PB Eats… New York

After a few days working in New Jersey (lots of sandwiches and pasta, nothing to write home about), I was all set to go to New York for just a couple of days.  I absolutely love the city, the buzz, the madness, everything.  I stayed in Manhattan – the Hilton Garden Inn on West 35th Street – what I think is a lovely area and a great location.  The last time I was there I stayed in the Bryant Park Hotel and that was stunning, but this time it was almost double the rate.  Rather save some money for food, eh?

 With limited time, too many options and just one stomach, I had to be selective in what I eat.  So first things first, off I went to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle – next to Central Park to stock up on some yogurts and cereal bars for breakfast, looking for brands that I don’t see in London.  I went for a couple of So Delicious yogurts – blueberry and chocolate which were both scrumptious.  I also got a few Kind bars.  But I think the find of the day were these Jalapeno flavoured Kettle crisps (or should I say ‘chips’).  If you like heat, and not a little tickle but a nice kick – these are the crisps for you.  I just need to track them down in the UK.

So onto the food.  I did have a look at Happy Cow (go Happy Cow!) but with literally 2 days – I Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, I decided to stay pretty local and made a reservation at Hangawi, a vegan Korean restaurant.  Whooo!  I loved the decor – all wooden and dark and very traditional.  Even the cutlery was wooden.  So beautiful!  Walking in, I was asked to take my shoes off and was led to a table with a sunken chair essentially.  There was enough light to read the menu, and I ordered a cocktail to start – the beautiful sounding Zen Blossom, made with soju, lychee, lychee wine, and elderflower.

Delicately perfumed with an underlying hint of soju, it was a perfectly balanced drink, and a wonderful start.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was enough to last me through the meal.  Being a solo diner meant I had to choose what sounded like the most tempting option to me – so I chose the organic avocado stone bowl – a speciality of the restaurant.
What was presented before me was a wooden cube with a heavy stone bowl, full of vegan wonder.  My server kindly mixed everything for me – and ooh boy, there was a lot of everything.  It was full of veggies, plump juicy mushroom, creamy avocado, soft rice at the top and crispy rice at the bottom.  And because the stone bowl was hot – the food stayed hot and the rice kept on getting crispy.  Accompanying the dish was a bowl of gochujang (by the end of the meal, it had all been mixed in) and 2 bowls of kimchi.

I’ve found it hard to find a tasty kimchi without any fishiness but that search can stop now.  One bowl of kimchi was chilli, the other plain.  The chilli one was spicy, hot and perfectly crunchy.  The plain had so much flavour, just as good in its own way.  Oh! I still think about them both…

I cleared the kimchi but could only get through half of the stone bowl.  They kindly packed it away for me, and it served me well as dinner on Friday night, with a handful, no, bagful of those jalapeno crisps.  Lush!  The other reason why I only had half (it was a massive portion) was because I wanted to try dessert – and there was only one thing I was hankering after…. cheesecake.
The ice cream was OK and was a cooling vehicle for the creamy cheesecake – but that was it. The cheesecake on the other hand.  That cheesecake.  For you UK based peeps who like the Pizza Express cheesecake – this was exactly like that – creamy, soft, beautiful base… yummy yummy yummy.  At one point I had to ask the server if it was really vegan. Loved it! I also ordered a shissandra chinesis, described on the menu as “a popular Korean herbal tea that refreshes and revitalize the body from fatigue”.

I’m not quite sure what was in it, but the first few sips were lovely – deep flavour and tasty.  I had to stop after half a cup because all I could taste was sweetness – dates or brown sugar or something – was too overpowering.  My server did confess that he would never drink it that sweet, and I think it would taste much better with virtually no sugar.
Hangawi isn’t the cheapest place but it was on my list of to try restaurants, and I’m glad I did.  There are so many wonderful sounding options on the menu, I’ll just have to come back, as part of a larger group so we can work our way through it…. yes – I will definitely return!

 I also ventured to China Town where I got a killer foot and back massage for just $39, and found this amazing restaurant that did tasty hand pulled noodles on Doyers Street, called, yes, you guessed it.. Tasty hand pulled noodles inc.
I would have walked past, thinking it is just a hole in the wall – but I’m so glad I stopped.  I then realised how popular this place is – virtually every seat was taken, people coming in to pick their takeaways.. wow.  Thankfully there was room for me on the singles table… all solo diners bundled together on one table to optimise bums on seats.  I ordered a plate of noodles with veggies.  When I got my order, my first thought was, bugger, how boring.

I started eating and oh wow wow wow.  Chewy noodles with a lovely mouth feel, slivers of veggies and this barely there sauce.  I hoovered them in.  They were only about $7!!!!!! Wowza!  A few glasses of free tea and I was ready to continue sightseeing.

My last meal in New York was lunch on Saturday before I headed to the airport later that day.  This actually would be my last meal if I were ever to be in that situation to request one (hopefully not).  So there are a number of Blossom du Jour eateries in NYC, and I basically googled the nearest one, which turned out to be in Chelsea on West 23rd Street.  I got there not knowing what to expect, and it turned out to be a tiny fast food joint, focusing on takeaway with seats enough for 7 – 8 people.  This is not a place where you linger over a burger or bowl – you order and take away, or you order, eat and leave.  So New York-esque.

So there was only going to be one thing that I was going to order from the menu. I have been seeing this on blogs and you tube, haven’t had the chance to make it myself.  The spicy buffalo bun with buffalo cauliflower, ranch and lettuce.   Here, have a look at it:

  Now have another look – inside…

Holy Moley.  What a burger!!  Soft cauliflower, still crunchy batter, dipped in hot sauce – check.  Cool ranch – check.  Crisp lettuce – check.  Soft bun – check.  Seriously folks.  This was one of the best things I have eaten!!  Messy, creamy, hot, I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.  I ordered the Green Giant smoothie with mango, banana, spinach, kale, flax and almond milk.
Very delicious, but it did tip me over the edge and I literally had to spend the rest of the afternoon walking it off – so now you know why I didn’t want to eat in the lounge!!  All in all, I think I did well in Manhattan – and I didn’t even hit Brooklyn – but there is always a next time eh?

PB Travels… in style

So as I mentioned in my opening post, I’ve travelled quite a bit this year, both for work and pleasure.  I flew to the US a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of work, which meant that I got to fly with my favourite airline – Virgin Atlantic, and that too in style! So I wanted to share my experiences of the lounge and the flight.

Now for those who have experienced the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow will know how lush it is… lots of nooks and crannies, lots of comfy sofas, lots of space, lots of food and lots of alcohol.  I got there pretty late, with less than a couple of hours to spare. The first thing I do is go to the spa and book in a complimentary treatment – usually the facial.

While waiting for my treatment, I ordered a G&T (oh! such a hard life) and ordered a few nibbles. I didn’t take pics of the menu (I should have… but wasn’t in blogger mode). To be honest there were a number of veggie options, but all with cheese – however I did spot a few I could eat – and they were delicious!  I ordered one, maybe two, alright! three portions of the hummus and veggies.

Loved the presentation, and the balance of veggies and hummus was just right – so you can see why I ordered three!  I also ordered this roasted green bean salad with extra avocado (terrible pic, I know).

This was a stunning combination of green beans, salad leaves, roasted tomatoes, avocado, sesame seeds and micro greens – so tasty, and a generous portion.  I had enough time to enjoy this, go for my facial and run to the plane..

I ordered a special meal for the flight.  I did get the Upper Class treatment and they did confirm that my ‘meal was on board’ whoo!  Saying that though, I always travel with a stash of food (nuts, seeds and bars), just in case of my VGML going AWOL.   I chose the red pepper bread. Yum!

First course was a butternut squash soup – very enjoyable, full of flavour and a beautiful sunshine yellow colour.
Mains was essentially a ratatouille, or rather an aubergine curry, which was quite horrible   I must have had a couple of bites, after which I had to stop.  Undercooked aubergine gloop and acidic tomato sauce – not a good combination.
As usual, the dessert expectation was fruit. Let’s be frank, I knew I would be getting fruit at some point on the flight, but thankfully it wasn’t after that horrible main course!  I was presented with this interesting looking jelly..

It turned out to be this intensely flavoured berry jelly.. soft and slippery in a good way, and before I knew it, the plate was clean.  A meal with ups  and downs, but I was full enough, so that was OK.  An hour or so before landing, a snack was served – which to be honest, I didn’t eat – well, I ate the fruit and drank my green tea.

The wrap itself was thick and doughy, and there was too much of it.  The filling was supposed to be roasted veggies I think, but in all honesty, there was a lot of the aubergine from lunch time in there (sans sauce).  Not nice.

Coming back from New York was a 6 hr night flight. To be honest I didn’t eat in the lounge. Reason why?  I had the BEST BURGER I’ve ever had – a buffalo cauliflower burger (will post about it soon).  I did look at the menu in the JFK clubhouse and there weren’t that many vegan options – none marked anyway.  They did have the hummus and veggies. There was a field mushroom burger, veggie curry and if all goes wrong, chips would always be there to save the day.

All in all, a most enjoyable experience – I’m not going to complain.. this is what I live for!!