Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Candle 79 Lights Up My Life!

I love food. I also love going out to eat. Years ago, I was thrilled when a friend told me that “dining out” was a hobby … a hobby! Can you believe it! It made it sound so much more important and meaningful.

Being a healthful vegan hasn’t changed my love of food or restaurants. If anything, my love has flourished.

As I wrote in an earlier post, following Thanksgiving, Matt, Sienna and I stayed overnight in Manhattan. For us, a visit to the Big Apple always means a visit to Candle 79. The restaurant takes my breath away. It’s every vegan’s paradise! 

Though the menu is small, I still find myself overwhelmed because I want one of everything. The appetizers are ridiculous, from Vegetable Nori Rolls and Butternut Squash Ravioli with garlic spinach, crispy capers and cashew cream, to Steamed Dumplings with seitan, shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy in sesame-ginger soy sauce.

Matt and I chose the dumplings and Angel’s Nachos, which were prepared with corn chips, “mozzarella,” tomatoes, guacamole, refried pinto beans, chili-grilled seitan, salsa, tofu sour cream and romaine lettuce. What I loved about the nachos was that the corn chips were limited (to about 10). Corn chips are a huge vice for me. I can eat a whole bag, so limiting them is a good thing, plus it allows me to redirect my attention to the foods that count and really experience the full flavors of the dish. Both appetizers exceeded our very high expectations.

For our entrees, Sienna enjoyed the Spaghetti with Wheat Balls in truffled tomato sauce, roasted garlic, spinach and cashew parmesan. My friends will tell you that I have never been a fan of the meat version. But this impressed … so much so that I can’t wait to duplicate it at home (thanks to my copy of the Candle 79 Cookbook). I would put this up against the traditional “Spaghetti with Meatballs” any day of the week. Sienna raved about it, even to her brothers the next day.

Since I’m a huge fan of tempeh, it came as no surprise that I chose the Pomegranate Chipotle-Grilled Tempeh with sweet potato gratin, sautéed brussels sprouts & haricots verts, almonds, shallots, mole sauce and fennel salad. The presentation was beautiful and the dish satisfied but I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not tried Sienna's and Matt’s entree. One taste of both and I couldn’t get them off my mind.

By far, the bomb of the evening was Matt’s pick … Seitan Piccata with creamed spinach, grilled potato cake and oyster mushrooms in a lemon-caper sauce. My taste buds were doing back flips and I have thought about this dish non-stop since we left. It was perfect. He and I actually swapped our plates half-way through our meal. I think he felt badly watching me salivate from across the table.

For a side, we ordered Polenta Fries, which never disappoint. Sienna freaked over them.

As for dessert, Matt had the Homemade Ice Cream and Sorbet Sampler, while Sienna and I lost our minds over a Chocolate Chip Cannoli with a small scoop of ice cream each (I had coconut, she had French vanilla).

Every single course was out of this world. Is it any wonder we went back for brunch the very next day?

I think Michael J. Fox sums up Candle 79 perfectly. “You can look at it as ‘eating healthy;’ we think of it as ‘eating happy.’ In a fast-paced, fast-food world, Candle 79 offers an oasis where delicious food nourishes the body and a warm caring spirit nourishes the soul -- and try the Seitan Picatta. It’s incredible.”

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