Archive for the 'vegan' Category


A trip to the Asian grocery store reveals a deficit of delicious desserts

Here’s why you usually don’t see anything beyond mango sticky rice,* green tea ice cream, and fried bananas on the dessert menu of your favorite Asian restaurant. Desserts are not our forte.

What follows are exhibits A, B, and C of the freezer case at Great Wall, an Asian grocery store in Falls Church, VA. A few observations below on what’s wrong with Asian desserts.

Taro root popsicles at the Asian grocery store.

(1) Fruit is not a dessert. Most Asians eat fruit for dessert. Which is a lot healthier, of course, but a few oranges wedges aren’t going to satisfy any craving for a cookie.

(2) Some Asian desserts are so bad, they border on the offensive. Mochi doesn’t taste like anything and it’s a digestion/choking hazard. No, I don’t want fibrous taro root in my cake. Please keep your durian out of my ice cream. There’s a reason some Asian countries ban that fruit from being taken on public transportation (it’s that pungent).

Durian frozen desserts at the Asian grocery store.

(3) Care for a side of the toots with your sweets? Because many Asian desserts (mochi, red bean buns, moon cakes, shaved ice) come with beans as a topping or filling. Confusing and not delicious, right?

Beans do not belong in desserts.

*One of the lone beacons of light among Asian desserts is mango sticky rice (thank you, Thailand), which done properly can be divine. As can anything made with coconut milk. As long as it doesn’t also have taro root, beans, and/or durian in it.


Why this chocolate mocha mousse cake went to waste

A few weeks back, Ms. Pie and I headed to Elizabeth’s Gone Raw for an all-raw, vegan meal. It’s a set menu every Friday, varying weekly. We started with spicy kale chips and watermelon gazpacho, followed by a mushroom salad. All delicious and light enough. Then out came the faux olive cannelloni, the size of 2 small eggrolls. I had a fleeting thought that they would never fill us up.

But somewhere between the cannelloni and this nice chocolate mousse cake, the food seemed to expand in our stomachs. Literally. My guess is that the dehydrated kale, and the cannelloni wrapper (made of dehydrated coconut) grew like sponges in our systems. By the time dessert rolled around, it felt like I had a 5-pound food baby pressing down on my bladder.

As we waited for dessert, I found it curious that most of the diners weren’t finishing their cakes. Especially since this was the cake that The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema called a showstopper: “Chocolate mocha mousse cake is a fetching little tower crafted from cacao, dates, coconut and more, ringed with a creamy-tasting sauce of espresso – decaf and cold-press, naturally.”

Just a few bites into the rich concoction, we could venture no further. Pity, because it was really delicious. The only thing that could’ve been better was the gratuitously thick layer of cocoa powder up top. Between me choking and Ms. Pie’s throat burning, we felt like we’d been maced.

Like the other diners, we were too full to finish the dense, chocolatey dessert. So we doggie-bagged our leftovers. Big mistake. The mousse was rendered into a sad puddle by the time I got home.


Cow, we won’t need your services today (vegan cake from Elizabeth’s Gone Raw)

Mr. X-sXe and I tried Elizabeth’s Gone Raw a few weekends ago, an all-raw, vegan restaurant in a townhouse near McPherson Square. Never having been to an all-raw place before, I wasn’t expecting an amazing taste experience. But wow. From spicy kale chips to truffled mushrooms to a creative interpretation of cannelloni, we walked away thinking we could eat like that every day (if we had a raw personal chef). Especially since I’m a lactose-intolerant Asian who could evacuate a small auditorium after consuming dairy.

What’s also cool about this place is they list every ingredient that goes into their dishes. Imagine if other places did that—it’d probably make you hesitate when you saw how much butter, cream, and sugar is sneaked into restaurant fare.

So here’s the dessert that capped off the meal, a cacao layered cake with goji berries and chocolate mousse. Ingredients, for those wondering: almond milk, agave, maple syrup, vanilla extract, coconut oil, almonds, maca and cacao powder, goji berries, cashew flour.

The cake was divinely rich, with layers of chocolate mousse, nuts, and hints of coconut mingling at the party in your mouth. My only gripe is that the sauce was too earthy to do it justice. The chocolatey-ness screamed for a tarter accompaniment. Regardless, we scraped our plates clean.

PS: Live Green DC card holders can eat at Elizabeth’s for half-price every 3 months. So it’s 2 for $75, as opposed to $75 each, for 5 courses. Given the tasty food, good service, and unique townhouse setting, it’s not a bad deal.


Who makes the best cupcake in DC?

There’s nothing like a massive cupcake taste-off to help you visualize yourself in that projectile puking scene from Stand By Me–with cake vomit standing in for pie vomit, in this case.

This shot was taken before disgusting amounts of cupcake consumption commenced. Photos by Ms. Pie.

Last weekend, Ms. Pie, Mr. x-sXe, Greenie, Token Vegan and I set out to determine who makes the best cupcake in DC. According to The Washington Post cupcake wars from 2008, the winner was the chocolate ganache from Georgetown Cupcake. Since then, quite a few more cupcakeries have cropped up around town, so it was time for a re-match.

The red velvet contenders, clockwise from 5 o'clock: Sticky Fingers, Sprinkles, Georgetown Cupcake, Crumbs.

Aside: If you want to take all the pleasure, joy, and fun out of cupcaking, try tasting 30+ cupcakes between 4.5 people (the .5 being Token Vegan) over the course of 3 hours. While OD’ing on cupcakes like this may put most people off cupcakes for the foreseeable future, I was hitting the freezer for leftovers within 24 hours. Appalling but true.

Appearance-wise, Red Velvet Cupcakery's cupcakes are the woman grocery shopping in sweatpants.

The Methodology: We pitted 7 DC bakeries/cupcake shops against one another. Asterisks indicate national chains.

1) Sprinkles*

2) Georgetown Cupcake

3) Baked & Wired

4) Red Velvet Cupcakery (not to be confused with red velvet cupcakes)

5) Hello Cupcake

6) Crumbs*

7) Sticky Fingers (vegan cupcakes)

We taste-tested 3 mainstay flavors side-by-side: red velvet, chocolate-on-chocolate, and vanilla-on-vanilla. Hello Cupcake doesn’t do a red velvet, and Baked & Wired was out of that flavor the day we went, sadly.

The chocolate contenders, clockwise from 6 o'clock: Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcakery, Sticky Fingers, Georgetown Cupcake, Baked & Wired (in parchment), Crumbs.

We also tasted 3 wildcard flavors:

1) Vegan peanut butter blossom from Hello Cupcakes

2) Menage a Trois from Baked & Wired (chocolate cupcake with raspberry filling, cream cheese icing, and cringeworthy name)

3) Chocolate marshmallow from Sprinkles

The wildcard flavors, clockwise from 7 o'clock: Sprinkles chocolate marshmallow, Baked & Wired Menage a Trois, Hello Cupcake Vegan Peanut Butter Blossom

Cupcakes were scored on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the best) based on:

  • Appearance
  • Frosting
  • Cake
  • Taste
  • Overall

Let the chest-beating begin: The winners

Red Velvet: Sprinkles. Score: 7.75. The cream cheese icing was exactly the way you’d want it to taste–the tangyness comes through, perfectly paired with a fluffy, moist cake. Crumbs took second place with 6.25.

Chocolate-on-chocolate: Baked & Wired. Score: 7.25. The chocolate icing is a creamy consistency (did I detect a hint of coffee in there?) atop a dense cake with a hefty crumb. Sprinkles wasn’t far behind, with a score of 7. Note that we tested the dark chocolate from Sprinkles, which some taste-testers found “too rich.” And while Ms. Pie noted that “Hello Cupcake’s chocolate cupcake is like the Platonic ideal of what a cupcake should be,” they tied for third with Crumbs at 5.25.

Vanilla-on-vanilla: Baked & Wired. Score: 7.25. Crumbs was second, with 6.25. Overall we were most underwhelmed by the vanillas. Maybe that’s why the word vanilla is used as an insult? But we also tasted them last, giving them an unfair disadvantage, since we were ready to swear off cupcakes by then.

Wildcard: Baked & Wired, Menage a Trois. Score: 7.25. A thimbleful of raspberry filling complements the chocolate cake and icing nicely. Hello Cupcake was neck-and-neck with a score of 7.2. Actually their peanut butter blossom was a sleeper hit–much tastier than any of us anticipated. And by “tasty,” we don’t mean “tasty for a vegan cupcake.”

The aftermath. By this point we were feeling very, very ill.

In conclusion: the best overall cupcake in DC is the red velvet from Sprinkles, but the best bakery overall is Baked & Wired. They also offer the best value, with cupcakes weighing in at 5.7 oz. ($3.50)–or as Ms. Pie puts it, “the Quarter Pounder of cupcakes.” To put that into perspective, a Georgetown cupcake ($2.75) weighs around 2 oz.

Sticky Fingers, a recent Cupcake Wars winner, was disappointing considering their big victory, although Ms. Pie is rallying for them to bring back their flower cupcakes.  Their scores were consistently at the bottom along with Red Velvet Cupcakery (“frosting like a stick of butter”).


Trader Joe’s mango sticky rice

I exercised unusual restraint yesterday by only getting one box of this new Trader Joe’s dessert, figuring that I should at least try it before making a bigger commitment.

Well, I regretted just buying one box, because they were sold out when I went back this morning. Apparently Mr. X-sXe and I weren’t the only ones who loved the Trader Joe’s version of this Thai dessert. We were both impressed with the balance of sweet coconut milk, fresh mango, salty-sweet sticky rice, and fried mung beans (packaged separately to stay crispy). At $3.29 for two servings, you’re paying less than what you’d pay at a restaurant for one serving. It’s made in Thailand, and actually better than what I’ve had at some Thai restaurants in DC (with the exception of Kanlaya’s version, which is unrivalled–they always get their sweet/tart mangoes perfectly buttery-ripe. It makes our Best of DC list:

I was also amused by the packaging, which reads:

“A bed of rice + half a perfectly ripe, sweet mango = intrigue. Intrigue + coconut milk = desire. Desire + crunchy mung bean = pure delight.”

Also, it’s pretty cool when the actual product looks just as good in real life as the photo on the package! BTW, this is vegan-friendly. The ingredients are mango, sticky rice, water, coconut milk, mung beans, and palm oil.


A vegan chocolate mousse recipe endorsed by two meat eaters

When I saw that this only had three ingredients and super-easy directions, I decided to try it. Lo and behold, a rich and creamy vegan dessert that doesn’t make you think, “this is good…for a vegan dessert.” It’s good, period. Plus you don’t need to add sugar, because the sugar in the chocolate is enough.

Here’s the recipe, from The Trader Joe’s Companion: A Portable Cookbook.


1 can of light coconut milk

7 oz dark chocolate, 70%+ cocao content recommended (I used half a bag of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips). Adjust amount of chocolate for a thicker consistency. I’ve used up to 8 oz for this recipe.

2 tablespoons dark rum (spiced rum, if you have it)

My adaptations: zest from 1 navel orange & 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


Blend the coconut milk, rum, zest and vanilla extract together. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each 30-second blast. Do not overmelt, or the chocolate will separate. When the chocolate is melted, quickly blend into coconut mixture while it’s still hot. Pour into 5 ramekins. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.


DIY healthy vegan muffins

DailyCandy featured this line today, Purely Elizabeth, whose muffin and pancake mixes are free of dairy, wheat, gluten and sugar. It’s a line started by a holistic nutrition counselor, available online and in health foods stores.

Incidentally, I was reading this morning about the new Alicia Silverstone lifestyle book that, like Skinny Bitch, encourages a vegan diet. Silverstone insists that you don’t have to give up on flavor by going vegan. Hopefully this muffin mix proves that to be true. Sometimes it seems the bar is so low for vegan treats that my vegan friends end up gushing about any halfway-decent goodie, simply grateful for its existence. So I feel for them.

Meamwhile, don’t mind me while I keep on scarfing down my unhealthy buttery, sugary, egg-based baked goods.



a babycakes feature from the most reviled celeb blog in history


Today’s GOOP newsletter (what, you don’t subscribe? Then how are you nourishing the inner aspect?) from Gwyneth Paltrow features an interview with Erin McKenna, whose Babycakes bakery in NY–and soon LA–is all vegan. I haven’t tried their stuff, but they have a decent reputation. Anyone who’s trying to raise the bar on vegan treats is doing a good thing, because that bar is often too low to even limbo under. Plus, vegans can’t live on sorbet and cupcakes with grainy icing alone.

BTW, I thought it was interesting that McKenna looked at Julia Childs’ cookbooks for inspiration.

P.S.: Gwyneth, it doesn’t help win people over when you refer to your friend Billy Joel as William. Come back down to earth.


lemon-lime cake

vegan lemon-lime cake
purchased at curly’s luncheonette on the very lucky day of August 8, 2008.
the cake was a little dry, and not as packed with citrus zing as i would have liked, but the icing was top notch. buttery, yet vegan. HOW DO THEY DO THAT???


dessert tour: the bay area!

just got back from a week in the bay area, and i had a great dessert time!
here’s how it went down:
day #1, after a delicious vietnamese pho blowout, we stop at a nondescript place called “bud’s” so that people can get milkshakes. i walk in and discover FROYO! it was delicious – this was like tangysweet, for the dc readers, except cheap. this was the child-sized portion. don’t ask me how child-sized gets to be so huge. i couldn’t finish it all myself.
coconut corn cake
day #3, we stop for a late-night snack at au coqolet, a french diner in berkeley. i am intrigued by the corn and coconut cake on the menu. it is very, very thick. it is also not as moist as i would like it to be. i should have learned to just stay with desserts that sound good, not desserts that sound intriguing.
chocolate hazelnut raw cake
day #5, i have the best dessert of the trip – the raw chocolate hazelnut cake at cafe gratitude. yes, a raw organic vegan restaurant managed to kill on the bay area desserts. this cake was a little piece of heaven, and has made me crave creamy, mousse-y cakes ever since it crossed my lips. the dessert is officially called “i am bliss.” there was never a better description for anything i’ve eaten.
luscious chocolate cake at baghdad cafe in the castro
day #7, i had eaten a huge breakfast at rudy’s can’t fail cafe. so i wasn’t that hungry when we stopped into a cafe for some coffee before going to see TRON on the big screen. but boy oh boy, when you have a dessert named “luscious chocolate cake,” i’m going to have to try it. it was pretty luscious, i have to admit.
siphon coffee arrives! it's really strong
and while this picture of coffee isn’t dessert, i feel a need to link to it here because i was woefully delinquent in taking photos of what accompanied it – a fantastic waffle. we went to blue bottle coffeeto try out their siphon coffee made on a japanese machine. it was strong stuff, but the waffle that accompanied it was pitch perfect.

so that was my trip! i did have a few other desserts (great bubble milk tea, a yummy elephant ear) here and there, and a few other desserts that i missed out on (like the veggie treats at millennium), but i was overall pretty impressed. for a land where people are supposedly super healthy, there was certainly no shoddiness with the sweets.