Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegan MoFo Day One: Lan Cafe Lovely.

Ahh, October first. There's a chill in the air, I'm listening to Morphine, I'm wearing brown and orange clothes, and VEGAN MOFO IS ON, PEOPLES! That's right - the Vegan Month of Food has officially begun. To kick it off right, last night a few of the NYC PPKers got together to nosh on some fine fine vegan Vietnamese vittles and discuss ideas for the month's blog posts. Hilarity, beer, and good eating ensued.

The location of our revelry was none other than Lan Cafe, which I must say is one of my very favorite veg options in the city. The restaurant is almost entirely vegan, with only one exception that I know of: condensed milk for the Vietnamese iced coffee. Of course, soy milk is also available, so every single item on the menu can be ordered by us vegans! Woot. I love everything at Lan, and I have way too many "favorites" there. So each time I go it's a struggle to decide which will win a spot on my plate. At least for last night's visit I was able to make suggestions to my fellow diners, two of whom had not visited before, and thus live vicariously through their gustatory pleasures.

I ended up doing something that I often do: ordering several smaller items to get a variety of flavors and textures without stuffing myself too full. I started out with the coveted Summer Rolls - I'll never get over the fabulous summer rolls at Pho Tau Bay in New Orleans, which are simply the best, but these are a close second with their nice fat rice vermicelli and perfect peanut sauce. Always a good way to start, rarely do Jonathan and I make a Lan run without beginning this way.

Next I moved on to the BBQ Seitan. This little number comes with some wickedly hot "BBQ sauce", and let me tell you that this is not your daddy's bar-b-q. If you're a big ol' wimp like me, dip into that little dish with caution, and make good use of the accompanying lettuce and cucumbers (which have a pleasing cooling effect).

The showboat of my meal was definitely the Seitan Baguette. I love these sandwiches - a relatively small investment for a relatively large amount of food. It's a simple affair, with plenty of vegetables and your choice of a few different proteins, well seasoned. I actually left half of it so that I could move on to what is possibly my most favorite favorite item.

OK, so I'll admit it, I have a bit of a sticky rice problem. Like, addiction-ish. I seek it out. I gorge on it. I once smacked a boy I loved pretty good for trying to take one of my sticky rice dumplings while dining at VP2. Put me in front of some sticky rice and apparently I become as if a wild animal backed into a corner, coveting its last scrap of food. Go figure. Aaanyway, look at this beautiful little lump of starch! Wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed to perfection, it is literally a bundle of joy.


Believe it or not, after all of that we headed over to Stogo for ice cream. Yeah, it was like 55 degrees outside. So what? As Terry so confidently confirmed, eating ice cream when it's cold out proves us to be tough/awesome. And I mean, come on - it's ice cream! Flavors enjoyed included chocolate hazelnut, coconut toasted almond, salted caramel pecan, and red velvet. Yes, oh yes. Stogo is an odd little place, sort of the polar opposite business model of Lula's, the Sweet Apothecary of a vegan ice cream parlor to the southeast, which is much more an Olde Time Ice Creame Shoppe with a hipster twist. The owners are always behind the counter scooping out their latest creations to those who trek over to Alphabet City, or who hang out there anyway. Stogo is much more like if TCBY went vegan: situated just off 2nd Ave., they're definitely going for a chain effect. I'm not big on corporations or their imitators, but then, well, if they want to bring tasty vegan products (including BabyCakes cupcakes and artisan chocolates) to the masses, I say let 'em! Lula's is packed to the gills every time I pass by, so I believe the two can happily co-habitate.

So that was my Wednesday night. A really nice respite from my absurd work schedule, a fun time, a chance to meet new people - and, oh so awesomely, half of a Lan baguette for lunch today!

Happy Vegan MoFo, one and all. It's gonna be a good month.

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