Vegan in New York: Brooklyn Bagels and Coffee (and Other Breakfasts)

A bagel sliced in half with the cut side facing the camera, showing a thick layer of tofu cream cheese

The first time I went to New York, back in 2005, our hotel had the best breakfast, the kind you can only dream about. It was an extensive buffet spread, but only two options mattered to vegetarian me: doughnuts and bagels. I’m not sure if I’d ever considered those items to be breakfast food before, so it was quite the revelation. Of course, I very much consider them breakfast-appropriate now, and having a proper New York bagel was high on my culinary wish list on this trip. My pre-trip research had indicated that the Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company chain offered vegan bagels with a few vegan cream cheese options, so I knew this was the place for me.

A salt bagel with a cream cheese filling

We went twice. The first time I got the salt bagel and the second time I went for everything, and both times I got plain tofu cream cheese (the other vegan options were tofu and scallion (spring onion for us Brits), and tofu and vegetable (spring onion and carrot). Look how generous the cream cheese serving is!

A bagel sliced in half with the cut side facing the camera, showing a thick layer of tofu cream cheese

Truthfully, I found the cream cheese a little on the sweet side, though my companions did not have similar complaints so it’s probably just personal preference. The everything bagel was a nice way to balance out the sweetness – the salt bagel wasn’t quite as salty as I would have liked. But sweetness aside, these were very good bagels. The bread was lovely and it was an extremely hearty breakfast (so hearty it affected our lunch plans afterwards). We went to two different locations: Greenwich Village and Chelsea. Both had the same setup, whereby you order your bagels at the first counter, then take your receipt to the second counter to collect your food, place your drinks order, and pay. Both locations were extremely popular but had only a few tables and they were quite cramped, which was a bit of a shame, but we managed to get seated every time.

The vegan deluxe from Gregory's Coffee

These bagels were our breakfast highlight, though we did try a couple of other places which don’t really warrant their own post so I’ll throw them in here. Gregory’s Coffee is another chain. It was similar to the big international chains, with its hot drinks and several food options, including a few different vegan ones. Dr HH and I both tried the vegan deluxe, which was a good savoury croissant filled with cheese, a Just Egg, and one small Beyond Sausage patty (not what a Brit would recognise as a Beyond Meat sausage). Most of the flavour was in that patty, and because there was just one it was a concentrated flavour burst and the rest was a bit bland. More to the point though, it was about $15 and it was tiny, half the size of a regular croissant, and with the exchange rate that is a very unfavourable cost. It was nowhere near as good as the UK Starbucks vegan breakfast options. There was a branch of Gregory’s Coffee so close to our hotel that we’d originally expected to go more than once, but we didn’t return. Mother HH got a meaty option and was similarly unimpressed, so it’s not even a crowd pleaser if you’re trying to placate omnivorous companions.

A sugary vegan scone

We fared better with the bakery section at Whole Foods. As well as packets of four vegan croissants to take away, they also had this vegan oatmeal and walnut scone. It wasn’t a British scone, but it was very good – a bit cakier than a British scone, and I loved the sugary crusting. It was a really tasty breakfast, and quite filling too. We got a selection of pastries and some takeaway hot drinks with oat milk to enjoy across the road in Bryant Park, and it was really enjoyable, so much so that we did this twice.

Skyscrapers reflected in a glass building facade, with bare trees in the foreground

The park had loads of tables and chairs out, and we were a bit unsure as to whether they were only for patrons of a specific coffee stand in the square, but the evidence (other people’s coffee cups) suggested not, so we settled in. It was a nice spot for people watching and admiring the library, and really got us in the mood for another day of adventuring!

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Vegan in New York: PS Kitchen

New York city skyline

During the Easter break, I took a long awaited trip to New York. It was not my first time there – I went with my family back in 2005 when I was a vegetarian, and I have long wanted to go back, largely because of all the great things I’ve read and seen about the vegan scene. Dr HH was on board too, but we resolved not to visit the US while Trump was in charge, lest we contributed towards any stats he had on how he’d boosted tourism. And then there was the pandemic, so it seemed hard to imagine holidaying in New York at all for a while. Then finally, we took the plunge and booked the trip, and we even lured Mother HH along again as well. And look, the food was so good it’s brought me out of my blogging retirement!

We landed in New York on a Saturday evening after a long journey from Prague. It had been years since any of us had taken a long haul flight, so it was a tough time. We managed to jostle through the crowds in the rain to get to our hotel near Times Square (which was generally a great choice in terms of easy navigation and transport around the city, but an extremely overwhelming start to the trip for jetlagged, hungry new arrivals – there were people everywhere). Fortunately, I’d eyed up an eatery that was just a few minutes walk from the hotel and already secured a reservation, so we were able to get in and fed with minimal critical thinking required. (You’ll have to forgive the terrible lighting on the pictures below – the lighting in the restaurant was sub-optimal for photos and I was too tired and hungry to care. It’s a miracle we got any pictures before diving in!)

A pot pie crusted with herbs and some fries

Besides its proximity, one of the other key attractions of PS Kitchen was the menu – comfort food, perfect for restoring the tired traveller. For me, there is no food more comforting than a pie and I was giddy (or, as giddy as possible after such a long journey) to get stuck in to this one. It wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for. A pot pie only has a pastry lid, not the sides and bottom that make a pie truly great. But the pastry itself was good and flaky, at least. The filling was mock chicken in a creamy sauce with peas and some other veg – it could have done with a touch more seasoning for me (the pastry was herby but the filling less so), and it was also a bit too liquid for my tastes, almost like a soup, I’d have liked the sauce to be thicker. Still, it was hearty and comforting, and the fries were good and crispy, so no major complaints.

A burger in a pretzel bun with salad, a patty, and blue cheese. Fries on the side.

Dr HH went bolder than I expected with this black-n-bleu burger. Vegan blue cheese is not something I’ve enjoyed much, and I think this would have been too much for me, but he said it balanced quite nicely with the Impossible patty and usual accompaniments. Not mind-blowing, but perfectly edible. Please note that the burgers do not come with chips, we had to order them separately – which was the right choice. The burgers would have been a bit small on their own.

A burger in a pretzel bun with a patty, cheese, and mushrooms.

Mother HH played it a bit safer on the burger front with this smoky BBQ burger, and she was the most satisfied customer in our group. This was another Impossible patty with a very appealing cheese slice on top of some smoky mushrooms and onions, with plenty of BBQ sauce, but not so much as to drown the burger. It kept its structural integrity. This is one of Mother HH’s top meals of the holiday, so she was off to a very promising start.

All in all, it was a good beginning to our culinary adventure in New York. The food was generally not mind-blowing, but it was a treat for me to get something which is never on a vegan menu in Prague (and we can’t even get pies at our local Marks & Spencer anymore, thanks to Brexit), and it was exactly what we’d been aiming for: a comforting meal that we could easily find. The restaurant had a bit of a bar-like atmosphere, with quite dim lighting and very loud music, which is not exactly what I want when I’m eating – but it was a Saturday night in the middle of a huge city, so it probably makes sense.

One small issue we had was our first brush in with QR code menus in a country where we don’t get free data. We needed to scan the QR code to access the menu, which suggests to me that wifi passwords should be obvious to all customers. We had to wait for a waitress to come back to get the password, and she warned us that the signal was so bad we might not be able to get online anyway, which was indeed the case, so we ended up with paper menus after all. I have come to accept that QR code scanning makes sense from a hygiene perspective, but if you do that you really have to provide easy digital access. Fortunately for me I usually have a menu memorised before I step through the door, but apparently not everyone does that?

QR codes for menus – yay or nay? And on your first night in a new destination do you go for a bold option or play it safe? Let me know in the comments!

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Out of Retirement?

 A photo of the blog author smiling in the spring

Hello! It has been a whopping three years since my last post on this blog and now I’m sort of, maybe, back?

I never really consciously decided to stop blogging, but it was one of those things that just petered out for me during the first lockdown. Almost everyone from the small community of vegan bloggers I was in stopped posting in 2020 or 2021, and I was no different. Obviously it was a time of huge upheaval and making time to write my posts felt like a bit of a slog. After spending all day sitting at my kitchen table and typing on my laptop, I was not keen to spend more of my day…sitting at my kitchen table and typing on my laptop. Then there was the additional problem that I mostly blogged about food I ate while travelling. The world felt so small at that time, I didn’t know what my future travels would be like. Blogging just didn’t feel like fun any more.

I have thought a few times about restarting. Since international travel started getting easier again, I’ve revisited a few places I’d been to pre-pandemic, and Dr HH and I would read my old blog posts to check what we ate last time and what we did and didn’t like. I even started making notes about all our meals on holidays in 2022, just in case I decided to write it up at some point. And now maybe I will! So perhaps my main motivation in restarting this blog is so that Dr HH and I can make good food choices when we’re travelling, and if anyone else reads and finds it helpful too, so much the better! But also, I loved the old blogging community back in the day (three years feels like a long time ago), and maybe we’ll be able to reconnect now.

I’m not sure how long my return from retirement will last. I’ve got a series of posts lined up about a recent trip to New York which I intend to post every Monday, just like the old days, but we’ll see after that. If any of my old blogging friends are still out there, come and say hi!

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Vegan in Granada: Wild Food

Writing about food I enjoyed on holidays is at once a welcome diversion from lockdown woes and a kind of torture as I reminisce about the freedom to travel that I always took for granted. I’m going to appreciate everything so much more when this is all over!

Finishing off last October’s Spain trip then: as well as all the tapas dishes we shared in Granada and Seville, Dr HH and I also split a few starters when we went to Wild Food. It was quite a swanky place, on the ground floor of a hotel. It was very busy, and very dark too – not at all conducive to food photography!

The mains were predominantly pizzas, but there were a lot of good options on the starters menu so we jumped right in. We shared the excitingly-named guacahummus, which consisted of beet hummus, pico de gallo, baba ganoush, and tapenade with some crisps, breads, and veg. Everything was tasty, especially the baba ganoush which always has to tread that fine line between smoky and bitter.

Somehow we passed up the gyoza and went instead for the jack fruit bao buns which you can just about make out here. They were messy but tasty bites.

The real stand out was this tempura cauliflower in a sweet and sour sauce. It was tender, sticky, and delicious! You can’t really go wrong with this kind of dish, can you? I could have happily eaten another plate.

The desserts were not too shabby either! Who can resist a tarte tatin? This was crispy and sweet, with lovely ice cream.

And then this chocolatey concoction! I honestly can’t even remember what it was, which seems insane. It reminds me of this exquisite dish we had in Brighton once, but the fact that I can’t remember it well suggests that it was less impressive. Still, chocolate ice cream, chocolate creams, chocolate crumb – what’s not to love?!

I don’t know if this is a sign of my brain melting down during lockdown. Of all things to forget, why must it be desserts?!

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Vegan in Cordoba: Sensibles

Cordoba was another of our stops in Andalusia, purely to visit the mezquita, which is essentially a kind of mosque/cathedral hybrid, and was just as exciting as it sounds!

It was a real breath of fresh air after visiting a lot of European cathedrals and churches over the years. Seeing the Islamic tiles and architecture was a treat!

It was a three hour bus ride from Granada, so we set off early and arrived hungry. There’s a vegan-friendly superhero-themed cafe in Cordoba which we were very keen to visit, but unfortunately their serving hours didn’t match our fairly tight schedule. So instead we headed to Sensibles, a little bakery that served a couple of vegan cakes and some vegan crepes. There was no indoor seating, just a couple of seats outside, but it was a beautiful day and the cafe is down a little side street, so we sat and ate in the peaceful sunshine.

There were a few different vegan filling options for the crepes. We went for guacamole, mushrooms, and olives.

It was a really solid lunch option that I would heartily recommend! It was quite light, but the filling was good.

The only vegan dessert was this chocolate orange cake covered in sprinkles, so we grabbed them for the road. It was a slightly confusing situation as the cakes were essentially frozen and we were unsure if they were supposed to be eaten cold or thawed out. We didn’t have any means of carrying two little cakes around while they defrosted, so we ate them as they were. They were tasty, but it was all a bit weird!

Cordoba was a really fun place to visit and wander around in the sunshine, though we timed it a little poorly in that the other main attraction in the city was closed that day. It ended up being one of those lovely holiday days where you’re wandering around charming little streets, admiring the architecture, and basking in the sunshine. Here’s hoping there’ll be days like that again soon!

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Vegan in Granada: Almalibra Açaí House

Many moons ago, Dr HH and I discovered the joys of an açaí bowl while we were in Valencia. It was a scorching hot summer, we were desperate to find somewhere to eat, and then suddenly this place with ice cold vegan options was before us. Imagine my delight at seeing that the same establishment we visited that summer in Valencia also had a branch in Granada! The set up was a bit different – it was a tiny little cafe in Valencia, but here it seemed to be the entire ground floor of a big hostel, so it was a bit more bustling but service was still fast and friendly. The menu was more extensive, too.

Of course though, we ordered the same dish we fell in love with back in 2016 – the standard cool, creamy bowl topped with banana, chocolate chips, and a delicious peanut crumble.

The peanut crumble is the stuff dreams are made of! After one greedy mouthful to recapture the taste from four years earlier, I saved the rest till the end for a really nutty finish. No regrets!

You can’t beat a really exciting, indulgent breakfast. Going out for breakfast is a holiday staple for us, and locally we also go out for brunch every Saturday and try to make something fancy at home every Sunday. Now our brunch options have closed due to the pandemic, we’re trying to keep up our own fancy breakfast traditions, at least on the weekends. Everyone needs a treat right now!

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Vegan in Granada: Hicuri

Like most British people my age, my primary association with gazpacho soup will always be the dying words of Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf. I don’t think the UK generally has the weather for cold soup, and I think it might be a tough sell anyway – a big bowl of soup is so wintry and comforting, who would even want it cold?

Well, Dr HH decided to give it a whirl while we were in Spain! I refused, in solidarity with Rimmer, of course. This was at Hicuri, one of the oldest meat-free restaurants in Granada – it hasn’t always been entirely vegan, but is now. It’s very highly rated on Happy Cow, but we were ultimately a bit underwhelmed by it, starting with this gazpacho (which is only on the menu March to October). It’s hard to say though if Dr HH was underwhelmed by this particular version, or by gazpacho as a whole.

The menu here was very extensive, yet Dr HH and I both ordered the same thing: cordon bleu seitan with chips. I know that’s not really typical Spanish cuisine, but we were eating a lot of that elsewhere, and after a long day of sightseeing sometimes you just need some mock meat and chips!

I would have liked a bit more colour on the chips, and a bit more oomph to the seitan steak. The menu promised cheese and bacon, but the layer of cheese was very thin and dry, and there wasn’t really a bacony taste or texture to it, so it was a bit disappointing. We ate it up though – it was fine, but not mind blowing.

I’m always a little wary of restaurants with long menus, because those who only offer a few things tend to do them better. I fear that was the case here. However, we are probably in the minority, because the place was absolutely packed and there are plenty of five star reviews on Happy Cow. Maybe we simply ordered the wrong things? I do feel though that every city has that one vegan eatery that most people rave about and I just don’t quite get it (V Rev in Manchester, Maitrea/Lehka Hlava in Prague). This could be the one for Granada!

Is there a vegan restaurant in your town that everyone loves except you?

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Vegan in Malaga: MIMO Vegan Bistro

Has the sea ever looked so inviting?! I envy people who can take their government approved daily walk anywhere more attractive than a city park right now!

On our trip to Andalusia last October we were flying back from Malaga and decided to arrive there early enough to get some lunch in the city before heading to the airport. We didn’t have time for any proper sightseeing (not when there was food to be had!), but we made a beeline for the sea, because that’s what you do when you’re on holiday. It was very pretty indeed.

And the food wasn’t so bad either! It was a bit of a trek from the sea to MIMO Vegan Bistro, but it was a pleasant day for walking. The bistro itself was very small and cramped, but they managed to squeeze us in, fortunately. The staff were extremely friendly and informative, letting us know that all the ingredients are locally sourced and lovingly prepared. We hadn’t planned on having a three course meal, but we were powerless to resist!

There was a choice of three starters, but we only had eyes for one: happy oysters. It was a pot of oyster mushrooms cooked in olive oil, garlic, and parsley, and served with homemade bread. Just based on the description your mouth is probably watering imaging how earthy and delicious it was, but truthfully we both felt it could have packed a bit more of a punch. More garlic, maybe? That’s my solution to everything!

Dr HH went for the main course that definitely sounded the best. It’s a bit difficult to discern from this picture, but it was a baked sweet potato topped with quinoa, mushrooms, chard, and jackfruit, with an avocado and lime dressing. It’s hard to make a baked potato an exciting main, but they did the trick with this, it was really flavoursome!

I decided to go for the kashotto instead, which turned out to be a kind of buckwheat risotto, with fennel sauce, tempeh, green beans, and roasted broccoli. The tempeh was especially good, but again they could have turned the flavour up a wee bit for my taste.

There was some chocolate mousse/meringue concoction on the dessert menu, and I wish I could remember why I didn’t order that when it was clearly tailor made for me! Instead we got this apple tart with homemade ice cream, which was really tasty.

Spain is one of my favourite countries to visit for delicious vegan food, and this trip certainly proved why. Even though there could have been a bit more flavour in some of these dishes, everything was still fresh and tasty, the wine was delicious, and the service was warm and friendly.

Here’s to another trip to Spain in the future!

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Vegan in Prague: Pastva (Take Three)

Well, how is everyone? I’m about to start Day 8 of mandatory, company-wide work from home. All cafes, restaurants, bars, and non-essential shops have been closed for 9 days now with the exception of those eateries operating from a takeaway window. Since Wednesday we haven’t been allowed out unless we’re covering our faces with a mask/scarf. Life feels weirder than I ever thought possible. The world feels like it’s shrinking down to just these four walls around me.

Like everyone, though, I’m counting my blessings and keeping on as best I can. I feel great joy that Dr HH is by my side right now and we are able to keep each other entertained and optimistic. There’s nobody I’d rather be with. (Though if he continues humming at his current rate, things may change.) I’m relieved that we’re both in a position to work from home and are well supported by our employers and colleagues, and that we’re in good health and therefore low risk if we do get sick.

I’m glad that our loved ones are still healthy and able to continue buying their essentials and, for many of them, to continue working. I’m happy that I can keep in touch with the people I care about, however physically near/far they are, and that I am able to offer them help and support in whatever small way. Even when the world seems to be shrinking, I feel like my support network is widening, and checking in with people on a more regular basis is a nice reminder of how we’re all connected and in this together.

Like many people who are in our fairly fortunate position, I’m looking around to see how I can help those who are struggling and sacrificing. For anyone who is not financially able to stockpile, the bare shelves must be a huge source of anxiety, so I’m supporting food banks.

For the elderly and vulnerable, it must be a lonely and terrifying time. For people who are told to leave their elderly loved ones in isolation for their own protection, it must be heartbreaking. Age UK has a list of ways to help, from donating money to getting involved locally.

It’s an anxious and stressful time for everyone, and living in an expat community many of us are dealing with the uncomfortable reality of being far from our loved ones and unable to return home to them if they get sick. I’m checking in with my local friends and colleagues as much as I can in the hopes they will feel less alone and be able to vent their fears/forget about their troubles for a little while, as needed.

Mind is a great mental health charity in the UK that provides a vital service. A £21 donation can fund their online peer support group for one hour, and I imagine there will be high demand right now.

As I mentioned, I’m extremely happy to be isolating with the charming, kind, loving Dr HH. Many people are going to be forced into isolation with people with whom they are not safe. Women’s Aid released this strong statement on the link between the virus and domestic abuse, and outlined the work that needs to be done to help survivors during this time. You can donate directly on their website.

And of course I’m trying to support local businesses as much as possible, including vegan eateries. You can probably check your local Vegan Facebook group to see which businesses near you are still open. VeggieVisa put together a comprehensive list of what’s open and closed here in Prague, so now Dr HH and I are aiming to get takeaway a couple of nights a week.

Unfortunately my two favourite eateries, Pastva and Moment, have completely closed for now. The original government order was for all establishments to close until 24th March, but I don’t think anyone is expecting them to open again tomorrow. I’ll be counting down until they reopen, and thinking of their brilliant staff, hearty meals, and eclectic playlists in the meantime.

I go to Pastva almost every day when I’m working in the office. I’ve convinced my team that all of our group lunches must be held there. Their ever changing lunch menus bring joy to my life. Sometimes my deskmate and I go at different times on the same day and then try to guess what each other have ordered, with an admirable degree of success (you can’t go wrong with their pasta or ramen dishes). As soon as they reopen, I’m buying vouchers, tipping generously, and following my lunch with a slice of cake every day to help boost their profits!

Friends, how are you doing? I hope you’re all getting through the bad days and finding reasons for celebration, however small. It seems frivolous to continue posting about food right now, but it makes me feel better and hopefully for some of you it will be a welcome, brief distraction from all the bad news. If you want to highlight a great charity to support, or a small online business I might like to buy from (bonus points if it involves vegan chocolate), feel free to share in the comments.

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Vegan in Paris: Janine Loves Sunday and Cloud Cakes

It’s strange to think that just a couple of months ago I was popping over to Paris for a last minute weekend away, and thinking nothing of it. Now the Czech Republic has essentially closed its borders, and I can’t even pop in to the office or my local brunch spot any more – everything’s closed down. It’s an eerie situation.

But life must carry on with some semblance of normalcy. Now there are no travel plans to look forward to for the foreseeable future, at least I can look back fondly…

While we were in Paris we made two attempts to visit Cloud Cakes – the first time we relocated to Wholywood, and the second time we went to Janine Loves Sunday, just down the road. It was a strange place – empty when we arrived at around 11:45am, but they sat us in a cramped little corner table, and then boxed us in by seating all the next customers really close to us. There was no personal space at all.

We were expecting to order from the brunch menu, but were told it was not running, and they were only serving pizza. So pizza is what we had!

They were good pizzas, with a proper thin base and plenty of good cheese. Dr HH ordered this one with mock meat and pickles, and he really enjoyed it.

I loved the mock meat on mine, but I wish they’d listed rocket as an ingredient in the menu, so I could have asked for it to be removed. Does anybody want a massive pile of leaves on top of their pizza?!

I wouldn’t hurry back here – it was fine in a bind, but it wasn’t a very relaxing atmosphere due to how tightly we were crammed in.

We decided to try to grab an outside table at Cloud Cakes so we could at least see what all the fuss was about. We ordered a slice of chocolate fudge cake to share, and I suppose I was expecting more, based on the crowds. It was a good cake, but not the best I’d ever had – and I was displeased to find a layer of fruit in the middle. That is not what I expect from a chocolate fudge cake!

There seems to be something of a pattern here, with the sneaky unlisted rocket on my pizza, and the devious fruit hiding in my chocolate cake. Just let me eat my unhealthy food!

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