Saturday, May 31, 2014

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

Vegan Mac & Cheese Balls.
Yup, you read that correctly. Crispy, deep-fried balls of vegan mac & cheesey goodness!



My friend Michelle and I have been on the hunt for our new go-to vegan comfort food spot, ever since Foodswings (R.I.P.!) closed.  We had eaten at the Wiliamsburg B.A.D. Burger location before - and I even reviewed one of their veggie burgers a couple years ago (here's the link to that review, although the beet burger is no longer on their menu now - but they have two other veggie burgers, which I should go back and try soon!). B.A.D. Burger's menu is awesome, because almost anything on it can be made vegan upon request. I had a hard time believing this when I saw the mac and cheese balls on the menu - but sure enough, the waitress assured me they could be made vegan!

And wow, there is nothing healthy or good-for-you about these deep-fried appetizers, but they were so worth it! We also ordered fried avocado slices and vegan chicken fingers, which were all equally amazing, but the mac & cheese balls totally stole the show.

B.A.D. Burger
171 Avenue A
between 10th & 11th Street
New York, NY 10009
Second location in Williamsburg – check website for address

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Peekskill Brewery

This past Memorial Day weekend, I stayed in town and took a couple day trips out of the city instead of going away for the whole weekend. One of those day trips was an excursion to Blue Mountain Reservation, in Peekskill, NY.


I spent several hours exploring the hiking trails – they weren’t terribly strenuous and did not involve enough elevation gain to provide many scenic views, but they were pleasant (aside from the numerous mosquitos!). The reservation is only a couple of miles from the Peekskill train station, and an easy walk if you (like me) do not have a car but want to get out of the city for the day!


And after an afternoon of hiking, a pint (or cocktail, if you’re also like me and do not drink beer) and a meal at the Peekskill Brewery is the perfect end to the day.


Especially since their menu includes a vegetarian falafel burger (the patty is vegan, but the bun is made with milk, and the toppings include dairy-yogurt).


The bun was delicious – soft and fresh, slightly sweet, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was so flakey and fresh that I wondered if it was possibly even homemade.

The lettuce and quick-pickles were nice and crisp, a very smart and refreshing choice to go with the heartier, fried falafel patty. The menu said the toppings also included yogurt and harrisa sauce, but I honestly did not notice any yogurt, unless it was completely soaked into the bun by the time the burger arrived at our table. The spiciness of the harrisa was mild and not too noticeable, but was a subtle hint of flavoring.


The patty was not as dry as I had feared (I’ve had some less-than-stellar experiences with falafel patties in the past). Definitely house-made, it had a nice, moist consistency on the inside; and the outside was fried to a crunchy crisp. The whole thing held together very well and did not fall apart as I ate it. But for some reason the falafel mixture (a nice blend of mashed and still-whole chickpeas) had far too many chunks of still-mostly-raw white onions in it, giving the patty an overly-strong onion flavor.

Service was very slow (it took the waitress awhile to even take our orders), and the prices were comparable with NYC (I suppose they get a lot of people coming up from the city on the train, so they can get away with charging city prices for the food and drinks). But having good drinks and food after a day out hiking in the sun is such a satisfying feeling, and I would definitely return again if I’m ever back up in Peekskill.

Cost: $14.00
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 4      Toppings: 4

Peekskill Brewery
47-53 South Water Street
Peekskill, NY 10566


YumVeggieBurger review #134

Friday, May 23, 2014

Best Veggie Burgers for Grilling on the Barbecue Grill

Sometimes the best-tasting veggie burgers are just too mushy and crumbly to cook on a barbecue grill. I love those burgers when I'm cooking them on the stovetop or when they are served to me at a restaurant! But I also love to use my barbecue grill. I've learned from trial and error that some veggie patties are just too soft to grill - and will fall to pieces and land in the coals if you aren't careful!

So what veggie burgers should you consider buying if you are hosting or invited to a barbecue this Memorial Day Weekend? Here's a list of the brands I have bought in the past that seemed to hold together well enough to throw on the grill:

Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle Burgers
These are one of my favorites for grilling - I'm a big fan of black bean burgers, and the spicy southwest flavor is great. If someone told me veggie burgers were bland and tasteless, I'd definitely offer them one of these to change their mind.

Amy's California Veggie Burgers
A very healthy-tasting patty with a savory, nutty flavor (the ingredients include walnuts).

Quorn Vegan Burgers
Vegan. Soy-free.
These have a faux-meat texture, but don't try to imitate the taste of beef (thankfully). Held up well on the grill, just don't overcook them!

Morningstar Farms Asian Veggie Patties
Contain eggs and diary.
I don't know why I haven't reviewed more Morningstar patties (add that to my to-do list), but honestly all of their flavors would probably hold up well on the grill - they have a firm, faux-meat texture. These ones had a nice sweet-and-sour flavor, but if you are looking for a more traditional flavor they have a variety to choose from.

Don Lee Farms All Natural Veggie Patties
I haven't been to Costco in awhile (don't have a car, so haven't felt it would be worth it to buy a membership) but a couple years ago a friend of mine had a membership and I bought this huge pack of 14 patties - which were actually quite tasty! Definitely the most economical veggie burger option out there, they're full of chopped up vegetables, not faux-meat. Just be gentle flipping them on the grill, as they can get a little soft, but they still hold together well enough if you are careful.

Gardein Beefless Burgers
These come the closest to imitating "real burgers", in terms of look and texture, of all veggie patties that I have tried so far. I found the flavor a little bland, but I know lots of other people enjoy them. Plus, half the fun of making burgers is piling on the flavorful toppings, right?

Courage Burgers
Courage Burgers are a bit different from the other patties listed here - they taste more like faux-chicken than faux-beef, but I liked the flavor - so if you're more in the mood for something reminiscent of chicken, these could be a good choice. And although I did not cook them on a grill myself, they certainly appeared sturdy enough to handle such a cooking method - and the packaging said "grilling is highly recommended"! (as always, just be careful not to overcook since veggie burgers dry out quickly on the grill!)

Will you be barbecuing for Memorial Day Weekend? What are you planning to cook on the grill?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Peacefood Café Downtown

I first visited Peacefood Café's original location in the Upper West Side years ago, and had a delicious meal then. Since they opened their downtown location near Union Square, I have stopped by frequently to pick up delicious vegan baked goods – including Peacefood’s version of the Cronut.


On one of my trips to pick up some pastries, I noticed a sign advertising a veggie burger as their daily special. Dismayed that I had just eaten lunch, I asked an employee how often the veggie burger appeared on the specials. She told me that it was available every day, they just hadn’t added it to the official menu (yet?). Delighted, I made plans to return as soon as possible.

When I came in for lunch a few weeks later, I did not see the specials advertised anywhere. The printed menu still makes no mention of the veggie burger, and my waiter did not say anything about the specials when he arrived to take my order. Nervously, I asked him if the veggie burger was still available. “The Vegan Cheeseburger? Yes that’s one of our daily specials.”


I was slightly less enthused when I asked if the patty was homemade, and the waiter informed me that it was not (he said he thought the brand was Gardein). Gardein is not my top pick for store-bought patties; But once my burger arrived and I started eating it, I realized the necessity of a very firm patty that held together as well as Gardein’s faux-meat does, because Peacefood’s burger was positively LOADED with toppings!


Lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, avocado, pickles, jalapenos, sprouts, a tangy sauce, and vegan cheese (I’m pretty sure it was Daiya). Yum! I love a good combination of toppings like that! The bun was a slice of focaccia bread, which was a surprise, and my first time eating a veggie burger on focaccia! While it was a bit large for the patty and toppings, I had to admit that it was tasty – but unfortunately it was also very oily (ask for extra napkins!)

While it was not the traditional vegan cheeseburger I had expected, it was a creative concept, and quite filling (it did not come with any sides, but my stomach was satisfied enough that I did not need them – although I did stop to purchase a cookie from their bakery display case on my way out.


As I exited the restaurant, I noticed the sign outside which I had missed on my way in, which advertised the daily specials:


That ramp/stairs combo that leads to the door provides access from opposite sides, so anyone walking up the ramp instead of the stairs was equally likely to miss the sign, and I did not see the specials listed anywhere inside. If I had not been looking for it, or known to ask about them, I would have missed out on the veggie burger entirely. I hope my waiter was just forgetful, or having a bad day – and that customers are usually informed of the specials before they place their orders. It would be a shame for people to miss out on a veggie burger just because it’s not being advertised well!

Cost: $14.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 3      Toppings: 5

Peacefood Café Downtown
41 East 11th Street
between Broadway & University Pl
New York, NY 10003
Second location in the Upper West Side, check website for address – although I don’t know if they offer the veggie burger special, so make sure you call ahead to ask!

YumVeggieBurger review #133

Friday, May 16, 2014

YumVeggieBurger on Pinterest

Who else uses Pinterest? 

I'll admit, at first I was cynical about it - "Isn't that just for girls obsessed with planning their imaginary weddings to men they haven't even met yet?" I thought, jaded internet-user that I am.

But in the past year I've come around, and now it's my guilty pleasure.  I use it to "pin" everything: books I want to read, clothes I wish I could buy, gift ideas for friends and family, and recipes I want to try (but you still won't find any fantasy wedding pins amongst my boards, don't worry!).

I even created a whole Pinterest board just for veggie burger recipes that I'm dying to try at home one day when I have the time...  (cue laughter).  I love using Pinterest as a way to keep track of recipes I want to try (not just veggie burger recipes, too) - especially because I can view my Pinterest boards on my phone at the grocery store when I am buying ingredients, or at a friend's house when I want to try a new recipe but don't have my binder of printed recipes with me.

You can follow all my boards here, or go straight to the veggie burger board here if you'd like (disclaimer: I have not tried any of these veggie burger recipes yet, so I cannot vouch for how well they turn out.  But there are some exciting ideas in there - let me know if you try any of them!).

And I admit, I love the social aspect of Pinterest - I've gotten some great ideas from seeing what my friends pin on their Pinterest pages.  So let me know if you are using Pinterest too - I'd love to follow you on it!  
This post is NOT sponsored or requested by Pinterest at all, they don't even know about this blog - I am just addicted to fun internet things and want to follow more people so I can see more tasty vegan/vegetarian recipes pop up on my Pinterest feed.

YumVeggieBurger on Pinterest

p.s. if you can't get enough social media in your life, YumVeggieBurger is on facebook and twitter as well!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dallas BBQ

Full disclaimer: I was reluctant to come to this restaurant in the first place. Vegetarians normally avoid places with “BBQ” in the name, unless they know those places to be the rare exceptions that offer good vegetarian/vegan bbq options (those do exist, and they are wonderful when you can find them!). I am also not a fan of patronizing cheesy chain restaurants in the middle of Manhattan, but that’s a whole separate rant…


Anyway, I felt somewhat better about dining here when I saw the “’New’ Southwest Black Bean Veggie Burger” listed on their menu. Although the staff seemed confused when I asked if it was vegan (“Yes, it’s vegan” – “So there’s no dairy or egg in it?” – “Um, wait, let me check…”), I eventually was able to find out that the black bean patty is vegan, although the bun it is served on contains dairy. It also comes topped with shredded cheddar cheese, unless you request it without, as I did.


I chose yellow rice as my side dish, and was presented with this huge pile of rice that spilled over onto the burger! The burger came with a little dish of salsa to top it with – which wasn’t a bad idea, but the shredded lettuce beneath the patty was just mediocre iceberg lettuce.


The bun was pretty average – fresh, toasted, and covered in poppy seeds. But the patty itself was surprisingly better than I had expected. It was a mixture of beans and corn, possibly with some peppers or other veggies too, and had a nice spicy flavor to it. Crispy on the outside, but a good texture on the inside, it held together well and did not fall apart as I ate it. Probably not made in house, but still much better-tasting than I had anticipated!


Although I was pleasantly surprised that the burger patty tasted as good as it did, the rest of the restaurant experience was even worse than I had expected – this place is noisy! And we were surrounded by tables of other customers who were literally shouting at each other like it was a wild frat party. Not that I was expecting a fine-dining experience or anything, but I was hoping to be able to eat my meal without being so annoyed by everyone else nearby!

I’ll definitely try to avoid ever having to come back to this place, but at least I can happily inform you that if you are a vegetarian and you ever find yourself obliged to eat here, there is a decent veggie burger for you.

Cost: $8.99
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 3      Toppings: 2

Dallas BBQ
132 2nd Avenue
between St. Mark’s Place & 9th Street
New York, NY 10003
this is a franchise with multiple locations in NYC, check website for addresses

YumVeggieBurger review #132

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Green Radish Food Truck - Update!

I first reviewed the Green Radish food truck last summer (you can read my review from that visit here). As I mentioned then, they were sold out of the black bean burger, so I had a chickpea burger instead. It was great! But ever since, I’ve been dying to go back to try the other burger (plus, I wanted to try their now-famous donarts).


I don’t usually end up working in midtown, or having time off that allows me to go to midtown on a weekday, but finally the stars aligned and I had a meeting near Bryant Park the other day, so I excitedly hurried over to the Green Radish’s parking spot on 38th Street and Broadway afterwards (coincidentally, the same location I had visited them at last time – although their location varies from day to day).


When I stepped up to the window to place my order, I learned two things: 1. I was in luck, and they had not sold out of the black bean burger yet! And 2. They had revised their menu since my last visit, removing the chickpea burger (RIP) and the mushroom burger. Now the only burger they serve is the black bean one – but they assured me that it would be delicious! (and everything on the menu is still 100% vegan)


They were right – this is a really tasty burger! The toppings really pack a flavor-punch: “melted onions” (not sure what that means, but they seemed like really soft caramelized onions to me) with a generous spread of avocado puree and one of the best spicy mayo sauces I’ve ever had. Yum! That is a winning combination of toppings.


The whole wheat bun was soft and fresh, although one side had gotten a little soggy from all the toppings by the time I walked a few blocks back to Bryant park and found a spot to sit down and enjoy my lunch – so make sure you don’t have far to travel if you are ordering this burger!


The patty itself was surprisingly light-colored compared to most black bean patties I have seen, so I’m guessing there are more ingredients than just beans in it. And it was well-seasoned (especially appreciated after my recent encounter with an under-seasoned black bean patty!).

Make sure to ask for extra napkins though – this is definitely one of those messy burgers! The patty is quite soft and falls apart as you eat it, and the toppings could not be contained by the bun. So if you were in Bryant park on Wednesday afternoon, I apologize if you witnessed me stuffing my face with a veggie burger while my fingers were covered in onions and mayo in a very un-ladylike fashion (it was worth it, though!)

Luckily, even after that great burger, I still had room for dessert…


The friendly guys from the Green Radish convinced me to try all three flavors of their donarts (described on their menu as “a baked donut/tart” and proclaimed by Refinery29 to be “the new cronut”). Even a dessert-lover like myself could not eat all three in one sitting though, so I ate the cinnamon donart as my after-lunch treat, and brought the others home (ostensibly to share with others, but honestly I just ended up eating them myself. No regrets!).


Yum! I think the cinnamon might have been my favorite flavor, although I loved the raspberry and chocolate too when I ate them later. I have a special place in my heart for cinnamon donuts though.

Isn't it great that it finally feels like Spring here in NYC???

Cost: $11.00 for the burger (donarts are $5 each)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4       Bun: 4      Toppings: 5

The Green Radish
Parking in various locations around Manhattan, check their Twitter feed or facebook page for current location.

YumVeggieBurger review #131

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Veggie Burgers In The News: Hi-Tech Veggie Burger?

I'm not sure what to make of this bizarre video I just watched:

A Hi-Tech Veggie Burger So Good, It'll Convert Meat Eaters
(via the Huffington Post)

First of all, MSG??? Whose bright idea was that?!  There are plenty of other ways to season a black bean burger, geez...
And sodium caseinate?  I had to google that to find out what it was, but as I suspected, it's a dairy product (the scientific name for casein).  If you're going through all this trouble to make a "hi-tech" veggie burger, can't you find a way to make it vegan? 

The sliced patties don't even look appetizing at all - maybe after they are fried up, but that interim step where they looked like rubber just really turned me off.

But maybe a more creative chef could come up with a better veggie burger made in a sous-vide cooker... What do you think?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Raven's Head Public House

My boyfriend had a craving for pub food, so after bypassing a few other spots in Astoria that were too crowded on a Friday night, we ended up at Raven’s Head. I had walked by this place a few times since it opened, but had never ventured inside until now.


I was impressed by how spacious it was inside - although the front bar area was packed with weekend revelers, there was a whole back room of seating for customers more interested in food than drink (we just wanted a late dinner, we'd had a long week and weren't up for a wild night!) And even more pleasantly surprising, they had a veggie burger!


It’s even listed as “home made black bean burger” on the menu – which I was really excited to read (since too many pubs take the easy way out and serve one of those awful generic frozen veggie patties!). When I inquired as to whether it was vegan or not, I was told that the home made recipe includes butter, so it is neither vegan nor dairy-free, but still vegetarian of course (although no guarantees that it is cooked on a separate grill – so if that is important to you, best to ask, as always).


The patty was definitely homemade – the main ingredient was of course the black beans, with some onions and peppers mixed in too. The consistency was good, but the overall flavor was disappointingly bland. It needed some spices to liven it up! Black beans on their own are not so exciting, but they work so well with many spices, so I was surprised that more thought was not put into the flavor. Still, it was a nice hearty, healthy burger - better than I had been expecting to eat when we had decided to go out for pub food!


The bun was a nice, soft brioche – lightly toasted. The toppings were your basic tomato, lettuce, onion, and pickles. All fresh, no complaints there. I just wish there had been some kind of sauce to give the burger that extra flavor boost though! You can order cheese or avocado for an extra price, but I didn’t feel like spending $2 on some avocado slices that night.

However, it did come with fries – and you know I always love a burger that comes with fries included in the price! There were a lot of other vegetarian options on the extensive menu as well – so if you are looking for a pub in Astoria with more exciting food options than the usual bar fare, Raven’s Head is a good option.

P.S. Bonus Trivia – did you know that a group of ravens is called an unkindness of ravens?
That’s one of my favorite language facts!

Cost: $8.95
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 4      Toppings: 3

Raven’s Head Public House
38-04 Broadway
between 38th and Steinway Street
Astoria, NY 11103

YumVeggieBurger review #130