Do you have any restaurant recommendations in the area for a healthy but festive meal to celebrate an upcoming birthday?
Do I ever! I'm assuming the area to which you're referring is my area, Boston? I've logged the most culinary miles here and would recommend the following eateries for healthy and festive cuisine. (But, if you're ever in NYC, you must try Dirt Candy; wouldn't you agree, Dish Gal?).
Grezzo: This exclusively vegan, raw, upscale restaurant in Boston's North End serves uber flavorful, intricate, and healthy dishes (never cooked above 112 degrees), which means your organically-inclined pals will be in their glory; however, a menu filled with conventional items in quotation marks, signaling raw reinterpretations of "pepperoni" pizza and "lasagna," might elicit a few eye-rolls from your carnivorous co-ed brother who really just wants some pepperoni pizza or lasagna (hold the quotation marks, please). The dining room is also small, so this spot is best suited for an intimate group of selective eaters who will surely oooo and aaahhh over the artful preparation of food that's filled with life force.
Tangierino: This Charlestown gem just might be my standout dining experience of 2009. A Moroccan restaurant with a robust menu, Bedouin tent vibe; strolling belly dancers on the weekends; and an unforgettable 7 vegetable couscous dish, this exotic eatery scores high on the celebration scale. It's perfect for toasting a birthday or other special occasion, particularly if you call in advance and book one of the canopied seating areas.
Myers + Chang: If you roll with foodies, hipsters, South End denizens, indie types, or all of the above, Myers + Chang is your hot spot of choice. It's low on pretense and high on fabulous fun, not to mention wake-up-your-taste-buds flavor. I had a soup there more than a year ago that I still have dreams about. No really, I DREAM about it. It's worth noting that Myers + Chang is not inherently healthy, but you can make healthy choices there (including vegetarian and nut-free if needed). The menu's small-plate approach also keeps portion sizes in check, provided you don't over-order.
Oleana: Two yoga teachers went out to dinner this summer . . . One yoga teacher was celebrating a milestone birthday (that's me). The other yoga teacher knew just where to go. The vegetarian tasting menu for two at Oleana in Cambridge, on the patio, was the recipe for my perfect birthday celebration. Please feel free to replicate-- except the patio, of course. Far too chilly for that. Otherwise, go ahead; steal my birthday dinner; I won't tell!
East Coast Grill: For pescetarian pals, East Coast Grill is a hip choice with plenty of healthy options and a cool, low-key vibe. Just be sure not to show up unawares on Hell Night, a spicy food throwdown that attracts droves of chilly Bostonians who eat blazing hot chilies et al to heat up on a cold winter's night.
Kashmir: Among the most vegetarian-friendly cuisines is Indian food, and Kashmir, located on Newbury Street, is the real deal, along with its sister restaurants throughout the city, including Diva in Somerville's Davis Square. Save room for dessert though; the mango ice cream is divine.
Kaze Shabu: Chinatown offers several of my favorite healthy cuisines, such as sushi, Thai, and many more. If your friends are the casual, DIY types, invite them to simmer their own soups at a shabu-style restaurant. Kaze is my personal favorite, complete with tabletop induction burners so that you can mix your own veggies, protein, noodles, and spices in the broth of your choice. It adds a fun, interactive energy to the meal . . . or maybe that's the sake?
Photos above: (clockwise from top left) "Salmon" at Grezzo, Me at Dirt Candy in NYC, an artful salad at Dirt Candy featuring crystallized grapefruit "pops," raw brownie sundae at Grezzo.