Okay, I thought that I was prepared for an east coast cold snap when I left Heathrow but I was so very, very wrong. As soon as we got onto the station platform I put both my hoods up, popped on my gloves and wished I'd had the foresight to pack my hat and scarf in my hand luggage. I pretty much hopped up and down to keep warm for the five minutes we had to wait until the train arrived. I've genuinely never been so cold.
As soon as we got to the hotel I piled on as many layers of clothes I could squeeze into and still do up my coat, headed back out, and guess what? Still cold! The first time I ever visited New York I was 19, it was a university trip (before I had to drop out) and we got snowed in. It was a magical way to experience the city for the first time and I love how different your experiences of a place can be depending on the season.
The first place we power walked to was Pukk; I discovered this little Lower East Side veggie joint on my second visit to NYC, my first as a vegan, and I love it just as much now as I did then. I always order the same thing, the Pad See Ew. I love how you can pick between mock chicken, duck or beef as well as tofu or vegetables. That kinda covers everyones foodie preferences right? I went with the duck and Nick chose tofu, we ended up sharing both.
Pad See Ew is right up there with my favourite foods in the world and I was so excited when Terry included a recipe for it in her latest book Vegan Eats World. If you've never tried this sweet, fresh, noodle dish you should either head to Pukk or make your own as soon as you can. It's fantastic.
As well as always ordering the Pad See Ew I usually get a side of the Chicken Nuggets. I love mock meat in pretty much any incarnation and these are perfectly coated in crisp batter and fried. Delicious.
We also decided to branch out and try something new so we ordered the Soft Green Rice Crepe.
These little dumplings filled with mock chicken, radish and peanut were not what we had expected from a crepe but wow, they were certainly as delicious as they sounded. I loved the combination of the soft steamed dumpling and the crunchy peanut filling and we ordered these again on our next visit.
After dinner we popped around the corner to Atlas Cafe to scope out the Vegan Treats selection. Vegan Treats deliver to Atlas (and many other locations in the city) on a Tuesday and as we arrived on Wednesday there were plenty of desserts to choose from. I picked the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Bomb and Nick got a slice of Oreo Cake.
I was pretty pleased with my choice, the PB Bomb is Vegan Treats signature cake and I was excited to finally be trying a piece. I loved the soft chocolate outer layer, the caramel, peanut butter mousse and chocolate cake. In fact everything about it was great. It was also super sweet and really huge, even I couldn't finish it off in one go. I did eat in in bed later though and it was just as great then, possibly greater, because, duvets!
Before crashing out for the evening we popped to Whole Foods to see if we could find Kite Hill's White Alder cheese. We'd heard it was just like brie, something we used to eat together all the time before going vegan and once we spotted it at the cheese counter we couldn't wait to get it back to the hotel.
I will say that I have other friends in the US who love this cheese so much that they've gotten through six wheels in a matter of weeks and I think that it's definitely worth a try if you were a brie fan in a previous life.
On our first morning in the city we beat the jet lag and managed to sleep in until 8:30, far better than the 5am starts we had on our previous trip. We dressed in all of our clothes again and headed to Ess-a-bagel's 1st avenue store where it was rumoured that we'd find some of the best bagels in the city. We heard about this gem from posters on the PPK forum and they were so right about it. If you're British and don't get what all the bagel fuss is about, listen up; proper bagels are nothing like the "bagels" we're sold in supermarkets here. Those are pretty much just bread in the shape of a bagel, these are perfectly dense, chewy and doughy and there are a myriad of toppings and spreads to choose from. I picked an onion bagel with tofu sun-dried tomato spread and Nick went with plain and plan, a classic combo.
This was so freaking delicious and we loved sitting in the corner people watching whilst we ate our breakfast, this place is a real New York City institution and it was a great place to while away some time. Later on in the trip their 3rd avenue location saved us from a ridiculous rainstorm in what is otherwise a bit of a vegan friendly dead zone so I'll be forever grateful, I'm pretty grumpy in the rain and bagels totally saved the day.
After breakfast we headed to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which I had embarrassingly never been to despite this being my fourth trip to NYC. I loved an immersive film piece called Ten Thousand Waves and there was another super amazing piece involving a violinist and a ballet dancer that I could have watched for hours. Obviously walking around museums is quite a hunger inducing activity and we headed over to Cafe Blossom on the upper west side for a slightly fancy late lunch.
When I'm super hungry I always want to fill up on pasta so the Fettuccini Alfredo was a no brainer.
Nick can never resist a seitan dish so he ordered the Pine Nut Crusted Seitan which he assured me was delicious. He even ate the cherry tomatoes which he usually hates so I could tell that he really loved it.
I really enjoyed the fettuccini alfredo, mushrooms and spinach are two of my favourite vegetables and the the soy parmesan and cashew cream combo made this dish rich and velvety.
After lunch we embarked upon a wintery walk through Central Park. I love parks, mainly because there are always dogs to look at, but Central Park's special and it was enchanting to see the lake all frozen like this.
Terri was our breakfast spot of choice the next day and I was pretty into this Bacon, Egg & Cheese Muffin with Hollandaise Sauce. Nick's idea of hell would be having to eat this much Daiya at any time of day let alone at breakfast time so he ordered the same minus the cheese.
I thought something in mine was a little too peppery, either the scramble or the hollandaise, and Nick thought his was a tad bland. I think you'll probably have to try it yourself and make up your own mind!
We were definitely in agreement about the Apple Cider Doughnut though. This moist, baked doughnut was super delicious and not too sweet which is perfect at breakfast time. We grabbed another one to go and I wished we'd taken them all!
One of the most amazing things about this trip was how empty usually busy tourist spots were. We had The High Line to ourselves that morning which felt super special.
I loved being up somewhere so peaceful whilst the city rushed by beneath us. I actually just love everything about The High Line, I think the transformation from disused about-to-be-demolished railroad track to this is super cool. I especially loved the way new parts of the structure, like the benches for example, fit together almost seamlessly with things like the tracks themselves.
Obviously after being outside for so long we needed to warm up and 'snice is only about a ten minute walk from The High Line's 14th street exit/entrance. When I travelled to New York City alone back in 2009 I stayed at The Jane which is just around the corner from 'snice for the first few day of my trip and I ate here every morning. It was fun to finally take Nick there. After ordering (far too sweet) hot chocolates to warm ourselves up we progressed to the real gems on 'snice's menu - the sandwiches. We had one Thanksgiving Leftovers sandwich...
This picture's terrible even by my standards, apologies!
...and one Chick'n Potpie wrap.
These were both ridiculously delicious but the potpie wrap was the real winner for me. There's pie crust in there for gods sake! Alongside the pie crust the wrap was filled with carrot, celery, potato and chicken pieces. It was truly epic and it was just as good cold later. The Thanksgiving sandwich, as you can see, comes on delicious crusty french bread and is filled with plenty of Tofurky as well as sweet potato, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce & gravy. We were both a little unsure about the individual components in this sandwich especially as I'm not the biggest fan of either sweet potato or sprouts but what can I say, it totally works.
After much walking and using my ongoing quest to find my favourite mac & cheese on the road as an excuse we stopped off at S'MAC for an afternoon snack. S'MAC, short for Sarita's Macaroni & Cheese, make their own vegan cheese sauce without any commercial cheese substitutes making this a perfect spot for the Daiya hater in your life.
We kept our major munch sized mac simple with a garlicky spinach mix in and topped it off with breadcrumbs. S"MAC use a coconut base which I've heard people say makes this mac taste too coconutty but I certainly didn't detect an overpowering coconut flavour, it was just a creamy delicious mac. Not my favourite ever mac (Oh, Foodswings, let me count the ways..) but I'd definitely order it again and if you're not a processed vegan cheese fan you should make this a must try.
Dinner was a late night affair after an evening at vegan bar Pine Box Rock Shop and I finally got to try Vinnie's Pizza!! Yes that needs two exclamation marks. How could I, a pizza fanatic, have visited NYC as a vegan TWICE BEFORE and have never visited Vinnie's? Honestly this fact has me questioning my priorities especially as they sell by the slice. By the slice is THE BEST! Even when visiting pizzerias that that sell by the slice you usually have to order a whole pie if you're vegan and I hate that. I want to try all of the slices damnit. Vinnie's gets even more awesomeness bonus points by making most of their vegan pies with Teese (moz & cheddar) which I prefer to Daiya mainly because it means Nick can have his cheesy pizza and eat it too.
The lovely dude behind the counter at the Williamsburg location was happy to talk us through all of the slices on offer that night despite the huge line which we really appreciated. We ended up choosing a Vegan Hawaiian, a T. Hanks...
...and a Vegan Mac Attack minus the hot sauce.
Oh and some Garlic Knots because at 5 for $1 how could you say no?
The Vegan Hawaiian's pretty self explanatory, I'm really not meant to eat pineapple (allergies) but I can never resist a slice of Hawaiian pizza and I don't have the same reaction to cooked pineapple as I do to fresh. The T. Hanks has BBQ chicken, both types of Teese, and barbecue sauce, I didn't think I'd enjoy this as barbecue flavour can be hit or miss for me (usually miss!) but I loved it and it was Nick's favourite. My favourite was obviously going to be the Mac Attack, hold the hot sauce, because, hello, it's carbs on carbs! My true loves together at last. The Mac Attack also had spinach and sundered tomatoes the night I ordered it but according to the menu it shoulda had neither so I'm not sure what happened there!
Basically this place jumped right to the top of my Best Pizza Ever list as soon as I took my first bite. Epic base, perfect tomato sauce, rad toppings. I've never been more tempted to book a plane ticket whilst writing a blog post and that's saying something.
That's all for part one of our latest travel adventure, stay tuned for part two next week.