“New York City, center of the universe.”
This city, peoples, c’est vraiment phénoménal. I find it dirty and offensive, it’s inhabitants typically rude, and the extreme levels of quality of living, on full display, heartbreaking. But I can’t stay away! There’s a concentration and abundance of brilliant people doing incredible things, like writers Mark Bittman and Eric Asimov at the New York Times, incredible chefs like Amanda Cohen @ Dirt Candy Marcus Samuelsson @ Red Rooster Harlem (lots of hype around this guy within the past year or so), and revolutionary food capitalists like Mario Batali (those damn crocs!) and Daniel Boulud. What these people do is what attracts me to the city so strongly. I do try to visit often. It’s hard to afford and schedule, but when the stars align, I have the best time. My next few posts will touch on where I went and what I ate/drank.
Thursday night dinner, Candle 79.
The best vegetarian dining experience I ever had was at Dirt Candy, in the East Village of Manhattan. Definitely a place I’d recommend, but be aware that it gets a lot of attention and it might be a good idea to book ahead. I’m dying to see more vegetarian restaurants open, or at least have restaurants take the challenge of vegetarian cuisine seriously. A few weeks ago, I visited Walnut Grille, a veggie place that just opened in Newton, MA. While I admired the concept of “a vegetarian dining experience”, their execution resulted in numerous contradictions. For example; a vegetarian restaurant with faux snake skin textured booths? what I assumed was some kind of vegan hollandaise…on a poached egg…? The sandwiches my parents ordered were delicious though. The way I see it, vegetarian cooking is a serious test of skill, how creative are you really? For palates accustomed to meat, it’s understandably a very difficult task. The reason vegetarian cuisine deserves attention, rather than dismissal, “damn hippies”, is because it forces a more acute attention to the subtle flavors of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and the nuances of spices and herbs. Believe me, it’s not easy. Even after ~10 years of vegetarian cooking, I haven’t gotten even close to unlocking all the incredible variations possible.
Back to Candle 79.
The food was awesome, so delicious and savory and satisfying. The drinks were great too. We tried the Belle Madame (Catoctin Creek Rye, goji liqueur, orange liqueur, lemon, pineapple, up) which was very tasty, typically sweet and fruity but not offensively so with a cool twist from the rye, and The Reforestation (VeeV Açai spirit, wheatgrass vodka, muddled mint ginger-agave, lime, soda, ice) which was great, like a more herbal/earthy mojito. The best part – for each Reforestation ordered, they plant a tree… somewhere.
The appetizers we ordered were Seitan Dumplings (fried), Black Bean Soup (a special), and Nori Rolls. We could have done without the rolls, just not very exciting. The soup was similar to a chili, which I always love, and had some crunchy tortilla(?) strips in it, which added another textural element. The dumplings were great as well, just so good, as dumplings usually are.
Our entrees were varying forms of plant based proteins paired with either a vegetable puree, asparagus (in season veggies, 1 point) and mushrooms vs caramelized onions, or a side of ratatouille. The main items were tempeh (a special), seitan (a special), and cornmeal crusted tofu. They were great, a really unique treat, I have nothing else to say about it!
(Apologies for the poor quality pictures, I was using an unfamiliar camera)
This was seriously a great dining experience. Dirt Candy provided a more visually interesting meal, while I think Candle 79 provided a more satisfying experience, flavor-wise. [(SHABBAT SHALOM) roommate interruptions]
p.s. For about a month & half longer, I will be fulfilling my Culinary Arts internship requirement at Easy Entertaining RI, a Providence based catering company & café that has a strong focus on sourcing local ingredients and products. This weekend, we’ll be involved with the Eat Drink RI Festival, it’s exciting stuff!