April 30, 2010

Pure Food and Wine - New York City's Top Raw Food Experience!

I had the great privilege of eating dinner at Pure Food and Wine this week. The restaurant is just south of Gramercy Park and east of Union Square in the East Village. For anyone interested in gourmet food, this place is a must do. I don't care if you are vegan, vegetarian or a full on carnivore, if you love delicious food, beautifully presented in a cool environment, you really should stop by when you are next in NYC!

I was a little to surprised to see the location is actually in a basement space, as you have to go down some steps to enter the restaurant. There is a tiny patio at the front and even though it was a bit nippy out, there were some people sitting there, enjoying a drink and leaning back on the big, puffy red cushions. I was a little disappointed not to be able to dine al fresco on the back terrace, as it looked quite magical, with twinkling fairy lights all around, and is apparently one of the best patios in New York City.

The ambiance in Pure Food and Wine is very elegant, with glowing tea lights, dark wood and padded red chairs - although mine was rather wobbly, so I think it is time to take a look at refreshing the decor. The bathroom toiletries featured Mrs. Meyer's citrus scented soap. I was a little confused about which room to use as there was just a photo of a cow on the door and it was only on exiting that I figured out I had used the men's room - duh, BOY cows have horns. A lot of the tables, including ours, were in quite close quarters. If I had known, I would have reserved one of the booths along the wall where two people sit at an angle, as that looked a little less claustrophobic. The up side of being seated close to other diners is surreptitiously checking out their plates to see if you made the best menu choice! The restaurant is clearly very popular, as we were there on a Wednesday evening and it was packed, so reservations are probably a good idea.

We decided to share a bottle of organic Cabernet Sauvignon that was very nice, quite dry. I am not much of a drinker, so my significant other ended up having a very nice time indeed! There are also some intriguing cocktails on the menu, including a Master Cleanse Tini, which consists of maple syrup, lemon, cayenne pepper and sake.

The menu is divided into three courses, appetizer, main and desert. There is also a tasting menu for $69, but we were feeling choosy and decided to order from the menu. There was a young woman from Japan seated next to us who had the tasting menu and she said everything was perfection - it certainly looked good, I couldn't help sneaking a peak now and then. One of her courses was a beet soup and she also had a nice salad with raspberries as a garnish.

I was so disappointed that we somehow forgot the camera at the hotel, which is a real shame as this food is as much art as sustenance. I decided not to let it ruin the evening. The arrangements, colors and textures are truly beautiful, so you will just have to see for yourself someday!

We chose two different apps so we could sample more items. My favorite was the hazelnut crostinis. These creamy and crunchy delights consisted of a crispy cracker with caper bearnaise, caraway sauerkraut and garnish of crimini mushrooms. The three pieces sat on a swirl of sticky sweet apple cider reduction. So yummy!

We also had the nori rolls, which were supposed to contain Kim-Chee, Dr. Cow Creamy Tree Nut Cheese, watercress, baby bok choi, hijiki seaweed, avocado and scallions; however, I didn't taste any avocado and there seemed to be some other stuff in there I couldn't identify. The nori rolls were served with the usual dipping sauce of soy, pickled ginger and some super strong wasabi.

Next we partook of a tri-color beet ravioli, consisting of super thinly sliced beet stuffed with a delicious golden raisin and pistachio cheese. The plate was garnished with mint pistou, curry roasted cauliflower, harissa spiced candied cashew (oh, baby, so good) and chili oil.

The other main course was Drunken salsify noodles in a spicy almond buter sake sauce with chili marinated king oyster mushroom scallops (basically the stem), baby bok choi and almond crumble as a topping. I was a little underwhelmed by this one, as it was a little too spicy and not as picturesque as the other plates. The salsify noodles were crunchy and quite neutral in flavor, so I think it is a good choice for a raw noodle, but the dish really seems more like a salad than a noodle dish. I noticed someone at the next table having some croquettes that looked really good and were served with a big pile of greens.

Even though the savory dishes were amazing, I have to say, the desert menu was absolutely breathtaking. I am so irritated that I can't show you a picture! My choice was a Passionfruit Tart that is probably one of the best combinations of flavors I could have come up with for a desert - tart passionfruit curd in a crunchy chocolate crust with fresh raspberries, framboise pearls (little berry-like orbs with a firm, jelly consistency), vanilla cream and a tiny scoop of chocolate nib ice cream with some chocolate sauce drizzled underneath. Pure heaven!

Overall, a really great experience and the best thing about Pure Food and Wine is how wonderful you feel walking out - satisfied but not weighed down!

April 7, 2010

Spring is Here!


Spring seems to have sprung here in southern Ontario. We really have had an unusually mild winter this year, so this comes as a nice surprise. This past weekend, the weather was positively balmy. If I didn't know better, I could have sworn it was August!

It is a bit rainy today, however, so Centennial Park Conservatory in Etobicoke is great to visit if you would like to get a jump on seeing some beautiful spring flowers. This special place will leave you feeling calm and relaxed after even a brief visit. It is so soothing to view the colorful plants, birds and fish, listen to the trickle of the water and enjoy the sweet, fresh smell of the warm air.

There is a large white bird who has his own cage. He is really funny, often cawing loudly and jumping up and down for attention.

Toronto has another similar conservatory downtown (Allan Gardens) which I am sure is just as delightful.

April 6, 2010

Quick and Easy Chili Bean Stew
















Quick and Easy Chili Bean Stew

2 T. coconut oil
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 small onions, chopped
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, cubed
3 medium carrots, grated
3 cups of water or vegetable stock
4 540 ml (19 oz) cans of beans (I used pinto and black beans)
796 ml can organic tomatoes (that is a large can, about 28 oz in metric) or about 6 medium size fresh tomatoes, preferably with skin removed and roughly chopped (you may need to add more water than specified if you use fresh tomatoes)
1 tsp. roasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 tsp. tamari soy sauce

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chili powder, curry powder and red pepper flakes and cook a minute or two. Stir in the chopped onions and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced celery, chopped red pepper, grated carrots and 2 cups of vegetable stock or water. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour in your drained and rinsed beans plus 1 cup of water - use your judgment here, you may need to add more or less. I used 2 quart jars of leftover beans I had previously soaked and cooked myself and included the liquid, but if you don't have these on hand a quick solution is to use canned but it is very important to drain and rinse these before using. Also, add the can of tomatoes and chop them in the pot with the side of a spoon (or add your freshly chopped raw tomatoes). At this time of year I find good quality canned tomatoes have more flavor than fresh. Heat through for about 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings - sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and tamari soy sauce, and simmer another 5 minutes or so.

Enjoy! Delicious and nutritious, full of protein and fibre and so quick and easy to prepare!

I like to serve this garnished with sliced avocado and chopped fresh green onion and maybe a whole grain cracker or bread on the side. You may also like a grind of fresh pepper and some celtic sea salt.

Note: You can use any type of beans you have on hand or whatever you prefer. Using more than one variety will improve the amino acid profile for protein quality.
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