livin' vegan in sunny atlanta

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So, this is going to be another one of those posts – you know, the one borne of nearly two weeks of not posting, the one with a thousand photos? Yep. This is the kind of post I mostly write for my own memory – so that in a year or two or ten I can come back and enjoy a nice scratch behind my ears. LiveJournal used to serve this purpose, and boy oh boy does it help remind me what kind of geek/whiny college student/awesome I was to read my own archives. But I’ve been up to some really fun stuff lately, so I hope you’ll enjoy!

The first of November was a Thursday, and ’round here, that means it’s one of Nate’s work-from-home days. I usually try to make a nice brunch or lunch for us when we’re both here. Since I’d just received Kris Carr’s new book Crazy Sexy Kitchen in the mail, I picked the least-involved breakfast recipes: tofu country scramble (pg. 101) and smoky sweet potato hash (pg. 102).

It was weird to use a recipe for a scramble (because I make them all the time out of whatever), but I wanted to stay faithful and see if there was anything new I could learn. Nope. This recipe needed a number of corrections. First, asparagus is out of season – but that’s not Crazy Sexy Kitchen’s fault. I subbed a truly “country” ingredient, local organic collards. Second, why 1 1/2 blocks of tofu in one scramble recipe? What do you expect us to do with that other half a block? Third, a half a tablespoon of turmeric is a LOT of turmeric. Like, a lot a lot. And I put turmeric in my smoothies.

Finally, it reminds me of Isa’s asparagus and sun-dried tomato frittata from 2005’s Vegan with a Vengeance that I already know and love. Components of CSK scramble: olive oil, onion, asparagus, tofu, 1/4 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, nutritional yeast, tamari/soy sauce, salt, turmeric, black pepper, 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves. Components of VWaV frittata: tofu, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, olive oil, onion, asparagus, 1/4 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, garlic, thyme, turmeric, lemon juice, 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves. The preparation is considerably different, as Isa’s gets smooshed and baked, while the CSK is scramble-style. Having had both now, VWaV remains my fave.

I was faithful to the smoky sweet potato hash recipe with the exception of omitting tempeh bacon and I baked it for a lot longer. The recipe says 15-20 minutes will get the small cubes tender, browned, and crispy. It took my pre-heated 375-degree oven 45. Be forewarned.

I think it’s probably useful to follow a scramble recipe the first couple of times you make one, but in general, a scramble is like a sundae – throw on whatcha like! But if you’re just getting started, use Vegan with a Vengeance or Vegan Brunch. They have hash recipes, too. For my friends who are seasoned like a good cast-iron skillet, what are some of your favorite scramble combinations?

M   O    V    I    N    G       O   N!

On Friday my bestie Jessica came down to spend the night and Saturday with me. She treated us to Green Sprout:

where we indulged in all manner of fried vegan “chicken” things, like this:

For breakfast on Saturday, we used The Veggto make french toast with Dough Bakery wheat bread:

I don’t really have words to describe how super dubious I was of the Vegg, but it came through with a fierceness. It tasted just like I remember french toast, only a thousand times better (and with a clean conscience) of course. I used an older package that didn’t have the “PLEASE DO NOT MIX BY HAND!” directive and it came out fine. I also added a tablespoon of vegan cane sugar and some freshly-grated nutmeg per Jessica’s suggestion.

The real miracle of Vegg is that it wasn’t too eggy. I can’t eat the omelet recipe from Isa’s Vegan Brunch because it’s just too dang eggy for me. But this was perfect, with just a hint of that weird egginess from kala namak. Good job, y’all!

We spent the rest of the morning making muffins for her to take back home. Apparently the kiddos are addicted to “Aunt Adrienne’s” muffins:

Organic carrot cake muffins cooling

We exclusively used the first Happy Herbivore cookbook for the Apple Crisp, Spiced Carrot, and Blueberry Oatmeal muffins. In each I cut the sugar called for by half and used just a little bit of oil with all of the applesauce. They came out great! I am usually pleased with what I make from Happy Herbivore. I just have to add more herbs & spices.

After baking, a bit of lunch and grocery shopping – but not before getting Nate to take a picture of us with Perl:

Sunday was a very busy day. From church I grabbed a few last minute things for Elizabeth’s baby shower and then headed over to our mutual friend Christin’s house, where it was hosted. I was pretty tired because I’d stayed up late the night before baking cupcakes and making three decadent party dips:

The recipes for spinach artichoke dip (pd. 50), caramelized onion dip (pg. 49), and sun-dried tomato dip (pg. 37) came from Alicia Simpson’s book Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations. As usual, folks seemed very pleased by the creamy richness and clean mouthfeel of these recipes. I added more garlic and onion powder to the onion & sun-dried tomato dips but otherwise made few changes. These were definitely fun/treat foods, not to be enjoyed with any kind of regularity, but perfect for gatherings with non-vegans. Honestly, it didn’t feel right bringing homemade hummus and calling it a day. Elizabeth means a lot to me and it was an opportunity to show a roomful of non-vegans that we don’t subsist on sticks or have self-denial complexes.

Oh, did I mention it was the first time I made spinach artichoke dip? And the first time I’d ever eaten it (vegan or otherwise)?! Thanks for showing me the way, Alicia.

With Elizabeth

My favorite part of the shower was making little ornaments for a tree in the baby’s new room. I made the Cthulhu & the two tortoiseshell cats, which read “I love you!” or something to that effect on the back. Gotta start the tortie indoctrination early.

I also made this one.

Last week was a blur, mostly consisting of getting ready for Atlanta’s first Veg Fest on Saturday November 10! I was responsible for the (physical/paper) program (event brochure), which I’d already finished, but there were a lot of little things that had to happen. One of my last minute tasks was shopping for all the program-related food and building two of the raffle gift baskets:

The “Holiday Baking” basket, with lots of fair-trade goodies

The “Vegan Eats World“-inspired basket, with kuro-goma, umeboshi paste, black lava salt, kombu, besan, rice flour, teff flour, freekeh, coconut milk, udon noodles, chipotles in adobo, the Vegg. Not a bad basket! I kinda wanted to win it…

There was also the matter of getting the kitchen spotless for a certain internationally-known-and-loved cook who’d be prepping at my house on Friday (more on that in a sec). Since it looked great, I figured why not take a few pictures and give my first-ever blog kitchen tour? High fives! Welcome to my kitchen.

A view of where I spent most of my time: over the stove.

Little trinkets behind the range

Some stuff that lives on the counter always, like my leaf spoon rest, the Good Luck Cooking Witch, a salt dish, tamarind paste, and a salt owl. Above this area is a large shelf that holds many of my spices and oils. It’s visible in the first picture.

Another view of that miraculous range! For the nerds, it’s a KitchenAid Artisan II with two types of convection, a triple-tier flame burner and this crazy built-in “Insta-Wok” grate. I am certain I am not taking full advantage of the features of this thing.

Opposite the oven is a handy counter where I can prep stuff. As you can see, I keep the overflow spices and other goodies here.

And behind the range is one of the coolest parts of the kitchen, the custom built-in shelf that holds many of my appliances and other gadgets. Better still? It’s part of a separate sitting room (note the lamps in the top left) where one can hang out and have a cup of tea and chat with the cook. It’s really such a cozy little nook.

So not as detailed as some kitchen tours, but I hope you enjoyed nonetheless! I feel very fortunate to work in such a cool space. It’s definitely the finest kitchen I’ve ever used as a renter. I’d actually never even opened a (non-commercial) fridge as big as this one til we moved here.

It’s just basic hospitality to make sure it’s clean when you invite a guest to cook in your home, but I had special incentive as the cook in question was Terry Hope Romero, co-author of Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Pie in the Sky, and sole author of Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers and Vegan Eats World. Innit she pretty?!

There are many reasons to love this picture. One: face. Two: she’s wearing the owl & mushroom apron Nate’s mom made for me a few years ago. Three: face. Four: she’s using my little Breville Ikon to finish her cashew tzatziki sauce after someone’s loaner Big Bad Vitamix pooped out on us. Five? Yep. Face. Face for days.

Friday was easy because she’d already made all of the seitan for the demo at her place in Queens and flew pounds and pounds of it to Atlanta. From there, it was just a simple matter of chopping, marinating, and roasting it here:


We went to Dough for the weekly special and Dulce Vegan for treats afterwards. Getting as many vegan spots in as possible in one day: my kinda traveller.


And what else Friday?  Oh, hangout tiems with Nate and a couple of movies at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. It’s Studio Ghibli week, y’all!

We had to walk out of Howl’s Moving Castle (one of our favorite FAVORITES) because it was dubbed and dubbed = horrible in this case. But Nausicaa was subtitled and I cried many tears.

Saturday = VEGFEST. I was very very very busy all day, but here are some pictures:

I was so thankful that they had warm biscuits ready for us to buy. Over the course of Saturday morning, there were some things said about how insanely tasty those biscuits are… things I will not repeat…

Vic blogs at

Alicia Simpson & baby rollin’ up literally fifteen minutes before her talk…

Compassionate kiddos!

Terry prepping for her seitan demo like a boss

Chief-in-charge Leigh Saluzzi, her husband Ken, and Terry

new books! Buy them and do great things: Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet and The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals

Vegan gelato genius Jared of Revolution Gelatos did not expect to give away all his samples today. And yet!

It’s hard not to love a woman with four cat tattoos…

…or six cats, for that matter. I’m speaking now of Bianca Phillips of Vegan Crunk and Cookin’ Crunk: Eating Vegan in the Dirty South.  She is the raddest, y’all. Lookit these precious devilled egg bites! They were so nommy. Note: extreme closeups brought to you by I Ran The Speaker Room.

Tasty bites.

Jenny talking to a new friend at her table, He was convicted by her talk to move from vegetarianism to full veganism. Wanna know why? Read The Lucky Ones. Short version: it is as important to forgo dairy as it is to forgo flesh, because there’s no moral difference. As with adult humans, dairy/lactation/milk can’t happen without the birth of a creature that is taken from its mother – usually still wet with birth fluids – to be locked in a veal crate (males) or raised anew as part of the same cruel cycle (females), only to be killed to cheap hamburger when she’s too weak to continue being artificially inseminated (at about 5 years old; typical lifespan of a healthy cow is 20).

Milk = meat = death, and so long as we insist on breeding a species to take its young away so that we can have its milk, there’s no way around it. Vegetarians and wannabe vegetarians, please think about it. There’s no reason for us to continue the weird practice of impregnating animals so that we can drink their synthetically-fortified lactation when there are so many tasty plant alternatives. So please, reduce or eliminate your consumption of both today! More on this topic on this blog here.

After VegFest Nate and I rushed over to the 7 o’clock showing of Spirited Away:

Isn’t Yubaba one of the best characters?

Pathetically, we were SO HUNGRY we couldn’t stay for the entire film. We rushed over to Sauced where we had reservations for the AtlVeganDrinks/Atlanta Veg Fest afterparty. As usual, Ria and her team killed it.

Jamie and silly  Joanna. Perhaps you’ve seen these beauties at Dough Bakery? I split my time between these two and Bianca Phillips and her mama on the patio, who were gracious enough to let me visit with them for a while.

First courses. There was also a roasted squash soup with apple compote and nori-wrapped tofu scallops.

Can I just say that this was the first time I’d had a vegan biscuit just-like-my-momma’s in a restaurant? Soft and fluffy with tons of shortenin’ on the inside, crispy and browned on the sides, light as a feather. Ria, you know what you’re doing. Do you everNext time try curdling organic full-fat soymilk with a bit of apple cider vinegar like my momma does. It’s insane. (But these were perfect, too.)

Mains on a loaded plate, gathered buffet-style.

Those bittersweet chocolate PB crisps were the devil’s work, I tell ya what.

A good picture with my hero Jenny Brown of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

In summation: A Good Day.

I slept in Sunday morning, made some frosting, frosted a cake, and headed up to Cartersville for an early Thanksgiving dinner with with grandmother. Here’s the cake:

I shared a great picture of my mom and grandmother with me on Facebook. Three awesome generations!

Sunday night Nate & I enjoyed a double feature:


We’re looking forward to Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, and perhaps a couple others this week.

At last, we’re up-to-speed and the present day – one spent blogging, enjoying the rain, planning my week, and taking Nate to the dentist. A perfectly provincial day to follow two weeks of activity. I smell Nate’s special turnips dish from the kitchen… better be on my way…

All month long I’m blogging about Atlanta’s vegan-friendliness in the hope of dispelling the national misconception that it’s a crummy place to be vegan. As you’ve seen in earlier posts, that’s so not true! But as I ramble on about all the great things we DO have, I’m acutely aware of something we don’t.

Yep, it’s a sad fact that Atlanta lacks upscale vegan restaurants. Locals like Cafe Sunflower as a treat, but I think both locations are pretty casual (decor &, especially – sometimes excessively – the service). The menu almost never changes; the food can be pretty, but it doesn’t delight, excite, or teach me. It’s just nice.

If you want fancy fine dining, you have to go to a non-vegetarian restaurant with good vegan choices or special menus. Thankfully, Atlanta’s restaurateurs excel in this regard. You might already know about the entirely vegan menu I enjoyed at Abattoir. Vegans are also enthusiastically accommodated by “Top Chef” Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, Asha Gomez at Cardamom Hill (forthcoming Nov 2011), and the teams at Empire State South and Restaurant Eugene, among others. (NOTE: since we’re southern, and everything’s a bit more laid-back in the south, by fine dining I’m thinking well-informed and polite servers, a beautiful, unique setting, tasting/prix fixe menu availability, silverware that gets changed with courses, and expertly-prepared food made with locally-sourced (often organic) ingredients. Or at least most of these. :))

Two tips for a successful vegan experience at higher-end restaurants: 1) make a reservation a few days in advance (you’d do this anyway) and 2) carefully explain your dietary needs to the person taking the order (usually the host/ess answers the phone, NOT a server or cook). Don’t just assume that they’ll know what vegan means – be clear by saying something like, no birds, no beef, pork, fish, eggs, dairy products, or honey. I also often ask the person taking my reservation to mark “no gelatin” since a lot of fancy folk use it in foams, sauces, and gels. (There are vegan alternatives, of course, and creative cooks know ’em.) The clearer you can be with the person taking the reservation, the better luck you’ll have when the message gets to the person in charge of your food.

Happily, there’s (at least) one place where you don’t have to call ahead for a special menu, because the chef-owner writes her seasonal menus with vegans in mind. I’m talking about Ria Pell of Sauced & Ria’s Bluebird, of course! I recently had the pleasure of trying the new fall menu just a day after it was printed – and I’m excited to share my thoughts here.

Reason 9: Ria Pell’s vegan-friendly fine-dining at Sauced Restaurant & Lounge

Logo photo by Robin Henson, source: restaurant Flickr photostream.

Step inside... (photo by Robin Henson, source: restaurant Flickr stream)

Photo by Robin Henson, source: Sauced's Flickr photostream

Above, Sauced logo and views of the dining areas & bar.

This isn’t what I had for dinner, but it IS a great picture of a vegan menu Ria made over the summer. I tried the branded tofu steak at MondoHomo’s lunch in the park. Pictured here: tofu t-bone, succotash and black-eyed pea fritters.

As you can see, there are a number of vegan or can-be-made-vegan choices on the starters menu. The first offering, wild mushroom napoleon, is vegan.

Nate awaiting our first course in a dimly-lit corner. Sauced is a sexy restaurant with a sexy vibe – just-enough-light-to-see-your-food-and-swoon-over-your-sweetie kinda place.

And here it is! A crispy, rich, gooey yummy little slice of heaven. I couldn’t get enough of the cashew goat cheese on top!

We helped ourselves to house-made seitan skewers with two of the sauces du jour: tofu-orange and homemade relish. We’d planned on only ordering one skewer, but it was so good we had to order a second… and a third!

Earlier that day I saw Ria at Sevananda buying unsweetened rice milk by the case for the rosemary bechamel, so I was really excited about this one. It did not disappoint. Tender parsnips, carrots, and fingerling potatoes suspended in a creamy sauce, nestled underneath luscious mashed potatoes: a comforting final course, as the new vegan dessert had not been added to the menu yet. (I should check in and make a reservation soon – wanna come with?) Nate noted with appreciation the fact that the shepherd’s pie wasn’t marginalized or simply set-apart from the other choices with a “vegan” notation. It’s simply another choice that happens to be vegan. I like that, too. Do you?

I like the house rules page. It's not overly long or pushy and acknowledging your farmers always looks good. I wish more places stated a preference for cash. Let's take our country back, y'all - three percent at a time. :)

I hope more Atlanta-area vegans will support Ria at Sauced & Bluebird. It’s great that other restaurants react positively to our ethics, but Ria deserves our thanks for her proactiveness. She is well-known for her inclusiveness. At the MondoHomo meal, most of the choices were vegan – two vegan entrees, one non-vegan; several vegan sides, only a couple non-vegan. (Revisit those glorious photos here.)

Our favorite Ria, hangin' in the garden, checkin' out some habaneros. We love you!! Photo by Robin Henson.

Sauced also holds the honor of hosting THE VERY FIRST Atlanta Vegan Drinks Meet-up (details, menu, pictures here). Just over a month ago the restaurant offered a four-course prix fixe benefit dinner for the Plaza Theatre, Atlanta’s longest continually-running independent theatre (which just happens to be owned & operated by two amazing vegans).

So clearly, the Sauced & Bluebird families are all about making us feel loved, appreciated, and well-fed. Next time you’re seeking a special night out, I hope you’ll choose one of Ria’s cozy spots.

SAUCED: 753 Edgewood Ave NE, Atlanta GA 30307; (404) 688-6554; Facebook, Twitter; 5:30pm – 1am Weds-Sun.

RIA’S BLUEBIRD: (legendary brunch) 421 Memorial Drive, Atlanta GA 30312; (404) 521-3737; Facebook, Twitter; Open every day from 8am-3pm.

On Sunday a bunch of Atlanta-area folks gathered at Sauced for the first Atlanta Vegan Drinks! Inspired by the success of NYC’s Vegan Drinks, @atlvegan Brett worked with chef-owner Ria Pell to develop a special menu and cocktail for the kick-off event. Brett’s hope for Atlanta Vegan Drinks is that, by bringing together a diverse group of people, we might expand and support our local vegan community. A little birdie told me he did some work on the next get-together today, so go ahead and follow @atlvegandrinks on Twitter for the most up-to-date information!

As anyone who was there would tell you, the first event was an unparalleled success. Ria & her partner Kiki welcomed us like guests in their home (their third home!). Our servers were delightful even as they managed a way-bigger-than-expected crowd. The back porch atmosphere was eclectic and inviting, with three sets of family-style tables that encouraged mingling as best as possible. And the food – yowzah! Just check out the menu:

Ticks/asterisks denote what we ordered – and believe me, we loved every bite! My only regret is not splurging for a signature cocktail… next time, next time!

Check out those big ol’ smiles! We honestly couldn’t have been happier. Thanks again to the Sauced/Bluebird team for such a memorable evening!