Maybe we should rename it the Big Green Apple. New York abounds with ever more eco-friendly options in its restaurants, spas and stores. Being “green” encompasses everything, from consuming organic foods and spirits to trying beauty treatments without chemicals to wearing clothing crafted locally from recycled fabric scraps. It proves New Yorkers can take care of the planet without sacrificing taste, style or luxury.
There are a dozen different ways to define healthy eating. Among the town’s myriad options, here’s a sampling of fresh and/or fascinating food purveyors, arranged on a continuum of approaches that runs from strictly raw to sustainably farmed.
The temperature of the fare never rises above 118°, but Pure Food and Wine (54 Irving Pl., 212.477.1010)—the first raw-food restaurant in New York—is hot, with plush red seats, candlelight and dishes that startle and satisfy. Raw advocates believe that food loses vital nutrients and enzymes when it’s heated above a certain point. At Pure Food, Executive Chef Nikki King Bennett both amplifies the essential elements of uncooked fruits, vegetables and grains and creates inventive combos: Basil/pistachio pesto and macadamia/pumpkin-seed ricotta stripe a zucchini/heirloom tomato lasagna, and hen-of-the-woods tacos al pastor swap a zesty jicama wrap for a tortilla.
In contrast, Candle Café West (2427 Broadway, 212.769.8900) contents itself with just celebrating a vegan bill of fare (one that completely eschews animal products, including milk and eggs). The new sister of the famed Candle Cafe, the first NYC eatery certified by the Green Restaurant Association, it does wonders with mock meats, like its charred, skewered seitan chimichurri or portobello steak in a black pepper/cabernet reduction. There’s also an elaborate bar serving sustainable beverages: wines from biodynamic vineyards (where plants, animals and soil are treated as a single, holistic system); spirits and beers made from organically grown grains; and nothing containing sulfites or artificial additives. So, forget the rum and Coca-Cola and try a Bodhi Tree, a scarlet-hued mix of Fair vodka, sake, poached pear/green tea, pomegranate and Veev acai liqueur. Those craving something more casual can have their cake and eat it too at Blossom Du Jour (259 W. 23rd St., 212.229.2595), a vegan fast-food eatery that seduces even the most omnivorous with its cholesterol- and trans-fats-free mini apple crumble pies and red velvet cupcakes.
Content to stay simply vegetarian? The fetish for fermented foods (which are rich in probiotics, the “good gut” bacteria that aid digestion) has propelled the pickle from side slice to star at seven-month-old The Pickle Shack (256 4th Ave., Gowanus, Brooklyn, 347.763.2127), in the newly hip nabe near the Gowanus Canal. The housemade, aged briny bounty adds zest to Chef Neal Harden’s vegetarian sandwiches—from kimchee in the smoked tofu bahn mi to Branston pickle paired with creamy Taleggio cheese. Also on the menu: a wide selection of bottled beers from Dogfish Head, a philanthropically oriented craft brewery.
If an overall organic approach is OK, head to the just-opened Blue Olive Market (210 E. 41st St., 212.922.0991), which offers all the makings for a heart-healthy, Mediterranean diet. Perfumed with aromas like lemon and thyme from its dizzying selection of olive oils, this rustic-chic food hall artfully arranges hot foods (including classics like spanakopita and moussaka), soups, charcuterie and meze stations. Kick back at the wine bar, which emphasizes Greek, Iberian Peninsula and other Med-region vinos, or grab to go an authentically dense Greek “fro yo,” made on the spot with a mist of liquid nitrogen—natural as the air we breathe.
Admittedly, there’s nothing natural about makeup or beautifying products. But if you want to indulge, there’s a wealth of services that eschew the artificial and are kind to the environment.
Popular for its colorful bath and body products—made by hand with a minimum of preservatives, and never tested on animals—British brand Lush just opened its first spa here (783 Lexington Ave., 212.207.8151). In a space kitted out like an English farmhouse, with mismatched teacups and wildflower sprays, multisensory treatments transport you to Dorset. Your aesthetician choreographs a facial massage to the rhythm of the surf on Chesil Beach, while you inhale the scent of seaweed/herbal masks and mixtures on your face and feel the sudden shock of smooth, cold stones tightening your pores. Bonus: You leave with a plastics-free goody bag of products. From England to Japan: Nipponese-inspired Shizuka New York (7 W. 51st St., 212.744.6400) offers a Sakura Pedicure, named for the cherry blossom-scented water in which your tired feet soak before they are treated to a trio of natural Japanese ingredients: a loofah plant/soy bean powder exfoliant, green tea antioxidant mask and rice bran massage oil. For those whose hair needs help, small, sunlit Swing Organic Salon (280 E. 10th St., 212.677.2008) is the go-to green salon. After owner/stylist Luis Alfonso became sick from constant exposure to peroxides and ammonia, he taught himself organic vegetable color systems, some of which use techniques dating from ancient Egyptian times. Natural, artisanal hair and beauty products are a booming cottage industry across the East River, where Brooklyn Grooming makes beard oils and pomades to tame the unruly facial hair for which the borough’s men are famed. Sold at Teich (22 Eighth Ave., 212.537.6630), a shop that champions local purveyors, BG’s products include organic vegetable butters, beeswax, herbs and essential oils, packed in vintage amber bottles or old-fashioned tins and named for local nabes: Williamsburg Beard Oil or Red Hook Hair Pomade. While he anoints his beard, she can bathe in Metropolis Soap Company’s aromatic lavender bath salts, another organic Brooklyn-made product, replete with actual dried lavender and rose petals; the line is at Life Thyme Market (410 Sixth Ave., 212.420.9099).
Eco-conscious consumption can cover several different criteria: buying goods made of organic textiles or reclaimed materials; produced by local artisans or fair-trade (adequately compensated) workers from abroad; manufactured using environmentally sound methods.
Hitting almost all those categories
is Sustainable NYC (139 Ave. A, 212.254.5400), a general store complete with a small café serving fair-trade coffee. Whether you want an H20-powered clock, leather-free footwear, or “upcycled” (used, mundane materials fashioned into something more precious) jewelry, you’ll find it here. Women’s boutique Kaight (382 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, 718.858.4737) specializes in clothing, bags and accessories by independent designers—from shimmery vintage polka-dot dresses to NYC jeweler Natalie Frigo’s contemporary pieces, made of organic woods, conflict-free gems and recast metal.
Babies’ skin is so sensitive it makes perfect sense to swathe it in super-soft 100 percent certified organic cotton and chemical-dye-free bodysuits or rompers by Kee-Ko Organics on offer at Sprout kids’ store (1375 Third Ave., 212.861.0670). And why not baby yourself with Happy Habitat’s soft recycled cotton eco-throws. New fabric scraps that would otherwise be tossed get a second life in these lively geometric-patterned blankets, available—along with various other handcrafted items—at the home store Haus Interior (250 Elizabeth St., 212.741.0455).
So, go on and indulge. After all, it’s only natural.