What: Phase 2 of their Manhattan/Brooklyn Adventure
Where: The Big Apple
When: July 11–14
Why: To eat, drink, and be merry
The Scoop: I’d always heard how awesome New York was, but didn’t comprehend the actual degree of it’s awesomeness until getting there and seeing—and tasting—for myself. On a warm, sunshiny Brooklyn afternoon, Jen and I took Dan Piraro’s advice and set off toward Bedford Street to check out the action. First stop: Vinnie’s, an ordinary-looking pizza place that just happens to serve up an extensive menu of vegan offerings, including barbecue “chicken” pizza and "bacon" calzones. What do we have to do to get one of these joints in San Francisco? We weren’t hungry after our Chinatown chow-down, but we made a full inspection of the wares, and chit-chatted with the nice guys behind the counter. I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be all rough and gruff? Not so. Using our vegan radar, we walked out of Vinnie's like happy Stepford Wives and right into the cutest veg establishment ever in the history of the universe: Penny Licks.
Like a kid in a, um, candy store
Dressed up like an old-fashioned candy store, this vegan-sweets boutique made us wish we hadn’t just eaten 29 turnip cakes and 73 tofu skin rolls. Vegan cakes, cookies, candies, bars, pies, doughnuts, dipped pretzels, woopie pies … this place was awe-inspiring on looks alone, and judging by the crowds lined up for the goodies, the stuff was tasty, too (and we can vouch for at least one menu item: Vegan Treats' Peanut Butter Bomb Cake. We’d recognize that anywhere!). A few doors up we passed Wild Ginger, a "pan-Asian vegan café" whose menu—from the Yam and Taro Tempura to the Orange Seitan with Broccoli—looks divine. Next time! Moving along, we poked our noses in a number of crowded cafés, vintage clothing stores, antique shops, and internet hangouts before looping around and back to the Manhattan-bound L train to primp for our evening. Along the way, we passed yet another veg eatery, Bliss, that we hear has a killer tofu scramble.
Back at our hotel, we changed clothes, then moseyed over to Lan Café for a Vietnamese meal made memorable by a surprise visitor who arrived at our table armed with a bottle of wine and an offer to share. Lan Café doesn’t offer "adult" beverages, but they do have a liberal BYOB policy, and since we’re never ones to refuse the kindness of strangers, we sipped Australian Chardonnay as we slurped our noodles. Next, we made like boomerangs and headed back to Brooklyn to meet up with a heap of cool cats, including The Discerning Brute’s Joshua Katcher and the world’s most dazzling vegan stylista/animal savior/newsletter diva, Chloé Jo Berman. One of us (okay, that would be Aurelia) was nervous about meeting up with such shiny, pretty dignitaries, but soon discovered they were really a bunch of friendly, down-to-earth, straight-shooting kids with both smarts and silly streaks. My favorite combination!
Leaving our watering hole before the witching hour, we made like hungry bandits to the all-night natural-foods grocery store and scarfed vegan "tuna" sandwiches, chewy Primal Strips, and fresh fruit.
Next day, we sauntered over to the fun and funky Chelsea Flea Market at the advice of dessert doyenne Fran Costigan and picked up a few goodies before bee-lining it to Saravanaas Restaurant for enormous silver plates loaded down with idli, vada, utthapam, and sambar. Next stop: 60th St., for a bit of Bastille Day action hosted by the French Institute. From there, it was a hop, skip, and a jump over to Central Park, where we held our noses as we walked past those sad-looking carriage horses weighted down with tourists. Keeping to a leisurely pace, we arrived, at last, at The Met, where, with a mere hour to blast through the entire collection of world-class art, we scanned Monets, Manets, and Man Rays before heading back downtown for drinks, Dinner #1, and Dinner #2, both of which took place at Viva Herbal Pizza. There, we had a small-world moment: As we chomped our humongous triangles loaded with fake meat and tomato sauce, who should walk in but HSUS's Patrick Kwan. A serendipitous end to a spectacular trip.