The things that I covet have changed in the last year during this pandemic. I’ve been sober for over 3 years and 95% vegan (cheese is my kryptonite) for over 2 years. A succulent duck breast with an aged Cabernet or Cambozola cheese with prosciutto and figs and a buttery Chardonnay are a distant memory. What does a chef do in isolation with her 13-year-old dog? Well, for one, I keep cooking. I have found new ways to indulge my cravings for good food and interesting beverages. New ways to scratch my hedonist itch.
Here are my new indulgences to get me through the pandemic:
I’ve had a Nespresso machine since staying at a boutique hotel in Chicago that had a Nespresso machine in the hotel room. It’s a coffee and espresso maker that brews one cup at a time with centrifuge technology. The capsules come in degrees of roasting darkness and region-specific roasts like Cuban, Colombian or Ethiopian. I have specific roasts I like: Stormio and Half-Caffeinated. I like that the coffee is made by the cup so I don’t end up wasting a pot of coffee on little old me and I like that I can brew a decaf at 4 in the afternoon. Perhaps it’s the sense that my apartment is a luxury hotel and instead of heading to the bar for a martini or the outdoor café for an espresso, I enjoy my own little café at home on my couch, no mask required.
Dam Good English Muffins
This is a recent revelation. My dear college friend, Susannah sent me a gift box from this English muffin maker for Christmas. Now I’m hooked. They are preservative free, vegan, dense and chewy. My favorite is the multi-grain muffin. Toasted with avocado oil butter and a cup of tea and I’m in luxury heaven.
I stumbled on this place in the Ferry Building in San Francisco where Dandelion Chocolate has a small store front which, pre pandemic, had bits of chocolate to taste of their country specific small-batch, bean to bar craft chocolate. It reminds me of wine tasting and each chocolate has its own unique character and flavor nuances. In addition, they have the absolutely best Horchata (a Mexican rice drink) I have ever had. It’s made with cocoa nibs, hazelnut, almonds and rice. To die for. In the meantime, I stay close to home with my single-origin chocolate bars from Tumaco, Colombia and Wampu, Honduras.
I’ve been a CBS Sunday Morning fan for over 30 years. About 4 months ago, they interviewed the owner of Rancho Gordo. I was mesmerized because Rancho Gordo sells heirloom beans. If you are a vegan, you are definitely eating beans and Rancho Gordo sells beans I have never even heard of. Here are some of the varieties they are currently selling on their website, Alubia Blanca Bean, Desi Chana, Mayocoba Bean, Santa Pinquito Bean and Hidatsa Red Bean. Never heard of them? Yeah, neither had I. I searched the website and they had several recipes for each bean they sold and many were vegetarian or easily made into vegetarian. So far, I’ve made four different recipes and the beans are amazing. Each with their own character. We had large white kidney beans in a dish the other night that tasted like gnocchi. Not only are the beans great but it’s encouraged me to think outside the box on taste profiles. I made a recipe of cauliflower, capers and flageolet beans last week. It brings adventure to my vegan palate.
I try and stick to herbal or decaf teas and I have to admit I first discovered Teavana at Starbucks. First of all, they have really cool tea bags that look like a completely translucent pyramid. The Peach Tranquility is a great herbal alternative to a dark roast coffee or latte. When I found out that the grocery store sold Teavana, I started trying other flavors like Citrus Lavender and Mandarin Mimosa. Since giving up alcohol, I try to be careful not to go crazy on caffeine and Teavana herbal tea is a must have alternative.
I realize that a classic Vegan would not eat honey but this is one of the luxuries I still imbibe in. There is the famous Manuka honey that is made in Australia or New Zealand and has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. I have added it to tea and hope to benefit from its properties. I recently purchased some honey from Asheville, NC that is incredible drizzled on the Dam Good English Muffins, hot out of the toaster. I also use it in a flax meal energy ball recipe instead of maple syrup. It’s not cheap but heck I’m not going to drink the whole thing at once anyway.
I’ve been reading the Sober Lush and what I love about the book is that it invites you to be a hedonist without alcohol. I’ve had to adopt some of the ideas to my vegan constraints but being a sober vegan can frequently feel like deprivation. The book has enlightened me that there are things that I can still indulge in regardless of being tied down to home. It’s the little (sometimes expensive) things that brighten my day and bring me joy in uncertain, confusing times. How do you brighten your day?