NYC Vegan Travel: Greenwich Village, East Village, SoHo & Upper East Side

Sacred Chow - New York CityDo you know the best way to really see a city – especially one that can feel complicated and sprawling? While tagging along with a local! Luckily in New York, I had just such a person – my friend, Dianne (a.k.a. Veggie Girl). Dianne met me at my hotel, and we started off on a day of much walking, sightseeing, and shopping.

First stop – lunch. We went to Sacred Chow, where neither of us could decide between the Roasted Black Olive Seitan Panini and the Thai Ginger Barbecue Seitan Panini. Answer? We both ordered one and then gave half to the other person. It’s a good thing too – she preferred the one I ordered (BBQ), and I preferred the one she ordered (olive).

Washington Square - NYCWe walked through Washington Square Park, which was exciting to me as a long-time When Harry Met Sally fan. I imagined the two parting ways there after a long drive from Chicago.

Vegan Ice Cream - NYCVegan ice cream - New York CityFor dessert, we walked to Van Leeuwen for some ice cream made with coconut and cashew milk. I ordered a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of banana nut.   It was particularly hot and sticky that week, and so the ice cream went down deliciously well.

Moo Shoes - NYCWe stopped by the all-vegan shoe store, Moo Shoes, and got some much-needed kitty therapy by way of their friendly in-store kitty cat. There was one pair of shoes that particularly caught my eye, but I resisted. Then I noticed earlier this week that they’d gone on sale and had just one pair left in my size! So they arrived in the mail yesterday. Woo hoo! It’s a little post trip souvenir.  (Moo Shoes recently opened an L.A. location as well. Those SoCal locals are so lucky!)

Then we went to nearby Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics to check out their 100% vegan makeup.

Pearl River NYC - bunny bowlNext, we ventured to SoHo, because I wanted to visit a two-level Asian import store that I’d heard about, Pearl River. There’s clothing, stationery, stuff for the home, food, and dishes. I had the hardest time choosing and ended up picking this sweet bowl with rabbits running across it. I love the wet look of the paint.

Dianne and I met up again a few days later, this time with husbands in tow and my friend, Katrina. We went to V-Note for dinner, which is an organic wine bar and vegan bistro created by the same people who own Blossom.

French Onion Soup - V NoteTheir soup of the day was French Onion, and even though it had been a million degrees outside all day, I couldn’t resist ordering it. It was topped with a dollop of melted Daiya and a slice of crusty bread. The soup was rich and full bodied.

Crispy Pine Nut & Basil Seitan - V NoteFor my entrée, I ordered the Crispy Pine Nut & Basil Seitan. The seitan was covered in a creamy white wine sauce with roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. It was then topped with grilled pineapple.

Tiramisu - V NoteBy this point I was well past full and skipped out on dessert, but I did snag a bite of the Tiramisu that Katrina ordered, and it was heavenly.

V NoteWe all had such a fun night and really clicked. The conversation flowed easily and non-stop.  I still have one more NYC post left, but this dinner was our last night in New York, and it was just the perfect cap on the week. Friends, food, and laughter – what more could a person want?

For more pictures from our visit, check out this post from Dianne on Veggie Girl.

Vegan Travel: Midtown & Flatiron in NYC

Kalustyan's - NYCWhen I go on trips, I like to do a lot of food tourism, even outside of the restaurants we visit. I like to go to niche markets and grocery stores looking at the spices, specialty products, cookware, and dining ware that is unique to a particular kind of cuisine. For a long while now I’ve wanted a couple of kadhai for serving curries that are like the ones they use at a local Indian restaurant. While I’ve seen basic kadhai elsewhere at places like World Market, they don’t have the ornate beauty of the copper ones I was hoping to find.

I knew that New York City would have no end of markets to visit, and so I did a quick Google search to see where I could find kadhai. The first place that came up was Kalustyan’s in the Flatiron neighborhood. The store has several levels and is filled with loads and loads of spices sold by the bag, chutneys, oils, teas, and frozen goods. There was also a bulk area, a wall of hot sauces, a restaurant upstairs, and an area for cookware in the bottom level.

There were griddles for making dosas, metal tiffins, and a wide array of kadhai. Before boarding the plane to NYC, I’d had to remove a couple of pairs of boots from my bag and return them to the car, because our shared bag was over the weigh limit. (Each way it would have cost $100 for the over-weight bag!) So I knew I had to be careful about how many pieces of cookware that I purchased.

Fresh datesI picked two kadhai in varying sizes, and then as I was checking out I noticed they were selling fresh dates. I’d only ever had the dried ones before, and so I bought a few out of curiosity. The clerk said that they could be eaten at their current stage of ripeness or they could be eaten later as they softened. The flavor reminded me of an astringent under-ripe hachiya persimmon. It left a kind of chalky feeling in the mouth. They weren’t my cup of tea, but I’d be interested in trying them another time.

Grand Central Station - New York CityAfter walking through some of the other stores in the area, I headed to Grand Central Station to experience it for the first time. I’ve always found airports and old post offices to be kind of romantic. There are so many promises there – greetings, separations, anticipation… I haven’t spent as much time in train stations, but they have that feeling too. The promise of a journey – the sadness of saying goodbye, the hope of saying hello, and all of the energy that comes along with the purpose of going somewhere.

The sheer size and beauty of Grand Central Station was captivating, and it was filled with people running off in either direction, and then in the center of it all, there were people standing and waiting for arrivals, to meet with friends. What surprised me about it was how much new existed in that grand old building. On one level there was an Apple store. (It was right behind me when I was taking the above picture.) There were restaurants, shops, and a long food market. A person could spend hours just inside of Grand Central Station.

Vatan - Vegetarian Indian Restaurant in NYCFor dinner that night, I met up with David and a couple of his co-workers at the vegetarian Indian restaurant, Vatan. The interior of the restaurant looked like an Eastern take on Rainforest Café or a restaurant at Disneyland. (You can’t see it in this picture but there’s a plush monkey hanging from one of the large fake trees inside.)

It’s a prix fixe, all-you-can-eat restaurant that is $32/per person. Instead of having a long buffet line where foods aren’t always as fresh and hot as one would hope, everything on the menu is brought to you at the table.

Puffed chips - Vatan in New York CityDiners are asked to remove their shoes at the side of their table, and then you sit on long cushions at the table. When the server comes to the table, you can let her/him know that you’re vegan, and you will only be brought the vegan items. While you wait, there’s puffed chips for snacking until the appetizers arrive.

Appetizer tray - Vatan in NYCIndividual trays are brought to each person at a table. For appetizers, there were so many things, including samosas, mirchi bhajia, ragda patis, sev puri, and batatavada.

Entree platter at Vatan - New York CityThen the entrée portion included bowls of toor dal, chole, bhaji, ful-cobi, and more. Plus, there were breads aplenty like puri and papadam. Everything was universally delicious and well balanced. After each course, we were invited to ask for more of anything that we’d like. The portions are generous, and I simply didn’t have room to even finish what I received, let alone ask for more.

Chutney at Vatan in NYCThere was also a full tray of chutneys for the table to share, including roasted garlic slices. What do we have to do to get every restaurant to start serving roasted garlic slices with every meal? This is an idea that needs to catch on.

Mango puree dessert - Vatan in NYCMy only quibble with the meal would be dessert. We were all served masala chai, and then David’s coworkers, who aren’t vegan (or vegetarian for that matter), were served homemade ice cream. The dessert for vegans was pureed mango. It was thin and liquidy like a one-ingredient smoothie. I feel like they could have taken dessert up a notch with something more exciting like a sorbet or coconut ice cream. Pureed mango doesn’t really seem like a dessert to me. It’s a step up from getting a dessert of applesauce.

Empire State Building - New York CityThis dessert was a little better…  As we walked out into the warm air, this was the view just outside – the Empire State Building in all of its beauty.

To read more about my trip to New York City, check out these posts on Liberty Island, Brooklyn, and the Upper West Side.