Thursday, February 18, 2010

New York Mitten Part 2: The Healthy Stuff

I've already told you about the great desserts I ate in New York City. Seriously, I'll bet half my calories last weekend came from coconut oil and agave. It's okay, though, because I walked a lot, and I drank some vegetable juice.

Here's the Flu and Cold Fighter from Candle Cafe—ginger, orange, grapefruit, carrot, and lemon. Totally zingy, great for the sinuses. I'm going to start making this one at home.

We visited Candle Cafe on the upper east side at lunchtime, and a half hour after opening, they were already packed. The restaurant is entirely vegan, and gluten-free items are listed on a separate menu. For the first time in a long time, I was overwhelmed by my choices. I ordered a Good Food Plate, a combination of four sides paired with two dressings or sauces for 17 dollars.

I must have been feeling southern, because I went with black eyed peas, sautéed daily greens (kale and chard), coleslaw, and the garlic-shallot-potato mash, with tahini sauce and country gravy. The beans and greens were unseasoned—wholesome but a little boring—but the coleslaw was light and crunchy, and the mashed potatoes were incredibly creamy and smooth with rich golden garlic flavor. With Candle Cafe's selection of sides and sauces, I could order a dozen more variations on the Good Food Plate without getting bored.

Rod's meal was a celebration of gluten (perhaps he's feeling deprived?): the Grilled Seitan Burger.

It came with house-made fries, lettuce, sprouts, onion, coleslaw and pickles, and Rod added caramelized onions. I can't vouch for it myself, but it looked good!

I liked the bright, airy, laid-back atmosphere of Candle Cafe, but we also visited its dark, swanky cousin, Candle 79. The restaurant was crowded on Saturday night, and even though we had a reservation, we ended up standing at the end of a packed bar for twenty minutes. I felt conspicuous among the upscale patrons in tight black outfits and hard, pointy shoes. My "nice" outfit consisted of khakis, an L.L.Bean sweater, and my felted clogs. (They are wide, flat, and red, with embroidered flowers. In Maine, you can wear shoes like this in public. In fact, they are a huge hit with kindergarteners, who like to rub them during story time.)

After we were seated, in an upstairs nook too dark for photos, I started with some Green Goddess juice: mixed greens, apple, lemon and ginger. Green juice has always frightened me, but I decided to finally give it a go. And you know what? I liked it. It tasted like salad. It helped that the room was so dark I couldn't see.

I got a kick out of the waitress describing the evening's special beer, Maine's own Allagash Curieux. Apparently our beer, if not our footwear, is classy enough for New York. God I miss that stuff.

We shared the Vegetable Nori Rolls, which came with pickled ginger, avocado wasabi, chipotle aioli, and tamari-ginger sauce. The dish was labelled gluten-free, but I was still nervous about the tamari and any adobo sauce that might have slipped in with the chipotles. Eating outside my own kitchen is a tricky business.

For my entrée, I ordered Sake-Miso-Ginger Glazed Tofu, a thick stew made with Asian vegetables, maitake mushrooms, scallions, and toasted peanuts, and served with coconut black rice in a banana leaf pocket. The dish was creamy, lemony, and mild. Tofu and edamame made it quite hearty. Rod ordered the special, a breaded seitan cutlet with mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and julienned root vegetables—a very wintery dish.

Dessert (no surprise) was my favorite part of the meal. We shared the Live Orange Cream Parfait: crunchy nut granola, orange cashew cream, date-sweetened cherry ice cream, and a dried pineapple ring, served in a martini glass. We were both fascinated by the pineapple ring—it was as thin and crisp as a potato chip—and are now pining for a dehydrator.

Candle 79 and Candle Cafe are both completely vegan. Their menus are similar. Even if you're gluten-free, there's plenty to choose from. Candle 79 is more expensive and a bit too fashionable
(pretentious?) for my taste; if you like playing dress-up, you may prefer it. The food was delicious and beautifully presented at both restaurants. Four chickpeas.

There are so many restaurants in New York City that I still want to try (see The Urban Housewife's extensive NYC Travel Guide for tons of pictures and reviews). I need to plan these visits annually!


  1. When I visit New York someday (because it WILL happen), Candle 79 and Candle Cafe are my must-do list. I'm not a fan of pretentiousness either, but I think the huge vegan menu will make up for it. I'm not used to having choices either! Rod's burger sounds amazing!! But I think I'd be sad about un-seasoned greens. They need a Southern gal in the kitchen to help them out with that. :-)

  2. I love your pictures from New York, thank you for sharing with us! Keep having fun. Are you going to Pure Food And Wine? If you do, will you have a bite for me? (have never been but salivate over the food photos in the cookbooks, would love to hear your thoughts)
    And good for you for drinking green juice. It can look a little swampish but it's so nourishing.
    Love your stories!
    Eco Mama

  3. Both meals look great and I love hearing of places that have lots of gluten free menus!

  4. Aw, your comment about the kingergartens is super sweet. And your trip sounds really nice, glad to hear you found some awesome GF, vegan food. Hope you don't feel deprived back in lil ole Maine!

  5. Your food photography makes me happy!!! Beautiful pics!

    It is so nice to find you, Mary! Vegans are wonderful people! :)

  6. It's a shame your little nook at Candle79 was too dark to take photos, because your food pics are always fantastic. But thankfully, so are your descriptions. :-) All your food looked and sounded delicious. I visited NYC for 3 days in Dec '01, and despite gorging at a different vegan restaurant at every meal, we ran out of days long before we ran out of places to eat, and sadly missed out on the Candle Cafe. (A non-veg relative who lives in NYC had the gall to whine to me that "it's too hard to be vegan in New York." Oh, pul-EEEEZE!) I'm already looking forward to reading about your next Big Apple pilgrimage! (I'll give you my relative's address so you can cram some Candle Cafe cole slaw and Lulu's hot fudge sundae up his nostrils for me). ;-)

  7. Don't you love being overwhelmed by choices?! Candle Cafe is awesome! That juice looks delish (as does the food). I love your pictures!

  8. This is great, I've been trying to figure out which veg places are gluten free!


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