New York City: Dovetail vegetarian tasting menu

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A vegatarian tasting menu used to be an unheard of thing. It is now something less rare but still worthy of special acclaim. I have had the pleasure once before, at Gramercy Tavern last year here in NYC.  Honestly, there are few other places in the country, or world for that matter, where you will be able to find one. I have a few restaurants on my bucket list- the masterful and artistic Alinea, the over the top Eleven Madison, the revered French Laundry- but there are many more accessible places out there. I could not help but stumble upon Dovetail due to so many rave reviews and write-ups. My one sadness is that we are never in town on Monday nights. Dovetail has a vegetarian menu every single night, but Monday they pull out all the stops and devote every course to vegetables as idols. We made reservations for a Wednesday night and prepared for an adventure!

It starts with the locale- tucked away on the upper west side. Walking in the whitewashed brick walls and low lighting reek of good taste and old money. That being said- my fresh off the metaphorical Ohio farm hubby and I were made to feel right at home among the wealthy New York clientele. I have never had a very negative experience at a fancy restaurant, and I think it’s mostly about attitude. We are always falling over ourselves to be polite and express overwhelming interest in the restaurant, staff, and menu. This will win you a lot of favor and good service that is not rude or stuffy. The servers were all really wonderful and  this restaurant had numerous awesome female sommeliers; I loved to see that!  I had the wine pairings with my meal, which was a new experience and very cool. I had one wonderful wine that I loved and need to hunt down- Mamacita white sparking wine out of Oregon, so good and crisp, not sweet at all.

We already knew coming in we would be doing the tasting menus. Since I do not like mushrooms as the main component of a dish, they let me swap it out for another option of my choosing. Of course Rob had the meat tasting menu and there was some really horrible stuff on there (foie gras!). I will not even speak of those atrocities!

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The meal started with a trio of amuse bouchées. Pineapple drink with foam, fried potato cube, and a mini tart with parsnip purée. All were delicious!

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Next was my chosen course- an heirloom tomato salad. Pickled ramps really gave this a nice acidic bite.

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An haricot vert salad with apples followed. What blew my mind was that the black purée you see there is actually also made of haricot vert! It tasted so good and totally different, I had no idea and had to ask what the heck it was. Mind blown.

Next was the best dish of the meal- sweet corn polenta with blackberries and truffles (pictured at top). The polenta was out of this world in flavor and just paired so perfectly with the earthy truffles and sweetly sour blackberries. Thus was my first truffle experience. I loved them, who knew? Star of the night.

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Followed by another great dish- spinach and artichoke crostata. Creamy, rich, memorable.

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Continuing strong with grilled figs with radishes, stracciatella, and pistachios. Figs are another ingrediant recently discovered for me, and now I love them! Check out Fig and Olive also in NYC, Chicago, and DC.

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This gorgeous looking dish of miso marinated beets was where the meal nose-dived for me. I love, love, love beets. These beets soaked up all the salt of their miso marinade such that they were inedible. I literally could not eat them, and left them on my plate to be carried away. It made me very sad. Ending with this before desert almost ruined the whole dang meal.

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We had two little palate cleanser courses before desert. The last was a mango sorbet with ginger. Honestly that should have ended the meal, it was that good- so creamy with the ginger the perfect counterpoint. This pretty confection above was a blueberry pavlova. It was light and airy but eclipsed by its predecessor, and thus outshined and soon forgotten.

On the whole this meal was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in my life. I look forward to returning here, preferably on a Monday to see the veggie magic happen.  If you are ever in NYC and need somewhere to go for a very special occasion- I would recommend Dovetail for those true foodies out there! (For the less adventurous diners: always, always, always choose a Mario Batali restaurant. He is the best!)

New York City: Candle 79, Vegan Dining

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My husband Rob and I are fortunate to be able to travel. We have been traveling around the U.S. this last year, making our way to parts of the country we both haven’t seen before. Much of that has involved eating at absolutely incredible places.  I am a typical type A planner and I crazily research places for months before we go, all so that we can have that one perfect bite. I’ll usually book all our dinner reservations a month in advance. For lunches we tend to just pick whatever is near us at the time and wing it. I think we get the best of both worlds this way- wonderful fine dining and spur of the moment holes in the walls. That being said sometimes our best laid dinner plans fall through (thank you midtown traffic!) and we have also had some of our great finds from improvising this way- the now standard post theatre dinner at Toloache, for one.

We started off this NYC trip with my idea of heaven, and Robbie graciously played along. The vegan restaurant Candle 79 is one of my favorites. I also have their cookbook and it also is full of varied and impressive recipes. They will be gracing these pages in weeks to come, I’m sure. It’s on the fancy schmancy UES near all the museums, so we ate here before we went to the Frick.  It is on a nice wide street just off Lex- 79 street. The inside space is really cute. 2 stories and the top story is filled with light from a large window over looking the street . We have always eaten lunch here and it is always busy, many people have reservations, but you can get in without one.  When we are traveling, and especially if it is our first time eating somewhere, we tend to order lots of courses and variety to sample the menu (and in case something isn’t so good!).

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We started with some delicious fresh juices and smoothies, of which there are ample selection. Acai berry banana and carrot, beet, ginger- so yummy. The fresh ginger ale has its own cult following, that’s how good it is. All the freshly made cocktails are scrumptious, too.

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The appetizer course is the least inventive course here. We had a delicious guacamole timbale. It has a lot of cucumbers in it, so for my personal tastes it suffered a bit. Those plantain chips are the best! Absolutely light, grease-less perfection!

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The salad course is my favorite here. I could have eaten every last one!!! This beautiful little devil had brussels, apples, celeriac, pistachios, tofu, grapes. Ahhhhh. I need to figure out a version of this for my house!

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Again the entree course was overwhelming to me with options. When you are vegetarian you get used to having only a few options at most places, so my brain was on circuitry overload here!!!  They have a fresh pasta special everyday, which is always good. Today I was feeling a more protein driven choice, so I chose the seitan burrito.  I had to dismantle it a little as there was too much rice and tortilla for my liking, but the filling of seitan, greens, beans, onions then topped with salsa and guac was really homey and good.

Robbie through this all had a very hearty lentil soup and the seitan burger with polenta fries. Perplexingly his seitan burger did come on toasted bread not a bun- totally the wrong vehicle, I think. But the patty itself and the polenta fries were really good. He was a trooper but didn’t really care for it much, he kept insistenting it was “fine.” He made out better with his dinner, so it turns out ok!

Bottom line if you get to NYC and vegetarian food is one of your passions, you have to go to Candle 79 when you are in the city!

Spiralized Butternut Squash in Sage Brown Butter

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Spiralizers. Hugely trendy right now. I recently got on the bandwagon myself. Being vegetarian I am not a stranger to using vegetables as substitutes for other foods, including pasta. This handy little gadget makes it really easy to get beautiful, uniform sized cuts from all kinds of veggies. No more struggling with a knife and peeler!  This is my inaugural spiralized recipe.  It turned out pretty well, I think. It was fun to crank out the gorgeous noodles. The brown butter was the tricky part- I don’t think I let mine get quite brown enough, look below for some hints on this.

Serves 2. Takes 30 minutes.

Ingredients

One butternut squash

2 tablespoons butter

10 fresh sage leaves

Olive oil

Fresh grated Parmesan and fresh ground pepper

Directions

Set up you Spiralizer of choice. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Peel you squash and discard the big bulbous bottom part that has seeds. Place the long upper part into your Spiralizer and start cranking.

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When your squoodles are done, place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss lightly with olive oil. place into the oven to lightly roast for about 7-8 minutes.

While they are in the oven, get your brown butter going. Use a light color pot, not a dark skillet so you can see the color of it while it cooks (I did not do this, a mistake on my part). Medium heat. The butter will melt and then star to bubble and foam. It will turn tan then brown. Some sediment will form in the pan. When it starts to tan, place your sage leaves in the butter.

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When it gets a nice golden brown color, it’s done. Take your squoodles from the oven and toss them in the sauce.  Top with fresh pepper and Parmesan cheese.

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** Adapted from Boulder Locavore

http://boulderlocavore.com/butternut-squash-noodles-in-sage-brown-butter/

Fresh Corn Salsa and Black Bean Tacos

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Tacos! There are endless recipes and variations for tacos, which is what I love about them. These tacos are made bright with the corn salsa, the corn right off the the cob. I layered it with a traditional tomato salsa and fresh avocado as well for a balanced bite. As you can see by the pictures these were pretty overstuffed, and I would up eating a lot with a fork. They would be great without the tortillas in a bowl as well with rice or quinoa, like any taco fixings.

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes plus garlic roasting time

Ingredients

2 15 ounce cans black beans

1 white onion- diced and split half/half

1 whole bulb garlic, roasted. To roast garlic, chop off the bottom quarter. Leave in the peel. Cover in olive oil and place in foil wrap. Put in oven at 400 degrees for an hour. Garlic will be soft and light golden brown and easily pop out of its peel.

1 separate clove garlic finely minced

2 stalks corn, all kernels cut off

6 radishes thinly sliced

2 handfuls cilantro, finely minced and divided in half

2 limes both juiced, one zested

1 lemon

1 jalapeño minced and seeded

2 Serrano peppers (or 3 more jalapeño peppers)

1/3 cup feta cheese

1 handful pickled carrots, diced. To pickle carrots: place 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar in pot with 1/2 cup water. Add a pinch salt, pinch of crushed red pepper, and several slices of fresh jalapeño to the pot. While coming to a boil, peel and chop up several carrots into inch size pieces. Place into pot, bring to boil then turn off heat. Let cool then jar.

1can fire roasted tomatoes (15 ounce)

1 bunch green onions (ok to leave out)

1 avocado, sliced

Sea salt

EVOO

Cumin

Smoked paprika

Chipotle

Crushed red pepper

Directions

Place a sauté pan on the stove at medium heat with a tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add half the white onion to the pan. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the black beans with their juice to the pan. Season with about a teaspoon each: crushed red pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle. Turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 20 minutes to cook off the bean liquid, stir occasionally.

While the beans are cooking you can make the two salsas to go with the dish.

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My favorite quick salsa comes from Thug Kitchen. It uses canned tomatoes, but you would never know, it tastes so fresh. The only part that takes any time is roasting the garlic, the rest comes together in a few minutes in the food processor.  Add your roasted garlic, can of roasted tomatoes, half the white onion, a handful of the cilantro, the Serrano peppers, the green onion (if using), juice of one lime, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and pulse together. For both this and the salsa below, I add a splash of lemon juice as I really love the brightness of lemons compared to limes. Or according to my brother, I just like Sprite and its lemon-lime goodness.  You can use immediately and jar the rest.

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To make the corn salsa, place your fresh corn kernels in a bowl with the juice and zest of one lime, one tablespoon of lemon juice, one handful of minced cilantro, the feta cheese, the sliced radishes, the pickled carrots and add a teaspoon of salt. Mix together and set aside. This part of the recipe I found on Cookie and Kate. I added the pickled carrots for that extra punch of the vinegar.

Time to assemble your tacos! Heating up your tortillas on a skillet will give them a little extra edge. Start with a scoop of the black beans then layer the two salsas on top. Finish it off with fresh avocado.  One of the reason I like this taco recipe and similar ones to it, is because there is very little cheese. Just a little feta, which gives that nice salty punch. Cutting back on the cheese is good for us cheese-aholics!

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** As stated above the roasted tomato salsa recipe is adapted from Thug Kitchen. I have a terrible mouth, so I love their hilarious recipes.

http://www.thugkitchen.com

** Cookie and Kate is another great blog featuring wonderful whole food recipes and great photos (with a dog!)

Sweet Corn & Black Bean Tacos

Brussel Sprout and Wheat Berry Salad

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I’ve already pontificated on my love of beets this week, but brussel sprouts are as amazing. My favorite way to cook brussels is to roast them in olive oil and cider vinegar sprinkled with salt and then just eat a big bowl full by themselves. Recently I’ve been incorporating them into more dishes, and this super easy and delicious, nutritious salad is one of those, from Oh My Veggies. Wheat berries are a grain similar to farro and barley. They have a nice hearty taste to them and hold up well to a myriad of ingredients. You may not be able to find them at your regular grocer- so try a health food mart or specialty grocer or of course Amazon because they have everything in the world (I may have an online shopping addiction).

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes plus 50 minutes to fully cook wheat berries

Ingredients

2 cups red or white wheat berries

3 cups veggie broth and 2 cups water

1 pound of Brussel sprouts trimmed and halved

1 big shallot- chopped into small pieces

1/3 cup walnut pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 large lemon- juiced and zested

1 splash red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar

A pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

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Place veggie broth and water in a pot or skillet and bring to a boil with your wheat berries. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook for  about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Prep your brussels and shallot. Spread on baking sheet with 2/3 of the olive oil, the apple cider vinegar, and salt.

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Place into oven and roast for 20 minutes. Then add walnuts and roast another 5 minutes.

Whip up a quick dressing with a tablespoon of olive oil, the juice and zest of the lemon, the agave nectar the splash of red wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Drain the wheat berries. Place wheat berries and brussels mixture into bowl. Toss lightly with the dressing and bon appetite!

** Adapted from Oh My Veggies- a wonderful food blog

Read more at http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-lemony-wheat-berries-with-roasted-brussels-sprouts/#LkqPhkp4SWzXhbEG.99

Pain Crisis

What is it like living in pain everyday? I know something of pain myself from a bad injury followed by multiple surgeries. It is enveloping and all consuming to be constantly in pain. I am fortunate because my pain finally got better after several bad years- what if your pain never got better?

That is a horrible reality many people are living in right now. The chronic pain population in this country is astronomical. Our offices, urgent cares, ERs, and hospitals are being overrun with patients whose pain is out of control.  They want a solution to this pain, and end to it.  But we cannot offer that.  In so many cases we do not have a fix, we cannot make the pain go away. So we talk about managing the pain, and coping with it. But the problem is many are not coping- they are turning to pain management for higher and higher doses of opiates. When they can’t afford them they are buying pills off the street. When they realize how much pills cost they start buying heroin to replace them. They lose their jobs, they lose their houses, they lose their families, and many lose their lives.

Does this happen to every patient with chronic pain? No, but we are seeing it more and more.  The heroin epidemic is real and soaring.  People of all ages, races and backgrounds are affected, and they are dying. Of overdoses, yes- but also of infections and severe medical complications of drug use. Lining the halls of our hospitals, they return again and again until the last time, when it is too late.  How many young people in their twenties and teens will we see die of florid heart failure from endocarditis? The numbers keep climbing and what used to be rare is now common.

How do we reverse this trend? How do we make the expectation that we very likely cannot rid you of pain, but slowly try and manage and reduce it? And do it all without any opiates?  Well, it will take a seismic shift in culture. We are so wired to the mentality of “take a pill and make it better” or “we can operate and fix that” that patients expect this when they come to us. To have to tell patients that we don’t have any quick fix is frustrating not just for them but for us as providers.  Getting a patient to accept as treatment physical therapy, exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication for depression, tens units, injections, spinal stimulators, etc. when they really want something that will help right now in that moment- that is next to impossible. But it possible, and if we don’t change our culture this opioid addiction plague is going to become increasingly more wide-spread.  Many pain clinic incorporate all those previously mentioned strategies, but most patients complain that they have to “get through” the counseling, therapy, and other treatments in order to get their pain pills. If those opiate pain pills were taken off the option list, since they have been proven again and again to have little to no efficacy in treating the vast majority of chronic pain problems, then all that effort could be shifted to optimizing the modalities that have been shown to have a positive effect.

The demand for chronic pain management clinics and physicians is so high that we need more clinics where there multidisciplinary treatments can be given to patients. It takes months to get into pain clinics here in Ohio, and in the meantime most patients are getting by going to urgent cares and the ER to get short term pain pill prescriptions when they really need to be getting a jump start on PT, behavioral therapy, starting nutrition and exercise plans. Asking a primary care doc to deal with chronic pain is also a very difficult task- a patient will come in for a 15 minute visit with 5 chronic medical conditions that need addressed urgently but want to focus the whole visit each time on his chronic recurrent back pain. How can you keep a patient with morbid obesity, diabetes, and heart disease alive and going if you only get to treat their chronic pain issues every visit? In many cases, treating and improving chronic medical conditions (diabetes, obesity, depression) will also help improve and treat chronic pain, but again this is taking the long view and doesn’t offer any quick fixes for patients.  Many primary care doctors will not prescribe any opiates at all, which is a good strategy, however these patients then come to the ER and many ultimately end up admitted due to “intractable pain.” On the inpatient side of treatment we are then in a daily struggle with patients who want IV pain medications, which are not the recommended treatment for chronic pain conditions, and who don’t want to be discharged from the hospital because their pain is no better than when they came in.

Since I started medical school I have seen the problems and issues with chronic pain and opioids worsen ever year. It is creating a system in which more patients at more ages are on more long term pain medications. The consequences have been devastating to see and are continuing to accumulate. Reform is ongoing with more and more regulations over who can prescribe what narcotics. These regulations will help, but we have to keep working everyday stop the cycle of long term opiate prescribing.  The more rigid we are, the more boundaries we set, and the harder we make it to access opiates the less prevalent they will be in our everyday society and medical practices.

Burnt Carrot and Avocado Salad

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This salad is one of those dishes I make again and again. The recipe comes from Metropole restaurant in Cincinnati. It is easy to make, though it gets pretty smokey in the kitchen. If you happen to have a dog (or three) with a phobia of smoke alarms, take the battery out when you cook this one! A good cast iron skillet is essential to get that good char on the carrots.

Serves 2. Takes 30 minutes.

Ingredients

4 carrots

1 avocado- as firm as possible!

1 lemon

1 small handful of freshly minced cilantro and parsley

1 small handful feta cheese

2 teaspoons salt and pepper

2 splashes olive oil

1 small handful pickled red onions.  To pickle: take a red onion, slice thinly. In a pot on the stove add one cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 pinch sugar, 1 pinch crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil with the onion in the pot, then turn off the heat and let cool. Place into a jar with the pickling liquid. Best used after 24 hours but can be used when cool.

1 handful toasted pepitas (may leave off if desired)

Directions

Place a pot of water on to boil (small). Peel four carrots and cut in half and then length-wise.  Use large carrots for the best result. Cook the carrots until just able to be pierced by a fork. Drain and pat dry.

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Slice your avocado and place into a large bowl. Squeeze juice of one lemon into the bowl.

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Add to the bowl a teaspoon of salt, pepper, the cilantro and parsley, the pickled onions, and feta cheese. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over the bowl and mix together.

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Heat your cast iron skillet with a thin coating of olive oil. When hot (just at its smoke point) add your carrots, flat side down into the pan. Have your vent on high as it’s going to get smokey! Cook about 5 minutes then flip. You want to literally burn them and see beautiful char markings. When done, take off the pan onto a paper towel to remove excess oil.

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To plate, mix carrots and avocado bowl fixings together.

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** From Metropole restaurant

http://www.metropoleonwalnut.com/news/2014/menu-mainstay-burnt-carrot-salad/

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