When people hear the word "vegan," the last thing that comes to mind is decadence. The first thing is usually an image of a scrawny, pale lady wearing Birkenstocks and hugging a tree. Not exactly the picture of sensuality.
But as usual, my aim for this column today is to challenge preconceived notions about veganism, this time by highlighting some scrumptious and sexy vegan Valentine's Day gifts. Yes, the holiday is nearly a month away, but since the supply for vegan treats is apparently short of the current demand, many of these items are selling out fast. So if you want to surprise your vegan sweetheart with some vegan sweethearts this holiday, you'd best get on it, STAT.
Lulu's Raw Vegan Chocolate
One look this organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, fair-trade, and low-glycemic index coconut sugar-sweetened cache of Valentine's-day ready sweets would get any red-blooded vegan girl all hot and hungry for a taste. The Maca Buttercups ($4.44) at Luluschocolate.com, for example, are made with 78% raw cacao and filled with sprouted almond butter and Andean superfood maca powder, which has been used as an aphrodisiac since ancient times. The creamy heart-shaped Love Truffles ($5.55) are flavored with hazelnuts and hand-harvested French fleur de sel sea salt. And for all the vegan freaks out there, Lulu's offers Luscious Body Butter ($8 for 4 oz.), an edible vegan "skin food," made with organic cacao butter, coconut oil, and cacao essence. And as if you needed more reason to buy, the Arizona-based company uses super-sexy black and red packaging that is totally environmentally friendly; it's printed with soy and vegetable inks on recycled paper.
Bunnie Cakes Vegan Cupcakes and Cakes
Miami-based vegan baker Mariana Cortez is the creator of Bunnie Cakes, an adorable local, organic, vegan and gluten-free cupcake and cake bakery. Her wares are easy to spot in local health foods stores; the bite-sized cakes are adorned with tiny candy hearts, wrapped up with girlie little strings, and stamped with an image of a cute Japanimation-style cartoon chef girl. Until now, Cortez's cakes have only been available for pick-up or through third-party stores, but just in time for Valentine's Day, the company will be opening the doors of its own storefront shop at 2322 NE Second Avenue in the Wynwood area. Check back with the company's Facebook page for the exact opening date and for details of the special Valentine's Day menu.
Chocolate hearts encased in larger chocolate hearts, gooey chocolate syrup, heart-shaped lollipops, and mouth-watering caramel-filled chocolates... this online candy store has all of the gluttonous Valentine's Day-themed candy you could ask for --- except their versions are organic, vegan, and often gluten- and allergen-free. Check out the organic maple candy hearts ($11.95) and the espresso-, orange-, peppermint-, raisin-, cranberry-, and ginger-filled vegan and gluten-free truffle box ($13.50). As a comfort to Miami shoppers, the company even offers options like ice packs ($1) and insulated shipping boxes ($4.99) to protect your order from melting in transit.
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Om Nom Nom Cookies
If your vegan lover has a sweet tooth for ethically-produced baked goods, there's a local bakery that's got said goods at the ready. Miami's favorite quirky hipster vegan bakers go by the name of Om Nom Nom, and their to-die-for vegan cookies come in flavors like Orange Zested Chocolate Chip, Spicy Mexican Snickerdoodle, Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal, and Ultimate Peanut Butter. As a perfect Valentine's Day splurge, you can buy their six-cookie "mix and match" pack online for $18, or you can track their treats down at Panther Coffee, Green Gables Cafe, La Baguette, and a host of other health-conscious hotspots all around our town.
Rose City Chocolatier Vegan Chocolates
If your little vegan love-muffin is the kind who'd be frightened by the prospect of slathering him or herself with a tub of edible body butter, West Virginia-based Rose City Chocolatier offers elegant, old-school romantic chocolate assortments sans animal ingredients. (As a side-note, is anyone else surprised that this company is based in West Virginia?)
Rose City sells Belgian and artisanal chocolates, using only raw or beet sugar as sweeteners (never refined sugars, which may be processed with bone-char), and their Valentine's Day selections are packaged in exquisite stacks of metallic red boxes, ribbon-wrapped red velvet heart-shaped boxes, and even a "manly" chocolate box dressed up to look like a tuxedo. Selections include the 16-piece Hazelnut Lover's Desire ($23.95) and the 65-piece Vegan Heart's Delight stack for the big spender ($69.95). (Make sure to ask for their insulated packaging if you're having them ship to Miami.) If you'd rather think outside the box, they also offer vegan gift baskets hat include chocolate truffles, chocolate orange peel, chocolate-covered pretzels, and nut clusters.