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.

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


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


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.

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


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.

Burger king Made by Lukas changes the veggie burger game


Lukas Volger wrote the book on veggie burgers.

Literally: He’s the author of Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.

So there are few people out there as qualified to know just what makes an excellent veggie burger. No wonder Volger’s line of burgers, Made by Lukas are some of the best we’ve ever tasted.

We love that Lukas doesn’t let his product be hemmed in by the “traditional” shape of a burger. Instead of coming in pre-formed frozen pucks, the fresh mixes allow you to make whatever shape you’d like, from a hulking patty to petite bites.

Lukas Volger, aka Mr. veggie burger

Made by Lukas offers three unconventional flavors, all made from easily recognizable whole foods (no mystery ingredients here): Beet, Carrot & Parsnip, and Kale ($9 to $11; see where to buy them here). Says Lukas, “They’re comprised primarily—80 percent—of fresh vegetables, which we source up in the Hudson Valley whenever possible, and are rounded off with quinoa, seeds, millet, and spices. There’s no soy, wheat, dairy, or any weird additives. The primary concept here is that it’s a veggie burger that tastes like delicious vegetables.”

Lukas loves forming little silver-dollar bites from the beet variety and serving them with hummus. In our kitchen, we found the burger mixes to be fun to play around with, easy to form and a snap to cook to a nice caramelized crust in a skillet lightly oiled with olive or coconut oil.

We love them on top of a dark greens salad with a swipe of yogurt and preserved lemon, crumbled into stir frys or flattened into a vegetable pancake topped with a fried egg.

What will you come up with?

Galen’s Almanac A new West Village spot puts seasonal vegetables at the fore


We’re just going to come out and say it: Almanac is simply wonderful.

And if this weather continues, we’re giving notice to our landlord and putting in a request with chef Galen Zamarra to see if we can move in permanently.

There’s the bar, helmed with large blocks of stone and dotted with votive candles. Overhead circular iron chandeliers lend intimate light and the tables have honest-to-goodness linen tablecloths. The friendly service, lovely place settings and low noise level are all on point. Read: This is a place to make a reservation, commit to a tasting menu, have a real conversation and generally revel in a grown-up night out.

Chef Galen Zamarra (of Mas (farmhouse)) is not just into seasonality, he’s into micro-seasons. Zamarra believes that each part of the season (for instance, early fall, mid-fall and late fall) has its own distinctive bounty, rhythm and growing cycle nuance.

Make a reservation and enjoy a grown-up night out at Almanac.

For example, Zamarra juices his squash at the beginning of its harvest and roasts it at the end, because the squash’s moisture changes throughout the season. Nose-to-tail here doesn’t just refer to eliminating waste and using the whole animal, but also to the fish and vegetables he sources: No part gets left behind.

Experience his hyper-seasonal vision with a three-course menu for $75, five-courses for $95, or eight for $145.

Our recent visit had us raving over roasted Island Creek Oysters mingling with ribbons of buttery leeks and pears and parsnips. Zamarra is having a particular love affair right now with the wintry taste of pine. Find wild steelhead trout smoked with pine and juniper and a dish of celery root carpaccio draped with shaved matsutake mushrooms, pine aioli and a smoked pine vinegar.

Have you made your reservation yet?

28 Seventh Ave.

Little name, big flavor Andrew Carmellini's newest spot, Little Park, wows


Is there anything chef Andrew Carmellini doesn’t do well?

We happily hop around the city eating at his spots: Lafayette, Bar Primi, Locanda Verde and The Dutch. But now with the recent opening of Little Park, which is tucked into a corner of Tribeca’s Smyth Hotel, we’ve found a place we never want to leave.

While Carmellini has always been concerned with sourcing and seasonal cooking, Little Park is his first restaurant to focus exclusively on highlighting organic, sustainable ingredients and featuring products from local farmers, anglers, vintners and foragers.

Carmellini has made more than a few longtime partnerships with excellent producers, and it’s here that he really gives them a twirl. He says, “Over the past 20 years I’ve spent cooking in New York, I’ve forged strong relationships with local farmers and purveyors … Little Park is a tribute to that.”

Beets to the power of two: Yellow beets brighten the beetroot risotto speckled with poppy seeds.


We were overjoyed to see that vegetable and grain dishes get just as much love on the menu as their more meaty counterparts here. Vegetable options even outweigh the fire-roasted meats, like a grass-fed hanger steak with charred broccoli ($20), at a 2:1 ratio.

Servers are knowledgeable about the components of each dish—yes, you’ll be told, that’s a hint of yuzu in the buttery Peconic Bay Scallops ($15) joined by a Gold Rush variety apple and those tiny dots are poppy seeds sprinkled over the beetroot risotto ($15).

Look to that hearty vegetable section to be introduced to uncommon picks, like the heirloom castelfranco radicchio ($13) salad with bits of fennel and an orange-anchovy dressing.

We’re not the only ones loving Little Park right now; the place is a bona fide hot spot. So either camp out on the phone to make a reservation, commit to arriving early for a walk-in spot or enjoy full-service dining at the bar.

Little Park
85 W. Broadway

Clean Habits: Takashi Inoue How a beef-obsessed chef keeps it clean


When it comes to beef, eating sustainable means more than just eating local, grass-fed steaks—it means we have to consider all the many other parts of the cow, too. One of the best places to do this in New York is at the West Village joint Takashi, where owner and executive chef Takashi Inoue serves an almost all-beef menu, everything from beef-heart bolognese to shredded beef tendon and ultra-fresh raw beef liver with sesame oil.

All of the restaurant’s meat is raised without antibiotics or hormones and sourced from the city’s best meat suppliers, including local meat from Dickson’s Farmstand, Black Angus beef from Kansas’s Creekstone Farm and Washugyu meat from Japanese Premium Beef.

We checked in with Takashi to see what he does to keep healthy. Turns out, he’s just as much of a fiend for lots of greens and raw broccoli as he is for making sure no part of an animal goes to waste.

What’s a typical day of eating like for you?

I usually eat before I go to work (usually a bagel, a banana and a yogurt), which is usually around 8 a.m., then I do prep work at the restaurant and before dinner service I go to the gym. After the gym I drink an organic raw protein shake, followed by as many greens as possible, including lots of raw broccoli. After 6 p.m. I don’t eat carbs, just protein and vegetables. I have to be careful because I love going out for dinner, which isn’t always a healthy option.

“After 6 p.m. I don’t eat carbs, just protein and vegetables.”


How do you stay balanced and healthy while working in the restaurant industry?

It’s difficult to maintain a balance. I have to try hard. I’ve been going to the gym for 15 years. I do three days on, then one day rest: the first day is focused on a chest workout, the second day on arms and shoulders, the third day on lower body strength. There’s always a bike or running warm-up and cool-down.

Any suggestions for someone eating at Takashi who wants to keep their meal light and local?

Protein is healthy, and at Takashi, where we specialize in all parts of the cow, the only carbs we have on the menu are the rice bombs. Most of the vegetables are from the Greenmarket, where I go every week.

How do you incorporate sustainability at the restaurant?

We use all the parts of the cow at the restaurant, which I think is the most sustainable way of being a carnivore.

Cook it now: Kabocha Make this tasty squash part of your fall


If your squash vocabulary starts and ends with butternut, you are missing out big time.

There’s a wide world of gnarly-shaped, diversely-colored and wonderfully-named squashes out there to be had, but our new favorite is a Japanese variety called kabocha .

Ben Towill and Phil Winser of The Fat Radish on the Lower East Side are out with a cookbook just in time to capture fall’s incoming squash storm. The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries ($40) takes the restaurant’s menu of unfussy, vegetable-focused food, all with a charming British accent, and lets you take it home.

Though the restaurant is usually swarmed with the fashion set, thankfully these guys don’t take themselves too seriously. They say, “For us, there is nothing more exciting than the anticipation of the seasons and cooking within them. (What a pretentious thing to say, but we promise it’s true.)” The book is broken down simply into the four seasons and filled with enough handsome photos of vegetables to make you blush.

Phil Winser and Ben Towill of The Fat Radish


That lilting English-ness of the recipes means ideas like a spring sweet pea pot pie that is laden with a trio of snow, snap and English peas and plenty of fresh mint. We’ve already bookmarked their savory beet and Swiss chard crumble for this Thanksgiving.

But for right now we recommend heading out to hunt down the closest deep green-skinned kabocha you can get your hands on (easily found at any Greenmarket). Kabocha is blessed with a dense, sweet flesh that is reminiscent in flavor of chestnuts and it is even sweeter than butternut—with half of the carbs. Then turn your market prize into this creamy, rich soup that is completely vegan and brimming with beta-carotene, iron and vitamins C and A.

 Serves 6

One 3-pound kabocha squash

Coarse salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 cups vegetable stock

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Small handful chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F.

1.  Cut the kabocha in half and scoop out and discard the seeds and the stringy flesh inside. Wrap the cleaned squash in aluminum foil and place in the oven. Roast until softened, about an hour. Set the squash aside.

2. Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a large, heavy pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and coconut milk, bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer while you prepare the squash.

3. Peel off and discard the skin from half of the roasted squash and add the flesh to the soup. Use an immersion blender to puree. Season to taste with salt.

4. Cut the remaining half of roasted squash into wedges and place them in the soup. Serve the soup hot, garnishing each serving with toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of chives.

Buy the book

Merci Maman We discover the cutest new cafe south of Houston


If you weren’t raised with all the benefits of a French childhood (us too), you can now make up for lost time at Soho’s new Maman.

There, Armand Arnal, a Michelin-starred chef from La Chassagnette in the South of France, has opened a café and bakery inspired by the brightest spots of his Gallic upbringing.

If you want to pin down what food will be offered by Arnal—and his two partners, Benjamin Sormonte and Elisa Marshall—on any given day, you’ll have to check the daily menu posted to Facebook ($6 to $13.50 for salads, $6 to $8 for sandwiches, $6 for soup). Or take our lead and be confident that whatever simple comforts coming out of this open kitchen are sure to be healthful, radiant in color and made with a dose of classic French technique.


This ever-changing stance is good for keeping both customers and the kitchen from falling into a rut. Elisa says, “We feel it is important for those who live and work around here to have a daily menu. In addition, and more importantly, we believe in working with fresh and seasonal ingredients, if we go to the market and the lettuce doesn’t look that good that day we will offer something else, also if it is out of season, you won’t see it on our menu.”

From the fields and orchards of farmer friends like Lani’s Farm, Phillip’s Farm and Cherry Lane, Arnal conjures dishes like red rice salad with a sweet and sour eggplant ratatouille, pear and parsnip soup, and chickpea salad with roasted pumpkin, beets and a orange-honey vinaigrette.

Maman is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and with all menu items available for dine-in, grab-and-go, delivery or catering, meaning you can live your French fantasy any time.

Maman Bakery & Café
239 Centre Street