A Pleasantly Vegan Weekend

Or, when a little slice of Sudbury visited the big city.

Many things about this past weekend were just right. I was reunited with my Costa Rican soul sister, the weather on Saturday gave us New Yorkers hope that spring is literally right around the corner, and I went to bed every single night with a tummy that was extremely satisfied.

You see, my dear friend Jen is a vegan from Sudbury, Canada and does not have the luxury of living within a close proximity to vegan restaurants. Granted, she does live on a farm and grows nearly every vegetable and leafy green that you could imagine. Nevertheless, she is not used to going to a restaurant where she can open up a menu and see that every single item meets her dietary needs.

Veganism has come quite a long way, but we're still the underdog in this carnivorous world. For personal reasons, we both have chosen to adopt a predominantly vegan diet and find much joy in having it play such an important and inspiring role in our lives. 

That said, I was more than thrilled to be able to piece together a low key weekend centered around vegan food in Manhattan. I was a little aggressive in thinking that we'd make it to all five restaurants, but we damn well did. I will no longer underestimate crossing off everything on our hitlist whenever the two of us are reunited again. 

And that brings us to Friday. 

After a morning catching up over green tea & quinoa salads, we made our way to Central Park for some sunshine and frolicking. Conveniently, Candle Cafe served as a pit stop on the way home and we sat down for some smoothies and sipped more tea. Sitting at the bar was a wise choice, because we were overflowing with smoothie leftovers. FYI - as a past stop-in-and-sit-at-the-bar customer, this bartender will let everyone sample his random (albeit delicious) concoctions that he decides to whip up. Omega Dream for Jen (orange-infused dates, cherries, almond milk, flax, banana, peanut butter) and a Coconut Mint Frappe for myself (avocado, mint, coconut water)

Antsy for more, we ventured downtown to Pure Food & Wine, a standout in the city for its raw, inventive and completely delicious dishes. We could have had an organic red wine or a master cleanse martini (say what?), but we really just wanted some kombucha. We went with our waitress' favorite (blueberry) and it was indeed delicious. All those probiotics? Mmm, yes please.

We shared a beautiful sampling of brazil and macadamia nut based cheeses with rosemary crackers which was just enough to hold us over until our entrees arrived. Jen smartly chose the Zucchini and Heirloom Tomato Lasagna which is a combination of basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta layered generously between very thin strips of zucchini. It's out of this world. I mean it. 

I branched out from my usual culprits and went with the Curried Vegetables with Sprouted Quinoa Poppadom which came with coconut cumin, cilantro mint, and tomato tamarind sauces. It was light and quite honestly not my favorite, but the mouthfuls of Jen's lasagna made up for it.

It's interesting to think about what exactly goes on in raw kitchens. With no cooking involved, there are no stovetops or grills, but rather dehydrators and huge refrigerators. Not having a microwave in my own kitchen seems to throw people off guard, but I can't imagine what a grill master would think of a raw kitchen. It's actually quite impressive once you see your dish come out.

Battling a Saturday morning subway commute and running a few blocks to reach our morning activities (enough to let us know that we probably should start running again), we grabbed two spots in the back row at Bouley Botanical for some morning vinyasa followed by freshly pressed juices crafted by Chef Bouley himself. I believe the three variations were blood orange, regular orange and grapefruit with chia seeds. I never think to add chia seeds to fresh juices, but I imagine it will become a spring and summer post-yoga staple. 

A walk through SoHo later on found us at redflower for some Costa Rican inspired aromatherapy. We smelled and scrubbed and I left with a new shower treatment favorite. Incidentally, we were right around the corner from The Butcher's Daughter so of course we had to stop in for their smashed avocado toast. Let's say they're generous with the avocado here and while you pay for it, I have never in that moment felt more satisfied. They sprinkle curry and mustard seeds on top and it completely adds another element to a seemingly simple snack. 

A quick trip to the Union Square Greenmarket had us in awe over the beautiful flowers in bloom. One vendor had bouquets with dried chili peppers and I just wanted to take them all home to find a place for them in my nest. If you're on the hunt for a lovely chili pepper wreath for your kitchen, this is your go to. My goal is to leave with my arms full of bouquets next time. My poor vases need some love. 

Quality couch time dominated our Sunday morning, doing a bit of personal brainstorming for our business ventures and mostly just because it felt nice to not have anywhere to be so early in the day. I made a batch of my favorite green smoothies and we split one of those heavenly raw parfaits from One Lucky Duck. It was a fight for the last bite, because that thing sure didn't last long.

We managed to rally the troops (i.e. our Costa Rican New York habitants and other visitor from Massachusetts) and snag a late lunch at one of my favorites, Angela Kitchen. Ironically, this was the final place on my hitlist to take Jen and in my opinion the perfect place the round out the weekend. Excellent food and even better company...again, just right.

We had quite the spread going at our table, from a beautiful vegetable salad with crostini and vegan chili & rustic cornbread to BBQ tempeh and mushroom meatballs. Trust. You'll want to take turns ordering these from their hearty plant based menu:

Three Bean Chili,  made with kidney and pinto beans as well as lentils; slowly simmered with sun-dried tomatoes and a blend of chiles; topped with lime- jalapeƱo tofu sour cream. Served with butternut squash-red onion salsa & a choice of fluffy Southern style cornbread.

Thai Mee Up, a raw dish combining delicate strands of daikon radish, butternut squash & carrot, all on a bed of garlic-lemon marinated kale, dressed with Thai tahini sauce. Personally, I order a side of marinated tempeh and avocado to help round out the dish. 

Dish A Dixie, a southern comfort dish of grilled tempeh roasted in succulent barbeque sauce; steamed greens tossed with garlic oil and cider vinegar, studded with maple pecans; coleslaw of red and green cabbage with carrots, in creamy almond dressing. Plated with choice of Southern style cornbread (the obvious choice here) or mashed Yukon gold potatoes.

And of course dessert, which changes daily. Consider yourself lucky (as we did) if you stumble in on a day that they have their vegan peanut butter pie which is so artfully drizzled with a carob sauce.

Should you ever find yourself looking for a vegan weekend in the city, you just let me know. I'll be there in a heartbeat. Many heartbeats, actually.

To Jen - thank you for your lovely company and for making me feel home in my own city. You're a blessing in my life and looking forward to even more memories and visits ahead. xo