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Two Dosas, Twice Daily 

Nimai's Bliss Kitchen in Newburgh

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New Windsor local Tara Federman, special educator and longtime aficionado of Indian cuisine, has made Bliss Kitchen a weekly destination. "The food here is so clean, so pure," she says. "You can tell that the chefs are spiritually connected to the food." Federman moonlights as a meditation instructor at the Ananda Ashram in Monroe and believes in the importance of mindfully prepared food.

Others, like Noah Banning, come to Bliss Kitchen for the health benefits. Banning was diagnosed with diabetes three-and-a-half years ago and, as a Newburgh resident, stopped by Nimai's on a whim last fall. The Raval brothers offered Noah an Ayurvedic consultation and suggested how he might use diet to help bolster his body through its instability. "I came back, and they made me feel comfortable. Next thing I know, I'm here every day because I live close." Banning was new to vegetarianism and surprised that he didn't need meat every day to feel healthy and satisfied. Still, that was nothing compared to the surprise he got at the doctors' office three months ago. "I don't know how it happened," he says, "but they tell me now that my numbers are no longer diabetic. They said I was good to go off the medicine."

Doctors Ashik, Manish, and Mehul Raval have been practicing pediatric and internal medicine in Newburgh for more than 17 years; their office at Orange Medical Care is right across the parking lot from the restaurant. It was this practice, in fact, that brought to their attention a regional demand for holistic health care. "With allopathic or modern medicine, we treat the symptoms and we treat the numbers, but we hardly ever treat the disease itself," explains Dr. Raval. In his view, Western medications form the front line of defense against disease, giving the body the advantage it needs to begin repairing the damage. The next step, especially in chronic cases, is to support this effort through diet. A diabetes sufferer, for example, might learn to cook with fenugreek (menthi) seeds and leaves for their effectiveness in lowering blood sugar levels. Someone who regularly experiences mental fogginess could turn to ginger instead of caffeine. Dr. Raval hopes that Nimai's Bliss Kitchen will make these foods and attendant philosophy more available to the general public.

Despite the challenges of an ever-changing menu and fledgling wait staff, the restaurant seems to be finding its niche. Since its soft opening last fall, the restaurant has generated considerable buzz and cultivated more than a few devotees. Dr. Raval estimates that 15 of Nimai's patrons come to eat on a daily basis. Pleased though they are with this response, the brothers realize that eating out every day isn't practical for most people. So, in October, they began offering Ayurvedic cooking classes on Friday nights. "Our goal is that somehow people should learn this so they can cook it at home." For just $15, participants receive an hour of cooking instruction, a full dinner, and the chance to taste the food they have just learned to prepare. Those interested in purchasing the raw ingredients for that dish can find them in Nimai's market, which is set off from the restaurant and well stocked in spices, dried goods, and Indian apparel. The cooking classes get between six and 10 participants each week, and attendance is growing.

The Raval brothers' next project will be to convert the building adjacent to their medical practice into a wellness center where people of all ages and backgrounds can attend yoga classes, receive Ayurveda consultations, and learn how to make healthy food taste good.

Nimai's Bliss Kitchen is located at 94 South Robinson Avenue in Newburgh. Winter hours run Monday to Saturday 12 to 9pm and Sunday 12 to 7pm. The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($9.99) is served Monday to Saturday 12 to 3pm. (845) 245-6048; Blisskitchennewburgh.com.

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