Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Restaurant Review: 6 Main, Chester, CT

I've been meaning to take a drive all summer to the quiet little hamlet of Chester, CT so I could sample the town's newest culinary addition, 6 Main, a vegetarian restaurant housed in a former bank. This sounds like an unlikely combination, but once inside you forget the room's history and instead focus on the food.

From the outside, the exterior with its "Savings Bank" title written into the yellow brick could leave one wondering if dinner would be served upon entering, but the bright red patio umbrellas and the renovated interior with its soothing blue hues and warm wood floors were reassuring.

The one page menu included simple dining options such as soup, salad, panini, pasta, and a couple of raw items, making ordering relatively easy.  Several of the items featured local eggs and dairy from the owner's farm.  Since I wanted to eat vegan and gluten-free, I chose a raw entree and dessert.

The entree featured a southwest raw wrap made from a collard leaf filled with sunflower seed pate, pepitas "chorizo," guacamole, cabbage and jicama slaw, and salsa.  The wrap was served with a side of some dehydrated flax seed crackers.  Overall, this dish was tasty, but at $15 I was left feeling like I wished there was more to it:  either more garnish, prettier presentation, filling... or all of the above.

For dessert I had the raw key lime pie which was garnished with brandy soaked strawberry sauce.  The first bite packed a powerful sweet-sour punch that took me by surprise considering the very mildly flavored entree.  I eagerly dug into each rich and creamy forkful, savoring the contrasting flavors and textures.  I'd highly recommend ending a meal with this treat.

The location is perfect, set along a babbling stream with windows overlooking the strollers and window shoppers on Main Street.  It's a nice way to spend a leisurely summer afternoon.

Chef Rachel indicated a cooking class series would be starting in September, so this is sure to be a fun gathering spot once the weather gets cooler.  I'll be looking forward to seeing what new seasonal items will be added to the menu.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This week's menu

The Well on Wheels garden is overflowing with stringbeans, so I was happy to get a request from one of my clients for stringbean amandine as the side for one of this week's meals.  Also on the menu are seasonal red bliss potatoes, zucchini, and fresh basil.

Adobe Black Beans, Dirty Rice, and Chili Spiced Zucchini

Fusili and Zucchini with Bechamel Sauce, Basil Chiffonade, and Toasted Pine Nuts

Southern Style Cornmeal Crusted Tofu, 
Herbed Red Bliss Potatoes, and Stringbeans Amandine 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lunch at Sahara

One of the great things about being a vegan living in a city is that you can almost always find something to eat.  And since my life inevitably revolves around food, this is an important consideration for me whenever I set out into the world.  (and just to be safe, packing a Larabar or a bag full of trail mix is an essential "emergency kit" whenever I travel)

So after taking my mom on a whirlwind tour of New Haven the other day, we were both famished and in search of a late afternoon lunch.  It was 2:30, a time when most restaurants close in order to prep for the dinner crowd, so it was tough finding any open doors.  My first choice was La Libela which has a fabulous all you can eat lunch buffet with plenty of vegan items and lots of spongy injera, but we missed it by 30 minutes.  Feeling somewhat let down though not completely defeated, we turned our sights just two doors down to Sahara Mediterranean, a little oasis specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine that also serves pizza.

It turned out to be the perfect choice.  I ordered their vegetable soup to start.  I've had it here before, and it's loaded with huge chunks of veggies with a broth that has a bright, lemony note.  That's what I had been looking forward to, but on this occasion there was more spice than citrusy tang.

We shared a couple of entrees:  Dolmas, plump grape leaves stuffed with a tight mixture of rice, onion, garlic, and mint, and the Middle Eastern Specialty Combo with falafel, hummus, and babaganoush.  Both came with a small garden salad and warm pita.

This was a perfectly refreshing pick-me-up after a long day in and around the city. We both left feeling satisfied, but not stuffed, with the garlicky flavors lingering in a comforting sort of way.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Life at the farm

I've been waiting all summer for a break in my schedule (and a break in the heat... but that's another story) to take a road trip up to Woodstock, NY to visit Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.  That little wedge of time finally arrived this weekend, so I decided to hop in my car and make the drive.

Woodstock FAS is a safe haven for cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, and goats who have been rescued from factory farms and cases of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.  The non-profit sanctuary is located at the foot of the beautiful Catskill Mountain range just outside of the peace-centered art community of Woodstock, NY.

When you visit the farm you can take a guided tour of the property, meet the resident farm animals, and hear their stories.  Some are even curious and friendly enough to come right up to you to say "hello."

There's something about meeting these animals face to face that really puts our industrialized food chain into perspective.  These are the lucky few who made it out.  They are the ghosts in the machine, the ambassadors for the millions of others who will live out their brief lives in horrendous conditions, never knowing love or companionship.

When you see these animals in person, you realize they are each "someone," not "something." They have lives that are meaningful to them.  They enjoy fresh air, clean water, healthy food, and most of all, freedom, just like we do.

I hope these photos inspire you to take a visit this summer.  Or share a feast with the turkeys for the annual Thanksliving compassionate Thanksgiving gathering in the fall.  It's a celebration not to be missed.

Take a peek inside the farm here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chai Chia Pudding

This summer I've been making a lot of no cook meals to avoid heating up the kitchen:  smoothies, salads, half a watermelon.... and chia pudding.  Last night I felt like spicing up my usual concoction with a little cinnamon, and when I gave it a taste, my brain immediately signaled:  chai tea!  This simple dessert is like a pudding mixed with an after dinner toddy.  It's smooth, creamy, and comforting, and I'm already looking forward to eating more of it once the weather transitions to frosty nights and cozy blankets.

Start by measuring out 2 Tbl of chia seeds into a bowl.

Then take your Vita-Mix or other high speed blender and puree 4 figs, 4 medjool dates, and a handful of almonds with about a cup of water, adding more water as necessary to make a smooth, thick cream.  Add 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, 1/8 tsp powdered ginger, 1 Tbl coconut oil, and a pinch of sea salt, and blend for a few seconds.  If you like it sweet, you can add a couple of tablespoons of agave syrup, too.

Pour this mixture into your bowl and stir together with the chia seeds.  Refrigerate for about an hour, or until the chia seeds plump up and get gelatinous.  They kind of clump together at first, but just give them a few stirs to distribute the seeds until you have a creamy, tapioca-like pudding.

Perfect for a summer evening of porch sitting!