Meat Free Monday – Raw Enthusiasm In NYC
We are delighted to welcome back our friends Robin and Jenny Littman from Resource-Me which aims to reconnect you with sources of well being through raw food, workshops, retreats and therapies. You can find out more about their events on their Facebook page or via their website.
A business trip to New York provided my husband Robin and I with a great opportunity to check out how the new wave of ‘raw food’ is affecting the vibrant restaurant scene in the Big Apple. And we certainly took a big bite! There are at least seven raw food restaurants in Manhattan, plus a range of delis and ‘hubs’, along with organic juice bars and take away salads galore. People tend to keep a ‘raw tendency’ to themselves in the UK, unless among friends, as it can make you seem weird or wacky. We were delighted to find that raw is pretty hip in NYC, and kept encountering enthusiasts in unexpected places, like the Polish waitress in the hotel cocktail bar! And we were lucky enough to not just meet but take part in a workshop by one of the movement’s originals.
We managed to eat out at three of the restaurants, and all of them were superb. We started with Quintessence in East Village (263 E 10th St), a cosy intimate space with pink salt rock candle holders on the nine tables. They have introduced a few cooked dishes to cater for those whose digestive health may not cope with raw, but apart from that are fully raw vegan. We loved the ravioli combo where paper thin turnips served as the ‘pasta’ filled with sundried tomato and basil sauce, and the ‘tacos’ – flax seed and corn tortillas served with cashew cheese, mock ‘refried beans’, guacamole and guajillo chili sauce. All the sauces were delicious. My ‘Happy Fish Burger’ was fishy from seaweed, and served with a nut-based version of ‘tartare sauce’, coleslaw, dill pickles, and softly chewy squash coconut ‘bread’. We shared the dessert combo with a choice of four small portions of coco banana pie, Pecan pie, Tiramisu, and choc mint icecream – all non dairy, and completely melt-in-the-mouth.
The following night, we headed to RawLicious in Soho (249 Centre St). It is new, spacious and beautiful, definitely ‘upscale’ and with food to match. It is actually the latest of a chain whose flagship is in Toronto. I could happily have all my meals here. And we ‘lucked out’ in that, on the evening we went, there was also a workshop by Aris Latham. Looking like an Indian guru, with deep set eyes and fluffy white beard, but neatly coiled dreads betraying his Jamaican origins, Aris has been raw – mainly fruitarian – for 37 years now. At 66, he looks in great shape, and is a mine of information. So much so, he will be the subject of another blog. Suffice to say, the six course dinner of a light green juice, gazpacho, nori rolls, house salad with tangy lemon dressing, choice of entrée (we had Pad Thai and Taco Wrap), and Fudge Brownie Sundae, was all to die for! Or rather, live for ever for!
Aris does not like to use the term ‘raw’. He says that all his foods are cooked to perfection – by the sun! He has coined the term ‘sun-fired’ (a development of ‘un-fired’) which seems totally apt. Among the bunch of fascinating people we met there, his assistant Shivani Aluwalia is hosting ‘Sound Food’ sessions with him – definitely worth checking out if you are in NY on 30 May or 15 September. And we met Rynn Berry, the author of ‘The Vegan Guide to New York’, which includes all the raw and vegan places and resources, so we are now well equipped for our next visit (see www.veganguidetonyc.com).
On our last night, we treated ourselves to the most upscale of them all, Pure Food and Wine (54 Irving Place). We had a table on the large open patio at the rear which was welcome – it was actually a very hot day, unlike chilly England, although dangerous thunder storms were circling inland. The place was buzzing! No sign of be-sandalled old hippies here, it was all bright young upcoming people. The waiter said that they are doing as much business here on a Monday and Tuesday night as they used to do at the weekend.
Next to us, a man kept talking loudly about how much he loves his steaks, and we were tempted to talk even louder about how delicious the food we were being served was. As it turned out, however, we were introduced to his daughter in their party, and she runs her own raw food website, so we didn’t need to add to the pressure he was obviously under! The motto of the restaurant is ‘Handcrafted flavours that rejuvenate the body, mind and planet’. This was real gourmet raw food. We started with ‘Hazelnut and Ale Crostini with Porcini Mascarpone, drunken figs, lemon balm and fig balsamic’. Need I say more? The only issue was that with about 130 covers to serve, and everything being prepared fresh, there was something of a wait between courses. During which we made the mistake of quaffing some very nice Sauvignon Blanc. Which has rather obscured my memory of what came next! I do know it was divine and included salsify noodles and watermelon radish crisps. And the dessert was unforgettable, cardamom spice layer cake with Rhubarb Angelica compote with blackberry lavender icecream… mmm!! Despite such feasting, we felt neither bloated nor over-indulged (except perhaps in the wine department!) However, we share Aris’s view that for health and everyday living, simplicity is best, so we are sharing a recipe similar to that which he used on the workshop:
Easy Nori Rolls
Make some cashew cheese:
- Half a cup of cashews (soaked for 2 hours)
- 1 tbsp miso
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp tamari
- I tbsp dried herbs of choice
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender. Add water until it becomes a thick paste. (This keeps in the fridge for a week or so, and can be used in wraps, on crackers, etc)
- 1 avocado
- Julienned vegetable sticks ( red pepper, carrot, cucumber, spring onions)
- 50g of grated butternut squash
- Nori seaweed sheets
- A handful of sprouted seeds
- 1tsp of tahini paste
- 1 tsp of tamari
Make a couple of handfuls of julienned vegetable sticks (about two inches long): choose a selection from red pepper, carrot, cucumber, spring onions. Mash a ripe avocado. Or grate some butternut squash.Take a nori sheet and place on a sushi mat, with the bamboo running horizontal to you. Leaving an inch from the sides of the nori, spread the cashew cheese onto to the nori. Spread the avocado mash over that. Then lay the veg sticks down the centre, along the line of the mat. Finally, top with some sprouted seeds – alfalfa or broccoli, whatever you have sprouted. Carefully lift up the edge of the mat nearest you, and fold over the sheet, then pull the edge back towards you, creating a roll. Leave the bottom edge of the nori sheet free. When you have shaped a nice roll, remove the mat, roll to the edge and stick it down with a little tahini. Then you just slice the roll into three of four sections and stand them up on their ends. Serve with a little tamari.
**** New Course Announcement London and Somerset ****
‘The Busy Person’s Guide to a Living Food Lifestyle’ will be on Sunday 11 August in Broomfield in Somerset, and 7th September in Covent Garden, London WC2. Details on www.resource-me.com