What’s for lunch Get hungry for this Belgian import

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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.

EXKi
257 Park Avenue S.
212-533-2011

76 Madison Ave.
212-447-1874
exkinyc.com

Snack break Just say no to unhealthy snacks with coffee

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Skip the dubious muffin, sugary yogurt parfait, and dried-out biscotti: When we’re craving a good coffee, we want a little somethin’ on the side that is way above average coffee shop fare and that is not going to bring us down, but nourish us and give us energy.

Thankfully, these two spots are doing a bang-up job of offering both. Go get your coffee (or tea) break on:

The Elk

This West Village gem is your stop if you want a snack made with ingredients sourced from the Union Square Greenmarket, a latte ($3.75) made with ethically sourced Sightglass coffee and Five Acre Farms milk and to pick up a jar of Bees Knees Spicy Honey. Owner Claire Chan declares, “We are firm believers that local is best.” It’s clear that philosophy is tasty as well, with options like local soft-scrambled eggs and sweet potato hash ($9) or a pole-caught tuna melt on country bread ($9). If you need to take anything to go, there are recycled pulp paper products and biodegradable goods. The Elk also doesn’t like to waste anything: leftover fresh pressed juices are turned into fruit jelly or incorporated into soup specials.

At The Elk you can pair your ethically sourced coffee with a tasty snack made with farmers market ingredients. (Photo credit: Bridget Bador)

 

Two Hands

At Two Hands (motto: “Good Food by Good Dudes”) you can pair a raw, vegan, organic and sugar-free Raw & Yummy vanilla almond cookie ($3) or a slice of banana bread with ricotta and honey ($6) with a cappuccino ($3.50) made with Café Integral beans and seriously creamy Ronnybrook milk. Aussie expat Giles Russell is particularly proud that he’s outfitted every staff member with a re-usable Klean Kanteen or KeepCup for use while working. You might decide to apply for a job yourself once you get your hands on an acai bowl topped with chia, hemp and raw cacao ($9).

The Elk
128 Charles St., New York
212-933-4780
theelknyc.com

Two Hands
164 Mott St., New York
917-475-1815
twohandsnyc.com

Lead the whey This yogurt byproduct is good for your gut

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We’re all about the probiotics.

Whether we’re dipping a spoon into GMO-free yogurt, sipping kombucha or popping open a jar of zesty sauerkraut, those tiny nutrition powerhouses are foremost in our minds.

So it came as a surprise when we found out that we were leaving a delicious and distinctive source of probiotics out of our regular rotation: whey.

Our discovery is thanks to Homa Dashtaki of The White Moustache, a line of Persian-style yogurt made with local milk sans preservatives, salt, sugar or cream. Her thick yogurt requires straining, and whey is the byproduct of this process. It turns out that the fresh liquid contains all the calcium and probiotics of yogurt without any of the calories of milk fats.

A product has to have 1 million parts per serving to be considered probiotic. Homa’s products have over 100 million parts per serving that are live, active and raring to go.

“There’s no good way to say this marketing wise, but it helps you poop.” – Homa Dashtaki on the properties of whey!

As such, whey is a gut-health superstar. Homa told us, “There’s no good way to say this marketing wise, but it helps you poop.” Look for her refreshing tonics in flavors like passion fruit with pear juice, honey-lime, ginger and sweet beet in 16-ounce glass bottles ($5) at area Whole Foods.

In addition to being a great alternative to kombucha or coconut water, you can cook with whey as well. Homa loves to use the slightly tart liquid in place of chicken broth, to make a silky sorbet or in a raw cauliflower soup to preserve the probiotics. And it can be substituted for liquid ingredients in your favorite cakes and pastries. Come Thanksgiving, she will be selling five gallon buckets ($35) of whey for turkey brine.

Chefs around the city are scooping it up too. Chef Rob Newton of Brooklyn’s Nightingale 9 tenderizes his beef in it; the nearby Smith Canteen mixes it into a juice with spinach, ginger, celery and mint, and Foragers in Chelsea is spiking brunch cocktails with it.

So what are you whey-ting for?

Where to buy White Moustache products

(Photo credit: Nicole Franzen)

Pasta express Hungryroot turns vegetables into delicious noodle dinners

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We love noodles. We love vegetables. Simple math told us that we were really going to love Hungryroot’s organic, fresh-cut vegetable noodles.

We were right.

Hungryroot is the very tasty brainchild of Ben McKean, Greg Struck and Franklin Becker that just launched in New York and several other cities east of the Mississippi.

Each convenient pack of spiralized vegetable noodles can go from package to plate in seven minutes or less. Even better: Every Hungryroot meal is under 500 calories, non-GMO and gluten-, antibiotic- and hormone-free. To keep with the simple feel, each dish is $10, with the option to add free-range grilled chicken for an additional $2. Shipping is free for every order over $40 and you don’t need to be home to receive the delivery thanks to cold gel packs and insulated Mylar liners. Typically, Hungryroot receives the vegetables from the farm the same day the meals are shipped out and they are guaranteed to stay fresh for 10 days in the refrigerator. The sauce and the additions (like the nuts or cheese) all come in separate recyclable containers, so you can customize your meal to your liking.

One of our favorites, the zucchini noodles with tomatoes and Parmesan and a gremolata of basil, pine nuts and raisins.

 

Chef Becker (of The Little Beet fame) dreamed up the six delicious options. Our favorites were the zucchini noodles with tomatoes and Parmesan and a gremolata of basil, pine nuts and raisins, and sweet potato noodles with a creamy vegan cashew alfredo sauce. Other options include beet noodles with a sesame sauce and for pad thai lovers, carrot noodles paired up with a tangy Sriracha peanut sauce.

Founder Ben McKean told us that only 6 percent of the population eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables (yikes!). He says, “I think part of that has to do with an overall perception that vegetables are less-than-satisfying and sometimes intimidating to prepare. We’re hoping to change that perception by filling a void in fast and healthy home cooked meals.”

With Hungryroot, there’s no reason to not have vegetables in the smack-dab center of your plate.

Spread the word: Hungryroot plans to expand to nationwide shipping by the end of 2015.

She’s bloomin’ Eat plants and be merry with April Bloomfield's newest cookbook

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It’s hard to imagine April Bloomfield cooking without meat.

Exhibit A: Her perpetually packed restaurant, The Spotted Pig, heaves with bacon wrapped dates and crispy pig’s ear salad, not to mention a world-famous burger.

Exhibit B: Her first cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig, whose cover featured a pig draped just-so over her shoulders.

But April’s new cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden ($35) offers a chance to get to know her in a whole new way.

The book serves up over 80 inspired, seasonal recipes from this internationally acclaimed chef who won the 2014 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: New York City. It’s also a wonderful reminder that she worked under ingredient-driven cooking pioneer and noted vegetable stickler Alice Waters at Chez Panisse.

The book is decidedly vegetable-centric, but it’s not wholly vegetarian. April declares, “I’m not saying vegetables should aspire to be like meat. I’m just saying that meat eaters will appreciate these qualities, and that vegetables can satisfy you the way meat does.”

“Vegetables make you happy when they’re there, and miss them when they’re gone.”—April Bloomfield

The book is flush with personality, charming illustrations and April-isms like “inner fuss-bucket,” recipe titles like “If-It-Ain’t Broke Eggplant Caponata” and directions that instruct you to “smoosh” ingredients. Flipping through the book gives you the feeling that you are cooking alongside a friend (albeit one who’s an award-winning chef).

April reminds us that, “I like the limits that the seasons impose. I like having something to look forward to. I don’t even mind when nature disappoints me with a bad year for corn or tomatoes. You develop an almanac in your head—like, “Oh, peas were so bad that year.” When great ones return, you get to think, ‘Finally, lovely peas!’ Vegetables make you happy when they’re there, and miss them when they’re gone.”

With those peas rolling into a farmers market near you in mind, we snagged April’s recipe for crushed spring peas with mint. It’s lovely as a dip for raw veg, like radishes, carrots and wedges of fennel.

Crushed Spring Peas with Mint

Makes about 2 cups
2 cups fresh peas (from about 2 pounds pods)
1 ounce aged pecorino, finely grated
1½ teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
1 small spring garlic clove or
½ small garlic clove, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
12 medium mint leaves (preferably black mint)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Scant 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more for finishing

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree, about 45 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and roughly stir and smoosh a bit so it’s a little creamy and a little chunky. Season to taste with more salt and lemon juice—you want it to taste sweet and bright but not acidic.

From A Girl and Her Greens by April Bloomfield. Copyright 2015 April Bloomfield. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Hidden Kitchens Get home schooled (literally) at a League of Kitchens class

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Step onto Sunny’s porch in Bayside, Queens and the first thing you’ll notice is a crock of soy sauce fermenting.

Step inside her kitchen and you’ll learn the secrets to making watercress salad with toasted sesame seeds and pajeon (scallion pancakes) made with organic eggs and just the faintest dusting of flour.

The only way to gain entrance to Sunny’s place? That would be League of Kitchens.

League of Kitchens is an immersive culinary adventure where immigrants teach intimate cooking workshops in their own homes ($95 to $145).

The idea was cooked up by Lisa Gross, the grandchild of a Korean immigrant. Lisa’s grandmother was so intent on making sure that her grandchild studied that she kept her out of the kitchen. As an adult, Lisa had a B.A. from Yale to show for her efforts, but couldn’t replicate the flavors of her grandmother’s cooking. “Nothing I made ever tasted as good as my grandmother’s food,” she says.

League of kitchens is a hands-on cooking class under the guidance of a seasoned home cook.

This experience led her to dream up League of Kitchens, which can connect you with instructors from every pocket of the world, including Trinidad, Afghanistan and Greece. Many of the instructors also grow their own produce—like Sunny, who grows 20 varieties of vegetables and six different fruit trees.

The experience of being in a stranger’s home means this is an intimate cooking experience, best for those adventurous at heart. However, any lingering awkwardness is easy to gloss over when you are welcomed so warmly with green tea and personal tales. The benefit of learning next to a seasoned cook means you’ll get to pick up on those subtle but important techniques and tricks that so often get left out of written recipes.

After cooking alongside the instructor, you will sit down to enjoy your dishes and hear more stories. Best of all: The leftovers go home with you, along with new recipes and a huge helping of inspiration.

Life is a beach Pizza as healthy as they come on the UES

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If pizza grew in fields, it would look something like the pies at Pizza Beach.

There’s a pizza made almost violet with a mess of roasted beets, dots of fresh chèvre and sprigs of micro arugula ($19). The purple kale and butternut squash pie ($19) makes a beloved combination even better, and swoops of Japanese eggplant update classic cherry tomatoes and basil ($18). Gluten-free crusts are available for every pizza as well.

The menu is clearly and helpfully marked with symbols for vegetarian (more than half of the pies offered are vegetarian-friendly) and vegan options like a cannellini bean hummus ($12) served with radish, snap pea and fennel crudités.

This Upper East Side spot by the Martignetti brothers (the same family behind Clean Plates’ picks The East Pole and Brinkley’s) is decked out in whitewashed brick walls, strings of lights, surfboards and copious plants.

Pro tip: order a couple of pies to share so you can indulge in a variety of toppings (plus have leftovers for home)!

The vibe here may be relaxed retro surfside chic, but this pizza joint is stringent when it comes to sourcing: all of the meats and cheeses are free of hormones and antibiotics. That slight bit of sweetness in the dough is courtesy of Hudson Valley Harvest honey. The lamb merguez in the impressive combination of sausage, shishito peppers, fresh cilantro and Oaxaca cheese ($20) is made with grass-fed lamb from the Catskills and contains no nitrates or other preservatives.

The brothers say, “All in all, we like to think our pizzas are as healthy as pizzas can possibly be, without being a carrot!”

With a location that is well situated near The Met and Central Park, this is a place to know about and remember.

See you at the Beach.

Pizza Beach
1426 3rd Ave.
646-666-0819
pizzabeachclub.com

Radically different Radicle Farm will up your salad game

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Has this ever happened to you? You buy greens at the market with the best of intentions ➙ Forget about the greens ➙ Discover the muck formerly known as greens ➙ @#%!* ➙ Experience locally grown greens guilt ➙ Vow to do better next time.

Circumvent this vicious cycle by changing your salad game with Radicle Farm Company. Forgotten greens are what propelled the founders of Radicle Farm to look for an alternative. Eating fewer greens wasn’t the answer, but changing the system was. Radicle’s greens are beyond fresh—they’re still alive. This mixed baby lettuce, Shanghai spinach (tatsoi and komatsuna blend) or California Peppergrass (mix of red and green mizuna, baby kale, tatsoi and romaine) ($4 for 4.5 ounces) comes to your door in recyclable containers from a farm in Newark with roots attached, ready to be cut, rinsed and served.

Managing Director Christopher Washington says, “When we did our research, we saw that some retailers throw out nearly 70 percent of bagged salad before they can sell it. Everyone knows about bagged salad’s horrible food safety record and massive recalls, but we also began to see that the only way to prevent those outbreaks is to bleach the salad before it hits the bag, which is, of course, gross.”

Radicle salads use one-tenth of the water in comparison to traditional agriculture and 50 percent less electricity in comparison to hydroponics.

Not only does their system cut waste at home, but it stops waste at the market and in the growing cycle too: Radicle salad has twice the shelf life of bagged salad products. Growing the lettuce in coconut fiber trays uses one-tenth of the water in comparison to traditional agriculture and 50 percent less electricity in comparison to hydroponics. Instead of spraying harsh pesticides and chemicals, Radicle Farms uses an army of ladybugs and beneficial nematodes and is in the process of becoming certified organic. Chefs around the city are already on board: When you eat salad at Locanda Verde, Little Park, Gramercy Tavern and others, you are eating Radicle salad.

You can find Radicle greens at FreshDirect.com, Whole Foods, Down To Earth Farmers Markets in Park Slope and Harlem, selected Greenmarkets and in Quinciple boxes.

At home, we love leaving the salad out on our counter as a living centerpiece, watering the roots of the plant daily to keep the compost moist and grabbing a leaf or two every time we walk by.

As the bird turns Papa Poule's chicken is as good as it gets

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If you step outside in lower Manhattan today, the glorious smell of chickens being roasted to a golden crisp might just knock you upside your head.

Your nostrils can thank Soho’s new Papa Poule, and your belly will thank Armand Arnal, Benjamin Sormonte and Elisa Marshall.

If those names sound familiar, that’s because we recently raved about this team’s other project, Maman, the South of France-inspired bakery and café that harkens to meals prepared by a doting French mother.

In creating the handsome Papa Poule, the partners wanted to honor their fathers. “We created Maman to celebrate our mothers’ recipes from our childhood, though our dads played a big part in our life as well,” explains partner Benjamin Sormonte. “Collectively, it was a tradition to eat chicken with the whole family on Sundays, prepared and cooked by our dads. Papa Poule celebrates this tradition.”

Papa Poule’s sides: delicious and perfect accompaniments. 

Sormonte and team source organic, free-range, Québécoise birds. Once the birds land in the shop, they are marinated with olive oil and massaged with a heavy dose of garlic, thyme, and rosemary before being put on the rotisserie (a quarter chicken with two sides is $12.50; a half chicken with one side is $15, and a whole chicken is $19).

While Papa Poule is an itty-bitty takeout joint, the team sure packs a bombastic amount of flavor into each chicken. Spring will bring salads loaded with local produce, homemade pitas and chicken and egg breakfast items.

Just follow your nose to the chalkboard sign.

Papa Poule
189 Lafayette St.
212-226-8726
papapoulenyc.com

Clean Habits: Franklin Becker How the Little Beet's chef keeps it clean

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The road to wellness has been a winding one for chef Franklin Becker. Stops on his personal highway included weighing in at 235 pounds, being diagnosed with diabetes at age 27, a crash-course in the wonders of the Mediterranean diet while working at a restaurant in Italy and a son with autism.

These days Becker embraces a balanced lifestyle and encourages others to do the same with his cookbook, Good Fat Cooking: Recipes for a Flavor-Packed, Healthy Life ($30) and two farm-fresh restaurants: the Midtown lunchtime favorite The Little Beet and the full-service The Little Beet Table.

We checked in with the busy chef to see what a normal day is like for him and to snag a must-have recipe for broccoli deliciously charred and marinated with a glug of olive oil and a scattering of chiles and garlic. Get the recipe below.

What’s your morning routine like? 
I usually have a cup of tea and some oatmeal or a half a grapefruit. I love the quinoa oatmeal I created for The Little Beet. It is a great starter for the day.

How do you stay balanced and healthy while working in the restaurant industry?
I keep my sugar levels constant by grazing throughout the day. Plus, I am always on the go. I love to walk or bike everywhere and anywhere.

Franklin Becker and his new book, Good Fat Cooking.

What are your three desert-island ingredients? 
Olive oil, salt and citrus.

Is there an ingredient you would never use or a trend that you hate?
I hate “NO” diets. Our bodies need fat and carbohydrates to sustain ourselves. Removing them entirely makes no sense. We need to control them and know where they are sourced from, but not remove them. In the case of a gluten-free lifestyle, this is not a diet, this is a necessity for those with celiac disease.

 

Blistered Broccoli with Garlic and Chiles

  Serves 4
1 head broccoli, cut into 16 pieces
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt to taste

Preheat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over high heat. Place the broccoli in the skillet and char until blistered on one side. Turn and char the other side. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Pour the oil over the broccoli and turn to coat. Let marinate for 10 minutes. Drizzle with the lemon juice, season with the sea salt and lemon zest, and serve hot or at room temperature.