Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holla at the Vegan Challah

With profuse thanks to Veggie Conquest's tweet & blogpost, I had my first challah in 9 years and it was even better than I remembered it.

Much props to Lilly's, a 30 year old "regular" company that kindly offers this eggless version to their vegan friends for the high holidays. I've seen it now at two NYC Whole Foods: Bowery & Chelsea. Feel free to write to request it from elsewhere & thank Lilly's for remembering her vegan friends (challah back, yo).

As for the taste, I'll say this: luckily I was able to stop myself after eating half the loaf. Tonight I will probably toast a slice or four...hopefully leaving a bit to try french toast style on the weekend. Challah is back, people; it's a good time to be vegan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Counter, Lula's, etc.

Since I can't effectively chronicle past NYC munching, I choose instead to do so going forward, with some nods to past experiences. Please indulge me as I share my indulgences!

It was a busy weekend for me in the LES. First off was a brunch favorite: Counter. The good: Per usual, we all enjoyed the baked to order Housemade Goodies (muffins and loaf slices served with berry butter and vegan nutella) and the fresh-squeezed orange juice (divine). Much is lamented about Counter's non-vegan offerings, but the carnie enjoyed his "real" eggs and "real" cheese, although at first he thought he was being duped and insisted upon confirming the authenticity of the ingredients with the waitress. The vegetarian enjoyed a delicious addition to the menu: vegan potato latkes. They were crispy and yummy, served with a pear/apple compote/sauce that reminds you why places like Counter exist: to spoil you with homemade extras (ketchup, etc.). But, they were served lacklusterly on a teeny plate that made them look like a side dish and made them difficult to maneuver. The bad: THEY TOOK AWAY MY FRITATTA FLORENTINE! On every previous visit I have enjoyed this scrumptious dish: two open-faced english muffin halves topped with a thick, veggie frittata and covered with a delectable mushroom sauce and creamy hollandaise, served with mesculin salad (homemade lemon vinaigrette) and a heap of potatoes. Worse still, the "replacement" is the Benedict Arnold: the same english muffin topped with a non-descript, generically meaty slab of seitan, onion, avocado, and a somehow watery hollandaise. Also, NO POTATOES. And, they raised the price. ?? So, all in all I was not amused. I finished the meal with the cookie tasting. The peanut butter was very good, the chocolate chip nothing special, and the shortbread had rye seeds in it: YUCK. Dear Counter, Please bring back my fritatta and all will be forgiven. Thank you, ASB.

Next up was a visit to Whole Foods Bowery. On a Twitter tip from the fine folks at Veggie Conquest, I was able to pick up a belated vegan challah made by Lilly's. Apparently this is available only at the holidays, so show some love and buy it up so that it will continue to be offered; I've never seen/heard of vegan challah anywhere else. FYI, they also had some vegan rugelah near the impressive vegan cookie display, although they still don't carry my favorite flavor of Liz Lovely cookies: Chocolate Moosedragons. Boo. They did, however, have some vegan chocolate chip scones that eased the disappointment. Note: still no Daiya pizzas in the right coast WFs.

Moving on to Economy Candy to replenish my vegan M&M supply. While you have to know your vegan stuff in order to find the veganity at EC, I've been buying these vegan M&Ms (sold in bulk) on a tip from the PPK blog. Always double check at the counter: they should be kosher & vegan. They are much better than Whizzers.

I applaud MooShoes, but they were tres expensive and nothing wowed me. While it was great to shop somewhere and not have to read the "ingredients" of every item, I wondered why the selection seemed from one extreme to another: either plain brown or black (most of the store) or kinda outlandish (OlsenHaus). I'll have to try again.

Pommes Frites was as delicious as ever AND they redid their seating area! I unfortunately tried the Mexican Ketchup without knowing it contained cilantro (yuck) and will be returning to my curry ketchup in the future. Also, heard someone order mango chutney on the way out even though it's not listed on the menu; sounds good and worth an investigation on a future visit. Meanwhile, I am anxious to see how Potato Champion in Portland is going to fair against NY's PF.

Stogo; why do I continue to bother? Oh, I know why: because VegNews lured me in with a video ad of some sort extolling the virtues of their oh-so-popular Salted Caramel Pecan. Guess what? it was a mouth full of salty ice cream. And the Bananas Foster was not even close to bananas foster, which I love. Instead, it just tasted like crappy banana ice cream. I'd hoped to try their peanut butter/chocolate concoction, but they didn't have it. The soft serve machine wasn't working either. I was going to get a couple of chocolate truffles until I was told they were $4 each. Stogo, I am done with you. I love Lula's anyway (concept, ethics, product, people), so I don't know why I even step foot in your too-trendy "establishment" where nary the word vegan is uttered.

Ah, Lula's Sweet Apothecary, my favorite new old time ice cream shoppe: the rest of the day is simply a pre-cursor to my sweet visit. Where to begin? For those of you who don't know, Lula's is a quaint little shop that looks like an old time candy store. They serve everything in appropriately sized/shaped glass dishes with real silverware (even the tasting spoons). The straws are metal too! Shakes come with a "bendy" straw, but my favorite, the ice cream float, comes with a straw with a spoon attached on the end. It's kind of like the old-fashioned, environmentally conscious version of a slurpee straw. They even use recycled paper products (napkins) and provide glasses of water to accompany your tasty concoctions. It's obvious they are not cashing in on the trends of environmentalism and veganism. It's legitimately vegan owned and operated; they know the deal and the regulars know they know it. Case in point: they make their own soy & nut milks and then make their own ice creams with it. A lot of the toppings are homemade too (omg, the dark chocolate peanut butter cups are ridiculously good), so you can go there every day and never have the same sundae!

Onto the food: they offer a list of rotating hard and soft ice cream flavors (nut and soy based) and delectable toppings, as well as assorted wrapped candies and baked goods. The owners and staff are impeccable in every detail, from their appearance to their behavior; to say it is clean doesn't do it justice, immaculately and lovingly kept is more appropriate. To say they are friendly and welcoming is an understatement of the highest order; you will feel like you've known them for ages after just one visit.

The sundae I chose to have for dinner on this visit consisted of chocolate malt (self-explanatory), chocolate mint chip (chips in CHOCOLATE mint - genius yum), and maple waffle (delicious pieces of waffle cone in maple flavored vanilla) ice creams topped with hot fudge, peanut butter sandwich cookies, sprinkles, whipped cream, a cherry, and a warm brownie on the side. Then for dessert I had a cup of the soft serve twist: chocolate and cake batter. On the way home I was wishing I'd had a chocolate float too! Ah well, it's already on the docket for the next visit.

Sincerely, I can't say enough nice things about this place. It's adorable, the food is incredible, and the owners genuinely make you feel like they're glad you came. So, what are you waiting for? Go there already!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coconut Bliss!!

I am a big proponent of spreading the vegan word by sharing delicious treats with non-vegans, thereby welcoming them into a world where cruelty-free also means fabulous. Unfortunately, many vegan ice creams are soy-based, and I've found that it's very difficult to convince non-vegans to taste, let alone enjoy, "soy" ice cream. They hear soy, think tofu, and it's all downhill after that. The non-vegans I live with have been completely and notoriously "N.I.": not interested.

Then one day I noticed a new addition to my health food store freezer: Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss coconut milk ice cream. Perhaps 'noticed' is a bit of an understatement; the words "chocolate", "hazelnut", and "fudge" were practically blinking like neon lights and I couldn't resist. That evening I surreptitiously scooped a bowl for myself, a vegetarian, and a carnie: neglecting to mention that we were all eating the same thing.

Admittedly, I stole a taste while preparing the bounty and was blown away by the rich taste and unmatched creaminess. I've had coconut milk-based ice cream before, but this was a whole different level of ice cream, period. And, with the fudge and nuts it was a veritable pre-made sundae!

The vegetarian immediately raved about the flavor, taste, etc. I believe she suspected that the ice cream was vegan (merely because she's savvy), but we both stayed quiet. After a few silent minutes watching the carnie rapidly spoon the dessert into his mouth without hesitation, he paused to say, "This is really good; is it Baskin Robbins?" Now, I must note here to all vegans who may not realize: this is actually a very high compliment from a carnie. I subsequently admitted that the ice cream was vegan and he was duly surprised and impressed...but most importantly, he kept eating! Score two points for the vegan: in one sitting I successfully converted two non-vegans to reach for the Coconut Bliss instead of a dairy-based dessert. Better for their health and better for the animals!

The only downside to finding vegan desserts that people want to share with you is that then you actually have to share. But Coconut Bliss wants to reward you for doing so. Their idea for "A Night of Bliss" is fantastic. Where else would you get an opportunity to have the very company who creates such deliciousness provide you with the tools to make believers of your friends and family? And then they tell two people, and they tell two people, and so on, and so on.

Try this for your invitation if you're one of the lucky winners:

Coconut Bliss: so tasty, so creamy;
look up in the dictionary
under oh-so-dreamy

Friends and family: come to my party.
Try all organic flavors;
you won't be sorry.

Fair-trade, vegan,
soy & gluten free.
Better pre-packaged dessert?
I don't know what it could be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Philly Again: Mi Lah!

Ok, ok, I know. I'm all about NYC, but yet there are two posts about Philly and none for NYC. Reason being: I'm new to Philly AND blogging. I am going to have to backtrack to discuss NYC adequately...with perhaps a separate blogshrine voted entirely to my beloved Vegan Treats. But enough excuses for now.

Mi Lah Vegetarian: Beautiful restaurant near the theater district serving brunch, lunch, and dinner. A carnie, a vegetarian, and myself did the brunch; it was incredible. The $20 pre-fixe gets you bottomless coffee or tea (of the day), bottomless juice (choice of two delicious combinations), a platter of fresh fruit and assorted goodies (mini scones, muffins)- all served beautifully. Then you choose one of the plentiful options for your brunch: ranging from pure breakfast, to hearty combos, to exotic lunch-style concoctions. All for $20!

We were all feeling breakfasty, so the carnie and the vegetarian each chose the pancakes: 3 or 4 giant fluffy pancakes served with blueberry butter and pure maple syrup, with bacon on the side. Delicious and filling.

Thankfully, I was feeling adventurous and ordered what seemed like the consummate breakfast combo; was it ever. A ginormous vegetable omelet, tempeh bacon, a heap of red-skinned and sweet potato home fries, a thick slice of toast, and a giant pancake (with a generous serving of blueberry butter). Wow.

The omelet was incredible: huge, fluffy, smooth, creamy (vegan cheese?), and filled generously with an assortment of fresh veggies (mushrooms, red pepper, spinach). Can I just reiterate that it was an omelet? Not the requisite tofu scramble, but a beautiful, huge omelety omelet; it was very fancy! The tempeh bacon was smoky, but not all that bacony- perhaps because it wasn't crisp? But I love tempeh & this was no exception; it was cooked, seasoned, and served perfectly: yum. The home fries were seasoned the way I like them: lightly to allow the flavors of the potato to come through. Only complaint is that they were slightly undercooked. The pancake made a great "dessert", especially since I managed to stuff it in with the remainder of the vegetarian's pancakes like the glutton I am. Okay, really I'm just a sucker for syrup and any vehicle I can use with which to get it into my mouth.

I must note that the restaurant was beautiful, our waiter was friendly and informative, and the owner (?) was available, modest, and appreciative. I could have done without one of the other waitresses telling her diners, "I'm not vegan, but I don't eat red meat" {groan}, but everything else was spot on. All in all, a delicious, beautiful, hearty brunch spot that I would recommend to vegetarians and vegans, as well as carnivores who don't run screaming when they see tempeh, tofu, and seitan on the menu (although the pancakes are a suitable option for such scaredy cat carnies).

Next up was a trip to the Reading Terminal Market; I had no idea it was basically a giant food court, but was happy to find Basic Four Vegetarian Snack Bar. I was too full from brunch to partake in anything significant, but managed to enjoy a fresh, tasty, vegan, chocolate chip cookie. While not everything here is vegan, the people who work there are very knowledgeable about ingredients. In addition, the history of the place adds a lot of charm; read the story posted at the bar.

Finally, I stopped by Govinda's for the grand finale: Vegan Treats! While nothing beats the event and selection of going directly to the Bethlehem shoppe, I can't resist the temptation whenever the offerings are near. So, the three of us shared a favorite: the caramel apple crumb cheesecake (could this cheesecake be any lighter and creamier!?), a new try: banana chocolate chip cheesecake, and two slices of what has become all of our favorites: one I have dubbed the "Hostess" cake. I should note here that I rarely bother with dessert anywhere else because I know it can't compare.

In conclusion, I apologize profusely for the lack of photographic evidence. When I go to vegan establishments to dine I find that I am so overwhelmed by options that I no longer remember how to choose by "what I'm in the mood for" since I'm used to choosing the easiest option to veganize. So, I usually wind up not being able to decide and over-ordering. When the food comes looking so delicious I can't wait to dig in and, by the time I remember, the remnants of the delicious meal are not exactly photogenic. I am working on this; thank you for enjoying my blog in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


You know how it’s confusing when you’re speaking with someone from Pennsylvania and at some point in the conversation you realize that when they mention “the city” they are actually referring to Philly? Well, as a New York native I also find it egregiously irritating. So, for that irrational reason alone I have managed to avoid Philadelphia for most of my life.

And then I got over my NY elitism for a minute and I went. Let’s be clear, I went for the food. Yes, I drove past the Rocky statue, peeked at the Liberty bell from the outside (I wasn’t waiting on line in the heat) and zipped through the visitor’s center (to use the restroom), but I wasn’t there for Philadelphia culture; I went for the food. And, like any patriotic American I can proudly say that I crammed in as much as I possibly could in one trip.

Govinda’s Gourmet To-Go: made-to-order sandwiches and wraps to-go and a VERY impressive assortment of Vegan Treats. My “Philly Chicken Cheesesteak” was both hearty and tasty (delicious sauce), albeit extremely messy (most of it wound up detouring into my lap). The quantity and array of Vegan Treats that I consumed was disturbing, but unavoidable; I love me some Vegan Treats. Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Cowboy Cookie: known yums that I have snarfed up countless times before…but the stellar winner? A slice of what seemed to be the vegan cake version of a hostess cupcake, only 1000 times better than you can imagine. Layers of devil’s food cake and marshmallow crème coated in a chocolate shell; you just might outplace Death by Chocolate as my numero uno!

Philadelphia’s Magic Garden: Ok, so this isn’t vegan. Well hey, it’s not really non-vegan either. Whatever your palate craves, this extraordinary garden of mosaic art is a must-see. Surprisingly, it seems like it is a hidden gem of the city- despite being quite eye-catching and not exactly hidden on South Street (basically across from Whole Foods). Enjoy waltzing through the indoor/outdoor/underground nooks and crannies of this magical mosaic garden and take the time to read the history innocuously posted outside.

Capogiro: serves mostly gelato and a few sorbets; ask which sorbets are vegan. My blueberry was good, but could have used sprinkles; they don’t have ‘em and do not seem to appreciate being asked. Heck, they didn’t seem to appreciate much of anything considering the ladies were all at the ready for order-taking but not one cracked a smile. If Lula’s has taught me anything it’s that ice cream without a smile is not worth it. So there, cranky Capogiro girls; Lula’s has smiles galore AND sprinkles (not to mention mighty fine ice cream). Plus, I found Capogiro’s prices to be a bit much for what it was: ho-hum.

Duross & Langel: homemade vegan & vegetarian soaps; be diligent about asking which are which. This shop is pretty and smells delicious, but I was a little affronted when I asked if my selections were all vegan and the person helping me shrugged and said, “Most of our stuff is vegan”. Um, I don’t bandy the word vegan about haphazardly; I usually assume that the implication of the word is pretty serious. Not so much here! So, I pressed for confirmation. Another gal came over, perused my bounty and confirmed, “Nope, none of these contain goat’s milk”. Goat’s Milk? That’s not an ingredient that I’d consider on the vegan fence like refined white sugar. Hopefully this apathy was an exception, not the rule. *UPDATE* D & L have confirmed via email that "absolutely every ingredient in our soaps is VEGAN with the exception of the goat's milk bars." and I have learned that their soaps don't lather generously or last very long.

Horizons: Self-described: “New Vegan Cuisine”. Um, how about inventive, spectacular, and decadent? Each sip/bite of the 2 cocktails, 4 appetizers, 3 entrees and 3 desserts I sampled was exquisite. One visit is sure to hook vegans and carnivores alike. While the décor wasn’t as slick as Candle 79, the service and food blew it out of the water…BLEW IT OUT OF THE WATER. Go here for a date, to impress carnies, or to simply indulge. Mostly, just go here: soon and often.

Overall, I was impressed with what I found in Philly as a newbie and it seems that there are plenty of additional veg options to be had, so I will return. But, for the record, it’s no substitute for THE city: my NY.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Going Down to Portland; Gonna Have Myself a Time

Ok fellow East Coast vegans and veganistas, I am officially trekking to the Mecca of Portland in the coming weeks (no offense, NYC). I am preparing my list of must sees (i.e., eats) and dare not mention any concretely until my return, for fear that my stomach cannot handle what I am about to expect of it. Suggestions are welcome!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bargain Alert: Pucci

Just got a $695 canvas Pucci tote for $63 from Loehmann's. I know it's probably accidentally vegan, but I appreciate it's availability anyway and that there's no sneaky leather lurking anywhere as "luxe" decoration (Are you listening, Lacoste?).

Also got a $330 Joseph Abboud suitcase for $60 from TJ Maxx. Very surprising how much luggage has leather trim. Thanks, JA, for omitting. I've also heard a rumor that they offer smaller men's accessories in "veg leather".


Kahlua: gotta love that it's vegan. Kahlua + soy milk + crushed ice = healthy drink as far as I'm concerned. Make it soy creamer if you have some left over from Isa's delicious VWAV scone recipe.

Book Review: Peachtree Road

Just read a pretty good book that was a decent enough in length to keep me occupied for a while: Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons. I give it two thumbs up, but caution (as always) not to read the prologue until you've finished the book. Why is it that "prologues" often seem not to contain backstory, but rather information regarding who might be alive or dead at the end of the book; why would you want to know the end going in?

In college I made the wise decision to skip the prologue of Lolita. As you may well know, it would have ruined the whole damn book. And so, as with Lolita, skip the prologue in Peachtree Road as well as any other book you might not want to know all the secrets of until you're done.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blog Post #1

No, I couldn't think of a more catchy title. This is a test. Now, whether this post is a test, or this blog, or my life in general-- I'm not so sure. But, rest assured that this is a test and is not necessarily indicative of the resplendent postings that are sure to follow.