Friday, October 31, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Normally, this would be a Thursday blog entry, but because I wanted to devote two days to the ICD-10 question, I deferred my more personal weekly blog entry to today.

Post Labor Day always brings an immense amount of travel to conferences, Board meetings, and Washington policy events. This week is definitely planes, trains, and automobiles with craziness such as breakfast in Boston, Lunch in Washington and Dinner in New York, followed by Dinner in San Francisco, followed by Breakfast in Boston.

Although I do not usually frequent restaurants, I had a unique opportunity this week - to eat at the best vegetarian restaurant in New York City on Tuesday and the best vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco on Wednesday. Here's my brief reviews:

Candle 79 154 East 79th Street New York, NY 10021

Candle 79 is an acclaimed organic vegetarian restaurant specializing in fresh vegetable, tofu, seitan, and tempeh dishes. When we arrived at 8:30pm, the restaurant was packed with a line out the door. It's great to see New Yorkers flock to vegetarian and vegan food. I ordered two specials

Lentil, Arugula, Wild Mushroom, and Harvest Vegetable salad
Pumpkin seed coated Seitan with harvest vegetables and chipolte/black bean sauces

The presentation of the food was remarkable. The salad was extremely fresh, and a great blend of different textures and tastes. The spicy arugula was definitely a contrast to the typical steakhouse iceberg and tomato salad.

The Seitan was heavenly. A perfect blend of sauces, fresh vegetables, and a coating of pumpkin seeds.

The menu was filled with so many choices that I could easily eat at Candle 79 for a month without repeating myself.

Greens Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

When I arrived at 6:00pm, a local CSA was sorting fresh organic vegetables just outside the entrance to Greens. Definitely good karma.

I sat by the window overlooking the San Francisco Marina, watching the homebound traffic cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Greens is affiliated with Green Gulch Farm/Zen Center and I started off with a great organic salad of fresh picked Green Gulch baby lettuces, heirloom apples, and pomegranate. Superb flavor and texture.

For my entree I had a squash and japanese eggplant lasagne - not your typical italian dish. This was a beautifully baked round stack of vegetables wrapped in a pasta covering. Tender Brocollini and root vegetables were served as sides.

Service and ambiance were great.

How do a compare the two experiences?

Candle 79 was like New York itself - a bit more edgy, energetic, and filled folks in their 20's. Vegan dishes filled the menu - no doubt that New Yorker Rory Freedman's cookbooks have popularized vegan cuisine.

Greens was filled with folks in their 50's, engaged in calm conversation, as you might expect in a Zen inspired restaurant. Most dishes have some artisan cheese in them, although Greens is happy to accommodate vegan diners with special pastas and by leaving ingredients out of their freshly prepared dishes.

Service in both spots was excellent. Vegetarian/Vegan servers are always friendly.

I enjoyed both immensely and look forward to returning to these spots as my travels take me from coast to coast.

2 comments:

Dennis Stevenson said...

John,

I am not a vegetarian. However, I just got back from India on a trip to visit my offshore outsourcing partners. I was quite impressed and amazed by the wonderful vegetarian food I found there. My host was a vegetarian, so every mean we ate together came at least one mean fully vegetarian. I gladly ate foods I would probably have turned away from here in the US... and I was surprised by how wonderful it was. Tofu, the perennial butt of dietary jokes was very good.

I've gained a new respect for vegetarian foods. Don't think I'll convert as a lifestyle, but definitely I am now more open to it at any given meal.

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