Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vegan in NYC? Holla!

My husband and I took a trip to NYC during Labor Day weekend, and let me say it was... AWESOME! I know that this is a vegan kids blog, but come on, parents need a little TLC, too! My amazing mom volunteered to watch our kids while we went for a long weekend to visit my cousin in NY. She recently moved to NY to go to NYU (yes, she is brilliant), and by recently, I do mean that she had only been in NY for one week before we had visited her. She was already homesick, and greatly appreciated the company of her favorite vegans (excluding our children who would beat us out).

We don't normally take lavish weekend trips, but Nate was already traveling to North Carolina (from the SF area, where we live) on business, so his flight from NC to NY was covered by his company. Kind of on a lark, we talked about me meeting him in NY, so when my mom offered to watch the kids, I seized the chance to not only be alone with my spouse, but to visit my beloved cousin, Sam, and take a huge bite out of the delicious vegan Big Apple.

And eat the Apple we did...Oh, my goodness! NYC really is a haven for vegans. I am imagining the angels singing as I write this. It really was that good. The first night, we ate at Angelica Kitchen and it was probably my favorite dinner in NY. I had this amazing Asian crepe filled with delectable goodies, including shitake mushrooms, and drizzled with a wasabi cream. Oh, yeah. Nate had a seitan wrap with a mole sauce that I recreated in my kitchen upon returning home. (Check out my photos: I was so proud of my fancy creation that I made my mom pose with her plates! She looks too young to be a grandma, doesn't she?)

My cousin, Sam, had glazed tempeh on little crostinis with a brown gravy and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. So good! Sam, by the way, is totally vegan-friendly and was just about as excited as we were to try all the good vegan food. She had only been to one vegan restaurant with us before, in San Francisco, but had happily consumed many a meal at our home. This was Sam's first try of tempeh, and she enjoyed it. It really is great to have such supportive family members!

For the two mornings we ate breakfast in NY, we ate at The Organic Grill, a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance to NYU in Greenwich Village (Angelica Kitchen was even closer to Sam's residential hall). They had great vegan omelets, tofu rancheros, waffles and drinks. (There is more on the menu, but we ate the omelets and tofu rancheros both days due to their amazing taste.) The Organic Grill has a unique way of grating their tofu to use in omelets and tofu scramble that is really good. We loved it, hence the reason behind us dining there two days in a row (even when we had to wait 25 minutes for a table on the second day).

Before we went to see the Broadway show, Promises, Promises, (which was AWESOME), we dined at Candle Cafe where we each enjoyed a different, tasty sandwich. It was really good! We also purchased some cookies to-go to eat in the show. Yum!

Sam with her decadent Tuscan Seitan Parmesan Sandwich, and my goofy Nate with his classic Tofu Club.

Our last dinner in NY was at a chic narrow place called Red Bamboo. We were actually heading toward a different restaurant when we passed Red Bamboo, and I recognized it from our online searches. A glance at the menu and we were up for a try. The dishes are mainly soy- and wheat-meat heavy with an Asian slant, as hinted at in the restaurant's name. I was in the mood for a salad because of all the eating we were doing, and it had terriyaki soy chicken in it. All of our plates were tasty, but it was perhaps one of our more indulgent meals due to the amount of processed veggie meat. I would love to have this restaurant around us to head to on occasion, but it didn't top Angelica Kitchen--for me, anyway.

Sam and I pose at Red Bamboo.

Now I've been mentioning a lot of savory meals, but who can ignore a nice sugary treat? Well, not me, and definitely not Nate! Our first sweet success was at Stogo, a relatively new all-vegan ice cream store. It is a clean-lined modern place that would appeal to anyone. I had Salted Caramel Pecan, and Peanut Butter Fudge. Sigh...I wish I was back there right now (and that's not only to escape the bickering and fisticuffs of my son and niece that I am currently witnessing). No, the two flavors I tried were AMAZING (imagine me singing that word aloud for the true effect of my joy)! The Salted Caramel Pecan was the best vegan caramel I've ever had, with just the right amount of saltiness. It was so unique and scrumptious! And, can anyone resist the divine combination of peanut butter and chocolate? Not in the Wall house. The container of Peanut Butter Fudge had a layer of fudge with crushed peanuts on top which I was lucky enough to get a chunk of in my scoop. It was crunchy, salty goodness! I would love for there to be a Stogo near me...but maybe my scale would not!

I think one paragraph is sufficient to express my love of our first vegan ice cream experience in the city that never sleeps, so on to the final stop we made before heading home to the SF Bay Area. It may have been the pinnacle of our noshing in New York. After reading many glowing Yelp reviews (many from omnivores who were "forced" to go to a vegan ice cream parlor--yuck!--but discovered that it was, after all, quite amazing) we had to make the trek on foot to Lula's Sweet Apothecary, a teeny--and I do mean teeny--ice cream parlor straight out of the 50s...except that everything was deliciously vegan. Aaah! I read that their soft serve ice cream, with one of the two flavors always being Cake Batter flavor, was to die for (except no one had to die, right?). So I got a sundae with one of the "scoops" being the Cake Batter soft serve, and the other being something with chocolate and peanut butter. The whole thing was covered in the best hot fudge I've tasted in years, topped with coconut whipped cream, peanuts and a cherry on top. It was humongous, but I somehow managed to eat the whole thing. (See photo below) It was the most remarkable ice cream experience ever! At first, the parlor only had a few people talking outside the door, and a small group of customers at the counter before us. After we ordered, the place got packed! The one place to eat inside opened up, and we were able to take our towering sundaes in to sit on the stools at the counter which looked out into the street. It was the full Lula's experience, in my opinion. When next I visit New York, this will be the first place I head to, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner time. As soon as it's open, I'll be there!

If we had brought our kids along on our trip, it would have been a TOTALLY different experience. The plane trip alone would have been a challenge. I flew alone from SF and had several delays and an aircraft switch, causing me arrive in NY six hours late. Not too fun even if you're an adult traveling alone, but very difficult for children. We walked as much as we could around Greenwich Village and its surrounding areas, and we took the subway (fun!) several places. I think that Braeden and Kaylee would have enjoyed some of the walking and all of the restaurants, especially the ice cream shops, but they would have tired out faster than we did, obviously. Cristian, who is now sixteen months, would have changed the whole dynamic of the trip, with naps, fussiness, and wanting to walk on his own. I definitely think he would have been too young to handle the trip, but Kaylee and Braeden would have been fun to have along. Nate and I did feel bad eating at places we know they would have LOVED and talked about it while we were there. We will most surely take them with us when they are a bit older. (We had to promise them this to placate them. Kaylee was very sad that she was not accompanying us and didn't understand why the two of us were going alone. Poor girl!) I think we'll be going to Sam's NYU graduation in four years with all the kids---if we are feeling especially brave and wealthy!

Until then, we'll have our memories, menus and photos to look at to remind us of one of the most incredible weekends we've had, hands-down. I will never forget the dining experiences, seeing a great Broadway show, and spending time with my cutie pie cousin. I'm adding some final pics from around NYC, because, well, why not? It was just too fun not to share. =)


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