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February 16, 2010 at 08:31 PM

Week 2 for an Unlikely (Part Time) Vegetarian

Food: New York, Food: San Francisco

During the past week I've continued to my exploratory challenge into vegetarianism with mostly positive results. I was traveling to New York for the week, and anyone who has ever tried any type of restricted diet well knows, its really hard when you're traveling.  Its especially hard when traveling to New York, America's premiere foodie town (sorry, Las Vegas).  

New York excels at many cuisines, but what excites me the most is that it has some of the best steak houses in the country.  My once a year pilgrimage to Peter Luger's in Brooklyn was not to be had on this trip (thankfully I did that about a month ago). Fortunately, there are a number of attractive vegetarian options as well. New York pizzas are great, and there are a number halal and falafel carts if you're in the mood for something both savory and middle-eastern.

We did some research and found several polls citing the best veggie burger in the City to be at Hillstone, the recently renamed Manhattan flagship of the Houston's restaurant chain.  We trudged through a pounding blizzard (only a 5 minute walk) to try the burger.  I found it be quite tasty, while Jessica thought it was too drenched in BBQ sauce.  The patty consisted of rice, black beans, beets, olives, onions and any number of other items pressed together with sweet and spicy sauce, all served with a mountain of french fries. Truth be told, if you put enough of the best burger fixin's on any burger, you'll likely be satisfied with the result; in this case, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, tomatoes and lettuce all heaped upon a toasted, buttered brioche bun.    The meal was deemed a success, and one of the few nights I've felt truly full. 

The next night we met up with friend and colleague Brent Kawahara who took us to Gobo, widely reputed to be New York City's best vegetarian restaurant.  The food is pan-Asian and features a number of "squishies", Brent's term for fried cutlets of a tofu-like product called seitan.  Properly breaded and fried, I would challenge you to tell it apart from chicken. Like chicken, it really takes on the flavor and character of its surroundings.  We had a couple of stir fry dishes and a curry appetizer, all of which were very satisfying and filling.  For me this meal bordered on the "weird vegetarian food substitute" I had hoped to avoid, but was good enough to recommend.  

These highlights aside, the rest of the food was pretty uneventful.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that we along with our tradition of abstaining from alcohol, we also make it a tradition to take a break on Valentine's day to enjoy a fine glass of wine with dinner.  In keeping with such exceptions, I did allow myself some real meat proteins on Valentine's day. 

Perhaps "some" is too fine a word.  We went to Hill Country BBQ and had brisket, prime rib, pork ribs, burnt end baked beans and cornbread, washed down with a bulleit bourbon cocktail and few PBRs.  But, I was back on task shortly after and enjoyed my french toast and orange juice on the plane Monday morning. I should also note that I didn't experience any unpleasant side effects from my brief, if not triumphant, meat resumption. Call me a cheater, I don't care.  I was worth it.




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