Saturday, January 17, 2009

New York City's Tiengarden, Babycakes, & More

On Friday, Brian and I took a vacation day to go into Manhattan and see Spring Awakening before it closed on Sunday the 18th. Of course, when we planned this trip, we had no idea it would be one of the coldest days of winter so far. Also, we hoped to get cheap student rush tickets with Brian's Drexel ID but these are not guaranteed without a very early start to the day. The idea of taking the train early in the morning only to have to hang around until 8 PM for the show did not seem like a vacation day to me so we slept in Friday morning and didn't get to New York until close to 2 PM.

By the time we arrived at the Spring Awakening box office, the student rush tickets were gone and the cheapest ones left were $87. Sorry but no. We passed some time until the TKTS booth at Times Square opened at 3 PM by grabbing a quick lunch at Food Emporium's salad and sandwich station. I got a simple salad of greens, grilled vegetables, black bean and corn salsa, red onions, and carrots. The menu said they had smoked tofu but all I saw laid out were some sad looking, unseasoned chunks. I love onions--raw, roasted, caramelized, every kind--but I had to give Brian about half of the onions in my salad because I was so overloaded with them, they were burning my mouth.

After standing on the TKTS line for maybe 10 minutes or so, my fingertips started to burn and sting. Even through my Isotoner supposedly nuclear thermal seal gloves, I felt like a mild case of frostbite on my hands was a very reasonable proposition. I did not want to get frostbite standing in line for $60 tickets to Spring Awakening all while putting up with crazysss Chicago promoters prancing around me in red tights and sticking fliers in my face. I told Brian that I could wait until his office got tickets to Spring Awakening for free when the tour arrives in Philly in June. We went with plan B instead.

The American Museum of Natural History is my favorite museum. More specifically, any planetarium is one of my favorite places in the world. I love this part of Manhattan, too. So often when I visit the city, I'm downtown where the streets are smaller, the buildings shorter, the space more compressed. Uptown is more like how I grew up when I lived in Manhattan (except without all the money and nannies)--more residential, a bit quieter, wider streets, kids coming home from school all bundled up with their friends, parents, or nanny. By the time Brian and I walked up to the museum and saw a lit up polar bear figure standing in the middle of an ice skating rink, I knew missing Spring Awakening was not a loss.

Still, it was late and we had less than 2 hours before the museum closed. Brian wanted to see dinosaur bones and I wanted outer space. It was such the perfect time and day to go because it wasn't crowded at all, mostly toddlers (many of them, for some reason, without shoes) and tourists. We were able to spend a lot of time admiring huge fossils and didn't have to scramble for seats at the planetarium. Halfway through the space show, "Cosmic Collisions," I felt the way I imagine the devoutly religious feel at a moving service: awe-struck, blissful, and humbled. Later on that night, right before Brian and I fell asleep I asked, "What is space? What would the end of space look like? What would nothingness be made out of? Doesn't that just freak you out!?" He answered, "Golden Girls is almost over. I'm going to bed."

After the museum, we headed downtown for food. I wanted to try Sacred Chow but Brian was craving Chinese food so we checked out the entirely vegan Tiengarden instead. We ordered soup--wonton for me and sweet and sour for Brian. The soup hit the spot on a cold night but it did not come close to being as wonderfully flavored as my favorite wonton soup at Philly's Golden Empress Garden. There wasn't much in the way of meat-like dishes other than veggie ham (barf for me, heaven for Brian). Just variations of tofu and wheat gluten with veggies. Brian loves his mock meats but this menu seemed a bit more wholesome to me. For my entree, I ordered soy nuggets in basil sauce with broccoli, zucchini, and red peppers. Brian ordered sliced wheat gluten in ginger sauce with carrots and broccoli. Although we were the only ones in the restaurant, our food took quite some time to arrive. There wasn't much in the way of portions and my vegetables were very crisp--just barely cooked--and lightly coated in sauce. Not a nice greasy takeout hit but a good thing now that I'm back on Weight Watchers. I liked the nutty rice mix and the crunchy veggies but I definitely could have done without the soy nuggets. They were off in a way I could not describe until we got home and Brian said, "Your nuggets tasted like feet." In fact, during dinner, Brian did something I have never seen him do: he gave me back the nuggets I shared with him. Brian said his gluten tasted like bread, which is basically what gluten is but the best seitan doesn't scream "soggy, salty bread."

We headed next door to Bluestockings Women's Bookstore, vowing to not visit Tiengarden again. I could have spent hours in New York's only feminist bookstore. Not because it's feminist but because it's a bookstore and I could basically live in any bookstore. I think I enjoy skimming countless books in a bookstore more than I actually enjoy just sitting down to read one book. Brian and I looked at a book called Body Drama for quite a while. It's the book I wish I'd had when I was 14. I'm pretty much over obsessing over my stretch marks and how I look in a clingy sweater but it's always nice to be reminded of what a world with sane body image can be like and it's nice to have a boyfriend who likes reading that kind of book with me.

Although Bluestockings had tea and a selection of pre-wrapped vegan desserts, since posting about the forthcoming Babycakes book, I had cupcake on the brain so I decided we should give Babycakes another try. I went for the gluten-free vanilla cupcake and a tiny agave brownie bite with Earl Grey tea. Brian ordered a sticky bun. By the time we sat in a corner by the window, the place was hot and popping. I tried the brownie and it was very moist with a hint of nutty caramel but not too sweet. Nice. I tried some of Brian's bun, which tasted more like a crumbly and dry biscuit. The second I dug into my cupcake, unfortunately, I knew my opinion of Babycakes would not improve. In fact, I had to downgrade it quite a bit. If I had ordered a corn muffin, this would have come closer to hitting the spot. But no, I ordered a vanilla cupcake. I know that Babycakes specializes in healthier, allergen-free fare and the place was not wanting for business but a cupcake should be moist, not dry. It should stay together and not crumble. And it should taste like sweetness and vanilla, not lemon and corn. A cupcake is a cupcake, not broccoli. If I do ever visit Babycakes again, I'll stick with the brownie bites.

We headed back to Penn Station in time to make the 10 PM express back to New Brunswick. Due to it being Alaska-cold, however, NJ Transit had its infamous signal problems and we waited on the track for over an hour and a half. Even though we missed Spring Awakening, didn't have a single great meal, and got home exhausted and freezing, our day of hooky was fun and relaxing. I also got an extra weekend day with Brian before he headed back to Philly on Sunday night and another chance to right the cupcake wrongs on Saturday when I made the Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Pecan Fudge Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for my friend's birthday. They were a huge hit with all the Wii-playing adults although one seven year old passed on the cupcakes, instead requesting "normal" ones (meaning without nuts).

*I'm copying personal finance blog, The Simple Dollar, by bolding critical parts of this post, namely: vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants, meals, recipes, and things I find funny.

No comments: