Review: Vegan Gelato at Amorino

Amorino; 60 University Place, NYC

At the end of May we were in New York.

One day while walking in the West  Village, I spotted a place called Amorino, and recognised the name. A friend of mine in Bordeaux had raved about a place with exactly the same name, that supposedly made the most amazing vegan gelato and sorbets.

As I got nearer to this Amorino, I realised that it, too, was an ice-cream joint, and the penny dropped that Amorino was probably an international chain of ice-cream joints.

After a quick flurry of messaging back and forth with my French friend (who confirmed that this New York Amorino was indeed a branch of the shop that she had visited in Bordeaux), a little further research taught me there were actually lots of branches in London. DOH! It always seems I learn about the vegan options in my own city in totally backwards-azz ways!

We decided to come back and try Amorino properly the next day. Which turned out maybe not quite the right day to do it – Memorial Day. As you can imagine, it was packed to the rafters. This was our stupid oversight though, so I wasn’t gonna judge the whole experience on that.

While Amorino isn’t 100% vegan, there are around, I’m gonna say, 10 vegan flavours – which is pretty impressive. Usually in these kinds of places there might be a sad-looking lemon sorbet as the sole vegan option. So to have this much choice in a commercial gelato house is fantastic.

The vegan flavours are all clearly labelled ‘vegan,’ and they are all placed together, so there is no chance of making a mistake, and I’d imagine there is negligible chance of cross-contamination with the non-vegan gelato.

I’ve had conflicting info on whether the cones are vegan or not. Our most recent Amorino server said they were, but I just read somewhere online that they’re not. But no matter – just get a cup, you’re not 7. Unless you are.

The queuing system (it’s the same system in every branch I’ve since learned) is a little bizarre. You queue at the till and pay for your gelato size (it comes in several different size cups or cones), and you are given a receipt. You then move down to the gelato counters, give your receipt to the dude behind the counter, who takes the appropriate size cup/cone and you tell them what flavours you’d like.

Now that sounds practical enough, but in reality, it would be better if you could see the gelato first and make up your mind what you wanted, then pay, and then grab the goods. The way it’s set up now, you pay, then (if you’re like most people) you stand there for ages holding up the queue while selecting from the abundance in front of you.

Maybe if you could see all the flavours first, so you’d already decided in advance? I don’t know, it just feels there could be a better and quicker way.

I learned on my last visit that the vegan flavours are actually sorbets, and not gelato – and all the gelato are non-vegan. Which COULD be disappointing. But it’s not.

The saving grace, and the reason why I will keep revisiting Amorino, is (SPOILER ALERT!!!) for the pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate flavours. Even though they are technically sorbet, they taste as creamy as ice-cream and are all absolutely OR-GAS-MIC. Mighty flavourful and not too sweet, the sweetness is masterfully apportioned to enhance the flavour, and doesn’t at all overwhelm it, as can be the case with inferior ice-cream.

Yuuuuuum!

The other flavours can change, but they seem to always have chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, mango, lime & basil, passion fruit, banana, and coconut.

On this first visit in NY, on the advice of my friend I tried a cup of the pistachio, and paired it with almond (you can have as many flavours as you like but it’s probably best not to go for more than three to avoid overkill and everything running into each other – and you’d have trouble fitting more than three scoops into a small cup anyway!).

They helpfully offered a taste of the flavours we were interested in to help us decide (but don’t expect this in the UK – service is different here. They will rarely offer a taste, but if you asked nicely you could probably try one or two of them).

The pistachio recommendation was, as, um, you already now know, spot-on. I could have gone back for seconds and thirds. The almond was great too – but I slightly preferred the pistachio.

There are high stools and tables to eat at, and a few regular tables. The decor is best described as nouveau fake..um..old Italian (gold and cherubs everywhere) but it’s pleasant enough. If you come at a busy time you’ll be hard pressed to find a table, so plan your visit carefully, or, weather permitting, go eat your gelato in a nearby park.

Amorino isn’t cheap, but it’s the price you’d expect for a quality, artisanal product.  A couple of large cups (which aren’t really that large) will set you back almost 12 quid, but honestly, if it tastes like 12 quid, I’m happy to pay it. London can be extortionate and it’s easy to find yourself paying through the nose for mediocrity, but this is not the case in Amorino.

Once back in London, I decided to try the branch in Fulham Broadway with a friend.

The set-up was exactly the same as the NY branch. This time I had hazelnut and chocolate flavours. OMG – the chocolate is also incredible. Rich; dark; earthy; just the right amount of sweetness, not at all bitter. The hazelnut flavour rivalled the pistachio, and may be my new favourite. It has crunchy bits of sugared hazelnut in there for extra texture and is just divine.

Amori-YES!

I had another visit to this branch last week – this time with my partner. We went around 9pm. This Amorino is open until 11pm, and it’s nice to be out later in the evening somewhere that isn’t drinky – which is usually your only choice for late evening outings here. We decided to go all out, get large cups and have three flavours each. I got the hazelnut (OBVS), some strawberry, and some lime and basil.

 

I’ve noticed the hazelnut and pistachio are like Clarke Kent and Superman, they never seem to be around at the same time!

The strawberry was great; I’d definitely get it again. The lime and basil I thought would be interesting because of the basil but….not so much. It just tasted of lime, which is nice enough for one or two mouthfuls, then you get kinda all citrussed out and you’re DONE WITH THE CITRUS.

On my expert advice my partner got the hazelnut and chocolate, and then went rogue with some raspberry. He gushed over the hazelnut and chocolate flavours OF COURSE, and said the raspberry sorbet was good but is better at La Gelatiera.

I reckon on future visits (and there will be MANY) I’ll stick with the hazelnut, pistachio and chocolate – but I could be tempted to try the passion fruit and mango flavours at some point too.

Conclusion

Amori -YES!

Go at a non-peak time, grab a cup of the pistachio or hazelnut or chocolate flavours (or all damn three), and take your time relishing and savouring this artisanal frozen gustatory delight.

 

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Vegan In Brooklyn

This week: Coming to you from NYC!!!

OK, Brooklyn.

But you know what? I ADORE Brooklyn.

I’d much rather stay here than in Manhattan.

It’s peaceful; has stoop-tastic brownstones; wide, tree-lined cobbled streets; amazing street art; cool restaurants – MANY of which are vegan; and a great atmosphere.

You don’t need to be in hipster Williamsburg to get the great vegan food either. We have three vegan places (two entirely vegan and one vegetarian/vegan place) within twenty minutes walk of where we are staying in Park Slope.

As I have limited time, and as I’ve written about New York restaurants before, both here and here; if it’s OK with you, for this week I’m just gonna leave you with a few pics from where we ate today. In Brooklyn.

Hightail it to both of these joints if you get the chance.

Start salivating…..NOW!

First up, from the V Spot:

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Fried avocado in breadcrumbs with spicy mayo and lime wedge. As delicious as it sounds

 

Jamaican wrap with collards, onions, vegan cheese, vegan chicken, Caribbean brown rice and peas. Spicy and scrumptious.
Jamaican wrap with collards, onions, vegan cheese, vegan chicken, Caribbean brown rice and peas. Spicy and scrumptious
Chilaquiles & tofu scramble topped with vegan cheese
Chilaquiles & tofu scramble topped with vegan cheese. This did not touch the sides of my partner’s mouth.
Lightly fried plantain with a thin curry sauce. Because if there's plantain on the menu, I'm having it
Lightly fried plantain with a thin curry sauce. Because if there’s plantain on the menu, I’m having it

For dessert, we ambled a few blocks to the Park Slope branch of Van Leeuwens Artisanal Ice Creamery. These pics are actually from the branch in the West Village in NYC, because they were better than my pics from today.

Van Leeuwens is not a wholly vegan place, but has a decent vegan menu, and the ice-creams are artisanal, with quality ingredients (the vegan ones at least 🙂 ).

The base of the vegan ice-cream is coconut milk, almond and cashew milk. I was a little disappointed that they’d run out of the pistachio flavour AND the coconut whipped cream on both of our visits, but whatever. The ice-cream we had was still very, very good.

Behold these beauties:

One mint choc chip/cookie dough, one banana nut/matcha. Bliss.
One mint choc chip/cookie dough, one banana nut/matcha. Bliss.

 

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10 Top Tips For Happy Vegan Travel!

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If you’re a new vegan and wondering how you’ll cope being vegan when you travel, worry not – I’ve got you covered every which way of the compass you could travel!!!

I’ve previously written about how not to go hungry on plane trips here, so that’s the beginning of your journey sorted (some of the snack ideas would of course apply to road and train trips too).

We vacation in America two or three times a year, and everywhere we’ve been absolutely spoiled with vegan options. It’s definitely one of the reasons we return again and again.

Nothing beats being able to walk into a restaurant that is MADE FOR YOU! Where you don’t have to question the wait staff or read labels; you can just kick back and be ‘normal’!

What I love, possibly even more than a vegan restaurant, is a non-vegan restaurant that has a separate vegan menu. It’s good for non-vegans to see huge plates of delicious, colourful food being served to vegans to bust that tenacious old myth that vegan food is boring.

Even a few vegan options clearly marked on a menu is very welcome, assuming the options are yum and imaginative, not just a token offering (hello, ubiquitous roasted Mediterranean veg!)

Obviously big ‘western’ cities have lots of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. But what do you do if you’re going to a country that doesn’t even have a fringe understanding of veganism; or where refusing any animal food at all would be perceived as rude; and where you understand NOT A WORD of the local language?

There doesn’t seem to be many places in the world where it’s not possible to eat vegan. Many countries have lots of staple dishes that are vegan anyway, and you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere that didn’t sell fresh fruit and veg. It’s not always easy to eat HEALTHY vegan food – but assuming you’re on vacation or a short business trip, the odd plate of fries or bag of chips won’t kill you!

Personally, I’ve eaten well as a vegan in Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, France and Spain, and there are ways and means to eat well pretty much everywhere.

Well, what are they?

 

1. Acquaint yourself with the Happy Cow website

Happy Cow lists all the vegan restaurants, vegan-friendly restaurants, and health stores (where you can pick up vegan snacks) in a place.

There aren’t many regions that won’t have at least a couple of listings (I just randomly tried Haiti, Tangiers and Havana, and there were a couple of listings for each!)

Make Happy Cow your first port of call.

 

2. Think about renting a hotel suite with a full kitchen, or an apartment so you can cook ‘at home’

There are plenty of hotel chains that do suite rooms with full kitchens. If there aren’t too many vegan dining out options where you’re going, then shop at a local market or supermarket and cook in!

Otherwise, try renting out an apartment, house or villa through Airbnb or one of the other travel websites. I’ve used Airbnb several times in New York, LA, and I’m just about to do it again in Tennessee.  There is no better way to experience living like a native than shopping for your dinner with everyone else in the town.

 

3. If you have to stay in a regular hotel room, ask for a refrigerator / microwave

Most hotel rooms these days either come equipped with a refrigerator and/or a microwave – OR a fridge is available on request. Keep the fridge stocked with fresh fruit, nuts, bread, and any vegan snacks you come across.

 

4. The travel kettle is your new best friend

Pack a small travel kettle, and you’ve got the fixin’s for miso soup, ANY powdered soup, porridge, some types of noodles, and some instant meals that just require hot water (Mcdougalls soup pots for example). Just make sure to have an adaptor if the electricity sockets are different at your destination!

 

5. Sometimes it’s all about sides and appetisers baby!

As mentioned, lots of staple foods in many European, African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries are vegan by default. If all the mains on a menu contain meat or fish; look for sides or appetisers (‘meze’ in some countries) based on beans, lentils or veg, and order several of these instead. Some may contain yoghurt, but you should find enough that don’t.

 

6. Are you all about the ‘fly & flop’? Pick a hotel with a buffet

‘Fly & flops’ are usually located in sunny climes, and sunny climes always have fantastic fruit,  and salad vegetables right? Fill up at the hotel buffet on fresh produce, good breads, bean dishes, hummus and salsa.

 

7. Ooh, this one’s long!  If you’re going somewhere where the culture is very different to the one you’re familiar with, you will need to make some decisions

What do I mean by this?

Well, for example: Once, in rural Upper Egypt, we were invited to someone’s house, where the mother of the family had cooked us a fabulous meal. Luckily, plenty of it was plant-based by default, so we could tuck in heartily without offending anyone.

Over the meal however, the subject came up that I was vegan, and my Egyptian friend (whose mother had prepared the spread) said that the filling of the delicious stuffed hot cabbage leaves we were eating – which was a herby, spicy rice – had probably been cooked in a meat broth.

Now I’d already eaten some, and had intended having more.

What did I do?

I chose to overlook the fact that meat broth had probably been used.

Why?

Look, its one thing if you’re in the States at a Mexican restaurant and ask the wait staff if the beans have been cooked in animal broth or fat. You are in the US, and Mexican chefs and waitstaff have probably already come across this question before.

However, the context I found myself in that day in Egypt was completely different. Already, the concept of ‘vegan’ was insane to them – it was explained to me that only poor people ate NO meat. I understood that if my friend’s mother had used animal products in our food, it’s because she wanted very much to please us. There was a donkey (that was all ribs) tied up outside the house, and sick stray kittens all over the place. It wasn’t me that was going to cause a massive paradigm shift in understanding that day or even make anyone think that veganism was a credible lifestyle. Complaining about the food would’ve just been mightily ungracious and rude.

I managed to avoid the meat, but continued to eat veg and beans that may or may not have been cooked in meat stock.

It’s quite common in African, Asian and South American countries for beans to be cooked in meat stock and you therefore might find yourself having to make the decision that ‘what the eye doesn’t see won’t harm you,’ i.e., if animal products are not visible, then go ahead and eat the beans and veg you come across.

This is completely your call. My motto is ‘do what you can.’ To me, veganism isn’t about being perfect, or about starving to make a point. It’s about doing as much as is reasonably possible to avoid unnecessary cruelty and environmental destruction.  If I can’t see dairy, eggs, fish or meat in a dish that looks like veg and beans, and this dish is likely the best I’ll get all day, I’ll eat it.

You might feel differently. Like I said; your call.

 

8. Familiarise yourself with words for ‘no meat,’ ‘no milk,’ ‘no butter’ etc in the language of your host country

I went to Valencia, Spain a few years ago, and I’ll never forget ‘sin carne,’ ‘sin leche,’ ‘sin queso’, ‘sin mantequilla,’ ‘sin heuvos,’ ! Learning the words for meat, cheese, butter, eggs and fish (and the word for ‘vegan’ if there is one!) in the language of the place you are visiting, will help you better avoid these foods.

 

9. Don’t overlook street food

There is often great street food available in lots of countries, much of it vegan; and because you can watch it being made, it is fresh and you can see exactly what goes into it. Though you may need to make the ‘do I overlook it if I can’t see it?‘ decision, as per Tip number 8.

 

10. Pre-pack dried non-perishable goodies

If you are going somewhere where you truly anticipate finding vegan food to be a problem, hit up your health store (or supermarket with a good health aisle). Grab some good quality nut/date/seed/fruit bars; fill a few bags with nuts and dried fruit from the bulk bins; get some powdered miso; and breadsticks are versatile, light and last a while, so get some of these too. Any vegan cookies in this shop? Buy some. Some small sachets of soy sauce would be a good idea also.

You can intersperse these protein-filled snacks with (well-washed) local fresh produce when you can. Your destination may well have a grain as the base of its traditional dishes, i.e. rice; so if you can, have plain rice, tomatoes or other available vegetables and flavour with the soy sauce sachets.

 

Happy travels, send us a postie!

 

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Vegan in Vegas

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 ADTeasdale, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I’m just back from my third Las Vegas trip, and once again had an amazing time (apart from the 5 ½ hour delay getting there – cheers American Airlines!).

I’m guessing the first words you think of on hearing the name of this desert city are casinos, whores, steakhouses, strippers, cheesy shows, decadence and opulence, tat and trinkets, debauchery and desperation.

Maybe you think of expressionless, over-tanned, leathery-skinned old people in sun visors clutching on to coke cups full of quarters, banging away at the slots until the early hours.

Or maybe it’s the Chinese business men (‘cos it is always Chinese men for the moment) sitting stoically at the baccarat tables; and serving them are the slightly hard-faced, scantily-dressed, fake-boobed cocktail servers (‘cos they are always female for the moment – when women have more money and power, then we’ll see the topless buff waiters!).

If the name Las Vegas gives you a visual similar to the one I’ve described, you are not wrong. You’ll find all this nonsense and plenty more just like it.

The first time we came to Vegas six years ago, I was expecting it to be nothing BUT how I just described it. We were doing a road trip through the southern Utah National Parks and I was absolutely disgusted that we’d have to fly into Vegas as a starting point!

But, sleaze aside (you do have to kind of compartmentalise this – unless you’re into it of course!), I have to admit we were a little mesmerised by the spectacular Bellagio fountains, the stunning fresh flower creations everywhere, the insane daredevil rides at the top of the Stratosphere, the fake volcanoes and light displays etc. The Vegas strip forces you to forget your cares and suckers you into a state of awe and wonder at the outrageousness, the ridiculousness, the sparkle and fantasy of it all. There is no place like this anywhere else in the world and its frivolous and fun; but definitely guilt-inducing at the same time when you think of the water and energy it takes to maintain (in the middle of the freakin’ desert!), and the poor Latino immigrants everywhere on the strip handing out flyers for prostitutes who undoubtedly deserve our sympathy even more than they do.

There is another Vegas however.

For me, Vegas means quick access to lush, pine-forested mountains (35 minutes away) and gorgeous red rock canyons (25 minutes away). There is the 12,000 foot Mount Charleston and the surrounding Spring Mountains that are almost paradisiacal to hike in, and only forty minutes away from the city. The smell of the sun-soaked pines at that altitude is addictive; you just want to breathe it in forever.

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Me, interacting wid naycha..

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The ancient canyons with their red and white strata are like nature’s own playground; there seem to be steps perfectly placed for you to climb as high or as low as you want, all the while being gently cooled by the desert wind (though wear a hat!).

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Vegas for me ALSO means great food.

Believe it or not, there are plentiful vegan options in Vegas.

Now it’s not New York or Los Angeles, or even Austin or Portland in terms of the sophistication and imagination of the plant-based food, and there is not particularly a health-awareness to it. You can get great superfood salads of course, but anything involving flour (veggie burger buns, pastry, cakes, pizza bases, burritos etc) is likely to be white flour. I try and avoid white flour at all times because of these reasons; but it’s up to you if you want to make an exception when you’re on vacation.

There are still great meals to be had nevertheless, and even the US Airways (international) magazine advertises the fact:

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Part of the reason for the plant-based Vegas restaurant scene is because big time hotelier, Steve Wynn, is vegan himself, and has ensured that there are lots of vegan menu options at ALL of the restaurants and cafes at his opulent Wynn and Encore hotels. With ten fine dining and nine casual dining establishments, you could eat at a different place every meal! Several of these restaurants actually have a separate vegan menu. Here’s one from the Terrace Point Cafe at the Wynn:

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It says ‘vegetarian,’ but everything is vegan – I guess ‘vegetarian’ is a less scary word for some!
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The French toast
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The Ranchero scramble

This progressive attitude isn’t confined to Wynn’s restaurants only. There are several restaurants at the Mandalay Bay with fantastic vegan options – and Mexican restaurant Hussongs and pizzeria Slice of Vegas have separate vegan menus! MGM and the Aria also have excellent vegan choices on some of their restaurant menus.

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Soft corn Gardein fish tacos at Hussongs Cantina

Lots of hotel suites in Vegas have full kitchens, so if you get tired of eating out, you can shop at one of the several Whole Foods where vegans are extremely well catered for, and either eat from their hot/cold bar, or cook ‘at home.’

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Vegan friendly version of the iconic Las Vegas sign at Whole Foods

I’m always completely gobsmacked at the abundance of choice there is for vegans in shops in the US compared to the UK and Europe (and I live in London where we have the widest choice in the country!)

These are just SOME of the plant-based ice-creams on offer!

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Plenty of ready meals if you don’t want to go out but don’t fancy cooking!

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There is also better quality fresh veg and fruit. Huge bunches of full leaved kale and collard greens (not chopped to within an inch of its life, packaged in plastic and full of stalks).

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Bulk bins provide a multitude of cheap organic grains, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. With all the choice available and at every budget level, it really IS easy to be vegan here. Also, there is practically NO limitation as to what you can eat, just in the veganised version – there is even vegan bacon if you are transitioning and have a bacon craving:

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We got through a pint of this…

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…two pints of this (not one after the other!)…

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…and a pint of Mint Choc Chip that we ate before I could take a photo. And we STILL lost weight because of all the mountain and canyon hiking!

 

It’s easy to believe Vegas is just a seedy, steakhouse ridden blight on the desert, especially when you read about places like the pretty odious Heart Attack Grill, with their ‘vegan menu’ of 100% full leaf tobacco..HARHAAAAAAAAAAAAAR…ugh.. (and where, surprise surprise, people actually die). But now, some steakhouses (the SW Steakhouse at the Wynn, for example) actually have excellent vegan menus!

It just once again proves that old cliche to be correct – never judge a book by its cover. Or, never judge a showy casino town by the, er, hookers and cigarette smoke.

Over three trips we’ve discovered the awe-inspiring natural beauty that surrounds Vegas, and the plethora of plant-based options open to us.

Now we know the quality and quantity of the vegan food options available and with the nature there is easy access to from Vegas, it’s often amongst our top choices for a get-away.

 

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NYC – Where Vegans Are People Too, Part 2 (Or, Where To Eat In New York).

So last week, I gushed about how New York caters to all the vegans, not just the studenty, beatniky ones. I totally adore students and beatniks, but more diversity was needed, and New York delivered.

I also shared some food pics from the beginning of our wee break there.

If you missed that post? Click here.

This is SOME of what we ate for the rest of the vacation.

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary

Cashew based ice-cream – check out the coconut whipped cream and hot fudge sauce on top!

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And with chocolate sauce on top –

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V-Note (part of the Blossom group)

South of the border salad:

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Mushroom scallops, tofu salmon, broccollini and forbidden rice in a white wine and mushroom reduction:

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Hearty, but non-greasy, sweet potato fries:

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Blossom in Chelsea

Blossom greens and cream of celeriac soup:

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Part of my intention with these pics was to help quell the common misconception that vegans only eat salad. It was so hot while we were here however, that I ended up wanting to eat salad pretty often!

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Aaaaannnnd, mah reKOmenDAYshiuns…

My overall recommendations for vegan dining in NYC are as follows. Though I’ve been four times, there are tonnes of plant-based restaurants I haven’t yet visited, so this is based on my current experience:

Absolute Must Do’s. Go There Yesterday

Franchia – if you love Korean and Japanese food, but want the healthy versions, try this beautiful mid-town restaurant. I love it for the imaginative maki rolls (try the spicy ‘tuna’, the guacamole, or the shiitake ones in particular), the teas, and the space. Don’t forget to look up at the gorgeous ceiling.

Erin Mckenna’s Bakery – If, like me, you are a health conscious, whole food vegan, then you want something healthier than veganised regular cakes. You want goodies that, ideally, are made without refined flour or sugars. So what do you do? You visit Erin Mckenna’s Bakery. They use a gluten-free fava/broad bean mix flour, and use agave as much as possible to sweeten. The excellent thing is, none of the taste is compromised. The cupcakes are deliciously moist and rich. I’ve occasionally had a slightly stale cupcake here, but I’m prepared to accept that it could have been a bad day/member of staff, and even though they’ve down-graded some of their ingredients recently (possibly to increase profit margins, but I have no evidence this is the reason)  I’ll always, ALWAYS go back there when I’m in New York. They were the first and are still the best. Try the vanilla and red velvet cupcakes. And the doughnuts. And the banana bread. And the cookie sandwiches. Ok try everything.

Peacefood Cafe – There are now two branches of this vegan restaurant, one on the Upper West Side, and one downtown, which I just visited for the first time. Though I’d heard about Peacefood a while ago, I avoided visiting it the last couple of times I was in NY because I thought the name sounded corny and overbearingly hippie and mother-earthy. Shows what a silly I was. Never judge a restaurant by its name. At the very least, judge it by its online menu. When I finally got around to looking at theirs, the chickpea fries called my name from the screen, and that was my initial reason for going. I can report that they were excellent, along with the drinks (brazil nut chai highly recommended ) and the desserts – the key lime pie was insane. We actually took this to-go, and ate it a couple of hours later in the Plaza Hotel food hall. I feared it would have turned to mush in the afternoon heat, but it was still pretty sturdy. I loved the decor too, very elegant, yet friendly and inviting. We went back to Peacefood a couple of days later, and will definitely return on our next New York trip.

Re: The Plaza Hotel food hall;  not much doing for vegans I’m afraid, apart from a froyo kind of place that always has one (rotating) non-dairy flavour – but I guess if you don’t like that one flavour, you’re screwed.

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – This was our first visit to Lula’s. We tried to go last year but it was all closed down. This was doubly disappointing, as we’d just tried to go to Stogo, another amazing ice-cream place (one we’d previously tried) that had also just shut down. Before we left, I read that the shop had kind of opened again, that it was opened on some days, and it might not be called Lula’s Sweet Apothecary any more. Yes. I was confused too. We went on a Saturday night, we figured it HAD to be open on a Saturday night, and it was. It’s kind of at the address advertised for LSA, but maybe one or two doors along (if you go to the given address, you’ll come across it) and I think it’s open Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun, until late.

We happily slurped and munched on cashew-based strawberry and vanilla ice creams (they have lots of sexier flavours, we were just being boring), with hot fudge and marshmallow sauce, and coconut-based whipped cream. This was while sitting outside the shop in the dimming East Village light, listening to the strains of something very Woody Guthrie-esque (Ramblin’ Jack Elliot?) coming from the cosy interior. Go.There.Now.

As for the Blossom chain, for location I recommend Blossom on Carmine (on a pretty street in the West Village), but for food it has to be V-Note. V-note is not in a great location but absolutely worth making a trek to for the food.

Hangawi – sister restaurant to Franchia, it is also midtown, but a little more expensive and fancy. You take your shoes off at the entrance, and sit at traditional Korean tables. The kimchi stews are amazing.

Bliss Cafe – Let’s not forget Brooklyn. Vegan or vegan curious in Brooklyn? Go here. I had a great bowl of chilli with Daiya cheese on top and some gorgeous house blend iced chai.

 

If you’re hungry and passing by…

Gobo – We’ve been to their West Village location twice now (they have another on the Upper East Side), but if I’m honest it was more because I like the space than the food. This restaurant doesn’t seem to know what it is, and some of the items just seem a bit, well, weird. It always seems buzzy, and other people’s food looked and smelled good, so I’m happy to believe I just haven’t yet chosen the right thing from the menu.

Angelica Kitchen – I loved this old East Village vegetarian mainstay when we discovered it in 2002, but revisiting in 2011 and 2013, it just really wasn’t great. The cornbread is fabulous, and I’ve never tried the desserts, some of which sounded great, but I would probably only revisit if I was in the ‘hood and starving.

Next time, I’ll be excited to visit…

So, so many, but the places that come to mind are Souen, Village Natural, Beyond Sushi, and Pure Food And Wine

 

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NYC – Where Vegans Are People Too. Part 1.

At this time of year, budget allowing, we like to go to New York for a few days, because…….FOOOOOD.

Though the rest of the world is catching up slowly to the idea that a plant-based diet just may be the way to go for the sake of the environment, and for optimal human animal and non-human animal health and wellbeing – New York done got it first.

Los Angeles is not far behind, and San Francisco is almost there. But if you want the full gamut of dining experiences that are usually only available to meat eaters, from street food to elegant gourmet fare in five star settings, and everything in between, you’ll find it in New York.

The first time we visited in 2002, the odd veggie restaurant we came across, though good, most definitely had the hippie vibe. Nothing wrong with that at all of course, but in twelve short years, New York has been smart enough to learn that vegans are not all students/dropouts with piercings and dreads printing off radical left-wing zines to drop into food co-ops. It has realised that we are, in fact, three-dimensional beings, with the full-range of food tastes and desires that meat-eaters have.

In fact, most good restaurants, if they don’t have a separate vegan menu, will have a few solid vegan options. And unlike the UK, they are all better than the oh, so ubiquitous, soul oppressing  ‘Roasted blah Mediterranean blah Vegetables.’

Gosh, I sound obnoxious. Look, there is nothing wrong with RMV, it’s just that when you’ve had it at every wedding and Christmas lunch you’ve been to, your heart sinks when yet again faced with those three words on a menu.

If you are planning on going to New York, I hope the following food photos get you excited about sampling the smorgas(mic!)bord of vegan delights that await you.

Even if you’re not planning on going I hope they’ll at least get your tastebuds going, and inspire you to get crazy and creative in the kitch!

You’ll have to excuse the photo quality, my camera is getting on a bit. Focus on the content not on the pixels!

From Franchia Vegan Cafe, sister restaurant to HanGawi:

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Kimchi Dumplings

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Guacamole maki rolls, shiitake maki rolls

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Brown rice noodle soup with bok choi

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Bibimbap with cucumber kimchi (sans stone bowl – it’s too hot in the stone bowl, so we cheated and just had a regular one)

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Iced ginger tea latte with cream

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From Erin Mckenna’s Bakery:

Vanilla and red velvet cupcakes, vanilla doughnut and cookie sandwich

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From Peacefood Cafe:

Chickpea fries with garlic aioli

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Vegetable tempura

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The most divine brazil nut chai

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Watermelon mint agave summer cooler

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To be continued next week…

 

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Vegan On A Plane? Synch, Just Get Snack-Packin’!

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Vegan and flying long distance over the holidays? Celebrating somewhere abroad or jetting off for some sun?

How does a vegan optimise the in-flight meal experience, and avoid landing feeling hungry and cranky?

The first thing you should know is that plane food of any description is no great shizz, so you don’t need to feel bad that you are not well-catered for – NOBODY is. ‘That meal I had last night on the plane was the best meal I’ve ever had,’ said NO-ONE EVER.

Once you’ve booked your flight, go to the airline website where you should have the option to select your seat, and any special meals. The code to select to ensure a vegan meal is usually VGML. Depending on the airline, other options you might have to select are ‘vegetarian non-dairy,’ or ‘pure vegetarian.’

The benefit of a special meal is that you nearly always get served first, before the omni masses, so you can sit and munch smugly, listening to their bellies rumble! The downside is that sometimes they don’t have the vegan meal you ordered, and you really need to be prepared for this – it’s happened to me more than once!

If your vegan meal HAS been forgotten, you can ask if there are any Asian meals left (or they could be marked as Hindu). These are usually a curry, or a dahl, and are normally vegan.

Otherwise, make sure you have a good supply of fallback food (though you’ll probably end up eating it anyway – airplane meals aren’t that substantial).

Good snacks to take (remember, there are some foods that won’t get past security) are home-made sandwiches – just eat them sooner rather than later if they are made with perishable goods. Humous, tomato, rocket and spring onion sandwiches in wholewheat pitta (pitta is good because it holds the contents well) are fabulous; or peanut butter, tomato and spring onion, with a splash of soy sauce is another quick and easy choice.

Wholewheat breadsticks, and sachets of dried vegan organic leek and potato soup (you can find these at Whole Foods or other health stores), or sachets of miso soup are good for an easy hot food option. The flight attendants can give you a cup of hot water, and you can just pour a sachet of the powdered soup in and mix.

If you are pushed for space, good old nuts and dried fruit will satisfy an empty stomach. Vegan nut and cereal bars are compact and travel well, so if you don’t get to them on the flight there, you’ll have them for the way back.

Assuming you get your meal as ordered, don’t forget to check the little sachets and things that come with your VGML meal – some airlines are not too hot on the finer details. While the main dish will definitely be vegan, the spread for the bread, or the dressing for a salad, may not be.

What to expect from the meal? Weeelll, it’s kind of hit and miss, but DO remember – the omnis are NOT having a better time than you.

And, there are random surprises. On a flight last year I was thrilled by a tasty quinoa and black bean salad, and several times on overnight long-haul flights I’ve woken up to a delicious whole grain vegan cookie for breakfast!

I’ve never come across soy milk being offered for tea and coffee. It’s a good idea to always ask if they carry it EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW THEY DON’T. Why? Because, the more people that ask, the more the message gets out there that the market is changing, and soon enough they will HAVE to carry it, it’ll be so mainstream. Crafty, huh?

Bottom line, travel prepared! Everybody should take lots of snacks on longer flights, so it really isn’t extra work for vegans.

Happy travels, where ever you may be going. I’m totally jealous!

Any cool ideas for vegan plane-friendly snacks I haven’t mentioned? Please share in the comments.

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