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).

doglane2

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.

cookie

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.

lemon muffin

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).

calf momma

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

PRODUCT REVIEW: Surprisingly Vegan Waffle Mix is Surprisingly Delicious


SV logo

Well, color me excited.

I finally made the plunge and ordered something from Vegan Cuts. Have you tried this? It’s like Groupon for vegan products. They feature new and interesting products at a discount, shipped right to you! I had perused the site a few times and wasn’t sure I saw anything worth investing in, until this:

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Waffles, guys! If there’s one thing we love in the Vegan CT household, it’s waffles. We do them every Sunday. It’s a tradition. But vegan waffle recipes CAN be a little finicky, amIright? Plus, if you’re also gluten-free, or just trying to reduce your ridiculously extreme average but could be better gluten intake, it’s a rough world out there. Waffles that are vegan AND gluten-free? And actually taste good? And don’t require me to buy 17 different ingredients? Lezzgo.

Wholesome-city, y'all.

Wholesome-city, y’all.

Check out that ingredients list! Not only is Surprisingly Vegan waffle mix vegan and gluten-free, but those are like, normal things in there. And healthy! Oats, walnuts, flax, coconut nectar (a low-glycemic sweetner), salt, vanilla. And not even that creepy vanilla extract gunk they sell in the bottle. REAL vanilla beans! What the what?! The Vegan CT family is a pretty clean-eating group, so this list is like a miracle sent from the wizards of waffle-making. Still, I was skeptical. Could these really be good? Or just “healthy” tasting? And can you  really make waffles without baking powder?

You can.

You can.

Guys, I don’t know. I feel like there’s some sort of magical vegan wizadry witchcraft at play here. Cuz this waffle was good. And not just like “It’s ok, I’ll eat it,” good. I mean, good! Super crispy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside. Slightly sweet and nutty. And filling! I know it looks like the serving size doesn’t fill up my hotel-grade waffle maker (I told you we’re serious about our waffles), but it didn’t need to. This was just as filling and satisfying as a full-on wheaty waffle.

AND ALL I HAD TO DO WAS ADD WATER.

Yum.

Yum.

This could be a problem. I mean, I made a waffle ON A WEDNESDAY MORNING. It was healthy. And it took me 5 minutes! It may be waffle-town around here everyday for a while. Or until I run out of mix and have to buy more.

So there you have it, kids. Delicious, vegan, gluten-free waffles made with super wholesome ingredients. I’m super pleased with this purchase because I also love to support up-and-coming vegan companies providing healthy, high-quality products, and I think this is one. Surprisingly Vegan is still featured on Vegan Cuts HERE. The mixes are discounted and the shipping is free. Get on it!

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Disclosure: I was not asked to review this product or provided with any type of compensation in return. I bought this mix with my own money. Surprisingly Vegan has no idea who I am. I just really like it and thought I would share.

REVIEW: Vegan Brunch Throwdown Part III – Fuel Coffee Shop, New Haven

This is Part III in a multi-part series I’m calling “Vegan Brunch Throwdown,” in which I review every vegan brunch in Connecticut then pit them head to head in a no-holds-barred, fight to the death over who has the best tofu scram, pancakes, and  tempeh bacon. Fun, right? Read Part I and Part II.

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Guys! I have not abandoned you. It has been a very busy couple of weeks, what with all the cray-cray snow, Valentine’s Day, and the Ivy League Vegan Conference. I’m wiped! BUT, never not too wiped to bring you the latest vegan brunch recap. There’s always energy for brunch!

I’ve been intrigued by Fuel Coffee Shop in New Haven for a while, mostly because it doesn’t even have a website. It does have a Facebook page, but I couldn’t find the menu anywhere online which only added to the suspense. Must. discover. the secret. I finally made the pilgrimage to Fuel last weekend, as I had heard it has an epic vegan breakfast menu and the “best coffee in New Haven.” Which  is quite a statement. I don’t actually drink coffee so I can’t attest to that second claim, however, for the first claim I present to you Exhibit A:

Epic Vegan Menu

Epic Vegan Menu

See all those “v”s? That indicates “vegan options.” It’s like more than half the menu. I almost died.

Fuel is a small, out of the way shop in the Wooster Street area of New Haven, which was kinda hard to find, especially when you’re starving and the GPS is yelling at you that you have “arrived at your destination ” but can’t find a spot to park in all the six foot snowbanks and whatnot. I KNOW I’M HERE GIVE ME A SECOND TO REGROUP!

Inside, it’s your pretty typical little coffee shop except without all the fancy crap, which is how I like my coffee shops. Bare bones, a couple couches, a few newspapers lying around. Done. The interior does have a cool retro vibe which I dug. A few people on Yelp described Fuel as a “hole,” but I’d say this is far from the truth (it’s got some pretty great Yelp reviews, too). I found the shop clean and welcoming, and totes non-judgmental… the other diners were a mixed bag of what looked like a professional, a couple of academics, a 20s-aged hipster-type couple, and me. No, I did not take pictures of the other people! That’s weird.

Fuel, inside.

Fuel, inside.

Unfortunately, I visited Fuel at a not-so-great time (the weekend after the Great Blizzard of 2013), as the counter guy told me they were out of a lot of stuff due to travel/shipment issues, including avocado (noooo!). I ordered the tofu scramble wrap with daiya cheddar, and Counter Guy was super nice and apologetic and offered to sub in veg bacon and spinach for the lack of avocado, and because I was getting their last (slightly small) portion of tofu scramble for the day, to which I said HELL YES. If there’s anything I love almost much as avocado, it’s veg bacon.

Tofu scram wrap from Fuel. I want it again, right now.

Tofu scram wrap from Fuel. I want it again, right now.

Friends, this wrap was so, so good. I don’t know if it was the cheddar/bacon combo, the nicely seasoned tofu scram, or the fresh spinach and tomato. Or all of those things. It was probably all o f those things. But it was delicious. I had to stop myself from wolfing it down at top speed because I think the Fuel guy was kinda watching me take pictures and act all shady and stuff. But I wanted to. The wrap was BIG, really filling and came with a side of tortilla chips that I didn’t eat because I was so full. Deee-lish.

I also got tea, not that anyone cares about that.

I also got tea, not that anyone cares about that.

In addition to the awesome food menu, Fuel also offers an extensive coffee and drink menu, with fancy sounding specials like the Peppermint Patty, any of which can be made with soy or almond milk (!), and a vegan soup of the day.

I only got the one wrap because it was just me and I didn’t want to fall asleep from food coma during the conference I was headed too, BUT I will definitely be back to try out the veg burger, BLT, soup, and probably a bagel and cream cheese because HOW OFTEN CAN YOU GET A BAGEL AND VEGAN CREAM CHEESE AT A COFFEE SHOP? The answer is allllmost never.

Fuel would be a great place for a quick, casual brunch, lunch to-go, place to study, etc. I’m also told they occasionally have vegan cupcakes. If and when I am in the New Haven area again, I’ll be back.

But there better be avocado.

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Fuel Coffee Shop 

516 Chapel Street, New Haven

NOTE: Cash only!

Cruelty-Free Connecticut Chocolate for You (or Someone You Love, or Whatever)

This is not my hand, and I am not married.

I’m not even going to go into the whole Valentine’s Day thing, guys. Whether you love someone else, love yourself, hate the world, or think the entire day is a made-up scam by the greeting card industry, just get over it, cuz I never say no to an excuse to eat more chocolate, and neither should you (and if you hate the world, you are obviously suffering from a chocolate deficiency – get some, STAT!).

But oh, where to get those delicious nuggets of heaven without hurting the animals? Sure, you could go to the local CVS and scour the ingredients on every dark chocolate bar in the joint (warning: CVS has very few vegan chocolates). OR, you could head to one of the amazing chocolatiers we have creating delicious, dairy-free concoctions right here in the beautiful state of Connecticut. What? You didn’t know? Prepare to get schooled, Valentine’s Day style.

Divine Treasures, Manchester

We can’t talk about Connecticut chocolates without starting with our own resident vegan chocolate maker, Diane from Divine Treasures. Guys, every single thing in her shop is vegan. Everything. I purposely stay away other times of the year because I’m pretty sure I’d go all Augustus Gloop up in there and have to be rolled out by Diane’s oompa loompas (you have those, right Diane?). Seriously though, not only is everything vegan, but she also sources organic, eco-friendly ingredients to make insane concoctions like Blonde Caramel, Celtic Coffee, Cranberry and Pistachio, Peanut Butter Melts (ughhh),Toffee Almond, and more. Divine Treasures also stocks baked goods from Shayna B’s and Pickle, a local vegan, gluten-free bakery, so it’s like a one-stop shop for all your cruelty-free, stuff-your-face deliciousness. And if you can’t get to the DT store in Manchester, never fear! The chocolates are also available at select Whole Foods Markets’.

Peanut Butter Melts from Divine Treasures

The Chocolate Shell, Old Lyme

The nostalgic candy shoppe offers a variety of vegan chocolates that are 100% belgian and look super tasty. Truffles, hot chocolate, chocolate-dipped figs, and the fatest-looking chocolate-covered pretzels I’ve ever seen. The Chocolate Shell also sells old-fashioned candies (many of which may be vegan!), so ask for dairy-free and get sugar coma ready.

Truffles at The Chocolate Shell, Old Lyme

The CocoaShak, Chesire

This small, local chocolatier offers several version of vegan truffles made with coconut milk and names like Asian Fusion (dark chocolate ganache infused with fresh lemongrass and fresh ginger), Amaretto (made with almond milk, dark chocolate and rolled in roasted almonds) and Vegan Kahlua. Chocolate offerings change daily, so ask which are vegan and enjoy!

Chocolate display case at The Cocoa Shak

Tschudin Chocolates & Confections, Middletown

Based in Middletown, this local chocolatier designs amazing chocolate centerpieces and sculptures, and treats made with exotic flavors and local ingredients. Most dark chocolate offerings are vegan, like giant pretzels dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkles.

Customized chocolate box from Tschudin Chocolates

Can’t make it to a local shop? Head to your grocery store, health-food store or co-op and check out these tasty, vegan chocolates hand-picked by yours truly (cuz I have a chocolate problem):

Endangered Species Chocolate

All of the dark chocolate bars are vegan (except for hazelnut toffee), and really delicious. The chocolates are all ethically sourced, and 10% of profits go towards wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. Indulge without guilt – you’re giving back! My favs are the dark chocolate with raspberries, dark chocolate with blueberries, and cranberry almond. I’ve found these in Stop & Shop, as well as Whole Foods and other stores.

Chocolove

If you follow the Facebook page, you know I have a slight obsession with Chocolove. Check the ingredients, because not all dark varieties are vegan.. my favorites include Dark Chocolate with Chilis and Cherries (sounds crazy, tastes amazing), Dark Chocolate with Candied Ginger, and Dark Chocolate with Orange Peel. These bars are thick, creamy, and rich. Found at ION, Thyme and Season, Whole Foods and Stop and Shop.

Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

SO GOOD OMG.

What are YOUR favorite vegan chocolates?

REVIEW: Vegan Brunch Throwdown Part II – Shoreline Diner

This is Part II in a multi-part series I’m calling “Vegan Brunch Throwdown,” in which I review each vegan brunch in Connecticut (seven!) then pit them head to head in a no-holds-barred, fight to the death over who has the best tofu scram, pancakes, and  tempeh bacon. Fun, right? See Part I here.

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Is it just me, or are diners like the hardest place to find something vegan (and satisfying)? We’re usually relegated to french fries, super boring salads, and the fruit cup. Bleh.

And what a bummer, because I absolutely love diners. It might be the classic Americana feel, the tacky interior design, 17-page menus, display cases full of desserts that will stop your heart, or the waitresses that have been working there for 40 years and call you “hun”… I love diners.

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This photo courtesy of shorlinediner.com, cuz I was too distracted playing Tic Tac Toe with Vegan CT Jr. to remember to take a photo of the inside.

This photo courtesy of shorlinediner.com, cuz I was too distracted playing Tic Tac Toe with Vegan CT Jr. to remember to take a photo of the inside.

Shoreline Diner (and it’s sister spot, Georgie’s Diner in West Haven – same menu) is an oasis in the un-veg-friendly world of diners – all of the qualities of a great, classic diner… and vegan options. And I mean REAL vegan options. We’re talking an entire half-page of specialties – including tempeh “fish” cakes, chili, lasagna, linguini with lentil meatballs (!), tofu picatta, and a tempeh reuben (!!). It’s enough to make a vegan diner-lover shed a tear.

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But, I was there for brunch.

Shoreline Diner’s vegan breakfast menu is pretty small, which is a little odd, given that breakfast seems like a pretty significant portion of diner business, and vegan breakfast is pretty simple to whip up – pancake batter and waffle batter are fairly similar, and it’s would be really easy to offer tofu scram instead of eggs for any of the regular egg dishes – so a few more choices would be awesome, but I’m not complaining. Choices are tofu frittata, buckwheat pancakes with optional add-ins of blueberries, chocolate chips, and bananas, hot oatmeal, and grits.

Buckwheat blueberry pancakes

Buckwheat blueberry pancakes

The blueberry pancakes were, in a word, indulgent. Perfectly cooked, crisp outside and tender inside, with loads of fresh wild blueberries throughout. The pancakes themselves were barely sweet and a touch savory, which was a nice contrast to the juicy bites of blueberries and my drizzle of maple syrup – I like being able to pour on buckets of add a  little syrup and not get punched in the face with sweetness. I ordered the short stack (2) and it was more than enough, as these pancakes are rich and filling. Yum.

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Check out that blueberry goodness.

Random side note: these pancakes came served with butter packets, which I thought was a little silly.

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There was a lot to like about this frittata… it was chock-full of big chunks of fresh sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms, and the flavor was very nice – savory and very egg-like. And of course, topping it with a ton of fresh, creamy avocado is a huge plus. Unfortunately, the texture in this dish was off – it seemed like the frittata was made with a silken tofu batter that did not set up, so the result was fairly mushy. I ate all the veggies out of it, and the avocado of course, but I felt that this could be much improved just by using firm tofu and making it a scramble.

In all, Shoreline’s pancakes were a hit, and for the hardcore brunchers, the vegan lunch menu is also available all day – I will definitely be back to try that tempeh reuben and the the fish cakes! The diner also offers a full gluten-free menu, though none of those options were specifically indicated as also being vegan. This is a great spot for a large group of folks with varying dietary preferences… there’s truly something for everyone.

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Shoreline Diner

345 Boston Post Road, Guilford

203.458.7380

I cuddled with a donkey and then stuffed my face. It was pretty much the best day ever.

Guys! I had the best day. It started with a fun romp with some new furry friends and ended with a giant plate of super delicious food in my belly. Shall we recap? Let’s begin.

The awesome folks at New England Voice For Animals arranged a meetup at the Beech Brook Equine Rescue in Mystic, and I could not wait to go… I’d been wanting to visit Beech Brook (one of the only farm animal sanctuaries in the state) for a quite a while, and this was the perfect opportunity. It was a pretty grey, muddy day but everyone except for me was smart and wore boots and I was dumb and got wet feet. Ahem.

The amazing volunteers at Beech Brook took us on a tour of the facilities and we met all of the super adorbs animals they have rescued.

This is Jigs, my new bff.

This is Jigs, my new bff.

me and higsBeech Brook is mainly an equine rescue, but this big lovebug was also saved from a neglectful living situation, as well as a few chickens and an alpaca (!). Jigs was pretty shy but after a few tasty apples (he shunned our offers of celery, smart boy) he warmed right up.

Seriously, that face.

Seriously, that face.

horses

"Who are all these visitors? And where is my snack?"

“Who are all these visitors? And where is my snack?”

Colin and Lightning. (Lightning is the horse)

Colin and Lightning. (Lightning is the horse)

The rescue is run by an amazing group of volunteers who work tirelessly to keep everyone clean, fed and healthy, and find forever homes.

The volunteers! (Check out what’s going on with the kiddo and horse on the left!)

Beech Brook saves horses and companion donkeys from pre-slaughter auctions and abusive or neglectful living situations, and works to rehabilitate those with emotional or physical trauma or health conditions so that they can find forever homes. It’s an amazing organization and I am in awe of their dedication and spirit. Truly inspiring!

After our farm visit the group went on over to Kate’s Cafe, a fairly new and 100% vegan restaurant in Mystic. I’ve been eyeing this place for a while, and was siked to be able to check it out with awesome company. Plus I was ravenous.

Kate’s has limited seating (it’s pretty tiny!) so our large group really took up half of the dining area (sorry, fellow diners!).

Kates 1

It has a lovely, upscale interior, and I’m told that there is tons more seating outdoors in the summer. Score.

kates menu

Check out that menu! Everything is 100% vegan, and many items are gluten-free or have a gluten-free option.. soy-free and nut-free items are also listed. The chef is an accomplished baker, and makes the gluten-free breads, muffins, and desserts from scratch. There’s lots to choose from: salads, sandwiches, wraps, soup of the day, and kids menu (I was eyeing the kids grilled cheese. What.). I could NOT decide and so at the last minute blurted something out. I think  it sounded like “Smoky Chickpea Burger” but I was too overhelmed with hunger all of the amazing options to tell.

Then this happened.

chickpea burgr

I should really paint my nails.

You guys. This was seriously one of the best veggie burgers I have ever had. The burger itself was perfect – crispy, chewy, moist, topped with roasted red peppers and served on the most delicious house-made gluten-free rosemary focaccia. That bread was amazing. So, so good. Ugh I want some right now.

My meal came with roasted sweet and white potatoes and greens, and it was so much food I almost could not finish it all. BUT hello. I did. And then really wished I had worn my stretchy pants.

It would appear that our younger group members also enjoyed their meals:

kids at kates

Two grilled cheeses (with Daiya) and a taco wrap. These guys raved about their meals!

Food porn warning:

Open-face taco "sandwich"

Open-face taco “sandwich”

This looked amazing.

In all, Kate’s was ridiculously good. The portions were huge, and prices very reasonable. The cafe also offers a takeout fridge with lots of pre-made offerings, great for grabbing something on the run, soups, drinks and, of course, amazing looking desserts. I was so full I wouldn’t even look at the (gluten-free) tamarind chai cookies the size of my face (who am I kidding…I looked.), but I will definitely be back, and now that I know better, I’ll save room for dessert.

The cafe also serves breakfast (sidenote: there’s a Waffle Panini on the breakfast menu, people. Veg sausage and Daiya cheeze, paninied (?) between two waffles and served with maple syrup. OMG WANT THAT.) and an occasional Saturday dinner. They don’t take reservations, and thedining area is small, so best to wait until summer if you have a large party, but the staff was lovely and accommodated us quite well.

But please, do not wait until summer to try Kate’s. In fact, maybe just go by yourself, like tomorrow, so you can stuff your face without shame. I certainly won’t judge.

Kate’s Cafe

27 Broadway Avenue, Mystic

860.245.5832

Review: Clean Food by CT’s Own Terry Walters

Full disclosure: I have a huge crush on Terry Walters. She is like the Martha Stewart of vegans. Plus she lives in Connecticut and often holds local events! I’ve had her other cookbook, Clean Start, for a year or so and absolutely love it. So when Santa finally brought me this revised, extended edition of her first book, Clean Food, (thanks mom!), I made embarrassing squealing noises and then ran into the kitchen to start making stuff.

A little background – this book is 100% vegan, but not promoted that way, which I like, because it’s kinda saying, “Hey folks, look at these simple, amazingly delicious meals, and.. oh, what? There aren’t any animal products in them? Oh I TOTALLY didn’t even realize that…” Trick ’em into veganism, I say!

The recipes are organized by season, so the ingredients in each are always locally available (and fresh), and most are incredibly healthy without looking or tasting so. Think Tofu and Kale Lasagna, Lemony Artichoke Dip, Sweet Potato and Parsnip Pancakes, Chocolate Lover’s Tart, Chestnut Stuffing, Pad Thai, Pear and Fig Tart, Setain Shepard’s Pie, Tirasmisu, Lentil Apple Walnut Loaf… I could go on, but, seriously I’m getting hungry and I just ate lunch.

The dishes are full of local produce, and the revised version is completely gluten-free, which is great for those who need that, and honestly, the rest of us could probably stand to eat a little less wheat-y stuff, amIright? Instructions are simple, and the photography is beautiful, natural and really mouth-watering. Plus, there’s a lovely intro with information about eating a plant-powered diet, stocking a pantry, cooking with grains and fresh produce, etc. etc., which makes it a great gift for someone who might be considering the ol’ compassionate switcheroo.

I was forced to wait a WHOLE DAY to make something from this book, and promptly chose the Sweet Potato, Kale, and Corn Chowder because we all know I’m obsessed with soup, it contains pretty much all of my favorite foods AND gave me the chance to use my fancy new immersion blender (thanks mom again!) and pretend that I was on Top Chef. Which Terry Walters should totally be on, and show all those meat-freaks who runs shit.

Guys, the soup…was… insane. So so delicious. Creamy, perfect flavors, satisfying, and healthy. The omnivorous boyfriend (yeah, I know, we’re working on him) went back for seconds, and I enjoyed the leftovers today for lunch and I’m really really sad it’s all gone. I would reprint the recipe with my slight modifications but I’m not totally sure how legal that is and I don’t want to do anything to make Terry mad at me, as that would probably hurt my chances of being invited to cook with her in her home kitchen, after which we would ride our bikes to get pedicures and chat about gardening over tea.

In conclusion, I love Terry Walters and am probably now banned from coming within 35 feet of her in any public place but it was worth it because I needed to let you guys in on the glory that is this cookbook. Grab those Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift cards and get your hands on one.

The end.

PS – I was not compensated in any way for this review, nor am I actually friends with Terry Walters (yet). My mom really bought me the book, and then told me she was going to steal it from me because of how amazing it looks. SEE?!

(all photos courtesy of terrywalters.net)

REVIEW: Brunch at ION = yes.

 

 

 

 

This is Part I in a multi-part series I’m calling “Vegan Brunch Throwdown,” in which I review each vegan brunch in Connecticut (seven!) then pit them head to head in a no-holds-barred, fight to the death over who has the best tofu scram, pancakes, and  tempeh bacon. Fun, right? See Part II here.

 

ION inside

ION and I have a love/hate. After a couple of so-so dinners last year, and one bonafide bad experience, I’ve been a little  gun shy. But, a recent salad lunch special was lick-the-container good, there are some new menu items, and the occasional to-go cupcakes the size of my head have been consistently delicious.. maybe with all the new competition, this long-time local veg spot has stepped up it’s game. Either way, when a Sunday morning I-need-brunch-now craving hit, ION got itself a second third fourth fifth chance.

ION’s brunch is limited – they offer a couple breakfast-y specials, along with the full lunch menu, fancy-looking lattes, and the always available fresh juices. My dining partner (YES IT WAS MY MOM) and I went for each of the brunch specials – whole wheat pancakes with blackberries, served with tofu scramble and tempeh bacon, and the breakfast burrito (stuffed with tofu scramble, beans, avocado and cashew parm, topped with tofu sour cream and salsa).

ION brunch

Guys, this brunch was everything brunch should be. The pancakes were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, and the blackberries were decidedly fresh. The tofu scram was super tumeric-y, bright yellow and warmly spiced, just how I like it. Taters were perfectly cooked with tons of herbs. Tempeh bacon was sweet, savory and super crispy, amen.

Ion brunch 2

Despite the lukewarm coffee refill and bathrooms that could use a little attention and a good scrubbing, the experience was a good one. Servers were sweet, food came out fairly quickly (though we were in no rush, of course – cardinal Brunch Rule Numero Uno), and the atmosphere is funky and fun, as always.

ION is a vegetarian restaurant, but most items (and all desserts) are already vegan and everything else is easily veganized – just ask for non-dairy cheese or tofu sour cream.

And so, ION has won it’s way back into my pants heart with brunch. Yes, I’m that easy.

Just keep those cupcakes coming…

Fire N Spice Is Pretty F’ing Delicious.

 

Guys, Fire N Spice rocks my world. I stopped in for lunch the day after Thanksgiving because I couldn’t even look at leftovers and needed a big salad and soup to wash the apple pie out of my veins. Also, it’s walking distance from my parents’ house (LUCKY THEM!), and I don’t drive anywhere as a rule on Black Friday cuz it brings out all the crazies.

Anyway.

Fire N Spice is a cozy, quiet, casual, 100% vegan(!) spot, offering ethnic food with Carribean and Indian flavors.  The setup is simple – order at the counter, grab a table in the cute dining area, and the food is prepared and brought out to you.  The menu is impressive, with salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, raw dishes, kale chips pizzas, fresh juices and smoothies, and a display case of lovely-looking desserts. But those a la carte options won’t tempt you as much as the cafeteria-style entrees – choose a combination of any three, five, or eight of the dishes available and create your own personal plate of happiness. Trust me, you’ll want to.

My mom and I chose a bunch of the entrees to share – quinoa, jerk tofu, Indian chole, greens, curried potatoes, bbq tofu. I also ordered the Sahai Birthday Salad and a small lentil dal soup (WHAT I WAS HUNGRY WE WALKED THERE).

Seriously, YUM. Everything was perfectly flavored with just the right amount of heat. The greens were fresh and crisp, the quinoa was light and fluffy, the tofu and chickpeas smothered in saucy goodness.

The atmosphere inside is warm and simple, with bright colored walls and ethnic decor. Dining area sits 20, with a new separate sports bar and event space in back. Fire N Spice hosts live music nights, football Sundays and Mondays, game nights, and vegan cooking classes. Really, a beer, Sunday football, and some jerk tofu?! Sunday Funday, people.

I’ll be back, for the food and the service – owner and chef Chris was delightful, chatting with us and describing every dish in detail. His knowledge of food combinations for flavor and health were fantastic, and he happily explained that food tastes so good (and makes you feel great) because it’s cooked with good karma. Somehow, coming from him, the often cliche sentiment was totally genuine.

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Fire N Spice

248 Sisson Avenue, Hartford

(860)367-7970

Gluten-, nut-, soy-free options available. Dine-in, take-out and catering.