Berben and Wolff’s is the gustatory brain child of Joey Berben and Max Wolff. It is located at 227 Lark Street in Albany, New York. It is also currently less than 1/2 mile from my apartment, and yes that means I eat it weekly or biweekly. I mean, why not?
When you walk up the stairs and into their cafe you are greeted with a nice mix of retro inspired decor (hello my fav!), fun toys (hi Pee Wee Herman!), and a lil punk. The walls are aqua colored and covered in pictures, guitars, and other fun stuff! Everyone that works there is incredibly nice and dedicated, and I always feel welcome walking in.
From their website:
“From simpler beginnings as vegan food manufacturers and distributors, Joey Berben and Max Wolff have been dedicated to bringing creative and delicious vegan options to the people of the Capital Region since 2015. After just one year of positive reception and recognition, an entirely vegan deli in their home city of Albany, NY was already in high demand. Opened in 2016, Berben & Wolff’s prides itself on creativity, quality, and ethical consumption. With an evolving menu of classics and specials, Berben & Wolff’s is constantly striving to expand their culinary knowledge and expertise. Whether you’re in the mood for a familiar favorite or for something new, they’re sure to please.”
The current menu consists of sandwiches made to order (most of which can be made gluten free if needed), a deli case featuring salads and sides, daily specials-both made to order and premade, and a dessert case (some treats are gluten free). They also make their own seitan wings every Wednesday.
I can’t eat gluten so I have not tried a fair amount of their items but they look delicious. I kind of go through phases of what I get, but mostly stick to the tempeh chickpea salad sandwich (add cheese so it’s like a melt!) or the breakfast sandwich. Both are delicious, but I think the breakfast sandwich really has my heart. It’s ooey and gooey with a house made cheese sauce and Daiya vegan cheese covering (or smothering!) layers of vegan egg (Follow Your Heart) and vegan ham (May Wah brand) with a thin layer of greens toasted to perfection. The tempeh chickpea salad sandwich features chunks of tempeh and mashed chickpea mixed with roasted garlic thyme mayo and makes my tummy happy. I have also had the sunflower burger and it is a delicious house made sunflower seed and veggie burger topped with caramelized onions, tomato, greens, and mayo. I have liked everything I have gotten there so far. My husband seems to gravitate towards the breakfast sandwich or the philly cheesesteak which has deli sliced seitan. If you can eat gluten I highly suggest trying their seitan since it is how they got their start! My husband loves it and he is a seitan aficionado.
The specials are usually very inventive and delicious but I’m such a routine loving person that I tend to stick with the same old stuff. However, I have had two specials that I loved and can’t wait til they bring them back. One was these super fresh veggie and tofu spring rolls with a delicious ginger dipping sauce. The other was the curried chicken gyro which has curried soy curls, greens, red onions, and house made tzatziki sauce (which I could have drank it was so good). The gluten free wrap option for that was amazingly soft and moist and I keep forgetting to find out where they got it from. (Just a hint guys I think that wrap would make yummy gf/vegan quesadillas.) This wrap was so good that I ate it twice in one week. They’ve also had fun specials like the tofu bahn mi, the barbecutioner (burger with onion rings!) , and carolina bbq sliders with a housemade beet/walnut/quinoa patty!
The baked goods look beautiful and taste good. There is sometimes a gluten free chocolate peanut butter cake that is pretty good and I have had a chocolate mocha cupcake that was yummy. I am definitely a dessert snob, and I fully acknowledge that. With that being said, I do enjoy the treats here but they are on the sweeter side as opposed to the more decadent side (strong chocolate or pb flavor) for my own personal tastes. That definitely means that they will appeal to the masses though because they are geared towards more traditional dessert lovers!
Berben and Wolff’s is a really great addition to the vegan scene in Albany and definitely has something for everyone, even if you’re not vegan! It’s just great food that happens to be vegan. Go NOW!
Location: 227 Lark St, Albany, NY
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-8pm, Sunday 10-3pm
Phone number: (518) 599-5306
This is part three in my Sweet Vegan How to Guide! Are you interested in becoming vegan but feel a bit overwhelmed about what you can eat or what you can use/wear? How exactly do you navigate how to swap out awesome vegan items for the non-vegan items you no longer want to buy? I can totally help you. Relax, it’s a definite process and like I said in part one…you will make mistakes and that’s totally ok. Don’t beat yourself up and just keep on doing your best.
Let’s start with food because I love it! This post will focus on protein and how to replace it.
Making the decision to become vegan can seem really weird and like you’re starting over learning how to eat BUT there are many vegan protein options. Here’s my handy dandy guide to navigating the vegan protein scene so you can handle it like a champ.
First off, unless you’re an athlete, you don’t need to overthink the protein “issue”. Most people eat more than enough protein, even on a vegan diet. You just need to make sure you are eating enough food in general. Just make sure you eat some protein and a wide variety of food.
My favorite protein is tofu! It’s so versatile and there are so many different kinds! You can make breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert with it. I love to make tofu scrambles, tofu frittata, tofu quiche, or baked tofu for brunch or breakfast. Baked, or fried, or grilled….it’s really good. It’s also like a sponge so marinate it or coat it in your favorite sauce. If you’ve ever eaten tofu and it was terrible….chances are the person who made it didn’t flavor it or cook it very well. Tofu is made from straight up soy and is gluten free. Some tofu comes pre-marinated so if you have a gluten allergy be on the lookout for that. Here are some yummy tofu dishes.
Tempeh! Tempeh is made from fermented soy and is also pretty versatile. Some people think it tastes bitter so sometimes it’s recommended to poach it in boiling water for a few minutes then to marinate it or cook it in a sauce. You can fry or bake it and it’s delicious. I love to make tempeh bacon or tempeh steaks with mine. You can also crumble it to make a meat sauce for pasta, or for tacos, make sloppy joes or even use it for stir fry. Tempeh is gluten free. Here are some delicious ways to cook tempeh.
Textured Vegetable Protein (or TVP, TSP)! Yeah, it sounds weird BUT it’s basically dried soy chunks that rehydrate when thrown in something hot with some liquid. It’s chewy and basically sucks in any flavor it’s cooked in. It’s yummy and works great for anything that calls for a crumble like protein. Some TVP is contaminated with wheat but there are some that are certified gf if you need. Here are some interesting things to do with TVP.
Soy Curls: These are very similar in method to TVP but I like them better. They are long and shaped like chicken strips. They work well for making philly cheesesteaks or in anything honestly. Soy curls are gluten free.
Edamame (immature soy beans in the pod or can be out): Edamame is delicious. You can get it steamed from many Chinese/Japanese restaurants or you can buy it yourself. You can get it in the pod or unshelled. You can eat it as a snack or throw the unshelled beans into a nice quinoa salad or use them in a stir fry.
Straight up Wheat Gluten or Seitan! Seitan can be made a couple of ways, one short way and one longer way. The short way involves using vital wheat gluten, seasonings, and liquids to make a dough which you cut up into small or large chunks and either boil or steam. The long way involves wheat flour and kneading it over and over ( I think?) until it’s glutinous. There are also premade packages of seitan so all you have to do is open them and put in your favorite dish. You can do some pretty amazing things with seitan honestly. Check out some of these recipes!
Combination Protein Sources: These items are a mixture of proteins combined to create a product. Some are gluten free and some are not.
Vegan Deli slices: There are many commercially made vegan deli slices that are available in many mainstream grocery stores now. They all seem to be made from a combination of soy and wheat gluten proteins. You can get ham, bologna, turkey, pepperoni, and more! Some brands include Tofurkey, Yves, Field Roast, and Lightlife. I have yet to find any that are gluten free.
Vegan hot dogs, sausage and kielbasa : Yes seriously!!! The big brands here seem to be Tofurkey, Field Roast, Smart Dogs or Tofu Pups by Lightlife, Soy Boy, Gardein, and Sol. The Tofu Pups, Soy Boy and Sol brands have gluten free items.
Protein Powders: There are A LOT of vegan protein powders on the market. Soy, hemp, pea, rice, peanut and some are mixtures of various proteins. There are many different brands but the big ones that offer vegan powders are Vega, Plantfusion, Sunwarrior, Rawfusion, Orgain, and Nutiva. I like to use protein powder right after I workout. You can also throw it into smoothies, oatmeal, banana ice cream, pudding, bake it into cakes or pancakes, etc! The possibilities are endless.
Beans: Most beans have a higher carbohydrate to protein ratio, so keep that in mind. Lentils, soy beans, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, split peas, black beans, chickpeas….and so many more! Check out this list of bean dishes.
Nuts and Seeds: There are many nuts and seeds that have a small amount of protein. Nuts are more fat than protein so keep that in mind. Some of my favorite are hemp seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, almonds, and more!
SO there’s a pretty good (hopefully comprehensive) list of vegan protein sources. Here is a really long but awesome list of protein in vegan foods. Be sure to use some of those big proteins like tempeh, tofu, seitan, and various veggie meats with the rest of the others, especially if you’re an athlete. They have a higher protein content and pack a bigger punch.
Now get out there and eat!
This is part two in my Sweet Vegan How to Guide! Are you interested in becoming vegan but feel a bit overwhelmed about what you can eat or what you can use/wear? How exactly do you navigate how to swap out awesome vegan items for the non-vegan items you no longer want to buy? I can totally help you. Relax, it’s a definite process and like I said in part one…you will make mistakes and that’s totally ok. Don’t beat yourself up and just keep on doing your best.
Let’s start with food because I love it! This post will focus on dairy and how to replace it.
Cows, goat, other animal milk: There are so many alternatives to animal milk that it will make your head spin, but in a good way. Seriously let’s see if I can name them all: soy milk, rice milk (not my favorite), almond milk ( LOVE IT), coconut milk (yum), hazelnut milk (any nut milk is super good), hemp milk, oat milk, quinoa milk, flax milk…did I cover them all?
My favorite almond milk is Almond Breeze, the unsweetened original one. When I first went vegan I liked getting the sweetened vanilla one but now I could care less….I think my tastes just changed a little bit. I use it for cereal, smoothies, banana ice cream, gravy, drinking, etc. You can use it to bake for sure but I prefer soy or coconut for that.
Soy Milk: Westsoy unsweetened vanilla. I love it for regular baking. Cakes, cupcakes, whoopie pies. You can use it for anything honestly. I’ve used it for roux for gravies and sauces and it works well for making chocolate ganache.
Coconut Milk: So Delicious unsweetened plain all the way! I don’t think it tastes coconutty but some people do. I love to use it in my gluten free baked goods, for some reason it works better than soy.
Which milk do you use? It depends on your tastes….try them and see what you prefer.
This is a big one. I honestly recommend not eating a vegan cheese alternative for a couple of months after saying goodbye to animal cheese. SERIOUSLY. I love them but they are a little different than animal cheeses. Also, there is significant evidence (and a study) that say cheese is super addictive so give your taste buds some time to change.
With that being said, here are my vegan cheese recommendations.
Daiya cheese: I love it. The shreds are great to use on pizza, nachos, twice baked potatoes, potato skins, basically anything you would sprinkle cheese and want to melt it. I also like taking the mozzarella and cheddar to mix in the food processor to make a nice taco cheese mix, I got this trick from my awesome sister in law. The Daiya sliced cheese/block cheese is awesome for paninis or burgers. It melts really well and fast. It’s not my favorite in cold sandwiches though. Daiya is also soy free. Daiya also has cream cheese, pizza, cheesecake, mac & cheese, dressings, and greek yogurt.
Chao sliced cheese: This cheese melts really well and tastes yummy cold. It costs a little more than Daiya so I don’t buy it as often. I really like how it tastes though and like to use it on occasion.
Follow Your Heart: I haven’t had a chance to try their revamped shreds but I have heard really good things. I really like their shredded parmesan cheese. It has a distinct sharp parmesan flavor and I love it on salads and garlic bread or pasta.
Daiya cream cheese: I really like it, even the strawberry one. They have plain, strawberry and chive/onion.
Follow Your Heart cream cheese: I also really like this cream cheese. It’s a little different than Daiya, maybe with a creamier feel and crisp taste (Daiya tastes more fatty….which I like).
Treeline Cheese: This spread is so yummy….it’s a little tart because it’s made with probiotics but I really like that flavor in an herby spread for crackers. It’s also good on sandwiches.
Sour cream! YES, I love it. Follow Your Heart makes the best kind honestly, hands down. Go get it and make some nachos and put a dollop on top!
I honestly could care less about mayo….I know! I’ll eat it if it’s on a sandwich and isn’t overpowering but I don’t go out of my way to buy it. BUT here are the alternatives!
Follow Your Heart Vegenaise: This vegan mayo has been around the longest and is beloved by many. They even have a soy free version.
Just Mayo: This is the new kid on the block and it has been making major waves and is available in Target.
Earth Balance Mayo: They also have a soy free version and an olive oil one in addition to their regular mayo.
So Delicious: Hands down my favorite yogurt to eat. It’s coconut based and I love the texture and taste of the plain one. They have fruit ones as well.
Daiya: Greek Yogurt. I haven’t tried this but I’ve heard good things.
Almond Dream: I’m not a huge fan of the texture of this but it tastes yummy.
So there you have it! Now go out and explore the world of vegan dairy and have fun.
I will cover vegan egg replacements in another post. Let me know if you have any questions! XOXO
Summer is coming to a close (I can’t believe how fast it went) and with that we start heading into fall. Fall in New York has always signified big change to me. It’s a time when all of the leaves change color, the creatures are starting to change and stock up for the cold winter, and even the air changes and becomes super crisp feeling. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve had many big life changes happen to me during the fall. I guess I’ve always seen it as a time of digging down and really making changes towards the life you want. I became vegan in the fall, opened and closed my bakery in the fall, stopped drinking alcohol in the fall, and switched careers in the fall. So as we change into fall, I thought it would be great to start a series on how to become vegan. Don’t worry I’ll also keep up with my business series as well…I might flip flop between the two. I’m still getting the hang of this blogging thing.
Anywho, here are some of my most important tips for becoming and staying vegan.
So, to start, how did I become vegan?
I was in college and read something about factory farming so I became a vegetarian. I had always loved animals and felt a very strong appreciation for them. I was also against animal testing as a child and even wrote letters to companies that tested on animals so this seemed like a natural progression for me. About one year later, I met a vegan (which I didn’t know was a possibility) and he let me ask him a ton of questions. He also lent me my first vegan cookbook, “How It All Vegan” by Sarah Kramer. (PS this previous link is an affiliate link and I receive compensation from your purchase through it *) Not only did I fall in love with the tattooed, punk rock-ness of the vegan queen herself, I also fell in love with veganism. I started researching the dairy and egg industries and realized that I could not love animals as much as I did while still taking part in a system that was setup to exploit them and eventually kill them. I found that I didn’t need animal products to live so I decided to become vegan. That was about 16 years ago.
Being vegan isn’t about SUBTRACTION it’s about ADDITION! Adding good ethical food that is…
This is so true! I know a lot of people who have been vegan for a really long time, and I know some people who were vegan for a short time and gave up. The big difference between them is their mindset towards veganism. This could very easily be attributed to their mindset on life in general as well. Veganism is not about what you can’t eat, it’s about all of the new stuff you can eat….or the stuff you ADD in! Try not to get caught up in thinking about how “limiting” you think being vegan is, instead start to think about all of the foods you didn’t know existed and an entirely new world of possibilities opens up to you. I have to say this makes a huge difference. I would never have eaten half of the foods I eat (and love) now when I wasn’t vegan. I absolutely LOVE almond milk, avocados, berries, pickles, tofu, and bean sprouts. I would never have touched those before. Your taste buds will totally change the longer you’ve been vegan! Miss cheese? You won’t after awhile. I also actually advise people to not eat vegan cheese for a few months after becoming vegan. Why? Because it will definitely taste weird to your cow cheese taste buds. But honestly once you don’t eat cows (or animal) cheese for a really long time, it starts to smell rotten and then you won’t want it anymore. Be patient with yourself as your tastes change. But also know that you can totally recreate all of the foods you love to be vegan.
Knowledge makes the world go round.
Research everything. Research factory farming, the dairy and egg industries, animal testing, animal by-products, vegan foods, vegan products, vegan body care products, etc. Do it at your own pace though so you don’t get overwhelmed. Learn how to cook vegan food….get cookbooks and watch youtube videos, follow cool vegan bloggers (wink, wink) and read books/articles. Solidify WHY you want to become vegan and then learn how to be vegan. It is as difficult as you make it…meaning go at your own pace! I also recommend researching vegan nutrition so you can answer any weird questions that will come your way such as “where do you get your protein?”, “where do you get vitamin d?”, or “do you eat fish?”. I highly recommend “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. (PS I receive compensation when you buy through this link*) I also recommend Ginny Messina’s blog, The Vegan RD. It’s full of really awesome info. It’s really possible to be vegan and be healthy…I promise!
“I tried being vegan and got sick after a month or two”
Did you really? If this is true, you really need to take a look at WHAT you were eating AND HOW MUCH you were eating. Of course, you’re going to feel like crap if all you’re eating is the vegan sweet chili Doritos and Oreos. Let’s be real and honest here. Chances are you weren’t eating very well and that’s understandable because we aren’t all nutritionists. BUT you don’t have to be a nutritionist to be vegan, you just need to know some major basic rules.
You MUST eat enough food. First of all, how many calories are you eating in a day? If you ate A LOT of cheese and animal meat before you went vegan and all you did to become vegan was omit that stuff…..chances are you aren’t eating nearly enough food. Think about it! A slice of crap cheese is about 113 calories. Say you liked to eat two at a time, and say that you ate that 2 or 3 times a day…..that adds up to 452-678 calories a day! THAT’S A LOT OF CALORIES! Even if you only ate it once a day that still adds up to 113-226 calories a day with JUST CHEESE. Imagine if you also drank cow’s milk, ate yogurt for snack, etc. And we’re just talking dairy here people! You can’t just subtract things without adding something else in place of it. That’s not how calories work. So just eating a ton of vegetables and carbs is probably not going to make you feel good. This happened to me when I first went vegan because I loved cheese. Somehow a light bulb went off and I realized that I was barely eating half as much food as I was eating before. So I ate more food and felt better!
You need to eat fat and carbs and protein! Being vegan isn’t about trying a new diet, it’s about eating ethically. Like I said above, just eating a ton of vegetables and carbs will not make you feel good. A nice mix of all of the necessary macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) will make you feel awesome though!
If you’re not sure how you can swap out non-vegan items for vegan items, please be on the lookout for a follow up post in this series about just that!
Being vegan is not about being perfect, it’s about doing everything you possibly can to be vegan.
You might mess up sometimes and that’s A-ok! Seriously, it happens to everyone but it happens more when you first go vegan. There are a lot of things to learn and a lot of hidden words in products that seem vegan but aren’t. No one is going to yell at you and you shouldn’t get upset or frustrated with yourself. Eventually you will learn what is and isn’t vegan and it becomes second nature to you. Don’t let a little thing like carmine make you decide being vegan is too hard. It’s really not. If all roads traveled were smooth and straight, no one would make an effort to do anything. Hug yourself and keep on.
An internet troll yelled at me for not being vegan enough so all vegans are elitists.
People can be ridiculous. Don’t let someone else make you feel bad about yourself. There are sadly internet trolls for every way of life. They’re basically bored bullies who apparently get a kick out of type arguing for hours with a stranger. You do you, and like the group En Vogue said….”and the rest will follow”. For real, ignore that pesky troll because you’ve got vegan cupcakes to bake and eat…and they have none.
Bring your own food to gatherings and if you’re going to be out and about for a long time.
I know it seems like it could be a pain in the ass BUT it’s so much easier to bring food you know is vegan to a gathering. I recommend making something fabulous and make a lot of it too because others will eat it. Make sure you either put some aside for yourself or get to that bowl asap because it will probably be gone fast. Also don’t label it as vegan just write “chickpea quinoa salad with sundried tomatoes and capers”….that shit speaks for itself people. Not only does this mean you will have food to eat but afterwards you can tell people it was vegan and that’s a great talking point.
Also, if you’re going to be going on a day trip, have a long day at the office, etc…it’s a really good idea to pack your own food. I like to plan my trips around food (HAHA) but if I’m going on a hike or somewhere I know there aren’t any vegan restaurants, I will bring food. It’s just easier to be prepared. PS check out my post on meal planning here.
Find some like-minded individuals!
The internet not only makes it easy to find other vegans around the world, but you can also use it to see who is in your immediate area. Albany has a lot of vegans. We’re blessed to have an awesome organization, The Albany Vegan Network, who puts on events like their vegfest year round. There are also some vegan meetups in the area. Seek them out as a nice support system for when you have questions or if any issues come up.
What is meal prepping? Meal prepping is when you take a day, night, or a couple of hours to make your food for the week. Some people prep a meal, several meals, or all of their meals and snacks for the entire week. I find that it’s very helpful to prep your meals in advance.
Meal prepping helps you make more nutritional food choices and is very helpful if you have a hectic schedule. Think about it! When you’re super busy you don’t really have a lot of time to cook food. So what do you do? Typically, most people would opt for eating out, some kind of fast food, or a processed food that is quick to grab and eat. Meal prepping helps you avoid doing that and gives you better fuel for your hectic schedule. Food is fuel and sometimes what you eat or drink can bog you down at some point. And if you’re a busy person, you don’t have time for low energy.
I also love the idea of meal prepping as an athlete. It helps me know ahead of time what I’m eating and I know that I’m going to reach all of my macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) goals for the day/week. It gives me the fuel I need to be a better athlete while still eating the foods I love.
So what do you do? Some people might just make up several different components of their meals and measure them out later, while some people pre-measure all meals out and package them in containers.
Here’s a rad video from Cheap Lazy Vegan about Meal Prepping. Check out her Youtube channel, it’s pretty awesome.
It depends on your goals and your time, both for cooking and for eating. I have a fair amount of time during the week so I usually prep on Sundays and either Wednesday or Thursday. I also only need to prep my lunches for work because I eat breakfast and dinner at home, with plenty of time to cook them. I also just bulk pack mine and measure it out real quick in the morning. I don’t have a lot of containers and have a little time in the mornings so I can do that.
What do you include? I usually have either a marinated (with a little oil for fat) baked tofu or tempeh, roasted sweet potatoes/gold potatoes/or quinoa, and some kind of steamed/no oil roasted veggies…broccoli rabe, kale, carrots, green beans, brussel sprouts, corn, squash, etc. I always try to do a veggie mix with at least one kind of leafy green veggie. Most of the time my meals have some kind of theme to keep me from getting bored. I mix the flavors up every week. Sometimes I throw hemp seeds or nuts on top for my fat. Sometimes I make nutritional yeast sauce or a cashew sauce for the top.
Here’s my very basic guideline for a tofu or tempeh marinade. Use whatever seasonings you want in it to switch it up. Some ideas:
Smoky: Add 1 tsp smoked paprika and a pinch of oregano
Italian Herb: Add ½ tsp each of oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary
Asian: Add 1 tsp of chopped garlic and ginger with some sesame seeds, or maybe a little orange rind
Mexican: Add ½ tsp cumin and chili powder
Also feel free to experiment with the flavors!
- block of tofu or tempeh, cut into squares or strips
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/8 c water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk all ingredients with whatever spices/seasonings you want, except protein, in a bowl. Add chopped protein and toss to cover.
- Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and pour contents onto it. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked to desired color.
This is kind of the beginning in a short series on starting your own business. I’ll periodically post articles about it around the recipes and cool fitness stuff. Enjoy!
Say you want to be even more badass than you already are by starting your own business. Where do you even begin? Well, FIRST, what do you want to do? Do you already have an idea or do you just know you want to be your own boss? If it’s the latter, here are some questions you should start asking yourself.
What am I really good at?
What do I love to do or what am I passionate about?
What subject/service do I have a lot of knowledge about?
How hard am I willing to work?
What do I want my life to look like with the business?
These are all super important questions and you MUST answer them honestly. Feel free to write down multiple ideas in case you’re passionate about many things. Sometimes there may be a way for you to start a business that incorporates MANY of your passions together, but sometimes it’s best for you to just pick one…it depends on YOU!
Once you figure that out, it may be extremely helpful to seek out the advice of someone who knows a lot about small businesses. You will have to do some research and see if your area has a Small Business Administration (SBA) office, a local chamber of commerce, or a non-profit lending group/organization. These places are a great first step in getting help to figure out exactly what you need to do. I actually used a really great local non-profit lending group in Albany, New York called the Community Loan Fund to start my bakery. I was able to secure a loan through them and received help on and off for some technical stuff. Places like this are really great because, not only do you get guidance for your new journey, you also get great advice and make important contacts. You also get access to classes and other resources to further your own knowledge as an entrepreneur. TRUST ME…this is invaluable and helps make this weird scary journey amazingly doable.
Next, you need a business plan. Yeah, yeah it IS scary sounding. And yes, it’s A LOT of work. However, if you can’t buckle down to thoroughly research and type out how your business will be setup, function, govern, and make money…maybe you should rethink being your own boss. I said it, I’m sorry. But, for real people, it’s a very hard job and you must be prepared to work your ass off, especially if it’s what you REALLY REALLY REALLY want.
So the business plan? If you’re nerdy (I love nerds…I am one!) and love big words and Forbes articles, THIS one is for you. If you like step by step guides with pictures and samples, THIS wiki one is for you. The SBA also has an online step by step guide to help you write your business plan but you must create a user name and login to use it, that’s HERE. Also, just for fun HERE‘s this fun, really short, but also concise, video about business plans featuring a man with a nice accent. Also, I must mention that any of the places in the paragraph above will also give you business plan help.
So there you have a nice start to starting your own business. This is just a snippet of what it takes to get there but I tried to include some really great information. It’s definitely a long and challenging journey but it can be extremely rewarding. You will also find out a lot about yourself and how amazing you are in the process.
So get out there and let the ideas flow.
Be excellent to each other and to yourself.
I love eating out. But how do you do it as a vegan? All you need is a good knowledge base about veganism, some polite intelligence to ask a lot of questions, and internet access to search for places.
Say you’ve just become vegan in the capital district…what do you do when a friend wants to go out with you? The first thing I do is tell my friend that I am vegan. The next thing I do is start researching my options on the internet. Luckily we have a lot of options in this area. But what do you do if you aren’t sure about your options? Your safest bet is to stick with Indian, Chinese/Japanese, Thai, Lebanese/Middle Eastern, or sometimes a Mexican restaurant. These places usually have a fair amount of veg heavy options and proteins like tofu or beans. They may also have a vegetarian, vegetable, or tofu section on their menu.
If you pick Indian, here are some things you should look out for: ghee, which is a type of animal based butter; cream, which is usually listed in the description, so avoid anything with a creamy sauce UNLESS it specifies that it is coconut milk based ( I would still ask to make sure); and sometimes they put butter or ghee in the rice. I usually avoid saying vegan at an Indian place unless they seem well versed in vegetarianism. I recommend sticking with saying that you can’t eat dairy or eggs, being sure to list it all, and that you are vegetarian. Most Indian places have a vegetable or vegetarian section on the menu so you will just have to worry about the above list of non-vegan items. As far as the bread options go, roti is usually made without ghee and sometimes the naan is but you must ask. There are also really great appetizers like vegetable samosas and pakoras.
If you decide to go with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Thai food, here are some things to look out for: fish sauce (more likely in Thai food), eggs, and sometimes chicken stock in the sauces. I also avoid saying the word vegan at these places, so I just point out what I “can’t” eat.
Say you decide to go with Lebanese or some kind of Middle Eastern place? Here is what you should look out for: cheese, usually feta; tzatziki sauce (yogurt sauce), honey, and chicken stock. I say get the falafel and enjoy!
Some Mexican places are really accommodating, but some surprisingly aren’t. Here’s what you should avoid: lard (sometimes in their refried beans); cheese; sour cream; and chicken or beef stock. Be sure to ask about their beans because some places do not add dairy, lard or cheese to their bean base. Also be on the lookout for dairy in some premade guacamole, so always ask if it’s freshly made.
It’s usually pretty easy to eat out as a vegan, depending on the options around you. If you’re native to the Albany area, we are actually very lucky to have a lot of awesome options. I will probably do some restaurant reviews in the future so I will definitely mention some of these again.
This is not a complete list by any means….but these are my favorites. Also take note, I can’t eat gluten so your favorites might not be here because I probably can’t eat there.
Indian: Lazeez- I love their Aloo Chana (chickpeas and potatoes in a tomato type sauce), onion pakoras, and vegetable samosas. They also have a pretty rad lunch buffet. Below, is the owner showing some delicious vegan food during Ramadan.
Karavalli in Latham-This place is good and a bit more expensive than Lazeez. Their food tends to be a bit spicier as well. I really like their Lassoni Gobi, which is a battered fried cauliflower in a spicy sauce. They are like crispy cauliflower wings but seriously so spicy. They also have dosai which are lentil and rice crepes filled with potato. Everything is labeled really well and they even have a vegan section on the menu.
Chinese: Empire Wok in Delmar…HANDS DOWN. They have a separate vegetarian menu featuring veg versions of most popular Chinese takeout dishes featuring May Wah veggie meats. My favorites are the Veggie Sesame Chicken, Veg Chicken fried rice (YUP), Veg Sweet and Sour chicken (YUP), Veg Chicken and broccoli, and more! Be aware the veg pork type stuff is not vegan. Below is a pic of their Vegetarian menu from Yelp.com
Thai: Kinaree on Lark Street! I really love their drunken noodles with no fish sauce, tofu, and I add broccoli to it. It has the broad rice noodles in it with carrots, peppers, onions, baby corn, mushrooms, and tofu. It is so amazing. This is actually my favorite meal in Albany. I’m serious. I also like to get their Age fried tofu appetizer.
Vietnamese: Van’s in Albany. I LOVE the tofu steak here. It’s a huge broiled tofu steak with a spicy gravy, white or brown rice, and usually roasted asparagus. They also have these amazing fried or fresh veggie spring rolls. Here’s a pic of the tofu steak without the gravy from the Times Union.
Lebanese: Beirut in Troy. This place is really great. I got to know the owner and his family when I had the bakery. They are really awesome people. I love to get their Moujadara, which is a lentil and rice dish with caramelized onions on top. They also make an amazing grain free and super fresh tabbouli, amazing french fries with garlic paste and I’ve heard they make really delicious vegan baklava with rosewater instead of honey (gluten so I’ve never tried it but it’s worth telling you!).
Middle Eastern: Mamouns in Albany. This place makes really awesome falafel. I like to sub out the tzatziki sauce with tahini sauce. I usually get a platter from them which has falafel, roasted zucchini, and salad greens with some grape leaves and rice on the side.
Mexican: El Loco in Albany. I love to get their veggie tacos on the gluten free menu. It comes with these delicious sauteed veggies and salsa. Their guacamole is really good and their salsa is super fresh.
Some other notables that don’t have a category above:
Berben and Wolff’s in Albany, our only vegan joint in the city! This is a really great deli type shop run by rad people. They have a fair amount of seitan stuff (they make it themselves). I love to get the tempeh chickpea salad sandwich, the BLT, or the Sunflower Burger with caramelized onions. Everything is super fresh and made with love.
Muddaddy Flats in Troy! It’s a quesadillary run by the sweetest couple and they have a really delicious vegan quesadilla with sauteed veggies, black beans, quinoa, vegan cheese and spinach. They also make this really great roasted red pepper sauce called the muddaddy sauce. AND they have gluten free tortillas and good guacamole.
Umana in Albany. I really like their Egyptian Lo Mein with tofu and they have a really great Southwest Tofu Scramble for brunch. ALSO PLANTAINS with really delicious ginger garlic sauce.
So there you have it! As long as you know what to ask, you can easily navigate the restaurant scene and be happy (and FULL) doing so. No more boring salads or hummus/veggie wraps for you, unless that’s your thing! So get on out there and EAT!
Eat and be excellent to each other and to yourself!
Ever feel like you could be more productive but just can’t seem to get your brain into it? Chances are you’re doing what I was doing for years. I would wake up in the morning, be groggy, eat some food and run to work or school. Eventually I would go through phases of exercising in the morning as well. It just seemed like I was floating through my day, every single day, and then I would hit a big afternoon slump. Some people might drink coffee at this time or an energy drink, but I would just try to move along (I don’t actually like coffee or energy drinks-GASP, I know!). It was a pretty big bummer because I felt like I should be able to do more. Enter the MORNING ROUTINE. Seriously. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but I kept hearing about it among entrepreneurial circles in real life and the internet. Apparently it was something that really productive CEO’s did every single day. I was a business owner at the time so I thought I should try it.
I went through a few different morning routines until I found a combination of things that really got me ready to kick ass. I can’t say enough about having a morning routine. It wakes you up and helps set the tone for your day. It’s also something really productive people do, so it must be rad, right? Well, it’s true. It not only made me more productive, but it also made me FEEL like a badass. It’s also #2 on this rad video from Marie Forleo (who is amazing) about….you guessed it, being productive.
Like Marie said, your morning routine must also be NON-NEGOTIABLE. You must do it no matter what. That’s how it becomes routine and that’s how it helps change your brain to be productive. Now, what should your routine consist of?
Your morning routine should contain the following: meditation or some kind of quiet journal time, some stretching or exercise (it’s important to get that body awake and moving), not using the internet for the first 50 minutes after waking up, and food. Food is very important in the morning because it wakes your brain up and gets your metabolism moving. It’s seriously a big deal. Even if you eat breakfast on the go, please make sure you eat it! My morning routine goes like this: I get up, use the bathroom, meditate in the sun (if possible), journal, check social media (after 50 minutes!), stretch, do a light yoga or some ROMWOD stretches, shower, and then eat breakfast. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. It seriously helps make me alert and ready for whatever life is going to throw at me. It also makes me take control of my day by setting the stage for what’s to come. It gives me a sense of quietness, control, and ease which helps me tackle work and situations much better. I can’t say enough about having a morning routine.
How do you pick what yours should consist of? Well, what do you think you need to do for yourself? What sorts of things would you benefit from? Meditation or writing positive affirmations? Stretching, yoga or straight up exercise? Reading a book or journaling? Quiet coloring with your children or drinking some lemon water/tea? It’s up to you what needs to be included but be sure to follow the general guidelines. Remember, it’s about what you need to calm your brain, set the day, move your body, and become mindful. You are important and deserve it.
If you had asked me a year ago if I was going to write a blog, I would’ve said “No”. I would’ve said “I’m too busy with my bakery” or “I don’t have time”. A year ago my life was overfull, stressed, happy at times, sad at other times, exhausting, gracious, and often left me feeling dead. I owned a vegan bakery, my little pride and joy, for about 8 years (6 of which were in an actual retail shop). So why do I have time to do this now? Well, I had to close my shop down in September of 2015. It’s been 9 months (WOAH) since I closed that lovely place. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make.
I get asked A LOT, and I understand the curiosity, exactly why I closed my shop. The short answer is that I was working 80 hours a week with little to no pay and could just not seem to get ahead of the game and then we had major equipment problems which I could not afford to fix. The long answer is just more embellishment of the short one. I really was working 80 hours a week, which to some might seem ok if it’s your passion BUT in reality sometimes your passion dies a little when you don’t sleep or relax enough, or at all. I never seemed to have enough money to get ahead of anything business wise and in retrospect I wish I had started the business with so much more so it was done right. It was incredibly stressful and I don’t give up easily.
I absolutely fought, what I knew to be true in my heart, for a couple of years honestly. I hired more employees, but never seemed to have enough. I tried to add new items to bring in more money, but never seemed to make more and spent more. I recalculated costs of goods and increased prices, which helped but not enough. I took online business courses. I asked other business owners for advice. I scoured the internet for wisdom. I was still doing too much myself but couldn’t afford to hire a manager. I really think if I had started bigger than I did in the beginning, with it setup to run without me…I would’ve survived. Instead, I setup a business whose entire existence depended on me working 80 hours. It was sadly doomed to fail.
It was an amazing ride though. We did do very well sales wise. We had really great business and it increased every single year. I met with someone who sells businesses and he was impressed with our numbers. It’s not that we didn’t have business, it’s just that I missed my life and my family. I was also in debt since I could barely pay myself and that was a huge problem. My relationships were suffering and my quality of life was suffering. I set a deadline for myself to try to turn it around or close. Then about 1 1/2 months before my deadline, our sandwich prep fridge started having major issues so we stopped storing food in it. Then about one month before my deadline, our oven started having major issues heating evenly and the convection fan would turn off. I got both looked at and they were too expensive to fix and I couldn’t afford new ones either. I cried a lot and talked to my wonderful parents and husband. I took it all as a huge nudge from the universe and decided to close down shop.
I felt really horrible for a really long time. I felt bad for not giving my awesome customers more time to say goodbye to us. Everyone’s support meant so much to me over the years and I was honored to see you all go through awesome things…new jobs, children (I saw many grow up!), some moved, some sent us postcards on vacation. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, babies and more! I felt like I let down my customers and my amazing employees. I had so many amazing employees over the years, and I was seriously lucky to find so many. I felt so horrible for having to close. I would go through periods of self-doubt and depression for many months afterwards.
Slowly, I started healing. I meditated. I wrote in my journal and would end each entry with positive things about myself. I took out my frustrations on heavy weights at the gym. I did yoga. I cried. I watched too much TV. I tried to read books. I cried. Now I’m really starting to feel better about it all. I really miss the shop immensely and I don’t get to bake enough. So I started this blog. I wanted to do something creative with food/treats that is on my own terms and would include everything I loved all in one place. So there you go. Life is definitely an adventure and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride. Now onto the next adventure. XOXO