Category: Eats

Hail seitan!

Friday, August 1st, 2008 | All Things, Eats

Vegan cuisine is gaining inroads into the city, and tonight B and I were doing our bit to support the cause.  I’ve sampled the “wheat meat” at places like Zen Palate and Wild Ginger on Broome and although I enjoy seitan’s chewy, dense texture on its own merits (the basis of dishes like Buddha’s Delight), I can’t say I’ve ever been less than aware that I wasn’t eating real meat.

Red Bamboo on West 4th bills itself as a “soul café” — a vegetarian restaurant with a mostly vegan menu, covering a scattershot array of cuisines: salmon teriyaki, Cajun fried shrimp, eggplant parmesan and Philly cheesesteak — all made of soy or gluten.  Rounding out the expected assortment of juices are a few wines and about a dozen beers, including several organic options.

Ginger “Beef” and Grilled Bourbon “Chicken”.  Not pictured: Carribean Jerk Spiced Seitan skewers.

All good, and exactly what we were craving. Incidentally, I added the quote marks; Red Bamboo assumes its diners already know that these dishes contain no actual chicken or beef. (Plus, “bef” and “loobster” are already trademarked by The Hungry Heifer…)

The desserts include non-dairy ice cream and cakes from Pennsylvania’s Vegan Treats bakery , like the tempting-sounding Brownie Bottom Cheesecake and Oreo Cookie Cheesecake. We didn’t sample the vegan sweets tonight, but lest you have any doubts that egg and butterless treats can still be delicious, the LES’s much-loved refined sugar and gluten-free vegan baker Babycakes will dispel them.

We followed up instead with a stop at the Grom on Bleecker, carrying our scoops of creamy Stracciatella gelato to a bench across the street in Father Demo Square where some industrious performer was banging out tunes on an upright piano he had rolled into the park. Crazy piano guy indeed! (His name is Colin Huggins and he also happens to be the Joffrey Ballet School‘s music director and the pianist for the American Ballet Theatre.)

New York is full of surprises.

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Gathering for supper

Saturday, July 26th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends, Travel

By late afternoon, we found ourselves with rumbling stomachs and very few options along Route 90. Our brief detour onto Route 38 improved matters, but only slightly. After passing on a defunct dairy and a Hoffman Hots truck, we came upon Barb’s Diner in Genoa, which seemed promising — going by Calvin Trillin‘s theory that eating establishments named for people have a better-than-average chance of being good — but closed.

Even so, there was zero chance we would be eating at nearby Giuseppe’s Pizzeria. Sorry, Giuseppe.

All of which brought us eventually to The Gathering in Moravia, which we all agreed was a name less suited for a restaurant than for an M. Night Shyamalan film. We were slightly reassured by the handful of cars in the parking lot — a veritable crowd in this sparsely populated region — but slightly perplexed by the presence of a drive-thru. But we pulled in anyway, deciding to take our chances. (Plus, did I mention we were starving?)

And we’re so glad we did! The Gathering turned out to be a charming diner with a stooled formica-top counter, friendly service and a chalkboard on which were handwritten the homemade pie offerings — always a good sign. And on the menu: Chicken n’ Biscuits — made daily from scratch:

A “Rachel” sandwich, i.e., a Reuben with coleslaw substituted for the usual sauerkraut.

And of course, our visit would not be complete without sampling those pies: chocolate meringue (very first slice) and coconut cream (very last slice):

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Do the Loco Moco

Thursday, June 19th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Travel

Hawaiian cuisine is a reflection of the various ethnic groups that have immigrated to the islands over the past couple of centuries: strongly Asian-influenced — Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean — and with an emphasis on local ingredients. (See: poi… though I only ever actually saw the well-known Hawaiian dish on the menu at the two lua’aus we attended.)

Given the easy access to fresh seafood and fruits, I was somewhat surprised by how starchy and heavy most of the local dishes were. Though this does explain why a staggering 39 percent of the native Hawaiian population is obese.

Case in point: Cafe 100, which we visited on our one day in Hilo.

After dropping off the kayaks just after dawn, we raced two and a half hours to the other side of the Big Island for my much anticipated helicopter tour over the active volcanoes. Alas, however, the heavy cloud cover that morning resulted in my ride being canceled at the last minute. Instead, we settled for an early lunch at this Hilo institution.

The Miyashiro family opened Café 100 six decades ago. According to our guidebook, the restaurant, now in its third incarnation, survived destruction by tsunamis in 1946 and 1960. It was named for the original owner’s World War II comrades in the famed 100th Battalion — a Honolulu-based unit comprised predominantly of Japanese Americans.

Café 100 is really more of a fast food stop than a café: open air tables and a simple counter where the staff still take down the orders with pen and paper and end every transaction with a cheery “Mahalo.”

Besides its tasty, cheap eats, the place is most notable for its role in popularizing the Islands specialty “Loco Moco”: a local dish comprised of a mountain of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, brown gravy and an egg or two. Loco Moco was invented in Hilo, though whether by Richard Miyashiro of Café 100 (as I’d read) or by Richard and Nancy Inouye of Lincoln Grill is a matter of some debate.

Other dishes on the menu include the ubiquitous “potato mac salad” — yes, exactly what it sounds like — daily “mixed plate” lunch specials and more standard mainland fare such as cheeseburgers and fried chicken.  Not refined fare, by any means, but all fast, fresh and good.  And did I mention cheap?

Café 100’s Loco Moco is offered in many variations (14, at my count), substituting the beef patty for Spam (of course), “smokie” [sic] Portuguese sausage, hot dog, kalua pig, or fish — here, the mahi mahi. Or was that the ahi?

And below, a photo of our Loco Moco from Kailua-Kona’s Big Island Grill the day before. We hadn’t packed a defibrillator for this trip, so after these two hearty samples, we called a moratorium on the Loco Moco for the remainder of the vacation.

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