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%).

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Most Americans’ diet = SAD indeed — mostly processed foods and animal foods

But vegetarian and vegan diets do not always equal healthy diets, as we discussed in our keynote, too, when mentioning the importance of avoiding processed foods (which comprise the majority of the Standard American Diet) and embracing the kind of whole-foods, plant-based diet recommended by experts such as T. Colin Campbell, author of the million-copy bestseller The China Study and Whole.  THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE indicates many foods’ nutritional density to help guide readers toward the most nutrient dense (coded with dark green and green dots) and the least nutrient dense (coded with red and orange dots) ingredients when cooking and planning a menu.

We kicked off our talk by sharing some of the trials and tribulations of our journey to becoming published authors, which included having our ideas rejected time and time again by agents and editors alike (and btw showing actual clips from a number of our rejection letters!), yet somehow finding the perseverance through the years to get to that one, all-important YES.

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As cliched as it may sound, it was a genuine pleasure to get to meet so many wonderful people throughout the conference weekend, with too many highlights to single any out.  OK, we have to single out our warm and welcoming conference organizer extraordinaire Sheri Wetherell, her other half Barnaby Dorfman, and Zephyr Adventures’s Allan Wright

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….as well as the very lovely Elise Bauer of SimplyRecipes.com, whom we knew only via email exchanges (and her kind review of THE FLAVOR BIBLE as “a godsend”), but who very thoughtfully sought us out to say hello just after we left the stage!

And we also have to thank all of the bloggers who were Tweeting and Facebooking and Instagramming up a storm all weekend long, e.g.

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BTW, special thanks to Little, Brown for making arrangements to share credit card-sized cards providing a sneak peek at the eBook for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE via BookShout.com, which proved an exciting surprise to a number of fans of THE FLAVOR BIBLE in the crowd:

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We’ll have more to share soon, but in the meantime have to get ready for another wonderful annual event:  tonight’s 11th annual SHARE benefit “A Second Helping of Life” being held at Pier 60 in New York City starting at 6 pm, where we’ll hope to see you!

The next International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) will be held September 18-20, 2015, at the Sheraton in Seattle.  To register, visit foodista.com/ifbc.

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.

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Savoring Indian Summer at the Union Square Greenmarket

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“The perfect weather of Indian Summer lengthened and lingered, warm sunny days were followed by brisk nights with Halloween a presentiment in the air.”

—Wallace Stegner, Remembering Laughter

Indian summer is a magical time of year for food lovers. Is it summer? Autumn? Summer? Autumn? While you can still find the peak of season’s corn and tomatoes, sometimes right alongside them you’ll already spy the first of fall’s apples and squashes.

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Upper left: Richard Giles of Lucky Dog Farms Lower right: Farmer James Van Houten

The Union Square Greenmarket has kept us happy with naturally sweet and juicy peaches, plums, and berries all summer long. But despite the fact that Labor Day has come and gone, summer’s not over yet! And in fact, NOW is when the market is reaching its annual peak, as you can see from the images in this post which Andrew shot there this morning between 9 and 10 am.

We hope all New Yorkers will treat themselves by paying a visit this month.

Union Square Greenmarket is located at 16th Street between Park Avenue South and Broadway, and open from 8 am to 6 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. www.grownyc.org

Note:  We’ll be signing copies of our new book THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday, October 18th from 11 am – 2 pm, and hope to see you there!

Our new website KarenAndAndrew.com goes live Sept. 12, 2014

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Left: Rachel Cunliffe / Center: Our new website upon its launch / Right: Stephen Merriman

Welcome to Day One of our new website at KarenAndAndrew.com being live!

Credit for this beautiful creation goes to the gifted sister-and-brother team of Rachel Cunliffe (above, left) and Stephen Merriman (above, right) of Cre8d Design, who worked tirelessly on its creation until we were not only pleased but ecstatic.

We’re thrilled to have a forum where we can be in closer touch with our readers across North America and around the globe, and look forward to your active participation.

So take a look around at what Rachel and Stephen have created for us, read about some of our latest flavorful adventures, and let us know what’s on your mind by posting a comment.  We’ll look forward to responding to as many as we can!

Delicious wishes,
Karen & Andrew

Celebrating anniversaries (ours and theirs!) at Gotham Bar & Grill

Two weeks ago today, we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary (and, btw, the 22nd anniversary of signing our first book deal) at Gotham Bar & Grill, slipping in just days before the restaurant retired its summer Greenmarket vegetarian tasting menu. Gotham Anniversary Collage After surprising us with a welcome glass of Lantieri Franciacorta rose we’d actually been craving ever since our last visit to the restaurant at lunch in May, wine director Heidi Turzyn paired our courses with a succession of lovely wines. They included glasses of master sommelier Christopher Bates’ alluring Element Winery Cabernet Franc to accompany the mushroom course below – which proved a perfect pairing.

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SWEET CORN BALANCES MUSHROOMS + HAZELNUTS’ EARTHINESS

We loved how successfully Gotham integrated vegetables into the dessert course, expanding our fandom of the concept way beyond carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potato.

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DESSERT OFFSETS BITTERNESS OF DARK CHOCOLATE + ARUGULA WITH BEETS

Gotham Bar & Grill is celebrating its anniversary, too – its 30th, in fact, which we found inconceivable given that the restaurant is looking, tasting, and feeling better than ever. Now if only we could convince chef-owner Alfred Portale to bring back the Greenmarket vegetarian tasting menu and give it a permanent spot on the dinner menu….It’s so impressive, we’d expect it would be bringing in customers for three decades to come. Continue reading…

On Labor Day, fond memories of a restorative break from work in Maine

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The two of us have long been — shall we say — “vacation challenged.” All right, we are downright “day-off challenged,” typically finding it more pressing to get that next project done rather than to lose a day’s work to sheer pleasure. Despite the acclaimed work of our dear friend energy expert and bestselling author Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project chronicling how important it is to lead a balanced life with regular time off to “oscillate” (a Schwartz-ism) or “sharpen the saw” (a Covey-ism), it just doesn’t typically work out that way for us.  We’re more likely to barrel through 12-plus-hour workdays, and occasionally spend a few days recovering after meeting a big deadline.  What can we say? We love what we do.

Fortunately, on those occasions when we finally do take a few days off, we’ve discovered wonderful places that really know how to carry out an intervention – magically providing a week’s worth of relaxation and restoration in just a few days. Last year at a lunch at hosted by Relais and Chateaux at DANIEL in New York City to introduce the newest members of the organization, Andrew met the owners of the Camden Harbour Inn in Maine, who were so charming we’d kept the prospect of a New England getaway in mind ever since.

Finding a sweet spot in our schedules between deadlines, we decided it was time to make our first road trip up to Maine from Manhattan. As New Yorkers, we actually enjoy long drives with peace and quiet and a little blue-sky time for brainstorming, so six or seven hours in a car did not deter us. Best of all, we found an irresistible last-minute online bargain for our mid-week stay on the hotel’s website, so we booked a couple of nights immediately.

Though it turned out that the Inn’s Dutch owners Raymond Brunyanski and Oscar Verest were away during our stay for their own off-season R&R, we could not have been in better hands. Taking one step into the lobby after a warm greeting, our NYC-minute life slowed down to CHI’s pace: “Your massages are scheduled, your room is ready — what time would you like dinner?” The entire team at the CHI is plugged in, and every member earned our respect and affection with their gracious hospitality throughout our visit.  (Oh, and as we were visiting off-season, upon check-in we were very kindly upgraded to the best available room.)

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One of the things we especially love about the CHI is its design sensibility. The owners maintain the bones and charm of this 100-year-old inn while updating it with a modern design aesthetic.  From your room outfitted with sleek furniture and crazy-lush accessories, you’re able to access unparalleled views of the harbo(u)r in all its splendor.

The Inn’s restaurant Natalie’s features the cooking of husband-and-wife team Chris Long and Shelby Stevens. They have serious big city chops, with Long having spent time at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and Stevens at DANIEL in New York. The dining room is overseen by GM Bart “Look-Up-Gracious-In-The-Dictionary-And-You’ll-Find-His-Picture” van der Veldon, who spent time working in Europe and at the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel in Boston. Natalie’s also has a great bar and cocktail program with a separate menu if you want something more causal but just as enjoyable.

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