Continued from Brooklyn for the Holidays, A Photo Essay
Spending the holiday season in NYC was equal parts cozy and strange. It’s taken a decade across the country for me to really put a finger on how growing up a New Yorker really never leaves you. Little habits stick with me, like sheer impatience when downtown Portland is packed during the holiday season, rolling my eyes on a post office line til my head begins to shake, or eating while I walk, which I found myself doing with a freaking cup of coconut yogurt on my way to a work session the other day. That’s a little New York and a lot of Portland talking there. I knew I dug bagels, I knew a slice of pizza always made sense, and certainly had the accent (although I then took an interest in Speech Communication and Oral Interp classes in college, and learned to tone down what I was ‘tawkin’ about…unless I’ve had a few cocktails), but there was so much more about the hectic rush and amazing, multicultural setting that I needed time away from to comprehend; to return and explore.
This week-long and impromptu trip was like being on a goddamn film set. The Empire State Building was lit red and green and thousands of people with more department store bags than usual flooded the streets. Sure, there were Santa hat-wearing folks of every shape and size (and without bikes or beers in sight) hawking goods and services around every corner, but secretly, I wanted a minimum of one Muppet dressed as an elf to appear. At least a Fozzy Santa.
Case in point
Fast forward two weeks, and I was sitting at the Portland airport once more, heading off to Vegas on a budget airline with my Vida Vegan HQ cohorts for some meetings and location scouting for future events. As usual, I’m quite behind on sharing everything else I want to somehow put into words (which always includes uploading a gazillion more photos) from my time this fall in Thailand and Cambodia and recent Portland goodness, plus all the culinary projects and meals I’ve been taking legitimate notes on. Busy days. Not so much internet.
So join me as I look back on a budget-friendly, sibling-uniting New York holiday in this second segment. My friend Jojo (Hi Jojo!) is currently there, eating her way through some of my favorite spots and more, and I’m already jealous! I also just read that a second Champs opened, in the same area as a second Vinnie’s in Greenpoint. J. Legume and I managed to sneak in two meals at both of the original locations on a trip featuring more home cooking than I’d done since my first summer home from college, which was coincidentally, when I first went vegan at 19.
Plus, we foolishly tried to hit up Beyond Sushi during lunch time as a group of four. That so didn’t happen and needs to be corrected.
We shall return.
Lovely lovelies from Dun-Well’s: Eggnog & Peppermint Candy Cane below
A girl and her doughnut (and my flannel)
Grocery shopping at Hong Kong Market. Show me the choy!
Favorite: Grabbing fresh and fried tofu from the ladies of Tung Woo on the corner of Bowery & Grand
It’s open during the morning and early afternoon, located right in front of this:
Walking back to Chinatown
Making my way through Chinatown and Little Italy brings me to back to the childhood awe of thinking these two neighborhoods were actual countries within my own home state. I barely understood it, but as a kid who dreamed of moving to England and asked a lot of questions about my own heritage and could quickly roll off “Italian, English, Irish, German, Dutch!” as others could recite state capitals (or, a few of them), visiting was a real treat. Little Italy — and Brooklyn, where my parents were raised, seemed so….romantic and special, and Chinatown was vibrant and real. Years later, I’d take the Fung Wah bus to and fro Boston, stopping for a vegetarian lunch special in either Chinatown on my way.
Roasted breakfast potatoes with fresh dill & shallots
Like I mentioned on my last post, this was a tightly budgeted trip, and we cooked every day at my sister’s. One morning, I woke up everyone with these breakfast potatoes. I would have done more, but life without a dishwasher, man. I often joke that my small Portland kitchen means I could survive living in NYC, but gosh, I enjoy the treat of a dishwasher. My sister’s apartment is fantastic but cooking ornate meals for four at least twice a day brings a lot of clean up.
Sharing a pot of herbal tea at a Chinatown cafe
I am sorry to report that my reverse seasonal depression did not get its much-needed fix. It snowed once during our visit, and regretfully, didn’t last through the day. Two or three days following our departure via Newark (!! shockingly easy on mass transit !!), and the city was hit with a massive storm. Alas.
Down by City Hall and all that fun stuff
Chicken lo mein take out from Buddha Bodai: clearly why I was heading to Mott
Last year, I went to one of Buddha’s weekend dim sum feasts and it was so much more fresh, hot and glorious than you-know-where. And dude, do I dig their golden sesame chicken and bird’s nest, mushroom-starring, fried noodly dishes. This lo mein totally hit the spot on a good but long day.
A rare capture of my brother, sister and myself walking around SoHo
Tofu taco sightings
And….the reason I will never hit up this food truck, ding ding ding!
Blue lights, groovy tree
Uncle Monkey, our mom’s two-face kitty who’s lived with my sister the past decade. She’s great.
Taco night: Chipotle soy curls & potatoes, shredded romaine, diced tomatoes, Brooklyn Salsa Co.’s hot variety (love this stuff) and delicious guacamole by J. Legume
There are three things my sister now requests on my visits: Smokey soy curls, spicy tomato bisque and Thai curries. I even packed little Kaffir limes and fresh turmeric root in my carry on luggage. This time, we hit two out of three of her requests, since I was under the impression that the past assessment of a certain soup as “hot sauce-like” was not the high praise it’s come to be. Next time, sis.
Quick lunch pick-up from one of my favorite, tofu spread-offerin’ bagel spots in NYC
Toasted poppy, strawberry tofu
And then, I made the mistake of feeding a small bird, who was clearly the scout for a flock of rather large pigeons
Shiny, new Citi Bikes are everywhere. EVERYWHERE!
Now for Xmas eve, where my brother Rick joined us at my sister’s apartment in Bushwick. It was another surreal, happy experience of catching up, being casual, watching The Food Network and giving my brother his belated birthday-and-your-sister-went-to-SE Asia-again gifts.
Surprise bubbles from my baby brother
The necessary beginning: casual pickles & nuts, followed by cultured lemon-cashew cheese and Italian feasting
An Italian-inspired take on Chickpea Miso Noodle from Veganomicon
The remnant’s of Rick’s homemade gnocchi, Jen’s red sauce and garlic focaccia
Gnocchi, a bit of sauce
My brother had never made this before, but had apparently seen someone make it on television, and suddenly, a plate of tender potato goodness was upon us.
A behind the scenes look at a very special photo shoot
The evening also included lots and lots of vegan cookies.
Time for one more favorite outing.
Sausage, ‘egg’ & hollandaise on a bagel, Champs
This was my sister’s order. J. Legume went for similar and I felt the call of the tempeh wings, but it being 10am or so, opted for another Tofu Benedict and two cups of the unlimited Brooklyn Roasting Co. offering.
As if Champs could stand to be any more charming, it started briefly snowing as we finished up.
That’s the magic that makes me want to stay a few more days.
This may be ironic (and magnificently cliché), but let me close with…
It comes down to reality
And it’s fine with me ’cause I’ve let it slide
Don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside
I don’t have any reasons
I’ve left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind…
– Billy Joel