The New York Diet

Web Entrepreneur Peter Rojas Regrets the Vegan Buffalo Wings

Enjoying the vegan pudding at Broadway East.
Enjoying the vegan pudding at Broadway East. Photo: Melissa Hom

Peter Rojas graced the cover of New York back when he was the millionaire blogger behind Engadget, the rival of the other wildly popular blog he founded, Gizmodo. Eight months ago he started RCRD LBL, which aims to wake up the record industry by partnering with labels and artists to offer free music downloads, and now he’s working with the likes of Mos Def and Moby. “I always see Moby out at vegan restaurants,” Rojas tells us. “Half the time I go out to eat he’s there.” Rojas, a former Teany regular who has lived on the Lower East Side for seven years, considers his own veganism a “very personal thing.” He tells us, “There’s no way to talk about it without sounding militant,” but that doesn’t mean he can’t tell us what he ate this week.

Thursday, July 24
I was out in California for a couple of days on business, and since the guys I was meeting with knew I’m vegan (twelve years!), they took me to Cafe Gratitude, a raw-food place in San Rafael. The vibe is uncomfortably hippie (everyone who works there is unnaturally chipper), but the quality of the food makes up for the restaurant’s gimmick, namely that every dish is named “I Am ______.” I somewhat awkwardly ordered a dish called “I Am Vivacious” and an “I Am Delicious” smoothie, at which point the waitress said, “You are vivacious and delicious!”

I’m vegan, but I’m not New Age. In New York, even the raw-food restaurants are upscale. It’s not hippie-ish at all. There’s no place where you would actually cringe when ordering.

Dinner was fortunately a lot simpler. I grabbed some takeout from Axum Cafe, an Ethiopian place in the Lower Haight. I got the vegetarian sampler.

Friday, July 25
I ate a quick protein bar as I rushed out the door for my first meeting.

Lunch was at Sushi Ran in Sausalito. I got the vegetarian bento box. I was a little wary of the black-bean-snow-pea side dish that was part of it, since I don’t much like snow peas (I know, what kind of vegan am I, right?), but I was impressed.

Dinner was back in San Francisco. I went to Weird Fish with my friend Daniel Raffel, who works on Songbird, an open-source iTunes competitor. Weird Fish isn’t exactly an inviting restaurant name for a vegan (or maybe anyone else), but they actually have good options. I ordered a seitan taco and some sautéed pea shoots. It wasn’t quite enough food, so I made the mistake of ordering some faux–buffalo wings, which when they arrived immediately made me remember that I didn’t like buffalo wings when I ate meat, either.

Saturday, July 26
I got a quick brunch at Kate’s Kitchen on Haight Street. I got the tofu scramble and home fries, neither of which were anything special, but I was glad to get something relatively healthy before my flight back.

On the flight I ate some complimentary cashews and drank a ton of water.

My wife, Jill, had dinner waiting for me when I got home: spinach salad and pumpkin ravioli.

Sunday, July 27
I had some granola cereal from Whole Foods for a late breakfast while I watched The McLaughlin Group, which I’m sort of obsessed with. For dinner I bought groceries from Whole Foods (I also go to the Essex Street Market and Neon on Ludlow, where you can find cheap Chinese stuff) and then cooked a massaman curry with tofu and vegetables. I kind of screwed it up by adding too much lime juice to it — not sure what I was thinking.

Monday, July 28
I had more cereal for breakfast. Then I made a smoothie for lunch.

My wife was out that evening, so I heated up some of the curry and got back to work. I try not to eat dinner in front of a computer too often, but sometimes you can’t help it.

Tuesday, July 29
Pretty much the same as Monday, except that it was the first anniversary of our wedding, so for dinner Jill and I went to our favorite restaurant in the city, Candle 79. All the produce is local and fresh and organic — really well-prepared, impeccable quality. I ordered some Moroccan chickpea thing, which was good (but not great), but the real highlights were the stuffed-avocado salad and the totally vegan brownie sundae.

There’s a pretty good selection of vegan restaurants in New York — it’s really easy. I kind of wish there were a Manhattan equivalent of Foodswings in Brooklyn — it’s a vegan fast-food kind of place with fake chicken, all kinds of fake stuff.

Wednesday, July 30
I had a smoothie for breakfast, then met Elliot Aronow, RCRD LBL’s creative director, for lunch at Rice on Elizabeth Street, where I had the vegetarian meatballs with Thai black rice. Rice is really central and really fast: You don’t have to worry about doing a two-hour lunch — you can promise it’ll only be 45 minutes. Everyone is so busy in this town.

That evening Jill and I had a tech/media roundtable dinner at Peking Park. The food was pretty standard Chinese — I was happy to get some tofu and broccoli.

If I’m working from home, I often go to Broadway East. It’s organic, not totally vegetarian, so I can bring people there and not have to worry. I’ll be able to eat and no one will be weirded out.

Web Entrepreneur Peter Rojas Regrets the Vegan Buffalo Wings