Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Candle 79: Guilt-Free Dining the Vegan Way!

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'Tis the season of eating!! Now while the holidays certainly make me all giddy inside, they also pose a problem.. If I'm going to eat out (hey, a girl can't cook for herself EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!), where can I go and feel good about what I'm eating? While there are often healthy options on any menu (unless McDonald's is your restaurant of choice this holiday season), I consider the larger problem at hand to be knowing where the food came from and how it was prepared. Very few restaurants make these facts known, and sadly, many more make it even harder to come to any conclusions about the quality of the food you are being served. This is the only body I've got, and I want to take good care of it.

So where does one go when they want to be certain that they are eating well? That's easy! Candle 79.

Candle 79 is the upscale sister restaurant of the famous Candle Cafe. Candle Cafe was originally a juice bar and vitamin shop called Healthy Candle, owned by art dealer turned restaurateur Bart Potenza. In the early 90's, Bart teamed up with Joy Pierson, a nutritionist and regular customer, to transform Healthy Candle into what is now Candle Cafe, a juice bar and cafe serving soups, sandwiches, salads and entrees. And the best part of this story is that Bart and Joy played the take-five lottery and won $53,000 to help them create Candle Cafe. The cafe was such a hit that in 2003, Candle 79 opened its doors to New York's health conscious. Candle 79 is the classed up version of Candle Cafe. It's an upscale vegan restaurant with an organic wine and sake bar.

Now if you're not a vegan, don't let me lose you quite yet! On my recent trip to Candle 79, I had a proud carnivore with me, my boyfriend Adam. Adam loves meat. He makes his own pulled pork, loves creating marinades for steak and enjoys a good sausage. He was raised in the Midwest. I think it's fair to say that there aren't many vegans running around Greentown, Indiana.

Though Adam will probably always choose steak over seitan, I caught him savoring his food more than a few times while we were dining. It was clear that he was pleasantly surprised, maybe even shocked, at how good his meal was! Wait? There's no meat in this? A huge part of Candle 79's success in my opinion is that fact that their ingredients are almost completely organic, seasonal and local. When you eat there, you can rest assured that you are not consuming pesticides, chemicals or hormones. Their ingredients are of the highest quality and highest nutritional content. It doesn't get any better than that.

While we waited on a spot at the bar, our bartender Josh made sure we both had liquid entertainment in hand. Adam sipped on the Tormenta cocktail, a delicious mix of Blackwell Dark Rum, ginger, lime, agave, soda, Xocolatl mole bitters and mint on the rocks, while I chose the the Reforestation cocktail, mainly because they plant a tree for each cocktail sold (now THIS is responsible drinking). My drink was a refreshing blend of of VeeV Acai spirit, wheatagrass vodka, muddled mint, ginger-agave, lime and soda, served over ice. Our drinks were so good that we didn't even mind waiting for a seat.

Next up was an appetizer - the Grilled Seitan Chimichurri with horseradish cream and red pepper coulis. Seitan is a fancy word for wheat gluten. It makes a great substitute for meat - in this case steak - because it's incredibly tender, yet chewy. It's also a great source of protein. The seitan in this dish was cooked to perfection and it had that smoky, charred flavor that you get from the grill.

For my entree, I stuck with the theme of the night and chose the Ginger-Maple Balsamic Grilled Seitan with haricots verts, shallots, pistachios, celeriac purée and vegetable au jus. I picked the perfect dish. You see, when I am out for a nice dinner, I ALWAYS seem to crave something in the meat and potatoes realm. This dish could have fooled me. I got the taste I was craving, without the guilt. Thank you, Candle 79!

Adam's dish was just as good, if not better. He ordered the Pomegranate Chipotle-Grilled Tempeh. For those of you who aren't in the vegan loop, tempeh is fermented soybeans, often mixed with grains or rice. It has this excellent way of absorbing the flavor of whatever it's cooked in. The tempeh in this dish sat atop a bed of sweet potato gratin, sautéed Brussels sprouts and haricots verts, garnished with almonds, shallots, mole sauce and fennel salad. His dish was hearty and flavorful. All the ingredients combined in such a unique way. I found myself asking for seconds, even though I had my own amazing meal.

Though we were completely satiated, Josh insisted that we get a dessert. Eh, when at Candle 79, do as the bartender says, I guess. We chose the special, a lovely brownie sundae with fruit and nuts. This dessert would satisfy any sweet tooth. It was rich and luscious, sinful almost - the perfect way to end our meal.

Though the Upper East Side is a hike-and-a-half from my apartment, I will definitely be back - if only for that amazing looking Grilled Kale Salad that I didn't have room for this time! In all seriousness though, I'll be back because of the gracious hospitality that we were shown. Josh took excellent care of us, made us feel like we were old friends and even introduced us to the company's COO, Benay Vynerib.

I highly recommend Candle 79 to my vegan and carnivore friends alike! They care about their food, they care about their customers and they care about the environment. It's the ultimate dining trifecta!

154 East 79th St. (at Lexington Avenue)
New York, NY 10075

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1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to reader Edyta Rozborska, winner of the Candle 79 Cookbook giveaway! Many thanks to all who entered!