Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't you hate it when you go someplace good, but then when you take friends back it's not so good?

I really enjoyed my food at Horns last time, so I was excited to bring some friends back- especially in light of the recent taxidermy removal.  

cardboard unicorn mount

Unfortunately, the visit didn’t go as planned.

We arrived at about 8:30pm on a Saturday night.  The place was packed even though they close at 9:00.  


After some deliberation over the specials, we were all going to order the vegan burger.  I can only assume that it must be very popular because, unfortunately for us, they were sold out of them.  Hooray for vegan burgers, boo for hungry vegans.


I thought I might have the tofu dog instead and asked if they could tell me what brand of hot dog they offer or if it was made in-house.  I was apathetically informed that it was “made of tofu.”  Okay then.

So, despite that ringing endorsement, I decided to go with the buffalo tempeh wrap: “buffalo style tempeh, shredded carrots, romaine lettuce, diced celery, pickled cauliflower, and a creamy vegan ranch.  Served in a whole wheat wrap,” as did a friend; I left the cauliflower off.  Another friend chose a different special: the spicy Thai wrap (made vegan by subbing seitan).

The atmosphere remained crowded and jovial, but at 9:20 one of the employees came to our table to ask if it was okay for her to remove our order number from the table stand.  I said it was fine, but inquired as to whether or not she was aware that we hadn’t received our food yet.  Even though she had been the person to take our order (and tips), she looked a bit startled by the news and scurried into the kitchen.  A few minutes later the two tempeh sandwiches arrived; I'd ordered the sandwich without cauliflower, but they neither knew or cared which was which.  A few minutes after that we received the final sammie delivered to the table- with no explanation.  I wasn't looking for an apology, but at least an "oops" would have been nice.
The fact that I was feeling generally affronted by that point didn't help matters, but my first impression was that- particularly compared to their vegan burger and vegan sloppy joe, this sandwich did not look like a $13 sandwich.

even the plating was a sadface

Guess what?  It didn’t taste like one either.  Only an adequate amount of crumbled tempeh with veggies in a “buffalo” sauce that tasted predominantly of extremely mild hot-sauce: this sammie in no way warranted the same pricetag as a the vegan burger.   Furthermore, when you consider that any sammie from Sprig and Vine or The Cinnamon Snail is LESS than $13, it was borderline insulting.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m under that assumption that their vegan burger is housemade; coupled with what I think is housemade ketchup, fresh fixins, and a gloriously puffy bun, I have no problem paying $13.  But one or two phenomenal housemade sammies doesn’t grant license to price every sub-par sammie the same- particularly when it’s served with an unremarkable pickle and a heaping side of apathy.  

To make matters worse, when my friend went up to get silverware and inquired because there were no forks, no one answered him.  Instead, one employee simply said to the other, “We put out all we had; there is only plastic,” yet didn’t offer him the plastic.  And that was that.  We were over the whole experience by that point, so we just wielded our knives like spears and makeshift shovels so we could eat and get the heck outta there asap. 

This was not the experience I'd imagined when trying to wow my friends with Horns and I hope it won’t be the same again any time in the future.

It will take me some time to give it another try.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Food For Life Exotic Black Rice Tortillas

Food for Life recently sent me some of their new, gluten-free, exotic black rice tortillas to sample.  While I'm not gluten-free, I can appreciate that wraps are a terrific meal option that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy.


From Food for Life:

"Tortillas are one of the most versatile tools in our gluten-free or vegetarian tool box, and new to the “wrap” party is Food for Life’s 100% gluten-free and vegan Black Rice Tortillas.
Totally free of conditioners, additives, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, Food for Life’s Black Rice Tortillas are loaded with vitamins, minerals, natural fiber and antioxidants, and contain 4g of protein, 2g of fiber and 0g sugar. So, feel like Mexican cuisine, a deli sandwich wrap, or a pig in a blanket minus the bun? No problem, there’s a new way to wrap it up J. Visit for more info or find the brand on Facebook."

I was really excited to be in receipt of the sizable, appealing tortillas and my mind went immediately to Mexican food.

But then this enticing Vegan Richa recipe appeared in my feed for sweet and sour lentils and the inaugural tortilla filling was confirmed.

I'd received the following information about preparing the tortillas:

"Please note that the tortillas are frozen when shipped, however they will likely thaw in transport; this is okay. We recommend freezing them upon delivery. (Shelf life is 5 days at room temp; 3 weeks when refrigerated; and 1 year frozen.)
Food for Life recommends first thawing the tortillas completely to room temp, then placing a moist paper towel over them and heating them for approximately 30 seconds on high in the microwave. This can help restore pliability and produce better results."

I did, indeed, freeze them until I was ready to use them.  Then, per the directions, I thawed them in the refrigerator overnight, allowed them to warm to room temp, then heated them as suggested immediately prior to dinner.  When I removed the tortilla from the microwave and was ready to fill, it didn't really look pliable.  It seemed to quickly become less so even though I hurried to assemble.

I passed on the mango and subbed roasted broccoli, rice, and carmelized onions to go with the sweet and sour lentils


 But as soon as I touched the tortilla to begin folding, the first tear occured.

Once I actually succeeded in a loose wrap, irreversible damage was done. 

I repeated the heating process with another tortilla and transferred the contents of the first tortilla into the second- at breakneck speed.

haste makes waste

Unfortunately, it still fell apart within seconds and I wound up eating the messy but delicious plateful with a fork, using the almost crisp tortilla pieces as one might utilize naan as an extra utensil when eating Indian food.

I was disappointed, but undeterred.  A friend suggested I may have over-filled.  While that could be true, it didn't seem like the quantity of food being wrapped was the issue.

So, the next night I decided to make quesadillas.  Skipping the paper towel, I poured about a shot glass worth of water directly on the thawed tortilla and let it soak in evenly- moving it around with my fingers.  Once "rehydrated," I microwaved cheddar Daiya on it until melted, about 1 1/2 minutes.

I added cool tomatoes and folded for a huge and very delicious success.  The black rice tortillas have a great taste and texture under these ideal conditions; I was very impressed!

The night after that I decided to try a grilled cheese using two tortillas (I was hungry).  I repeated the tortilla-heating steps of the previous evening (I poured about a shot glass worth of water directly on the thawed tortilla and let it soak in evenly: moving it around with my fingers).  Once "rehydrated," I microwaved cheddar Daiya on the bottom tortilla only until the cheese melted.  I heated the topper tortilla "watered" in the same manner, but without cheese.  The result was mixed: the tortilla with the cheese was extremely appealing and tasty with a pliable texture, while the top tortilla quickly dried and curled: never becoming a cohesive part of the sandwich in any way.

Enjoying these tortillas definitely takes some finesse, but it's worth it when you hit upon the perfect preparation.  So far it seems like the vegan cheese is the secret, but I'm open to suggestions; perhaps there are additional gluten-free handling tips?