Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Candle 79 & Babycakes

This weekend I had the pleasure of exploring two vegan hotspots in New York City. We began our journey at Candle 79, the spiffy uptown cousin of Candle Cafe. The meal opened with a delightful little amous bouche of avocado and tomato mole on sesame rice cracker. I could've dipped an entire bag of those chips into the kitchen's guacamole bowl, but I restrained myself to just the one. The flavors were incredible, perfectly melding savory with sweet, and creamy with crunchy.

It was tough to decide on an appetizer. I always try to go with seasonal, and I look for unusual combinations of ingredients that I might not ordinarily consider putting together on my own. My first inclination was to go with the grilled asparagus with blue cornmeal crusted onion rings, arugula pesto and red pepper coulis, but then the waitress read the specials for the day, which included an app of fiddlehead ferns, wild mushrooms, baby asparagus, wilted spinach and cauliflower puree. How could we not give that a try? Needless to say, it was fabulous. You can only get fresh fiddleheads a couple weeks of the year, and these were perfectly young, tender and sweet, not the often soapy taste you get from the supermarket kind that are past their prime. The rich creaminess of the cauliflower sauce enhanced the delicate flavors of the steamed veggies.

The entrees were equally difficult to select from. We were aided by an article in this month's Vegetarian Times which featured top recipes from vegetarian restaurants across the country. Coincidentally, they picked one from Candle 79: the seitan picatta. It's a customer favorite, so we figured we'd give it a try. I picked the Morroccan chick pea cakes with spring vegetables, coconut curry and apricot chutney. Bother were delicious (though we must confess our preference for the humble chick pea cakes - it was a gorgeous electric green and orange presentation and the spicy flavors melded beautifully with the sweet chutney).

Dessert was equally challenging. My first inclination was to avoid the typical chocolate default and opt for something fruity. We made a compromise and ordered one from each category. The seasonal special was a lovely little strawberry rhubarb tart with triple cream ice cream - a winner. We also sampled the brownie sundae which was adorned with fresh strawberries and bananas and a chocolate chipotle sauce. YUM! What an incredible meal. And I don't want to forget the rich and creamy drink that could've been a light meal on its own: coconut, avocado, pear, agave syrup and mint frappe. mmmm...

The next day we headed down to Babycakes to pick up breakfast and some snackies for the train trip home. This is an all vegan bakery near Chinatown. It was cool to see the many Fallun Gong practitioners on our walk there, and there was also an Asian American parade with hundreds of people marching down Mott Street. This was my first visit, so I didn't know what to expect, but I was happy to find a place selling gluten-free vegan baked goods (not that I need them...). We shared a sticky bun and blueberry buckle for breakfast, then packed up a slice of banana chocolate chip bread, lemon cupcake and chocolate cupcake for the ride. It was a challenge resisting the temptation to inhale everything all at once. I was happy that my non-veg companion was delighted with his iced coffee and sticky bun, and we were both pleasantly surprised by the tender texture and light sweetness of the blueberry cake. My attempts at gluten-free baking always turn out dense and grainy. I guess I just don't know the secret yet. Needless to say, I'll have to do some experimenting this summer when it's blueberry season.

1 comment:

Ariful Islam said...

Thanks to explore it in the New York City. Please keep some superfood chocolate for us.