On Friday night, I had what may well be the worst meal of my life. Forces combined to cause our merry band of four to dine at Pure Food and Wine - a raw, vegan restaurant in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. While I'm not going to write a full review, let me state simply: the food was appalling - and not because it was vegan.
I have nothing against vegan restaurants - in fact, quite the opposite. Long time readers may recall my delight in dining at both Hangawi (a wonderful vegan, Korean place) and Blossom Cafe, for example. Up until Friday night, every vegan meal I've ever had has been extraordinary. While our meal at Pure Food and Wine could indeed be called "extraordinary" ... its for all the wrong reasons.
I chose the trio of "pizzettes" as my second course (don't even ask about the first) and, honestly, I'm at a loss to describe them. Certainly, they were like nothing I've ever seen. The first of the trio had an unpalatable rosemary-ish "crust" topped with a paste of some sort that I can only describe a rancid. Yes, rancid. I'm quite certain this paste was made of some kind of nuts that had gone off. I wish I were kidding, I'm not. The paste was topped with halved grape tomatoes and something which bore a vague resemblance to shredded cheese. One bite was all it took for me to know that all was not well with this little creation.
I never made it to the other two unappealing circles of mystery which shared the plate. And my friend, who ordered the same dish, had to have the staff take it away simply because she couldn't bear the smell of that paste. Trust me, she was the wiser of the two of us - hours later I was regretting what little I ate of that mess.
It is, perhaps, unfair to judge a restaurant after only one visit. I realize that. But here's the thing - I can't envision a circumstance in which I'd be compelled to give this place a second chance. It was just that bad across the board. And, to make matters worse, its expensive. Needless to say, we were still hungry when we left. Feh.
As an antidote, I'm prescribing meat and plenty of it. Cooked meat - as in all the way cooked. People, there is a reason God invented heat and the grill pan. We need burgers. Stat!
Savory Chicken Burgers with Mushrooms, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions:
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 3/4 cup packed, diced fresh mushrooms (I used Baby Bellos)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper
- pinch of Herbs de Provence
- 1 pound ground chicken breast
- 1/4 teaspoon Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning*
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup of shredded fresh pear
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons plain (unflavored) instant oatmeal
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used Fig Balsamic)
- some sliced blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola Dolce)
- some caramelized onions
- some whole wheat rolls or a whole wheat baguette
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and to it add the shallots, mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper and a pinch of Herbs de Provence. Saute until the shallots have become translucent and the mushrooms have softened and are beginning to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, reserve and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl combine the ground chicken, Bavarian Seasoning, poultry seasoning, rosemary, parsley, a bit of salt and pepper, the shredded pear and the reserved mushroom and shallot mixture. Mix well to combine. Add the beaten egg and the oatmeal and mix well to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and shape into 4 patties.
Heat a grill pan over high heat and brush it with a bit of oil. When the pan is good and hot, but not yet smoking, add the chicken burgers and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, about 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until cooked throughout. Chicken burgers should be firm to the touch when done and fully cooked throughout. Brush the grilled burgers with a bit of balsamic vinegar on each side, then top with some sliced or crumbled blue cheese, cover the pan and allow the cheese to melt. Serve the finished burgers on whole wheat rolls or baguettes, topped with some caramelized onions and atop some crisp romaine lettuce. Enjoy!
*Notes: While not strictly necessary, the Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning is a really nice blend and well suited to this savory, earthy burger. Santa left me a jar of it in my stocking this year and enjoy it, I do! If you don't happen to have any, fear not, add whatever spices you like or simply proceed without.
I happen to like a bit of shredded pear in this mixture - it adds both flavor and moisture, which is altogether necessary when using ground chicken breast. You could certainly substitute some apple, if you like, in place of the pears. Do as you see fit.
Either way, you'll be rewarded with a slightly unusual, yet thoroughly delicious burger that's just perfect for the season. Its hearty, earthy and just completely scrumptious. I hope you'll try it!
So, have any of you had a meal at Pure? And, if so, how was it? Not that I'm likely to return, mind you, I'm just curious.