Friday, January 30, 2015

nākd review and giveaway!

What can I say? In this instance, the cliche rang true; nākd had me at "hello." I mean: truly, what better way to receive a box of samples than with this greeting?

Followed up with this one: "Eat, share, blog!" 
This is how a community works together to share compassionate eats, my friends.

nākd bars are made by Natural Balance Foods, a "predominantly UK based health food company who produce a wide-variety of vegan snacks." They were kind enough to send me a generous assortment of their nākd raw fruit and nut bars for review. Currently they’re not available to buy from stores in the US but you can purchase them online. As of this writing, there are excellent deals on samplers and free shipping to the US!

The first thing I noticed was that the bars were a nice size: substantial enough to not leave you hungry before you even opened the wrapper (Bean problems).

I began my taste-test rather unconventionally: with the strawberry crunch. I was immediately impressed by the density of the bar and of the fact that it did not have any of the oily residue I've come to expect from other, similar bars. The flavor reminded me of a healthy version of strawberry pop-tart filling and the soya crunchies were really satisfying.

The packaging boasts the simple ingredients in large font along with quirky and relate-able text such as, "gleefully made in Britain."

I especially loved their exquisitely appropriate use of the word "smooshed."


Next up was the caffe mocha on a day when it was too snowy to venture outdoors for a coffee. The bar packed a really nice caffeinated punch, although I thought the chocolate was understated enough to miss.

Pecan pie (italics mine) was a bit of a stretch when you're used to this, but you can't ever really go wrong with pecans.


I was, surprisingly, not a fan of the cocoa delight.

But, the cocoa crunch was a winner in my book (those soya crunchies are stellar and should be in everything).

Again, the "cookie" in cashew cookie was a bit of a stretch, but this was one of my favorite overall flavors of the bunch.

Perhaps most flavorful bar I tasted was the very berry, berry delight.

Can someone explain this one to me? I think that rhubarb & custard might be a British thing.

I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed by my nākd supply and ate more than my fair share in a very short window of time. That, coupled with the fact that Natural Balance Foods was so overwhelmingly generous, was my inspiration for saving some for a small, informal giveaway!

If the flavors shown below float your boat, please enter below by telling me what your favorite thing to eat is when you're not eating a "yummy raw fruit & nut bar." Winner will be chosen at random. Open to US residents only. Contest ends February 6, 2015 and winners will be notified via email (remember to include!). UPDATE 2/6/15: winner announced in the comments!

For street cred and cool points only: let me know how I sometimes wittily refer to my well-dressed, numbered dog that ties into the name of this product.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Killer Vegan, Vegan in New Jersey

A friend of mine was excited to try Killer Vegan as soon as they opened, but the information available online was so sparse that I was hesitant to get roped into some crunchy granola dive (it happens). Eventually she convinced me to plan a stop en route from another vegan establishment, so I gave in. But, first I tried to glean some more information. I mean, that's what vegans do; we prepare.


Killer Vegan's website is basically an informative placeholder that notes the hours, address, phone/email contact, a "cash only" warning, and a link to their Facebook page. Neither the site or the page show a menu, so I messaged them in October but received no response.

When I wrote a second time- this time via email, I received a prompt, courteous, and concise message in return:

Hi Abby,
You can find an image of our menu on Yelp. Thank you for considering us.
Kind Regards,
Janelle Elizabeth Soto
Killer Vegan

No link, no attachment, just the tip.

The menu I found on Yelp had been posted by a customer in October 2014: it was small, seemingly short on content, and blurry enough that I strained to read some of the specifics. Aw heck, I'll just post it here. If Killer Vegan is using it as their sole source of online cuisine information, surely Paula M. won't mind.

Killer Vegan - Menu on the wall. - Union, NJ, United States

So, yeah.
Overall I wasn't going into this with high expectations, but go I did.

Killer Vegan was very easy to find: it's a large storefront on a main street.

We were a half hour too early for the dinner specials, but were more interested in the fact that they were, "Unfortunately, still out of milkshakes & still very sad." I was disappointed by the content, but loved the personalization.

Guess what was the first thing I spotted upon entry?


The famous menu! I tried my best to take as clear a picture as possible; it wasn't easy. To my surprise, it really was almost identical to the menu from four months prior, but it was pointed out to us that a "chicken" panini had been added to the repertoire (it was listed on the printed menu, which exists although an online menu does not).


I'd love to know what business held the space prior because it's huge! We were dining at an odd time during a weekend day and I took this photo just prior to 3 other tables being occupied and just after a gentleman departed who I recognized from having run into him numerous times over the years at Vegan Treats. He very kindly allowed my friend and I to each purchase a chocolate chip cookie before he bought out the remaining lot.

Onto the food.
Killer Vegan defines itself as a diner and delicatessen. Besides the deli case that I recall having held soft drinks, I saw no evidence of a delicatessen. And, while there were subtle elements of a diner in the overall decor and menu, the idea didn't really manifest itself cohesively in the atmosphere.


After much deliberation over the small menu, we both chose the sausage and peppers sandwich, which was of significant heft.


I added a side of roasted Brussels sprouts; they were crisp and nicely seasoned, but no match for my favorites.


My friend added the kale slaw, which she really enjoyed. I wasn't in the mood for cold food so I didn't taste it.


We shared their generous "smalls" portion (not that you can tell from my closeup) of mac 'n' cheese. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the cheese had a great texture, but my friend did not appreciate the smoky notes (of which there had been no mention) and there were undertones of another flavor that kept me from loving it as well.

The sausages were housemade; I believe it was a mushroom base, but don't remember exactly. This is why menu descriptions are important! In sum, it was a hardy and authentic sandwich. Plus, I liked that the bread was well proportioned to the filling (not too bready). The truth is that the peppers & onions are my favorite element of sausage and peppers, but this was a total specimen I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone: vegan or not.

The chocolate chip cookie I took home was standard fare: not too hard or soft, but generously chipped. There is nothing more enticing than a chocolate chip cookie, so we were surprised that we didn't smell any more baking while we were there- considering they'd sold out upon our arrival. In the absence of the ice cream (we learned it was Klein's) and cookies, the only desserts that remained during our visit were quarters of two separate cakes. Since it's sometimes hard to commit to a slice of cake (not necessarily for me, but for others), I'd love to see them offer more; perhaps smaller items that even people not dining-in could easily grab to-go.


Overall, while we didn't swoon over everything we did agree that Killer Vegan surpassed our expectations and has impressive potential. The staff and chef/owner were very nice- this is an immediate plus! In lieu of any other discernible decor, they'd do well to hang blown-up photos of their dishes to give people an idea of the sumptuous types of comfort foods they have on offer; in the short time we were there, 3 new vegetarians entered with trepidation. Also, include more information about your dishes! If your sausages are homemade: flaunt it. Write it on the chalkboard, list the ingredients; POST IT ONLINE. Even their Facebook posts are inexplicably lacking in photos. Three words: food porn sells.

New Jersey- nay, the world, needs all the great vegan fare they can get. Give this new place a go and then hopefully we can watch them flourish!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bethlehem Vegfest 4!

The Bethlehem VegFest was held in late August this year; it's one of my favorites. The event is free, so it doesn't just preach to the choir; it fills up with veg-curious and even the not so curious who are just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon. It's also a wonderful event to bring your pet. The delay of this post is no way a reflection of my love of the fest!

This was my outfit of the day, courtesy of MooShoes via Raven & Crow (or vice versa)...89-approved.

Per usual, we stopped off at Vegan Treats on the way.  This time we were greeted by a giant bowl full of festively wrapped chocolate-covered pretzel rods: both with white or dark chocolate.

All dark for us:


There was also a tower of enticing chocolate-covered pretzel cupcakes!

I didn't partake, but they deserved a close-up.

Mini crumb-topped pies (peach or apple?)

I started with a big ol' cup of peanut butter soft serve.

Yep, started.

Much to the delight of a certain numbered dog.

Then VM and I shared a chocolate-dipped speculoos cookie, a triple chocolate donut, and a smore's donut.  Those are our closely guarded pretzels on the side, with a back drop of cookies that- luckily for anyone else who would visit Vegan Treats that day, we managed not to eat.

My bad, we did get a few of those to go, but left plenty for others.


Then we were off to the vegfest!


One thing to especiallyy love about the Bethlehem VegFest is that they always have produce booths (the omission of which people are constantly complaining about at other vegfests where indoor space is at a premium). Plus, it was particularly adorable the way the melons were displayed.

We'd arrived later than expected, but were lucky to catch most of Gene Bauer's presentation in the speaker tent.

Much like last year when she'd cheered for Danielle Konya, 89 did the same for Gene at the conclusion of his presentation.

And we even got our photo taken with him! You'll note that I'm holding 89 like a sack of potatoes for some inexplicable reason because I was so overwhelmed with glee and admiration for Gene's charm and accomplishments.

Elsewhere on site was some fresh kale growing! If memory serves, it was the project of a local youth group.

I can't help but to wave at the pigs, but my sentiment remains the same from year to year.

And then a visit to our friend and beauty-supplier, The Fanciful Fox!

89 is particularly enamored with one of the proprietors, so she stood as the welcoming committee while I shopped.

Another advantage to having the fest outdoors: 89 makes new friends.


The Vegan Treats booth is always packed.

Even though we'd already gorged, I braved the crowds to give you an idea of the tent's contents.

Cookies, cakes, cannolis, and donuts as far as the eye could see.

While I was there, I accidentally bought this samoa cake. In my defense, it was only because it was one I'd never seen before!

Confession: I ate the cookie while I was on line for lunch.


Not to be outdone, The Cinnamon Snail line was even more extensive than usual.

I had the special, which was peking seitan with tamarind plum sauce, 5-spice roasted Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, arugula, and wasabi mayo on a toasted baguette.

89 eying it up.

It was one of the best Snaily sandwiches I've ever had!

89 was really tired at this point, but not too tired to munch on my arugula.

CS was out of her fave veggie sammie, so VM decided to get a pizza from the Pizza Wagon, the place we'd enjoyed the previous year when the Snail was not in attendance.

I wasn't too impressed this time around.

The wine spritzer from Franklin Hill Vineyards made it easier to bear.

Per usual, a good day was had by all.
Make sure to watch the Bethlehem Vegfest page for more info on the next fest!