Happy 1000th post!

Wow. I can't believe it's actually been a thousand posts since we started blogging here. To celebrate, I'll explain a few questions I've gotten from a couple of customers either via email, or in person.

Why isn't the menu split into Protein and Complex Carb Tapas anymore?
For one thing, all foods have protein. Continuing the myth that only certain foods have protein makes it seem like vegans need to watch their intake of protein and do all kinds of gymnastics to lead a healthy, happy life. Whether it be soy, gluten, or beans, nuts, fruits, seeds, whole grains, or vegetables, as long as you're eating a varied and colourful diet, you'll be fine.

But aside from that, having the differing price structures was confusing to some, and not representative of the labour or expense of the food involved. A plate of the BBQ Seitan doesn't cost us near as much as a plate of the Sesame Steamed Collard Greens. When we were looking at the menu, and realised the unfair pricing, we decided to make a change, and shift it so that those things that cost us less will cost you less as well. :)

How do you come up with your ideas for food?
It depends! Sometimes, I or Bossman will get inspiration from reading food blogs, magazines, or watching TV or movies. Sometimes we'll think of something that we had pregan (pre-vegan) and want to make it vegan. Other times (in fact, this is the most common way), we'll discover a recipe from another culture or country, where all the ingredients are vegan to begin with!

Then, we toss ideas back and forth, refining and perfecting, until we both are satisfied with the concept. Then, one or both of us will execute it, and taste for seasoning frequently. Once it's perfect, we'll have the wait staff and kitchen staff taste it, so that everyone is on the same page as to how that dish should come out. Finally, I'll put it out as a special.

It's why sometimes it takes a bit of time for completely brand new recipes to appear on the specials menu. I love to explore different foods, but I'm not going to make something here that isn't going to be perfect for our customers. I can experiment all I want at home, but at work, it's all about ensuring that everything is exactly as it's meant to be.

What's your kitchen like? Is it anything like the ones we see on TV/movies?
I get this question frequently, and I'd have to say that working here is like working nowhere else that I've ever been. There isn't a stressed out boss, shouting at everyone to get things done. Bossman doesn't work that way. He's about making less, not more violence. Instead, he tends to collaborate, ask for input, and then come to an understanding of how best to work with the folks we have, and how to make sure that the customer is happy.

Granted, there are times when either I or he have to make policy changes that are absolutes. However, it's done in such a way that it's (again) not angry, but matter-of-fact. "This is what needs to get done, and here's why." Similarly, the kitchen tends to work in a fairly genial atmosphere. Even when things are a little hectic, because of the volume of food that needs to go out, we're still polite to each other, and say please and thank you frequently.

When you permeate your work place with loving kindness, and gentle attitudes, you foster an environment where people are happy to be there. I work hard at my job, but at the end of the day, I am happy doing what I do. I'm proud of the food that I make, and of the people that Bossman and I are reaching.

My mom always believed that you should cook only when you're in a good mood, and keep the anger and negativity out of the kitchen. Good words to live by. Not only does it prevent you from making mistakes, or hurting yourself (if you're distracted or angry, you have more chances of not paying full attention to your work), it also makes the food taste better. Call it confirmation bias if you will, but every time I step into the kitchen with the thought of, "This is going to be part of someone's life as they eat it, and I need to fill my thoughts with good things", my food ends up coming out fantastic.

I hope you enjoyed the little peek into the thinking that runs this place. If you have any more questions for me, or if you're curious about anything else Chow related, feel free to leave a comment here, or email sacredchow at aol dot com.

Thank you to all of you for reading along, and sticking with us all these years!

Sacred Chow


Uphill both ways, right?

There's times (like today), when I had to get up way too early to get to work on time (long story, get into it later), and there's a lot of work to catch up on (thankfully, food actually sold when we were open during the before and after of the storm—either our customers are the awesomest, or our food is awesome; I suspect it's a lovely combination of the two), and the dish guy just quit, and then everything comes crashing down in a wall of too much to get done with not enough time. The pie's in the oven, the food is made, and all that jazz, but there's still a bunch of stuff to get done (including vetting out the new dish guy) before leaving, which is starting to get stressful for all parties concerned.

Fortunately, in moments like these, I can stop myself from panicking, and say to myself "This too shall pass, some day, we'll find something that works". Granted, on days like this, it's difficult to believe, because everything that could go wrong, has done so, spectacularly so.

There is a ray of sunshine, however. The pie turned out fantastic.

Yes, it is gluten free.


What to do for the hurricane?

I used to live in Florida, before moving to the promised land (New York, NY), so I know a thing or two (or five) about hurricanes. Every time one would hit, I would inevitably get the call from work to come over and help put plastic covers over the computers, and to generally get stuff off of the floor that could get flooded. Granted, they had double pane bullet resistant windows, but that's not the point. In the event of an actual breakage, and masses of flooding, you don't want your insurance company having any excuse to tell you that you didn't perform due diligence to protect your property.

Then I'd go home.

Anyone who knows me and my family knows that my mum (on average) keeps enough food in the house to last this and then next ten coming apocalypses (apocalpsi?), regardless of how long they take. I didn't have to think about those sorts of things in the past. Now, it's me and the husband living alone, and although I'll be off in DC with my family this weekend, there are a few things that I think that anyone who's preparing for a hurricane needs to have on hand.

1) Booze. Seriously. Nobody wants to be stuck indoors, and feel bored. Might as well have an excuse to party down a bit. When you see the thunder and lightning, and the winds whipping through, have yourself a drink. If you don't drink alcohol, take this as an excuse to get those awesome sparkling ciders or sodas that we've got peppered throughout the city. Even the Bodega by my house (which is very oddly stocked) in Washington Heights (OK, it's Inwood. I'm on the border, people!) has some rather neat sodas that are made right here in New York. This is a very good time to acquaint yourself with them.

2) Nonperishable food that will actually make you feel like you ate something. Yes, crackers are nonperishable. Yes, tortilla chips and salsa are nonperishable. However, after eating them, you don't feel like you've actually had anything. However, a nice peanut butter and banana sandwich will hit the spot. Jam is nice too, but I've never left the stuff out of the fridge for any length of time, so your mileage may vary.

3) Sandwich material, and a cooler packed with those little freezer packs. If you don't have those little freezer packs, freeze a few zip top baggies in the freezer, and use those instead. Get some tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, your favourite hummus, some pita bread, some regular bread, your favourite condiments, and keep them at the ready to pop into a cooler, should you lose power. Making a sandwich and eating it will fill you up more than snack foods. When my parents and I would go on long drives, we'd do exactly this, because it keeps a good long time, and it means that you don't have to worry about stopping off at a rest stop where the only vegetarian option is to go grazing on the grass that they keep outside.

4) Fruit, be it dried or otherwise. Bananas keep. Apples keep. Pineapples keep. Watermelon keeps, and is massively delicious. All manner of dried fruits keep rather well.

5) Nuts. I'm a huge fan of those giant bags of nuts that you get at Subzi Mandi in Jackson Heights. They have them very inexpensively priced, and will keep in the freezer for when you get power back on.

6) Water. In fact, freeze a few gallons before the storm hits, and keep it in your fridge, so that it keeps things cold in the event of a power cut.

7) A full charge for your mobile phone, laptop, ipod, headphones, and any other device that you can keep fully charged. Boredom sets in fairly quickly when you are trapped in your apartment for any length of time. This is also a very good time to introduce yourself to your neighbours, who may very well have that one thing you forgot to get, or wouldn't mind coming over to hang out when the winds are whipping through.

Aside from the usual stuff, like candles or flashlights or what have you, I hope that this list keeps you from getting too terribly bored. All in all, I find that it's best to be over prepared than under prepared. I can't remember which hurricane it was (Katrina?) that ripped through Florida, but it left us without electricity for the better part of two and a half weeks. I didn't have water for a week. Trust me when I say that I was not looking cute, but I didn't smell too terrible, because we'd though to fill our bath tub before the storm hit, and were able to take sponge baths in the dark.

Also, grilled vegetables give me PTSD flashbacks. Let's never speak of them again.

My gameboy (yes, I still have it) was one of the things keeping me sane when I'd finished reading every single book we owned. But the other thing was the bread (the worst possible mega chain brand you can find, because that sucker is filled to the brim with preservatives galore, and will keep through everything that could happen) and the gas stove kept me fed. For those of you without a gas stove, you can buy those little portable gas stoves at the H Mart in Koreatown. They're like $30, and are good to have on hand for any kind of emergency. Granted, it won't cook as fast as your regular range, but that's OK. Having a plate of piping hot home fries, some tofu scramble, and a bit of tea in the morning feels lovely after all that partying.

Please be safe, and relax! This is one of the few times you'll get to disconnect from the world at large. Enjoy a bit of it.


"just make a note"

So yesterday, a water main broke, a little bit up the street. There was all of a sudden no water in the pipes. Nothing. Then it came back, then it stopped, then it came back again, and round and round it goes, where she stops, nobody knows. Of course, having never seen such a thing happen before, I go into a blinding panic. Bossman looked cool as a cucumber, and said, "Just catch the water in a bucket, and then filter it through a fine mesh strainer. It won't be drinking or cooking water, but it can be used to wash hands, as needed. Then, just make a note about it, and put it up."

There is a certain level of nerves of steel that makes it possible to own and run a business. Bossman's got that. Granted, we'd not be able to do many of the things we normally do, but it wasn't some insurmountable thing. We could still clean up after ourselves, and wash hands with the water in the buckets. We could also leave a bucket in the washroom for the customers to wash up as needed. In other words, aside from the nerves of steel, one needs to also have ingenuity. There will come challenges that will present themselves in a regular basis.

We once had a customer who was dead set on having the sunflower lentil pate. For one thing, she was allergic to garlic, and the pate is one of the few things on the menu that doesn't have large quantities of garlic in it. For another, she was also gluten free, and couldn't have soy. There goes other large pieces of the menu. It's understandable why she was counting on that particular dish happening for her.

I didn't have any sunflower seeds, however. Our delivery of the seeds and such wasn't arriving for a couple of hours yet, and the person was also allergic to peanuts, so there were other things that were falling off of the list. I offered to make the pate (since I already had the beans and sauteed onions ready and waiting) with almonds instead. She said that it would be fine. I apologised for the delay, and booked it back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, there was a scoop of lentil pate with sliced veggies ready for her. She seemed pleased.

So throughout the day, we're calling 311, calling the landlord, calling rabbi to pray for us. Suffice it to say that the day was tense, if not outright nerve-wracking. And then the water would come back on, but only give this brown stuff. Ugh. No thanks. So again, we wait some more, and keep filtering the water we did have collected. About 3:00 the water finally turns back on for good, and we all breathe a sigh of relief.

"Fortunately", it was a very slow day, and everyone wanted takeaway or delivery.

Running a business also involves luck.

Still wish there were more people coming in, though.


The world is waiting.

What's the best that we can do?

Determine to find our unique way to make less hunger, cruelty & impoverishment happen.

Not an easy mission in our thug powered world. Think of how we behave as we pass vehicle crashes on highways: traffic slows, we get angry for the slow-down, then as we approach miles up the highway, closer to speed freedom - we slow down too, & "rubber neck" (stretch our heads) out of the car window to check out the gory details; and then, we quickly speed on forward. It seems to tantalize us: another beings pain - their degradation, impoverishment, sad predicament - we are relieved that this is not our plight; yet, we experience a degree of delight in the viewing of the carnage.

When we purchase our food choices, most of us, are so far removed from how the product made it's way to the markets' shelves or the plate before us: our consumption equation does not rest on whether our choice will harm our mental or physical being, our fellow beings, the planet. We primarily live in a cost ratio world: moving on from the car wreck - we are herd ourselves into the highest & lowest of the culinary kingdoms to consume our power over the food on our plate - speeding forward, with knife & fork, disregarding the dripping cruelty, blood lust, greed, carbon destruction & related health issues.

Most of our fellow beings live in terribly cruel, tortured, violent, impoverished and inhumane conditions. We know this. We all know this. Yet, we consume despite the harm being done, and we turn our backs. If all of us are not living in safety, then there is no safety. Is it possible to bring safety & change to our fellow beings living in such dire cruelty? If we live in a democracy, our voices & deeds have the power to make the impossible: possible. Let's make change happen!

What's the best that you can do? Find your voice, the world is waiting.


"You're the only ones with NOTHING!"

"Can't you like maybe hide something somewhere that's non-kosher, so I have something to report? You're the only restaurant that we Kosher that has /never/ had a single violation of any kind." Of course, rabbi was joking. Of course he doesn't want us to have non-kosher stuff in the restaurant. But he said how other restaurants all have minor little hiccoughs, whether it be about grape issues, wine issues, etc. Us? Not a single violation ever.


When you're a vegan, you're doing lots of reading of labels. Does it contain whey? What about ablumin (egg white)? What about weird natural flavours (like the ones found in certain brands of tomato juice) that come from all kinds of animal ingredients. No thanks! Then, when you're Kosher on top of vegan, you're not only looking for the Pareve symbol, but you're again double-checking to make sure that there's no eggs or fish in there.

That being said, it avoids a lot of issues. At Chow, all wines are Mevushal. This means that regardless of your religion, you are allowed to open the bottle and pour it (non-mevushal wines may not be opened by folk who aren't frum [observant of shabbos, and observant of Pesach], or indeed an open bottle may not be set in front of folk who aren't frum). All the food is vegan. All the food is Kosher. Why? Because then you don't have to ask all these questions.

Ironically, we follow the strictest Kosher and vegan rules, because it is so much easier to do so than to not follow them!