I'm back in Cambridge after almost a week away. My sister, Nicole, and her partner flew in from San Diego and brought the good weather with them (yay!). My other sister, Michelle, came up from NYC and together with H and the Goos in tow (yes, their first road trip!), we headed up to New Hampshire for a variety of family activities. The first was to move Grandpa into his new senior housing right into the center of my hometown which is fairly hip for a New Hampshire town. This is a big relief to my mom after having to shuffle between her house and Grandpa's previous housing in East Redneckville, about 20 minutes away. Nothing wrong with Rednecksville for sure..actually I enjoyed seeing motorcycles fly up into the air near the side of the road as part of their regular monster truck rallies. Not something I see in Cambridge every day, no sir! And thanks for that..no offense to monster trucks though =) However, no more of that since Grandpa is firmly settled into his new digs (can I say it? way nicer than my Cambridge apartment..sooooo jealous!). The best part: he's steps from downtown and our fav bagel place. Oh yes, we'll be visiting him often. Whoops..gotta be careful what I say..he may be 93 but he's on The Gmail and an active web surfer! Also on the schedule was celebrating my mom's birthday and sadly, saying goodbye to our family camp. Michelle, my youngest sister, had to go back to NYC last Tuesday to catch yet another flight to Africa (it's her work, not for pleasure). So we offered to drive her down to Springfield, MA to catch a train to NYC. NH? MA? VT? Yes, it's a tad confusing. Where my parents live (and where I was born) in a part of NH that is 20 minutes from Vermont and the same from Massachusetts. So there's a lot of interstate higgly giggely you could say. But if you want to go to NYC other than by car, you must go to MA to catch a train. Vermont and New Hampshire (as well as Maine) have very limited train connections unfortunately! So to Springfield, Massachusetts we went to drop Michelle off. It was not an uneventful trip down. First we got caught in a blinding rain storm. Luckily my German driver was driving (H) so all was well but it wasn't pleasant. Second, we got stuck in construction traffic..but it was okay because using the wonders of the Blackberry, we could see that the train was running late. Are you sensing a "stuck" theme here? Uh huh..well, we got to the station just 5 minutes before the train departed. Michelle ran up to buy herself a ticket while Nicole and I grabbed her bags. And got stuck. Literally. Something about the zipper on her bag snagged the cargo gate in our Prius. The bag was so stucksville that H had to spring into action with a tool to bend the zipper bag meanwhile I was trying to explain to Michelle that her bag was literally stuck to our car. D'oh! Finally freed from the bonds of stuckness, we three sisters literally ran up two flights of stairs with Michelle's bags, sprinting, racing, and making it. I think she was the last person to board. But she made it. Whew. So by then Nicole, H and I were ready for lunch. And it had better be a darn good one. Nicole suggested stopping in North Hampton, MA.
North Hampton (NoHo as we jokingly call it) is a classic New England downtown. Very walkable!
And you thought town troubadours were only in Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls reference)? Nope! They live, they live! In North Hampton at least.
We stopped here at Paul and Elizabeth's for lunch. Are you ready? I mean, really, are you ready?!
Homey and casual decor..it's on the second floor so you can sit by the window and look out on to the town.
Hibiscus peppermint iced tea..delicious!
Yummy black bean soup..hold on, the big one is coming..be patient!
Are you ready? I mean, really ready??? May I introduce vegan chocolate mousse pie with maple glazed almonds and a raspberry sauce...
This rivals the chocolate pie I had in Toronto in March at Live...I actually the NoHo pie wins. The BEST vegan dessert I've ever had..evah evah evah...
Afterwards, we walked around the "mall" attached to the restaurant. This is common in New England: developers take old factory mills or in this case a department store and make them into "malls" filled with funky little shops and restaurants. And after the pie, we needed to do some walking!
H and Nicole discuss who had the better meal while they wait for me to snap my heart's content of pictures..
In a health food store in the mall, I find my second favorite vegan dessert of all time. The evasive, chocolate-covered peanut butter crunch bar. Oh dear god...or rather, Oh Sweet Mama. I will be figuring out how to get goodies from this local vegan bakery in Cambridge. Oh Yes.
So it would have been gluttonous to eat this right after the chocolate pie..so not that I wouldn't have (gluttony a sin? No way! I am a lapsed Catholic for soooo many reasons..tee hee!) but I was so stuffed from lunch that I packed this to go for the next day. It is vacation after all I reasoned with myself. All I can say, amazing, simply amazing. I'm still craving more! Am I becoming a vegan dessert addict? Is there a problem here? Um..let's change the subject, okay?
Finally, back in New Hampshire, it was time to figure out Mom's birthday dinner. I had just a day to plan, prepare and cook. She decided on veggie lasagna and carrot cake. I was a little nervous about the lasagna. The vegan carrot cake I figured would be easy. Nicole and my mom were in on the plan and all for it. But pulling off a vegan lasagna for the whole family would be very hard for three reasons in order of difficulty:
- Meat-eatin' Gramps..open to new stuff but not if it doesn't taste good. Firmly believes my husband is so skinny because I feed him rabbit chow non-stop. Can't explain why I'm not skinny though...lol!!
- Meat-eatin' Dad. Not at all open to new stuff in the very least. Must stick to the known. Freaks out at fresh veggies, prefers canned. Really. Honest. I don't get it myself either!
- The Native I-talian. My sister's partner, Clarissa, isn't Italian American, she's actually from Italy. I'm sweating at this point. She's open to vegan food but a vegan lasagna? Blasphemy!
- Make lasagna taste super yummy
- Don't tell Dad or Grandpa that it's vegan, ever..
- Hide all tofu packages if they enter kitchen while making lasagna
- Compromise with Clarissa and call this lasagna a "casserole" since I am bastardizing her native fare
- Whenever possible, make it look, smell and taste just like the "real" thing aka, the crap they're used to (meaning Dad is used to!)
- Evil giggling and victory dance only permitted after success!
To successfully fool my dad, I need to make the top look "cheesy"..Nicole had the brilliant suggestion of spreading the vegan ricotta over the top to look like melted cheese. Perfecto! No one was any wiser.
Poor Dad...he doesn't know that he just consumed a boatload of tofu..he he he!! Insert evil giggles here!
And the Italian? She had a second helping which I take as the BIGGEST compliment I could get. She commented the next day that vegan food really agrees with her. I have hopes for this one yet!
And finally, the carrot cake with a scoop of So Delicious coconut milk ice cream. A perfect way to end a big day of cooking AND eating! This recipe is aptly called "Incredible Vegan Carrot Cake" and it certainly was. It was a big hit with Follow Your Heart cream cheese frosting.
Whew..I'm full. But still dreamin' of that pie. And peanut butter bar. Isn't it ironic that people think being vegan means deprivation? HA!