Tag Archives: ancho chili seitan burger

10 best vegan things i 8 in ’11

29 Dec

I love being vegan and I hate 10 best lists so I’m combining the two. Actually, I like 10 best lists but they’re trite. Oh well, I’m trite, so here goes.

This was my first full year being vegan. Woo-hoo, special me! I should start a blog so I can tell the whole world how great I am!

In no particular order, except that I’m starting with the tenth best and working my way in order to my favorite, here goes:

Doomie's pulled pork sandwich. (photo: toliveandeatinla.com)

10. Doomie’s pulled pork sandwich.  I went into Doomie’s for the first time late one night and asked the woman at the counter what to get. She said, “Ask him,” and pointed to Doomie. Without hesitating he said, “The pulled pork sandwich” and smiled an evil smile. It was great.

9. Clementine’s cous cous with roasted squash, dried cranberries, pistachios, scallions and lemon vinaigrette AND their beluga lentils with flame raisins, mizuna and toasted pepitas. I’m a little reluctant to include Clementine on here given that it’s not only a meat-heavy place but also the Worldwide Grilled Cheese Headquarters. But they have a salad case with a bunch of really fresh salads that rotate on a seasonal basis. You can get a three-salad combo for $11.95 and usually there are at least three that are vegan. I recently had the two above-mentioned salads along with some roasted beets, and while the beets were good the two other salads were UNBELIEVABLY good. Eat a forkful and put your fork down and say to yourself was that just as good as I thought it was good. The current menu will be around until late January. Go.

The Bigger Mack. (photo credit: http://www.huggerfood.com)

8. The Bigger Mack at Madeleine Bistro. Sure I could go with their famous Red Beet Tartare, which is great. Or the chicken and waffles, which I enjoyed. But dammit if Chef Dave doesn’t 100 percent nail the Big Mac taste. Not that it’s the greatest taste in the world. But it’s a very specific taste. And he did it. And not that I ever needed to eat another Big Mac after consuming way too many of them for way too many years. But when you think you’ll never get to taste a specific taste again, and then you do, it’s weird and impressive and satisfying.

7. The Wasabi Bean Burger at Native Foods Café. Don’t drop your iPad on the floor and run out the door to get one because they’re gone. This is an item that was on their menu earlier in the year and then, much to my dismay, disappeared. How come the world doesn’t do exactly what I want at all times?

6. A Dillo. A DingDillo to be specific. A cold DingDillo to be specificer. What are these? They’re vegan Chocodiles from Salt Lake City, what else did you think they were? I got mine at the Viva La Vegan grocery store in Rancho Cucamonga. But you can get em other places, too. I’m all out right now. And Rancho Cucamonga’s an hour away with no traffic. But I want one! Runners up in the dessert competition would have to be the Apple-Cranberry Toastie at Babycakes and the Blueberry Pomegranate ice cream I had one day at Scoops (the flavors change daily, as if you didn’t know).

5. The stuff I ate at  Stuff I Eat. I’d been meaning to go here for so long and finally made it. And it was great. I got some kind of eggplant lasagna. I’m not a big eggplant person but they offered a sample that was so good I had to order it, and I loved it. The person suffering through lunch with me got the “Sumthin-Sumthin” plate and we also split a side of jerk grilled tofu and we both looked at each other in amazement at how good it all was. I will keep returning till I’ve tried everything.
 

Mandoline Grill's tofu banh mi. (Photo credit: veggie101.com)

4. Mandoline Grill‘s tofu banh mi. This has gotten a little confusing in the past month or so. There’s some extra charges associated with it now that I can’t quite figure out. Like an extra 50 cents for Vegenaise (the spelling of which always bugs me). There’s also some confusing new thing about a “vegan baguette.” Does that mean she now has NON-vegan baguettes on the truck, too? Were there always two kinds of baguettes on the truck? Or are vegans paying a surcharge for the same baguette that everyone else gets without paying the surcharge? Like I said, I’m confused. I tried to ask about it but the conversation went nowhere. That said, I like Mong. She’s super friendly and serves great vegan food and if she needs to charge a little extra for it I don’t mind.

3. The Gardein Steak Sandwich at Green Peas. As you might have heard, right here in fact, Green Peas is now closed for re-modeling. But the owner told me that all the menu items are returning when they re-open, plus more, hopefully within a couple of months. I eat here a lot. I’ve tried a bunch of stuff from their vegan menu. The vegan chicken picatta sandwich is pretty dang tasty and could have easily made the list. But the Gardein Steak Sandwich is my favorite. (Not the “Rolling Gardein Steak Sandwich” — the stationary one.)
 
 
2. The Tri-Colored Lentils at Fatty’s & Co in Eagle Rock.  Me and Mrs. Insufferable (actually she prefers Ms) hit up Fatty’s one Saturday evening for a date night and were floored. We ordered four items and they were all really good but the one I’m still remembering months later is the lentils. It looked beautiful and tasted even better. A perfect combination of flavors.

All must bow to the ACSB. (photo: candypenny.blogspot.com)

1. The Ancho Chili Seitan Burger from the Cinnamon Snail.  Hate to do this to you LA but the ACSB from the NYNJ food truck was incredibly, incredibly good. An even more perfecter combination of flavors than Fatty’s lentils, and believe me that’s saying something. I WANT THIS TRUCK TO LIVE NEAR ME.

And that’s my list. Did you have some vegan food this year that was so good you had to shake your head in amazement? I’d love to hear about it, especially if it’s within driving distance of my driveway.

Veggie Castle (II) and The Cinnamon Snail (by Roald Dahl)

12 Dec

Veggie Castle (II)
132-09 Liberty Avenue
Richmond Hill, NY 11419
718.641.8342

The Cinnamon Snail
(It’s on wheels so
check their Twitter)
Manhattan, Brooklyn,
Hoboken, Red Bank

Chapter One: Veggie Castle

Once upon a time last month I made a quick trip to New Jersey for my niece’s wedding. (She’s 25, I’m… sigh.) Flew into JFK and thanks to the wonder that is Happy Cow I found a great  vegan restaurant only a few minutes north of the airport right off the Van Wyck. (Pronounced WICK not WYKE and if you try to tell me otherwise I’ll punch you in the EYE — pronounced IH.)

I know that looks like a fat Roman numeral I but it's a blurry Roman numeral II. Trust me.

Veggie Castle has a Roman numeral II on the sign outside because they once had another Veggie Castle, which got its name because it was located inside an old White Castle, and do you think I can still wear my White Castle jacket that I bought before I was vegan? (On the one hand it’s made of synthetics, on the other is it promoting the eating of animals?)

One thing I forgot about New York is that it’s harder to find a parking spot on any given day than Pasadena on January 1st. But the native New Yorker in me prevailed and I found one out back between a hydrant and a Dumpster and ran around the corner to a Caribbean (food) paradise. Veggie Castle is a take-out place, so I ordered a bunch of things and ate them when I got to my in-laws’ place in Jersey. This had the added advantage of irritating my in-laws, who while not opposed to my veganizing, are under the impression it’s simply another diet like Atkins or Paleo despite repeated attempts to disabuse them of this notion. (My in-laws, no matter what the issue, are not disabusable of any notions whatsoever.)

What did I eat? Well, who says a restaurant review has to tell you what was eaten? I’m breaking new ground here. Mostly because I don’t remember. Because what happened was, as I stood there trying to choose from the amazing collection of items in steam trays before me, the owner, who was so into it that I had sought out his restaurant after finding it on the Internet, threw a bunch of different things into the container so that I could try a vast array of his creations. They were Caribbean items that included things like plantains, yams and fake meats. And they were all amazing.

In addition to the steam table items, I spotted some patties behind the counter. Seeing these immediately took me back to my Brooklyn days when there was only one, that’s right, one, restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and my favorite place to go in the neighborhood was Christie’s Jamaican Patties for “one on coco bread.” (That “one” was beef of course, ugh.) I asked about the patties and was told there were three kinds: fake chicken, fake fish, and some kind of spinachy thing whose name I wish I could remember (and yes, I’m personifying spinach here, so what, do you want another punch in the ih?). I decided to get one fake chicken and one spinachy and they smelled so dang good I broke into them in the car. Not only did they taste as good as they smelled — especially the chicken one — but it was a rental car, which is essentially a napkin wrapped in metal, right? (BTW, I don’t know about you, but I do a lot better with fake meat than fake fish.)

And… and this is not a small and… they carry Vegan Treats straight outta Bethlehem! After seeing constant references to this beloved bakery I of course had to try some. I got four different slices of cake and, here’s the best part, when I got to Jersey nobody wanted to share them! (So what if I ate four pieces of cake over two days, it’s allowed when you leave your home state.) And yes, they were good. Better than the bestest vegan dessert ever? Don’t know that I’d say yes. But I’m looking forward to a re-match, especially if I can get my hands on some of those peanut butter bombs one day.

Chapter Two: The Cinnamon Snail

So that was Friday night. And Saturday was a rehearsal dinner at The Olive Garden which provided me with a perfectly fine plate of vegan pasta. But, Sunday morning, while the others were still asleep, I took my metal napkin up to Red Bank, where parked at the farmers market was…

Behold!

By the time I got there, about five minutes before their stated 9 a.m. opening, there was already a line! And I’m guessing it wasn’t just vegans lining up at the gates of food truck heaven though I have to admit I didn’t do a survey. This was pretty exciting. I’d read a lot about this place online, and this was before they got permission to start hitting the streets of New York, so the whole thing seemed kind of legendary and — how often can you say this and mean it — it did not dissapoint. The special of the day, which I was told will become a regular menu item this spring, was the Ancho Chili Seitan Burger and it is THE BEST VEGAN THING I HAVE EVER EATEN. And really, I wouldn’t even have a problem taking the word vegan out of that sentence. It destroyed. To the point that after taking a bite in the car I had to go back to the truck to tell them just how incredible it was.

I got some other things to try, too, like their “classic breakfast burrito” and a puff pastry with curried lentils and a few different doughnuts, and while those were all good, the star of the show was clearly the ACSB. (Though the burrito was a pretty good VPM on the flight home Monday, I must say.)

So to all you New Yorkers who have been too lazy to tube it over to Hoboken: go see what the fuss is all about!

And then cry for me that I live 3,000 miles from it.

THE END

Afterword:

At the wedding I had a terrific, and I’m not overhyping this, vegetable napoleon. If you’d gotten this at any vegan restaurant, even a pricey one, you’d have been very happy with it. Even better, after my niece told me she’d make sure they’d have something I could eat, she had them put it on the menu card. So hopefully this led some other people to get it instead of the chicken or salmon.

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