While the penultimate morning of our visit to New York City began with a less-than-pleasant jaunt into the Chelsea area in overcast, blustery weather, my family engaged in a couple unexpected and quite exciting activities throughout the course of the day to mitigate the unfortunate atmospheric conditions.
Our first surprising experience consisted of our discovery of an adorable cafe called The City Bakery, located just off of 5th Avenue in West Chelsea. Overwhelmed by a particularly violent gust of wind, my mother directed us to seek refuge in the nearest storefront, which led us into the welcoming, bustling atmosphere of The City Bakery—a cafe with an impeccable neighborhood-y feel and rife with families enjoying leisurely breakfasts. First opting simply to order a mug of mango tea while my parents sipped their coffee, I positively squealed upon glimpsing a juice bar at the back of the cafe. As I felt a bit peckish at this point of mid-morning, a refreshing juice appealed to me immensely, and I raced to the juice counter to chat up the friendly young woman responsible for creating happiness in the form of nutrient-rich beverages.
Little did I know that The City Bakery employs a juice chef (!!!) to craft unique, artisanal juices from unorthodox combinations of fruits and veggies. Just listen to the juice bar menu’s tantalizing offerings: fennel, kirby cucumber, & cold-pressed sugar cane; kale, cucumber, apple, orange, lemon, & extra virgin olive oil; sweet potato, orange juice, & cilantro; banana, cold-brewed coffee, dates, & cacao nibs; carrots, apples, golden beet, & cranberry; grapefruit, orange, avocado, & vanilla. I ordered an invigorating juice of foamy pineapple, cucumber, and purslane, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids from the purslane. Upon sampling some of this delectable concoction, my parents, both skeptical of juices containing vegetables, donned delightfully shocked expressions and exclaimed “WOW!” in unison.
After recommencing our trek to the Chelsea High Line, mounting the stairs of the refurbished highway, struggling against even stronger bursts of wind at our higher altitude, and finally giving up altogether on attempting to enjoy any sort of outdoor activity, my parents and I hopped inside the Chelsea Market to peruse the variety of retail shops and mini restaruant stands before ordering our lunch at One Lucky Duck Juice and Takeaway. My father, experiencing a cranky bout of miserliness, refused to “waste $16 on a container of lettuce,” (uhm, excuse me?), and opted to merely sip agave-sweetened lemonade for his midday meal, while my mother and I reveled in Sarma’s raw goodies.
Seduced by the Thai Lettuce Wraps, I traveled to raw food heaven upon first biting into the sweet, coleslaw-like, almond buttery filling of mango, pea shoots, carrots, cabbage, Thai basil, mint, and cilantro studded with crunchy cashew bits and encased in a (somehow) tender collard leaf. However, the succulent, drool-inducing tamarind dipping sauce comprised my favorite aspect of the dish. Followed by a raw yet impeccably similar version of the infamous fig newton, my delicious lunch made up for the inclement weather I endured in order to experience it.
Meal Checklist: Protein—almond butter (I assume), cashews, nuts in fig newton. Whole Grain—none. Vegetables—mango, pea shoots, carrots, Thai basil, mint, cilantro, tamarind. Leafy Greens—collard greens, cabbage.
As for my mother, she enjoyed (part of) a ginormous container of raw Taco Salad, consisting of romaine lettuce, a spicy walnut meat crumble, pico de gallo, sweet corn-studded guacamole, cashew sour cream, and cilantro-lime dressing. I sampled a bite of the salad once my mother had made her way through as much of it as she could with her bird-like appetite, and can attest to its mouthwatering combination of southwestern flavors and contrasting textures.
After lunch, my family did not look upon venturing out into the windtunnel of a day as a preferable idea, so we caught a cab back to the hotel to determine how to spend the few hours before dinner. Little did my parents know, I had packed a couple items intended specifically for use if we somehow found ourselves with downtime: yoga clothes. An avid member of both the vegan and yoga communities, how could I resist venturing to the ultimate intersection between the two worlds? I speak, of course, about Jivamukti Yoga—a world-renowned yoga school owned and operated by passionate vegan activists Sharon Gannon and David Life who unabashedly incorporate tenets of veganism into all aspects of their yoga empire. A mere subway ride away from the NYC branch of Jivamukti, I would have undergone immense disappointment had I not attended a yoga class there. Luckily, the timing and weather of this particular Saturday worked out perfectly, and I nearly burst with excitement during the subway ride to Narayani Nicole Nichols’ 3:00 Open class. Challenging, fast-paced, and full of arm balances and inversions, the class suited my yoga practice impeccably and temporarily eased the longing to return to my home studio of Inner Fire in Madison. However, even more enjoyable than the asana practice proved Narayani’s activism-themed narration of the class, imbued with vegan values and the notion of ahimsa (nonviolence toward all beings). Unfortunately, since my family already had dinner plans that night, I did not get to patronize Jivamukti’s onsite cafe, aptly titled JivamukTEA. Darn, I suppose I’ll just have to return to the studio the next time I visit the city and force myself to sample a “Light Bite” combination plate of grilled tempeh, spirulina millet, steamed kale, and turmeric-tahini dressing accompanied by a wheatgrass shot.
After my transcendental yoga experience, I subway-ed back to the hotel to rest up before our trek back into the East Village for dinner at Angelica Kitchen. The macrobiotic-inspired staple NYC vegan restaurant has served nourishing, astoundingly tasty food since 1976, and the folks there have dedicated themselves to supporting sustainable agriculture and responsible business practices from the beginning. Featuring a menu on which a whopping 95% of all the food is grown organically, Angelica Kitchen implements only fresh, local ingredients free of refined sugars, preservatives, and animal products of any kind. Apparently, the restaurant has garnered such a loyal following that the line often extends out the door and past the neighboring restaurant, John’s Italian; because of this, the nextdoor eatery implemented an entire vegan menu to draw in the crowd waiting outside Angelica’s Kitchen! I must confess that before our trip, the prospect of dining at Angelica Kitchen excited me more than at any other restaurant on our list.
Though I could very well have twirled my finger, landed upon any item on the Angelica Kitchen menu, and died of pure gastronimical bliss, I opted not to determine my dinner by random selection and instead thoughtfully decided upon the Angelica Pickle Plate—garlic-pickled shiitake mushrooms, marinated beets, and pickled onions, carrots, and celery—as well as a Combo Bowl of tempeh; a 3-grain mix of quinoa, wild rice, and amaranth; arame and hijiki seaweed; steamed kale, collard, and napa cabbage; and steamed delicata, kabocha, and butternut squash; all drizzled with the House dressing of parsley, scallions, tahini, and umeboshi plums.
Meal Checklist: Protein—tempeh. Whole Grain—quinoa, wild rice, amaranth. Vegetables—shiitake mushrooms, beets, onions, carrots, celery, mixed squash, parsley, scallions. Leafy Greens—arame, hijiki, kale, collards, cabbage.
To my immense pleasure, my mother ordered both of the dishes that I would have chosen immediately after the two upon which I finally settled: the Kinpira—a deeply umami mix of roasted burdock root, carrots, and ginger in a teriyaki glaze and tossed with arame and hiziki—and one of the nightly specials featuring marinated grilled tempeh, a coconutty jasmine rice pilaf, steamed sweet potatoes and broccoli, and a gingery tahini dipping sauce. I happily helped her finish off a couple cubes of the delectable tempeh dipped in the succulent, creamy sauce.
Sadly, I did not obtain a photo of my father’s dinner, which started with a generous cup of hummus accompanied by pita and crudites, and culminated in a large bowl of three-bean chili, bursting with hefty chunks of housemade seitan, kidney and pinto beans, lentils, sundried tomatoes, and chiles, all topped with lime-jalapeno tofu sour cream and served alongside the most gigantic, fluffiest wedge of cornbread upon which I’ve ever laid eyes. Not even my father could finish off Mt. Cornbread, but he attested to the incredibly delicious and satisfying nature of his dinner, which holds quite a lot of meaning seeing as he grew up in the South eating chili and cornbread just about every week.
Needless to say, Angelica Kitchen lived up to and far exceeded my expectations, providing exactly the type of immensely nourishing, simple, seasonal food in which I most revel.
Our final full day in New York City coming to a close, my family and I returned to the hotel, disappointed at the prospect of ending our metropolitan adventure of fantastic eating but eager to enjoy a final meal at Beyond Sushi for lunch the next day.