Chow with Candle 7910.02.10
If you’re ever in New York City looking for a unique, mouth-watering elegant restaurant in Manhattan, Cotton Candy has just the place for you. Candle 79, an upscale vegan restaurant on the Upper East Side, is one of the most distinctive options in the City. Cotton Candy got a chance to sit down with Candle 79’s manager, Francesca MacAaron, at the restaurant’s posh, trendy sake bar. And although we didn’t need much convincing, MacAaron shared several compelling, decadent reasons that you might to go vegan when hitting a night on the town.
Francesca MacAaron: “Vegan is a way of eating or a lifestyle for some people who use no animal products whatsoever in their food or their clothing. Some people eat a vegan diet but actually still use leather, silk and wool. A true vegan uses no animal products at all if they can help it, and that means the food is made from vegetables, grains and fruits with no eggs, no dairy, no meat, fish or chicken or even honey for a true vegan.
But most of our guests are not vegetarian. They’re just people who love good food, and the ‘organic’ word of course is very important these days. There was such a demand for this kind of food. And we felt instinctively that [New York City] needed a destination that was elegant, upscale and delicious that was still vegan but didn’t preach to people. It was just about the good food and the wonderful warm spirit. So we created Candle 79 to be an oasis for people who could come for not only just a simple lunch or dinner but also for special occasions. Anyone feels comfortable here.
I think our food is really outstanding. Our chef, Angel Ramos, has this incredible, intuitive way of cooking that beautifully blends textures, flavors and nationalities. He’s originally from Mexico but grew up within the Candle 79 family, learning how to cook from wonderful chefs but also just bringing some of his own, unique warming spices from Mexico and his own unique take on foods.
Our favorite entrée, at least our signature entrée, is the seitan piccata. It’s very tender filets of seitan, panned, seared and cooked in a beautiful white wine, lemon-caper sauce. It’s like a classic chicken or veal picatta, but we are using protein instead of veal or chicken. The seitan is wonderful because it’s high in protein and very simple in terms of ingredients. It gives your body great protein just like meat without the guilt.
And people are feeling like they want to do something for the environment. They want to do something for their future and their children’s future. [Oftentimes] they’re not sure how to go about the big picture. But starting with something as simple as daily diet brings people into [Candle 79]. They feel as if they can take control of their diet, come somewhere and actually enjoy the food. They really experience that change in their lives.
They can come here and find something very unique in terms of vegan cuisine. Or they can come and find something familiar and comforting, like a pasta dish or ravioli or something with texture of meat so they don’t fell so intimidated by the transition. The food is just wonderful and delicious. It’s healthy. We do our best to make the entire experience organic and green. There’s really sort of the feeling of love about it.”
As told to Natasha D. Smith