10 February 2011

Working man's Kimch'i / Kimch'i-kraut?

Now, I make a proper Korean, vegan Kimch'i (Korean fermented cabbage). I've made it a few times and it's really good, especially for someone who grew up with it. I'll share the recipe the next time I make it; but for the Super Bowl, I had part of a head of cabbage left over and thought to make sauerkraut. What I ended up with was what I'd like to call, "working man's kimch'i" or mabybe "kimch'i-kraut"?; if you don't have the time to prepare proper kimch'i, this is the recipe for you. It looks nothing like Kimch'i, it's not fermented like Kimch'i, but it'll hold you over until you can get Kimch'i.

3/4 head of cabbage sliced thinly.
1/2 small onion
1/2 c water
3 T Apple Cider vinegar
a pinch of salt
1 to 2 T sugar
1 T Sriracha Hot Sauce
**spices to taste**
Garlic powder
Ground Cumin
Ground Ginger
Dill (weird, I know, but good)

In a medium sized pot, cook the cabbage down a bit, add apple cider vinegar. Mix in the other ingredients gradually and let cook down completely. After about 30 minutes total, remove from heat, let cool and serve.

While I may have a definitive place to put this dish... it's definitely something else you can do with cabbage that doesn't turn out half bad.

Review: 10.02.11 - The Chicago Diner - Ben

Even though this is the second restaurant I've had the chance to review, this is my first blog post. I was invited to Chicago Diner with very high hopes and I must say that it delivered on all fronts.

It would be a good idea to mention now that I'm not vegetarian nor vegan. I generally don't eat meat, but I would not put myself in the same category as a true vegetarian, and I love my cheese and dairy. With this in mind, I'll try to rate things two fold: how the food compares to its meat or dairy-based counterpart and how it compares with other vegan entrees based on my experience. On to the food.

I ordered a Rueben with sweet potato fries, a cup of chamomile citrus tea to drink and a piece of cocoa mousse cake for dessert. Oh, and we started with the mozzarella sticks.

The mozzarella sticks were out of the kitchen before we had ordered our sandwiches. Piping hot, they had excellent flavor, not at all greasy and, I must add, had a wonderful cheese-y ("cheese-y" since it was non-dairy) texture that your average mozzarella stick lacks. As a bar food staple, fried cheese sticks are generally pre-frozen and deep fried to order and therefore are usually bland, greasy, and kind of rubbery on the inside. Until I have a lightly fried home-made fresh mozzarella stick, I will hands down always pick vegan.

Upon first glance at the menu, I noticed that many if not most of the dishes contained more ingredients than their bar-food counterparts, or at least listed more in their descriptions. In seeing this, my impression was that to disguise the taste of seitan or tofu, or perhaps compensate for the lack of meat, extra flavor is added to other parts of the dish. Perhaps that's true, but after tasting the Rueben, it didn't really matter. As a meat eater, and have eaten excellent ruebens in the not-so-distant past, I had no idea that a vegan rueben could be so good. To me, and please if anyone out there who knows more about reubens than I do correct me, it seems that these sandwiches rely on their simplicity. Sometimes this can mean a kind of restaurant cop-out, where it's simplicity justifies a lack of effort on the kitchen's part, but, a truly great reuben contains the best corned beef and swiss around, really good rye bread, excellent sauerkraut and home-made thousand island. With a pickle spear on the side, no less. Compared to its meaty cousin, the Chicago Diner's version soars, and, for the most part, you don't miss the corned-beef. Despite this classic's simplicity, the diner's creativity produced one hell of a sandwich. The seitan was excellent and the dressings around it equally so (never had a reuben with green peppers though...). Had this sandwich contained corned-beef, perhaps the meat would have been crowded out by the complementing flavors bursting at the seams, but this composition worked perfectly. The sweet potato fries were delectable as well.

The cake was quite good and looked beautiful. Compared to other vegan baked goods, it was the best I've had to date. I haven't eaten much vegan cake, however. The frosting tasted a little like flat diet coke, but overall the textures were spot on despite the lack of dairy, and the cake's strong chocolate flavor came through well, but hey, with no dairy, something's got to give.

Overall, I give the Chicago Diner a happy - elated bunny rating. This place is excellent for any kind of eater, I highly recommend it. And, a great beer selection.

Review: 10.02.11 - The Chicago Diner - Joe

Okay, as promised from the very beginning of this blog, the long awaited Chicago Diner review. This will be out of order in regards to reviews with Ben as this is the second one we've done and the first he'll write a review for.

The Chicago Diner

3411 N. Halsted

Chicago IL


Fall/Winter (9/1-4/30):

M-Th 11-10

F 11-10:30

Sa 10-10:30

Su 10-10

Summer (5/1-8/31):

M-Th 11-10:30

F 11-11

Sa 10-11

Su 10-10:30

So this restaurant is Michelin Guide recommended for 2011 and rated highly in the Zagat guide. Aside from that, I think that pretty much every vegetarian from the right to left coast has heard of the Diner. Its reuben is legendary. That having been said, sometimes you need to splurge. As a VEGetariAN you may miss biscuits and gravy, or a sloppy joes, a.k.a comfort food, not very good for the body but amazing for the soul. This is the place; try walking into any other diner and asking for Daiya Cheese sticks.

An entirely vegetarian restaurant and most things are vegan; moreover, they have regular menu changes. Did I also mention they have a fair selection of local beer? Now, I've had their breakfast bowl with a black cherry mimosa, their reuben with fries, etc. (all excellent, by the way). But today I tried the vegan mozzerella sticks, Sloppy Joes with vegan cheese and mashed potatoes and gravy; Ben and I took three cookies and two pieces of cake back home with us. (The desserts were the suggestion of Batter and Beat author / my co-worker.) To begin with, the mozzerella sticks were excellent. I know the Daiya products, I've made vegan stuffed crust pizza with it and it's amazing. The marinara was not as chunky or thick as I like, but delicious nonetheless. The Sloppy Joe was great. Now, this isn't the manwich you grew up with; you know, the sugary crap your mom poured out of the Hunt's can? This was tangy and spicy with a hint of sweetness. The bun was whole wheat and oat-topped and quite fulfilling. The kitchen scrambled my order a bit and I was brought sweet potato fries by accident. I mentioned this to our waitress and she promptly brought me mashed potatoes and gravy as originally ordered.

Now, I hate sweet potato. It's my least favorite thing to eat followed by banana, cilantro and pumpkin; but these fries were great and I wish all sweet potatoes were not sweet like those fries. Their mashed potatoes were pretty good, I normally prefer them with garlic, but these still had the skins in them and they were not bad. I would have put the potatoes through a ricer; it would give a more consistent, creamy texture. The gravy was great (and I'd actually prefer that gravy in my breakfast bowl when I go for brunch, they put it over the biscuit). Finally, the cake, cookies and cream cake (vegan, moist, amazing) was excellent for a vegan cake complete with cookie on top, soy whipped cream icing and a great cake base, not too sweet, and with chocolate chips in the cake itself. A great success. I really enjoyed this visit, more importantly; I enjoyed that Ben liked it so much. When I mentioned the absence of mashed potatoes the waitress, she brought me mashed potatoes right away, service was excellent and food was exceptional.

All that being from the viewpoint of it being a diner. From a whole-food vegan perspective, it's junk food and definitely not how real vegans eat every day, but when you're missing Mac & Cheese, or a "milk"shake, reuben or sloppy joe, this is the place. All vegetarian items with most being vegan.

In all, I give this place a Happy Bunny rating. It's not perfect for vegans, but perfect when you need it to be. It’s a small place, but I’d suggest you go in the summer when the patio is open in the back. Non-vegetarians, you will not be at a loss here. I took my meat-eating parents there and they enjoyed it. I highly suggest it, if at least for one trip.

I ask you to try their Reuben or sloppy Joes when they’re on the menu. For breakfast: the Breakfast bowl is a must. Ben's review to come.

Stay Tuned!

Hello everyone!
Please Stay Tuned
I'll be posting a review of The Chicago Diner tonight and hopefully, I can get Ben's input as well!