The apartment we were staying at in Brooklyn was booked partly to ensure we'd be close to Williamsburg's weekly food market Smorgasburg. On Saturday it pops up in the East River State Park, with about a hundred food stalls and swarms of people enjoying too much food and some fine views of Manhattan.
It's all pretty overwhelming - I got sucked in and was eating a chocolate croissant and drinking an iced coffee before we'd walked 50 metres. There is so much goddamn delicious food. Vegans are brilliantly catered for - we started up with a visit to Dunwell Doughnuts, Brooklyn's all vegan doughnut store (they've got a permanent store in East Williamsburg). We tried a sweet butter and rosemary one (US$2.50 ~ AU$2.70, top right in the photo below). It was ridiculously good, with the rosemary adding some complexity to a sweet and flaky doughnut.
Cindy got lured into some white yam fries (US$6 ~ AU$6.40) from WOÉZÕ West African. They came with a tasty garlic, onion and tomato confit but were a little on the starchy side for my tastes. I couldn't resist a stop at Chickpea and Olive's stall, which was serving up phatty beet sliders made with fresh tempeh, beetroot, brown rice and lentils. I went with the bacon ranch option, which came with eggplant bacon, melted Daiya cheddar, a slice of lettuce and a housemade ranch sauce, all served on a vegan brioche bun. It was very, very messy and very, very good - I wish I'd had the food space to sample their other flavours, particularly the avocado and jalapeno burger.
We each grabbed another savoury dish on our wander around - a vegan taco from the Japanese/Mexican fusion stall Takumi Taco for Cindy (charred corn, shishito peppers, cilantro, edamame, avocade and wasabi citrus, US$5 ~ AU$5.30) and a vegan hotdog from the Japanese/hot dog fusion stall AsiaDog for me (veggie sausage with sweet 'n' spicy ketchup, jalapeno mustard and crushed potato chips, US$5 ~ AU$5.30). I only had one hot dog in NYC, which seems like a pretty poor hit rate, but at least this one was a good one. I couldn't leave without another visit to Dunwell, trying out the raspberry pistachio (US$2.50 ~ AU$2.70), which was tangy and sweet but fell just short of the benchmark set by the sweet butter and rosemary. Cindy bid the stalls farewell with a refreshing jasmine bubble tea with lychee jelly (US$4 ~ AU$4.30) from ThirsTea.
Smorgasburg is really a must-do if you're focussing on food during your New York trip - there were so many more stalls that we'd definitely have tried if we'd had the room and time. You could easily go twice and not double up (although I'm pretty sure we'd be going to Dunwell every time).
We had made Smorgasburg an early lunch so we had plenty of spare afternoon time for a bit more exploring. We decided to suss out The New Museum, a contemporary art gallery on the Lower East Side. After being slightly disappointed by MoMA, it was great to go somewhere filled with adventurous and unconventional exhibitions - not everything worked, but it all felt fresh and exciting.
Our last dinner in New York was booked in at Candle 79, another upmarket vegan place with a big reputation. It's definitely one to book - there was barely a spare table when we turned up for our 7:30 booking. There's something a bit old fashioned about the fit out, but the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. The menu is extensive - ten starters, ten mains, a handful of salads and a bunch of sides to choose from (plus dessert of course). We decided to go for a conventional three courses: starter, main and dessert, which meant ignoring sides like onion rings with chipotle aioli and seitan meatballs with tomato-basil-truffle sauce (US$8 ~ AU$8.50 each). We had:
- a cute little noodle and vegetable amuse bouche
- crispy fried cornmeal poppers with spring vegetables and ancho chilli aioli (US$12 ~ AU$12.80)
- thick chunks of skewered and grilled seitan with chimichurri spice paste, horseradish cream and red pepper coulis (US$12 ~ AU$12.80)
- wild mushroom and spring vegetable fricassee with a small swirl of soft polenta and a dollop of excellent truffled almond cheese (US$21 ~ AU$22.40)
- seitan piccata with grilled potato cake, oyster mushrooms and lemon caper sauce (US$23 ~ AU$24.50), which was reminiscent of the seitan dish at Blossom, but even more impressive.
- berry shortcake with vanilla cashew cream and rhubarb ice cream (US$13 ~ AU$13.80)
- a hugely indulgent Mexican chocolate brownie, with caramelised banana, French vanilla ice cream, candied pecans and chocolate ancho sauce (US$13 ~ AU$13.80)
It was a lovely meal - similar in many ways to Blossom, but a bit fancier and slightly more impressive. The seitan piccata was my highlight - we really need to learn how to make fancy sauces now we're back at home.