Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Savory Sustenance in New York City!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

It's been quite some time since I've returned from New York City, but the whirlwind of the year's end kept me from properly documenting my culinary adventure in one of my favorite cities in the world. While I ran from the plane directly to Lula's Sweet Apothecary, aka heaven, I'm going to tackle the savory side of New York City in this post & leave the desserts for next time!

On our first full day in NYC, we headed one of my favorite neighborhoods, the East Village, to a well known organic vegetarian bistro, Counter. After hearing rave reviews about their brunch, we decided to try it for ourselves. The sun shone beautifully in to the windows as we ordered the Frittata Alla Fiorentina & the Signature Pain Perdu. The presentation of the tofu frittata with a creamy mushroom hollandaise on a bed of spinach was lovely & was served with home fries & a salad. While the frittata was highly recommended, I found it a bit salty & overwhelming, I've never been a hollandaise gal, so this is likely the culprit. The Pain Perdu, on the other hand, was right up my alley! Slices of thickly coated French toast smothered by banana flambé with a side of maple syrup & fresh fruit, it was a like dessert for breakfast, which I take no issue with!
Counter: 105 1st Ave between 6th & 7th Street

After exploring vegan candy mecca Economy Candy, we headed to midtown to catch a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade, which just happened to feature 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer that night, as well as former SNL cast member Horatio Sanz. All the laughter must have kicked up our appetites & we hopped in a cab headed for Candle 79. I've raved about Candle 79 in the past, but this meal turned out to be less than stellar compared to the previous experiences I've had there. We started with two orders of our favorite dish, the Seitan Chimichurri, which came to us charred & almost inedible. Hoping to have better luck with other dishes, we ordered the infamous Seitan Piccata, as well as the Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh. The Piccata didn't do it for me, there was a note of something fishy, that I just couldn't enjoy, so Ryan ate a large portion of the dish. The Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh was better with it's delicious sweet potato-squash puree, chocolate molé sauce & perfect crisp tender haricots verts, but the tempeh itself was underwhelming. I'm certainly not giving up on Candle 79, it's one of my favorite places to dine, so I still recommend everyone try this typically stellar restaurant.
Candle 79: 154 East 79th Street at Lexington

You can't visit NYC without having a bagel with shmear, so I asked one of my favorite New Yorkers, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, where we should head for this classic combination. She recommended Bagels on the Square for their vast selection of Tofutti spreads, so we took her advice & headed to the West Village. An everything bagel with scallion spread & a plain bagel with strawberry tofu cream cheese were procured. We sat across from the shop, in the square, as the sun shone down on us & the crisp air nipped our red noses. Our favorite was definitely the chewy, yet tender plain bagel & I enjoyed the strawberry cream cheese, despite some contamination issues with some wandering lox (ick!).
Bagels on the Square: 7 Carmine Street between Avenue Of The Americas & Bleecker Street

After another day of wandering around, shopping, freezing, & taking in the sights, we met up with my longtime friend Janine for a dinner at Red Bamboo. I was under the impression I had not been there before, but upon entering I was pretty sure Janine & I went here together in 2001 before we saw Menace at CBGB (RIP). We ordered quite a few dishes, from Vegetable Tempura & Collard Green Rolls to Buffalo Barbecue Wings & Butterfly Soy Chops. Holy Fried Food, Batman! It was a crispy, oily fest, as dishes I thought would be vegetable based showed up covered in batter, batter, & more batter! I'm not a big fan of mock meats like "soy chicken" or deep fried everything, so Red Bamboo just isn't up my alley. I know many people love this place, so if you like mock meat & heavy comfort food, check it out.
Red Bamboo: 140 West 4th Street between 6th Ave & Macdougal Street

The next day, we met up with our gracious host & former roommate Eliana to have lunch. Wanting something on the lighter side & trying to stay around her work, we checked out The Organic Grill. Ryan quickly selected a dish he'll order any time he sees it on the menu, The Reuben. Eliana & I shared a few items, a Spelt Crust Pot Pie & the daily special; the Soba Spectacular. The Reuben hit the spot with thick slabs of tempeh, sauerkraut & tangy dressing on Rye, served up with a large salad. While the pot pie left a lot to be desired, the Soba Spectacular lived up to it's name with chunks of sweet potatoes, mushrooms, & soba noodles covered with a tahini dressing atop a bed of kale. Despite the mixed reviews of this place online, our meals happened to hit the spot!
The Organic Grill: 123 1st Ave between 7th St & St Marks Pl

Another suggestion of Isa (Ms. Moskowitz, if ya nasty), we headed to the famous Yonah Schimmel Knishes on the Lower East Side. A knish is an Eastern European and Yiddish snack food made popular in North America by Jewish immigrants consisting of a filling covered with dough, baked or fried (thanks Wikipedia!). Yonah Schimmel has been around since 1910, so they have a bit of experience, which may be why the staff is impatient & rough around the edges. We ordered Potato, Broccoli, & a roasted Garlic with Red Onion, two of which were fresh out of the oven. My advice? Get whatever is hot or just came out (as long as it's vegan, aka no cheese) & skip the others or they'll nuke it in the microwave. I love potatoes, so I was in to these, but Ryan? Not so much.
Yonah Schimmel Knishes: 137 E Houston St between 2nd Ave & Chrystie St

I've saved the best for last with another classic NYC food, pizza! With the awesome company of Terry Hope Romero & Jason Das of SuperVegan, we headed to Park Slope, Brooklyn to dine at Pizza Plus. With an extensive list of toppings available, crust choices, Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, & far too much to talk about, we had a tough time deciding what to order. We ended up with two large pies; garlic, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & broccoli rabe flanked one, while red bell peppers, jalapeños, & pineapple topped the other. Wow! Melty FYH, delicious toppings, & perfect chewy crust made for some spectacular pizza we all enjoyed. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, there were no leftovers, which is quite a feat for four people with two large pizzas. I assure you, Ryan played a large role in the pizza disappearing act! Get yourself to Pizza Plus for a vegan pizza pie, pronto!
Pizza Plus: 359 7th Avenue between 10th & 11th Streets in Brooklyn

As you can see, NYC is one hell of a vegan friendly city, arguably the best in the world. It's rare to find yourself in an area of the city without food options & I find myself trying new places every time I visit. In my next post, I'll touch on the plethora of desserts to be found!


Ricki said...

What an amazing trip! I'm always so envious of anyone who gets to eat in NYC. Too bad Candle 70 disappointed this time! Everything still sounds fantastic, anyway (and the frittata in hollandaise sure LOOKS spectacular)!

Nicole (anotheronebitesthecrust.wordpress.com) said...

You couldn't have posted this at a more perfect time! I just moved to NYC a couple days ago and I'm so excited to have some new places to check out now! Thanks!

VeggieGirl said...

I'll be in NYC again soon - can't wait for SURE now, with your recap!! :-)

jessy said...

sounds like you all had a blast! sorry some of your eats where a bit disappointing. the bagels 'n pizza look mighty-fine though! thanks for sharing your savory stories with us! i can't wait to read up on all the sweets, too! mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

kittee said...

aw, your trip sounds just like the way me and dazee like to travel. foood food food. we went to red bamboo on a layover to india last thanksgiving 2008 and while it was tasty, i hear you on the fried mock meats. i also like to try other stuff--especially now that i'm GFkitteeGF. Those knishes and the strawberry cream cheeze lifted my hopes for world peace.


B36Kitchen said...

what a delicious trip you had to NYC.

Vegan_Noodle said...

So glad you got around to your first post on NYC!! I am not really a big city kind of girl (strange that I say that since I live in the 4th largest city in the US), but I would move to NYC in a heartbeat just for the food!

Counter is one my list of places to try. And a trip to Brooklyn might be in order for that pizza... looks amazing.

Of course I am totally excited for the sweets post. I think I'm gonna go look at airfare now...

Alice (in Veganland) said...

I need to get back to NYC! If only to try those amazing-looking pizzas!

allularpunk said...

yes! i love eating in new york... the two times i've been there it seemed like i was just filling in the space between meals, mostly thinking about what i would eat later haha... the vegan fare there is amazing. thanks for all your reviews! i've never been to any of those places, but will be sure to check some out the next time i go :)

Vegyogini said...

Counter is my new (as of last May) favorite place to dine in NYC. I had the Pain Perdu for brunch, too! I do still love Candle 79, though. I haven't been to Red Bamboo, but it doesn't sound like I'd care for it from your description. I just might give the pizza place a shot on my next trip out there. Thanks for the great run-down of your trip!

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

It sounds like you had a blast! We had a similar experience at Candle 79 with the dishes you mentioned. I'll try something different next time. Thanks for the tips on some places that are new to me!

Foodeater said...

What a fun & food filled trip! I want to visit NYC and go on a food run as well one of these days.

Anonymous said...

Everything looks so yummy! Send me some =)

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous you went somewhere that had vegan pizza! It looks like you had a fun trip to NYC. I need to get back there and check out some of the places you mentioned.

DJ said...

Brilliant travelogue, Melisser - glad you had such a fun trip!
That pizza's stuck in my head...

Cakespy said...

Yay for Red Bamboo...and yay for a whole new list of other places to try!

Alyson said...

Thanks for the NYC round up! Now I really want to try the brunch at Counter. I actually went to Candle 79 in late december and had the the Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh. It was really good, but I thought there should have been more actual pomegranates.

This is my first time to your blog and I'm loving it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great rundown of eating spots!! I lived in NYC for three years and it was a highlight that hasn't been equaled since. I'm headed back in the Spring - can't wait!!

Anonymous said...

I've never been to NY, but if I ever get to go I SO HOPE that you can take a trip out there to be my guide!! Even if it was salty that frittata looks so amazing - and I don't even know what to say about that pizza!

Anonymous said...

I keep on thinking "ZEE FLY" with the bagel picture. and then my stomach growls and I want to eat your eyes out. wait, what?

Tara said...

These all looks pretty tasty, especially that pizza. And I'm glad I'm not the only vegan who doesn't like 'mock meats.' Gross.

chow vegan said...

Wow, so many places to eat. Good to know if I'm ever in NYC, I won't starve. Thanks! :-)

Lovliebutterfly said...

Wow! I wish I was in NYC! What amazing food options!

veggievixen said...


i have so many more reasons to visit nyc all the time now!

herbstsonne said...

Can I come along in your suitcase next time? :3 Those knishes!!!

Mihl said...

I shouldn't have read this and looked at those amazing pictures. I might find myself booking plane tickets in to time.

IsaChandra said...

I'm happy you liked Organic Grill, it's kind of underrated which is good because then you can be pleasantly surprised.

Bianca said...

Man, I hope I can make it to New York someday. My friend Steph (aka Poopie Bitch) from Memphis is there right now. Lucky bitch. Oh well, maybe next year. This year doesn't look great for travel. Sigh...stupid economy.

Hannah said...

I so want to move to NY... I spend plenty of time there, sure, but who would ever want to leave such amazing vegan options?

Alison said...

Everytime I go to NYC I am overwhelmed and so impressed with the endless amount of vegan options. It's amazing! I try to try somewhere new each time I go.

...barbara... said...

i have yet to make it to NY but plan to very soonish...
thanks for all of these great locales for when i do make it :)

tofufreak said...

that looks like so much fun!

Roberta Jane said...

Wow, that all sounds amazing! Now I have more than one reason (shopping) to head to NYC soon!

Anonymous said...

I would really love to go to NYC. Especially after such a wonderful review. I'm sure your sweets post will definitely seal the deal for me.

Jes said...

Great NYC wrap-up! I still dream about Pizza Plus anytime I crave pizza...it's just so good!

happyherbivore.com said...


Amey said...

I haven't been to new york in almost 10 years. Most of all, I just really like the picture of you with the bagel goggles!
Hee hee!

River said...

Wow, you sure know where and what to eat! You should have your own show on the Travel Channel or The Food Network: Vegan Eats With Melisser!

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I'm going to have to check out Counter soon. Though I love Red Bamboo, I hear you on the deep fried mock meats. I prefer Vegetarian Paradise 2, right next door to Red Bamboo. Their crispy soul chicken salad has enough veggies and carrot ginger dressing to compliment the mock chicken perfectly.

Sounds like you had a great time in NYC! Can't wait to hear about Lulu's!

Penny said...

Bagels on the square is one of my favorite "indulgences"! Still have to try brunch at Counter...

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