Zagat explores vegan Italian food! Fancy that.
As [Sarma Melngailis, founder of One Lucky Duck and Pure Food and Wine] put it, she’s not trying to replicate the typical Italian experience—rather, she’s creating a new tradition with her food. All the usual Italian flavors—tomato, garlic, herbs—are there, but the dishes are decidedly different from what you might find at the average red-sauce joint in Little Italy.
“Our food stands on its own,” she said.
[Raw, vegan lasagna at Pure Food and Wine. Photo courtesy of One Lucky Duck via Zagat]
Interview: Jessie Williams of Eat Pastry Cookie Dough! »
We love Eat Pastry Cookie Dough. We fucking looooooove it. It’s amazing out of the tub, it’s amazing baked up, and it’s amaaaazing mixed into ice cream. It’s at Rainbow and Whole Foods and you need to buy it and eat it all the time DO IT. We also love Jessie and Alfredo, the two fabulous pastry chefs behind it. They are obviously both geniuses and one day will probably have a national holiday named after them. Enjoy Jessie’s answers below and look at their ADORABLE Pomeranian, Poe, and I triple dog dare you not to kiss all up on your computer screen. Good luck!
Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal-rights reasons, or a combination thereof?
Combination. With all the news about the downgrade in people’s health, the environment’s health, and the health of animals, how could we NOT be vegan! Times are changing and so is the world we’re living in. Over time, I see more and more people choosing to eat vegan if the options are made available.
How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
I’d say about eight months into launching our business we became vegan. When we began the business we had already transitioned into vegetarianism, but were still holding a blind eye to the harmful effects dairy had both on us, the environment, and the animals that produce it. That’s when we decided to cut out animal products entirely. We immediately felt happier, healthier, and true to ourselves.
Why did you start Eat Pastry? What’s your story? Talk to us!
It’s been such a journey for us. We met in pastry school at the French Culinary Institute in NYC. The first day the Chef paired us as partners. I wanted to call [Alfredo] “Alf.” He wasn’t down with the idea, saying, “I don’t eat cats.” After I finally remembered his name, we worked well together and were close friends all throughout school. But it wasn’t until the last month of Alfredo’s time in New York that we realized our feelings for one another were deeper then friendship. Alfredo had planned to go to Costa Rica to work on an organic farm, and I had planned to find some kind of job in NYC—we ended up flying out to California and renting a car out of LAX. We drove up and down the coast searching for jobs, and were offered a few, but nothing felt right. One day in Santa Barbara we sat on the beach and decided to start our own thing, together. That was scary, considering we were young, naïve, and in a relationship. Needless to say, we learned quite a bit about each other on our journey to cookie dough land, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was hard, and times were sometimes tough, but we finally landed on a stellar idea—vegan cookie dough! Pre-packaged and ready to eat, or bake! Things really began lining up from there. We moved to San Diego, began working with a great company called Moxie Sozo to create funky packaging, and started sampling our dough. Once our local Whole Foods in La Jolla took us on, we began gaining accounts throughout Southern California. Alfredo drove our product deliveries up and down the coast from here to L.A. It wasn’t until February of 2010, when we gained distribution, that he got to sleep in. At last, we were able to settle into our kitchen and do what we do best: crank out the dough!
What’s your favorite flavor?
Jessie: Raw: Peanut Butter; Baked: Oatmeal Raisin ChocoChip! And Chocoholic mixed into mint coconut milk ice cream. It’s ridiculous. In a good way.
Alfredo: Raw: Peanut Butter; Baked: Chocolate Chip.
Any cute Eat Pastry stories to share?
It was quite difficult to find a commercial kitchen to make our cookie dough in. We looked at a few places, including the one we’re in now, but weren’t 100 percent sold on any one in particular. We thought this one was pretty good, so we went back for a second look. When we walked in we noticed everything had been taken out by the previous tenant, except a small magnet in the shape of a heart. It read “True Love.” It was at that point we knew this was our kitchen! We use the magnet today to hold up our orders.
Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?
Yes, our two-year-old dog Poe! He is a pomeranian weighing in at a whopping 16 lbs.—but he’s not overweight, he has long legs! We got him through a woman who owned two beautiful 11-week-old pom puppies but was not able to watch them because she was dealing with sickness. We agreed to help her out, taking care of them until she was able but that never happened. She ended up moving, and could not take care of the pups. Lucky for us, we ended up with our little guy. A friend of ours fell in love with his brother, and took him home with her. The brothers are living happily ever after.
Do you have any super-cute photos of animals to share with us? Favorite animal videos on YouTube?
Oh yes! Alfredo edited this video of Poe greeting us when we get home. We’re a little biased because he’s our own dog, but it’s hilarious!
What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
Wow, that is a toughie. I really like piggies. They’re so cute! Horses probably take the cake though. I grew up with them, and being around them brings back good memories and feelings of love. Alfredo is a huge dog-lover. He has successfully potty-trained an Australian terrier, a miniature schnauzer, and two rough and tough pomeranian brothers.
Favorite vegan cookbook?
We don’t really use cookbooks to often. If I want to try to veganize a dish, I’ll Google the original non-vegan recipe, and make it vegan using my own improvisation. But I do own Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. We love the onion ring recipe!
What’s your favorite vegan dish to make?
Cookies! Just kidding. Biscuits and gravy, hands down. I finally perfected the gravy, so now I want to eat it every night.
Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
Anything with mushrooms.
Favorite vegan restaurant?
It may sound crazy, but we were recently at a trade show in Ontario, California and found this restaurant called Thai Vegan. It was amazing. We’re contemplating moving there just so we can get their takeout. I love Pure Food and Wine in NYC, too. That is where we had our first date. I recall drinking one too many Master Cleanse martinis…
Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
Of course! Whoever is willing to fly down is more than welcome. I can make vegan lasagna!! Or my biscuits and gravy! OR Alfredo can make his vegan paella! How about all three? The date is negotiable.
Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
How many sexual partners have you all had combined. JUST KIDDING. Seriously, who came up with your awesome dinosaur logo? He looks hungry, and I want him to come to dinner too. [Ed.: Jonas created the dino! And between 1/2 and 500!]
Raw moon pie from Pure Food and Wine in NYC. I know there are mixed reviews about this place but PUT IT IN MY MOUTH RIGHT NOW PLEASE. (that’s what she said!) (can you do those jokes to yourself?)
Vegansaurus NYC: Pure Food and Wine! »
Here I am, still on my East Coast holiday. I went up to New York to visit my big brother and while I was there my sister, my sister-in-law, my sister-in-law’s sister (what do you call your sister-in-law’s sister? She’s my brother’s sister-in-law but I don’t think she’s mine. There’s no word for it! Wacky English language!) and I went to Pure Food and Wine in Manhattan. It’s a pretty swank raw vegan (some items have honey but they’re marked) restaurant in Union Square. OMG the last time my sister-in-law was at Pure Food and Wine, Gisele was there! The model! OMG! You starfucker.
The food was pretty damn good. Raw isn’t always my favorite because while I’m not a meat-and-potatoes kind of girl, I am a bread-and-potatoes kind of girl. There’s not much of that at a raw place. But the menu here was pretty impressive; it was hard to decide what to order. For starters, my sis-in-law got a papaya salad that she loved. I got a super-delicious frisee salad that had some tasty pears and stuff in it, and I’m not that into salads. I’m a picky eater! Don’t you hate when you don’t want to eat something and people are like, “but it’s vegan…” like you’ll eat anything that’s meat- and dairy-free! Jeez louise. I guess this is kind of an aside. Back to our regularly scheduled program!
For the entree I had this pretty crazy pickled-beet ravioli thing pictured above, officially titled “Sweet Pickled Beet and Rosemary Cashew Chèvre Ravioli.” It was good. I wasn’t in love with it…but it was good. The chèvre was very tasty but I wasn’t that into the pickled beets. My sister got this enchilada thing that was just some mush but SO GOOD. She’s not vegan at all but she was totally into it.
With dinner, I had a sake mohito and it was the sheezy. All their cocktails were sake-based. Does anyone know what that’s about? I didn’t ask our waiter. He had a ponytail. Those are unrelated thoughts.
The desserts were really good. There was a lot of ice cream and sorbet, as well as a few cake-like items. My sis-in-law got the assorted sorbet dessert. It was very pretty and very yummy and we all shared it with her (AND got our own desserts. You know how we do!). That’d be a good dessert to share if you didn’t all want to get your own thing. I got the mint chocolate sundae. It was AWESOME. It had three kinds of ice cream, all very delicious. My sister got that too and she liked it a lot.
All in all, banging! If you couldn’t guess, it was very expensive. If you can afford it, it’s definitely worth checking out. It would be a great date place, it’s got kind of a romantic atmosphere—reds, dark woods, romantical lighting—but still relaxed.
[photos by Megan Rascal]