Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts & Tomatoes

Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and TomatoesLately, we’ve been venturing more and more into vegan territory. Being vegetarian is super easy, and I don’t miss meat or seafood anymore. Last year, I would occasionally have seafood for special occasions (scallops!), but now I’ve been pretty hardcore vegetarian. The adjustment to eating more vegan meals has been pretty easy. We’ve cut back on eggs and cheese, reserving them for special occasions or dining out. It has also taught me to be more appreciative of those ingredients on the rare occasion I have them.

I recently made this colorful pasta dish for dinner, and it’s the perfect example of how easy and delicious it is to go vegan. Spaghetti with roasted brussels sprouts and sun dried tomatoes. Toss it all in a little olive oil, then top with nutritional yeast, black pepper, and capers. The red and green makes this a wonderful holiday dish, and I sure do love roasted brussels sprouts. Not bad for a quick weeknight dinner!

The Brass Rail, Hoboken

The Brass Rail, HobokenA trip to NYC is not complete without a boozy brunch experience. On Cassie’s last day in NYC, we walked to Hoboken for brunch at The Brass Rail. The first floor is your typical sports bar, but the upstairs space was quite nice with hanging lights and comfy booths. I felt a little under dressed in jeans and a sweater as some people were really dressy.

You can order a la carte or choose from two prix fixe brunch options. $19 for two courses or $30 for two courses and mimosas, bloody marys, beer, or red sangria. The waiter told us that the drinks are not unlimited, but you do get more than one. I interpreted that as “we’ll keep serving you drinks, but we reserve the right to cut you off at any time if you get too rowdy and obnoxious.” Hah. That said, we experienced no shortage of drinks as our waiter was constantly refilling our mimosas even after just a sip or two. Yay!

I really wanted to try the sweet potato and ricotta crepes, but they were out of that. Instead, I ordered the French onion soup with maderia reduction and gruyere croutons. This was probably the heaviest appetizer on the brunch menu. Not bad. French Onion Soup, The Brass Rail, Hoboken

John got the crispy falafel bites with yogurt cucumber dip. The exterior texture is a bit different from your standard falafel, but this was tasty, especially with that dip. Crispy Falafel Bites, The Brass Rail, HobokenCassie got the strawberry banana parfait. Layers of macerated strawberries, toasted granola, banana whip, and bruleed bananas served in a cute little jar. Strawberry Parfait, The Brass Rail, Hoboken

John got the sweet potato omelet, while Cassie and I both ordered the eggs benedict. I asked if they could substitute the bacon for spinach or some kind of veggie, but they couldn’t do that. That said, it was a decent eggs benedict. The eggs were nicely poached, but the hollandaise could use a little more work. I’ve stopped buying eggs to cook at home, and this was my first taste of eggs in two months! Eggs Benedict, The Brass Rail, Hoboken

Veselka, East Village

Veselka, East Village, NYCWhen Cassie was in town, we visited Veselka for a casual dinner. If I’m remembering correctly, this visit was prompted by a conversation with some Russian friends on Russian vs. Ukrainian food and which was better. They quickly declared Russian food was better, but mentioned that Veselka as a decent, but not that authentic Ukrainian spot in NYC.

For a diner style restaurant, this place seems a bit pricy. The food was okay, and it’s been a while since I’ve visited a Ukrainian restaurant, but I think Veselka could do better. My deluxe vegetarian plate ($14.50) came with a side salad and vegetarian borscht. Vegetarian Borscht, Veselka, East VillageThere are several types of pierogis to choose from: potato, cheese, meat, spinach & cream cheese, sauerkraut & mushroom, arugula & goat cheese. John got a large plate of seven fried pierogis for $10.95. Comes with sauteed onions, sour cream, and apple sauce. Pierogi, Veselka, East VillageThe deluxe vegetarian plate allowed me to try a little bit of everything. A cheese pierogi, a potato pierogi, a sauerkraut & mushroom pierogi, meatless stuffed cabbage, and kasha with mushroom gravy served with sour cream. Deluxe Vegetarian Combo Plate, Veselka, East VillageThank goodness for the side salad (that I didn’t get a photo of) because everything was so beige and brown. The combo plates only come with boiled pierogis. The pierogis were okay, but the stuffed cabbage and mushroom gravy were my favorite part. The kasha wasn’t very exciting, and I would have liked more gravy for it.

Happy Birthday to Me

Fried Chicken & Sparkling WineI turned 29 last Friday. It’s the last one before the big three oh. In the past, we’ve gathered a group of friends to celebrate, but I wanted to keep things low key this year. Besides, we’ve been invited to housewarming and holiday parties for three weekends in a row. It’s fun, but a little quiet time at home is necessary too. We enjoyed vegetarian fried chicken with tater tots and sparkling wine. Bubbly and fried foods are a party in your mouth.

How do I feel about hitting the final year of my late twenties? Pretty damn good, actually. I’m excited about 2015 as I’m finally going to be bringing some very special projects to life next year. More on that when it’s ready for the big reveal!

Boulud Sud, Upper West Side

Boulud Sud, Upper West SideWhile Cassie was in town, she made a reservation at Boulud Sud and rounded up a group for a girls night out. Boulud Sud is Chef Daniel Boulud’s Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. The menu is broken down to into three sections, “De La Mer”, “Du Jardin”, “De La Ferme”, offering dishes from the sea, garden, and farm.

Truth: I’m often a little wary of visiting restaurants by famous chefs. While they may have vegetarian options on the menu, the veggies are sometimes an afterthought, not the star players. Boulud Sud’s dedicated “Du Jardin” section was very encouraging, and Mediterranean cuisine tends to be very veggie friendly. However, my experience at DB Bistro Moderne earlier this year was somewhat underwhelming. I realize it’s a completely different type of restaurant, but it still has Daniel Boulud’s name attached to it.

Our original reservation was for four people, but they were able to give us a table for our party of five even though it was quite crowded. Our new table was in a less noisy spot, which was good for catching up. If you’re here with a group, you should consider sharing a bunch of appetizers. The other girls ordered a several dishes off the Sea and Farm sections of the menu, and it seemed like the sea urchin was one of the highlights. Boulud Sud, Upper West SideI nibbled away at the olive bread and enjoyed one of the Garden appetizers on my own. The “Ras el Hanout” spiced squash soup ($16) with rose-scented yogurt, pomegranate, and cilantro was beautifully presented. They pour the piping hot soup over the yogurt as soon as it arrives at the table. Comforting, yet delicate fall flavors. Absolutely delicious. I wanted to lick the bowl when I was done. Spiced Squash Soup, Boulud Sud, Upper West SideFor my entree, I ordered an appetizer portion of the Pumpkin ‘Girasole’ Ravioli ($19) with brown butter, sage, and amaretti crumble. I didn’t realize I had ordered another squash dish until Felicia pointed it out, but hey, let’s celebrate fall, right? Pumpkin Ravioli, Boulud Sud, Upper West SideEveryone is obsessed with pumpkins spiced everything right now, and I don’t dislike pumpkin, but I’m just not drawn to it in the same way. That said, I’m glad I took a chance and ordered this ravioli. I’ve recently had a lot of ravioli at restaurants, but this was at a whole new different level. The brown butter was the perfect complement to the pasta, which melts in your mouth to reveal an indulgent pumpkin center. Beautiful with the crisp, white wine we were sipping. I have mixed feelings about the plating, which looks less like a swoosh and more like it was dragged across the plate, but it tasted fantastic.

At one point, I was very tempted to order a dessert all on my own, but I was fuller than I expected, and we ended up getting one dessert for the table to share. Girls night out is not complete without a stunning dessert! Grapefruit Givre, Boulud Sud, Upper West SideWe got the Grapefruit Givre ($15) with sesame halva, rose loukoum, and grapefruit sorbet. I believe this might be their signature dessert. I was expecting a tiny little thing that would only allow each of us a bite or two, so it was a lovely surprise to have this show up. Yes, it’s served in a grapefruit! Beneath that crazy cotton candy hairdo, there’s delicious sorbet, chewy rose candy, sesame crumble, fresh fruit and jam. It’s quite a wonderful medley of flavors and textures. Anyone up for recreating this dessert at home?

Overall, very impressed with Boulud Sud. Delightful food and excellent service. I’m glad they proved me wrong and presented some great vegetarian dishes. This is the kind of place that gets a stamp of approval from both veggie and meat eaters.

Blossom on Carmine, West Village

Blossom on Carmine, West VillageCassie, my best friend from high school was in town for a few days last month. We always make it a point to do at least one dinner date with just the two of us. Bestie time means lots of food and wine, and Blossom on Carmine seemed like the perfect date night spot. I came here for lunch once, but this time around, I really wanted to try their tapas.

Tapas calls for wine, and I started with Sauvignon Blanc before moving on Pinot Noir when it was time for the mushroom ravioli ($13) with shiitakes and truffle butter sauce. The kale salad ($11) with scallions, bell peppers, pomegranate seeds, and avocado dressing was really good. Just when I thought I was so over kale, it impresses me once again.

For me, the highlight tapa was definitely the seaweed caviar canapé ($11) with cashew and pine nut cheese, sliced cucumber, golden beet, and dill on a crunchy crostini. This vegan creation is beautiful and oh so delicious. Slightly messy to eat, but well worth it.Seaweed Caviar Canape - Blossom on Carmine, West VillageThe buffalo risotto croquettes with blue cheese sauce ($10) were good, but very dense. Unfortunately, the blurry photos don’t do the plating justice. The dim lighting just didn’t go well with the iPhone, and I hate to use the flash when I’m at a crowded restaurant. photo 9P.S. The mushroom ravioli was so good, we asked for a second order of it as soon as we were done with the first! I got the soy bacon cheeseburger ($17) to go as a surprise for John, and I snuck a bite the next day… Oh. My. Goodness. Vegan. Burger. Heaven!

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Vegan Thanksgiving Despite all the talk about not wanting to go through the trouble of preparing a big Thanksgiving feast this year, we eventually gave in to the urge to make a big meal on Friday. Our oven worked hard on this meal as there was lots of baking and roasting involved. Clockwise from top left: sauteed tofu, roasted carrots, roasted portobello mushrooms, roasted brussels sprouts, pureed cauliflower with miso gravy, homemade stuffing, and cranberry apple sauce. Many Thanksgiving foods are very brown, and I’m glad we brightened our plates with all these veggies.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend!