Monthly Archives: February 2013

J.G. Melon -Upper East Side NY, NY


In October 2012, we had double-booked ourselves with The Hunt in Hoboken and a housewarming party for our friends’ new place on the UES. Having just moved out of that area over the Summer, it was nostalgic driving through the streets. The UES had been a great year of change. Many fun “Domestic Monday” dinners were had there with friends, and most importantly it was the birth place of With all of the fond leaf turning memories, I only hope the UES has been just as kind to them since.


The Hunt had turned out to be a full day of spirits and merriment. We were pretty full and pretty jolly when we had arrived at “Chez Cruzy-Crunch”. I was still kind of sad to see that upon our arrival the punch had been killed. The hostess with the mostess had turned a pumpkin into a punch bowl! She got the A for effort with that creation. Clearly the pumpkin had done its job well as things got a lil’ “cray” up in that piece.

We danced a lot and ended the night with the song Sandstorm. We were “Sandy” it was “Storming” and we were “Feeling it.” We were feeling the sand… We were the sand! Being the sand of course came with the price of waking up in a state only a proper NY Brunch could cure.

Anyone that lives in NYC (or any other city that is spoiled by a plethora of Boozey-Brunch choices) knows it’s hard to decide where to go. The last thing you feel like doing on Sunday morning is having too much of “a think” over it. However even after a post-party pub crawl, there we were on a Sunday early afternoon walking, talking, thinking and asking for directions. This girl is just happy she had her sunglasses.

After three failed attempts of entry and a bunch of threats of 30-45 minute waits we stumbled upon this guy. J.G. Melon located at 1291 3rd Ave., NY, NY (cross/73rd). It is an Upper East Side institution known for its burgers. Hardly an item to earn you a reputation for brunch with, more like a 3am snack… However they were willing to seat us and we were anxious to eat.

The Experience:

J.G. Melon is not where you want to go when your world is already spinning. The second you walk through the door it is sensory-overload.

You immediately enter into the noisy bar area with a very tight door space inconveniently placed right in front of the restaurant’s kitchen line.

This leaves this lady less than pleased with your presence while screaming for her side order of fries for table 25.

Ten to fifteen uncomfortable minutes later, we battled our way through the packed dining room floor and were ushered over to a corner window table which was a bit secluded (thankfully) and just right for a group our size.

Sadly, we found out this is the last place you want to go for a “Boozey Brunch” as they may be offerring all of the boozies… but not with a deal . Unfortunately all drinks are ordered à la carte. I think the Mimosa tab alone was $100.00…


We got right down to business and ordered drinks and waters all around.

For some reason I was craving salad like mad. I ordered it as my side dish although it came out first. It was a large wooden bowl of very crisp lettuce with a bountiful blob of some of the creamiest and chunkiest blue cheese dressing I have had in ages! I found it amusing that the only thing in the bowl besides lettuce and blue cheese was one little lonely sliver of tomato. Why bother?

One or two people decided to go for the gold by indulging in the burger experience J.G. Melon is known for. I can’t remember any comments being passed that they were life changing to any degree. I needed my breakfast since it was the first meal of my day. I chose an omelette out of the limited brunchy-options available. It came with some fried potato wedges (cottage fried potatoes) on the well done side. Eh, an omelette is an omelette is an omelette… While I wish I could be poetic about this, I can’t say I haven’t made better at home.

To J.G. Melon’s credit, it is a no-BS joint. It is a great venue to go get some burgers and beers for a casual night out or to replenish your post clubbing calories since they are conveniently open until 4:00am. Brunch may have been a flop, but it was the beginning of a sunny Autumn day in NYC with great friends and a lot of laughs. Nothing can beat that.



1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212)-744-0585

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Papa Ganache – Matawan, NJ


Dearest Matawanians: You’ve been driving past it for months now peeking into the window wondering; “What are they doing in there?” You watched the sign pop up, the awning come down and the lights go on. Have you stopped by yet? It happens that Main Street in Matawan hasn’t seen the likes of a mom and pop coffee shop or what resembles a cafe since 123 Main which had its debut in the mid 90’s.

With not so much of a concentration on “coffee” but more on baked goods, Papa Ganache located at 106 Main St. has opened their cafe with an interesting spin on things. Everything is completely vegan! As it turns out they were located in Keyport previously, and their vegan cupcakes were such a success they decided to move on to a bigger and better location. I was very excited to see that Matawan has something unique on Main St. again. Finally, a new destination to create some foot traffic in our “has-been” town! A couple more like this and we could possibly put Matawan back on the foodie map since the 1980’s! Yes, it has been that long.

They have really lucked out with their building with great road-side visibility and a very convenient parking lot located right next door to the entrance. As someone who grew up in the town, parking has always been somewhat of an inconvenience during heavy traffic hours if the limited street spots were occupied. With the glass facade and warm lights inside it appears to be very inviting!

The Experience: Every time I pass this establishment it is extremely still. I finally had the time to visit this one chilly December day and discovered what Papa Ganache was all about. I felt like I was walking into a hidden pastry workshop with magical elves inside. The lights are on, but is anyone home? How are all these treats making it into the case exactly? Perhaps I would soon be greeted by an Oompa Loompa?

I waited around for a good five or ten minutes for someone to come out and help me, nearly losing hope since it was late in the afternoon. It was clear that a lot of something was going on here with pastry boxes folded, stacked and ready-to-go. The sweet aroma in the air was a tease as I waited patiently. I was determined, and not leaving without my treats.

I perused the pastry cases and took notice of all of the cupcakes first a) because I can’t help my competitive streak b) for vegan cupcakes they provided a creative array of flavors. Their icing was pretty darn impressive! I almost couldn’t believe they were REALLY vegan by the look of them since the icing was literally about an inch and a half high of whipped magic on top of caky little bottoms. Since the typical ingredients of icing consist of butter (dairy) and confectionary sugar, I am still stumped as to how they could have possibly replaced such a staple ingredient to create such a voluminous non-dairy substance.

When we were finally greeted (by a human without an orange face or green hair… not that it would have been an issue regardless) we decided to take a seat. As I looked around I noticed they post all of their daily specials along with store hours and delectable dessert flavors on chalk boards. They are trying to run with the whole baker hobo-chic theme featuring an entire wall dedicated to a mosaic of baking-trays-galore with tables and chairs made of wood and iron legwork which add to that “homey” and slightly “earthy” vibe. It is such a cute environment to relax in and a great alternative to Starbucks for all of you corporate Hanchos that love to “work remotely”. You can even catch up on your eco-friendly reading here… Since I know you spend most of your hours in your cubicle wondering how you can live healthier and save the planet. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, honestly.

We were hungry and saw that they offered some light savory foods as well. We placed our order and had a very nice surprise chat with the owner Lisa Siroti (bearing no resemblence to Gene Wilder). In my short interview with her she stated that, “The only Vegan thing about me is this bakery.” The well regarded Matawan psychotherapist and vegan baking enthusiast has had entrepreneurial roles in the past and this is her most recent venture. Seemingly quite the philanthropist, she has been running the “Papa Ganache Project” where she blends two concepts: Vegan Baking and Life Skill Learning for children, in efforts to provide alternative therapeutic interventions for mental health. The project has been quite the success!


On To The Food: So, we started off with a bowl of their Tomato Rice Soup, and a serving of their Alfredo Mac. The soup was definitely hearty with visible chunks of stewed tomato and a generous amount of rice. The Alfredo Mac however was a bit bland and could have been served warmer. Whatever the “Alfredo” sauce was composed of, it had a nice and creamy consistency. It just needed a run-in with a salt shaker, and maybe something crunchy like…breadcrumbs? Maybe that’s not legal? Perhaps they can introduce some veggies into it, or some good old-fashioned spices. One thing is for certain, with the amount of restaurants out there trying to reinvent the classic mac n’ cheese dish, I would be unfair to let them off the hook lightly and not suggest they be more daring with this.

Pictured Here: Papa Ganache Vegan Dessert Board

Then it was time to make our dessert selection. I needed to get home in time for a Freehold Mall spree with mom and the pressure was on. I required at least one cupcake myself and one for my Mom and Dad as well. I ended up taking home the Chocolate Obsession, Almond Joyous, and the Drenched Elvis. Sadly I do not have a picture. When they arrived at my house they barely lasted ten minutes after I made the announcement of what was inside the box. I also tried one of their brownies which is one of their many other vegan “specialty items”. All I can say again is, I couldn’t believe they were vegan! They even passed the test of my Dad (a sweets eating machine) that just happens to be a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Pretty safe to say he’s had some good cakes in his day. Kudos to Papa Ganache for winning the taste test!


Papa Ganache is “no joke” and the disclaimer on their countertop tells you they take their vegan baking pretty darn seriously. While their website is currently being worked on, orders are accepted online and special email offers given to those signed up for the Papa Ganache mailing list. After speaking with the owner and their Executive Baker, I am very excited to see what the future holds for them at their new location. I’ll be sure to pop in when I’m home, for cupcakes that is! Next time I won’t be sharing.

“Papa Ganache is 100% Vegan 100% of the time.”



PUKK- East Village, NYC


It was probably somewhere around 1996 that my life long friend Jackie and I had decided we were going to become vegetarians. She was the inspired Environmentalist and I was just a 15 year old traumatized ballet dancer sick of high protein- low carb diets that were all the craze. For both of our reasons, we made it happen. Like most teenagers we also experimented with vegan diets as we got older and were ashamed to admit when we broke our vows of “veganism”.

Jackie was turning 19 and we planned a road trip to Boston to go see Dropkick Murphys for her birthday. We were at dinner with her Dad when I saw her reach across the table for a cheese fry. That was when I found out she had cheated on me and our recent vegan declaration. My heart sunk for a second, and then suddenly an overwhelming feeling of relief set in. I no longer had to torture myself with soy “wannabe dairy” products. I ditched my vegan lifestyle the following week.

When I started college in 2000, NYC became my new home. It opened new doors to veggie options and more mock animal products. LIFETHYME market became my one stop shopping place. It was the first of it’s kind, an “all natural supermarket” before WholeFoods came onto the scene making organic living a semi-affordable household option. I bought Jackie a Tofurkey there for a belated veggie Thanksgiving along with an assortment of vegan desserts. We were more than impressed.

The first vegan restaurant I can recall in NYC was Zen Palate. This restaurant offered an extensive vegan Asian-fusion menu in a trendy setting. After all, it wasn’t really cool if it wasn’t “retro chic” and “lounge-like”. Anyone that was anyone was “lounging”, and if you had access to an Urban Outfitters chances are you were “lounging” in your bedroom disguised by beanbags, disco balls, fluorescent signage and maybe even your very own mini bar.

PUKK, located at 71 1st Avenue (East Village) offers online delivery orders and takes you back into a 90’s time warp with it’s “lounge” decor and impressive vegan Thai menu. It is easy to miss this tiny storefront as it appears to be a glow stick inspired luminescent gem you might mistake for a firefly while passing in a taxi. Remember all things ‘black light sensitive’?

There are so many great things to say about this place. First and foremost something that is always on all of our minds, PRICE. You can easily eat here for $20.00 including tip. PUKK’s starters while delicious and of generous proportions range from only $4-6 dollars. I decided to go for the crispy duck salad to start. For 4 bucks you really cannot beat the portion size and quality. The “crispy duck” had a great duck-like consistency. There seemed to be varying textures and flavors in their fake meats allowing you feel less jipped by the faux animal experience. Lets face it, the more accurate the soy-meat transformation the happier the veggie meal-seeker is. Even if you are a skeptic, rest assured the salt alone from this lovely soy product combined with the aromatic flavors and textures of pineapple, corn, carrots, tomato and cashew are enough to make anyone kiss their fingers into the air and shout “Bellisimo” or the Thai equivalent.

The main dishes run between $8-10.00, and they offer a set lunch menu for only $6.50 including an appetizer and a main dish. Too bad we missed them for lunch time which runs 11:30-3:30pm. We were lucky enough to snag one of the tables as soon as they opened again for dinner and decided to go for a traditional Pad Thai and a curry dish. The Pad Thai was great! I loved the fact that I could just dive right in without having to worry about scraping around the mysterious peanutty-chicken melange that always forms a sort of mystery paste around the noodles since there was no REAL chicken!

I love curry and I love avocado, so I selected the “Avocado Hot Pot”. Trust when I say that it sounded way more interesting than what came to the table. The Hot Pot included: roasted “spice chicken”, young avocado, broccoli, baby carrots, string beans and fresh basil in a pineapple red curry sauce. What actually came to the table was just a vegetable red curry. Whether the chicken was spiced and the avocados young, not so sure. All in all it was a lovely dish that would be hard to mess up. If any cuisine has nailed vegan cooking, it’s Asian Cuisine. The only vegan cuisine that allows you to feel like you actually just ate something.

Pukk Take-Out Menu


Prix-fixe meals are available for parties of 8 or more for $25.00, and include a three course meal with your first round of wine, beer or soft drinks. They are available for catering, and offer a very reasonable list of Thai desserts for $4.00 each.  You can’t beat that!


PUKK has been reviewed by various publications including Time Out, VegNews, Satya, ZAGAT, The Village VOICE, Healthy Living NYC, and Friends of Animals. Now finally it’s making its debut on That’s some serious veggie business!

 YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. EAT  MORE GREENS: PUKK Vegetarian Thai Restaurant

Phone: (212)-253-2742 or (212)-253-7285

Questions, Comments, Concerns please email to:

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