Saturday, January 15, 2011

dinner improv

So, yesterday was my birthday.  I stayed home, not because it was my birthday, but because I didn't want to be a sniffly mess by the time we went out to celebrate my birthday.  In any case, it was delightful - I slept until almost noon, then stayed in bed savoring the coziness for another 20 minutes.  When I emerged from the bedroom, Angst hurtled himself from my chair and down the hall to greet me with an unusual amount of enthusiasm.  He must have known it was a special day.

No.  His food bowl was pitifully empty.  It's the thought that counts.

Speaking of thoughts, Mister had a few of his own and when I finally deigned to take a shower, he stealthily wrapped them up all pretty.  If there had been anyone present for the gift-opening, they probably would have thought he'd given me the most outlandish gift to give a vegan ever:

I laughed so hard...and then made Better Bean Burgers from Vegan on the Cheap for dinner tonight.  They are so darn easy to make and now they're easy to smush, too!  The burger press comes with a removable insert that also creates a dimple so the burgers don't swell while they're cooking.  I'm guessing that's a meat thing, because I have never had a problem with my veggie patties poofing.  I made three of the burgers using the insert and one without.  I don't think I'll use the insert again, at least not for these specific burgers.  They smushed more evenly without the dimple - that seemed to obstruct the flatness to which I could smush.

I didn't take any pictures tonight because they don't really look any different from the first time, other than being a little flatter.  Besides, I want to tell you about my amazing birthday dinner.

Last night, which was my actual birthday, we went to my favorite restaurant - Horizons.  Considering yesterday's highest temperature was 27 degrees Fahrenheit, and considering our reservation was at 8:30, a good 3.5 hours after the sun tucked itself beneath the Philadelphia horizon, I'm pretty glad my favorite restaurant is only two and a half blocks away.  I told Mister a funny story about a crosswalk conflict I encountered on my way home the night before and by the time I had finished, we were there!

The place was packed.  I'm thrilled that Horizons continues to thrive.  If anything, they are growing in popularity.  When we arrived for our reservation, there were only two tables open in the entire restaurant (and they had both floors open and operating).  The noise level was a little higher than I would have preferred, but the ambiance was still unbeatable.  If anything, the fact that the joint was hoppin' kind of added a hip vibe; like we were finally where the action was (I feel like I'm normally late to the party). 

The menu was to die for...yet, nothing did.  How's that for a happy birthday?  There were a bunch of new additions to the menu, of which Mister and I shamelessly availed ourselves.  I began my birthday dinner with a charming little aperitif: Chocolate Chai - a heated drink in a coffee cup, chocolate chai tea + dark rum + frothed soy milk with a side of agave, just in case you need it sweeter.  It certainly did the job of warming me up!  I started my meal with Salt Roasted Golden Beets - smoked tofu + avocado + capers, sandwiched between several very thin slices of golden beets, garnished with two artful and paper-thin slices of pumpernickel bread and served beside a shallow pool of cucumber dill sauce.  The whole thing was chilled, which was much easier to swallow after my innard-warming pre-dinner drink.  It was an amazing combination of flavors and textures and the cucumber sauce was very much like a smoother (less garlicky) version of tzatziki.  Mister ordered the Purple Potato Pierogies, which were fried and better resembled empanadas than any pierogi I've ever seen.  They were filled with - wait for it...purple potatoes - and garnished with a salsa of dried olives + avocado + pickled red onions and laid upon a generous puddle of aji amarillo crema.  He was almost in ecstasy over these little polish dumplings - he said they fulfilled every taste: salty, sweet, savory, sour, a complementary bitterness and that the textures were just as varied as the tastes.  Mister and I have dined at a lot of nice places with fabulous food, so I didn't take his last comment lightly: it was the best appetizer he had ever had, anywhere.

Moving on to dinner would be quite a challenge with the appetizers garnering such lavish praise!  Mister selected the Grilled Seitan, laid on a bed of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes dressed with grilled spinach sheets.  Atop the seitan itself was a roasted pepper filled with a baba ghanoush-like tapenade.  Mister gets this every time we go to Horizons, except for last year when we got the chef's tasting menu, but he loves it so he's always happy.  I opted for a brand new addition to the menu, Cauliflower and Smoked Eggplant Braciole.  It was amazing - the cauliflower was wrapped inside thin filets of eggplant, a little package topped with a sprinkling of roasted Kalamatas, nestled among a crowd of English peas and grilled chickpeas on Sicilian salsa verde.  I took a scoop of peas and garbanzos first and my mouth nearly imploded from pleasure - what a phenomenal first bite.  When I cut into the braciole itself, I was similarly thrilled with the combination of the cauliflower, smoked eggplant and roasted olives.  My dinner was accompanied by a lovely glass of Malbec, perfectly poured at the table by none other than Kate Jacoby (I felt so special).  We also shared an order of Curry Fries.  I think we're using the word "fries" a bit liberally here because what we got were five huge baked wedges of curried potato - the curry was faint, almost unnoticeable, but they were still delicious.  I still prefer the Truffled Fingerling Fries, but they were disappointingly absent from the menu.

As we blissfully finished our dinners, we reflected on how brilliantly planned the menu and presentation is at Horizons.  They give you just enough of whatever you're eating that you are happy and sated, yet not about to roll home in a wheelbarrow.  That means there is also always room for dessert.  When the waitress brought the dessert menu, we happily perused it.  Mister ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding, which was a gooey square of cake, soaked with toffee sauce, and accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I opted for the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart, which was sprinkled with crystalline balls of cinnamon and brown sugar and befriended by a scoop of cinnamon ice cream topped with a stick of cinnamon.  They were both so good they were gone before either of us realized we'd eaten the whole thing.

That did it, though.  They tipped the scales from being pleasantly full to feeling round enough to be rolled home like a barrel.  Once we made it to the apartment, I immediately changed into my yoga pants, vaguely aware of the irony... regardless, stretchy waistbands were made for nights like last night.  Now I repent - watch my next menu come nearly completely from Appetite for Reduction, for real this time!


  1. Happy birthday. :) I am sure Angst was saying it too.

    Your dinner sounds fantastic. I went to the website and looked at their menu - so much goodness, I wouldn't even know what to choose! I guess being on the other side of the planet pretty much makes that a non-issue. ;)

    I am glad you had a great day. :)

  2. Glad you had a great birthday meal! I've been vegan for several years now, but never thought of the phrase you used about "the menu was to die for...but nothing did." Great way to put it!

  3. thank you, ladies - it was a wonderful dinner. I'm already anticipating a Valentines reservation!