187 Ninth Avenue, New York NY 10011 (at 21th Street; map); 212-873-0200; blossomnyc.com
Kids' Amenities: High chairs
Best Dishes for Kids: Parsnip Cappelletti, Braised Tofu, Rigattoni in Porcini Cream
Cost: Appetizers $7-12, Entrees $18-22, Sides $6
If vegan food were always this good, I would happily give up my pancetta. Blossom, with two venues in the city (Chelsea and Upper West Side), plus a takeout place and a chocolate bar, serves flavorful organic, vegan dishes that will impress animal-free food lovers as well as steak-eaters.
My daughter and I met a friend of mine and her toddler daughter for dinner at the Chelsea restaurant on an early weekday evening. We were all previously acquainted with the uptown cafe location and expected to feast on Soy Bacon Burger and Zucchini Pappardelle, both popular uptown but unfortunately not in the Chelsea restaurant menu. Still, the two restaurants share the same ethical principles of animal caring and innovative approach to vegan cuisine and healthy eating—and in both locations their fare is exciting and appealing to adults and children alike, vegetarians/vegans or not.
We started with a Black-Eyed Pea Cake ($10), which is a Yukon Gold potato and black-eyed pea cake, breaded, fried, and served with a chipotle aioli. Surprisingly, the dish was not a hit with the girls, and in retrospect, I should have asked for the aioli on the side. Both mamas loved it, though; the soft inside of the cake, the crunchy outside, and the spicy mayo all combined to make it a substantial appetizer.
My daughter enjoyed some of the Parsnip Cappelletti ($10)—which looked more like ravioloni to me—probably because of the sweet tasting parsnip and her predilection for pasta; to the adults, the dish was enhanced by sauteed mushrooms.
My friend's daughter, a committed carnivore, was still not convinced by any of this, so we ordered a side of soy sauce Braised Tofu ($6), and the two pieces disappeared rapidly between the two girls. I can't even say what it tasted like because I didn't have the chance to taste it, but the two girls were very happy with the dish, so much so that it actually opened up their appetites for the next dish.
One of my favorite dishes at Blossom is the Rigatoni in Porcini Cream ($19), and I was happy to find it at the Chelsea restaurant. The amazing feature of this pasta is that although it doesn't contain any animal products, it tastes like a creamy, pork-enhanced dish, without the heaviness or guilt that might be associated with it. Its goodness is derived from shallots, leeks, and broccoli rabe, as well as a touch of pistachio and truffle oil (is truffle oil is a vegan's bacon?). Both girls loved it, and it was hard to share the dish between the four of us.
The last dish we tasted was perhaps the only one that didn't thrill anyone. First of all, the "Feijoadinha" with Smoked Tempeh ($19) is a take on a Brazilian dish (Feijoada) that is based on unsightly pork bits. It's a multi-part dish (served with rice, collard greens, farofa, orange segments and more pork—just check out Kenji's article on it) that you prepare over many hours and enjoy over equally many hours.
I think the Feijoadinha at Blossom could hardly be called a feijoada at all; the only ingredient they have in common is black beans. The Blossom dish was more of a chili, with the proper chili spices balanced by the sweetness of chayotes and sweet potatoes. It was a bit spicy for the girls, and a bit disappointing, if mostly in name and expectations, to the mothers. To be fair, I ate the leftovers the next day, cold, in front of the fridge, and it tasted great to me. Just not like a feijoada!
When time came for dessert, the somewhat meager dessert menu could not compete with Billy's on a spring evening across the street, and so we gladly moved on to cupcakes and key lime pie.
Blossom is great for kids because with vegetables tasting this good, it's hard to refuse. It might also be the place to convince your child that vegetables are actually delicious. It is also a wonderful reminder that vegan fare doesn't have to be boring, and might be the place to indulge your vegan and vegetarian friends without feeling forlorn about the lack of animal products in your food.
About the author: Aya Tanaka teaches French literature and critical thinking in and around New York, and takes every opportunity to introduce her daughter to new tastes, at home and in restaurants. She chronicles her outings on high chair ny when time permits.