Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Holiday Highlights

Not to be confused with my favorite things to get and gift, here are some (mostly 89) 2015 holiday highlights. Hope yours were warm and bright!


We celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in our house (and if there are other holidays you recommend, please suggest! I'm not a religious person, but I love celebrations.); here's 89 assuming that everything that comes in the house is a gift for her. Ok, it usually is.

Annual tree acquisition.

If only she could help lift it into the car. Or out of it. Or into the tree stand.

Her best sweater of the season.

Fave new ornament.


Night view.

I'm not much for knick knacks, but I do love useful, themed bounty- particularly when it complements 89's gear.

Holiday eats: stuffed artichoke, eggplant rollatini with thin spaghetti, so many Vegan Treats.

Yummy snacks for this nerd from her pal.

Wanting my Vegan Treats' cookies even though she has plenty of her own.

Said cookies in all of their glory.

 Christmas morning in a rare moment of repose.

Moments later, sprawled out amidst her booty. She spent much of the day ransacking everything under the tree, getting tangled in the tree, and knocking pine needles and ornaments off the tree with various parts of her furry body.

Finally, Christmas light viewing with Madame barks-a-lot.

Cheers to an amazing 2016 with 89 and many more Vegan Shop-Ups as an excuse to consume yummy drinks at Pine Box Rock Shop


If you're not enjoying yourself, you're doing it wrong. Life isn't meant to be "gotten through", it's meant to be enjoyed. Do what you can for yourself and those around you to make this possible. It's never what you thought it would be, it's only what it is; make the best of it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

My Favorite (Chocolate) Things to Get & Gift

It's been a busy holiday month for me thus far, but I wanted to check in with just a few of my favorite things to get and gift. Spoiler: they're all chocolate-related.

First off: these incomparable rainbow cookies from Sweet Maresa. I've made rainbow cookies myself and bought every vegan variety I've come across, but Sweet Maresa's* version is the most exquisite and authentic offering out there. Seriously, it's not even Christmas yet and it's the best thing I've eaten for the holidays all year; I cannot adequately explain how delectable they are. Available seasonally for various holidays, you can buy them online; you can find them at Vegan Shop-Ups; and, they may still have them at the Bryant Park Winter Village if you're lucky!

Next up, dark chocolate covered cocomels. Caramels are fine, but I don't pay them any attention unless they're chocolate-covered. Enter JJ's Sweets.* Where to begin with these rich, decadent morsels? Actually, my childhood: when the caramel was my favorite selection from the little, heart, Valentine's chocolate box. Fast forward a lot of years- including 16 as a vegan, and these fulfill all of those dreams in a developed-palate manner suitable for my adult tastebuds. They come in four varieties, but sea salt is my personal favorite. If you get your hands on them, don't be fooled; they are small, but mighty.

I would be remiss not to acknowledge the drama surrounding Mast Bros of late, particularly because they bear the responsibility of having numbed me to the now requisite $10 chocolate bar price tag. But Mast Brother's* chocolate is not my current fave. Instead, I am still as obsessed as I was earlier in the year with the impressively un-pretensious (and all vegan) Charm School Chocolate*, which comes in at well under $10/bar for what I consider to be a far superior product. Creamier, tastier, with more and better topping options that are applied much more liberally, Charm School has my vote for the foreseeable future far and above any other chocolates I've tried.

Lastly, a non-edible chocolate. Now, you may be thinking non-edible chocolate is an oxymoron. But, The Fanciful Fox's seasonal Gelt hand-crafted bar soap with organic fair trade cocoa is too luxurious to pass up for simply not being edible. What with its golden, shimmery nod to the traditional gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins given out on Hanukkah, these bars make a charming gift and deserve a round of applause for both their interpretation and execution of a holiday tradition.

* on the Food Empowerment Project's chocolate list.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Clementine's Bakery

Last year at this time, when it was actually cold, a friend and I went to visit Clementine's Bakery for the first time. I remember it distinctly for two reasons: 1) there was just a sprinkling of snow falling as we walked from the train, and 2) the food was SO GOOD- savory and sweet options of equal decadence, despite what the name might suggest.

Because my friend is one of the best sharers, we started off with some sammies. First, from the specials board: egg and cheese on a bagel. We've come a long way, but sometimes something as simple and well-executed as this can make my vegan day. Of course there were greens on it as well.


Next up, a choice from the sandwich board: decisions, decisions.

Neither of us could resist the autumnal: BBQ tempeh, kale, sweet potato, and sage aioli; it was even better than we expected. Each element was stellar and the combo was perfection. I could eat a lot of these often and it doesn't even need the aioli.

Because it is, in fact, a bakery, there is a whole "bread" case filled with assorted scones, danish, coffee cakes, bread, and the like.

But perhaps even more resplendent is the dessert case. I love how everything is labeled so you can peruse and make your decisions while you wait. You can also find their baked goods at various locations around New York.

On this day, the most impressively attractive of all the options was this strawberry cookies and cream loaf that was being sold by the slice. I was stuffed and had to pass, but one day it will be mine!

And, finally- how cute is this?

Clementine's is a relatively small space, but there is dine-in seating for about ten and outdoor seating in the warmer months (such as December 2015).

It fills up very quickly, but the staff is pleasant, efficient, patient, and keeps everyone circulating and happy.


Highly recommend; it's high-quality, non-pretentious, and definitely worth the trip.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Desta: Vegan-Friendly Ethiopian in New Brunswick, NJ

Is New Brunswick, NJ experiencing a vegan renaissance? One would think. The newest addition is Desta Ethiopian Restaurant and, with it, the long-awaited return of Ethiopian Food to New Brunswick.

A quick recap: I was first introduced to Ethiopian Food at Makeda in the mid-nineties. It was like nothing I'd ever eaten before and I quickly fell in love with the spongy injera and flavorful vegetarian combo platter: eating it as often as possible when in the area. It wasn't until years later when vegans started noticing that the information parlayed with regard to the their vegan friendliness was sometimes contradictory that I branched out to Queen of Sheba, Mesob, Lalibela, and Bunna- finally settling on the best Ethiopian food of all: that from Teff Love. But sometimes a girl doesn't want to cook for herself. Enter, Desta.

I stopped in one day to ask if their vegetarian items were vegan and they assured me that they were. I returned soon after with a friend and fellow Ethiopian food lover and we each chose a veggie combo- your choice of five dishes from seven options*. According to the waitress, you can choose whether your food is cooked with nit'ir qibe (dairy) or olive oil.

Desta serves their injera folded like deflated fortune cookies.

We each made the same selections: 
misir wot: split lentils simmered with berbere, onions, and garlic.
gomen: fresh collard greens, spinach or kale made with onions, garlic, and ginger.
kik alicha: yellow split peas seasoned with garlic, ginger and turmeric.
azifa: whole brown lentils with onions, mustard, garlic, jalapenos, lemon juice, and olive oil (served cold).
dinich alicha: golden potatoes with carrots, garlic, ginger, fresh tomatoes, and spices.

There's still  a ton more I want to try: their vegan-friendly appetizers, as well as *the new additions: mushroom tibs, butecha, and shimbra assa wot... Who's coming with?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

On Friendship, Social Media, and Thanksgiving

For some reason, people like to talk about what they're thankful for at Thanksgiving; I just like to eat. But since it's kind of timely for me to be grateful for friendships*, please indulge me as I express my gratitude for friends inter-mixed amongst some major indulgences of Thanksgiving fare.

The older I get the more I come to terms with the fact that friendships ebb and flow. In closeness: if we want it to, technology can allow us to be closer than ever- even while far away, and in quantity: in the long run you generally lose more friends than you make over the course of a lifetime.

I'm so thankful for my friends- some I've known seemingly all along, many I've met through other friends, and a bunch I've had the pleasure of befriending as fellow members of the vegan community: either at events or online.

this nerd

Social Media adds an interesting twist. I use it to try to stay in touch with old friends, keep up with current friends, and to get to know those that are new; to have conversations with like-minded people and to be exposed to those who lead lives that are different from mine: to learn and grow from the experiences of friends and acquaintances that choose to share them.
Best PPK green bean casserole to date: made with (half portion) potato leek soup

maple roasted brussel sprouts from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (chestnuts subbed for hazelnuts)

VM's buttery mashed potato mound

As a single person, I am especially thankful for friends- for those who leave things in my mailbox: virtual and real; those who I don't see very often but who send a text now and again to share something funny; particularly those who ask simply, "how are you?," and mean it.

89 modeling Compassion Co. in an ongoing effort to coerce them into making canine couture

So, here's to the true friends, for whom I am grateful.

All Vegan Treats all the time.

* For balance, I'll enumerate a few things for which I am not grateful:
fresh cilantro
jerky drivers
people who try to dictate who I sit with at the lunch table
Alex Trebek

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bouldin Creek: Vegan Austin Texas

Although we were in Austin for a very short time, looking back it sure does seem like we did an awful lot of eating. I swear it was really only 3 meals a day, max.

Because there were too many places to hit up, we asked around during our travels for recommendations that would narrow down our list: Bouldin Creek Cafe was one that came up over and over. So we went!

Bouldin Creek is vegetarian with vegan options.
We went for dinner, so it was dark out. But here's some under-exposed photos to give you an idea of the outdoor vibe:

Bouldin Creek had a ton of quirky personality: first evidenced by this sign as you enter.

The dining room was rustic and dimly lit, so advance apologies for the extremely sub-par food photos that are to follow.

You get the idea:


 Peep our drinks: weird Topo Chico, cherry soda, Original Sin hard cider.

For dinner I had the South Austin Stir Fry: rice noodles tossed in a teriyaki ginger-miso sauce with broccoli, red onions, shitake mushrooms, carrots, and red and green cabbage with crushed peanuts and a sriracha drizzle. I did not add a side salad because it's all about the noodles.

One pal had the Aztec Pasta: spicy penne pasta tossed with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, and organic spinach in a chipotle-pesto/marinara sauce, topped with green onions and served with ciabatta bread. I have to say it again- this photo is not a fair representation.

I somehow neglected to take a photo of the third dish of the evening, and I'm sorry to report that we did not have dessert (if memory serves, that was the evening we went to Sweet Ritual). However, in lieu of that fun, I offer you alternative excitement: this cool sign in the restroom.

And these awesome handles on the restroom stall doors.

I love anything out of the ordinary and Bouldin Creek did not disappoint on that front.