We asked award-winning NYC pastry chef Heather Carlucci to share her VegOut! 2015 adventures and her list of favorite VegOut!-friendly Manhattan restaurants. Heather, who serves on our Board of Directors, is also co-founder of Pig Mountain: Pig Roast and Veggie Fest, a charitable feast involving an army of chefs roasting what seems like a whole herd of pigs, plus delectable side dishes, held in upstate New York each August, and she is a member of the James Beard Foundation Board.
Carlucci says she joined our VegOut! Challenge because she wanted to support Recipe for Success Foundation’s effort to bring attention the role that eating produce plays in our overall health. She also says she enjoyed the challenge of cooking specific vegetables at home throughout each week. “I had fun keeping up with the vegetable of the day at home,” says Carlucci.
“I’ve seen, much to my chagrin, how what my daughter’s school mates eat effects her choices. All the work done having weaned her onto solid food in my Indian restaurant went right out the window once school started. I’ve made her a part of the challenge and she’s started championing it! (I may tell her it’s a year long event!)”
Carlucci says she has managed to convince a few friends to take the VegOut! Challenge – “the health conscious friends,” she says. “In 2016, I plan to spread the word to other parents to help broaden the impact through our circle of friends. I think the online progress keeps the kids involved.”
Carlucci says she feels lucky that she grew up in a very health conscious family and is currently studying ayurvedic medicine. “It’s the oldest practice of healing through food, so my family is happy to VegOut with me since everything is recognizable,” she laughs.
With more than 25 years as a chef, she says she hasn’t really learned anything new about where to find good vegetables, but she says that searching adds excitement to the shopping experience with her daughter. “I can’t say that I’ve learned anything about availability in my area, but I sure have been shopping more,” says Carlucci.
Heather’s Picks for VegOut-friendly Restaurants in NYC
This first recommendation is no surprise. Chef Amanda Cohen is sure to say her restaurant is a “vegetable restaurant” — not vegetarian. There’s nowhere else nearly as creative and as dedicated to vegetables.
Big shout out to: Korean broccoli.
Chef Anita Lo holds the title of the only female chef in NYC with three stars from the NY Times. And though her menu runs the gamut from meat to veg to poultry and back again, you can really see her shine on her vegetarian dishes.
My fave: grilled hearts of palm with lilies, orange and Szechuan peppercorn sauce
Don’t let the name fool you! Though Chef Cesare Casella oversees this temple of aged meats, he has long been known for his Tuscan heirloom beans. A true support of Slow Food and he is also the culinary director of Center For Discovery, an organic farm in Sullivan County, NY doing cutting-edge work in the connection between autism and other mental and physical challenges and good nutrition.
Best vegetables: Leek Tart, marinated artichokes
This Flatiron neighborhood restaurant is the farm-to-table outpost of Chef Jean Georges. In his true style, the vegetables are given the same love and attention as the best meats.
Vegetables shine and in every dish are truly shown in the best possible way.
Big fave: Pizza with Brussels sprouts, garlic, jalapenos and lemon
Chef Bill Telepan is really one of the first of the dedicated farm-to-table chefs. His Upper West Side location is now a staple in New York.
Love: Celeriac mustard seed crusted flan with winter greens and white beans
The success of Chef Alex Stupak’s taco empire is not without reason. These are some of the best and most creative tacos available–without losing the integrity of the vegetable.
Addicted to: Brussels sprouts taco with almond mole and the guacamole with 9 salsas.
Astor Bake Shop
An amazing bakery with great vegetable dishes? Sounds too good to be true, I know. This one is worth the trip out to the Long Island City/Astoria section of Queens.
Fave: The quinoa salad is truly the best of its kind.