Thursday, March 29, 2018

89 visits Boris & Horton, dog-friendly cafe

89 and I are big fans of The Bean, but a new explicitly dog-friendly coffee shop, Boris & Horton, recently opened in the East Village and 89 was invited to her bestie, OMJ's, barkday there!

We prepared by wrapping OMJ's present all personalized like and choosing 89's partay outfit.

It was a quick walk over from Confectionery and we could spy the dog crowd from a distance.

This little outdoor addition to the left of the photo below shows where you can order from "outside" if you have a dog in tow. The menu is posted only on the outside, however, which makes it difficult to order once you're inside, where there is no menu posted. I can't be expected to remember what I want for too long!

The cafe is split into two sides: one that is the actual cafe with seating (adjacent to the outdoor ordering nook) and is explicitly not dog-friendly:

The other, more popular side has less seating, as well as a shop that sells clothes, toys, bags, and even canine baked goods (more on that later).

89 & OMJ kiss hello

89, clearly confused that there is a party and it's not for her

89 holding down the fort while we get situated. This is the only table in the store half of the dog-friendly half of the cafe. By my estimation, the non dog-friendly cafe side constitutes 60% of the space, with the dog-friendly seating taking up 20% and the dog-friendly shopping area the remaining 20%. The odds are stacked against the dog people- which is the draw after all.

sensory overload!

This is the seating half of the dog-friendly half of the cafe; there are about 4-5 two-seater tables, which isn't nearly enough to accommodate people with dogs and people without dogs who want to be around other people's dogs. It seems as though the cafe portion of the establishment should have been made as small as possible- so as to occupy only 10% of the space, so that there could be enough space left for retail and the utmost amount of dog-friendly seating. I can't imagine that they're really trying to draw a non dog-friendly crowd, but the size of the dog-less half of the space would suggest otherwise. 


We were under the impression that we could place our order at the outdoor window and the order would be delivered to us in the dog-friendly half of the cafe. After some time passed and our order hadn't arrived, we went back to find it waiting for us at the window. It seems like delivery would be a more efficient gameplan, but this is just one of the many kinks they're going to need to work out.


I had the Horton latte: with housemade cinnamon spiced mocha syrup and Oatly milk. It was my first time tasting oat milk, but I couldn't taste anything aside from the pungent spice of way too much cinnamon; it was really pretty terrible.

The menu is a little mysterious. It's all vegetarian, but proudly states that it's vegan and gluten-free friendly. However, most of the menu offerings involve toast and B&H uses Balthazar bread. GF peeps can substitute (presumably non-vegan) gluten-free bread, but the menu plainly states that the Balthazar bread contains honey. As far as I can tell from the menu, this limits the vegan menu offerings to beverages. I appreciate that they're so up front on the menu about the honey, but it's kind of an odd bread choice for an establishment catering to vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten-free crowd.

Also, we didn't find out until later, but there were non-menu items available in the non dog-friendly half of the cafe: baked goods and the like that weren't advertised or visible from the outdoor ordering window. The only reason we had any idea was that our dog-less friend came back with a banana bread! Again, if you're catering to a dog crowd, why are you making it so difficult for said crowd to order?

this is a stranger dog; I don't know what's happening, but it seems indecent

OMJ isn't a vegan dog like 89, but when her human bought her this decorated peanut butter carob donut (for dogs), I let 89 investigate. Later on, a nice woman seated next to us bought her friend's dog an apple cider donut (for dogs) and kindly got one for 89 & OMJ as well. For some reason, 89 was all over it- which was surprising because she rarely takes treats when we're out. Lucky for us, Maison de Pawz saw her inhaling it on Instagram and reached out to tell us that the apple cider was vegan!

Here's 89 being demonstrably jealous of one of OMJ's gifts: a monster hedgie.

OMJ was very sociable with the many other dogs in the space, but 89 felt more comfortable hanging out mostly with OMJ and the humans she knew. In her defense, there were a lot of humans squealing in delight and talking babytalk to dogs, which she abhors. I'd really underestimated the amount of people that would wander in just to be in the company of dogs. Yet another example of why B&H needs to find a way to extend the dog-friendly seating area and make it easier to order on this side of the cafe.

Incidentally, these are the house rules on the dog side. I'm curious what the rules are on the people side. #justsaying

These were some really cute coasters; I was surprised no one had stolen them (we didn't!).

doggies telling secrets

When we were there, all of the dogs were really well behaved- including 89! Unfortunately, with the set-up the way it is, there's nowhere to conveniently purchase more food and drink while you're there enjoying the dogmosphere. I hate to belabor the point, but couldn't they have put the bar of the cafe in the center of the two spaces and have had a window opening into the dog-friendly side instead of having the dog-friendly ordering window as far as possible from the dog-friendly side?

Both OMG & 89 loved this dog

All in all, we had a great time because of the atmosphere, but the offerings and the access of the offerings could definitely use some reassessment.


Maybe because it's new it's more of a scene than a pleasant spot to grab coffee with your dog in tow.

onto their next adventure

Ultimately a great concept with questionable execution. I really hope they make improvements because it's definitely a terrific idea and a draw for sure.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Royal Elephant Fusion Plant Based Cuisine

On Superbowl Sunday, I headed over to The Royal Elephant Fusion Plant Based Cuisine in Montclair, NJ with a Fox and a Pie; we were hoping for some vegan Thai food to fill our bellies while everyone else was watching football.

The menu was significantly more varied than we had anticipated. In addition to traditional Thai offerings, there were Mediterranean, Japanese, Italian, and Mexican options. For the less adventurous, there were also staples like chicken nuggets, burgers, split pea soup, soups & smoothies. It's a small place with a huge menu!


We started off our meal with vegetable shumai: vegetables wrapped in wonton skin served with soy sauce. We were given the option of steamed or air-fried and we went with air-fried; they were crisp and delicious.

We also got the air-fried spring rolls: veggie spring rolls served with plum sauce. These were good as well, but- truth be told, probably would have been better regular-fried.

My pals each got the spicy drunken noodles: flat rice noodle, chili, onion, bell pepper, string beans, bamboo shoots, and basil. You have your choice of protein; one person chose tofu and one "chicken." I tasted a noodle and it was starchy and sticky, just how it's supposed to be. They loved it.

I went with the red curry: coconut milk, bamboo shoots, eggplant, string bean, bell pepper, and basil with jasmine rice. Although I would have vastly preferred broccoli to eggplant and tofu puffs to plain tofu, it was really delicious. I shared my leftovers with VM and she really enjoyed it as well.

Unfortunately there was no homemade ice cream to be had that day (we passed on the housemade pineapple cupcakes), but hopefully the issue will be resolved soon.

Royal Elephant definitely errs on the healthier side and there's some room for improvement (seems like a very small staff to do everything), but how lucky to have such a varied, all-vegan option in Montclair. I wish them good luck!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Impossible Burger (no flag)

A talented chef where I work had the opportunity to use Impossible Foods' Impossible Burgers* as an exploration of sustainable protein sources for the next generation, assuming they will have figured out that filtering grain through animals doesn't seem like the best plan. Knowing I'm vegan, he was anxious to hear what I thought of it, and offered myself and my colleagues a private taste test at a top secret location.

He explained that he'd received the product as "chopped meat" and had experimented with patties of different thicknesses. He'd decided that a relatively thin patty offered the most authentic tasting burger, so that's what he prepared for us. These were the partially thawed patties looking all bloody like I remember coming out of VM's freezer (insert barf-face here):

He told us that the "meat" was made up predominately of wheat, coconut oil, and potatoes. He knew all about the "heme" (leghemoglobin) and explained that the burger could be cooked well, medium or bloody rare- with the droplets of coconut oil mimicking the animal fat pockets in cow burgers. Grody. He cooked mine in a separate pan because I was the only vegan in the group and he's the best.

I thought I detected a meaty smell when it began cooking, but as it continued to cook I couldn't exactly place the scent. He recommended cooking my burger well, guessing correctly that I did not need my burger to "bleed." He cooked it in a little bit of oil, which gave a nice crisp to the surfaces of the patty.

The others in the group ranged from ardent carnivores to everyday omnivores, and one relatively new vegetarian. I think it's a great sign that they were all up for the taste-test- with nary a naysayer in the bunch.

It's not often I get to partake in a fixin's bar, so I loaded my burger up with ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and sliced pickled jalapenos in lieu of standard pickles.

You'll note that I was robbed of an "Impossible" flag

I've eaten a lot of bean and/or vegetable patties in my day- and more of the ubiquitous portabella mushroom "burgers" than I care to revisit, so I wouldn't necessarily categorize this as a veggie burger. It reminded me more of a fast-food type burger replica (sans gristle) than a hand-formed, chopped meat patty- except it wasn't nasty. I actually enjoyed it much more than I expect to, as did the omnis and vegetarian. The meat-lover ate a bite and a half and apologized that she couldn't "choke down" any more, but everyone else finished every bite. Nobody thought they could be tricked into thinking that this was a cow burger, which I think is a possibility with the Beyond Burger.

Our group had a great conversation about sustainability and spoke very little about ethics, but what they were most interested in was the nutrition. It turns out that the Impossible Burger packs about twice as much protein as a cow burger; this was probably why I found it to be so extraordinarily filling. I suppose that Impossible Foods made the Impossible burger so protein-dense in an effort to stave off the "where do you get your protein" crowd. They're definitely marketing it to non-vegans (fine by me), but could the protein content be overkill? Another interesting note is that my colleagues were very interested in the nutritional stats, but none of them had any offhand knowledge regarding the nutrition of a cow burger. One admitted that he won't purchase a store-bought knish because the nutritional information listed on the package scares him off, but that he doesn't hesitate to buy what is likely the same product, albeit unlabeled, from a deli without worrying about the contents because he can't see them. What you don't know and all that.

So grateful to have had the opportunity to try this burger, but I definitely wouldn't seek it out for a redo. Others seem to be in love with it, so if that makes vegans and/or keeps vegans happy, that's fine by me.

*UPDATE 3/15/18: after gentle reminders from friends and fans, I'm adding the issue of Impossible Foods' animal testing to this post, the original omission of which was an egregious oversight on my part. The CEO of Impossible Foods is vegetarian and conducted animal testing that was not required to create this burger. His response appears here; you can find many opinions with a quick Google search. As an ethical vegan, I am not a proponent of animal testing, but acquiesce that it is sometimes unavoidable- many of our systems are ill designed. That seems not to have been the case here, so the decision is a perplexing one, for sure.