New York City is one of my favorite places in the world.
Whenever I go, I’m reminded of my first trip there in high school when I had to fight myself to step back on the bus and head home. Like a kid who had fallen in love at summer camp, I wrote in my diary for weeks after that – plotting my eventual move there. And while I still haven’t lived in New York City yet, it’s a place I’d love to live someday – even if it’s just for 3 months in the summer. I crave to have a bagel shop where I’m a regular and a nook in Central Park where I go to read.
David and I spent a little over four days in New York City last week, and I’m still recovering from fun fatigue. In comparison to our normal quiet lives, Manhattan is bustling with non-stop energy and stimulation. Plus, since we were only there for a few days, I felt guilty anytime I sat down to catch my breath. I knew we were always missing out on something in the city that never sleeps.
We took a very early morning flight, checked in at our hotel, and then walked around Central Park. The park itself is huge at 843 acres. Every time I enter it, there’s a new place to explore that I’ve never encountered before. We made a point of stopping by the boathouse to see people paddling on the lake.
Candle 79 is just blocks away from Central Park, and it’s a restaurant I’ve wanted to visit for years. It makes every “best of” list when it comes to vegan restaurants across the globe. David had been there in the past on business trips, but this was my first time. Whenever I travel, I try to pack in the things I want to do most early in the trip. That way I’m sure that it happens, and I enjoy them the most when I’m fresher. Indulgent food tastes best at the beginning of a trip, and I’m a blank slate for experiences.
Unlike Dirt Candy which didn’t have availability until sometime in September or October, it wasn’t hard to get a reservation at Candle 79. (Someday I’ll get to Dirt Candy, just not on this trip.) However, every table was full the entire time we were there on a Thursday night, and so I recommend making a reservation, so that you won’t have to wait or get turned away.
We ordered a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, and the server brought an amuse-bouche of watermelon squares topped with almond cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. It was the perfect way to waken the palate.
For an appetizer, we chose the grilled artichoke, which was a special that evening. It was the surprise star of the meal. I am a longtime fan of artichokes, but this explored the vegetable in a totally new way. It was almost like an artichoke steak. I expected to pull apart the leaves, but instead the artichoke heart & stems were cut in large wedges and grilled with a thick smoky flavor. They were smeared with kale pesto and served with saucy beans and roasted tomato.
I chose the summer vegetable – wild mushroom crepe for my entrée. The light crepe was drizzled with a garlic truffle aioli and filled with sautéed zucchini, spinach, and poblano peppers. I loved every mouthwatering bite.
David went with a dish that we’ve enjoyed in the past at Candle 79’s sister restaurant, Candle Café West. The seitan picatta was atop fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, and oyster mushrooms in a lemon caper sauce. This dish balanced elegance with comfort food.
When I saw the dessert menu, I had no choice but to order the cannoli. I hadn’t had cannoli since before I went vegan, and even then, it was something I only had rarely. I still remember the first time I ever had cannoli in a restaurant. I was 8 or 9 years old, and we were at a fancy Italian place in Des Moines. My uncle had ordered the cannoli, a dish I’d never heard of. He offered me a bite, and then I took another, and another until my uncle barely had a taste. This time I had the good sense to order my own.
This cannoli was incredible. I cracked into the pastry shell to the vanilla filling that was like Boston cream. It was dotted with chocolate chips, and topped with coconut ice cream.
David has been in a Twin Peaks-fueled pie obsession lately, and he went with the peach pie to go with black coffee. It was topped with almond crumble and a dollop of ice cream with caramel sauce.
After dinner, we took a cab back to the hotel, met up with a friend, and sat on the rooftop taking in views of the city. I can see why people can’t quit New York. There’s no place like it.