George and Julia's Vegan Underground

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Vegans That Rock!

Did you know the was written by a vegan?  Director Richard Linklater, put this song in his movie School of Rock for that exact reason.  The two-chord classic Roadrunner, has been covered by the Sex Pistols and vegan Joan Jett (coincidence?).   He’s the ultimate in minimalism and has earned the title “the Godfather of Punk.”  Like Brian Wilson, Daniel Johnston and other eccentric geniuses, his music pushed others make music history.  I’m talking about Jonathan Richman, guitarist, songwriter, leader, pioneer, march-to-a-different drum-guy, vegan.

I first heard Richman’s song Pablo Picasso in the cult classic Repo Man.  As Jonathan’s songwriting matured, he insisted on a lower volume.   This caused drummer David Robinson to leave the Richman-fronted Modern Lovers and join the Cars.

While never one to be concerned with commercial success, Richman was introduced to a whole new crop of fans when he added weirdness to the Farrelly Brothers’ 1998 film, There’s Something About Mary.  On screen, he performed and sang commentary about the film’s plot. 

Boy did he influence.   Bands like They Might Be Giants, Weezer and Frank Black wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for J.R. .   His humble boyish persona and songwriting magic made the rock world introspective and pure.  He’s funny and dead serious at the same time.  Is he crazy, acting or just completely original?

In a rare interview, he spoke to PETA about his diet:

“I identify as vegan. I’m not strict, 100%. Every once in a while in some country, someone’s mother will make somethin’ and I’m not gonna ask grandma…you know like she’s there, she’s got her apron on and she spent four hours and I’m a guest at her house. I’m not gonna say, “Excuse me is there oleo Margarine and is there hydrogenated this-and-that. Nah, I eat somethin’. You know, I do the best I can. Left to my own devices I’m vegan.”

A private person who hates prescription drugs and air conditioning, there’s not many musicians that don’t want to be more like him.  Historic, iconic, and super sonic,  Jonathan Richman, thanks for all you have given electrically (but more often) acoustically.  You are truly a Vegan That Rocks!!

Lunch Buffet Hare Krishna Style

When I heard that the Hare Krishna’s opened up their lunch room to the public, it wasn’t “why go” but “when do we go.” You won’t be pushed to accept flowers and make donations. Govinda’s is set up like a legit restaurant.  Located in the basement of the ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple, it fits nicely into our “vegan underground” theme.  Their menu is 80% vegan so be sure to ask so you don’t accidentally eat some ghee

Govinda’s buffet-style lunch fits every budget at $3, $5, $7, or $10.   It even includes some of the best bread on earth and sweet lemonade.  The menu for this traditional Indian fare changes daily. Typical dishes include spinach with tofu, jasmine rice, split pea soup, quinoa salad, samosas, kale and sweet potatoes, curried grilled veggies, lentils and their famous mango cheesecake. Are you getting hungry? The food is filling and fresh. While less spicy than we prefer, the dishes work for all palates.   Check it out. It’s an original experience and a satisfying meal. I’d be there 2-3 times a week if I didn’t have this darn job in Midtown. LIU students, senior citizens and Downtown Brooklyn workers should take advantage of this precious gem.

On our way out, Julia and I took off our shoes and sat near the Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir. We watched as this Krishna spiritual leader sat in meditation, worshipers danced and we calmingly digested our meal and pondered over the universe. While our lunch did not make us Hare Krishna’s, we had a wonderful, positive and satisfying meal. You will too.  Govinda’s Kitchen is in the basement of the Hare Krishna Temple at 305 Schermerhorn St (between Nevins and Bond) in Brooklyn

Coco Moka Cafe

So in between the Starbucks and the Starbucks at Penn Station there’s very little options left for vegan coffee drinkers who need some cream (replacer). George and I stumbled upon a place we titled “bagel and coffee” because that’s what the neon sign said. This gem offers soy for coffee, and a few other vegan sweets like heart thrive energy bars. The coffee is delicious and the baristas are charming. Stop by the Coffee and Bagel neon sign near the NJTransit before your next commute.

If you like eggplant…

Best listing of ingredients on a menu. Don’t ask, just know you’ll like it.

Vegans That Rock!

Punk rock bands don’t protest anymore. When I was a kid, the Dead Kennedys called Reagan a Nazi and Crass accused Thatcher of murder for the whole Falkland Islands fiasco. Punk was direct and menacing. If you didn’t piss off an authority figure, you weren’t doing it right. Today punk’s message is about love, suburban boredom, or on rare occasion, a veiled disapproval of the current government.

I guess the memo never made it to Russia because Pussy Riot is punk rockin’ like it’s 1985. If you thought power washing Occupy Wall Street was police statey, Russia is still kickin’ it iron curtain. Jello Biafra can sleep at night knowing government hating is still alive, kicking, screaming and messaging in music once again. You know who isn’t sleeping well? Alicia Silverstone. I’ll get to that.


I’m not sure how many members there are in Pussy Riot but only three got sentenced. Now unmasked, one of the unlucky 3 is a charming vegan who cracked a grin even while being displayed in a plexi-glass cage (how bizarre was that?). These grrrrrls were not apologizing. 

Vegan Maria Alekhina who lead an anti-Vladimir Putin song and “punk prayer” in the main Russian favorite place of worship, the Orthodox cathedral Church of Christ the Saviour.

As it turns out, a Russian prison is not a good place to be a vegan. Maria wouldn’t eat, her blood sugar dropped and the paramedics had to be called in.

Now I don’t care if reporters think it’s a joke when Alicia Silverstone wrote a letter to President Putin:

“I respectfully request you to ensure that vegan meals are available to Ms. Alekhina and all prisoners. Regardless of the trial and its outcome, I’m sure you can agree that everyone has the right to show compassion and refrain from harming animals by being vegan. “

You go Alicia. You rock too. Somebody get Maria a vegan cake. Poison-free, eh Putin. It took a lot of huevos to take on Vladimir. There may be hope for release. Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev (Russian President 2008 until May) spoke out to release Pussy Riot.  Great idea Dmitri but for now give em’ hell Maria Alekhina.  Separate that church and state.  You’re bad ass and without-a-doubt a Vegan That Rocks!


Room at the Inn for a Vegan

Diggin’ In with Kennedy

The line is long at the Dig Inn but it moves fast. Its popularity is comforting. My falafel addiction had gone on vacation and Midtown is no East Village when it comes to vegan options. My bud Kennedy suggested this “Dig Inn.”   As usual, I checked out their website to see what I could eat. I opened up their Allergen Chart The last column on the chart, “vegan.”  The vegan column was checked a lot.  In fact, the food at Dig Inn is about 90% vegan and it is a big menu .   Set up like an edible Boston Market with fresh gourmet food, I was ready for this.

We got two of the four existing seats so if you go, prepare to take-out.  The Dig Inn is not a new restaurant but a rebranding. Originally created for the 90’s bodybuilder, it was formerly known as “Pump Energy Food.”  Dig Inn explained the name change this way:

“As New Yorker’s swapped out dumbbells for yoga mats, our relationship with food started to change. Something of a food revolution was taking hold…we’ve come up with a name that we’re truly pumped about”

The Dig Inn’s prices are fair and the dishes unique, inspired and farm fresh. I ordered the veggie platter because the tofu protein looked a little boring. The veg plate gets you 4 sides (small) or 5-7 sides (large).    Their website is one of the best out there. Just click on any item, get every ingredient and full nutritional information.  D.I. calls it full transparency, I call it a bar set high for restaurants everywhere.  I get flustered sometimes in these long-line situations so using their site, I was able to pick my meal and calculate how many calories I was getting. So what did I get?

Veggie Platter Large ($7.58): Tomato Brown Rice (199 Calories), Mushroom with Celery (41 Calories), Broccoli & Quinoa Salad (119 Calories), Lentils (58 Calories), Wheatberry Salad (124 Calories), Kale & Apple Salad (94 Calories) = 635 Calories. Maybe a bit steep in the calorie department but this is nutrient-rich cuisine.  Kids, you are going to want to eat these vegetables.  Kennedy (King of Control) went with the small veggie platter ($5.51) bringing him in under 500 calories.

I can’t say there was a losing dish on my plate.  My favorite was the Wheatberry Salad which they note, does have honey in it so you uber-vegans will have to pass on that one.  They also have some amazing sauces. I had the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (toasted almonds, roasted garlic and cayenne).  Next time I’m trying their House Hot Sauce.

They sell “picnic pints” as well $2.99/$5.51. Kennedy, hooked me up and I thank him for that. Dig Inn is my current Midtown favorite and possibly my new world favorite.  They really got it right. The only thing that irks me is that Dig Inn is the kind of place I would open up.  Julia’s got to check this place out. Perhaps I’ll bring home some picnic pints.  I’ll bet they deliver to my office.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Fall is in the air

It’s that time of year when schools back in session, the temperatures are gradually dropping, leaves are changing, and morning practice for nontraditional season have commenced. Say what? Fall is a great time of year, and is most epitomized by the sweet smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and of course pumpkin. Starbucks has made its cultural mark in the Fall season by offering the wildly popular and delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte. When the barista hands you that warm cup and the aromas penetrate your nostrils, everything just seems to make sense for that moment. However, what the heck makes it taste so good? Brace yourselves, vegan amigos.

Soy cheers

No matter if you make this seasonal favorite with Soy and no whip, it’s NOT VEGAN. In fact it’s pretty much a diabetics worst nightmare and incredibly processed and is made primarily with everything but pumpkin. When I read about the truth of the Pumpkin Spice Latte on Your Daily Vegan Blog, I was heartbroken. I look forward to making the Pumpkin Spice Latte my once in a blue moon treat in the Fall, but now I must look away and put it out of my head. But it won’t be hard seeing that the nutritional information the customer service disclosed is somewhat troubling:

Your Daily Vegan did the leg work and now I’m just reiterating the ingredients:

Sugar, condensed nonfat milk, sweet condensed nonfat milk, annotta(a colorant), natural and artificial flavors (which were not revealed), and caramel coloring. Spice flavor: Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Wait, so I shouldn’t finish this?

As you see, the key to it’s deliciousness must be in the natural and artificial flavors which are so top secret that the customer service representative cannot disclose what exactly they are. So let’s get this straight, to make a latte you need milk (or soy) and then to make pumpkinny flavors you add more milk products (condensed milk), a commercial produced coloring agent, and some other stuff that’s not pumpkin at all? Yikes, sounds like a lot of chemicals and cholesterol to me. Just not worth the treat.

Now it’s time to figure out how to make a pumpkin latte at home. Back to the lab and time to cook (I’ve been watching a lot of Breaking Bad lately).

What’s going into that super top secret vegan pumpkin spice concoction, George?

Nutritional Value of Dairy

The Department of Health in New York City recently passed Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban sugar-filled drinks larger than 16oz. One sugary drink that didn’t get the heave-ho was Starbuck’s staple Frappuccino. This overly processed coffee favorite got to slide because the benefits of dairy outweigh the excessive amount of sugar in it…

Uhhh… What?

So the frap syrup, milk, whipped cream and caramel/chocolate sauce is more healthy than a 20oz ginger ale? No!

Don’t worry, it’s a non-milkshake courtesy of Lula’s

If we’re looking ounce for ounce, skim milk and cola are equivalent in calories. So that means anything other than skim has more cals than cola. But wait, cola has the sugar! Well in 8oz of skim milk there’s 16g of sugar. But what are the health benefits they speak of in milk?

Calcium and vitamin D.

God forbid you step outside your house to get vitamin D from sunlight, right? There is scientific evidence that cow’s milk contributes to the susceptibility of type 1 diabetes. Also there’s a giant backlash on soy right now and how it causes breast cancer, but did you know that you’re at greater risk of heightened estrogen in your body if you are consuming cow’s milk? Well think about it; in order to get milk you have to have a baby, and when you’re pregnant you have increased hormones. Let alone dairy cows are bred to produce more milk than what is required in nature. So that means they are given addition hormones and to prevent inflamed mammaries, they’re given antibiotics. You know the saying, you are what you eat so that means you are ingesting what the cow is too. By the way fellas the insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) which is found in cow’s milk has had a consistent association to prostate cancer. Oh and heart disease and obesity has been linked to dairy products due to the high levels of fat and cholesterol Anyone who consumes 2 or more servings of dairy daily are at higher risk for heart disease. Let alone there has been correlation between dairy and MS.

So let me ask you this, does the health benefits of milk really counter the calories? You know if you take dairy out of your diet you’re at less risk for osteoporosis as well. You know what Mayor Bloomberg, I’ll take the ginger ale please.

Take a look at this report:

Juiced Up Thursday

Well here’s another installment of Juiced Up Thursday. Today’s juice isn’t a juice but a smoothie. As I mentioned from last week I’ve been doing more smoothie action than juice. Well this mammoth of a smoothie is chock full of protein. You non-vegans who worry about your vegan friend’s protein shouldnt worry if this is what they’re slurping down. In consists of the following ingredients that assist with your body’s muscle repair:

  • Carrot– vitamin C, A and K in the house
  • Spinach– protein and vitamin B and E
  • Kale– protein and manganese with a hefty helping of vitamins K,A and C
  • Dates– can you say Iron? Cause dates are loaded with Iron and B complex-vitamins
  • Blueberries– anti-oxidants, say no more
  • Chia seeds– complete protein with all your favorite amino acids and good for feeling full longer
  • Goji berries-anti-oxidant and helps with aging
  • Walnuts– protein and healthy fats

Warning: This smoothie will repair your muscles and replenish all vitamins

As you see from the list of ingredients this smoothie is no joke. I just wish there was a little acidity in it to give it a fuller flavor. Otherwise great drink to kick off the workday.

My Month as a Vegan Superstar

Let me explain my euphoric 31 days.  I ate food that was so extraordinary, I felt like Alicia Silverstone.  My vegan life has never been tastier.  I officially embraced veganism with no regrets just pure religious choice.  You doubt mi fiesta de Augusto en mi boca?   I experienced a moment when all points connected.  I achieved perfect balance, timing was perfect, making every train, every light.  Every decision was so natural it as if my beating heart was identical to the world’s pulse.   That’s my August 2012.  Don’t believe me?  Well wrap your brain around some of my chow heaven greatest hits.

Perfecting the Pizza

Pre-vegan, I was a pizza crazy. Everyone knew it but never talked about it.  When I moved to New York that passion for Italian pie became an addiction and the reason I got up in the morning.  It was my only staple for which I had not found great vegan substitute.  I tried the vegan Daiya cheese, soysage but these faux-topped pizzas never measured up. Then I remembered vegan author Victoria Moran’s advice, “if you drop something, add two.”  I added broccoli, onions, black olives, jalapenos, mushrooms and any other veggie I could think of. My “kitchen sink” pizza didn’t need tapioca cheese or seitan meat.   With all the gorgeous colors and fresh taste of my vegetable ridiculousness, its lack of animal products was undetectable. I had perfected the dough/sauce/vegetable combination and made it so huge, so grand. It is, the greatest pizza, ever!

“Animals are friends, not food.”


Oh, there’s more, much more superstar month. Stay tuned…

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