An Ode to Vegan Shop-Up

 

People often ask me what my favorite restaurant is in New York City. I frequently mention the vegan diner, Champs, and recently have included some new spots, such as Toad Style and Cinnamon Snail. But the conversation will often conclude with my urging them to check out a pop-up market called Vegan Shop-Up or VSU, because it’s probably one of my favorite things to go to in the city.

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VSU is a vegan market that happens about once a month, often in a vegan bar called Pine Box Rock Shop, in Bushwick, Brooklyn (although they have been adding some Manhattan shop-ups as well). The bar becomes crammed with all sorts of local, vegan vendors who sell everything from sandwiches and cheeses, to chocolates and pastries, to soaps and cosmetics, to shirts and bags. I mostly take advantage of all the wonderful and unique food options and the occasional Bloody Mary, of which the bar has a great selection.

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VSU recently celebrated their 6th anniversary, which got me thinking about how long I had been going to them. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but it has been at least a few years and definitely before I went vegan. This is all thanks to my brother, who has been vegan for about six years (and living in Brooklyn for close to seven). He couldn’t remember how he first heard of the market just that he “always sort of just knew about them.” I still go often with him and we always overindulge. To put it simply, “Vegan Shop-Up is a damn nice place to eat a sandwich and drink a beer.”

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So what kind of food can you find here? This is just a sampling of the copious amounts of delicious delights that I have had at VSU. I will likely post more about them in future posts, in addition to new vendors they are always adding. Also, apologies for everything being iPhone photos.

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Back when they had trucks, and even when the trucks were off the road, Cinnamon Snail was often at VSU. They always had delicious sandwiches, like this maple mustard tempeh sandwich, one of the few that wasn’t powered by spice, but still flavorful nevertheless. They also had amazing pastries, such as their namesake, the cinnamon snail, and loaded donuts, a personal favorite being s’mores, which was stuffed with a chocolate ganache and topped with a perfectly toasted marshmallow. They now have a permanent location at the Pennsy, so I don’t know if they will be returning, but it is great to see how much they have grown.

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Yeah Dawg!!! has been another favorite. They make hot dogs out of root vegetables, sunflower seeds, and gluten-free flowers, a little different than the soy or seitan ones you often find. And then they are topped with anything from pickled pineapple, to coconut bacon, to chipotle mayo, and more. They have also grown a lot, expanding to other pop-up events and now selling in stores and restaurants.

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I think it’s also safe to say that I’ve eaten the best tacos here. Los Veganos Hermanos is a newer vendor that has partnered with Monk’s Meats. They start with amazing homemade tortillas and then fills them with amazing flavor combinations such as lentil chorizo, seitan chili verde, and mushroom carnitas.

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Another amazing vendor is Peaceful Provisions. They are run by two super sweet twins, Bee and Jay, and make some of the most creative food. They make a lot of really good sweets and pastries, however my favorite so far has been their savory waffle bowls. I’ve only tried this one, which was tamale inspired, layered with flavors such as chick’n asado and tomatillo salsa, but they rotate their flavors and come up with many amazing creations.

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Lastly I must mention Sweet Maresa’s macarons. Maresa has certainly perfected the art of the macaron, with a slightly crisp and chewy shell, a smooth filling, and the whole thing melting in your mouth. She comes up with so many unique flavors that I’m constantly grabbing a macaron almost everytime I go to a shop-up. These two are bay leaf plum and rose.

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Although I could talk forever about the wonderful food, I think what I like just as much about VSU is the community. I have met some wonderful people at VSU, both vendors and other shoppers. You certainly don’t have to be vegan to go, but there is the feeling at these events that you have stepped into a vegan world where everyone shares similar interests and passions and it highlights the endless possibilities of this lifestyle.

Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Shiitake Bacon [vegan]

 

Hello and welcome to our first blog post! This month we are focusing on soup. Over in Brooklyn, the snow has been scarce and the temperature mild, but anytime is still a good one for soup. For this dish, I gathered some inspiration from a local restaurant and a favorite blog to create a quite delectable pairing.

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When thinking about what soup to make, my mind first went to orange soups. I know that’s not an actual category of soup, but whether it’s sweet potato, squash, carrots, or red lentils, as long as it’s orange, it seems to make a good soup. However, since autumn has come and gone, I thought I’d break out of my comfort zone and try something else.

I recently went to by CHLOE. for the fourth time. For those of you that don’t know, it’s a casual vegan restaurant that has experienced incredible success since opening in Greenwich Village a few months ago. By CHLOE. makes a wonderful shiitake bacon that tops their kale caesar salad and their amazing sweet potato mac and cheese. While shiitake bacon isn’t a new concept, I hadn’t tried making it yet. I have made other types of plant based bacons, including ones from coconut, eggplant, and tempeh, which have all been delicious. I decided to start with this as my inspiration and find a soup that would complement its salty smokiness.

I thought a milder vegetable would help the bacon shine, and something creamy would compliment the crispiness. I stumbled upon a roasted cauliflower and onion soup by the wonderful blog, The First Mess, that seemed ideal, satisfying the mild and creamy elements. Now, to find reasonably priced cauliflower…

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I didn’t change up this recipe too much, mainly just adding garlic and increasing the lemon. After prepping the veggies and getting them roasting in the oven, I worked on the shiitakes. Continuing to take inspiration from Chloe and her eponymous restaurant, I decided to use her recipe. Her method uses just shiitakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper – no liquid aminos, paprika, or liquid smoke, which are often added to other types of vegetable bacons. Since the shiitakes have a good amount of flavor on their own when roasted, they don’t need an additional flavor boost.

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When the cauliflower had turned golden, I took out the sheet pan and doused them in lemon. I then dumped everything into a pot of broth I had on the stove and used my trusty stick blender to blend everything until it was velvety smooth. Then I brought the soup to a boil as the bacon finished in the oven.

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And then came the moment of truth. Would these pair together as well as I’d imagined? Oh, yes! The bacon was the perfect topping. Both the flavors and textures contrasted and complimented each other beautifully.

One last note: while the soup refrigerates well for several days, the shiitake bacon has to be eaten fresh. It quickly loses its crispiness, although it certainly still holds its flavor. All the more reason to snack on it when it first come out of the oven. Now to find more excuses to make shiitake bacon…

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Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Shiitake Bacon [vegan]

Inspired by and adapted from The First Mess and Chef Chloe.

Servings: 4-6

Soup:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 4-7 medium potatoes, preferable yukon gold
  • 2-3 medium onions
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of a lemon
  • 5-6 cups vegetable broth/stock
  • shiitake bacon
    • shiitake mushrooms
    • olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
  • Optional additional garnishes: oil, lemon, herbs, croutons

 

Preheat oven to 400 °F.

Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper, for the roasted veggies and the shiitake mushrooms.

Core and roughly chop the cauliflower. Chop the potatoes and the onions, a bit smaller than the cauliflower. Peel garlic and chop only if cloves are very large.

Place everything onto the prepared baking sheet. Add rosemary, a generous amount of salt, and pepper to taste. Add a few tablespoons of oil and mix so that everything is well coated.

Roast vegetables for 45-60 minutes, making sure to stir them a few times. Once slightly browned, remove from oven, add lemon juice, and let cool.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the shiitake mushrooms by removing the stems and cutting them about a quarter of an inch thick. Place in a single layer on another lined baking sheet. Add a generous amount of salt in addition to pepper and oil.

Place into the oven with the roasted vegetables for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally. When crispy, remove and let cool.

If using a stick blender, add vegetables and broth to a large pot and purée until smooth. If using a regular blender, add vegetables and broth in batches and blend until smooth. Heat the soup up to a boil and add more broth or water if it’s too thick. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve hot and top with shiitake bacon and any other garnishes of your choosing.