Local alternatives for vegans and vegetarians

Some tasty treats at Sweet Maresa’s. (Photos by Morgan Y. Evans)

Ulster County in the summer is full of plenty of chances to work up an appetite. At various junctures for most of my 43 years, I have pursued either very healthy or exceedingly unhealthy lifestyles. Now on the path of virtue in a tourism season intensified by people released from lockdown, I want to promote a few local places that offer green-diet alternatives.

Plenty of places offer hipster versions of grass-fed meat dishes. The animal probably didn’t want to be murdered or have its calf stolen. There’s also a negative environmental impact to antibiotics and hormones. If you watch Seaspiracy on Netflix, you become painfully aware of the dire threat to our ocean from bottom-trawling that is destroying seafloor habitats.

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Much as I cherish any opportunity to listen to vegan straight-edgers, what prompted this article was not so much my Spotify taste or even taste buds in general. I could list all the health benefits of a plant-based diet until I am blue in the face, but I am frankly tired of articles focusing on humans rather than compassion for animals.

Burger King has announced that it will donate to the Human Rights Campaign (America’s largest LGBTQ civil-rights organization) for every chicken sandwich sold in the month of June. While this is a good troll of bigoted anti-LGBTQ Chick-fil-A historical practice, as a demiflux and pansexual person no longer eating chicken I don’t want applaud a fast-food company doing things for a tax writeoff.

Everyone knows about the great food stores like Sunflower, Mother Earth’s Storehouse, and the lovely and quaint High Falls Food Co-op for green groceries and products. Here are a few other local places you need on your radar.
Garden Cafe is at 6 Old Forge Road, right on Woodstock’s village green. The green isn’t that green. It’s more of a town square now than when I was a loitering punk in a Smashing Pumpkins shirt years ago, but you get the drift.
The long-running café has served up delicious and compassionate food over the years. It is not over-hyped but has remained popular. It is still possible to get a table most of the time. We were very lucky on the day we went to get seated right away, with indoor and outdoor options.

A Garden Cafe happy customer.

Sofie, our server, was helpful to us in navigating the menu, which has a lot to choose from. I immensely enjoyed the veggie lasagna with no noodles, layers of seasonal veggies and cashew ricotta.

The bang-for-your-buck factor is very on point. Kids can enjoy a daiya cheddar quesadilla and never know the difference! The menu is 100% plant based, non-GMO, and uses lots of local ingredients. And yes, if you drink they serve organic wine and lots of good beer as well, like Abita’s Purple Haze and Founders All Day IPA. If you are sober, like I now am, you will enjoy a black mango or herbal hibiscus Iced tea on a hot, sunny day. 

As far as incredible bakery options go, my partner and I are completely addicted to Sweet Maresa’s in the Kingston Stockade District (www.sweetmaresas.com). Regularly making masterpieces of flavor that force you to ask yourself whether you have ever had anything better from a bakery, the brightly-colored shop is a fully vegan space. I dare you to not tell someone that, and see whether they even notice.

In a warmer season like this one, Maresa’s offers an ice pack with every order by mail. They’ll wrap your products in insulated bubble wrap and ship them anywhere in the United States. Espresso candied citrus cake, anyone?
The macaroons are terrific. I have recently been having daydreams about the strawberry rhubarb and Earl Gray tea.

With its s’mores cookies (cruelty-free) and gluten-free double chocolate brownies that most assuredly don’t suck, this place is to die for. The last few birthday cakes I have purchased there have been a complete hit. 

Super Bowl Cuisine, also in Kingston, is a super go-to if you want Chinese food with a plethora of vegan options. Super Bowl offers delivery, which is fantastic if you are too tired to cook up a stir fry and crave some unchicken with veggies. Most nights lately, I have been obsessed with steamed cauliflower, nutritional yeast, garlic, garbanzo beans and mushrooms. When I don’t want to cook the dish. it is awesome to be able to get it from Super Bowl. In Kingston.

I can also recommend lightning-fast delivery of cauliflower wings from The Anchor.

Green Bar, a newer establishment in New Paltz at 117 Main Street, offers smoothie bowls. While not all options are vegan (some honey and bee pollen is included in certain things), the place has plenty of green-friendly choices. The Balanced Berry bowl has organic spirulina, banana and almond milk as its base and is topped with strawberry, banana, granola, blueberry, peanut butter and agave. They have lots of healthy juices and some CBD products.