Grains and Gab at Mana Organic


Happy Saturday, all! Thanks for the feedback on NOLA posts one, two, and three. I’m glad you enjoyed the recaps, because there are many more trips to New Orleans to come. Hopefully, each visit will unveil yet another vegan dining establishment.

Today’s post takes us back to NYC, which is already a mecca of vegan dining establishments! Last Saturday, after a slightly tiring day at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, Brendan and I decided to explore one of the city’s many vegan friendly and organic spots—Mana—for a quick catch up dinner.

You may recall that I had been feeling pretty beat that day, but that I perked up for the event. Well, after returning home in the afternoon, fatigue crept in once again. I texted the following to Brendan:

“Sooooooooo tired.”

To which he replied: “So tired, too. We can just sit there and eat in silence, it’ll be perfect!”

I responded: “That’s fine. Though somehow I doubt it.”

I doubted it because Brendan and I rarely ever lack conversation when we sit down and catch up. There are always so many things to talk about—our careers and projects, food politics, animal rights issues, and (of course) food we’ve recently eaten and loved. Mana has become one of our favorite places to convene, because it is a) on the Upper West Side, my home neighborhood and one of Brendan’s favorite in the city, b) reasonably priced and 100% organic, c) totally vegan-friendly d) really tasty.


While Brendan and I are both identified with our connection to raw foods, we don’t always eat raw food when we meet to catch up. More often than not, actually, we opt for simple grains, legumes, salads for a quick, casual bite. Technically speaking, Mana is a macrobiotic (or macrobiotic-ish) restaurant, so it fits the bill for all of those things!

What is macrobiotics? Well, you’ll learn a lot more here than I can relay in a quick blog post, but it’s a lifestyle founded both in diet and in holistic approaches to mind and body wellness. It’s often sought out by people who are healing, but not exclusively so. As you can see from the food pyramid below, legumes, grains, and sea vegetables are the foundations of the diet:


Image © Noe Designs

Raw foods are not emphasized in macrobiotic cooking; in fact, they are often discouraged to some extent. Clearly, a mostly raw diet is the one I thrive on, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate some of the techniques and principles of macrobiotics. It inspires a number of my cooked dishes, and I love dining at macrobiotic restaurants for their simplicity and perfectly cooked whole grains. Mana is no exception—the food is reliably good, and the atmosphere, as you can see, is very cozy. Note that the restaurant serves fish, as do most macrobiotic restaurants that I’ve been to: though it’s possible (and very common) to be a macrobiotic vegan, the diet is not vegan, per se!



Brendan and I did a quick download/review of the days events over the millet and cauliflower mash appetizer. Oh yes, you heard that right. A Gena cooked-food dish if ever there was one, and I will certainly get to recreating it for you! Brendan and I couldn’t figure out what the creamy base was, but my money’s on silken tofu:


Brendan got a salad for his entrée, along with some kabocha squash. I was slightly hungrier, so I went with a brown rice, cucumber, and avocado roll, along with the house salad, which was steamed squash, carrot, romaine, avocado, olives, tomatoes, and a little bit of tempeh. They were both outstanding, as usual:



And the conversation, of course, was the perfect conclusion to a fun day of vegan community-building.

How do you feel about macrobiotic food—either as a lifestyle choice, or as something to incorporate into your routine? My favorite resource is The Kind Diet and The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, though I’d love to hear which resources you guys enjoy, too.

Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting a new Green Recovery post from a friend and fellow blogger. As always, she and I will be eager for your comments and musings in response. See you soon!


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  1. Hi Gena!

    Your meal looks great! 🙂

    I was wondering if you had the chance to ask Brendan about the amount of iron in the new Vega Sport Protein Powder?

    Thank you!

  2. I had my annual chat with Brendan Sunday at the Natural Products Expo West. This time, I gushed to him about how much I love his Thrive Foods cookbook; it’s fantastic!

    There are aspects of the macrobiotic way of eating that resonate with me, but I’m not “all in.” I do primarily eat whole foods and, of course, am always 100% vegan!

  3. I’m so jealous of your friendship with Brendan! Another one of my heroes, and definitely a great motivator. I haven’t looked much into macrobiotics, but perhaps I should. I love knowing about all of these different theories and incorporating all of them to some degree as part of my healing process for both my disordered eating and my digestive issues. Thanks for the links!

  4. I’ve never really known that much about the macrobiotic way of eating, but it does sound interesting. Thanks for posting the info! Looks like a very delicious lunch you had. I wish we had more vegan/veggie places around here.

  5. Thanks Gena! I definitely feel best when I incorporate more bland/cooked/gentle macrobiotic veggies and brown rice into my diet, it’s very grounding for me – and a great balance to the lively energy of a lot of raw foods. Love the cauli/millet mash! Reminds of of the baby food I used to make for my 14 year old – I used to add raw tahini for calcium and protein. Yum!

  6. Love Mana and I feel people forget about it. I will say though that I asked Lee once for a recipe for our newsletter and the preparation wasn’t necessarily healthy, at least the ingredients are. I think macrobiotic is a nice system but it’s not necessarily how I’d characterize my eating. You also don’t hear the term a lot any more.

  7. I sort of got into macrobiotics when I was first vegetarian. Although I do think it’s too many grains for me now, but I love sea veggies and take some aspects of the diet. Seems like you did manage to find some raw-er dishes there like the nori rolls.

    Interesting you mention Brendan, I heard him on a talk recently and he was saying that simply eating sea veggies is enough for B-12 but most other vegan docs and nutritionists agree that supplementation is needed. I am hoping somehow he gets the message to change that part of his talk because it’s dangerous and misleading to new vegans to not tell them to supplement for B-12.

  8. Gena have you been to the Juice Press on 1st Ave? I just found the store and love it. Can’t wait to go back for the raw kale salad.

  9. I’ve never gotten into the macrobiotic food movement. Just not something I’ve ever paid much attention to but my aunt, actually, spent about 5 years really adhering to the macrobio principles and she loved it for the time she did it.

    Your glowing smile is contagious in that first pic!

  10. Love the sound of the “kind diet”–it just has a good ring to it. And my goodness, millet and cauliflower have your name all over them.

    Excited for another green recovery post–I could use the inspiration right now.

  11. I recently started reading Macrobiotic Cooking for Everyone (first published in 1980!!) and it’s really really interesting. It goes heavily into the philosophy/sciene behind it all. I’m always keen to learn about different “styles” of eating/cooking. I didn’t really rate The Kind Diet very highly I must say… the recipes were good, I didn’t like the narrative, it seemed kinda forced, but I suppose it IS a recipe book, so the food is the main focus, huh?

    • Ha! Or you just didn’t like the voice, which is a perfectly respectable criticism for any reader to have 🙂

  12. I can’t say I follow a 100% macrobiotic diet but I have experimented with it and have come to really appreciate some of its philosophies. Everything I know pretty much comes from one book called The Everything Guide to Macrobiotics by Julie S. Ong. I was raised in Korea though and was familiar with foods like dried roots and seaweeds before knowing the actual term “macrobiotics”, so maybe I was less hesitant about embracing more of its principles. Macrobiotics originated in Japan.

    The biggest things that distinguished macrobiotics for me were the concept of yin / yang foods, and that macrobiotics matches “supported organs” with specific foods, based on acupuncture studies.

    I personally have found it much more helpful to incorporate some macrobiotic principles than to completely eliminates certain things (ie. meat, gluten, cooked foods). Granted, a strict macrobiotic diet tells to avoid meat, dairy, nightshades and highly processed soy, but I have found comfort in that it stresses the balance of yin and yang rather than singling out things not to eat. Sounds sensible enough.

    I must add though that in my opinion no “diet” is perfect even if it’s touted as being good for health, EVEN THOUGH some have found health/cured cancer/&etc through certain diets. You just have to find what’s right for you (I’m sure CR readers know this).

    PS. Someone mentioned ayurveda above, which I also read about and which impacted my view on eating for health to a even greater degree. If you are really interested in nutrition from a point of view that is not entirely scientific, I recommend reading about macrobiotics and ayurveda!

    • also, for anyone who lives in/visits Toronto: Live Organic Food Bar has a menu of items that fuse macrobiotics and raw! The most impressive and awesome grain bowls I have ever seen, totally recommended! Their online menu is outdated, but some examples are:

      The Liver lover Bowl: A nourishing bowl of marinated raw dandelion, spinach, burdock root, avocado, black beans, red onions, all topped with hemp oil and a lemon wedge. A tasty and worth while cleanse.

      The Trainers Bowl: This protein packed bowl is filled with choice of sprouted grilled tofu, grilled tempeh, choice of black bean hummus or raw hummus, steamed vegetables, alfalfa sprouts and sprouted seeds. Topped with a tahini dill dressing. Sure to satisfy the true athlete in you.

  13. The restaurant sounds fabulous, and you both ordered some of my favorite macro dishes. I’m coming up to my two year anniversary of living a macrobiotic lifestyle and the two books you mentioned are how I got started. I feel great, am symptom free from two chronic, serious diagnoses, and am 30lbs lighter that I was two years ago.
    I like how you are flexible with your diet and I am too as I think it is important to stay balanced, flexible and open about food choices. I try and stick to about 80-90% macro most of the time.
    I’d advise anyone to go and see a macrobiotic counselor to make sure your choices are tailored for your needs. I did this early on and it made a big difference. Cooking classes are also a blast.
    Hope to get to Mana one day.

  14. The Kind Life is possibly one of my favorite books on earth. It’s not earthshattering information or particularly exciting, but it’s the one I choose when I’m presenting a book about veganism to someone who’s veg-curious, Alicia’s approach is really inspiring, welcoming, and incredibly accessible. I was already vegan by the time I read it, and I was definitely fooling around with a raw diet but it really didn’t resonate with me and I didn’t feel optimal, then when I read The Kind Diet and started studying a bit of ayurveda, I started to focus on incorporating a lot more cooked food and grains into my diet, and I finally felt like I’d hit on the “approach” to veganism that worked best for me. I particularly thrive when I eat foods that are seasonal and seasonally prepared, less fruit and more veg. It all just seems very logical to me … You definitely reminded me I need to pull out my copy and flip through it again, it’s one of the few cookbooks I actually use.

    • Oh gosh and honestly the part of The Kind Diet that has influenced my life the most (seriously) is her acknowledgement and thank-you section: She thanks her husband for always being “so nice” to her and the first time I read that I cried, and realized that the biggest problem in my life was that I was in a relationship with someone who was not nice to me and I needed that to change. The Kind Life, all the way.

      • Ilana,

        I too have had relationships in which basic niceness was cast aside, though I didn’t realize it at the time, or know that it’s why I was so unhappy. And I was touched, just as you were, by that remark.


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