Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

A Gastronomical Feast for the Ages – Delice & Sarrasin, New York City

Besides not seeing my family and Jersey girl(friends) as often as I did when I lived in New Jersey, top on my list of what I miss are the wonderful vegan dining experiences so readily available in Manhattan and Philadelphia. I know what you might be thinking, that living in Sedona I have the Phoenix metropolitan area nearby, which has a plethora of restaurants that cater to the veg community. While, yes, that’s true, I’ve tried all of them. Many times, in fact. However, I sadly have to admit that I am underwhelmed and unimpressed with them. What I wouldn’t do to have a Vedge, or Millenium, or Candle, or the newer kid-on-the-block, Delice and Sarrasin within my local community! Continue reading A Gastronomical Feast for the Ages – Delice & Sarrasin, New York City

Candle Café West, New York City

Summer vacation arrived for Richard and I on June 20. This was not going to be any ordinary vacation. We had several destinations on tap, starting with Manhattan, then to Woodstock (where The Aquarian Exposition, aka Woodstock, did not actually take place), then to Bethel Woods Center For the Arts (where is 1969 Woodstock Festival did take place, about 67 miles southwest of Woodstock), then off to Washington State to visit two of Richard’s three adult children. All in all, we were going to be away for a total of 20 days. And so it began…..
Continue reading Candle Café West, New York City

Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 3 – The Final Chapter – Unexpected Delights

Walking up and down Duval Street, live music abounds, pouring out of restaurants, clubs, and dives onto the streets. The joint that we seemed most drawn to, however, was Willie T’s. It was an open-air, outdoor patio with some of the tables under an overhang. The genre seemed to be predominantly, if not exclusively, solo guitar rock / sometimes margaritaville-like male singers. Each evening, we’d stop and stand on the sidewalk, taking in the sights and sounds. We quickly came to a consensus regarding our favorite—John LaMere. His shtick was classic rock band covers. Geez, could he ever pull of a Mellencamp (as in John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, now John Mellencamp)! It was not uncommon for me to break out in dance right there on the sidewalk! So, after our nightly sidewalk voyeuring, we decided that we would eat our final dinner at Willie T’s and arrive at the beginning of John LaMere’s set that evening. Continue reading Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 3 – The Final Chapter – Unexpected Delights

Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 2 – Hits & Misses

We awoke one morning, ravenous and deciding that we wanted to forego the vacation-standard, go-to, made in the room, smoothie. What to eat became the question. It was the only rainy day, at least it started out as such, so we decided to take a trek over to the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, located in the Historic Seaport neighborhood. We fell into Two Friends Patio, one of the few remaining original Old Towne restaurants, established in 1967 and still family run. The place was hustling and bustling. Cutting straight down the middle of the restaurant, however, is an open walkway, so they had to close off some of the tables because of the rain. No one seemed to care, even those patrons who were graced with the occasional spray of rain. It really didn’t matter to us because, even though we had our all-weather jackets on, we were fairly damp already from the walk. We were hungry, that’s what mattered. And, they had a table with only about a 15 minute wait. Worked for us. Continue reading Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 2 – Hits & Misses

Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 1

Recently, my partner Richard and I had the exquisite joy of traipsing about Key West for a glorious nine days of fun and sun (and eating). Continue reading Eating Our Way Through Key West – Part 1

The N’er-to-Forget Obsessive Vegan Open-Faced Reuben

Linda’s Vegan Reuben

One of my favorite sandwiches EVER is a Reuben. Having been vegetarian since 1983 and before becoming vegan in 2007, the version I would order at the diner (Heck, I’m from Jersey, so you know that I know all about diners and diner food J) would be a meatless Reuben. I still conjure up visions of the delectable yumminess today, but it’s transformed a bit.

When I think of Reubens now, thoughts immediately go to The Chicago Diner, located in the Windy City. I have visited Chicago at least five times; and each time, it is an absolute necessity to eat there. The problem is, I have a hard time ordering anything but their Radical Reuben (but admittedly I typically order the Reuben and then some, leaving me in need of a wheelbarrow to be taken out of the joint), which they describe as “corned beef seitan, grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan thousand island & cheese, on marbled rye”. Trust me, their description does not even begin to do it justice.

But, I don’t live anywhere close to Chicago; so I’ve had to come up with my own version, which has a couple of twists and turns…all good.

It starts with the best fresh-baked marbled rye bread that I can find. You can have it pre-sliced; but I prefer to slice it fresh myself. Plus, that way, I get to slice it a wee bit thicker than their slicing machines. If you are going to serve your Reuben open-faced, my favorite way to do so, toast the bread. Or better yet, slather it with some vegan creamy butter spread, and grill it on both sides.

I’ve made my own corned beef seitan; and admittedly, it’s quite yummy. However, I don’t always want to take the time it takes to make it homemade. Ah, but alas, today there is Field Roast Wild Mushroom or Smoked Tomato Deli Slices, quite a lovely swap out, if I can so. They work well in this sandwich. If you used a griddle to toast/grill the bread, warm up the deli slices as well, then layer them on top of your freshly-toasted/grilled rye bread.

For the cheese, it would definitely be Field Roast’s Chao cheese. It’s a revelation. However, that being said, I also love making homemade cheeses riffing on Miyoko Skinner’s recipes in her book, Artisan Vegan Cheese. Top your deli slices with the vegan cheese.

One of my newest favorite foods to make homemade in sauerkraut. It couldn’t be easier; and if you like kneading bread doughs (which I do), this will be right up your alley. For my version, I use red cabbage. You could use a mandolin or grater, but I prefer my trusty Shun Santoku knife. I cut the cabbage in quarters, then working from the opposite end of the core that remains in the quarter, I thinly slice the cabbage. When I get to the core, I simply work the knife around the core, getting all the cabbage leaf shreds available, then compost the remaining core. Put the shredded cabbage in a very large bowl, and sprinkle a small amount of Himalayan pink sea salt over it (for a very large head of cabbage, I use between 2 teaspoons and a tablespoon, definitely not more than that). Proceed to kneed/massage the salt into the cabbage until it begins to exude its liquid, then kneed/massage even more. At the point when the liquid begins to show itself, sprinkle between 1-2 teaspoons caraway seeds into the pool. When you think you simply can’t massage any more, walk away for a few minutes. Have a glass of wine or a cup of tea, then go back and massage a wee bit more. The cabbage should start to wilt slightly and you should have a surprising about of liquid. Pack the cabbage into a very clean glass mason jar, or similar, ensuring that you are releasing all the air bubbles out of the cabbage as you pack it in. Once you have all cabbage in the jar, add the cabbage juice, and pack again, ensuring that you remove any air bubbles. If you don’t have enough liquid to cover the cabbage, add water to cover the cabbage. I put a layer of waxed paper over the cabbage and then weight it down, ensuring that all the cabbage is covered. I’ve actually just added water to a smaller jar that will loosely fit inside the mouth of the jar. Put in a cool, dark place; and cover with a clean towel. Let it stay there for at least 5-7 days. It will begin to take on the aroma of sauerkraut; and when it does, viola! You have sauerkraut. Remove the towel and weight, put the lid on the jar, and refrigerate. Since it is fermented, the sauerkraut will last about two weeks in the refrigerator; but let’s be honest here, with the anticipation of eating a Reuben, doubtful it will hang around that long.

Speaking of Reuben, let’s get back to it. Now that you have your rye bread stacked with deli slices and cheese, go ahead and top it with sauerkraut that you’ve warmed. Be generous. You can never have too much sauerkraut!

For the Russian dressing, I make my own mixture of ketchup, a touch of sriracha, capers, and minced sweet gherkins. With the addition of capers, skip the salt. Make it your own here. I tend to like mine with the hint of heat from the sriracha as a nice juxtaposition to the sweetness of the pickle. Either way, you don’t want to skimp here either. Be munificent with the dressing.

Since you’re making the dressing, make a lot so you have enough to dunk your side dish of air-fried French fries.

And like The Chicago Diner, what should you be serving with as your beverage with your Reuben and fries? Well, a shake, of course! This is no time for being bashful; and after all, you air-fried the French fries. So no guilt! Make your best vegan milkshake. Since the flavors will be bouncing with the Reuben, I’d suggest going with your standard go-to’s of either Vanilla or Chocolate. Easy breezy. Just scoop some of your favorite vegan ice cream into a blender, add some extra vanilla or chocolate, some vegan milk, and whiz it up! Serve in a tall glass with a straw!

It might not be The Chicago Diner, but I’m already salivating. Gotta run! Kitchen is calling—on the menu tonight—Reuben, of course!

*An important aspect of sharing original recipes is to give proper credit to the author(s) of the recipe(s). I hope that you enjoy using these recipes and making them your own; but please do so with that integrity in mind. With much gratitude. Linda

Creating An Exclusive, Extraordinary Vegan Night Out In An Omnivore Venue

May 4, 2017 was a beautiful and balmy evening in Old Towne Cottonwood, Arizona (just a stone’s through from Sedona). After a couple months of planning, the evening finally arrived. Veganification and Verde Valley Vegans, the Meetup Group that I sponsor/organize, converged upon Abbie’s Kitchen, a quaint, intimate artisan restaurant tucked inside a renovated bungalow.

  778 Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326

For the entire evening, we had the restaurant all to ourselves. Now, I have to tell you that Abbie Ashford in not a vegan chef. In fact, her restaurant is not vegan nor vegetarian. However, that being said, Abbie is a culinary master. Typically, dining there is by reservation only. When you call, Abbie personally answers the phone; and even though she has a menu, she proceeds to ask you about your taste preferences and dietary requirements. After several times dining there, Abbie got to know my likes and dislikes; so when I call now, I just say, “surprise me”. Of course, I have never been disappointed. Abbie continues to delightfully astound this food snob’s palate with her dedication to culinary excellence.

Abbie Ashford

So, back to May 4….thirty people arrived, hungrily anticipating the evening’s prix fixe dinner extravaganza.

The dinner began with hummus and crudité with a garnish of roasted garlic cloves. Sugar snap peas alongside slices of cucumbers, carrots, and peppers made utensil-less vehicles to scoop up the hummus, which had a hint of lemon running through it. A nice way to awaken the palate for the next course.

Second course was a salad that was lightly dressed with Abbie’s homemade Moroccan lemon preserve dressing with a raw minted pea soup shooter, which had just the right amount of mint to make it apparent and enhance the flavor of the fresh peas but not overwhelming where it starts to taste like perfume (it is truly a work of art to get that flavorful balance done right).

The grilled platter was not your ordinary grilled veggies. We were delighted with peewee potatoes, asparagus, and fennel perched alongside an upright roasted tomato. What can I say, other than, YUM! The vegetables were warm yet still had a crispness to them. The integrity of each vegetable remained intact, even when topped with the herbaceous basil pine nut pesto, sans cheese.

Intermezzo – the palate cleanser – was a homemade lemon sorbet. A fresh and delicate way to acknowledge the introductory courses while preparing us for the Main Event …

Abbie’s quinoa and vegetable stuffed artichoke. Now, this was not just any artichoke. At any other restaurant where I’ve ordered a stuffed artichoke, they merely plopped a dollop of their ‘stuffing’ on the top of the middle leaves. Oh, but not Abbie. She first removed the choke, making the journey to the heart smooth sailing. She then filled not only that cavity with the stuffing but also stuffed all the leaves so that each leaf came off with a bite of quinoa and vegetables. So, let me tell you about the stuffing. This wasn’t your ordinary quinoa and vegetables. While it looked like simply quinoa that was tossed with some diced veggies, the flavor that Abbie imparted into that stuffing made it quite clear that she didn’t just throw this stuffing together. It was a very sophisticated mélange of flavors that beautifully complimented the earthiness of the artichoke leaf’s flesh. So, round and round we went, eating and savoring each leaf and its stuffing, dipping it sometimes first in melted compound herb butter that was served abreast the artichoke. Ah, fingers dripping from the ‘butter’, we got to the heart of the matter—the artichoke heart. It was delicate, soft, deliquescing in your mouth as it burst with its creamy, mildly somewhat nutty, sweetly earthy taste. I could have been done at this point, my palate who so incredibly sated…but wait, there was yet another course remaining…dessert!

If you’ve been following my blog, you might recall that I gave you my original recipe for my Limoncello Cake. It took five blog posts, Blogs 27-31, November 11-16, 2016. It starts with making homemade Limoncello, and then every component of the layer cake is all about the limoncello. Well, that was the main dessert offering.

However, for those individuals who avoid gluten and/or sugar, my friend Kaleah gave me her recipe for her raw chocolate cake topped with a vanilla cashew cream icing. Delightful!

And as if that wasn’t enough, Abbie brought out plates of chocolate dipped fresh strawberries with candied lemon peels.

As the night came to a close, we all decided that this MUST become an ongoing event. Thanks, Abbie Ashford and your staff for making May 4 truly A NIGHT TO REMEMBER AND SAVOUR!

Abbie, Luna, and Me

First Course

Hummus and Crudites with Roasted Garlic and Olives

Second Course

Moroccan Lemon Spring Harvest Salad with Minted Fresh Pea Soup Shooter

Third Course

Grill of Asparagus, Fennel, Potato, and Tomato Brushed with Basil Pesto

Fourth Course

Almond and Quinoa Filled Artichoke With Chive and Tarragon Compound “Butter”

Fifth Course

Veganification’s Limoncello Layer Cake With Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

Pulling this event together was not all that difficult; and I encourage you to do the same thing in your neck of the woods. It is a wonderful way to expose restaurants to the ease of adding vegan offerings to their menu while creating a unique way to build community.

Once Abbie agreed to the idea of the event, together we crafted the menu.

We decided on a prix fixe menu that not only included all five courses but also included non-alcohol homemade beverages, coffee and tea service, taxes, and gratuities. The only extra that someone who have to pay for would be wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverage.

Next step was to develop the flyer, which I did pulling together logos and the menu into a document. Flyers were printed and distributed at the local health food stores and handed out during my cooking demonstrations. I also emailed the flyer to my Veganification and Verde Valley Vegan contacts.

I used the Veganification website as the vehicle for ticket purchases. Since my Veganification trademark was officially approved on April 18, I had pins and pens made, which were strategically placed at each place setting. Easy breezy, actually. In fact, by the time the evening came, I was dressed up and ready to roll. There really wasn’t anything for me to do but enjoy the company of good friends, new friends, and excellent food.

So, reach out to your favorite non-veg restaurant in your area and do the same. Heck, if you have any questions, you can always reach out to me. I would be more than happy to share my experience and documents.  We’re in this together.

Pomegranate Café, Phoenix, Arizona

Dessert as Appetizer

I had the opportunity to pop into Pomegranate Café last week for brunch. I’ve eaten there many times, and was especially excited that morning because I had a plan. I was starting my meal with a dessert as my appetizer as I wanted to make sure there was room in my belly for their oh-so-delightful raw chocolate almond joy with an almond buttercup latte as a chaser, made with espresso, vanilla-almond syrup, POMilk, coconut whip, and cinnamon. Could there be any better way to start brunch? I think not. I was in dessert/appetizer heaven! Continue reading Pomegranate Café, Phoenix, Arizona