Gluttony is something I'm good at. Steamer and I joke that we should ditch our current careers for one as professional diners, because we're so gosh darn talented at ordering the perfect combination of appetizers (plural), entrees (plural) and desserts (plural). So it was with more than a little apprehension that I headed out, Spanish wine in hand, to Cousin's Incredible Vitality
, a raw foods restaurant that seemed more skinny-yogi than boozing-Bacchus.
I was having dinner with my vegetarian friend DD, which made Cousin's the perfect choice. There aren't a ton of BYOB meat-free spots, and neither of us had forayed into raw cuisine. Still, I sort of knew what to expect: totally vegan dishes, with nothing cooked over 116 degrees (the temperature at which digestive enzymes die).
And after chef/owner Mehmet Ak lost 80 pounds on the diet (those enzymes must be powerful little buggers) he transformed his Turkish restaurant into a "live eatery." And, with thoughts of carrots and, well, carrots in mind, we made the short ride there and cautiously walked in. From that moment on, delight was practically shoveled on me.
We were instantly greeted by the restaurant's sole waiter (though Ak was on hand, visiting tables, all night) who asked if we were American, told us he was from Morocco and quickly had us swapping names (his was Nadir). He saw that we were toting a bottle of Finca Lasierpe Blanco de Viura, a bottle I had purchased for $8.49 from Provenance Food & Wine after reading about its crisp, grapefruit taste, and brought a wine key to the table. He didn't bring glasses until much later, but we found it somehow charming and naughty to sip from the table's cream teacups.
We started working our way through the tangy wine while running down the short menu: thin-crust mini flax pizzas, falafel and Mediterranean noodles, three dishes that seemed all but impossible to do without a hot oven, bubbling oil or boiling water. Though I was all ready to investigate, my gluttonous eyes only had to settle on the words "all you can eat" for four seconds before my mind was made up.
The "Livin' Salad Bar" seemed the best way to get the most bang for my buck and sample most of the goods, this, of course, assuming that I didn't blanch after the first bite. DD and I practically ran to the stack of plates and, like two girls instructed to pick out any Barbie we wanted, painstakingly examined and squealed over each dish. I filled every square inch of my plate with something that I had a general idea about: stuffed mushrooms and tomatoes (no clue on the stuffing, though), something with kale, something with seaweed, something that looked like pasta.
Nadir recommended that we season our meal with a side of tomato sauce and tahini, then top it all with all of the "healthy" olive oil we wanted.
I quickly tasted a heaping forkful of something green, and the taste was utterly foreign, to the point that it's hard to describe. Nadir didn't seem too able to describe it either (when I asked what the unbelievable tomatoes were stuffed with, he just repeated "stuffed tomatoes," though I have a suspicion chopped nuts were a big part of it).
Even things that seemed familiar had a taste all their own—the stuffed mushrooms weren't cooked and mushy, like I was used to, but they also didn't seem totally raw. The marinated kale salad, studded with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, wasn't huge and leafy, but seemed finely shredded, with a surprising density.
My pathetic attempts to describe any other dish (some sort of corn salad, a simple tomato and cucumber salad, a mass of seaweed) will, unfortunately, fall equally flat. What I can describe in minute detail, is how thoroughly I scraped my plate, how quickly DD and I loaded up on seconds and how ecstatic I was when the bill arrived.
My gluttonous trips around the bar set me back an unbelievable $12, and, though I had been told there was a corkage fee, I later noticed that none had been added (must have been our sneaky teacup drinking). With prices like that, my days of the Subway daily special for dinner are a thing of the past. After all, it might have worked for Jared, but I'm pretty sure those dead enzymes are the reason I can't get those last five pounds off my belly. Bring on the kale.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants. If you know of a BYOB spot she simply must tipple at, let her know.