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!

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