With Hurricane Joaquin worries put out to sea, I had my first proper weekend after my first proper full week of working, finally. Summer is officially gone. It’s back to the grind. IMG_2668

Kitchen renovation cookies, with just a pinch of sawdust.

Various gourds for the stoop as October is here, the most wonderful time of the year.IMG_2749

The grill is still blazing in the backyard. Here, the other white meat: tofu.IMG_2702

Expert grill marks by The Electrician.IMG_2707


Roasted broccoli stemsIMG_2705

Harvest lunch for the week: sugar-roasted acorn squash, beet, dinosaur kale, and that tofuIMG_2714

Catching Frank in weird positions.IMG_2740

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Given the choice between a decadent chocolatey treat and a marshmallow, the white, light-hearted confection is the winner, a nostalgic favorite I spent many years without. I love marshmallows, maybe because I missed them for so long.  So, naturally, I love Sweet & Sara‘s marshmallows.  Occasionally, I’ll splurge on one of her S’mores, which are not quite a value as I inhale them in a few seconds flat. (They also seem to be shrinking. Wah.) And though I always intend to throw them in the microwave and let them expand all oooey-gooey, they’re gone before I leave the parking lot.IMG_2293

Sweet & Salty:

How many times can I sing the praises of the Thai dessert, mango and sticky rice. It’s the best of many worlds… starchy coconut sticky rice with a hint of saltiness, creamy coconut drizzled super-ripe mango. It’s perfection. Every year I anticipate the mango season and rejoice with each bite of this fantastic dessert.IMG_2459


Miyoko has a extensive line of vegan cheeses that are the real deal. They are firm, with creaminess, like you want out of a “cheese.” Here is my No. 9, Country Style Herbs de Provence. It’s salty, soft glorious goodness that I mostly munched in between pretzel sticks.
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Such a trip to look at this guide from 10 years ago. To see my checkmarks. I had to update it. It is nice to see that many eateries are still around!2005-X034



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Robibero Family Vinyards in New Paltz, New York had its annual grape-stomping festival this weekend, the first weekend of autumn. It was the perfect excuse to run north for the day with CP. After managed expectations, I was delighted by the peaceful, bucolic property and the opportunity to check another item off my bucket list.

But I had to look the part first. PicMonkey CollageBarefoot and waiting. The bushels of Concord grapes ready for squishing.PicMonkey Collage2

We were the second stomp, so new grapes had to be added.

It feels exactly like you think it would.


Such a beautiful, bright color!IMG_2543

Grape-covered toes.IMG_2550

A quick soak (and foot massage!) for vineyard personnel. Hmmmm.IMG_2552

When vegans are in New Paltz, they go to Lagusta’s Luscious. It’s just that simple. Her signature blue ought to be trademarked, like TiffanyIMG_2565

At Lagusta’s, the creme de la creme of vegan sweet treats mingle together, BiFFers Lagusta’s chocolates & Sweet Maresa‘s macarons and baked yummies.

My box of chocolates, Sweet Maresa’s rose and cardamom cupcake, a chocolate macaron, some enormous ice cream caramel chocolate thing, and, in the bag, Miyoko cheese. Yet another vegan goddess enters the picture! Not to mention to two vegan babe customers. PicMonkey Collage3

And speaking of goddess, check out my chocolates, including the famous Furious Vulva. Also: Maple Pecan Caramel, Strawberry Balsamic Caramel, Eggplant Miso Truffle, Peanut butter cup, Thyme lemon seas lat caramel, Basil truffle with corn, and Rosemary sea salt carmel.IMG_2571

New World Home Cooking in Saugerties, New York has some great vegan options, most notably are the 5 types of seitan wings!PicMonkey Collage4

We also go the vegan poutine fries. IMG_2595

The wings were unreal–deliciously tender and succulent scratch made seitan with a yummy red BBQ sauce.IMG_2597


Our entree was a bit of mismash of underseasoned, sauce-less vegetables. Should have order a few more plates of wings. IMG_2602

One roadside attraction on the way back, the Poutine / Furious Vulva sculpture outside of Rockland County’s courthouse. IMG_2607


Built in 1930, the long vacant Nassau County Sanitorium is set on 140 acres in Plainview, tucked behind the New York Islanders offices and an active sports field. Though there is not much information about the old hospital, which was a Tuberculosis ward, on the world wide web, it is pretty open for easy exploration. It’s accessible right off Old Country Road a few blocks from Rt. 135, it’s got a wide open parking lot that is not creepy at all, and it has plenty of wide open doors to walk through… if you’re feeling brave. It is private property but is not littered with threatening signs of trespassing and prosecution, except by a group of garages off the main hospital building. The grounds are pretty expansive, but, unlike the decaying State-run “farm colony” hospitals (Pilgrim State, Kings Park, and Central Islip) there are no guides available, no old campus maps.

No answers to many questions: Why was it still here? Why isn’t the property more ravaged? Why were the cluster of homes on its property (doctor’s quarters?) still with electricity and a hose still damp with use? And… how is it that the location was never tagged in Instagram?

Many questions, but all I have is pictures. We walked the entire property; here’s what we saw.

The bright blue sky was a glorious backdrop, but it also emboldened us to explore more. I can enter a hallway, a room, staircase that is streaming with bright sunlight. I can walk towards the light, the blue hue framed by decrepit moulding. IMG_2298

It was the crevasses, the dead ends that were harder. Like in the women’s room.


Sunny squalor.IMG_2325

The stairs were pretty sturdy.

We walked up to the check in desk. So did many others, I guess.IMG_2429

There were board game remnants strewn about.


We admired the built-ins, the glass-paned cabinetry. IMG_2424


So many windows intact! Teenagers must be losing their gusto.IMG_2355

We presumed these to be employee’s quarters. They were a short walk down a dead end on the property, across from a building that seemed to be some sort of recreation space. Why was the light on?PicMonkey Collage






Nature had adopted the property. The grounds were ripe with mushrooms and teaming with birds, insects, and critters in the bushes confused by our presence. IMG_2420

This was a pretty blind exploration, a lead from my friend who is a nurse at an area hospital. But now I am intrigued about its history, which is quite mysterious. The property used to be the Taliaferro Estate, on the land that became Old Bethpage. Though the hospital closed in the 1960’s, it was used for various purposes, like a rehabilitation center. It’s unclear when it became completely abandoned, though the Young people’s edition Trivia Pursuit cards point towards it being in the 1980s? In 1999, Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders, purchased the property.

In the center of the map, an aerial look at the buildings we explored. (source)


Portland used to be a quick 2-hour drive from home when I lived in Seattle in 2000. Back then, the city was far less vegan-friendly to this vegan. It was Blossoming Lotus where I got a good meal, which is still going strong. But I more remember karaoke at Alibi, a tiki bar preserved in time, and also still thriving. 2000-214

I don’t know what I was thinking. A pirate-themed all-vegan restaurant and I didn’t take pictures of my meal… didn’t take a picture of chef/owner, donned in head-to-toe pirate, as he schmoozed with us. This was 2007. And my blog was not food-related at that point. But it is one of my regrets as a now vegan food travel blogger. 2005-X032 I did take a picture of the parking lot sign, however. Whoopie. I will have to hit the owner’s new spot, Casa Diablo–his vegan strip club. I mean, beyond going to its door after hours.2007-085

Another exterior shot back in 2007–Morning Glory in Eugene, Oregon. Their oldest vegetarian restaurant. 031607 231

And a menu from Manola’s Thai, back when the Vegetarian section on an Asian menu was exciting. 2005-X050

With the start of the school year, I am in Brooklyn everyday again. Urban machinery and subterranean air have united me with 8 million more parts. I remember why I love her. And I remember why I hate her. She’s like me–impractical and strained while magnificent in her own norms. She has art around her, but it’s just her peeling a few layers.

She has great things, like many metropolises. But in New York, you’re allowed to ignore all else and find a comfort in unacknowledged sharing. There are rules you know, methods that make 8 million just a few. Tribes of two, like me and CandyPenny. You get what you need, her gems and treasures, and run away. Like a Red Velvet cupcake from the Sprinkles CupcakeATM. The best vegan cupcake in New York City.IMG_2168

You find places to shut out the rest of her, like you’re in your living room. But you have to pay for this. Like Candle 79, New York City’s premiere all-vegan restaurant. You sit next to the Buddha, next to the window television of her grinding looping air time. You eat, aligned to her high standards. And in this eating, you get to take her with you.

Ok, enough of this pronoun use! The food/drink of this special dinner: Watermelon-Mint Refresher was a cooling watermelon, mint, lemon, agave, aloe, sparkling water. Amuse-bouche: soft fingerling with a pesto drizzle.PicMonkey Collage1

Appetizer: Grilled Flatbread with piled wild mushrooms, arugula, tomatoes, truffle oil, and cashew cheese on a pesto-basted grilled flatbread. Very earthy thanks to mushrooms and truffle. Would have prefer a thicker flatbread.PicMonkey Collage2

I ordered the special entree with zero regrets. It was delicious: succulent house-made grilled seitan atop roasted vegetables and starches and a scrumptious creamed corn puree (that I would have drunk with a straw). And topped with grilled peaches. IMG_2157

CandyPenny got the tempeh tamale with all the fixings… but not the masa. On the side, a watermelon pepitas salad. In a pool of chocolate mole. IMG_2158

Dessert, because it was a birthday celebration! I got the brownie sundae with house-made vanilla caramel ice cream, banana, bourbon caramel and candied pecans. In the background: cannoli. IMG_2166

Thank you, New York.

Match #5 of the V.V. Burger Showdown: The Blossom battle turns out to be a lesson on how not to do a veggie burger.

Blossom On Carmine vsBlossom du Jour

Despite the proclamations from HappyCow, PeTA,  and VegNews, I often say that New York City is not so vegan-friendly.

Does New York City have a vegan butcher? No. A full-scale vegan cheese shop? No. A vegan chocolate shop? No. Varied vegan options at its baseball parks (save a vegan dog at Citi Field), football arenas and airports? No. Do any of its restaurants have housemade cheese plates? No. A variety of vegan food trucks? There’s just a few and 1 is really from New Jersey. A vegan strip club? Ha, no. Despite other American cities having these special vegan offerings, New York City doesn’t really make the grade. Yes, it’s got some vegan restaurants, but far too many rely on frozen, packaged super-processed meat analogs that are reheated in a New York minute. Or they offer well-intended fare covered with thoughtless sauces and piled-on packaged vegan cheeses. Not to mention that her exorbitant rent has restaurants teaching formulaic recipes to ‘off the books’ line cooks who don’t really understand the nuanced and informed art of plant-based food…

IMG_2119Though it is my mission to discover the exceptions (and I have found many) and though with the arrival of great new vegan eateries, tides may be changing; I certainly can’t sum all of this up as Most Vegan Friendly in the United States. There is a good amount of vegan food in New York City, especially counting vegan-friendly ethnic cuisines. But not a lot of great vegan eats. The truth is that vegan food had always been available in the Big Apple… and that’s great… but it hasn’t really evolved much. Ah NYC, let my criticism will be a mark of your potential. All of this is underlies this next Burger Showdown: a battle between the affiliated Blossoms’ burger options, and their shortcomings.

The Blossom restaurant group started in 2005 in with a restaurant in Chelsea. TheyIMG_2102 branched out including a bakery (also in Chelsea), two more restaurant locations (One on Upper West Side & another in the West Village), as well as two quick service counter spots (Blossom Du Jour in Chelsea & Midtown West). That’s a lotta blossoms! But though each location is all-vegan, it’s pretty average fare. Stuff I
enjoyed more years ago but now can make better on my own. But their veggie burgers rank high on “Best of NYC” lists, so I faced two of them off in a head to head battle. Having a fond memory of their Skyscraper burger from  Blossom Du Jour when it was further west in Chelsea, next to the now defunct Cocoa V which turned into the Blossom Bakery, and wanting to hit up a new location with a touted burger, I named Blossom on Carmine as the competitor.

Blossom On Carmine’s Soy Bacon Cheeseburger:

Sometimes a vegan eatery thinks they need to overcompensate. Don’t eat regular pizza? Well, how about a slice of thin crust with a wet pile of every vegetable ever birthed by the Earth?! No. Implied in this overcompensation is the idea that plants aren’t enough. Well, they certainly are, but when respected. Their use should be thoughtful. And quantity is certainly not quality. All of this applies to Blossom on Carmine’s Soy Bacon Cheeseburger.

Deconstructing the cardinal sins of veggie burgers, I’ll start with the “Soy” of the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger. I remember high school cafeteria hamburgers. I remember McDonald’s burgers. Cheap burgers were packed with soy before “soy burgers” existed. And I remember their fibrous bites very well. The soy patty (or what I refer to as soy science meat, also called soy protein, soy protein isolate, and other such names [Brand names: Gardein, Beyond Meat, May Wah, etc]) is vegan, but it’s a processed food, bought in bulk and frozen–just like fast food. Except at Blossom on Carmine’s it’s $14.  The frozen, soy patty is lazy. Restaurants, especially those claiming to be fine dining, should not hold fast food values, using frozen and processed, packaged food products. Is that a crazy notion–that a restaurant care about food, know about food, create food? Maybe I’m an idealist.

Moving on to the “Bacon” in the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger. Another packaged/processed addition. Moving on to the “Cheese” in the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger. You guessed it: packaged again. But besides all this, let’s talk about piles. The Daiya and soy science meat was one thing. I understand that these things are ubiquitous. New vegetarians love that crap. They’ll learn, especially with By Chloe (who’s getting a second location), Pickle Shack, Superiority Burger around and a Modern Love coming to Brooklyn. But piles of wet, flavorless vegetables just don’t cut it. I was not able to even pick up the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger. It was loaded with a careless pile of bland, cooked mushrooms. They added no flavor, no texture–just weight and moisture. It wasn’t a decadent burger–I’ve had those and relished in their mess of deliciousness; this was just a sloppy mess. Holding its wet mass was kinda not worth taking a bite…. because it tasted like nothing. And, again, it was $14.

Am I obligated to skew a review to support a vegan business? Ethically: sometimes. Less so when we’re looking at 6 New York City locations and 3 packaged processed food in one burger. Someone’s got to be the heavy.


Blossom du Jour’s Skyscraper:
IMG_2107As suspected, The patty was the same at the cheaper Blossom counter spot, Blossom Du Jour, but there was something a bit more enjoyable about it. After a few bites, I realized it was the pickle/special sauce combination. That’s all it took. It’s amazing what a burst of brine can do to wake things up. Taste! The rest of the elements suffered from the same as the more expensive burger above–the patty, “bacon” and “cheese.” In summary, and for the service of all vegan burger purveyors out there) the first three cardinal sins of vegan burgers: 


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And there is no winner of match #5. We have a draw!

This means that the winner of Cafe Ghia & Cinnamon Snail‘s showdown automatically advances to the next round. Yes, all-vegan food truck Cinnamon Snail has been added to the Burger Brackets, replacing V-Spot. (V-Spot doesn’t actually have a burger on their menu. Der.) I’m also looking forward to a high brow Upper East Side showdown between Candle Cafe and V-Note, both with (phew) housemade patties. (I will be omitting the “cheese” on V-Note’s Seitan Quarter Pounder.)
Burger Battle_Battle5

For research design, click here.

And my trip to the West Village included a stop at Molly’s Cupcakes, a cupcake chain with standard vanilla/chocolate vegan cake/frosting options. I should have tried their chocolate cake since I tried this flavor combination already. But it’s my favorite. And they do it nostalgically well. The chocolate frosting, though visually poop-like (no filter tonight), it reminds me of the pleasantly grainy frosting from Isa that uses soy milk powder, which tastes like Duncan Hines. {I feel like I am describing this with Victoria Jackson’s voice as she tells Sheriff Harry Truman where she is transferring the phone call.}IMG_2123


When I started to like food a whole lot, Thai was one of my favorite cuisines.

Excuse this glistening picture, but Thai Crepe, sweet turnip in rice noodle, is one of my favorite Thai eats. But the appetizer is rarely on Thai menus! Back in my Brooklyn days, I used to head over to Erb Thai in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  They had it on their menu–and still do. I’ll have to get there again before they close and turn into a Duane Reade.zzzzZZ 2008

I took this picture with my Blackberry (ha!) in 2007 in Virginia somewhere. Thai-YA

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