Friday, March 31, 2017

Breakfast at Café Hey

One of the most popular sandwich choices for vegans is the VLT.
If I lived in Tampa, I could envision Café Hey being a humble part of my weekly routine.
This veg friendly, free wifi hotspot near the bus station of tall palm trees and vibrant red bloom was the first notch on this little mini pleasant weathered vacation. It's a spacious bricked place smelling of fresh brew where afro girls with Mos Def buttons on their backpacks have lunch, where a few visitors stuff vegan brownies and vegan tarts in their pockets, and where people sit at rounded tables with coffees, friends, and laptops. The music is a mixture of indie and classic rock and the staff behind the counter offer helpful advice for a new patrons. The whole spirit of the atmosphere, with a Cheers kind of vibe, is just what one craves from a coffee shop-- hip and unique.

Doughnuts and cats as Valentine's? So very perfect. This is the kind of romance I aspire to have again.
 Plus the art on the walls bring a smile.

Fresh baked vegan goods of the day included raspberry lemon and banana nut muffins, double chocolate brownies, and peaches and cream tarts.
Cute, cleanly ordered, sweet and spicy condiment station has all the straws, stirring sticks, sugars, siracha, and Tabasco that one needs to liven up their goodies.

Layout of bricked walls, small scale art, and rounded tables with black wingback chairs.

Many drink and syrup options. Plus no charge for vegan milks. Always a win!

Now let's break down the super amazing VLT. For some reason, I expected a cold sandwich, expecting veggie bacon to be cooked and chilled. Why oh why? I suppose I was hungry and impatient. The flavorful veggie bacon is hot, warming several kinds of crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and Veganaise. The toasted bread tastes divine-- it's crunchy yet retains sensible chewiness. Overall a yummy start to Florida foodie adventure.

I ordered the last raspberry lemon muffin and a honey free iced chai latte sweetened with simple syrup.

Bursting with pitted raspberry and citrusy lemon flavor-- the combination is a moist, tantalizing winner meant to complement any caffeinated (or decaffeinated) beverage.
Café Hey is a charming spot. Plus when bobbing your head to classic Smashing Pumpkins and The Pixies, life feels almost complete-- with refined sort of tastiness promised in the end.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Veggie Penne With Mashed Fava Beans & "Cheese"

A cheesy meal guaranteed to make a belly feel immensely good.
For a while, I have been peeved at my local Whole Foods Market. They're not carrying a lot of things they should, especially at the new giant store on Hamilton. However, one piece of good news happened unexpectedly. I hadn't even began writing a letter about the missing Daiya flavor, Jalapeno Havarti. Lo and behold, last week, I found my first vegan cheese love again.

Hopefully, it's here to stay-- forever and ever.
For this hearty scrumptious meal of pasta and beans, one could use any kind of bean-- in particular black beans or kidney beans would be an ideal replacement for fava. I liked fava for its unique flavor and texture--plus the can was already opened and needed to be used immediately.
Still, I quite enjoyed amazing combinations of pasta made from vegetables and spiced fava bean mash with the creamy richness of Daiya's premier artisan cheese. In fact, this meal-- which can serve up to 6-- left me feeling a little on the fancy side of life.

Veggie Penne With Mashed Fava Beans & "Cheese" Ingredients and Preparation

1 package veggie penne (or any other pasta is fine)
1 15oz can Westbrae Natural Organic Fava Beans, drained
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon Frontier Coop Italian Seasonings (or any other brand)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
a few shavings of Daiya Jalapeno Havarti

Cook pasta according to directions.
In a food processor or blender, combine fava beans with nutritional yeast, cumin, turmeric, coriander, salt, and black pepper, pulsing gently. Do not let it turn into completely mushy puree. You need it to have a squashed appearance.
Once pasta is drained, lower heat on stove, and add in fava bean mixture and cheese, letting latter melt into the dish. Stir continuously for five minutes or so, making sure nothing sticks to the pot.

Serve to loved ones.


Extra pinch of Italian Seasonings (and some red crushed pepper flakes) filled the golden bowl with delicious blessings.

Close up of the beany pasta goodness. This is a real satisfying stomach filler.

Friday, March 17, 2017

inkkas: Vegan Fair Trade + Handmade Sneakers

My Black Spectrum inkkas are made with authentic Peruvian textiles, high quality cotton shoe laces by local artists. Every shoe is cut, sewn, and stitched by hand.
Once upon an art gallery opening, I spied this tall, loc'ed curator wearing the most incredible shoes-- shoes that his wife had bought him. They were a wild lime green and heather grey with kente fabric patterns stitched in between. He showed them off, including the rounded logo attached to the bottom. I had put the inkkas brand in the back of my mind (for what seems like centuries) and at last treated myself to the fair trade made-to-order company. After all, boot season is almost drawing to a close (despite Tuesday's large puff of snow and ice). One needs to be super prepped for spring and spring means pep in the step.
Now inkkas are far more than lovely pair of shoes.
Some wonderful highlights:
In conjunction with Trees for the Future, inkkas is committed to retaining Earth's sustainability. With every purchase, a tree is planted.
"Each tree has multiple uses including - reforestation, improving soil condition, providing food for human and livestock consumption and eventually timber as well."
So far, the number has reached over 100,000.
Here's a link to The inkkas Vegan Collection. Find beautifully patterned low and high top sneakers, fancy espadrilles, and chic bazaar bags that set forth a conscious yet vibrant style statement.

My rainbow high top inkkas not only have an optimistic  and match a certain multifaceted jersey dress, they fit perfectly, are comfortable for walking, and add pizazz to any outfit.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Beyond Meat's The Beyond Burger

1/4 quarter pound of succulent awesomeness thanks to the power of beet satisfaction.
At long last, I finally tried Beyond Meat's The Beyond Burger. Funnily enough, it took a new art project to arrive here. I requested friends of mine to pose for a new pencil/watercolor series at their apartment and offered to bring these epically amazing burgers (according to word of mouth).
First of all, Beyond Meat's latest creation is not located with the other frozen veggie burgers. In fact, the meat aisle carries several facings. That alone is a terrifying prospect for a vegan-- venturing into a painful grocery area, holding in stomach, trying not to scream aloud or retch violently at sight of dead carcasses wrapped in cellophane. It is both solid (maybe meat eaters will be curious) and loathsome (why surround ourselves with body parts and ice) that Beyond Meat's would strategize placing their product here. Still, I grabbed a package and left as quickly as my body allowed.
At $5.99, I thought it quite reasonable. That is, until I entered my friend's establishment. They wondered why I only had one. I felt incredibly stupid for not reading the fine print. There were only two patties. Two. I had this crazy assumption that veggie burgers came in fours. These burgers are pretty pricey.
Overall, The Beyond Burger is quite enjoyable. It has plenty of flavor especially a believable meaty, grisly texture, a good fulfilling portion (20 grams of protein is nothing to sneeze at), and an aesthetical beauty with the gorgeous beet red and all.
Perfect for functions like barbecues, parties, and drawing gatherings, but one has to know to buy enough for everyone.

Pan seared in olive oil, smelling really burger fragrant.

Situated on a whole wheat bun, topped with melted Field Roast Coconut Herb Chao, lettuce, tomato, and Just Mayo with baked shoestring fries and a gravy smothered gardein turk'y cutlet (unseen) on the side.

This thick scrumptious burger has an irresistible exterior crunch, pliant juiciness, and seasoned flavor that captures all the essence of real meat without the cruelty.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mild Vegan Chocolate Chili

Chili gets kicked up a notch when a spicy melted chocolate bar joins the pot.
As tail end whispers of winter season gives one last effortless breeze, it feels appropriate to share a new chili recipe to our spitfire spirits. The title may sound sweet and dessert-like. Plot twist-- this is not similar at all to an indulgent spice cookie or a black bean brownie. Although having a tasty addictive component such as chocolate comes as an eloquent surprise, beans, corn, tomatoes, and spices lap up the chocolate's spiciness factor quite brilliantly. Inside of a bowl lies irresistible satisfaction to warm up souls on the final cold days.
The idea to add chocolate in chili came after my Toronto friend sent me Galerie Au Chocolat's feu fire chocolate bar. I've had the bar for months, wrapping my head around exactly what to do with it. After all, this articular bar came with a red stickered fire warning. That meant this was not an average chocolate bar. Galerie Au Chocolat's cacao beans are produced by coops in Dominican Republic just like La Siembra Chocolate. However, La Siembra is on the Food Empowerment Project's recommended list whereas Galerie Au Chocolat is not. Luckily, various FEP approved brands craft spicy chocolate bars.
The flavor of hot hot liquid chocolate to the means is amazing-- like a tantalizing mole sauce taking a meaty bean dish out on a town. It's perfect. It's romantic. What more can one expect from chili?
For an even spicier delight (if you're not a mild fan), add chopped jalapenos, extra sliced bell peppers, or ample sprinkles of cayenne/paprika.

Mild Vegan Chocolate Chili Ingredients and Preparation

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn, cooked
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup Lightlife Soy Ground (or any other kind)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Spicy Chocolate Bar (Theo Chocolate's Spicy Bar is a good suggestion)
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Bring beans, corn, soy ground, and spices to simmer, stirring often and putting a lid on. Let simmer for 35-40 minutes.
In a steel bowl over bowling water, melt chocolate.

Mix 3/4 of the melted chocolate bar into chili. Stir evenly.

Chili topped with avocado slices, extra hot chocolate, cilantro, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Pretty colorful bowl of yumminess.

Ready to be devoured.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Taji Magazine Vol. 10 Launch Party in Brooklyn

Taji Mag is a magazine dedicated to African culture and fashion.
Last Wednesday evening, I exited off the Brooklyn bound train and headed to Sehiii Gallery for Taji Mag's Volume 10 launch party. I have always wanted to attend one of their functions and being off on Wednesdays made it all the more convenient to finally show support.
In the dimly lit gallery space, smelling of divinely scented candles, a young loc'ed DJ named Cornelio pumped out vibrant music that reverberated off walls and into excited ear drums. Lovely fashionable clothed and hair styled people sat around small round tables chatting with each other. Up front, a quiet girl sat alone drawing with pens and markers in a fat sketchbook. Others grooved to the beats, while seated, their rhythmic bodies begging for more.

Past Taji Mag covers hang on the brick wall, some are featured cover models and others are digital artworks.
Before the features and open mics started, the host had the audience stand in a wide, intimate circle and introduce ourselves to strangers. It was a rather nice way to remove nervous edges, to find a friend among low lights and chill music.

To catch Akinyemi, a main feature, one had to be faster than a cheetah. As he rapped his rhymes over boom boom rustic beats reminiscent of old fashioned hip hop, he moved so swiftly, that my camera only caught flashing essences of his energetic tenacity. He had that afro box hair cut and a rainbow sports jacket, speaking about realness in the mic.

Nosuh Foster's booming, powerful, thought provoking poetry brought the atmosphere to whole new heights. He had a finesse that was charming yet refined and intelligent. Plus when he smiled, showing pearly white teeth, the world looked brand new, promising as he spoke of being happy to be alive, alive past 25.

Rapper in camouflage Lyle Omolayo who spoke about roots roots roots.

Nay Marie is the creator/founder of Taji Mag. She is also a New York based photographer, vegan (yay!), and uniquely stylish.

Future painting inspiration.

The open mic segment started off with this cool rapper.

Caught in mid-spit.

This man crooned old school R&B beautifully. He sang Shai's "If I Ever Love Again." Women hollered like crazy. Yes. That we did. *swoons*

Another cool rapper, celebrating hip hop over slick beats, making the crowd wild.

On the left is the latest model winner for Taji Magazine Volume 11. She is Queen Bosa Bosa on Instagram. Her page is beautiful moments of gorgeous shots and dancing to African beats.
Segments introduced vendors selling their wares including cupcakes. When Lo of Sweets on the Lo gave a rundown of her cupcakes, saving the vegan option for last, it was definitely one of the huge surprises of the evening. Her site has a galore of vegan options including Aphrodisiac (a chocolate cupcake with raspberry buttercream), Hallelujah (a lemon blueberry cupcake with blueberry buttercream), and a drool worthy Taye Diggs Deluxe (chocolate caramel cupcake with caramel buttercream).
I had to try the Go Nanaz! cupcake-- a banana cupcake with cinnamon buttercream. The cake was moist with yummy authentic banana flavor and the sweet, lusciously whipped frosting tasted divine. Overall, quite the scrumptious treat whilst listening to music and poetry.
One of several photographers capturing this marvelous event.
I meet the delightful Awesum and her partner in crime. Their act started off quite humorously. He strums his guitar, reciting a humble soliloquy about poverty and survival. She is in the audience, laughing and smiling over his pain. I see a few confused faces in the audience. For a moment, I too am a little shocked. Suddenly,  still smiling rather infectiously, she begins humming like a vibrant bee finding the sweetest nectar and singing. She gets up out of her seat and saunters over to him, harmonizing. The duet is fresh and funky containing all the classical ingredients of soulful love and affectionate tenderness. After their song, someone had stood and clapped, boasting, "best of the night!"

Miss Blue, a twenty-year-old songstress from New Jersey took the audience away with her rendition of Alicia Keys' "No One."
In the gallery, many items whispered pleasant secrets. These fabrics were especially attention getting-- bantu knot profiled woman whose yellowed face arrests a teal circle repeatedly. The other is black and white with lovers kissing. They're both beautiful depictions. I have rarely seen such images on cloth, having always seen bold, colorful patterns. 

Close ups.

Many connotations came from this Africa continent shaped piece. It has an elegant design yet also a figurative quality. The ebony black against patterned zig zags and squares appears to be a cropped body, a piece of action that might have escaped a Kerry James Marshall work.

Other African continent shaped compositions continue along the wall sharing various stories of romantic love and self love, bold colors and stylized figures gifted gratifying dignity, grace, and beauty.
Giant wooden floor drum and smaller sculptures on white pedestal surrounded by plant life.
I not only have a gorgeous magazine to stare at forever and forever (and with future drawing inspirations along the way), I also won one of the raffles-- a beauty set from The Celestine Collection (Green Tea Body Souffle and body oil). I am super excited to review the products soon.
Inside the magazine are mesmerizing photographs of beautiful brown/ebony models (some discovered on Instagram), romantic advice, vegan recipes, and selected black owned businesses. I was happy to find this ad/article about Fruiggie, an eco friendly arts and crafts company that is fruit, vegetable, and plant based. They sell vegan paint, crayons, play dough, organic aprons, coloring books, and more. 
Tiffany Mack's 9oclockteeparty is a funky take on eyewear, featuring bedazzled sparkles on uniquely designed frames. 
Physical copies of Taji Mag's Volume 10 is $10 and digital print is $3. You can also purchase past issues, coffee/tea mugs, purses/totes, and even a photo session here.

A huge thanks to one of the photographers who caught me in action and shared this on the Taji Mag FB page. Behind me in giant pink Africa earrings with big poufy hair is a sweet woman named Babette-- whom I met and introduced myself to in the circle.
The party was killer fun. I wouldn't mind taking another escape from Philly back up to NYC for more vibing music, poetry, and art. There might be another vegan delight or two to sample.