Thursday, July 31, 2008

Creative Curry

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: A delicious, exotic curry comprised of green beans, carrots, zucchini, kale, and faux duck all simmered in rich coconut milk and savory curry. Yum! Served over quinoa and with a vibrant side salad of mixed greens, bell pepper, heirloom tomatoes, and avocado, this was one mega-satisfying main course.

The Goods: Yes, you read that right: faux duck. Our offices have been awash recently with uncommon faux meats in preparation for an in-depth look at the history of meatless eats which will appear in our September+October Food Issue, coming your way in a few short weeks! So, since we've got all these, um, interesting items, we thought the best way to share them with you would be by literally sharing them with you. Conveniently, today being the last day of July (sniff!), it's time for our Café VegNews Giveaway! For loot we have something that we're pretty sure has to be the strangest thing we've ever offered: vegan haggis! We figured that you might want visual proof of this one, so check it out below. Also, just in case faux-Scottish-nasty-potted meat doesn't turn out to be your favorite new food, we're also including a signed copy of VN columnist Rory Freedman's book, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. On the cookbook theme, we'll be making recipes from cookbooks all next week, so don't miss it!

The Question: So here's what we're wondering: What's the strangest faux meat you've ever seen? You may get bonus points for having eaten it, but then again, you may also get bonus points for not having eaten it. Leave your answer in the comments by Friday, August 8, and we'll select a winner. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Miraculous Burritos

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Big, beautiful burritos stuffed with spiced black beans, button mushrooms, corn, fresh tomatoes, avocado, and romaine lettuce. Our side salad of mixed greens and baby heirloom tomatoes got an inventive vinaigrette made with a yet-to-be-released vegan yogurt. Just in case that kind of news interests you, make sure and sign up for our VegNewsletter, which will feature a full review in the upcoming August edition.

The Goods: So you may be wondering what exactly made these burritos miraculous, and simply, it's that they were expandable enough to accommodate our surprise lunch guest today, Ms. Moira Nordholt! Moira's contributed to VN for years and is currently riding her motorcycle from her home in sunny Southern California to just about the Arctic Circle. San Francisco somehow seems an appropriate second day, since we had typical windy, foggy weather today—which didn't quite qualify as arctic, but certainly wasn't SoCal sunny, either. Here's Moira with the ladies of VN:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Messy Pesto

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: A late-summer pesto with broccolini, sautéed red bell peppers, and big, lovely bites of avocado. This meal took a turn for the lighter side with the substitution of rice noodles for the traditional wheat pasta, and the standard side salad brightened the plate a little bit too.

The Goods: One of the tell-tale signs of an Elizabeth lunch is the heavy-handed avocado. But really, why stop at adding it to one dish when you can just as easily add it to both? If you haven't yet tried sprucing up your pasta dishes with avocado, go for it. We're pretty certain you'll be glad you did. If you's just not an avocado fan, well, we're sorry to say, you probably have no soul. Er, um, we mean, uh, it's okay to not like something as intrinsically awesome as avocado. Sure.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh Baby, Burritos!

The Chef: El Burrito Express

The Menu: Um, not to overstate the obvious, but we had burritos today. Is there anything better than super-good rice, yummy refried beans, lettuce, salsa, and guacamole wrapped in a warm, perfect tortilla? We think not. Sides of chips and salsa are optional, but you've never known us to pass up the opportunity to add to lunch, have you?

The Goods: You'll never guess what today is, so we'll just go ahead and tell you. It's editorial deadline day! Oh yes, it's our very favorite kind of day, with maybe the possible exceptions of taste-test days, field-trip days, and, you know, Saturdays. Deadline days tend to be a little extra hectic around the office, so it's always helpful to have one less thing on our plates, figuratively, and one delicious thing that someone else prepared on our plates, literally.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Extra-Special Friday Surprise

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: You'll never guess. Oh wait—if you've been reading Café VegNews at all this month, you've likely already caught a glimpse of our amazing main course: the Veganize It! Mac 'n' Cheese. Yes, it really is good enough to make as often as we have recently. Ms. Lisa added a little extra crunch to her bread-crumb topping with the addition of panko, and whipped up an extremely garlicky Caesar salad to go alongside.

The Goods: It's not that we're obsessed with this mac 'n' cheese per se, it just so happens that we've made it a grand total of three times this month, which is probably the most we've ever made one dish in that amount of time. What can we say? It's super-freakin' good, and doesn't rely on vegan mac 'n' cheese standbys like faux cheese or nutritional yeast. You know what else is really great? Getting to visit with Lisa's man-friend over lunch, who's just as charming and Canadian as we expected he would be. Also, since we had a guest, we busted out the fancy dessert: Divine Chocolate After Dinner Mints. Um, yum. You may recognize them from our current issue's Best of Show Awards.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comfort Chili

The Chefs: Jenny and Aurelia

The Menu: Hearty, healthy chili of pinto beans and textured vegetable protein that saved us all from the noontime doldrums. Ms. Jenny couldn't contain her Cuban self (not that we'd want her to!) and made a yummy, herbed yellow rice to complement the filling chili. Aurelia busted out a fresh salad of spinach, arugula, bell peppers, and peas with a light, lemony flax-oil dressing.

The Goods: Today's meal was definitely one made in the mode of, "Oh look. Here's what we have in the cupboard, so we'll make something with it." It's nice to know that no matter how bare the pantry seems, there's always a delicious option lurking in there somewhere, so long as you're open to being creative with combinations. A touch of Americana-style chili with a side of traditional Cuban rice? Why not?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tummy-Taming Thai

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: An utterly yummy yellow Thai curry. Served over perfectly herbed rice, this filling meal featured potatoes, bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, and some of Frankie's famous faux chicken all stewed in a luscious, coconut-milk-based curry. An equally appetizing salad of romaine lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, sliced fennel, and avocado balanced out the curry's hint of spiciness.

The Goods: In case it wasn't already abundantly clear, we like eating here at the VNHQ. Right around 11:30 am, each of our stomachs starts to rumble, and by noon we're ready to eat the morning's coffee grounds. The ever-present thought of lunch makes sitting down to a meal as delicious as this one even more satisfying—and keeps our dignity intact.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Romesco Revamp

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu
: Contrary to how it looks, this is, for once, not mac 'n' cheese. Yes, that's right, we've branched out to other varieties of pasta covered with some sort of orange-colored sauce. Today, Elizabeth created a revamped romesco sauce of roasted bell peppers, cashews, and steamed potatoes. Much lighter on the fat content than a traditional romesco (in which the potatoes are replaced with olive oil), this version is still super flavorful. A hearty salad of arugula, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, spinach, and fennel, and a couple slices of rustic bread finished off this comfort-food-filled lunch.

The Goods: We swear, when a food addiction hits there's nothing we can do about it. This pasta sauce has been a staple in Elizabeth's kitchen for the last few weeks, especially since she tends to make a little more than is really necessary for one batch. So, let's hear it, what are you craving these days? Which dish can you just not stop eating? We're hoping that, at some point, our answer to this question turns from saucy pastas to saucy vegetables, but we're not in any rush.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Transcontinental Mélange

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu:
Greek-inspired soba noodles, served cold with dill, celery seed, and vinegar-marinated tofu and mixed baby greens. Nestled on the left sit three crispy and warm rosemary-baked squash "boats."

The Goods:
Jenny likes movies, and Jenny likes to cook. So, this weekend, after enjoying the lively and sensual cultural offerings of a Greek film, Jenny brought her inspired energy into the VN kitchen and made her own rendition of a Mediterranean-style pasta dish. Sticking closer to our New World roots—and never wanting her co-workers to leave the table hungry—she also created this bright and comforting side dish.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Everything-in-the-Fridge Fajitas

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu:
Sautéed faux turkey, zucchini, kale, red peppers, and shiitake mushrooms tucked into a warmed tortilla and nestled atop a bed of crisp romaine, velvety avocado, cherry tomatoes, and drizzled in a tangy vinaigrette.

The Goods: Befitting the tie-up-all-the-loose-ends spirit of Fridays here at the VNHQ, Colleen brought her practical and resourceful efficiency to the kitchen and churned out a delicious, colorful meal in record time. With some tortillas and a fridge full of the week's delicious remains, no meal works better than the equal-opportunity fajita. After partaking in a hearty meal peppered with even heartier laughs, we return rejuvenated to our respective corners of the office.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bountiful Burritos

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Big, beany burritos! Can you really go wrong with huge flour tortillas, homemade refried beans, sautéed red bell pepper, corn, and squash topped with a fresh guacamole? Yeah, we don't think so either. Our chef also made an all-green salad of romaine, cucumber, and fresh mint, which lent the whole meal a crispiness that burritos tend not to have.

The Goods: Elizabeth was glad to get the chance to cook today, as she and Joseph are taking off tomorrow for the East Coast to attend Taking Action for Animals. The conference should be a blast, what with the awesome speaker roster and some serious face time with the goodies at Sticky Fingers. Oh, did we mention that we'll be hosting a Sticky Fingers Cupcake Party at the VegNews booth on Saturday? Because we will. Of course, you'll be able to read all about it on Press Pass.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The VN Obsession: Mac 'n' Cheese

The Chef: Lisa

The Menu: Oh, is that mac 'n' cheese you see again? Why yes, indeed it is. Okay, we admit it: we're obsessed. Seriously, make it. Find yourself a copy of the January+February issue, and then you'll know exactly what we're dealing with here. Seriously, this is the best mac 'n' cheese on the planet—and, of course, it's vegan. Today, Lisa even made it gluten-free by using rice pasta and corn-flake crumbs. Since the recipe consists mostly of blended vegetables, there isn't even enough fat in here to make us feel bad about ingesting six pounds of it this week. Lisa also whipped up a lovely salad of crisp romaine lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes, and shredded zucchini.

The Goods: Really. There just aren't enough adjectives to adequately describe this dish. Just to make it even better, we had the pleasurable company of Steve Bossio, whose family was featured on Dateline NBC for their green lifestyle. It was a great meal made all the moreso by great company! Oh, and it was a good excuse to fuel our all-encompassing mac 'n' cheese habit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pasta Primavera

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: What can be thrown together in a half hour when you're short on ideas but long on zucchini? Primavera! Today Elizabeth whipped up a quick, tasty primavera with lots of diced zucchini—courtesy of her mother's garden—diced tomatoes, tons of garlic, and a touch of balsamic vinegar, all served over brown-rice pasta. What to do when you've used all the veggies in the main dish and haven't much left for a salad? Load up on avocado! Elizabeth threw in some cherry tomatoes for color as well, which made a light, lovely salad.

The Goods: Whenever she can't think of what to make, Elizabeth's brain defaults to pasta. No matter what else you've got on hand, you can always make a simple pasta dish to feed a crowd. Maybe her Italian heritage has something to do with it, but this auto setting seems to work out. How about other go-to dishes? What do you find your hands making when your brain isn't functioning?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Commendable Coconut

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: An amazing Indian-inspired spread. First off, let's talk about that coconut rice. We could all eat this incredible blend of rice, coconut milk, shredded coconut, and raisins every day. Rich, luxurious, and wonderfully filling, this rice is an utter treat. Never a one-hit-wonder, Jenny also whipped up some creative curried pancakes, and a medley of creamer potatoes, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes in a spicy curry sauce.

The Goods: Coconut milk definitely makes our worlds go 'round. It's hard to imagine dishes that couldn't do with a dose of flavorful, delicious coconut milk, so let's not! Instead, why don't you go ahead and tell us all about your favorite ways of incorporating this indispensible ingredient. For pretty much all of our favorite dishes, you can check out any meal that was made by Ms. Jenny.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Southern Indulgence

The Chefs: Colleen & Frankie

The Menu: Are you sitting down? You might want to be for this. Starting at the top of the plate, you see our knock-your-socks-off mac 'n' cheese. Ms. Lisa, who's only been here six and a half months, wasn't with us when we tested this recipe for the January+February issue, and was blown away by how utterly delicious it was. As if that weren't enough, Frankie made us another round of her incredible barbecue faux ribs. They are absolutely to die for, especially since she smothers them in a smoky, slightly sweet homemade barbecue sauce. Oh, and maybe Colleen made some savory, wonderful collard greens, just to finish off the meal properly. This may officially go down as our staff's favorite lunch ever.

The Goods: Since we keep hearing great things about Souley Vegan over in Oakland, it was only a matter of time before the soul food bug bit us, and boy, are we glad it did. If there's a better way to break up the work day than spending your lunch hour gorging on the best mac 'n' cheese and faux ribs in the world, we don't even want to know about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Café VegNews Extra!

The Chef: CocoaVino

The Menu: Hazelnut & Sea Salt bonbons!

The Goods: Okay, so Ms. Jenny, the lovely lady you see pictured above, has been hankering for vegan bonbons since the day she stepped foot in the VNHQ. Today, all her chocolaty dreams came true when this incredibly adorable package of CocoaVino bonbons came in the mail. They were way too cute for us to keep to ourselves, and we're proud to report that the look doesn't outshine the taste—they're yummy! Have you guys tried these? Let us know what you think!

Tacos de Joe

The Chef: Joseph

The Menu: Can you really go wrong with rice and beans tacos? We think not, as evidenced by today's lunch. Joseph whipped up a rice and amaranth medley, and topped it with black beans that he simmered with bell peppers and spices. Decked out with avocado, these corn-tortilla-wrapped treats really hit the spot. We also enjoyed a huge mixed-greens salad with halved cherry tomatoes, raisins, green onions, and just a tad more avocado. Is there ever enough avocado? No, in fact, there isn't.

The Goods: Today we were not only treated to a rare Chef Joseph appearance, we also had the very enjoyable company of one Mrs. Susy Castoria. Giving birth to a member of the VN staff is pretty much a sure-fire way to get invited to lunch here, though it does take just a little planning ahead. If you didn't happen to have this clairvoyance, don't worry, you can still feel like you're hanging out with the VN gang by checking out the Press Pass entry about our amazing Music Issue Launch Party!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sausage Patty Party!

The Chefs: Lisa & Frankie

The Menu: Some seriously scrumptious sausage patties! Ms. Frankie decided to take on the world of faux meat, having already completely conquered the dessert realm, and the results were today's savory main dish. Perfectly Cajun-spiced, these patties knocked our socks off, and they were even better paired with fresh heirloom tomato slices, slabs of French bread, and an amazing garlicky avocado spread which Ms. Lisa made. Lightly steamed green beans took the place of our usual salad, much to our delight.

The Goods: We know it's been said before, but Frankie spoils us rotten. Who else gets homemade faux-meat delivered right to their office? Nobody, that's who. (Well, okay, let us know if you do, and then we'll have ourselves a taste test!) What we know for sure is that getting through a busy week is always easier when Frankie's around.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Delish Dumplings

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: Oh dumplings, we love you so. Today's little pleasing pouches were filled with a crazy, off-the-cuff garbanzo paste, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, and faux pork in a soy sauce and rice vinegar sauce. Topped with chopped scallions, toasted sesame oil, and a touch of extra soy sauce, these dumplings were—like so many meals here at the VNHQ—a unique marriage of inspiration and available ingredients. A crisp side salad of romaine lettuce, avocado, tomato, and cucumber was a nice balance to the doughiness of the dumplings.

The Goods: While enjoying today's radiant sunshine and munching on the lovely lunch you see pictured above, we got to talking about the history of San Francisco, and, in particular, all the great attractions that used to be right in our neighborhood. Playland, the Sutro Baths, and a host of other summertime entertainments once stood just steps from where we are today. Talking about all the old-timey fun got us to wondering: what's your favorite part of your city? Where is the place you head to at the first sign of a summer's day?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sublime Soup

The Chef: Jenny

The Menu: A delicious, rich tomato soup, pan-fried tempeh, and Indian-spiced rice with peas. Fresh bread from Mr. Mink made a perfect dipping implement. This meal hit the spot, and was a great way to start off the week to come.

The Goods: We're supposed to be getting a heat wave this week here in SF, though today's temps aren't exactly scorching. It remains to be seen whether the hot weather will come through or not, but one thing we're sure of is that we loved having some nice warm soup.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sumptuous Sautée Sandwich

The Chef: Colleen + Barna Mink

The Menu:
Freshly baked, crusty artisan bread with vegan mayonnaise, Dr. Praeger's California Veggieballs, collard greens, and sautéed shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.

The Goods:
So yesterday the very resourceful and generous SFVegan founder, Barna Mink, whipped up a loaf of bread with the leftover pizza dough from yesterday's lunch and left it as a "parting gift." Uhh, hadn't he just made us two gourmet vegan pizzas from scratch? But we don't ask questions when food is involved. So today, using her gourmet sandwich know-how, Colleen made excellent use of both the fresh loaf and the remaining veggies from our weekly organic veggie delivery. With built-in chefs like these at our office, it's a wonder we ever leave! Happy 4th of July everyone! See you on Monday!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Advocacy that Delivers!

The Chef: SFVegan's Barna Mink

The Menu:
Slightly crisp, gooey, vegan pizza featuring homemade sour dough crust and tomato sauce, onions, olives, Follow Your Heart "mozzerella," Sheese Blue Style "cheese," and "chicken" chunks from Layonna Vegetarian Health Food Store —with a side of organic romaine and shredded zucchini salad.

The Goods:
We always love it when a good friend of VegNews stops by, but we're not accustomed to having one of these friends hand deliver their own homemade pizzas to us for lunch. Barna Mink, founder of the new vegan networking organization and AR commentary/San Francisco vegan-living-guide site SFVegan, is not only a software guru and an active animal advocate, he seriously knows his way around a kitchen. Sorry ladies and gents, he's already taken, but keep your eye out for him and fellow SFV members at venues around the city where he will be tabling with literature and delicious vegan food. For more information, visit Or see him for yourself below as our cheeky delivery boy:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chreese Please!

The Chef: Jenny & Lisa

The Menu:
Road's End Organics Dairy Free Penne & Chreese cheddar style brown rice pasta piled next to a heap of garlic vinaigrette-tossed spinach and baby greens and some nutty green-wheat pilaf.

The Goods:
On a windy, busy day, nothing tastes better than a genuinely tasty and nutritious heat-and-serve lunch, especially when we know we can't work late. Tonight is Karen Dawn's official San Francisco book launch party for Thanking the Monkey, which will be held at SF's newest veg venue, The Usual Suspects. After a hectic party-planning week, we are looking forward to being guests, and we are happy to be supporting a fellow voice in the animal-advocacy community. Hope to see some of you there!