Tag Archives: vegan

Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone

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In most parts of the country, autumn is a transitional season where summer slowly transitions into winter. Leaves turn colors, fields are harvested and turned for the next season, and our sleeves get longer.

Here in Central New York, autumn lasts about three weeks. September gets progressively colder, so much so that you think it is October already. By the time Halloween hits, parents debate whether snowsuits are necessary underneath the costume for trick or treating. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone

Meatless Monday: Kale and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

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The best reason I can come up with for why I don’t use more black-eyed peas is that I never really ate them while growing up. We all branch out and try new things, but when it comes to things like beans, I think we just lean on the familiar. Cannellini beans are popular in Italian cooking. Black-eyed peas are popular in Southern cooking styles and dishes like Hoppin’ John. So, maybe it’s not so unusual.

Anyhow, black-eyed peas are high in calcium, folates, protein, dietary fiber and vitamin A. When paired with kale, high in vitamin A, C, K and calcium, you can get a lot of nutrients out of a meal.

The original recipe included sausage, but it was easy to eliminate it for Meatless Monday purposes.

Continue reading Meatless Monday: Kale and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Meatless Monday: Emmer Fettuccine With Beans

Farro is a great grain, loaded with fiber and nutrients. Here at Al Dente HQ, we are big fans of emmer —  a type of farro which can be grown in fields outside of the Mediterranean and Middle East.

In the case of this pasta, the field is in Tompkins County. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Emmer Fettuccine With Beans

LoFo, Syracuse, N.Y.

The only photo I could take before being sneered at by the snarly counter staff person.
The photo I took before being sneered at by the snarly counter staffer.

NOTE: I am expecting people to read the following entry and tell me that I am wrong, uninformed, missing the point, and/or a terrible human being who should spend his time eating at Applebee’s. I have braced for impact.

I know nothing about how to run a restaurant. As someone who is particular about where he eats, though, there are certain things which separate good from the rest. The men from the boys. The lion from the rest of the jungle.

A restaurant should aim for a particular demographic. A great restaurant aims for their demographic, but welcomes everyone else without pretense.

A restaurant should have a basic theme or a hook that makes them unique. A great restaurant not only has a theme, but they also have personality and energy.

A restaurant should have a menu. A great restaurant offers you an experience.

So, what am I getting at? I went to LoFo. I ate at LoFo. Alas, I didn’t like LoFo.

The audible gasps among 21-35 year old women and men with beards is expected. That’s fine. Let me continue…

Its demographic seems pretty straightforward. LoFo aims right at the heart of the locavore movement. Heidelberg Baking Company and Harrison Bakery breads. Recess Coffee. Locally sourced foods prepared fresh. Very respectable. The menu shows a strong balance between vegan, vegetarian and carnivore. It also features a number of raw and gluten-free foods. Traffic in and out of the restaurant on Friday when I visited was decidedly female, between the ages of 25 and 40. There were some bearded and tattooed men that came in from the neighboring art spaces, but the professional women who work in Armory Square make this place tick. Again, this is all respectable and our market needs restaurants like these.

Ordering was done at the counter with a paper menu placed in front of me by a rather disengaged staff member. She was not much for conversation, giving off the vibe that she could not be bothered to respond to my questions as if I should already know the answers. With two people at tables already eating and only me in line, I thought her impatience at my reading of the menu was a little much.

The lunchtime menu is pretty basic: four sandwiches, two soups and a handful of salads, plus the daily specials. An extensive list of vegetable juices and almond milk smoothies highlight a drink menu that includes looseleaf teas and small batch sodas. A breakfast menu includes eggs, pancakes, and sides to satisfy carnivores and herbivores alike. After ordering, paying and being prompted to tip by the iPad screen used as a cash register, I grabbed a table and began scrolling through Twitter to pass the time. I popped my iPhone’s camera app open to take the above photo of the interior and got an “If you do that again, you will be asked to leave” look from the snarly counter staffer. Her icy glare continued until she was sure I was reading something on my iPhone and no longer using it to take a photo.

The chicken and brie sandwich was, on the outset, what I would consider to be a perfect lunch-sized sandwich. Not too small, but not too big. Shredded chicken, pear slices and a creamy brie were served between two thick slices of Heidelberg Baking Company cracked wheat bread and grilled. The sandwich had a good flavor, thanks to the pear, but was mostly bread. A side salad of mixed greens with a mystery dressing (I asked the snarly counter staffer who told me that she would find out and tell me. She didn’t. I’m guessing miso and ginger.) filled the plate, but didn’t make up for the rather paltry portion of chicken. It made me wonder what the $9.50 was paying for.

The chorus will say that I shouldn’t look at the price tag. They will say that I am supporting a local business that is supporting local businesses and, sometimes, that costs more. Trust me. I get it.

The Honey Bear smoothie proved to be the highlight of the meal. Served in a pint-sized beer glass, the smoothie was a balanced blend of peanut butter, almond milk, banana, honey and cinnamon. It had bite. It had sweetness. It was creamy. It was $6. It was the best thing placed in front of me.

A steady trickle of customers made their way into LoFo during the 30 or so minutes I was there. It was fun to watch the snarly counter staffer interact with the loyal regulars and treat the first-timers like, well, like she had treated me.

As far as concepts go, LoFo is good. It could probably be strong. It joins local mainstays like Alto Cinco, Empire Brewing Company, Dinosaur Barbque, and Riley’s (among others) in promoting the idea of eating where you live. It has a loyal base of supporters and good for them. But, to me, it seems like it’s trying too hard. It wants to be the cool, different kid in the Armory Square mix of bar-restaurants and fine dining, but it doesn’t know how. It wants to be Open Face or the Beer Belly Deli but it’s still developing its niche. It wants to be in Syracuse, but it needs Syracuse to think more like Ithaca. It wants to branch out and spread its message, but it treats new customers like locavore luddites that take up space better suited to its wheatgrass slurping twentysomethings.

“It is cool and different,” they’ll say. “You just don’t get it. It’s not for you.”

And that might be the problem.

Maybe LoFo isn’t for me and my ilk. Maybe it’s just for the people in their loyal fanbase who “get it.” And that might be why the crowd was cozy and small at LoFo, while the lines at other establishments in Armory Square were out their respective front doors.

Maybe I am too old for LoFo. Maybe I’m just a cranky, curmudgeonly jerk. Maybe this was a snapshot of an off day at LoFo.

Maybe I wanted a relaxed lunch and, instead, got a wheelbarrow of attitude.

Maybe I’ll learn from my mistakes and go to one of my regular haunts next time.

LoFo is located at 214 Walton St. in Syracuse’s Armory Square district near Onondaga Creek. It is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch. Lunch for one was $16.51. 

Eat The Freezer/Meatless Monday: Kale and white bean stew

NOTE: Remember when The Cosby Show or The Golden Girls would run a clip show? Welcome to my version of a clip show. Eat The Freezer is where we work through the frozen leftovers in my basement freezer.

NOTE II: The quart in the freezer was a little low on liquid, so I added a can of vegetable broth to bulk it up.

This is getting annoying.

For the second straight meal, I’ve made a stew that didn’t thicken. (Side note: I know, for all of the things I could complain about and things that could be wrong, I’m complaining about a stew that will not thicken.) Saturday’s chicken and biscuits came out soupy, as did tonight’s.

Now, I didn’t mind that this came out more like greens and beans and less like a bean stew. I guess I was just a little disappointed, again, in Bon Appetit for tossing out another recipe that came up just a little short.

WHAT WORKED: The ingredients themselves made for a nice combination and a hearty soup.

WHAT DIDN’T: It needed salt. Desperately.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “It’s missing something. I’m not sure what it is, but it needs something.” SALT! It’s missing salt, woman!

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: It certainly will, thanks to the leftover quart in my freezer. Continue reading Eat The Freezer/Meatless Monday: Kale and white bean stew

Thursday dinner: Hearty White Bean and Spinach Soup with Rosemary and Garlic

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The genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt went vegan this month. If you are not a regular reader of Serious Eats and his Food Lab columns, you’re missing out. He breaks down the science of cooking in an unpretentious manner, showing all the curiosity of the kid on your street who would take apart machines to see how they worked. One of his finest works is a complete deconstruction of an In-N-Out Burger Double-Double Animal-Style.

Regular readers of this blog know that soup is a staple of our diet here at Al Dente HQ and bean soups make more appearances than others, hence this appearance on the blog. The recipe was pretty basic. He used a homemade vegetable stock and I opted for store-bought, otherwise I followed his plan to the letter. It was tough to resist the urge to render a couple of ounces of pancetta for flavor and fat, as I wanted to hold as close to the original as possible. Continue reading Thursday dinner: Hearty White Bean and Spinach Soup with Rosemary and Garlic

Meatless Monday: Barley stew with leeks, mushrooms and greens

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Judge my people on our entire history, not just the last 100 years.

After all, The Italians have not done well. I mean, they went all-in on Hitler. There’s a good chance that Prime Minister Bunga Bunga is going to run again. It hosts The Vatican and all of its wonderful contributions to society over the past century. And, its most unforgivable offense, inspiring The Olive Garden. You must look to the fact that my people brought you The Renaissance, opera (listen to Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma and tell me that isn’t just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard), Sophia Petrillo, salami and pancetta. It also brought us barley.

Okay, so The Italians did not quite invent barley, but (like pasta) they perfected it. One of the original ancient grains, barley dates back to the Stone Age. Like farro, barley is a hulled grain that is packed with an enormous amount of nutrients. In American cuisine, it’s most often found in soups or the odd salad. And, like farro, we should probably eat more of it. It’s filling, healthy and takes on the flavor of everything around it. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Barley stew with leeks, mushrooms and greens

Meatless Monday: Barley stew with leeks, mushrooms and greens

What I know about barley can be summed up in a soup bowl, usually with a thick beef broth and some hunks of top round. What I did not know is that it is a grass native to Egypt and, according to the Purdue University School of Agriculture, it is the fourth-most important grain grown in the United States.

It is also one of the cheapest grains you can buy; a 16-ounce bag of Goya-brand pearled barley is $1.19 at Wegmans. The cup I used for this recipe came from a bag I bought last winter and keep in an airtight container. I probably should throw it out, but there’s still about a third of a bag left and I would hate to waste it.

Continue reading Meatless Monday: Barley stew with leeks, mushrooms and greens