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So, I’m not officially participating in the Vegan Month of Food – partially because I only found out about it yesterday, but mostly because I’m not actually vegan – but I figure there’s no time like the present to focus on the vegan recipes I’ve been meaning to try, which means sifting through my Pinterest feed and dredging out a ton of cookbooks. Thankfully, those are some of my favorite things to do. To start it off, here’s a delicious vegan meal I had the other night at V-Note on the Upper East Side.

I had the Crispy Pinenut and Basil Seitan, which came with roasted tomatoes, potatoes, and artichoke slices, along with a few slices of grilled pineapple and a creamy white wine sauce. It was delicious! The potatoes were almost too garlicky (for me, that’s saying something), but the seitan was AMAZING, and the sauce was great, too. My friend had the Seitan Piccata, which I got to try and was equally tasty. I was even too full for dessert, which never happens to me! It’s a little pricey, and a little far from my Brooklyn digs, but I would absolutely go back to V-Note for a special dinner.

If I’ve been lax about updating this blog lately (and I have), it’s because I have honestly been lax about making any kind of interesting food lately. Work is busy, summer is punishingly hot and humid, and I have no energy at all. We usually end up ordering in, which isn’t good for our wallets or anything else, really. But I feel a sea change at hand — I’ve spent the last few lazy hours in bed, looking at recipes, getting excited for things to make (Serious Eats is speaking to me right now)! So in the meantime, here’s a few pictures and thoughts from my visit to Tortaria the other day.

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Tortaria in Union Square is a place I have been meaning to visit for some time now, but every time I have stopped by, it’s been crazy busy. That’s no good when you have self-seating and counter service, but it definitely boded well for the food, so I was persistent. Thank goodness for NYC early bird dinner; being a midwestern girl, I’ve been used to eating dinner between 5-5:30pm my entire life. This serves me well in New York, as when I meet someone for dinner at 6 or 6:30, I’m starving, but there’s no one at the restaurant yet. Win win! That was exactly the case at Tortaria; when my friend and I were done by 7:30, the place was just starting to get packed. Keep that in mind when you visit!

I ordered the Crispy Eggplant Torta, with a side of plantains and, of course, a Pacifico. The sandwich was really wonderful – the eggplant was indeed crispy and pretty tasty, the Chihuahua cheese was melted and delicious, the avocado was refreshing, and there was an amazing chipotle BBQ sauce that tied it all together. The only thing I would get different for next time is asking for it with no pickled jalapeño slices – they were distracting and didn’t mesh well with the rest of the sandwich. The plantains were good, not great – when I get sweet plantains, I expect them to have that crunchy caramelized outside that gets stuck in your teeth, but these were not that well-done. They were also served with a sauce that straight up puzzled me and my friend; it was like melted Tootsie Rolls with anise in it? No thanks, I would definitely prefer crema next time.

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I was really excited for the Horchata-Tequila Paleta, which I read about in a blog post about alcoholic popsicles in the city (best idea!), so when I ordered it and I got this cup with solid, frozen horchata, topped with a grenadine syrup, I was confused. This was no paleta! There are two sticks, but how am I supposed to eat it? I poked at it with my plastic spoon for a while, finally realizing the sticks are for show. Once it started melting, I was able to dig in with my spoon – it’s way more of a shaved ice than a traditional popsicle, but once it got going, it’s absolutely delicious. You can taste the cinnamon and the rice-ness of the horchata (in a good way, like really comforting, cold rice pudding), and the grenadine syrup adds a little pop and sweetness. The tequila is definitely there – I was feeling it when I was done, that’s for sure – but it’s not bracing. Once I got to the last third, I had a pinkish, melty, sweet, delicious mix of grenadine, tequila, and horchata. It was near-perfect.

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All that, for less than $20 – I’m planning on heading back to Tortaria, if I can ever find a seat again.

As much as I love cooking for myself and my friends and family, I love going to restaurants. Too much, actually; particularly in New York, where dinner is not usually cheap. So I’m trying to curb that urge a little, but last night, I had a tattoo consultation appointment with the lovely Jess Versus in Williamsburg, so I thought we should go out for dinner afterwards, to celebrate, or something. We found ourselves in eastern Williamsburg, with a lot of good stuff to choose from, but we decided on Lodge, which looked great from the posted menu. I had no idea how great it would actually be!

We started with drinks – Darren got a beer, I got an Eastern Standard, which was lemonade with blueberry-thyme vodka. The lemonade was delicious, but I couldn’t really detect the blueberry or the thyme? But I think I was a little tipsy at the end of dinner, so it was probably in there somewhere. Total hipster bingo with that picture, by the way: mason jar cocktails with Instagram filters in Brooklyn! Sheesh.

We shared the grilled kale salad with homemade ricotta and figs as an appetizer. This bad boy stole the show. We both were absolutely amazed at how good this was – we both love kale, but this was next level kale. It was salty and smokey but still crispy and went amazingly well with the ricotta and figs. I could have used another fig (the menu said there would be red grapes, but I assume they were out by this time), but this was one of the best kale dishes I’ve ever had.

After that salad, I was afraid the entrees would be disappointing, but nope! I had (on the left, obviously) a vegan lobster roll, which was a daily special too tempting to pass up. I’ve never had an actual lobster roll, as my family wasn’t really fond of seafood growing up and I stopped eating meat before I was sophisticated enough to try it, but it was pretty delicious! There were chickpeas and beans mashed with vegenaise, nori, and lots of spices. It was served with Old Bay-seasoned fries and watermelon. So good! Darren got…some sort of steak? I kind of zone out when people order meat, to be perfectly honest. It came with fries, and a delicious salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and beans. He was pleased, as well!

I knew dessert would be a mistake, insane quantity of food-wise, but I did it anyway. We shared a honey peach crumble with vanilla ice cream, which was excellent – not too sweet, crunchies on top, good fruit – everything that’s good about a crumble.

I know I’m going back to Lodge – I already have mental plans about what to order next! Highly recommended.