Thursday, October 30, 2008

October Marathon Surprise, Part 3

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly
What: A new live raw Italian bistro + the “Whale Wars” premiere party
Where: Sal Anthony’s City Gardener and The Maritime Hotel, New York, NY
When: October 28, 2008
Why: New restaurant to try + launch celebration of the new Animal Planet conservation adventure series

The Scoop: Ah, the luxury of waking up in The City and not having to get anywhere. I’m already here. The rain last night combined with the sounds of Manhattan do not necessarily equate to a good night’s sleep, but lack of shuteye is obviously a sub-theme of this trip, one that must be shaken off for the cause of blog journalism. Blournalism? No.

Still feeling quite well-nourished from last night’s Pure Food and Wine excursion, and with the weather a bit wet yet, it was a good day to stay in and catch up on my homework. These journalistic tales don’t just write themselves, you know.

A half-day spent on VN duties and email in the lobby of the famous landmark Hotel Chelsea, where the wireless is fast and free, felt both necessary and responsible. I might be in The City That Never Sleeps, though this doesn’t mean that My Work Ever Stops. Besides, a little labor also grants permission for another night of play. What a night it was.

My accomplice for the evening was Farm Sanctuary’s Development Director Samantha Ragsdale, who was as anxious as I to eat at Sal Anthony’s City Gardener. Although Samantha is as well connected as any vegan New Yorker, no one can know it all, and prior to my suggestion not only had she never dined at Sal’s, she’d never even heard of it. Yet another October surprise.

Walking over to join Samantha for dinner, she texted that she was running a tad late at work. With a few minutes to kill, I jumped into a Goodwill store and while flipping through the CDs stumbled across a (veg icon) Paul McCartney record, “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” that I did not own. I do now. And it’s an import, to boot … or maybe just a boot. Yes, I may have found a bootleg for $1.99. Score.

Arriving at Sal’s after a day of digestion with no nourishment other than half a bottle o’ GT's Organic Raw Gingerade Kombucha, I was prepped and ready for my second raw meal in as many nights. Following Monday’s Pure Food and Wine experience, I had no expectations, having already scaled the Everest of Live Food. The distinctions between the two establishments offered a rather unique perspective that was only enhanced by their proximity to one another. Sal’s is literally around the corner from Pure.

PF&W is an elegant, tastefully appointed, linen-tablecloth dining establishment with a clientele that includes ex-Presidents, recognizable morning news anchors, and famous foul-mouthed shock jocks. In contrast, Sal’s has the look and feel of a NY neighborhood deli, complete with paper menus, plastic cups, and various food selections on display in a glass front counter.

Just as you can’t judge a magazine by its cover, looks can be deceiving here as well. The test would be not a comparison between the two dining experiences, which would be unfair to both, but simply whether the food at Sal’s was tasty and nourishing. Was it ever.

Samantha and I shared a huge slice of Raw Pizza ($4.75) and a large bowl of Zucchini Spaghetti Primavera ($9.50). The pizza was a quarter-acre-sized triangle wedge of “flat bread” heaped with fresh pesto-spiced tomatoes. Yummy. The “pasta” consisted of noodles o’ zucchini mixed with more fresh tomatoes, pine nuts, greens, and Italian seasonings. Double yum. The ample portion-sizes coupled with the 100-percent-organic cuisine makes Sal’s a true find for New York as well as for raw, vegan food. And a bargain.

Sal’s also offers a delectable display of desserts, which called out to us. Raw, fresh (made while we ate dinner) Strawberry Cheesecake ($5.50)? How about Chocolate Mulberry Balls ($2)? Super Food Chocolate Bar ($3)? Yes, any weight I lost in Sunday’s marathon was returning with a vengeance. Too bad I’m leaving Manhattan tomorrow.

We chatted with Sal before leaving, who explained that he owns the largest restaurant in Little Italy, but that this is where is passion now lies. A very interesting character, rest assured you will be hearing more about him soon.

But onto the second half of our double feature. We walked westward on 17th to the dashing Maritime Hotel, where the folks at Animal Planet were hosting a little media party for our friends at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The former have made a television series about the latter, “Whale Wars,” which is coming to the airwaves on Nov. 7. The entire North Cabana was decked out with banners and videos of Sea Shepherd, including the mirror in the men’s room! Quite an impressive party. There was also a large spread of vegan food, an open bar, and presentations by Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson and Animal Planet GM Marjorie Kaplan. We had a sneak peek of the program, which some of you may already have seen as a preview in your local multiplex.

After the festivities Samantha and I lounged around with Johnny, Kristine, Kim, Alex, Shannon, and Tim from Sea Shepherd. This 31-year old organization does so much with such a small, tight staff; a true role model of efficiency. We also learned that the production crew from Animal Planet will be back out on the ship when Sea Shepherd returns to the Antarctic this winter to once again confront the Japanese whaling fleet. Look for season two of "Whale Wars" next year, and be sure to tune into the seven-part series this November and December.

The night was still fairly young (by New York standards) so we decided to go for a cup of tea at a local joint not too far from the Maritime. Unfortunately this not-so-nice place was closing up shop when we got there and wouldn’t even sell us a pastry take-out. So I’m not gonna mention its name.

Travel commitments and expo obligations will delay the last three installments of “October Marathon Surprise” until next week, so please do check back next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday when we conclude this series. You’ll hear all about Katie and me attending an art exhibition, the Boston Veg Food Festival, and maybe, just maybe, one final Marathon Surprise.

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