Eco-morphing: Café sprouts at Veggie spot

For a place often considered one of the mellowest-­ not to mention healthiest– in town, the Integral Yoga complex at Preston Plaza is undergoing a swift transformation.

Just a month or so ago, the eight-year-old Veggie Heaven café metamorphosed into a fine dining establishment of sorts. But that didn't last long– only 150 meals were served.

The creative management duo of Aimee Valentine and Nickolas Knightly have breathed fresh life into the karma- and coffee-rich corner space, now dubbed IY Café and Bookshop.

By closing off the former entrance with a circular bookshelf, painting the walls mustard and cayenne, introducing a new sound system, and stocking the surrounding shelves with used and new books (everything from poetry to cooking), ceramic tea sets, Chinese Go boards, paper lanterns, and statues of Buddha and Ganesh, they have created an environment of vibrant serenity that's perfect for practicing-­ to steal the title from a book that caught my eye there– The Art of Just Sitting.

"We love the idea of being surrounded by books," says Knightly, who's been the book-buyer for the adjoining shop for several years, "and this place exists to promote the idea that you can live a healthy life with a vegetarian lifestyle."

If you're going to be sitting, you might as well be sipping, too. Which is why, in addition to the already familiar juices and smoothies, IY now features an enhanced, all-organic coffee, tea, and yerba maté menu.

For the uninitiated, maté (pronounced "mahtay") is an ancient tea-like herbal beverage brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of the Ilex paraguaransis (Yerba Mate) bush and consumed mainly in Argentina, Uraguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil.

Hundreds of years ago, the Guarani Indians recognized the virtues of now revolutionary maté as a fatigue-fighter and thirst-quencher. Basically, it's a natural stimulant with supposed health benefits (stress relief, longevity, immune system strengthening, weight loss), and it can be served hot or iced like tea and as a substitute for coffee (java maté) in a latte or cappuccino.

The IY Café will also feature white and green Chinese and Japanese teas, matcha (Japanese ceremonial ground tea), and organic Dagoba hot chocolate. "Did you know," Knightly asks, "hot chocolate has more antioxidants than green tea or red wine?"

Say no more. You can enhance your IY Café experience by browsing the magazine rack and book selections, checking your e-mail at the free Internet station, or listening to new music at the Sounds True Listening Station. Let's hope this latest IY incarnation sticks around for a while.



 It took Dish a few months to find "Biscotti Goddess" Kathy Kildea at Soup to Nuts, her kitchen and custom catering operation located in the largely industrial East Market Square complex, just off of Market Street between 11th and 12th Streets. Not a location Dish often finds herself in, but that might change now that I've located Kathy.

Many of you may know her from the City Market, where this native New Yorker began selling her buttery biscotti, sausage rolls and other baked goods. Kildea started Soup to Nuts four years ago in its current location-­ which explains why it's so invisible.

A "personal chef without the expense," Soup to Nuts specializes in to-go frozen entrees like chicken pot pie, Moroccan chicken, Jambalaya, pot roast, and lasagna, most of which serve 2-3 people for around $10. Last summer, in response to requests by Market Square workers (who've been intoxicated for years by the aromas wafting from her kitchen), Kildea started selling to-go, ready-to-eat breakfast and lunch goodies (pastries, gourmet sandwiches) from her kitchen Tuesday-Fridays from 8am-2pm.

Don't wait as long as Dish did to discover this hidden-­ and time-saving-­ gem.

Nickolas Knightly
at the IY Café and Bookshop.