Saturday, June 29, 2013

Horns (vegan eats near Vegan Treats)

Let me preface this post by saying this: Horns is not vegan; they are a burger joint with some dandy vegan options.  I want to make this clear so that, should you find yourself there, you don't eye the decorative cleavers and other, assorted, butcher-related paraphernalia and immediately think bad things about me.  [UPDATE 12/5/13: After what's being described as a "friendly debate" with Vegan Treats' own Danielle Konya, Horns has removed all of the taxidermied animals from their decor! Bravo to Danielle for being super and to Horns for being swell.] Concentrate on the good: like their vegan burger:


I'd passed Horns a couple of times while in the area (not far from Vegan Treats and the Sands Casino), but it looked a little rustic for my taste.

But, once inside, aside from the afore mentioned cleavers and other various nods to decidedly non-vegan fare, I was happy to find the decor was actually extremely clean and quite charming- minus the "trophies" which I convinced myself were fake.

Upon arrival, you choose your own seat and a member of the Horns' staff brings you a menu and explains that you can order at the counter (where specials are listed on a great big chalkboard) on the faaaar end of the restaurant whenever you're ready.  There, you'll find "Super Duper Filtered H2O" available for $0.50, bottled drinks, or unsweetened house iced tea (3 flavors) and lemonade.


You bring your drinks back to the table with you.

they have agave!

But, the food is delivered- all in various sized metal receptacles lined with paper.

While not described as such, the woman who took our order assured us that the shoe-string onion straws: "hand-cut and fried, made to order" were vegan.  There are enough here to feed ten people.

Because we had no idea the side portions would be so large, we also ordered the fresh cut french fries: with chives, truffle oil, sea salt.  Also a huge portion, but I did a pretty good number on them if I do say so myself.

My friend chose the vegan burger: lentils, almonds, edamame, dried porcini, cous cous, vegetable slaw, spicy pomegranate ketchup and pea shoots on and 8 grain roll.  It was impressive and she enjoyed it- especially the housemade ketchup. 

With Memorial Day right around the corner I knew there were a lot of veggie burgers in my future, so I chose the vegan sloppy joe: tofu, mushrooms, sweet peppers and onions in housemade sloppy joe sauce, served on an 8 grain roll.  I'm happy to report that it was as delicious as it was sloppy.  My friend wasn't feeling the pea shoots, but I have to say that they lent a nice crunch and bit of freshness to the rich, sweet sammie contents.

Horns mission is to serve local, fresh food.  A chalkboard in the dining room lists the nearby farms where they acquire their fruits, vegetables, bread...and meat/dairy.  They do not pretend to be a vegan establishment; instead, they simply offer local, fresh, vegan food as an element of their repertoire.  While I'm a sucker for all-vegan restaurants, I also appreciate the thought behind such impressive offerings and execution in an omnivorous restaurant.

Incidentally, this is how I like my cows.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

VEGAN LONDON: Ha Ha Veggie Bar

Around the bend from Cookies and Scream (swoon!) is the Ha Ha Veggie Bar.

As you can (almost) see, they serve veg staples like burgers, hot dogs, and falafel: nothing terribly exciting.  Please do note that they are not a vegan establishment; their mayo is vegan, but for some reason they choose to offer cow cheese as an option.

view from outside; they seem to do a steady business

We'd actually been recommended against this place, but decided to grab two hot dogs just because we wanted a savory snack and figured it would be fun.

view from inside; I was surprised by all the big-brand beverages

See?  Cookies and Scream is a mere glance away.

The dog was warmed up on an open-air, portable griddle alongside other orders of crunchy-granola looking burgers, grilled onions, buns, etc.  It was served with ketchup, mustard, and the afore-mentioned onions; it was just a-right. 

Nothing to write home about, but no harm no foul.  New Yorkers just like to grab a dog now and then.  

I promise I was wearing different outfits under my coat.

To read a more eventful review of Ha Ha, I recommend that you check out the post in QuarryGirl's archives.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vegan Cupcakes from Pink Frosting Bakery

A trusty pal brought my attention to Pink Frosting Bakery: a new, vegan, cupcakery in New Jersey; we immediately made a plan to visit.


The bakery is set on a relatively main street in a rather homogenous strip of shops. 

On this particular Saturday there was plenty of street parking available, so fear not.

First and foremost:

Also, "egg-free, dairy-free, mostly soy-free, some gluten-free."

The interior of the shop was modern, bright, and clean; overall: extremely understated.

There was a single sign listing the cupcake and cake pricing options.

And a single (hard to photograph) case with about ten cupcake options (at the time of our visit)- a few of which were gluten-free.

My friend and I each chose a chocolate lovers: chocolate cake frosted with chocolate buttercream frosting and topped with chocolate chips; we were VERY impressed.

I don't love cupcakes (I know; blasphemy!); frosting isn't my thing and the elements are just too compartmentalized for me.  However, this frosting was extremely appealing: almost a frosting/mousse hybrid.  And, while it may not have been pleasant to watch me eat it, without utensils, in such a way that I made sure to always have an equal bite of frosting to bite of cake, the whole thing was absolutely top notch.

So much so that we each decided to take a few home.

It has been brought to my attention by OD that the elongated holes are for your fingers; who knew!?

I will note that while there is a small seating area in the shop, it's not exactly conducive to optimal eat-in cupcake enjoyment.  There are tiny tables nowhere near the height or placement necessary to actually eat comfortably off of them, and we were given only a napkin with which to do so even though we'd explicitly stated we'd be staying.  It would be great if they'd install a counter and stools so that cupcakes could be served on plates, but I did get the distinct impression that they weren't necessarily encouraging customers to dine-in.

So, instead, take your cupcake to-go and enjoying it in the beautiful park right across the street.

We did walk through the park, but without our cupcakes; mine traveled home to be shared with the Esteemed Tasting Panel.

While we were there, the shop was sold-out of the chocolate swirl: chocolate cake filled with vanilla buttercream dipped in ganache and decorated with a swirl.  But since the sign had obviously caught our attention, the superbly friendly employee was kind enough to make one for each of us on the spot.  While I didn't love the filling, the ganache was delicious and paired really well with what I already knew would be yummy chocolate cake.  Everyone liked this one, but agreed that the filling needed to be creamier.

The red velvet: red velvet cake frosted with our delicious vegan cream was also a winner; I especially liked that the frosting was a cross between buttercream and cream cheese without being your typical cream cheese frosting.  This earned another thumbs up from all, reminiscent of our favorite red velvet, yet not quite the same as this famous one.

Finally: pink frosting!  Strawberry: vanilla cake filled with strawberry preserves and topped with strawberry frosting.  I chose this cupcake because I'm a sucker for filled cupcakes.  However, I don't love strawberry and I don't like preserves!  My displeasure is no reflection on the cupcake, just an observation from a fruity dessert hater.  The rest of the ETP loved it; I dare say it was their favorite?


What happened here was that I didn't realize that I hadn't already requested another chocolate lovers cupcake to-go.  So, with an extra slot available in my box (filling it was not a shop requirement, just a personal one), I picked the vanilla: vanilla cake topped with vanilla buttercream frosting: mostly because I was mesmerized by the sprinkles and cherry set against the backdrop of all of the other, non-decorated cupcakes.  It wound up having a really nice vanilla flavor, so I didn't feel as bad about having forgotten to get another chocolate lovers- which was my overall favorite.

Here's my take on Pink Frosting:  The shop isn't flashy, the cupcakes don't have clever names, and their decorations aren't over the top; they're just really good cupcakes.  Give them a try and do eat them pronto; they're homemade from scratch!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Grand Day at the Pine Box Vegan Shop-Up: Gone Pie, Cake Thieves, Yeah Dawg, Sweet Maresa, and More!

I FINALLY did the Vegan Shop-Up right: I showed up at Pine Box Rock Shop a few minutes before noon...HUNGRY!

It was a gorgeous day and my schedule was wide open.  First, I made a beeline to the Gone Pie table.  With so many goodies on the menu, I was not going to be a victim of that sellout again.

one of the many Nepies on hand on this particular day!

My haul included strawberry rhubarb coffeecake muffins: oh those crumbs.


Peanut butter caramel rice crispy treats (with pawprints): chewy gooey.


Caramashew cup minis (with hippos): think giant, upscale rolo.


Lemon poppyseed mini-loaves: really knocked my fruit-hating socks off.

And a mini pecan pie with chocolate frosting drizzle: I've said it all here and I mean it more now.


Okay, two; I got two!  Prompting VM to ask why there weren't two lemon poppyseed mini-loaves as well.  The answer is because I'm stupid!  In any case, it was in this fab, pinstriped box for Yankees Father's Day.

I was also lucky enough to have received this personalized triple nut brownie with chocolate frosting and caramashew drizzle that was, wait for it, my favorite Gone Pie brownie to date! #friendsinhighplaces #notsureifitisapporpriatetohashtaginablog

Go Nepie!


Then I made a quick spin through all of the vendors to see what was to be seen.  Heirloom Vegan Eatery was back, and it was their birthday.

I helped them celebrate by buying something for 89:

"organic peanut butter dog cookies" that looked like a cross between a macaron and a whoopie pie.

Much like her previous Heirloom cookie, it went over quite well.

Right next door was a new-to-Shop-up/new-to-the-world vendor, Yeah Dawg.  Vegan hot dog?  Don't mind if I do!

Offering homemade, "soy-free, vegan hot dogs made from beans, vegetables, nuts, and grains," the Yeah Dawger at the helm of the grill (and company) could not have been nicer.  I went with the red cabbage sauerkraut, spicy mustard, pickled jalapenos, shitake bacon bits, and crushed BBQ chips.  Did I mention that all of the pickled toppings (sauerkraut, pickles, mangoes, jalapenos) were home-pickled?  They were.


The texture of the dog itself was more similar to falafel than your typical tofu pup, but all of the flavors (and colors) wrapped up together with a handful of chips made a mighty fine lunch and an awesome spin on an NYC classic.  Can't wait to see you again, Yeah Dawg!

It was practically necessary that I wash down my gourmet dog with Pine Box's Red MoCo Cooler: "Kahlua, Bosco chocolate syrup, grenadine and club soda.  Served in a Collins with a teeny umbrella."  Lightweight that I am, this drink went right to my head.  Thankfully, the bartender was able to get my attention as soon as I wandered out of the bar towards donuts.  In case you were wondering, despite the festive indoor/outdoor atmosphere of the Shop-Up, you can't bring your drinks outside- lest you risk being issued a ticket.  Thanks for the reminder!

Still, donut time (take two, sans beverage)!

Cake Thieves has now expanded their already impressive, cinnamon bun repertoire to include donuts.

I blame this photo on the Red MoCo Cooler

These are not just any donuts; check out the flavors:

Of course I went with the peanut butter cup donut, which was all fluffy and melty and totally delicious.  My friend had the strawberry margarita in all of its tequila glory and loved it as well.

Other than food, I had the opportunity to briefly meet Macaroon and Artichoke from The Food Duo, and to chat with the one-of-a-kind, Sheryl Yvette, of Bitchcakes.  You've probably seen her around biking, running, or attending vegan events...always glammed up!  I often greet her as you would an actor you're used to seeing on tv; although she hasn't ever known who I was, she's always been gracious enough to smile and respond in kind.  I finally introduced myself formally- only to find out that she's as lovely as she is beautiful, not to mention even tinier, prettier, and much friendlier than even I, as a fan, expected from the closest thing NY has to an actual vegan pin-up.  Good times.

I was having a great time enjoying the shop-up, but it was hot and I was thirsty; time to give The Doornail: "Absolut Citron & grape soda.  Served in a highball with a wedge of fresh lemon" a whirl.  It really hit the spot and the color made it a an especially great accessory- especially when I was telling an animated story and sloshed some over my arm.

You might appreciate the cause for excitement, though; a friend gifted me one of the most thoughtful gifts I can think of:

Be jealous; be very jealous!!

Speaking of macarons, Sweet Maresa makes vegan ones.  If, like me, you're always looking at the considerable display of non-vegan, radioactive-hued macarons at The Bean, you'll understand how excited I was to finally try these delicate, French, cookie sandwiches.

Bypassing the strawberry vanilla, rose, and chocolate mint; I chose the pistachio macaron.  I loved the pignoli cookie-esque chew of the cookie and the texture & flavor of the cream was at once both substantial and understated.  I'm sure the creation of these cookies is painstaking and laborious; I assure you that you will enjoy them at least in equal measure.  It's hard to pop them in your mouth without time or attention to the appreciation they deserve, so serve them with chamomile in your daintiest teacups.

One of the greatest things about the Vegan Shop-Up is that you can find goodies from vendors with whom you're familiar- who keep creating new favorites to offer alongside their longtime classics, as well as having the opportunity to try new or new-to-you delicacies that you may otherwise have never known existed. 

They are now scheduled for monthly shop-ups at Pine Box, so mark your calendars!

The end.