Heirloom LA Catering (Los Angeles, CA)

The elegance of brown paper

This weekend is my dear friend Dani’s wedding but perhaps more importantly, my first ultra vegetarian-friendly wedding dinner! Catered by Heirloom LA, I was lucky enough to attending the tasting a few weeks back.

Perfect bites, no really!

Kicking off the wedding with inspired tray passed appetizers. The twice-baked potato with crème fraiche are perfectly savory and soft, topped with delicately sharp chives and homemade crème fraiche. But it’s the unassuming yellow disk of lemon polenta that stands out. The chives and wild mushroom ragu atop a crispy lemon polenta cake are an unexpected bite of acidly citrus that is thoroughly addictive!

Heirloom LA Catering (Los Angeles, CA)

ABC Kitchen (New York, NY)

The mix matched vegetable spoils!

One month after moving to Los Angeles, New York Magazine cruelly published an entire issue dedicated to the future of vegetables. Anchored with the article Vegetables Are the New Meat, the magazine declared, “At serious restaurants all over town, carrots, peas, and the like are no longer just the supporting cast – they’re the stars. Move over locavores, here come the vegivores.” Fortunately, I’d already booked my friend’s sofa for a return flight back East!

After thoroughly reading New York Mag’s “The Vegetable Movement’s Must-Visit Restaurants,” I gathered a party of 4 to dine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen— quite possibly “the vegivore restaurant of the year”! Apparently everyone else had the same idea. I had to pull strings to secure a 8:00pm Saturday night reservation with just a few days notice… not that I actually know important people, but I do know their personal assistants!


There was no question that the Roasted Kabocha Squash Toast with fresh ricotta and apple cider vinegar ($10) would be the very first dish I ordered. According to all the press outlets that matter, it’s a top vegivore dish at ABC. Was it life changing?! Well, no… but imagine silky kabocha slivers lying in a bed of ricotta and crackling whole grain bread with a sprinkle of rooftop basil leaves. It may not change your life, but it will give you a solid 10 minute foodie high. ABC Kitchen (New York, NY)

Eleven Madison Park (New York, NY)

We cleared the room...

I spend the entire month confirming, reconfirming, and reconfirming my decedent Five Course Vegetarian Gourmand lunch reservation at Eleven Madison Park. Having read the phrase “EMP has the best vegetarian tasting menu in Manhattan” on Yelp and Chowhound ad nauseum, to say my expectations (and anticipation) were high is not an overstatement. We began the fanciful gourmand journey at 2:00pm and by 3:30pm, forcing down the final crumb of exquisite macarons, we were the last men standing in the shimmering gold deco dining room at the base of the iconic Met Life Tower.

We look delicious but taste like air!

As expected (I can’t decide if it’s funny or crass that these “compliments of the kitchen” bites are now anticipated, or even demanded in a tasting menu) we were presented with a square bowl of Gougeres. The delicately cheesy bread is like eating air with carbs… which is not really a good thing, but in this case, not a bad thing either… Eleven Madison Park (New York, NY)

Eat (Brooklyn, NY)

A charming storefront on a quite street

Whatever my relation may or may not be to the one of former owners of Eat Records, I’ve never had mixed feeling over its conversion into a localvore sanctuary. Jordan Colon, the head cook and owner of the revamped “Eat,” has dressed up the typically crunchy-granola seasonnique-style of cooking in a white-walled minimalistic quasi-classy restaurant!

Kudos to the chef! He cooks and takes orders...

Few restaurants in New York who tout the localvore heritage actually look, taste, and feel the part… more often their “commitment to farm-to-table” or ”sustaining self-reliant food economies” and other modern hippy jargon are practiced only behind the kitchen door. But at Eat, when you look down unto the tomato pulp covered hands of the chef or over towards his well worn bike, you can feel the sweat of the ride to the local Greenmarket through which he brings you the sunshine and soil of “food is purchased directly from organic farmers in the northeast region.” Eat (Brooklyn, NY)

Buttermilk Channel (Brooklyn, NY)

The interior is prettier then it looks here

I didn’t realize in I was in the company of a local celebrity until walking through the door of Buttermilk Channel. The host fawned over us with grace and attention once she realized who my companions were. So, although my perception of the staff may have been slightly skewed, each element of the evening worked like a well oiled machine with unlabored friendliness, impeccable timing, and with nay a hint of pandering.

Before arriving, this restaurant was already on my good side… providing a separate vegetarian menu is a mark of a restaurateur’s attention to every detail of a finer dining experience. Big dogs like Per Se and Daniel do it, trendy specialized places like Zenkichi do it, even the Thai food machine Sripraphai does it. It makes marking vegetarian items on the regular menu with a  little green v seem so low brow… besides this gives the chef the opportunity to show of their creativity by exploring whimsical variations on standard dishes for an audience that will, at a minimum, have respect the effort.

Just moments before they went into my mouth

We began with all The Snacks! First to appear were the dill-icious House-made Pickles ($3) a lovely crunchy cousin from the Claussen’s clan. The spears and chips offer slight different flavors but I devoured them much too eagerly to remember their distinctions.

Buttermilk Channel (Brooklyn, NY)

Maggie Brown (Brooklyn, NY)

Tending the Bar

After a few unnoteworthy dinners at Maggie Brown I pretty much dismissed her as a viable food option, but at my friend’s insistence we met here for brunch. Although I had recently made the resolution that drinking with brunch is a waste of money (except in the case of an unlimited glass) the awkwardness of sitting at a bar and not ordering a drink prevailed.

Hot whiskey... I wish it were tea

The warm mug of Bette Sue’s Apple Cider (whiskey spiked cider) was a pleasant restitution for breaking my own rule, but I later regretted loosing that $7 for a feeling that could have easily been recreated with simple hot tea.

Maggie Brown (Brooklyn, NY)

Vinegar Hill House (Brooklyn, NY)

As expected from the Freeman’s pedigree, the decor is colonial shabby with all the idiosyncrasy of the Sporting Club and veiled with a refined ladies touch. But from the beginning, many elements of the night were working against us, let this be a lesson in the futility of the “I know someone” mentality, because even though we got hugs and kisses from the all right people, we couldn’t get a timely table… but the birthday party in the basement, the surprise health inspector, and the diners who obstinately refused to move to the bar long after finishing their desserts even after the hostess offer them a free round of drinks didn’t help either… so we waited well over an hour in the charming but cold courtyard while the hostess offered us the boorish table’s free round(s).

We began with a round of salads; I was quite fond of my Bartlett Pear Salad ($10) with an oily slab of roasted fennel adorning a crown of baby arugula festooned in salty white nuggets of pecorino. Personally I would have liked more pear less fennel but my friend felt the opposite so we traded some portions to adjust the salads to our preferences. 

Vinegar Hill House (Brooklyn, NY)

No. 7 (Brooklyn, NY)

Maneuvering around a flight of steps down to the C train we entered the crowed lounge of No. 7. A loitering line five couples deep blocked our view of the dining room so I send my BF to find out what kind of wait we had in store… he returned with a 30 minute estimate and a cocktail menu. Scanning the list I fumbled over the effervescent Lambrusco and into the Mango, Cilantro, Chipotle Vodka, Sparkling Lime cocktail ($11). The chipotle lingers like undercooked taro (but in the good way) and the cilantro fills the nose with every sip, but the sweetness (or lack thereof) from the mango was inadequate to tie the libation together. I was only 15 minutes into my drink when the hostess came over to tell us our table was ready.

Although we sat at what is probably the worst table in the house – next to the bread stations and bathroom hall – we were happy to be seating at all and we had a direct view into the spiffy bright white kitchen with the red bandana headed chef bobbing back and forth.

We were immediately presented with crusty bread and, be still my heart, a warm gooey white bean fondue and delicately thin and crunchy quick-pickles. When the waitress came over, with a friendly wave of my hand, I said “bring us every vegetarian dish” and then chugging my drink “and a Lambrusco!” Our table was promptly filled with 3 appetizers and a cool glass of wine –our waitress warned me it was a sweet bottle, which I loved despite the resemblance to Welch’s and day old club soda.

I was eager to get the “famous” Fried Broccoli ($7) in my mouth but I was sorely disappointed. From what I gather this is a middle of the country state fair kind of delicacy, and so if you grew up with this I’m sure No.7’s is fabulous; but this girl grew up refilling the ice bath for lacy tempura and so, to me, this dish tasted like a heavy over battered tempura. No. 7 (Brooklyn, NY)