Fair Trade Chocolates

15 Comments

A co-worker has been geeking out on chocolate recently, ordering bars and hot chocolate from places like Dagoba Chocolates. Thankfully, he’s a sharing individual, so I’ve gotten to sample many of the dark chocolate bars and hot chocolates he’s bought. He got me hooked and I placed an order with him this week and got my own Mon Cherri bar, Mint and Rosemary bar, and Xocolatl Hot Chocolate. It should be noted that he went in on a tea order with me last week. This entry could have been titled “The Tea Geek Meets the Chocolate Geek.”

Anyway.

Not only are Dagoba’s chocolates “the fancy stuff” (ie. “damn good”), they’re also Fair Trade Certified (seriously, is there anything more depressing than thinking about something as pleasurable as chocolate coming from slave labor?). Not all of their chocolates are vegan, but most of them are. Look for “dark chocolate” rather than “milk chocolate.” Besides, milk chocolate is considered inferior to dark chocolate by chocolate snobs. Who am I to argue?

I’ve also been enjoying the locally-purchased Endangered Species Bars which also follow fair trade practices (though they don’t seem to be officially “Fair Trade Certified”) and donate 10% of profits to environmental and wildlife charities. Each of their bars features a different endangered animal and purchases of that particular bar go directly to support that animal’s preservation. Again, not all their bars are vegan, but the following are non-dairy:

  • Tiger Bar (Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans)
  • Rainforest Bar (Dark Chocolate with Deep Forest Mint)
  • Grizzly Bar (Dark Chocolate with Raspberries)
  • Chimp Bar (Supreme Dark Chocolate)
  • Wolf Bar (Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds)
  • Sea Turtle Bar (Dark Chocolate with Blueberries aka The “Oh Hell Yeah!” Bar, by me)
  • Bat Bar (Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs)
  • Black Panther Bar (Extreme Dark Chocolate)
  • Dark Chocolate Bug Bites
  • Chimp Mints

Feel free to share stories of your favorite Fair Trade vegan chocolates. And you should also check out my aforementioned co-worker’s Hot Chocolate Blog. Seriously… hot chocolate… blog… that’s some good reading.

Vegan Girl Scout Cookies

20 Comments

I’ve been hit up a few times in recent weeks for Girl Scout Cookie orders, which got me to thinking: are any of the cookies vegan? According to this site, which provides scans of the nutritional information from each type of cookie, only the Iced Berry Pinatas and Reduced Fat Lemon Pastry Cremes do not contain eggs or dairy.

Bummer, my two favorites contain milk (Tagalongs and Thin Mints). Oh well… may have to make my own.

I also came across this, too, which is worth reading—including the comments—for fans of Thin Mints. The blog it’s from, 101cookbooks.com looks like a worthwhile visit, too, since much (all?) of the material covered is vegetarian. Heidi has a new cookbook out titled Cook 1.0, which looks beautiful.

Green Tea Mustard Sauce

I had a great seitan with green tea mustard sauce dish at Gobo in New York last year and I wanted to try and recreate the taste at home. I started with a very basic mustard sauce recipe and added some concentrated green tea and with only a few small alterations, it came out wonderfully.

This makes a little more than 1 1/2 cups and can be used as a dipping sauce for raw vegetables, sauteed seitan, fried tofu, etc. or even as a ranch-like creamy salad dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegan sour cream (like Tofutti’s Better Than Sour Cream)
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (the old standby, Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise, is perfect)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 bag of green tea (or one teaspoon of loose Chinese green tea leaves, if you prefer)
  • 3 oz. of nearly boiling water

Directions

  1. Mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper together well in a small bowl
  2. Pour the nearly boiling water over the teabag and steep for 5 minutes
  3. Take out the teabag and squeeze the loose liquid into the sauce mixture; then stir in the concentrated green tea, stopping if the consistency seems to get too liquidy
  4. Cover and refrigerate for an hour to let the flavors blend

Based on the Tangy Mustard Sauce recipe from cooksrecipes.com.

Review of Raw Bakery’s Snakker Bar

3 Comments

I’m familiar with raw foodism. I’ve mentioned on the Veg Blog numerous times over the years. I’m planning on visiting one of the several raw restaurants in New York the next time I visit. However, one thing exists I would never have ever thought of: a raw bakery.

The Raw Bakery was started recently by a team of people that wanted to bring traditionally unhealthy old favorites like candy bars and cakes to the raw realm. They currently have variations on the Snickers bar (Snakker) as well as brownies and cakes.

Before I go any further, let me say this: I’m not interested in raw foods from a health perspective. As one amusing critical review of Quintessence that I recently read said: “There are many different factors to consider when evaluating a restaurant – taste, vegan-friendliness, ambiance, service, use of healthy/organic ingredients – for me, insurance that nothing I order will be heated above 118°ree; is just not one of them.” (I realize the issue goes deeper than that, but still). However, I am interested in raw foods from a culinary perspective. I’ve always been of the mindset that self-imposed restriction can result in some of the most creative creations (see my piece about The Grey Album for a musical take on the same issue). Essentially, I’m curious to see what raw chefs can do with the restrictions of raw ingredients and cooking under a certain temperature. There’s no reason that what raw chefs do in their exclusively raw restaurants isn’t something that could be integrated into one’s regular diet or a mainstream restaurant’s menu. I’m just as curious to see what can be done in the raw baking realm. It’s all about new experiences, right?

So, with that said, I was anxious to try out one of The Raw Bakery’s Snakker bars after seeing an advertisement in Satya. The Snakker bar is “the world’s first raw bar made with a filling.” Each bar is handmade with sun-dried organic cocoa beans, organic raw peanuts from New Mexico, and is sweetened with organic honey (beware honey-dodging vegans!) and organic dates. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Snakker bar and I was pleasantly surprised. The sweetness of the dates is readily apparent and gives the bar a nice earthiness that balances the subtle flavor of the soft chocolate covering. And hey, peanuts! Of course they’re good.

Executive Chef Ibrahim Gencay told me that since the bar I tasted, the flavor is more chocolatey because he’s added more cocoa beans to the bar. Excellent.

The criticisms that I have about the Snakker bar are not related to the flavor or ingredients (though I’d like to see another sweetener other than honey, even if it would be slightly more processed), but with the connection to the Snickers bar by name. No one’s going to mistake a raw candy bar for its heavily processed distant cousin, and I fear that that connection might scare some people if they try the raw bar on a whim. Gencay explained to me that this wasn’t the intention. Rather, the intended connection with a Snickers bar is more emotional; the idea is that the Snakker Bar will give you a similar emotional reaction that a Snickers Bar gave you in your less-healthy days (or childhood days) and will satisfy the desire you may have to return to your junk food habits. This, I can deal with.

The Snakker bar is $3.49 for a 1.6 oz. bar ($39.90 for a package of 12) and $5 for the 3 oz. Jumbo Size (the sizes offered, I am told, may change). A tad pricey considering a Jumbo Snickers will run you about $1, but with the quality of the ingredients and the care taken in the production of these special candy bars, you can’t really compare the two prices.

I found myself enjoying the Snakker bar more as time went on, really enjoying the sweetness of the dates and the texture of the finely chopped peanuts. And, yes, I am impressed that this was able to be done. The Raw Bakery has gotten some good press recently thanks to raves from the likes of Carol Alt and Sissy Spacek, so I suspect the business will be booming before you know it. Rightfully so.

I look forward to seeing what other products The Raw Bakery dreams up and wish them the best of luck in their quest to provide healthy raw sweets.

Singapore Vegetarian closing

4 Comments

Just got word in the comments of this entry from Cynthia that one of my favorite restaurants, the Singapore Vegetarian Restaurant in Cherry Hill, NJ is closing this weekend. I’m assuming it has to do with the simple case of “not enough business.” Every time I ate there, the place was almost completely empty. When I was there a year ago with my parents, the owner told me that they were considering adding some meat-based dishes to the menu in an attempt to drum up business. Guess it didn’t work.

So, I’m bummed. But my parents are coming in town this weekend and I tried to convince my mom to pick up some of their great yam-based shrimp one last time on their way down.

Update: Cynthia has given me some new information on the closing:

They will be closing for good this Sunday, January 16. However, the good news is that they are not closingdue tolack of business. I don’t know if you know this, butthere are 2 Singapore restaurants – the one in Cherry Hill, and another in China Town in Philly. Both are run byone family, and both locations require a lot of work. They’ve decided to close this branch, so they can dedicate all their efforts to the one in China Town. Apparently the problem isn’t too little business – but too much!

Though this is a great relief to me (i also thought they were closing for lack of business), my friends and i are still heartbroken. This is the second vegan restaurant to close in Cherry Hill in 2 years (there was another called Evergreen that was really nice, but it was no Singapore), and it just stinks that the final great vegan local for us is going to be acrossthe bridge. Why must Philly get everything wonderful! They already have Kingdom of Vegetarians, sheesh!

Next time you are in Cherry Hill, I’d reccommend the trip to the Singapore in China Town though. It is really nice, and if the owner is there (which he usually is) he almost always brings extra food to the tables! Also, he said that with the extra time, his family will be able to come up with new dishes, which is pretty exciting!