Join an all-star veg line-up tonight at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan at 7 pm

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Left to right: Two-time James Beard Award-winning author Karen Page (moderator); panelist Terrance Brennan; the cover of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE; panelists Amanda Cohen and Bart Potenza

After kicking off THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE‘s book tour in the Midwest, we’re happy to be home in New York City where the book is being launched tonight with what promises to be a fun and fascinating panel discussion with an all-star line-up of chefs and restaurateurs offering some of the best vegetarian and vegan dishes in America today — who are all featured in the book, and who have a whopping seven New York Times stars among them:

- Terrance Brennan, chef-owner of Picholine, which earned three stars from The New York Times;

- Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of Dirt Candy, the second veg restaurant to earn two stars from The New York Times; and

- Bart Potenza, founder and co-owner of Candle 79, the first veg restaurant to earn two stars from The New York Times. 

Looking forward to seeing you at Barnes & Noble at 150 East 86th Street (at Lexington Ave.)  in Manhattan at 7 pm tonight, Monday, October 2oth!

Candle 79 is at www.candle79.com

Dirt Candy is at www.dirtcandynyc.com

Picholine is at www.picholinenyc.com

THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE OUT TODAY

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Left: Editor Michael Sand snapped this photo of the manuscript for just Chapter 3 — so you won’t be surprised to learn that the book itself clocks in at 576 pages!  /  Right: After considering a few other options, we love the book’s final cover — fresh, yet reminiscent of its non-veg predecessor

“I’m beyond impressed — I’m blown away by this book.”
–Evan Kleiman, host of “Good Food” on KCRW, Southern California’s flagship NPR affiliate

“Clocking in at 576 pages, the epic new veg tome includes history lessons, cooking techniques, nutrition guides, recipes, and detailed flavor profiles of hundreds of plant-based foods….[An] instant classic.”
–Molly Woodstock, Portland Monthly

“Ranks hands-down as one of the most useful food books of the year.”
–BarnesAndNoble.com editors

Today — Tuesday, October 14, 2014 — marks the first official day of publication of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE.  This book is a labor of love that has occupied our affections for the past several years — Karen as its researcher and author, and Andrew as its photographer (and behind-the-scenes research chef).

Our research for this book was thorough — arguably very thorough — and yet we find that we’re still learning new things every single day since Karen submitted the book’s final manuscript.  Our latest discoveries will make their way onto this blog and into future books.

Part of our research involved changing to a “99% vegetarian” diet as of May 2012.  We still aren’t crazy about labels like “vegetarian” and “vegan,” but for all intents and purposes, we’re eating vegetarian every day now (and vegan at home, plus much of the time away from home).

We’re thrilled about this book’s publication, about which some very well-respected authors, chefs, journalists, and other experts have already been saying and writing some very nice things.

Truth be told, we already knew in our hearts the first time we held it in our arms that it was the best book we’d ever created.

We hope you enjoy it, too.

 

P.S. We are forever grateful to everyone on the extended Little, Brown team — with special, heartfelt thanks to editor Michael Sand — who shared our passion for this book and for making it as good, true, and beautiful as possible, and who offered moral and/or other support along the way, including Reagan Arthur, Judy Clain, Meghan Deans, Nicole Dewey, Heather Fain, Peggy Freudenthal, Cathy Gruhn, Keith Hayes, Denise LaCongo, Garrett McGrath, Michael Pietsch, Amelia Possanza, Kathryn Rogers, Andrea Shallcross, Rebecca Westall, and Jean Wilcox.

Karen Page appears on “The Dr. Oz Show”

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Karen was interviewed by Dr. Mehmet Oz on “The Dr. Oz Show” airing this afternoon, in a segment on ordering healthfully from mainstream restaurant menus (highlights of which can be viewed here).

Dr. Oz added that viewers can visit the show’s website to read an excerpt from THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE.

Karen’s segment is said to be scheduled to run again on Monday, October 13th, in case you missed today’s show.

PICHOLINE: One of America’s Best Vegetarian Tasting Menus

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Having had the pleasure and privilege of experiencing some of America’s best vegetarian (and even vegan) tasting menus in recent years while researching THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE (Little, Brown; October 14, 2014) and beyond — including at Blue Hill, Camden Harbour Inn, DANIEL, Eleven Madison Park, the Inn at Little Washington, Komi, Melisse, Oleana, Per Se, Topolobampo, and elsewhere — we have been happy to discover one of our very favorites at an unexpected restaurant.

Chef Terrance Brennan‘s Picholine, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, has been one of the beloved restaurants where we’ve celebrated a number of anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Days, and even weddings (including that of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and his “CBS This Morning” legal analyst wife Rikki Klieman) for nearly as long.  But as we’d always thought of it as our place to go for the meaty signature dishes such as salmon + cucumber + horseradish, wild mushroom and duck risotto, and especially wild game for which it has long been famed, we frankly shied away from the restaurant when we changed our diet.

As we’ve been eating 99% vegetarian since May 2012, when we got around to checking out Picholine’s vegetarian menu, we were floored.  First of all, Picholine has an entirely separate vegetarian menu, with options for a three-course prix fixe ($88), a five-course tasting ($105), and an eight-course tasting ($145), on which many dishes can be made vegan if they aren’t already.  But after tasting our way through each, we wondered:  How could such a kitchen demonstrate even more finesse when it comes to plant-driven dishes?

We’ve experienced Picholine’s vegetarian tasting menu more than a half-dozen times, and feel comfortable declaring that it’s not only one of New York City’s best, but one of America’s best.  Here’s a taste of the vegetarian tasting menu we experienced last weekend:

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We kicked off our evening with glasses of Ayala Rose Champagne, which accompanied the evening’s amuses-bouches:  the first, a melon duet whose flavors spanned Mexico (Santa Claus melon enhanced with chile and lime) and Thailand (a honeydew melon soup accented by cilantro oil, ginger, and lemongrass); and the second a concoction of hummus on brioche with a quail egg and chickpea sprouts served in a tiny skillet that was  decadently, richly delicious.

Deep-fried bites of Manchego cheese tempura, accented with sorrel and served on sticks, were followed by a a bread selection that features picholine olive rolls, sourdough bread, and multigrain bread both substantial enough to taste healthful yet light enough to be appropriate for fine dining.

Perhaps Karen’s all-time favorite dish is Terrance Brennan’s extraordinary white gazpacho, which has always been rich and creamy even though it is dairyfree (with its creaminess supplied by almond milk).  A summer dish, we savored one of its last appearances of the season.

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A hollowed-out eggshell housed just two to three rich and decadent bites of soft scrambled eggs mousseline with potato and white truffle.  Brennan later explained that the eggs are first sous vide, then put through an ISO  canister, which is what gives them the creamy texture of pommes puree.

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One of the best, and most surprising, food and wine pairings of the night presented itself just after we were served sheepsmilk ricotta agnolotti with heirloom summer squash served with a raw tomato vinaigrette accented by basil and pine nuts.  Typically, tomato sauce says “red” to most people (whether Chianti or a less-traditional red), but Picholine’s sommelier Nicolas Rouet proved yet again that raw tomato’s “green” notes can be enhanced by a white wine — in this case, a glass of Yves Cuilleron Viognier.

We were worried to see the next dish arrive at our table because we mistook it by eye for fish with a crispy crust — but it was in fact lettuces en croute, whose unusual flavors, temperatures, and textures for these ingredients were even more satisfying.

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We were delighted that Terrance Brennan stopped by to personally deliver the next dish, which featured cauliflower three ways — roasted, sous-vide, and pureed (thinned to the texture of a cream sauce) — served with dates and preserved lemon, and accented by dukkah, harissa, and mint.  (In retrospect, that probably should have tipped us off that it was a dish of which Brennan was particularly proud.)  Upon his first tastes, Andrew declared it to be, “One of the best cauliflower dishes of my life…” while Karen simply oohed and ahhed her way through it before writing in her notes, “This dish takes you on a magic carpet ride….I will never forget it!”

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Nicolas poured glasses of Louis Jadot Pinot Noir to accompany our dish made of celery root that had been baked in a salt crust (which was presented ceremoniously at our table, before the dish was finished in the kitchen), which turned out to be celery root “gluten-free ravioli” (made from thin slices of celery root), which were stuffed with wild mushrooms and topped with trumpet royale mushrooms  and mushroom “Bordelaise” sauce, garnished with a few julienned apple slices from the Lincoln Center farmers market just a few blocks away.

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On Picholine’s menu, this dish is simply listed as “Grilled and Smoked Eggplant:  ‘Chinoise Flavors,’ Tapioca,” which never would have encouraged us to order it.  Thank God it was part of the tasting menu, for how sad we’d have been to have missed the unveiling of this wondrous combination of flavors and textures that satisfied us in the way we formerly turned to dishes like braised short ribs to achieve.

Enhanced by crunchy nori tempura, this dish completed our around-the-world journey that had taken us seamlessly during a single meal through the flavors of France, Italy, Mexico, the Middle East, Morocco, Spain, Thailand, and the United States.

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We were so full at that point that we’d momentarily considered passing on dessert, but as members of the fan club of pastry chef Daniel Kleinhandler‘s desserts (whose members also include The New York Times and SeriousEats.com), we knew better.  Sometimes drawing on classic pairings such as figs + Roquefort and other times showcasing the sweetness of savory ingredients (after all, it’s called “sweet corn” for a reason) with textural variations (from spongy to crumbly), he pushed our buttons during this visit by pairing peaches with fresh tomatoes.  Damned if he didn’t pull it off.

Picholine is at 35 West 64th Street (between Broadway and Central Park West), in Manhattan.  The restaurant has a cozy private wine room seating up to 8 guests, and a larger private room for cocktail parties or seated events serving up to 22 guests.  212.724.8585.  Web:  picholinenyc.com

IFBC 2014: Vegetarianism Goes Mainstream

“Looking for next big food trend?  Vegetables vegetables vegetables….Vegetarians everywhere! We’re totally not in the south anymore!”

—South Carolina blogger Nichole Livengood @gapcreekgourmet

“Amazing keynote speakers @KarenAndAndrew thank you for bringing plant based trends to the forefront!  Made my day!!”

—San Diego blogger Kim Kelly @LivLifeToo

We loved keynoting this past weekend’s International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Seattle, which gathered more than 400 food bloggers representing 30 different states and four countries for some intensive talks and tastings and trading of business cards.

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Keynote slide that seemed to sum up IFBC weekend: Vegetarianism is now mainstream

When organizer Sheri Wetherell contacted us a few months ago with an invitation to deliver the IFBC keynote address, we were delighted.  But as September 20th drew nearer, we were frankly uncertain how our new enthusiasm for plant-strong eating would be perceived and received.

Not that we had much choice in the matter:  Another theme we planned to touch on was the importance of living an authentic life.  After eating a 99-percent meatfree diet since May 2012, there’s really no way we could have avoided the topic, so we decided to be upfront about it.

Our concern turned out to be misplaced, and we should have taken more comfort in the fact that the numbers don’t lie.  As we shared during our keynote: Despite spending so many years on the margins, vegetarianism is now mainstream, with 54% of Americans either vegan (2%), vegetarian (5%), or semi-vegetarian (as in actively seeking to reduce their consumption of meat, or 47%). Continue reading…

Balvanera: One of New York City’s Best New Restaurants of 2014

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“Balvanera takes its name from a historic ‘barrio’, or neighborhood, of Buenos Aires where poets, musicians, and creatives once convened.”

—from Balvanera’s website

Our second visit in as many months has already convinced us that six-week-old Balvanera is one of the very best new informal restaurants to open in Manhattan this year.  It’s not likely that our remarkable dinners here, during which we cumulatively ate our way through half the menu, could have been a fluke.  Certainly not with Gael Greene’s and other raves creating the kind of insider buzz that is bringing in chefs like Aldea’s George Mendes to check out the simple but passionate cooking of chef-owner Fernando Navas, an alum of the kitchens at elBulli, Nobu, and Samba Brands Management (of Sushi Samba fame).

And yet there were several tables open last night when we left the restaurant after an early dinner.  Our theory?  It’s partly the same reason we thought we’d never even bother visiting Balvanera: We’d read in Laura Catena’s wonderful book Vino Argentino (2010) that the typical portion size at an Argentine meal is 16 ounces(!) of meat per person.  (Woof!)  And with Americans having decreased their per-capita meat consumption over the past five years  (with future declines predicted), meat-driven cuisines appear to be declining in popularity in turn.  We certainly weren’t interested in checking out what we’d mistakenly thought might be “yet another steak joint.”

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Meredith Boyle and chef-owner Fernando Navas at Balvanera

But while the flavor influences at Balvanera may be Argentinian, the spirit and execution here are lighter and definitely more produce-driven (with several vegetarian options), perhaps “more reflective of women’s sensibility,” suggests the restaurant’s very masculine chef-owner Navas, whose girlfriend Meredith Boyle brings gracious hospitality to the front of the house several nights a week. “We are proud of all of our dishes here, but especially the variety of vegetable-based dishes we offer,” he says.

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Left: Empanadas Caseras / Center: Papas Rotas / Right: A Chocolate Dream

Continue reading…

Pizza at Marta Crackles with Flavor

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The secret's in the sawdust (laced with dried herbs), which helps fire Marta's pizza ovens via a century-old tradition

The secret’s in the sawdust (laced with dried herbs), which helps fire Marta’s pizza ovens via a century-old tradition

Danny Meyer & Company’s latest addition to the Union Square Hospitality Group Marta has been on our radar since the day it was announced, but with pressing deadlines through yesterday, we weren’t able to attempt to make it into the three-day-old restaurant until today.  Our initial idea of getting there at noon today wasn’t working out, so — not finding an open table on OpenTable.com — Karen called shortly after noon (when the hotel transferred her to the restaurant) to make sure the restaurant would be taking walk-ins, and was assured Marta was.  She also asked about the somewhat confusing language on the website that “*The kitchen will only offer Pizza from 3:30 – 4:30 pm.”  We definitely wanted pizza, so did that mean we had to get there during that one-hour window?  No, she was told, but if we wanted to eat during that one-hour window, all we’d be able to order would be pizza.  Got it — thanks so much.

Despite the torrential downpour that was in full force in Manhattan this afternoon at 3 pm, we managed to make our way to Marta before 3:30 pm — when we were stunned to be told that the restaurant wasn’t serving any food at that time, pizza or otherwise.  “But we called…” we protested.  “Not sure who gave you that information…” the restaurant replied.  One person after another asked the next up in the Marta hierarchy who continued the denials, until one asked if we wished to speak to the restaurant’s general manager.  We did, and sat down in comfortable seats to wait.  Finally, we were told that we would be able to order pizza, and that the restaurant was glad that they’d be able to serve us.  We were glad, too.

MartaCollage09132014 Continue reading…