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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let Us Eat Local 2011

Just Food, the organization that is partially responsible for bringing the farm vegetables to the food pantry I work at, threw their fourth annual local food gala, Let Us Eat Local last night. It was a tasting event featuring the food and drinks of New York City and nearby restaurants and companies. Proceeds from the event went to funding more of Just Food's amazing programs as well as to farms upstate that were damaged by Hurricane Irene. And, boy, it was swank.
As a current Just Food volunteer I was offered the opportunity to volunteer at LUEL, which meant that for two hours I cleared tables but for the rest of the night, was able to pretend I was a fancy foodie taking in the sights, smells, and tastes of restaurants that I am usually far too cheap to patronize. This flyer details some information about the event and lists participating companies and restaurants.
I've sort of talked down on local food in the past (Smorgasburg) but I appreciate Just Food's work immensely. Their programs fund sustainable farms, CSAs, and educate people about nutrition and food's impact on a wider, more global scale. They really understand the impact of what and how we eat. LUEL was not filled with meat sandwiches, cheese after cheese after cheese, and then more meat. There was admittedly some of that but I will tell you that I brought along a snack bar completely unnecessarily. It might have been partially due to the two samples of beer but I also felt completely at ease asking the cooks what was vegan and trusting their response. So, here's what I ate:

Fat Radish: Sauteed carrot with hijiki and crispy kale
Orwasher's: Spelt bread (1/2 whole wheat) with raisins and sunflower seeds
Red Jacket Orchards: Apple butter on Orwashers bread
Gramercy Tavern: Watermelon salad with roasted and pickled beets
Angelica's Kitchen: Nectarine and cucumber soup
Candle 79: Fall root vegetables with almond cheese and a balsamic reduction
Pure Food and Wine: Late summer succotash with corn pudding
Rick's Picks: Smoked okra aka "Smokra"
Dell'Anima: Tomato soup
Kelso IPA
Sixpoint IPA

I've had Sixpoint beer and Red Jacket juice before, as well as been to Angelica's and had Rick's Picks "Mean Beans," spicy pickled green beans, but everything else was so completely amazing. I think my favorite dish was the carrot with hijiki or the raw succotash and pudding! I'm very tempted to just go spend the money and enjoy Pure Food and Wine and, of course, Candle 79. Both may really happen soon. Needless to say, there was plenty for vegans to enjoy, and all served so professionally and with such class.
I felt really fancy for a night (except for the fact that my "nice" clothes were a too-small shirt held together at the bottom by a safety pin and too-big pants that I had to punch another hole in the belt with a paper clip) and, more importantly, felt really empowered too! The local farm movements are something to be happy for no matter where one lives, but in New York City, it's especially heartening to see that even a busy, urban environment can foster such amazing community. It made me look around at New York City very proudly. I noticed that a lot of restaurants offered seafood dishes, particularly serving Fluke, and it hit me that, wow (and duh), I live on an island. These fish live in our waters. It's amazing. (But, yes, we should be keeping them in the waters.)
Joel Saltain spoke, Mark Bittman was wandering, and my super-crush Cathy Erway was there too! Besides them, I was volunteering alongside some really interesting and nice people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and it was an all around good time, all for a good cause. Thank you, Just Food, for the opportunity! Can't wait to hit the Farmers Market tomorrow.


  1. Wow, sounds like a great experience! And it sounds like you got to sample a lot of delicious sounding treats. The carrot with hijiki and crispy kale sounds AMAZING. I've been trying to figure out how to add sea veggies to my diet and that sounds amazing!

  2. Smokra! :D

    Sounds like a great event. All the vegan bites sound great especially the carrot/hijiki/kale combo, watermelon salad, and the nectarine-cucumber soup.

    I'm all for local eating, and I've read on some gardening/food blogs that NYC has an especially booming front on that!

  3. Just Food sounds like a forward thinking organization, and I'm happy to hear that vegans weren't left out of the local buffet, as sometimes can be the case. The last time I heard Mark Bittman speak, he amazed me. I have tons of respect for him and all he does to encourage people to eat a more plant-based diet. Sounds like a great event, and kudos to you for volunteering.

  4. That sounds like fun! When I visit NY (someday)I want to check out Pure Food & Wine and Candle 79. I'm going to need a budget just for food :)

  5. That's cool. Local here mean's a venison killed on the highway. Oh I am just sighing thinking about all the uberannoying people that justify meat here because it's local, and of course it's Christian, I mean WTF, of course Jesus just went around killing everything to eat :)
    Sorry, I am kind of a sassy sarcastic b**tch.

    But cool that YOUR local stuff actually had VEGAN options!!!!!
    THAT my friend is why your rent is high, and most likely worth it!!!!!!!!

  6. Sounds like a dream come true! Hope you carried a big purse with a plastic bag in it;-)

  7. I'm jealous, as always, of your NYC experiences. It's really good that you're cheap. I'm not cheap, so if I lived there I know I'd eat my way through my rent check. It's funny how I live in the "Natural State," but it's easier to find natural food in NY. Our idea of eating local is going into the woods for a deer...:0

  8. What a worth while event - I love that it promotes local food. Mmm - and I love smoked okra... err... smokra. :)

  9. Oh and thanks, everyone, for reading through that long post!

    VAVA, I think that was my first time trying hijiki and I liked it a lot! Have you in your city travels been to any of the restaurants?

    Rose, I am very proud of lil ole New York trudging along with bags of dirt. :) Do people make a big deal of eating local in Seattle?

    Andrea, he's a bit of a spot of contention among vegans but I'm with you on Mark Bittman. He seems like a smart guy, and I do want to pick up his Everything Vegetarian book.

    Nikki, Pure Food and Wine and Candle are both pretty pricey, but after the other night, I'm sure they're worth it. There is, however, some good cheap grub too if you ever make it to NYC!

    Get Skinny, the rent is too damn high!!

    Shen, I hope you mean burlap sack with a compostable, breathable bag in it. We're talking a seriously sustainable event!!

    Jenny, just move here already! I like that Arkansas's nickname is the Natural State, though! That's cute.

    Jesse, that was my first time ever having okra! I'm afraid to ever eat any other kind though, because it was so good.

  10. Sadly I've never been to THE restaurants (Candle 79, Pure Food and WIne, etc.). I've been to Red Bamboo, Zen Palate and some other smaller places. Def need to get to Candle 79 soon though!


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