Gourmet Raw Becomes Accessible to All at Gingersnap’s Organic, NYC
January 9, 2012

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At least a few times a year, I have my mind blown by a meal. Rarely, I happen to have been the architect of that meal, which is always a cause for blushing pride. But more often than not, it’s because I’ve been lucky enough to sit at the table of a truly extraordinary restauranteur. I’ve had a few such meals this year. Recently, I was a lucky guest at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw in D.C.. A few months before that, I had the great pleasure of having dinner at Portobello in Portland with the VegNews team. What a night that was! I’m still fantasizing about the gnocchi.

A few nights ago, I had the privilege of yet another extraordinary dining experience. As you’ll see in a moment, it was slightly different from any other great restaurant meals I’ve had lately, in that it was intimate and blended the best of gourmet raw cuisine with a welcoming environment. But it has instantly been filed away under “meals to remember forever.” And it’s all thanks to Jamie Graber, the innovative, inspiring, and confident owner of Gingersnap’s Organic.

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Gingersnap’s Organic is the latest and greatest raw foods restaurant to hit New York City’s East Village. Though all of the foods served are raw, vegan, and gluten-free (the only ingredients that are not 100% raw are two of the spices used, which by my estimation still puts the restaurant firmly in the “raw” category), Gingersnap’s isn’t marketed exclusively to the raw or vegan audience. Instead, it’s labeled as “handcrafted conscious cuisine.” This is the right choice of words, because everything at Gingersnap’s—from the tables and chairs to the floor to the food—has been crafted with love and care.

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Jamie, the energetic, hip, and glowing Gingersnap after whom the restaurant takes its name (she’s in the hat, above), is deeply eco-conscious. She has created a dining space that is as earth friendly as a space can be, from the floorboards (which are recycled from an old barn) to the reusable bags, which patrons are asked to return with their next visit. Some plastic packaging is used, but Jamie takes care to limit waste in any other way she can: pulp from almond milk is put to use in burgers, for example. All ingredients at the restaurant are organic, and Jamie takes care to also shop local and fresh. I’ve met many an environmentally-aware restaurateur in my time, but I must confess that I’ve rarely been so struck with a restaurant owner’s passion and conviction as I was by Jamie’s. She’s out to change the way people eat, one meal at a time.

For example: Jamie offers her patrons a special GO cleanse (which I’ll refer to simply as “raw meal delivery service,” since I don’t love the language of “cleansing”). For $50 per day, all participants receive:

  • A chia pudding for breakfast
  • A giant lunch salad
  • An entrée and side salad for dinner
  • A dessert pudding
  • A green juice ($10 extra)

What a wonderful way for people to explore raw cuisine! And I was mighty impressed with the price; compared to certain other love-ly cleanses (ahem) this is a total steal. Most importantly, it motivates people to stick with raw food for more than a meal or two, and educates them in how to eat raw consistently. Jamie’s vision is to create a restaurant that makes eating raw on the go easy, and caters both to raw foods pros and those who are simply hoping to work more raw dishes into their busy lives.

When I received Jamie’s invitation to visit, I was thrilled. It was also two days before I was due to have dinner with Ms. Jasmin before leaving NYC. Did she want to make Gingersnaps our destination, I asked? She said yes, and we found ourselves meeting there two nights later. I was really impressed with the sleek, yet cozy design:

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Great place to meet casually with a friend, or dine solo! The restaurant is designed either for sit-down service or for takeaway: various salads, puddings, and entrees are packaged in the cooler sections, but also available on the restaurant menu.

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The restaurant carries a few pressed juices, and it also carries local kombucha:

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They also carry fresh coconut water.

Jamie and I took a few moments to talk about her mission with Gingersnap’s Organic, and her history. I asked how long she’d been working with raw foods. She told me that she’d been working in the raw world for about six years, though she had been enticed by and experimented with raw food long before that. In 2007, she was completing a teacher training at YogaWorks, and met a woman who worked with Juliano. She introduced Jamie to Juliano, and she started working for him the next day. In LA, she moved on to managing Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, and then returned to her home of NYC, where she originally founded Gingersnap’s.

The clarity of Jamie’s vision for her business really struck me. In fact, as Jasmin and I left later that evening, I exclaimed “it’s so great to see such a business owner with such clarity and purpose!” (Or something like that.) Jamie is passionate about 1) making raw, organic, vegan food accessible to everyone, 2) creating green spaces, and 3) establishing a raw restaurant that caters to everyone—from sit-down gourmets to students on-the-go. If you ask me, she’s succeeding in all of those goals.

When Jamie asked Jasmin and I if we were hungry, we chuckled and assured Jamie that we could probably handle as much food as she wanted to share with us. I told her to go ahead and bring us the dishes she’s most passionate about. We began with the restaurant’s superfood salad: baby spinach, avocado, sprouts, hemp seeds, dulse, goji-chia dressing.

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Crisp, lightly dressed, and full of salty and sweet flavors from the dulse and the dressing. I loved it!

Next, Jamie brought us some of her famous zucchini almond hummus, which was served with daikon and cucumber slices, sesame and tomato crackers with zaatar spices, and olives.

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I have so much to say. First, the hummus was (true to promise) amazing. I’ve made zucchini hummus, and I’ve made almond hummus, but never have I hummus-ed the two together. Now I think I’ll have to. Delicious. Meanwhile, the crackers blew. my. mind. I love zaatar spice—in fact, this reminds me that M has some that I’ve yet to experiment with—and it, along with the sundried tomatoes, made these crackers sing. I was enchanted.

Next up came the restaurant’s portobello reuben wrap, served with house made kraut, sundried tomato, Russian dressing, and romaine.

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I have spent four years trying to perfect the raw wrap, with truly tepid results. It’s always too thick or too thin, too crispy or too soggy. How Jamie has managed to make a wrap (which is flecked with caraway seeds for authentic “reuben” taste) that is not only all raw and vegan, but also moist, thick, and delicious, I can’t say. But I can say that this was in some ways the highlight of the meal. The kraut and dressing were stellar, too.

For our “entrees,” Jasmin and I each got a tasting plate of the restaurant’s prized dishes. This included (going clockwise on my platter from the kelp noodles) kelp and daikon noodles with sesame-ginger broth, sprouts, shiitake mushroom, kim chee, dulse (this is labeled as “ramen” on the menu), house made pickles, raw pizza with walnut hemp seed crust, sundried tomato, garlic kale,brazil nut ricotta, a thai collard wrap with spicy almonds and pea shoots, and the restaurant’s taco, served with a chili corn flax tortilla, pepitas, guacamole, salsa, and shredded romaine.

Feast your hearts out:

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Where to start? Well, I’ll start with the kelp noodles, which blew me away not only because they tasted superb, but because their texture was so, so soft. When I asked Jamie how they manage to soften them that much, she said that they massage them. I guess if massaging kale is the key to its raw success, the same might be true of kelp noodles, which I personally love, but many people find too crunchy. I’ll have to try this tip out for myself!

I was immediately won over by the taco, which was perfectly seasoned and also gave me a perfect bite of the quintessential Gena comfort food: guac. But Jasmin and I both spent the most time sighing over the pizza, which was bursting with flavor. The brazil nut ricotta was super lemony, which immediately won me over (I’m a bit of a lemon fanatic), and the crust was delectable.

When Jamie announced that it was dessert time, Jasmin and I could have feigned being too full, but who were we kidding? We were dying to taste Jamie’s dessert creations! Little did we know we’d get not one, but three of them to savor. First, a vanilla chia pudding that instantly won me over with its creamy texture and lack of overt sweetness (as a side note, the restaurant uses no agave, which means that desserts have the more subtle sweetness of dates). There was also a mango pudding made with young coconut, coconut oil, and mango that was to die for. So, so delicious—it was almost reminiscent of coconut butter, which I love.

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Finally, Jamie brought us a slice of gingersnap pie (perfectly spiced, hopelessly creamy), adorned with a slice of candied lemon.

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It was insane. Like the best pumpkin cheesecake I’d ever had, except better. And the crust, like our chia pudding, was only sensibly sweet, not a sugar overdose.

At the end of the meal, as I gushed to Jamie and praised the hardworking chef who had been at her side that night, I could help but pick up some of the raw zaatar crackers:

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…which are sold at the restaurant along with kale chips and other dehydrated treats.

I’ve been to gourmet raw restaurants before, and I’ve been to more casual raw spots. What makes Gingersnap’s truly special—aside from the conscious ethos—is it’s range. Whether you want a quick salad to go, a kombucha and chia pudding for a late night snack, or a full-blown, gourmet raw experience, Jamie can deliver it to you. This is the finest kind of raw foods experience—both stunning and accessible—and it’s now yet another reason why I <3 New York.

After dinner, with only a few nights left in the city, I couldn’t help but stop by another great raw culinary mecca, Pure Food and Wine, for an after dinner “mocktail” with Jasmin. This was in keeping with tradition: the first time Jasmin and I met, we sipped upon mocktails at Portobello:

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This time, we sipped upon a virgin passion fruit juice cocktail and a virgin mojito inside the sexy and sleek interior of Pure Food and Wine:

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The drinks were great—proof that a truly artful cocktail can hold its own without booze—and the wonderful bartender was kind enough to adjust the price for a non-alcoholic rendition. That’s a rare show of decency at an NYC bar!

In all, this was a magical night of dinking and drinking and conversation. Thank you, Jamie, for having welcomed me to Gingersnap’s Organic, and for having shared your vision with me. I hope New Yorkers everywhere will soon be participating in it.

Gingersnap’s Organics is located on 7th Street between Avenues 1st Avenue and Avenue A. To see the menu, learn about the fabulous “Go Food Delivery Service,” or connect with Jamie, visit the restaurant’s website.

xo

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    50 Comments
  1. I’ve been there and the place looks nice But, the prices are outrageous and portions very small! It feels elitists and not really for your everyday, “to go” place where you stop by often. Maybe twice a year if the portions were reasonable. Another negative for me, when I asked about the juice cleanses they didn’t seem knowledgeable at all. Seems like they just want to jump on the wagon of what others do and sell you more stuff. Huge contrast with my experience at Live Live & Organic a few blocks away on 10 St., where all staff has in depth knowledge of juicing and cleansing protocols. They are experts, very nice, spend time with you, guide and help with your nutrition. But Live Live has been around for over a decade and built their reputation on really helping people in a meaningful way.

  2. Gingersnaps looks truly amazing. Wishing I still lived on the east coast so I could make an excuse to visit NYC just to eat there!

  3. This place is going on my “must visit in NYC list” for sure…your enthusiasm just jumps off the page!

    And, at the risk of breaking our communal pledge to practice sensitivity when making any sort of appearance commentary, I must say that you look utterly vibrant in that photo, my friend 🙂

  4. Oh. That wrap is stunning. Everything is, actually. Thanks for sharing this–I hadn’t heard of it yet. Adding to the “Get in my belly” list. (Which does exist!)

  5. I am utterly disturbed by the “cheap” cost of the raw food carryout…That is truly the cheapest carryout service you have discovered thus far? I suppose if you had the money, wanted to start but felt rather daunted by it all, didn’t have google/are too daunted by/too lazy to use google, and you just wanted to see how it would be like for a day, the 50 dollars could be worth it…I spend maybe 60 per week tops on raw foods for myself, and I am high-fruit, low-fat raw, so that in itself can get on the pricier side…If I had 50 bucks I’d be buying my own dang box of chia seeds, my own dang bag of nooch, some really cool exotic raw dessert of awesomeness…or I’d get a food processor, ya know, so I can actually make this stuff myself…I am definitely a bargain-buster though.
    Now, I LOVE that the place is so eco-conscious. But if it’s high-priced, everyone is going to think it’s on the egotistical side as well. I live around Ann Arbor MI…I don’t know if you’ve been there, but it’s expensive, hippy, college towns (U of M campus) like that, that tend to make people associate eco-consciousness with more negative things like holier-than-thou attitudes and monetary privilege that allows people to be more -picky- about their purchases. It absolutely becomes more elitism than it is actual compassion, which is highly disappointing. Gosh, I would be so much more refreshed to see a place that makes caring about the world and being compassionate for animals easy for EVERYONE. Part of the reason America is in the situation it’s in right now is because of how daunting it can seem. If it didn’t seem so elusive, the world would be in a far better place. Maybe I will start up something like that in the future. I am tired of being looked at as if I am nit-picky, Haiti-toity, perfectionistic, or over-privileged simply for trying to lead a more healthful, eco-conscious lifestyle. It’s a lot easier than it’s been made out to be. Don’t get me wrong–I love the concept of this restaurant. It looks delicious. But will it captivate and inspire the majority of people to try raw foods on their own time? I am guessing the answer is no. The meals are expensive to the average consumer (I mean, cheap-ish for a dinner maybe once a month, but spending 15 bucks on dinner, is the average consumer REALLY going to choose the raw food restaurant, if not one time, on a regular basis?), beautiful, and seemingly unachievable to make, while the place still uses eco-conscious methods. We have got to find a way for people to be less daunted and for it to seem less elitist!! 🙂
    /end rant. WHOOPS 🙂 Take care Gena. I’ve never commented before but I LOVE your blog.

    • I totally agree with this post. I am sorry, but I cannot get over the prices. Certain places in NYC (ahem Pure Food & Wine) can get away with being overpriced because they use specialty ingredients and claim produce is organic, etc. but this particular example is simply outrageous – esp considering the portion sizes. I’ll buy a bushel of CERTIFIED ORGANIC kale, olive oil, goji berries, etc. and make dinner for a week for less than that. Its a bit mortifying to think anyone would be helpless enough to pay $50+ per day for that amount of food when children in NYC are literally saving scraps from their pitiful school lunches to eat for dinner at home.

  6. Holy deliciousness!! I am so jealous of this dining experience. Australia doesn’t really have any raw food restaurants like you get in the US.. there are a few little places but they are far and few and generally limited.

    I can’t wait to visit NYC for the culinary adventures!

  7. How incredible! To find a place where deliciousness, passion, warmth and determination to make the world a brighter place? Phenomenal. Thank you for sharing, Gena. Your enthusiasm and positivity glowed through the words (just like you glow in the photos) so much that I became joyously excited rather than bitterly envious for once. 😉

  8. Such an inspiration! I love her whole concept. And Juliano is SO my hero! I also have to say that you are a true New Yorker, and your fabulousness shines through in all of your posts. I can tell you are at home.

  9. I’m almost never envious of cities or great restaurant experiences, but you’ve elicited envy in me this time–envy and admiration, both for your flair for depiction and for the whole ambiance and ethos of the restaurant!

    Huge plus to me that they don’t use agave, also.
    love
    Ela

  10. ahh im jealous. Wish I still lived in NYC for places like this! Gingersnap… please open in San Fran!

  11. wow Gena that place looks like a dream come true! love seeing other business woman create such a wonderful place for people! we have to check that place out next time we are in the NYC area 🙂

  12. I’ve walked by this place and it does look cute but the prices are exorbitant. It’s worse than One Lucky Duck. $10 for a tiny chia seed pudding, those better be some new magic chia seeds that will make me live to 200 years old because that is outrageous, even for NYC.

  13. I have to say that “handcrafted conscious cuisine” is an amazing way to make raw appeal to the mainstream. Someone described EGR to me as “slow foods” and while it is not that, I think that’s about the only way this person would actually apprecaite raw foods, so hey, whatever works, right? 🙂

    • Yeah, absolutely. People are much more into the idea of being “eco-conscious,” “locavore,” or “slow food” than they are being raw or vegan. I want the public to embrace those words and meanings, but if this gets them closer, cool.

  14. haha we are so on the same wavelength — I JUST visited Gingersnap’s (and LOVED too: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/-detox-new-york-city-clinton-gwyneth-paltrow-279761 and just finished writing a blog post about it! 🙂 and also just filmed a video for Collard Wraps. Hope you’re enjoying your time in NYC, I am sad to leave but not worried about my return since I know your amazing and inspiring recipes will keep me going over there. Bon appétit !

  15. Is that watermelon radish in the salad? I think it’s the most beautiful vegetable!

    I love your top, too, very pretty!

    I wish I could try a raw restaurant. There are not many in my country and they are all far away from me. Maybe one day! 🙂

  16. Such a glowing review, I’m jealous both of the food and your company! It’s so respectable that a restauranteur can remain so true to her values and her vision. Truly inspirational!

  17. Wow, what a find! Seems like all your favorite types of raw food. I am so happy to hear that it’s all gluten-free, as some of the really high end raw places like Pure Food and Matthew Kenney’s add nama shoyu or oats. The portion does look a little small on the sampler plate, but seems like you had enough other goodies to tide you over. Love the mason jar desserts, although that pie slice was TINY! Maybe I’m just hungry right now and have a big appetite. And no agave, great too. It’s overused.

    With Jazmin in the blogs presence, I will have to tell you I finally finished the podcast (technical difficulties) and had some thoughts/questions:
    –Where on your timeline did the eating disorder happen in relation to veganism? Did you get IBS after it or during?
    –Surprising the doctor did not tell you just to have lactaid, as mine did.
    –Love that “became a vegan for me, don’t stay one for me”
    –So glad you mentioned to take a B-12 supplement, I remember in one of your older posts you said you weren’t taking one for some reason? (Although I could be mistaken)

    You don’t have to answer if uncomfortable but those things were on my mind. Good luck getting back to school and into the swing of things.

    • 1) I had IBS symptoms starting, sadly, at age 10. But my ED surfaced about a year later, so the two were in some ways associated for me. I had regained healthy weight by 9th grade, but the IBS became much worse in my late teens and early twenties. My last ED relapse was at the tail end of college/early twenties, and veganism came right after that. After I had managed to snap out of the relapse, I also took pains to remedy my IBS, and that’s where the no dairy kicked it.

      2) Nope. He was a very good doctor in that he really did examine diet to help me. I have a lot to thank him for!

      3) I think I probably said that I’ve never taken a B-12 supplement, per se, which is true (I also seem to “hold on” to B-12 well, according to my doc). But I *do* take it in my regular multi, which has always worked for me.

      Glad you liked the interview 🙂

    • Forgot to say (as if I haven’t gabbed enough) that it’s so interesting about the kelp noodle comment. I was just talking to another raw chef who said that she puts pressure on them to help cut the crunch. Hers tasted just like real spaghetti!

  18. As a non-NYC pro, I’m so glad you talked about this place—we live upstate and make the trek a couple times a year. We tend to stick with our “old faithful” restaurants (like PFW)…so I’m adding this to the list for next time!

  19. Wow, this food sounds (and looks) incredible! I’m adding this to my list of “must eat at” restaurants for the next time I’m in NYC. Thanks for sharing such an informative review!

  20. How long has the place been around? This is great news. It’s funny how so many raw or vegan restaurants are in the East Village area. I’m still trying to get back to Quintessence!

    • Sarah, many people are now avoiding agave, in part because there was a big to-do about a few articles that likened it to corn syrup. I agree that agave, like any other kind of highly concentrated sweetener, should be eaten in moderation. But I don’t think it’s uniquely bad for you, and think it has a place in a healthy diet.

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