Mini-Review: Candle Café’s Vegan Holiday Cooking

November 1st, 2014 4:51 pm by Kelly Garbato

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As with many renowned vegan eateries, NYC’s Candle Café is a restaurant I’ve coveted from afar, salivating over the many mouth-watering dishes photographed, enjoyed, and shared by vegan friends and acquaintances on Instagram, tumblr, and other social media outlets. (I have five dogs who I love to pieces – but they kind of put a damper on my travel plans.) Luckily, the burgeoning vegan cookbook market – and the increasing number of cookbooks released by popular vegan restaurants, such as Candle Café, The Chicago Vegan Diner, and Jivamuktea Café – has made it possible to enjoy even the most upscale menus from the comfort of your own kitchen. Hasta la vista, age of vicarious living!

Candle Café ups the ante with Vegan Holiday Cooking, a special cookbook chock full of holiday-themed menus. While this isn’t the first vegan holiday cookbook on the market (there’s also Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas and Susan Voisin, as well as Zel Allen’s Vegan for the Holidays), Vegan Holiday Cooking is unique in its focus: rather than concentrating solely on the “big” holiday season – Thanksgiving through New Year’s – Pierson, Ramos, and Pineda extend their celebration across the calendar.

The book includes ten menus for a variety of occasions, including the Super Bowl; the Lunar New Year; Valentine’s Day; Passover; Easter; Cinco de Mayo; the Fourth of July; Thanksgiving; Christmas; and New Year’s Eve. Each menu receives roughly the same amount of attention – the 4th of July and Christmas both merit 18 pages of coverage! – resulting in a holiday cookbook with great depth and variety. For example, while the Thanksgiving menu features a number of traditional, hearty fall comfort foods (Roasted Squash Soup, Wild Rice and Cornbread Stuffing, Pecan Pie with Cinnamon Ice Cream), we also get a taste of Mexican foods via the Cinco de Mayo menu (Spanish Rice and Black Beans, Tempeh Fajitas, Crispy Black Bean Tacos), as well as Asian dishes courtesy of the Lunar New Year (Scallion Pancakes with Homemade Kimchi and Wasabi Aioli, Steamed Vegetable Dumplings with Ginger-Soy Dipping Sauce, Miso-Ginger Braised Tofu over Bamboo Rice Pilaf). And we can’t forget the Passover Seder, which features a variety of veganized Jewish dishes. I can’t wait to try the Sweet Potato and Apricot Tzimmes. Ditto: the Sweet Potato Latkes with Almond Crème Fraiche.

I can’t lie; I’m a little disappointed that my own favorite holiday (Halloween!) didn’t make the cut… especially when a technically-not-a-holiday (the Super Bowl! say what now?) did. Otherwise I found myself pleasantly surprised by the diversity of dishes and celebrations included here.

As for aesthetics, Vegan Holiday Cooking is gorgeous cookbook. In addition to the swanky cheese and wine spread pictured on the cover, the inside front and back covers feature a sophisticated burgundy print which highlights a book blurb (on the front) and conversion chart (back). The book is full-color, and each menu has its own festive color theme. Also included are a number of gourmet food photos, though some readers will be disappointed to find that not every recipe is accompanied by a photo. (I personally don’t mind, but to each her own.)

Most of the required ingredients are common and easy to find in the US – though the Jewish and Asian menus may require a trip to a specialty store. Likewise, items like Ener-G Egg Replacer, silken tofu, and agave nectar might be hard to find except in a natural/health foods store – or online.

Full review coming soon. In the meantime, you can follow my progress on the Vegan Holiday Cooking tag.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

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2 Responses to “Mini-Review: Candle Café’s Vegan Holiday Cooking

  1. Cadry Says:

    I look forward to reading your full review and seeing what you make! I just received this book too. (I won it in a contest.) I agree that the pictures are beautiful, and since I visited Candle Cafe earlier this fall, I’m eager to make some of their food in my own kitchen.

  2. Kelly Garbato Says:

    I can’t wait to see what you make! I’ve already tried the Roasted Squash Soup, Make Your Own Chili Bowl, and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (though I cheated and used store bought pasta). They were all pretty good, but of course the pasta was my favorite!

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