New York: An Oasis of Calm, plus Homemade Superfood Chocolate

[Warning: this is a looooong recap post.  If you like New York and want to know what we did there, read on! If you just want to get straight to the chocolate recipe, skip on down.]

sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, candida diet superfood chocolate recipe on rickiheller.com

[Homemade superfood chocolate (stevia-sweetened on left, coconut sugar-sweetened on right. Skip on down for the recipe.]

You wouldn’t normally think “New York” if you’re seeking a peaceful oasis to get away from it all, would you? Well, as it turns out, that’s what the HH and I did last week.

No, not because New York is full of urban yogis who meditate and contort their bodies in 100F+ rooms. Not because New York surrounds a beautifully manicured, pond-dotted bird and squirrel sanctuary with green topiary in calming geometric shapes. And no, not because New York is the city that never sleeps (though really, that lack of sleep would certainly keep your brain activity at a low buzz, helpful to reduce stress, right?).

intercontinental barclay manhattan hotel on rickiheller.com

[Our room. King-sized bed, chair with footrest, desk (out of view). The HH--all 6 feet and one inch of him--appreciated that bed.]

No, the reason our experience in The Big Apple was filled with quiet serenity this time round was related to our hotel choice: the Intercontinental Barclay Manhattan Hotel. (Disclaimer: We paid for the room ourselves and did not receive anything for free, unless you count oodles of helpful information over the telephone and a gracious welcome, including note/snacks, when we first entered our room. I decided to write about the hotel because I liked it and wanted to share. Though I certainly wouldn’t have refused a complimentary stay had they offered.).  ;)

A few months ago, I read about the Barclay’s sustainability program and was intrigued: they pride themselves on following “principles of the Triple Bottom Line: Economic Prosperity, Social Responsibility and Environmental Protection,” and the hotel is considered a “Green Leader” by TripAdvisor. I also loved that the hotel is powered exclusively by wind power (how cool is that??), offers eco-friendly meeting services, and participates in on-site composting.

intercontinental barclay restaurant on rickiheller.com

[View of the restaurant where we enjoyed two fabulous lunches in quiet splendor.]

Even more interesting to me, however, was the almost-entirely organic menu, the rooftop garden (the hotel grows their own salad greens) and rooftop beehives. The All-Natural Power Breakfast is one of their most popular offerings, which, sadly, the HH and I didn’t get to try (I wouldn’t have been able to find much to eat with my dietary restrictions in any case). While the hotel does offer vegan options and gluten-free options, they don’t have a dedicated menu for these, or for both vegan AND gluten-free together, so, after careful consultation with the helpful wait staff, I came up with my own choices.

For our first midday meal at the hotel, I enjoyed a gorgeous fresh salad with champagne vinaigrette and dried apple slices, gluten-free bread and a side of maple-cilantro baked sweet potato fries. Everything was prepared à la minute, flavorful, fabulous. On our last day there, I cobbled together some grilled asparagus and garlic-thyme potato wedges from the menu’s appetizers. I don’t know what the glutenous vegan options entailed, but do hope that they included some plant-based protein sources, which I missed in my own meals. (The HH was ecstatic about his Salmon Three Ways and later, his burger with Swiss cheese).

Intercontinental NYC Barclay on rickiheller.com

[Day one's salad greens with champagne vinaigrette, dried apples and gluten-free bread.]

More than anything, though, what called to me was the old-world charm of the hotel and its ability to transport us (figuratively) to an earlier era when opulence, grandeur, peace and quiet, and (hallelujah) impeccable customer service were all de rigeur in New York City. No matter who you were, if you stayed at the hotel, you were treated like someone special. The hotel has also preserved the architectural style and feel of its 1920s roots, remaining “classic yet contemporary” (and I was delighted to discover that one of my literary idols–Ernest Hemingway–had stayed there way back when!).

Intercontinental Barclay review on RickiHeller.com

[The hotel's lobby. Don't you feel calmer already? Photo used with permission.]

With all of the modern amenities you’d find anywhere else, but a decor and atmosphere of days gone by, the hotel was, truly, the perfect oasis to return to after our manic days in the city.

And what days they were!

We kicked off the festivities with a dinner at Candle West along with fellow cookbook authors Nava Atlas, Fran Costigan, Victoria Moran and Linda Long (thank you, Nava, for organizing that one!). The HH and I had been to both Candle 79 and Candle Cafe before, but never to this new location, and we fell in love. Here’s my grilled polenta (and you can bet I cleaned up every drop of that cashew cream).

Grilled Polenta on rickiheller.com

[Grilled Polenta with Cashew Cream and Greens. Unspeakably delicious!]

Day two began with a quick breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, another place that was new to us. I opted for a green juice and simple steel-cut oats, knowing that we’d have a major lunch and dinner that day to follow:

New York Le Pain Quotidien on RickiHeller.com

[Nothing beats good old steel cut oats!]

Next up was a quick trip to Rockefeller Center, breezing past the Top of the Rock lineup (a two-hour wait) and then through the NBC gift shop (loved the Jimmy Fallon T’s!). Lunch took place at Hangawi, an all-vegan Korean restaurant with an extensive gluten-free menu (SCORE!). It was also the first time I’d met my literary agent in person (despite our first book project together having already been published over a month ago!).  How wonderful to finally meet up, share gab and good food, and iron out some plans for our SECOND book together (news coming to the blog very soon!!). :D

Silky Tofu in Clay Pot at hangawi on rickiheller.com

[Silky Tofu in a Clay Pot--and spicy broth.]

The HH enjoyed a steaming, spicy Hot Pot while I opted for some kale dumplings and a silky tofu in a clay pot–equally spicy, as it turned out!  After a leisurely lunch and walk back to the hotel, a stop at Whole Foods, another at Macy’s and a quick trip to Times Square (because really, what would New York BE without a quick trip to Times Square?), we headed out again for dinner at what may possibly be my favorite New York restaurant, Pure Food and Wine. Of course, our company for the evening only contributed to the splendor of the meal (apologies for the poor quality of this photo!):

gena hamshaw on rickiheller.com

After squeals and hugs, we enjoyed raw sushi with cashew cheeze and fresh juices followed by, in my case, a raw cauliflower curry embraced by a raw “papadum”:

Curried Cauliflower on RickiHeller.com

It was great to catch up with Gena–so glad our schedules coincided!

Finally (I know, this has taken quite some time, hasn’t it?), we capped off the visit with an all-too-brief breakfast meetup with Hannah at The Green Bean Cafe, where my craving for a tofu scramble was handily met.

There you have it. Yes, dear readers, for three days, I basically ate my way through New York. But really, where else but New York can a gal who lives a vegan, gluten-free, anti-candida lifestyle find herself faced with a surfeit of restaurants from which to choose?

museum of modern art on rickiheller.com

[Saying our goodbyes, at the Sculpture Garden at the MoMa before we left New York.]

Our final roaming took place around the Upper West Side, and we ended up visiting the MoMa for a few hours before heading back to the hotel for our final lunch.

As always, I left with a bit of sadness, a sense of having missed far too many of the places I would have liked to see, and already plotting my next visit.

gnosis chocolate nyc on rickiheller.com

[Yummalicious chocolate. . . that I can't buy in my neighborhood.]

One of the items we took away with us was a selection of Gnosis chocolate, one of the best chocolates I’ve ever eaten (and believe me, I’ve eaten a lot). To my great dismay, Gnosis isn’t available in my area of town (at least, I’ve never seen it), and the foray to downtown Toronto is a little distant, even if it means a prize of chocolate at the end of it.

So, I decided to re-create the sweet experience at home (on the other hand, I’m still mulling over how I can re-create the elegance, comfort and King-sized bed of the Barclay.).

anti-candida diet, sugar-free homemade superfood chocolate recipe on rickiheller.com

[The stevia-sweetened version, with pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and goji berries.]

I’ve made homemade raw cacao chocolate before, of course, but now that I’ve finally acquired some raw cacao butter, too, I knew this would be a much more authentic reproduction. If you’ve never tried it, raw cacao butter is what gives the chocolate its rich mouthfeel and distinctly “chocolate” flavor. I combined this with just a touch of smooth nut butter for a silky texture that softens ever so slightly at room temperature.

After grinding up some coconut sugar in my Vitamix and still finding the texture a bit gritty in the final product, I made a second batch sweetened with stevia only. While the flavor of the first batch was a tad better, I enjoyed the texture of the stevia version more. If you make this confection, you might like to try combining a bit of both sweeteners.

Either way, the chocolate was a lovely reminder of our time in New York. . . where life was a bit less hectic.

gluten-free, sugar-free, anti-candida chocolate recipe on rickiheller.com

[The coconut sugar-sweetened version, with goji berries, golden berries and raw cacao nibs.]

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Comments

  1. Any sentence with the words “superfood” and “chocolate” catches my attention. These look amazing! I’m glad you had a good time in NYC. Someday I’ll get there. :)

    • Thanks, Hallie! I’m always amazed at how easy it is to make your own chocolate. And you WILL get there! You will love it. Let me know when you’re going and maybe we can meet up!! :D

  2. Oh yum.. I need to find some cacao butter. They look so pretty! Thank you for sharing :)

  3. It sounds like a fabulous trip! Thanks for sharing and inspiring those of us candida “newbies,” and showing us that there is life with candida!! So glad to have such a wonderful guide on this journey!

    • Thanks, Jeri! Much of what I ate would probably have suited earlier stages of the ACD, too (for instance, the salad–I would have just omitted the dressing; the steel cut oats, which I had with stevia and unsweetened almond milk; or the Pure dinner, which had nothing non-ACD in it!). One of the reasons I love going to New York–the vegan food is amazing. :D

  4. This may seem weird, but I skipped over the recipe and hung on every word of your NYC experience. I don’t usually encounter NY in the same sentence as ‘oasis of calm’ but I can see how your short vacation was a wonderful, calming yet energizing, experience. The hotel sounds fantastic, and a great base from which to explore the fantastic food and company in the city.

    • It really did make for a different experience from our other trips! And I loved the classic feel of the place. Though I suppose having a car at your disposal (part of the offering at the W) sorta can’t be beat. ;)

  5. Sounds like an incredible trip to NYC, with a whole lineup of birthday festivities with some amazing women! I’m glad you had a wonderful time. I need to get back there one day soon.

    The superfood chocolate looks incredible! I love the bits of colour in it. Cacao butter is essentially a staple in my house since I discovered it a few years ago. It’s definitely worth the investment!

    • It was so incredible to meet up with everyone, yes!! I felt so lucky to be able to meet so many fabulous women during out stay, and that the timing worked out. Yes, you DO need to get back there!! ;

      • Michelle Spring says:

        Happy you enjoyed NYC so well! . Thanks for this blog post Ric, and for some great restaurant inspiration for when I go next weekend!
        P.S. I smell a birthday brunch soon approaching! : )

  6. loved reading about new york (and I don’t think I have sent you the belated birthday wishes that I intended to) – when I think of the food I ate on my couple of visits years ago I would love to return to make amends. And to see MoMa. glad you had a great trip and found wonderful chocolate to associate with it – your chocolate looks great but I have seen the price of cocoa butter in my healthfood store – thought it reasonable until I found that I had missed a decimal point and then I had to pick myself up off the floor! Maybe one day I will buy it for a treat

    • Thanks, Johanna! Yes, it’s incredibly expensive. I bought a pound (half kilo) at once to save some of the cost. But you can also use coconut oil for a softer chocolate that needs to be refrigerated to stay hard, or combine part cacao butter with coconut oil–both work great and taste delicious but will melt at room temps. And thanks for the B-day wishes! :D xo

  7. Thank goodness you did recreate this chocolate, because now I am so excited to try it out! It sounds like you had a wonderful time in NYC too :)

  8. Wow that hotel lobby is beautiful! Makes me want to go to NYC again. It has been a couple of years. Love the chocolate recipe too!

  9. I have a postcard that says “I ate New York” because that’s literally all I did (besides work) when I was living there. I lived only a few blocks from Candle West and it was so exciting when it opened! Love the recap Ricki :)

  10. I LOVE New York. It is my absolute favorite place in the world- hands down. I can’t wait to move back someday. How cool you got to meet Gena! She’s been one of my favorite bloggers for five years now:) Thanks for this yummy recipe! I like how you used cacao butter instead of the coconut oil usually used in raw chocolate. Though I don’t have any on hand, I bet it made for a truly rich, indulgent flavor. Superfoods are such wonderful things aren’t they? How did I ever live without them?:) I really enjoy your recipes and your blog. I think it is awesome to see how you’ve gone towards a more plant-centered diet:) Have a lovely Halloween!!

    • Thanks so much, Heather. I love it, too! And of course it’s always lovely to meet up with Gena. :) I agree about superfoods–so many of them are so delish. And yes, I’ve been eating a vegan diet for almost 20 years now. Hope your Halloween is a good one, too! :D

  11. How wonderful Ricki! I’m totally jealous you got to connect with Gena. We got to meet in person last year when I was in D.C. & it was such a treat to finally meet her! I would love to meet more of my blogger friends in person–hopefully at Vida VegCon in 2015. Thanks for sharing your awesome trip–(New York–can’t even imagine it!). ox

  12. What a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday Ricki! The hotel does truly look like an oasis of calm and I love that it’s powered by renewable resources and the all-organic menu.
    I’m blown away by all the amazing food you enjoyed. I’ve heard so much about Pure Food and Wine and will definitely make it there some day.
    Yummy looking chocolate too!

    • I have no doubt you’ll make it to Pure Food & Wine, Emma!! You’d love it. I think you’d love Candle, too–your own creations are so compatible with their menu! :)

  13. Looks like you had a fantastic time Ricki! The hotel is beautiful and the your chocolates look so pretty too!

    • Thanks so much, Vicky! I think it was probably our favorite hotel so far (not that we’ve been in so many–only 3 others–but still.). ;) And I hadn’t thought of the chocolates as pretty, but I guess superfoods ARE pretty! :D

  14. What an incredible way to spend a weekend and those choccies look amazing! I usually add gojis to my raw chocs, but never thought of putting pumpkin seeds in too. They look so pretty! I’ve sampled raw chocolate bars before that use coconut sugar and I’m personally not keen on the ‘gritty’ texture.
    For my raw choc making, I use a fruit syrup called ‘Sweet Freedom’, which is made of apples, grapes & carob (would this be suitable for anticandida diets?). I’ve heard that yacon syrup works well too (though I’ve yet to try this).

  15. I’m so glad that I could fit into your very busy schedule, however briefly! I was wonderful to catch up with you and HH, of course, but I do wish it wasn’t so rushed. I guess we’ll just have to do it all over again soon, and plan for more time together. :)

    • I’m glad we managed it, too (and SO sorry again that we kept you so late–glad you made it to work on time!!). :D And yes, I think dinner is in order next time. I really need to try to get to NYC for more than 2 days at a time! xox

      • 100% agree on all of the above, except that you shouldn’t feel sorry about the timing! My fault for not calculating taxi craziness properly. I really should have known. Anyhow, next time, let’s aim for less stress on both of our parts. :) Hope you’re planning for that visit already- I miss you!

  16. Aw, so many of my favourite people in one of my favourite cities!! xoxoxo <3 <3

  17. Ricki, After the whirlwind that has been your book launch, you and HH so deserved a lovely getaway, and it sounds like you got it! I was hanging on every detail! Thank you for letting me enjoy NYC vicariously through you! So glad you had a happy birthday! xo Kim

  18. Oh wow, Ricki. I so enjoyed reading this entire post!!! My sister lived in NYC for a few years and I loved to visit her. LOVE that city so very much. So much life and culture. And that hotel…OH MY!!! What a find. I am SO staying there on my next trip. Thank you for this reference. You certainly deserve some time with your honey. So glad you enjoyed your stay and connected with the important people in your life.

    This recipe you are sharing today is so fabulous. Wow! I’m so pleased to see a chocolate bar made with coconut sugar – that’s a great find. And your homemade version looks just marvelous, Ricki. You ARE the chocolate queen my friend.

    Thanks for sharing this great post and recipe. It was pleasure to read today.

    Hugs,
    –Amber

    • Sounds like we both share a love of the Big Apple!! And yes, the hotel was great. I’m not sure it will be in our budget *every* time, but it was a great splurge and so worth it. :) And yes, I was thrilled to find chocolate made with coconut sugar! Thanks for the new title, too–I think?!! :D

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