I was surprised and delighted to find a vegan snack box on my Delta flight to LA from SFO. It does seem that sometimes, shuttle flights have better amenities.
I was met by my son Michael at LAX, and at greeted at the house by the three rescue dogs, Teddy, Mooshoo and Cocoa, my two granddaughters, Georgia and Cecile, and my daughter-in-law, Linda. (Linda, a documentarian, produced and directed the Vegan Chocolate cookbook trailer. Our little film is actually a mini class with tips on successful vegan desserts, and how to make chocolate ganache, and glaze and plate a beautiful Sacher Torte.)
As LA traffic and freeways and I are not on good terms, I was happy to find that Uber in LA has really taken off. The carpool option is a great idea to reduce the number of cars on the road too. First time Uber riders who use my code will get a 20.00 first ride and I’ll get credit too. (I don’t work for Uber, but it has made traveling so much easier for me. Uber account sign up)
It was time I tried Gracias Madre LA, and so that’s what I did on Wednesday. The patio is serene and the food tasted as fresh and vibrant as it read on the menu. Tequila pairings, with chocolate no less, tempted, but thinking about Thursday’s demo at Google LA, I stuck with iced tea. Perfect, light, satisfying.
Dinner for the Costigals was by GFran and they ate two helpings each of a quickly made baked tofu dish with steamed broccoli, avocado, and fresh from farmers market green beans. I found bananas and berries in the freezer, added some cocoa powder and made soft serve, vegan style in their Vitamix. No photo, just fun with family.
After the girls went to bed, I went over my notes for the next day’s Vegan Chocolate book demo at Google LA. The team had decided on the Ganache Glazed Chocolate Torte to Live For and Vanilla Pastry Cream for the demo and tastings. I knew a videographer would be there filming a YouTube Video.
Thursday morning, I Ubered over from Hollywood to the iconic Google LA building in Venice Beach. The day was bright and sunny and Venice looked refreshed. I noticed a lot more upscale shops and many juice joints.
Sous chef Scott and Julie who handles Talks@Google greeted me. I had a tour of the kitchen, which was humming, and met pastry chef Kathleen who had made and glazed all of the cakes. Per my suggestion, she used Bob’s Red Mill’s new Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour. It is a game changer. Kathleen had everything prepped: nuts weighed and soaked, chocolate chopped, ganache made too – mis en place perfection! The name of the room, The Big Lebowski, cracked me up, and as I have a recipe for vegan White Russians in Vegan Chocolate as an homage to The Dude, it seemed fated I was there. You can find the recipe for Chocolate Vodka and Vegan White Russians at the bottom of this blog post.
Julie told me that Googlers don’t always rsvp to events, but many had for this one. Vegan + Chocolate = lots of interest. The questions I got were interesting, and the cakes and cream, which were served with bursting with flavor fresh berries, were delicious. I had a ball. I didn’t get photos of the servings, but I was busy answering questions and signing copies of Vegan Chocolate.
Julie and Scott invited me to have lunch in the café and I loaded my plate with fresh salads, then had the soup of the day and even enjoyed a green drink. Yes, there is a juice bar on the premises. If I come back as a brainiac techie, I know where I want to work. True, the vibe looks mellow, with Googlers seated on sofas and swivel chairs, drinking fair-trade coffee and typing away, but I know that everyone works hard. I signed one of the Big Lebowski posters, which is now on the wall with other chefs and authors and took the one I was given with me. There was swag too, and as I write this, I am wearing my Google tee.
As if this day wasn’t full enough, I had one more stop. Matthew Kenny Culinary and restaurant was just a few short blocks away on Abbot Kinney, and my friend and colleague Peter Cervoni had invited me to come by and see the space. Peter, who recently moved to Venice Beach from NYC, showed me around and I saw Mathew too. At this writing, the new restaurant is just open. I was torn about going back to NYC on Friday, as a Chocolate and Cheese intensive was being held on the weekend.
Chocolate White Russian
The White Russian is the potent but easy to quaff cocktail that was a favorite of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) in the Coen Brother’s cult classic The Big Lebowski—only he called it “The Caucasian.” I have enjoyed vegan versions of this cocktail made with nondairy creamer and have now upped the ante by starting with house-made cacao nib– infused Chocolate Vodka (page 257). My favorite creamer is So Delicious coconut milk creamer, but you can use any brand you like. (A cream-free Black Russian variation follows this recipe.) Whether to stir, float the cream on top, or to use equal parts vodka and coffee liqueur, I leave to you. You can use cashew cream or any favorite plant milk, thicker is better, and slightly sweetened if you like. Note that if you don’t have time to make Chocolate Vodka by infusing cacao nibs, no one is going to complain about a White Russian made with a premium un-chocolate vodka. It’ll be a White White Russian.
Makes 1 Drink
- 2 ounces / 60 ml Chocolate Vodka (recipe follows)
- 1 ounce / 30 ml coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua
- 1/2 ounce / 15 ml nondairy creamer
- Pour the vodka and coffee liqueur into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes and stir.
- Pour the nondairy milk into the glass and leave it to float on top, or stir vigorously.
This chocolate scented vodka makes a gorgeous holiday gift for friends and family but you’ll want to make some for yourself too. All this takes to make are cacao nibs and some a premium vodka. Simply combine the two, shake the jar a couple of times a day for a week, strain out the nibs, and refrigerate or freeze. Drink an icy shot of the softly sweet and slightly bitter liqueur straight up or use it to make White or Black Russians – dairy free and suitable for vegans, of course!
Makes 2 1/4 Cups / 540 Ml Infused Vodka
- 2 1/2 cups / 600 ml vodka (consider organic)
- 1/2 cup / 72 grams cacao nibs
- Combine the vodka and cocoa nibs in a jar. Close the jar tightly and shake.
- Let stand at room temperature for 1 week, shaking the jar once or twice each day.
- Strain the vodka through a fine mesh sieve and discard the nibs. Strain the vodka a second time through an unbleached coffee filter into another clean jar and refrigerate or freeze.
Drink a shot icy cold or use it as you would any vodka.
The infused vodka can be refrigerated or frozen for up to three months before the flavor starts going a little light.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, Fran Costigan (Running Press 2013) Photo credit: ©Kate Lewis.