Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hyperdrive Big Apple Weekend

Who: VN Editorial Director Aurelia d'Andrea + VN Senior Editor Jennifer Pickens
What: A whirlwind weekend in sunny NYC
Where: The Right Coast, baby!
When: July 11–14
Why: Because someone *aurelia*cough* had never visited the vegan epicenter of the universe that is NYC, and really needed to

The Scoop: New York City in the middle of summer? When it’s like, 98 degrees and 100-percent humidity? You bet! According to Aurelia and Jen’s logic, this is the magic time to visit the Big Apple, since half the city is in the Hamptons or at lake houses upstate or maybe just cooling down in their air-conditioned apartments. In other words, the city would be all ours. Well, sort of. But never mind that. Between social engagements, sightseeing jaunts, and stuffing our faces with amazing food, crowds were the least of our concerns.

After checking into our hotel on Day 1, the two of us meandered about the East Village, serendipitously stumbling upon veg restaurant after veg restaurant, including Kate’s Joint, Viva Herbal Pizzeria, and Lan Café. Wanting to hold out for the special meal we were to eat later that night, we skipped those guys in favor of a light snack at Whole Earth Bakery & Kitchen, where, in spite of all the vegan cheesecakes, cheeseless calzones, and egg-free quiches staring at us from behind the glass counter, Aurelia decided on a simple shot of wheatgrass juice and Jen opted for a cooling cup of gazpacho.

Later that night, we cabbed it up to 79th and Lexington for a memorable meal at elegant veg institution Candle 79. Benay Vyenerib, a friend of a good friend, works at Candle and went the extra mile to hook us up with the best table in the house. Hurray! After a glass of wine and shared appetizers that included the to-die-for stuffed squash blossoms, we moved on to our main courses: Seitan Piccata (Aurelia), and Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake (Jen). Let’s just say that it was so delicious and so filling that these two chocolate-and-peanut-butter-loving girls couldn’t even look at the words “Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss” on the menu. Ouch. But in a good way. During our meal, we had three surprise visitors to our table:  HSUS’s man about town Patrick Kwan, vegan marshmallow diva Sara Sohn of Sweet and Sara, and VN’s very own contributing photographer Danielle Ricciardi. Talk about a small world! The chance encounters gave us an excuse to make plans with Patrick for the following day. Our rendezvous destination? Chinatown.

from left: Benay Vyenerib, Aurelia d'Andrea, Danielle Ricciardi, and Jennifer Pickens

On Day 2, we woke early and grabbed our respective morning pick-me-up elixirs and made our way in a leisurely fashion to the southern tip of Chinatown for some dim sum with Patrick at his favorite local spot, Buddha Bodai. After slurping cups of green tea and feasting on turnip cakes, tofu-skin rolls, steamed buns and other assorted goodies, we wiggled around the neighborhood, making stops at Animal Haven and May Wah Vegetarian Food before hopping on the L train toward Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And oh what fun we were about to have! Just so happens that Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary was throwing a tag sale that day, and if there’s one thing we love, it’s a tag sale to benefit animals. There we bumped into Mr. and Mrs. Hotstuff, Dan Piraro and Ashley Lou Smith—definitely two of the nicest folks we've ever met. We also ran into new friend Cat Clyne, formerly of Satya magazine, and the lovely Jenny Brown, who heads up the Woodstock Sanctuary. Oh, wait! We also met former VN Vegan Wedding couple Tom O’Hagan and Sara Kubersky of Mooshoes, along with their super-cute baby boy. Phew!

Lest your eyeballs begin to shrivel like two organic raisins, phase two of our Brooklyn/Manhattan sojourn to follow in another post.

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