Month: September 2012

Chicago Vegan Mania & Vaute Couture

Yesterday was the fourth annual Chicago Vegan Mania festival. This hugely popular event outgrew its space at Polaski Park fieldhouse and moved up to the Broadway Armory in Edgewater, which was extremely difficult for me to get to via public transportation, but well worth it. CVM has lots of delicious food, speakers, demonstrations, samples, and vegan companies selling their goods.


I only got to see one chef demonstration, which was Kat Barry from Kat’s Hot Cakes. She made a super easy chocolate nut bark and pancakes. I was also able to catch Farmer Harold Brown, a former beef farmer, talk about the humane myth. Check that website out, please. There is some great information on so-called humane farming.

I was starving by the time I got to the food court. There were so many great restaurants represented, so it was really hard to decide. I finally settled on the dumplings from Urban Vegan, chana masala from Arya Bhavan, tofu rolls with peanut sauce from Native Foods (to use up my 2 final food coins) and mint chocolate ice cream from Robin’s Frozen Fantasy. Everything was good, but the hemp milk ice cream was phenomenal!


The reason I was starving was because I worked the Vaute Couture booth until 2:00 p.m. It was a lot of fun to tell people about this amazing company, and show them some of the fabulous coats and tees it offers. Because it is pretty much impossible for me to go somewhere without baking, I made gingerbread coats in the shape of my three favorite coats from the new line: the Belden (also from last year, which I own and love!), the Lori and the Emily. Of course, I baked these before Leanne told me I would be working with Kelly Peloza, who literally wrote the book on vegan cookies. (I picked up her cookzine, Vegan Candyland; I was sold at “kit kat”).

The Belden


The Lori (blue) and Emily (black, but was available in Eggplant, too):


I pre-ordered the Wings coat this year, and I’m thinking about getting the James for H.


I love coats; probably as much as I love shoes. Before going vegan, I didn’t think much about wool or down, but the more I learned about it, the more horrified I became. It is pretty gruesome. Switching to cotton sweaters was easy, but what about all my beautiful coats? While I continued to wear them until they needed to be replaced, I was worried about finding something that was both cute and warm. Enter Vaute Couture: a vegan, eco-friendly, American-made coat company with super cute dress coats. If you are in the market for a winter coat, I highly recommend Vaute Couture.

Birthday Week

Last Monday was my birthday and the start of a week long celebration. On Labor Day, we bought a Prius and the only option we picked was heated seats. They gave us a car but we needed to bring it back in for the installation of heated seats. Schaumburg has more to offer than Woodstock, so we took the car in Monday night and went out for some delicious Indian food. I made a reservation at India House, although it wasn’t needed on a Monday night.

To drink I had a peach martini, which was good, very sweet.


We started with a couple samosas. They brought out some bread, which has butter on it but they swapped it out for some butter-free bread upon request.


I ordered Chana masala, one of my favorite dishes, and aloo gobi. Both were good. I asked the server which vegetarian dishes didn’t have butter or cheese and he named quite a few.

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Whole Foods sells slices of cake from Chicago Diner’s vegan bakery, so after dinner we went over there and picked up two slices of cake -peanut butter chocolate and cookie dough. They were both good, but the peanut butter was my favorite. The frosting was more like a mousse- light and creamy.

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On Tuesday we picked up the car and went to Bombay Chopsticks. On Wednesday, at H’s request, we went to an Italian restaurant in Crystal Lake, da Baffone Cucina Italiana. On Thursday, we went out with our neighbors to Mixteca for a joint birthday celebration (her birthday was the 15th). Way too much eating out! On Friday, we went into the city and had dinner at Gilt Bar and saw a show at Second City.

We stayed at the Radisson Blu at the Aqua Tower.


On Saturday, after a huge lunch at Native Foods, we went to a cooking class at Karyn’s. With the exception of the cider, I was not blown away by the menu, but I got a lot of good tips. I would definitely take another class here. The menu included barley and mushroom soup, lentil casserole, stuffed portabellas, baked apples and cranberry cider.

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For dinner, we went to Acadia in the South Loop. I called ahead to see if they could accommodate a vegan and they said that would be no problem. They made a note on the reservation and I didn’t have to say anything when we arrived. There are two vegetarian dishes on the menu (a starter and a main course). Unfortunately, the soup has cream in it, but the entree could be made vegan. Instead of the soup, they put together this salad garnished with a small forest.


The bread course is a buttermilk biscuit, but they gave me some potato chips instead.


The entree was a mix of roasted vegetables, raw vegetables, and two oat cakes (I think?). There was also something called vegetable dirt that was kind of like the Oreo crumb topping on a Yocrunch, except not sweet. Anyway, this is how a restaurant should handle a vegan – don’t put some vegetables on a plate and call it a day. Put together something creative and flavorful. Well done, Acadia.


So then there was dessert. They offered to put together a fruit plate, but I had no interest in that after they told me the chocolate sorbet was vegan. That’s all I wanted. At the end of the meal they brought out little bite-sized desserts (a flavored marshmallow and a mini whoopie pie). Those aren’t vegan, so they brought out a bit of chocolate air. The server described the process, but I don’t remember how he said it was done. It was light and crisp.


I used Rent the Runway again this weekend. On Saturday night I wore a Yigal Azrouël dress with a Kenneth Jay Lane bracelet.


On Sunday we went to Karyn’s on Green for brunch (amazing French Toast) and I wore a Missoni dress.

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Sugar River Trail

Last Sunday, my friends and I drove up to Brodhead, WI and rode our bikes on the Sugar River Trail to New Glarus, a cute little town that celebrates its Swiss heritage. When we arrived in Brodhead, my tube broke while Walt was putting air in the tire. Fortunately, Anne had a spare. It should have fit because Anne and I are about the same size, but the bike store sold her the wrong size for her bike, so it was too big. Somehow Walt was able to make it work. There was no problem, which was good because the New Glarus bike store is closed on Sundays.


And we’re off! Twenty-three miles one-way. The trail is beautiful. The limestone surface takes some getting used to; it’s a much harder ride than pavement. It’s bumpy, too.

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This is the infamous Bridge 14. Three years ago, we did this trail and got caught in a horrible thunderstorm. We were drenched, cold and hiding in a barn next to cows to get away from the lightening. (I tricked H into coming along by telling him that it was a 23-mile ride; I failed to mention that was only one way). These bridges get slick in the rain. I fell on the bridge, which caused the person behind me to slam on her brakes and she fell and then the girls behind her did the same – like dominoes. Then guys in front turned their heads to see what happened and they fell, so all six of us were on the ground, or the wet bridge rather. Fortunately no one was hurt, but I’ve been teased relentlessly for causing the bridge 14 accident. I think Walt is trying to reenact the scene (or recreate the scene by pouring his water on the bridge).

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When we get to New Glarus, we walk around town and then head over to The Glarner Stube for lunch.

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The Glarner Stube has a vegetarian portabella mushroom sandwich on the menu. It is served with cheese and they cook the mushroom in herb butter, but will leave both of those off upon request. I topped my mushroom off with horseradish and mustard. The fries are pretty tasty, too. We got a couple pitchers of New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow.


After lunch, we took a trolley over to the New Glarus Brewery for a tour and tasting. There is no tour guide (except on Fridays when you have to book months in advance); you just walk around by yourself. A guy is there to answer any questions. You have to pay for the tasting ($3.50 for 3 3-oz tastings), but you get to keep your glass. You can also take your beer with you on the tour.

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I tried the Raspberry Tart, Two Women, and Moon Man.


After the tour, we sat outside and enjoyed our last tasting. It was a beautiful day and there is a lovely view.

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We couldn’t buy any beer at the brewery, because we still had to bike back, but we stopped at a gas station on the way home. New Glarus beer is only sold in Wisconsin. I did buy a biking jersey at the brewery. How cute is that cow jumping over Wisconsin? I was a little chilly on the ride up in a sleeveless shirt (but hot with my jacket on), so I wore my new jersey on the ride back.


H’s Noodle Kitchen

H was back in the kitchen last week cooking up some  Gardein & noodle recipes. They both required dashi, so he made a big pot of vegan dashi. Using the dashi, he made a batch of yakitori sauce.

First up was a curried chick’n noodle from The Food Lover’s Guide to Soup


The next night he made yakitori chick’n with noodles.


With the leftover dashi and some vegan shrimp balls from Chinatown, I made another noodle soup with mushrooms and spinach. The vegan shrimp balls were pretty good. It received an H’s favorite rating, although I’m not sure I’d be able to recreate it.


And finally, I made Yakitori Tofu with garlic rice noodles and vegetable tempura.

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Pig Minds Brewing


A few weeks ago, my neighbor told me that she heard there was a vegan restaurant in Rockford, but she didn’t know the name. I was skeptical, especially when I googled “vegan restaurant Rockford” and got a hit for a “vegan/vegetarian” sushi restaurant that also serves seafood…and steak. I didn’t believe her because how could a vegan restaurant survive in Northern Illinois? But it’s real and its existence gives me hope for humanity.  H and I finally got a chance to try Pig Minds Brewing last night.

We tried some of their beers, of course. H had the Blue Collar (I think); I had the Southy Bitch Slap. I’m not a beer connoisseur, but they were good.


I was starving (saving all my calories for vegan pub food), so we started with stuffed mushrooms and hot seitanic wings. Both were delicious. The wings were spicy and the mushrooms were garlicky. 20120908-195906.jpg

For our entrees, I ordered the The Greek (a gyro with thin sliced seitan, cucumber sauce, onion and tomato served on a warm pita sweet) with sweet potato fries and H had the Rueben Kincaid (a Seitan Rueben served on marble rye with sauerkraut, 1000 Island and Italian style cheese) with freedom fries.  I got some wasabi cream sauce for the sweet potato fries, which was a great combination.

Overall, I give it a B. The appetizers and fries were the best part of the meal. It’s hard not to compare it to Chicago Diner and Native Foods. Chicago Diner has an incredible gyro and this one doesn’t even come close to that high standard. The wings were tasty, but more seitan-y than Native Foods, which has wings with a more chicken-y texture. We will definitely be back. It’s a bit of a trek, but it makes me so happy that something like this is in Northern Illinois. I’m sure it’s hard for them to deal with the ignorance of  local meat eaters (I advise against reading the comments on their Facebook page. And vegans are the annoying ones?), but I wish them the best!

Labor Day Weekend in Milwaukee

Our former neighbors had their wedding reception in Milwaukee last weekend.  We went up on Friday night, grabbed a drink at the hotel (the Yard at the Iron Horse Hotel, great cocktails) and made it an early night. I had to run 20 miles the Saturday morning.  When we checked in, a package from Rent the Runway was waiting for me with two beautiful designer dresses from Moschino and Versace Collection.

I had a great run Saturday morning along the lake and up on top of a hill covered withbeautiful houses and parks.  After the run, H and I walked over to Verduras Tea House, a vegetarian cafe with vegan options. I ordered the Italian sandwich and a refreshing Rosewater Lemonade.


We met up with our friends at Alterra and grabbed a latte, heart-shaped foam art in honor of the wedding.  We went to the location by the lake. It has a great coffee shop vibe, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to hang out there very long.


The reception started at 7:00 and I wore this amazing Moschino dress.  Rent the Runway is a great resource if you have a habit of buying fancy dresses that you only wear once. It’s hard to sift through the silk dresses, but there are plenty of vegan-friendly dresses on the site. This one was listed as silk on the Rent the Runway website, but it didn’t feel very silky and the Moschino website doesn’t say it’s silk (it’s also on sale on the Moschino website if you want to buy this gorgeous dress at the bargain price of $1,158).


Scary eyes!


The lovely bride and groom


The girls, post-reception.


There wasn’t much for me to eat at the reception, which was kind of a problem after running 20 miles that morning. Fortunately, the hotel offers a tofu scramble for breakfast, which is just what I needed Sunday morning.

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For lunch, we went to Classic Slice, where we went after the Milwaukee marathon. I ordered the Anne Curry. It was good, maybe not as good as the pizza I had last time, but it was different and a little spicy. And look- they even have nutritional yeast to sprinkle on your pizza!


Alabama vs Michigan

It’s that time again! College football and veganized tailgating food is back. For the Tide’s game against Michigan we had BeST burgers from Kiss Me, I’m Vegan and roasted garlic, poblano and red pepper guacamole from Ezra Pound Cake. Both were delicious.


H and I were at a wedding reception in Milwaukee that started at the same time as the game. Fortunately the bar next to the reception area put the game on in the second quarter. After the reception ended, we went to the bar and I ordered a pile of arugula a salad and watched the end. When we were back home on Sunday, we ate burgers and watched the first half.