Ms. Tomato's prediction for food trends in 2009 clearly includes more
tiny cafe's with sexy lighting and meatless menus.
Also, we haven't
seen the full spectrum of Canadian food out there, and it does exist.
Enough pork already, bring on the moose with maple
syrup glaze, and fries with
gravy! Mutton? Haven't heard much about that recently. Boiled dinner. Poutine gets fancier. Cinnamon-scented Quebec meat pie. Apple pie
with cheese. Fiddleheads.
Affordable prices and more BYOB's. More
rye cocktails, homemade ginger ale, root beer, soft drinks, and shirley temples. We finally
discover Chinotto, the addictive Italian soda.
Maraschino cherries and
spumoni ice cream. Marshmallow sundaes and more desserts with salty
elements. Brazil nuts. Homemade pickles. Candied fruit and herbs with alternative sugars (beet, agave). Malt flavor. Non-grape wines. Vegan everything.
We also pay more attention to the Museum of Food Anomalies, who bring us the cherry duck at left as well as photos of other frightening foods.
On the heels of a couple of years there of endless schweinfleisch talk, vedge restaurants are proliferating in the high-rent districts of both LA and New York. In the West, Echo Park and Silverlake have several bustling vegetarian restaurants with real atmosphere and lines out the door. And in Brooklyn, down the block from Ms. Tomato's home base, a very warm and comely Asian Vegan has just opened.
Vegan cooking takes it all a step further, forgoing all animal products completely-- no eggs, no dairy. Until recently vegan dining has been something some of us held our
nose while doing. Has anyone yet done for vegan cooking what Alice
Waters did for micro greens or Mario Batali for beef cheeks? It may be the one genre
that hasn’t been recipe’d to death, written about ad nauseum, and
exalted to celebrity status. And it's ripe for it.
Cheese or not, the new vedge eateries come armed with an element that puts them on the road toward food porn: sexy lighting.
On the stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs from Hillsdale to the center of the downtown L.A. business district, there are regular meatless food-stops: Cru, Flore, Vegan House, among others. The most adorable and atmospheric, is probably Elf, a tiny wooden, mirrored bistro owned
and operated by a group of musicians.
There is no sign on the door (see gated entry in top photo). Mediterranean and Lebanese flavors dominate the menu, and there is cheese about, but many dishes are egg and dairyfree: spicy tagine, lemon rosemary potato or kale salad with hemp seeds, stuffed portobello mushroom, for instance. Best of all, you can bring your
own wine and there is no corkage fee. They don't take reservations and, with only about 20 seats, the place is always packed. The mood is romantic, the food is delightful, and it's worth the wait.
ELF CAFÉ 2135 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026 213. 484.6829
On Brooklyn's Smith Street, which is looking very much like Manhattan's West Village, a Pan-Asian Vegan Café has opened. This place is the third in a chain, with roots in .... the West Village. Wild Ginger is comfortable, warmly lit, with booths designed to accommodate 4-8 people, unusual in a city where rubbing elbows with fellow diners is a given. No booze here, but homemade drinks include a virgin mojito and mango lassi. Get adult beverages afterward in the dozens of cozy bars along the street.
The menu is an imaginative spin on the Asian standby: battered oyster mushrooms, spinach shumai, tofu hot and sour soup, General Tsao's soy protein. We think it's kind of delicious. Not quite as intimate as Elf, but a good first date for vedgeheads and openminded eaters alike--cozy without being overly suggestive.
WILD GINGER PAN-ASIAN VEGAN CAFÉ 112 Smith Street (between Dean and Pacific) Brooklyn, NY 11201 718.858.3880
"We each must become like fishermen, and go out onto the dark ocean of
mind, and let your nets down into that sea. And what you're after is not some behemoth that will tear through your
nets, foul them, and drag you and your little boat into the abyss. Nor are
what we looking for a bunch of sardines, that can slip through your net
and disappear, ideas like 'have you ever noticed that your little finger
exactly fits your nostril' and stuff like that.
"What we are looking for are middle-sized ideas that are not so small that
they are trivial, and not so large that they are incomprehensible, but
middle-sized ideas that we can wrestle into our boat and take back to the
folks on shore, and have fish dinner."
--Terence McKenna, American psychonaut, writer, philosopher, botanist, 1946-2000
In his Op-Ed today, New York Times writer Nicolas Kristof calls for agricultural reform in America, and suggests that President-elect Obama name a bold
reformer as Secretary of Food. Kristof grew up on a farm and has an insider view of the difficulties facing small family-operated farms, within the current system. Kristof writes:
"Renaming the department would signal that Mr. Obama seeks to move away from a bankrupt structure of factory farming that squanders energy, exacerbates climate change and makes Americans unhealthy — all while costing taxpayers billions of dollars." Read here.
Kate Coleman, in the San Francisco Chronicle, reports that Alice Waters and other food luminaries have written a letter to Mr. Obama offering their services as volunteer kitchen consultants. In the letter to the future President, Ms. Waters wrote: "At this moment you have a unique opportunity to set the tone for the changes we need to make in the way our country feeds itself. The purity and wholesomeness of your campaign can find a parallel in the purity and wholesomeness of the food at America's most visible and symbolic address: the White House." Read here.
The creator of The Clangers has passed away at age 83.
Oliver Postgate made the British children's show, produced by SmallFilms, a company he founded with Peter Firmin.
The Clangers are small, knitted, mouse-like creatures that eke out a
living on a bleak planet. Their roof is a pot lid and they eat soup and blue string pudding, which grows on spaghetti trees. The Soup Dragon lives nearby and presides over volcanic soup wells where she produces what look to be purées, in a variety of colors. Her laboratory has a temperature of 67 degrees, celsius.
Thank You, Mr. Postgate, for your contribution to youthful food lore and general weird adorableness.
"Tea! Thou soft, thou sober, sage, and venerable liquid, thou innocent pretence for bringing the wicked of both sexes together in a morning; thou female tongue-running, smile-smoothing, heart-opening, wink-tipping cordial, to whose glorious insipidity I owe the happiest moment of my life, let me fall prostrate thus, and...adore thee."
--the character Lord George, in The Lady's Last Stake, written by British playwright Colley Cibber (1671-1757)