We were not the only folks looking to doorbust for one of the all-vegan breakfast options at Pingala Cafe & Eatery in Burlington, an Earthy spot for simple vegan fare. Two minutes after opening time, there was a line at the counter. Perhaps if this sculpture and the wild flow of the Winooski river out back hadn’t drawn me in, we could have beat those do-good vegheads to the punch! PicMonkey Collage

So I had to get the Tofu Benedict, given that rule of mine. I love this dish because it has it going on–variety of textures and tastes. This version was less dynamic and lacked a bit of seasoning, but was completely enjoyable. PicMonkey Collage2

After breakfast, we headed to Stowe to see the gorgeous Moss Glen Falls. Situated painlessly on the side of road, no hike is required to view these–which was slightly disappointing considering the sedentary itinerary of yesterday and today. DSC_0014

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The falls were completely isolated upon our arrival. So I finally utilized the supplies that have been in my trunk at all times since several years ago for this exact purpose–the ability to swim spontaneously as required. A quick, clumsy change into my suit and swim cap in the backseat and I was ready to go. PicMonkey Collage3

It was a deliciously invigorating dip, and just in the nick of time as more visitors were rolling in.IMG_7605

Back at the car, a beautiful umber and sienna toned butterfly flirted and fluttered.IMG_7593

Here’s a cool cluster of outhouses nestled in the green mountains.
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Lunch brought us south to the King Arthur Flour‘s Vermont campus, which hosts a shop and cafe. I was excited to visit, thinking back to my trip to Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store in Oregon last year. But we weren’t the only tourists excited to stop by! The place was swarmed. Though the cafe’s menu isn’t super vegan-friendly, I was relieved to see that all of the sandwich ingredients to the veggie option were sold in containers with all ingredients listed. So I could order confidently. PicMonkey Collage4

Though simple, the Sweet Chili Baked Tofu sandwich was packed with Vermont organic tofu and a yummy Asian slaw–and that is all it needed. It was bright, fresh and delicious. I also had a delectable watermelon, cucumber, and arugula salad with cashew and radish. Such a yummy lunch!PicMonkey Collage5

Later, we got to Northwood, New Hampshire to check out the in-the-middle-of-nowhere Susty’s Cafe, a bonafide 90’s style vegan eatery. PicMonkey Collage

I had my eye on the deep-fried Tofu Fries… and then I devoured way too many of them. Who wouldn’t?! (The Electrician wouldn’t, actually.) Perfectly fried and crispy with ample seasoning, they were kind of dangerous. PicMonkey Collage2

Lastly, my dinner. A Pepper Seitan wrap. The seitan was tender and oozing with flavor. Maybe too much? IMG_7644

And since I hadn’t had a something sweet all day, I got the chocolate brownie (though really a cake) to go. A pretty retro dinner from start to finish.IMG_7653

As the fireworks begin to sound here in Manchester, New Hampshire, it is time to say goodnight again. More from the road tomorrow…

Last time I spent any time in Vermont, I was just a young punk snowboarding on the motel bed. IMG_7530

This time, like twenty years later, it is summer here in Vermont. The blazing sun, blue sky, and green mountains made for a beautiful scenic drive–off the interstate, behind careful trailers that help you acclimate, begrudgingly, to the speed of things round these parts. Then, a concrete gorilla holding a VW Bug reminds you that it’s about the drive there, not the destination. Or other such clichés.
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Of course, it is about the food, too. And I love me a New England road trip because of things like this–higher quality soda fountains and easy vegan labeling, like this huge flag in New Moon Cafe in downtown Burlington. PicMonkey Collage

We arrived for a quick, late lunch before a dinner reservation. I got the Vegan Delight, as it was easy and I was starving. Strips of soy saucy seitan, red pepper hummus, smeared avocado, a very fragrant basil pesto, red onion, grilled eggplant & zucchini, spinach on pressed whole wheat bread. A yummy sandwich in a wide open space. IMG_7534

I was excited for dinner at Revolution Kitchen. They have a dreamy menu of upscale options. The kind that can carry you through hours of driving. IMG_7540

First, their “Nachos.” But this is not a pile of chips. This is guacamole-filled deep fried wontons, non-aluminum can tasting Cuban black beans, a cashew queso and salsa fresca. Downright delectable. IMG_7544

For an entree, the beloved Seitan Piccata. This is the dinner equivalent to a tofu benny: if it’s on the menu, I’ll likely be choosing it. Two succulent lemony seitan cutlets atop garlic mashed potatoes, topped with sauteed spinach and that lovely white wine caper sauce. Perfection.
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A quick three-bite dessert afterwards at My Little Cupcake just down the block. I got all the vegan offerings they had: vanilla with vanilla buttercream, vanilla with chocolate buttercream, and, my favorite, a cookies n’ cream cupcake.  PicMonkey Collage3

The sun beams over Champlain Lake, saying goodnight to the long day that started in New York. See you tomorrow, Vermont.IMG_7564

A visit to Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor is a walk back in time. DSC_0001

Trusting chipmunks eat from your hand. IMG_7519

Swans are shy and evade your camera.IMG_7497

The tickling feet of bold songbirds perch your hand’s branch to select the best seeds. IMG_7504

But not without a quick glance at you. Apparently I passed the test. PicMonkey Collage3

More and more, I am finding vegan option leads through my followees on Instagram. Sure, a new all-vegan spot gets around the campfire quite easily… but unearthing a “vegan option” is a challenge. Being not so thrilled with the all-vegan places in my home city (I’m waiting on you, Chloe and Jay, to change that.), I savor a vegan option lead. They’re often far better than offerings at vegan spots. As evident by the overuse of packaged vegan foods and frozen fake meet crud that are so well loved, being a vegan does not imply good taste. But I am a vegan with good taste, and both of those things are very important to me.

So we headed to Cabalito after I spied their pupusas on the IG.

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It was a sweltering day in Manhattan, made even more yucky by the walk through the fish monger stands of Chinatown. I got their rice milk horchata for some refreshment. Delish.IMG_7327

Then, my hongos pupusas with a side of curtido. Translation: mushrooms; side salad of fermented cabbage. It needed a bit more to be fully satisfying, as is sometimes the case with dishes with requested omissions. The dishes are created to be complete, after all. I missed that completion… and a bit of seasoning. IMG_7332

Afterwards, a donut at Babycakes. Which, I guess, is no longer called Babycakes. It’s called Erin McKenna Bakery. Although you don’t really see her around the place anymore, and the sweet, vintage waitress uniform-clad staff she started with is now surly and typical NYC less than enthused variety. Meh. IMG_7335

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After almost 10 years of blogging, what more can I say about my love for the Earth’s candy? I have deconstructed the pleasure of eating fruit every which way. But it’s not enough. Now, finally–after many hours of rebooting and overhauling this here blog, fixing a months-long neglected slow load that, I’m sure, alienated my only two readers–I am ready to go on and on about my favorite fruit again. . .

Mango: A mango is not perfect until its skin is Simpons-colored–a bright, vibrant orangy yellow that is only possible when its texture is soft, moist and oozes a slick, sugary coat. Ripe mango needs nothing. But a slightly salty, creamy coconut milk complements. Unripe mango is not mango really. Here is mango with its BFFer, coconut.  They’re a good combo, in real life form–and in frozen. That’s mango 101.
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Watermelon: I long for the days of seasonal watermelon all year. Crisp and juicy with a shimmering white highlight, like the lapping waves of the ocean’s surface, is perfect. How does 91% water taste so darn amazing?IMG_7268

Banana: I can’t tell you when the last time I ate a banana conventionally was– peel slowly and see type fashion. I prefer them mashed up and in stuff, like my weekly batch of chia oatmeal or baked as banana bread. I wish they sold them ripe and speckled. I have been known to dig deep in banana end caps in search of ripened ones. And the thought of heading to a seedy corner store in search of forgotten and ripened bananas has crossed my mind plenty.
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Strawberries: My father requested my berry parfaits for father’s day. And thankfully the farmers market has tons of berries now. They taste like real strawberries, not those tasteless, unnaturally plumped strawberries they sell at the super market. A good strawberry reminds you of why strawberry candy tastes as it does.
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Beets: They are not really fruits, but c’mon. Is there a more beautiful plant part we eat? Certainly not. There are two kinds of people: A) those who love beets and B) others. All people fall into two camps That ever twain shall be; Those lost in darkness without lamps; And then, my love and me (Magnetic Fields)IMG_7436

And a new, strange fruit: Mamey. Occasionally I will shell out ducket for an exotic fruit that I’ve never tried. This time it was mamey, a small papaya-ish fruit that has the texture of an underripe avocado. I didn’t enjoy it all that much, but that is likely because it wasn’t ripe enough. It wasn’t sweet, but earthy and musky, like its yonic shape. Next time, I’ll wait. PicMonkey Collage2

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IMG_6584The music used to be your own. Some songs you listened to on your record player. And you noticed the unique speed of your turntable when hearing it for the first time on another’s. Mine was just slightly faster. And the vinyl’s unique scuffs made it even more yours. You knew where they were and they became part of the song. You eventually learned how to move about, to stabilize–learning the unique mood of your machine. You timed tasks (or built a slow motivation to get up) based on the elapsed time of side A. You admired the album art, a temporary exhibit that existed briefly–the visual representation of where you were and what you were feeling. Till you tucked it away, the slim binding disappearing until you needed it again.

Today, you can click buttons. And click buttons to click more buttons. And there’s a song. And on your device, you can pass by it inattentively like so many do with life… while “multi-tasking.” But multi-tasking equates to half-assed, even third-assed or fourth-assed action. Action without heart or thought. Wasted. Superficial experiences that barely penetrate–like current music, current movies, current people. Cliff Notes. Why would anyone want to shortcut their experiences in the name of speed and convenience? Why would anyone want to settle for speed and quantity over depth and quality? I’ll take slow, laborious, complicated. Like old Mötley Crüe.

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When it comes to serving vegan cupcakes to non-vegans, you have to capitalize on the opportunity–make a point about the delicious potential and non-weirdness of the v-word.  To increase the appeal, go with well loved flavors–or even better, nostalgic flavors. And you may need to embrace both ends of the food quality spectrum. And use a no-fail cake recipe, like Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which was published 10 years ago. (Crazy.)

Now to both sides of the food spectrum: the cupcakes are banana, but banana smoothed with an immersion blender. These need to be decadent and not like banana bread. The batter is swirled with pineapple preserves before baking, because a true banana split (i.e. the one from my youth from Friendly’s) has pineapple topping along with hot fudge and marshmallow sauce. The preserves I used, Sarabeth’s, are super high-end at $11 a jar. I used the pineapple-mango preserves and, again, processed them in the immersion blender to breakdown the big chunks of pineapple and mango. I also put chocolate chips in the batter, the same chocolate chips I used to make the ganache drizzle: Baker’s chocolate chunks–familiar, big food, not intimidatingly bitter or rich. Organic confectionary sugar and real vanilla from a dark brown glass jar (non-negotiable) for the vanilla buttercream. Cheap rainbow jimmies free of confectionary glaze. Not too many walnuts. and a maraschino cherry (sans the Carmine coloring). I did not go for making marshmallow drizzle in the interest of time.  And done.

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Then they’re ready for their close-up.IMG_7123

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And this makes it all worth it.IMG_7171

…when I didn’t know how to cook, I’d find Long Island’s vegan options much more appetizing. But, once in awhile, “90’s vegan” serves as a nostalgic reminder of my history. Take The Witches Brew in West Hempstead…

Last time I was there, I looked like this:

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Baby fat. Straightedge. Snapcase t-shirt. Etc. 

It felt weird to be there again, to look at their xeroxed zine-like coffee menu, to sit in the crushed velvet thrift store chairs, to be within the apathetic gaze of alterna-servers. Like visiting your old elementary school twenty years later. And it really was like twenty years since I had been there. The feeling was a mix of amusement, slight pity and nostalgia. I could analyze further if I wasn’t so hungry. And today, thanks to the invention of the internet, I knew they had a vegan menu I’d have to report on.
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My sister and I split two of their sandwiches: the Is Real Lite (housemade hummus with avocado, tomato, lettuce and red onion.) It was a simple sandwich, but delicious. Nothing I couldn’t make at home easily, but hey, I wasn’t home. I enjoyed the vegan potato salad, but thought it was a bit skimpy. IMG_7086

We also got the BBQ Tempeh sandwich. Another pretty straight-forward offering I can more deliciously prepare at home. I know, I know, at a place like Witches Brew, you’re paying for the ambiance, supporting a local business with progressive values, monkey-wrenching the corporate agenda, man. Keeping West Hempstead weird. Or something. But I’ve been out of this small pond, and I don’t like paying for atmosphere that I don’t want. I like paying for good food. IMG_7087

Because they had some vegan sweet treats, I had to. Vegan s’mores. It reminded me of the microwave s’mores I made with my childhood friend. A great ending to a meal steeped in memories. PicMonkey Collage

Similarly, 3 Brothers in Farmingdale has that 90’s vibe, too. Though it was not around in the 90’s, it is the eatery I craved most back then. And because I crave a veggie burger with the works, I got their bacon cheeseburger minus the cheese. And a slice of Vegan Treats‘ red velvet cake.
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To time, and how much she teaches.

It’s a bit of a mystery when an eatery doesn’t have a “for real” website. Yelp reviews (The forced double negative Yelp effect–if someone with bad taste writes a good review, it means it’s really bad.) and a Facebook page reveal very little. Many social media leads stay on the radar, but are too risky an option in the heat of hunger–especially when they’re nowhere near anywhere I usually am. And so, Bushbaby lived on my radar for quite some time, bleeping faintly to the tune of “when I’m in the area.” Well, I finally was!

It was nice to see so much “seitan” in print. It meant real-life wheat gluten… not reheated, processed science meat stuff that some think is the cat’s pajamas. After being greeted by who I assume the owner, the v-word was dropped. He told us about the many vegan options on the food and drink menus, showed us the weekend brunch menu (all veganizable), let us know that they have separate areas in the kitchen for the vegan prep and cooking (If I started a band, I’d call it Dedicated Fryer.), and let us in on the secret that the waffle omnis devour along with their fried chicken is secretly vegan.  Afterward the chat, we ordered drinks. Mine, a creamy root beer, adult version.PicMonkey Collage

I thought I ought to photograph the vegan waffle, though surrounded by dead bird pieces. IMG_7026

My dish, the Satay Seitan Skewers in peanut sauce with brown rice and garlicky kale.Seitan was tender and delicious. But I found myself missing a fresh, sweet note for balance.  Like a pineapple chunk. Yes, that would have been perfect. IMG_7031

Though I try not to judge a dining experience by the dearth of vegan options in the surrounding geographic area, Bushbaby is even more impressive considering. Though the white wave of gentrification is lapping onto Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Bushbaby keeps it real. I hope that means they’ll be around for awhile?

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