#avaeats Kinda Tries Vegan

I hung out with my friend Nathalie from Doose NYC over the weekend. She joined me and my mom at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk again to walk in honor of my dad, followed by a brunch I wasn’t pleased with so I won’t mention. We talk nonstop whenever we’re together, and she ended up telling me about the vegan shop up Market Hotel in Bushwick. She was already going so I decided to tag along. 

I’m an equal opportunity eater, so why not try some vegan food?

I was hungry- like, a double shack burger from Shake Shack, hungry. To keep it funky: I would’ve been pissed if I bought something from one of the vegan vendors and wasn’t satisfied, so I figured I’d try some desserts. 


Baby steps. 

As we walked around and checked out everyone’s tables, a brightly colored bag caught my eye. We made our way to the Luminous Organics table just to look, and I was pleasantly surprised to find popcorn! My eyes were drawn to the pink Himalayan salt flavored bag. I tried one of the samples on the table and was pleasantly pleased. This flavor is tossed in coconut oil: a pleasant change since I like a little extra butter and salt in my popcorn. For $4, I couldn’t not leave with a bag!

Back to finding desserts.

I walked past a toasted marshmallow during my first lap around the market. I love toasted marshmallows, I’ll tell the makeshift camp fire story in another post. Luckily, it was atop of a (Not So) Rocky Road Brownie at Gone Pie Bakery’s table. A fudge brownie filled with marshmallows, dipped in chocolate, and topped with a toasted marshmallow: it was so rich and decadent and fudgy! 

Nathalie bought one of their coconut cream pies with fresh blueberries to bring home- it smelled so good!

A successful afternoon at the market, but I ate a pepperoni slice after we left. Sorry, not sorry!

Taco Tuesday: Taqueria de los Muertos

I’m not a huge fan of Tuesday’s; with Monday beginning your week, and Wednesday being jump day, Tuesday is that mystery lunch meat in the sandwich no one really wants. Unless, tacos! That is when I need my day at the office to fly by because I have a hot ménage scheduled with a burrito and a margarita.

Taqueria de los Muertos was on Chase’s list, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Chase, she will always have a list of new restaurants she’s dying to try. I googled and searched and searched and googled, before coming to the realization that this taqueria just doesn’t have a website. Interesting.

Really? In 2016, an establishment doesn’t have a website?

Now, I know “de los muertos” translates to “of the dead; Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico to pray for and remember those who have passed. So Taqueria de los Muertos would translate to taco joint of the dead, right? Right?

I booked it out of the office faster than Usain Bolt when 5:30pm came. I took the train into Brooklyn and hopped in the car: Chase and I were on a mission and Prospect Heights was our destination. It was a gorgeous day out, so the garage style door was open. As you walk in, there’s a walkway adorned with tiny little skulls that leads you to the kitchen and register where you place your order.

You order your food, grab a seat, and wait. Seating is limited; we thought we’d have to tag team and do one of those “I’ll stay in line while you grab a seat” ordeals, but luckily there we a couple available tables. Their menu spanned across the wall over the register, and the choices were plentiful. The antijotes menu was short and simple, with street fares like guac and chips and maiz chanclado, but their main courses is where it gets fun. First, you choose nachos, quesadilla, tacos, tostadas, or a burrito, and then decide whether you want it regular, super, or deluxe with add-ons like rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Then you pick your fillings. Typically, I won’t list menu items, but it’s much needed now! So fillings: carne asada, pollo asada, carne enchilada, chili colorado, pollo rojo, leguna verde, mole de pavo, mushroom, and squash. For my non-Spanish speaking readers, leguna verde translates to “green tongue”- of what, I don’t know- so it’s tongue in tomatillo sauce. Interesting, very interesting. Their beans are all vegan: pinto, black, and refried.

After analyzing this menu, it was time to order. Fun fact: I love corn. Preferably on the cob, grilled and charred, it’s one of those nostalgic foods from my childhood, but I digress. So this corn, maiz chanclado, it’s basted in chipotle mayo and topped with cojito cheese: I was literally in the middle of placing my order when he spun around, grabbed a cob out the fridge, and dropped it on the grill. Talk about multitasking and efficiency! I was a little hungrier than I usually am after work. While the tacos sounded great, the burrito sounded even better. Carne asada burrito deluxe with black beans for me! Chase ordered the regular pollo asada tacos. With so many options, I don’t see how anyone can be left unsatisfied!

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We grabbed a table, gazed around the restaurant, and took a sip of our Jarritos—mine was tamarind, Chase’s was pineapple. Shortly after, our food was brought out to the table. My burrito was about the size of a new born baby- no lie. I had to get my elbows-out stance together to pick it up. The soft flour tortilla perfectly wrapped around the warm rice and beans, the pull of the pepper jack cheese, and the char on the steak—that first bite was amazing! Chipotle what? Qdoba who? Never again! The mild green salsa was the perfect acidic addition.

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I have a strange love for charred food, so that steak will always have a special place in my heart.

Time to try to corn! As much as I love corn, I was a bit weary of the chipotle mayo. I love mayo on a BLT, but I’d never had mayo with corn so I couldn’t really imagine the flavors, but for $3.50 and a new experience, why not try it. It was so good! It was smothered in cheese, but not overpowering, and it didn’t have that very distinct mayo taste I thought I would’ve tasted. There was a slight spice from the chipotle, and the mayo gave it a great buttery flavor. Warning: it gets messy. Like, really messy! Ladies, this is not first date food!

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I couldn’t finish my burrito, but I absolutely refused not to. There were huge chunks of that charred steak I loved so much left over, how could I waste it! Doggy bag queen!

I was pleasantly surprised to find they had a brunch menu. It isn’t boozy as I like, but their Mexican French Toast stuffed with Mexican chocolate and caramelized bananas is definitely calling me.

Will I be back? Why’s that even a question, most definitely. I just want to witness someone trying that tongue!

 

Taqueria de los Muertos
663 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, New York

 

Vegan Friends + Hope & Anchor

After spending a few hours in the sun at the Red Hook Farmers Market and snacking on pickled cucumbers, chips and salsa, and cucumber limeade shots, we were so hungry for something of substance. We packed up the car, hopped in, and Samantha turns the key, but nothing. Not a rev, not a purr—a completely dead battery. This gave us ample time to figure out lunch. Samantha and I were up for anything, but with Nathalie being vegan, we had her choose the spot. It wasn’t long before her googling brought her to Hope & Anchor, where she was pleased to find more than one vegetarian/vegan option.

Standing on the corner of Van Brunt & Wolcott streets, Hope & Anchor is a super cute 1950s-styled, rockabilly-esque diner with pin-up girl décor. It wasn’t very busy when we arrived, so we were seated quickly—greatly appreciated! Their menu was bountiful, with a lot of different burger and beef-less burger options, like salmon and duck. Of course, the vegan of the group had a ton of questions about their options and preparation, and our waiter was very sweet and tremendously patient with us. She finally made a decision and ordered the tofu burger with edamame spread, miso ketchup and green onions. Samantha ordered the lamb burger with red peppers, feta and curry mayo on black olive bread, and I ordered the Red Hook, an angus burger with cheddar, bacon, and grilled onions. All of our burgers came with fries– and for an extra $1, a salad too.

Nathalie’s tofu burger with edamame spread, miso ketchup, and green onions. 

I swear, I blinked and our food was already at our table. I dove right in. I usually grab a fry and just chew on it, savouring the flavor. There’s something special about fries that get to my table and don’t need salt or ketchup. I’m convinced an angel gets its wings.

Samantha’s lamb burger with red eppers, feta and curry mayo on black olive bread.

 

My Red Hook burger, with fries AND a salad. I felt a little healthy!

Nathalie and Samantha finished their burgers, while I was met with a slight dilemma. This is the face one makes when they can’t finish a burger. I was stuffed with just three more bites to go. Just three! I probably got a bite and a half down and I was on the verge of exploding. The fries didn’t stand a chance though. I’ll always have room for fries. 

Red Hook is pretty far from the small Mill Basin area where I live in Brooklyn. However, their menu is definitely worth the travel, with prices you can’t beat. They have pierogis*, and the apple pie à la mode seems to be calling me. They even serve monkfish!

Yes, I am already planning a brunch or dinner at Hope & Anchor. Who’s in?

 

Hope & Anchor
347 Van Brunt Street
Brooklyn, NY

 

*pierogis. Google them. Thank me later.

Red Hook Farmers Market

Across the boroughs, you can find many farmers markets where farmers from the surrounding areas bring their produce into the city weekly to sell. I never thought I’d see a farm in Brooklyn, so when an old friend on Facebook posted that she’s working there, and preparing yummy and refreshing samples from the produce grown there, I had to get in on it.

“I didn’t know your mom studied agriculture!”- Chef Samantha, the homie.

Samantha is a chef instructor who has been teaching in the city for the past five years. She graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and immediately focused her career on helping people heal with food and work past their food based struggles. She’s been working with The Sylvia Center for the past year working with urban youth in the New York City Housing Authorities settlements and now with Added Value on their Red Hook Community Farm.

I was beyond excited to see her at work, especially with the teens. I even asked another friend Nathalie, vegan blogger for Doose, to come along because I knows she’d love the experience as well.

As I arrived on the farm, there were rain-soaked compost heaps being turned to prevent them from rotting. I immediately saw Samantha walking through the pathway and she brought me over to her tent where I met Becky, Judelys, Manny—who was busy preparing another batch of cucumber limeade—and Nellie. I was surprised to learn this was their Summer Youth Employment* assignment. The teens interacted with the farm patrons with such confidence, I was very impressed. I watched them prepare a basil salsa, using the tomatoes grown on the farm. Nellie chopped those tomatoes with conviction! Manny then explained to me they didn’t have cilantro so they improvised with basil, and I must say, it was a great twist. Nathalie said it reminded her of pizza!

Nellie chopping tomatoes. Excellent knife cuts!

 

Manny and Nellie adding basil to the salsa.

 

Nellie and Manny went from sous chefs to tour guides, filling me and Nathalie in on every detail imaginable about the farm.

What was once an abandoned baseball field became an opportunity for Ian Marvy and Michael Hurwitz. Both previously working in social services, they’ve worked with kids who had been in juvenile detention facilities and were now out in the real world with little to no support system. This was the inspiration behind Added Value. A non-profit co-founded in 2001, Added Value youth-led urban farming and compost operation whose objective is to create opportunities for teens to expand their knowledge base, develop their leadership skills, and positively engage with each other, their community, and the environment. From day one, Added Value has mentored countless youth, provided hundreds of elementary students with educational programs, and worked with thousands of volunteers to farm and compost in the city.

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Squash for sale.

 

Last year, Added Value arranged a deal with the New York City Parks Department to turn it into a working farm that would employ youth from the neighborhood, educate school kids on sustainable food-growing practices, and produce food.

Nellie explained that the farm now has elevated soil: previously, the soil was directly in the ground, but Hurricane Sandy hit. Two and a half feet of water flooded and ruined all the crops and soil. During the clean-up, all of that contaminated soil was pushed to the outer perimeters of the field. We walked through the rows where we saw okra flowers, watermelons, tomatoes, swiss chard, and peppers, amongst a variety of other vegetables. There was a large bare patch that was just harvested for selling.

They make their own compost—it’s a good way to get the community involved, too. I learned about fast composting: when a lot of weeds are pulled, layer and combine them with wood chips—your nitrogen and carbon elements. The heat kills the seeds and everything starts decomposing, and over the course of a few month—soil!**

Purple okra, photo bombed by a baby eggplant.

 

The Red Hook Community Farm beehive. If you look really closely at the very bottom box, you can see the bees!

 

They have a beehive! Not the Winnie the Pooh type you’d typically think of when you hear “beehive,” because I was expecting to see one of those hanging from somewhere. The beekeeper, Tim, comes to the farm and does demos on how to open the hive and harvest honey. Nellie told us he has a Queen Bee he used to mate and cross breed, so now they have black and white bees, bumble bees, and honey bees.

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Garlic curing and fresh produce for sale.

 

I learned how garlic grows! It takes up to two years just to get a head of garlic. Bulbs can be replanted for the following season, producing bigger bulbs—that’s exactly what they’ve been doing on the farm. They recently harvested approximately four thousand bulbs of garlic, cured and beautifully hung under one of the tents.

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Beautiful purple basil.

 

Did you know there’s purple basil? I surely didn’t! I was amazed. AMAZED! I bought a bunch for my mom, along with some kale, callaloo***, and purple okras. I bought a bunch of sage for myself to dry out and eventually burn. The smoke from dried sage actually changes the ionic composition of the air, and can have a direct effect on reducing our stress response. Cleanse your aura guys!

Without a doubt, I’ll be back. Next time, as a volunteer. The people are great, the kids are amazing, and I love what they’re doing for the community. Samantha explained to me the Added Value CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program that offers a weekly produce share of vegetables grown on the farm. At the beginning of the season, you pay a set price based off your household income, volunteer 8 total hours for the season, and every week for 22 weeks you can pick up your fresh, locally grown produce. An example of what you can take home from a week’s harvest: 5 lbs eggplant, 2 bunches Swiss Chard, 2 lbs cucumber, 2 bunches collards, 2 lbs sweet peppers, 3/4 lb hot peppers, 2 bunches arugula, and 4 ears corn. They’re no longer taking members for the 2016 season, so I’ll try to get in for the 2017 season.

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Nellie, Samantha, and I.

 

Nathalie vlogging alongside me was so much fun. I’ll definitely be linking up with her again for another adventure. Finding a restaurant that can accommodate her vegan diet and my love of red meat was an adventure in itself. Hope and Anchor! It’s a really cute diner in Red Hook with a pretty great burger menu. Check out Nathalie’s vlog episode for Doose’s below for our day at the farm and a sneak peak of our burgers, coming in the next post.

 

Check out Added Value and their work on the Red Hook Community Farm.

 

*I worked with a summer camp for my Summer Youth Employment assignments when I was their age. I just did it for the free amusement park trips. Oh to be 16 again.

**My mom composted at home for a while, throwing in onion skins, broccoli stalks, carrot and banana peels, pretty much any “waste” from cooking. I’ve never seen soil though. Now that I think about it, I probably didn’t even look.

***As I’ve said in an earlier post, my family is from the Caribbean, so when I hear callaloo, the first thing I think of is the dish, so seeing this vegetable was very new to me!