2014 Round Up Our favorite stories from 2014

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As the year draws to a close, we’re looking back on our greatest, tastiest and healthiest hits. Read on for some favorites, handpicked by the Clean Plates Team—and you.

Readers’ Pick: Our story on LuliTonix juice and veggie blends was your favorite of the year. We’re fans of the trend of blending whole fruit and vegetables into flavor- and fiber-packed drinks, and we’ll be sure to keep you informed on how you change up your green juice routine in the new year, too.

Tressa Eaton, Editor: One bite of Anita’s Creamline Coconut Yogurt and it’s clear that Anita Shepherd has made the ultimate non-dairy yogurt. We treat every creamy spoonful of this coconut concoction like gold around pasta sauces and with seasonal fruit.

Ashley Spivak, Director, Clean Plates Guides: Who can say no to maple grilled cheese? The Drive Change food truck serves tasty “farm-to-truck” food with a side of social justice by hiring, training and empowering formerly incarcerated youth. We’d love to see more mission-oriented business like this one next year.

Nick Fauchald, Editorial Advisor: Sarah Sproule and her rooftop salt business, Urban Sproule, prove that just about any backyard has untapped edible possibilities. The stunning virgin raw salt and interesting infused versions (like Montauk squid) are enough to convince anyone that they can be more local in their cooking.

The gift list Clean Plates' 2014 NYC Holiday Gift Guide

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You can skip the schlep around town while hunting for that just-right gift; we’ve already done your leg work. A pick from our 2014 Gift Guide is sure to please any clean eater on your list.

1. Pumpkin & Honey Bunny Cards ($4): Go low-tech with a screen-printed card from the folks behind the all-natural syrup business, P&H Soda Co. We’re fans of “I Love You More Than Sliced Bread” and “Eat Drink and Be Merry” options. Find them at The Brooklyn Kitchen, Brooklyn Farmacy and Lion in the Sun.

2. The Sill Plants (from $38): Give your green thumb challenged friend cleaner air at home with a plant from The Sill. Low-maintenance plants like a snake plant or a succulent do double duty as a home beautifier and air toxin eliminator. 84 Hester St.

3. Good Eggs Gift Card ($15 to $500): Make sure your friend’s fridge is stocked with local food at all times. Good Eggs offers free delivery and a massive selection of delicious local products.

 

4. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well ($35): Amy Chaplin is a local gal; she used to be the executive chef at the East Village’s Angelica Kitchen. Share her gorgeous, new book with a pal: it boasts more than 150 recipes celebrating vegetarian cuisine.

5. Sweet Deliverance Jam ($10): Stuff a stocking with some of Kelly Geary’s meticulously crafted small-batch jam made from local ingredients. We’re wild about the complex strawberry chamomile honey jam; it’s like giving summer in a jar. Find retailers here.

 

6. Small Axe Peppers Bronx Hot Sauce ($8): Give a bottle of this kicky green serrano hot sauce and you’ll be supporting GrowNYC and the city’s poorest borough. The peppers that make up the sauce are sourced from community gardens.

 

7. Shore Soup ($12): Warm someone up with these fresh organic soups (think spicy gazpacho or a carrot coconut lime with fresh mint). The Mason jars are packed with local and seasonal produce and proceeds from each jar help to send hot meals to homebound Rockaway Beach residents.

8. 2015 Seasonal Produce Calendar ($16): A gift of a calendar is classic, but one tailored to your giftee’s eating region with seasonal recipes and what’s best to eat each month is a guaranteed winner.

Still looking for more options? Check out our National Gift Guide.

Blender Bender The no-excuses smoothie now comes to your door

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This December you have zero excuses for not starting your morning off right.

Zip, nada, none.

That’s because these new brands are making sure you have your smoothie daily—delivered straight to your doorstep. Think of them as your smoothie concierge: ready to keep you on-track and feeling good, no matter how holiday crazed you might be.

Daily Harvest: Rachel Drori turned her at-home trick of freezing ready-to-blend smoothie ingredients into a business that would provide the “convenience of being able to blend and run without having to shop, think or create any mess.” We love this service for its total simplicity: All of the ingredients are measured into one pack, meaning there is absolutely no shopping, rinsing or chopping required. The current seasonal blend uses a 100 percent organic mix of pomegranates, cranberries, beets, rooibos tea, pecans, bananas, ginger and dates ($32.50 for 5 smoothies). Holistic health and wellness coach Sarah-Jane Mercer designs all of the blends to make sure everything is both tasty and nutritious.

Ginger cranberry smoothie from Green Blender’s holiday smoothie collection.

Green Blender : Founders Jenna Tanenbaum and Amir Cohen say, “At Green Blender, we believe that in order to live a sustainably healthy lifestyle you have to indulge in your health, and do things that you love. That’s why we started this company. We’re making it easy and fun to start your day with a healthy decision.” This service ($49 for 10 smoothies) is best for someone who is OK with a little prep work, namely chopping pre-portioned ingredients and following a recipe. Plus, if you know someone who isn’t based in NYC, pass on the word: Green Blender will be expanding from Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens into the Northeast in 2015.

Little name, big flavor Andrew Carmellini's newest spot, Little Park, wows

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Is there anything chef Andrew Carmellini doesn’t do well?

We happily hop around the city eating at his spots: Lafayette, Bar Primi, Locanda Verde and The Dutch. But now with the recent opening of Little Park, which is tucked into a corner of Tribeca’s Smyth Hotel, we’ve found a place we never want to leave.

While Carmellini has always been concerned with sourcing and seasonal cooking, Little Park is his first restaurant to focus exclusively on highlighting organic, sustainable ingredients and featuring products from local farmers, anglers, vintners and foragers.

Carmellini has made more than a few longtime partnerships with excellent producers, and it’s here that he really gives them a twirl. He says, “Over the past 20 years I’ve spent cooking in New York, I’ve forged strong relationships with local farmers and purveyors … Little Park is a tribute to that.”

Beets to the power of two: Yellow beets super brighten the beetroot risotto speckled with poppy seeds.

 

We were overjoyed to see that vegetable and grain dishes get just as much love on the menu as their more meaty counterparts here. Vegetable options even outweigh the fire-roasted meats, like a grass-fed hanger steak with charred broccoli ($20), at a 2:1 ratio.

Servers are knowledgeable about the components of each dish—yes, you’ll be told, that’s a hint of yuzu in the buttery Peconic Bay Scallops ($15) joined by a Gold Rush variety apple and those tiny dots are poppy seeds sprinkled over the beetroot risotto ($15).

Look to that hearty vegetable section to be introduced to uncommon picks, like the heirloom castelfranco radicchio ($13) salad with bits of fennel and an orange-anchovy dressing.

We’re not the only ones loving Little Park right now; the place is a bona fide hot spot. So either camp out on the phone to make a reservation, commit to arriving early for a walk-in spot or enjoy full-service dining at the bar.

Little Park
85 W. Broadway
212-220-4110
littlepark.com

Nice to matcha you Why matcha is the green drink on everyone's lips

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Cups of frothy green matcha brought brothers Max and Graham Fortgang together during a stressful time in their lives.

Graham, a born-and-bred New Yorker, explains: “We were working around-the-clock and we didn’t have as many reasons to hang out, so we started getting together over a daily ritual of matcha. I felt myself getting sick less and I was more positive and attentive during the day without caffeine crashes.”

This brotherly love and wellness motivation are the driving forces behind the brother’s chic new Williamsburg café, MatchaBar.

If the name matcha (and the shockingly green color) is intimidating in the slightest, remember this: matcha is just powdered green tea. But instead of steeping the leaves in hot water, the entire leaf is ingested.

Wrap your hands around a warm, green, cup-O-matcha this winter!

If you’ve never tasted matcha before, prepare yourself for a fresh, grassy wallop, coupled with a creamy sweetness. Matcha comes packed with the calming amino acid L- Theanine, antioxidants (even more than gojiberries!) and roughly 70 mg of caffeine in every cup (compared to up to 110 milligrams in a cup of coffee).

Matchabar does offer Battenkill Valley Creamery cow’s milk, but the brothers try to gently steer their customers to alternatives like hemp, soy and almond milk. For an extra anti-inflammatory boost, top your latte with raw ground cinnamon (small $4.10; large $4.80).

The menu doesn’t stop with traditional Japanese preparations. Go seasonal with an iced drink that combines local Red Jacket Fuji apple juice, ginger juice and matcha (small $4.60; large $5.45). Or, go green-on-green with matcha mixed with Greenmarket cucumber juice (small $4.60; large $5.45).

These pioneers already have their eyes on the horizon: A west coast location is already in the works.

MatchaBar
93 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg
718-599-0015
matchabarnyc.com

Clean Habits: Takashi Inoue How a beef-obsessed chef keeps it clean

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When it comes to beef, eating sustainable means more than just eating local, grass-fed steaks—it means we have to consider all the many other parts of the cow, too. One of the best places to do this in New York is at the West Village joint Takashi, where owner and executive chef Takashi Inoue serves an almost all-beef menu, everything from beef-heart bolognese to shredded beef tendon and ultra-fresh raw beef liver with sesame oil.

All of the restaurant’s meat is raised without antibiotics or hormones and sourced from the city’s best meat suppliers, including local meat from Dickson’s Farmstand, Black Angus beef from Kansas’s Creekstone Farm and Washugyu meat from Japanese Premium Beef.

We checked in with Takashi to see what he does to keep healthy. Turns out, he’s just as much of a fiend for lots of greens and raw broccoli as he is for making sure no part of an animal goes to waste.

What’s a typical day of eating like for you?

I usually eat before I go to work (usually a bagel, a banana and a yogurt), which is usually around 8 a.m., then I do prep work at the restaurant and before dinner service I go to the gym. After the gym I drink an organic raw protein shake, followed by as many greens as possible, including lots of raw broccoli. After 6 p.m. I don’t eat carbs, just protein and vegetables. I have to be careful because I love going out for dinner, which isn’t always a healthy option.

“After 6 p.m. I don’t eat carbs, just protein and vegetables.”

 

How do you stay balanced and healthy while working in the restaurant industry?

It’s difficult to maintain a balance. I have to try hard. I’ve been going to the gym for 15 years. I do three days on, then one day rest: the first day is focused on a chest workout, the second day on arms and shoulders, the third day on lower body strength. There’s always a bike or running warm-up and cool-down.

Any suggestions for someone eating at Takashi who wants to keep their meal light and local?

Protein is healthy, and at Takashi, where we specialize in all parts of the cow, the only carbs we have on the menu are the rice bombs. Most of the vegetables are from the Greenmarket, where I go every week.

How do you incorporate sustainability at the restaurant?

We use all the parts of the cow at the restaurant, which I think is the most sustainable way of being a carnivore.

Cook it now: Kabocha Make this tasty squash part of your fall

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If your squash vocabulary starts and ends with butternut, you are missing out big time.

There’s a wide world of gnarly-shaped, diversely-colored and wonderfully-named squashes out there to be had, but our new favorite is a Japanese variety called kabocha .

Ben Towill and Phil Winser of The Fat Radish on the Lower East Side are out with a cookbook just in time to capture fall’s incoming squash storm. The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries ($40) takes the restaurant’s menu of unfussy, vegetable-focused food, all with a charming British accent, and lets you take it home.

Though the restaurant is usually swarmed with the fashion set, thankfully these guys don’t take themselves too seriously. They say, “For us, there is nothing more exciting than the anticipation of the seasons and cooking within them. (What a pretentious thing to say, but we promise it’s true.)” The book is broken down simply into the four seasons and filled with enough handsome photos of vegetables to make you blush.

Phil Winser and Ben Towill of The Fat Radish

 

That lilting English-ness of the recipes means ideas like a spring sweet pea pot pie that is laden with a trio of snow, snap and English peas and plenty of fresh mint. We’ve already bookmarked their savory beet and Swiss chard crumble for this Thanksgiving.

But for right now we recommend heading out to hunt down the closest deep green-skinned kabocha you can get your hands on (easily found at any Greenmarket). Kabocha is blessed with a dense, sweet flesh that is reminiscent in flavor of chestnuts and it is even sweeter than butternut—with half of the carbs. Then turn your market prize into this creamy, rich soup that is completely vegan and brimming with beta-carotene, iron and vitamins C and A.

 Serves 6

One 3-pound kabocha squash

Coarse salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 cups vegetable stock

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Small handful chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F.

1.  Cut the kabocha in half and scoop out and discard the seeds and the stringy flesh inside. Wrap the cleaned squash in aluminum foil and place in the oven. Roast until softened, about an hour. Set the squash aside.

2. Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a large, heavy pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and coconut milk, bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer while you prepare the squash.

3. Peel off and discard the skin from half of the roasted squash and add the flesh to the soup. Use an immersion blender to puree. Season to taste with salt.

4. Cut the remaining half of roasted squash into wedges and place them in the soup. Serve the soup hot, garnishing each serving with toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of chives.

Buy the book

Join the Club However you eat, there's a dinner collective for you

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If your list of must-try destinations in New York City is dwindling, it’s time to rejigger how you think about dining out. Consider skipping your usual restaurant haunts for a supper club-style dinner in a stranger’s home—or even a dumpster (keep reading).

Paleo: Whether you are a hard-core paleo follower or just want to try eschewing grains and dairy for one evening, Cave Kitchen is for you. While Linh Kieu and David Gull appreciate the paleo resources found around town (think Hu Kitchen), they realized that it is still “very hard to be paleo and social in New York City.” To remedy their own problem, the couple launched the club “to share our love for good food while building relationship with like-minded people” from the comfort of their own dining room table. Get in on the action by filling out a membership form. From there, booking one of the twice-monthly three-course dinners (suggested donation of $45, or $60 with a wine pairing) is a snap.

Salvage Supper Club’s Josh treuhaft and Celia Lam turn ugly produce into delicious morsels. Click image to watch!

Waste Not: Meet up with the folks behind Salvage Supperclub and you could be feasting with 15 others at a table in a dumpster—albeit one set under twinkly lights and scrubbed within an inch of its life. Salvage Supperclub blossomed from Josh Treuhaft’s masters thesis at the School of Visual Arts in New York when he “started thinking about how to use food experiences to get people to waste less food” and make it an enjoyable experience to boot.

Treuhaft and chef Celia Lam, who was educated at the Natural Gourmet Institute, source food that normally is forsaken (think edible weeds from the Queens County Farm Museum, bruised apples from Migliorelli Farm, day-old bread from Bien Cuit and aesthetically unsellable carrots from Norwich Meadow Organic Farm) and keep it from ending up in the trash by crafting six course meals form the bounty. To stay up-to-date on the happenings, send salvagesupperclub@gmail.com an email.

 

Happy Screams Downtown Creamery does ice cream right

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This summer, you (pick one):

  1. Ate too much ice cream.
  2. Didn’t consume enough ice cream.
  3. Were disheartened by the general state of crappy ice cream.

Whatever your answer, Downtown Creamery is your Autumn salvation.

For $40 a month, a bicycle will roll up to your home and deliver two pints of creamy vegan ice cream made from a base of coconut milk, cashew butter and maple syrup.

Downtown Creamery ice cream is not nearly as sweet as the commercial stuff, and the ever-rotating flavors (included chocolate and toasted almond, peaches and cream, and Concord grape sorbet) are richly complex stunners. Founder Megan Huylo says she dreams up flavors through “a combination of seasonality and creative high jinks.”

Megan huylo, Founder and Chef of Downtown creamery

Huylo’s intense relationship with food runs to her pre-teen years when she battled cancer. While undergoing chemo, Huylo’s parents gave her foods like seaweed and ginger for their nutritional and healing properties. Since then, she’s embraced a balanced, holistic, mostly plant-based approach which inform the classes she teaches at the Natural Gourmet Institute and the custom cleanses, catering and wellness coaching she offers through Downtown Epicure.

If you want to take your ice cream consumption to the next level, Huylo will even design custom flavors for you, like a salty-sweet chocolate miso combination, or a labor-intensive kabocha squash blend.

Sign us up.

 
Sign up for hand delivered ice cream from Downtown Creamery!

Sea the difference Urban Sproule makes salt in the city

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Take a peek at our salt collection and you’ll find a sodium rainbow of the good stuff: pristine white Fleur de Sel finishing flakes, rough red Himalayan crystals mixed with iron-rich clay and distinctively black Hawaiian granules made with detoxifying activated charcoal.

We reach for these salts (in moderation) over processed salts because they contain naturally occurring trace minerals and elements, including calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc.

But until Sarah Sproule and her business, Urban Sproule, came along, we never thought we’d have the opportunity to stock our pantry with sea salt from our very own city.

While NYC goes about its business, Sproule’s sea salt is dried on a rooftop on West 30th Street. Sproule pumps water from an aquifer on the South Shore of Long Island, where 250 feet below the surface the salt water is slowly filtered through layers of sand, silt and clay.

Sarah Sproule, the one woman (powerhouse) behind Urban Sproule.

This journey to hyper-local salt greatness was a trial-and-error process. Sproule tried waters gathered from Long Island to the Bronx and experimented with different methods of production until she settled on solar evaporation. She told us, “I fell in love with this production method because of the story each salt crystal tells. When you cook your salt you strip it of trace minerals—the very things that sets natural sea salts apart from processed table salt. When producing solar salt you are allowing Mother Nature to control the shape, size, color and even the flavor of your salt.”

Sproule now offers a virgin raw salt along with a variety of flavored versions infused with ingredients such as zippy celery leaves and Montauk squid ink (all salts are $8 for 1.5 ounces).

Sproule’s salt revolution is just getting started: In October, look for a revamp of packaging and surprising new flavors including Cave-Aged Cheddar Salt.

 

 
Where to find Urban Sproule in stores