I made an attempt at Vegetable Korma with a big batch of mango chutney on my day off. It took about half of that day off. I topped it with mulberries and cashews. It was a really good lunch, so flavorful, though it wasn’t that pretty. I used this recipe for the most part.img_4715Fall’s vegetables have been showing up in the market. Who can pass up a big bunch of purple cauliflower?? As I trimmed it into pieces, I nearly cut of my finger tip. !! The Electrician made me a bandage with electric tape, and then cleaned up all the blood.  Apparently my reaction to pain is to jump up and down, so blood was all about. Ew.picmonkey-collage2 After “Family Night” at my school, which created a 15 hour work day door-to-door, I treated myself with Van Leeuwen in Boerum Hill on my way to Atlantic Terminal. I got the cookie dough with vegan whip. It was such a yummy combo but a tad too salty. Like one grain of salt more than it needed. picmonkey-collage September is super busy for many reasons. Mostly going back to work and all that that entails, but also birthdays of my most favorite people and my parents’ anniversary. To the left, my Suzy Q naked cake for my parents’ 46th anniversary. On the right, vanilla on vanilla for The Electrician. picmonkey-collage3After a productive weekend morning, it was a trip to Bareburger for deep-fried Brussels sprouts, a vegan burger, and the amazing Cococado: Jawea coconut cream, shaved coconut, avocado, and lime. This is an innovative, refreshing and delicious drink. img_4681 img_4685 img_4686

Here we are. The long overdue conclusion of my first New York City Vegan Victuals Burger Battle! After 16 burgers, a champion has emerged. And it’s Brooklyn’s Toad Style! With a commitment to housemade excellence, Toad Style sets a high standard for all those who hope to create a top-notch vegan burger.

In a long battle that had two great burger options going out of business, the vegan burger field in New York City is ever-evolving. Check the brand new Burger Brackets at the end of this post to see who will be battling next. I can’t wait for the current champion Toad Style to battle Round 2’s champion. But, I get ahead of myself. Let’s see how Toad Style beat out Brooklyn’s Chickpea & Olive to be named the 2015 champion… a little late. burger-battle_battle13

I was happy that Chickpea & Olive opened in Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, available 7 days a week! I work a few blocks away and treated myself for a week of classroom set-up with a visit. After all, the burger is one of those $12 burgers. That’s a bit of a tall price considering they are not a brick ‘n mortar paying rent in the big city and there is nothing on the side. img_4609

Chickpea & Olive’s beet burger is a great base. The ground beet makes it hearty but moist. But a burger is a package. And Chickpea’s downfall was the fixings. The thickly cut eggplant was not at all “bacon”-like. And the charred patty already brought a bit of smokiness. So the eggplant really didn’t offer anything new by way of flavor or texture. I often rant about Daiya, which I omitted, being part of menus, especially in regard to fresh food values and price value. In this age of sky-rocketing vegan standards, Daiya is just not going to cut it anymore. Finally, the bun: perfect. It’s soft, supple, and toasted to perfection. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. img_4613

Part of this battle’s considerations is consistency. Chickpea & Olive’s delicious beet patty has never let me down. I hope that a housemade cheese option will one day knock out the need for the packaged vegan cheese. img_4615

Then there was one more burger to eat. A door bust to Toad Style would deliver the last burger in Round 1. From the moment I set it in front of me, I knew.

It was beautiful. So many colors, so many textures–from top to bottom this burger is a champion. Starting at the top… though I have called for a softer bun, I know that this bun is far less processed, likely made near-by, and aligned with their food values, which are high. The same values that raise the rest of the burger’s components to excellence. The bun, though not my favorite (I loved the potato buns of now-defunct Pickle Shack and M.O.B. the best) is far less important than what’s in it: snappy pickles and onion, creamy oozing almond cheese, a flavorful patty that’s made from scratch, a big ol’ heirloom tomato, ketchup & mayo. Attention to detail, taste, texture, no packages, housemade, what else can I praise? img_4699

All together, the cheeseburger knocks out all other burger competitors with a kung fu chop, toad style. img_4703

Toad Style, who only recently celebrated their year birthday, has been consistently delicious at each of my 4 visits. Service is always with a smile, which counts. And they just know how to make great vegan food. Their inventive specials complement their regular menu of sammies and sides. Now that I have completed this battle, I want to try more than their cheeseburger! Like the breakfast sandwich that CP feasted on in the background.
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And that is that. Champions: Toad Style. Congratulations!!vvburgerchampion

 

 

 

So many burgers, so little time. The burger brackets for Round 2 are already up! This battle combines under-the-radar vegan options, old standards, new fast food spots, recommendations, elusive pop-up/trucks. And I threw in Modern Love Brooklyn in the likely case that they have a burger. I am looking forward to more battles!
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September 11, 2001 seems like much more than 15 years ago to me, though, since then, I have had a disquieting dread pushed down deep somewhere. It’s a suspension of reason and logic that, 15 years later, still has no place to go in my brain. But sadly, more of this kind of confusion has stored away since 9/11/01. The horrific acts of violence here and abroad congregate, mingle and support a scary notion that evil and hate are proportionate to the world’s wonder. Though far more safe and lucky than others in other parts of the world, this undercurrent of dread, for me, began on September 11, 2001.2001-182

Early that morning at my desk at my job as a secretary at a manufacturer of electrical wiring equipment in Queens, New York, I chirped snidely, “Didn’t they see?!!” after a co-worker walked over to announce that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. If you gave me multiple opportunities to guess how something like this could happen, I would have never guessed “terrorist attack.” Today, it would be the first guess. 2001-193

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We all stood in the conference room, watching the screen in the corner of the the room. Our wild eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Then we watched the Tower crumble to the ground. I remember my heart drop, a feeling that before had only been achieved with scary roller coaster rides. They sent us all home. I tried to give blood. I watched the news footage, like the Hindenburg but on a loop and on purpose. Thousands of lives in my beloved city were taken, the city that held the salvation of my angry youth. New York, my friend, in such pain.2001-189

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The images I will never forget–before the news outlets understood what they were doing. Home. Attacked? This was brand new and nobody knew what to do.

As days passed, I went there, as many did. To see, because there wasn’t anything else we could do and we wanted to do something. Bright and still smoking, the sky that once held them cast light through the narrow streets of downtown. Firemen and police officers were applauded as they walked through debris-strewn streets. Children poured lemonade for passers-by. Clusters of heartbreaking homemade missing persons flyers plastered Grand Central Station. Flowers and memorials everywhere. A palpable collective sadness.2001-185
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At a small gallery in the Village weeks later, staring at an enlarged photograph of a jumper, I turned away with tears streaming down my face and I pushed it all down inside somewhere. And as a simple onlooker, a fortunate one with no personal connection to any victim, I tried to move on. To know that millions felt as I did and thousands felt much, much deeper pain, was not doing me any good.2001-192

I was a dumb 20-something at the time of September 11, 2001, still mingling the fog of self-centered adolescence. But being dumb is developmentally appropriate in your 20’s. As a part-child, my world was still small. And I remember the small details. Being waved through the George Washington Bridge crossing as frantic New Yorkers fled the next morning. The look of their faces in their cars. The no-questions-asked complete refunds on a cancelled flight and concert tickers to see Belle & Sebastian in Seattle. The American flag behind Built to Spill at Irving Plaza, September 22, 2001. The American flags everywhere. It was a time when even jaded, dissenting youth, like myself, felt patriotism.
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I have passed through downtown Manhattan only a handful of times since the time I took these pictures in 2001. Though the memorial pool looks beautiful, I don’t know that I can ever visit. During the construction I wound up there one day with new New Yorkers. It was 2007 or so. A detailed timeline of the day’s events was posted on the construction scaffolding. Amidst the swarms of tourists snapping pictures of the sacred place, I couldn’t read it. I couldn’t stay.
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Onward, I would watch the spaces I knew once held memorials wear away. Watch the American flags lessen. I would teach the children of New York City who, every year, grew more distant from the event. I would witness how the disquieting dread (and perhaps technology and other means of desensitization) has significantly impacted the abilities of the groups of children I get to know deeply every year. Living in Brooklyn from 2004 to 2013, I would look for the blue lights every year. I would listen as the news venues broadcast the anniversary ceremony with hushed, poignant commentary. But the truth is that 9/11, and other current violent massacres, created an environment where these ceremonies feel too familiar. And we too soon return to our lives’ distractions.
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The start of a new school year is a taxing time. From freedom to strenuous furniture moving, room design and set-up, to planning units of study.. then the delivery, and all teaching entails. No one day alike, ever-changing variables and constant stimulation. And with the schedule change, I finally was able to catch the night-blooming moon flower. How beautiful a thing, flowers called to bloom by the moon!IMG_4384

An old friend an I took a visit to the all-vegan 3 Brothers in Copaigue. Though my last visit’s jaw-droppingly poor service scared me from ever returning (I still swear it we were on a candid camera show!), months and old friends are very convincing. We started with some appetizers, the Spanakopita and the Fried Mac N Cheese balls. Both were yummy, as fried food often is, the Spanakopita especially.IMG_4475

Glistening, oily bites. IMG_4476

We decided on two sandwiches with the intent to halve both of them. I got the Grilled Eggplant Panini because I didn’t want anything too processed. I wanted delicious, respected vegetables. But they are kind of incidental on this menu, which is more carb and cheese-heavy–Italian. Overall, it needed a bit more flavor, especially in its simplicity. IMG_4477

My friend got the BBQ jackfruit panini with cashew milk cheddar and purple cabbage slaw. Again, a tad underwhelming. The entire meal was just a reheating of components. The prices are high… so my expectations are the same. Though a lot of the menu still uses the dreaded Daiya, I do appreciate the housemade nut cheeses. But they need more bite as they are solely textural components. IMG_4479

Dessert: German chocolate cake from Vegan Treats BakeryIMG_4483

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Baseball teams are suring up play-off spots. Or fighting for Wild Card status. And I am enjoying a vegan hot dog with all the fixings. There are a few other vegan options I hope to report on at Citi Field… I intended to this go around but the fixings bar is quite the allure. IMG_4303

A beautiful sunset over the ball park. Do you know that a colorful sunset can be attributed to light beams diffusing near the Rockies. So when light travels the long path towards our Appalachians the deep blue hues fill the west’s afternoon, leaving the east the reds.
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Summer chili?! Well when you need a bunch of cans for a back to school project, you make chili. What else could I have done? Cooling tofu sour cream and avocado help cool it down. And I put kale in there too. There’s always room for wilted kale!IMG_4326

More can projects… but this time I use the aquafaba! Floral Frosting is my new favorite vegan macaron recipe source. Charis makes gorgeous macarons and shares all her recipes. And most importantly, I’ve had success with her recipe. That is, my macarons have grown feet! I think on my second go around I would have even better results. IMG_4355

Another way this relates to summer fading fast, I will soon have no excess of time to devote to hours-long recipes such as these. IMG_4360

Toast Coffeehouse is a bustling breakfast house on Patchogue’s main strip. Like many in-touch eateries, they get that a vegan option is easy enough to throw together. The dish on the rise at omni establishments all about the country seems to be the Tofu Scramble. I have a growing list of eateries on my radar that offer it. And on Long Island too! Toast has a flavorful tofu scramble though the cubed tofu could use some marination. Big points for the fresh spinach and very delicious potatoes. PicMonkey Collage2

Next, some sweet treats. Little Nook Cafe is a kooky lil’ coffeeshop with a limited menu, included vegan pizza options of the Daiya kind. They also have a separate bakery case with that is all-vegan. Inside, treats from Vegan Treats, Long Island’s Pride Enjoy, as well as Betsy Bakes, a local gluten-free & vegan baker with no website. Or no website I could locate, at least.IMG_4206

Betsy Bakes! makes a yummy gluten-free, vegan cupcake! Far better than most I’ve had on Long Island. It was moist and chocolate-y. The kind that sticks to your fingers like a Devil Dog. Don’t you just love that? I also got her chocolate chip and potato chip cookie. I’ll report on that after I try it–great combination!PicMonkey Collage

I contributed to Pride Enjoy’s kickstarter a while back and I am happy to see them being distributed locally! I also saw them recently at Wild By Nature. I’m a sucker for rainbow cookies. And Pride Enjoy does them right.IMG_4214

More on Patchogue, see Queen City Cupcakes.

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My first sunflower!IMG_4158

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Passion Flour Patisserie is an all-vegan French pastry shop in Salt Lake City, Utah. I arrived when brunch was still being served so I had to partake in both sweet and savory. 

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There was plenty of pretty, delicate options that I fancied, including French macarons. IMG_4080

But it was their croissant that had me at first glance. Croissants at vegan eateries are often not croissants at all. They take a croissant shape and appearance but they are not layered, flakey, buttery, etc. These are real croissants. Finally. The best I ever had.IMG_4079

My choice, as always, would be the Benedict. But I substituted the English muffin with one of their croissants. Delicious. But the packaged Canadian bacon was really not necessary–the tofu was flavorful enough on its own! This was a great Hollandaise. I wanted to lick my plate!IMG_4084

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Driving from Salt Lake City into the red rock area is a spectacular display of towering rock formations. Though there is quite enough of a show without having to even enter one of the 3 national parks in the area, I did enter Capitol Reef National Park close to sunset, a bit of a foolish choice but my choice nonetheless.

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Outside of the park, the sun was already saying Bye Bye. I drove swiftly in hopes of catching the sunset.DSC_0004

But I kept stopping to take pictures of the rock formations along the way.DSC_0012

Finally in the park, I started a hike but thought better of it after a half a mile. I wasn’t prepared for a night hike.
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But I managed some nice views in that half mile.DSC_0021

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Eventually, I managed a few glimpses of the sun setting in the west. DSC_0037

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After a few pretty harsh hours of mountain driving, True Food Kitchen would be a fine lunch destination with friends in Denver. Turns out the restaurant chain is co-founded by health guru Andrew Weil. There are some truly transformative chains that are spreading into enlightened urban centers. And speaking of, we realized as we searched for an eatery that there was a Native Foods in Denver. Anyway, a menu with vegan options clearly labeled is always easy breezy. True Food Kitchen had plenty to choose from, and like the name implies, no packaged shortcuts.

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A yummy appetizer of heirloom tomato and cashew cheese bruschetta. It’s amazing how simple can be so good. A few green herbs, a creamy blended cashew spread, and let you let those heirloom tomatoes shine.  IMG_4117

My choice after a day barely any nutrients—a bowl of scrumptious plant-based eats: miso-glazed sweet potato, charred onion, grilled portobello, avocado, hemp seed with a mix  of super grains. Just what the doctor ordered!  This is how I want to eat all the time: balanced, fresh, flavorful, and textures.IMG_4119

Back on Colfax in downtown Denver, Voodoo Doughnuts, which is now also in Austin and Taiwan (!) A quick morning trip to Denver’s location, open 24 hours, would be in order. IMG_4127

It seemed that the doughnuts are smaller than Portland’s, although maybe this is a change across the board for Voodoo? The vegan selection was on the bottom of the rotating display.IMG_4130 Voodoo swag.PicMonkey Collage Ready to go home now!IMG_4134

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