Hit the Snooze Button

Don’t sleep on Snooze AM Eatery. As the name would imply, the door of this establishment opens bright and early, but you’ve still gotta be quick to snag a table. Devoted to all things breakfast, brunch, and lunch, you’re out of luck if you show up in the afternoon. That considerable barrier to entry is just one of many reasons it took me so long to venture out, even though it’s a few minutes away. Tallying up the strikes against Snooze, my hesitancy was not without merit.

For one, it’s a franchise, boasting 46 restaurants spread out across 8 southern states, bringing quality and consistency into question. Second, and this is a big one, the “plant-powered” section of its egg-heavy menu isn’t actually a cheat sheet for vegans. Those helpful suggestions are still littered with eggs and cheese, turning a simple order into a daunting demand. Study up online before arriving and don’t expect assistance from your server, who’s more surly than smiley after dealing with grouchy hipsters in need of a coffee fix. On top of all that, no matter which location you visit, parking is almost guaranteed to be a nightmare, and lines are inevitable. Do check in on the virtual waiting list but don’t forget to clear your agenda for the next few hours, regardless.

Sounds like a terrible experience, right? Speaking to the strength of the food itself, despite those myriad affronts to common sense, I’d still sign up for another round of impersonal insults for another bite. Much as I want to hate it, especially in this sea of brilliant plant-based eateries, Snooze still pulls its weight with some truly winning dishes.

Thank goodness, the cocktail program is equally strong, because you’re going to need a drink to take off the edge. The wait is much easier to stomach with a stiff Cosmopolitan in hand. Tart, bright, slightly sweet, it’s the eye-opener you didn’t know you needed.

For optimal results, pretend it’s the late 90’s again and no one really understands what the word “vegan” means. Stress that all toast comes dry, no butter, cheese, or milk in any entrees, and substitute tofu for eggs. True, some dishes are emblazoned with an unmistakable “V”, like the impossibly light and fluffy Vegan Bliss Pancakes, but don’t let your guard down. It never hurts to make your needs known, especially in an establishment not necessarily built with dietary restraint in mind.

Throwing down a Tofu Scramble that could hold its own against the heavy hitters in town, you get your choice of three inclusions from a generous list of options. All the usual vegetables make an appearance, in addition to subtly spicy soyrizo, and even a whole lobe of buttery avocado at no extra cost. Savory, well-seasoned, hot, and deeply satisfying, you can’t go wrong with this classic dish. Plus, it comes with a side of hash browns, which are delicious served in a tight cylinder or smashed flat if requested “extra crispy.”

Branch out just a little bit to try the Sweet Potato Veggie Smash Up, veganized with that eggy tofu scramble crowning two grilled sweet potatoes, infused with a touch of maple syrup. Piled high with asparagus and umami-rich mushrooms, it’s finished with pickled onions for a perfect briny contrast.

You snooze, you lose. Set your alarm clock at least an hour or two earlier to beat the crowds and claim your table. It might sound daunting, but it’s worth the extra effort to start your day on a delicious note.

Baklava for Breakfast

This blog post is sponsored by iHerb but as always, the opinions and experiences expressed in this post are my own.

My dad is a tough one to spoil. He never asks for anything, rarely complains, and never seems to want anything beyond his means. Gracefully, graciously, he’ll accept gifts when the occasion mandates such an exchange, but he genuinely means it when he says, “you shouldn’t have.” For a man who deserves so much, he sure is impossible to shop for.

The best presents come from the heart, of course, and that’s synonymous with the kitchen, as far as I’m concerned. My dad would never turn down any of my crazy creations, no matter his preferences or appetite, but for Father’s Day, I wanted to make something he would genuinely enjoy.

Further complicating matters, grocery shopping just isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the carefree days of popping into the nearest store to pick up a few things. If it can’t be ordered online, it pretty much can’t be on the menu. Thank goodness for iHerb, supplying both the basics and more specialized superfoods and delicacies.

It’s one-stop shopping for all things vegan and beyond. Unlike other online marketplaces, iHerb clearly labels and categorizes all of their goods by dietary needs, so you can search specifically for items that are plant-based, gluten-free, soy-free, and so much more, separately or all together if needed! Considering that there are literally thousands of vegan products to choose from, that eliminates the typical search frustration of scrolling through blurry pictures of labels, giving you exactly what you need. Orders are shipped to over 150 countries straight from climate-controlled distribution centers, ensuring the quality of their products. You’ll never receive expired goods, in sharp contrast to the gamble you sometimes take when purchasing from massive, multichannel online retailers. If there are ever any concerns, you can email or chat online with a real person 24 hours a day 7 days a week, speaking 10 different languages, too!

In case you forgot about Father’s Day until the last minute, don’t panic. You can get next-day, no-contact delivery without sweating over shortages or strange substitutions. iHerb even has the accoutrements covered; buy yourself some extra time by brewing up a quick beverage to slowly sip, savoring the company of The World’s Best Dad while breakfast is cooking. For me, that means instant iced coffee using Mount Hagen for a quick fix, and Twinings Cold Brewed Peach Iced Tea for him.

Recalling lazy weekends and leisurely mornings, the ultimate breakfast treat was a plateful of fluffy waffles, lavished with enough maple syrup to make a sapling weep. Only Real, Organic, Grade A Maple Syrup would make the cut here, because that quality makes a difference you can taste. Sticky and satisfied, we’d roll away from the table ready to take on the day.

Folding those memories into an even more decadent treat, such a celebration calls for something even more special. Flaky pastry meets the resounding crunch of crisp Eden Foods Pistachios and Bergin Fruit and Nut Company Almonds in my dad’s favorite dessert, baklava, now fit for “the most important meal of the day.” Sandwiched between two slabs of puff pastry, the nutty mixture is perfumed with aromatic Simply Organic Celyon Cinnamon and enriched with  Nutiva Butter-Flavored Coconut Oil, a thousand gossamer-thin layers rising to the occasion not in the oven, but in the waffle iron.

These delicate, shatteringly crisp sheets are designed to hold onto golden, honeyed syrup, infused with floral essence of Heritage Rosewater and subtly acidic edge of True Lemon Crystals. Each pocket unleashes a river of the sweet stuff, sure to appease even the most extreme nectarous cravings.

While you could serve baklava waffles for dessert instead, why not indulge a little bit? If your dad is even half as supportive, patient, loving, and good natured as mine, surely, he deserves it.

To you and yours, from me and mine, Happy Father’s Day!

Continue reading “Baklava for Breakfast”

The Trouble with Truffles

When it comes to truffles, how much is too much? Is there even such a thing as “too much” when we’re talking about the most savory, hyper-palatable substance found in nature? Sure, it’s easy to go overboard with a few seemingly harmless extra drops of truffle oil, turning a previously balanced dish into an acrid chemistry experiment gone wrong, but that’s another story entirely. Most commercial options rely on entirely lab-created chemicals for their aroma, without a single fleck of fungus in sight. Carried by cheap filler oils, these knock-offs lack the subtle nuances, earthy richness, and depth of pure umami intensity distilled within real truffles. Dirty diamonds locked within nubby black exteriors that could just as easily be mistaken as rocks are the key to this taste of luxury that no scientist can replicate.

When you go all-in on the real deal, you’ll know the difference when you taste it. Immediately it hits you, sweeping you off your feet before that first bite even hits your taste buds. The aroma alone can stop a conversation in its tracks and turn heads, like a dazzling supermodel making a grand entrance at a party. This bombshell doesn’t need any makeup or designer clothing to captivate, though. All that brilliance and more is found within; inherent, implicit, obvious to see beyond shallow outward aesthetics.

The real trouble with truffles is that their delicate nuances begin to fade almost as soon as they’re unearthed. Part of their scarcity is due to this ephemeral quality. Even if you can get the real deal, fresh isn’t always best. Personally, my top pick is always preserved, since there’s no gambling with lack of access, nor variable quality. At least that’s the case with Truffle Hunter. There’s nowhere to hide on these short labels fronting meaty shavings of black summer truffles, lightly brined and kept pristine in extra virgin olive oil. In that two-for-one punch, you get the full-bodied fungus, AND true infused truffle oil.

Genuine luxury is sinking your teeth into one of those substantial sheets of pure umami power. Frequently recommended as a topper for crostini, that suggestion made me think of toast, which naturally leads to avocado toast, and the inspiration to embellish was unstoppable from there.

Avocado toast elevated to the status of fine fare, this breakfast staple is now fit for a crowd. Taking basic staples to the next level, a tiny dose of white truffle balsamic vinegar is blended into creamy, luscious cashew ricotta, harmonizing with the beautifully marbled slabs of black truffle sparkling on top.

Resting atop a lightly seasoned crust of crisp breadcrumbs, each layer is more decadent than the last. Buttery, bright green avocados take on a greater degree of decadence, heightened by the intense, earthy, almost nutty notes of truffles. You could always gild the lily with a finishing kiss of truffle salt… But that might just test the theory that too much is never enough.

Simply sublime, sublimely simple. It may be tough to go back to plain old avocados on bread after just one bite.

Continue reading “The Trouble with Truffles”

Wordless Wednesday: Let’s Do Brunch

Huevos Divorciados with JUST Egg & Morning Bowl with Avocado from Wooden Spoon

Breakfast Plate from Gay4U

Greektown Scramble from Kal’ish

Pesto Tofu Scramble, Caesar Salad, and Country Fried Chick’n Platter from Eternal

Chipotle Tofu Burrito from Candle Cafe

Garden Breakfast with Tofu from Bouldin Creek Cafe

Japanese Tea Service with Tempeh from Samovar Tea Lounge

Tofu Scramble and Buffalo Salad from Two Mammas Vegan Kitchen

Turmeric Daikon Congee with Tofu from The Well

Holy Crêpe!

Shrove Tuesday, perhaps better known as Fate Tuesday (Mardi Gras) or Pancake Tuesday, is nearly upon us. Established as the final feast before the famine of Lenten austerity, pancakes once represented all things indulgent, blending sinfully rich sugary, fatty ingredients in one shameless dish.

Beyond the iconic short stack, fluffy and soft, a wide world of diverse pancakes exist. Be it blini, latkes, injera, dosa, jeon, or bánh xèo, there’s a whole lot to flip over on this day, and everyday of the year for that matter.

Delicate, gossamer thin French crêpes follow the same basic blueprint as their thicker American brethren, but most notably take shape with a higher ratio of liquid to flour while omitting chemical leaveners. Even at their most basic, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch sugar, they will never disappoint. Flavors and fillings are truly unlimited, showing up in savory formats just as often as sweet, making the ideal vehicles for seasonal vegetables, soft cheese spreads, fresh fruits, and fudge sauce alike.

It all starts with one basic batter. Flying in the face of conventional crêpe construction, no eggs, butter, nor any debauched ingredients are necessary for the most exquisite, soft sheets of pancake goodness to emerge from your skillet. These righteous treats should stay on your menu all year long.

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