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May 25, 2011

NYC Day 3: Kate's Joint, Engagement Photoshoot, and 4 Course Vegan

Thanks for following along on days 1 and 2, on to our final day in NYC!

Our last day in NYC was our engagement photo shoot day! It was only appropriate to start this big day with a big breakfast. We dined on Kate's Benedict at Kate's Joint in the East Village. This dish starts with a thick slice of toast and is topped with vegan sausage, mushrooms, greens, scrambled tofu, and vegan hollandaise. Perfect!

After breakfast we started getting ready for the shoot. A friend in Brooklyn set me up with her hair stylist who fixed me up with some beautiful curls.

Thanks for the 'do, Dena!

Then it was time to head down the road to the Dan Mims' apartment, where we joined by the rest of the team. Pictured above on the far left is Christopher Drummond of Christopher Drummond Beauty, my makeup artist for the day. Next to Christopher is Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture, my stylist for the day. All the way to the right is Dan Mims of The Ethical Man, our host and Steve's stylist for the day. The lovely lady behind the camera is Erin Nicole of Erin Nicole Brown Photography.

Christopher did an amazing job with my makeup, using his own vegan makeup line. I love his products! Leanne helped me decide what to wear for the shoot. It was so much fun to work with her and to get to know her--turns out she is from a neighboring suburb of Chicago! So fun!

Dan was a most gracious host as we were made up and styled at his apartment, and he did an awesome job styling Steve. The tie Steve wore for the shoot is from his collection.

Once we were all styled it was time to hit the streets of Brooklyn for our photo shoot. Featured below are a few of my favorite shots. To see more pictures hop over to Rose Pedals to see the video that they put together which covers our entire weekend in NYC, including some video footage we shot.

Thanks again to Dan, Leanne, and Christopher, it was such a joy and privilege to work with all of you! A big thanks also to our photographer, Erin Nicole...

Erin is such a great photographer, she made us feel so comfortable in front of the camera and truly brought out the best in us! Thank you again!

After the shoot we had one more prize to redeem, dinner at 4 Course Vegan in Williamsburg. This was our first experience with underground dining. Underground restaurants, also referred to as supper clubs or closed door restaurants, are set menu dinners held in a private space. Chef Matteo hosts his Saturday night dinners right in his apartment. We had a little trouble figuring out how to get in when we arrived--we stood with a few other newbies at the main door trying to buzz in. Soon someone more experienced spotted us and led us over to a gated courtyard which gave direct access to the apartment. The chef's assistant recognized that our group was not sure if we should wait or seat ourselves, and welcomed us to have a seat anywhere there were empty seats. All of the tables were communal, averaging 10 seats per, with total seating for about 40. It was a full house, so we took the last two seats at a 10-top. From our seats we had a good view of the kitchen where Chef Matteo was busy plating the first dish. At each place setting there was a small card describing the 4 courses for the night. Soon the assistant began serving the first dish.

We were given an amuse-bouche of watermelon radish ravioli, before the official four courses began being served. This raw ravioli consisted of two paper thin slices of watermelon radish filled with some type of nut cheese and drizzled with basil puree. I loved this! I would love to recreate this and have been on the lookout for watermelon radishes ever since.

The first course for the night was yellow spilt pea soup with chile oil and chive sour cream. This was a very unique split pea soup, with a distinct sesame flavor as well as some heat from the chile oil. The bowls emptied quickly around our table!

The second course was a baby arugula Caesar with cornmeal croutons and miso-celery dressing. This was a great combination of flavors, though not the most "Caesar-y" vegan Caesar salad I've ever had. Honestly though, I'd take this over the more traditional Caesar flavors any day.

The third course, and star of the evening, was the spring vegetable quiche with smokey mushrooms and wild ramps. The crust was rich and perfect, as was the creamy filling. The smokey mushroom topping pushed this quiche over the edge, crunchy and reminiscent of bacon. What I wouldn't give for this recipe! Steve remarked that this was the best quiche he has ever had, and I agree.

Just when I thought I couldn't eat another bite the final course was served, pine nut and fennel biscuit with meyer lemon and chocolate mousse. The delicately flavored biscuits were a perfect pairing for the super rich chocolate mousse, which was very thick and heavy. I loved the meyer lemon sauce which brightened and rounded out the flavors.

Our first underground dining experience was a success! We had a chat with Chef Matteo before heading out, and thanked him for the fantastic evening. He sent us home with some of his packaged goodies, including an amazing hazelnut toffee brittle and chocolate dipped coconut macaroons. Please do not miss out on dining at 4 Course Vegan if you have the opportunity to!

Thanks to one of our tablemates, Dan, for allowing me to use his photos from the night. It had been raining heavily earlier in the day so we decided not to bring out the camera. Dan owns his own underground restaurant in Buenos Aires! Check out his blog post about 4 Course Vegan, and his resource page with information about underground restaurants all over the world.

Steve and I had the best time in NYC, we were very tempted to "miss" our flight home! I cannot thank Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings enough for hosting this amazing contest, as well as all of the wonderful vendors that participated, and everyone that voted for us to win. We will always treasure this experience!

Don't forget to check out the feature on Rose Pedals to see the video that she put together, including more of our engagement photos.

May 23, 2011

NYC Day 2: Atlas Cafe, Mani/Pedis, and Pure Food and Wine

In case you missed it, check out my NYC Day 1 post. Moving on to day 2!

Our second day in NYC started rather deliciously! Steve and I had lunch on the lower east side at Atlas Cafe. Steve chose the Philly Cheesesteak Panini. This sandwich was stacked with seitan, cheesy sauce, lettuce, and roasted red pepper. The bread was awesome, but we rated this sandwich just OK.

I made a winning choice with the Vegan Mississippi Chicken Panini. This sandwich features vegan cream cheese, chicken-style seitan, roasted red pepper, and avocado. The combination of flavors was perfect!

To be honest, it wasn't the lunch menu that drew us to Atlas Cafe, it was the dessert case. Atlas' desserts are supplied by the popular Philadelphia bakery, Vegan Treats. And when in New York, eat New York Style Cheesecake!  This was one rich, decadent, and worthy vegan cheesecake.

I have read many times about the amazing peanut butter bomb cakes and brownies from Vegan Treats, so I had to snag a brownie when I spotted it. Oh, my! This was my dream dessert, and quite simply, the bomb.

Next, Steve and I headed into Brooklyn to redeem the first prize from the Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings contest. We were treated to vegan manicures at The Green Spa & Wellness Center.

Hoping to win Steve over to the possibility of enjoying this kind of pampering with me in the future, I decided to add pedicures to our appointment. Steve only squirmed a little bit and seemed to actually enjoy his first manicure and pedicure! Still, I am not sure he'll be lining up to do it again anytime soon. The spa was wonderful. I loved my manicure, and the pedicure was the best!

From the spa we headed back to the lower east side and walked around the rest of the afternoon, working up our appetites to redeem our next prize! That evening we had dinner reservations at the fabulous raw vegan restaurant, Pure Food & Wine. We were informed that we could order anything that we'd like, but the tasting menu was highly recommended so that we could try many things. The tasting menu was described as 5 courses, of which we would each receive something different from each other, so 10 total dishes. Our selections for the evening would  be made by the chef, which took the pressure off from having to decide between all of the amazing options. It was fun to just sit back and be surprised with the dishes as they came!

The restaurant's lighting was not the best for photography. My camera wasn't cutting it without the flash, so we opted to use Steve's phone. The first few shots are a little dark, but we found a better setting after the first few courses. 

Check out our raw feast!

Maitake mushroom with ramp pesto

Salad of baby spinach and strawberries with framboise mint vinaigrette, pistachios, and framboise gelee. 

Steve's salad not pictured: Baby turnip carpaccio with morel mushrooms, english pea cream, spring herbs, and pickled ramps.

Kabocha squash soup with clove oil.

Spanakopita with spinach, almond feta, cucumber yogurt, with local cauliflower and grapes.

Golden polenta with swiss chard, saffron tomato preserve, eggplant tuille, and oak-aged sherry vinegar.

Natsu maki of avocado, pickled red onion, asparagus, baby heirloom carrots, upland cress, with black garlic sauce and wasabi aioli.

Vine ripened tomato with cauliflower masala filling, wilted spinach, coconut curry sauce, cucumber mint raita.

Zucchini and local greenhouse tomato lasagna with basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta.

Sweet corn and cashew tamales with chili spiced portabella, salsa verde, cashew coconut sour cream, avocado, and raw cacao mole.

White light sake tini (featuring sake, coconut milk, and lemongrass)
This was served between dinner and dessert, but I am not sure what it was. Any ideas?

Lemon cheesecake with strawberry rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb and fennel confit.

Mexican cinnamon mousse with spiced chocolate cake, pear relish, and pear sorbet.

As you can see, they totally spoiled us! We received an extra entree for both main courses, an unexpected amuse bouche, as well as several drinks not pictured. ;) My raw dining experience is very limited, and Pure Food and Wine completely changed my perspective. I could eat like this every day! Honestly, this was the best vegan dining experience of my life. Certainly the most beautiful food I have ever eaten, and equally delicious. It was all good, but if I had to call out a favorite it would be the tamale, with a close second place going to the spanakopita, the kabocha squash soup, and the Mexican cinnamon mousse. Steve agreed that the tamale was his favorite, but the lasagna and the cheesecake were also at the top of his list.

As if all of that weren't enough, they sent us home with some One Lucky Duck goodies. Raw coconut macaroons (like, whoa!) and raw sugar cookies! Thanks again for the amazing night Pure Food and Wine, I am already looking for an excuse to get back to NYC to visit you soon.

Stay tuned for the final NYC post tomorrow, including pictures from our engagement photoshoot!

May 6, 2011

NYC Day 1: Dim Sum, Donuts, MooShoes, and Candle Cafe!

Steve and I spent an epic three days in NYC two weeks ago, and it's high time I share our adventures!

In case you missed it, we were in New York because we won the NYC Getaway + Engagement Photoshoot contest hosted by Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings. The highlight of our trip was meeting the wonderful vegan vendors that participated in the giveaway, all of which went above and beyond to make sure that our NYC experience was special. More on that on the day 2 and day 3 posts!

Our first full day in NYC we went out and explored the city on our own. Steve had never been to New York so we went a day early to have our own mini-tour of Manhattan. Our morning started in Battery Park, followed by a stroll through the financial district, and up into Chinatown for lunch. In one of my previous visits to NYC I dined at Vegetarian Dim Sum House and knew this would be something that Steve would really enjoy. Enjoy we did!

Hot and Sour Soup
We started lunch with a "small" hot and sour soup. So spicy and delicious, and a generous portion of two bowls each!  

We also enjoyed a complimentary pot of tea.

Rice Flour Rolls with Mock Ham and Cilantro
We ordered six different dishes from the dim sum menu, and the first to arrive to the table was the rice flour rolls with mock ham and cilantro. This was one of Steve's picks, and he loved it. I was never a big fan of ham and I'm not wild about cilantro, so these were just okay in my opinion. I suspect I would love the rice flour rolls featuring kale!

Mock Shrimp Dumplings
About halfway through our rice flour rolls the rest of our food arrived. The mock shrimp dumplings are front and center in this shot. I've never had mock fish of any kind, and this was surprisingly authentic and tasty.

Mock Roast Pork Buns
Steamed buns in all of their doughy glory are my favorite dim sum offering. The mock roast pork buns did not disappoint, and was my favorite dish of the day.

Treasure Balls
In several yelp reviews I read that the Treasure Balls are a must-try. Neither the reviews nor the menu offer any description of what they actually are, but based on the reviews alone we were confident ordering this dish blindly. These turned out to be deep fried balls of mashed potatoes, um, yes please! Another favorite of the day.

Fried Turnip Cakes
Our last dish was the fried turnip cakes. These were a bit on the bland side on their own, but the super tasty dipping sauce fixes that right up. I'd love to try to recreate these at home!

With bellies full of dim sum we hit the streets again and walked up to the lower east side. Our first stop was MooShoes, a vegan shoe and accessory shop.

My attention was drawn to this section!

And these vegan Saucony's!

And this kitty sleeping in a shoe box. Awww to the max!

Babycakes donuts
Right around the corner from MooShoes is the famous vegan bakery, Babycakes. We picked up a mini lemon donut and regular strawberry coconut donut to go.

Babycakes cookie sandwich and donut
We also got a chocolate chip cookie sandwich and a coffee donut. We are both coffee lovers, but neither of us cared much for the strong flavor of the coffee donut. Everything else was excellent! Our favorite was the strawberry coconut donut. It's no surprise that they feature this one on the cover of their newest cookbook.

Next stop, Times Square! We were looking for tickets for a show later that night and were bummed to find that all of the shows we were considering were sold out (okay, well I was bummed, haha!). My spirits were lifted when we saw the big Silk promotion going on in the heart of Times Square.

There were guys walking around with these funny Silk dispensers on their backs, pouring samples for the masses. The different flavors that I saw walking around were vanilla, very vanilla, chocolate, almond, and COCONUT. Do you know about this new flavor? I tried it, and I approve! Very tasty.

In addition to the funny backpack dispensers they also had several serving stations like this one with all of the same flavors listed above.

Tuscan Lasagna
After wandering around the theater district a bit we headed uptown to Candle Cafe for dinner. There was a tasty looking Indian platter on the specials menu that I had all but decided on until I saw a server walk by with a slice of lasagna. I had to try it! This was one seriously good lasagna.

Aztec Salad
Steve went for the Aztec Salad. This salad features bbq tempeh, quinoa, black beans, pumpkin seeds and toasted cumin dressing, YUM!

After dinner we took a stroll through central park while the sun was setting. It was gorgeous, and the perfect ending to our first day in NYC. Stay tuned for two more NYC posts coming your way!