I know, I know…how is it possible that I just made my first trip to Dirt Candy? Well I have no excuses other than with a 2-year-old daughter, it’s not often I get to the East Village. Boy have I missed out. Spoiler alert: I ate at Eleven Madison Park the week before Dirt Candy. Both are restaurants featured in the Michelin Guide and I liked both, BUT I liked Dirt Candy better. Yep Eleven Madison Park is the #1 restaurant in the country on some lists these days, but for me Dirt Candy was tastier and more creative (write-up on Eleven Madison Park coming soon).
I admit to having made a couple reservations at the vegetarian spot that I’ve had to cancel, but with a new “Dirt Candy” cookbook just out in stores I knew it was time to clear my schedule and get my butt down to East 9th Street.
The spot is booked almost every night and it’s no surprise. There are just nine tables! I think if there were 50 tables though they’d still be full. BTW Amanda Cohen, the owner and Chef went to the same culinary school I did “Natural Gourmet Institute“, but I had never met her until the night I ate there. Yes, she was in the kitchen cooking away, and mingling/waiting on tables as well. She was a pleasure to meet.
(NOTE FOR VEGANS: Before ordering we were asked if we were vegan, so I believe that the restaurant can adjust the following dishes to make them vegan.)
We started with the Jalapeno Hush Puppies served with maple butter. Ummm this butter should be bottled and sold everywhere. I would love to try it on pancakes, waffles or biscuits. It was beyond good and I loved the hush puppies. Probably the best I’ve ever had.
We just had to try a few appetizers. My favorite among them was the tomato cake with smoked feta, cherry tomato leather and spring herb puree. It’s a flavor like I’ve never had before and I want it again and again. It was a little bit sweet, but the smoky feta balanced it out perfectly.
Next was the portobello mousse with truffled toast, pear and fennel compote. This is a dish where you see what Amanda can really do with veggies or in this case mushrooms. The mousse is pate like. It’s hard to really get this type of consistency with veggies and she hits it out of the ballpark with this creative dish.
Our last appetizer was the yellow pepper soup with smoky red pepper mousse and jalapeno chips. This was a very refreshing soup with just the right amount of salty and sweet.
For my main course I got the chard gnocchi with grilled chard, garlic granola and drunken fig jam. I am a sucker for gnocchi and chard so this was a great dish for me. I love that the gnocchi was green too. I’ve never seen any colored gnocchi before so it’s a party for the eyes, as well as the mouth. I will say though, if you don’t like your entree on the sweet side, this might not be the dish for you. A couple of the components are on the sweet side.
As for my husband he loves grits so when he sees it on the menu he has to order it. So his main course was Stone Ground Grits with corn cream , pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche and tempura poached egg. We both loved this, though it was hard for me to even get a bite in before he finished every last morsel on the dish.
For dessert we dug into the popcorn pudding with salted caramel corn. Loved, loved, loved this. Totally my kind of dessert. It’s a pudding flavor you’ve never seen before and it totally works.
So as you can tell from the food porn above I absolutely loved Dirt Candy and can’t wait to return. From one Natural Gourmet grad to another BRAVO!
Oh and you’ll get to see some of Amanda Cohen’s cooking on the hubby’s CBS show “On The Couch” sometime soon. I’ll also be reviewing the “Dirt Candy” cookbook, which just came out a couple weeks ago, soon!