One of the most delightful parts of being a food blogger is having the chance to sample, and then write about, new restaurants and special dining spots. What’s nicer than sharing a great meal with the world? I’ve blogged about a few of my favorite spots here on Choosing Raw: Pure Food and Wine, of course; Candle 79; Caravan of Dreams; Bonobos; and Sproutcraft. Today, I’m on a mission to entice all NYC foodies into checking out Sun In Bloom — a holistic eco-eatery founded by vegan, high raw foodie, and raw community acquaintance Aimee Follette.
This may not be the first time you guys have heard about Sun In Bloom. It’s gotten some nice presslately, and my buddy and fellow blogger Diana moonlights as a dessert chef and kitchen apprentice at the restaurant. Many of my veg-friendly friends in NYC had made trips to the restaurant before I did, and returned with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Which is why I felt honored and excited to visit as Aimee’s guest last week, and see what all the buzz was about.
The world of vegan dining spots seems to be divided into two categories. There are the super “crunchy” spots–I mean the ones that smell like wheatgrass and green juice, have new age music playing in the background, and are a breeding ground for conversations about the newest work from Eckhardt Tolle or one’s most recent past life regression. As long as good food’s on the menu, I’m a happy lady, but these spots aren’t entirely in keeping with my own personal sensibility. Then there are the swanky spots: restaurants like Pure Food and Wine or Candle 79, which market themselves as gourmet dining experiences that are animated by, but not exclusively defined by, veganism. I love these spots, especially as places to bring newbies to vegan dining, but they sometimes feel a little too swank for my own taste, which is for homey, comfortable restaurants.
On this scale of vegan dining, I’d say that Sun In Bloom weighs evenly. It not in-your-face raw/vegan: no wheatgrass smell, and you wouldn’t guess upon entry that vegan grub was the order of the day until you checked out the menu. On the other hand, it’s simple, homey, and unpretentious, and it features collective tables (much like the long tables at any Pain Quotidien location) to emphasize a community-oriented atmosphere. I had an overwhelmingly positive feeling when I walked in: it felt like a warm, welcoming, and relaxed place to be.
Sun In Bloom’s owner, Aimee Follette, says that she was inspired to open Sun In Bloom because she had “been dreaming about creating a loving and nourishing community space for most of my life.” She defines the restaurant not as a vegan restaurant, a raw restaurant, or a healthy restaurant, but rather as a “holistic eco-eatery.” “An eco-eatery,” she says, “is a restaurant that uses earth-friendly practices to reduce waste consumption and promote sustainable solutions. Holistic means looking at the whole rather than parts. At Sun In Bloom, we focus looking at every person who walks through the door as a unique whole being…[and to] create a ripple effect and nourish the entire community.” The goal at Sun In Bloom, then, isn’t just to prepare tasty food (though there’s plenty of that), but to nourish the local community (Park Slope, BK, and beyond) and to be an ever-evolving part of that community: to respond to patrons’ tastes and requests, to educate those who want education about plant based nutrition, and to be a welcoming spot for community gatherings.
Since I arrived early to SIB, the restaurant was quiet enough for me to sample a meal with Diana and then have a few moments to chat with Aimee. I caught a few shots of the clean decor and communal tables:
Then I crept up to the counter, to ogle the tasty menu:
As I was contemplating what to get, I inhaled sampled a container of SIB’s kale chips, which are made with a sesame dressing (why have I never made kale chips again??):
Open the SIB menu, and it’ll probably be easy for you to guess what I wanted. My dinner of choice was the Bella Divine salad, which is described as “sultry smooth avocado, pea shoots, mesclun & threads of dulse dressed in your
choice of SIB’s famously live sesame ginger dressings.”
Avocado? Check. Dulse? Check. Kale? Check. In other words, a giant salad full of all my favorite things.
One bite, and I felt like I had come home. The best thing about this dish (and I’d extend this to all items on the SIB menu) is that it’s precisely the sort of meal I’d make for myself in my own kitchen. And I love this — I love the idea of a restaurant that serves up home cooking (in a literal sense) for those who enjoy vegan and raw foods. In fact, Aimee mentioned to me that the bella divine salad is a replica of a salad she made at home for herself for years and years: no wonder it’s infused with so much love and great taste!
I was a happy camper:
My hot date, Diana, got the “Western Burrito” wrap, which was made from sunflower seed “meat” with fresh salsa, avocado slices, a mix of cabbage, zucchini & sprouts, also dressed in SIB’s famous live ranch dressing:
After the meal, Aimee and I had a chance to chat some more about opening the restaurant, about the challenges and fun of being a small business owner, and about our passion for sharing raw food with other people, one salad at a time. I commended Aimee on constructing a menu around the kinds of simple, easy to prepare raw foods that customers can taste, get inspired by, and easily make for themselves at home. Gourmet raw dining is wonderful, but I believe firmly that, until restaurants show patrons that vegan and raw dishes can be easy as well as delicious, it’ll be hard for diners to take what they see in restaurants and apply it to their own kitchen ventures. The simple, delicious food at SIB is a wonderful step in this direction.
As we chatted: Diana let us taste her latest raw dessert masterpiece: an orange creamsicle:
Made with cashew cream, a nut crust, and fresh OJ, this was pretty divine. I remember orange creamsicles from my cousins’ freezer as a kid, and let me assure you that this is a damn fine recplica. Way to go, D!
It was, all in all, a lovely evening. I can’t tell you how great it is to have more and more dining options that prepare the kinds of foods I love. At Sun In Bloom, I was greeted not only by Gena-style comfort food, but also by a positive and inspiring vision of the kinds of businesses and establishments that will help vegan and raw foods gain more and more traction with mainstream diners. With Aimee Follette and people like her to share their kindness, energy, and passion, it won’t be long before more restaurants like this are blooming–here in NYC, and everywhere.
Thanks, Aimee and Diana, for a great evening!