Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What do Vegans Eat...in New York. Part 1.

NYC. Wow. Just...wow.

Just as Christians make pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Muslims make pilgrimages to Mecca, every vegan, at one point in his or her life, must make a pilgrimage to New York.

This place is a vegan paradise. Or it would be if there weren't so many ignorant people wearing fur. But I digress.

Rob the Husband and I were lucky enough to cap off 2012 with a much anticipated trip to New York,  where we ate, walked, subway-ed, and sight-saw to our hearts' content. But mostly ate.

I had heard beyond incredible things about New York vegan dining...tales of this mystical place where vegan cafes, casual restaurants, fancy-shmancy restaurants, wine bars, chocolatiers, food carts, bakeries and ice creameries existed in abundance, all in one city.

I spent the weeks before our trip researching the places we needed to try, and I stumbled across some great recommendations, including a top ten list from Chef Chloe Coscarelli, which was most helpful (we ended up eating at 6 of her 10 recommended restaurants). Google was particularly helpful, of course.

So armed with a loose itinerary, an extra empty suitcase, and a soy hot chocolate no whip, we set off on our red-eye flight to NYC.

We arrived super early in the morning, and after dropping our luggage off at our hotel, we proceeded to lose our subway virginity and make our way to Babycakes for a breakfast cupcake.

Sadly, they were not yet open when we arrived, so we proceeded to wander, and were delightfully surprised to wander right around the corner and find Moo Shoes!

Sadly, they were also not yet open. I guess even in a bustling city like NYC businesses still don't expect to have people beating down their doors on a Sunday morning...unless you're Starbucks.

We killed some time at Starbucks and at the Tenement museum, and then made our way back to Babycakes for scones and cupcakes.

My fave? The savoury scone (left). It's packed with veggies and it's moist and salty and awesome. Ended up taking my banana maple cupcake to go...by this point the idea of a cupcake for breakfast had lost its appeal, but I was able to enjoy it later at the hotel.

Next stop was Moo Shoes, where we met the resident cat in a shoebox, Marlow.

This is why I love vegan businesses.

They also provided us with a very handy guide to NYC vegan dining by Farm Sanctuary, which was most helpful for the duration of our trip.

Oddly enough, I didn't buy any shoes,  which left me no choice but to buy purses

and a pretty awesome tote.

Don't think I'll be wearing it to school, though.

Cruelty is always out of style.

On the way back to our hotel for a nap (cuz that's what old people do when they can finally check into their hotel after a red-eye flight) we stumbled upon Wild Ginger and decided to go there for dinner before the Coldplay concert that night since it was very conveniently located close to our hotel. Did I mention we had tickets for Coldplay that night? Cuz we did :)

I really enjoyed the potato pancakes, dumplings, wontons, and samosas.

Rob had the fisherman's platter (an array of faux-seafood...which is so weird because even before we went vegan Rob hated seafood), but some of the items were way too fishy tasting for both of us. I have no idea how they simulated such a realistic fishy flavour, but it solidified for me just how over seafood (both real and faux) I am.

My entree didn't fare much better. Crusted mushrooms sounded promising, but they were extremely sweet...way too sweet for an entire entree. I had like four pieces and I was done.

The dessert was what brought us in here, and the home-made bananas foster ice cream was enjoyable, for sure.

So even though we chose our entrees poorly, we did enjoy the appies and dessert, and I was just really pleased to find a vegan restaurant so close to our hotel. The service was quick and we were able to to enjoy our dinner with plenty of time to spare to make our way to Barclays Centre for Coldplay.

Seriously, mind-blowing concert.

After seeing Paradise live, I can officially die happy.

Because we were going to be in NYC over New Years, we toyed with the idea of doing the Times Square thing. But securing a spot in the morning and then waiting all day in the freezing cold just didn't sound like the best use of our time (even if the payoff would be seeing Psy and Hammer doing a Gangnam Style/2 Legit 2 Quit mash up), so instead we made a reso at Pure Food and Wine to enjoy our last dinner of 2012.

This place is all kinds of classy. They had a prix-fixe menu for New Years, so we just ordered one of each of the options when an option for a course was available so we could try everything.

And as expected, everything was absolutely wonderful. This food is extremely creative, and you know there's all kinds of talent working in that kitchen to bust out food like this.

Edamame & Mushroom amuse-bouche
Kabocha Squash, Napa Cabbage, and Asian Pear Gyoza
Wilted Mizuna
Celery Soup with Watermelon Radish Crisp
Goma Dofu
Miso Glazed Eggplant
Pineapple Ramune Soda
Persimmon Sponge Cake
Green Tea Tiramisu
And yes, we ate it alllllllll.

Even more impressive is that this place is raw. Raw vegan fine dining? I think 2012 ended on a pretty incredible note.

We finished dinner in plenty of time to make our way towards Times Square, but at that point the areas around it had been blockaded off. We still managed to score a spot with a view of the ball about 15 blocks away and freeze our asses off for two and a half hours waiting for it to drop. It was worth it though.

What I started to notice about NYC that differentiated it from Vancouver was that though Vancouver has lots of vegan friendly restaurants, not too many are 100% vegan. In NYC, there was definitely no shortage of 100% vegan restaurants, and we made a point to try as many as humanly possible in the time we had.

The Blossom series of restaurants were incredible, and on Chef Chloe's list of recommendations. There are a couple of Cafe Blossoms, as well as a Blossom restaurant. We ended up eating at all three over the duration of our trip. We started with Cafe Blossom on Columbus (Upper West Side) for a late breakfast/early lunch on our second day in NYC, and actually ended up eating here again for brunch on our last day.

Cafe Blossom on Columbus smells super fresh and green when you walk in, probably from the amazing stuff they juice throughout the day.

First visit:

Mushroom Pizza Bites
Caesar Salad with Tempeh Bacon
Aubergine Trio, Southern Seitan Sandwich and a side of steamed kale. 
Rob fell in love with their Caesar salad, and ordered it at both of their other locations expecting the same recipe, but it wasn't, which is actually one of the reasons we had to come back to the Columbus location...so he could order the Caesar salad again.

Second visit: Sunday Brunch Hells Yes

Rob succeeded in reuniting with his Caesar salad, and we also partook in the tofu benedict, live nachos, and stuffed french toast. And everything was incredible. The flax seed crackers from the nacho dish were exceptionally delicious.

You can never go wrong with raspberry stuffed French Toast. I mean, just look at that french toast. Dipping it in eggs is so unnecessary.

And in a realm all its own...the Butterfinger shake.

It doesn't look like anything spectacular, but you know that thing that happens when certain ingredients come together just right and the stars align just so, and you are completely in awe at how something can be so incredibly delicious that you are transported back to a time when you were a kid tasting something awesome for the first time and getting crazy excited about just how good it was, and you can hardly believe how lucky you are that you get to finish the whole thing?

Yah, the Butterfinger shake at Cafe Blossom on Columbus totally has that going on. It is ridiculous. I swear they spike it with magic. Soooooo good.

There is also a Cafe Blossom on Carmine (Greenwich Village), which we ate at on our last night in New York.

Disregard my posing like an idiot.

We had the absolute best service at this one thanks to an incredible waitress who totally reminded me of Emma Stone. She was from Toronto, and she knew Sarah Kramer, and was just superduper friendly and awesome and made our last dinner in NYC even more special. Of course, the food helped with that too...

Hello appies! Those would be Caesar salad (but not as good as the Caesar salad at the Columbus location), cashew cheese dumplings with tamari plum sauce, and trumpet mushroom scallops with cauliflower puree...

Hello entrees! Miso mustard risotto with mushrooms and seitan mushroom sliders...

Hello dessert special! Goji berry cheesecake w/ cacao nibs...

Loved this place. So. Much.

In addition to both Cafe Blossoms, there is also just Blossom. Also amazing. I guess the difference is that Blossom is mainly a dinner place, though they are open for lunch on weekends.

Very busy and very cosy. We got a nice little table right by the front window. And I'm running out of adjectives to describe how awesome Blossom food is, so I'll let the pics do the talking...

Caesar salad (but not as good as the one at Cafe Blossom on Columbus)
Porcini cigars
Raw zucchini lasagne
Tofu in brandy cream
Port wine seitan
Coconut lavender creme brulee
Apple cinnamon sticks

Holy food O. It was complete culinary debauchery in the best way possible. And I gotta give a shout out to the porcini cigars...phyllo wrapped mushrooms swimming in cashew pesto? Damn, I'm a lucky girl.

To sum up our Blossom experience...four meals at three Blossoms, all nothing short of spectacular. 

And then there was Candle 79. NYC's premier vegan oasis. And indeed it is.

I had first heard about Candle 79 from Alicia Silverstone on her Kind Life blog over a year ago, and I've been dying to go there ever since. There is also a more casual Candle Cafe, so we just decided to give both a try in one day...Candle Cafe for lunch, and Candle 79 for dinner.

Real time update...I just realized that there are two Candle Cafes...west and east. We totally missed Candle Cafe West. I'm seriously kind of devastated right now.

Shake it off, shake it off.

Sad face :(

Anyways, Candle Cafe was very similar to Cafe Blossom on Columbus in terms of the type of food they offered and the atmosphere. I loved everything about it.

That would be a sweet potato pie smoothie on the left (with almond milk, nutmeg, cinnamon and maple syrup) and a chia concord smoothie on the right (with pear, concord grapes, banana, pomegranate, and chia seeds). The average vegan (aka emaciated hippie) would be dissuaded from ordering an appy and entree and dessert when starting lunch with such a huge smoothie. But I'm not your average emaciated hippie. 

Hence the appy,

Seitan chimchurri skewers as per Chef Chloe's recommendation

Porcini mushroom crusted seitan and Paradise casserole

Close up of my paradise casserole...layers of millet, black bean, and sweet potato
and dessert.

Chocolate peanut butter cake

We pretty much planned our days around where and when we would be eating. So knowing we had to work off this awesome lunch and work up an appetite for dinner at Candle 79 later that night, I made sure to cry extra hard watching War Horse that afternoon.

Candle 79 most definitely lived up to all the hype. It was packed. Such a classy, elegant place.

And as expected, the food was exquisite.

Don't even remember what the amuse-bouche was, but I totally love the concept of an amuse-bouche

Chickpea crepe with mushrooms, beans & squash

Homemade live cheese plate

Pomegranate chipotle-grilled tempeh

Mushroom butternut risotto

Onion rings

Cannoli!!! Friggen vegan cannoli!!! Holy shit I can eat cannoli!!!!!
See this? This is me EATING CANNOLI!

Dear Candle 79,

I want to live in you forever.



Dear Vancouver, 

We need more vegan fine dining. 



Oh NYC. Sooo much great eating. Sooo much great shopping. And I'm nowhere near done singing your praises. But that's enough for one post. My new years resolution is to have way shorter blog posts. Actually that's not true. My new years resolution is to finally use the breadmaker I got for my wedding...almost 10 years ago.

And to learn all the words to all the Book of Mormon songs.

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