Friday, May 29, 2009

One-Pot Wonderful

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: A sensationally savory one-pot meal. Colleen prepared a Mediterranean-inspired tomato soup with cumin and other spices, garbanzo beans, coconut milk, and eggplant, then added rice and simmered it all together into a totally tasty lunch. Alongside, a salad of mixed greens and grated carrots and beets finished off the plate.

The Goods: It's a bittersweet day here at the VNHQ, as it's the last day for our two stellar editorial assistants, Melissa and Stacy. These ladies have been phenomenal during their time here, and while we're so happy that we had the opportunity to work with both of them, it's definitely sad that they're leaving. We wish them the very best in the future, and if anyone needs us, we'll be drowning our sorrows in leftover ice-cream cake and saké.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jaw-Dropping Japanese

The Chef: Hayato!

The Menu: A phenomenal, five-course Japanese indulgence! Each dish was hand-crafted, incredibly delicious, and, as you can see, gorgeously plated. Up top you see a light and lovely miso soup that featured green beans and tofu. On the plate, Hayato served brown-rice-filled inari, which were dotted with green beans and carrots and surprisingly savory. Moving clockwise, you see a sesame-based, tofu-like custard called goma dofu that we topped with dots of wasabi and soy sauce and eagerly devoured. Perfectly prepared kabocha squash and green beans were next, followed by the best lotus root any of us had ever tasted. Hayato sautéed the lotus root with shiitake mushrooms and topped the dish with black sesame seeds. Are we the luckiest people on Earth today? Yes.

The Goods: Is there anything better than having a professional chef come all the way across the Pacific and make lunch for you? No, there isn't; don't even try to come up with something. Our guest-turned-chef is actually a chef in Japan, and we couldn't have been more thrilled when he offered us the special treat of an authentic Japanese lunch. The meal was easily the most time-intensive lunch ever served at the VNHQ—rumor has it that Hayato was up until 4am last night making preparations! We are indescribably grateful for the effort; today's meal was an outrageously special treat.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Southern-Inspired Casserole

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: Um, wow. Aurelia busted out an incredible three-course treat for lunch today, which we happily devoured. The main attraction was a casserole with black beans, corn, green chiles, chopped meatless ribs, and sautéed Swiss Chard, which she topped deliciously with baked polenta dotted with cheddar-style Teese and spices. If you are thinking, "oh my god!" right now, you have the appropriate thought going through your head. In addition, we had the most smoky and delectable sautéed kale on the planet, and a light, fresh salad with shaved red onions, carrots, cucumber, and avocado.

The Goods: This outrageously yummy meal made the perfect base for what was to follow: a belated birthday cake for Lyndsay, who took advantage of our take-your-birthday-off policy. Yes, we've eaten more cake in the last week than any office should ever be able to, and the 3pm sugar pangs are getting stronger by the day. Today's fabulous meal was also a bittersweet occasion, as it marked Aurelia's last turn in the VNHQ kitchen. Thanks for all the amazing lunches, Aurelia!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beautiful Burritos

The Chef: El Burrito Express

The Menu: Um, burritos, as you may have already guessed. Today's were the perfect combination of rice, black beans, salsa, lettuce, and avocado, all wrapped in whole-wheat tortillas. For sides? Salsa and chips, naturally. There really is something beautiful about the big, hearty chunks of avocado that grace these tummy-filling treats.

The Goods: We're deep in the trenches of finalizing the cover for our July+August summer issue, which means we had the perfect excuse for ordering in for lunch today. In addition to the awesome meal, we got to enjoy the company of Melissa's gentleman caller, Hayato, who's visiting from Japan. It was wonderful to be able to share the first sunny day in what feels like months with our guest, and to properly introduce him to Californian cuisine—aka, burritos.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Post-Party Greens

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: A simple, delicious plate of rice, sautéed shiitake mushrooms and collard greens, marinated kale, and avocado. This savory, healthy treat was just what we needed after the incredible indulgence that was the Urban Dessert Soirée last night! Not to mention that maybe, just maybe, there's still some incredible ice-cream wedding cake hanging out around the office.

The Goods: Last night was a total blast! Definitely be sure to keep your eyes on Press Pass for the full rundown of the evening, but for now suffice to say that it was an incredibly fun, swanky event—which is pretty perfect considering it was held in Ani's honor, since she's one of the swankiest, most-fun people we know. Enjoy the long weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pre-Party Fritters

The Chef: Stacy

The Menu: A mélange of mighty-good morsels! Ms. Stacy lent a hand with the recipe testing by whipping up some akara, or Malinese black-eyed-pea fritters. Yes, they were yummy, as was the salsa that accompanied them! And you just might recognize the rest of the items on the plate from a certain celebration we might have mentioned yesterday.

The Goods: Today's entry, much like today's lunch, will be on the quick and light side, since we're all gearing up for the sold-out Urban Dessert Soirée with Ani Phyo tonight!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

VegNews Wedding Celebration 2009

The Chefs: Everyone!

The Menu: Today, we went all out. In the second installment of an annual tradition, we toasted this year's wedding couples. Only one couple was local enough to make it over to the VNHQ on a weekday, and we were thrilled to welcome Barry and Jennifer (check out page 40 of our current issue!) for lunch. Inspired by their menu, Colleen busted out a crisp Caesar salad, which you see at the center of the plate, and Aurelia made a to-die-for artichoke dip and perfectly spiced barbecue tofu. Elizabeth tested the fancy-pants recipes from our forthcoming July+August food feature, which is all about tartares and carpaccios. Starting from nine o'clock on the plate, you see Tropical Fruit Tartare, Pineapple-Hazelnut Carpaccio, Apple-Cheddar Carpaccio, Almond-Carrot Tartare, and Mediterranean Tartare. Yes, you will definitely want to ready your ramekins—which we were sorely lacking today—and try these incredible combinations. Both Melissa and Stacy played indispensable roles as sous chefs, chopping and arranging fruit like crazy.

The Goods: Oh yes, we also had one other very, very special guest today: Chang from MaggieMudd! Ms. Chang bestowed upon us an utterly incredible gift—an ice-cream wedding cake! Um, holy crap. Check out the gorgeousness below. If ever there was a reason to wed, this cake is it. Let's just say it started with a brownie topped with Tar Mack ice cream—aka chocolate and peanut butter with crumbled cookies—and that was just the first layer. The second was an equally delicious toasted-coconut ice cream made with coconut milk, and the whole thing was adorned in whipped-cream frosting and decorated with fabulous fondant. Yes, we're in love. Congrats to all our wedding couples, and thanks to our guests for making the celebration possible! Cheers!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Perfect Peanut Pasta

The Chef: Melissa

The Menu: An absolutely delicious whole-wheat pasta tossed with veggies in a homemade coconut-peanut sauce. Carrots, broccoli, onions, snap peas, and big cubes of tofu all got covered in the spectacular sauce, then topped with black sesame seeds. Yes, this savory treat smelled amazing as Melissa was cooking, and the taste easily met the expectations that the aroma set out. Alongside we enjoyed a vibrant salad with chopped red cabbage, red bell peppers, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and more black sesame seeds.

The Goods: It's nice to have everyone back in the office after the eventful (and long, for some) weekend! We're officially back in full force today, which is awfully convenient since we have a little something called the July+August cover to finalize. Today's super-yummy lunch was just the thing we needed to fuel our busy workday! Oh, and speaking of lunches, we just might have something special planned for tomorrow, so keep an eye out!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gourmet Pizza

The Chef
: Colleen 

The Menu: Mounds of veggies atop melted, vegan jack cheese, fire-roasted tomatoes, and a crispy, whole-wheat crust. Thinly sliced red bell pepper, red onion, shiitake mushrooms, and a dusting of rosemary made for a healthy twist on this Italian classic. The gourmet part? Not only were we privileged to have our pie prepared by professional-grade hands, but we also had the pleasure of savoring Vegan Gourmet's jack cheese, which made for a perfect Monday melt. Our taste buds were doubly entertained by the salad of fresh greens adorned with cucumber, red onions, and homemade Italian-seasoned sesame-bread croutons.

The Goods: Once again, the VNHQ is lookin' a little barren this afternoon, as a significant portion of our staff is still scattered across the country after a jam-packed weekend of amazing veg events. As we enter the final design week for our July+August issue, we are as excited as ever to see the end result, which we'll be celebrating on Thursday evening at VN's first-ever Urban Dessert Soirée! No tickets? No problem! Make your own version of Ani's Raw Food Desserts at home, with her latest cookbook in hand!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Triple-Salad Treat

The Chef: Jesse Miner!

The Menu: A trio of totally terrific salads! For his upcoming July+August High-Tech Chef column, Jesse demystifies the pressure cooker, and was kind enough to come by the VNHQ today and show us the tricks of the trade. The resulting salads were absolutely delicious. Starting from the right we enjoyed a pressure-free green salad with pea shoots, mixed greens, avocado, and candied pecans. Moving clockwise, a fabulous chickpea salad with cucumber, tomato, red pepper, and fresh herbs, and then finally a runner-bean salad with halved cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. A side of rustic bread perfectly rounded out our colorful plates.

The Goods: OK, we admit it, we're totally spoiled. Not only do we have the world's best food columnists, but some of them are even local and can come make outrageously good lunches for us! And, we're very happy to report that the pressure cooker did not even explode once while Jesse was at work. Want the recipes for these stellar salads? Sorry, you'll have to wait for the next issue of VN. In the meantime, don't forget to vote for your favorite Café VegNews entries in our first-ever showdown! The entries with the most votes will be featured in our September+October issue, with recipes to boot! Oh, and the VNHQ will be closed tomorrow due to the crazy weekend schedule of VN staffers—we'll be at the Chicago Green Festival, Los Angeles Worldfest, Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down, and Bay to Breakers. Have a great weekend, and if you're attending one of these shows, stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ultra-Good Upside-Down Pizza

The Chef: Aurelia

The Menu: An utterly delicious casserole-style, upside-down pizza. Yes, Aurelia is just as creative in the kitchen as she is in our editorial meetings, for which we are all very, very thankful! This dish featured potatoes, Swiss chard, zucchini, and onions, all simmered in Frankie's barbecue sauce and baked under a pizza-dough crust. Savory and satisfying, we all went back for seconds of this one! Aurelia also busted out a fantastic salad of butter lettuce, grated carrots, kidney beans, and avocado.

The Goods: We've been eating outside all this week, though to varying degrees of success. Today was the first day that we didn't clutch our jackets super-tightly and hope for the wind to subside, as it was actually sunny, and, dare we say, warm! Of course, since this weekend is supposed to be gorgeous here in SF, the majority of us will be out of town, either attending the Chicago Green Festival or WorldFest. Go figure! Also, have you been grinding your teeth hoping for recipes to accompany the lunches you see here on Café VegNews? Now's your chance! The entries in our first-ever Café VegNews Showdown that receive the most votes will have recipes printed in our September+October edition! Go! Vote!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Plenty o' Polenta

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: A big pile of polenta, topped with a wine-infused tomato sauce with simmered garlic, onions, raisins, and Swiss chard. A simple spinach salad turned into something spectacular with the addition of huge, ripe, delicious, amazing strawberries, which were hand-delivered, fresh from the farmers' market. They got tossed in with some cucumber, avocado, and pumpkin seeds, and topped with a cherry-balsamic vinaigrette.

The Goods: Not only were today's strawberries outrageously good, they were also a thoughtful gift from our lunch guests! We had the highly enjoyable company of Melissa's parents, Dave and Sue, which means that we have now met the entirety of la familia Feineman. Our guests lucked out on getting a very sunny day here in SF, which just might have thrilled us slightly more than it did them, since they are currently visiting from Texas, where the daily temperature hovers somewhere around 8 bajillion degrees.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trader Joe's Treats

The Chefs: Joseph, Lyndsay, and Trader Joe's

The Menu: Today we were totally tantalized by a ton of treats from Trader Joe's! For the September+October Food Issue, Joseph is hard at work on an installment of "I Can't Believe It's Vegan" featuring the one-stop shop, so for lunch today he brought in some "research." We eagerly munch both the Organic Tofu Veggie Burgers and Vegetable Masala Burgers on whole-wheat buns, which we totally doused in Frankie's signature barbecue sauce and topped with lettuce and sliced red onion. Our chefs tossed some chopped Chicken-less Strips atop a Roasted Vegetable pizza (along with more barbecue sauce, which is a really, really good idea in case anyone was wondering), and we devoured sides of mixed-greens salad and Organic Corn Chip Dippers. Yes, yum.

The Goods: Of course, this isn't everything that bears a vegan label at Trader Joe's, but we can only eat so much at lunch. We did, however, save room for dessert. Oh yes, a tray of sweet treats was ready and waiting for us. It included Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate-Filled Joe-Joe's, Dark Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels, and a Dark Chocolate bar with Raisins and Pecans. This is totally the kind of research we could spend every day doing!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Curry and Company

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: An absolutely lovely light yellow curry with tons of veggies! Colleen added carrots, broccoli, zucchini, onions, garlic, and cherry tomatoes to a coconut-milk curry broth, all of which she served over a super combination of basmati rice and red quinoa. Um, yum. A light salad of a pirate's favorite leafy green (you guessed it: arrrrrrrugula) and red cabbage with a snazzy lemon dressing completed these perfect plates. Oh, and the Vegenaise shipment we got in today? Colleen snuck a spoonful into the aforementioned dressing, but the result was so light and lemony you would have never even known it was in there!

The Goods: So you know all about the curry, here's the part about the company. Today we had the pleasure of dining with Melissa's brother, Mike, and his girlfriend, Amy, who are out visiting from Colorado for the weekend. They are, in a word, hilarious, and it was a highly enjoyable way to end the week. Oh, and did we mention that today is gorgeously sunny and we got to have popsicles before returning to work? Yeah, things are pretty stinking awesome around here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Frittata Florentine

The Chef: Elizabeth

The Menu: An Italian-leftovers-inspired meal! Today's frittata combined some leftover pasta, a blend of tofu and garbanzo beans, and sautéed cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spinach. Oh, and maybe, just maybe, about a ton of Parma got mixed in there, too. To help colorize the plate, Elizabeth made a big kale salad with red cabbage, apple, carrot, avocado, and pumpkin seeds. What topped this multicolor creation? You guessed it: more Parma. (And a little flax-seed oil and apple cider vinegar, you know, so that we could call it a "dressing.")

The Goods: Everything sounds better in Italian, no? Leftover pasta tossed with stuff suddenly becomes "frittata" and since we happened to have spinach on hand, "florentine" made today's dish sound extra fancy. In case anyone is wondering, if you're trying to flip your frittata in one fell swoop, it's likely best not to create one solid piece that's bigger than your own head. Was Elizabeth thankful that there weren't any cameras around while she was trying to flip hers today, with two undersized spatulas? Yes, yes she was.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Amazing Grains 'n' Greens

The Chef: Stacy

The Menu:
Grains, greens, and lots of 'em! Stacy, ever the intrepid chef, started out with a simple basmati rice and lentil mixture, to which she added some spinach, black beans, and Dukkah hazelnut and spice mix. The result was a warm, hearty, and satisfying blend, which was perfectly complemented by her stellar salad, a fresh and crisp mixture of greens, grated carrot, avocado, and sunflower seeds. But today was no ordinary one-grain day at the VNHQ. No, today was an "amazing grain" day because Organic Athlete and longtime VN-pal Justin Lucke was in the house, and he did not come empty handed. He brought along his homemade pain Poilâne, a whole-wheat masterpiece that was just as delightful on its own as it was smothered in Earth Balance and Parma.

The Goods:
We are getting deep into the design phase of our July+August issue, so we're preparing ourselves for some marathon meetings by loading up on our favorite creativity-fueling snacks like chocolate-covered pretzels and peanut-filled pretzels from our preferred provision provider, Trader Joe's. Notice a theme going on here? Yes, we have a slight tendency towards obsessing with pretzels. Is there anything wrong with that? No, we didn't think so.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Thai-o

The Chef:

The Menu:
Why, the traditional Cinco de Mayo lunchtime favorite, Thai curry noodles! OK, you called our bluff. Thai curry noodles are not typically thought of as a Cinco de Mayo meal, but that didn't stop us from gobbling down these coconut milk and cilantro-spiked rice noodles in a festive manner. And, while Thai and Mexican food are clearly from opposite sides of the globe, they are both surprisingly enhanced by healthy doses of chili sauce. We also enjoyed some of the leftovers from yesterday's potato salad mixed in with spring greens, spinach, grated carrot, and sunflower seeds. Now if only we could rustle up some lychee margaritas ...

The Goods:
Nothing really completes a Thai-Mexican fiesta like chocolate and coconut Ho Ho cupcakes from Watercourse Foods. Too bad they're based all the way in Denver. Luckily Publisher Joseph Connelly arrived back from that very city, bearing those very cupcakes, late yesterday afternoon. These little puppies–chocolate cake covered with rich coconut frosting and stuffed with vanilla filling–were so rich that we split one of them amongst the entire staff. If all this talk of cupcakes is making your mouth water for sweet treats, be sure to snatch up one of the few remaining tickets to our Urban Dessert Soirée with adorable Ani Phyo.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Creative Couscous

The Chef: Melissa

The Menu: A main course masterpiece consisting of sautéed snap peas, tomatoes, onions, and black beans mixed with a fluffy couscous, all seasoned with cumin and berbere spice. On the side, we savored similarly-spiced roasted russet and purple potatoes in a vinaigrette sweetened with a hint of agave nectar.  A baby spring-mix salad topped with sunflower seeds and avocado, drizzled with a house-made balsamic vinaigrette topped it all off. Today's combination made for a delicious and hearty Monday meal, and since Melissa was kind enough to prepare plenty of extra, we are all excited for the left-overs to come!

The Goods: 
It's Monday, and things are lookin' a little dreary outside, but our lunchtime conversation brightened things up as we ventured back in time to a little decade called the '80s. We recalled vivid memories of favorite—and not-so-favorite—movies and music from the era ... any Top Gun fans out there? On the work side of things, the VNHQ is bustling this afternoon, as most of our staff has returned from far-away veggie adventures. If you weren't able to visit the VegNews booth at the Denver Greenfest this weekend, check out the event's upcoming locations—we hope to see you at one of them!  

Friday, May 1, 2009

Free-up-the-Fridge Friday

The Chef: Colleen

The Menu: A Mexican-inspired mélange of sautéed spring veggies, roasted potatoes with molé, hearty black beans, and gorgeous guacamole. In honor of the fact that it is Friday and we need to make space in the fridge for Monday's produce delivery, Colleen approached today's lunch with her signature "take-no-prisoners" 'tude and rounded up just about every perishable comestible in sight. She had us oohing and ahhing over her simple yet oh-so-tasty zucchini, broccoli, and celery. The secret? She first toasted some cumin seeds in olive oil to release their delicate flavor and then gently tossed in the vegetables. The result? A vibrant and verdant, fragrant and flavorful, healthy and heavenly lunch that had us nearly licking our plates and definitively declaring that we'd be using more cumin seeds in our cooking henceforth.

The Goods:
As you are well aware, today is Friday, which never ceases to put us in a good mood, although today we're feeling a bit slighted by the gray and drizzly weather. However, our spirits are buoyed by the excellent turnout and good times had all around at last night's SF Vegan Drinks, though you don't have to take our word for it. We actually have photo proof of this stellar evening. We certainly don't believe in coercing people into doing things they don't want to, but we would strongly, strongly recommend that you set aside Thursday, May 28, from 6 to 8pm. We're just saying ... And if you happen to be in the Denver area this weekend, be sure to stop by our booth the Green Festival and say hi. Or, find us gorging ourselves at WaterCourse Foods. Let us know if you have any other favorite Denver hot spots!