Dual Specialty Store, Inc. – New York, New York

In the East Village, there’s a place that’ll take you to an Indian spice bazaar. It sits on 1st Avenue between East 5th and 6th Streets in Manhattan. Dual Specialty Store, Inc. has been serving New Yorkers since 1989, engaging people in aromas and flavors from around the globe.

Dual Specialty Store is an all-time favorite that I’ve patronizing since it opened in 1989. It is my go-to place for spices. It is jam-packed with every spice, herb, grain, bean and root imaginable. They also sell fresh produce, nuts, breads and  Indian specialties. They even offer a rather large selection of imported, domestic and crafted beers. With so much being rare yet available, Dual has amazingly affordable prices. You won’t go broke here. 

With so many items being not typical of American supermarkets, it never fails to amaze me in what you can find here. In fact, a few days ago, we dropped in to pick up a few odds and ends including chickpea flour, kava kava root, fresh catnip, basmati rice, fresh vanilla beans, and Naga Jolokia, aka “ghost pepper,” the hottest spice on the planet! I may be able to find these things by visiting different shops, but that will break the bank. At Dual, I find everything I need for that one attempt at culinary perfection, and I don’t have travel around the world or to mortgage my home to shop.

If you’re a New Yorker, make it a point to stop by. If you’re from out of town, add Dual to your list of “must-see” places to shop. 

Dual Specialty Store, Inc.
91 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 979-6045

Sweet Avenue Bake Shop – Rutherford, New Jersey

Sweet Avenue Bake Shop is a tiny vegan oasis nestled in leafy, suburban Rutherford, NJ. If the bright pink exterior doesn’t grab your attention the cakey aroma will. It’ll pleasantly hit you before you open the door.
Macaroon happened to find out about this spot online. Since we were attending a doll show in Hackensack, Mac wanted to find a vegan eatery in the area possibly for lunch. The first thing she found brought joy to her little baker’s vegan heart. So guess where we went?

Upon entering the bake shop, our eyes and stomachs grew big. The display case offered a mix of their “Classic” and “Special” cupcakes, ranging between $3.00 and $3.50 for each. All of them were beautifully decorated, almost too pretty to eat. Because everything looked so good, we had trouble deciding on which one we would each get. I had to make a judgment call and declare that we would be get a half-dozen.

We ordered the following (clockwise from the top left): 

Mint Chocolate, Banana Cream Pie, Tiramisu, Bacio, Charlie Sheen “Tiger Blood” and Red Velvet

We couldn’t help ourselves. Right after we received our hot pink cupcake box of goodness, we tore into the Banana Cream Pie (my favorite) and Red Velvet before grabbing lunch at Whole Foods in Paramus. Damn friggin good!

As we crossed the bridge back into New York, we couldn’t stop talking about the cupcakes. The moment we got home, we split the Tiramisu and the Mint Chocolate. Damn friggin good…again!
Before dinner, we shared the Bacio (chocolate cupcake with a chocolate-hazelnut filling). Good, but we were expecting more of a nutella taste with this. Nevertheless, this is not a cupcake we would turn down if offered. 
We saved Charlie for last. Mac couldn’t get over how they decorated the cupcake with the transfer of him on it. When we finally bit into it, we both were “WINNING!” with “Tiger Blood” in our veins. Mac thinks this was the best cupcake of the bunch, being a blood orange cupcake with orange-mixed berry filling. 
One thing I have to say is that these vegan cupcakes tasted so good that even the carnivores would beg for them. We don’t go to Rutherford that often, but Mac thinks we’ll be making a regular stop here when in NJ.

Sweet Avenue Bake Shop
153 Park Avenue
Rutherford, NJ 07070-2307
(201) 935-2253

Tony Boloney’s – Atlantic City, New Jersey

Meet “The Veggiehead” sans cheese
Though we enjoyed our stay in Atlantic City, we have to say that this town is not vegan-friendly. However, if you’re quick on your feet, you can find ways to veganize your meals. You might be pleasantly surprised how a simple tweak or omission can turn your breakfast, lunch or dinner into culinary excellence. One of the places where we had great success was at a local pizzeria, featured on the Food Network, called Tony Boloney’s.

With Artichoke being a pizza connoisseur, he can tell in quick scan of a menu if a spot is quality. With that, Tony Boloney’s disappoint. We found that their extensive menu of Italian-American fare (pizza, pasta, etc) included some vegetarian options where all that had to be done was to leave off the cheese. Easy peasy!

Due to some issues with hotel valets, we decided to pick up our dinner and bring it back. 
Now, Tony Boloney’s isn’t in the nicest of areas, if going around at night, but that doesn’t take away from the great food! In fact, when we arrived, the place was hoppin’ with folks. In a city like Atlantic City, where there are pizza shops and Italian restaurants abound, they challenge some of the “upper crust” spots in town.

We ordered a pizza called “The Veggiehead,” which included 10 spicy marinated veggies with smoked mozzarella. Off with the cheese, and we were in business. The pizza definitely had a kick, which pleasantly surprised the both of us. You got to love a place that isn’t scared to spice up things. At the same time, you can taste every single vegetable on the pizza. The balance was on point.

Oh and let’s add that the folks behind the counter are really cool. Artichoke spent some time talking shop about hockey with one guy, all inspired by Artichoke’s Nordiques beanie. Just for that alone, we’re hooked on this place. So guess who’s making another visit on our next trip to A.C.

Tony Boloney’s
300 Oriental Ave (Corner of S. Vermont)
Atlantic City, New Jersey

Kaya’s Kitchen – Belmar, New Jersey

In a place far, far away called Belmar, there’s a little piece of veggie goodness called Kaya’s Kitchen. There, herbivores, carnivores and omnivores alike can enjoy some of the finest delicious vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Not only can they eat together, but they can enjoy each other’s company in an artistic, cultural environment that not only feeds the body, but also invigorates the mind.

Kaya’s Kitchen is located about an hour and 20 minutes south of New York City. We happened to learn about this place from one of Macaroon’s friends who recommended it about a year ago. Mac had casually mentioned wanting to visit, but we hadn’t had an opportunity to go “down the shore” to do so until now. It was well worth the wait.

Immediately upon entering, we got a warm, inviting vibe just from the decor and layout. There’s a great sense of culture and community in this place, which offers live entertainment and poetry. There are tables for local businesses and organizations to promote themselves and share events with everyone. The walls are adorn with some great pieces like masks and tapestries from different parts of the globe.
What about the food, you ask? Well, of course, that’s the best part. Kaya’s Kitchen has a vast menu with something for everyone, whether you’re a herbivore, carnivore or omnivore. From country nuggets to pierogies to pineapple curry, you can scan the globe in a matter of bites.
During our visit, we shared the following:
Kaya’s Combo: nuggets, wings, bbq ribs and potato salad
Chili: 3-bean chili
Sloppy Joe: Served with a side of onion rings
Kaya’s Combo was a plate of appetizer awesomeness. We had a hard time trying to decide what we liked the best. Mac had to vote for the Karma Wings (buffalo tofu strips). Artichoke went with the Mississippi Ribs (made from seitan). We also have to say that the potato salad was flat-out rockin’ and full of flavor.
The chili was delicious 3 types of beans and ground soy protein. This stuff was like the real deal with the “meat” texture being spot-on. It was good, but definitely need a stronger spice kick. However, that could have been on purpose as often some folks can’t handle too much heat. Nevertheless, it was darn good.
The Sloppy Joe was a mutha of a sandwich; a yummy monster. Having shared the first 2 dishes, when the Sloppy Joe came, our eyes fell out of our heads. You literally needed 4 hands to eat it! After getting through 1/4 of the sandwich and all of the onion rings, we had to sadly throw in the towel. It was really good, and we were glad to take the rest to go. In fact, since we returned home, the remainder of the sandwich had been devoured, tasting even better than it did than first served.

If you couldn’t tell, we really dig this spot! It actually rivals our favorite vegan spots like Foodswings in Brooklyn, Kate’s Joint and Red Bamboo in Manhattan and Veggie Heaven in Teaneck and New City. We plan on making another visit soon, as it’s worth the 1hr. 20 min. trip for deliciousness.

Kaya’s Kitchen
1000 Main St.

Belmar, NJ 07791

In “Heaven,” Everything Is Fine

Here’s a bit of trivia for you: David Lynch and Macaroon share the same birthday! He’s one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. Of course, this fact has nothing to do with food and today’s post, but as I write this, I have “In Heaven” from the film, “Erasehead” running through my mind.

Speaking of being “In Heaven,” for my birthday dinner, Artichoke and Mommy Macaroon took me to a wonderful Asian vegetarian restaurant called Veggie Heaven in New City, New York (about 30-40 minutes from NYC). Veggie Heaven is actually a small local chain which started in New Jersey with a total of 4 locations; the one in New City being their most recent addition. Artichoke and I had been to their Teaneck location a few times and always had a great meal. I had no concern about the food. However, I was worried about Mommy Macaroon, because she always makes a skunk face at the mention of anything vegetarian.
Veggie Heaven specializes in mock meats made from tofu, soy and wheat gluten. Their place mats actually explain their purpose and food, which is great for novices. Everything from their chicken to seafood is “fake,” getting as close to the real deal with texture and flavor as possible. The hungriest of carnivore would be surprised.
The decor at the New City location is more contemporary than the Teaneck location, which has more of an Asian cultural feel to it. That’s about the only difference between the two. The service is superb and friendly. The food is delicious, though I think New City has one up on Teaneck in that area.
As we were seated, we were offered hot tea, which hit the spot, and a Chinese cabbage salad with a nice touch of garlic for us to share. Mommy was all about the salad and couldn’t get enough. For appetizers, we went a little crazy sharing yam fries, cold noodles with sesame sauce, spring rolls and barbecue boneless “ribs.” All tasted great and had nice flavor. However, the sesame sauce could have used a tinge of garlic for the noodles. Otherwise, no complaints.
Clockwise from the top: Barbecue “Ribs,” Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce, Spring Roll and Yam Fries
For our entrées, we agreed to split three dishes. Mommy ordered Creaky Chicken, which was lightly breaded and fried slices of soy chicken served with ginger-chili sauce. Artichoke got the Ting Ting Two Flavors, which had cubes of tofu and soy beef prepared in a light yet flavorful brown sauce. I requested the Double Delight with Eggplant which was sliced eggplant with soy chicken and soy shrimp in a spicy sauce. All were served with brown rice.
We all agreed that the Creaky Chicken was the best. However, the other 2 dishes were yummy. We kept picking away at each other’s plates. When we realized we needed to leave room for dessert, we found that there was there was so much food between the three of us that we couldn’t finish it all. So naturally, we asked for it to be packed up for someone’s (being my) lunch the next day!me
Clockwise from the top: Creaky Chicken, Ting Ting Two Flavor and Double Delight with Eggplant
We ended our meal with dessert. After speaking with our waiter, we found out that all desserts were vegan. That brought a major smile to my face, especially since the chocolate cake was calling my name. Artichoke went for the coconut cake. Mommy was a little taken aback by how good dinner was that she was actually nervous about ordering dessert. She wanted ice cream, but they only offer soy ice cream. So the skunk face made its reappearance. After a few hems and haws, she definitely decide on the almond bark ice cream.
The chocolate cake was so rich and decadent. It was almost like a German chocolate cake sans coconut with a heaping amount of pudding on top. The slice was so big that I had to take half of it home. Needless to say, it didn’t last 10 minutes once we walked through the door.
The coconut cake was light, but flavor was standard. It tasted like how you would expect it to taste, like coconut cake. I will say that if they mixed the chocolate cake with the coconut cake, it would have been to die for, just like a yummy tummy German chocolate cake (can you tell that I like that?).
The almond bark ice cream was pretty darn good. It was a vanilla soy with bits of chocolate almond bark in it. Mommy really liked it and said that it was just like ice cream! What shocked me was how quickly she devoured it. She always takes her time eating. So I know she really enjoyed this.
The meal ended with some fresh orange slices which acted as a nice palate cleanser.
Yeah, that was gone lickity-split!
Veggie Heaven has an extensive menu with traditional Chinese-American dishes and specialities. The prices are pretty reasonable. Appetizers range from around $3.00 to $7.00 (not including any platters). Entrees range from around $8.00 to approximately $20.00. Portions are large and filling. I think if we cut back on the appetizers, we would have finished our dishes. The dessert prices are across the board. Customers actually have an option of ordering an entire cake, rather than just a slice.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Veggie Heaven is worth the trip to either Rockland County, NY or out to New Jersey. Bring some of your carnivore or omnivore friends along. They’ll be pleasantly surprised!