Tag Archives: gourmet

Holiday brunch, take 2!

Just a heads up that Cafe Indigo is doing the holiday brunch thing a second time!  Awesome!  So if you missed it in November (or, come on, even if you didn’t), check it out this Sunday the 12th from 10-2.  And check their Facebook page for updates!

Cafe Indigo is located at 128 H Hall Street in Concord, NH.  http://www.cafeindigo.com/

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope your plans for Tofurkey-prep (or not) and reconnecting with family (or not) are going well.  I was last-minutedly alerted to one other vegan fine dining opportunity for tomorrow, in addition to the one at True Bistro.

Apparently UpStairs on the Square in Cambridge (the “Square” is the Harvard one) has been serving a full vegan Thanksgiving menu for years now, in addition to the traditional meaty one.  As I’ve never been, I didn’t know (too rich for my blood… more specifically, too rich for my wallet!).  But if I had the cash and was going to be in the area tomorrow, I’d try it for sure.  I’m not totally sure what “Suprêmes of Orange & Grapefruit” are, but no matter, they sold me on the baked stuffed acorn squash and persimmon compote.  Plus, native apple cider!

Check out what their executive chef, Steve Brand, had to say about UpStairs’s vegan Thanksgiving tradition:

“I feel strongly that vegans need a Thanksgiving too — one just as full of joy, comfort and good food as the one centered around turkey and dairy. I love cooking a vegan Thanksgiving, and we now have a faithful group of vegan eaters who come every year.”

Awesome!

Definitely call UpStairs on the Square at 617-864-1933 for reservations if you’re thinking of going, and be sure to specify you want the vegan option.

The meal is prix fixe but I’m a little confused on the prix itself.  The official Web site lists it as $68 for the whole menu if you’re over 12, or $34 for the kiddos.  But according to this City’s Best article, the dinner costs $65 with (vegan) wine or $45 without.  Either way, you’ll want to get reservations so give ’em a call and find out.

UpStairs on the Square is located at 91 Winthrop Street in Cambridge.  Their vegan Thanksgiving Day meal will be served from 1p-7p.  Call for reservations.  http://www.upstairsonthesquare.com/

True Bistro now open in Somerville!

Wow, I’m behind the times on this one.  I just found out that True Bistro, which had been floating around in not-quite-open-yet-land for a while, has officially been open since November 9th!  This is excellent news for Somerville, a lovely area (if I do so say so) that deserves more vegan dining options.

And what options!  The menu looks seriously awesome (complete with wine pairing suggestions!), the chefs have experience at Millennium in San Francisco, I love their statement of commitments and look! They are open for brunch!

True looks like a solid contender for successfully bridging the gaps between the various vegan varieties — they offer everything from raw food (portobello pave, granny smith apple salad), to mock meat-heavy dishes (Gardein cutlet, seitan cheeseburger), to classier fare (tempeh and walnut pâté, seared spaetzle, the list goes on…!).  My little snippets of the menu don’t even begin to cover the wide variety offered at True — read it for yourself; I promise you will have to continuously remind yourself that it is 100% vegan.

You can add True to your Thanksgiving options too!  They will be open for dinner from 2-9pm on Turkey Day with a $55 prix fixe menu ($80 if you want wine too).  Make sure you call to reserve a spot.

I am super-excited to try this place out!  Expect a full report when I do!

True Bistro is located at 1153 Broadway in Somerville, MA.  http://www.truebistroboston.com/

Chocolate truffles by Xan Confections

On a recent grocery excursion to Whole Foods with the boyfriend, something caught my eye in the bakery case.  Vegan chocolate truffles by Xan Confections!  I had been lusting after these ever since I first saw them listed for sale on VeganEssentials, but could never quite justify buying a whole sampler of expensive chocolate for myself (and let’s not forget the cold pack, plus shipping charges).  That game changed, my friends, when I was able to purchase them one at a time.

I finally settled on two: a chocolate caramel truffle from the Jewel collection, and a “Raspberry Sin” from the Saintly Sins collection.  I would gladly have sampled the whole case, mind you, but these are still expensive chocolates, even one at a time.  They were just under $2 each at Whole Foods.  (Interestingly, Xan sells them on their Web site for $3 each.)

I started with the raspberry “sin,” which Whole Foods had actually labeled “Raspberry Symphony.”  Their title seemed more appropriate, as the teardrop-shaped chocolate was decorated with a print of eighth notes and bass clefs (which were weirdly backwards for some reason).

Raspberry Sin by Xan Confections

The "Raspberry Sin." Go to Xan's Web site for a better and/or more detailed glamour shot -- just wanted you to know what it looks like when you bring it home!

I thought the truffle deserved a solid rating of Good.  Nothing to write home to your mom about (well, other than the existence of GOURMET VEGAN TRUFFLES WHAT), but certainly nothing to advise your mom to avoid.  The raspberry was a little sourer than I think a truffle filling should be, and the chocolate was not quite as rich-tasting as I was expecting, but what this really says to me is that I should try not to have preconceived notions about what things are going to taste like before I taste them.  The chocolate and raspberry had a good blend to them even when chewing, but by far the best flavor experience was to let the whole bite melt in my mouth.  (Over the course of probably 4-6 small bites, I chewed roughly half of the chocolate and let the other half melt.)  It might have been better paired with some kind of beverage, perhaps, but I didn’t want to let any outside forces corrupt my tastebuds.

While I wasn’t as overwhelmingly impressed with the particular “sin” I sampled as I’d hoped to be, the existence of the Saintly Sins collection is actually really exciting.  Each truffle has only 29 calories and 1 gram of fat! This is unheard of for a truffle of any kind.  And check out the ingredients list:

100% Organic blue agave, dark chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, vegan beet sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural vanilla), raspberries, balsamic vinegar, citric acid

Yep, that’s IT!  Amazing, no?  The miracles of science!  I’m hoping to get to try the other two flavors (pineapple and strawberry) at some point and report back.  Supposedly the raspberry (which I tried) is actually the best-seller, so maybe I’m just hard to please.  If any of you have tried it and have dissenting opinions, let me know!

Second, I tried the chocolate caramel from the Jewel Collection.  This piece was shaped like a little, well, like a little jewel, but was a bright metallic silver in color.  The Jewel collection (all are jewel-shaped caramels) is almost as exciting nutritionally as the Sins – 54 calories per piece, but a lot richer inside than the measly extra 26 calories would have you believe!

Jewel Collection Chocolate Caramel by Xan Confections

The very metallic chocolate caramel.

Maybe I am just not a fruit-in-chocolate kind of girl, because I absolutely LOVED the chocolate caramel.  The outer chocolate, despite being freakishly metallic in appearance, was delicious – incredibly rich and dark.  The inner filling was a blend of chocolate and caramel that was a buttery, almost nougaty consistency – not at all stringy like you might expect from a caramel filling.  Once again the flavor was markedly improved when I let it melt in my mouth as opposed to chewing – BUT the filling stuck to the roof of my mouth and got a bit unmanageable this way.  Finally, the glittery powder does not lick off, if you were wondering!

Truffle cross-section!

Non-stringy deliciousness!

The Jewel Collection ingredients list, both on the website and on the box from Whole Foods, is an aggregate of all the ingredients in ALL the Jewel chocolates.  So (for example) I’d be willing to bet mine didn’t contain any raspberry, but here’s their list anyway:

Ingredients (varied): filtered water, organic oat groats, organic oat bran, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, carob bean gum, riboflavin (b2), Vitamin A, palmitate, vitamin d2, unsweetened cocolate, vegan beet sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic agave nectar, organic palm fruit oil, organic coconut oil, cocoa butter, soy lecithin added as emulsifier, natural vanilla, pecans, almonds, unsweetened coconut, natural flavors, raspberries, rice bran extract, sea salt, natural colors (titanium dioxide, mica).

Either way, I’m amazed they got oat groats to taste that good.  By far the best vegan caramel product I’ve tried yet.

These are definitely intended to be snooty chocolates, and not daily treats – the Saintly Sins description, for example, states that the truffles are “soul-satisfying” and “lovingly hand-crafted by trained artisans.”  All that said, I can’t wait to try more of these babies!  They are the perfect thing for any chocoholic trying to eat healthier, any vegan who misses those samplers, or anybody at all who likes fancy chocolate.  We may have passed V-day and it’s way too early for Christmas, but you can think up some excuse, I’m sure.  As for me, well, my half-birthday is coming up, and I’ll be accepting donations in chocolate from now until…indefinitely.

Xan confections are available online at http://www.xanconfections.com and http://www.veganessentials.com, and maybe some more sites I don’t know about.  Prices vary based on size of order and which site you order from.  Unfairly to you, I was at a Whole Foods in Arizona, not Massachusetts, when I spotted these beauties.  As far as  I know none of the MA Whole Foods locations carries them.  According to the Xan retail locator, the truffles can be found in a handful of physical stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but definitely call before making a pilgrimage to one of them just to be sure!

Vegan by Design…

…So, did anyone go?

Alert! “Vegan by Design” dinner this Wednesday at Mint Bistro

This week’s Hippo has great news for Manchester-area vegans: a completely cruelty-free five-course gourmet dinner, just downtown on Elm Street!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This kind of event is absolutely unheard of around here, but it’s coming this Wednesday to Mint Bistro nonetheless.

Mint is a relatively new spot — it opened in early 2009 IIRC.  It’s on the northier end of Elm but still in the heart of things.  My grandmother was actually the one to recommend it to me, which might (subconsciously) be a reason I’ve never actually been there yet.  Though the Hippo article mentions that the executive chef is trained in vegan cooking, there isn’t much on their “contemporary fusion style” menu that’s vegan-friendly; but as I understand you can ask for something to be cooked up special for you.

That’s on the average day, of course.  This Wednesday is special.  Here’s the course list for the dinner — ready?!  Straight from the Hippo’s mouth:

The menu starts with baby mustard greens in an herb tahini vinaigrette with falafel and a red pepper emulsion.  Next will be summer rolls made with raw vegetables and avocado with a guava-chili marmalade.  The third course is the tomato nigiri with soy grastique, followed by crispy Japanese eggplant with curried roasted root vegetables, toasted almond faro, and coconut-tomato relish.  The meal will finish with fried dough served with a wildberry compote, Asian pear, Zambuca flambee and cinnamon sugar.

WHAT?!  This is so awesome I can’t even get my head around it.  For one, this is happening at a restaurant that usually has zero vegan entrees on the menu.  For another, this guy knows what he’s doing — those courses aren’t just regular omni dishes with the meat and cheese removed.  Third: IN NEW HAMPSHIRE!  They’re offering a five-course vegan dinner IN NEW HAMPSHIRE!  We don’t even have a Whole Foods up here.  This is serious progress.

Now for the bad part.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it!  I’m still waiting to see what my schedule will be this Wednesday night, but I might end up unable to go :(  So I’m counting on you, my fellow southern-NH veggie-types!  I think it’s important we make a good showing so they see that the demand for quality vegan fare is high.  Otherwise this kind of awesome event may not happen again for a long while…and that would be tragic.  I’ll do my best to be there, schedule and budget permitting, but I don’t know for sure.

“Vegan by Design” dinner details:

  • 5 courses
  • $40 per person (prix fixe)
  • Reservations highly recommended — call 603-625-MINT or e-mail roi@mintbistronh.com.

Mint Bistro is located at 1105 Elm Street in Manchester.  http://www.mintbistronh.com/