So here’s what happens when you drink maybe a little too much wine before bed on a Saturday night: you have fascinating dreams, including a very detailed dream about iPhone cases shaped like bunnies, one in which I had an intense conversation with some friends about how much water is wasted when you change the filter in your Brita filter and a really long sequence of wandering through an abandoned train station with a couple of colleagues. Thanks, brain. That was interesting.
I didn’t sleep well in NYC. I was there on a very quick trip to attend a foundation convening and, despite the super comfy hotel bed, I just never felt rested. I got home Friday night and considered making plans for about 15 seconds and then decided to drink bourbon on the porch with my roommate and curled up in bed about 9:30 pm. Good life choices. However. This is not a post about my thrilling social life. This is a post about NYC. And food. One of the best things about New York is my friend Amanda. She moved to Brooklyn almost a year ago (I think) and she blogs at The Tofu Files. She also makes finds the best vegan restaurants to visit when I’m in town for work. This trip, we (Amanda, me and my co-worker, Kate) visited Franchia Vegan Cafe.
So the first and most important thing about this restaurant was that they had entire menu page of gluten-free options. These menu items were all a few dollars pricier than the rest of the menu, but damn, It is nice to have options. I opted for the Wheat Free Leek Pancakes and the Spicy Franchia Noodles. Here are the other things I liked about Franchia: The restaurant is multi-level but divided up into several small dining areas of 5-8 tables. They used the space really well so they could have a lot of tables without feeling cramped. When you’re seated, you get a call button for the table so you can signal your server when you’re ready to order. That was pretty cool, since we had several menus to look at and decisions to make. We got to use metal chopsticks. That’s exciting. They had some really interesting and delicious cocktails that were not super boozy.
Here are the things I am less excited about: the service was sloooooooooow. I don’t know if this was an off night for them, but we had to ask about our drinks after our appetizers arrived. A table near us waited 30 minutes after ordering and still hadn’t received appetizers. After our appetizers were cleared, our entrees didn’t show up, but someone came by about twenty minutes later and asked us if we wanted dessert. Less impressive. Iearned about Zagat ratings this week, and these guys have a 24 (out of 30) (which is good) but I’m not sure how they managed it. I will say the “leisurely” pace of dinner allowed us plenty of time to catch up, since we hadn’t seen each other since our Nashville trip in April, so maybe Franchia just wanted us to enjoy each other’s company?
So the food. These are my Leek Pancakes. Apologies for the poor photo quality – it was pretty dark in there. These were tasty, but a little gluey and very filling. The dipping sauce was yum. You can see Amanda’s Beijing “Duck” Bun in the background. It’s good that the pancakes were substantial, since it took a while for the rest of the food to show up.
Next up were spicy noodles. Lovely presentation, lots of veggies. Some additional protein (beyond the peanuts sprinkled on) would have been nice. Oddly, the noodles were cut up, which made them difficult to chopstick. Overall, this was flavorful but not actually spicy. I finished the entire thing, but neither Amanda nor my co-worker Kate made much progress on their dishes. The Sizzling Spinach Noodles were under-cooked and possibly burned Amanda with over-enthusiastic sizzling. I don’t remember precisely why Kate wasn’t into the Pad Thai.
Overall, I’m not sure I’d give Franchia a second chance. The atmosphere is great, and it is possible their kitchen was backed up and they just couldn’t recover…
The rest of the trip was IBS hell. We didn’t know that breakfast and lunch were being provided by our hosts, so I didn’t bring food with me, assuming we’d be on our own for lunches and I’d be able to find a Chipotle or something else familiar. I ate oatmeal in my hotel room each morning, so breakfast wasn’t a huge issue (they served pastries, bagels and yogurt each day) and I had a little fruit while everyone else ate. Lunch on Thursday was sandwiches (mozzarella and tomato for the vegetarians) and pasta salad. Also, we only had half an hour to eat. This was an awkward moment for me…I didn’t want to seem ungrateful or unprofessional but I knew I wasn’t going to make it to dinner on a couple of melon chunks and a Sprite. I also had no idea where I could get lunch and get back in less than half an hour. I finally ended up rushing to a DuaneReade and buying two mini bags pf plan Popchips, two mini bags of fruit and nut trail mix and a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips. I figured snack-size bags wouldn’t draw too much attention, while a takeout container of something would have been way obvious. At the reception afterward, they had vegetable spring rolls, so I was able to eat a little more, but I was feeling kind of light-headed by dinner.
Fortunately, Kate invited me to join her and some college friends for dinner on the Upper East Side. This required a subway trip via Grand Central Station (clusterfuck) but was worth it for super cheap and yummy sushi. I have no idea what the restaurant was called, but they have an all you can eat option for $20. The catch is that you can’t leave anything on your plate, or they charge for each piece left behind. I had a teriyaki tofu appetizer, and avocado roll and a squash roll and split an order of vegetable gyoza with one of Kate’s friends. I think the gyoza might have been made with a wheat wrap, because I woke up with IBS symptoms, but it wasn’t unmanageable.
After dinner, we stopped at a dive bar called Brady’s for a drink and a game of darts. We cut the evening short because Kate’s friends had to get up early and I was receiving some persistent and unwelcome attention from another patron of the bar.
Friday was unremarkable. Hotel oatmeal, fruit for lunch, stopped by a Chipotle, and then spent 20 minutes trying to get a cab to take us to the train station. So this is why I super hate NYC: cabs actually locked their doors when we approached so they could ask where we were going and then drove off because they didn’t want to go to Penn Station. So let me tell you what I don’t have patience for when I am tired and hungry and cranky and hot: attitude from cab drivers. Seriously, if you don’t want to pick people up from one location and take them to another location in exchange for money, “cab driver” may not be an appropriate career choice for you, asshole.
So my blogging is still half a week behind real life, but that’s pretty good given my track record up to this point, right? Also, please bear with my as I figure out the new layout…I wanted more room to share photos with you, but I’m still figuring out the spacing and sizing. xoxo