Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snips and snails and sugar and spice:
how the Cinnamon Snail got me out of bed at 7am on a Sunday.

At 7:00 on the morning of the day of St. Valentine, an alarm began to ring. And I, I knew it was time.

Slowly I rose to prepare for the challenge which I had, of my own volition, chosen to accept: to arrive in Hoboken, New Jersey by 9:00 in the morning on a Sunday. Bravely, as a partner should, Jonathan stood by me. In fact, he made me coffee.

The N train was on our side, arriving only moments after we had mounted our cold, exposed platform in Astoria, Queens. We were running late, however, and tensions ran high - impossible to know whether we would make that crucial 8:44 am PATH train. Our subway proceeded at a snail's pace - irony? - spending extra time at each intervening stop and prolonging our anxiety.

Arriving at the 34th Street PATH station at last, we flew through the terminal to find, thankfully, that the gods of transit had been watching over us all along: our train was running four minutes late, and we even got seats approximately sixty seconds before the doors closed for departure.

At 9:00 am exactly, we arrived at that far southeastern corner of Hoboken and emerged into the cold crisp sunshine, happy and determined on that Valentine's morning.

As usual, I know what you're thinking. Alright, she's officially lost her mind. She got up at 7am on Valentine's day to go to freaking New Jersey, and dragged her man along with? There is no good explanation for this. It's just not possible.

Oh ye of little faith. I in fact have the best reason *ever* for being in New Jersey at 9am on a Sunday.


DONUTS. No, wait, it gets better. FREE DONUTS!

See, in case you haven't heard, Sunday was the grand opening of the Cinnamon Snail Vegan Organic Food Truck, which - weather and parking permitting - will be making daily weekday appearances in the Hoboken area. There are two vegan food *carts* that I know of in Manhattan, but the consensus seems to be that this is the very first truck. (Hear that Portland?!) For now it's just in Hoboken, but husband-and-wife owner-and-operator team Adam and Joey hope to make it over to Brooklyn as well at some point.

So what's the story on the Snail? Well, I'd heard all sorts of good things, but what really caught my attention was the offer of free donuts to the first 100 customers that opening day. That's the kind of offer I can't refuse. Pair it with gorgeous breakfast offerings from 9 to 11 am and lunches that will blow your mind from 11am to 3pm, plus a fully stocked pastry case all day long, and you've got a truck that will get me to Joisey.

And so travel we did. As it turned out, in all of our mad hustle, we were the first to arrive at the truck. No problems there though; as luck would have it the weather was lovely, and the view of the Hudson and Manhattan from their chosen parking place on Sinatra Drive was a sight to behold. It also allowed us a good view of the truck itself, which is a work of art. And when Adam cracked open that side panel and was ready for business, we quickly discovered that it had been well worth the wait.

First of all, we were immediately handed an apple cider donut covered in cinnamon sugar. It was definitely one of the best donuts I have ever eaten, vegan or not. From the breakfast menu, which is somewhat limited at the moment but will likely be expanded soon, Jonathan ordered the breakfast burrito and I ordered the kale baguette. While we waited, we split one of the cinnamon rolls... and saw a little bit of heaven. Think a vegan cinnamon roll can't be moist, soft, flavorful, and just melt-in-your-mouth amazing? Well then you think wrong, and apparently you need to get to Hoboken on the double.

The baguette was pretty fantastic for more or less being bread with kale on it. Sauteed kale on a nice soft baguette, slathered in tofu cream cheese, with capers thrown in for zest. (I skipped the olives.) The burrito seemed pricey at first, until we saw it! It is enormous, and delicious, crammed full of scrambled tofu, refried beans, and guacamole. Jon actually couldn't finish it and had to save some for later - after all, we needed to save some room...

Because at 11am the truck switches from the breakfast menu to the lunch menu. This is a significantly more extensive offering, and it pains me that I won't be able to go back every day to try something new. (Anyone know of job offerings in Hoboken?) From this menu, we ordered a mustard marinated tempeh sandwich and a grilled tofu sandwich. Both turned out to be enormous and divine. The tofu sandwich incorporated at least a third of a brick of tofu! And it was truly grilled - a rare gustatory pleasure.

While we were waiting this second time around we did a bit more pastry shopping: we got a mini chocolate ganache bundt cake, a Mississippi mud cupcake, a maple raspberry cookie (which Adam affectionately referred to as a "really legit pop tart"), and two of the two-bite sized peanut butter and chocolate cheesecakes - which naturally we ate while waiting. After all, they didn't fit in the box. We have Joey to thank for the absolutely fabulous baked goods that were on offer on Sunday; she had done the baking knowing that on opening day Adam would be at the grill while she hovered on site and tended to their youngest child. Joey told me that going forward both she and Adam will be doing the pastry baking, but that Adam is always the cook!

The truck on its opening day did not draw hoards, but there was an unwavering steady stream of customers. Many people came out specifically for the opening day event (hello, free donut?), while others simply happened by and were drawn in by the stunning truck, alluring pastry case, and enticing smells emanating from the truck's kitchenette. Comments overheard from patrons included such [paraphrased] sentiments as, "I'm so glad we finally have a real vegan option in Hoboken." and many versions of "OMG, this is the best ____ I've ever eaten!"

Nearing the end of the first day out on the street, Adam was feeling hopeful about his new enterprise, which has been about eight years in coming to fruition. "It's been so much fun - it's been a thousand times smoother than I could have ever hoped for. People have been very very sweet and accommodating." In talking about his food, Adam had no reservations. "I'm so confident about the menu - I love everything on our menu."

But when it came to his own lunch, Adam didn't take the easy chance to tout his own offerings; instead he sang the praises of the yerba mate which he was drinking from a special pot, and which he drinks daily. He hopes to serve it from the truck eventually. An avid yoga practitioner, he likes to "keep it light" during the day, and says that the raw pizza and salads from the lunch menu would be the most likely choice of fare for his mid-day meal.

The truck's location on the streets of Hoboken is subject to where they can find parking each day. As such, the best way to find them is through the miracle of the internet: they frequently update their Facebook and Twitter pages to let us know where they are and where they'll be next. The truck's hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm.

Adam described the Cinnamon Snail vegan truck project as his "life's dream", declaring "I'm determined to make it work out."

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