[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.]
[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?).
[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.
[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).
[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!).
[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 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:
[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!!).
[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!):
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”:
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?
[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.
[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.).
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.
Homemade Raw Superfood Chocolate
A delicious, not-too-sweet dark chocolate studded with superfood bits. You can switch up the different dried fruits, nuts and seeds to suit your own tastes. Or, if you’re in the early stages of a candida diet, use homemade dried cranberries instead of other dried fruits.
2 ounces (55 g) raw cacao butter
2 Tbsp (30 ml) smooth raw walnut, cashew or other nut butter (I used both walnut and cashew–both were lovely)
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut sugar, ground to a powder in a coffee grinder or spice grinder
1/2 cup (55 g) raw cacao powder (you can use regular unsweetened cocoa, but the result will be more bitter)
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) pure stevia powder, or 1/4 tsp (1 ml) pure stevia liquid, to your taste
1 tsp (5 ml) raw vanilla powder or 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
Add-ins: up to 3 Tbsp total of any or all of the following: goji berries, golden berries, cacao nibs, raw hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds or other seeds. (My first variation had gojis, golden berries and cacao nibs; the second had goji berries, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds).
Line a small square container with parchment paper, or set out 12 silicone mini muffin cups or 4 regular silicone muffin cups.
In a small pot over lowest possible heat, melt the cacao butter and nut butter together. It helps to first grate the cacao butter, as it tends to take a very long time to melt and doesn’t melt evenly.
Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the coconut sugar, cacao powder, stevia, vanilla powder and salt. Once it’s well combined and smooth, stir in the add-ins. Spoon into the container or individual cups and allow to firm up in the refrigerator before transferring to a sealed container. Makes about 12 servings. Will keep, refrigerated, up to two weeks.
Stevia-sweetened variation: omit coconut sugar and add an additional 1/4 tsp (1 ml) liquid stevia along with the powdered stevia (using a flavored stevia is a nice idea for the liquid part).
Suitable for: ACD Stage 2 or Stage 3 (depending on which sweetener you use); sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, vegan, low glycemic.
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