George and Julia's Vegan Underground

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Vegan Jerk in Hartford

A little restaurant, Fire and Spice, sits just doors away from the highly acclaimed Irish watering hole, The Half Door. With the louts and hollers from the Irish pub, Fire and Spice is a humble establishment that can be easily missed. It’s not flashy, and there’s not a line that goes out the door to get in. But it is a gem on Sisson Ave. It’s cafeteria style service and the food is ALL VEGAN. They have fresh juice, vegan pastries, and veggie burgers. But the charm is the specialized vegan cuisine: Jamaican “beef” patties, tofu jerk, pumpkin rice, curried garbanzo, and of course Jamaican styled lentils. If you’re in Hartford heading to the half door, stop by Fire and Spice, and trust me the food is good and so is the price.

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It’s hard being vegan

With my work, I attend many end of the school year banquets and with them you have to expect the worst. Last night I attended a banquet and anticipated that there would be no vegan options. Therefore I went ahead and made my own pre-dinner meal. It was ziti with raw cashew pesto. Delicious. You can find it at whole foods.

Well at the dinner they served chicken Marsala, baked ziti, and vegetables sautéd in butter. The only vegan option was the salad. And even the dressing wasn’t vegan friendly so I had to beg and plead for straight vinegar. I understand that veganism is a dietary restriction that many don’t have, but knowing that so many suffer from lactose intolerance, I couldn’t understand why there was dairy in everything. It’s hard out there for a vegan.

Vegan Liars

Julia often meets me downtown for lunch. We’ve already explored most of the falafel Midtown Manhattan has to offer so we agreed to veggie burgers. We opted for the Rockefellar Center Bill’s Burger Bar. While our waitress was not wearing “flair” it had that vibe; dark wood everywhere, kind-of sports bar.

So why would a couple of vegans go to a place like Bill’s? We like to see what the cow-chower-chain likes to feed their vegan guests.

We have non-vegan friends who are tired of eating at the V-spot. So we get to know who’s vegan option is worth a damn. In these meat-centric establishments there is a danger. The wait staff may think vegan and vegetarian is the same. In other cases, they may not care and serve the unsuspecting vegan a dish with egg or some parmesan dust in it.

As a method to our survival, we lie. “We’re lactose intolerant.” The thinking being that if they think it is going to make us ill, they probably won’t serve us that poison. We do this all the time.

Now I realize there could be meat contamination from the grill but that’s life. If you start asking about that stuff, you risk a cook or waiter putting something even more disgusting in your meal (like spit or worse).

Our veggie burgers (although possible chicken finger contaminated) were not great. The main vegetable in the burger was definitely potato. It was essentially a hash brown shaped like a burger. The sweet potato fries were very good.

I can hear our critics now, “Why would you go to Bill’s Burger Bar to get a veggie burger?” “What do you expect?” I expect effort or they don’t get my money.

Vegans That Rock!

Give it up for Friday’s Vegans That Rock!  She loves rock n’ roll but meat and dairy, not one bit.  “The only thing I love more than rock and roll is animals,” says legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist Joan Jett.  Now a vegan, Joan protested against McDonald’s CEO’s very bad reputation for cruel slaughtering techniques and was a lead spokesperson for PETA’s Vegetarian/Vegan Starter kit in 2011.  The ex-Runaway, looks great and says her vegan diet gives her more energy on stage.  On the road, she keeps it simple: pasta with marinara or a veggie burger.  She points out that vegan options are more available these days thanks to all the anti-lactos out there.  Keep strummin’ and screamin’ Joan! We love you, a Vegan That truly Rocks!

PETA McCruelty campaign in 2010

Vegan Staff Not Appreciated

Now I’m not the kind of guy who is going to cry every time I’m excluded from the workplace free eats. To supplement my Vegan Underground paycheck, I work in a typical office. My work’s lack of recognition or knowledge of my personal self-imposed dietary restrictions is not offensive at all (until now).

You see, I’m used to being left out of the monthly birthday cakes, ice cream socials, building holiday cookie extravaganzas and the likes. I attend these celebrations with mug of coffee (with soy milk brought from home). I’m guessing nobody even notices or maybe thinks, he doesn’t like cake or cookies or ice cream or fun or life. Well, I’ve got some news for you day job, I do, I really do!

This week my office celebrates “Staff Appreciation Week.” There’s prizes, jeans may be worn all week and there’s free food. Monday was a yogurt bar on, Crumbs Cupcakes on Thursday and today, Hero Sandwiches. I thought the Heroes would be “build-your-own” so had big plans to go vegan-loco all over that sub bun. I was sad to find the sandwiches as classic combinations piled with several types of meat, cheese on a mayo painted bun, a meat-soaked, cheese-smelly, hoagie bun

I realize that being Vegan is a life of boycotts and passes. I have a respectful suggestion. It’s time to update another cliche’ office tradition. Sort of like when “Christmas” was changed to “Holiday.” That way everyone is included and happy (except for the Christmas people).

Could we have some vegan options? Chipotle did it. Vegan covers lactose-intolerant too. I know what you’re thinking, next we’ve got to have gluten-free, Kosher, sugar-free, soy-free, where does it end? Maybe we should completely ban food from the office. Would that make you happy, vegans? Response: maybe you should stop penalizing people who make healthy dietary choices. Can’t we be friends?

Vegans That Rock!

It’s Friday and you know what that means, it’s time for Vegans That Rock! This guy hates meat, dairy and wearing shirts. We’re talking about Anthony Kiedis, lead singer and songwriter for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Peppers are known for their athletic stage performances and tube socks. Over the years, Anthony has stayed in tremendous physical shape. You’d never guess he was 49. Something you often hear about vegans.

The funk rock hunk has been a vegetarian since the 80’s. In 2008, he saw some PETA propaganda and bam, hardcore vegan. Good for you, Tony. We salute you because you’re a Vegan That Rocks!

Safety Cone

Having given up on receiving a formal apology from Pinkberry, I decided to take the high road on this one. Before I do that, let me point out that, although I didn’t get an apology from Pinkberry, I did get a response. It was (you guessed it) a coupon for one free 6 ounce Pinkberry, the exact amount that nearly sold me the farm. Do they even read their mail OR were they sending me a message? Okay, maybe that didn’t happen (channeling Mike Daisey)

Regardless, I move on acknowledging that
ice cream remains a fond memory of a non-vegan me. Is there a substitute for dairy ice cream, I mean a true substitute? As my palate changes so must my desserts. I had read about this place Stogo that was reinventing ice cream for a new generation.

Armed with celebrity ties in a neighborhood that embraces the unique, Stogo a dairy-free scoop heaven makes perfect sense for everyone. If 90 percent of the population will eventually become lactose intolerant (citation probably a good idea here), imagine the enormous void Stogo is capitalizing on. If you can make it taste good, you’ll certainly win. Ever wonder why there’s so sub par dairy-free ice cream. The demand is enormous and obvious.

So Breyer’s, Hagan Daas, and Pinkberry, perhaps it’s time to think outside the box before the crunch granola types and celebrity relatives take all your money. I’ll tell you my opinion of Stogo in my next post.

Juice Fasting

Like the gluen-free niche, vegan establishments are riding the juice-fast bandwagon. Perhaps inspired by the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead which followed a pill- pitching, pound-dropping Aussie turns his life around using only determination, fresh produce and a juicer.

Now I don’t know the statistics or science of it but as a healthy alternative to actual food it seems to be a no-brainer (or is it). Careful not to make it too sweet. Carrots, apples and berries have a lot of sugar. Juice out the fiber and…okay, I really am just guessing here.

Julia and I have been juicing for months. While our juice-fast only lasted 2 days, we find starting the day with fresh kale, celery, lemon grapefruit, jalapeno juice is even more uplifting than coffee.

Now if you subscribe to these juice-fast services from places like One Lucky Duck, Sun in Bloom or Organic Avenue, expect to pay 40-120 per day. I think we’ll just stick to making it ourselves with Food Coop organic produce.

Did Pinkberry Almost Kill Me?

So I’ve always balked at vegans who claimed that one serving of meat or dairy would cripple their body. I wanted to celebrate a friend’s recent successful surgery and he really wanted Pinkberry froyo. I’ll admit, I missed it and decided as a special occasion to indulge in a small salted caramel with strawberry and bananas. Certainly this 6 ounce cup could not bring down a mighty v- man like myself. It tasted great but a shouting match in my stomach ensued. “Hey Pinkberry! What are you doing here”. “I’m back, you wanna fight?” Pinkberry replied.

All night, I clutched my stomach in pain. By the morning, I was sweating and could barely walk. Antacids, ebson salt, tea, nothing worked. I stumbled outside and my landlady called me a car that took me to the nearest emergency room. I didn’t have to wait long as I laid on the emergency room floor, moaning “I’m dying. I’m gonna die here! Is that what you want?” I spent the night in the E.R. heavily medicated.

24 hours later I was released with little to no explanation. Apparently, the x-ray showed “nothing serious.” They tried to send me off with a big breakfast of bacon and eggs and an industrial bottle of laxative. Reminding them I was vegan, I was given dry toast with peanut butter and a frozen cup of orange juice. I kept the laxative.

I mention my vegan Pinkberry slip as a potential cause and the doctor and nurse did not think it was “that crazy.” In fact, a nurse at this very reputable hospital called the next day and thought it was likely the cause. She added, “at a certain age, we all become lactose intolerant. It’s ridiculous we feed cow’s milk to our children”

Well, I just got extremely anti-dairy. I certainly don’t want to go through that again. The next day when the turkish taco truck (Pera) refused to serve us an eggplant taco without feta, I thought Julia was going to fight someone. “Do you want to kill him?!!”

Brooklyn Food Truck Fest

At the Food truck rally, The only vegan options are at the always delicious rickshaw dumpling truck and kimchi taco truck. Other than that, vegan folks, your shit out of luck. Head over the Sun and Bloom on Bergen if you’re hungry.

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