Woohoo New York! It felt surreal, with all the meticulous planning it was almost deja vu. Happy birthday to me... this was my time, a week spent in good company eating my way around New York. I felt like a gushing schoolgirl easily excited about all the vegan options presented. Vegan cupcakes, vegan ice cream, raw chocolate, raw "cheesy" crackers, veggie burgers, tempeh salads... you get the picture. This was turning out to be one holiday where I could relax those foodie fears, you know the ones where you pray for at least one vegan option on the menu. I was feeling the love already. Our first stop on the vegan itinerary was Babycakes, the sweet smelling cake shop by Erin McKenna. A red velvet cupcake at 10.30 in the morning seemed in order for the first day.
Many meals later... and in order not to bore you with a day by day account I will just recap my eureka moments that are begging to be shared. The most profound was at One Lucky Duck, the raw food bar. I ordered the tiramisu, a perfect portion, from the Juice Bar location at Chelsea Market. Anticipation high, I plunged in with a generous spoonful, the sake drizzled sponge was feather light sandwiched between the bold luscious cream that immediately prompted a wave of nostalgia. Tiramisu was an all time favourite dessert back in the days of eggs and dairy. Delicious. Revolutionary, that tiramisu will forever be recorded in my treasure trove of fond memories.
Buoyed by my natural sugar high, yes I should mention that I also gulped down a vanilla milkshake made with you guessed it raw vegan ice cream. I quickly scanned the cookbooks by the Owner Sarma Melngailis on display, in fact I looked over each item. Fortunately I was the only one in the shop as it took an inordinate amount of time. I was awestruck about what you could actually produce without having to light up the gas. Melanie my carnivorous friend bought a brownie that ticked all her boxes as she quickly returned for a second which was quickly devoured with a creamy smoothie. I have always been a little reticent about delving into the world of raw foods, a fear stemmed by weird sounding ingredients like irish moss, the laborious process involved in creating a dish, meal, anything and would I really make use of the dehydrator or will it wind up like the pasta machine stilled holed up in it's original packaging somewhere. I will keep you posted on this particular journey as I came away with Living Raw Food, the second cookbook from One Lucky Duck.
I found love across the water at Williamsburg. Okay love at first bite. On that blustery windswept morning down by the harbour in Brooklyn I had the burger of my life, a beet patty that exceeded all expectations tucked between a Sullivan Street Bakery vegan brioche. I spied it sitting delicately for all the world to see. In that instant it had my attention and before I knew it I was shouting out my order to the pre-occupied lady who also happened to be part owner of Chickpea and Olive. I chose the polka slider with a healthy serving of avocado. It was the epitome of what a great veggie burger should taste like, it bowled me over. So I ordered a second! Mind you these were smaller than your average burger. I can't quite work out the difference between a slider and a burger. And because I couldn't say when I would be next at Smorgasburg I had to try the tempeh at Barry's tempeh, a few stalls down. Again it was all in the looks, golden cubes casually nestled on a raw slaw of vegetables with a squirt of sauce. Outstanding, again reaffirming my love of tempeh.
Whilst in Williamsburg the Wythe hotel is worth a drop-in if for no other reason than a virgin Bloody Mary. Yes it's ultra-cool in that Williamsburg grungy way, exactly like the magazine pictures. Perch yourself at the bar and drink it all in like we did, otherwise there seems to be a popular brunch happening on the weekend. And since you're in the area make your way to Mast Brothers to survey the gorgeous packaged bars of chocolate lined up in perfect stacks on their very long table. Chocolate seems to be celebrated in a big way judging by those well stocked supermarket shelves. The raw chocolate selection is extensive with most brands sprouting from Brooklyn. There must be a lot of vegans in Brooklyn?? The chocolate bars from the Human Kitchen, Fine & Raw and One Lucky Duck were my favourites.
Tasted and recommended foodie finds for vegan and non-vegan folk;
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream - the lovely interior at the East Village shop makes for a relaxing pitstop for vegan ice-cream without the soy. They do sell traditional ice-creams.
Hangawi - a Korean vegan restaurant that is a must on any visit, amazing food and set up, you leave your shoes at the door before being ushered to low lying tables. No you aren't sitting cross legged but on even lower sunken benches.
One Lucky Duck Juice Bars - a good entry point to the world of raw food with snacks, desserts and healthy salads. I had the falafel salad, and found it very tasty and satisfying. Obviously it's not the same as the fried non-raw variety.
Dirt Candy - Very original and interesting take on vegetables, absolutely delicious. You are in for an experience.
Sullivan Street Bakery - For pastry thin slices of pizza without the cheese and a delicious lentil soup. Not really vegan but there will be something to enjoy.
Babycakes - with a pleasing aesthetic store fit-out together with counter staff decked out in super cute outfits, the cakes and treats aren't the only eye candy.
Smorgasburg in Brooklyn - A week-end food market where you have an opportunity to get to the smaller operators. A lot of vegan fare with my favourite veggie burger stand Chickpea and Olive and the very tasty salads from Barry's Tempeh.
Wholefoods - what I wouldn't give to have a branch in the UAE.
That was the food lowdown, when we weren't eating we covered the Highline, Liberty island, Central Park and wandered in and out of museums. I would recommend getting one of those pre-paid passes as this enables you to jump the queues. We had to shortlist the museums for our short week and these were the three that I happened to enjoy the most; the Guggenheim, Met Museum and MoMa. A small note about the Met, it is huge so devote a full day to appreciate it's collections. And I should mention that my friend Rahman recommended the Broadway musical Book of Mormons which was a hoot, absolutely hysterical. I would advise to book in advance for any musical as the seats sell fast.