Meet Tex

Tex (formerly know as Rowdy) comes from… Texas! What a coincidence. He’s from Dallas, to be precise, so he’s a bit of a country boy. As you can see in this photo, he’s also a little ‘hood.

unnamed-1

Tex, his mother, and her 8 other babies came to New York today to meet their foster parents. Of course, after seeing a baby photo of “Rowdy”, I had to call dibs on this charismatic little dawgy.

14670636_10154255893703303_751432934071479544_n

Facts: Tex is a 2-month old Blue Heeler. If you’ve never heard of this breed, like most people, I’ll tell you all about it.

Blue Heelers are also known as Australian Cattle Dogs, or just Cattle Dogs. Yes, you’re looking here at a bonafide Australian dog. Just imagine him riding a white stallion through the deserts of Australia with Kylie Minogue by his side. They hop off their horses and go herd some cattle across acres and acres of dry grain and luscious green grass. Suddenly a crocodile appears and eats Kylie. Right before Tex gets eaten, he begins to reason with the croc. They become friends, but Tex is left without a partner. Now he needs a new family. Shucks.

More about Blue Heelers! Well, they can live up to 12-14 years old and males typically grow to be 35-55 lbs. Thus, they’re medium sized dogs, comparable to a Border Collie, and known to be just about as smart! The main difference is that Blue Heelers have shorter fur, thus they require a bit less grooming. Not to mention, the adorable and beautiful spots of blue throughout the white fur is irresistible!

Don’t worry if you don’t have cattle or even sheep (for shame!) but do remember, Tex will require stimulation in other ways. He’s like a prodigy child in a normal classroom. If you don’t find ways to challenge him and keep him interested, he might cause trouble. However, training won’t be too difficult due to his abilities to quickly pick up new information.

So far Tex has proven to be very sociable with humans and dogs alike, meanwhile, completely ignoring the cats we met. He likes to hop around and climb up my arm to ‘boop’ my nose with his. I think he’s going to be a wonderful hiking and running buddy once he figures out the leash situation.

unnamed-3

Upon further research, my beliefs were confirmed, this breed is known to be very loyal, hardworking, and brave. As one must be when herding cattle! What’s also amazing about the breed is how it was concocted. In the 1800s, Heelers were created from a mix of Dingo- blue merle Collies to Dalmatians and black and tan Kelpies. Some sources suggest Bull Terrier may be in there, as well. What a mix!

unnamed-8

Tex also made it very clear that I am boring company.

Tex is a wonderful new foster friend and he will make a great companion for an active and disciplined home. However, he is a smart and active pup, so he is not ideal for apartment life, families who are not home, and stupid people. I don’t blame him. He will make a perfect activity partner and will respond very well to tough training sessions.

If you’re interested in adopting Tex, fill out an application on the Waggytail Rescue website. Be sure to apply for ROWDY.

Find out more about adoption at:
http://www.waggytailrescue.org/

Recommended products (click the link):

Every dog I meet seems to love these-

SmartBones no Rawhide

As it gets colder-

Winter Warm Vest Jacket

Learn more about the breed and training a Blue Heeler-

How to easily train your Blue Heeler

Advertisements

Eating fancy, not hangry

“Food is a thing with feathers.” Emily Dickinson wrote that once…. I think.

If there is one romantic relationship that I have witnessed across the universe- in every city, state, country, and planet I’ve visited, it’s the love between (hu)man and food. People love sustenance. We gobble, devour, scarf, chow down, and nosh any chance we get. That includes photos, fortunately. This ensures that the rest of us can look on and feel deep shame upon noting that our cabinets and refrigerators are empty, or worse, full of regret for what we have chosen to keep stocked in there. Sorry, but no number of openings and closings of that door will erase the angst and self-hatred you’re experiencing. Foodie’s Regret. We’ve all been there.

This poor judgement of one’s gastrointestinal needs can be remedied, however, by a a reservation at a restaurant. Make that, a fancy pantsy restaurant, because- why not?

If you’re like me and you typically travel alone, eating at a fine dining establishment may not be as appealing, or even terrifying. Stop fearing and start living! Richard Simmons probably said that. I recommend detaching from the trough and using a fork and knife. Not everyday, mind you! Just… once in awhile.

You don’t have to abandon ‘Hot Harold’s Hot Dogs’ or wherever you like to frequent in your tee and boxers, and you certainly don’t have to live on soup served on a baby fork. As they say, it all ends up in the same place (we’re talking potty talk now. Keeping it classy.) But. What say you about suits and dresses? How do you feel about redwood chopsticks with hand carved elephants? Fancy restaurants love chopsticks!  A respectable joint full of respectable people doing… semi-respectable things. I can’t speak for everyone, some of those well-to-do business folk are as greasy as Hot Harold’s Ham and Hummus Humongo Hot Dog! (Two for one deal if you eat both in less than a minute!)

table

You go to a nice restaurant and you get yourself a menu that tells you what the farmer named every vegetable you are eating and the hobbies of the cow whose manure was used to grow them!

Of course, eating snazzy means being snazzy for the night. No reason to go in there and look like a deranged boar who got lost whilst looking for White Castle. As they do. Whether it be for a special occasion, a work event, or because you’re gosh darn fabulous and deserve a sexy meal, let’s try to figure out how to deal with this delicious and gorgeous trauma of yours.

Before the Food Consumption 

Dress like you mean it. First of all, some restaurants on the “wow” caliber require a certain level of dressage. Imagine you’re a proud stallion riding your way gloriously into a battle of beauty. If you’re doing the suit thing, do the suit thing. Match your socks and shoes and shirt and cufflinks and pocket square, and… um… everything else. Make it match. Learn how to tie a tie! Maybe you can pull off a fake, but I feel good about myself when I successfully get my Windsor knot going. If you’re going the dress or gown route, own that sunuva! Make it glamorous and seasonally appropriate, and hey, maybe wear shoes that won’t leave your feet looking like they’ve been left out in a hot car for too long.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but dress down and get the cold shoulder.
I just made that up, you like it? I’m proud.

Tonight is the night when you can look in the mirror and not think, “Why do you even exist?” You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it. Unless you royally mess up. Then don’t blame me.

Arrive early and check-in. If you really can’t handle this, at least be on time. If you made a reservation (you did make a reservation, didn’t you!?) then you should be there and be put together at that time. Preferable 15-20 minutes beforehand, so you don’t have to wonder why you’re on time but those sons of a gun are not seating you immediately and precisely on the dot. Unfortunately, reservations don’t always ensure immediate placement. That’s why there’s a bar. Or, maybe there’s a wait because there’s a bar? Conspiracy! Either way, avoid frustration and anxiety, and just be there. When you realize your sock is slipping down into your shoe, you’ll be glad you have extra time to reach down, leisurely fix it, maybe massage your toes and scratch your arch a bit. It’ll be totally worth it. Oh- and straighten whatever it is that’s not straight. Trust me- something is crooked and everyone will notice. Just kidding. No one cares.

Processed with Snapseed.

When you walk in, you’ll also want to take a moment to take in the prettyful surroundings and breathe in the air. Remember, most restaurants with cloth napkins in the bathroom also use 24K gold to filter the air. Get your money’s worth. Also check your coat if this is an option. If you’re splurging, don’t skimp just so you can pick it up every 10 minutes and drag it around with you. If you love something, let it go to the coat room. They’ll keep it warm for you by sitting on it with their butts. That’s how they do it in my imagination.

unnamed-1

Get a drink and relax. I knew you’d like this one. Whether it’s a seltzer with lime or a seltzerini with olives and the blood of a unicorn, having a beverage to sip, a glass to fidget with, and (hopefully) a little umbrella to open and close will really help you settle in and feel like you’re living well. You can use this time as an opportunity to check out what everyone else is doing and eating. Maybe someone will think you’re already drunk and be willing to talk to you… if that’s what you’re into. If nothing else, you’ll feel super classy holding a crystal martini glass and repeating in your head, “Shaken not stirred. Shaken… not stirred. Steak ‘n’ not slurred. hah. Oh, me. So clever and dashing and charismatic.”
Not that I’ve ever had this conversation with myself on a daily basis.

unnamed-28

Don’t let them rush you and don’t feel rushed! Some of these places have a bazillion people coming and going constantly, so you can feel the polite urge to get in, eat, and get out as quickly as possible. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t be a polite statistic! It’s your time, money, and experience. You do it at any pace you like. If you want to take 30 minutes to order, 2 hours to eat, and 3 hours of chill time, you go and you do that. I mean, that might be pushing it a bit, but there’s no law against it. Unless there is a law against it; consult your attorney.
Actually, don’t linger. I take that back. Stop being a jerk. Do things at your pace, but don’t hold up everyone else.  All good things must come to an end.

When it’s Time to Order

Figure out the menu. While there’s no shame in asking staff to help when you’re lost in a sea of weird food items and ancient foreign symbol, there’s something to be said for knowing what is what on the menu. Basically, you want to bring your thermos and compass to your camping weekend. This menu will not look the one at Waffle House, I assure you. Those aren’t stains from red wine, they’re stains carefully placed by a famous Italian menu designer. Email him any compliments or complaints you may have.

Processed with Snapseed.

We all know what “appetizers” are! Yum! Hollywood, FL 2016

We will now cover some of the most common fancy pants menu tools:

  • À la carte (noun) meaning “According to the menu” in French. According to the Google, this is a listing of food items that are served as separate entities, as opposed to parts of a complete meal. This will give you the ability to pick and choose what you want and how much of it you want. Think tapas or dim sum. Bits and pieces of a meal that you piece together to satisfy your hunger, cravings, and budget. Many people really go all out on these suckers. Try one of everything, if you like, no one’s gonna complain. You’re the one in the outfit that smells vaguely like moth balls trying to be disguised by cologne, and that means you’re an adult who gets to make adult choices… and who also just spilled some wine on their lap. But, hey, you drink wine, because you’re over 21. Boom.
  • Prix fixe (noun) French people are smart, they invented this “fixed-price” thingy for everyone’s benefit. You get to pick one of 3 or 4 options for each course (typically 4-5 courses, but there may be even more!) and the price remains the same. You order everything at once and then the food just rolls in when you’re ready for the next one. It’s not all at once, so you don’t look like the Georgie Peorgie that you know yourself to be. You have one or two plates and maintain your dainty dignity while growing increasingly satiated.
    *There are some items that come with an additional fee if they’re even fancierer. Be sure to look out for footnotes noting this.
  • Chef’s tasting menu (noun) This one is English, I think you know those words. If you’ve visited Ihop and ended up rocking in a corner because the menu was too extensive, this may be the way to go. The chef does all the hard work of choosing each course and you just sit back and see what Chef Boyardee has planned for you. It’s like having a private chef at home! Except, this one doesn’t contemplate undercooking the fugu… if you know what I mean. Puffer fish humour, anyone?

Bother the waiter. There’s no reason to be a total pain in the butt, but if you want to know what’s recommended or what something is or means or if that thing is supposed to smell like that, be sure to ask. Even fancy people and places are still just people and places, which means they need to do their job and give you a good experience. Plus, you deserve a full experience in which you’re not walking out $200 down and still hungry or sick or dissatisfied. If you don’t want that sauce on your food or you want to know if something is salty or sweet or whatever YOU want to know or you think could make or break your meal, ask and ask and avoid any problems.

Everyone had to go to a fancy restaurant for the first time at some point, and the waiters are aware that not everyone is aware of the going ons. This is why they’re trained to treat you well and not be overly snobby. If they are, the place is stupid, anyway. Don’t let them boss you around, you’re their boss tonight! You pay their rent, so allow yourself to be curious and learn as much as you can.

Try something new. Burgers are nice and fancy, this is true. But that thing with lily bulb in it or that dumpling shaped like a carrot… that might be your new favourite food. If you’re debating whether you should eat something you’ve eaten your entire life or get something entirely new, there’s always compromise! Ask your waiter or neighbour or dial a friend and ask what they suggest. Something like, “I love ____, do you have something similar that isn’t ____?” or “I once had a ____ that tasted like ____ and I hit my ____ in the ______ with it. What would you recommend that might also be _____?”
Basically, ask about suggestions that are familiar to some extent, but also new to your tastebuds. And, also, don’t hit people. Stop doing that.

unnamed

Quality chefs are taught to combine the familiar and beloved with the new and exotic. Flavour blending keeps their job interesting, and satisfying you is their job, so make sure they know what you like and don’t like, and take time finding a happy solution for everyone (mostly you!)

Wine?? Of course, wine is super optional. Some people hate it, some people don’t understand it, and some people just want to avoid any possibility of spilling it. If it’s not your thing, don’t feel like you have to fit in or that it’s expected of you. Perrier water or even just tap water is totally cool, and it’s hydrating and stuff, unlike wine. However, if you like wine, but know nothing about pairing and airing and how to pronounce stuff, do what I keep telling you- ask the waiter or, even better, the sommelier (wine steward). They actually go to school to tell you what a cabernet is. We’ve all heard the word, but what it means… only the sommelier knows. Let the fella or lass show off some knowledge and impress you with how smoothly he/she says, “sauvignon” or how gorgeous “noir” can really be. *Vegans- just remember, not all wine is vegan. Red is more often acceptable, but still ask. If they don’t know, stick with something safer.

P8050083.JPG

Fortunately, I found vegan-friendly wine and baguette in Paris! (2012)

They’ll also often give you a mini-taste beforehand, especially if you order the bottle, in which case you don’t even have to ask, they’ll just provide it. If you are served a drop of wine and you and the sommelier are eyeing each other like, “Well?” that means you should do the sniff, swirl, and sip like in the movies. If you like it, which you probably will, you just nod and the person will pour you more. If it’s not for you, try again or get a cocktail. Or go with the house/recommended wine. Easy sneezy.

When the Food Arrives

Don’t look with terror. It’s possible you ordered something that sounded simple, but now what you’re getting looks like it just got into a fight with Freddy Kreuger. Don’t panic. It really is whatever you ordered, they just want to impress you. That’s the job of the restaurant, to offer you a unique experience. Thus, you may be confused, scared, and fighting the urge to cringe sometimes. Try not to give in. Just say, “Thank you” and poke it a bit when no one’s looking. And despite what many naysayers nay say about these days, I’m totally into the idea of taking photos of your food. It’s pretty and you paid for it, your friends should have to look in envy, and you have the right to look back and sigh with happiness that that food was in your life and passed through your digestion system at one point. Snap away, but be subtle and quick. Not too quick, or you’ll end up with the thousands of blurry photos like me, but quick enough so people don’t start sneering and acting holier than thou. “Ugh. Just eat your food and stop taking photos!” Oh, yeah, fancy pants? Well, stop using your fork tongs to remove dirt from your nails! Yeah, I saw you.

unnamed-2

Back to my point, if something looks truly odd or different from what you expected, double check, but don’t immediately assume it’s “like ohmygod, not what I expected. I can’t eat this.” Eat it. Even if you do end up having to send it back, that was like a free bite of more fancy food. They will possibly and likely charge you for the meal, though, so… try NOT to do this. Just suck it up unless it’s really made poorly. And, if you LIKE what you ordered, don’t forget to pay your compliments to the chef. Yep, they don’t just do that in movies. The chef probably won’t come out, get on one knee, and thank you with tears in eyes, but it is appreciated, nonetheless.

Dessert: do or don’t? Your call, bromie. I always feel like I *should* get a dessert, but I usually pass. If I ate enough… and trust me, I ate enough, I don’t need it and it will just leave me feeling overstuffed and full of sadness. I’m not really a sweets person, though. If you enjoyed your dinner, but dessert is REALLY your jam, maybe this is where you should splurge. Smaller meal, bigger dessert? Big meal, huge dessert? Huge everything? Really, it’s up to you and how you’re feeling. When the dessert arrives, everyone will be super jealous and eye-eating your food, so don’t think you’ll look like a monster. They want it and they want it bad. But it’s all yours. Enjoy!

cake.jpg

The Check Shows Up

Once again, don’t look with terror. It’s usually more than you expected. Head math is complicated when you’re excited and hungry, so you might have underestimated your spending. Play it cool. Unless the drunk guy at the table next to yours has a clever quip, in which case, go along with it and release your dismay and disbelief. Don’t overplay it, but meeting and bonding with other fake rich people, or real rich people is never bad. In general, though, don’t nickel and dime tonight. Of course, if something is wrong, get it corrected! Even wealthy people don’t tolerate that, but if something cost more than you hoped or expected, well, that’s the name of the game. You gotta be prepared for little surprises in there. So you’ll go a week without hand soap and toilet paper… no one will know!

Tip, tip, tip. Remember how hard we made the waiter work? We asked all those questions and requested more water over and over again. They were in the hot kitchen and in the freezing restaurant and running up and down… it was quite a job. Their feet and arms and back and shoulders and neck HURT. Help them pay for their chiropractor. No matter how fancy the restaurant, waiters are still waiters. They work hard and live mainly off tips. That’s America for ya. Maybe they got a little confused or moved a little slow for your liking, but that probably wasn’t to spite you. It was a long and busy day, exhaustion will have those effects on any person. Be generous because you had an awesome time and you’re just one heckuva nice person!

**********

Eating out is a wonderful experience! While I still enjoy going out to casual dining in my jeans and tee, there’s something about the attention to detail and being given good care when in a high-end restaurant that really makes it feel so darn good! It’s an experience like climbing a mountain or living with monks: worth trying it to tell the tale and feeling how it makes you feel.

Not all food is created equally, just like well-made clothing will typically leave you feeling well-made. The rest is fine and dandy for everyday, but the moment you try the good stuff, you really get what the craze is all about.

Mock me and my dining experiences all you like, but that one is checked off my to-do list… can you say the same?

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to keep up with my adventure!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!


The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining: From Salad Forks to Sommeliers, How to Eat and Drink in Style Without Fear of Faux Pas

My Top 10 Cities!

There is SO, SO much of the world left for me to see…. However, there is also a whole lot that I’ve already seen! I am SO LUCKY! All the countries I’ve visited have impacted me in some deep way, and the memories will always stay with me. Still, I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I take both seriously. With all the time and money that goes into travel, it’s helpful to have someone to point you in the right direction!

Four continents, over 30 countries, and 34  U.S. states in, my experience is both limited but also informed. People will often ask me, “Did you like ____?” or “Should I go to….?”

My answer is usually, “Yes. Do it.”

My attempt to make a list of “10 Worst Cities” was futile, as I couldn’t name a single place where I didn’t find something I loved! Call me easily amused, but I have had a ball around the world and in my very own little country of America. Sorry, kids, there will be no smack talk here today. However, there are definitely cities that stood out to me and hold a special place in my heart.

Now, without further ado, I shall attempt the near-impossible. I will take on the task that so many have tried and failed at (though, many have succeeded….)

Here is my list of ‘Top 10 Cities I’ve Visited and Loved’:

10. Bridgetown, Barbados. Not really one for beaches and palm trees, my expectations were low coming into Barbados. I was then extremely surprised to discover how special this Caribbean island is! The views, the people, and the laws were all… super chill. I got really excited when my tour guide informed me that people were allowed to pick fruit or catch fish and eat it without a permit or anything. It was a nature buffet! Plus, there were monkeys everywhere! Sign me up!

Sure, it’s full of big shot wealthy people going off for golf in the sunshine, but the everyday folk were just as happy, and probably happier- I know I was!

12642754_10207102954645016_436998188445365815_n.jpg

9. Tallinn, Estonia. Most people don’t think twice about Estonia. When my cruise ship set forth for this tiny country in Europe, no one was particularly thrilled…. Certainly not me, being as naive as I was.

When we arrived, my mind was quickly changed. I am not sure what it was exactly, but something about Tallinn warmed my heart. Maybe it’s this fact that got me thinking twice:

“Over the past two decades, this former Soviet-controlled nation — home to just 1.3 million people, or under one-sixth the size of New York City — has quietly become one of the most tech-savvy countries on earth. Estonia is the 79th smallest country in the world by population but holds the world record in startups per person. It has among the world’s fastest broadband speeds. The country teaches every kid how to code. Nearly all government services are conducted online. Citizens can access their health records in the cloud and pay for parking with their mobile phones.” (mic.com – https://goo.gl/Czn3pm)

Everyone loves cheering on the little guy, right? This was my chance. Go, Estonia, go!!

284939_4068772130422_199722094_n.jpg

8. Cleveland, Ohio. When I tell people I loved visiting Cleveland, I get some looks. The response is usually, “You’ve been all over the world, why OHIO!?”

Ohio because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ohio because of schoolchildren talking with me on their way home. Ohio because cotton candy in the casino, beautiful architecture, and really cool murals on buildings. That’s why.

I was surprised too, don’t get me wrong. But my curiosity for the unappreciated and unknown was enough reason to set out on the 12 hour bus ride to Ohio by myself. Not a day went by when I couldn’t find something new to do, somewhere new to go, or someone new with whom I could chat. Don’t listen to your enemies, Cleveland, you’re special to me!

Ohiocollage.jpg

7. Crete, Greece. All of the cities I’ve seen in Greece were gorgeous and quaint. Crete stood out for its exceedingly serene and delightful atmosphere. There’s the historical Knossos to admire, sweet alcohol to sample, and houses full of women making noodles by hand…. Plus, it’s incredible standing on a hill and overlooking olive trees as far as the eye can see! It’s a simple and expansive city with lots of work to do, but lots to offer, as well. One mustn’t forget to greet the goats and scraggly mutts wandering about, either.

P.S. If you enjoy traditions and silly walks, you’re in for a treat! You’ll have to catch the Change of the Guards in Athens… or just watch this video:

Oh! And don’t let me forget to mention the fantastic vegan leek pie I had with my refreshing Mythos beer!

10462802_10203333789098233_2236970629463951827_n

6. Amsterdam, Netherlands. I know what you’re thinking, you rascal. When most people think of Amsterdam, they think of the very liberal marijuana laws. Maybe you can’t help but swoon at the thought of it. And, honestly? It was nearly impossible to avoid weed in your face as you walk along. People don’t get “used to it”, it doesn’t become “the norm”. Everyone seems to use it a lot. Cafes and shops line the streets. Don’t even get me started on the Red Light District….

404096_4068833931967_1659129482_n

But if this is all you do during your visit to Amsterdam, you’re missing out!

Every night of my stay, I went to the local square to talk with unexpected new friends. I befriended a bunch of local and foreign musicians. We jammed and busked and had a great time, without so much as a single puff of “the weed”. I found it very easy to socialize in Amsterdam! There are hostels where one can stay or hang out, and I even befriended two Iranian men who were down for a late night party! Something about the peaceful walk along the water and the energy of the city put everyone in a bright and cheery mood.

collage

Plus, there’s a great tour of the Heineken brewery which includes a boat ride. It turns out, taking a boat tour with a group of drunk people is one of the most fun (and least educational) activities in which a person can partake.

5- New Orleans, Louisiana. No one will disagree with me if I say that NOLA is an amazing city to visit. With a nickname like “The Big Easy”, you know it’s gotta be good. The music, the food, the accent… it’s a groovin’ time.

This place is a big jam just waiting for someone to start the tune, which happens every minute on the minute. There’s no time for silence and stillness because the locals are just as anxious to start the party as the tourists. The bar is set pretty high, people expect a great time when they visit New Orleans, so the musicians have to deliver! If you’re not good enough, you’re going to be good enough, or you’re gonna have to go! Not that they’d tell you that, since everyone was so friendly. From day one I was part of the gang, I was family. They took care of me… as long as I slipped them a dollar or two.

10624735_10204693191682448_6100819661264828401_n

Feeling blue in the town of jazz and dixieland is simply impossible. If you’re down, you better be picking up your brass and getting right back up to play.

collage

4- Agra, India. With the Taj Mahal being in Agra, what more of a reason do you need to visit? Yeah, it really is that awe-inspiring. One might even say it’s “awesome”. You think you’ve seen a million photos and get it; you get the appeal and the beauty… but you don’t. Not until you can feel the flawless walls and the smooth stone under your feet. Amazingly, however, it’s not the only appeal of the city!

Have you heard of Sheesh Mahal? No, you haven’t. The name means ‘Crystal Palace’. Why? Because the walls are covered in thousands of tiny mirrors! The twinkle is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. There are a bunch of other forts and palaces and museums, as well. All with their own unique designs and features that will temporarily leave you forgetting to breathe. It’s breathtaking. And, hey, the super delicious Indian food doesn’t hurt one bit!

collage.jpg

3- Negev Desert, Israel. With so much focus on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, most people who visit Israel never get to see the “outer boroughs” (so to speak.) Fortunately, I had the right mind while in the country to find people who lived outside these major cities and knew them well. This means I went North and South, but I also went to the desert! Actually, I went to a 3-day music festival in the Negev Desert. I did this while staying with a friend/a tour guide I met on my first visit to Israel. He lives on a kibbutz with his family. This is an experience I super highly recommend. You will never experience anything like this again! It’s a commune for Jewish hippy families… how can you go wrong? With baby cows and organic fruits and veggies, it’s Heaven for anyone who loves nature and life.

collage

Although one would assume a desert is a place for cacti, camels, and people who are lost, there was a surprising abundance of LIFE in the Negev! You could just pick bright pink fruit off the cacti and bite into the sweet innards! No one has to starve in this land soy milk and agave nectar (get it? Like “milk and honey”?)

74495_10201624030875346_1263210384_n

If you like hiking, photogenic horizons, and communities of people full of nothing but compassion and generosity- the desert might be calling your name.

2- Rome, Italy. Is it wrong that my first thought about Rome is in French? I don’t care! Je t’aime! Je t’aime, Rome! The history, the beauty, the smells, the shopping, the people…. I just want to bottle it all up and wear it as a perfume. I would call it ‘Sublime’.

collage.jpg

If I could, I’d go back in time and marry Michelangelo. We’d live on the streets of Rome, create beautiful things, and drink wine all day.

With all the incredible architecture everywhere you go, fresh veggies in the market, and endless music in the streets, it’s crazy that they have even more to offer! Most importantly: the most passionate people I have ever met! The Romans bleed hearts and roses! They are so proud of their home and want to share it with any person who comes to visit. I was blown away by the warmth and enthusiasm I felt radiating from each and every Roman I met. They knew so much about their city and were so excited to share stories, history, and fun facts with me. A city so vegan-friendly, tourist-friendly, and love-obsessed is the town for me!

collage.jpg

1- New York City, USA. Guilty. I am guilty as charged. I am a New York loving, urbanized, city snob. I make no excuses, I offer no denial… I simply love New York City. No matter where I go, returning to The Big Apple gives me palpitations. The skyline is unbeatable, that’s a simple fact. Buildings come and go, but the beauty remains. Throw in any type of food you can imagine, a million and one fairs, festivals, and feasts, bars, cafes, parties, and protests, and you have yourself an amazing experience. Whatever ye seek, ye shall find.

No, not everyone is loving and kind, but everyone has a purpose, a place, and a role. It’s like the entire city is one apartment and every New Yorker is a roommate. We all play our part- love or hate, give or take. There’s an urgency to move and live. Room for hopes and dreams like no other place in the world. I may not have been everywhere yet, but I’ve been around enough to know that New York is special. It’s the class clown who disrupts the other kids, but everyone knows this kid will make something of himself. This kid is going places. He lives on his own terms, and that’ll get him everything he wants in life. Through the ups and downs… New York City is THE ONE.

collage.jpg

As time goes on, I am sure my Top 10 will change or adjust. That is because there is always more to see and do, and I can’t wait to see and do! What does your Top 10 look like? Did I heinously forget your favourite city/state/country? Let me know!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to tune in for my next adventure!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

Just a Letter

Some letters are personal and meaningful, others are empty and cold. Some change lives, others change little. One way or the other, letters are important. They have the ability to connect us with anyone! Whether it be a complete stranger in another country or a loved one in another county. The conversation between man, paper, and pen is irreplaceable and is not something that should be forgotten or left behind in the Dark Ages.

Last year I went on social media and asked that anyone who wanted a letter from me send me their home address or P.O. box. The response was incredible! So many people responded! Some I’ve known for years, some I’d only just met. They all were so excited to receive a personalized letter from me. I’m not a celebrity or a rising star. I’m not even an influential local figure! I am just a person with a paper and a pen. I doodled, I rambled…. I had a ball creating my little pieces of art and literature!

The idea originated when I received a letter from my grandmother. It was just a simple envelope with a simple note alongside a few dollars. The money was certainly nice, but that letter was by far the most incredible thing that I had found in my mailbox in years, if not ever. It was real. Touched by human hands and done with care and love. It carried a message that could be repeated as many times as I was willing to read it over and over and over again, even when she could not say them herself. In those few words, everything I needed from my grandmother was expressed and felt and given. She gave me a gift, and I cherish it.

unnamed-3.jpg

I wish my handwriting was as beautiful as hers

Not only did I receive my grandmother’s letter, but around this time I also started getting invitations regarding my brothers’ engagement parties, their fiancée’s bachelorette parties, their wedding invitations, the baby shower… not to mention ALL the ‘Thank You’ cards! Some of these were printed, some handwritten, but the gratitude and thoughtfulness expressed in them was felt and appreciated just the same. I held onto every single one because they had all touched me in different ways at different times in my life and their lives. They are a collection of special, beautiful moments.

Processed with Snapseed.

Don’t forget the holiday and birthday cards!

Once my little project kicked off and I began writing my 50+ handwritten cards, I was so excited to see what I would come up with next. What memories were brought back to me, and if I had no specific memories with this person, what would come to mind? It was an experiment and an experience! How could I make each letter different and unique? How could I keep myself excited about this? How could I get my wrist used to writing so much!? Admittedly, I did find myself with writer’s block and an aching wrist by the time I got to 15 letters. I kept going, though! I had made a promise to them and to myself that I would reach out. Even if they had forgotten or blown off my promise, knowing that it meant something to them, that they would be excited to see that letter kept me pushing on.

I also forgave myself for days when I was less motivated. If all I could manage was a few sentences and a smiley face, that was fine. It’s not necessarily about the message, but the effort and thought. It wasn’t that I cared less over time, I simply found myself stuck. For some, my handwriting was very sloppy, but that’s normal.

Unfortunately, not everyone wrote me back or let me know how they felt about the letter. I like to think they were all received with joy. I know I did my part, and I felt good about it. On the other hand, many people did write back, and a couple continued to write back. Not to the point of being pen pals, but once every few months or on holidays I might receive a greeting. It’s not about reciprocation, though. Like everything in life, it’s about the joy of the experience; the good and the bad. In the end, it was worth it for the positive feedback and some photos I was sent on the holidays or invitations. It made me feel like part of their family, or at least a friend worth considering a friend, and not just a figure online or in someone’s cellular phonebook.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Even just a postcard from some far off country or state was really a thrill. It brought me into their life and their home, and I hope my letters gave them the same journey. Brief but bold. Short but stunning.

I think it’s time to start writing letters again!

If you’d like me to send you a personalized, handwritten letter, contact me with your address at:

SWEETTOOTHNOTHINGS@GMAIL.COM

Also, if you’d like to keep up with the adventure, press the FOLLOW button on the side!

Or, keep up with me on Twitter and IG:

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

Packing for the city… Atlantic City!

I’ve been to Israel and Ireland and India, but I’ve never made the 2-hour drive to Atlantic City. Why is that? I don’t gamble, I don’t drink much, and I don’t really like beaches, or New Jersey… that’s why.

But I am going to Atlantic City this weekend.

What changed the tune of my whistle? A friend offered me a trip there. I wasn’t busy this weekend, so I was like, “Let me check with my… uh… oh. Let’s go!”

The details have not been shared with me, but I know there’s a hotel where I can bring my dog and many clubs and restaurants from which to choose. That’s all I really need. Well, maybe a few other things, but that is on me to bring from home. You know- clothing and whatnot. That silly stuff.

In preparation for my journey, I did what any seasoned traveler would do…. Yep, without procrastination or hesitation I went to Rice Cream Shoppe in the West Village. I tried my first ever vegan rum raisin rice pudding with toasted coconut on top. Seems raisin-able.

unnamed-8

It’s a store I had passed a million times before, but I’d never gone in. Rice pudding was never really my thing. I don’t like eating something smooth and then dealing with unexpected chunks. It’s weird to me. Especially in the case of rice pudding where the chunks are little and slimy. But, being that it was apparently the week of doing things I didn’t really want to do, I decided to try the vegan dessert. Or, lunch in this case.

Rum raisin is not a flavour I’d had before, actually. You guessed it- it’s another thing with components I don’t necessarily want or need. Rum is nice, I like being a pirate. Rum and raisin, though? Pirates don’t do that. Today, this pirate did that. I’m a rebel pirate. That’s a double rebel.

Turns out, rum raisin tastes like vanilla. With raisins. And coconut if you ask for coconut on top, as I did. I was sticking with my Caribbean theme. It was a nice dessert. Not overindulgent or sickeningly sweet. It was tasty and refreshing. Left me with room for more food. That’s good or bad, depending on your goal.

Admittedly, the rice pudding confused me a bit, though. I needed to walk around a bit, take a breather, procrastinate on my packing… that sort of thing.

I was in Brooklyn…

BK.png

Then I took a bike ride in Jersey City to the waterfront. I waved at Manhattan.

unnamed

I did so much. Man, I was tired at this point. I took a nap.

Good nap. Good job, self. What to do with the rest of my evening…. OH, RIGHT! PACKING! Let’s do that.

Packing list for Friday, Friday night, and Saturday. Short, simple, and sweet. Now, I should keep in mind that it was a little chilly and rainy today. Still warm enough for shorts and dresses, but I may want to bring a sweater. Yes! Nicely done. Planning ahead with the weather. That’s something responsible travelers do.

Friday wear: Cute top and pants or shorts with sneakers

Pack: Super cool dress for Friday night. Like, so cool you might freeze the place. Maybe even heels to make everyone stop and stare when you enter a room. That’s another thing that actually happens in reality. All the time.

Also pack something comfortable for Saturday and the return trip.

Now I am thinking, “What do people do during the day in Atlantic City?”

Though, I guess the casinos don’t have clocks, right? I’ll never even know whether it’s day or night! Night is when you’re passed out on the floor from the free alcohol. Is that only in the movies? Maybe they DO have clocks and you DO have to pay for your drinks?? I don’t know what is real anymore!

All I know is, I’m probably not going to the beach. No bathing suit or any of that business necessary. I should just wear sweatpants and a bib since I’m really just going for fancy food. Vegan food in Atlantic City, you ask? No. Not so much. I can’t find any vegan restaurants in Atlantic City. That’s going to be interesting. Whatever I end up eating is going to be expensive, though. That much I know.

I’m still not packing, though. I’ve thought about what I should pack, but I’ve not even brought my bag up from storage in the basement. Ugh… I forgot I had to go downstairs and get it. This is so much work.

Here’s my packing list: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, makeup, cellular device, and charger. This is a good start. Although, I’ll need these things in the morning, presumably, so let’s wait to pack those. And try not to forget them.

Now, let’s step it up. Undergarments, deodorant, socks, pair of sneakers (or sandals), pair of heels, and razor. For shaving… or shivving someone. To be determined.

unnamed-1

Final round. I got this. 2 tops, 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt, 1 dress, and a sweater.

unnamed-2

Cute, girl, cute. You got all the matching happening and the style and the fun but flirty. That’s exactly what magazines suggest. Magazines know best.

Anything missing? Something’s missing. Something is always missing…. SHOOT! I nearly forgot pajamas! You ding dong, how could you? Sleep is the prerequisite for being awake and alive. These are such important things! Do not forget your “No one will see these anyway” jammies!

unnamed-3

Now you have all yo junk together. You’re set. Oh, and a cherry Blow Pop. Because.

unnamed-5

Is, “Mmmm…” a scientific explanation?

Then just shove all that beautiful and expensive clothing in a bright pink bag you got for free at Victoria’s Secret, and you’re off!

unnamed-4

Don’t no one get in my way, I’m ’bout to take over AC! Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it when I get back in a couple day!

Now, click the ‘Follow’ button below to tune in when I review something else!

If you would like me to attend your event, review your product, or submit your own review, send an email to:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

If you’re curious about Rice Cream Shoppe, I’d give it 7/10 unicorn hugs.

Their website is: http://www.ricecreamshoppe.com/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

I was All Set at Sacred Chow

I ate food today.

Not impressed?

Well, what if I told you I ate food at a vegan restaurant for free today?

Bam. You’re intrigued.

Really- I did! Thanks to the Allset program I just downloaded on my phone. There was a promotion going on that if I promised to send them a review, they’d give me $15 free! Being that I like eating until my body registers for refugee status due to cruel conditions,  I felt this promotion could be of great benefit to me.

What is Allset? It’s actually kind of a neat idea…. But before you ask, and before I explain, I’ll make this clear: they didn’t pay me to say good things about them. They gave me free food because they’re a small company. They knew no one would download their new and totally random program, pay, and hope for the best. So they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Download, get $15 for free, and let them know how they’re doing. Sweet.

unnamed-1

The story on their website is kind of abstract and frootsy tootsy, so let me explain the program in dirty gurdy terms. Basically, you pick a restaurant at which you want to eat. The selection is a bit limited, but they do have a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants already! I emailed them to make sure before downloading it.

Once you have a restaurant in mind, you can book a reservation for either the same day or the next day. You pick a time. Now, that’s good enough for most people, but Allset does more than that! Once you picked your place, number of people, and time, you can even look at the menu, make selections, and yes, you can PAY! Tip, tax, and all. You go to the restaurant, get seated and fed nearly immediately, and feel VIP. Or you can pretend you’re dining and ditching. Really depends where you want to take this. As you can see, you’re ALL SET!

unnamed

*Music plays, crowd stands and applauses*

Keep in mind, as of now they only have New York City and SF Bay Area options. However, there is a clicky-doo that locates where places are in relation to you, so I assume they plan on expanding… if all goes well.

I won’t say this thing is perfect. I did find it a little confusing (that might just be me) to figure out what times were available and how to go through the menu options…. Overall, though, I found the program super straightforward. They also offer the option to join tables with other people, especially if you’re over 6 people. Plus, they have a deal that allows you to refer friends. With your own special little code, your friend gets $10 off and you get $10 off. That’s, like, $20!

What I addressed when I sent feedback was my uncertainty regarding changes of plans. What if your reservation and order is set at 7, but a friend forgot about his lobotomy at 5? Oh, no! There’s no way he’ll be dressed and ready to eat artichoke hearts by 7!  Can you still get a refund and change your number of people!? Or, what if you get to the restaurant and realize you’re suddenly extremely allergic to the pasta and peanut potato pancake you ordered? Methinks all these things can be dealt with at the restaurant, though. As long as you didn’t order something that had to be made way ahead of time….

Now that we covered the technology portion of this post, let’s talk about food-eating. After all, I took more time eating than I did with the booking thing.

Sacred Chow is yet another vegan restaurant in the West Village. I don’t say “yet another” because I am sick of them, I say it because there are so many! I am emphasizing that fact. It is my pleasure to announce that there is *yet another* vegan establishment in the West Village of New York City in the United States of America on Earth.

I’m not really sure what vibe or theme they’re aiming for, exactly…. It’s kind of Asian, but they also serve tempeh reuben, French lentil meatloaf, and Mama’s ‘No-Soy’ Meatballs. I don’t know. I guess it’s just a place that serves food that people want to eat. What a concept.

As soon as I got to Sacred Chow, I knew everything was cool. How did I know this? Because the waiter kept saying, “cool.”

unnamed.jpg

He had no one idea what Allset was, but I explained, and he said he’d go look into it. In the meantime, “Sit anywhere”, he said, “…anywhere is cool.”

Cool.

I sat facing the door so I could admire the beautiful view of a building’s wall across from me. Fortunately, there was enough stuff hanging on the restaurant’s walls to keep me amused. What confused me amidst all the Western-themed hanging lamps and meditating cows was a neon sign advertising Cerveza. I kind of felt like I had climbed the Himalayas seeking nirvana and found Keanu Reeves instead. “Cool… dude.”

unnamed-3

After sitting for awhile, I began to wonder if the waiter was planning on returning. Was he going to let me know if my order was received and recognized and paid for or is this a test of my willingness to speak up for myself?

Well… I have lukewarm water in a nifty jar thing and there’s stuff on the walls. Maybe I’ll just wait.

And wait.

unnamed-2

That’s when it happened. See that curtain back there? A hand appeared! I swear- not even a wrist, just a hand swung around the curtain, balanced a small plate on the edge of the counter, and disappeared. DEMONS! But, hey, it’s my food! Yay!

The waiter brought my plate over without a word. Well, maybe I heard, “Coooooolllll” off in the distance.

unnamed-6

Not gonna lie- at this point, I totally forgot what I had ordered. Brown stuff with green things. Probably that. Now that I can look at the menu online, I see it’s the Thai Ginger BBQ Seitan with roasted kale. None of those things had I guessed correctly. I guessed maybe BBQ something, but that’s just what I assume everything is.

I liked it. I liked my seitan a lot. However, of course, I have some comments. The thing is, the plate was small, right? Here I am trying to cut up these long curls of kale and strips of seitan, but there’s no room to spread! The only thing that can possibly occur is splashing of oils and sauces. Not gonna lie- I was getting pretty sweaty and anxious cutting this stuff up. Smaller chunks, my friends, smaller bits and pieces. That’s the point of tapas, after all! Although, I did get one piece of seitan that the right size, and it was also a bit more firm. That piece was heavenly! The rest was more like purgatory- like, a nice, good one. But that chunka hunka was just the right texture. Fortunately, the sauce wasn’t overpowering. It wasn’t too sweet or too gloppy. The kale was cooked nicely, too.

Take note, whenever you have the chance to serve a slice of lime, do it! Do it! There is nothing I love more than the smell of lime on my hands after a meal. I could be covered in blood and beans and baby powder and still feel fresh and clean if my hands are bathed in lime juice.

I took my time eating my little tapas. I enjoyed the conversations around me and the people screaming in Spanish outside. It was like home. Next thing I knew, my food was done. That is, until the waiter came over to inform me that it was cool that I was done and cool that I was still waiting for something else.

What was that something else? A COOKIE!!!! I didn’t really have my hopes too high. As I mentioned before, cookies are… eh. Cookies seldom get a mention or a huzzah. They don’t make lists or make children popular. They’re just cookies. What I didn’t take into account was that this was a no-soy, sugar-free, gluten-free toasted macaroon cookie. And, oh, baby, was it ever!

unnamed-8

That is my cookie. A cookie with no other that can compete. SUGAR-FREE? But, how? It’s so yummy and “buttery” and ALL the coconut. They hadn’t even mentioned the raspberry coulis on top, but I am mentioning it. Hard.

Macaroon cookie, just kidnap me and forever be mine. It was a cool treat, not right out of the oven, but it didn’t feel old or frozen. It was soft and decadent and man, I could have eaten that cookie forever.

Before this cookie affair took place, I was pretty ready to give Sacred Chow 8/10 unicorn hugs, but I’m thinking this treat alone gives them…

10/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating:

Sacred Chow

If you’re interested in Allset: an app for reserving seats, ordering your food, and paying ahead of time:

https://allsetnow.com/

Click the ‘Follow’ button below to tune in when I review something else!

If you would like me to attend your event, review your food, or submit your own review, send an email to:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

Try your best, but you don’t succeed

I always thought Indian was in my blood. As though I could turn water into lassi. I love the Hindi language, I loved my week in India, the Hindu beliefs, the culture… and most of all, I love Indian food. I’ll eat daal and dosa or palak and poori any day of the week!

Being so convinced that I was born to be a disciple of Brahma, I got it in my head that I would be a natural when it came to cooking Indian food. That makes complete and total sense. Not delusional at all.

This is when I decided to make one of my favourite Indian foods: samosas! These are triangular pastries filled with potato and spices, then fried (or baked.) Samosas are beloved for their flaky dough and soft and salty insides. They are also often served with various chutney options or tamarind paste. They can be filled with lentils, peas, corn, onion, or any vegetable you like. I kept it simple: I just wanted spicy potatoes. Most people have samosas as a side or appetizer. They also serve as a tasty little lunch, though!

On my hunt for the most perfect and easiest samosa recipe online I came across The Flaming Vegan. On this website, I found a recipe for vegan samosas. The author of this recipe, Neha Basrani believes that I can prepare these dumplings of delish in 10 minutes, and after cooking for 30 minutes have perfect little Indian knishes. Here’s her photo:

2993.jpg

Okay- cool! I’m totally down for perfect symmetry; golden tetrahedrons. Just show me the way, Neha!

Here you can see her recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

For the pocket:

• 1 cup of all purpose flour

• Vegetable oil to fry the snack

For the filling:

• 3 large potatoes

• 1 tablespoon cilantro finely chopped

• 1 onion finely chopped

• 2 green chilies finely chopped

• 3 tablespoon oil

• ½ teaspoon turmeric

• ½ teaspoon red chili powder

• ½ teaspoon crushed garlic

• ½ teaspoon grated ginger

• Salt to taste

Incredibly, I had many of these ingredients! Sure, I had to substitute leek for onion. 2 green chilies for one large. Cayenne instead of chili powder. Whatever. You get the idea. I was mostly there.

Unlike my usual cooking adventures, I was ready this time. I was willing to make all the mess, use all the bowls, and do whatever necessary in order to have my samosas come out ready to serve to Buddha. Yeah, Buddhism- WHAT!

Maybe using my recipe sheet as a spoon and vegetable rest wasn’t the best way of doing things, but I had no fear at this point. I was ready to cumin, salt, and conquer.

METHOD:

STEP 1: In a medium sized bowl, mix the oil, salt, and flour together to form dough. The dough should not be too hard nor too soft.

STEP 2: Cover the bowl with a cloth for for at least twenty minutes and let it rest.

STEP 3: For the filling, first peel, boil , and mash the potatoes.

I have never in my life peeled, boiled, nor mashed potatoes. Turns out, this is fairly easy. One might even say it was fun! Not that I had a potato masher tool thing…. I just used my fork and stabbed the potatoes a lot once they were boiled and soft. Anger management complete!

unnamed-2

Go, Potato, it’s your boilday! Gonna pot ya like it’s your boilday!

I did a really good job at boiling and mashing my potatoes. Pretty sure I could do that for a living. Not to brag. #hireme

STEP 4: Heat some oil in a pan (approximately 3 tablespoons). Add ginger, garlic, onion, and green chilies. Saute for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture turns golden brown.

STEP 5: Now add mashed potatoes, cilantro, salt, turmeric, and chili powder. Saute the mixture for two more minutes.

STEP 6: Set mixture aside for five minutes to cool.

I was pretty good at this, too. I chopped up two types of chili peppers and added a bunch of spices and herbs and junk. Like, you’d be impressed if you knew how much I added. The cacophony of flavours would flip your lid. The tricky part was knowing when the potato mix was “browned”. Turmeric is kinda golden, it turns the taters brownish. I just kind of assumed that they were cooked when they were burning my fingers. That is, because I kept taking forkfuls of the mix and eating it. This is part of the recipe that was left out. Always taste what you’re cooking… multiple times.

Now, here’s when things start getting complicated. I’m still completely confused when it comes to the dough.

STEP 7: Take the dough and roll it into 5” flat ovals. Cut each of them into halves.

STEP 8: Take one half and roll it like a cone in your hand.

STEP 9: Put about a tablespoon of the filling into your cone. Then seal the third side with a moist finger (use oil or water) so that when you deep fry them, no oil will enter.

STEP 10: Repeat. 

STEP 11: Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the samosas. Serve them piping hot with dipping sauce of your choice, such as a chutney.

My dough wasn’t really cooperating. I really did use the amounts of oil and flour that are suggested here, but the dough was like bread crumbs. So, I added more oil. Then more flour. Then more oil. No matter what I did, the dough kept falling apart!

In this photo, things were looking okay. Maybe even promising. I took a big ball of my crumbles and squished them together. Then I made a triangle with my hands. I’m not sure what the logistics were supposed to be when it came to cutting and shaping, but I just kinda did what made sense to me.

unnamed.jpg

Apparently, what makes sense to me is nonsense. Everything just… wasn’t good.

unnamed-1

I don’t know how many samosas you’ve seen or eaten in your life, but I’ve had many. Many. Never in my life have I ever had a samosa that looked like this. My dough was just not having it. It was like, “Yo, it’s Saturday. It’s my day off, I’m not dealing with this.”

For my second trick I took pieces of dough and applied it like cement to the cracks. Not gonna say I’m a genius, but I’m pretty sure I’m thinking at Einstein level.

unnamed-2

Check that out! It almost looks like something! I continued this method due to the success I was having. Great success, let me tell you.

unnamed-3

I mean, how badly do you want to eat these samosas? They look just like the stuff you get at the restaurant, ammirite?

Put those suckers in the oven at 250 for 30 minutes…. Oh, yeah, I decided to bake them rather than fry them, ’cause I’m so health conscious and junk. This meant I had to totally guess time and temperature. Sounded good to me. Like they say: too much is better than too little! …right?

At this point, I had also decided these little guys were going to completely transform in the oven. Like, they were supposed to look like this, and then would change completely as they heated up.

Erkell.jpg

A little something I learned in the 90s

Presto! It worked!

unnamed

Wait… no… that’s not right. Let me try again.

Vegetable_Samosa.png

There we go. Levitating lunch.

Remember earlier when I told you that people loved samosa because of their flaky exterior? We missed the boat on that one, kids. My samosa dough wasn’t bad, but it was soft and fluffy. Like a cupcake samosa for your toothless friends.

Now, am I going to lie and tell you that my samosas came out looking like love dumplin’s? Yes.

Now you can try!

My attempt: 2/10 satars for appearance and likeness … but, 7/10 satars for flavour!

The recipe itself: 8/10 satars

If you would like me to try your recipe or product, or you would like to submit your own review, contact me at: sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

Also, be sure to check out my new Facebook page. It’ll be growing over the next few weeks! https://www.facebook.com/sweettooth.nothings

 

How to train your human

There must be a million websites, books, articles, and pamphlets about training dogs and cats and various pets… yet, the humans are the ones who need to be trained! Puppies may pee on your bed, but a puppy has never started a war. Nor do I don’t know any horses who have kidnapped children or set fire to anyone’s home.

To learn more about training humans, I took a trip to the Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, NJ. I met with a few dogs and cats who have faced some real ugly mugged humans, and asked what their advice would be to young pets training their humans. I got some very useful responses. Listen closely, you might learn a thing or two.

unnamed.jpg

I entered the green door because entering through a window seemed inconvenient and messy. I didn’t want to disturb the spiders who had just sat down for breakfast.

Once I got inside, the secretary immediately directed me towards the stairs. She said that’s where I’d find the “Cattery”. They had way too many kittens! Apparently, some seriously untrained humans didn’t know to get their pets neutered/spayed. Considering that many vets and mobile vans will do the surgery for fairly cheap and sometimes free, this just sounds lazy to me. But let’s see what the cats have to say about that.

The first cat I met was this little one:

unnamed-5.jpg

Clearly, she doesn’t mess around. She is a strict reinforcer of the rules. I learned from her that you must train your human with directness, and you can’t be too gentle with them. A harsh tone may be required. She explained that you have to catch your human when he/she is very comfortable and sleepy. Once they are settled in and having a good time petting your fur, you leap on their head, and stick your butt in their face. This will remind the human that you’re either in need of being fixed, or a sign of appreciation for having you fixed. If this doesn’t work, steal their socks. Never harm your human, but sometimes other types of punishment are necessary.

When I then heard some clattering around, I realized that there were two sibling kittens down below who were chanting in unison, “If you don’t need us, at least you can feed us!”

The two kittens, Dory and her sibling (who wishes to remain anonymous) refused to say much more than this chant. The cat in the next cage over explained that these two had been abandoned at the shelter after months of barely being cared for in their previous home. “Quite frankly, I think they just snapped. Big catnip users, but I didn’t tell you that.”

Here the two take a break from chanting so they can receive a few scratches. They still love human interaction, but are much less trusting of humans.

unnamed-4.jpg

As I passed them a second time, I heard one whisper, “Sure, if I jump on her lap, she better pet me… that’s just my way of showing her my power. She can’t resist me.”

Before leaving the Cattery, my last stop was to greet Draco. He doesn’t talk much anymore, nor does he do much training. However, in his youth, he would often travel the streets teaching other kittens how to train their humans. He was a celebrity in the concrete jungle. These days, he prefers to sit in his cage and watch kittens and his old comrades be brought in and out. It is said that Draco once loved humans and felt every single one could be trained and turned good.

unnamed-3

I’ll never know what these amber eyes have seen, nor what smells that pink nose has smelled. But without a doubt, Draco has seen some of the worse types of humans. Legend has it that he once was homed by a very grumpy husband who had no interest in cats. Draco was able to soften this man’s heart and sit beside him during basketball games. This changed when he had to surrender Draco due to his wife’s pregnancy. When Draco saw that his beloved human man would not admit his sadness upon leaving him behind at the shelter, Draco was forever hardened. He has not given up on finding a home, but he isn’t the same cat he once was.

As I left the room, Draco’s eyes didn’t move, they stared forward; never letting go of the memory of the man who once loved him and betrayed him.

I was then anxious to go visit the dogs! Dogs are typically a softer, more forgiving type. I expected joy, forgiveness, and infinite optimism. However, what I found instead was desperation and unease.

Entering the dog room, everyone wanted to be heard. Every dog felt they had tips and advice on training that would solve all the human problems of the world.

cages.jpg

I didn’t know where to begin. That is, until I saw Bunny. It is not common to come across a Pharaoh Hound, particularly at the shelter. As you can see in the lower left corner of this picture, I discreetly took a photo of this beautiful friend. I quickly learned that approaching dogs in cages will lead to much barking, some growling, and noisy tails thumping against metal.

Bunny had no comments, though, he just wanted me to leave him be. That is, unless I was going to walk, feed, or home him. Being that I could not provide any of these things, I went on to the next speaker.

Seides is another resident of the Humane Society. She’s a self-labeled artist who believes in changing the world through music. She has a very different approach from the other dogs.

Seides Lab Pit 4 yrs.jpg

Seides is a 4 year old lab/pit mix. She was brought in after being tied up in front of the shelter with her brother Beamer. Nowadays she paces back and forth in her cage and sings. She has a story to tell and she wants the world to hear it.

After hearing many sad tales like Seides’, I was quite relieved to finally talk with two fellas for whom life has been equally tough, but they keep a smile on and pep in their step. They are Nilsito and Richard.

Nilsito was excited when I came over to talk to him. He was engaged and anxious to meet me. At 9 years old, he is 60 lbs. He’s a heavyweight champ full of muscle and a big heart! Just as I thought he was going to share some wisdom, he chose instead to do this:

Nilsito 9 yr Pit Mastiff

Some dogs just never grow up!

Richard, on the other hand, at only 2 years old, was much more at ease. He seemed comfortable discussing the difficult issues with me. I got a feeling from Richard that he was an old soul who had seen and been through enough to have something to offer.

It turned out, I was right. Richard taught me a lot, even just by looking into his eyes. He told me about his puppy days, about his life on the streets, and how lacking a home taught him more about humans than one would expect. He feels humans are much like stray animals, but they’ve been given weapons and power. This leads them to do things that they think will protect themselves and their loved ones from being vulnerable. He explained that humans want love from dogs and cats, but don’t think about the bigger picture, the consequences, and all the requirements…. He was happy being stray, but a part of him will always seek a lifelong human companion. Its in the blood of every dog, he postulates, even the ones who growl. They’re also just trying to protect themselves in a scary world. However, with proper human training, each and every dog can find themselves in the perfect home.Never give up, he told me, never.

Richard Pit Lab - 2 yr

This response left me so stirred, that I felt it was a good time to leave. It was hard saying goodbye to all these incredible dogs and cats, but I had my own foster kittens to take home! I left the shelter with three month old kittens who had been abandoned on a boat! The pirate kittens are now safely in my home and await permanent homes. They are adventurous, lively, and very healthy. When I asked for any suggestions when it came to training humans, in unison they squeaked, “LOVE.”

For kittens, they sure are smart!

Kittens eating.jpg

All the dogs and cats in this post are available for adoption at the Liberty Humane Society in New Jersey. Please read about them and how to adopt/foster at: http://www.libertyhumane.org/     They are also always in need of volunteers!

Find out more about these lovely dogs at: DOGS

Learn more about these gorgeous cats at: CATS

 

A Vegan’s Dilemma

As a child, we are always warned to not take candy from strangers. Twenty years later, what if a stranger offers you free crickets? Not a situation most people must face, but I am not “most people”.

Coming out of the subway on Wall Street, I saw a Van Leeuwen ice cream truck (if you recall, I reviewed their ice cream a ways back: goo.gl/eX0Oe1)  I was highly intrigued. After all, do white collar workers really eat that much artisan ice cream?

unnamed-2

Hark! I smell a trap!

A woman in a red shirt came over to me, and with as little interest as a person could possibly muster, she told me that I looked confused. I corrected her. I was not confused, but merely curious. She didn’t care. She explained something to me about The Economist. This is a magazine that believes there will be 11 Billion people on Earth eventually; an amount that the Earth cannot sustain. Therefore, the best option for food at that point will be insects. Therein comes the bit: they will give me a free scoop of ice cream as long as I will have them serve it with crickets on top. Plus, if I sign up for a subscription of their fine apocalypse-forecasting magazine (for only $12 a month!) I will receive a red, leather notebook… for free!

Let’s see if I have this correct- if I, a vegan animal rights activist am willing to eat insects and buy a magazine, I will receive a leather book and ice cream… for free.

She had her little ice cream lady shake up her cricket jar in hopes of enticing me. Yep. They sure were crickets. They weren’t lying about that.

unnamed-1

Not one to ignore my spidey (or crickety?) senses, I scanned the menu, despite the discouraging sales pitch. As luck would have it, they did offer dairy-free peanut butter ice cream…. Okay, lady, let’s play.

With a grin, I turned back to her and replied, “I’m not eating those creatures. But I do want dairy-free peanut butter ice cream. So, here’s what I will do: I will give the cricket ice cream to someone in need.  I will receive, in turn for my mitzvah a non-buggy ice cream… for free. Everyone will be happy.”

She insisted further that the ice cream is only free complete with bugs.

I persisted, informing her that I will not only hear out her spiel and continue to support the wonderful Van Leeuwen Ice Cream company, but I will also make sure the homeless man knows of the great magazine subscription deal they’re offering. All this for the tiny payment of an ice cream sans infestation. Quite the deal of the century.

She took a moment and looked over at her scooping friend. There was no line, no other customers, and no one within earshot who cared…. Within moments, I had two cups of dairy-free ice cream. One with extra protein (and legs) and one with nothing but a red spoon on top. I think this was a good negotiation.

unnamed

That is, until I remembered that I don’t eat Van Leeuwen ice cream because it crumbles and leaves me with an aftertaste. C’est la vie!

If you would like to invite me to review your establishment or to attend your event, please send me an email at:  sweettoothnothings@gmail.com 

Follow the adventure at: twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

Imagine, if you will….

My family has made a tradition of going to the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY every year since 2001. We loved it, it loved us, and things were lovely. That is, until it came to meal time. Believe it or not, they don’t offer vegan turkey legs! There’s no Tofurkey to be seen. Not under the mud, not over the dragons, not through the joust, not inside the corset shops. Nowhere! What’s a starving vegan to do?

In the past, I’ve stuck to outside food. Usually, we’ll eat a big breakfast and then eat a big dinner afterwards, but what fun is that? Amidst all the clothing and Shakespearian talk and silver goblets, eating a pickle from a barrel or ices from a tub is just not enough. Eventually, a person needs food. Especially when you’re wearing entirely black and hats and armour and walking in the blazing sun for several hours. It can get intense!

I got so used to this habit that by the time they were offering vegetarian and vegan options, I was opposed to stopping my gallivanting and having some food. This year, however, I was SO hungry, and my parents were SO hungry, that we simply could not step forth once more until we had satisfied our howling guts. That’s how you know it’s serious.

And so we sought out food amidst a land of savages and heathen ingrates. Lamb and honey and milk and shame. Beef and fish and turkey and ice cream upon ice cream upon ice cream. Wherefore art thou dairy and meat?

I suppose it didn’t help any that I was to that point of hunger in which the human can no longer tolerate indecision. Nothing looked good and I felt nothing at that point could satisfy my ravenous needs. We then took a break and went to the joust. All I could wonder was, “Hm… where did this guy eat lunch? He probably got McDonald’s. Jerk.”

DSC00760.JPG

Eventually, I became so frantically hungry that I knew I had only one option… to alert the Queen herself. This would be no easy task, but this was my final chance to prove myself worthy of a food blog. If I could not find vegan food at an event for the meat, grease, and mead crowd, then I did not deserve to call myself a food blogger, a traveler, or a hero amongst the young and needy. Hear me roar, dang it!

I approached the Queen in my most respectable manner. With a curtsy I displayed my most pathetic set of icy blue iris’ that had ever looked upon She.

DSC00763.JPG

From afar I cried out, “Queen, my Queen, please hear me out. For I am empty of food and needy of nourishment. Please help me to satisfy this ever-growing agony. Please be of good faith, of good nature, of entire goodness. Where will thee who wishes to fill thine belly full of foods lacking animal cruelty be fed most well?”

It was then that she looked upon me with disgust, yet a tinge of empathy, and she spoke. “Follow the court of foods and ye shall find foods of the Mediterranean. At this booth, one will find nourishment of the kindest and least cruel kind. Be fed, peasant, and be away with ye.”

YEAH! Mediterranean food is WHAT IS UP. I’m about to get fed up real good!

So we began our trek. Through gypsies and Scots. Through jugglers and sword-wielding tots. Through the muck and heat, through the African drum beat. Mind you, I am not sure, either, why there are African drums at these things, but don’t ask this unless you’re prepared to ask about the pirates, as well. I simply don’t have time to question accuracy when hunger is afoot.

Getting lost is the biggest challenge, even after years and years of practice. The setup never changes much, even the faces remain the same, yet we never have any idea where we are. If this village seeks a fool, a fool or three it has found. We’re idiots when it comes to directions. Such is life.

Conveniently enough, the sign we found for the food we sought was in the form of a compass. How they mock us so!

unnamed.jpg

Gyros? Wraps? Salads and falafel? All things I love! Oh, boy, oh, boy! This brought me great joy. Even the food server guy was looking edible at that point. Sorry, but seriously. He kind of looked like a mushroom, or seitan drenched in tomato sauce with a basil leaf on top. I would not complain about hairs in my food.

Of course, once we got up to bat, I simply couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. I had no idea what to order. I wanted everything- ALL the food! Unfortunately and fortunately, this wasn’t an option. The kind gentleman server was more than happy to suggest what us three hungry hippos should try: vegan stew and the platter of mixed sides. This, sounding delicious and satisfying won the prize: a six to eight hour trip through our tummies. Sorry, food server, I guess you and my stomach will just have to remain platonic.

unnamed-4

Insert sexy food music here. Bow chicka wow wow! Look at the couscous. Look at it and envy my mouth.

I wouldn’t say it was surprising, but just as the food was served up, the rain clouds decided to do their rain thing. They were all like, “Your joy belongs to us now! MWAHAHAHA!”

But then we cloud-blocked it and just got a little drizzle; not even enough to stop our munching. Though, I can’t imagine that much could have stopped us once we started. I would have fought off a dragon, two angry wenches, and a pixie on steroids at that point, if it meant eating in peace.

At this point, I ate. I ate. I ate and ate. I ate so much. I also had iced mint tea.

PSA: Dehydration is serious- don’t mess with the sweats!

What did I think of my Renaissance foods? I had a ball eating everything! It was messy and full of spices and warmth and kitten whiskers. No whiskers in the food, don’t worry, that’s just an expression I made up right now.

But before I get caught up in my happiness and hunger-satiation, I want to tell you about each food item. Honestly, most of these foods confused me a bit. The falafel was good, the couscous and tabouli were certainly yummy, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had these versions of them. As in, they didn’t really taste like what they were supposed to be. The falafel, to start, was kind of like an Indian aloo tikki, minus the Indian spices. I can’t say exactly what was different, but the colour and the texture just didn’t give me a Mediterranean feeling. Nonetheless, they weren’t dry, and they were tasty, so I really can’t complain! Also, falafel is made very differently depending on which culture inspired you. The same can be said about the couscous and tabouli, I suppose. Same problems, same not caring. I really didn’t come to the Renaissance Faire hoping to eat some authentic Mediterranean food. If that’s your goal, go away.

It’s hard to judge the other items since it all kind of blended together. This was good, since I wanted to shovel in as much food at once as possible. I did note the eggplant, which was made really well, but also the olives that were way too olive-y for me. I guess I needed a more subtle olive, while others might enjoy that little kick in an otherwise more low-key dish. The stuffed grape leaves were fine, too. They fell apart, but, seriously… who cares?

The stew, which was totally a great choice in 95 degree weather, was also quite good. There was a bit of an after taste that I can’t put my finger on, but there were so many veggies in there to make up for it.

As for price, you go to a Renaissance Faire, you pay Renaissance Faire prices. ‘Nuff said. It was a tasty meal and the service and atmosphere couldn’t be beat. Matter of fact, I found out that the server (and cook?) is a social worker! I’m telling you, food and psyche go together like hugs and hammers…. This makes sense in my mind.

If you’re at the Faire this year, be sure to stop by the Mediterranean Fare stand for a big plate of tasty food. If it could satisfy my hunger, it can satisfy yours. Say, “Hello!” for me, too!

I give this timeless meal….

9/10 unicorn hugs

Click the ‘Follow’ button below to tune in when I review something else!

If you would like me to attend your event, review your food, or submit your own review, send an email to:sweettoothnothings@gmail.com or twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

In the meantime, get satisfied!

unnamed-5.jpg