Going local for a “Sweet” and a “Savory” birthday

September 19th.

It’s an important day.  And not just because it’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

It’s important…because it’s my birthday.

And this year I was turning the big double 3.  Yes.  I don’t mind my birthday or getting older.  It’s one of my favorite days…even though most of the time I do nothing really to commemorate it.  But this year…I decided to enjoy the delicious offerings of two of my favorite, local, gluten-free businesses, both of whom went above and beyond to make the occasion more than special.

It all started on the day before my birthday when my roommate and I took a longer lunch from the office and headed down to Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky to pick up the birthday cake we ordered from Annie May’s Sweet Café.  Now…by now most of you know that my local running store nicknamed me Wonder Woman last year.  It’s stuck.  And I mean…stuck!  I get called Wonder Woman more than I care to admit.  It’s flattering.  I love it.  Wouldn’t change it for the world.

Well, back when Annie May’s Sweet Café started showing off some of their custom cakes they were making, I told them they were definitely doing a special cake for my birthday this year.  They replied on their Facebook page…”How about a Wonder Woman cake?” (See…my reputation precedes me).  I was totally all about it.  They actually made a simple birthday cake for me last year too (strawberry cake with a vegan chocolate ganache), which is how I found out about them…and how they won me over in the first place (that and the apple cider donuts we bought when we picked up the cake…just sayin’.).  The cake was amazing.  So, naturally, as it is my belief that no matter how much you love to cook and bake…you should never have to make your own birthday cake…we hit them up again this year.  And, per their suggestion via their Facebook page months and months ago…I thought…I think I should have a Wonder Woman cake.

As we are in Annie May’s Sweet Café every Saturday morning if we are in town for their delicious breakfast offerings…that Saturday we went ahead and placed the cake order (and a soft pretzel order for Soft Pretzel Wednesday) to pick up on Wednesday around lunch time.  My roommate asked what kind of cake I wanted.  I’m not big on cake…and I like simple.  So…this year I went with a vegan vanilla cake with vegan vanilla icing.  And yes…WONDER WOMAN!

On Wednesday, when we showed up to pick it up, I was blown away.  Kenna does the cake decorating and she did fantastic.  I made sure I told Annie May that whenever possible (and I told Kenna when I saw her the following Saturday morning!).  Seriously…I couldn’t have been happier with the way it turned out.  The Wonder Woman logo was PERFECTION!! I mean, Kenna nailed it!!  And the cake…SO delicious.  The flavors were vibrant.  The icing was sweet and meshed well with the vegan vanilla cake layers.  Four layers…of cake-y goodness.  And this from a girl who isn’t big on frosting or cake.  How about that?  I was SO happy with this cake.  It was a 6-inch round cake that we got 12 good-sized portions from.  I was in sugar-rush heaven.  And happy to devour it all.  Well, I had some help from Cathy (the roomie), Harry, and Laura.

But…here is the cake in all it’s gluten-free and vegan wonder (woman):

Wonder Woman Birthday Cake from Annie May's Sweet Cafe (vegan vanilla w/ vegan vanilla icing)
Wonder Woman Birthday Cake from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe (vegan vanilla w/ vegan vanilla icing)

Honestly…I have yet to have anything I didn’t like from Annie May’s Sweet Café.  So…even if you don’t have food allergies…get over there.  My friend Greg (not food allergic at all) would definitely direct you to their gluten-free Double Fudge Brownies.  Me?  I say…their allergen-free Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Or…honestly…EVERYTHING!!  Support local businesses!!  I will continue to support this one.

HUGE thanks going out to Annie May, Kenna, and the rest of the staff who continue to show the world (or at least the Louisville area) just how good and delicious gluten-free can be!!

But…the birthday celebrations didn’t stop with a cake.  Nope.  Not for 33.  Not ever.

Very randomly, about two weeks out from my birthday, I went over to the Facebook page of my favorite local (and gluten-free) food truck, Sweet ‘N’ Savory, and commented that I would love them forever if around my birthday, at one of their outings, if they could offer a Crepe Suzette, as it has always been one of my favorite types of crepes.  I was told that they would be happy to cater a private event for me, featuring a 3-course meal, for only $20/person.  I needed to make sure that I would have a decent enough crowd for them, and started asking my closest friends if anyone was interested.  Most everyone I knew was free on the Sunday, September 22, and said they would be happy to come and celebrate with good eats.  I was thrilled.  And I went ahead and set it up with Richard and Ashley, the fantastic owners of the food truck.

They found a location, at Louisville’s The Beer Store in NULU.  This turned out to be a perfect setting as they had a patio for seating and the side door was opened so we could trek out to the food truck to place our orders, return our plates, and all that good stuff.  Guests could also imbibe in beers of any kind (SO MANY) or sodas or water…or whatever else they could find inside.  It was a hit.  I ended up having 10 of the 12 guests show up to the shindig, so that wasn’t bad at all.  Very pleased.  Although totally missed the ones who were unable to make it.

It was a very diverse crowd, but they all came hungry and they all socialized and blended well.  YAY!!

So, what did Sweet ‘N’ Savory cook up for my special day?  An amazing menu that every guest raved about and devoured.  No one left hungry.  In fact, we were all completely stuffed.  But it was a good kind of stuffed.  Trust me.

The menu, as I mentioned, was 3 courses: appetizer, entree, dessert (like Chopped…but without the surprise basket of ingredients!).

For the appetizer round, Sweet ‘N’ Savory prepared two of my favorite gluten-free vegetarian crepes: Caprese and Veggie Caponata.  You could either get one large one of your choice, or one of each in a mini-crepe form.  I totally forgot to take a picture of mine, but I went with one of each in the mini-form.  What a way to start out.  Everyone raved about them…especially the Veggie Caponata.  That seemed to be the crowd favorite (and mine as well!!).  It was the perfect way to start off the feast that day.  We were given plates and a ticket and when we were done with the appetizer, all we needed to do was walk the plates and ticket back out to the truck, hand them over, and they would get to work on the entree.

The entree…is super special.  Awhile back, Sweet ‘N’ Savory took part in a food truck event called Cluster Trucked.  Each truck served up food that wasn’t their normal fare.  For the event, Sweet ‘N’ Savory did gluten-free ravioli.  And I fell in love with them all over again.  For my event, they were dishing up two different varieties of ravoili.  Once again, you could either get a full serving of one version, or split the difference and try both.  The options: Butternut Squash, Ricotta, and Sage Ravioli topped with a Brown-Butter Sage Sauce or Four-Cheese Ravioli topped with a Red-Pepper Cream Sauce.  When I was at Cluster Trucked, I had the Four-Cheese with Red Pepper Cream Sauce.  I am in LOVE with that red-pepper cream sauce.  I want to beg for the recipe.  Seriously.  But at my party, I was all about the Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Sage Ravioli with the Brown-Butter Sage Sauce.  They had told me all about this one prior to the event and that was all I wanted.  Observe:

Sweet 'N' Savory's Gluten-Free Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Sage Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce
Sweet ‘N’ Savory’s Gluten-Free Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Sage Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

I made a fantastic choice.  The ravioli was so rich and creamy.  The pasta itself was melt-in-your-mouth good.  The sauce…so much flavor.  The filling…it doesn’t get better than butternut squash (a personal favorite) with ricotta and sage.  Honestly.  I fell in love with the way this entire dish just danced across my taste buds.  Savory.  Rich.  Delicious.  I was in food heaven.  I think I might have hoovered this up and licked the plate.  It’s possible.  For real.  For being a gluten-free crepe food truck, they totally rock the ravioli.  That is NO joke!

Following the dinner portion of the meal…naturally is something that hits that sweet tooth.  And, per my request, Sweet ‘N’ Savory offered up a Crepe Suzette.  What is a Crepe Suzette?  It’s a crepe with sugar that has Grand Marnier poured over it, and then is ignited.  Flaming food!  The alcohol in the liqueur evaporates and what emerges is a thick, caramelized sauce.  I first had a Crepe Suzette in Denver, Colorado a couple years back and I fell in love with it.  So it was nice that they took an extra step to provide this for me at my request.  Along with the crepe, they offered some of their famous and delicious gluten-free gelato…either (my personal favorite) Salted Caramel or Vanilla.

They attempted to light the crepes tableside, but the wind wasn’t cooperating.  Points for trying!!  That being said…CREPE SUZETTE FTW!!  There is a reason this is one of my favorite sweet crepes to devour…er…eat.  It’s sweet…it has brilliant flavor to it…and it’s still light.   So it isn’t too much.  I, naturally, paired mine with the Salted Caramel gelato.  Best choice ever!!  It paired so well with the Crepe Suzette.  So, while this is not something that usually graces their menu, I was so glad when they offered this just for my little event.  Heaven was in the form an amazing dessert crepe that day.  Topped off with delicious gelato.  YUM!

Sweet 'N' Savory's Gluten-Free Crepe Suzette
Sweet ‘N’ Savory’s Gluten-Free Crepe Suzette

I am eternally grateful for both Annie May’s Sweet Café and Sweet ‘N’ Savory Food Truck for helping to make my birthday so special this year.  Everything they gave me was awesome.  And no one would have guessed any of it was gluten-free.  Because these places make food that is just that amazing.  No one was disappointed and everyone commented on how good everything was.

Birthday win.  Done with a little local flair.

And check out these beautiful people who came out to celebrate and enjoy good food, good conversation, and good times.  I love them all!

Me & My Gang (from left and looping around to right): Kelsie, Cathy, Harry, Howard, Michael, Judi, Natalie, Me, Justin (Not pictured: Greg (he's taking the photo) and Maureen (who hid from the camera))
Me & My Gang (from left and looping around to right): Kelsie, Cathy, Harry, Harold, Michael, Judi, Natalie, Me, Justin (Not pictured: Greg (he’s taking the photo) and Maureen (who hid from the camera))

Morels The Vegan Butcher dices up spicy goodness with Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Vegan Jerky

Morels The Vegan Butcher Ned's Chipotle Vegan Jerky
Morels The Vegan Butcher Ned’s Chipotle Vegan Jerky

Product: Morels The Vegan Butcher Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Vegan Jerky – $6.50+

Vegan jerky?

Yep…you read that right.  And my roommate and I were just fortunate enough to stumble across this at a little fair in Louisville that highlighted local businesses.  One of the businesses participating was Morels The Vegan Butcher.  And on their table they had these little pouches that caught my eye.  Yep…I spotted them.  I also noticed that not only were they labeled vegan, but they were also gluten-free.

Now you really had my attention.

Morels the Vegan Butcher began as a food truck in 2011 and quickly expanded across the country when they developed their line of vegan jerky in 2012.  Only using premium ingredients, this Louisville, Kentucky company handcrafts their jerky in small batches.  What this does is ensure that the texture and taste remain up to standard.  Morels focuses on providing nutritious on-the-go products for people looking to keep meat and dairy out of their diets.  This is definitely a product that spoke to me.  Trust me…I was ready to try one of the samples.

So…I did…and that was all it took.  A pouch of Morels The Vegan Butcher’s Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Jerky came home with me that day.  I purchased it at the buy local fair and never looked back.  After buying it, I commented to my roomie that it would be the perfect snack to take in the car as we travel up to Utica, New York.  I was running up there and we were driving a long way to get to that race.  Healthy snacks in the car are always a welcome thing.  Always!

So, when the stomach rumblies hit us too late for lunch but too early for dinner (we were eating out for dinner), I reached into the little red duffel of snacks and good stuff and removed the silver pouch that held Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Jerky.

I already knew I was going to like it.  No, it wasn’t based off of the fact that it was spicy.  This was the version I sampled at the fair.  So, I knew what I was doing when I bought it.

Morels vegan jerky is crated using a base that begins with marinated soy curls.  By marinating these soy curls, they achieve tender, chewy, and flavorful snacks.  All they do is season them up for the flavor of jerky they are creating.  In the case of Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Jerky, in addition to soy curls, you have water, Braggs liquid aminos, brown sugar, olive oil, lime juice, lemon juice ketchup (no high fructose corn syrup), vinegar, liquid smoke, garlic powder, chipotle powder, ancho powder, onion powder, pepper, cloves and nutmeg.  Nothing fake.  And…these snacks are gluten-free and loaded with protein…making them a fantastic choice for a gluten-free, vegetarian athlete like me.

But…how can something that is created by marinating soy curls taste?  How about really damn good!  Oh yes…this jerky is spicy and addictive.  The blend of chipotle and ancho chile powders really get a nice heat going with each bite that you take.  Nothing that overpowers, mind you, but just adds a little flavor and a little heat to each bite.  I loved the chewy, soft texture of this jerky.  And the flavor was smokey and spicy and just amazing.  Honestly.  I was diving in for more.  My roommate and I were splitting the pouch…and we were only going to have a little…but soon we were polishing it off regardless.

Morels hit a high note with this one.  The spiciness keeps each bite interesting and the taste and texture is dead-on…super good.

So, let’s talk nutrition.  A pouch of Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Jerky from Morels The Vegan Butcher serves 2.5.  In one serving (28 grams/1 ounce), you are served 50 calories and 2 grams of fat.  This vegan jerky contains no saturated fat, no trans fat, no cholesterol.  It has 370 mg of sodium per serving and only 2 grams of sugar.  Each serving provides 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  Loving it.

The Ned’s Spicy Chipotle Jerky variety from Morels The Vegan Butcher brings the right amount of heat to each bite without overpowering and killing off the flavor in the vegan jerky itself.  I went wild for this.  I wish I had purchased more.  But, they are a local company, so it shouldn’t be too hard to dig up another pouch of this amazing snack food.

Easy to travel with…and super delicious.  Loved every handful.

Morels The Vegan Butcher Ned's Chipotle Vegan Jerky
Morels The Vegan Butcher Ned’s Chipotle Vegan Jerky