20 July 2011

New York City vegan food tour: Four days of indulgence

New York City has always been, in my opinion, the greatest city in the world. And now after living here for almost 2 months, I have upgraded its status to the greatest VEGAN FRIENDLY city in the world.

Every day this is reaffirmed as I meet unsuspecting folks on the subway who comment on my vegan water bottle and mention that they are vegan as well. As I wander by sustainable and cruelty-free boutiques and shops, as I take part in the myriad of veg friendly events offered any night of the week... and most importantly, as I stumble upon veg friendly restaurants in the most unlikely places! The dining choices for a vegan are endless here in Manhattan. And I, by choice, have landed right in the epicenter of veg heaven...the East Village.

The biggest problem faced by a vegan foodie in this mecca of soul-satisfying food is "where do I start?" Lucky for me, I was able to enlist the help of my friend, the Vegan Assassin, to assist with this most distressing dilemma. In 4 days we covered a lot of ground (but he was sure to warn me that there is much, much more).

So just to make your mouths water, and to re-live every decadent bite, I will recount my meals on my 4 day vegan food walking tour of the East Village...

Day 1:
1) Lan Café - We stopped in just long enough to be greeted by the friendly owner and chow down on some mouth-watering spring rolls.
2) Viva Herbal Pizzeria - After being overwhelmed with all the amazing options, from lasagna to soups to fresh-baked desserts, I settled on an amazing slice of pizza topped with daiya cheese.
3) Liquiteria - This is how vegans pre-game before dinner...no, not alcohol...refreshing green juice. My choice of a blend of greens was so satisfying. They also offer some prepared food selections in addition to a myriad of flavors of fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices.
4) Candle 79-This is a fine dining vegan restaurant. The smoked hummus platter was the perfect start, and I devoured the quinoa and tempeh dish I chose. Though it's not actually in my 'hood' of the East Village, it was worth the 10 min cab ride.

Day 2:
1) Pure Food and Wine- Raw. Vegan. Delish. Not much else I can say about this place! The King Oyster Mushroom Scallops will have you checking with the waitress to verify they are indeed vegan, and the Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart will have you wanting to come back for more. The dining experience is made even better by the absolutely beautiful, serene outdoor garden seating that makes you forget you're in the city that never sleeps.

Day 3:
1) Juice Press- This tiny, unassuming store-front has a lot to offer when you walk through its doors. Raw food items are offered, in addition to the organic, fresh pressed juices. My fav juice? Hands down, the Sweet Potato Pie.
2) Quantum Leap - Looking for vegan comfort food? This is your place. The chicken satay appetizers are highly recommended.
3) Counter- The Tuscan Kale Caesar was one of the best salads I have ever had. Sadly, Counter has since closed. But it is worth mentioning, in the hopes that its space will be filled by another vegan establishment.
4) Saturday night I attended an event that was hosted and catered by Gnosis Chocolates, Sun in Bloom and Organic Ave. I munched on nori wraps, raw chocolate, cookies and cupcakes and fresh organic juices...incredible people, incredible food.

Day 4:
1) Stogo - Vegan ice cream? Yes please! And the best part is you can choose the base... they offer soy, almond, hemp and coconut based ice creams in a variety of mouth watering flavors.
2) Soy & Sake - The only non-vegan food I can say that I actually miss is sushi. It's not at all because I miss eating toxic raw fish...but because I miss the experience of going out with friends and ordering a platter of rolls and sharing the food and company. The answer to this problem has now been resolved. Soy and Sake is a vegan sushi restaurant whose menu rivals it's neighbor, the well-known Sushi Samba. The seaweed salad is amazing, and all of the rolls are scrumptious. One piece of advice... save room for dessert.

Since my 4 days of indulgence, I have discovered many, many more vegan food offerings in this amazing city. Many thanks to the Vegan Assassin (who is taking Miami by 'vegan storm' and is set to open Choices Cafe in the very near future) for the vegan food tour and official welcome to vegan paradise.

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/rchamorro