Dining In, and Dining Out
February 19, 2010

pq

Hey guys!

Hope you’re gearing up for a nice weekend ahead. On my agenda? Clients, the usual weekend lunch with Mom, some editing, some reading, and Shutter Island tonight.

Speaking of weekend lunches, my long weekend gave me a wonderful opportunity to indulge in a mix of dining out and dining in. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of the few NYC gals who doesn’t relish restaurant dining. If anything, I spend most of my time these days moping and whining about how I never have time to cook anymore.

That said, it’s hard not to love a wonderful restaurant meal, or–far better still–the chance to experience a friend’s cooking. And that’s precisely what I got to do last weekend.

Meal #1 was lunch with my Godmother at an Upper West Branch of Le Pain Quotidien. PQ is one of my very favorite chain restaurants. It’s organic, health-conscious, totally vegan-friendly (hello, red quinoa salad!) and it’s very easy to navigate the menu if you’re eating raw. I’m forced to attend an unpleasantly high number of business lunches, and I’m always searching for casual, yet elegant spots with options for everyone. The PQ menu is familiar and hearty enough for omnivores–everyone seems to love the tuna and chicken salad tartines, along with the Mediterranean plate–and it features incredible salads and soups for vegans. I’m a great fan of their gazpacho, their split pea soup, the red quinoa salad, the shrimp salad prepared without shrimp, and the seaweed salad.

On this particular occasion, I opted to be picky and create my own salad dish: I requested a double order of the mesclun salad with a large side of avocado and nori and pesto dressing. This is what I got:

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It was perfect! Gena heaven.

That night, I headed to my colleague and friend’s home for dinner. Many of you have asked me about my lifestyle’s social reception: how to friends and colleagues react to my diet? All I can say is that, with a very few exceptions, I’m fortunate to have friends and family who are more than supportive of my veganism. In fact, most of my friends respond to it with enthusiasm and curiosity, always offering to try vegan restaurants with me, and constantly asking to sample this or that vegan recipe. My coworkers have been no less supportive. Sure, I may hear the occasional joke about my giant salads or “vegan things” taking up space in the office fridge (so maybe avocado pudding and zucchini wraps are a little odd looking), but it’s always done with intense good humor and sweetness.

Sweetness, in fact, that extends into hospitality. On Saturday, my colleague Sarah had me over for a vegan bite before we headed out to see Magnetic Fields perform at BAM (an awesome show, by the way). Considerate hostess she is, she prepared a giant salad

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and a very seasonal vegan pumpkin stew with chickpeas and raisins:

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Both dishes were superb! The soup, incidentally, was adapted from a cookbook I’ve been lusting after for a long time: Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

Lucky me to experience Sarah’s hospitality and culinary talent! I hope that the raw vegan truffle balls I brought as a housewarming gift were somewhat demonstrative of my gratitude.

Finally, on Sunday, Mom and I met for a Valentine’s Day lunch at one of the best things to happen to the Upper West Side in a long time: Peacefood Cafe.

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(Image courtesy ofI Can Has Cook)

You may already have heard about this gem on Dori or Elise’s blogs — both of these ladies are big fans of the restaurant, and so am I! It’s a sweet, welcoming, and casual dining spot that celebrates compassion. The owner, Eric, can nearly always be found greeting guests with a smile and saying a few words about his reverence for animals. The menu features both raw and cooked options, and it ranges from simple veggie sides to beautiful vegan pizzas. Best of all, the restaurant is warm and cozy — just the sort of place I might bring a manuscript on a lazy weekend afternoon!

Mom, who’s slowly warming up to vegan dining, fell in love with the restaurant on first sight, and also with the roasted potato pizza, smothered in homemade pesto sauce and fresh arugula. It was delicious!

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I ordered the Asian salad, sans tempeh and peanuts (I like tempeh, but I was hoping to replace it with some of the AMAZING raw crackers that Lori and Michelle sent me–more on those soon!), and a side of roast zucchini and broccoli. The dressing was an incredible lime/mustard vinaigrette:

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It was a perfect lunch, which we capped off with some macaroons (so good, that we each bought a bunch to take home). Thanks for the Valentine’s Day treat, Mom!

Of course, I’m always happiest when I’ve got plenty of time to spend cooking and uncooking in my kitchen. But there’s great joy to be had in sampling food that’s been lovingly and well prepared by others. I’m grateful to have had such a tasty weekend!

And if you were curious, here are some other NYC spots where I love to lunch, in no particular order (this list was inspired by Melissa’s incredible recent post on veg-friendly NYC dining!):

Near Home

Blossom (UWS)

Candle Cafe

Alice’s Tea Cup

Josephina

Mana

Edgar’s Cafe

Near Work:

Punch

Cafeteria

Pure Juice and Takeaway

Craftbar

Souen

Have a great weekend, everyone!!!

xo

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    33 Comments
  1. Wow, thank you for this post Gena. I found this blog through Fitnessista’s blog and have been lurking for a while. While I’m not a proclaimed vegan or raw foodist, I do enjoy trying new foods and new ways of preparing them and I’m a huge fan of fresh produce and often find that I eat vegetarian, or even vegan, without even thinking about it. My boyfriend and I and another couple are going to NYC this summer for my birthday and it is a bit of a tradition for me to drag my friends to restaurants that they would never go to on their own – they can’t say no on my b-day! 🙂 The places you’ve listed are all great ideas and Peacefood Cafe especially looks like a place to plan to hit up. Thank again!

  2. Hi Gena, the food at the restaurants looked amazing. I have such a hard time finding places to eat where the foods are clean in my area. I always end up with fish taco’s or something similar rather than everything that is full of fat and sugar. It’s great that you have such a support system, because when I first started eating clean, my support system was next to nothing, and people would make fun of me! I persevered, though, and anyone that did that is certainly not someone I would want to break bread with anyway. Have a great day! 🙂

  3. Thanks for this little guide! I love NYC and I have been to both Blossom and Candle and love both. Next time I am in the city, I will have to check out some of the other places!

    Right now I am trying to navigate Toronto for some great Vegan/Raw spots- so far I have found two amazing vegan places, and three incredible raw/vegan places! Score!

    xo
    K

  4. hey gena! i have only recently discovered the wonders of the PQ here in london, and it’s great to know that they’re over in the states too – plenty of options for vegans, which is funny considering it’s a french resto….

  5. such a great post! i need to try these places. I can’t believe i have never been to le pain!

    Thanks for the shout out! Let me know how shutter island is, I am terrified!

  6. Gena,

    I loved this post! I’m still in the process of meeting my new playground (hello, NYC!), so thank you for the list of suggestions. I will also check out the link to Melissa’s blog. Today, I went to Edgar’s for the first time and had the scrumptious vegetarian asparagus salad. (The friend I pulled along is an omnivore and fellow dancer; neither one of us was disappointed with our meal.)

    A checklist of vegan-friendly restaurants-to-try is steadily growing…

  7. OMG we have to come to NY and check out all these amazing restaurants. Being chefs we love love to eat other people’s food. We find it fun to see what other people can do with food, especially vegan, raw foods!! Although for us it is even harder to find things gluten-free ; (

    Glad you have been enjoying the crackers!!!

  8. Speaking of dining out, if any of you are in the DC area you should try Everlasting Life on Georgia Ave. It has raw and vegan options and SUPER CHEAP ( I think it’s non profit).

  9. Gena, why must you rub it in our face that most of your readers don’t have such great vegan dining like you do?!?!? Sheesh, you sure know how to make a girl jealous 🙂

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. I just went to LPQ for the first time recently and loved it! Everything was yummy and the people were super friendly and helpful. And Alice’s – oh Alice’s how I love and miss you!

  11. Wow, great meals! 🙂 Love a good salad!! I am going to check out those restaurants you mentioned, I am always looking for somewhere new to go when I am in the city! Have a nice weekend!

  12. What amazing meals, gorgeous salad pics. Eating out can be stressful just trying to find vegan friendly options, I enjoy it less since going raw and thwart meeting friends at not-so-healthy chain places when they recommend it with healthier options.

  13. Some of my favorite things! LPQ, Peacefood (you have to try their raw key lime pie) and THE MAGNETIC FIELDS! Love them so, so much. I even bought the soundtrack to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”!

  14. WOW! You really had some great meals this weekend! I love how supportive your friends, coworkers and family are of your vegan lifestyle! My parents were a little resistant to me becoming a vegetarian but are finally opening up and accepting it!The meal you created at Le Pain Quotidien looks fabulous! They should add that to their menu. Hope you have a nice weekend 🙂

  15. This is a great list! You forgot Chez D though. 😉 How funny that just today I discovered this blog, noteatingoutinny.com which has just been turned into a book. Looks fairly veg-friendly too! Haven’t had much chance to explore it but it sounds like you can identify with the author. 🙂

  16. Oh my gosh– I would LOVE to see the Magnetic Fields! So jealous! I listened to my 69 Love Songs CD until it died!! 🙂

    You’re lucky to have so many supportive people in your life– and so many great vegan/raw restaurants nearby!

  17. I’ve always been meaning to pay a visit to PQ! Their sandwiches sound gorgeous. I didn’t know it was vegan-friendly though. I think it’s great that you live in NYC, which seems pretty vegan-friendly! Just so you know, LA is a great place for vegans, too! 😉

  18. Such great looking local restaurants! I love the name of the first restaurant “Le Pain Quotidien”…it means “The Daily Bread” in French 🙂

  19. Ok so more than a little envious of your high raw vegan amazing foodie options. All restaurants should realize that raw vegan means more than iceburg lettuce 🙂

    The vegan pumpkin stew with chickpeas and raisins looks beautiful and im not even a “soup girl”.

    And the Twins’ crackers, I may or may not have polished off a cracker stash of theirs and loved every second of them too!

    xoxo

  20. I love everything about Le Pain Quotodien. I especially love their gluten-free buckwheat quiche. It is so amazing and delicious.

    Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks are excellent but a bit complicated. For me anyway. I’m not the best cook in the world!

  21. Bookmarking this so I’ll have some great options to check out when I visit NYC! Also, so jealous of the Magnetic Fields show!

  22. I even have a Pain Quotidien here in my little town in Belgium – isn’t it nice when such a great little restaurant can be found all over the world?

  23. I love the idea of chocolate avocado pudding in my work fridge. I could see somebody stealing it, too, and really loving it not knowing what it is!

    I never would have guessed there are so many raw/vegan friendly places to eat nearby in NYC. It makes me feel like there must be more places anywhere, you just got to know where to look

  24. Wow everything looks amazing. I love Le Pain Quotidien – everything is so delicious. I haven’t eaten there in years but I must go seek out a branch in the near future!

    So far out of that list I’ve only had the fortune of being to Blossom, but damn, I live in New York City, time to start making my culinary meccas to all the other amazing vegan and raw places available to me!

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