Saturday, February 28, 2015

New York City! (Part 1)

 pre-flight snack at Tampa airport
 After my 4th child was born, I decided to take each older child (along with my nursing/co-sleeping baby) on special vacations since life was busier and my attention spread out thinner. (And I love and NEED to travel, or I go stir crazy.) That's when I took my second oldest on Amtrak to D.C. and NYC. My oldest son chose to visit St. Louis. My daughter, who was 5 at the time, had the foresight to declare she wanted to hold off on her trip until Baby was old enough to be left behind. She waited patiently for 3 years, ha!

our airplane snack choices
 We had been planning all along to head down to Miami, a place I've never explored (and a location for an American Girl Place, one requirement). But then we start talking about New York, and it's hard to fight the urge. I let her decide, and NYC won out because she was too young to really remember our last trip there. We were weirdly captivated by the idea of visiting during the heart of winter. We were able to afford this trip entirely because of credit card rewards. I started digging and found rewards I didn't know we had. Our flight and hotel were covered! The week before we went was the big northeastern blizzard, so we were concerned we would get snowed out. But since NYC didn't get hit as bad as expected, it all worked out fine. Despite my mother calling me repeatedly the week we left to tell me how crazy I am.

 We had it all planned out. Our flight was going to arrive at 8:30. I assumed that we would have enough time to retrieve our luggage, hop on the air train from Newark, call in food from some great place that closes at 10 or 10:30, pick it up and take it back to the hotel to relax. We didn't make it out of Penn Station until 10:15, though, so we had to formulate a new plan. The closest place opened was Maoz Vegetarian at Times Square.

 We shared an order of falafel with cilantro sauce and tahini plus fries and brought it back to our room to eat. The amazing bonus to our trip was scoring a suite upgrade. We had a bedroom plus a living room and small kitchen which included a fridge and microwave. That was so unexpected and awesome since the room was free to begin with.

 This is our favorite subway stop in Brooklyn...

 because it leads us here:
where dreams come true.

 The first night we arrived, we thought it wasn't even that cold (but we changed our minds by the next day). While we were walking to the subway the next morning, we talked about how much we wished it would snow. When we walked up the steps into daylight toward was snowing! It felt like a scene out of a movie.
 I got glazed because I believe it to be the best possible doughnut. Sis got blueberry. We shared a lavender lemonade. These doughnuts are just so amazingly soft and light and perfect.

 Aren't there plates cool? On instagram they said they were a gift from their parents and that people had been stealing them. I hate thinking about vegans or those wanting to eat vegan doughnuts stealing custom made wood plates. I hope they get them back.

 Since we were already in the neighborhood (They are about a block apart.), we hoped we would still have some room for brunch at Champs Diner. It turned out that my Directions took us to the old location which is almost a mile away from Dunwell Doughnuts. Therefore, after walking two miles and then waiting for our food, we were ready to eat again. My dumb mistake was not realizing that the old location is now home to a vegan store from the same owners of Champs Diner. We could have went in there, but I didn't realize it.

 We shared two dishes (and my daughter and her tiny tummy had to take a lot of her portion back to the hotel for supper) - this perfect breakfast platter...

 and mozzarella sticks!!!
 They deserve the 3 exclamation points because they taste good and because it's such a fun menu item.

 Champs Diner, which was new to us, is awesome, and I could have eaten every meal here (and we did eat here again) during our visit. Sometimes I will visit a restaurant like this where I will think it's good, but I could have eaten just as well at home. I feel like Champs does it better than I might do at home, which is the mark of a great vegan place to me.

 Later that afternoon, we had reservations at American Girl Place. Samantha Rose (a gift from Googie and Papaw for Christmas) and Sadie Sunshine came with us. It's all very, very sweet.

 In the café, they bring your dolls a highchair and a cup and saucer. You get to keep the cups and saucers plus the napkin rings, which are hair bows. If you do not have a doll, they let you pick one of theirs (and they even have boy dolls) to sit with you.

 When I made the reservation, I was told they could accommodate vegans. Instead of little muffins waiting on the table, we had fruit kabobs.

 Our appetizer was fruit and veggies.
 She loved her sparkling drink. My daughter loves drinks. She loves tea and sodas and anything special. She did not inherit this from me as I mostly only drink water and have a difficult time even drinking that.

 The only entrée choice was salad. I asked if they could make her a pasta or something but was told no. Fortunately, she likes salad. (My 9 year old son wouldn't have eaten.) These salads were really large. I appreciated that it contained beets and wasn't just lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. The problem with our meal was: we were both so tired of chomping. There was so much chewing involved in this meal combined with the appetizers. I wrote a suggestion on the comment card that although everything was good, what would make it even better was offering a different vegan option or at least adding beans or pumpkin seeds or something to the salad. I never really mind going to a restaurant and having limited options to eat, especially when it is one like this where the experience and ambiance are a part of the meal. However, if it's prix fixe $25 apiece (plus the specialty drink), I hope it's fair.

 By the end of dinner, I was pouting a little (probably from lack of simple carbohydrates and protein) watching the girls next to us receive their fancy non-vegan desserts and thinking how unfair the world is. I thought we weren't going to get dessert (or that it was going to be more veggies and fruit). But they brought her out this cute flower pot lemon sorbet, so all was well!

 Overall, we had a great day here. The restaurant and store are darling (and expensive for all and maddening and annoying to some, I'm sure), and we got to participate in a craft time. I banned all kinds of plastic dolls in our home for many years, but my daughter is 8 and only has a few more years of childhood enchantment and dolly fun, so I've loosened up. (And truthfully, no one squeals and gasps more than me looking through the historic dolls and clothes.) Sadie Sunshine (who isn't a "real" American Girl doll) got her hair styled in the salon, and their wardrobe has increased! This is thanks to Grandma and Grandpa who gave us a big gift card for Christmas. My favorite thing about the meal were the conversation starter cards on the table. We had a great time asking and answering questions back and forth.
 That night, I was able (with my daughter having a super time with a babysitter) to enjoy Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man. I really enjoyed my first row mezzanine seat and loved the performance!

That's Day 1 1/2. To be continued!
*Also, since blogging is apparently so elusive to me these days, I thought I might do better posting daily pics on instagram. Follow me if ya want! @veganandsoforth