Chapter 1 – Victory
As I (very slowly) packed up my Brooklyn apartment, my mom came into town for one last NYC hurrah. As a dedicated Food Network viewer, she arrived with many “Have you heard of X Y or Z?!” suggestions—many of which I, of course, had heard of…except for Falai.
We headed over right after work and so it was no surprise to walk into an empty restaurant. Once seated, the waiter came by with a tray of various breads. Now, our reason for choosing Falai in the first place was Chef Iacopo Falai’s notable stint as Executive Pastry Chef at Le Cirque 2000, so our expectations were high. Two petit brioche nuggets were plucked from the tray and served with a shallow dish of olive oil and balsamic. The brioche was—dare I say—perfect! Like a buttery bonbon, we savored the sweet morsels and prepared for the next course: more bread!
After placing our order, the bread monger reappeared and offered us fresh Pane Dolce wrapped around sweet onions. Like a savory rugelach, we nibbled through the rich, flaky spiral toward ribbons of sweet white onion. … Falai: A study in two visits (New York, NY)
One month after moving to Los Angeles, New York Magazine cruelly published an entire issue dedicated to the future of vegetables. Anchored with the article Vegetables Are the New Meat, the magazine declared, “At serious restaurants all over town, carrots, peas, and the like are no longer just the supporting cast – they’re the stars. Move over locavores, here come the vegivores.” Fortunately, I’d already booked my friend’s sofa for a return flight back East!
After thoroughly reading New York Mag’s “The Vegetable Movement’s Must-Visit Restaurants,” I gathered a party of 4 to dine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen— quite possibly “the vegivore restaurant of the year”! Apparently everyone else had the same idea. I had to pull strings to secure a 8:00pm Saturday night reservation with just a few days notice… not that I actuallyknow important people, but I do know their personal assistants!
There was no question that the Roasted Kabocha Squash Toast withfresh ricotta and apple cider vinegar ($10) would be the very first dish I ordered. According to all the press outlets that matter, it’s a top vegivore dish at ABC. Was it life changing?! Well, no… but imagine silky kabocha slivers lying in a bed of ricotta and crackling whole grain bread with a sprinkle of rooftop basil leaves. It may not change your life, but it will give you a solid 10 minute foodie high. … ABC Kitchen (New York, NY)
On a sunny spring/summer/fall day in Manhattan, there are few pleasures that can match the joyous decompression of a picnic in the park… especially when that picnic is catered by a madly delicious vegan dosa food cart. Hidden in plain sight among the pretzel and hot dog venders of Washington Square Park, 2007 Vendy Award winning Thiru Kumar’s made-to-order dosas, idly, and uthappam are a spicy treat!
My first time here I was clearly a newbie, but being an educated newbie, I ordered the Jaffna Lunch — 4 small pancakes made with “natural herbs” topped with spicy dried chutney and served with a Samosa ($6). Why not the Pondicherry Dosa? Well, despite the excessive online praise for this dosa, when I saw the guy in front of me receive his, all I could think was that it looked like a salad in a crepe… and that wasn’t going to cut it , because I was HUNGRY!
I spend the entire month confirming, reconfirming, and reconfirming my decedent Five Course Vegetarian Gourmand lunch reservation at Eleven Madison Park. Having read the phrase “EMP has the best vegetarian tasting menu in Manhattan” on Yelp and Chowhound ad nauseum, to say my expectations (and anticipation) were high is not an overstatement. We began the fanciful gourmand journey at 2:00pm and by 3:30pm, forcing down the final crumb of exquisite macarons, we were the last men standing in the shimmering gold deco dining room at the base of the iconic Met Life Tower.
As expected (I can’t decide if it’s funny or crass that these “compliments of the kitchen” bites are now anticipated, or even demanded in a tasting menu) we were presented with a square bowl of Gougeres. The delicately cheesy bread is like eating air with carbs… which is not really a good thing, but in this case, not a bad thing either… … Eleven Madison Park (New York, NY)
Another ladies night and another opportunity to flex my food muscles… or another chance for me to explore treacherous culinary offering on someone else’s dime. These brave souls let the singular vegetarian of the group – along with my worthy co-conspirator Michelle N. – pick the locale. After ciphering though many worthy contenders, my brain began to plead for cheese (a frequent occurrence) and then I remembered reading reviews of people preening themselves over the supposed magnificence of the Mac and Cheese at Blue Smoke. Et volia!
This guy folded our napkins every time somone left the table
After the rounds of “Yeah! BBQ sounds great… but wait, what will you eat?!”I assured everybody that haveing extensively reviewed their published vegetarian (and gluten-free and nut-free) menu, I would be a smitten kitten drowning myself in Mac and Cheese. I also held out hope that the Veggie Burger would be stunning since Danny Myer is the birth father of the canonized ‘Shroom Burger. Alas, only the Mac and Cheese would live up to the promises, although not as expected… but the journey would lead me to new egalitarian editable entremets which heavily outweighed the disappointments.
We were thrilled to be seated at a round table for 8 people, the best way to dine in a large group, and we were attended to in professional Union Square Hospitality Group style which was completely unexpected at a restaurant where peanut shell littering the floor would have only enhanced the décor.
We ate a lot of food… A LOT… the skinny waitress kindly warned us that we had ordered too much food, but we flipped our hair at her and demanded that she bring it on.
ROUND 1: APPETIZERS
Warm BBQ Potato Chips with blue cheese dip ($7.95) – Excellent! Fresh but slightly soft chips doused in powdery BBQ Flavor in a bucket next to the cool ranchy white addictive dip. It can be ordered sans bacon but I had no problem eating around it for the sake of others.
On a perfectly sunny summer evening the (cool) ladies of my offices hopped a cab to the airy patio of the Maritime Hotel. We quickly sank into a scene where the clientele sashay around the nautical piazza as though they are gracing an uber cool red carpet. They mingle with the hot dads, beautiful children, and monotonous models in scant breezy skirts that flashed bare ass with every butterfly flap.
Our waitress was beautiful but looked barely 17, and so I refused to take wine recommendations from her. I jealously admired her tight short shorts that looked like they hugged her perfectly, but then I saw her picking wedgies multiple times and felt better as I lounged in my summer dress.
On my side of the table, we order the cheapest bottle of white and it was one of the worst wines I’ve ever consumed. Thinking our lesson had been learned, the next round we ordered a pricier bottle, but it was only a hairline better. So we enviously watched our friends sipping on their lovely (although non alcoholic) cocktail across the table. The virgin cocktail menu assembles distinctive drinks that sounded more and more alluring as I drank my 2 bottles of crappy wine.
I found the palm sized rounds of warm pizza doughy bread and the salads to be the highlight of the dinner. Although we didn’t order pizza (until dessert ) the “bread” quietly establishes their pizza oven pride… which I’m sure is perfectly good for the tourist…