Thursday: Zen Palate Fail (aka the “Vanessa’s Dumpling House Comes Through … Again” Post)

photoI am easily excited about the prospect of a great food deal, like the e-mail I received from SeamlessWeb advertising “Delivery Week” (which actually runs through October 31st). Um, 3-course lunch specials of $12.09, in my shit Midtown West neighborhood? Yeah, what’cha got?

Well, the best offer (at least the day after the Bill’s burger gorging) was: Mmm… Zen Palate. So veggie, and so good-ish for you.

Well, it was the best offer …

until I discovered that my sweet photo-1potato fries didn’t even have a hint of warmth (they were hard), and that was after I found a bug in my already disappointing, stalk-filled watercress salad, which was all before I bit into one of the worst veggie patties I’ve ever had — a sad, flavorless, tan-colored thing smashed between a stale bun and a slice of tomato that had been pushed on so long that it’d made a damp imprint on patty.

photo-2I don’t waste food. I did on Thursday. … Good thing I had to run to LES and I had the chance to pop into one of my Eldridge Street favorites, Vanessa’s Dumpling House, for a sesame pancake sandwich and a side of soup. Fixes everything.

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Friday: Nom Nom Saigon Soba Noodles (and Good For You, Too)

Cheap? Check. Good for you? Check. Delicious? Check, check, check.

photo-6Not much more a girl could ask for from a container of premade Saigon-style buckwheat soba noodles, which happen to qualify as both macro and vegan, and a serving of which includes 4g fiber, 11g protein and healthy dose of Vitamin A, C, Calcium and Iron. (Mom would approve.)

Plus, they taste really good; far exceeding the expectation for such “health” food. Since moving to New York and discovering the line of Macro Vegetarian prepared foods first in Gourmet Garage, and then in natural food stores around the city, I’ve sampled a number of noodle, rice, tofu and dumpling varieties.

photo-7I continue to be impressed. The Saigon soba noodles ($4.59/14 oz.), for example, have a nice sesame flavor, plus garlic and other, more subtle spices. Plus, the noodles have a nice portion of mix-ins: carrot bits, fresh herbs, smoked tofu.

I prefer to doctor mine up even further with some baby spinach (love, love, love the price point and the geographical localness to Satur Farms‘ line of greens — all grown on Long Island) and chopped red onion, and sometimes a little extra sesame oil or red pepper flakes. So good, and good for you. Good squared.

Dinner: Who’s Afraid of Hearty, Bitter Greens?

I had no real agenda for dinner; I figured that since I’d be stopping in four different markets for research for an upcoming article on sorbet, I’d let some market discovery inspire me. And that’s exactly what happened: 

photo-6photo-7                                                  In Gourmet Garage, I discovered a very interesting new line of fresh, prepackaged leafy greens, by a company called Satur Farms. They’re based out of North Fork, Long Island, so it’s all locally-grown, minimally-transported and has the potential, at least, to be vibrant and fresh. It’s also cheaper. Where 6 oz. size plastic containers of Earthbound Organic lettuces go for $4.99, Satur Farms’ lettuce mixes were priced around $3.50. 

Gourmet Garage was sold out of all but Satur Farms’ “stir fry greens,” which is hands down, the most ambitious prepackaged lettuce mix I’ve ever encountered. This is not a mix for beginners. Even I couldn’t visually identify every single leafy green included (although I got most): “May contain Swiss chard, ripini mustards, kohlrabi, chicory, kale, beet tops, amaranth, bok choy, spinach.” 

photo-5Hot damn. That is some mix. So much potential, which I look forward to exploring, but for tonight I decided to keep it fairly simple by sauteing the thickest-stalked greens with a bit of onion and celery in some sesame oil, and mixing in half a container (7 oz.) of these prepackaged Macro-Vegetarian udon noodles, which have a nice, light, pusedo-Asian flavor, and finishing off the whole thing with a healthy squeeze of lime juice and shake of red pepper flakes. I’ll tell you what: It worked!