Exactly 363 days ago, I regaled to you the projected Thanksgiving menu for my three-person family’s second vegan holiday feast, the highlights of which included Baked Almond Feta, Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans, Rosemary Sweet Potato Cornbread, and Raw Mini Apricot Swirl Cheesecakes. Sadly, however, as I opted not to complete the halfway-across-the-country trek from New York to Wisconsin this year to celebrate my first Thanksgiving as a college student, my mother and I will not while away this brisk autumn Thursday leisurely preparing root vegetables and pie while listening to the dull roar of Packers fans on the television. While I will certainly miss the calm, family-centric atmosphere cultivated during our last two Thanksgivings, culminating in a kingly spread of vegan goodies enjoyed by my mother, father, cat, and me, I eagerly look forward my family’s alternate plans for celebrating a turkey-friendly holiday this year.
The Farmers Market Vegan family Thanksgiving extravaganza? A three-day tour of New York City’s finest vegan restaurants, studded with lengthy strolls in Central Park and along the Chelsea High Line. Thus, luckily, even though I’m not willing to face the whirlwind of air travel to spend a mere weekend in my hometown, my parents seem absolutely thrilled to suggest that they fly out to NYC for the short holiday break.
My family’s adventure will begin around 5:30 pm on Thanksgiving Day when I arrive by train and my parents by plane in NYC for a much-anticipated reunion after four months of separation. At the enthusiastic request of my mother, who fell in love with this particular restaurant after our visit to NYC two winter breaks ago, we will enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner at Hangawi—a health-centered Korean restaurant featuring an intimate dining room in which patrons sit shoeless at tables sunken into the floor while drooling over sizzling stone rice bowls, silken tofu served in clay pots, and veggie-laden bibimbaps. Receiving numerous accolades, Hangawi has earned a spot on the list of 40 best restaurants in New York according to Food and Beverage Business Magazine, and one bite of their scrumptious vegan fare demonstrates why.
Friday morning devotes itself to tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Guggenheim Museum. An avid fan of both Warhol and Kandinsky, both of whom have exhibits currently in the Met and the Guggenheim respectively, I can’t wait to immerse myself in their quite different yet wildly appealing styles of art for the entire morning. Forgoing a restaurant venture for breakfast since neither of my parents usually partake in a morning meal (they’re European, what can I say?) and I plan on packing three mason jars full of green smoothie goodness, my family’s first Friday restaurant visit will lead us to Candle Cafe East, mere minutes away on foot from both museums. My mother and I stopped by Candle Cafe during our last jaunt to New York for a quick juice pick-me-up, but one glance at their menu guaranteed that I would try my darndest to return to this vegan restaurant staple of the city for an actual meal. Their Living Crunchy Sprout Salad, infamous Paradise Casserole (the recipe for which you can find here), and Thai Baked Tofu drizzled with arame coulis all scream my name from the gluten-free menu.
After a leisurely afternoon spent strolling through Central Park, my parents and I will head down to the East Village for dinner at Caravan of Dreams—a kosher vegan restaurant launched in 1991 by Spanish expat Angel Moreno who “saw the restaurant as an opportunity to combine his passions for food, health, music, and community.” My last trip to New York did not offer the opportunity to sample the Mediterranean-inspired fare at Caravan of Dreams, but their Live Nachos with chia chips and Omega Salad both sound heavenly. Their menu also specifies raw items as “live” and features many of such options.
On our last full day in the city, my family plans on visiting Rockefeller Center (my mother and I climbed to the Top of the Rock last time we visited NYC and want to share the experience with my father) and the Empire State Building (which I have never visited before) before catching lunch at One Lucky Duck Juice & Takeaway in Chelsea. While our dining schedule couldn’t accommodate dinner at Pure Food and Wine, easily the most acclaimed raw restaurant in the universe, at least we can experience Sarma’s gourmet fare at her to-go counter. A sucker for anything featuring tamarind, I look forward to sampling the Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps, followed by what I assume serves as the raw version of my favorite childhood cookie—the Fig Bar.
After exploring both the Chelsea High Line and Cushman Row (my mother loves gawking at architectural marvels), my family will enjoy our last dinner in NYC at Angelica Kitchen—one of the city’s oldest vegan restaurants that has garnered enthusiastic and loyal patrons since 1976. While I could attempt to list a couple of the menu items that stand out to me, I would most likely end up recounting the entire bill of fare, rife with exactly the type of healthy, hearty, macrobiotic-inspired raw food in which I so revel. Dragon Bowl, anyone?
Our final day in the city will feature lunch at Beyond Sushi before I catch an afternoon train back to Poughkeepsie. My parents have taken me to Japanese restaurants from the days when I still sat in high-chairs, so going out for sushi has always served as particularly bonding-filled experience for my family. However, stuffed with black rice, pickled veggies, marinated tofu, and tantalizing sauces, Beyond Sushi’s artistic fare promises a whole new perspective on Japanese rice rolls. Envisioned by Hell’s Kitchen finalist Guy Vankin, Beyond Sushi “promotes a natural, vegan diet with no added preservatives.” Amen, brotha!
Only two more days until I depart for my NYC Thanksgiving vegan-stravaganza! I can’t wait to regale to you my gastronomic experiences in the city.
Until next time, Ali.