A Babycakes Birthday

Attention all Farmers Market Vegan readers: those of you who revel in my musings on the ethics of veganism; my unrefined, gluten-free recipes; my sassy restaurant reviews; and my appreciation for locally grown, organic produce must scout out an alternative entity to satisfy your vegan blogging cravings. As of 6:30 yesterday morning when I bloomed into a full-fledged 18-year-old adult, I’ve shunned my wholesome vegan hippiness to gamble on convenient store lottery tickets, bartend, produce indie porno films, take up smoking, and be tried in an adult court of law for all my aforementioned endeavors. Look out world!

*Minutes later…*

I’ve concluded that my passion for veganism, animal rights, and nourishing my body and soul runs too deeply in my psyche to effectively shed it, even considering the vastly appealing (har-har) array of adult activities in which I could now choose to partake. Instead of corrupting my newly of-age self, I enjoyed a bright and sunny birthday rife with surprise deliveries from my parents, long walks around campus while catching up with my two best friends via cell phone, oodles of love and hugs from my dormmates, and a scrumptious dinner at Babycakes Cafe along with twelve of my closest new Vassar companions.

In between my Friday classes, I received two emails from the campus post office alerting me of packages about which I had no previous knowledge. The first, a cumbersome cardboard box that barely squished into my rear bike basket, contained a bounty of gorgeous mixed fruit including Colorado peaches, Gala apples, Bartlett pears, green grapes, and avocados. Squealing with delight, I telephoned my mother to extend my copious thank you’s for the generous supply of in-season organic fruit, supplied by Fruit Share, an online fruit delivery service. I’ve already sampled the chin-dribbling sensation of the marvelously ripe peaches, concocted a refreshingly tart and tangy smoothie with the grapes, and baked up a batch of fresh fruit-sweetened granola with the pears.

The second delivery consisted of an obscenely large, rather gaudy bouquet of balloons that I embarassingly toted across campus back to my dorm, inspiring a good many amused smirks from various passer-by. Oh, parents.

I recieved my final two gifts of the day from my ridiculously wonderful dormmates: a gift card to the House of Nutrition which I intend to spend on a long-awaited container of Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder, and dinner reservations at Babycakes Cafe (to which my mother’s friend had mailed me a gift card a couple days prior), a modern bistro quite popular among Vassar students that offers a respectable selection of vegan options.

After overtaking essentially the entire Babycakes dining room, our collegiate party of thirteen settled in for a lively celebration meal. For my birthday dinner, I ordered the house salad and one of the night’s specials of a quinoa salad with grilled fennel and tomatoes and arugula, hold the feta cheese and add a couple slices of avocado. Though I had attempted to add tofu to my house salad, the waitress disappointedly informed me that the restaurant had run out of tofu for the night. I found this a bit difficult to believe, seeing as our party arrived a mere hour after the commencement of Babycakes’ dinner service, but good-naturedly requested a dollop of house-made black bean hummus in lieu of the soy.

Perfectly dressed in a tangy balasmic vinaigrette, the house salad boasted a beautiful medley of baby greens, juicy cherry tomatoes, crisp bits of cucumber, and thinly sliced red onion for a pleasant sharpness, complemented well by the smooth unctuousness of the ochre-hued hummus. However, while the menu advertised alfalfa sprouts as a component of the salad, I intensely lamented their absense since I’ve craved my favorite sprouty goodness since arriving in Poughkeepsie three weeks ago. No tofu or sprouts? You’re walking a thin line here, Babycakes.

As for the quinoa salad, a generous pile of arugula, coated in supposedly the same balsamic vinaigrette as my starting salad and laced with nutty pearls of quinoa, sat atop two thick slabs of tender grilled fennel and succulent roasted tomatoes. I verily enjoyed the mingling of flavors in the quinoa salad, though longed for a larger amount of and further variety in the grilled/roasted vegetables of the dish, as well as would have appreciated a slighly more ripe avocado.

Meal Checklist: Protein—black beans in hummus. Whole Grainquinoa. Vegetables—tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, avocado, fennel. Leafy Green—mixed salad greens, arugula.

A good many of my dining companions partook in vegan options as well, including my bubbly, upbeat dorm buddy Katie, who recently adopted a vegan lifestyle after a mere three weeks of eating a vegetarian diet. GO KATIE!She opted for the Mezze Plate—a Mediterranean-inspired platter featuring the black bean hummus that accompanied my house salad, an impressively smoky baba ganoush, a chunky “guacamole” of sweet peas and fava beans, cucumber slices, marinated pearl onions and artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, roasted almonds, and toasted pita bread points.

Roshun, my across-the-hall neighbor and a vegetarian since birth, ordered the Vegan Burger—a hearty patty of quinoa, tofu, and potatoes on thick slabs of multigrain bread, topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and avocado, served alongside a small salad (his boasted the alfalfa sprouts for which I yearn. Lucky duck). My recently-turned vegetarian compatriate Ramy also opted for the vegan burger, though he un-veganized it by requesting a slice of swiss cheese on top (you can bet he recieved a thorough chastizing from me).

Finally, my fellow midwesterner Kain, a nonvegetarian but enthusiast of all things edamame, excitedly partook in the Edamame Falafel, and thank goodness he did, for he generously allowed me a bite of literally the most divine falafel creation I’ve ever experienced in all my eighteen years on planet earth. Satisfyingly crunchy on the outside, the beany fritters released an impressive cloud of steam when torn apart to reveal a brightly tinted kelly-green interior of cloud-like, creamy yumminess. When dipped into the accompanying tahini-ginger sauce, the falafel induced a mind-numbingly delicious edamame epiphany about which I still dream a day later.

Sadly, Babycakes boasts no vegan desserts amongst their pantheon of animal-secretion-laden pastries for which they receive tremendous acclaim, though when I inquired about the possibility of more compassionately sweet options, the waitress assured me that they were “working on it.” The absence of dessert, however, did not detract in the least from my convivial birthday dinner, full of love, laughter, and lots of candid photo-snapping. I wouldn’t have celebrated my eighteenth birthday any other way.

Until next time, Ali.


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