Dinner at Fancy Radish in Washington, D.C. | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty-Four

This is the blog post equivalent of a #latergram: an extremely belated review of a dinner I enjoyed in March (!). (Why now? I’m on a long-weekend vacation with Steven, so no new content till Tuesday! Pre-scheduled posts to the rescue.)

For my birthday this past March, Steven and I visited Fancy Radish, a new-ish vegan restaurant in D.C. that we’d been meaning to hit up since it opened in early 2018. Helmed by the same team that made Philly’s Vedge the plant-based hotspot it is today, the Fancy Radish has gotten rave reviews from all my friends who’ve visited. The perfect spot for a birthday dinner! And the perfect opportunity for a Fancy Radish review, only five months late. :)

I really love the concept: you order a bunch of small dishes and share them with your dining companions. It’s a spin on the tapas experience, except here the server brings them in carefully considered courses rather than all at once, and the servings are a little larger. Our waitress recommended that we share four to five dishes, so we went with five “medium” plates. It was my birthday! Time to splash out and eat up.

I started with a cocktail, and I’m 99% sure it was the Marbles Found: tequila, bitter rose, and grapefruit. I’m a sucker for grapefruit! I really enjoyed this, even though I don’t usually drink tequila outside of a margarita.

Our first course was the rutabaga fondue, a truly heavenly crock of mild, gooey goodness served with a pretzel roll and a small bowl of lightly pickled veggies. (They had me at “pretzel roll,” tbh.) Would I ever have paired pickled vegetables with fondue on my own? I would not. Was it amazing? It was. Ugh, this was such a perfect starter. As soon as I tasted that fondue, I knew the hype about Fancy Radish was real and I could not wait to experience the rest of the meal.

Next up were two dishes served at once: the eponymous fancy radishes (a plate of roasted and raw radishes served with a yuzu-avocado puree) and a Chioggia beet “lox” toast. The radishes, if I’m being honest, underwhelmed. There wasn’t a lot of substance there, and thinking back on the meal today, I barely remember that we ordered this dish! I really enjoyed the beet lox, though. It was served with some kind of creamy spread and an herby topping. Someone in the kitchen must be exceedingly proficient with a mandoline, because those beets were sliced incredibly finely! I really appreciated that the lox flavor was not overwhelming. I’ve had some plant-based lox dishes that were just overpoweringly smoked, including one salad topped with carrot lox that I had to stop eating because it was burning my mouth! No such issues here.

For our final course, we had the shaved brassicas and spicy dan dan noodles. The former was tasty, but not my favorite. The shaved Brussels sprouts came heavily dressed with a smoked mustard sauce and crispy shiitakes, but by the time the plate got to us it was all kind of lukewarm and limp — not ideal conditions for my beloved Brussels sprouts. Those dan dan noodles were killer, however. They packed a serious spicy punch thanks to the liberal use of Sichuan peppers, but I couldn’t stop eating! The bowl also included a topper of fried five-spiced glazed mushrooms along with a respectable helping of noodles.

These five dishes were the perfect amount of food for the two of us. If we’d planned to order dessert, I would’ve gone down to four savory dishes instead. (Steven had made me a birthday cake, though, so no dessert needed this time!) I was blown away with how fresh and creative and nuanced the flavors were; it was some of the best vegan food I’ve had. (Even the dishes that underwhelmed were still creative and tasty!) For a splurge meal, it was totally worth it. The menu changes seasonally, so I’m eager to return and try some new options. Perhaps for my 10-year veganniversary this October…?!

Apologies for the photo quality; Fancy Radish had “atmospheric” lighting, shall we say.

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Road Trip Snacks! | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty-Three

Welcome to the first of a few pre-scheduled posts: Steven and I are on vacation! I was getting some serious itchy feet after some potential travel plans (Poland, le sigh) fell through earlier this summer, so we decided to stay closer to home and do a late-summer road trip instead! We’re heading further south… I’ll share more details later, but suffice it to say we’ve got a 7-8 hour road trip planned! And you know what a road trip means: SNACKS!

Steven and I are veteran road trippers. Since moving to Maryland, we now live about 8 hours from my parents and most of my extended family in Rhode Island. That means we drive home a few times each year. (We occasionally fly, depending on price and the time we have available — it’s an hourlong flight, which is unbeatable.) And we always stock up on snacks before the trip.

In my opinion, having a nice even ratio of sweet to savory snacks is key. You want to be able to switch back and forth as the mood strikes! It’s also important to balance junk food with healthier options — nobody wants an upset tummy during a long drive. I like to bring fruit; it’s easy to eat and unquestionably wholesome. And if you aren’t planning on stopping for a meal, you want to have something filling — even if it’s just a sandwich or a protein bar.

Last night when we dropped Moria off, we conveniently planned to meet Steven’s mom at Roots, a local vegan-friendly grocery store, so we could grab a few vital ingredients.

Apologies for the terrible lighting!

For this trip, here’s what we’ve got packed:

  • Cherry tomatoes and chopped peppers for healthy snacking.
  • Tofurky, Violife cheddar, tomato, and mayo/mustard sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread, which I made last night.
  • PigOut Pigless Bacon chips, original flavor — I keep seeing these and wanting to try them. No time like a road trip!
  • A big ol’ Tony Chocolonely pecan-coconut dark chocolate bar. So, this brand has “SLAVE-FREE!” plastered all over it, and I could’ve sworn I remembered reading a blog post where someone said it was on the FEP’s approved list. Umm… turns out, it’s not. In fact, they have a note that says: “We have had detailed exchanges with the company and will reevaluate once we read their new annual report, which comes out in November.” Doh!
  • Some Larabars and a Clif bar for backup.

We also made some cold-brew coffee last night, which we’ve decanted into our trusty KeepCups for the drive. Gotta stay caffeinated for the drive!

What’re your go-to road trip snacks?

Not-So-Chickpea Cutlets | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty-Two

Today has been pretty boring on the food front! A bagel for breakfast, leftovers for lunch… and a casual fend-for-yourself dinner tonight, because Steven had a late lunch  and we didn’t feel like making a big meal.

Figuring out dinner was a frustrating experience. I wanted something quick and easy because we need to meet Steven’s mom at 7:15 to drop off Moria for the weekend. First I considered a chickpea flour omelette (i.e., pudla), but I’ve kind of overdosed on them recently and wasn’t really feeling it. Then I decided on a chickpea flour scramble, specifically the one from Real Food, Really Fast, a cookbook I quite like but have yet to review here. Butttt we’re out of nutritional yeast, and I hate a nooch-less egg-y recipe. And we’re out of tofu, so no tofu scram. Aaaargh!

I ended up cooking more than I wanted: I made Isa’s chickpea cutlets. They’re actually pretty quick, especially if you’ve made them previously and know the drill. I really love these cutlets; they’re super filling thanks to all that protein, yet they don’t feel heavy. (I do reduce the soy sauce a little because they tend to be a bit salty for me.) I always eat them with yellow mustard and I can’t tell you why — the pairing just feels right. Funnily enough, we didn’t have chickpeas in the pantry — the horror! I substituted cannellini beans, and they worked a treat. They’re easier to mash than chickpeas, which is an added bonus!

For a quick side dish, I blanched some green beans and doused them with lemon juice. My garden beans are going bonkers this year, so I’ve always got some to use! No complaints here.

Now we’re heading out to do the Moria hand-off. Steven brought Rosie to our friends’ house this morning, and Rachel reported back that Rosie stood at the door and whined as soon as he left. My heart! I wish we could tell our furry pals that when we leave, we’ll always come back. Ugh.

Here are a few gratuitous photos of my dingbats, just because. Moria is the grey beardy one, and Rosie is the snaggletoothed, tiny-eyed monster. <3

 

UPDATE. We are not, as it happens, out of nutritional yeast. How do I know? Steven just walked in brandishing two large jars of it and saying “WE’VE GOT NOOCH!” after reading this blog post. I forgot he’d picked some up recently.

Jackfruit Chipotle Chili | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty-One

What do you do when you need to use up the veggies in your fridge, you’re a little sick of rice/noodle-and-veg dishes, and it’s 90˚ out? Make chili!

Heh. Maybe it wasn’t the most obvious choice for a hot summer day, but it worked with what we had in the fridge. Steven whipped this sucker up on the fly and it was ready when I got home from work — always a treat! He used black beans, red pepper, a shallot, corn, and jackfruit, along with the standard tomato base. He also added some chipotle peppers, giving it quite an unexpected kick. (So much for my resolution to avoid super-spicy foods!) But you can’t really complain when someone is cooking for you., right? Plus, we had a bit of leftover cheesy sauce, which we mixed in to temper the spice. (Not pictured because it was not very visually appealing.)

Do you have a favorite chili recipe or do you always wing it? I usually make it up as I go, but when I want a tried and true recipe, I go for my smoky black bean chili. It’s one of my favorites!

Eggplant Dengaku | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty

A few days ago, Susan over at Kittens Gone Lentil offhandedly mentioned enjoying eggplant dengaku, and I was intrigued: I’d never heard of it! (Or so I thought.) Turns out, there’s an eggplant dengaku recipe in Appetite for Reductionone of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I had to try it!

Isa’s recipe has you slice and broil the eggplant, then brush the slices with a sweet and salty (but incredibly simple!) miso sauce. Sounds like a recipe for deliciousness, and it is. I had a pound of those cute thin little Japanese eggplants from the farmers market, so I sliced them up. The recipe is intended for two pounds of eggplant, though, so I decided to supplement with a head of broccoli instead. Why not?! Instead of broiling the broc, I chopped it into florets and roasted it, then put the florets on the pan with the broiled eggplant slices, glazed everything, and gave it all a final quick broil until the miso sauce bubbled.

I served my eggplant and broccoli dengaku with some brown rice and topped everything with scallions. I also whipped up a quick spicy peanut sauce because I didn’t think the glaze would provide enough sauciness for the rice, but it wasn’t entirely necessary. What a flavorful dish! The miso is so robust, and it pairs so well with the meltingly soft eggplant. It was almost too salty for me, though, so I think I’ll reduce the miso and soy sauce next time I make it.

I’m so glad I tried this recipe — it’s one I’ve overlooked in AfR all these years. Shame on me! And now I know that if I ever see vegan eggplant dengaku on a menu, I’d be wise to order it.

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Spaghettini with Garlic and Tomatoes | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Nineteen

When your coworker brings in a whole pile of tomatoes, places them on the common table, and begs you and your colleagues to take them off your hands, what are you to do but indulge her?

For whatever reason, my garden refuses to produce more than one full-sized tomato at a time. Every year this happens. While I can pluck handfuls of cherry and grape tomatoes from the vine every other day, I have to wait weeks and weeks for a single slicer. So I was thrilled for this unexpected bounty (seen here next to my homegrown garlic, which is still curing (though I frequently use it in its super piquant state)).

I knew what I wanted to do with these babies, too: a super simple spaghetti with garlic-infused olive oil, tomatoes, and basil. Years ago, when I was visiting a friend in Italy (about which I produced one extremely sparse — yet comprehensive — blog post), we ate out at a restaurant in Florence and I had the most mind-blowingly delicious garlicky pasta. I’m pretty sure it didn’t have any tomatoes, just lots of quality olive oil and garlic. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since…

…and I did not find it today. Ha.

Today’s pasta was tasty, don’t get me wrong, but it did not have the intense garlicky deliciousness I was hoping for. I tempered three cloves of my garlic in olive oil, but I should’ve used more. Always use more garlic than you think you need, right?! And I’m sure my Florentine pasta used a hell of a lot more olive oil than I do/did.

Ah well. It was still a satisfying and filling summery dish. But if you’ve got any tips for a killer spaghetti aglio e olio, hit me up!

Chips + Dip(per)s | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Eighteen

Hello on a truly steamy Sunday! Low 90s and some serious humidity. Good thing I spent two hours at the pool today, lounging in the shade with a book and then cooling off in the water. :)

It’s been a mish-mash food sort of day, with no real meals and lots of grazing (bagels, leftover Chinese food (from a post-bowling, late dinner last night), the odd apple).

So it seemed fitting that Steven made a graze-y dinner: tortilla chips, potato-carrot cheesy sauce, and a bean-pepper-corn-tomato-cilantro salsa/salad/dip. Yes please! Unfortunately we ran out of nutritional yeast, so the sauce isn’t quite as cheesy as one would hope. But it’s still tasty, especially mixed with the salsa. A perfect casual summer Sunday meal.

On a wholly unrelated side note, I’m curious: What do you call it when it rains while the sun is still shining? That happened earlier while I was walking Rosie, and it got me thinking about terminology. I’ve always called it a sunshower, which is both an accurate description and a sweet little word. My Southern friends say that in Alabama, when this phenomenon occurs, folks will say that the devil is beating his wife. Yikes. Somehow I would expect nothing more or less of the American South. So what do you call it?

A Birthday Cake for a Birthday Boy | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Seventeen

Today is Steven’s birthday! As such, I asked what kind of cake he wanted. The answer: German chocolate.

And thus, this beauty.

I’m pleased to report that it tastes as good as it looks. I used this recipe from Loving It Vegan, with just a few modifications:

  • Using vegetable oil rather than olive oil.
  • Foregoing the chocolate frosting on top and instead doubling the coconut-pecan recipe so I’d have enough to decorate the top.
  • Adding a scant tablespoon of this King Arthur espresso powder (affiliate link!) to the dry ingredients. Steven gave me this powder a while back, and it’s perfect for enhancing the flavor of chocolate-y baked goods.

Highly recommend!

In other food news from the day, Steven’s mom and stepdad came over for a low-key celebration and brought us Impossible Whoppers! Did y’all see the ridiculous vegan drama that developed last week when the Whoppers were introduced nationwide? It made me want to tear my hair out.

On the one hand, I get it: It really, truly sucks that Impossible Foods was required to test on animals to get their burger approved. And if you’re concerned about cross-contamination, you have to take the extra step of asking them to cook it separately. And, of course, you may not want to support Burger King at all. (I will not defend the “BuT iT’s PrOcEsSeD/gMo!11!1!!!” argument, however.)

But… I don’t see how this is not an unqualified Good Thing for animals on a macro scale, not to mention the environment. Anecdotally, I’ve seen so freaking many omnivores saying they’d happily order this rather than a beef patty. We’re normalizing the term “plant-based” along with plant-based products themselves. We’re showing that vegan food can be just as good as (if not better than) animal products.

So like… if you don’t feel that the Impossible Whopper fits with your personal ethics, that’s fine! I get it! Don’t buy it! But don’t spread your negativity all over the internet. You’re (1) giving vegans a bad name, making us seem like Negative Nancies who have achieved a level of moral perfection nobody else should even consider trying to reach, and (2) marring what should be good news with manufactured outrage.

As for me, I can’t see myself incorporating the Impossible Whopper into my regular rotation. I don’t eat out very much, and I actually don’t love that fake char (??) flavor. (I do love those classic fast food pickles, though.) I also would rather patronize veg establishments when possible. But if I’m on the road and need something fast, I’ll be very happy to know the Whopper is available.

Whew, so… rant over! Let me leave you with a photo of Sam, our friends’ kitty. They’re out of town, so I stopped by their apartment to give Sam some attention. She’s pretty standoffish, but she at least came up to greet me when I came in the door! And she posed for some photos. I’ll take it.

A Mid-MoFo Cobbler Fail | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Sixteen

I ate leftovers for lunch and leftovers for dinner, so let’s talk about dessert! Last night’s dessert, a peach and nectarine cobbler. It was… well, what’s a succinct way of saying “a total waste of peaches and a really crappy recipe I should’ve known better than to follow?”

Ah yes, a failure. That’s the word.

Faced with a dwindling supply of vegan butter, I wanted a recipe that used oil in the biscuit portion of the cobbler. I found one! But as I was following it, warning signs were flashing left and right: Hmm, no salt? Really? and Wait, you want me to cook this at 450˚?! and Just brown sugar? No white?

Ugh. Basically, I made a saucy peach casserole (OK, that part’s fine) topped with bland-ass, undercooked biscuits. UGH.

I knew – KNEW! – that stupid 450˚ oven temperature was going to cause trouble, yet I still followed the directions. (I hate being a consummate rule-follower.) Most cobblers cook at 350˚ or maybe 375˚ for a good half hour at least, which gives the bready biscuit topping time to bake through without burning. LOL, guess what happened at 450˚? I took it out after the prescribed ~25 minutes to find the undersides of the biscuits completely raw and doughy, yet the tops already beginning to catch. Come ON. I lowered the temp and put them back in for another 10-15 minutes, but they were still pretty soft when they came out.

They were also tasteless. I’d even added a shake of salt when I noticed there wasn’t any in the recipe, but they were still bland AF. I suspect it’s partly because they only used brown sugar, which somehow doesn’t seem to have the assertive sweetness of white in baked goods. Don’t get me wrong — I’m actually pretty sensitive to overly sweet baked goods these days, so I don’t want like, tooth-melting sweetness. But I do want to taste some sweetness if I, y’know, added sugar.

I’m not going to link to the recipe here because I don’t want to call out this blogger’s less-than-stellar recipe. I know most bloggers don’t have legions of testers, so sometimes a mediocre recipe slips through. (I’m sure I’ve posted a few.) But let me just say: If you find a cobbler recipe that calls for a 450˚ oven and 22-25 minutes of baking time, run away and find another recipe.

(This one is yummo; you can use berries or replace them with sliced stone fruit. For a slightly different (and slightly richer) twist, I also have had luck with this one.)

Stir Fry ft. Mock Duck | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Fifteen

Although I really like where I live thanks to the area’s great walking paths, access to the woods, multiple pools, etc., I do not love how car-reliant it makes me. There just aren’t many places within easy walking distance. I suppose that’s more a symptom of American suburbia than my neighborhood in particular, but it still stinks. So I was bummed to learn that the nearest grocery store is closing as part of a village overhaul project. :( Granted, Global Foods is still more than two miles away, but at least it’s feasible to walk there. I’ve done it once or twice, as has Steven. And it’s definitely close enough for super-quick, “Oh crap; we need an onion” runs. Plus, because it’s an international market, it has all those fun ingredients you can’t find at the chain grocers: a million kinds of noodles, just as many types of rice, cheap and exciting produce. And bizarre canned fake meat.

I say “bizarre,” but I have a sincere and appreciative fondness for these visually unappealing cans of seitan-based meats. I’ve bought them occasionally over the years (including this memorable experience with “seitan tidbits” eight years ago.)

I have not, however, tried the canned mock duck before — at least not of my own preparation. (There’s a decent Thai place nearby that used to do a fun pineapple-y mock duck curry, but I think they’ve since taken it off the menu, unfortunately. ) So when I made a quick run to Global Foods today and discovered that all the shelf-stable foods were 20% off as part of a closing sale (sob), I picked up a small haul that included a can of mock duck and a can of — wait for it — faux pork. My god.

While the pork is still sitting in my pantry, I used the mock duck right quick. I figured it would be best as part of a stir fry, so I made this hoisin-based sauce and whipped up a stir fry with red bell peppers, broccoli, mock duck, and rice noodles.

I’ve gotta say, I really dug (Digged? Should I just not use past-tense “dig” in this context?) the mock duck here! It’s definitely the same kind that Thai place uses; I could tell by the bizarre bumpy texture that I can only assume is meant to mimic real duck meat. Never having eaten a duck, I cannot verify how realistic those bumps are. I think the key was to drain it of its excess oil, both by putting it in a colander and by literally squeezing the chunks dry. I also sliced it into smaller pieces and lightly fried it before adding the sauce, so it had a chance to get nice and crispy. It’s got a gentle, almost sweet, gamey flavor, and the crispiness was a nice foil to the softer peppers. Plus, broccoli in a stir fry is always a home run; the space between the little nubbins soaks up all the sauce for a truly enjoyable bite.

So yeah, I’m well pleased with this dinner! Now I think I’m going to do what I failed to do last night: Make a cobbler for dessert. I’m craving something sweet after that salty dinner.

If you’ve used mock duck or mock pork before, what’s your favorite preparation for it?