Peacefood Cafe: The New & Healthy Option For Semi-Obligatory Dinners

In NYC, there’s a push to be social. Of the five days of work, there’s a good three days (at least) of semi-obligatory, drinks/dinner time, where we sit, wistfully staring out the window of a trendy, mediocre, exposed-brick spot, dreaming about a date with Netflix and that still-unfinished spiritual book about living a fulfilling life. And yet – there’s a compromise: peacefood cafe, aka A Little Ray of Healthfulness and Sunshine Right By Union Square.

After the phenomenal success of its Upper West Side location, the vegan café and bakery – started by an antiques dealer and interior designer – expanded six weeks ago to a downtown location, amid yoga shops, vitamin stores, and $1 greasy pizza joints. But unlike most expansions to downtown, this expansion was also in actual size: the Union Square peacefood is a good 3x bigger than its UWS counterpart – all three floors-worth – which is basically unheard of unless you’re opening on a shrub-lined, side street in Topeka, Kansas.

But why is peacefood such a success? Why are people gobbling up quinoa, pumpkin, mushrooms, and walnut pate like they’re cherry pie? It’s all in the ingredients of such hit, unusual dishes like chickpea fries (trick: dip them in agave nectar), fluffy quinoa salad, a submarine-sized roasted squash dish with mushroom gravy, and a rich and raw cocao mousse pie saddled in a walnut-date-coconut crust.

I’m not even vegan, but when I finished this meal last night (after downing a frothy banana-coconut-date-cardamon shake), I felt like I had finally found my weekday, kindred spirit. A place to dine out with friends that doesn’t leave me waking up in the morning bloated, my conscience shaking her head, and the better part of me wondering, “Man, what did I eat last night?”

I know what I ate. Clean, invigorating, healthy food that doesn’t have that generic healthy taste, loved by carnivores and pescatarians, and has a soothing, ocean-inspired, blue and cream interior that makes me think of seashells and sand castles. Peace is exactly what you get here – peace from food-guilt, fried temptations, and your Netflix dreams.

Get the scoop on peacefood, and follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Photo: newyork.seriouseats.com

Cubana Social’s New Chef Revamps Cuban Classics

Two years ago, when the 1930s-styled Cubana Social opened next to Public Assembly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, they had the right idea—bring late night eats to hungry concertgoers. Now, with a new chef, a fresh menu, and cold-weather-inspired cocktails, it’s the perfect time to get acquainted with the winter side of Cuban cuisine.

For about three months, chef Andrew D’Ambrosi has been working at revamping the menu to make it more eater friendly, which means instead of large, heavy plates of ropa vieja and lechon asado, they now offer smaller bites, sharing plates, and sandwiches. Many of the items are the same, only in appetizer-sized portions, but they also have around 15 new items that D’Ambrosi, who has cooked in various establishments in Miami, London, and New York, created.

Recent to the menu includes braised octopus with yucca, bass ceviche, and braised short rib empanadas. They also have more options for vegans now with plates of braised kale and shitake mushroom; a beet and black bean “burger” that comes with avocado mustard; and deep fried avocado bites with guava habanero marmalade. All ingredients are sourced as sustainably as possible, and predominantly feature organic produce and grass-fed beef.

Mixologists Chris Bouza and Ryan Runstadler have also refreshed the cocktail menu. Using local and seasonal herbs, house-made syrups and infusions, and the flavors of Cuba, they have created winter drinks that sing of holidays, warmth, and debauchery. Take the Cosecha Sour, made with spiced Denizen rum, egg white and vanilla syrup, it tastes like Christmas. The Romeo Y Julieta too won me over with its star-crossed mixture of Del Maguey Mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, and a rioja float.

It might be cold in New York right now, but Havana is warm and after a few of these drinks, you will be too.

A Vegan’s Guide to the Fourth of July

July 4th is usually a national holiday that vegans dread, considering it’s basically American tradition to have a backyard BBQ along with launching illegal fireworks from Chinatown while inebriated off one too many Pabst Blue Ribbons. It can be tempting to stay indoors, away from the rampant fumes from the burning of animal-flesh atop thousand-dollar Weber grills. But instead of sulking in the corner and watching another installment of Earthlings, use our handy guide to save your stomach…and your arteries.

 

Grillable Veggies Recipe (via Food Network)
Who says the grill is reserved for things with four legs? Plenty of vegetables taste delicious when roasted, achieving a state of smoked deliciousness, especially when marinated in the right sauces. My favorite way to grill veggies is to prep the veggies with an olive-oil mister, wrap them in foil (this also helps keep the veggies from touching a shared grill, which might have lingering traces of animal fat caked on) and grill till they get all caramelized, with the telltale grill lines.

Ingredients
3 red bell peppers, seeded and halved
3 yellow squash (about 1 pound total), sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
3 zucchini (about 12 ounces total), sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
3 Japanese eggplant (12 ounces total), sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
12 cremini mushrooms
1 bunch (1-pound) asparagus, trimmed
12 green onions, roots cut off
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Directions
Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush the vegetables with 1/4 cup of the oil to coat lightly, or use an olive oil mister to use less oil. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper, then spear them on a kabob stake. Working in batches, grill the vegetables until tender and lightly charred all over, about 8 to 10 minutes for the bell peppers; 7 minutes for the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms; 4 minutes for the asparagus and green onions. Arrange the vegetables on a platter. The key to getting those great grill marks is to not shift the vegetables too frequently once they’ve been placed on the hot grill. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parsley, basil, and rosemary in a small bowl to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the herb mixture over the vegetables. Serve the vegetables, warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Cornbread (Via The Post Punk Kitchen)
Never underestimate the power of cornbread. This failsafe recipe will turn any baking-adverse individual into a master of maize… you literally just mix all the ingredients in a bowl and bake. Plus, grilled cornbread that has been drizzled with some luscious Earth Balance butter might just convince your non-vegan compadres into believers. Trust.

Ingredients
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups soymilk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 350, line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper or spray the bottom lightly with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, wisk together the soymilk and the vinegar and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt). Add the oil and maple syrup to the soymilk mixture. Wisk with a wire wisk or a fork until it is foamy and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Pour the wet ingredient into the dry and mix together using a large wooden spoon or a firm spatula. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice into squares and serve warm or store in an airtight container.

Homemade Vegan Rib Grillers (Via Chef Mark Anthony)
I’ve always wrestled with the mock-meat conundrum: why eat products mimicking the texture and taste of real meat, when we’re against the very idea of meat? There’s a simple answer for it: because believe it or not, we’re human too, and we d miss the taste of it now and then. So we opt to satisfy our cravings with something that’s completely animal-friendly and tasty at the same time… and this homemade veggie rib recipe does just that. It’s a bit labor-intensive, but it really does taste great! I love how the recipe uses cinnamon sticks in place of the “rib” bone… it does double duty as a spice and an eating utensil!

Ingredients
¾ cup Vital Wheat Gluten Flour
¼ cup Rice Flour
1 cup water
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp Beefless Base/Vegetable broth
1 cup vegan BBQ sauce
6 Cinnamon sticks

Directions
Mix flours with garlic and onion. In a separate container, mix water with beefless base. Combine the two into a lose dough that doesn’t hold together. If it is holding together too tight, add some water. Spray a sheet pan.

Spread out the bottom first, about 1/4" thick and 2" by 3". Then place the cinnamon sticks on top. The next step is to put a duplicated layer of the gluten mixture on the top of the cinnamon stick and do a little pressing and forming to create a rib shaped rib looking produce.

Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 40 minutes, flipping the ribs every 10 minutes. Now they are ready to fridge, freeze or finish cooking. To finish cooking, splash with BBQ sauce and bake at 400 degrees for about 7 minutes on each side, or grill on the charbroiler, or pan fry to get some glazing on the ribs. This High cooking will give them the real rib look. You can also do another splashing of BBQ sauce right before serving.