Being a Vegan Diva!

Having just gotten an email saying that I had an interview for a job, I decided I deserved a celebratory baked good. So, after checking the mailbox at a friend’s place, I had an idea. Using my delightful little phone for its intended purpose, I requested Siri’s attention, “Yo, Siri, vegan nearby?”

Siri, now voiced by a male, as per my instructions, informed me there was a spot called Vegan Divas not too far away on 75th and 1st avenue.  Of course, I was thrilled. The upper east side isn’t exactly known for it’s bohemian hippie crowd. Mostly, it’s elderly people, some with rent-stabilized apartments. Thus, they have either too much money or not enough money. Those with too much money don’t really care about veganism, nor understand it. Those with too little money aren’t throwing it away on cookies and cupcakes (the fools….)

Right there, with an adorable purple awning, I found my diva-nation. Deviation? However, the name was again repeated right underneath the awning on a less adorable green plexiglass thing. This kind of reminded me of an Asian market. Jade green and royal purple (is that a colour?) don’t really appeal to me alongside each other, but that may just be me. You can be the judge of that.

Unfortunately, the “24/7 Service” signs refers to the place next door, not the bakery.
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Entering the establishment was very nice, though. The words “chic” and “clean-cut” come to mind. Maybe what one needs/wants when entering a classy vegan bakery on the Upper East Side. It really fit the role and appeals to the demographic.

Now, I was probably staring at the options for 15 minutes. Part of me excited, part of me with no idea what I wanted to try. Nothing really popped out to me. For such a bright shop, the treats were kind of… brown. There was a lot of brown happening. I suppose this is natural for a bakery, but to maintain the delightful paint palette, I would have loved some funky fonts, flowers, or furniture… something to lighten the mood!

Finally, the cashier spoke up and recommended either a cheesecake or a decadent cake. The latter involved chocolate, lots of chocolate. Something which tempted me so, but I know what chocolate tastes like. I wasn’t here to simply enjoy something, I was here to learn and experience something new! Whilst enjoying it, I suppose.

VD optionsNote the adorable miniature donuts.

It’s always tough to be recommended delicious options, and stand there listening intently, then say… “Eh, no.” That’s just what I did, though.  Not a straight-out “no”, but I politely ignored her words, and may as well have said, “Maybe I’ll just have something completely different from what you said, because your words are meaningless to me.” VD menu

I went with the lemon raspberry muffin and a single mini coconut donut. Oh, baby! She asked if I wanted two donuts. I declined. Although, what I liked a lot was that they put the calories next to the treat. This is SO chic. I didn’t feel as bad when I realized my full-sized muffin and tiny donut would only be 200 calories. I can finally enter something into my food log. My doctor and nutritionist will be so proud.

After receiving my two precious yummies, I wandered over to the less-than-generous seating area. The seating arrangement sort of made me question my calorie count. As, I could barely squeeze my well-upholestered bod between the valley of two tables. Then again, a squeaky little girl was also finding this to be a problem, so my buttock was able to redeem itself for its need to feed.

I finally sat down after a 20-day struggle and enthusiastically disrobed my snack. So as to not leave my wee donut on its lonesome, I decided to indulge in this coconutty fella first. I wanted to love it, I really did, but I found myself letdown by the lack of Caribbean escape. There wasn’t much coconut to my coconut donut. It was pretty fluffy and sugary, yes. Definitely plenty of sugar happening in there (maybe cane sugar? Nice.) But, I didn’t order the carb and sugar du jour! I was craving le coco. Thus, I was letdown by my beachside buddy.VD muffin2

When it came to the muffin, I couldn’t help but look at it. I just looked at it. Yeah, I see raspberry happening. I see some sloppy mixture-placement. Makes me feel at home. But… I also feel a cold breeze blow through me. This muffin doesn’t have a soul. I can sense it by the blank look in its eyes. This muffin probably calls puppies dumb and then gives them Wet Willies.

My suspicions were confirmed when I removed the wrapping from around thine muffiny waist. Nein!  I tried to remove the wrapping. The muffin clung to that wrapper like a schoolboy holding onto his towel in the locker room. This muffin had some fight in it, but who would win?

As you may have guessed, I was eating this muffin, wrapper or not. Fortunately, most of the thin paper peeled away after some time and patience. Still, though, the muffin top was hard as steel. I wish I could say the same for my muffin top.

When I took a clump of muffin and put it in my mouth, I was unsure for the first few bites. The center was as fluffy as the donut, but the top was definitely a bit of work. However, the two consistencies combined was rather nice. Some fluff with some crunch. It satisfied all my needs. The raspberries were a tad bitter, and I believe they are to blame for a light aftertaste, but overall, despite my initial response, this muffin was doing the job. It was the muffin that I hated to love. I quite enjoyed my muffin!

What was also rather pleasant about this bakery was that the treats weren’t super vegan. You know? There weren’t any recycled toilet paper and placenta cheesecakes, nor oxygen-free water. Everything was just a nice vegan-replica of what you get in a normal bakery. The downside of this bakery was sitting next to a darling little family, eating my darling little muffin, and hearing overhead the lyrics to a “song” – “SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTSHOTSHOTSHOTS!”

Clearly, we four are not ghetto enough for this city. I did not need a shot of anything at 1 PM, thank you very much. Although, maybe that’s what the sign outside meant by, “Enjoy your first day of school!”

Kids these days….

So, I’m going to say this was a tough bakery to judge. The flaws were nit-picky, but sort of important to me. The good stuff was very good, though, and that counts for a lot in my book. As well as the fact that they have DF Mavens ice cream in the freezer. This is an added bonus!

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 8/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://vegandivasnyc.com

Easy Peacey, baby

Her hair was pale, almost white. It flowed in waves which adorned her glowing, porcelain skin. Her eyes, framed by long lashes, were a soulful pair of indigo. They seemed to brighten the world. A straight nose, full lips – much like the picture of perfection. Had she smiled, the world would sigh with contentment. Had she laughed, the world would laugh with her. Had she wept, the world would wish to comfort her.

Her eyes traced the bookshelves like wrapping paper lining a particularly significant birthday present. Each book given a title with another witty reference, parody, or emotionally-guided key phrase. None of them gave her a thrill, none of them excited her sense of curiosity or morbidity; what she usually sought in reading material. That is, until one book grabbed her attention and refused to let go. The book was called The Boxer & The GoalKeeper: Sartre versus Camus. What better way to end a beautiful day than to buy a book about two nihilistic dead guys in a metaphorical boxing ring?

It was then that it occurred to her that she had two options. At this point in her life, she had to choose between two paths. Would she take the philosopher’s gritty walkway, or save her capital in order to purchase a sweet treat?! The mental battle was fierce, but in the end, cake won. Cake always wins.



Peacefood Cafe is located on University Place and East 11th in New York City. It is quite easy to find, but rather hard to enter due to all the other satisfied consumers coming in and out of the door. Yet, when you enter, there don’t seem to be many people. Was there a party in the backroom which I was not informed about? Did they all arrive in a clown car? The world may never know!

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Bobo and Tilly Telulah were the last couple to exit, with Barky the dog only steps ahead. Once Bobo’s giant red shoe got out the door, I dashed inside and nearly cried with joy. Cake! Cookies! Blue tiles! It’s like they knew exactly what I wanted! Here I thought I was a lone sweet-toother in a world of savoury junkies, and it turns out Peacefood Cafe gets me. They really GET me!

Peacefood Cafe’s appearance made me smile because of its New York-ness. Anywhere else in the world, a vegan cafe would be a super laid-back spot full of quinoa hugs and the music of Yusuf Islam or Joni Mitchell. However, in New York these days, downtown is the new uptown. I felt underdressed, but I was wearing my bloat-proof dress. I could eat a baby elephant, and nobody’d be any the wiser.

Now, knowing I was having this baked good as a substitute for a nutritious lunch (in the name of science!) I figured it would be acceptable for me to try multiple things…. As in, I’m a grown up and I can eat all the sugar I want. Then the reality hit me that I talk big, but eating that much would probably cause spontaneous human head combustion. It runs in my family.

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Cake? Cookies? Blue tiles?! What did I want to eat? Typically, vegan cakes are reminders of how much you love animals. You have a moment where you think, “Wow, this is my life. I have chosen this lifestyle, this cake, for the sake of animals. I’m a good person. A really good person.”

However, here there’s no self-righteousness or self-pity. If I weren’t a vegan, who knows if I’d ever step foot into Peacefood Cafe! Fortunately, I am a good person (a better person than most, really) and therefore, here I am looking at the most magnificent cake display to ever be displayed as cake. Camus and Sartre were way behind me now, I had no regrets. No desire to turn back. I was in it to win it!

What first really, truly tempted me was the “Magic Cookie”. Quite honestly, the cookie ingredients weren’t all that interesting. There is practically no doubt in my mind that I would have been disappointed with the “Magic Cookie”, but, on the other hand, it’s magic. How can I skip over the magic option?

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I can now say with great relief and contentment that I was then swayed and batted and beaten out of this misguided thinking. This was because I spotted the gluten-free peanut butter cheesecake. It was shining bright like a diamond. A peanut-encrusted diamond with 10 carat chocolatey goodness. I wiped away the tear wobbling down my cheek, and with great pride and honour, I waited for the cashier to get off the phone. Like a child dancing foot-to-foot awaiting a deep peeing experience, I impatiently and passively aggressively stared him down while knocking my knuckles on the counter. My smile and eye contact relentless. When he finally hung up the phone, he looked at me with both fake sincerity and a bit of concern for his safety.
“Can I help you?”

“Peanut Butter Cheese me, please.”

That’s totally code for something somewhere. He knew what was up. He got me that slice pronto.

Now, what is more of a shameful experience, I wondered…. Taking my “to-go” container to the host and asking to sit alone while I snap photos of everything and shove cake in my mouth, or sitting alone outside on the bench shoving cake in my cheesecake hole? I went with the bench. Anything to avoid human contact. Of course, as soon as I sat down and opened the plastic container, a young man who was entering the place gave me a, “Damn, that looks good!”

Keep walking, patron, this is not to be a shared experience. Peanut butter cheese for my mouth only.

The cake itself? Hnnnngggg! Now, let’s start with the negatives, that’s quicker. If I’m being really real here, the cheesy part itself could have been more cheesy. This cheesecake was rather custardy. A New Yorker is looking for something more creamy.

Taste-wise, it was perfect. At first it wasn’t peanut buttery enough for me, but I quickly realized that if it were anymore peanutty, my taste buds would up and leave town for an abused peanut shelter. It would just be way too much peanut action. Now, the peanuts on top were a gift from Buddha, Allah, and Kevin Costner, I tell you. They were perfect. The chocolate was in good amounts, as well. It didn’t overwhelm and cover-up other flavours. Not to mention, all the exciting textures going on! The bottom crust was like the edges of a brownie; crisp, chewy, and delightful.

Unfortunately, there were no napkins in the bag. It wasn’t until I got to the gym that I realized that it looked like I had just returned from dinner with Hannibal Lecter.

With great confidence, I give Peacefood Cafe a good rating. It would be higher if not for the rather pricey priciness and the fact that I left regretting every life choice I had made that led up to me being there (basically, I was SO full!)

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 9.5/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://www.peacefoodcafe.com

Guest Writer – Melissa Chan

It’s difficult to find vegan Italian food, and I can only think of one Italian restaurant in Manhattan that has vegan dishes. I was very excited to try 3 Brothers.

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We ordered family style: appetizers (the aranciata, calamari, mozzarella sticks, and the eggplant rollatini), pizzas (bianca and buffalo seitan), and pasta (baked ziti and vegetable lasagna). I haven’t had a mozzarella stick in many years. These mozzarella sticks are thin but the cashew-based cheese is so creamy in flavor. The calamari, made of mushrooms, was absolutely to die for. The texture and flavor were just like the real deal, as was the tartar sauce. The aranciata are fried to a crisp on the outside but very creamy on the inside. The rollatini had an amazing vegan ricotta that blew my veg and non-veg friends away.

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The pasta dishes came out next and they were also very good! Though the portions aren’t the hugest, the quality is exceptional and justifies the price. The vegan cheeses that the restaurant uses are so rich.

The pizzas came out last. The bianca was excellent. It had vegan mozzarella, vegan ricotta, spinach, and tons of garlic. I have not had a pizza like that since going vegan – nothing can really compare to it. The buffalo pizza was also very good but some of my dining companions found the buffalo sauce to be overpowering, which is to be expected.

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Lastly, we indulged and ordered a slice of the pistachio cake. There was quite a variety of cakes that were all billed as homemade, and they all looked amazing. The slice was covered in pistachios, and was very tasty (not too sweet).

My dining companions agreed that the food here was excellent. However, the service really left something to be desired. To be fair, this may be because it was second day the restaurant was open. We were a party of five and we were repeatedly given different, inaccurate waiting times. Later, we were told that our names somehow had not made it on the waiting list. There were two tables for four that sat vacant, and we were eventually seated at one of them, after waiting at least 30 minutes. The wait was atrocious.

The service seemed slow and uncoordinated. We were surprised the pizzas came out after the pasta dishes, and surmise that the staff forgot about our pizzas because they acted like we were done after bussing the pasta dishes. We spent 2.5 hours on a 1.25 hour meal.


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Nevertheless, the food here is amazing and worth the trip. And the service should hopefully improve with time.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Restaurant Website:

http://www.3brotherspizzacafefarmingdale.com

Cravin’ DF Mavens

It’s not often that one has the honour of being given a colonoscopy. Fortune has it that I had one, however. One gallon of salty ear wax later, and I was finally settled into my kingdom’s lair. It shined like a set of dentures resting on a nightstand.

The next day, the procedure was done, and I was finally allowed to eat real food after over 24 hours of fasting. Of course, at this point, I was so sick of existence, that I felt there was no use in eating. I was beginning to realize that life is just a big sphere of futile opportunities to be something great. Then, just as you think you’ve found an ounce of goodness, you’re drained on the toilet and placed on a stick like a mud popsicle.

Let’s just say, I was quite sore and cramped, and that made me grumpy.

Trudging through the slime of my own sluggish continuum, I remembered a place. A place where humans aren’t slaves to judgment and physics. Where a child can be a child without the constraints of boundaries and traditional superstitious mumbo jumbo. Was it real, though, or all just a myth? I must find out!

And so I began my journey in search of the land of possibilities. I crossed 6th avenue, walked down Park, got yelled at by a cab driver at Astor, politely stared at a man’s green mohawk on St. Mark’s, and finally, I entered the holiest land of holy holiness: DF Mavens. It was just like it had been described on the website! “Modern ice cream parlor with all kinds of vegan scoops plus other treats like baked goods & wraps.”

No commas needed, no questions asked, it was simply something magical.

storesignOh, and haha! hoho! They had quite the knee-slapper of a joke on the sign outside the store, too. This one sure had my laughing up a storm. I just had to share it with you all.

outsidesignGet it? It’s really not funny if you don’t get it. I believe they were going for the word “legendary”, but they removed the “dary” part because it sounded like dairy, and the store is dairy-free. Do you see now? They removed “dary” (dairy!) and left the “Legend” part! The store has only been in existence for 6 months, this was no period of time in which a store could become a legend, of course. Nonetheless, I feel this sign was a HOOT! A real A+ winner.

I wiped away my tears of amusement and entered the classy and glassy store. They call themselves a store, but I felt it was more of a shop. What do I know about owning an establishment, though? Nothing, that’s what! So, I entered the store and took some photos.

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cones

I think the worker (peeking out there) was a little confused and unsettled by my photo-taking. I usually ask if it’s cool. This time, I just snapped away because the pretty, handmade cones caught my photo-lust. If it were me, I would have put a scoop of ice cream in my hand and called that handmade. Know what I mean? By the way, the prices here are purely for the ice cream scoops in the cone. If you go with the cup option, it is cheaper by nearly two dollars. If you DO want a scoop in your hands, I assume it’s even cheaper. Your call.

So, then came the tough part of the process: choosing the flavour(s) I wished to eat. They did offer me a sample of anything I wanted to try before the big purchase, but being the risk taker, one to perform acts of bravado, I declined. No, sir, I will not be taking a sample of your dairy-free goods. Give me two large scoops posthaste! One make your most exotic flavour. Two make your, well, your other most exotic flavour. Thus, I found myself swimming in cardamom pistachio and green tea ice cream. myflavours

I paid (with tip because I am nice like that) and then I sat myself upon the stool next to the window facing the black, leather couch outside. It almost seems like a cruel joke for a leather furnishing to be placed outside a vegan establishment. What a harsh world we live in. Fortunately, I was in a safe space where no animal carcasses could get to me.

The ice cream, though! Mama mia, it was nice. The perfect combination of creamy and icey. It didn’t dissolve on the tongue like nothingness, it lingered and filled your palette with flavours, one at a time, each more intriguing and delightful than the next. At first, the cardamom pistachio didn’t blow my mind, I must admit. It tasted like vanilla bean with a hint of wasabi, or something slightly exotic and burny. However, once I got to the pistachio- that was a game changer. There were whole, still-crisp pistachios in there, and that opened my taste buds to an entirely new experience. Suddenly, the ice cream became something new, a little bizarre and foreign, but magnificent! For those who enjoy a little Indian food or authentic chai, this product was an American escape plan all in itself. For 10 minutes I felt as if I was in an Eastern country, far away from reality and butt-probing doctors. It was truly an experience that transported me. The green tea was also quite lovely. I always have uncertain feelings towards green tea, as it does have a bitter, intimidating and overwhelming flavour. Still, there is no doubt that this was definitely a green tea ice cream. It was so rich and on-point. The two flavours at once was the Donny and Marie Osmond of ice creams. A little bit rock and roll, a little bit country. I was overjoyed that those two were making a comeback. I’ve been waiting all these years, and my mouth had just reunited the sibling dream team in my very own orifice.

The neat part was that, before any of this took place, the worker asked in which order I wanted the flavours scooped. I felt that was a very polite thing to do. He requested my consent before any scooping took place. That is how a true gentleman treats a customer. Fortunately, I once again left the decision to the expert, and he went with green tea on the bottom, cardamom pistachio on top. Well done, sir, well done. Otherwise, all I would have tasted would have been the green tea. It’s a flavour that really sticks to your ribs… or tongue, in this case.

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The guy knew how to scoop, he really did. After these two scoops, I felt fat, ashamed, and like a winner. Just how ice cream should make you feel. Then you realize it’s vegan, so as we have learned, that means it HAS to be good for you.

They also have a lot of old New York women coming in because they’re curious about the new shop. At least two of the ones I witnessed came in, seemed completely confused as to what was going on, tried a couple samples, and then it occurred to them that this was no hat shop. Once they realized there were no hats to be purchased, they scrambled off, back to the safety of Long Island and its cornucopia of hat shops.

Anyway, I’d love to give DF Mavens 10 out of 10 hugs, but I gave 10 in my last review, therefore, I can’t start throwing out 10s all over the place…. Heck! You only live once right?! Let’s give it a TEN!

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 10/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://www.dfmavens.com

Bye, Bye, Love. Hello, byChloe!

The past two days, I’ve been plagued with an extraordinary pain in my upper abdomen. I think God intended immaculate conception, and instead I ended up with an alien teething at my esophagus. Point being, I needed something delicious in my belly this week…. Wouldn’t you know it, the vegan restaurant at the corner of MacDougall and Bleecker (New York City) just opened up! And, hey, there’s nothing catchy or stupid about the name! Simply: byChloe. I like it! Cute, accurate, and easy for my half-deaf grandmother to understand over the phone.

As I enter the quaint shop with fresh white paint that stands out from the bleakness of Bleecker, I take note of two important key features: firstly, I know where I am immediately, and that I’m in the right place. Secondly, I know where the bathroom is, I don’t have to enter the Temple of Doom in order to pee. Three and a half minutes in and I already give them a high marking on the ‘Unicorn Hug’ scale.

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Following a side-to-side dance with a dapper-dressed gentleman who was just trying so hard  to leave the store, he turns and points at my tattoo. He says, “Hey, that’s a symbol for The Bloods. Better watch out.” He then broke into a Charleston and danced out the door.

I was so caught off-guard by this ink commentary that I quickly fumbled out the clever response of, “Being gangster is in my blood, sir.”

After a quick check of myself, I realized I had wrecked myself. A wee smirk of discomfort told me I should step away and never try whatever that was, again.

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The one leaning over to grab a kale and dead sea scum smoothie. He’s the local gang expert.

The one touching his own butt is a reminder to never attend NYU.

I then proceeded to the cashier, and assuming she had overheard this discourse, I started with, “Should I try your bloody muffin or eat a crumb cake like a true gangster?”

Nope. She hadn’t heard the conversation. I lose once again. To the credit of the poor girl in braces, she didn’t even blink or wink or snort, she simply continued trying to help me. And, boy, did I need help. She asked me if I like green tea. All I could offer her was the helpful response of, “Mm… yrrrr..ssss?”

Now that she and I had bonded, I trusted her muffin judgment. Also, she chose the option that was a dollar less…. I don’t think it’s too soon to say that she might be my soulmate in life.

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This is a photo I attempted to take of the cute manager (Unsure of his position. I may have just promoted him.) Instead, I caught a short girl picking a wedgie, George Lopez on a bad day, and the manager at the most unflattering angle ever.

It’s been quite a journey already, but let’s finally get to the Muffin of the Hour: the matcha blueberry muffin!!

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Added bonus! There were big, sweet crumbs of Heaven atop Muffin Everest. The mecca! The rest of the muffin? Delicious! They must have had an audition for Blueberry Idol at this muffin, because it was packed full o’ berries.  It was fluffy, it was good and plenty, and it calmed the beast developing in my torso.

The only unfortunate bit was the lack of green tea-ness. I was promised the luscious blended flavours of mowed grass and eternal youth, and I was let down on that front. The muffin was definitely green, though, so I am sure I will still live forever. It’ll be okay.

Now that we covered that, I’ll also mention the presence of Chloe. Yes, THE Chloe. You know… the one who makes vegan food. She’s famous, I guess. I’d have gotten a photo with her, but she was too busy doing everything but cooking. The store is more like, ‘Sometimes byChloe’, but she’s rich and pretty, so I’ll look past the misnomer.

Anywho, with the great location, great food, and the potential to discover your true inner gangster, I definitely recommend this place.

Here’s one more photo of some of their treats, because I care about you.

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Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 10/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://www.bychefchloe.com

Van Leeu-Ooh! Ice Cream!

If you can take the 1 train to Christopher Street in New York City and resist the urge to go into “Big Gay Ice Cream Shop” (http://biggayicecream.com) and then ignore your desire to check out what  “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” is, (http://oneifbyland.com) then you just may survive the obstacles of the West Village. If so, you can continue frolicking onto West 10th street. Fortunately, you probably can’t afford to breathe in the pee-soaked air of the neighbourhood. Keep on walking, sister.

Of course, I then got lost. Back and forth, back and forth…. Only for, like, 5 minutes, though. Maybe 15. Who’s counting? Stop counting, I’m sensitive. Point is, after walking up and down the street a few times, I finally realized that the barely-labeled white building with one or two ice cream-themed decals was the ice cream shop I was looking for. It’s called ‘Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream’. You probably can guess by now that I hate that name. I don’t know how to pronounce it, I don’t know what it means, and anything with the word “Artisan” in it is going to be overpriced and make me feel like a trendy fool. I was told they had good vegan ice cream options, though. Being a cold-blooded American who likes to eat unhealthy snacks while going for a healthy stroll, I felt it was my duty to check this out. My hopes and dreams were high, the young folks hanging out at the Mexican restaurant by West 4th were definitely higher.

I couldn’t get a decent photo for your reference (I tried to help, I just couldn’t do it!) So, I’m going to steal the photo from their website. It won’t give you a sense of the place, but it will show you that dressing like a Traditional North African ready to go for a hike will make your experience joyful and amusing.

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I want to preface my experience by saying that, prior to going to the store, I had my mother call them because their website was down. Having the luck I do, I assumed this meant I would travel the 30 minutes to find that the place didn’t exist anymore.

My mother had a 10 minute discussion with the cashier. They were debating whether he could name *all* the vegan flavours for her over the phone or not. She helped the situation by screaming into the phone.

“OH! The website’s working…. Wait, no, it’s not. So, tell me- No, it’s working! Nope. Nevermind. Can you tell me? Or my daughter? Can you tell us what vegan, yes, vegan flavours of ice cream you have? I can’t believe she’s vegan. You have ice cream, right? This is an ice cream place, right?”

Needless to say, I didn’t care what flavours they offered. I knew they still existed and I desperately needed ice cream at this point.

I go inside, hoping it’s busy and everyone is too distracted to point out the girl whose mother may or may not be completely insane. Well, there were 4 girls (who decided to take up all the sitting space) and one guy at the register. Register? What was this, a saloon? With a mirror setup so Sheriff O’Donnell can see if anyone is robbing the register…. There was no register, just an iPad set up on an oversized countertop.

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Cashier – Was it your mother who called?

Me – …. Maybe…. It could have been. I don’t know.

Cashier – Yeah. Well, is she okay? You can look at our vegan options.

*Ignore the horizontal headless man

Me – Yep. Will do, dude.

So, that went as smoothly as planned.

There were also some cookies on the counter. Sitting there, tempting me with their cookieness. “Check out my sweet, sweet chocolatey lumps. Don’t you want just a wee nibble?” I could have given in, but the cookies were $2.75, and, well, I don’t swing that way, cookie.

The menu itself was, you know, a menu. Of course, because the store is “artisan” and I am a judgmental jerk, I decided to put an old-timey effect on the photo in a snarky manner. I’m so anti-hip that I hipped-up the non-specifically-hip sign. Booyah!

To be fair, look at those prices. Look at them. Are you angry yet? You should be angry. Not to mention, certain flavours are sold out. Are you kidding me? If I had wanted dark chocolate vegan ice cream, I’d have to pay $5.50 for a small cup (I didn’t see any cones!) of my second favourite flavour? Ludicrous.

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I didn’t want dark chocolate, though. What am I, a simpleton? I knew pistachio was happening. Obviously. Sicilian Pistachio I am more wary of, however. Does it taste like olives? Is it a pizza ice cream? I’m so confused.

My second flavour, though, would be more of a challenge. Peanut Butter? Mint? PEANUT BUTTER? MINT?!? Easy- ask the cashier who also served as the scooper. Ooh, ~fancy~

He tells me I’ll love the peanut butter. He likes mint, though. What he didn’t take into account was that I couldn’t care less what he likes. I went with the peanut butter. Peanut butter and pistachio. Protein power! Nuts are fatty soluble, therefore, the protein is even more effective when mixed with sugar and weird flavouring stuff. Science. I get it.

The fun didn’t end there, though. Upon payment, the guy turns the iPad toward me, turns his head, and says I can pay. The first thing I see on the screen is a request for a tip. 15%? 20%? Do you want him to have your entire life savings?

See… it’s like this, I could have tipped, yeah. Then maybe he could afford rent. Maybe he could visit his grandmother. But, like, he would never know if I tipped him or not. He would NEVER know! Maybe it was that weird guy with the crocodile on his shirt who didn’t tip. He would probably blame him. Besides, I just paid $6.00 for vegan ice cream. My credit card needs a break.

Now, remember all that mint versus peanut butter drama from earlier? It didn’t even matter! The peanut butter was below the pistachio, and I could hardly taste it. Peanut butter is a strong flavour, as you know, it should not be missed by the senses. Alas, here I was, just a girl with a cold cup of melting ice cream, and no peanut butter to help me through the day. My peanut buttery scoop was so pathetic that my feelings were actually hurt.

The pistachio was okay. Not much else to say about that. It tasted pretty good, but the texture was lacking. Nothing creamy and/or delightful about it, really.

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*Mustache added for additional artisanal-ness

I walked away from this experience slightly disappointed. And I had to pee really badly, that didn’t help. Maybe I would have enjoyed my experience at Van Leeuwen’s even more if they had a restroom. We’ll never know.

What I’d say is, if you’re in the area and need some ice cream, go for it. It wasn’t a terrible experience, just a little rough. Sometimes the need for cream is worth the effort and money, though. Just know what you’re getting into and don’t let your mother call before you go.

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 6/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com

Great Balls of (no)Flour!

In the Asbury Park Convention Hall last weekend, there was a summer music and market thing. I don’t know exactly what it was called. It was a thing… with music and markets. For a summer-themed event, you can’t imagine what the weather was like. Seriously. I turned around at one point and saw Moses clinging to a giraffe’s neck as they drowned. The giraffe was not pleased. As I walked far enough away to no longer hear the screams, there came a shimmering light in the distance. From that light came the words “free samples”.

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When you see the words “free” and “samples” combined, you go. Whether it’s a few steps to the right, or you have to fight a flamingo with razor teeth, you find those free samples and you eat as many as possible. Forget sophistication and class, ain’t nobody got time for that! Now, if you see those two words in front of another word, such as “vegan”, you kill anyone who stands in your way.

This is what I did when I spotted a little stand called ‘She’s Got Balls’. His name was Arnold and he was with his children. They screamed, but understood my stance. But, yes, there I was, face-to-face with ‘She’s Got Balls’. The name could use some adjusting, but I’d eat at a place called “Phlegm Balls R Us”, as long as they had vegan options…. I’m not picky about titles.

Without hesitation, I grabbed an itty bitty sample of ‘Coconut Craze’. I think that’s what it was called; I blacked out after the coconut part. Problem is, the piece I grabbed was a *special* piece. I couldn’t tell what the texture was, nor did I experience the holiness of tropical paradise which I sought. All I tasted was a huge chunk of salt. The life of Scott Baio flashed before my eyes. Mullets and tight jeans danced around my head as I experienced a brief stroke. As I came back into consciousness, I decided that maybe it was time to try a different sample. I was terrified that they would all have salt in them, that I was doomed to repeat the same action with the same results. However, despite losing all sense in my tongue, I could tell that the Almond Hazel Brownie and Lemon Cookie Dough balls were not salty. They were in fact sweets full of sweet sweetness. They were the sugary baked ball equivalent of Alice from The Brady Bunch.

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I enjoyed these little dudes so much that I handed over the 5 dollars, a lifetime of Charmin toilet paper (the good kind!), and my cerebellum to buy two balls. See, I won’t complain about the Himalayan salt jawbreakers; some people like that. I am just concerned about the $3 per ball thing. They’re not made with the finest ingredients in all of Scotland, it’s a mud cake rolled into a ball and showered in sugary things. Albeit, a tasty mud cake. Though, aren’t they all? I love mud. Muddy, mud, mud….

Fortunately, the woman who was working the stand was a heckuva salesperson. I mean, she smiled, she gave me a rainbow sticker, and she didn’t make fun of my face…. She knew how to sell a ball of tastiness to a vegan.

For those of you who are wondering, I bought one lemon cookie dough ball and one apple cinnamon “butter” ball. Anytime a food ingredient is given quotation marks, I’m concerned. By “butter” she may really mean “butt”. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you wish to take that risk.


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As their website says, “We pop up everywhere from Philly to Brooklyn and much of the Jersey Shore!”

You definitely should go buy some balls. If nothing else, you can make a cake ball pit or use the coconut ball salt to remove dead skin from your feet. Or, just eat them…. Check them out and have a nice chat with the baker(s), you probably don’t have anyone else to talk to, anyway.

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 8.5/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://www.shesgotballs.net

Come on, Everybody, Twist and Bite!

Ah, yes, Asbury Park, New Jersey…. A peaceful beach town known for Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and vegan chicken salad. The three go together as harmoniously as vegemite and tears. So, of course, when I was in Asbury Park this weekend, I wandered over to ‘Twisted Tree’ to grab their world famous veggie chicken salad wrap.

You know a restaurant is no joke when they have a sleek and sophisticated, yet funky and hip business card. Look at that backwards ‘S’! How delightfully whimsical!

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Card 2

However, when I approached the counter, there was quite some drama. It was a little difficult explaining to the woman just what I wanted.

Me: Do you have a whole wheat tortilla?

Her: Well, the special, um, wrap has a whole wheat tortilla.

Me: Can I get a different wrap with whole wheat?

Her: *stares blankly at me*

Me: That’s what I’d like.

Her: The vegan chicken salad wrap?

Me: Yes. With a whole wheat tortilla. Can I do that?

Her: *stares* …. *walks away*

Menu

I think she went in back and had a brain aneurysm. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone…. Next time I’ll order the Happy Meal. Eventually, I received my whole wheat tortilla, though. Ole! The thing is, the wrap was great! I mean, it wasn’t delicious to the point of turning me gay or believing that Elvis is still alive, but it was sufficiently adequate. For the $8 and change it cost, it filled me up and tasted like… let’s see, how do I describe this properly? It tasted like lettuce and tomato got together and had a party. They invited the chicken and the mayonnaise, but they sent the invitation for the spices to the wrong house. So, the spices never showed up, and that’s a shame. Everyone knows that they bring the party hats and little drink umbrellas. The party goes on, but it’s just not the same. There’s no pizzazz, the kids are too sad to go for a swim, and no one else can break open the pinata.

The real winner, winner, vegan chicken dinner of this meal du jour was the sauce that waddled alongside the plate and set itself right in my heart. See, the ginger sauce came uninvited to the party. I don’t even know if it knew anyone, but let me tell you, that ginger sauce brought some spice to the party. Ginger Sauce had everyone in tears, laughing. Ginger Sauce told us about growing up in China. I even invited Ginger Sauce to stay at my house for the whole wheat, I mean, week!


Sauce

Overall, Asbury Park is pretty swanky. Twisted Tree has vegetarian food* that has great potential (as well as yummy baked goods and smoothies.) And, if you play your cards right, you too may cause a second uprising of “Whole Wheatgate 2015”

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 7/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

twistedtreecafe.com

*Although this “compassionate” restaurant exploits the term “vegetarian”, they do in fact sell fish products. Fish as in the animal, not the Swedish cherry candy that makes me question if Abba even knew a queen who danced. Sounds suspicious to me.

Et-et-et-et’s All, Folks!

What do you think of when I mention, “Highlands, New Jersey”? Nothing, eh? Never even heard of it? Highlands is a little town in New Jersey. It’s a lot like what you imagine when someone says “Jersey Shore”, but with more American flags, more wind chimes, and less hair gel. When it comes to the locals, most of the residents come for the summer to enjoy the ice cream, sand, and beach waves. It’s a sweet little town full of sweet little shops, and many summer homes for rent. Even the roadkill smelled like love and spaghetti sauce. It’s so quaint that I wanted to throw an empty beer bottle on the ground so it’s not ignorant and gets into cars with strange men like I do.

What I came to Highlands for was a taste of the vegan baked goods at ‘et al fine food’ on Waterwitch Avenue. Walking into this shop reminded me of many of the hipster-friendly bakeries and cafes back home in Brooklyn. More specifically, going into the land of Williamsburg. Though, the workers here were two women in their 60s and a young woman in her 20s. None of them were sporting scarves, tight peddle pushers, or skull suspenders. I was very excited to try one of the pretty goods (that is, goods that were pretty, for the record) from the front display.

unnamed-2I grabbed a neatly folded-up menu and scanned the gut-fillers. I asked the young woman, “Which items are vegan?” She informed me that all of the gluten-free items are also vegan. This made me nervous, as I knew how tricky vegan baking can be. Throw in gluten-free, as well, and you’re left with, well, I don’t even know what you’re left with. 100% of the ingredients used in normal baked goods are either full of gluten, dairy, or egg. I suppose that leaves fruit and electricity…. Nonetheless, this bakery had done it; the impossible! The unimaginable! I had to try a vegan/gluten-free baked good, no matter the cost! I even would pass on the tofu curry scramble, as tempting as it sounded.

What to try, though- Something with dates? With almonds? With rainbow flakes?? That’s not a thing, sadly.

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Then a young man entered the room carrying a steaming metal pan. The gentleman wore nearly all black, sported a fuzzy face, and best of all, marking his entire frontal neck like a Christmas bow of rage, he had a tattoo of a black cross. This man was clearly very religious in a scary way, and he wanted us to know it. In an unintentionally flamboyant voice, the man suggested we order the freshly-baked banana agave muffins. They were $3 worth of banana, agave, and everything nice. I knew 3 dollars was a lot for a muffin, but not a vegan/gluten-free muffin. What I didn’t know was that Ol’ Neck Cross was a serpent sent by God to tempt me with knowledge: knowledge that banana agave muffins are awful.

I shouldn’t say that. Not all banana agave muffins are awful. The truth is, vegan/gluten-free banana agave muffins from Et Al Fine Foods are awful. It is not destiny, it is poor baking. What made these purely innocent New Jersey non-hipster muffins so bad? Never mind the utter lack of flavour. I don’t mind that. Sometimes in baking it can be easy to lose flavours. I don’t know why this happens, but sometimes a red wine brownie no longer tastes like red wine or brownie…. Though, the bottle of red wine consumed whilst producing said brownies may explain the loss of sensation. I will accept a flavourless $3 muffin when the lure of sugar calls for it. However, the inexcusable bit was the texture, one I know well. When I first began baking, my cupcakes came out the texture of tapioca pudding that was left in the hot car under the armpit of the obese kid whose mother left him in there while she went food shopping. “I’ll be right back, Globerto, Maybe you’ll sweat off a few pounds, huh? I know you’re sad. Just remember, tears are fat crying!”

Basically, dense and spongy. That is the texture these muffins possessed.


unnamed-3Notice that even the salt shaker in the back says “Return”.

Now, I’m not saying everything at Et Al Fine Foods is terrible. I’m not trying to entirely discourage you from going to Highlands, New Jersey, going to this cafe, and eating every cardboard item in sight. Support small businesses, I say! Just be aware that if a man with a neck tattoo approaches you and tempts you with his slithery, green eyes, don’t buy into it. When I went to pay after eating, I asked about the neck tattoo guy and the cashier said, “No one working here has a neck tattoo….”

That’s not true. He’s a real person, sadly.

Tune in next time when I review something else!

Rating: 2/10 unicorn hugs

Check out things you’re not eating right now:

http://www.etalfinefood.com/index-et-al-food-shop/