With vegan-ism on a steady rise this year, many more business establishments are finding themselves catering to the particular needs of those individuals; from specially made clothing to specially made hair dye, products are being designed with the animal-lover in mind. However, I was a little—okay, a lot—skeptical when I discovered that someone actually had the audacity to make vegan ice cream. I mean... How can you take a dessert which screams dairy, and "vegan" it up for heaven's sake!?
You swap out cow milk for cashew and coconut milk for starters.
Summertime came early for us this year in Los Angeles, California. My friend Yolanda (a vegan twice-over) and I discovered this hidden gym tucked away inside a hipster hangout in Culver City, CA, one June evening while in search of refreshment from the days' dose of Vitamin D. Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream takes "made from scratch" back to the basics by ensuring they only use fresh, natural ingredients like milk and cane sugar... OR cashew milk and organic cane sugar if you're one of their vegan customers.
Although I opted for the traditional honeycomb flavor slathered between two chocolate chip cookies (because you know, I'm a milk and egg and cheese type of gal), Van Leeuwen boasts 10 different types of vegan flavors including honeycomb, one of their most popular flavors (a flavor that doesn't even use honey to achieve its taste)! Van Leeuwen also has varying special flavors at select locations if you're feeling froggy, and right now one could get gluten-free vegan cookie crumble strawberry jam or vegan blackberry with salted plum sugar cake.
This ice cream was delicious, decadent, and distinctive, comparing to none other that I've ever had before. It was creamy and consistent, filled with caramel-coated clusters of crunch so perfectly spread across the cookie ... it gave me life! The cookie itself was firm yet soft, melting like butter only when bitten into. I even snuck a bite of my friend's ice cream because I just knew it was going to be nasty, and I was pleasantly surprised when I couldn't tell the difference between the vegan and traditional flavored ice cream—and you and your food has to be pretty damn good to convince an omnivore like myself that a vegan anything is worthwhile.
So is this all a fad, or is the increasing trend of conscious food choices here to stay? In a time where "staying woke" seems to be the mantra many people chant, I'm willing to bet on black and say that vegan-ism is more than just a here and now moment. It is more than just simply not eating animals; it is encouraging a healthier lifestyle by eating foods that are genetically good for you, supporting animal sanctuaries, discovering different types of foods from all over the world, and so much more. I myself, have slowly began to transcend and transition out of my poultry/beef/pork stage of life—baby steps though, as I'm starting with pescatarian-ism. I aspire to vegan-ism, but until that day comes, I am glad that places like Van Leeuwen exists where I am free to make whatever dessert choice I desire.
And that's precisely how cohesive this place is; they're able to serve a multitude of people without making one group feel unusual or making another feel unique. At the end of the day, we are all one in search for a sweet treat to beat the heat.
I definitely recommend finding a location near you [they are currently based in New York and California] and going to get a scoop as soon as possible! Hey, you might even be lucky enough to get a fresh, handmade waffle cone right in the store 😋