Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet and Sara Vegan Marshmallow Factory

Let's face it, it's a non-vegan world and we're just living in it.  But thanks to vegan entrepreneurs, that's changing.  Take for example, Sara- the mastermind behind the incredible vegan marshmallows and more at Sweet and Sara.

When you peruse the assorted goodies available from Sweet and Sara I suppose you could consider that they just exist by magic.  Not so.  There is an actual factory from which they spring forth!  Indeed, a vegan factory.  A vegan, marshmallow factory.  And, I was lucky enough to visit.

Despite the general excitement of visiting a vegan marshmallow factory, when you approach the address you don't very well expect much more than a building.  Well that's just not Sweet and Sara's style; their building is splashed with a giant, pink sign...and possibly the most enormous "vegan" I've ever seen- proclaimed in Sara's ubiquitous bunny.  It really fills you with a sense of vegan pride to see it in person.

cuteness overload in the stairwell

I admit that I was too awestruck to so much as ask if I could take pictures inside the factory, but once it occurred to me, it just didn't seem appropriate.  Far be it for me to pull back the curtain and expose the genius; feel free to continue thinking it's magic.  I will share that highlights included a temperature-controlled room filled with more product than I could have imagined seeing in one place and an oven so immense that I mistook it for an elevator.  Suffice it to say, the whole factory is immaculate and filled with Sweet and Sara goodies.  And yes, I want to move in.

For those of you unfamiliar, Sweet and Sara offers a considerable assortment of marshmallow flavors: vanilla, strawberry, cinnamon pecan (OD's fave), seasonal pumpkin, seasonal peppermint, and my favorite: toasted coconut (to be unseated if a chocolate-doused marshmallow becomes available).

They also offer adorable holiday specialties, and a host of other products. 

Valentine's Day!

Moist, gooey, why-bother-to-make-them-yourself rice crispy treats:

Gourmet biscotti in double chocolate mocha almond and cinnamon hazelnut:

Dense, pure macaroons:

Rich rocky road bark (dark chocolate jam-packed with vanilla marshmallows and almonds):

And, of course, s'mores- in peanut butter and original:

Note: s'mores are now available in mini for those of us looking for a higher proportion of chocolate to marshmallow than the original:

that says MINI, not MINT; don't be fooled by the green

All of these items are great for snacking.  If you're feeling adventurous, though, get creative!  Try a fluffernutter, a marshmallow cupcake, or just a buffet.  Otherwise, enjoy what other people are doing with them; try The Cinnamon Snail s'mores donut, or Lula's Sweet Apothecary's caramel marshmallow graham and rocky road ice cream flavors- all featuring Sara's creations.  The possibilities are endless!

celebrity sighting!

Sara, I'm sure I wasn't able to impart how thankful I am that people like you exist to fight the good and delicious fight for veganism and compassion.  I know that you have the strong support of your family, but ultimately it is you- young, female, and vegan, who has made this happen.  Bravo and thank you for always being so very generous!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crazy Rumors: My Favorite Vegan Lip Balm

A (long) while ago a friend pointed out that there was a glaring omission in my Easter post: mention of my (then) new, (self-proclaimed) holiday-themed, Leaping Bunny, Crazy Rumors lip balm.  So, I thought I'd turn the error into an opportunity to rave about all of the flavors I love from Crazy Rumors.

Some history: my first tube of Crazy Rumors was from Back to Eden in Portland, Oregon, where I picked up the orange juice for me, raspberry sherbet for VM, and banana split for someone fab.  We were hooked instantly: creamy, non-greasy, long-lasting, and vegan; what else could you be looking for in a chapstick?

The orange juice remains my favorite; the flavor is delicious and refreshing and I swear I can smell it all day.

I also really like the mystery flavor, but I can't guess what it is.  I thought I knew, but the folks at Crazy Rumors kindly told me that I was, well, completely wrong. VM's second favorite is orange creamsicle, which she also enjoys as an ice cream.

I recently bought one of their Hibiskiss lip colors and was very impressed by the color.  It doesn't stay on quite as long as the regular lip balm (which is a ridiculously long time), but the understated tint is worth the necessity of infrequent reapplication.  I've found breeze to be a great neutral, while tropical offers a deeper pop of color.

The newest addition to my line-up of Crazy Rumors personal faves is the afore mentioned leaping bunny plum apricot bunny balm, for which 50% of the purchase is donated to the Leaping Bunny Program.

If you're in need of a new lip balm/lip gloss/chapstick, I'd recommend you give this great, vegan company a try.

If, like me, you're always looking for an excuse to go, you can pick up Crazy Rumors at Lula's.  Otherwise, check out the Crazy Rumors website; it's cute and extremely easy to navigate.  The prices are fair (plus, keep an eye out for coupons and join their rewards program), shipping is prompt, and the packaging is immaculate.

It's been two years and I haven't bought another brand since.  I've also lost count of how many other people I've caused to become addicted; there's my friend who's all about mint bubble, my other friend who swears by mint chocolate (edit: who has since informed me that his addiction was independent), VM who is a raspberry sherbert, but won't turn any flavor down outright...  You might be next; which flavor will you be?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Cinnamon Snail: Not Your Ordinary Food Truck

It's no secret that I heart The Cinnamon Snail; I've been enjoying Chef Adam Sobel's food much longer than even seems possible.  But it's important to stress that this is no ordinary food truck.  Not just because the food is vegan and organic, but because it is epic. 

Spoiled by their presence in Hoboken, Hell's Kitchen, and Red Bank (catch them in Jersey City now, as well), I have become accustomed to their incomparable, quality sandwiches and decadent desserts- all of which evolve and revolve.  But last week something intriguing caught my eye in one of their Facebook posts- a weekly special innocuously described as "berbere lentil crepes".  The Cinnamon Snail does Ethiopian?  (Spoiler alert: yes, they do)

So, when a friend suggested a visit to Hoboken before the unfair PATH hike took effect, I was thrilled to accompany and investigate.  Now, since he'll call me out on it in the comments if I don't, I wholly admit that at the last minute I was going to just gorge on pastries.  Thankfully, a level head prevailed and, as it turned out, we all three of us ordered the Ethiopian-inspired special. 

When The Cinnamon Snail says "special", they mean it. This might be the best and most gorgeous thing I've ever eaten from the Snail; I thought about it all day!

Redefining truck food: "Berbere lentils and greens, layered between soft whole grain crepes with pomegranate molasses and marinated hot heirloom peppers."

Rumor has it, it was wheat & gluten free as well.

Lest you fret, there were also donuts.  3 Mexican chocolate donuts to be exact.  And no, they weren't all mine (although I wish they were).  Gigantic, moist, and filled throughout with chocolate and cinnamon: this is a must re-order.

I'll admit I'm not a big fan of Hoboken (parking: grrr), but with Snail food and a view like this- how can I complain?

There was even entertainment.  The only thing that makes a dog water fountain cuter is sparrows using it for a bath.

Keep doing what you're doing, Cinnamon Snail-

spreading the compassion of veganism through impeccable eats.

Regulars come to see what you're up to, newbies to see what all the fuss is about; no one leaves disappointed.

Least of all me!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bethlehem VegFest

A while back, a friend clued me in to the upcoming Bethlehem VegFest.  It seemed obvious from the website that it was a vegetarian event, so I was uncertain as to whether it would be worth the trek*, especially when I learned that in the VegFest Foods Week leading up to the event, vegan options were not guaranteed.

But the day before, VM proposed a road trip I couldn't refuse: a few hands of Let it Ride at the Sands Casino and a stroll through the possibly vegan-friendly Bethlehem VegFest- punctuated by a visit to Vegan Treats before and after (what?), of course.  Sold.

Our day started as all days should, with a Vegan Treats breakfast.  Then we headed over to the Vegfest.  I recalled the website stating that there would be free street parking on 3rd St, but since the meters where we parked were curiously devoid of signs or information indicating when they were in use and when not- least of all during VegFest, we chose to be on the safe side and filled it to capacity- 3 hours.  Quite a bit early, we checked out some of the shops on 3rd before heading over to the fest exactly at noon.

On the way we passed this cool car and we knew we were headed in the right direction!

When we got a glimpse of this sign, we had our first inkling that what we were about to embark upon was no tiny fair.

Without realizing it As a result of intricate planning, we approached the fair right at the center point, and were impressed to see such a professionally executed, appealing welcome.

There were T-shirts ("Lettuce Rejoice", "Let There Be Peas On Earth"), limited edition bottles of wine, and a bunch of complementary goodies. 

Neither of us could resist these squeezable, branded eggplants:

VM got a Bethlehem calendar, although we both wondered why Vegan Treats wasn't on the cover:

A coupon book:

We also got our hands on a Vegfest program: swanky!

And a map of the fest layout.

Seems awfully organized and impressive, right?   It was.

When we finally looked out at the grounds we were positively awestruck by the fest- as far as the eye could see.  To the left of us....

And to the right:

Where to begin?

We stopped at the Vegetarian Resource Group table, where they were selling cookbooks, etc., and giving away lots of literature.  VM & I both got "Be Kind to Animals, Don't Eat Them" bumper stickers.

Bypassing the fitness-oriented area, next up for us was the Zoup booth where VM highly enjoyed a sample of a vegetarian sandwich.

I tried the Italian Pasta and Vegetable soup, and was told that they always have a vegan soup option.  On their website, the menu says only "vegetarian"; I'd recommend double checking- you can never be too careful.

Next up was the Emeril's Italian Table booth, where they were making impressively sized salad samples that drew a sizable crowd.

Mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, charred corn, and potato chip croutons; it was extremely tasty.  As someone who has dined at this establishment in the Sand's Casino, VM noted that these sample salads were considerably bigger than the ones she has had as an appetizer for $9. 

A few of the booths were mini farmer's markets unto themselves.  Behold these mama-sized eggplants.

More fruits and veggies- these from Bechdolt's Orchard

If you don't have a farmstand nearby, don't ignore this "vegan section" at your local supermarket!

This Smart Juice was delicious and really made of 100% juice.  That's my sample waiting for me atop that bottle.

We learned that there is a health food store nearby with a non-veg cafe that offers vegan options: Cafe Santosha.  Never fear, though; I'm still satisfied to eat Vegan Treats all day long!

I did try their sweet potato black bean soup; it was pretty darn tasty (once I picked out that piece of fresh gag-weed cilantro).

Another vegetarian business offering vegan options was Hello Burrito.  To the nice lady with the friendly shirt, I'm sorry I cut your head off.  I didn't realize you were looking at me, let alone smiling all friendly-like!

Subway was giving out samples of their veggie patty sandwich.  Another fest-attendee asked if it was vegan and one of the Subway employees said it wasn't.  The other employee followed up with, "It almost is."  As all the nearby vegans walked away rolling their eyes, I overheard him ask his co-worker what exactly "vegan" means.  As someone who likes Subway (there, I said it), this was particularly irritating.  Would someone ever say something was almost kosher, or almost peanut free?  I don't think so.

This was one of the packed cooking demonstrations.  I admit that we didn't hang around because neither of us can listen to a monologue about the superiority of heirloom tomatoes for any extended period of time, but we did notice that they were all well-attended.  Incidentally, it seemed as though most of the cooking demos were distinctly vegetarian and helmed by restaurants with no vegan options on their menus.  Maybe the fest's turn-out will sway them to consider otherwise?  Keep requesting vegan options, people- wherever you may be.

And then we saw it, under a compassionate big top.

Vegan Treats!

Everything was presented with appetizing perfection, per usual:

Because the fest was a free event on a beautiful day, I had my suspicions that most of the attendees were neither vegan or vegetarian.  At the crowded Vegan Treats tent, a customer asked if the desserts were vegetarian.  The man seated in the picture above explained that everything was made with no animal ingredients whatsoever.  The patron replied, "That's interesting."  It's more than interesting; who can pass up these compassionate delicacies?

OMG, how did I miss the first pumpkin cheesecake of the ^ season?
In addition to booths, demos, and speakers, there were also two musical stages at the Fest- on either end of the considerable greenway.  We were particularly taken by Jamie & the Magic Torch.  When we first heard him he was singing what I assume was a self-penned ditty with the refrain, "eat your vegetables", but we were really hooked when he covered Kermit the Frog.

For the Animals Sanctuary had a booth where they were selling a zillion veg-themed buttons.  I realize this doesn't look like a zillion, but trust me; there were boxes full as well.

What is it with vegans and buttons? I got three.

I was a little disappointed that there weren't more veg-themed booths.  There were quite a few non-themed jewelry, apparel, and accessory venders, so I certainly think that t-shirts, bags, and buttons from vegan companies would have really both made an impact and done a lot of business.  Gotta love message wear!

There was also a whole section of the fair devoted to companion animals, many of whom were in attendance.  Let's face it: animals always trump people.

Unfortunately, due to the over-population of yellow jackets, we had to leave the fest before Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House spoke.  The OHH blogpost about the event, by the way, is to thank for letting me know that Jaime K. of Save the Kales blog was the impetus behind this whole, impressive festival.  Jaime, it seems, has an all-vegan event in the works; she is definitely one to watch. Incidentally, I picked up this handy pocket guide at her booth.

On our way out, we were amused by two women who ran up to the welcome tent and shrieked excitedly, "Where is Vegan Treats?"  The volunteer seemed stunned, but us VT loyalists understood; we pointed them directly to the big top.

We were disappointed to have left earlier than we'd planned, but we had great fun noticing all of the adorable VegFest advertisements in nearby store windows as we made our way back to the car; the organizers certainly left no detail unattended. 

Am I allow to show these cute signs?  Please don't sue me.

Just a unicorn in a nearby store that I thought was awesome.

The Bethlehem VegFest was a great example of inviting the masses to share in the excitement of a veggie-based, compassionate lifestyle.  Next year I hope to celebrate an all vegan VegFest; I'll see you there.

*As a vegan, I can feel just as out of place- if not moreso- amidst vegetarians/in a vegetarian restaurant as I do surrounded by omnivores. Somehow society regards vegetarians as quirky bunny-huggers, while vegans are crazy militants.  Worse, some folks don't see the difference between the two- one being a diet choice and one a lifestyle; this can be dangerous in food environments.