Match #4 of the V.V. Burger Showdown Semi-Finals: Brooklyn Born.

Toad Style vsCafe Ghia

We are nearing the end. With a new summer brings another new burger battle. There is no rest for the vegan eats these days. But before a new beginning, an end. Each burger in this battle has made its own statement. These statements range from statements like, “I am the culmination of thought, real ingredients, and good taste.” To “I have a bunch of processed crap all over me. Oh wait, I am processed crap.” From the best to the not-sa-great and the many in-betweens, the endeavor of vegan burger making is certainly an art form. All battle contenders have their place in someone’s heart, whether it be a new vegan who doesn’t know any better or a picky food snob with a sky-high standards. There is a vegan burger for all. But this showdown, reader, is all mine. So my favorite burger wins. And I don’t care about much more than that.

So who will be in the finals? Finally, this last battle will decide. Early favorites have gone away, through financial woes and too much-too soon expansion. Today, hipster brunch spot Café Ghia and Toad Style, Bed-Sty’s kung fu all-vegan eatery, fight the good bite. And the winner enters the finals, facing Chickpea & Olive for the championship showdown. Without further ado, semi-final 4’s statements.

Toad Style’s Cheeseburger:

Most times, small portioned bites of vegan food arrive at your mouth by way of a fork. Chew, swallow, repeat. But eating a vegan burger is a, er, more sensuous experience. Your face’s nose and teeth arrive at a burger like a utensil; you dig them in–oozy vegan cheese in your nostrils; panicked, searching tongue; jaw widening; teeth close with determination, pinching the bun, detaching. Success–a bite! If you done well, you have a small piece of it all in your mouth, a mini burger, moving about your tongue. Then you do it again, letting your tongue regulate the next unique bite. As I ate Toad Style’s first semi-final level cheeseburger, I paid close attention to this process–knowing that far more than any other detail, this process is the most important. Where does my mind go inside of this burger? It is that entry way that will create the first Vegan Victuals champion. But much like it is futile to deconstruct sunshine (and though this blog is mostly based on this endeavor), it is near impossible to accurately capture what can only be transmitted as, simply, “Mmmmm.” Mmmmm is everything you want from a burger. It trumps presentation, cleanliness, the service experience. If it’s all you can say while you eat, you know you found something special. It’s all I said eating Toad’s cheeseburger.


Bless this Mess.IMG_1419

Cafe Ghia’s Vegan Burger:

I really like Cafe Ghia’s vegan burger. It is fresh and clean and neat. It has all the right burger moves–a housemade patty, supporting fixings that diversify texture and flavor, a pillowy bun. I have no complaints about the burger at all. Which is an amazing feat in and of itself. But. It’s missing a certain Mmmmm. It’s like a date with a pretty thing that, despite good conversation and a few shared laughs, ends with an awkward hug. No vegan cheese in your nostril, no reckless abandon, no inability to construct a statement.  It’s missing something. Something. Like the “something” they sing about in songs. The thing that delivers you to MmmmmIMG_0432

Cafe Ghia is not a vegan eatery. This Vegan Burger, only available on weekdays for some reason, is a considerate addition to their menu. However, you can tell Cafe Ghia’s creativity and food passion lies elsewhere. I am thankful many eateries are offering vegan staple dishes to ensure both veg and non-veg can eat in harmony. But I am more thankful for vegan options that embody the same attention to detail and dedication to deliciousness as the non-veg menu items. Often, I find that many omni eateries offer better vegan options than all-vegan eateries for that very reason: their knowledge and love of food (all food: vegan and otherwise) and flavor extends to their vegan dishes. That’s what makes Mmmmm.IMG_0433

The winner of the 4th Semi-Final battle: Toad Style!

And it is two all-vegan Brooklyn eateries that will face off head-to-head in the Championship round!  Let’s get ready to RUUUUUUMMMBLE!!!

Burger Battle_Battle12

For research design, click here.

Summer–on the way home.

Summer–with mustard, onion, and relish.IMG_1360

Summer–on the field.IMG_1364

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I look forward to making my Dad’s Father’s Day cake every year. My Dad, known for always ordering the weirdest thing on the menu, will try it all. So I enjoy the cake inspiration the special day inspires. This year, a coconut lemon bundt cake with a lemon glaze, a bunch of raspberries, and mint from the garden. And some toasted coconut garnish. She was a beauty and well-loved. Happy Father’s Day!

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I used to shy away from vegan pizza pie. Either it was piled high with heavy, wet veggies on a soggy crust or it was topped with the dreaded Daiya.

But these days, vegan stuff is improving. Like at Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Adelina’s, who has been on my radar since they started doing Meatless Mondays. They now have permanent, labeled vegan options. And I am glad I waited. Their vegan pizza is perfection: crust, texture, cashew cheese, and toppings are all spot-on. I think I might have said it was the best vegan pizza I ever had. And I’ve had it all.IMG_1338

But the pizza (named The Green Piece, with sauce, roasted cherry tomatoes, olive, arugula, and vegan cashew cheese) wasn’t all. Fresh-made gnocchi with fresh-made green pesto. It’s amazing and all-vegan. IMG_1340

A closer look at the soft, pillowy gnocchi. It had little spears of string bean that allowed you to eat more of that pesto.IMG_1342

Best in show!IMG_1344

Because they had a vegan dessert, we went for it: a Lemon Rosemary cake. It was pretty, but seemed more of a breakfast bite. Like a big moist biscotti.IMG_1347

Then, a stop at the brand new Screamers Pizzeria, part of the Champs Family… in the old Champs outpost. Are you noticing a pattern here? A Champs opens somewhere… then moves/closes… then a new vegan place takes the space. Ok, ok. Maybe it’s not that much of a pattern yet. (Champs Diner into Haymaker’s Corner Store and now Champs Junior into Screamers Pizzeria, though Champ’s original (my favorite) space (Bone Shakers) did not go vegan.) IMG_1349

Screamers is a collaboration between Philly’s Blackbird Pizzeria.

My slice. It’s got Daiya. I ate around it, which was easy because we had just come from Adelina’s and I was full. It was good. Not like Adelina’s, which I just named Best in Pizza, soon to be added to my new page. Screamers is experimenting with making housemade cheeses, which I’ll be holding out for.IMG_1353

These are a few of my favorite things: Mango & sweet sticky rice (from Thaism, my work Thai spot)

Lunch after errands at Bareburger, because…IMG_1280

Brooklyn date at M.O.B. because traffic was so bad to drive anywhere else! I got their delicious seitan meatball hero with pesto and a ton of their cashew cheese.IMG_1246 The Electrician enjoyed his M.O.B. IMG_1243 Banana blueberry muffins to use the many speckled bananas.IMG_1322 Purple yam… Purple yamIMG_1298 Mashed, it looked like Play-Doh, delicious Play-Doh.IMG_1302 Love Grown, I have faith that you will make vegan marshmallow cereal soon. IMG_1277 But for now, I’ll make chocolate Comet Crispies treats.IMG_1290

V marks the spot!IMG_1263

The Electrician recently made this concrete and wood base for a set of new ‘his & her’s’ grills. My exclusively vegan grill is an upgrade from the separate grill rack that was all-veggie. I just had to mark my grill with some high heat spray paint. IMG_1275

Since he doesn’t care for grilling spongey, watery tofu, I bought Weber’s stainless steel Fish Basket, which works perfectly for tofu cutlets. Here is a picture step-by-step.

Empty & closed.

Empty & open.IMG_1304

Open & full.IMG_1305

Closed & full.IMG_1306

Easy transport.IMG_1309

On the grill.IMG_1314


Loopy grill marks.IMG_1318

In other backyard news, my sunflowers are showing great promise! So tall already.IMG_1265


I’m pretty hopeful that these will reach 15 feet. Ha.IMG_1258

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Your body needs an internal scrub every now and again. Preparing a week’s worth of detox salads means you are eating raw for a good portion of the day. I’ve been experimenting with combining powerfully detoxifying veggies during a pre-summer detox. Shredding all ingredients helps body break food down easily and absorb nutrients swiftly, en masse. Concocting dressings with even more detoxifying ingredients make everything tasty. It is important to include the almonds and sunflower seeds for protein. This will help you feel satisfied.

Last week’s combination:

This week’s combination:
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  • Ripe avocado, olive oil, garlic cloves, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, agave
  • olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, dijon mustard
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PicMonkey CollageA new plant-based bacon craze has caused some stirs: Rice paper bacon. The thin sheets of rice paper suck up marinade well and cook to a crispy perfection that is still chewy some places. And get this, the edges curl all bacon-like. I tried Yup It’s Vegan‘s recipe. Here are my notes.

Take a rack out of the oven, then start preheating. You won’t use a baking sheet in this recipe, just parchment on the rack. So make sure you lay your strips down in the opposite direction of the rack if it’s like mine. Next time, I would fold the ends of the parchment upward for easy grabbing from the oven.

My rice paper rounds, that were hanging around since this, were pretty easy to cut. I stacked two dry rounds on top of each other and used kitchen shears. I had no breakage issues.

The marinade recipe is pretty thick. And delicious. And the process of dipping strips in water and then marinade can get sloppy. I used waxed paper under my rack to catch any drippings.

I used the marble variation in the recipe, but it didn’t give much of a contrast. I think I had too much marinade on the strips. IMG_0631

Watching them bubble up in the oven. IMG_0635

After, how bacon-y do these look?!IMG_0642

Crisp, smoky, delicious–what a plant-based bacon!IMG_0650

Frank approves from afar.IMG_0660

Now, what should I do with all this rice paper bacon???IMG_0687

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Celebrate some baffling American-style food ideals this holiday weekend: Eating large quantities of poor quality, industrially processed food!

All sarcasm aside, war was the catalyst for a shift and food manufacturing in the United States. One of our first processed foods was created in 1941 to help soldiers enjoy candy without getting their fingers sticky (M&M’s, of course). General Mills’ Maxwell House instant coffee had been first shipped to soldiers for many years before being made available to the general public in 1945. And it was Big Brother himself that created new guidelines for fortifying foods to offset nutritional deficits in 1943. A move that continues to confuse those who presume a box of fortified Lucky Charms truly is as healthful as a whole food source of the same vitamins and minerals.

From there, automation and bulk output meant a lot of product to sell, on the cheap. And boom, a basic human need tuns into Big Business. And good ol’ American capitalism warps the definition of food so drastically that a world of pain and systematic slaughter is nothing compared to the comforts, the normalcy of that food—the food of our youth, the food of our family, the food of our country.  But at what cost? With the masses’ indelible allegiance to not knowing or caring about what they eat, disgusting processes perpetuate that kill billions of animals annually. And human animals die from diet-related illness (Obesity, Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, to name just a few). And yet, still, within new, hopeful shifts of consumer demand, people continue to be more discerning about the shoes on their feet than the food that becomes part of their body.  And I’m the weirdo.

I understand the power of food nostalgia. Resisting the food ideals instilled early in my life is a daily process. But that doesn’t mean it’s difficult. You just have to care… and continue to remember that you care. And in that caring you seek and find ways to honor where you came from while keeping your values. And that feels really good. Then, later, you stomach hurts. Like when I made these vegan Big Macs.

Shopping List:
• 2 patties per Big Mac: store-bought or homemade. I chose the latter as the characteristics of good patties are ripe in my mind from my Burger Battle.) Criticisms on my patty: not enough seasoning, should have pan-fried it than grilled it as it needed a good dosing of fat. I like making things myself. But maybe you want to try them ridiculous beet juice blood-oozing Beyond Meat burgers that recently caused an uproar on the interwebs.

Special sauce: I made mayo from scratch, which is so darn easy I wonder why anyone would buy a jar of vegan mayo in the store. I mixed that with equal parts natural ketchup. Perfecto!

Iceberg lettuce: chopped well, Big Mac style

Chao Cheese: I didn’t add this, but would understand it if you did.

Dill pickles: I used Woodstock Kosher sliced dill pickles

White onion, diced finely and sauteed till translucent

0073410163050_CL_version_type_largeArnold Select Sandwich Rolls with Sesame Seeds.
For some odd reason, this product does does not appear on the list of Arnold’s products on their website. Though PeTa‘s website calls the packaged bread “accidentally” vegan, other sources claim that most Monoglycerides in processed food have animal origin. But then the Vegetarian Resource Guide calls it “typically vegan.” This is what is so frustrating about how bad our industrialized food system is. Ingredients are such a darn mystery! Anyway, this unnaturally soft bun is confusing if you’re used to real bread. But this is a Big Mac we’re making. Remember to add a inner bun using the bottom of a second set.

Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Wheat Gluten, Soybean Oil, Sesame Seeds, Salt, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Grain Vinegar, Monoglycerides, Calcium Sulfate, DATEM and/or Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Citric Acid, Soy Lecithin, Potassium Iodate, Soy Flour.

The end result is a freakin’ Big Mac. With no need to stand in line for hours in Toronto. The poor quality food you crave, now in your kitchen.

And there’s my mayo. IMG_0557

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