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.
We also got kimchi fries, though not as enjoyable. The kimchi weighed down the fries, softening them to a mushy texture.
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.
Coming up for air from the chaos of a new school year, I baked some “12 Men on the Field” cupcakes: rich chocolate cake (I used Chloe‘s celebration cake), vanilla buttercream filling, chocolate ganache-topped with a vegan royal icing football laces. 3 types of icings for every cupcake.
I’m not the greatest with the royal icing but… in the green Le Creuset, it kind of looks like footballs.
These were super-rich cupcakes, perfect treat after a long day of work.
I loved this picture because it captured the texture of all three icings.
And more on the sport tip, as the Mets bomb another season, it’s easy to get cheap tickets. We checked out the Ceaser’s Club, which has an indoor, air-conditioned lounge with a full car and cushioned seats, as well as “better” food options for omnis but meh for vegans, like a choose-your-own-adventure salad bar.
I chose traditional grub: vegan hot dog with tons of the fixins, Nathan’s fries, and a domestic beer. This is a baseball game after all.
Salads aid fridge turnover: arugula; roasted white turnip, golden beet & carrot; and watermelon salad
Chipotle’s “sofritas” in a way-too-overstuffed burrito with lime and cilantro brown rice and guacamole.
Heh, they said “vegan.”
Pre-party eats at Pickle Shack in Brooklyn: fried oyster mushrooms with cocktail sauce.
Cecelia’s “ricotta” sandwich: garlic sauteed chicories, roasted butternut squash, sage leaves, and pine nut cream.
French fries and ketchup.
Took a trip to Coney Island with some of my students.
French fries and ketchup at Nathan’s.
Kristall Palm Beach is one part water park, one part bath house. With temperatures passing the 100 degree mark, we spent the day in various forms of water.
This is the crystal pool, a light and clear pool. They also had a zinc pool and an amethyst pool, which was my favorite.
After many dips in the various pools, I enjoyed a Bananenweiser. A beer with banana! It was a delicious first.
And as contradictory as it seems, French Fries. Slim vegan options at Palm Beach.
Here I am in an amazing mineral bath bubbling around me.
Germany is a very green country. They use a lot of wind power. Here are some windmills standing guard on the autobahn.
Cigarette machines. Packs of cigarettes are 5 EU here, or currently $6.64.
There are special parking spots for ladies only in some German parking garages.
I really enjoy being on the road. I almost have a pang of disappointment when I arrive at a destination. Of course the excitement over what I may find at the destination (food, the feel of a new place, an odd roadside attraction, etc) trumps the pang. Because sometimes I uncover amazing places, places that align distinctly with my sensibilities–seemingly tailor-made for me and yet, until then, part of a vast unknown. Like in Little Rock, AR.
Finding places to eat vegan on the road is a nuanced art. I rely on internet research to create a kind of cost value analysis. Because for every place I stop for a meal, I can’t stop elsewhere. I have only one stomach to fill, of course. Added to that analysis is distance, location, and (the doozy) hours of operation… oh, and the massive scope of my eating preferences. All of these things are plugged into an algoritm in my head which tells me where to definitely stop and where to maybe stop.
The thing is, I often don’t have much to go on. Either the eatery’s website is limited or there are no other supplemental reports on the place (a service I like to feel I provide with my blog). So I’ll eat—and then the risk and reward system plays out. Results are cataloged and filed away, then, later, weighed into that cost value algorithm for next time.
I suppose it is kind of complicated when I deconstruct it but that’s not how it always is. Sometimes you just know a place will be a great spot. Though very organized and calculated, I appreciate, trust and adapt easily to this hunch-based decision making; it’s in my nature to dance on the poles.
Anyway, I just knew The Root would be a fabulous place to eat breakfast yesterday morning. And I was right.
If I didn’t just know, I definitely would have known upon arriving in their parking lot to see this adorable veggie mural! (That’s my chariot over there on the right by the shiitake.)
The decor of the place was shabby chic, which I love. After ordering, I took a mug from their collection of mugs, a napkin from their pile of cloth napkins, and chose the table with the best light, priority uno for my purposes. Luckily this table had the best light and full view of the entire eating area and all its little knick-knacks.
To eat, I order their Eggs Banh Mi, vegan-style with the tofu scramble substitute. But silly me snapped a shot that barely gives you a glimpse of the pickled daikon (you see the pickled carrot), jalapeno, fresh cilantro and squirts of hoisin and sriracha. You see the side salad, which I devoured like it was a decadent cake, audibly “mmm”ing. Fresh veggies on the road, especially in the Dirty South, are like treats.
I couldn’t leave town until I tried Loblolly Creamery‘s vegan ice cream. In fact, little did the kind gal running the show over there know when I began stalking the place at 10:57 a.m., this place was the only reason I was hanging around Little Rock for the morning hours. I had that feeling about this place, too. Loblolly is an old fashion-y soda fountain ice cream parlor attached to Green Corner, an eco-lifestyle store was functional crafts aligned to big ideals. So basically, inside that space is pretty darn special.
I’m going to jump right to my ice cream, which succeeded in blowing this discerning vegan away. I order a scoop of each of the day’s vegan coconut milk-based options: avocado and chocolate coconut. On top of those creamy, scrumptious ice creams I requested their strawberry sauce and dark chocolate drizzle, both housemade, and some sliced banana. It was decadent vegan deliciousness in a sustainable container.
This creamery is truly special. I have said “special” twice so far about these Little Rock offerings because I know what’s out there in the country. This blows big city options out of the water. They make everything in-house. I mentioned the sauces, but the waffle cones (vegan and gluten-free, by the way), the old fashioned soda syrups for the floats, the baked goods which are also accompaniments for their unique house-made ice cream flavors–right down to the preserved cherries! I kind of want to airlift this place back to New York.
From Little Rock, I had to head towards Memphis. I mean, I’ve never seen Graceland. To follow are a just a couple of the shots I took there. I took a whole bunch more but want to save them for my Elvis-inspired food post I want to do when I get home.
The iconic black leather suit. On a vegan blog.
Many themed restaurants littered the perimeter of Graceland’s gates.
This was my favorite room. Up on the television was his 1975 performance of Glory Glory Hallelujah. As the tour-goers filtered into this room I watched their light and meandering expressions transformed with the video, stopping them in their tracks and fixating the stares to the screen in awe. I know because it happened to me. It gave me such pleasure to watch it happen with the other folks, meshing this collective energy that gives magic to places like this. I liked Elvis a good deal before my visit to Graceland. When I left I was ready to pay top dollar for a 4′ black velvet Elvis painting. Souvenirs at the shop would have to do given airplane carry-on restrictions.
I had time for a quick dinner stop before hitting the road and getting myself into Alabama before too late in the evening. Since it was a Tuesday, the area’s all-vegan Imagine Vegan Cafe was closed unfortunately. I chose to RP Tracks, a community-minded eatery with “world famous” award-winning BBQ Tofu!
Y0u have award-winning BBQ tofu on your menu then that is what I’m going to get! And some steak fries. The tofu was divine. I could eat a sky-high pile of these delicious cubed and sauced delights. I ate this pile up real quick, only trying a bite or two with the bun, which I was suspicious of being non-vegan. I guess I could have asked but I just trusted my taste buds and left it on the plate with the slaw. Between the satisfying fries and tofu, the eatery gets an A+ for vegan options. Time to hit the road again! Next stop, Birmingham, Alabama!
A young vegan in 1997.
The majority of my vegan years went down in the pre-internet days. And yet I managed to find sustenance. As “vegan” becomes more and more mainstream through the years, I thought it apt to take a look back. This is Retro Vegan, Part 1.
I think a lot of vegan start off not eating well. Take my meals of Wendy’s fries with a side of a baked potato. (No joke.) When so much of your meal is animally derived, sides became main courses. But you live then learn, and not the other way around. After the “sides as a main” phase came terribly processed substitutions. Deli slices were the early fixes I remember. But then came texturized soy proteins… what I not-so lovingly called “science meat.” These were the times frozen reheated meat substitute restaurants seemed like good options.In those days (I guess I am at 2003/2004 already), I would go nuts for Soul Kofa, a Brooklyn-based pop-up/catering company that is all-vegan.
I mean, look! It looks just like chicken! And that’s what vegans want, right? Ok, not really. Some do–but I don’t. But then sometimes I do. I bought this recently because I am guilty of food nostalgia pangs on occasion. And because growth, in its most palpable form, is notched on the scorecard when one revisits bygones. While the old vegan in me would love these drumbsticks, the current vegan resented its ingredients simply reading “soy bean tofu” when it had so much processing done to it. I couldn’t finish one. But I am a certain type of vegan. And that’s how much things have evolved: there are a bunch of different types of vegans.
A nostalgic vegan food post would be nothing without a post about Dojo, the Asian-inspired bare bones eatery that lived on St. Marks Place since 1970. St. Marks Place is a street in the East Village of Manhattan that used to be, for lack of a more articulate term, cool. Before NYU students and chain stores cramped its style, rendering it indistinguishable from the place that meant so much to me when I was an alienated teenager. The Soy Burger Dinner. The carrot-ginger dressing. Trying an avocado for the first time. Sitting outside in the summer with a big, purple Kim’s Underground bag stuffed with LPs sticking to the side of my shin. I’ll never forget the Dojo, where I began to love food.
After hearing that Dojo’s West Village location (the one still standing) was soon closing its doors due exorbitant rent, a group of old hats sat down to try the Soy Burger Dinner once again. The dish, which originated in 1974, consists of their soy burger, brown rice and a side salad–all of which tastes delicious drenched in their carrot-ginger dressing.
Lifethyme on 6th avenue has been around for 20 years. When there was not a lot of vegan cake options (and when I didn’t bake) back in the early 2000’s, I ventured here often for the bakery in the back. They had a vanilla strawberry shortcake that was my favorite because it wasn’t a chocolate cake. Veganized chocolate cake was more widely available back then, and although Lifethyme’s vanilla had a brown, healthful hue, I greatly appreciated a vegan vanilla option. The old hats visited Lifethyme to peruse their now wide expanse of vegan baked (and raw) treats. I opted for the strawberry red velvet roll on the far left.
And then there’s the oldest of my early vegan options: a big plate of french fries. Still one of my favorites.
Quick! Name as many starches as you can in this dish from the all-vegan One Love in Toronto, Canada.
I’ll help you. 1) Green banana, steamed… 2) sweet potato… 3) yucca… 4) yellow yam… 5) plantain, as well as cooked greens and some fresh avocado slices. As the darling name implies, One Love is a Caribbean take-out restaurant, bringing their unique Ital cuisine to the very diverse Seaton Village neighborhood of Toronto.
With its gorgeous mural, One Love’s hard to miss. The place’s atmosphere is calm and benevolent and its food, simple and delicious. After all, it was 2009’s Critics’ Pick for Best Vegan restaurant in Now Magazine, Toronto’s Village Voice-equivalent. Prices are a tad high, but we found that to be true of everything in Toronto (No joke, 75$ CAD to fill up the car. It was $50-ish in The States.).. but luckily not true of our parking ticket.
Though I had created the loose itinerary for our last summer hurrah to Toronto, it was CandyPenny‘s keen eye who caught sight of the v-bomb as we ventured down the eclectic Bloor street for the umpteenth time and luckily we were able to stop and eat. The Hogtown Vegan, an all-vegan restaurant serving scrumptious comfort food… barely a month and a half old… simply blew us away.
Though we were taken aback by the horrid traffic on the QEW, a gazillion lane highway connecting Buffalo, New York with Toronto, and confused by the hectic metropolis we battled through at the mercy of our GPS, we were so impressed with what we ate. Hogtown Vegan was the perfect remedy for the urban sprawl. From the brainchildren of Hot Beans, an all-vegan Mexican take-out and donut shop in the hip Kensington Market, and Hello Vegan zine, comes some thoughtful grub. We split the roasted sweet potato sandwich: roasted sweet potato with some fresh greens, dressed with a tangy drizzle and some pepitas for texture. Collards on the side. So damn good.
Behold their fancy-pants fries! Housemade cheese, housemade cashew sour cream, housemade “bacon” bits (see the trend? Housemade makes me feel as good as “all-vegan”) and some green onion. Unbelievable. Can I reiterate how happy I am they are not relying on Daiya for cheese or Tofutti for sour cream? If I wanted store-bought, I’d go to the store.
It was time to head to the Trinity St. Paul’s United Church to see the one and only Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. Yes, the sought-after tickets I nabbed in late February (blog after-math here) were finally picked up at will-call. Though we had driven by the church earlier, frightened by the length of the line, we hurried in after dinner easily and secured an upper level pew to watch the show. It was a gorgeous setting to finally see him live.
The show, as expected, was fantastic. His powerful and familiar voice traveled high in the domed steeple of the church leaving me stupefied and 16 again… when I traveled for music, when it was that good. The polite crowd and I were on the same wavelength, just so happy to see him. Not a sea of cell phones cameras, in fact I saw none during his hour-ish set and encore. But I had to snap something to take home with me.
Ah, the emergence of the mainstream health-conscious movement, helping to increase the demand for veg-friendly food amongst the meat-heavy American fare of sports venues, I thank you. Your reasons are far more socially-acceptable… yes, the size of our behinds truly is more important than the the welfare of millions of animals. But allow my veganism to reap the benefits of your movement. Allow me, also, to partake in overpriced stadium grub this baseball season! Yes, veggie options are sweeping the nation.
Many don’t realize that plenty of ballparks across the country offer veggie food. Most impressive is Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, which offers vegan “crab” cakes and vegan Philly cheesesteaks along with veggie hot dogs and burgers, and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, which offers dogs, burgers, portobello sandwiches, sushi and dumplings. Both of these stadiums aced PETA’s top-10 list of veggie-friendly ballparks along with the Houston, Detroit, Colorado, Atlanta, San Diego, Los Angeles Milwaukee, Minnesota and Cleveland. And vegans can find much more beyond these cities too…. but veg-option turnover is a big problem. After all, demand is low; let’s be honest. After traveling to Nationals Park on a lead last season I was disappointed to learn that they no longer stocked veggie dogs or burgers (hear me whine here) while my visit to Fenway during the 2008 season (here) was a bit too soon, as they now are reported to have both veggie dogs and franks. Luckily Soyhappy, a consumer advocacy group that fights for veggie options in mainstream menus, has compiled thorough up-to-date research on all 30 Major League ballparks, including gate locations, important dietary notes on buns and condiments, as well as links to the emails of concession managers. On the back of their great body of research, I add my own two cents:
Vegan at Citi Field 2010.
In 2009, when Citi Field was brand-spanking new, vegan pickings were slimmer. (My first vegan report was a bit of a stretch.) But 2010 marked a leap forward. Citi Field, the home of The Mets, now offers veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs! I had been pining to make my first trip of the season since I learned the news. 40 days from the date of the press release, I was there to report on these options… and to see them beat the Florida Marlins. I arrived early and eager, sweating already from the unseasonable temps. I moved swiftly, following the gate locations Soyhappy listed on their website, ready for disappointment and confused concession services works. Then I saw it… “Light Options”… the Yves Veggie Cuisine logo… “VEGGIE”!! A word, to me, that illuminates on its own.
I did some research before my trip to Citi Field and felt confidant that the “Spicy Veggie Hot Dog” was Yves Veggie’s Hot & Spicy Chili Dog (a product listed on their Canadian website and not their American) and that they left off the “chili” so as to not skew the expectations of consumers who’d expect a dog topped with chili. This product is listed as vegan on their website. So let’s start there. I ordered the dog, loading up the frank with the traditional complimentary fixings, sweet relish, ketchup, mustard and warm sauerkraut, and waited eagerly for us to find and settle into our seats. From the looks of it, the veggie hot dog was not grilled or boiled, but likely nuked? The skin was dry, which I’d much prefer to the grease of a omnivorous grill. The concession stand man confirmed that these veggie options are cooked separately. But biting a hot dog from a Nathan’s cardboard box once finally in my seat, I panicked a little. But vegan it was, and scrumptious.
Now, the burger. Though Soyhappy reported it was confirmed vegan, my 17 years of veggie burger eating told me otherwise. It looked suspect, so I didn’t eat it. I tried to find the burger’s ingredients beforehand, like I had done with the veggie hot dog. Again, no such product as the “Harvest Veggie Burger” on their American site. But Yves Veggie’s ingredient list for their Harvest Bistro Burger, on their Canadian site, contained egg albumen. Visiting the site again, upon my return home, I was sure it was the same burger and not vegan. But here it is below nonetheless.
Both the veggie dog and burgers are available in “Dogs & Burgers” concession stands throughout the park. The concessions stands at gates 112, 123, 406, 423 and 435 I was able to verify firsthand. Soyhappy also lists them to be available at 303, 312, 325, 337 and 414 but I didn’t have access to these gates. Other options are also abound! Let’s look at them…
A large fry to share from Box Frites has become a tradition of sorts. Fries are easy. Vegetable oil is the industry standard now and the non-vegan condiments are pre-packed in their own little wasteful plastic containers. These “fancy” fries are $8, 50 cents more than last season, although significantly smaller. They’re delicious, yes, as any French fry is. Compared to the other stadium fries they’re fried evenly and with a great, consistent texture and are doused heavily in salt. For $3 cheaper you can get Nathan’s famous French fries, which I’ve found are often cooked in cross-contaminated oil… i.e. they kind of taste like chicken wings. I’ll stick to Box Frites for that peace of mind but… I’ll skip the chipotle ketchup.
Citi Field’s World Fare Market has some Asian cuisine, prepared salads, fruits and nuts within that are clearly vegan… none of which looks very appetizing. But on this little stand outside the World’s Fare entrance had some nice-looking fruit and some fresh-cut fruit salads. Look on the bottom of the display there… those 7 fruits salads… those were all there were a good hour before first pitch. So I’m sure they go quick. I had to pick one up just for the sheer variety: blackberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. What a combo!
What was more shocking then the spread inside the fruit salad was its price. $3.50. In a stadium where a bottle of water is $4, a beef hot dog is $6 and a beer is $7, we have this amazing fruit salad for $3.50.
An exclusive gluten-free (but non-vegan) stand is also outside of World’s Fare with the works. What a treat for one with no tolerance for gluten! And not having to worry about cross-contamination makes a big difference to some Celiacs. Let’s Go Mets!
Now, like on the road, a Subway, proponents of the mainstream health-conscious and its rise to power, is always at the next rest area. And they offer their vegetarian Veggiemax patty as well as their Veggie Delite. As always, the Italian bread is vegan and the honey wheat and the cheese-top breads are not. Kudos to Subway for listing pertinent ingredients in their website’s FAQ. It’s pretty special when an eatery can confirm their stearoyl-2-lactylate and the mono- and diglycerides preservatives to be of plant origin. And kudos to the vegans who made this question a frequent one, prompting it to be one of several vegan questions on the FAQ.
Other vegan fare I saw at Citi Field: soft pretzels, peanuts, crackerjacks, kettle corn (most likely) and fried dough (most likely). I am sure I’ll be back to report further on these and other vegan items. Citi is also lax about stadium-goers bringing in food. So vegan accompaniments, dips and spreads can truly liven up sides and up the foodie factor on the cheap. A big thanks to Citi Field to yielding to the diverse eating habits of Mets fans. Now, play ball!
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