|Top right: Delicious black-eyed pea cakes; Bottom right: Mushroom Phyllo Pastry|
We were recently back East for a wedding, and had one night in NYC. This pass-through was even less time than my last trip to the Big Apple, but still enough time for a (vegan!) dinner night out with friends and a run in Central Park! Two of my must-dos when vising the city now.
After my other trip, I was hoping to go to Candle 79 again, since it was one of my best dining experiences EVER. Seriously, out of this world, whether you are vegan or not. But, I was coming in off an evening flight, and my husband reminded me I'd probably be pretty tired since I'm now entering my 3rd trimester (!)- he was right. Plus, I did want to try out somewhere new- NYC is just such an amazing food mecca. So, we picked somewhere more convenient to where we were staying - Cafe Blossom on Carmine in the West Village. I had been to the Cafe Blossom on the Upper West side my last trip, but each of the Blossom locations has a different menu and vibe, so it was still a completely different experience, which I was excited to try out! Read on for my take on Blossom...
First, I should note I was the ONLY vegan/vegetarian in the group. My friends are awesome, open to anything and totally supportive. It was pretty funny though to see two of my biggest, muscular, guy friends tenatively ordering mini seitan sliders and BBQ tempeh- items they'd never heard of before- but for the most part, everyone was pretty pleased with the food.
We started out with a slew of appetizers. I was more than excited to order for everyone- luckily they let me, since I'm preggo ;-) I chose the chickpea fritters, avocado bruscetta, and beet carpacio. The waitress also talked us into the black eyed pea and potato cakes, which I'm so glad she did bc they were probably the best thing we ate all night! And my friends also ordered the trumpet mushroom scallops. Here's the scoop:
- Chickpea fritters- meh. I had really high expectations for these but they came out just ok; a little dry.
- Avocado bruscetta- this was a really pretty dish, and good. But nothing special- it didn't blow my mind, and I felt like it was something I could easily make at home (and perhaps more flavorfully, too).
- Beet carpaccio- I probably liked this more than the others- raw beets, cashew riccota, and figs with an EVOO and balsamic drizzle. It tasted fresh, healthy, but still a little decadent. (Although, I like the Raw Beet Ravioli starter from their Columbus Ave location better!)
- Black Eyed Pea Cakes- Holy YUM. These were perfect in every way- consistency, flavor, sauce, everything. They really reminded me of a Maryland crab cake, actually- maybe that was the sauce, but whatever it was, I'm just sad I don't have these nearby me so I can eat them on a weekly basis. My husband told me I needed to learn how to make them and all I could think was: I'd love to, but how?! Please give me a recipe Blossom!!
- Trumpet Mushroom Scallops- My friends really liked these, but I didn't. Basically just thin slices of mushroom in marinade; meh.
|Clockwise from top left: BBQ tempeh, avo bruscetta, app sampling, amazing passion fruit cheesecake, and marinated tofu salad.|
And then on to mains! Since the apps were pretty small in portion size, and there were 8 of us, it ended up not being too much food.
- Marinated Tofu Salad- I ordered this (despite being made fun of by my friend for being a pregnant lady ordering salad for dinner at a vegan restaurant)- I just couldn't help myself. It sounded really good, and enticing bc I wanted to try kimchee. Well, turns out I don't like kimchee, and the marinated tofu wasn't really that good or flavorful. (Again, tasted like something I could have easily made at home without much effort). The rest of the salad, though, with its sesame dressing, sunflower sprouts, toasted cashew, radish, and baby spinach, was really fresh and delicious.
- BBQ Tempeh with Roasted Potatoes & Swiss Chard- My husband and one of my friends ordered this, and it was one of my favorite entrees. The tempeh had great flavor, although it could have been a little crisper- my husband didn't like how soft it was. The chard, potatoes, and cream, were delicious. But again, not something I couldn't see myself making- with some effort- at home.
- Seitan & Mushroom Sliders- One of my friends, who is probably the largest guy I know (not fat, just tall and broad) ordered these, which was kind of comical. These got kind of mixed reviews; my friend who ordered them only ate 1; I surprisingly really liked them (usually I don't like seitan); one of my other friends liked them too, and my husband didn't like the "fake vegan cheese" on them. I thought the flavors were great, though.
- Mushroom Phyllo Pastry- I probably would have ordered this, if not for the red bell peppers (I can't eat 'em!) and jalepeno in the dish. But with mashed butternut squash, grilled baby bok choy, asparagus, mushrooms and basil, it sounded enticing. My friend liked it.
- Quinoa Spaghetti- with mint and almond pesto, kale, tomatoes, leeks, and "cheese", this sounded good, but not adventurous enough for a meal out for me. My friend liked it, though.
- Miso Mustard Risotto- This was a winner. Usually I don't like risotto bc it seems too heavy, but this was thick and creamy without being overwhelming (although I only had a bite of it). Great flavor, and my meat-eating friend seemed happy!
I was too stuffed for dessert.... but we ordered 2 to share anyway:
- Banana Cake -with chocolate ganache filling, whiskey caramel sauce, and vanilla ice cream. Wow. My friends LOVED this. I really liked it too, but man, that whiskey flavor was strong- probably my pregnancy taste-buds were a little turned off by it!
- Passionfruit Cheesecake- I was really glad someone else ordered this, since I was dying to try it but too full to order a full dessert. It was amazing- definitely one of my favorite things of the night, along with the black-eyed pea cakes. Even my husband said if you hadn't told him it was vegan, he probably wouldn't have known. It was rich and creamy and smooth, but tasted a little lighter and fluffier than your traditional cheesecake, which I loved, bc usually cheesecake just kind of makes you feel gross and heavy after a few bites. I DEFINITELY prefer this vegan cheesecake to the "real deal." Amazing flavor and texture. It was made out of tofu, and yet had none of that "tofu-y" taste. Another one I've love the recipe for!!!
So, overall, Blossom on Carmine was good, but not amazing. I think my husband was a little disappointed, especially for the price; my friends thought it was ok; I wasn't blown away. We had some hits and some misses. I actually prefer the other Blossom- on Columbus Ave- better, although that is more of a casual dining atmosphere, ideal for lunch. Candle 79 still takes the cake for me for vegan high-end dining in NYC. But I'm glad I got to try out another great vegan spot in the city!