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Veggie Heavens


ADOUR: Seasonal vegetables cookpot.   

Adour Alain Ducasse
2 E. 55th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-710-2277
To stay on top of the vegivore trend, Alain Ducasse has not only launched a sumptuous $85 tasting menu of vegetables—he’s commissioned an oven-to-table porcelain vessel designed specifically for cooking and serving them. Amid much fanfare, Ducasse has introduced a different Cookpot at each of his restaurants around the world, every one showcasing local seasonal ingredients. New York, as it happens, has two: the elegant arrangement of figs and wild mushrooms swaddled in fig leaves on the tasting menu, and the $21 Seasonal Vegetables Cookpot, an earthy, fragrant, visually striking composition of butternut squash, Romanesco broccoli, potatoes, celery root, tomatoes, and mushrooms—the essence of fall in a bowl. It comes with a farmer’s-cheese crostino on the side, and is best paired, according to the sommelier, with a $55 bottle of 2007 Dobbes Family Estate “Vanjohn Vineyard” Pinot Gris.

86 E. 7th St., nr. First Ave. no phone
It’s hard to find good food at a coffee bar, never mind a decent salad. But that’s the modus operandi at this cheerful caffeine kiosk, whose chef-partner Elizabeth Quijada forages the Greenmarket for her lunchtime prix fixe ($15 for all three items, $6 apiece). Somehow, in quarters smaller than a Starbucks display case, she grills slender olive-oil-slicked Sullivan St Bakery stecca loaves until light and crisp, and fills them with offbeat combinations like sautéed beet greens, cherry tomatoes, and provolone, or oven-fried green tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and radicchio. Her salads stand out for their vibrant flavors and artful pairings: green beans with sweet slivers of roasted white carrots; chioggia beets with marinated cherry tomatoes, rosemary, and thyme; celery root with Parmesan and toasted pine nuts in lemon vinaigrette. “We’d never call ourselves vegetarian,” says partner Jamie McCormick—just a place that specializes in hyperseasonal, artfully crafted vegetable fare. (And, of course, coffee.)

Blue Hill
75 Washington Pl., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-539-1776
Granted, Blue Hill has a vegivore advantage. It’s not every urban restaurant that can claim an association with Stone Barns, the Rockefeller estate turned working farm. But beyond its providential sourcing, Dan Barber’s locavore flagship offers its diners a whimsical take on vegetables. Take the amuses: wafer-thin kale chips and a seasonal “burger,” currently tomato soffritto and ricotta slipped into a warm almond financier. (Beet burgers are next on deck.) An appetizer of braised and roasted fennel is garnished with homemade pancetta in a pork-reduction “charcuterie” sauce. The “creamy broccoli rabe” side dish is, in fact, utterly creamless, enriched instead with a flavorful pea stew. And Jerusalem artichokes are roasted in chicken sauce—not, as far as we know, in obeisance to the meat-as-a-condiment vegivore tenet, but, as a waiter confides, “because we like to cheat.”

The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th St., at Greenwich St.; 212-620-0393
With all those Roquefort burgers and pig’s feet flying out of the kitchen, vegetables aren’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig. But they might as well be. Roasted sunchokes mingled with creamy goat cheese. Meltingly soft pumpkin tossed with arugula, sharp Pecorino, and toasted pine nuts. Beets lavished with crème fraîche and smoked trout. These so-called salads aren’t exactly diet fare (thankfully). And no one does deceptively simple side dishes like roasted carrots, bubble and squeak, and buttery champ better than Bloomfield.

SALTIE: Romaine dinghy.  

378 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St., Williamsburg; 718-387-4777
Unconventional sandwiches are the raison d’être at this streamlined lunch spot, where the bread is house-baked, the herbage is abundant, and the daily soup and salad specials make excellent use of seasonal produce. Why no one had ever thought before to cram beets, radishes, a hard-boiled egg, some butternut squash, feta, black olives, capers, pickled onions, parsley, and spicy aïoli on chewy focaccia and call it a Scuttlebutt, we don’t know. But we’re glad they did. And who knew that a Romaine Dinghy, consisting primarily of lettuce piled as high as a serving of Katz’s pastrami and slathered with gobs of homemade mayo, could be as delicious and satisfying as a BLT?

124 Meserole Ave., nr. Leonard St., Greenpoint; 718-389-8083
There are chefs whose motto is “local whenever possible.” There are chefs who specialize in “farm-to-table” cuisine. There are chefs who are “market-driven.” And then there is Jordan Colón, as fervent a locavore as anyone who ever banned sugar from the premises and substituted local butternut-squash oil for the extra-virgin-olive variety. Colón, in short, is locavore to the hilt, and vegivore all the way. Nothing at his restaurant comes from farther afield than Maine, where he gets his salt. The space is spartan, to say the least, the chalkboard cuisine—steamed chard with red beans and polenta, cabbage dumplings, fried spelt with daikon radish and beets—beyond stripped-down. Colón lets his vegetables speak for themselves. You could say it’s barely cooking; Colón would consider that a great compliment.

Frankies Spuntino
17 Clinton St., nr. E. Houston St.; 212-253-2303;
457 Court St., nr. Luquer St., Carroll Gardens; 718-403-0033

It’s tough being the city’s most celebrated meatball-makers. Your other kitchen talents, however considerable, tend to get overshadowed. The Franks, Falcinelli and Castronovo, are both veteran vegivores, prone to singing the praises of lacto-fermented vegetables and homegrown avocadoes. Not coincidentally, their summer salad of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes, avocado, and red onions is a thing of simple beauty—or, as Falcinelli puts it, “like gazpacho in your mouth.” But their vegivorism extends year-round to refreshing combinations like fennel, celery root, and parsley; escarole, walnuts, and Pecorino; and sardines with puntarelle and blood oranges, all perfectly balanced and zingily dressed. (The fact that they import their own olive oil, and apply it liberally to almost everything, certainly doesn’t hurt.) And you won’t find delights like shaved raw Brussels sprouts with lemon and Castelrosso cheese on your run-of-the-mill antipasto bar.


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