Monday, April 17, 2017

Vegan Five One Eats #1

Since I've been posting food on my Instagram account, I thought it would be a great idea to document my search for great Vegan Restaurant establishments. Also, my endless online research was the inspiration behind this series. Whenever I travel, my first task is to look for nearby restaurants with vegan options. Right now, I reside in the Albany area so my objective was already in full swing. Obviously, I will do more than one and it will focus only on establishments. Any other establishments you can think of, please let me know. I will not limit it just to the Albany area. I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to highlight restaurants that do not get enough attention. Thank you for viewing. If you would like to know more about the vegan eatery, the information is posted below.

Vegan Five One Eats #1: Berben & Wolff's, Lark Street

This establishment was on my list for awhile through word of mouth on social media. Since I was going to a hockey game later that day, this would be a perfect opportunity to check this place out.  It finished second place in the Times Union Best Of 2017: Locally Owned Restaurant category. It is very impressive that a Vegan eatery is getting noticed and tastes are slowly begin to change for the better.

Just after 2 PM on Saturday, the establishment is very quiet and not busy at all. The cashier is taking an order over the phone and the bakery case was almost wiped out. I over hear the cashier telling another customer that it was very busy earlier starting at noon. Berben & Wolff's is open 10 AM-8 PM Tuesday through Saturday and 10 AM- 3PM Sunday. They do not offer a breakfast menu but they make up with a very good sandwich selection and good variety of To Go items. Look out for weekly specials on their Facebook page and their Wing Wednesday promotion.

After looking at the menu for a few minutes, I ask the cashier what he recommends since it is my first trip to their establishment. He begins by telling me that they are out of Jackfruit for their BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich. This does not deter me and he recommends the Wing Burger with Buffalo Sauce. The Wing Burger contains a breaded Seitan patty; shredded carrots; diced celery; and ranch on a sesame seed bun. I knew a sandwich would not be enough so I ordered a couple items from the bakery case: Snicker Doodle cupcake and Chickpea Blondie Brownie. Yes all their ingredients they use are vegan and they have gluten free options available too.

Earlier stated, the bakery case was pretty much empty but it did not deter me from eating elsewhere. I would recommend ordering early so you are guaranteed a better selection. While I was waiting for my sandwich, I ate the Snicker Doodle cupcake which was good, soft, and the frosting was very creamy. I'll have to try their other flavors they have available. After finishing the cupcake, the server brought out my sandwich which I could not wait to take a bite of. The first bite was absolutely delicious and messy. The dressing was running down the side of my hand. The patty was very crispy along with the sauce hits my mouth with a slight kick. The celery and carrots complimented the sandwich perfectly. I got a side of greens with the sandwich, as always. Personally, I avoid the common chips and a pickle option that usually comes included with sandwiches at most establishments. After finishing the sandwich, I decided to order another bakery treat, Chickpea Blondie brownie. I really enjoyed this treat and was absolutely amazed at how chickpeas can be made in desserts. When I use chickpeas, they are for salads and protein-based dishes. Wrapped in plastic, the brownie was still very soft not hard as a rock. After finishing that second treat, I told myself that I need to order that again with my next sandwich.

Clockwise (from top to bottom): The Wing Burger, Chickpea Blondie brownie, and Snicker Doodle cupcake

Despite the limited menu during the time I spent there, I was very pleased with the food altogether and will be making another trip there soon. It is small restaurant with limited seating but I love those type of intimate atmospheres. Next time, I'll make sure to get there a little earlier, especially on a Saturday. One of the line cooks even asked me how my sandwich was as he exited the restaurant. I really appreciate when staff asks customers how their experience was in person, not telling them to fill out a comment card or share on social media. He was very happy to hear that I told him the sandwich was delicious. I can't wait to return to Berben & Wolff's soon. For now, it is on to find the next vegan joint.

Berben & Wolff's Official Website

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Code Blue 8K on a Beautiful Day

Yesterday, I ran my second race this year, a local 8K race in Saratoga Springs. The event raised money for emergency shelter in Saratoga Springs, Code Blue Saratoga. It was a nice change of pace competing in a short distance race compared to half-marathons and marathons. I am planning on doing more in the near future. Here is the recap:

Honestly, I was not sure what to expect from the race in terms of performance. It is tough getting to bed late Friday night and turning around a few hours later awake at 6 AM Saturday morning. Before leaving to pick up my race packet, I started off with a glass of water and a cup of tea. After picking up my packet, I went back to the vehicle and sat in the car. After a few minutes, I decided to do a warm up mile in a nearby park. I'm very glad I did because it got me really excited about running and taking on the day. I ran a little over one mile (1.25 to be exact) at just over a nine minute pace. The weather put me in a great mood because it was absolutely beautiful outside and it was very nice running in shorts. I told myself not to eat anything before the race but that failed. At least it was not heavy prior to the race (bagel and banana). If I finished the race between 35 and 40 minutes, I would've been very happy with the results. Now the race is starting.

I was towards the front of the crowd at the start of the race. On your mark…Get Set…GO! Taking off, I felt very good with my pace so I continued running that way throughout the race. When I approach a race, my goal is to run a comfortable pace without getting extremely tired during the run. Quickly glancing at my watch at mile 1, I was surprised at the blistering pace (6:45). I continued on the course and felt really good. I make it a habit of not glancing at my watch constantly because it might throw my rhythm off. Miles 2, 3 and up to the mile 4 marker were very tough due to the constant elevation changes. That is part of every race but I focused on the goal of finishing strong. Mile 2 (6:43); Mile 3 (6:38); and Mile 4 (6:35) and I'm still in total disbelief over the consistent times and pace. Approaching the finish line, I was very surprised to see my time 32:39 with a pace of 6:34. That is definitely the fastest I have ever ran in training and/or racing. My Garmin watch told me I had a record for my fastest mile of 6:25. The emcee announced my name as the twentieth person overall got me very excited. This is out of over four hundred runners who participated. Usually, I'm inside the top ten percent overall which is what I was anticipating in this race. How did I do in my age group? I refueled with rice and beans (a first); water; orange slices; and a banana after the race. Jeff, who ran the race, finishing not too far behind me, looked at the results alongside me. He told me that I finished third in my age group, which means I receive a medal for my accomplishment. Yes, it is a third place in my group and it is an exciting feeling. I do not get these awards very often so it gave me a reason to be happy.

After soaking in the accomplishment, it was time to do a post race run at Saratoga State Park. No I did not duplicate the results in my race which was fine by me. My pace was 8:15 for a total distance of 8.82 miles. My total mileage for the day was just over 15 miles, which is what I planned on doing so my day was very productive.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Code Blue Saratoga organization, Fingerpaint, Mayor Joanne Yepsen, everyone who donated food, Saratoga Police Department, Hampton Inn, volunteers, and course marshals for making this event possible. Your work was greatly appreciated and I'm grateful for your dedication. Saratoga Springs is a great community which the reason why I love running in your city.

A great day with the sun shining and sitting on the rooftop after a great race

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Training, Vegan Eats, and Code Blue

Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day for a run. I took full advantage of it by doing the long run that morning instead of Saturday. I wanted to be fresh, alert, and focused for this run so that is the reasons for the switch. If I did it Saturday, I ran the risk of being tired or not finishing the run. The weather was perfect, not quite shorts weather, but it was satisfying. 18.36 miles in under two and a half hours with a pace of just of over eight minutes was a pretty good result. As I'm writing this, I went on another run this morning, taking advantage of the great weather. If you haven't been following my posts, I am currently training to run my third marathon in less than two months, Vermont City (Burlington). Unfortunately, this will be the only marathon I will be running this year. I was planning on doing two but I have to focus on my current job priorities. I will still participate in running races but only locally. That is my running update, onto other exciting things.

Here are some vegan food pictures:

 Pick up the Gluten Free Bar in a store near you. It is absolutely delicious.

 Eggplant with tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans

 Ben & Jerry's never disappoints. Can't wait for more non-dairy flavors in the future.

Still have to try the Oreo flavor version. Don't spoil it for me.

Ok, enough of the food pictures. My next race will be this Saturday in Saratoga Springs, Blue Needs You 8K (5 mile). Any chance I get to participate in a running race for an excellent cause. This race supports Code Blue Saratoga, an emergency homeless shelter providing homes during the winter season. It will be exciting to run in short distance races because I do not do it enough. To learn more about this organization, click here. I will have another update this weekend regarding this race. Get outside, the weather is beautiful. Hope your day is going amazing.