JaJaJa in Lower East Side

My aunt came to visit and wanted to experience a cat cafe. There are two in the Lower East Side and we were hungry after all the kitty cuteness. I had seen JaJaJa on Instagram and wanted to try it. Not at all disappointed.

We were excited to dig in. Oddly, good guacamole is challenging to find in NYC, unless I make it myself. JaJaJa has wonderful guacamole! I also had to try the cucumber gazpacho. It’s green.

Beyond appetizers, I got the Chorizo Tacos and my aunt got the Chilaquiles. Both delicious. My aunt thought her dish was too big for her and shared some with me. This was good since the tacos felt a bit small. But, since I got the gazpacho, I was doing okay.

Again, yummers! Since hubby didn’t join us, I decided to bring home a chocolate chip cookie for him to try. I ordered two, knowing that if I wanted to try it, I would need to have my own. Well, it’s a whole bag of gluten-free soft yummyness. Score! And the server liked us so much that he gave me a bag of Mexican Wedding Cookies too. Second score! They are like my snowball cookies, meaning they do not have the anise flavor.

Tha ambiance is open and clean and the wait staff very nice. We even got the Sanctuary discount. If a member of an animal sanctuary and at a vegan restaurant in NYC, many places will take 10% off your bill when you show your current membership card. I always ask, just in case. I’m in my third year of membership with Catskill Animal Sanctuary and keep the membership card in my wallet.

JaJaJa gets five out of five vegan cupcakes. I love the food, the space, and the people. When hungry on the Lower East Side, consider stopping here and enjoying. Good Mexican food is challenging to find in NYC.


Sweethings in Florence

I was so excited when I figured out there was a vegan bakery only half a mile for my Florence hotel. I had to get there fast!

It was the end of the day, but there were still a few things to try. The storefront is adorable and the two people working there were super nice.

I tried the chocolate cake with an apricot layer, raw chocolate truffle with raspberry, and lemon cake. Hubby also tried an apricot tart, but didn’t let me taste it. Actually, it was gone before I realized I should have asked for a bite.

Everything was fantastic. Full of flavor but not super sweet, just the way I appreciate vegan sweets.

When in Florence, absolutely swing by Sweethings. It’s not a restaurant, and actually sells vegan cupcakes, but deserves five out of five vegan cupcakes.

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.

Delice & Sarrasin in Chelsea

Hubby surprised me, I adore surprises, with reservations to the vegan French restaurant, Delice & Sarrasin in Chelsea. I didn’t even realize this was a thing! Apparently about 18 months ago this cute place switched from a traditional cream and meat heavy menu to a fully vegan one. We had such fun!

We started with the cheese plate, that was actually fantastic. They make all the cheeses in-house and we wanted more, it was so good!

I’m always hesitant with faux meat options as I don’t normally enjoy them much. But it’s faux meat or ratatouille here. I ordered the Poulet Basquaise and hubby got the Steak tartare vegetable accompagne de frites maison.

We were both pleasantly surprised and I didn’t mind the faux meat at all. My “chicken legs” even had sticks in them that startled me when I first cut into the dish.

Now we really want to go back and try their signature crepes. Maybe for brunch soon? Delice & Sarrasin gets five out of five vegan cupcakes. Delicious, adorable, and pushes me out of my comfort zone with yummer results. Definitely check it out.

Vedge in Philly

I didn’t know what to expect with Vedge in Philly. The reviews all said good food, but less pleasant on other parts. Hubby almost didn’t want to go, but I can’t resist a vegan restaurant! Then, I couldn’t get a reservation because planning is not always my thing. So I called to find out if they had a bar I could sit at. They do, but a reservation had opened and I zoinked it.

The atmosphere is rustic chic and a bit noisey, but comfortable.

The menu made our mouths water and we waited for our server to explain how to order. The menu is intended for patrons to order one thing from each section. The portions are set up for this approach and we were thrilled to be encouraged to order multiple dishes.

Our meal started with watermelon Gespacho. The flavor was wonderful, but the glasses were warm. A bit unusual for a cold soup.

Hubby picked out Fancy Radishes to start and Spicy Ssamjang Tofu with Green Garbanzos for his entree. I ordered Stuffed Avocado to start and Grilled Seitan with Brussels Sprouts. We of course shared everything and it was fantastic.

So yummy! And beautifully presented.

With such luck for dinner, we had to try dessert. Not disappointed when adventurous options were presented. We selected the Chocolate Bar and Zucchini Blondie. Both were wonderful. 

Just a wonderful evening. We had no trouble with anything. Vedge gets five out of five vegan cupcakes. Totally try to eat here when in Philly. Also plan better to make sure you can get a table.

Charlie Was A Sinner in Philly

Shortly after moving to NYC, I was told I needed to get to Philly and Charlie Was A Sinner. Multiple people have shared with me this is an incredible vegan bar. The name threw me as it brings the south to my mind and the south I know is not always great for vegan food. How could this place be as good or better than the vegan paradise I know in NYC? Well, it is.

Hubby and I decided it was time to start exploring weekend trips outside the city. Philadelphia is our first destination and the train ride was very easy. Charlie Was A Sinner was on our agenda for the first night and was totally worth it.

Consider getting a reservation. We didn’t have one. I didn’t even think about it since it’s a bar. Well, CWAS is much more than a bar! It has small plates that are fantastic in addition to a wonderful drink list.

We sat at the bar and decided to try four plates. Smoked Cauliflower, Heirloom Beet Salad, Carrot Mousse, and Tofu & Bean Sausage. Each dish was wonderful in a special way. The flavors are so well developed and not at all overwhelming. Yummers! The atmosphere is also very enjoyable with a dark speak-easy meets farm-to-table feel.

We HAD to try dessert after enjoying our dinner so much. The photos show how servings are small plates, so we had room.

The Meyer Lemon Cake and Summer Peach Empanada are both truly enjoyable.

We had such a wonderful experience that we returned the next night for drinks and appetizers.

This trip we got Zuchinni “Crabcake” Sliders and Artichoke Frites. Again, yummers!

I can’t say enough good things about Charlie Was A Sinner. Even the staff was wonderful. If ever in Philly, make sure to enjoy this place. Charlie Was A Sinner gets five out of five vegan cupcakes.

Under the Bodhi Tree

While in Waikoloa on the Kohala Coast, west side of Big Island, and staying at a hotel that offers almost no vegan options (Marriott fail), I was very happy to figure out Under the Bodhi Tree was an easy drive away. The restaurant was also recently shared in VegNews. Score!

Hubby and I enjoyed this place so much that we visited twice. It’s a cute space in a mall-like area intended to serve the nearby resorts, but anyone can access.

Our first visit was for an early dinner and the place was empty, which was good since it took us a while to decide what to get with so many mouth-watering options.

I decided to try the Paniolo Potato, a baked potato covered in chili. Hubby got the Ruben (not vegan). We also shared the Avo-Curry salad, a half an avocado, and a half a papaya. The salad was my favorite and hubby loved his Ruben. The chili was a bit bland, but I’m originally from Texas and usually think chili is bland. I, of course, also had to get some kombucha. They have at least two different options each day. Yummers! After this pig out, we decided we had to try dessert. I got the gluten-free black bean brownie and hubby the raw banana soft serve with macadamia nuts. When in Hawaii, you have to eats lots of yummy macadamia nuts. Both were wonderful and we were stuffed.

Our second visit was for breakfast before we headed to the airport. The place was packed! We each got the Loaded Tofu and shared gluten-free pancakes. Worth. Every. Bite!

If visiting Big Island, definitely get to Under the Bodhi Tree. They get five out of five vegan cupcakes. Yummers!

I will post other treasures found in this area.

Conscious Culture Cafe in Hilo

This was my favorite restaurant on Big Island. The kombucha on tap was only the beginning of the deliciousness.

The vegan options are clearly labeled and the staff super nice.

I picked out the pesto bowl special and hubby got veggie tacos (he is on a taco kick lately). We also shared a Cheesy Broccoli soup and hubby got a berry smoothie.

Kombucha samples are available and my favorite was the Super Ginger Turmeric Tonic. Apparently it is the most popular flavor overall.

The food is truly yummers and the downtown is adorable. If near Hilo, Hawaii, Conscious Culture Cafe is a great stop for any time of the day and gets five out of five vegan cupcakes.

OO + Co in East Village

Starving one night and wanting to try something new, I pulled up my trusted Happy Cow app and found OO + Co. 

The all vegan pizza place opened earlier this year and is an elegant casual space. And the best part, the pizza is fantastic! Those are seriously edible flowers on my pizza! Each one is made with a fresh nut cheese and topped with seasonal vegetables in new flavor combinations. I had no idea what my trumpet mushroom, walnut cream, green harissa, and lemon pizza would taste like, but it was worth the risk. Yummers! So I had the try a dessert and picked the strawberry cheesecake. Not heavy at all and was gobbled up between hubby and I.

Again, beautiful edible flowers.

The entire space is communal high-top wood tables. The walls are lined with vegan wines that lead eyes to an open kitchen. And the waitstaff is very kind, bonus! I couldn’t ask for a better pizza night.

Returning will happen soon and I hope you too can try this place. Five out of five vegan cupcakes.


Deer Run B&B

2015-01-01 17.16.55.jpgOne of the very best vacations I have ever experienced, especially as a vegan, was at Deer Run Bed & Breakfast on Big Pine Key in Florida. It has been over a year since this vacation, but I still vividly remember the adventure. As soon as I learned years ago there was a vegan B&B in the Keys, this place had been on my bucket list. No one told me about it. There was a small advertisement in Veg News and I was entranced by the idea of supporting veganism in this way. I knew I had to go one day.

For my birthday last year, hubby decided it was time. We flew out to Miami and rented a car. There is a small airport on Key West that is closer to Big Pine Key, the largest island in the Keys, but we started in Miami. Our drive down the one lane each way highway took longer than anticipated, so we were extra excited to arrive. Greeted and hugged, right after sharing we were vegan, by the owner let us know we were definitely in the right place.

Our room was adorable with bright green paint and pillows of fish and turtles. We stayed on the first floor so we could walk right out onto the beach at any moment and our room had a screened-in porch to enjoy the sights and sounds at all times. I love the beach for listening to the water.

2015-01-01 17.33.46.jpg2015-01-01 17.34.59.jpgThe beach was gorgeous and sunsets incredible. We were given bottles to use for filtered water during our stay and a small tour of the grounds to find everything, especially where breakfast would be.

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Big Pine Key is known for its miniature deer that are protected, no hunting. We were advised not to feed the deer, but that they may come to us. One day I actually had a cute deer lick my toe as I was reading in a hammock on the beach. It was fun to hear them exploring at night and there was a small fresh water bowl next to our room that they loved to drink from.

2015-01-01 19.00.43.jpgThe space is incredible, but Deer Run is also known for the mouth watering breakfasts. Each morning we were stuffed with deliciousness. A menu would greet us as we picked our seats at the table. Savory or sweet switched each day and our first morning was a sweet morning.

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After the first morning, we figured out that we could wrap our muffin for lunch and fill up on the main dish of the morning. Especially since we also got a fresh fruit juice or smoothy each morning. So full!

We walked along the beach, biked up the road, and kayaked in the Atlantic. Bikes and kayaks are available for guests. Adventuring the other islands was also accomplished and I have an album of beautiful photos. I highly recommend this marvelous vegan paradise and the food easily gains five out of five vegan cupcakes. If I am lucky, I might get to return to Deer Run one day.

If you get to go, there are no-see-ums that bite. Be prepared and enjoy the view!