Sarma Melngailis of Pure Food and Wine

By Pervaiz Shallwani

There is nothing militant about Sarma Melngailis’ approach to raw food. It started as a two-week experiment to see what eating raw was like and became a lifestyle approaching six years. She did feel better, but what she noticed was that most people eating raw had no idea how to make it “lovely and appealing” to the mainstream.

At Pure Food and Wine, Melngailis takes her traditional culinary training and combines it with raw principles (no processed or refined foods, no meat and cooking nothing over 117 degrees) to create high-end, restaurant-quality food using the best local and organic ingredients.

What she has created is a restaurant that appeals to everyone, but happens to be friendly to eaters with vegetarian, vegan or raw food diets.

“We are trying to make it something that people can integrate into their lives. Most of our regulars are not raw food people at all.”

She loathes fake, processed meats such as seitan or tofu. She and her staff — many of whom come from some of the best restaurants in the city and rarely have a background in raw food — take whimsical approaches to classic dishes, using mushrooms to create their own take on meaty sushi rolls or creamed cashews to hand-craft aged cheeses.

She has applied the same principals to her popular desserts, avoiding impurities with soft coconut in place of cream and agave nectar for refined sugar, to guarantee not skimping on taste.

Organic Turkey for a Meat Lovers Thanksgiving at NYC Restaurants

Many New Yorkers suffer from a terrible condition: Insufficient Kitchen Syndrome. Whether because you can’t cook in or won’t, you can still get a reservation for Thanksgiving at several great restaurants offering free-range turkey and all the organic fixins you can eat!

We’ve rounded up the best of the Clean Plates-approved restaurants that are serving a full holiday spread this November 25th—including healthy turkeys—plus all the traditional Thanksgiving trimmings of seasonal root vegetables and herbs that the natives first banked on when the island was still grass and dirt. Note also that City Bakery will even provide you with a catered feast for your own home—if you can manage to call it in by Saturday, that is.

Back Forty (East Village)

Three courses, $50 per person; (212) 388-1990
backfortynyc.com

Dine among reclaimed trappings and pine at Peter Hoffman’s sustainably-minded restaurant-bar, where the holiday meal starts with a poached oyster soup or a choice of two salads, then moves onto a roasted heritage turkey breast with chestnut stuffing to be paired with sides like cauliflower with toasted pumpkin seeds or baked turnips with wild forest mushrooms. Finish with pumpkin cheesecake, apple pie or a warm chocolate cake with salty peanut brittle.

Five Points (NoHo / Nolita)

Three course $30 for children, $60 for adults; (212) 253-5700 (Reserve Online)
fivepointsrestaurant.com

House-made pickles, Finger Lakes grapes and cheddar scones come to the table here to share. Then, you’re on your own to choose from five first courses, like garlic soup, shaved vegetable salad and baked oysters. Dig into mains like a free-range turkey, pork chops or wild mushroom lasagnette.

Telepan (Upper West Side)

Three courses, $79; (212) 580-4300 (Reserve Online)
telepan-ny.com

Bill Telepan’s local-centric menu starts with appetizers of vegetable-bread soup, squash with sweet potato flan, house-smoked brook trout or duck and foie gras ravioli with parsley root purée. From the five entrées, we’d go for the heritage pork four-ways or their traditional roasted organic turkey. Dessert’s a tossup between a quince granita parfait and a chocolate pecan tart—the latter, topped with homemade caramel ice cream; the former, prosecco and toasted almonds.

Hundred Acres (SoHo)

Three courses, $60; (212) 475-7500 (Reserve Online)
hundredacresnyc.com/

Oysters on the half shell break the Thanksgiving mold at this dark-wood-and-marble Lower West Side restaurant-bar, but you could also start out with fried egg soup, creamy squash grits or a dish of sunchokes and pears. Mains include spiced free-range turkey sausage with cornbread stuffing and cranberry-kumquat marmalade, while dessert features a pumpkin panna cotta.

Craft (Flatiron)

Three courses, $125; (212) 780-0880 (Reserve Online)
craftrestaurant.com

Start with an amuse of spice pumpkin soup with crème fraîche, then choose between a frisée salad with pancetta and hazelnuts, Wagyu beef carpaccio or roasted Nantucket Bay scallops with black truffle. For your main, we suggest the roasted organic Eberly Farms turkey. Pair it with sweet potato purée, roasted vegetables and sausage raisin fennel stuffing, then finish with one of five desserts. The apple-cranberry crisp sounds good to us.

Cookshop (Chelsea)

Two courses, $65 per person; (212) 924-4440 (Reserve Online)

At Cookshop, the whole table shares sides of slow-cooked greens with ham hock, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, pumpkin-chanterelle cornbread stuffing and olive walnut bread. You’ll take a stab at one of 5 first courses (like pumpkin soup, pork rillete, and buckwheat cavatelli) before moving into the main event: Vermont free-range turkey with sweet potatoes and giblet gray with fried sage. Or how about “Farmers Cross Pork Leg” with quince mostarda and tarragon mustard cream?

Marc Forgione (TriBeCa)

Three courses, $85; (212) 941-9401 (Reserve Online)
marcforgione.com

Marc Forgione will be serving a three-course Thanksgiving dinner for $85 per person. The dinner includes a roast organic turkey breast, which was raised on a farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country. They are also serving some traditional sides with a twist: sausage and cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce with fresh mint and pink peppercorns. Reservations are now being accepted for Thanksgiving.

City Bakery (Flatiron)

Prices vary; order at (212) 366-1414
citybakerycatering.com/

Rather eat in? Order a full-on feast by Saturday and have your meal ready for pickup on Thanksgiving eve. They’re offering an extensive list of choices so you’ll want to check it all out here, but we’d go for an appetizer of toasted pumpkin seed dip on cassava crackers or the roasted cauliflower soup. The bird comes from heritage stock and is available cooked (from $125) or uncooked (from $110). Add multigrain-bread stuffing, roasted greenmarket goods, bread and desserts like the City Bakery deep dish pumpkin pie or a box of their assorted cookies. Pick up on the 24th at Birdbath Tribeca, 200 Church Street.

Editors note: CleanPlates earns a small commission if you reserve online (links added by editor, writer unaware). Photo by galant. Contributions by Rebecca Sadek.

Meatless Thanksgiving at NYC Restaurants

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For the meat-averse, Thanksgiving is a notoriously tricky time of year. Between dodging Aunt Ida’s questions about your “alternative” lifestyle and trying to cobble together enough meat-free appetizers to make a full meal, it’s enough to make the holidays more stressful than they need to be.

Luckily, if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or merely looking for a healthy alternative to the typical tryptophan food coma, New York City has restaurants to satisfy every taste and budget.

Candle 79 (Upper East Side)

Four courses, $72 per person; (212) 537-7179 (Reserve Online)

http://www.candle79.com/

At the sophisticated Upper East Side location, Chef Jorge Pineda is offering a delectable range of dishes like grilled artichokes with roasted garlic aioli, baby arugula salad with beets and roasted squash, and pomegranate-stuffed tempeh served with chipotle-kabocha squash sauce. Among the delectable desserts offered: pumpkin cheesecake garnished with vanilla cream and a house-made ice cream sampler.

Candle Cafe (Upper East Side)

Four courses, $55 or a la carte; (212) 472-0970
http://candlecafe.com

The sister location to Candle 79, Candle Café offers a more informal Thanksgiving spread with a four-course prix fixe menu and additional a la carte options that are both family- and wallet-friendly. The extensive menu includes pumpkin marsala-grilled tofu with cornbread stuffing and porcini-crusted seitan with roasted shallot-potato mash. Save space for dessert: Options include seasonal pies and pumpkin bundt cake with lavender frosting.

Counter (East Village)

Four courses, $50 per person; $25 wine pairing; (212) 982-5870 (Reserve Online)
http://www.counternyc.com

At this upscale East Village fixture, familiar dishes get obscure flourishes like creamy butternut-miso soup, maple-herb-roasted seitan with apple-fennel stuffing, wild mushroom gravy, candied yams, and pull-apart potato rolls. As far as sweets go, there will be pear-cranberry crumble served with a dollop of cinnamon ice cream or spiced sugar pumpkin-apple cake with pumpkin seed brittle.

Blossom (Chelsea)

Four courses, $68 per person; (212) 627-1144
http://www.blossomnyc.com

Chelsea mainstay Blossom features a hearty menu this year with playful interpretations of Thanksgiving classics. Begin the night with kabocha squash soup and roasted Portobello; for the entrée choose between stuffed acorn squash, seitan kiev or phyllo-wrapped veggies. Finish with the pumpkin coconut parfait for the perfect end to a satisfying meal. Seatings until 9PM.

Angelica Kitchen (East Village)

Five courses, $55 per person; (212) 228-2909
http://angelicakitchen.com

An East Village landmark since 1976, Angelica Kitchen is still serving outstanding vegan fare, and Thanksgiving is the one night of the year they’ll take reservations. Start off with Jerusalem artichoke black-olive pate, followed by a choice of soup; then an entrée of heirloom bean tamales filled with Swiss chard and almond cotija cheese or seitan en croute, which comes wrapped in a delicate herbed phyllo crust. For those looking to celebrate with libations, take advantage of the BYOB option with no extra corkage fee.

They are only allotting 1hr and 45 min to parties of 1-2 and 2hrs, 15min for parties of 3 or more.  If you aren’t the type that likes to feel rushed, this may not be your choice, but the food is delicious.

Peacefood Cafe (Upper West Side)

$30 pre-fixe or a la carte; (212) 362-2266

http://www.peacefoodcafe.com

One of the few vegan haunts on the Upper West Side, Peacefood Café is offering a budget-friendly Thanksgiving meal that includes flavorful and happily unfussy delicacies. Try the Thai pumpkin soup with cashew cream and their signature meatless cutlet served with all the fixings: porcini mushroom gravy, homemade stuffing and mashed purple sweet potatoes.

Pure Food & Wine (Flatiron)

Four courses, $72 per person; (212) 477-1010 (Reserve Online)

http://www.oneluckyduck.com/purefoodandwine/

For the non-traditionalists, try raw-food hotspot Pure Food & Wine in Gramercy Park. Known for creating mouth-watering and inventive delicacies, nothing on the menu is heated above 118 degrees. The four-course tasting menu includes a bounty of options, like squash soup with bourbon maple reduction and a walnut gallet topped with lemon mascarpone and braised escarole. For the main course, try the pumpkin seed and sage tart with maple spiced baby carrots and cranberry pear relish. Be sure to leave room for dessert: the red wine poached apples with spice cake is not to be missed.

Sacred Chow (Greenwich Village)

Four courses, $50 per person; (212) 337-0863

http://sacredchow.com/

For a low-key option, neighborhood bistro Sacred Chow is offering a four-course prix fixe meal, which is inclusive of tax and gratuity. Traditional favorites like roasted pumpkin bisque soup and cornmeal-encrusted Brussels sprouts are served alongside tasty vegetarian entrées like the Hong Kong seitan roast with seitan sausage stuffing.

Hundred Acres (SoHo)

Three courses, $60 per person; (212) 475-7500 (Reserve Online)

http://hundredacresnyc.com/

If you’ll be dining with carnivores, Hundred Acres in Soho is a solid crowd-pleaser with a Thanksgiving lineup featuring inspiring, market-driven options that will appeal to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Try the creamy zuri squash grits with roasted chanterelle and trumpet royal mushrooms, cauliflower ravioli with crushed almonds and formaggio di fossa, and pecan pie with buttermilk ice cream. Carnivores will love Bev’s free-range turkey served with a hearty helping of cornbread stuffing, gravy and cranberry-kumquat marmalade.

Finally, for those who long to host a meal at home but aren’t Top Chef material, Whole Foods is offering two relatively inexpensive vegan-friendly dinner options for you to serve at your own table.

Editors note: CleanPlates earns a small commission if you reserve online (links added by editor, writer unaware). Photo by cuttlefish.

High Quality Organic Turkey Delivered to Your Door for Thanksgiving

No matter how committed you are to high quality, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, you tend to draw the line at the venerable (and heavy) Thanksgiving turkey. You can have a healthier (and more sustainable) organic turkey shipped to you in time for the holiday, but you will have to move quickly as most farms are shipping out their birds on November 17-18 to ensure you will get your turkey before Thanksgiving.

One of the best options for online turkey hunters is Good Earth Farms, a small farm in Wisconsin that has incredibly low shipping costs ($25) and affordable free-range turkeys (at $3.99/pound). These birds were slaughtered just over a month ago and frozen, but you still have time to order at goodearthfarms.com or by calling 888-941-4343.

Fresh turkeys can be expensive to ship, but there are a few options for direct-to-the-door poultry. A great fresh turkey is available through Kristina’s Natural Ranch in Fresno, CA, which sells Mary’s Turkeys at a fraction of the cost of many local turkey farms. Free-range turkeys are less than $4/pound, organic turkeys start around $5/pound and heritage turkeys cost approximately $9/pound. Expect to pay $100 additional to ship a 16-pound bird (including packing materials). Buy online at kristinastoyou.com or by calling 559-224-2222.

Amazon.com continues its dominance of the online marketplace by offering up two separate hormone-free turkey options: The first, from Branigan’s Farm, is a fresh turkey priced under $9/pound, but with the higher cross-country shipping cost. The second turkey is a frozen option, currently in stock, from Nature’s Prime Organic Foods. Unfortunately, this bird is only available as part of a package that includes 4 quarts of chowder. The price, including shipping and the soup, costs approximately $13/pound.

Fresh Direct (freshdirect.com) is also selling a heritage turkey from Epicurean Farms that runs a bit on the small size but is priced at only $7.99/pound.  Fresh Direct also offers several hormone- and antibiotic-free turkeys along with a Kosher option that are not free range birds; this mass-produced offering reflects the lower price that keeps them competitive in the marketplace. If you choose to go with Fresh Direct, try to get one of the Epicurean Farms turkeys that will probably sell out in the next week or so but can be delivered anytime between now and November 24.

Local to New York City, another great sustainable option for to-your-door shipped turkey comes from Heritage Farms, where their pasture-raised, hormone-free heritage turkeys start around $7/pound and shipping is $45. Call 718-389-0985 or online at heritagefoodsusa.com. They will ship your fresh turkey on November 22nd.