Traveling Vegan in NYC Part II: Restaurant Reviews, Food, Places that Closed, and Heaven on a Plate.

 

 

 

 

 

I love New York City. It is just really one of the World’s treasures. For vegans it is a resource that is unmatched in the United States. It has ever culinary wish you could make and every creative food your palate could desire. I always talk to my husband about where I want to go eat if I were in NYC right now. He has obviously been listening because the other week he said “Let’s go away for the weekend!” I was excited but careful. For me, money is always tight and I want to budget. So I pre-planned everything, every restaurant and activity and even snacks. We left a little late on Saturday and realized halfway there that although we did plan for the dog’s accommodations, hubby left the house without her leash on. He then fell asleep for most of the ride until he woke up and told me.

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So a short stop in Petsmart (or was it Petco) in Connecticut and back onto the highway. We got there in a reasonable amount of time regardless and I was so excited to start my culinary adventure. First however, we had to check in. My dog Lola was so excited to get out of the car and into the hotel to meet everyone. Did I mention it was about 10 degrees out? Thanks polar blast for that cold wave.

 

IMG_2945   IMG_2944 (Lola arriving in NYC smelling everything and so excited to get out of the car)

 

MARRIOTT CENTRAL PARKAccommodations

 

The staff at the Marriott Central Park was equally excited. It was a beautiful new hotel that just opened and we were staying in the Courtyard Marriott section but there is also a Marriott Residence Inn section making it the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere. Very cool. The staff is great and so was the hotel. I recommend it to everyone and anyone. Can’t go wrong with Marriott especially on Broadway between Times Square and Central Park near 5th Ave.

IMG_3040 (Lola checking out the fountain at the hotel)

 

 

 

DUN-WELL DOUGHNUTS: BREAKFAST / SNACK

After the bellman brought up the luggage and the valet took the car away. We headed across the Williamsburg Bridge to Dun-well Doughnuts. I met a man in line who helped me pick his favorites and a few other fun donuts for our half dozen box while my husband ran across the street to a local Bodega to get money from the ATM. It gave him all tens which he still thinks is the most hilarious thing in the world. I grabbed a vegan hot cocoa and a coffee for the hubby and we sat at the window to begin our feast. WOW was my first words. The donuts are those spot on sweet but not too sweet yeasty dreamy fluffs of heaven. They flavors and coatings are far from average and not at all tasting of “fake” fruit flavors or funny after tastes. They are as close to perfect as I can think. I just wish they were in Boston so I could get fatter by eating them every day.

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Foodswings: Lunch (closed)

Next we decided to walk the 1.5 miles over to Foodswings in Brooklyn on the Park Slope Brooklyn Bridge side of Brooklyn. This place is known for amazing home style eats. Burgers, mac n cheese, and fried chicken but all vegan all the time. One problem when we walked up the gate was down. So we saw a door to the right and walked down a long kinda shady hallway into a speakeasy door to find a girl sitting at a bar eating corn chips and salsa alone. This was not Foodswings. I walked out to find another couple doing the same thing and I agreed to check my phone Facebook to see what was up. They had announced in the beginning of the month that their lease was up and they had a fight with their landlord and would close at the end of the month. It wasn’t the end of the month but this explained it I guess. I was pretty upset that they didn’t bother and update their website, twitter, or FB when they actually closed. It was kinda a stinky move on their part. I met them at The Seed conference a few years ago and had their fried chicken and they seemed cool. But I guess time and business changes folks. oh well! (Note: I checked today on FB and they posted that a few days later (after I left a message on their twitter) they stated on FB they had been closed all week and reopened for a few days and closed again for good, thanks for telling us after you were closed a week. Really not impressed guys.)

 

PEACEFOOD CAFE: LUNCH / SNACK

We caught a cab bag to Manhattan and got ready for the dinner of the year. The vegan epicenter of high end vegan food…. Candle 79. We stopped at Peacefood Cafe first though for a snack since our lunch was now cancelled and because a twitter follower commented that she could eat her “weight” in their chickpea fries. All I know is I ordered a seitan medallion sandwich, chickpea fries, and a key lime pie to go and the seitan sandwich could’ve caused my husband and I to divorce and ask for custody over it so we didn’t have to share. It was THAT good. My only complaint. The key lime pie must have sat near onions in the fridge. The taste transferred into the tofu base. Not good but you could tell it would’ve been.

 

IMG_2953   IMG_2956IMG_2958IMG_2960 IMG_2986

 

 

Then Candle 79 after a quick trip back to the hotel to walk the dog and freshen up for dinner.

 

CANDLE 79: DINNER

I will be honest, I thought Candle 79 was going to be all talk. I had heard it was good but too pricey and that it didn’t live up to the hype. However, it is someplace you just have to go no matter what other folks say because it does have quite a celebrity following. The truth? It is actually THAT good. The menu is daunting. You want to order everything but are unsure. The prices are high but that is the type of restaurant it is. Think Morton’s or the Palm without the meat. The hostess was delightful and took our coats. A rude customer came in behind us and was quite demanding that he be seated before us (we had a reservation as did he) but she handled it with the grace of a ballerina and assured him he had a table and she would be right back. We were brought down the long thin first floor up some stairs to the second floor overlooking 79th. It was a nice view bu there was a huge flower display in the window that blocked some of it. The ceilings were gorgeous and made of several colors of wood. The staff was attentive and polite. I ordered a kola (which reminds me of coke in the Caribbean), a Caesar salad, and the Seitan Piccatta. My husband ordered the dumplings appetizer and the Rosemary-Balsamic Grilled Seitan. My salad was wonderful. I had wanted a Caesar salad since I had gone vegan but had never had one. While we waited a waited came over and told me that the chef sent out a appetizer for us to try. It was a lentil filled spoon with some jalapenos and maybe celery? Whatever it was it was fresh and a little spicy and a perfect bite. I thanked him and the chef immensely, it was an honor. When the salad came it was tangy and filling and the little Parmesan crisp were perfect. The shocker was the grilled “chicken” on it. It tasted 100% real deal like a grilled chicken. Even my husband was shocked. He ate what I didn’t finish. I tried his dumplings which were good but I should’ve dipped more sauce. The Seitan Piccatta was outstanding. They only tiny change I would made. Making it thinner and not stacking it on top of each other. That’s it. Kinda lame but it’s the little things sometimes. My husband was enamored with his seitan as it tasted like real beef. I did not like steak much before going vegan so I wasn’t shocked I did not love his dish but it was real deal beef flavored and textured. The sides were good though! Then dessert was ordered. OMG dessert. This is the best dessert I have ever had at any time in my life. Pure heaven on a plate. We got 3 desserts to share as my husband is a sugar addict. We ordered the flan, chocolate brownie, and the chocolate peanut butter truffle. The flan was heaven on earth. I would probably not have shared if my husband hadn’t just snagged a piece. The brownie was pure chocolate decadence with divine ice cream. The ice cream on the flan was also just sublime. The peanut butter chocolate truffle thing was too chocolatey for me but perfect for my husband. he loves a good death by chocolate flourless cake and this was more chocolate than peanut butter so he was happy. I would eat there every day if I could.

IMG_2961 IMG_2984 Caesar Salad

IMG_2964 Dumpling/Potstickers

IMG_2982Seitan Piccatta

IMG_2968 Rosemary Balsamic Seitan 

IMG_2969 Q-Kola

IMG_2971 Mexican Chocolate brownie

 IMG_2973 Peanut Butter Chocolate truffle

IMG_2985 Pumpkin Flan with Sugared Toasted Pepitas

IMG_2974  IMG_2977 IMG_2979 Bathroom Selfies because its fun!

IMG_2980IMG_2981Restaurant Selfie: Candle 79

 

 

 

 

Blossom Cafe: Sunday Brunch

The next morning we arose bright and early to have brunch with my old college roommate Andrea. She is one of those amazing NYC girls that is so well read and refined yet relaxed and fun that you can bring her anywhere and she will have been there or know the owner or have a story about it. She had been to Blossom but she isn’t vegan. She ordered the grilled cheese, my husband ordered the stuffed french toast (and ate half of it before I could snap a photo!), and I ordered the country brunch platter. Everyone was quiet and cleaned their plates. Like my grandmother would say, we were all part of the “Clean Plate Club”. I especially loved my chutney, scramble, and the fried sweet potato. I mean it was all good but that chutney! Yummm…

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AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

We dropped off Lola with a dog walker for the afternoon so she could play in the upper east side and Central park. I couldn’t bare to leave her in the hotel all day. Then the hubby and I ran off to the Museum of Natural History on the upper west side. It is one of my favorite places in the world. It is so fun and beautiful to look at and if you can’t afford to pay it is free. We paid but you don’t have to or you can pick what you want to pay. It is pretty amazing that they do that for folks. 

 

 

 

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V-NOTE: SUNDAY DINNER

We then embarked on a new high end restaurant and wine bar for an early 5 pm dinner. It is supposed to rival (if not exceed) Candle 79 in food, wine, and service and is owned by the folks from Blossom. It is on the upper east side and although they did have one outstanding item on the menu, I wouldn’t go back. Mainly because of service but the food wasn’t great either except for the one item. It was just barely okay. We changed our reservation from 630 pm to 5 or 530 pm and arrived early. We were seated right away and the place was almost entirely empty. There was a couple at a table and a man who looked like he worked there, drinking at the bar. That was the first not so good sign. A man who looked like his twin was our server (brothers?). He came over and was friendly enough but was slow. He didn’t refill glasses, he had a busboy bring our food, and when the rush came in at 6-630 ish he started forgetting our order but didn’t forget to charge us for what we didn’t get. When I went to the bathroom (which was not very clean), I overheard him saying that an article written on a tablet the other female server (the only two staff on the floor) had was “not good” for their business. I understood right away that they got a bad review and honestly, I wasn’t shocked. I had to bring the bill up to the female waiter to explain the bill was wrong since he refused to come back for us to pay. She said oh okay I will take it off and he came up behind me and said “What’s the problem?” I explained he had charged us for items he never brought us and he said “Well you know we got slammed”. That isn’t an excuse in my book. You are a waiter, you deliver food. I didn’t ask for anything outside of this. You will get slammed every night in NYC. You should still be able to do your job. The only good thing: the mushroom risotto. Order it to go and you will be in heaven.

IMG_3025IMG_3026 Too gingery ginger ale.

 IMG_3027 husbands wine

 IMG_3029 Corn Chowder that was watery and more like corn liquefied, also blisteringly hot. Burned my tongue.

 IMG_3030 Seitan medallion app with potato salad. Bland.

IMG_3031 Eggplant parm. appetizer. Bland and had more zucchini than eggplant.

IMG_3032 Mushroom Risotto. Marvelous.

 IMG_3033IMG_3034 Mexican Stuffed Poblano with Walnut Sauce. Not enough sauce. Bland. Poblano wasn’t roasted well or thin enough. I used to love this dish when I was not vegan. It is a quintessential Mexican holiday dish (I’m part Mexican). They killed it 😦 .

IMG_3035 Fondue. Tiniest amount of chocolate ever with barely any fruit and 2 cookies cut in half and two pretzel sticks for I think $16. Lame.

 

 

 

HOME

We picked up Lola after that from her dog walker and headed back to the hotel to pack and go home. The dog walker was amazing and you should use her services if you are ever in town. I will post a link soon! I was happy with the trip overall and even more happy to have picked up a vegan guide to NYC at Dun-well along the way. Although Foodswings and V-Note were a big buildup with little return. They other places more than made up for it and I have a book of new places to start trying! Please feel free to tell me more places to go next. I can’t wait for another traveling vegan trip! Maybe I will see you in your town!

 

Food is Love.

The Hippie Gypsy.

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