At Dirt Candy in NYC, Vegetables Have Attitude

Goodlifer: At Dirt Candy in NYC, Vegetables Have Attitude

“Anyone can cook a hamburger, but leave the vegetables to the professionals.” The motto of this Lower East Side restaurant speaks volumes about the regard they have for vegetables — candy from the dirt.

Dirt Candy is the first restaurant owned by chef Amanda Cohen, who has ran the kitchen at Pure Food and Wine, Heirloom, Teany and consulted for Blossom Cafe and Broadway East. Her philosophy is simple, don’t simply replace the meat in meat dished with fake meat. Cohen feels most vegetarian/vegan restaurants are too lifestyle driven and focuses on serving healthy foods that conform to vegetarian principles. Tired of always experiencing the best vegetarian dishes in conventional restaurants, she decided to open her own chef-driven vegetarian restaurant. “I don’t care about your health. And I don’t care about your politics either. But I do care about cooking vegetables.” There.

A pleasant, low-key dining environment.

A pleasant, low-key dining environment.

The restaurant is small, only 18 seats, so it is a good idea to make reservations. White dining tables set on recycled linoleum against a background  of recycled Kirei wood walls and orange details makes for a fun, yet refined, dining environment. They have a bit of a hard time accommodating larger parties, but our party of six was given a 9:30 reservation on a Friday night, and were seated way before then since we showed up early.

The Jalapeño Hush Puppies with Maple Butter are a must-have appetizer. I am not normally crazy about fried food or butter but this was definitely a treat. As first course, we all shared the Portabello Mousse with Fennel Pear Compote (simply divine), Spinach Soup with Smoked Tofu Dumplings (very good and kelly green colored), and Greek Salad (the trumpet royale mushrooms on top are served as onion rings and really yummy).

Jalapeño Hush Puppies with Maple Butter

Jalapeño Hush Puppies with Maple Butter

Spinach Soup

Spinach Soup with Smoked Tofu Dumplings

The Greek Salad

The Greek Salad

For second course we shared the Pinot Grigio Pappardelle (sweet and very interesting), Crispy Tofu with Green Ragout (my carnivore friend had a second helping), Carrot Risotto (my personal favorite) and Stone Ground Grits (sounds crazy, but was very good). Dessert was Ricotta Fritters with Green Tomato Marmalade (super) and Sesame Caramel cake with Citrus Salad and Carrot ice cream (nice). The wine list has something for everyone, it is simple and features good well-priced choices for these times of frugality (a $19 bottle of viognet for example).

Papardelle

Pinot Grigio Pappardelle

Grits

Stone Ground Grits

Fritt

Ricotta Fritters with Green Tomato Marmalade

Enjoying dessert treats with friends.

Everyone, even the hardcore veggie-skeptics were very happy with our dining experience. The staff is extremely nice and helpful, which is important for any dining experience. The room is a bit bright if you are looking for ambiance, but it does make you see the lovely food all that much better.

In Cohen’s own words: “Vegetables are amazing. Made out of little more than water, sunlight, and dirt they wind up growing into a candy store full of color and flavor. And that’s what I want Dirt Candy to be: nature’s candy store.”

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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