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 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.