Vegan CT Awards 2014!

2014 was a sweet year for Connecticut vegans. From new restaurants to veg-friendly menus to amazing new products, there’s even more deliciousness throughout the state for everyone to enjoy. And, because superlatives > top 10 lists, here are our Best Ofs for 2014:

Best Omni Restaurant With Mad Vegan Love

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This is a tough one – Connecticut restaurants are definitely catching on and creating great options for vegan diners, across the board. But we have to give props to Forbidden City Asian Bistro, who this year rolled out a full vegetarian/vegan menu with some seriously fantastic dishes.

Honorable mention: DaLegna, New Haven, who offers not one, but SEVEN completely vegan pizzas and several appetizers; Black Bamboo Chinese Restaurant for their awesome vegan menu; lots of others.

Most Incredible New Stuff That Makes Us Drool

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We’re convinced, nothing can stop Divine Treasures, LLC from taking over the world. This little 100% artisan chocolatier has totally upped the veg game by introducing a line of handmade vegan “cheeses,” calzones and veggie-packed pizzas. DT also began hosting an occasional multi-course gourmet vegan dinner event that always sells out. Bravo!

Runner up: Chipotle, for it’s Sofritos tofu; Field Roast Chao cheese slices; Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies.

Best Veg Bakery

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With its recent expansion in offering wayy more vegan options this year, the award for Best Veg Bakery goes to Dee’s One Smart Cookie! Cupcakes, donuts, breads, desserts and more are now available egg free/vegan in this already gluten- and (almost entirely) dairy-free bakery. We especially love that vegan pizzas are now available on Wednesdays and Fridays, due to high demand.

Runners up: Nature’s Grocer, Vernon; Shayna B’s and the Pickle; The Sweet Beet, Granby; NoRA Cupcake, Middletown; Hardcore Sweets, Waterbury

Newest Cool Kid on the Block

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Huge welcome to The Sweet Beet, the newest kid on the all-vegan restaurant block! This under-the-radar spot offers deliciously vegan and GF meals to-go, bakery goods, soups, and more. We hope you choose to be Donnie Wahlberg (swoon).

The We <3 Food Trucks Award

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With only two all-veg food trucks in the state (to our knowledge), this one had to be a tie. And rightfully so, as we just adore both the Amor Food Truck and G-Monkey Mobile for hitting the road and spreading the veg love throughout the state at farmers’ markets and events. Keep it up!

Most Cheer-Worthy Conversion Award

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We’re so proud of long-time Connecticut vegetarian spot ION Restaurant for taking the plunge and going 100% vegan this year!! Their new, beautifully-swanky (but comfy/casual) location and updated, modern menu only add to the exciting changes at one of our favorite restaurants. Same great sweet potato fries, tho. Looking forward to great things in 2015. GO TEAM.

Saddest Goodbye

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This year, we lost the incredible Six Main Restaurant in Chester, whose inventive, delicious meals were only complimented by a beautiful locale and wonderful service (and a great bar). We’re so sad to say goodbye to this restaurant, along with brilliant chef Rachel Carr, and can only hope that she might give CT a go again in the future. Lesson, vegans: please go support the veg restaurants! They need us, and we need them.

Runner up: So Good Vegan Cafe, Ridgefield. (Dang)

Sweetest Veg Celeb Endorsement

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Tie: Senator Cory Booker/Bey and Jay

Ok, the king and queen of hip-hop only went veg for a short time… but we truly believe that they helped to open up the minds of many who would never have considered veganism, and for that we are grateful. Cory Booker, on the other hand – well, we have high hopes for him! Although only pledging to go vegan through the end of 2014, he has been very public with the experience, giving inspiring interviews about his (ethical) reasons for the choice, twitter bombing us with questions and making us jealous of his many trips to DC’s veg restaurants. We think his lifelong veganism has a high likelihood. Plus he’s a darn good guy with a winning smile, and I see a future between us. “Mrs. Senator Vegan CT Booker” has a nice ring to it.

Runner up: Jennifer Lopez.

Swankiest Swankness Award

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Though 2014 was not it’s first year, we have to give a shout out to the Max Restaurant Group for hosting yet another Vegan Table edition of it’s popular Chef-to-Farm dinners. The inspiration of Max Oyster Bar Chef Scott Miller, this event is a fancy but incredibly fun opportunity to eat a gourmet, multi-course vegan meal, cooked on-site with local, just-picked ingredients. Plus, it’s just exciting to see veganism represented at by an omni restaurant group at such a public level. Now if only we can get some more vegan options in those restaurants!

Under-the-Radar Amazingness Award

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Go to Heirloom Food Co. Seriously, go. This mostly-veg spot is really fantastic, and the Quiet Corner is just hogging the good stuff here. Danielson may be a trek for some of us, but its worth it. Make a day of it, and plan to stop at Heirloom for lunch. Order a bunch of things (including the beet burger, delish), relax in the cute dining area, and then take some baked goods to go, because once you’ll leave, you’ll wish you had more. Trust us.

Runner up: Shandal’s Vegetarian Cafe, Bridgeport, Fuel Coffee Shop, New Haven.

Vegan State Ambassadors Award

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G-Zen in Branford has been receiving some serious nationwide buzz all year – including top awards in Travel & Leisure Magazine, Shape Magazine, Huffington Post – and well-deserved. With a consistently evolving menu of delicious organic, farm-to-table dishes, huge social media presence, positive vibes and a seriously photographic couple of vegan chefs at the helm, G-Zen is putting CT on the vegan map, and that can only mean great things for all!

Awesomest Supporters Award

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Well, that goes to you. Come on, you knew it was coming. Connecticut vegans (and vegetarians, and the veg-curious too) rock, and I’m so thankful for your support, tips, and ideas. And of course, so are the animals. Keep on rockin, CT.

That’s it! Here’s to a very veg-tastic 2015, all. Thanks for being along for the ride.

xo,
Rachel

GIVEAWAY TIME – Rachel Carr Cooks at Real Art Ways!

It’s time for a giveaway!!!

On Monday, September 29, Real Art Ways hosts it’s TASTE event featuring none other than Rachel Carr, chef of (the now closing! Sad face.) Six Main Restaurant in Chester – and we’re giving away two free tickets!

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The event includes a viewing of an episode of the French cooking series “Inventing Cuisine,” followed by something delicious prepared by the featured chef and the chance to chat about the cuisine. And, yes folks, Chef Carr’s dishes will be 100% vegan. 

This is a rare chance to get up close and personal with an amazing vegan chef and enjoy a fun night of art, good food, and schmooze. And it will be a ton of fun. And I will be there and we can all schmooze together!

To enter, comment below, on Facebook, or on Twitter, and tell us:

If you had a vegan cooking show, what would it be called? 

We’ll pick a winner on Friday, September 26. Good luck!!

For more info on TASTE, click here.

Max’s Features “Vegan Table” Themed Chef-To-Farm Dinner for the 2nd Year!

It’s happening! The Max Restaurant Group‘s fancy schmancy Chef-to-Farm Dinner Series will once again feature a dinner with the theme “The Vegan Table.” 

I went to this last year and it was an AMAZING experience. A gourmet, 100% vegan 5-course meal, served right on the farm by the chef himself with local ingredients and a tent full of veg love. 

Yes, it’s pretty pricey, but if you can swing it – treat yo’ self. Then eat pb&j’s for the rest of the month like I did.

More info: http://www.maxcheftofarm.com/

 

Max Farm

We’re looking for some new peeps!

We're growing!

Vegan CT is expanding, and we’re looking for a few new peeps!

We’ve got some BIG ideas for world domination  making Connecticut an awesome place for veg*ns –  including a BRAND NEW website chock full of awesome restaurant reviews, articles, interviews, recipes and giveaways, hosting events (vegan food festival, anyone?), and lots more.

And to do that, we’re looking for awesome folks to join our Editorial Team!

In order to join the Vegan CT team, you:

 – Do NOT have to be vegan or even vegetarian! – 

– DO have an interest in plant-based foods – 

– Are an engaging writer – 

– Like to eat – 

– Like to write about eating – 

– Can take cell phone food porn photos like a champ – 

– Are energetic and passionate – 

– Have great ideas for what you’d like to see on Vegan CT – 

We’re looking for a diverse team of contributors from all over the state and from a variety of different backgrounds as columnists focusing on: local restaurant/product reviews, recipe development, events, celebrity gossip, local animal/environmental/political issues as they relate to food choice, food photography, and more.

TO APPLY:

Answer the following question: What is the BEST plant-based meal you’ve had in Connecticut and why? Describe it!   Include your name, town you live in, and short description of yourself and why you’d like to write for Vegan CT, put it all in an email, and send it to: veganct@gmail.com

Applications will be accepted through July 31. Applicants should be able to commit to a minimum of one content submission per month and attend quarterly editorial team meetings (they will be super fun veg potlucks) – the first will be held some time in September.

Vegan CT is a startup and writing positions are currently on a volunteer basis only – however, as we continue to expand, opportunities for compensation will develop.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Want to get involved bu not interested in writing? We’re looking for Street Team members to represent Vegan CT at local events and spread the word! Interested? Email veganct@gmail.com.

Miya’s Sushi is Winning New Haven Restaurant Week

Guys, New Haven Restaurant Week isn’t until April 6, but Miya’s Sushi is already winning.

Restaurant Weeks can be a bane of the vegan’s existence – we want to take part in these great, prix-fixe menu deals, but rarely is an animal-product-free option to be found. Think caesar salads, creamy soups, meat-centered entrees and dairy-laden desserts. Sad face.

But, the magnificent Chef Bun has created a tasting menu in which Restaurant Week customers can choose from a wide assortment of creative, non-traditional sushi – many of which appear to be vegan or easily veganizeable (even the desserts!).

Miya’s has always been a super veg-friendly and eco-conscious spot, and it’s awesome to see that Chef Bun is bucking Restaurant Week tradition. Also, the menu sounds AMAZING.

Potentially vegan choices from the full Miya’s RW menu – 

PUMPKIN MISO SOUP – Slow roasted pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash (ask if dairy-based/chicken broth-based)

SALAD DAYS – A salad of greens tossed with our own wild ramp and basil dressing

MASALA MAME – Spicy Indian Edamame

TOKYO FRO – Tasty curls of crispy potatoes

OKRA AND AVOCADO SASHIMI – Served with a spicy citrus tamari sauce

WARM GRAPES FALLING ON A HAPPY HEAD – A grape leaf wrapped roll of eggplant, avocado, pickled radish, scallions, and hot pepper drizzled with olive oil

VOOMPA – Spicy crunchy eggplant, your choice of goat cheese or smoked jalepeño cashew cheese (!!!), avocado, seasoned with home grown chilis and Iranian ghormeh sabze

KISS THE SMILING PIGGIE – Sweet potato, mango chutney, pine nuts

CHARLIE CHAN’S CHING CHONG ROLL – Fava bean tempura broccoli, roasted garlic, and black beans

SEVEN DEADLY SUSHI – A sinfully delicious roll of fermented, sundried banana, cashew butter, strawberries, chocolate, and homemade, hand-pounded mochi, topped withbaby scoops of rose petal ice cream―eaten in one bite, using your fingers (Ask about milk in chocolate, and no ice cream – sounds like it would be amazing even without it!)

There are also several vegetarian choices on the menu that may be veganizeable – RW is tricky, as substitutions are usually discouraged, but can’t hurt to ask!

Most of the other restaurants have yet to post their menus… mayyybe this will encourage these chefs to think outside the box? We love you, Miya’s.

I Spent the Day in the Quiet Corner and it was Delicious.

I admit it.

I have lived in Connecticut my entire life, and I’ve barely spent any time in the “Quiet Corner.” Not because I don’t like quiet corners. I love them, actually. I work at a library.

I just haven’t had any compelling reason… until now.

Vegan CT Jr. had a day-long tournament at UCONN, so I decided to spend the day exploring the area and trying out a few rumored-to-be-fantastic veg spots.

Since we had to be at UCONN at an unnaturally early time, I stopped for breakfast at the Dog Lane Cafe, located in the new “Mansfield Center” development – (aka a Disney town they dropped onto the UCONN campus).

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I had heard a rumor that Dog Lane Cafe has was pretty veg-friendly – true! Not only was the menu huge, with veg options clearly noted, but the people there were SUPER nice and offered to customize anything I needed. Love that.

Inside Dog Lane cafe (picture stolen from the webz)

Inside Dog Lane cafe (picture stolen from the webz)

Veg options included a variety of sandwiches and salads, plus veg chili that sounded awesome. The cafe also had some tasty-looking baked goods labeled “dairy-free.” I didn’t have any, but always check to make sure that includes eggs (most people don’t consider eggs “dairy).

Menu at Dog Lane Cafe

Menu at Dog Lane Cafe

I was looking for something light, so I had a chocolate peanut butter smoothie – made with almond milk (soy milk also available) and added vegan protein powder. It was quite delicious, but I did not take a picture because, well, it’s a brown smoothie. Use your imaginations.

After a vigorous morning of hiking, lunch was badly needed, and there was only one place on my mind.

Heirloom

I’d heard amazing things about Heirloom Food Company and was so very pumped to get the chance to visit. Also, I discovered where Danielson (said like Mr. Miagi) is. Bonus.

First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.

Holy crap you guys. I walked in Heirloom Food Company and never wanted to leave.

The menu is huge, and mostly vegan, with gluten-free options. And it all. sounded. amazing.

(cue gratuitous menu pics)

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Salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, baked goods – so many vegan options I literally could not decide. I stood there for a good 10 minutes with my jaw on the floor and then the nice girl behind the counter told me to hurry the f*ck up cuz I was holding up the line. True story. (ed note: Readers new to Vegan CT – hi! Also, this is a joke, no one at Heirloom Food Co. has ever used a swear word, ever.)

I finally ordered the Beta Burger – lentils, onion, garlic, beet, brown rice, and almonds with herbs, topped with melted cheese, all the veggies and a special vegan dill ‘mayo’ on a sprouted bun. And then my brain exploded.

Beta Burgerrr

Beta Burgerrr

So, so good. I ordered with deliciously melty vegan cheese (duh). The burger had the perfect texture, crumbly and moist and slightly sweet. The strong flavor in the dill mayo really balanced the more mellow burger. Tons of fresh, crunchy veggies on top. I want it again, right now.

I also got this chocolate chip cookie that was probably the best chocolate cookie I have ever had, in my life, vegan or non. I kid you not.

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Buttery, melty, fall apart in your mouth goodness.

I also ordered two GF muffins (lemon and berry) for breakfast the next day. Vegan CT Jr. half-devoured his before I could even get a picture, so I’m going to assume that meant it was good. My lemon muffin was excellent – tart, crumbly and moist.

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Berry muffin and 12--year-old hand.

Berry muffin and 12–year-old hand.

Heirloom is a super cute place. Lots of tables, comfy chairs, and beautiful art on the walls (and for sale). Everything I tried was fresh and delicious, and I will definitely be back to try more. Heirloom is open for breakfast and lunch, with a full juice and smoothie menu – baked goods and specials change daily.

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After the meal, I spent some time at the UCONN dairy barn visiting with these babies and considered different ways of breaking them out and running free with them through the fields and wreaking all sorts of havoc (just kidding, NSA. I swear).

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Don’t worry guys, I don’t eat anything you’re making.

Forbidden City Adds Full Vegan/Vegetarian Menu!

Forbidden City Middletown

Well, what fabulous news did I find in my inbox this morning? An announcement from one of my favorite restaurants that it will be adding 15 (FIFTEEN!) new vegan and vegetarian dishes permanently to its menu of fine Asia-fusion cuisine. This means two things – 1) restaurants are really beginning to see the value in offering new and exciting choices to attract veg customers (that’s YOU) and 2) I’m going to be eating a lot of Asian food in the next few weeks. Break out the stretchy pants!

The new veg*n menu at Forbidden City Bistro in Middletown is not the kind of veg offering you often see at Asian restaurants, where a plant-based protein is substituted for meat (i.e. General Tso’s Tofu). It’s clear that these dishes were created specifically for the veg*n diner, using unique ingredients, lots of veggies, and all sound creative and delicious.

Buddhist Temple

Buddhist Temple

Laksa Tempeh is cabbage, tofu, string beans, mushrooms and eggplant in a pineapple curry. Edamame Dumplings are pillows of dough stuffed with truffle oil and the marinated beans. Five-Elements Quinoa stir-fry includes onions, shallots, shiitakes, edamame, black beans and goji berries, while something called “Buddhist Temple” stuffs stir-fried vegetables in light, open-faced buns. Perhaps the dish I’m looking most forward to trying is Crispy Potato-Chive Croquettes, served with slow-cooked northern beans and pickled bok choy.

Laksa Tempeh

Laksa Tempeh

Fava bean ravioli

Fava bean ravioli

From Forbidden City’s press release: “Owner Eric Leong created these items and 13 other vegetarian and vegan delights. ‘I want to offer our community a unique, contemporary spin on vegan and vegetarian cuisine that embraces traditional Malaysian flavors in a modern way.’ Malaysian cuisine is a fascinating blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian food traditions, with Indonesian, Thai, Portuguese and Middle Eastern influences. These new dishes are colorful, exotic, and full of enticing flavors.”

Crispy Potato-Chive Croquette

Crispy Potato-Chive Croquette

Forbidden City is a modern Asian-fusion restaurant on Middletown’s happenin’ Main Street. It has an extensive wine and cocktail list, a beautiful bar and dining room, and private rooms for events. Check out the full vegetarian and vegan menu here.

Forbidden City Interior

Baked Mac & Cheese for Sarah

Vegan CT reader Sarah S. asked for my mac & cheese recipe on Facebook, et voila! Here it is. See what happens when you speak up, kids? Results.

My (real cheese-loving) kiddo begs for this for dinner at least once a week, and went back for thirds this time around. THIRDS, people. Please send money to the Feed Vegan CT Jr. Fund.

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Baked Mac & Cheese

(Vegan & Gluten-Free) (Adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen)

Serves 6ish (or me once and my 12-year-old three times)

16 oz. macaroni or shells (I used brown rice shells)

1/4 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour ( I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free)

3 cups plain almond or soy milk

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (NOT Brewer’s yeast. Nutritional yeast is available at health food stores and most grocery stores in the health food section. Looks like fish food, tastes lik cheesy goodness)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp salt

1tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp turmeric (optional, gives it a really yellow cheesy color. Also very good for you spice!)

1tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup

bread crumbs (optional, I used gluten-free panko)

dried oregano or parsely

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 casserole dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until JUST before al dente (3-4 minutes). Do not overcook! The pasta should still be firm and a little crunchy.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, make a roux by melting the butter, then adding the flour and wishking to form a paste. Let cook for 2 minutes until golden. Add milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, garlic powder, and turmeric and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat and simmer 2 minues or so, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and add lemon juice and maple syrup.

Combine pasta and sauce in baking dish. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and dried herbs.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly toasted and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven and let sit a least 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

A Vegan CT NYE!

Still looking for a delicious way to spend your New Year’s Eve? Get on it, slackers!! Here’s a list of some tasty vegan NYE specials around the state. God it’s a good thing you’ve got me, amiright?!

Check out our full list of vegan and veg-friendly restaurants HERE.

Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant, Bridgeport

Mariposa at Bloodroot Restaurant

Mariposa at Bloodroot Restaurant

Appetizers:
Grilled Tofu en Brochette with Peanut & Cucumber Sauces
Mushroom Walnut Pate
Hopping “Jane” – Black-eyed Peas and Rice
Coquida – a Puerto Rican Rum Coconut Punch
Sanguinaria – a Celebratory Non-Alcoholic Punch

Entree:
Our Layered Vegetable Phyllo Pastry Mariposa (Butterfly) with Gingered Elderberry Sauce
Salad “Rose”
Assorted Bread

And All of These Delicious Desserts!:
Winter Fruit Platter with Persimmon Sorbet
Chocolate Devastation Cake
Cookies

Dinner also includes your choice of a glass of Champagne or Mineral Water, and your choice of Coffee or Tea

This special meal is $48 plus tax per person. (Note – with the exception of the Coquida and some of the cookies, this entire meal is Vegan). Call 203-576-9168 to reserve your table now!

G-Zen, Branford

New Years Special Multi course Meal: $40

Chef Shadle Home made Butternut/Cashew Ravioli with a saffron creme sauce.

Organic Wild greens with a champagne vinaigrette with candied walnuts

Seitan au poivre, roasted asparagus & twice baked potatoes

RAW menu also available. Call 203-208-0443 for reservations!

2 seatings- 6pm and 8 pm

Six Main, Chester
$70/PERSON/ All vegan and gluten free
Menu is subject to change
Call 860-322-4212 for reservations

AMUSE BOUCHE of all four elements
Water-Artichoke, fried oyster mushroom app
Fire-Jalapeño corn bellini, smoked tomato sauce, coconut creme fraiche
Earth-Root vegetable soup with pine nut cream, toasted juniper berry dust
Air-Pickled radishes, pickle brine foam

COURSE TWO Water
Sea vegetable chowder, gf oyster crackers

COURSE THREE Fire
Grilled sweet potato steak, frisee, smoked mustard vinaigrette, hawaiian black salt

COURSE FOUR Earth
Morel mushroom chestnut ravioli, stuffed with cashew ricotta, chestnut cream sauce, mushroom and asparagus sauté, shaved fresh asparagus

COURSE FIVE Air
Dark chocolate sponge cake, white chocolate gelato, champagne macerated berries, champagne grapes
Prosecco toast