Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New York City Adventure!

New York City in the last week of June. Glittering, steamy city... full of beautiful people and intoxicating energy. We traveled across the country to our old stronghold for our friend's wedding, and ending up spending a few days high on the summertime bliss of the frantic, unstoppable Big Apple. In terms of just about everything, New York is a machine of unparalleled size and efficiency. Anything you could ever want... there is lots to choose from, and lots of people there. Vegan food is no exception. The number of places has even grown since I left the city over a year ago, and following my stomach around Manhattan and Brooklyn led me to many delicious adventures.

My first day, I ended up in Central Park on a gray, humid day. The sun would come out just long enough to trick me into thinking the thunderstorms were over. But the air was thick with moisture and in no time, the black clouds returned and the water poured down in sheets. I was in flip flops in the park, trying to run for cover under some densely-canopied trees. Then I realized I was right by the Metropolitan Museum of Art... I could donate a dollar or two and see some masterworks while I wait out the rain. So I hold my flip-flops in my hand - it is simply too dangerous to try running through streams of water on the sidewalk with wet flip flops sliding out from under me - and run up all of the Met's grand steps... only to realize it's a Monday and the museum is closed! So then I run back down all the grand steps, drenched and barefoot and head back into the park for cover. This is a real New York City summertime baptism, and I felt right at home.
Soon, I took shelter underground in the subway, where the underground air was hot and sticky with thousands of exhales and train exhaust, and an hour later, I arrive at my friend Lizzy's adorable Williamsburg apartment, and within minutes, I have called Wild Ginger, a vegan Asian restaurant, and soon I am eating hot and sour soup and General Tso's Soy Protein in dry clothes. With friends in Brooklyn, eating vegan Chinese food and making plans for the long evening ahead... I was settling into the summertime rhythms of the city again. That night, we walked from opposite ends of Williamsburg, stopped by a 24-hour health-foods deli, buying ingredients for a vegan six-layer dip and a bag of blue tortilla chips, and then settled down in front of the chip bowl with a bottle of wine and the Game of Life. I was a salesperson with three kids, but I didn't have the most money in the end... and that's all that matters (I lost).
The next day, Lizzy and I embarked on a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge to the Lower East Side. Stopped into Moo Shoes, so I could buy a pair of vegan walking shoes and avoid the mishap with the flip-flops in the thunderstorm repeating itself. My feet were fat and swollen from the airplane and heat, so I had to take them off within minutes as blisters were forming. Back to flip-flops! We then went to Cafe Viva, and shared the incredible Green-Tea-Pesto pizza creation Zen, overflowing with toppings on a spelt crust, and then walked to Lula's Sweet Apothecary for ice cream sundaes. I got some ridiculous waffle cone ice cream with crushed mint cookies and hot fudge and whipped cream and a cherry. We ate it on barstools and then stepped out into the hot city buzzing with a sugar high.

Over the coming days, I cooked a few meals inside with my friends, loading up at produce markets and enjoying the fresh Jersey blueberries. (Full disclosure: pretty much every item of produce is better in California, but why are the blueberries always so good in New York?) With my brother, we went to Blossom, and enjoyed a nice sit-down meal. We started with the "Cape Cod Cakes," a crispy fritter made from mashed tofu and seaweed, served with tartar sauce. Then my brother had the Seitan Scallopini, which was tender and flavorful, and I had the Phillo Roulade, made with root vegetables and lentils wrapped in a crisp phillo pastry. The meal was elegant and satisfying! The next morning, I woke up late and wanted a hearty breakfast. I was in Soho, and I headed straight for Hampton Chutney Co for a breakfast dosa. The masala dosa with spicy and tangy tomato chutney took me back to India, and I ate it with my right hand by myself in the restaurant in its first minutes of being open, watching the beautiful people walking by on the street.
Masala Dosa at Hampton Chutney Co.
The food was exceptional, and my friends even better. But when I arrived back in San Francisco, feeling the crisp air, seeing the smiling faces, the beautiful hills and magnificent houses, I felt like I had come home. If only the restaurants and the friends would follow us here...

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