Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
What I Ate:
Ugli Duckling cocktail
Salad of Frisee and Radicchio
Apple Tarte Tartin
2005 Carol Shelton Zinfandel, Cucamonga Valley
Pure Food and Wine is a raw, vegetarian and vegan restaurant located near Manhattan’s Union Square. The menu is entirely plant based, no processed ingredients are used, and nothing is heated above 118 degrees. According to raw enthusiasts, this helps preserve vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that can be destroyed during cooking. While I’m not 100% sold on the idea of an exclusively raw diet, I was intrigued to see how a restaurant could manage upscale dining without the use of ovens, stoves, or butter. So with an entourage of non-vegan eaters (mom, sister, and friend), we headed to Pure on a Tuesday night for dinner.
It was one of the warmest days in the city since the start of winter, making it the perfect night to enjoy the restaurant’s spacious, outdoor patio. We enjoyed a few drinks in the garden setting while waiting for our table, and while looking over the extensive wine and cocktail menu, I was already amazed at the attention to wholesome, organic ingredients. The ‘Pure’ cocktails are made using fresh-pressed organic juices, fresh herbs, and a small amount of agave nectar for sweetened cocktails. Sangria, hard cider, hot and cold sake are also available. Our server recommended the newest cocktail, the Ugli Duckling, made with ugli fruit, sake, lime juice and a touch of ginger. It was served in a martini glass garnished with a few edible flowers. The taste was smooth and refreshing, not too sweet but with a kick of tanginess. I expected a little more ginger flavor, but was very happy with the recommendation.
I was also impressed with the wine list, which includes choices that are not only organic, but also biodynamic, vegan, or created using sustainable farming practices. I was curious to know what makes a wine vegan. Isn’t all wine vegan? And if not, where have those grapes been? I also had no clue what the term ‘biodynamic’ meant (at least referring to wine), so like any serious, experienced researcher would do, I Googled. According to theorganicwinecompany.com, many wine producers use animal by-products to refine and clarify their wines. These ‘fining’ agents include casein (milk protein), albumin (egg white), gelatin (animal protein), or isinglass (fish-bladder protein). Vegan wines, on the other hand, don’t use any fining agents, or use vegan fining agents, such as clay or carbon. As for biodynamic wines, they go above and beyond organic farming practices. In addition to using the vineyard’s natural resources to produce grapes without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, growth stimulants or GMOs, biodynamic farmers also focus on soil sustainability through crop rotation, composting, and astronomical cycles to cultivate the highest quality grapes possible. Excellent. Now, red or white? I chose an organic, vegan Zinfandel from California’s Cucamonga Valley. Delicious.
My appetizer was a salad of frisee and radiccio with medjool dates, pignoli, saffron meyer lemon confit, and a curry vinaigrette. It was light, fresh and delicious. The sweetness of the dates and bitterness from the greens provided such a unique flavor combination that I took mental notes for my next homemade salad creation (dates in a salad? Brilliant!). For my entrée, I chose the Spanakopita, a traditional Greek savory pie usually made with spinach, onions, cheese and herbs stuffed into a flaky phyllo crust. I love Greek food, and pretty much anything made with phyllo dough, so I was eager to see Pure’s raw, vegan take on the dish. Coconut meat and ground flaxseeds were used for the crust. While it lacked the flakiness of phyllo, it made for a much lighter texture and flavor. Instead of feta, almond cheese was mixed with spinach and cucumber yogurt for the filling. I found the almond cheese surprisingly flavorful, and enjoyed it so much that I purchased the nut cheese on my next Whole Foods visit. The cauliflower and grapes served on the side were a nice touch, but nothing special in terms of flavor. While this was definitely not your authentic Spanakopita, it was a very tasty and creative dish regardless.
My mom ordered the lasagna made with zucchini and local greenhouse tomatoes. It looked amazing; so colorful and beautifully presented that I admit I had a little entrée envy. I snuck a few bites here and there, and it tasted as good as it looked. I will definitely be ordering it on my next visit. For dessert, we shared the Apple Tarte Tartin. Fresh apple slices drizzled in caramel with horchata ice cream and maple candy. The flavor was like an explosion of apples in your mouth, so fresh and apple-y, with silky caramel that was sweet but not too gooey. And the unique horchata ice cream was creamy and delicious.
Everyone at the table was pleasantly surprised by how tasty and satisfying our meal was, and I was impressed with the creativity and presentation of each dish. While many vegetarian restaurants focus on recreating meat dishes with vegetarian alternatives, Pure celebrates the vegetables, highlighting their natural flavors, colors and textures. In fact, you won’t find tofu, seitan, or tempeh anywhere on the menu. Instead, they use top-quality organic ingredients, carefully executed techniques, and artistically designed presentations to provide flavorful and inspiring dishes. I recommend anyone who is looking for a unique, healthy dining experience, vegan or not, to check out Pure Food and Wine.