Whether you reside in New York (like I do), frequent it every chance you can, or still haven’t visited, few folks aren’t hip to the fact that the Big Apple is big on gastronomic satisfaction. Beyond being everyone’s favorite way to ward off doctors (get it?), the City That Never Sleeps is packed with foodstuffs to satisfy any and all culinary inclinations. From Momofuku to The Modern*, Del Posto to Dell’Anima*, this place is chock full of ways to tease your tongue and widen your waist. However, less recognized than, say, NYC’s fame-claimers like pizza** and bagels are the no less satiating vegan eateries.
Plant-based places abound and can be found in any neighborhood. From Candle 79 on the Upper East to Blossom in the West Village; from Peacefood Café on the Upper West to The Butcher’s Daughter on the Lower East, there’s exclusively cruelty-free fare to be sampled at virtually every subway stop. Despite seemingly limitless options, my latest favorite train destination takes me straight to TriBeCa. The southbound blue line transports me from my Chelsea apartment to Suite ThreeOhSix, the newest kind dining find on the island. And it’s nuanced, too!
Begun by 24-year-old Chef Daphne Cheng, this recently launched supperclub and academy is tucked away on Franklin Street, hidden in the middle of the block and bearing little indication that it’s there. (Perhaps that’s in part why Underground Eats took such a shining.)
This private loft—which for Saturday dinners seats 16—offers an alternative to your typical compassionate cuisine. Not to knock the meatless meals I’ve elsewhere had the pleasure of consuming, but S3O6 changes the game. And here’s why.
In addition to its under-the-radar space, Suite ThreeOhSix offers a surprising menu every time. Guests won’t know until they arrive what they’re poised to enjoy. They know in advance for how many courses they’re signed up (and the accompanying cost), but what comprises said courses remains a mystery. Ticketholders take a risk, but can rest assured they won’t discover any animal products. What’s more, they’re equally unlikely to uncover tofu and mock meats in Cheng’s dishes. She prefers instead to work with whole rather than processed foods to create her healthy-meets-haute masterpieces.
And masterpieces they are. Accuse me of hyperbole, but no one’s stopping you from seeing—and tasting—for yourself! Cheng’s inventive imagination makes for an impressive spread, unique ideas visualized in real life. And, with this willingness to push the edible envelope, she makes comrades out of otherwise seemingly disparate ingredients, inviting the uninitiated to try foreign combinations of flavors that I’ve never known to disappoint. (And I crash her weekly dinners fairly regularly.)
So, let’s see. So far we’ve got…spankin’ new spot (which, by the way, is très chic). Check. 100% vegan vittles. Check. Intimate atmosphere, lending S3O6 an exclusive (yet still very inviting) air. Check. A focus on fresh, seasonal, organic (and local when possible) ingredients and few if any denatured ingredients. Check. And a visionary chef—with solid credentials, given she not only graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute, but also started her own catering company at 21—in the kitchen. Check.
So, what else? Well, Cheng never serves the same menu more than once, so it’s always a transient experience not to be repeated. This also means that, if you’ve got the, ahem, means you can reserve a seat Saturday after Saturday and never get bored. And, of course, akin to the food constantly changing, so too do your tablemates. Though this communal scenario may not be to everyone’s taste (believe me, I am ordinarily reluctant to share a meal with 15 perfect strangers), it’s perpetually proven a pleasant experience. Who knows, the guy or gal next to you could be your future spouse…or boss…or plant-based bingeing buddy.
Speaking of forming relationships, the elegant setting—defined by high ceilings, classic columns and full view of a bustling kitchen—is an ideal date location. Unlike every other restaurant in NYC, S3O6 is nearly guaranteed to be a first for that special someone.
So, why wait? Secure a reservation today. Bonus? Once Cheng opens her own restaurant—an endeavor currently in the works***—you can brag to your foodie friends that you knew her and her food when…
* Both of these restaurants have catered to my vegan needs and the latter even boasts a vegan bartender. Heck, maybe the two of you can toast to non-vegan spots granting plant-based wishes.
** For vegan pizza in NYC, run-don’t-walk to Palà or Eat Drink Wild. Two Boots also makes magic happen when you’re craving crust without the pus. J Heading to Long Island? Stop by 3 Brothers Pizza Café in Farmingdale, which boasts an extensive vegan menu—thanks to Jay Astafa—including, no doubt, slices and pies.
*** Interested in learning more about backing this vegan venture? Email email@example.com and tell ’em Nell sent you.
Photographs compliments of the chef.
“The most important place you could be on the planet tonight is right here,” spoke broadcast journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, passionately addressing an audience in Amagansett, New York two Saturdays ago on June 22. Over 100 guests gathered at the Hamptons home of John Bradham, a Manhattan-based attorney who opened his doors to nonprofit animal rights organization Mercy For Animals. The occasion? MFA’s Free To Be event honoring Velez-Mitchell for her vocal role in not only promoting a plant-based diet, but also exposing the realities of factory farming, among other commonplace atrocities perpetrated against our fellow earthlings.
For those who don’t know, Velez-Mitchell hosts a show on HLN, formerly CNN Headline News, evenings at 7 PM EST. While she can’t tackle vegan eating and animal injustices on a nightly basis, she does discuss said or similar topics every Friday. For four minutes each week, this brave anchor delivers what she dubs “an animal segment,” sharing with viewers across the nation what is all too often overlooked by mainstream media outlets.
“I’m very blessed to have a platform to do these stories,” Velez-Mitchell told me during our interview. She lamented, “I really wish more journalists would do them.”
While fellow animal advocates share this sentiment, the purpose of the sunset soirée was to fête a special woman committed to raising awareness, not to waste time worrying about the people—particularly the powers-that-be—turning a blind eye. And so we celebrated Velez-Mitchell, who as an outspoken ARA features on her program myriad individuals operating within this space. From representatives at MFA, PETA, HSUS and Farm Sanctuary to TV personality Steve-O and green athletes Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier, Velez-Mitchell welcomes all kinds of movers and shakers to share their respective perspectives. Of them she says, “Everybody brings another piece to the puzzle.” From breaking investigations to the latest in healthful living, Velez-Mitchell stops at nothing when it comes to communicating conscious consumerism to those tuning in.
After receiving the Compassionate Leadership Award—presented to her by former NBA champion John “Spider” Salley—Velez-Mitchell wasted no time in highlighting the real heroes: MFA and, specifically, undercover investigators.
“Make no mistake about it,” she started. “They put their lives on the line. Risk their lives to go undercover with a hidden camera…to videotape….They have to have the self control to do it not only once, but day in and day out, months on end, to establish a track record…conquering that fear and conquering the depression of recording something they wish they could stop but they can’t, so they can show the world what is really going on.”
While Carlson and I didn’t have an opportunity to talk, Salley—there with his teenage daughter and making everyone he encountered laugh hysterically—was chatty. Earlier, on Bradham’s idyllic back deck, the part owner of The Vegan Vine wine revealed his reasons for eschewing all animal products. “I had to get my sexy back. I was losing my sexy,” he said in all seriousness, pointing to a weight gain, a cholesterol spike and high blood pressure problems as motivations. “I just decided that I needed to start taking better care of myself.”
Though the basketball legend adopted a vegan diet six years ago for what he termed “selfish reasons,” Salley revealed to me more than meets the eye: “When I became aware that every vegan saves 7,500 land animals, I was eating healthy, getting my sexy back and saving lives.” With conviction he encouraged, “There’s no other way to go.”
Velez-Mitchell said something similar when we sat down together, too. Of becoming vegan—which she’d done nearly twenty years before, after meeting rancher-turned-activist and author Howard Lyman—she enthused, “There’s no downside!”
The passed hors d’oeuvres and decadent desserts only served to reinforce this fact. Wait staff—sporting tees that cleverly read “carni-bored”—carried trays of savory apps like vegan versions of sliders, crab cakes and chicken satay skewers (thanks to Gardein) as well as crostini topped with nut cheese (thanks to Treeline). Following the speeches and moving video clips highlighting the work of both Velez-Mitchell and MFA (and an appeal to emotion fundraising portion that, between this and a sister event in LA on June 8 honoring writer/director/producer Sam Simon, helped garner over $450,000 for MFA), attendees tended to their sweet teeth, so-to-speak. Across from a table showcasing donated silent auction items, Vegan Treats impressed with a spread that looked like a Willy Wonka dream realized in edible 3D. Donuts, cakes, cookies, cannolis, pies and tarts won over the crowd up until the intimate gala wound down, around 10.
Among those who made the trek from NYC to the beach benefit were Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture, David Benzaquen of Plant Based Solutions, deejay Stretch Armstrong, artist Erhan Mues, chef Daphne Cheng of Suite ThreeOhSix, Compassion Couture’s Spiritus sisters and plus-size model Emily Nolan.
And it’s no wonder so many selfless folks showed up to support the org; as MFA founder and executive director Nathan Runkle reminded everyone, “Our task is nothing less than changing the world. The moral compass of our time—the moral judgment—is how we treat animals.” Cruelty-free food and loot aside, it truly is all about our furry, four-legged, fishy and feathered friends.
As for the movement on the whole, Velez-Mitchell is confident the present trend is poised to snowball until we reach a tipping point; “It’s gonna happen,” she assured me. “It’s just a matter of when.”
Photos provided by Derek Goodwin Photography
Two seemingly incongruous worlds collided this past Saturday night in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. At SIR Stage37, steps from the Westside Highway, fashion fans and animal lovers alike gathered to toast both.
A runway show, cocktail party and auction, the swank Fashion Loves Animals soirée at once honored designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart and her cruelty-free company Vaute Couture, as well as fundraised for Farm Sanctuary, one of the nation’s foremost animal protection organizations.
“Farm Sanctuary has always been my most favorite place on earth,” Leanne beamed to a captive audience following the main event. “Honestly, it’s amazing.”
Hilgart in February wowed a considerable crowd and attracted mainstream media attention when her brand became the first all-vegan fashion label to show in the history of New York Fashion Week. Her presentation—which, in addition to showcasing autumn/winter ready-to-wear, also featured adoptable dogs alongside models—secured coverage in and on outlets like US News & World Report and CNN, the latter dubbing Hilgart “the rebel of Fashion Week.” Which is, in case it isn’t apparent, a compliment. No fur, no leather, no wool, no down, no silk—nothing derived from an animal. Just innovative and attractive alternatives.
“Events like this are very inspiring. It’s a way to recognize entrepreneurs who are making a difference, by producing products—in this case fashion products—that do not cause animals to suffer. We need more of that. We need more young people to get involved in creating positive change. Leanne’s done an amazing job with Vaute Couture.”
As with her first iteration three months ago, Hilgart enlisted Joshua Katcher of Brave GentleMan and Monisha Raja of Love Is Mighty to complete her ensembles with cruelty-free footwear. Katcher’s collaboration with Novacas has in the past year yielded the most attractive men’s shoes on the market. And Raja didn’t disappoint with her eye-catching heels, each woven out of otherwise landfill-bound biscuit wrappers.
Whimsy could also be seen in Hilgart’s youthful line. Comprised of myriad sweet pieces and her classic coats, perhaps most coveted were her patterned dresses with skin-baring star and heart cutouts at the upper back.
“I just love hearts and stars,” Leanne gushed. “To have a playful element to things, that’s really important to me. I think people take fashion too seriously.”
Keeping with the evening’s theme of fun, food vied with fashion (and adorable dogs) for the limelight. Twenty-year-old chef Jay Astafa volunteered his services, churning out savory hors d’oeuvres, while pasty chef Fran Costigan pleased palates with decadent desserts.
“I really wanted to get involved with Farm Sanctuary,” said Astafa, who—beyond passing apps like cashew chévre crostini with ramps and mac ‘n’ cheese bites (both of which were ridiculously delicious)—also donated a four-course gourmet meal for ten.
Of his generous gift, which commanded a $1,000 bid-donation, Astafa shrugged, “Cooking for ten people is easy, and I wanted to do something nice for animals.”
Astafa wasn’t alone in this. Also up for auction were Love Is Mighty flats, The Body Shop bath and beauty loot and a Brave GentleMan custom tailored blazer, among other things.
Partygoers were equally smitten over the Matt & Nat handbags, briefcases and backpacks that male and female models carried down the catwalk. The mother of an intern even later tried to buy one off of Hilgart. “I’m like, I’m sorry, I have no control over that,” Hilgart laughed while recalling the incident. “People love the Matt & Nat bags.”
What’s more, unlike a lot of animal advocacy happenings, albeit comparably lovely, Fashion Loves Animals drew fashion industry insiders. So, when Baur addressed guests, many were hearing his wise words and viewing his compelling slides for the first time, which is critical.
“Every day we make choices,” he began. “It’s about living in a way that’s more humane, more kind. These animals [at Farm Sanctuary] get to be who they are. They get to express, which is part of fashion, too. Animals on factory farms in cages can’t.”
Hilgart put it quite nicely when she explained to me her aesthetic motivation.
“I’ve always loved Sailor Moon in terms of design. [But, she also has] this amazing story. [She’s] a normal earth girl [who] tries to save a cat. The cat turns out to be a magical cat [that] gives [Sailor Moon] superpowers!”
Hilgart at last brought the creative concept full circle, “I feel like, that’s what life is. If you help others, you find your superpowers. And that’s true for everyone.”
Photos courtesy of Max Gordon.