With a bazillion great restaurants in New York from which to choose, Craft and Cafe Fiorello are two of my favorites. Both manage to give vegetables equal billing to meat, fish, poultry and pasta. The last time I visited Craft, even fruit had a starring role.
But at too many restaurants, fruits and vegetables are nearly reduced to garnishes. That’s a shame, given some research reported this week in the New York Times on the close connection between eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains and maintaining healthy weight.
There’s further scientific evidence that eating MORE of these foods — rather than eating less of something else — helps keep the weight off. And by the way, this is based on a study of 120,877 men and women who were followed for 12-20 years. It wasn’t a few lab rats.
“There are good foods and bad foods, and the advice should be to eat the good foods more and the bad foods less,” Dr. Frank B. Hu, one of the study’s authors, told Personal Health columnist Jane Brody. “The notion that it’s OK to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”
That endorses the program change Weight Watchers launched in November. For the first time, nearly all fruits were free, meaning they counted as zero in Weight Watchers system of assigning point values to various foods. When a member at my meeting asked if that wasn’t giving us a loaded gun, the meeting leader responded: “I’ve never heard of anybody getting fat from eating too many bananas.”
Craft is from chef-owner Tom Colicchio, who is also a judge on Bravo TV’s Top Chef television show. Craft won the industry’s Oscar — the James Beard Award — as best new restaurant nationwide in 2002.
Hardly any high-end restaurant offers the array of vegetables that craft does. There are 20 on the current menu, only four of which are starchy potatoes. And four of those 20 are exquisitely prepared mushrooms, including the heavenly hen of the woods that is seldom seen. On my last visit, the desert menu offered a mix-and-match that allowed a diner to pair a slice of pound cake with a choice of sorbet or ice cream and a wide variety of vegetables. It isn’t on the current dessert menu, but there is a summer fruit option featuring blueberries, apricots, peaches and bing cherries.
Cafe Fiorello is less well known, but it’s just blocks from our place on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and across from Lincoln Center. It has a menu with all the standard Italian items, but what draws me there is the antipasti bar. It has a prominent place in the front of the restaurant. It’s chest high and ringed with bar stools. The food is beautifully displayed on white platters of various sizes and heights. Before a show, I like to duck in and grab a stool for a light dinner.
The offerings change daily, but might include a lentil salad, fried or gratineed cauliflower, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, braised fennel, cipollini onions, fat grilled asparagus spears, a whole-wheat couscous salad, roasted beets and a caponata. Four about $20, you can choose four items and even have them brought to a table if your companion wants to order from the regular menu. The Restaurant Dieter Spouse can get his veal marsala, and I can get my vegetables.
We need more restaurants like these, because guess which common restaurant food contributed to weight gain? The ubiquitous French fry. Increased consumption of this food alone was linked to average weight gain of 3.4 pounds a year in each four-year period of the study.
Seen them on any restaurant menus lately?