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Archive for the 'Holy crap it’s vegan!' Category

Don’t fear the word: VEGAN desserts at Peacefood Cafe

Posted by Niko on August 21st, 2010

Peacefood Cafe Vegan Desserts

Dear readers,
For those of you who are terrified of any dessert that has “vegan” in the title I have some news: The mini brownies at Peacefood are actually really good especially when you consider their $0.99 price.

These brownies are moist and “cake-like” rather than “fudge-like” but the thing I like most about them is their dark chocolate cocoa flavor.  This is what is often missing from many brownies IMHO.  Maybe the lack of eggs and milk forces a vegan baker to focus more on flavor?  A more traditional baker might take for granted that a brownie with all the usual ingredients will taste pretty good no matter what they do.  Check these out for a buck and let me know how they were.

The mini cupcake with chocolate frosting was good as well. I doubt too many people could identify it as “vegan” in a blind taste test.  Like the Brownies, it was moist.  For some reason it did not have the deep, dark chocolate flavor that the brownies had.  If you like your frosting with the sweetness-o-meter jacked to 10 like Magnolia or super-high in volume like Sweet Revenge then you might not love these.

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Vegan Linzer torte from Candle Cafe in-store line

After my recent revelation about how good vegan desserts can be (see the Vegan Divas review) I was on the lookout at the show for more exceptional vegan desserts.  Luckily, I found a new line to feature.  Surprisingly, it was from the veteran Upper East Side trailblazer, Candle Cafe, who is launching a new in-store line of vegan desserts.

Vegan peanut butter chocolate tart rom Candle Cafe NYC

Whenever possible, I like to find desserts I can recommend without qualification and I am happy to report that all five items I tasted were quite good.  You should feel safe serving any of them to your carnivorous and dairy-consuming friends without fear of feeding into whatever their worst stereotype of “vegan food” is.  In other words, none of these five taste materially different from their milk and egg-contianing counterparts.

Vegan chocolate mousse tart

That said, I did have my favorites.  The clear standout was the chocolate peanut butter tart.  This tart had plenty of peanut butter and chocolate flavor and also had just the right amount of sweetness.  I didn’t feel the urge to reach for my toothbrush after eating it like I might after consuming a Reeses Peanut butter cup.

Vanilla cheese cake

I also really liked the raspberry Linzer torte which had particularly flavorful raspberries inside and a  crust that was just superb, vegan or not.  The raspberry taste reminded me of those expensive preserves you get from Switzerland or France-very “high-end”.

Finally, the chocolate mousse tart was also excellent, especially in the sweetness category – not too sweet but with lots of chocolate flavor.  I would have liked it to be made with even darker chocolate but I know most people will find the cocoa content just right.

These should be available at Whole Foods shortly.

Candle Cafe (the parent restaurant of these items) is located at 1307 3rd Avenue

Candle Cafe’s web site is here.

The flourless vegan coconut macaroon

Yesterday I wrote about my two favorite sweets from the Vegan Divas line, the brownie and the chocolate frosted cupcake.   However, there were more creations to try – all with no milk, dairy or eggs.

The cookies were fine but were not in the class of the brownie, mousse or roll

The item that got the most raves during the sample give-away at Butterfield Market was definitely the rich chocolate mousse.  This is a mousse with the texture of chocolate pudding.  It’s made with copious amounts of dark chocolate and contains raw cocoa beans.  It was so silky smooth it reminded me of a panna cotta.

If I served this at a party I wouldn’t even need to tell my guests that it was vegan because they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  Again, as with the brownie and the cupcake, this dessert is competitive not just against other vegan desserts but with full dairy desserts as  well.

Rich chocolate mousse (made with raw cocoa beans) $4.49

Raspberry coconut roll

The raspberry coconut roll was one item that the Dessertbuzz team spilt on.  I thought this was a very solid dessert item worthy of  recommendation.  The other half of the dessertbuzz team on this day, a highly experienced baker, thought the “roll” was superb and worthy of a DessertBuzz “rave”. (more…)

One of the best brownies I have had in NYC - Vegan or not

Since starting Dessert Buzz 4 years ago I have learned that one of the most difficult things to do is to get people to believe that a vegan dessert can be really good.  One problem is that most people don’t know what the word “vegan” actually means.   Usually, they have a vague understanding that it means “healthy” or “has no meat in it”.  Some believe it refers to foods that are made only from cardboard packing materials.

Sometimes, a person will know what vegan means (contains no animal products) but doesn’t understand what impact that should have on food taste.  This is all pretty funny when you consider how many kids were born and raised on a 90% peanut butter and jelly diet.   Guess what?  It’s vegan!   To learn what makes peanut butter and a million other foods taste so good, keep reading, otherwise just skip to the reviews.

The frosting on the gold leaf cupcake

Flavor delivery 101:

In desserts and in baked goods (and most savory items too) the single best ingredient to deliver a flavor, like chocolate, to your palate is through fat.   Somehow our tongues detect a flavor more deeply when it’s accompanied by a high fat content.  Our brains seem to like it that way too.  That’s why chocolate croissants are awesome, bacon is currently bigger than the Beatles and premium ice cream like Ben and Jerry’s or Grom gelato rocks our world.

So what does this have to do with vegan desserts?  Well, we now know “vegan” only means “contains no animal products”.   So a vegan food can contain copious amounts of fat (or sugar or chocolate for that matter) as long as it doesn’t come from animals.  So, in theory, there is nothing inherent about something being vegan that should keep it from tasting really good.  The challenge with vegan baking is that it’s relatively new and everything hasn’t be figured out yet.  Some chefs however, like Camillo Sabella from Vegan Divas have started to figure it all out and have produced some really superb results.

I recently tasted 8 products from the 20-item Vegan Divas line of vegan desserts and baked items at Butterfield Market.   Overall this line really impressed me.  At least 4 of the items deserve to be compared to best-in-class non-vegan baked goods.

The star of the show was the brownie.  To me, this brownie had it all.  Deep, rich cocoa flavor?  Check.  Extremely fresh and moist? Not too sweet?  Check and check.  Connoisseurs (there is such a thing and they read this site) will note the dark color of the brownie (see picture).  I have found that nine times out-of-ten the darker the brownie the better the brownie.  If you like your brownies to taste like a flowerless chocolate cake from a fancy restaurant then you will love this brownie.  If you like a very sweet brownie like Fat Witch this might not be for you.  $4.49 .

The macaroon

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Why do normally intelligent people lose all common sense when the word “Vegan” is uttered?

I have a friend. Ivy Leaguer, concerned about his health and diet, brings that little pocket-size fish chart with him wherever he goes to see which fish he can eat and which are overfished or farmed, all that kind of thing.

He would not eat a Whole Foods Vegan scone. He finally tried it after I insisted for year that he’d like it. After tasting it he said “This is really good, you can’t even tell its vegan!” Um. Yes, exactly!

I’m hoping it won’t take as long to get him to try Blossom’s vegan chocolate avocado terrain.

This ultra-rich, chocolate “terrain” is a much more grand achievement than the Whole Foods scone. In fact, it competes with any full-butter flourless chocolate cake I’ve eaten in New York. This has got to be one of the richest tasting 100% vegan desserts I have ever had. Although “avocado” is in the name, neither you nor any super taster friends of yours will be able to detect its presence. It’s used purely for its fat, which holds the chocolate together like no other butter or egg substitute, like apple sauce, ever has. You could serve this to 100 people and tell them it has 2 sticks of butter and 4 eggs and nobody would question you.

So get your vegan friends, your non-vegan friends and especially your scared of vegan friends and bring them to Blossom. You’ll blow their minds.

Blossom’s website is here. For a Google map of the uptown Blossom go here. For a map of Blossom in Chelsea go here.

I have stopped in Pinisi bakery many times over the last year but I never seemed to have my camera.  And when I tried to bring an item home to photograph it,  I always ended up eating it on the way or sometimes the item would make it home but then I would eat it before photographing it.   But after trying their vegan vanilla coconut cupcake I knew I had to  report my findings.

Even for a standard “with-dairy-products” cupcake I would give it high marks.  The frosting wasn’t too sweet or toothpaste-like and the cake was perfectly moist even at 9:00 p.m. when I made my purchase.  I would like to know what some legit vegans think of it, so if you go and try it, shoot me an email.

Recommended: Vegan vanilla coconut cupcake

Add another vegan entry to the list of delicious high calorie snacks. What, you thought vegan = healthy? Ha! Typically, vegan foods are healthier.  But lets not kid ourselves just because its missing eggs and dairy doesn’t make it  broccoli.  At 400-500 Calories a pop, try not to have more than 2 a day.  That could be difficult though because these cookies are good.  The Knicks with Willis Reed good. OK Computer good.  Hillary crying in public good.  Check it out for yourself.

Here’s a Google map to City Bakery’s New York location: Here’s a link to City Bakery’s website: