Chickpea & Olive | Smorgasburg, East River Park
I crawled out of bed our first day in Brooklyn feeling just a wee bit hungover. Thanks to some shenanigans caused by the federal government in conjunction with a rogue hurricane, my evening flight had morphed into a redeye with a 3 a.m. arrival. My only eats for the past twelve hours had been the free goodies that the airport crew passed out in order to appease their angry clientele. I needed some real food and I needed it now. Thankfully it was Saturday and that meant that Smorgasburg was raging over in East River Park. Chickpea & Olive here I come. Smorgasburg can best be described as a culinary free-for-all crammed into a space about the size of church parking lot. On the Saturday we visited, Smorgasburg was extremely crowded. Had it been just J-Fur and I, I probably wouldn't have been aware of all the people around me, but Z-Bot was along divaing it up in her giant jogging stroller. I steered that monstrosity (magnificently I must say) through throngs of bearded hipsters that always seemed to be going the opposite direction of me. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
Eventually we found our way to Chickpea & Olive. This vegan eatery is famous, at least on Yelp, for its beet burgers. I halfheartedly looked at the menu but really I had known what I was going to order since the day I left Brooklyn two months earlier. It was the beet burger melt with avocado or bust for me. The burger was served on thick toasted bread and sliced in half. I walked with it for a bit looking for some open space to relax and enjoy it. Talk about food porn. People walking by kept eyeing my burger and commenting on how amazing it looks. I'm pretty sure I heard a few catcalls as well.
When I finally found that coveted open space, I dropped everything and took a bite. I don't say this lightly: that was the most flavorful veggie burger I've ever had. The beet burger, vegan cheese and avocado all melded together into a blissful bevy of flavors and textures that held together bite after bite. The thick, toasted bread offered a salty, crispy backdrop of support for the burger to rest its magical head. Some people might balk at the price (13 dollars with avocado added). To those people I'd say, stop treating this burger like your typical veggie burger and start treating it like the hand crafted piece of art it is. You'll quickly realize 13 dollars is a steal.
Georgetown Cupcakes | 111 Mercer Street New York, New York
When my cousin suggested we pay a visit to Georgetown Cupcakes I have to admit, I was quite hesitant. My other vegan cupcake experience in New York, at famed Babycakes, had not gone over so well and I didn't want to waste precious calories on lackluster vegan desserts. When she told me that the place had been featured on some famous food television show and that they have a cupcake camera where you can sit at your computer and watch people make cupcakes all day, my desire to visit dropped even more. Can you say gimmick? But J-Fur and Z-Bot were interested and my cousin espoused their cupcake virtues to no end so I decided to part with some of my precious calories and give their vegan cupcake a go.
The one vegan option that was being sold on the day we visited was apple cinnamon. I could handle that. I'm all about fruit desserts. The cupcake was not overly sweet and moist. Just that in itself made it a better experience than Babycakes. But the pleasure was only beginning. The apple cinnamon cake was topped with an incredible icing that was really creamy. Best of all, this creaminess was not created by fake butter (or at least it had no fake butter taste). A fantastic vegan cake! I hate to admit it but ever since I ate that cupcake, I've been unable to go more than 12 hours without checking in on the cupcake cam. Sometimes I even find myself loosening...nevermind.
I had four goals during this visit to Brooklyn. The first one was eat a beet burger from Chickpea & Olive. The second was to get a donut sundae at Dun-well Donuts. Once those two were out of the way, I set my sights on finding some Brooklyn Kombucha on tap. If there is one thing Tampa has going for it right now it is kombucha. I wanted to compare the two cities, see if they were as far apart as I imagined. I conducted an online search for kombucha on tap and the closest one to where we were staying was The Pulp & The Bean, a coffee shop in Crown Heights. Unfortunately the kombucha was all out. I wasn't really in the mood for a latte but Yelpers had kept talking about the soy rose latte, so I got one iced. I wasn't blown away by it. For one, it wasn't sweet enough for me. When I drink coffee, I like it to be sweet. The cool thing was that the latte wasn't overly expensive. I think I even paid less for it than some of the ones I get in Tampa. One thing worth noting about the Pulp & the Bean is their excellent customer service. I loved that even though they were four customers deep the barista ran thru my entire order to make sure she got it right.
Hungry Ghost | 253 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn
I achieved goal number three by walking about a mile and a half to Hungry Ghost. The only reason the walk matters is that by the time I arrived, I had to piss really bad and there isn't a space for this at Hungry Ghost. I ordered my kombucha, grape is what they had on tap, and I drank it way too fast. It went down smooth, it was unique (not a flavor I had in Tampa before). It didn't strike me as being any better or worse than Mother Kombucha here in St. Petersburg. That's a good thing (both for Brooklyn Kombucha and Mother Kombucha). After chugging, I went across the street to Starbucks and waited in a long line to use their restroom. Best I could tell is that none of the other coffee shops in the area, and there were a lot, had a bathroom either. That's the only reason I could see so many people in Starbucks when there were a lot of other options around.
00 + Co | 65 2nd Avenue, New York
My final goal this trip was to pay a visit to 00 + Co. I mean there just isn't anything creative going on with vegan pizza in Tampa. If they have any it is simply some fake cheese thrown over their normal crust and sauce. At 00 + Co, vegan is at the center of everything they do. I convinced a large group of friends to join me here so we shared three different pizzas. There was a smoked carrot pizza topped with crimini mushrooms, shaved fennel and parsley-mint pesto. I loved the cheese and balance of flavors on this pie. We also ordered the confit and tomato arugula pie. This one didn't quite have the pizzaz of the carrot pizza. It left me wanting more. The farro sausage pizza was also really good, with a nice spiciness to it. The dough at 00 + Co was incredible. It was charred and chewy. The table also got an order of zucchini noodles and farro. This was my favorite dish of the night. I thought the farro sausage performed really well when placed on top of zucchini. 00 + Co is definitely not cheap. It is the kind of place that vegans can go when they want to splurge and have a nice romantic evening. That being said, I recognize the time and effort required to make vegan cheese so I can fault them for pricing their pies a bit high.