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Jan 28, 2006

the raw, not the cooked
by Myra Chanin
http://manhattanlivingmag.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=4694

The purest of Manhattan food purists are currently down onelaborately-prepared cooked foods. So what are they up on? Elaborately-prepared raw foods like the resplendent meals prepared by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis, co-owners and co-chefs of Pure Food and Wine near Gramercy Park and Union Square. According to Melngailis, eating raw foods makes people feel light, clean, lively, and sexy. And is as cute and trim as a teenager, though he admits to being in his early 40s. Could it be that raw broccoli is better than Botox?

Both he and Melngailis are French Culinary Institute grads and Kenney has impressively-varied culinary credentials. He's chefed at La Caravelle, has run the kitchens at Matthew?s, Monzu, and Commune, was one of Food and Wine?s 10 Best Chefs of 1994, and the author of 3 cookbooks.

Pure Food and Wine celebrates an organically-grown, plant-based, vegan lifestyle that shouts 'hurrah!' for fruits, vegetables and herbs but spits 'feh!' at eggs, dairy products, sugar, and grains. How raw is raw? Foodstuffs may not be heated above 118F, the temperature at which nutrients and beneficial enzymes that aid digestion take their leave of leaves.

Pure Food and Wine?s menu also proves that skilled chefs aided only by dehydrators, food processors, and imagination can produce memorable dishes. In the garden-fresh pineapple-cucumber gazpacho, the sweetness of the fruit juice is balanced by a zingy Tex-Mex blend of just-enough jalapeno, cilantro, green onions, and avocado-lime oil. In another crowd pleaser-the shiitake, avocado, and pickled ginger sushi rolls-rice is replaced by chopped jicama.

The favorite entr?e at Pure Food and Wine happens to be a variation on the first real raw food dish Kenney and Melngailis made: zucchini and golden tomato lasagna with basil-pistachio pesto, tomato sauce, and pignoli ricotta. This tower is layered with nut-and-herb pesto, sun-dried tomato sauce, and an amazing ricotta-like concoction that whips together pulverized pine nuts and nutritional yeast. In the splendid cauliflower samosas (traditional Indian turnovers), the dough is replaced by a dehydrated young coconut meat mix and the savory vegetable filling is enhanced by garam masala-flavored peas and macadamia nuts.

Kenney and Melngailis feature high-quality organic wines and champagnes from vineyards that are returning to sustainable practices. Some come from Old World vintners who plant seeds and harvest grapes according to lunar and solar cycles. They feel that these organically- and biodynamically-raised fruits result in wines that are better for the earth, as well as our bodies. Sake (not technically raw) roams rampant on the wine list and happens to go particularly well with the spicy, Asian-influenced, nut-flavored dishes.

(While you expect to read about a restaurant in the food pages of the Post, it?s always shocking when chefs make the Page Six headlines. Even though Kenney and Melngailis are divesting themselves of each other personally, the chefs who toil in the kitchen are too busy sending out beautifully-presented platters to have much time to concern themselves about what?s going on upstairs.)

Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Place btw. 17th & 18th Sts., 212-477-1010; www.purefoodandwine.com

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Posted: Jan 28, 2006 9:13am

 

 
 
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