24 Hours in New Paltz
This article appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine
Visit to vegan active retreat Hungry Ghost Guesthouse and exploration of the town’s vegan eats and treats
Photos & Text by Annika Lundkvist
I had been to the busy and beautiful Hudson Valley town of New Paltz before (the area radiates in Autumn), but had not delved into the area’s vegan food and offerings, which I quickly came to learn are extensive. We arrived around noon and headed straight to Karma Road, a 100% vegan cafe on Main Street. Karma Road opened in early 2007 just weeks after owners Seth and Jenn had moved to the area with “two babies, no job and absolutely no friends or family” in the area. Seth notes that “after checking out the area, its heavy yoga and outdoor sports oriented population, proximity to the thruway and to New York City tourism, we realized we could fill a need. Once we found out how highly regarded the community is among families with young children, we knew we could make a go here. We’re very glad we did. The community has been incredibly welcoming to our business and to our family. It’s a powerfully beautiful place with charm, warmth and creative edginess.”
Karma Road’s fare was always vegan except for milk which they kept on hand for coffee drinkers who “needed” milk in their coffee. They stopped that awhile ago and are now 100% vegan and known for their Curries, Sweet Potato Biscuits, gluten free 3-Grain Pizza, muffins and real fruit smoothies. They attract diners for a variety of niches- some come exclusively for the sandwiches, others just for the fresh made juice or gluten free options. Importantly, Seth notes, is the fact that “the common thread is that everything is delicious and the common ingredient is love.”
I’d been looking forward to experiencing Karma Road’s menu and ordered up a Flexibowl with three deli options- the creamy, crunchy veggie slaw, roasted Brussel Sprouts and 3-Grain pizza (which is also flourless). Curious to try other options as well I ordered a Baked Tofu Sandwich made with walnut pesto. In between nibbling on and photographing their delicious food I chat with Seth as he shows me around, pointing out the photos on the tables of some of the rescued farm animals at nearby Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. We talked about the and importance of turning on people to delicious vegan food and he notes that about 90% of their customers are not even vegan or vegetarian, but consistently drawn in for the food.
After lunch we make our way to Lagusta’s Luscious chocolate shop. I’ve ordered Lagusta’s chocolates before by mail as well as bought them at the Bryant Park Christmas market, so I’d been introduced to her fabulous products and was looking forward to experiencing the heart of it all here in New Paltz at the Lagusta’s Luscious Chocolate Headquarters.
Lagusta Yearwood, a vegan chef and chocolatier, began making chocolates under the name Lagusta’s Luscious in 2003. She ran a high quality vegan meal delivery service in New York City using local produce and whole foods in New York City. She notes that “It was wonderful and I loved interacting with local farmers to get produce, but in time I developed more of an interest in the small line of chocolates that I was making on the side. I’m a tidy and precise person, and making chocolates is an activity that very much rewards tidiness and precision.” In 2010 she closed her meal delivery service to focus completely on the chocolate, purchased the building that Lagusta’s Luscious is now in and opened up shop in 2011.
Vegan since she was 15 years old, Lagusta observes that “the vegan world can seem to be, to an outsider, all about deprivation and strict rules. I like the idea of making vegan chocolate because it is so rich and luxurious. It shows people that veganism, even though it begins with a moral impulse, can be just as sophisticated and decadent as the mainstream food world.” Lagusta and her partner moved to New Paltz from the New York City area in 2004, drawn to the region for the good organic farms she could source from for her meal delivery service and chocolates but also because, as someone mentioned to her at Manhattan’s Union Square greenmarket, it is a “cool liberal town.” In addition to the Lagusta’s Luscious headquarters, Lagusta also opened up Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary serving up coffee, tea and snacks in the heart of town.
After a rich morning exploring these establishments and the busy, charming heart of New Paltz town, we make our way to Hungry Ghost House, the original inspiration for this trip. Petra and Mike Trunkes officially opened the doors to Hungry Ghost Guesthouse in 2007, marketing it as an active retreat. Athletes of all types, including triathletes, runners and cyclists, are attracted to the lodging as they can be catered to by someone who knows what they want. As an elite master runner as well as cross country and track coach at SUNY New Paltz, Michael is able to offer guests professional running analysis and guidance to local trails. In addition to the wealth of outdoor activities in the area and special attention of the hosts, the Hungry Ghost gym also ensures that someone can swim, bike and run indoors on a rainy day if they wanted to. With a pool on location the couple also offers swim technique and analysis for those who competitively swim.
I inquired about the name of the lodging, wondering if it was a Buddhist reference. Petra recounted that her husband had taken some time off of running and when he returned and consulted his old coach (who is a bit of a hermit), he said Mike was like a “hungry ghost”. They later found out about the Buddhist meaning and linked the concept of ‘fire in the belly’ to their mutual passions for fitness and food and wellness.
Petra didn’t think to market it as vegan lodging in the early days but her husband encouraged her to think otherwise, a wise decision considering that Hungry Ghost Guesthouse is known as much as an active retreat as it is for Petra’s vegan cuisine. From June to November all meals are based on local and organic food.
Petra also offers cooking classes, crafting the experience around what the individual or couple wants. Some people want to specifically learn to work with certain ingredients or style of cooking while some others are not vegan but want to familiarize themselves with plant based cooking. The class typically includes three courses at the end of which they will all sit down and eat together. A sample late October to early November cooking class menu includes a Sweet Potato Soufflé made with Cashews, Rosemary, Sage and Onions, marinated Tempeh with a three Mushroom Gravy and a Potato Celeriac Soup (or some variation of a Lentil Soup) served with greens. Petra noted that she is known for her Chocolate Ganache so that would be a possibility for the menu as well.
Petra notes that in the past two to three years the vegan population has increased approximately 250% in the New York region, a growth matched by the obvious and often much publicized growth of plant based dining options. In addition to the 100% vegan spots I had already been to, Petra noted the vegan friendly restaurants in the area including Main St Bistro, Global Palette, Eggs Nest, Gunk Haus, Mountain Brauhaus, Garden on the Green and Pure City.
July to September is a peak season for Hungry Ghost guesthouse but September to October is also popular with Autumn being a busy time in the region and Halloween in particular a much celebrated even in the area. The region is also known for its wineries, distilleries and cider houses
Breakfast at Hungry Ghost Guesthouse for us during our stay were Indian Dosas filled with local Potatoes, Onion and Spinach served with Cantaloupe. As a lover of savory breakfasts, this hit the spot and was my first time eating Dosas and a wonderful introduction. Petra served up a wonderful couple cups of coffee for us, specially roasted and ground by a friend of hers and served with homemade Cashew Coffee Cream. She noted that she enjoys offering a flexible breakfast with no set time but to fit the guests schedule, allowing for her to make time to concierge visitors to exactly what they want for the weekend.