On Wednesday morning we followed the Cinnamon Snail food truck (which we'd previously intercepted in Brooklyn) to Manhattan for breakfast. We had access to the entire vegan menu - burgers and sandwiches stuffed with all manner of tofu, seitan, tempeh and veges, pastries, a couple of raw dishes, pancakes and breakfast platters - and we were both drawn to the breakfast burritos. My classic burrito (pictured top right) had a dense filling of refried beans, scrambled tofu, a little pico de gallo and some thick slices of avocado (US$9 ~ AU$9.60). Michael's chipotle seitan burrito (pictured bottom left) was bigger and spicier, teaming its seitan with scrambled tofu, jalapenos, kale and chipotle mayonnaise (also US$9 ~ AU$9.60). We ate them on the edge of Central Park, licking our sticky fingers as we forgot to grab napkins.
I spent the next few hours at MOMA while Michael watched the World Cup. I remember being deeply impressed when I visited almost ten years ago and it was freshly renovated. MOMA hosts a range of very famous works in its collection from artists like Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Cezanne, Gaugain, Warhol and Rothko, and it's home to Van Gogh's The Starry Night. This time I didn't connect as enthusiastically with the works; they felt more like a textbook tick-list and I caught myself wishing for some more culturally diverse voices among so many male European and American artists. (There was a nice little Kahlo corner, at least.)
Our burritos fuelled us for many hours, all the way back through a mid-afternoon walk in Brooklyn. We were tracking the Dr-Cow Tree Nut Cheese shop, which Marieke had mentioned to us a month or two earlier. Their small cabinet contains a surprising variety of raw vegan cheeses and a few hand-made sweet treats, and they offered a few to taste as we made our selection.
Once back at our apartment, we dug into a triple-layered wedge of cashew-based saffron/reishi-hemp-sesame/pumpkin-shilajit cheese (~US$10 ~ AU$10.60) and a round of aged macadamia cheese. These were lovely, gentle savoury spreads - I was particularly taken by the saffron layer of the wedge - but friends, they were nothing like dairy cheese. The raw cheesecake (US$5.45 ~ AU$5.80) was much more convincing in its creaminess and its lemony tang.
Some time later we ventured out to dinner at Kajitsu, on our friend Jess H's recommendation. The spartan decor of this vegetarian Japanese restaurant belies the depth of thought and craftsmanship in their cooking. They offer three set menu alternatives: the kaze (four courses, US$55 ~ AU$58.20), the Hana (eight courses, US$95 ~ AU$100.50) and the chef's omakase (an unspecified number of courses, US$195 ~ AU$206.20) with optional sake pairings. We stuck with the four course kaze.
The June vegetable pallet opener was a colourful spread of fruits and vegetables, flowers and leaves in a light vinegar jelly - while I'm not usually keen on savoury jellies, I found this one's texture pleasing. Michael ordered a side of fermented tofu (US$8 ~ AU$8.50), which makes a striking vegan alternative to blue cheese. While its colour is markedly different, this soy curd was dense, creamy and perfectly pungent.
Our second course was surely one of the best dishes of our trip. A study in corn and mushrooms, they were crumbed into two kinds of croquet, sauteed and charred, served with a fried zucchini flower, fried noodle 'cornsilk', natto and dark chocolate, with a refreshing side of shaved pineapple. This may read like a mess or a masterpiece and it was definitely the latter, a gorgeously presented mix of earthiness, lightness, sweetness and crispness.
This was followed by a fried yuba parcel, delicate wheat gluten slices, eggplant and spring onions in a clear broth - simpler but no less satisfying. The final dish ensured that no diner could leave the restaurant hungry - a large bowl of lotus root rice porridge with crisp nori and a selection of pickles to lift the flavour.