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.

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.

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.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Surprisingly Vegan Waffle Mix is Surprisingly Delicious


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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.

POLL: Vegan Connecticut Restaurant Week. Would YOU go?

So, in attempting to write a blog post about vegan choices on Hartford Restaurant Week menus, I discovered that there aren’t any (even New Haven had a few!). Not a one.

Which got me thinking: What about a Vegan Connecticut Restaurant Week? Not just exclusively for veg restaurants, but an opportunity for ALL restaurants to try out offering a vegan prix-fixe menu. This could challenge restaurateurs to think outside the (meat- and dairy-laden) box and create something new and delicious, while also attracting a larger (compassionate and/or health-conscious) customer base. BUT, in order to convince any restaurants to participate, we’d have to prove that CT vegans would come out in DROVES.

What do you guys think? If there was a Vegan Connecticut Restaurant Week, would you go out and support?!