Vegetarian Beet Burgers to Satisfy: Part II

A couple months back, I wrote about a stupendous Smorgasburg find that I felt was too good not to share: a mushroom and beet burger on homemade brioche.

After considerable research and a little practice, I have finally mastered a beet burger bursting with color, spice, texture, and nutritious vegetables and grains. Here’s how it all goes together.

As a starting point, I took inspiration from this recipe featured on Rachel Ray. Start rich portabella mushrooms and raw beet shavings to sizzle in a skillet with a generous seasoning of smoked paprika, cayenne, and, my personal favorite, freshly ground cumin. You may choose at this point to add minced fresh or dried dill. Allow the mixture to continue to cook over a low flame for 15-30 minutes. This is crucial; on the one hand, the mushrooms and beets must be reduced to remove excess moisture and prevent the burger from falling apart later; on the other hand, it allows the earthy flavors to infuse with the heat of the spices. Meanwhile, cook the brown rice. Allow both to cool completely before mixing – otherwise there will be too much moisture.

Add two-thirds of the beet mixture to the food processor, and process until finely ground. I like to leave enough of the mixture intact to add a little texture, without causing the burger to fall apart. Mix the finely ground beet mixture into the remaining mixture along with the ground walnuts and enough egg to coat. You may choose to add a small handful of flour to hold the batter together.

Rather than bake immediately, I like to form the batter into patties and freeze them. For a quick, no-fuss meal, preheat the oven to 425 degrees (high enough to thoroughly defrost the burger and crisp it on the edges), and spray the burger lightly with oil on both sides. Bake, flipping halfway through, for 10-15 minutes. Here, I paired the spicy sweet burger with a delicious jalapeno infused cheddar, which I added just after flipping the burger to the second side. I garnished with stone ground mustard and sliced cherry tomatoes, all above a bed kale and hardy toasted seven-grain bread.


Of Noodles and Dumplings: Prosperity Dumpling

After many terrible weeks of suffering from dumpling withdrawal, I was definitely very excited when my friend David suggested that we check out Prosperity Dumpling with a few other friends this past Saturday. I’d heard many good things about Prosperity Dumpling before, so I was eager to make the trip down to Chinatown in spite of the rain that day. After we had endured the long subway ride downtown, we wandered around a bit before making our way to the tiny dumpling shop on Eldridge Street.

Just a disclaimer: Prosperity Dumpling is a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, which means it is dingy and small. Very, very small. I am not exaggerating when I say that my John Jay single probably has twice the space that Prosperity Dumpling has. There really isn’t any seating aside from the little counters on the sides of the room. And though the service at Prosperity Dumpling is fast and good (I don’t think I waited more than two minutes for my food), the place tends to get uncomfortably crowded due to the volume of traffic it has at any given moment. If it weren’t raining, I would’ve preferred to take my food somewhere else to eat.

With that being said, the food at Prosperity Dumpling is really quite good. I loved the fried pork and chive dumplings I had, which were juicy, piping hot, and simply delicious. I also liked the sesame pancake I had (which was the size of a pizza slice, by the way), though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was the best I’ve ever had. In general, we had a great meal that felt warm and cozy in the aftermath of a rainy Saturday morning.

What impressed me the most, however, was how cheap everything was at Prosperity Dumpling. You really do get the most bang for your buck there. Five dumplings for $1 is pretty great. I literally spent $2 on my meal and felt pretty satisfied afterward. On top of that, my friend Martin was looking for frozen dumplings in Chinatown, and he managed to buy fifty of them there for only $9. It was kind of ridiculous. And pretty awesome.

Overall, I would say that our food adventure to Prosperity Dumpling was a success! I would definitely recommend it to anyone in the area looking for a quick and cheap dumpling fix.


Veg Out: Pure Food and Wine

The night I went out to dinner for my first restaurant review, temperatures after dark had dropped below freezing.  So why would I decide to visit a raw vegan restaurant on such a frigid night?  Because Pure Food and Wine, despite not heating any dish above approximately 118°F, transcends the chill of winter through the power of excellent cuisine.

Always one to take the opportunity for a nice dinner, I went to this upscale Irving Place restaurant with my mother.  Pure Food and Wine eschews the lime green and white, modern interiors so common among vegan restaurants, offering a warm interior with dark wood and cherry red seats.

We started out splitting the Philly Roll of Avocado, Kim Chee and Creamy Cashew Cheese.  When you read “creamy” on the menu at Pure Food and Wine, know they truly mean it.  The combination of cashew cheese and avocado meant that within its thick seaweed armor, this Philly Roll was delectably velvety, balanced with bright, fresh bursts of tatsoi (an Asian salad green), hijiki (a brown sea vegetable), and kim chee (fermeted pickled vegetables).

I’m not sure if this is a credit to the service at Pure Food and Wine or a symptom of a raw restaurant where nothing has to be heated, but our second course plates arrived at our table very quickly after our empty sushi plate was whisked away.  I had ordered the Cauliflower Couscous with Persimmon Mint Dolmas, while my mother went with the Zucchini and Local Greenhouse Tomato Lasagna.  My dish was surprising, with fresh zings of mint, sweet dried fruits, and lost of crunch from the nuts.  I savored the four dolmas on top, eating them one by one throughout the meal.  Of course, I got to sample some of the lasagna too!  This seems to be one of their highlight dishes, and I can see why.  A masterfully-done lasagna taste and feel, with none of the heaviness of the pasta or meat, left us thoroughly satisfied.

Until the dessert menu came out.  We splurged and went with the Carrot Cake with cream cheese ice cream, white chocolate bark, and pineapple gelée.  Cream cheese ice cream, at a vegan restaurant?  I devoured our dessert without a second thought, but as I sat back to digest the incredibly fresh yet somehow sinful cake, I couldn’t help but wonder: how does Pure Food and Wine do it?


I emailed Sarma Melngailis, the owner of Pure Food and Wine and the founder and CEO of One Lucky Duck, a food company that sells online and at One Lucky Duck Juice & Takeaway shops in Gramercy and Chelsea Market.  Read our interview below to get an inside look!

How does the raw, vegan cuisine affect the operation of the kitchen?  Is Pure Food and Wine equipped with ovens, or are there any specific tools that might not be in another restaurant’s kitchen?

Since we’re raw, we don’t have ovens or stoves in the restaurant! Instead we use dehydrators, which are kept at temperatures below 118 degrees. They’re what we use to make anything crunchy, like tart crusts, etc. and to soften and concentrate the flavor in marinated vegetables. We also rely heavily on Vita-Mix blenders, and we have some tools to slice vegetables into noodles. We also have a special kind of ice cream makers. And of course, juicers.

When I was looking at the menu, I kept saying to myself This can’t be vegan.  How could this ice cream possibly have no animal ingredients?!  Do diners frequently ask how certain dishes could possibly be “veganized”?

Yes they do, and they ask about our ice cream most often! People can’t believe there’s no dairy, and yet it tastes like regular premium ice cream (or better, many say!). For the base use the soft ‘meat’ from young coconuts, as well as soaked organic cashew nuts. We use our ice cream in desserts and also sell many flavors by the pint from our adjacent juice bar.

One standout factor in my experience last night at Pure Food and Wine was the warm, upscale interior.  I find that many restaurants stick to a “café” atmosphere when it comes to plant-based dining, with white walls and bright green accent colors.  Was it a conscious choice to differentiate Pure Food and Wine through a more luxe experience?

Yes, it definitely was! I wanted our space to feel cozy and warm, and so the use of red and natural dark wood I think achieves that. It’s a romantic feeling space! I also didn’t want it to look like a vegan or health food restaurant, and while we serve lunch now, when we first opened we were a dinner-only destination and we definitely get a lot of people on dates.

On your website for One Lucky Duck, you write about how you opened Pure Food and Wine after one year of a raw vegan lifestyle, and the fast rise of your brand One Lucky Duck.  After such meteoric success, what’s next?

I’m always working on a lot of different things. I’d like to get another book out, however putting together a book is so time consuming so it’s not happening any time soon. We’re also still adjusting to our new production space in Brooklyn and expanding what we do, so we’ll be continuing to introduce new products to sell in our juice bars and from the online store. I do have some other things up my sleeve, but nothing to announce just yet.  Right now I’m really looking forward to Spring weather and getting our backyard garden open for the season at Pure Food and Wine.

Heidi & Extra Place

Kalbsbratwurst mit Rosti (All Photographs Courtesy of Natalie Smyth )

If you’re walking down 1st Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue you’ll come across a street sign in the middle of the block marking Extra Place. This small walkway (it doesn’t even stretch all the way through the block) is lined with a few galleries and restaurants. One of those restaurants is Heidi, a Swiss eatery that is attached to and co-owned with the adjacent and appropriately named Turkish/German restaurant Extra Place.

Appenzeller Mostbrockli

I had originally hoped to dine at Heidi but was unable to make a last minute reservation (it was a Saturday night) and the restaurant was full. However, we were able to be seated in the less crowed Extra Place, and since the two restaurants share a kitchen and chefs we were still able to order from Heidi’s menu. The menu for Heidi was not overly extensive but offered a fair number of appetizers and entrées. The menu was unsurprisingly heavy in meats and cheeses, but it was possible to modify a couple entrées to be vegetarian.

Heidiland Raclette

One of the attractions of this small restaurant is the fondue for two (as a main course), which consists of three cheeses and is priced at $39. However, my girlfriend (who provided the photography for this post) and I ultimately decided against this and ordered a few appetizers and our entrées instead. For appetizers we ordered the Tête de Moine, a dish which consists primarily of the namesake cheese along with sliced apple and a light hazelnut pesto; Appenzeller Mostbrockli, lean, sweet, and paper thin pieces of beef cured in cider and smoked; and finally the Heidiland Raclette, a dish of melted Raclette cheese served alongside potato confit and a few pickled vegetables. All of these dishes were fairly large for appetizers and had distinct and rich flavors.

Alpler Maccaroni

For an entrée my girlfriend ordered the Alpler Maccaroni, a Swiss mac & cheese with apples, an herb salad, and topped with crispy onion. Normally this dish also includes pork belly, but was modified upon request. For my entrée I ordered the Kalbsbratwurst mit Rosti, two grilled white veal sausages with mustard served alongside a sweet onion confit and a large crisp potato pancake. Both my date and I were delighted with our entrées, all elements of which we found to be flavorful but well paired.

Looking down Extra Place at restaurants Heidi & Extra Place
Interior of Extra Place

The atmosphere (in Extra Place) was contemporary and fairly minimalistic featuring an open kitchen while the musical accompaniment was a somewhat ambient electronic mix. Our server was very polite and attentive, however the restaurant was a bit empty (meanwhile Heidi proper was apparently full to capacity) and the desert menu was very limited and unremarkable. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Heidi and Extra Place is the price point, with most appetizers around $10 and entrées near $20 (for Heidi’s menu that is), it’s pretty affordable and for the quantity of food and the dining experience it’s a great choice.



Egg, a minimalist’s brunch heaven

I normally think brunch is a snooty kind of meal (I picture one Elle Woods type character exclaiming to another, “Let’s BRUNCH. We can get mimosas and…”) but at Egg, breakfast and lunch are combined in a low-key and down to earth way.

Egg has a childish appeal, with crayons in a cup as centerpieces and plain tables covered in white paper, waiting to be scribbled on. There are school chairs—you remember the stackable ones, right? Each table does not necessarily have the same kind. In any other restaurant, all this would look tacky. At Egg, it creates a young, fun, vibrant and natural atmosphere.

Dining at this restaurant makes one feel close to a wholesome rural farm, despite its placement smack in the middle of North Williamsburg, This is no coincidence. Egg has its own farm in Oak Hill, a town with 200 year-round residents.

The country ham slices are thin, lean shavings. Upon my first bite, I encountered an unfamiliar taste. I realized that, when it comes to ham, I am unfortunately accustomed to processed flavor. It was a nice surprise, to say the least.

Granola is my absolute favorite breakfast food. I have tried all sorts of fruit/nut/sugar/honey/oil varieties, but Egg puts the majority of them to shame. The granola contains dried cranberries, sesame seeds, flax, chia and nut slivers. Fresh, lightly textured yogurt lies beneath all of the goodness. And the dish is topped with a honey drizzle. Everything is toasted, but only to the point of crunchiness. There is nothing worse than burnt granola.

For those of you who are pancake lovers, Egg ensures a generous stack of three. They are enormous.

Egg offers numerous sides. The breakfast selection is more grain, bread and meat focused—featuring items like buttermilk biscuits and candied bacon. The lunch selection is more overtly Southern—collard greens, mac and cheese, etc. If you are between two meals, ordering a meal and a side will serve as a compromise.

Disclaimer: I did not end up trying any of the egg dishes, but I am sure if you do, Egg’s eggs will live up to the expectation.

Things to note: There are no reservations. The waiting process operates similarly to that of a medical office. The only difference if that what awaits you is not a shot, throat swab or lolli. Instead, what awaits you is an assortment of completely natural items, straight from Mother Nature herself. Upon entrance, you stand in a small room with glass windows that allow you to see the restaurant. It functions solely as a waiting room. You personally sign in on paper located on a desk in the room until the hostess comes out from the restaurant to cross the next name off the list and show the party to its table.

Take a look at the website for separate Breakfast, Lunch and Weekend Brunch menus. Any meal will be a great one, but one menu may have something that calls your name a little louder.

135 N 5th St
(between Bedford Ave & Berry St)

Take the L to Bedford.

Twisted Food: Tofu Cheesecake

Kyotofu is a quaint Asian Fusion dessert place situated in Hell’s Kitchen area. I was in the neighborhood with some friends for dinner when we felt a craving for a little sweet something. We popped into the restaurant and within minutes, we were seated. The place was buzzing with energy of young friends and small families, all with one goal: to satisfy the sweet tooth. Kyotofu is unique in a sense that it serves Japanese-American fusion desserts with its signature dishes of sweet tofu, green tea creme brulee, miso brownie, and tofu cheesecake. I highly recommend all of them, but this series about food combinations, and I got to write about the tofu cheesecake. There was just so many different flavors intertwining in one single dish.

This is not your typical cheesecake. (You probably know by now that I don’t exactly write about typical food in this series.) It is not pale yellow nor does it have a graham cracker crust. Think white, think sesame crust, think blood oranges, and think salted-graham cookie bits, and imagine them all placed on one plate. That was exactly what Kyotofu’s tofu cheesecake was like. The whipped tofu replaced the usual cream cheese filling, and was not only lighter and fluffier, but also had a certain soy flavor. The black sesame crust was paired well with the tofu “cheesecake”, but honestly, I wouldn’t mind eating it by itself either! You’re probably thinking, meh, that’s just a cheesecake made using Japanese ingredients, where’s the fusion? The graham bits on the side were like the crust in original authentic American cheesecake. And the blood orange gave a tangy aftertaste. Put it all together, and it’s a flavor-battle in the mouth.

Don’t believe me, look at more photos. Or better yet, try it out. And while you’re there, give yourself the excuse to taste some of their other desserts too. It’s my go-to place to experience fun combinations and satisfy my sweet tooth!


¡Ay Caramba!

When I decided to use this dish as the subject of my next Hungry Abroad post, I couldn’t help but ask, “Boo, how are you going to put this into words?” But here I am and I’m going to give it my best shot!
It was a friend’s 21st birthday and the birthday boy decided to invite us all out to a restaurant and bar near Waterloo Station called Cubana. All 25 of us decided to walk to the restaurant and once we got inside, the space reserved for us had to be modified in order to fit us all. The seating wasn’t too comfy but the atmosphere was electric. The portraits of Cuban heroes lined the walls, the great music that played in the background, and, most importantly, the drink menus on the tables all made the tight space much more bearable. After I explored the drink menu and took advantage of my ‘of age’ UK status, I began to glance over the food menu. Now, at first I wasn’t too impressed with my options. The drink menu was darn near a Harry Potter book thick but there were only seven entrees to choose from? Are we serious? But I didn’t complain much. I was too busy working on the Alligator (I’ll get to that later) and going over my food options.
I ended up choosing the Ropa Vieja, which was described as a traditional Cuban dish served with shredded beef, black beans, plantain and chili-plantain rice. It seemed like the best choice and I’m pretty sure choosing the Ropa Vieja was the best decision I have made since being in the United Kingdom. The food hit the table and just the smell had me doing cart wheels. But when I took the first bite, I just shook my head and whispered something to myself in Spanish. I don’t know what I said, but my accent and pronunciation were spot on. Who knew a dish could do something that four semesters of Spanish classes couldn’t?!
The rice was delicious, the plantains were phenomenal, the beans were amazing, and the beef? Orgasmic! This is no exaggeration. If anyone is planning to visit London, stop by Cubana and try this dish. Tell them that the American chick that almost passed out sent you!

Now back to the Alligator that I mentioned earlier. My friends and I sampled many drinks off the menu and the Alligator was by far the best cocktail that I tried. If anyone wants to make it at home, it consisted of Caney Oro gold rum, Wyborowa Polish Vodka, Blue Curacao and apricot liqueur shaken with ice, fresh orange and lime juice. Have fun!!

Danes and Danishes

A natural place to start in our exploration of Scandinavian food cuisine is with the pastry that has, in English, become synonymous with Denmark: danishes.


Ironically enough, the Danes call danishes “wienerbrød,” which literally translates to “Vienna bread.” Unsurprisingly, the name comes from the pastry’s origins in Austria. As the story goes, the mid-1800s brought massive baker strikes in across Denmark. To stay in business, bakeries hired foreign workers who, unfamiliar with Danish recipes, made pastries and bread from their home countries. One of these became especially popular among Danes, who tweaked the recipe and gave the pastry the name Vienna bread.


Although obviously an homage to these origins, the name can also be understood within the context of the booming agricultural trade in Denmark at the time. The increase in trade led to an influx of foreign goods, many of which were considered exotic and exciting. The name, then, also gave the pastry an exotic flair.


It might go without saying that danishes in Denmark are nothing like the prepackaged food-shaped-objects living for months at a time in vending machines across the United States. Danish wienerbrød has a delicate and flaky texture, with a generous amount of filling, often either chocolate, custard, or some type of high quality fruit jam. It’s difficult to look graceful while eating a genuine danish, but it is well worth the humiliation if you ever have the opportunity to try one.


While wienerbrød is quite ubiquitous in bakeries all over Denmark (and all of Scandinavia, for that matter), they are far from the only pastries gracing shop windows. The options, in fact, are too numerous to mention in such a short post, but here are some of the most significant (and, in my taste, delicious).


Fastelavnsboller is a pastry that is almost exclusively available in late winter. It is the traditional food item to accompany a holiday called fastelavn, which is similar to Halloween in the US. Children dress in costumes and knock on houses in their neighborhoods one Sunday afternoon in early February. When the door opens, the children sing a song in which they ask the homeowners for buns (festelavnboller, in fact!) to eat, although often small amounts of money are given instead. Some sources say that the tradition started as a socially sanctified way for less fortunate families in Denmark to receive public food support as food supply dwindled after a long, cold winter. However, its proximity to lent may also indicate that the sweet is a holdover from the Fat Tuesday tradition that officially subsided when Denmark became Protestant in the 15th century.


The pastries come in many varieties, and there is an especially large diversity when all of Scandinavia is considered (as all have similar traditions). Danish fastelavnboller are generally sweet pastry buns filled with cream and a bit of jam, and topped with more cream frosting or chocolate. The buns in other Nordic countries, however, tend to be more like normal wheat rolls.


A favorite among Swedes is the kanelbulle, or cinnamon bun. Americans are generally familiar with cinnamon buns, but it may come as a surprise to many that they have roots in Scandinavia, especially Sweden. Little information is available about the pastry’s specific origins, but it seems to be clear that by the 1920s they were hugely popular all over the world. Today, the buns often play a prominent role in the Swedish cultural institution of fika (which Amanda is exploring in her blog series “Fika Fridays”).


Scandinavian cinnamon buns are typically smaller and not quite as sweet as those Americans are accustomed to. They also often include cardamom, and instead if icing, large sugar crystals are often out on top of the buns. IKEA offers very reasonably priced Swedish-style cinnamon buns in their restaurants and food sections, if you happen to find yourself at one. This coffee and kanelbulle were only 10 DKK, or about $2!


Hindbærsnitter is a pastry that, despite its convoluted name, has quickly found a place in my heart here in Denmark. Its original attraction is its surface similarity to Pop-Tarts, but unsurprisingly they are so much tastier. The name translates to raspberry cutting, alluding to the jam filling. This filling is between layers of thin shortbread. On top, there is usually white frosting or glaze and rainbow sprinkles. Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.


So, now we’ve explored Danishes in Denmark, along with other local pastry favorites. Any questions? Do you have a favorite Scandinavian pastry? Let me know in the comments!

Postcards from Paris: Le Relais de l’Entrecôte


There are moments in life where only one thing will do : steak. Then there are other moments in life where only one thing will do : fries. Thankfully, the French understand this universal truth and have blessed us with “steak-frites.”

When in Paris, one can get steak-frites at pretty much any bisto. But even though you are in the culinary capital of the world, there is no guarantee that what you will be served is meltingly-tender beef and hot, salty and perfectly crispy fries. Trust me… I’ve had my fair share of shoe-leather steaks and limp, sad, soggy potatoes. But not at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte.

Founded in 1959, this Parisian institution has maintained its old-school image : uniformed waitresses, red leather bench seats and most importantly, their house recipe for steak-frites, which is the only thing served.

Crème brûlée

First, after you take your table, you are asked if you would like an apéritif, which I didn’t get since I was so hungry I could have started knawing on my own arm. Next. the waitress asked not what we would like to eat, but instead one simple question : how would you like your meet cooked? In true French style, I ordered my meat “bleu,” which translates to a little more rare than rare, which leaves the meat so red that it is almost blue. Yum.

Then we were served with a normal, nothing-special green salad. Which was to be the only fiber or vitamins present at this meal.


Then arrives the steak-frites. Half the plate comes filled with skinny, crispy, salty and still-hot fries, leaving the other half with five slices of beautiful steak covered in their house sauce, which is probably a LOT of butter infused with parsely and thyme. As already mentioned, the meat is cooked to perfection, no matter how you ask for it to be cooked. For me, my “blue” steak was incredibly tender and despite the fact that is was almost raw, every bite, even from the center of the steak, was warm. Finally, the frites were crazy-good, especially those that spent a good ten minutes soaking in meat-juice and thyme-butter.

And to top it all off, profiteroles with a delicate, bitter-sweet chocolate sauce a delicous crème brûlée, perfumed with vanilla.

I. Love. Paris.

Super Simple Trout

Pan Fried Trout with Spinach and Rice

I really enjoy fish in the winter but it can be so expensive that it is overwhelming. Cheap fish is generally also bad fish. Think tilapia. It’s gross. However, there are a few inexpensive fish including skate, cod and trout! Since trout is a mild fish it is best done simply with lemon and parsley as the major flavor profiles. Below is a super easy (hence the title) recipe for trout. I served it with some garlic brown rice and spinach sautéed with shallots. The best part about this meal aside from the yummy factor is that it reheats really well. I cooked three filets and had one for dinner then packed up the other two in a tupperware for lunch. Just microwave it covered for 45 seconds to 1 minute and then enjoy.

Super Simple Trout

  • trout filets de-boned but with the skin on
  • flour
  • parsley, chopped
  • lemon, sliced
  • butter
  • salt
  • pepper

  1. Season the trout with salt and pepper 
  2. Place pan on high heat. 
  3. Melt butter in pan, butter should just coat the bottom of the pan (~1/2 tbsp)
  4. Dip trout into flour covering both sides. Place in hot pan skin side down. Sprinkle top with parsley. 
  5. Cook until skin is browned, about 3 minutes. Trout should release easily from pan. If it sticks let it cook for 1 minute more. 
  6. Flip and cook with skin side up for about 1 minute. 
  7. Remove from pan. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon.