5 Healthy Fast Food Spots in Brooklyn

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Who says “slow food” can’t be fast?

Personally, I’m always searching for a quick bite that’s tasty and healthy to boot — which is why I recently decided to go on a quest to find the best tasting, most sustainable fast food take-out spots in Brooklyn, the borough I call home. Here’s what I found (note, this list includes options for carnivores and vegans alike):

1. Radish (Williamsburg)
www.radishnyc.com

Not to be confused with Manhattan’s The Fat Radish, Radish of Williamsburg is at the top of my list for healthy take-out in Brooklyn. The restaurant and shop on Bedford Avenue serves a wide variety of seasonal foods that are exquisitely prepared with the freshest, local ingredients.  You can’t go wrong with the lunch special — try the Free Range Chicken Tender Sandwich with house-made horseradish mayo, paired with the Signature Radish Salad (made with mangoes, poblano peppers and black sesame seeds) and house-made, unsweetened pomegranate soda. Your taste buds will be beaming and you’ll be left with energy to hop on your bike or peruse the neighborhood. (Note: Don’t miss the plentiful wall of Brooklyn-made artisanal food products for sale, including local honey and Irving Farm seasonal coffees by the bag.)

2. Brooklyn Larder (Park Slope)
www.bklynlarder.com/

Brooklyn Larder is the across-the-street daughter of Franny’s, the highly acclaimed pizza spot and Clean Plates critic’s pick.  Specializing in cheese and provisions, the Larder features impressive sustainable picks by the pound, including poached local swordfish, Berkshire ham, and pork and fennel sausage. It’s the sides, though, that will win your heart, like the freekah and farro and borlotti bean salads, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and polenta triangles. Their sandwiches are equally irresistible — try the speck and mozzarella panini or ham and gruyere sandwich with local McClure’s pickles. Enjoy your nibbles right there if you can snag a bar stool, or take a short walk over to Prospect Park; either way, just like Franny’s, Brooklyn Larder is worth a special trip into Brooklyn.

3. Nile Valley Eco-Juice & Salad Bar at Dekalb Market (Boerum Hill)
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At Dekalb Market, temperature controlled shipping containers house its vendors in every season (except for a few months in the winter) — hence its nickname, “the Container Market.” Nile Valley is the healthiest option at the market by far, and arguably in most of Brooklyn: It’s menu is 100% organic, seasonal and vegan, featuring raw specialties that would make even the most die-hard carnivore swoon. The smoothies aren’t the only pick-me-ups — don’t miss the live raw pizza with dehydrated nut/seed crust (trust me, it’s delicious). Nile Valley is also the epitome of sustainability, as most of its produce comes straight from the Dekalb Market garden a few feet away.

4. Brooklyn Standard Deli (Greenpoint)
www.brooklynstandarddeli.com

Brooklyn Standard may look like a standard New York deli, but its local, organic and seasonal offerings for vegans and carnivores alike make it stand out from the crowd.  Here, the coffee is fair trade, and the only “creamer” you’ll find is organic milk. Vegans and vegetarians have a choice of nine different sandwiches; standouts include the Olive Tapenade, Portobello and my personal favorite, the BQE, which stars the Standard’s own house made hummus, tomato, cucumber, pickled red cabbage, romaine, and smoked red pepper remoulade on a toasted multigrain baguette.  Flexitarians and carnivores will enjoy the organic BBQ Chicken Sandwich with vegan potato salad, crisp romaine lettuce, and house-made BBQ sauce (among other options). Pair your sandwich with house-made salads. While you’re at it, stock up on some local, organic, and seasonal groceries, such as Granola Lab granola and Long Island market vegetables. Though you may have to wait a few minutes longer for your food than you would at a typical deli, it’s well worth the wait at the Standard.

5. Purbird (Park Slope)
www.purbird.com

Pronounced “Purebird,” this Park Slope chicken joint is Brooklyn’s answer to Manhattan’s Dirty Bird To-Go. Pete and Christina Lekkas, longtime owners of Bay Ridge fine dining Greek restaurant Elia, have taken southern fast food to a new level with their specialty flame grilled, Amish, free-range, hormone/antibiotic free, vegetarian-fed chicken.  Try the boneless, skinless chicken thigh, paired with tomatoes, sauteed cabbage and pickled onions inside a whole wheat wrap. Sides lean on the healthy side of southern fare, such as Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese, Creamed Spinach, and Vegetable of the day.  KFC, eat your heart out, a new wave of southern fast food is on the bound.

Thinking differently about fast food yet? Try it for yourself and you won’t be disappointed. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of our Brooklyn guide for more tips like these!

Get Ready for Meat Week NYC

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You loved Meatopia and Pig Island. Now, get ready for Meat Week — a seven-day celebration of the farmers, markets and chefs who bring sustainable meat to New York City tables.

Running from November 7th through the 12th, Meat Week is organized by great folks at Food Karma Projects, in collaboration with Grow NYC, Food Systems Network NYC and Just Food. The festivities include tastings, demos, tours, talks and even parties. Plus, the organizers have set up a Farmer Relief Fund for farmers affected by Hurricane Irene. Find the full calendar of events here, and check out a few highlights we think you’ll especially want to pencil in:

The Launch Party (November 7, 6 – 10 p.m.)
“Meat with a Twist” is the theme of this farm-to-table kick-off at City Winery, where mixologists will team up with local chefs and farmers for pairings any conscientious carnivore and local spirits drinker can get behind. Tickets are $45 plus fees.
Buy Tickets Now

Sustainable Meat Panel (November 8, 6:30 – 8 p.m.)
Bob Lewis will moderate this discussion about meat production and distribution at the French Culinary Institute’s Demonstration Theatre. Lewis is a man to know, as he’s the co-chair of the Food Systems Network NYC, works with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and had a hand in developing the city’s Greenmarkets. Get here early—it’s first come, first served!

Wild Idea Buffalo Farm Dinner (November 8)
In the former space of Il Matto, chef Matteo Boglione now heads the farm-centric, mixologist-savvy Tribeca locale, White and Church. Tonight, he’ll serve a meal sourced from Wild Idea Buffalo Company of South Dakota. Wild Idea lets its native antibiotic-free animals roam and forage on grass, just as their wild ancestors (prized for their lean, omega-3 meat) did years ago. The special menu will run all night from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with no special seatings, but to reserve a spot call: 212-226-1607.

Film Screening with Grass-fed Burger Tasting (November 12th, 1 p.m.)
Lower East Side locavore haven Jimmy’s No. 43 welcomes the producer of the film Green Beef, accompanied by samples from Grazin’ Angus Acres, based in Ghent, NY, where cattle don’t see one bit of grain. Tickets are $10.
Buy Tickets Now

Let us know which Meat Week events you plan to attend!

Mark Your Calendar: Let Us Eat Local Benefit

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It’s time to savor the season and celebrate locally grown food at the 4th Annual Let Us Eat Local event. Hosted by Just Food, this incredible tasting benefit gathers the city’s most celebrated chefs and artisans to showcase the region’s finest ingredients.

On September 21st, enjoy farm-friendly fare from over 30 participating restaurants (including ABC KitchenBlue Hill, Gramercy Tavern, Rouge Tomate, The Spotted Pig), along with samples from local brewers, vintners and artisanal purveyors. Admission guarantees an unlimited array of delicious tastes and sips, but the best part is: event proceeds will support area farmers and organizations in need.

Tickets are still available for purchase here, so grab yours today and remember to show up with an empty stomach.

Photo courtesy of MetroMix from Let Us Eat Local 2010

Five Lunch Spots for Black Friday

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Shopping on Black Friday requires serious fuel. Whether you’re hunting for bargains in Soho, Midtown, Chelsea, Nolita or the Upper East Side, we’ve got you covered. Here are five Clean Plates approved lunch spots:

Shopping at Soho Bloomingdales?
Check out Spring Street Natural
212.966.0290

On the corner of Spring and Lafayette, Spring Street Natural offers a range of healthy and delicious options (as well as excellent people-watching). Lunch is served until 4pm just in case the Soho sales keep you longer than expected. On the lighter side, choose between a long list of salads including the southwestern organic chicken salad with toasted almonds and crumbled gorgonzola. More substantial meals could include a grass fed steak sandwich or pumpkin ravioli with brown sage butter.

Shopping at boutiques in Nolita?
Check out Emporio
212.966.1234

Emporio is a bright little restaurant on Mott Street that serves lunch until 4pm; dinner service starts  straightaway in case shopping occupies the early afternoon. Emporio is particularly perfect for groups with different appetites; while pastas and full meals are available, those who are looking for a light bite after Thanksgiving will appreciate the salad and antipasti menu instead.

Shopping at Chelsea Market?
Check out Friedman’s Lunch
212.929.9100

Friedman’s Lunch is located right inside Chelsea Market, so you can finish a purchase at Anthropologie one minute, and read the restaurant’s menu the next. This casual, cozy spot is known for serving comfort food with a healthy twist. Once you order, watch a chef in the open kitchen whip up your Asian chop salad or garden vegetable sandwich.

Shopping at Macy’s 34th Street?
Check out HanGawi
212.213.0077

The soothing atmosphere at this Korean vegetarian restaurant will hit the spot after a hectic day spent shopping. Lunch is served until 3pm, but dinner service begins at 5pm if you’re looking for an early evening meal. Entering this restaurant, be prepared to kick off your shoes and take a seat on cushions at one of the low tables. Take your time by starting off with tasty appetizers or salads, such as the kabocha pumpkin pancakes with mung beans, before diving into the entree menu.

Shopping at Bloomingdales on 59th Street?
Check out Rouge Tomate
646.237.8977

Lunch at Rouge Tomate is an experience that shouldn’t be rushed. A leisurely lunch could start with curried cauliflower soup or maybe a Satur farms beet and apple salad. Entrees showcase the best flavors of the season, including wild mushroom farrotto with parsnip.

Tell us: Are you braving the shopping crowds, or spending your day another way?

Jessica Colley is a freelance travel and food writer based in New York City. She shares the inside scoop on her travels on www.thegreatamericantraveldream.com

Photo by Flickr user Stephan Geyer

Stogo’s Naturally Sweet Ice Cream Pies for the Holidays

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Stogo’s, a go-to for organic, dairy-free, naturally sweetened ice cream in the East Village, is offering their soy milk and coconut milk-based creations in the form of 9-inch pies ($35) with an oatmeal raisin crust for the holidays. If you order by Tuesday the 22nd, you can even have one for Thanksgiving.

You can fill your pie with any of their flavors, says co-owner Juni Ishimori, but the varieties they’ve already made sound great: soy milk-based pumpkin, apple crumble, and veg-nog (with bourbon, naturally), and coconut milk-based sweet potato. All come sweetened with agave nectar or brown rice syrup and an optional dollop of vegan whip cream.

Pre-order by calling 212-677-2301 and pick up the day before Thanksgiving or the day-of between 11 and 2. Then, can we come over?

Photo by Lindsay Myers

Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving From NYC Restaurants

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We asked some of our favorite NYC restaurants for tips on simple ways to boost the nutritional factor of this year’s Thanksgiving meal — without sacrificing taste. Get advice below from the chefs at Greensquare Tavern, Dirty Bird To Go, HENRY’s and GustOrganics, plus tips from nutritionist and Clean Plates founder Jared Koch. (Don’t miss the Branzino and Kale Salad recipes at the end of the post.)

Tip #1: Try adding a fish course to your Thanksgiving meal.
Chef John Marsh, Greensquare Tavern

“Branzino filets cook quickly and are easily garnished and flavored for stress-free service during the Thanksgiving meal,” says Marsh. “Have the fish monger filet and bone the fish for you; one fish provides two portions.” See recipe below.

Tip #2: Create a nutrient dense vegetable dish as a healthy side (or vegetarian/vegan main).
– Joseph Ciriello, Dirty Bird To Go and Chef Mark Barrett and Henry Rinehart, HENRY’s

“Oven roasted brussels sprouts are a fun side dish,” says Ciriello. “Just keep it simple: a little olive oil, salt and pepper, throw it in the oven until it reaches carmelization. It’s a nice clean way to enjoy a veggie for Thanksgiving.”

Kale salad is another easy way to to get maximum nutrients with little effort. At HENRY’s, the Shredded Kale Salad is a best seller. “I’ve done raw, shredded kale lots of ways, but always with a toasted nut, a fruit, and a sprinkle of cheese,” says Barrett. Rinehart adds, “The combination of properly chopped kale with toasted nuts, juicy red grapes and a touch of Vermont maple syrup in the vinaigrette is pure magic.” See recipe below.

Tip #3: Use lean, high-protein, skinless, organic turkey breasts.
– Alberto Gonzalez, GustOrganics

Gonzalez recommends serving skinless organic turkey breasts instead of a full bird, noting that individual portions are perfect for smaller, more intimate holiday gatherings. “The secret to avoid dryness is to marinate for 24 hours using your favorite marinade,” he tells us (when in doubt, try olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of your favorite herbs). Next, sear the turkey in a pan, then finish in the oven. Gonzalez also suggests you make things fun for your guests by putting garnishes on the table like lemon slices, chopped parsley, capers, and whole-grain mustard.  (If you prefer a whole bird, look for Heritage Turkeys.)

Bonus Tips from Jared

Our resident nutrition expert and Clean Plates founder Jared Koch suggests eating salad and a lot of other vegetables during your Thanksgiving meal. This helps in two ways: first, it gives your body the nutrients it needs to help deal with some of the negative effects of more indulgent foods on the table; and second, the fiber from the vegetables should help you fill up quicker, which can keep you from overindulging. Jared also suggests that preparing desserts with better quality sweeteners like maple syrup or raw honey, instead of plain old sugar, will allow you to satisfy your sweet tooth in a more healthful way.

Tell us: What are you planning for your Thanksgiving table?

RECIPES

Quick Branzino Filets
Chef John Marsh, Greensquare Tavern

1 Branzino, filleted
Filtered water
Lemon juice to taste
Fresh tarragon, thyme, marjoram, oregano and chive to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Using a stainless steel or ovenproof glass pan, brush the pan with olive oil.

3) Lay the Branzino filets in the pan. Hydrate the filets with a mix of pure water and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

4) Bake for 5 minutes. Remove filets to plates to serve.

5) Transfer the liquid left from cooking the Branzino to a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Season gently to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a bit more lemon juice to boost flavor, check seasoning then finish the sauce by adding chopped fresh herbs: tarragon, thyme, marjoram, oregano and chive.

6) Drizzle sauce onto the Branzino filets and serve.

Shredded Kale Salad
Chef Mark Barrett, HENRY’s

Vinaigrette

1 Lemon
1 T Grade “B” Amber Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (25%)/ Canola (75%) Blend
Kosher Salt (to taste)

Salad

1 Bunch Green, Curly Kale
1 Head Belgian Endive
1/4 Cup Toasted Hazelnuts
1/2 Cup Red Seedless Grapes
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1) Make vinaigrette by shaking vigorously lemon, syrup and oil. Season with salt to taste.

2) Wash and dry the kale. Remove tough middle ribs; stack leaves flat, roll like cigars, and julienne across the leaf’s veins.

3) Remove outer leaves of endive and cut in half, then chop on bias.

4) Mix together all ingredients, reserving some Parmesan for garnish.

5) Garnish with grated Parmesan, and enjoy!

Photo by robbplusjessie on Flickr

Eating Out on Thanksgiving in NYC

Empire State Building Lit Up For Thanksgiving

Waited ’til the last minute to firm up your Thanksgiving plans? Never fear: we’ve rounded up info on Clean Plates approved restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn offering delicious holiday menus. Whether you’re a Thanksgiving classicist craving traditional turkey and stuffing; an adventurous eater looking for creative alternatives (celery root and black truffle agnolotti, anyone?); or a vegan or vegetarian looking for delicious meat-free options, we’ve got something for you.

Read our Manhattan and Brooklyn round-ups.

Where to Dine Out on Thanksgiving in Manhattan

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This year, the National Restaurant Association estimates that 14 million Americans will dine out for Thanksgiving, according to Huffington Post. In case you’re one of them, here are five Manhattan eateries we love that are offering special holiday menus. (Prefer to eat in Brooklyn? We’ve got you covered.)

  1. Hundred Acres
    3-course holiday meal $65
    212.475.7500Behind the French doors of Hundred Acres in SoHo is a warm dining room worthy of a holiday celebration. Kick off your Thanksgiving meal with creamy zuri squash grits topped with roasted chanterelle and royal trumpet mushrooms. For the main course, options include free-range turkey with cornbread stuffing and cranberry-kumquat marmalade; roasted pork with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts; and cauliflower ravioli with roasted grapes and crushed almonds.
  2. Back Forty
    3-course holiday meal with 3 sides for the table $55
    212.388.1990Tucked into the East Village, Back Forty is known for its simple and delicious fare. Get the festivities started with rutabaga, apple, and bacon soup or a roasted beet and fennel salad with crispy squid. Thanksgiving classicists will be drawn to the heritage turkey breast entrée, served with chestnut stuffing and cranberry sauce. Side dish options — served family style — include brussels sprouts with mustard maple dressing and roasted Kabocha pumpkin.
  3. Blossom
    4-course holiday meal $68
    212.627.1144Even carnivores will admit that sometimes, the best part of Thanksgiving is the sheer variety of veggies and side dishes on the table. Blossom is serving a vegan 4-course feast filled with the best ingredients of the season. Get started with jalapeno and sage cornbread or walnut and pumpkin ravioli. For your entree, choose between walnut crusted seitan (served with herbed stuffing and parsnip mash) and marinated grilled tofu over braised leeks and sautéed spinach. Don’t miss the pumpkin pie with cinnamon syrup for dessert.
  4. Colicchio & Sons
    4-course holiday menu $115
    212.400.6699At Colicchio & Sons, start your celebration with a market greens salad with fall vegetables, then move on to your pasta course, with delicious options like celery root and black truffle agnolotti. For your entree, enjoy organic Eberly Farms turkey (served with all the trimmings), or break with tradition and devour a ribeye of beef or Loch Duart salmon instead. (We won’t tell.)
  5. Maialino
    4-course holiday menu $85
    212.777.2410From a dining room overlooking Gramercy Park, get your meal started with something warm and hearty like the chestnut soup with roasted brussels sprouts. For the pasta course, agnolotti filled with Delicata Squash will keep things seasonal. Carnivores may have a tough time choosing an entree: roasted heritage turkey (with Italian trimmings of polenta and kale), roasted suckling pig, and turkey pot pie with mashed potatoes are all on offer.

Tell us: Have you eaten out on Thanksgiving? How did it compare to eating at home?

Author Jessica Colley is a freelance travel and food writer based in New York City. She shares the inside scoop on her travels on www.thegreatamericantraveldream.com.

Photo by Flickr user J. Annie Wang

Northern Spy Food Co.’s Kale Salad

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As the leaves change on the trees outside our windows, so do the greens we get at our farmers markets. Lettuces like mesclun and bibb are replaced with hearty and healthy kales. The dark green veggie, which is a member of the cabbage family, is packed with nutrients like vitamin C and even a dose of calcium.

While delicious sautéed or baked into kale chips, the autumnal green’s flavor truly shines when it is served raw. Northern Spy Food Co.‘s Kale Salad highlights kale’s full raw flavor and compliments it with crunchy toasted almonds, sweet roasted squash pieces, crumbled sharp cheddar and the zing of a lemon and olive oil dressing. Continue reading

Join Slow Food NYC in Honoring ‘Snailblazer’ Mary Cleaver

For more than 30 years, Mary Cleaver has been a pioneer in the local and sustainable food movement. And on November 16th, Slow Food NYC will honor her hard work and dedication with an inaugural Snailblazer Award.

Mary began catering in the late 1970’s, out of her kitchen on the fifth floor of a Mulberry Street walk-up. At the time, the majority of NYC’s food supply was being imported from other parts of the world—which baffled her, since she grew up eating and cooking seasonally in rural areas of the Northeast. With the belief that the best ingredients come from no more than a day’s drive away, Mary became dedicated to rebuilding the city’s infrastructure to support a local farming economy.

Over the past few decades, Mary has been at the forefront of encouraging and enabling change in the local distribution system. She worked with City Harvest to feed a post-9/11 community nutritious meals made from area produce, and partnered with local purveyors to increase the direct supply of healthy animal proteins to greenmarkets. She even founded Farm To Chef—a program that puts the wares of small farmers directly into Manhattan restaurant kitchens.

Today, Mary continues to blaze trails and successfully runs two green businesses in Chelsea Market: The Cleaver Company, a full-service gourmet catering operation that uses fresh local, organic fare; and The Green Table, a celebrated sustainable eatery and wine bar.

Next Wednesday, the New York City chapter of Slow Food—an international organization dedicated to a good, clean and fair food system—will host The Slow Down annual gala, featuring artisanal cocktails, a whole pig roasted by Fatty ‘Cue, raffle and silent auction, and seasonal treats created by “slow friendly” establishments. During the event, Brian Halweil (publisher of Edible Manhattan, Edible Brooklyn, and editor of Edible East End) will present the prestigious—and aptly named—Snailblazer Award to Mary Cleaver. Well deserved, indeed.

Don’t miss out on this extraordinary evening! To join Slow Food NYC and celebrate the efforts of this year’s very special honoree, visit SlowFoodNYC.org/fundraiser to purchase tickets. Proceeds will support the Slow Food NYC Urban Harvest programs, which focus on helping and teaching kids in communities with limited access to fresh, healthful food.

Many congratulations, Mary!

Photo courtesy of The Cleaver Co.