Thursday, May 22, 2008

Special Report: VegNews in NYC (Day 2)

: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly + VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland
What: Day two of a five-day business trip
Where: New York City
When: May 15, 2008
Why: Farm Sanctuary Gala + Veggie Pride Parade + meetings galore with colleagues, friends, and magazine partners

The Scoop: It’s true what they say—New York City never sleeps. While we were blessed with our Midtown accommodations, it took a few nights to acclimate to the all-night acoustics (read: blaring sirens and street noise). With no time to spare, we jump started the day with smoothies before heading over to visit Farm Sanctuary’s NY office. Located in a gorgeous old building near Union Square, the FS team was busy with final preparations for Saturday’s night gala. Former Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich had just confirmed, so last-minute changes were being made to the program, along with a thousand other tasks. Kudos to Development Director Samantha Ragsdale and her amazing team!

Next, we headed uptown for a lunch date which we were greatly anticipating. If you haven’t heard of Zen Burger, you soon will. Started by the owners of Zen Palate (a NY veg institution), Zen Burger is a vegetarian fast-food chain about to go national (see photo above). The restaurant across from Grand Central Station is its first, and a second location is scheduled to open this September in West Hollywood. On a block littered with every major fast-food chain, the façade has the look of a traditional establishment but with a cleaner, more modern feel. With a goal to match the flavor, price point, and convenience of the real deal, the place was teeming with business. Customers can order burgers, hot dogs, fish sandwiches, nuggets, breakfast items, soups, fries, salads, shakes, and sundaes. We, of course, opted for the vegan options—the ZenHarvest Burger (complete with ZenBurger’s “special sauce,” a zesty blend made with Vegenaise), a steamy cup of curried lentil soup, French fries, a chocolate shake, and a soft-serve sundae (the restaurant’s ice cream is provided by our friends at Chicago Soy Dairy). Our lunch date, and one of ZenBurger’s partners, Chad Carpenter, tells us that more vegan options are coming soon, including a scrumptious barbecue chicken sandwich).

Early that evening, we hit a fundraiser at a private home on the Upper East Side for Wellness in the Schools, a sister organization to the New York Coalition for Healthy School Foods, an organization working to get plant-based foods in the school system. If you have children, this is a wonderful, highly effective group with which to get involved. Healthy food for our kids results in higher productivity, fewer illnesses, and greater self-confidence. That’s a good thing.

Finally, we head off for what we know will be a sumptuous supper at Candle 79 with owners Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza (see photo below with Bart, Joy, Colleen, and Joe). We tuck into an upstairs banquette for what turns out to be a four-hour dinner. The meal was nothing short of magnificent—we start with an amuse-bouche of fresh cornbread with avocado butter; a watercress salad with strawberries, wild asparagus, and toasted pistachios in a lime dressing; a stuffed manicotti appetizer filled with sautéed mushrooms, tofu-basil cheese, and cashew parmesan drizzled with roasted tomato sauce and pine nut pesto; and grilled artichokes, served with blue-cornmeal battered onion rings, grilled asparagus, arugula pesto, and red pepper coulis. Oh, and we’re just getting started. Our table shares three entrées—a Moroccan-spiced chickpea cake with spring vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry, and apricot-date chutney; chipotle grilled seitan with potatoes, leeks, spring peas, and avocado salsa; and a wild mushroom fricassee with broccoli rabe, fiddlehead ferns, fava beans, and truffled polenta). I think it’s becoming clear as to why this dinner lasted four hours. For the meal’s finale, we dip into the housemade sorbet sampler along with my favorite, the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss, a whipped peanut butter mousse encased in a chocolate shell with a berry coulis. Let’s just say that we walked the nearly 60 blocks back to the hotel to ensure proper digestion, and, well, make certain we were ready for our next veg-fabulous meal the following day. Bon nuit!

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