A heartfelt thanks to our thoughtful client, Allison Rivers Samson of Allison's Gourmet, who sent us some lovely, unexpected treats to brighten our holiday season. Allison's Gourmet is a online vegan sweets confectioner + bakery that offers dairy-free, egg-free cookies, brownies, chocolates, caramels, fudge, brittle and pretty much any other delectable sweet you can dream up. She uses fair-trade + organic ingredients whenever possible and offers up seasonally themed sweets that rotate monthly. You can join her newsletter to stay up-to-date on what's to come but—our insider's scoop—Vanilla Almond Cookies, Original Brownies, and Walnut Fudge are on tap for January. Pictured above, Pumpkin Spice Cookies, Gingerbread Spice Cookies, Peppermint Bark, and Peanut Butter Cups, all about to be ravenously eaten, massive sugar crash to follow. Holiday gift-givers, you've got eight days as of writing to order and receive by Christmas, which you can tell by that handy, well-designed little icon in the upper left of Allison's homepage. How nice!
The other night, Katie + I attended the launch party for Laika Magazine, a new quarterly magazine from our friend + fellow designer, Julie Gueraseva. From the magazine's Web site:
"You could say it is a vegan lifestyle magazine. Or you could say it is simply a clear assertion that a full, vibrant, exciting, interesting and satisfying life can be had — without ever having to inflict harm on another. This is not a hypothetical notion. This is the reality. And LAIKA MAGAZINE is a reflection of this undeniable reality. It is the place where compassion and innovation intersect." The premiere issue runs the gamut of fashion-forward, animal-friendly living from cruelty-free beauty tips to locally made ethical shopping to creative cooking tips, artist profiles, and rescued farm animals photo essays. The layout is beautifully designed, with Julie's trademark touch of organic, paint-inspired flourishes and thoughtfully curated photography, giving you an up-close, intimate exposure to the magazine's subjects. Think a higher gloss Kinfolk Magazine minus the ever-present pretension. And all those dead animals. Visit Laika's Web site to find out more about the publication, download or order the premier issue ($6/$11), and subscribe to coming issues. Added incentive: Laika will be donating 10% of all magazine sales—both digital + print—to one of our favorite clients, Farm Sanctuary. Keep an eye out at your local independent bookstore + animal-friendly spot as Laika begins to be picked up for distribution as well. We're predicting big things for this one. Cover photo of model Brandilyn Tebo by Melissa Schwartz, both vegan, as it turns out.
Sweden's Shout Out Louds are a long-time favorite band of ours. We first saw them randomly play at the long-defunct LES club, Sin-é, with a friend's band way back in 2004 and wrote them up for the first time at the opening of 2010, when they released their first album on Merge, the beginning-to-end superb Work. We've been fans of their catchy brand of pop ever since. So we were thrilled when the band announced that they'll be releasing their fourth full-length—Optica— in February. The band has had some grown-up down time since Work, expanding families and exploring side-projects, so it should come as no surprise that they took their time writing Optica and spent a year and a half recording it in a small Stockholm studio. The band also celebrated a first, producing the album themselves with the help of Johannes Berglund and working hand-in-hand with a string composer to create arrangements described by Carl von Arbin (guitar, second from left above) as "Disney on drugs" and by frontman Adam Olenius (far right above) as "like warm mayonnaise." To Carl, we say: "That sounds rad, man"; to Adam: "You make our souls shudder in revulsion." The first single from the album, "Blue Ice", is definitely a lower tempo, slow-burn kind of song, but it's got all of the staples—driving rhythms, catchy keys, boy-girl harmonies, and oddly inconsolable lyrics. Dude's bummed, man. Dude's bummed. Maybe all that warm mayonnaise....ooh, bonus on this one though—80s-style handclaps in the chorus.
Download "Blue Ice" below and check out their official, very Space Camp video. You can sign up for Shout Out Louds' newsletter (top of the page) to get first listens to other tracks from the coming album and stay up-to-date on shows, but they'll be kicking off their tour right here in Brooklyn at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 11. You can pre-order Optica on CD or Vinyl over at Merge and digitally at iTunes. Now let's get sadly spacey, Reader:
Hushpuppies are a food that defy routine logic. How, pray tell, could a simple ball of prepare corn meal be deep fried to magically turn into what some—your devoted writer included—consider to be one of the most delectable edibles of all time?
Right, most likely the frying. But still, hushpuppies are soooooooooooooo gooooooooooooood! Right? RIGHT‽ So imagine my forlorn, depressed puppy dog face when I learned in my collegiate days of yore that, sadly, nearly all hushpuppies are made with eggs and/or milk. Well, rejoice, dear Reader and fellow Hushpuppiophile; we've worked up and strenuously tested (all for you) a hushpuppy recipe that is not only completely free of dairy and eggs, it's also gluten-free. I know. We ARE awesome. Thank you. Though the etymology of 'hushpuppy' isn't super-well-documented, the origin's usually attributed to hunters, fishermen, and other outdoorsy cooks who would fry up cheap, easy cornmeal balls to feed their dogs, thus "hushing the puppies" during cook-outs or fish-fries. Which—despite their origin in native cultures of the southern US—may explain the presence of hushpuppies on many a seafood restaurant menu. But less talk, more food, yeah? Here's your recipe break-down: Gluten-Free Vegan Hushpuppies ◊ 1 cup Cornmeal
◊ 1/8 cup Brown Rice Flour
◊ 1 tb Baking Powder
◊ 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
◊ 1/2 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
◊ 1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar ◊ 2 tb Sweet Onion, finely diced
So, first off, the jalapeño's optional—if you can't take the heat...no witty kitchen puns are coming to me, but yeah, hold the pepper, Sherlock. We like Bob's Red Mill for the rice flour and they make a nice coarse cornmeal you can use, but we like the more traditional, old-school brands for that too, so your call. This recipe is actually a derivation of one posted to Bob's site ages ago that we've continued to develop over the years, recently adding the gluten-free attribute. So, first, rub a mixing bowl with your garlic and then set the garlic aside. Add cornmeal to the bowl and sift in the rice flour, then adding salt + baking powder and mixing thoroughly. In a separate container—a 1 cup measuring sup tends to work well—pour in almond milk (or another unsweetened milk alternative) and add vinegar. This is meant to replicate the base-sour contrasting taste of buttermilk, so, depending on how much you like that taste, feel free to alter the ratio of milk to vinegar. Set the liquid mixture aside and add your finely diced onion, jalapeño, and garlic (which you'll now need to dice) to the cornmeal mixture. Now gradually pour in your liquid mixture a little bit at a time stirring as you go until you have a stiff batter. Don't worry if it seems overly grainy—the cornmeal will absorb moisture as it sits to relax the grain. The primary goal is to make sure the mixture is fairly cohesive. Now cover bowl and refrigerate for an hour or more, until the batter's spongy. Once you're ready to prepare the hushpuppies, warm a light oil—vegetable or canola works well—in a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat with enough oil to half-submerge a ball of batter. It's best to start with one test puppy, so form a ball of the batter with a spoon and/or your hands and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Watch it attentively and, after a couple minutes, attempt to turn the pup so that the other half of the ball is submerged in oil. If it sticks to the skillet bottom, you either let it cook too long or not long enough. Let the other half cook for another couple minutes and remove from the skillet, placing in a paper-towl-lined plate or bowl. Let the test puppy cool and then cut it in half and give it a try. The outer portion should be golden-brown and you should just make sure the middle is cooked through. If it's not but your outer puppy—yoga pose?—is browning too much or blackening, reduce the heat. Once you've got it down, put enough balls in the skillet to fill without having them touch. Cook, repeat, serve, enjoy. Double the recipe if you have more than two puppies to serve or are just super-hungry. We like to serve these with homemade cocktail sauce, which, if you didn't know, is just ketchup mixed with prepared horseradish. Whoever came up with that one, by the way, also needs a stout pat on the back. Enjoy, Reader! And happy Nautical Week to you and yours! 12.18.12 Edit - According to our friend Megan Hauer—By the way, Charleston claims to be the origin of the hush puppy...the kitchen was often behind the main house (in the carriage house, where the help lived, so to speak). So people would have to bring meals through the alley to the main house, which often elicited much barking from neighborhood dogs. In order to "hush" the dogs, they created hush puppies that they'd throw them from their pockets as they were bringing the meal to the house.
Vegan seafood has always been one of those things that—pardon my French, Reader—strikes us as 100% fucking gross.
I mean, we're talking about replicating creepy, scaly, slimy creatures that lurk around in the depths of the ocean—some have weird eye stalks, some have bizarre armored bodies, some have CLAWS FOR GOD'S SAKE—all so we can eat them. Why would we want to do that‽ It's like someone who's lost their sense of smell wanting to recreate the Lower East Side during a summertime garbage strike! At the same time, seafood is one of the things I miss most from my not-so-animal-friendly childhood. I still remember a friend of mine schooling me in the early 90s on the best way to prepare and pace myself so as to be able to take full advantage of the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in the Outer Banks. Classy, right? Well, if you're interested in a nice vegetarian alternative to seafood, newcomer animal-friendly company, Sophie's Kitchen may just have exactly what you're looking for. The Taiwanese company gets their name and inspiration from the founders' little girl, who, in addition to being super-cute, is also allergic to most seafood. Unlike Brad's Organic though—one of our retail mortal enemies—Sophie's brands their products with a classy logo instead of, oh, I don't know, THE DISEMBODIED HEAD OF THEIR CHILD. God. We really hate that packaging. Anyway, back on-point, 'lil Sophie (along with some help from her parents I should hope) produces a wide range of vegan 'seafood' products—from really great 'fish' fillets reminiscent of fast food fish sandwich fillets to 'calamari' + various kinds of shrimp-like products. I know—'shrimp-like products' doesn't exactly get most of us salivating, but what we've tried from the company is, on average, really great. We'd recommend veering toward the fried products—frying anything makes it better anyway and most of the textures are well-complimented by the various breadings they use.
Our favorite—Sohpie's Vegan Crab Cakes, pictured above. Despite our respective southern upbringings, Katie + I were never huge fans of real crab cakes, but these offer up a nice realistically fishy flavor (derived from the seaweed powder used in the mixture) and have a great consistency that pleasantly recalls their meaty counterparts. What's more, they're soy-free, gluten-free, and largely comprised of pea protein, potato starch, and root of konjac—a plant native to Japan, China, Korea, and Indonesia widely used in Japanese cuisine. Konjac powder's is a good vegan substitute for gelatin and is low in calories, yet high in fiber. So that's cool. Sophie's also makes the mission of oceanic preservation integral to their business model, donating 5% of their net profits to help preserve the ocean's species and their habitats. Again—cool. The company's products are starting to be offered in stores pretty widely now, but if you're wondering who near you might carry their vegan seafood, visit the company's store locator page. You can also order online from Maryland-based Pangea + Wisconsin-based Vegan Essentials and Sophie's is currently offering a coupon you can download from their site (upper right). Let us know what you think! "I'm making crabby snacks and homemades!"
Another quick maritime-themed gift idea to add to our randomly assigned Nautical Week here at Kindness of Ravens—some lovely tugboat print textiles from our friend Jane at Foxy + Winston, our longtime favorite local stationer + print-maker.
Jane just unveiled these darling little pillows, hand-screen-printed in India with non-toxic, organic inks by fair trade artisans.
Pillows not your thing? As with most of her prints, Jane uses this pattern on a whole host of products from aprons to tote bags to cloth napkins and greeting cards, all printed on and with environmentally sustainable materials. Just check out her paper + textile goods to see what suits you. And, if you're in South Brooklyn, stop by her shop in Red Hook. Jane's honestly one of the nicest, most amiable people we've ever met and her beagle—Hope—is sleeping in the shop window most days and loves a good belly rub. Looking for more ways to shop locally in Brooklyn? Visit Shop Brooklyn for coming events and a listing of local, independent retailers.
Have a need for some creative gift-giving this holiday season, Reader? How about a framed historical map of your favorite coastal locale?
We've always loved seemingly overly functional maps. There's something oddly beautiful about the juxtaposition of the curving, chaotic, organic shapes of the natural world and humanity's mathematical, sharp-edged, vector-filled interpretation of it. Old-school nautical maps, with their detailed shipping routes, funny hold-over names, and "THAR BE DRAGONS" are the height of the cookily arcane when it comes to mapping, and we stumbled across a pretty nice online resource for them recently. Sea Heritage is an online database and marketplace for thousands of digitally 'remastered' nautical charts from more than 30 US states and random other places. You can look up, preview, and then order anything from a map of the New York Harbor to sketches of the Sandwich Islands from 1798. Mmmm, Sandwich Islands. It sounds like most of their framing might be a bit on the lightweight, metallic side, so we'd recommend ordering the frameless prints—it makes for a less hefty price, cuts down on time + shipping, and allows you to get the job done at your favorite local frame shop. Then you can let that chubby kid hold it until he drops it, get the mouthy kid to translate the Spanish, and GO FIND ONE-EYED WILLIE'S RICH STUFF, READER! PS—You can look at a larger version of the map above over at Wikipedia. Zoom in for area details. Pretty cool.
Reader, we're taking and the ball and running with it, as it were, building off the inadvertent maritime theme we laid out last week with the posting of the invite we designed for Oceana/Christie's/Susan Rockefeller (below). Thus we bring you (drumroll, please)...Nautical Week! That's right, this week, we'll be bringing you all these nautical. Er. Maybe not all things nautical, more like...some things nautical. Like, five, maybe. Four if we're pressed for time or there's a Cosby Show marathon on or something.
First up this musical Monday—Cleveland, Ohio's The Lighthouse and The Whaler. Though Lake Erie doesn't necessarily conjure up images of great white whales and stories of hubris and flawed human souls on a journey to conquer the unconquerable, the band nonetheless takes its moniker from Melville's classic tale, Moby Dick.
The sound of the band, however, strikes listeners as far less...heavy, let's say. The music leaps around playfully and frontman Michael LoPresti's falsetto yelp comes off as happily fey, drawing immediate comparisons to Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles. Honestly, for anyone who's slightly disappointed with what's been heard of that band's new, sans cello, electronic-heavy album, The Lighthouse and The Whaler may well be your cure...but then again, what band likes stark comparisons like that? Let's leave it at: "They're really good; you should give them a listen." "Prove it," you say? You are demanding, Reader...but will do. Download + listen to their album's title track—"This is an Adventure"—below. You like? Continue your downward scrolling, Reader, and check out the whole album, which you can buy digitally directly from the band on their bandcamp page or via the iTunes if that's more your jam.
The band will be touring in 2013, supporting Kindness of Ravens fave, matt pond PA (you can read our 2010 interview with Mr. Pond if you're curious), and the also awesome Jukebox the Ghost. They'll be at Webster Hall February 8th and you, but find a full show listing on TL+TW's Facebook page. Alright, Reader, stay tuned for further posts of a most seaworthy nature. Extra credit to anyone who preps with this handy list of nautical terms. Our favorite—chock-a-block! As in, "Troy, that page layout is chock-a-block all to hell! Shake a leg and up your leading or I'll give you a shot across the bows and may well have you walk the plank, lad!" That was Admiral Katie saying all that, by the way.
Design, culture, and fashion in a world of compassion.
Since they started scavenging from all those dead people during the Black Plague, crows and ravens have gotten some pretty harsh associations slapped on them. Harbingers of death, bringers of doom, jerky black birds, etc. Which is why, to this day, groups of crows are known as murders. Likewise, a group of ravens is called an unkindness.
At our design company, raven + crow studio, we're proud to say that we make a point to work with companies and non-profits who are out to make the world a better place.
This Web log, or 'blog' as we hear they're called, is dedicated to all things kind in the realms that fascinate us: Design, music, culture, fashion, and, of course, vegan food.