Monday, February 22, 2010

The vegetarian panini

If you are coming to New York and want to take your vegetarian family out for lunch, or an early dinner, 'sNice, in the West Village (there’s another location, in Park Slope) is perfect. The sort of self-service restaurant – you wait on line to order, but your food is brought to you – has about a dozen sandwiches, a couple of huge salads, and a daily soup. Some food is vegan, all is vegetarian and everything is delicious. There are fake meat versions of traditional sandwiches, like a Cuban, with soy ham and pickles, a tempeh Rueben, with sauerkraut, and a Thai ‘chicken’ wrap, but don’t get your heart set on a particular sandwich; the menu rotates. The quinoa salad sometimes skimps on the avocado slices, but is quite filling, and the autumn salad, with cranberries, bleu cheese and walnuts, is available year round.

One note: cash only.

The city ‘snice is 45 Eighth Ave., near 4th St. The Brooklyn branch is at 315 5th Ave.,

near 3rd St.

A stand-out ‘sNice sandwich, the vegan Panini, is particularly easy to replicate at home. I pressed a block of tofu between two cutting boards, weighting it down with my Nespresso maker (you could also use a heavy pot, like Le Creuset, or maybe a left-over fruitcake). When you press tofu like this, it takes on the consistency of cheese, or paneer, but gives you more protein. I love cheese, but if you have a cheese sandwich every day for lunch, you are eating a lot of fat.

Spread a Ciabatta with pesto sauce and add tofu slices and a couple of oil packed sun-dried tomatoes. That’s it. This is also a great sandwich to pack in a lunchbox.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The travel gods

Ancient Egyptians used amulets and ancient Greeks certain rituals, intended to appease the travel gods and ensure a safe journey. Today, we use smartphones. But still, we can get tripped up when the gods of snow, wind and rain conspire against us.

Traveling in winter is tempting fate, I know, but Sela, my 16 year old, had a soccer tournament in Virginia. The operative word here is ‘had.’ Two feet of snow on the soccer fields canceled the tournament, but we had non-refundable airline tickets. Nora, 12, hates being the ‘plus one’ at soccer tournaments, but when she heard it was in Williamsburg, she said, wistfully, “ever since I got my first American Girl doll, it’s been my dream to go to Colonial Williamsburg.” Far be it from me to crush a little girl’s dream, plus, I’d never been there. So we went, leaving Sela behind (she was driving down with the team, and when the tournament was canceled, she quickly filled her dance card with the usual teen-age activities. Plus she could feed our cat!).

Our flight down was uneventful, but hours before we were to leave, my husband and I got calls that our return flight was canceled. It was hardly snowing in New York, but the new rage is for airlines to pre-empt any problems by canceling. So our 53 minute flight home was going to be a six hour marathon through Atlanta, landing around midnight. This did not seem good.

Rob consulted the web and saw there was a no-stop flight in less than 2 hours. Could we make it? We jumped in the car, ignoring Nora’s pleas that she needed lunch (and a bathroom) and raced to the airport, where our new flight was…delayed. And delayed. And delayed some more. In fact, it left an hour and a half after our original flight.

And let me tell you, the food in the Norfolk airport is beyond abominable. My bagel had the texture of a wet paper towel. Silly me, ordering a bagel outside New York or Montreal, but the only other option was pre-made turkey or chicken sandwiches, not a viable vegetarian choice.

For my next flight, I may try a St Christopher medal. Although I wonder, if I buy a Hermes bag

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tips for First Time Skiers

For both parents and children, going skiing for the first time can seem daunting. A family trip to the beach requires minimal preparation, but taking a family ski trip involves a lot of planning, even if you’ve been skiing. But the potential rewards are so great that most families who ski together can’t wait till their next trip tot the mountain.

The importance of dressing in layers cannot be emphasized enough. Weather can change quickly in the mountains, so you will be glad if you can peel off or add on a layer. However, you need one pair of socks, not four. Thick clunky socks, make it hard to fit boots; one pair of light to medium weight Smartwool socks is perfect. Bring an extra pair of socks for every member of the family, in case one gets wet.

Helmets are not just for kids or beginning skiers. You can rent a helmet at most ski resorts, but if you bring your own, you can ensure a custom fit – with a hat or headband underneath. Test out the fit before you leave to make sure everyone is comfortable.

When you ski, there is a lot of wind; sunscreen offer sun and wind protection. Special ski goggles are not necessary for children or adults, but sunglasses that block UV light are.

A good pair of warm mittens or gloves is vital, along with a second pair in case the first ones get wet. Once kids (or adults) are cold or wet, it is difficult to make them happy again and enjoy being outside.

Advance preparation should also include leaving enough time to get to your destination. Don’t show up right before a program begins; there is paper work to fill out, and fitting for rental equipment can be time consuming. If you are getting to a ski resort the night before, big places like Killington, in Vermont, let you pick up your skis then, to save time in the morning. If you rent from a place close to home, you can spend more time focusing on fit, but then you have to lug the equipment from the parking lot.

Do some stretches to get limber before getting into a car and driving to a ski resort. You will do a lot of bending, getting ski boots on and off. Back and leg stretching will help reduce post-ski aches.

Finally, smile! You are having fun!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vermont and Vegetarian

Given the choice between a cute local cafĂ© and Starbucks, I will always choose the local place. But in airports, Starbucks has my business. Dunkin’ Donuts serves coffee in Styrofoam and McDonald’s has that gross meaty smell.

It annoys me, though, that Starbucks breakfast sandwiches all contain meat. Yes, you can have a pretty decent (if Dickensian portion) of oatmeal, but the egg sandwiches, all pre-made, have ham, bacon or turkey on them. Haven’t they realized how many vegetarians travel, or just like to grab breakfast on the go? Would it have killed them to offer one meat-free sandwich?

The funny thing is, most vegetarians happily pay the same price for a meat-free meal as those eating steak, and their food costs a lot less. My husband and I went to a restaurant the other night with a tasting menu. Six of the eight of us choose the tasting menu; five of us got the vegetarian version. Basically, it was the same menu, but the steak course was instead a plate of lentils. Now, I like lentils as much as they next gal, and they were pretty tasty, with flecks of shiitake mushroom, but come on! Steak has to cost the place a whole lot more than a handful of beans.

We like to ski at Mount Snow, in Vermont. It is near Izabella’s Eatery, which specializes in fresh, local and seasonal organic ingredients. Of the three breakfast paninis, only the one with avocado, Monterey Jack and egg comes without meat, but you can have a freshly made egg and cheese, or egg, spinach and cheese, panini with no meat. There are also a few other breakfast choices, and there’s soy milk for vegans.

At lunchtime, you do even better. Half the sandwiches are vegetarian; the avocado and tempeh or peanut butter with ginger preserves are particular favorites. There are also soups and salads.

A great place to stay is The Snow Goose Inn, West Dover. It is one of the few area B & B’s that accepts children, though the caveat that they be well-behaved may give you pause. Kids under five are free, and you can bring a child, ages 6-17, or a pet, for the same additional $25 a night. Hmm. The innkeepers, sensitive to the dining preferences of their guests (lactose-intolerant, gluten-free) always have vegetarian options at their great breakfasts, but let them know in advance that you are a vegetarian and they will offer even more choices.