Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Breads on Oak & upcoming vegan croissants!

I am definitely one of the most food-motivated people I know. While I like to eat flavorful food on a daily basis, my insatiable drive to track down deliciousness has probably been at its most obvious (and embarrassing?) whenever I've had the chance to travel. From the moment I land in a new city, my vegan radar is on high. I've been known to go to ridiculous lengths to maximize the amount and variety of local vegan treats and meals I can experience in whatever short time I'm in new territory.

Example: On a brief trip to Montreal a couple of years ago, we went to restaurants back-to-back. As in: we ate an entire meal at restaurant #1, then traveled by foot and by metro for an hour, and then ate another full meal at restaurant #2. Then we did the same thing the next day! You might call it crazy, but I call it dedication.

Just recently, it has come to my attention that New Orleans is fast becoming a city that, if I lived elsewhere, would actually excite my inner vegan tourist. I probably don't need to tell you: this is a big change! More and more options are popping up, and some of them are even accessible by tourists staying in the French Quarter. It is one of these that I'm writing about today, a real delight of a bakery, Breads on Oak. Vegan visitors to our lovely city, rejoice! You can hop on a streetcar in the French Quarter, enjoy the scenic ride through the Garden District and uptown, admiring along the way our fair Audubon Park, as well as the not-so-humble dwellings of our local members of the 1%, get off at Oak Street, walk several blocks (just enough to make you really appreciate their new air conditioning system), and enter baked-goods-heaven.

From behind the counter, you'll be greeted by owners Sean and Chamain O'Mahoney, as well as their helpful staff. They couldn't be more charming, or their baked goods more delicious. With generous samples of everything flying left and right, and easy laughter from both sides of the counter, it will feel like a party. All the more so because Sean and Chamain know what Earth Balance is, and they aren't afraid to use it.

In fact, if you go this Saturday, Sean hopes to have some Earth Balance-based vegan croissants available for the first time. Show your support and swing by!

They've got something for just about everyone...

Vegan? Chamain herself is vegan, and the rest of us reap the benefits in the form of cakes, cookies, muffins, and more. And of course, most of Sean's breads are also vegan.

Indecisiveness is not on my side at this place.

Gluten-free? Their many options include an incredibly chocolatey brownie!

I am a sucker for both brownies and cute aprons.

Reduced-sugar? Chamain uses half-stevia, half-unprocessed sugar in many of her baked goods.

Flax, oh yes she did!

Organic? Lots of organic ingredients -- just ask!

Baked-in grapes adorn the top of this creative bread. Genius!

French? I know French bread, so let me tell you, this is great stuff. My favorite is the walnut pain au levain, which rivals one I used to eat regularly when I lived in Quebec...twelve years ago. (Some breads, you never forget!)

For someone who has shed tears over a cinnamon roll, this bakery is big news. Maybe it's a good thing for me, budget-wise, that for the summer, Breads on Oak is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. ("Like" them on Facebook for updates to their schedule.)

For you veg tourists, I recommend starting out a Saturday with a trip to this place in the morning, followed by tooling around on Oak Street, and then heading back to the FQ via streetcar, but stopping for the best vegan brunch ever at Santa Fe Tapas, a cozy restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. With these two stops alone, you'll have made great progress in your attempt to maximize your culinary pleasure on a New Orleans vacation. 

With French baking tradition behind the endeavor, Breads on Oak is a locally owned, New Orleans-style establishment whose owners have made room for vegan options. That's what I'm talking about! (Contrast this with the other uptown "boulangerie," which I avoid entering at all costs because it annoys me so much that none of the tantalizing pastries is vegan.)

Unlike at some bakeries, at Breads on Oak, vegans can feast using more than their eyes!

Don't forget -- this Saturday, a test-run for vegan croissants! Don't miss out, local vegans! This is one New Orleans staple that has been missing from our diet for a loooong time!

I can't wait.
Breads on Oak ~ 8640 Oak St., NOLA 70118 ~ 504.669.5173