While the rest of the world is becoming progressively more vegan-friendly, Albany is somehow going in the other direction.  As the SNL version of our soon-to-be former Governor put it:

“…if you’re in Albany, I can recommend a great place to go for dinner. It’s called Manhattan.”

Thankfully, you don’t even have to go that far. For this VeganMofo contribution: a long-overdue review of the only all-vegan restaurant anywhere near Albany, Garden Cafe on the Green in Woodstock, NY.

Visits to Garden Cafe typically follow a day of volunteering at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. That is, on the days that we don’t reek of chicken poo! The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Woodstock and offers an excellent view of the happenings on the Village Green from its garden patio seating.  It’s open every day, except Tuesday, though I believe the hours change seasonally. Check the website for current hours.

The good news is, Garden Cafe is always busy, serving up cruelty-free, organic meals. The bad news is, Garden Cafe is always busy! No worries, we’ve never had to wait long (if at all) for a table, especially when the patio is open.

The daily specials rotate, though most “specials” are items that can be found on the regular menu as well. The exceptions to this typically are truly exceptional, and a bit pricey (around the $20 range). The menu also allows for cheap, simple eats with make-your-own bowls (using a list of grains, greens and beans/tofu/tempeh) and a variety of delicious sandwiches, salads and quesadillas made with Daiya cheese.

Last weekend, a friend of the spiritual, new agey persuasion was in town, so Jaime and I took her down to Woodstock for some groovy shopping and dinner at Garden Cafe. What follows is a description of our meal, which is only a small sample of the goodness Garden Cafe has to offer.

We started with Warm Walnut Mushroom Pate with Horseradish “Cream” Swirl, a rich, nutty paté served with warm homemade whole wheat foccacia. Super delicious, though it needed a touch of salt. Additionally, I had a Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter.  Jaime ordered a vanilla coconut chai and it was delish.

Next, the main course. We each ordered a dish and rotated clockwise when we had a sample of each.

First up for me, Indian Vegetable & Chickpea Enchiladas with Bombay Sauce. Curried potatoes, chickpeas and a few other veggies, wrapped in a large enchilada (basically a burrito), drizzled with what I believe is a cashew cream sauce and a Bombay curry sauce. This is served with curried apple coconut salad and sautéed kale and onions. which are outstanding. This dish was everyone’s favorite.

Next, the old standby: Grilled Curried Tofu Mango Sandwich.  Mango chutney-like sauce on grilled tofu, caramelized onions, roasted red pepper and spiced veganaise (spelled the way it is said by every vegan in the universe on the menu) all pressed in toasted whole grain bread and served with small mesclun salad. Need I say more? Reliably fantastic.

Moving on to a special, Jerk Tofu Salad. Jerk seasoned tofu over a bed of mesclun, drizzled with Dijon vinaigrette and served with whole wheat foccacia. I have to say, this was the dish I was looking forward to the most and I was a bit disappointed in the amount of jerkyness. While the tofu was tasty, it wasn’t what I expected. Not bad, especially if you are not into spicy food (which, as we all know, does NOT describe me). I would highly recommend the vegan Caesar over this salad, but it was nice to try something new.

Finally, dessert. Another reliably good treat is the Warm Chocolate Brownie. Rich and chocolatey, and not overly sweet. Covered in warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Paired well with my second Alta Gracia!

A fantastic meal, as always. This place is truly one of the best. The only thing I think could be improved upon is the beer list, which has shrunk a bit over the years. Of course, this is a challenge when trying to offer only local and/or organic beers. Anyway, you will always find a decent beer (or wine, if you prefer) to enjoy your delicious meal with.

If you are anywhere near Woodstock, make the trip out to Garden Cafe and be sure to stop by the little slice of heaven just outside of town, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (open for tours Saturdays and Sundays, April through October.)