Devi, Union Square

Devi - Union SquareLast Friday, we met up with Kunal for dinner. This meet up was long overdue as we’ve been having the hardest time getting our schedules to line up for the past few weeks. I’m really glad that Kunal suggested Devi. This place has been on my “to try” list for a while, and it definitely lived up to expectations.

Located near Union Square, Devi is a beautiful place to walk into. The lights, the smells, the colors! An elegant date night spot without breaking the bank, and it’s also spacious enough to accommodate large groups. We were seated at one of the tables in the back, behind a flowy red curtain.

As with most Indian restaurants, we were spoiled for choices. Lots of veggie options on the menu, including a vegetarian tasting menu. Restaurant Week was also happening, but the vegetarian options were a bit limited. It didn’t make sense for all three of us to get the same entree when the regular menu had many other choices. Devi - Union SquareWe shared the Shaam Savera Kofta, Kashmiri Dum Aloo, and Paneer Masala, which was plenty of food for three people. All very delicious. I’ve never come across Indian food I didn’t like, but Devi clearly offers more upscale, refined flavors. There’s Indian food, then there’s gourmet Indian food, and that’s exactly what this is. I’m all about the sauces, especially that amazing onion tomato sauce from the Paneer Masala. I could eat that stuff over basmati rice all day long. They also have a great cocktails selection. My lavender martini was so fragrant, even across the table.

Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Tacos

Gardein Mandarin Orange Chicken TacosWhen it comes to vegetarian meat alternatives, it’s no secret that Gardein is my favorite brand. I typically serve Gardein’s Mandarin Crispy “Chicken” over rice with a mountain of sauteed green veggies on the side. Sometimes, you have to mix things up a bit, especially when there are ingredients sitting in the fridge that desperately need to be used. Here we have Mexican Asian fusion… Whole wheat tortillas, shredded cabbage and carrots, Gardein mandarin chicken, scallions, and sriracha. Happy Taco Tuesday, foodie friends!

Saigon Shack, Greenwich Village

Saigon Shack, Greenwich VillageAfter our High Line walk, we stopped at Saigon Shack for dinner. When we lived in the Bay Area, I was obsessed with pho, and there was no shortage of the good stuff. I have not had much luck finding good pho in NYC, especially now that I’m strictly vegetarian. (Before 2013, I would eat meat occasionally, once a month at most.) Vegetarian pho is not easy to come by, and I was very happy to discover this place. Saigon Shack, Greenwich VillageNot a bad spot for some tasty and cheap Vietnamese food. For appetizers, we shared an order of vegetarian fresh summer rolls ($5) and sweet potato fries ($3). The rolls were fantastic. Stuffed with fresh veggies, rice noodles, and seasoned tofu (basically seitan).  Vegetarian Fresh Summer Rolls - Saigon Shack, Greenwich VillageJohn ordered the vegetarian banh mi sandwich ($7). It was packed with seitan, cucumber, cilantro, carrots, and daikon. He was quite full when he finished it. I obviously had to try the vegetarian pho ($9). Lots of veggies, some slices of seitan, plus all the usual pho toppings. A light, yet flavorful broth and a good portion of rice noodles. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good bowl of pho, and this made me a happy girl. Vegetarian Pho - Saigon Shack, Greenwich Village

The High Line, New York City

The High Line - New York CityEarlier this summer, John and I spent the afternoon on the High Line. We started at the northern end and slowly made our way along the High Line to West Village. It’s pretty touristy and crowded on weekends, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a decent walk. The High Line - New York CityI’ve visited the High Line over and over again. During different seasons and at different times of the day. There’s always one thing or another that intrigues me on each visit. This time around, it was all the textures. The walkways, the surrounding buildings, the plants and foliage. The juxtaposition of hard and soft, natural and man made. The High Line - New York CityWhen our poor feet were tired, we stopped for Terroir on the Porch for some wine. The tables were a bit crowded, but they had a decent wine selection and good views. The High Line - New York City

Rockin’ Raw, Greenwich Village

Rockin' Raw, Greenwich VillageLast Saturday, we stopped by Rockin’ Raw for a late lunch after running a couple errands. A cute little cafe that reminds me a lot of Quintessence, not just because it also serves raw food, but the overall atmosphere is similar. I suppose it’s typical for NYC though. Rockin' Raw, Greenwich VillageRockin’ Raw appears to be rock and roll themed, but their decor is minimal. There’s a guitar on the wall and The Ramones and Elvis playing in the background. The deer in the window is a bit out of place, but this place is vegan, so all animal friends are welcome. Rockin' Raw, Greenwich VillageRockin’ Raw’s menu offers a raw, organic, vegan take on Peruvian and Creole flavors. Everything is soy and gluten free as well. During the summertime, raw food is absolute perfection. So refreshing and vibrant in flavor. We ordered two dishes to share. Rockin' Raw, Greenwich VillageFully Loaded Nachos ($13) with seasoned flax chips fully loaded with seed meat, sour cream, nacho cheese and guacamole. I’m a guacamole addict, so it made me happy to see how generous they were with the guac. The flax chips were pretty great, and that seed meat (similar to falafel) was fantastic. Highly recommend the nachos as an appetizer. Loaded Nachos, Rockin' Raw, Greenwich VillageUnfortunately, they were out of the Cheezy Burrito, so we ordered the Peppers special ($13) to share instead. More of that delicious seed meat and many of the same ingredients as the nachos, but topped with a spicy pepper sauce. This was also very good. Peppers, Rockin' Raw, Greenwich VillageWe left the restaurant feeling satisfied, but not overstuffed. I’m a fan of all the raw food restaurants I’ve visited in NYC so far. They never disappoint, and I’m sure I’ll come back to Rockin’ Raw especially as they’re in my favorite neighborhood. They clearly have the right idea when it comes to many things…Rockin' Raw, Greenwich Village

Blackberry Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Blackberry Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Last Thursday, I woke up extra early to make a batch of cupcakes as an anniversary surprise for John. It almost felt like a MasterChef challenge as I rushed to the grocery store for fresh berries and mint, then baked my heart out under 90 minutes. All of this happened before I settled down at my desk to start work. The joys of working from home!

For these cupcakes, I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe with some tasty additions. I found the original recipe online over 5 years ago and scribbled it in my recipe book, but unfortunately don’t have the source. If you happen to know where it comes from, please let me know so I can give credit.

Blackberry Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12 regular sized cupcakes

8 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4-5 sprigs of mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup whole milk
24 fresh/frozen blackberries, lightly tossed in flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup muffin pan, or use paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mint, then mix until combined. On low speed, beat in half the flour mixture, followed by milk. End with the remaining flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated — do not overmix.

Fill muffin cups with 3 tablespoons the batter. Place 2 blackberries on the batter, then cover the berries with 3 more tablespoons of batter. It’s okay if the berries are not completely covered.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan, 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

photo 3Chocolate cupcakes don’t seem very summery to me, which is why I spruced them up with blackberries and mint. The blackberry puree made a mess in the kitchen — looked like a blackberry crime scene! I was expecting the frosting to come out more purple-gray, but the pink isn’t bad.

Blackberry Mint Frosting
1 cup butter (or margarine)
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup blackberry puree
4-5 sprigs of fresh mint, finely chopped

Blend the margarine and sugar on high, until it has the right consistency for frosting (about 5 minutes). Add the vanilla, blackberry puree, and mint. Blend for another 3-4 minutes, until combined and consistency is right for frosting.

I ran into some issues with my frosting separating (noooooo!) due to the blackberry puree, but after chilling it for a couple hours, it mixed into a much smoother consistency. This recipe makes enough frosting for piping, but I was out of time, so I just spread it with a spatula. Top each cupcake with a fresh mint leaf and blackberry. Enjoy!
photo 1 copy

July on Instagram

July on InstagramIt’s time for my monthly Instagram recap! What does your July look like? Here are a few highlights from mine. Follow me on Instagram for more.

1/ One of my favorite photos of Chloe cat. We’ve start serving them catnip on plates to try to keep the apartment cleaner. They still make a big mess though!

2/ I recently discovered and fell in love with Chloe & Isabel! Their Medina Convertible Pendant Necklace complements my purple top from Free People. By the way, that was a make up free day, so please excuse the eye bags.

3/ Homemade vegetarian shoyu ramen. A tasty broth of mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli, and a little heat. The mushrooms brings it all to life!

4/ Every year, Kunal’s birthday party is the biggest birthday celebration we’re invited to. He’s an incredibly social guy and one of the nicest, most talented people I know. This is our sad attempt at a group photo. John didn’t even bother trying to keep his eyes open as soon as he heard me tell Brian to turn the flash on!

5/ Those little fanged teeth that cats have… furry little vampires! Tony invited himself into Chloe’s bed while she was sound asleep. She was not a fan of that at all and struggled to get up. Lots of sleepy kitty yawns.

6/ John and I just celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary yesterday! It was the perfect throwback Thursday. We got married at the amazing de Young museum in San Francisco. I posted about our wedding food a couple years ago. Confession: I have not printed wedding albums yet! Ooooops. It’ll happen soon… I hope.

Speaking of weddings, we’ll be attending a wedding in DC in a few weeks. Plus, I’m designing for that wedding! So many things to finish up, but it’s been a lot of fun and very rewarding. Can’t wait to share that soon!