In my quest of reporting vegan eats near and far, I have grown quite adept at planning trips with maximum “umph.” To follow, my most recent excursion to Philadelphia by way of the Jersey Shore, two destinations with thriving vegan options. In the interest of my hazy Sunday head, I am going to practice the skill I’ll soon ask my students next week, precision in language. PicMonkey Collage4Twisted Tree is a cafe on Cookman Ave in the Jersey Shore’s Asbury Park. Besides having simple vegan lunch options, they’ve got a mostly vegan bakery. I got a slice of their carrot cake.  It had so many nuts and raisins, I kind of missed the “cake” part. The soft cream cheese icing was delightfully airy. Coffee, service and the variety of vegan baked goods makes it a great spot to pick up a goody or two on the way to the beach.

PicMonkey Collage5I was very excited to visit Silverball Museum, a arcade / pinball museum that offers sundrunk boardwalkers relief from the blazing sun. And the best part, you get unlimited play for the duration of your stay! Admission fees depend on how much time you want. I spent more of my time taking pictures of the nostalgic graphics of the machines than I did playing. I highly recommend stopping here if you’re in Asbury Park.

IMG_1304Unlimited Skee Ball, too!

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IMG_1246They have some great pinball machines, including this Guns N’ Roses one. But I was much more into the vintage ones.

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Since we were parked right in front of Mogo, home of a delicious Korean fusion tofu taco, we stopped in for a bite. The flavor-packed taco had chunks of sturdy fried tofu that truly stood up to its toppings, which consisted of assorted pickled delights. They even had a Kimchee Bar so you can dress your taco with even more flavor. My mouth is watering thinking of this taco. After I ate it in like 3 messy bites, I got two refills of shredded daikon. Love that cool heat!PicMonkey Collage7

I mentioned Cookman Creamery in my previous post on the Jersey Shore. I was disappointed to have missed homemade vegan soft serve with homemade vegan whipped cream. Yes, I said homemade. In fact, everything thing in Cookman Creamery is made from scratch by an amazing Mom and daughter pair! This is the kind of business that I love discovering. High standards, made with love, and free of packaging.  PicMonkey Collage8All of Cookman’s flavors are tasted by the discerning decades-dairy-free Mom. She clearly knows a thing or two about really good dairy-free ice cream. And she is not afraid to say is loud and proud: the V-word is everywhere in Cookman! (Although we chuckled about an older woman who pronounced it “v-egg-in” and my Dad’s rendition: “vay-gun.”) Did I mention that they not only have hard coconut-based vegan ice cream with unique flavors (like “Ugly Avocado”), but they have vegan ice cream pies, vegan ice cream pops, vegan “flying saucer”-esque treats, milk shakes, etc etc etc.

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I had to get their Banana split. These are my supporting reasons. 1) I always get the banana split if it’s available. It’s tradition! 2) I can try three flavors of ice cream (I got soft serve vanilla, soft serve chocolate, and hard Ugly Avocado). 3) They had a variety of vegan toppings like homemade chocolate, caramel and strawberry sauces, vegan marshmallow sauce, and homemade vegan whipped cream (the best I’ve tasted). and 4) Being away from my home base, I always choose excess. DSC_0062

What a treat! Cookman’s is the real deal. Truly.
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You know how John Turturro’s character in Box of Moonlight is searching for childhood haunt Splatchee Lake? That is how Morey’s Piers at Wildwood is for me in a way. My family and I used to go to the Jersey Shore when I was a kid and I never forgot this place. It is the Swing Ride that swoops over the boardwalk towards the ocean that I never forgot. (And a Fun House that is no longer there.) So I rode it again. This time not crying. DSC_0078

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On the way out of Wildwood, we hit The Wild Burrito for a sampling of their vegan options. The Wild Burrito isn’t scared to use the v-bomb on their menu, which is so helpful. They make their own seitan, which is also something that a vegan can feel good about supporting. And they have tortilla and plantain crusted fried avocado fries. Bam!
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The avocado fries were the star of our visit, as was the service. The fries were not the greatest value, over $5 for five fries, and they needed some seasoning… but there isn’t much that creamy avocado can’t fix. DSC_0113

Finally, to Philly. Along with many road closure due to a White Linen Party/restaurant pop-up. We made it to Charlie was a sinner, a vegan “speakeasy” in the heart of Philadelphia’s theater district, for a bite of dessert and some ambiance. The bar and eatery, opened by Hip City Veg‘s people, is dark and filled with pretty people. They’ve got a cool name and posh design. But I don’t need that stage show, I just want the food. PicMonkey Collage2I had Charlie’s Chocolate Cake, which was more a fudge brownie in crumbles, topped with strawberry sorbet, cocoa nib, and salted caramel. Like the morning carrot cake, I missed the cake! But the crumbles were rich and decadent. I’ll have to return for a bite of their creative savory dishes.

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And finally, cheese steaks for the road. Because I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. We headed to Blackbird Pizzeria for their delicious vegan seitan cheese steak. The best vegan Philly cheese steak in the city of Brotherly Love. No use going anywhere else. Except a stop for non-vegan cheese steaks for the men in our lives.  PicMonkey Collage3

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With plenty of banana cashew cream leftover from my raw stint, I spooned it into some chocolate cupcakes I made for a friend’s dinner party. IMG_1072

Then I got fancy with the garnish. As I was already late jumping in the shower, I ran with it: toasting coconut (because I subbed canola for coconut oil in the batter) and sauteed banana slices then candied cashews (this was an amazing component!) to hint to that banana-cashew cream in the cupcake’s tummy. IMG_1077

And as if I wasn’t late enough, I had a photoshoot. IMG_1079

My reward, a special zucchini with quite the girth. Check the baby carrot for scale!IMG_1082

After a particularly gluttonous summer so far, I needed to take it down a few notches with a grain-free cleanse–2 days of raw food and juice. I also wanted to take this opportunity to try out some products that I’ve had on my radar in the grocery store, as a new year of work calls for hearty and healthful sustenance.  Here is everything I ate today.PicMonkey Collage
My Raw Cleanse, Day 1 (left to right):

Raw Revolution Spirulina Dream bar

tsp. organic apple cider vinegar

blk. mineral water

Organic green seedless grapes

Organic Bartlett pear

Organic raw cocoa goji bar

Brad’s Raw Chips: Cheddar with organic kale and raw pepitas hummus

Health-Ade raw kombucha

Organic banana pie (see below)

BluePrint Beet, Apple, Carrot, Lemon, Ginger juice

Organic Mission figs

tsp. organic apple cider vinegar

DSC_0022With my high-speed blender revved up, I made a raw kale hummus and a banana dessert to appease my appetite. The crust of the organic banana pie: raw cashew, an organic raw cocoa goji bar, and organic coconut oil. The banana filling: 2 organic bananas (speckled), raw cashews and agave nectar (The agave nectar was the only non-raw ingredient I ate today.)

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I also made the raw kale and pepitas hummus. Day 1, in the bag. I feel great but am craving the pretzel sticks in the pantry a great deal.

The reach of vegan keeps extending… and I am thankful for these opportunities of discovery and… sustenance. My latest discovery, Goldie’s in Asbury Park, is an all-vegan and all-respectful-of-food eatery on the renovated Cookman Avenue in downtown in the Jersey Shore destination of Asbury Park. Let’s look at the highlights from their menu.PicMonkey Collage

Along with a potent mojito, our appetites were wet with an order of their Yucca Fries. They were perfect. I’ve never experienced the characteristically fibrous and starchy yucca have this smooth and creamy texture. Served with a delicious cashew cream that coated these deep-fried but not at all greasy delights wonderfully. At appetizer, the place had already earned its keep. IMG_0962

My friend ordered the Chilaquiles, layers of corn tortillas layered with chiles, onion, tomato and the D-word with a grilled wild scallion salsa. I forgive the Daiya inclusion in this meal as it’s almost garnish-like, not the base of the entire dish. IMG_0963

Another friend’s dish, the Chimichanga–an encased tofu scramble, salsa roja, iceberg lettuce, cashew fraîche with lime. Devoured before I can sneak a bit. He was a satisfied customer.IMG_0965

CP and I got smart when it came to ordering, splitting two dishes–one sweet and one savory. Here is the savory, the Cristofo, torta de tofu milanesa: a perfect patty of breaded and fried tofu, black bean purée, avocado, tomato, greens, green chile salsa on ciabatta. Half the sandwich fully satisfied my texture variety requirement and those savory taste buds. I was ready for part II, the sweet brunch option.IMG_0968

The Juan-y Cakes were mini cornmeal cakes topped with rich dark chocolate chunks, chile powder and a heavy dose of maple syrup. I expected a grittier cornmeal but this was a smooth blend of flours which appealed to that texture variety requirement I mentioned before. And half the stack and half the sandwich had me fully sustained. Hats off to Goldie’s, an amazing all-vegan eatery with all the right elements.IMG_0969

Right next door, friends noticed the V-bomb on this sign on the chalkboard for Confections of a Rockstar, a cupcakery with star roots and a vegan option. On the day of our visit it was the Oreo Speedwagon that was for us vegans.PicMonkey Collage2

The cupcake was delicious, with a moist chocolate cake with great flavor and a slightly tangy frosting with spectacular texture, but it was… $5. What?!!!!IMG_0977

Time for the boardwalk and beach. I love the Jersey Shore vibe on the boardwalk. Asbury Park’s boardwalk had more sophisticated food options than Seaside Heights or Ocean City (see posts here and here.) Though things change so quickly in the world of vegan options!IMG_1034IMG_1005

It seemed that every ice cream spot had something for vegans. Day’s Ice Cream had soy options. Cookman’s Creamery (not visited unfortunately) has vegan soft serve options and vegan whipped cream, aiyyyyyee. Next time… IMG_0980

And Eddie Confetti‘s boardwalk ice cream spot had a selection of four vegan, coconut-based hard ice creams. We stopped in for a frozen treat on the way back to the car…IMG_1024

I got the vegan cookie dough on a wafer cone. Very satisfying on a scorcher of a day, on an awesome trip to the Jersey Shore. Thanks, New Jersey. I’ll be back soon!IMG_1029

Where New Jersey meets Pennsylvania, the Delaware river also meets the Appalachian mountains. The result: the Delaware Water Gap, a recreational area that draws nature enthusiasts, hikers of the Appalachian Trail… and a couple of gals hoping for an inspired  vegan food option. In the little town that boasts the Delaware Water Gap is a little gem, one of those restaurants you feel so happy in discovering. An eatery that shows you how embraced “vegan” is now. An eatery doing things the right way–making food from scratch. Or I should say making thoughtful, unique and delicious food from scratch. Zen Fusion is a Haitian and Asian fusion restaurant with clearly marked Vegan options, stellar service, and, again, thoughtful, unique, and delicious food. PicMonkey Collage

We got the prix fixe, vegan-style. Starting first with the Haitian Fritay, vegetable fritters made from a soft and delicate corn flour batter in fried plantain “bowls,” yucca fries in fried plantain bowls, and a slaw. All of these components were scrumptious.DSC_0018

Next was a sort of vegetable stew, the Vegan Pastelon. Braised vegetables topped with delectable sweet plantains. It was very good but more for a winter’s day. Winter’s day in Haiti? DSC_0020

A closer look:IMG_0893

Next–dessert. Haitian Beignets. Amazing. I have never had beignets. I was a little disappointed in my last visit to New Orleans to discover the local vegan bakery did not have a vegan version. What an awesome surprise to find it along the I-80 in Pennsylvania! These sugar-coated banana fritters were doughy–absolutely dreamy. Even better, we requested them with their housemade coconut milk-based Ice “Scream.” Two wonderful dessert options together–both made from scratch. DSC_0023

IMG_0901Zen Fusion, your love and respect of food is so appreciated. We left the place awed by the fantastic food and the calm and benevolent energy of the staff.

A bit on the other side of the spectrum was our visit to Scranton’s all-vegan Eden Cafe. I was really taken aback by the place, for all the wrong reasons.

As a vegan who’s been so for almost 18 years and a lover of food, I have seen giant leaps in the realm of vegan offerings. Now I am an opinionated woman with high standards and a food blog. But I’m going to stick with just the facts… I have to remember that there are many different kinds of vegans these days. Ok, facts: I am not the kind of vegan who likes to eat at a place like Eden–a eatery that heats and serves packaged and canned food, mostly processed mock meats and processed vegan cheeses; a place that doesn’t really make food; a place where the fruit isn’t even fresh. Those facts can’t be disputed and they speak for themselves. It is also a fact that there are vegans who enjoy this type of thing.

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Brought in to Eden were some baked goods that were clearly made. And this was the best thing I ate there. That isn’t by chance. Fresh made-from-scratch food tastes better. DSC_0010

Thank you, Pennsylvania, for a break from New York and your vegan offerings!

Though I am knee-deep in planning for September, I am holding on tight to the Summer.

In the backyard, Black-eyed Susans attract the bees… and other bugs who take nibbles. IMG_0803

“She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires.” The garden is looking a bit chaotic.
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French Toast = best way to use the thick, coconut syrup-y stuff leftover from the can when you steal the cream to make coconut cream.DSC_0006

The salty Atlantic ocean. This is the best place to do school work IMG_0726

The dichotomous pantry.IMG_0828

Throwback Thursday. Me in 1996, the year I went vegan.IMG_0695

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After a night of total gluttony, we got an early start. I wanted to hit WPA Bakery (Well-made Pastry Alliance) for their weekly vegan donut options. Then we were hitting the road, heading back to New York. PicMonkey Collage.jpg

They had a few vegan options scattered about… but I came for a donut. I left with their signature vegan Red Hot cinnamon donut and a blueberry muffin. I ate both in the car at different points of the drive like the road warrior I am.IMG_0668

The Red Hot donut was red, very red… in a whoa that can’t be natural way. It really was striking. And I can taste the Red Hots in there. The texture was soft and cake-like.  But, here’s the thing: Red Hots are not vegan… This I learned after eating it and searching for their ingredients–in that order.IMG_0671As a vegan, you know that sometimes you eat things that aren’t vegan. It happens. Of course not when you make my own food, but when you eat out, it definitely happens. You move on. You have your personal definition of what your veganism is and you don’t beat yourself up. Then, there’s the insect thing. Some vegans are more liberal insect-derived ingredients. Like honey. Like confectioner’s glaze, a.k.a. shellac, which is what Red Hots contain. This glaze is pretty popular. It creates that characteristic sheen coat on many popular candies… even those bulk candies that many vegans devour unknowingly (dark chocolate covered almonds, I’m talking about you). There’s things like Advil and other pills, which are coated in animally derived stuff like most over-the-counter pain relief… like most pills in general…

IMG_0690The blueberry muffin was the perfect snack to munch on during the New Jersey Turnpike traffic. More straight forwardly vegan for sure.

Now, Delaware. I’ve driven through the tiny state many times. But this time I would stop. Mostly because Home Grown, near the University, has “omelettes” made with “vegan eggs.” !! What were these vegan eggs? I really had to find out. IMG_0676

I got the Garden Veggie Omelette with those vegan eggs. To my relief, they were similar to Isa’s amazing version. What a delight to have such care be taken to offer vegans omelette options! I was amazed with every bite.IMG_0678

And I took a lot of pictures in my amazement. IMG_0680

Score, Newark, Delaware! Thanks for a great breakfast. IMG_0684

There is nothing more fantastic than a tofu scramble in the morning… especially when you group the classic vegan breakfast with a good cup of Joe and the freedom of having the whole day at your disposable. No errands. None of the normal routines that eat up your day and your energy. Aaaaaah.DSC_0004

We headed to The Daily in Carytown pretty early. Because we can tell it was the kind of place that fills up fast on the weekend. Their scramble was delicious, especially since I said “hold the Daiya.” Vibrant spinach, cherry tomatoes, plenty of portobello mushroom… and the hash browns, tossed in a sprinkling of Old Bay. DSC_0001

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While we were in the area, we headed to For the Love of Chocolate, a specialty chocolate shop brimming with all kinds of chocolate products, including their very own vegan chocolates.IMG_0603

I bought half a pound of all their vegan delights.IMG_0596

Richmond is so vegan friendly… and I am basking in the wonderful options. IMG_0605

These beautiful little morsels were divine. IMG_0608

“Vegan” etched on a box of chocolates = heaven.
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After an in-depth tour of Richmond from The Electrician‘s architect friend, we all headed to Black Sheep for one of their huge sandwiches. A “whole” sandwich is 2 feet long. That’s 24 inches. None of us were that brave. Points for the name of their sandwich menu…IMG_0633

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I got the vegan USS Wyoming: Pickled daikon radish & carrot, cucumber, jalapeño, grilled marinated tofu, cilantro & a garlic chili eggplant mayonnaise on a french baguette. Very Bánh mì. IMG_0637

It was soo good. . I ate all 12 inches of it, welcoming the fresh pickled veggies. Perfect texture and taste.IMG_0639

In between meals,  here’s a picture from my favorite part of the Richmond tour–visiting the two Airstreams that the architect power couple are gutting and updating. Besides them being super cool, Airstream are a model of efficiency and the unison of form and function. I want one.  IMG_0626

For our final dinner in Richmond, we headed to Ellwood Thompson’s once again for some groceries to grill and some sweet treats. I went to town at the bakery counter, boxing up a lemon and a German chocolate cupcake, a pistachio whoopie pie, and a chocolate almond cake pop for our hosts. IMG_0646

After a lovely dinner that was not photographed, it was time for one final stop for the evening. Strange Matter is a bar, venue, vintage arcade, and eatery with some pretty special vegan options. The Revenge was what pulled us in. That is vegan ham and field roast between two vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. You read that right! (Clearly I did not hold the Daiya on this one…)IMG_0655

I had to try this. Because I’m a glutton.IMG_0659

For how many times I’ve been in Virginia, I have never blog reported on vegan eats! Well, here I am… exhausted and amazed by what is available here for a vegan. We had our first vegan stop in downtown Richmond at a spot only open 7-3, Monday through Friday. Down a unsuspecting courtyard, in the lower level of a towering office building is Citizen, a popular sandwich spot for local lunching 9-5-ers. It is a hidden little gem with an amazing vegan option…PicMonkey Collage1.jpg

The outstanding Seared Plantain Torta : layers of sweet plantains with a warm smear of refried black beans, fresh cilantro, house-made tomatillo salsa, and sweet-chili dipping sauce inside oiled and pressed bread. I got this with a side of fruit. There were also BBQ tofu spring rolls as vegan option number two. IMG_0550

This sandwich ruled. Especially after 7 hours of driving with no breakfast.IMG_0552

With time to kill before checking in, we headed to nab a vegan option in the hip Carytown section of Richmond… at Carytown CupcakesIMG_0561

They offer weekly themed cupcake flavors, one of which is always vegan (and one of which is always gluten-free), as well as their signature flavors. This week was Cookie Flavors. PicMonkey Collage2.jpg

We got the two vegan options they had and headed on our way. The classic vanilla (amazing) and the Mexican Chocolate (which I thought was too hot). Both were great vegan cupcakes, however. I’m really digging on Richmond so far.IMG_0563

Next, a stop at the wonderful Ellwood Thompson’s, a principled grocer with a TON of vegan goodies for me to drool over. IMG_0581

So to follow is a bunch of stuff I was amazed in finding. Richmond is super vegan-friendly! IMG_0568Huge vegan cinnamon rolls

IMG_0572Or how about an 8-pack of vegan cinnamon rolls. (or those Sweet & Sara’s up there?)

IMG_0569Um, peach and berry vegan danishes, a huge score!

IMG_0570Tons of fresh-baked vegan cookies. this was just a sampling.

IMG_0574Full-sized vegan pies! What?! (or them Hail Merry mini-pies above are great too)

IMG_0578Kombucha on tap.

IMG_0583And my vegan danish in its glistening glory. It became my dinner. And that was all right with me. I would have liked to have caught this danish fresh, to feel the flaky layers. This wrapped wonder had the moisture of the cream and fruit altering its texture. We’ll have to try back tomorrow!

I have lived 15 minutes from Jones Beach State Park for most of my life. Now I live 10 minutes from it. I visited today, christening my Empire Passport finally, to check out the newly added food option, Smorgasbar from the Brooklyn Flea folks. IMG_0446

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The Smorgasbar has a handful of food vendors from the Smorgaburg family… but, unfortunately, not much for a vegan. But! With vegan options, quality is far more important than quantity. I headed to El Gato Nacho for their signature nachos, hold the cheese and crema, add the local corn salsa.  IMG_0455

The big, white tent on a lazy Thursday.IMG_0466

Delicious! This is a million times better than what was here before for vegans… dirty oiled French fries.IMG_0459

Goodbye, Jones Beach! Thanks for the salty sea, sand, and Smorgabar. Please get some more vegan options down here.IMG_0471

Two things I love taking pictures of: 1) food. 2) amusement park rides.IMG_0093

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