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This Week in Food: Dirt Candy Takeover, Cocktails and Coloring Books, National Oyster Day

Dirt Candy Takeover
Huertas (107 First Avenue)
Monday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy will take over the pintxo menu board on Monday night at Huertas. The menu will include vegetarian bites like zucchini takoyaki, carrot sliders, and tomato tarts.

Cocktails + Coloring for National Coloring Book Day
Sky Terrace and Hudson Common (358 West 58th Street)
Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On National Coloring Book Day, get inspired with a drink in one hand and a colored pencil in the other. The Bar at Sky Terrace and Hudson Common will offer special rainbow sour cocktails — a white wine sangria with Bombay Sapphire, agave, watermelon, and pampelonne rosé — in celebration of the holiday. Those that order the drink will get a free coloring book to help them exercise their artistic talents.

Brooklyn Pizza: The Search for Authenticity

Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn)
Thursday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m

How did pizza become one of New York’s favorite foods? Pizza historian Scott Wiener — along with some of Brooklyn’s most beloved pizza makers — will try to get to the crust crux of the matter at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The night’s lineup of pizzerias includes a classic slice joint, a coal-fired pizza parlor, a Neapolitan pizzeria, and a modern pizza maker. Tickets are $12 for general admission. Reserve yours here.

Vins de Bordeaux Summer Thursday Party
Piora (430 Hudson Street)
Thursday, 9:30 p.m. until late

Sip on wines from France’s famed Bordeaux region while taking in a burlesque performance at this nighttime affair. Guests can also nosh on cheese from Murray’s and puff on Nat Sherman cigars while listening to an accordion player and a jazz band at Piora. Tickets are $35. Reserve yours here.

National Oyster Day

McCarren Hotel & Pool (160 North 12th Street, Brooklyn)
Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Celebrate National Oyster Day at McCarren Hotel & Pool with specials on the bivalves during dinner. What’s available? Cupcake oysters ($1) along with Hammersley Island Creek and Beausoleil oysters ($3). There will also be a fried Blue Point oyster po’ boy sandwich. The offer will be available at the hotel’s rooftop as well as at Oleanders.

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This Week in Food: Winter Cocktails, Paella Class, and Koreatown Cookbook Party


PLANT by Jay Astafa Pop-Up Dinner, Adelina’s, 159 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, Monday, 7 p.m.

Adelina’s is hosting a 12-course vegan tasting menu, courtesy of chef Jay Astafa of 3 Brothers Vegan Cafe. Courses will include plant-based cheeses and desserts in addition to veggie-forward bites such as sunchoke soup, beet tartare, and squash ravioli. A six glass wine pairing will also be available for an additional $40 charge. Tickets are $145 and are inclusive of service; reserve here.

Tasting Menu, élan, 43 East 20th Street, Monday through end of February

During the final month of service at chef David Waltuck’s élan, the restaurant is offering a special $40 prix fixe menu beginning this Monday. The three course dinner, which will be adjusted daily depending on market availability, will also feature a glass of complimentary sparkling wine.

Winter Cocktails, Montana’s Trail House, 455 Troutman Street, Brooklyn, Monday through end of March

Escape cabin fever with winter drinks like a rum-based “Street Shark” cocktail, which uses winter spice syrup and tamarind cordial to tame the winter chill. The restaurant’s new seasonal menu also includes a bourbon and mulled wine-based “Blizzard Beast” as well as a drink with Calvados, white whiskey, and salted pecan rye syrup.

Paella Workshop, Centro Espanol, La Nacional, 239 West 14th street, Tuesday, 5 p.m.

Fill up on the history of paella before making the celebrated Spanish dish from start to finish.  A chef will lead guests on a hands-on cooking demonstration before allowing students to make their own paella feast. Dinner includes sangria, salad, and dessert from La Nacional. Attendees will take home select paella recipes as well as recommendations for appropriate cookware and ingredients. Tickets are $50 for general admission and can be secured here.

Koreatown Cookbook Party, Ichi Cellar, 6 East 32nd Street, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Experience the recipes and stories of Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong chef Deuki Hong as he unveils his cookbook, Koreatown. The book features recipes, stories, and photos from Korean American neighborhoods across America. Tickets ($40 per person) include a copy of the book along with beer, soju, and snacks prepared by chef Hong; reserve them here.

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This Week in Food: Mexican-Swedish Christmas Menu, Burger Night, and Superiority Burger Christmas

Mexican-Swedish Christmas Menu, Fonda (all locations), 40 Avenue B/434 7th Avenue, Brooklyn/189 9th Avenue, Monday through December 30, excluding Christmas Day.

Fonda is offering a Swedish/Mexican Christmas menu beginning Monday at all three of its locations. The mash-up includes Swedish meatballs with chipotle-lingonberry sauce, smoked ham tacos, and rice pudding with cherry compote and gingersnaps. The bar is also offering traditional warm glögg to enjoy.

Collaboration Dinner at Virginia’s Featuring GG’s, Virginia’s, 647 East 11th Street, Monday, 7 p.m.Chef Bobby Hellen of GG’s is headed to Virginia’s for a joint three-course, burger-centric menu. The dinner – $45 per person – includes beer, one of each of the restaurant’s signature burger, and pizza and sides to share for the table. Guests can make a reservation by contacting events@virginiasnyc.com or contacting the restaurant directly.

Black Tap Ugly Sweater Party, Black Tap Meatpacking, 248 West 14 Street, Tuesday, 8 p.m.

Wear an ugly sweater and eat a beautiful burger at this all-you-can-eat party, which offers an open bar until 11 p.m. Guests can also enjoy an assortment of bar food and live entertainment as part of the $45 per person ticket package, which you can snag here.

Meet Giada de Laurentiis, Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle, 10 Columbus Circle, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

If you’re in search of a last minute unique food-focused gift, Giada De Laurentiis will discuss a few favorite recipes while signing copies of her latest cookbook, Happy Cooking.  Tickets – $41 per person – include a signed copy of the book; reserve one here.

Special Christmas Day Hours, Superiority Burger, 430 East 9th Street,  Friday, 3 to 7 p.m.

As a holiday treat to vegetarians everywhere, Superiority Burger will be opening early on Christmas Day. The burger hot spot is also making candy cane gelato in addition to its regular menu and promises a festive atmosphere complete with a reasonable amount of holiday music.

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Sample Vegetarian Spanish-Chinese Tapas at Tasca Chino

Spanish-Chinese fusion sounds like an odd pairing for a restaurant to pull off, but Tasca Chino (245 Park Avenue South; 212-335-2220) makes it work. With a menu dotted with Latin- and Asian-inspired dishes, the Gramercy Park spot’s fare nods to its vegetarian clientele. “We want to cater to everybody,” chef Alex Urena tells the Voice, adding that his aim is to satisfy patrons’ requests for a healthier menu.

Indeed, the fusion is unusual. “What I like to call it is ‘freestyle’ cuisine. We focus more on the Spanish side and we have a little hint of Chinese. We got the idea when we decided to open the place. I think basically you would say it’s a Chinese tapas,” Urena explains.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Urena came to the U.S. when he was sixteen and landed his first job as a dishwasher. He worked his way up to become a cook, traveling abroad to Spain, France, and the Bahamas to fine-tune his cooking skills. He finally came back to America with experience in all the various cuisines, which he has since incorporated into Tasca Chino’s menu since the restaurant opened in March.

The restaurant’s blistered shishito peppers, an East Asian type, are naturally sweet (with a hot one here and there), but after the dish is doused in smoked salt and sherry vinegar, the juicy, crunchy peppers become more piquant, with a tangy afterkick.

Patatas bravas at Tasca Chino
Patatas bravas at Tasca Chino

The patatas bravas ($8) are a traditional Spanish tapas. The bottom of the dish is covered in a tamarind barbecue sauce; the crisp potatoes sit on top, laden with a Sichuan pepper aioli, which mingles with the tamarind to create a sweet, creamy, and tangy sauce for the potatoes.

Wild mushroom and truffle dumplings at Tasca Chino
Wild mushroom and truffle dumplings at Tasca Chino

The spiciness of the potatoes pleasantly offsets the wild mushroom and truffle dumplings ($8). The outside of the dumplings are soft and supple; taking a bite into the dumpling reveals a bevy of chewy, thickly cut mushrooms dressed with a truffle oil that feels rich and luscious on the tongue.

The ethos of any tapas restaurant is to try as many things as possible. Another dish to try is the restaurant’s garbanzo frito with house-made kimchi and wasabi mayo ($9). The outsides of the fritters are thin and crunchy, while the cake inside is velvety — it certainly melts in your mouth. The dish has overt spicy notes, while the kimchi is both tangy and spicy, and even very little of the mayo garnish still adds a powerful punch.

Or try the scallion pancake ($9), which features manchego cheese, house-made soy sauce, and a fennel seaweed salad (it comes with an anchovy on top of the salad, which you can ask your waiter to exclude). The grilled pancakes are generously seasoned with green onions, which give the dish a sharpness, and the cheese inside oozes out as you cut into them.

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Superiority Dance: Vegetarian Fast Food Rocks the East Village

The veggie burger may have infiltrated mainstream dining while millennials were still teething, but despite advances in the design and DNA of our vegetable-based-patty sandwiches, they still have a way to go before becoming a nationally accepted form of fast food, even in these plant-food-mad times.

Sure, there are local vegetarian restaurants and even some national chains (Hillstone comes to mind) that pride themselves on their hefty, griddled pucks masquerading as meat, but when’s the last time you had a truly impressive veggie burger? One that not only looked and played the part of its beefy doppelgänger but matched it in flavor and style? Say hello to Superiority Burger (430 East 9th Street, no phone).

For the better part of a decade, Brooks Headley worked as the ballsy, sweet Nancy to executive chef Mark Ladner’s savory Sid at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s contemporary Italian showpiece Del Posto; he created desserts, penned a cookbook, and won the 2013 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. But at the end of last month, the chef and punk-rock drummer left the fine-dining world behind, setting his sights on the high-velocity world of vegetarian fast food with Superiority Burger, his first solo venture.

Say hello to my little sloppy joe.
Say hello to my little sloppy joe.

The namesake sandwich, which Headley honed over the course of several years and flaunted at numerous events and pop-ups, relies on a nutty, quinoa-based patty formed with additional vegetarian proteins like beans and tofu. Tucked into its squishy Martin’s potato roll (slightly less flattened than the buns at recent fast-casual fried-chicken sensation Fuku), the patty easily achieves the closest approximation to that nostalgic “fast food” flavor of any veggie burger we’ve ever tasted. This is due to the nuttiness of the burger itself, combined with a familiar (and expertly utilized) combination of pickles, lettuce, cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes, and mustardy special sauce. There’s even a vegan version available, with a sourdough-looking bun and non-dairy cheese.

Sized somewhere between a slider and a standard fast-food-value-menu patty, it’s perhaps a touch petite for a $6 sandwich. You’ll likely have to add one of the excellent vegetable sides or double down on burgers in order to feel fully sated. The modest proportions make the $7 sloppy joe — a heap of piquant crumbled-tofu tomato stew topped with fried onions on a toasted sesame-seed bun — feel like the superior value. (Wet-Naps generously included.) Grab one of each for $13 and walk out holding your belly in satisfaction. There’s also a dish with rice, tofu, cabbage, and sunflower seeds available in wrap or bowl form (at $9, the most expensive item on the menu).

Burnt broccoli salad
Burnt broccoli salad

“Nothing on the menu is fried,” Headley boasts, beaming from the recesses of his kitchen. Folks will have to get their frites fix elsewhere, but on social media the chef has been teasing heavier dishes like vegan nachos and macaroni and cheese. For now the only listed vegetable side — a burnt broccoli salad — nearly steals the show, the florets piled atop a smooth eggplant purée and tossed with chiles, cilantro, and crunchy cashews. Greenmarket sides make an appearance, including sugar-snap peas tossed in breadcrumbs from Addeo Bakery on Arthur Avenue. They’re as composed and well thought out as you’re likely to find at any vegetable-minded outfit.

With limited space and a short standing counter running along its eastern wall, Superiority Burger occasionally commands wait times for its five coveted seats, which feature swiveling trays from which to eat. Otherwise, you’ll have to take your street food outside, onto the actual street. If you do snag a seat, the soundtrack’s aces — a mix of indie, punk, and rock, thanks to Headley’s musical background — and the stark, white-tiled space makes for a fairly comfortable meal. Also be aware that the restaurant is only open Thursday through Monday for dinner.

"Dessert" (gelato and sorbet)
“Dessert” (gelato and sorbet)

Headley’s background as a pastry chef informs the shop’s two classy desserts. Four-dollar scoops of intensely creamy vanilla labne gelato have a nice sour tug from the yogurt, and the strawberry sorbet tastes fresh and bright, fruity without being overly sweet. While they may not have the sass of a McFlurry, the frozen treats are of inordinately better quality. Unless you have a berry allergy or lactose intolerance, do as your cashier suggests and order them together.

Mixing equal parts Americana/burger nostalgia with the eco-conscious zeitgeist, Headley offers a compelling argument for greening up the fast-food industry, albeit in microcosmic fashion. Most important, he has managed to make everything taste so good, you won’t even want fries with that.

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Here’s Where to Find $5 Happy Hour Burgers in Williamburg

For many working adults, happy hour is the best time of the day. Not only does it signal an end to the workday (hopefully), but it’s all about saving money on discounted drinks. Trophy Bar (351 Broadway, Brooklyn; 347-227-8515) goes one better — it also features a selection of cheap eats throughout the evening. 

Monday through Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m., the South Williamsburg spot offers a killer deal on drinks and food.

The Trophy Cheeseburger with tomato and mayo, sandwiched between a pillowy sesame bun and a handful of well-seasoned fries, is normally $8, but during the hours of happiness, it’s just $5. Same goes for the veggie burger; the patty is made from a blend of chickpeas, sweet potato, cranberry, and walnut, and topped with tomatoes, arugula, and tzatziki. It, too, comes with a side of fries. Later in the evening, the cost nearly doubles, to $9 apiece. There’s also a grilled cheese (usually $7); the warm sandwich is filled with nutty aged gouda and presented with a creamy tomato dipping sauce and a pickle on the side. Like the others, it’s $5 during the hallowed time slot. 

If you have a bit of extra cash on hand, Trophy offers $5 bloody marys, margaritas, and sangrias along with $4 wine, drafts, and well drinks. Just walk up to the bar, place your order, then pick a stool, indoor booth, or a table on the back patio. It’s cheap, easy, and very, very good.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera. Follow @forkintheroadVV

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Bill Gates Gets Behind Faux Chicken and Imitation Meats

In a post for Mashable, Bill Gates reminds us that the global population will likely reach 9 billion by 2050, and we’ll have to find a way to double our meat production. Gates, who has been spending time with his pal, Modernist Cuisine author and former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, says the food industry is ripe for innovation. He praises alternative protein sources such as the imitation chicken from Beyond Meat, saying he “honestly couldn’t tell it from real chicken.”

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Gates lists a few other processed foods of the future including low-cholesterol egg alternatives, non-dairy cheeses, and other products which sound like industrial protein vehicles, because that’s exactly what they’d be. [Mashable]

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10 Best Restaurants for Vegetarian Food in New York (Even if You’re Not a Vegetarian!), 2013 Edition

There are plenty of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in New York. Some deal in chewy gluten strips and meat facsimiles, others turn out raw foods and seed pastes, but there are plenty of places where you don’t need to be a devotee to enjoy the food.

Go for a meatless meal at these restaurants for a reminder that vegetables are wonderful, complex, and crucial, and that vegetarian cooking is truly a thing of beauty. From cheap-eats counters to sophisticated tasting menus, here are our 10 favorite places to eat like a vegetarian in New York right now:

Maimonide of Brooklyn
There’s a lot to love about this upbeat vegan restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, named for the Jewish physician-philosopher who made a splash in the Middle Ages. We know it’s hard to take stuff like kale chips and veggie burgers ($15) seriously in 2013, but the Brooklyn café makes insipid vegan staples fresh again with house-made sweet potato rolls, yucca fries, and a little hip hop. 525 Atlantic Avenue, 718-797-2555

 

Cocoron
It can be tough for vegetarian noodle-soup lovers in New York. But while most shops’ broths are made sweet and silky with pork bones, Cocoron’s meatless version finds depth and flavor from seaweed and dry mushrooms. The broth is a lovely accompaniment to the fresh buckwheat noodles that Yoshihito Kida and Mika Ohie prepare each day ($7.80 – $14). The shop hasn’t been making yuba regularly lately (ugh, soy-milk supplier issues), so consider yourself lucky if the creamy folds are available. 37 Kenmare Street, 212-966-0800

 

Saravana Bhavan
Some of the most delightful vegetarian food in the world comes from southern India, and at this sunny outpost of the Saravana chain in Kips Bay there are fine renditions of regional dishes like crisp dosas stuffed with spicy, half-mashed potatoes, and thick, pleasingly greasy uthappams. The best dish here might also be the cheapest: hot idli and sambar ($5): Tender steamed rice cakes served with an excellent rendition of the complex, spicy stew, and a side of coconut chutney. This isn’t the lean monkish fare you might be imagining — don’t be shy to ask for extra ghee. 81 Lexington Avenue, 212-679-0204

 

Le Verdure
Eataly is a theme park of Italian food, packed with tourists and well-dressed office workers here for espressos, quick lunches, and salumi gawking. Elbow your way through for a seat at the small, but bustling little Le Verdure, one of the most underrated spots in the city for Italian-style vegetarian food. Try risotto made with farro, semolina gnocchi baked with mushroom ragu, and simple charred eggplant rolled up with fresh ricotta. The prices are a bit steep for a cafe (entrees average at $18), but the food is quality. Eataly, 200 5th Avenue, 646-398-5100

 

Taïm
This wee counter offers hearty Israeli street food in the West Village, and it’s been a Fork in the Road favorite since we first tasted its delicious falafels dosed with house-made harissa, roast peppers, or fresh herbs. When we’ve got a really big appetite (or a really bad hangover), Taïm’s glorious, messy sabich still beckons — an overstuffed pita of fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, salad, and hummus. 222 Waverly Place, 212-691-1287

 

Dovetail
Head to the Upper West Side on Monday evenings for Dovetail’s sophisticated, vegetable-centric prix-fixe, where you can choose four courses of John Fraser’s excellent cooking ($46), or visit any evening for a long-form vegetable tasting ($85). Pastry chef Michal Shelkowitz’s fine desserts make use of vegetables too, like the sticky toffee cake made with sweet parsnips. 103 W. 77th Street 212-362-3800

 

Danji
You may have forgotten, but there’s plenty of excellent vegetarian food among Hooni Kim’s small plates in Hell’s Kitchen, including glass noodles with Korean peppers, dressed tofu ($8), and a couple of seriously deluxe rice dishes ($12). And for those vegetarians who usually have to turn down Korean-style fermented pickles, Kim offers several kinds of kimchi made without the traditionally fishy ingredients. 346 W. 52nd Street 212-586-2880

Blue Hill
Dan Barber’s West Village restaurant serves some of the most elegant vegetarian dishes in the city, with a menu that changes every night (5 course/$85; 7 courses/$125). At the moment, all sorts of winter produce is getting the VIP treatment — a recent menu included parsnips cut and cooked to mimic risotto, and sweet celery root noodles garnished with shavings of cured “immature” eggs. The kitchen has a way with vegetables. 75 Washington Place 212-539-1776

 

Dirt Candy
Amanda Cohen’s little restaurant in the East Village is as smart and fun as it is delicious. Vegetables (a.k.a. dirt candy) are the stars of the menu, and you’ll find them presented in unexpected ways, even brightening up the desserts (eggplant in the tiramisu!). Cohen’s kitchen stands out with its strong, unique point of view, and it’s a must-visit for food lovers in New York — even the ones who aren’t over that whole pork belly thing. 430 East Ninth Street, 212-228-7732

 

Kajitsu
Ryota Ueshima has been running the kitchen at this East Village gem for about a year, continuing the restaurant’s tradition of Shojin, the elegant, vegan Japanese cuisine that evolved in the country’s Buddhist monasteries. Ueshima changes the menu each month as his predecessor did, to show us seasons within the seasons. January’s menu features beautifully prepared arrowhead, burdock, and lotus roots, snow peas, golden beets, and chayote, to name a few. It’s ideal for a special occasion (8 courses/$80) or a quiet, life-affirming dinner (4 courses/$50). 414 East 9th Street 212-228-4873

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Tokyo Restaurant Pioneers Vegetarian Sushi, See the Video

Mmmm, that looks like really fresh uni (sea urchin)

A hot new Tokyo restaurant in the Rappongi Hills section turns the sushi and sashimi traditions on their heads by offering an all-vegetarian menu. This is not just a collection of cucumber and pickled-daikon rolls, either, but beautifully turned out simulacra of normal fish-based sushi. The piece shown above, seemingly very fresh uni, is really made of a carrot puree, and other items are similarly convincing.

A typical vegetarian sushi assortment, this one known as the Hisui (Jade) Course

The translated name of the restaurant is Vegetable Sushi Potager, reports Tokyo-base Asian blog Rocket News 24. The atmosphere of the restaurant is typical of a sushi bar, formal and restrained, and the taste of the vegetarian sushi tends to be even more subtle than its seagoing counterpart. Notes reporter Master Blaster of the flavor: “It takes time to build bit by bit from the bottom of your heart as go through each course culminating in a new understanding of the word “delight”.

A meal begins with sweet-potato chips dipped in no-alcohol sake turned into a creamy dressing. In addition to the sushi assortment, the meal also included a salad, tomato soup, steamed food, dessert, and tea. A set “sashimi” meal is also available (shown below). Here’s the restaurant’s website.

The sashimi course

This “tuna” is sustainable.

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McDonald’s Opening Vegetarian-Only Restaurants

McDonald’s is opening two restaurants where there will be absolutely no meat involved. Both of the restaurants will open next year in India — one in the city of Amritsar (the holiest site in the Sikh religion), and one in the town of Katra, according to Business Insider.

The stores are slated to serve the vegetarian items offered in Indian McDonald’s restaurants. And in a country where cows are sacred, and the Big Mac is instead the Maharaja Mac (with chicken patties), this change makes complete sense.

McDonald’s has more than 250 restaurants in India — a number that is expected to double in two years.