When I think of the best cities in the country in which to dine out, Chicago and Manhattan come immediately to mind. I live near Manhattan, and until recently had never come across a healthy guide to eating out there.
I was fortunate to run into Jared Koch, or rather, happen by his table at the Fort Lee Arts and Crafts Fair a week ago. He has what is dubbed as "the only nutritionist and food critic-approved Manhattan Restaurant Guide" there is, a portable baby blue compendium that is really a must for anyone like me who likes dining out frequently in the Tri-state area.
Before you carnivores panic, know the 'best of' list considers you too. The (long) title of this handy little bible is Clean Plates Manhattan, A Guide to the Healthiest, Tastiest and Most Sustainable Restaurants for Vegetarians and Carnivores. Koch, a nutritionist and health coach, co-wrote the book with critic Alex Van Buren, once a food writer for Time Out New York, although several more critics have since come on board. The book, says Koch, can be used to "find healthy and sustainable restaurants in Manhattan, to learn how to change your eating habits when you dine out -- and in, and to transform your life by seeing how eating healthier can be pleasurable and startlingly simple."
I rarely read a book in straight fashion front to back, so soon as I had Clean Plates in hand, I went immediately to see if some of my favorite haunts are listed. Caravan of Dreams, a vegan hippie-friendly eatery we like to frequent at 405 East 6th Street, is. I have eaten at a few vegan joints in the city, and this one is the best. The worst one can say about it is that sometimes the service, however friendly, is uneven, but the quality of food is the best I've ever encountered in the vegan realm. And that includes desserts and espresso.
Caravan of Dreams features performers of every variety and once even a Tarot reader. I indulged, having once been one of those myself. I realize there isn't much I haven't done in my abundant life, save cater to the Mob and shoeshine. And I am serious about that. The Tarot reader was nice enough, and mysterious with her vibrating blue eyes and shockingly red hair, but she was off the mark and pissed off my mate, who didn't like hearing that I was attracted to three different men and trying to decide which one to go with. A word of caution to fortune tellers, 'Think about what you are saying and to whom you are saying it, and keep it simple and broad.'
I was also gratified to see Candle 79 mentioned, where we dined recently with a friend from Florida. You can't miss with salads of just about any variety at either of these two restaurants, but I personally find the clientele at Caravan of Dreams a little more discrete and easier to take. Something about a six-foot-two father walking in out of the rain with his five-year old sitting on his shoulders and expecting to be seated immediately at Candle 79 made me realize that those who eat there are not only hippy-ish and young, as at Caravan of Dreams, but yuppy-ish, older and entitled too.
What I love about Clean Plates is it has a broad, interesting and eclectic selection, from the "solidly American" Gramercy Tavern to the macrobiotic Mana to the Natural Gourmet Institute, the vegetarian cooking school at 48 West 21st Street. I notice Van Buren has a penchant for chocolate, so I now have a nice selection of new places to go for my favorite desserts as well.
Clean Plates is available for a mere $14.95 on Amazon.com and via www.cleanplates.com, and the esteemed Deepak Chopra has this to say about it: "Jared's nutritional advice in Clean Plates has the power to transform your individual health and our collective well-being." What more could you ask for in a guide for healthy eating?