July 7, 2011

Birthday Round-up AND Recipe for Johnny's Vegan Bolognese!!

Hi y'all! It was my birthday last Friday - yes I share a birthday with Canada Day (jerk always overshadows me) - which means that I got a whole three day weekend to celebrate. SCORE!

Wrapped gifts
On Friday, I got outta work early and Johnny and I went to see the new Woody Allen movie, "Midnight in Paris". It totally exceeded my expectations. Who knew it involved time-travel? Not this chick! It was very cute and trés romantic. Then we came home and it was time to open prezzies!! I had been receiving packages in the mail all week from my family and friends back in Arizona and it was REALLY hard to not tear into each of them as soon as they arrived. But I restrained myself until my actual birthday and it was sweet relief to finally be able to tear into those suckers! Here's what I got: "Crazy, Sexy Diet" by Kris Carr, "The Liars' Club" by Mary Karr and a salad spinner from my parents; some ridiculously delicious smelling Fig Coco lotion by Sabon from my sissy; a great book that holds Playbills from Broadways shows from my parents-in-law; a gorgeous sweater from my Auntie Debbie; and some beautiful flowers from my BFF Jen and her husband Dave! Johnny got me a record player and albums by Nina Simone and Billie Holiday! Let me just tell you, we've been enjoying listening to them SO much. There's just something so amazing about the sound of an album... I dig it. And now we get to hunt for and collect records! Sweet! Thanks to everybody for the lovely gifts, you made my day so special! xoxox

The gifts have been freed!
After the present opening massacre Johnny made me a spectacular dinner of salad, vegan bolognese and bread. SO GOOD and his extra-special recipe is at the end of the post! You're welcome.  

He even made a cute pattern with the tomatoes and avocado... he's adorable!
Saturday we spent the day in Williamsburg. Williamsburg is a slightly hipstery area of Brooklyn (if you're not wearing a sweatband or have washed your hair recently, you'll probably feel low on the cool scale), but I love it nonetheless and it is an easy ride on the train from Manhattan. Our first stop was one of my favorite spots ever, Crif Dogs! We discovered this place the first time we went to Williamsburg and now we have to stop there every time we're in the 'hood. They have delicious veggie dogs with all kinds of toppings and also make the BEST waffle fries. There are skate videos playing on two TVs, lots of action figures on display, and a few sit-down arcade games. I feel like I'm reclaiming my youth every time I step foot in there and I like it!

Pondering life and hot dogs...

Hot dog on the left, veggie dog on the right and WAFFLE FRIES!
Next up, we walked over to Barcade. You can probably discern what it is from the name, but just in case you can't: IT'S A BAR AND AN ARCADE. Oh mama, this place is awesome!!! They have all the classic games from childhood including Centipede, Paperboy, Tetris, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Marble Madness, etc. and they all only cost a quarter a play! They serve some tasty craft beers for $6.00 a pint (Happy Hour is 5-8 everyday and beer is only $5 - hey, for New York that's pretty good). This place totally reminds me of Tucson, it would be right at home on 4th Avenue. Definitely check it out if you're in the area.

Our final destination was the famed 4 Course Vegan. For those of you not familiar, 4 Course Vegan is an awesome dinner club hosted by Chef Matteo at his loft every Saturday night. For $40/person you get four amazing, creative little dishes prepared by Matteo and the chance to mingle with some friendly people. We sat with the sweet Erica of Un Petit Oiseau, an amazing blog that features vegan and gluten-free baked goods. Here's a breakdown of the dishes we were served: an amuse bouche of jicama ravioli stuffed with cashew cheese and topped with pesto; chilled corn chowder with pumpkin seeds and cilantro créme fraiche; new potato terrine with fresh favas, micro máche and sour cherry marmala; black bean quinoa croquettes with stewed tomatoes and mustard seed aioli; and strawberry 'shortcake' with thyme biscuit, cocoa butter cream and lemon nectar. All I can say is WOW. As soon as the amuse bouche hit my bouche I knew we were in for a delightful evening. Johnny loved the ravioli and the corn chowder best. I was also a slave to the soup and also adored the croquettes. I thought the strawberry shortcake was divine - the perfect mixture of savory and sweet - but Johnny thought it was a bit too far on the sweet side. I did note that he cleaned his plate, however.

Corn chowder
New potato terrine
Black bean quinoa croquette
Strawberry shortcake
The quality of food is what you would find at the most expensive vegan restaurants in NYC and for $40 the meal is quite a bargain. You can bring your own wine or beer to enjoy which also keeps costs down. And Matteo sells his own line of homemade goodies - I got take home home a complimentary package of raw coconut and chocolate macaroons as a birthday gift. YUM! We will definitely be back to 4CV in the near future!

Israeli couscous tabbouli, tofu lettuce wraps and salad with avocado dressing. YUM!
On Monday we ventured to Park Slope to hang out with our rad friends John, Katie and Annie. They cooked up a gigantic birthday/ July 4th feast! We had crudités with avocado dip, mixed greens straight from their CSA, tofu lettuce wraps with fresh mango salsa, and Israeli couscous tabbouli. They even had stuff to make micheladas 'cause they know those are my favorite! So cute! It was the perfect light meal for such a hot, hot day. We then migrated to the roof to watch the fireworks take place all over New York and New Jersey. The main show on the Hudson was a bit obstructed, but we got to see quite a good display from the Chinatown area and from the crazy neighbors who were lighting bootleg fireworks all night. 

Sweet pic of the New Jersey skyline
Our new camera has a "Fireworks" mode. How crazy is that?!
Then it was back inside for the most AMAZING VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD made by Annie! Seriously impressive stuff! Johnny ate about 12 pieces before I pried the fork out of his hand and make him sit in the corner. I'm getting breathless just thinking about how good that cake was...

I was careful not to spit on the cake.
Honey badger would freak out over this cake
Pretty awesome birthday, huh? Are you jealous? Thanks to everyone who sent me a gift or birthday wishes or spent time and effort cooking me something... I'm so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life!

And now for Johnny's delicious recipe!...

He made a heart out of the sauce! I think he's better at this stuff than me you guys...
Johnny's Vegan Bolognese Sauce
Serves a small army

 2 red peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 yellow or orange pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 container mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
3 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 package Boca crumbles
1 jar marinara sauce (we used Newman's Own and it was superfantastique!)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Warm the olive oil for a minute or two then add the peppers, onions and mushrooms. Sautee on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Push the veggies to one side of the pan, and add the Boca crumbles to the other side. Cook for another 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauce and stir everything together allowing to simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more. 

Serve over your favorite pasta - we used bowtie. Mangia!


  1. I love this post! Happy belated birthday!!! It looks like you had an awesome celebration.

    That is SO WEIRD that you got "The Liars Club" as one of your gifts because I have had that book sitting (unread) on my shelf for seriously 10+ years. I remember buying it at a used book shop in high school, and I have just never read it. Last week I looked it & thought, "I need to finally read this thing!" I still haven't started it, but... Maybe you'll inspire me. :) Let me know how you like it!

    Wasn't "Midnight in Paris" WONDERFUL?! I had only seen one tiny preview so I had zero expectations - but it's now one of my favorite movies!! Definitely one of the best, most magical movies I have seen in a long time.

  2. Awww thanks, Jess! I wanted "The Liars Club" because I took a writing class not too long ago and my teacher had Mary Karr as a professor when he was in grad school. He sang the praises of that book a few times, so I thought it'd be worth a read. I'm not too far into it yet, but seems good so far. What is also funny is that the reason I asked for "Crazy Sexy Diet" is b/c you wrote about how much you liked it on your blog!

    "Midnight in Paris" was SO good! I had sort of fallen out of love with Woody Allen's latest movies, but now he won me back. I've been feeling very nostalgic lately, so it was right on point for me. And I adore Marion Cotillard, she can do no wrong!

  3. Hally!!! It was so great to meet both you and Johnny at the 4CV dinner the other week! You are both so sweet. Thanks so much for the shout out! I hope to see you both back there soon!

  4. Great post Hally Leigh! I went to a similar Barcade in Vegas called Insert Coins (it's near Freemont Street) and thought the exact same thing about it fitting right in on 4th Ave...great minds I tell ya! And I'm totally going to try Johnny's recipe (it's a big deal for me as a carnivorous Mexican) I'll let you know how it turns out. P.S. I feel like a jerk for not sending anything to add to your Canada Day gifts. :-( I did think about you on July 1 though...and Princess Diana too. :-)

  5. Hi Erica! It was so nice to meet you, too, and your blog is downright dangerous - I want to bake everything you've posted! We'll definitely be back to 4CV soon, would be lovely to dine with you again!

    Thanks Jess! I think 4th Ave needs a bar/arcade that also serves Sonoran veggie dogs STAT! Tell me if you like Johnny's recipe, it really is delicious!