Thursday, November 12, 2009
The restaurant most recommended to me by this new vegan society that I am discovering was Candle 79.
Located on 79th and Lexington, Candle 79 is a small, quaint Upper East Side Restaurant just like any other restaurant up here in this tony neighborhood. Half expecting to see the young, hip, and snarky crowd, Candle 79 was anything but -- it's clientele was not unlike any other eatery.
Waiting for my friend I struck up a conversation with a lovely couple 40 years married. He was a vegan - has been since Sept., and she was not. It was refreshing to see an UES couple, flirting with their Golden Years, enjoying a nice bottle of wine and a romantic dinner as if they were at Grammercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, or Bouley.
My preconceived notions about going vegan, and vegans are challenged daily. Even at such an early stage in my journey I can state unequivocally that if you want or need to cut back on your animal product intake you will lose nothing in the way of taste, enjoyment, ambiance, or experience by going vegan or vegetarian, be it once a day, or once a week.
If I may editorialize here - the biggest problem with veganism is its misconceptions and misperceptions. One reason could be that the average person's first interaction with a vegan could be that slightly kooky, ex-hippie, vegan bakery shop owner who you run into at the video store in town. But, unfortunately, on a grander scale I think some of the vegan celebrities that get the most media publicity are the ones who say the most outrageous things against omnivores, like Natalie Portman, or are known as pot-loving activists like Woody Harrelson. They damage the perception of veganism. However, it is not widely known that All-Pro NFL star Tony Gonzalez is a vegan. That needs to be brought to the forefront more.
In 11 short days my perceptions of vegans and veganism have changed dramatically, and there is no reason why that perception cannot change in the world. For me personally, I am still convinced that when my veganism ends I will go back to eating a more modified diet of meat and fish and dairy. Could that attitude change and could I go all vegan? I say right now, it is doubtful. But who knows. What I do know is that most all of my negative stereotypes about the vegan diet, and those who eat vegan have been challenged, and mostly dismissed!
So Candle 79 - the food was great.
For an appetizer the Grilled Seitan Chimichurri was delectable. The Guacamole Timbale was very good (but, I prefer my own recipe).
My entree was Wild Mushroom Stuffed Tempeh (fermented soybeans in a pastry/cake type form). It was delicious, and also included sweet potato sauce, apple-pomegranate salad, and brussel sprouts. Now, if you asked me two weeks ago I would have told you I hated brussel sprouts, but that is because I am quite certain I have never had them before. Quite good!
What does one do when dinner is over at 9:30? Go for an after dinner drink of course! Tempting fate again, my friend and I went to Uva wine bar on 2nd Avenue. The comfortable, Italian villa decor, and excellent wine, beer, and whisky selections were exactly what I needed to ride into the valley of temptation. While my friend had wine, I had raspberry tea. And you know what, after a while I realized that sitting back in this great atmosphere and drinking tea was not so bad after all! I actually had an enjoyable time without imbibing! Would I have had a better time with a nice glass of Barolo, or nice scotch? Yes, I believe so, but, it was not tortuous to drink tea, it was a fun time. And that is the key -- having fun, and being my old self without the habits of eating and drinking poorly!
I want to dig deep into my soul and write about the unbearable experience of this metamorphosis in lifestyle. I expected to summon the darkest corners of Kafka, or explore this suffering in graphic detail like Sinclair Lewis, but, it has not come to pass. I resist the temptation to inflate the difficulty of this task in going vegan, and cutting out the drinking because it has, and it's only been 11 days, been much more easy going than I feared!