As a meat eating, cheese loving, omnivore, I never thought I would consider vegan food as something I would be interested in. That was before Candle 79, an organic vegan food restaurant located on the Upper East Side. I recently went for dinner with a vegan friend, and two other omnivorous food lovers. Upon sitting down, one friend proclaimed that he was in the mood for fish. The three of us looked at each other, and I had to admit I had neglected to tell him we were going to a vegan restaurant, as I knew he would be even more skeptical than me. Oops!
The atmosphere was a big win right away. Although the entrance was very crowded, once we went upstairs, the low-lit ambiance was lovely. I don’t know why I was surprised, but had always assumed the atmosphere of a vegan joint would be much more earthy crunchy, not so upscale with a romantic edge. To start, I ordered a favorite of mine, the spanish tempranillo. It was full-bodied, delicious, and familiar.
The best part of Candle 79, is that they have a separate gluten-free menu. To start, we had one of the specials, which contained brussel sprouts, shallots, and other fall vegetables. It was hearty and tasty, but not something with any vegan subsitutes.
For my entree, I ordered the wild mushroom-squash risotto, made with cashew cream, pumpkin seeds, fresh herbs and frizzled leeks. I thought to myself, cream from cashews?! I don’t know about that. However, when I took my first bite, I was hooked. The risotto was perfectly tender, the cashew cream was light, yet filling, and the mushroom and squash were just the right size and texture. The meal was hearty and homey, and I finished feeling completely satisfied.
To finish, we had to order dessert. I was even more hesitant that the pastry chef could pull off a good vegan AND gluten-free dish, but I was pleasantly surprised with the mexican chocolate brownie. With caramalized bananas, candied pecans, and chocolate-ancho sauce, it was divine. We shared, but the few bites I had were the perfect ending to this beautifully done meal.
Candle 79 | 154 East 79th Street | Manhattan