Monday, June 2, 2008

An adventure in food...

Since I was MIA for awhile, I have a giant post of food & friends to make it up to you!

Ian & I rarely eat out, there's the obvious "problem" that we're Vegan but mostly I just really like to cook-- and I tend to think I cook better then restaurants (oh no! blaspheme!). When we heard that a new upscale Slow Food establishment was opening up we decided to try it out for our 5 "monthaversary". Strega is beautifully decorated and has a great atmosphere. Of the 27 things on their menu... two of them were vegan and we were told the cooks would be happy to put together something special for us. We decided to stick to their menu and split the Butternut Squash Curry. It was an Indian Curry and very good. I'm not a huge squash fan but I loved it. It was missing spice and they served it with an unusual flat bread instead of the traditional naan... but I was pleased, or perhaps just drunk. Knowing me it was a bit of both. :D

I happily received an e-mail from Melisser of The Urban Housewife fame letting me know she was going to be in Portland for a few days! We decided to meet up for Donuts at Sweetpea and the Saturday Market. I've eaten at Sweetpea before, and reviewed it here. Truthfully, I am still disappointed. The baked goods are... good. They aren't great. Ian made the observation that they seem to make up for flavor by adding sugar-- I completely agree. We picked at a few snacks and I was sugared out the rest of the day-- Which doesn't happen to me. Sugar? Me? We're like best friends forever! I feel like as vegans we sort of forgive the mishaps of a lot of places... we're just happy to have options. We shouldn't be! Vegan food can be amazing food. It SHOULD be amazing food. We put more thought and effort into our day to day diets... we should expect to be dazzled! Sweetpea's baked goods just aren't for me, I've met with people who think they're great. I'm not one of them and probably won't go there again-- which bugs me! I want to hang out in an awesome space with awesome vegans and eat amazing food!

The donuts are a speciality they have a few days a week. They're yeast donuts-- but the texture is more of half way between cake and yeast. They were doughy and lacking in flavor. The jelly donut had perhaps a tablespoon of "red" flavored jelly... it was a tasty filling but none of us really knew what the flavor was. The boston cream's chocolate topping was the high light of the donuts. It had a bit of a cappuccino flavor too it and was tasty on its own. The cream was tasteless and runny. The glazed donut was good-- I'm not a cake donut fan so the texture of these may have just thrown me off... even though they were yeast donuts they were too dense for my personal preference. The flavor just wasn't there for me. If the jelly donut was filled with more jelly it probably would have been my favorite.
The scone and snickerdoodle were Ian's choices. I don't like snickerdoodles so I didn't review it, it wasn't a hit at our table though. The scone was a bit too dense for my tastes, it had a bit of a buttery flavor which was nice... Ian thought it tasted more like a biscuit so we took it home, toasted it and topped it with Earth Balance and he seemed to enjoy it then. We also split a cupcake three ways, but by that time we were all pretty sugared out so it (like everything else truthfully) was not finished.We met up with a friend of Melisser's, Emily who recently moved to Portland. Then Ryan, Melisser's husband, finished up from his "nerd convention" and we went off to lunch together. The group was kind enough to forgive me for not sleeping the night before. I was an exhausted mess so I'm stoked everyone was understanding of it! We ate lunch at The Hungry Tiger Too, and I thought it was pretty great. My nachos were my favorite, though the cashew cheese did make the chips soggy. Ian got amazing Mac & Cheese, I think they used cashew cheese as the base for this as well and it did not disappoint. Emily & Ryan both got sandwiches they seemed to like. Melisser got Black Bean Soup & Polenta Fries. The fries weren't exactly what we expected... they would be great drunk food, oily and dipped in garlic "mayo" (vegan mayo with minced garlic... who knew it would be so tasty?).

I'd definitely eat there again-- even though the service left much to be desired. The prices were good, down right cheap... and everyone seemed happy with their meals.

I had a great time exploring the city with Melisser, it was nice to meet her in person since we've been lurking each others blogs for awhile now. I finally got some sleep before my bake Saturday night and was able to turn out some down right delicious treats!

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Puffs with vanilla glaze

Vegan Apple Cherry Bran Muffins

Vegan Strawberry "Buttermilk" Coffee Cake

And my whole bakery case in all of it's glory:Melisser & I were talking about the best way to make rainbow cupcakes, so I decided to test out two ways. The first way I stacked blueberry and lemon batter one of top of the other. This was the way I was most weary of... afraid the different densities of the batter would cause them to swirl... I was right, haha.
Good, but not good enough.

The second way was a method I've seen to make these German "tree" cakes somewhere or another. You spoon batter into the mold and stick it in the oven for a few minutes until it begins to bake on the top, then spoon the second batter on top and follow the steps until finished. This would have worked perfect if Ian hadn't called me to meet him for lunch, damn that husband of mine for wanting to spend time with me between classes and teaching and working in the lab! So I made these quicker then I should have... and just did two layers but if I had the time, it would have been great, promise!Perfect layers, or close enough.

The inside of the first batch. Not exactly what I wanted, but pretty enough. Check out that blueberry layer! I used Italian Soda Syrup as the flavoring and then a bit of food coloring to get the blue color, instead of the purple the syrup was.

The inside of the second batch. I really feel like if I had made smaller layers they would have stayed more even in the center. The blueberry layer began to rise before I put on the lemon layer, if I had done smaller layers they would have set before rising.

So there it is, my huge food post! Phew. It was a great weekend, now I need to go for a run to try and curtail some of the damage done!


Beka said...

Please be my roommate again! I miss your cooking!

I can't wait to see you again!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

It was awesome meeting up with you! I hope there will be a "next time" in the near future! I can't wait to see what else you do with layered cupcakes!

Serendipitous said...

Whew! What a blog! I hope your layered cupcakes work out. I need to get my toushy out to Oregon so you can dazzle me with your talent.