My husband, at times, can be quite the devil– but more often than not, he’s really a saint. For someone who would choose to eat meat for practically every meal of his life (he has coined the phrase “beef breakfast,” which is defined as half of a leftover restaurant hamburger that he saves so he can eat it for breakfast the next day!), the fact that he not only agreed to go to an all raw and vegan restaurant for dinner in New York City, but actually was excited about it and encouraged it, is pretty darn cool of him. He certainly had his hesitations about how satisfied he would feel after the meal, but he came up with a back up plan that involved a later night visit to the famous street food vendors known as the Halal Guys on 53rd street.
As for myself, I was beyond excited to go to Pure Food and Wine, a renowned vegan, raw upscale restaurant in New York City. Everything on the menu is both vegan and entirely raw, and the cuisine is what I would describe as “elevated” in a sense in that is not just a menu of salads as many would expect of a raw, vegan restaurant. The food is creative, intricate, and at such a level of depth and sophistication that honestly, you forget you are eating food that has not been heated beyond 118 degrees.
When we arrived for our 7 PM reservation on Sunday night, there were only a few diners in the restaurant, which was sleek in its red and wooden decor. In fact, it didn’t get that busy for our entire visit.
We were promptly handed over menus. What an unusual and awesome feeling to be given a menu where every single thing on there is something I can eat. I am usually never overwhelmed by making tough menu decisions since I rarely have more than a few options to pick from, so when I had what seemed like unlimited choices, I have to admit, it was torturous to decide!
My husband started with their sushi roll, which I believe included a cashew cream cheese, along with veggies, served with a chili sauce and some kimchee. I would have given you a better description, but it is not the roll described on their online menu, so I now have forgotten the specifics!
I do not like sushi because I despise the seaweedy taste of nori. However, I tried a piece and enjoyed it immensely– except for the nori. Sorry, but I can never get over that taste, so I let the husband demolish the platter.
He reported that it was amazing, substantial, filling and that he would eat that any time! He also noted how intense the flavors were, which I think is perhaps due to the fact the food is raw and therefore does not lose flavor to the cooking process. He gave it two thumbs up!
We also shared a plate of assorted Dr. Cow tree-nut cheeses served with rosemary crackers, a cherry compote and greens. One of the cheeses was spicy, one was kale flavored, and the other one was more neutral. Of course, I am obsessed with Dr. Cow cheeses and order them online so I always have a stash at home, but I had never tried the varieties feature here. They were all so delicious! I was worried I would find the kale cheese unappealing, but it ended up being quite the opposite– the kale flavor was subtle and not too “green.” The crackers themselves were thin and crispy and actually reminded me of wheat thins! I think you can order these online on their website, and you better believe that is the next thing I am doing after writing this post!
We were methodical in how we ate this plate. We took half of a cracker, and topped it with half of a piece of cheese and some cherry on top for a perfect fruity/savory bite! We practically licked the plate clean. My husband was blown away by how similar this aged nut cheese is to any soft dairy cheese he has enjoyed in the past.
I also ordered their wild arugula, apple and petite winter greens salad, garnished with “blue cheese” crumbles, pecan brittle, and tossed in a maple mustard vinaigrette.
This blew my mind. I know salads are salads right? Well, when I ate dairy, my favorite salads were those with candied nuts and feta or goat cheese. However, now that I am vegan, I can’t really have either when ordering from a traditional menu. To be able to enjoy a fruit/”cheese”/candied nut salad again was so incredible. The brittle itself was drool-worthy– I would eat that every day if I could. The dressing was the ideal balance of sweet and savory, and the “blue cheese” crumbles were practically indistinguishable from regular blue cheese.
My husband ordered the raw lasagna for his entree, described as “zucchini local heirloom tomato lasagna with basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta.”
My husband truly marveled at how they managed to perfectly replicate all of the Italian flavors and textures of a traditional lasagna. In fact, he felt the only part of it that was a bit unique for him was the zucchini noodles– other than that, he thought it was just like eating regular lasagna at some Italian restaurant!
I tried a few bites and of course thought it was heavenly. The only reason I didn’t order it for myself was because I actually have access to raw lasagna that is quite similar to this one at Wildflour in Providence. I decided instead to try something totally new to me. . .
Tamales! Make that sweet corn and cashew tamales with chili spiced portobella, salsa verde, cashew coconut sour cream, avocado, and raw cacao mole.
I have never had a tamale in my life, so if this is what they are like, I am now officially all about them! The corn husks were stuffed with this finely diced mixture of all kinds of deliciousness that included, among other things, corn, cashews, portobellas and a bunch of spices. I ate this by carefully layering a bite of the filling with a bit of sour cream, avocado, and a dab of the ridiculous cacao mole.
If you have ever tried the Cheesecake Factory’s corn cake appetizer, that is exactly what this tasted like! I can’t even describe how beyond amazing this meal was, and even my husband wished he could get something like this back at home. He helped me finish off the enormous serving!
Here’s a picture of me in action. I have never had a tamale before, so it took me some experimenting to figure out how to best eat the filling!
But since it was calling my name so strongly, it didn’t take me long to figure it out! Oh, and please excuse my vampire eyes! Who knew raw tamales would have that kind of effect on me?
After polishing off our meals, it was time to turn to the dessert menu! What’s interesting is when I first scoped out the dessert menu online before dinner, I had my heart set on their pumpkin cheesecake with brown ale ice cream, pecan brittle and brown ale caramel. However, once I was actually finished eating, I changed my mind. I wanted something fruitier and lighter. I think it is because I ate so much raw cheese already that the thought of more “cheesecake” just wasn’t appealing. So, after ordering a coconut chai. . .
I went with their apple cobbler!
That’s basically thinly-sliced cinnamon apples with almond crumble, candied cranberries and graham cracker ice cream.
I thought there was a bit too much apple and not enough ice cream or almond crumble, so I ended up giving a lot of the apple to the husband and just ate the rest. The almond crumble chunks had the texture and taste of a yummy almond biscotti.
All in all, Pure Food and Wine was a once in a lifetime experience, not so much in the service or ambiance, but in the notion that we ate an intricate, filling, tasty and entirely raw meal. The food was divine, and my husband’s belly and taste buds both were left completely satisfied. Other than a few service glitches (being brought entrees before our apps arrived), our experience was to say, at the least, memorable. We both agreed that next time we’re in New York, another stop at Pure Food and Wine will certainly be on the itinerary.
Have you ever consumed raw food prepared by a restaurant? How was your experience?