I recently made my first ever visit to Isle Of Us which has been wowing folks on the Upper East Side for about a year now with high end, restaurant quality healthy dishes at a much better prices—and probably bigger portions. Founded by restaurateur Lisle Richards in collaboration with Chef Matt Aita (Food & Wine Chefs Club, Le Philosophe), the seasonal menu at IOU celebrates food that nourishes the body and how we consume it. At the recent holiday gifting press preview, I checked out the upcoming holiday gift boxes and Chef Matt demonstrated how they will be used this holiday season (the range of items cover from “munchies to mains”).
I want to say that you actually can make up custom boxes by selecting jars of unique spices, seasoning, nuts and trail mix off this shelf in the back room and have the front counter folks put together your own box to walk out the door with. There are some unexpected items on the shelves in the café area that I would want to sneak into my boxes for loved ones—like pickled veggies and fruits! The idea of being able to have pickled apricots really excites me because I love the combo of sweet and sour.
The premade gift boxes have themes like The Hot Box which gives you spicy snacks and the ultimate hot sauce for any dish called (simply enough) Hot Sauce For Everything and Going Green Salad Kit which gives you everything but the letter. In the salad kit, you get the basics for a truly unique salad including Simply Seeds Salad Topper, Herbal Infused Vinegar and Sage & Rosemary Infused Olive Oil.
These are a couple of the dishes that guests ate at the press event that you can order yourself at the front counter in the café to go or stay. One is the marinated kale salad made with three of my favorite products for you to put in your gift box: Simply Seed Salad Topper, Sage & Rosemary Infused Oil and herbal Infused Vinegar. The kale salad (which you can order in the café) had some of the juiciest cherry tomatoes that I have ever eaten along with large chunks of avocado. The other dish that I gravitated towards is the roasted chicken using the Chef’s All-Purpose Spice and Hot Sauce For Everything. I combined my salad and roasted chicken together both for an amazing, super filling late dinner.
Now despite having a bent towards savory, healthy food, Isle Of Us never forgets to have healthy versions of sweets for desserts and snacking. You can buy adorable Christmas and Hannukah Cookie Kits this holiday season and you get a ton of stuff to decorate with—three colors of icing in squeeze bottles and a few different types of jimmies and sprinkles seasoned with agave and honey rather than sugar. You can see some of the ones made by Chef Matt and his team shortly before I got to the press event.
For more info on how to order, go to isleof.us. I would say that all of the Rice Seasonings are especially great for those who like to cook quickly and simply (which is truly most New Yorkers). There are Jerusalem, Casablanca and Kimchi Rice Seasonings available that you just sprinkle onto your rice once it is drained and in the bowl. The flavors are natural yet powerful! I also recommend the Cherries & Chocolates Trail Mix because it is so addicting. It also makes a great host gift all year ‘round! If you go into the store, be sure to say hi to very hands-on owner “Lisle From Isle” because he is happy to help you pick the items that are right for your gift box as he helped develop them!