Do this experiment. Start peeling an orange, put your nose in the path of the rind’s mist, peel a packet loose and place it in your mouth, but do not chew… Your salivary glands dumped buckets out into your mouth whether or not you thought you wanted an orange.

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Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Street.

There is chemistry behind a craving. The body, as an entity, knows what it needs. And it knows what it wants. So I don’t question wanting Dim Sum in Manhattan’s Chinatown on a muggy, hot Sunday. There must be a reason why.

I know that somewhere in those little plates of starchy, salty bites, something is getting appeasing. Just as I know, afterwards, that the crossing into excess is a quick one.  IMG_6739

And then there is the allure of opportunity by proximity.

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Lunch dessert at Babycakes on the Lower East Side, or what now seems to be called Erin McKenna Bakery.

And what’s in a name. “Eclair?” CP said not really.  IMG_6738

In other delights, the dandelion seed heads are in full effect in the backyard. IMG_6655_2

And I was disappointed to learn that I had no idea that the Irises were up. IMG_6668

Slow down, Spring.

Things that still me remind me of my childhood on Long Island: the smell of hose water, the crack of a skateboard; and a hot, cardboard pizza box on my lap on the drive home. PicMonkey Collage

ZA in Seaford used to be Long Island Vegetarian Eatery a few years back (see my review here). Keeping in the tradition of its short-lived former digs, ZA offers vegan options. Probably because it’s owner, who also owns the neighboring bar The Leaky Lifeboat, a skate rat kid turned entrepreneur I used to hang out with in that aforementioned youth, is vegan. ZA has a couple of locations. I assumed that only this location had the vegan options, and not the Rockville Centre one–a far less frustrating drive on the atrocious Merrick road. But that’s not the case. The RVC location also offers the vegan pizza options, including a vegan Sicilian pie and fake meat rolls, offered in Seaford. But maybe with less beardo?  …

I got a Seitan Chicken Parm Roll, “light on the Daiya.” I don’t have these kind of cravings often, but it seemed appropriate after the week I had.  It did the trick, though I’m not sure what the trick was.

You come upon things… in the best way: naturally, without looking. You’re going about your day… and there it is. Something new for you. It’s special because it found you. No google searching. Just life’s natural search results delivered to your path. [pause for a moment of awed appreciation] Sometimes, it’s something to eat. PicMonkey Collage2

In this case, Grace Street, a modern Korean coffee shop tucked into Koreatown in Manhattan. They have Ho-dduk, a Korean donut pocket of doughy fried deliciousness packed with a warm brown sugar ooze, that is “accidentally” vegan. IMG_6527

The caution printed on its paper casing is verifiable true–contents are very hot. The liquid brown sugar pours out from its pillowing soft home and can scald you unsuspecting thumb. Then you have to suck your thumb. IMG_6531

Then there are hunches. You get a feeling about something. And more alluring then knowing for sure is the hunt for affirmation. As in the case of Glady’s in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, a gentrified take on Caribbean eats. It offers clearly labeled vegan options and a housemade jerk seitan. But first, a Dark ‘n Slushy, their take on a Dark & Stormy… Gosling’s black rum, ginger and lime–slushy-style with a supersized straw. The perfect drink, I decided.
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We ordered most of the vegan options on the menu: their jerk seitan, plantains, festivals (fried Jamaican dough), pickled pineapple, bok choy, and their spicy slaw.IMG_6548

It was quite the spread. Each component was tasty but was missing something without a sauce and/or a garnish. IMG_6542

Delightfully, we were presented with samplings of their coconut ice cream along with the bill. IMG_6547

And a quick subway ride to the train home to catch the light show. IMG_6551

IMG_6423The second to last row in Citi Field is first row for the sunset viewing.

PicMonkey Collage2First course munchies: A slice of V for Vegan from Two Boots‘s stand.

IMG_6327Though I’m not a fan of the Daiya fake cheese, it’s a rule you get to splurge at the ballpark. Especially when your team is losing.

PicMonkey CollageSecond course: a veggie dog at Nathans. My usual go-to. Let’s go Mets!

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IMG_6268Frosty morning tulips in the backyard

IMG_6286Later, sun-funned tulips in the afternoon

IMG_6452The bulbs I planted in my parents’ backyard in September, all grown up

IMG_6459Our lips are sealed.

IMG_6464Spring means figs, one of my top 5 favorite fruits.

IMG_6444Simpler Spring lunch: smashed avocado toast with this jimmy-rigged Hollandaise-ish sauce I concocted. It was a bit too thick but yummy.

IMG_6216Though The Electrician grills in the snow, I am more apt to want things grilled in the sun. Here is some tofu, the other white meat, marinated and grilled whole.

 

After spying El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette‘s yum on a friend’s Instagram, I texted my food compatriot CandyPenny immediately. A menu like this does not turn into a back burner bookmark. So a semi-spontaneous afterwork trip to Manhattan’s Lower East Side trumped the age-appropriate desire to head home to relax on a Friday night. As it turns out, this place is all abuzz, written up in Bon Appetit, New YorkerNew York Magazine, and the New York Timesquintessential New York culture vultures. But now El Rey gets the Vegan Victuals spotlight.

Dinner service starts at 6pm, so beer was the first course. Head Chef Gerardo Gonzalez gave us the scoop and some complimentary plantain chips. Eager and hungry, I thought they were deserving of a picture, especially with the backdrop of bustling Stanton street. IMG_6242

Then, as a steady stream of people began filling up the space, it was dinner time. We ordered everything vegan on the menu, save for the kale salad. Sorry, kale salad. Here are El Rey‘s Vegan Chicharrónes Locos, i.e. vegan pork rinds (!), with shaved veggies, hot sauce, cashew crema, and chamoy sauce, topped with heaven sprinkles (nutritional yeast, salt, red stuff), peanuts and crimson-veined micro-greens. Bright, beautiful and delicious. The chamoy sauce, a sweet, pickled concoction, was my favorite part. IMG_6244

But El Rey’s magic didn’t stop there. Next: Papas Bravas: thinly sliced pickled pineapple atop hot sauce, scallions, and cashew crema disguised blue and white potatoes. The tender full-sized potatoes balanced El Rey’s spicy red sauce, the crema cooled, while the pickled pineapple made it all pop. El Rey surely hits each part of the tongue. IMG_6246

Up last, because it was fresh-made and baking, was the Roasted Garlic Focaccia. Perfection.
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Needing a sweet bite, we headed next to Little Cupcake Bakeshop on Prince street. The shop was packed with people and the showcases, with a ton of pretty real looking cupcakes. But only one vegan option, so the choice was an easy one. The gluten free Spicy Hot Chocolate cupcake.
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It was a good cupcake. The cake was a bit crumblesome as gluten free, vegan goods tend to be. The frosting was a delight, though I would have preferred straight up vanilla as the spices grittied up the creamy texture. Hope they experiment with other vegan flavors.
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Nestled across the looming Smith-9th Street station, Kimchi Grill is an easy stagger from any democratically-elected happy hour haven proximal to my job in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. And they have clearly labelled vegan options of their Korean-Mexican fusion. I sampled all three of their veganized tacos–Pomegranate and Roasted Veggies Taco: seasonal roasted vegetables (Korean squash, corn, spinach and spicy pickled pomegranete); Tofu Edamame Falafel Taco: Tofu, a dryish edamame and chickpea patty with kimchi-infused refried beans, cucumber kimchi, pickled daikon and pico de gallo; and the Kimchi Guac: red vegan kimchi infused guacamole with pico de gallo, cucumber kimchi and multi-grain rice topped with green onion. I managed to snap this pic with my unsteady hand before devouring all.

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We also got kimchi fries, though not as enjoyable. The kimchi weighed down the fries, softening them to a mushy texture. IMG_6148

If you can stomach the blasting profane beats in the dark, dirty, cramped, tagged up teenage bedroom vibe, the vegan option at Taiwanese-Chinese fusion of BaoHaus, on 14th Street in Manhattan, hits all necessary taste notes. The Uncle Jesse Bao has house-seasoned crispy fried tofu, crushed peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar, cilantro, and Haus Sauce. Sweet, salty, and crunchy inside a soft, delicate, stark-white bun. Sublime. Every bite. Try their homemade soy milk, too…. if they have any left.IMG_6231

 

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Imagine being the first
to discover an orange
accidentally
piercing a thick, dull rind
inventing a word to describe
the burst
a word to name
the stickiness on your palms
the stray rind in your teeth
that tickles your tongue.

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Imagine the peachfuzz of a berry
as a full-grown beard
the blackberry’s stain
in your skin’s grooves
identifying tainting touch
Imagine the corner of your mouth
with guilty pieces of tart, purple skin.
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And if mango were the flesh of
some yellow, friendly pest
who holds the sun, the sugar, and love
inside its dermal tissues
and so passes them onward
by this the most intimate absorption
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When I lived in Brooklyn, I had better access to vegan food options. Living on Long Island, I make my food more often. This is a good thing. But on occasion I’ll hunt down food leads, determinedly, like I would if I was staying for just a day. I like the hunt–and more so on Long Island than in the New York City area, because it happens via car.

Here’s what I found: First, Bellmore’s Lil Left Coast, lil sister to Merrick’s Left Coast Kitchen. They have interesting eats with a few vegan options. I got the spicy roasted eggplant & tofu banh mi mostly because I would love to have a place near home to get the sandwich perfection that is a banh mi. Unfortunately, this didn’t really make the cut. But I ate it all up. Proof that bread is the staff of life–that my mom might have been onto something when she wrapped two slices of bread with nothing in between for my 3rd grade lunch that one time. That or she knew I was a budding vegan. Or it might have been that whole working nights thing. Either way, I will have to return to the Lil Left Coast to try some of their other veg options.PicMonkey Collage

Hicksville is Long Island’s Little India.  I love hitting up Hicksville’s huge Indian grocers to stock up on pantry items that seem to be triple the price elsewhere (seasonings, unique rice, coconut oil, flax) and experiment with their selection of imported produce.  Then, there is the awesome selection of authentic Indian cuisine. A Yelp search for Indian restaurants in the 7 square miles of Hicksville brings up 63 eateries. (!!)  Lucky for me, many are exclusively vegetarian and are very clear about vegan options. My sister and I visited the all-vegetarian Rajbhog Cafe, a counter spot with an exclusively vegan menu, for some lunchtime sustenance. PicMonkey Collage

I got the lunch platter, a sampling of all their vegan selections of the day along with paratha, a deliciously oily flatbread. What is so satisfying about eating these small but varied portions (eating ayurvedically) is that it fulfills all emotional and physical requirements of food–hitting sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Well ok, my dish was missing the sweet.  Ayurvedic eats means balanced doshas, a personal inherit mind/body principle. Hey baby, what’s your dosha? I took the dosha quiz (teehee) and learned I was Pitta. I’m reading about this stuff because I am hoping to visit India next year to celebrate two decades of being vegan. I mean, it is the birthplace of vegetarianism.

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Feeling the urge to cruise, I knocked the very non-Ayurvedic Queen City Cupcakes off my list. Queen City is not a bakery, per se. It’s like a cupcake depot. They get cupcakes from bakeries and house them in a pretty shop and showcase. They get a few standard vegan cupcakes from somewhere. The vegan flavors never seem to be as interesting as the rest of the cupcakes. I got the lone vegan vanilla cupcake and ate in the car impatiently, sloppily like an opportunistic, fumbly tryst. Alas, I was not fulfilled by this tryst. The cake seemed frozen for an indefinite period of time and then thawed. The mile high frosting, however, had a different melting point and remained rock hard and wax-like. Gosh, I’m hard to please. No, not really.PicMonkey Collage2

It is such a delight to see winter’s umber turning a bice green. These happy daffodils in the backyard share my wide-eyed enthusiasm for the expanse of blue above. They seem like an assembladge excitedly whispering encouraging words to each other in the shifts of the wind. And it may be evident that I am currently writing a poetry unit for my 5th graders.IMG_6049

And finally–Three words: Frank Sobatka selfie. IMG_6028

Although there are plenty of vegan ravioli options abound, most of the fillings are vegetable or tofu-based “ricotta.” In fact, in my almost 20 years of being an informed vegan, I have never seen vegan “meat” ravioli–either on a restaurant’s menu or at the store.

That’s not to say the vegan ravioli options available are not varied. Rising Moon, my go-to frozen ravioli available at my local Wild by Nature, has three satisfying certified vegan flavors: Spinach Florentine, Butternut Squash, Garlic & Roasted VeggiesSoyboy, also frozen and which I like less than Rising Moon though I like their plumpness, has tofu filled ravioli in either tomato pasta, spinach pasta, or durum pasta. New to the scene, Maryland-based La Pasta has expanded their pasta line into the vegan market with Artichoke & Spinach, Vegan Cheese (with a blend of vegan ricotta and mozzarella) with or without spinach, and Mushroom varieties. [I’ve yet to try them. Check out this review from the Veracious Vegan for the scoop!] And closet to “meat” ravioli, I suppose, is La Bella Pasta in Kingston, New York. They have a Chic Pea ravioli that I’ll have to drive upstate for soon. See–plenty of options! But, again, mostly vegetable or tofu-based. High-end Manhattan vegan eatery Candle 79 even makes a frozen tofu spinach ravioli meal.

For taste and nostalgic reasons, I need a meaty vegan ravioli to eat with Victoria Vegan‘s sauces. And I elect Field Roast, who has been expanding its market greatly these days… with its amazing Chao cheese line, breakfast links, hand-formed burger patties joining its wheat meat family of products. Why not get that good stuff inside some ravioli. Let me show you how:

Start with Field Roast Italian Sausage Links.IMG_5945Boil them and then throw them into a food processor, adding a little bit of olive oil and nutritional yeast.

Make vegan pasta dough. 1:1 cup ratio of semolina flour to all purpose flour, salt, water, and olive oil. Voila!IMG_5951

Spread the dough on a floured surface and thoughtfully dole half a teaspoon of the meaty stuff, attending to spacial requirements for folding dough… or spread another layer of dough to place on top.IMG_5959

Seal the ravioli pressing dough together, then use a fork to seal the deal.IMG_5963

Boil them. They barely need two minutes in rapidly boiling water.IMG_5965

Eat some vegan meat ravioli, finally.IMG_5969