This past weekend, we had a long overdue visit with my brother and his family who live just outside of Albany, NY. My old stomping grounds, it was great to be back in the rolling hills & green mountains of Eastern NY. Albany was the site of my first professional gigs (I lived just over the mountains in the Berkshires of MA) and driving through the streets of Troy brought back a lot of good memories.
Traveling as a vegan can appear, to the casual observer, to be a daunting and impossible task. Not so, I say! In fact, there is nothing to fear about travel and the chance to spread your adventurous eating wings is too tasty to pass up. I have never been a high maintenance traveler, whether packing or eating, and this trip was no exception.
Brown’s Brewing Company, Troy NY
417 River Street Troy, NY 12180
First on our culinary adventure was Brown’s. Important to the story is the fact that I am the biggest (and I mean spoiled little princess) beer snob you will ever meet. Don’t even ask me if I want a pilsner because I will un-friend you – in real life, not just on facebook. I seriously only drink stouts, porters, amber ales or IPAs. To say that this was the first time in our 3 year relationship that Friand witnessed me drinking a beer is no yarn. [read again: this was the FIRST time he’s seen me drink beer] But how could I resist the India Pale Ale served at Brown’s??! Their beer menu is off the hook!! The IPA was an outstanding balance of bitter & sweet, a little fruity in the background, it’s everything I love about the IPA brew. Coupled with their Beer Pretzels, it was a perfect way to begin the meal.
Looking over the menu, a less confident veg*n might feel a bit nervous. What else would you expect from a Beer Pub but meat, meat and more meat. But, you, my minions, are savvy, educated vegan diners and I have faith in you that you can read this menu with a more creative & informed eye. As usual, you can find or build a salad to fit your needs, but check out the sandwich menuand you’ll find there are not one but two sandwiches appropriate for vegans: “Roasted Mediterranean” (leave off the cheese) and a “Veggie Black Bean ‘Burger'” which only needs to lose the yogurt sauce.
I opted for the Veggie Black Bean Burger since I cannot resist a burger made in the kitchen. I think we all agree it sucks to order a veggie burger only to realize that they had Boca Burgers in the freezer in case one of us “weirdos” shows up. This veggie burger was great! Made with black beans, barley, garlic & peppers (although I swear I bit into a few mushrooms along the way) it was a very moist & tasty burger. Unfortunately... I think someone was a bit confused as to what “vegan” means because the lettuce & tomato were missing from my sandwich. I imagine the sandwich would have been even better had there been some nice cool veggies on top. That said, the french fries were out of this world and a great consolation to the missing lechuga.
Cross contamination did not seem an issue on this evening, which is a huge bonus as we all know; I normally spend the couple hours after any restaurant visit carefully monitoring my stomach. No problem with Brown’s! Dine without fear at Brown’s the next time you’re in Troy, NY.
I promised my sister-in-law that I would not review her on the blog, but I couldn’t resist! She did a super fantastic job of making sure I was not only fed, but had a vast array of food on hand no matter what my mood. To know that someone is doing something special for you only means they care. Her attention came from the heartand it only endears her to me even more. She’s actually inspired me to write a guide regarding how to host a vegan in your house.
Scallions Restaurant, Saratoga Springs, NY
44 Lake Ave
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Our last stop was at a place called Scallions in Norman Rockwell Picturesque Saratoga, NY. One of the best qualities of the cafe is the vegan menu! Yep, an actual vegan menu that they put on the table along with the dinner menu. Just for that act alone, immediately they earned their 5 sprout rating.
Beginning with the appetizers on the dinner menu, almost every item is appropriate for lacto-vegetarian. And, it’s always a good feeling to see so many gluten-free items on a menu. Keep scanning and you’ll spy the Portabello Panini, which is exactly what Friand ordered for his dinner. Just as at Brown’s he saw me drink a rare beer, I witnessed him eat a salad! He was so stoked over the greens on the plate that he encouraged me to actually try a few bites of the side salad on my own plate. He was right: the greens were young, fresh and sweet, and the vinaigrette peppery and interesting beyond any description I could come up with. His meal must’ve hit the mark, because he left nothing behind on his plate. I’m always a happy vegan when Friand enjoys a veg*n meal out – not just because it’s vegan, but because I feel good knowing he ate something healthy (and yummy).
On to the vegan menu! Obviously, everything is appropriate for vegans. Unfortunately, the bulk of the menu is devoted to salads (boo) but what can you do?
Friand and I split an order of Falafel. Pictured are only 3, but the appetizer was originally 6 strong. I cannot tell a lie: we started eating before I remembered to take a picture. The falafel were soft and perfectly cooked. I could’ve eaten a dozen of those things if I had the chance. According to Friand, “the chile sauce added a pleasant level of heat without being intrusive.”
I had a hard time reading past the second panini on the list… go ahead, I’ll wait while you look. Yeah, you read that right: a grilled peanut butter sandwich. What can I say that you didn’t already think inside your head? Alas, that is not what I ordered. I was a good girl and ordered the Asparagus, Artichoke and Spinach Panini.
When it first arrived, I was a little dismayed at (what seemed like) a skimpy serving of vegetables. But, with the first bite I realized that it was actually the correct amount. Asparagus and especially artichoke can be very rich and a little overwhelming in too big quantities. The focaccia was perfectly soft, I was happy to eat what ever was left after the veggies were gone. And yeah, like I said above, Friand even convinced me to try a few bites of my salad. I made it to three bites before I lost interest, but that’s just me & some things never change!
A little off the beaten path, just a few blocks from the main hub, it’s tucked away in a nice quiet spot. As we were coming out, a couple of women were standing at the door reading the menu and decided against going in. Seriously? I don’t know what’s wrong with people sometimes. Just because it’s not deep fried and coated in salt… but whatever. We’ll most certainly be going back the next time we’re in New York!
Ben & Jerry’s, Saratoga Springs, NY
34 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 phone:518.584.3740
You read that right! 5 Sprouts for Ben & Jerry’s!! Seriously, I don’t say “no” to any restaurant suggestion. Maybe a steak house would be a little unreasonable, but most ice cream shops have some sort of non-dairy option (ie sorbet or sherbet) and that includes our old friends Ben and his sidekick Jerry.
On this particular night there were three sorbet choices (sadly, no coconut)and I did my best to choose the richest flavor possible. The Berry Berry Extraordinary was fantastic! I have come to truly love sorbet because it is simple and delicious, but also because it doesn’t leave me feeling bloated and disgusted with myself. I firmly believe it’s actually quite healthy, and that keeps me going so I can shovel the stuff in my face in large quantities guilt free.
The only thing that made me a bit worried at Ben & Jerry’s was the very real possibility of cross contamination. They do dip their scoops into water between flavors but… think about what’s in that water. Yeah, ice cream residue. So, I did have that little nugget of knowledge gnawing at me. Perhaps that is just enough to discourage some of you to eat sorbetat and ice cream shop (on ethical & physical grounds) but honestly my mission when dining out with friends and/or family, is to be as inconspicuous and as gracious as possible. I hate drawing attention to myself, I hate answering questions while I’m trying to eat, and sometimes in accomplishing that I have to make some choices. We all have choices; sometimes as vegans, we choose to chastise and accuse amongst ourselves which I think is ugly and uncalled for. I make choices for myself which don’t affect anyone else personally. You are free to make your own choices as well. It’s the beauty of personal responsibility.
That said, I ate at Ben & Jerry’s. And based on the fact that there are always non-dairy choices on the menu, they get 5 sprouts.
Overall, this was a great trip to visit my family. Don’t forget to read my guide “Life With A Vegan”. And thanks to my brother and his wife for showing us a great time. We love you guys, and were so happy to get to see you.