I could be a vegetarian

Twice this week—TWICE!— I’ve thought to myself, “I could totally be a vegetarian.”

Not a vegan. No, not ever a vegan. I couldn’t give up ice cream and cheese. But vegetarian? I could definitely be a vegetarian.

Honestly, it’s a thought that creeps in all the time, luring me with its promises of health and skinniness, but then I smell bacon fresh out of the pan or  a take a juicy bite of a fat burger and I think no, nevermind, what was I thinking.

But then again, twice this week, I thought I could do it, based off delicious vegetarian meals (one vegan actually!) that didn’t make me feel like I was missing anything.

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American butternut squash bowl… cause not everything American is broken

Earlier in the week was a freakin’ great American butternut squash bowl from PureKtchn. Pretty much the kind of dish that begs to be Instagrammed, it was a big colorful bowl of soft butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, kale, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts and a surprise pinch of tangy, fruity sweetness from goji berries. People who force feed themselves salads in an attempt at being healthy, EAT THIS. It was good! It was healthy! There was no forcing of anything!

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Superiority Burger, sometimes vegan, always delicious

Then later in the week, a friend and I had dinner at Superiority Burger, a cramped little East Village spot whose menu tells people to ask because “everything is vegetarian, a lot is accidentally vegan.” Clockwise from the left hand corner of the picture, we shared the smashed spicy cucumber and brown rice  topped with some of the best damn croutons I’ve ever had, the Sloppy Dave, a delicious, saucey take on a sloppy Joe, the zesty and creamy tahini ranch romaine salad that made me forget how lame I think lettuce is and a rich, spicy burnt broccoli salad.

I might cut back on meat and dairy but realistically, I won’t likely ever become a vegetarian. (I’m a Libra, I’m all about balance.) But with meals like these, where I ended full and happy with not a single crumb of guilt or shame, (which isn’t the case when I polish off a pint of ice cream or a whole pizza) I can certainly keep daydreaming about it.

Yes, this is about a salad

The makings of a damn fine salad.

The makings of a damn fine salad.

Folks, I’m happy to report that I’m alive and well. Not only because I survived going vegan for a month but also because I managed to not overdose on mountains of bacon and cheese on February 1st, my first day back to non-vegan eating. (Maybe I’m finally getting a hang of this whole self-control thing. Doubtful, though.)

Even though I’m back to the dairy wonderland that is my life, I’ll be keeping a few of the things I picked up during my brief stint as a vegan. Tofu cream cheese for, example, and veggie breakfast sausages are sticking around, as is hopefully the Spicy Sabzi from trendy salad chain, Sweetgreen.

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The Spicy Sabzi, mmm mmm mmm!

I know what you’re thinking. A salad? Really? Yes, really. The Spicy Sabzi, a colorful, delicious and actually filling beauty of baby spinach and kale with spicy quinoa, spicy broccoli, carrots, raw beets, basil, sprouts and roasted tofu, is no freakin’ joke. Dressed with a carrot chili vinaigrette and a squeeze of one of my favorites ever, sriracha sauce, this salad is something I’d gladly eat again and again. It’s chunky, spicy, zesty and full of great tasting and great-for-you ingredients. What’s not to love?

My one concern was that because Sweetgreen’s only New York location was in a part of town that I don’t typically find myself in often I probably wouldn’t be eating there that much, but then I read  that another Sweetgreen is on its way to Brooklyn, not far from me, so it looks like there are definitely more Spicy Sabzis in my future. Vegan or not, I’m looking forward to that.

So I like veggie burgers

As much as I love a big ol’, juicy, meaty burger (and you should I know I love it a lot), I’m also and have been since way before this whole vegan challenge of mine a big fan of veggie burgers. I don’t equate one with the other but love them both separately. Sometimes I want a good burger, and sometimes I just want a solid veggie burger. That’s just how it is.

I’ve had some made from tofu, great ones out of black beans,  and others with actual chopped up veggies, but never until a few days ago, when I had the forbidden rice burger at Ni Japanese Delicacies in the Essex Street Market, had I eaten one made out of rice.

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The tasty rice burger at Ni Japanese Delicacies 

Ni is a small place, really a tiny, walk up counter of vegan and vegetarian Japanese inspired bites and drinks. Their veggie burger, which usually comes on a brioche but can be replaced with vegan sprouted bread, has a “patty” of Asian black rice, maitake mushrooms, carrots, and kale and comes topped with baby arugula, pickled sweet peppers and vegan herb mayo.

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No meat here, fake or otherwise.

This rice burger I’m sure without a doubt is better on the brioche, but even on the vegan-friendly sprouted bread, it was pretty good. The problem with a lot of veggie burgers is that they end up dry or crumbly, but Ni’s rice wasn’t either of those. It was soft and just moist enough to not be a dry ball of rice, and had a good, earthy delicious flavor. The pickled sweet peppers and the baby arugula added a little variety in the way of texture and veggie flavors.

All around meatless deliciousness, and something I’ll definitely be coming back to when I just want a veggie burger.

I miss cheese

Smitten Kitchen's beautiful and delicious hunks of parmesan, ready for her parmesan, kale and bean soup. I'm eating NONE of it.

Smitten Kitchen’s beautiful photo of delicious hunks of parmesan, ready for her parmesan, kale and bean soup. I’m eating NONE of it. (Cue the tears.)

It’s the 15th of the month, the halfway point of my vegan challenge.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit I did have one teeny tiny little bit of a slip-up the other night when my coworkers and I had dinner at the always delicious ABC Kitchen, where everything with the exception of about two sides, includes something non-vegan. There was no getting around it. I had to eat cheese, and some butter, and some cream. But I didn’t eat anything that used to have a face, so that counts for something, right?

Minor relapse aside, I’ve been a good little vegan. I haven’t been craving meat (not even bacon, really), daydreaming about ice cream or had the hankering for eggs that my roommate has been struggling with.

But dear, sweet, 8-pound, milk-loving baby Jesus do I miss cheese. Ugh, it kills me. Pecorino, cheddar, camembert, freakin’ Trader Joe’s light string cheese! I want them all. Alas, I’ll fight the urge. I’ll be strong. I won’t eat any more cheese for the rest of the month. But you better believe when February rolls around, me and cheese are getting back together, in a big way.

In the meantime,  here are some cheese related posts from the interwebs. Hope they make your heart all aflutter, like they did mine:

  • A caprese salad from Emiko Davies that almost makes me wish it was summer.
  • Cup of Jo’s skillet lasagna, because mascarpone and mozzarella are the stuff dreams are made of.

No bacon, eggs or cheese here but it’s OK

With the exception of New Year’s Day, when I woke up with an outrageous, crippling hangover and wanted nothing more than to eat all of the bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches in New York City, being a vegan hasn’t been that bad.

I’m on day twelve of my month long challenge  and not once in those twelve days have I cheated, fantasized about dairy (that much), or directed malicious thoughts toward people eating non-vegan things. (Although, confession time: having to order vegetarian meatloaf at a chicken-and-waffles joint sucked… especially when my friend’s fried chicken smelled like God himself.)
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Just as great tasting as it is looking, I swear

One of the good things about living in New York though, and more specifically Brooklyn, is that being vegan doesn’t have to suck. I mean, it’s not ideal (life without bacon cheeseburgers just can’t be ideal), but it’s not the worst thing ever, either. A couple mornings ago, for example, I found myself at Brooklyn Standard, my favorite Greenpoint deli, looking for a big breakfast to hunker down in bed with while binge watching Downton Abbey. (It was my day off and the weather was rating pretty high on the shitty winter weather scale, so yea, those were my plans.)
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What a beaut.

And that’s when I saw it: the Cali Bagel with the magic v word in parenthesis: tofu cream cheese, tempeh sausage, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, and basil. Slap all that on an everything bagel and you’re looking at a pretty happy fake vegan.

First of all, let me say this: I was ready to hate tofu cream cheese. As a serious lover of real cream cheese, I didn’t think I had it in me to love an imposter, but I did. I loved how creamy and smooth it was, and how it just melted and oozed all over my toasted bagel. The tempeh sausage, while not as delicious as the real deal, was good and had a nice, sausagey consistency and flavor. The cherry tomatoes were juicy and bright and the jalapeños added a perfect hint of tangy spiciness.

Being a vegan for another 20 or so days shouldn’t be too hard if I have this bad boy just down the block.

Healthy choice for the win!

Sometimes, finding something healthy when you’re out to eat can be a real pain in the ass. You’re at a pub and the closest thing to healthy is a cobb salad. A friggin’ cobb salad for Christ’s sake! Everyone else gets bacon cheeseburgers and there you are, with your depressing cobb salad, dressing on the side, burning with food envy.

But then other times you get lucky, like I did in Miami recently, and the healthy choice ends up being the envy of the other choices.  With that afternoon’s memory of me in a two piece still fresh in my head, I decided to go for something healthy while out at dinner with my sister at The Standard Miami’s Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill.

My sister, a 7-month pregasaurus rex, looked at me like I was crazy when I told the waitress I’d be having the living “lasagna” raw vegan vegetable terrine.

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No pasta, meat or cheese in this “lasagna”

“I mean, I don’t even get what that is. Is it cooked? I’m getting a turkey cheeseburger.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what it was either.

When it later came out, at first glance, it kinda looked like lasagna. It had the squarish, multi layer look of it, but upon closer inspection, there were way too many veggies and no sheets of pasta for this to be the real deal. My first forkful confirmed that there was, in fact, no pasta, no cheese, and lots of vegetables. But that first bite also revealed that this so-called lasagna was delicious! Thin layers of zucchini and squash were layered with eggplant, shredded carrots, lots of chunky, tomatoey goodness and what I later found out was a nut-vegetable “sausage” and cashew nut cheese to make this whole dish deliciously rich and saucy, and best of all, guilt free.

No sad salads here. This time, the healthy option was absolutely the best one.

Someone send help… and doughnuts

It’s not like I didn’t know moving would be an epic nightmare. Cause I did, I knew. Having moved already a few times in the just four years I’ve lived in this city, I knew good and well what was in store for me. Yet somehow, it’s still managed to be more of an overwhelming headache than I was expecting.

So now, just a few days before the big move, on my day off when I should be out doing fun stuff, here I am instead, sitting in a chaotic mess of boxes, suitcases, and piles and piles of crap. Clearly, I’m not packing and organizing though, because if I was I wouldn’t be writing this.

Dammit packing and moving, why can't you be as fun as eating doughnuts?

Dammit packing and moving, why can’t you be as fun as eating doughnuts?

No, instead I’m daydreaming about doughnuts, which I woke up craving and now that I need to be productive, am being completely distracted by. And because I’m stressed out and prone to stress-induced binge eating, I really wish I had a plate stacked high with the ones from Vegan Divas. I had them about a month ago when I  brought a few to a vegan friend’s brunch, and now, well now I wish I could teleport to the Upper East Side to buy some more.

Sure, they lacked the over-the-top, full fat, gluttonous quality of say, Krispy Kreme, but they were actually really good. Soft and moist, they would’ve been great dunked in coffee or the way I had them, stuffed into my mouth, quickly and often. The chocolate frosted and cinnamon sugar varieties were both tasty but my favorite were the toasted coconut.

And now that I’m sitting here, I wish every one of these boxes, these piles of things to maybe keep maybe throw away, these magazines to recycle, these knick knacks to wrap and package, would all just turn into delicious, guilt free doughnuts.

A chickenless, pieless chicken pot pie… and it’s awesome

It always happens that when I’m either wolfing down a messy veal sausage and fried egg sandwich or shoveling mac and cheese into my mouth or throwing back chunks of fried pork belly like they’re gulps of fresh air, I think two things:

1.  Yup, it’s confirmed, I could ABSOLUTELY never be a vegan.

2. Ugh, why can’t I eat this every single day? (Quickly followed by, “Oh, right, cause I would be a mountain of lard.”)

The “chicken” pot pie wrap at ‘sNice… my new favorite

But then recently, something awesome happened: I discovered the “chicken” pot pie wrap from ‘sNice, where I often order lunch when I’m at work. Let me explain, not only was this wrap the best thing I’ve eaten there (and ask my coworkers, I’ve pretty much had all of their sandwiches) but because of the quotation marks around the word chicken, this bad boy was VEGAN! A vegan “chicken” pot pie wrap! You know what that means? It’s a giant green light to eat one whenever I feel like it… with no remorse! One week I had it four days in a row. In fact, I order them so often that one time the nice folks at the ‘sNice on Sullivan actually threw in free muffins. (“Because you order all the time,” said the delivery boy.)

You're looking at serious fake chicken pot pie deliciousness here.

You’re looking at serious fake chicken pot pie deliciousness here.

But really, not only are there no animal products in this bad boy (which again, takes away about a 100 percent of the guilt/fat factor) but it actually tastes good! It has the same creamy, saucy goodness of a regular pot pie, the same hearty chunks of potato, carrots and peas, and even the fake “chicken” (which I assume is tofu) is tender and flavorful. But best of all, because it’s a wrap and therefore doesn’t have the traditional pie crust, the crust is insiiiiide of the wrap, just as good and crumbly and buttery (but remember, sans the butter!) as in a regular pot pie.

Last week, because I’ve been on a new salad kick at work, the first thing I did on my day off was to have a pot pie wrap from the West Village ‘sNice near my apartment. And just like the other dozen or so I’ve had, I hoovered it.

But because the pot pie is a winter special, it’s only a matter of time before ‘sNice pulls it from their menu. And when that day comes I’m going to have a total meltdown and cry like a baby. And let me tell you, it’s probably going to take a good amount of bacon to get me out of that funk.

Yes, that’s right, Kool-Aid balls

Some people think I’ll eat just any ol’ crap. And you know what, that just isn’t the case. Just cause I love Twinkies and hot dogs doesn’t mean I don’t have a discerning palate, you know?

Behold, the fried Kool-Aid ball

But yes, it happens, that every once in a while I will eat something totally random, often times gross, and straight out of the imagination of a hungry stoner, and will actually really enjoy it. Such was the case with the fried Kool-Aid balls I recently had at Cowgirl’s Baking, an East Village vegan bakery. Yes, that’s right. Read that back and let it sink in. Fried Kool-Aid balls at a vegan bakery. Continue reading

Going Green

Since it opened a couple of years ago, I had always been interested in Green Gables Cafe in Coral Gables, the part of Miami where I grew up and where my parents still live. But it wasn’t until last year during the Fourth of July weekend that I spent in Miami, that I realized I really wanted to eat there. My friend Cristi, whose family owns and operates the small restaurant, made a batch of brownies and brought them to a friend’s pool party and BBQ.

They were dark and chcolatey, moist and wonderfully crumbly and scrumptious.

“Oh my God, Cristi!” I mumbled, my cheeks full of soft, chewy brownie. “These are incredible!”

“Thanks, they’re vegan, black bean brownies.”

If my mouth wasn’t chock full of brownie, I’m sure my jaw would have dropped.

So a couple of weeks ago when I was in Miami, I put eating at Green Gables on my to do list, right under seeing my mom and hanging out with my best friend.

Unfortunately, this is a terrible picture of a fantastic burger. I was too distracted by its tastiness to focus on photography

 Flaneur and I went there on our last afternoon in Miami, and the only thing I regret was not having gone sooner. Cristi was there, since she now works in the kitchen, helping her mom and sister turn out more awesome vegan and vegetarian friendly eats like those black bean brownies I had last summer.

With the brownies clearly still on my mind, I ordered the organic black bean veggie burger, which came on a soft, doughy multi-grain bun. Topped with organic tomatoes and lettuce, a melted layer of gooey mozzarella, and a smooth roasted garlic aioli sauce, this burger was hands down, the most delicious non-meat burger I’ve ever eaten.  It didn’t taste like wannabe meat, and it didn’t taste like a squeaky tofu creation. Instead it was slightly nutty in flavor, with a moist softness to it and a delicious earthiness. It wasn’t slider-sized but given the opportunity, I could have eaten three of them and pretended they were minis.

Pulled chicken sandwich. In a word: awesome.

Flaneur also went with a sandwich, opting for the pulled organic chicken. On the menu it’s normally pulled turkey but they were out of it that day so it was subbed with chicken. Stuffed in a soft baguette were juicy, tender chunks of chicken and soft, buttery hunks of avocado, all drizzled with a zesty cilantro aioli  and paired with fresh romaine lettuce. The whole thing was fresh and clean tasting, with flavorful ingredients and a healthy, guilt free deliciousness.

I don’t doubt that if for some unfortunate reason I still lived at home in Coral Gables, I’d have a good amount of my weekday lunches at Green Gables Cafe. Living at home with my parents would be terrible but I would seek comfort in the warm deliciousness of organic black bean veggie burgers. And that would be wonderful.

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