One day while we were in New York, David and I met up with the team behind Kale Crusaders, Meredith and Adam. Meredith and I have been blogging buddies for a long while but only met in person back in May at Vida Vegan Con. This was my first time meeting Adam, who is such a sweet guy and greeted us with a hug saying, “I feel like I already know you!” Meredith and Adam recently moved to New York from Boston and were more than happy to play tourists with us for the day.
Right away we noticed that David and Adam were wearing the same shoes. Even funnier, when Dianne and I were at Moo Shoes the day before, she had pointed out the same pair there (but in a different color) and said that her husband, Dennis, has them too! Apparently, if you’re a vegan guy, these are the shoes you own. It’s like a straw fedora was a few years ago – a vegan guy’s calling card.
We all convened at Franchia Vegan Café in Midtown. Meredith and Adam had been there before and loved the place, but this was David and my first time. The interior was minimalist and airy with an almost spa-like feel.
Steamed buns are always my favorite part of a dim sum spread. So I couldn’t resist starting with Peking buns with mock duck and scallions. The dough was light and bouncy and the vegan meat inside had a nice savory chew to it. They had a little bit of sweetness along with crisp cucumber and carrot inside.
Before I went to Franchia, I had asked several people for recommendations. The stone bowls got mention after mention. Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish that comes with various toppings and a choice of sauces. For a dollar more, the dish is served in a piping hot stone bowl. The bowl continues cooking the rice and makes the rice crusty on the outside. The trick is in the timing. You want to let the rice touch the bowl long enough for it to get a crisp, toasty exterior, but not so long that it becomes burnt. Any food that touches the edges of the bowl sizzles with heat. It turns the meal into an interactive sport.
David and I both ordered a stone bowl. I had the Hainan seitan chicken atop brown rice with ginger and pandan leaves. It was served with thinly sliced raw cucumber and carrots along with steamed spinach.
Each bite was a different combination of crunchy, chewy, and soft textures along with a mixture of raw and cooked. It was pretty much my dream bowl.
David had the curry soy chicken with brown rice, carrots, celery, and potato. The full-bodied curry sauce was deliciously creamy.
I have nowhere near tried every vegan restaurant in New York City, but I would say if you only have time for two restaurants – go to Candle 79 and Franchia. Franchia also has a high-end sister restaurant, Hangawi, that I would love to try in the future.
The experience at Franchia has me wanting to learn more about Korean cuisine. This weekend I picked up a container of gochujang (a Korean fermented red pepper paste) at a local market and was delighted to see that they sell stone bowls too. I foresee much food exploration in my future! (If you have a favorite bibimbap recipe, please let me know in the comments. I’m planning on starting with one from Vegan Eats World tonight.)
After lunch, Adam suggested a place not too far away in Koreatown with Korean donuts called ho-dduk. Obviously, he had to say nothing more than “donuts,” and the answer was an enthusiastic “yes, please.”
Grace Street is a coffee and tea shop with a small menu of desserts. The restaurant itself isn’t a vegan restaurant, but they do offer soy milk for their coffee drinks, and the ho-dduk just so happen to be vegan (as long as you order them without ice cream).
The yeasty donuts are empty inside and filled with molten hot brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. The gooey cinnamon sauce floats inside of it like sticky sweet lava. The paper packaging warns to be careful, and they aren’t kidding. Some of it dripped onto David’s thumb, and he actually got a blister from it. So tread carefully. Bite off a portion to let it vent and try to be patient (or pour some of the liquid into the little sleeve like I did). At any rate, this tasty treat is not to be missed if you love hot donuts as much as I do.
We walked around Koreatown afterwards, including a quick whirl around H Mart to do some grocery store exploration. Then we set off for some sightseeing – including the outside of the New York City library, Union Station, and Times Square.
We said our goodbyes to Meredith and Adam and thanked them for a really fun day. There’s nothing like traveling to make you feel that the world is a small place, and there are friends everywhere.
David and I capped the evening with a long walk through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they were letting out for the night. We planned to spend the next day there.
More on that in the next post, which will be my final one on our trip to New York City! To read about our last day in NYC, click here.