Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bits and Morsels goes veggie

Rolls ready for the oven at Orwasher's Handmade Bread.

Busy week. Thursday night I went downtown to ye olde standby, Balthazar (80 Spring Street) for a pre-dinner snack. Balthazar is a French bistro, eternally packed, and is just a great all-around place to go for a quick drink, an appetizer, or a feast. My dining companion was Dan Abrams, the Chief Legal Analyst for NBC News, who is truly fair and balanced. He is also the founder of two new web sites, Mediaite and Gossip Cop, and CEO of Abrams Research.

Dan is a vegetarian and a fit guy. He had a side of spinach and a cup of tea, while I had a mixed salad and a cappuccino. It was fun and inspiring to pick his brain and learn how he stays so relevant and on top of his game.

80 Spring Street
Balthazar, 80 Spring Street, 212.965.1414.
Dan Abrams. Mixed green salad.
Everyone is a vegetarian or they want to become one. Gobo is a vegetarian restaurant with locations in the West Village and on the Upper East Side. It’s one of my sister's favorites and everyone from Dan Abrams, skinny minnies, and beefcakes on the Upper East are crazy for Gobo.

In the past week alone, a dozen people have mentioned to me that they love it, so I decided to give it a try and go veggie for a day. Gobo specializes in vegetarian dishes using meat substitutes like tofu and seitan with an Asian twist. In general, I don’t love meat substitutes (I would rather eat a big salad or egg whites with vegetables), but at Gobo they do get it right.

Gobo's grilled oyster mushrooms and asparagus with fresh lily.
While there are many healthy items on the menu, there are also plenty of delicious, fried items, so be careful. Just because something is vegetarian, it does not automatically make it healthy.

If you are going to make a go of Gobo, it would be wise to go with a few people. The menu is big and you will want to try everything, including the smoothies from the juice bar.

In my estimation, you can’t go wrong with the crispy spinach and soy cheese  wontons or the scallion pancake. For your main course, the natural seitan medallions in citrus sauce would satisfy most carnivores. Gobo also does delivery very well and they get to you quickly. All of the food comes in handy boxes that do not leak. Their version of sesame chicken is soy protein nuggets in a sweet and sour sauce -- it really does the trick, especially when you just want to unwind and watch the Yankee game at home. Go Yankees! 

Gobo on the Upper East Side
1426 Third Avenue
Fried mushrooms. Crispy spinach and soy cheese wontons.
Clockwise from top left: Pumpkin Ale; A slice of bread with sweet potato spread; Natural seitan medallion in sizzling spicy citrus sauce; Braised tofu in black bean sauce over asian kale; Avocado tartare with wasabi lime sauce.
Scallion pancakes with homemade mango salsa. Pine nut vegetable medley with lettuce wraps.
Gobo to go ...
Soy protein nuggets in sweet and sour sauce. New England rolls.
Orwasher’s is an unassuming bakery on a quiet Upper East Side block that turns out some of the best bread in New York City. Orwasher’s bakery, located at 308 East 78th Street, is a New York institution that has been open since 1916. They are known for the oldies, like pumpernickel and rye bread. In addition to breads they also sell Jomart chocolate bars, an extensive variety of cheeses, scrumptious cookies and other goodies. All of the bread-baking is done in the bakery in the basement, which is quite an operation. You would be surprised to learn that the bakery puts out some innovative modern artisan breads.

Orwasher’s Ultimate Whole Wheat.
Orwasher’s is owned by Keith Cohen, who purchased the bakery in 2007 and created Oven Artisans. I like Keith a lot. Besides knowing everything there is to know about making fabulous breads, he is also a lovely and pleasant guy. He thinks outside the breadbox and understands the way people enjoy bread, especially at this moment.

One of his newest breads is the Ultimate Whole Wheat bread, which is made with local New York State wheat. It is a hearty, wholesome, and nutty health bread. Many wheat breads are made with a natural starter, which is code for white flour. The Ultimate Whole Wheat is not. It is especially good when toasted for breakfast with cottage cheese and raisins.

Keith has also started a line of wine breads, using grapes from the Bridgehampton winery Channing Daughters in the bread starter. The breads have a complex flavor and they pair well with a variety of foods like homemade oven roasted tomatoes. When you try the all-natural handmade bread from Orwasher’s, I guarantee you will be hooked.

308 East 78th Street
Orwasher's Handmade Bread. Keith Cohen, owner of Orwasher's.
Clockwise from top left: Local New York flour; Raisin rolls, challah, and raisin bread ready for the oven; Pumpernickel dough and white bread dough being worked.
The Ultimate Whole Wheat. Chardonnay miche bread.
An excellent variety of bread at Orwasher's.
Oven roasted tomatoes. Oven roasted tomatoes on cabernet rustica bread.
Jomart Chocolate. Jomart Chocolate, unwrapped.
I was pleased to learn that the Oceana took the 70-year-old lobster off the menu. The original plan was to serve up Larry the lobster for $275. Larry is so old and large that he would not make for a tasty choice. Long live Larry! []

The new way to launch a successful business is to do it online first. Before committing to a store lease many bakeries are starting up by going online and using social media networks like twitter and Facebook to create buzz about their products. It’s also economical because goods are baked only when ordered. [Crain’s]

The new fad diet is the Cookie Diet. It consists of eating about 6 cookies throughout the day when you feel hungry and then having a small dinner. While I love cookies, this isn't exactly a sustainable diet, or is it? [The New York Times]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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