Nut case Tigernuts are utterly delicious

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We’re going nuts over a nut that isn’t really a nut. Stick with us on this one.

Tigernuts: They’ve got nut in the name, but they are not technically a nut. They are actually tubers (like carrots or parsnips) that grow underground.

High in fiber and proteins, these sweet, slightly nutty tasting tubers put the super in superfood. Tigernuts have as much iron as spinach and as much potassium as coconut water. They are rich in oleic acid—the stuff we love in olive oil—as well as in vitamins C and E. These wrinkly little guys are the also a leading source of resistant starch, a pre-biotic fiber that fuels the good probiotic bacteria in your stomach.

Co-founders George Papanastasatos and Mariam Kinkladze quality checking their tigernuts.

Mariam Kinkladze discovered tigernuts in Niger while doing humanitarian work. Fascinated by how great she felt after eating them, she dove into research and testing and eventually founded Organic Gemini, which specializes in tigernut products.

Now you can head to the Meatpacking District’s Gansevoort Market (near the south entrance to the High Line), where Organic Gemini has set up its flagship booth.

We are huge fans of Kinkladze’s healthy version of horchata ($9); her chai version is sugar free and spiked with Ceylon (Sri Lankan) cinnamon and Himalayan pink salt. Anyone with gluten senstitvies or nut allergies should be psyched to discover tigernut flour ($13); it bakes up beautifully with a rich flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. Tigernut oil ($19) has a golden color, rich taste and can be used like olive oil. Pro tip: If you want to chomp on the tubers themselves ($6), try giving them a soak to soften up.

Organic Gemini
Gansevoort Market
52 Gansevoort St.
212-242-1701

Easy love Healthy eaters will find bountiful choices at Vic's

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If you are still feeling all weepy about the closure of Five Points, you can stop the sniffling now.

Husband-and-wife team Marc Meyer and Vicki Freeman (of the wonderful Hundred Acres and Cookshop), have rebooted and revamped the NoHo space beautifully into a chipper Italian-Mediterranean spot, Vic’s.

With its copper bar, massive skylight and exposed original brick walls—(fun factoid: the location was once the Astor family’s stables)—the airy, fresh atmosphere is easy to settle into.

Vic’s: casual, affordable with food that will have you coming back again … and again.

We are crushing on Vic’s hard because it’s already showing itself to be one of those crucial keep-it-in-your-back pocket NYC restaurants. Vic’s is the kind of place that makes us smack our heads and go “why can’t more restaurants be like this?”, where it’s possible to go nuts ordering one night (pork shoulder with pink peppercorns; $26) and then keep things more healthful the next (poached cod with kale, meyer lemon, leeks and almonds; $26).

We’d happily eat a meal composed of chef Hillary Sterling’s rollicking seasonal vegetables (no boring sides here). Roasted squash is jazzed up with brown butter vinaigrette and balsamic almond bread crumbs ($8), while heirloom carrots are radiant when dashed with dill, capers and roasted shallots ($6). Vegetables even wend their way into dessert: Look for parsnips in the honey cake ($9).

It’s the little touches here that will happily threaten to turns us all into regulars, including kicky goat butter, the availability of reasonably-sized half portions of every pasta dish and simple belly warmers like a fennel-tomato broth minestrone with kale and parsnips ($9).

Vic’s
31 Great Jones St.
212-253-5700
vicsnewyork.com

Happy meal Fast food never looked or tasted so good

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We get the allure of fast food; really we do. Convenient hours, speedy service and decent prices are all so sweet, but gut-punching mystery meat and trans-fat consumption as part of the deal make it no deal at all.

That’s where Lyfe Kitchen rolls in. You may have already heard of the fast-casual chain, as it’s already making waves in California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois and Nevada. But now is really the time to sit up and take notice as the first NYC location has debuted in Midtown West.

It’s like the chain’s owners (who were once chefs to single name greats like Ellen and Oprah) have found the sweet spot on the X-Y axis that are healthfulness and affordability (see the menu here). Lyfe balances pricing by thoughtfully choosing produce from the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, while sticking with antibiotic-free meats and eggs from cage-free chickens.

Lyfe Kitchen uses great ingredients to make their tasty, nutritious and beautiful dishes. 

Below, four things to know before you hop into Lyfe Kitchen’s fast-moving line.

1. Loud and Proud: You’ll never have a question about what you are ingesting whether it’s a grass-fed beef burger ($10; served with a kale and carrot salad) or a quinoa crunch wrap with local vegetables ($9). Lyfe Kitchen proudly displays a full ingredient list, as well as calorie, sodium and nut allergy information. Paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan eaters are all well covered here.

2. Drink Up: Smoothies and tasty drinks that cost $10 leave us clutching our wallets. Here, you can get grilled Mahi fish tacos on warm corn tortillas for that same $10 and spend just $1.50 on a ginger mint chia water, or $5 on a kale banana smoothie.

3. Take The Stairs: The first floor seating may be convenient, but space and natural light can be found overhead. Grab a table upstairs when you are done ordering and your food will be brought up to you.

4. Make It Faster: We found nothing but smiling employees and lighting-quick service on our trip to Lyfe Kitchen, but to really make things fly order ahead of time online.

Lyfe Kitchen,
248 W. 55th St.
212-265-5933
lyfekitchen.com

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.

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