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Mystic, Connecticut: Pizza… and So Much More
Jul29

Mystic, Connecticut: Pizza… and So Much More

Mystic, about the midpoint between NYC and Boston, is a fantastic getaway. In less than a two-hour drive, our family left the sweltering heat of the city for some quiet time in this quaint riverside community. Long before Julia Roberts and Co. made Mystic famous with a little film about a local pizza place (more about that in just a bit), Mystic was a shipbuilding town — there’s a rich history here to enjoy along with a sunset sail and walks along the river. Where To Eat The Engine Room This rustic, romantic spot was the perfect place to celebrate my wedding anniversary. I’m not usually especially jazzed about tofu, but my Smoked Tofu Salad (quinoa, spinach, mint, roasted carrots, toasted peanuts & ginger apricot dressing) was one of the best salads I’ve had in a long time. My husband Seth opted for the Crispy Tofu Burger, and there’s also a Portobello Burger on the menu. Definitely start with the Black-Eyed Pea Hummus, served with crispy sesame flatbread. The Oyster Club Sister restaurant of The Engine Room, a little more upscale and intimate. When we made our reservation, we gave them a heads up the vegans were coming, though there is a salad and entree that are already do-able. When we arrived, however, the chef wanted to surprise us a bit. So, in lieu of the salad on the menu as a starter, we were served fresh blueberries and basil drizzled with olive oil, and then an equally simple but bursting-with-flavor tomato salad. The entree — available on the regular menu — was a delicious mild tofu curry. If you’re up for a cocktail, I recommend a classic martini made with a local Connecticut vodka. The Treehouse (at The Oyster Club) Reservation for 8pm at the Oyster Club? Head over early to allow yourself time for a drink at The Treehouse beforehand. You’ll climb the wooden stairs to an expansive deck area situated in the treetops — a little playful, a little magical — for a beer, a glass of vine or perhaps even a fruity cocktail. If you’re visiting Mystic, this one-of-a-kind place is not to be missed. The Boathouse A casual atmosphere, with a delicious black bean burger on the menu. We topped ours with sauteed mushrooms and carmelized onions. A nice (and inexpensive) meal, and also very family-friendly: a great choice if you’re traveling with kids or a group. Noca In the heart of downtown, just a stroll away from the drawbridge across the Mystic River. We had a wonderful lunch here, lured in by the Strawberry Basil Bruschetta on the menu, which did not disappoint. We then split a Veggie Panini that was absolutely de-lish: the grilled zucchini, squash, and roasted peppers...

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Vegan in Boston
Jun12

Vegan in Boston

On a recent long weekend to Beantown, I had a chance to check out some local spots. So, whether you’re walking the Freedom Trail, heading to the ball park, or just looking for a romantic getaway, here are a few of my favorites. Veggie Galaxy Even if you don’t have a family member named after a famous astronomer as we do, this vegetarian diner/vegan bakery in Cambridge is a great place for brunch or lunch. Inside, the retro diner — complete with booths and tall glass pie case — was bustling with activity; with Galileo, we were able to enjoy patio dining and some people-watching on Massachusetts Ave. Not all the menu items are vegan, but VG is happy to substitute eggs with tofu and cheese with Daiya or its own homemade vegan cheese. Though the Benedict and Stuffed French Toast were tempting, my husband Seth and I went with lunch options. The Reuben came with copious slices of shaved corned “beef” seitan, homemade kraut, and vegan Thousand Island (we ordered it on rye, naturally!) and The Club was a delicious veganized version of what anyone from New Jersey knows is a “#2” on any diner menu in the state — the turkey club.  Here, you’ll get the triple decker with homemade tempeh bacon and smoked tofu, with balsamic tomatoes and red onion providing the perfect finishing touches. When in Rome… save room for a slice of Boston Cream Pie. Or at least, take it to go. Galileo savored his sample (the non-chocolate part of cake and custard) of this veganized version of the local dessert fave. True Bistro For an upscale dining experience, you’ll want to head to this intimate candle-lit bistro in the Somerville neighborhood — one of the best vegan dining experiences I’ve had, with ambience and  food on par with New York’s Candle 79, Philadelphia’s Vedge, and San Francisco’s Millennium. Begin with a glass of bubbly or perhaps a cocktail made with FAIR vodka, which is vegan-friendly and made from quinoa. I confess, I broke my rule of ordering a spinach salad whenever it’s offered: instead, Seth and I split the Cornmeal-Crusted Oyster Mushrooms as an appetizer. Served with horseradish-dill aioli and guajillo chili sauce, the mushrooms were the perfect crispy, and the combination of the aioli and chili sauce had just the right “bite” to it. For the main course we tried the Seitan Skewer — a ripple of large thin slices of seitan complemented by asparagus, polenta, red pepper-pine nut sauce, and Italian salsa verde — and the Phyllo Purse of brandy braised tempeh, summer squash, green mole, and sour cream. Both insanely delicious. For all my sweet-tooth readers, I’ll say True Bistro will not disappoint....

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Otis and Pushkin, Together Again
Dec27

Otis and Pushkin, Together Again

For Otis, who joined his brother Pushkin in heaven on November 5, 2014. Originally written and shared on the Letters To Pushkin web site. 24 December 2014 Dear Otis, Merry Christmas to my dear, sweet boy. My handsome, stalwart one. My little New Yorker. My hunk-a-chunk-a-love. The rock of our family. The glue that keeps it together. The little prana running around our home. My great joy. All these phrases I used over and over again with you to describe the sparkling spirit that came to me wrapped up in a dog suit (those adorable “floating cloud” eyebrows). It’s no wonder I have so may songs about you, all those silly little lyrics I set to various (admittedly, mostly lifted) melodies. I started singing to you, about you, practically the day I met you (Hello Otis, Well hello Otis, it’s so nice to have you right where you belong…) and kept writing those little tunes throughout our more than ten years together. One of the more recent ones, that snappy little ditty I started up that night last winter while we were bracing ourselves against the cold, whipping wind and the snow (Let me love ya, Otis… I’ll keep you safe, I’ll keep you warm, I’ll rub your belly for all of that charm…Let me love ya, Otis), was a particularly good addition to our song catalog, I think. And one of the very first songs I wrote that included you, I’ve been singing every day since you had to go because it has given me such an incredible amount of comfort during this grieving process: Pushkin and Otis, brothers and friends, Pushkin and Otis, friends to the end. Whether they’re playing or sleeping tonight Pushkin and Otis are doing just fine. It comforts me and brings me a modicum of happiness in the midst of the sadness to think that, after nearly six years of flying solo, Pushkin is no longer alone on the other side; you are both young and spry again, scampering around together and loving every minute of it. Now you’re alongside your big brother for our morning meditation together, and again each evening for our Om Shanti, Goodnight. We created this routine when our family was grieving over the loss of Pushkin, and the routine’s not going anywhere. You know that each morning we’re going to start the day with “Good morning, Pushkin! Good morning, Otis!” You can count on it. You also know I’m still singing to you each day, just like I kept on singing to Pushkin after he went with the angels. I made sure before you left us that you knew,...

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Best Bites of the Big Apple
Oct08

Best Bites of the Big Apple

Over the past six years, I’ve had such fun exploring, sampling, and sharing with you all the amazing cruelty-free alternatives I’ve discovered. What better way to wrap things up — my 283rd and final piece! — than with an updated list of my faves here in my home of the Big Apple. As many of you know, I returned to the city a little over a year ago after spending the last nine years in Tucson. It’s been a remarkable homecoming in so many ways, not the least of which is having so many fantastic vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants just a quick walk or subway ride away. Though lengthy, this list is by no means exhaustive of all the delectables available in NYC; and I don’t venture much into the outer boroughs, so I encourage you to explore options in these areas on your own. I’ll start with my absolute favorites, but I’m also including a long list of other possibilities, all places I visit and recommend. Places marked with an asterisk * are expressly vegetarian or vegan. My New York City Faves Dinner Blossom on Columbus (Upper West Side)* Thank goodness, our favorite neighborhood place reopened in its new UWS location last month. Since moving back to New York, my husband Seth and I have made this Blossom “our place” to celebrate the personal family moments: closing on the co-op, finishing the bar exam, etc. Alas, the spinach salad is no longer on the menu, but there’s a nice arugala dish; I also love the Southern Seitan Sandwich, which I usually have for dinner rather than one of the fancier entree options. Candle Cafe (Upper East Side)* Candle Cafe, located on the Upper East Side was the very first of the Candle restaurants opened in NYC. It’s the most casual of the trio (Candle 79, Candle Cafe West and itself), but it’s my favorite. The Seitan Chimichurri starter is available here, and a must-have: there’s something so perfect about the bite-size chunks of seitan with the slightly tangy sauce. Couple this with one of the cafe’s awesome salads — I love the Crispy Cajun, which features oyster mushrooms along with roasted peppers and hearts of palm. I also love the Cajun Seitan Sandwich. Pure Food and Wine (Union Square)* Especially during the summertime when you can enjoy the patio dining in the backyard garden, this raw restaurant is the perfect setting for an evening out: white lights strewn overhead and the surrounding brick buildings create the perfect “tucked away”  feeling from the hustle and bustle of nearby Union Square. And the food is just as heavenly. Also, check...

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Fashionable Feet for Fall! by Coral 8
Sep25

Fashionable Feet for Fall! by Coral 8

In 2008, I purchased and wrote about my very first pair of vegan shoes: a pair of red Macbeth sneakers. It marked the beginning of an exciting personal journey of incorporating cruelty-free choices into my day-to-day and also the birth of what has become the Cruelty-Free Faves site, a storehouse of information regarding cruelty-free alternatives in everything from food to cosmetics and household products. And let’s not forget about fashion! A quick browse of the Fashion category proves that choosing vegan does not mean having to cramp your own style. Beyond that first pair of sneakers, my closet is now packed with clothes, shoes, and accessories that range from casual everyday to haute couture. As fall is getting into full swing and you’re perhaps looking for that perfect heel, boot, or ballet flat to complement the season’s wardrobe, let me share Coral 8 with you. This shoe design house offers stylish options for your casual day, the workplace, or Friday night’s cocktail party. I love my Zooey pumps — the cream and black combination add the perfect accent when I wear one of my wrap dresses. For the fall, I wanted to find a bootie with a wedge heel, which will go as well with jeans on the weekend as it will with sweater dresses at the office. Hello, Olivia Bootie! Stylish, quality construction (so it won’t fall apart when that rainy/snowy weather hits), and comfortable for all the walking this New Yorker does just going about her day. And, at under $100 a pair, Coral 8’s shoe selection won’t bust the budget. What Are Vegan Shoes Made of? “So if it’s not leather, what is it?” This question always comes up when people find out my shoes are vegan, and with good reason: cruelty-free should mean it’s as planet-friendly as it is animal-friendly. Coral 8 has this to say: “Let’s start with what it’s not: we never use leather or PVC, and rarely use non-organic cotton. Our shoes contain PU (polyurethane). Let’s be honest – PU still uses petroleum to be made and it’s still a plastic, but its much better than PVC and way better than leather, environmentally speaking.” Furthermore, Coral 8 is planning to soon launch a new line of organic, biodegradable shoes made from 100% recycled content, manufactured using no solvents or toxins, and using minimal water and energy in the process. Can’t wait to see those designs! Bonus Tip The Coral 8 web site was sold out of the Olivia Bootie, but I was lucky enough to find it available at my tried-and-true MooShoes — which, by the way, is where I purchased that first...

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Bathing Beauties: Soap bars, Scrubs, and Body Butters
Sep17

Bathing Beauties: Soap bars, Scrubs, and Body Butters

A while back, someone on the CFF Facebook page asked about cruelty-free bar soaps, and there were some great suggestions. Although I’ve already written about bath products that are faves (bunches to explore in the Personal Care & Cosmetics category!), I decided to break away from my tried-and-true to check out some other products so I could share new finds with you… Kiss My Face I’m a big fan of many KMF products: always good quality, relatively inexpensive, and pretty easy to find at local stores and pharmacies. The olive-oil based bar soaps are no exception. The Olive Oil/Aloe is my favorite, but the unscented is a good one, too. LUSH Bubble Bars and Body Melts take soap to a whole new — and fun! — level. So many of my friends, vegan and non-vegan, are huge fans of this Australian-based company that’s taken the US by storm. If you’re lucky enough to have a store nearby, treat yourself to a browse. It’s kind of like a grownup’s candy store. Strawberry Hedgehog Thanks to my lovely friend Kezia for turning me onto this line of handmade soaps! I had to order mine online because my local Whole Foods is not one of the locations that carries them. Bar soaps include Lemongrass-Ginger, Ginger-Peach, Strawberry Basil Lemonade: I’m hardly opposed to using anything on my skin that sounds yummy. That said, some of the other less fruity bar soaps are equally enticing. Among the many choices, I added a Bamboo Detox bar to my online shopping cart. And to smooth on the body after a bath, try SH’s Organic Whipped Creme: a thick, heavy-duty moisturizer that I’ve been using on my feet, knees, and elbows for some extra TLC. Dr. Bonner’s An old standby all-purpose soap. In the past, I’ve especially liked the Baby-Mild Unscented and the Almond soap bars. Here’s the rub, though: if you’re going to use Dr. Bronner’s, buy the liquid soap rather than the bar — the bars have palm oil in them. Although palm oil is not derived from animals, palm oil production is responsible for decimating the natural habitats of orangutans and elephants, leaving many little ones orphaned. The liquid soap, on the other hand, is palm oil-free… so, still a great cruelty-free alternative. The Orange Owl Here’s a company that offers a wide range of products with which to pamper yourself. The bar soaps come in some lovely fragrances: at the moment, I’m in love with the Masala Chai. Looking for a good body scrub? “Sun Shower” sugar scrub combines tangerine, grapefruit, spearmint, and a hint of patchouli. And now that we’re all exfoliated, we...

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