Monday, April 26, 2010
I have no idea why I haven't posted last October's New York trip until now - just lazy, I guess. And of course most of the photos are so vague in my mind . . . . Nevertheless, it helps me to keep track of what's what just a little bit - especially the pics of meals, which it is amusing to find are repeated year after year in the same restaurant.
The photos of my dh and myself (above) were snapped in Le Pain Quotidien near Lincoln Centre - a quick snack prior to an opera. Le Pain Quotidien is a chain, but nonetheless excellent for that, doing so well what it does in an informal and warm atmosphere. We like the fact that vegan offerings are clearly marked. Not wanting a huge meal that will put us to sleep during the music, we opted for a Mediterranean platter to share - which meant, in effect, tabouleh or something like it, hummus and eggplant puree served with lashings of different kinds of bread. Nice pick!
We also made our usual trip to Candle 79 on the upper east side. That restaurant is hard to beat - vegan, organic, warm and friendly and patronized by all discerning people. Their seitan steaks are incredible - but so is everything I've tried there.
The Highlight Of Our Trip, however, as far as eating experiences were concerned, was - dah dah dah DAH! -
PURE FOOD AND WINE RESTAURANT
This remarkable restaurant is well named. Pure Food and Wine uses no processed food, is totally vegan (of course!) and is completely raw, not heating the food above 118 F, thus preserving the enzymes, minerals and vitamins plus, I should add, the flavour. This is not a boring salad place, but a house of gourmet food which is meticulously prepared and inventively presented. Although the restaurant opened five years earlier, our first experience of it was indeed in October 2009. Warm panelling and deep luxurious reds set the scene for an evening not to be forgotten.
We had, as a light first course, a shared order of olives plus a cheese plate - all raw and vegan. The cheeses were from Dr Cow. These are made from tree nuts and are flavoured in various ways. I was skeptical, but we had to try them, and was amazed to find that these raw cheeses were not only far better than any vegan cheese I had ever tried but competed convincingly with my memory of excellent non-vegetarian cheeses I had sought out and made such a fetish of in the bad old days before I gave up all that. The platter was delightfully presented, with raw crackers (for those I assume they use a dehydrator at below 118 F, as I do to make my own at home). Sadly they platter was half gone before I remembered that a photo might be appropriate to preserve the memory of the evening.
For our main courses, we stepped into unknown territory. My dh had raw lasagna (and allowed me the tiniest bite) with layered vegetables, using paper-thin zucchini as the 'noodle' part of it.
At room temperature it was an absolute winner and I was ready to mourn the fact that I hadn't ordered it also - until I tasted my own choice.
This was a slightly curry-flavoured dish with a base of raw coconut noodles with vegetables in a creamy sauce - and I was pretty stingy in passing out tastes of that one.
We couldn't believe our luck - or the fact that all this could be produced out of a kitchen that doesn't have a stove in it. Our ideas of raw food (with which we had been experimenting) took a sudden turn, and we have been seeking good raw recipes ever since.
There are lovely desserts on the menu, but after two courses we kept it light and simple (although nothing is 'simple' at this incredible restaurant). We shared an icecream (not made from dairy) dessert with berries. I wish I could remember all the flavours in the dish, but all I'm left with is a memory of something magical.
We made a solemn vow to return here on every trip, even if it meant that one of our old haunts would have to be deleted from our list. Such a great evening!
Moving along . . .
One thing we rather miss where we live, however, is really good Asian food that is tasty, truly spicy when it's supposed to be, and not to heavy in fats and oils as well as being reasonably authentic to the original cuisine. In New York we can do all that and have it vegan! Like, WOW!!
VEGAN KOREAN DELIGHTS
One place we absolutely have to visit when in New York is the vegan Korean HanGawi Restaurant The photo above shows how quickly a platter of the Spicy Baby Dumplings appetizer can disappear. I had meant to take a pic of the whole presentation, but sadly hunger got in the way once we caught the spicy scent of the dish and had a taste - and another - and another. There was another appetizer, but that one didn't last long enough to rescue for the camera either!
HanGawi also has a sister restaurant, Franchia Teahouse and Restaurant, which we love for lunch. It is less formal than HanGawi, also Korean and vegan, and after all this time I would be hard pressed to say which dishes were eaten at one restaurant or the other. We tend to visit each one, only a day apart.
I should mention that the food is mostly organic and totally vegan. The Korean mountain roots and mountain greens (mostly but not exclusively at HanGawi) are superlative, but I am sure I wouldn't know what they are in English so can't try them elsewhere. A pity. They are incorporated into many of the dishes. We like the spicier choices.
Stone pot dishes are excellent - and if you like them spicy you can get that too. Both restaurants offer these - including one version (in several variations) which has a base of rice (brown or white). That's one of my special favourites.
Anyone who likes mushrooms would be delighted with the large variety served.
Our last meal in NYC is, ironically, always at a chain - the Thai restaurant Pong Sri near our B&B in Chelsea. They are quick and courteous and are happy to produce vegan food from their Vegetarian Menu section. We stumble onto the plane a couple of hours later happily full of good and spicy food to sustain our hearts and minds until our next trip.