soy latte

I give Rich a hard time because, being a New Yorker (you should hear his accent!) he calls it The City. He does this if he’s in DC or LA or wherever, to refer to NYC. This is not just Rich, this is all people from New York. It is insidious, too. I remember a good friend’s mom in Nashville, TN would talk about The City sometimes. She was referring to NYC, which she’d been to twice, and it always seemed a bit contrived.

Enough is enough, right?

Well, it seems arrogant to me, the way they refer to The City as if There Is Only One, but then again, NYC has so much to offer, all in one compact no-car-needed place. It is a vegan wonderland. There is a bakery there, a vegan bakery, just for cupcakes! Okay, they sell other things, but those are just afterthoughts. The point of their existence is vegan cupcakes. Babycakes. So yeah, I give Rich a hard time about his city myopia, but at the same time, I acknowledge that it isn’t without merit.

This past weekend I was going up to NYC with a primary purpose of going to see two animal sanctuaries a couple hours north of The City, but we managed to cram quite a bit of food into the weekend anyway. Food always seems to be a focal point!

washington park, nycAnd not all of it was procured at restaurants. When I got to Queens Friday night, Rich had a wonderful comforting onion pie thing ready and waiting. I’ll let him explain what it was, because I ate it too fast to do anything like take pictures or ask questions!

He’d also made a potato leek soup, caponata and seitan o’ greatness that we took with us up to the sanctuaries, and had ourselves a nice picnic along a burbling brook between the two sanctuaries. Again, no pictures which is a real shame. It was a gorgeous fun setting, and sort of hilarious to be eating such an elegant meal with sporks, directly from the traveling containers. It was delicious though.

We got back to The City early enough that we spent some time thinking about where to go for dinner. Since this is the Vegan Wonderland we’re talking about, it requires quite a bit of thought. I’ve been to at least a dozen places in my various trips up there (we didn’t even count Atlas, Rich! And I’ve gotten vegan soft serve there. Does that count?), and still the question is: somewhere new, or somewhere I’ve already been? That’s the opening question, every time.

So after about 30 minutes of going back and forth, we decided to stay in Queens and go see the cultists. There is this strange cult, best remembered by the people who run around an uninspiring block in Brooklyn or Queens (I’m sure Rich will correct me here, so I won’t bother to be too accurate) for months at a time for a purpose that I can’t remember, since the mind boggles and pretty much stops completely at the thought of running around the same block all day every day for months…

Anyway, they have some restaurants too, and we went to the one in Queens. I can’t remember what it was called. (Rich will fill in the blanks) I also forgot that I would have wanted to take pictures, so I didn’t bring my camera to the restaurant. I do remember what we ate though!

There were a lot of things that sounded really good. Wait, I should start by saying, in case it wasn’t obvious already, that this was a vegetarian, mostly vegan restaurant. So, that being said, based on Rich’s recommendations we decided on a salad with faux chicken, tomatoes, red pepper, pecans, possibly some other toppings, and a mango-lime dressing, and a mock duck dish.

my future tattooDoes it sound weird that we go out and get faux meat? I was vegetarian for 8 years before going vegan 4 years ago, and in those 8 years of vegetarianism, I think I had mock meat once. They were veggie hot dogs, and I had them at a friend’s house (it was easy for her, since all she had access to in the kitchen-under-construction was a microwave) and I went back to look at the box three or four times to make sure, again, that they really weren’t meat. I was sort of grossed out.

I didn’t have much in the way of mock meats even after going vegan. I tried some here and there, as a novelty, but it still bugged me. Part of me still wonders at it – am I reinforcing the idea that animals are food if I have veggies and wheat gluten prepared to mimic the texture (sort of)?

Well, I do still wrestle with that issue in my mind sometimes, but I’ve made seitan myself. I made it for the first time about a year ago, and that somehow was what got me past the idea of seitan (a wheat gluten product) being anything like meat. Now I eat it and I like it for itself, and only when a vegan dish is named, say, “duck”, do I feel weird about it again.

Seitan isn’t really like meat after all. It is chewier than a vegetable, that’s for sure. It isn’t anything like tofu either. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t anything like meat. I was never a meat lover, though – that was Rich’s domain. He loves veganizing his old favorites, and doesn’t have these mental issues I have with some of the mock meats. I really think my issue with mock meat goes back to the issues I always had with meat from animals, but ignored right up until the day I went vegetarian.

Side story: I took my parents to a vegan restaurant not too far from the Phoenix airport last year, and my mom had a thai peanut style “chicken” dish. “This is the best chicken I have ever had,” she said with perfect seriousness. And yes, she knew it was vegan mock chicken. She made my dad take her there more recently, when they were passing by. She loves that restaurant!

Okay, so that’s the story of these mock meats. I’m over the weirdness of the idea by now, though I admit the mock duck was a bit strange for me. I tend to have seitan only when I’m out at restaurants, because home made is better than store bought, and I don’t often bother to make it. Though I actually had some store bought for dinner just now!

Enough of seitan talk.

We actually started that dinner with Magic Mushrooms. Rich is a shroom kind of guy. I range between apathetic and antagonistic towards mushrooms. I decided to give these a try though. We shared everything we ordered to spare ourselves the agony of having to decide on only one thing. This was the norm for the entire weekend, just so you don’t think that I really eat two meals per meal!

The Magic Mushrooms really were magic, because they were delicious, even for someone who is iffy on shrooms. Garlicky and they tasted grilled, though most likely they were broiled? I have no idea. They were good though!

For dessert we had chocolate cake with chocolate fudge sauce. Hey, chocolate is good for you, so more chocolate must be better!

After dinner, it was back to Rich’s with some heffeweizen bier, which we drank while sitting in his little back yard, admiring his little garden, and the huge cicada-killer bees diving into their burrows. I should have taken a picture of his back yard too. sacred chow brunch signFor any of you thinking all of NYC looks like Manhattan (as I always did), well, there are places that are far from a cityscape. Rich’s area in Queens is one of them, and he has a little back yard and a garage. The garage is super important to him, motorcycle fiend that he is!

Okay, so the next morning was when all the pictures of Beanie (sweet and evil) were taken. We spent most of the morning deciding where to eat for lunch, and we finally decided on Sacred Chow in The Village. I’ve been there twice before, which makes it I think my most visited place in NYC besides Babycakes (vegan cupcakes!) and Bluestockings (anarchist bookstore!). There is something about it that draws me back again and again, and the food is fantastic. We’d looked at their brunch menu, so we already knew we’d be loving it.

better than biscuits and gravy sacred chow

We decided on, finally, the Better Than Biscuits and Gravy, which were these delicious buttermilk biscuits covered in tofu scramble, steamed greens, and a white bean gravy, with some absolutely delicious fresh fruit on the side. Our other dish was a Philly Peppersteak Hero with grilled seitan, a cheezey sauce and some grilled peppers and onions. And served with home fries.

philly peppersteak hero sacred chow

These were the kinds of dishes that you take a bite of and pause, eyes wide, savoring, unable to even chew, you’re so busy just absorbing the fabulousness. And then time sort of marches on, you chew, and exclaim, “Wow!”

Fantastic.

We then walked around, saw the typical crazy people in New York (we fit right in), talked to a really cool guy named “Hobo Ken” (a joke, I promise!) who had some really interesting subway photography from the 80’s, and who is at Union Square (he said) most every weekend, so if you ever go, look for Hobo Ken among the artists that gather to sell the results of their talent.

Okay, the joke there is that he was wearing a shirt that said “Hobo Ken”, but his shirt was really talking about Hoboken, NJ. He is neither a hobo, nor is he named Ken. His name is actually John (I asked), and he was a really funny guy. I hope he takes my suggestion to get a stick with a little bag attached so he can live up to his t-shirt.

After that, since there is only so much even dedicated vegans can eat in a day, and also because I had to go to work on Monday, I got on the bus to go back home. And ate my vanilla peach scone from Sacred Chow sometime around Delaware.

flower-loving cow at catskill

(Cows like gourmet salads with field greens and edible flowers too!)

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