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Hearth

PHOTOS: Noah Devereaux

Here's how you know we've reached peak health food: Trader Joe's has a two-bag-per-customer limit on frozen cauliflower. That's right. People are so scared to eat a carbohydrate that they have resorted to fighting in grocery store aisles over who is going to take home the last bag of sadness.

Clearly, the health trend has also taken hold in restaurants. And we're all for it. Eating responsibly is important. Sugar is bad. Gluten is the enemy. Cayenne pepper will make you skinny and turmeric will make you live forever. We're down with all the fads. But we're drawing the line at f*cking cauliflower rice. Can we really carry on like this?

Luckily, there are a few restaurant examples of the health food trend done right, without having to resort to serving people bags of sadness. But we're betting you didn't expect us to tell you that Hearth is one of them.

Between the years of 2003-2014, Hearth was known as an excellent rustic Italian restaurant in the East Village that was perfect for that night when your parents came to see your new apartment on 8th Street and you wanted to distract them from the fact that you're spending $1600 a month to sleep standing up. It was a nice place, best saved for a special night out. It also wasn't cheap, and the food was quite heavy. Nonetheless, we loved it.

Then, right around the time when everyone else in this town woke up and realized that eating ramen and pork buns three nights a week was probably a bad plan, chef/owner Marco Canora started tinkering with serving bone broth out of a tiny kitchen window next to Hearth. Apparently broth is good for you, and apparently people are willing to spend money drinking coffee cups full of it.

That, and other factors, led to a full revamp of the Hearth menu - and kitchen for that matter. No more processed oils, no more industrial flours, and fewer manufactured sugars are used to make the food, and the focus has shifted to more fresh vegetables, responsibly raised animals, and even house-milled flour to make the pastas. It's a pretty major transformation that owes itself more to a change in belief system than it does an effort to keep up with a trend - and it's one that has made the restaurant better.

In reality though, Hearth hasn't changed all that much. It's still an excellent place for dinner with a slightly higher price tag than most neighborhood restaurants, making it an unlikely candidate for those nights you're coming home from work and just looking to eat something healthy. But at least you'll know that the food you're spending your money on is better for you than what you eat on almost any other night. And you won't have to fight anyone to get it.

Food Rundown

Fava Bean Salad

Salad, crostini, whatever you want to call this pile of fresh goodness, go right on ahead. It's a great way to kick off your meal. Mixed in with the beans is some pecorino and spring onion.

Spring Greens Salad

Another plate of vegetation for your consideration. This one has some almonds on top to keep things crunchy. You'll appreciate it.

Beef & Ricotta Meatballs

This bowl of food used to clock in at almost $30 on the old menu, but has now been brought down to a somewhat more reasonable $22 per order. That still works out to over $7 per meatball and that's just bad economics. Spend your money on other things. Like pasta.

Gemelli

A fantastic pasta with snow and snap peas and a little bit of pesto. This we could eat every night.

Whole Grain Rigatoni

Whole wheat noodles have always tasted more like the pasta box than the pasta to me. But apparently when you mill your own flour, that isn't the case. This rigatoni is delicious - a bit heavier and slightly nutty, but otherwise just pasta.

Variety Burger

Yes, that's what Hearth calls a burger. There is no bun, and the meat is a grind made up of brisket, chuck, heart, and liver. The organs are full of nutrients, which is why they are there, and you won't notice all that much. What you will notice is a rich flavor and some excellent potatoes on the plate, and you should order it. A burger is a burger.

Whole Roasted Black Bass

This is a beast of a fish that will feed a bunch of people. It's a great "main event" for your meal, especially if there are more than two of you and you share some of the things you see above to start.

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