Since opening her vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy in NYC’s East Village in 2008, Amanda Cohen has broken all the rules associated with opening a vegetarian restaurant in NYC’s East Village. Faddish meat-proxy cooking (crispy seitan chicken; bulgur wheat prime rib) has been scrapped in favor of vegetable-centric concepts that showcase produce in its most decadent arena — so, there’s no shying away from butters and creams in dishes like the all-universe grits and corn cream with pickled shiitakes and a egg breaded in tempura. You must order this.
Also gone is the lengthy mission statement that’s a staple of meatless restaurants. Sure, Cohen doesn’t serve beef, pork, chicken or fish. But it’s more because vegetables suit her inventive cooking better than anything. Jalapeño hush puppies and Momofuku-ish steamed barbecue carrot buns are more interesting anyway.
To kick off our My Refrigerator series, Cohen let us hang out at the NYC apartment she share with her husband Grady to scan the inside of a small-ish, under-the-counter frige. “We lived in Hong Kong for a couple years and got really used to shopping daily, so we didn’t think we needed a really big fridge full of backup food,” says Cohen at 8:30 a.m.—an hour before she leaves for work. We found out about the chef’s love of condiments, English chocolate and Puerto Rican coquito.
- Greek yogurt
“I like thick-style Greek yogurt with some fruit in it. As of late, I’ve been buying a lot of Chobani. I feel like a spokesperson here! Breakfast is the one quiet meal I get to eat during the day. It’s also the only full meal.”
- Pickled squash blossoms
“This is for our zucchini dish at the restaurant. We don’t have enough room at the restaurant, so I keep it here to pickle.”
“At home it’s pretty simple—bananas, melon, grapes, apples.”
- Moro English chocolate bar
“My friend from Ireland sends this to me. [English chocolates] don’t have as much filler as American chocolate, which has a plastic-y residue. I’m from Canada, so I grew up on this stuff. These Moro bars have chocolate and this whole caramel thing happening and malt and these little crispies. Malt has such a great texture.”
- Puerto Rican coquito
“A birthday present for [my husband] Grady. It’s condensed milk and alcohol and really good. You can drink mass amounts of it, but it’s really potent, so you drink tiny sips of it.”
- Cold coffee
“I’m hot coffee, Grady is iced coffee. But we always have some cold coffee in here.”
- Korean candy
“One of Grady’s friends brought candy back from Korea. This candy is red pepper inside of chocolate.”
- Olive hot pickle sauce
“We’ve never used this. Kalustyan’s is right around the corner, so every once in a while we will go there and pick out something strange. We often get their dips and spreads too. It’s like our grocery store. But I can tell you, we’ve gotten the same things twice.”
- Char Siu sauce
“Grady will have this on Sunday nights. It goes great with vegetables too.”
- XO sauce
“We use this in a quick stir-fry with noodles.
- Rick’s Picks
“This was actually from an event—it came in one of those gift bags. It’s a really good pickle. We probably wouldn’t buy a jar this big.”
- Lifelight Smart Sausages
“This is not what we do at Dirt Candy, but I’ve never said anything bad about fake meats because, as you can see, we do eat them at home sometimes. This is good in pasta or on a sandwich.”
- Sponge Bob edamame
“We didn’t realize these were in individual ‘kids’ portions, which is like four per tiny package. It’s been in our freezer for two months.”
- Frozen chocolate chip cookie dough
“This is the basic Toll House recipe from the back of the bag. We had a party and these were leftover. Very Martha Stewart of me wouldn’t you say?”