Sugar is the enemy, they tell you. It’s important to run, lift, work your core, eat broccoli and lean meats. What they don’t tell you is that it doesn’t have to be that way. For one Ulster County vegan chocolatier, there’s another important factor to healthy, tasty living: flavor.
In her recent cookbook, Lagusta Yearwood, owner of Lagusta’s Luscious, Commissary!, and the NYC-based Confectionary! shares vegan recipes that show readers exactly how to keep their values and eat deliciously.
Sweet + Salty: The Art of Vegan Chocolates, Truffles, Caramels, and More From Lagusta’s Luscious is a masterclass in the world of sugar, but it’s done differently. Yearwood commits to creating a world where doing what’s right doesn’t mean sacrificing what’s good. This book, and Yearwood’s business strategy as a whole, centers around fair trade and ethical lifestyle practices. The first pages of the cookbook take readers down the long and winding road of chocolate according to Lagusta Yearwood — from her background in food and animal rights to the struggles of obtaining ethical chocolate and sugar and pretty much everything else a person needs to know before entering a heated debate with a Hershey’s executive.
After feasting on all that information, it’s near impossible not to grow hungry again at the long list of recipes that follows. Sweet, spicy, and just plain weird truffle recipes like Black Raspberry-Lime or Shiitake Sea Salt entice the taste buds while giving way to Riesling-Rose Caramels, Seltzer Fizz Candies, Tahini Meltaways and Egg Creams. Dozens of recipes that burst with unique flavor profiles marry fruity and spicy, zesty and sweet, and nearly anything else you might think of (and a lot that you wouldn’t).
According to the owner of Lagusta’s Luscious, Sweet + Salty is more than just a fun opportunity for vegans to enjoy professional-quality desserts; it’s a necessity.
“There aren’t really any confectionary cookbooks out there. My friend Fran Costigan wrote one chocolate book that has a lot of truffles, but otherwise there isn’t really anything out there. I think it’s a needed book,” she observes.
Yearwood found herself in New Paltz after spending a numbers of years post-culinary school as a private chef. Over the course of two decades, she’s made a dedicated effort to create and perfect her signature sugary style. During her formative years, she’d make her creations in home, boxing them loosely and selling them through PayPal. In the years since, she’s created a well-known brand with Lagusta’s Luscious and expanded to three locations in New Paltz and New York City. In a word, she hopes to create an “anarchist” space that simultaneously defies the standards of the chocolate world and pushes the envelope of how things are produced.
“We have this sort of non-hierarchy,” she says. “It’s way more important for me to have a good community space and support local farmers. I just want to walk that line to see how much I can get away with, decentering profits to the farthest extent that I can without losing them, pushing my politics.”
Sweet + Salty is more than just a collection of recipes near and dear to Yearwood’s heart. It’s a story of love, hard work, and the dedication it takes to run a niche business in a busy market. Yearwood spent time compiling images of her coworkers in a “scrapbook” style, and many of the recipes featured in the book come from their hearts and minds.
“The book opens with a recipe for a Tahini Meltaway,” she says, reminiscing, “and that’s something from one of our managers, Alexis. One year I made a Peanut Butter Meltaway [and] she took it and absolutely transformed it, and now it’s blown up. It’s beautiful how we all have a say, and I think it just shows the family culture we have here.”
Looking to plan your life a little? Looking to work at a feminist vegan anarchist chocolate shop? Of course you are. We have no hours available now BUT in the fall we’ll be hiring a CUSTOMER SERVICE PERSON! TWO CHOCOLATIERS! PROBABLY MORE PEOPLE! Fullllllllll time. Supportive atmosphere. Mull it over. Experience not totally necessary but you gotta be AWESOME, you know? Fast/friendly/focused. Let’s talk soon? // photo by @reinspired
After years of creating a welcoming environment that regulars can call home at Lagusta’s Luscious, Yearwood is happy that fans can recreate their favorite treats at home.
“I worked really hard to make sure this book is user friendly,” she explains. “For anyone that comes into the shop, I want them to see that what we make really isn’t really that daunting or difficult. You can make them for holidays, or every day. It’s really our story, the story of the shop, and I want people to see that.”
Although the cookbook just hit shelves in fall 2019, Yearwood is insatiable. Already looking for her next big project, she says, “I’d love to write a savory cookbook, showcasing more of our recipes from the Commissary! location. I’d also love to expand the ice cream part of our operation, or maybe a pizza shop. I want to do everything.”
Sweet + Salty: The Art of Vegan Chocolates, Truffles, Caramels, and More From Lagusta’s Luscious hit the shelves on September 24. For vegan treats straight from the source, stop by Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz or place an order online.
25 North Front Street, New Paltz