Travel, It Gets Easier

I’m traveling through La Guardia out of NYC, Terminal C, and am happy to share what I found. A fresh juice bar! Only five options, but that is five more options than I have seen before. Of course I picked the “Champion” of apple, kale, spinach, lemon, and ginger.

I also noticed this sign.

Excellent! I didn’t notice anything with a yellow label, but I was hyper focused on my juice at 8:00 am. I did see vegan junk food and fruit still in its peel, like bananas and oranges. This is also a big step since I generally avoid precut fruit. It is often not ripe enough.

Anyway, my point is travel is getting so much better/easier for vegans! Of course I’m heading to Texas and will likely find less I want to eat at the airport, but yay for LGA!


Bryant Park’s Winter Village 2017 NYC

In 2016 the organizer of Bryant Park’s Winter Village changed and the vegan mission was lost. I was so disappointed in the lack of vegan options that I didn’t even want to blog about it. This year is better and I’m thrilled.

There are two vegan food vendors this year and several vendors with a vegan option. The photo is a cous cous bowl from Cous Cous Vegan Bowl. I almost jumped into the air with joy when I saw this name on the Village map today. And the bowl is yummers! When I picked it up I said, “thank you for brining vegan back to the event.” The person behind the counter said, “that was our goal.” Excellent! They also have vegan hot chocolate.

The other vender is the always wonderful Raaka Chocolate. This year they have a gift box of their current six bar line up.

If wanting something else, explore deeper to discover vegetable dumplings, tacos, Mediterranean wraps, and more. Yummers!

Vegan Food & Drink Festival

The vegan food & drink festival finally came to NYC! I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to see what other cities have been able to experience. I was not disappointed.

The festival was on Randall’s Island, a place I had only driven over in a taxi or bus to the airport. I had seen countless others walk along the bridge to other events on the island and decided to ride my bike and take a pedestrian bridge on the southern end. Good choice. A very easy route that gave me stunning views of the East River.

There were many local vendors at the event and many I had never heard of. I skipped long lines for places I knew, like Cinnamon Snail. Other long lines snaked out of vendors offering fried goodness. Tempting, but I would rather explore more.

The deliciousness seemed endless.

We finally tried the Impossible Burger, which was a total trip and weirded me out. It really does smell, taste, look, and and have the texture of a medium raw burger. Hubby gobbled, I tried a bite. I also got a Nashville sauce tofu sandwich that was amazeballs.

But it was more than food!

I had great fun exploring all the signs and information.

There was music too, but nothing live while I was there. Just so many people enjoying vegan goodness.

If you get a chance to go to one of these, I recommend it. I got early bird tickets that were only $10.

Rifugio Romano in Rome

Hubby describes Rome as decaying beauty. It’s so very true. There is so much that can be considered beautiful here, but it’s wrapped in decay. This works for the vegan food scene. There is so much potential, and gems every so often, but the majority of options are flanked by decaying meat. It’s a thing. And I won’t lie that eating has its challenges.

My research before the trip indicated that it would be fairly easy to eat here. Skip the places that ask if you want a table while walking by. Skip the paces that have pictures of the food. Skip the places next to tourist areas. Those seem like relatively easy guidelines. But, honestly, most places fit these pitfalls.

I haven’t gotten sick, so I have been able to successfully navigate the food scene. With my bag of travel almonds.

I have stumbled on a couple fun things. The train station has a store with a few clearly labeled options; a sandwich, a cake, and something they were out of, so I don’t remember. Today I found a coffee shop that had a vegan croissant. I asked for it and the woman behind the counter said, “it’s vegan, is that okay?” I said, “I know, that’s why I want it.” It was clearly labeled. I also found a fully vegan place, but the person there was completely uninterested in serving us, so we left. Oh, and vegan gelato can be found with persistence. Maybe 10% of the places have it. We found one next to Trevi Fountain and the best one is in the Jewish Ghetto. Dark chocolate gelato!

The best find so far was Rifugio Romano. A local Italian restaurant near Termini, the train station. They have an entire vegan section on the menu with vegan versions of all the traditional Italian dishes. Yummers! The two sisters running the place are vegan, super nice, and were thrilled to have us visit.

I was starving and overwhelmed by the options. We decided to start with a salad that had seitan. I was worried it would be like salads in the US that are overwhelmed with the “meat” and have greens whispered at them. This salad was was beautiful with greens. And delicious!

Since I was overwhelmed, I ordered the special ravioli and Hubby ordered the Gnocci with walnuts. I adored both dishes. Hubby was less excited by my ravioli.

Normally, this might have been enough food, but we were hungry. We asked which pizza was the favorite of one of the sisters. She recommended this:

Yummers, again! No tomato sauce. Potatoes, zucchini, tofu, tomatoes, and vegan chunks of cheese. We scarfed this down.

Next was, of course, dessert. Hubby ordered panna cotta with chocolate and I don’t remember what mine was called. It was layers of cream and cookies with chocolate.

Do I need to write it again? Yummers! When we asked for the bill, we each got a shot of limoncello. I know this is a typical thing in Italy, but I had never actually had it happen.

A lovely dinner and I will try to go once more before leaving Rome. If you get here, definitely make it to Refugio Romano that gets five out of five vegan cupcakes.

The Fanciful Fox

“Tested on dirty vegans, not on animals” says it all. Another slogan used is “made with love and plants.” How could anyone not want to try these products? Then you smell them and suddenly long for a bath or shower!

I learned about The Fanciful Fox a few months after moving to NYC, but they have a website, so it’s totally my fault for not knowing about them before. Exploring a ShopUp in Brooklyn was this table full of beautiful soaps and pretty little containers. A friend standing next to me was shocked I was unfamiliar with the brand and insisting I pick out something. I have so many allergies that I was very hesitant. I noticed they have an olive oil night lotion similar to one I had been using for several years from a different company and I was needing to order more anyway. So I got theirs instead and haven’t looked back. Wanting to support a local company, I tried more things, like lip balm, and hubby is even now hooked on their soaps.

The care placed into every detail is just a pleasure to see and the owners are some of the nicest and coolest people I have gotten to meet. I was lucky enough to attend their grand opening last month of a storefront in Brooklyn.

And I even snagged a goody bag.

A different friend was at the opening and had not tried anything yet. Wow, was she in for a treat!

I highly recommend trying something from The Fanciful Fox. Form your own opinion and hopefully fall in love with the products like I have. I can’t wait to get back to their store and leisurely explore all the different product options!

Feeding a 9-Year-Old

My adorable 9-year-old nephew came to visit last month and I thought long and hard about how to feed this picky eater. I asked my brother which vegetables he liked and made sure to have those handy; baby carrots, broccoli stems, steamed spinach, and avocado. But what would I make for him, other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? He had two of those during the visit.

I made pancakes, of course, and he ate more than anyone else at the table. Score! I also made him grilled cheese with smoked tofurkey slices. He liked this so much he asked for it instead of the one meal he didn’t like. I also made pigs in blankets with steamed broccoli stems. He devoured these, along with hubby who only likes the tops of broccoli. They make a great broccoli team!

Nephew kept verifying that everything was vegan. At one point he asked what the cheese was made from if not cow milk? Before I could answer, he suggested chicken milk. This made my brother laugh very loudly.

Nephew ate well and I enjoyed our visit. Woo hoo!

Vaute Coture NYC Store Opening

I was lucky enough to make it to Vaute Coture opening its first permanent location in NYC a couple weeks ago. I adore the brand because it’s awesome. Not just the fun vegan clothes that are locally and ethically made, but the people. Every communication is full of joy, gratitude, and love. That’s so much of what I aspire to be!

It was a very hot day, so hot that I had to sit down as soon as I found a seat inside. I needed to recover.

The place was packed with people thrilled to explore, try on items, and eat the treats!

The place is adorable and full of great messages.

I will be returning soon to explore on my own pace and I can’t wait. The world needs places like Vaute. I’m thrilled to be part of this important change.

Plant Based Bushwick

I was lucky enough to go to the first, annual, Plant Based Bushwick Festival. Very fun! Decent sized place with speakers in an upstairs open space. Not sure how well speakers could be heard because it was loud. But I got to meet new vegans and try new foods. Like an empanada encased in plantain. Mmm… Also got a fresh juice to order and all the money went to support the local farmers market. Winning!

I picked up several new things that I still need to try, like a vegan nutella.

If you get a chance to go to a vegan, vegetarian, or plant based festival, do it. The people are always great and the food fantastic. I had one of the best beet burgers ever at this festival. Yummers!

Hawaiian Airlines

Never take Hawaiian Airlines. I don’t care if it looks like they have the best flights. That is what lured me. It takes a long time to get from New York to Hawaii and adding stops makes it that much longer. There is a mysticism that Hawaiian Airlines is awesome. That the flight to paradise will be even better through this airline. It’s not true. I bought my plane tickets with happiness that was quickly dashed and then ground into one of my worst travel days ever.

After booking my flight online I quickly called the airline to order my vegan meal. With a 10 hour flight looming, I wanted to make sure I could eat. The first person I reached said that the flight was not long enough to have special meals, much less a vegetarian meal. I explained I was allergic and asked to please double check. She was kind enough to double check and said that, no, vegetarian was not an option. They offer no vegan meals at all, no matter the flight length. I asked to speak to a manager. To this second person I calmly explained the situation again and got the same answer with, “but you can bring food onto the plane.” Really? Golly gee. And if I bring something fresh, it will certainly spoil before we land.

I figured there was one last option. I wrote a passionate email to customer service. I was angry by now that I would be complicit in the torture and death of animals by the fact that enough meals would be loaded onto the plane for every passenger. Here is their response:

We’re sorry that we don’t offer special meals in flight. As our agent informed you on March 3, although we don’t offer special meals on board, guests who have special dietary restrictions are welcome to bring their own meals.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us, and we hope you have a pleasant flight.

Well, that didn’t help at all. I was definitely blogging about this and told them as much in my email. But, for some reason, I decided to wait. Just in case something would happen between booking and actually going on vacation. It was a good thing I did.

The flight out was one of my worst, and I was one of the people stuck on a plane for 10 hours and changed regulations forever. If not remembering this from about 11 years ago, Google can help.

We got to the airport early, as is always recommended. We boarded our flight on time. We even pulled away from the gate. Then we sat on the runway for 30 minutes, returned to the gate, de-boarded, and waited for painful updates for two hours. At the two hour mark hubby and I asked to be moved to a different flight. Even this wasn’t easy. The first person we spoke with on the phone said it would cost $200 each to change. Nope. A gate agent who had no authority to change our flight said $200 was not true and to call again. The third person changed our flights. She also said we would get a refund due to lessor quality seats on the new flights. That did happen.

Six more hours and we were finally on a flight out to Vegas. That’s 11 hours in the airport. To bring it back to being vegan, none of the snacks offered were healthy and only potato chips were vegan. Food vouchers were also offered if willing to stand in a crazy long line. The airport food options were about as good as the snacks. Hubby found me a falafel pita that was okay. Luckily I had packed a bunch of non perishable food for the flight.

Our flight to Vegas took off late and we had a five hour layover. But, at least we were half way to vacation. We lost a day of time in paradise.

On the way back I still didn’t want to eat the food. Hubby got the dinner and let me take photo of most of it. He wouldn’t uncover the chicken and said what he did try to eat was not great.

I had read online their breakfasts included fresh fruit, so I asked for that.

The fruit wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t much of it. Hubby ate the cheese, crackers, and chocolate that I wouldn’t/couldn’t.

The entire experience was just so frustrating. Just skip Hawaiian Airlines if you can. Vegan or not. American Airlines and Delta will happily schedule a vegan meal if you jump through their hoops.

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

I have dreamed of attending this event for years. When I moved to NYC last year, I arrived a few weeks after the event and was sad to have missed it. This year I made it!

I was overwhelmed by the number of people and booths to visit. I tried to hear one talk and couldn’t, so I tasted chocolate instead.

It was incredible. Several vendors I have seen at other events participated, but many that I had never met were happy to share their products. It was great fun and, like I said, overwhelming.

Despite having bought a ticket in advance, I stood in a line that wrapped around the block for about 45 minutes before getting in. Thank goodness we had a break in the rain that day. Upon entering, there were so many people that deciding where to begin was a challenge. First I stood in a line to try gluten free and vegan brownies while a friend stood in the DF Mavens line. We promised to get each other samples. Next, we each bought a ticket for the raffle to support the organizing group. That was easy. Then it becomes a blur. A delicious blur where I was able to pick up a new vegan mascara to try. In addition to multiple bites of samples I got a grilled cheese sandwich from Riverdell and sushi from Beyond Sushi. My bag coming home was full of my favorite kombucha, I normally dislike kombucha, nut ricotta, coupons, mascara, lotion samples, and, of course, chocolate. I cannot pass up vegan chocolate.

If you ever get a chance to go to a vegan festival, take it. What fun to be surrounded by other vegans and ideas. There is another festival in Bushwick in a couple weeks and I will be there too!