Dirt Candy Wine Zoo

This is Amanda Cohen, chef owner of one of the most unseemly vegetarian restaurants I've ever been to: Dirt Candy.  Vegetarian restaurants, in my humble experience, typically do not have the pulse to make a buzz ring from ear to ear in Manhattan's highly competitive restaurant scene.  Dirt Candy News came to me in a song and dance praise from many different cohorts, "crazy vegetarian food," "always busy," "different from the rest," "we have to go together."   

Who calls their wine program the wine zoo (on her blog) and the wine safari (at the table), was the first thing I thought?  Someone who offers as eclectic range of wines, available also by the half glass, as Riesling from Slovenia, Goldmuskateller from Trentino Alto-Adige, a Chardonnay from Jura, and a white blend from Italy called Bianco without even explaining anything other than "a true discovery!  It has the musky smell of apple and grapes, but it lashes your tongue with pine needles."  This is Amanda Cohen's world and I love her force.  She is the creator.  At Dirt Candy the wine's origin or grape varietal does not take lead.  What's important is that it "tastes different;" that it "sparks;" independent thought must be provoked.  Amanda is the captain of a new adventure and she wants all senses alert. 

Dirt Candy uses Open Table, but they also use this seating chart (left), wines by the glass service (right)

Dirt Candy, located on East 9th street between 1st Ave and Avenue A, is as small as a tiny Manhattan one bedroom.  Their short, focused, international wine list boasting four whites, four reds, one sparkling, one beer and one dessert wine reflect the compactness of their whole program -- and I almost forgot their non-alcoholic wine, "it sells like hot-cakes."  Amanda took me on a brief tour of her storage space.

She unfolded the knee she held under her arm and fixed her long black ponytail.  I knew I was going to have to move off the couch I was sitting on.  She kneeled to the ground and pulled open a few drawers full of wine.  Then she stepped a few feet towards the entrance and opened another secret hiding spot underneath the stereo "this is where we keep extra bottles during service," so the customers don't have to get up.

Re Manfredi Bianco, Basilicata, Italy: 70% Muller Thurgau 30% Traminer (100% unusual), Portobello mushroom mousse with pear and fennel compote
"They're all exotic animals," Amanda said.  Why didn't I think of that, I thought.  I love the wine safari.  I wanted to try everything and by ordering half glasses one can pretty much do that indeed.  My imagination carried on through dinner . . . the riesling would be a giraffe, the acidity would be it's long neck; the Jura Chardonnay, gold in color, yeasty, a bit oxidized and unknown would be a French chamois; the Tannat from Argentina, a firm, deep, tannic wine, would be a grizzly bear; and the Austrian Zweigelt, svelte, light, austere, with red pepper and layered red fruit, would be a jackal.  I could go on.  
Ice Cream Nanalmo Bar: sweet pea, mint, chocolate 

Amanda Cohen and Kristen Revier.  Kristen has been working with me over at Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar (36 East 4th St between Bowery and Lafayette).  She was the opening server of Dirt Candy and for the last year I've heard tales and stories of her experiences as Dirt Candy's recipe tester for their upcoming cookbook.

Kristen is now interning with Amanda in her kitchen, while still slinging Italian wines with me part time at Aroma.

In her other free time she organizes and is the chef for her Tall Table Supper Club -- where she serves some of Amanda's Dirt Candy creations and other inspirations.

The Wine Safari is a great epithet for an international wine program limited by size and created by Amanda's passion to share with New Yorkers "sparkling wines they can't pronounce" (love that), and introducing them to the other side of ordering just what you know.  We know you've had a long NY day.  You're tired.  You love your routine.  You love your chardonnay, pinot grigio and cabernet -- perhaps you've even mastered a little accent when you order them.  Amanda Cohen asks you to take a chance and try something different.
Dirt Candy Interior

Dirt Candy:  "Made a little more than water and sunlight, vegetables are candy from the dirt.  We want you to relax, have fun and be surprised at how good they can be."

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