Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bits and Morsels takes on the Juice Cleanse

Shoestring Fries
House Made Fries, Parsley, Garlic, Truffle Salt

by Erin Frankel

In the often fickle world of the New York City culinary scene, it’s both a rarity and a luxury to do what you want in the space that you are given. This is why when a good friend of mine, Justin Karr, decided to transform the traditionally casual CK14 into a high-end modern restaurant, he did so by redesigning the space and the menu, the latter with the help of Jon McCain, a young, ambitious chef who knows the ins and outs of the relaxed yet sophisticated (and trendy!) American gastropub scene.

CK14 recalls everything you love about your favorite American bistro. There’s a lively bar in the front, cozy, rustic, and intimate seating in the back, and windows that now open to a huge outdoor backyard.

Although CK14 has technically been open since late last summer, the real dinner service is really rolling out with the opening of the large garden and said chef, who has completely transformed the entire culinary direction of the restaurant.
Hoffbrau Heffeweizen, Omegang Rare Vos, CK14 Pilsner, Two Brothers Cane, and Ebel Red Rye Ale.
Jon McCain, most recently of Norwood, features food combinations that are polished and sophisticated. He fiddles with impulsive flavor combinations, intermingling rich and clean flavors with more comfort-fare elements. He dresses up dishes such as his shoestring fries, with parsley, garlic, and truffle salt; and artichoke chips with marjoram, lemon, and saffron aioli. However, chef McCain's innovation comes with the entrees.

There are too many to name, but if I had to choose three favorites, I would select the seared tuna lightly seasoned with coriander, fennel, lemon ginger Dijon, and white soy; the slow cooked blackfeather chicken breast, decorated with forbidden rice risotto, and lightly seasoned with a sauce forestiere; and the 10 ounce dry aged burger, which has a perfectly large amount of moist pink meat dressed with melted dorset cheddar cheese that rides high on a puffy pretzel-washed brioche bun — accompanied by deliciously crispy housemade fries.
Shishito Peppers
Yuzu Vinaigrette, Smoked Salt
Artichoke Chips
Fried Artichoke Chips, Marjoram, Lemon, Saffron Aioli
Spring Onion Soup
Roasted Garlic, Coconut Milk, Fresh Spring Onion
Port Poached Pear Salad
Red Watercress, Anjou Pear, Chevre, Hazelnut Praline
And then there’s the matter of saving room for dessert. Along with the warm chocolate pudding you’d expect from such a lavish presentation, you might also find a deliciously sweet semifreddo, richly flavored with lemon, cashew, Riesling, and black pepper, along with a beautiful and unique tropical demonstration of coconut, pineapple, guava, mint, and cilantro.

Whether you are a burgers and fries kinda gal or a poached pear salad and seared sea scallops kind of gent, McCain managers to make something for every tastebud and every mood on this menu. The casual, laid-back vibe allows those craving a rich garganelli with an Ebel Red Rye Ale to dine without feeling compelled to visit stuffier eating accommodations. McCain himself said it best, “CK14 is essentially fine dining without the pretense that holds some people at bay. Why not have a great steak or a gorgeous piece of halibut while wearing a t-shirt and jeans?”
Pimenton Poached Halibut, Tagliatelle of Vegetables,
Olive Tapenade, Piquillo Puree
Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
Smoked Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Jalapeno, BBQ Pulled Pork
Seared Tuna
Coriander, Fennel, Lemon Ginger Dijon, White Soy
Braised Short Rib Ragout, Baby Carrots, Asiago
Seared Scallop “Steak”
Diver Scallops, Bacon, Ramps,
Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Grape Must
10 oz Dry Aged Burger
10 oz Dry Aged Burger, Pretzel Wash Brioche Bun,
Housemade Fries, Dorset Cheddar
Blackfeather Chicken
Slow Cooked Breast, Dark Meat Terrine,
Forbidden Rice Risotto, Sauce Forestiére
Lemon, Cashew,
Riesling, Black Pepper
Coconut, Pineapple,
Guava, Mint, Cilantro
Warm Chocolate Pudding
Orange, Peanut, Thyme,
Espresso Caramel
232 West 14th Street

What happens when a foodie goes on a juice cleanse for five days?

Everyone in my life knows all to well how much I love food. Not only do I love every type of cuisine, flavor, and texture, but I love thinking about food, talking about food, and the entire experience of eating food. And now, my appreciation has risen to inexorable heights after depriving myself of this fond attachment for five full days.

In anticipation of summer, I decided to undertake a juice cleanse, something I swore I would never do. The mere notion of robbing a morsel of food from my mouth for even a day, is unthinkable. However, people who know me well understand that I can be a bit of an extremist (I say adventurous), and I was genuinely curious about how a food enthusiast like myself would feel at the completion of a cleanse.

The contents of Organic Avenue's LOVEDEEP Juice Cleanse.
There are many cleanses out there to try but for this particular experiment I went with Organic Avenue's version. Organic Avenue is based in New York City and famous for its LOVE (Live, Organic, Vegan, Experience) cleanses, which offers a balanced and abundance of fresh, raw, plant-based cleansing cuisine.

You can choose to get your juices delivered to your apartment or office or you can pick it up at one of the five locations in the city (the glass bottles come in a large silver box and are completely refundable upon return). Each morning, Organic Avenue will email you a few quotes and affirmations to get you through the day. Those emails were actually incredibly helpful and inspiring, and kept me determined to get through my cleanse throughout each and every day ... especially during the hardest times.

Day 1: I received an email asking me to repeat out loud: "I strive to see light." This came with instructions to think about the following: "Faith begins as an experiment and ends as an experience" (W.R. Inge) and "The only thing you have to remember is how fortunate you are." (Sri Ravi Shankar).

After the first day, however, Organic Avenue enlightens its cleansers to focus on “this too shall pass." This I remembered well.

In that same morning email, Organic Avenue lists your 7 daily juices (all numbered) along with a description of each juice and what each ingredient, vegetable, fruit, or mineral does for your body. Other than the potential outcomes of mental clarity, increased energy, weight loss, detoxification, glowing skin, and whiter eyes, the internal benefits include killing cancer cells, increasing oxygen utilization, and promoting the health of the circulatory, digestive, immune, and detoxification systems.

You are instructed to start the cleanse each day at 8am or 9am with a shot of Chlorophyll, which can be mixed with purified water. This was truly an unpleasant taste. It also left my teeth and tongue briefly stained green. Despite the unkind taste of Chlorophyll, the benefits are incredible. It has the power to regenerate our bodies at the molecular and cellular level and is known to help cleanse the body, fight infection, and increase the number of red blood cells.

What follows is a lineup of 6 juices that are a mixture of fruits with a low sugar count, vitamin-rich vegetables, cayenne, agave, and lemon juice. Organic Avenue notifies you on the general time of day to drink each juice, also stating that you must abstain from caffeine and alcohol for the entire cleanse. The only other fluids you are allowed to drink are herbal (non-caffeinated tea) and water. This, in itself, was very difficult for someone who drinks at least 3-4 cups of coffee a day and has a glass of wine most nights of the week.

Some of the juices are delicious (note: I am using the word delicious with a grain of salt) and filling, such as the Love Deep Number 5 Veggie Vibe (Lemon, Carrot, Spinach, Cucumber, Celery, Parsley, and Beet) and the Love Deep Number 3 Young Love (spinach, cucumber, and celery).

On day 1, I was pleasantly surprised with how well I reacted to the juice cleanse. I expected my body to suffer massive shock. I didn’t have my typical morning caffeine headache and had an odd amount of natural energy throughout the day. However, after my last juice cleanse at 8pm, I immediately felt a bit of fatigue and some hunger pains. I had to go to sleep. This feeling pretty much lasted for the following three days of the week. The hardest part of the cleanse was when the weekend hit. I woke up on Saturday morning feeling great. I had the energy to go to the gym in the morning (on a weekend ... for the first time!).

However, once I met friends at lunch and then again at dinner, I started to feel ... miserable. I was cranky, starving, tired, and ready to crash. Seeing and smelling the food across the table was painful. Watching my friends bite into a delicious, juicy burger while I sat and drank my green juice was unbearable. I was thinking of quitting right then and there but I was determined to pull through. I realized that with each day this juice cleanse would get harder and harder.

I spent my Saturday evening drinking water at a friend’s party while everyone around me drank vodka. Sunday morning, I woke up early and had the one of the most productive Sundays I've ever had. I felt focused enough to do some work, clean my apartment, organize my closet, and go to bed early; four things that are particularly a struggle for me on a weekend.

On Sunday night, when I tucked myself into bed, I knew that by tomorrow I could eat again. And I was relieved. Monday morning I woke up nice and early, walked into work with a carrot juice in one hand and a green tea in the other, feeling energized, happy, and focused, ready to start a new day of healthy eating.

What I found most interesting about my experience is how much time we spend merely thinking about what we are going to eat for our next meal. Once I didn’t have the option of debating what to eat for lunch each day, I realized how much time I typically spend just pondering the options. More noticeable though, is that I realized how often we schedule our day to day tasks and activities around our meals. When the weekend came, I found it hard to find an “activity” to do with friends that didn’t revolve around eating or drinking.

Now, a few days removed from the cleanse, I do honestly feel the juice gave me an opportunity to flesh out my toxins, revitalize my energy levels, and change the way that I want to eat.

Organic Avenue
(Upper East Side location)
1021 Lexington Avenue
212 358 0500
Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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