A Vegan Oasis – Candle79

October 11, 2011 § 4 Comments

Candle79 is one of the vegan restaurants we scouted out on our trip to NYC last week. I can’t say enough good things about this place – nice staff, comfortable environment, and most importantly, amazingly flavorful and wholesome vegan food! Whether you are vegan or not – I highly recommend checking them out if you’re in NYC.

Overall the meal was fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed all the options we had and the fact that we didn’t have to worry about what was in them. Portions are a tad on the small side – this is an upscale restaurant so with an appetizer and desert, it is perfect. Pricing was perhaps a bit high, but considering all ingredients are fresh and organic – not to mention delicious – its well worth it! They have a cookbook coming out November 1, and it will likely be my first vegan cookbook I buy it inspired me so much.

The restaurant has a quaint entrance on 79th street on the Upper East Side. The downstairs is pretty contemporary feeling with sleek lines and warm colors. We were seated upstairs in the back which was fine but next time I’m definitely asking for the front upstairs as there were booths and sweet tables by the window.

The meal started with a little treat from the chef. It was a crostini with some type of spread – I believe it was eggplant and artichoke. Whatever it was, it was amazing. I should warn you – these pictures seriously stink! I need to invest in a camera. I hate taking photos with flash but looking back at these, flash may have been better. Sorry.

We were really tempted to order the guacamole timbale as an appetizer as the next table had it. However, given that guacamole is often on the restaurant menus in Orlando, we went with the tri-colored beet salad with endive and almond cheese and kalamata olive vinaigrette. OK, first things first, I’ve never had a kalamata olive vinaigrette before but I will be figuring out how to make it because it was really delicious. I wouldn’t have every thought to pair olives and beets but it worked very nicely. Also, this was my first forray into nut cheeses. This is a common for vegans and I’d yet to try one anywhere. The almond cheese in my opinion tasted almost like a very dense whipped cream – perhaps like a mousse-like creme fraiche. It provided just enough creaminess to the dish to compliment the salty vinaigrette and hearty beets.

Luis ordered an impressive wild mushroom squash risotto. The risotto was drizzled with cashew cream and topped with frizzled leeks. The crispy leeks were a very nice compliment to the creamy, rich but simple risotto. The risotto was just decadent enough to be truly enjoyable but didn’t leave that harsh full feeling once we finished.

I ordered the live zucchini manicotti. The “live” should have warned me this would be a cold dish but it didn’t and I was a tad surprised to take a bite and meet cold food. But despite the lack of warmth – this dish had tons going for it. The zucchini are cut very thinly to roll into manicotti and stuffed with a vegetable portobello pistou. The pistou was actually almost like a tapenade mixed with diced portobellos. The dish is finished with a tomato sauce and topped with a parsley pine nut salad. A perfect bite of all elements was bold and vibrant. I’m definitely going to use this for inspiration at home – I’ve been thinking I can even just buy pre-made tapenade and mix with some mushrooms for a quick fix similar to this.

Last but my gosh certainly not least – dessert. Dun dun dun! Aside from some delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies from the Whole Foods bakery, dessert hasn’t been on my mind in the past three months. But I couldn’t resist the tempting menu. As a mousse lover, I ordered the chocolate peanut butter bliss and boy was it bliss indeed. Chocolate mousse and peanut butter mousse are layered and covered in a chocolate shell and then finished with a tart berry coulis. Honestly all I can say is yum. And this was truly decadent – for such a small little dessert, the two of us couldn’t even finish it.

There’s no doubt we’ll be going back to Candle79 next time we venture to NYC. I’m so glad we found this little gem on the Upper East Side. We almost missed it entirely by trying to eat near our hotel in Midtown. Luckily a quick google search and scan of the yelp reviews confirmed we had to go. As a matter of fact, I just finished Crazy, Sexy, Diet which I was reading while there, and many recipes in the last chapter are from this very restaurant and we almost missed it entirely!

Until next time, I’ll be waiting for that cookbook to come out.


New York City – Museums, Parks, and Vegan Chow

October 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

I know my last post was about a vacation, but trust me, I’m not used to two vacations in a row! In fact, this one seemed to creep up on us out of nowhere and we found ourselves scrambling at the last minute to prepare for our trip to New York. I’d had two solid weeks of travel so all I craved for the weekend was my own bed and snuggling with my dog. But, we were going out of town for something very special – it was the wedding of one of my best friends. Plus, I figured there had to be tons of great vegan restaurants to explore in metropolitan NYC!

Luis had never been to New York but by the end of hour one he was already trying to figure out how we could  move there – oh, and it was pouring down rain! I’ve been to New York City probably 10+ times. I always loved the hustle and bustle but have always remembered it as being too much chaos for me to ever live with. But it wasn’t that way this time. There was still that great NYC energy, but it wasn’t overwhelming at all – in fact, I was really sad when it came time to leave.

If it weren’t for our dog Chloe, I think we’d be trying to figure out how we could make a move there work. I’m not sure she’d transition so well from her big back yard where she can “hunt” all night long to a tiny 500sf apartment. Surprisingly though I noticed there are so many dogs in the city – but where do they potty? This one question bothered me the entire time we were there. I’ve decided the sidewalks must be the lucky spots. If those dogs are happy maybe Chloe would be too?

We spent the weekend strolling through the streets of Manhattan, enjoying the energy all around us. In fact, I would have usually planned every last second but instead left it to chance and we just walked where we wanted and let fate guide us. By accident we ended up at Bryant Park and I think that was my favorite 30 minutes of the trip – just sitting and enjoying the crisp air and children playing on the green grass, even rolling in it.

Our friend’s wedding was in New Jersey. It was a wonderful evening, one of those weddings where you can really see the couple growing old together – complementing each other in every aspect and having little tears creep out the corner of your eye as you hear them say their vows. They wrote their own and I especially loved the line of “I vow to love us some kids into this world, because I know you’ll make an eccentric mom.”

It was in the backyard of the bride’s New Jersey home and had twinkling candles hanging from the branches and mason jars overflowing with flowers on the table tops. It was a perfect evening and I am so happy for them both.

On Sunday we ended up randomly at a market on Lexington while trying to go somewhere else entirely. It was that very market where I actually ate the best thing of the whole trip – street side grilled corn. Simply grilled, a little chile and salt. Hot, spicy, and juicy – so juicy in fact that with each bite a little would squirt and I’d have to make sure I didn’t hit anyone! It was seriously good. I wish I would have snapped a pic before chowing down.

I’m a huge art buff and still can’t believe we left without visiting a single art museum – but we had too much fun just walking and taking it all in. We did pay a visit to the History Museum which was fantastic. Highly recommend the marine and blue whale room on the bottom. In fact, it was pretty hard visiting this museum as a vegan. Some of the content was a bit much for me. I wonder if all museum workers are vegetarian?

I was really looking forward to this trip for the food. Not the usual NYC pizza I would have usually stuffed myself with but good, wholesome, vegan food. I was actually quite surprised at how hard it was to find vegan options in the city. There are certain pockets of town that have more vegetarian options but we always seemed to be in the wrong area. And as always is the case, the vegetarian options were often loaded with cheese making them not vegan friendly. We made it work though. Except for the wedding, I was able to eat vegan the rest of the trip and Luis didn’t do too bad either.

Some of the great meals we had were at Candle79, Cafe Frida, Gallo Nero, Ess-a-Bagel and the aforementioned corn 🙂

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