Vegetarians, vegans and yes damn it – carnivores too. Come one, come all to a culinary treasure. Whatever your preference. Dirt Candy is like the dining equivalent of a sex club that caters to simply joy, not necessarily sexual preferences. (assuming of course that a place like that actually exists!) Amanda Cohen’s food is perfect for a vegan or a meat & potato loving wood nymph as well.
With the advent of her brand new cookbook – and please note that it’s a graphic-novel-come-comic-book-come-how-a-restaurant-runs-plus-recipe kind of cookbook, she’s again in the limelight. Her oh so teeny tiny four year old vegetable temple has been going strong since it opened. It’s far off the traditional vegetarian path. As the chef herself has said – they’re not trying to be a lifestyle choice, she just wants you to be happy eating beautifully, thoughtfully, creatively made vegetables. Is that so wrong? Nine tables and a kitchen seem to be magically arranged to fit inside a teacup. It’s seriously small. But the depth of flavor bursting forth from the elf kingdom here is boundless.
I’ve been coming since it opened and have dined with vegans as well as the polar opposite and I swear on the food bible (fill in your preference here) that everyone has loved it. And been full. Satisfied. In awe. The menu is seasonal but there are several selections that are constants. Yay for that.
Like for example – the portobello mousse with truffled toast, grilled portobellos and a compote of the season, here with pear and fennel.
It’s sort of the vege answer to foie gras. Beautifully balanced mushroom flavor with a touch of cream, agar agar and balsamic vinegar.
Because this particular meal was from the summer, I’m sorry to say I can’t quite remember what all the dishes were – only that they were delightful and uncommonly great. The artistry of the plate, deconstructed vegetables meet an innovation of zing will send you into a green swirl.
The current menu features a couple of major faves – the classic jalapeno hush puppies with maple butter, the buttermilk battered cauliflower, waffles, horseradish and wild arugula…and the chard gnocchi with grilled chard, garlic granola and wheee – drunken fig jam. Spectacular. Or how about an appetizer of tomato cake, smoked feta, cherry tomato leather, spring herb puree? You know they say in culinary school that to really prove your mettle, cook an egg. I think the same goes for vegetables. Yes, searing a good steak on the grill takes some finesse but coaxing excitement from the soil, candy from the dirt so to speak – is gastronomic bliss to behold. And I solemnly swear, you…will…not…miss…meat. You…will…be…sated. And you can still have a shack burger for lunch tomorrow.
430 East 9th Street