Friday, April 18, 2014

Cookbook Giveaway! Fillet of Soul: Afro Vegan

Sometimes my YumVeggieBurger inbox is full of junk mail and spam.  Sometimes I get cool letters from people who like the blog and want to recommend a new veggie burger for me to try (thank you!).  And one time, I got an email asking if I would be interested in doing a giveaway on my blog for a new vegan cookbook.

Why not?
So here's a chance for one of my lovely readers to win a copy of Wheeler Del Torro's new book Fillet of Soul: AfroVegan.  Because Wheeler Del Torro is generous, and you guys are awesome.


Although it doesn't include a veggie burger, this is a pretty impressive collection of recipes and stories ranging from French to African (two cuisines I am not very familiar with at all! So it was exciting to look through all the recipes for new but delicious-sounding dishes).

I tried the recipe for Peanut Soup because I'd had a peanut soup from a restaurant in NYC a few months ago, and have been meaning to learn how to make it ever since.  I was a little bit nervous at first at the amount of peanut butter and cayenne pepper this recipe calls for - but it all came together and created one incredibly rich, creamy soup with a nice spicy kick that was not too overpowering (that said, I like spicy foods - so consider reducing the cayenne to 1 tsp if you prefer things milder!).  The sweet potatoes add a nice earthiness to the flavor as well.

peanut soup

So if you want to win a FREE copy of this cookbook for yourself (who wouldn't, honestly?), you can enter by using the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends Wednesday night at midnight, EST.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

neat

You know how sometimes you come across something that’s so cool you just want to eagerly share it with everyone? That’s how I feel about neat. I had already heard Bianca of Vegan Crunk rave about neat after her visit to the Seattle VegFest– so I was super excited to try this new nut and grain-based “healthy replacement for meat” when neat sent me a few packs to try out!

First of all, just admire how clever this product is: It’s a mix in a bag – all you have to do is add water and eggs (or vegan egg replacements), and voilĂ  – dinner! (or lunch, actually, in my case). It’s soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan if you cook it with vegan egg replancements.

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I halved the recipe, since 4 burgers is a bit much for one person! I used a regular egg, since I’m a vegetarian – but I’m going to have to get my hands on some vegan egg-replacements to see how well it works with those too.

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I was nervous about how liquid the mixture seemed after I mixed it all together – the instructions said to form into patties, but instead, I just scraped the batter into the frying pan as if I was making thick pancakes.

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The instructions didn’t mention whether to fry it in oil or not – so I tried one patty with oil, and one without (both on non-stick pans). Both worked fine.

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They cook quickly, so keep an eye on them! And the egg makes them expand, so don’t worry if they look small to start. Still feeling like I was making pancakes, I flipped the patty over to cook the other side.

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Mine didn’t look exactly like the photo on the package, but it smelled good, so I was excited to taste it. I had some whole wheat rolls on hand, so I did a simple burger with just mayo and tomatoes for toppings.

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And how did it taste? Great! I was surprised at how much delicious flavor was packed into that mix. neat is made from pecans, garbanzo beans, gluten-free whole grain oats, and cornmeal. And although it looks like a fine powder when you start mixing it, once it cooks up in the frying pan, it actually gets a really nice texture – very much like a crumbly, ground meat!

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I felt like I had just done a magic trick, making a tasty burger like this from a powdered mix in a bag! And I love how versatile it is – you could add any seasonings you like, and cook it in any shape or form you desire. neat also sent me samples of their Italian and Mexican seasoned mixes, so I’m excited to try it out for meatballs and tacos next.

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With how easy it is to make, and how quickly it cooks, I think this would be an awesome product to bring on camping trips! While you couldn’t cook the burger patties on a grill (too soft), neat would fry up really well in a pan over a campfire. And with four servings per bag, this 5.5 oz package would hardly add any weight to your backpack. I will definitely report back once the weather is warm enough for some backpacking trips this summer!

You can order neat online – but I was pleased to see that there are some local stores in NYC and my own neighborhood of Astoria that also carry this product: Natural Frontier Market in Manhattan, and Broadway Natural in Astoria (neat’s representative told me they recommend calling ahead to make sure neat is in stock though).

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
neat - a healthy replacement for meat
price: As previously stated, I received a complimentary sample of these from neat. On their website, a package of neat (4 servings per package) sells for $4.99.

YumVeggieBurger review #129

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pure Food and Wine

I’ve wanted to try Pure Food and Wine’s veggie burger for awhile, so I was delighted to finally have a chance to stop in for lunch one day (Note: The veggie burger is only on the lunch menu, not the dinner menu!).

The restaurant has a beautiful, relaxing interior that’s fancy but not pretentious. It looks like they have a garden seating area out back, which would be lovely when the weather gets a bit warmer!

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While most of the food here is raw cuisine, the portabella and hemp seed burger is served on sprouted manna bread, which the menu points out is “neither raw nor gluten-free”. So I realized I was not getting the full raw food experience by ordering the burger, but I was still looking forward to something healthy and delicious.

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I hate to say it, but that side salad was probably one of the worst I've ever had - I swear it was dressed with nothing but oil, no other seasonings at all. So literally just oily lettuce with some cilantro. Sad.

My first thought was that the burger looked smaller than I had expected – it appears to be stacked quite tall, but it’s not very wide. The bun was very thick and dense, full of grains and maybe seeds, with a nice nutty flavor – but it was hard to even wrap my mouth around it, it was so thick! And it was even too tough to cut with a knife.

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The patty was dark and earthy – I’m not a mushroom fan, but I sometimes make an exception for portabellas. Luckily, this patty was not too strongly mushroom-flavored; I could tell the portabella was blended in there somewhere, but there were other flavors too. It was rather mushy. I could not decide if I actually liked the overall flavor or not – it was certainly unlike any other burger I have eaten, even though I have eaten several other raw burgers over the past few years.

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Now you get a sense of scale!

The toppings were the best part. The soft lapsang souchong tea smoked cashew cheese was nice and sharp, and went well with the caraway kraut, pickled pink onions, and mustard. Very creative!

Overall though, the bun and the patty were not as stellar as I had hoped for, given Pure Food and Wine’s reputation (many people have raved about the food here!), and the price of the burger ($15). Maybe I should come back and try something other than the veggie burger, since I’ve apparently been spoiled by too many amazing veggie burgers at this point!

Cost: $15
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 3      Toppings: 4

Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Pl
between 18th & 17th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.477.1010
Takeout also available from One Lucky Duck – 125 ½ E 17th Street

YumVeggieBurger review #128

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Veggie Burgers in the News: Engineering Students Create Perfect Veggie Burger

Wow, this is cool:
Engineering Students Have Dedicated Their Brainpower To Creating The Perfect Veggie Burger  (via Time.com)

It's got yellow beets in it, which is something I have not seen in a veggie burger before - and it's vegan!

These are students at a university in Sweden, but we can always hope they'll bring their creation over the Atlantic so us Americans can try it too! (or maybe MIT students here will decide to compete with them, and make their own "perfect" veggie burger? An epic engineering battle of the veggie burgers??? yes please!)

 

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Best Thing I Ate This Month That Wasn't A Veggie Burger

... Vegan marshmallow peeps!

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Every year I look forward to my annual order of vegan peeps from Sweet & Sara.

I remember when I first became a vegetarian, and realized I could not eat marshmallows anymore. I missed eating peeps around Easter time, and there was no replacement for them. Even regular, plain marshmallows were a challenge: I did find some strange brownish-colored vegan marshmallows at a health food store in my hometown, but they did not quite live up to my expectations.

It wasn't until I moved to New York that I discovered Sweet & Sara's amazing vegan marshmallows. A vegetarian friend of mine bought a box of them from Whole Foods, and I was instantly in love. Later, when I moved into my current apartment in Astoria, I was thrilled to learn that Sweet & Sara's factory is located in Long Island City, just a short bike ride away from me!

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These peeps are the cutest - they come in bunny and chick shapes, and they are coated in the tastiest layer of sugar, with hand-painted chocolate features.

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And inside... marshmallowy deliciousness!

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I bought quite a few (plus one of Sweet & Sara's delicious s'mores treats), and it is taking all my willpower to resist eating them all right away!

Sweet & Sara
Long Island City, NY
(718) 707-2808

Order online and have them shipped to you, if you don't live nearby!
note: if you choose to pick them up instead of having them shipped, you must schedule an appointment to visit the factory to pick them up

Order quickly, as they will definitely sell out!
I also saw these peeps for sale at Lula's Sweet Apothecary in the East Village last week, but I cannot promise they are still in stock. There are plenty of retail locations that stock Sweet & Sara marshmallows (check website for more information) but not all locations stock all of the products or seasonal items like these peeps.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hillstone

A little history: Hillstone’s veggie burger is the veggie burger that started it all. When I first ate this burger six years ago, my mind was blown. I had never tasted a veggie burger so good before! And it became the standard to which I compared all other veggie burgers. Now knowing just how amazing a veggie burger could be, I started seeking out other amazing ones. A couple years later, I started this blog.

One of the earliest reviews I posted, almost four years ago, was my review of Hillstone’s veggie burger. It was the first five-star review I posted.

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June 2010: Me stuffing my face with Hillstone’s veggie burger.

In the years since posting that review, I have heard from a lot of people who also adore this veggie burger as much as I do.

But I also received a few emails from people claiming to know from a source inside the restaurant that the burger is the not really vegetarian: One person said that the glaze used on the patty contained Worcestershire sauce, which typically contains anchovies. I also saw comments on other websites warning that one of the ingredients is fish oil. Devastated to learn that one of my all-time favorite burgers might not be vegetarian, I reached out to Hillstone to see if someone could confirm or deny these rumors.

Joel, the general manager of the Midtown Manhattan location, called me to answer my questions over the phone. He assured me that the burger is 100% vegetarian. The patty itself is vegan, and is coated with a sweet soy glaze (no Worcestershire or fish oil ingredients in it). The bun is not vegan, and neither is the cheese or mayo, but the burger can be requested without these elements if you are vegan. Just make sure to ask your waiter.

I was thrilled to hear this news – and very impressed that Hillstone cares enough about their vegetarian customers to take the time to answer my inquiry and set the story straight!

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So, excited to go back and eat this delicious veggie burger again, my boyfriend and I went out for a dinner date.

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I ordered my burger without cheese. I noticed that it came with a choice of fries, coleslaw, or tabbouleh. So I decided to try tabbouleh, for a change!

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Mmm… When the veggie burger arrived, it looked just as mouth-watering as I had remembered.

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The patty is made in-house, and it is complete perfection: a mixture of rice, beans, beets, and other ingredients glazed with that (100% vegetarian!) sweet soy glaze. It is savory and sweet at the same time, and simply delicious.

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Topped with pickles, onion, lettuce… and the juiciest, reddest tomatoes! Plus mayonnaise and mustard. The patty steals the show, but the toppings are tasty too. And the bun is perfect– soft and sweet, just the right size fit the width of the large patty. I compared it to a pastry in my previous review, and I still agree that it is one of the nicest buns I have tried.

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Photo credit to the brilliant cinematographer Liam Le Guillou,
who said his (100% NOT vegetarian) cheeseburger was exceptionally good as well.


Of course, it’s a bit messy, as many good burgers are – and it started to fall apart in my hands after I took this bite (in case you can't tell from the photos, it is a massive burger!) I used my fork to eat all the leftover bits off my plate after I finished devouring what I held in my hands, because it was so good I did not want to miss a morsel.

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And the tabbouleh was quite good as well! I liked it as a lighter, healthier choice instead of French fries. The burger is plenty filling on its own!

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Thank you, Hillstone!

This is still one of my top favorite veggie burgers of all time. And Hillstone is a great option for a romantic date night if you’re a vegetarian dating an omnivore (or vice-versa) - I wish all restaurants served a vegetarian option as good as this one!

Cost: $20
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 5       Bun: 5      Toppings: 4

Hillstone
153 East 53rd Street
at the corner of Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10022
212.888.3828
Read my original review of the Park Avenue South location here.
Additional locations throughout the U.S. – check website for addresses


YumVeggieBurger review #127

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

RIP 5 Napkin Burger Astoria

Sad news for my fellow Astorians: 5 Napkin Burger has closed its Astoria location.

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restaurant space emptied, all signage removed.

Although our neighborhood is not lacking for other burger options (we do, afterall, have the amazing veggie burgers at Astor Bake Shop, Bareburger, and Sparrow Tavern!), I will miss having 5 Napkin's delicious veggie burger and veggie sliders so close to one of my favorite yoga studios.

If you still want to try 5 Napkin's 5-star veggie burger, fortunately you can choose from several locations in Manhattan that are still open in Hell's Kitchen, Union Square, and the Upper West Side (addresses listed on their website).

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Read my original review of this burger here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hilary’s Eat Well “World’s Best” Veggie Burger

Is it any surprise that there was no way I could resist a name like “The ‘World’s Best’ Veggie burger"?

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I picked up a pack (2 veggie patties per pack) of Hilary’s Eat Well “World’s Best” veggie burgers at Whole Foods, determined to find out how they stood up to that claim.

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frozen patty going into the frying pan

I fried a patty in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes until both sides were slightly browned.

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Then I dressed it up with a bit of fresh spinach, roasted red pepper, and mayo.

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The verdict? This is a nice, light burger. Not too dense or filling, it felt very healthy. It’s made of soft, fluffy millet and quinoa, but it did crisp up nicely around the edges when fried. It had a subtle but tasty flavor, with bits of greens mixed in with the grains. It’s not a hearty, meaty burger (and I don’t think it would hold together well on a barbecue grill) but I enjoyed it.

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I think it might actually be better on its own, without a bun – I ate the second one in the package that way, a few days later, and it kind of reminded me of eating a breaded fish fillet (not that my memory of what eating fish was like can really be trusted, after over a decade has passed since I last ate it, and it didn’t taste “fishy” at ALL, but something about the texture just reminded me of that fishstick kind of breading…).

Vegan, gluten-free, yeast-free, soy-free, and kosher – this burger is for everyone except people who are allergic to coconut (it doesn’t taste like coconut, don’t worry – coconut is just listed as an allergen warning).

Is it really the “world’s best” veggie burger? Well, no. That’s a bit presumptuous. But it is tasty. And I’ll probably try some of the other flavors of veggie burger that Hilary’s offers.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Hilary’s Eat Well
purchased at: Whole Foods in NYC
price: $3.79 for a pack of 2 burger patties

YumVeggieBurger review #126

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Butcher's Daughter

I’ve eaten breakfast at The Butcher’s Daughter a few times (their vegan bagel and schmear is amazing!), so I was excited to try the veggie burger on their dinner menu.

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There’s some scaffolding up around the building right now, so I had trouble getting a decent photo of the storefront…

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But the inside is still beautiful:

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Although my expectations were high for this veggie burger, the vegan “Butcher’s Burger” did not disappoint. At $16, it is quite a splurge – but it was worth it.

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The toasted bun was light and sweet, with a flakey pastry-like top and a soft inside. My favorite kind of bun!

The patty was hearty and earthy, well-flavored with herbs and spices. Not so heavy on the beans (although it is described as a “vegetable black bean burger”), the grains stood out more. It reminded me of vegan sausage, in a way (and I love almost all vegan sausages, so that’s a compliment). It could have been a bit dry if eaten on its own, but not with the delicious toppings that came with it...

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...because those toppings were amazing: The cashew cheese (look at those huge slices of it under the patty!) had a mild but intriguing flavor (probably would not taste very cheese-like to someone who has not eaten vegan cheese before, but I enjoyed it). The lettuce and onion were crisp and fresh, the pickles and mayo gave the burger a nice spicy kick, and the “special sauce” was tomatoey and sweet. Really a perfect blend of flavors.

I was so enamored with this burger that I almost neglected the roasted potato wedges that came with it – but they were scrumptious too! Especially with the harissa mayo dipping sauce. YUM.

Definitely a five-star burger!

Cost: $16
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 4       Bun: 5      Toppings: 5

Note: “The Butcher’s Burger” is only on the dinner menu, not the brunch or breakfast menu.

The Butcher’s Daughter
19 Kenmare St
on the corner of Kenmare & Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10012
212.219.3434

YumVeggieBurger review #125

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Funny keyword searches for my blog

I occasionally like to marvel at the bizarre words and phrases people searched for that lead them to this blog...

Here are my favorites so far:

1.  why people like veggie burgers

2.  vegetarian hipster new york
 

3.  veg burger good for pregnant women 

4.  buns up at bard college
(that sounds dirty to you too, right? it's not just me?)

5.  burger bed

6.  yum lynx 
(what??? Lynx is my cat's name, FYI)

7.  names for a tofu burger joint

8.  breasts slang 
 (pretty sure this is because of my Hooters post)

9.  the hidden wiki onion 
(???)

10.  square balls

Don't forget you can follow YumVeggieBurger on Facebook and Twitter!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Blossom Du Jour

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to visit Blossom Du Jour – the smaller fast food spin-off of NYC’s famous vegan restaurant Blossom.

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I was already looking forward to trying their veggie burger before I arrived, but even moreso when I looked at the menu and saw that it is called “The Skyscraper”. Yum!

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This thing was indeed a towering delight. The bun was fresh and tasted delicious. Chewy, but not too thick. I’m guessing it was made at Blossom’s nearby bakery, where they make all kinds of mouth-watering vegan desserts (more on those in a minute!).

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Topped with greens, tomato, pickles, vegan bacon, cheddar cheese (pretty sure it was daiya), fried onion rings, and “special sauce” – wow! What a mouthful. A tangy, tasty mouthful. I was in love with these toppings.

The patty almost got lost underneath everything else – which unfortunately was not such a bad thing, as I was disappointed to find that it seemed like a very average premade faux-meat patty. It was crispy outside, with that stringy, chewy faux-meat texture on the inside. It was the lighter kind of faux meat that I think is trying to imitate chicken more than beef, and the flavor was okay but just not anywhere near the caliber of the rest of the burger. It was rather dry as well, but luckily that was less noticeable with so many juicy toppings.

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Somehow I ate the whole thing and still had room for dessert. Because I had spotted these tempting beauties in the display case at the register:

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Yup, another vegan cronut! Or “halo” as Blossom has dubbed them. This one was cinnamon sugar flavored. And oh my goodness was it delicious! It’s a good thing I don’t live near Blossom Du Jour, because I would probably make myself ill eating these sugary things every day. Just writing this recap and looking at the photo again is making my mouth water, so I suspect a return visit will be in my near future…

Cost: $8.50 (for the burger, cronut sold separately!)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 2       Bun: 4      Toppings: 5

Blossom Du Jour
259 West 23rd Street
between 7th & 8th Ave
New York, NY 10011
212.229.2595
two other locations in midtown and the upper west side as well, check website for address

YumVeggieBurger review #124

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Best Thing I Ate This Month That Wasn't A Veggie Burger

... was a delicious VEGAN margherita pizza!

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My dream has come true: Ever since I started avoiding dairy, I have been longing for a place in my neighborhood that serves vegan pizza. And I finally got my wish!

Tufino opened its doors in Astoria sometime last year, but it was only recently that I learned that they offer vegan pizza on their menu - and promptly raced over to try it. YUM! This is one of the best wood-fired pizzas I've ever tasted, and being able to order it with vegan cheese just sends me over the moon with joy. Now Tufnio is my favorite pizza place in the neighborhood, and I've already taken several friends there. My vegetarian friend was excited to order vegan sausage on her dairy-cheese pizza, while my lactose-intolerant carnivore friends were thrilled to have Daiya and meat-sausage on theirs. Everyone is happy!

Tufnio Pizzeria Napoletana
36-08 Ditmars Blvd
between 36th & 37th Street
Astoria, NY 11105
718.278.4800