If someone were to ask me that most famous of foodie pop quiz questions—what would you eat for your last meal?—the answer would be ridiculously easy. A big, nutrient dense salad. I love salad. I love salad so much, it’s embarrassing. I don’t mean tiny, gourmet, appetizer sized plates of mesclun greens, a carefully prepared vegetable or two, and some vinaigrette. I mean big, hearty, generous bowls of greens and vegetables, mixed in with plant based proteins and carbs, all united by delicious and filling dressings, slabs of creamy avocado, or crunchy seeds. I’m sure I do have some sort of saturation point when it comes to salad, but if I do, I’ve never come close. I could eat it (and do eat it) again, and again, and again.
New York is a mecca of vegan and raw dining. There are dedicated eateries aplenty, and there are also countless vegan friendly eateries to explore. I do explore them, and I love trying new dishes, but the honest truth is that I often look forward to salad more than any other kind of dining experience when I come here, because the places that do salad do it so ridiculously well. Quintessence, Pure Food and Wine, Peacefood, and Angelica Kitchen? These are only a few of the places where you can find creative, satisfying, and beautiful bowls of green.
In the last few days, I’ve been lucky enough to eat at two of those places (Quintessence and Pure), and also to sample a new place, Ella Café, which is not a dedicated vegan or raw restaurant, nor even a salad joint, but did serve up a wonderful salad notwithstanding. I’ve been drowning in green, and that’s just where I like to be.
It all started on my second day home, when I met up with my friend Rose for dinner. I’ve written about Rose before; she’s a publishing friend, and we share the deep bond that comes with having experienced a particularly intense period of our lives together (22-26—such turbulent, important, alternately wonderful and terrifying years!). I love spending time with her, and had looked forward to dinner for weeks. I met Rose in Williamsburg, where she suggested we eat at Ella Café, a casual spot with a really nice garden area. I started my meal with a carrot, beet, celery, and pear juice:
And then ordered the avocado salad (avocado, apples, dried cranberries, greens). I had been torn between that and the lentil salad, which was apparently on the small side, so I asked if they could add lentils to the avo salad. They could! Important lesson for salad lovers: if the salad you’re eyeing looks kind of small, ask if something can be added to make it more filling. Restaurants are usually really kind about this.
I also got sides of grilled zucchini and asparagus. Both were delicious!
It was a fantastic meal, both because the food was lovely (and 100% organic, too), but more importantly because it was so good to see Rose. I miss working down the hall from her in the old FSG building on Union Square; it seems like such a luxury to have ever had her that close!
The next day, I met up with another very cherished friend: JL. You’ve all been witness to the love affair that is JL and Gena. JL and I can share anything and everything with each other, from the hilarious to the serious. I admire how JL has reinvented her career and her life in dramatic ways in the last few years, and I so admire her work as an animal activist. She’s tireless, honest, passionate, and dynamic. In short, she’s a powerhouse, and she’s also an exceptional friend.
A friend who just so happened to have a Groupon to Quintessence! Quintessence is one of my favorite NYC eateries, but I rarely go there (mostly because it’s a little off the beaten path). I was so happy to get back. I got my two favorite dishes there. First, the “Peter’s Pot” soup (Blended tomato, yellow pepper, and cucumber soup, enriched with dulse, basil and a dash of propolis (NB: propolis is a bee product, so ask them to hold it, if you’re vegan)). Raw restaurants always know how to do raw soups perfectly, and this is no exception.
Then, a “Buddha Bowl” with kale, greens, spiralized zucchini, dehydrator “caremelized onions,” hemp seeds, avocado, red pepper, and the house dressing (which is magical, and I wish I knew the recipe!). Talk about an incredible salad!
JL got the three course prefix, starting with mock tuna salad, then a spaghetti with raw meatballs:
And we both split the dessert, which was an incredible pudding parfait with mango and strawberry. The vanilla layer had a young coconut base, I was sure. Yum!!
And finally, only 24 hours later, I shared lunch with my friends from Food 52 at One Lucky Duck. Once again, though presented with a lot of wonderful raw and vegan options, I really wanted one of OLD’s salads. Because if any place knows how to do a salad right, it’s this one:
Just look at that mountain! Greens, hemp seeds, guacamole, beet, carrot, jicama, lemon, avocado. And some fresh (amazing) coconut water, too.
It’s amazing how often you can eat a certain kind of food without losing your taste for it. When it comes to me and greens (and a little hempseed and avocado thrown in for good measure), it’s a lifelong love affair!
Before I go tonight, I just want to thank you all for your kind words on yesterday’s post. I’ve gotten used to sharing a lot of myself on this blog, but it occurs to me that this is only possible because I feel so much warmth and support from the community we’ve all created here at CR. See you all tomorrow.