Sunday, February 21, 2010

Luna 61

Despite having plenty of farms with amazing fresh, local produce, a number of small town cafes in upstate New York just straight-up suck. The food is greasy, unnecessarily processed, and there's obviously not much thought put into, oh, making something that will NOT kill you. I feel lucky when I can even get a frozen veggie patty at a local greasy spoon.

But I love being proven wrong, and I was never more so when we visited Luna 61 in Tivoli, NY- a short drive from Bard College, this cafe not only prepared solid entrees and desserts, but it was entirely vegetarian AND organic! I assumed that many of Google Maps' "vegetarian" listings for the Hudson Valley region offered at least a veggie option or two, but never did I expect to find a gem where I had the freedom to choose from the entire menu!

A brass Buddha greeted us outside (if there's a Buddha outside a restaurant, they've got to have vegetarian options!) and the smell of brunch sizzling in the kitchen greeted our nostrils once inside the cozy cafe. We just missed the brunch rush, our friendly waitress informed us, where people waited a half hour for a table. As the only exclusively vegetarian cafe in the area, I have no doubt that was the case! My honey and I already made pancakes that morning, so we decided to skip brunch and go for a full-on meal. We started with crispy tempeh "fries," cut into perfect bite size pieces and served with a mild Thai-style chili sauce- I immediately thought this was a great introduction for anyone who's never tried tempeh before- along with a "Roasted Root" salad with juicy roasted beets and carrots, served over field greens and crumbled goat cheese. A typical pairing for beets, but always delicious, especially when the beets are roasted.

For an entree, I was tempted by the crispy jerk seitan chimichanga- and I was not disappointed. Not at all spicy by my standards (and to be fair, I slather dishes with chili paste the way a kid slathers a sandwich with peanut butter), I enjoyed the sweet and zesty sauce and the chewy yet still crisp seitan slices. The chimichanga was also filled with pan fried kale, and I was so disappointed there wasn't more of it- the kale was just as crisp, sweet, and delish. I'll be attempting to make this at home! My honey ordered the sandwich special that day- a hearty, open faced tempeh sandwich with sweet tomato sauce and melted mozzarella over multigrain toast. The tempeh was perfectly chewy without too much bite, and as with my entree, Luna was generous with the amount of mock meat in the dish.

We figured we couldn't leave without trying some dessert, and we ordered Luna's famous banana cream pie- a pie that, we were told, regularly sells out before the end of the day. The chocolate-graham type crust held the perfect filling- neither a mix of banana slices and whipped cream, nor a banana creme blend, but a thick, cake-like banana filling topped with fresh whipped cream. I love a sweet dessert with a good bite, and this, dare I say it, takes the cake! After loosening our belts and ordering a slice of vegan German chocolate cake to go, we paid a very reasonable $72 bill, including our very fresh hot apple ciders, and fought blissful food coma to drive back down to the city.

Oh, and that vegan German chocolate cake? One of the best I've had- unbelievably moist and sweet with a vegan cream filling, walnuts, and pieces of chocolate. It lasted just a day after we returned to Queens. Ah, it really pays to get out of the city sometimes- thank you Luna 61 for giving us yet another reason!

Luna 61, 55 Broadway, Tivoli, NY 845-758-0061

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