Sunday, February 5, 2017

Brooklyn, the Resistance, and Vegan Food

I went out and ran five miles this morning, which is my farthest since June.  I'll be running the Brooklyn Half in May, which I'm excited about, and I've got to get back at it if I'm going to finish that race!  I've been rather down in the dumps since the election, and spending a lot of spare time reading up on the news.  There are some really terrible things going on, and I'm not making the world any better by sulking.  And so I run.  And resist.  

Brooklyn is a liberal enclave, and people are making their voices heard.  This morning I went to buy a vegan muffin and the bakery was taking donations for Planned Parenthood.  It's not surprising to see something like that at a vegan establishment, so before I tell you about some of my favorite vegan joints here in Brooklyn, I suggest that, if you are looking for like-minded liberals to hang around, particularly in these challenging times, that you befriend some vegans.  And while you're at it, just go vegan.  Isn't it, at its essence, a refusal to accept and participate in violence against the innocent and the notion that some beings are superior and more deserving of basic welfare and ultimately life?  Just think about it.

Brooklyn.  So many places for a vegan to choose from.  I'm just dipping my toes in the water.  Here are a few of the places I love so far.

I'm designating myself a vegan ice cream connoisseur, because I don't know anyone else who spends as much time eating vegan ice cream or scoping it out.  So when I say that Van Leeuwen makes the best vegan ice cream, it is not a statement I make lightly.  It is so rich that one must savor every spoonful.  It is just not the type of ice cream that you scarf down.  For one thing, it's not cheap.  Besides that, the ingredients are the finest-- coconut cream and cashews are at the base of every flavor.  And the flavors!  The last time I walked in, the nice man had me sample butternut squash and berry cobbler, and I wanted to try them all!  I've had cookie dough, salted caramel, and the berry cobbler, and they were all to die for.  Oh, and there's an ice cream truck, too.  And they sell the ice cream in the grocery stores around town.  Come to Brooklyn just for Van Leeuwen ice cream.

I came here on a Sunday for brunch and I would like to return to try a few more of the dishes.  It looks like they have some nice choices for dinner.  In terms of brunch, my mom had pancakes and I had a burrito minus the wrap, and both were tasty.  They also have a full bakery with all sorts of cheesecakes and baked goods displayed in the front.  I tried the banana bread and, while it was good, I wasn't blown away by it.  There's a really nice bookstore next door, which is worth checking out for the children's books.

I brought some non-vegans here for brunch because the menu had a good mix of vegan and non-vegan items.  We loved the place.  It was much more spacious than some of the other places in the neighborhood, so bringing my niece in a stroller was not a problem.  The food was so fresh and delicious.  It seems like you should arrive early if you want to try the vegan french toast, because they were all out by the time we arrived.  Darn.  I had a vegan burger with some fantastic fries, and my sister and her fiance both had the roasted pear salad and the Vietnamese rice salad.  I will definitely be going back to try some of that vegan french toast.

I hesitate to even mention this place because it's my absolute favorite and I don't want everyone to find out about it.  I go here pretty frequently, and there a number of delicious veg-friendly items on the menu, including two types of falafel wraps or salads, chickpea stew, and some really really yummy smoothies.  Oh, and the brussel sprouts.  I dream about those brussel sprouts.  They always have great music playing, too.  I just love it.  Part of the reason I haven't tried out more restaurants is that I'm always eating here.  

It was here that I tasted the most perfect banana bread I've ever eaten.  I also had the gluten free carrot walnut muffin, which was good, but not like the banana bread.  They've got a bunch of tables and a nice little sandwich menu.  I've been meaning to try their potato salad.  Next time.

Alright, this one isn't in Brooklyn, but I had to throw it on the list.  Chef Coscarelli is my vegan role model, so clearly I had to try her place in the Village.  And I feel it's completely legit to include By Chloe on this list, because there will soon be a location opening up in Williamsburg.  It's definitely a vegan fast food joint, and I guess everyone else was just as excited about it as I was, because the place was packed.  We had to stalk people to get a seat-- so I mean packed.  My brother and I chose the guac burger with sweet potato fries and some kind of flavored lemonade.  The food was good, keeping the idea of fast food in mind.  The fries were pretty salty.  I would go back to try some of the other items.  Chloe's bakery, Sweet, is also located next door to that location, but we were too full and exhausted from the stress of the experience to venture in.

Also not located in Brooklyn, there's really no excuse for having it on this list other than that the baked goods are fantastic.  It was the first vegan and gluten-free bakery in NYC and Babycakes was one of the first vegan cookbooks I bought.  I think my brother and I had one of everything- so I can tell you that the cupcakes, banana bread, doughnuts, and brownies are splendid.  Oh, and they have vegan soft-serve.  I didn't have room left, but it must be wonderful.  

That's all for now.  Updates on Williamsburg coming soon.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

On Being Vegan in NYC

I'm sitting at my desk, cat sleeping in my lap, snow streaming out of the sky and coating the neighborhood below in Brooklyn.  It seems like a good afternoon for writing.  I haven't done this in awhile.  Everything that took place this year took me away from writing.  It was a challenging year. I moved away from Boston in the summer, took a new job, moved closer to my family.  I'm still figuring out how to live in NYC.

I've lived in a few cities now, and I would define New York as both good and bad for vegans, depending on where you are and whom you are with.  Let me clarify.  There are plenty of great vegan restaurants, bakeries, and even a bar-- that I know of.  I've read about most of them, but I haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of exploring here.  On the other hand, it seems like less people that I encounter here understand what being vegan means-- which is very surprising to me.  I think I assumed that since Brooklyn is a very "blue" area, people would be more progressive in their thinking.  At work, when lunch is ordered, I have been presented with a sandwich including cheese multiple times.  Someone asked me if I would eat a meal that included meat if the meat were picked out.  Maybe I need to spend more time in Williamsburg.  Veganism is definitely more mainstream than when I started this thing almost seven years ago.  It could be that while there are more veg-friendly spots popping up everywhere, the average non-vegan just doesn't frequent those establishments.  Who knows.  The last thing, which is a personal challenge, is that there are so many of the delightful foods that I grew up eating-- Italian food and pastries, for example-- surrounding me-- and they are definitely not vegan!  I guess it was easier when I was living in Phoenix and Boston, and the pizza was sub-par (sorry, it's true).  

When I moved to Boston I was surprised by how many wonderful vegan options were available, and I grew to love them all-- especially Fomu ice cream.  I vow to use the next few months discovering vegan Brooklyn, and reporting back here.  

And in case you were wondering, the first vegan joint I visited was the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck.

Onward and upward.

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