Saturday, October 24, 2015

Where We Eat: The Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen

A spontaneous addition to a video I made this summer set off a chain of events, mostly of the mundane run-of-the-mill variety, that led me to the Ybor Daily Market on Saturday. It was here that the Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen was setting up shop for their Vegan Dessert Fest. It was an event that they had dubbed Bettersweetz.

I'm not sure why I still get all geeked out and excited when I hear about vegan desserts. I've been let down so many times by bland, overly sweetened, dense desserts that are inferior to their dairy filled brethren. I mean just last week I visited a vegan bakery set up by some famous New York baker and left feeling completely underwhelmed. Call me crazy, the eternal optimist or a glutton for punishment but when I hear vegan dessert, despite all the letdowns, my heart still pitter patters just a bit faster. I really hoped that the Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen and their Bettersweetz dessert fest would be different, that it wouldn't be just another link on the long chain of vegan dessert failures.

The Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen was established early last year as a vegan delivery, pre-paid meal plan, catering service that serves the Tampa area. The don't have a brick and mortar building of their own so they've sold a lot of their foods from the open air center of the Ybor Daily Market. They are known for their bevy of vegan treats including raw CheeseKakez, pies, CupKakez and cookies, as well as educational food prep classes. They hope to promote clean eating by including only organic ingredients in their products which are all, according to their order flyer, "crafted with authentic love." Vegan, organic, clean eating, crafted with love, all of this sounds great in theory but ultimately desserts are judged on their tastes. That would be the true measure of the Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen.

The Bettersweetz setup consisted of three tables. One table took care of all the payments. The other two were completely loaded with desserts. The one nearest the entrance was filled with a variety CupKakez and CheeseKakez. The other table contained the pies, brownies and cookies. I was drawn to the CupKakez first. Flavors included marble swirl, apple and peanut butter cup. I selected the latter two, although I could've seen myself taking all three home. They looked at that good. At the cookie table, I really wanted to check out the sweet kale pie but couldn't bring myself to pay the steep nine dollar a slice price. Instead I opted for an almond butter and goji berry cookie. I cashed out at 13 dollars for the three desserts. One thing is pretty clear when it comes to vegan desserts, they are definitely not cheap.

The apple cupcake was the first to cross my lips. It was a spiced cake that was topped with an apple flavored icing. I was absolutely astounded at the moistness of the cake and the creaminess of the icing. The flavors that stood out weren't the vegan dessert buzz killers of fake butter or super sugar. I tasted apple and spice. These two complimented each other well. I found myself wishing I hadn't stopped at buying just one of these cupcakes.

                The Apple Cupcake

Next up was the almond butter and goji berry cookie. The cookie wasn't thick, soft and gooey like I prefer my cookies, it was much flatter with a crisp exterior and a soft interior. The almond butter was much more subtle than a lot of the peanut butter cookies I've had through the years. I hoped for a bit more from the goji berries. If I hadn't seen them, I wouldn't have even known they were in there. A decent treat but I wouldn't do it again. If I'm going to spend, I'm going to get me something that is iced.

           The Almond Butter Goji Cookie

I stopped eating sweets for a while, took a Capital Tacos break, and then decided it was time to eat the final CupKakez. The peanut butter cup was a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing and a vegan peanut butter cup on top. If looks could kill, this CupKakez would be a mass murderer. It was the best looking of the three desserts by far. The cake part of it was a bit drier than the previous cupcake. I'm not sure if this was due to the way it was baked or that it sat around in the cardboard box longer than the other desserts did. But that icing, whoa baby, that was some good stuff. It was intensely rich and tasted of pure peanut butter gold. Definitely a dessert worth doing again.

                The Peanut Butter CupKakez

It has been a tough go finding good vegan desserts in Tampa. My search, as long as I can track them down on the regular, may have just ended. When it comes to CupKakez and icing, the Vegg'd Out Vegan Kitchen knows how to play the game.

The soundtrack for these desserts? Rabid Young's "Beautiful Things" for obvious reasons.