Thursday, September 21, 2017

Try Vegan Food Truck

I've seen the Try Vegan (NJ) food truck at a few vegan events, but I didn't actually "try" them until just recently at a semi-private event that was offering both vegan and non-vegan food (separate food truck).

I understand that their menu varies by event, but the menu on this day was so basic that I was quite shocked that people were literally lining up to try such boring items. I should note that the food was free to guests, so that could have something to do with it. I, personally, lined up in the interest of research.

The menu:
(whole wheat) WRAPS!
Portobello- portobello mushroom, lettuce, tomato, balsamic glaze
Falafel- falafel, lettuce, tomato, hummus, tahini
Veggie Burger- veggie burger, lettuce, tomato, special sauce

Translation: homogeneous wraps with lettuce, tomato, and 1-2 component variations. My well-fed vegan brain translated this to "generic offerings of uninspired items that people assume are the only things vegans eat."

Don't get me wrong; we all know that simple vegan food can be just as delicious as gourmet. My major issue with this menu is that this is the type of boring, token vegan food that you can expect to find at a rando diner in the middle of suburbia. Who would go through the trouble, expense, and effort to start up a vegan food truck business in order to offer unimaginative items we've all seen done a million times? This is not how you woo non-vegans who are genuinely interested in trying vegan food and seasoned vegans know better. Way better.

Still, I was open to the possibility that redemption would be found in the seasoning or "special sauce." 

It wasn't. The food I had from the Try Vegan food truck was abysmal. You might think that it pains me to say that, but it doesn't. Why? Because it was so bad that I'm actually mad about it. And it was free! Do you have any idea how ticked I'd be if I had actually paid for a dry/chewy wrap with lettuce, tomato, and superbly earthy portabello mushroom strips that I could maybe be convinced once traveled in a grocery bag alongside a bottle of balsamic vinegar? Very. And the reason I was angry wasn't because I pitied my own tastebuds, it was because I wanted to scream to the tons of people around me that were probably trying vegan food for the first time, "THIS IS NOT ALL WE'VE GOT!"

I take no pleasure in writing a negative review. I actually do not want to say these things. But, moreover, I do not want bad vegan food out there circulating. Why? Because, A) there is absolutely no reason for it, and B) if this is the first vegan thing a non-vegan tries, we're going to lose them forever. If my omnivorous Dad were to bite into this atrocity, the result would be a cacophony of Smug Omnivore Bingo insults and he'd be right. We can, we must, AND WE DO do better. Honestly, I thought this type of food was behind us.

To put this sad sandwich in context, this is the description of the last, mid-priced, vegetarian steak portobello mushroom sandwich I enjoyed: smoked portabello mushroom carpaccio sandwich with fried caper berries, caramelized onions, truffled kalamata olive tapenade, and arugula on grilled herb focaccia. THAT is how you do a vegan portobello sandwich. And you know what? Don't try to tell me "to each his own." There is intentional, thoughtful food and then there is nonsense.

From their website:

"Try Vegan focuses on what veganism is all about, eating right and living a healthy lifestyle. The most common question vegans are asked is "What do you eat?" Which is the exact question Try Vegan sets out to answer. We want to let people know veganism is not as restrictive as they think because it in fact opens up a whole new world full of culinary adventure!
The best way to push a message is to go to where the people are rather than waiting for them to come to you, which is how Try Vegan operates. Our vegan street food can be found throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and more. We want to make veganism awesome.

The Future is now. Try Vegan."

First off, veganism isn't about eating "right" and living a healthy lifestyle. Veganism is about not eating or using animal products. Period. There are health vegans and there are those that could give two figs; neither is "right," both are vegan.

Secondly, if Try Vegan is truly setting out to answer "What do [vegans] you eat," I have a newsflash: I am a longtime vegan and I surround myself with vegans and THIS IS NOT WHAT VEGANS EAT IN 2017! Anyone with an instagram account can tell you that vegan food is so much more than these options that peaked in 1994. Let me be clear: falafel, portabello mushrooms, and veggie burgers have their place, but served in a wrap with iceberg lettuce and tomato, they are anything but a "culinary adventure." I have to believe that the proprietors of Try Vegan must earnestly want to "make veganism awesome," but whether they actually believe they are doing so is another question entirely. In my opinion, they are making veganism ridiculously boring and unappealing. This is neither trite or mean-spirited, it is the truth and it is not doing animals any favors.

Assuming the people behind the Try Vegan food truck are committed vegans who truly want to spread the tenets of veganism, I implore them to make some improvements. As it stands, it's possible that what they're currently offering is doing more harm than good.

And, in light of the disappointing experience, the meek passivity of suggesting that people "Try" Vegan seems to be offered with a shrug, "Try this. If you don't like it, well, what can we say? You tried." The goal is for people to GO vegan and in order to make that happen, we have to do much better than what is going on here. Unrepresentative of good vegan food and New Jersey in general, the fact that this food is coming from the same state that brought us the GOAT vegan food truck- that's a damn shame.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

89iversary Number 5!

I'm way behind here; we celebrated our fifth 89iversary in July! We had a really fun, long weekend of celebration.

Since it fell on a Saturday, we started it off with our fave event: Vegan Shop-up at Pine Box Rock Shop.

I was too slow to catch Maresa's rabbit ears.

Per usual at VSU, 89 (and I) ate all the vegan things with our vegan buds (some of whom made the vegan things).

Orchard Grocer's Bowery sammie with a VSU spin for breakfast.


And an empanada from our pals at Freakin' Vegan for lunch. What 89 lacks in self-control, she makes up for in cuteness.


In case anyone is keeping track, 89 was sporting the crown we acquired at Sprig & Vine a few months ago- now heavily embellished with glitter.

89's pal, OMJ, stopped by. Her adoptaversary is only a few days (and 1 year) different. No idea why they're being so stoic in this shot; more pics here.

We made a new pal in Dodger, who later tried on 89's crown but wasn't feeling it.


The uber talented Rachel Naomi attempted to professionally photograph the sweetie pie she once painted, but 89 was all about the side-eye. RUDE!


A great big smooch to my friends who provided and sported tiaras all day long in honor of my nerd's day.

Then it was off to VM & OD's house for a family celebration. There was some napping in the car on the way.


I'd gotten 89 these awesome sparkler candles.

And baked her a banana cake from You Won't Believe it's Vegan. This is my go-to banana cake and it was great. The sparklers were glitchy.


OD bought her some watermelon because it's her favorite.


And VM got her a watermelon napkin because she's a messy eater.


We were out the door early on Sunday to spend the day with a pal.

Stopped at Confectionery NYC to share a Sweet Maresa, churro, macaron ice cream sandwich.


And got some of her dog treats to go as well.

Then we went to Dog & Co at Turnstyle. A lot of 89's coolest duds are from their online shop, so it was especially nice to try some things on in person. While I was setting up 89 to get this photo, a random lady walked up and took her photo. That's what I was trying to do!


Later that day, 89 finally got to meet one of her favorite vegan chefs in person for the first time. Since there was veritable shrieking from both parties, I think it's safe to say that it was mutually thrilling. Despite this incredible vegan possibly being the absolute sweetest in all the land, 89 was feeling a bit anti-social and wouldn't exactly snuggle in for a good pic (there are probably some funny attempt photos tho). HOWEVER, she had no problem whatsoever scarfing down the delicious homemade mac & cheese that was presented to her. I hope they get to hang out again soon so that 89 can redeem herself with her true lovable personality.

We had such a great weekend celebration that we decided to take the next day off to spend some time as our best selves.

I'm so lucky to have this dog named 89 in my life. If you're thinking about adding someone special to yours, please remember to adopt; never shop!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Vromages VegNature Vegan Cheese by Nancy Grenier

I was vegetarian for a number of years before going vegan and all I ate was cheese, glorious (at the time: cruelty-filled) cheese. My cholesterol was through the roof, as you might imagine.


Because I went vegan so long ago, there weren't very many suitable cheese substitutes on the market. After a couple of unfortunate and expensive run-ins with grey, gelatinous cheese from overseas, I resigned myself to living without it. But, not for long! I now have my fave brands for every occasion and THIS is my new fave "fancy" cheese (i.e. cheese you serve with crackers for company).

Long story short: my friend got me hooked on Vromages VegNature vegan cheese by Nancy Grenier, so now I'm going to tell you about it because I shouldn't be the only one consuming vast amounts of this delicacy.

There are 6 flavors of the "goat style firm" chevre (I just learned that's what chevre means) available ATM and I've tried three so far:

3 Peppers and Chives was really good.


Garlic and Leeks was even beter.

Tomatoes and Basil was the absolute favorite flavor of my whole family (yup, even my dad- who apparently eats vegan cheese now). This was off the charts fantastic; I could eat this every week! Every time I notice a box of crackers in my pantry, a sadness washes over me if I know I do not have any of this cheese on hand.

The three I haven't yet tried are:

Herbes de Provence and Onions- Imma have to try this soon; I love onions.

Nuts and Cranberries- No offense, but I think I'll pass on this one; I do not love cranberries.

Plain- What? That's like ordering vanilla from an ice cream shop full of fancy flavor. This ones for all you purists out there.

I've purchased or been gifted these cheeses from VGN MKT and Orchard Grocer. I would assume Riverdel carries it as well? Point being: go get you some! Who's fancy now? Vegans! That's who.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bethlehem Vegfest 7 Highlights

Can you believe this was the 7th year of the Bethlehem Vegfest?

VM and I have attended every year, but you know what we just realized? 89 wasn't even born yet, let alone my beloved, when we went to the inaugural event. Can't imagine that we were wandering around sans muppet. In any event, we're old pros at this point.

Stopped off at Vegan Treats on the way in because we love them so and also because we wanted to bypass the inevitable line at the vegfest and at Vegan Treats after the vegfest. PROS, I TELL YOU!

Of course as soon as we got there, everyone was fawning all over 89. Naturally, she had to show off by posing with the goodies. If you've not yet been to their Bethlehem shoppe, you must go. Everything is so gorgeous; it's no wonder non-vegans drool over these vegan creations.

She got a little too comfortable. That's a lot of a long body to fit laying down on a stool!

VM and I took a seat with a platter of donuts that we duplicated for take home. The flavors: raspberry lemonade, turtle, bavarian cream, strawberry shortcake were all divine, per usual. Love, love, LOVE.

They were originally slated to have speculoos soft serve ice cream, but for some reason had hazelnut and chocolate swirled into nutella instead. Can't be mad at that!! VM and 89 both loved the hazelnut. Amateurs! Swirl is where it's at.

Loved this sign they had at the entrance. We must always stand up for what's right- even when it's uncomfortable or inconvenient. Especially then, in fact.

And then we were off to Vegfest. We entered by the speaker tent. If you zoom in, you'll see a pooch in the front row. 89 barks when people clap, so we try to be careful when we choose to listen in.

The speaker seemed to be doing a food demo and was cooking jackfruit; it was not a great smell, but obviously couldn't be helped. Unfortunately, what made it worse was that it was mingling with the moth ball odor that was coming from a clothing vendor a few booths down. That seemed avoidable- blech.

So, we hightailed it past and VM got a crush sangria from Franklin Hills vineyard, which I neglected to photograph because I was too busy with 89 meeting all the dogs.

Overall, we've given up on trying to find specific vendors; instead, we just walk the event from beginning to end so we don't miss anything.

We were happy to see a couple of new (to us and the fest) t-shirt vendors right away. We made a beeline to Redefine Your Mind because we loved the colors in their designs and their super soft, organic shirts. Also had such a nice time chatting with the people at the booth!

Then we got some produce from local Bechdolt's Orchard. It's funny how vegans are always bellyaching that vegfests don't showcase enough whole foods and then there's no line when they do...

Once again, Vegan Treats had an amazing tent: filled with cakes, cookies, donuts, cannolis, brownies, candy bars, and t-shirts. They even had adorable cat-adorned paper bags to make it easier for people to carry their haul around the rest of the fest, which was really cool. As someone who always has a tote bag with me, I can tell you with no uncertainty that my VT haul is consistently much too abundant for any normal tote bag. Per usual, the staff handled the unrelenting masses like pros. The line was constant, but moved steadily (I wasn't on it!).

We stopped by the Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary booth so I could finally get one of their punny (also roomy & sturdy) totes. Big enough for a dog named 89, likely too puny for an enormous haul of VT.

Then 89 and I sat for a caricature. VM made her this super rad shirt that says, quite clearly, "HELLO my name is 89." As you can see, her tag also says the same. So, can someone tell me why this was so confusing? Can't tell you how many people asked us:
  • if she'd just been in a race
  • if her name was 68
We really thought this shirt would be helpful, not make things more complicated. Get it together, vegans!

Here's 89's section of the caricature. You might notice that, while surely well-intentioned, it's not altogether flattering. This is why I'm not showing you the whole thing.

By then we'd worked up an appetite and it was time to hit the food "court." We sorely missed the Taza Truck, but it was nice to see so many new to us vendors.

That being said, we couldn't help ourselves from going to our favorites. Sue us; we're creatures of delicious habit.

We started off with these amazeballs bajacos (baja tacos) from our buds at Freakin' Vegan. "Baja-style Cali "fish" taco w crispy cauli, tri-color slaw w cilantro dressing" were served on a soft corn tortilla and they were outstanding. The cilantro didn't bother me (shocking) and I especially loved the fresh, chopped jalapeno.

I owed 89 more than a bite of my tacos since the Freakin Vegan crew graciously offered her some mac as soon as we'd arrived at the fest and I'd declined WITHOUT CONSULTING HER because it wasn't lunchtime yet. By the time we were ready to eat they were sold out and 89 was MAAAAAAD. Bites of cauliflower and purple cabbage helped to assuage her fury.

After that it was Snail time. I scarfed down my maple mustard tempeh sammie (with marinated kale, onion, tomato and roasted garlic aioli on grilled spelt bread) without getting a pic, but VM leisurely enjoyed her French lentil burger (with artichokes, carmelized onions, coconut bacon, marinated kale, and roasted garlic aioli on a grilled pretzel bun) after giving 89 a sniff (and some lentils). Later in the day, Ms. Snail asked VM what her favorite thing to eat at the event was. Guess what she said? Not pandering, just TRUTH.

After that we visited with friends and took one final spin around the event, where we got our annual Mompops before heading home. Rumor has it they may bring some adult varieties next year and we're already looking forward to that.

We are big fans of this event for a lot of reasons, none of which are new; I've stated it annually. Love that it's outside and pet-friendly. Love that it's free admission so that it draws a non-veg crowd. Love that they include sanctuaries and non-profits. Wish, however, that they'd expand their vegan take-home food and item offerings, as there are SO MANY!

For one, can V-dog please table? I was wearing this shirt and I can't tell you how many perplexed (and misinformed but adamant) people I encountered on the subject of vegan dogs. I'm sure you vegans out there won't be surprised to learn that just like every non-vegan becomes a nutritional expert when they find out you're vegan, so too do they become a canine nutritional expert when they find out your dog is vegan! Read up, peeps; it's 2017.

We've heard that the organizers of this event may not be taking full advantage of the area vegan community and I would like to implore them to tap in to actual local vegans in the know. Downtown Bethlehem Association, please reach out to them or put out a call! There are so many knowledgeable, talented people who would love to work towards making this event bigger and better in so many ways; use them as a resource to make a great event even better.