Fertile Foods and the Happy Places We Find Them

By on February 18, 2011

LeeMana'sChefOwnerFertile Heart™ Guide to Eating Well when Eating Out

“Mom? If you didn’t feed me this food when I was little I don’t think I’d love coming here as much as I do. You know, Mana is one of my happy places.”

My younger daughter, Adi, who is (would you believe it?) turning seventeen in April, is off from school and we are spending a day in the big city. As always, our first stop is lunch at Mana.

Mana, a vegetarian, vegan-style restaurant, on Amsterdam Avenue, between 91 and 92nd street, has been our happy place ever since I embarked on a search for the feisty follicle that became this brown eyed teenager sitting next to me. And when we lived in Manhattan, Mana was a home away from home for our family.

Lee, the lovely, seemingly ageless proprietess (her glowing skin and inside-out beauty is the best testimonial for the food she serves) greets us with a hug and a wide smile. Often, she treats the girls to a story from their childhood.

“Are you still as independent as you were when you were little? She asks Adi, then turns to me laughing: “I would try to help her put on her jellies, but she wouldn’t let me. She would sit there and keep trying over and over until she got it right.”

As always, Adi loves to start with miso soup and a side of brown rice, I treat myself to a thyroid-soothing bowl of piping hot seaweed soup, with shitake mushroom. I pretty much never eat fried foods, and samosa in Indian restaurants is almost always fried. So it’s a rare treat to be able to enjoy Lee’s comfort-giving plate of steamed sweet potato samosas.

We share an entrée of wild salmon teriyaki and split an adzuki almond mousse for dessert.

When we lived in the city, we used to love to come to Mana for a Sundays brunch and watch Lee make her signature oatmeal waffles, and whole grain fruit pancakes.

I get to do my share of mothering both at home and in my work. Finding places where I sit back and are served food made with organic and fertility friendly ingredients as pure as the ones I use at home, a place where I get to be greeted by name, and taken care of by a friendly wait-staff and a gracious hostess, are the best of gifts.

I thought it would be fun to hear about your happy restaurant places and your favorite meals in those eateries in your city, or anywhere else you’ve traveled and enjoyed a healthy meal. If you have a relationship with the proprietor, perhaps you could ask for permission to post one of their recipes. And be sure to post a link to the restaurant’s website.

Let’s do it! May the virtual fertility friendly restaurant tour begin!

P.S. If you’re not a “purist” when it comes to organic produce, you might find the Fertile Heart Guide on the Most Important Foods to Buy Organic, to be a useful resource.

18 Responses to “Fertile Foods and the Happy Places We Find Them”

  1. Alina says:

    I love all the contributions on the blog post. I look forward to trying out some new yummy places in NYC the next time I am there.

    A new mention in Los Angeles is Cafe Gratitude on Larchmont and Melrose. It is the sister cafe to the original one in San Francisco’s Mission.

    There are a lot of yummy bowls with combos of rice or quinoa & veggies, plus flat breads made from buckwheat. They have a raw food section and cooked section. Fresh Juices and Smoothies and everything is organic. It just opened 2 weeks ago and the place is packed!

    I don’t think I mentioned the Farmer’s Markets in Los Angeles. My favorites are the Hollywood, Silver Lake and Santa Monica markets. So many delicious & healthy prepared foods from local vendors.

  2. Anna from Wales says:

    Caroline mentioned the Treehouse in Aberystwyth in Wales, in 12 years living in vicinity I have yet to go! I’m going to correct that soon…

    Like Robyn I find eating out less of a pleasure than I used to unless the food in very good and well sourced indeed which is a challenge both out here in the Welsh sticks and in the cities I go to.

    Generally here the best food comes out of our kitchen, my husband is a top cook and keen to learn more and more about what nourishes us and what does not.

    Like Caroline we buy organic wholefoods in a group in bulk. We are not meat free but are diligent about the little meat we do eat. It must be grass fed organic as far as we’re concerned and so I buy it when I see it at Farmer’s markets on my travels and freeze it.

    We are blessed with amazing sourdough seeded rye bread once a week from a friend’s kitchen. The real bread campaign is taking off in the UK – at last we can reclaim the wonderful bread that even us Brits used to bake before we invented the dreadful unforgivable Chorley Wood process (20 minutes dough rise and that’s it! No wonder there are so many problems with wheat intolerance).

    These days I am much more trusting Julia’s advice about not following a ‘fertility diet’ and instead to do my own research and also feel and experiment my way to what’s right for me. In the last couple of months this has involved some re-experimenting with dairy and understanding that its low fat products, non organic and if at all possible pasturised I need to avoid. This can be almost impossible to achieve so I don’t eat much. Eating dairy is controversial as I have endometriosis and much of the advice is to avoid dairy. However my urge was so strong I have trusted it. I was reassured to see a fellow endo sufferer posting on the message boards a few years back did the same thing and she conceived. So for now I’m trusting this… To this end I’m going to a Wise Traditions Food Festival in London this weekend to continue my research (run by the London Chapter of the Weston Price Foundation).

    Lastly 2 London veggie cafe recommendations:

    Greens and Bean in Drummond St near Euston station in London. Only open during the day but the buffet vegetarian lunch is a total feast and a bargain. Not all organic but you’ll be hard pushed to find better if eating out.

    222 Veggie Vegan Restaurant @ 222 North End Road, West Kensington. Again this place does a great lunch buffet and is also open in the evening.

  3. Sharmini says:

    I tried Mana on Thursday night and it was delicious! It was yet another birthday dinner for me!
    More than anything the food felt really soothing and nourishing and it was good to receive. Thank you Julia!

  4. Robyn says:

    The nicest thing happened.

    As I wrote, not too many places in my town that I like to eat at very often. Before I changed my eating habits, we used to go to a cafe close to our house run by a really nice guy. We stopped going because they didn’t have anything on the menu I wanted to eat (mostly burgers, fries, pasta).

    The other day, hubby bumped into this guy, who asked why we don’t go there any more. When he found out we weren’t eating that kind of food anymore, he said, “Just tell me what you like, I’ll cook it for you!” He doesn’t want to do this for everyone, so I won’t post the cafe details here, but I thought it was just such a nice gift to receive — very much along the lines of the project to practice receiving that Julia started a few weeks back.


  5. Sharmini says:

    I have the website for the restaurants but it’s not letting me post them for some reason..

  6. Sharmini says:

    Thanks Julia and everyone for the great recommendations. I am looking forward to trying Mana soon! It sounds delicious and nourishing! I also enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. Caroline that’s great that you are able to buy from the farmers directly,
    Here are some of my favorite healthy restaurants in NYC:
    Union Square Area:
    1) City Bakery – delicious lunch buffet with a great variety of seasonal vegetables (usually from farmers market) and very tasty soups. (cons – it’s pricey and you need to be able to walk past the hot chocolate and cookies!)
    2) Telegraph – french bistro with tasty, vegan, glueten free soups as well as fresh salads and sandwhiches on whole grain breads
    3) GustOrganics – tasty vegan and glueten free options, lentil stew is my favorite here
    4) Eataly – The veggie bar at this new Mario B/Joe B eatery is very tasty.
    5) Souen – Macrobiotic organic food. The food is clean but I find a little lacking in flavor. Also mentioned above by Alina..
    Lower east side:
    5)Sigiri – cannot write a blog about my happy places without including the only Sri-Lankan restaurant in Manhattan. I visit it at least once a month, food tastes like it’s made in my mother’s kitchen!
    My favorite meal: pittu with coconut milk, and Daal (lentils) with the coconut sambal.
    Upper East Side:
    6) Candle Cafe – my favorite in this neighborhood. Food is very tasty, vegetarian and organic – how can you go wrong! If only I had one of these in my neighborhood! Only Con is that it’s very popular so you usually need to wait for a table..
    7) Hummus Kitchen – organic hummus is very tasty and so is quinoa salad here
    Upper West Side:
    8) Nannoosh – love the wraps and quinoa salad here as well

    9) Blue Hill at Stone Barns – the ultimate in a culinary experience! Food is organic and mostly grown or raised on the premises. The service is impeccable and the food is Amazing! If you decide to go get their early so you can enjoy the rolling hills and and look at the animals and vegetable gardens. Great for a special occasion. They also have a cafe that you can stop by and get lunch from but get their early! (Cons – pricey, difficult to get reservations for the dinning hall)
    10) Mrs Greens Market – good place to grab some lunch on the go. The quinoa burgers, the sunny harvest millet burgers and the macrobiotic brown rice, seaweed and adzuki bean burgers are my favorites with a side of kale or broccoli rab.

    So the two things I take from this is that I Love good food and I eat out too much!

  7. Fiona says:

    There is a place here in Seattle called Cafe Flora that offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on their menu. I’ve been there twice in the last month and it is superb! They use local, organic and sustainable foods there.
    There is another vegetarian restaurant here in Seattle that I would like to try called, Sutra Seattle. It says on their website that that they use sustainable foods and lighten their carbon footprint by creating a prix-fixe menu so there is little wasted food. Food that is left over, they compost and use in their own garden. The owner’s also own a yoga studio which I think is in the same building as the restaurant or right next door. I will have to check it out!
    Alina, I use to go to Angelica’s Kitchen in New York when I lived there and loved it. I miss eating there!

  8. Maryann says:

    In Fairfax, California, 45 minutes north of San Francisco is Lydia’s Kitchen Cafe.
    Has very yummy and so healthy foods. They have a huge menu, lots of wonderful raw salads, buckwheat (gluten free) crepes, quinoa vegan burgers, middle eastern plates, lots of different wraps, alkalizing green soup, etc.. They also make lots of healthy to-go snacks. Then there’s lots of raw chocolate treats to choose from.
    The prices are really reasonable, and they use local organic farm produce.
    They are very warm people working in there too.
    Fairfax is great town too, and lots of beautiful endless hiking, all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

  9. Sharm says:


  10. Hilary says:

    Thanks to all of you for sharing your restaurant stories. I grew up in the same neighborhood as Mana but this is the first I’ve heard of it. I am very excited to check it out.

    Right now I am living in Orange County in California. I moved from LA to here 3 years ago and from NY to LA ten years ago. Alina mentioned a vegan restaurant in LA called Real Food Daily and I second her recommendation. There was a special that I had there once that involved some mixed vegetables on brown rice and a peanut sauce that I still think about. I am sorry I can’t be more specific about what the other spices were in that dish, but it was delicious.

    I was very disappointed in the small number of non-chain restaurants when I moved to Orange County, but one thing that has been very nice is that as soon as I started doing the FH work, an organic supermarket opened up that is within walking distance of my house. If anyone’s been to these parts you know how rare it is to have ANYTHING within walking distance from your house except other houses.

    The place is called Mother’s Market and there’s a juice bar where I get my daily wheatgrass shots and a restaurant. My favorite dish is a mixed greens dish (I believe there is some steamed spinach and swiss chard in there)with tempeh and a ginger sauce over brown rice. I loooove this dish!

  11. Ronda says:

    I love stories about family tradition and that you still visit this lovely place with your daughter! how fun!! A full-circle moment!

    I enjoyed this blog and think one of the fastest ways I can practice self-care right now is through eating organic, whole foods.

    Which is why I spend much of my time (and cash :)) gratefully, so) at Whole Foods Market in Dallas. Not only are all their products healthy and organic, they also have a fabulous salad bar (that has everything under the sun), soups, a grains bar, and endless choices of cooked vegetables, fish, and other amazing creations. (I have never seen so many ways to prepare kale!)

    Spiral Diner is an all vegan place that my coworkers and I love to go to a few times a month. Kozy Kitchen is another Dallas favorite which provides many organic, dairy-free alternatives.

    One of my favorite things to cook at home is roasted vegetables. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onion, and sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil is always easy and such a treat!

  12. Caroline says:

    It sounds like a wonderful place, and a lovely lady too. I’m not much of a city person, but it has to be said that one of the advantages of big cities is the infinite choice of places to eat, with something for everyone, including folks like us who favour healthy, organic, vegan and so forth. I’m afraid there’s not much of that kind of thing where I am now, but back in the day when I was living on the west coast of Wales I used to love going to the Treehouse, a lovely little organic food shop and restaurant in Aberystwyth, which is still going strong almost 20 years later.
    Hopping across the pond, on a recent trip to San Francisco we treated ourselves to dinner at the Milennium restaurant on Geary St., vegetarian, also offers a raw menu. Loved it.
    One place I can recommend in Italy, but in a far-end-of-nowhere place in the mountains is Ristohsawa in Gianico, Valcamonica (BS). I have also heard of a couple of places in Milan that I’d like to go and check out when I get a chance – we’re close enough to be able to drive there for dinner – so I’ll keep you posted.
    We may lack healthy eateries in our area, but I never miss the chance to bang on about our ethical purchasing group, so here goes ;-) We are a large group of local families who share similar values as regards avoiding exploitation of people, land, resources, etc., so we get together to buy produce and other goods direct from the producers, as locally as possible, organic, fair trade, etc. (it’s kind of like veg boxes gone mad). We live in the greyest, most industrialised and polluted area of Italy, where most folks have completely lost touch with “where stuff comes from”, so it makes even more sense to make sure at least the food we eat is clean, fresh and nutritious, as well as avoiding being a passive partner in the horribly abusive profit logic of the large-scale retail system, and trying to support ethical and vulnerable producers and protect the environment. We order everything from fruit and veg to fish and meat, cereals, bread, and other stuff like clothes, paper, almost everything! And it’s all superfresh, properly organic (unlike much supermarket organic produce) often produced and/or picked especially for us. The group also bring me a lot of joy, and are gradually becoming like an extended family for me :-)

  13. Robin says:

    Thanks everyone for such wonderful ideas.

    I couldn’t find Vega or Wega restaurants. I don’t live in Boston.

    The closest to me offering a vegan menu (I’m not a vegan, but I figured that would have the most healthy food) was in Denver – a 30 minute drive.

    I found Z-pizza offering a vegan pizza with soy cheese. They had other regular kinds of pizza and salads, etc. on the menu. They did kindly guide me to a vegan listing of items they offered (quite lengthy) They did say their ingredients were organic.

    The vegan pizza was delicious – it had tomato, zucchini, soy mozzarella, mushrooms and crumbled veggie burgers. It is a chain restaurant started in California.

  14. Gal says:

    Here in Tucson I have liked “Blue Willow”
    who offer a large menu with a lot of healthful options and pretty good cooking.

    There is also a new restraunt right by my office “La Cocina” who offers really interesting combinations and flavors and are generally concious of using organic foods and local meats. I really like their food and it is set in a courtyard and is a very little hidden away relaxing place to slip away to.

    There are a couple other restaraunts I have meant to try here so this will get me off my duff to do it.


  15. Alina says:

    Thanks Julia for sharing your favorite NYC eatery with us. I want to visit Mana next time I’m in the city. I love fresh healthy food and am always on the look out for restaurants that strive to serve local, fresh, organic food. Usually I cook at home but when I’m out I frequent the following restaurants:

    When I’m visiting NYC (1-2 times per year), my favorite organic and healthy restaurants are Souen (Greenwich Village), Angelica’s Kitchen (East Village), Peace Cafe (UWS).

    In Los Angeles my favorite places to eat out are M Cafe on Melrose, Inaka on La Brea, Real Food Daily on La Cienega, Tender Greens on Sunset and Nature Mart (market) in Los Feliz.

    Usually, I select a marco-meal consisting of miso soup to start and a plate that includes a grain (brown rice, quinoa or millet are my favorites), legume (adzuki, kidney, pinto or balck bean), seaweed (hijiki or other), steamed vegetable (kabocha is my favorite) and tahini or miso sauce as a condiment.

    I also love soups so I’m always down for any vegetable/greens soup and especially love miso soup, kabocha squash puree, lentil or mung bean dahl, potato and kale soup.

    I’m sure I have missed some restaurants I’ve enjoyed but these are the ones that popped into my head right away.

    Ok, now I’m hungry so off to make some lunch!

  16. Suzanne Lang says:

    I am dying to try this place despite the fact that grains and legumes have proven to not be my best friends these days. but, I am on it. As a local place where you can stop in a pinch, I am all over Le Pain Quotidien with their spelt bread (recipe-spelt flour, water, salt) and all organic menu. Clean Food is a great resource for the new york area and mana is included. I also love Ici in Brookkyn. Amaazing!

  17. Robyn says:

    There are not too many places like this in my town. Mostly when I eat out, I just rely on the same one or two dishes at certain restaurants, and that’s mostly for lunch during the work week.

    One of the most interesting things on this journey to greater fertility is that since my husband and I started paying more attention to food, we don’t have much of a taste for most restaurant food anymore. It’s just seems too greasy, salty, overcooked, stodgey, or just plain gross now.

    Even though there are still days when we’re short on time or don’t really feel like it, what we cook at home is just so much nicer. (Not meaning to toot my own horn too much here — it’s just really getting rid of the junk in what we eat and focussing on good stuff that we really like that makes mealtimes so good.)

    Also, it seems that no one in this city has heard about “wheat-free” yet. I wonder what it would take to start spreading the idea on a commercial level.


  18. Robin says:

    I wish we had a restaurant like you are describing here is our town. It sounds absolutely heavenly.

    There was a restaurant in Olympia, Washington a long time ago called the Artichoke Mode. I adored it. Smoothies made to order, lots of delicious things on the menu -at least vegetarian, I’m not sure if they were vegan.

    There was a fabulous restaurant in Woodstock that I went to during your workshop. I can’t remember the name. How wonderful to think everything on the menu was healthy!

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