Written by Nell Alk. Photo #1 by Nell Alk, photos #2-5 by Danielle Ricciardi.
There’s something about the folks at Haven’s Kitchen that we at Cllctv really appreciate. It isn’t that they’re entirely vegan (they’re not); it’s their recognition of the ever-growing community that is. Beyond their coffee counter, which caters to plant-powered people with soy and almond milks as well as scrumptious dairy- and egg-free chocolate chip cookies (more than can be said of most omni outposts, even in progressive NYC), they also offer cruelty-free cooking and baking classes in their spacious, well-equipped teaching kitchen.
Chickpea & Olive, a young catering company comprised of cute couple Danielle Ricciardi and Daniel Strong (at top), hosted just such a class in mid-July. (Strong was previously sous chef at Dell’Anima, so he knows his slicing, dicing, and otherwise; Ricciardi currently tends bar and waits tables there, while handling operations for C&O.) The theme of the lesson? Veggie Burgers and Vegan Beer, which, on this occasion, was broadly compelling enough to attract more non-vegans than vegans. As about a dozen aproned, culinary-curious New Yorkers gathered ’round the island stovetop at HK, Strong started off with knife basics (including how to properly cut onions, which is more specialized than you’d think), then proceeded to show us how to prepare the various elements of the patty. Once put through a food processor but before being cooked, we sampled the delicious mix of black beans, hominy corn, and several other ingredients including ancho and guajillo chiles, which added both sweetness and kick.
As you can guess, these were Latin-inspired burgers, and an impromptu mango-pineapple-chipotle side relish added rocket fuel to the fire. Indeed, the concentration of chipotle peppers made it too hot for me to handle; beware of that danger should you try to combine these ingredients at home. Though I kept digging in with lightly toasted tortillas (“It hurts so good,” I’d wince), I also regretted it every time, eventually training myself to grab chunks of leftover pineapple instead.
Between food-focused portions of the evening, we also got a 101 on beer-making. Fellow Dell’Anima connection and avid home-brewer Marlon Morales took us through the initial stages of his alcoholic art, which resembled a much-stripped-down version of a “cooking” scene on Breaking Bad. It was fun to watch and I gained a new appreciation for what goes into any brew. The batch Morales began in front of us wouldn’t be ready for several weeks, but he came prepared with some cold ones he’d finished at home—a blood orange saison (the crowd-favorite) and an amber ale—for us to enjoy with our end-of-class dinner.
And oh, that dinner. In addition to the burger patties and the beer, we enjoyed a watermelon and heirloom tomato (with tarragon, mint, slivered almonds, and shaved chocolate) salad. Best of all, perhaps, was the burger’s bun: a vegan brioche. Strong’s secret formula made for one of the most stellar eating vehicles I’ve ever tasted. Dotted with sesame seeds (my favorite) and liberally toasted, it slightly reminded of a soft pretzel, with an added richness suggesting that eggs had been involved—which, of course, they hadn’t. Soon, the duo tells me, they plan to sell bags of these babies. (In the meantime, I’ll visit them at Smorgasburg, where weekly they serve up grilled Daiya cheeses, potato salad, and their much-raved-about Phatty Beet Sliders.)
Both Strong and Ricciardi fielded questions throughout the evening, though he took the lead on preparation inquiries and she was more vocal about animal aspects, especially when addressed directly. All in all it was an informative and entertaining session. It didn’t hurt that, by the end, we were sitting down to dinner at a beautifully set community table, stuffing ourselves silly with fresh, flavorful food complimented by ice-cold beers and a few new friends.