Food Talk: Jil Larsen of Magic Mix Juicery

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Physicians told melasma sufferer Jil Larsen (pictured) that she would forever live with dark skin marks, and could never step outside without harsh chemical sun protection. Today, you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She left her job at a law firm, started studying nutrition, and has now founded Magic Mix Juicery in NYC. We asked her how diet transformed her.

Q. When you first introduced healthier foods into your diet, did you notice the difference right away?
A. It was a battle, because I had to wean myself off the standard American diet: dairy, meat, sugar (huge sugar addiction). I eliminated one thing at a time, seeing what worked and what didn’t work. Once I started incorporating living foods and all the plants (green juices, organic foods), that’s when I really started seeing that my body was starting to change, starting to replenish. I think I was overfed and undernourished, and this made up for years of an imbalance you don’t notice until either your skin or your energy levels change.

Q. Did you have to try a few different “diets” before finding the right one?
A. Absolutely. In the beginning, there was a lot of craving. I think it was more about being addicted to certain things (like the sugar), and I started to see what could I substitute it with. When I wasn’t eating wheat, I would eat all the [conventional] gluten-free products, but that really wasn’t helping me either. . .It took a little while until I figured out, okay, it’s the nutrients that I’m missing.

Q. You don’t insist that everyone follow the same diet that worked for you. Why?
A. I think everybody has a different makeup. I’m not here to deprive people of what they feel they need in their lives. For some people, meat works; for some people, dairy products work. It’s all about finding out what works for you. I think, most importantly, it’s about eating good quality food. So if you feel like having a steak, hey, absolutely have a steak, but look at where it comes from: how was it raised? What was it fed?

Q. Do you now have a morning routine?
A. I drink a large glass of water with some lemon juice and cayenne pepper, so it gets my metabolism going. Then I come to work (which to me, isn’t work anymore), and I’ll make myself a superfood smoothie, which consists of coconut milk (which we make here in-house with young Thai coconuts), a tablespoon of vitamin green powder, some spirulina, some cayenne pepper (I love my cayenne pepper!), and a banana. That gives me the boost to get to lunch, have a clear mind and get the day going.

Q. What advice do you have for someone battling a chronic condition?
A. I think what’s important is to breathe, not stress out too much. Take time to yourself to find out what it is that you might really be missing in your life, whether it’s a nutritional deficiency, or in your career, relationships or physical activity. Look at all those aspects and see where you might be able to improve. And be kind to yourself. Don’t fret over little things, because gradually, the more you work on making yourself happy, the other things fall into place.

Magic Mix Juicery
102 Fulton St. (@ William St.)

New York, NY 10038
646 454-0680

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Images by Laura Mordas-Schenkein

Going (Modern) Paleo with Hu Kitchen’s Jordan Brown

Hu Kitchen

Whether you call it “Stone Age,” “Primal,” or “Paleo,” there’s a dietary plan that says everything JORDANyou need is what was readily available in nature—before the discovery of grains, dairy, and legumes. At Manhattan’s Paleo-inspired Hu Kitchen, owner Jordan Brown calls it “getting back to human.” We talked to him about his old, old school diet…with a twist.

Q. Isn’t the Paleo diet very meat-heavy?

A. A common misconception is that anybody who decides to go grain-, dairy-, legume- free spends their days eating raw organ meat and foraging wild mushrooms. I am all for that lifestyle—it is perfectly healthy given the removal of all toxins, et cetera. Nonetheless, there is no one “human diet.” Depending on geographic location, prehistoric humans were eating an array of things.

Q. Not everything on Hu’s menu was in the Stone Age person’s diet. What are some of the tweaks you’ve made, and why?

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A. At Hu, we cater to all ways of eating that get us back to human—a more natural way of eating. We’re big proponents of Michael Pollan’s maxim, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” We do serve very limited grains, such as brown rice and amaranth, but you will never find gluten in any of our food. Our goal is to change the way modern humans eat; maximizing high-quality vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, animal protein and fat from animals fed their natural diet.

Q. We’re guessing that real-life hunting and gathering isn’t part of your repertoire. Where do you “forage”?

A. Our chefs take trips to local markets and are always on the lookout for new sources of the highest possible quality. Our ingredients change daily, because high-quality food isn’t reliably available in the same kind of way that mass produced food is. That said, we also source from some big suppliers because they have fantastic products that are consistent with our ideals.

Q. A lot of health “fad” diets are anti-fat. How do Paleolithic cooking techniques differ?

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A. We totally reject the focus on avoiding fats. In our opinion, it is the onslaught of whole and refined grains, sugars, poor quality dairy and animal protein, and laboratory fats that are the true problem. At Hu, we love good fats. We cook with olive oil, organic coconut oil, and also use grass-fed butter in a few baked goods. The key is to make sure that the animals we eat also ate [as nature intended].

Q. When did you go Paleo?

A. I randomly stumbled upon The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I did three weeks of dietary self-experimentation based on its principles, and that was that. My skin started glowing, my energy levels reached new heights, I exercised less with better results, and my mood was great.

Q. For someone who’s brand new to Paleo, which dishes would you recommend?

A. Cauliflower purée, our take on mashed potatoes. “Mashbar,” our take on a

sundae/yogurt bar. The only dairy is a bit of grass-fed butter in the cookies. We mix fruits, nuts, seeds, non-dairy puddings and creams, and no refined sugars. Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders, our take on the classic, fried delicacies. These are roasted. No grains or gluten, of course. And muffins, made with coconut flour. Compare that to a grain-based muffin that will have you craving another one an hour later.

Q. Why do you believe omnivores need this diet, especially in this day and age?

A. At Hu, our main goal is to take the anxiety out of eating well. Now that we have unlocked the ability to manufacture foods rich in sugar and refined-grains, we have essentially become children who have found the bottomless cookie jar. The results are becoming quite obvious: premature aging, obesity, diabetes, and myriad other lifestyle diseases. “Get back to human” is really about getting back to a pre-neurotic relationship with our food. We think we are on our way to achieving that.

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Hu Kitchen
78 5th Ave. ( bet. 13th & 14th St.)

Mon-Fri: 7am-10pm  Sat: 8am-10pm  Sun: 9am-10pm
212 510-8919

Coffee Talk

Photo by Scott Feldstein

Gingersnap’s Organic owner Jamie Graber

There’s something brewing in the East Village. It can wake you in the morning, get you through a late night…and it goes with raw pizza. It’s vegan coffee, and it’s new to raw gourmet café Gingersnap’s OrganicWe caught up with Gingersnap’s owner Jamie Graber to get the buzz:

Q: Isn’t all coffee vegan?

A: Yes, and we only use direct trade and organic coffee from Crop to Cup. The difference is we also use fresh-made raw organic almond milk.

Q: OK, some of us are kind of used to milk with coffee.  Does almond milk taste as rich?

A: It tastes even better! It’s not the boxed stuff you find in stores. We make it daily from unpasteurized Sicilian almonds.

 

 

 

Q: We love cappuccino. Which milk alternatives make good foam?

A: We were concerned about that too, but our raw almond milk foams well!

Q: Do you use non-traditional sweeteners? Which do you prefer for vegan coffee?

A: We make our own simple syrup out of coconut palm sugar.

Q: If we’re not in the mood for coffee, what else can you offer?

A: We have an assortment of herbal teas with healing properties to rejuvenate, uplift, unwind, purify and be well, as well as chai, maté, oolong and hot cocoa.

Q: We sometimes like a treat with our java. Which Gingersnap’s dessert would you recommend?

A: My favorites at the moment are the donut holes and ganache. Both raw, naturally sweetened, and delicious!

Thirsty yet? Try Gingersnap’s Organic with this week’s special Perks offer delivered fresh to your inbox!

Gingersnap’s Organic
130 E. 7th St. (between 1st Ave. & Avenue A)
(212) 533-9939

Photos courtesy of Gingersnap’s Organic, Chandrika Nair, and HealthAliciousNess.

Last Call for Thanksgiving Reservations!

Thanksgiving Dinner Out in NYC 2012

Thanksgiving is upon us. For those not braving the kitchen to prepare a feast, don’t despair. Have yet to make a reservation? Fear not. There are elegant Clean Plates-approved restaurants ready to welcome diners with open arms this Thursday. Note: Most require reservations, but still have openings. Don’t delay!

Following are our recommendations for every body. Continue reading

Locavore BBQ: How to Make the Best Burger

New Amsterdam Market

Though the end of summer is bittersweet, we love celebrating with a good ol’ fashioned BBQ full of big, juicy, chin-dripping burgers. That’s right, a healthful burger, made right, can be created entirely from local, artisanal ingredients. The best part? You can combine your shopping with one last summery excursion: All of the ingredients, whether for a conscious carnivore or thoughtful vegan, can be found on Sunday morning at the New Amsterdam Market on the South Street Seaport  — though please note, the market will not be open this coming Sunday, September 2nd. But next weekend, mosey over for the best fresh and local offerings, then fire up the grill! Continue reading

Getting There: The Hidden Key to Farm-to-Table Success

Farm Truck

Ever sit in your favorite restaurant and stare at your exquisite plate of seasonal greens and wonder: “What was their journey?” If you imagine a stork dropping a bag of micro-greens into the chef’s arms, you may want to continue reading. Today, farm-to-table businesses are expanding as locavore dining becomes less of a luxury and increasingly the new normal. I sat down with Jennifer Goggin, President and co-founder of FarmersWeb, to get the scoop on how her company is bringing more farms’ bounty to restaurant tables. Continue reading

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!