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The Hearty Vegan Food Revue

Updated on January 19, 2014

Vegan Bang Bang Chicken and Beef

My gift of Friday, was an invitation by a friend, Greg Sotire - musician, dad, fine guitar salesman, and otherwise incredibly clean-living vegan – to dinner. He suggested Veggie Heaven in New City. And, me, not knowing any place in Westchester to get decent vegetarian food (apart from the fast-foodish offerings at Whole Foods), was wholly game, especially after I learned why Greg wasn’t a cafeteria vegan.

“I’ve stuck to this diet since I started it.”

The reason was heart disease, on heart attack at age 32 when he became a vegetarian, to no remarkable effect. It did not resolve the artery blockage or his doctor’s warnings that there would be repeat arrests. Two stints later, be became a full throttle vegan and cleaned out his arteries with a vegan diet, a diet that also excludes coffee, alcohol and anything that can be described as unnatural… No nothing, to some.

No nothing worked. No nothing caused the miracle of clean arteries and no heart attacks. No nothing is that he completely reversed heart disease, more a matter of genetics in this case. Greg is forty now and smiles a lot and loves his food, music, son… food.

More food.

The thing about people with food intolerances or strict diets is that food becomes even more important when it’s unavailable. Most of the time, you have to eat “wilted lettuce,” Greg said, if you don’t make the effort, the extra drive and get a little creative.

My diet is low gluten, much the result of having a child with special needs and seeing the good effects that diet manipulation can have on behavior, the gut, and general health. Low gluten cured my tummy trouble. I eat little bits of meat here and there and do eat some fish (mostly farm-raised salmon as I try to do my part to halt the imminent sadness of over-fishing) but it’s a really an issue of my once-titanium-lined (so I thought) stomach that children and life have considerable weakened.

Of course, exercise helps my tightly-wound self which also helps my stomach. It seems that the stresses of the world convene there for me. And I learned from Greg that acidity is also caused from anxiety and stress.

“Doesn’t that suck?” He laughed. Alkaline, ph-balanced water (the new reverse osmosis trend that does help, by the way) may be able to reduce acidity but it can’t cure stress.

Swim, bike, run, yoga… Helps me. Good fuel helps that.

I’ve never been to New City but it was worth it. I can’t begin to describe how tasty the chefs made the vegan offerings. Among them, spring rolls with mango, yummy shoots of something and a saucy cashew and almond paste wrapped in kale (gluten-free). There was vegan pork, vegan (mushroom) beef and tofu chicken sautéed (“stir fry” doesn’t do it justice) called Bang Bang chicken with beef, cashews, asparagus, peppers, onions and a delish sauce that Greg resurrected from a special he once had and they made upon request. Veggie Heaven makes their own faux (not fake) meat in house. Then there are the brown rice dumplings, leftovers of which today I couldn’t wait for lunch to eat. They covered breakfast and lunch even after sharing so that Greg’s son, Pete, could later enjoy.

Dessert bookended dinner with coconut cake. Oh, and the jasmine tea – the best I’ve ever had - which would be a compliment if I’d ever previously tasted jasmine tea – sweeter than green. There’s divinity in that.

The only thing that has ever come close to Veggie Heaven, defined by Wendy, the owner, as “Food for the Five Senses,” is the Ayurveda restaurant on the upper Westside of Manhattan that I used to frequent as a resident there.

Veggie Heaven makes vegetarian beef, pork and chicken taste better than the real deal. Fresh-tasting is an understatement.

To say it is worth the drive… Well, it’s worth the drive. Even after I already had lunch at Andy’s Pure Food in Rye. It was a Good Food Friday. Ever day should be so good.


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