I went to New York City back in February for a check-up with my Lyme-literate MD. I intended to post this travel recap back then, but somehow it slipped my mind. Better late than never, I suppose!
February's trip to the Big Apple was a victory. I have now gone to New York three times for appointments over the last year and a half, and the difference I notice each time I go in how I feel is amazing. Traveling removes you from your daily routine and the patterns of how you feel - it is such an incredible way to strip you down to a baseline. And you know what? I feel better. The first time I went in December 2009, New York totally destroyed me. I had a great time explore, but I had to take breaks going up the stairs from the subway, felt completely exhausted at the end of each day, and spent the next week after I returned trying to recover. This last trip I found myself skipping up stairs, running down stairs, and walking all day, without feeling like I was on a torturous death march or needing to take breaks constantly.
Ladies and gentleman, it's official: I really am getting better. I feel so grateful.
In addition to exploring the city, I met up with my friend Kim Trick from Steph and Kim (formerly Wallet-Friendly Wellness). I stayed with Kim and her sister Steph when I was in NYC last summer. Despite talking a lot online and through the blogosphere, we had never met before I arrived at their doorstep last July. I was touched at their generosity and willingness to invite me into their home, and we really hit it off and had a ton of fun together. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to catch up with Kim again. We spent the afternoon in a cute Brooklyn café, discussing everything from Lyme to nutrition to grad school to religion to boys. Fun!
Other than walking around a lot, I ate. In fact, I ate a lot and drank a lot and pretty much felt like I consumed half of Manhattan. I didn't have a lot of cash flow after paying for my doctor appointment and didn't go out to eat at very many restaurants, my friend Matthew and I mostly cooked at his place for breakfasts and dinners. But, as always, I did my fair share of tourist snacking while wandering the city.
Oddly, I didn't take a lot of photos during this trip, probably because it was cold and my hands didn't want to come out of my gloves! New York City is weird in the winter because there really isn't snow anywhere other than Central Park. Coming from Minneapolis, where snow collects everywhere and takes over the streets, I saw this was a very strange phenomenon. Look at the difference between Central Park and the Union Square Greenmarket - it looks like two different cities and seasons!
Without further adieu, here area few food highlights from my trip. I don't have many photos of the food, but I do have lots to say, as usual. To make up for the lack of food photos, I'm sharing a selection of images that I shot at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown. I can't resist sharing all the color and life!
Products I tried...
Turmeric- The Elixir of Life
Ooooh la la, this stuff is inspiring. I talked with one of the owners of the company, who was distributing samples at Whole Foods. She and her business partners make each batch by hand, blending the fresh ingredients in a Vitamix, straining, an bottling. The raw, unprocessed, unpasteurized product is potent and powerful, and I loved it. If I could buy gallons of it, I would. From what I can tell, it is only distributed around the New York area.
Zukay Carrot-Ginger Fermented Beverage
I love Zukay fermented dressings, but this beverage missed the mark for me. It was too acidic, yeasty, and sharp, and had a weird sweet booziness that I didn't enjoy. Perhaps it would be good used as an ingredient in a marinade or dressing, but as a beverage, I wasn't feeling it. Despite my distaste for it, I was happy to see it exists in the market - I'm in full support of fermented beverages and foods being widely available!
When I returned from NY, I was thankful that I couldn't find Beanitos anywhere around Minneapolis, because I was worried I'd quickly weigh 500 pounds if I could purchase them readily. Then they showed up here, and while I've been able to wield my self-control, I need to be careful with a bag of these things. My favorite flavor, the Black Bean variety, are made from black beans, whole grain rice, and not much else. They are light, crisp, and have a nutty, beany flavor that is really good. I was expecting to feel super bloated after eating them, but didn't at all, which was a very pleasant surprise. My favorite way to eat them was in a homemade "nacho" concoction, topped with spicy ground beef, on-the-fly homemade "nacho cheese", lettuce, pickled beets, and olives. I love these chips!
Blueberry Pie Lara Bar
I'm a total freak for the Cashew Cookie Larabar, and was elated to see the brand new Blueberry Pie flavor at the Union Square Whole Foods. The bright blue packaging caught my eye, standing apart from the warm tones of the other flavor packaging. The flavor is really great, a strong blueberry flavor, not too sweet, just a little tart - I'm a big fan.
Dr. Cow Aged Cashew Cheese
I've been hearing about Dr. Cow for ages, and remembered to look for it this time. I found it at Westerley Market, and brought it home to try. It is amazing! Creamy and rich, slightly tart and sour, and formed in an absolutely darling mini-wheel. It appears to have been dried or aged somehow, as it has a nice crust rather like chevre. I want to experiment with making my own aged cashew cheese! The only downfall about Dr. Cow is the price tag - a small wheel can cost about $10.
These cookies were brought to dinner at my friend's house by another guest that knew I am gluten-free. What kind gesture! I was touched. Although I would never buy these cookies myself, I was more than happy to indulge in a few (or five) for dessert. They were very sweet and had a dry, crunchy texture. I wasn't thrilled at how refined the flours were, and they contained sugar. I don't think I would ever choose to eat them again, but they were a nice dessert addition to the meal.
Inka Plantain chips
These were okay, but I wouldn't buy them again. I appreciated the salty crunch of the thick slices of plaintain, but they were so hard that my I was afraid I'd break a tooth, and they were a tasteless. That said, they were fun, junky, salty, starchy indulgence to snack on while wandering the rainy Manhattan streets.
Raw Mineral-Rich Crusts
Uh, Yum! Salty, crunchy, seedy - I am a big fan. These were perfect for a snack on-the-go, made wonderful plane food, and I broke up slightly stale crumbs over a salad like croutons. I love the addition of the pumpkin seeds with the flax. Each "crust" is about 1/4-inch thick and slightly larger than my hand. The package of two crusts cost $4.29.
Places I went...
My visit to Babycakes involved me standing outside, carrying my big hiking backpack and purse, looking longingly through the window. For some unexplained reason that defied the information on their sign, they were closed at 2 pm on a Friday afternoon. I tried making eye contact with the painfully hip-looking workers counting money and wiping the counters, but they didn't seem to notice or care. Humph. So, I gave up on the idea of getting a cupcake, and used my Smartphone to plot my path to the next gluten-free bakery on my list.
Maybe next time.
248 Broome Street (Btwn Orchard & Ludlow)
New York City, NY 10002
Apparently, there are also location in LA and at Disney World. Who knew?
Thanks to the magic of my phone's navigational system, I found Tu-Lu's Bakery. And, unlike Babycakes, Tu-Lu's was actually open. Victory!
Tu-Lu's Bakery has been open about 1 1/2 years. I found this little bakery very easily, and walked up to find hot, steamy windows. Inside it smelled sweet and lovely, and the clean, tidy interior was simple and charming. A small bakery case displayed a wide array of goodies, each neatly labeled with dietary restrictions. I selected a vegan, agave sweetened brownie and a powdered sugar, buttery, egg-filled fudge brownie. My intention was to try a bite of each one, for research purposes, and give the remainder to my friend and his boyfriend. HA! I ended up eating all of the vegan brownie and half of the fudgy brownie. The vegan, agave-sweetened brownie was very good, with a nice crumb and a moist, dense texture. It really was more like a very dense cupcake/muffin than a brownie, but I enjoyed it all the same. The fudgy brownie was absolutely freaking amazing and worth every powered sugar, potato starch, eggs, and butter-filled bite. It was the first time I'd eaten potato starch or powdered sugar in about three years, and I didn't die. Yay. Two brownies cost about $6.50.
338 East 11th Street
between 1st and 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
This place is a juice-lovers heaven. Their fresh pressed and fresh squeeze juices are fresh and vibrant. I had an apple-pear-carrot juice followed by an all-green juice (kale, spinach, romaine, a bunch of other greens, ginger, lemon). I figured that all the juice negated the brownies I had just consumed before arriving at Liquiteria. Two juices (one made fresh, one pre-bottled) cost about $18. Expensive, but worth it! It seems that they have quite the following, according to the juice-obsessed patrons that I spoke with while sipping my juice.
170 2nd Avenue # A
New York, NY 10003-5793
Union Square Greenmarket
This market was fabulous! Even in February, the vendors were out and so were the patrons. The energy was fantastic, especially for a girl from Minnesota where farmers markets don't pop up until May.
Somehow, I avoided buying anything, which shocked me. I guess I didn't want to feel like a pack animal while walking around the city. :)I was tempted though, don't get me wrong - fresh meats, ferments, eggs, baked goods, honey, fresh seafood, oh my! I can't wait to go back to this market the next time I'm in NY in September, and I'll buy a bunch of stuff to make for my hosts for dinner.
North and west sides of Union Square Park [map]
Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Whole Foods, Union Square
Whole Foods is a travel standby for me. Although I rarely shop at Whole Foods in Minneapolis, whenever I travel I usually find the nearest Whole Foods and eat at the deli/salad bar at least once. I know I should be taking part in local fare whenever possible, but sometimes my irritable blood sugar and reliance on allergy-friendly fare wins over, and I end up at the Whole Foods once again. This trip was no exception. I had a great salad there on Saturday afternoon - Indian-spiced brown rice, steamed broccoli, shredded beets, shredded zucchini salad, mixed dark leafy greens, raw cashews, roasted turkey, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and black gomasio. It was so delicious! My enormous salad and a ginger kombucha cost about $14. If you go, prepare to wait in line - the checkout area is pretty crazy, and you will have to wait. Thankfully, there is a lovely second floor seating area that overlooks Union Square, so you'll have plenty of space to spread out and enjoy your meal.
4 Union Square South
New York, NY 10003
Westerly Natural Market
My friend was working diligently in his painting studio, and I needed to find a way to entertain myself. So, I went on a mission to find the Westerly Market one rainy evening. Is it lame that rather than taking part in the buzz of Manhattan, I seek out the grocery store? Am I a freak? If so, I think I have a lot of like-minded people out there. Westerly Market is kind of amazing. Things are stacked way up high to the ceiling, the aisles are barley large enough for one person, and the assortment is absolutely incredible. I was particularly interested in the area of the store that had all the raw and vegan goodies, such as Dr. Cow Cashew Cheese, various kale chips, raw sprouted crackers, and raw chocolate. They also had a wide selection of local kombucha, fresh produce, an impressive bulk department, and a small deli area with lovely looking desserts. The footprint for this store is about the size of a postage stamp, and somehow, their assortment was better than some big co-ops I've been to. The cramped chaotic environment was oddly appropriate for the Midtown location, but was a little intense for me.
911 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
I love this place! Great little organic grocery store, with a TON of gluten free, vegan, and whole foods options. I can't believe all the specialty items shoved into such a small space, everything from bulk grains and legumes to Chinese herbs and homeopathics to a nice deli and a whole bunch of packaged foods. All the basics plus more - perfect! Their produce was fresh, just basic offerings, but enough to make good meals. They even had SoDelicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream, Grainnaissance Mochi, local sprouts, and a loads of GF stuff. Awesome, highly recommended. My friend Matthew says their coffee is very good. If you're in the Upper West Side and need a place to grab an energy bar, stuff for a quick meal, a snack, or some herbs, this is a good choice. I got a bunch of groceries to make a few meals for under $20.
2035 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10026
West Side Market
A beautiful grocery store, open 24/7 market. This place boasts an amazing deli and hot bar, salad bar, loads of fresh produce, and a huge amount of specialty items and GF grocery offerings. I got the grilled carrots from the hot bar, and it was amazing. Other ready-made basics like rice with veggies, roasted asparagus, sweet potatoes, all ready to go. This is the kind of place you and your friends/family could go to for a quick meal, regardless of who can or can't eat what. Plus, it was cheap - I got a container of roasted carrots, 1 pound of Brussels Sprouts, and a HUGE zucchini for about $3.30. This place was incredible, so many speciality items, so many fresh veg, such fresh deli options - AWESOME!
Xe Lửa Vietnamese Restaurant
The day I arrived in NY, I was on a mission to get to the Chinese New Year parade. I took the subway from the airport to Chinatown and got off at Canal. I walked up the stairs to the street and listened. I didn't know exactly where the parade was supposed to be, but I figured that if I used my eyes and ears, I'd find it. Soon enough, I heard drums and cheering. I followed the sound a few blocks and literally ran into the parade. It was amazing! Crowds of people gathered to watch dancing dragons, musicians and drummers, and dancers.
After following the parade through the confetti and streamer covered streets, I got hungry. I remembered seeing a Vietnamese restaurant earlier in the parade route and headed straight there.
I was very pleased with Xe Lửa. The interior was quaint and cozy, colorful and neat, and most importantly at the time, warm. February in New York is chilly, friends. I found a table by the window, took off my hiking backpack, and settled in. The waiter came and I placed my order: pho with rare beef, brisket, tendon, and tripe. Even though the place was packed, the service was amazing - I got my food in less than 5 minutes. When it arrived, it looked wonderful, steaming broth and a plate of fresh condiments. While the broth was very good, but didn't have the strong anise flavor that I like in a pho broth. The beef was flavorful and tender, and the tendon and tripe were both as good as tendon and tripe can be. The portion of noodles was reasonable, which I appreciated - my biggest pet peeve with pho is getting too many rice noodles! The proportion of protein to starch was right on. I was served a generous amount of bean sprouts, basil, and lime wedges, which were all nice and fresh. With tip, my meal came to around $8.50, and I felt satisfied for hours.
86 Mulberry St
New York, NY
Restaurant profile: http://xeluanewyork.com/
I don't have photos of my meal, but I do have photos of the parade. Enjoy.
Interested in other travel blog posts?
- Portland, Oregon: Gluten-Free Travel Adventures (5/23/2009)
- New York, New York! Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Travel Adventures. (12/15/2009)
- New York, New York: Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Travel Adventures, Part II (7/16/2010)
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus And A Brief Chronicle Of My Adventures Last Weekend. (8/15/2010)
- Celebrating A Florida Christmas With Sweet Green Smoothies And Maple-Candied Bacon (12/25/2010)
- Restaurant Review: Columbia Restaurant, Tampa, Florida (1/1/2011)
- Rutabaga Raab And Other Fresh Food Finds In Washington (4/20/2011)
- Gluten-Free Travel Adventures In The San Francisco Bay Area (6/10/2011)