisp. Baked apples. Apples and peanut butter. Applesauce, so good on potato pancakes, with Field Roast apple sage vegan sausage and red cabbage for an at-home Oktoberfest celebration, which I just enjoyed). Or just on their own.

At Abram Demaree Homestead , cheerful scarecrows are about.

Never tire of this view, ever.

A small pumpkin pie, shared three-ways, one for myself, one for my mother, and one for my dad, $4.95. Good thing my sister doesn't like pumpkin pie, we ran out of slices!

At Demarest Farm, where magical cornfields are set up. The air is filled with the aromas of cider donuts, and apple picking armies have big smiles on their faces.

A favorite seasonal lunch: vegetarian chili, ($4.59/lb.), a corn muffin, $1.90 and apple cider, $1.75.

Inviting picnic tables (my fair skin demaned a shaded picnic bench).

On the heels of news of Demarest Farm being for sale, came this depressing headline: Potential commercial development of DePiero's Farm presented. A big box supermarket seems likely.

A cherished childhood memory of fall is visiting Van Riper's Farm and Tice Farms in Montvale, New Jersey, watching apple cider being pressed, eating cider donuts, and delighting in their holiday decorations. Van Riper's is now an A&P supermarket; Tice's, an upscale strip mall with J.Crew, Banana Republic, and Pier1.

When dining or shopping at the farm, I always think what a lovely way to spend the weekend as opposed to running around the mall buying things I don't really need. Farms or malls? My vote is solid: farms.

Find a local farm near you through LocalHarvest.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why Was This in the Garbage?

A question I ask myself all the time. My mother says I would not make a good garbage truck employee - it would never get to the site.

I don't consider myself a dumpster diver in that I'm searching for things. I stumble upon these items. I live in an apartment complex and have a higher exposure to people's trash, but also see things curbside. I'm documenting my finds to draw awareness that our society's disposable ways extend far beyond water bottles and plastic bags. Here is just a fraction of what I've found this summer (all of which has been donated to thrift shops, unless otherwise stated).

Four chairs, pulled out of the dumpster one evening (the garbage truck was due the next morning). One had a broken seat which needed repairing, but otherwise, they were fine. The greatest quality, no, but someone must have a need for them.

Gift bags, which based on the card envelopes outside, were for a 30th birthday. I saw the guy bringing these to the dumpster, and swiftly took them out.

I always thought gift bags were a more eco-friendly option than wrapping paper since they are reusable (my family has always reused them), but so often, they are tossed.

This sweet little 3 foot tall tree, which rotates when plugged in, almost never saw another Christmas. It was tossed into the dumpster in a white garbage bag.

In a box by the dumpster: a peach Eileen Fisher top (my mom claimed it immediately, and could not believe it was tossed), two bags, and a wine caddy.

A baby's seat, on the side of the road. I rescued it, but couldn't fit all the baby items into my car, including a high chair.

I stumbled upon a huge bounty of garage sale leftovers on a main road that were destined for the landfill. I couldn't salvage some of the bigger items, such as furniture, but I did rescue many smaller items, include an entire box filled with Halloween costumes. This is the perfect time to be donating Halloween, Thanksgiving and winter decorations to thrift shops (this house was right down the road from two of them).

Along with the costumes, sweet little girls clothes. I washed the clothes and costumes before donating them.

Stuffed animals. Made in China, snuggled with for a bit, then tossed in the landfill.

The list is endless, and dispiriting. So many people are in need right now in this country, and throwing these items in the garbage is money thrown down the drain for everyone.

Reporting from Bergen County, New Jersey, the land of excess for some.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Soup's On, Soul's Smiling

Give me soup...any day, any season. From scratch is preferred. My ingredients are simple: olive oil, onions, vegetable stock (I get a little help from Rapunzel which I pick up at Old Hook Farm), veggies of choice, spices. Sometimes a little soy creamer to mock dairy creamer.

These leeks from Abram Demaree Homestead are just begging to be paired with potatoes for a homemade potato leek soup. Celtic Kitchen in New Milford, NJ, sells brown bread from Ireland, which would be a delightful partner.

With a spinach Swiss cheese quiche and Fall's favorite drink, apple cider, at Abram Demaree's quaint patio overlooking land that has been farmed since the 1750s. The soup: vegetarian split pea, my dining companion, my lovely mother.

At a cozy French cafe, with Edith Piaf piping from the sound system. Add crusty bread, olive oil for dipping, and a bottle of tap water. This tomato basil soup was savored at a now shuttered cafe in the Chelsea section of New York City.

With salad, this one topped with blackberries and candied cashews, and a buttermilk herb scone from Rolling Pin Cafe in Westwood, NJ. The soup, dairy-free butternut squash soup.

With a Mexican flair, and loaded with protein and fiber rich beans. The black bean soup at La Batalla in Bergenfield, NJ, is hearty enough for a meal. Their homemade flan, so hard to resist.

With a touch of Asia. At Empire Hunan in Fair Lawn, NJ, a cup of miso soup. The perfect starter to feasts of steamed vegetable dumplings and brown rice or bean curd with veggies. Lychee fruit to end for dessert. I haven't been here in far too long.

With soup's best good friend: Saltines. Some would say tomato soup's soulmate is grilled cheese. The tomato soup here, Campbell's, from Conrad's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant (open May through Labor Day; after which it stays open as a chocolate shop, which it is year-round).

An aside, the last time I dined at Conrad's counter, where I enjoyed a strawberry sorbet on a sweltering summer day, a man beside me told the owner the last time he was in was in 1957, and the place hadn't changed at all. There's something to be said for that in the age of obsession over modernizing and upgrading to the next best thing. There's comfort in the constant.

One thing that will never change, the comfort to body and soul soup always provides.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Praise to the Mother, Long Live the 80's Memories

Feasting on humane, delicious fare outside on a sunny, crisp day in New York City. Enjoying good conversation with two positive, lovely souls. The good life it is.

At Mother Burger (a sister restaurant of vegan-friendly Blockheads), I snacked on complimentary peanuts (love that offering!) while sipping on an Arnold Palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade), $2.

Their veg version of the Mother Burger: toasted bulgar wheat, carrot, chick peas, onions, sauteed red and green pepper, tahini and spices. Without cheese it's $6.95, but I added the vegan soy cheese for $2 more since having that as an option is a real rarity and treat. Two words: happy dance!

I also dined solo at Two Boots (Hell's Kitchen location). Of course I choose the Earth Mother!

What's more quintessential New York City than a slice and a soda? I try and limit my soda consumption, but it just goes so well with pizza. A small Pepsi, $1.25.

I sat by the window, the perfect place to people watch. Other than the supermarket (the ultimate place to people watch for me), New York City is one of the best places to do it.

Visit various locations in New York City, or find them in LA, Baltimore, and Bridgeport, Connecticut. The boots - the geographical shapes of Italy and Louisiana. Two Boots was founded in 1987 by two indie filmmakers in homage to their loves of pizza, beer and New Orleans, and it definitely has an eighties vibe.

Other cool things in 1987: Dirty Dancing was on the big screen (I still remember seeing it with my best friend, and may have the soundtrack on cassette in my childhood bedroom. Note to self: look for that the next time visiting). Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were on the airwaves. I pick Tiffany. Confession: I once brought a picture of her to a hairdresser. That was when teenagers still looked like, well, teenagers. Seems like 16 going on 27 too often now.

I feel sorry for today's youth that does not know the awesomeness of the eighties. The decade was just so campy. Check out "You Know You Grew Up in the 80's If" for a trip down memory lane. I, for one, did not think Doogie Howser was hot, but did rock the stone wash jeans and had a fluorescent pink purse.

Admit it: You reenact this scene in your living room when it's on TV (at least the last 20 seconds). We all do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

At the Picnic: Pass the Cheese, or Pass on the Cheese?

Each September, I attend a fundraising picnic for the retirement home of the chef's association my sweetheart belongs to. You may recall the dinner dance we attended last winter. A picnic table is much more my speed. While he cooked up a storm, I enjoyed the festivities with my parents.

Petit dejeuner: a croissant, $1, and coffee, $1.

Tombola, 3 chances for $1. Push the paper out of the plastic, and if it has a number, you've won!

Prizes included everything from Pepperidge Farm cookies and chocolates to cookbooks and champagne. After about $25, I walked away with a bottle of red Bordeaux and two white Bordeaux.

Marching for the last time in this year's picnic, Les Cadets Lafayette. They said they are having a difficult time getting younger people joining. I've read of similar issues with a local VFW, which was closing down its hall.

An enthusiastic show of patriotism.

Now, for the feast...

You can't not have bread at a French picnic? I love the simple centerpieces: flowers picked right from the garden in Orangina bottles, which they reuse each year.

Hors d'oeuvres. No pate, seafood salad or sausages for me. I savored the tomato salad in a mustard vinagrette, and mixed bean salad. Apples and plums also adorned the table, as did French wine, bien sûr: Côtes du Rhône and white Bordeaux.

The entree: grilled beef with mushroom sauce. Pass. For me: string beans, carrots and pearl onions, sauteed in garlic and onion.

Salad with a huge brie cheese came to every table (about eight people per table, and this was the equivalent of buying six brie cheeses individually at the shop).

For dessert, a mixed berry tarte, and watermelon. This was the only thing different from last year (a pear tarte was usual).

People wanting to eat vegan often deal with scenarios where they must decide for themselves the merit of passing on certain foods that they would love to eat. Communal situations are particularly difficult, and what to do when there's an enormous amount of something you love in front of you? And then factor in reality: it may likely get thrown out even if you don't consume it. I constantly hear the drum beaten of "veganism is so easy," which I don't find helpful, and often, it's not so black and white.

Cheese often tops the list of tempatations, and even Alicia Silverstone has admitted to eating cheese occasionally. I love her honesty and relate to her and Sarma Melngailis (read I'm Not a Vegetarian) more than the "there's no slipping ever" crowd. Almost no one will want to explore a diet if they think they have to be perfect in every situation for the rest of their life.

As for "perfect" vegans who are judgemental, I think a) They're misleading about how strict they are. I'd love to see a list of what they eat. Really - no honey, no pat of butter, no dollop of cream, no eating a slice of non-vegan birthday cake, no piece of your co-worker's banana bread when your stomach is growling at 10 a.m. ever ever ever? Or B) They are secretly annoyed they are held to such high standards (although shouldn't we set the standards for ourselves and not others?) Who wants a vegan police discouraging people? I don't.

I savor the vegetarian, non-vegan fods I eat at events like the picnic. No apologies, no guilt.

Friday, September 10, 2010

At the Renaissance Fair: Vegan Fare, Check!

With two complimentary tickets in hand from an acquaintance, my sweetheart, his mother and I attended the New York Renaissance Fair. Admission is $20, and aside from the free shows (where tips are requested, but not required, and many performers were selling their CDs and DVDs), capitalism is alive and well in the Renaissance.

Don't try this at home: most of what thrill performer Dextre Tripp does at his entertaining show.

Dancing a jig for the queen's court.

Flowery headpieces for sale, $16-$18. They are pretty!

Hair braiding at the Rapunzel booth. Confession: I was pretty tempted to do this. You could spend $20 and upwards depending on the style. Much more charming than some of those horrendous and even more costly updos bridesmaids have to sport for weddings, in my opinion.

Whimsical toys.

I admired the craftsmanship of these Cornish mushrooms, $39 (not sure if the price varied for smaller ones). They would add a touch of charm to any garden.

A visit to the candle maker. He was encouraging giving them as holiday gifts saying everyone loves candles, but based on the number I see at thrift shops just after the holidays, I'd beg to differ. Although I, for one, adore them.

But alas, "money is no object" does not roll off my tongue. We only spent money on food and drink.

Fairgoers enjoying a libation in the lush forest amid campy signs that read, "Wanted: Robin Hood." I had a Hardcore cider, $6. I'm not a beer drinker, and hard cider is my favorite alternative. Did you know cider was once the most popular drink in America?

The Super Vegan wrap was pretty tempting, but just as alluring: the vegan "Night in Tunisia" special: couscous with stewed vegetables, $9. A hearty, healthy and humane option for any era.

At another booth, I also spotted Cuban black bean soup in a bread bowl for $7, which the vendor confirmed was vegan. You could find everything from salads and pickles to organic, fair-trade coffee.

On the way out, I thought I spotted Dumbledore! A fine end to a day at the fair.