The Culinary Collective, New York


I attended one of The Culinary Collective’s events in Brooklyn and was wowed by a fifteen course, gourmet feast prepared by the much-extoled Chefs Jay Astafa and Angela Lowe. The epic meals are hosted in a lavish Brooklyn brownstone and guests mingle, making new friends and watching in excitement as the food is prepped within eyesight by an impressive staff. The white asparagus panna cotta, mushroom tart, nettle gnudi and cheese plate were exquisite standouts. Astafa even performed his liquid-nitrogen caramel popcorn alchemy while guests gathered around him with oohs and ahs. Wine was poured, laughs were had, and overall these pop-up events are not something to miss. You can book your reservation here .

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RECIPE: Vegan Matzah Brei


If you celebrated Passover, you may have piles of matzah left over. Sure they’re great as giant crackers to eat with hummus, but something I grew up eating the morning after Passover was Matzah Brei. Traditionally, this Ashkenazi dish is made with matzah and fried eggs. It’s sort of like a savory french-toast but with matzah instead of bread. I veganized the recipe and am happy to share how easy it is to make!

What you’ll need (serves 4):
• 4-6 matzah crackers (there is now organic, whole wheat and spelt matzah available)
• 1 12oz. package of silken tofu• 1 Tbs of The Vegg
• 1 cup of water
• tofu scramble seasoning (make your own, or Fantastic has a pre-made seasoning packet)
• a large non-stick pan (or cooking oil to prevent sticking)
• vegan sour cream to taste
• horseradish to taste
• fresh dill

1. Beat together 1 Tbs of The Vegg and 1/2 cup water.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine the Vegg mixture, the tofu, the Scrambler packet and the remaining water until it becomes a smooth batter.3. Break the matzah into fourths.
4. Quickly run the matzah under cold water to begin tenderizing it and to help the batter stick.
5. Heat your nonstick or oiled pan to medium-high.
6. Pour the batter into a wide bowl for coating the matzah.
7. Dip the matzah in the batter, covering both sides, and place immediately into the hot pan.
8. Flip when medium to dark brown (around 1 minute on each side).
9. Serve hot with vegan sour cream, vegan cheese, fresh dill and horseradish.

Superbowl Sunday with David Carter

David Carter, the 300 pound NFL defensive lineman, shares his favorite Superbowl recipes on I’m craving those buffalo cauliflower wings!


Photos by JP Bevins

Chef Dan Strong is co-owner of one of New York City’s most sought-after food stands. I’ve waited on many a long line for Chickpea & Olive’s famed Phatty Beet Slider as earlier customers walk by groaning in pleasure. With his partner Danielle Ricciardi, the duo are one of the city’s power couples reshaping the gastronomic landscape.  In this third installment of LÄRABAR’s Healthy Hero series, we spend an afternoon with Chef Strong as he shares an amazing mazemen recipe and features a cherry pie LÄRABAR crusted Zabaglione. We get to hear what inspires this butcher-turned-vegan chef, what frustrates and calls to him, and we even get some insight into what he soon plans to ferment.


Joshua Katcher: I’ve eaten your food and it’s awesome. What is your creative process for developing new foods?
Chef Dan Strong:
Inspiration, procrastination, exasperation, coffee, serve the first draft, and keep adjusting until I have a recipe. Often Danielle and I will find a recipe for something we miss and then I will try to rebuild each piece. For thanksgiving I found a Bon Appetit recipe for cornbread stuffing with pears and banger sausage. So first step, find an authentic cornbread recipe and test it until I have a solid vegan version. Then I turn to the next piece. I imagine it’s like any of the creative processes that I can’t do: draw on inspiration, figure out how to make it authentic, and then adapt it to reflect a noble truth.


JK: Chickpea & Olive has a huge following. What is it like to maintain such a sought-after brand in New York City?
It’s an honor. I go into work everyday and feel obligated to make each dish better than it was the day before. I don’t know if I’m always successful, but I always try. Maybe it’s a little salt on the bread, or the three layers of sauce on our phatty melt, or a little extra sear on the burger. I like to think that those little details get translated to our customers. They might not be able to put their finger on what made their sandwich “so good”, but they have to go tell their friends about it.


JK: The mainstream culinary community seems to look down upon vegan cuisine, yet so many exciting things are happening with it. How do you account for this disconnect?
Change always starts when the artists pick it up. Next, Alinea, Picholine, Gramercy Tavern, Del Posto, Per Se…. Every one of them has a vegan tasting menu. Jean George Vongerichten is opening a plant based restaurant. I see that the food culture is moving in that direction, but I’m still frustrated every time someone looks at our menu and sneers. But hey, the way I see it, the 6th mass extinction is already underway. Why grumble?


JK: Tell us about the food you made today.
We have a buckwheat somen mazemen in miso-shiitake gravy, with pan roasted mushrooms, okra, bokchoy, snow peas, and grilled tempeh in a chili black bean marinade. For dessert we went Italian with a cashew zabaglione, and we used LÄRABAR for the crust.

Buckwheat Mazemen (family size)


• 8 quarts water
• 1 pound dry shiitake mushrooms or 2 pounds mushroom stems
• 1/2c Shiro miso

Tempeh marinade:
• 1/4c spicy black bean paste
• 1/4c stir fry sauce
• 2tbsp soy sauce
• 2tbsp peanut oil

2lb soba noodles

1/2lb each:
• Okra, trimmed and split in half
• bokchoy, cleaned and cut in cross-sections
• snow peas
• tempeh

1/4lb each:
• oyster mushrooms, rough chopped
• shiittake mushrooms, rough chopped

• 1 shallot, diced
• 6 cloves garlic, diced
• 1 inch ginger, diced








1. Bring water to a simmer, and add the miso and the mushroom stems. Toast half of the chopped garlic, shallots, and ginger in a pan with a little oil until caramelized and add to the pot of water. Simmer for 1 hour.

2. cut tempeh into 1 inch cubes and marinate over night, or at least for a few hours. assemble on a lined sheet tray and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.

3. pan roast the mushrooms with oil in batches until golden brown, seasoning each batch with salt. Toast the remaining garlic, ginger, and shallots until caramelized and toss all of the mushrooms back into the pan. Stir until the mushrooms and aromatics are fully incorporated.

4. remove the mushrooms stems from the broth with a spider or strainer and bring the broth to a boil. Blanch the snow peas, the bokchoy and the okra in the broth in batches, removing each ingredient after and running under cold water. This step is especially important for the okra.

5. cook the noodles in the broth for 5-6 minutes and remove a portion to each serving bowl. Return the vegetables to the broth, add the mushrooms and let the pot return to a simmer, then ladle the broth over the noodles. Garnish with the baked tempeh.



JK: You used LÄRABAR to make a really good dessert. What about LÄRABAR do you like? Do you have a favorite flavor?
 LÄRABARs are simple, delicious, and remind me of many of my favorite desserts. I ate the blueberry muffin today, it was excellent, but peanut butter cookie is my favorite.

Larabar-Crusted Cashew Zabaglione


• 1  cup water
• 1/2 cup cashews
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 tbsp marsala
• 1 cherry larabar

1. combine everything but the larabar in a high speed blender and puree until creamy. transfer the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil. set aside.

2. place the larabar in between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out with a rolling pin or a bottle of marsala wine until its about an 8th of an inch thick. line the inside of a ramekin with the larabar roll-up. press into the corners.

3. pour the cashew mixture into the ramekin and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours until the custard sets.

4. garnish with marsala wine reduction or sprinkle with caster sugar and brûlée with a torch.



JK: Where do you get most inspired when buying ingredients?
In my early days I used to wander the markets in Chinatown for inspiration. Nowadays I go mushroom foraging whenever I have a chance. When I don’t have time for all of that I go to union square farmers market. Lani’s farm has an amazing organic selection with all sorts of weird looking root vegetables, and sweet berry mountain farms has something in the order of 6 varieties of heirloom fingerling potatoes. The German butterballs are incredible.


JK: Have you discovered any new foods that you’re excited about using?
Not so much “using” as making. We have started along hummus recently, and that project has gotten me interested in other packaged products. I want to start fermenting pickles and cheeses, and I found a tofu misozuke recipe that I’m excited about. LÄRABAR was fun to use as well. The ingredients like date, cherry and almond, are fantastic for chefs because they’re simple and versatile. They’re great on their own, but in this case it was a convenient way to make a tasty, gluten-free crust.

JK: Aside from gastronomy, what else do you spend time doing?
Binging on NPR, yoga, fantasy novels, and therapy.


JK: What must we all try? (Food or not)
If I had my chance to be a dictator? Everyone would have mandatory therapy. I also think everyone should try a plant based diet. I’m vegan because as I see it veganism is a form of protest. The plant based diet that comes with that protest has made me healthier than I’ve ever been.

JK: What does the future hold for Chickpea & Olive?
Fast casual restaurants, tinned and potted products, packaged dips and spreads. And then I want to diverge and try to do a trattoria, a bistro, and a noodle shop. Danielle wants a juice bar and a raw shop. Maybe also a saprophytic mushroom farm! And a creamery! And a cheese cellar! But I digress.


Healthy Hero: Dominick Thompson

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photos by JP Bevins

Dominick Thompson is a real New Yorker. He works a demanding day job, started his own business on the side, and still finds the time to stay healthy and vegan while training hard for triathlons. LÄRABAR, famous for their simple, real ingredients that you can actually recognize, asked The Discerning Brute to spend a day with Dominick and get to know the insights, secrets and strengths of this healthy hero. We chased him around on foot, on wheels, under weights and in the kitchen and even caught him sharing his favorite Cashew Cookie bar with a squirrel friend.

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Joshua Katcher: People who live in NYC are notorious for having the busiest schedules. What does your typical day look like and how do you make time to work out and eat well?
Dominick Thompson: I work 10-12 hours a day Monday-Friday. That doesn’t include any special projects I’m managing that may involve late night hours or weekends as well. However, I do create time for training and even competing in races as they are important to me and my health. There is simply no excuses to not be healthy and train efficiently in this day and age. My typical work day includes me rolling out of bed to train from 5am to 7am. That gives me plenty time to shower and head into the office. I spend my lunch hours training as well whether its at the gym or going outside for a run through the busy streets of Manhattan. By the time I leave my office in the evenings, I have one thing on my mind, and that is to go hard in my third training session for the day which usually lasts 2 hours after work.

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JK: You’re in amazing shape. What’s your motivation for staying fit?
DT: The physical and mental feeling one experiences when they are at their peak level of fitness is something that is just as addicting as life itself, and life itself is truly my motivation.

JK: What’s your workout regimen like, and are you currently training for any competitions?
DT: I’m currently training to compete in my next Ironman, with hopes of qualifying for the Ironman Championship held in Hawaii. I currently log over 120 hours of training per month.

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JK: Who are some of your heroes? How have you inspired others to get healthy?
DT: With respect to physical health and athletic achievements, I didn’t have any real life heroes growing up. The only hero in my life in terms of athletic achievements was the person I used to stare at in the mirror everyday before and after football practice. To understand this, you would have to understand my past. To be brief, all I saw growing up were individuals just trying to survive the day to day struggles of life and poverty. The last thing on their minds was being healthy. Not having any male role models drove me to teach myself how to play football and to get involved in other team sports on my own. It also taught me how to think very critically and grow up fast. Without going too deep, let’s just say that I used the negative things and experiences I saw growing up as inspiration to do my best and to be the opposite of what I was used to, both on and off the field. Now in my adult life, I have inspired others by showing them they can thrive and still perform in athletics at a high level all on a vegan diet.

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Cashew Cookie

JK: Do you make time for fun?
DT: I do make time for fun, but I also consider competing in endurance sports such as triathlons and marathons as fun. I love them!

JK: Let’s talk food. What’s a great pre-workout meal, post workout meal, and snacks for in-between?
DT: I like things simple and healthy. I juice and consume a variety of berries for pre-workout fuel. If I’m out on a long bike ride, I re-hydrate with juiced watermelon and eat bars like LÄRABAR throughout my ride. The Cashew Cookie bar is one of my favorites. The best thing about LÄRABAR is that it’s only a few, simple ingredients like cashews and dates. Post meal is always bananas and juiced fruits.

JK: What are some common myths you dispel simply by being you?
DT: That you can’t be strong on a vegan diet. I’m actually stronger now that I am on a vegan diet than I was when I consumed animal products. In fact, my strength training has only improved.

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JK: What music gets you pumped? What ideas inspire you?
DT: It varies. Depending on the day or the mood. Sometimes I rock out to Tiesto and other times I crank up some Young Jeezy. I love all types of music. Kings of Leon is one of my favorite bands. As for what inspires me, people that work 9-5 jobs while competing as weekend warriors in marathons and other athletics inspire me! It is the very reason I formed IRON BRUKAL, which represents The Working Athlete.

JK: What’s something every guy should know?
DT: That compassion defines one’s intelligence with respect to all life itself.

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JK: What is something every guy can do right now to start getting healthier?
DT: Honestly, cutting out all meat from your diet is the first step in my opinion. Your children and grandchildren will thank you in the future when you are still living and able to play catch with them.

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