Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adventures in Brooklyn - Food & Friends during the Search for the Perfect Apartment! Episode I

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Starting a new life on this side of the East River
So this past week has been the most confusing combination of just wonderful magic and the worst kinda of awful. The kind of awful that will be very funny this time next year when my feet finally stop hurting. See folks, I spent the past 7 days walking around Brooklyn looking for an apartment. Now if you have never looked for an apartment in the New York City area - well you might think these next few blog entries are well a dramatic interpretation with color and hijinks added to increase the entertainment value of this blog. I have to tell you that everything you are about to read is real and that no names were changed because in this story none of us are innocent*. And I also talk a lot about food and places I went to eat and think you should go. It would be completely illogical to not get those names right.

Shall we begin?

Now I could start with my shuttle ride from LaGuardia in a van of tourists from Minnesota. Sounds like this could be the beginning of a joke right? I'm just missing the talking horse. I thought so too when they started taking photos of the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant in Times Square and one guy asked me if "all New Yorkers love shrimp as much as Christians". He also asked me where to get a real good bagel because I "looked like the kind of person who knew". In this conversation I am pretty sure "New Yorker" was code for "Jewish" and he never once asked if I was actually from New York. Ever see that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when they're kicked out of the country club and somehow in there they try to figure out who's the biggest "Jew Face"? It reminded me of that only in a polite Mid-Western way.

But it's pretty played out to complain about tourists. I also won't bore you with a retelling of the hours and hours I spent walking, the no show landlords and sketchy dives I visited in my search for shelter in Brooklyn because you're here for the food. So let's get to the good stuff. 

I'll begin with my dinner at The V-Spot in Park Slope.

100% Vegan + 100% Delicious - Using Annie Math that comes to 200% Awesome
I met my always stylish friend Susanne there and we caught up over faux chicken sandwiches that I didn't take pictures of because I was too busy stuffing my face. When vegans return from trips to NYC they are pretty much always asked what they ate at places like Red Bamboo, Babycakes or Kate's Joint but there are some other real gems in NYC that should be visited whenever possible but because they aren't in Manhattan might be missed. V-Spot is totally and completely one of those gems! The staff was friendly and just so nice. The food was tasty and pretty reasonable for NYC. I had a little pot of Earl Grey tea and some fried tofu squares with a spicy peanut sauce while I waited for Susanne. I would love to tell you that I am the type of person who saved some for my dear friend but I'm not. I meant to but I fell in love with this peanut sauce that I'm pretty sure had some lime juice in it to make a unique bright finish. SIGH. So I ate them all before she got there and silently promised myself that next time I'll let her have twice her share of the appetizers. I'm going to love living in this town.

The next day, I had a meeting with my literary agent in Manhattan. Yes, that is an amazing sentence. Can you even believe it? See you guys don't know this about me. Even people who actually know me don't know this about me because all my life I have never had public ambitions to be much more than an activist. I mean what career could be better than making the world a better place? Of course, I had secret hopes and dreams for myself - I'm not a robot - but I rarely if ever shared them with anyone. The closest I ever came was when I basically changed my whole life to be with Dan. I won't go into that too much - some things slip into gossip quickly - but I'll share this : When I was a little kid (before I understood what happens to animals in this world) when I pictured being an adult - I was a writer of romance novels like Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone** except I could cook anything and had a lot of dogs - like a herd. Don't get me wrong I'm really happy I have Dan and not a herd of dogs (yet) but having a literary agent who is helping us get a book that promotes veganism published... well it is a combination of all my dreams come true only better because I have Dan.

Before meeting with my agent, I meet the always fabulous Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House for coffee at the extremely vegan friendly 'sNice in the Village.

Now some of you might remember Jasmin from her guest post on MTS but I'd bet more of you know her from her kick ass activism for the animals. This is actually my first trip to 'sNice and I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the laid back atmosphere and the tea selection - though I admit I stayed with my Earl Grey. We didn't have time to really eat anything which I regret because if you scroll down a bit - I got a photo of just some of the vegan baked goods they had and they had a pretty great selection of vegan paninis with smoked tofu, faux chicken wraps and black bean burritos that I plan on eating in the near future. But really I have to redirect your attention to the Earl Grey cake. I'll give you a minute to recover from your GASP and just validate by saying  - I know right?

While I waited I listened to the two women at the table next to mine discuss what celebrities they have sold sinks to over the years (like a certain blond-ish Black Eyed Pea) and how the bathroom fixture industry has changed over the years while kitchen sinks have returned to more traditional styles. Needless to say the conversation improved substantially when Jasmin got there. We talked about your years in the movement, our thoughts on mainstreaming compassionate living and how amazed and happy we were about the progress we could see all around us. It's always a great feeling to find a kindred spirit and know they are doing good in the world. Jasmin is the definition of Lovely.

Um Apricot Bars and Earl Grey Tea Cake - I'm in love.
I wish I could tell you the rest of my trip was this absurdly encouraging and magical but there was more landlord no shows and an awkward car trip with a broker who talked my ear off the whole time about he's actor who doesn't do nude scenes or sleep with directors and took me to some freaking small but nice places. Ever see a stove so small it had three burners? I have. It made me miss our galley kitchen with it's 2 feet of counter space and nervous about the future of The Betty Crocker Project.

After a day of complete disappointment I went back to my friend Jack's perfect apartment in a lovely neighborhood and found one of my new favorite finds in NYC : Chavella's Cafe Mexicano.

Now this is not a strictly vegan restaurant but it was around the corner from Jack's and my feet couldn't take another trek to Williamsburg or wandering around finding tofu. They have a large vegetarian selection that you can request to have made vegan. Don't forget to do that but if you do - they are very very nice about making sure you get a vegan meal. They are also pretty inexpensive for NYC and have a guacamole that is so perfect - I almost cried. It made up for all the terrible things I had seen and done on my journey thus far. This guacamole mended my broken heart.

This is the only known photo of what I now refer to as "Dreamboat Guacamole"
I had a Noples taco - that's a taco with avocado, pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos and wait for it - Cactus! Do I love eating cactus? Eh. It reminds me of okra but the combination of it all... it was the perfect storm of wonderful. Just wonderful and something really special in a city full of vegan hot spots. Yes - I had a delicious vegan cactus taco and found my joy again.

Little did I know - I would soon meet Leon from Bensonhurst and our future home... but I'm going to take advantage of that cliffhanger to make sure you all turn in tomorrow and as if you needed it - I'll leave you with these teasers : I visited one of the most infamous vegan hot spots in all NYC with one of my favorite interneters and I was abducted (not by the mentioned interneter or by aliens).

See you tomorrow!

* Muahahhahahahhhhaahahahhahahhhhhhhahhahha.

**Yes even in my childhood fantasies I knew myself well enough to know I was destined to be socially awkward.


  1. New York! You lucky duck! I want to move to the Big City SO badly, and get out of Little Town, Pa. lol.

  2. My parents are Christian, and I think they only kind of like shrimp (in case you run into any more inquisitive mid-Westerners).

    I can't wait to hear more about your book! and your apartment-hunting adventures.

  3. Ha! It's funny - I would never have guessed Christians or Mid-Westerners had any real feelings for shrimp. I have a questionable jokish scenario in my head about a biblical argument over shellfish that split the Jews forever and Jesus was somehow involved. Sorry if my imagination has offended any Christians reading this.

  4. I am so happy for you that your dreams are coming true! You will be great!

  5. Thank you! I'm really touched by that.

    This is excellent, finally a food portal which understands what food lovers are looking for. Best wishes and congratulations to the Food Kingdom team!

  7. Wow, sounds like the beginning of an adventure in NYC. Have fun with it and thanks for sharing.