Posts Tagged ‘vegan’
If you missed out experiencing Balasia before the restaurant closed, you’ll have a chance to catch Wendy Landiak at the PA Energy Fest in Kempton this weekend, Friday the 18th through Sunday the 20th. The chef has access to a full-blown kitchen this year, so expect restaurant-quality dishes. Indian fusion and BBQ tofu may or may not be involved.
Also, if you’ll take notice of our happenings on the right-hand side of the page, LV Eggplant is now on Twitter, as result of a conversation between Josh and I that went something like this:
Carolyn: you never update the blog, I know you go out to eat all the time, is it so hard to snap a couple pictures and tell the internet whether the food was good or crappy, huh?! (whine whine whine whine)
Josh: um yeah… I’ll get around to it
Repeat the above dialogue once a week for several weeks. Eventually, we decided Josh could handle 140 character tweets every once in a while, without having to commit to writing a whole post. So feel free to follow us as we tweet mini-reviews and share random food info as we discover it throughout the LV!
Though the restaurant isn’t ready to unveil it’s new location just yet, you can catch Wendy of Balasia (aka best food on earth) at the Allentown Grower’s Market at the PPL Plaza on 9th and Hamilton for the following events:
Every Wednesday from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm from now until October
Balasia will be offering assorted vegetarian snacks like specialty hummus, soup, quinoa salad and Vegan Treats cookies, brownies, and whoopee pies.
EDIT: Wendy is also offering vegan ice cream. Call ahead to order (or, if you’re lucky she will have some extra on hand) with basically any flavor combination you can think of: cashew cinnamon, chocolate peanut butter, berry vanilla, you name it and she’ll make it.
Blues, Brews and BBQ
Saturday June 13th from noon – 8 pm
Come out for Balasia’s setian BBQ, baked black beans, corn on the cob, curry potato salad, grilled portabello mushroom caps and who knows what else. Good food, good music, good beer – sounds like a winning combination to me.
Chef Wendy has also been offering a vegan buffet at Tierra Sana on Sunday nights from 5-10 pm. Tierra Sana is a “whole foods fusion” restaurant located at 100-17 Queens Blvd/ Forest Hills in New York (67th ave exit off the R train). If you’re in the area, check out the buffet. With dishes like gobhi salaad (whole cauliflower crowned with creamy avocado), kacha kela foogath (plaintains in coconut sauce) and kela mithai (broiled bananas with toasted almonds) it might just be worth the train ride!
My super-vegan friend and I were trying to figure out where we could eat the other night; ever since Balasia moved locations (and has yet to re-open) our choices were quite limited. We decided to try Mangos, located at 3750 Hamilton Blvd in Allentown. I had never even heard of this place before, but with several smoked tofu dishes on the menu, we figured they must be at least relatively veg-friendly.
We sat down and were immediately given a basket of chips with a little bowl of black bean hummus and a cheesy corn dip. Yum, hummus – a vegan’s safe haven right? Not exactly; we learned (after my poor dairy-hating friend had taken several bites) that their hummus contains sour cream. Not a big deal to me, but my friend was kind of annoyed, since hummus is traditionally a vegan dish.
I decided on the Veggie Empanadas appetizer – a pastry filled with smoked tofu, plantains, roasted vegetables and goat cheese. I asked if there was any chance they could leave out the goat cheese, which there wasn’t, since the filling was already pre-made. That was fine by me – I didn’t want to be too huge of a pain in the butt! They were more than willing to bring me sides of pico de gallo and avocado salsa in addition to the ranchero sauce that came with the dish. The empanadas were good – and with all the extra salsas they were nice enough to bring us, there was plenty of flavor going on.
We both ordered the Smoked Tofu Tacos for our entrees. Grilled tofu served in grilled flour tortillas with pickled cabbage, pico de gallo, black beans and yellow rice on the side. We left out the cilantro creme fraiche, but learned that the rice dish did contain butter. Well, the chefs were nice enough to make us some new rice from scratch, sans butter. The tacos themselves were ok – the first one was quite bland, but after I loaded up the other two tacos with the tomato and avacado salsas, and the hot sauce my friend requested, the tofu was able to soak up some flavor and ended up pretty good. The pickled cabbage gave everything a nice tangy crunch.
So, the bottom line: Mangos might not be the best place to eat if you’re looking for a killer tofu dish. It’s a little disheartening to be served bland tofu in a restaurant. But with dishes like Turmeric-blend rubbed Salmon, and Macadamia nut encrusted Mahi Mahi with coconut rice pilaf, mango chili gastrique and tropical salsa, I’d definitely want to give Mangos another try. Maybe if I get back into eating seafood anytime soon I will. They were willing to bend over backwards to accommodate us, though, so for that Mangos scores some major points. They even refused to charge me for the Veggie Empanadas, just because they weren’t able to make them without the cheese! How freaking nice was that? Mangos definitely provides some of the nicest service I’ve experienced in the Valley.
Posted in Restaurant Reviews, Venturing Beyond the Valley, tagged Blue Sage Grille, ridiculously good food even carnivores can enjoy, Southampton, vegan, vegetarian on March 17, 2009| Leave a Comment »
I finally tried the Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille Friday night after much hype and internet buzz. This certainly doesn’t qualify as a Lehigh Valley restaurant (it’s in Southampton; 772 2nd Street Pike to be exact) but it’s well worth the hike, especially if you’re a vegetarian. My meal at Blue Sage probably ranks up there in my top 10 meals of all time. Well… for this month anyway :) What can I say, I get excited about food!
Appetizer #1: Blue Corn & Asparagus Tacos. Griddled blue corn tacos filled with grilled asparagus, jack cheese & sun dried tomato pesto. Served with black eyed pea and corn salsa. These tacos, which were really more like quesadillas, were outstanding. I only ate one of the wedges, since they were quite cheesy and I try to avoid cheese and all other dairy products at all costs. So my carnivorous friend finished off the Asparagus Tacos and I went to town on the other (vegan) appetizer:
Green Curry BBQ Summer Rolls. Rice paper rolls filled with baby spinach, mango, Thai barbeque glazed vegetables, smoked red onion, fresh ginger & basil. Served with soy syrup, dipping oils, and side of jicama slaw. These were SO GOOD. The Thai barbeque glaze was smoky and tangy, and there was some serious flavor going on in these little spring rolls. I wasn’t crazy about the side salad – the salad/salsa accompanying the Blue Corns Tacos was way better, and luckily I was able to polish that off after I finished these spring rolls. Why is it everyone I go out to eat with is such a light weight?
My friend’s entree was the Blue Plate, which consisted of pine nut crusted, roasted garlic glazed portobello skewers, smoked sweet potato mash and a grilled avocado succotash salad. I debated ordering this, but I’m glad I didn’t because the Blue Plate is a very meaty meal, great for someone who was wishing they could have ordered ribs instead. In fact my friend said the mushroom skewers tasted just like “really good ribs” and that they were the best mushrooms he has ever had.
Now this entree was more my style: the Cubano Supper. Flaky plantain pastries stuffed with sunflower seed-smoked red pepper pesto, with a tower of yellow tomatoes & avocado corn salsa in the middle. Chipotle jicama slaw & mango-papaya relish surrounded the tomato mountain. All I can say is wow. There were so many different flavors and textures going on, each flavor complimenting the next so perfectly. The plantain pastries (crispy on the outside, tender on the inside) were the perfect vehicles on which to pile the multiple sauces, relishes and salsas. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this dish.
My meal was so perfect I didn’t even bother with dessert, enticing as it may have been (Chocolate Panini? um, yum). Maybe next time. And there will be a next time!
Posted in Restaurant Reviews, tagged Balasia, best food on the face of the earth, EAT HERE IMMEDIATELY, emmaus, I'm going to die when this restaurant (temporarily) closes, indian, local, organic, tofu, vegan on January 31, 2009| 7 Comments »
I don’t even know where to start.
I’ll try to keep this post brief so I don’t get all emotional. The restaurant in question is Balasia, located (for the next 3 or so weeks, anyway) at 500 Chestnut St. in Emmaus. It is the best food I have ever had in my entire life. It’s exotic vegan cuisine, the produce organic and local, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Balasia opened my eyes to flavor, spice, and the combining of ingredients I never thought possible. But Balasia is about so much more than food – it’s about love, community, health, LIFE, I could go on and on. And now, due to some perhaps questionable circumstances, the love that is Balasia will be moving to a yet-to-be disclosed location. As of mid-February, the 500 Chestnut St. location will be no more (I’m trying hard to keep my mouth shut, here). So I suggest each and every one of you take this opportunity to drop what you’re doing and go there, immediately. I know I will be soaking up the Balasia goodness for the next few weeks while I can. And then, come mid-February… well, there will be a giant tofu-shaped hole in the Lehigh Valley and I have yet to figure out how I will survive the hiatus.
I’ve taken millions of pictures of Balasia food over the past 2+ years. Wendy Landiak, the genius chef, is such an artist with her presentation that I felt the food just had to be photographed. Above is the Tofu Dill Burger, it was a special that particular day, and never seen on the menu again. It was outstanding. Layers of crispy fresh greens, spicy karachi dal, brown rice, and spice-infused oil topped with that beautifully caramelized mound of tofu, crusted with mustard and cumin seeds, with some sort of tomato chutney and caramelized onions on top. Chickpeas, boondi, cashews, carrots and who knows what else were also sprinkled through the dish. Each bite was a complex taste explosion, and every element of the dish complimented everything else so perfectly.
The West African Peanut Soup. I’ve attempted recreating this soup on my own many many times, as I tend to crave it every day of my life, and I’m thrilled to say my latest attempt came pretty darn close. Nothing can compare with the original though. It is a perfectly smooth sweet potato puree, nutty, a little sweet, with hints of garlic and ginger, topped with maple syrup, dried roasted red pepper flakes, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Don’t shy away from the red pepper flakes; they’re not hot, they’re delicious (they’re bell peppers not hot peppers, a huge misconception). Every time I get this soup, I fight the urge to lick the bowl afterwards.
One of the amazing things about Balasia is Wendy will make you whatever you want. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to go off-menu, just tell her what you’re in the mood for and she’ll create it. This delicious mound of goodness pictured above was one of my crazy requests; I asked her for some 5 spice tofu (I don’t know what’s in that 5 spice peanut sauce but it’s freaking extraordinary) crusted with mustard seeds, on top of a bed of rice noodles drenched in a slightly tangy miso sauce, coconut flakes sprinkled throughout, and an Indian samosa on the side.
This was a SALAD a friend of mine ordered once… so in case you were wondering, the soups and salads here are full meals in themselves. This was a simple and delicious dish, fresh, crisp and light, hints of miso and ginger in the dressing. I can’t remember what the little side dish contained but I’m sure it was good.
Speaking of soups being full meals in themselves, the Indonesian Potato Stew offers up so much bulk and yumminess that you probably wouldn’t be able to squeeze in an entree after eating it. The lemongrass-infused coconut milk broth provides a flavorful base for the huge chunks of veggies and rice noodles, and the coconut flakes and bean sprouts on top give the soup a perfect little crunch. Hearty and satisfying!
This was the Indian-inspired Eggplant Masala dish, with karachi dal, crisp methi crackers and a samosa covered in sweet mango chutney. Clearly this was enough food for at least 2 meals, and I enjoyed it very much for lunch the next day. If possible, the food gets even more delicious after stewing for a day or so.
The Curi-yaki Tofu, a blend of curry and teriyaki-marinated tofu, crusted with fennel, cumin seeds and red pepper flakes, on a bed of brown rice and kale so incredibly flavorful and tasty you’d never know it was kale. Now I am all about incorporating dark leafy greens into my diet, but greens don’t exactly taste wonderful, and somehow Wendy makes them delicious. If she ever has kale or cabbage somewhere on the menu, I promptly request she lay it on me. Who knew healthy food could be SO GOOD!
I’m still in a bit of denial that 500 Chestnut will soon be no more, but I know whatever Wendy does in the future will be better for her, better for the restaurant and better for her followers. I’m excited and nervous for Balasia, and I can’t wait to see how this whole thing will turn out. In the meantime, however, I will be eating at Balasia every minute of every day until it closes, soaking up the experience while I can. I suggest you all do the same.
One last note – I know people are used to fast food for dirt cheap prices in this silly day and age, and that’s not the type of establishment we are talking about here. Wendy creates complex, time consuming, high quality meals and serves you portions large enough to feed 2-3 people, so you won’t be paying $5 for lunch here. Expect to pay around $9-$15 for lunch, and $20-$35 for dinner. But also keep in mind that Wendy wants people to experience her cuisine, and if you’re on a budget, just let her know and she’ll make you something in your price range. That’s the kind of restaurant Balasia is, and it’s a beautiful thing.
I’m pretty sure I won’t be posting a recipe every week, but this title does have a nice ring to it so until I come up with something better, this will be the “Recipe of the Week” post. Like most foodies, we all like to experiment in the kitchen, and sometimes we’re just going to have to put the reviews on hold to share an extra special and delicious recipe. This particular recipe is really easy to make, and flavor-wise, it’s got a lot going on. It’s tangy, nutty, citrusy, it’s got some crunch to it but is also smooth and chewy. I feel like vegetarians will love it, and maybe 50% of meat-eaters will appreciate it (my open minded mom loved it; my pork-loving dad said it looked like something he’d scrape off the bottom of his shoe). But I can’t end this paragraph with that terrible parenthetical visual so let me end by saying: this recipe is GOOD!
You will need:
-1 block of firm tofu (preferably the Allentown brand with the hilarious wings on the package)
-1 bunch of kale
-1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the miso glaze:
-3 tablespoons white/yellow miso paste
-1 tablespoon tamari
-1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
-1 teaspoon mirin
For the peanut crust:
-1/3 cup peanuts (you can substitute some of the peanuts with walnuts or some other healthier nut if you want; I used half peanuts, half walnuts and it came out great)
-1/4 cup sesame seeds
-2 large cloves garlic – finely grated
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
-1 teaspoon turmeric
-1 teaspoon coriander
-2 tablespoons maple syrup
-pinch of salt
The peanut crust part is adapted from the “eggplant stuffed with a sesame-peanut masala” recipe in the fantastic Indian cookbook 5 spices, 50 dishes. I threw in some walnuts and used maple syrup instead of sugar and water; I also used less salt than Ruta because the peanuts I used were roasted and salted, and I threw in some coriander for fun.
On to the cooking: you can marinate the tofu beforehand if you want, I did the night before only because I wanted the dinner to come together really quickly the next night. So anyway press the tofu in a towel for at least 10 mins to drain out some of the water. While it’s pressing, whisk together the miso, tamari, rice wine vinegar and mirin. Cut the tofu into six 1/2 inch triangles and brush with the miso glaze, on all sides. Let that marinate up to overnight if you’d like, or just continue on with the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare the peanut crust: chop, crush, or blend the nuts and sesame seeds until you have a slightly chunky mix. Move to a bowl and grate in the garlic and add in the spices, salt, and maple syrup, then mix everything together with a fork until it becomes a nice sticky mess. Slather the tops of your your marinated tofu triangles with the peanut crust and place in a glass baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
15 or so minutes before the tofu is finished baking, wash and chop up the kale, then saute on medium to medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until the kale is wilted down. Add salt and pepper and the lemon juice.
(quick note: by itself the kale will probably taste too sour, but eaten with the tofu, it’s perfect)
At this point your tofu should be nicely baked, so remove from the oven, place on top of the kale and enjoy!