Sunday, August 26, 2012

More Birds, The Best Cookies & Worst Falafels, Pittsburgh Vegan Eats

Oh hi, what are you doing here?
Yes, yes, I know, it's time return to posting about food.  I shouldn't let my new bird family take over my life, even though they hang outside the kitchen door, whispering to me while I cook, "Melissa.  Hey Melissa.  Join us.  Join us.  You want to fly, don't you?  Join us and fllllllly."

Just kidding, actually, they look at me nervously while I take pictures of them.  I ain't crazy.  Yet.

So, food!  About two weeks ago, some friends of mine threw a little potluck party, which was held at Kate & Taku's awesome apartment.  Kate is vegan, and almost everything people brought to the party was vegan.  I brought two things: Mini Falafel from Party Vegan and Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan Diner.  One thing I did not bring, however, was my camera.  BLAST!  Kate's got a nice camera, and she let me use it, but it's, like, a really nice camera and I couldn't seem to figure out how to make it take pictures and stuff.  Kate's friend Lora hopped right in, "I'll take them!"  Which was so nice of her, but they are certainly not the greatest pics ever.  Still, I cropped 'em and stuff, it's fine.

So, the falafels.  They're... OK.  I wouldn't make them again.  Very plain, but maybe it's my own fault because I left out the 1/2 teaspoon of coriander because I could have sworn I had coriander!  But then I didn't.  And the harissa mayo.  I'll admit, I always thought it was gross to eat mayo sauces.  This is made from the grapeseed oil kind of Veganaisse, but, I dunno, I still think it's kinda gross.  I added the amount of harissa that Robin Robertson said to add, but it was really plain, so I added lots more.  Still really plain.  Then I added a bunch of sriracha cuz, you know, when all else fails, sriracha.  Then it was alright.  People ate them and were polite, but these were really not too great.  Also, I think I food-processed them too much, they should have been chunkier and had more onions or something.


The cookies, though.  I've made these chocolate chip cookies, like, 10 times since I got this cookbook.  These are the best chocolate chip cookies.  Better than any of the ones in any of my other cookbooks, and I have a lot of cookbooks.  They are, as advertised in the name of the recipe, soft and chewy and totally perfect and excellent.  Plus, it contains no expensive ingredients like Earth Balance; instead, it's got canola oil and, frankly, not very much of it.  Only 3 tablespoons!  Plus, with the ground flax seed, you could, like, almost call this cookie, "healthy."  Or, if not healthy, you can at least say it's lower fat than most cookies and will give you some omega 3 fatty acids.

Because I love you, I've googled and found the recipe for you: Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Julie Hasson.

One more picture from the party, which I'm posting because in the background you can see one of the two quinoa salads at this party.  They were both good, but Taku's was better.  Don't tell Lora who made the other one!  And don't tell Taku, his head is big enough!

In other news, I've done a bit of eating around town.  I've mentioned before than on Thursdays, the law firm where I work buys us lunch from a local restaurant.  Usually, I have to get them to omit stuff and be like, "Can you add this and this and this to it?" in order for it to be still good and at least mostly vegan. I never know about bread ingredients, and also, sometimes restaurants are just flippin' tricky with how they cook stuff.  I don't overthink it, I just do my best.  BUT, every so often, a restaurant WILL have a vegan item.  One such restaurant is The Sonoma Grille, located in the Cultural District downtown.

They do really well with having a few vegetarian options on their lunch menu (see the menus at the above link), but especially exciting is they have one item that is vegan without adjustment: The Lo Mein and Vegetable Stir-Fry.  It can be ordered with meat or with tofu.  And it's good!  I mean, I really liked it.   I took a picture, but when my co-workers went to pick up our order, they had forgotten one item and had to wait a while before it had been cooked and brought out.  By the time they brought the grub back to the office, it looked like it had been sitting.  When I've gotten it before, it looked nicer.  Anyway, here it is:
Lo Mein and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Tofu from The Sonoma Grille in Pittsburgh, PA
For the record, my non-vegan, non-veggie coworkers also consistently like the food from this restaurant.

And then I also got some food during the opening weekend of a place in Shadyside called Steel Cactus.  They had one item on their menu that did not have cheese on it automatically, so I ordered it.  I knew I could have gotten something else and just had cheese omitted, but it just seems like the right thing to do to order the one vegan item.  It was the tofu tacos.
Tofu Tacos from Steel Cactus in Pittsburgh, PA
I was actually the only one at the table who enjoyed my food, though.  My two friends had mostly complaints about what they got.  Guess they should have gone vegan, cuz I thought this was good.  The tofu wasn't soft--they must have actually bothered to press it--and it was peppery, which I liked.  It had a lot of stuff on it, so, you know, that's cool.  To be fair to this place and my friends not digging it, though, 1) it was opening weekend 2) it was really, really crowded.  So who knows what this place will be like in the days and weeks and months to come.  I'm sure that most modern restaurant-owners know enough to read feedback on Urban Spoon, right?  Whatevs, I appreciate their vegan option, although I do not think they did it on purpose.

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