Book Review: The Candle Cafe Cookbook

Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist and last updated May 9, 2012.

I spent ten days in New York City last May (2011) on a research trip and had planned to stop by the Candle Cafe, one of New York’s most famous vegan restaurants. Founded in 1993 (with seed money from lottery winnings) the restaurant at 1307 Third Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side has been a hit with tourists and locals alike. There’s now a second Candle Cafe on Broadway (on the Upper West Side) and owners Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson also own Candle 79, an upscale, more elegant version of the Candle Cafe.

I was really looking forward to dining there. Alas, I never made it. I guess it’s something to look forward to on my next trip.

I bought The Candle Cafe Cookbook upon my return to Vienna instead, which contains more than 150 recipes from the restaurant’s menu. Some of them have become favourites, like the Bean Purée, the mango and plum tomato salsa, the nori dressing, or the tofu scramble. I also love the Mint Barley Pilaf. Next on my list: the Kalamata olive and sun-dried tomato tapenade.

As a fairly new vegan (since 2010), I find that I mostly crave vegan versions of favourite foods, which traditionally contain cream, eggs, yoghurt or milk: mayonnaise, creamy pasta sauces, ranch dressing, or cheesecake, for example. There are vegan versions for all those dishes, and The Candle Cafe Cookbook provides recipes for many of them.

My one complaint is that the recipes in the cookbook are all calculated for larger groups of people. That’s why I haven’t tried any of the recipes for the main courses, as they generally serve four to eight people. (Who cooks for eight people, except on special occasions?)

Instead, I tend to stick to appetizers, side dishes or sauces and condiments when I try out new recipes from the book. They can be more easily adapted for single people than the recipes for the main dishes.

Unfortunately, there’s no vegan cookbook from the Candle Cafe with recipes just for one. Still, there are many great recipes in this book, so I nevertheless recommend it, even if you’re just cooking for yourself and are not running a restaurant or feeding an army.

At the back of the book you’ll find cooking guides for beans, legumes, and grains, a resource guide for buying vegan cooking and baking ingredients, and – most importantly for Europeans – a conversion chart for imperial and metric measurements.


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