A week in NYC - Where I ate. What I saw. Sit tight, it's a long one.
The Butcher’s Daughter
It’s the type of place you want to hate. Ridiculously on trend, full to the brim, with seats positioned outside the restaurant to accommodate for the inevitable queue, making it the perfect place to grab brunch on a Saturday morning, of course. However, it really did deliver. And fast too. The Butcher’s Daughter was always going to be high on my list, with a menu promising 100% dairy-free vegetarian food, ranging from gloriously complex smoothie combinations to a slightly healthier take on eggs Benedict.
Much to my delight, the almond milk and rice flour waffles were completely vegan and gluten-free, although I am sceptical on whether this whole gluten-free malarkey is really doing me any good at all, or simply soothing my conscious. Anyway. They were great. Not fluffy like your typical glutinous kind, but every so slightly gluey and creamy in the centre. Although that may not sound as appealing as it does in my head, trust me, they were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Topped with fresh berries and strawberry butter. Yes, you read that correct. Strawberry butter, rich and salty the way any other butter tastes, melting in the same way too, but completely plant-based. My guess is a coconut butter base, but I’m on a mission to find out the recipe.
Sweet Green was very much a welcome sight after a long flight took all of my energy, and desire to search my phone notes for somewhere extravagant to eat. With a great variety of salad bowls to choose from, all designed around seasonal produce, and a wonderful make your own option means that you’ll know exactly what you’re shovelling into your mouth. I’m not really one for a salad station, but Sweet Green truly delivered, each of the three times I visited over the course of a week. My go to? Kale, wild rice, soft sweet potato slices, marinated mushrooms, lentils, all smothered ever so generously in spicy cashew cream sauce.
I was recommended Jajaja after putting out an Instagram story in dire need of NYC recommendations; otherwise I would never have come across this quaint little place. We dined after one of the hottest days of the entire trip. Well, to be perfectly honest, every day was painfully hot, but this day really stood out. We feasted away in this authentic and rather sticky Mexican, located just outside China Town, I believe. The menu is entirely plant-based, with a menu clearly marking gluten and nut-free options, fabulous when travelling with Bea, deathly allergic to nuts.
We shared the coconut cheese and meaty mushroom stuffed quesadilla, which oozed as if made from real cheese. It was sticky and gooey, holding together the tortilla, a vehicle for the generously stuffed mushroom chunks. I also grabbed a flax-breaded squash taco, doused in creamy almond butter chipotle sauce, and Bea had a spice sweet potato taco, which she didn’t stop raving about for the entirety of the trip.
I really loved this place. From the wonderfully friendly staff to the intensely thick and creamy smoothies, Juice Press was yet another location I just couldn’t stay away from. I opted for the ever so popular Blue Magic, which was out of this world, and looked as if it had been peeled off the page of a Dr. Suess book. I timed it perfectly one day so I would end up in Central Park with one of their tasty pre-made salad pots, and blue smoothie in hand. Whilst I sometimes turn my nose up a pre-made salads unless I’m rushing about the place, Juice Press get it so right, with the freshest, hearty ingredients and little pots of pre-made dressing ready to go on the side.
A real must visit for decent veggie sushi, sometime that can often feel hard to come by. There is a real celebration of vegetables in this place, something that I love, of course, and little pretending to be something they’re not. I visited Beyond Sushi on two occasions, the first for a quick snack amongst the madness of Chelsea Market, and the second, for lunch in Bryant Park as I met Bea from her internship. The mushroom dumplings were flawless, and you just can’t fault their perfectly size, wonderfully fresh sushi rolls.
Tucked away in the West Village, Wild is a fully gluten-free Italian restaurant, hugely popular with locals for their fresh and seasonal produce gracing the menu. We nabbed a table outside against the brown stone building, and shared a mushroom truffle pizza (mushroom puree in place of tomato sauce was a great decision on their behalf), with generous handfuls of rocket placed on top. We shared a light avocado salad on the side and people watched for a good hour or so.
Sometimes, I feel myself getting a little too uptight about my sugar intake. For someone with hormonal imbalances and issues around anxiety, sugar is my nemesis. However, every now and then I need to remind myself that life is for living, and in actual fact, a scoop of ice cream can be more nourishing for my body in a particular moment, than a bowl kale could ever be.
Van Leeuwen was this moment for me, the moment of giving my soul exactly what it needed. We wondered around the corner post-pizza feasting to this insanely popular ice cream hot spot, dotted all around the city. I ordered a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate chip, and it was quite honestly the best ice cream I have ever tasted, vegan or otherwise. It was creamy, with the flavour of peanut butter shining through ever so slightly, before the point it could have become unbearable. The coconut and cashew base gave it an unbeatable, and slightly chewy texture, with the chocolate chips acting as the perfect finishing touch.
This was one of the spots high on my list before even booking my trip to the city, and for good reason. Yes, their juices are fabulous, and cold-pressed always means you’ll get a smoother, more nutrient dense outcome, but their freezes is where the magic truly happens. Essentially frozen yoghurt, but made using a cashew milk base, dates and filtered water, then topped with whatever may take your fancy. Both visits I opted for the almond butter cookie, and had no regrets on missing out. A generous drizzle of almond butter topped the creamy vanilla soft serve, and a touch of sea salt really pulled the whole thing together.
I actually didn’t eat here myself, however I picked away at Bea’s leftovers, as she was simply to stuffed to finished her falafel pitta. Taim Falafel is one of those places that you probably wouldn’t have known about unless someone raved endlessly in your ear about them, or if you stumbled across their drool-worthy Instagram account. Their falafel is crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and in all honesty, the best I’ve had in my life. Drizzled, no, suffocated in creamy tahini and sandwiched in between a fluffy white pitta. My biggest regret of the whole trip is that I didn’t get back there to get my own.
ChaCha Matcha is one of those places that you just know has been designed for the insta-savvy millennial girl, with its pink walls and photogenic matcha lattes. Yes, I’m glad I visited, but it was one of those places that I’ll probably miss off my list for next time. Their chai matcha latte tasted great and it was definitely a good little spot to sit and watch the baristas have the time of their lives as they danced their shift away, but I’ve tasted better. However, big props to having a full range of plant-based milk options. Macadamia milk? Who knew?
I was recommended on numerous occasions to head to Hu for healthy lunch options, all made from high quality, paleo ingredients. They have a deli style counter top, where you can opt for the main part of your meal, accompanied by freshly made side salads. They also have a large range of fresh, cold press juices and smoothies. I grabbed a green one day as an attempt to get out of the scorching sun, and it was green to say the least. If you’re looking for a slightly kinder snack, however, I couldn’t recommend their chocolate more. Think wonderfully rich dark chocolate with an oozing, creamy nut butter centre. Plus I am all for the minimal ingredients printed on the back.
What I Bought, What I Saw
I didn’t save up for the good part of a year to come home empty handed, so you can bet your ass that I shopped until I well and truly dropped. A large proportion of my spending was on treats and snacks, of course, and daily trips to Whole Foods around the city saw fully baskets of healthy goodies you simply cannot get in the UK. Eating Evolved salted coconut butter cups were always on my list, and I relished the moment of biting into the first one, regardless of the fact in was well and truly melted after sitting in the bottom of my bag all day. Purely Elizabeth pumpkin spiced granola is some I cannot recommend enough, and am a little relieved we can’t actually get it across the pond, as I fear I would eat it by the handful. Rebbl chocolate milk was another great find, made from coconut milk and cacao, with the addition of calming reishi to ward off any unwelcome jet lag. I was also delighted to come across the Moon Juice adaptogenic protein powder, mostly because I’m a sucker for great packaging and a glass jar, but also because I’m a huge fan of the brand and ingredients used.
I spent an obnoxious amount of time wandering endlessly around Urban Outfitters, sighing at the fact that we really draw the short end of the straw on this one (UK Urban, step up your game!). I grabbed a dress and some smelly oil. Of course, I spend a good week’s earnings in Sephora, and after being wooed by the gorgeous, glowing sales assistant, picked up a bottle of Sunday Riley’s UFO (seriously good stuff), the glow watermelon sleep mask and some SPF from SuperGoop. I also visited Credo beauty’s two locations, an all-natural beauty shop, and picked up some Juice mascara and Herbivore’s face soap.
What else did I do? I lolled around Chelsea Market on numerous occasions, shopped Union Square farmers market and walked the high line in its entirety. I visited Grand Central for the first time, and was surprised at just how impressed I was at its beauty. I spend a solid few hours at the Met as I aimlessly wandered its halls, and of course, spend a whole day in the sun at Central Park. One of the best bits, however, was just getting lost in the city. Stumbling across hidden streets and sights that I would never have otherwise been able to see if I hadn’t allowed myself to just be. It was great.