30 June 2013


ah, friday date night. always a fun time. after 2.5+ weeks of constant travel for josh & i, we definitely were in the mood for some wining & dining. and i knew just the place.

everyday on my way home from work, i drive past two, located at the corner of may st. & grand ave. over the past 4 years, i've seen at least three restaurants go in and out of that location. but two has stuck around. aka, time for us to check it out!

so first ... the people at two are incredible. so knowledgable, friendly... and just actually interested in you/your dining experience. this is something i definitely appreciate.

second, while most of their menu is meat/fish based, there are a couple vegan dishes ... and several that are very easily adaptable...

"chefs tom van lente & kevin cuddihee use rural midwest inspiration & infuse it with urban finesse. the 'medium plate' menu changes frequently to include wholesome, seasonal ingredients that you would find at a local butcher, farm, market or fishery." hi, perfection. 

"we source locally, buy sustainably & change often."

here's what i had ...

farro salad :
chilled farro, local asparagus, pickled rhubarb, radishes & pinot gris vinaigrette.
this.salad.is.amazing. farro & i are good friends, so i was excited to see this on the menu. the vinaigrette was fantastic... i might might even attempt to make something like this at home. oh! and it's already vegan! no modifications needed! (except no mushrooms.)

roasted spring vegetables :
zucchini, leeks, shallots, snap peas & cherry tomatoes. 
roasted veg perfection. clearly super fresh & prepared beautifully. also already vegan & on the regular menu!

sorbet trio :
mango, lemon mint & strawberry.
holy sorbet heaven. the lemon mint was sooo good. the reason? the mint was actual, legitimate fresh mint. not the kind of mint found in "mint chocolate chip." the scoops were huge, so i hardly touched the mango & strawberry... and instead just inhaled the lemon mint. delish. 

me! :
enjoying our post-dessert digestif.
light & sweet.

josh & i have already decided that two is our new favorite after-work-dinner-&-drinks-place near my office. he loved all of his dishes (hello, carnivores. eat here.) ... especially the honey-ricotta cheesecake for dessert. 

so whether you live nearby... or 100 miles away, check out two.

1132 west grand avenue
chicago, il 60642

26 June 2013

new york city : the grey dog.

choose your own adventure : what do you do when you are wandering around (aka shopping in) greenwich village (or chelsea or nolita) & it starts to rain? keep in mind, you're also starving.

enter the grey dog, a delightful restaurant & coffee shop.

the grey dog has an adorable backstory : "in 1996, the grey dog coffeehouse was created. she was named after moose & goose, our two labrador retrievers, one white, the other black. the goal was to build a small coffeehouse in the world's greatest city. we wanted to concentrate on little things that often get lost in big city life, like getting to know the names of our patrons & serving wonderful fresh foods at very reasonable prices." how lovely.

outside the restaurant :
i had to take a photo of the sign out front ... seeing as i have a (rather sizable) grey dog. 

so we popped into the grey dog... ordered food... took our seats near the window... chowed down... & watched a bizarre nyc parade. but that last bit's not all that important. what matters is the food at the grey dog, of course.

here's what i had ...

greek salad :
lettuce, tomato, cucumber, olives & tomatoes. w/ herb hummus. no feta. add tofu.
you know a meal is good when you inhale it. i snarfed this down so quickly, even i was surprised. great, light dressing ... crisp, fresh veggies... perfectly cooked & flavored tofu. there is literally nothing wrong with this salad. the ideal lunch.

i tucked the two other the grey dog locations up at the top. so if you happen to be in one of these neighborhoods, it's definitely worth grabbing a bite. 

90 university place
new york, new york 10003

23 June 2013

southport grocery & cafe : supper.

first, a note -- i broke my camera on the last day in barcelona. (actually, at laguardia airport. hi, bathroom floor, meet the corner of my phone.) this was before i got it fixed ... so apologies for the super wonky photos. these are the only ones!

southport grocery & cafe is kind of infamous in my mind... as i noted in my previous visit there, the wait times are absolutely absurd. damn, must be hard being so popular!

but fear not! because southport grocery is now open for supper! woot! experience the delish any time of the day. 

here's what i had ...

pickled trio :
bread & butter cauliflower : tastes exactly as you would expect. sweet & salty. mmm.
hot & spicy asparagus : my favorite of the three. obviously. oh so spicy. 
roasted shallot mushrooms : tried & did not like. sorry mushrooms. still hate you.

crispy kale :
kale chips that i didn't have to prepare myself to enjoy? so yeah, duh, awesome. ain't gonna lie - it's not easy to make a good kale chip. basically one second too long in the oven and your tasty snack is done-zo. these were perfect.

fingerling potatoes :
fennel, arugula & pepitas.
nothing not to like here. très tasty. want more.

i think the word about the supper menu had not fully spread at this point (about 2 weeks ago) ... we got there at about 7pm on a thursday... and there were plenty of open tables. but that's okay. the food was great... even though mi amiga & i both kind of hope they will add some of the normal breakfast/lunch menu into the mix.

there were a couple other vegan adaptable items on the menu, so you're pretty much set in that arena. if you're looking for southport grocery food without the southport grocery wait time (yet), check them out for supper. 

southport grocery & cafe
3552 n. sourthport avenue
chicago, il 60657

19 June 2013

new york city : red rooster.

my obsession with chef marcus samuelsson began about a year ago when i read an excerpt from his memoir (yes, chef -- highly recommend) in vogue magazine.

in the vogue excerpt, he wrote about how at one point in his life, his view on dietary restrictions changed.

here's the little bit from yes, chef : "heart-healthy symbols on menus are commonplace now. in the early nineties, it was practically unheard of even in finer hotels. i was a cocky nineteen-year-old at the time, and back then i dismissed the guests who asked for special menus as finicky or unadventurous, not real eaters. but stocker's example nurtured my respect for guests with unique dietary needs and for chefs as smart businessmen." love.

beyond having an incredibly interesting life story, chef samuelsson is a food genius.

so after i read the memoir & pored over his website, i knew red rooster, located in the heart of harlem, was on my must eat list in nyc.

"red rooster serves comfort food celebrating the roots of american cuisine & the diverse culinary traditions of the neighborhood." sign me up.

but before making reservations (or just arriving around a meal time), i did a little research. chef samuelsson's facebook page is often littered w/ vegetarian & vegan-adaptable recipes. and a quick google search led me to a 2011 post on his website about always having a vegan option available on the menu. i hoped this practice was still in effect ... and so off we went. sadly, chef samuelsson was in chicago while i was in nyc -- of course! 

red rooster facade :
apologies for the blurriness ... it was raining & i dropped my phone while taking the photo. oops. beautiful nonetheless.

here's what i had ...

chili cucumbers :
slightly pickled (we thought) & packed w/ spicy flavor. a great, light little "snack" & the perfect way to start the meal. 

chop suey :
basmati rice & vegetables. no egg.
for me & my less-than-sophisticated palate, this dish was indescribably good. literally, i tried and tried, bite after bite to place all the delicious flavors i was tasting. curry? coconut? this plate was simply a perfect blend. i could eat this every.day. 

sorbet trio :
mixed berry, pear & guava.
the mixed berry sorbet was the definite favorite between the my friend & i.
next came the pear. pear sorbet that actually has pear texture? how is this possible? delicious.
and the guava? sweet, a little sour, overall fresh & lovely. 

wallpaper in dining room :
it's a good thing chef samuelsson wasn't at the restaurant that night, because i had a prime spot for viewing the kitchen. and had he been, i would have probably keeled over with excitement. but that was okay. i loved watching the rest of the kitchen team move about the kitchen, effortlessly & perfectly plating dishes.

red rooster is by far the coolest place i have ever been my life. the atmosphere & overall dining experience are like nothing i've ever been apart of. live jazz, fantastic cocktails & a completely unique design make red rooster an absolute favorite for me. i can't wait to go back.

310 lenox avenue
new york, new york 10027

16 June 2013


ahhhh, next. i'd hoped & wished & dreamed that you would do a vegan menu. and now, you have!

so first, a big thank you to chef grant achatz of alinea & nick kokonas (co-owners), as well as executive chef dave beran ... the vegans of the world appreciate this!

anyway, once i found out a vegan menu was on the table (ha), i began stalking the next facebook page for info about when tickets would go on sale. i quickly snatched up a pair and we were set to go!

i hadn't been sooo excited to try a restaurant in a long time ... and when our night came around, i was practically giddy.

i'm not going to share everything, since part of the fun of a place like next is the element of surprise. but here are some of my favorite dishes from the night ...

smoked avocado :

 crispy flatbread tucked away in moss-covered branches :
take a wooden knife, scrape some avocado spread off the rock & schmear it onto a piece of crispy flatbread cracker. simple & delicious. (josh & i joked, "wow this flatbread tastes so good. do you think it's vegan?" ha.)

baby artichokes :
this girl loves a good artichoke. these baby bites were perfectly cooked & very tasty. 

fermented apples & lichen :
a fun plate that also came w/ a pairing of apple cider vinegar, aged in a log. the lifetime of an apple, our server told us. 

curry roasted cauliflower :
this was my favorite dish. it came with a hefty piece of naan, which i definitely appreciated at this point in the meal. (hello, alcoholic beverage pairing drunkenness!)

hibiscus & pistachio :
ah, dessert. by now, i was so full i could barely finish this. and then came yet another round of sweets! exactly the kind of dessert i'd expect here: unique. the last dessert (fantastic & moist steamed crepes) was actually my favorite, but the photo did not come out well. sorry!

so for the most part, i loved dining at next.

unfortunately, after thinking more about our meal in the coming days ... i felt that many of the dishes were only okay. they simply missed the mark. instead of showcasing how fabulous vegan food can be, some plates felt overworked and over processed. obviously, this is just my opinion, but i am an actual vegan. and the next day, i honestly felt that if i wasn't already vegan, this meal certainly would not make me consider changing my diet. and a vegan dinner at a place like next should make non-vegans feel that way.

the other issue i had was the lack of cohesion. it's easy to see how the sicily or thailand menus would feature dishes that flowed together perfectly. for vegan, it wasn't as simple. the mushroom farr-otto was separated by only one dish from the curry roasted cauliflower. for me, those two flavor profiles were just too bold & distinct to eat so closely together. 

but like alinea (which i truly did love), part of the experience at next is appreciating food as art. and when you look at it that way, the entire meal was beautiful, interesting & just as important, fun.

will i be back to next? probably not ... unless there is another vegan menu. which, of course, i would love to try!

next restaurant
953 w. fulton market
chicago, il 60607

09 June 2013

new york city : pala.

looking for a cute dinner spot on the lower east side? (aka les. thx, a.s.) you should most certainly, 100% definitely try pala, an italian restaurant w/ a super fun vibe.

pala receives an automatic shiny gold star for having separate vegan & gluten-free menus. and not just like one or two things ... full, legit vegan & gluten-free menus. so awesome.

this spot is great for sharing. and lucky for me, our group of four ladies included a vegetarian. yay for us!

here's what i had ...

potato gnocchi w/ basil pesto :
there's a pretty strict no substitutions rule at pala. but we found a way to get around it. order the gnocchi plain with the pesto on the side. winner winner gnocchi dinner.

the final dish :
i think it's been about 90 years (ok, four-ish) since i had gnocchi, as most is not vegan. so we were super excited to see a vegan option available at pala. and it cooked perfectly (not always the easiest thing to do). the pesto was packed w/ fresh basil flavor & was just generally delicious. overall, a great great great plate. 

asparagi pizza :
veggie sausage, asparagus, cherry tomato sauce & daiya cheese.
dayuuum. this pizza was amazing. the veggie sausage was sooo tasty. all the great seasonings involved in italian sausage without the actual meat encased in meat ick factor. the crust was baked just past not raw, which i love (but obviously not everyone's cup of tea). #veganpizzawin.

double chocolate chip cake :
w/ vanilla soy ice cream.
i'm going to repeat what i said at dinner : "i'm going to make a statement here. this is the absolute best vegan dessert i have ever had. by a long shot." so unbelievably good, i had to subtly question our server about it's vegan-osity. she said she doesn't tell non-vegan customers it's vegan (because, ya know, it scares them off) and no one notices. it's just that good. the photo does it no justice. because this dessert alone is worth a visit to pala.

of course, ending w/ a photo sesh :
me & my pal(a), melissa. #besties.
photo cred : abby schreer. xo.
vegan dining partner cred : alicia evangelides. xo. 

to the vegans, vegetarians, gluten intolerant & regular ol' omnivores : get your cute asses to pala. stat.

198 allen street
new york, new york 10012

01 June 2013

mini hiatus.

hi, veggies!

just a quick note that i'll be taking a little 1.5 week break from le blog.

i'm heading to barcelona for a week! woohoo!

i'm heading to barcelona for work w/ my boss & friend, erin.
here we are at a co-worker's wife's baby shower.

i'm hoping to scope out the vegan options in that fine spanish city ... so far, i've found a few good choices. so i should have some info to share when i get back! 

in other news, josh & i have tickets for next's vegan menu!!
thank you, chef achatz!! 
so that'll be an exciting one to post soon, as well.

hope everyone has a lovely next couple of weeks!

xo, halley