Strong Hearts vegan cafe

Photo yoinked from the Post-Standard

If you've been to the Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis, then you'll feel at home in Syracuse's Strong Hearts Cafe. The menu is all-vegan and even though I am not a vegan, (not even a particularly strict vegetarian) I'd recommend the food here to anyone who enjoys food.

My first meal was the faux-meat "chicken" salad sandwich. After one bite, I vowed to return for every meal until my flight back to Minneapolis. That didn't quite happen, but I still managed to sample a sizable chunk of the menu during my stay in Salt City.

I had french toast in the morning, but you could order it any time, since they serve breakfast all day. It was thick slices of chewy bread topped with fresh bananas. Best french toast I've ever had. The mocha was only okay, but it did its job waking me up. Later I tried the scramble, a mix of breakfast vegetables and spicy tofu. It was good, although I was hoping for something more like the hearty Hard Times scramble that includes potatoes and feeds a family of four.

My other lunch options were the Seitan sandwich and grilled cheese. I ordered the Seitan "loaded" with their full complement of vegetable toppings, and it was so big they gave me a fork to eat it. Yummy. I had a "duh" moment with the grilled cheese, wondering why it didn't melt and it tasted funny. Because it's not real cheese, dummy!

Best of all are the signature milkshakes named after heroes like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. I had the Earth Crisis (chocolate and peanut butter) and Bobby Sands (mint chocolate chip). How do they make such delicious, creamy shakes without milk? It must be one of their secret vegan special powers.

By the time I left, I was sort of a regular, and everyone recognized me. On my last day in town I talked with owners Joel Capolongo and Nick Ryan about how they started such an awesome cafe. I mostly asked Joel things that he already talked about in this article. The really amazing thing is that they opened the place this year, and every month have more and more customers. I promised I would tell everyone about it, although it might be a long time (if ever) before I would be able to come back.

"We'll be here," said Joel.

Daddy Drinks: Syracuse Beers

I don't travel much for my job, but I recently visited Syracuse. When I'm out of town I love to try new things. Lucky me, this city was chock-a-block with local brew pubs.

On my first night here, I visited the Armory Square district, where there are two microbreweries in one city block. Empire Brewing Company is a very contemporary bar & grill. The dinner menu boasts that they support local food producers, which endears them to me. I had a pint of delicious Amber Ale and chased it down with thick-cut fries.

Syracuse Suds Factory occupies the other side of the building. They had a more sports-bar vibe and their Amber wasn't nearly as good. Across the street at the Blue Tusk, I ordered a pint of IPA (ImPaled Ale) from Middle Ages, touted as a traditional, British style "real ale". Very hoppy and malty. I preferred the more conservative Syracuse Pale Ale.

Finally, down the way in Cooperstown, NY, you've got Brewery Ommegang. I tried a bottle of their Ommegang Witte, a traditional Belgian-style wheat ale. It may be the best-smelling beer I've ever had, and it was certainly tasty, to boot. If I had known that New York was such a paradise for beer aficionados, I would have gone sooner! As it is, I think a return trip is in my future.


Uglydog and the Vampire Roll, originally uploaded by fuzzirella

Our baby can roll. I propped her up in the crib with her fists under her head, and she heaved herself over onto her back. She smiled victoriously.

It took me a moment to realize the import of what she had done. When I turned her over to try again, she started to complain. That was very inconsiderate of me. She went through all that work to learn a new maneuver, and once she had achieved her goal, I just reached down and undid it.

So that's one more skill to check off the list. Now, if only I could teach her how to rock.

Morning's Here

Hey, get into gear! It's a beautiful morning! Sometimes we need a reminder to celebrate the simple things in life. Not everyone likes to get out of bed in the morning, but I'm grateful for every day I'm alive.

Morning's here
The morning's here
Sunshine is here
The sky is clear
The morning's here

Get into gear
Breakfast is near
The dark of night has disappeared


You Have to Make it Fall, originally uploaded by B Tal

Our daughter is on the cusp of an exciting discovery: her hands. Ashley is learning how to grab. She hasn't grasped anything on purpose, yet, although she is clutching at things more and more.

She doesn't quite have the depth perception, the fine motor skills. But she is determined. You can see the purpose in her eyes. She reaches out, arms trembling, growing steadier every day.

Sure, today she's just grabbing stuff, but there's so much potential in those tiny hands! One day she could be using her hands to sign treaties, perform surgery, throw a touchdown pass, or flip the switch on the LHC. And I get to be here when it all begins.

Daddy Drinks: Bittered Gin Sling

Blues, originally uploaded by matthew paul

The sling's origins are linked with the invention of the "cock-tail" itself. At the dawn of the 19th century, the two were practically synonymous. The earliest known definition of a cocktail gives a vague description of a mixed drink (liquor, sugar, water, bitters) and notes that "it is vulgarly called a bittered sling."

It has managed to become one of my favorite drinks, despite the fact that I normally don't care for gin (a Gimlet being the other notable exception to the rule). Here's my go-to recipe for this classic cocktail:

1.5 oz gin
0.75 oz sweet vermouth or sherry
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz simple syrup
dash or two of Angostura bitters
Soda water

Shake all but the soda water with ice, strain into a tumbler or highball over ice, top with soda, and garnish with a lemon peel.


Harvest (Summer Memories), originally uploaded by ToniVC

Fall is here in Minnesota. I'm going to skip past the denial stage this year and jump straight into happy acceptance. Autumn means apple pies and long motorcycle rides. It's also the season to reap what we've sown in our backyard garden.

Our tomato crop was iffy. Earlier in the summer, they made some tomatoes that were half-ripe, half-black-and-shriveled. Now they're cranking out big red fruit. Even the little plants, that we put in to replace the early casualties, are new growing tiny green tomatoes.

It has been the year of the cucumber, although I'm experimenting with new plants. Cukes have been growing all summer, and showing no signs of slowing. Strawberries sent out shoots but no fruit (or what they made was eaten before I could pick it). I planted a single spinach just for fun. Mostly I'm excited about our cantaloupes. We should get at least three ripe melons off the vine. It's been a good year.


[a b s o l u t] b o k e h, originally uploaded by claude...

Ashley had her 2-month checkup and the first round of vaccinations. She was very brave. After the initial shock, she calmed right down. The great news is she looks healthy and everything is where it should be.

She has been talking a lot recently. Her favorite thing is to lie in her crib and make noises at the animals on her mobile. A typical conversation starter in our house: "the music on her mobile is much better than the music on her swing."

Hard to believe she's already two--in fact almost three--months old. On the other hand, it feels like she has been in our lives for a long time. How quickly a big change can become the new normal.

My shaving ritual

Gillette British Super-Speed, originally uploaded by Oldstyleshaving

I fill a small ceramic bowl with hot water and set it in the sink. After my shower, I dump out the water, squirt in a dollop of shaving cream and whip up a warm lather. I massage that into my face with a nice badger-hair brush. Then, I pick up my vintage Gillette Super Speed and start shaving.

I'm working my way through a sample pack of blades: first Gillette (which worked fine), then Derby (not so good) and now Bic. My technique is improving. Still, I usually do a final pass with the electric to clean up my problem areas. After sealing my cuts with a styptic pen, there's a cold rinse, then the cool relief of the aftershave balm.

Shaving with a double-edge razor is twenty minutes of Zen in the morning. I have a long way to go on my pursuit of a perfect shave, but that's okay. The important thing is to enjoy each step of the journey.


Routine Action, originally uploaded by @lex Roxy

More prompt than an insomniac rooster, Lola continues to wake me up before dawn. I'm not upset about it any more, though. Instead of trying to teach our old dog new tricks, I have incorporated our early rising into a new morning ritual.

We go out, she does her business, we come in and she eats breakfast. Then she goes back to sleep and I take a shower & shave. This is where I get creative. To my wife's dismay, I have picked up another new hobby, with all the attendant accessories. I set aside my practical, functional electric shaver, in favor of a 1940's Gillette safety razor.

Yes, my friends, I have entered the wonderful world of traditional wetshaving. It's a manly routine that is simultaneously bracing, relaxing, challenging, and enjoyable (except when I cut myself, which isn't very pleasant). End result: when I'm standing in the back yard at 5:30 in the morning, instead of wishing I were back in bed, I'm looking forward to the morning shave. That's a much better way to start the day.