Happy belated birthday to me! My birthday was yesterday, and to celebrate, I decided last-minute to take the day off from work. That's because my wonderful husband Mark decided to take me to New York City for the day! We met up with two of our good friends and visited the Museum of Modern Art for a few hours. But before that, we went out to lunch. We went up to Candle Cafe. This place is the older, more casual sister of the famed Candle 79. The restaurant is relatively small and sparsely decorated, but the food more than made up for it. We started lunch off by sharing a bowl of chili and a green goddess. The chili was hearty and warming after being out the cold, and it was served with a generous hunk of tasty cornbread. A nice start to lunch indeed. The juice had apple, lemon, ginger and greens, and was good as well, although I would have liked it over ice. For lunch, we each ordered a sandwich. I got the BBQ tempeh and sweet potato sandwich. This sandwich was humongous. The sweet potato slices and flavorful tempeh strips were topped with steamed kale and caramelized onions, and the sandwich served on rustic bread with a tangy aioli on the side. And on top of that, a small salad with balsamic dressing was on the plate too. The sandwich was delicious and filling (obviously!), and had a really nice mix of flavors. I made it just about all the way through before I had to put down the last couple of bites. We skipped dessert because I was stuffed. I would absolutely come back here next time I end up in the area. The service was friendly, albeit a tad on the slow side, and the prices were typical (a little higher than a regular lunch place) for a vegan eatery. I highly recommend Candle Cafe for a healthy and satisfying lunch, and now I REALLY want to eat at Candle 79.
And that was only meal number one of the day. If you can believe it, by dinnertime, I was hungry again. My parents, my sister, my grandfather, my mother-in-law, Mark and I ate at Kaya's Kitchen in Belmar. This place has been around for a while, and is one of the few vegetarian/very vegan friendly eateries in my local area. I was a little nervous about taking the whole family there, but I am happy to report that everyone enjoyed their meals. Kaya's has an earthy vibe to it, and is very laid back and low key. This translates into service that is usually a little slow, but I have to say, last night the service was really good despite our large party. We started off with homemade chips, salsa and guacamole and tempeh hot wings for the table. The chips were freshly fried and the salsa was really delicious. The wings were SPICY, in a great way. They came with a tasty cucumber sauce that at least tried to cool them off a bit. For my meal, I ordered the jambalaya. Again, spicy spicy! This mixture of tempeh, tofu, carrots, peppers, and more was served in a spicy tomato base and over brown rice. I would not recommend this dish if you aren't pretty tolerate of spice, but if you are, go for it. The flavors were awesome and the heat was serious. I also helped myself to some samples of everyone's meals, which included Jamaican jerk tofu, potatoes and gravy, hummus, and seitan stroganoff. Every bite I had was good. To top off the meal, I enjoyed a home baked chocolate mint cupcake. Decadent! Kaya's Kitchen is always a hit, in my opinion, and the large menu has something for everyone.
As you can see, I ate like a queen on my birthday. On top of that, I received some really thoughtful gifts. My parents bought me a juicer! I am so excited. I'm sure there will be lots of pictures and juice recipes to come! My sister got me a book on all kinds of home preserving. A very cool topic that I have been meaning to get more into. Thank you so much to Mark and my family, you guys really made my day special!