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Spring 2006 - Act•ionLine

by Edita Birnkrant | Spring 2006

Restaurant Reviews: Blossom, Chelsea (NYC) & Caravan of Dreams, NYC

Blossom: A New Caring Cuisine Blooms in Chelsea

“We are actually making history since we are the first to offer gourmet organic vegan cuisine on this side of New York City.”
- Blossom

Caring about animals is “first and foremost” at Blossom; every menu says so. It’s the philosophy championed by the team behind the most recent addition to the New York City’s upscale vegetarian dining scene. The organic restaurant opened in the heart of Chelsea in November 2005, and is already a top contender for a leading role in Manhattan’s cruelty-free cuisine. Located in an elegant townhouse, Blossom welcomes guests into a spacious, candle-lit atmosphere, with golden-hued wood tables and black cushioned seating — minimalist, yet romantic. A faux fireplace adorns one wall, and drapes hang floor-to-ceiling throughout the room.

Blossom’s diverse menu celebrates fresh ingredients from local farms and distributors. Even those who normally ignore the greens on the menu will be impressed with the Field Green Salad, with grilled pears, crispy tofu, candied walnuts and shallot vinaigrette. And if you think you’ve already decided on that one, there’s the Living Asian Salad, with sprouts, scallions, shredded red and nappa cabbage, julienne carrots and peppers, marinated shitake mushrooms, graced with a ginger-citrus cashew dressing. But there’s more. Like the remarkable Baby Spinach Salad, with pickled red onions, tempeh croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, marinated mushrooms and a creamy horseradish dressing.

Daily soups vie with Vegetarian Chili; and starters range from the South Asian Lumpia, curried seitan and potatoes wrapped in a crispy chickpea crepe and served with mango onion sambal, to the Black-Eyed Pea Cakes, which crisply blend Yukon Gold potatoes and black eyes peas, accompanied by chipotle aioli, a dip made of smoky-hot peppers in a lime-cilantro cream dip. The Blossom Purse, with its seasonal vegetables wrapped in phyllo and served with tomato confit, is as photogenic as it is delicious.

If you’re like me, you will gasp when you spot this gem: Grilled Pizza with caramelized onions and peppers, tomato, vegan mozzarella and basil. It was hard for me to think of much else while I anticipated fulfilling this much longed for and unsatisfied craving for vegan pizza. I could not believe my eyes when my server brought to the table the exquisite, gooey, thin crust pizza that I’ve been dreaming of for years. I was almost afraid to take a bite and ruin the illusion that was so perfectly created by the sight. Cut into four large pieces, this personal-sized pizza is filling enough to share, if you can. Upon taking a bite, I knew another victory had been scored for veganism. Those who say they could just never, ever give up pizza have just run out of excuses, because Blossom has created a pizza that rivals the “real thing.” The crust is grilled to perfection and smoked on the edges. The sauce, infused with onions and pepper, creates the right foundation for the vegan soy cheese (Follow Your Heart brand), perfectly melted and topped with basil. From first to last bite, the experience was heavenly, and I will surely be back for more.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be more impressed, I was regaled with a sample of Potato Gnocchi with shitake mushrooms and melted leeks in a sun-dried tomato broth. Creamy and with a pronounced buttery flavor, the gnocchi have an irresistible melt-in-your mouth quality, with a subtle bite of spice enhanced by freshly ground pepper. Then there’s the pan-seared Savory Seitan and Herb Potatoes, with roasted tomatoes and French beans, in a delectable creamy garlic herb dressing.

Those craving rich desserts can indulge in the Chocolate Ganache Torte with truffles. Lighter options include the grilled Pineapple Crepes, served with coconut milk and a scoop of green tea ice cream. Cheesecake with fresh strawberries was the dessert of the day, a vision of velvet on a pool of coconut lemongrass purée.

Blossom is the place to take folks you’d like to impress with the freshest, most delicious vegetarian cuisine. And, of course, the pizza lovers.

187 Ninth Avenue (Between 21st & 22nd Streets)
Hours for Lunch and Dinner
Monday - Saturday 11:30-10:30
Sunday 11:30-9:00
Private parties and catering; private room upstairs
Delivery service available

Caravan of Dreams: Everything a Vegan Could Dream of… and More.

Caravan of Dreams deserves its own category in the vegetarian dining world of New York City. Not many other establishments boast a 100% vegan, organic menu that features an abundance of healthful foods both raw and cooked, satisfying customers’ religious and ethical demands and their cosmopolitan tastes as well.

More than a restaurant, Caravan is also an integral part of the East Village community, offering yoga and meditation workshops as well as nutritional and healing classes in a back room called DreamSpace. Musicians grace a corner stage to bring the intimate, candlelit interior to life. Brick walls are covered with earthy paintings by local artists, and a mural with a southwestern motif. The open kitchen invites diners to watch their meals being prepared over a mosaic counter.

Caravan owner Angel Moreno Segura promises one of the “most progressive menus in the city,” its offerings “thoughtfully constructed to balance alkalinity and acidity, yin and yang, flavor and nutrition.” A glossary is thoughtfully provided on the back explaining everything from seitan, polenta and wakame seaweed, to the difference between live and cooked foods to newcomers to the cuisine. Caravan’s staff is knowledgeable and considerate, and can offer suggestions and answer any questions about the immense menu. And that’s good, because one could dine here every day of the month and still find new temptations to ask about.

A must-try is the Live Hummus Appetizer, made of raw almonds and fresh tahini, topped with olive oil, red peppers and zatter (a mixture of salt and spices), served with raw flaxseed chips, cucumbers and carrots. A few bites of this creamy, light hummus will leave you wondering why anyone really needed cooking.

If you’re in the mood for a warming starter, try a bowl of Miso Deluxe, the unpasteurized, organic chickpea miso soup served with mixed vegetables, wakame, grilled tofu, scallions, red peppers and celery, and served with sprouted-grain toast.

More than a dozen salads will entice you, all big enough to share. Don’t miss the Unchicken Caesar Deluxe. Quite possibly the world’s perfect salad, it consists of fresh greens over a layer of black bean chili, topped with marinated grilled seitan, homemade croutons, tomatoes, red onions, olives and sprouts in a freshly-made Caesar dressing.

Note that all main dishes come with a house salad — no skimpy bunch of leaves, but a festival of organic mixed greens topped with shredded beet, carrots and sprouts, covered in the tamari-lemon ginger house dressing. And now for the main events. The Green Garden Platter, seasonal mixed greens sautéed with grilled marinated seitan, garlic and olive oil, topped with grilled carrot polenta in mushroom gravy, combines the freshness of a vegetable medley with the rich undertone of grilled seitan and moist polenta. The divine mix will have you can feeling virtuous and indulged at the same time.

Beto’s Mexican Quesadilla brings crisp, sprouted-grain tortilla wedges together with seasoned tofu, all topped with guacamole, salsa and vegan sour cream, and served over sautéed mixed greens.

Fancy a good mushroom? Try the Open-Faced Mushroom Sandwich, with sautéed organic cremini mushrooms and greens piled high on pesto-covered sprouted grain toast. Raw-foodies will delight in the Rainbow Platter, vegetables marinated in lemon, ginger and herbs, served over salad greens accompanied by guacamole, tomatoes, cucumbers and almond butter, and raisin-filled celery sticks. This dish is visually stunning, and will have the people at the next table interested in what you’re doing.

Caravan also offers an extensive array of fresh, organic juices made to order, fresh smoothies, organic coffee, teas and young coconut water, as well as an impressive organic beer and wine list. For dessert, a charmer is the Banana Royale, wrapped in a spelt-berry crepe and topped with soy ice cream, raspberry sauce, carob sauce and nuts.

Available daily until 5pm is Caravan’s Brunch, with offerings of a Spinach-Tofu “Omelette,” a Country Breakfast Platter, featuring two spelt-berry pancakes served with fresh fruit, a side of tempeh, a Cuban Brunch, and more, all with a choice of fresh-squeezed orange juice or sangria (virgin or regular), and tea or coffee.

Gather some friends this weekend, head down to Caravan and get in touch with your spiritual side while enjoying a vegan meal that dreams are made of.

Caravan of Dreams
405 East 6th Street (between Avenue A & First)
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily; open until midnight Saturday night.
Delivery and catering available.
Private Room Available.


Edita Birnkrant

Act•ionLine Spring 2006

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