Secret Garden Dig in at The New York Botanical Garden's new restaurant

Hudson Garden Grill

Lunch at Hudson Garden Grill comes with an extra-large side of greens.

That’s because the restaurant is nestled within the leafy 40-acre Ross Conifer Arboretum at the New York Botanical Garden.

Fittingly, chef Julian Alonzo is inspired by all that surrounds him and sources many of his ingredients from Hudson Valley farms and other regional producers including his pal, the lamb farmer Keith Martin of Elysian Fields.

If you’ve never paid a visit, the restaurant (open for breakfast, lunch and drinks until 6 p.m.) is the first full-service dining destination to open at NYBG and is all the excuse you need for a day trip.

Hudson Garden Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and drinks until 6 p.m.

Hop on the Metro-North Harlem local line to the Botanical Garden Station in the Bronx from Grand Central Terminal and you’ll be deposited across the street from the entrance 20 minutes later. There, an elegant country farmhouse with crisp checkered tablecloths, massive Palladian windows and rough-sawn red oak paneling (reclaimed from trees felled by Hurricane Sandy) awaits. If the weather is good, you can sit outside on the terrace.

On a recent visit, we loved the refreshing English pea soup with wild spring onion and pea shoots ($9) and the Satur Farms  baby beet salad with candied pecans, house-made yogurt and blue cheese croutons ($12). A deliciously tender skirt steak gets a shot of creativity from a nettle chimichurri ($24).

Even if the native plant garden, orchid collection or azaleas don’t do it for you, go for the grass-fed burger ($16) with bacon and aged cheddar on a potato roll. It tastes like a Big Mac’s wildest dreams.

No backyard at home? No problem. We’re thinking of Hudson Garden Grill as our own personal backyard garden (with cocktails!) all summer long.


Twin Peaks Mountain is a hybrid space for healing

Great tasting, wholesome food and drink at NYC's new wellness utopia, Mountain.

If Mountain were a beauty product, it would be a 10-in-1.

This Brooklyn spot has all of your wildest wellness dreams: A clinic featuring acupuncture, massage therapy and naturopathic treatments; a classroom that instructs on everything from Capoeira to mindful eating; $11 yoga classes (are we still in NYC?) and a café that bursts with seasonal and local foods.

This utopian spot is the brainchild of Justine Lynch and Tom McCauley. For the two, Mountain was a lifetime in the making. Tom spent 25 years as a chef, while Justine worked on the service side of things. More recently, they both became acupuncturists. Justine says, “Tom and I conceived of a space that could cross pollinate via different windows of ecology, creativity and health—a place where healing and food meet.”

Grab a seat at Mountain’s Cafe


The food at Mountain is nourishing and revitalizing, as only a chef-turned-acupuncturist could dream up.

You can go for brunch, which includes an entrée (such as local eggs with kale, polenta and za’atar or pancakes with pomegranate syrup), tea or coffee, cold-pressed juice and a baked good ($17), then stay for community acupuncture on a sliding scale fee.

The food here is served sans dogma. There are cold-pressed juices and tonics, vegan and gluten-free options, as well as meatier options like a chicken salad with Ithaca Milk yogurt, celery and local greens ($9). There are even plans in place to keep bees and chickens on the roof.

If Crown Heights isn’t your usual stomping grounds, consider a rejuvenating day trip to Mountain, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—all just a few short blocks from each other. And if you live nearby, your delivery options just got a major upgrade, as Grub Hub, Seamless and Caviar now all deliver Mountain’s food.

903 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn

Uh-oh, fro-yo Chloe's makes our breakfast dreams come true


This summer, we’re endorsing soft serve for breakfast. Oh, and it’s mom-approved, too.

That mom is Chloe Epstein of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., who just rolled out a brand new breakfast menu at her Union Square shop. Formerly a Manhattan assistant district attorney and now a mother of three, it’s easy to see why Chloe’s motto is “Treats over briefs!”

Chloe’s confection is made from just fruit (pick from banana, mango or strawberry), water and the slightest touch of organic cane sugar. This soft serve has no relation to the laundry list of ingredients like preservatives, additives, high-fructose corn syrup and stabilizers found at the usual fro-yo shop.


We blissed out on an acai bowl with banana soft serve, berries, granola and shredded coconut ($7). Other bowls come pumped up with cacao nibs, chia seeds and sliced almonds, while the signature parfait comes layered with addictive vegan waffle bites ($5).

Who needs a caffeine crutch when you’ve got a morning pick-me-up that is dairy-, fat- and gluten-free, and that can also cool you down? The green bliss bowls with kale, spinach and almond milk ($7) even have us shelving our jazzed-up oatmeal until cooler climes return.

Technically it’s a “breakfast” menu, but Chloe’s will let you order from it all day long.

Looks like you found your new summer morning routine.

Chloe‘s Soft Serve Fruit Co.
25 E. 17th St. (Broadway)

The friendly butcher El Colmado Butchery brings good meat back to the Meatpacking District


For chef Seamus Mullen of El Colmado Butchery, food isn’t just his vocation. As a former sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s also his medicine.

There’s a whole lot of good stuff going on at Mullen’s new Meatpacking District spot: El Colmado Butchery is an upbeat Spanish tapas and wine bar-meets-classic butcher shop. It’s also an all-day neighborhood joint where you can wander in for a plate of Serrano ham ($13) during the afternoon, pick up pre-High Line picnic provisions, grab an incredible pasture-raised rotisserie chicken ($16) for dinner or consult with the butcher about what cut of antibiotic, hormone-free, and responsibly raised meat you should cook at home.

Chef Seamus Mullen at work.

But it’s not all meat on the menu here. The night we stopped by we delighted in a bright orange gazpacho ($4) made with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar and chunks of avocado. In addition, Mullen is an avid green-juice drinker and he offers three fresh-pressed juice blends including the Oro/Gold ($6), which combines pineapple, yellow beet, papaya, lemon and honey.

Mullen credits food as part of his journey to overcome arthritis. He told us, “It wasn’t until I learned and understood more about the relationship between my health and the food I was eating, did I come to appreciate just how important cooking with and eating real, whole foods was.”

Never thought you’d be stopping by the neighborhood butcher for a juice infusion, did you?

El Colmado Butchery
53 Little W. 12th St.


(Photo credit: Christine Han Photography)

Juiced up Supercharged cocktails at a Union Square newcomer


Move over Bloody Mary, you’ve been dethroned as the healthiest brunch drink in town.

After you pile up your bags at the Saturday morning Union Square Greenmarket, head over to Irvington and grab a seat at the bar for an amped-up cocktail.

At Irvington, chef David Nichols is in the open kitchen cooking smart new-American food with zippy Mediterranean influences. When it comes to sourcing locally, the restaurant has exactly zero excuses: It’s located catty-corner from Union Square.

The healthful touches don’t stop at the food: bartender Nico Szymanski is behind the list of super-juice cocktails boosted with Liquiteria’s cold-pressed blends.

Settle in for a Green Dream ($15) made with Crop organic cucumber vodka and Liquiteria’s All Greens blend of kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, celery and cucumber.

Grab a seat and enjoy the good food and better-for-you cocktails at Irvington.

When we pressed Nico about calling a cocktail “healthy,” he gave it to us straight up. “I’ll put it this way: They’re as healthy as you’re going to get with something that’s also loaded with alcohol,” he says. “The vast majority of calories in a cocktail come from the alcohol itself (1 ounce of an 80 proof spirit contains about 65 calories). So beyond that, the only things that you can tweak to make a drink more or less healthy are the mixers. And in this case the mixers are fresh, whole ingredients loaded with nutrients, instead of sugar. So yes, they are as healthy as possible with anything that still gives you a buzz.”

Nico’s favorite is “The Seeing Red” ($15). In it, he pairs the sharp bite of rye whiskey with the earthiness of Liquiteria’s Beets Me blend of carrots, beets, ginger, orange and pineapple—garnished with candied ginger.

Add an order of avocado and spring pea toast with pickled cage-free eggs and shaved cucumber ($15), and we’d call that a brunch of champions.

201 Park Ave. S. (inside W. Union Square)

The whole scoop Your improved summer ice cream game plan


Here’s the scoop: Summer months mean ice cream, and there is an overwhelming number of new options for the licking in NYC. We’ve done the research and created a must-try list of Clean Plates-worthy frozen confections. So punctuate a gloriously sunny day with a creamy and dreamy scoop of one (or all three) of the options below.

A.B. Biagi Gelato & Coffee: Let the sunshine-yellow door of Antonio Barros Biagi’s Nolita shop be your siren song, calling you in for a helping of the new acai or almond soft serve made with house-made almond milk. Biagi is renowned for his gelato, but his new vegan sorbet options are a hat-tip to his native Brazil. Pump up a cup with a sprinkle of goji berries or cacao nibs from Amma Chocolate. Look for a second location to open this summer at UrbanSpace Vanderbilt, a food hall opening across from Grand Central Terminal.

Victory garden’s desert date yogurt “frozen dessert” is one of five flavors now available by the pint.

OddFellows Ice Cream Co.: This Williamsburg and East Village scoop shop invents out-there combos like grapefruit-jalapeño sorbet or black-pepper strawberry made with hormone-free milk sourced from Battenkill Valley Creamery. The new line of vegan ice cream made with coconut and almond milks is keeping things interesting too: try rotating flavors like chocolate chunk, coffee crunch and, our favorite, Thai iced tea.

Victory Garden: Sophia Brittan’s West Village spot is our first stop when we get a craving for grass-fed goat’s milk soft serve laden with halva, honey and nigella seeds (what, you don’t get that craving?). And now we can stock our home freezer as well: Victory Garden has introduced pints in five flavors (chocolate, vanilla blackflower, desert date yogurt, honey lavender and salted caramel). These “frozen desserts” are made like ice cream, but can’t technically be called that because goat’s milk is lower in fat than cow’s milk.

Go go getaway Head to Treehouse Retreats for a wellness refresher


You may want to give your landlord notice now, because once you visit Heather Cox’s idyllic Treehouse Retreats, you might want to stay forever.

What makes Treehouse Retreats different from other retreat centers out there? There’s the intimate nature of the drop-dead gorgeous Amagansett house, to start. The A-frame structure is awash in sun and white linens and accommodates only six guests at a time (women only; sorry guys). Everything about the space invites you to unwind from the stresses of the city and learn how to live a balanced, sustainable, healthy life without going to extremes.

Hang out on the beach or paddle board: be as active or laid back as you need to be!

Sign up for a one-day Pilates workshop with a family-style vegetarian lunch this August or a weekend-long yoga immersion this October. While you are there, you can also hang out on the beach, go stand-up paddle boarding or hit up a local farm stand. Or, just soak up the lazy, hazy Treehouse vibe and sleep if that’s what you need.

Heather, who is also the one-woman-show behind the popular food blog Eat. Real. Food says, “My vision is to teach people that you CAN indulge in the good stuff occasionally and still be ok!”

All hail Wassail Cider, vegetables and dessert: this new restaurant has it all


The 2015 award for “Best Place to Take Your Friend Who is Seriously Skeptical of Vegetarian Food” goes to: Wassail.

The best part about Wassail’s vegetarian status? It’s not a thing; it just is. The fact that the menu is vegetarian is just one of many excellent reasons to visit this Lower East Side spot. This subtle tack has served husband-and-wife team Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler well at their excellent The Queens Kickshaw in Astoria (which is also very much worth the trip).

And they’ve imported plenty of their friendly community vibe from Queens to the Lower East Side. This extends from their support for paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage for their employees to a serious focus on local sourcing, foraging and composting leftovers through Reclaimed Organics. There is a party-up-front, business-in-the-back situation going on with a lively bar scene in the fore, and a restaurant holding it down in the aft.

Chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s modern cuisine plays up vegetables and grains and plays off Wassail’s incredible selection of fermented hard cider. Of the 12 ciders on draft, more than half are locally made. Stop by now to try refreshing green strawberry gazpacho ($13), garnished with cucumber granita and green almonds, before local strawberry season passes by.

Wassail in the Lower East Side.

The cider focus is cool, the cuisine is bright and inventive, but it’s pastry chef Rebecca Eichenbaum’s vegetable-driven desserts that really left our heads spinning. Her vegetal desserts combine leaves, blossoms, stems and roots and atypical ingredients like knotweed, buckwheat and sorrel for surprising and delicious results.

She’s sourcing rye from the Regional Grains Project and sprouting it in-house, using cider lees (spent yeast) in her freshly baked breads and working with the sustainability-focused Raaka chocolate from Brooklyn. We loved the chocolate ganache with sassafras ice cream in a housemade kombucha moat, as well as the airy frozen spruce soufflé with pistachio and yogurt granita ($10 each).

“I try to celebrate the plant’s essence,” Eichenbaum explains. “When I think about using a specific part of a plant, I look at folk recipes, herbal remedies, etymology, and symbolism. I consider the compounds that give them their flavor, their botanical characteristics, what they’re related to, and what may compliment them.” Sounds pretty sweet to us.

162 Orchard St.

Matchado It's easy being green with Chalait’s matcha offerings


Every New Yorker should be as lucky to have the kind of relationship with his or her landlord as Michelle Gardner and Ramon Puyane of Chalait do with theirs: Instead of popping a chain into his primo West Village property, he took a gamble on the couple’s concept of beautifully prepared matcha in a modern setting.

If you’ve never given matcha a chance, scoot on over to give it your own gamble.

The drink, a staple in Japan, is made from finely ground green tea leaves. The chlorophyll-rich brew packs a distinctively grassy (in a good way) punch, along with potent antioxidants like polyphenols. It’s estimated that a single serving of matcha contains as many antioxidants as 10 cups of green tea. Many people find that they don’t experience the coffee shakes when they switch to matcha, since the caffeine is paired with the calming effect of l-theanine.

Chalait serves up beautifully prepared matcha in a modern setting.

Michelle and Ramon source their matcha from the misty rolling hills of Uji, Japan’s oldest and most celebrated tea-growing region.

On a recent visit, we went wild for the matcha latte ($4.75) made with creamy Battenkill Valley Creamery milk. Or take Ramon’s recommendation for the mint julep ($4.50), which blends cold-brew matcha and mint-fig syrup with almond milk.

Chalait is carrying on the happy new trend of quick-service cafés offering food that doesn’t suck and that’s organic and local whenever possible. That means muesli toast with matcha coconut custard, almonds and fresh berries ($9), as well as a sandwich stuffed with black bean mash, avocado, pickled red onions and tomato ($11).

Expect to see Chalait as a driving force behind matcha awareness throughout the city: Talks with various retailers are in the works and tins of Chalait matcha will be coming to a store near you soon.

224 West 4th St.

What’s for lunch Get hungry for this Belgian import


There’s no getting around it: At lunch we New Yorkers can be some seriously difficult customers.

We want our food fast, but we also want it to be delicious, nutritious and sustainably sourced. And while we may want our order to fly to the table, we certainly don’t want to feel rushed to leave when we’re finished eating.

When it comes to all of these difficult demands, EXKi delivers.

The Belgium-born company has more than 75 locations in Europe and is settling into New York nicely with two park-side locations—one just off of Madison Square and another by Gramercy. Touches like speedy grab-and-go with compostable packaging, green energy, eco-friendly cleaning supplies and food sourced from local heroes such as antibiotic-free FreeBird chicken, Red Jacket juices, Jasper Hill Farm cheeses and organic SoyBoy tofu make us feel right at home. Anything that isn’t used during breakfast, lunch or dinner is donated to City Harvest at the end of the day.

Eat in comfort at EXKi’s new madison avenue location and check out the map of where their ingredients come from.

Laurent Kahn, CEO of EXKi NYC let us in on the secret of the vegetable emulsion. Each of the emulsions is a flavorful and 80% vegetable based healthier alternative to traditional oil-based dressings. The spring/summer menu has just launched with the addition of 11 new dishes and three new emulsions: fennel, red pepper and ginger-miso. Find the emulsions spread on sourdough tartines made with NY flour ($7), in whole-wheat wraps ($6.75) and on salads with organic mesclun ($10).

While EXKi may have originated across the pond, it has done a great job at infusing these city spots with some American tastes by working with chef Galen Zamarra (Mas (farmhouse), Mas (la grillade) and Almanac), while retaining charming European touches like magazines and newspapers free for the browsing. It’s enough to encourage even the busiest worker bee to linger over a pineapple, cucumber, mint and green tea smoothie ($6.90) made with Palais des Thés tea.

257 Park Avenue S.

76 Madison Ave.