Fine jewelry? Not my thing. My favorite ring is a $15 "splurge" from the CATS Resale Shop. Perfume? Not so much. Electronics? My 10-year-old television set and old cell phone work just fine.
Instead, I was treated for my birthday to one of my favorite passions in life: food! Here's a recap of my humane dining experience at vegan Blossom Restaurant in Chelsea.
To drink, New York City tap water. Free and refreshing. Even when I'm not paying, $9 plus tax/tip for a glass of wine is simply too much.
To start, a Caesar salad, $8 (there's a larger entree size available). I love trying vegan versions of classic recipes, and this didn't disappoint. It was much lighter than the standard take, and no chickens or cows had to suffer.
Two entrees to share. First, Phyllo Roulade: French lentils and root vegetables in a phyllo crust, a carrot-cream sauce, with caramelized onions and Swiss chard, $18. A hearty and satisfying meal.
I couldn't wait to try the Wild Mushroom and Seitan Stroganoff on their online menu, but the waitress said they didn't serve it and the web site wasn't accurate. Sigh.
I couldn't sample the Bolognese sauce in Bologna, Italy, but I could try the linguini Bolognese, $21, here. As the judges on Project Runway might say, "I was a bit underwhelmed." The sauce was good, but didn't pair well with the spinach linguini and the vegetables, including the broccoli rabe, overpowered the dish.
French food loving-moi loved the lavender coconut creme brulee, $11. What a treat!
Apple cinnamon 'sticks' with vanilla soy ice cream and caramel sauce, $10. A comforting fall dessert.
But...these prices are too high, especially the desserts. Creme brulee is a rarity, so that was worth trying once. The high quality of the ingredients are worth more, and paying for the Chelsea real estate is part of the deal. But their prices limit this to a once, maybe twice a year, restaurant to visit.
One thing never to skimp on: the tip. Hard-working waiters and waitresses often have to share their tips with bus boys and food runners, are almost never provided with health care coverage, and shouldn't be nickle and dimed over the tax and alcohol. I say if one can afford to go out to eat, one can and should leave a descent tip for good service.
In an economy still struggling, it was encouraging to see such a bustling vegan restaurant. Visit Blossom Restaurant, 187 Ninth Ave., New York City. Find slightly more reasonable prices at their sister restaurant, Cafe Blossom, 466 Columbus Ave.
My favorite fine vegan dining experience in New York City? The Natural Gourmet's Friday Night Dinners still takes the vegan cake.
Dine at home for a fraction of the cost. Check out chef Karl Schillinger's recipe for Spaghetti 'Bolognese'. With the chilly nights ahead, have Italian night. Drink some wine if you imbibe, throw on an Italian film and enjoy the La Dolce Vita-frugal-style!
Check out Alicia Silverstone's Caesar Salad from The Kind Diet, available at local libraries. I would try this an even simpler recipe for Vegan Caesar Dressing from VegCooking, and top with Trader Joe's chickenless strips or Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips for an inexpensive and tasty lunch.
Follow Alicia's adventures in The Kind Life. Just in time for Thanksgiving, check out her pumpkin pie recipe.
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