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And now for dessert

Do you want the chocolate-espresso-oatmeal cookie? Or would you rather have the chocolate bread pudding with the secret ingredient? Maybe the root beer float would hit the spot. I was surprised I had these choices when I went to Red Emma's today. They are, for sure, good choices to have. Every time I go to Red Emma's I discover something new. I'm sure that today I have only scratched the surface of the vegan baking pan.

All of Red Emma's baked goods are vegan and made in-house. There are muffins, "cheese"cakes, carrot cakes, layer cakes, cinnamon rolls, different types of cookies, Rice Krispie Treats, brownies and brownie sundaes. Some of these desserts can be found at Red Emma's regularly and others on special occasions.

Lani Thomas makes over half of the desserts. She has been baking since 1994 and baking professionally since 1999. She has been with Red Emma's since 2005, taking some time off now and then in order to raise two children.

Thomas learned a lot about vegan baking when she was a chef at Green Sage. She is passionate about creating food that everyone can have. While not vegan herself, she must eat gluten-free and understands what it's like to stay away from food everyone else is enjoying. Her goal is to dispense with that barrier by making all her desserts both vegan and gluten-free.

Thomas developed her vegan bread pudding by looking at a bunch of different recipes and starting to throw stuff together. She discovered her secret ingredient this way, too. It is the only ingredient she's found, to date, that will hold a vegan dessert together with the "proper cohesion and balance," she says.

I decided that a cup of coffee with dessert would create proper cohesion and balance, so I ordered one with my chocolate-espresso-oatmeal cookie. Red Emma's coffee is animal-friendly because it's shade grown, says Michelle Fleming, who roasts coffee at the shop, does barista work and publicizes events. Red Emma's steers clear of plantation-grown coffee that uses clearcutting which destroys animal habitats, Fleming continues. Red Emma's coffee appears to be people-friendly, as well. It's Fair Trade certified and grown by cooperatives that are essentially made up of villages where each family will take care of one or two coffee plants. In order to be ethical, Fleming says, it has to be done that way, because coffee harvesting is very labor intensive.

With a twist on a typical vegetarian restaurant that will often offer vegan options, Red Emma's is a vegan restaurant that offers dairy options.

You might be hard pressed to find a dairy dessert, though. Even if you're not vegan I think the chocolate-espresso-oatmeal cookie will offer a great deal of consolation.

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