Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beyond Meat's Beast Burger


After hearing so much hype about Beyond Meat’s new “Beast Burger”, I had been stalking the frozen food aisles waiting for it to appear in NYC. I really like Beyond Meat’s fake “chicken” strips, so I was excited to see what their take on a burger would be. Finally, I found the Beast Burgers – just a few blocks from my new apartment in Astoria!


At $5.29 for a pack of 2 patties, this is not the most economical frozen veggie burger patty available – but the patties are much larger than normal! And Beyond Meat boasts that this vegan patty contains more protein and more iron than beef – so that’s pretty impressive, and maybe worth the extra cost. And they’re both gluten-free and soy-free.


Seriously, I can’t emphasize enough how large these patties are – I had to pull out my biggest frying pan to fit two in side by side! I fried them in a little olive oil for about 8 minutes, flipping them a few times throughout. The patties come with “grill marks” on one side. For aesthetic reasons, I guess.


Yup, so large that the patty was too big for my normal-sized hamburger buns! But that’s okay – the patty felt sturdy and at no risk for crumbling over the edges of the bun. You can see how it browned up after it cooked all the way through.

I topped my burger with some lettuce, pickled red onions (my new homemade obsession – so easy, so delicious! Pickled onions will grace all of my burgers from now on!) and horseradish sauce (also a recent obsession, now that I’ve realized you can buy it at the store!).


Biting into it, the first thing I noticed was the texture: It was pretty dense (packed with all that protein and nutrients?), and obviously aiming for a meat-like feel. It’s been well over a decade since I last ate a burger made of beef, but I still don’t think this Beast Burger is an exact replica of that texture, as some reviews I read online have claimed. But it was still a little more dense and chewy than I would have liked. And despite my fears that it would be too oily after being fried in a pan, I thought it was a bit on the dry side as well. Luckily, the toppings I had put on it made up for that.

Flavor-wise, I was surprised that it was kind of, well… bland. It tasted slightly “meaty”, not distinctly of any one flavor or seasoning, just a general protein-y, savory flavor. But I had hoped it would have more seasoning or some kind of kick of spice to it - but then, that’s something that can easily be remedied with toppings. And people who don't like spicy things might prefer this burger. My boyfriend the omnivore was game to try the second patty I had cooked, and he actually ate the whole thing and said it was quite filling and he didn’t feel like he needed to go eat some meat afterwards (like some vegetarian meals make him feel) – but he did say that the taste and texture reminded him of “that one time that I ate a piece of cardboard”. (FYI, he has eaten other veggie burgers that he liked better! But usually the ones that aren’t trying to look and taste like meat).


Ultimately, while I was not blown away by the Beast Burger, and while I may have had expectations that were a bit too high after reading all the hype online, this is still a very solid store-bought burger – definitely one of the best of the faux-meat varieties that are out there today. Not to mention all the health benefits that make it a better alternative to most other frozen veggie burgers in the grocery stores.

I’d like to give these burgers a try on the barbecue grill too, although sadly since moving apartments I no longer have space to keep my own grill – so I’ll have to hope I get invited to a lot of barbecues this summer (hint, hint, NYC friends!). Beyond Meat also makes a smaller “slider” version of this burger, called “Beastly Sliders”. I have a box of those sitting in my freezer as well, so I’ll be giving them a try soon too!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Beyond Meat’s Beast Burger
purchased at: Greenbay Marketplace in Astoria, NY
check Beyond Meat’s website to see where they may be sold near you.
price: $5.29 for 2 patties

YumVeggieBurger review #157

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Street Natural

Spring Street Natural has become one of my go-to spots in Soho. It has a lot of healthy, vegetarian options (as well as options for your omnivore friends), and it’s a huge restaurant so it’s rarely too crowded. You can almost always get a table – yes, even at brunch on the weekends!


I had eaten here a few times before I finally tried the veggie burger – the menu said it was made in-house, and I was intrigued by the fact that it had almonds in it! The waiter told me that it would be completely vegan if I ordered it without the cheese (which I did) – but by default it comes topped with cheddar.


The burger arrived topped with lettuce, tomato, and had a Dijon mayo (presumably not vegan, but double-check) served on the side. I tried a bit of the Dijon mayo on my burger, and although I’m not a big mustard fan, it added a nice note of flavor to the whole burger, since without the cheese there wasn't much in the way of toppings.


The toasted sesame bun was soft and very fresh – I should add that Spring Street Natural always puts a small bread basket on the table at the beginning of the meal, and I’ve enjoyed every bit of bread I’ve eaten from this establishment. I probably ate some bread even before my burger arrived, if I recall correctly. I can't help it, I see a basket of bread slices and I just have to try them all!


The patty itself was definitely house-made, and as you can see, packed full of veggies and grains. It was quite mushy, and although you can’t necessarily tell from the photos, lacked that nice crispy outside that I prefer on my burgers. Unfortunately, it was also a bit bland too. I was hoping for a stronger, more exciting flavor! I really didn't taste the almonds either.

It wasn’t a bad burger, indeed it was quite hearty and filling and I couldn’t finish the whole thing (probably because of all that bread I ate at the start of the meal). But it just wasn't as good as I was expecting. Which is too bad, because some of the other vegetarian options on the menu here are really quite excellent!

The sweet potato fries (included with the burger), however, were delicious!

Cost: $12.00
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 4      Toppings: 3

Spring Street Natural
62 Spring Street
between Mulberry & Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012

YumVeggieBurger review #156

Friday, March 6, 2015

White Castle

Full Disclaimer:
White Castle contacted me and sent me info and coupons for their new veggie sliders.
But since I was out of town for most of December and then spent all of January apartment-hunting, packing, and moving into a new apartment, I did not get a chance to use the coupons before they expired. So I paid for the sliders I am reviewing here, and although I am grateful to White Castle for taking an interest in my little blog and offering me the opportunity to try their new menu items, the fact that they sent me a free apron and t-shirt won’t affect the honesty of my review (although the apron is quite useful in the kitchen – thank you, White Castle!).


This was my first time setting foot in a White Castle restaurant – although of course I had seen Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (did you know that they supposedly made veggie sliders just for one of the actors to eat during the filming of that movie? Kind of crazy that it took another TEN years to get veggie sliders on the real menu for the rest of us civilians!)


Walking into the restaurant, I noticed signs on each table advertising the new veggie sliders – which seemed like a good omen! But when I stepped up to the register to place my order, the cashier said “We don’t have any more veggie sliders”.

Disappointing, but maybe it was a good thing if the veggie sliders were so popular they were selling out? Hopefully that would show White Castle executives that having a veggie option was a smart move! So I asked the cashier when they would have the sliders back in stock so I could return to try them.

To my surprise, she said they did have them in stock, but “No one is cooking them, so it would take about 10 minutes”. Confused, I tried to clarify: “So, if I wait ten minutes, can I order them?” The cashier seemed shocked that anyone would want to wait 10 minutes, but agreed to take my order, and called back into the kitchen for someone to start cooking veggie sliders.

I was baffled – so they did have the sliders, they just couldn’t be bothered to prepare them for their customers? White Castle had told me that they were training their employees to cook the veggie patties separately from hamburger patties, even using different-colored spatula to keep them separate! But I hadn't anticipated that this would mean it would be such an ordeal to order them. Oh well… at least they would be freshly-cooked!

But I was troubled that the cashier had not given me this information when I first asked to order the sliders. She had simply said “we don’t have any more veggie sliders”. If I had not been persistent and asked a follow up question, I would have left the restaurant assuming they were out of stock. In fact, I had seen a customer in front of me leave after hearing something he wanted was out of stock – I had missed the beginning of his conversation with the cashier, but now I would be willing to bet he’d tried to order the veggie sliders too, and been turned away!

About ten twenty minutes later, my sliders were finally ready:


They were tiny, and kind of cute – each in its own little cardboard case.

I had ordered three, so I could try each of the three flavors of sauce that are offered with the veggie sliders. First up was the “Sweet Thai” sauce:


The patties are all Dr. Praeger’s vegan veggie burgers – a mix of carrots, zucchini peas, spinach, and broccoli. I haven’t been too impressed by Dr. Praeger’s burgers in the past, but I have to say, maybe it was the 20 minute wait, but these did not seem too bad. They were a bit mushy, but they were warm and held together well! The Sweet Thai sauce is the only one of the three flavors that is vegan. It was a nice sweet-sour flavor, very mild compared to some sweet Thai sauces I’ve tried.

I wished there were some peppers or greens with the patty, but I guess the whole deal with White Castle’s sliders is that they’re rather minimalist?

Next up, Honey Mustard:


This sauce contains eggs, but no dairy. I’m not a big mustard fan, but I actually kind of liked it (I guess because it was more sweet than mustard). It seemed like there was a smaller portion of it than there had been of the Sweet Thai sauce, but I was glad the mustard flavor wasn’t too overwhelming.

Third, Ranch Dressing:


This sauce, containing both eggs and milk, was my least favorite. Maybe someone who really likes Ranch would appreciate it, but I did not care for it. Still, I was hungry, and the sliders are tiny, so I ate the whole thing. The bun was soft and fresh, nothing exciting, but it served its purpose well. The sliders are so small, even three was not terribly filling - perhaps because I missed having real toppings (sauce is not really enough of a topping for me! Even if two of the three sauces weren't bad). But it's kind of nice that they sell them individually, so if you just wanted a small bite you could just stop in and order one on its own! Or twenty, if you were really hungry...


This White Castle location, near the Port Authority, is hardly a place I’d be in a hurry to return to (it was quite possibly one of the dirtiest restaurants I’ve ever eaten in). But if you are nearby, hungry, and low on cash – or your intoxicated omnivore friends drag you with them on a quest for sliders – at least there is now a vegetarian option here. And I am totally in support of every restaurant, even fast food chains, having those options for their customers!

But all of White Castle’s corporate promotion and advertising of the new veggie sliders seems to be at odds with the staff’s attitude towards them. I should add that it was well into lunchtime (1:30pm) when I arrived. If they didn’t have anyone cooking veggie sliders by then, would they have ever gotten around to cooking them that day, if I had not insisted on ordering them? And does this happen every day?

How is White Castle supposed to evaluate if there is enough demand to keep these on the menu if they are turning away customers who try to order them???

I hope this is just an issue at this one White Castle location – has anyone tried to order the sliders at a White Castle outside of NYC? Or have you been to the NYC one and had better luck than I did?

Cost: $0.99 per slider
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 3      Toppings: 1

White Castle
525 8th Avenue
between 36th & 37th Street
New York, NY 10018
additional locations in NYC and around the U.S., check website for addresses

YumVeggieBurger review #155

Monday, March 2, 2015

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

(technically last month - February)


This was an exciting "best thing I ate this month" - I was so excited to try the new Chao Slices made by Field Roast (the same company that makes those delicious vegan sausages, and the veggie burger patty I was finally able to try while I was in L.A. last year!)

I had been stalking the vegan foods section of Whole Foods for weeks looking for these, but finally found them at a local natural food store in my neighborhood.


The Chao slices are sealed in one package together, but surprisingly come apart easily without sticking to each other. This is one of those rare vegan cheeses which tastes good plain! I ate some slices on their own, and then a few on crackers. One evening after a friend and I finished a bottle of wine, I drunkenly ate several chao slices, and they were just the perfect craving-satisfier at that moment! So this product should definitely be included when you have a vegan wine and cheese party.


Of course, the real test for this vegan cheese was the grilled cheese sandwich.

The verdict? Delicious!
It did seem to take a bit longer to melt than other vegan cheeses, but it was worth it - so yummy! Perfect comfort food on these cold winter days!


I can't wait to try the other flavors once I am able to locate them in stores... especially the spicy tomato cayenne pepper one! And you can bet I will be putting these slices on my veggie burgers quite often from now on!

Chao Slices
Purchased at Greenbay Marketplace in Astoria, NY
Check Field Roast's website to see where else they might be sold.