Restaurant Review: Garden Cafe

I recently had the pleasure of eating at this fabulous vegan restaurant with three of my favorite friends. The atmosphere is charming and simple with just the right touches of homespun decoration. We began with such drinks as “Vivacious Violet,” fruit smoothie made with vanilla soy milk, chocolate soy ice cream, wild blueberries and bananas, as well as exotic beverages like natural rootbeer and gingerale.

The soup was a creamy tomato vegetable, exquisitely blended and delicious. Homemade bread was served consisting of fresh cornbread and foccacia with a divine spread of a sweet potato puree. The dish of baked olives (black and green) was unique and the arugula salad was spectacular with white tuscan beans in a roasted garlic dressing that tasted as if it were freshly picked from the backyard.

My dish was a seitan stew flawlessly prepared and served with sauteed cabbage and Irish soda bread. One of my friends was delighted as well with her baked tofu entree with caramelized onions served with horseradish mustard that was perfectly prepared and presented with real style. We would have liked to have tried more dishes like Afghani Lentil and Vegetable Roll-up with Cilantro Soy Yogurt Glaze or the Southwest Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burger but couldn’t even finish what we had ordered. I truly believe that the test of a superb restaurant are the sauces and combinations that they put together and each taste was a hit!

None of us was even tempted to order dessert because we were so full and satisfied. So the organic, seasonal pies with the non-dairy whipped cream, sweetened with unrefined sugar or maple syrup and the fruit crisps would have to wait for a return visit.

The dishes were all quite creative, all vegan and are voluminous in their serving portions. The prices are beyond reasonable. A huge sandwich is only about $7 to $9 and the daily main dish specials are about $10 each and I dare you to finish it! They even take reservations, which are recommended, especially for the weekends because it is a small but cozy institute.

Service was very good with a friendly staff. Parking is available on the green or in a lot across the street. Woodstock, New York, an artistic and music haven known as mecca since the ’60s for the free thinker, intelligent radical, spiritually adventurous and ecologically aware individual, had been lacking a true vegan restaurant for years. Those that have appeared have faded into the mist after a few seasons, just like in the musical Brigadoon. Well, if my intuition and taste buds can be trusted, this one is here to stay. I have to urge you to try their magical menu in this most enchanted village. Bon appetito!

CAROLE BARAL has been certified Integral Yoga instructor for more than 25 years and a long-time NAVS board member. She lives part of the year in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Garden Cafe Recipes:

Sour Tofu Soup

Serves 4 to 6
  • 6 fresh or 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cups onion, diced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups Chinese cabbage or bok choy, slivered thin
  • 6 cups stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or
  • 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 tablespoons Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup snow peas cut in half on the diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup Mori-Nu silken tofu, extra firm, cubed small
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

If you are using dried shiitakes, place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Soak until softened, about 20 minutes, then slice. Brush soup pot with the oils and warm. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Toss onions with the garlic, turn on low and continue cooking for 5 minutes, until onions are slightly browned. Mix in the cabbage and mushrooms and cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the stock or water, ginger, tamari and salt to the pot, bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add snowpeas and cook 1 minute or until bright. Pour in vinegar and maple syrup and sprinkle in the cayenne. Stir in tofu and simmer 3 minutes. Mix together the water and arrowroot flour until a thin paste forms. Pour into the soup and mix until slightly thickened. Garnish with cilantro.

Winter Wild Rice and Vegetable Stew

Serves 6 to 8
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 cups small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 large sweet potato or yam cut into chunks
  • 4 cups carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups parsnips, cut into chunks
  • 1 small rutabaga, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups wild rice, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water or stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 chopped fresh sage leaves or
  • 1 tablespoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm oil in a heavy soup pot and add onions. Saute for 3 minutes, then add garlic. Cook another 2 minutes, toss in the celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and rutabagas. Stir to combine well, turn to low heat and cover with a lid. After 5 minutes, sprinkle in the salt, cover and cook another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a separate pot, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil with the salt. Add the wild rice, bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer covered for about 40 minutes. Be sure to check frequently and stir. When the rice is done (It will be a little al dente) strain through a strainer and fluff. Add rice to the stew pot, then stir in the water, bay leaves, sage and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cook covered for 10 minutes.

Dilute the arrowroot in the water to make a thin paste. Mix into the stew and stir until thickened and clear. Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and freshly ground pepper and garnish with the parsley. Serve with the following salad and a bread of your choice.

Marinated Kale Salad

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or other natural sweetener
  • 1 small red onion sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/4 toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1 sweet apple, chopped

Wash kale, remove stems and slice in thin strips. Whisk together the lemon juice, salt and canola oil then add the maple syrup. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss with the dressing.


Polenta Tart With Carmelized Mushroom Sauce

  • 3 cups water or stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon basil, dried
  • 1 teaspoon Earth Balance margarine
  • 1 cup corn grits
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Bring water or stock to a boil. Pour in the olive oil, basil and Earth Balance. Whisk in the corn grits in a steady stream. Continue whisking until well combined and thickened, about 1 or 2 minutes. Turn down to a low simmer, cover and stir frequently. Cook for 20 minutes or until cornmeal pulls away from the sides of the pot.

  • Spray of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons tamari

Oil the bottom and sides of an eight-inch tart pan, cake pan, spring form pan or pie plate or any small baking dish Pour cornmeal mixture into pan and smooth top till even. Brush with olive oil and tamari. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until slightly brown. Set aside.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded and diced or one 14.5 oz canned chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or a few sprigs fresh
  • 10 leaves basil, fresh chopped or
  • 1 teaspoon dried
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Brush bottom of saute pan with oil. Add onions and garlic and cook for a minute, just until softened. Toss in mushrooms and saute until tender on medium heat. Sprinkle with salt. The mushrooms will give off water but for best flavor, saute until the water has cooked away and the mushrooms are brown and caramelized. Add tomatoes and cook until tender if raw, or until warmed if canned. Sprinkle with the oregano and basil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the polenta and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes. Cut in 8 to 10 wedges and serve with sauteed greens (below).

Sauteed Greens

Serves 4
  • 1 bunch kale or collards, Swiss chard or any other greens (not salad greens)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Bring water and salt to a rapid boil. Wash and chop greens into bite size pieces and add to rapidly boiling water. Cook until bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. This will vary according to the type of greens. To be sure that they are done enough for you, taste a little piece Drain well and toss with the seeds.

Toasted Sesame Seeds:

2 cups sesame seeds
(I prefer the whole brown sesame seeds, which are superior in taste and nutrition)

Note: I always make a lot of toasted sesame seeds at one time because they are so delicious added to vegetables and grains. Use 2 tablespoons if you only want to make enough for this dish. Warm an unoiled skillet and add the seeds. Stir constantly until they start to pop, become brown and toasted and are easily crushed between two fingers. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool, then pulse in the food processor or blender until about half of them are crushed. Be careful not to over blend or process because you don’t want a powder or a paste. Toasting releases their flavor, makes them more digestible and intensifies the taste. Store in a covered container in a cool dark place.


Green Beans In Spicy Miso Sauce

Serves 4
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 cups green beans, washed w/ends trimmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon barley miso
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3 teaspoons arrowroot flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil with the salt. Add greens beans and cook until bright green, about 3 minutes. Drain through a colander and set aside.
Brush bottom of saute pan with sesame oil and toss in onions. Saute for 1 minute then add garlic. Cook until onions are softened then stir in the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes.

Blend the jalapeno and miso in a food processor or blender. Add the maple syrup, arrowroot flour and the water and blend until well combined. Add the green beans to the saute pan and cook for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Add the liquid ingredients and stir constantly until thickened, about 1 minute. Pour into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

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