Travel

New York and Long Island

July 28, 2016

AKA “The mac n cheese chronicles”

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I have spent a lot of time in NYC, but this was my first trip since going vegan, and I was so excited to try all the exciting vegan restaurants in the city. Unfortunately I only had a few days in the city so had to really narrow down my choices and even then I didn’t get to even a fraction of the places I wanted to. I guess I’ll just have to plan another trip soon 😉

The first couple of days in the city I spent with my family who live in Manhattan, including my two little sisters, which means we mostly ate takeaways at home. Not that I’m complaining. There are lots of little delis and cafes in the city where you can get vegan dishes like pasta, various salads, grilled veggies, dumplings, etc.

We did go out for lunch one day to Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallery. It’s a beautiful building and a really lovely spot for lunch. Unfortunately when my sister, Alex, and I asked about vegan options we were pointed to a salad. Yay. If you know me, you know I am not the biggest fan of salads. I love cooked veggies, but salads are so boring. Anyway, because of this I asked if we could have some things added to it – avocado? crispy potatoes? The server made a big deal about it and said they would have to be ordered as separate dishes. Fine. I don’t understand how some restaurants can be so inflexible but there you go.

Anyway, the salad was pretty good as far as salads go. The pumpkin seed dressing was delicious and the avocado was perfectly soft and ripe. We also liked the asparagus and potatoes, but the serving size was tiny especially as my sister and I were sharing it.

The first evening in the city my sister and I went to Candle 79 just for drinks and had a lovely snack of vegetable jalapeno poppers with pickled-vegetable salad and the most amazing creamy jalapeno aioli dressing. They also brought out these little amuse bouche of quinoa salad. After our little sneak preview I was really looking forward to our actual booked meal a few days later.

After two days in the city we headed out to Long Island for the weekend. Here are a couple photos from an evening ocean stroll that first night. The beaches in Long Island are beautiful.

In Long Island we again spent most meals in the house. One evening we had delicious sushi from Sen Japanese restaurant. This is how you do avocado maki! The seaweed salads were also delicious. On another day we had a really nice curry from Hampton Chutney which consisted of a lentil soup, veggie curry and steamed basmati rice with a flatbread.

On our last day on the beach we decided to check out the snack shack and were pleasantly surprised to see a couple vegan options on the menu, including a hummus and avocado sandwich. The sandwich was really tasty – my only complaint would be that they were a little skimpy on the fillings. I also had a side of fries which were SO good – fairly certain they were double or triple fried as they were so crispy and salty.

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After a weekend at the beach, my sister and I headed back to the city alone and went out to Candle 79 for a late dinner. We ordered a bottle of delicious red wine and the avocado tartare to start, while I decided on the seitan piccata for my main, and Alex went for the herb-grilled portobello steak. We also ordered a side of polenta fries.

The first thing to arrive was a little taster of the scrummiest potato salad. Next was the tartare which was a little tower of tastiness. It was layered with avocado, chunky tomatoes and oyster mushrooms, served with crispy jalapeno-chia-kale crackers. The tartare itself was nice but lacking in seasoning. Luckily the kale crackers made up for it.

My main was HUGE. It may not look big, but the portion was very generous. A large piece of seitan sat on a bed of wilted spinach, oyster mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes, covered in a lovely lemony caper dressing. It was divine. I nearly ate all of it, but was defeated in the end.

Alex’s dish was also much larger than it looks – with layers of grilled portobello mushrooms with sautéed spinach and roasted fingerling potatoes in a black pepper-cabernet reduction. The polenta fries came with a smoky ketchup dip and I ordered a side of herb aioli too. They were so good, but again, far too much of it for us to finish. Unfortunately neither of us had room for dessert which is a shame (I never learn).

The next day we decided to walk through Central Park to visit Blossom du Jour for breakfast. The restaurant is small and very casual – you order at the counter and seat yourself.

I went for the tofu scramble wrap with added avocado, plus a side of mac n cheese (the first of three), while Alex went for the egg, cheese and bacon muffin. My wrap was really disappointing. It had very little flavor, and when I asked for hot sauce I was given ketchup (the service left a lot to be desired). The mac n cheese was ok, but again it needed salt and seasonings. The only good dish was the breakfast sandwich which had the most incredible cheddar cheese sauce and crispy bacon. I’d go back for that dish alone. Otherwise, give this place a miss.

My sister went back to Arizona that afternoon while I had another day to spend in the city. That afternoon I headed to Brooklyn to meet an old friend for lunch. It was brutally hot that day (34c/93f), so by the time I arrived I was a puddle of my former self which means I also had very little appetite. Luckily the restaurant we went to, Tilda, serves little plates, so I ordered a dish simply called “zucchini.” The dish was very pretty and perfectly cooked and seasoned with roasted garlic, coriander, pine nuts and a lovely vinaigrette. Even though it looks very small, I felt like I was unravelling it for ages. It was the perfect dish for that hot summer afternoon. Once again though the service was terrible.

After lunch I headed back to Manhattan. After getting off at my stop I walked through Central Park to get home, only to get stuck in the worst thunderstorm I’ve seen in years. For a little while I managed to hide under the small umbrellas of a hot dog stand (check out my video here), but eventually the rain was coming down so hard that it provided very little cover, so I decided to continue walking in the torrential downpour. By the time I got out of the park the sun came out again, but the damage was done. I looked like a drowned rat and had to ring out all of my clothes when I got in (including my underwear!).

That night I was supposed to meet another friend for dinner at 00+co for pizza, but the rain didn’t let up and there were flash flood warnings, so we decided to meet up the next day. Instead, I ordered a takeaway from Candle Cafe which is the more casual sister restaurant to Candle 79. I had a small house salad, buffalo cauliflower bites and mac n cheese for the second time that day. I know I said I don’t like salads, but this one was really good – there were field greens, carrots, asparagus, cucumber, crispy chickpeas and hearts of palm, all in a creamy wasabi dressing. The mac n cheese was good too – they managed to get it really gooey so it tasted like the real thing. The best part though were the buffalo cauliflower bites. They were crispy, salty, spicy and came with a delicious, creamy cashew blue cheese dip. Heaven.

The next morning I met my friend for breakfast at Blue Dog Kitchen. It was another ferociously hot day, so I had them put together a simple plate of toast with a side of avocado. It was nice – but you can’t really go wrong with this dish. I also had a pomegranate arnold palmer which was so refreshing on that hot day.

After breakfast I walked the High Line which is a 1.45 mile long linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad. Along the path there are native trees, grasses and flowers, with amazing views of the city.

I got off towards the end of the High Line in Chelsea and headed to By Chloe to pick up lunch. I ordered the original burger, fries and, you guessed it, mac n cheese. I planned to eat at home, but had a few cheeky fries on the way and was already disappointed. They had a really nice flavor, but were stale and tasted like they’d been sitting out under the heat lamp too long. So you can imagine what they were like when I got home.

The burger was good but not great. The actual patty itself didn’t have much flavor, but the rest of the ingredients made up for it – including the “secret sauce” and beet ketchup which is a revelation. The mac n cheese was a showstopper though. It was topped with crispy shiitake “bacon” and breadcrumbs, and was so deliciously cheesy.

After lunch I packed up all my stuff and headed back to the airport for my overnight flight back to the UK. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, but I did have fun. My dining experiences were certainly mixed, and I have to say overall I was surprised by the quality of vegan food. I’ve had much better meals in the UK.

The highlight of my trip? Getting to hang out with my adorable and goofy twin sister 🙂

  • Vance Harvey July 29, 2016 at 7:56 am

    There are some great Vegan restaurants south of 23rd on the west side…..I have gone to them a number of times when in NY; also most of them do gluten free as well, which is also essential if one wants optimal health.
    I do have the names of some of them tucked away were you ever to want them.
    But many restaurants are now vegan/gf friendly, so it’s quite easy to eat vegan/gf in NY; has Native Foods got a branch there yet? I go into this restaurant in Chicago and know they are expanding their chain in the USA

    • Leicester Veggie July 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

      I agree – there were quite a few on my list to try in that area (and the lower east side), but unfortunately I ran out of time and they were a trek from where I was staying. I’m not sure re Native Foods.