Vegan Gastronomy Weekend – NY

Last January the From A to Vegan crew headed out to NYC for a weekend of observation, art illumination, professional enrichment and vegan degustation. The main motivator for our trip was that Chris and I were attending the “Amazing Seitan Workshop” at the Natural Gourmet Institute.  Going to NY in and of itself is an enrichment experience with all of the visual references, cultural diversity and general creativity needed to thrive in such a city, and we just can’t resist taking in as much of it as possible when we go there.

Day 1

Most of our trips start with us arriving at our destination ready to chow down some vegan goodness. As soon as we arrived at 33rd St. station we headed off to the Loving Hut, for some vegan fast food (all good stuff) with an Asian flare. Our selections were Udon Soup, the Protein Quesadilla, Crispy Vegan Burger and Unbeef Teriyaki. We even had a little room left for the Tapioca pudding with fruit. Everything was fresh and tasty. The only thing fast food about it was that it was made quickly.

After lunch we headed over to the MOMA to get our design geek on. An unexpected bonus was the Counter Space – Design & the  Modern Kitchen exhibit, so I got a double dose of geekiness for one admission.

After hours of walking in the museum, we obviously worked up an appetite and were ready for our dinner stop, Quintessence, once an all-raw restaurant which now has some cooked entrées on its menu. The restaurant is pretty tight and cozy so you may want to make reservations. The food was on average good with the Mexican Platter being the best selection. I chose the Indian Platter and although filling, it wasn’t hearty enough in my opinion and I wish I had gone for the Mexican Platter instead. The All American Burger wasn’t quite to any of our liking since it lacked flavor but the chips that came with it were awesome. We didn’t get a chance to try any of their desserts because our next planned stop was Lula’s Sweet Apothecary for the best vegan ice cream on this planet, no exaggeration. If you ever visit NY this is the one place you must go. Most of their ice creams are nut-based (they also have some made with soy) and they are rich, creamy, flavorful, and absolutely decadent.

Day 2

Starting off with a hearty breakfast before a long day is essential. Terri was the perfect spot and only a couple of blocks from the Natural Gourmet Institute. We all ordered the tofu scramble wrap with vegan sausage and Daiya “cheese”. It was a big portion and just right for how hungry I was, enough to keep me going until mid afternoon.

As a designer who works primarily on a computer, I try to step away from my electronic appendage a couple of times a year and take some sort of hands-on class to refresh and spark my creativity through tactile and constructive workshops. In past years I’ve turned to ceramics, photography and story telling in pictures and words. This year I decided to turn to cooking. Like most other creative art forms, cooking is part chemistry, part creativity, part technique and lots of passion. The seitan workshop was an all-day event and certainly had all of these elements in abundance.

There were about 15 attendees and 12 dishes to make within a 4-hour time frame. It was a bit hectic at times and I guess that’s what made it fun. I got a few nuggets of kitchen wisdom from the class and definitely the constructive creative aspect I was looking for. Most of the dishes came out good, but I thought the seitan itself lacked variety in texture and flavor. Perhaps if the instructor were vegan and didn’t recommend using duck fat or chicken broth for flavoring, seasoning the seitan instead, the recipes would have been more tasty on their own. All in all, it was a good experience, but could have been a touch better.

Class over, it was time to regroup for dinner at Blossom, with a small detour to Cocoa V first. The store has a warm and welcoming coffee shop atmosphere with displays for their beautiful bonbons that look more like you’re at a jeweler than a chocolatier. Each bonbon is truly a work of art and taste as good as they look. I almost didn’t want to eat them, but my brain kept reminding me that they were in fact chocolate and they didn’t last more than a couple of days. After carefully making our selections (they are a bit pricey, so you can’t just go nuts and get everything) off we went to our trip’s final destination.

I didn’t have much of an appetite after eating a ton of seitan all afternoon at the workshop, but this was Blossom and I had to try something. I opted for two appetizers instead of an entrée, Black-eyed Pea Cakes and Porcini Flutes. Other dishes our table ordered were Hickory Basted Tempeh, Feijoadinha with Smokey Tempeh and a couple of salads. As expected, all of the dishes were delicious. The only complaint we had was that the Feijoadinha was a chilli and not a feijoada at all. There’s a distinct difference between the two dishes and when you have a hungry Brazilian vegan expecting a vegan feijoada, it doesn’t quite cut it to get chili instead.

We hope this brief recount of our trip can help you plan yours. If you have any favorite restaurants or specific towns you’d like us to review please add a comment below.

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