Friday, July 29, 2011

Little Lad's Vegan Restaurant- Go Before They Close!

Despite my unnatural affinity for their extraordinary packaged items- including, but not limited to, Herbal Corn, cookiesvarious dessert goodies, and other popcorn flavors- I'd thus far never been to Little Lad's Vegan Restaurant for a meal. When I explained this to the cashier, he told me that he was glad I'd come because it's good to enjoy a seated meal, rather than eating on the go.  It was a genuine commendation and he was right.

Little Lad's only serves breakfast and lunch; one recent summer Friday, I joined two friends for lunch.

basement lower arcade, 120 Broadway

An unassuming but informative entrance, I barely paused to read the signs before running inside.  But do note the "A".

that freezer inside under the sign is full of Nice Cream

A whole rack of popcorn!  There was actually another, significantly larger rack across from this one but I couldn't get a clear shot- another customer was antagonisticly obliviously blocking my photographic intentions.

the hallway on the left leads to the dining rooms

This rack is full of all kinds of other goodies: granola, crackers, cookies.  There are even Little Lad's t-shirts, sweatshirts and totebags for the true loyalists.

Always nice to see a spread of the most accessible vegan food of all: snacks that come in their own, natural wrapper.  I'm more interested in dessert, of course; but, always nice.

And, finally, into (one of ) the dining rooms for the buffet.  For a mind-boggling $5.98 you may have one dinner plate and one bowlful of the rotating food selections of your choosing from the hot and cold buffets, as well as the fruit bar; refills are $1.00.  If you'd prefer, there is also a menu that you may order from instead.  I've heard good things about the menu items (burgers, nachos, pizza), but I wanted the real Lad's experience.

This is one quarter of one of the (seemingly Holland-inspired) dining rooms in a rare moment later in the afternoon when it wasn't filled to capacity.  Earlier, both rooms were so crowded that strangers were sharing tables.

Onto the grub.  The atmosphere at Little Lad's is on the quiet side and I felt it would have been too disrespectful to the regular patrons to have photographically documented the buffet.  Suffice it to say, it's your standard buffet set-up: nothing at all fancy.  The presentation is predominantly stainless steel and the signage mostly hand-written. 

Plate #1 (clockwise from top) corn pone, sweet potato with onions, beans, cole slaw, chick peas, kale, mixed veggies, guacamole in the center.

photo courtesy of My Vegan Gut
Plate #2: I won't even try to decipher the individual contents of this masterfully assembled platter; suffice it to say, it was more of the same.  Do admire our assorted colored trays.

photo courtesy of alz
 Plate #3 (mine):
  • The sliced sweet potato didn't look like anything special, but it was actually deliciously roasted with a nice amount of flavorful onion slices.
  • I had no idea what corn pone was, but it looked intriguing.  It turned out to be a casserole consisting of a layer of Mexi-style vegetable protein and seasoned beans topped with corn bread.  So good!
  • The guacamole was a little smooth and watery for my taste, but perhaps that's why they serve it with the salads rather than offering chips.
  • The chilled carrot salad was not my cup of tea, although I can't pinpoint exactly why; my tablemate enjoyed.
  • I was always a potato or macaroni salad type of girl, but this cole slaw looked so deli-realistic that I had to give it a try.  It was great and could pass for the "real" thing any day.
  • The sauteed kale didn't seem to be seasoned at all and was unfortunately so overcooked that we joked that it was devoid of any of its original nutrients.
  • But it was very good mixed with the unassuming but tasty chilled chick pea salad.

There was absolutely no reason for me to eat any more, but I had to check out the fruit salad bar.  Normally I would have bypassed the creamy topping, but one of my dining companions- a Lad's regular- gave it the thumbs up.  The pink-tinge (strawberry?) made it considerably more appealing than I expected and I drizzled it liberally over my fresh fruit, housemade granola, and toasted coconut shavings.  It was all delicious- especially the cream topping.  This bowl of yumminess was worth the $5.98 alone.

We skipped all of the larger desserts: ice cream, pie, etc., but on the way out I finally got my hands on a dessert that Lad's calls a need 'em.  These are small, chilled, chocolate-covered orbs of...sweetness.  My friend usually gets the original, which he believes is coconut (next time!).  I chose the almond, and there was also mint.  Although small, it was sweet (dates?), rich, and satisfying after the carb-heavy meal.  Not sure exactly what it's made of, but you definitely do need 'em.

Little Lad's offers a basket, I offer a need 'em. (photo courtesy of alz)

Little Lad's is a bit of a mystery, but it's good, honest, fairly priced food that has been a staple downtown for five years and draws quite a crowd of people I can only assume are not all vegan.  Good food = vegan activism!

Unfortunately, according to their website,

"We regret to announce that Little Lad's at 120 Broadway will be closing it's doors as of August 5th.  This building has some new partners who have other plans for this space. Feel free to call Silverstein Properties and join us in thanking them for allowing us to serve you here for over 5 years. Silverstein Properties is showing us other restaurant options in this area. Keep in touch with us regarding a reopening of Little Lad's in NYC. Any Ideas? Send us an email at:"

This is very disappointing; I hope to hear that they've found a new location soon.  If you have yet to visit Little Lad's, I strongly urge you to do so; there is no place else like it.  Okay, except for their location in Portland Maine, which I can only assume is at least similar.  Go!  [UPDATE 8/2/11: A reliable source tells me that Lad's is expected to stay open through 8/12/11].

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cinnamon Snail Time!

When it's mid-summer already and I have yet to visit the Red Bank Farmer's Market for The Cinnamon Snail, I know I've let you down.  Don't worry, I've let myself down too.  But I made up for it, recently, with these.

Hello, Cinnamon Snail; how YOU doin'?

We arrived bright and early and, as we waited for our gourmet food to be prepared fresh to order, we watched the line accumulate.

Understand that there is a whole, bustling farmer's market too...but the vegan organic truck is clearly the main draw.  How great is that?  Kudos to the incomparable Chef Adam Sobel.

Choosing Cinnamon Snail desserts is a little like shopping at a sample sale: if you see something you want, you'd better grab it; it will not be there when you come back.  The variety of desserts available, coupled with the line, always gives me anxiety.  What should I get*?  Am I getting enough? 

Most importantly, how many will fit in my tupperware?

And then it happens; our meal is ready.  The friendly folks at Tommy's Coal Fired Pizza were, once again, kind enough to allow us to sit at their outdoor seating area to enjoy our meal because it was early and they hadn't opened yet.

If you too are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of their generosity, please remember to be considerate and leave the area as clean as you found it (or cleaner in VM's case).

The festive meal:

Would someone please just inject this exquisite strawberry lemonade directly into my veins?  It is incredible!  I'm not usually a fan of flavored lemonades, but this isn't "flavored", folks; it's the real thing: strawberry bits and everything.  So.  Good.  And refreshing!  We actually tried to come back for some later in the day, but alas the market was finished.

Once again, I fully intended to order breakfast.  I've been eying all of the offerings- french toast, waffles, and scramble wrap- for quite some time now; however, my intentions were foiled as I could not resist the tofu banh mi.   Extremely well done with all the right textures, a nice little kick and, praise be- no cilantro by design!  As if that isn't enough to get your mouth watering, I wouldn't be surprised if the kimchi was homemade.  Divine.

VM was really disappointed that her "usual" (miso glazed shitake mushroom sandwich with grilled onion, olive tapenade and arugula on 7 grain bread) wasn't on the menu, but she managed to make due with what Chef Adam had whipped up as the day's special sandwich: "Provencal white wine tempeh with white truffle aioli, arugula, and kalamata olive artichoke tapenade on a grilled baguette".  It was extremely yummy, and the tapenade ultimately won her over.

Just so you know, these are the other halves.  We're talking seriously large sandwiches, folks.  And the bread?  The bread is so good and fresh and perfect!  Tip: ask nicely for your sandwich to be halved... and then you can share.

Now you might think I dipped into my take-home, donut booty at this point, but you'd be wrong.

And do you know why you'd be wrong?  Because I had the forethought to get an extra peanut butter chocolate cookie dough donut on the side.  I'm no fool.

VM is not as forward thinking in matters such as these, but I let her have an apple cider donut anyway because she's swell.

But back to mine.  I mean really, how can you not love this donut?  I could go for twelve one right now.

Chocolate glaze, chocolate filling, peanut butter goodness, peanuts, chocolate chips...

...and then we were done.

We headed back out to the farmer's market and what do you know, The Cinnamon Snail line had only grown.

We walked around the many fruit and vegetable stands, and then spied Papa Ganache selling an assortment of the vast goodies available at their shop.

Keeping with the theme, Veggie Brothers was there selling a variety of their prepared, frozen, vegan meals

We made one other stop at the market, but I'll save that for the next post as it will require your undivided attention.  I'll give you a hint: science + ice cream; stay tuned.

In the meantime, we were ready to go and checked the Snail line one more time before doing so.  Yep, still going strong.  Rock on with your bad self, Cinnamon Snail.

We had a full day of errands to run, but once we got home it was time to dig in to the take-home booty.

Now is it just me, or does this particular donut look like it wants to eat me?

This gorgeous specimen is actually not a people-eating pastry, but rather a fresh berry bun.  Imagine a perfect raised donut with a generous coating of authentic glaze, filled with gorgeous fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.  I have to admit, this fruity dessert blew all of us away- even me.  Absolutely incredible.

Next up was a previous favorite, the maple glazed donut with toasted coconut:

And then a cinnamon pecan glazed donut:

My take-home peanut butter chocolate cookie dough donut!

And, of course, a spare apple cider donut for VM. 

*Oh my goodness I just realized that I forgot to get one of the Mexican hot chocolate twists; how could I have made such a gluttonous glaring omission?  Next time, Snail, next time.  Soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tahinitoo and Chirp Cards

I am not a card person.  I am not one to spend five dollars at a card store to buy a sappy, mass-produced card just so I can write "To" and "From" and call it a day.  I'd rather determine my own sentiment and write a personal wordy note or simply shop for a thoughtful gift.  But handmade cards?  That's a different story.

A while back (way too long ago by etiquette standards), tahinitoo blog offered a giveaway and I was lucky enough to win.  But this wasn't your ordinary blog contest for a food item, it was instead for a couple of this very talented lady's gorgeous, handmade cards.  It would seem that the blog's tagline, "a vegan food, adventure, craft, and photo blog" is for serious; the impressive bloggess really does do all these things!  In fact, she is a member of Vegan Etsy and even has her own Etsy store for her adorable Chirp Cards.

I was given the opportunity to choose from a selection of cards, but they really chose me.  One look and I instantly knew who the two recipients would be and chose accordingly.

A good friend (and apple lover) with whom I share recipes, techniques, and meals received this one with a wink.

And this adorableness went to, who else, but the esteemed Chef Adam of The Cinnamon Snail.

Besides being irresistable, these quality cards are meticulously handcrafted from edge to edge, front to back, side to side: not one solitary detail has been overlooked.

Buy them to share and make someone's day.  Get a few extra to frame and enjoy as artwork throughout your home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mini Cupcakes: Rosewater Pistachio & Biscoff Double Chocolate Chip

I am the only vegan at work, so I like to bake for the non-vegans; it's easy activism.  The results can run the gamut from silent, perplexed enjoyment to earnest (albeit odd) inquiries.  I do my best to maintain my patience, but it never fails to surprise me how many people underestimate vegan ethics: assuming that they only go so far as your own kitchen.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to explain that I don't use eggs- even when I'm baking for others.  The effort is made worthwhile, though, by the people who ask for recipes and promise not to substitute anything.  Having an unapologetic omnivore ask you if it's better to use soy or rice milk is priceless.

Vegan food or non, I have a problem when lunchroom goodies wind up crumbled all over the counter, carpet, door (yes, really) simply because of an annoying breed of people who "only want a taste" or a "sliver", or whatever other excuse will have them coming back to create ever more crumbs until they have eaten the equivalent of 38 shares of dessert and I am left sitting at my desk calculating how long it will take an army of ants to make it from ground level to my top floor of the building.

But I digress.  On this particular occasion, the cupcakes were in celebration of someone I greatly admire, so I wanted none of my own idiosyncrasies to spoil the well-intentioned offering.  The solution?  Mini-cupcakes.  Now I'm sure there is someone out there who would dare halve a mini-cupcake in an effort to cut back, but luckily no one meeting this description chose to do so in my office, on this day, on my watch.

Biscoff Double Chocolate Chip mini-cupcakes

I used your basic chocolate cupcake recipe from VCTOTW (p. 37-40), adding scrumptious Sweet Earth chocolate chips to the batter.  Then I iced with Biscoff spread and garnished with chips.  Since the cupcakes were minis, I originally used one.

When I realized they looked like boobs I added another.  Baking is hard!

Rosewater Pistachio mini-cupcakes

Also from VCTOTW, I followed this recipe (p. 116-118) almost to the letter.  I did omit the chopped pistachios from the cake; initially this was because that step is missing from the directions, but ultimately I decided this cupcake should be smooth.  I used whole pistachios for garnish.

Both cupcakes went over extremely well and the size was not only effectual in preventing a cupcake melee, but adorable to boot.