Food & Drink Magazine

Candlelight Dinner

By Lilveggiepatch @Lilveggiepatch

Last night, my mom and I had a very pleasant evening at Candle Cafe.   

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There’s a new location on the Upper West Side, and I walk past it nearly every day. And every day, it beckons to me. I’ve enjoyed meals at their East Side location in the past (the Aztec Salad always gets me), and even tried one of their frozen entrées. Well, last night was finally the time to try the new spot, and I was so pleased to have my adventurous mother joining me!

We started with the appetizer special: avocado tartare with tomatoes, cucumbers, chia seeds, and grilled focaccia. The bread could have been a little crisper, but otherwise we loved it. It also paired fabulously with our glasses of pinot blanc.

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For her entrée, my mom went with the special again: spring risotto with asparagus, mushrooms and tomatoes over an edamame broth and topped with “cheese.” Another winner! My mom even admitted that some of our most “meat-and-potatoes”-oriented friends would not have been able to distinguish this from the “real” thing.

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For my main, I chose the chile grilled tofu: quinoa-vegetable pilaf and sautéed kale over a black bean sauce. served with avocado salad and topped with sesame seeds. Another winner! I loved how many different tastes and textures were dancing on my tongue.

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For dessert, we shared a slice of chocolate mousse pie, which was right up my alley. Rich, creamy, decadent. And again, no one would have known this wasn’t loaded with dairy! (Except my happy belly, of course

;-)
.)

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In other vegan news, I was recently sent a couple coupons for Vegetarian Plus’s new faux meat line.

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I should start by saying that while I love tofu, seitan and tempeh, I am NOT the biggest fan of straight-up imitation meat. But I picked what I thought were the most innocuous varieties, the kung pao chicken and black pepper steaks. They are free of genetically modified ingredients and also come in flavors like vegetarian tuna roll and lamb vindaloo.

The “meats” are high in protein but also high in sodium, like many frozen entrées. (I try to watch my sodium intake but I don’t eat frozen or pre-packaged meals often, so I don’t stress about it too much.)

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The ingredient list was surprisingly quite short, which I always look for in a processed food.

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Although the company sent along some gourmet recipe ideas, I was craving something a little plainer.

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I heated my kung pao chicken according to the box directions; ordinarily I remove food from plastic before microwaving them, but I was having a lazy day

;-)
. Next time I’ll be a little more careful, though, because the bag burst open!

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The “chicken’ was still edible, though, so I served it atop a bed of romaine with cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and goddess dressing, with a side of English muffin toast.

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The verdict? Better than I’d expected! The texture was similar to seitan (I believe it’s made with textured soy protein), and not at all unpleasant. I wasn’t a huge fan of the breading each piece of “chicken” was covered in, but I was able to pull most of it all and enjoyed it quite well. These “meats,” like many imitation meats, are what I think of as as “gateway foods” for new vegans, vegetarians, or anyone looking to consume a little less meat. This way, you can find a meatless version of your favorite dish and not feel as though you’re depriving yourself or missing out on things you love.

Do you enjoy any meat alternatives?


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