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Quick Links and Sake

Two quick links came in recently. The first is from MTV’s John Norris, who very kindly talked about Dirt Candy over on The Decider, which was really nice of him. Then there’s a piece on Metromix where they come out with me to some of my favorite places to shop in the East Village. We did SOS Chefs, Commodities and Sakaya.

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Sakaya is one of only three retail sake stores in the country and it’s right up East Ninth street from me. The owners, Rick and Hiroko, are incredibly generous with their time and they’ll steer you through the perilous world of sake and give you an education in the process. I read an interview with John Gauntner, generally considered one of the great sake gurus, about a year ago and he laid out his rules for sake newbies that I carry around in my metaphorical wallet:

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To me what’s wonderful about sake is that it’s almost always fairly priced. There are some exceptions, but if one bottle costs $10 and one costs $20 the $20 bottle will taste better to almost everyone almost all the time. You can’t say that about wine, but with sake you can make a decision based on your budget: pay a little more and you’ll like it a little better. Or if you can’t make up your mind between two sakes then go with the more expensive bottle because it will almost always be better. Also, when you buy a sake, try it at different temperatures. Try it pretty well chilled, try it at close to room temperature and try it also at room temperature. You’ll learn a lot more about the sake that way. The third thing I can recommend is to compare sake as much as possible. If you drink at home, buy more than one bottle at a time and compare them.

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I don’t know much about sake, but I’m learning, and one of the things I learned at Sakaya is that freshness counts, unlike wine which usually improves as it ages. If I’m in Sakaya I ask what’s new and usually they’ve got something seasonal and pretty trippy to recommend. Most recently it was an arabashiri, which is the first run-off from the rice lees before you start pressing them to make actual sake. It’s unpasteurized and the bottle I had was kind of expensive for me (around $40) but the flavor was amazing: a clear, crisp rice wine taste that bloomed inside my skull as the sake unpacked itself. Weirdly enough, the bottle had taken on a metallic edge by the next day, which receded as the sake approached room temperature. But by the fourth day it was undrinkable. Still, the initial taste of it, while pricy, was worth it. I’m a junkie for new flavors and this was one I’d never had before.

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We’re hoping to do a special event with Sakaya later this summer, so keep watching this space for an announcement.

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(Check out the Sakaya blog)


Meet our Wine Zoo: Wild Boar Doe

You have to buy wine by the case and we don’t have much room to store those cases, which means we’re always going to have a short wine list. So rather than offering people the same old list of Syrahs, Cabernets, Chardonnays, Pinot Grigios and all the rest of the usual suspects we thought we’d make up our list out of the strangest and most unusual wines we could find, sort of like a wine zoo for exotic animals.

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The newest wine on our list has been on there for a couple of months but we haven’t said much about it because at Dirt Candy we don’t like to wear our heart on our sleeve and, frankly, the Shinn Estate Wild Boar Doe reveals a fact about us that’s embarrassing: deep down, we are hippies. Dirt Candy is a restaurant that’s about food, first and foremost. Politics, health concerns and all that jazz come a distant second to our mission of making vegetables taste great by any means necessary. However, this restaurant is built out of green and sustainable materials and we use organic and local produce when we can, not for political reasons but because in a lot of cases they just taste better. However, the “local” and “organic” labels are so trendy these days that, to be honest, they’ve lost a lot of their meaning. I’ve seen some restaurants order one or two organic items and then write on their menu, “We use organic produce!” which to me is enormously deceptive and cynical, so I err on the side of shutting up about it.

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But the Shinn Estate Wild Boar Doe is the future of food in a bottle, and it gets you drunk, so it gives me a brief opportunity to be all gushy and virtuous. Shinn Estates, on the North Fork of Long Island, is owned by Barbara Shinn and David Page who used to own HOME restaurant in the West Village. (They were even in the New York Times “Vows” column when they got married.) They moved out to the North Fork and opened Shin Estate Vineyards, where they practice organic, sustainable farming techniques to produce their wine. Long Island wines are often looked down on by wine snobs but there are some really good wines coming out of this region and to tar them all with the “Bad News” brush would be a huge mistake.

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Spring Awakening

How do you know it’s Spring? When the airlock comes off the front of your restaurant. The bright orange Dirt Candy wind baffle has been taken away by the airlock fairies leaving many confused vendors in its wake. One of our delivery guys came into the restaurant asking if Dirt Candy was closed and if we were a new restaurant, while another came in asking for directions to Dirt Candy because he thought it was right here. Nope, still the same restaurant, only now our ski parka is in winter storage.

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The Current Wine List

Because it’s not posted anywhere online, and because it changes frequently, we’re going to start a wine list report that lets you know what we’ve got and what the prices are. Due to limited storage space we’re trying to serve wines you can’t easily find anywhere else rather than fill up the list with the same old Syrahs and Chardonnays.

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Sparkling

Domaine Tissot Cremant du Jura Rosé ($11 glass/$45 bottle)

From my favorite wine producer, it’s super-bubbly, very dry, with zero sweetness. Want to drink bubbles but avoid a hangover? This wine’s for you.

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Whites

Sono Montenidoli Vinbrusco 2010 ($4 half glass/$8 glass/$32 bottle)

A forgotten Tuscan white blend that fell out of favor in the 60′s, it’s been revived and updated and is now a deeply drinkable white with a minerals and spice edge.

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Stadlmann Zierflander Anninger 2012 ($5 half glass/$9 glass/$36 bottle)

With a floral nose and a mineral taste, the Austrian Zierflander grape is super rare and very tricky.

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Thurnhoff Goldmuskateller 2011 ($6 half glass/$12 glass/$47 bottle)

One of the best wines we’ve discovered while putting together this list, and people are really loving it. Read more about it.

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Les Tempes des Cerises Chardonnay 2011 ($8 half glass/$16 glass/$64 bottle)

A very freaky natural Chardonnay that is left sitting in its grape skins for so long that it develops a delicious, addictive funkiness, almost like kimchi.

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Reds

Shooting Star Blue Franc Blaufränkisch ($4 half glass/$8 glass/$32 bottle)

The best kept secret in red wine, Blaufränkisch grapes are round, rich, velvety, but without the tannins. Imagine a giant, warm blueberry pie with some pepper on top exploding in your mouth and you’re imagining Blaufränkisch.

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Mathieu Coste MC2($5 half glass/$10 glass/$40 bottle)

A blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, this natural wine is deep, smooth, and peppery, but your first sip has a bit of spritz to it, almost like it’s got bubbles.

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Hecht & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2010 ($6 half glass/$12 glass/$48 bottle)

I try not to serve too many blends, but this blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Carignan grapes combines hot Spanish spiciness with the structure of classic French reds. Soft tannins, big juiciness and some ashes and minerals, this wine is insanely drinkable. Read more about it.

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Churchill’s Touriga Nacional Duoro 2011 ($8 half glass/$16 glass/$70 bottle)

A red wine made of Port wine grapes, Portugal’s amazing Touriga Nacional  is lush, rich, and smooth, with just a little bit of a bite. Think of it as Cary Grant in a glass, or like drinking smoked chocolate rocks.

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Dessert Wines

Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce Sherry ($9 glass)

If you think you know sherry, think again. This Spanish oloroso is sweet, dark, nutty, deeply rich and complicated. It’s been on the list for a couple of years and that’s because it’s like having a delicious bowl of molten caramel that makes you drunk.

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Drinks that Aren’t Wine

We also serve Hitachino Nest White Ale ($9) and we have a non-alcoholic white wine made of unfermented Gewurtztraminer grapes that is quite lovely. From Navarro, the winemaking process is stopped before fermentation occurs so it tastes exactly like wine, but with no alcohol. And we have tap water (no fancy bottled waters – sorry).

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3 Legs Good; 4 Legs Bad

No, we’re not repudiating Animalism, we just wanted to talk about our chairs which have three legs. When we were doing friends and family dinners before we opened, one of our guests was Florent (Grand Duchess of the Meat Packing district) and we were excited to see what he’d say about our food because if anyone has earned the right to have a meaningful opinion it’s Florent. But he didn’t want to talk about the food. Instead, in the middle of the meal he leapt to his feet and cried, “Oh my god! This chair has three legs!” He stood in the middle of the restaurant and exclaimed to his dining companion, “All my life I have wanted a chair with three legs! If only I had found this 20 years ago. Look, your feet can fit under it without hitting the legs!” And he was right.

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The three-legged Ant Chair in its

natural environment.

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Yes, our chairs have three legs. They’re the amazing Ant Chairs by Arne Jacobsen, one of the most famous designers of the Danish modern school. Originally created by Jacobsen in 1952 for the cafeteria of pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, they’re named Ant Chairs because they look like an ant with its head raised.

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Imagine it’s facing away from

you, about to crawl up the

wall like a big, three-legged ant.

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What Tuesdays Look Like

For some people it’s Monday, but for me it’s Tuesday. The day when I go back to work (although, to be fair, Monday’s when I do all the paperwork and accounting). Tuesdays are when we arrive in the morning and the fridges are bare, when the big deliveries come in and when the major prep for the week happens. We spend all day knee-deep in produce with trays of grapefruit segments getting candied, spinach soup being made, dumplings getting folded, onions being pickled, pasta dough being mixed, jalapenos getting chopped, beets getting roasted and on and on. It looks a little like this:

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Roasted beets for the pasta.

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Grapefruit segments before

being candied.

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Micro herbs.

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Forest of micro herbs.

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Produce delivery. Can’t seem to

make them quit the plastic bags.

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Happy Multi Days!

From all of us at Dirt Candy…

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Happy Passover!

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Happy Easter!

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And…..

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Have a happy tax day!

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We’ll be open for normal hours this Friday and Saturday (5:30 until people stop coming through the door) and closed, as usual, on Sunday and Monday. Then back for more on Tuesday, etc.

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Boston Globe

That’s exciting. One of our regulars forwarded this link to a piece in the Boston Globe that mentions Dirt Candy.

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Restaurant Girl interview

Restaurant Girl, aka Danyelle Freeman the food critic at the New York Daily News, has posted an interview with me over on her website. It’s a fun interview, and while I was originally posting here to add in a sentence that they accidentally left out, they went and made the correction themselves because they’re built of good character and upstanding morals, but I did want to expand on that same answer just a little bit. They write:

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You were known for your buffalo wings at the Diner Bar. When and why did you decide to cook vegetarian? Are you a vegetarian yourself?
I was a vegetarian since I was 15, and I actually started out cooking in vegetarian restaurants. But after 9/11, Diner Bar was the only job out there for me. It was definitely my most meaty job, but I believe that in order to be a good chef, you have to have experience with all types of food.

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After going to the Natural Gourmet for school I was briefly a teaching assistant at Angelica Kitchen, an intern at Mesa Grill, I worked at Other Foods (which became Terra 47 – now long since gone) and I also did vegan baking for Blanche’s Organic Cafe. In the summer of 2001 I was a cook at Ox Bow, the Chicago Art Institute’s summer residency program for artists, and I came back to NYC in September. My big plan? Start my job hunt on September 12th.

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Whoops.

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The only job I could find, after a lot of searching, was at Diner Bar and I actually stumbled across it right when I was on the verge of doing something else because there just wasn’t any restaurant work out there. It turned out to be a good thing since I don’t think I ever would have been challenged so much and forced to work as hard at any other restaurant. When you’re one of only two cooks on a line turning out up to 200 covers a night you quickly learn whether working in a kitchen is for you, or if you should find another job. For me, it was the part of my career that hammered the basics into me and taught me how to work – not how to cook, but how to work – which I think is invaluable, and something that a lot of young chefs these days don’t get to experience. And on that note, I have to get out of my rocking chair and yell at some darn kids to get off my lawn, with their dadburned rocking and rolling music! But go read the interview if you’re so inclined.

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We are Loser.

So the Time Out New York Reader’s Choice Awards happened last night and all I got was a free cocktail! Dirt Candy was nominated as “Best vegetarian friendly restaurant” which I didn’t expect to win since I’m not very friendly. But I want to be more friendly and I’m trying every day. The vegetable part I’ve got covered.

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There’s always the thought in the back of your mind that even though you’ve only been open for four months, and even though you haven’t been reviewed yet in Time Out New York, there’s the chance that you just…might…win. But then I used science and as you can see by the Venn diagram below, my chances of taking the framed plate home were slim at best.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Spinach $13
spinach & grapefruit mille-feuille,
with smoked pistachios and ricotta

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll $10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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