Weekend Homecoming
August 21, 2011

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On Wednesday morning, I arrived at Penn Station, after a character-building summer in D.C.. I was enveloped into the foliage of the Upper West Side:

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…and into my Mom’s arms.

For the next five days, I get to enjoy the culinary, cultural, and social treats of NYC. It all began on Thursday night, when I had some time with my good friend Cassie, and then trotted over to Quintessence for some takeout dinner.

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As I was leaving, Cassie mentioned that Quintessence is her favorite raw restaurant in NYC. She’s even more of a raw connoisseur than I am, so this is high praise. When it comes to high quality, tasty raw food, Quintessence is hard to beat. Where else can you find a raw bagel and cream cheese that’s actually soft and warm (rather than the brick-like crackers that masquerade as raw bagels most of the time)? Or what about the delicious kamut bread? The raw nori cone rolls, or the manicotti? Everything at Quintessence is top of the line, but, true to form, the thing I order most often there is their Buddha bowl, which is simply a giant salad, complete with a generous list of potential add-ons.

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I cannot tell a lie: what makes these salads so extraordinary is the house dressing, which is a rich, herb-filled mix. What you taste most is fruity olive oil (and possibly some flax, too) and basil, but it’s a lot more complex than that, and I’ve never really replicated it properly. I also love how Quintessence packs curly kale into the salad base, and offers spiralized zucchini, raw “onion rings,” nut cheese, guac, and seaweed as toppers. A far cry from the typical deli offering of cherry tomatoes and conventional canned beans.

I got myself a mix of extra kale, spiralized zukes, sundried tomato, cherry tomato, cucumber, sea veggie mix, and house dressing. And when I got home for a long evening of cuddling with Mom, I topped this giant bowl ‘o plants with some leftover millet salad, which I’d brought on the train from DC (that recipe is to come).

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Some of my conscious omnivore friends say that they treat meat as a “special treat” that appears in small portions when they sit down to eat. It occurred to me some time ago that that’s typically how I treat my cooked grains and beans: they provide a lot of the density and nutrition in my diet, and yet they usually take up a third or so of my plate when I’m eating a raw/cooked mix. The raw veggies are always the bulk of what I’m eating.

I also had a side of the restaurant’s veggie bread, which had an odd, coconut flavor (not my past experience). Maybe coconut oil as binder? Anyway, it was strange, but I enjoyed it well enough:

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On Friday, I enjoyed a walk throw Washington Square park and a trip to Shakespeare and Co (an essential NYC destination) with my friend Jim, and then a late night chat and juice with my friend Allison. Throughout the day, I stopped into some of my favorite NYC spots, including Liquiteria for a morning juice break:

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And Stogo, my fave vegan ice cream spot, where I picked up some late afternoon coconut key lime ice cream:

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Last night, on my way to meet my friend Gabi for a night of girl talk, I stopped into one of my NYC dining homes, Candle Café, for some nourishing and flavorful fare. As always, I was so happy I walked across the park. Can’t you see the sigh of “ah, finally” in my face?

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As I sat at the bar and dug into some midcentury male rage (Hannah, to answer your question, I just finished St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which is amazing, and now I’m catching up on my Rabbit Angstrom novels), I treated myself to the amazing summer rolls (cilantro, avocado, seared tempeh, raw veggies, peanut sauce):

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The market salad of the day, a mix of roast summer veggies, toasted cashews, organic greens, and a creamy basil dressing:

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And the house quinoa-veggie pilaf, which has touches of Mexican spice:

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Having licked all three plates clean, I also treated myself to an oatmeal carob cookie, and thanked the restaurant’s staff for such wholesome and tasty fare.

All the food is great, but what’s been most meaningful about my trip so far is the chance to connect with old friends. I left New York in a spirit of determination: I would make the move work, I would build a life in DC, I would experience and appreciate Georgetown. This was necessary, but I also overlooked how hard it would be to separate myself from a close circle of longstanding friends and confidantes. It’s good to jump right back into the rhythms of these relationships, which are so dear to me. As much as I would have loved to see some other good friends at the HLS this weekend—and I missed Anne, Valerie, and Melissa like crazy—I’m also really glad I opted to come home, enjoy more time in New York, and rest a little, too.

On that note, it’s back to a day of family time with my Mom and her boyfriend. We’re having dinner at Josie’s, which is a fabulous UWS restaurant I’ve never given a proper review, so I’m excited to share that. And if you missed yesterday night’s “ABC’s of Me” post, check it out. The trivia is fun, and if you’re like me, and had no idea what a “meme” was, the comments section should be a good little primer.

Till soon…

xo

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    33 Comments
  1. Gena,

    Remember me? I used to work at Peacefood Cafe, and we chatted a couple of times. I left NYC to take a Theatre and Dance teaching appointment in Texas. I just wanted to say that seeing this post makes me miss NY so.
    Stop by Peacefood for me.
    I hope you enjoy the rest of your break.
    All my best,
    Courtney B.

  2. Sad to not see you this weekend in Philly, but glad you had a great trip home. Next time we’re both in NYC you definitely have to take me to Stogo. Your friend Valerie introduced herself to me at HLS and couldn’t stop glowing about you. It’s easy to understand why.

  3. It looks like you are having an awesome time! Good thing, you deserve a break for sure. And I think it is also very safe to say that you are an official foodie. I hope the rest of your time is filled with love, rest and more amazing food!

  4. I’m glad for you that you’re able to bounce back and forth between Georgetown and NY with apparent ease. I’m sure it’ll help you to love the new place too.

    Thanks for sharing all the beauty and brightness of your visit!

  5. what perfect timing for a post highlighting some of the best in raw/vegan fare that NYC has to offer! I was just perusing amtrak timetables, trying to figure out how I could make time for a stop in NYC (it would be my first time!) inbetween some medical school interviews. Now I am determined to make it happen 🙂

  6. So glad you had a good visit! I’m so sorry we missed Quintessence when we were there. . . next time. 🙂 And boy, you made use of every single moment! 😀

    PS Too funny about the meme. 😉

  7. love the NY eats! and now I can’t wait to try Quintessence–sounds awesome. I haven’t heard much about it before. and I’m even more happy that you had time to reconnect with your friends/family. 🙂

    have fun at Josie’s–love that place!

  8. Ah I was at stogo this weekend as well! the past 3 weeks were my homecoming too…but to study for boards…boo. there is nothing so comforting as new york.

  9. Thank you Gena! I’m absolutely thrilled you took the time to answer my query; it looks fascinating! You’d think I’d never be out of reading ideas, considering the fact that my Mum writes a book review blog, but sometimes I just want to read something she hasn’t got to first 😉

    On that night, hurrah for cuddling with mums/moms! 😀 Glad yours was there to take care of you 🙂

  10. I love how, despite all of the incredible vegan-friendly dining you managed to squeeze in, you still emphasized the importance and vitality of friendship. It’s so true! Glad to see you happily nestled into your old stomping grounds. (:

    In my past ED-controlled ways, I was so anal about going to a restaurant that was vegan-friendly because it was imperative that I find place with a “substantial meal.” Now, I just tote a LARABAR or fruit/mixed nuts in my purse and focus on the real deal…the amazing friends I’m so lucky to spend time with.

    Stay lovely,
    Heather

  11. I know exactly how you feel….i just moved to san fran from NYC. Even though San Fran is amazing, I still miss my NYC friends and favorite places. I may just have to make the same stops as you did next time I go home to visit (plus angelicas kitchen :-)! Stogo is my favorite.

  12. Hey ladies
    I was hoping to get an answer from you girls. I am currently in the process of THINKING of switching my beganism up and adding in chicken. I do not eat dairy nor meat nor fish. It all grosses me out when I even think of picking up the substance but lately been CRAVING chicken. Now being vegan for FOUR years I have gone through a few phases of cravings but never gav in. Recently I was asked why I became a vegan… Answer moral, health, and thn both but the funny thing is I can’t stop feeling like crap so I guess health isn’t a good answer. I say health due to all the readings and other people’s experiences I have listened to. I’ve been 100% raw I’ve been high raw I’ve been it all. Nonetheless CRAPPY FULL ON CRAPPY FEELING. I would love to hear people’s philosophy and reasoning on why or why not they are vegan/vegetarian. I feel like it’s murder and yes there is a food chain and yes everything dies but a natural death isn’t the same as a murder. So I am having a hard time deciding what I should do. If people have experiences with this I would love to know. Thanks.

    • I would ask you if you’ve always eaten high raw as a vegan? You may need more cooked food, more protein, more variety, more density. There are so many ways to be vegan, and it’s worth adjusting and experimenting before you conclude that veganism, ipso facto, is bad for you.

      • i appreciate the recommendations. Doctor wise says im in the clear, except my hormones are extremely imbalanced which can be do to the soy and lack of complete proteins. I have been high raw a good 3 years, but do in corporate cooked foods. I feel like the protein part is what I am missing out on. I don’t know if anyone else relates to this but soy products hit me like dairy hits me so its hard for me to do that. But either way i love eating clean, and i love the way you eat Gena. That is a lot of how i make my quick meals. BIG NUTRIENT DENSE SALADS. but for now the chicken craving is gone except for the fact the protein craving is still there. No matter how many almond butters, bars, powders, beans, and tofu, i still feel depleated. Any protein suggestions besides thoughs??? THANKS LADIES !!

    • This is really a decision that you have to make for yourself. I would recommend you see a dr. And have blood tests to see if there is an imbalance in nutrients that explains your cravings. And if/when you do decide to eat chicken who cares what the label is you give yourself. Call it “vegan who once in a while eats organic humanly raised chicken when she is craving it”. Your call, no one else gets to decide for you….

  13. Wow Gena, I’m so happy that you’ve had such a lovely homecoming trip thus far. Obviously the food and the places are great, but like you said it’s all the connections that you’ve made. I think it’s really cool that you’re making it a priority to continue to maintain a relationship with your friends still in NY. I’ve moved (and traveled) quite a few times, now, so I know what it is like to say goodbye and to carry on with long distance relationships. It comes to a point when sometimes you meet people in your life that touch you in such a way that you’ll never forget them, but don’t necessarily get to carry on with that close friendship. I just moved to NYC from California, so again I had to say goodbye to dear friends, but I know that I will stay in touch with some (sadly not all), but I will never forget them and the time of my life that I spent with them.

    And by the way, thanks for the restaurant reviews. You just helped me decide on where I’m headed for lunch tomorrow. Quintessence, here I come!

    Enjoy the rest of your time in NY!

  14. Ooooo your adventure seemed so much fun! The food looks amazing especially the Buddah bowl. Seeing that you eat out quite a bit how do you keep track of the calories, fat etc. I am always afraid to eat out cause I do not know 100% what the actual extra ingredients are even if the food appears to be a healthy choice.

  15. Welcome back, for a bit 🙂
    Love all yr downtown picks, as that’s more my turf than the UWS but I wanted to say I went to Quintessence recently and loved it! I’ll have to think about take out sometime – or go back for brunch and get one of those awesome sounding bagels!

  16. Glad to hear you’re enjoying your time with your mom and your old friends 🙂 I was in NYC last weekend but I didn’t get to eat at any of those awesome places! I need to make another trip soon, for sure!

  17. mostly just… jealous. enjoy all that deliciousness! 🙂
    My food’s been more mainstream recently with wedding travel and mini-moon. The non-food memories, though, will last a lifetime. Made a green smoothie this morning and a dense salad for lunch and feeling a bit more myself!

  18. So happy that you are enjoying your time with family and friends in NYC! I love all of the restaurants you mentioned (still have to try Candle Cafe) and I often wonder why I don’t get into the city often enough to visit them. It’s the best feeling when you know you are getting a good meal. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  19. It’s amazing how much of a relief it is to be an area where, if you are able and are wanting to go out to eat as a vegan (or an uber-conscious eater) it is beyond just a possibility to find a restaurant which fits the bill. I found while visiting the bay area in California, that as we were out and about it was pretty easy for me to find options that fit the bill and that I even enjoyed and loved! My particular location in Ohio isn’t really up on that, but I can find nice farmer’s markets and produce at the store all the same. It’s just awful nice when someone can cook a fabulous meal for you that is still healthy and fits one’s diet preferences. Have a good NYC vacation!

  20. Gena what you described..
    “This was necessary, but I also overlooked how hard it would be to separate myself from a close circle of longstanding friends and confidantes. ”

    Was EXACTLY what I went thru when we left San Diego and moved to Phoenix for 9 mos. I thought that just b/c I was buying a house that I could afford, I’d have my house, that home ownership was the end all, be all, and that EVERYTHING ELSE could be overlooked or “justified away” b/c of it, i.e. leavning my friends, leaving my familiar haunts of San Diego, leaving everything i knew and loved, that it would be ok. And in years past as we nomad’ed across the country, it was. But I really struggled so much with the Phx move.

    I am so glad you are thriving and making a new life for yourself! Not easy, but you’re doing it.

    Your comment to me on my post, Happily Sitting It Out re going to the conference..yes, sometimes connecting with what/whom we know is necessary for our soul, psyche, etc…all so important. And I am so HAPPY for you that you had this time in NYC.

    The energy & happiness is just oozing from you in this post 🙂

  21. Sounds like a fun and tasty visit. Makes me yearn for NYC, I’m hoping to make an extended visit there next summer as I became addicted when visiting a friend there 2 years ago. Is it any consolation that you are fairly close by?

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