(westsiderag.com) I have decided to forgive myself for not being able to live life completely as a vegetarian and, as with so many things in my life, to do the best I can. After all, one less cow eaten means a lot to that cow. Candle Cafe West, the Upper West Side and slightly less expensive iteration of the original Candle 79 on the Upper East Side, is simply a great restaurant–no qualifiers needed. It happens to be organic and vegan but that doesn’t really matter. If you enjoy fresh young vegetables and a light hand with their preparation, this is a place you must try.
Celebrities have been known to hang out here (you may recognize one in the lower right of this picture although he is shy about being recognized) but it’s also packed on a Sunday with young families and gourmets of all stripes.I know that kale is the vegetable du jour and I have stayed away from eating it raw, but they tamed it by grilling and combining it with string beans, beluga lentils, turnips, sunflower seeds and spelt berries adding, at my request, the delicate coconut meat on top.Rory had the tangy seaweed salad complete with red cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, carrots, radish, sesame seeds, creamy wasabi dressing, fresh new peas and a large welcome serving of avocado.This fruit that I loved from my California youth and had a hard time finding in New York many years ago, is now, to my delight, used everywhere. Better yet, the fats in it that people used to decry have now been labeled healthy.
The woman next to me, who just happened to be the private vegan chef of a famous artist, had ordered the spahetti and wheatballs made of, I think, tempe and seitan. I hesitate to call these ingredients meat substitutes because really they’re in a class of their own and take flight when they are used in new ways, not just to replace meat.
These kinds of restaurants do not offer the usual Coca Cola line, thank heaven, and the ginger tea and coconut water were delicious.
In the past, we had found vegan desserts to be strangely tasteless and free from the kind of sweetness I crave in dessert, but I ordered dessert, just to see how well they did and chose one that would be challenged by the vegan style. You can see the result here–trust me, the really ripe strawberries with homemade rhubarb ice cream were delicious.
My chef neighbor informed me that the “whipped cream” was made from the chilled top of the coconut cream and while I could appreciate the high level culinary skills involved I didn’t think I would be attempting this soon, but it sure tasted good.
Their coffee is Fair Traded and the prices reasonable for high quality food. You may wish to try this place or one of its sister locations and save a cow; but especially, to enjoy the food. I would recommend it.