Bean there, done that

What I'm Thinking I wandered into my local Boston Market recently as the woman behind the counter was on the phone trying to contact the Nassau County Board of Health. It was after five and no one answered her call. She explained to me that there was a dead bird outside the place and even though this was three weeks after the Great Long Island Mosquito Scare of '99 she felt it was her duty to report it. She went on to tell me how much she hates the sight of dead animals on the side of the road on her way to work. "I feel bad for them," she said. "Once, I even nursed a bird back to health. I hate to see animals suffer." All the while behind her were something like 35 chickens with skewers up their rumps, slowly turning in the rotisserie. I couldn't help but point out, "This whole place is filled with dead birds!"

She just shrugged and said, "Oh, that's different."

For her, for most of us, when it comes to food we find it very easy to compartmentalize our feelings. We talk to our parakeets and then rip apart a barbecued chicken. In the U.S. we are spared the details. Our meat comes neatly shrink-wrapped; the butcher does his dirty deeds out back. In Europe, they hang the slaughtered animals upside down, split open and in your face.

I'll admit that it seems a bit unfair for a meat-eater to review a vegetarian restaurant. However, while I may not be able to rate all the dishes as well as a full-time vegetarian could, I can tell you whether something tastes good or not. And whether someone who is trying to eat healthier will like this place. After all, the owner of Beans & Greens claims right there on the take-out menu that most of its customers are not vegetarian.

Casing the Joint Beans & Greens opened earlier this year, a refuge for vegans. The artsy hotbed of suburban post-hippiedom here in the Village of Huntington is made to order for this place. More a health-food bar than a restaurant, you order from a blackboard of specials over the counter and check out the food right there in front of you. There are three high tables with stools and a long counter. Propaganda on the wall is highlighted by a poster quoting Albert Einstein: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

What We Ate There is a rotating menu of more than 60 choices of various salads, soups and entrees, of which two or three of each are available each day. Tofu Teriyaki ($4.99) is whole tofu slabs, or cutlets, as they call them, sautéed with ginger, garlic and teriyaki sauce. It doesn't come with any bread and isn't as tasty as similarly prepared bean curd I've had at several Japanese restaurants. Both veggie burgers ($4.99), the Millet Sunflower Burger and the Tofu Brown Rice Burger, come on multigrain bread with julienne carrots and bean sprouts. The tofu burger stays together a lot better than the millet burger, which tends to fall apart as you eat it. Both are satisfying. Different dressings, including tahini, are available. The grilled Portabella mushroom sandwich on Italian bread ($5.99) is one of the better ones I've had.

Organic coffee is served with your choice of soy or rice milk.

I wonder how many kids get talked into the Mini-Tofu Bake hero ($3.99) on the kids menu. The alternative is an organic PB&J sandwich ($3.99). Both come with a box drink and bag of chips.

Carnivore Alert Welcome to your nightmare. Those meat-eaters who get dragged in here by friends or relatives are going to have to be good sports. This is vegan cuisine at its most Spartan. If they're on the menu that day try the vegetable chili ($5.99) or red bean burrito ($3.99). They may not taste as authentic as what you'll find in a Mexican place, but the ingredients are certainly healthier. You probably won't be as happy as your healthier brethren with the tofu "meatballs" ($4.99).

Cavity Patrol All cakes, muffins and cookies are baked using only organic spelt flour. Everything is sweetened with apple juice, organic maple syrup or brown rice syrup. I had a carrot-raisin muffin ($2.25) that was almost sweet enough and an oatmeal-raisin cookie that was thick and chewy.

Damage That priceless feeling that you've done something good for your body will cost you around $10.

 
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