Eat Nettles Now A bundle of ways to try this spring ingredient around the city

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While you might think of “sting” when you think of nettles, you should be thinking “spring.”

Nettles, a peppery, herbaceous plant (considered a weed by many) are one of Mother Nature’s delicious (and nutritious) harbingers of spring. Right on schedule, nettle dishes are starting to pop up all over the city. Have no fear about nettles’ infamous stinging property: Once cooked, the sting vanishes.

Francine Stephens of the perennially popular Franny’s in Brooklyn told us: “We love nettles because they offer a distinctly grassy, fresh flavor that is unique to springtime. Our guests love them, as their presence on our menu is the true first offering of spring.” Scoot over to the restaurant ASAP to try them in two dishes: a savory ramp and nettle zeppole ($12) with Calabrian chili honey and maccheroni pasta with spinach, nettles, garlic, chilies and pine nuts ($19).

The nettle loaf from Bien Cuit.

At Bien Cuit, master baker Zachary Golper blanches nettles, then dries and grinds them and reserves the cooking water. He uses the water to hydrate dough made with flour from New York State-grown wheat from North Country Farms and goat’s milk from Coach Farms. After slow, cold fermentation and shaping, he rolls the loaves in the dehydrated nettle powder and bakes them into gorgeously crusty loaves ($6 each) that are at once vegetal and tangy.

Chef Simone Bonelli of La Pecora Bianca, incorporates nettle pesto into a seasonal risotto with goat cheese and orange ($23). Over at Vic’s in NoHo, chef Hilary Sterling is serving a razor clam pizza with charred nettles ($20).

Besides being delicious, nettles are fiber-rich, packed with iron and vitamins C, D and K and have been shown to have a natural anti-inflammatory, antihistamine effect that can help with allergies like hay fever.

If you want to try your hand at using nettles at home, keep your eyes peeled for the nettles (they have dark green heart-shaped leaves and fuzzy bristles) at your local Greenmarket. Currently, Phillips Farm, Paffenroth Gardens, Hawthorne Valley and Monkshood Nursery are are selling nettles. To check if nettles are at the Union Square Greenmarket use this nifty app; it tells you everything that is in the market each day it is open or the last time it was available and from whom.

Do yourself a favor and use the gloves or tongs provided, or else you will really understand why the plant’s full name is the stinging nettle. Prepare the peppery green in a nourishing soup, fold them into an omelet or brew them into a fresh tea.

Veg Out Try healthy bowls, dumplings, salads and more at Beyond Sushi

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Sushi burritos may be all the rage in NYC, but there’s another new wrap that’s rocking our world.

It’s a rice paper roll-up stuffed with black beans, green tea noodles, greens, asparagus, seaweed salad and crunchy almonds with a tart-salty-sweet ponzu sauce. Called the Sweet Bean ($9), this super-healthy, super-tasty creation is one of a number of new items on the vastly expanded menu at the vegan micro-chain Beyond Sushi.

The new Limelight Salad is packed with hearty beans, corn, rice and avocado.

Beyond Sushi is already a Clean Plates pick for its inventive rolls, each matched with its own addictive sauce, and chef Guy Vaknin is bringing the same creativity to new dishes like the Smokey Tom dumplings ($6), which are filled with a rich sun-dried tomato and butternut squash puree and topped with crunchy lemon panko, fresh parsley and creamy tahini sauce.

Also now on the menu are noodle soups ($9) such as Coconut Curry and Red Miso, each with a choice of soba, ramen, green tea noodle or glass noodles, as well as noodle salads ($6) like the Jolly Onion, a zany mash-up of ramen, kalamata olives, roasted onions, sun-dried tomatoes, sumac, rosemary and two sauces (tahini and tomato-guajillo).

The Limelight ($10.50), a substantial new black rice-based salad with black beans, smoky charred corn, ample amounts of avocado, nicely spicy pickled jalapenos and a spicy-creamy tomato guajillo sauce, is a riot of flavors and textures that proves just how satisfying vegan fare can be.

Lunch special combos ($9 to $12.50) are offered from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, which is about how often we’d like to be eating at Beyond Sushi.

Beyond Sushi
beyondsushinyc.com

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue, New York
(212) 929-2889

Union Square
229 East 14th Street, New York
(646) 861-2889

Midtown West
62 W 56th Street, New York
(646) 964-5097

Hearth’s Reboot Marco Canora is a man on a (delicious) mission at his updated East Villager

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As Marco Canora goes, so does his phenomenal restaurant, Hearth, where the flavors of the Tuscan-American food are as strong as the commitment to transparency and food sourcing.

More than 12 years ago when Canora opened Hearth going local for produce was a given for him (well before “farm-to-table” was a buzzword on every menu in town). In a recent interview he told us, “I’m dating myself, but I’m a forever locavore, a chef who has always gone to the Greenmarket.”

Now that Canora has made it through to the other side of health problems like 30 pounds of excess weight, gout, sleep apnea and thyroid dysfunction, he has fast-forwarded the food at Hearth to match up with all that he has learned about diet and nutrition.

Hearth’s interior got a refresh along with its menu.

Hearth reopened in the same East Village location in January after a quick two-week refresh and boy is she is a beaut (both in terms of looks and the real heart of the matter, the menu). There’s a newly expanded bar area to stretch out in, and the dining room has been brightened to match the radiant new focus that goes way beyond local sourcing (though that’s still very much part of the game plan at the restaurant).

The new direction includes a focus on nutrient dense foods like quality cooking fats (such as grass-fed tallow, grass-fed ghee and olive oil), bone broths, grass-fed butter and sustainable, local fish. The flipside of the menu features a whimsical infographic titled “Our Mission” that outlines Canora’s philosophy.

Canora posited, “If I’m going to go out of my way to find really great local carrots, why am I going to go out of my way to buy flour from a big food company?” With that in mind, he’s bought a mill and is grinding his own non-GMO grains for dishes like the “cacio e pepe” polenta ($8) and the long-fermented whole grain bread ($6).

The menu is full of crave-worthy dishes such as the bone marrow broth with turmeric ($12), white anchovies layered with cured olives and citrus ($18) and lots of offal, as in the variety burger, which incorporates heart and liver ($24). A selection of six bean-to-bar dark chocolates (5 for $12) spread out like a traditional cheese board is a decadent (but not overly sugary way) to end a meal here.

In addition to the menu upgrades, the restaurant composts, uses non-toxic cleaners and recycles oils into biofuel. “Before I just wanted my food to speak for itself, now I want to showcase my beliefs alongside delicious meals,” Canora told Clean Plates. “The world of food has changed and I’m changing with it.” Canora truly puts his food and values where our mouths are.

Hearth
403 E. 12 St.
restauranthearth.com
(646) 602-1300

Plant-Powered Pizza Vegetables are the star at Matthew Kenney's 00+Co.

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Matthew Kenney may have first made his name with raw foods in New York at the now-closed Pure Food and Wine, but he and chef Scott Winegard, are doing wonderful things with fire at their new East Village vegan pizzeria, 00+Co.

The restaurant’s wood-burning oven is one of the secrets to great pizza, says Winegard (another is the organic 00 flour from which the restaurant takes its name; many say it’s the best variety for pizza dough).

Grab a stool with a view of 00+Co.’s wood-burning pizza oven.

The pizzas range from riffs on classics such as the margherita-like tomato, basil and cashew mozzarella ($15) to a delightful umami bomb with truffled celeriac, maitake mushrooms and parsley pesto ($17). The slightly salty, pleasantly yeasty crust is puffier and thicker than the average Neapolitan-style, making it perfect for the generous application of sturdy vegetables like romesco and broccolini. And instead of aping animal products, ingredients such as the house-made nut cheeses and farro-fennel “sausage” stand on their own, while still providing the richness and savoriness of traditional cheeses and meats.

In addition to the pizza, the menu includes a number of salads and vegetable dishes, many of which also get a smoky flavor from time in the wood-burning oven. Most are excellent: the punchy wood-fired cauliflower with green harissa, walnuts and preserved lemons ($10) is a standout, with just the right balance of sweet, salty and sharp flavors. “We use the same principles in approaching plant-based cooking as for any cuisine,” says Kenney. “We’re always striving for a balance of flavor and texture; it’s the difference between a good and great dish—or pizza.”

And speaking of balance, that’s the word Winegard uses when asked about serving pizza in the current wheat-averse culture:  “We don’t suggest you eat wheat or pizza every day, but if you can find the balance in your diet to have some fun, eat pizza from 00+Co.” As the menu evolves with the seasons, we’re looking forward to doing just that.

00+Co.
65 Second Avenue, New York
00andCo.com

Nut House Why we love modern milkman NotMilk

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Have you seen the ingredients label on a bottle of store-bought almond or other nut milk lately?

With thickeners like carrageenan, locust bean gum and sunflower lecithin, dubious “natural” flavors and plenty of cane sugar, these alternative milks seem to be more additives and preservatives than they are nuts. Eeek!

Sisters Carolyn and Susan Flood had the same horrified reaction to the nut milks on the market when they both started struggling with lactose intolerance. So they decided to go DIY in a big way, making their own special blend and then cofounding a company—NotMilk—to distribute it.

What to do with leftover pulp from making nut milk? Make snickerdoodles!

The difference in this nut milk is in the freshness and the blend of nuts—a mix of almonds, walnuts, macadamias and cashews. With no refined sugars, additives or thickeners, these milks have a flavor and mouth-feel that’s totally different than anything that comes from a carton.

Bottles of vanilla bean and honey lavender NotMilk just call out to be added to chia seed pudding and smoothies. Our office went wild for the creamy chocolate milk blend with chia seeds, while the coffee flavor is your morning cup of joe’s dream come true. Susan reports that baristas especially love their lightly sweet original blend because it froths up and behaves like 2% cow’s milk and doesn’t burn as easily as commercial versions.

Custom nut, seed and grain blends are also available by special request if you are feeling like you need an extra percentage of macadamia nuts (or the milk of just one nut) in your life this week. All of the blends ($8 to $10 for 16 oz.) can be found at stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including Integral Yoga Natural Foods and Ground Support Cafe. Or for a true modern day milkman experience, you can sign up for a subscription and get their glass bottles delivered straight to your front door.

We especially love how the sisters constructed their business model to deal with the waste (lots and lots of leftover nut pulp) inherent in making nut milk: They turn the nut pulp into gluten-free vegan baked goods like chocolate glazed donuts and snickerdoodles (also available on their site and at Riverdel and Haymaker’s Corner Store) that are so moist and tasty, you’d never know they were created from leftovers.

Simple genius.

NotMilk
notmilknyc.com

Candy Crush Hunnybon delivers candy you'll be sweet on

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Kimberly Silver always had a sweet tooth.

But a degree from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a career in health counseling didn’t exactly jibe with candies filled with junky ingredients, forcing her to temporarily give up the sweet stuff cold-turkey—then she discovered she could indulge her sweet tooth and eat well, too.

“While counseling clients towards healthy eating and searching for better sweet alternatives, I began to find amazing products that were all organic, made with clean ingredients and better sweeteners, vegan and produced sustainably,” Silver told us.

Hunnybon’s candies are free of junky ingredients but full of flavor.

These discoveries led her to set up a modern-day candy shop online. Hunnybon is the confectionary of our (unrefined) sugarcoated dreams, now offering same-day delivery in NYC and shipping nationwide.

Hunnybon is one-stop-shopping for all that’s good in the world of sweets. Silver sources and curates a selection of candies that are vegan and free from refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, trans-fats, artificial colors, flavors and additives. Those with special diets can even search for sugar-free, soy-free, kosher, Paleo and gluten-free treats within her selection.

Silver’s favorite, the strawberry superfruit chews ($6.79 for 2.75 oz.), have no added sugar, are coated in coconut oil and filled with pulp from the superfruit baobab.

A recent adorably packaged delivery to our office had us indulging in crunchy quinoa clusters ($6.89 for 2.5 oz.) and hemp truffles dusted with a coating of extra-dark cocoa powder ($6.59 for 2.63 oz.).

This year let the Easter Bunny come by bike: A local Hunnybon delivery is made extra sweet by Silver’s street team of dedicated bike messengers, who deliver the goods without generating carbon emissions (and with free samples always included).

Clean Plates readers can use code “CP15” for 15% off all Hunnybon selections.

Hunnybon
hunnybon.com

Drink To Your Health A tea for whatever ails you

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Though we love hidden doors, soft openings and speakeasys, New York is not a town known for its well-kept secrets.

Relatively under the radar—for now, at least—Té Company is a serene oasis perched just above street-level and tucked behind a door shared with an apartment residence.

“It takes courage to come through apartment doors,” said Frederico Ribeiro, partner with Elena Liao in both life and business. “So you have to really want to enter.”

An elixir from Naturopathica’s Vitality Bar in Chelsea.

Once you enter, you’ll want to stay. Liao and Ribeiro don’t so much manage the refined and relaxed tea room, formerly the home of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, as they welcome you into it; they chat with friends, strangers (and even with a customer’s gray toy poodle) with such casual warmth, everyone is encouraged to linger.

Situate yourself near the picture window with one of Liao’s curated collection of oolongs, a semi-oxidized tea that falls midway between green and black. Like your favorite wine store, the menu provides orienting tasting notes of the hand-picked teas, which Liao buys from farmers in her native Taiwan.

Order a triple-steeped small pot, ($6.00-$10.50) of delicate, vegetal Mountain Range or amber Iron Goddess, which has leather and wood chip notes that finish into creamy vanilla. If you want to eat, tuck into an assortment of savory items made with ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket—Spanish tortilla ($7), Açorda à Alentejana, a Portuguese garlic-bread soup ($6), radish salad ($12)—as well as sweet ($2.95 – $7). Made with organic flour, the complex and refined pineapple linzer cookie ($3.25) is dusted with lime zest and salt—it’s not to be missed. If you must dash, they also offer cups to go ($3.50-$5.50).

If it’s prescriptive teas you’re after, travel a few blocks farther uptown to Naturopathica Chelsea, where a Master herbalist and aromatherapist created a tea collection for the holistic spa’s Vitality Bar. With calendula, red clover and white peony, a cup of Skin Tea ($3.50) is like drinking a delicate bouquet; another remedy blend targets stress, while others aim to boost immunity and muscle and joint health. A complex Bengal Chai ($3.50) is dusted with pink peppercorn to aid digestion.

Naturopathica also offers a robust menu of oolong, green, black and white teas, as well as cold-pressed juices and kombucha on tap, which can be mixed into tonics and elixirs ($8.50) to address ailments of skin, stress or a too-late night.

Would that good health were always this chic.

Té Company
163 W 10th St
(929) 335-3168
te-nyc.com

Naturopathica Chelsea
127 W 26th St
(646) 979-3960
naturopathica.com

King For a Day Find delicious seasonal fare at Kingsley

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When it comes to keeping things local, the numbers at Kingsley, which opened in the East Village in December, don’t lie.

In an interview, chef Roxanne Spruance told us, “As the chef and owner, I personally go to the Union Square Greenmarket two to four times a week to pick up our orders. Local farms supply between 60 to 90 percent of our produce, dairy and meat.”

Make new friends at one of Kingsley’s communal tables.

It’s hard to file Spruance’s cooking into any one simple category. The menu encompasses both malted cauliflower soup with the sprightly flavor of shiso ($13), and a duck breast (all of the restaurant’s meat is antibiotic- and hormone-free) lacquered with honey and served with a pistachio risotto ($35). The velvety soup takes its richness from the cauliflower being cooked for hours and then pureed with a bit of the cooking liquid—no dairy, gluten or starch thickener needed.

Spruance’s passion for fresh seasonal products is drawn from a combination of her time working at locavore-centric spots like Blue Hill, and her two degrees in environmental biology and fisheries and wildlife.

Along with the restaurant’s whole animal program, Spruance goes to great lengths to compost and recycle. She says, “I am very proud to say that through our practices, we are producing only one black bag of trash a night that sees a landfill. Almost everything is recycled and composted.”

Spruance is also serving a new brunch menu that is actually worth rolling out of bed for. A helping of house-cured bacon comes (appropriately) with house-made mayonnaise ($8). We especially loved seeing more of the vegetables-as-dessert trend here in the beet cheesecake, served with an equally striking blood orange sorbet ($10).

Spruce says, “I am very proud of the way our restaurant is run and I love telling our story.”

With so much to admire, we can see why.

Kingsley
190 Ave. B
(212) 674-4500
kingsleynyc.com

Maman Knows Best Maman 2.0 is here and it's glorious

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For the owners of Maman, opening a Tribeca location came as naturally as walking by the space and seeing a “for rent” sign pop up in the window.

The easy, stylish vibe and the fresh, South of France-inspired food that is so-loved at the first location in SoHo are also evident here. When you’re at the new Maman, you feel like family (as befits the name), but you just have a lot more room to spread out: At 2,000 square feet, the new spot is twice the size of the original.

Maman’s robust farro salad.

You can stop in for granola, Greek yogurt and seasonal fruit ($6) at the to-go counter (where all the packaging is compostable), or take a breather at the full-service tables in the back where breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner are served.

While the high-ceilings and exposed columns are stunning (we’d liken it to falling into an Instagram fever dream), it’s the French-inflected healthful food and focus on beautiful presentation (ditto on the Instagram) that will keep us coming back.

The requisite avocado toast ($10) comes deconstructed and completely customizable. The avocado comes chopped up and piled in its skin, alongside tomatoes, cilantro, pumpkin seeds and two fat slices of homemade country bread. You can assemble your own version to your heart’s DIY content.

The menu is replete with vegetable options and the salads are particular standouts. Look for the roasted cauliflower with yellow quinoa, dates, almonds, chives, endives and turmeric ($13), and the grilled leek salad with crunchy walnuts, Parmesan, sundried tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette ($11).

Another thing to look out for: The Maman team isn’t resting for long—a Greenpoint, Brooklyn location is on the way.

Maman Tribeca
211 West Broadway
(646) 882-8682
mamannyc.com

Raw Fish Fever Sustainably sourced and fresh from the sea

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Not since Jams—those colorful surfer shorts everyone had to have in the ‘80s—has a Hawaiian institution been so enthusiastically embraced.

In the past month—a bitter, dark month with record snowfall—two poké restaurants opened for business in Manhattan. A classic Hawaiian dish typically made with sliced raw tuna, soy sauce, green and white onions, fresh chilies, Hawaiian sea salt, and sometimes served over rice, poké is primed for fast-casual popularity.

Mix and match your favorite fish, toppings and condiments at both Wisefish Poké and Pokéworks.

In Chelsea, Wisefish Poké is a calm sliver of white space with cheerfully industrial stools and a stripe of silvery succulents down the length of a communal wooden table. “This is the real Burger King,” a staff member on the poké assembly line for the post-Soul Cycle dinner rush said. “You can really have it your way.”

That means you can customize to your heart’s content: Build a snack ($7.95), regular ($10.95) or large ($13.95) bowl with a base of white or brown rice, zucchini noodles or mixed greens; protein in the form of ahi tuna, salmon, or tofu; then select among a dizzying array of topping and condiment options, including sea beans, seaweed salad, spicy mayo, hijiki, fresh ginger, furikake and more. If you don’t feel like DIYing it, choose from one of the creative preset options, like the fiery Heat Wave, with salmon, jalapeños and spicy-citrus shoyu.

Midtown’s Pokéworks has less West Coast salt-air style but is just as focused on high-quality ingredients, and it’s evident in the flavors. They’re so fresh, they pop like firecrackers. Customization is king here, too, in the form of regular bowls (white or brown rice, quinoa or romaine lettuce) or the burrito-inspired pokiritto wrap with seaweed and white rice. But when it comes to proteins and toppings, Pokéworks has more options, including ahi, salmon, seared albacore, sous vide shrimp, scallops, chicken and organic tofu. To the signature Ahi Classic—a bowl with ahi, green and sweet Maui onions, ogo seaweed and roasted sesame oil—choose from a bevy of add-ins including vibrant orange masago (tiny fish roe), wasabi, piquant pickled ginger, and the crunch of puffed rice or lotus chips.

At both spots, there’s a learning curve. With so many mix-ins, might one topping too many overshadow the sushi-grade fish? But not so long ago we figured out maki rolls and the optimal Chipotle combos. We got this.

Wisefish Poké
263 W 19th Street
(212) 367-7653
wisefishpoke.com

Pokéworks
63 W 37th Street
(212) 575-8881
pokeworks.com

(Photos courtesy of Pokéworks)