Fat Choy – Vegan Chinese in Lower East Side

The catchy name Fat Choy immediately drew me in. I knew exactly what kind of restaurant Fat Choy, a small scrappy restaurant in the Lower East Side, would be, and I wasn’t wrong. It was playful and homey, a little bit familiar and a little bit not, a perfect description of the “kinda Chinese” but mostly tasty ethos that drives the cooking at the Fat Choy kitchen. Kinda Asian restaurants are in abundance these days. You can imagine some second or third generation chef making some tweaks to a family recipe, smiling if it works and shrugging her shoulders if it doesn’t. The angle at Fat Choy is that its kinda Chinese food is vegan. It sounds impossible at first, since we tend to associate Chinese food with pork or chicken, but when you think about how tasty Chinese vegetables are on their own, then it makes a lot of sense.

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Ample, the Best Food Hack Since Sliced Bread

I feel like our world is obsessed with discovering the latest “hack” to make our lives as efficient as possible. I always receive emails about helpful hacks that will save me time, make me happier, make my workouts better, etc, etc. And of course eating hacks seem to be especially popular. How can we make our meals more convenient, more nutritious, more enjoyable so that we have more time leftover to do the things that we really love? The startup world is overrun with companies that are determined to hack your way to a better meal by delivering your food faster or doing the grocery shopping for you. Good food can be yours with just a click of an app.

Ample Bottles
bottles of ample ready to go. 400 calories, natural ingredients, 26% protein, 25% carbs, 49% healthy fat.

Ample is a new food startup that takes food hacking to the extreme. It disrupts our whole approach to eating by reducing the activity to only its core essential – delivering sustenance to the body. You don’t have to deal with the nuisance of thinking about what to eat, physically going out to get your food, waiting for a meal to get to you or doing any sort of prep whatsoever. All you do is grab an Ample meal shake bottle, fill it with some water or milk, shake vigorously to blend, and consume 400 clean calories fortified with the right mix of nutrients so that it can serve as a reliable meal replacement. And now you can get those 30 minutes back that would have been spent thinking about which salad to get at Chop’t and walking the few blocks over there.

I’m clearly not the right demographic for Ample, as I live to eat and can always make time for food. Even if I know that I will have back-to-back meetings, I will go get a salad at 10 am and bring it back to the office so that I am all prepared for the day ahead. I guess some people do not think ahead like that. These are probably the same people who are so busy that they forget to eat and think eating is getting in the way of getting things done. But I was curious to see what it tasted like and how I could potentially integrate Ample part-time into my life, so I took the plunge and decided to hack my lunch with an Ample shake.

Marni Ample 3
marni’s a fan of this life hack

It certainly was the easiest and quickest meal I ever made. I simply poured water up toward the top of the bottle and shook it pretty hard to make sure things were well-blended. I found that even though I was thorough in my shaking, things didn’t quite blend completely, and I was left with some powdery pancake-batter like lumps floating around. Flavor-wise, it wasn’t too bad. With almond milk, the Ample shake tasted somewhat like cookie batter, which isn’t a bad frame of reference. With water, however, I found that it tasted too much like some GNC muscle shake, although without that tinny, artificial aftertaste. I was nervous that I would be hungry, but what do you know, I actually was satiated from 12 to 4 pm, and no sugar crashes or anything in between. I honestly think that it would be worthwhile to have emergency bottles of Ample on standby for those days when things are crazy and finding time to step out for lunch is annoying. Because sometimes a Kind Bar doesn’t cut it. But an Ample shake definitely will.

So if this life hack is up your alley, you can pre-order some Ample shakes here on the company’s Indiegogo campaign page. Volume is key, because a $30 contribution can get you a 6-pack at $5 a bottle, whereas a $135 contribution can get you a 30-pack at $4.50 a bottle. The bottles are good for 6 months so stock up all you want! You can also choose between 400 or 600 calorie options. Clean, optimized eating at your fingertips, and affordable at that. Gone are the days of $15 salads at Sweetgreen or Chop’t. This might be the best food hack since sliced bread…

Superiority Burger

first ones at superiority burger
first ones at superiority burger

I know the suspense is killing you, so let’s get this out of the way–the veggie burger at Superiority Burger does not live up to its name. Not even close. It’s definitely not superior in size. When we took it out of the wrapper, I felt like I was looking at a mini slider, not a burger. A few bites and the whole thing was gone. It’s also not superior to other top veggie burgers in the city. That prize would go to the veggie burger at By Chloe, a creation so good that I would even choose it over a real burger in some cases. The mushy patty at Superiority Burger with the texture of raw meatloaf? I would pass on that.

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the sloppy dave. superior to the burger.

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the burger. not quite superior.

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burnt broccoli salad

And what I found funniest is that it’s not even superior to things on its own menu. Those honors would go to the Sloppy Dave, which was a fantastic homage, and, might I add, way superior to, the cafeteria sandwiches of our youth. I guess it’s too late for a name change.

Superiority Burger
430 E. 9th St (between 1st Ave and Ave A)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 256-1192

Dirt Candy’s Vegetable Brunch

Dirt Candy officially launched brunch service at their Lower East Side space. We dropped by during the soft open, and not surprisingly, it was doing brisk business. There was a nice, neighborhood feel to the place, despite the slick, new relocation, with small groups and families enjoying the brunch, including Bob Tuschman of the Food Network!

The menu, as expected, features traditional brunch fare with a seasonally-driven, vegetarian twist. You can choose from corn french toast, green huevos and no ham, zucchini pancakes, carrot granola, omelette with a spicy cilantro radish filling and a “canadian cracker” waffle with cheddar and roasted tomatoes. Even brunch libations get the vegetable treatment. You can order a “bloody carrie,” which has grilled carrot in it, or a yellow pepper mimosa, which utilizes real yellow pepper juice as a mixer.

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corn french toast

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green huevos and no ham

If you’re feeling more lunch than brunch, there are several hearty veggie sandwiches you can choose from–the greens sandwich, which consists of various stir-fried greens in two giant slabs of focaccia bread, a smoky beet sandwich that apparently resembles pastrami, a cabbage and avocado with kimchi option, and an intriguing spinach ramen salad.

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the greens stir-fried broccoli sandwich

The way to go here is to share a brunch dish, a lunch sandwich, and the corn french toast as a dessert. This is one square meal that you won’t forget!

Dirt Candy
86 Allen St (between Broome and Grand St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 228-7732

Vegan Food, by CHLOE

When I took Ruoxi to the new vegan restaurant by CHLOE in Greenwich Village, the first thing he said was, “Wow, there are a lot of girls here.” It’s true that the ratio of women to men was largely skewed towards female, and you could probably count the number of men on two hands. He looked concern, taking the lack of dudes to be a sign that this food would be too healthy and spa-like to appeal to people like him.

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the classic burger with a tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty, pickles, onion, beet ketchup, special sauce and potato bun

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air baked sweet potato french fries

Which is why it was impressive that he was so sold on the Classic Burger, which he proclaimed to be the best veggie burger he had ever tried. Granted, he probably has only ever tried two veggie burgers in his life, but Ruoxi never judges on a curve, which means the Classic Burger was objectively a great burger. This patty, a blend of tempeh, lentil, chia and walnut, will never truly mimic a juicy, savory meat patty, but the light, nutty veggie “hash brown”, if you will, had its own merits. The tangy pickles and the ketchup like special sauce also helped to make the experience of eating the veggie burger taste very, very similar to the real thing. The air baked sweet potato fries, on the other hand, were just as tasty and crispy as the fried version.

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spicy thai salad with apricot-sriracha glazed tempeh, quinoa, edamame, scallion, crispy wontons and peanut dressing

The salads here are not the leafy kinds that you would normally expect. They’re big, hearty bowls that are densely full of good stuff. The spicy thai salad, for instance, looked like a bowl of Chinese takeout on a bed of quinoa and edamame, and the taste wasn’t that far off either. The apricot-sriracha glaze on the chicken-like tempeh had caramelized into a crispy shell that was very reminiscent of General Tso’s. It was extremely satisfying, much like a meal from P. F. Chang’s, but 10x healthier.

This vegan restaurant was so good, that Ruoxi said he would willingly come back for some more, even if it meant sitting awkwardly between lots of girls and their yoga mats. Chloe or whoever is running the restaurant knows what she’s doing. She’s focused on making good, wholesome food that actually tastes good. Yes, the initial draw might be the health conscious chicks, but with food this good, first come the girls, and then come the guys…

185 Bleecker Street (between Macdougal and Sullivan St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 290-8000