Friday, February 27, 2009

Mushrooms and Vegans and Burgers, oh my!

Apologies to almost all of you, as this post is going to be rather local. I had the pleasure of trying a new restaurant last night with my friend D., who's a vegan. Yes, they actually exist! And, yes, its possible for them to eat well too! Very well, in fact, particularly if they're dining at Blossom Cafe.

Located on the upper west side of Manhattan, Blossom Cafe specializes in "gourmet, organic, vegan cuisine." Those quotes are not meant to imply a sneer, I lifted that phrase from their site. Gourmet vegan cuisine is not an oxymoron - its a delicious reality. Or at least it is here at Blossom. I'd been looking forward to dining here and, happily, our culinary adventure did not disappoint.

I was craving a salad so I began with the Blossom Greens; a mix of spring greens tossed with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and a maple balsamic vinaigrette and topped with marinated chickpeas. It was crisp, fresh and delicious with a hint of sweetness in the dressing, but not so much as to overwhelm, and the piquant chickpeas really spiced up the dish. They had a subtle barbecue flavor that was both surprising and welcome. (Note, the plate did not arrive with the cukes pushed off to one side ... I did that ... one second after it arrived. Brrrr.)

D. opted for the Cornmeal Crusted Oyster Mushrooms and I must say they were heavenly. The mushrooms had been bathed in a sesame soy marinade prior to being dusted with cornmeal and, I'm guessing, fried. The combination makes for quite an addictive little treat. Both the flavor and the texture were outstanding. They were served over an herbed coleslaw and accompanied by some kind of dipping sauce, the nature of which I cannot recall. All I know is that they were scrumptious and I would definitely recommend this dish.

I chose the Risotto Croquettes as my entree and while the above photo may lack in visual appeal, the dish itself was spectacular. A creamy English pea risotto is used as the base for the croquettes and they are given a light sear on the outside lending a really nice, slightly crunchy, texture to the dish. The cakes were served amid a sea of savory wild mushroom broth and topped with a variety of seasonal, wild mushrooms, some snow pea pods and some kind of yummy greens. The menu described them as pea vines ... and maybe they were indeed, but they didn't look like pea vines to me ... then again, I'm no farmer. Who knows what they were and, frankly, I don't care. They were earthy and delicious. The entire dish was earthy and delicious. Something so luscious about the combination of the crisp/creamy risotto, the deeply flavored broth and the velvety mushrooms. Absolutely divine - and I nearly finished it all!

In a bold, and somewhat whimsical move, D. ordered the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger - on the premise that as a vegan, cheeseburgers are not exactly her typical fare! Hard to see the soy burger, but its there - under a blanket of melty soy cheese and two crisp strips of soy "bacon". Who knew such things existed? Certainly not I. And while the strips will certainly not be mistaken for actual bacon, they had a nice crunch and a salty, bacon-ish flavor. The burger was accompanied by some sweet potato fries and D. was delighted with the whole package indeed. She nearly finished her dish as well, just a few lonely fries left on the plate at the end.

Because there was no reason not to do so ... we ordered dessert. Our waiter suggested the vegan chocolate chip cookies - insisting they were the best in the city. No one loves a good cookie more than I, so ... game on! We ordered one plain and one drizzled with chocolate fudge. Both were exquisite! The texture was wonderful, quite amazing really considering the lack of butter and eggs, and the taste was rich with all the comforting flavors once desires in a chocolate chip cookie. It was everything a cookie should be and more. Or should I say less? I don't know - I think I'm confused ... it must be the lack of meat.

Really, I'm kidding. Blossom Cafe is worth a trip whether you're vegan or not. The bottom line is the food and the food here is wonderful. The menu is so varied, I'm sure there's something for everyone and many more items I hope to try. The atmosphere is serene and quiet, the staff helpful and friendly - I have nothing but praises to sing. Blossom Cafe has everything to recommend it and I'm looking forward to my next meal there. I may even rope the carnivorous husband into joining me. Stranger things have happened.

Don't forget to enter my Great Granola Give-Away if you've not already done so. Have a great weekend and remember to make it ... Divalicious!

Bon appetit!

On edit: the photo above is of the lovely and welcoming bar area. The restaurant has two large bar/dining areas and a wealth of actual tables. Plenty of seating for everyone!


Dianne1216 said...

We'll definitely have to go back to this place, Diva. I enjoyed every bite and the company was fantastic as always. :-)

Anonymous said...

No reason to apologize for this post! It's great to read about local restos...just in case we travel there one day right? Also: the cornmeal mushroom salad is totally awesome. What a great idea for a salad. And those cookies...ooooh the cookies!

stephchows said...

Everything you had looks so delicious, you're making me hungry :)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Di - you're right, the company was every bit as delicious as the food! Can't wait until next time and thanks for being such a good sport and letting me "shoot" your food! ;)

Duo - true enough about recommendations for local places ... and if you do come to NYC, you'd better give me shout-out so we can do the town right!

The mushrooms were phenomenal ... we should probably try to recreate them at home.

Steph - I know, I'm getting hungry all over again too - and I'd happily chow down on that entree all over again tonight.

Tracy said...

I've walked by this place a few times but I will probably never get to try it as my husband does not "do" vegan. He "does" meat. Sigh. The photos look great though. Especially the 'shrooms. Yum!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Tracy - I know the feeling. Here's an idea, you and I can dine at Blossom and we'll send the husbands to Sparks!

Kidding aside, if you ever want to give it a try, I'm game and just an email away. :)

Astra Libris said...

What a glorious feast! Thank you for taking us along on the journey!

Veriance said...

that is a beautiful salad and while the vegan bacon ~boggle~ confused me, the sandwich looked good!

The Blonde Duck said...

Now I want a real bacon cheeseburger.

Deb said...

No need to apoogize - food looks fantastic and ifI'm ever in the city you can take me there!


The Diva on a Diet said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Astra! :)

Veri - yes, the "bacon" was boggling, indeed! When the plate arrived, I thought it looked like some kind of veggie chip! LOL

Blonde Duck - I think I'm in need of a real burger too ... 5 nights of somewhat unintentional vegetarian meals last week has left me feeling quite carnivorous. ;)

Deb - you're on! :)